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The Next Grand Chapter

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Sunday, November 19, 2017

Lizzie glanced up at the clock in the kitchen and let out a frustrated groan. There was so much to do but not enough time to do it in. Thanksgiving was four days away but Jane and Bing were set to arrive within the hour. She and William had been spending the weekend cleaning up the already clean apartment and making sure all sharp objects were out of reach from any tiny humans. Everything was ready for visitors but she still felt a small ball of anxiety looming in the pit of her stomach. She heard fast-approaching footsteps and turned around in time to see William emerging from the hallway, wearing a fitted pair of jeans but missing another important article of clothing.

“You’re not dressed yet?” Lizzie asked in disbelief. William looked in her direction and flashed her a quick smile.

“My shirt’s in the laundry room,” William replied as he continued walking. “I’ll be ready in a flash.”

“I hope so,” Lizzie said anxiously, raising her voice as he disappeared around the corner. “They’re going to be here soon!”

She made the mistake of looking at the time again and frowned. Jane and Bing’s plane should have landed already so it was only a matter of time before they would arrive.

“What was that?” William asked, walking back in as he pulled a black Henley on.

“They’re going to be here soon,” Lizzie repeated, just as anxiously. William raised his eyebrows as if he expected her to say something else but she didn’t. He gave her a look and she knew he figured out something was up.

“And we’re ready,” William assured her with a smile. “The car is set up for them, both bedrooms are prepared for their choosing, the proper snacks have been purchased, and the gates are installed.”

“I still can’t believe you bought those gates,” Lizzie said as her husband approached. She leaned back against the counter as he stopped before her, placing his hands on her hips.

“Better to be safe than sorry. We don’t need any toddlers tumbling down those stairs. Besides, I’m sure they’ll come in handy sooner or later,” William said with a twinkle in his eye. When she furrowed her brows instead of cracking a smile like he expected, he brought a hand up and rubbed his thumb along the crease on her forehead. “What’s wrong, love? You seem really tense.”

“I’m…not really sure,” Lizzie admitted, resting her hands on his biceps. “Maybe it’s because we’ve been nonstop the past two days and it just feels like we’re missing something.”

“Well, let’s figure it out,” William said warmly. He gripped more tightly on her hips and Lizzie braced herself as he lifted her up onto the counter. She made room for him and he stepped between her legs before pulling her a little closer to the edge.

“We could have just used chairs,” Lizzie mused.

“Overrated,” William smirked before leaning in and kissing her cheek. “What is bothering you, Mrs. Darcy?”

“I thought you were trying to figure that out, Mr. Darcy,” Lizzie countered.

“Two brains work better than one,” William said. Lizzie nodded and gave him a conceding look. “I don’t think it’s about work. Your new building deal was finalized a while ago and the contractors are nearly finished.”

“Actually, I’m pretty excited about the move. Packing and unpacking everything is going to take some time but I’ve got the whole month of December,” Lizzie said, her voice lighter than before. “Besides, my work brain is decidedly out of service. We both have the week off and I fully intend to enjoy it.”

“Even with a full house,” William said. He saw a flash of something in Lizzie’s eyes that he wouldn’t have noticed if he wasn’t looking directly at her. “It’s not about that, is it? I know you’ve been looking forward to Jane coming for weeks.”

“Nooo,” Lizzie drew out. “I haven’t seen my sister in forever. It’s definitely not that.”

“Are you worried about Thanksgiving itself?” William asked.

“I don’t…Maybe?” Lizzie shook her head and frowned. William patiently waited for her to continue and rubbed his thumbs in circles along her hips. “Maybe it’s because I’m hosting Thanksgiving. I know I’ll have help with everything and I’m excited to see everybody but we’re not going anywhere.”

“You’re used to going home for Thanksgiving,” William said simply.

“At least with the exception of Thanksgiving at Jane’s two years ago. If I knew last Thanksgiving at that house was the last Thanksgiving at that house…” Lizzie trailed off, a little despondent. She had to admit she wasn’t exactly blindsided by her parents selling the house. She noticed the improvements they made whenever she came to visit and her dad talked about the possibility of it a couple times. They started renting out the empty rooms to college students and Lizzie thought that was the end of it. When Lydia got a job in San Francisco and moved in January, it put the plan back in motion. Mr. Bennet put in a request to transfer to Santa Rosa and it cut their travel time in half for when they wanted to visit Lizzie and Lydia. They found a great two-bedroom house and, with help from William and Bing, they put their own house on the market the next day. They got a generous offer within a month, moved out, and settled into their new place and town all before Lizzie’s twenty-ninth birthday in March.

“Is it silly to miss a place you haven’t lived for over four years?”

William shook his head. He took her hand in his and she smiled. “It’s your childhood home. You have a lot of fond memories of that house. Even I have a lot of fond memories. Some of my favorites, in fact,” William paused and took a deep breath. “I still miss my childhood home, sometimes.”

“I can imagine,” Lizzie said softly, squeezing his hand.

“For a while, I had this dream where I would eventually buy the house from my parents and raise my own family there,” William said.

“You wouldn’t have had to fight it out with Gigi?” Lizzie asked with a knowing smile. “Pretty sure my sisters and I would duke it out. Well, maybe not Jane…”

“I don’t know. Verbally, Jane could probably sweet talk you out of your favorite sweatshirt,” William said.

Lizzie raised her eyebrow in defiance. “Never! I would have to be severely compromised to even think about giving that up. It’s far too comfortable.”

“And you look good in it,” William smirked.

“A feat rarely achieved when wearing bulky clothing,” Lizzie added jokingly. She let go of his hand and wrapped her arms around his torso before she pulled him closer into him.

“Not so rare with you, love,” William said dotingly. Lizzie broke out into a smile and leaned in to kiss him. It was her usual response whenever her husband would say something decidedly sweet. She lingered for a moment before placing one more kiss on his cheek.

“Anyway,” Lizzie said emphatically to get them back on track.

“Gigi loved that house too but she told me once that she preferred a more modern style home for herself,” William said.

“And you had a Full House house,” Lizzie joked.

“Victorian,” William corrected, rolling his eyes at her. “Every time.”

“It’s funny every time! I grew up in the nineties. What do you expect from me?” Lizzie asked, flashing him a silly grin. William shook his head and chuckled.

“What matters the most is being surrounded by family during the holidays,” William said simply.

“I think that’s a good thing to focus on,” Lizzie said as she started to pull away. “Especially since we’ve got guests arriving any minute.”

“I’m sure we have a little more time than that,” William smirked, skimming his hands along her thighs and making his intentions clear. There was no telling how much time they would actually have to themselves this week and she knew he was taking advantage of that.

“If this is another way to help relieve my stress, I’ll have you know you already succeeded the first way,” Lizzie said. William groaned a little before pushing out his bottom lip and pouting at her. He was playing dirty and going straight for the big guns. Despite her mind telling her they could use these last minutes for something else, her body wanted to play. Then again, her body always wanted to play when his hands were all over her. If she was going to give in, then she might as well tease him a little longer. “Seriously, Will? You know I do the pout so much better.”

“I do. I also know you can only resist for so long,” William said smugly. He leaned in closer and Lizzie could feel his warm breath skate across her skin. She was thankful for the long-sleeved top she wore as it hid the goosebumps that were quickly rising. “I know you far too well.”

“Are you sure about that?” Lizzie hummed, running one finger down his chest. “Maybe I’ve been building up an immunity to your wooing.”

“That’s highly unlikely,” William said lowly. He slid his hands to her back and toyed with the bottom hem of her shirt for a moment. Lizzie tried her best not to react as his hands moved under her shirt and up her back but she was all too familiar with what those hands could do. His lips twitched up when he heard her breath hitch and she tried one last time to get control back.

“And why would you say that?” Lizzie asked as she rested her arms on his shoulders. William moved in to kiss her but he stopped. He was so close that his lips just barely brushed across hers when he spoke next.

“Because I’m never able to resist you,” William said just above a whisper. Lizzie closed the gap and kissed him square on the mouth. Resistance be damned. He was right. He was usually right. Kissing her husband always put her in a better mood. She slid her hands into his hair and tightened her legs around him while their lips parted to deepen the kiss. A noise came from the back of her throat as he lifted her off the counter and turned them around to walk them out of the kitchen.

The couch was their inevitable destination. He could get them there with his eyes closed, as he had done a number of times in the past and was currently doing now. Lizzie broke off the kiss with a small grunt from the weight of William as they fell back on the couch. He nipped all along her jaw and made his way up to the spot behind her ear. She sighed happily, then dragged her hands down his back, feeling his muscles shift under her palms. She grabbed for the bottom of his shirt and pulled it up, revealing more of the torso that she could never get enough of. He stopped kissing her and pulled back, his eyes smoldering. He sat up on his knees and started to pull off his shirt as she pressed her hands to his warm skin. There was a knock at the door and they both froze. William slowly lowered his shirt back down and they exchanged a defeated look.

“I told you there was no time,” Lizzie practically laughed as they heard another knock, now hearing muffled voices accompanying with it.

“You can’t blame me for trying,” William said, sighing in defeat as he got off the couch. He helped Lizzie up and they both straightened themselves out.

She took one last look at the apartment to make sure everything looked ready and William watched her.

“We’re all set. Everything is going to be fine,” William said, grabbing her hand and giving it a squeeze as they both headed for the door.

“Fix your hair,” she whispered and he quickly ran his free hand through it to smooth it down. He raised an eyebrow for approval and she nodded. There was another knock on the door but it was distinctly softer than the other two. They could hear Jane’s muffled voice and both held back a chuckle. William unlocked and swung the door open wide to find Jane crouched down next to a small dark-haired toddler, fixing her blue and white dress.

“Hello there, Scarlett!” William smiled. Her hazel almond-shaped eyes lit up with glee and her face brightened as she ran from her mother’s grasp to him.

“William!” Scarlett barely stumbled over his name. He bent down and picked her up to give her a hug as Jane stood back up and adjusted the bag on her shoulder.

“Ooh boy. You’re getting so big!” William said, grunting dramatically as he adjusted her in his arms. “You’re going to be taller than me soon!”

“Nooo,” Scarlett giggled and rested her head on his shoulder.

“Hey Jane,” William said warmly, giving her a one-armed hug. “How was the flight?”

“Hi William! It was uneventful and that’s all a mother can ask for,” Jane said before turning to Lizzie. “Hi sis! I’m so happy to see you!”

“Hi! I’m glad you made it safely,” Lizzie grinned as they hugged each other. “Did I hear her right? She said his name so well! Better than two weeks ago, even.”

“You did. She’s also the one responsible for the last knock. I told her to wait but she was too excited to show you both,” Jane said, smiling at her daughter. Scarlett smiled back and Lizzie could finally see reflections of Jane shine through. Bing’s genes won out with Scarlett. No red hair to speak of but her hair was more of a dark shade of brown than black, especially in the sun. She inherited her hazel eyes from her father but they were expressive like her mother’s. There was no mistaking the Bennet trademark pale skin as well as lips and a smile like Jane’s.

“Where’s the other half?” William questioned, bringing in the larger of the two suitcases.

“Still downstairs,” Jane said, grabbing the other one. “Thank you for setting up the car. You have no idea how much help that was.”

“It was no trouble at all, Jane. Whatever we can do to help. Speaking of, I’m going to go see if Bing needs any,” William said before turning his attention to Scarlett in his arms. “I’m going to be right back. Do you want to say hi to your Auntie Lizzie?”

“Lizzie!” Scarlett started twisting around and reaching for her. He chuckled as he handed Scarlett over to Lizzie and she threw her little arms around Lizzie’s neck. William gave a tender look to his wife before walking out and heading downstairs.

“Hi there! Did you miss me? I missed you,” Lizzie said, her voice a little higher and sweeter.

“Miss you lots!” Scarlett replied, kissing her cheek and making a loud smacking noise with her lips.  

“Thank you,” Lizzie smiled.

“Daddy kiss Mommy like dat,” Scarlett beamed. Lizzie held back her laugh and looked at Jane with one eyebrow raised.

“Does he? Isn’t he sweet?” Lizzie said. She turned her attention back to Jane. “Do you want some water or anything? We have plenty in the fridge.”

“Absolutely. Hold on. I think…I’ve got Scarlett’s…,” Jane trailed off. She started searching through her big bag for a moment before frowning. “Fudge. I think Bing still has Scarlett’s drinking cup. Okay, we’ll just get you a water bottle.” She opened the fridge and pulled out a water bottle for herself.

“Mine!” Scarlett shouted and Lizzie was startled at the volume that came out of the small child. Jane closed the fridge door and gave her a stern look.

“Scarlett, we use our indoor voices and we ask politely,” Jane said, her distinct mother voice coming out.

“Mine, puh-lease?” Scarlett asked in a quieter voice.

“Much better, sweetie,” Jane said, brushing her fingers across her cheek.

She opened the fridge back up and found a half-sized bottle, putting it on the counter next to hers. She took Scarlett out of Lizzie’s arms and placed her on the edge of the counter. She unscrewed the cap on the bottle and handed it to Scarlett, keeping an eye on her. “She took a nap for most of the plane ride so she’s all refreshed for you.”

“Of course she did,” Lizzie mused. Scarlett finished drinking a moment later and smacked her lips comically while Jane grabbed a napkin and wiped her chin off.

“All finished?” Jane asked and Scarlett nodded. Jane took the water from her and put the cap back on. She picked her up from the counter and Lizzie led them to the living room so they could sit down. As soon as they did, Scarlett immediately slid out of her mother’s lap and walked over to Lizzie. “She’s been so excited to see you two since the party. Being on the ‘big screen’ wasn’t enough for her.”

“We’ve been excited to see you too, Scarlett,” Lizzie said, helping her up onto the couch and into her lap. “We really wanted to go but it was impossible with our schedules and William was getting over a cold and everything else.”

“Lizzie, it’s fine. We totally understand. November is a busy month for both of us. Bing was able to fly over Mom and Dad and Lydia called right after you two. I doubt you would have gotten much visiting time. You know how Mom is,” Jane said and Lizzie chuckled. They both turned when they heard a voice coming from down the hall.

“Alright, I’m ready for more time with my niece,” William said, walking in with one more suitcase and a bag hanging from his shoulder.

“I don’t think so, mister. I don’t want to let go of this squishy cuteness,” Lizzie replied, wrapping her arms around Scarlett and pulling her back in to hug her. She giggled and squirmed in her arms. William set the suitcase and the bag next to their other things before joining them on the couch.

“Alright, guys. No need to fight. There’s one for each of you,” Bing reprimanded from behind them. Lizzie and William turned their heads and grinned at the little boy in Bing’s arms.

“Can’t I be greedy? I love both my niece and nephew equally!” Lizzie said. Scarlett climbed out of her lap and ran back over to Jane, who picked her back up and set her in her lap. Jane shrugged at Lizzie and Lizzie stood up from the couch, walking over to Bing and Charlie. “But it seems my niece is done with me so it’s Charlie time.”

Charles Lee, affectionately nicknamed Charlie, was the younger of the Lee twins by three minutes. When Jane and Bing announced they were having twins, everybody’s reactions were the same: total shock and absolute joy over the news. The stand-out one came from Mrs. Bennet, who screamed and flailed before promptly fainting. When they had a party to reveal the genders of the babies, everybody made sure Mrs. Bennet was sitting down just in case. The twins were born via C-section on November seventh after Jane went into early labor. Even with such short notice, William arranged flights to New York for the entire family to give extra support. Scarlett and Charlie spent their first days in the NICU. While Scarlett was brought home after four days, Charlie still had breathing issues and he stayed for almost two weeks. He was finally able to go home just in time for his first Thanksgiving.

While Charlie was the smaller of the twins, he had no lingering health problems. He looked more like his father with his dark hair, almond-shaped eyes, and pouty lips. He did, however, inherit the same paleness as his mother along with, surprisingly, her blue eyes and a few freckles on his nose and cheeks. He and his sister were both beautiful unique combinations of their parents.

“Hey, Charlie,” Lizzie said warmly, smiling at him. He simply buried his face in his father’s neck and Bing chuckled, rubbing his back.

“He’s still waking up. He didn’t get as big of a nap as his sister. Give him some time,” Bing said.

“Of course. I’ve got all week to get on his good side,” Lizzie replied. Being on opposite sides of the country made it more difficult for William and Lizzie to bond with their niece and nephew. Scarlett was the natural entertainer of the two and loved to play with anyone who was willing. Charlie generally took more time to open up to new people and with visits few and far between, Lizzie and William were practically new people to him. He had a giant appetite for books and would usually be found with one. Even if it was far above his reading level, he liked to pretend he could read them.

Bing glanced over at Jane and dug through his shoulder bag. “Babe, I have Scar’s cup. It rolled over to Charlie’s side.”

“Oh good. I was looking for it,” Jane said, sounding relieved. She got up from the couch and adjusted Scarlett over to her hip.

“More, puh-lease?” Scarlett looked at her mom.

“Of course, sweetie! Daddy has it,” Jane said, getting the cup from him. She handed it to Scarlett and she started drinking right away, seemingly content.

“Why don’t we get you guys settled in—?” William suggested, getting up from the couch and taking his place next to Lizzie.

“Right! I’m sure you’ve got some things to do before the show tomorrow,” Lizzie added. One of the reasons why Jane and Bing had come so early was because Jane had a clothing line that was being featured in a fashion show. Why it was on a Monday night and right before Thanksgiving Lizzie had no clue, but she wasn’t going to question the fashion world. She was just happy that Jane was finding so much success with her job.

“I confirmed most of the stuff on the plane,” Jane assured her before adding-, “then again, I could probably make another phone call or two.”

“Both guest bedrooms are set up so you can take the one down the hall or the one downstairs,” William offered. Jane and Bing exchanged a look that seem to communicate whole sentences.

“Downstairs is probably best,” Bing said. “We can’t guarantee these two might not wander into your room at some point but it will certainly help to be on another floor.”

“We’ll be on our best behavior,” Lizzie joked, nudging William’s hip. He snorted and smiled at her silly grin.

“I can’t believe you bought gates, Darce,” Bing said, unlocking it as Charlie tightened his hold on him. William and Lizzie each grabbed a suitcase and they headed downstairs.

“They’ll get plenty of use out of them eventually, Bing,” Jane said slyly.

“That’s what I said!” William laughed, leading them to the bedroom. “Besides, we wanted to make sure the apartment was a toddler-safe zone. We also need to give you a proper tour. You haven’t seen all the changes!”

As William started telling Bing about the renovations to the apartment and everything available to them downstairs, Jane set Scarlett on the bed before they went back upstairs to get the rest of their bags. It looked like a lot to Lizzie, but she’d only packed for herself and William before. Traveling with kids was on a whole different level that she couldn’t relate to yet.

“You know,” Lizzie said after a while-, "you really sounded like Mom earlier with that comment about the gates."

“Yea… I pretty much accepted that fate as soon as I became a mother myself,” Jane paused before a smile slowly spread across her face. “But I wouldn’t change a thing.”

~~~~~~~~

The rest of their day together was spent catching up with each other. Jane offered to help Lizzie with dinner while William and Bing kept the twins occupied. Bing took up his usual job of reading to Charlie while William was somehow coerced by Scarlett to play with her dolls. Jane lost count on the number of times Lizzie snuck glances at William playing with her. She could see a glimmer of something in her sister’s eyes, especially when he started using a high-pitched voice that made a short appearance in her videos a number of years ago.

Jane artfully made the effort to include Lizzie and William in the nightly routine of getting the kids to bed. Lizzie helped with bath time and had a surprisingly good time, despite how soaked she was in the end. William had the easier job of helping the kids into bed and observing Bing and Jane’s story time. They were exhausted from the day and asleep before the story was half over. Out of the corner of Jane’s eye, she saw Lizzie and William quietly head back upstairs. Once the twins were securely tucked in and kissed goodnight, Bing and Jane went to return to their hosts.

“I know what you’re doing,” Bing said lightly, sliding an arm around Jane’s waist.

“I have no clue what you’re talking about,” Jane replied. She smiled as innocently as she could and he laughed lowly, kissing her on the cheek.

 


 

Monday, November 20th  

The high-pitched beeping from the alarm slowly dragged Lizzie and William out of their sleep. William rolled over and hastily turned it off before returning to his spot curled behind Lizzie. He slid his arm around her waist and pulled her in a little closer.

“You set the alarm out of habit again, didn’t you?” Lizzie mumbled.

“Mmhmm,” William hummed, the noise vibrating a little against the back of her neck. “Sorry.”

“Any chance we could attempt to get more sleep?” Lizzie asked, turning around and burying herself against the warm body of her husband. “Isn’t that what days off are for in the first place?”

“They are,” William paused. “But you and I both know our bodies are used to waking up at this time.”

“We need a proper vacation so we can sleep in,” Lizzie grumbled in defeat.

“I’ll work on that,” William said. He started brushing the tips of his fingers along her spine and she hummed in content.

“As long as you give me more than a week’s notice,” Lizzie cautioned, making William chuckle. “Paris was amazing but it was hell rearranging my schedule.”

“I promise to do better next time,” William replied, kissing her forehead.

“I’m holding you to that promise,” Lizzie said. William had taken Lizzie to Paris for their second anniversary in February. She had had a hunch he was planning something for a couple weeks before the trip. Of course, she thought it was going to be more along the lines of a big party and flying in family. Then again, she had managed to surprise him with an extended weekend trip to Santa Barbara for his thirty-second birthday last November. He must have been itching to return the favor and she loved his increasing spontaneity within their marriage. He revealed it over breakfast the week before they were scheduled to leave by sliding the flight information over to her. After a busy week of late work nights and last-minute packing, he whisked her off to Paris for eight days. When it wasn’t raining, they visited every tourist spot possible and took the ridiculous pictures imaginable. At least, ridiculous according to Lydia but sweet and a couple frame-worthy ones to the two of them. Predictably, when it was raining, they spent it naked and between the sheets.

“Do you think everybody’s up yet?” Lizzie asked through her yawn. “I know Jane said she’d be gone most of the day because of the show.”

“It’s possible. The time change might throw the twins off. Plus, it’s a new place to sleep,” William said. “Though Bing showed me a whole slew of pictures of them asleep in the weirdest places.”

“Did you see the one of Scarlett asleep in the closet?” Lizzie asked.

“Yea,” William chuckled. “I’m pretty sure every parent has pictures of their kids asleep in odd positions. I seem to recall one of you face-planted in a cake. Not very becoming of a Darcy, I must say.”

“Ugh. I was one! Sugar was not in my regular diet,” Lizzie said defensively. William laughed and pulled her in, trying to kiss her. She moved her face away from him and frowned. “You’re mean.”

“You know I’m teasing,” William said lowly before making eye contact with her. “I love you.”

“Whatever,” Lizzie grumbled before her face relaxed. “I love you too.”

“I know what will make you feel better,” William said, the corners of his lips twitching up.

“Waffles and bacon?” Lizzie asked hopefully.

“Well, yea,” William started. “But I was thinking more along the lines of you and me and a hot shower.”

“We’re supposed to be on our best behavior,” Lizzie narrowed her eyes at him.

“Firstly, I don’t remember agreeing to such a thing. Secondly, the bedroom door is locked and the bathroom door can be,” William replied. “Besides the walls are thick and the running water tends to muffle our, shall we say, enthusiasm.”

Lizzie snorted at his choice of words and swatted at his bare chest. “You’re terrible.”

“That may be so,” William said. “But the way I look at it, we’re up earlier than we need to be so we might as well make the most of it.”

Lizzie watched him for a few moments as he waited for her answer. She knew she was going to say yes and he knew she was going to say yes but it was all about her actually saying it out loud. She slowly rolled out of his grasp to the edge of the bed, then stood up and started walking to the bathroom before taking one last glance at him over her shoulder.

“Aren’t you coming?” Lizzie asked smoothly.

“Not before you,” William said cheekily. He scrambled out of bed and she squealed with laughter as he chased her the rest of the way into the bathroom, slamming the door behind them.

~~~~~~~

William left Lizzie still getting ready in the bathroom to make some coffee and get started on breakfast. He sauntered down the hallway and a voice steadily grew louder. He turned the corner and spotted Bing stretching in the living room. William continued to the kitchen to fill a tea kettle with water and put it on the stove before heading to the living room.

“Morning, Bing,” William said, approaching him as he switched stretching positions. “Are you doing yoga?”

“Morning,” Bing replied brightly. “I am.”

“Since when did you start doing that?” William asked with a tone of surprise.

“It was suggested by some friends when Jane was pregnant. We tried it together a handful of times,” Bing said, moving into a downward dog pose. “Things got a little busy but then we picked it back up after she had the twins. She wanted to get back in shape and she said it really helped. She’s really good at it when she does it, but I do it nearly every morning. I recommend it.”

“I don’t know if that’s, uh, really my thing,” William said hesitantly.

“Doesn’t Pemberley Digital have a yoga instructor on retainer?” Bing asked.

“Yea…” William said, rubbing the back of his neck. Bing let out a single burst of quiet laughter.

“It’s really quite stress-relieving, Darce,” Bing said knowingly. “Don’t knock it till you try it.”

“Right…” William caught something out of the corner of his eye and saw Charlie sliding off the couch.  “Morning, Charlie. I didn’t see you there.”

“Hi,” he replied quietly, giving William a tiny smile.

“Charlie likes to watch Daddy do yoga,” Bing said, turning his head and smiling at his son. “Don’t you—?”

“Yep!” Charlie said happily.

“You joining me for the last few, Charlie?” Bing asked and Charlie nodded. He moved out of his current position to get into a basic pose that his son knew. Charlie practically threw himself on the floor right next to him and mimicked what his dad was doing. “There you go!”

“Daddy flexbable,” Charlie said. William bit the inside of his cheek to keep from chuckling while Bing cleared his throat, demonstrating how to get into the next position.

“It’s flexible, buddy,” Bing said, saying it slowly while Charlie concentrated on the next pose.

“Flex-uh-bull,” Charlie repeated once he was happy with his pose. Bing broke out into a grin, leaned in closer towards his son, and held out a hand for him. Charlie excitedly high-fived his father.

“Good job, Charlie!” Bing said proudly before glancing to William. “Just taught him that trick.”

Charlie’s smile grew wider and a tiny dimple showed on his left cheek, another trait he inherited from Jane. It was the biggest smile William had seen from him since they arrived and he couldn’t help his own smile from breaking through.

“Where are Jane and Scarlett?” William asked, walking back to the kitchen while Bing and Charlie got into one last pose. He grabbed the French press from the counter and coffee grinds from the fridge. “I bought some Cheerios for the kids.”

“Thanks! Jane got up a little earlier and took Scarlett with her to the venue,” Bing said, stretching out the kinks in his body. After he was done, he took Charlie’s hand and they both started walking to the kitchen.

“Really? Won’t she be pretty busy?” William asked as he took the whistling tea kettle off the stove.

“She will be, but Scar absolutely loves going to work with her,” Bing said. “She’s like Mommy’s little helper. Plus, everyone fawns over her so there’s always someone watching her.”

“That’s convenient,” William said, pulling out a bowl and box of Cheerios. Bing picked up Charlie and sat him down in his booster seat on the stool before fixing his cereal.

“She takes Charlie too sometimes,” Bing said, rubbing his shoulder. “He wanted to stay with me today. He’s a little tired.”

“Well, he can rest all he wants to here,” William said, taking two mugs out of the cupboard. He looked over his shoulder at Bing. “Would you like some coffee?”

“That would be great,” Bing said and William grabbed one more mug. “Is Lizzie up?”

“Yea. She should be out in a few minutes,” William said, preparing both his and her coffee.

“Do you mind if I grab the milk?” Bing asked uncertainly.

“Help yourself to whatever you need this week. No need to ask,” William said. He pulled out a spoon from the drawer and set it down next to Charlie’s bowl of cheerios.

Bing chuckled and then grabbed what he needed out of the fridge. Before he could pour the milk, Bing’s phone began to buzz. He pulled it out of his pocket and showed William that Jane was calling.

“Hey Darce, could you help Charlie out?” Bing asked. “This might take a bit.”

“No problem,” William said, walking over to Charlie’s side. Bing picked up and silently mouthed ‘thank you’ to him as he walked out of the room. “All right, Charlie. Ready for breakfast?” William asked as he poured in some milk and Charlie looked up at him, smiling big.

“I like my cereal,” Charlie said, clumsily grabbing for the spoon.

“You like your cereal?” William asked as he put the carton away. He grabbed his coffee and returned to Charlie’s side.

“I like my jammas,” Charlie added, looking down. There were polar bears all over his pants and one big one on his shirt.

“They’re pretty cool pajamas,” William agreed, leaning against the counter on his forearms. Charlie very slowly started to eat one spoonful at a time as William took sips of his coffee. A little bit of milk coated Charlie’s bottom lip and William went to grab a napkin. “Need any help?”

“I got it,” Charlie said, wiping away the milk with the back of his hand. William snorted as he wiped his hand on his pajamas before he kept on eating. Lizzie walked in a moment later and she smiled at the two of them before grabbing her mug.

“Thanks, Will,” Lizzie murmured, sidling beside him and kissing his cheek.

“No problem,” William smiled at her. “Bing’s in the other room on the phone with Jane. She’s at the venue with Scarlett.”

“Thank you for catching me up,” Lizzie said before glancing to Charlie. “Hey Charlie, what are you eating there?”

“Little ohs!” Charlie replied brightly before lifting up a spoon with a few Cheerios on it. “See?”

“That looks delicious,” Lizzie remarked.

“You have some?” Charlie asked, trying to offer her his bite. She shook her head and he brought his hand down, hitting the edge of the bowl and spilling his cereal all over the counter. He luckily got nothing on him but his cereal did not survive.

“Whoops!” Lizzie gasped as William started cleaning it up. He was already prepared with napkins and she was impressed at how quickly the spill and excess cheerios were wiped away. Charlie’s lip quivered for a moment and Lizzie jumped into Aunt Mode, getting down to his level. “It’s okay, sweetie. I drop things all the time. Just last week, I broke a plate after it slipped out of my hands.”

“Really?” Charlie asked while William washed out the bowl and put it in the dishwasher.

“Really, really,” Lizzie said, repeating the word for emphasis. She brushed a finger across his cheek in anticipation for any rogue tears but it looked like she had successfully prevented them. “It happens to everybody.”

“It’s true. I dropped my toast butter side down on the floor a few days ago,” William said, leaning on his forearms and offering Charlie a smile. “I was sad until your Aunt Lizzie made me another piece.”

“I like toast,” Charlie said, matter-of-factly.

“Yea? I make a pretty good piece of toast. Do you want some?” Lizzie asked. Charlie perked up a little and nodded his head. “With jam or butter?”

“Both?” Charlie said in a questioning tone.

Lizzie grinned at him. “One piece of toast with jam and butter, coming right up.”

Lizzie left Charlie in William’s hands while she started to work on his toast. Bing came back in a few moments later, tucking his phone into his pocket.

“Everything is back in order. Good morning, Lizzie!” Bing said.

“Morning,” Lizzie replied over her shoulder. “Would you like some toast? I’m making Charlie some.”

“What happened to his cereal?” Bing asked, puzzled by the missing bowl.

“There was a small incident. It’s all under control now,” William said, looking down at his nephew. “Isn’t that right, Charlie?”

“Auntie Lizzie making me toast, Daddy,” Charlie said excitedly, stumbling over his words a little. “With jam AND butter!”

“Is she? That sounds pretty good. I wouldn’t mind having a piece as well,” Bing said, sliding into the seat next to Charlie.

“I’ll make some toast for everybody then,” Lizzie said, her eyes flicking over to William. “Bacon and waffles tomorrow instead?”

“Sounds good. I’ll make some scrambled eggs,” William offered, kissing her shoulder as he reached for the pan beside her. “Bing?”

“You don’t have to go through this trouble,” Bing said.

“Bing, come on. We’re not making a five-course meal. It’s a pretty standard breakfast on the weekend and days off. Switch up the carb staple with waffles or a bagel,” William said, grabbing eggs from the fridge. “You do the same thing when we visit.”

“So, Bing,” Lizzie started. “Why did Jane call?”

“Oh. She wanted to iron out some details for tonight, get the usual pep talk from me. You know how it is,” Bing said. “She should be home by 4 so we can all get ready to go.”

“Until then?” William inquired.

“We have nothing planned so we’re all yours for the day,” Bing said, rubbing Charlie’s back.

“Well, what do you say about a trip to our favorite bookstore? I could personally spend hours there –”

“Which she has,” William butted in.

“—and there’s a great children’s section,” Lizzie said, narrowing her eyes at William. “You have too, mister!”

“Guilty. There’s a lot of nooks and crannies so it takes a while to find her,” William teased. Lizzie scoffed and pushed against his shoulder. “Alright, she’s usually the one dragging me away from the first edition collection. One of us usually leaves with at least a book or two.”

“They opened another location a few years ago,” Lizzie said, taking butter out of the fridge. “Sometimes he lets me go to both on the same day.”

“Lets you?” Bing asked, raising an eyebrow as William laughed.

“Don’t phrase it like that!” William shook his head. “You have to go through Golden Gate Park to get from one to the other so it’s a bit of a walk. If our arms aren’t already full of books, then we’ll go. I don’t think we’d have time for both today.”

“We try to limit our visits to only a few times a year. There’s only so much free space left on the shelves in the library,” Lizzie said forlornly.

“Well, I think he will like either,” Bing said, glimpsing at his son. “Do you want to go to a bookstore, Charlie?”

“What that? Bookstore?” Charlie asked.

“It’s like our library but we get to take the books home forever,” Bing explained. “You don’t have to say goodbye to them.”

“No goodbyes?” Charlie asked, perking up.

“We keep them always,” Bing smiled. “Just like the ones Auntie Lizzie and Uncle William gave you for your birthday.”

“I like those,” Charlie said as he started to wiggle in his seat. “Let’s go!”

“Slow down there, little man,” Bing said. “We have to eat first and then get dressed.”

“I wait,” Charlie said, resting his arms a little awkwardly on the edge of the counter. Lizzie and William exchanged smiles at the sight in front of them. Bing really had a handle on fatherhood and it was kind of incredible to watch him in action. William became lost in thought for a moment. He wondered how good of a father he would be. Of course, he raised Gigi from the time she was a budding teenager but he had little experience with babies. All he knew was that he had the perfect partner to raise children with and he would wait until she was ready.

“Are you planning to fry those eggs?” Lizzie asked, elbowing him gently.

“Oh sh-…shoot,” William corrected himself, turning back to the eggs.

“Toast?” Charlie asked, watching Lizzie as she finished his piece up.

“All ready for you, buddy,” Lizzie grinned, putting the plate in front of him. “Enjoy!”

~~~~~~~~

The trip to the bookstore was even more fun for Charlie than all three of them expected. Exploring every corner of the store ate away all of their morning but nobody was complaining. Bing occasionally checked in with Jane to make sure everything was running smoothly and to talk to his daughter for a few minutes. Lizzie got the opportunity to bond with her nephew even more when he dragged her to the children’s area and asked her to read to him. He climbed into her lap and he giggled every time she used a different voice. They were so caught up in the story that they didn’t even notice William and Bing take a picture with their phones.

When they finally called it a day at the store, everybody left with at least one book in their hands. They grabbed some sandwiches at a nearby deli and they ate lunch in Golden Gate Park, letting Charlie nap for a bit and enjoying the sunny weather but glad they all brought jackets when the wind picked up. Bing let Charlie pick where he wanted to go after showing him a map of everything available within the park.

They spent the next couple hours at the California Academy of Sciences Museum. Lizzie and William had been there a handful of times, but never with a young child. It was like they were experiencing it again for the first time, watching Charlie get so excited over the interactive exhibits. He was worn out by the time they left and Bing had to carry Charlie the last few blocks to their car. William and Lizzie offered to keep an eye on the sleeping toddler so Bing could jump in the shower. Jane and Scarlett came home shortly after with both of them looking a little tired but still happy.

It was a flurry of excitement as everybody got ready for the night’s festivities. Lizzie was especially excited that Jane had given her another original designed just for her. It appeared that she took care of everybody in some way for her show. William was given a tie to wear that complimented Lizzie’s outfit while Scarlett was wearing a miniature version of her mother’s dress. Bing and Charlie were both wearing matching suits but Charlie was sans tie after fighting with it too many times.

The fashion show was the flashiest one Lizzie had been to yet. There were a handful of designers showing off their lines but Jane was the featured designer. The company she worked for lined it up so that she would close the show and everybody was anticipating it. The crowd hushed as soon as the lights dimmed and the flair immediately died down. The stage was lit with simple lights to enhance the looks of the models and Lizzie grinned. She knew her sister had a hand in making sure that all the focus was completely on the clothes. Just as the show ended, Jane came walking out to join the models. William and Bing put Scarlett and Charlie on their shoulders as the crowd gave a roar of approval.

Jane visibly relaxed as soon as the show ended. She went straight to her family and gave Bing and her kids’ big hugs. As fun as many of the after parties sounded, Jane turned down every invitation as politely as she could. She made quick rounds with the biggest names, was praised for her designs, and even had a few different enticing job offers. At one point she whispered to Lizzie that she was looking forward to snuggling with her kids after such a long day. Lizzie couldn’t blame her for wanting to slip away. She could tell Charlie was getting more uncomfortable by spotting him hiding his face in Bing’s shoulder. Scarlett, on the other hand, was hamming it up for anyone who was giving her attention. Lizzie stopped her from playing with her dress and flashing people more than once.

Once going home was mentioned as an option, everybody readily agreed and snuck out as easily as they could. Bedtime was a bigger ordeal than the night before with the twins ripping off their clothes as soon they walked in the door. Jane and Bing apologized and gave their hasty goodnights, retreating downstairs with their nearly naked kids. Lizzie and William chuckled at the trail of tiny toddler clothes and picked up after the twins, folding the clothes and leaving them on the chair nearest to the staircase. William sighed once they were done and smiled at her, putting an arm around her as they walked to their bedroom together.


 

Tuesday, November 21st

No matter how long Lizzie and William had lived in San Francisco, foggy days always made them feel a little lazy. When the fog was mixed with gloom and rain and it fell on a non-work day, there was almost no chance that they would make it out of the apartment. Whether it was spent catching up on the DVR, finishing projects around the house, or staying in bed, it was almost always together.

Today was no exception to that rule. While feeling a little sluggish from the night before, Jane and Bing were still ready for the weather. Living on the East Coast provided a number of snow days for them and they were experts on entertaining the little ones when stuck inside. After breakfast, Lizzie and William were ready to help out. Lizzie discovered just how prepared her sister was with activities for Charlie and Scarlett. By the afternoon, the twins were exhausted and ready for naptime.

“Ready for a break?” Bing asked tiredly as they all took a seat in the living room.

“I love playing with them, but yes,” Lizzie said emphatically. “I am impressed with everything you guys come up with to keep them from going crazy.”

“You have to think on your feet with those two,” Jane said knowingly. “One can slip through your fingers while you’re playing with the other one. Scarlett is especially good at that.”

“Double trouble,” William joked.

“Mmm. It helps that the fashion show tired them out enough from yesterday,” Jane said.

“You must be thrilled though. You don’t have to worry about it for the rest of the week!” Lizzie smiled at her.

“Exactly! I can finally relax! Especially with the extra hands. Thank you so much,” Jane said, taking a deep breath of relief. Lizzie and William glanced at each other and they knew they found their opening for a plan they had been developing.

“Speaking of extra hands,” William started, all too obvious.

“When’s the last time you and Bing went out?” Lizzie asked. “Without the twins?”

“Oh…um,” Jane frowned, looking over at Bing. He was wearing the same expression and started chuckling when he saw they were both trying to figure it out. “It’s been a while.”

“We had those dinner reservations last month,” Bing pointed out. “But then Scarlett got sick, then Charlie got sick, so we had to stay home and to take care of them.”

“Oh! We went to that party back in June!” Jane offered.

“You don’t have a nanny for them?” William asked. “You’re both constantly on the go.”

“We get the occasional babysitter,” Bing said. “We may go that route once they start school but we’re doing okay for now.”

“Okay, it’s decided. You two are going out. Go to a movie—”

“We haven’t been to a movie since before the twins were born! I have no idea what’s out now,” Jane interrupted and Lizzie’s eyes widened. Granted, Lizzie and William were busy people and didn’t regularly go to the movies but they were more up to date than them.

“Then it’s time you go! That new Thor movie is out,” Lizzie offered. “Eye candy for you and action for Bing.”

“Thank you for being so blatant, Lizzie,” Bing laughed while William rolled his eyes playfully at his wife.

“You’re welcome,” Lizzie grinned. “I’d say go to a play but Lydia told me The Orpheum is completely sold out. That Harry Potter play is on tour and it’s only here for two weeks.”

“It was in New York last month and it apparently broke records with how quickly tickets sold,” Jane said. “Lydia’s been busy. Will we see her at all?”

“Yea. The theater is dark for Thanksgiving and she switched shifts with someone so she has Saturday off to visit some more. She’s really looking forward to twin time,” Lizzie said. “But don’t change the subject. We’re thinking of you! Go to a movie and go out to dinner or even dancing. Basically, just go out and don’t come back until late.”

“We’ll take care of the twins. We’ll get them dinner and cleaned up and in bed at a reasonable hour,” William said.

“It sounds like a really great idea, babe,” Bing said, already convinced. “You’ve been working around the clock on top of taking care of the twins and you really do deserve a night off. William and Lizzie are the best babysitters we could ask for. Charlie has warmed up to them so quickly and we already know how Scarlett feels about them.”

“True…” Jane said, chewing on her bottom lip.

“Really, Jane. You’re on all the time. What’s one night off?” Lizzie asked, trying to persuade her sister.

“You two are really sure?” Jane asked skeptically.

“Absolutely. We adore them and we would love to take care of them so you could go out and have some fun,” Lizzie said.

“Worse comes to worse, we can always call you,” William offered.

Jane nodded. “A night out sounds really good. Let’s do it.”

~~~~~~~~

It took a while to actually get Jane and Bing out of the apartment. After assuring William and Lizzie what the twins would and wouldn’t eat, going over where their plans for the evening, and giving the kids a few more hugs, they finally left. William took on the task of keeping the twins occupied while Lizzie cooked dinner.

Being inside all day was finally catching up with the kids and they had energy to spare. Not used to the squeals of little kids, Lizzie would wince almost every time. William was dealing with the balls of energy the best he could. The three of them had a tea party that Scarlett led but it didn’t last too long. Pretty soon, they had taken to attaching themselves to his legs and asking him to walk around. It was a game that was slowly exhausting him, but it was the best way to keep them out of the kitchen.

“Dinner’s just about ready,” Lizzie said, watching him make another round around the apartment with the temporary attachments on his legs.

“Oh good,” William said, sounding all too relieved. He stopped for a moment and looked down to see two pouting children.

“Again, puh-lease!” Scarlett said, tightening her tiny arms around his leg.

“As long as your brother wants to go again,” William said. Scarlett and Charlie looked at each other and William could see the connection between them. Bing said they could have whole conversations with each other with very few words. When they were babies, they would babble and coo at each other in such a way that it seemed like they were really talking to each other.

“One more,” Charlie said, smiling and baring his teeth to William. He chuckled and ruffled Charlie’s hair before taking a deep breath.

“One more time and then we should be able to eat,” William said, giving in.

“And I’ll help you with those tiny growths off your legs,” Lizzie quipped from the kitchen. William looked at her and refrained from rolling his eyes at her joke falling flat.

“Thank goodness I go bicycling so often,” William said, taking a breath.

“I will always agree with that statement,” Lizzie grinned at him with a wink. She watched him take off again and he grunted the first few times when he lifted each leg. It only made the twins giggle more as he made his around the apartment. Lizzie passed him as she went to set the table and slyly patted his butt. He glanced over his shoulder and raised an eyebrow at her but she gave away no emotion.

“Alright, the Uncle Ride is over for the night,” William stopped near the counter and looked down at the toddlers. “It’s time for dinner.”

Lizzie came over and took Scarlett off one of his legs while William picked up Charlie after he let go and stumbled off his foot. They set them down at the table and put on the bibs that Jane had left out for them.

“I have a feeling these will come in handy,” William said, glancing at his wife. “Considering you decided to make spaghetti.”

“Pasgetti! Pasgetti!” Charlie and Scarlett chanted. Lizzie and William looked at each other in amusement.

“It was on Jane’s list of foods they like, I know you’re a fan of it, and I make it quite well,” Lizzie said with a smug smile.

“I know you do. Just remember that when we’re cleaning tomato sauce off the ceilings,” William said.

“Oh ye of little faith. I promise you there won’t be any food on the ceiling,” Lizzie said confidently.

~~~~~~~~~

In all technical terms, Lizzie kept her promise. Not a drop of spaghetti sauce or stray pasta noodle made it to the ceiling or the walls. The table and the floor, on the other hand, had seen better days. She was thankful they had laid down an old table cloth because she was more prepared to throw it away than try to and wash all the stains out. Wooden floors made for a quicker clean up so she wasn’t as worried about that. What needed immediate attention were the twins. How they both looked like more of their dinner was on their faces and hands than in their stomachs baffled both Lizzie and William. They had been keeping an eye on them while they ate and then, somehow, everything exploded at once.

First priority was getting the twins into the bath, which was a two-person job, especially with Lizzie’s limited experience. William worked on cleaning up as best he could while Lizzie got the upstairs guest room bathroom ready.

“Oh, you two think you’re so cute, don’t you,” Lizzie said as she prepared the bath. Scarlett and Charlie were sitting on the floor and they were looking at each other and giggling. “I’m surprised you’re not still hungry.”

“Dinner yum!” Scarlett belted out.

“I’m glad you both liked it,” Lizzie said, gesturing for Scarlett to stand up. She started to undress her as the toddler squirmed and gave her a hard time. “Now we’re going to get you both squeaky clean. We’ll wash your hair and between your toes and behind your ears.”

“I clean now!” Scarlett protested.

“You’ll be clean soon,” Lizzie corrected as she finished undressing her. She turned to Charlie to start undressing him when the door opened and William came in.

“The dishes are put away and the dining room is pretty clean. I’ll scrub it down later. I got them a change of clothes, too. How can I—”

Before he could finish, Scarlett made a break for it. She ran past his legs and down the hall while she yelled ‘Clean now! Clean now!’

“Oh lord,” Lizzie grumbled, keeping a hold on Charlie to make sure he didn’t run too.

“Sis got away,” Charlie said simply.

“I’ll get her,” William said, putting their clothes on the toilet seat cover before sprinting out of the bathroom. He saw a flash of the naked toddler as she ran out of the hallway. “Get back here, you little rascal.” He was right behind her in moments and she giggled as she hid behind the kitchen counter. He bent down and got a hold of her and she laughed harder while squirming in his arms. “It’s time to join your brother in the bath.”

“Clean?” Scarlett asked, rubbing her face on his shirt. “Cleaner!”

“Thank you for that,” William said flatly, noticing the new stain. He brought her back into the bathroom and found Lizzie sitting on her knees next to the bathtub, using a washcloth to clean Charlie’s face. “I found someone who could benefit from a thorough scrubbing.”

“Fantastic,” Lizzie said, looking over her shoulder. She raised her eyebrows at the state of his shirt and he gave her a resigned look before shrugging. He put Scarlett in the bath next to Charlie before unbuttoning his shirt and leaving on his undershirt, adding it to the pile with the other dirty clothes.

“Let’s get these two sparkling,” William said, making them both smile. He grabbed a second washcloth and got it soapy before wiping Scarlett down. She and Charlie played with the couple water toys Jane provided and it kept the splashing to a minimum, though it wasn’t totally avoidable. The twins both giggled and squirmed as Lizzie kept her promise, cleaning behind their ears and between their toes. Both Lizzie and William were extra careful when they washed their hair, making sure none of it got in their eyes. Soon enough, bath time was over and Lizzie pulled out the plug to let it drain. They lifted the kids out of the bath and dried them off from head to toe before getting them dressed in their pajamas. Charlie’s hair was standing on end and Lizzie snapped a quick picture before sending it to Jane.

“I’ll clean up,” William said and Lizzie smiled.

“You’re the best. I’ll keep them occupied,” Lizzie said, standing on her toes and kissing his cheek. “I’ve got the perfect idea.”

“I don’t trust that tone,” William narrowed his eyes. Lizzie simply winked and grabbed the kids’ hands, leading them into the living room. She noticed that it had started raining again and hoped Jane and Bing were staying dry. The rain seemed to get harder and began beating on the windows. The twins looked a little scared and held onto Lizzie’s hands a bit tighter.

“Everything’s going to be okay,” Lizzie assured them, crouching down onto her knees. “How would you like me to read you a story?”

“Yes, puh-lease,” Charlie and Scarlett said simultaneously, nodding.

“How would you like me to read you a story in…a blanket fort?” Lizzie asked. The twins had a mixed look of confusion and curiosity on their faces. Lizzie was struck with disappointment with her sister for not yet introducing her kids to one of the greatest pleasures of childhood; of their own childhood. She made a mental note to talk to Jane and realized it was completely up to her to show the twins just how special blanket forts could be. “You’ve never built a fort out of blankets and pillows before?”

“No,” they both shook their heads.

“Blanket forts are the best. They are the safest spot in the room, you won’t have to see the rain at all, and it makes story time even more fun,” Lizzie said, keeping her voice light and happy. William walked in with the dirty pile of clothes in his arms, clearly heading for the laundry room. Lizzie leaned in closer to the twins and lowered her voice. “Maybe if we ask Uncle William, he could help us build it.”

“What are we up to?” William questioned, hearing his name.

“You help with blankets, puh-lease?” Charlie asked.

“Blanket fort!” Scarlett added.

“We’re building a blanket fort now? It’s not story time?” William mused.

 “Story time would be in the blanket fort. It’s the perfect weather for it,” Lizzie said in her all-knowing tone.

“Let me throw these in the wash and I’ll see what I can find,” William said. Lizzie softly clapped and whispered ‘yay’ before the twins joined in at a much louder volume. William smiled at the two of them copying Lizzie and hurried to the laundry room, getting the dirty clothes and his wet undershirt into the washing machine. He pulled on a clean t-shirt hanging on the door and then he went straight to the hallway closet, grabbing as many blankets as he could before returning to the living room. He saw that Lizzie had already grabbed the dining room chairs from the table.

“Furniture has to be moved to make this the best blanket fort possible,” Lizzie said, glancing at him.

“Of course,” William said, putting the blankets down. He and Lizzie rearranged the furniture around to create a square of sorts. Once it was up to Lizzie’s standards, she started to set it up. A few blankets were laid down on the floor for comfort before she worked on the walls and ceiling.

William ran to get some pillows for the inside of the fort. The twins helped when Lizzie asked for it but they didn’t know what to expect. Lizzie created one opening between the two couches for everybody to enter, making it seem even more fort-like. She moved around a couple lamps and found battery-operated candles under a kitchen cabinet to provide proper lighting. William handed pillows to the kids so they could bring them inside. In the end, they all agreed that it was a pretty impressive fort. Just before they were going to crawl back in, Charlie remembered that they still needed a story.

“I’ll go get one,” Lizzie said, starting to head downstairs.

“From there,” Charlie pointed to the bookshelf.

“Is there anything okay for them on there?” William asked Lizzie.

“Possibly,” Lizzie shrugged, unsure. William brought Charlie and Scarlett over to their bookshelf to let them pick one.

“What story would you like us to read to you two?” William asked kindly. Scarlett went to grab one of the fattest books on the shelf, Gone with the Wind, and William chuckled before stopping her.

“My book?” Scarlett asked.

“Not just yet,” William said gently. “Maybe a shorter book?”

“You pick?” Charlie asked, gaping up at his uncle. William scanned the bookshelves for anything that would be more age appropriate. There were only a few and they mostly belonged to Lizzie from either her own childhood or for research having to do with future projects. Finally, he saw the perfect choice.

“Ah. I think we have a winner,” William said, grabbing a book off the shelf while the twins ran into the fort where Lizzie was. He knocked on the couch near the entrance and the twins giggled before they told him to come in. He crawled in and saw that Lizzie was lying down on the far end of the fort with Charlie and Scarlett sharing a pillow in the middle. He took up the spot closest to the entrance and made a big show of getting comfortable.

“What did you end up picking?” Lizzie asked, her eyes flickering from him to the book in his hands.

The Little Prince,” William replied. Their eyes locked with each other and her expression was so tender that he fell a little bit more in love with her. They didn’t look away from each other until he felt Charlie lightly tapping his arm. He glanced down at him with a smile and the toddler simply smiled back.

“It’s a little boy!” Scarlett pointed out.

“Yes, it is” William said warmly. “My mother used to read me this book all the time when I was little and now I get to read it to you.”

Lizzie knew how special the book was to him, especially when he chose it to represent his mom at their wedding. He confessed to her late one night how much he was looking forward to reading the book to their own child. It was a thought that was popping up in her head more and more lately, imagining her husband with a little girl or boy next to him, listening in rapture while he read his favorite childhood book. It made her heart flutter with happiness a little bit more every time.

“Our gamma?” Charlie asked.

“Oh, no, buddy,” William said gently, brushing some hair out of Charlie’s face. “She would have been your Great Aunt.”

Lizzie braced herself for the possibilities of what would be said next. She knew the concept of death was foreign to kids so young and there had yet to be a time in their lives where it needed to be explained. She sincerely hoped they wouldn’t have to be the first ones to do it.

“Aunt? Aunt Lizzie?” Scarlett asked. Lizzie let out a quiet sigh of relief and she was sure her expression mirrored her husband’s.

“Kind of like Aunt Lizzie. She would be about as old as your grandma now,” William said, smiling at her. “She would do all the voices when she read to me too.”

“Will you do voices?” Charlie asked with a pleading look in his eyes. “Mommy does voices.”

“You want me to do voices?” William looked between the two of them.

“Yea!” Charlie and Scarlett said together. Lizzie laughed quietly to herself at their enthusiasm.

 “Alright. Is everybody comfortable?” William asked. Charlie squirmed his way closer to him while Scarlett wormed her way towards Lizzie. Lizzie turned on her side and put an arm around Scarlett as they both faced William.

“Ready!” all three of them chorused. William smiled and opened up to the first page. He began to read out loud, pausing occasionally to show them the picture in question that the author was describing.

“…Thus you can imagine my amazement, at sunrise, when I was awakened by an odd little voice,” William said, showing them another picture.

“It’s the boy on the front!” Charlie said.

“Good catch, Charlie!” William smiled at him. Before he continued, he cleared his throat so he could use a different voice. “It said: ‘If you please, draw me a sheep!’”

The twins both giggled at the silliness of his voice. It was high but not quite as high as the voice he used when Scarlett held her tea parties.

“I like it,” Scarlett said as if giving him her seal of approval. “Keep going, puh-lease.”

“Thank you, Scarlett. Don’t mind if I do,” William said as he kept reading, alternating between voices. “’What!’ ‘Draw me a sheep!’ I jumped to my feet, completely thunderstruck. I blinked my eyes hard…”

~~~~~~~~~

“You can stop now, Will,” Lizzie whispered. He had only successfully read through half of the book. Charlie was the first to fall asleep, his head resting on William’s shoulder. William had to be very careful as he turned the pages while Scarlett fought the pull of sleep. Lizzie used a tactic her mother used on her when she was little, brushing her fingers lightly on the top of her head. It wasn’t long before she finally gave in and fell asleep. “Your Little Prince voice was my favorite. Nicely done.”

“I learned from the best,” William whispered back. He looked at the sleeping toddlers and Lizzie smiled at their predicament. “Should we get them to bed?”

“Let’s not move them just yet. They barely fell asleep,” Lizzie said. She sighed softly and he smiled at her. Scarlett began to move in her sleep and both William and Lizzie froze, hoping she wouldn’t actually wake up. After a few moments, she settled down again and they relaxed.

“I think we’ll be okay,” William said, keeping his voice down.

“I think so, too,” Lizzie agreed.

“When did Jane and Bing say they were coming back?” William asked.

“Not until late,” Lizzie said quickly. “Why? Already done with these two?”

“Not at all,” William said with a lopsided smile. “I have more respect for Jane and Bing every day. They do so much with them at night.”

“I assume some nights are easier than others,” Lizzie said. She paused and thought about it for a moment. She and William weren’t used to such hectic nights. After their long days at work, one of them would make dinner or they would go out when they didn’t feel like cooking. They had no worries about picky eaters or having meals by a certain time. They spent their evenings unwinding and enjoying each other’s company instead of sticking to bath time and bed-time schedules. Their experience was pretty limited and yet, she thought they had done a pretty good job. If they were able to get through a night like tonight with the twins, then she was sure they would be able to get through many more nights in the future. It gave her the reassurance that she really needed. She exhaled and William gave her a curious look.

