A/N: The Unconventional series was planned between eps 82 and 83, so it will most likely be canonballed. Enjoy.
Summary: Lizzie tries to talk Darcy out of killing her before uploading episode 82. The frozen lasagna, box of wine, and case of beer that follows might just lead to friendship.
An Unconventional Friendship
Lizzie had been waiting in the Pemberley Digital lobby for nearly an hour. Nearly everyone had gone home for the night, but that Wednesday evening, Lizzie Bennet was on a mission. She couldn't let tomorrow come without a conversation with a certain CEO. Not when the next morning she would post Gigi Darcy's story for all the internet to see.
But she was beginning to worry she had missed Darcy on his way out. But Darcy wouldn't take off early would he? He was Darcy after all.
No, she decided, he wouldn't. Because Darcy was –
"Darcy!" she yelled as he came into view, and she sprinted over to him.
"I… Lizzie. Hello," he said looking like a deer in the headlights, and she realized how dramatic that must have looked.
"Hey. Do you have a minute to talk?"
"Um… well… I…"
"If you don't, that's fine – "
"No. I mean yes. I can talk. Would you perhaps join me for some dinner – I haven't had much of a chance to eat all day."
"Oh… um… no, thank you, but no. Um… if you were planning on driving, maybe you could give me a ride home? Unless it's out of your way…"
"Yes, I would be happy to give you a ride."
He led her to his car and it wasn't until they were pulling out of the parking lot that either spoke again.
"So what was it you needed to talk about?"
"I see. Has she done something that made you uncomfortable?"
"No, nothing like that. She… she kinda filled me in on the details your letter left out."
"And she did it while I was recording my video for tomorrow."
Lizzie had never seen someone sit so still.
"I offered to turn off the camera while we talked, but she insisted. She really wanted – wants – me to post it tomorrow."
"Well, that's her decision," he said through his teeth. He clenched his jaw so tightly, Lizzie was sure she could hear his teeth grinding themselves into dust.
"Yes. It is. But she said some things…"
"I have an idea about what she said, thank you."
Lizzie was used to being uncomfortable around Darcy. Bu she wasn't used to him being angry, not really.
"I… the reason I told you this is because… I guess… I wanted to prepare you for… you know… if you're still watching the videos. Pleasedontbengrywithme."
"I'm not angry with you, Lizzie. I'm… I'm angry with myself."
"For what? I mean, you saved her from – "
"From what? From pain? I believe I actually caused it."
"She would have been hurt way worse by Wickham. We both know that. She knows that."
"Yes. But that doesn't excuse my hurting her. There were other ways I could have gone about what I did."
"You were angry."
"I was that."
"People do stupid things when they're angry. Trust me. I'm an expert on the subject."
His eyes flickered over to her for the first time since she'd brought up the subject. She thought he almost smiled.
Darcy pulled to the home Lizzie was house-sitting for her time in San Francisco.
"Well… thanks for… the talk. And the ride."
"Of course. Anytime."
Lizzie smiled at him and started to get out of the coup. "You said you were hungry, right?" she asked, half out the door.
"I… have a Stouffer's lasagna in the freezer that I was going to make and I'd feel way better about eating all of it tonight if I had some help."
"I… from that, am I meant to assume you're inviting me to eat a frozen lasagna with you?"
She gave him a sheepish grin. "Yeah. You're meant to assume."
"Well then… I would be happy to."
"K. Gimme like… three minutes before coming in," she said, remembering the mess the house was in, and jumped out of the car.
Darcy sitting on a stool at the kitchen island was absurdly funny to Lizzie. It was so… domestic. Sure, she had seen Darcy around Netherfield, but Netherfield was never particularly domestic, and she had never imagined Darcy in a kitchen of all things.
The lasagna was in the oven, and Lizzie suddenly realized she had no idea what to talk to Darcy about. Darcy who was sitting in her kitchen. Darcy who was alone with her on her own invitation.
Darcy was saying nothing. He was looking around but mostly he was looking at her. He hadn't given up that particular habit. And Lizzie couldn't meet his eyes when he did. She felt like he was expecting something from her, and she had no idea how to deliver.
"Want something to drink?"
Lizzie felt herself relax as she turned away from Darcy and his stare and went to the refrigerator. "Ok… um… water… beer… wine…"
"What kind of wine?"
"Franzia," she said with a hint of an apology in her voice.
