I feel like I have a ton of ideas for this fandom but with two episodes left I don't want to write anything that might be canonballed so close to the finishing line. I finished this last night and anticipated it being shot to pieces in #99 (because I so wanted Lydia/Darcy on screen interaction, damnit) but it wasn't and because of that I press publish.
Lydia comes to stay in the late fall, a few weeks after Lizzie gives up the pretense of having her own apartment and finally moves the one box of stuff that wasn't already living at Darcy's place to Darcy's place. They invite her to San Francisco for the week - or Lizzie does; she's not sure that Darcy has much of a hand in it - and she accepts, for reasons that she's not entirely sure of.
On the third morning that she wakes up to the San Franciscan sun trickling through the gaps that she accidentally left when pulling the curtains shut the night before, she wakes up to the sound of voices from the kitchen. For a few moments she lies there, attempting to hone her eavesdropping skills in on what's being said. She can't make out words, only the reverb of Darcy's low tone and the murmur of her sister's replies.
When she finally drags herself from the room, hair unruly, pajamas on, padding barefoot through the hardwood floors of Darcy's apartment (Darcy and Lizzie's apartment), she pauses before she steps into view of the couple already in the kitchen space just to listen. It's not that she assumes that they're talking about her - she doesn't - but she's conscious of the silences that sometimes fall when she walks into a room and for once she'd like to see what they might mean.
"Thanks for getting the groceries," Lizzie is saying, and Lydia can hear the rustle of bags as her sister sorts through whatever it is that Darcy has bought. For a second, she imagines Darcy at a grocery store - or tries to, anyway. The image doesn't quite gel in her mind. Darcy with a basket. Darcy with a cart. "Was the list alright?"
"The scrawl was coherent, yes."
"I wrote it in a rush last night."
"I could tell."
"I was otherwise occupied." There's a suggestiveness in Lizzie's tone and it doesn't take long for Lydia to cotton on to what her sister is alluding to. She frowns, screwing up her face in an attempt to prevent the mental image that unwittingly pops into her head, but Darcy's contribution to the conversation makes that almost impossible.
Lydia grimaces and is about to walk into view, if only to curb the display of affection that is inevitably going on just ahead of her, but a change in Lizzie's tone of voice puts paid to that.
"There aren't any blueberries."
"You didn't ask for any blueberries."
"How am I going to make blueberry cobbler without blueberries?"
"Why am I going to buy blueberries if you don't ask for blueberries?"
"They were on the list!"
"I assure you, Lizzie, that they weren't."
Lydia can imagine her sister now: Lizzie has her eyebrows raised and her arms folded and she's not backing down any time soon.
When she tries to imagine Darcy, however, things get a little more difficult. She can't picture his role in this scenario at all, other than the words he's saying. How is he standing? Is he standing at all?
"Give me the list."
"You don't believe me."
"I don't believe that I would have forgotten to write the pivotal ingredient of my dessert on the shopping list."
"Unfortunately, Elizabeth, you did."
"There is no way. I forget nothing."
"Give me the list."
And suddenly Lydia can't take it anymore.
"You guys are doing that whole smart people being idiots thing again," she says as she exits her hiding place and enters the kitchen and dining area, sliding onto one of the stools at the kitchen island and pulling an already poured glass of orange juice toward her (she hopes that it's Lizzie's but the thought doesn't trouble her enough to make her ask first).
There's a small pause during which Lydia raises the rim of the glass to her lips and takes a drink, and Darcy and Lizzie watch her with confusion marring their expressions. Then Lizzie asks the question. "What?"
The younger girl shrugs. "Well, you're both standing here, arguing like a married couple when what you should be doing is going to the store to buy the freaking blueberries."
"You could hear us?"
Lydia raises her eyebrows, sipping her drink almost nonchalantly. "You know, in such a huge, expensive apartment you wouldn't expect the the walls to be so weirdly thin. I hear you a lot. This morning. Last night..."
Darcy is quicker on the uptake than Lizzie (Lydia can tell because he flushes only slightly, clears his throat, and turns away from them to begin to peruse the pile of groceries intently) but not by much. A playful swat to her arm is what Lydia receives in response to her heavily innuendoed statement.
"I'm arguing on principle," Lizzie explains, turning her glare back to her boyfriend. "William forgot the blueberries and I'd just like to hear him admit it."
