A/N: This is it, folks. Thanks a lot for coming along for the ride, redemptionsong, daphnie, fanfictionalcolic, Enarak, ArnettinCA, mpinney, 2old4fanfic, cyndyluwhu, BlueKarou79, Random. vibes1, Guests (all of you!), dpennell007, janiqs, debslmac, Gaskellian, Lily Draco, EmlynMara, Luvntwilight, Shelby66, liysyl, WhimsyMom, AlterDay, ibeth garcia, Moltz, AnakinSmom, yumali8di, Michele P. C, neelix lee, Ms Pimprenelle, Levenez, ashiana, Dr. Genius, lrhjan05, Sooty85, Jansfamily4, Saralee, MK543, thiscomplicatedlife, Lilibet68, RHALiz, ma28cullen, Windchimed, KTNCullen, kmilu, simplynothingtosay, Lizzie Paige, Romana973, archy12, ldroz, HBMTT, Windyandstormy, birdwoman95, Pa Trizia 88, and DW. 618.

Thank you all. It's been a blast.

: :

Coconut Trees
by Anton M.

Chapter 21: Little Kisses

: :

Elizabeth answered the door in a red, floor-length dress, her brown hair falling on her shoulders but eyes smoky and dark in a way Darcy had never witnessed. His lips parted as his eyes scanned over her, exquisite beyond his imagination.

Elizabeth smiled, eyes sparkling as she took the three pink lilies from a wordless Darcy.

"I'm not opposed to hoity-toity dates with you if this is the way you respond," she said, laughing. Grinning, she turned her side, revealing naked skin from her shoulders to her lower back, and Darcy, feeling like he was dreaming, finally gathered his wits and closed his mouth. He leaned closer, pressing a kiss in front of her ear, whispering, "Words fail me."

His kind, piercing eyes said more than the words that left his lips, and Elizabeth squeezed his waist, kissing his cheek. She caught hint of the cologne she loved, cedarwood and sandalwood, and it filled her with sweet memories. Under his coat, Darcy wore a black silk button-down with black trousers, and his fresh haircut made him look sleek and pretty damn gorgeous. She touched the shaving nick on his jaw, feeling afloat in his gaze.

"It's all smoke and mirrors," she said softly. "Rented dress, made-up nails… and my hair has always been too slippery for hairdos."

"You're beautiful," Darcy replied, dumb-struck, almost as an exhale.

"As are you," Elizabeth said, pressing the smallest little kiss on his lips before she appeared to float towards the kitchen in her floor-length dress as she went to put the flowers in water. Darcy, taking off his shoes, took in the apartment: the pale blue walls, the IKEA furniture, the piles of old speakers next to the walls of the living room… the place didn't have a cohesive look about it but it seemed low-maintenance.

A soft weight lay itself on top of Darcy's feet, and a fluff ball of a ginger cat started rubbing her face under the edge of Darcy's trousers.

"The infamous Coconut." Darcy crouched to caress her fur.

"If she loves you better than me we're never moving in together," Elizabeth said, eyes sparkling.

"Quick," Darcy whispered. "Hate me. I'm a horrible man here to steal Elizabeth away from you."

Coconut cast a lazy glance at Darcy before she rubbed her nose against his socks and purred so loud Elizabeth started laughing.

"Don't be fooled," Darcy said, eager to have Elizabeth move in with him sooner rather than later. "She definitely hates me."

"I can see that."

Ignoring the cat by his feet, Darcy asked, "Where's your flatmate?"

"She's out with her friends," Elizabeth replied, gathering Coconut from Darcy's feet before they walked over to Elizabeth's room. She set the mug of lilies on her bedside table and started petting the little purr-machine.

White walls surrounded the sparse, mismatched furniture. She had a small double bed, a white carpet, and a desk with a setup of two screens the size of which Darcy assessed quietly to determine if he could create the same setup for her at his place.

The room felt cosy and Elizabeth's in a way that her room at her parents' never had. All but one wall was dotted with photographs, of her friends, of strangers, and one of Darcy, squatting, elbows on his knees, talking to a kid, probably Sophie or Chloe.

Not having known the photograph existed, Darcy looked back at Elizabeth.

"I like catching people when they don't know they're being photographed," Elizabeth said, giving him a warm smile. "I have a few of you."

Instead of explaining, she showed him the other photographs of him (most of them printed on the same morning), and Darcy felt, somehow, naked in her eyes. Georgie had always teased him for how—in spite of his handsome features—cameras hated him. Usually looking borderline haughty in photographs, Darcy only had a handful of pictures where he didn't look constipated, and yet Elizabeth had caught him in moments that felt genuine, accidental, real. She had captured him with a twinkle in his eyes, with his knuckles pressed against his teeth in contemplation, with his face crumpled up as he laughed at something Bingley had said. In one, he was looking straight at the camera, his eyes so soft he could barely comprehend that the man in the photograph was him, but it was him, him in love, as captured by Elizabeth.

