Disclaimer: I own a single copy of P&P that I bought from a gigantic three-story Barnes and Noble…

- Pictures of Me -

Fitzwilliam Darcy was not a many of many words. He didn't need to speak, though, since his expressions usually betrayed how he felt. After returning from America for the second time, it was quite obvious to his long-time employees that he was distraught. He was positively forlorn as he helped around the grounds, physically exerting himself more than usual (which was another sign they had seen develop over the years of watching him grow up). Those two tells were nothing compared to the last one.

The third and final sign that tipped the older employees off was that Darcy kept hitting his head on the doorframes around Pemberley. Some of the main house had been renovated to match with the growing heights of its residents, since the original heights had been quite low for modern standards, and some of it couldn't be changed since the house was centuries old. There were other buildings, too, like the barns and such, with low doorframes that also couldn't be refurbished. Each and every employee working at Pemberley, new or old, knew where the shorter frames were; it was a natural action for the ones that had spent more than a year on the Pemberley grounds to duck when the need arose. They believed it impossible to forget where those small doorframes were, but with Darcy slamming his forehead into them every day, sometimes bumping into the low frames multiple times within an hour, they had living proof it wasn't.

It was on such an occasion that Georgiana came home to. Darcy had been notified that his sister had came home for the weekend while he was working with a particularly difficult horse, and he practically flew away as he left the animal to be cared for by another man. Instead of tracking dirt and hay into the main part of the house, which would get him a scolding from Mrs. Reynolds, his housekeeper and nanny (for a lack of a better word), Darcy used what had once been the servant entrance and corridor to get to his sister. He only avoided the last short doorframe before he reached Georgiana, and his forehead was red and smarting when he finally arrived.



Darcy enveloped his sister in a bone-crushing hug, tucking her head beneath his chin protectively. Georgiana giggled in delight when he started twirling about, still locked to her brother's sweaty chest by his iron grip.

"Wills, you're sweaty and smelly. Let me go! Please!" She laughed when she felt she might start gagging. Darcy gave her a final squeeze and a noogie before he let her out of his arms.

"How was the drive from London? All right?" He inquired, drinking in the sight of his baby sister. Georgiana was breathing life back into her brother already, but she didn't know how mopey he'd been since she lived in her own flat away from Pemberley. Like any rebellious teenager, she'd found him too overbearing, and she'd fled the nest when she had turned eighteen. Almost a year later, she missed home (and her brother), but not enough to return to Darcy's slightly oppressive care.

"Perfectly good. I hit some traffic, but it wasn't too bad. Nan Renny told me you have an early birthday present for me?" Georgiana grinned brightly at Darcy, dimples shadowing her cheeks. Instead of answering her question, Darcy pinched one of her cheeks like he always did, holding on longer than she thought necessary. He relented when she swatted at his hand and laughed at him for being so nostalgic and "parent-y."

"Yes, I did. We'll have to be quiet since there's going to be a tour soon – or maybe now? I don't know the time." Darcy said teasingly, grabbing one of Georgiana's hands and covering her eyes with his second hand.

"Wills! You're such a dork!" Georgiana sniggered, following the hot hand tugging her forward.

"I told you we need to be quiet, Gina! Shush!" Momentarily, Darcy was struck with a mental image of leading another woman, like he was with Georgiana, to a surprise. His smile faded, and his head hung a bit. Darcy's sweaty curls fell low over his eyes, much like a dog's ears flattened onto its skull when it was sad, and he almost sighed when he pulled Georgiana into the music room. He steeled himself into a smile (she'd think it was a sneer) before releasing Georgiana from his clutches next to her early birthday gift. It was a slightly customized grand piano since Darcy had replaced some of the original woodwork, like the legs, with his own creations. He had had a hard time keeping Georgiana in the dark when the piano first arrived since she'd been living in Pemberley main house then, but he was glad Mrs. Reynolds and the rest of the helpers in the main house had aided him in keeping Georgiana in the dark. The deceit was worth the expression on her face.

"Oh my God, Fitzwilliam! You didn't! You didn't!" Georgiana all but shrieked having forgotten her warning to be quiet. She cooed as she inspected the piano from all angles, gasping in awe when she fingered the carvings her brother had done. Darcy felt his chest swell with pride as his baby sister marveled her early present, dragging her fingers across the smooth surfaces as she walked in circles around it. He could see the tears forming in her eyes and fully expected her to throw herself at him; Darcy wasn't disappointed when Georgiana, essentially, tackled him into a hug.

"Oh, Wills, thank you, thank you, thank you!" Georgiana whispered into his chest, using all of her strength to hold her brother to her. Darcy returned the hug, smiling contentedly; he only hoped his sisters' visit would get him over what never was (what never had a chance to even begin, if he thought about it).

Having grown up in the limelight (and recently been back in it, somewhat), Darcy had a second sense when it came to cameras. He hated the blasted things and always knew when someone was taking a snapshot of him; the feeling made his skin crawl. It was why the later pictures from his brief stint in the modeling world depicted him with a painful smile. The back of his neck tingled with the familiar haunting itch, and he looked up in ire that some stupid tourist had invaded his privacy while he welcomed them into his home for a tour.

It only took Darcy a second to realize that the "stupid tourist" was none other than Elizabeth Bennet. It took her a second longer to turn on her heel and run.

"Elizabeth…" Her named was breathed from his lips, and his heart started pumping blood faster. Conscious of the fact Georgiana knew something had grabbed his attention and could hear his increased heart rate, Darcy mentally debated on telling a lie to her so he could chase Elizabeth.

"The girl Nan Renny talks about? Where?"

Darcy winced, cursing his sister's good hearing.

"She… she's gone. She, uh, just ran away." Darcy stammered, wondering how much Mrs. Reynolds had told Georgiana (and since when had Mrs. Reynolds talked to Georgiana about his non-existent love life starring his unreciprocated love for Elizabeth Bennet? And when had Mrs. Reynolds learned about his non-existent love life starring his unreciprocated love for Elizabeth Bennet?). Darcy could feel his sister pull away from him, and he turned his face from hers to a wall, ears burning.

"You are really bad at acting. Go chase her, you git!" Georgiana commanded, slapping lightly at Darcy's arm. Even more mortified, he gave her a tight smile before he ran out of the room, hunting down the girl of his best dreams and worst nightmares. He'd never thought all those months ago that he could ache for someone as badly as he did for her.

- (Ten Months Earlier) -

"Please, Darce, mate!"

"Charles, I said no. Bloody hell, leave me alone."

"But I kind of sort of told them you'd do it already…?"


"Caroline doesn't – and will NOT – know about this, I swear! Look at the bright side, you won't see her for a while!"

The entire conversation was running through Darcy's mind. Charles Bingley was his best friend, and he'd been roped into many things he didn't want to do by the younger man many times over the years. On the list were numerous things he thought couldn't be topped (like treating Charles' twin, Caroline, to dinner once or skinny dipping at a nude beach in France when Darcy was drunk – both events, though many years had lapsed since they had occurred, caused him to shudder every time he thought about them), but this one really took the cake. Not a personable person, Darcy did not enjoy modeling, especially in a restricting tux. But, somehow, here he was, listening to a conversation between two girls (one of them was calling him… an "über nerd Pixie Stick?" What did that even mean?) and waiting for a spot to interject. When he finally did enter the room and came face-to-face with the women, he would not own up to anything that conspired in those handful of minutes later when Charles interrogated him (nothing, not from what he said nor the fact he ogled the shorter one's skinny jean clad backside for a second).

