The premise of this story is "what if Lizzie didn't tell Darcy about her videos until much later?" This is a significant departure from canon, considering that most of their post-episode 60 conversations depend heavily on Darcy's knowledge of her videos. To make this work, I've modified the content of some of Lizzie's post-episode 60 videos as well as the timeline at Pemberley Digital. Hopefully my modifications will be clear in the text, but if not, leave a comment and I'll clarify.
"Good afternoon, Lizzie."
Lizzie didn't even try to contain her smile as Darcy entered and sat down next to her. He wore black with red today. She liked him in black and red, despite the memories those colors brought. Who am I kidding? she thought as his shoulder bumped hers. He'd look hot in any color.
Darcy straightened his tie and glanced at her camera, and her whole body tensed as it always did when he caught her filming. It was only a matter of time until he found out about her videos. Caroline's jealousy would get the better of her, or Fitz would get curious and look them up, or Darcy would finally notice the tweets her viewers had been sending him for months. He turned back to her with no sign of suspicion, and she relaxed, feeling once again that she'd dodged a bullet.
He asked how she was, then stammered a couple nervous sentences before finally asking her to the theater. She thought he meant with him and Gigi, and gave him a glowing smile, but then he clarified.
"Well, actually, Gigi has an engagement, so it would just be, uh, you and me."
Oh. Oh. Lizzie froze, her eyes wide. The butterflies that had been bouncing playfully in her stomach since he walked in the door were now performing complex gymnastics. This was no casual invitation. He still wanted to date her. He had to, or he wouldn't have this mixture of anxiety and resolve in his eyes. His words confirmed every hope she'd tried to suppress since coming to Pemberley Digital…and every fear.
He had asked her two months ago why she was filming. If he'd asked the first time he saw her camera, when she was livid and wanted nothing more than to wound him, she would have taken an unholy pleasure in giving him the ultimate proof of her hatred. Instead, he'd asked the second time, when he looked exhausted and subdued. Pity, and fear that he would retaliate if he saw her videos, had made her stammer that she sometimes filmed herself for her thesis. She was a poor liar, and she'd expected him to notice and demand the truth, but he'd just nodded and handed her a letter. A letter that had turned her thinking about him inside out.
Lizzie looked away, her hands coming up to rub her forehead. "I was afraid of this," she breathed. She wanted to accept his invitation, to accept him. She hadn't known just how much she wanted him until this moment, when he once again laid himself open for her. But she couldn't begin a relationship with him while her videos hung over them like the sword of Damocles, threatening at every moment to drop and show him exactly how unethical and hateful she had been.
She had to give him an answer. She looked up, and her breath hitched at what she saw. He'd heard her whispered words. He looked away from her now, his face pale, immobile but for the rapid blinking of his eyes. She'd come to think of that as "the hurt Darcy expression." She had to be the worst person in the world to have caused that expression so many times.
"I am sorry to have troubled you, Lizzie," he said quietly, then rose to leave.
He'd unknowingly given her an out. She could let him leave and hope he never found her videos. The outcome would be the same as if she told him everything—he would be hurt, and her remaining weeks at Pemberley Digital would be excruciatingly awkward and painful for both of them. It would only hurt him more to learn of her videos now.
It was tempting, but she couldn't do it. She'd deceived him too much already. He deserved to know she rejected him because of her, not because of him.
"Darcy," she said, not realizing the turmoil and longing that filled her voice. He stopped and bent his head, listening. "You…you don't want to date me."
That brought him around to face her, his gaze defiant. "I know my own heart, Lizzie."
"But you don't know…" her voice trailed off.
"…yours?" he finished, his voice low. "Clearly."
"No," she said forcefully, rising to her feet in frustration. "That's not what I—". She tentatively stepped toward him, then halted and knotted her fingers nervously before her. "I have a vlog. Since last April. And I, um, talked about you on it. A lot."