Darcy had never paid much attention to Elizabeth's camera. His mom had often spent time with her kids with a camera in hand, and so Darcy was used to ignoring it, but now he felt like he had not given Elizabeth's passion the credit she deserved. He knew she was good, but he'd supported her in an almost dismissive way, as if it was a fleeting hobby rather than a real compilation of her talents: her talent for connecting with people, for making people open up to her, and for capturing the essence of them in a photograph.

Darcy stepped against Elizabeth to press his lips against a spot just in front of her ear.

"I can see why you're protective of the life you've built for yourself," he said. "I have a lot to apologise for."

"Not you, too," Elizabeth squeezed his waist and kissed his neck, enjoying his scent and warmth. "I never felt unsupported by you in this."

"No," he insisted, whispering against her cheek. "I'll do better."

He slid his fingers along the sweet, warm skin on her back, capturing her lips in a kiss, and Elizabeth melted against him, feeling pliant and protected in his arms. The air felt charged between them, and when Darcy pulled back, Elizabeth smiled against his mouth, feeling tingly and dizzy with love.

"Before we go—and we must go soon—I have something for you."

He delivered a beautiful silver-y lariat necklace with a few (probably real) red gemstones mixed in—with matching earrings—and Elizabeth blinked at the box.

"Well that's just stupid," she said.

Darcy, taken aback, cleared his throat. "Excuse me?"

"Gifts or lack thereof was never a problem for us," she said, her eyes earnest. "You have nothing to make up for."

Darcy let out a relieved breath. "I didn't say I did," he said, feeling dejected by her reaction. "I just… I never got you anything. I'm hoping to change that."

Elizabeth, seeing how her reaction upset him, took a breath and touched one of the red gemstones. As unnecessary as his gift was, it came from his heart.

"Ruby?" she asked, quietly. She didn't have to ask how he'd known she'd be wearing red—Georgie knew.

"Red beryl," Darcy corrected. "Better resale value. Good investment. If, in spite of our best efforts, we… can't make it work between us, I want you to have things you can sell, should you ever need to. Needless to say, I will do everything in my power to ensure it never happens, but… you should've had something, last time we were dating."

It was a sweet gesture, heartbreaking but heartfelt, full of regret of the mistakes he'd made, and Elizabeth put her palm over his, searching his eyes. Her arguments died on her tongue before she caressed his cheek with the back of her hand and pressed her lips against his. She took off the fake diamonds in her ears.

"Will you put it on me?"

She wiped hair from her back and felt goosebumps on her neck as Darcy attached the necklace. He stood still for a moment before he wrapped her up on his arms, pulling her flush against his stomach. He pressed his lips against her neck. Elizabeth couldn't help her smile as she turned in his arms and brushed her thumb over a lock that fell on his forehead. Both laughed when Coconut started rubbing herself against their feet.

Darcy's eyes softened. "Now let's go before we're late."

Elizabeth put on her new earrings. "Late for what?"

They were almost aggressively overdressed forA Christmas Carol at The Old Vic, but Darcy revelled in it. Elizabeth felt a bit like royalty walking on the stairs in her floor-length dress with Darcy holding her close and introducing her to his colleagues and Georgie's friends (who were responsible for their tickets and seemed to know everyone). Elizabeth, having never been to a West End theatre—or even an off West End theatre, as was the case today—observed the crowds with almost contagious enthusiasm. Darcy had been to theatre enough that he couldn't actually remember his first time in one, and so he spent the evening seeing the place and the people through Elizabeth's eyes, and he spent more of the play enjoying Elizabeth's response to it than actually watching it. Darcy adored her sparkling eyes whenever she leaned close to him to whisper in his ear, and he put his suit jacket on her shoulders when she got cold. She looked adorable in it.

They successfully hid in plain sight even during the 20-minute interval, but when the play was over and a reporter accidentally recognised Elizabeth, Elizabeth handled him with a playful grace Darcy would've been smart to learn, but all that mattered to him was that Elizabeth made the man disappear and they could spend the rest of the night together. They took a taxi to Balans Soho Society, a restaurant that stayed open past midnight.

"I admit I'm surprised," Elizabeth whispered as they settled on a grey couch in the corner. Darcy helped her out of her coat.

"Not hoity-toity enough for you?" he asked.

Elizabeth laughed.

"Beautifully hoity-toity for me," she replied, pushing off her white sneakers and lifting her legs underneath herself. Darcy paused when he saw her shoes. Elizabeth raised her eyebrows in a challenge, but Darcy, smiling, wisely shut his mouth and excused himself to the bathroom.

