From a very young age, there was a certain expectation people had of Darcy. That he was the perfect, poised and intelligent gentleman his parents raised him to be basically encompassed what everyone else saw him as.
He was not associated with failure and though he had only managed to get a handle on the family business in the past month, things were finally getting back on track and the reputation of Perfect Fitzwilliam Darcy was untarnished.
Before him though began yet again the epic debate on why George Wickham Doesn't Need A Raise, a discussion that usually ended with anything but success.
Fortunately, the head of HR, Mrs. Reynolds, was very clearly laying out just why George wouldn't get a cent more than was stipulated because "you're a lazy ass" and "besides you work in the bloody mailroom!".
When he turned to him in a pout, Darcy raised his hands in supplication, "You heard the lady."
"Well how about a promotion?" George suggested to which Mrs. Reynolds only cocked a brow.
"Do you suddenly have a degree in English? Written a book perhaps?"
"You know the answer to that," he grumbled. "But come on, there has to be more to the publishing industry!"
"There is," Darcy allowed, cutting off another biting remark from Mrs. Reynolds. Really, as ruthless as he liked the woman to be, George was still his step-brother and Darcy knew for a fact that he'd get an earful from their father if he let George get ripped to shreds. Personal enjoyment of that notwithstanding. "But even then some kind of qualification or experience is required."
George was undeterred. "Well how about I do some research for you then?"
"How about you finish school first?"
"School's boring," was the usual complaint.
Mrs. Reynolds looked at him in exasperation. Clearly, the good lady's patience had been running thin – not that Darcy could blame her.
Ever since the family business had officially changed hands two months ago, the readjustment had come with growing pains.
It had less to do with Darcy's lack of experience in a management capacity and more to do with some boardroom showdown his father had been a part of in the wake of his retirement announcement. Honestly, the man was a drama queen, and in his own words, had no intention of leaving those "brown nosing backstabbers" to advise his son anyway.
Suffice to say, a new board had to be appointed, and productivity level on the executive front had been abysmal.
It certainly hadn't helped that everyone, not only in the company or on the board, but even his family were looking to him now to make sure everything turned out fine - or rather, perfect, as his reputation insisted.
How he missed the days of being a simple editor; alone in his little cubicle with manuscripts upon manuscripts, no people to bother him and nothing but coffee and the next great classic waiting to be enjoyed.
But sacrifices had to be made, and as his late mother liked to say, "When God closes a door, he opens a window."
He hadn't realized how accurate or specific the saying was.
Turning his head, just a fraction, to glimpse just that, a corner of Darcy's lip pulled into a slight smile.
Across the street, a floor below and a window slightly to the left of his, he could spot his friend – of sorts.
He didn't know her name, only that she was an artist of some kind.
She wore her hair in two small buns behind her head and always sported flowy pants and vests. For the heat, she indicated, with an eye roll. Air-conditioning sucks in my building.
You could always move to mine, he remembered responding, and then feeling vaguely horrified that he'd just flirted with a stranger, had hastily written something similar to what his stuttering-awkward self felt like.
She had only smirked though, scribbling, I bet you say that to all your neighbours.
Well – he would if he bothered talking to them. The building, owned by his father's company, was one of the newest in the district, with hers being the oldest. Unlike any of the other people in her building though, no one else seemed to have that magical good timing that they both had to always be able to spot each other from the short distance that spanned their two buildings.
Granted, he did have a tendency to eye that window across the street – registering the slightest of movements and then staying locked on her whenever she was in sight. He'd spot her, as he would now with her back to him, busy with her own work but glancing over her shoulder as if waiting for something.
With an unreasonable amount of smugness, he knew it was him.
Moving towards his window without the notice of his companions still bickering at his desk, they caught each other's eye.
Raising a hand in greeting, she proceeded to wave a placard at him. Unlike her other offerings, and their usual form of communication, there was an almost childish quality to it and the words spelling out "Welcome" was written in blocked lettering and didn't look particularly inviting.
He arched a brow at her. Mom?
She nodded, a petulant frown tugging at her lips. Company? She mouthed, and he nodded in reply.
Her frown grew deeper and he had to suppress his chuckle. He knew how that felt.
When he had just been an editor they were on the same floor and there had been far fewer interruptions in their discussions. A fact that she predicted albeit ironically when she sent a paper plane into his window with the words: Don't forget me when you're a big shot. To which he had immediately responded with the directions of where she could find his new window.
Darcy had been very tempted at the time to simply put in his phone number while he was at it, but didn't want to seem too forward.
They were the kind of friends who could chat every now and then about random things, but they really had nothing in common and the differences would likely make their interaction awkward eventually, something he wanted to avoid when she was literally his view.
Though he hadn't the pleasure of seeing her up close in the six months that they had known each other, he liked to imagine he knew every contour and line of her face like he knew his own – perhaps more intimately for his imagination was rather taken with her as a whole.
