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clouds in my coffee (the diamond in the rough is looking so sparkly remix)

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Title from “You’re so vain” by Carly Simon, in performance here.

This kind of love is getting expensive
We know how to live baby
We're luxurious like Egyptian cotton
We're so rich in love we're rollin' in cashmere
Got it in fifth gear baby
Diamond in the rough is looking so sparkly

Luxurious by Gwen Stefani (lyrics here)


ooOOoo

Two weeks into Lizzie and Jane's stay at Netherfield and Darcy was uncomfortably coming to the realization that he had never been so bewitched by any woman as he was by Lizzie. Were it not for the inferiority of her connections, he would really be in some danger.  

ooOOoo

The leaking faucet in the second floor guest bath is an affront.  Of course, Bing does not have the knowledge, the inclination, or the tools to undertake the repair. The Lees always have people do that sort of thing for them and the reputable ones won't be available until next week.  Darcy cannot tolerate water dripping for that long.  It stains the marble, it is wasteful, and it is bad for the environment, especially in the California drought.  He decides to just fix the faucet himself. 

He knows  he is never going to wear an orange apron and, regardless, he only shops at independently owned hardware stores. But a part of the workplace enhancement initiative at Pemberley Digital involved its CEO doing rotations through all the departments. So, though he wasn't an undercover boss, he did spend four months in maintenance getting his hands dirty every day.

Fitz and Gigi would tease him for undertaking a plumbing project in Versace jeans – but he learned that lesson during the rotation. Denim – the darker the wash the better – forgives what khaki, seersucker, and tropical wool do not.

It is not that he wants anyone to congratulate him for noticing the leak and taking it upon himself to repair it. A job well done is its own reward. He does, however, feel perversely proud when Lizzie and Caroline return from shopping and interrupt him in the midst of the repair; they are so shocked, they can't stop staring.

Caroline's stares are not in the least notable. Lizzie, though, is different and his hands turn so slippery on the WD-40, he worried he's going to flip the O-ring into the toilet or tighten the packing nut so hard he'll strip it.

He has to look away and concentrate on the faucet. Maybe Lizzie will ask him about it so he could tell her about cone-shaped and flat washers.

Instead, she says, "One of the light switches in the Library stopped working."

"I'll take a look," he manages.

They leave. He reassembles the faucet. He hopes that Lizzie will join him in the Library and he can tell her about double pole switches. Maybe they could take his convertible to the Garcias' hardware store and Regina can help them find a replacement switch.

The problem, though, is simply a bulb that isn't screwed in tightly enough. Even though Caroline will complain about the quality of the light, he replaces the fluorescent bulb with an energy efficient CFL and loiters in the Library. Lizzie never comes.

ooOOoo

At dinner, Darcy watches Jane closely. He still cannot determine if she's sincere or merely exceedingly polite. She is kind and pleasant to Bing, but she is kind and pleasant to him, to Caroline, to the cleaning service crew, the cook, and the pool man. Whether she is encouraging Bing to talk about when the Lees lived in Barcelona, listening to the pool man's discourse on chlorine levels, or absorbing the cleaning lady's warnings about clogged dryer vents, the inflections in Jane's voice and the interested tilt of her head are the same.

Darcy likes Jane. He feels she likes everyone, to an equal degree, with no discernment or partiality.

He had rehearsed what he would say if Lizzie asks him about the repairs. Instead, though, Caroline monopolizes the conversation with an account of her day shopping with Lizzie. She will be modeling her new La Perla bikini and needs his personal opinion on whether it fits properly.

It's more of the usual in their dull game. Caroline is a beautiful woman and they've dated when convenient and she is in-between her usual diet of aspiring politicians and rising Hollywood producers. She is not interested in his business except to the extent it funds donations to her charitable endeavors – which are concededly considerable. On the other hand, it never seems that Caroline is all that interested in the charities she fundraises for except to the extent they are vehicles for striking poses on red carpets, dancing at galas, and mentions in Town and Country and Vanity Fair.

Caroline flirts with him out of habit; he ignores her out of habit. She's obviously playing a duplicitous game with Lizzie. She seeks Lizzie out as if they are friends but complains vociferously to him when the two of them are alone.

Darcy occupies the salad course speculating on how Lizzie would look like in a La Perla bikini. It's unnerving when he realizes he prefers Lizzie in the threadbare blue one-piece suit she swims laps in sometimes. Caroline's suit will never get that close to water.

Bing asks in his usual, oblivious way what Lizzie bought. Lizzie glibly responds that she reserves her high end shopping for Costco where you have to pay a fee to get in the door to keep the riff-raff out.

Lizzie's offhand comment is sufficiently annoying to push aside (and down and off) the thoughts of her in sleek, well-fitted bikinis and too-thin tank suits. He owns several thousand shares of Costco and respects their compensation model, labor practices, and management policies.

He finds it difficult, though, to nurse his anger even to the end of dinner. He did notice that Lizzie had had only one, small, Costco bag, in contrast to Caroline's impressive six from Neiman Marcus and Saks. And on the one hand, it reminds him all over again why Lizzie is cheap, poor, and an embarrassment and he feels embarrassed for her and that shabby swimsuit. But another part of him respects her self-control.  It is not easy to stay within your means around Caroline. Even Gigi rockets through her allowance when on a shopping binge with Caroline. On that list of qualities every accomplished woman should have, he checks off the box marked fiscal restraint next to Lizzie's name.

ooOOoo

He finds the only way to mute Caroline's quips and jibes is to say something positive about Lizzie to every negative she raises – the assets equaling and, he is loath to admit, even exceeding the liabilities on the Lizzie Bennet balance sheet. Caroline complains how plain Lizzie is; he responds that Lizzie's eyes light up when she argues. Caroline dismisses Lizzie's studies as pointless; he counters that educational self-improvement efforts are rewarded at Pemberley Digital through their tuition reimbursement program. Caroline scoffs at communications as a meaningless academic field; Darcy responds that retaining Doctor Gardiner to study and improve Pemberley's organizational communication process flows reduced their attrition by 18% in the last 24 months and increased staff satisfaction two-fold.