When he returned, Elizabeth was tapping her number in a man's phone. Darcy sat beside Elizabeth, resting his arm behind her on the couch as he studied the menu for drinks without comprehending a single word. He stopped his pretence when the man left, and pulled Elizabeth tight against him.

"I leave you alone for one second and you start giving out your number to strange men?"

Elizabeth turned her face towards Darcy.

"Jealous?" she whispered.

Darcy lingered against her ear. He could barely fathom that the beautiful, sparkly-eyed woman pressed against him was giving him a second chance, and, for a split second, contemplated the consequences of telling the truth.

"Yes," he replied, his voice low as he ever-so-gently brushed his fingertips against her naked shoulder.

"Good," Elizabeth took his hand in her lap and put it on her thigh. "Then I know how to keep you on your toes."


Elizabeth, stifling her smile, covered his hand on her lap. "Darcy, I'm joking. Look." She tilted her head to point at a couple across the restaurant. "His fiancé follows me on Instagram but he was too shy to approach me. They just wanted my number to discuss taking their engagement photos, later. Not when I'm clearly on a date with my dashing boyfriend."

Darcy smiled against her cheek, feeling something lightweight and precious squeeze his chest when she called him hers. They ordered before Elizabeth rested her head on his shoulder and let her knees fall on his lap. Darcy kissed the top of her head and squeezed her thigh, and when she looked up, he captured her lips in a kiss. A slow, happy buzz surrounded them, a charged air without rush, and Elizabeth nipped his lower lip before they grinned against each other's mouths. It felt too good to be true, this happy, electric atmosphere full of lingering looks and sexual tension.

Their food arrived.

"Tell me about Jane," Darcy said, quietly, turning his attention to the duck breast.

After spending Christmas with Georgie, Darcy, Jane, Aiden and Bingley—the latter of whom still wasn't technically allowing for too many visitors, which is why the Bennets were absent from Christmas at West Brompton—Jane had arranged for a day for Bingley and Darcy to take Aiden on a long walk to focus on her favourite sister.

Elizabeth was initially confused by Jane's need to apologise. Jane had never been mean to her, she'd never alluded to her (lack of) intelligence or made her feel bad about not being able to get into college, and so Elizabeth accepted her apologies without much thought. But Jane, having thought Elizabeth dead for three days, had her head full of regret, and felt that she had never really been an active ally in Elizabeth's life. She'd been supportive, but not where it mattered. Jane had protected Elizabeth whenever she was there, but she'd believed her parents when they insisted that Elizabeth couldn't have had a learning disability. Jane had regrets over never having fought her parents over it, and while Elizabeth didn't blame her sister, Jane blamed herself, and her blame ran deep. But two hours of discussion, regret and tears, from both sisters, allowed them to move forward, with Elizabeth listening to apologies she didn't know she needed to hear, and Jane voicing regrets that she'd thought she'd never be able to give voice to. In the end, the two sisters ended their discussion with wet faces, tight hugs and (many) words of forgiveness.

Darcy listened to Elizabeth, having suffered from his own regrets too deeply to judge Jane for her lack of action, but Elizabeth, being the lively woman whose love Darcy had (somehow) earned, was not one for holding grudges.

"Why do you think your parents never believed you had a real problem?"

Elizabeth chewed on her delicious vegan burger, swooning a little when Darcy squeezed her closer to him and pressed his lips against her shoulder.

"I don't know," she answered, finally. "Pride. Not wanting to admit failure. Fear of having been wrong. Fear of the unknown. Illusion of control. If my parents believed that it was in my control to do better, they wouldn't have to admit that they'd messed up years ago, and my sisters always thrived in academia, so… All I know is that I keep hearing it's incredibly common to deny that your kid has a problem. Just look at my dad and how much he's struggling now to accept it. Jane thinks it's good for him to mull things over, but… you should hear him on the phone. He sounds so sad."

"Elizabeth, your dad is a Vice-Provost of Education at a university. I agree with Jane. I had my own blind spots when it came to you, which is why my input might be unfair, but… your family had two decades to make things right. I know it's hard to let your parents suffer, but your father deserves to feel like he fucked up."

"I know… I just love him, you know? He's a good dad."

"Give him time."

Elizabeth started unwrapping her watch from around her wrist after she finished her food, but Darcy stopped her.

"No," he whispered, wrapping it back around her wrist. "Return it when… you move in with me."

Elizabeth rested her head against his firm, warm chest, grinning. "You just want a guarantee that I'll see you again. You'll change your mind and ask it back on the night when you propose."

Darcy smiled against Elizabeth's temple, squeezing her closer to him. "That is a fabulous idea."

"And then you'll change your mind and ask it back after I've given birth to our first child."

Darcy kissed Elizabeth's ear. "An even better idea."

"And then you'll change your mind and want it back on our gold anniversary."

