Bit of angst, mostly fluffy fluff. Two very different holidays in the Darcy's ski cabin, it's amazing the difference a year can make.
There is a slight reference to Frank Turners amazing song Jet Lag – 'On the phone, you always ask if I'm okay, it's not the same as being happy.' Thought that line in particular was kind of relevant to Darcy, even though the rest of the song isn't.
The cabin was fully prepared for their arrival, the resort staff having been notified of their coming in advance. William Darcy hauled the two suitcases over the threshold, leaving them in the hall while he went back outside to collect the bags containing their skis.
Gigi was stomping snow from her boots, basking in the warmth of the cabin compared to the frigid temperatures outside. She pulled off her hat, her hair mussed, and looked around. "It's nice to be back, huh?"
"Indeed," her brother said, snowflakes melting into his hair as he bent over to unlace his own shoes. After placing them neatly on the shoe rack by the door, pausing to collect her haphazardly discarded boots as well, he shrugged out of his coat to reveal the crisp shirt and jacket beneath.
"Snow forecast for tonight," she said with more cheer than was strictly necessary. "We should have some fresh powder for the morning."
William simply nodded in response and Gigi sighed. Her brother was stoic and taciturn at the best of times but she had never seen him quite as cast down as this, not even after the George Wickham incident in the summer – don't think about that, she told herself strictly.
At first she had respected his privacy, knowing that he would confide in her if he wanted too, but over the past few weeks he had got gradually more morose. It started as little things – getting up slightly earlier to go for a longer bike ride in the mornings, staying slightly later in the office at night, a skipped meal here, an extra cup of coffee there. It was like he was trying to bend the world to his will; he had thrown himself into his work with a zeal that surpassed his usual workaholic tendencies. Gigi knew her brother well and these were sure signs that there was something bothering him that he considered to be beyond his power or influence, and so he was asserting his authority over things he could control instead.
"William?" she said softly, later in the evening when they were both sitting in front of the fire, having eaten their dinner in near silence.
"Are you alright?" she asked, curling her fingers around her mug of cocoa.
"I'm okay," he said tonelessly without looking at her, gazing instead down into his lap.
She nodded, thinking over those two simple words: his standard response whenever she had tried to prompt him into telling her what was going on. "That's not the same as being happy though," she pointed out, looking sombrely at him.
He sighed. "No, it's not," he allowed, sounding defeated in a way that frightened her a little.
"Will you tell me what's wrong?" she entreated.
Darcy turned to look at his sister – his beautiful, strong, and yet unbelievably fragile sister. The girl he had always looked after, who was now staring at him with such concern, wanting to return the favour and protect him in turn, wanting to make whatever was hurting him stop, go away, leave him alone.
He took a deep breath and she listened in silence as he started to tell her everything.
"This place is insane," Lizzie said, her gaze roaming the hallway with wide-eyed interest as she unzipped her snow jacket.
"Good insane or bad insane?" Darcy asked, helping her slide the thick coat down her shoulders and turning to hang it meticulously on the pegs by the door.
"Beautiful insane, I-can't-believe-you-own-a-cabin insane" she clarified, throwing him a quick smile before setting off down the hallway to explore. Kicking off his shoes, he followed her and found her warming her hands by the blazing fire that had been lit by the resort staff in anticipation of their arrival. "You're sure Gigi didn't mind not coming?" she asked, turning to face him.
"Of course she didn't," he reassured her. "She claimed she had no desire to be around us while we were being, and I quote, 'disgustingly couple-ly.'"
His hand moved automatically to his jacket pocket to make sure the square velvet box was still there. Gigi understood how important this week was to him and had helped him plan his proposal down to a tee. The resort staff had specific instructions emailed to them earlier in the week for a sumptuous candlelit dinner in the privacy of their cabin, snow falling behind the windows showing the beautiful Alpine mountains Lizzie had never seen before – he wanted everything to be perfect, and it would be.
"Yes, but she does the black runs with you," Lizzie pointed out. "You are going to have to be very patient with me this week while I am on the Kiddie slopes."
Darcy smiled at her, perfectly willing to sacrifice the black runs if it meant helping her learn to ski and share in something he loved. "I am sure you will do just fine, it's easy enough to pick up. And if you find that you don't enjoy it then I am sure we can find plenty of other activities to keep us entertained."
"Other activities, hmm?" she repeated with the tiniest hint of a sly smile.
"Indeed," he said, curious about the sudden gleam in her eye.