“What’s up?” William asked lightly, earning a quick smile from his wife.

“Tonight has been loud and chaotic and messy,” Lizzie said after a few moments.

“It has,” William said before giving her the chance to continue.

“But it’s also been…fun and eye-opening. We’ve gotten the opportunity to experience things with these kids that they’ve never experienced before,” Lizzie said, gesturing to the book beside her husband and the blankets around them. “And, I was thinking…”

“What?” William asked slowly. There were only so many things she could say next and his hopes were starting to rise. How would she finish her thought? Would it be the same thought that had been on his mind throughout most of the night? Or even the past few months? He waited with bated breath for her to continue.

“I want that. I want this for us,” Lizzie said, sounding more confident than ever. “I want one.”

William tried to think of the words as he worked to slow down his heartbeat. This was the turning point for them. Despite knowing exactly what she was talking about, he needed her to say it outright. He slowly broke out into a smile and her face lit up further. “Which one?” William teased. “Do you think they’d be willing to give up Charlie? We have a lot in common and he lets me read to him.”

“Will,” Lizzie scoffed.

“Or Scarlett? We’ve been having some pretty stellar tea parties together,” William teased further.

“William Darcy,” Lizzie scolded in a whisper.

“Elizabeth Darcy,” William replied in a similar tone. She gave him a look before sighing and trying to fight back another smile.

She knew exactly what he was looking for and there was no need to beat around the bush, so to speak. “I want to start a family. I’m ready to have a baby with you.”

“You’re sure? You’re absolutely sure?” William asked, trying to mask the giddiness in his voice. “Even after everything tonight?”

“It’s actually because of tonight. We survived. They’re in one piece. Nothing was broken. I believe we’re ready,” Lizzie said. “I think we can do this.”

“I know we can do this,” William assured her.

“There’s still so much to talk about but…” Lizzie trailed off, glancing at the sleeping toddlers. “We should get these two to bed and clean up.”

“Why don’t we put them in the room across from ours? We can keep an eye on them better if we do,” William said. “And I’ll wash the sheets before your parents get here in the afternoon.”

“Sounds good,” Lizzie said with a smile. It took them a few minutes to maneuver out of the blanket fort without waking up the twins. Lizzie and William carried them into the guest bedroom and carefully got them into bed, making sure they were tucked in snugly. William started to leave but paused when he realized Lizzie was not next to him. He leaned against the doorway and crossed his arms, watching her as she placed a kiss on Charlie and Scarlett’s foreheads. She turned around and she pressed her lips together when she saw the reverent expression from her husband.

“What?” Lizzie asked as she approached him, placing a hand on his forearm.

“You’re going to be an amazing mom,” William said, his voice full of affection. Her cheeks reddened and he smiled, reaching toward her and brushing his thumb across her heated skin.

“And you’ll be an even better dad,” Lizzie countered. William pulled the door closed but left it open a crack, just in case. She grabbed his hand and tugged him in the opposite direction of the bedroom. They immediately went straight to cleaning up the rest of the mess in the dining room. The conversation was mostly superficial so they could gather their thoughts before they tackled what mattered most. Sadly, the blanket fort was taken down next. William moved all the furniture back in its place while Lizzie folded the blankets and put away everything else. She went to get them both some water while he got comfortable on the couch.

“So, first things first,” Lizzie began, putting the glasses down on coasters. She took a seat next to him and turned her body to face him. “I don’t want this to change anything.”

“Uh…” William frowned, looking at her in confusion. “Call me old-fashioned, but I’m pretty sure that having a baby will completely change our lives.”

“Oh, I worded that wrong,” Lizzie grimaced and William looked more amused than anything else. “I’m pretty aware how things will be shifting when we have a baby. What I meant was that I don’t want our lives to be completely wrapped around trying to get pregnant. I realize it’s a big deal for us to make this decision and I don’t want to take it lightly but I want us to agree on what we’re planning to do here.”

“Of course, Lizzie,” William said softly, taking her hand. He began to rub his thumb across her wrist and it made her growing anxiety die down. “I didn’t expect us to jump into anything without talking about it first. We know how not talking about things has worked out in the past.”

“Yea…We’re also passionate, happy people who have a strong and loving relationship. It’s such a big part of why we work so well together. I don’t want that to change. I’ve seen marriages completely fall apart because they had such a difficult time getting pregnant. They had everything planned to the T and their sex lives became nothing more than a time-table,” Lizzie said, taking a breath. “I don’t want the desire sucked out of this marriage because we become so caught up in it.”

“I don’t want that to happen either.” William agreed. “You’ve really thought about it, haven’t you?”

“At least this part,” Lizzie smiled. “I’m no expert on pregnancy. Yet.”

“Of course,” William said.

“Basically, our sex life is one of the few things that doesn’t go in your calendar. Maybe with the exception of anniversaries and some of those epic marathons we’ve had, but you know what I mean,” Lizzie said as she leaned in closer towards him. “I don’t want to count the days of my cycle or take my temperature to see when I’m ovulating. That would essentially take the sexiness out of sex for me. I don’t want to limit the positions we can use or not let you take a hot shower because it might lessen our chances or lower your sperm count or something.”

“Where did you hear that?” William asked, chuckling.

“I feel like it’s been in at least a couple movies I’ve seen over the past decade,” Lizzie shrugged. “I’m not sure. Maybe it was a magazine article.”

“So basically what you’re saying is that you want to stop your birth control and see where it takes us,” William said, locking his eyes with hers for confirmation.

“Exactly,” Lizzie smiled. “I’m nearly done with my latest pack anyway. I can toss it as soon as my cycle starts.”

“That’s good to know. People really limit themselves to certain positions?” William wondered.

“Right? I feel like it’s an old wives’ tale. I don’t think it makes a difference honestly,” Lizzie said. “Imagine if we stopped our shower shenanigans or our hallway greetings after a business trip or an especially long day.”

William smirked at her choice of words. “Those are a particular favorite of mine.”

“I know,” Lizzie said, lowering her voice and sounding a little sultrier. “You’re a rather enthusiastic partner.”

“As are you, love,” William hummed deeply. He leaned in and captured her mouth, kissing her slowly. Her hands slid up his chest and cupped the sides of his neck as they took their time, both softly moaning as their lips glided across each other. It took them a few moments to finally pull apart and they shared playful grins.

“So, we’re on the same page about this?” Lizzie asked, pulling at her bottom lip. “Goodbye protection and hello our already very active sex life?"

“Yea. That’s a good way to put it,” William laughed. “No temperature taking, no limitations, and no counting down days.”

“I feel like that would give us false hopes anyway. Half the reason I started birth control in the first place was because I was never precisely regular, even after the first two years. Sometimes, it would be 24 days or 35 days and it was just how I was,” Lizzie said, waving her hands about. “Apparently, that’s how the Bennet women are. My mom put us all on the pill when each of us started high school. It’s like the weirdest Bennet tradition I can think of.”

“Really? The one so adamant about wanting grandchildren?” William asked, raising an eyebrow.

“She wanted grandkids but she didn’t want them when we were still in high school,” Lizzie said pointedly. “She may be a bit misguided sometimes, but she means best and I know she loves us.”

“Of course she does,” William said warmly. “May I ask a serious question?”

“Please do. We need to talk about all aspects,” Lizzie said.

“How long are you willing to do it this way? Where you simply stop your birth control and we continue to – “go at it like rabbits-,” as half of our inappropriate friends say. I am more than ready for whatever wait we’ll be dealing with but I know it can be taxing after a number of months of nothing,” William said, taking hold of both her hands. “Do we set an objective or a time limit at some point?”

“Well…” Lizzie paused, thinking about it for a moment. She knew too much about her mom’s pregnancies and that it only took a few months each time they decided to have another. Her sister obviously got pregnant with ease and they weren’t actually trying. She didn’t want to set unrealistic expectations but her husband was right. It applied to any woman trying to get pregnant. There was only so much time one could handle before it took a toll on them emotionally. “A year? Wait…” Lizzie mentally counted on her fingers. “If I’m not pregnant by our fourth anniversary, then we’ll pull out all the stops. Scheduling it all, counting down the days, taking my temperature. We’ll even go to a specialist, if it comes to that.”

“A little over a year. I think that’s reasonable,” William said before continuing. “And what about the timing? With your business moving and taking on more clients? Plus, there’s a few business trips coming up and my big one in London with—”

“There’s never a perfect time,” Lizzie interrupted, putting a hand over his mouth. He lifted one eyebrow at her and she smiled at him. “We work around it. We’ll figure out what to do when we get there. Right now, we’re making the decision to have a baby. I’m not pregnant yet. We’re just opening the door to get there.”

Lizzie dropped her hand into her lap to give him the freedom to speak again. It was at that moment that William understood the true magnitude of the conversation they were having. From the look on Lizzie’s face, she was going through the same thing. Their path was shifting and they were going down an unknown one, together. Lizzie’s eyes became glassy and she offered him another smile.

“We’re going to have a baby,” William said, not quite believing his own words.

“Not yet…but theoretically, yes,” Lizzie replied. The lightness of her voice made his heart beat quicker.

“We’re really going to do this,” William said softly.

“We are,” Lizzie nodded, unable to stop her smile from growing.

“Okay, then,” William said, exhaling.

“Okay,” Lizzie laughed quietly. “Didn’t expect the night to go this way, did you?”

“Not in the slightest,” William said, shaking his head subtly. “But I don’t think I would want it to go any other way.”

“Me neither,” Lizzie said.

“You know, this has been on the back of my mind for a while,” William confessed and Lizzie’s eyes widened a little with curiosity. “Watching you with Charlie and Scarlett really brought this all to the surface for me. They love you so much and you do so well with them. I’ve been hoping we’d get to this point sooner than later and talk about it, at least. I certainly didn’t expect it to go this well. This is pretty ideal.”

“I suppose you could say that it’s optimal even,” Lizzie said pointedly and William beamed at her choice of words. She leaned in, pressing her forehead against his shoulder. He pressed his lips to the top of her head as she grabbed his hand, entwining their fingers.

“I love you so much,” William whispered into her hair. She lifted her head after a moment and looked positively glowing.

“I love you, too,” Lizzie said softly.

“Is it safe to assume we’re keeping this to ourselves?” William asked.

“Absolutely. It’s great when people are trying to have a baby but when you’re telling others? You’re basically telling them ‘Hey, we’re having a lot of unprotected sex on purpose! Be excited for us!’” Lizzie said, making William laugh. “Talking about sex in general is seen as taboo but not when you’re attempting to create life? It’s like a double standard. Plus, there’s the added stress of more people waiting to hear the inevitable announcement.”

“You’re always thinking from multiple angles,” William said. “And you’re right. It will be our secret.”

“Our secret, indeed,” Lizzie smiled, quickly kissing him. “You know what sounds really good right now?”

“Watching some TV with you next to me?” William asked, wanting nothing more at that moment.

“Totally in tune with each other. Best husband ever,” Lizzie grinned, grabbing for the remote and turning the TV on.

“Best wife ever,” William smiled, putting an arm over her shoulder as she curled into him.

~~~~~~~~~

William and Lizzie were engrossed in an old black and white movie in the darkened room when they heard the distinct sound of soft crying and footsteps coming closer. William quickly shut off the TV and they both jumped up from the couch to find Scarlett coming in from the bedroom, rubbing her reddened eyes. The two exchanged a thankful glance. It was a good decision to put the kids upstairs, considering the current situation.

“Scarlett? Are you okay?” Lizzie asked as she and William bent down to her level.

“Want Mommy and Daddy,” Scarlett said weakly, sniffling a little.

“They’re not back yet,” Lizzie said, gathering in her arms and standing back up. She started calming Scarlett down by rubbing her back. She rested her head on Lizzie’s shoulder and her breath hitched a few times.

“Where’s your brother, sweetie?” William asked gently and Scarlett looked over at him.

“He sleeps like trees,” Scarlett answered.

“Like…trees?” Lizzie asked, furrowing her brow. She glanced at her husband for an answer and he was biting his bottom lip, trying to decipher her meaning. His eyes lit up a moment later and smiled at Lizzie.

“Like a log?” William offered and Lizzie raised her eyebrows, holding back a laugh.

“Daddy says that,” Scarlett said sluggishly, nodding.

“It’s going to be okay, Scarlett,” Lizzie murmured as she kept rubbing her back. “We’re right here.”

It took barely any time for the toddler in her arms to fall back asleep, resting heavily on Lizzie.

“We should get her back to bed,” William said and noted Lizzie adjusting her in her arms. “I can take her.”

“Want to get in some practice?” Lizzie asked, only partially teasing.

“As much as I can,” William replied quietly. They stared at each other for a couple moments, knowing his statement meant more now than it ever did before. He took Scarlett out of her arms and she stood on her toes, kissing his cheek. She got her favorite dimpled smile in return before he went to put Scarlett back to bed.

Jane and Bing returned from their date just before eleven, looking happier and more carefree than they had in a while. They found Lizzie and William watching TV on the couch but they looked more than ready to go to bed.

“Hey!” Lizzie whispered. “Did you have fun?”

“So much. It was so nice to go out and know the kids were in good hands,” Jane said brightly. “I see you survived a night with them.”

“We sure did,” Lizzie said. “They’re asleep in the guest bed. I think Scarlett had a bad dream.”

“Happens,” Jane said, smiling at Bing as he went to check on the kids.

“I’d love to hear about how the rest of the night went,” Jane said.

“Same with your night out,” Lizzie said. “In the morning?”

“You got it,” Jane said, heading towards the bedroom. She passed Bing, who came in a moment later with Scarlett slumped against his shoulder, looking more peaceful than she did earlier.

“Thanks so much for watching them tonight,” Bing said. “I’m sure you had your hands full.”

“There wasn’t a dull moment,” William said and Bing grinned.

“Sleep well, guys,” Bing said before taking Scarlett downstairs. Jane came out a few moments later with a sleeping Charlie, whispering another ‘thank you’ to Lizzie and William.

“What a night, right?” William asked when Jane was gone.

“Definitely,” Lizzie said, standing up from the couch and pulling down her bunched-up shirt. She held out a hand and William took it, dramatically taking a moment to get up. “I think we could use a good night of rest after our day today.”

“It’s definitely been a long one,” William said, kissing her temple.

“But a good one,” Lizzie amended as he put an arm around her shoulder. “Full of important decisions and practice for the future.”

“A future that is even brighter than it was this morning,” William said with a deep breath as they slowly began to head to the bedroom. He glanced at the pictures hanging on the wall in the hallway and his subtle smile grew after a few moments.

“What are you thinking?” Lizzie asked, seeing his expression.

“Someday, hopefully sooner than later,” William said, gesturing to the framed pictures. “It won’t be just you and me on here anymore. The thought of us actually deciding to build our family makes me incredibly happy.”

“Me too, Will,” Lizzie beamed. “I’m really looking forward to covering this wall with you.”

“This wall and the living room and our bedroom and our offices…” William trailed off, making Lizzie laugh.

“Planning to be that parent who take pictures of everything they do?” Lizzie asked teasingly.

“Like you won’t be right next to me doing the same thing,” William replied before adding. “Besides, you wouldn’t be able to stop me if you tried.”

“I wouldn’t want to,” Lizzie said softly, standing on her toes and kissing his cheek. He turned his head towards her and smiled.

“Come on, love. It’s time for bed.”

Chapter Text

Wednesday, November 22nd

When Lizzie was younger, the day before Thanksgiving usually meant a day off from school and sleeping in. She would watch her mom run around the kitchen in a tizzy, making sure things would be ready for any and all family to arrive the next day while her dad would be sent out to the store multiple times. She and her sisters would offer to help but they would usually be banned from their mother’s presence after ten minutes and they’d spend the day watching TV and playing board games.

On a day like today, she missed being a child.

It was morning and she and Jane were in the kitchen while William and Bing were cleaning up the twins after a messy breakfast. Lizzie was looking through all the cupboards and double-checking the shopping list while Jane was doing the dishes.

“Should I be making something special for Charlie and Scarlett?” Lizzie asked, glancing over her shoulder at Jane. “I don’t want them to be limited because we weren’t thinking of them.”

“They have no issues with mashed potatoes as long as there’s no gravy on it and they like turkey,” Jane said. “Are you making peas or green beans?”

“William was planning to make that nut-crusted green bean dish he’s made in the past. I’m assuming they’re not fans of green beans?” Lizzie asked.

“Not yet. We’ll try again but tomorrow is not the time,” Jane remarked. “Why don’t you put some peas and carrots on the list and I’ll take care of that.”

“Sounds good,” Lizzie said, scribbling on the list. “And for dessert? Mom was planning to make a cherry pie when she gets here and Lydia is bringing ice cream.”

“They’ve never had ice cream before and we’re holding off on that,” Jane said, drying her hands and pulling out her phone. She scrolled through for a moment before finding what she needed and showed it to Lizzie. “These fruit popsicles are tasty and healthy and they can’t get enough of them.”

“Ooh. You might have to make enough for everyone. They look delicious!” Lizzie said brightly, looking to see what ingredients they already had. Jane and Lizzie spent the next ten minutes triple-checking everything because she didn’t want a repeat of the first ‘Friendsgiving’ she held a few years ago. She would have to calculate the right amount of food she would need to feed nine people tomorrow as well as have enough for Saturday when it was their turn to host the monthly dinner. Their monthly dinners had become a tradition that started two and a half years ago, first hosted at Charlotte and Sam’s old apartment. It was never on the same day of the month but everybody generally found Saturdays worked best. They rotated through everybody’s place so no one person would have to host more than once in a row. This month, they specifically planned it for after Thanksgiving, which was being dubbed the ‘leftovers’ dinner, because Jane and Bing would be in town. It was probably the least amount of effort the group would be putting into their monthly dinners since they would be bringing whatever they had left from their respective Thanksgivings.

The sisters were so caught up in the list that they didn’t hear William or Bing coming back up with the twins. They decided to have a little fun and came quietly up to the counter, ducking behind it.

“Mommy!”

Jane and Lizzie jumped from the deep voice that came out of nowhere and they turned around, their eyes widening when they saw what appeared to be Scarlett and Charlie floating behind the counter. The two men lifted up Charlie and Scarlett so that only their heads were showing.

“What are we doing today, Mommy?” Bing continued, wiggling Scarlett in his hold and making her laugh.

“Yea, Mommy. What are we doing?” William asked in a silly voice, mimicking Bing’s movements.

“Are we going out?” Bing asked.

“Can we go out?” William asked. “The weather is so nice!”

“Pleeeeease,” Bing drew out.

Jane and Lizzie looked at each other and rolled their eyes at their husbands’ behavior. Charlie and Scarlett were both enjoying the little game, giggling and smiling every time they were being wiggled about. After a few more moments of playing around, William and Bing stood up from the counter. Charlie reached out for Jane and William brought him over while Bing adjusted Scarlett in his arms. William moved over to Lizzie and slid an arm around her waist.

“Daddy and Uncle William are being silly, aren’t they,” Jane said sweetly, looking between her children.

“Super silly!” Scarlett raised her arms before kissing his cheek. “Love Daddy!”

“Love you too, my girl,” Bing said, kissing her back.

Lizzie glanced up at William, who was watching them attentively. She could see a hint of longing in his eyes for the same thing and it made her want to hug him fiercely. She pushed herself lightly into his body to break his gaze. He looked down at her and smiled softly.

“Do you really not have any plans for today?” Lizzie asked.

“I had a few ideas,” Bing said.

“I was actually thinking of helping Lizzie,” Jane said, adjusting Charlie. “She’s got grocery shopping and prepping to do before tomorrow.”

“Would you like me to help?” William asked, looking to Lizzie.

“Actually, I think you can help by taking them out,” Lizzie said before looking to her niece and nephew. “Do you two cuties want to spend the day with Daddy and Uncle William?”

“Where we go?” Charlie asked.

“Hold on,” William said, pulling his phone out of his pocket and checking something. Lizzie peered over his shoulder and broke out into a smile when she saw what he was looking at. “Good idea?” William asked her.

“Absolutely,” Lizzie nodded.

“We could take them to the San Francisco Zoo, Bing,” William suggested. “It opens soon and I’m sure we could spend plenty of time there.”

“That sounds like fun!” Jane said enthusiastically. “How about the zoo, kids? Remember the animal book we got you, Charlie?”

“Lions?” Charlie asked, tilting his head and Jane nodded. “Lions are awesome!”

“You can see one up close, buddy,” Bing said before turning his attention to Scarlett. “And there are owls there too!”

“Owls!” Scarlett squealed. “Hoot! Hoot!”

Lizzie snickered at her enthusiasm and her owl impression.

“Owls are her favorite animal right now,” Bing clarified. “It looks like we’re going to the zoo! We can get out of your hair and you can get what you need done.”

“That would be perfect,” Lizzie said, sounding relieved.

“Why don’t we all get ready so we can leave when they leave?” Jane suggested to Lizzie.

“We can get so much more done that way! Good thinking, Jane,” Lizzie replied. She and William headed to the bedroom while Jane, Bing and the twins went downstairs. “The zoo was a good idea, Will.”

“I thought so. It’s great for all ages and it can eat up a good amount of time. They’re only two so I was trying to think of something they would enjoy,” William said, closing the bedroom door behind them. “The movies would only give you so much time and I have a feeling Scarlett would be running through the aisles asking strangers for candy.”

Lizzie laughed. “Is it weird that I can picture her doing that?”

“Not at all. It’s actually something I remember Gigi doing once when our parents took us to the movies,” William said fondly, walking into the closet to grab a shirt. He threw the old one in the hamper and put the new one on before continuing. “Needless to say, we didn’t go again for a while.”

“Oh dear,” Lizzie pressed her hand to her forehead, sitting on the bed to put her shoes and socks on.

“If you ask Gigi about it, she’ll deny ever doing it,” William said, handing Lizzie a sweater. “It’s not like she would have been old enough to remember that incident in the first place.”

William sat down in the chair across from her to put his shoes on. “You know, I’m getting in even more practice while you run around doing errands.”

“Don’t worry, I’ll be getting in mine tomorrow evening when you’re cleaning all the dishes and putting away the food,” Lizzie said with a gleam in her eyes.

“Touché,” William laughed. She gloated for a moment and stood up, putting on her sweater. She went to the bathroom and flipped the light, working to put her hair up. William came in a moment later to brush his teeth, sneaking glances at his wife in the mirror while she got ready. Once he finished, he ran a comb through his hair and deemed himself ready.

“Leaving?” Lizzie asked, the corners of her mouth twitching up as he bent down to kiss her neck.

“I am,” William said. “You can call or text if you need anything.”

“I think we’ll be okay but I will keep you in mind,” Lizzie said.

“We’ll try to be back before Thomas and Fran arrive but I’m not making any promises,” William added. He turned his head at the sound of his name being called from the other room. “I’m being summoned.”

“Have fun!” Lizzie called out to him as he left the bathroom. She stuck her head out to add, “Love you!”

“Love you, too,” William replied happily.

~~~~~~~~

Lizzie and Jane spent half the morning running errands and grocery shopping before finally returning home. They would get the occasional text message from Bing or William with a picture attached of one of the twins enjoying the zoo. One message from William made her stomach flutter with excitement.

I can’t wait to do this with one of our own.

Lizzie was sure she would hear about the day in detail later tonight but it wasn’t the time to think about it. She and Jane were in the kitchen, preparing stuffing and side dishes for Thanksgiving. They both knew they would still be spending a good part of the day in the kitchen tomorrow but this would save them a significant amount of time.

“I got an interesting request from my kids this morning,” Jane said, glancing over her shoulder at Lizzie. She was adjusting the dial on the stove for the stuffing before she returned to Jane’s side and grabbed a knife to cut up some celery.

“Oh? What was that?” Lizzie asked.

“They wanted me to make them a blanket fort when we get back home,” Jane replied.

“You should!” Lizzie said enthusiastically. “Jane, I cannot believe you’ve never made one for them before! Especially considering how many times we made them as kids! If we weren’t hiding in the closet, we were in a fort. You always made the best ones, too.”

“Huh. That must have slipped my mind,” Jane said, frowning for a split second. “You’re right. We’ve got all that room in the playroom. It will come in handy now that we’re getting snow.”

“Really? That must be fun,” Lizzie joked.

“Don’t tease. You should try dressing little ones up for cold weather. It takes forever,” Jane complained.

“I’m sure it does,” Lizzie said.

“I was thinking,” Jane said, glancing at Lizzie while cutting up carrots. “We should start having weekly phone calls. It would really help with the twins. I mean, you don’t get to see them very often and it usually takes Charlie a while to warm up to you and William. Mom and Dad are getting pretty good at it now.”

“No more accidental disconnections?” Lizzie asked lightly.

“You know it takes Mom longer to learn new things without one of us there,” Jane replied. “It hasn’t happened in forever though.”

“Probably because William sat down with her and took her through everything step by step,” Lizzie said.

“Didn’t Lydia do that before she moved out?” Jane asked.

“Things just seem to stick when William does it,” Lizzie said with a pointed look.

“Interesting. Well, they’re good at it now,” Jane reiterated.

“I think we can set aside some time during the weekend to see our niece and nephew,” Lizzie grinned at her. “My phone lags with Facetime but we prefer Domino anyway. William has the perfect set up for it.”

“Great! They’ll be happy to see your face more often,” Jane said before adding, “Caroline does it too. She calls a few times a month to talk to us and say hi to the twins.”

“What about…” Lizzie trailed off, scrunching up her face in thought. “Um, Signore Hair?”

“Lizzie!” Jane choked down her laugh. “His name is Massimo!”

“How am I expected to remember her husband’s name if I’ve never met him?” Lizzie asked pointedly. “I’m happy that Caroline found someone who fits her standards. I still think the rush with the wedding was weird. It certainly wasn’t enough notice for me and William to make it.”

“It was a whirlwind romance,” Jane offered weakly.

Caroline Lee, now Caroline Capelli, had met Massimo Capelli just over a year ago while she was in Veneto, Italy for business. Their connection was instantaneous and their courtship lasted a mere three months before they announced their engagement. The wedding was set for one month later on March eighteenth where they were married cliff-side near the Amalfi coast. Only an intimate group of friends were invited, but the ceremony and reception were both apparently quite elaborate. Lizzie and William had yet to meet the elusive husband but had seen plenty of pictures of him. He had rather luxurious hair that rivaled his wife’s and they both agreed it was a match made in hair heaven.

“He’s really very nice, Lizzie. I think you would like him,” Jane offered. “He sent us a case of his wine from one of his wineries a couple weeks ago.”

“But she’s not coming home for Thanksgiving,” Lizzie stated, putting away a finished dish in the fridge. She washed her hands and dried them off before returning to the stuffing cooking on the stovetop.

“No. She and Massimo are going on a two-week sailing trip to celebrate the end of harvest season,” Jane said.

“Oh. That’s…nice,” Lizzie said, just barely hesitating. She couldn’t deny that Caroline established that a whole new level of luxury that had her living a very comfortable life. Falling in love with a man who was not William was all that Lizzie wanted for her, even if they never truly got along. Lizzie had a theory that Caroline found the Italian version of her own husband the first time she saw a picture of him. Dark hair, blue eyes, and tall with a similar body type - but she kept that thought to herself.

“At least she’ll be around for Christmas. Bing’s parents are excited,” Jane said. “They’ll have a full house with all of us there.”

“Yea. It’s going to be weird not to have you around this Christmas,” Lizzie said, giving Jane a gloomy look.

“It will,” Jane agreed before playfully nudging her sister. “But you’ll get us for New Year’s! Plus, Gigi’s coming home, right? William must be excited about that.”

“Oh, he definitely is. He’s a bit mopey she can’t make it for Thanksgiving though,” Lizzie said. “It just doesn’t make any sense to fly all the way from London for a couple days.”

A couple years ago, Gigi and Sidney ended their relationship. Sidney was offered a lucrative position in San Diego after his boss Tom Parker had mentioned the opening to him. The two of them sat down and talked out the logistics of everything, from the possibility of them both picking up and moving down there to her staying in San Francisco and continuing the long-distance relationship. In the end, they decided it was time to stop denying the truth. They had been slowly falling out of love with each other and it was best to end it rather than drag it out any longer.

Gigi confided in Lizzie during a much-needed girls’ night out that while she had loved Sidney, she was always hoping for more. She wanted to be as passionately in love with someone as Lizzie and William were with each other. As she had worded it, their candle burned brighter each day but hers and Sidney’s had slowly dimmed. She decided that she needed to focus on herself for as long as she could.

Pemberley Digital had been planning to open their first international office in London for a while and when it was starting to become more of a reality, Gigi jumped at the chance to head the project, much to William’s surprise. She backed up her enthusiasm with a detailed plan for the company that rivaled his own. The board fell in love with her ideas and approved of sending her to London. It would take a long time to get the international offices off the ground and it would be a change of scenery for Gigi. Bringing a bare-bones team with her, she boarded a plane in March with no set date to return. It was officially the lengthiest amount of time that the Darcy siblings had been apart without regular visits.

While everybody in the group felt the absence of Gigi’s vibrant personality, Lizzie knew her sister in-law was happier than she had been in a long time. They emailed regularly and made sure to fit in a phone call at least twice a month. She and William would also get the occasional postcard from Gigi, raving about her latest European weekend adventure. While she didn’t always have a lot of free time, she took advantage of when she did and would jet off to explore a new city. When the holidays began to approach, Gigi broke the news that she wouldn’t be able to make it for Thanksgiving because she was swamped. She did, however, let them know that she would definitely be home for Christmas and was planning to stay through the New Year.

Knowing Jane and Bing were splitting the holidays and would be with his parents for Christmas Day, Lizzie would be taking on hosting duties again. She decided that the best place to enjoy the holiday would be at the Darcy family cabin in Tahoe. Lydia and her parents would join them for Christmas Eve and Christmas while their friends would drive up later for New Year’s Eve. She was even able to convince Jane and Bing to fly over and join them at the cabin for the first time ever. It would be a full house and the bunk beds would be put to good use for once. Her husband’s grateful reaction to the plan made the hard work completely worth it.

“How is she doing, by the way?” Jane asked.

“She’s doing great! London has done wonders for her,” Lizzie said. “Getting the PDI offices up and running is taking a lot of time but she’s putting so much work into it. William is really impressed with her.”

“Well, she’s a Darcy. Would he expect any less of her?”

“I told him that. She just needed to find where she wanted to be before she could show her full potential. She got a taste of it in Sanditon. I think she just needed a bigger canvas to work with. I always knew Gigi had it in her,” Lizzie said proudly.

“When do you think she’ll be done?” Jane asked, mixing the cut-up carrots with the peas. “Or the better question: do you think she’ll come back?”

“I’m not sure but I hope so! William and Fitz are going at the end of February with another board member to see the progress and to sit in on interviews to hire a bigger team,” Lizzie told her. “He’s going to be gone for two weeks and I’m already not looking forward to it.”

“Long business trips are terrible. I can barely handle a weekend away from the kids when I have a show,” Jane said sympathetically. “But when I come back, it’s the best. I gather them in my arms and I don’t let go for the longest time.”

“I bet,” Lizzie hummed before grinning at her sister. “William and I do something similar when we come back from trips.”

“You’re dirty,” Jane laughed, shoving her away.

“I don’t know what you’re implying, Jane,” Lizzie said innocently. “There are hugs involved when we reunite.”

“I’m sure there are,” Jane deadpanned. Her phone chimed a moment later and she went to grab it.  “Speaking of husbands…”

“They’re not coming back already, are they? We still have another hour of prep, at least,” Lizzie said, a little worried.

“Oh no. Bing’s just sending me another picture. They’re on a carousel,” Jane said, showing Lizzie.

“That is an adorable picture!” Lizzie exclaimed. Bing snapped a picture of William riding a plastic giraffe while holding onto Scarlett sitting in front of him.

“Isn’t it? I have so many pictures of Bing and the kids that I’m surprised I have space left on my phone,” Jane said. “Oh! They’re heading to the children’s zoo next.”

“That should be fun!” Lizzie said. “Meanwhile, let’s try to finish this so we can relax a little before they get back.”

“Did Mom and Dad say when they were leaving?” Jane asked, putting her phone down and returning to the stove.

“Sometime after two. They’ll call before they leave,” Lizzie said.

“Hopefully they get here after the twins have their nap and not during. Mom has woken them up before and then I’m left to deal with cranky toddlers,” Jane said with a sigh.

“Really? You’d think she would know not to do that, considering she raised three!” Lizzie said, shaking her head. “How many times have I thanked you for having two kids? It’s bought me twice as much time from Mom asking us about it.”

“It’s only going to distract her for so long, Lizzie.” Jane gave her a knowing look. “You know she’ll start asking sooner than later.”

“I know. You and Bing wouldn’t happen to be discussing adding a third to the Lees, would you?” Lizzie asked jokingly. There was no way she was going to give away the news that they were actually planning to start a family. Deflecting it back to Jane was the best thing she could think of.

“You’re hilarious, Lizzie!” Jane said sarcastically. “And not anytime soon. We have the room in our new house for a third but we’ll be waiting a few more years.”

“I had to ask,” Lizzie grinned at her.

“Valiant effort, dear sister,” Jane smiled in return.

~~~~~~~~

Bing and William returned from the zoo early in the afternoon with two very tired toddlers. As they went downstairs to put them down for naps, Jane and Lizzie’s parents called to say they were finally leaving. The look of relief on Jane’s face was apparent and they congratulated each other on getting everything they needed to do, actually done. When William and Bing returned from downstairs, they joined their wives in the living room to relax.

“All done with everything?” William asked, resting an arm on Lizzie’s shoulders.

“We are,” Lizzie nodded happily. “I’d probably still be at it if it weren’t for Jane.”

“It helped to have everybody out of the apartment, too,” Jane added, patting Bing’s thigh. “So how was the zoo? Pictures only give away so much.”

“Well, owls are no longer Scarlett’s favorite animal,” Bing informed them.

“Really? She was so excited about them this morning,” Lizzie said, her eyebrows rising in surprise.

“There’s a big difference between pictures of owls in children’s books and real owls,” Bing said with a sigh.

“She may have cried a little when the zoologist brought one out for her,” William said with a grimace.

“Oh no! She seemed okay when you came home,” Jane sat up straighter and gave a worried look to Bing.

“She’s fine, babe,” Bing said, soothing her and rubbing her thigh. “Darcy had it under control right away. He had the bright idea to get her on the carousel. She was back to her happy self within minutes.”

“That’s good you thought of that,” Lizzie said warmly, locking her gaze with his. He gave her a subtle smile that lit up his eyes and she held back a happy sigh. They both knew what the other was thinking. Practice made perfect and William was definitely taking the time to perfect things. If he was doing so well as an uncle, Lizzie could only imagine how incredible he would be as a father. Only time would tell.

“Oh! You’ll find this funny,” William said. “We were congratulated today.”

“Dude,” Bing started chuckling.

“What about?” Jane asked.

“On producing some ‘very beautiful children,’” William said, clearly amused.

“What?” Lizzie started, then laughed. “Are you serious?”

“It happened a few times,” Bing nodded. “One couple actually asked us if we used a surrogate.”

“Apparently two men bringing children to the zoo make people automatically assume we’re a couple instead of friends,” William said, nudging his giggling wife.

“That’s San Francisco for you,” Lizzie nudged back.

“You probably shouldn’t expect any less by now,” Bing said.

“No. You really shouldn’t,” Lizzie agreed, looking at William. Bing told them about the other two encounters that had the sisters laughing. They talked about the rest of their day at the zoo in detail and watched a video of Charlie, pressed up against the lion exhibit and giggling as a lion licked the glass. Soon enough, the topic was changed to the plans for the next few days.

Mr. and Mrs. Bennet arrived nearly two hours after they left and their mother complained about all the traffic. William set them up in the guest room, complete with freshly-washed sheets and towels for their bathroom. Luckily, the twins woke up from their nap soon after they arrived and Mrs. Bennet’s grouchy mood quickly dissolved.

William and Bing made dinner while everybody else played with the twins and kept them occupied. Mrs. Bennet squeezed her way into Jane and Bing’s nightly routine but the twins were happy to have even more time with their grandma. Lizzie and William called it an early night with the excuse that they would be up early and the day would be long. While they were telling the truth, the bigger reality was that they simply craved time alone together. The thought of slipping into bed and unwinding together after their day sounded all too tempting for them. They did exactly that until they fell asleep curled against each other.

 


 

 Thursday, November 23rd (Thanksgiving)  

Lizzie’s original intentions for the morning were to get up early and let her husband sleep in. When she woke up, it appeared that William had beaten her to it. She quickly got ready for the morning and walked into the kitchen to find him and her dad in the kitchen making pancakes and bacon.

“Happy Thanksgiving!” Lizzie said warmly. Both men turned their heads towards her and nodded at her presence.

“Happy Thanksgiving,” they both replied. She shuffled over to the counter and sat down as William put a plate of bacon down, covering it with a paper towel. He leaned in closer to her quickly kissed her lips.

“Good morning, love,” William murmured quietly. “Orange juice?”

“Yes, thank you,” Lizzie nodded. He poured her a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice and slid it over to her before returning to Mr. Bennet’s side, leaning his hip against the counter so he could pay attention to both people in the room.

“Thomas is teaching me the secret of his pancakes,” William said.

“Finally,” Lizzie said, laughing softly when William pretended to be hurt. “Your pancakes are delicious, William, but Dad simply does something that makes them a little bit better.”

“I thought it was about time to pass on the recipe,” Mr. Bennet said. “You’re doing all the work this year and I thought it was well-deserved.”

“It is much appreciated,” Lizzie said before looking around the apartment. “Is Mom up yet?”

“She was up late making the pies so I didn’t want to wake her,” Mr. Bennet replied, flipping the pancakes. “And don’t worry. We’ll clean up and get out of your way pretty soon.”

“Don’t worry about it. I can spare some time for my husband’s crispy bacon and my dad’s pancakes,” Lizzie said happily.

“I should see if Jane, Bing, and the twins are up. We wouldn’t want them to have a cold breakfast,” William said after a few moments.

“I’m sure they’ll be up any minute,” Lizzie replied. As if on cue, they heard Jane and Bing coming up the stairs with the kids. Bing unlocked the gate and the twins were let loose.

“Do I smell Dad’s pancakes?” Jane asked, grabbing Scarlett before she ran too far out of reach. “Ooh, and bacon?”

“You do. Breakfast is almost ready,” Mr. Bennet said. “We can start serving if someone would like to set the table.”

“Bing and I can do that,” William volunteered, grabbing some plates.

“Mom still needs waking up,” Lizzie mentioned as she handed him a stack of napkins as he walked past her.

“Wake up gamma!” Scarlett exclaimed, clapping her hands.

“Gamma!” Charlie repeated, a little less enthusiastically than his sister.

“I think she’d like that,” Mr. Bennet nodded, placing the last of the pancakes on the already-tall stack.

“Alright. Come here, Charlie,” Lizzie said, groaning as she picked up her nephew. “Did you get bigger overnight?”

“Mommy? Did I?” Charlie asked, looking genuinely worried.

“No, sweetie. You’re just the right size,” Jane smiled at him. “Just like your sister here.”

“I get no bigger,” Charlie replied sincerely, looking directly at Lizzie. She chuckled and kissed his temple.

“Okay, same-size boy,” Lizzie teased. “Let’s go wake up your lazy-bones grandma.”

“And then we can watch the parade while eating breakfast!” Jane added.

“Puh-rade!!” the twins shouted gleefully.

~~~~~~~~~

Lizzie felt like the apartment had exploded with noise. With three people in the kitchen preparing food, everybody else was in the living room watched a late broadcast of the parade at, what seemed, full volume. Every time a new balloon floated onto the screen, one of the twins would shout what it was. They clearly thought the occupants in the kitchen needed the extra declaration over the parade announcers, even though they could see the television from where they were.

The noise levels only seemed to increase as the morning passed by. Still, there was something about the scene before her that made her feel at home. William and Jane were with her in the kitchen, helping her out and laughing about a funny story Jane was sharing. Her parents were making themselves comfortable in the living room, possibly for the first time ever on this holiday. The twins were following each other around the coffee table, giggling each time their grandpa would stop them by putting his legs in the way. Bing had taken it upon himself to start a fire, after asking of course, considering the gloomy weather outside.

That uneasy feeling she had at the beginning of the week had dissolved. It may have been the first real Thanksgiving somewhere other than her parents’ house but nobody seemed to mind. William was right all along. It didn’t matter where they were as long as they were together. She began to wonder what Thanksgiving would be like down the road with their own additions to the family. It would probably be even louder and more hectic but it made her want it even more. It was ridiculous the amount of times the thought kept popping up in her head, even after explicitly she said that it shouldn’t take over their lives. She blamed it on the holiday and being surrounded by her family for being so sentimental. She glanced at William and he raised an eyebrow in question, silently asking if she needed anything. She shook her head and went back to cutting up the potatoes for the mashed potatoes. Only moments later, she felt the presence of someone approaching and hummed in content when her husband pressed his lips to the spot behind her ear.

“What was that for?” Lizzie asked softly, looking over her shoulder at him.

“You’re doing a great job,” William said before adding, “And because I wanted to.”

“Thank you,” Lizzie smiled at him. “Are you done with the green beans?”

“I am. I can take over the mashed potatoes now,” William offered.

“You make them creamier. Be my guest!” Lizzie said, gesturing to the cutting board. She took that opportunity to check on the turkey and baste it again. There was a knock on the door a few minutes later and Lizzie and Jane looked at each other, knowing exactly who it was. “Charlie? Scarlett? Want to help us answer the door?”

“Who is it?” Charlie asked, hesitantly following Lizzie and Jane. Lizzie picked him up a moment later and he rested his head on her shoulder. Scarlett jumped up and down in excitement for a moment before running past them to the door.

“Auntie Lyddie?” Scarlett asked, grabbing the door knob and trying unsuccessfully to open the door.

“It just might be,” Lizzie said in a teasing tone.

“Open! Open!” Scarlett demanded.

“Remember your manners, Scarlett,” Jane reminded her.

“Pretty puh-lease?” Scarlett asked, turning the knob again. Jane pulled Scarlett away from the door before unlatching the chain and opening it with a flourish. Sure enough, Lydia was standing on the other side with a bag in each hand.

“Auntie Lyddie!” Scarlett squealed.

“There’s my Scarlett! Come here!” Lydia said enthusiastically before putting her bags down. Scarlett ran towards her and Lydia bent down to pick her up, giving her a big hug. “How’s my niece?”

“Hungry!” Scarlett replied, making the sisters laugh.

“You just had lunch, silly girl,” Jane said, grabbing Lydia’s bags from the floor. “We’ll have Thanksgiving dinner in a few hours. It’s nearly time for your nap.”

“Lyddie tuck me in? Puh-lease, Mommy?” Scarlett asked, looking at Lydia.

“Please, Mommy? Can I tuck her in?” Lydia asked, moving Scarlett over to her hip.

“I don’t see why not,” Jane replied before shaking the bag. “I’m going to get this in the freezer.”

“And then we’re catching up!” Lydia commanded. Jane saluted her before she walked down the entry-way, disappearing around the corner and into the kitchen. Lydia turned towards Lizzie and grinned at the toddler in her arms. “Hi there, Charlie. Remember me?”

“Lyddie,” Charlie said quietly before smiling a little. “Hi.”

“How you doin’?” Lydia asked, reaching over and gently pinching his cheek. He giggled and buried his face in Lizzie’s shoulder.

“Come on. There’s plenty of people who are excited to see you,” Lizzie said, closing the door behind them.

“I’m excited to see them. If I wasn’t so busy this week, I would have been here to see everybody days ago,” Lydia said with a heavy sigh.

“Well, today you can relax,” Lizzie reassured her. “Eat too much, be lazy, and play with these little ones once they’re up from their naps.”

“That is all I want to do today,” Lydia noticed Charlie looking sleepier in Lizzie’s arms. “He looks tired.”

“They’ve been running around all morning,” Lizzie said, rubbing Charlie’s back. “It’s definitely time for their nap.”

“Then lead the way!” Lydia said. “The sooner they take their nap, the sooner they’ll wake up, and the sooner I get to play with them!”

“That won’t really take care of the lazy part of your to-do list,” Lizzie joked as they started down the entry-way.

“Any time I’m not sitting in a sound booth or running around backstage is considered lazy times for me now,” Lydia replied.

“How times have changed,” Lizzie said wistfully.

