Authors' note: A bit of fun a propos of nothing in particular. We-Jancat10 and JustineR-just wanted to have some fun at D&E's expense.
There's nothing like a little pain to bring a couple closer together.
Pouring rain. An overstuffed bag of papers and reports. A key that wouldn't go in the old, rain-swollen door. And a period that arrived at least two days early and totally without any warning signs. She knew it with all the certainty of a woman who had survived at least two horribly embarrassing accidents in her teens.
Yes, Elizabeth was preoccupied, stumbling around in a blissful post-coital haze when she wasn't floating on air, and well-loved and happier than she'd ever dreamed possible. But dammit, she was a 24-year-old woman, she'd been dealing with monthly headaches and drugstore runs since she was 14. How did she let this happen?! And dammit, why was her phone ringing?! She glanced at the screen. Fitzwilliam… She clicked it on, "Hi. Can't talk. I'll call you back in a few…." She wrenched the key again and the door burst open.
She barreled through the door, down the hall and into the bathroom. So close. She started fumbling for her supplies.
Ten minutes later, she lay on her bed. Clad in sweats, she was starting to feel that slow, deep ache in her back. Her jeans and panties were soaking in the tub and the icepack on her head was only vaguely helping with the pain of a migraine gestating on one side of her head. She closed her eyes. Just for a minute, Elizabeth told herself, just for a second.
An hour later, she woke in a dark room. She sat up slowly, hearing ringing in the distance.
She stumbled in the darkness, flipped on the hall lights and headed down the narrow passage. The persistent ringing came from under the lumpy canvas bag on the floor by the front door. She bent over and retrieved the phone, gathering up her papers as she glanced at the screen. Four missed calls. Seven texts. Oh no. She went to the kitchen, turned on the kettle and tapped out a message on her phone.
Will, sorry. Please come. Bring chocolate. Lots of it. Now.
She stared at the phone. It buzzed with a message.
The dark kind, right?
Dear god, he was the perfect man.
Fitzwilliam made it to Elizabeth's front door after an arduous and wet trip downtown. His jeans were wet from the knees down in spite of his umbrella and he really, really wished he had asked for a plastic bag when he'd stopped to buy chocolate at the little European specialty shop on the corner. He knocked on Elizabeth's door just to let her know he was there before he let himself in with the key. The key jammed after it had turned halfway, and he wondered if she had any silicon spray at her place. He'd bring some next time, if not. He finally got the key to turn, and then the door seemed a little sticky, so he gave it a shove with his shoulder.
He'd tweaked something in his back at the gym after work. He didn't want to make too big a deal out of it, though, because Elizabeth always teased him about being a big baby when it came to pain.
"Is that you, sweetie?" He heard Elizabeth call from the living room couch as the door finally swung open and he walked in.
"Yeah, it's me. I come bearing chocolate."
"My hero. Did you get the good stuff?"
"If by 'the good stuff' you mean that Belgian kind you like, then, yes."
He kicked off his shoes, dumped all his raingear in the hall and dripped into the living room. He handed her a couple of damp chocolate bars and leaned down to give her a kiss on the lips. Zing, as always, but also a little zing in his back.
"I'm all wet. I'll go towel off and be back in a minute."
"Get me some peppermint tea while you're up? Please?" she called after him as he headed back down the hall.
After a few minutes of fussing around in the kitchen and several trips back and forth for inquiries about the location of the tea kettle (still in plain sight on the stovetop), the mugs (next to the stove), and the teabags (on the counter next to the stove), he finally emerged with the cup of tea and some cookies he had found next to the teabags.
Elizabeth was lying stretched out on the sofa, draped in an afghan and with the lights down low. She grinned a little weakly and posed with the back of her wrist on her forehead in Victorian fainting-couch fashion. She reached out for the mug.
"Thanks, Will. And thank you for coming out in the rain."
She made room for him on the sofa and he sat on the edge sideways so he could turn to see her as she gingerly sipped the tea. He looked at her intently.
"Are you OK? I was really worried when I didn't hear back from you."
"I'm sorry, I meant to call you right back, but I fell asleep. I'm fine, really. Well, I have a migraine and I feel like crap, but that's normal when I have my period. This one just surprised me. Aunt Flo showed up a couple of days early, before I was expecting her. I feel really stupid about it, actually."
