So...it's been a long time, hasn't it? I'd like to start by thanking all of you, the people that reblogged and liked and read and reviewed and made this story more successful than I ever could have imagined, and those of you who asked me to write more. You have made my year infinitely better, and it means the world to me.
I'm sorry it took me so long; it's a very long, boring story of writer's block and an absolutely awful February. I've tried my best to make it at least somewhat worthwhile.
Also, the dialogue in Lizzie and Darcy's reunion is obviously not mine; I couldn't write that better than the original, so hopefully my interpretation of Lizzie's internal monologue adds something to it for you.
In the section under DRAFTS, those are supposed to be emails, but Fanfic wouldn't let me post addresses, even fictional ones.
Anyway, I'm sorry for the very long wait, but I hope you enjoy chapter 2 of Costume Theater.
Lizzie didn't know why she'd chosen that Saturday afternoon to rewatch her videos. Perhaps it was the absence of Jane, a desire to see them all together and happy again. While she knew that New York with Bing was probably the best thing for her sister, she couldn't help but feel the twinges of doubt returning, that feeling that somehow she was driving her family away again. Maybe the videos were a way to ward that off.
She wasn't watching them to see anyone else, no matter what that small voice in the back of her head kept insisting.
All Lizzie knew was that she'd found herself with nothing to do at two o'clock and amazed at the fact that for the first time in four weeks, she finally had a chance to breathe. Between Lydia and Bing and her mother's insanity and Jane's departure, there hadn't been time for Lizzie to just sit in so long. She had no idea what to do with the time.
If she was honest, Lizzie didn't know what she was going to do with herself at all.
That, then, was the real reason that Lizzie was watching the videos. Seeing the last year laid out before her had to offer her some suggestion as to where she was going next. A career at Pemberley Digital was out of the question. Darcy...well, his lack of communication expressed his feelings about their last encounter perfectly. She'd completely crossed the line, and she couldn't blame him for rescinding his offer. She couldn't imagine them having to look at each other in business meetings and conferences and remember that moment every time. The phase of her life where she'd imagined that, in some capacity, she and Darcy would be a part of each other's lives was over. It was time to move on.
That was what she told Charlotte when she'd asked, Charlotte who had been especially suspicious of the abrupt end of her last video at Pemberley Digital. Lizzie had said that nothing had happened between them, which was true. Something was a reciprocal term. Something meant both parties had to be invested.
Lizzie had believed she and Darcy were something. Clearly, she had been wrong.
But, she couldn't help but protect her little piece of something, keep it away from the prying eyes of her viewers to be analyzed and dissected a million times. The rationalization had been that her viewers were already so invested in the relationship - no, not even a relationship, the thing between them, and it would be cruel to show them the sudden, brutal end to their fantasy.
The reality was that Lizzie didn't want to see their comments on the matter, the inevitable analyses on how he didn't love her anymore and why. She didn't need the Internet to confirm the terrible truth.
So, the kiss remained safely hidden away in a folder on her laptop, unbeknownst to anyone besides Darcy and herself. Lizzie could almost forget it had happened.
But, she was trying.
The only reminder of Darcy that she'd allowed herself was the hat and bowtie. When she'd returned home, she'd set the crumpled hat down on the desk in the guest room without thinking and went downstairs to wait for Lydia. Preoccupied and exhausted, she hadn't returned to the hat until the next morning as she unpacked her costume theater bag. Her original plan had been to shove the hat and bowtie in a closet for a few weeks or possibly several years, but something had stopped her, that stubborn little part of her that wasn't ready to give up Darcy.
Maybe they would never have their something, but Lizzie could indulge herself by holding onto their almost something a little bit longer. She perched the hat on top of a small lamp on the guest room's desk, and positioned the bowtie on the bottom.
It was at the desk, next to the hat and the bowtie, that she sat down to start from the beginning, clicking the familiar thumbnail of her earliest video. It seemed ridiculous to think that it had been almost a year since she'd began her videos. She almost laughed as she remembered how stressful that first day had been, how she'd whined to Charlotte that she was worried there just wouldn't be enough to talk about for a whole year.
Remembering that moment was bittersweet, hopeful and depressing. So many things had gone wrong this past year she couldn't begin to name them all. So many chances had been blown. But, thinking of Jane and Bing last week, she wondered if things might turn out alright in the end. If all the hurt and the pain could lead to something worthwhile.
Lizzie gave a small smile as she adjusted the hat on the lamp while she listened to herself ramble on about her life. Perhaps she didn't know where she was going or who she was going with, but she had 92 videos that could give her some ideas.
Unlike Lizzie Bennet, William Darcy rewatched the videos semi-frequently. Not all of them, of course. Although he hadn't done a very good job of it in the past few weeks, he was still the CEO, and it wasn't good form for a CEO to spend a work day watching web videos as opposed to actually running his company. (This wasn't to say he'd never done it. He'd called it "research on the new intern," but Reynolds didn't seem to believe him either way.) Certain videos, however, he'd watched enough he could practically recite them.