"Yes." Darcy lifted her chin with his fingertips, his eyes full of laughter, and pressed a firm kiss against Elizabeth's lips. "Yes. That's what I want."

Elizabeth adjusted the strap of the watch around her wrist, her eyes sparkling. "So what you're really saying is that I own your family heirloom now."

"You are the future Mrs. Darcy," Darcy whispered against her ear. "It's only fair."

Elizabeth slid her fingers in his hair and pulled him into a kiss. She felt like floating when Darcy hummed against her lips.

"Does that mean my future husband wants to take me home?" she whispered, feeling a bit tipsy, and no sooner had the words left her lips than Darcy already had his hand up for the bill. They paid, got dressed, and sat in the backseat of a taxi. Elizabeth scooted to the centre before she fastened the seatbelt, kicked off her shoes and curled her legs underneath herself.

"You can't call me your future husband," Darcy whispered against her ear, driven mad by the scent of her hair. He held his palm against her stomach, holding her.

"And why not?" Elizabeth challenged. "Are you now a modern man who don't need no marriage to tie him down?"

Darcy laughed.

"No," he replied, running his fingers over her hair before he began to kiss her neck. "You're going to give me ideas."


"Ideas," he confirmed, peppering soft kisses against her neck. "Beautiful, dangerous ideas."

"Dangerous?" she whispered. "Why dangerous?"

"Because the woman in question is still deciding whether or not she wants to have a future with me."

Elizabeth's pause drew Darcy's attention, and she rested her forehead against his. Smiling, she rubbed his neck in maddening little circles.

"I have it on good authority that the woman in question is done deciding."

Darcy nuzzled her cheek, smiling. "And what are the results?"

"The results show that if I tell my future husband anything, he will stop trying to swipe me off my feet and I quite like him trying to swipe me off my feet."

Elizabeth let out a small squeal when Darcy tickled her, but the mirth in his eyes was unmistakeable. She gave him a soft, playful smile before she kissed him, and no more words were said until the taxi pulled up next to Elizabeth's apartment building. Darcy paid the driver, asking him to wait, and Elizabeth got out of the taxi in a daze.

"I thought we were heading to your place," she said.

Darcy tucked her by his side as they entered the building. In the elevator, Elizabeth pressed herself against him, untucking his shirt to touch the muscles on his bare back. She kissed his neck. Darcy groaned.

"Stay," she whispered.

"You're tipsy."

"You're annoyingly sober. Stupid antibiotics. Why won't you stay?"

Darcy laughed, crushing Elizabeth against his chest when she attempted to remove his shirt.

"You wanted to take it slow," he replied, so softly Elizabeth barely heard his words.

"No. That can't be right."

"I'll tell you what will happen," he whispered, backing her out of the elevator when it stopped on the seventh floor. "First, I will come kiss you goodnight."

Elizabeth hummed, grinning against his collar bone. She adored his scent all around her, his arms surrounding her, his firm chest under her cheek. He was a beautiful man, charming her knickers off without even trying.

"Then, I will tuck you in," he continued.

"Go on." Elizabeth pressed her lips against Darcy's neck.

"And then, I will see you in a few days."

"No," Elizabeth complained, eyes full of sparkle and lips grazing his stubble. "You skipped the part where you will seduce me to a puddle of goo and fall asleep in my arms."

Darcy nearly called it quits and did exactly as she wanted him to, but, true to his word, he took a deep breath, tucked her in, kissed her goodnight, and left her to take a very hot, very cold shower in his own apartment.

: :

Darcy and Elizabeth sent Georgie back to Toronto on Friday before Darcy saw his own doctor. His dry, residual cough showed up every few days, but it became rarer as time went on, and his doctor cleared Darcy for returning to work on the following week.

In a strange way, the growing media attention on Elizabeth actually felt a little bit cathartic for her. Interviews with reporters, offers to buy her photographs, invitations to dinners and talk shows—the relentless interest in Elizabeth gave her voice unprecedented attention, and Darcy witnessed it from the sidelines, beyond proud of the woman he was dating. Elizabeth was occasionally recognised on the street, but she was good at turning people down in a way where they didn't realise what she was doing until Darcy and Elizabeth had already walked away.

Elizabeth returned to work, surreal as it was, and spent two consecutive days at two different weddings. The guests' interest in her was slightly too high for her comfort, but she handled their attention with grace, and when all else failed, she could always hide behind her camera. Interest in Elizabeth was high on all fronts, quickly filling up her schedule for the next year, and she had a growing suspicion that she might need to hire an assistant soon.

On Tuesday evening, after Darcy's first (tiring) day back at work, he was making himself a bite to eat when his door buzzed. He picked up the phone, and almost half a minute of silence followed until Darcy heard sharp breathing.