Darcy's eyes narrowed for a long moment as he processed this, but he looked at her evenly as he replied. "I am aware that you once…loathed me. You needn't distress yourself about whatever you said."
Carte blanche, just like that? From the man who had once claimed he never forgave? Lizzie gaped at him, then shook her head and made herself confess the worst. "It's more than that, Darcy. You came in a few times while I was filming, and I—I posted it."
He flinched. "Including the time I…?"
She nodded miserably. There it was again, the hurt Darcy expression. He stood for long seconds, his face averted, then shoved his fists into his pockets and walked over to the window. She could only imagine what must be going through his mind. To know that his declaration of love and her harsh rejection were on the internet! His friends, his sister, his investors or competitors, his worst enemy—she had exposed him for any of them to see. Even the most casual man would be furious at what she had done, much less an intensely private man like Darcy.
The tension in the room grew unbearable as she waited for him to decide how to respond. Finally, he twitched his shoulders and turned back to her, his face carefully composed.
"Why, Lizzie?" She looked down, ashamed of the weak explanation she had to give him. "Were you attempting to prove how awful I was? Or did you hope I would find it someday and be hurt all over again?"
"No! I didn't even think of how it might hurt you, really," she exclaimed. "I use the videos to work things out, and…I didn't know what to do with what you'd said. My viewers had, uh, been begging to see you for a long time, too."
He tilted his head, considering her words. Then, suddenly, he asked, "Did you say anything about Gigi?"
"No, nothing. I mean, in my last few videos I've mentioned meeting her and how sweet she is, but I haven't shown her or said anything about what you wrote about her."
His stance relaxed as she spoke, and his voice became curious. "Your viewers wanted to see me?"
"Yeah. They liked you from the start. I could never figure out why, considering the things I said about you. They kept saying I was biased and had misjudged you." I should have listened to them, or at least to Jane and Charlotte and Fitz, she wanted to add, but she had exhausted her courage and couldn't make herself risk asking for his forgiveness.
He shook his head. "You had reason to think poorly of me."
They lapsed into silence again. She was still trying to wrap her head around his response. He had to be more angry and hurt than he let on, didn't he? She hadn't exactly expected screaming from him—that would be as out of character as "Lizzie, do you want to get your groove thing on?"—but this quiet scrutiny was unnerving.
At last, he spoke, and it wasn't to stiffly excuse himself, as she'd expected. "Is there anything else?"
"You were telling me why I don't want to date you. Do you have any more reasons?"
"Um, just the ones you already know of," she said uncertainly, thinking of her family and her debts, of Wickham and her harsh words last fall.
"Then there are none."
Lizzie's chin quivered as his words lodged in her heart and tripped through her veins. He loved her. He loved her still. She could see it now, in his warm, unwavering gaze that somehow looked beyond the ugliness she'd just revealed and saw something in her worthy of his devotion and respect. How had she ever inspired a love like that?
Even so, she couldn't believe the sword of Damocles had truly turned out to be a feather. Darcy seemed intent on making this easy for her, and she was grateful to him but still worried. "You—you can't just say that, Darcy. You don't know what I said about you. I called you grotesque and nauseating and…an infuriating -bag." She could barely force out the awful words. "And that was just in the first video I posted after meeting you."
His eyes flickered at her words, but he looked as determined as ever. "Lizzie, I don't—." He paused for a few seconds, then cleared his throat. "May I watch your videos?"
The irony of his question was irresistible, and despite her agitation she snorted softly. "You're asking my permission to watch me insult you?"
"I want to be with you, Lizzie. If…if that's not something you want, for whatever reason, then I will trouble you no further. If, however, your concern over your videos is the only obstacle, then I would like to watch them. With you, if you prefer."
Watching her videos together. The very thought was intimidating, yet it was the perfect response, something she would never have dreamed to ask of him. She stared at him in wonder for a few seconds, wishing she knew how to express what his offer meant to her. In the end, she could only say unfluently, "They're over five hours long."
Improbable as it seemed, those words earned her first full smile from him.