"I'm sure you realize my aunt would strangle anyone who got grease on her palms? She's picky about those sort of things." Darcy didn't know the words were even leaving his mouth. He wasn't usually that… snarky; he blamed it on Charles talking him into another thing he didn't want to do. When the young woman (with the bum he wanted to pinch - he was spending way too much time around Charles, Darcy realized) turned to face him, Darcy was astonished by her audacity. She didn't look the least bit ashamed – uncomfortable, maybe, but definitely not rueful – and was looking him up and down! For the first time after a woman had checked him out, Darcy saw a displeased expression on said woman's face. It was adorable the way her nose scrunched up momentarily, nudging her glasses further up her nose; he took note of her surprisingly blue eyes then. Darcy believed he could see flecks of green in them.

"Yes, I'd expect she would be. You, Darcy, are entirely too tall to model. Why does Armani want you over seasoned, known models? No offense, of course."

Dear lord, that woman had a tongue! Did she ever not think before she spoke? He felt repulsed by her daring words. Darcy was fully expecting her to be a woman like his aunt now… tactless, commandeering, and immersed in the modeling world. She didn't look the part, though.

"Of course." He replied, trying to smile through his distaste. It would be just his luck if this woman were to be his photographer; he supposed she would be since fate had already smiled upon him once (Charles had, somehow, kept his twin in the dark about this excursion to America – Darcy thanked whatever higher powers made this possible every time he could).

"I know I am; it's how I got out of it before. Charles, it seems, doesn't like wearing penguin suits and somehow convinced Armani I'd be a better fit than he." He didn't quite realize his words would set her off, but he felt it keenly when the woman sized him up again. Darcy experienced the need to pull his hands from his pockets and place them in front of himself, but instead he countered his impulse with drumming his hands against his thighs nervously. His ears burned as he waited for the young woman to speak again.

"Charles is wrong. You'd definitely be a better fit for the Levi ad than he is. Do you think you two could maybe switch?"

Darcy met her eyes again, feeling like he was backed into a corner. He was starting to feel stifled and intimidated by this tiny, bold woman whose name he didn't even know. It had been a long time since he'd met such a strong personality from a woman; he wasn't quite sure he disliked her yet, though, despite his original thoughts. She was just doing her job (he guessed – if she was a photographer, it was her job to make sure he looked like a good ad for Armani).

"Liz, I don't think that's prudent. Armani wants Darcy, and Levi hired Charles." The other woman spoke up for the first time since Darcy had entered the room, coming up to the shorter one's side. Darcy felt a sigh of relief building up in his chest since this seemed like an opening for him to leave the confines of the small room with the tiny woman who filled it up.

"I'd never fit into clothes meant for Charles, anyways. Every part of me is bigger than him." Darcy added to the second woman's argument, desperately wanting out. He was just supposed to be looking for his and Charles' photographers, not conversing with these two! The innuendo in his words was over Darcy's head, so he didn't know why the second woman turned bright red and choked back what he presumed was a laugh.

"I was just supposed to let you know I — we are here. Mr. Lucas said he wanted a Miss Elizabeth and a Miss Charlotte to get ready for Charles' shoot." Darcy exited the conversation then, leaving the two women to find the photographers. His cheeks turned red, matching his ears, when he heard the second woman say, "Daaa-yummm. I'd Googled him, but Darcy is definitely better in person," just as he was going out of earshot from them.

Charles was surprised when Darcy returned to the shooting room looking exceptionally uncomfortable. He never got to find out what had Darcy riled up, so he let his imagination take over when Darcy's eyes bulged once two women entered the room, announcing themselves as Elizabeth Bennet and Charlotte Lucas. When Charlotte told Charles she'd be working with him, Darcy wasn't sure if he was comforted or not to be working with the tiny woman instead of the one that had Googled him.

"Okay, look, I hate photoshop. It's a lie. It sucks. So, are you scared of a razor? 'Cause I'd rather not use photoshop even if it's just erasing your chest hair." He blinked at Elizabeth's brisk tone. Darcy followed her short, quick strides to where the tuxes he was supposed to model hung on a rolling garment rack.

"Well, are you?" He blinked once again as she turned to face him. Was he what? It took Darcy a minute before he remembered her question; he was too preoccupied by her sudden change in demeanor. He didn't feel the man-eating waves coming off her (that he probably made up in his head, if he was completely honest with himself) anymore.

"I—no, I'm not scared of a razor… I'd rather not use one, is all." Darcy answered her, gazing somewhere over her right shoulder instead of into her puzzling eyes.

"Good. Go shave your face and the top part of your chest around your clavicle. For Armani, you need to be smooth and suave." Elizabeth ordered. Darcy listened and didn't argue. He trailed Elizabeth, carrying one of the suits, as she went to a bathroom and presented him with a disposable razor and shaving cream from one of the cupboards below the sink. He expected her to stay to "make sure he did it right," like all his photographers had in the past, but she didn't. She left him to shave and change all alone after asking if he could get back to the shooting room (like he was an invalid, the little minx).

When he returned to the shooting room, Darcy didn't know what to expect. Elizabeth had already broken all of his stereotypical photographer behavior. He listened to her instructions, following them impeccably but silently, getting more and more confused as the hours passed. Elizabeth didn't manhandle him. She didn't try to touch him inappropriately. She didn't bother him when she said they could take a break. After a few failed attempts to strike a conversation with him (about books, movies, and the weather – not his romantic interests, unlike the others), she stopped entirely. She got mad with him. She almost yelled at him.

Darcy wasn't sure if he was in love with her or not by the end of the first (very productive) day. By the end of the second, he wasn't certain if he was scared of her or not. He barely breathed a word to her, but he got the distinct vibe that she disliked him. Perhaps she was a lesbian? Darcy laughed to himself when the thought crossed his mind. He was being paranoid and ridiculous. Just because he came across a photographer that didn't sexually harass him didn't mean she wasn't a heterosexual.

Because she consumed his thoughts, Darcy found himself staring at Elizabeth Bennet almost all the time. He didn't know what to make of her. She was full of firsts for Darcy.

"You stare at Lizzie an awful lot." Charles needled Darcy on their last day for shooting. They were on their last break of the Levi/Armani shoots. Darcy shrugged noncommittally, not wanting to let Charles in on his dumbfounded thoughts (because Caroline would definitely find out if he did, there was no doubt about it – Darcy knew he wasn't that lucky to be able to escape her twice in a fortnight).

"Do you fancy her?" Charles grinned at Darcy, bouncing on the balls of his feet.

"She's very pretty. Lizzie has a nice arse, decent chest… pretty long legs for her height…" Charles egged Darcy on. He knew Darcy's preferences in women, and he also knew that Darcy hadn't had a girlfriend in years (and had never had a serious one).

"She has fine eyes, Charles, and that is all." Darcy felt his ears burn at his outright lie. His eyes followed the curves Charles spoke of, weighing each in his mind; his hands twitched at his sides. Wanting to escape the sudden heat, Darcy left his friend, going over to Elizabeth's side.