"I'm—sorry," Elizabeth stuttered. "I didn't know where else to—"

Darcy buzzed her in and left his door wide open as he rushed downstairs and met Elizabeth on the staircase. Her eyes were red and lips quivering. She attempted a smile but Darcy wrapped her up in his arms.

"I'm—I'm okay," Elizabeth whispered once they were in his apartment.

"You're sobbing."

She gave him a teary-eyed smile, and Darcy felt, almost in slow motion, as his heart nearly skipped a beat. Other than the time Elizabeth thought he'd die, the last time he saw Elizabeth crying like this was when they broke up.

"Whatever I did, I'm sorry," he whispered, holding Elizabeth's neck. "I'm sorry. If I'm rushing you, I'm sorry. Please don't just—don't just leave. Fight with me. I promise I'll be better if you just tell me what I did, okay? I'm sorry."

Elizabeth's eyes spilled over when he finished his little speech, and Darcy covered her cheeks with his palms.

"You're stupid," Elizabeth said.

"So stupid," Darcy agreed, reaching over to lock the door before he took off Elizabeth's coat and wrapped her up in his arms. "Very stupid. Stupidest man who ever existed."

Elizabeth sniff-laughed against his shirt.

"I love you," she whispered.

"I love you more," Darcy replied, feeling his heart come to life again. "Way more. So much more that you shouldn't leave me just because I'm stupid."

When Elizabeth laughed through her tears, Darcy felt it was safe to sway her closer to his barstool, and he made her sit before he continued to hold her against him. Elizabeth took shaky breaths for a few minutes, just breathing against him, and Darcy rubbed her back, pressing small kisses against her hair.

"I'm sorry I called you stupid," Elizabeth whispered.

"I'm sure I earned it," Darcy replied, scooting another barstool next to hers to sit on it. He held her hands.

"You didn't," she replied, caressing his knuckles and pressing her lips against his hands. "You're wonderful."

Elizabeth drew patterns on Darcy's hands, gathering herself, assessing his face as if to confirm he wasn't leaving. Darcy waited.

"I got tested for dyslexia."

Darcy stood up and wrapped her in his arms so quickly Elizabeth barely realised what was happening.

"You should've told me," he said. "I would've taken the day off. I would've come with you."

"I know," Elizabeth replied. "I just… I wanted plausible deniability in case the tests confirmed that I'm just… you know. Stupid. What if you would've just taken one look at me and—and—"

"Squished you against me and loved you forever?"

Elizabeth snorted a laugh. "I like your version better than mine."

"Of course," Darcy replied with a soft smile. "In my version, I get to keep you forever."

Elizabeth pressed a kiss against his chest before she pulled him around the corner. She sat on her knees on top of his bed, taking Darcy's hand. She played with his fingers.

"The woman who tested me, she said—she said—" Elizabeth bit back tears, but she was smiling. "She said she's never met anyone whose dyslexia is as severe as mine who got into—a university." Elizabeth swallowed. "Without… without being taught how to learn differently, as I should've been. She said I probably have… double deficit dyslexia, very—very severe, and something else I don't remember, but, but I… I've created some coping mechanisms, and, and—she said I should've been in the gifted program. They don't have all my results, yet, but she said… that if I, if I wanted to, there are things that might benefit me, even, even as an adult. I should've—my parents should've—" Elizabeth cleared her throat, attempting to swallow the tightness. "I'm sorry. I don't know why I'm—crying. I'm—I'm okay. I don't know what's wrong with me."

Darcy brushed hair away from her face, looking at her face with such tenderness and affection that Elizabeth began to cry all over again.

"There's nothing wrong with you," he whispered, kissing her knuckles. "You're perfect."

Elizabeth grinned through her tears. "You're sweet but wrong."

Darcy nudged her to be on her back as he straddled her hips and hovered over her body. He kissed her nose and brushed hair away from her face. "I'm glad you did this. Not because you have an obligation to do anything with the information but because… I hope it will give you peace. You never did anything wrong. Your parents failed you."

Elizabeth wrapped her arms and legs around Darcy, and he fell against her before Elizabeth hugged his body with all her might. He grinned against her neck, adjusting his elbows to take some of his weight off of her, and yet, Elizabeth just squeezed him. Minutes passed, and her breaths evened as she slid her fingers under his shirt and hummed against his warmth.



"What if it's hereditary?"

"It can be," he said, softly.

Elizabeth's palms stilled against his back, and Darcy adjusted himself to look in her eyes. She focused on his Adam's apple, touching it gently with her fingertips, thinking.

"Will you be okay, if, if because of me, our child will—" Elizabeth swallowed. "Or, I mean, you can still… meet someone who doesn't have what I have, and you could—"



Darcy brushed his thumb over her temple, wiping her tears, caressing her hair as he smiled. "I'm going to risk freaking you out, but—" He lowered his head to the side of hers and brushed his lips against her ear. "I'm never going to have children if I can't have them with you. I want you."