“For you and me both, sis,” Lydia hummed.

~~~~~~~~

Every one sat down for Thanksgiving dinner to an array of festive food. William brought a perfectly-cooked turkey to the table and Lizzie looked rather proud of herself. Mr. Bennet was offered the carving knife but politely declined, stating he shouldn’t get the honor after doing none of the work. Once the turkey was tasted and declared juicy and delicious, Lizzie was able to relax. William squeezed her thigh and smiled at her, telling her she had no reason to worry in the first place.

Most of the family went for seconds and even thirds, making Lizzie feel even better about all the hard work she had done. Charlie kept grabbing for the bread rolls but Jane was on top of it, letting him only have one and moving the basket away from his grasp. There was a small incident with Scarlett, where she spilled her juice all over her plate. It was quickly cleaned up and replaced while Bing took care of the crocodile tears running down her face.

“Is everybody ready for dessert?” Lizzie asked, getting up and starting to grab plates.

“No way, Lizzie. Sit down,” Bing said, nodding to William.

“Did you really think you’d get away with that?” William asked lightly. “We’ll take care of it. I seem to recall already committing to this part.”

“Thank you,” Lizzie said, smiling as he kissed the top of her head.

“You boys are so sweet,” Mrs. Bennet cooed. Lizzie and Jane exchanged looks at their mom calling William and Bing ‘boys’ still. They both thought she’d stop with the moniker when Jane and Bing had a boy of their own but old habits died hard.

“It’s no trouble, Fran,” Bing said. He and William began to clear the table while Lizzie started to detail what dessert was available.

“Mom made pie, Jane made some delicious looking fruit popsicles for the kids, and Lydia brought ice cream. We can also brew coffee, if anybody would like some,” Lizzie finished.

“I need some time to digest,” Mr. Bennet sighed, patting his stomach.

“There’s definitely a piece of pie with my name on it,” Bing called over his shoulder as he walked to the kitchen.

“Daddy!” Charlie wiggled around in his booster seat.

“He’ll be right back, buddy,” Jane assured him while she was taking Scarlett out of her booster. William rolled up his sleeves and started tackling the dishes that Bing was bringing him.

“May I?” Lydia asked, looking at Jane.

Jane nodded. “Go right ahead, Lydia,” Lydia took Charlie out of his booster seat and sat him down on her lap. He wiggled around for a moment before resting the back of his head against her chest.

“Look at you being all motherly, Lydia,” Mrs. Bennet said proudly. “Wouldn’t you love that for yourself?”

Lizzie snuck a glance over to William in the kitchen and he was looking in her direction, raising his eyebrows in surprise. Her mother had skipped right over hounding her and William for kids and went straight for Lydia. It was one of the more interesting developments of the night.

“Uh, I think I’ll just enjoy being an Aunt for now, Mom, thanks,” Lydia said, recovering quickly from her own shock. She grabbed a toy that Jane was handing her and gave it to Charlie, who began to busy himself with it. “Besides, I’m pretty busy with the theater. Lizzie, did I mention that an assistant stage manager position opened up?”

“You didn’t! You were talking about how there were rumors about it last week,” Lizzie said. “Did you hear that, William?”

“Did Tangi actually leave?” William asked, raising his voice over the sound of running water.

“Finally. She was such a drama queen about it, too. She was making all the stagehands miserable. It’s not like she’s the only assistant,” Lydia said, rolling her eyes. Charlie dropped his toy and she held onto him as she bent down and grabbed it, adjusting him in her lap when she sat back up.

“Are you going to apply?” Lizzie asked.

“I already did actually,” Lydia said with a big grin. “I went in as soon as I got up this morning and let my boss know of my interest. I don’t know if I’ll even get an interview but it doesn’t hurt to try.”

“Of course you’ll get an interview, Lydia!” Jane enthused. “You have so much experience from the theater back at home.”

“Plus, you know all the ins and outs of this one already,” Lizzie added.

“It’s more work and more hours but it’s also more pay,” Lydia said. “I need to keep saving up if I ever want to move out on my own.”

“Is everything okay with the apartment?” William asked, walking over and drying his hands with a towel. He put his hands on Lizzie’s shoulders and squeezed them. She brought one hand up and covered his with her own.

“Oh, it’s great! I love the view, it’s close to you guys, and the Muni stops right outside the door. Plus, Kitty and Glitch get along like bandits,” Lydia said. “I just kind of assumed that Gigi would want her place back when she returns from London.”

When Lydia got her theater job in San Francisco, her start date was only two weeks later. It didn’t give her any time to find herself an apartment and barely enough time to pack up all the stuff from her own place. Lizzie and William generously offered to help her move as well as let her stay in one of their guest rooms until she could find a place. She declined on account of their continual honeymoon status. Luckily, Fitz and Brandon also extended an invitation to stay at their house and she happily took them up on their offer. She quickly discovered that while she had saved some money from her last job, she couldn’t afford a place of her own yet. When Gigi was making arrangements for her temporary move to London, she offered to sublet her place to Lydia at a fraction of the cost of most apartments in the area. Lydia initially argued over her generosity but Gigi told her she was saving her money by taking care of Glitch while she would be away. There was no arguing with her and, after staying a month with Fitz and Brandon, she moved into Gigi’s place.

“You know she’s more than happy it’s you subletting and not some stranger,” William said. “You have nothing to worry about. She’ll give you plenty of notice when she returns. If you’re concerned, I’m more than willing to rent out the pied-a-terre to you.”

“That’s really generous of you, William,” Lydia said. “I don’t want to get too ahead of myself, just yet. It really depends on what happens with this job.”

“Of course. Let me know,” William said. He started to walk away and then snapped his fingers when he remembered something. “And she was asking for another picture of Glitch this morning. Lizzie and I managed to get her on the phone for five whole minutes and she talked about missing him for half that time.”

“Cats are important, William,” Lydia said, giving him a stern look. He shook his head before grabbing a few half-empty dishes. “I’ll email her when I get home.”

“What is this position, dear?” Mrs. Bennet asked.

“Assistant stage manager. If I got it, I would be one of three assistants helping out with stage schedules, marking spots and floorplans for the stage, making sure people get their props and generally directing traffic behind stage. I’d also probably go to manager meetings and, on occasion, run rehearsals. It’s a lot of responsibility,” Lydia finished.

“It sure sounds like it, Lydia,” Mr. Bennet said. “I hope you get it.”

“I hope I do, too!” She started to bounce her leg and Charlie began giggling the more she did it. “Have you gotten started on the changes to the house, Jane?”

“We have! We still need to paint the twins’ room and I’m trying to figure out how to convert the office into my studio space,” Jane said, grabbing her phone to show her new pictures of the house.

“We’re also doing some construction on the fourth floor,” Bing explained, taking the rest of the leftovers off the table. “It’s big enough for another bedroom as well as a playroom for the twins.”

“Oh? Any reason you need a fourth bedroom?” Mrs. Bennet asked, perking up. Mr. Bennet shook his head subtly while Jane and Bing bit back a laugh, knowing exactly what she was trying to do.

“We have the guest room next to the twins’ room,” Bing replied smoothly. “They’re used to sleeping in the same room right now so we’re not going to mess with that. They’ll want their own rooms sooner than later. We want to be prepared for the loss of that guest bedroom whenever that happens.” William called him from the kitchen. “Oh I should get back in there to help,” he said quickly, retreating from any further questions about more grandchildren.

Lydia passed the phone to her parents, who flipped through the pictures together.

“That terrace looks even better than it did when we were there,” Mrs. Bennet said.

“We hired a landscaper to fix it up,” Jane said. “Now, these two have a safe place to play outside without me worrying about them tripping over uneven brick.”

As Jane continued to share what she and Bing had planned for their townhouse, Lizzie mouthed “coffee?” to her dad. He nodded and she excused herself from the table as she had already heard it all. She made her way into the kitchen where William was finishing up washing the last of the dishes and Bing was putting containers of food in the fridge.

Lizzie walked over to William and stood on her toes to quickly kiss him on the cheek. “Thank you for helping out so much.”

“You’re welcome,” William said warmly as she started to get to work on the coffee. “Thank you for making such a delicious dinner.”

“That was one juicy turkey, Lizzie,” Bing agreed.

“I tried my best. It looks like there’s enough for Saturday too,” Lizzie noticed as Bing was putting the last of the containers in the fridge.

“There’s plenty!” Bing said. He grabbed a towel and started drying the dishes William had just finished washing.

“We don’t really need to worry. I’m guessing with all the leftovers everyone is bringing, we’ll end up having too much,” William said.

“There’s always soup!” Lizzie joked.

“You and your turkey soup,” William chuckled.

“It was a staple leftover in my house. You can’t really break me from it!” Lizzie said with a shrug, grabbing coffee beans from the pantry.

“I can’t break Jane of it,” Bing agreed.

“See?” Lizzie said, gesturing to Bing. She took the hot water off the stove and began making the coffee. “William? Would you do me a favor?”

“Do you need cups?” William asked, opening a cupboard.

“Well, yes, but would you mind asking who wants coffee and what dessert they’d like?” Lizzie asked, smiling at him. “I was thinking we could migrate to the living room and watch A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. Jane said Charlie and Scarlett haven’t seen it yet and this would be the perfect time.”

“Oh, they’re going to love that! Caro and I watched that movie when we were kids. I haven’t seen it in years,” Bing said.

“I saw it once when Gigi was younger. I think I could use a second viewing,” William said, gently rubbing Lizzie’s arm. “I’ll be right back with dessert orders. I think we both know what Bing wants.”

“Pie!” Bing shouted.

“You’re starting to sound like your kids,” Lizzie laughed.

“You might be laughing now but you’ll see, Lizzie. Your language changes once you have kids,” Bing said. “Gotta get right to the point.”

“And your point is pie,” Lizzie said succinctly.

“I can never pass up Fran’s pie so yes,” Bing nodded. “My point is pie. And don’t forget the scoop of ice cream.”

“There is no point to pie without that scoop of ice cream,” Lizzie grinned at him. 


 

 

Saturday, November 25th

On Friday, everybody ventured to a nearby park to enjoy the weather. Bing, William, and Mr. Bennet spent too long teaching Charlie and Scarlett how to play Frisbee while Jane, Lizzie, and Mrs. Bennet snatched a spot on the grass. Mrs. Bennet and Jane were immersed in a conversation about the twins while Lizzie was more focused on watching William. He had an immense amount of patience in showing Charlie how to throw – since each time, Charlie would throw it straight to the ground. Lizzie could see the effort William was using not to laugh. After Charlie finally tossed it more than a foot away from him, William celebrated by picking him up and flying him all the way over to the ladies before he returned to Scarlett. Charlie spent the rest of the time at the park with them, flipping through books Jane had brought for him. Mr. and Mrs. Bennet treated everybody to lunch and then they returned to the apartment to say goodbye to the twins and put them down for their nap before they headed back home.

Saturday was the last full day of the Lees’ visit. The morning started out a little more exciting than anybody had intended. Lizzie or William forgot to completely close their door the night before and Scarlett wandered into the room. Somehow, she had escaped from Jane and Bing’s watchful eye and went looking for her aunt and uncle. Thankfully, they were both fully clothed but still very much asleep. Scarlett stood at the edge of the bed on Lizzie’s side and poked her until she woke up. Lizzie inhaled and slowly opened her eyes, finding herself face-to-face with the little one.

“Holy sh—” Lizzie yelped, stopping herself before she finished the obscenity. “Scarlett!”

William shot up in bed from the sheer volume of Lizzie’s voice and discovered the source of the issue. Scarlett looked like she was on the verge of tears and Lizzie was clutching her chest, clearly trying to calm herself down.

“Scarlett? What are you doing in here?” William asked as softly as he could manage, considering the abrupt wake-up call.

“Wanted to play,” Scarlett said feebly, her bottom lip quivering. Lizzie took a deep breath and slid out of bed, getting down on her knees to Scarlett’s level.

“Oh, Scarlett. We’d love to play but maybe we could wait until after breakfast? You just woke me up and I wasn’t ready,” Lizzie said, caressing the toddler’s cheek. “You surprised me.”

“Good surprise?” Scarlett asked.

“I love surprises from you, sweetie,” Lizzie assured her. “But remember the manners Mommy has been teaching you?”

“Puh-lease! Thank you!” Scarlett replied, looking proud of herself. Lizzie heard shuffling behind her and William came around the bed to join them.

“Very good,” William smiled at her. “Has she taught you what knocking means?”

“I knock and Mommy opens the door,” Scarlett stated.

“Did you do that just now?” Lizzie asked. Scarlett took a moment and then shook her head.

“I come in. No knocking,” Scarlett whispered.

“Can you see why Aunt Lizzie was surprised now?” William asked and she nodded. They heard the sound of quickly approaching footsteps followed by the distinct sound of Jane calling Scarlett’s name. They all turned when Jane knocked and poked her head in their bedroom, her face both cringing and apologetic.

“Scarlett? Did you wake up Auntie Lizzie and Uncle William?” Jane asked, coming in as the two of them stood up.

“She did,” Lizzie told her. “We were just teaching her the importance of knocking.”

“She doesn’t quite have that down yet. I’m so sorry for waking you up, guys,” Jane apologized, picking up Scarlett.

“I sorry,” Scarlett repeated.

“It’s okay,” William said soothingly. He brushed his finger across the tip of her nose and Scarlett smiled. “Now we have more time for the twins. At least, once we get ready and eat breakfast.”

“We’ll see you when you come out then,” Jane said, still sounding apologetic. She left the bedroom and made sure to close it behind her.

“I also need my heart to stop racing,” Lizzie exhaled.

“I think we can figure that out,” William responded. “I’m much better at getting it pumping, though.”

Lizzie laughed and shoved him away from her. “You’re terrible.”

“Whatever you say,” William said before heading into the bathroom. He stuck his head out before closing the door. “For the record, I’m pretty sure you were the one who forgot to close the door last night.”

“For the record, I think you were distracting me with something,” Lizzie teased.

“Both our faults then,” William grinned. “I can deal with that.”

“Me too,” Lizzie grinned back.

Lydia came over after breakfast, ready to spend the day with the twins and her sisters. The apartment was filled with noise and Lydia seemed to have a knack for bringing out the most energy in the kids. An epic game of Hide and Seek was suggested and Lizzie found herself on the seeking side with Jane, counting down with her while everyone else hid around the apartment. The sound of giggling and shushing easily gave Scarlett and William, who Lizzie found hiding in guest bathroom upstairs. Bing’s phone gave away his hiding spot and he put on a show when Scarlett found him. After fifteen minutes, Charlie was finally discovered in Lizzie’s library/office, hiding in a corner and flipping through the pages of a book.

Lydia took it upon herself to introduce the twins to sock sliding after lunch. While the girls lined the walls and door with pillows and blankets for falls, William and Bing sprayed the floor with furniture polish to help make things extra slippery. Lizzie and Lydia showed the twins how to execute the perfect sock slide and they laughed hysterically every time one of them fell. Once it was their turn, somebody would hold onto one of them while they made a slow running start and slid across the floor, giggling all the way.

While the twins were being put down for their nap, Lizzie, William, and Lydia spent the time cleaning up the apartment. They still had a few hours before their friends would be showing up for dinner but they wanted to take the opportunity to get the place ready sooner than later. They were able to relax afterwards and enjoy a quieter conversation with the family.

Lydia filled them in on more details about the job she was applying for and what her chances were compared to some of the other people. Lizzie was excited for her sister and hoped that she would get it. Ever since Lydia had moved up to San Francisco, they had become even closer. No more three-hour drives each way to see her a handful of times a year. Now, if they wanted to grab dinner and get pedicures on a Sunday, she only had to hop in her car and drive ten minutes to pick her up. What Lizzie loved the most was that Lydia and William had become closer too since she moved. She treated him like a real big brother, occasionally teasing him, asking for advice or a random favor and he was as protective over her as she allowed him to be. She and Gigi had also become pretty good friends, despite the distance between them. She had immersed herself into their group of friends and had even hosted a couple monthly dinners. All in all, everybody agreed that Lydia fit right in San Francisco.

When Lizzie and William were planning this month’s dinner, they told everybody they were welcome to come at any time so they could get in optimal visiting time with the East Coast family. A little before five, Fitz texted Lizzie to let them know they were on their way. Thankfully the twins had been up from their nap for a while and were refreshed for another round of visitors.                                                                                                          

Fitz and Brandon arrived with their arms full. They both had leftovers and Fitz was also armed with another bag, hanging from his shoulder.

“What do you have here?” Lizzie asked after they greeted each other and gave each other hugs.

“I brought a few child-friendly games,” Fitz said. “And maybe a couple books.”

“I don’t think he can stand to have kids not like him,” Brandon explained.

“I think you’ll be okay, Fitz,” Lizzie assured him. “You remembered the way to Charlie’s heart, at least.”

“That was my plan,” Fitz said with his famous beaming smile before pulling out a copy of Where the Wild Things Are from his bag. “Besides, who can resist the best children’s book ever?”

“Hopefully not Scarlett and Charlie!” Lizzie said.

“Where would you like the food?” Brandon asked. “We’ve got some fruit salad, cranberries, apple cobbler, some cheesy mashed potatoes, and Fitz has the drinks.”

“Perfect! The kitchen is just fine. William’s in there already,” Lizzie said before pointing to Fitz. “And I think you can follow the voices to the rest of the group.”

“Already on my way, Lizzie D,” Fitz replied.

Sam and Charlotte arrived soon afterwards with even more food and the kitchen became a hub of activity. Fitz was successful in getting Charlie to like him and was sitting in the living room, reading to him and Scarlett. Everybody else was catching up with Jane and Bing or helping Lizzie set up the table.  Brandon, Sam, and William worked their magic with the leftovers and everybody oohed and ahhed when they served everything. As they ate, they shared their tales of their individual Thanksgivings. Fitz and Brandon went to Fitz’s parents for the holiday and it was relatively uneventful, with the exception of them losing the pumpkin pie to an unfortunate baking incident. Sam and Charlotte ventured back to her hometown for a tame Thanksgiving and a wedding yesterday where Maria was one of ten bridesmaids.

“Wait, ten?” Lizzie asked in surprise. “That is completely ridiculous!”

“Ridiculous is an understatement,” Charlotte said. “Maria’s been complaining about how much of a Bridezilla her friend has been for months. She pretty much wanted everybody to know she was marrying into money. There were chandeliers and six-foot tall floral arrangements. They had ice sculptures of themselves in multiple places.”

Lizzie and William both burst into laughter and Charlotte glanced to them in amusement, waiting for an explanation.

“I joked about getting those for our own wedding,” William said.

“And Mom suggested ice swans more than once,” Lizzie continued.

“We both agreed it would be tacky,” William finished.

“Tacky would be a good word for this wedding,” Charlotte said, rolling her eyes.

“I think there were close to four hundred people at this thing,” Sam said. “And there were heirloom chandeliers from the early 1900s. They made a really big deal about that.”

“More than once,” Charlotte added. “The bride came out in a Cinderella carriage with six white horses and she apparently was wearing a Vera Wang dress but only for the ceremony. She changed into another wedding dress for the reception. The wedding favors were, get this, replica Fabergé eggs and Swarovski Crystal horses. They had gold flakes in more than half the food but not the caviar. She changed again when they left…in a helicopter."

“What the —” Lydia stopped abruptly, remembering the twins were at the table. She pressed her lips together at the sight of Jane and Bing both immediately covering their kid’s ears, just in case. “Sorry.”

“It takes time getting used to their presence,” Jane said as Charlie shook his head to get his mom to stop covering his ears. “Sorry, hon.”

“I wanna hear,” Charlie said in a huff. Scarlett did the same thing to Bing and the table tittered as she pouted from missing out on the conversation. He grabbed two toys from the nearby couch and gave one to each twin to keep them occupied.

“I don’t think the bride ever made it to our table,” Sam said. “Why would you invite so many people and never have a chance to talk to them?”

“That’s why we had the amount of people we had at ours,” Lizzie said, beaming at William.

“It was perfect,” William agreed as he slid his hand into hers.

“Or eloping is good,” Fitz said quickly, taking the attention away from the lovebirds.

“I like the idea of that because I could totally do without the stress of planning it and all the frills that go with it,” Charlotte said. “But I’d obviously want my family and my bestie there.”

“There’s no way I wouldn’t be at your hypothetical wedding,” Lizzie promised.

“What about me?” William asked teasingly.

“You’re a package deal,” Charlotte said, giving him a ‘duh’ look.

“Sam? What about you?” Fitz asked.

“I’m sure I’d be there too,” Sam said cheekily.

“When are you two going to make it official already?” Lydia asked boldly. “You’re practically the same status as Mr. and Mrs. PDA over here.”

“We’re not even doing anything,” Lizzie said defensively.

“You get all googly-eyed just mentioning your wedding,” Lydia said with a knowing look. William gave her hand a squeeze to comfort her before her shoulders relaxed a bit.

“We’ve talked about it,” Charlotte said, looking at Sam. “We, uh, don’t really have an answer for you.”

“Lame,” Lydia scoffed, crossing her arms.

“We’ll let you know, Lydia,” Sam assured her. “All I know is that our wedding would be far less tacky than the one yesterday.”

“What’s ‘tacky’?” Scarlett asked.

“It just means very silly, sweetheart,” Bing answered.

“Auntie Char go to a silly wedding?” Scarlett asked, looking at her.

“We sure did, Scarlett. Very silly,” Charlotte replied, smiling at her.

“Sam,” Brandon said, smoothly changing the subject. “Have you gotten any more patients? You said it was a possibility during the last dinner.”

“Yes, actually! I am all the way up to ten patients,” Sam said proudly. “I’m dealing with double digits.”

“I think it’s only a matter of time until people discover your offices,” Charlotte offered. Charlotte and Sam spent five months in their first apartment together before she was put in charge of expanding the offices to San Francisco. She spent the first half of 2016 running herself ragged, traveling between the old offices to train a new manager and back to the new offices to get everything set up. While Sam was busy finishing school and shadowing therapists, he still managed to find them an affordable two-bedroom apartment in the city. Everybody helped get them packed up and moved in but it still took Charlotte and Sam two months to actually unpack their boxes. Once Ricky Collins was satisfied with the level of experience from the newest manager, Charlotte moved all her attention strictly to her new offices and didn’t look back.

After Sam graduated from his program, he spent the next thirteen months working with another family therapist, building up his experience further. He was finally able to open up his own practice in July of this year, in a building full of other specialty therapists. It was taking some time to build his clientele but word was starting to get around. While he couldn’t share specific stories with everybody during their monthly dinners, they kept track of his numbers and congratulated every time it went up.

“Speaking of offices,” Fitz said, nudging Lizzie, “Are you getting excited, our very nearly neighbor?”

“Two blocks away does not make me your neighbor,” Lizzie rolled her eyes.

“Well, in the vicinity of, at least,” Fitz said. “It sure puts you a lot closer to us than before. It’s within walking distance. I think the bigger question is will I be seeing you more or Darcy less around lunchtime?”

“I guess you’re just going to have to wait and see,” Lizzie said with a laugh before glancing at William. He was brushing his thumb across her wrist like he often did. She could tell he liked the thought of their offices being closer together. It would provide many more opportunities for lunch together, amongst other things obviously on their minds. She was planning to check out the finished offices next weekend before DEP officially made the move. She was hoping to convince him to come check it out with her and maybe do a little more. With the way he was currently looking at her, she didn’t think he would need much convincing at all.

“I think it’s outstanding you’re doing well enough that you’re moving to a bigger location, Lizzie,” Jane said supportively. “I’m so proud of you!”

“Coming from the woman who was just the featured designer at a fashion show,” Lizzie said with her own pride for her sister.

“Oh! I saw the pictures Lizzie took. I think those were your best designs yet!” Lydia added.

“I feel like this is going to turn into the Bennet sister trying to out-compliment each other,” Charlotte said.

“Sounds like it,” Sam chuckled, putting his arm on the back of her chair.

“I think it’s safe to say that the Bennet ladies are becoming quite successful,” Brandon said. “Including Lydia with the job offer. We’re all rooting for you.”

“God. Now it’s just going to be so much worse if I don’t even get the interview,” Lydia groaned.

“Impossible. You’re important to that theater, Lydia. We’d be proud of you whether you get that job or continue with your current one,” William said.

“I proud!” Charlie exclaimed, waving his hands in the air and making the table laugh.

“Thank you, Charlie,” Lydia smiled.

“Hey, isn’t time for these little tykes to have their baths?” Lizzie chimed in.

“Oh, you’re right! I didn’t even notice the time,” Jane said, glancing at the clock. “I think we’re going to have to excuse ourselves.”

“Stay! I can take care of them,” Lizzie offered.

“I can help out, too,” Lydia said. “That way you can keep on visiting with everyone.”

“You wouldn’t mind?” Jane asked.

“Not at all!” Lydia grinned. “I see these people too often, anyway.”

“That’s hurtful, Little B,” Fitz clutched at his chest while Brandon snickered. “After all we’ve been through together.”

“You’re made of steel, Fitz. Don’t even start with me,” Lydia said, getting up from the table.  “Remember, I got you those tickets to Kinky Boots.”

“But not to The Lion King!” Fitz complained.

“You know they’ll come back,” Lydia shot back.

“But when!?” Fitz asked loudly. The twins giggled at his melodramatics while Lydia picked up Charlie from Jane’s lap and Lizzie grabbed Scarlett from Bing’s.

“You’re fully capable of getting those tickets on your own, babe,” Brandon said. “Stop giving her a hard time.”

“But it’s fun,” Fitz insisted. Lydia grinned at Brandon and he winked at her.

“Anyway, we’ll be back. We need to get these two into the bath. We apologize in advance if you see any tiny human streakers,” Lizzie said as she nodded to Scarlett in her arms. “This one has the tendency to try and escape when I’m giving her a bath.”

“Already clean!” Scarlett belted out and William threw his head back in laughter.

“Don’t you start with me again, little missy!” Lizzie said as they started to head to the staircase. “You’re most definitely not clean.”

“Already clean,” Scarlett said, sticking out her tongue.

“Scarlett Lee! We don’t stick our tongues out at anybody,” Bing said sternly. “You need to apologize to your Auntie Lizzie.”

“I sorry,” Scarlett said to Lizzie, a little pathetically.

Lizzie pushed out her bottom lip at Scarlett and ran a hand down her hair. “It’s okay, sweetie. I forgive you.”

“Hey, Lizzie,” Jane called out and Lizzie paused at the staircase. “There’s a rubber octopus on the sink. Use it in the bath and you’ll be golden.”

“Now you tell me,” Lizzie said, throwing her free arm in the air.

“I can’t give out all my secrets right away,” Jane said. Lizzie shook her head at her before she went downstairs.

“Anything I need to know with this guy?” Lydia asked, adjusting him in her arms.

“Charlie loves baths,” Bing said. “Don’t you, buddy?”  

“Bath! Bath! Bath!” Charlie exclaimed.

“Let’s get you in one, then!” Lydia chuckled. “We’ll be back!”

What Bing failed to tell Lydia about Charlie’s love of baths was that he was very enthusiastic in the water. Soaked was an understatement for what Lydia was at the end of it all. Lizzie mostly stayed out of the line of fire and but got her fair share of splashes from Scarlett. After the sisters got the twins into their pajamas, they tag-teamed William and Bing in for story time. Lydia got a round of applause from the table at her appearance before Lizzie gave her a change of clothes. Once William and Bing came back up declaring that Charlie and Scarlett were fast asleep, the group spent a little longer catching up. They decided the next monthly dinner would be at the cabin in Tahoe since Gigi would be home. There were plans made to take Lydia out for her upcoming birthday in December. Soon enough, Jane and Bing called it a night so they could get some more packing in. Slowly, everybody else said their goodbyes and Lizzie and William were left to clean up the rest of the apartment.


 

Sunday, November 26th

Jane and Bing’s flight home was scheduled for just after two so most of the morning was reserved for scouring the apartment to make sure they had everything. There seemed to be an unofficial countdown between Lizzie and William as soon as they got up. They knew they would be getting their apartment back and have free rein of the place once more.

They had a close call last night when they were putting away the last of the dishes. Lizzie was stretching out on her toes to put something away on a high shelf when William came up behind her, taking the dish from her and putting it back. He didn’t actively move away and Lizzie leaned her body against his. William pushed her hair to one side and bent down to press his lips to her neck while he moved his hands to her hips, giving them a light squeeze. She arched her neck as he continued his sweet torture until she couldn’t stand to not be kissing him anymore.

Lizzie turned in his arms and her hands flew up to pull him down to her, their lips meeting in the middle. A groan of relief escaped from the back of his throat and he immediately lifted her up onto the counter. Lizzie grinned against his lips and tightened her legs around him, pulling him in even closer. Limiting themselves to the bedroom had obviously taken a toll on their patience. It was only a few minutes later that they heard the distinct sound of a throat clearing and they quickly untangled themselves from each other. Bing was standing in the living room and actively looking away but had an amused grin on his face. They were all thankful that it was him to walk in on them and not one of the twins.

Despite being caught last night, their playfulness only seemed to increase. The difference was that they were hyper-aware of where everybody was in the apartment. While they made breakfast, Lizzie would slyly brush her hand across his shoulders or back whenever she passed him. She even lightly pinched his butt once when nobody else was looking. He easily retaliated by leaning in a couple times while she was making scrambled eggs and whispered the dirty things he planned to do to her once Jane and Bing were gone. Lizzie had to put a temporary hold on their aggressive flirting when she nearly burned the eggs.

With the couple hours they had left, William and Lizzie tried to squeeze in as much time with Charlie and Scarlett as they could. In order to make sure Jane and Bing had everything, they turned scouring the apartment into a game of sorts. The twins thought it was funny to check under and behind the furniture with their Aunt and Uncle, going from room to room. Two tiny socks and one of Scarlett’s hats were found in the process.

Soon enough, William was helping Bing bring up all the luggage down to the car. When they came back up, they found the twins crying with Jane hugging Scarlett and Lizzie on her knees wiping away the tears falling down Charlie’s cheeks.

“What happened?” Bing asked worriedly as he rushed over to the kids.

“I told them it was time to go and they needed to say their goodbyes to Lizzie and William,” Jane said, rubbing Scarlett’s back as she tried to calm her down. Bing took her from Jane’s arms and Scarlett started hiccupping through her tears, burying her face into his neck.

“I think they thought she meant permanently,” Lizzie said quietly as William came down to her level. “I keep telling him we’ll see him really soon.”

“Hey, Charlie,” William said softly to get his attention.

“I don’t wanna go,” Charlie sniffled. “I miss you.”

“Oh, buddy. We’re going to miss you, too. You know you’ll see our faces next week, right?” William asked.

“Just like you see Aunt Caroline,” Lizzie added. “We’ll call you and your mom will put us on a screen and we’ll get to wave hello to you.”

“Really?” Charlie asked, his breath hitching a little.

“Really really,” Lizzie smiled at him before glancing up at Scarlett, who had also stopped crying. “And we’re going to see both of you in a month right after Christmas. We’ll even have presents.”

“I like presents!” Charlie lit up.

“I like presents, too!” Scarlett added as Bing put her down on the ground next to Charlie. This was the best chance to say their goodbyes and keep them calm at the same time.

“I think we all like presents,” Lizzie said tenderly, brushing her thumbs along both their cheeks. “It will be like you have two Christmases!”

“You know what else? When you come see us and the rest of the family, everything’s going to be covered in snow where we’ll be,” William said to the twins.

“And your Auntie Lizzie is going to help get you into your snow clothes!” Jane said enthusiastically. Lizzie snorted a little at Jane already trying to pawn that job off on her.

“I’ll be more than happy to help,” Lizzie promised. “I’ll even teach you two how to sled. I don’t want to brag but I’m really good at it.”

“What’s that?” Charlie asked.

“Yea, what’s that?” Scarlett asked after him.

“You’ll just have to wait and see,” Lizzie smiled. “So this is barely goodbye. It’s more of a—”

“—See you soon,” William finished.

“Exactly,” Lizzie nodded.

“See you soon?” Charlie asked, looking up at his dad.

“You’ll see them before you know it, Charlie,” Bing said, ruffling Charlie’s hair.

“So, are you two ready to go?” Jane asked. They both nodded, a little solemnly but in better shape than they were a few minutes ago.

“Can we have hugs?” Lizzie asked, holding out her arms. Charlie hurried into her arms and she hugged him as tightly as she could while William hugged Scarlett. They made a little show of switching places so they could hug the other twin, which caused some giggles. Lizzie stood up and brushed her knees off. “Alright! That’s much better.”

“Thank you for everything this week!” Jane said, hugging Lizzie while Bing and William hugged each other.

“No, thank you! It was such a pleasure to have you here this week,” Lizzie said. “I’m looking forward to our weekly phone calls. We should have instituted it ages ago.”

“Right? We’re learning our lesson now,” Jane said with a shrug.

“And Bing,” Lizzie said, giving him a hug. “It’s always amazing to see you and the kids. They are getting way too big.”

“We’re still trying to figure out how to keep them this small. No luck so far,” Bing chuckled, picking up Scarlett as Jane picked up Charlie. “I’m sure they’ll be even bigger when you see them in December.”

William clapped Bing on the back. “Alright. You’ve got everything, right?”

“Luggage, check. Children, check. Husband, double check,” Jane said teasingly as they slowly made their way to the door.

“We’ve looked through this whole place but we can mail anything you may have forgotten,” Lizzie assured them.

“Let us know when you get in,” William said, holding the door open for them.

“As always,” Bing replied as he started to walk towards the elevator. He turned around and Scarlett waved her little hand over Bing’s shoulder. William smiled and waved back.

“And now you’re free to go back to watching TV anywhere in the apartment,” Jane said to Lizzie with a gleam in her eye. Lizzie widened her eyes and pressed her lips together to prevent herself from blushing.

“Have a good flight, Jane,” Lizzie said pointedly.

“Bye for now,” Jane said. She and Charlie both waved at William leaning in the doorway as Bing held the elevator door open for them. They stepped inside, the doors slid closed, and William came back in the apartment, closing the door behind him.

“They’re gone?” Lizzie asked.

“They are,” William smirked, pushing himself off the door. “We have the apartment all to ourselves again.”

“We’re all alone?” Lizzie asked, feeding off his playfulness.

“Absolutely alone,” William said. He reached behind him and pulled his shirt off over his head, balling it up and throwing it to the floor. “Now, take off your clothes.”

“How impatient of you,” Lizzie said, walking slowly backwards as he approached her. He kicked off his shoes and took off his socks as he advanced further.

“Take. Off. Your. Clothes,” William repeated as he popped open the button on his jeans before unzipping them. He pushed them down his legs and stepped out of them so smoothly that Lizzie couldn’t help but lick her lips in appreciation. Her legs hit the back of the couch in the living room and she stopped.

“You know this is only going to count as practice, right? I just hit the placebo pills this morning. I tossed them and you know…” Lizzie trailed off as he tucked his thumbs in his boxer briefs. He toyed with the band and lowered them to accentuate his Adonis belt.

“Elizabeth Darcy,” William said lowly. “Do I have to ask again or will I be taking your clothes off myself?”

“Oh boy,” Lizzie hummed, her eyes traveling up and down his body. “Do I get a choice?”

“For about ten more seconds. Either way, I’m about to take you over my shoulder and get you into a very long, hot shower,” William said, pausing inches in front of her. They stood there in silence and she could feel the air sizzling around them. How did he still have the ability to make her feel so weak in the knees after all these years? She didn’t even want to question how easily he made her vibrate with need. The sight of his nearly naked body filled her mind with raunchy, lustful thoughts every time - thoughts of his large hands all over her, his weight on top of her, and how perfectly he fit between her thighs. She was so deep in her current lustful haze that she didn’t register he was counting until he reached the end. “…nine, ten.” William finished. “I can tell by the glazed look in your eyes that I’ll be doing all the removing.”

“Yes, please,” Lizzie breathed. He laughed deeply before bending down, grabbing her legs and throwing her over his shoulder.

“I hope you’re ready for lots of practice,” William said cheekily.

“You know what they say, Mr. Darcy,” Lizzie replied. “Practice makes perfect.”

“Well said, Mrs. Darcy,” William hummed. “Constant practice.”

Chapter Text

Sunday, December 3rd

Lizzie knew that the month of December was going to be a busy one with the company's big move. She put aside three weeks to get packed up, moved and settled into the new place, with her employees' help. It was her goal to be finished by the 22nd so that she could give everybody the rest of the month off for the holidays.

Lizzie had spent the past week wrapping up smaller projects with clients, sending out mass reminder emails about the imminent move and spending time on the phone with the contractor to make sure everything would be finished in time. She finally got the confirmation just before leaving the offices on Friday night and she could barely contain her excitement when she told the employees who were still around. She intended to go to the offices on Sunday to check everything out and was all too happy when William offered to drive.

"Okay, so listen," Lizzie started as he parked in the small parking lot adjacent to her new office. He shut off the car and turned his body to look at her, giving her an amused look at her fast-talking. "This place is nowhere near the size of Pemberley Digital but I'm really thrilled because we're literally doubling in size and it's all our own. We still have all the decorating to do and get so much moved. There's nothing really impressive about it yet so just keep an open mind."

"Are you kidding me?" William asked. "Firstly, stop comparing your company to Pemberley Digital. It took years for us to expand and grow to what it is today. If anything, you're way ahead of the game. I'm beyond proud of you and I'm excited to see this place. Plus, I'm pretty sure I'll be seeing the finished offices more than a few times in the future."

Lizzie looked at him appreciatively. "Have I thanked you for discovering this place?"

"A few times," William said. Lizzie had come home a number of months ago complaining about three different project teams having scheduling issues since only had two spaces set up for filming. It had worked perfectly in the beginning when DEP was small, but as time went on, they had to improvise more often and use whatever quiet space they could find. William had casually suggested that she get more space. She sighed and wished out loud that it would be that easy before throwing herself on the couch next to him to pout. He offered a couple more ideas before she decided she would work on the scheduling problem in a more permanent manner.

During the next investors' meeting, she spent half the time discussing the business plan she made for more space. To keep on schedule with current projects and have the room for more, they needed to expand. The investors loved the proposal and agreed as she could find a place to fit her needs and their budgets. The search for such a place seemed dismal until William was driving home from work one night and spotted the building in question for sale. He took a couple pictures of the outside, made a call, and discovered it was put on the market only the week prior. It was also right under her budget. He hurried home and practically shoved the pictures and phone number in front of her face, thoroughly excited for her. She called the real estate agent right then, got an appointment to see the place the next day, and immediately saw the potential for it. She took a few pictures and sent the information to her investors, along with the building would fit with her business plan. They also saw the potential and gave her the go-ahead. She put down an offer by the end of the week and the building was officially hers two weeks later.

"I think I need to thank you a few more times," Lizzie said.

"I don't think I'll mind," William replied, the corners of his mouth lifting. He reached over and lightly rubbed her thigh. "Come on. You owe me a tour of your new offices."

"Good news! You just so happen to be in the company of an excellent tour guide," Lizzie said lightly, slipping her hand into his.

"Lucky me," William said as she led them to the front of the building. She took a step back on the sidewalk and held out her arms.

"Ok, picture this. There's going to be a marquee of Decent Enough Productions above the doors. It's supposed be ready by the middle of this week. It took way too long to design but I love it. It's big enough to see as you're driving by but it's not completely obnoxious," Lizzie rambled as she dug the keys out of her bag. "I love our front doors, too. Is that ridiculous?"

"They're nice doors," William said, noting the frosted glass French doors.

"I'm having someone come out and etch the logo and hours onto it," Lizzie said, unlocking the door and ushering him inside before locking it behind her. "Seriously I thought there was a lot to do when I was first getting DEP started, but owning a building? I had to ask five different people what paint color they liked and what font looked best for the sign. Some of my employees want to know how big of a fridge we need for the break room, what new furniture we're getting, if we're getting new desk chairs…There's so much."

"Breathe," William reminded her, gently grabbing her arms. She made a show of inhaling and exhaling before giving him a grateful look. "It may seem like there's a lot but once you start moving in here, you'll realize you've got it all under control. You've been on top of this from the beginning."

"Thank you," Lizzie said quietly.

"You're welcome," William replied, kissing her forehead.

"Okay, I owe you a kick-ass tour and we're only in the reception area," Lizzie said.

"I can definitely see the potential of it," William said, looking around. "With the right paint color and some comfortable chairs, it could be very inviting."

"Thank you for the tip, Will," Lizzie said, shaking her head.

"How about showing me your office?" William asked suggestively.

"Oh no, I'm saving the best for last," Lizzie teased, too excited to notice his innuendo.

He sighed and focused on the space. "Okay, well half the reason you were expanding was for more filming space so that should be an obvious one to show me. I think you mentioned something about recording booths," William said. "And the break room?"

"We have a full kitchen!" Lizzie exclaimed, making William laugh at her excitement.

"I adore you right now," William said warmly before offering his hand. "Take me wherever you want to take me."

"Ooh, interesting," Lizzie said, crossing her arms in front of her chest. It took her that moment to realize he was toying with her but in a good way. Whenever he did this, he was subtle about it at first but she would usually catch onto it. He would effortlessly and slowly build things up between them until neither could resist each other. This time, it had gone right over her head. She was so engrossed in showing him her new offices that she didn't clue in until that moment but she'd happily play this game with him. She would simply take her time and let him squirm a little.

"What?" William raised his eyebrows in question as he watched his wife's gaze clearly wandering down and then up his body.

"I'm trying to decide just how literally I should deal with your statement," Lizzie said coyly.

"I don't mean to be presumptuous but I'm kind of hoping you to take it very literally," William played along.

"Well, Mr. Darcy," Lizzie hummed, grabbing his hand. "I guess you'll just have to wait until the end of the tour to see if I do."

"This just became the most anticipated office tour of my life," William smirked as she led him down the hall.

"Well, I am a fantastic tour guide," Lizzie declared as she glanced over her shoulder, wiggling her eyebrows and, a little more subtly, her hips.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"The outside of the building is misleading. I didn't expect it to be so big in here," William said as they were leaving a third conference room. "You've really optimized the amount of space you have."

"My office isn't twenty feet from the elevator anymore, Katie has her own space now instead of us throwing a desk right out front, and our filming spaces are twice the size! There's so much," Lizzie said. "And I love the fact that we have an elevator, too. I don't need it but having it is nice."

"It's definitely a…perk," William agreed, drawing out his words.

"Don't tease me," Lizzie said, pausing in her step and narrowing her eyes at him.

"Why would I be teasing you? An elevator provides all sorts of opportunities," William said with a pointed look. "How many people can it fit?"

"It's spacious," Lizzie managed. He was doing it again and she couldn't stop the flashbacks of the elevator back in their own building. They had gotten away with plenty in there over the past few years and only seemed to grow bolder with each other when influenced by lust or alcohol. Nothing had gotten as far as that time during his 29th birthday but William had been successful in making her legs wobble more than a few times.

"Good to know," William said simply, watching his effect on her, before they continued on.

"So, I decided to take a page out of your book since we're starting fresh here," Lizzie said, turning around and leading him as she walked slowly backwards.

"There's many pages in my book," William said playfully, holding onto her hands just in case. "Wait, let me guess. You're having food trucks come by twice a week."

"No way. That's silly," Lizzie scoffed. "I'll just send everybody over to you guys for that."

William arched an eyebrow at her before he continued, caressing her wrists with his thumbs out of habit. He could tell it was distracting her a little and he stopped his movements. "You're installing a pool on the roof."

"As much as I would love to have twice as many opportunities in watching you swim, wrong again," Lizzie said, glancing over her shoulder. They had almost reached the end of the hall, passing a handful of empty offices.

"I'll keep you aware of my swimming habits," William said before adding, "In case you'd like to get in some exercise of your own."

"That's quite generous of you," Lizzie said with a swallow as flashes of William in a fitted black speedo came to mind. Water was dripping down parts of his body she longed to get her hands on, his breathing was heavy from his rigorous swim, and his hair was an irresistible mess. Her brain was being downright cruel right now. "So, um, guess again."

"Hmmm. I already know you're changing the company's health insurance policy to a better one similar to ours at the beginning of the year," William stated and she nodded. "So, I give up."

"You know it's not as fun for me when you give up so easily," Lizzie said. "Maybe I should make it more interesting next time. Treat you with a private reward, perhaps?"

"Once we get to your office…" William said deeply. Lizzie pressed her lips together at the obvious meaning in his comment but didn't want to show him that she wanted what he was implying just yet.

"Thank you for playing anyway," Lizzie said, trying to maintain equilibrium as she stopped at the last door with 'executive offices' taped to it. "The executive offices are spoken for but everybody is getting the chance to work where they're most comfortable. They can decorate their offices however they like so they can be the most productive, as long as it's work appropriate of course."

"It really does help create a great working environment," William offered.

"That's what I'm hoping. We were kind of limited before since they were already offices," Lizzie said, opening the door to an empty room lit up by windows on the left side of the room. There were two closed doors in the far left and right corner of the room and the left one had a post-it on it. "This is our own personal reception area. Katie's excited to have this much space to work with and actually get some sunlight. Andrea is getting the office on the right and mine is on the left."

"I still can't sneak into your office without passing her, apparently," William noticed.

"Nope," Lizzie laughed. "Though, it will depend on when you stop by. She does get an hour for lunch."

"That should be just enough time," William teased. "As long as you give me enough warning."

"I'll keep that in mind," Lizzie said perceptively. "You know, I can't sneak into your office without talking to Mrs. Reynolds."

"True. Speaking of offices, I think it is time you show me yours," William said in a slightly demanding tone, walking over to what he assumed was her office. He got confirmation as he saw her name on the post-it note and he pointed to it.

"Mine," Lizzie said, lighting up as she walked up to him. She pressed her hands against his chest and leaned in close. "I think you're going to like it."

"I think I'm going to love it," William said roguishly before he opened the door. The only furniture in the room was a large desk and a plush-looking chair situated near the floor-to-ceiling windows of the office.

"I know it's not much to look at right now but you have to picture it. I was thinking of putting the couch over by this wall. Maybe frame it with the bookcases," Lizzie said animatedly, gesturing to one side of the room.

"Conveniently not in someone's eye-line when walking in," William noted. Lizzie glanced to him and smiled a little mischievously.

"I thought I'd put all the necessary work cabinets along this other wall," Lizzie continued, trying her best to stay on track and not give in to William's teasing just yet. She moved around the room and gesturing to where she was going to put things. "And as you can clearly see, I have a brand new desk and chair. The desk has so much more space and this might be the most comfortable chair ever," Lizzie fell back into the chair. "I know the view is not much to look at but –"

"You have a corner office," William said proudly. "You weren't kidding about more space. It's nearly twice the size. There's so much to work with."

"It is!" Lizzie said excitedly, getting back up and watching her husband's movements around the room.

"What's this lead to?" William asked, motioning to another door opposite of the windows.

"Look for yourself," Lizzie replied. He was intrigued by the playful tone in her voice and she leaned against the desk, gesturing for him to open it. He twisted the knob and pulled the door open, walking cautiously in to the darkened room and turning on the lights.

"A bathroom!" William exclaimed in surprise before walking back out to her office. "You have your own bathroom. I don't even have my own bathroom."

"That's your loss," Lizzie gloated. He walked back in and she heard him pound on the marble countertop for a moment before emerging.

"Very sturdy counters. I like that," William smirked.

"I wanted the best," Lizzie replied with a smile, loving how playful he was right now. "It served as a connection to the other office and was too big for one person. We had the contractor split it in half and create two decent-sized bathrooms so we could have the extra privacy."

"Extra privacy," William said, his gaze focused on her as she hoisted herself up onto the desk and started subtly swinging her legs. "Could that also be considered a buffer to further muffle loud voices?"

"Yea, I yell a lot. I'm a mean boss," Lizzie teased, even though she knew exactly what he was alluding to.

"Sure you are. That's why you've had so many people leave over the past few years," William deadpanned. Lizzie shrugged, looking as" innocent as she could.

"There's one more perk," Lizzie said, making William stop in his slow saunter towards her. "Would you turn on the lights? The switch is behind you by the door."

"Sure," William said, flipping the switch on.

"And close the door," Lizzie added.

"You know you locked the front door and we're the only ones in here," William reminded her.

"Think of it as practice for another time," Lizzie said and he made no effort to hide his amusement as he closed the door. "As always, Mr. Darcy, you take direction quite well."

"I take direction from you quite well, Mrs. Darcy," William corrected, sliding his hands into his pockets and walking slowly towards her. "Now, what is this perk that I needed to turn on the lights and close the door?"

"Do you see those two buttons near the window?" Lizzie asked, pointing in that direction.

"I do," William nodded.

"Would you please press the bottom one?"

"Since you asked so nicely," William said. Lizzie watched him in silence as he went over and pressed the button. Black shades started rolling down from the ceiling and covering up the entirety of the windows. "Blackout shades? In your office?"

"I actually had them installed for the whole place. There's a few benefits to them," Lizzie started as William approached her. "We can film in any part of the building, it will block out the sun on hot days, and—"

"—nobody will be able to see you fooling around with your husband," William finished, stopping in front of her. Seeing the spark of hunger in his eyes almost made her want to skip their usual foreplay banter. They were both antsy from lack of "practice" throughout the week due to her late work nights. She let out a small breath as he gently grabbed her knees and pushed her legs wide open before he stepped in close.

"What do you take me for?" Lizzie murmured as she ran a finger down his chest. "You think my primary objective to getting these shades installed in my office was so that I could have sex with my husband?"

"Maybe not your primary objective," William said. He followed the movement of her hand as she brought it down to the waistband of his jeans before she paused. His gaze locked with hers and he could see her struggling to keep from grinning. "Though I do believe you brought me here today so we could christen this office."

"What makes you think that?" Lizzie asked, hooking her legs around the back of his thighs. He didn't even bat an eyelash when she let her shoes fall to the floor.

"Oh, I don't know," William said lowly as he pulled her to the edge of the desk. "Maybe it's the blackout shades you had me lower," he paused as she pulled up his shirt a little to reveal a sliver of his stomach, brushing the tips of her fingers along his skin. "Or that you had me close the door."

"I don't think that's enough evidence to go on," Lizzie hummed, running her fingers along the surface of her desk. "Maybe I really wanted to show off my brand new desk."

"It's a very nice desk," William said casually, keeping his gaze on hers.

"So you approve," Lizzie said, letting out a shaky breath as his hands skimmed up her rib cage and back down.

"You know I do. You've deserved this for a long time," William said. "And I look forward to seeing your beautiful office completed."

"But?" Lizzie asked.

"You brought me here to break it in," William said knowingly. "Or maybe it was your chair you wanted to test out? I certainly wouldn't mind either. I'm sure we're both appreciate the lasting memory of it."

"You think I'll get flashbacks of what we may or may not do on this desk?"

William flashed her a smile. "No matter how many times you've paid me a late night office visit, I still think about that first time."

"It was pretty memorable," Lizzie said. She fell silent and watched him for a moment. She didn't know what was driving her crazier. The deep sound of his voice, his closeness, or the way his hands moved around her body as if he was seeking the perfect part of her to touch.

"Do you still have that garter belt?" William asked, his voice getting husky.

"You ripped that one in half," Lizzie reminded him. "You don't remember?"

William's eyes met hers in surprise. "Damn. I need to stop doing that."

"No, you don't," Lizzie toyed with her bottom lip. William quirked an eyebrow at her reaction and the corners of his lips twitched up. "You replaced it with an even nicer one. If you continue to do that, then I am all for your, shall we say, eagerness in the bedroom. Or hallway, to be more precise."

"Ohhhh, I remember that night now," William said as it dawned on him. "That was so good."

"It was more than good," Lizzie said sensually. Her eyes blatantly raked over his body and she wondered what was holding them back. She craved him and she already knew how he was feeling, especially with the way his eyes were boring into her.

"You're undressing me with your eyes," William said, moving his hands to her inner thighs. She squirmed under his touch, obviously ready for more.

"I could make the same accusation about you, sir," Lizzie said, leaning in.

"And you know what I'd say to that?" William murmured, glancing up and focusing on her lips.

She took a moment to answer. "What?"

"I am," William said as he traced a finger up the zipper of her jeans.

"Oh?" Lizzie asked, watching his movements. He slowly unzipped her zipper and she squirmed a little under his touch as he pulled away the material to reveal her pale blue underwear. She let out a shuddering breath as he slipped a hand beneath the material. Her eyelids fluttered and gripped his shoulder as he brushed his fingers slowly along her sex. He brought his gaze back up to hers and his eyes were darker and filled with lust. Neither broke eye contact as he continued his sweet torture. Lizzie whimpered and squirmed with his touch, digging her nails into his shoulder as the fire began to grow in the pit of her stomach. He leaned in, passed her lips, and grazed her cheek with his weekend stubble before stopping right near her ear.

"I can't stop thinking how fucking sexy you are with all this power at your fingertips," William breathed in her ear. There was something about being inside her new office that turned William on. He loved this powerful woman surrounding him in every way and he needed more of her. As he dipped two fingers inside her, she moaned before he captured her mouth, kissing her slowly. He matched the rhythm of his tongue against hers with the rhythm of his fingers. As the kiss became more passionate, she slid a hand in his hair and tightly grabbed a fistful. He groaned and crooked his fingers inside her, quickening the beat as he stroked her most sensitive spot. He could feel the desperation for her release in the way she moved her hips, seeking out more. Finally, he pressed his thumb against her clit and used just the right kind of pressure to bring her over the edge. She moaned and arched into him, holding onto him as the pleasure spread throughout her body.

"I need all of you. So much," Lizzie gasped as he removed his fingers.

"As you wish," he grinned. She slammed her hands on the desk as he yanked her jeans down her legs, bringing her pale blue underwear down with them. He worked quickly to undo his pants before she pulled off her shirt, tossing it aside. He kissed her hard and pulled her to the edge of the desk before pushing his pants and boxer briefs down to mid-thigh. He pulled her to the edge of the desk, moved between her legs, and buried himself inside her. Her hands moved to his back, grasping and grabbing fistfuls of his shirt as he created an intense rhythm between them.

He slammed his hips into hers, making her moan and cry out in passion. She finally managed to get his shirt off him and she slid her hands to his back, her fingertips digging in. Her legs hooked around the back of his thighs and pulled him in as deep as she could handle, making him groan. There was obvious urgency between them and the noises they were bringing out of each other was only fueling them further.

William slid one hand from her hip to the small of her back as he continued to drive into her. He pulled her bra down to expose her breasts and he watched her face as he palmed and massaged one. He skillfully knew what kind of pressure she could handle on all the sensitive parts of her body and wanted to push her more. She bucked her hips when he gently squeezed her nipple. Her breath caught in her throat when he did it a little harder, accompanying it with particular deep stroke. She was close and he was all too aware with the way her nails with scratching down his back and the way her whimpers became progressively higher pitched. He leaned into her and kissed her before sliding his lips to the spot behind her ear and sucking on her skin. She clutched onto him as she climaxed in his arms, letting out a shaky moan. She pulsed and contracted around him, pulling him in and pushing him to the edge. After only a few more erratic thrusts, he came hard and dropped his head to her shoulder as bliss overtook his body.

Their hands wandered across each other's bare skin while they waited for their breathing to slow down. Lizzie hummed as William pressed his lips to the crook of her neck before kissing his way up to her jaw. He slid his mouth to hers and kissed her softly before he touched his forehead to hers and opened his eyes. He watched as her eyes focused back on him and she gave him a soft smile as she moved her hands up and played with the hair at the nape of his neck.

"I think we've properly broken in my new desk," Lizzie said after a few moments.

"I don't know about that," William said with an exhale.

"Oh?" Lizzie raised her eyebrow in question.

"I may have to return when you're all settled in so I can sweep everything off it," William said with a gleam in his eye.

"Aren't you the one for dramatics," Lizzie laughed softly.

"You know you're the reason," William said, his fingers skimming along her outer thigh. "You always bring it out in me."

"You bring it out in me, too," Lizzie hummed, holding up her left hand. "I see the ring on my finger and I still get giddy knowing nobody else but me gets to experience this with you."

"We do have a lot of experience with each other," William said cheekily. "I could always use more, though."

"Oh yea?" Lizzie asked, leaning in closer.

"What are you thinking?" William asked.

"Home? Round two?" Lizzie suggested.

"Mmmhmm," William nodded. "Will you wear that garter belt?"

"Yea," Lizzie replied before giving him a teasing look. "But I'm on top next time."

"This day keeps getting better and better," William grinned.


Wednesday, December 6th

One of the few benefits to packing up her company and moving was that Lizzie could end her day whenever she wanted. She wasn't strict about when her employees could arrive or leave but they all knew there was only so much time to get everything done.

After staying late the last two days, she called it a day just after 4:30 when she got a text from William. Sam was joining them for dinner after the two men planned to run an errand. When Sam and Charlotte moved to San Francisco, their visits had become more frequent. The first time Charlotte went on an overnight business trip, they had jokingly extended a dinner invitation to Sam, in case he didn't want to cook for himself. He took them up on the offer and it became a bit of a habit between them ever since. Of course, he extended the same invitation to William whenever Lizzie was gone.

She stopped by the store to get ingredients for dinner and went home, putting together a simple balsamic chicken dish before throwing it in the oven. She jumped in the shower and stood there, letting the rush of the hot water relax her after her active day. Once she got dressed and put her hair up, she went back into the kitchen to get started on the vegetables. William and Sam showed up shortly afterwards, both greeting her with big smiles.

"Hello there!" Lizzie said, noticing a box in Sam's hand.

"Good evening," William said, kissing Lizzie hello. "Sam thought you might like some cookies for dessert."

"Ooh! What kind?" Lizzie asked, peering inside the box. "Fancy Christmas ones! Very nice choice, Sam."

"Anything to put one in the holiday mood. Nice tree, by the way," Sam said, noticing the lit tree in the background.

"It was the first one we saw, actually," William said.

"Easiest Christmas tree shopping ever," Lizzie added as they high-fived each other.

"Do you need any help with dinner?" William asked, watching her.

"I don't, but thank you! The rice is ready to go," Lizzie said, gesturing to it on the counter. "And the chicken is almost done."

"It smells delicious," William said, brushing a hand down her arm before taking a seat next to Sam at the counter.

"So what were you two up to?" Lizzie asked, putting the vegetables in the microwave.

"I had to pick something up and wanted William's opinion on it," Sam said as he glanced sideways to him. "Actually, I'd like yours as well."

"I'm all ears," Lizzie said, facing him and leaning against the counter. Sam dug into his pocket and slid a black velvet box in front of her. She lifted her eyebrows and quickly looked at William, who wore a subtle smile.

"Sam, I love you but I'm very attached to this one," Lizzie remarked, gesturing to her husband. William snorted as Sam shook his head.

"Funny," Sam replied. He opened up the box to reveal two silver rings, both sharing a similar flourished design. The smaller ring had three tiny diamond lined up diagonally on both sides.

"Those are beautiful, Sam," Lizzie said, pressing a hand to her chest. She picked up the box to inspect them closer. "The detail is amazing."

"It's a Hawaiian design. I had to get it specially made and my dad helped me figure out what would look best," Sam sighed. "I know Charlotte wouldn't want a big diamond or anything so I'm hoping she'll like this."

"Oh, she will," Lizzie assured him, handing him back the box. "How long have you been thinking about this? You were just saying you had no plans to Lydia at the last dinner."

"I can't exactly say I'm planning to propose in front of the person I'm planning to propose to," Sam said. "And it's been on my mind more the last few months. One of us has brought it up a handful of times lately."

"Just in case you couldn't guess, you have my approval," Lizzie said, turning her head at the sound of the microwave going off.

"I told you," William said to Sam. She quickly pulled the vegetables out and set them down on the top of the oven before turning back around.

"Have you been conspiring and planning without me?" Lizzie asked, arching an eyebrow.

"Well…" William started before being interrupted by the oven timer.

"Hold on," Lizzie put a hand up before grabbing the oven mitts. "We're eating dinner and then you're filling me in. Would you two please set the table?"

"We'll be happy to," Sam said.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Okay," Lizzie said once she served dinner. "Tell me everything you've been keeping from me."

"Everything everything?" William teased and she rolled her eyes. "It's not much, honestly. Sam talked to me a couple weeks ago about his intentions and wanted me to come with him to pick up the rings. He also asked me to think about something to help with the proposal."

"You don't have an idea?" Lizzie asked.

"Actually, we kind of do but we wanted to get your opinion about it," Sam said.

"This seems big from the look in your eyes," Lizzie says, settling into her seat.

"Before we tell you the whole thing, you're about to be spoiled," William said leadingly. Lizzie looked at him expectantly. "I was planning to take you to Hawaii for our third wedding anniversary."

"Hawaii!" Lizzie exclaimed. "When were you planning to tell me this?"

"Probably Christmas," William admitted. "But things are little more time sensitive now. There's more to plan."

"So what would you say to a couples' vacation on the big island?" Sam asked.

"I'd say sign me up! We've gone to a couple places with Fitz and Brandon and it's always fun," Lizzie said. "Hawaii with you and Charlotte would be a blast! That's the island you're from, right?"

"I am. That's exactly why we'd be going there. I wanted to propose to her where I grew up," Sam said fondly. "Though I think she'll say yes no matter where we are."

"You're not planning to ask in front of your family or something are you?" Lizzie asked as she furrowed her brows. "Don't take this the wrong way because that idea is perfect for some people, but I'm pretty sure Charlotte would hate it."

"No no no!" Sam said quickly. "It would just be the two of us. I know she wouldn't like that."

"It seems like you have it all planned out," Lizzie said, looking between the two men. "Or is there more?"

"A lot more, actually," Sam said. "I need your Charlotte expertise."

"You've become quite an expert yourself over the years," Lizzie reassured him.

"Thank you," Sam said with relief. "I have to be one hundred percent sure that what I'm planning to do is okay."

Lizzie looked at him, confused. "Wait, what do you want to do?" she asked slowly.

"I want to marry her in Hawaii," Sam said simply.

"What!? You're joking!" Lizzie exclaimed, sitting forward in her chair. She stared at him. "You're not joking?" He shook his head and Lizzie glanced to William, who was now smiling. "You want to propose and marry her on this vacation without her knowing anything?"

"I do, actually. For as long as I've been with Charlotte, she's never really been into the details. At least, when it doesn't have to do with work. I'm the one who found our apartment and decorated it. She's a very practical woman and I love that about her," Sam said with a hint of warmth. "You see, she mentioned at the dinner that she'd elope if her family was there and she's told me a few times that she's never really imagined what she would want for her wedding. "Neither of us really like the spotlight, so a big wedding wouldn't be our thing."

"Wow, okay, I see where you're coming from," Lizzie said, bouncing a little in her seat. "This is exciting!"

"I'm glad you think so. How do think Charlotte would feel about this?" Sam asked.

"I know some girls plan their weddings down to the tiniest detail from when they're young but that wasn't either of us. It may have been partly an act of rebellion against our mothers. They were constantly telling us how important having a husband was. We were more independent than that, obviously," Lizzie said proudly before quickly glancing to her husband before looking back to Sam. "That's not to say I don't love being married, especially because my husband doesn't mess with my need for independence. Charlotte is practical. She wouldn't like all the attention that weddings usually bring. She always points the spotlight away from her, so I think she'd go for it."

"I think taking away the anticipation and extra stress that a wedding normally brings may help, as well," William added.

"That's a good point," Sam exhaled before he continued. "One of the only details I've ever wanted when I got married was that it be in Hawaii, specifically on the island I was born and raised. If she truly doesn't care about where and when, then I think this can work. I just need your support. I can plan everything from the proposal to making sure our families are there."

"Of course you have our support, one hundred percent," Lizzie said.

"And you don't have to do all the work. We will help however you need, of course. We'll get Fitz and Brandon in on this and I'm sure they'll be more than happy to lend a hand," William said.

"That would be great. You know, this requires keeping a lot from Charlotte," Sam said. "She can't be suspicious of anything."

"Well, I think you need to start dropping subtle hints about proposing. You guys have been talking about it, right?" Lizzie asked. He nodded. "Don't be obvious or anything, but it will help her out. I'm sure she'll talk to me about it so I'll report back what I can."

"Thank you, Lizzie," Sam said. "Anything will help."

"I waited to propose until I was sure she was ready," William said, taking Lizzie's hand and brushing his finger across her rings. "We got to a comfortable point where we could joke about it and that's how I knew it was the right time. Then it was all a matter of figuring out how to propose."

"You'll find the right time, Sam," Lizzie assured him. "Do you know how you're going to propose?"

"I have an idea for that I'd like to run by you too, actually. I want to make sure it doesn't sound too simple or anything," Sam said.

"We'd love to hear it," William said while Lizzie nodded beside him.

"There's this Hawaiian floral custom…"


December 12th, 2017

Lydia wanted to do something with the whole group for her birthday since it was the first official one she was celebrating since moving to San Francisco. She asked everybody for ideas during the previous dinner and Fitz suggested a restaurant that was attached to a 21-and-over bowling alley. There was something highly appealing about an adult-only bowling alley and she happily agreed to the idea.

The plan was to meet at Mission Bowling Club just after 6 pm so they would have enough time to enjoy dinner. Lizzie and William made special arrangements to have a small cake brought out for Lydia while the table sang happy birthday to her. Afterwards, Lydia opened up gifts and thoroughly thanked each person. The bill was paid and they gravitated towards the bowling alley, where Fitz reserved two lanes.

"Having fun?" Lizzie asked, scooting over to Lydia while William went to go get them each a pair of bowling shoes.

"I am. I'm so happy I got my birthday off!" Lydia bounced in her chair.

"Have you heard anything yet?" Lizzie asked. Lydia showed up at their apartment last Thursday squealing with excitement that she had a job interview for the next day. After congratulating her, both Lizzie and William went directly into business mode, giving her a number of tips on how to answer interview questions. She came by the next day after her interview and brought a bottle of wine, thanking them for all their help. It was all a matter of waiting to hear now.

"No, but I'm not surprised. They were still interviewing people yesterday," Lydia said. "I keep telling myself not to think about it, but it's super hard."

"It's like when someone says to ignore the elephant in the room and then all you can think about is that elephant," Lizzie said.

"Yes! They really seemed to like everything I was saying. I've been there long enough that I know their facial expressions," Lydia said.

"And you deserve it. You know it does no good to obsess about it, though," Lizzie said, warning her gently.

"You're right. No more thinking about it! Today is all about the LY-DEE-YA! I'm with friends and family and we're totes going to have fun!" Lydia said with a decisive nod.

"There you go!" Lizzie said, patting her sister's thigh. "Bowling is always fun, especially with William."

William was a notoriously bad bowler. Having rarely had the opportunity as a child, he didn't pick up a bowling ball until he met Bing and Fitz. As hard as he practiced, he never seemed to improve. It took him a while to get over that fact, too. Despite the jokes were usually told before the game started, he realized that his friends were actually rooting for him. Lizzie once told him how endearing she thought it was that he never gave up, even when his score stayed embarrassingly low. From then on, he concentrated more on getting a smile on his wife's face than focusing on his score. There was little improvement on his game but he enjoyed himself much more.

"I can't believe you found a weakness in Darcinator," Lydia teased before raising her voice as Fitz took a seat on the leather couch across from them. "This is the swankiest bowling alley I've ever been to."

"We don't mess around here, Little B," Fitz replied, taking off his shoes to slip on his red and blue bowling shoes. "We bowl with style."

"He likes that we can enjoy drinks at the lanes," William said, handing pairs of shoes to Lizzie and Lydia. "Your shoes, ladies."

"Thank you," Lizzie said sweetly as William sat down beside her.

"Speaking of," Brandon said as he finished putting on his shoes. "Drinks anyone? First round's on me!"

Once he got everybody's requests, he headed over to the bar to get the drinks started. Charlotte and Sam went over to help and brought all the drinks back, putting them down on the small table between the two couches.

"So, are you ready for me to kick your booty, Mr. Darcy?" Lizzie teased.

"You never know. Maybe I'll double my score from last time," William said, adjusting his laces.

"Which would what? Give you a score of sixty?" Fitz taunted him jokingly, getting a high-five from Charlotte and Lizzie.

"Don't be mean, babe. He tries," Brandon said sympathetically.

"Right," Sam piped up. "Not everybody has the ability to throw a ball in a straight line."

"Don't listen to them," Lizzie nudged her husband. "I think you could try to break fifty this time."

"Seriously? You've never gotten above fifty?" Lydia asked in astonishment.

"I have not," William said simply.

"You are in for a true birthday treat," Fitz said. "It is entertaining to bowl with him. Lizzie, too."

"Oh, I've seen her victory dance plenty of times," Lydia said, grinning when Lizzie stuck her tongue out at her. She turned back to William. "All jokes aside, I'm glad you came."

"I wouldn't miss your birthday celebration just because I'm a poor bowler," William said. "Gigi's even more upset she's missing it now."

"It's no biggie. I'll see her in Tahoe," Lydia said, waving it off. "When is she flying in?"

"Next Saturday," William said, brightening at the thought. "Lizzie and I are picking her up from the airport and then we're heading straight to the cabin."

"Have you seen the weather report?" Fitz asked. "It sounds we're going to get plenty of snow."

"It's going to be a good ski season," William replied.

"As long as there's enough so I can take Scarlett and Charlie out sledding," Lizzie said.

"You'll be more than set," Fitz assured her.

"Good," Lizzie said, standing up. "Now, who's ready to bowl?"

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Four strikes in a row! I'm on fire!" Lizzie roared in triumph, spinning around and pumping her hand in the air. She high-fived Charlotte, who was bowling right next to her, before she started her happy dance. She wiggled her hips and rolled her shoulders before strutting back to the couch, spinning once before sitting down next to William and gloating

"You are a very silly woman," William said lightly.

"You looooove me," Lizzie dragged out with glee.

"I do," William said, leaning in and giving her a congratulatory kiss. They were too caught up in each other to notice Lydia, rolling her eyes and fake-gagging as she got up to take her turn.

"Maybe you should just bowl a perfect game then," William said with a gleam in his eye.

"What do I get if I do?" Lizzie asked as William leaned in closer.

"A celebration not appropriate for the general public," William murmured low enough for only her to hear.

"And if I don't?"

"I'm sure we'll find a good excuse, either way," William said with a wink.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Forty-seven! Forty-seven! Forty-seven!" the group chanted. William was taking his last turn of the first game and he was close to surpassing his highest score yet. All he had to do was knock down two pins to do it.

"No pressure," he mumbled to himself as he picked up his red ball. Lizzie convinced him to pick that color at the beginning of the night because it brought good luck to him before. He was about to find out if it was going to do it again. He made a show of getting into position, knowing it made his wife smile every time. The group hushed each other and he took a deep breath, swinging his arm and throwing the ball. There must have been a curve to his throw because it slowly but surely drifted into the gutter just before reaching the pins. A collective groan came from behind him.

"You've got one more throw, William," Sam said as William waited for the ball to return.

"Shake it off, Darce. You got this," Fitz said, clapping his hands together.

"I won't think any less of you if you want to use the bumpers," Lydia teased.

"It won't feel authentic that way," William shook his head, ignoring the snickers.

"You can do it, Will! I believe in you," Lizzie said. "It's just a measly two pins."

William glanced at her and she blew him a quick kiss for extra luck. He stepped up to the lane again and got in position. He held up the ball and envisioned the path it needed to go down to hit two pins. The group quieted down as he crouched a little and gently tossed the ball. Time seemed to slow down as it rolled down the lane, closer and closer to the pins. He closed his eyes at the last second, heard the distinct sound of pins being knocked down, and then a roar of excitement. He cautiously opened his eyes and noticed only three pins were left standing.

His final score was fifty-four.

He was nearly knocked over as Fitz, Brandon, and Sam hurried over, jostling and congratulating him. The girls were clapping and laughing when they saw the looks of confusion from patrons at the other four lanes. To strangers, his score was nothing to celebrate about but to his friends, they were overjoyed for him. Lizzie jumped up and bounced over to her husband as the guys parted and made room for her. She launched into his arms and he lifted her off the floor as she kissed him, making it the most enthusiastic one of the night. They ignored the hoots and howls and she beamed at him when they pulled away.

"I am so proud of you!" Lizzie said warmly once her feet touched the floor. "I knew you could do it."

"I did not intend to do that," William replied, still not quite believing it.

Lizzie stood up on her toes and kissed his cheek before whispering in his ear. "And now we have something proper to celebrate."

"Okay, lovebirds! Enough flirting," Fitz exclaimed.

"Another game?" Lizzie asked, turning to face him.

"You know it!" Fitz said, throwing a finger gun her way. "Are you in, Darcy?"

"I doubt I'll top that, but I'm willing to try," William said. "Let me get the next round of drinks first. Who wants what?"

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"How's the moving coming along, Lizzie?" Sam asked Lizzie when she came back from her turn. "Last time I saw you, you were debating paint colors."

"Paint colors were picked and everything has been painted!" Lizzie said, sounding relieved. "We got our marquee installed outside yesterday and it looks ah-mazing!"

"I drove by this morning," William said and Lizzie looked surprised. "It looked really good and would totally catch anybody's eye."

"We had lot of our equipment was moved over yesterday but still have more packing up to do," Lizzie said.

"I sympathize," Charlotte piped up. "The good thing is that you're simply moving and not opening up a new location so you can use a lot of what you already have."

"It is helpful but we have twice as much space we need to fill up," Lizzie said. "Plus, some of the furniture I had was rented specifically for that office space. I had to order new chairs and desks and other furniture. We have a huge delivery on Thursday so I'm hoping to finish packing up my own office tomorrow."

"Is it never-ending?" Charlotte asked, sounding sympathetic.

"Yes!" Lizzie groaned. "How did I accumulate so much in such a short amount of time?"

"It's been a few years, Lizzie," William reminded her.

"What has?" Lydia asked, returning from the lane.

"Since I started DEP," Lizzie answered as William got up to take his turn. "I'm just venting about having to pack up so much."

"I'm excited to see your new offices once you're done," Lydia said. Her phone started buzzing before she took her seat and pulled it out of her pocket.

"You're welcome to–" Lizzie stopped when Lydia put her hand up to quiet her down.

"It's the theater!" Lydia breathed, looking to her sister.

"Pick it up!" Lizzie exclaimed, quickly shushing everybody else as she answered. William and Fitz both stopped themselves from throwing their bowling balls down the lane. They both hurried over and waited in anticipation with the rest of the group as Lydia was on the phone.

"—yes, I understand," Lydia paused. "Yes." Lizzie's shoulders slumped a fraction. Lydia's face wasn't giving anything away but it didn't sound like good news from the sound of it. "Thank you again for the opportunity…I will. Thank you."

Lydia hung up the phone and stared at the screen for a moment.

"Lydia?" Lizzie asking softly, sitting forward in her seat.

Lydia glanced to her and her face was unreadable until she let out a giddy laugh. "Holy crap! I'm the newest Assistant Stage Manager."

"You got it?!" Lizzie jumped up from her seat.

"I got it!" Lydia confirmed. The sisters started bouncing up and down with each other, squealing with happiness. For the second time that evening, the group exploded with noise. None of them cared if they were being too loud as they each offered congratulation to Lydia. Fitz swooped her up in a big bear hug and she laughed happily at his enthusiasm.

"I'd say we should go out celebrating but we're already doing that!" Fitz said. "Happy birthday to you! What a perfect birthday gift."

"It really is, isn't it?" Lizzie said, beaming as William gave her a hug.

"You want to tell us what they said?" William suggested after letting her know how proud he was of her.

"Okay. Let me breathe for a second," Lydia said as the rest of them all took a seat on the couches in their section, ready to hear the story in detail. "So firstly, they apologized for calling on my day off…"


Saturday, December 23rd

Lizzie and William got their car all packed up for Tahoe and they double-checked the apartment to see if they were forgetting anything. Lizzie grabbed snacks for the road and then they were off, heading to the airport to pick up Gigi.

"I'm glad that we're spending Christmas in Tahoe this year," William said out of the blue.

"Me too," Lizzie replied. "It'll be a big change from going home."

"A good change, right? You're not having similar feelings like you did at Thanksgiving?" William asked.

"Not at all," Lizzie assured him. "And those feelings are long gone, thanks to you."

"That's what I'm here for. I want my wife to be as happy as she can be," William said tenderly.

"You're succeeding quite well, sir," Lizzie hummed. "Hey, I was wondering what we were doing about decorating. It's kind of late to get a tree."

"Didn't I tell you? I had the cabin professionally decorated. Gigi and I have had it done in the past when we would go up for Christmas," William said as he pulled off the airport exit.

"What? You've never told me this before," Lizzie said, looking surprised.

"It's nice to arrive and have it all set up. There's no worry about needing to find a nice-looking tree," William said, glancing sideways to her. "You've never wondered?"

"I never thought about it," Lizzie furrowed her brows. "I mean, we didn't go during the holidays last year and we spent Christmas in New York the year before because of the twins."

"Ouch. I'm wounded you don't remember the hard work I didn't do," William teased.

"Ha ha." Lizzie stuck her tongue out at him. "I'll make sure to pay more attention this year. Happy now?"

"Very," William replied. "I think you'll like it. I opted for the homey classic Christmas package."

William pulled into the short-term airport lot and easily found a spot. She shivered from the wind when she got out of the car and hurried over to William, who happily let her burrow into his side as they walked to the international terminal.

"We should have made a sign," William said.

"Or dress like a driver?" Lizzie asked, arching an eyebrow. William gave her the most innocent expression and she snickered. "I think your height gives you away."

"I guess you're right," William conceded as he tapped his feet against the ground. Lizzie watched him fidget for a moment before nudging him to get his attention.

"It's not much longer," Lizzie said softly.

"Hmm?" William hummed.

"Until you can see Gigi. Her plane's already landed and you know it takes some time to get through customs," Lizzie said.

"I know," William said.

"You know I can tell when you're excited, right? I'm kind of an expert at this point," Lizzie said "And I would be, too. It's hard enough seeing Jane only a handful of times a year but that's what happens when she lives on the East Coast. You and Gigi are really close and being separated for nearly eight months is difficult."

"I admit that it's been strange to not have her randomly walk into my office and ask me to lunch or see her at our monthly dinners. I'm happy that she's loving what she's doing in London but it's hard not to miss her," William said before adding. "You've definitely made it easier."

"Isn't that what I'm here for?" Lizzie asked playfully and he smiled. "As long as you're both happy. That's what's important. You'll feel best when you see her again," Lizzie said and he nodded. "Plus, I'm sure you'll fall into old patterns where you tease and taunt each other relentlessly and I'll be the one threatening to separate you two within an hour."

William laughed. "Annoying each other is what siblings do best."

"Isn't it? We'll have to step up our parenting game when we have a couple of kids," Lizzie said and William raised an eyebrow. "Make sure they see how well we get along with our siblings more than how often we torment each other."

"I think once kids are in the mix, Gigi will be more occupied trying to be the fun aunt," William said.

"I have no doubts," Lizzie said. "She and Lydia are going to be interesting influences."

"Indeed," William agreed.

There was a small influx of people coming out of the international terminal exit and the two of them focused their attention on the doors, waiting for Gigi. Lizzie had to stop herself from fidgeting as she stood there but waiting for someone was always exhilarating to her. As much as she hated when she or William went away on business, the best part was coming home.

Lizzie spotted Gigi first as she walked out with her bag slung on her shoulder. It took Gigi a moment to see them and then her face completely lit up. She made a beeline for them, bouncing as her steps quickened.

"William!" Gigi squealed, dropping her bag next to them as she flung her arms around him. William laughed lightly and stumbled back a step at her enthusiasm, wrapping his arms around her and hugging her. Lizzie smiled at the sweet display before Gigi started talking a mile a minute. "Oh my god, I missed you two so much! My flight was ridiculously long and I just wanted to be here already!"

"We missed you, too. It's not quite the same without you," William said affectionately, letting go of her a moment later. Gigi turned to Lizzie and immediately gave her a tight hug while William picked up her bag.

"We have so much to catch up on!" Gigi said brightly, pulling away with a huge smile on her face.

"For one, your new hairstyle! I love the bangs!" Lizzie said as Gigi ran a hand through her shorter hair.

"I did it last week! Completely on the whim," Gigi said, looping her arm through Lizzie's as they started to head towards the parking lot. "I walked in and told the hairdresser to change it up. I haven't had it this short in forever. I'm still getting used to the bangs, too. I haven't had them since I was a kid."

"You look very lovely, Gigi. It's a good look on you," William said.

"Thank you, big brother. You're looking quite dashing yourself, as always," Gigi replied, elbowing him.

"Very little effort on my part," William joked.

"Liar. He changed three times," Lizzie said. William narrowed his eyes at her while Gigi laughed. "So, are you ready for some more snow and cold weather?"

"I totally am. I'm in desperate need of a vacay and family time," Gigi said. "Plus, it hasn't snowed yet in London. The weather has been teetering for the past two weeks but no snow!"

"Don't worry. I've been checking the weather and it's been snowing pretty steadily for the past few days in Tahoe. We'll have fresh powder when we go skiing," William said.

"Oh good! I have been looking forward to hitting the slopes with you for weeks," Gigi admitted before glancing to Lizzie. "And getting in some quality sister time with you."

"Me too," Lizzie said. "Maybe you can even squeeze in some time for sledding with me and the twins?"

"Ooh, yes! You don't have to ask me twice!" Gigi replied eagerly. They reached the car within a few minutes and William put her luggage in the back.

"Take the front, Gigi," Lizzie suggested.

"Really? You don't mind?" Gigi asked, reaching for the passenger door.

"Psshh. Are you kidding me? I get enough of this guy as it is," Lizzie said as he came up to her side.

"Oh, I'm feeling loved now," William said. He pretended to look hurt and Lizzie rubbed his back to comfort him.

"Don't worry, William, I will happily sit in the front with you," Gigi said.

"I'm glad someone will," William said pointedly, side-eying his wife while she purposely avoided eye contact with him. Gigi giggled.

"I missed this," Gigi sighed. "I'm so happy to be home."

"We're very happy you're here," William said warmly before glancing to his watch. "Shall we get going? We're going to get there after dark, as it is."

"Why not," Gigi said. "I haven't sat on my butt enough today."

"You have to put in the work before you have fun," Lizzie said, getting into the back seat.

"Really? That means I'm due for a lot of fun," Gigi chuckled. "And maybe a couple drinks, too."

"We'll stop at that store that has your favorite wine when we get to Tahoe," William said.

"Oh my god! I didn't even think of that," Gigi said, hitting her hands on the dashboard in excitement.

"Everybody buckled up?" William asked, turning on the car.

"Yes, Dad," Lizzie and Gigi said simultaneously before Lizzie nearly shouted. "Jinx! You owe me a coke!"

"Damn! I'm rusty! Remind me when we get there," Gigi said to Lizzie before looking at her brother and hitting his shoulder. "Times a wastin', William! Let's get a move on."

"This should be an interesting road trip," William remarked, glancing over his shoulder as he backed out of the parking space.

"It will be fun!" Gigi said, searching through her bag for a moment. After a moment, she made a little noise and pulled out her phone. "Especially since I'm in charge of the music!"

"Since when?" William asked, raising an eyebrow at his sister.

"Since I'm the passenger!" Gigi said.

"Those are the road trip rules," Lizzie agreed as Gigi set up her iPhone. She turned on the radio and turned up the volume before she even started music.

"As driver, I have a right to volume control," William said, adjusting it before he turned onto the road.

"Fine. You'll love it at any volume. Be prepared to hear some out of this world British pop," Gigi grinned. William laughed when she turned on the Spice Girls and he saw Lizzie in the rearview mirror start to bounce her shoulders to the beat.

"I really missed you," William said sincerely. "More than you know."

"I missed you too, big brother," Gigi replied, squeezing his arm. "My days aren't the same without you in them."

"We're really going to have to make the most of this vacation," William said. "Get in some proper Darcy family time."

"I would really like that," Gigi said warmly before twisting in her seat and looking between him and Lizzie. "With the both of you."

Lizzie gave her sister-in-law a genuine smile. "I think that can be arranged."

Chapter Text

“You really outdid yourself this year, William,” Gigi said as they walked into the cabin. The outside of the cabin was adorned with Christmas decorations, from lights framing the house to wreaths hanging on the garage and front doors. A couple of the smaller trees even had strands of lights wrapped around them as well. It looked even more beautiful with freshly fallen snow covering every surface, providing some natural icicle decorations hanging from the roof.

“I wanted it to look nice for the entire family,” William said, putting her suitcase down near the wall before moving his own to the staircase.

“It looks more than nice,” Gigi said, looking around. The inside of the cabin was decked out more than the outside. A large Christmas tree was decorated and sitting between the living room and dining room. Garland with little lights buried within adorned all the wooden beams on the ceiling, the stairway, and the fireplace. More lights framed the large windows opposite of the entrance and the pillows on the furniture had been temporarily replaced with red and white ones. The only thing that was missing were the Christmas stockings and those would be added by Mrs. Bennet once they arrived.

“It smells like Christmas in here!” Lizzie said as she came inside, wiping her shoes off on the mat and dropping her suitcase next to William’s. Her cheeks were already pink from the cold and she brightened at seeing the place. “It looks like Christmas in here. Everybody is going to love this, William! I do.”

“There should be more decorations upstairs too. We’ll be at capacity this year for the first time in a long time,” William said, a note of pride in his voice.

“It’s nice, right?” Gigi asked, elbowing him gently. He glanced to her and nodded with a subtle smile playing on his lips.

“I’m going to get the rest of the stuff from the car so we can get settled before we start with dinner,” William said as he headed for the door. He ran one hand along Lizzie’s back as she turned to go upstairs with her suitcase and she looked over her shoulder before continuing on.

“Did you assign bedrooms this year?” Gigi asked jokingly before he opened the door.

“We’re in the master,” William said, pointing between him and Lizzie as she paused at the top stair. “I figured Jane and Bing would take the room with the bunk beds because of the twins. Um, Fitz and Bing tend to use the studio over the garage and I thought Thomas and Fran would enjoy staying in the guest house.”

“Right,” Gigi stared at him for a moment, giving him a familiar look that told he was being a dorky brother again. She heard Lizzie snicker and caught her slipping out of the room from the corner of her eye. She simply shook her head. “I missed you.”

“I- I missed you too. It’s been a while since we’ve dealt with this many guests. I had to plan it,” William said, smiling sheepishly and rubbing the back of his neck. “The bedrooms down here are free and the one across from Jane and Bing is too.”

“I’ll take the bedroom down here. I can deal with my jet lag a little better that way,” Gigi said, grabbing her luggage.

“Good idea,” William said before zipping up his jacket and heading outside. Once he got the rest of the stuff from the car and locked it, he went back inside and shook the snow out of his hair before slipping off his jacket. It wasn’t snowing steadily enough for him to stop and put chains on their tires to prevent from sliding across the roads. Lizzie made sure to text the rest of the group to inform them about the road conditions. He put away some of the groceries in the kitchen before making his way upstairs, noting that Lizzie brought up his luggage. He found her in the den, standing with her back to him and admiring another Christmas tree, larger than the first. He quietly snuck up behind her and wrapped his arms around her, kissing her temple.

“Hey beautiful,” William said softly. “How are you doing?”

“Good. Much happier now that we’re here,” Lizzie replied, leaning against him as he rested his chin on the top of her head. “I should be asking you the same thing after that drive. Are you tired?”

“I’m fine. I had you and Gigi to keep me alert,” William said. “Your duets were quite entertaining.”

“You can’t not sing along to the songs you know,” Lizzie said matter-of-factly. “It’s like an unwritten rule of road trips.”

“These rules…are they written down or is this a similar situation to Lydia mentioning the reasons why you were perpetually single?” William asked playfully. Lizzie laughed a little.

“You should know them by now, especially with me as your road trip sidekick.” Lizzie said, turning around to face him.

William half-smiled at her. “I’ve been on enough road trips with you to be well-versed in your unwritten rules. It’s actually one of my favorite things when we’re on the road.”

 “You know one thing I enjoy about our road trips?”

“What’s that?” William asked.

“Unwinding afterwards,” Lizzie said.

“I think I know just the thing for that,” William said as she sidled into his side. “Why don’t we unpack a little and then we change into more comfortable clothes, build a fire, and make some dinner?”

“I would like that very much,” Lizzie said as they walked towards their bedroom.

“What can I say? I know what my wife likes,” William said with confidence. “And what she deserves.”

“By your logic, I deserve everything,” Lizzie joked, bumping into his side.

“You do,” William said firmly. “It’s my job to make you aware of that every chance I get.”

 


 

December 24th, 2017 

Lizzie shuffled down to the kitchen and grabbed a blanket off the couch, wrapping it around herself to keep herself warm. It had snowed another two inches overnight and she was chilly. She found William starting on breakfast and took a seat at the table, groaning a little as she sat down.

“Morning,” Lizzie mumbled.

“Good morning. You shouldn’t have pushed yourself so hard this past week,” William said, pulling out breakfast ingredients from the fridge. He had noticed she was moving a little slower while they were packing for their trip to Tahoe but didn’t say anything. She spent most of Friday tracking down a lost moving truck full of office items before unloading half of it herself, with the help of only two other employees. They had gotten everything in just before two and spent the rest of the afternoon unpacking and moving around furniture. She had locked the doors and headed home just before six, took a quick shower and threw on a nice dress for William’s office Christmas party.

“I know. But now I only have to worry about unpacking the boxes in my office when we get back now,” Lizzie replied as she sat down. “And I had fun at your party.”

“But you’re exhausted now,” William said sympathetically. “The drive probably didn’t help you.”

“It’s a good thing we’re on vacation now,” Lizzie said as he walked over to her.

“Good thing, indeed,” William agreed as he started to gently massage her shoulders.

“Oh, that feels good,” Lizzie hummed. “I need a massage after the last few weeks.”

“Maybe even a full body massage,” William said lowly. Lizzie glanced over her shoulder to see a flicker of something in her husband’s eyes. She beckoned him and he crouched down, stopping inches from her face as she turned her body towards him in the chair.

“Are you going to give me one?” Lizzie asked, giving him a spirited look.

“If you’d like me to,” William waggled his eyebrows. He leaned in to kiss her and Lizzie brought a hand up, cupping it around the back of his neck.  Gigi walked in a moment later and cleared her throat before she sat down across from Lizzie.

“I see the happy couple is as happy as ever,” Gigi said lightly as they broke apart. She reached across the table and grabbed a grape from the bowl before tossing it in her mouth.

“Good morning, Gigi,” William said, ignoring his sister’s teasing looks. “Have you been up long?”

“Unfortunately. I tried to sleep longer but my body is used to London time,” Gigi replied. “I was just reading until I heard you two talking.”

“Anything good?” Lizzie asked.

“I’m enjoying it. One of those ‘when will they’ stories. It’s what I can concentrate on with how I’m feeling,” Gigi shrugged. “Jet lag is killer when you’ve been in another time zone for so long!”

“Well, you can relax today. Lydia, Thomas, and Fran aren’t getting in until the evening so I’ve made no plans,” William said before he went back to work on breakfast. “You could sit on the couch and read all day if you wanted to.”

“That is so tempting,” Gigi said. “What are you makin’, brother?”

“Omelets and toast however you like. The fruit’s in front of you,” William gestured. “There’s orange and apple juice in the fridge. Oh, and coffee. Unless you’d like some tea, Gigi.”

“Coffee is for the morning and tea is for the afternoon, William,” Gigi said, catching his teasing tone.

“I apologize. I’m not familiar with the life of a Londoner,” William said, making Lizzie snort. Gigi quickly picked a grape out of the bowl on the table and threw it at him. William was too quick and caught it in his mouth, impressing both Lizzie and his sister.

“That was kind of awesome,” Lizzie remarked, amazed.

“I’ll say. My brother has hidden talents,” Gigi said in surprise.

“You can close your mouths. It was a lucky catch,” William said, downplaying it.

“Of course it was,” Gigi said.

“Best not to question it,” Lizzie said casually. “I’ll get us both coffee.”

“Make mine black,” Gigi said, thanking her. “I need to get rid of this jet lag sooner rather than later.”

