Lydia's videos are crushing me, so here's a picker-upper.
A technical Dizzie date. Expect typos, because I have never had a talent for proofreading.
"And this is enhancing our relationship in what way?" She leaned towards him and kept her voice low.
"We are acquiring culture," he said, staring ahead.
"Ah, culture. Of course."
She squeezed his fingers in hers before folding her hands and cocking her head to the side, fixing her full attention on the nearly blank canvas before them. Pretending to, at least. He glanced down at her as she shot him a barely suppressed smile.
"You are allowed to walk around the gallery, you know," he mumbled, failing to hide his amusement. "I haven't chained you to my side."
"Oh, but it's so much more interesting gauging your reactions to this fine artwork than being bored by it myself," she said, squinting at an informational plaque. "Do you think that brush head is on there intentionally or it just dried on while she wasn't paying attention and she cut the handle off?"
"Alright, Elizabeth, next room."
He herded her along as she laughed under her breath.
"Proper date, indeed," she chuckled. The stern glare he gave her only made her laugh louder and he was unable to keep the affection from his face as they sauntered into another collection.
Six weeks they'd been together, six weeks since she'd admitted that she loved him, too, and only now, at William Darcy's insistence, were they going on their first date.
"Lizzie, is it strange that we don't go out? Just the two of us?" he'd asked a few days ago.
"What?" She'd been reading Voltaire with her feet in his lap while he reviewed quarterly earnings. The pots and plates from their pasta dinner were nestled down in the sink, soft music breezed through the apartment, and Lizzie had been putting off leaving for the night page by page.
"I feel like we've skipped a few stages. Aren't we supposed to go to cheap dinners and see heinous Hollywood films while we get to know each other?"
"You mean the terrible part of dating, the very beginning?"
"I suppose so, yes."
She'd put her book aside and leaned towards his side of the sofa.
"What do you want to know about me that you don't already?"
He blinked, frowned for a second.
"I don't honestly know. Your favorite color?"
"Um." He stacked his papers together, slipped them back into folders. "How does dating work, actually?"
"Well, you find a person you may or may not like who may or may not pay for an awkward dinner in which you discover that you have almost nothing in common and none of the same goals."
He rubbed her calf.
"Sounds like a great time. I've missed so much rambunctious fun in my absence from the dating scene."
"Such is this unlucky life, William Darcy," she sighed, leaning forward just a bit farther to kiss his temple before plopping back and snatching up her book.
He glanced at the clock over the fireplace.
"Still, shouldn't we go on at least one actual date?"
Without looking up from her book she answered "Since when do lunch with Fitz and Gigi and making out in your office not count as dates?"
"Lizzie Bennet," he sighed, but he was smiling.
She wiggled her toes. "Fine. If you insist on a terrible outing, out we will go. Just know, William Darcy, that I happen to like staying in with you and overcooking the pasta and dissecting poorly written indie dramas. I like relaxing together, it's comfortable and we're good at it."
Lizzie Bennet had a talent for being simultaneously sentimental and blunt, and the ability still threw him. He felt his chest tighten and warm.
"We don't have to go anywhere, Lizzie."
"Oh, no," she grinned up at him. "You wanted a proper date, you'll get your lame date. Pick something for Saturday afternoon and I will wrangle my hair into submission and we will Be A Couple."
He chuckled, grabbed his folders off the coffee table. "If you say so."
They settled again, music hummed, and many of the myriad city lights hushed their glaring as the evening deepened.
"I'm not giving up office make-outs, though. Not for all the overcooked spaghetti in the world."
So here they stood, well dressed and groomed in a small gallery on the edge of the city as Lizzie put on a pensive face and made the occasional joke by his shoulder. He would knit his brow in fake frustration and she'd tighten her lips or cough into her elbow to hide a smile. Joking aside, she tried to stifle a yawn before he noticed, but he saw. He reached over, brushed his fingers on the back of her hand, and she smiled up at him.
"Do you feel cultured now?" she whispered.
He put on his best haughty frown. "I've always been cultured."
A wide smile spread over her cheeks, and he found one on his own.
"We can go now," he said.
"Excellent!" She grabbed his hand and dragged him towards the exit, past a few confused gallery-goers. He was shaking his head at her when she stopped and his chest knocked into her shoulder.
"This one," she said.
He turned to the piece that captivated her as she approached it. The canvas had been plastered and contorted and reshaped until a vague profile, tilted down, was raised from a textured surface. Over this the artist coated shades of dark, deep navy in heavy paints that only increased the grain.
Lizzie curled her hand under Darcy's arm, pulled him closer.
"This one I like."
The piece inspired nothing in him, but watching her watch it was enchanting.
"Why's that?" he asked, studying her as she inspected its surface and for once ignored the accompanying plaque.
