Chapter 35: I Adore You
It was easier to speak of guts and glory than it was to actually formulate a plan and put it into action. It was hard to figure out the best way to proceed, and Elizabeth was also frequently disturbed by feelings of self-doubt.
"Did you speak to Darcy?" Jane asked.
"Darcy?" Charlotte echoed, though she kept her eyes on the road. "No one gave me this update."
"There's no update to give," Elizabeth replied. "I told Jane that I wanted to talk to him. I know he said that he couldn't do this, but…but I've decided that I do. I mustered up enough courage to message Darcy, now it's a matter of crossing my fingers and waiting for a response."
"It'll be fine," Jane said soothingly. "Look at Charles and me. I thought that we were over, and done for good, and yet, here we are today. Still taking it slow, but we're getting there."
"And no one deserves it more than you!" Elizabeth said, genuinely happy for her sister.
Darcy: Is everything okay? Is it Lydia?
I'm so sick of talking about that girl, Elizabeth typed. Lydia is fine. I wanted to see you and talk to you about NON-Lydia stuff.
"I've made contact," Elizabeth told Jane and Charlotte with more bravado than she actually felt, to have Jane respond with cheering.
Darcy: Would you like to come over for dinner tonight?
"Will we make it back on time for me to go out for dinner?"
Darcy: Georgie was going to go watch a movie, but I can ask her to stay back. She always loves seeing you. Or tomorrow. Whatever works for you. Please let me know.
"Can you guys help me?! Tonight? Tomorrow? Strike while the iron is hot? Tonight?"
"Take no chances," Charlotte intoned. "If he's offering to see you tonight, grab it with both hands."
Elizabeth took a deep breath. Charlotte's just driving us back from Meryton; I'll go home and shower and then come over? Around 7ish?
Elizabeth had to give Darcy kudos for his off-the-cuff planning. Georgiana had been kept behind to join them for dinner, and that helped break the ice like nothing and no one else could have. Elizabeth was there slightly earlier than planned, and she and Georgiana sat in the kitchen while Darcy cooked, though he would not allow them to touch anything.
Dinner was a lovely, sedate affair, and Elizabeth made sure to compliment Darcy more than once on the food. Georgiana left early, to catch the movie that she had originally planned to watch. She graciously invited both Darcy and Elizabeth to join her; Darcy refused outright, and Elizabeth demurred to another movie on another evening. She didn't think that Georgiana had any serious expectations of either of them accepting the invite.
As soon as Georgiana left, Darcy began to speak, without giving Elizabeth a chance to put her own plan into effect.
"I never got a chance to congratulate you. Jane told me how well you did in your finals – under some very trying circumstances, I might add. You should be so very, very proud of yourself."
Elizabeth blushed; she was never that good with handling compliments. "Thank you. I…"
Darcy cleared his throat at the same time, and it struck Elizabeth that he was as nervous as she was.
"I…I got you something. A graduation gift. May I give it to you?"
"Of course! And you didn't have to get me a gift, I wasn't expecting anything from anyone!"
Darcy walked over to a bag that was on the sideboard, and then placed it next to Elizabeth, who was seated on the sofa, and sat down on the opposite end. "Just because you weren't expecting something doesn't mean you don't deserve something. Some kind of token to acknowledge all that you have managed to achieve."
"Darcy…can I open it now?"
He smiled. "It's not a birthday gift. I think it's okay to take a peek ahead of the big day."
Elizabeth grinned, and took a simply wrapped box out of the bag. It was of medium weight, about 30cm by 20 cm. She cocked her head to a side curiously, and looked at Darcy. "So, it's not a stapler then?"
Darcy laughed lightly. "Believe me, that thought briefly crossed my mind."
Elizabeth delicately undid the wrapping, and Darcy stood up, seemingly embarrassed and about to walk away.