~~~~~~~~~

“I’ll be right back,” William said. After they had finished breakfast and cleaned the dishes, Lizzie, William, and Gigi migrated into the living room. They were watching It’s a Wonderful Life on television and both girls kept moving to get in more comfortable positions. He knew Lizzie was sore and Gigi was dealing with a serious case of jet lag. It was clear to William what needed to be done. He excused himself from the room for a few moments to go upstairs before returning and pausing the TV. “I was going to wait to do this but it’s obvious that you both need it now.”

“What’s that?” Lizzie asked, noting the envelopes in his hand.

It’s an early Christmas present,” William said. “I didn’t really want to ruin the surprise but I’m really just telling you a few hours earlier than planned.”

Lizzie instantly started pleading playfully. “Pleeeease? Pretty please? Pretty please tell us.” Gigi joined in and clasped her hands together, silently begging and bouncing in her seat.

William sighed and quirked an eyebrow at their antics. “What am I going to do with the two of you?”

“Don’t toy with us, William,” Lizzie gave him a mock warning look and William chuckled.

He handed them each an envelope and the two women exchanged eager looks before opening them up.

“A full body massage! Oh, I could kiss you!” Lizzie exclaimed before choosing to do just that. She put down the envelope and grabbed his face, pulling him in close and kissing him softly. She kept it short because of the company and smiled at him when they broke apart. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome,” William replied, pleased to see her happy about the gift.

“I’m not going to kiss you but I do love you for this,” Gigi said, reaching over and hugging him. “This is seriously my favorite place here! I can’t believe you remembered.”

“Of course I would,” William said with a little smile. “You’re both scheduled for two-hour massages today after lunch. I was planning to take you two to lunch and then drop you off so I can get a couple of errands done. In the meantime, we can finish the movie and take it easy until we need to leave.”

“Good. I had no intentions of doing anything productive today,” Gigi said, grabbing the remote and going back to the smaller couch, covering herself with a blanket.

“She has the right idea,” Lizzie said. She tugged on William’s arm and he took her cue to get up from the coffee table, taking a seat next to her. She grabbed the other blanket and rested her head on her husband’s leg, squirming until she got comfortable. “Okay, ready.”

“Good. My favorite scene is coming up!” Gigi grinned.

“The phone call scene?” Lizzie asked, glancing at her.

“Seriously! Is there any other scene better than that?” Gigi said enthusiastically.

“It’s gold,” Lizzie agreed. “The way they get closer and closer. Ugh!”

“Ladies?” said William, trying to get their attention. “As much as I love the discussion about upcoming attractions, do you mind if we actually watch it?”

“Oh! Sorry,” Gigi said with a sheepish look before unpausing it.

“Every year,” William mumbled under his breath.

~~~~~~~~~~

After lunch, William dropped off Lizzie and Gigi at the spa with promises to return when they were finished. He had a couple of things to pick up for tomorrow and headed to the closest shopping center. Despite the chilly temperatures, it appeared that many were out running errands on Christmas Eve Day. Particularly parents with children and expectant mothers. At least, that’s all William was noticing. Siblings happily singing Christmas carols and holding their parents’ hands as they passed him, two pregnant women chatting in a store and temporarily blocking the aisle he was trying to go down, and a toddler who stared at him in wonder while he stood in line. He offered her a smile and she smiled back before giggling and hiding her face in her mother’s neck. As he entered the last store, he held the door open for a mother and little baby sleeping in a stroller.

It was hard not to notice and even harder not to imagine himself in their position. More and more lately, his mind had been wandering to the idea of children ever since he and Lizzie had decided to start a family. They had agreed not to let the baby-making process change things between them and it hadn’t so far. They only made the decision a month ago but he had hoped their wait would be a short one. Still, he couldn’t stop the pang of disappointment when he heard that familiar groan of annoyance Lizzie would make whenever her time of the month came; this time, a little earlier than she expected and on her first day off after such a hectic week.

William knew he was being impatient. He knew it was illogical to think Lizzie could get pregnant so quickly. He had done the research. He couldn’t help but do a little research. His curious mind wanted to know things like how long the average woman took to get pregnant once stopping birth control. Of course, he’d never tell Lizzie he looked that up.

It had to be the holidays getting to him. They were a time for family and it had only been him and Gigi for so long. Their usual tradition had been to retreat to Tahoe during the holidays, spend as much time with each other as they could, and get out on the slopes. It made the holidays more bearable, especially during those first few years without their parents.

When Lizzie came along, everything changed. She instantly made the two of them feel part of a bigger family and it was wonderful. Lizzie had filled a void his parents left and she helped him feel more comfortable in his own skin again. She opened up parts of him that he thought were closed off for good. Being surrounded by her own family each Christmas brought back precious memories of happier times with his parents. Watching Lizzie’s family slowly grow made him crave the same thing. He was eager for that prospect and when she said she was ready, something expanded within him. He was simply realizing today that maybe he was too eager. They had made a promise to each other that it wouldn’t change things between them and he was in danger of letting it overtake his thoughts. He would have to put them to the back of his mind so he could enjoy every moment with his wife without anything holding him back or distracting him and he resolved to do just that from now on.

~~~~~~~~

After William picked up a much more relaxed Lizzie and Gigi from the spa, he took them back to the cabin and made sure they drank plenty of water. Lydia, and Mr. and Mrs. Bennet arrived shortly before dinner and he helped them all get settled in. Christmas Eve dinner was a success and Mrs. Bennet surprised everyone with homemade chocolate chip and peppermint cookies for dessert. Afterwards, they gathered in the living room and watched A Christmas Story. While it was another must-watch for the Bennet family, only Lydia and William made it to the end. Mr. and Mrs Bennet excused themselves halfway through the movie and both Lizzie and Gigi fell asleep, still relaxed from their massages. Lydia and William cleaned up the living room after guiding Gigi the right way to her bedroom. William didn’t bother to wake Lizzie up and simply carried her upstairs to bed. Once he put all the Christmas presents under the tree upstairs, he returned to their bedroom and changed into warm pajamas. He slid into bed and smiled to himself when his wife instinctively curled into his side. He kissed the top of her head and whispered goodnight before drifting off to sleep.

Christmas Day came and went in a flash. Too much delicious food was eaten throughout the day and nobody made excuses for themselves. Presents were opened in the morning and worn or played with in the afternoon. The family spent at least an hour on Domino with Jane and Bing and the rest of the Lee family, although Caroline barely made an appearance and Signore Hair was nowhere to be seen.

Lizzie promised William that she had more presents for him but he’d have to wait a bit longer for them. They declared some time to themselves when there was a break in the snowy weather and the sun peaked through the clouds. They threw on their coats and other layers and took a walk by the lake, their joined hands tucked in William’s coat pocket and talking of nothing consequential. He cleared a bench of snow and they sat for a while, enjoying the peace and quiet of the lake. Too soon, the sun disappeared behind the clouds again and the threat of snow was imminent. Before they headed back, Lizzie pulled her husband in for a long and slow kiss. By the time they broke apart, the first flakes had begun to fall.

“I suppose we should go back,” William said as he peered up.

“I suppose we should,” Lizzie said, sighing as he kissed each of her pinkened cheeks. They stood up and dusted off the freshly fallen snow before they began to head back. He tucked their joined hands back into his jacket pocket and she leaned into him as they leisurely walked back. “Merry Christmas, Mr. Darcy.”

William kissed her temple before murmuring, “Merry Christmas to you too, Mrs. Darcy.”

~~~~~~~~~

Over the next two days, William and Gigi hit the slopes with an eager Lydia, who was hoping to learn how to ski. Lizzie’s parents chose to stay behind at the cabin on both days and Lizzie didn’t even attempt to coerce either of them to come with them. Mrs. Bennet was baking enough delicious treats to feed an army while Mr. Bennet was engrossed in a rare collector’s edition book about trains that William gave him for Christmas.

Lydia picked up the skiing basics surprisingly better than her older sister and she was making it down the bunny slopes on the first day with only two falls under her belt. Lizzie was rather impressed with her sister’s skills and she even watched the tail end of her last run when she left the comfort of the lodge fire to watch from the deck. On the second day, while Lydia convinced Gigi to take her to a more challenging slopes, William and Lizzie practiced sledding in preparation for the twins’ arrival. They were exhausted by the end of the afternoon from trudging up the hill so many times but loved every minute of it.

They met up with the equally worn-out Lydia and Gigi at the lodge just as the sun was starting to set and headed back to the cabin. It was a delight to return to a roaring fire and dinner in the oven. After hot showers and getting into comfortable clothes, they all sat down for a nice, quiet dinner.

Lizzie felt like it was the calm before the storm since their friends and the Lees were all arriving tomorrow. It wasn’t long afterwards that everybody retreated to their own bedrooms, all too tired to make an effort in spending quality time with each other. William built a small fire and the two of them laid in bed, snuggling under the covers and watching the snow fall outside until they fell asleep.

 


 

December 28th, 2017 

Fitz, Brandon, Sam, and Charlotte were all due to arrive sometime mid-morning so Lizzie and William were making sure the bedrooms were all set for guests. Gigi couldn’t seem to sit still and Lizzie knew it was because she was looking forward to seeing Fitz. She put her energy to good use and took charge of the two empty bedrooms in the main house, making all the beds with Lydia.

“I need you to do me a little favor,” William began as he and Lizzie were making the bed in the studio above the garage. She glanced up from stuffing a pillow into a pillow case and he continued. “Could you distract Charlotte for a little while once she and Sam get here?”

“Is this Hawaii related?” Lizzie asked curiously.

“It is,” William replied, a bit evasively. She looked at him and studied his face for a few moments but he wasn’t giving anything away.

“You’re terrible,” Lizzie pouted. She caught the split second twitch of his lips and she shook her head. “Do you need Fitz and Brandon, too?”

 “At least one of them,” William said, tossing the last pillow to the head of the bed.

“As long as you fill me in later,” Lizzie threatened. “I’ll help.”

“I promise,” William said with a smile, smoothing out the bed.

~~~~~~~~~

Distracting Charlotte turned out to be easier than expected. She and Sam were the first to arrive and they had just enough time to settle into their room before joining everybody in the living room. The sound of a horn signaled a car pulling up and everybody except Mr. and Mrs. Bennet rushed to put on their jackets to go outside. William and Sam immediately went to help Brandon with their things so they could slip into the studio to talk while Fitz and Gigi conveniently caused a scene.

“Gigi D!” Fitz shouted, throwing his arms out. “Get over here!”

“Fitz!” Gigi squealed, running with a little skip in her step. She practically threw herself into his arms and he spun her around as they laughed with joy. “Oh my god. It’s so good to get a real hug from you! I missed you, Fitz.”

“I missed you too! You look thinner. Are you eating enough over there? You better be,” Fitz said, putting her down.

“Oh, shut up!” Gigi laughed, slapping his arm. “I’m eating three meals a day. I’m simply in good shape from walking everywhere. London is a city for walking.”

“That’s what I like to hear,” Fitz said before looking around to see if William was in the vicinity. “Now, speaking of good shape, you never finished the story about that weekend with the hot Swiss dude.”

“Wait, what is this about?” Charlotte asked, raising her eyebrows in interest.

“Hey, you never told me about this guy!” Lizzie said with a glare.

“Geez, can’t a girl have a little fun once in a while?” Gigi asked casually.

“Totes! You just need to share the deets,” Lydia said, linking arms with her.

“Let’s get inside so you can spill,” Fitz said, nudging and herding the girls towards the main house. He quickly glanced over at Lizzie and winked at her. She realized that he was in on the game of distracting Charlotte and the rest of the girls and he had found a weak spot that would guarantee plenty of time for William. She gave him a thankful look and followed the group inside for warmer temperatures and juicy stories.

~~~~~~~~~~

Jane and Bing and the twins arrived late in the afternoon and Mrs. Bennet turned it into a big fanfare, wanting everybody to watch the kids open the rest of their presents in front of everybody. The kids were so exhausted from jet lag and the time change that they fell asleep before getting through everything. Jane and Bing put them to bed and returned in time to open the rest and exchange gifts with everybody. William and Lizzie didn’t get a moment alone with each other until they were getting ready for bed.

When Lizzie asked William what the three of them had accomplished, he proceeded to tell her the complex plans for the trip. While the plan was to be in Hawaii for less than a week, Sam had Charlotte believing that the trip would be lasting for two so they would have time for a honeymoon. Fitz and Brandon had graciously offered their timeshare in Fiji and helped Sam find a great deal on plane tickets since it wasn’t peak season for traveling to the South Pacific. Both families had been notified and had happily stepped up to take care of anything not already being covered by Sam or William.

“—so all you really need to do is enjoy the trip,” William finished up.

“And make believe I’m going to Hawaii for two weeks,” Lizzie added, pulling back the covers of the bed.

“Well, we could if you wanted to,” William said teasingly.

“Oh sure. That wouldn’t cut into your LA trip at all,” Lizzie reminded him as she climbed into bed. “Besides, four days away from the new offices seems to be reasonable. I have no idea what the new year will bring the company.”

“I think…” William started, grabbing her hand and tugging her over to him. She gave him a sly look and crawled into his lap. “…The upcoming year will bring some wonderful opportunities for the both of us.”

“I think so, too,” Lizzie nodded in agreement. She placed her hands on either side of his neck and leaned in to kiss him softly. “You know I have another job to do besides enjoy myself in Hawaii?”

“Oh? Does it have to do with me?” William asked jokingly.

“Not everything has to do with you, sir. Even if we’re celebrating our third wedding anniversary there,” Lizzie snorted, climbing out of his lap and settling onto her side. “I’ll have to help Charlotte find something to wear. I’m not even sure what I should be wearing to a surprise wedding.”

“I’ll be looking at you, regardless,” William said warmly.

“What? You stare? Never,” Lizzie teased.

“Funny,” William said flatly before he kissed the top of her head. They laid there in silence for a few minutes, listening to the stillness of the night and the lack of noise coming from the rest of the house.

Lizzie was the one to break the silence. “You know, I’m onto you, Will.”

“What? What did I do?” William asked in surprise.

“I know you’re planning something for my birthday too. That’s why you didn’t want me in the same room,” Lizzie answered.

“I…No. I needed you to distract Charlotte,” William said in a huff.

“Fitz had total control of that situation,” Lizzie said, looking at him. “It’s fine. I did something big for you on your thirtieth birthday. I kind of assumed you would do the same.”

“That’s rather presumptuous of you,” William said with a raised eyebrow.

“Just tell me how many days I should expect to take off work and if we’re going alone and I won’t bug you again about details,” Lizzie said in a negotiating tone. “Will. William,” Lizzie kept on poking him so she could get him to look at her; she know he’d cave if she did. “William Fitzwilliam Darcy.”

He sighed and met her gaze. “It’s on your birthday weekend. You can take off part of or all of that Friday and we won’t be alone. Happy now?”

Lizzie looked gleeful. “Yep.”

“I’m glad one of us is,” William muttered. Lizzie laughed and pulled herself up to face him, kissing him on the lips until he responded. He brought a hand up and wrapped it around the back of her neck, making sure the kiss lasted as long as it did. She rested her forehead against his when they finally broke away.

“If it makes you feel better, you’ve barely given anything away. You simply made me aware so I’m prepared,” Lizzie said. “I will still love wherever we’re going and with whomever we’re celebrating with.”

“That’s all I need to hear,” William murmured, brushing his fingers across her cheek.

“I thought so,” Lizzie smiled before lying back down on his shoulder. William wrapped an arm around her and she snuggled in closer.

“I love you,” William whispered.

“Love you too,” Lizzie whispered back.

 


 

December 31st, 2015 

“Come on, Scarlett,” Lizzie said in exasperation as the toddler struggled with her. Over the past three days, she had been helping get Charlie and Scarlett ready whenever they wanted to go outside. The appeal of the snow made that desire for the two toddlers quite often. Lizzie learned pretty quickly that Charlie was the easier one to dress. That is, when he actually let her. He usually wanted Bing or William to do it and then he would be ready in a few minutes. Scarlett, on the other hand, was antsy and never stood still long enough for Lizzie to get more than one item of clothing at a time. She didn’t dared look at William because if she did, she’d see him struggling to keep in that smug little grin of his.

“Okay, Scarlett,” Lizzie stopped, dropping her hands to her lap. “You win. You don’t have to wear your jacket.”

“Yay!” Scarlett jumped up and down. Jane whipped her head to look disapprovingly at her sister while she was wrapping a scarf around Charlie.

“Lizzie!” Jane scolded.

“Don’t worry, Jane,” Lizzie said reassuringly. “Scarlett’s not going sledding with us.”

Jane held back a smile and just barely nodded at her, giving tacit approval to Lizzie’s strategy.

“But I wanna sled!” Scarlett pouted.

“I’m sorry, sweetie. Little girls who don’t wear their warm clothes can’t go sledding. It’s the rules,” Lizzie said, shrugging at her niece. “I don’t make them. I just follow them.”

Lizzie and Jane watched Scarlett and waited for the inevitable meltdown but it never came. Scarlett simply stomped her foot and gave up her fight. It only took a few minutes to get the twins completely dressed and ready before they were temporarily handed off to Bing and William.

“I’ve got to hand it to you,” Jane started, bundling herself up. “Scarlett can be tricky but you seem to have her figured out.”

“She can’t win with me every time,” Lizzie said, pulling on her gloves. “She’s like a tiny version of Lydia and we know Lydia well.”

“She really is!” Jane said. “She has the same energy. Charlie is like the polar opposite but he get caught up in her whirlwind sometimes.”

“You’ve got some truly adorable kids, Jane.” Lizzie said, zipping up her jacket. “Speaking of, shall we go join them?”

“Yes! I’m so glad they really enjoy sledding,” Jane said fondly. “And they love going with you.”

“We’ll have to push them even harder today then,” Lizzie said. “Make sure they fall asleep as soon as their heads hit their pillows.”

“So you’ve figured out my plan,” Jane said, a bit mischievously. They both laughed as they headed outside to join the others for a day of snowy weather and sledding.

~~~~~~~~~~~

It was ten minutes to midnight and most of the houseguests in the Darcy cabin were still up, waiting for the final countdown of the New Year. The twins were put to bed at their regular time and Mr. and Mrs. Bennet had called it a night by ten o’clock. Everybody else was enjoying the quiet affair, having a few drinks and occasionally watching the entertainment on the television.

William had been deep in conversation with Sam and Fitz when Lizzie handed them all flutes of champagne before sliding her arm around his waist.

“Are you conspiring over here?” Lizzie asked casually.

“Aren’t we always?” Sam replied with a twinkle in his eye.

“Fitz, I think Sam is hanging out with you too much. He’s sounding just like you,” Lizzie joked.

“He’s stealing my best lines!” Fitz said, bringing his flute of champagne up to his lips.

“No! That’s for the toast!” Lizzie said quickly, causing Fitz to stop.

“Sorry,” Fitz apologized, bringing the glass back down to his side. Brandon caught his attention from across the room and Fitz shrugged before flashing him a sheepish smile.

“I suppose I should get to it,” William chuckled before clearing his throat and clinking his glass. Everybody sitting stood up to face him and he smiled at them when he had the room’s attention. “I hope everyone is having a good time this evening.”

“We’re not at work, Darce. Read the room. You know we’re having a good time,” Fitz said cheekily. William rolled his eyes at him and he heard Lizzie snicker.

Anyway, I wanted…Actually, we wanted…” William corrected himself and put his arm around his wife’s waist. “…to thank everyone for being able to join us. I don’t think I can remember the last time this cabin has been filled with this many people. I can safely say it has been a joy to be surrounded by our family and friends during the holidays. It has been particularly wonderful to have my sister home right now, even for the short time that she is,” William said, nodding and raising his glass when his sister smiled and raised hers. “This past year has brought forth many changes to each and every one of us that paved the way for much more. I can only hope that this upcoming year is even better than the last. Happy New Year, everyone!”

“Happy New Year!” everybody replied as they clinked glasses. Soon enough, the final countdown was being broadcast and they counted down, ready to celebrate. As soon as the clock struck midnight, there was a cheer from the group before they exchanged hugs and kisses. Jane and Bing hurried upstairs to check on the twins as the fireworks started out on the lake. William was standing behind Lizzie and had his arms wrapped around her, occasionally kissing her temple or cheek as the fireworks went off. The rest of the group staying inside and watched in silence. Spending the first few minutes with family and friends while watching the sky light up felt like the perfect way to bring in the New Year. William gave Lizzie a gentle squeeze and she looked back to smile at him. He had a feeling that it was going to be a memorable year.

 


 

January 1st, 2018 

Lizzie and William didn’t make it into bed until nearly one am but she found herself awake as the sun began to filter into their room. The most surprising thing was that she felt completely refreshed. She looked to William next to her and he was still fast asleep, a hint of a smile playing on the corners of his lips. She adored that expression on her husband. He looked so boyish and relaxed and it usually meant he was dreaming of something pleasant. She laid there for a few moments and watched the steady rise and fall of his chest before coming to the conclusion that he would need some help in waking up. Now would be the perfect time to give him his last Christmas present.

She slipped out of bed without waking him, grabbed a blanket, and wrapped it around herself. She took a quick glance outside and noticed there was some freshly fallen snow on the balcony. There was more snow this year than previous years, but she liked it. It provided more excuses for tea and snuggling with her husband. She hesitated in closing the curtains when she saw how the sun lit him up, accentuating the golden hue of his skin. Letting out a small appreciative sigh, Lizzie pulled them closed before walking into the bathroom to change.

When she emerged, she was thankful to see that William was still asleep. She hurried across the cold floor on her tiptoes, holding down the oversized button-down shirt she wore to cover any bit of bare skin she could. Lifting the duvet, she got back into bed as quietly as she could. He stirred as she moved above him and she stopped until he relaxed. She straddled him without touching his sides and leaned down close to his ear, pressing one hand to his pillow to keep herself steady.

“Will,” Lizzie whispered softly before grazing her fingertips across his parted lips. He licked his lips and pressed them together but didn’t wake. She whispered his name again and nipped at his earlobe. “It’s time to wake up.”

A low noise escaped William’s throat, a sign that he was slowly waking up. She hummed his name and her gentle plea once more before running her fingers through his mussed up hair, feeling him move beneath her. She pulled back and watched a smile slowly grow on his face before his eyes fluttered open.

“Good morning,” Lizzie said warmly, pushing her hands against his bare chest and settling on his thighs before arranging the sheets to cover her thighs.

“Morning,” William said gruffly as he rubbed his hands down his face. “To what do I owe the pleasure of this beautiful wake-up call?”

“It’s a new year,” Lizzie said, leaning forward a little. “I thought you’d like me to be the first thing you see.”

“You’d be right,” William replied. Lizzie watched as his gaze traveled up and down her body and she waited until his eyes met hers. “Are you wearing my shirt you gave me for Christmas?”

“Yes and you’ll be happy to know it’s quite comfortable,” Lizzie said playfully. William snorted and laid his hands down on her lower thighs, slowly moving them up and trying to pull away the sheet. Lizzie pushed away his hands and shook her head. “No peeking.”

“No…peeking?” William asked in confusion, furrowing his brows.

“At your last Christmas present,” Lizzie said. “Don’t you remember?”

“I recall you teasing me about having to wait until later,” William said. He sat up, quickly kissed her, and adjusted the pillow behind him before scooting back and resting against the headboard. Then he wrapped his hands around the back of her knees and pulled her forward, making her gasp in delight. It was obvious just how awake her husband was and she caught the pleased look in his eyes as he maneuvered her. She felt that same spark begin to flow within her as she made herself comfortable on top of him. “Much better.”

“Was I too far away from you?” Lizzie joked, resting her arms on his shoulders.

“Very,” William exhaled. He brushed his fingers along the outside of her lower thighs as he spoke. “May I have my Christmas present now?”

“You may,” Lizzie said, toying with the hairs on the back of his neck. “The question is if you want me to unwrap it for you or if you want to unwrap it yourself.”

“Why do you ask a question you already know the answer to?” William asked.

“Because I love to hold you in suspense for just a little bit longer than necessary,” Lizzie said smugly. “So…who gets the honors?”

“Considering it’s my present, I’ll do the unwrapping,” William said, eying the way his shirt enveloped her. “Even though I love the way you look in this.”

“I have a feeling you might love your present more,” Lizzie said with a little smile.

“You know I will,” William murmured. Lizzie watched the movement of his hands as he reached forward and unbuttoned the first button. He leaned in and pressed his lips to the sliver of skin now exposed. She let out a little breath as he kissed his way up the column of her throat and she arched her neck as he made his way to the spot just below her ear. She slid a hand into his hair and grabbed a fistful as he nipped at her skin. He skillfully began to unbutton the rest of her shirt with one hand and without looking. She felt the mixture of cool air and the heat from his body as he pushed the shirt down her arms, letting it pool behind her. A little whimper escaped her and she opened her eyes when he stopped and pulled away to look at her. 

“Damn,” William breathed as he leaned against the headboard, dropping his hands to her thighs. Lizzie was wearing a holly-colored silk and black lace lingerie set that accentuated her porcelain skin. The bra plunged low in the middle and the beautiful balcony design with the layered silk covering the bottom half was partially what made her buy it in the first place. Her matching underwear gave the viewer the allusion that she was showing more skin through the lace with the Brazilian design. It was sexy without being overly so.

“I couldn’t resist when I saw it,” Lizzie said. “I bought it for you as much as I did for myself.”

“There’s nothing wrong with a little…indulgence,” William said huskily, brushing his fingers along the scalloped edges of her bra. “I’m torn.”

“Between?” Lizzie asked curiously.

“Committing this look to memory and taking my sweet time,” William said, returning his gaze to her own. “Or ripping this off and having my way with you.”

Lizzie thought about it. They were both irresistible offers. She knew both would result in his hands all over her and an incredible amount of pleasure. Except that sometimes when she dressed in lingerie like this, she liked to be in control. She loved bringing William to his knees and begging for more. The urge was strong right now. Between his obvious growing desire for her that was getting her own blood pumping and that darkening look of need in his eyes, she knew he wouldn’t be able to say no.

“Or…” Lizzie began as she pressed her hands to his chest. She could feel his steady heartbeat as she lowered one hand slowly while keeping her focus on him. His breath quickened as her fingers slipped beneath the band of his boxer-briefs and he dropped his head against the headboard, groaning as she wrapped her fingers around him. “…You can sit back and enjoy the rest of your last Christmas present.”

“The rest?” William swallowed. Lizzie nodded and let go of him. She tugged on his boxer-briefs and he lifted his hips, helping her remove them. She flung them away and took a moment to blatantly appreciate her husband’s very naked body. She placed a single kiss on the center of his chest before she slowly worked her way down, subtly wiggling her hips to give him something to watch. She pulled her hair to one side and looked up at him through her eyelashes, teasing him by tracing her tongue across her lips. “Lizzie…”

She didn’t let him finish his thought as she grabbed the base of him and gave him the gentlest squeeze. His hips jerked under her touch and a thrill went through her veins, loving how easily she could bring him pleasure. Teasing him a little further, she darted her tongue out and licked his tip. William let out a rumbling noise and something sparked in the pit of her belly. She took him in her mouth and that rumble turned into a deep groan. He slid his fingers through her hair and grabbed a fistful, holding onto her as she tasted every inch she could. She could feel him throbbing for her and that spark inside her began to roar to life. There was the need for more steadily rising between them and just the thought of what was coming made her moan. William’s grip tightened and he tugged her hair a bit before growling her name. She released him and she barely had time to sit up before he grabbed her waist and flipped them over.

“Are you in a hurry to end this?” William asked roughly.

“No but maybe I can help move it along,” Lizzie teased, reaching behind and unhooking her bra. She shrugged out of it and dangled it in the air beside him. He took it from her hands and tossed it over his shoulder before diving into her neck, making her laugh. It quickly turned into open-mouthed kisses and he worked his way down past her collar bone to the valley of her breasts. She sighed softly as he brought his lips to her peak and dragging his tongue in circles around her nipple. He cupped her other breast and massaged her, giving each of them equal attention. Her hips bucked when he lightly pinched one nipple and bit the other. He dragged the tip of his tongue to her other breast to give it the same attention and slid a hand down her stomach before slipping into her underwear. She couldn’t stop the breathy ‘yes’ that escaped her as he traced her outer sex with his fingers and she felt his lips curl up against her.

She closed her eyes and became lost in the sensation of his hands and mouth. She truly adored this man above her. Lizzie gripped at the sheets on the bed as William brought her closer and closer to the edge. She bit the inside of her cheek to keep from making too much noise, for fear someone in the house would hear them. Another flick of his thumb and her mind went blank as her eyes rolled to the back of her head. He was winding her up with each inner stroke and she was whimpering for relief. Finally, he moved his fingers in such a perfect way that her back arched with the bliss spreading throughout her. William brought her down slowly as her body hummed with pleasure, then he slid her underwear down her legs and tossed them aside with the rest of their discarded clothing.

“I love you,” William whispered tenderly, settling between her legs. A smile spread across her face and she whispered it back before pulling him down to kiss her. She ran her hands through his hair before sliding her arms around his neck as he entered her slowly. He set a slower rhythm between them and thrust into her in a way that she could feel every part of him. She moaned into his mouth and lifted her legs, wrapping them behind his back and locking her ankles. There was so much confidence and strength coming from him in every stroke and it was intoxicating. She squeezed her legs around him and rocked her hips, pushing him deeper inside her and dragging out those sweet noises from her husband’s lips.

William bent down and kissed her with a languid passion that she got lost in. All she could process was the weight of his slick body above her own, the growing friction between them, and him nipping at her lips. When she felt his hand ghosting down her overheated skin to where they were joined, she slammed her eyes shut as her hips snapped into his from his feather-light touch. She was right there teetering on the edge and she grabbed his back, feeling his muscles working overtime beneath her palm. He moved at just the right angle and she whimpered his name as she climaxed. She could feel it all the way down to the tip of her toes and she sighed in delight. William’s rhythm became quicker and a little more frantic and she helped him along, wanting him to feel the same kind of pleasure. She rolled her hips and squeezed her inner muscles and he faltered and gasped, looking at her with a kind of awe. She did it once more and he groaned out her name before dropping his head to her shoulder as he came. Lizzie held him tightly, letting him bask in his own release.

They worked to even out their breathing and laid there, still connected and making no effort to untangle themselves. These intimate moments was one of Lizzie’s favorite parts. She could feel the quickened rhythm of her husband’s heartbeat that seemed to match her own. She smiled when he placed a few kisses in the crook of her neck and she sighed contently. He lifted his head to look at her before smiling back. He kissed her forehead as he pulled out of her and then rolled them onto their side, getting into a more comfortable position.

“Good way to start a new year,” William remarked and Lizzie snickered.

“No, the best way,” Lizzie corrected him, brushing her fingertips down his cheek.

“It really is,” William said warmly, kissing her temple.

“Do you think anybody heard us?” Lizzie asked curiously, making William laugh.

“For all our sakes, I sincerely hope not,” William replied. “Besides, I’ve heard far louder from you. What about Point-no-Point? Or remember that time in Paris?”

“Oh my god,” Lizzie groaned.

“When the manager was banging on the door…” William continued, playfully swatting her hand away as she tried to cover his mouth, “…because the people next door thought you were being harmed?”

“Stop!” Lizzie hid her face in his shoulder and laughed.

“Then when he realized what was happening, he congratulated me,” William finished. Lizzie snorted loudly at the memory.

When she finally looked at him a few moments later, her cheeks were still red. “And I’m suddenly home sick for our own bedroom where our walls are thick.”