"Dunno," she sighed. "I mean, I know enough to know that this is not particularly wonderful art, but it's…I find it calming."
She was so beautiful. And it wasn't quite so strange to stare at her now because she wasn't a distant object; she was apt to stare back. Sometimes, over coffee or after a congenial debate, they'd just fall into silence and watch each other. He wasn't sure if it was just the novelty of being able to gape without reservation, but he loved drinking in every detail of her face, especially when it was affected with affection. Like now.
"William Darcy," she said without looking up. "You are staring at me."
"I enjoy looking at you."
"Ah, I had noticed. But who would guess William Darcy to be so invested in physical appearance?"
"Mh. No, just in you."
She turned away from the painting. "Damn, can you be cute when you want."
"We can ask about that painting if you want. Get a price estimate."
"William Darcy, I do not need a painting," she said, taking his hand and walking him to the door again. "Besides, it's what it reminds me of and not the painting itself that I like so much."
"And what might that be?"
He pushed the door to the stairwell in and she ducked under his arm.
"Nothing you need to worry about, William Darcy. Where are we eating?"
He laughed as he followed her down the stairs and made for the parking garage. William Darcy. Always his full name, but that was a step beyond just plain Darcy. Which was a step beyond Snobby Mr. Douchey, so he really had no cause for frustration. She'd call him Will eventually.
Though he'd grown fond of the way the five syllables tumbled from her lips.
A dimly lit café. A tiny table in a corner, one designed to be intimate but had something of a claustrophobic effect over all. Their elbows knocked and their feet knocked and Darcy had a hard time imagining this as pleasant on a first date. With Lizzie, though, it was comfortable. Not as comfortable as collapsing on the couch with her into a puddle of sighs and limbs, but comfortable.
"Let's see how many grammatical errors we can find on the menu," she said when the waiter was a safe distance away.
"Let's assume there are plenty and move on."
"Oh, right, right, a proper date!" she grinned, putting her cheeks on the heels of her hands and staring at him in mock awe. "Let's get to know each other!"
"Alright, where do people typically start?"
"Family details, employment, hobbies."
"Well that does present a problem, doesn't it?"
"Seeing as we know all those things about each other, yes. We could just have a jovial, intelligent conversation on the topic of your choosing, but I'll humor you and try to make this painful and date-y. Um, do you like dogs?"
"To an extent. Do you like dogs?"
"Cats are fine. Do you like cats?"
"William Darcy," she sighed, "I cannot do this. Already knowing you was a major bonus in the whole falling in love with you thing. And I don't think we're getting a cat any time soon, so why are we discussing petty junk like this?"
"Do you want a cat?"
"Sure, I like cats." She leaned back and searched for suitable dinner options. "Do you actually like cats or are you just sucking at small talk?"
"We never had a cat. I wouldn't know if I liked them."
"They're distant animals, you'd get along with one well."
She glanced up from her menu to see his exasperation.
"Oh, none of that, I was just kidding. Cats are affectionate and you're affectionate and what do you think about rosemary chicken?"
"I usually order the steak."
"Damn it, I'll get steak, too."
"If you don't want steak don't get steak."
"Yes, but what if your steak looks and tastes better than the rosemary chicken and I end up eating all your wonderful steak off your plate because you're too sweet to tell me to knock it off and eat my own food?"
"I don't mind if you eat my steak."
"But I mind if I eat your steak, so I'll eat my steak instead."
"What if I changed my mind and ordered lobster without telling you?"
"You would jump to the more expensive option."
"Now I'm curious about cat ownership."
"As long as you don't mind their shedding all over creation, you'd like them."
"Actually," she said, folding her menu and reaching for his hand. "I have a hard time seeing you with pets."
She searched his face for a reaction, but then he saw something like shock stretch over hers and she looked away to the rest of the restaurant.
"So steak it is?"
"What's wrong, what did you remember."
"Nothing!" she smiled back at him, just a fraction too brightly.
"Lizzie, what –"
"I just had a thought about… about something, but once you say something like that, you don't get to take it back."
"Is everything alright? Have I done something wrong?"
"No! No, not at all! I thought. Well." She sighed, wrinkled her brow, pinched the bridge of her nose. "I just keep digging myself deeper."
"You can't get out of telling me at this point," he said, squeezing her hand.
She laughed a bitter bark of laughter and put her face in her hand.
"Promise not to laugh and promise not to run away, alright?"
She glanced at him through her fingers, grimacing.
She brushed hair out of her face and dropped her arm to the table to trace circles in the moisture on her water glass.
"It was just a thought. That's all. I really can't see you with pets, but I can see you with kids. Being good with kids, that is."
His eyebrows shot up, but the rest of him froze.