"I can't possibly admit to something that is categorically untrue."
"It's a good job it isn't categorically untrue then, isn't it?"
"You couldn't possib -"
Lydia groans, rolling her eyes and raising her hands to the heavens. "Oh em gee, it's not often that I feel like the voice of reason. Get the freaking blueberries, one of you. Who cares?"
Lizzie and Darcy remain still for a few seconds, watching each other intently. The smirks on their faces ruin the effect of what would otherwise be a serious standoff.
Lizzie is the one to sigh first. "I'll just go and get some, then."
Darcy steps forward. "I can go -"
"You think I'm going to trust you to go again?" Lizzie jokes, moving back around the island to both grab her bag and to poke at Darcy's arm in jest. "You're the reason we still need them."
His reflexes are quick, and his fingers are wrapped around her wrist before she can do anything to stop him. He pulls her closer to him and she laughs and Lydia feels like she should look away because Darcy's so rarely at ease in this way that it almost feels like an intrusion into his privacy, or into their privacy because he and her sister are kind of a collective entity now. Lizzie stands on her tiptoes to press a kiss to his lips and there's obvious reluctance in his expression when he relinquishes his grip on her body and when they burst the bubble of their own little world, Lydia makes sure she's staring at the table top instead of at them.
Lizzie moves across to give her sister a quick hug and into her ear she mutters a sharp: "I'll be back in twenty minutes, tops, okay?"
The youngest Bennet has never been left completely alone with Darcy, a result of steadfast avoidance tactics, and although she feels guilty that her sister has noticed that fact - enough to feel the need to reassure her that she won't be long - she's half-tempted to make her excuses and go back to her guest room until the potential for awkward encounters has been eliminated. Once Lizzie is home, that is, and preferably also once the upcoming dinner party has been drained of people.
The truth of it is that she doesn't really know how to act around the man who has done so much for her family, who has pledged his heart to her sister, but who also rather unceremoniously called her out for being energetic, a word that didn't have negative connotations until she heard it fall from his lips.
Of course, all evidence points to that original impression of him being inaccurate, at least insofar as considering the person that he is now, today. The problem, then, is that she doesn't know how to act with that information. Should she act as she would around anyone else? Pretend none of the past is relevant to the people they both are? Or should she mention it and potentially ruin any semblance of a... friendship? Can she ever be friends with him? She can't imagine that ever being a possibility.
At every family gathering until this point she's hovered around Jane and Bing, around Mary, around her mom and dad. She's been polite and courteous and relatively normal whenever Darcy has been involved in conversation with her, but has been perfectly happy to stay out of his way. In hindsight she should have expected her efforts to come to nought when she accepted Lizzie's invitation to stay. She should have known that they'd have to interact on a one-to-one basis.
But as Lizzie leaves the kitchen, as they hear the front door open and close behind her, the room fills with a tension spawned from the fact that one of the occupants of the room is a CEO with very limited people skills and the other is Lydia, the girl who inadvertently made a sex tape and caused said CEO to buy up a company to stop it being sold.
For a few seconds she's almost certain that he's not going to be the one to jump in and start up a conversation, because that just doesn't seem to be his style, and she takes a moment to consider whether she wants to talk or whether she wants to slide down from her seat and return to her room. But then he surprises her.
"Did you sleep well?"
She hates this small talk stuff that seems to plague her interactions with Darcy. It's not even like she can say that there's an elephant in the room, because the problem is that she doesn't know if there's an elephant in the room or not. She doesn't know if he thinks about George Wickham when he looks at her, or whether she projects that onto him. She doesn't know what he thinks of her, but she doesn't want to ask because that feels like a surefire way to get him to tell her that he does look down on her in the way that she kind of hopes he doesn't.
Either way, she fidgets in her seat slightly. "Yeah. Yeah." (For a moment she considers asking the polite question - 'did you?' - but then she remembers her thin walls comment and the conversation that she almost walked into and decides that she probably doesn't want to know.)
"We're glad you could stay for the dinner party tonight." He's got a mug of coffee in his hands now - he takes it black, she's found this out in the course of the week and she finds it weird - and he sups it as he leans against the worktop that rests above the kitchen cabinets.
It's cynical (when did she become cynical?) but she can't help but raise her eyebrows at this, doubting the legitimacy of such a statement. To vocalize that opinion feels rude though, and so she settles on a neutral reply. "It's not like I had much better to do. It was this or hanging out at Carters all week and I've done that enough."