“You and me both, Mrs. Darcy,” William agreed.

~~~~~~~~~

On the first day of the year, everyone discussed their upcoming plans. William and Fitz were working on a new application for the digital audience that would be revealed later in the year and Lizzie was happy to be settling into her new offices. She found it difficult to keep her mouth shut when Charlotte mentioned her excitement of their upcoming tropical vacation. She had no idea what was coming and Lizzie was giddy for her bestie’s future.

Lydia shared details about her new position. The theater had been dark for the holidays and wouldn’t be opening for another two weeks. Lydia would be starting her training in two days and the theater was getting ready for a new gothic musical that would be going through previews for an undetermined amount of time, depending on how it would be received.

Gigi was heading back to London the next day and while she talked in length about her love of the city, Lizzie slipped her hand into William’s, giving him a little bit of comfort. She knew how much he had missed his sister over the past months and would continue to miss her. He had confessed late last night that he wasn’t sure if and when she would be moving back to the States but he was incredibly proud of her regardless. He was looking forward to seeing her again at end of February during a lengthy business trip and would know more about her plans by then.

Jane and Bing were heading back to New York with the twins and diving right back into their schedule. Bing had new ideas for the center to provide more assistance to those in need. Jane had plans to improve on a line she was currently working on. Scarlett loudly announced she would be helping her mommy and being her model. Charlie happily kept his nose in the large book he was pretending to read as he sat next to his dad and it was clear what he was going to do this year.

Mr. and Mrs. Bennet had finally settled into their new town and were making a few friends their age. Mr. Bennet was glad that he was able to transfer for work and found two coworkers who also had a love of trains. It was a smaller town but it provided plenty for Mrs. Bennet to gossip about. She was even thinking about joining the local women’s book club and lending a hand at the small book shop. All in all, the upcoming year would be busy for everyone.

Everyone spent the rest of the day close to the cabin. Lizzie helped Jane one last time to get the twins into snow gear and got help from a few of the guys in showing the twins how to build a snowman. Dinner was a big but relaxed affair and the couples spent the evening near the fireplace, watching an old movie.

Jane, Bing, and the twins were the first to head home the next morning. Special attention was paid to everyone’s choice of parting words in order to successfully avoid a flood of tears from the little ones. Mr. and Mrs. Bennet left shortly afterwards with promises of plenty of phone calls. Everybody else took their time packing up their cars and hit the road right after lunch. Lydia hitched a ride with Sam and Charlotte since they were the only ones going straight home instead of stopping at the airport.

“You didn’t have to come with us to the airport, Fitz!” Gigi said as William took her suitcase out of the car.

“I didn’t have to but I wanted to,” Fitz replied pointedly. “You know me, Gigi D. I can’t resist.”

Gigi smiled at him before looking at Brandon. “Bless you for keeping up with him.”

“What else am I gonna do? I’m stuck with him now,” Brandon said with a shrug. Fitz shoved him and Brandon laughed, taking a few steps back.

“Okay. We don’t want you to miss your flight,” William said solemnly, closing the back door and locking the car.

“I mean, it’s kind of impossible being here three hours early and all,” Gigi teased him.

“It’s the recommended arrival time and it’s just after the new year so you may run into some long lines. It’s better to be early than late,” William stated matter-of-factly. Lizzie pressed her lips together to keep from laughing when she saw Fitz teasing William behind his back. “Don’t you start with me, Fitz.”

“I…how!” Fitz gaped as Gigi and Brandon snickered.

“My husband sees all,” Lizzie said proudly.

“I know you too well,” William said with confidence, pausing at the crosswalk. “There are certain things you’ll never stop doing and pretending to be me behind my back is one of them. I’m used to it. As Brandon said, I’m stuck with you.”

“Ouch, guys. You really know how to make a guy feel loved,” Fitz said, grabbing at his heart.

“Well, I love you,” Gigi said, squeezing his arm.

“I’ll take it!” Fitz said quickly. The signal changed to ‘walk’ and they crossed the street, stopping near the doors to Gigi’s airline, making sure to stay out of the way of other travelers.

“This is my stop,” Gigi said, offering her signature smile. Lizzie could see that it didn’t reach her eyes. It shouldn’t have been so difficult to say goodbye when they had already promised to call, use Domino, and email whenever possible. “Come on, guys. We’ve done this before. Brandon, you promised to call me an obscene amount already.”

“Very true,” Brandon said, giving her a tight hug goodbye. “I’ll still miss you.”

“Same,” Gigi replied, rubbing his arms before turning to Fitz. “And Fitz, you’re seeing me at the end of February.”

“Don’t get into too much trouble before then,” Fitz said gloomily.

“I’ll save all the best hijinks for you,” Gigi said playfully, pulling him towards her for a hug.

“You better,” Fitz mumbled into her shoulder, giving her one last squeeze before letting her go.

“Lizzie…” Gigi started as the two women hugged.

“I will continue to keep these men in line,” Lizzie said confidently.

“Please do. I know it must be so hard sometimes,” Gigi replied, rolling her eyes.

“Should we all be offended by this?” Fitz asked out loud.

“Maybe,” Lizzie joked before grabbing his arm. “Come on, you two.”

Fitz gave Gigi a phone signal with his hand to remind her to call as they began to walk away. Lizzie glanced over to her husband before they crossed the street and caught him mouthing ‘thank you’ and she nodded in reply. She knew he wanted a moment alone with his sister just like he did for her this morning with Jane and Lydia.

She was barely paying attention to the enthusiastic conversation Fitz and Brandon were having but they were so caught up they didn’t notice her contributing. Once they reached their cars, Lizzie told them to go on home because she knew William wouldn’t be much longer. Sure enough, she spotted William walking towards her five minutes later with his hands deep in his pockets and a thoughtful look on his face. As soon as he reached the car, she looked at him sympathetically before giving him a hug. She rubbed his back before pulling away and pressing her lips to his cheek.

He gave her a genuine smile and squeezed her hand before nodding towards the car. “Let’s go home.”

 


 

Once Lizzie and William went back to work, the days in January seemed to fly by. Lizzie and her employees spent the first week and a half of January unpacking the offices and getting everything situated. She had an impromptu office party once the last moving box was thrown away and everyone was excited to get back to work. On the Friday of the second week, William took advantage of the shorter distance between their offices and showed up with lunch for him and Lizzie. 

“Will! Hi!” Lizzie exclaimed, jumping up from her chair.

“Surprise!” William said, closing her office door behind him.

“What are you doing here?” Lizzie asked, walking over to him.

“Taking advantage of the holiday,” William said lightly, bending down to kiss her.

“Holiday?” Lizzie asked, raising an eyebrow.

“International Kiss a Ginger Day,” William reminded her and she chuckled.

“Is that today?” Lizzie asked with a smile, resting a hand on his chest as he kissed her again. “I’m usually reminded with a wake-up call.”

“I apologize. I had a very early conference call. But I plan to make up for it tonight,” William said smoothly.

“Lucky me,” Lizzie said flirtatiously.

“In the meantime,” William said, holding up a bag. “I brought you something from your favorite food truck.”

“Thank you! I hadn’t thought about lunch yet,” Lizzie said appreciatively. She caught a whiff of the food and groaned before he handed it to her. “Did you get extra sauce?”

“In the bag,” William replied. “What good would it be without the extra sauce?”

“You are the best!” Lizzie said enthusiastically, guiding him towards her desk. “What do you think? Everything is finally all finished.”

I love it. Your employees seem really happy. Your office has a particularly nice touch…of you,” William noted a framed picture from their wedding day on the desk as he took a seat across from her. “Wow. Comfortable chairs, Lizzie.”

“I may have spent an hour testing them out with Andrea. We want our clients to feel comfortable when we’re working with them,” Lizzie said proudly.

“Sam is coming over tomorrow afternoon to go over last-minute details,” William said, grabbing his food.

“Sounds good. Anything you need from me?” Lizzie asked, sitting down.

“No,” William shook his head. “Charlotte has a conference she needs to attend for the latter half of the day.”

“That works out well! I’m really looking forward to this trip,” Lizzie said animatedly.

“Me too,” William said before adding. “Sort of hoping to see the return of a bathing suit or two from our honeymoon.”

“You’ll just have to wait and see,” Lizzie said, waggling her eyebrows. “Now, I’m starving and my husband brought me deliciousness so if you’ll excuse me, I’m about to stuff my face.”

William shook his head in amusement before digging in to his own food.


Monday, January 22nd 

On more than one occasion, Andrea would beat Lizzie to the offices. It wasn’t usually a noticeable event since they didn’t share a desk or a space. On this Monday morning, however, she was practically bombarded by her partner before she could was even able to unlock her office door.

“Lizzie! Oh my god, you’re here! You need to check your email ASAP!” Andrea said excitedly, practically bouncing out of her own office.

“Wow, Andrea. Hello to you too,” Lizzie said, pushing open her door. “Give me a second to get settled in.”

“Sorry. Hi!” Andrea answered as she followed Lizzie to her desk. “Seriously, you need to look at your email.”

“Give me just a moment,” Lizzie laughed, turning on her computer before putting down her coffee and shrugging off her coat. “I take it you had a good weekend?”

“It was fine. Nothing special. Just caught up on my DVR and enjoyed the rainy weather,” Andrea said, anxiously playing with her hands while she waited for Lizzie’s computer to warm up.

“William and I did the same. We tried that new Thai takeout place on Lombard Street. I highly recommend it,” Lizzie said, taking a seat. She glanced at Andrea and noted her nervous energy and she wondered what could possibly be in her email to make her this way.

“That’s nice,” Andrea said indifferently, more focused on Lizzie’s screen.

Lizzie rubbed her hands together to get rid of the residual outside cold before opening her email and logging in. “What am I looking for?”

“You’ll see it,” Andrea said quickly.

Lizzie looked the titles of each email from existing clients which she knew didn’t warrant Andrea’s reaction. Then she saw an unfamiliar subject line before looking at the email and gasping. “Shut up.”

“Read it,” Andrea urged. Lizzie clicked open the email and started skimming, reading parts out loud and trying to contain her excitement.

“—Judith Newman, Executive Vice President of Scholastic…daughter discovered videos…love what you’re doing with Shakespeare!” Lizzie’s voice was getting louder. “Come to New York! We would like to WORK WITH YOU! ANDREA! This has to be a joke!”

“It’s not!” Andrea assured her.

 “Scholastic just contacted us out of the blue?!” Lizzie said, still not believing it.

“Yes!!” Andrea nodded vigorously.

“This is amazing!” Lizzie shouted.

“What’s going on in here?” Katie asked, sticking her head into the office.

“Only one of my top five dreams coming true!” Lizzie said, laughing at the realization. “Scholastic wants us!”

“That’s awesome!” Katie congratulated her before returning to her desk outside.

“This is absurd!” Lizzie said, putting a hand to her chest to feel her heart rapidly beating.

“It’s not absurd, Lizzie! You see how many subscribers we get on every new video. We literally just moved because we’re doing so well,” Andrea pointed out.

“Okay, wow,” Lizzie said, taking a deep breath before sitting down and reading through the email once more. Then she pulled up their shared meeting calendar to figure things out. “Okay. They want to meet with the two of us as soon as time allows. We’re going to have to fit in some strategy sessions so we know what we can pitch to them but we’re booked until I leave for Hawaii. The next week? We can move things around and push it if need be.”

“Yes, that works,” Andrea agreed after double checking. “Email them and let them know.”

“This is really happening,” Lizzie said in wonder.

“It’s happening,” Andrea repeated before hurrying back to her own office to get work done.

~~~~~~~~~~

Lizzie was planning to stay late at the office so she sent William a text to let him know. He told her he’d take care of dinner and to text him when she was close to leaving. Whoever was home first was usually in charge of dinner. If they were both tired, it would be take out or go somewhere. Luckily, San Francisco provided endless dining options so it was a system that worked well for them.

She didn’t leave until after eight and her stomach was growling by then. She walked in the door and followed the delicious smell into the kitchen, to find William finishing dinner prep. He glanced over his shoulder at the sound of her footsteps and smiled warmly at her.

“Hello there,” William greeted.

“Hi yourself,” Lizzie said, putting her keys and bag down before taking her coat off. William gave her a sweet kiss hello once she approached him “What are you making?”

“Spaghetti Carbonara,” William replied.

“Yum! Your garlic bread too?” Lizzie asked with a hint of excitement.

“In the oven,” William said, making a little head gesture towards the appliance. “It should be ready in a few minutes. I was about to make a salad.”

“I can take care of it so you can handle the rest,” Lizzie offered.

“Thank you,” William said appreciatively.

“How was your day?” Lizzie asked as she tore apart the lettuce.

“Busy but good. Mostly consisted of meetings and a few conference calls,” William replied. “Fitz and I took Mrs. Reynolds out to lunch to celebrate her working with the company for forty years.”

Forty? It’s really been that long?” Lizzie asked, clearly impressed.

“It has. She told us a story today that it was her first job out of college. She thought it would be temporary but my father took a liking to her. Now she’s an indispensable part of the company and a shareholder. She’s practically part of the family,” William said with fondness in his voice.

“She really is. The things I would do for my own Mrs. Reynolds…” Lizzie trailed off.

“Sorry. You can’t have her. She’s all mine,” William replied smugly. “She said she’s not planning to leave any time soon. Mentioned something about wanting to see another generation for the Darcys. Obviously I didn’t tell her that might be sooner than later.”

“At least she’s more subtle than my mom.”

“This was the first time she mentioned it. You know how happy she is for us,” William said as the timer went off. He slipped on an oven mitt and pulled the garlic bread out of the oven, putting it on the stove.

“It’s fine. I know it’s a genuine sentiment coming from her,” Lizzie shrugged it off.

“Yep,” William agreed before glancing at her. “Did Lydia text you about the details about the new musical?”

“What did she tell you?”

“Not much. It’s called Nevermore, it’s about Edgar Allen Poe. and it’s very Tim Burton-esque,” William supplied.

“Is that it?” Lizzie asked and he nodded. “So, she actually called me and was pretty enthusiastic because she met the cast last night.”

“And?” William asked.

“Adam is in it,” Lizzie said, a hint of pride in her voice.

“Who’s Adam?” William frowned.

My Adam. As in the one who played Romeo in my first Shakespeare adaptation,” Lizzie reminded him.

“Oh, that Adam,” William paused. “Is this a good or bad thing for Lydia? I know she liked him but they weren’t willing to do distance.”

“That’s not really a problem anymore, is it? She sounded happy about it but doesn’t want to push her luck. She said he was excited to see her though.”

“Hmm,” William hummed mostly to himself. “How was your day otherwise?”

“Pretty good. I think I snagged myself a new client,” Lizzie said, amused at how long it took to get to her big news.

“Oh? Have I heard of them?” William asked, his interest piquing.

“Maybe,” Lizzie said, drawing out the word. “Does Scholastic sound familiar?”

“Yea...What!” There was a clatter and Lizzie looked to see that he dropped the ladle in the pot and was scrambling to get it out. “Lizzie, are you teasing again?”

Lizzie shook her head at him and a smile spread across her face. “Nope. They emailed me.”

“I—Wow! You let me go on about Mrs. Reynolds and Lydia when you had this news? One of your top five dream companies to work with and they contacted you,” William said, trying to process it all.

“It took me a while to believe it too,” Lizzie said giddily. “Andrea and I are going to New York as soon as we come back from vacation to meet with them.”

“This is fantastic news!” William said genuinely before pulling her in for a big hug. She threw her arms around his neck, as he pulled her up to her toes, and she buried her face into the crook of his neck. She smiled against his skin when he whispered in her ear. “I’m so happy for you.”

“Thank you,” Lizzie murmured. He pulled away and kissed her cheek, looking at her with a bright expression.

“So you’re leaving as soon as we get back?” William asked.

“That Tuesday. We’ll be gone half the week,” Lizzie confirmed. “I’ll be back before you leave for L.A. but…”

“February is a big traveling month,” William observed.

“It is,” Lizzie confirmed. “You know what else? I can’t even share this news with the group yet!”

“Why not?” William frowned.

“Because Charlotte believes we’re going to Hawaii for two weeks right now,” Lizzie reminded him.

“You can tell her once Sam proposes, though,” William suggested.

“Yeah,” Lizzie nodded eagerly. “I feel like I should be overwhelmed but I’m not. I’m just so excited about everything coming up. Is that naïve of me?”

“Not at all. It shows that you’re enthusiastic for the events ahead,” William brushed his thumb across her cheek. “You should be worried when you stop feeling that way about your job…really, about anything in your life.”

“What about you?” Lizzie asked curiously. “Do you still get that feeling?”

“I do. There was a time when it wasn’t as present but I knew it was there deep down,” William said carefully. “And then…”

“Me?” Lizzie offered.

“You,” William confessed. “You came out of nowhere and pushed me into a world I had no idea existed. You gave me a whole different outlook on life and now, there’s so much to be excited about. You’re expanding and taking on well-known clients, we’re creating new applications and software that will advance digital technology, and then there’s you and me here…” William paused, knowing she knew what he meant without needing to explicitly say it. “I get that feeling on a daily basis. Even when it’s as simple as waking up next to you. I’m certain life is never going to be dull for us.”

“I hope not,” Lizzie said with a gentle smile. “I feel it in the simplest times with you, too.”

“I’m glad,” William pressed his lips against her temple before pulling away to catch her gaze once more. “Don’t ever think being excited over prospects and opportunities is naïve. What it really means is that you’re right where you want to be in life. More and more people are starting to realize what an asset you and your company are to them and that’s how it should be,” William said proudly. He squeezed her tightly “And you already know how important you are in my life,” he added softly.

Lizzie brought her hands up to frame his face and she stood on her toes, bringing herself closer to him and giving him a tender kiss, “And you in mine.”

Chapter Text

Tuesday, January 30th

Charlotte and Sam were outside when Lizzie and William pulled up to the curb. William helped get their luggage into their car while Charlotte joined Lizzie inside, immediately falling into conversation about the trip.

“You have everything?” William asked Sam with a significant look. Sam tapped on his suitcase and nodded with a smile before leaning in and keeping his voice low.

“I triple checked. I had to find a place to hide her passport and the rings in case she needed to get in my suitcase for any reason,” Sam said before adding. “My parents got in already and are staying with my brother and sister-in-law.”

“Lizzie told me Charlotte’s parents checked in yesterday. Maria’s not coming in until Thursday afternoon because she couldn’t get as much time off. They’re at Mauna Kea Resort,” William said.

“Nice. It’s close but not too close,” Sam said with a wink. They both whipped their heads at the sudden sound of someone slapping the car roof with their hand.

“Let’s go, ladies! We can save the gossip for later,” Charlotte said cheekily. “I have a much deserved vacation I’d like to start.”

“Excuuuse me, Lu,” Sam retorted, sharing a thankful glance with William that she had heard none of it. He closed the trunk of the car and sauntered over to her. “We didn’t mean to keep you waiting.”

“No need to apologize. You can make it up to me later,” Charlotte said a little smugly, getting into the back with Sam.

“I’m sure I can figure something out,” Sam said cheerfully, leaning in and kissing her.

William buckled his seatbelt once he got in next to Lizzie and he let the driver know they were ready.

“I suppose I have to make it up to you now, as well,” William said, looking at Lizzie.

“Maybe…” Lizzie trailed off, pulling at her bottom lip a little and said quietly for only him to hear, “I would love a certain kiss when we get to Hawaii.” William’s lips twitched before he leaned in close to her ear.

“Whatever you want, love,” William whispered, softly kissing her earlobe. “I’m all yours.”

Lizzie reached up and brushed a finger along his jaw as she looked at him sweetly and murmured, “That’s all I ever need.”

~~~~~~~~~

“I don’t know how I’m going to go back to flying commercial after this,” Charlotte said as they were boarding the private jet. William had made arrangements for them to take his corporate jet for the nearly five-hour flight. It took some time to convince Charlotte and Sam but it worked after Lizzie told them how much money it would save. He had finally gotten Lizzie on the jet a couple years ago when her flight to Los Angeles had been heavily delayed. She would have missed a very important business meeting if he hadn’t arranged for her to get on the jet within the hour. She told him afterwards how impressed she was with the aircraft.

“Believe me, Charlotte. I should have given in to this luxury right away,” Lizzie said, glancing back to Sam as she entered the cabin. “Watch your head. This plane is perfect for us little ones but not so much for you giants.”

“Thanks,” Sam said, ducking his head as he walked in.

William followed Sam, greeted the pilots as one of them pulled closed the door, and talked with them for a few minutes while Lizzie, Charlotte and Sam took their seats in plush leather chairs. After he finished, he joined them and took a seat next to Lizzie, who was sitting across from Charlotte. Lizzie reached over and slipped her hand into his once he buckled his seatbelt. “We’re going to be taking off in a few minutes so it won’t be too much longer.”

“Oh good,” Charlotte said, buckling her own seatbelt. “And thank you so much for setting this up. It’s a nice way to begin our vacation.”

“There’s one more perk Andrew just told me about,” William said, gesturing to the pilots at the front of the plane. “There’s a big delay at SFO due to some electrical problem and half the flights are grounded. We would have been stuck in the airport all day. Some flights are being postponed until tomorrow.”

“Oh, that’s too bad,” Charlotte said unconvincingly.

“I have a hard time believing your sympathy,” Lizzie said in amusement.

“I’m sure she’d mean it more if she wasn’t sitting on a private jet,” Sam offered dryly.

“Probably,” Charlotte said, shrugging and looking to Sam. “But that’s where I am right now and we’re about to go to the tropical paradise where you grew up so…” she trailed off with a grin.

The jet roared to life and they all looked out their own windows, watching as it taxied slowly to the runway.

“Sam, when’s the last time you flew home?” Lizzie asked, distracting everyone from the imminent takeoff.

“For my brother Luka’s wedding four years ago,” Sam said. “Charlotte and I had just barely gone on a few dates so it wasn’t exactly the right time to be flying her back to my home town and meeting the family. I am quite happy to be bringing her now.”

Charlotte beamed and rubbed his leg affectionately.

“Remind me how he made his way back to the big island,” William said. “I’m only remembering that he was offered a teaching position?”

“He and his wife Leilani were actually childhood friends and they lost touch once we moved here,” Sam said. “He was attending a teaching conference in San Diego and she was there representing the University of Hawaii at Hilo. They ran into each other and he asked her out to dinner and everything fell back into place. She told him there were a few teaching positions opening up after he said how much he missed being there. He sent his resume, they offered, and he moved back within two months. He and Leilani were seriously dating within three and the rest is history.”

“Didn’t your parents mention they were thinking of moving back?” Charlotte asked.

“Possibly once they retire. I’m sure once Luke and Leilani have kids, that will cement their decision but they’re happy in San Francisco right now,” Sam said, looking back to Lizzie and William. “Hopefully you two will finally be able to meet my brother. He’s a little busy this week but possibly Saturday.”

“Hopefully,” Lizzie managed while William cleared his throat. She kept the rest of her reaction to herself and didn’t dare look at William. Obviously Sam’s brother was busy. He had been helping out with some of the wedding planning. It was hard enough keeping something this big from her bestie because all she wanted to do was blurt it out every time Charlotte had talked about the trip. As desperate as she was to tell Charlotte everything, there was no way she would be the one responsible for ruining something so important.

“I’m sure we’ll be able to see your brother a few times,” Charlotte assured. “We didn’t plan too much yet, which is surprising coming from the two of you,” nodding to William and Lizzie.

“We mainly plan when it’s a trip only for the two of us. Besides, Sam is the expert here. We’re going by his schedule,” William said.

“Of course, I want to show you some places but this is your trip too,” Sam reminded them. “You can wander off any time you want.”

Lizzie smiled at William’s hand squeeze and then spoke up. “We’re wandering off tomorrow night. I don’t know where but we are.”

I know where,” William said as Lizzie rolled her eyes and sighed dramatically.    

“You’re going to be doing this to her all her life, aren’t you?” Charlotte laughed.

“Of course. A little mystery in marriage is usually a good thing,” William replied.

“And he knows I’m a sucker for his surprises,” Lizzie shrugged.

“You love it,” William smiled at her.

“Oh, I suppose,” Lizzie drawled and Charlotte laughed again.

“Nice selling point on marriage,” Charlotte pointed out.

“They’re actually a good example of a healthy marriage,” Sam said. “They’re still flirting like they just started dating and there’s plenty of affection between them. There’s nothing wrong with some harmless banter.”

“You know, going on vacation usually means you turn off the work brain and don’t psycho-analyze us,” Lizzie said.

“Sorry. I can’t seem to help it. You two are a breath of fresh air compared to my newest clients,” Sam said before quickly adding. “But I obviously cannot discuss details. Patient-therapist confidentiality agreement and all that.”

“That right there is the worst part about his job,” Charlotte motioned to Sam. “All I want is the gossip and I get nothing.”

“Sorry, babe. You’re just going to have to live with it,” Sam said.

“Unless I find an even more attractive Hawaiian hottie while we’re there,” Charlotte said wryly.

“Doubtful,” Sam said confidently, clasping his hands behind his head and leaning back into his chair while Lizzie and William snorted.

“You have such a humble man, Charlotte,” Lizzie said sarcastically.

“I strive to be that humble,” William added, getting a giggle out of Lizzie.

“What can I say? I take what I can get,” Charlotte replied.

“I think what you’ve got is a pretty good catch,” Lizzie said with assurance. She relaxed further into her seat as William squeezed her hand gently and began to brush his thumb along her wrist.

“You too,” Charlotte said sincerely.

“Yea,” Lizzie gave an affectionate look to William. “I think it’s safe to say that we’re all pretty lucky here.”

William brought their joined hands up and softly kissed Lizzie’s. “Lucky, indeed.”

~~~~~~~~~~

That luck also extended to accommodations, as a friend of Sam’s had offered his vacation home for free. Before protests could be made, his friend said to think of it as a wedding present and that was that. After they landed at the airport and picked up their car, Sam drove while Charlotte offered to be his navigator. They stopped at the grocery story to pick up some basics before heading to their final destination.

“You’re going to love this place. It has a great view of the ocean,” Sam said, his voice slightly raised. The windows were down and they were all enjoying the warm tropical breeze, which was much different from the gloomy San Francisco winter had they left behind.

“If only you let us see pictures beforehand,” Charlotte chided, adjusting her sunglasses.

“Where’s the fun in that, babe?” Sam asked, hearing snickers from the back.

“The reveal is the best part,” William sided with Sam.

“It’s true,” Lizzie piped up. “It’s annoying sometimes but it’s so worth it in the end.”

“Well, you don’t have to wait any longer,” Sam said as he slowed down, turning onto a gravel driveway. He stopped to punch in the code on the keypad jutting out of a bush and the gate swung open. He pulled in and parked, rolling up the windows before turning off the car. Lizzie and Charlotte got out and couldn’t resist any longer. They took a peek past the lush tropical plants and immediately started making their way to a large pool with blue and metal deck chairs on one end.

“Hey! Are you leaving all the unpacking to the boys?” Sam called.

“Isn’t that what you’re here for?” Charlotte asked unrepentantly, as she and Lizzie nevertheless walked back to the car.

“Cute,” Sam said, bending down and kissing her before handing off her suitcase. “You wouldn’t get very far anyway. I have the keys.”

“Do you mind if we take the spare?” William asked, grabbing his and Lizzie’s luggage out of the back before closing the trunk.

“No problem,” Sam said, digging into his pocket and handing him the second set. “I didn’t expect us to spend every waking minute here together.”

“Worst third anniversary ever,” Lizzie said low enough for only William to hear. He chuckled and put his arm around her waist, kissing her temple. They followed Sam and Charlotte down the walkway and through the clearing that opened up to a sizeable courtyard with a pool surrounded by tropical plants. They walked along the side of the pool and Lizzie noticed William’s lingering gaze. She nudged him. “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?”

“Maybe,” William said. “I’m wondering how well your outfit will hold up if I push you in the pool.”

“No!”

“Possibly…”

“You wouldn’t dare-” Lizzie quickened her step to pass the pool, laughing as William followed hard on her heels.

“Maybe I would.” William’s voice was close behind her. She nearly ran into Sam, who was unlocking the French doors, when she hurried up the steps.

“What’s happening?” Charlotte asked, entertained by their behavior.

“William’s threatening to toss me in the pool,” Lizzie whined, skittering over to Charlotte for protection when he took a step towards her.

“And why would you do that?” Sam asked, pushing both doors opened and walking inside.

“I may have done the same thing to him on the first day of our honeymoon,” Lizzie confessed with a sheepish smile.

“With no warning whatsoever,” William said, narrowing his eyes at his wife. “The utter betrayal so early in our marriage.”

“Please!” Lizzie snorted. “You pulled me in right after. Besides, I stand by it. You pull off the wet look quite well.”

Sam cleared his throat. “On that note, the bedrooms are on opposite sides of the house for maximum privacy,” Charlotte let out a short burst of laughter before covering her mouth and letting Sam continue. “There are two bedrooms to the left of us and two to the right of us so you have your choice of a balcony or direct access to the backyard and beach.”

“Wow, Sam. What did you say your friend does?” Lizzie asked, taking in her surroundings. The room was one big open space with wicker furniture in one corner and a dining room table in the middle. Big glass windows from the first and second level of the house lit up the room, making it inviting to everybody. It provided a glimpse to the lanai and spacious backyard outside as well as the ocean just beyond it. Lizzie took a few steps forward and noticed the second floor hallway that overlooked the living room. There was a large open kitchen to the left of them with wooden cabinets and enough space that a few people could cook without being in each other’s way. Four metal stools were tucked underneath a breakfast bar that faced the kitchen. There seemed to be an ocean view from everywhere in the room.

“He’s an accountant for a big law firm in San Francisco. Sometimes he rents this place out but it mostly stays empty until tax season is over,” Sam replied.

“It’s a beautiful house,” William said, checking everything out. “This kitchen is spectacular.”

“This is a great vacation home, Sam. Good job,” Charlotte said, clearly impressed.

“I thought so. You’ve barely seen it all though,” Sam pointed out, nodding his head to one of the bedroom hallways. Charlotte took the hint and grabbed her suitcase, heading to the bedroom in question. “Guys, we’re going to go to our room and get the rest of our things from the car. What do you say to lunch in thirty?”

“No problem,” William replied before Sam disappeared down the hallway.

“Lunch sounds good. What time is it, anyway?” Lizzie asked.

“There’s a two-hour difference so…” William trailed off as he looked at his watch. “It’s 11:45.”

“No wonder I’m hungry,” Lizzie said. “Let’s put our stuff away. Upstairs or downstairs?”

“We can check both out and see which one we like better,” William suggested. “Would you like to lead the way?”

“Sure. Down here first,” Lizzie said with a little bounce in her step. He followed her down the hall and she stopped at the last door before pushing it open. It was a spacious bedroom with a large king-size bed against the furthest wall. Small tables stood on each side of the bed with dark blue ceramic lamps sitting on them. There was one chair next to the entrance with a little half table next to it while another wicker chair sat in the opposite corner with a matching footrest and half table. A dresser with a large television was placed opposite of the bed. The best part was the view from the room. Two large windows were on either side of the sliding glass doors, giving them access to the lanai and the backyard. While Lizzie was looking around the room at the other features, William checked out the bathroom. He quickly came back out with a playful look on his face.

“We’re staying in this bedroom,” William declared.

“Just like that?” Lizzie asked, taken aback by his quick decision. “I love the view and the bed looks super comfortable but it might be better upstairs.”

“Come with me,” William said, grabbing her hand and maneuvering her in front of him. He guided her into the bathroom, passing a tiled dual sink vanity, and she gasped in delight.

“An outdoor shower,” Lizzie breathed. She slid the door open and stepped outside to check it out. A screened roof enclosed the area and a few potted plants lined the walls. A little table was placed near the dual showerhead with some folded towels on top and a low wooden bench next to it. William slid his hands around her waist and pulled her into him.

“Are you up for some reminiscing?” William asked lowly, kissing her lobe.

“You don’t need to ask me twice,” Lizzie replied, turning in his arms and resting her hands on his chest. “The wall looks more forgiving than the other one.”

“Shall we make sure?” William asked, backing her up until she gently hit the tiled wall.

“Oh yea…much smoother. No rocks to limit us,” Lizzie said spiritedly. “Suddenly, I can’t wait to take a shower.”

“Looking forward to that but later,” William promised, bending down and softly kissing her. “But lunch is soon and you know how I love to take my time.”

“Oh, I do,” Lizzie licked her lips in anticipation. She sighed and pushed those thoughts away for now.

She held out her hand as she stepped back inside. “Come on. We’ve got things to do and the rest of this house to check out.”

“And that backyard is calling our names,” William said, taking her hand and letting her lead them back to the bedroom.

 Lizzie paused to look outside. “This is a wonderful place to spend our wedding anniversary.”

“It really is,” William said, hugging her from behind and kissing the top of her head. “I’m so glad we’re here.”

Lizzie sighed happily. “Me too.”

William broke the silence after a few minutes. “So now that we’ve picked out our bedroom for our stay…”

Lizzie glanced over shoulder and grinned. “There’s a bed that needs jumping on. Do you mind?”

“Not at all,” William let go of her. “It’s quickly become one of my favorite traditions of yours.”

“We’ll indulge in your favorite later,” Lizzie said playfully, toeing off her shoes. “It’s one of my favorites, too.”

~~~~~~~~~~

Nothing but relaxation was planned for the first day of their trip. After they had settled in, they spent more of the afternoon exploring their surrounding area and their small stretch of beach. Lizzie and Charlotte took advantage of the back lanai and lounged around while reading and enjoying the warm tropical breeze. The guys were nowhere to be found but Lizzie knew they were making last minute phone calls and ensuring everything would run smoothly for the wedding. As the sun started to hang low, Sam and William suggested that they go out to eat for dinner and the girls heartily agreed. They quickly got ready while Sam called a taxi, eliminating the decision on who would need to be the designated driver for the evening.

They headed up the coast to The Beach Tree Bar at the Four Seasons Resort. Sam had planned ahead and made reservations, knowing its reputation. Sure enough, it was busy when they arrived. They were seated and a waitress came over soon after to take their drink and dinner orders. Service was faster than they expected with how few empty tables surrounded them and she returned within minutes with their drinks, leaving them to enjoy the beautiful view and the company.

“That is one beautiful sunset,” Lizzie said appreciatively. The sky was a myriad of pinks, purples, and oranges that seemed to change the color of the ocean as well. “It must have been so wonderful to grow up here, Sam.”

“It was,” Sam said, looking out to the ocean. “I had these views every day and the ocean at my doorstep. I used to grab my surfboard at the crack of dawn to catch a few waves before school with my brother and go to the local beach that none of the tourists knew about. I understood why we had to move but it was hard to adjust at first. San Francisco was so fast-paced compared to here. My brother had an even harder time, though. I was just about to start high school but it was my brother’s senior year. I’m surprised it took him as long as it did to move back, honestly.”

“What about you? Why didn’t you move back?” William asked.

“You know, I thought about it for a while and then I got into my program. I told myself I’d move back once I finished but…” Sam said, smiling at Charlotte. “Better things happened.”

“That would be me. I’m the better thing,” Charlotte gloated.

“You are,” Sam chuckled before gesturing to Lizzie and William. “And you introduced me to other better things. Plus, I know it would be hard on my parents not to have at least one son close by. I miss this place but I visit enough that I’m okay.”

“At least they didn’t move you to the middle of nowhere,” Lizzie said.

“True. I can even surf in San Francisco during the summer, but the water is still pretty cold,” Sam replied. “I’m going to have to get some surfing in while we’re here. The waves are so much better.”

“I love watching you surf,” Charlotte said.

“If only you could surf with me,” Sam said dejectedly.

“We tried,” Charlotte shrugged, noticing Lizzie’s intrigued glance. “It would seem I am highly uncoordinated on a surf-board. I could barely get the stance right on land. It was disastrous in the water.”

“You know, I wouldn’t mind giving it a try,” William said to Sam. “If you have the patience.”

“Ever tried before?” Sam asked.

“I haven’t but I’m pretty good with water sports,” William said. Lizzie muttered something under her breath but he only caught the words ‘pool’ and ‘speedo.’

“We can give it a try tomorrow, if you’d like. I know you have plans in the evening…” Sam trailed off.

“Tomorrow’s great, actually,” William agreed.

“Awesome. I know a great spot just a few minutes from the house that is guaranteed some good waves and there are surfboards in the equipment shed,” Sam said. “Lizzie? How about you?”

“Oh, no way. I won’t pick that up as quickly as William,” Lizzie said honestly. “I will, however, come with you. There’s no way I’m missing you teach my husband how to surf. I may have to document this for my own personal joy.”

“I’m glad to be entertainment for you,” William said.

“One of the many perks of being married,” Lizzie flashed him a cheesy grin and he couldn’t help but smile in return. He reached over and took her hand, kissing the back of it before letting go. “Charlotte, you and I can pretend to soak up some sun while being heavily lathered in sunscreen and hiding under umbrellas.”

“Sounds like my kind of day!” Charlotte said happily.

“That settles it. Beach excursion tomorrow. I think we should have a toast,” Lizzie suggested, holding up her frozen margarita. The group held up their own glasses and put their focus to Lizzie. “Here’s to spending some well-deserved time in a tropical paradise with fantastic friends and a wonderful husband. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else right now.”

“Hear hear!”

~~~~~~~~

Taking a taxi to and from the bar proved to be quite useful. The alcohol flowed all throughout dinner and dessert and they were all quite relaxed by the time they decided to call it a night. William and Lizzie tried to stay on their best behavior with Charlotte and Sam in the car but it proved to be difficult. Their inhibitions always seemed to fly out the window when they were under the influence. With the mixture of alcohol and being on vacation to celebrate an anniversary, it ramped up their need for each other even more. Thankfully, they had snagged a taxi van and Charlotte and Sam were in a world of their own in the middle seat, not noticing what was happening in the back seat. Lizzie’s hand was firmly gripping William’s upper thigh and slowly moving to dangerous territory while he whispered naughty things in her ear. By the time they made it home, William and Lizzie barely had the patience to get through the door and say their goodnights before they made a hasty exit to their room, slamming the door loudly behind them.

 


 

Wednesday, January 31st 

Lizzie was enjoying an incredible dream that involved her and her very naked husband. She was back on that wonderful bed in Fregate, surrounded by mosquito netting. Everything else was hazy around them but her husband’s head was between her legs and it was all she could focus on. His hands were sliding up her body while his lips and tongue were moving in a deliciously torturous way. She couldn’t seem to move her mouth to beg for more. She reached out to him, grabbing a fistful of hair that felt so real between her fingers that she let go. It was at that moment she realized she wasn’t dreaming at all.

Her eyes slowly opened and she quickly realized that she was indeed in bed but she was in Hawaii, not Fregate. She looked down and William was right where she had been dreaming. Her legs were spread wide open and he looked right where he wanted to be, not missing a beat after seeing she had finally woken up. He seemed to smile at her with just a look in his eyes and that damned high arch of his eyebrow. He lifted and moved her legs over his shoulders before sliding one hand up her stomach to massage her breast. She arched her back and moaned, grabbing for his hair once more and pulling him in closer. All she needed was a little more. Her eyes fluttered shut at the building pressure between her legs and her jaw slackened as his teeth grazed her clit. A flick and twist of his tongue and she was gasping out his name as she climaxed.

William planted kisses as he moved up her body and hovered above her, watching her with lust-filled eyes as she slowly came down. She let out a shaky breath and brought a hand to his face, placing it on his cheek. He turned his head and kissed her palm a few times. He pressed his hips against hers so she could feel how much he wanted her. Her desire for him bloomed within her and she pressed her knees against his torso before moving her hands to his chest. She said nothing but flipped them around and straddled his thighs. She wrapped her hand around his rigid length and William moaned softly.

Impulsively, she bent down and captured his lips, smiling naughtily against his mouth as she began to stroke him. William slid a hand in her hair and pulled her in closer, deepening the kiss and running his tongue along hers. She scooted forward and pressed herself to his length, subtly moving her hips and rubbing herself against him. William growled and clamped down on her bottom lip, tugging gently before letting go as she began to pull away. His eyes were beginning to glaze over but she could clearly see and feel how much he wanted her. Her arousal spiked between her legs and his hips jerked towards her from her movements. His hands flew to her hips and held her firmly to stop her movements.

“All I want is you, love,” William said softly, breaking the silence between them. She responded by letting go of him and pushing herself up. He kept his grip on her and they worked together to move her above him. She pressed him against her wet entrance and held still for a moment, getting in one last moment of foreplay. His fingers dug into her skin and he smiled tenderly at her. Those dimples were too much for her to resist. She gave in and she lowered herself onto him slowly, reveling in that unforgettable tingling rush whenever he was inside her. She relaxed and let him all the way in, settling on his thighs and resting her hands on his torso. He began to move deliciously in and out of her body and she rocked her hips back and forth, creating a blissfully relaxing rhythm between them. She raked her nails down his chest and across his abdomen, feeling his muscles tighten with each stroke.

Lizzie began to anticipate his thrusts, squeezing around his length as he was deep inside her and holding for a moment before relaxing again. She held a fraction longer each time and it fueled William’s movements. The pure love and desire and in his expression only made her want him more. She ran her hands slowly up his body, framing his face and kissing him softly and languidly. He leaned forward just enough that it changed the angle between them and she whimpered as he hit that sweet spot inside her. He held her hips and brought her closer and closer with each stroke. She could barely handle how quickly the fire in the pit of her belly came to life as he worked her over the edge into a powerful orgasm. Her breath caught in her throat and she trembled above him while he slowed down his movements, drawing out her pleasure.

William sat up and pulled her for a kiss as they began to move together again. Lizzie slid her arms around the back of his shoulders and wrapped her legs around him, pulling him in closer. His fingers were spread across her back and he was holding in a way that made her feel truly loved. Their rhythm was slow and steady so they could enjoy each other, their bodies slick with sweat and the sounds of their ragged breaths filling the room. William placed soft kisses across her collar bone before dragging his tongue up the column of her neck. She let her head fall back and he nipped at her salty skin, licking and kissing the hollow of her throat. She was beginning to feel the stirrings of pleasure building at her center and heat coiled inside her. Her body ached for more as she leaned back slightly, keeping him close to her. She shut her eyes and her lips parted with a gasp as their angle provided the perfect amount of pressure. Their mouths met for a passionate, unrestrained kiss as they brought each other closer and closer to the edge. Finally, they cried out as they came in near perfect unison, clinging to each other as shared bliss ran through their veins.

William brought Lizzie with him as he fell to his back, both of them breathing heavily from exertion. She could hear his fast heartbeat with her ear pressed against his chest and it brought her a sense of calm as her own heartbeat began to steady.

“Happy anniversary, Lizzie,” William sighed after a few minutes.

“Happy anniversary, Will,” Lizzie replied breathlessly. “Early wake-up call?”

“Actually, I couldn’t sleep,” William admitted. “It’s barely…five am.”

“Really?” Lizzie asked in surprise, turning her head to look outside. It was indeed still dark. “It’s always one of us who falls victim to jetlag.”

“At least, we have a good solution,” William joked, working to pull the sheets up without moving them too much. He covered them up to their waists before giving up.

“Amazing sex to wear us out?” Lizzie asked softly. She was still feeling little aftershocks of pleasure but couldn’t deny her body’s sudden feeling of relaxation. A few more hours of sleep sounded perfect and she was so comfortable where she was.

“Mmhmm,” William hummed, sounding far away. “Love you so much.”

“Love you more,” Lizzie said quietly. She felt him kiss the top of her head and she lazily smiled against him at the sweet action. It didn’t take more than another minute before they were both fast asleep, entangled in each other’s arms.

~~~~~~~~~~

William and Lizzie were woken a few hours later by the sound of William’s phone going off. He fumbled around for it and answered it just in time. It was Gigi calling them from London and wishing them a happy anniversary. They talked on the speakerphone for a few minutes more before she let them go, knowing she had woken them up. Lizzie spent the next few minutes in bed with him, giggling as he attacked her neck with his lips and being altogether silly. By the time they left the bedroom, Charlotte and Sam were already making breakfast for them as a little treat. They all sat down together outside on the lanai to enjoy a well-made meal and the breezy weather.

After dishes were washed, the couples retreated to their bedrooms to change for their beach excursion. Lizzie wore a one-piece blue swimsuit with adjustable halter straps at the neck and a small cutout at the bust. The back of her suit was low but not too low and there was a floral pattern with darker blue leaves all throughout.

“That’s new,” William noted, pulling on a simple white t-shirt to go with his navy blue board shorts.

“It is,” Lizzie confirmed, twisting to show him her back. “I know you were expecting something.”

“I know that dark blue bikini is for my eyes only,” William admitted, walking over to her and tracing her halter top straps. “This one looks quite nice on you.”

“Thank you,” Lizzie said, grabbing the strings of his shorts and slowly tying them. “Maybe you can help me put sunscreen on my harder-to-reach areas for me.”

He smiled in recognition at her choice of words. His mind flashed back to a moment on their honeymoon where she offered to do the same to him in the shower. “With pleasure,” William leaned in and kissed her. Lizzie pulled away after a moment and grabbed.

“As much as I want to continue this, we should finish getting ready. We have another couple relying on us,” Lizzie said before adding. “And I’m dying to watch your surfing lessons.”

“Planning to ogle me?” William asked, quirking an eyebrow.

“The view is just too good to pass up,” Lizzie said shamelessly.

~~~~~~~~~~

Puako Bay was less than a ten-minute walk from their house and it was deserted when they arrived. William and Sam helped Lizzie and Charlotte set up beach chairs and umbrellas. William was true to his word and helped Lizzie rub on sunscreen, sneaking in a kiss or two.

“The waves look pretty good today,” Sam observed, holding onto his surfboard and looking out to the ocean. “The report said five to six feet. I think you can handle that.”

“We’ll see,” William said, grabbing his surfboard once he finished putting sunscreen on himself.

“Come on. I’m going to give you a lesson on how to get up and how to stand on the board,” Sam said.

“Have fun!” Lizzie said in a sing-song voice, waving her fingers to the men as they walked away with the boards tucked under their arm. She turned to Charlotte. “How do you think he’s going to do?”

“Better than me,” Charlotte snorted, watching the guys set the boards down on the flat sand. “I know William swims a lot so he has a good core–”

“Yea, he does,” Lizzie interrupted, pulling her sunglasses down her nose to look at her husband.

“…which is helpful.” Charlotte finished before laughing at her statement. “You’re terrible!”

“Oh, come on. I appreciate my husband’s mind and body. They’re both fantastic,” Lizzie said, defending herself. “And if you don’t mind me saying, your man is in pretty good shape, too.”

“It’s, um, it’s a big bonus,” Charlotte said, her cheeks reddening. They watched the guys for a few minutes in silence. “Okay, honestly…it’s distracting, sometimes. I’m trying to get some work done at home and he’s walking around shirtless because it’s more comfortable for him. You’d think I’d be used to that body by now.”

“The appreciation doesn’t wear off,” Lizzie said knowingly, pausing to watch William as he mimicked Sam’s movements to get into position. Each time, his abdominal muscles tightened and Lizzie got a thrill from watching him. “I’ve seen women staring at William and undressing him with their eyes. He never notices but I can’t help but gloat a little that I’m the one he comes home to.”

“I thought it was just me,” Charlotte said in surprise. “I catch those stares and Sam could care less. It makes me feel special.”

“Yea,” Lizzie sighed happily, getting more comfortable in her chair and resting her head against it as she focused her attention back on William. He had a look of concentration as he mirrored Sam’s movements. It looked like he was catching on quickly and he practiced a few more times before Sam gestured out to the water. They grabbed their boards and began to paddle out, slowly but surely.

“I think Sam’s planning to propose,” Charlotte said, out of nowhere. Lizzie whipped her head to look at her and sat up in her chair.

“Really? W-what makes you think that?” Lizzie asked, doing her best to keep her composure. She racked her brain to think of anything that might have given it away but could think of nothing.

“For one, we’re in Hawaii. It’s where he grew up,” Charlotte said. “He’s always wanted to take me and it seems like he would take this opportunity. He’s been extra affectionate lately, which I never mind, but I’m just noticing it.”

“Well…” Lizzie chewed on her lip for a moment, trying to think of the right words. “I think the thing to ask yourself is what would you say if he asked?”

“I’d say yes, obviously,” Charlotte said without hesitation, her face lighting up at the thought. Lizzie kept her excitement at bay. Charlotte had no idea what was in store for her.

“That’s all that matters then,” Lizzie said brightly.

“I’m not going to obsessively think about it though,” Charlotte admitted. “I don’t want to be on edge during this whole vacation thinking he’s going to drop to one knee at any moment.”

“Probably for the best,” Lizzie agreed. She wouldn’t have to wait much longer anyway. She was almost certain he was going to propose in the next day because of their timeline. “Besides, the best things come to those who wait.”

“You should write Hallmark cards on the side,” Charlotte said snarkily.

Lizzie rolled her eyes. “See if I ever offer you advice again.”

“As if you could stop,” Charlotte said knowingly. “You’re stuck with me.”

“Ugh. I suppose I am,” Lizzie said, pretending to sound annoyed. “I do have a pretty nice back-up plan though.”

Lizzie gestured out to the ocean to see William paddling hard and trying to catch a wave. He was a little bit too slow and ended up wiping out, making her cringe.

“Ouch,” Charlotte hissed. “Because you’ll be nursing him back to health, I see.”

“Not everyone is dating someone who came out of the womb surfing,” Lizzie countered. “I’m sure you fell off the board a few times when he was teaching you.”

“Try every time,” Charlotte groaned and Lizzie’s eyes widened. “I’m surprised he lasted as long as he did before calling it a day.”

“Awww, true love,” Lizzie said in a distinct Jane voice.

Charlotte laughed. “Only the best for you and me.”

“You know it,” Lizzie said as they high-fived each other.

~~~~~~~~~~

William got progressively better as the time went on. Lizzie cheered on from the shore as she watched him catch a few different waves. Sam showed off his skills and caught nearly every one he tried. The girls ended up not reading at all, focusing their attention on the men out in the ocean. They swam back in for lunch, claiming a large appetite after their workout. They packed a chest full of food and everybody dug in. After eating and spending a little time on the beach, protected from the sun, William and Sam declared the girls needed to join them out in the water. Lizzie barely protested, knowing the look in William’s eyes all too well. He took her over his shoulder and walked right out into the water, helping her break in her new suit by throwing her in. They stayed out in the shallow water, having a wonderful time while Sam took Charlotte out on his surfboard to feel the waves come in. By early afternoon, they all agreed it was time to head home. They were tired from the day’s activities and Lizzie and William were secretly hoping to get some ‘rest’ before going out again.

~~~~~~~~~~

“Love? Are you almost ready?” William asked, folding up the sleeves of his pale green shirt to his elbows.

“I am,” Lizzie said. She walked out of the bathroom wearing a halter-necked off white dress with a deep blue blossom pattern. A scallop-trimmed black sash wrapped around the middle of the dress and it fell just below her knees, showing off her blue sandals with a little heel that matched. Her hair was loosely curled and she wore a light shade of lipstick that brought some color to her face. Her neckline was adorned with a silver necklace and crystal earrings that William had just given her for their anniversary that afternoon.

“Wow, Lizzie. You look as beautiful as the day I married you,” William said warmly.

“Thank you, Will,” Lizzie blushed before bringing her hand to the crystal pendant on her necklace. “And I love this necklace. It goes so well with the rest of my outfit.”

“It does,” William said, reaching out and brushing his fingers across her skin. “The earrings look great too.”

“You have wonderful taste,” Lizzie beamed at him. “I noticed you’re not finished getting dressed.”

“I am. Did I forget something?” William asked in confusion, scanning himself. Green shirt, tan pants, socks, and shoes. What did she mean? Lizzie quickly hurried over to her suitcase and pulled out a wrapped box, turning around and motioning to the bed. He took a seat on the edge and she handed the present to him.

“I was waiting until now to give you your wedding present,” Lizzie said, sitting down next to him. “I went for the classic third anniversary suggestion.”

“Please don’t tell me there are leather pants in here,” William joked.

Lizzie snorted. “Good god, no. I love you but please never try that.”

“I promise,” William said, shaking the box a little. “A whip?”

“Stop guessing and open the box!” Lizzie chided. William chuckled and took the bow off before shimmying the top off. He pulled the tissue paper away and Lizzie watched him as a smile appeared on his face. “They’re genuine.”

“They look it,” William said, pulling out a pair of tan leather suspenders. “Oh, there’s a bow tie too!” Lizzie took the box as he laid the suspenders down and grabbed the bow tie. “Is this monogrammed?”

“It is,” Lizzie nodded while he inspected his presents closely. She had their initials and their wedding date on the leather strip of the bow tie. Only he would see that detail when he wore it.

“I love this,” William said appreciatively. “Thank you so much.”

“I hoped you would,” Lizzie beamed. He reached over and placed a hand on her cheek before kissing her slowly. He lingered for a moment before pulling away.

“Should I wear both or just one of them tonight?” William asked, looking to her for the answer.

“Probably just the bow tie with that outfit,” Lizzie said, taking it from him. He turned more towards her and kept his gentle gaze on her as she flipped his collar up before putting the bow tie on him. After a little adjusting and smoothing the collar down, she looked satisfied. “It looks even better than I thought it would. You’ll have to wear that with your suspenders to work when we get back home.”

“I fully intend to,” William said, getting up and checked himself out in the mirror. “I think I can safely now say I’m ready to—”

He was interrupted by a sharp knock at their door and Sam’s muffled voice asking for them.

“Come in,” William said and Sam swung the door open as Lizzie stood up, going over to the chair to grab her clutch.

“Hey, I didn’t mean to interrupt,” Sam apologized. “You look beautiful, Lizzie.”

“Thank you, Sam,” Lizzie said with a smile. “And you didn’t interrupt. We were planning to leave…to wherever we’re going in a few minutes. Is there anything you need?”

“I actually wanted to let you guys know,” Sam paused, checking the hallway before closing their door. “Just in case. I’m taking advantage of you guys being out and I’m…planning to ask tonight.”

“Oh Sam,” Lizzie said softly, pressing her hands to her chest. “How exciting! I know everything is going to work out for you.”

“I hope so,” Sam laughed nervously, rubbing the back of his neck.

“Sam, you’re going to be fine. Don’t worry,” William reassured him. “Do you need anything? Are you okay with us taking the car?”

“No car is necessary for us. Pretty much everything I need is right outside those doors,” Sam said, pointing out to the backyard. “Though if you two wouldn’t mind stretching out your anniversary celebration…”

“I think we can do that,” William said, looking at Lizzie.

“Yea,” Lizzie added. “We’re pretty good time-wasters when we need to be.”

“That’s good to know,” Sam chuckled before exhaling visibly and opening the door. “I should let you two get going. I’m sure your reservations are soon. You two clean up nicely.”

“We try,” Lizzie said, walking over to William and sliding her arm behind his back.

“Nice bow tie,” Sam noted, before he walked out.

“Anniversary present,” William smiled.

“Good taste, Lizzie,” Sam complimented. “Have fun.”

“You too,” Lizzie said in a playful tone, waving him goodbye. William looked at her expectantly. “We should go before I try to convince you to stay so we can watch the action in stealth mode.”

“Stealth mode, huh?” William raised an eyebrow at her. “And I would never let you. How would you have liked it if you had an audience?”

“I wouldn’t have,” Lizzie hugged him around his middle and looked up at him. “What you did was perfect and I wouldn’t change a thing.”

He brought his hands up and framed her face, bending down to kiss her softly and slowly. He pulled away a fraction to focus on her gaze. “I wouldn’t either. Let’s go celebrate, my wife.”

~~~~~~~~~~

“Aloha and welcome to the Canoe House. Do you have a reservation with us this evening?” the hostess greeted William and Lizzie.

“We do. It should be under Darcy,” William replied. The hostess repeated the name under her breath as she scanned the reservations.

“There you are! One of our best tables too. Beautiful sunset views,” the hostess said, grabbing menus and leading the way to their table, right under the overhang and providing an unobstructed view of the beach and ocean beyond it. A bottle of champagne was chilling in a bucket next to the table, something that William had arranged beforehand. He pulled out Lizzie’s chair for her before taking his own seat. The hostess handed them menus and let them know their waiter would be with them in a few moments.

“You really know how to pick some great places, Will,” Lizzie said, looking around as William poured them each a glass of champagne.

“I always want to celebrate with you in style,” William replied, reaching over and taking her hand.

“You know what that sunset reminds me of?” Lizzie asked.

“Fregate?” William guessed and she nodded. “It’s beautiful, for sure.”

“But not nearly as magnificent,” Lizzie finished for him.

“There was something special about our honeymoon,” William said. “I can’t really explain it.”

“I can,” Lizzie said. “We were on the other side of the world and practically alone. It felt like those sunsets were just for us.”

“They really did,” William said. “I cherished every one of those sunsets. It was a unique reminder about how fortunate I am to spend another day with you. It’s still that way at the end of every day now, honestly.”

Lizzie sighed happily. “I can’t believe it’s been three years since we got married.”

“I can,” William reached over to grab her hand, brushing his thumb methodically along the top of her wrist. “I remember every detail about how stunning you looked. You took my breath away that day. You still do.”

“Will…” Lizzie gave him a tender look. “You make me happier every day that I’m with you.”

William exhaled softly and picked up his glass. She followed suit and held up her own, waiting for him to continue. “For the past three years, you’ve made my life infinitely better than it was before by being my wife. I don’t know where I would be without you. I know how lucky I am to have you by my side now and for the rest of my life. I love you, Elizabeth. Happy anniversary.”

“I love you too, William. Happy anniversary,” Lizzie breathed, clearly touched. She clinked her glass with his and took a sip before putting it down. She got out of her chair and sat in the one perpendicular to him before pulling him in for a sweet kiss. They broke apart and she brushed her knuckles across his cheek. “Thank you for being in my life.”

“We should take a picture. Can’t let this backdrop go to waste,” William suggested, pulling out his phone. He held it out and Lizzie leaned in close to him as he tried to find a good angle. When he got it, they flashed their smiles as he took one. Their waitress happened to be walking by as he was trying to take another one.

“I can take it for you, if you’d like,” she offered.

“Would you please?” Lizzie asked as William handed her his phone.

“Not a problem,” she smiled at them. “Are you two here on your honeymoon?”

“Anniversary actually. Three years,” Lizzie said proudly, smiling as the waitress took a picture.

“Wow. I never would have guessed! I assumed you were newlyweds,” she handed William back his phone. “You certainly act like it.”

“Our friends like to joke that we’re permanently honeymooners,” William said, looking at Lizzie knowingly.

“Well, I’m just going to pretend you’re newlyweds because you’re the cutest table I’ve seen all day. Dessert’s on the house that way,” she said with a smirk. “Would you like anything in particular?”

“Anything chocolate,” William answered. “It’s a weakness of my wife’s.”

“Isn’t it everybody’s?” Lizzie nudged him.

“I know just the dessert. I’ll make sure it comes out after dinner,” she smiled before leaving the table.

“Being gross and in love really gets us places,” Lizzie said playfully.

“I guess we’re going to have to keep doing what we’re doing,” William chuckled before leaning in and kissing her.