"No! Sit, you got me this, you should be there when I open it," Elizabeth commanded. Darcy dutifully sat back down. She did away with the wrapping, and stared at the ornate, lacquered wooden box in astonishment. "Darcy…you didn't…this…"
"You said you liked Japanese pens…and you love your Sailor Pocket. I thought that maybe you could begin this chapter of your life, the beginning of your career as a lawyer with something special."
In awe, Elizabeth opened the wooden box, knowing what was inside but disbelieving her eyes even when she saw the pen itself. She had read about the Sailor limited edition fountain pens, and had spent countless hours gazing at them online, but never in her wildest dreams did she think that she would actually hold one in her hands.
"Darcy…this…this is exquisite. This is not by any reasonable definition a 'token'...I can't believe that I'm holding this…"
"Elizabeth, you're shaking," Darcy said gently.
"Darcy…this is…I can't believe you got me this! There's only 28 of these in existence!"
"You sure know your Sailors," Darcy commented wryly.
"Darcy, I am beyond words. This is incredible. It's completely overwhelmed me. This is too good for me. Way too good. And expensive! Oh my god, this thing costs like…like…it's the GDP of a small country!"
"It's not the GDP of a small country; it's…you exaggerate. Elizabeth, it's nothing short of what you deserve. You worked so hard to get where you are. You are a lawyer today because of your sheer determination, intelligence, and die-hard attitude. To sit for your finals while all that drama was happening around you and to come out with flying colours…don't self-deprecate. You should own this success. You deserve nothing but the best."
Words having entirely failed her, Elizabeth impulsively hugged Darcy as tightly as she could. "Thank you for this. I will treasure it always."
They both then spent some time exploring the pen, the craftsmen ship, and the history behind the artist and the pen, before it occurred to Elizabeth that she couldn't waste endless time before Georgiana returned. She bit her lip. "Darcy, I wanted to see you because there was something I wanted to tell you. And…I think I want to have that conversation now."
Darcy nodded. "Yes. This was your idea, which I somehow managed to selfishly monopolise so far. I just…" Darcy shook his head. "Can I get you something first? Tea, coffee, maybe some cognac?"
Elizabeth nodded. "Some cognac would be nice, actually."
Soon, between them they each had a glass of cognac.
"So. Don't get me wrong, I don't need Dutch courage, I just thought that cognac would be a good idea."
Darcy smiled at her encouragingly.
"I get it. I totally get it. My family is…they were awful to you, especially after all you've done for Lydia. They live in their own alternate reality, and it's so hard to pierce through that, to make them see reason or to make them behave in a remotely respectable manner. Dad and Mother…they've each been such terrible parents to all of us. I'm so thoroughly ashamed of them, and then I immediately feel so guilty for thinking about my parents that way. Really, it's been a lifetime of alternating feelings of rage, shame, and guilt." Elizabeth felt a lone tear trickle down. She blinked rapidly, to try and not become emotional.
Quietly, Darcy placed the gift on the other side of him to sit next to Elizabeth, and put an arm around her, and gently wiped her cheek. "It's okay. You don't have to explain anything to me."
Elizabeth nodded, and leaned on his shoulder. "I know. I know. But I want to. I didn't tell you, but I had this massive fight with them right after…right after we fought. Well, I had multiple fights with Dad, but just that big one with Mother. I was so angry. Years and years and years of frustration. I wanted Dad to say something. To apologise for every damn thing that had happened. But he didn't. And I ended up totally unleashing. Told them both that they had so utterly failed as parents. I even said that you had been right about both of them," she said, smiling sadly. Darcy squeezed her shoulder gently.
"I never acknowledged how Dad and Mother upset me. Their complete and utter negligence as parents. I had no filter. Anyway. I'm telling you all this because you were right."
"Elizabeth, don't –"
"No, no, no, Darcy, don't. I'm being completely honest here, and I want you to be as well. You were right about them. I've always known that. I just couldn't handle hearing it from you that day. Everything that had happened was too much."
