[identity profile] mollivanders.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] prefer_my_life
Title: this love by chance; inside my soul has never fully vanished
Fandom: Lizzie Bennet Diaries
Rating: G
Characters: Lizzie/Darcy, Cast
Author's Note: Word Count - 6,024. A few notes. This is AU within The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. There was no theatre date proposed (yet), and Dr. Gardiner (since she never ended up doing anything in the series) is not meant to be any relation to the actual Uncle Gardiner, the lawyer. Lydia's Brighton arc and relationship with Wickham are completely AU from the webseries; it is not an abusive relationship and there is no sex tape. None of that nonsense. I think the rest is explanatory, but this deviates from "canon" while still in the Pemberley arc. Title from Alexandr Pushkin's I loved you and this love by chance
Disclaimer: Jane Austen owns these kids.

By the time the Super Bowl is in its last quarter, Lizzie’s worked up quite a buzz – enough that she doesn’t think anything of being squished closer to Darcy when Brandon edges in on the couch.

Will. She should try calling him that sometime, and not Darcy.

A soft beep from Darcy’s phone distracts her and she turns to watch him swipe the screen closed and smile down at her again. He’s been doing that a lot lately, and even with all her layers of denial Lizzie can’t help but notice he hasn’t been watching the game very much.

“Football not your thing?” she asks, sipping carefully at her fourth beer. She’s been soaking it up with plenty of nachos but even still, there’s a comfortable haze over her thoughts right now.

“Not really,” he says, awkwardly shifting his arms in his lap before catching her glance and hesitantly stretching one out behind her. “But Fitz likes a good party.”

Lizzie hums in agreement, clutching her beer like a life vest as her senses take in their increased contact. Her heart is pounding in her chest, almost painfully, and the instinct to escape is overwhelming, but when she jumps up, the look on Darcy’s face makes her scramble for an excuse.

“Do you know if Fitz has any crackers?” she asks, setting her beer down. “I think I need to sober up.”

As Darcy follows her into the kitchen, the living room groans in dismay as the Ravens score again.

It’s cooler in the kitchen, easier to breathe when she’s not lined from shoulder to knee with Darcy, and she leans back against the counter as Darcy rifles through the top shelves. He is very tall, of course, but when she hops up on the counter, her feet unsteady, there’s hardly a difference between them at all.

(Not that she’s thinking about height differences. Or Darcy. Nope, nope, nope.)

“This is Fitz’s kind of party,” she notes absently, his abdomen conspicuously stretched out right next to her. She rips her eyes up to his face as he glances down at her. “And you don’t like weddings either.” Suddenly it seems like it’s not cooler in here at all, nor like she’s gotten any further from his personal space. “Are there any kind of parties you do like?”

He drops down from his toes, a box of Ritz crackers in his hands, and surprises Lizzie when he hops up on the counter next to her. Ripping open the box, he offers her the open package before taking some himself.

(If she’s honest, he’s never – ever – seemed so human.)

“I like being with my friends,” he says. “Other than that –”

“Did you read Tolstoy for me?” Lizzie blurts out, her mind wandering to her conversation with Charlotte and her censor apparently very, very off. He stares at her for a long moment, a bit of crumb caught on his mouth before he licks it off and Lizzie cannot, no matter what, lose eye contact right now. He swallows roughly, eyes stuck on her.

“What?” he asks, his voice thick and he reaches for the beers next to them; twists one open. “Why would you ask that?”

Her palms are sweating, her pulse racing, but she did start this. “It’s just something Charlotte said,” she says, shaking her head. “Can I have one of those?” She seriously doubts she can have this conversation with him if she’s sober. Darcy is considerate enough not to remind her of why they came in here in the first place. The quiet, interrupted only by their strained breathing, lasts until he twists the top off her beer and passes it to her. “I took a class in college,” he says. “Princeton requires two literature classes, so I took Russian Lit.” He sips at his beer and shrugs. “It seemed more challenging.”

“Special, you mean,” Lizzie says wryly, some of the tension easing out of her shoulders and when he looks at her she smiles, hoping he’s not offended. “It just seems more your style to take a more unique,” she explains and Darcy nods thoughtfully. She leaves off calling him a hipster, for now, especially since she took the same class herself.

“That, or I just like the Russians,” he says and if Lizzie wasn’t buzzed she’d swear he was teasing her. Deadpanning. Flirting.

