Her first week at Pemberley Digital, Lizzie spends an appalling amount of time letting herself get completely charmed by the place. The art, the open and tasteful workspaces, the huge windows with excellent views of the city, the amazing lounge and cafeteria and the fancy counters fully stocked with free snacks and hot beverages at the disposal of every employee… those are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. What Lizzie absolutely adores about Pemberley above everything else, is what is not so easily put into words: the passion the workers of PD seem to exude, the comradeship between creative teams, the fondness, the kindness, the good humored jokes and easy going manners of everyone involved in this company. It makes her insides warm with the buzzing desire to be able to work in a place like this someday.
Darcy is, thankfully, in an undeterminably long LA business trip, and if every man and woman that Lizzie talks to don't miss the chance to sing their boss' praises, Lizzie can easily ignore the uneasiness that hearing his name makes her feel in favor of knowing that she is not going to meet him by chance in the foreseeable future.
Her second week at Pemberley Digital, Lizzie finds out that there is a rooftop pool in the building minutes before feeling like she should go and drown in it.
If she ever thought that maybe someday exposing herself in her videos could come back to humiliatingly bite her in the ass -and yes, she has, more than once- she never imagined that the metaphorical first face slap would come by the hand of Gigi Darcy, who, weirdly enough, is just as kind and considerate to her as everybody else. Even more so.
"Hey, are you too busy?" Gigi's head appears at her door after the customary knock on her open door. She is smiling warmly at her and Lizzie doesn't even have time to think about the possible outcomes of her answer before opening her mouth.
"Great!" and when Gigi says great it really looks like she means it, her smile widens and her dark eyes kind of sparkle as she takes two quick steps to take Lizzie's right hand and pull. "Let's go and eat something."
Lizzie gets up with a little bit of resistance. "I'm not sure that's a good idea," she says, although she is quite sure that it is, in fact, a pretty bad idea. Gigi has watched all of her videos and she is Darcy's little sister after all, it is far from an ideal combination or one that is ever going to be in her favor.
"Oh, come on. If I had to avoid everybody my brother has awkwardly socialized with, I would have to move to another country, possibly in another continent."
Lizzie is fairly convinced that publicly breaking somebody's heart in a somewhat petty way goes far beyond what it could be considered awkward socialization so she has every intention to politely decline the offer but before she can voice the words, Fitz is also there, alliterating his ass off and pulling her other hand lightly.
"Come on, Lizzie B! I offer fun, french fries and friendly faces," he argues, and, "you will have to feed in the foreseen future, anyway."
Maybe is not the most compelling argument she has ever heard but the truth is that she misses Charlotte and her sisters and she would hate to eat alone again, so she smiles and gives in, hoping against hope that she doesn't come to regret it.
By the beginning of her third week at Pemberley Digital Lizzie regrets EVERYTHING.
She is staring at her recording camera with Darcy seated by her side, and then they are both talking at the same time and then they are not talking again and then she is bluntly staring at his eyes and regretting absolutely everything that has made her life lead her to this very moment.
Her heart pounds in her ears, words fail her while she makes a hasty excuse to leave and she touches his arm awkwardly, which is a concept she could have previously sworn didn't exist. If she didn't know better she would say that the contagious Darcy condition had finally gotten the best of her.
In her fourth week at Pemberley Digital, Bing Lee makes a stellar appearance because, apparently, her life wasn't complicated or awkward enough, but is when she hears Caroline is also in town when Lizzie makes the wise decision to take an early lunch break and go through the less populated way out.
She needs time to breath, space to think clearly and a vanilla caramel coffee from the place down the street to have something to hold on to while she sulks, but of course the coffee is the only one of the three that she manages to get.
"Miss Bennet, how wonderful finding you here. Do you mind if I join you? I'm not overly fond of drinking alone, so to speak."
She has just purchased her hot, sweet beverage and taken it to a one of the free little tables in front of the main window when the familiar face of Darcy's executive secretary appears in front of her.
