You asked for a reunion, I GIVE you a reunion – Lizzie and Darcy meet again at Pemberley Digital, as true to the book as I could make it - minus the Gardiners, of course.
Lizzie approached Pemberley Digital's offices with perturbation, her heart positively fluttering as she meandered her way through the stylishly modern, unpretentious buildings of the sprawling campus. It was like a small oasis in the middle of the city, with trees and benches and gardens all open to public access. The people she walked past were smiling, chatting and laughing together. She even overheard one woman saying that she was just heading to the spa to get a manicure while she was on her break.
To work at Pemberley would really be something, she thought in reluctant admiration.
She joined two other graduate students in the lobby as they waited for Mrs Reynolds, the head of Human Resources, to show them around. Lizzie was the only one here for a placement, the others were a young man called David, who was simply interested in the tour for his degree in Business, and another a girl called Chloe, who was writing an article for her university paper on the company.
Lizzie was amazed to discover she was writing her article on Darcy himself. Chloe jabbered excitedly on about how he had expanded upon his fathers company to be the thriving hub of amenities and resources it was today, increasing profits by well over three hundred percent (Lizzie's eyebrows had rose significantly at this) and all by the age of twenty-nine.
"Twenty-eight," Lizzie corrected automatically, remembering Bing telling them all an amusing story of Gigi falling off a chair while attempting to make a toast at his last birthday while she had been staying at Netherfield.
"What?" Chloe said, distracted from her gushing.
"He's actually only twenty-eight, he had his birthday just before the summer," she reiterated.
The other girl blinked several times at her, then her eyes widened. "Do you know him?"
"Err, yeah," she said, suddenly regretting drawing attention to herself.
"Good afternoon," a crisp voice said from behind them. Turning around, they were met by a stately, middle-aged woman in a crisp suit. Her hair was tied back into a neat and efficient bun, yet her expression was kind and motherly. "My name is Mrs Reynolds and I am head of human resources. Now then, do we have David McAdams, Chloe King and Elizabeth Bennet here?" she asked, checking their names against an ultra-slim digital tablet.
When they all confirmed themselves present Mrs Reynolds gestured for them to follow her and begun the tour of the company, detailing its remarkable history as they were led around light, airy rooms with neatly appointed desks.
Lizzie found herself glancing constantly around, wondering if she would catch a glimpse of Darcy. According to his twitter, which she had checked last night (it wasn't stalking, she had told herself, since she wanted to avoid him), he was in New York on business. She desperately wanted to have this confirmed by Mrs Reynolds, but didn't dare ask.
Fortunately, Chloe asked for her as the tour of the office building was completed. "Is Mr Darcy here today?" she questioned eagerly. "I was hoping to get a brief interview for my article."
"I'm afraid he is at a board meeting in New York, but we expect him back next week. However, I shall give you his secretary's email address and you can contact her to arrange an interview some time soon," Mrs Reynolds said, causing Lizzie's heart to perform all manner of aerobics within her chest – so what if he would be in the same building as her during her placement, she could avoid him easily, she told herself. There was no reason why the CEO of a company would concern himself with a visiting student so he need never know she was here.
Having finished the academic part of the tour, Mrs Reynolds took them over to the Darcy Memorial Building. They were led through the movie theatre and performance space, eventually reaching the modern art gallery. There were some spectacular pieces on display, but Lizzie found herself drawing away from their group to a brightly lit wall of the gallery, where numerous black and white photographs of differing sizes dotted the wall.
Reading a small plaque, she discovered that this particular display was a tribute to Ann Darcy, who had a great love of photography and had taken many of the pictures herself.
Moving slowly along the wall, Lizzie examined the pictures of the Darcy family with great interest.
The first was a self-taken photograph of a happy looking couple labelled as George and Ann Darcy. The woman was holding the camera high above them to take the picture as she grinned up and the man had his arms wrapped around her. He was almost smiling, one corner of his mouth perked, his eyes very bright.
It was a loving expression she had seen many times before - it was the same half smile Darcy would always wear whenever they argued.
Biting her lip fiercely, she moved further down the wall.
George Darcy sitting on the far end of a bench in a wooded area, a clearly pregnant Ann Darcy lying along its length in a sundress, resting with her head in his lap.
A shot from behind of father holding the hand of a very small, dark haired boy as they stood on the edge of a pier, George pointing to something out on the water.
William Darcy as a slightly older child, maybe six or seven, sitting with his mother on a piano stool, staring at the keys with a look of intense concentration on his face. There was the slightest hint of another baby bulge under Ann's shirt.
Then a shot of the whole family together, Ann holding a swaddled baby Georgiana in her arms while George lifted Darcy so that he could see his sister.