"Well, you're done, Darcy. You can leave whenever you want." Elizabeth said simply, nodding at him. Darcy blinked. Had he just been dismissed? By a woman? By a woman with a good excuse to make him stay?

In a stupor, Darcy lounged in a chair as Charlotte took a few last photographs of Charles. He didn't know what to think until, about two weeks later, his phone rang shrilly at 12:09 A.M. At first, Darcy didn't remember what he had been dreaming about, only that he damned his phone for interrupting him. He had a good mind to let whoever was calling him (a prankster, surely, at this hour) go to voicemail, but his inner gentleman chided him. Darcy picked up his cell on the last ring, still not fully awake.

"'Lo?" He answered, hanging half way out of his bed. The air felt cool to his bare arms that had previously been warmly tucked beneath his pillow.

"I'm sorry, you must be busy, this is a bad time, I—"

That voice… it was familiar. Darcy narrowed his eyes, searching his mental Rolodex for the right woman. He couldn't place a face to the voice, though, since he was confused. It couldn't be her… she never sounded so unsure of herself…

"No, 's… who is this?" Darcy yawned after he spoke, rubbing at his eyes with his free hand. He was delusional. He just thought it was she because he'd been dreaming about her.


"It's, um, it's Elizabeth Bennet – from Lucas Shooting – and I'll just hang up now if you'd like."

Darcy's realization shocked him to the core. Elizabeth wasn't helping, sounding like she was. Her voice was apologetic, hesitant… shy, even. When did this happen? When did that confident little spitfire become intimidated? He tried to laugh it off, ignoring all thoughts that she was being adorable beyond words.

"Miss 'Lizabeth Bennet, huh… give me a second to wake up… it's midnight, you realize." He was dreaming, surely. This had to be a dream. Darcy pinched himself.

"Yes of course, I'm so—wait, what? Midnight? It's only seven…"

Darcy bit his lip, still chuckling. She sounded so confused, so innocent…

"Yes, maybe where you are… I live in Derbyshire, England, remember? There are different time zones, Miss Elizabeth." He joshed, feeling comfortable with this new side of Elizabeth. She wasn't in command, he was; he wasn't embarrassed, she was.

"I'm sorry, Darcy, I didn't know you'd gone back."

She sounded on guard now, as if she could read his thoughts. Darcy's mental image of Elizabeth was fighting back for superiority, and he felt even more enamored with her (he didn't know where that thought came from, though).

"No, no, it's fine. What can I do for you, Miss Elizabeth? Surely no request for me has come?" Darcy purred into the phone, curious. Elizabeth had given him the cold shoulder when he'd been in America, but maybe… maybe she was just excellent at playing hard to get.

"Yes, actually. Levi wants you for a shoot."

The hope that had slowly been building up crumbled down into a shattered heap of jeans. Although… It started to build back up. Levi had no idea who he was. To only way they'd know about him was through Elizabeth, who had said she wanted to do a shoot with him in Levis. She was interested, after all (but perhaps just in an artistic way)!

"Hnnm… am I allowed to say no? I'd rather not see my arse plastered across wherever Levi puts their ads. Didn't they just do one with Charles?" Darcy smirked, shaking his head. There was no way he was going to do this shoot, not even for Elizabeth. His aunt was already bothering him again to go back into modeling ("With a face like yours – that horrible nose, dear, can be fixed by a computer or a surgeon – you should be in the modeling world! I haven't the slightest idea why you quit or why I let that hired help woman – Rankles? – talk me out of making you stay!"). Catherine was unbearable most of the time, but she was a force of nature when she had her mind set on something. If Darcy could make her see he was just doing a (HUGE) favor for Charles, she might just leave him alone.

"It's a trial shoot. Charles, like I said, was a bit slim for their tastes. Can you just think it over? I can give you the number to our offices, and you can call us back later when you're not half asleep."

Her voice sounded hesitant again, like she was weighing his words carefully. Darcy could easily envision Elizabeth curled up in a chair, staring out a window while either chewing on a pencil or twisting it in her fingers. He'd noticed that about her. Elizabeth was rarely still, always doing something with her hands; if she ever had a pen or pencil near her, it was not too long before that writing utensil was either between her pursed lips and white teeth or her slender digits. Darcy could even remember the way her other hand, if not busy, tended to curl a lock of hair incessantly around her pointer finger. She really was too adorable.

"I hadn't the slightest idea they did that. Yes, yes I remember that… 'better fit,' right? How about you call me again tomorrow – at a decent hour for England, if you'd be ever so kind – because I'm not going to go find a pen and paper when my bed is terribly warm and comfortable. It'd be murder to move." Darcy couldn't resist teasing her once more. Perhaps this is why she always made fun of him? He smiled at the notion that warmed his insides. Darcy remembered not being too fond of Elizabeth while with Chalres at the Lucas building, but now he couldn't recall why. With her voice in his ear, albeit a bit mechanically thanks to the phone, he could recognize the tone his inner monologue had changed to when he was berating himself. Over the course of a few days, he'd been around Pemberley and wondered what she'd think of the property, of the scenery. Surely, it had to be better than what she was used to. Darcy fancied that Elizabeth would enjoy jaunts around the grounds. It was the first time in his memory that, after meeting someone (other than Georgiana), that he was imagining future occurrences around his beloved Pemberley.

"Only if you stop making fun of me, Darcy."

Darcy's smile grew into a full-blown grin, teeth and all. Elizabeth knew he was teasing her! It was a rare day when someone recognized his humor. Georgiana and Mrs. Reynolds were the only ones in his acquaintance that always knew when he was being light-hearted; not even Chalres was able to correctly detect it.

"Deal." Darcy chuckled before exchanging farewells with her. After placing his phone on his bedside table once more, he could feel himself smiling at his hands resting on his lap. With his mind's eye reliving past moments with Elizabeth, Darcy felt like an emotional train hit him.

He didn't like Elizabeth, did he? He couldn't! Elizabeth was intimidating. She made fun of him, mocked him. She was rude. She was a photographer. She was from Nowhereville, America (Meryton – where the hell was that?). She didn't have a filter from her brain to the words coming from her very kissable lips. She had no sense of fashion whatsoever and wore whatever the hell she wanted (and criticized his well-kept, meticulously matched style!).

Elizabeth also had a beautiful smile. Her laugh was a breath of fresh air to fill his depleted stock. She put everything into her projects and never gave up. She didn't like telling lies with her photographs. She had impeccable work ethics. She knew when to play and when to work. She enjoyed life. She was not afraid to get her hands dirty. She was not afraid of nature and found it fascinating. Her eyes were gorgeous, absolutely stunning.

Darcy groaned, leaning his head back onto his headboard as he realized meditating on a pair of fine eyes for the duration of his brief jaunt in America had caused him to actually be attracted to the little spitfire that was Elizabeth Bennet. He vowed to himself that he would not allow this dalliance to happen. It would never amount to anything, anyway, so he shouldn't bother with his kindling feelings.

The first thing he said when Elizabeth called him later in the day was, "I'll do it – the trial shooting for Levi." Darcy made a second vow then: to not pay Elizabeth any attention. That way, she wouldn't get ideas and nor would he. He'd be able to stave off the fledgling bouts of attraction, clip its wings, and drop them like yesterday's news. That's what he told himself, anyways.

