[identity profile] mollivanders.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] prefer_my_life
Title: in the rubble, I found you there with me
Fandom: Lizzie Bennet Diaries
Rating: G
Characters: Lizzie/Darcy
Author's Note: Word Count – 2,416. My hand slipped. For [livejournal.com profile] redbrunja who wanted something dealing with the current economic reality. Sorry for blaming Pemberley's downfall on you, Gigi, but the Domino release was really a catastrophe.
Disclaimer: The characters belong to Jane Austen.

Looking back, it had all started with the launch of Domino.

There hadn’t been much choice at the time but to keep to the launch schedule. It had already been previewed at the stockholder meeting at the end of the last quarter, and he really hadn’t thought it would go as badly as it did.

Chalk that up to Wickham, among other things.

The soft noise of the sliding glass door opening on its runners alerted him to her presence, but he didn’t turn to face her. The view of San Francisco was so beautiful from his office balcony and really, this might be his last chance to enjoy it.

“The city really never sleeps, does it?” she asks, and he glances down at the glass of whiskey – straight, no ice – before taking it and clinking the glass against her own. Whiskey for both of them tonight.

“Is this from the corner liquor store?” he asks, swirling the drink around to inhale it.

“Nope,” she answers. “It’s from the cabinet Mrs. Hudson keeps locked for special occasions. I figure if we’re going out, we may as well go out in style.”

He smiles ruefully, and her we echoes in his head. She turns her back to the city, leaning against the railing, and moves his head to face her. “You’ll come back from this, Will,” she says, and it almost sounds like a promise. Maybe it is. “And I’ll be there with you, every step of the way.”

He takes a shaky breath and captures her hand with his own, running his thumb along the soft skin of her dorsum. “I was going to offer you everything,” he says, shutting his eyes. The rumble of the city drifts up to meet them, a steady hum; the forward motion of the world. Lizzie laughs softly, squeezing his hand.

“William Darcy,” she says sternly, and he opens his eyes. “You already did.”

+

It turns out the stockholders do not like Domino at all. In the slightest. He comes back from Chicago with new investors, but Pemberley Digital is soon met with dismal news from Wall Street, as bad reviews of the messaging program flood the internet. He works day and night at the office for weeks addressing concerns about privacy, user control, and even the management of the program itself, and in the midst of it Lizzie somehow manages to understand. It’s clear that Gigi feels horrible about the meltdown, but really Will knows all this is his responsibility. As the CEO, he owed a better delivery to the stockholders, but the extent of the catastrophe only reveals itself when their credit rating drops from an AAA to an AA.

In an effort to save the value of the company from the plummeting stock price, he makes peace with his aunt and has her come on as CFO to reassure the board of directors.

That buys them three months.

+

While Aunt Catherine manages to salvage the stock price and bring it halfway back from its loss, every new product delivery that Pemberley Digital releases begins to face a new level of scrutiny. It seems that the release of Domino ruined any faith that his customers or his investors had in the company, and all of that must be earned back. He barely leaves the office for months, under the strict scrutiny of both his aunt and financial reporters, and the first six months while he and Lizzie are officially dating are divided between their two offices. Fortunately the first twelve months of their acquaintance had prepared them in unimaginable ways for conflict resolution and for understanding the other’s needs.

Once, when he pulls another all-nighter, she orders a pizza. While he goes over the company ledgers for his aunt’s review, she reviews the draft of a staff update on the latest internal reordering of the company and sorts through pitches from the creative team on the next big release from Pemberley Digital. Looking over the books, Darcy sees the writing on the wall.

So far, they’ve avoided major job losses. Their assets outweighed their liabilities for the first quarter and a half of the disaster, but he feels the weight of duty settle heavily around his shoulders.

“Lizzie,” he says, dropping a half-eaten slice of pizza to rake his hands through his hair, “could you look through some ledgers with me to see if we can sell off some more assets?” She looks up, spotting his bleary-eyed look, and reads through the oblique statement. “What is it this time?” she asks, and he releases a heavy breath.