A laughing Georgiana as a toddler, Darcy and his father kissing her cheeks on either side of her.
A close up of Georgiana snuggled against her fathers chest.
Darcy and a young Georgiana on the beach – a smiling girl and a skinny, serious boy with sand all over his face and tufty dark hair.
It felt like an immense invasion of privacy to see Darcy's childhood unfolding before her eyes – she felt that she didn't deserve such a glimpse into his past after the way she had treated him. Yet the pictures were so stunning; Ann Darcy clearly had talent, capturing these small moments of beauty in their every day life.
Several more pictures of Ann and George followed, far more recent than the previous ones. There were more lines with each smile, hints of grey in their hair, yet they were still clearly in love.
The final picture was of Darcy and a grown up Georgina, with her sitting braced against her brothers' side. Neither of them were facing towards the camera; Darcy was looking down pensively and Georgina was gazing into the distance.
Lizzie had never actually met her and so she gazed at this particular picture with interest. Gigi Darcy had the same pale colouring as her brother and dark, flowing hair that had the slightest hint of a curl in it, though her features resembled their mother more.
"Whoa, he is dishy," Chloe said, making Lizzie jump since she hadn't realised the other girl had come to stand next to her.
"It's all photoshop," David said cynically, squinting at the photo as if to find evidence of it being tampered with. "I bet he isn't that attractive in real life."
"What do you think, Lizzie?" Chloe asked. "Does it actually look like him?"
"Do you know Mr Darcy, Miss Bennet?" Mrs Reynolds, who had been standing off to one side as the trio examined the picture, questioned in surprise.
Lizzie felt her face heating slightly. "Only a little," she said as demurely as possible. A little including several awkward dances, staying in the same house for a month and a declaration of love, she mentally clarified.
"He is a very handsome man, don't you think?" Mrs Reynolds prompted with a smile.
"Yes, very handsome," she agreed, positive that her face now resembled a tomato.
As they left the art gallery Mrs Reynolds spoke enthusiastically about how Darcy was a simply brilliant boss, how she had watched him grow from a tiny little boy who would take naps in his fathers office (making George Darcy joke that they needed napping facilities at Pemberley, leading to the development of a child day-care system for employers and, much later on, the installation of napping pods) to the entrepreneur business man he was today. Apparently he had insisted on many of the newest amenities despite reservations of the board about unnecessary expense.
Can this be the same Darcy? Lizzie wondered, trying to fit this new impression of him into what she already knew, listening with great curiosity to everything Mrs Reynolds had to say. Eventually they exited the Memorial Hall, concluding the tour. After David and Chloe had thanked Mrs Reynolds, she drew Lizzie aside.
"Miss Bennet, come and find me after you've had some lunch and I'll show you where you will be working. There are some wonderful cafés on the campus. And here, compliments of Pemberley," she added kindly, pressing a gift card into her hand which could be used in any of the campus shops.
Lizzie thanked her, promising not to be too long. After Mrs Reynolds left, she and the two other graduate students lingered outside of the building, discussing where to eat since they had decided to have lunch together. Though she hadn't explicitly mentioned it, Lizzie got the impression that Chloe wanted to pump her for information on Darcy. After a moments discussion they decided on sushi, and so the trio headed off down one of the smaller paths, flanked by beds of brilliantly coloured flowers.
Lizzie was scarcely listening to the conversation, too busy gazing at the trees around her and thinking over all that she had heard of Darcy – when suddenly he rounded the corner in front of them, head down and walking at speed, dragging a wheeled suitcase.
She froze, gasped, and his head snapped up. He stopped in his tracks, their eyes meeting instantly.
"Lizzie?" he said, sounding stupefied.
When she didn't reply he approached her cautiously. He had clearly been travelling, if the suitcase was any indication. He actually looked dishevelled for once - no bow tie and the top two buttons of his shirt undone, as well as a dark shadow of stubble on his jaw.
"Hello," he said softly, standing right in front of her.
"Hi," she said back, wondering if she would just melt into a puddle of awkwardness right here on the pavement.
"How are you?" he asked, his gaze fixed on her face.
Lizzie, meanwhile, was avoiding his eyes and actually fiddling with the strap on her bag like an embarrassed teenager. "I'm fine."
"And … your family?"
"Yes, they are all fine," she said, nodding far too abruptly.
Darcy cleared his throat. "What brings you to San Francisco?"
"I, um …" Lizzie peeked up at him, curious as to how he would respond to her reason for being here. "I am actually shadowing Pemberley. For my thesis."
He nodded. "And are you enjoying yourself?"
"I only arrived this morning."
"Yes," she said, nodding again.