"Mrs. Reynolds, of course, please, sit down."
Serene and warmly composed as ever, the older woman sits down in front of her and takes a long sip of her own cofee. "Are you enjoying your time at Pemberley? Is everybody treating you well?"
Lizzie tries to warm her always cold hands rubbing them against her mug and tries to match Mrs Reynolds sincere smile with one of her own "Oh yes, everybody is being very kind and Pemberley Digital is a great company."
"Good. I'm glad." There's a pause in the conversation and Mrs. Reynold's calm features seem to struggle for a moment before taking a deep breath and speaking again. "I… I've watched your videos."
Lizzie can feel the blood leaving her face. Her stomach hurts, her hands sweat and the smile plastered on her face becomes rigid and uncomfortable.
"I overhead Gigi talking about them and I got curious."
Lizzie is afraid that she might get stuck on monosyllabic words forever.
"Don't worry, dear, I may be old enough to be your mother but I have no intention to offer you any kind of unrequested advice. I wanted to tell you an story though, the story of a happy, easy going young man that had to grow up really quickly when his parent suddenly passed away at an early age. He had to learn how to take care of his little sister, how to manage his father's business and how to protect his mother heritage. Unfortunately, there were always those who tried to use his youth and his naivety to gain access to his fortune or his position and after one too many bad experiences, he just closed up beyond those who were his closer friends"
Lizzie is far too astonished, too ashamed and too coffee deprived to even attempt a proper sensible response.
"Mrs. Reynolds I…"
"Oh don't trouble yourself, dear," she says and gets up leaving her almost empty mug on the table. "And look at the time! I really must be going back to the office."
But she does, she troubles herself. She thinks about what Mrs. Reynolds has just told her and about what she already knows of Gigi and Wickham. She wonders again and again, what would she have done if she had been on Darcy's shoes.
That night Lizzie doesn't sleep, she passes it in front of her laptop with her own face filling the screen.
"My name is Lizzie Bennet…" and this is a big mistake, she thinks every single time the digital version of herself presents a new topic, but the Lizzie on her screen never say the words no matter how much she wants her to, never agrees with her, never sees the things quite like she sees them now.
Is all too vexing, too exhausting.
In the videos Jane cries breaking her heart all over again and Lydia storm off to never be seen on the vlog again. She wants to blame them both, Darcy and Bing, for the hurt that she is feeling inside but she knows she can't make them responsible for her own faults, for her own misinterpretations and prejudiced judgments.
She longs to go back to a more simple life when all her feelings were perfectly sorted out, but instead she finds herself like Julia Stiles at the end of that teen movie, with her eyes full of tears and not being able to really hate the guy, not even a little, not even at all.
In her fifth week, Pemberley Digital is awarded with the title of "Company of the Year" by an important business newspaper. Everybody is thrilled with the news and Darcy decides to host a party for all the deserving employees, their families and friends in one of the most expensive hotels in the city.
Lizzie buys a blue cocktail dress, pins up her hair and puts on incredibly high heels for the event. There's a little band playing slow music, glasses and bottles of champagne on every conceivable surface and a constant flow of trays filled with delicious food coming from wherever the kitchen is.
If she ever dreamed of being Grace Kelly, this is probably the closest she is ever going to be to living that dream.
She talks with lots of people, laughs incessantly with Gigi and Fitz ignores Caroline's judgmental glances and dances a couple of slow songs with Bing. All in all, she has the most fun she remembers having in a long time but after her third glass of champagne and four straight hours of standing on high heels her head asks for some fresh air and her feet for a proper chair to sit on, and so she discretely makes her way out to the private terrace.
The night is cold and windy as it should be expected at this time of year, and yet she feels welcome into San Francisto's night with its vibrant lights and white noise and the unfamiliar outline of its buildings in the landscape ahead; it's not till she goes to the darkest corner where the sitting area is set that she realizes she is not alone.
"Darcy," she says because he is sitting there, in one of the sofas looking out at the city and doesn't look like he has heard her coming.