"I'm so, so sorry," Darcy said. "I was unforgivable in how I spoke to you, how I treated you. I've been so ashamed of my behaviour that day, and I haven't had the courage to tell you."
"Darcy, you had the courage to stick through all of this no matter what, and help us, help Lydia, no matter all the abuse that was hurled at you. That means more to me than any apology every could. You were the parent that Lydia needed."
He slowly kissed the top of her head, and they sat like that for a while until Elizabeth was able to compose herself to speak again.
"I was ashamed. I was ashamed that you had to step up, that you had to front bail money, that you were witness to all of that dysfunction and ineptitude. When…when I told you that we were ill-suited to be together and that I didn't think that things between us would work out…I'm so sorry I said that! I was angry and upset and ashamed, and I was afraid of this happening over and over again, with my family."
"No, no, I'm not done yet. Almost. I missed you. I wanted you to fight me, to fight for us, instead of agreeing with me. That you'd agree with me was crushing. But, you know, Charlotte advised me back then, and that girl is always right on the money. She said that I would be kicking myself in months for not making up with you sooner. And I am. I so am. And…yeah…I don't know if you even want to go back to what we were. Maybe you're okay with just this…us being this weird friends-kind-of thing. But I'd like more. I want more. I know you said that my family will always stand between us. That you'll always make me feel bad and I'll resent you…and…that's just not true. I want to think that we hit a really, really rough patch way too early."
Elizabeth realised that they had been sitting so close together, and Darcy was holding her and he hadn't pushed her away at all. He had made no attempt to distance himself, and she was heartened and hopeful.
"I can stand up to my parents. I did, repeatedly, even without you there. That was a choice that I was willing to make for myself. Not something I'm forced to do because of you. I know you said that you couldn't do this. But…I hope you would try? Even when we weren't together, you were still there, and we made it through this together. I'm hoping that…Darcy, I really miss you. I miss what we had. I want us to try again. Please?"
Darcy just sat there, holding her for a while before he began to speak. When he did start, he turned so that he was facing Elizabeth, and he held her chin lightly.
"I was so abominable in how I spoke to you, how I treated you…I can't think of it without shame. I was so truly awful. Elizabeth, I adore you. I just…just that. I adore you, and I have struggled so much to control the intensity of how I feel about you. When I saw you being treated like that, I couldn't stand it. I couldn't stand to see you belittled and blamed like that, and like some petulant child, I was hurt when you rejected me. You're absolutely right; I shouldn't have walked away. I didn't have the courage then that you have now. I was afraid that you wouldn't be able to find it in yourself to forgive me. I was too afraid to ask."
Elizabeth smiled a small, shy smile. "Shhh. There's nothing to forgive. We were both idiots. We'll do better next time, right? You can try again, right?"
Darcy's eyes were telling her the answer. They were close enough that she could feel Darcy's breath on her face, but Elizabeth remained still, her eyes locked on his. Elizabeth knew the answer, but she wanted Darcy to tell her.
There was a beat or two of silence, and then Darcy grazed his thumb across her cheek. They held their gaze longer, and Darcy moved forward. Elizabeth didn't hesitate to meet his lips in a gentle kiss that lasted a few seconds before Darcy pulled away, and looked at Elizabeth with a small smile. "Thank you. Thank you for being so patient. For still wanting to be with me."
Darcy reached out to hold Elizabeth from the nape of her neck, moving forward, kissing her gently again before deepening the kiss. Elizabeth instinctively moved closer, and Darcy held her by the waist with one hand, while the other one was still on her neck, preventing the kiss from ending too soon.
Elizabeth looked at him, eyes shining in joy. "Yes."
A/N: So...it's finally over. I didn't expect this story to be this long when I started writing it, and I definitely didn't expect to have as much fun as I did. Mostly though, as a newbie writer to the P&P fandom, I want to thank this wonderful community for being so gracious, generous, and making me feel so welcome. Thank you!