A loud bang of a door startled him out of his reverie, and he glanced to his left.
To his surprise, and relief, his step-brother and head of HR had taken their argument elsewhere – making quite a fuss in the process if the shocked looks from over the half tinted glass walls were any indication.
Looking towards the window again, it seemed his neighbour had heard it as well and raised a brow in question. Stooping to grab something out of his line of sight, she raised a white board she used to communicate with him: Everything okay?
He nodded, gracing her with a slight smile he wasn't entirely sure she could see, though he could easily make out hers before she wrote something on her board again. Alone now?
Nodding again, he made a gesture towards her discarded "Welcome" sign.
She frowned and wrote, Don't want to.
Though he could hardly give her a stern look, somehow he managed it and she mock glared. You're supposed to be on my side.
He gestured between the distance between them and she interpreted it as he meant it: I'm literally opposite you.
With a decidedly dramatic sigh, the lettering that graced her whiteboard were practically flowing with exasperation as she dragged out the word Fiiiiiiineee. She looked thoughtful then and wrote, Can I get a reward then if I do this awful task?
His look again conveyed what he didn't speak, She's your mother.
Pleasee, was the next message, and she held the board just so that only her eyes – that had widened in childlike innocence – peeked over it.
Making sure to appear only slightly swayed, Darcy made sure to roll his eyes as he flashed a "go on" sign though she grinned regardless and began to scribble.
Coffee at the Clock Tower sometime?
Freezing for a second, and knowing that he looked a bit like a deer in headlights, he forced a frown.
Coffee meant drinks, drinks meant dinner, dinner meant another date, another date could lead to sex, good sex may lead to a relationship, a relationship eventually turns into marriage and then –
It's just one date, he reminded himself.
But one date that could lead to total and utter disaster for you see, Darcy had an awful habit of building people up too much.
His father, for example.
An exemplary figure; solid and consistent in his life despite the busy schedule he kept also had this rather gleeful habit of causing mayhem wherever he went. His stint with the board just one of the many messes Darcy Senior left for others to clean up.
Darcy himself had only started to deconstruct this perfect perception he had of his dear old dad, and though he found his relationship with his father was far better when he was simply a man like any other rather than an idol, the damage done to his view was quite altering.
It explained, for one, why his relationships never lasted: he saw too far; got too serious too fast, dreamed too big, thought too much. He put everyone on too high a pedestal that when they faltered, they tended to stumble all the way down the steps.
It was better that he and the woman across the street stayed within their respective window frames. It was for the best lest he build a life around her imagined good character and then be sourly disappointed when the reality fell short – for the both of them.
Resolutely, he shook his head and though she clearly tried to mask it, her sigh was most certainly a heavy one.
The optimistic woman that he had recognized her to be though, quickly perked up and shrugged his rejection off. Can't blame a girl for trying, and he resisted the pang that hit his chest as a result
There was a pause and as they stood before one another, she tilted her head to the side in consideration before writing, Do I really scare you that much?
He cleared his throat and offered in a voice just an inch below a shout, "Not exactly."
Though the gap between them was considerable, and there was a bit of traffic on the road that travelled between their two buildings, she still managed to catch his voice albeit more of a whisper than the original volume it was said in.
Blinking in surprise for they had never verbally spoken, her confidence returned a bit more as she wrote, Are you sure? I promise I don't have cooties.
He gave her a deadpanned stare, and she smiled. Whatever thing you're worried about isn't worth worrying about. Okay?
Shaking his head in disagreement, he reached for an exam pad and grabbed a black marker pen, writing, It's worth worrying about.
He considered her. It was only fair to tell her what she would be getting into if he agreed, and truly he had only declined for her own good.
I tend to be a very deliberate person, he began.
Is that so?
If we were to be more than friends, I'd expect we would get married.
Her brow raised in surprise, but her answer came quickly. Well I've never really seen a point in dating if that wasn't the goal.
He nodded. Okay. So far, so good. But I also have high expectations.
Uh-oh sounds scary…
He deadpanned at her again, though the corner of his lips were threatening to betray him what with the cheesy smile she threw his way.
I mean it, Darcy informed, I dumped a girl once after my father made her upset.
I knew she was sensitive, he allowed with remorse, I just didn't think my father's ribbing would hurt her so much. To be fair, after that he learnt his lesson and never tried to introduce any of his girlfriends to him until Darcy was absolutely sure that he liked them enough to risk it. Or that they were confident enough to handle it.
If I can weather your charming responses, she claimed, referencing their half-hate relationship in the earlier months of their meeting, I'm sure I'll be fine.
Touché, perhaps a bad example.
Another girl tried to win over my seventeen-year-old stepbrother by agreeing to spike the punch at some event for the company.
Ew, youths, she wrote, making a face to match. Wouldn't even bother, I have three younger sisters. I know the drill.