She looked pale, but she didn't look as embarrassed as he felt. He wasn't quite sure what to say. Should he laugh? Did she want him to ask questions, or pretend she was just sick? Should he change the subject? They'd only been together for a few months, and because of timing and travel this was the first time they'd really had to talk about the 1,000-lb. gorilla in the living room: menstruation.
He cleared his throat. He'd bought tampons. Once. He knew about this stuff. Georgie had freaked out when she was 13 and Mrs. Reynolds was out somewhere and he and Richard had to figure it all out. Of course, Richard was completely bewildered and refused to acknowledge that his favorite tickle monster might become a woman who would refuse to play videogames with him or run around Pemberley and shoot the topiary with Nerf guns. He simply disappeared after a heated, whispered argument with Will, who was left to assure his sister that all would be well and that he knew exactly what to do.
Off he went to the corner drugstore, where by the grace of God he bumbled into a sweet Jamaican woman who took pity on him, unlike the native New Yorkers busy ignoring a man staring in obvious distress and bewilderment at the endless variety of tampons and sanitary napkins. She helped him overfill a basket with all the right boxes and medicines. She even told him about hot water bottles and chocolate bars. He breathlessly thanked her and ran off to care for Georgie, who declared him the best brother ever. Especially after he ordered pizza and watched "Finding Nemo" and "The Little Mermaid" with her. Mrs. Reynolds was beside herself for missing this special moment with her "darling girl," and gave Will an extra-long hug and his favorite breakfast the next morning.
So the M word was nothing. He had dealt with it. But this was Lizzy, and dealing with her needs and thinking about her nether regions, well, that was an entirely different matter. Did she even want him around? His last girlfriend, the only one around long enough to have had a period while they were dating, had made sure he knew about the Red Zone-as in do not come near me, do not touch me, do not even think about sex or my body for the next week. But this was Lizzy. She had called him and asked him to come over. But maybe she just wanted the chocolate. Maybe he should leave.
"Um, Elizabeth? Do you need anything? Anything else, I mean?"
A blurry voice replied, "No, I'm good. As good as I can be, considering."
"OK." Now what? Suddenly, he could hear that beautiful Jamaican voice reminding him of other things.
"Would you like a back rub? Or a hot water bottle?
Elizabeth propped herself up on her elbow. "Oh, Dr. Darcy. You are so sweet. And you know so much." She raised an eyebrow at him and frowned. "Did you read a pamphlet somewhere?"
"No! I-, this woman told me-"
Elizabeth lay back down. "Oh."
Fitzwilliam shook his head and leaned over, touching her chin and pulling her attention toward him. "Not that. This woman, at the store, when I had to take care of Georgie the first time. I didn't know what to do, and she pointed out what to buy and what would make her feel better."
"Oh. I bet you even watched Nemo with her, didn't you?"
"What? How did you know that?"
"Doesn't every girl watch Nemo when she's recovering from the trauma of getting her period for the first time?" she inquired, sipping her tea.
He was pretty sure she was joking, but he couldn't read her eyes very well right now in the dimness.
"Um…No? I don't know?"
"You should see your face right now. It's all different shades of red," she said, laughing very, very carefully, "kind of like Nemo."
He made a funny fishy kissing face, which made her giggle, and so she decided to stop giving him a hard time.
"OK, my headache is getting worse. Would you please kiss it there, on the side of my head?" she pointed.
He liked that she had decided to let him help her, when she usually tried to do everything for herself. It made him feel useful. "Yeah, of course. How's this?" he said, moving closer. No Red Zone here. OK, this was good.
Elizabeth sighed and curled up more tightly on the couch. Her head didn't hurt quite so much anymore. Those little kisses had helped. So had the heating pad. It was heavenly, reducing the throb in the small of her back to a low-grade pulsing. She opened her eyes just wide enough to see Fitzwilliam hunched over her coffee table filling in the squares on yesterday's Sudoku. Her man. Undaunted by menstruation, formidable in the face of Aunt Flo. Their first awkward bodily function moment and he'd passed with flying colors, listening patiently as she recounted the sad tale of being the last girl in her gym class to have an excuse to sit out swimming and volleyball. And she hadn't been embarrassed either, although she cringed when she realized he'd seen the messy tangle of clothes she'd left soaking in the tub. Crud. She felt better when she remembered the sweaty jockstrap she'd found in his closet last week. Did she tease him about that? Elizabeth yawned and closed her eyes. Hope not, she thought. We're even.