"But what if—"

"Elizabeth," Darcy whispered. "Remember what I do at work. There are infants with mothers who are alcoholics and smokers, addicted to opioids or crack, babies with malformed organs, hearts, lungs or spines not fully developed… sometimes it's the parents' fault but sometimes it's just miserable luck. You can do everything right and get very unlucky, and you can do everything wrong and… get lucky. The chance that we might have a kid with dyslexia isn't even a blip on the radar among my worries about our kid, and if they do have dyslexia, we'll get them the best private tutor in the country and raise them to be a future CEO who's a fearsome thing to behold."

Elizabeth smiled, sniffing and squeezing Darcy against her. "I love you."

: :

Two weeks after Darcy and Elizabeth had arrived back in London, there was no way around admitting it. Elizabeth was becoming well-known. News reporters had interviews with her. Talk shows began to air. Elizabeth was made to put together another transmitter on air with no instructions—it was easy because all the components were textbook and she didn't have to break a plane wall to find parts. She spoke about growing up with an undiagnosed learning disorder and found an audience of like-minded people, some of whom were learning from Elizabeth's parents' mistakes. She showed audiences a select few of the photographs that she'd taken, and increased the interest in herself and her photos by a thousandfold.

Everywhere Darcy went with her, on the streets, in stores, in restaurants, people asked for her photograph, and being the lively people-person Elizabeth was, she patiently took selfies with them, answering their questions to the extent that time allowed, always apologising to Darcy for the interruptions. Sometimes, people directed questions at Darcy, too, but he kept his promise to Elizabeth—he did not talk. He had no interest in it. Instead, he observed his girlfriend in wonder, amazed by how natural and well-adjusted she was to a semi-public life.

Elizabeth's mother and younger sisters attempted, in vain, to garner interest in their side of the story, but nobody cared enough for any stories to stick or circulate. It was Elizabeth the audience loved, and her family quickly faded in the background. Her father, however, was learning to make amends, and Elizabeth had several tough conversations with him, but he was taking baby steps to understand his second daughter and to admit his own failures. Slowly but surely, they began to mend their relationship.

Elizabeth and Darcy met Caroline, purely by accident, just after the couple exited the hospital together. Caroline looked as if she'd caught her enemy snuggling her favourite Fendi purse. Elizabeth and Darcy both burst into laughter after they'd rounded the corner, and, saying nothing, Darcy pressed his lips against Elizabeth's cheek and changed the topic. Elizabeth felt loved.

Their WhatsApp group was abuzz with photos, gifs and links to newspaper articles about their crash, a crash that was starting to feel like a distant dream. Elizabeth posted a selfie from her second date with Darcy from Mildreds Soho, thanking Roger for the chichipoopoo he'd promised to buy her. Darcy sat across from her, observing her when she put down her phone, and Elizabeth felt a rush of affection squeeze her chest.

He reached over the table to take her hand in his, and the two stared at each other before Elizabeth cleared her throat.

"I have offers for the photographs I took. It was not my intention to make newspapers fight for them but… that's where I am, now. It's a little bit intimidating, so… I wanted to ask for your opinion."

"Of course," Darcy replied. "Do you get to keep the copyright?"

"I'm going to turn down all offers where I can't."

"That's my girl." Darcy rubbed one of her fingers between his. "What's the best offer you've received so far?"

Elizabeth stifled a smile before she let out an almost girlish laugh. She could not fathom the numbers she was discussing with newspapers.


"Close to half a million."

Darcy narrowed his eyes and tsked.

"They're lowballing you."

"Lowballing?" Elizabeth repeated. "Did you not hear what I said?"

"They're lowballing you," Darcy repeated. "You have meaningful, exclusive content, one of a kind in the world, far beyond what anyone could recreate in any studio. You should ask outrageous amounts for your photographs, more than what you think anyone would pay."

Elizabeth blinked at him. "Darcy, I don't even… I can't even fathom the number I have been given. I have… no experience with what to do with that amount of money, much less… ask for more."

Darcy kissed her knuckles and grinned when Elizabeth made a face. "Relax, love. I'll help you."

He made a few calls, and Elizabeth felt eternally grateful for having a boyfriend who knew enough about money and people who handled money that she didn't have to reinvent the wheel. Without him, she wouldn't have had a clue how to proceed. It was quite intimidating to own photographs so valuable that she could've bought a small apartment for it.

When his calls were made, Darcy played with her fingers, observing her.

"You alright?"

Elizabeth took his hand and kissed his knuckles, holding his hand against her lips.

"Thank you."

"What's the point of having a hoity-toity boyfriend if he can't help you with this?" Darcy asked, winking at her. Elizabeth, overwhelmed by his kindness, got up, sat beside him on the couch and wrapped her arms around him. He had such a warm, firm presence to him, he smelled beautiful, and she wanted to show him how grateful she was for everything.