Cats or dogs?
Both. Depends on the size of the house and if we can afford them.
What are your thoughts on kids?
I want them. In fact I've already got the names picked out, you're too late. All I need is your full name to attach to a birth certificate, she teased.
My father's old fashioned.
How old fashioned?
She snorted. Not a chance.
Kids that actually exist in this present moment?
Not counting my younger sisters? No.
Would you care if I had money?
She raised a brow in challenge. Would you care if I didn't?
Of course not.
Then there you go, she decided.
Across the street, her expression belied exaggerated shock. Your dad wants to know if I…?
Ooooh. She laughed at herself. Not that I know of, though I'm definitely not opposed to experimenting.
He suppressed the blush, and wrote back: Clothing choices?
In the bedroom?
Oh my god.
She laughed again. Whatever really. I dress for the occasion.
His brows rose, and she threw a paper ball at him. Air-conditioner sucks, have some mercy! Besides, I'm an artist, not a lawyer!
How do you handle judgemental relatives? Aunt Catherine would no doubt have an opinion on her, as the hag seemed to have an opinion on everything.
The Bible said Adam and Eve…
And so I did both, was her cheeky reply, accompanied by a shrug.
Well, he hadn't known that about her. Crazy ex boyfriends? Or erm, girlfriends?
Nope. I've got a crazy radar; why do you think I haven't kicked you to the curb yet?
Sanity, he mentally noted, might be questionable.
How do you do under pressure? She asked.
Well enough, why?
Because if you insist that we're going to get married after a cup of coffee, my dad will probably have a million ways formulated to mess with your head, would you be cool with that?
My father's nuts, my step-mother is equally nuts and my aunt is literally the human equivalent of the poop emoji.
She laughed again. Oh, but love, how on earth can I expect we'll get along when you've got phrases like that in your playbook?
Younger sister, he admitted, running an embarrassed hand through his hair.
Oh cool, at least ours will be able to keep each other occupied while I take on the onslaught that will be your family.
His brow furrowed. This was going far too well. There just had to be something wrong with her! In all seriousness though, I really do like you.
I like you too, she admitted, smiling sincerely. I've been waiting for months for you to ask me out, but you never did…
Wasn't sure I'd be your type. Carefree, confident, perky, friendly and easy to get on with? He certainly wouldn't have placed any bets on himself.
Handsome guy who loves to read? Dry sense of humor? Excellent wardrobe choices? What part of that isn't my type?
So you like the whole old professor look huh? His late mother had a thing for dressing him up in suit ensembles as a child, and after that he just choose to dress that way out of habit. There seemed few things a woman dying of cancer could find joy in then a teenage boy constantly looking like he was going to church in his Sunday best.
What can I say, the woman across the street wrote, I've always had a thing for bowites.
What if I have the wrong colour eyes? He had no doubt that she had formed ideas of her own about him.
What if I do? She countered. Brown, he thought, her eyes are brown.
What if I'm too short? Highly unlikely.
Would be a shame, she wrote, but not the end of the world. You'd just have to endure being referred to as my Minion.
What if I talk in my sleep, or forget to put the seat down or…?
A million other things? She posed. No one's perfect, I don't expect you to be, just like you shouldn't with me.
And if I loved you like you were? He certainly had that habit. One of his former girlfriends had broken down during their break-up to tell him that she couldn't live up to his high expectations.
Well I'd say that you're living up to the words of Oscar Wilde, and you've therefore already got my heart.
An admittedly silly smile tugged at his lips.
You realize though, you don't even know my name, she interjected.
A name in this century please.
You can't just tell me?
You're the one who started guessing, she retorted to his chuckle.
I'm sorry, enlighten me then?
Queen Elizabeth Bennet.
Would you like me to address you with that title? He asked in amusement, and she shrugged.
Only when you talk in your sleep or whenever you're being punished for forgetting to put the seat down or not putting dishes in the dishwasher or…You get the drift?
Hmmm, how about my name?
What about it?
What if you don't like it? Nearly everyone outside of his family avoided calling him by it which was why even he referred to himself by his last name rather than his first, with some people calling him "Will" or other such variations. Darcy supposed his name was just too long and too old fashioned to use.
It can't be that bad, she dismissed.
She snorted. Liar.
No one over the age of five is named Brayden.
Like the starfish, she asked humorously, or like Heath Ledger?
Feigning offense, she remarked, Rude.
She looked thoughtful. Reminds me of the President in Scandal. Oooh, can I call you Mr. President?
He smirked. Darcy's perfect.
You're not, she wrote with a chuckle, but if you don't mind, neither will I.
"And for the record," she called out, "I like your name."
A/n: Don't ask…I honestly don't know how this happened, but Liberties Taken is currently fighting with me and I needed to write something pointless, so ta-da…?
Thanks for reading, reviews as always, are appreciated.