"And you're family, are they … well?" he said, not seeming to realise he had asked this already – Lizzie took this as the smallest sign that he was as discomposed as she was by their sudden meeting.
"Yes, they're fine, thank you," she reiterated.
Darcy seemed to be floundering for something to say, his mouth partially open as he thought. "I hope … that you enjoy your visit here," he said eventually.
"Thank you," she said again, looking down at his shoes.
He paused, and then straightened. "Goodbye, Lizzie."
"Bye," she said, risking a slight smile.
He nodded once more and then stepped around her. Lizzie watched him continuing up the path towards the main office building and only once he was out of sight did she put her head in her hands and groan loudly.
"Wow," Chloe said from right behind her. "A little too hipster for my liking, but he is definitely working that stubble. You have to introduce me," she demanded, grabbing her arm to try and pull her hands away from her face.
"What was up with the two of you?" David interjected, shooing Chloe from Lizzie's side. "You guys were nodding like those plastic dogs you get in the back of cars. I was resisting the urge to awkward turtle the entire time you were talking."
Awkward turtle – precisely what the fans of her vlog called Darcy.
She dropped her hands abruptly. "I have to go, I just – I'm sorry - bye."
Leaving the two thoroughly confused graduate students behind, Lizzie literally ran down the path. She didn't mean to be rude, but she just needed to be alone with her thought right now – she certainly didn't want strangers asking about her entire history with Darcy.
What was he even doing here? she wondered fretfully, turning randomly down a new path. Wasn't he meant to be in New York?
Lizzie found herself running over a beautiful, ornate wooden bridge and entering a Japanese garden. Slowing to a walk, she mentally ran over their entire brief conversation.
He had seemed so … nice. Awkward as hell, but then she had been too. In fact, their conversation had been perfectly civil despite how uncomfortable it had been.
Why did I come here? she thought, sitting down on a small stone bench, prettily carved with flowers and leaves. It must look as if she had deliberately thrown herself in his path again – she should have cancelled the placement the minute she had discovered that this was his company.
Bracing her elbows on her knees, she rested her chin in her hands, consumed by a single thought. What must he think of me?
Will stood completely still as the elevator rose steadily to his office, his face betraying no hint of the turmoil of his thoughts. Several of his employees had expressed their surprise at seeing him back, but he honestly couldn't remember what reply he had given them.
Lizzie was here.
Closing the door to his office, Will let his suitcase drop carelessly to the floor. He started pacing the length of the room, running his fingers through his already dishevelled hair.
Lizzie was at Pemberley – these things didn't just happen, this was fate.
Then he stopped suddenly, staring out of the window. No, these things didn't just happen – the only reason he was home early was because Fitz has asked him to come. He had said that he had a surprise for him, but refused to elaborate.
Naturally disinclined to go along with his friends crazy schemes, Will had refused, even when he had found out that Fitz had already changed his flight to that morning. Just as he had been about to call the airline to change it back, he had got a text from Gigi.
Just get on the damn plane, Will.
Gigi, who had just discovered Lizzie's videos.
Diving for his suitcase, Will tore open the zip of the front pocket and rooted around until he found his blackberry.
Seconds later, Fitz picked up the phone. "Hey, what's up?"
"What's up?" Will demanded, sprawled cross-legged on the floor by his suitcase. "Lizzie is here, Fitz."
"You've seen her already?"
"So you knew she was here," he said, confirming his theory. "Is she the surprise?"
"Yeah," Fitz said, managing to sound both amused and disappointed at the same time. "Man, I can't believe you already saw her. Gigi and I had the whole thing planned, we were gonna film your reunion for her viewers."
"Did she know about this?" Will felt his stomach sink at the mention of her viewers – she hadn't set this up as some sort of joke, had she?
"Nope, according to her twitter she didn't even know Pemberley Digital was your company until yesterday. She had a mini panic attack. It was brilliant, I was watching it unfurl live on her twitter feed," he said with a laugh. "The minute I saw we knew we had to get you back from New York."
Will let out a slow breath. "You're a bastard, you know that?"
"Yep," Fitz said cheerfully. "So how did the reunion go?"
"It … I …"
"That bad, huh?" he said understandingly.
"No," Will corrected emphatically. "It was … fine."
"Fine," he confirmed.
"I asked how she was, how her family was, and then … yeah."
Fitz was silent for a long moment, then let out a sigh. "Remember how we agreed you needed to work on your game?"
"No, just listen to me for a moment, will you Darcy?" he interrupted, sounding unnervingly serious. "You and Lizzie got off on the wrong foot. You made a bad first impression and she held it against you – you have to show her the real you!"
It was Will's turn to be silent.
"Be charming," Fitz insisted. "Be clever, don't be a prat, and if you're too nervous to ask her out on a date, then at least invite her to dinner with all of us, okay?"