~~~~~~~~~~~

After a delicious dessert, they had the leftovers boxed up and Lizzie left it in the car so they could go for a walk on a nearby beach. They took off their shoes and walked along the surf with fingers interlaced. They spent nearly two hours on the beach, alternating between talking about trips coming up and having a quiet moment watching the waves together while occasionally kissing. When William noticed Lizzie shiver from the night air, he declared it time to head back.

“I’m sure we’ve given him more than enough time,” William said, turning off the car.

“I know. We’ve been gone nearly four hours,” Lizzie checked her watch as she got out of the car. “Where did the time even go?”

“As you said, we are time wasters when we need to be,” William smiled at her, walking along the pool. “But I think we put those hours to good use actually.”

“We did,” Lizzie said, stopping at the stairs. “Crap. I forgot the leftovers. Keys, please.”

William handed them to her without comment and he watched her hurry back to the car. He began to head inside and stepped on something when he opened the door. Picking it up, he realized it was a man’s shirt. He looked down and noticed a few pieces of clothing leading towards the great room. Before he could announce his arrival, he saw a flash of bare skin zip past him going in the direction of Sam and Charlotte’s bedroom. His eyes widened and he turned immediately, closing the door behind him and moving quickly towards Lizzie, who was walking up the stairs.

“What’s up?” Lizzie asked when she saw the uncomfortable look on William’s face.

“Uh…” William started, shifting his weight from one foot to the other. “I’m going to say that Charlotte said yes to Sam but it’s probably best we, um, stay outside for the time being.”

“What happened?” Lizzie asked, giving him a curious look. “Did you see something?”

“Barely,” William said, reddening “Let’s…go around to the back.”

“Oh my god. Were they just—”

“Most likely,” William said carefully. Lizzie pressed her lips together to stop herself from laughing out loud and he just shook his head in amusement. He grabbed her hand and led them around the back, taking a seat on two chairs in front of their bedroom.

“Did you just get the tables turned on you?” Lizzie asked after a moment.

“We haven’t been walked in on in well over a year,” William said defensively, looking at her. Lizzie brought a hand up to cover her mouth and her shoulders began to shake.

“It could…have been worse,” Lizzie said through her laughter. William narrowed his eyes at her and it only made her laugh harder. He finally broke and he was laughing with her. It took her them a few minutes to get their composure back and Lizzie took a deep breath to speak. “It’s so bad we’ve had more than one person walk in on us.”

“Really, our friends need to learn how to knock,” William replied.

“Or ring a little bell so we know they’re coming?” Lizzie joked.

“Ha ha. You’re a funny woman,” William said.

“You love me,” Lizzie said simply.

“That I do,” William said softly. He brought a hand to her cheek and leaning over the arm rail of his chair to kiss her. They heard the click of a door opening and they broke apart, twisting their heads around towards the noise. Charlotte and Sam coming outside and they both looked vibrant. Charlotte had a hibiscus flower tucked just above her left ear, giving Lizzie and William confirmation that she had said yes to Sam’s proposal. Lizzie and William jumped up from their chairs to greet them.

“Charlotte said yes, as if you didn’t already know,” Sam said with a sheepish smile. A simple knowing look between him and William was a silent agreement to put the earlier incident was behind them.

“Of course I said yes!” Charlotte said happily, getting hugs from both William and then Lizzie. “And you…letting me ramble on about my suspicions and you just sat there giving nothing away.”

“As if I was going to ruin something that’s been being planned for months!” Lizzie shot back.

“I still can’t believe it,” Charlotte shook her head in shock. “A whole wedding? Without as much as a clue from any of you?”

“You know everything?” William asked, glancing at Sam.

“She knows the important things,” Sam confirmed, putting an arm around Charlotte. “I’m not giving her the details because I’d like her to be surprised on Saturday.”

“Which is infuriating,” Charlotte said, poking his side. “But I love everything about this. It’s hard to wrap my head around what you’ve planned. I mean you’ve got my family in a resort fifteen minutes away! I just called them yesterday and they didn’t say anything. Lizzie…”

“Of course we were going to make sure they were here for you,” Lizzie smiled at her. “Your mom is coming with us first thing tomorrow morning to your dress appointment. Really, it’s the only thing you have to do.”

“It’s unbelievable,” Charlotte sighed. “It’s so weird how I didn’t even notice.”

“You’ve been so busy, Charlotte. And we worked very hard to make sure that this worked out properly,” William offered. “Sam wanted to take advantage of this rare opportunity and we’ve been making sure it’s the kind of wedding you’ve talked about in the past. We took away the stress of planning a wedding so you can properly enjoy it.”

“Thank you, William,” Charlotte said softly, giving him another hug. “Seriously, Lizzie. You’ve got yourself a good guy.”

“I know I do,” Lizzie beamed at him. Now, I want to hear the whole story,” she led the group to sit down. “And then I can finally share some big work news I’ve been dying to tell you.”

“That sounds promising. What is it?” Charlotte asked inquisitively.

“Nu uh. You first!”

“He proposed at sunset…” Charlotte started, glancing to her new fiancé.

“That doesn’t sound like the beginning to me, Lu,” Lizzie scolded.

“Alright, alright!” Charlotte said, putting her hands up in defeat. “The whole thing started a few minutes after you and William left…”

 


 

Thursday, February 1st 

“Just got off the phone with the pilot and they’re ready to go when you are,” William said, slipping his phone in his pocket as he sat down next to Lizzie. The four of them had just finished breakfast and were waiting for Charlotte’s mom to arrive. Lizzie had done research on where some of the best bridal shops were on the Hawaiian Islands. She had learned that there was a David’s Bridal on the island of Oahu so they would have to fly over from The Big Island. William had made arrangements so that they could use the private plane and Lizzie made an appointment at the store.

“Perfect. I think we should be back by noon,” Lizzie checked her watch. “Then we can do some sightseeing. What are you guys going to do in the meantime?”

“I think we’re going to go back to the beach and get in a little more surfing,” Sam said, glancing at William and getting a nod of confirmation.

“Have you been bitten by the surfing bug?” Lizzie asked, elbowing her husband.

“I just…want to see if I can improve,” William admitted.

“I think it’s cool. God knows he’s already better than me,” Charlotte said.

“I like that you’re not giving up,” Lizzie smiled, leaning over and kissing his cheek. They heard a faint knock coming from the front, Charlotte and Sam got up from their chairs and went inside to answer the door. “Okay. It looks like we’re going to head out. Try not to have too much fun without us.”

“Same to you,” William said, tugging on her hand. She gave him an amused look and she bent down, giving him a long kiss goodbye before murmuring, “Love you.”

“Love you too,” Lizzie hummed. She brushed her hand across his shoulder and he gave her a light tap on her butt as she started to walk away. She gasped and looked back at him. “Naughty. What was that for?”

“Just getting you back for how handsy you were in the shower this morning,” William said with a waggish look.  She showed no sign of regret and he chuckled before waving goodbye. She walked inside to find Charlotte and her mom hugging. She passed Sam as he went to rejoin William.

“Make sure she has fun, okay?” Sam asked, pausing at the door.

“I will,” Lizzie assured. “And we’ll be back before you know it. You have fun, too!”

“I’m sure we will,” Sam grinned before closing the door behind him.

“Okay, ladies!” Lizzie raised her voice to get their attention. “We have a dress appointment to get to!”

~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Aloha and welcome to David’s Bridal! Do we have an appointment?” the petite brunette woman asked as they walked in.

“We do. It’s for Charlotte Lu,” Lizzie informed her.

“Oh, yes! We know all about your special circumstances,” she replied in a chipper tone. “If you just have a seat, over there. Your consultant will be right with you.”

“So what are my special circumstances?” Charlotte jokingly asked Lizzie as she sat next to her mom.

“Oh, you know. Surprise wedding and all. You can only try on dresses that you can walk out with today and don’t need much, if any, alterations,” Lizzie said.

“It’s so different than your wedding dress appointment,” Charlotte said before glancing to her mom. “I’m really glad you could be here.”

“I wouldn’t miss this for the world,” Charlotte’s mom said dotingly. “Maria’s upset she’s missing this but work is important. You’ll see her Saturday.”

“I understand. It’s not like I was prepared for something like this!” Charlotte said, disbelief still in her tone.

“Charlotte Lu?” a tall, raven-haired woman said softly as she approached them.

“That’s me,” Charlotte said as the three of them stood up.

“Wonderful. My name is Akela. I’ve been looking forward to this appointment,” Akela said, shaking her hand before turning to Lizzie. “Are you the best friend, Lizzie?”

“Yes, I am,” Lizzie replied, shaking her hand.

“And the mother, I assume?” Akela asked and Charlotte’s mom nodded. “If you would all follow me, please,” she began as she started walking them to a room. “Now, Lizzie has filled us in on all the details and I must say I’m quite excited to find you a dress. I’ve picked out some in advance should work for your time frame and location but you still have a selection to choose from if you like none of them.”

“I’m not a very picky person but I know it should be simple,” Charlotte said.

“Your best friend knows you well. That’s exactly what she said,” Akela smiled. Lizzie smiled at Charlotte when she nudged her. They stopped in front of a room and Akela told Charlotte’s mother and Lizzie to have a seat on the two empty chairs before opening the door for Charlotte and hurrying off to get dresses.

 “Can you spoil one thing?” Charlotte asked.

“Depends on what it is,” Lizzie said.

“Is the wedding inside or out?” Charlotte asked.

“Wow. He’s really keeping you in the dark,” Lizzie chuckled.

“Please, Lizzie,” Charlotte pouted.

“I don’t know. I’m already being deprived of hosting a proper bachelorette party,” Lizzie said, her lips twitching in amusement. Charlotte simply groaned.

“You’re such a tease, Lizzie,” Mrs. Lu chuckled.

“I know,” Lizzie gloated. “I promise you’re going to love everything. I’ll let Sam give you the rest of the details.”

“So mean,” Charlotte said moodily. Akela returned a few moments later with a pile of dresses in her arms.

“Are we ready to pick your dress?” Akela asked.

“As ready as I’ll ever be,” Charlotte said, brightening.

“Then let’s get started.”

~~~~~~~~~~~

“I really love my dress,” Charlotte said as they pulled up to the curb outside of their house.

“That’s good because you’re stuck with it,” Lizzie said with an all too innocent look and Charlotte stuck her tongue out at her. “It helps that Akela was so enthusiastic about finding a dress that suits you so well.”

“It’s the perfect dress, honey. You look so lovely in it and Sam’s going to be speechless,” Mrs. Lu smiled at her.

“I’m really glad you could be here, Mom,” Charlotte said sincerely.

“I am too, Charlotte. Sam is a wonderful man and you deserve each other,” Mrs. Lu said before adding, “And it’s about time you two finally settled down.”

“I was wondering when you’d say that,” Charlotte mused, hearing Lizzie snicker. They both heard Lizzie’s mom in Mrs. Lu’s tone. “Thanks for holding onto the dress too.”

“We don’t want the groom seeing it before he needs to,” Mrs. Lu winked. “Now, you two go off and enjoy yourselves. Your father and I have some sightseeing to do before Maria arrives. We’ll see you Saturday.”

Charlotte and Lizzie gave Mrs. Lu hugs goodbye and watched her drive off. They headed inside to find William and Sam just finishing up making lunch. The four of them sat down to eat while William and Sam asked questions about their excursion. Lizzie and Charlotte were experts at teasing them and gave nothing away.

Soon afterwards, they got ready to go and Sam took the driver’s seat once more. Their afternoon became jam-packed with sightseeing, starting with an exciting tour on the Umauma Zip line. One of the best perks of the tour was that they had access to the upper falls, which was closed to the general public. Lizzie and William reminisced about another waterfall they jumped off on their honeymoon.

They made it home with just enough time to change for dinner before heading right out again to for their reservation at the Rays on the Bay restaurant. They took their time and once their plates were cleared and the meal was paid for, they made their way outside to Paakai Point hoping to see Manta Rays. Lizzie and William made it a little competition between them to see who could point out more Rays. Charlotte and Sam watched from the sidelines in amusement for a little bit but turned their attention back to each other. It was nearly ten when they called it a night and Lizzie and William spent the car ride back teasing each other about who really won their competition.

By the time they got back home, they were both declared the winner by Charlotte as she and Sam headed to their bedroom. Lizzie and William laughed and accepted the ruling before they went to their bedroom to celebrate in their own way.

 


 

Friday, February 2nd 

The four of them got up early in the morning and headed out to Kilauea to meet with a native tour guide. They were taken on a long hike across Kilauea crater and later, the guide brought them to some more active spots to show them lava tubes as well as Pu’u ‘O’o crater where a lava pond had been steadily growing over the past couple years. He tipped them off to a lava flow spot near the ocean that was a must-see at night. After they said their goodbyes, they headed back to their place where they spent the afternoon snorkeling in the waters just past their backyard, spotting numerous tropical fish as well as a pod of dolphins jumping in and out of the water from afar. As the sun started to dip in the sky, they all went in to get ready for a big night of entertainment.

“When’s the last time you went to a luau?” Charlotte asked Sam when they arrived at their destination for the evening. They were greeted with leis and took their seats in the front, waiting for the show to begin.

“Actually, never,” Sam admitted, putting his arm around Charlotte’s shoulder. “Luaus are really more for the tourists. I’m doing this solely for you, Lu.”

“Awww, I feel so special,” Charlotte said with a grin. “And for Lizzie and William, I assume.”

“We can’t forget them,” Sam said, glancing at the couple beside them.

“We’re afterthoughts, William,” Lizzie teased. “Isn’t that nice?”

 “Very,” William chuckled. “And here we thought we’d go out and let them have some fun on their last night as single people.”

“It was very generous of you, William. Thank you for thinking of this,” Sam replied.

“And paying,” Charlotte added sincerely. “Despite our offer.”

“Really, it’s no trouble,” William brushed it off. “You’re welcome.”

“So, Charlotte, have you decided if you’re going to change your last name?” Lizzie asked, changing the subject.

“I thought about it and I’m going to hyphenate,” Charlotte said. “I like the sound of Lu-Kekoa.”

“I’m just happy she’s marrying me in the first place,” Sam said, flashing a brilliant smile to Charlotte.

“That’s what counts,” William said in a warm tone and Lizzie beamed, entwining their fingers together.

The sounds of conch shells indicated the start of the show and they quieted down, turning their attention to the stage.

~~~~~~~~~~

After the opening of the show and once dinner of roasted pig had been served, the real entertainment began. They were told stories of Hawaiian cultures through singing and reenactments and there were fire dancers so close that William could feel the heat from the stage. They were given a standing ovation before a group of hula dancers came onto the stage to perform.

“We need a few volunteers! Men and women,” the lead hula dancer asked once they finished their performance. One dancer made eye contact with William and he froze, desperately hoping she wouldn’t coerce him to come up. Lizzie must have sensed his fear and she quickly raised her hand, diverting attention away from him. He silently thanked her with a grateful look and she smiled, kissing his cheek and brushing her hand across his shoulder as she made her way to the stage. She grabbed Sam’s hand on the way and he laughed the whole way up the stage. William glanced to Charlotte and she shrugged her shoulders in amusement before eagerly turning her attention back to the stage.

William turned his head and his gaze met his wife’s. Only a few other men and women volunteered to go on stage but the instructors were enthusiastic to teach. Sam and the other male volunteers were being taught a few moves while Lizzie was being shown how to move her hips. William couldn’t keep his eyes off her. The way she was moving her hips was very enticing to him. She must have known he was watching her because she glanced his way and winked at him, biting her bottom lip playfully as she kept swinging her hips. He took a deep breath and shifted in his seat to stop his mind from wandering to even dirtier territory. She was making it so easy right now. She was outshining the other ladies, who were probably twice her age, and garnering the most cheers. As the instructor tossed in a couple more complicated moves, she threw her head back in laughter while she tried to keep up.

After a few more moments, the instructors had everybody line up and show off their new moves to music. Charlotte was laughing and cheering for Sam, who was exaggerating his movements on purpose. Lizzie was staring straight at William and he couldn’t help but look smug. The most gorgeous woman on stage was married to him and he was the luckiest man in the world. Once the dancing ended, the volunteers gave a standing ovation and were allowed to leave the stage. Lizzie bounced off stage with Sam and Charlotte gave her a high-five.

“Way to smoke the other ladies there, Lizzie,” Charlotte said.

“Thanks,” Lizzie grinned before going over to William, where he pulled her in for a hug.

“You were the best one up there,” William whispered near her ear.

“Maybe I could give you a private show,” Lizzie whispered back. William pulled away and looked at her, nodding eagerly. She snickered and kissed his cheek before pulling him back into his chair. The show had a little less than an hour left but Lizzie and William could no longer concentrate as well. They kept exchanging heated glances and he took her hand, tracing his fingers along her palm and wrist. It was a game that was putting them on edge and they were both ready to go home. Desire grew in William at the prospect when the show finally ended. He could sense it in Lizzie too.

“Still want to check out the lava flow? It’s only a fifteen minute drive from here,” Sam suggested. Both William and Lizzie sighed inwardly. Despite their growing passion, they didn’t want to be those people who turned down an opportunity like that just because they were craving each other.

“Sure! Let’s go!” Lizzie said enthusiastically. William thought it was a little more enthusiastic than necessary but said nothing. They piled into the car and made the drive to the shore, where they could see the glow of the lava from a distance. They parked next to a few other cars and as soon as they got out, they were hit with wind.

“It’s really picked up,” Charlotte said in surprise.

“It’s stronger on this side of island. We won’t stay for long,” Sam assured them. “It’s worth it to see it once in your life. Either way, we’re probably gonna need a shower from the ash. Turn around and walk backwards when it bothers you.”

The thought of a shower sounded good to William right now. A shower with a naked and soap-sudded Lizzie sounded even better. He wanted to run his hands all over her alabaster skin and ached to have her body tightly wrapped around him as they gave into temptation.

“Ready?” Sam asked, bringing William out of his inappropriately-timed fantasy and breaking eye contact with Lizzie. He noticed a faint blush as she looked away, telling him that her mind was running away from her as well. They both wanted the same thing and they would have to use every ounce of patience they had left.

“Let’s go see Mother Nature at its finest,” Charlotte answered.

~~~~~~~~~~

“Are we ignoring the night before the wedding traditions?” Charlotte jokingly asked Lizzie as they walked into the house. Sam headed to their bedroom to take a shower. “Or are you making me sleep in another room tonight?”

“Considering how many other traditions we’ve ignored, yes,” Lizzie said. William let go of her hand, gesturing with his head to their bedroom and giving her a heated look. She held up one finger, promising to be there in a minute. She watched him in appreciation as he headed down the hall seemingly strutting as if he knew her eyes were on him. Charlotte cleared her throat and Lizzie whipped her head back around, smiling sheepishly and temporarily pushing away her thoughts of getting her hands on his lean body.

“I don’t think sleeping in the same room is going to do you a bit of harm. Just don’t stay up too late,” Lizzie said.

“I could say the same for you,” Charlotte smirked.

“Don’t you give me sass, missy,” Lizzie narrowed her eyes at her. “You’ve got an important day ahead of you.”

“I know, I know,” Charlotte said with a genuine smile. “Thank you for being here.”

“You know I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” Lizzie said warmly as they hugged each other.

“Okay, I’m saving the rest of this mushy stuff for tomorrow,” Charlotte said, waving her off. “Wouldn’t want to deprive you of your husband any longer.”

“I’ll be able to say the same thing to you after tomorrow!” Lizzie said in a sing-song tone as she strutted down the hall.

“Whatever!” Charlotte shouted, pausing at her door. “Good night!”

“Night, Char,” Lizzie laughed, walking into the bedroom and closing the door behind her. She leaned against it and gave herself a moment, calling back up those feelings of lust for her husband that she had had to tamp down while they were at the lava flow. She heard the shower running and looked around the room to see a trail of clothes leading to the bathroom. Grinning to herself, she grabbed the hem of her dress and lifted up and over her head, dropping it to the floor before walking into the bathroom. She sighed in appreciation when she saw her naked husband standing under the water in the outside shower. She reached behind her back and unclasped her bra, letting it fall to the floor and then wiggled out of her underwear. She stopped at the open sliding and leaned against the frame, admiring him for a moment. He was facing partially away from her but she could see him rubbing his face with his hands while water ran down his lean back. She was itching to get her hands all over him, especially with the way he had been staring at her tonight. He looked like he was ready to pounce when she was on stage and he had been taunting her with his touches afterwards and now, all she wanted was him.

“Hi,” Lizzie murmured, slinking her way over to him and getting shivers when she felt the warm water hit her. She pressed her body to his back and wrapped her arms around his waist, kissing his shoulder. He glanced behind him and smiled. “I see you were in a hurry to get your clothes off.”

“I would have liked to have taken yours off as well,” William replied smoothly as she started to kiss along the back of his shoulders.

“You were mentally doing that earlier,” Lizzie said lowly. She began to inch her hand down his firm stomach down past his navel and she felt him take a deep sigh. “I could tell by the expression in your eyes.”

A switch flipped in him and he turned in her arms, lifting his hands and framing her face. He bent down and kissed her, teasing her lips with the tip of his tongue. He pulled her in closer to him and she whimpered in anticipation when she felt him hard against her. Her lips parted and he ran his tongue along the roof of her mouth. A sense of urgency returned in both of them and he spun them around, backing her close to the shower wall. His hands slid down to her butt and gave her a little squeeze, and she giggled against his lips. He moved his hands further down and gripped the back of her thighs. Lizzie threw her arms around his neck as he lifted her up off the floor with ease and she wrapped her legs around his torso. She gasped softly when he pushed her against the shower wall and he grinned at her before leaning in and kissing up her neck.

“Lost all patience, have we?” Lizzie asked breathily, squirming for more when she felt him pressed against her entrance.

“As if you have any left either, love,” William said huskily. Lizzie dug her nails into the back of his neck and moaned in pleasure as he entered her. Her gaze met his and unadulterated arousal rushed through her veins as she saw the lust in his darkening blue eyes. With the long build-up all night, she squeezed her thighs tighter around him and he began to thrust hard into her. She was in the mood for fast and rough and she loved how quickly he picked up on it. She kissed him with a hunger within her and he kissed her back with just as much passion. His strokes were wonderfully deep and he kept loosening his grip on her that she would slide down the wall and pull him in even more. The air was filled with their mingled moans and the sound of hot water hitting their bodies. The way his arms looks as he held her and how his thighs contracted with every thrust had her feeling like she would burst into flame any moment. She leaned in and bit down on his earlobe, nipping and pulling on it gently as he brought her closer and closer to what she needed. Sliding one hand through his dripping wet hair and bracing the other against the wall, she begged for more and he responded immediately. She whimpered and moaned as he worked harder and faster than before. After teetering on the edge for only a few seconds more, she cried out his name as bliss overtook her. William was only a few strokes behind her and he growled as he came, holding on tight to Lizzie as shared pleasure flowed between them.

“I love outdoor showers,” Lizzie sighed, dropping her head against the shower. He hummed his agreement and kissed her shoulder. Hesitantly, he lifted her up and off and she whimpered at the loss as he lowered her to the ground. She leaned into him, enjoying the warm water on her back as they stood there in silence for a bit. “I need a real shower now. Stay with me?”

“I’ll wash your hair if you wash mine,” William offered teasingly, smiling at her when she looked up at him.

“I’m taking you up on that offer,” She stood on up her toes and casually kissed him. “I love the way you wash my hair. I might just drag you to bed for another round.”

“When is there ever dragging? I’m always ready when you are,” William said, waggling his eyebrows.

 


 

Saturday, February 3rd 

The house was buzzing with excitement and activity right after breakfast. Both Charlotte’s and Sam’s families had arrived, ready for the day. Lizzie had emailed and talked with Sam’s mother and sister-in-law, Leilani, for the past couple months but it was her first time meeting them. Once they were all familiar, all six of them piled into the largest car to head to the Mauna Lani Spa. She had arranged for a full body massage for Charlotte while the rest of them would be getting everything else done. That was only the beginning of what was in store for Charlotte today. Lizzie wanted her to be well taken care of on her wedding day.

“Lizzie, seriously? You didn’t have to do all this,” Charlotte said, reading through the small list of spa treatments she would be experiencing. She and Lizzie were still standing outside while the others went to check in for their appointments.

“Am I not your unofficial matron of honor?” Lizzie asked with a knowing look.

“You’re my official matron of honor,” Charlotte corrected. “But…”

“No buts, Charlotte,” Lizzie said. “Remember when you were planning my bachelorette party and I said I would do to you what you did to me?”

Charlotte frowned and then sighed. “Yea.”

“This is the next best thing. The hair and nails are standard for any bride. You have complete control of what they do so you can get whatever you want,” Lizzie assured her. “The massage is just my…bachelorette gift.”

“There’s not going to be some random guy pretending to be my stripper massage therapist popping out from behind the curtain, is there?” Charlotte asked.

“Damn! Missed opportunity,” Lizzie joked. “I promise. No surprises from me. Today is going to be the most laid back wedding day ever.”

“I can’t believe I’m getting married today,” Charlotte said quietly. “Definitely not what I expected when we were planning this trip.”

“Don’t you think that’s the best part? The anticipation is minimal,” Lizzie said. “I know you hate being the center of attention so we made the spotlight as tiny as possible.”

“And that’s why we’re such amazing friends,” Charlotte smiled. “Thank you for everything.”

“Don’t give me all the credit,” Lizzie waved it off. “You know this is all Sam…with a dash of William.”

“We found ourselves some really great guys,” Charlotte remarked, not for the first time on this trip.

“We sure did,” Lizzie agreed, looping her arm through hers. “Come on. Let’s go get pampered and then we’re getting you married.”

~~~~~~~~~~

Lunch was included with their spa day and time seemed to pass by more quickly than they expected. Sam’s mother was regaling Charlotte with stories of his childhood all afternoon. Charlotte’s mom began to share stories of Charlotte’s childhood and the mothers began to go back and forth with cute anecdotes. Lizzie sat back and listened as the two kept talking about raising kids. She took mental notes while enjoying her pedicure.

She occasionally sent updates to William when he wasn’t sending her some of his own. The set up for the ceremony went as planned and they were mainly killing time until the entertainment and the officiant arrived, which would be soon. Sam had arranged for the ceremony to begin just before sunset, which left a little over two hours for the ladies to get ready. It was plenty of time since the only thing left was hair and none of them were getting complicated hairstyles. Once Sam’s mother had told Charlotte about a few wedding traditions, she was easily convinced to have it simply curled and left down. Lizzie wanted to do the same, knowing William would be quite appreciative of her decision.

Once they were done at the spa, they went to Mrs. Lu’s hotel room where Charlotte’s wedding dress was waiting. Lizzie had brought her own dress with her to change into, knowing it was perfect for a tropical wedding. The soft pink long, flowing gown with blossoms printed all over fit her as well as the first time she wore it nearly three years ago on her and William’s last night on Fregate. She had worn it only a few times since because she felt that it was a special dress and the look on William’s face when he saw her in it was something she always cherished. Mrs. Lu lent her a hand and tied the neck of her dress before they both helped Charlotte with her dress.

“Charlotte! That dress is perfect!” Maria squealed after Lizzie zipped her up and she had put on simple but comfortable sandals with white straps. She had picked a long sleeveless chiffon dress with a beaded keyhole neckline. There was a small cut-out in the back of her dress and the waist was fitted with a crisscross pattern while her skirt was layered, giving her an ethereal look when she moved in it.

“You look gorgeous,” Lizzie said proudly.

“I feel fantastic in this dress,” Charlotte beamed.

“My little girl…” Mrs. Lu trailed off, waving her hand in her face to keep from crying. “Not so little anymore.” Charlotte hugged her tightly.

When they pulled apart, her mom took out a small box from her purse. “We’ve got to keep up with the traditions and I have just the thing to help. Your dress is your something new...”

Charlotte and Lizzie watched her mom open the box and both of them recognized the object immediately. It was a silver bracelet with tiny embedded emeralds that her grandmother had worn all the time. The two of them had always admired it when they were little.

“This is your something old and something borrowed,” Mrs. Lu said as she clasped the silver bracelet around Charlotte’s wrist. “Your grandfather gave it to your grandmother as a wedding gift on their wedding and she let me borrow it on mine. It was my something borrowed and old and now it’s yours, as well.”

“I love it,” Charlotte said softly, brushing her fingers along the edge. She looked up after a moment. “My something blue?”

“It’s at the house,” Mrs. Kekoa piped up. “Which, by the way, we should be heading to now.”

With that simple reminder, the ladies grabbed everything they needed and hurried into the car. Lizzie texted William to let him know they were on their way so he would make sure Sam wouldn’t see them. William greeted them as they pulled up and Lizzie’s smile grew. He was wearing a pair of well-fitted khaki pants and a white linen button up shirt with the first two buttons undone and the sleeves folded up, showing off his forearms. His eyes lit up at the sight of her as he opened her door.

“Hey, beautiful,” William said, holding out a hand for her.

“Hey yourself, handsome,” Lizzie returned. “Shouldn’t you be saving the compliments for the bride?”

“Firstly, you’ll always be my bride,” William said sweetly, kissing her cheek. “Secondly, I am filled with infinite compliments.”

“I think I’ll keep you then,” Lizzie said cheekily.

“Lucky me,” William laughed before offering a hand to Charlotte, who was inching her way to the edge of the seat. She took it and he helped her out of the car.

“I’m glad I have such two wonderful friends who flirt so openly in front of me on my wedding day,” Charlotte said, smiling at the two of them.

“I couldn’t very well flirt with your husband-to-be so it was being bottled up all day,” William said, as Lizzie snickered. “And let me tell you how wonderful you look, Charlotte. You’ll render him speechless.”

“As long as he’s still able to say ‘I do’, I’m fine with that,” Charlotte said cheekily before catching Mrs. Kekoa beckoning her over out of the corner of her eye. “I’m not quite done getting ready so if you’ll excuse me.”

Lizzie and Charlotte left his side and followed Mrs. Kekoa into one of the bedrooms for her last-minute addition. She explained that a few Hawaiian wedding customs would be used for the wedding while Leilani came in with a floral Haku, adorned with blue Plumbago flowers.

“Your something blue,” Mrs. Kekoa said, placing the crown on top of Charlotte’s head. She and Leilani took a couple minutes to pin it to her head, making sure it was straight. When they finished, they stood back and with satisfied smiles on their faces. They guided her to a mirror to show her the final look and even Lizzie couldn’t stop the rogue tear from escaping. She quickly wiped it away as Charlotte turned around to look at her and they smiled tearfully at each other.

“I’m ready now.”

~~~~~~~~~

After they had been handed their bouquets, Lizzie squeezed Charlotte’s free hand before she stepped outside to hear the distinct sound of a ukulele playing. She began to walk slowly towards the ceremony space, taking in the simple elegance of the decorated backyard. There was one photographer skillfully staying out of the way as she snapped pictures. Sam stood in front of a bamboo arch that covered in tropical flowers and white curtains tied up at the corners. It was placed in front of two of the main palm trees, framing it and giving them a perfect view of the sunset sky behind them. Five chairs were placed on each side with lit tiki torches signaling the beginning of the aisle. Sam was wearing the same outfit as William, who stood next to him, with the exception of having a Maile-style Ti Leaf Lei hanging around his neck. The officiant sounded off a conch shell, signaling Charlotte’s entrance while everybody stood.

If Lizzie had any shred of doubts about Sam’s love for her best friend before, it would have been shattered by the look of pure joy on Sam’s face when he saw Charlotte. She took her place opposite of Sam and Lizzie quickly took her bouquet so Charlotte could take his hands. They looked to the officiant so he could begin.

“Aloha to Sam and Charlotte and to our guests,” the officiant began. “Aloha is truly the perfect word to describe a wedding as aloha means hello, good-bye and with love and that is exactly what you are doing here today. You are saying aloha to your single lives forever, saying aloha to your married life to one another, and you are doing it with love. So I bid you two Aloha.”

Lizzie looked over to William and he beamed at her. She knew from his expression that he was getting flashbacks of their own wedding. She still remembered the look on his face when he saw her and his vows to her. It had been the best day of her life and she was so happy to be included in Charlotte’s today.

“In Hawaii, the lei is a symbol of affection and like a wedding ring. This flower garland is an unbroken circle that represents your eternal commitment and devotion to one another,” the officiant continued, picking up two leis from the small table beside him. “The beauty of each individual flower is not lost when it becomes a part of the garland, but is enhanced because of the strength of the bond. Just as each of you are individuals, you’re coming together as one serves to enhance each of your beauty and strengthen the love that was already present in each of your hearts.”

The officiant presented them with leis to exchange. Sam went first and carefully put the lei on her, saying Aloha and kissing each cheek. Charlotte followed suit and laughed a little when he bent down so she could easily put it around his neck. The officiant continued with the ceremony, talking about Hawaiian traditions and the strength of love. They pledged their ‘I dos’ and then he nodded to William, who pulled out the wedding rings from his pocket and handed them over.

“At this point, the bride and groom will exchange vows. Sam has requested that the vows be spoken in Hawaiian,” the officiant stated. Charlotte looked nervous and Sam squeezed her hand.

“I’ll speak slowly and then I’ll help you with yours,” Sam assured her while everybody chuckled. He grabbed Charlotte’s ring and held it at the tip of her left ring finger. “Aloha au 'ia 'oe. No kêia la, no kea pô, a mau loa. Male ana e pili mai aloha kâua. Aloha aku nô, aloha mai nô. Mahalo e ke Akua nô kêia lâ. Eia au, eia 'oe. Ka honi mai me ke aloha. No kau a kau. Ma'ane'i nô ke aloha. E kipa mai E ku'u aloha. Aloha au 'ia 'oe.”

Sam slipped the ring on her finger and she let out a shaky breath as she took his ring. She held the ring close to his left ring finger while Sam said the words once more while Charlotte repeated them. There was a small applause for her when she finished and she was beaming as she slipped the ring on his finger.

“Charlotte and Sam, you have pledged your eternal Aloha to one another and your commitment to live together faithfully in wedlock. By the authority vested in me by the laws of the State of Hawaii, I pronounce you husband and wife. Sam, you may kiss your bride!” the officiant exclaimed. “Aloha!”

Everybody shouted aloha as Sam took Charlotte in his arms, kissing her with enthusiasm. Lizzie and William clapped and exchanged happy looks when Sam dipped Charlotte for one more kiss. She threw her arms around his neck, laughing against his lips from his gesture. The whole scene proved to be the perfect wedding photo that would later be used as their wedding announcement. The sky was deep in sunset with blue, orange and pink hues, providing the ideal background for the end of their ceremony.

~~~~~~~~~~

The backyard was effortlessly transformed into a reception space within minutes after pictures had been taken. Sam’s father and brother brought out a long table and pulled the chairs from the ceremony over to it. Once everybody was ready to eat, a feast of Hawaiian food was brought out for everyone to enjoy. Nearly everybody gave a small speech since it was mainly family. At the end of dinner, Sam clinked his glass to get everyone’s attention and stood up.

“I wanted to thank my family and my new extended family for being able to be here today,” Sam said. “It was important that you were here to celebrate this day with me and Charlotte. A huge thank you to Lizzie and William. This wouldn’t have happened without your help and I am truly grateful for your friendship.”

Lizzie and William each lifted their glass at his words as he continued.

“And to my new wife,” Sam said, breaking into a grin at the word and looking to her. “I love you. You have made my life better and I know it will only improve from here. Thank you for not saying no and thinking this was a crazy idea in the first place. I know you’re not a fan of surprises but I hope you will always see this as a good one.”

“One of the best,” Charlotte said happily.

“And I have one more surprise for you,” Sam said, pulling out an envelope “Hawaii is not our final honeymoon destination.”

“What…” Charlotte trailed off as he handed her the envelope.

“Fitz and Brandon have graciously lent us their timeshare in Fiji for the next week and a half,” Sam announced. “Our flight leaves tomorrow morning.”

“Seriously?” Charlotte’s eyebrows shot up in surprise.

“Brought your passport and everything,” Sam grinned. The guests piped up at once, telling them that certain activities and dinners were on them as wedding gifts. Charlotte was caught in a loop of thanking everybody and Lizzie could tell that she looked a little overwhelmed by the generosity. She quietly pointed it out to Sam and he took over the situation, declaring that dinner was over and it was time for some dancing.

~~~~~~~~~~

William and Lizzie were taking a break from dancing. She was sitting on his lap and resting her head against his shoulder while he brushed the tips of his fingers up and down her arm while humming along to the music. She was determined to stay up to enjoy their last night in Hawaii but the reception was starting to wind down. Charlotte’s and Sam’s parents had both called it a night a while ago and Maria had just left.

“They look so happy,” William murmured, moving his gaze to Sam and Charlotte. They were swaying to the music and holding each other close, Charlotte’s hands clasped behind Sam’s back.

“They should. It is their wedding day,” Lizzie said quietly. “The goal is to look that happy even years after that day.”

“Like three?” William offered. Lizzie lifted her head and looked at him at him for a moment, noticing the twinkle in his eyes.

“Exactly,” Lizzie replied, leaning in and kissing him softly. “But the better goal would be more like forty or fifty years.”

“That’s a given,” William said, the corner of his lips twitching up. “Everybody focuses on the bigger anniversary years. I’d rather focus on every one.”

“Every anniversary with you is important. I’d be worried if you ever forgot one.”

“I won’t. I promise. You are too important to forget,” William said, brushing his thumb across her cheek before kissing her. After a few moments, there was a throat clearing and they pulled apart to see Charlotte and Sam standing before them.

“We’re the newlyweds and you’re the ones making out,” Charlotte pointed out.

“Nobody’s stopping you,” Lizzie shot back.

“She makes a good point, babe,” Sam chuckled, swooping in to kiss Charlotte’s cheek.

“Do you want some privacy? Is this your subtle way of calling it a night?” Lizzie asked.

“Actually, we’re losing the entertainment soon and I was hoping for a dance with Lizzie,” Sam replied.

“And I was hoping to steal William,” Charlotte finished.

“As long as you give him back. I super like him,” Lizzie said playfully, getting up from his lap.

“Lizzie,” William chuckled as he stood up. “I’d be happy to dance with you, Charlotte.”

The four of them made their way closer to the music and Charlotte smiled at Leilani, who was dancing with Luka.

“I have to thank you, William,” Charlotte said, looking up at him. “For all of your help. It was everything I didn’t know I wanted.”

“You’re welcome,” William said, “It was mostly Sam, though. And Lizzie, of course. I was simply around to lend a hand when needed.”

“I’m still very grateful,” Charlotte said with a knowing look.

“You’ve deserved it all,” William said warmly. “I know I said it before but you look gorgeous, Charlotte. You make a beautiful bride.”

“Thank you,” Charlotte looked down for a second to hide her reddening cheeks. “And thank you for being so good to Lizzie. She couldn’t have found a better partner than you, William.”

“I think you and I can safely say we are both very lucky people,” William said, noticing Sam spinning Lizzie over to the two of them. “Having fun?”

“Always,” Lizzie said, taking a breath and grabbing William’s arm for balance. “But I think that’s enough dancing for me.”

“Did my husband tire you out?” Charlotte asked happily, lighting up at her realization about the significance of her words as Sam moved to her side.

“Yes,” Lizzie said simply, giving her a gentle smile. She knew exactly what Charlotte was feeling at that moment. She still got a flutter of joy whenever she called William her husband. It was the most intense during the first few months and she knew Charlotte was about to experience that happiness. “I think we’re going to call it a night. Long day.”

“You’re telling me,” Charlotte said. “I’m sure tomorrow will be just as long.”

“But the end result will be worth it,” Sam said with a smile.

“It always is,” William said warmly, kissing Lizzie’s temple.

“Alright, I’m taking him to bed before these two try to out-do each other on how awesome we are,” Lizzie said.

“Spoiler alert: we’re both equally awesome,” Charlotte said, high-fiving Lizzie before pulling her in for a hug. William and Sam stepped away, giving them a few moments and walking over to Luka and Leilani.

“Have an amazing time on your honeymoon. Take lots of pictures…but you know, not too many. I want to know you’re actually having fun,” Lizzie said lightly. Charlotte laughed and shook her head at her.

“I will take as many as I take,” Charlotte said. “And I’ll even bring you back a present.”

“Ooh! Now I’m excited!” Lizzie grinned. “I’ll bring you back something from New York too.”

“Right! I’d wish you good luck but I already know you’re going to kick ass,” Charlotte said proudly. They both turned as William came sprinting over.

“Hey, Sam’s asking for you. Luka and Leilani are leaving,” William said.

“Thanks, William. I’ll leave this one to you,” Charlotte said, giving both of them a quick hug before she walked towards Sam. William casually bent down and plucked a hibiscus flower from one of the arrangements, spinning it between his fingers while Lizzie watched Charlotte until she reached her new husband.

“Today was a really good day,” Lizzie said, turning to him.

“It was,” William agreed. “You were beautiful as always.”

“Thank you, Will,” Lizzie said softly, her cheeks reddening slightly to his delight.

“Want to head to bed?” William asked, nodding towards the house behind her.

“Thinking you’re going to get lucky again?” Lizzie teased him.

A smile slowly spread across his face. He brought the flower up and gently placed it in her hair, just above her left ear. He dropped his hand and admired her for a moment.

“I already am lucky.”

Chapter Text

By the time Lizzie and William got up on Sunday, Charlotte and Sam had already left for their flight to Fiji. They found a note on the kitchen counter thanking them for everything, and after cleaning up, packing up, and locking up, they headed to the airport. The flight home was pleasant since it was just the two of them on the small jet. William had arranged for a car to pick them up once they landed and it was late afternoon by the time they were pulling up to their place.

“I feel like I shouldn’t even unpack,” Lizzie said as she put her suitcase on the bed. “I’m leaving again in two days.”

“I don’t quite think you’ll be warm enough with your tropical wear,” William replied.

“Ugh,” Lizzie groaned, dropping her head.

“Forgot that it was winter in New York, huh?” William asked, raising an eyebrow.

“Maybe,” Lizzie said with a sheepish smile, unpacking her clothes. “It’s for the best. I don’t think I would be knocking anybody off their feet by wearing a bathing suit. Except my husband, of course.”

“You knock me off my feet,” William said as he unzipped his suitcase. Lizzie nudged stood on her toes and gave him a kiss on the cheek for his sweet words.

“I’m going to throw these in the laundry,” Lizzie said, grabbing her pile of clothes and leaving the bedroom. William spent the next few minutes unpacking and throwing his clothes in his laundry basket before putting away his toiletries. Once he finished, he put away his suitcase and walked out to the living room to find Lizzie going through the mail.

“Anything good?” William asked, looking over her shoulder.

“Mostly bills,” Lizzie said and then held up one envelope addressed to her. “Finally got my new insurance card. I get the lovely task of finding a new doctor. That’s always fun.”

“You could just go to mine,” William suggested, reading the letter. “Dr. Gordon has been my doctor for ten years. He’s one of the best.”

“Do you think he’s taking new patients?” Lizzie asked.

“I can check for you and get you set up. I know your schedule and everything,” William offered. “Plus, you’re going to be busy with prepping for New York and Scholastic.”

“You sure?” Lizzie asked and he nodded. “What would I do without you?”

“Spend three days on the internet researching every doctor available at UCSF Medical Center and getting frustrated because you can’t figure out which would be the best for you?” William said.

“Yea…probably,” Lizzie laughed. She stood on her toes and kissed his cheek. “This will save me a ton of time. Thank you so much, Will.”

“Anytime,” William said sincerely. “You’ve done the same for me plenty of times.”

“True. The perks of having a spouse,” Lizzie said, squeezing his arm before noticing the time. “We need to call Jane and Bing sooner than later. We don’t want to miss the twins because they’re already in bed. And I want to double-check that Andrea and I are okay to stop by for dinner on Tuesday night.”

“I’ll get Domino set up,” William said. “You should text her to let her know.”

“Good idea,” Lizzie said, pulling out her phone. “I was planning to get a little work done afterwards so I can be caught up before tomorrow.”

“I was thinking of getting some done as well. Takeout for dinner?” William asked.

“Perfect. I didn’t really want to cook anyway,” Lizzie said before reminding him, “it’s your turn to pick. Preferably not seafood. Had enough of that this week already.”

“I’ll think of something good,” William promised.

Lizzie and William had a long and enjoyable video call with Jane, Bing, and the twins before they retreated to their offices to get some work done. The moment Lizzie’s stomach began to growl, William knocked on her door to tell her Mediterranean food was waiting for her. They ate and cuddled on the couch while catching up on their recorded shows before going to bed just after ten.

 


 

Tuesday, February 6th 

Lizzie had one meeting at the office at the beginning of the day. She planned to take her luggage to work and then she and Andrea would leave for the airport directly afterwards. William dropped her off so she wouldn’t have to worry about leaving her car at work for half the week. Before he let her go, he gave her a long goodbye kiss that left her breathless when he pulled away.

“For good luck?” Lizzie asked curiously.

William nodded. “And because I’ll miss you.”

“It’s barely three days. I’ll be back before you know it,” Lizzie said, comforting him. “And you know I’ll be inundating you with messages while I’m gone.”

“I’ve made sure my phone is charged,” William joked. “Give the twins extra hugs and tell them they’re from me.”

“If I have to,” Lizzie said, rolling her neck for emphasis. “I’ve got their gifts all packed. I’m ready for everything.”

“I believe you are,” William said, his voice laced with pride. Lizzie looked at him with a sweet softness and brought a hand up to his cheek before leaning in to give him a quick kiss.

“I will see you Thursday and I’ll give you updates along the way,” Lizzie said, grabbing her suitcase and adjusting her shoulder bag. “I love you.”

“Lizzie? I know you’re going to do well,” William said as she began to head towards the front of her building. “And I love you too.”

Lizzie glanced over her shoulder and smiled brightly at him before waving him goodbye. She barely had time to settle into her office before Andrea came in to grab her for their meeting. Thankfully, it was shorter than anticipated and it gave them a little extra time to get to the airport.

Their plane took off a little over an hour later and Lizzie and Andrea spent much of the time strategizing for the following day. Lizzie would only admit to herself - and to William - that she was nervous about the whole thing. While Scholastic asked to meet with them, nothing was set in stone. They would be the biggest client in her company’s short history if she impressed them enough. They had exchanged a few emails and she could tell they were saving the most important information for the meeting itself. She and Andrea had prepared as if they were going in completely blind and planning to sell from every angle. They were good at it too and knew how to play to each other’s strengths. It was how they had managed to sign on as many clients as they did in the first year of business.

Waiting until the pitch was always nerve-wracking for Lizzie, but William’s constant texts of encouragement usually gave her that extra boost of confidence that she needed. She was ready for anything, and despite how large Scholastic was, this would be no different. All she had to do was stay out of her head so she wouldn’t psych herself out and she was thankful Andrea was with her to make sure it didn’t happen.

~~~~~~~~~

Once Lizzie and Andrea had checked in to their hotel and settled into their rooms, it was nearly five. Lizzie had just enough time to freshen up and call William to let him know they got in safely before meeting Andrea downstairs at the lobby so they could take a taxi to Jane and Bing’s townhouse.

“Oh, it’s so much colder here,” Andrea said as they hurried up the stairs, being careful of the snow.

“We are not built for East Coast winters,” Lizzie said, pulling her coat in tighter. She knocked on the front door and Jane opened it a few moments later.

“Hey! It’s so good to see you!” Jane said, beckoning them in. “Come in from the cold! You’re just in time. Bing was just finishing dinner and the twins are getting antsy to see you.”

“I’m antsy to see them!” Lizzie said as they hugged. “I have extra hugs to give them from William. Where are they?”

“Just up the stairs,” Jane replied. “I’d give you a tour but Scarlett insists on doing it herself.”

“I think we can wait,” Lizzie laughed as she began to head to the second floor.

“Jane, I hope it wasn’t too much trouble that we’re here for dinner,” Andrea said, taking their time to get to the stairs.

“Our house is open to all family. That includes business family,” Jane waved her off. “I’m glad you came. I think I haven’t seen you since the wedding!”

“Has it really? That’s way too long,” Andrea said.

“We need to catch up,” Jane said, hearing the squeals of her kids from the stairs. “Right now, I’ve got two small toddlers I’d love for you to finally meet.”

“I’ve heard so much about them from Lizzie that I feel like I already have,” Andrea laughed.

“She and William love to boast,” Jane said as the sounds of running got louder, followed by her husband’s muffled voice. “We should get up there before anything breaks.”

“Does that happen often?” Andrea jokingly asked.

“Even with child-proofing this place,” Jane nodded. “You’d be surprised. It’s like there’s four of them sometimes.”

“We shouldn’t waste another moment then!”

~~~~~~~~~

“Bing, you cook a wonderful meal,” Lizzie said. She had helped clear the table and when she returned, Charlie climbed into Lizzie’s lap, much to her delight. Scarlett had already warmed up to Andrea and kept asking her silly questions all throughout the meal.

“It’s always nice have you join us for one,” Bing replied happily. “It’s the least we could do with all the work you did over the holidays.”

“It wasn’t so bad. I got to spend time with these two,” Lizzie said, squeezing Charlie closer to her. He giggled and squirmed in her hold.

“Plus, we got to hear all about Hawaii. Charlotte’s wedding sounds so romantic,” Jane said kindly. “I can’t wait to see the pictures.”

“It really was. The photographer got some great shots. I think you’ll be seeing them as soon as they come back from their honeymoon,” Lizzie said.

“Married in Hawaii and honeymooning in Fiji. Sounds like paradise,” Jane sighed dreamily.

“Speaking of, William and I brought back a few things. If you wouldn’t mind, Jane,” Lizzie said, gesturing to her bag. Jane got up and opened it, found some wrapped packages, and brought them over to Lizzie. “Thank you.”

“Presents?” Scarlett perked up.

“Have you been good since Christmas?” Lizzie asked, eyeing her down. Scarlett nodded eagerly.

“I help Mommy and Daddy clean,” she replied. “I pick up all my toys and put them away by myself.”

“Really?”

“She’s very insistent on doing it herself now,” Jane said, smiling at her daughter.

“What about you, Charlie?” Lizzie asked softly, looking down at him. “What have you been doing?”

“I help Daddy,” Charlie said simply.

Bing nodded as confirmation before saying, “He helped me make dinner, actually.”

“Well then. I think you two deserve these,” Lizzie said, handing a package over to Scarlett before giving the other to Charlie. Scarlett tore hers open while Charlie took his time. Lizzie and William had bought puka shell necklaces for both of them and found two children’s books about the history of Hawaii and Pele, the Hawaiian Volcano Goddess.

“Pretty!” Scarlett squealed, holding up the necklace. Jane reached over and helped put it on over her head while Lizzie helped Charlie.

“What do you say to Auntie Lizzie?”

“Thank you!” Charlie and Scarlett chorused.

“You’re welcome,” Lizzie replied, watching Charlie flip through the pages of his book before looking back up at her.

“Will you read to me for bedtime?” Charlie asked, giving her a pleading look that Lizzie found impossible to resist.

“Charlie, I don’t know if she can stay that long. You still have bath time,” Jane said sweetly, trying to let him down gently.

“I would love to, actually,” Lizzie said, glancing to Andrea. “As long as it’s okay with you?”

“As if I’d pull you away from these two,” Andrea said. “We’re more than prepared for tomorrow. Take your time.”

“You stay and help too,” Scarlett piped up, tugging on her sleeve. “Please?”

“Really? I will if you want me to,” Andrea said and Scarlett bounced excitedly.

“I think it’s time we show your Auntie Lizzie and Andrea around the house so we can get to bath and bed time,” Jane recommended. Lizzie helped Charlie off her lap and he took her hand while Scarlett took the lead.

“Follow me!”

After Scarlett and Charlie took Lizzie and Andrea on a rather enthusiastic tour of their place, Lizzie helped Jane with their baths and getting them into their pajamas. Scarlett didn’t give her a hard time like before and Lizzie was thankful for it. She tucked both kids into bed and read to them, kissing them goodnight, and turning off the lights.

“I thought it would take a lot longer for them to fall asleep,” Andrea admitted to Jane as they were pulling on their coats. “Scarlett is a big ball of energy.”

“She really is but once you get her into bed, she’s so mellow,” Jane said fondly.

“And Charlie is such a sweetie. A little quiet though,” Andrea pointed out.

“He takes a while to warm up to new people,” Lizzie said. “Even family. I think the Sunday calls are helping, Jane. He didn’t shy away from me at all tonight.”

“The calls are definitely helping. They’ve been looking forward to seeing you ever since you said you were coming,” Jane agreed. “And Bing and I are excited for you. Scholastic would be a big step for your company.”

“We’re cautiously optimistic,” Lizzie said, a tinge of nervousness in her voice.

“Honestly, I’m optimistic and Lizzie’s cautious. I think we’re exactly what they’re looking for even if we don’t quite know what they’re looking for,” Andrea said confidently.

“I’m sure!” Jane laughed. “I’m going to let you two get going before it gets too late. Keep me updated!”

“We will,” Andrea said, thanking Jane with a quick hug goodbye then heading outside to give Lizzie a moment.

“Thank you for dinner and letting me help get the twins to bed. They’re getting so big,” Lizzie said, hugging her sister. “The place looks fantastic, by the way. I can see why you fell in love with it.”

“It really feels like home now,” Jane replied before squeezing her hand for good measure. “And we’re here any time you need. Your meeting is going to go well tomorrow. I just know it.”

“You always know what to say to make me feel better,” Lizzie smiled at her.

“What else are big sisters for?” Jane said with a twinkle in her eye.

“Let me think about it for a minute,” Lizzie said, scrunching up her face.

“Oh, shush,” Jane scoffed. “You need to go before Andrea freezes out there.”

“Love you, Jane,” Lizzie said warmly.

“Love you, too,” Jane replied.

 


 

Wednesday, February 7th 

Lizzie was more nervous about the Scholastic meeting than she had been in a long time. Her stomach was turning and food didn’t sound appealing at all. She was getting stuck in the moment that something could go wrong at any moment and everything would fall through. She knew was ridiculous to think this way but her mind was running away from her. What she needed was a pep talk from her husband but it was still too early on the west coast. She settled for a long, hot shower, which helped her nerves but not her appetite. She was just putting her outfit together when she saw her phone blinking. Hoping it wasn’t a missed call or voicemail, she quickly grabbed it and then smiled as she read the message.

 

William @ 8:02 am

Eat something. You’ll regret it later.

 

Lizzie @ 8:02 am

How do you know I’m not eating right now? And why are you up so early?

 

William @ 8:04 am

Because I know you and you don’t eat when you’re nervous. Scholastic contacted YOU. They want YOUR company. Remember that.

 

William @ 8:05 am

And I don’t sleep well when you’re not around.

 

Lizzie @ 8:05 am

Neither do I.

This is such a big company.

 

William @ 8:06 am

They are.

Doesn’t mean you can’t handle them though.

Now, eat some breakfast and let me know when you’re out.

 

Lizzie @ 8:08 am

I needed this.

 

William @ 8:08 am

I know. I love you.

 

Lizzie @ 8:09 am

I love you too.

I’m going to get dressed and get some food.

 

William @ 8:11 am

Are you not dressed? Could I help you relieve some stress? ;)

 

Lizzie @ 8:12 am

Too late! I’ve got layers on.

You’ll have to wait until I come home tomorrow.

 

William @ 8:12 am

Damn.

 

William @ 8:35 am

Worth the wait, though. 

~~~~~~~~~~

After breakfast at their hotel, Lizzie and Andrea spent the last hour before the meeting making sure they had everything with them and going over their presentation. On the way to the Scholastic offices, Lizzie received a few more encouraging texts from William and Andrea kept Lizzie busy by telling her to practice out loud. The amount of reassuring nods and positive feedback from Andrea had Lizzie’s tension melting away in no time. She had never felt as confident as she did when they Andrea checked in and took their seats in the reception area. After a few minutes, a tall middle-aged woman walked out of her office and towards Lizzie and Andrea. They stood up and Lizzie ran a hand over her outfit to straighten it up, smiling as the woman approached them

“Lizzie Bennet?” the woman asked.

“Yes. You must be Judith,” Lizzie said, extending her hand.

“Please, call me Judy,” Judy smiled, shaking her hand before looking to Andrea. “And you are Andrea Miller?”

“I am. It’s very nice to meet you,” Andrea shook her hand.