During the shooting, Darcy stared at Elizabeth even more, unintentionally so. He wanted to prove to himself that he could resist those asinine feelings of a teenage lust for an hourglass figure; he wanted to find more holes in Elizabeth's physique, both mentally and physically. The only problem was that, in trying to repel and find fault in her, Darcy could only see more little things that he adored about Elizabeth and the positive side of what he had first thought of as her negative aspects. He also took note of how Charles had fallen for her sister, Jane, who was her complete opposite (but also completely Charles' type). When Charles broached the subject, Darcy poked further than he normally would to see what he could get out of his friend and found himself spouting lies about Elizabeth. "… cute, maybe…?" More like unbearably adorable. Even if Elizabeth was "too young and too childish" for his tastes, his preferences certainly could change if he let them.

Darcy looked away after Charles mentioned the height difference between Darcy and Elizabeth was like the old-fashioned romance tales (which Charles knew Darcy wanted in life - damn that wanker) and saw blue fire. Elizabeth was fuming; he could tell. He'd never seen anything so charming in his life. Darcy could feel an involuntary smile forming on his lips, so he was thankful when Elizabeth turned around with a huff (and a dashing twirl of her unbound curls). He hid his grin from the world behind his palm as his eyes watched her walk grumpily away. Darcy realized then and there was he had already sold himself.

- (Crappy Break Line) -

Leaving the front doors of the main house, Darcy was met by the sight of one of his workers on the ground, a stream of cursing leaving the man's lips.

"Bloody woman has lost her bloomin' mind, runnin' off like that. Bleedin' near crashed into me, she did – didn't even apologize! Tourists." The man huffed crossly, picking himself up from the dirt. His name was Alexander Hewitt, and he was one of the only, if not the only, long-term employee of the Pemberley property that called Darcy "Mr. Darcy." Lex dusted off the seat of his pants, still grumbling to himself, before he noticed his employer standing in front of him a few steps up.

"Ah, Mr. Darcy. We'll be done with trimmin' the hedges 'round here soon… then we'll go over to the back gardens." Lex nearly stammered, scratching at his ruddy cheeks in embarrassment for being caught using vulgar language by Darcy. Darcy nodded, having long since given up on getting Lex to call him anything but "Mr. Darcy."

"Thank you, Lex, I'm sure you boys will have this place looking splendid in no time. I am, however, curious as to who the woman you were cursing about is?" Darcy smiled tightly, awkwardly. His employees took it as controlled anger because they knew he didn't like cursing around the main house just in case Georgiana was nearby.

"Oh, uh, I dunno, Mr. Darcy. The girl just flew outta the house like she'd seen a ghost. I don't think she even saw me." Lex replied nervously, shrugging off-handedly.

"She… did you see where she went?" Darcy bit the inside of his cheek, feeling his ears burn when he couldn't meet Lex's eyes. Lex admitted that he didn't, but one of the other workers pointed Darcy towards the trees on the outskirts of the pond. Darcy departed with a word of thanks, calling Elizabeth's name as he neared the wizened protectors. He leaned his palm on the rough bark of one, putting most of his weight on his hand. Darcy couldn't hear anything that would tell him where Elizabeth was (his didn't expect crying, per se, but… well, whether mad or sad, Elizabeth had always been on the vociferous side), so he had to settle for peering around the trees like he had as a young man looking for Georgiana during a game of hide-and-go-seek.

Darcy wasn't surprised when he finally spotted Elizabeth. She was curled up, as was her wont, with her tattered messenger bag by her side. He hadn't been surprised now, but it had been the complete opposite when he'd arrived in California to see her there, laughing, in his aunt's home…

- (Four Months Earlier) -

"Richard, remind me why we're visiting Aunt Catty?" Darcy groaned, leaning his head back into the car seat. He twiddled with the air vents, shooting the chilled air in Richard's direction. Richard was driving them along the road to their aunt's property. On Richard's side of the car, there was beach and ocean; on Darcy's side, there was grass and small pockets of water.

"Stop that. And 'cause she wanted to see you 'bout modeling… I think… I'm pretty sure she's going to try and rope you into it again. I'm only coming for the fireworks." Richard slapped Darcy's hands away from the vents, half amused and half not; it was a curious combination that he did well. Being born with two parents that were star actors, Darcy supposed that it must be easy for Richard to display what he wanted, when he wanted. Darcy had always been a bit envious of his cousin because of that.

"Thanks for the moral support, Rickie." Darcy sneered, turning his wandering hands over to the button that controlled the window. Up, down, up, down went the window at different intervals, letting a warm Californian breeze seep into the car that Richard kept at a low sixty-five degrees Fahrenheit. Darcy blamed his nervous jitters on the plane ride; Richard blamed them on Darcy just being Darcy.

"No problem. And stop that! Play with the vents instead, you tosser!" Richard ordered, attempting to slap at Darcy's hand while keeping the car on the road. Needless to say, after he'd driven the car off the road and into the grass, barely stopping in time to stop it from going into one of the pools of water, Richard realized that it was a bad idea to do so.

"God, you're difficult." Richard grumbled, punching Darcy in the arm; he was quite grateful they were the only ones on the small road. Darcy snickered at him the rest of the way to their aunt's group of beachside cottages. When they arrived in the one Catherine lived in, the men were treated to harsh words from their aunt telling them that they were late and had to hurry to become presentable before company arrived.

Shuffling into the rooms they normally resided in when visiting Catherine, Darcy and Richard shared a look that conveyed a whole conversation of interrogating the other if they knew about the "company" coming over. Darcy, after entering his room, stared at himself in a mirror. He looked presentable for whatever company Catherine was expecting, he thought, wearing his nicest pair of denim jeans (that, okay, had holes beginning to form on the knees) and a gray sweater. Darcy was not eager to impress any company Catherine was expecting… or so he'd thought. Just in case Catherine meant his hair, Darcy had left his room after a minute of contemplation, trying to smooth his unruly curls down over his skull; when he saw Richard doing the exact same thing, both men burst into a giggle fit that lasted them to Catherine's living room. It was her favorite room to receive guests in since it showcased the ocean and her generous back porch through two floor-to-ceiling walls of glass. Darcy's laughter caught in his throat when he saw who was coming up the beach, her hair whipping about her face; in fact, he was so stunned, he missed Catherine's smoldering glare for not changing into better clothes.

Not knowing what to do with himself, Darcy just stood by the (unused) baby grand piano in the corner as they waited for the party of three to enter through the back porch. Darcy recognized Charlotte Lucas with Elizabeth, but he didn't know who the third member to their group was. The man was short, pudgy, and looked like he'd lost his marbles; his clothes clashed horribly with each other and his rotund body type. Darcy wasn't sure what the portly man that matched a baby blue fedora, a bright red polo, and yellow plaid shorts was doing on his aunt's property, but what he did know was that he didn't like it when the man had the gall to touch Elizabeth. He appreciated Elizabeth's second-long look of disgust when the man placed his hand on the small of her back as the trio climbed the stairs onto Catherine's back porch. Within seconds, Elizabeth, Charlotte, and the man were in Catherine's reception room where bright blue met slate gray. Darcy felt the familiar, slightly unwanted zing when Elizabeth met his gaze defiantly; he dipped his head in a barely discernable nod in her direction as a greeting.