"Thank you," she repeated, pressing a kiss against his warm neck.

"Don't mention it," Darcy whispered, rubbing her back and squeezing her against him. "It's not a big deal."

"It's a huge deal," Elizabeth argued. "You're the kindest."

Darcy kissed Elizabeth's nose. They paid the bill, got dressed and entered the foggy night. Christmas lights still adorned most windows, and it was a beautiful if dark and chilly Friday evening.

Darcy pulled Elizabeth against his side and kissed the top of her head.

"Do you want to walk?"

His question was rhetorical as he was already guiding them towards the Thames. Darcy held her against him in front of the red light, but he didn't move even after it turned green. Instead, he uncurled Elizabeth's fingers and pressed a key in her palm.

"Don't freak out," he whispered, pressing a kiss against her lips before they crossed the street. "I'm not trying to rush you. I just wanted you to have access to my place in case you have an event closer to where I live and you need to take a break, or a nap, or… you're too tired to go home for the night. My home is always open to you."

Elizabeth unzipped the little pocket by her waist and dropped his key in there before she zipped her pocket up and smiled against his chest.

"Thank you," she replied. "I love it."

He assessed her face, daring to feel hopeful. "Really?"


Darcy pulled Elizabeth into a hug. Feeling his tight squeeze, his swaying and his grin against her temple, she laughed.

"I'm trying to pace myself," he whispered, smile obvious in his voice. "But you're the most delightfully charming girlfriend a man could ever have, so… thank you. Thank you for being so good to me."

"But I… I didn't do anything."

"You chose me," he replied. "That's the only thing I need you to do. Forever."

Elizabeth grinned. Darcy smiled against her cheek, holding her tight against him as they began walking towards his apartment along the Thames, and Elizabeth relished his warmth. He stopped to buy Elizabeth a white rose, and the hour to his place passed in easy conversation.

When they reached his apartment, their hair covered in mist and smiles frozen on their faces, Darcy hung their coats and grazed his knuckles over her cold cheek. His eyes were beautiful and intense, searching hers, and Elizabeth felt his love in her bones. She felt alight.

"Elizabeth," Darcy whispered, his voice low, his lips parted and his scent surrounding her with so much power she couldn't have turned him down even if she wanted to. She stepped out of her shoes, pulled off his jumper and lifted herself on her tiptoes to kiss him. Darcy hummed against her lips, his fingers sliding in her hair and his hips pressing her against the wall. Elizabeth, feeling turned on and playful, kissed his jaw before she took hold of his collar with both hands and pulled.

Nothing happened.

Darcy, in a daze, blinked at Elizabeth attempting to tear up his shirt.

"Elizabeth, love," he whispered, smiling against her ear. "What are you doing?"

His warm breath sent shivers down her spine.

"I'm trying to be sexy and rip your shirt off."

Darcy slid his fingers underneath her own shirt as he grinned, pulling her closer. "It's a 300-quid shirt. You may need to work out a bit more to rip it off."

Elizabeth detached her fingers from his collar as if it burnt her. Darcy laughed.

"Why do you—why do you own a shirt that costs one third of my rent?" She grinned when she saw his face. "Okay, never mind. Stupid question. But if I can't rip yours off, you better rip off mine. Here." Elizabeth pulled off her jumper before she put Darcy's hands on either side of her collar. "Pull."

"Elizabeth, I'm not going to—"

"Pull or no sex for you tonight."

She laughed when her buttons went flying in all directions. Darcy stared at her bra, unable to tear away his eyes but still in shock of what he just did.

"That was… very wasteful."

"Totally worth it." Elizabeth said, grinning against his lips. "It's a cheap shirt. I'll sew the buttons back on in the morning."

"We have to get you better clothes," Darcy whispered. He lifted her into his arms, sat on the side of his bed with Elizabeth in his lap and turned on the fairy lights. Elizabeth kissed him, feeling preciously in love when Darcy hummed and squeezed her closer to his warm, firm body. Trying and failing to unbutton Darcy's shirt without looking, Elizabeth grinned against his ear.

"If you have the gall to wear a 300-quid shirt on a date with me, helping me get it off is the least a gentleman can do."

Eyes twinkling—just shy of taunting her—Darcy took his sweet time unbuttoning his shirt. Elizabeth, impatient, tore off her own shirt. Finally, finally he shrugged off his shirt, unclasped her bra and held his palms against her naked back, pressing her against him. He was oh-so-warm, all man, and Elizabeth gasped against his ear when he began trailing little kisses lower on her chest. He turned and lifted her in the middle of the bed, hovering over her in his jeans and undershirt. His eyes were tender and full of love as he bit his lower lip and stared down at Elizabeth.