“Okay then,” she says, tossing her hair back and squaring her shoulders. “Prove it. Lit-off. First person who can’t name the book or author loses.”

The way he smirks at her is doing nothing for her pulse. “And what do I win?” he asks. Lizzie absently licks her lips.

“You’re not going to win,” she says, leaning closer, eyes narrowed. Darcy flushes and clears his throat, and tucks his chin back. He really did do that a lot, no matter what Gigi said. “But,” she concedes, “winner can name their prize.”

Arching his eyebrow at her, Darcy rests his back against the cupboards. “Shall you start, or shall I?” he asks, and since she’s feeling generous she flicks her hand up at him to proceed.

(There’s a sudden ache of memory – did she get that from him?)

Shutting his eyes and reciting from memory, Darcy begins. “Man only likes to count his troubles; he does not calculate his happiness.”

Lizzie smirks. “Notes From the Underground. ‘Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.’”

Darcy muses, raising his beer to his lips before turning his head to stare at her. “Tolstoy’s Pamphlets.”

“Correct,” she mutters and Darcy grins. “Yeah, I know,” he replies and then draws a long breath. “All the girls in the world were divided into two classes,” he began. “One class included all the girls in the world except her, and they had all the usual human feelings and were very ordinary girls; while the other class – herself alone – had no weakness and was superior to all humanity.”

Narrowing her eyes, Lizzie’s suspicion was aroused. “Are you cheating?” she asks, reaching for his phone, her hand tangling with his for a second before she sees the locked screen. “No,” he says, perhaps affronted, and Lizzie shakes her head. “Sorry,” she rushes. “It’s just – it’s a long quote.”

“One of my favorites,” he says, and Lizzie purses her lips. “Anna Karenina,” she answers and Darcy hums. While she’s thinking of her next excerpt, Fitz’s brother Chip wanders in and heads straight for the cupboard behind Lizzie. “Sorry,” she says, shifting out of his way and – cursed alcohol – closer to Darcy. Don’t drink, kids, she thinks. They stay there, crushed between the open cupboard and the fridge, until Chip leaves again. Breaking the silence in a rush, Lizzie rattles off the first thing that comes to mind, something from the worn copy of Chekov she had brought with her.

“Despite my life’s experience, I knew very little about people then, and it’s very possible that I often exaggerated insignificant things and didn’t notice the important at all.”

As Darcy frowns, and Lizzie relaxes, Fitz interrupts them with her phone.

“Hey Lizzie B – Darcy – your phone’s been ringing off the hook. Figured it might be important.”

“Thanks!” she says, grabbing at her phone and swiping at the screen to answer the call. “Hey Charlotte, what’s up?” Glancing over at Darcy, who was still frowning, she barely heard what Charlotte stumbled out.

“What?” she asks, turning her focus to her friend.

“Lydia’s been arrested,” Charlotte says more clearly.

(She is sitting on a counter next to William Darcy, at a Super Bowl party. She has had four and a half beers and she can hear the tick of her heart, slowing to a grinding pace before picking up faster –and faster – and –)

“What?” she whispers, her voice hoarse as though she’s been screaming for days. “Charlotte, what –”

“In Vegas,” Charlotte adds. “It looks like she was there with Wickham, and your dad’s on his way there, but Jane couldn’t get a hold of you and she’s running the phone tree.” Charlotte’s voice was worried and even a little scared in Lizzie’s ear, and she was sure this wasn’t the worst of it.

(What could be worse than jail?)

“Charlotte,” she interrupts, turning aside from Darcy so he couldn’t see her face, “what – how did she get there?” She can’t bring herself to interrupt. The long exhale on the other side twists her stomach into knots before Charlotte says quietly, “She was admitted to a hospital for a drug overdose, and then – they found drugs on her. They’re holding her for possession and they’re asking your family about Wickham. Lizzie, I don’t know everything but you need to get home, if you can –”

The world has stretched into long tick-tocks, thudding their way through her foggy brain, but at Charlotte’s words her response bursts out. “Yeah,” she says. “Yeah, I’m on my way.”

“I’ll talk to you soon,” Charlotte says. “Let me know when you get home.”

But when the call ends, Lizzie can do nothing more than stare at the phone in her lap, her ears rushing and her breath coming unevenly. She doesn’t even realize she’s crying until William Darcy has slid off the counter to stand in front of her, and hesitantly brushes at the tear on her cheek.

“Lizzie,” he says, his voice deep and heavy in her ears, “what’s wrong?”