"Charming," Will repeated tentatively, tasting the word in his mouth.
"Charming!" he corrected with much more flair. "You can do that, right?"
Will took a deep breath. "I'm going to go find her."
"Yes!" Fitz said, sounding excited. "Oh, and by the way, if we manage to pull this off then I fully expect you to make me your best man."
"If we can pull this off then you deserve it," he said, and then hung up without a goodbye.
Climbing to his feet, he headed to the window to look out over Pemberley Digital's vast campus, wondering where Lizzie would have gone.
She had clearly just gone around the art galleries on a tour, so she was unlikely to go back inside. When they had been at Netherfield she had always loved sitting outside by the pool – but the pool was inside, right next to the gym and spa. Knowing Lizzie, she probably wouldn't feel comfortable using Pemberley's amenities since she didn't work here - she was principled like that. His eyes fell on the small, ornate bridge he could just see from his high vantage point.
The Japanese garden.
Lizzie sat on the bench in the Japanese garden, staring up at the office building of Pemberley Digital, her thoughts utterly consumed by Darcy. She longed to know what he was thinking - what he thought of her, desperately wondering if he still liked (loved, she corrected herself) her.
He had been civil when they had briefly made small talk, in fact if anything she had been the socially inept one, making mostly monosyllabic answers to his polite enquiries. Other than sheer discomfort it had been impossible to read his expression - whether he had been pleased or annoyed to see her, she couldn't tell.
Realising she was sitting obsessing over a man, Lizzie resolved to at least act more like herself, despite the chaos of her thoughts.
Standing up and hoisting her bag over one shoulder, she set off deeper into the garden to explore. It was truly a place of beauty, with small streams bubbling happily around every corner. Following one, she realised they were feeding the main, shallow body of water that was spanned by the beautiful, ornate wooden bridge she had run across … the bridge that Darcy was currently also crossing, far to close to the path she was walking on for comfort.
Moving on autopilot, she hurried forward to an area more sheltered by trees, obscuring the bridge from view.
Was he coming to find her? she wondered and then chastised herself for her cowardice and ridiculousness. Even if they did bump into each other again, this time she wouldn't be surprised and caught off guard. She resolved to be just as calm polite as he had been.
"Lizzie," his deep voice came from behind her.
Spinning around to face him, her feet crunching on the gravel, Lizzie gave him her most dazzling smile. "Hello again."
He blinked at her, seeming startled by her sudden enthusiasm.
"I was just … admiring the gardens here," she continued in an overly airy tone, waving one arm in a vague gesture towards the stream. "They really are … delightful."
Delightful? she chided herself. You sound like you're in a Regency novel.
"I'm glad that you like them," he said neutrally.
Lizzie struggled for a suitable, menial reply.
She was about to mention how lovely the weather was here in San Francisco when suddenly realised why she felt uncomfortable – she and Darcy didn't do small talk and proper manners. Other than when they had first met at the wedding, they had always been very forthright with each other. They said what was on their minds, not afraid to argue with or even discompose the other – whether that was bickering over popular music, a declaration of love, or a vehement rejection.
Or, an apology, Lizzie realised.
Straightening her back, she decided to say exactly what she felt.
"Look Darcy, I just want to apologise for being here, I know I am probably the last person you want to see," she said, looking him squarely in the eye. He was listening to her with his head tilted ever so slightly to one side. "I didn't know it was your company when I organised the placement and when I arrived I was told you weren't even going to be here. I didn't mean to intrude, or –
"Lizzie," he interrupted, making her fall silent immediately. "Will you have dinner with me tonight?"
"Dinner?" It was her turn to blink at him. "With you?"
"With us," Darcy corrected hastily, shifting his weight awkwardly. "That is, the Lee's and Fitz are both in town, and my sister especially wants to meet you."
Darcy gave her a small, half smile – the same smile his father had worn in many of the pictures. "She's a big fan of your videos."
"Oh god," she blurted out, wondering how his sister had taken some of the things she had said – about her brother, and about George Wickham. "I mean, yes. I'd love to meet her."
"Good," he said, nodding slightly. He then gestured up the path. "Shall we head back inside? I believe Mrs Reynolds is expecting you."
Lizzie fell into step beside him and the two of them made their way in silence through the Japanese garden. After a few minutes, Darcy asked her what she thought of San Francisco so far and started suggesting places she should visit during her stay – she latched on to this relatively safe topic, making sure the conversation lasted all the way to Mrs Reynolds' office door, where they both said goodbye with the uttermost politeness.
So, what do you think? Leave a review!
Still taking suggestions for future LBD fics, so let me know what sort of thing you guys would like to read :)