“If you two would follow me, I have a couple people I’d like you to meet,” Judy said, leading them to a small conference room. When they walked in, there was an older white-haired gentleman and a short brunette woman in the room waiting for them. “This is James Davis and Marianne Hopper. James is in charge of our website and Marianne is in charge of the Scholastic book clubs and children’s e-content.”

Lizzie and Andrea shook their hands as they were each introduced.

“Why don’t you have a seat and we can get started,” Judy said before sitting down herself. “First of all, I’d like to tell you how impressed we are with your company. The amount of work you’ve put out in the amount of time that you’ve been established is truly an accomplishment.”

“Thank you. We pride ourselves on that,” Lizzie said gratefully. “We may be smaller than other media companies but we put our personal touch on our work.”

“And that’s exactly what we’re looking for,” Judy said. “We’re creating a new division that is specifically catered to our teenage audience. Our younger readers have proven to be more receptive to online content, but the teenagers are a harder sell.”

“It’s much easier for the younger ones, especially given what you’ve done for them,” Lizzie said. “We’ve spent more than a few hours navigating through your website. The Stacks is very thorough and I’ve already become a fan of Ink Splot. It’s a great website for the younger reader and very attractive, as well,” Lizzie saw the gleam in Judy’s eyes as she complimented them and it gave her a little boost to push herself. “But I can see how teenagers would be turned off. Besides your featured articles and a few teen-read lists, there’s not much to keep them interested.”

“You’ve done your homework,” Judy said, sitting back in her chair. “And already figured out our weakness. We’ve catered to teachers, librarians, and younger students for many years and we know how to do that. We’ve gotten the large boosts of interested teenagers with Harry Potter and The Hunger Games but it tapers off after a while. Fantastic Beasts has brought renewed interest but that will only last so long after the last movie is released this year. What we need are a fresh pair of eyes and that’s where you fit in. We are very interested to work with you after seeing what you put out and how many viewers you bring in.”

“Well, Judy,” Lizzie said, grabbing her bag and placing it on the table. “I think we can figure something out together.”

~~~~~~~~~~

William @ 5:22 pm

Very anxious to hear any news from you.

It’s been a long and uneventful day on my end.

 

Lizzie @ 6:10 pm

May or may not have impressed Scholastic enough to be out to dinner with some Big Wigs.

Be ready tomorrow because I have SO much to tell you.

 

William @ 6:12 pm

That’s not much to go on! Tease.

 

Lizzie @ 6:12 pm

Just know that your wife is awesome ;)

 

William @ 6:12 pm

Already knew that.

 

Lizzie @ 6:13 pm

Gotta get back to the table before they think something’s wrong.

Love you!

 

William @ 6:13 pm

Love you too.

 

Conversation was constant at the dinner table that night. Lizzie and Andrea learned about how Scholastic had made a few different book series popular with their readers. In turn, they talked about their own successes and how they consistently grew their follower count during their projects. Dinner was entertaining but went late. They didn’t return to their hotel until after eleven pm. Lizzie barely found the strength to change before she stumbled to bed, making sure that her alarm was set for the next day.


 

 

Thursday, February 8th 

Lizzie and Andrea caught an afternoon flight back to San Francisco, getting home just in time for the end of the workday. They made promises to get to work early the next day and then parted ways. Lizzie came home to find William already there, taking food out of a takeout bag.

“Hello there,” Lizzie said casually, walking into the kitchen.

“Hey,” William said, his face lighting up as he came around the counter and pulled her in for a hug. “I’m glad you’re home. I wasn’t sure when you’d get here but I thought you’d be a little too tired to eat out.”

“You’d be right,” Lizzie said, kissing him before pulling away. “This is just what I wanted when I got home. My handsome husband and delicious food.”

“Let’s eat,” William said, handing her a plate from the cupboard. “Then you can tell me all about your trip.”

“You got it.”

Lizzie spent dinner reiterating her visit to Jane and Bing’s to William, giving him details about the Lees’ townhouse and how the twins were.

“Charlie loved the book you picked out and Scarlett looked adorable with the necklace on,” Lizzie said as they finished cleaning up.

“I’m sure I’ll hear all about it on Sunday,” William replied warmly.

“Probably. They really missed you,” Lizzie said, brushing her hand down his arm. “But Scarlett had Andrea to distract her. It was kind of funny, really. She was asking her question after question and barely gave Andrea time to answer, though she managed to keep up with her.”

“It helps that Andrea has young nephews,” William noted, leading them to the couch. “She’s got the experience.”

“She does. I think Scarlett picked up on that and decided she was her new friend for the evening,” Lizzie sat down next to him, angling herself to face him. “And I got to snuggle with Charlie.”

“I’m a little envious,” William admitted.

“Don’t worry. He gave me extra snuggles so I could give them to you,” Lizzie said cheekily.

“I intend to cash in on that tonight,” William said, one corner of his mouth lifting. He reached over and took her hand. “So, how much longer do I have to wait until you tell me about Scholastic?”

“I was wondering how long you’d last until you asked,” Lizzie chuckled. “I’m pretty impressed, actually.”

“Don’t tease me,” William narrowed his eyes at her. She gave him a quick smile and leaned in to kiss the tip of his nose.

“Alright. It’s a long story,” Lizzie started. She proceeded to tell him about her meeting from the beginning, explaining that the company creating a new division for the teenage reader and detailing the different ideas that went back and forth. Scholastic had been impressed with Lizzie’s modern and classic adaptations of Shakespeare’s work and how the viewer count seemed to steadily rise each week. They wanted her to adapt one of their own books the same way. Lizzie took it one step further by suggesting creating their own website for the book and having characters interact with each other and the viewers through social media, including Twitter. If she could pull everything off, it would mean big things for both companies.

“So, they want me to create a team that would be working solely on this. The videos would be uploaded to a partner channel but obviously be linked with DEP,” Lizzie finished up. “They want to see how I can handle things under pressure so they gave me a book and a week to create a mock trailer, an outline, and the fleshing out of characters.”

“Only a week?” William’s eyebrows went up in surprise.

“Yea,” Lizzie said cautiously. “They’re willing to invest a lot in this if I can impress them enough. It could mean a great partnership and a long-term contract with them.”

“Lizzie…” William paused, trying to think of the best way to respond. “That is bigger than I imagined this would be. It sounds like a big undertaking for your company. You think you’re ready?”

Lizzie nodded eagerly. “I know I’m capable of rising to this type of challenge even with how intimidating it is. I haven’t been this excited over something so daunting since changing everything up during my last year of graduate school.”

“And we know how that turned out,” William said proudly.

“Right?” Lizzie scooted in closer to him. “So, Andrea and I are going to be working full-tilt on this for the next week and then we’re going back to New York on the nineteenth, with our best creative director.”

“That was the one week both of us didn’t have a business trip this month,” William pointed out forlornly.

“I know. That’s the only part that sucks about this,” Lizzie said apologetically. “I was looking forward to that week so I could soak up as much time with you before you go to London.”

William exhaled. “This is more important. We’ll take advantage of the weekends and when I come back, it will be the last big business trip for a while.”

“That’s good to know,” Lizzie said gently, pausing for a moment. “Man, what a busy month. I thought it was busy before…”

“We can handle it. We’ve done it before,” William assured her. “Speaking of busy, I made a couple calls and got you a doctor appointment. Dr. Gordon wasn’t taking new patients but he made an exception for me. It’s all written down and on the desk in your office.”

“For once, I’m glad you pulled strings,” Lizzie said in relief. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome,” William smiled before holding out his arms. “Now, I think I was promised some cuddles. It seems like a good time for that right now.”

Lizzie laughed softly before reaching out for him and climbing into his lap. She leaned in and kissed him a few times, lingering and resting her forehead against his.

“I think,” Lizzie said slowly, playing with the collar of his shirt, “we deserve way more than cuddling right now, Mr. Darcy.”

“As always…” William’s hands glided up her thighs and gently took hold of her waist, giving her a little squeeze before the corner of his mouth twitched up. “I’m inclined to agree.” 


 

 

Lizzie dove right into work the next day, knowing how little time she had to get everything done. She ended up bringing work home for the weekend and William assured her that it was okay, despite his impending week-long business trip to Los Angeles. They still found time to relax before he and Fitz left on Monday morning with plans to return on Friday. She worked until midnight on Monday and was scolded by William over the phone the next morning since he knew her overly-tired voice. He made her promise that she would go home at a reasonable hour for the rest of the week, knowing she did her best when she was well-rested. 

Lydia convinced her to go out to lunch with her on Tuesday, claiming they had to celebrate Galentine’s Day together. It ended up being beneficial in more ways than one. Lydia gave her a couple ideas on something she was stuck on and she enjoyed spending time with her sister, hearing all the amusing stories life backstage. She didn’t push her about Adam but she saw a glimmer in her eyes when Lydia casually mentioned him. They parted ways and she went straight back to work but kept her promise to William, getting home before nine.

On Wednesday, Lizzie and Andrea finally felt ahead of schedule after finishing an outline for the book, breaking down and fleshing out the characters, and getting confirmations from their temporary cast for Thursday and Friday. The next two days would be the most intense with what needed to be filmed and edited, but they were ready. William sent her occasional silly and romantic texts throughout the day, making her day a less stressful. After going over their finished tasks one more time, Lizzie and Andrea called it a day just before seven. Andrea extended an invitation to Lizzie to go out with her and a few other girls to celebrate Valentine’s Day, but she declined, saying she wanted to get some rest before tomorrow.

William called her as she was pulling into her parking spot, turning off the car before answering.

“Happy Valentine’s Day,” Lizzie answered. “You have some great timing. I just pulled in.”

“Happy Valentine’s Day to you too,” William said. “And I’m glad to hear that you’re getting home at a decent time.”

“There wasn’t anything else we could do at the office today so I thought I’d call it a day,” Lizzie replied, getting out of the car and locking the door before walking to the lobby.

“What are your plans for the evening?” William asked.

“Not sure. I’ll probably heat up some leftovers, break out my emergency pint of ice cream, and watch whatever silly romcom is on TV,” Lizzie said.

“Emergency pint of ice cream?” William asked. It was all too easy to picture that eyebrow of his quirking up at her.

“Yea. I don’t break it out often. Just when I’m craving something sweet and you’re not around,” Lizzie said, waving at the doorman as she passed him. She pressed the elevator button and waited.

“Interesting…” William said and she could hear the amusement in his voice.

“Don’t worry. It’s not as good as the real thing,” Lizzie said, stepping into the elevator and pressing her floor. “What will you be doing? Dinner and cuddling with Fitz?”

“You think you’re being clever but he’s got his own plans,” William said.

“He abandoned you on Valentine’s Day?” Lizzie asked sympathetically. “That’s no fun for you.”

“It’s fine. I would prefer to talk to you anyway,” William said. “Besides, I wanted to tell you there’s something waiting for you in the apartment.”

“Ooh, really? A present for me?” Lizzie perked up. “Can I guess what it is?”

“It sounds like you’ll find out soon enough but you’re welcome to,” William replied. “I can hear the familiar ding of the elevator.”

“You’d be right,” Lizzie said, leaning against the wall. “I’m in our favorite corner, no less.”

“Very nice,” William’s voice got lower.

“Mmhmm,” Lizzie hummed. “So what is this something at the apartment? Is it hidden?”

“You’ll find it easily enough,” William hinted.

“Is it something for me to wear?” Lizzie asked. “So that I slip it on and you can imagine me in it while we talk?”

“It’s not, but I should have thought of that. It would significantly improve my night,” William replied.

“Let’s see,” Lizzie paused for a moment, trying to come up with another guess. “Is it something for me to eat?”

“It would appear that you have that covered already with your hidden ice cream and leftovers,” William said. The elevator stopped and the doors slid open to her floor. Lizzie stepped out and began to saunter to their apartment.

“Could you give me a hint?” Lizzie asked, stopping at her door and pulling out her keys.

“It’s big,” William said simply.

“That is so helpful of you,” Lizzie said sarcastically, rolling her eyes.

“I try,” William chuckled. Lizzie walked into her apartment and closed the door behind her.

“Alright. I’m in the apartment,” Lizzie turned on a light, slowly heading down the hall. “I’m not looking for food or a small box that might contain clothing but I am looking for something big. You have one very curious woman over here,” Lizzie paused at the end of the hallway, turning on the living room and kitchen lights. She scanned the areas to see nothing out of the ordinary as she put her bag and keys down. “There appears to be nothing in the living room, dining room, or kitchen. I could either go left to the bedrooms, right to the offices or down to the rest of the apartment. My instincts tell me to go left.”

Lizzie went to the left, scanning the apartment to make sure she wasn’t missing anything. She turned down the hallway and flipped the switch to light her way before she started walking to the bedroom.

“Wrong way.”

Lizzie spun around to find William standing in the hallway, still holding the phone to his ear. Lizzie dropped her arms to the side in shock and he hung up, slipping his phone into his pocket.

“Surprise,” William said softly, smiling at her and flashing his dimples.

“Will!” Lizzie gasped, hurrying over and throwing her arms around his neck. He laughed as he stumbled back a step, holding onto her to keep from dropping her. After another few moments, she slipped down and her feet touched the ground, pulling away to look at him. “What are you doing here? You’re supposed to be in L.A.!”

“Fitz was very insistent on spending at least a few hours with Brandon for their wedding anniversary. Tonight worked better than tomorrow night with our meeting schedule. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity and came along. I’m going to have to get up at the crack of dawn so we can get back in time for our next set of meetings,” William explained. “But it was worth it to see your face.”

“I’m so happy you’re here,” Lizzie sighed. “This week has been long and stressful and exhausting and lonely without you.”

“I’m sorry about that,” William said, kissing her temple and rubbing her arms.

“You just made it instantly better,” Lizzie assured.

“Well, there’s one more thing that might make it even more so,” William said before nodding towards their bedroom. “Follow me?”

“What are you up to, sir?” Lizzie asked as he took her hand and led her down the hall. “Are you trying to seduce me?”

“Please, I did not fly all the way here just to get you in bed,” William chuckled. “For the most part anyway. But it’s Valentine’s Day and we tend to celebrate things a little more intimately.”

“So you take me to the bedroom,” Lizzie said, a little snarkily. William glanced over his shoulder and winked at her. They walked in and Lizzie’s face immediately softened. William had set up a candlelit dinner out on their balcony with a tablecloth-covered table, flowers in the middle with two covered plates and empty wine glasses. “You had time for this?”

“I barely had time to set this all up, actually. Lydia was quite helpful and picked up dinner, especially on such short notice,” William said gratefully, sliding open the door and stepping outside.

“I’m going to have to thank her,” Lizzie said. He was lighting the candles and having a hard time because of the light breeze. As soon as he had one lit, the other one would blow out. She giggled when he tried for the fourth time, sighing as they went out again. Lizzie reached over and turned on the balcony light. “The candles aren’t important, Will.”

“Let the record show that I tried,” William said, slightly frustrated.

“Duly noted,” Lizzie said with a smile. William reached behind him and opened a cooler, pulling out a bottle. “Actually, I probably shouldn’t drink tonight. I’ve got a packed filming schedule tomorrow and need to be alert first thing.”

“I’ve got to be at the top of my game in the morning and figured you would need to be too,” William said, showing her that it was a bottle of Martinelli’s apple cider. “I hope you don’t mind.”

“Perfect,” Lizzie told him.

“It works out for both of us,” William said as he poured them each a glass. She picked up her glass and held it up, looking at him lovingly.

“To someone who never ceases to surprise me and makes my day better just by being in it,” Lizzie toasted and William’s face lit up with love and pride. “Happy Valentine’s Day, William.”

William clinked his glass with hers. “Happy Valentine’s Day, Elizabeth.”

~~~~~~~~~~

 

“This was a great way to end today,” Lizzie said softly. She was leaning on the railing and William was behind her, framing her body with his. They were looking out to the bay, watching the lights from the city twinkling and shimmering on the water.

“Better than your original plans of leftovers and whatever was on television,” William replied, kissing the crook of her neck.

“Much better,” Lizzie agreed, sighing as he kissed her again. “Dinner was delicious and I got to eat it with my favorite person.”

Turning around, she reached up and began to play with the end of his tie, feeling William’s gaze as she continued. “What do you think you would have been doing tonight if you weren’t here with me?”

“Hmmm,” William pulled her in closer, clasping his hands together behind her back. “Probably have dinner with Fitz and then go back to my hotel room where I would call you.”

“What would we talk about?” Lizzie asked slowly, sliding her hands up and unknotting his tie.

“I would…ask you about your day and then you would probably ask me about mine,” William began, turning them around and leading them back into the bedroom. Lizzie reached around and closed the door behind him.

“And once we’ve gotten past the niceties?” Lizzie pulled his tie from his collar, tossing it to the chair. She started to unbutton his shirt and William watched with intent before looking up.

“I’d want to know what your plans were for the evening,” William said, exhaling as she pushed his shirt off his shoulders and let it fall to the floor.

“And I’d say what I told you already,” Lizzie raised her arms as he untucked her blouse and pulled it above her head. “You’d say that you just got back from eating with Fitz,” She unbuckled his belt and pulled it through the belt loops while they both toed off their shoes.

“We’d talk just long enough for me to blurt out that I missed you,” William said lowly while her hands skimmed up and then down his chest before tugging on the button of his slacks. She popped the button out of the button hole before unzipping them and pushing them down. She brushed her hand while giving him a wicked look and he let out a quiet groan. He stepped out of his pants and kicked them away before tugging his socks off, leaving him in only his boxer-briefs.

“I’d tease you for breaking down first and say that it’s only been three days,” Lizzie said, unzipping her skirt on the side and wiggling out of it. “But then I would say I missed you just as much,” William brought his hands up to frame her face and pulled her in to kiss her, languidly and thoroughly. He brushed his tongue across hers and along the roof of her mouth as he slid his hands into her hair, getting a thrill from hearing her whimper. They finally pulled away when their lungs screamed for air, smiling breathlessly at each other.

“Then I would ask what you’re wearing,” William continued as she unclasped her bra.

“I would reply that I’m wearing very little,” Lizzie emphasized as she shrugged it off. She exhaled as he cupped her breasts, brushing his thumbs across her nipples. After a few moments, he moved his hands to the back of her thighs and lifted her up. She held onto his shoulders as he kneeled onto the bed, moving carefully up the mattress. “Then I would go into detail about the lace and silk of my underwear while telling you how much I wish you could take them off with your teeth. I’d get a thrill out of hearing the inevitable groan of frustration from you.”

William laid her down on the bed and hovered over her for a moment before sitting back on his knees. He took the hint and bent down, kissing her from the hollow of her throat to just below her navel. She squirmed under his touch and closed her eyes in anticipation when she felt his warm breath nearing the apex of her thighs. Her hips bucked in response when he pressed his lips to her, teasing her by doing so little. She opened her eyes and looked down, catching the gleam in his eyes as he lifted the hem of her underwear. He bit down on the fabric and pulled them down her legs torturously slow before tossing them to the side. He bent down over her and kissed her before inching away.

“Then I would plead to see you on Domino,” William whispered, bringing his hand between her legs. She gasped and grabbed onto his bicep as he touched her in all the right places. “And I would get that rush of excitement from seeing your face and I’d tell you how beautiful you look. Then I’d tell you to touch yourself like this.”

“Yes,” Lizzie managed as he began to circle her clit, whimpering as he slipped two fingers inside her.

“I’d tell you to imagine it’s me touching you,” William said roughly.

“And then… I’d tell you to close your eyes but only for a moment. Just so you could visualize your hands were mine and I was the one stroking you,” Lizzie said breathily. She moaned and began to rock her hips into his hand while he kept whispering dirty things, detailing what their night would have been like separately. She could barely concentrate on anything but the sound of his voice as she teetered on the edge. Caught between what was happening in the moment and what he was describing to her, everything felt like more intense. The way his fingers felt inside her and rubbed just the right spot, the perfect amount of pressure his thumb was using on her clit, and the deepness of his voice near her ear. Her breath hitched and her back arched as he brought her to a powerful climax. She hummed as the pleasure spread through her body, barely noticing William moving and away and removing his boxer-briefs. Lizzie licked her lips and opened her eyes, focusing on the man above her.

“That is where our night would end if I was in L.A.,” William continued, kissing her forehead. Lizzie spread her legs for him, sliding her hands to his back and pulling him in closer. She gasped from lingering bliss when he pressed his hard length to her entrance.

“But you’re not in L.A.,” Lizzie said thickly.

“No, I am not,” William said, emphasizing each word. He pushed into her and they both moaned from their connection. They began to rock together, finding that perfect rhythm between them. William’s strokes were slow and Lizzie sighed as his hand glided up her body, cupping one breast and gently massaging it. He bent down and his lips enclosed around her nipple, sending zings of pleasure straight to her core. She bucked underneath him and whimpered as he gently tugged, his teeth grazing her sensitive flesh as he let her go. A thrill went through her veins as she saw the playful look in his eyes before he moved in again, giving her other breast the same attention.

She slid her hands up to the back of his shoulders, pulling him down on her and sighing. He flashed her a half-smile before he closed the gap between them and kissed her. They fell into a quiet and comfortable rhythm with Lizzie enjoying the weight of his body and William getting lost in the sensation of the way their lips glided across each other. The buildup was slow but steadily rising inside her and she pulled her legs up, moaning as he sunk in deeper. William moved his head to the crook of her neck, nipping and sucking on her skin. Lizzie let out a throaty noise when he brought a hand between them, helping her with a little extra pressure. She breathed his name near his ear and held tightly onto him as she orgasmed, her body trembling with quakes of pleasure. His hips snapped from her pulsing around him and he sped up, anxious to join her. It only took a few more thrusts and he groaned in ecstasy with his release, slowing down to a halt after a moment.

Lizzie sighed beneath him and kissed his temple as their breathing began to steady. She played with the hairs at the nape of his neck and her hold on him loosened a bit. He turned his head to see his bright-eyed wife looking back at him, smiling in satisfaction.

“What are you thinking about?” Lizzie asked quietly as he pulled out of her and moved to the side a few inches to relieve her of some of his weight.

“Honestly?” Lizzie nodded at his question. “That hidden pint of ice cream.”

He felt Lizzie’s body shake with laughter and it filled him with warmth that he could make his wife laugh so easily.

“If you promise to replace it, we can share it right now,” Lizzie offered.

“You drive a hard bargain, Mrs. Darcy,” William teased.

“I’m very protective of my hidden ice cream,” Lizzie said playfully. William moved in closer and slid his lips over to her, kissing her for a moment and lingering before gazing into her eyes.

“I’ll remember that from now on,” William said.

“Be sure that you do.”

 


 

Days began to blend together for William and Lizzie. William went back to L.A. and returned forty-eight hours later. Lizzie finished filming and spent the weekend editing everything. She flew to New York on Monday with Andrea and their creative director, ready to show off their work. William got a daily update on how well presentations and negotiations were going. She called him late on Wednesday sounding like she was bouncing off the walls. It took him a couple minutes to settle her down before she finally told him she had won Scholastic over, they would be investing in her and the company, and that her contract would be ready to go over and signed the next morning. She returned home on Thursday in a great mood and they went out to dinner to celebrate. 

On the Saturday before William and Fitz left for London, Fitz and Brandon hosted the monthly group dinner at their place. Lydia had to work but Charlotte and Sam would be coming, which would be the first time anybody had seen them since their honeymoon. As Lizzie and William expected, Fitz grilled them throughout dinner but Charlotte and Sam were well prepared. They regaled stories of exploring Fiji on the days that weren’t raining, going on day-long hikes and scuba diving at a nearby resort. After cleaning up, everyone moved to the living room so the newlyweds could share pictures that Charlotte put on a flash drive specifically for the occasion.

“You two got some really great shots, Charlotte,” Lizzie said as they finished showing them everything.

“The sunsets were so beautiful,” Charlotte said wistfully, smiling as Sam put his arm around her. “And, you know, the company was pretty good too.”

“You’re lucky I’m used to that sass, Lu,” Sam chuckled. “Or I’d be deeply hurt right now.”

“I know you can handle it,” Charlotte nudged him.

“So,” Fitz cleared his throat. It was a tactic he used on Lizzie and William many times before their flirting would get out of control. The gesture was not lost on them and they shared an amused look. “When will we see the wedding pictures?”

“Probably next month,” Sam replied, rubbing the back of his neck. “We’ve barely had the time to go through them all. Nobody tells you how much there is to do after you get married.”

“And you basically eloped,” William pointed out.

“Yea. Imagine how much there is for the couples who had, say, sixty plus people at their wedding,” Lizzie added, looking at them knowingly. “Or over two hundred.”

“No thanks,” Charlotte said bluntly and Fitz snorted.

“Lizzie, how was New York?” Sam asked, putting an end to their honeymoon talk.

“Things couldn’t have worked out better,” Lizzie said, gloating. “Well, I probably could have gotten more sleep and I’m still a bit tired from going back and forth but big things are coming for the company.”

“Come on,” Fitz frowned. “That can’t be all you give us.”

“I’m sure she’s not allowed to tell us details because of…her contract?” Brandon guessed.

“You’d be right. It’s all under lock and key,” Lizzie mimicked locking her mouth and tossing away the key.

“William?” Fitz asked, pleading a little.

“I know the basics, but it’s her news to share,” William leaned back against the couch, smiling as Lizzie slid his arm around her shoulders and took his hand.

“When I have something to show, you guys will be the first to see it,” Lizzie promised. “After Scholastic, obviously.”

“We look forward to it, Lizzie,” Sam said supportively.

“Thank you, Sam,” Lizzie replied.

“Well, I’ve got some news since Lizzie can’t talk about hers,” Brandon said. “I got that promotion! I’m one step closer to making partner.”

Cheers and congratulations erupted from the group before everybody started asking questions at once, making Brandon laugh. He spent a while answering their questions and telling them how he was told about the promotion. He had the attention of everyone in the room and Lizzie took the opportunity to relax with William by her side. It would be a few weeks before they’d be able to do it again.

~~~~~~~~~~

Lizzie and William were the first to leave after Lizzie started to nod off a couple times. From Lizzie pulling late nights and changing time zones more than once to restless nights from missing their bed partner, they were short on sleep. They knew it would probably only get worse before it got better, especially with William flying to London in two days.

“Make sure you get some rest,” Fitz said, giving her a hug. “You’re giving me a complex as a boring host.”

“I’m just tired from working so hard. I fell asleep at my desk yesterday for like twenty minutes,” Lizzie sighed. “I have a harder time with jet lag than William. Don’t worry, you’re still very entertaining, Fitz.”

“Desks are for working, Lizzie D.,” Fitz said cheekily.

“Ha ha,” Lizzie rolled her eyes at him. “It will be better when you come back from London, so no need to worry. Make sure you take care of him, okay?”

“He’s in good hands,” Fitz reassured her. “Besides, Gigi will be there too. She knows how to take care of her brother.”

“You know I have to ask you every time,” Lizzie started.

“Because you’re very partial to him,” Fitz finished and she nodded with a smile. “I promise.”

William came over with her jacket and handed it to her. “You ready to go?”

“Yep. Just giving Fitz the normal spiel,” Lizzie said, putting her jacket on. “Dinner was top notch tonight, Fitz.”

“Thank you. Remember, you two have next month,” Fitz reminded them. “And I will be in front of your place at nine am on Monday so be ready.”

“I’ll be there,” William promised.

“We’ll see you all later!” Lizzie waved to the small group. There was a chorus of goodbyes as they left and Fitz closed the door behind them before they heard the click of the lock. William put an arm around her waist and she rested her head on his shoulder as they strolled to the elevator, ready to be home and in bed.

 


 

William left for London on Monday morning and Lizzie fell back into her normal work schedule, keeping herself busy enough. The first few days of William’s lengthier business trips always seemed longer than normal. Lizzie and William made the effort to call each other every day, even if it was only for a few minutes.  

On Friday, Lizzie went to UCSF Medical Center to get some blood tests done before her doctor appointment on Monday. Despite William’s directions, the campus was much larger than her previous medical center and she got a little lost. She found a map to figure out where the laboratory was and one square on the map caught her eye, making her heart clench a little. Right at the edge of campus was the Anne and William S. Darcy Trauma Center. She was aware that William and Pemberley Digital donated to numerous causes over the years, including hospitals. There was nothing that could have been done for his parents but generous donations for state-of-the-art medical equipment and hospital wings were his way of helping others. She made a mental note to call him later and tell him that she loved him before finally figuring out where the laboratory was and heading in the right direction.

~~~~~~~~~~

Monday, March 5th

The weekend without William dragged on for Lizzie because she had finally caught up at work and had nothing to bring home to distract her. The main highlights of the two days were the few phone calls from William and Fitz and one from Lydia inviting her to see a preview of the Edgar Allen Poe musical at her theatre. She took her backstage afterwards to meet the cast and had a pleasant conversation with Adam, telling him she was happy to see him doing so well.

Besides a few conference calls and a meeting in the early afternoon, Monday was a light day. She was able to leave for her doctor appointment just after four, letting Katie know she would see her in the morning.

After checking in and going through the standard procedure of weight and height, they went through her chart in the small room and she was told the doctor would be with her in a few minutes. Lizzie sat on the paper-covered table as she waited, drumming her fingers against the side of her thigh and studying the posters on the wall.

There was a light knock, the door opened, and a tall, middle-aged man in a white coat walked in.

“Hi, I’m Dr. Gordon. You must be the infamous Elizabeth Darcy,” he said, shaking her hand. “It’s nice to put a face to the name. I’ve heard a lot about you.”

“I don’t mind being called Lizzie,” she kindly corrected him. “And infamous? Has my husband been talking about me?”

“Don’t think I could stop him if I tried,” Dr. Gordon chuckled. “According to him, you’re the reason why he’s in such good shape. I’m inclined to agree when the proof is in the test results. I’m sure he’s the reason why you here with me and not another doctor?”

“He is, actually. I generally trust his recommendations,” Lizzie smiled as he washed his hands.

“I hope I don’t disappoint. You’re here for a regular check-up?” Dr. Gordon asked to confirm.

“Yep. I just changed my insurance so I needed to set up a new doctor. Plus, William and I are trying to start a family so it’s as good a time as any,” Lizzie said. “Gotta make sure everything checks out.”

“Ah yes. I remember him mentioning that when I saw him in January,” Dr. Gordon replied, hooking his stethoscope into his ears and blowing hot air on the chestpiece. “Deep breath for me.”

He spent the next minute checking Lizzie’s lungs, throat, and ears.

“Excellent,” Dr. Gordon said. “Everything looks good.” He wandered over to the computer and took a seat on the short stool. “How have you been feeling? Any concerns or pain anywhere?”

“No. Not really. I’ve been feeling a little tired lately but I chalk that up to a busy traveling month for work,” Lizzie said. “And I usually have trouble sleeping when William’s away. He’s in London right now and won’t be back until Thursday.”

“I know the feeling. My wife travels a lot too. Let’s see what your test results say,” Dr. Gordon logged into the computer to check her record. “Your blood pressure is great. Your cholesterol is good too. Both HDL and LDL levels. Blood glucose, calcium and electrolytes…all normal.”

“Always good to hear,” Lizzie said, feeling relieved even though she wasn’t worried in the first place.

“CBC is normal. No need to worry about anemia with those results,” Dr. Gordon said, mumbling partially to himself. He went quiet for a moment and brought the monitor closer, reading something under his breath before she saw a subtle smile playing at the corner of his lips. “Aha. I found the reason why you’ve been tired lately.”

“So it’s not just because I’m missing my bed partner?” Lizzie joked and he shook his head.

“You’re pregnant.”

Chapter Text

“You’re pregnant.”

Lizzie froze at her doctor’s words, trying to comprehend what he was saying. Was she hearing him correctly? Were her ears playing tricks on her from being tired? He repeated himself and the words hit her with even more impact.

She let out a shaky breath, trying to figure out how to respond. “I’m…really?”

He nodded and she brought her hand up, pressing her fingers to her mouth. He started to explain things in detail but none of it was registering with her. She saw his lips moving but her mind was drowning him out. She was pregnant. She was actually pregnant and she hadn’t even realized it. Giddiness began to bubble up inside her and she didn’t know whether to laugh or cry with joy. It was all so overwhelming.

It took her a moment to realize Dr. Gordon was repeating her name.

“Lizzie!” he said, a little louder.

“Sorry,” Lizzie apologized, shaking her head quickly. “It’s just…um. A lot to process.”

“I understand,” he said, grabbing a pad of paper. “It looks like you’ll be needing to find an OBGYN so I’m recommending a few doctors in that department that I think you would like. You should schedule an ultrasound sooner than later and start taking pre-natal vitamins, if you haven’t been already.”

Nodding was all Lizzie seemed capable of at the moment. He ripped the paper from the pad and handed it to her. She stared at the names but they all seemed blurry. She noticed that her hands were shaking and tears were threatening to become a reality.

“Lizzie?” he said as he stood from his stool and she looked up at him. “Congratulations. I know William will be thrilled and I’m sure I’ll be hearing plenty of details during his next visit.”

“Yea,” Lizzie said, exhaling slowly to keep her emotions in check.

“There’s no hurry so when you’re ready, check out with my nurse and she’ll give you some reading material,” Dr. Gordon finished, shaking her hand before leaving the room. Lizzie sat there for a little bit, wrapping her head around everything. Just two simple words, and her life was about to change. She took a deep breath and hopped off the table, checking herself in the mirror before grabbing her stuff and heading to the nurses’ station. The urge to get home was overpowering.

“First time?” the nurse asked while she was printing out her after-visit summary.

“I’m sorry?” Lizzie was pulled from her thoughts. “Oh! Uh…yea, it is.”

“I was the same way,” she said, handing her a few things. “I have two, myself. Both grown up already. My husband fainted the first time I told him I was pregnant and was out cold for fifteen minutes.”

Lizzie gasped and then it suddenly hit her that she needed to tell William. He wasn’t even home and the disappointment seeped into her veins as her face fell. “My husband…he’s out of town for business for another few days.”

“Oh, hon, I’m sorry. You should wait till he comes home. It’ll be better that way,” she insisted, handing her the last of what she needed. “Alright. You’re all ready to go. You can make any appointments you need at reception.”

Lizzie sat in her car, holding an appointment card for an ultrasound in one hand and a bottle of prenatal vitamins in the other. She had the strongest urge to talk to William and she dropped the vitamins into her lap before she dug out her phone, turning it back on after shutting it off for her appointment. Even if she wasn’t going to tell him yet, she just wanted to hear his voice. Her phone chimed with a few notifications, including one that gave her hope her husband might still be awake.

 

William @ 4:27 pm

Missing you like crazy. Call me when you’re done with the doc.

 

William @ 4:29 pm

Doesn’t matter how late.

 

She looked at the time and it was a few minutes to five, which would mean that it was almost one am for William. She chewed on her bottom lip as she contemplated for a moment before giving in. She’d at least be able to hear his voice from his outgoing message if he was asleep. Luckily for her, he picked on the second ring and her heart sped up a little.

“Hey,” William’s voice was low and deep. “I was hoping you’d call.”

“Hey yourself.” She swore her voice sounded shaky and was afraid he might hear it. “Did I wake you?”

“You know I wasn’t asleep yet,” she heard him chuckle and she smiled. “Fitz and I were narrowing down candidates until thirty minutes ago.”

“Burning the midnight oil?”

“Something like that,” William said. “So how was the doctor? Do you like him?”

“I do. He’s very nice,” Lizzie replied, looking down at her lap. The vitamins were staring back up at her and she had to fight the urge to blurt out her news.

“Will you go back to him?”

“I think I will.” Her voice was definitely shaky that time and she cleared her throat, trying to get a handle on it.

“Are you doing okay? Is something wrong?”

Lizzie heard his concerned tone and she loved him even more for asking. She wanted to tell him her news so much, but she wanted him to be there with her. She yearned to feel his touch and see his happiness and be engulfed in his arms. Only a few more days, she reminded herself, and all of that would be a reality.

“I’m fine, Will. Dr. Gordon says I’m very heathy and have nothing to worry about,” Lizzie replied. “I’m just tired and I miss you. I wish you were home already.”

“I wish I were too,” William said, following his words with a yawn. “Two more days for me here and then I’ll be home so much that you’ll get sick of me.”

Lizzie laughed. “I doubt it.”

“True. We need to make up for lost time.”

“Any ideas?”

“Of course. Many of them involve our bedroom.”

“Any one in particular that you’d want to share?”

“Honestly? I’ve been looking forward to slipping into that big bed with you, holding you in my arms, and getting a proper night’s sleep,” William said longingly.

“Sounds like heaven,” Lizzie said gently.

“It does,” William murmured.

“You know, if your biggest fantasy involves sleep, I think it’s probably time I let you try and get some,” Lizzie said and she heard him groan.

“When you’re right, you’re right,” William sighed. “Even if I’d rather stay up and listen to you tell me about your day.”

“Another time,” Lizzie promised. “For now, I’ll say good night and I love you.”

“Is that all?” William joked. If only he knew how much more she had to say.

“Sweet dreams, Will,” Lizzie said warmly.

“Good night, Lizzie. I love you too,” William said before they hung up. Lizzie sighed and slipped her phone back into her bag.

“By the way, I’m pregnant,” Lizzie said to the empty car, getting goosebumps from actually saying the words out loud for the first time. She took a deep breath and cleared everything from her lap before starting up the car. She felt like she was on auto-pilot, and made it home without really remembering the trip. As she walked into the apartment, it seemed like something had changed. She was coming home to the same place but she wasn’t coming home the same person. Her mind was reeling. What she needed, she decided, was a long, hot shower to relax.

When she stepped out of the shower, she wiped away the steam and looked at herself in the mirror. She tried to figure out if there was something she could see that would give away the fact that she was pregnant. She didn’t look any different but she certainly felt different. The only pregnancy symptom she was experiencing so far was fatigue. No nausea, vomiting, or headaches. Her breasts didn’t feel tender to the touch and they didn’t look any bigger, at least to her. It was still early though. She didn’t know what would be in store for her but she was nervously excited. She laid a hand on her flat stomach and smiled, looking down.

“Hi,” Lizzie whispered. “So, I know you’re there now.”

And William would know when he returned. She didn’t want to just tell him outright, though. It was big news and big news deserved more. Just like when he showed up on her doorstep to tell her he loved her the second time, when he proposed on their balcony, and all their other moments she’d never forget. She needed to think of something that was perfect for both of them, but at least she had a few days to come up with a memorable announcement. After getting dressed in her most comfortable pajamas and making herself some dinner, she settled onto the couch to brainstorm and watch TV.

Lizzie got sucked into a Cupcake Wars marathon and her brainstorming took a back seat. She ended up falling asleep on the couch after a few hours and woke up shortly after one when her phone went off. William had texted her a sweet message good morning, no doubt intended for her when she’d get up for work. She shuffled to the bedroom and double-checked that her alarm was set before she slid into bed and rested a hand on her stomach. It gave her an odd sense of comfort and, for the first time since William left for London, she fell asleep with ease.

 


 

Tuesday, March 6th 

When Lizzie was getting ready for the day and making herself some tea, William called her out of the blue just to chat. She was already in a great mood but those few minutes of being able to talk with him and hear about his day so far had put her in an even better one. Lizzie went into work feeling like she was walking on air. She was holding onto this wonderful secret and nobody had a clue. The bubble she was in already felt bigger than when she and William started dating. There had been speculation and hints from her videos but those first few days when no one knew about them were blissful and special and theirs. She couldn’t wait to pull William into this bubble with her and kept imagining what his reaction would be like. It made her smile every time she thought about the possibilities.

Lizzie had to stop herself from falling into a baby research black hole during the day. She started by looking up announcement ideas and then another article would catch her eye. Before long, she was deep in pregnancy threads about how others found out and reading about other symptoms. A phone call or a knock on the door would quickly pull her out of it and get her back on track. She was surprised with how much work she was able to get done when her mind was so preoccupied.  

She went out to dinner with Andrea after work when they both wanted to try a new Spanish restaurant in Lizzie’s neighborhood. Lizzie dropped her car off at her home and Andrea drove them the rest of the way. The wait was surprisingly short but the food did not disappoint. Andrea commiserated with Lizzie for William being gone so long but couldn’t resist teasing her about her excitement for his return. When dinner was over, Lizzie declined Andrea’s offer to drive her home, saying she’d rather walk.

It was nice to get some fresh air and the walk made her realize it had been a few weeks since she had done this in the city. She made a mental note to get back in the habit, wanting to make sure to keep in shape. She was in no hurry to get home to an empty apartment and took her time, glancing in the windows of the shops that she passed. The bright colors of one particular window caught her eye and Lizzie found herself walking into a small baby boutique. It was far too early to consider buying anything but she didn’t see the harm in checking out the local selection. There were a few other expectant mothers shopping, their hands nonchalantly resting on their rounded bellies.

She stopped at a table that was full of folded onesies and picked up one from the newborn pile. It was so tiny. A vision popped in her head of William sitting next to her on the couch with a baby in her arms. The two of them looked perfectly happy as they fawned over that small bundle and Lizzie’s throat constricted with emotion.

“May I help you?” a woman asked, taking Lizzie out of her daydream. She was clutching onto that onesie and she smiled sheepishly at the gray-haired older woman as she put it back down on the table.

“I was just looking,” Lizzie offered, glancing at the woman’s nametag that read ‘Martha’. “It’s…for a friend.”

“Maybe your friend would like some books? We have some pretty extensive reading material,” Martha said gently, pointing out their shelves against one wall.

“It’s still early…for her,” Lizzie admitted, looking nervous before Martha pulled something out of her pocket.

“Why don’t you give your friend my card? We hold prenatal and postnatal classes here and there’s plenty of baby items to choose from,” Martha said with a smile and Lizzie took the card, looking it over and seeing the website at the bottom of it. “And I hope to see her here when she’s ready.”

“Thank you. I will let her know.”

Lizzie said goodbye and took once last glance around the boutique before heading back outside. She liked the look of the place and decided she would come back - but not without William and not until she was much further along. She tucked the card in her purse and kept walking.

Once she got home, she took a shower and got in her pajamas. She grabbed her computer and made herself comfortable in her chair, determined to find a special way to tell William she was pregnant. Just when she was on the verge of giving up, it suddenly came to her in a flash of brilliance. The idea made her giddy with excitement. She would have to make a couple inquiries in the morning to make sure it would work, but she was pleased that she had finally hit on the perfect idea. It was getting late for her and that big bed was calling so she put away her computer, shut off all the lights, and headed to the bedroom to get a good night’s sleep.


 

Wednesday, March 7th 

Wednesday was her last full day on her own before William would be home. Lizzie was getting more and more excited as the day progressed, despite knowing she wouldn’t see him until tomorrow. During her lunch, she figured out exactly how to flesh out her idea and made the necessary phone calls. Afterwards, she was able to focus completely on work and by the end of the day, she was well ahead of schedule. She turned down an invitation to go out to dinner from a few of her coworkers because she only had tonight to get things done, but she was grateful that they would always try and distract her when she was alone during William’s long business trips.

Lizzie made a few stops on the way home to get some things, including picking up dinner for herself. She changed in an old shirt of William’s, saved for when she wanted to feel closer to him, and made herself comfortable in the living room. She turned the TV on for noise as she worked and the time flew by. She didn’t realize it was nearing midnight until her phone went off, her screen showing that her husband was calling.

“Hello there, handsome,” Lizzie answered happily.

“Hey,” William sounded surprised. “I didn’t expect you to still be awake. I was going to leave you a message.”

“I was working on a few things. I’ll go to bed soon,” Lizzie replied. “You must be calling from the airport. Waiting to board?”

She heard him heavily sigh and her heart dropped, knowing something was wrong immediately.

“That’s why I’m calling. All flights are grounded due to the weather.”

“Oh, Will, really?”

“I’m so sorry, Lizzie. I wish I was giving you better news.”

“It’s not like you can control the weather,” Lizzie said miserably. “What are you going to do?”

“There’s not much we can do except wait. We’re going to stay at the airport so we can get on the first available flight once things clear up,” William said. “I’m not sure when that will be though. I’m hoping that it’s sometime today. I’ll keep you updated.”

“Please do. This sucks,” Lizzie moped. “I’m tired of you not being here and me having to go to bed alone.”

“You and me both,” William mumbled. “I just want to be there already.”

“You shouldn’t have skipped your apparating lessons then,” Lizzie teased, hearing him chuckle at her silly joke.

“I’m sure I would have splinched myself,” William replied. “All that distance and everything. Too many factors.”

“Oh my god. I love you for that,” Lizzie laughed, suddenly grateful to Gigi for making him read all of Harry Potter to her when she was younger. She heard another voice in the background. “Is that Fitz?”

“Yea. He’s looking at me like I’m crazy,” William said. “No, you can’t have the phone!” It sounded like Fitz was giving him a hard time and William was having none of it. Their voices were muffled and she could clearly picture him covering the speaker of his phone while he swatted away Fitz’s hand. “Sorry about that. Fitz being Fitz. I had to walk away.”

“It’s okay. Kinda miss him too,” Lizzie admitted before looking down at her project. She felt a pang of disappointment from knowing she would have to wait even longer until she could tell him the good news. It was practically on the tip of her tongue and her voice dropped to a whisper. “Hurry home.”

“I’m trying, love. I really am.” His voice was filled with love and sadness and Lizzie did her best to hold back her tears, once again. Their business trips always took a toll on their emotions and this was the hardest one so far. “You doing okay? You haven’t fallen asleep on me, have you?”

“I’m here,” Lizzie sniffed. “It’s late, though. I probably should go to bed.”

“Okay. I’m not going to deprive you of any more sleep. Who knows? I might be on a plane by the time you wake up,” William said optimistically.

“Here’s hoping. Love you.”

“Love you too. Sleep well.”

Lizzie hung up the phone and stared at the screen. She knew she wasn’t just antsy to see him. Holding onto something so big and not being able to talk to the one person she ached to tell was wearing on her but there was nothing she could do but wait. She cleaned everything up and hid her surprise in her office before going to bed alone, silently cursing the weather gods.

 


 

Thursday, March 8th 

William was still grounded when Lizzie woke up and she couldn’t help but feel sorry for herself. It was understandably worse for him, being stuck at the airport with no scheduled departure in sight. After she told Andrea and Katie about the delay, she noticed they were being extra nice to her. She told them it was fine and he’d be home soon enough before she walked into her office, ready to bury herself in work. William sent her occasional messages but none of them were telling her the news she wanted to hear.

A little after noon, there was a knock on her door before it opened and Lydia stuck her head in.

“Knock knock!” Lydia said.

“Hey! What are you doing here?” Lizzie asked, perking up.

“I brought sandwiches,” Lydia held up a white paper bag.

“From that little place around the corner?”

“As if I would go anywhere else.”

“Meatball?”

“Duh! What do you take me for?” Lydia scoffed, closing the door behind her. “It’s only the best one there.”

“Have a seat,” Lizzie gestured to the chairs in front of her desk. “Who called and told you?”

“I figured it out myself. I saw the news about that epic freak snow storm and I remembered William was supposed to be coming home today. I know you get all pouty when he’s been gone a while and I thought you could use a pick-me-up,” Lydia explained.

“I don’t get all pouty,” Lizzie said defensively and Lydia stared at her in obvious disbelief. “Okay, fine, I do. Am I not allowed to miss my husband when he’s gone?”

“You are. That’s why I’m here. I’m stepping up my awesome sister game.” Lydia handed Lizzie a sandwich and a wad of napkins.

“You came armed with delicious sandwiches so you succeeded,” Lizzie said. They shared a smile before they started eating, enjoying every bite of cheese and marinara. While Lizzie was cleaning up and washing her hands, Lydia heard her phone chime.

“Lizzie, your phone,” Lydia called out, picking it up from her desk. “It’s Darce-face. He says he loves you until the end of time and can’t wait to get you all kinds of naked so he can slip his man-banana into you.”

“Lydia!” Lizzie hurried out of the bathroom, grabbing her phone from her sister. She gave her a scolding look while Lydia grinned shamelessly. Lizzie’s face fell once again when she read the actual message.

“Not good?”

“Not at all,” Lizzie grumbled. “He says the earliest a plane may be going out is tomorrow morning. They’re spending the night in the airport.”

“What about a hotel?”

“It wasn’t worth it with the bad weather,” Lizzie read on from her phone. “They managed to snag a private cabana in one of the first class lounges. It has a sofa bed, a few chairs, internet, and a TV.”

“What even? There are private cabanas in airports?” Lydia asked with an incredulous look.

“Yea. He says it’s tight in there with Fitz and Jenkins but he’s not going to complain considering the circumstances. He’ll keep me updated on everything,” Lizzie finished, the corner of her mouth tipping up at something she wouldn’t read out loud.

“Is it a bunch of exes and ohs and promises of more?” Lydia teased. “Is it dirty? I bet it is. It’s been soooo long since you’ve seen each other.”

“Will you stop it?!” Lizzie warned, narrowing her eyes at her sister. “Don’t you have a job or something to get to?”

“Or something,” Lydia laughed as she stood up. “I know when it’s time to go. I’ve got errands to run for work anyway.”

“Thank you for stopping by,” Lizzie hugged her. “And bringing lunch. Wonderful, as always.”

“No problem!” Lydia smiled at her before backing away towards the door. “Let me know if you need anything else.”

“I will,” Lizzie nodded. Lydia gave her a little wave and Lizzie returned the gesture before she left, closing the door behind her.

She told herself that she could get through the rest of the day on her own, even with the confirmation that William wouldn’t be waiting for her at home. She offered to help some employees with a small series they were creating to take her mind off things. They were split on who they wanted to cast for the more major parts and she offered to watch the audition tapes, writing extensive notes for them. It took up the rest of her day and she was grateful for the distraction.

Lizzie felt listless after dinner and decided to take a walk down to the bay. She was thankful that she had remembered her jacket when the wind picked up. William’s updates had slowed down to a halt, which was expected considering it was well after midnight in London. Being ahead with her work and having her own personal project ready for her husband, there was nothing to distract her.

She took a seat on a bench and watched as people passed her by. People-watching was always entertaining to her, especially now that she seemed to be noticing the littlest ones. A small boy kept running towards some pigeons and squealing with laughter as they flew away. A toddler was sleeping in her father’s arms while he held the hand of his older girl as they passed her. She lost track of the number of women who walked by with strollers. It was like those scenes in movies where the main character was told not to think of a particular subject. They would turned on the television or radio to distract themselves and every station they changed to related to the subject. Except those situations were considered comedic nightmares.

This was different. This was good. She brushed her hand across her stomach for a moment and pictured her and William taking this same walk with their own little one. Every time she thought about their future baby, she felt a rush. It was so much realer now. There was still a lot to process but she was thankful for having these last few days on her own to work it out in her own head.

A gust of wind made her shiver and she knew it was time to go home. She zipped her jacket up all the way and made the trek back. After cleaning the apartment up for William’s return, she spent the rest of her night reading until she fell asleep.

 


 

Friday, March 9th 

Lizzie woke up to a few messages from William, each one increasingly hopeful about getting a flight. As she was listening to her last one, he was calling again and she quickly answered it.

“Hey! I was just listening to your voicemails!” Lizzie said animatedly. “Any luck?”

“Good morning,” William replied, just as eagerly. “And tentatively, yes. They’re almost done clearing the runways and we should be boarding in the next thirty minutes. The skies are cloudy but there’s no more threat of snow.”

“You have no idea how good that sounds, Will.”

“Believe me, I do. I can see the actual plane, Lizzie. The flight attendants are pretty optimistic that if we board quickly, we’ll be one of the first in line to take off.”

“Do you want me to pick you up from the airport?” Lizzie offered.

“Thank you, but I have no way of telling you my time of arrival. The flight numbers keep changing and it’s a bit of a mess but I’m not going to question it. I’ll get myself a cab when I land. The best I can say is that I will be home sometime tonight. You’ll most likely be home before me.”

“Can’t wait to see you. Text me when you get off the plane.”

“I promise,” William said. She heard another voice but it was too muffled for her to understand. “They’re making another announcement about boarding. I gotta go. I love you!”

“Love you too!” Lizzie managed before he hung up. This was the second best news she had heard all week and she was nearly vibrating with excitement. William was finally coming home and she felt like a kid on Christmas Eve, trying their hardest to fall asleep with no luck.

While she was getting ready for work, William kept sending her text messages that made her want to squeal with excitement that he was closer and closer to coming home. When she got out of the shower and was getting dressed, he was boarding. When she was making breakfast for herself, they were pulling away from the gate. When she was gathering her things and looking for her keys, they were taxiing and third in line to take off. By the time she made it down to her car, they were next and he sent her his standard ‘I love you and I’ll see you soon’ text.

It was going to be long day.

She was the first one to the office and checked her day’s schedule to see what was in store. There were a few meetings back to back that would take up her morning and one directly after lunch. She knew they would make the day go by faster, but the rest of it was open. When Katie arrived, she came into her office looking entirely too eager for any news. All Lizzie had to do was smile at her and Katie did a little fist pump before practically dancing out of the office. When Andrea arrived, she came in to Lizzie’s office looking just as thrilled. It was apparent that Katie had told her the good news.

“Good day so far?” Andrea asked casually.

“I’d say so,” Lizzie said, holding back her laughter. She was waiting for some kind of teasing but Andrea knew better.

“Ready for this morning?”

Lizzie nodded. “Hopefully it will go by quickly.”

“And the rest of the day?”

“Even quicker.”

Lizzie was surprised she was able to concentrate at all throughout the day but somehow, she made it. Her meetings were uneventful and she found herself checking her phone too often, even though she logically knew she would hear nothing. Around 4:30, she decided to leave the office because she wasn’t fooling anyone. She was ahead of schedule and she had one last errand to run before William would be home.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Lizzie was trying to make herself busy, puttering around the apartment and getting ready for William’s imminent arrival. He had texted her forty minutes earlier to let her know he landed and again twenty minutes later saying he had luggage in hand, meaning he was on his way home. It was silly how nervous she was. She just wanted it to be perfect for both of them.

She was in her office when she heard something and she paused, closing her eyes and giving herself a moment to steady her breathing. Then she heard the click of the front door and she slammed her calendar shut, hurrying out of the room.

When she turned the corner, she saw William sauntering down the front hallway with luggage in both hands and looking worn down. His clothes were rumpled, his hair was a bit messy, and he needed a shave but he still looked so good to her. He finally saw her and his face lit up before letting out a sigh of relief and dropping his luggage.

“Lizzie,” he breathed.

“Hey stranger,” Lizzie said warmly as he walked quickly over to her.

“You are a sight for sore eyes.” William pulled her in for a hug and she wrapped her arms around him, burying her face against his chest. Her anxiety about his return melted away the longer he held her in his arms. She had missed his warmth and she smiled to herself as he kissed the top of her head. She could tell he was hesitant to let her go but then he slid his hands up to her neck and kissed her slowly and tenderly. She stood on her toes and gripped his shirt, not wanting the moment to end. Finally, he broke away to catch his breath and rested his forehead against hers.

“Welcome home,” Lizzie murmured.

“I thought I’d never get here. The past couple days…”

“You’re here now and that’s what counts.”

“Two weeks is too long. No more business trips for at least six months.” Nine months would be better but she resisted the urge to say it. “All I want to do this weekend is spend time with you.”

“That can be easily arranged,” Lizzie said, brushing her thumb across his cheek. “You hungry?”

“I am, actually,” William nodded. “I have no idea what day it is any more, but I could eat.”

Lizzie snickered and he gave her a small smile.

“Lucky for you, I ordered Chinese food,” Lizzie said and he broke out into a full grin.

“That sounds perfect.”

“It should be here soon enough so why don’t you bring your stuff to the bedroom, take a nice, hot shower…shave,” Lizzie brushed her knuckles along his coarse facial hair and he chuckled. “Get into some comfortable clothes and come back to me.”

“Just what I need,” William said, grabbing his luggage. He paused in his step to lean in and kiss her temple before continuing towards the bedroom.

“It’s nice to have you home,” Lizzie said sincerely and he looked back, giving her a loving look.

“It’s nice to be home,” William replied before disappearing around the corner.

Lizzie didn’t have much to do while he was settling back in and getting ready. It was the waiting game all over again but she knew it wouldn’t be as much of one. If only she could tell that to her stomach, which seemed to be flipping non-stop. She put a hand to it and took a deep breath.

“Just a little longer,” she said to herself.

Chinese food arrived within fifteen minutes and she began setting the dining room table before taking everything out of the bags. Soon, she heard William’s footsteps coming down the hall and she shook her hands to get them to stop shaking. When he emerged, it was easily noticeable how much better he looked. He was freshly shaven, his hair was damp from the shower, and he was pulling on a dark blue t-shirt. He was wearing a pair of black lounge pants and Lizzie looked at him in appreciation.

“Feeling better?”

“Much,” William walked up and placed his hands on her hips, bending down and kissing her shoulder. “That shower did wonders.”