It’s really, super embarrassing when she actually starts to cry then, and she hops off the counter, her hands balling into fists and her phone, forgotten, clatters to the floor. Darcy picks it up but instead of handing it to her and escaping, like he ought to do, she feels him guide her by the small of her back to Fitz’s office. Before he shuts the door, she hears another collective groan from the living room and suddenly remembers she is in a house full of people and wipes at her tears angrily.

“Can I get you anything?” he asks, pulling out a chair for her and sitting down once she’s calmed her breathing. Her vision slowly clearing from the tears and the shock, Lizzie tries to compose herself.

“I need to call Jane,” she says numbly, standing before dropping back in her seat, looking for her phone. Darcy hands it to her immediately but when his hand covers hers, she forces herself to look at him. She hasn’t been able to look at him yet and – oh, what must he think of her?

“Lizzie, what happened?” he asks again but Lizzie shakes her head, trying to think. She needs to think. “It’s – it’s Lydia,” she says. “She is lost, she is ruined. Oh god. My father is gone to her, but there is nothing he can do, I’m sure.” Burying her face in her hands, she tries to think of what to do. She needs to get her stuff. She needs to get on a plane. She needs to get home.

“Please tell me, Lizzie. Let me help,” Darcy says and she wants nothing – nothing more – than to have never come to Pemberley, to have never left her sister alone when there was no one else around, than to never have known this Darcy when surely – when he inevitably heard – and poor Jane!

“There is nothing you can do,” she says quietly, composing herself enough to meet his gaze again. “I am sorry, but – Lydia has been arrested for drug possession,” she says. The words thud in her mouth, made real by her voicing them. Her voice seems very distant and far away. “Wickham, it seems, was there, but now he’s missing and my father has gone to Vegas to try to help her. I don’t see how he can.” She steels herself and keeps going. “I must call Jane. I must get home.”

The silence is heavy in the dark room, just the two of them, but she can feel Darcy’s eyes on her, piercing. Painful. “Yes, you do,” he says and stands, pulling his phone out. “We can send your things after you and I can get you on the next flight out of San Francisco. I’ll call you a cab right now.”

“I can’t –” she begins but Darcy shakes his head. “I insist,” he says, his movements sharp and quick, and as he opens the door to leave Lizzie has a terrible premonition she will never see him again. “Darcy!” she says, her voice strained, but when he looks back at her she pulls herself straight. “Thank you,” she adds before Darcy nods and begins making his calls.

+

Lizzie does not recommend flying while drunk and heartbroken to anyone.

She does not recommend dealing with family disasters while hung over to anyone.

But most of all, she does not recommend splitting one’s worry between missed opportunities and baby sisters in danger.

(Sometimes, she is terrible at taking her own advice.)

+

She’s home for one day before she cannot stand it anymore, pacing around uselessly while her mother flies into hysterics in her room and Jane tends to her as best she can. It’s been long enough that the shock has faded and other emotions have crept it – specifically, fury.

The trouble is that nobody, especially Lydia, has any idea where Wickham is. All that is known is that he’d used a stolen credit card to pay for the hotel they’d stayed in and when the hotel caught him, it was Lydia’s name on their hotel room and Lydia left with the drugs. Lydia’s car is impounded and according to Jane, their father was now being held for questioning and Mrs. Bennet’s brother was driving down from Reno to help.

And still, after two days in a Vegas hospital and two days in a Vegas jail, Lydia would not give Wickham up.

“He loves me,” she’d insisted when Lizzie had called her. With all that had happened, Lizzie could only imagine her sister – abandoned, determined, stubborn and in love.

“Let me come see you,” she’d said, wanting nothing more than to hunt Wickham down. Charlotte was at her side, helping her and Jane as much as she could, but –

“I don’t need your help,” Lydia had said. “I’m fine, really. You all are making such a fuss over nothing.”

(All things considered, she was still Lydia.)

Drug possession. Nothing. Her car impounded. Nothing. Their father being held for questioning. Nothing!

“I just don’t understand her,” Lizzie exclaimed, pacing in her room – video blessedly off – while Charlotte listened patiently. Ricky had been decent enough to let Charlotte work from home for a few days but Lizzie suspected that with the family disaster the talk of their small town, Ricky may be acting on higher orders. “He left her for dead in a cab and she still won’t tell us anything?”

“There’s nothing you can do,” Charlotte insists, reaching for her friend’s hand to pull her down next to her on the bed. “And Lizzie, she might not know.”