In the beginning, when he'd discovered the videos, he watched Lizzie's most vicious videos on repeat, in some strange attempt to talk himself out of loving her. He almost managed it, convinced himself that despite everything Lizzie Bennet was, beautiful and charming and witty and by far the most remarkable woman he'd ever met, she was not the one for him. But, seeing her, hearing her worry over him suing her, made him realize how flimsy that had been, an attempt to cover up and disguise the truth. Even she hadn't treated him kindly in her videos, William couldn't just discard his feelings for her. If anything, the videos had made them stronger. William had never seen Lizzie the way she was in her videos, unguarded and affable and happy. He'd never really seen her smile before, he had realized. The reason why was quite obvious now.
Now, long after his botched confession, William understood that he hadn't loved Lizzie Bennet then. He'd barely known her. Love had come later, at some unknown time between the first day he watched her videos and that day Gigi had shoved them into a room together, and it was unbearable, knowing that Lizzie did not return the sentiment. He thought perhaps friendship would be enough, but every day he spent with Lizzie, while some of the happiest he'd had in a very long time, made him increasingly aware that friendship was hardly what he wanted where Lizzie was concerned. But, she had told him how she felt in no uncertain terms, and William didn't want to make her uncomfortable or push her away with yet another unrequited declaration of love. If friendship was all he would ever have with Lizzie, he would settle for that, so long as he got to be around her in some capacity.
Then there was that brief moment that he'd wondered if perhaps it wouldn't be unrequited, after all. There was still a dreamlike quality to the memory of Lizzie leaning in and kissing him for that brief moment, along with an overwhelming feeling of shock. William prided himself on being able to handle surprises well, but he had been completely unprepared for that one. The only thing his mind was capable of in that moment was being aware of Lizzie's mouth on his. It was only after she'd pulled away that the thoughts started flooding in, and it took a great amount of self-restraint to keep himself from pulling Lizzie back to him and picking up where they'd left off. He was trying to keep himself from hoping too much. He'd been wrong about Lizzie's intentions in the past, and he didn't intend to make the same mistake twice. He looked over at Lizzie and immediately wished he hadn't.
She looked so...miserable. He couldn't help but think ruefully that her heart must have overcome her better judgement. Then came the bitter disappointment. He'd thought they were so close, that he might actually have another chance with Lizzie Bennet...but clearly, whatever she thought she'd find when she'd kissed him, it hadn't been there. Before William could say anything, however, Lizzie abruptly got up and left the room with a few mumbled words of apology, holding her phone to her ear.
By the time she came back and explained things, William was even more sure that any chance they had was finished. He'd seen the videos. All the trouble with Lydia had started because of his foolish words in November, and Lizzie could never forgive him for that, nor could he expect her to. If someone had said something like that about Gigi, William would have been furious. How had he ever thought she could love him when he had said such dreadful things to her?
All he could do was use what he had to attempt to make it right. He booked her a flight without hesitation, sent her off with the promise that all her things would be sent to her within a day and that Pemberley would send her all the necessary papers for her internship. He didn't attempt to contact her again, instead throwing himself into the search for Wickham. It was a welcome distraction, and it was necessary to make amends. The brokenhearted, stunned look on Lizzie's face as she'd reentered the office haunted him, and he couldn't let Wickham, of all people, hurt her and her family so deeply.
He'd kept up with her videos, and thus far he hadn't seen anything that might suggest Lizzie wanted him to contact her. Her focus was where it needed to be: on her family. He didn't feel it would be right to intrude. Not to mention that the kiss had been conspicuously edited out of the last video at Pemberley, a clear sign that Lizzie wished to forget it had happened if there ever was one.
During his lunch break, he checked Twitter, clicking the link to Lizzie's latest video. Charlotte had returned, on a vacation from Collins and Collins. Much of the early part of the video was old news to him, all things Aunt Catherine had bragged about in the last shareholders meeting. How they made money off of videos about light switch operation was an eternal mystery to William, but to each their own.
However, William began paying rapt attention as Charlotte said, "...how things are between you and a certain gentleman..." He didn't know why; it wasn't as if anything Lizzie had to say about him at this point would be pleasant. But, even if she'd never say the words he hoped to hear, he might get some answers.
She didn't deny that there had been something there at Pemberley, but she followed it up almost immediately by saying they weren't friends. Though he initially wondered about it, he came to the conclusion that what Lizzie had said was true. They may have been friends of a sort, in a certain time and place, but they weren't friends in the sense that Lizzie and Charlotte or he and Fitz were friends. This wasn't helped by the fact that William had never wanted that kind of friendship with Lizzie. He had realized very early on after meeting her that he wanted to be with her. The execution of the idea, however, had been more than a little flawed.
It was at that moment that he received his daily text from Gigi, "Have you told her yet?!" She seemed to think if she bothered him about it long enough, he'd give in. Watching the latest video hardly changed his mind, though. Lizzie seemed as if she was caught somewhere between regret and frustration, neither of which seemed to indicate she wanted to speak with him, much less hear what he had done. He didn't want to make her feel indebted, to look as if he wanted something from her and was using this as leverage to get it.