"Eliza, Charlotte, how are you finding Mr. Collins' tutoring? You may redeem yourselves, if you'd like, here on the beach with a new shoot. Richard can work with Charlotte since Charles couldn't make it." Catherine said without a proper greeting to any of her new guests, barreling right into the thick of her agenda. Darcy rolled his eyes, thinking back to how much he'd warned Charles about visiting Catherine that eventually led to the redhead deciding to go to Luxembourg instead (to do what, Darcy knew not). He smirked when he saw Elizabeth roll her eyes as well; he was pretty sure that Mr. Collins talent in photography matched his abysmal sense of style.

"Oh! Um, yes, Mr. Collins has been very kind to us. He's…"

Darcy tuned Charlotte out, hoping she was making things up as she went just to please Catherine. He shared a silent snigger with Richard as Charlotte droned on and on with praise for Collins, making the little man puff up like a mother bird, a lecherous little leer-smile on his visage. As her friend professed mendacity that pleased the two worst people in the room, Elizabeth wandered over to Darcy's side; he wasn't sure why but it pleased him that she sought out his company. What Darcy didn't know was that Elizabeth had suffered from sexual harassment coming from Collins and just wanted to be as far away from him as she could.

"Tell me that man isn't worth even a quarter of Charlotte's praises." Darcy leaned down to Elizabeth's ear, surprising her; it was written all over her face when she glanced at him.

"He is a talentless, near sighted pig who wants breast and pantie shots." Elizabeth whispered hotly, crossing her arms; she completely missed Darcy's stunned look of concern.

"He hasn't actually—"

"No. I'd kick his tiny, non-existent nuts if it actually happened. He lacks imagination and drive." She grumbled, loosening up some from her defensive position. Darcy smiled, relieved, and chuckled as he envisioned Elizabeth beating Collins to a pulp; his smile turned quite deviously sinister, drawing the attention of the room. Richard and Charlotte were surprised, though for different reasons, and the other three occupants were just confused (again, for dissimilar reasons). Upon seeing five pairs of eyes on him, Darcy's grin fell to his normal stoic expression.

"William, what are you two whispering about? I must know." Catherine narrowed her beady eyes at the pair, trying to come up with a sound reason for Darcy to beam as he had.

"Nothing, Aunt Catherine. Just two friends reminiscing." Darcy covered for them, resisting the smirk that made the corner of his lip twitch. Catherine kept her eyes shrewdly on the pair until Collins drew her attention away by profusely thanking and flattering her.

"Are you trying to intimidate me, Darcy? And I thought you didn't like lying." Elizabeth said as soon as Catherine, Charlotte, and Collins had all turned their attention elsewhere. She didn't see Richard approaching but Darcy did; he held his tongue for a second longer than it should have taken for him to reply, as he had no earthly idea what to say, to give Richard an opening to interrupt.

"Eliza, right? My name is Richard Fitzwilliam, this prat's cousin. I didn't think my cousin here had made any friends when he was doing Charlie-boy that favor." Richard held out his hand, speaking exactly when Darcy knew he would. Darcy swallowed his half-baked reply to Elizabeth's surprisingly hostile question, watching her interact smoothly with his cousin.

"No, please, it's 'Lizzie' – as in Elizabeth Bennet. It's nice to meet you, Richard. He—he didn't, not really." Elizabeth struggled for a decent reply, her cheeks tinged pink. Darcy wondered if she felt the same pull he felt when he was near her that caused him to question what to label their relationship; he hoped she felt the same way and that was the root to her stumbling reply to Richard's innocent query.

"Oooh, do tell, do tell. I love hearing what Darcy here does surrounded by people he doesn't know." Richard cackled, shooting Darcy a look. Darcy had a feeling that Richard and Elizabeth were going to be as thick as thieves if he didn't interfere soon, but he was unsure as to when he should cut in.

"You might be shocked." Elizabeth attempted to evade Richard's question, or so Darcy assumed.

"Me, shocked? About his behavior? Never!" Richard's mirth grew, as did his Cheshire-esque grin.

"Very well. We all had to suffer from a dour lizard sticking to the walls if he wasn't in front of my camera scowling and denying he was doing anything but smiling. And the stares! We'd – all of us workers at Lucas Shooting – be dead by now if looks could kill." Elizabeth grinned at both cousins teasingly. Richard's beam appeared to be identical to hers when he met Darcy's gaze; this time, it was the more reticent cousin that beat the other to the chase.

"'Lizard?' I was smiling, and I was not death glaring at anyone." Darcy interjected before both Elizabeth and Richard could tag-team in teasing him; he could feel his ears growing warm already.

"'Cause you're not a flower, Darcy. I seriously cannot call you something like a 'wall flower' because that just sounds wrong since you're all manly and stuff. I guess you call this smiling?" Elizabeth ended with something that looked, at best, like an awkward display of her teeth for a dentist. Darcy curled his lip at her impersonation while Richard had to bite his knuckles to keep from roaring with laughter. Darcy had, although, enjoyed her calling him "manly;" it made him stick out his chest a tad bit more.

"And this isn't 'death glaring?'" Elizabeth added, scrunching up her face in an exaggeration of Darcy's normal gaze, sticking out her lower jaw in a troll-like fashion.

"I did neither of those things and you know it!" He spat in mock defense; he was still trying to determine if Elizabeth was playing with him or not. Darcy could take playful teasing, and he believed that was the type Elizabeth doled out to him.

"Uh-huh, yeah, suuure you didn't Mr. I-Hate-People." Elizabeth smirked up at Darcy, and she stuck her tongue out at him as soon as she was done speaking. He was very tempted to just lean down and…

"Oooohhh, I like her. When did you start squabbling like an old married couple, though?" Richard's obnoxious voice broke Darcy's silent musings. Although Richard only addressed his question to Elizabeth, both she and Darcy turned to him, both reddening.

"Married couple?" Elizabeth bit out, wincing and turning even redder by the second.

"We – we do not squabble!" Darcy huffed, crossing his arms over his chest. He was glad his hair covered his ruddy ears.

"Yes, you two do—"

"What are you three squabbling about over there?" Catherine's sharp voice interrupted Richard's. All three of the party turned to her swiftly, each trying to find a good cover for what they'd actually been disputing.

"Just trying to figure out if right now is a good time to do that shoot you wanted us to do. Lizzie and I are all for it, but Darcy is thinking about not doing them at all." Richard's cheesy smile was almost as slick as his voice. Because they'd supposedly been discussing it before and neither wanted to reveal the true nature of their conversation, both Darcy and Elizabeth held their tongues.

"Ah. That is a perfect thing to discuss. If Charlotte and Mr. Collins have no qualms, I suggest doing it now." Catherine smiled broadly. It seemed to disfigure her face somehow, as if it wasn't a natural expression for her, stretching the skin in ways that made her seem sinister. Darcy couldn't help but think that her smile was the one that was the harbinger misfortune and pain for him.