“Oh, she knows,” Lizzie counters, dropping to her bed in bitterness. “And he’s the one who gave her the drugs, probably, but unless the cops find him, she’ll be the one with a record.”

“Don’t forget the identity theft,” Charlotte reminded her. “They can still get him for that.”

“He stole over fifty thousand dollars,” Lizzie says, punctuating every word. “How did he even do that? If we can’t get him for that –” She throws up her hands before falling silent, Charlotte quietly covering Lizzie’s hands with hers.

After a long moment, Charlotte clears her throat. “I’m sorry, by the way. About Pemberley.” Quizzical, Lizzie tries to protest but Charlotte shakes her head. “You’re going to have to do another semester,” she says. “And I know you really liked the company.”

More than that – Charlotte knew even more than Lizzie had volunteered – but it was enough.

“I want to make him pay,” Lizzie said, her voice flat with anger before she turned to face Charlotte. “You know what? Screw that. I’m going to make him pay.”

+

It turns out that even after watching Kill Bill and The Boondock Saints, Lizzie and Charlotte are still not exactly equipped for a full-scale revenge spree.

“Still,” Charlotte tells Lizzie mildly as they drive to Vegas, the L.A. traffic in their rearview mirror, “there’s more than one way to destroy a person.”

When they get to Vegas, Lizzie finds her uncle doing his best to prevent Mr. Bennet from being charged as an accessory to drug trafficking through Lydia’s use of his vehicles and his home.

“I managed to stop a search warrant of your home, for your mother’s sake,” Uncle Gardiner says, “but that’s all I’ve been able to do so far.”

Lizzie visits her father first, an old man sitting in a holding cell by himself. There’s water dripping from the ceiling and all her fury at Lydia, at Wickham, settles into horror and fear for her father.

“Well, my dear Lizzie,” he says when she sits next to him, and takes her hand. “It seems you were right after all.” She cannot speak, but shakes her head, and tries to think of her mother. She must not know. Not yet, at least, but Jane – Jane should know about the search warrant, as a precaution. “Have you seen Lydia yet?” her father asks and Lizzie shakes her head. “She told me not to come, on the phone,” she says and her father smiles grimly.

“Yes, she is quite married to the idea of Wickham, isn’t she? But I suppose her ruin will be a warning for the rest of us.”

She leaves her father in worse spirits than those with which she came.

+

She sees Lydia briefly, through a glass wall.

This is not her life. Her baby sister is not sitting in prison for a crime that Wickham committed.
“Lydia, you have to give him up,” Lizzie begs and Lydia straightens her shoulders, then has the audacity to wink at her. Lizzie’s heart clenches in her throat as her sister, her brave little sister, tells her not to worry. “I won’t abandon him like everyone else has.”

Despite herself, Lizzie cannot bear it; she leaves the prison in a hurry and with no wish to see Lydia again soon. Instead, she sees her uncle, who doesn’t think the situation is at all improved.

“I’m afraid we have to tell your mother about your father’s situation,” he says and Lizzie shrinks. She wants to protest – wants to fight, to stop anything, to keep this from being real – but she nods. “I’ll make sure she knows.”

(The fallout is practically heard from Vegas.)

+

Two days after they get to Vegas, Charlotte has to catch a flight back to San Francisco, as Catherine de Bourgh has demanded her return. “I’ll call,” she promises at the airport. “Every day, Lizzie.” She studies her friend’s face carefully before asking if she’d talked to Darcy.

“No,” Lizzie says horrified. “You might want to talk to Gigi then,” Charlotte says. “She did know Wickham, back in the day.”

It’s an idea with such a probably positive outcome that Lizzie knows why she hasn’t considered it before. She’s been avoiding thoughts of Pemberley, and Darcy, and the way she left it all. Still, this is Lydia. Her hands shake as she makes the call. Gigi picks up after the second ring, surprise coating her voice. “Lizzie! Are you okay? Will told me you had to leave right away and your latest video –”

“Yeah, I’m sorry about that,” Lizzie says, thinking of Monday’s video, barely a minute long, telling her viewers she’d had to leave San Francisco on short notice but that she’d update soon. They were her diaries, she could do what she wanted. “My family – my sister – is in some trouble, and I hate to ask, but I can’t just sit around waiting for something to happen.”

“Of course,” Gigi says, and Lizzie picks up the background noise of her closing a door. “What do you need me to do?”