William wanted to make amends with Lizzie, but now wasn't the time. Not yet. For now, he would have to settle for the occasional glance at the brown newsie and red bowtie that sat on his filing cabinet and the knowledge that even if Lizzie would never be with him, she would at least be happy with her family intact.
Lizzie didn't know how it had happened, but the last few days had settled into something of a routine. She'd alternate between watching a few videos at a time and writing her thesis, along with the script for the serial adaptation she was supposed to head up over at Pemberley. Yes, she knew the odds of her still having the job were nonexistent, but it was...wishful thinking. Besides, it was a good distraction. If she didn't do something productive once she'd become sick of writing her thesis and her videos were hard to stomach (as many of them were, now that she was watching through her relationship with Wickham), she'd find herself with nothing better to do than Google...certain people and things for an hour or so.
Charlotte hadn't stopped bugging her about Darcy since their last video, continually asking the same question, "Why don't you call him?" Well, what had happened to chivalry? Wasn't it courteous for the guy to call first, especially after an uncertain situation? She would be depriving Darcy of his chance to be polite, and everyone knew Darcy loved to be polite. Well, most of the time.
Not to mention the fear that he'd hang up the second he heard her voice. But, really it was about chivalry.
Lizzie Bennet wasn't particularly good at lying to herself, and only slightly better at lying to others.
So, she threw herself into work, with the occasional break to skip ahead and watch the videos she'd done at Pemberley Digital, particularly Corporate Interview and Hyper-Mediation in New Media.
For research, obviously.
She had decided on her final independent study, choosing to shadow her own company. She had hoped that because it was her own, finding objectives and models would be easier, but it had actually made the task more difficult.
The model was relatively simple - usually 4-6 minutes, features a guest of some sort, costume theater, talking about daily life, and the end screen. It was the objective that was difficult - what was the objective in a project where she turned on the camera twice a week and saw what happened? She supposed she could take the easy way out and say that as a business, the objective would be profit. Lizzie had earned a small amount of money on the videos from advertising, so it wasn't as if it was a complete lie. But, the true reason she'd made these videos hadn't been for money - it had been for grad school.
That wasn't the reason now, though. If this was just about grad school, half of the things she'd filmed would have never shown up on camera. They were her diaries, her personal story of the last year that was playing out on a very public stage. Was there really a point to a diary? Maybe twenty years down the road, when you needed inspiration or wanted to walk down memory lane, but now it was all just a very strange, surreal string of events. It was funny to think she hadn't known many of the people in her videos at the beginning, considering the way they'd shaped them.
The objective had changed somewhere from point A to point B, Lizzie supposed, as many things had.
But, some things had stayed the same, or at least she hoped they had. That was part of why she needed to find the objective; to prove to herself that something in this year hadn't changed, that this was not a series of random missteps, but a journey. A story with a happy ending.
William didn't know what he had expected to see when he started Lizzie's latest video, but it certainly hadn't been Lydia revealing that he had taken down the website.
It wasn't hard to piece together how Lydia had found out; the demo videos for Domino had documented it all. Now, there was the question of what he was going to do about it.
Lydia had said "when you talk to him again." Did that mean Lizzie was going to talk to him? Or was that a rather pointed message to him?
No matter what, he needed to talk to her, needed to tell her why. How could she not see it herself? Although he thought a great deal more of the Bennets then he had in November, how could she not see that it was for her? She did say she believed his feelings had almost certainly changed, so he supposed she just didn't know the depth of his feelings for her.
It killed him to hear her call him Darcy again. It was as if another wall was put back up between them every time she said it.
The sting was softened a little by her description of the videos. Illuminating. It felt like a message to him, in a way.
They needed to talk, but not yet. William needed to figure out what he was going to say to her. If he spoke with her now, he feared he'd reiterate his feelings, and he couldn't put Lizzie in that position, not when he thought she wouldn't reciprocate. But, what would he say at that point? Would he reoffer her the job? It would be a special kind of torture to work with Lizzie every day without being at least friends, but she was the most qualified person he knew for a web media position. So, why didn't he go so they could become friends? It wouldn't be entirely satisfactory, but it would be enough.
William sank back in his chair, resigned to the fact that before he spoke with Lizzie Bennet, his first priority had to be figuring out what he wanted with her.
Well, he already knew what he wanted with her. That had been clear for quite some time now. What he needed to know now was what Lizzie wanted with him.
I just wanted to say thank you for what you did for Lydia and ask you a few things about why you did what you did and that job offer and us...
Why did you not tell me anything or talk to me for weeks and then just decide to do something like that? I just...
You know, you run a communications company. I think you should be very well versed in the art of picking up a phone and calling someone. Or emailing them. Or just texting them like, "Hey, Lizzie. Just made a grand gesture and saved your family."
Then again...I'm a mass communications major and I don't seem to be doing much better.
William Darcy. I...