"I thought you said maybe." Darcy hissed to Richard. Though he couldn't turn and look at his cousin's expression, he knew what guileful face the man was making when he whispered back, "Maybe I lied." When Charlotte just shrugged and Mr. Collins started spewing words that all amounted to him loving to head the shoot. Catherine sent him to fetch the clothes she wanted Darcy and Richard to model. Darcy made sure to give Richard a good kick to the shins when the cousins had to join their aunt in her little sitting area. Elizabeth had followed them but deigned to sit next to Charlotte while they waited for Collins to get the clothes for the trial shoot Catherine was adamant on having. In the span of ten minutes, they had to listen to Catherine talk, talk, and talk about "the good old days." Darcy blanched when Collins returned with two specifically labeled duffle bags hanging precariously from his shoulders, one on each side.

"Here is yours, Mr. Darcy… and this one is yours, Mr. Fitzwilliam." Collins enthused, hanging each man his bag. Catherine sent Darcy and Richard away before Darcy could try and convince her that the shoot couldn't be done.

"I heard we're doing swimming cossies." Richard added salt to Darcy's wound with a parting remark when he entered his room. Scowling deeply, Darcy sent a fierce kick at the bottom of Richard's closed door before entering his own room and unzipping the duffle bag. His eyes nearly popped out of their sockets when he saw the brilliant orange speedo blinding him on top of the pile of swimming suits. There was no way in hell he was going to wear that-that abomination!

Ten minutes later, Darcy stood next to Elizabeth on the beach, his arms crossed over his chest and a glower on his face. There was a slight breeze whipping them both as they watched Richard debating with Collins and Charlotte about where the best spot was on the immaculate beachfront.

"When was Richard an expert on backgrounds?" Elizabeth inquired after a minute of silence between them.

"I was thinking about asking when he lost his dignity, but I don't think he ever had any in the first place." Darcy said, not thinking Elizabeth wanted an answer to her question; he assumed she was just making small talk with him. He let his eyes follow Richard, who had decided to leave Catherine's main cottage in just a speedo, his being an alarming shade of bright green, and a white wife beater. Darcy shifted his legs slightly, feeling the tight spandex of his own speedo beneath the swim trunks he'd donned, a wave of embarrassment washing over him much more effectively than the ones beating the shoreline.

"To me, he didn't seem the type to have any." Elizabeth snorted. She bit her lip for a second before turning to Darcy, beckoning to dip his ear to her lips with a finger wave.

"Collins picked these outfits – er, suits out, by the way. Told you he was a creep." She confided, warm breath tickling Darcy's jawline. If he thought his eyes had popped out when he saw the speedo, he'd been wrong; the muscles holding his eyes in their sockets strained to keep them in now with the information Elizabeth had given him.

"He—he" Darcy attempted to form a complete thought to convey, but all he could manage was sputtering. Elizabeth laughed at him, taking a picture of his horrified visage.

"Good, good – keep that expression up, Darcy. Maybe Catherine will think this is your 'true essence!'" She sniggered, snapping a few more photographs before Collins hurried over, feathers obviously ruffled.

"Eliza, I'd suggest you desist in wasting film as this is a very important—"

"Look, Mr. Collins, this camera has been mine ever since my father gave it to me for Christmas. It is also digital. What I do with my camera is for me to decide, no one else. Clear? Good. Also, this is not an 'important' shoot; it's not even going to be published anywhere but on Catherine's ego. We don't even have all the equipment – just two good-looking men, some clothes, and a beautiful beach. So, what were you saying?" Elizabeth efficiently shut Collins up with her catty remarks. Darcy's eyebrows rose to his hairline as he thanked whatever lucky stars he had that he'd never been on the receiving end of her spite.

Collins reddened in ire before he stomped away, stymied, pretending to look for an ideal spot once more. Charlotte, who was still where Collins had left her and Richard, presented Elizabeth with a mean stare before stroking his ego. Inspired by Elizabeth's truly brilliant performance, a mischievous twinkle entered Darcy's eyes.

"Want to make him even more irritated?" Darcy murmured, giving Elizabeth's ribs a light elbow to make her look up at his lop-sided grin.

"And what do you have in mind, Darcy?" Elizabeth narrowed her eyes at him. While Darcy just figured she was plotting, she was actually trying to discern his character and his motive behind wanting to piss Collins off even more than she already had; she'd never seen him more forward with her, exempting that one phone call.

"I don't fancy he'd like a wet model." Darcy's half-hearted smile turned into a full-blown, dimple revealing, wicked grin full of wild intentions. He looked Elizabeth up and down quickly, seeing no white on her person or any type of bulge in her pockets to signify an electronic was in them, before peeling off his shirt and stripping her of her expensive-looking camera and glasses.

"What are you doing…?" Elizabeth asked slowly, suspiciously; since Darcy's hands hadn't been anywhere near her chest, she didn't mind him handling her camera or glasses. His shirt plus her camera and glasses were set gently in the sand before Darcy, who paused halfway in rising to his full height, displaying his muscular back to her, grabbed Elizabeth around her middle. He raised her into a fireman lift over his shoulder, much to her surprise; he chuckled when Elizabeth squeaked in shock, arms wrapping around his abdomen.

"What the hell, Darcy?! The ground is so far away! Put me down!" Elizabeth yelped, arms tightening around Darcy as he started moving towards the water. Her cry had alerted Collins, Charlotte, and Richard that something was happening, so the trio that had abandoned them turned around and stared.

"I'm doing something spontaneous, humor me. Now I have to run - thank you for alerting them!" Darcy laughed, charging right into the crashing wake of the ocean before Collins had even bothered endeavoring to scream a threat that wouldn't be heeded; unbeknownst to him, Elizabeth stared at his bum, a flush blooming on her cheeks. Darcy heaved Elizabeth down from his shoulder once he'd reached water that lapped right above the waistband of his trunks; though, he didn't let go of her waist. Only once he saw her eyes widen at the chill of the water did he flop into the salty depths, pulling her with him.

"What in the fudge cakes, Darcy? What if I'd had my cell in my pocket or my iPod or something else!" Elizabeth shrieked when they both surfaced. Darcy denied her an answer, shaking his head like a dog to spray her with more water; he just smiled and winked at her bewildered, slightly vexed, slightly humored countenance. Although he'd liked the way she'd looked in her cut-off jean shorts, black camisole, and light green button-down collar shirt, Darcy enjoyed them on her (or what he could see, anyways, since the water was up to Elizabeth's torso) sopping wet. He didn't feel quite so confounded by her at the moment; all he felt was a certain lightness around him, like he could do anything for her.

"Damn it, now we can't do the shot until he gets dry! And Eliza needs to change!" Collins' roar was perfectly clear to Elizabeth and Darcy even though they were quite a ways away from the little man. As if he was sticking his middle finger up at Collins, Darcy wrapped his arms around Elizabeth once more, lifting her up to his chest again before jumping backwards into an on-coming wave. By the time they surfaced again, Richard had dragged Charlotte into the ocean as well, and Collins was stewing angrily in the tide.

"You are an evil man." Elizabeth pointed at Darcy and laughed, a rosy hue still present on her cheeks; Darcy took that as a good sign, a sign of her feeling the same as he did.

"No need to thank me, Elizabeth. What I did was in the greater good for everyone." Darcy teased, shoving a bit of water her way. She scoffed in mock outrage, sending a stronger wave back at him. By the time Richard and Charlotte had swum over to Elizabeth and Darcy, a full-scale splash war had started, and Charlotte and Richard, of course, had to create a new side to make the war larger. After waiting about ten minutes as his supposed apprentices and models played in the water, Collins left in a huff to go complain to Catherine.