"I'm not familiar with that winery." Not enough of a hint, apparently.
"It's… um… it's wine."
"Well, Italian generally goes better with wine than beer."
"You are so right. Please don't think I'm too unrefined if I go for the beer, but you're welcome to the wine."
Lizzie got down a wine glass and did her best to hide the box in the refrigerator from Darcy as she filled the glass with the pink liquid.
She set the glass in front of him and it was her turn to stare at him. "You don't need to do the whole swirl and sniff thing. It's not a hundred dollar bottle of wine I've got in there."
"I wasn't planning on it, but thank you for the permission."
Lizzie had to prop her elbow on the table and lean on her hand, using it to cover her mouth, to keep from laughing as Darcy took his first sip of Franzia.
As he swallowed and his brain registered the taste, he seemed to convulse, and Lizzie was sure he would spit it back up in his glass. But Darcy exceeded expectations and managed to get it down.
Lizzie couldn't help laughing as hard as she did. When she could finally breathe again, she said, "The more you drink it, the less you want to vomit… until you want to vomit again."
"That is not wine," Darcy said, pointing accusingly at the glass.
"Yes. Yes, it is." He looked horrified. "So, Mr. One Percent, how do you feel about us Ninety-Nine, now?"
"You actually drink this? Willingly?"
"I mean, it's not my go to," she said holding up the Sierra Nevada bottle, "But sometimes… you just need box wine."
"Yep. Comes in a box."
"I think… I would march on Wall Street as well." Lizzie smiled even wider at Darcy's joke.
"I… don't want to waste your… Franzia."
Lizzie smiled but took the glass and poured out the contents in the sink.
"Thank you," he said as he accepted the pale ale from her.
"You're welcome," Lizzie said, still giddy from his reaction to the wine.
Neither noticed how much more relaxed they both were.
Four empty beer bottles had been shoved to one side of the island. Darcy and Lizzie sat across from each other, a half-eaten lasagna between them.
"I'm not saying," Darcy was saying between bites of lasagna and swigs of his latest beer, "that he doesn't have a right to his current opinions, but to force that opinion upon the scholars – "
"But what does that say about authorial agency? Scholars now define the work, not the creator?"
"This isn't about authorial agency. It was decades before he began saying that main theme was meant to be the dumbing down of society from technology. That is clearly based on his changing opinions about what is important in society, and has nothing to do with his original intent, which is accepted. And even if it were about authorial agency, you can't argue for complete agency without an interaction between the creator and the consumer."
"What do you mean I can't argue for that?"
"Have you not said, 'I guess these videos are bigger than me'? You use an interaction between yourself and your viewers to recreate your vlog as you create it."
"Yes, but that's completely different. We're talking about a book, set in time, and a vlog that is an ongoing project – "
"Exactly, you are in the process of creation yet you promote limitations on your own agency. Or is that only an excuse you use to publish anything you want without consequence because it's 'out of your hands'?"
"I can't believe you've never seen that movie," Lizzie said, leaning nearly halfway across the island toward Darcy.
Only one corner of the lasagna remained, but it had been pushed to the side along with half a twelve pack of empty bottles.
"I… don't watch movies."
"You're the CEO of a production company."
"And… I watch what my company produces. When I can."
"Seriously, you are so uncultured."
"I happen to believe that there more important pieces of culture I could be consuming. Visual and literary art. Theatre, music – "
"All I hear are excuses, William Darcy. You are uncultured."
"Well, you will have to educate me."
"Oh, you can count on it."
Lizzie set the pint of Phish Food between them and handed Darcy a spoon, which he took with thanks. At some point they had picked at the lasagna enough to finish it off. They were three beers each past "just one more," and the new ones Darcy was opening for them were the last ones, they swore.
"Can I ask you something?" Lizzie asked as she sat on her stool.
"It's just… I've been wondering for a while… you and… Wickham… how…? I shouldn't ask, should I?"
"I said 'anything.' You want to know how we were friends when he's… I believe you've called him, charming. And I'm an agoraphobic lobster."
"Well… I mean I get that you have very extroverted friends – Fitz, Bing… But they… have… ethics…? At least those of normal human beings."
Darcy snorted in what was probably the closest thing she'd heard to a laugh from him.
"Yes, they do have those. George wasn't always… if he was anything like he is today, I couldn't tell. We grew up together. He was my first real friend. I met Fitz in preschool, but we weren't really friends. … See… I was… a disappointment to my father."