My birthday's coming up, did you know that? The big 25 for Charlotte and I. Probably not doing much this year. Last year we went to Carter's, did the whole party thing, but with Jane gone and Lydia the way she is, it doesn't feel right. So, a night of period dramas and the best ice cream money can buy it is.
Is that why you saved Lydia? As some kind of weird birthday gift to me? Except I'm pretty sure I never told you my birthday, so I have no idea how you'd know that.
When is your birthday? I don't think I ever asked.
I don't know that much about you, not as much as I should. I'd like to fix that, if you'll let me.
Subject: No Subject
Thank you for everything. For Pemberley and what you've done for Lydia and everything in-between. Thank you for not suing me and forgiving me for all the things I said about you on these videos and thank you for the chance to start over.
I'm sorry that we blew it again.
It seemed this week was full of surprises as William walked into the waiting room outside of his office to find Caroline, of all people, sitting in an armchair, talking with Gigi. Gigi didn't seem particularly happy with the conversation, as the second she him she said, "Oh, William! There you are! Caroline was just looking for you. Well, I guess I need to get back to my desk now. Work on my math." She darted away before William could reply, and now he was alone with Caroline.
"Um...would you like to go into my office?" William asked, unsure about what Caroline's purpose was. They hadn't been on great terms after William had seen the videos and discovered that Caroline had been actively encouraging Lizzie to hate him, a particularly cruel act after she'd promised to help him when he'd confessed he had trouble saying the right things around Lizzie.
Caroline smiled widely, "Of course! I was just visiting, seeing how you all were. Bing wanted me to give you this." She pulled out Bing's key to Netherfield and placed it in his palm. Bing had asked him to check on the place every once in a while, with a rather knowing look that seemed to indicate that there were other things William might want to see in town.
The two of them walked into William's office, and Caroline started up with her annoying habit of examining all of his things. Her eyes widened when she saw the newsie and bowtie sitting atop the filing cabinet, "How did you get these?"
"Lizzie gave them to me." William said distractedly, searching his computer for the flight information to Chicago. He'd need to get a copy to Reynolds by the end of today.
"Really? That seems...in poor taste, considering she mocked you with them." Caroline said, wrinkling her nose.
William frowned, looking over at Caroline. "On the contrary, I took them as symbolic of second chances. It's quite a noble gesture."
Caroline scoffed, "Noble? When has Lizzie Bennet been noble? I mean, she's revealed every singular detail of all of our lives on the Internet, then she waltzes in here to your company..."
"I wouldn't say she 'waltzed in.' She was very qualified and was given the position based on merit and academic performance."
Caroline just rolled her eyes, "Lizzie Bennet," she sneered, before adding in a loftier tone, "Sad, isn't it? Not only are her little diaries devoid of quality, but she herself could use a little help in the public appearance department. You'd think someone who puts their face on camera every week would take a bit more care, considering it looks as if she hasn't washed her hair in three days when she films and her makeup's always overdone. Although she can't help her nose, I suppose-"
"Caroline." William said, his voice tight with controlled fury.
Caroline feigned innocence, although her uncomfortable smile suggested she knew her rant had crossed the line, "I'm sorry, I didn't think you would care. I mean, after what she did to you in the fall...well, I thought you'd seen her for who she was. Weren't you the one that called her decent enough?"
William stood, moving towards the door as he said coolly, "It's true, but that was nearly a year ago. Since then, I've found that Lizzie Bennet is not only exceptionally talented but one of the finest women I've ever met," he held the door open for her as he continued, "Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to make a business call."
Caroline looked shaken at the rude dismissal, "Oh, I-Alright."
"Caroline?" William added as she began walking away. Caroline turned, looking at him apprehensively. "It's a busy time at the office. Next time you want to come in, please call first."
Lizzie missed the early videos. She missed Lydia's luminescence and Jane's cheery optimism in her relationship with Bing and how easy it had been to put on a hat and talk about what was bothering her.
Things were so much easier when the videos were hers and hers alone, before Caroline and Darcy and Bing and a million other people had watched them and taken a piece of them for themselves.
She still couldn't pinpoint an objective for her videos in the independent study. She'd listed off lofty goals like changing the culture and saving the world, but wasn't there something more real at the heart of them? Then again, most of what the videos had taught her had been entirely unplanned. She had never planned for Darcy or Pemberley or Bing and Jane or Wickham and Lydia, but it had all happened anyway, and surely they were far more a part of whatever objective these videos had than what she had planned for them.
Lizzie glanced at the hat sitting on her lamp, and something struck her. This project had been about how to communicate with an audience, to get them invested, and yes, she had done that, as the rabid comments asking to see Darcy proved. But, wasn't it about learning to communicate with the people in her own life?
Suddenly, the objective of the videos seemed obvious, so clear she couldn't believe it hadn't occurred to her ages ago:
"The objective of the Lizzie Bennet Diaries is to foster communication in a way that people can look past misconceptions and see each other for who they really are."