"Hey, are you okay? Did I say too much?"
She squeezed his hand, looked at his surprise.
"Will, you still there?"
Squeezing her hand back, he smiled.
"Still here," he said. Still happy, still good, still thrilled, he didn't say.
"Good," she said, and her features softened. "Good."
There was silence again, but it was comfortable, and Darcy found that in the six weeks he'd spent knowing that Lizzie Bennet was happy to be a part of his life, happy to stay in his life, that newfound comfort is what enamored him the most in their relationship. They didn't have to go to art galleries. They could stay in and let the pasta cook too long. He was fine with that. He was more than fine, in fact.
"Found one!" she grinned. "Split infinitive, on the front of the menu!"
"On the front? That seems a trifle careless."
"Discover how to truly enjoy a meal. Painful and cheesy. How dare they."
"Splitting infinitives is inexcusable."
"Surely you mean there's no reason to ever split infinitives."
He tried to glare. He tried to keep a straight face. But he could see all her white teeth and the crinkles that bloomed by her eyes when she smiled as wide as she could, and he broke. Folded like a road map. And he smiled, too.
"We should storm out," he said.
"Flip tables," she said.
"Make a horrible scene."
"File a tremendous lawsuit."
"It'll make national news."
"Their mistake will be remembered for centuries."
She drank her water, he put menus aside, and the waiter approached.
"You two set? What can I get for you tonight?"
"I'll have the rosemary chicken," Darcy said, trying to avoid Lizzie's gaze. She narrowed her eyes at him, but she had a hard time hiding her smirk.
"And for you, Ma'am?"
"Lobster tail, please."
Darcy managed to wait until the waiter left to start laughing.
"It's your fault if I get food envy, William Darcy."
"Well that's a risk I'm willing to take, Lizzie Bennet."
She shook her head and crossed her arms and then they were back to discussing the next year in Pemberley Digital and Fitz's antics and their least favorite characters in No Exit. What William Darcy didn't know about their first proper date, though, despite its general success, was that when Lizzie Bennet told him he would be a good father, she neglected to mention that when she looked at him, she knew for the first time that she did indeed want kids. Not now. Not anytime soon, either. Maybe they could try the cat in the meantime. But she saw herself with kids, and she saw William Darcy's wide arms holding them in a room filled with laughter.
"Oh, serious talking time. What've I done this time, William?"
She tilted her head back and leaned against the door that led to her apartment. He leaned against the wall next to her, looked her in the eye, had to smile.
"What did the painting remind you of?"
"William Darcy, did you just end a sentence in a preposition? That's almost more deplorable that splitting infinitives."
"Misplaced prepositions are a reality of the modern vernacular and I've been experimenting with talking a touch less formally."
"Like us common folk."
"I suppose, yes."
"The peasantry," she hissed, as if it was a dirty word.
"Lizzie," he laughed. "You're avoiding the question."
"Why I liked the navy piece, you ask, well let's see," she fixed her eyes on the ceiling and made a show of her deep thought. "There's the color of the sky an hour after sunset. There's my first car, this decrepit old Nissan, that navy piece of junk. There's the birthday card Jane and Charlotte made me in the tenth grade. And then there's that dress shirt you were wearing when I first figured out that I liked you. As a person, that is."
By now, he was leaning right over her, captivated by the movement of her eyes along the ceiling tiles, her lips around the word you. But then she was looking at him again, content to let her gaze collide with his.
"And then there's that couch in your office where we really kissed the first time. And there's the navy oven mitt I burnt straight through when we tried to make casserole."
"Never cared for casserole, anyway," he mumbled, leaning closer.
"And then there's the fact that navy has always made me calmer, made me comfortable and contented. Not content like I've settled for anything. Content like I'd be happy to spend hours or years in that state."
She took his hands in hers.
"William Darcy, the way navy makes me feel, that's how you make me feel."
He leaned down, molded his mouth against hers. Her fingers slipped into her hair as his arms slipped around her waist. Content indeed.
She leaned back, arms still around him.
"So overall, how'd this whole date thing go?"
"It was most entertaining, but I must say that I've come to the same conclusion as you."
"You mean the conclusion I had in the first place?"
"Yes, that one."
She laughed, rested her forehead against his chest.
"You're lucky being with you doesn't feel like wasted time. Otherwise I might be frustrated."
"Mh, I'm very lucky."
He rested his chin on top of her head, stroked her upper arm.
She closed her eyes, decided against telling him the rest of what she might have said at dinner.
"I love you, William Darcy."
He pulled back to find her gaze.
"Lizzie Bennet, I am still in love with you."
They went inside for coffee, for comfortable, contented calm.
On Monday morning, William Darcy picked her up for work. He wore a navy tie.
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