If he has a view on that behavior he doesn't let on. Instead he sticks to the subjects that he can comfortably navigate. "My sister has been looking forward to being able to meet you again."
"Uh-huh." It's the only way she can think of to reply. Non-committal. Normal.
"She was disappointed that she didn't get to speak to you much at Jane's birthday party."
Lydia bites her lip. "Things were kind of busy -"
"Oh, she understood why; it wasn't a complai -"
"And Gigi and me don't have that much in common. I didn't really know what to say to her, so..."
Darcy exhales sharply. It's not a sigh, more a huff, but it's not a huff of annoyance. It's like someone took the wind out of his sails. It takes a few moments for him to revive his conversational abilities, but when he manages to he does so with a hint of a smile. The hand with the coffee mug in it gestures towards her person. "She saw that band when they last came to LA."
"What?" She puts the glass down on the surface in front of her and pulls her hand away from it, clasping her fingers together and settling them in her lap.
Darcy points one of the fingers that isn't wrapped around the handle at her chest but almost instantly checks himself. His cheeks color slightly but he composes himself quickly enough. "Your t-shirt. Gigi attended the most recent of their Los Angeles concerts."
This does surprise Lydia - not that Gigi likes The Script, or that she goes to concerts, but that they both went to the same event. "Really? Me too."
"Well now." He looks pleased with this information. "That sounds like an adequate opener for a conversation, does it not?"
Lydia is unsure of whether to be grateful or annoyed at this piece of advice. Her gut reaction wants to toss her hair back in disgust at such blatant efforts to get her to talk to Gigi, but if she's learnt anything over the past few months as a result of her own actions and the actions of those around her, it's that sometimes gut reactions should be allowed to marinate for a while. Sometimes people should go ahead and ask for intentions instead of just presuming to know them.
"Um. Darcy? Can I ask you a question?"
She doesn't imagine the fleeting look of concern that passes over his face. It doesn't strike her as concerned panic, but rather a genuine worry about her wellbeing like he's already pledging to do whatever it takes to help her with whatever she's questioning. He doesn't need to confirm his receptiveness (though of course he does, with a strong "yes") but she hopes she's not about to offend him.
"Are you and Lizzie pushing me to be friends with your sister because you want her to be a good influence on me?"
There's a few seconds of silence during which he pushes himself from his leaning position and steps forwards to slide onto one of the stools opposite her. He smooths his tie (seriously, does he ever dress down?) as he does so, but just as he looks like he's about ready to answer she jumps in with more words.
"Because I know she's doing really good work and that she's really together and she's, like, smart and accomplished and knows what she wants to do..." - and she didn't get in as deep as I did, and Lizzie likes her better, and I bet she's never been a disappointment - "So it would make sense, you know?"
Darcy doesn't allow there to be a pause this time, responding almost before her final words have dropped from her tongue. "If it has felt like we're pushing you toward being friends with Gigi then I must apologize. That was not our intention."
Lydia scoffs before she can help herself. Her eyes avert from Darcy's steadfast gaze, partly because she regrets being so disparaging and partly because she doesn't regret being so disparaging.
"No, Lydia. It... I can see why it would seem that way, but I assure you... I - we think you would like her and we think that she would like you but there is, of course, no pressure to conform to that. Oftentimes even people alike in temperament and personality find themselves clashing. Nobody can be sure what creates friendship and if, when you meet Gigi, you both decide that you're happy as mere acquaintances then that's a decision that we'll accept. Wholeheartedly."
She still can't believe that someone actually speaks like Darcy speaks. It doesn't surprise her that Lizzie's turned on by it because that's the sort of nerd that her sister is, but it takes a few seconds for Lydia to fully formulate the basics of what he's saying in her mind. She doesn't know whether he knows that or whether he just interprets her hesitation as proof that she needs more convincing, but he continues before she can contribute further to the conversation.
"I will say that I would be lying if Lizzie and I didn't feel that you'd both benefit from becoming close, but that certainly isn't our motivation and it certainly doesn't mean that we're tantamount to matchmakers."
"We'd both benefit? How'd you figure that one?"
