Okay, I just couldn't resist. This is a kind of companion piece to "Editing," though it will be longer because Lizzie only edits some of her videos, and Darcy watches all of them. I'm kind of assuming a basic knowledge of each video, so I don't describe everything that happens in them, just how Darcy reacts to some of the more salient issues. Kind of stream-of-consciousness, insofar as an ordered mind like Darcy's could ever have a stream-of-consciousness. And just to warn you, the beginning will contain a fair amount of jerkface Darcy. He has to start from a bad place to move upward, after all. Also, there will be a few interludes of non-video-watching to provide some context. Enough blabbering. Here we go!
The first of Lizzie's videos that Darcy watched was also the first one that had him in it.
He didn't intend it that way. He would have preferred to start from the beginning, in the proper order, just like he did everything in his life. It would be a gross understatement to say that nothing worked out the way he planned when it came to Lizzie Bennet.
After her blunt rejection of him, he spent several days in a chaotic haze. Not that she hadn't already thrown his life into chaos, but whereas before the thought of Lizzie was confusing and alluring, it was now exquisitely painful on top of that. He did his work – thankfully, the report on Collins and Collins required very little actual attention and could have been finished in a matter of days if not for other distractions – and spent most of his remaining waking hours on long, intense bike rides, futilely attempting to outrun the emotions that plagued him.
He took particular care to avoid any chance of encountering Lizzie in the halls of Collins and Collins. He spoke with very few people, and then only if absolutely necessary. His conversations with Fitz were highly one-sided.
"Hey, Darcy, you okay?"
"You wanna talk about it?"
"Anything I can do?"
He knew that eventually he would have to confront the reality of her videos. Whatever they were, Lizzie's blurted statement and subsequent discomfort would imply that they were highly revealing when it came to her perception of him. Revealing in a profoundly unpleasant way. Could anyone blame him for shying away from it?
But that was cowardice, and he despised cowardice, most of all in himself. So after several miserable days had passed, he entered Lizzie Bennet's name into a search engine.
There was no mistaking whether he had found the right Lizzie Bennet. There was her face, attached to both a Twitter handle and a Youtube account. The most natural place to find her videos would be on Youtube, of course, but he delayed the inevitable by going to Twitter first.
It was there he discovered dimensions to Lizzie that he had been utterly unaware of – a horde of loyal followers, her friendly replies to them, and the positively explosive response each of her videos received. This was clearly a significant part of her life, and he had been utterly unaware of it.
Should he follow her? It might be intrusive; it would certainly be unwelcome. Still, judging from how many followers she had, she might not even notice. He argued with himself for a long time before finally going through with it.
Then, bracing himself, he clicked on the link in her most recent tweet, ominously labeled "Are You Kidding Me?"
He watched the video in stiff silence, then closed the browser window and stood up, too angry to stay still. It wasn't enough for her to humiliate him in private; she had to broadcast it for hundreds – he checked the view count and amended himself – thousands of strangers to watch and deride him. She willfully misunderstood his character and presented it as absolute truth instead of an ill-informed opinion. She had told him to watch her videos so he would learn her true feelings toward him? Well, now he knew. That should make her happy.
After half an hour of fuming his anger had cooled somewhat, and he had to remind himself that he had not yet seen any of the videos she was actually referring to. It seemed unnecessary at this point, but he might as well be thorough. Best to start at the beginning.
There was no mention of him in the first video, though Bing's name came up almost right away. Was Bing aware of these videos? Surely not. He would have mentioned it to Darcy.
He would have moved on to the next video without any further deliberation, but not for the first time, his interest was unwillingly captivated by Lizzie's unique energy and enthusiasm. Her impression of her mother was exaggerated but accurate, not to mention highly amusing. How many times had he found himself in danger of cracking a smile at Lizzie's lively sense of humor?
He had to admit that if he stumbled across this video with no context, with no knowledge of who Lizzie was, he would have clicked onto the next installment.