"What?" she asked, feeling the warmth of his gaze but unused to feeling self-conscious around him.

Darcy brushed his fingers along her forehead, as if memorizing her. He lowered himself against her and surrounded her with his body and his arms, tugging at her lips with his own, smiling his secret smile. Elizabeth felt featherlight in his arms.

"What?" she repeated, brushing her fingers against his stubble.

"I never thought I'd have you here with me again," Darcy whispered, sliding his arm under her back. "Under me, against me…"

"Inside me?" Elizabeth continued, eyes full of mirth.

But Darcy's soft eyes turned ablaze, and he pressed his lips against hers, repeating her whisper back to her like a promise, "Inside you."

They removed the rest of their clothes. Elizabeth felt like she was in a dream under his fairy lights, and judging by the way Darcy memorised every inch of her skin with his lips, he seemed to feel the same. Naked hands found warm skin, breathy whispers turned to soft moans, and Elizabeth was in another universe when Darcy pressed his sweaty, naked body against hers, whispering against her ear, "Do we need anything?"

Elizabeth tugged at the hair at the nape of his neck, her eyes sparkling.

"No," she replied.

Darcy kissed her, surrounding her with his body in a way that felt incomprehensible and beautiful to Elizabeth, his taut muscles, his stubble, his scent… the way he looked at her in wonder, loving her.

"No because you're using something," Darcy continued, his soft lips brushing against her cheek. "Or no because we're about to start trying for a baby?"

Elizabeth wrapped her legs around his waist, feeling limp and weightless and over the moon in love with the man on top of her.

"Which do you prefer?" Elizabeth asked.

"The second option," Darcy replied, never a man to beat around the bush. "But… I want you to move in with me. I want you to be sure."

It was a curious thing, having survived a plane crash and lived to tell the tale. They had only spent three days cooped up in that airplane, and yet, Elizabeth had come within a knife's edge of losing the love of her life, and the experience made her feel like life was a fickle little thing. Nothing was guaranteed. Truthfully, she should've insisted on living apart from him for longer as they got to know each other again. She was supposed to be worried about being too young, or what children would do to her budding career, and yet… she'd almost lost Darcy. She'd almost lost the chance to have a life with him, to have children with him, to buy a house and get married to him… all these ridiculously adult things, she'd nearly lost them. She had no desire to wait and weigh life-changing decisions while life passed her by.

No doubt, it was a heavy decision, but… she did not feel its weight. She'd always known she wanted children, and maybe she should've felt like they were rushing things, but it was hard to feel that way with Darcy looking at her, tenderly, like she was the answer to all his questions.

"I always thought I'd have all three children before I turn twenty nine," Elizabeth told Darcy, her eyes light and playful but her tone anything but.

Darcy blinked as he brushed his lips against hers, amazed. "That… doesn't leave us much time," he replied, stifling his smile and searching her eyes. "You're turning 25 in less than a month."

"I know," she replied, eyes sparkling as she tightened her grip around Darcy. He groaned against her neck. "I usually take my birth control pill in the evening, so… should I stop?"

"Move in with me."

Elizabeth smiled against Darcy's skin and squeezed the delicious muscles on his back. Biting her lip, she whispered a breathy "Yes," against his ear, and she felt his love in her toes when he slid inside her. He held her oh-so-close, holding still, his chin buried in her neck and precious whispers of love leaving his lips. She felt overwhelmed by his weight, feeling featherlight in his half-hooded gaze, squeezing him closer, feeling like the most beautiful thing in his arms. Sparkly eyes met, incredulous and in love. Elizabeth couldn't hold him close enough, and Darcy couldn't be close enough, closer than the air she breathed. He held her for a long time after he came, and she felt breathless and deliriously happy underneath him. Together, they had a lazy, happy shower before Darcy wrapped her up in his arms and dimmed the lights.

Grinning against Elizabeth's temple, Darcy played with a tendril of her (now wet) hair. Neither could stop smiling.

"So you're moving in with me," Darcy whispered, as if the sentence was too precious to voice any louder.

"I am," Elizabeth replied, kissing his shoulder. "If you're okay with Coconut."

"Okay?" Darcy repeated. "Did you not see the undying love she professed for me?"

Elizabeth shoved a pillow in Darcy's face. Both laughed.

"Can't wait," Darcy muttered, pressing small little kisses against Elizabeth's face. She squeezed his waist and tickled him, and Darcy let out a laugh before he pinned her underneath him to silence her with his naked body and his soft kisses, using his body to express the words that never seemed quite enough when being in love with a woman like Elizabeth.

: :

A/N: It's always bittersweet to list a story complete, but here we are. Thanks for giving this story a shot, for sharing your thoughts (my only reward for writing), and for sticking around to the end.

I'm forever grateful for having you as my readers and I hope to see you around!