She smiled remembering the look on his face when she'd guessed about Nemo. That's what Jane had put in the DVD player whenever Elizabeth or one of her sisters was afflicted by the onset of PMS, cramps and other womanly woes. And she'd bake her turtle brownies. Yummm….she'd have to teach Will how to make those. She closed her eyes and burrowed into the pillow.
Fitzwilliam had turned on the TV and was watching SportsCenter with the volume turned down really low while Elizabeth dozed. He was feeling pretty good about their earlier conversation. She handled this menstruation business the same way she did everything—matter-of-factly, no games. Plus, he knew she wouldn't let just anyone take care of her. He started feeling just a little puffed up about it.
But it was starting to get late, and he realized he needed to go home so he could get to work early the next morning. But he didn't want to leave Lizzy on the sofa all night. It was a little saggy and uncomfortable. He decided he'd better carry her in to her bed. He turned off the TV and scoped out how she was lying, thinking about how he could best pick her up without hurting himself. He squatted down and put one arm under her knees and the other under her shoulders and tried to keep his back straight while he lifted with his legs like a weightlifter. So far, so good. She opened her eyes a little and murmured, "My hero, again," and squeezed his bicep just a bit. He stood a little straighter.
But the farther down the hall he got, the more he realized that this was not a good idea. At all. By the time he lurched sideways to get her through the bedroom doorway, it was clearly a very big mistake. The last two steps were torture. He probably dropped her right on the bed, but he wasn't sure because the next thing he knew he was lying on the floor next to the bed grabbing his lower back, which was now in full-on spasm.
"Oh, my god! Will, are you all right?" Elizabeth croaked out. She was hanging her head over the side of the bed and even through his pain-induced haze he thought she looked like she might throw up.
"Back spasms. Can't move."
"Do you want me to call for an ambulance?"
"No." He blinked back tears. "If I just lie here, they should go away eventually."
"Do you want me to get you anything?"
"Can you even get up?"
"Yeah, I think I can make it to the bathroom if you need something."
He watched her slowly swing her legs around and hoist herself to a semi-sitting position. Then with one hand clutching the side of her head and the other grabbing furniture for support, she staggered around his prone body and stumped down the hall. Through the doorway he saw lights turning off in the living room and then heard rattling and flushing and various other sounds from the bathroom. When she staggered back a few minutes later she had a handful of pills and was holding a glass of water with a bendy straw in her hand and an ultra-sized bottle of ibuprofen under her arm.
"You can't sit up to drink, can you?"
Kneeling and putting the water glass on the bedside table, she grabbed a pillow from her bed and lifted his head up a little with her hand full of pills while she shoved the pillow underneath.
"How many?" she asked.
"Three," he gritted out. "Maybe four."
She fed him the pills and put the leftovers on the table, and then held the glass while he sucked up water through the straw. She stroked his forehead.
"Aren't you going to tell me what a big baby I am?"
She leaned over and gave him a peck on the lips. She patted his cheek.
"Not tonight, sport. Maybe tomorrow, when I'm feeling better." She frowned at his prone figure. "Do you—can you get in the bed?"
"Um, no. This is good."
He watched as she struggled to her feet, pulled a blanket off the foot of her bed and spread it over him. She climbed into bed, looking wan and spent. "I'm just going to go to sleep, I think." She reached over and turned off the bedside lamp.
In the dark he felt her dangling fingers brush his arm. He reached up and held her hand.
The ibuprofen was kicking in a little and he started to relax and maybe even float a bit in the darkness. He was really, really glad he wasn't in his apartment, alone, waving his arms and legs in the air like a bug in a Kafka story. He was happy he was here, instead, lying on the hard wooden floor with the throw rug all bunched up under him, in his still-damp jeans. The words slipped out before he even realized it.
"I love you, Lizzy."
He heard her groggy voice mumble "I love you, too. Let's talk about it in the morning." She squeezed his fingers a bit tighter. "Over coffee? After SportsCenter."
Dear god, she was the perfect woman.