Darcy sits forward slightly, his elbows coming to rest on the surface of the island (didn't your mom tell you not to put your elbows on the table is the thought that flickers to life in Lydia's mind, but she forcefully shoves it back) and his eyebrows scaling his forehead as he answers. "Gigi doesn't have many close friends. She has friends, of course, from school and college and Pemberley, but after everything that happened... Well. I think that it would benefit her to have someone like you in her life."
"Oh, come on. I'm energetic, remember?" As soon as the words leave her mouth, every one of them uttered with the speed of bullets, she regrets them. "I'm sorry. I did -"
"It's alrig -"
"I'm not like her, though. I'm none of the things that she is."
Darcy shakes his head and now he's wearing a smirk. "That may not be entirely true." At her inquisitive look, he continues: "You're energetic."
"You are energetic and so is she."
"I thought energetic was a bad thing."
"I was under the impression that it had been decreed that all of my past assumptions about the Bennet family were decidedly false."
She wrinkles her nose and opens her mouth to give a response - maybe to argue the point some more, or to ask him what energetic means now, or to tease him about the fact that his favorite childhood meal was obviously Oxford a l'dictionary - but decides against it before she really knows the words that she wants to say, pressing her lips shut again.
A silence passes between them again, but it's not like the ones that have come before. That's not to say it's entirely comfortable but it's not strained either, and she's just about to find something to say, maybe some of that heinous small talk that doesn't seem so bad anymore, when he clears his throat.
"It's - it's Gigi and I."
She tilts her head fractionally to the left. "What's Gigi and you?"
"No - you, uh - " He tucks his chin down, and refuses to meet her eye for a second before he seems to bite the bullet and say what he wants to say. "Earlier, when you said - you said 'Gigi and me' and that's not - correct. Grammatically speaking. It's 'Gigi and I' not 'me and G - hm."
Lydia is silent for a beat and then she throws her head back and laughs. "You've totes been itching to say that for the past ten minutes, haven't you? It's been bothering you so much and most people would be able to shrug it off but not you."
"No, I -"
"It's totally okay. I mean, it's freaking weird. But it's okay." She pulls a face. "Gigi iand I/i."
She sees that he's blushing slightly and although she takes a kind of satisfaction in that, she also finds that it makes her smile as opposed to making her want to give him a Chinese burn. That's an improvement.
"It... was bothering me slightly," he admits, his gaze trained firmly on the spotless granite of the kitchen island.
Lydia laughs again, shaking her head in mock disbelief. There's a part of her that hopes he knows it's all in jest because despite their differences she's come to quite like William Darcy. He's everything that she's not, that's true enough, but he's a good guy and it's nice to see proof of the existence of such a species. Between him and Bing she's finding it increasingly difficult to deny that there's decent people out there.
She shakes her bangs out of her eyes and inhales sharply, sharper than intends to, but the words that she suddenly feels the intense need to say jump up her throat without much of a warning and she's blurting out a "thank you" before she can check herself or work out precisely why.
Darcy's insanely expressive eyebrows furrow and he responds with a "what for?".
Lydia can't work out whether he's genuinely clueless or if he's just good at pretending to be, because he must know the answer to his question. But she'll play along if that's what he wants.
"Just - for letting me come stay here this week. And for the Chinese food last night. And for making Lizzie happy. And for correcting my grammar." For buying the company. For sorting out the George situation. For not judging me for it. "For... like, everything."
His eyes meet hers and in that eye contact she knows that he heard all of the unspoken reasons in her reply but doesn't feel the need to acknowledge them. She's grateful for that. She's grateful for a lot, even if she doesn't show it.
It's the first time that she's ever called him by his first name, both aloud and in her head. To Lydia he's always been Darcy and even when he and Lizzie finally got their mack on she never felt the need to attempt to break the habit. Everyone else alternates between his surname and his forename,
She doesn't expect to do it but the name slips out and catches them both by surprise. She stiffens and his eyes widen and at the exact same time their expressions crease; noses wrinkle, foreheads furrow, disbelief reflects from one face to the other.
"That was weird, wasn't it?"
He narrows his eyes as he searches for the words. "It was... unexpected."
"You mind if I stick to Darcy?"
"Not in the slightest."
"Awesome." She drains the glass of orange juice and leans forward, her elbows resting on the surface of the island too. "Now the only question is: Darceface, what's the truth about the blueberries?"
There's a pause.
"I might mind if you insist on calling me Darceface."
"Lizzie absolutely forgot to write them on the list."
Lydia winks at him. "Sure she did."