As with Lydia in the first video, Jane's debut appearance did little to alter his opinion of her. The eldest Bennet was kind to everyone, anxious not to offend, and responded to almost everything with a kind of generic happiness. Lizzie, with her dramatic flair, had attributed far more weight to her relationship with Bing that had actually been there.
And the younger sister was noisy and irritating as always, which Lizzie freely acknowledged in her videos. With "energetic" he had been far kinder to Lydia than Lizzie herself, though he admitted (thinking of certain caustic exchanges with Gigi) that siblings did have more allowance in what they called each other than outsiders would.
He recalled with a twinge how Lizzie's face had altered when he brought up her family in the most recent video. Perhaps his words cut deeper than he intended.
With the second instance of costumed portrayals of Lizzie's parents, Darcy could not help admiring the innovation of her storytelling. It was engaging in a manner that a mere recitation of events could not match.
He already knew she was clever. He was only now realizing she was brilliant.
The title of the next video made Darcy cringe, but the inappropriateness of Lizzie's title choices was quickly swallowed up at the first mention of him. She had been disinclined to like him before ever meeting him. Perhaps he never stood a chance when his very name disgusted her, when her hatred was altogether arbitrary. She had determined that she would dislike him, and that was that. He couldn't have done a thing about an impression that was formed before they met.
This should have made him feel better, that at least it wasn't his fault. But Lizzie's words from her last video came back to him and reminded him that it wasn't that simple.
After the first few seconds of the next video, Darcy had to stop, push away from the desk and take several deep breaths. He hadn't been at all prepared for that sort of close-up.
Somehow he managed to continue, and the remainder of the video confirmed his impression that Lizzie was attempting to project more meaning onto Jane and Bing's relationship than was truly there. Which was surprising, considering how much Lizzie objected to Mrs. Bennet's pushiness regarding the pairing. Jane herself seemed uncomfortable, and Darcy pitied her for being caught in the middle.
He didn't like the look on Lizzie's face when Jane brought him up just before the video ended.
Lydia's portrayal of Bing was utterly ludicrous, but Lizzie's rendition of him was hardly more accurate. The bowtie and cap seemed an arbitrary costume choice, but then, so was the antiquated physician's mirror for Bing. Darcy had more significant matters to take issue with. She put words in his mouth that he couldn't imagine speaking, and those that he might reasonably have said were presented in such a stiff and pompous manner as to make him appearing downright boorish.
Clearly, she was determined to hate him from the start and saw everything about him as proof that she was right.
He had no sooner convinced himself that Lizzie's hatred was unfounded than the next video proved the flimsiness of that conviction.
As painful as it was, Darcy was forced to watch this one more than once. He couldn't dismiss this. He had to absorb every detail of how she related their first encounter. Lizzie, he had to admit, didn't take much poetic license while recounting their dance together. Those were his exact words, as sparse and curt as she represented them, and it was true that he had not been a particularly gracious dance partner.
He made excuses at first. He had not chosen to dance with her; it was forced upon him. And she had been just as unwilling a partner –
But then, unwilling as she was, she at least attempted some form of conversation, being gracious and patient even amid her annoyance. Such social niceties might be frivolous and tiresome, but the alternative was rudeness. And he had been rude. There was no denying it. He had been uncomfortable, weary of a long day spent in the company of strangers, but that was not an excuse for rudeness.
He had entirely forgotten his words to Bing afterwards. They were spoken off-handedly as a way to get his friend to leave him alone, so he wouldn't be expected to engage in more awkward dancing. He had no idea Lizzie overheard it.
For most of the video Lizzie's face was suffused with anger, disgust, annoyance. But for one instant, an instant that seared its way into Darcy's mind with horrible permanence, her expression revealed that she was hurt. So much that she remembered the exact wording of that callous phrase months later.
Had he thought her merely decent enough then? It was possible. She wasn't glamorous or flashy with a beauty that instantly captivated. His admiration of her had risen from her behavior, her excited discussions, her dancing eyes, until he came to believe her the most beautiful woman he had ever known. It had happened bit by bit, over time, not in a single dazzling instant.
He had used that first instant, instead, to wound her deeply.