For, in the end, Jane was stronger than a flower, Bing was hardly a stethoscope and a medical mirror, Lydia wasn't just a bubbly girl in a dress, Wickham was far more malicious than a pair of swim goggles, Caroline couldn't be underestimated as a snob in sunglasses, Darcy went far beyond a bowtie and a newsie hat, and Lizzie herself was more than a plaid shirt.
This wasn't to say that costume theater wasn't a good thing; it was fun and useful to channel a part of who people were, to figure out things from their perspective.
It was just important to remember that people would never be easy, and that summing them up in an object didn't make that all the person was.
She just wished she'd figured it out earlier and saved herself a lot of trouble.
Maybe she would do some costume theater in the next episode, for old times' sake.
However, maybe it was time for Lizzie Bennet to learn to communicate without it.
William Darcy had been thinking about Lizzie Bennet. Well, more than he typically did.
He wasn't sure why, but something about the last video had stayed with him. Perhaps it had to do with the fact that Lizzie never told Caroline that they would never be together, that she would never consider it. Lizzie wasn't one to hold back her opinions, and he felt almost as if her lack of one on that subject meant something good. Then again, Lizzie had repeatedly expressed that she was attempting to hold back opinions that might hurt others. She may have just wanted to spare him another moment of ridicule.
She had said her life was hers, that she was trying to figure it out. Could that mean she was trying to figure out what he was in her life? The idea that she might want him filled with more hope than anything he'd heard in a very long time, but it was tempered by the thought that all this had only happened because he had helped Lydia.
He was pondering this as he checked his voicemail on the way to the hotel from the business offices in Chicago, half-hearing the reminders from Reynolds about various appointments and paperwork he would need to complete while he was there. He was close to hanging up and listening to more later when he heard a new voice.
"Hey, Darcy! It's, uh...Lizzie. Um..."
Once the message had finished, he played it again, to be sure he hadn't imagined it. Lizzie had called him, wanted to "chat." Was this her way of trying to put together where he stood in her life?
Lizzie had said she'd find happiness her own way, and was this what she had meant? It seemed as if she might...He couldn't think that way. Not yet. All he knew was he needed to talk to her, face to face, ask her what it meant. He needed to know if this was simply a matter of gratitude or friendship, or if she actually wanted something more.
He hastily pressed a few buttons on his phone and held it up to his ear, "Reynolds? I need the first flight out. Offer the board my apologies...Very. Very important...That girl? Possibly...Thank you, Reynolds."
Lizzie had always been told that having a St. Patrick's Day birthday was lucky. Up until now, she'd always thought it was silly superstition, that anyone's birthday seemed lucky at the time, because that was the nature of birthdays. In fact, this year it seemed like things were going the exact opposite direction, with her family still not quite right and the unreturned phone call.
However, seeing William Darcy standing before her, she was almost tempted to reconsider.
"I thought...you were Chinese." she blurted, still not entirely sure that this was actually happening. There really weren't words for this situation, beyond the ones she couldn't say, the ones she would never be brave enough to say. He was here. She had expected a phone call. She could handle a phone call. Seeing him in person was completely different, and it sent her mind spinning in a thousand different directions, somehow remembering the day at Collins and Collins and the first day they'd seen each other at Pemberley and the kiss at the very end all at once.
Darcy nodded slightly, looking a bit confused (which was to be expected, considering the first thing Lizzie said to him made no sense). "I can understand the confusion. Would you care to sit?"
She wanted to tell him to stop, that this wasn't a conversation they should have on camera, but she stopped herself. The conversation she wanted probably wasn't going to play out, and after all, everything else had been on camera. Why not this? She sat first, very aware of his eyes on her and the steady red light of the camera. Her words in November echoed in her head, "If you've got something to say to me, you say it here and now." This was her punishment, then, that the one time she desperately wanted to turn the camera off for her own reasons, she had to leave it on.
Darcy noticed it as well, as he said amusedly, "Do you film everything in your life?" It was a joke obviously, but it reminded her of all the things she'd hidden from the camera, all the moments she hadn't filmed, and she almost felt sick, she was so nervous, so unsure of what to do now that he was actually here.
She shook her head, "No, I swear, you just have...impeccable timing." She trailed off, losing her train of thought as she looked at him. She hadn't really looked at him yet, and she regretted it almost immediately. It only made the desire to do things that were wildly inappropriate to the situation stronger.
"Well, I certainly can't begrudge your videos. They've been very...useful from my perspective." She didn't realize she was staring at him with rather undisguised longing until after he finished talking and he looked briefly at her, and she quickly turned away, cringing inwardly. How obvious had that been? Darcy had sounded strangely comfortable in front of the camera now, far more comfortable than she felt. How had this happened, that the girl who had made 96 videos now became the camera-shy one?
When he didn't get a response from Lizzie, Darcy added, "I was surprised to see Charlotte."
Lizzie nodded, trying to get the jumbled thoughts clouding her brain to form into something coherent, "It's our birthday."
Darcy looked at a loss for words, as if he'd intruded, "I'm-I'm sorry, I didn't know it was your birthday..."
