So I started writing out my personal head canon for why Darcy just showed up on Sunday after leaving Lizzie hanging for four days. And the head canon exploded into something resembling a short fic. A very stream-of-consciousness short fic. So here it is if anyone else is interested - about 1,400 words.
The call came while William was in a meeting and had his ringer turned off. He noticed the missed call a few hours later.
When he saw it was from Lizzie, he shut his office, told Reynolds not to put any calls through and to cancel all appointments for the afternoon, and paced, staring at the phone, hardly daring to listen to the message. What if it wasn’t what he wanted to hear?
He finally listened to the message. Then he listened to it again. And again. And again. And again …
What did it mean? “Chat” could mean anything. He had no idea if it was a good, “thank you and let’s be friends,” chat, or “I miss you and want to make out with you,” chat, or “thank you, but I think you’re a little too much for me, have a nice life,” chat.
He paced until long after the work day was done, listening to the message again and again, stewing over how to respond.
When he finally went home, he went for a lengthy bike ride. It was long after dark and more than a little cold when he finally got home. He liked the cold, because it made him numb. He needed numb right then.
He tossed and turned most of the night, dreaming strange and troubled dreams. In the morning he listened to the message a few times before his shower and a few more times after, and few more times on the drive to work. He almost called her just after getting to the office, but stopped himself because he had no idea what to say.
He pushed through his Thursday morning work, and, with butterflies in his stomach, clicked over to her YouTube channel at a few minutes after 9 am. (Not before nine - he didn’t want to feel too desperate.)
He was in shock as he watched her spend a whole video stewing and fretting about him - wondering why he hadn’t called. Wondering what he thought of her.
He had no idea she spent so much time thinking about him. He wasn’t entirely sure she still spent any time thinking about him at all.
Somehow, he watched the video a dozen times before realizing what he was doing.
He knew now that she cared about him, but how much? She didn’t seem to be caught up in any sense of obligation to him, which was good, but she also didn’t seem to know quite what she wanted from him, which was less good.
He picked up his phone to call her as soon as he broke out of his video-watching loop, but then put it back down. He needed to think. He needed to plan out his words.
He pulled out a notebook and started writing.
It wasn’t until he’d filled five pages that he realized he was saying all the wrong things. He couldn’t spend thirty minutes trying to explain all the minute details of his motives and feelings. He needed to ask questions. Lots of questions.
So he filled another five pages with all the questions he needed to ask, along with potential follow-up questions and a few critical responses and clarifications.
Then Reynolds stepped in to quietly remind him of his urgent appointments and meetings for the rest of the day. So he reluctantly set aside his notebook and returned to his business. He made sure to assign a new project to Gigi, and another to Fitz and his department. He didn’t want either of them to have enough free time to recommence their meddling.
That night he hurried home, turned off his phone, and dove back into his notebook. After re-reading his questions he realized that it came off as a hostile interrogation. So he started over, trying to mix his explanations and confessions in with the questions.
It took him five more handwritten drafts before he was happy with the script. And by then it was past ten.
He’d had no idea it was taking so long. He couldn’t possibly call her this late. Not for a conversation of this importance.
So he set aside the notebook and went for a long run on the treadmill before turning in for the night.
When he woke up (very early), he re-read the script that felt just right last night, and now it seemed entirely inadequate. How could he say enough without saying too much? How could he ask the right questions, but not sound like he was pushing her or directing her?
He skimmed through the pages and pages he wrote, searching for the right words. He couldn’t find what he was looking for.
So he went back to work. He kept his regular schedule. He went to meetings and product pitch sessions and a lunch appointment. And every free moment that he found, he re-read everything he’d written in that notebook.
By the end of the day he still hadn’t settled on the right words to say.
He went on another long bike ride that night. It had been two days since she left her message. How could he have left her hanging like this? He wouldn’t be surprised if she was starting to hate him, for this.
When he got home, filled with shame, he drank too much vodka and passed out on his sofa.
When he woke on Saturday, his head pounding, he still couldn’t settle on an appropriate course of action.
He had to contact her. He couldn’t leave her hanging.
He began to wonder if a text would be sufficient.
He went for another long bike ride. He still didn’t know what to say.
So he went for a swim. And still didn’t know what to say.
Maybe he could wing it. His heart raced as he picked up his phone to call. And froze. He couldn’t just wing it. It was absurd.
Trying a new approach, he watched her latest video again. Several times. And then he watched the video of that night at Collins and Collins when he’d first confessed his feelings to her.
He couldn’t let this turn into another disaster. He had to do better. He had to learn from his mistakes. It wasn’t too late to salvage things.
He turned back to the notebook. And decided to throw the whole thing out. He needed to be simple and direct. He needed to express his feelings plainly, and ask her just as plainly if her feelings for him have changed. If her feelings had changed, he could go to her. And if she still didn’t want to be with him, he could wish her the best and attempt to get on with his life. Somehow.
Yes. Keep it simple.
He turned back to the notebook and planned out his new, simple approach. No more than four sentences.
Eight drafts and a little memorization later, he was ready. He picked up the phone again.
That’s when it struck him. He couldn’t have this conversation over the phone. It was too important. Too personal. And if she rejected him, he might never see her again (except in the inevitable masochistic viewings of her older videos). He wasn’t sure he could bear it.
No. He had to go to her. He had to speak to her face to face.
Within an hour he was packed and had booked a flight for that afternoon.
He spent the next few hours catching up on work, to help clear his mind.
Two hours before the flight he saw an email show up from firstname.lastname@example.org, re: Don’t forget some very special birthdays!
He blinked in surprise, and clicked the message open.
Here at Collins and Collins, everyone is special, and every birthday matters! Including mine. Tomorrow!
I won’t be in town to share my birthday with my awesome team, so in honor of the special day (slightly belated), there will be a doughnut and juice breakfast waiting for everyone in conference room 3 when you get to work on Monday. Because at Collins and Collins, my birthday is your birthday. So happy birthday everyone!
p.s. Tomorrow is also the birthday of our dear friend and former intern, Lizzie Bennet. If any of you want to send her your birthday wishes, I’m sure she’d appreciate them. She loves surprises.
William frowned, puzzled. How had he made it onto Collins and Collins’ group email list? He looked up at the address information, and a knot formed in his throat.
He was the primary recipient of the email. Everyone else at Collins and Collins was in the c.c. list.
Charlotte sent this to him.
Because she wanted him to know that tomorrow was Lizzie’s birthday. And she loves surprises.
Immediately he changed his flight to Sunday afternoon.
And then drank some more vodka. It was the only thing that would get him through the long wait.
He really hoped that Charlotte knew what she was doing.