“Aunt Catherine has done as much as she can,” he says, and swallows hard. “But if I don’t find money somewhere, she’s going to take the expedient path and just fire a hundred people.”

The silence that follows is thick and deafening, until Lizzie stands from where she was sitting on the floor, cross-legged and stretched over half a dozen folders, and brushes the pizza crumbs off her lap. “We’re not going to let that happen,” she says firmly and walks around to his desk. “What do you need me to look at?”

+

In the end, it’s not so much layoffs as various cutbacks. Fifty-three people take the early retirement packages scrounged up from sales of various Pemberley buildings and another thirty-one people begin working from home, freeing up physical office space. Pemberley Digital is consolidated into a single building, and Darcy doesn’t so much feel his parents’ empire shrinking as he worries about the future of the company at all. There are still forty-seven people working at Pemberley who may not survive the next quarter, and he carries the stress of the job with him everywhere.

Three months later, twenty-one people have been moved to part-time status. Seven other people have left Pemberley for greener pastures – Collins & Collins is becoming an actual competitor – and a year after Domino was released, Darcy begins looking at other options to save his company.

+

They’re not at bankruptcy. Not yet. His aunt’s report to the board shows they still have physical assets they can sell, and she emphasizes that the size of their workforce could be further reduced by shutting down entire divisions.

The chairman peruses the list of divisions that could be cut and suggests they start with online media.

And that – that is the moment – that Darcy knows he needs to take action on his own to save his family’s company, or it will break apart piece by piece and be lost forever.

+

Lizzie’s company, he is happy to find, is doing well. As the economy eased out the recession – albeit at an achingly slow pace – she had been able to find funding for her start-up, had found office space and had hired a small team of creative professionals to develop her online brand. The success of her vlog had been a boon to the company and in addition to a series following the work of her sister and brother-in-law’s work with children in the developing world, she had also launched what she called a “living story” that people could follow every week. “Like Dickens,” she had explained over a bottle of wine in one of their late night sessions, “except online.”

“I think it’s brilliant,” he had mused, three glasses of wine in and with his head on her lap. He was too exhausted to think about ledgers anymore. “And something nobody else is doing.”

“The audience has responded really well,” she says with a hum, dragging her hand through his hair. “The business side of it though – ugh.” She makes another disgusted sound in the back of her throat and he laughs through his weariness. “I don’t know what I’m doing, Will. I mean, I figure it out, because that’s what I do, but I didn’t really think about the business side of business when I started, you know?”

“Well, you’re still privately owned,” he says, sitting up to grab a writing pad and pen. Quickly, he sketches out a start-up model that he vaguely recalls from business school. “At your stage, you want to stay private, but you need to work on accounts. Instead of trying to create everything yourself and brand it, you could collaborate with existing brands until you’re bigger.” She twists around to look at what he’s written and taps his notes.

(He finds himself staring at her fingers a lot these days. He has no expectations, nothing to offer, and yet—)

“That’s really good,” she says thoughtfully, and grins. “Maybe you should come work for me.”

She’s too pretty not to kiss then – though that is always true – but her comment comes back to haunt him.

+

He’d talked with the company attorney, a Mr. Gardner – no relation to Lizzie’s advisor, though they joke about it from time to time – and given Will’s plans for a coup to save the company, the best course of action involves filing for Chapter 11. Their liabilities had at last outweighed their assets, and instead of losing the whole company, Chapter 11 would allow them to recover. One day. He calls a meeting with the board of directors for Friday morning, with the hope that the news will have a ripple effect over the weekend and not crash the stock value of the company overnight.

So Thursday night, he finds himself alone on his office balcony, until she shows up.