“We need to find George Wickham. I thought if anyone besides Lydia would know where he’d go, it would be you. I wouldn’t ask, but she’s not talking and she’s in very real trouble.”

The long pause, the background white noise on the call, almost make Lizzie question calling Gigi before the other woman clears her throat. “If she was around Wickham, Lizzie,” Gigi says, “she already is. I knew some of his friends from when – from before. I can check into them for you, if you like?”

“Thank you so much,” Lizzie says, relief flooding her body. It’s a start. “And Gigi?” she adds, catching the other woman before the call ends, “Can you not – mention this to your brother? I doubt he wants to hear from me right now.”

Gigi’s frustration comes through as clear as her surprise had. “I don’t know what happened with you two,” she says, “but he won’t pick up my calls right now. He’s barely replying to my texts. He flew out right after you did and I have no idea where he is, so no, I won’t tell him.” She paused before ending on a softer note, “But I get it. Your secret’s safe with me.”

As soon as she hangs up with Darcy’s sister, Lizzie feels the immediate need to call her own.

+

In the next few days, Lizzie gets a series of hurried, short texts from Gigi.

Do you know if Lydia stayed anywhere particular with Wickham?

Found Wickham. Passed information along to family investigator. Will update soon.

Wickham in San Diego police custody. Transfer scheduled back to Vegas. Will update soon.

Does Wickham have Vegas friends? Need witness for prosecution re drugs.

They are clipped, short, and remind Lizzie of her brother in a painful way. Her calls to Charlotte are only as long as they have to be, and every time Charlotte brings up what happens after Vegas Lizzie only has long silences for her. When Charlotte presses her after a particularly long day where Lydia said her father should of course be doing time for her (who else should?), Lizzie snaps. “I don’t know, Charlotte. I can’t – there’s nothing for me back there. It doesn’t matter what I want.”

After that, Charlotte stops bringing up Pemberley altogether.

Lizzie’s been in Vegas a week and a day, nearly two weeks after the whole escapade started, when her uncle calls her hotel room, his voice a rush of joyous emotion.

“Lizzie, you need to get down to the station, right now!” The station background noise is loud and he hangs up before she can get anything else out of him, so she doesn’t even shower – just throws on her last set of clean clothes and drives to the station as fast as legality will allow. When she gets there, her father is waiting in the lobby with Lydia.

“But how –” she asks before just crushing them in a hug, clinging tight. “How?” she asks again, muffled against their clothing. Lydia squirms away from her and stares at her boldly but her father steps back more reluctantly, tears in his confused face.

“We don’t know, Lizzie,” her uncle says, interrupting. “I got the call this morning that the charges were being dropped and that your family was free to go. It appears the credit card debt has been cleared as well, and Lydia’s car has been returned.”

“But it was fifty thousand dollars!” Lizzie says, incredulous, looking from her uncle to her father to her sister. “And just like that? Surely you must have done something, Uncle Gardiner?”

From the look on her father’s face, it appears he shares the thought but her uncle protests he had nothing to do with it. “I need to file some paperwork with the station, but I’ll be right back. Let’s get you out of Vegas while we still can.”

Lizzie is so full of emotion – confusion, joy, gratitude to whatever chance of fate brought them upon them – that she’s startled out of her wits when she spots Wickham being marched into the station as they leave. Lydia cries out, a painful sound even under the circumstances, but the officers don’t stop and though she protests, they get her into the car.

“You can’t do this to us,” Lydia says through her tears, looking stricken in the back seat. Her father, it appears, has no sympathy. “Call your mother, Lizzie,” he says, getting behind the wheel. “Tell her we’ll be home for supper.”

+

It turns out that graduate programs actually have a protocol for things like family emergencies, and her thesis committee accepts her abbreviated report on Pemberley after her professors intervene on her behalf. In the weeks at home that follow, Lizzie tries to focus on school and just school. She updates her video diaries, she talks to Charlotte and she tries to wean Lydia out of her room. It goes in spurts.

Three days after they get back, Jane pulls Lizzie aside after dinner and – making sure the camera’s off – checks in on her little sister.

“And you haven’t spoken to him at all?” Jane asks, her feet curled under her. Lizzie picks at her bedspread and shrugs sadly. “I just –” She struggles to find the words. “We were just starting to be friendly. I’m sure after all this, he doesn’t want to see me anymore.”