"No!" Lizzie interrupted, suddenly overwhelmed by how strongly she didn't want him to leave. Not before she could figure out what she would say to him. "Why would you?" This was going very badly.
"I, uh-Happy birthday." Darcy said, and now it seemed as if they were both equally uncomfortable. Great.
"Thank you." Lizzie said, wanting to sound polite even if internally she was panicking. Hadn't she thought through what she was going to say to him? Where was that conversation she'd had a million times in her head now? She looked over at him and caught his gaze, staring back at him for a moment. Why had he come?
As if in response to her question, he said, "You called me."
"I left a message, yes." Lizzie replied, wondering what he meant by this little game of stating the obvious.
"I was in Chicago, so that's why I didn't get back to you sooner-" Darcy said, sounding regretful. How could he be regretful? Yes, he had been late in returning her call, but he'd come to return it in person. From Chicago, of all places. She remembered Caroline saying she was taking him away from his responsibilities and hoped she hadn't screwed up anything in his business.
"Oh, God! I didn't intend-" Lizzie exclaimed, laughing a little, which was strange because she didn't find any of this funny, "I thought you would just call me back, you didn't have to come here."
Then they were looking at each other again, Darcy's gaze very intent and his voice serious, as he replied, "Yes, I did." There was a pause before he continued, "I needed to see your face when I asked you why."
"Why?" she asked. This would be a difficult question, considering she herself didn't know the answer. Why had she called him? It seemed obvious and impossible at the same time.
He looked at her earnestly, "Why did you call me?" Lizzie looked away, still unsure of what to say in response. "I-I've been watching your videos and I know that you've found out certain things about recent events-"
"Recent events." Lizzie interjected. It was too much for her not to say anything. As if what he had done for her family could be summed up in so mundane a term as "recent events". "You bought up whole companies to save my sister. For what you've done for my family..." she searched for the words, "We cannot thank you enough."
"Your family owes me no thanks. As much as I have learned to respect them, I did not do it for them. I did it for you." He looked back up at her, and it took Lizzie a second to process what he had said. He had done it for her, solely for her, and that was a wonderful and frightening thought. She was still unsure what it meant, but now she had a much better idea.
How did you respond to that? Anything she would say would sound inadequate or forced out of gratefulness. Finally, she settled on, "M-My gratitude is...there, and always will be."
Darcy looked away, clearly wanting to say something but holding himself back. After a moment he said quickly, as if he'd never say the words at all if he didn't say them now, "Lizzie, I have to admit to some confusion, because you also said in your videos that we are not f-friends."
Lizzie looked down, wishing she could take back the words. It was true, in a sense, but not in the way that he seemed to take it. Friendship may not have been what they had, not outside of Pemberley, but it wasn't what she wanted either. She wanted both, friendship and something more.
Darcy went on, "And I realized...you were right." Lizzie felt harsh disappointment. Was this what he had come here to say? That he didn't even want to be her friend? She wanted to cry, but she couldn't, not yet. "As much time as we spent together in San Francisco, we hadn't become friends, and then...I thought perhaps you wanted to amend that."
"I do." Lizzie choked, her voice cracking. Even if it wasn't really what she wanted, if that was all she could have, she would take it. It was better than not being a part of his life at all.
Darcy looked conflicted, replying, "So, you want to be friends?"
There was something in his voice that sounded the way Lizzie felt, that friendship wasn't enough, would never be enough, but maybe she was only imagining it. "Yes!" she saw him look away in disappointment and added, "Well, I- I mean, I-" After a moment of struggling for the words she just gave up, "God, no wonder you're confused."
There was no way she could express it, not now. No matter what she thought she might see or hear from him, she couldn't say it. All she could remember was his blank expression after she'd kissed him, and that was what kept her silent. She didn't think she could stand it a second time.
Darcy paused, then said, "Lizzie, I still feel the same way I did in the fall. More strongly even, then I did then."
It was like sitting in a very dark room for a very long time and having someone turn on the light, and you could finally see everything and it was glorious. She felt as if she wanted to cry again, but for a completely different reason, because he had finally said the words she'd hoped to hear since January, that he had said what she wasn't brave enough to say herself in that moment.
"So, if you just want to be friends, or say thank you for recent events, then-"
It was funny how sharply two moments could contrast. The first time she had kissed William Darcy, Lizzie hadn't been able to stop thinking. This time there was only one thought in her head, that William loved her and she would not miss her chance again. She cut him off midsentence, pressing her lips against his and putting a hand to his neck, and this time William very decidedly returned the kiss.
"Does that...clarify some things for you?" she asked shakily, light-headed from it all.
"Some. I could use some further illumination on certain points, however."
Lizzie only had time to grin slightly before William grabbed her and they kissed again. For some reason, when Lizzie had pictured this moment (and she was slightly ashamed to admit it had been many times), she'd always imagined William being very gentle, very polite. But, this was anything but gentle, deep and almost rough and maddeningly slow, as if he wanted to savor every moment of it. At that point, Lizzie's brain was thoroughly numb, occupied only with the feeling of his mouth on hers and his hands on her back. The only thought she had was how stupid she had been not to call earlier if this was the result.