"Bye bye, Colly-Coll!" Richard hollered, waving at Collins' retreating back. While he was distracted taunting their common enemy, Darcy nailed him with a large splash.

"Nice one!" Elizabeth cheered, thrusting her hand over to Darcy for a high-five since he was her partner in the war. Darcy, instead of giving her a high-five, pressed his palm to hers and intertwined their fingers, giving her hand a little shake of victory before letting go. Charlotte blew a raspberry to draw their attention away from each other and reengage them in the splash war.

That afternoon at the beach had been the highlight of Darcy's whole vacation (and, if he was honest with himself, the best time he'd had all year).

- (Crappy Break Line) -

Darcy opened his mouth, about to announce his presence, when Elizabeth took her bag off her shoulder and opened the top flap. The outside held character – Elizabeth's character – thanks to a little help from Sharpies, but the inside made Darcy marvel. The zipper for the big pocket where binders and books would go was broken, and he could see a sliver of piping for a sketchbook within its depths as well as a few book spines a bit further down. He couldn't decipher any titles, but he knew they had to be classics. In the front pockets, where one would normally keep pens and the like, Elizabeth had twigs, stones, batteries, a spare strap for her camera, and charcoal pencils. The small pockets there bulged with things he could only fathom about, but one pocket he was allowed to find out its contents.

Darcy tensed when he saw her, tugging the Velcro apart form one of the pockets and slipping out a well-worn envelope he recognized. Just as she had no idea he was by her side, he had no idea how much pain he'd put Elizabeth through, how much remorse she'd felt… how depressed she'd been.

- (Four Months Earlier) -

Elizabeth stared at the envelope with apprehensive eyes. She hadn't meant to place the envelope where it could incriminate her for breaking her promise, but it sat there on the chest of drawers in her room, right in front of that blasted mirror. With both the real thing and its reflection glaring at her, Elizabeth couldn't help but feel that she'd been two-timed, that the second half of the story was the true version. Even without witnessing the gore within the letter, Elizabeth knew she shouldn't have said what she did to Darcy the previous night, but damn it, he started it! He always started it! Darcy had a curious knack for ruffling her fur, most likely unintentionally, even since she'd overheard his scathing comment to Charles about her.

Elizabeth bit her lip, endeavoring to look away from the envelope, but it was like a star with its own gravitational pull, dragging her eyes from whatever she'd previously been gazing at. Accepting defeat, she got off the plush guest bed she'd been using in one of Catherine's cottages, taking the sealed envelope between her fingers. Again, she was startled by the weight, and her imagination tormented her with beastly ideas of what it contained (perhaps ricin and hateful words).

"Quick, like a Band-Aid. Even though you never ripped Band-Aids off quickly because that would hurt." Elizabeth whispered to herself, trying not to dwell on the possibility that Darcy had licked the envelope shut as she slit it open with her finger. She dumped the envelope's contents onto the top of the bed, clamoring back onto it and lying on her stomach. Elizabeth, possibly in a bout of fear, decided to ignore the letter for a minute to marvel at Darcy's handwriting: it was clear, precise, and could be mistaken for a computer font if it hadn't been written on lined paper. Her name on the envelope had been much more stylish, and she was astounded how good the man's handwriting was in both cases. Elizabeth took a deep breath, bracing herself for whatever Darcy had to say, before diving into the letter.

She knew she shouldn't have been surprised by how direct and blunt Darcy started his letter off with, but she couldn't help the marginal shock at how clinical he was in "assur[ing]" her that his letter was not "a repetition of [his] feelings from last night that so deeply disgusted" her. Although she wanted to delve right into the Wickham-Darcy dispute, she had to drudge through her anger and displeasure with Darcy over the Jane-Charles debacle first.

Elizabeth could feel herself rolling her eyes at Darcy's description of Charles being a womanizer, but then she thought back to the time she'd spent in Charles' company. He was a bit of a flirt, to be sure, but he had seemed honestly interested in Jane in a completely innocent, boyish fashion. Maybe Charles was an easy guy to string along… If he was anything like Jane, as Elizabeth assumed, then he definitely would fall into the evil clutches of social climbers and/or gold-diggers. But that didn't mean Darcy could judge Jane and deem her "unattached!" Jane just didn't show her feelings off well in company, that was all; Darcy hadn't been the one to listen to Jane prattling on and on and on about Charles this and Charles that.

Elizabeth sighed and pressed her face into the bed, wanting to scream again. No matter how much Darcy didn't have the right to criticize Jane to Charles, Charles didn't have to listen to Darcy. Charles could have blown Darcy off and pursue Jane anyways because Charles was the one with Jane during intimate moments. And if he left so easily to go see "'beach babes,'" he didn't deserve Jane's affections (even if he immediately regretted his decision). Elizabeth stared at the sentence telling her she could do what she wanted with the information about Charles' reason for leaving. She mentally debated with herself for a while before deciding not to tell Jane anything. If Charles motives for leaving were as Darcy said, Jane didn't need more heartbreak, and if Charles didn't make a reappearance in Jane's life (with a lot of begging on his knees to be taken back since he was such a moron), Elizabeth didn't want to make Jane's hopes go up and die once more.

To finish off the Charles-Jane fiasco explanation, Elizabeth decided to let Darcy have a free pass. She knew how her family was, and she said the same exact things about them all the time. Elizabeth didn't like the fact others talked about her family as she did, but coming from Darcy or her Aunt Phyllis, she should treat it all the same: with amusement.

Lifting her face from the bed, Elizabeth continued on with his letter, holding her breath when the truth about George Wickham washed over her, cleansing her mind. She didn't want to believe it at first since it was so… so alien to think of something like that ever happening in real life out of stories (and especially to the sister of someone she knew by a person she'd been on a date with!). George Wickham had seemed so nice, though… He had had his cheesy moments, but Elizabeth figured all men did. She felt the irrational desire to go take an extremely hot shower and rub her skin raw where he'd touched her.

Elizabeth held back her gags, shoving Darcy's letter away in disgust. With her vivid imagination, she was able to conjure a tall, young girl with dark curls like Darcy's being fooled by Wickham's charismatic smile. If Wickham had been thirty then, he had been thirty-two or thirty-three when he'd been courting her… Elizabeth shuddered. It was slightly creepy he had the face of a twenty-one-year old sweetheart but was actually much older than that. She started when she recalled Wickham's folder saying he was only twenty-five years old. That lying scumbag! If she knew where he went, she could get him for lying on official documents. It wouldn't get Wickham much of a headache, but it would at least be something.

Elizabeth's head spun when she remembered his own mother helped him in his nefarious deeds. What a duo! It was disgusting and disturbing. Poor Georgiana… poor Darcy… poor Mr. Younge, too, even if he'd had an affair with Wickham's mother while she'd still been married. Not knowing how else to express her emotions for such a secret affair, Elizabeth ransacked her bags to find a pen and write in the margins of Darcy's letter.

By the time she was done making comments and re-reading Darcy's letter for the nth time, Elizabeth was emotionally spent. She didn't even leave her room that day, feigning sickness while two big, stupid idiots consumed her thoughts. Elizabeth didn't like being wrong, especially with Darcy, but she was so in the wrong it wasn't even funny.