“But how could he know?” Jane asks, persistent, and Lizzie sighs. “He was there when I got the news. I sort of told him – everything.”

Jane’s eyes are heavy on Lizzie and she fidgets under them, avoiding her stare. “So you were spending time together?” Jane asks gently and Lizzie shuts her eyes. “It hardly matters now,” she says lowly, and a long breath escapes her. “I just hate to think that he is somewhere in the world, thinking ill of me.”

Lizzie was never one to cry over lost love, even unknown love, but Jane knows the signs all the same, and pulls her sister close in a long hug.

+

Their uncle sends them the paper with Wickham’s arrest in it a week after it happens and their mother insists on it discussing it over breakfast. Their father endures it in stony silence but Mrs. Bennet will not have anything less than absolute triumph over the man who left her daughter in a jail cell.

“And if I ever find him, he should be very sorry!” she exclaims. At this, Mr. Bennet smiles and drinks his coffee. “I am sure he would be, my dear,” he replies.

But when Lydia gets the paper, after everyone but Lizzie has finished their breakfast, she scoffs. “That can’t be right,” she snorts, and tosses the paper to Lizzie. It’s the most her sister has said to her in a week so Lizzie picks up the paper. “What is it?” she asks, distracted. “It says right there that a William Darcy was the one who turned Wickham in. That can’t be right, can it?”

Her body is thrumming, more alive than it’s been in weeks.

“No, I suppose not,” she says distantly and Lydia marches out of the room. She would still defend Wickham and tell anyone who listened that it was a big misunderstanding. Lizzie was just grateful they hadn’t gotten married in Vegas, and Lydia wasn’t left waiting for a convict. But there it was, in small print in the article about Wickham. Some intrepid reporter had learned what she, nor any member of her family, had been able to.

George Wickham, 28, was arrested for drug trafficking and identity theft on February 27. He was found and delivered to the San Diego Police Department by William Darcy on February 25, before his transfer to the Las Vegas Police Department. Wickham’s hearing is scheduled for….

The article went on but Lizzie couldn’t focus on anything but those first two lines.

At a loss for anything else to do, she called Gigi and after first thanking her for her help, asked why she’d broken her promise to Lizzie to not tell William.

“I’m sorry,” Gigi said, her voice earnest. “Actually, I wasn’t supposed to tell you anything. You were both so focused on keeping information from each other that it was all I could do to keep you both on track.”
Lizzie’s ears were buzzing. “I don’t understand,” she said. “Are you telling me that when Darcy – William – left on ‘urgent business,’ that business was Wickham?”

“It would seem so,” Gigi replied and after the shock that followed, gently added, “we miss having you here, Lizzie.” She squeezed her eyes shut and thanked Gigi before ending the call and going upstairs to her room to think – to understand –

When she told Jane later that night, Jane was aghast. “I don’t know if I should have told you,” Lizzie confessed. “But I couldn’t carry it on my own, not this.”

“I think,” Jane said to her very seriously, “I wouldn’t know what to tell anyone myself. Your secret is safe with me.”

All the same, in her next video, she slips in a discreet thank you.

“To the person who helped Lydia, and this family,” she says, wishing she could say exactly what she wanted. “You’ll never know how grateful we are. Thank you, so very much.”

(Of course, she didn’t count on her massive following to pick up on the detail and sleuth out the culprit by the time her next video aired.

Damn internet fame.)

+

Jane’s boss had been more than understanding, but working from home as a sales associate only works for so long, but as Jane was announcing her plans to leave for Los Angeles again, Mrs. Bennet burst into the living room with, in Lizzie’s opinion, news that does not deserve this level of excitement.

“The Lees are coming back to Netherfield!”

Jane dropped her Yahtzee dice, more startled than anything, and Lizzie stared up at her mother incredulously as their father kept reading his paper.

“Isn’t it wonderful!” their mother said delightedly.

Lizzie could think of a few choice words. She can think of even more when her mother invites Bing Lee and his sister to dinner, and he shows up with his friend, oh what was his name – William Darcy?

(She’d worry that Jane would shoot her too many looks over the dinner table, but her sister is fairly occupied as it is.)

At their end of the table, she and Darcy sit in relative silence until he clears his throat awkwardly. “Chekov.”

She starts, looking up at him in confusion before he elaborates. “Our game. I never got a chance to answer you. ‘Despite my life’s experience, I knew very little about people then, and it’s very possible that I often exaggerated insignificant things and didn’t notice the important at all.’” He pauses and then his glance drops back to his plate. “I must admit, I share the author’s sentiments.”