When they did break apart, laughing a little, Lizzie couldn't help but think that maybe there was something to the lucky birthday theory after all.
Surprisingly, after turning off the camera, there was a lot of talking. This isn't to say it wasn't intermingled with a decent amount of making out as well, but...well, there was so much to say. Besides, two people who had had such problems with communication probably needed to talk things out before anything else.
They were laying on the bed, her old bed, in the guest room, Lizzie curled up next to William. They'd originally thought about going out somewhere, possibly to Netherfield, since he had the key, but her parents were out (her father, who must have seen the car in the driveway, decided to abruptly surprise Mrs. Bennet with a trip to visit Uncle Phil in Sacramento that night), and Lydia was sleeping over at Mary's and wouldn't be back until morning, which meant they had the house to themselves, anyway. Luckily she hadn't planned anything on her actual birthday, saving most of the celebration for a small, friends-and-family thing the following Saturday. Charlotte had been extremely understanding when she'd walked in on Lizzie and William kissing on the couch in the den, and had said they could reschedule the period drama and ice-cream fest. Lizzie felt a little bad about deserting Charlotte on their birthday, but Charlotte's beam upon finding them convinced her that she wasn't too beat up about it, and...well, Lizzie was more than a little distracted.
Now, there was still an unreal quality to it all, that this was actually happening and she was with William, really with him, and neither of them were going anywhere anytime soon. It was the best feeling, to be there, just talking to him. In so many relationships she'd had, ones in high school and college, and even with George last year, the talking had been the least significant part, what passed the time between the more physical parts of the relationship. With William, she felt as happy talking with him, just being with him, as anything else, although the physical aspect definitely had its merits.
There was one obvious question to ask, once they'd finally managed to take their lips off each other long enough to actually start talking, "So, if you've felt the same way this whole time, why didn't you...why didn't you kiss me back? At Pemberley?" She cringed a little at the phrasing. It sounded so childish.
William laughed a little, though not in a mocking way, "You looked miserable, Lizzie. I thought...I thought that you simply weren't interested."
"I only looked miserable because you looked miserable!" Lizzie protested, "I thought you were just being polite and you wanted to push me away."
"I was shocked." William replied, "I believed you wanted nothing more than friendship, after what you'd said in November. But, believe me, I wouldn't have pushed you away." He punctuated the statement by lightly brushing his lips across hers.
"I...can see that now." Lizzie said, smiling widely, trying to maintain her train of thought and keep herself from pulling his lips back onto hers.
"May I ask you a question, then?" William said, looking down at her. "Why did you stop calling me William?"
"Well, I always called you Darcy on the videos..."
"I wasn't talking about that. You called me Darcy when I walked in, and in your message. Why did you go back?"
Lizzie pressed her lips together, looking up at him, "Will...it hurt, thinking you had rejected me. I needed to focus on Lydia, and the easiest way to try and numb that pain was to go back to where we had been. To pretend that you were still Darcy and that Pemberley hadn't happened." Seeing his unsure expression, she wrapped her arm around his waist, "Obviously that's not how I feel now."
"Do I get another question?" Lizzie asked.
"As many as you want." William assured her.
"Why did you say I was decent enough when we met? Considering apparently a little over a month later, you were commenting on my 'fine eyes.'"
William looked ashamed now, but he looked directly at her now, as he replied, "I...I didn't want to admit to Bing that I had enjoyed anything about the wedding, that I thought anything of this town, not after all the comments I'd made on his decision to buy a house here. Besides which I had just made a fool of myself dancing with you in the most uncomfortable way imaginable. I didn't feel as if I could admit I thought you were beautiful."
Lizzie smiled a little at that. They had both been so stupid, hadn't they? If that dance had gone differently, this year might have been much more pleasant for both of them. Then again, maybe this was the way it was meant to be. Maybe this wouldn't mean as much if the past year hadn't happened the way it had.
William didn't seem to think that was enough, though, slowly raining down kisses on her face, her jaw, her neck, saying each word in between, "Lizzie Bennet, you were never merely decent enough."
This was going to be quite distracting. But, sometimes you have to give in to distraction.
Lizzie pressed her mouth against his, running her fingers through his hair, content to pick up their conversation again later. After all, they had plenty of time.
Sometimes it was nice just to be around each other, to sit in a room together and do nothing. It was the afternoon before Lizzie and Charlotte's joint birthday party, and Lizzie and William were sitting up in the guest room, William reading her independent study on the diaries and Lizzie editing her most recent video.
"So, what do you think?" Lizzie asked, as she saved her work and opened an e-mail to Charlotte.
"It's quite good." he said, "Are you really planning on ending at 100?"
Lizzie nodded. It had been a difficult decision, but it felt right. Lizzie was with William, she was nearly done with her thesis, and she was going to graduate soon. Jane was happily designing and dating Bing in New York. Lydia had finally been able to transfer to Fresno State with Mary, and she was going to be living there next year as she attended college. It wasn't the end for them, but it was a good place to end this chapter of her life. It left the viewers with a happy ending.