“You’re going to do it?” she asks quietly, and their bodies are nudged close enough that the summer humidity is a bother. He doesn’t care. “If the board votes for it, yes,” he says. “All the paperwork is drawn up.”

She is quiet for a long moment, and he can tell she is thinking hard about asking him something. He looks at her, and she is biting her lip nervously before he catches her eye. “Lizzie, what is it?” he asks, his mind already jumping to a hundred other problems he hasn’t foreseen, or worse, overlooked in his personal life. He knows it’s possible. “Is everything – are you – ”. Lizzie tips the rest of the whiskey down her throat, clearly steeling herself for drastic action, and curls her other hand into a small fist. He’s noticed she does that when she’s trying to screw up her bravery, and he reaches a hand out to her shoulder, staring her down. Hopefully not scarily.

“What would you think – ” she asks, and god is she nervous, “about merging our companies?”

There’s a deep thudding in his ears once he absorbs her question, her proposal, and he blinks at her for a moment, thinking.

“Is that something…” He hesitates. “Is that what you want?”

She’s calmer now, and he mirrors her when she leans back against the railing, facing him. They are friends, and lovers, and there are so many difficulties to overcome when combining those roles with that of business partners but –

It’s not like he’d never thought of it.

“It’s your company,” he adds and she nods, gesturing at his office. “And this is yours. And you have skills that I need, and I have a new company name. An existing brand that your company could use to recover.”

“You also have skills that I need,” he adds as an afterthought. It’s true, but the wheels in his brain are turning. “You should think about this some more,” he says. “I don’t want you to rush into this, because Pemberley Digital will go on, in some form, even if we don’t do this.”

“I have thought about it,” she says. “And if we work all night, we can have a merger proposal for the board tomorrow morning.”

Finally, he smiles. “Well,” he replies, “that’s nothing new for us, is it?”

+

His aunt is furious, but after four and a half hours of presentation and debate, the board votes for Pemberley Digital to merge with Longbourn, Inc.

+

It doesn’t come fast, and it doesn’t come easy. The next six months are as difficult as he would have expected for a merger, but fortunately, less personally taxing that the past eighteen months had been. The rebranding did the trick with the stock value, and while Longbourn went public with the merger, the combined capital of the two companies was enough to turn the tide in favor of recovery. Only one employee had to be fired in the wake of the merger – a Katie Younge who was found to be leaking trade secrets to Ricky Collins of Collins & Collins.

In the wake of that discovery, Charlotte Lu left her old company and joined Longbourn, Inc. as Vice-President of Creative.

+

Their offices are on opposite sides of the new building – a deliberate move on their part, both to minimize business conflict and to allow Darcy control of business management while Lizzie handled the creative image of the company. All the same, whenever they’re the last ones working, one of them inevitably finds their way to the other’s office.

After all, what are laptops for? he reasoned.

One night, she orders Chinese and shows up in his office with dumplings and beer, and he has the clarity that only comes a few times in a lifetime.

(It’s happened to him several times already, but he thinks that’s due to his unusual luck.)

“Lizzie,” he says, coming around his desk, “let’s get out of here.”

“But I ordered Chinese!” she says, gesturing, and he shakes his head. “We’ll have it tomorrow for lunch. I’m taking you out.”

It’s mid-winter in San Francisco, which puts it roughly in the fifty-degree zone, but he takes her to the waterfront anyway. When they walk into the restaurant lobby, the hostess recognizes him and makes a call for a table on the top floor.

“Is there some reason you wanted to come here?” she asks when they step off the elevator and he leads her to the window, where they can see out across the waterfront and into the harbor. “I wanted to take you someplace where we can still see all the possibilities,” he says. “You always did, and I want you to know that I do too.”

It’s not quite the moment for it, so he doesn’t ask then, but somehow Lizzie seems to know what’s on his mind. “We’re going to build something awesome,” she says quietly but with such affirmation his heart clenches.

“We already did,” he says, and drops a kiss on her head.

Finis

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