Her chest is bursting, and she wants to share a thousand other sentiments, but she swallows hard and when she looks at him, manages a smile without betraying her conflict. “I never finished the book, actually,” she says. “I brought it with me to Pemberley, and then – well, completely forgot about it. Among other things.” Casting a glance at the other end of the table to make sure her mother is well occupied, she reaches her hand across the table and covers his hand with her own.

“It’s very good to see you again, Will,” she says, fumbling on his name.

(So much more than Darcy, now.)

He tucks his chin, smiling.

+

Jane does not delay her return to work but – the strangest thing happens.

She lets Bing Lee follow her.

And Darcy doesn’t interfere.

+

Two weeks after Bing and Jane leave town, Lizzie spots Darcy pushing the For Sale sign into Netherfield’s front lawn.

“You’re back,” she says, too surprised for anything else, and he invites her in for tea.

(He must have been watching her videos after all.)

“How have you been, Lizzie?” he asks. Her name sounds natural on his tongue, and with no family, no friends, and no other distraction Lizzie feels the pressure of the moment build in her chest. She unclenches her fists and takes the offered tea.

“Well,” she says. “Thank you.” She hesitates before adding, “Charlotte and I have decided to start our own company, actually. We just submitted the paperwork to the bank this morning.” If she expected surprise, she is sorely disappointed. He smiles and says, “I expected nothing less from you. Of course, if you hadn’t, Pemberley would have tried to snap you up. Your videos are quite the talk of the job market.”

“I need to thank you, for what you did for Lydia,” she bursts, switching subjects impulsively, and the weight of the past weeks slips off her shoulders. “For what you did for all of us. I know what it must have cost you, and we can never repay –” She stops at his frown and watches him come around the kitchen island to squeeze her arm in reassurance.

“I need no thanks,” he says firmly. “Wickham was my responsibility – led to excess by my family – and I would not have someone else bear the cost of that. But if you want to thank me, make it for yourself alone. While I respect your family, I thought of you alone.”

She’s having trouble breathing again, and her ears are ringing. It’s becoming a real problem, apparently, around Darcy. He seems to pick up on this fact pretty quickly, which she’ll have to chalk up to his robot-skills.

“Lizzie Bennet,” he says, and if he were any other man than William Darcy, he would be rambling. “My feelings are still what they were last fall – stronger, even. But one word from you will silence me forever.”

(The trouble is, she has no words.)

Instead, her unsteady hands slosh tea over the counter before closing the short space between them, adrenaline and a dash of courage driving her on. She has to stand on her toes to kiss him, but she does so, urgently. His hands fall to her waist, holding her in place as he responds, slow at first and then with more enthusiasm until finally, she breaks away for air. Her hands are still on his face and she brushes at his fringe absently.

“My feelings,” she says quietly, “are quite the opposite.”

+

“You never claimed your prize,” she says suddenly. They are on camera, in the last of her videos. She and Charlotte had announced their new company – Longbourn Industries, after their neighborhood – in the previous video, and their website already had a million hits. She’s clutching tickets to San Francisco in her lap – two seats, first class. William’s treat.

“Fame is fleeting,” Caroline Lee assured her when she comes to close the sale on Netherfield. “It’ll die down,” Lizzie shrugs, her anger at Caroline old and distant. “We’ll make sure it won’t,” she’d said.

“What prize?” Will asks, even mild confusion unable to wipe off the perpetual smile he wore these days. “For winning our lit-off,” Lizzie reminds him, reaching out to hold his hand off camera, and his thumb brushes a soft pattern against her skin. She has a sudden, urgent need to be done with this video, but her viewers were outraged – strangely – that something important in her life had happened off camera. They deserved a little Lizzie/Darcy after all the fan fiction they’d written.

“I’d quite forgotten about it,” he answers and Lizzie nudges him in the ribs. “Well if you won’t claim it,” she teases, “I’ll give you another quote.” He considers, momentarily, before leaning down to whisper in her ear, his arm secure around her waist.

She’s shaking with laughter as she reaches for the off button, for the last time. “I’m Lizzie Bennet,” she says, “and I’ll be seeing you, internet.”

After a hundred videos, she knows there are some things better left to the imagination.

Finis

Date: 2013-04-01 06:50 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] redbrunja.livejournal.com
This was everything I wanted!

The lit off!

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