Darcy looks up at her, smiles and gets up. "Lizzie," he acknowledges and, ever the gentleman, makes a small gesture with his hand to offer her a seat, not sitting back until she does.
These are the kind of things that Lizzie can't help noticing lately. The way he always holds the coat for Gigi to put it on before they are both ready to leave the office, or how he pulls back the chair for his secretary to take the seat before they start meeting. The old fashioned good manners that Lizzie, a modern girl of her age, didn't know she liked.
"Are you hiding at your own party?"
"Well, it's not my party, it's Pemberley Digital's party and, in case it has escaped your sharp deductive talents, let me tell you that I'm not very fond of big celebrations."
"Really?" she says exaggeratedly widening her eyes in mocking irony.
He snorts, and she smiles and they both turn to look out at the landscape in silence, the former awkwardness between them worn down by extended overuse.
The sound of the band playing indoors comes out muffled in the dark and Lizzie breathes deeply and braces herself against the cold enjoying the present company. "It's nice," she declares, but she is not referring to the view.
"Yes, it is," and she doesn't have a clue to what is he alluding to either.
There's a shift beside her and when she turns to look, Darcy has already taken his suit jacket off and is putting it over her shoulders. It smells good, it smells better than good. It smells like a hint of expensive cologne and a hint of exclusive aftershave and a lot like Darcy. She is cocooned in this smell and the warmth of the jacket, with the music still playing from afar and Darcy beside her in the dark, all black suit pants and black shirt and undone white tie.
"It's really nice."
"It really is."
When fifteen minutes later he offers to escort her back inside, his warm hand covers her usually cold one and Lizzie thinks that nice doesn't even star to cover it.
It's technically still her fifth week at Pemberley, with the hangover of the celebration still hanging in the air, when Caroline shows up at the office. Perfect hair, perfect make up and perfect attire, slowly moving through the hallways, taking her time to properly greet and compliment every passing acquaintance and Lizzie watches her through the glass walls, contemplating her charming ways and remembering her unending list of accomplishments.
She goes into Darcy's office and comes out half an hour later perched on his arm. They are both talking and smiling as they leave, presumably for lunch given the hour, and if Lizzie feels any uneasiness at all she convinces herself that it's the breakfast that hasn't agreed with her today.
In her sixth week at Pemberley Digital Darcy invites her to an afternoon business meeting with a client downtown. By the time they make it back to the office, the building is very nearly deserted and the sky has been dark for quite some time.
"I'm just going to grab my stuff and go home," she announces heading towards her designated workplace. It's already late and she doesn't want to arrive home any later than strictly necessary.
She packs her camera and her laptop and is in the process of folding her tripod when she hears a soft knock on her open door and Darcy's silhouette appears at the threshold, dark and mysterious.
"May I offer you a ride?"
His features are warm and relaxed when he steps into the lighted room and Lizzie finds herself smiling effortlessly at him. "Yes, thank you, that would be… great, if it's not too much trouble."
Darcy smiles back with some indulgence, like the very though of taking her home being any kind of inconvenience is plainly ludicrous, and takes a couple of steps to pick up her bag from the floor. "It's no trouble at all. Besides, I have noticed that you are a little bit taken with my car."
"Oh, you are mistaken, sir. I am completely in love with your hybrid car."
He chuckles with a rare, low intensity laugh that never fails to make Lizzie's stomach drop a couple of stair flights. They walk the empty hallways in silence, with a slow, lazy pace, small sparks of electricity spreading through her skin from the places where their arms touch when they accidentally bump into each other.
"It has been an interesting meeting. Very educational," she babbles. "Thank you for taking me."
But Darcy says, "My pleasure," and puts his right hand on the small of her back and Lizzie aches to ask him if it has truly been so, a pleasure. For him. But they keep walking and she forgets as she can barely concentrate on anything besides the feeling of his long fingers sprawled across her back.