Lizzie took a tantalising step towards him, the firelight casting a beautiful glow over her skin. "And since it is so very cold outside, I am assuming these would be indoor activities."
Cottoning on to her meaning, he suppressed a smirk, determined to be serious. "The kind that can be enjoyed on a shag carpet in front of a roaring fire, yes," he said, watching her approach him.
"Sounds intriguing," she said, her body pressed against him with her mouth scant millimetres from his.
Not quite kissing him, she ran the tips of her fingers enticingly down the lines of his suspenders until her hands were at his waist – he loved when she did that, when she used his suspenders or tie to pull him closer, or when she hurriedly pushed them down his arms to free his shirt when undressing him.
She teasingly brushed her lips against his for the briefest possible moment, but he drew back with a grin. "Scrabble, for instance, is a very enjoyable game. I believe there is a box in the cupboard upstairs that Gigi -"
He was cut off by her laughingly kissing him.
Some time later they lay in a tangle of limbs on the carpet, the light from the flames flickering over their skin. Lizzie was lying on top of him, her head resting on his bare chest, her hands tracing absent patterns over his skin while he sifted his fingers through her hair, both of them utterly sated and content.
They had been silent for a long while, both simply enjoying the moment, when Lizzie startled him by suddenly sitting up, staring intently at something to their left.
"What is it?" he asked automatically, following her gaze – and then sucked in a shocked breath when he noticed the ring box lying on it's side on the floor, having fallen out of his jacket pocket in their haste to get undressed.
Lizzie reached for it with trembling hands and turned it over several times between her fingers without opening it. Finally, she raised her gaze to his. "William?" she said questioningly.
He gave her a small, half smile and took the box from her, sitting up so that they were face to face with her still straddling his lap. "I imagined this rather differently, I had a romantic dinner planned for tonight. But Lizzie Bennet," he cracked open the box, gratified to hear her gasp when the ring was revealed. It was an antique, a marquise diamond set into platinum, flanked by two sapphires. "Will you marry me?"
"No," she said softly, still gazing at the ring – then her eyes flew to his before he could scarcely register her refusal. "I mean yes, of course I will marry you, but …" she paused and bit her lip. "… Not right now."
"I don't understand," he said, his head tilted to one side.
Lizzie cupped his face between her warm hands. "I do want to marry you, but if we announce an engagement now my mother will have a wedding planned before Christmas is even here," she shook her head slightly. "We only moved in together a few weeks ago and we will have no peace if they knew we were engaged."
"And … are we engaged?" he asked tentatively, not entirely sure what her answer was.
She laughed. "Yes, but secretly," she added playfully.
"A secret engagement," he mused.
"Sounds like something from a regency novel," she said smilingly, leaning forward to press her mouth to his. They kissed for a long moment, before they drew back and she looked back down at the ring. "It's so beautiful," she said quietly, shyly extending a hand to lightly touch the stones.
"It was my grandmothers," he explained. He had his mothers ruby engagement ring also, but he felt that the slightly older sapphires would suit his Lizzie far better. He took the ring from the box and attempted to slide it onto her fourth finger – it stops at her knuckle.
They smile sheepishly at each other. "Guess I have slightly bigger hands than her," Lizzie pointed out.
"She was a very petite woman, barely even five foot. We can easily get it resized." A sudden crease appeared in his brow as he thought of something. "Unless you would prefer a different ring, of course."
"This one is perfect," she insisted, then her eyes brightened with excitement. "Here, wait a second."
She took off her necklace, a simple chain with an elegant drop pearl pendent (her birthday present from him), quickly threaded the ring onto the chain and then refastened it so that it sat between her collarbones, nestled against the pearl on the backdrop of her skin.
"What do you think?" she asked with a smile.
He touches the ring, and then lets his fingers trail down between her breasts to stop tantalisingly just above her belly button. "Exquisite," he said, staring into her eyes.
A huge grin blossomed suddenly across his face as the last few moments of conversation actually registered in his mind. "I can't believe we are engaged," he said, and he had a feeling that he would be smiling stupidly for rather a long time.
"If you'd have told me a year ago …" Lizzie said meditatively.
He gave her a wry, half smile – it seemed remarkable that she was here with him, especially when he considered how depressed he had been the previous winter, utterly convinced that she would never be his.
"How far we've come," he said softly, lovingly, smiling up at her.
Come on, after all that fluff you just KNOW you want to leave a review! :)