"I can't imagine you being a disappointment."
"My father was… charismatic. And athletic. When he had a son, he thought he would play catch and go camping and… I wasn't that kid."
"But George was."
"The son my father never had. Yes. He was our gardener's son. And my father adored him. When I was four I decided to try to be George's friend. I thought he could teach me how to make my father proud."
"You thought that when you were four."
"I don't think it was quite as well put together, but… I knew he had my father's attention and I didn't. I wanted to know how to change that. It worked. I was able to fake enthusiasm for sports and the outdoors and socializing with other kids. Fitz and I became friends. And we grew up. And then high school came."
"And things changed?"
"For the better."
"We had a… symbiotic relationship. He was never very good in school. And I had no idea how to talk to girls. Fitz tried, but… we went to a private school and we had been going to school with the same people – the same girls – for our entire lives. And as good as Fitz was, he couldn't convince them I was anything but a socially awkward geek. But George went to public school and he could talk me up when I wasn't there and I would throw the best parties because I had the money to."
"So what happened? I mean, just out of nowhere he was an irresponsible ass?"
"I guess… it started happening – at least that I could notice – senior year. My senior year, George's junior." He paused and took a huge gulp of beer. "There was a girl."
"Kristine Kaufman. I was… unreasonably infatuated with her."
"It's physically impossible for you to say that you had a crush, isn't it?"
"They might revoke my bow-tie wearing privileges if I tried."
"So, you were unreasonably infatuated with Kristine Kaufman?"
"I was. And I told George. He said he'd take of it."
"Take care of it?"
"Convincing her that I was… not me. George had me throw this party at my house, and he promised she would be there. So I did, and she was, and… I bumbled my way through a conversation with her. And she didn't mind that I was the opposite of smooth. She…uh…she and I… well…"
Darcy gave a few more false starts before Lizzie rescued him, "I think I can fill in the blanks."
"Yes, well. That happened."
"I'm failing to see how George getting you laid is him changing into a sociopath."
"Two weeks later, she and George were in a relationship. He told me that he had tried to ignore his feelings for her when I told him how I felt, but he couldn't anymore and she was special to him and… I believed him."
"You're kidding me."
"No. I thought he cared about her. He… had a pet-name for her, and I had never heard him use one before."
"I guessing it wasn't 'babe' or 'sweetheart,' was it?"
"It was a fruit, wasn't it?"
"Georgia's known for 'em?"
"So… so…" Lizzie was trying to speak between fits of body-shaking laughter. Darcy was leaning on both his hands looking completely incredulous. "He-he-he… he grabbed it with both hands," she mimed what looked like picking up a large ball in her hands, "And he just smashed his face right into it – I swear to God!"
Darcy covered his face, and she could barely hear the muffled "Oh my God."
"And I…" Darcy was saying, more open than she'd ever seen him, "Knew. I just knew. This is what I'm going to do for the rest of my life."
"So… do you still do it?"
"No. No. Not at all."
"I don't know. I don't really have the time. And… I'm also terrible at it."
"That's a shame. You should do what you love."
"I… no. You haven't seen my attempts. They are not pretty."
"Oh come on! They can't be that bad!"
Lizzie stretched and yawned as the conversation came to a lull. "God, what time is it?" she asked as she swiveled to see the clock, "It must be past elev – Holy shit!"
Darcy leaned to see around her. "Oh. It seems we've let the time get away from us."
"And we both have to be at work in the morning… or later in the morning… in just a few hours."
"I should probably let you get some sleep." He stood, and Lizzie scrambled to get up as well.
"Oh yeah. I guess we should both sleep. Are you ok to drive?"
"Uh… yeah. Yeah, I'm fine."
"You sure? There's a second guest bedroom…"
"I don't want to put you out more than I already have."
"Oh no, I… I'll walk you to the door."
She ushered him to the front of the house and opened the door.
"I had a good time tonight, Darcy."
"As did I. Thank you for the dinner and the company."
"I'll see you on Saturday if not sooner?"
"I'm looking forward to it."
"As am I."
"And text me when you get home just so I don't worry you've run into a fire hydrant or something."
"Absolutely. Good night, Lizzie." He stepped outside and looked over his shoulder at her one last time before heading for his car.
Lizzie closed the door and leaned against it, breathing out a heavy sigh. "Good night, Darcy."