"I'm glad you like it. I'm planning on submitting it with my script to the board at Pemberley Digital." Lizzie said, smirking a little in anticipation of his response.
"T-The board?" William asked, looking at her with a baffled expression, "Lizzie, you have a job if you want it."
"Yes, one that you gave to me. I'm supposed to be starting my new life, remember? Independent Lizzie. And while I'd love to accept your offer, I don't want to start a job with people thinking I got it for being the CEO's girlfriend. I want to get it and have everyone think that I deserved it. So, I'm going to apply for a position and funding by presenting my idea to the board, the way everyone else does. If I don't get it, well...I guess I'll just work getting people coffee or something until I can. But, I want to know that I got it because I earned it." Lizzie said, hoping she hadn't offended him. Ending the Diaries made her realize it was one of the first things she'd ever really made herself, and that in turn had made her realize that her first, true endeavor in the adult world should be her own as well.
William nodded, smiling slightly, "I understand. In fact, I admire that. I will...do my best not to influence them."
Lizzie grinned, "You'd better not. Now, are you ready for tonight?"
"What wouldn't I be ready for?"
Lizzie rolled her eyes, "Will, you cannot be telling me you aren't the least bit afraid of telling my mother that we're dating?"
William frowned, "I may have some...reservations. How have the others taken it?"
Lizzie laughed at his obvious apprehension to talk to Mrs. Bennet, "Jane was happy for us, obviously. What else would she be? Lydia is tentative, but I think she's happy I'm happy. Dad...I think you talked to him, right?"
In fact, from what she'd heard, William hadn't just talked with her father, but bought him a rather magnificent bonsai, a very good move strategically. Mr. Bennet, who rarely ever approved of the boys she brought home, had already said that while he may not have thought much of him at first, he thought Mr. Darcy, as he called him, was a very good match for her.
Lizzie continued, "My mother, however...she'll probably start printing off double-wedding invitations."
William cringed a little, but only said, "Well, we have to tell your mother."
"We do?" Lizzie said dubiously, "Because I'm perfectly fine with the secret romance angle."
"We do," William confirmed, and it was only then that she realized he had moved from his spot at the desk to sit next to her on the bed, "Because, if you'll have me, I plan to be with you for a very long time, Lizzie Bennet."
"Let me think about it." Lizzie said teasingly, but whatever she had been about to say next was lost as William tilted her chin up slightly to his and his mouth came down upon hers.
It was the very last day of that marvelous week and a half they'd spent together, but now Lizzie had to say goodbye to William for a while. Well, goodbye to seeing him in person, which was a far greater loss than it might seem. After all, you couldn't kiss over the phone. But, they had both promised to use their degrees and years of experience and actually communicate this time around until Lizzie moved out to San Francisco after graduation and they would finally live in the same city.
She was sad in a way, but it was hard to be truly upset, considering he had said he'd visit occasionally in the next month or so, and that they could talk anytime, even see each other, now that she'd installed Domino. She knew that this was where the relationship would become more challenging, the beginning and not the end, but she couldn't help but be hopeful. They finally had their something.
They were standing on her porch when she remembered something, "Oh, yeah, I wanted to give you these," pulling out the gray newsie and maroon bowtie he'd given to her back in January, "Well, more have you hang onto them for me. To remember me by."
William rolled his eyes, "Keep them. Trust me, I won't have any difficulty remembering you."
"Are you sure?" Lizzie asked, "This is your chance to make sure I don't change my mind about ending the videos and do embarrassing costume theater of you while you're away."
William shook his head, laughing, "You wouldn't."
Lizzie put her hands on her hips, "And why not?"
"Because I could still tell your mother about your videos."
Lizzie's eyes narrowed, "Well played, Mr. Darcy, well played."
"Besides," William continued, "We might need them for something. Hyper-mediation, perhaps."
"Maybe," Lizzie said, twining her arms around his neck, "But, I think I prefer the real thing for now." She pulled him down (quite a feat, considering how much taller he was than her) for a kiss, light and lingering, with a slight sense of urgency knowing they wouldn't have the opportunity again after today for a very long time.
So, in the end, after some more kissing (awkwardly broken up by Lydia coming home and shouting "Get a room, nerds!" at them), Lizzie said goodbye to William. Sitting on the porch with the newsie in her hands, she felt a mixture of excitement and a little wistfulness. Yes, the diaries had ended, and yes, she would be graduating and moving on soon. Nothing was going to be the same for the Bennets, but nothing was ever meant to be, was it?
There was plenty to look forward to, with Jane coming home for a visit soon and Charlotte's Game of Gourds screening party, and the more long-term things, like helping Lydia move in to college and her own move and her (potential) new job. And, hey, it wasn't like she couldn't make the occasional video if she felt like it. After all, she knew, if she ever needed one, she'd always have a costume theater partner.