It's crazy, absolutely crazy the way her body is constantly aware of his presence. It makes her restless, anxious, in constant need of a release that she never finds.
They pass the main meeting room, the beverage counter and they are about to pass Darcy's office on their way to the elevators when Lizzie can't help herself anymore and leans a little bit into his arm, drawn by his presence, his warmth, his now familiar smell. It's the way that he doesn't lean back what prompts her to come to a sudden stop and open her mouth before thinking about what she is going to say.
"Do I-" she begins before shaking her head and rephrasing herself. "Do you still like me?"
She hates the way her voice sounds, little and slightly trembling. Absolutely hates it, like she hates the way her lungs and her stomach conjure against her or how she fidgets and plays with her hands while she waits for an answer because she doesn't really know what to do with her hands.
Darcy looks at her and she looks at a very particular spot on the floor until she finally finds the courage to look him in the eyes. He still takes a couple of seconds more before answering.
"Ahmm, It is not in my disposition to fall in love easily," his voice a little more than a doubtful whisper, "and neither it is to fall out of it, I'm afraid," and smiles cautiously, with a guarded expression in his eyes, like she would scold him for this, like his feelings for her were so unavoidable that he could be hardly at blame for this declaration.
It takes her breath away.
Lizzie doesn't know what she is thinking about or if she is even thinking at all when she grabs the lapels of his jacket and pulls him to her, but to be sure, any sensible consideration definitely parts away when their mouths finally meet.
It's a chaste kiss, only lips over lips that lasts for about five seconds before Darcy sighs and opens his mouth and uses the hand that was on the small of her back to drag her towards him.
There's a mulled thump when Darcy lets her bag fall to the floor and maybe Lizzie should be worried for the state of her camera but she is too busy kissing him, teasing the roof of his mouth, letting his tongue rub against her own, to care about anything else.
Darcy's left hand rises and settles on the back of her neck, caressing the soft skin he finds there, lightly entangling his fingers in her hair and Lizzie wants to touch him, needs to touch him, but he is too tall, even with her standing on her tiptoes, and she has to keep holding on to his lapels if she doesn't want to break the kiss. Lizzie definitely doesn't want to break the kiss, but she nibbles on his lower lip causing him to groan, the vibration running through them both, and Darcy takes half a step back and breaks the kiss.
She is no longer on her tiptoes but her hands are still gripping his lapels.
"We should probably-"
"Uhm yeah… we should-"
But he is breathing heavily, his lips red, wet and swollen, his dark eyes filled with lust, and however either sentence was going to end it dies in their lips as they kiss again.
They move, pulling and pushing, going backwards and in circles till they make it to the sofa in his office, caressing, and undressing each other along the way, coats and jackets discarded all over the floor.
He sits at the sofa with his shirt open and the button of his trousers undone and her knees framing his slender hips as she sits on his lap with her skirt rolled up.
"I suppose you wouldn't want to record this?" he jokes in between kisses. "Because I could be convinced to-"
"Shut up," she interjects, "your mouth has more urgent things to do."
He grabs, and touches, and caresses her everywhere using his strong hands and capable mouth and she matches him bit by bit. There are entangled limbs and gasps and groans and Lizzie thinks that she should have suspected it, that under his out of fashion suspenders and bowties, the passion he shows at work had to be just a PG preview of what he could do in the bedroom. Or in his office, as it seems.
His mouth nibbles her right earlobe, his tongue slides easily over the sensitive skin on the side of her neck, his nose nuzzles her temple but his fingers, the fingers of his right hand, never emerge from between her legs, skillfully applying pressure, circling and bending in just the right places over and over again.
Lizzie feels like she is about to fall off a cliff.
She desperately holds onto his shoulders, his chest, his hair, until she can't hold onto anything anymore, her hands trembling too much to keep the grip. Her breath catches in her throat, white bright spots of light appear before her closed eyelids and while she convulses around his hand with her shirt and her skirt still on, she feels like maybe she is really falling, just not off a cliff.