- (Crappy Break Line) -

Darcy took s deep breath before he spoke.

"Although the statement is a bit redundant, I am a big, stupid idiot." He commented, but his voice sounded a bit snarky for his tastes. He smiled gently when Elizabeth jumped, looking up at him with wide eyes behind her specs.

"I—I—how long have you been there?"

Darcy couldn't help him smile from widening, his dimples coming out, at her embarrassment; Elizabeth really was just too cute. She was even trying to hide his letter, as if he hadn't seen it before!

"Not long, I promise. How… how are things, Elizabeth? May I sit with you?" He pointed at the grass, hoping to get closer to Elizabeth. Darcy knew he was selfish, but his raging craving for Elizabeth was rapidly multiplying with her right in front of him.

"Oh, um, its your property and all… um, Jane's well. She texted me earlier that Charlie came back on his knees begging for her forgiveness." She shrugged at him, eyes one the pond instead of him. Darcy wondered if it was because she still detested him. He sat down, purposefully brushing his knee against her. His chest was aching with all of his pent-up desire, and the action was almost involuntary. Darcy had thought he couldn't love Elizabeth more than he had at Catherine's cottages, but after four long months of believing she hated him, he would confirm the theory that absence made the heart grow fonder. Roaming around the Pemberley grounds made him want to share them with her, and he'd longer for her presence like never before. Even their weird tango when he'd been trying to ignore then woo her while she just disliked him was better than that!

"Yes… I told him it was wrong of me to convince him to leave Jane and that, well, she might not be as unattached as I'd believed her to be. He was on the next flight back." Darcy's smile tightened awkwardly. Had he been too presumptuous and arrogant to send Charles back to Jane? Had he meddled too much again? Although, Charles had informed him that Jane had been reciprocated after some much-needed begging…

"Thank you, for that. Jane is… very happy."

Darcy coked his head to the side at her curious choice of words. She thanked him, and yet… he had the feeling something was troubling Elizabeth. Perhaps it wasn't Jane, but he knew something was making the tension between them stronger.

"And how are you? Are you happy, Elizabeth?" Darcy inquired, deciding to be bold and cut to the chase. He hoped she'd confide in him what was bothering her, even if she shouted at him that she loathed him again.

"I'm… honestly not. I want to apologize to you for my scathing words… I mean, you deserved it and all, but… I should have given you more credit than I did with that ass hat. So, I'm sorry. And I accept your apology – apologies, from the letter, I mean."

Darcy's eyes narrowed at her words. Elizabeth still wouldn't look him in the eye, and she was being so hesitant and shy. He didn't like this, not one bit; Darcy enjoyed it when she was timid like during that midnight phone call, not like this. There was a difference to him. Swallowing his words of assuring Elizabeth she had nothing to apologize for, because he could see the importance of getting her apology off her chest written all over his face, Darcy just replied, "Apology accepted." Silence befell them again, although it wasn't loaded as it had been before. Or, well, it was a different tension now, and Darcy was pretty sure he liked it.

"I-I'm here with my aunt and uncle… I'm not here to… I can delete that picture, if you want."

Darcy wanted to laugh at how absurdly adorable Elizabeth was; he smiled once more, shaking his head. She believed he thought she was here to get back at him or something! Silly girl. Darcy raised his hand, hesitating midway in fear of being too forward, but he shoved those feelings aside with his slight annoyance that Elizabeth had yet to look him in the eye. He gently took her chin between his fingers, lifting her head so he could see her fine eyes.

"You can keep the picture if you look at me, Elizabeth. You don't have to be so shy." Darcy teased before he realized Elizabeth's eyes had drifted southward to his lips. Just as closely as he was watching Elizabeth, she was watching him. Elizabeth could clearly imagine the firmness of his lips and wonder if they'd be soft. She could feel herself leaning slowly, curiously toward him, and she nearly jumped out of her skin when she felt something vibrating on her leg. Realizing it was her phone, Elizabeth's heart stopped racing alarmingly fast as she picked it up.

"Sorry, it's my aunt… Aunt Maida?"

Darcy was disappointed when Elizabeth turned her back to him. Heck, he was (extremely) disappointed her phone had even rang since it looked like Elizabeth was about to… No! He wasn't going to fool himself again. No matter how obvious he thought it was she was going to kiss him, he would not assume anything until he got the truth straight from Elizabeth's lips.

"Um, sorry I left, I, er… I'm just outside the door underneath the trees. I—what. You're where?"

Darcy started when Elizabeth turned around suddenly, her little hand on his knee before he knew it. His heart hammered a song against his ribs as he looked at her hand for a second before following her gaze across the pond. There was a man and a woman waving madly beneath his gazebo; Darcy figured that they had to be Elizabeth's aunt and uncle. He cursed them mentally, frowning.

"Um, yeah, I see you, Aunt Maida… I'm with Darcy…. Yeah, as in the owner of this, erm, estate… We were not! Shut up! I'm hanging up on you!"

Darcy reconsidered his curse when Elizabeth flushed endearingly.

"What was that about?" He questioned, feeling the air lightening around them. Not only had Elizabeth's aunt made Elizabeth blush, but her phone call had broken the ice between them quite wonderfully. Darcy decided then and there to ask Maida and her husband, as well as Elizabeth, to stay for dinner in thanks.

"She, um, thought we were… yeah. And… we weren't."

Darcy smiled as Elizabeth's blush deepened and she looked at her lap. He wondered if she realized her hand, which had turned into a fist, was still on his knee. He mentally prepared himself for a second rejection and threw caution into the wind as he asked softly, "What if we were?" Darcy felt Elizabeth move sharply; since she hadn't moved away, he took it as encouragement. Closing his eyes, he took her fist into his hands, prying open her warm fingers to hold her hand and rub his thumb across her knuckles.

"Elizabeth, I still feel the way I did four months ago, though perhaps more ardently… if… if your feelings have changed, I… I'd like to ask you out. Properly, without al the bullocks attached." The though of, "She's going to reject me," was a mantra chanted in Darcy's head as he spoke, and only when he could silence them at the end of his confession did he open his eyes and look up at Elizabeth. Darcy gave her a half-smile, hoping beyond hope that his pessimistic worries weren't true. His heart was beating even faster than before.

"I'd like that, very much."

It took Darcy longer than it should have to realize he hadn't been rejected. When he finally understood she reciprocated his feelings, a wide grin split his lips, and he couldn't help himself from pressing a kiss to her tentative smile. Darcy was going to cherish this moment for a long time, perhaps even forever.

A/N: -still hiding form F.I. readers- Sup guys? Honestly, I hadn't planned on making a Darcy version. Then, one night, I was attacked by rabid plot bunnies demanding me to write this, and so here we are. I'm sorry I keep bugging you with fake "new chapters" – I found spelling mistakes in the Elizabeth half and corrected them. But I hope you guys liked this Darcy half! Haha, speedos… Any who, I hoped you guys weren't put off by how much I repeated in that last segment. I wanted to not include it, but then this half couldn't just end with Elizabeth reading the letter… I also didn't re-include the letter since I figured that it would be a waste to do so (that is my subtle hint asking if you guys think it was a good or a bad decision). Thank you to all the reviewers, favoriters, and watchers from Elizabeth's half and thank you guys for reading this whole little two-shot! :D

~ Tobi