He's noticed that Lizzie has Doctor Gardiner's book; it is almost as thumbed as his own and has even more colored Post-it notes stuck to the pages. Doctor Gardiner is publishing a case study on Pemberley Digital in the Journal of Applied Communication Research. He wants to show the article to Lizzie but the journal does not arrive at the house until a week after she leaves.

ooOOoo

One morning, Caroline catches him investigating the macaroni and cheese Lizzie made the night before. Caroline complains in French about how it is an uncouth substitute for gratin Dauphinoise and in Italian that it is a poor man's gnocchi di ricotta. He waits (impatiently) until Caroline tires of his non-answers. Once she finally flounces off, in the La Perla bikini that does fit her very well, he resumes his contemplation of the refrigerator's contents.

When Lizzie had asked him last night if he wanted any of the mac and cheese, he'd lied about not being hungry.  The real reason he had declined her offer and fled the kitchen was that, as he'd once explored with his therapist, he has a complicated relationship with mac and cheese.  He probably would have started weeping if he had eaten Lizzie's. 

He stares at the covered dish, trying to order his emotions. After their parents died, Gigi stopped eating for almost a year. The cooks, social workers, dietitians, and psychiatrists tried everything. He was eventually able to coax his little sister to eat three things – peeled apples cut into a precise eight slices, homemade oatmeal raisin cookies slathered with Duncan Hines vanilla frosting, and Kraft Macaroni and Cheese in the blue box – and even then Gigi would only eat if he prepared the foods and ate them with her. Lizzie's mac and cheese didn't come from the box – he could tell that from the absence of the orange, neon glow that had been such a relief to him and such a comfort for Gigi. He removes the container from the refrigerator and eats it anyway and then Skypes with Gigi. He wants to tell her about this amazing woman he has met and that she makes an incredible mac and cheese that's almost as good as what comes out of the box, but that Lizzie puts a crunchy topping on hers. He can't say any of it, though, and instead they talk about Gigi's tennis game.

ooOOoo

Gigi and Fitz both text him that morning with variations on Congratulations! So proud of what we're doing!  In a sure conspiracy, they both also add, Wear the red tie!

Fitz also orders him to wear the gray Burberry – a joke because all of his suits are Burberry and half of them are gray.

Being out in front on something like this isn't comfortable or natural for him. He prefers to stay in the background and let his staff take the credit. It is another irreconcilable difference between him and Caroline.  Darcys adhere to that old adage about not letting one hand know what the other hand is doing with respect to community service and charitable works.

This deal, however, has taken months to negotiate and, now that it's finally all inked and buttoned up, both his Board of Directors and the Pemberley Digital community liaison really want him there for the formal signing and ribbon-cutting ceremony with the California Department of Education. He reluctantly agrees to be the face of the deal that will see the donation of tablets and Promethean boards to 400 under-served California schools. Even more important than the hardware investment is his commitment to supply technical staff and equipment to assure that the schools actually have functional Internet and wireless capability to run the new equipment, and an annual, below-cost maintenance contract to see that they keep running.

He's distracted over breakfast and worried he's going to spill on himself and have to change when the car is going to be there in a few minutes to pick him up. He's silently rehearsing his prepared remarks in his head when a voice intrudes.

"Good luck," Lizzie says.

He looks, up startled, and splashes hot coffee on his hand. When had Lizzie come into the kitchen?

"On…what?" he blurts out, confused. Is she talking about the ceremony? How does Lizzie even know about it? He's not said anything. Even Bing and Caroline don't know the details and he doesn't need any luck today – all the hard work is done.

She pauses in mid-sip of coffee.

"I...don't actually know."

He waits, hoping she will ask, and unbidden the idea rises that she could come with him to the ceremony, though waiting for her to get ready would make them late. Surely Lizzie would be interested in improved technology access for at-risk schoolchildren?

As quickly as the idea blossoms, it withers. Her local school district will be one of the beneficiaries of the program given the percentage of children receiving reduced-cost meals. He doubts Lizzie has anything appropriate to wear that wouldn't make it look like she's there as a representative of a success story in the community Pemberley Digital is trying to help.

Before he can stammer anything out, Lizzie gathers up her coffee and leaves the kitchen with a flip, "Whatever."

It all goes wonderfully well and at the end of a long, hot day, Bing congratulates him. He glances at Lizzie, but she doesn't even look up from Doctor Gardiner's book.

ooOOoo

Just when he is almost accustomed to living with Lizzie, she and Jane are packing up. Caroline whispers that their house has been ready for a week but that their odious mother has lied to keep them at Netherfield.

Caroline makes all the sympathetic noises but only Bing is truly sorry to see them go.  Jane, to her credit, is firm on their departure and Lizzie is barely civil in her eagerness to be gone.

It is welcome intelligence. Lizzie had been at Netherfield long enough and attracted him more than he liked. He isn't interested – isn't – and doesn't want to inflate false hopes in her. He barely speaks ten words to her the rest of the day.

Then they are gone and he finds that the house is ghostly quiet. He and Lizzie aren't wordlessly sharing the morning papers over coffee; Lizzie isn't checking the locks at night and always turning out the lights even though he already has – another two marks on the boxes next to her name on the list he is not maintaining. He has become accustomed to Lizzie and it's strange to find nothing there.