“You look refreshed,” Lizzie noted, brushing a hand along his cheek. He turned his head and kissed her palm, making her smile. “Oh, I missed you.”

“Missed you too,” William hummed, gently squeezing her hips before glancing at the table. “Food smells delicious.”

“Let’s eat before it gets cold,” Lizzie suggested. “You can tell me the harrowing tale of your London escape.”

“Funny,” William said flatly but Lizzie saw the light in his eyes. He sat at the head of the table and she took the closest seat next to him, passing him containers as he began telling her everything. While he had been sending her updates over the past couple days, she still wanted to hear the details. Their conversations kept being cut short because of the eight-hour difference. One of them would have to go to work or it was so late that one would be falling asleep as they talked. She was thrilled he was back home and in the same time zone again.

“What about Gigi?” Lizzie asked as she helped herself to another eggroll. “Did she make any decisions?”

“Actually, she did,” William said. He proceeded to tell her about how many people they ended up hiring for the international offices. While Gigi loved being in London, she loved and missed her family and friends more. She was going to stay behind for the next month to be part of the training team and specifically to train the managers who would be running day-to-day operations. She would still be the one they reported to for bigger issues but she would run it from San Francisco. Theoretically, she would only need to fly back and forth to London a few times a year for quarterly meetings. William was creating a department around her so that she would be the company’s official international liaison. Not only would she be the head of the London offices but she would be in charge of opening any other international offices in the future.

Lizzie was happy to hear that Gigi was coming home. She really missed her being just a short walk away these past months. What made her the happiest was that she’d be able to tell her the news of her future niece or nephew in person. She wouldn’t have to miss anything.

When William had finished, he grabbed her plate and began to head to the kitchen to put them away. She could feel the butterflies in her stomach. It was nearly time. This must have been how William felt during the moments leading up to proposing to her. Or even their wedding day. She had been more anxious to marry him than anything else but she couldn’t deny that she had felt a little nervous. Still, it seemed paltry compared to her inner emotional state right now.

“What about the apartment and Lydia?” Lizzie asked, taking a deep breath before following him into the kitchen with a few empty containers to throw away.

“Gigi was going to talk to her about it. She wants a change once she returns so she’s going to keep renting to Lydia and find a new place,” William said, rinsing the dishes and putting them in the dishwasher.

“Helps that you own the apartment.”

“Yes. I know Lydia’s expressed concerns about having to move if and when Gigi returned. This should put her worries to rest,” William said. They picked up the rest of the food and headed back to the kitchen.

“What about the pied–à–terre? I know it’s not as big or anything…” she said as she opened the fridge, putting away food and stepping aside for William to do the same.

“I actually offered. Great minds,” William chuckled, watching Lizzie grab a dish towel and wipe down the dining room table. She caught him yawning and rubbing his hands down his face before leaning against the counter and continuing. “She said she’d rather find a new place. We still use the pied–à–terre for long-term guests and some clients so it works out.”

“Are we going to be checking out places for her?” Lizzie joked, noticing him looking around.

“Maybe…” William trailed off. “Did we not get fortune cookies this time?”

“We did!” Lizzie said quickly, returning to the kitchen. She was proud of herself for her voice not shaking. “I put them in a bowl and then got sidetracked.”

She had conveniently placed the bowl between two appliances under one cupboard. It seemed plausible enough that she would have left it there without it being too obvious.

“Sidetracked? Is it because I’m home now?” William teased, grabbing a cookie when she offered the bowl.

“Obviously,” Lizzie managed, walking to the living room. He started to follow her and she made it to the side of the couch when she heard the familiar crack of his cookie. Her heart leapt to her throat and she swallowed nervously before setting the bowl down and grabbing a cookie for herself. She broke it open and took her fortune out before turning around, watching him carefully and trying not to fidget too much.

He flashed her a smile as he popped the second half of the cookie into his mouth and finally read his fortune, slowly stopping in his tracks. She saw his face change from amusement to mild confusion and the butterflies in her stomach began working overtime.

“Huh.”

“What is it?” Lizzie asked, barely masking her shakiness. He looked up at her and she could see the gears in his head turning, trying to decipher his fortune.

“You know how we sometimes get fortunes that could directly apply to us?” Lizzie nodded. “This one seems oddly specific. What does yours say?”

“Um,” Lizzie had to look down at it, forgetting which one she had gotten. “One plus one equals three. And yours?”

“Your family of two…will soon become…” William stopped before he breathily whispered. “Three.”

It was a moment Lizzie would always remember, the exact instant when it clicked in his head. There was cautious hope written all over his face and his eyes were becoming glassy as he studied the piece of paper, reading it again to himself. He was breaking it down and making sure he understood the magnitude of what it meant.

“Either I’m very jet-lagged and reading too much into this,” William blew out a breath and took a small step forward, holding up the small piece of paper. “Or this is telling me you’re pregnant. Lizzie?”

He looked at her for confirmation and Lizzie could feel the prick of tears in the corner of her eyes and her heart was beating a mile a minute.

“Fortune cookies do tend to tell you the future.”

William let out a short burst of laughter, putting his hands on top of his head.

“Are you really? You’re pregnant?” William asked, his voice cracking on the last word. Lizzie nodded vigorously as tears began to stream down her face and he rushed towards her, grabbing her around the waist and lifting her into the air. They both laughed through their tears as he spun her around and pure joy spread through her veins. When he put her down, he kissed her with enthusiasm and she could taste the saltiness of their tears on their lips. He pulled her in for another hug, holding her tight and burying his head in the crook of her shoulder. Warmth radiated from his body and she would have been content to stay cocooned in his arms for the rest of the night. He pulled back and wiped away a couple tears, holding her hands and looking at her in awe.

“I…h-how…” William stuttered.

“I think you know how,” Lizzie said through her tears and he laughed, shaking his head before kissing her forehead.

“There’s so much I want to ask you.” He led her to the couch and she didn’t realize how much she needed to sit until her legs wobbled a little. They faced each other and she crossed her legs while he scooted in closer. He reached out and took her hands again, giving her goosebumps as he brushed his thumbs along her wrists.

“How long have you known?” William asked softly.

“Since the doctor.”

“Since Monday? Why didn’t you tell me then?”

“I needed to see your face when I told you,” Lizzie said thickly and his face softened at her choice of words.

“Elizabeth…” his voice broke again and she brushed away a lone tear from his cheek while he smiled gently.

“When I called you after the doctor, you asked me if I was okay,” Lizzie sniffed. “I was barely comprehending what was happening. I was in shock when Dr. Gordon told me but I was so excited. I wanted to tell you then and so many times this week. I just didn’t think it would be the same if you heard it over the phone. I wanted it to be special.”

“This?” William dug the slip of paper out of his pocket, holding it between them. “I’m always going to remember this.”

Lizzie smiled before taking it from his hands and silently reading it to herself. “You know, I changed all the fortunes in the cookies to ones I wrote. I didn’t know which one you’d get so I had to be sure.”

“Did you really?” William glanced at the bowl on the table. “I should have realized something was off when they were out of their wrapping.”

Lizzie laughed shakily. “I was afraid you’d say something but I’m glad you didn’t.”

“What happened to the first one you read?” William asked her. She pulled it out of her pocket and handed it to him. “One plus one equals three.”

“You,” Lizzie pointed to him and then to herself, “me.” She brought her hand down to her stomach. “And baby equals three.”

“The baby,” William said reverently as he laid a hand over hers. She felt the rush of fresh tears again, laughing as she tried to blink them away while her chin trembled slightly. “Oh, love. Come here.”

She uncrossed her legs and climbed into his lap. He kissed her tear-stained cheeks and she held onto him, closing her eyes as he kept pressing his lips to her face. They moved down on the couch after a while and William grabbed a pillow to put behind their heads. Lizzie stayed on her back and he moved to his side, flashing her a sweet smile when she turned her head to look at him. William put a hand back on her stomach and Lizzie covered his with her own.

“How are you feeling? Any symptoms?” William asked, his voice soft and affectionate.

“Mainly fatigue,” Lizzie said with a breath. “I’m more happy than anything else because you’re home and that you’re so clearly happy, too.”

“Happy is an understatement,” William brought his hand up and stroked her cheek. “I’m ecstatic, overjoyed…jubilant. Um, euphoric. I need another word.”

“Over the moon?” Lizzie offered, giggling a little.

“Yea, I’m definitely that,” William chuckled, pressing his forehead to hers. “Do you know how far along you are?”

“Not precisely. I don’t believe I’m as far along as the doctor suggested. I had no suspicions and barely have symptoms. Honestly? I think this baby was conceived in Hawaii. We were basically acting like newlyweds,” Lizzie said with a twinkle in her eye, biting her bottom lip when she caught his tiny smirk. “I know for sure it’s not a Valentine’s Day baby. I started feeling tired before that. I made an ultrasound appointment on Friday. It should be able to tell us how big the baby is and when I’m due.”

“When you’re due,” William repeated in wonder. “This is all so….I don’t even know how to put it in to words.”

“I barely can and I’ve known since Monday.”

“These last couple days have been truly exasperating,” William sighed and Lizzie scooted in closer, taking his hand that was resting on her stomach. “What got me through them was the thought of knowing I’d be coming home to you. But this? You turned a terrible day into one of the best days of my life.”

Lizzie felt herself well up with tears again and then groaned, covering her face with her hands. He laughed and started to pull them away.

“Don’t hide your face. I’ve missed it too much these past two weeks,” William murmured and Lizzie sighed, bringing her arms back down.

“I knew that once I started, I wouldn’t be able to stop,” Lizzie admitted. He looked warmly at her, wiping away a tear from her cheek.

“Happy tears never need an excuse.”

“Do you know how much I love you?”

“About as much as I love you,” William replied before kissing her. Lizzie giggled against his lips and wrapped her arms around his neck as he shifted above her. It felt so good to be back in his arms, feeling the comfort of him. She hummed as his lips skated along her cheek to kiss her jaw and she tilted her head back as his nose skimmed down the column of her throat. He slowly made his way down her body and she sighed happily. The bottom of her shirt had ridden up a little and he pushed it up a bit further, exposing part of her stomach. He settled between her legs, flashed her a dimpled smile and then pressed his lips to her skin. The gesture put a lump in her throat and she reached down, running her fingers through his hair. After a few moments, she felt his breath tickling her slightly and realized he was whispering something she couldn’t quite hear.

“What are you doing?” Lizzie asked and William glanced up at her.

“I’m introducing myself. Thought the baby might like to know who I am,” William said tenderly.

“Oh, Will. Come here,” Lizzie whimpered, tugging on his shirt. William pulled himself up and laid down next to her as Lizzie moved to her side to face him. He rested one arm around her waist, pulled her in closer and started brushing his fingertips along her lower back as she put one hand on his cheek. “You’re going to be a dad.”

William smiled one of the most beautiful smiles she had ever seen and her heart expanded. “And you’re going to be a mom. We’re going to have a baby!”

“We’re going to have a baby!” Lizzie repeated and they both laughed with excitement, “I can’t believe we’re going to be parents. It’s kind of terrifying…but in a good way. Does that make sense?”

“It does. We’re going to be good parents, right?”

“We’ll try our hardest,” Lizzie said quietly. “I’m glad I have you by my side.”

“For everything,” William promised, kissing the top of her head. “There’s so much we need to do. I mean –”

Lizzie put a hand over his mouth and he raised an eyebrow at her.

“Not yet,” Lizzie said simply and he nodded. He kissed her palm before she took her hand away. “Tonight is just about us.”

“And the baby.”

“Of course.”

William covered his mouth as he yawned and Lizzie gave him a sympathetic look when he finished. “Sorry.”

“Don’t apologize. You must be exhausted after everything. I wouldn’t be upset if you wanted to go to bed early. After this week, I’d probably be there soon myself,” Lizzie said.

“Not just yet. I would like to hear more about your week. Maybe include some details you purposely omitted?”

“I’ve got a few stories,” Lizzie said and they got even more comfortable on the couch. They shared stories and opened up the rest of the fortune cookies. She told him how she came up with each one and they agreed to put all of them on the first page of their eventual baby book. Once William’s eyes began to droop a bit, Lizzie knew it was time to get him to bed. He was practically asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow and she was close behind him, more than content in his arms.

 


 

Saturday, March 10th 

William Darcy hadn’t woken up this refreshed in a long time. It may have been combination of finally being home and back in a familiar bed. It could have also been his body recovering from the sleep he lost over the past two weeks and spending an entire day at an airport. But he knew it really had to do with his still sleeping wife next to him. All he wanted to do was come home to her and then she made his return better than he could have imagined.

Lizzie was pregnant.

He still couldn’t quite believe it. One minute he was talking to her about apartment hunting for his sister and the next, he found out he was going to be a father. A little slip of paper had completely changed his future and he had never been so happy. He would never forget the look on Lizzie’s face at that moment. Their family was growing and they were going to have a baby.

He glanced over at Lizzie and he smiled. It was wonderful to be back next to her again. The past month had been hard on them, spending more time apart than together. He had nearly forgotten how beautiful and peaceful she looked when she was asleep. And now she was carrying his child. Their child. The thought made his heart skip a beat and suck the air out of his lungs at the same time. He didn’t know nearly enough about this. Gigi was already a teenager when he started raising her. Being a sibling and being a father were vastly different.

William wanted to be well-informed about everything to do with the pregnancy so he could help Lizzie when she needed it. He carefully moved away from her and grabbed his phone off the night stand before settling back against his pillow. There must be apps available to give him the information he needed and to help them out throughout the next nine months. He must have lost track of time and didn’t even notice Lizzie had woken up until he felt her hand sliding up his chest.

“Good morning, beautiful,” William said gravelly, lifting his arm and putting it around her shoulders.

“Morning, handsome,” Lizzie murmured, noticing his phone. “What are you doing?”

“Reading up on the best pregnancy apps to download. I’ve already got a couple on my phone.”

“Seriously?”

“Yep. There’s a few for the expectant father but the reviews are just okay so I’m looking for ones that work for both of us,” William explained. “There’s one where we’ll be able to hear the baby’s heartbeat in the last trimester and one where we can find potential baby names. I also saw one called Baby Pool that would be perfect for our betting friends.”

“What is it?”

“It’s an app that lets the user guess baby’s sex, measurements, and whatnot. Once we tell them about the baby, Fitz will probably be the first one to ‘discover’ it,” William said, using air quotes and making Lizzie snicker. “But obviously it’s going to be a while before we tell them.”

“Yea. No one else is allowed in this bubble yet.”

 “I’m perfectly happy with that,” William smiled and Lizzie nodded, pulling herself up and kissing him for a moment before resting her head against his shoulder.

“So, what’s that one?” Lizzie asked, pointing to a gray icon.

“It’s a contraction timer.”

“Will! It’s way too early for that one!”

“It’s never too early to be prepared.”

“You’re ridiculous,” Lizzie laughed, shaking her head. “And I love you for it.”

“I love you too,” William kissed the top of her head. “I’ve been debating between a couple different apps that I think you would like. It gives us a lot of information like weekly updates, a tab for jotting down notes for the doctor, and a symptoms checker.”

“That sounds really helpful for us. You’ll have to show them to me later.”

“Later?”

“Mmhmm. You see, you’ve been home for more than twelve hours.”

“That’s true.”

“And we haven’t properly celebrated your return yet.”

“Well, I was pretty jet-lagged last night.”

“Are you feeling better now?” Lizzie asked.

“Much.”

“Then put your phone away and get those clothes off because we have twice as much to celebrate, Mr. Darcy,” Lizzie said with a mischievous little grin. William stretched out and put his phone back on the nightstand before sitting up and pulling his shirt off over his head, tossing it towards the end of the bed. Lizzie giggled lowly as he watched her while she unbuttoned her shirt and wiggled out of her pajama shorts. He climbed on top of her and flashed her a particularly gorgeous smile.

“As you wish, Mrs. Darcy.”

~~~~~~~~~~~

Lizzie and William relaxed in bed for a while afterwards, perfectly content to stay in each other’s arms. It wasn’t until William’s stomach started growling that they decided it was a good time for breakfast. They put minimal effort in getting dressed with Lizzie wearing underwear and an old t-shirt of William’s while he only put on boxer-briefs and some lounge pants. Lizzie led the way to the kitchen with William right on her heels, his hands on her hips. She kept giggling as he would pull her back to kiss her neck and shoulder, making their short trip even longer. Their behavior brought back memories for Lizzie and reminded her of the weekend they got engaged and their honeymoon. The romance certainly hadn’t fizzled since then but the news of the baby added a level of playfulness between them.

“What would you like for breakfast?” William asked lowly, nibbling on her earlobe and sliding his arms around her waist.

“Mmmm…pancakes,” Lizzie said. “And maybe some scrambled eggs?”

“Sounds good to me,” William said, kissing her cheek before letting go of her. “Would you like to take care of the beverages?”

“Sure. Do you want coffee or tea? I’ve been making myself tea since Monday,” Lizzie said, walking over to the cupboard.

“I read that a little coffee is okay. I think it was a few hundred milligrams.”

“I read that too, but I don’t want to spend every day measuring out my drinks. Besides, you know how I love my tea. I think I can handle it for the next nine months.”

“I’ll tell you what. I’ll switch to tea as well. If you’re not having it then I’m not having it.”

Lizzie glanced over at him, raising an eyebrow. “Really?”

“Sure,” William nodded before pulling out his phone. “There’s actually an app that we can use when we’re not sure if something is okay for you to eat. Whatever you can’t eat, I won’t eat either.”

“You don’t have to do that, Will,” Lizzie said, clearly touched.

“It’s the least I can do for you right now,” William smiled. She scurried over to him and wrapped her arms around his torso, standing on her toes and kissing him.

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome,” William bent down to kiss her once more. “Now, I need to make you and baby some pancakes.”

~~~~~~~~~

After breakfast, Lizzie and William had a quiet morning. The weather was gloomy and it made the two of them feel lazy, not that either of them felt like venturing outside. They watched an old black and white movie in the morning while Lizzie rested her head in William’s lap. He absently ran his fingers through her hair as they watched and she felt at ease. They had leftover Chinese food for lunch when they realized it had begun raining, sealing their decision to stay home for the day.

As they cleaned up from lunch, Lizzie’s flirtatious glances and William’s handsiness began to increase. The moment she suggested a shower, all pretenses disappeared. He carried her to the bathroom while they got lost in each other’s kisses and tore off what little clothing they wore. Entirely too much time was spent in the shower washing and enjoying each other but they couldn’t care less. They were making up for all the showers they had taken alone in the past two weeks.

They eventually migrated back to the living room where William started a fire and made a makeshift bed with pillows and blankets. They talked for a while about what they were looking forward to until Lizzie fell asleep. William kissed her temple and covered her with a blanket, letting her sleep for as long as she needed. He grabbed his laptop and sat on the couch, taking the opportunity to do a little more research.

Lizzie stirred a few times but didn’t wake up until William was just finishing making dinner. She apologized for sleeping so long and he gave her a sweet kiss, telling her it didn’t matter and that she obviously needed it. They spent the rest of their night watching TV curled up on the couch together, finding a channel that was marathoning I Love Lucy. When they came across the episode where Lucy kept trying to tell Ricky she was pregnant, William’s hand slid down from her hip to her stomach. Lizzie entwined her fingers with his while he whispered how much he loved her near her ear. It was a relaxing day and they were glad to be back in each other’s arms after such a hectic month. It wasn’t long before William was yawning and they decided to go to bed. Lizzie curled against William in bed and neither had any trouble falling right to sleep.

 


 

Sunday, March 11th 

When Lizzie and William woke up, they found that it was still raining outside. It looked like it was another lazy day in store for them. Part of the morning was taken up by researching which doctor would be best for Lizzie and the baby. The rest of her morning was spent at the bay window, reading a book she hadn’t had time for yet while William was close by, working on his laptop. She must have fallen asleep because when she woke up, he was nowhere to be found. She listened for any sounds he might have been making and then decided to go look for him. When she looked down the bedroom hall, she noticed the light was on in the guest bedroom.

“Will?” Lizzie said softly, peeking into the room. He was standing there in the middle of the room, his arms crossed against his bare chest and looking deep in thought. She said his name once more as she walked in and he quickly turned his head towards her. “What are you doing in here?”

“Um…” he sheepishly smiled at her. “Just thinking.”

“About?” Lizzie asked, already knowing the answer.

“Changes we could make,” William said, rubbing the back of his neck. “I don’t know. I just…”

“You got caught up in the moment?” Lizzie finished.

“Yea,” William sighed. Lizzie walked over and fit herself into his arms while he rested his chin on the top of her head. “It’s difficult not to get excited. I am logically aware that it’s too early to be thinking of how to decorate a nursery or make a list of what we need once the baby comes. My brain is just working on overtime.”

“You’ve already started making a list?”

“Only mentally.”

“Well, I can’t say I’m not guilty of getting carried away either,” Lizzie told him, pulling back a little to look at him. “I went into this little baby store a few days ago.”

William’s eyebrows raised slightly. “Really?”

“I was staring at this little onesie and picturing us with a baby,” Lizzie said softly, pausing for a moment. “Then this woman came up and asked if I needed help but I panicked because I knew it was too soon to buy anything, but I loved the thought that I’d be able to go back there with you so we could shop together.”

“Don’t we make a wonderful pair,” William chuckled, bending down to kiss her. “At least we’re not throwing you a baby shower before you’re even three months pregnant.”

“All I know is that I’m incredibly lucky right now,” Lizzie said. “You might be getting ahead of yourself but you’ve shown me how hands on you’re going to be all throughout this. You’re going to be by my side for all of this and it makes me feel so much better.”

“You and me? We’re partners,” William said warmly. “That means that we work together and help each other equally. I’m there whenever you need me just like you are for me. I’ll be there for the diaper changes and the two am feedings and everything in between. I think those are a privilege as a parent and I’m not going to miss any of it.”

“You, sir, are wonderful,” Lizzie murmured. She brought her hands up and framed his face, pulling him down to kiss him. He wrapped his arms around her and brought her up to her toes, holding her close to him as they continued. It was soft but passionate and they both lingered at the end of it. “I love you.”

“I love you.” William brought his hand down, pressing it flat across her stomach. “And this baby, too.”

Our baby,” Lizzie emphasized proudly as her eyes became glassy.

“Right,” William said breathily before he broke out into a beautiful smile. “Ours.”

Chapter Text

William and Lizzie had a harder time than usual going back to work on Monday. Their weekend of celebrating wasn’t enough for either of them. Plus, Lizzie had her birthday weekend to look forward to. William wasn’t budging on where he was planning to take her but he gave her enough hints that she knew how to pack.

While they were both getting ready on Monday morning, one of them kept would pull the other in for kisses or would sneak a touch. Her news had woken something up in both of them and the playfulness between each other had been amplified. They were acting the same way they had when they returned from their honeymoon – but neither of them was complaining.

All throughout the week, William praised Lizzie’s willpower to not blurt out their news to the first person who asked how she was during those first days and told her how amazing it was to have a secret like this. He felt relief each night he came home because he no longer had to hold back his excitement.

On Thursday evening, they went over their plans for Friday. They intended to leave straight from their ultrasound appointment since the drive would take a little over three hours. Both Fitz and Brandon and Charlotte and Sam were working for half the day so Lizzie and William would be the first to arrive. Unfortunately, Lydia told them she was stuck working the whole weekend and wouldn’t be able to make it.

“So, you won’t tell me where we’re staying?” Lizzie asked as they sat next to each other on the couch. William lifted an eyebrow at her question.

“I seem to recall being kidnapped for my thirtieth birthday with no warning. You even packed for me,” William reminded her. “The only hint you gave me was on the drive there with a well-planned mixed CD.”

“Ooh! Do I get a mixed CD?”

“I apologize but no. You are far superior in that department.” William put an arm around her shoulder and she tucked her feet under her. “I promise you that you will love the place. Sam, Fitz, and I all thought it was a wonderful location to celebrate yours and Charlotte’s thirtieth.”

“And our fifth anniversary,” Lizzie said proudly, nudging her shoulder into his chest.

“Best five years of my life,” William beamed at her before she rested her head on his shoulder. “You know what I’m excited about?”

“Celebrating together?” Lizzie replied.

“Mmhmm,” William hummed. “And I’m really looking forward to tomorrow.”

“You and me both,” Lizzie sighed, bringing their joined hands to rest on her stomach. “I can’t wait to get a glimpse of the little one.”

“The little one?”

“I’ve been testing nicknames in my head. I’d rather not use ‘it’ when talking about our baby. Also, Little D is kind of terrible.”

“Oh god, I’m getting flashbacks. Terrible private school flashbacks.”

“Were you picked on?” Lizzie asked, her face softening.

“Only briefly during the beginning of eighth grade. Declan Ashford and Holden Kent decided that would be my nickname all that first semester. It was frustrating, to say the least.”

“For the record, those names are ridiculous. And middle school kids can be such jerks. That settles it. Little D is forthwith banned from this household,” Lizzie vowed.

They spent the rest of the night sharing some old stories, laughing at some of the more ridiculous ones, before they watched a movie together. Lizzie fell asleep before it ended, which was no surprise to William. He smiled to himself and carefully got up without waking her before picking her up and taking her to bed. After double-checking that everything was ready for tomorrow, he joined her in bed and was asleep soon after.

 


 

Friday, March 16th 

After a light breakfast and making sure they had everything they needed for the weekend, William packed up the car while Lizzie started on her second bottle of water of the day. Her only instructions were to have a full bladder for her ultrasound and she was making sure to follow it. When they were ready to go, they locked up and headed to UCSF Medical Center. William took Lizzie’s hand as they walked to the right building. They checked in and took a seat in the waiting room, near the main door. After a few minutes of waiting, he noticed Lizzie’s leg was bouncing so he put a hand on her knee, effectively stopping her. She smiled sheepishly at him.

“You okay?”

“I’m fine. Just trying to distract myself.”

“From?”

“My bladder,” Lizzie said. “I think I overdid it with the tea and extra water.”

“I’m sorry. It’s only a little longer,” William offered, rubbing her back.

“It’s fine. This is just a preview of the coming months.” Lizzie shrugged.

“Darcy? Elizabeth Darcy.” They both turned as her name was called and saw a woman leaning against the open door.

“Oh thank god,” Lizzie muttered under her breath and William couldn’t help but chuckle at her relief. They both stood up and smiled at the woman calling her name. They followed her down the hall to a room that had a monitor and other equipment along with an examining table for Lizzie and a chair for William to sit in. The woman instructed Lizzie to strip from the waist down and use the sheet that was folded at the bottom of the bed. She told them the technician would be with them in a few minutes before closing the door and leaving them alone. William studied the posters on the wall while she undressed and got situated on the table.

“Are you nervous?” William asked, sitting down and pulling the chair closer to her side.

“Nope.” Lizzie shook her head. “Are you?”

“Mainly excited to see something,” William said and they shared a smile. There was a soft knock on the door and a moment later, a young woman in pink scrubs came in. She was petite and had her blonde hair in a high ponytail.

“Good morning! My name is Amber,” she greeted, shaking her hand. “Elizabeth?”

“Morning. I prefer Lizzie,” Lizzie said.

“Hello, Lizzie!” Amber corrected herself before she turned to William and shook his hand. “Are you the father-to-be?”

“I am. My name is William.” Lizzie could have sworn she saw his chest puff up a little and she pressed her lips together in amusement.

“Nice to meet you both. Lizzie, why don’t you lie down for me and I’m going to get all set up. William, you’re welcome to take pictures and video,” Amber said before she went over to the sink to wash her hands. She grabbed a pair of latex gloves for herself and then headed over to the ultrasound machine, getting everything prepared. Once she was ready, she explained to Lizzie what the transvaginal ultrasound entailed and then asked her to take a deep breath. Lizzie grabbed William’s hand and closed her eyes for a moment, making herself relax as Amber used the ultrasound probe.

“Alright,” Amber said in a soothing tone, turning the screen enough so that Lizzie and William could easily see it. “How far along do you think you are?”

“Between six and eight weeks,” Lizzie said, a bit unsurely.

“That’s a big window,” Amber said. “Have you been feeling any symptoms?”

“Fatigue. I’ve been falling asleep like an old lady this whole week,” Lizzie said, seeing one corner of William’s lips lift. “But I’ve read that more symptoms show up after six weeks. No morning sickness so far.”

“That’s good. Not all women develop morning sickness. Let’s see what we can find out,” she said. Lizzie stared at the screen and William pulled out his phone, waiting to see something while Amber adjusted the probe slight and hit a few buttons. After a few moments, there was a dark spot and Amber pressed a few buttons to focus on it, making it bigger.

“There we are. You’re definitely not eight weeks. The baby would be a bit bigger,” Amber confirmed, pointing to the screen. “This is the womb cavity. This…” she pointed to something small and round. “…is the yolk sac that supports the pregnancy until the placenta takes over. That’s your baby.”

“Oh my god,” Lizzie whispered under her breath, glancing to William. He was holding up his phone and recording. He looked to her with shiny eyes and broke out into a gorgeous grin, making her own smile grow. He lifted their joined hands and kissed hers.

“Your first?” Amber asked and they both nodded silently. “Congratulations.”

“Thank you,” they said together, making each other chuckle.

“Do you see that flicker?” Amber asked, pointing right to it. “That’s the heartbeat.”

“The baby already has a heartbeat?” William asked in disbelief. The mixture of seeing the heartbeat and his awed tone brought Lizzie’s heart back up to her throat.

“The heart starts beating at five weeks but we see it more clearly at six weeks,” Amber explained, taking a few measurements. “The baby is really tiny at this point but they’re measuring perfectly.”

“There’s just one?” William asked.

“Yes, only one,” Amber confirmed and Lizzie looked at him curiously.

“What? Your sister had twins. I wanted to ask.”

“It’s okay to ask,” Amber said before entering in some more information. “You’re measuring at six weeks exactly. That would put your due date on November 9th.”

Lizzie squeezed William’s hand. “Early birthday present for you.”

“That is the best birthday present I can think of,” William smiled at her. “It’s close to the twins’ birthday too.”

“That should be interesting.”

“Few women go into labor on their actual due date. Most expecting moms I see end up going past their due date,” Amber offered before adding, “some are early as well.”

“If this baby wants to come on my birthday, you won’t hear any complaints from me,” William teased Lizzie.

“I don’t know if I want to make that promise,” Lizzie deadpanned and William chuckled.

“Okay. The heartbeat is looking good to my naked eye,” Amber continued, pointing out the flicker once more. “I’m going to record so I need you to hold your breath for a second.”

Lizzie nodded and inhaled while William brought his phone up again to capture what she was doing. She clicked on what part of the ultrasound and recorded waves for a moment.

“You can breathe now,” Amber said gently, measuring out one section. “112 beats per minute and that’s really good at this point. Your baby is doing well.”

She took a few more minutes to explain everything on the screen in a little more detail for them, putting any worries at ease and making them feel comfortable. “Would you like me to print out a picture?”

“Yes, please!” Lizzie perked up.

“How many?”

“Um,” they both looked at each other. “Two? We’re not telling anybody yet.”

“It’s still early. You’ll have another ultrasound around 12-13 weeks, depending on your doctor. The baby will look more like a baby then. That’s always more fun to show people. Let me print your pictures.”

There was a whirring sound from the machine as two copies of the ultrasound printed out and she handed them to William. She congratulated them once more before making her exit, giving them a few moments alone.

“I want to gloat with you but you need to excuse me for a sec,” Lizzie said quickly, grabbing her clothes and hoisting up her sheet just enough that she could scurry into the small bathroom. She left William alone with the pictures and his own thoughts. He stared at the ultrasound pictures in his hand. It was incredible how something so minuscule was already affecting their lives. One glimpse left him breathless. And seeing the heartbeat? He couldn’t put it into words. The proof that they were actually going to have a baby was right there in his hands and he felt like he was on cloud nine.

Lizzie came out of the bathroom fully dressed and looking significantly relieved. William looked up and locked eyes with her, and she gave him a sweet smile.

“We’re having a baby.” William said it like it was the first time.

Lizzie visibly swallowed, her eyes glistened, and her smile grew. “We are.”

William stood up and closed the distance between them, pulling her in for a hug. Lizzie was caught off guard for a split second but quickly brought her arms around his neck.

“May I see?” Lizzie gestured to the ultrasound. He nodded with a smile and handed it to her. She looked at it for a few moments before looking back up at William with a bright expression. “I’m so excited for this.”

“You and me both, love,” William murmured, kissing her forehead. “We should probably get going. We’ve got a bit of a road trip ahead of us.”

“Right.” Lizzie grabbed her tote and slid the pictures in, double-checking to make sure she didn’t forget anything. “We may have to stop a couple times along the way.”

“I’m aware of your small bladder,” William teased, taking her hand as they left the room.

“I feel like it’s getting smaller.”

“I will stop as many times as you need. Don’t you worry.”

“I never do when I’m with you.”

William offered to drive for obvious reasons and Lizzie took charge of the music once they made it out of San Francisco. She took out her phone and set up some music for their drive ahead. She found a Beatles playlist that she made a long time ago and pressed play, wanting something light and classic. After a while, Lizzie pulled out one of the pictures to look at it again. William reached over and put a hand on her leg, rubbing it for a moment.

“It’s hard not to keep looking at that picture, isn’t it?” William said.

“You know, the more I look at this, the more I’m convinced this baby has your eyes,” Lizzie joked, making him laugh. 

“Very cute.”

“No, really! This baby has the most gorgeous blue eyes. Oh! I think I see a dimple.”

“You’re being silly.”

“I know but I so hope this baby gets your dimples,” Lizzie said affectionately. He lifted his hand and curled a strand of her hair around his finger, keeping his eyes on the road.

“I’d love it if the baby got your hair,” William played along. “And your smile.”

“We’re just going to have to wait and see,” Lizzie said, patting her stomach. “Baby still has a ton more developing to do.”

“Do you want to check the specifics with the app we picked?” William asked.

“Ooh! Good idea.” Lizzie pulled out her phone to update the baby app. She entered in her due date and it popped up that she was six weeks along, making her smile.

“What does it say?”

“Your little one has tripled in size and is protected by amniotic fluid. Although he’s…or she’s grown by leaps and bounds, they’re still only about the size of a pomegranate seed,” Lizzie read. “The baby weighs less than point zero four ounces.”

“Wow.”

“I know,” Lizzie took a deep breath. “There’s more. Ugh. They’re only using ‘he’ and no ‘she’.”

“Preference?”

“Equal opportunity. I will love either just as much,” Lizzie chuckled, gently smacking his arm.

“Hey! Don’t distract the driver,” William warned her with a smile playing on his lips.

“Excuse me, sir,” Lizzie apologized before she continued. “Facial features like eyes and nostrils are beginning to form, and little buds appear where arms and legs will develop. Their organs began developing at four weeks and some have started to function.”

“Like the heart beating,” William offered proudly.

“Exactly.” Lizzie rested her head against the head rest, looking at him. “I’m really glad you came with me today.”

“There’s no way I would have missed that,” William said, reaching over and squeezing her hand before grabbing the wheel again. “I’m going to do my best to go to every single appointment with you. I don’t want to miss big moments.”

“We have a lifetime of big moments ahead of us.”

“We do, don’t we? I’m happy that you’re the one I get to experience them with.”

Lizzie smiled brightly at him. “Me too. We’re lucky people.”

“I’m inclined to agree.”

There was a moment of silence between them as the music flowed through the car speakers.

“So, what does the app say about any changes for you?”

“Oh! Let me look.”

Lizzie continued reading information out loud to help pass the time. Thankfully, they only had to stop twice for a bathroom break but they still made good time. They made it to their destination in under three and a half hours just after noon. Lizzie’s eyes lit up with intrigue when William pulled off the highway at Fort Bragg, a small coastal town above San Francisco. They had lunch at a little bistro before heading to a grocery store to buy some food for the weekend.

“So, this place is pretty,” Lizzie observed as they put the groceries in the car.

“And you haven’t even see where we’re staying yet.”

“Can’t wait,” Lizzie beamed. “Thank you for taking me here.”

“My pleasure.” William brushed his knuckles across her cheek and bent down to kiss her, soft and tenderly. When he pulled back, there was a smile on her face and it made him feel better. “We should go. I don’t want to start making out in a Safeway parking lot.”

“You don’t find them romantic?”

“Oh yes. It’s so difficult for me to control my urges here,” Lizzie deadpanned, rolling her eyes at him.

The rest of their short drive was along the coast, giving them beautiful views of the ocean. William slowed down to read the addresses and then found the right house, pulling into the big driveway. The outside of the one-story house didn’t give off much of an impression to Lizzie. There wasn’t a wow factor like some of the other places William had taken her; it just looked like an average house. But she knew there must have been a reason he picked this place. Of course, she could hear the ocean as soon as she got out of the car and could see it in the distance so she knew there were perks to the location.

“Let’s get the food put away and then I’ll give you a proper tour of the place,” William suggested.

“Sounds good to me.”

They both grabbed the bags from the back of the car and she followed him along the short red brick path to the door. He put the bags down and fished a key out of his pocket, unlocking the door, pushing it open. Picking the bags back up, they both stepped inside and Lizzie was immediately impressed.

They had walked into a large room that had an open living room and kitchen. To the right of Lizzie, there was a couch against the wall and a game table in the corner. The kitchen had the biggest island she had ever seen with six stools tucked underneath one side. Three lamps above lit up the pale granite countertop and everything in the kitchen looked pristine. The living room had an L-shaped plush couch big enough to fit the entire group with a white coffee table centered in front of it. A large television was on a black stand right next to the fireplace, which had a wooden frame around it and a large model sailing ship on the mantel. Just beyond the living room was a sitting area with two wicker chairs and a telescope in the corner next to the floor-to-ceiling windows that showed off some of their view. Lizzie could see that there was a deck outside and she was itching to see the rest of it.

“Okay. I love this place already,” Lizzie exclaimed, setting the bags down on the counter and walking over to the windows. She noticed the dining area to the right of her, just around the corner from the kitchen. There was a wooden table with enough room for seven chairs. A door was just beyond that and she had to assume it was one of the bedrooms. She glanced outside to see wooden deck chairs and a picnic table.

“Hey! Are you not going to help?” William asked as he was putting food away.

“I’m pregnant,” Lizzie joked, flashing him a silly grin.

“Really?” William snorted. “I’ll let you use that excuse all you want in your third trimester but you’re far from incapable now.”

“It’s my birthday weekend,” Lizzie whined, putting on a show and swinging her arms at her sides as she walked back over to him.

“Are you throwing a tantrum?” William raised an eyebrow at her display.

“I’m just giving you some practice.” Lizzie started unloading her bags and handing him things to put in the fridge.

“I’d like to think we’d raise our child well enough that they would not throw tantrums.”

“Me too. You should still prepare for anything. Even Jane threw a couple tantrums early in life.”

“Not possible. You’re making things up to try and prove your point.”

“I would never. You can even ask my mother,” Lizzie said, gathering up the bags and storing them under the sink as he put away the last of the food away.

“Maybe later,” William said, sidling up next to her and leaning against the counter on his elbows. “Would you like to see the rest of the place? As the first to arrive, we get first choice of the bedrooms.”

There were five bedrooms to choose from. Four of the bedrooms were all down one hall past the living room. The first master bedroom had a corner view of the ocean and access to the deck that wrapped around the whole back of the house. The room was simple with a queen-sized bed with a nightstand on both sides and a chair in the corner. Curtains wrapped around the floor to ceiling windows and a full bathroom was attached. The bedroom across from it had a queen-sized bed as well as a wicker chair and a small dresser in each corner and looked out to the front of the house. The second full bathroom was situated between that bedroom and the next and was shared between all three regular rooms. One bedroom had two twin beds and also had a similar view to the bedroom across the first master. The last bedroom in the hallway had a queen-sized bed and access to the deck.

William was obviously saving the best bedroom for last. After checking out the first four, they walked back through the living room and past the dining room. Lizzie was antsy to check out the deck for an unobstructed view but she wanted to get settled in first. She opened the last bedroom door and immediately smiled. It was more spacious than the other four by far. There was a couch against the closest wall with another model ship sitting above it on its own little shelf. The owners must have liked ships since Lizzie was noticing them all throughout the place. A queen sized bed sat against the furthest wall with two bedside tables framing it. A comfortable wicker chair was situated in the corner, closest to their floor to ceiling windows and personal access to the deck. There were two closets available to them as well as an attached full bathroom with sliding glass shower doors.

“I claim this room for ourselves,” Lizzie said, barely containing her glee.

“I want to show you two more things before we can get settled in and test out that bed.”

Lizzie arched an eyebrow at the double entendre, but her curiosity won out as he took her hand and led her to the sliding glass doors, unlocking it and sliding one open. They stepped out onto the deck and felt the ocean breeze. William veered right and Lizzie immediately spotted his target. A covered Jacuzzi and two white sun chairs at the end of the deck. There was a spacious side yard beyond the divider and an open shower for washing off any sand from the beach.

“I hate to say it but I won’t be able to do much more than stick my feet in that Jacuzzi. I remember Jane mentioning it’s not good for pregnant women because it messes with your core temperature.”

“Oh. I should have known better,” William frowned, looking disappointed with himself. “I suppose it’s the thought that counts.” Lizzie brought a hand up to rest against his neck and stood on her toes, kissing his cheek.

“It counts,” Lizzie reassured him. “You brought me to a beautiful place with ocean views and access to a great beach. This deck is awesome, by the way. I’m very happy with my present.”

“Good.”

“Now, what’s the last thing you wanted to show me?”

William led her back inside, making their way through the bedroom to the other door perpendicular to theirs, through the laundry room to one last door to what she believed was the garage. When he opened it, she discovered the garage had been converted into a game room. There was a foosball table near a television on the wall, a ping-pong table, and a poker table furnished with four lime-green chairs. There were a few chairs and a couch to lounge on. William excused himself for a moment and she explored the room more, checking out the cabinets. They were full of board games, various puzzles, and a small selection of DVDs. There were more to choose from in the living room and Lizzie loved the place even more, seeing that there was something for everyone.

“Suitcases are safely stowed in our room.” William re-appeared at the doorway and Lizzie spun around towards his voice.

“Thank you! I could have helped you bring things in,” Lizzie said, walking over to him.

“Oh no, you’re pregnant,” William said with a smirk as she approached him. “Also, I checked in with the rest of the group.”

“And?”

“Sam and Charlotte just left. Fitz and Brandon are making a quick stop but they should be on the road in the next thirty minutes.”

“So, what you’re saying is that we have the place to ourselves for a few more hours.” Lizzie slowly slid her hands up to his chest. William watched her movements and one corner of his lips quirked up.

“I believe I am.”

“How do you propose we pass the time?”

“I can think of a few things,” William said, guiding them out of the laundry room. He backed into the dining room table and stopped, not catching the entertained expression from Lizzie. “But seeing as how it’s your birthday weekend, it’s ultimately up to you.”

“I’d love a few choices,” Lizzie toyed with him. She knew exactly what she wanted to do but she always enjoyed this little game between them. It had been more than a couple days because she kept falling asleep before they even made it to bed at night, though she had woken up each day in their own bed and in his embrace. Her fatigue had been a wrench in their plans to make up for lost time once he came home from his business trip but he never showed disappointment. She only hoped that this symptom wouldn’t affect her more than it already was, especially when she was only six weeks pregnant. She had so much longer to go.

“Let’s see,” William started. “There’s quite a bit to choose from. We could watch a movie together, you could read a little, or we could even take a walk on the beach.”

“You’re leaving the best option out.”

“I mentioned the beach, right?”

Lizzie laughed before bringing her arms around his neck and kissing him softly. She lingered and watched his eyes darken with need, an expression that rivaled her own. “Take me to bed already, Mr. Darcy.”

William cupped his hands around the back of her thighs and lifted her up, breaking out into a full-blown grin as he headed to their bedroom.

“Gladly.”

~~~~~~~~~~

After a shower to freshen up, Lizzie and William finally left the intimacy of their bedroom to relax in the living room. As they waited for the group to arrive, William started a movie and Lizzie rested her head in his lap as they watched. It was something they had seen before but she didn’t want to get too invested in a movie that would be interrupted. Soon enough, they heard the sound of a car rolling into the driveway and two doors slamming shut. Lizzie shut the TV off and got up from the couch, with William close behind.

Sam and Charlotte had arrived and they all greeted each other with hugs before helping unload the car.

“Fitz and Brandon aren’t here yet?” Sam asked, looking around for a third car.

“They’ll probably be here within the hour,” William replied.

“Can we go in? I want to see this place already. Sam refused to tell me anything,” Charlotte said.

“William too!” Lizzie laughed.

“Oh great. Your husband is a bad influence on mine,” Charlotte deadpanned, glancing at William and Sam. Sam didn’t do anything to hide his amused smile and William simply shrugged.

“You’ll get used to it.” Lizzie linked arms with her. “Come on. You’re going to love it. The view alone is totally worth it.”

Sam and Charlotte chose the second master bedroom, as Lizzie had predicted, before checking out the rest of the house. With promises to go down to the beach once Fitz and Brandon arrived, they migrated outside on the deck to enjoy the cool air and the view. William checked his phone every couple of minutes but Lizzie barely noticed, too immersed in a work story that Charlotte was telling. His phone buzzed and he excused himself, kissing Lizzie on the top of her head before stepping inside. After another minute, Sam excused himself and left the girls to themselves.

“Do you think they’re planning something for us in there?” Charlotte asked.

“I wouldn’t be surprised.”

“Should we wait a few minutes or go inside?”

“Let’s go in now. I need more water,” Lizzie said, shaking her nearly empty water bottle as they got up. They headed back inside, just in time to see Fitz walking through the door with some bags.

“The birthday ladies!” Fitz exclaimed, putting his stuff down. “Or shall I say the master bedroom thieves?”

“Are you celebrating a birthday or anniversary this weekend, Fitz?” Lizzie challenged.

“Not last time I checked, Lizzie D.” Fitz hugged her.

“What took you guys so long?”

“We had a few errands to run. Stopped by Roundman’s Smokehouse to get the order Darcy put in. Prime rib roast for dinner.”

“That sounds delicious,” Charlotte said.

“I’ll be making it, of course, since I am the best at the grill,” Fitz bragged. “And we also picked up a stray on the way.”

“Stop calling me a stray, Fitz.”

Lizzie’s eyes widened at the sound of a familiar voice and spun around, seeing Jane standing in the front doorway. Brandon and Sam were sitting on the couch near the entryway and William was leaning against the wall looking far too proud of himself. Lizzie didn’t know whether to kiss that expression off his face or scream with excitement. She chose the latter.

“Jane!” Lizzie ran over to her older sister and threw her arms around her. “What are you doing here?!”

“Celebrating my sister’s thirtieth!” Jane laughed as they hugged. “It was a surprise.”

“It is a surprise! I had no idea whatsoever!” Lizzie said, looking to William. “You’re getting way too good at this, mister.”

“I learned from the best.”

She smiled warmly at him and he smiled back before picking up Jane’s luggage to bring to her room. Charlotte and Jane greeted each other with big hugs and the girls migrated over to the large couch in the living room.

“How long are you here for?”

“Just until Sunday afternoon. Fitz and Brandon are graciously giving me a ride back to the airport.”

“Where’s Bing?”

“He’s watching the twins back at home. His parents decided to fly over and give him an extra hand. It’s been a little hectic since we started potty-training.”

“No! Already?”

“Believe me, it is. Scarlett kept saying she wanted to be a big girl and Charlie pretty much goes along with whatever she says. He’s picking it up so much quicker than her too.”

“Oh, I bet she loves that.”

It felt good to see Jane again, despite having just visited her last month. They always had news to share and Lizzie ate up every story about the twins. She had a split second thought that it would be nice to tell Jane her good news in person but it was far too early. Jane had announced her pregnancy before she hit three months but Lizzie simply wasn’t ready, even though she was dying to tell her. Having a sister who was already raising children and had experienced what she was about to experience made her feel relieved that she would have someone to turn to for help and advice and everything in between.

William and the rest of the guys joined them in the living room and the conversation flowed all the way until the sun began to go down. Somebody suggested a walk on the beach and everybody else agreed. Lizzie and William were the slowest of the group, taking their time as they walked along the shore. They watched the sunset and the sky shifting from pinks and oranges to inky blue and black. Eventually, they returned to the house and everybody lent a hand in making dinner.

As Lizzie sat at the table enjoying the last bites of her dinner, she watched as the group split into different conversations. Jane, Charlotte, and Fitz were deep in a discussion about a new clothing trend that confused all three of them while William, Sam, and Brandon were talking about some story in the news. Everybody was happy. Everybody was so connected to each other. There was nowhere else she wanted to be.

William tapped her forearm to get her attention and she turned to look at him, offering him a little smile.

“How are you doing? Okay?”

Lizzie nodded and her smile grew. “Fantastic.”

 


 

Saturday, March 17th 

Lizzie was the first to wake up in the morning, feeling more refreshed than usual. Yesterday had been jam-packed with an ultrasound, surprises, and driving. She had been yawning by nine pm but trying to her hardest to conceal just how tired she was. Thankfully, once jetlagged Jane decided to go to bed, it started a chain reaction of everybody retreating to their rooms. Lizzie happily slipped into bed just after 9:30, the earliest she had gone to bed all week.

William’s arm was draped over her and she turned in his loose embrace to face him, being careful not to wake him. She loved waking up to him still asleep. He always looked a little younger and more relaxed, as if he didn’t have a care in the world. His hair would be sticking up all over the place and he usually needed a shave but those aspects mixed with his minimal sleep wear of boxer-briefs, she couldn’t help but think how sexy her husband looked in the morning.

Over the past few days, she noticed he had looked a little different. More content than usual and she had easily connected his happiness with the pregnancy.

Her mind wandered to five years ago today. She spent much of that day wringing her hands and trying to distract herself from what she believed was the truth, that she had lost her chance with William Darcy. There was going to be no return phone call and she had made a fool of herself in front of her viewers.

And then he was there, standing in front of her and erasing every doubt she had.

She never expected to be so happy and so fulfilled. She loved her husband with all of her heart and he made it effortless to keep falling in love with him every day. Things were never boring with him by her side and now, their lives were changing again with this baby. What a huge difference five years had made for the two of them.

She smiled to herself and let out a quiet breath. William began to stir after a moment and his eyelids fluttered before they slowly opened, revealing those beautiful blue eyes she’d never get tired of looking at.

“Morning,” he said roughly, the gruffness of his voice stirring something in the pit of her belly.

“Morning.”

“Staring at me now, are you?”

“I learned from the best,” Lizzie said, repeating his words from yesterday. He smiled and pressed his hand on her back, pulling her towards him. She slipped one leg between his, aching to be even closer. She felt the heat coming off his bare chest in waves. She was always cold before they shared a bed. It was just another reason why they worked so well together.

“How are you feeling?”

“Well, it’s my birthday so I’m feeling quite well today.”

“It’s your birthday?” William feigned shock and Lizzie lit up at his playfulness. How she ever thought he was dull, she would never know. “Since when?”

“I believe...thirty years ago on this date.”

“I thought today was St. Patrick’s Day.”

“It is. It coincides.”

“Is that the holiday where everybody wears green?” William asked with a twinkle in his eye.

Lizzie nodded. “And if you’re not, you get pinched.”

“Pinching is no fun for either party,” William’s gaze darted to her lips and all she wanted was for him to kiss her. “I’m sure we can think of something else.”

“You have to check for green before you dole out punishment,” Lizzie told him.

William was always a little quicker than her in the morning and today was no different. He pushed the sheets away and moved to straddle her, his knees touching the outside of her thighs. She was wearing an old black t-shirt of his that was bunched up enough to show a pair of blue cotton panties. It gave her time to appreciate the full view of her husband’s body. Her eyes raked over his long, lean frame and she thanked the stars he liked keeping in shape. Whether it was from swimming, riding his bike, or even the occasional run, she appreciated it all. From his defined biceps to his powerful thighs, she felt like a very lucky woman. She wanted to run her fingernails down the ridges of his abs and follow the line of that V disappearing into his gray boxer-briefs with her tongue.

He grabbed the bottom hem of her shirt and slowly pushed it up, revealing more of her alabaster skin and toying with her further. She arched her back as his palms brushed against her nipples, sending a spark of pleasure straight to between her thighs. She wanted him to touch her again just like that but he didn’t indulge her. He simply continued his torture of removing her shirt completely, making sure that she had no hidden green on. She laid back on the pillow as he tossed her shirt away, leaving her in only her pair of panties. He pressed his hands on either side of her head and bent down to hover over her, close enough that she could see his eyes growing darker with desire. His growing bulge had her licking her lips and squirming in anticipation, her mind already imagining how good he would feel once he was inside her.

“I see no green. What shall your penance be?”

“You’re clearly wearing none either.”

“Ah, an impasse. Whatever shall we do?” William asked, his voice dropping an octave. It was impossibly sexy when his voice got that low. Her body was heating up rapidly, more so than usual. It was helping a theory of hers that she was experiencing another symptom of pregnancy: heightened sensitivity. She felt stirrings of it yesterday but she had also factored in that it had been almost a week for them. She never had any complaints whenever she and William had sex but it was somehow even better when they abstained for longer than a couple days. Right now, she was more than a little thrilled to be putting her theory to the test.

“Give me a kiss,” Lizzie said saucily.

He arched that infuriatingly sexy eyebrow at her and then his eyes darted to her mouth. He brought a hand to her face before he gently traced her lips with one finger, keeping his gaze on her. It made Lizzie shiver with anticipation and she tried to steady her breath, trying not to give herself away. William stopped after a moment, staring deep into her eyes. “Anything for you.”

He bent down and brushed his lips across hers before he broke away, leaving her wanting more. She could feel his warm breath skating across her skin as he moved down her body. He was barely touching her on purpose, wanting to build up her need for him. She hated when he did this but loved it at the same time and he knew it. William sat up and gently patted her knees, silently telling her to move her legs. Her feet glided along the mattress until her legs were bent. He kissed her each knee before slipping her panties off. Then he spread her legs open wide, leaving her bare to him and his heated gaze. He looked as if he was ready to devour her. A little quirk of a smile played on his lips before he disappeared between her thighs.

He lifted her legs over his shoulders and gripped her hips, pulling her even closer to him. Lizzie moaned almost as soon as his mouth was on her. He slid his hands up her stomach to her breasts and cupped her gently, brushing his thumbs across her hardened nipples. Her hips jerked and her mind went blank. She could usually handle his teasing but every stroke of his tongue against her sex brought her closer to the verge of climax. She grabbed onto his hair with both hands and his teeth grazed her most sensitive spot, making her buck and gasp. She wasn’t going to last much longer with the way his hands and lips were expertly playing her body. What he was doing was intense and wonderful and everything she wanted. She rocked her hips against his tongue and his lips, whimpering for release. And then finally, she was pushed into blissful territory, her orgasm spreading throughout her body and making her toes curl.

She took a few moments before she loosened the firm grip on his hair and brought one hand to her chest, feeling her heart beating erratically. William kissed his way up her body, his lips skimming across her skin until he came face to face with her. She wrapped her arms around his neck, pulling him in closer. They both hesitated to close the gap, wanting to test each other to see who would break first.

Lizzie would.

The way her body was still thrumming from her first orgasm only made her want more, especially when she knew how good he would make her feel. She wanted him all. She pulled him down and kissed him fiercely, breaking the tension between them. He reached down with one hand and pushed at his boxer-briefs until he could kick them off, never breaking away from her. Finally, there were no more barriers between them. She reached down and wrapped her hand around him, pumping her hand a few times. A subtle smile grew on her lips as he groaned and she guided him to her entrance, still stroking him. He grabbed her wrist to stop her and maneuvered her arm over her head, slipping his fingers between hers as he stared at her, his eyes full of need. He was pressed against her and she was throbbing from the anticipation alone.

He finally pushed into her and her eyelids fluttered, gasping in pleasure as he filled her. She lifted her legs and wrapped them around him, bringing him even closer to her. He kissed her again and her lips parted before his tongue moved across hers in a natural rhythm. They moved in sync, their breaths mingling as their limbs became entangled with each other. Lizzie was having no trouble reaching the next level, easily feeling the stirrings of another orgasm building inside her. She rolled her hips with each stroke, moaning and aching for more of him. He was giving her his love now through the words he was whispering above her and the kisses he was peppering across her heated skin. Her breath hitched as his lips closed around one nipple, flicking her with the tip of his tongue. She could feel herself rushing towards the end as he continued to tease her, switching back and forth between each breast. It was suddenly more than she could handle and she arched her back as she climaxed, his name escaping her lips in a guttural groan. William’s hips snapped as she clenched around him with his thrusts, each one more pronounced than the last. He wasn’t far behind and he pressed his forehead to hers as he came, whispering her name so quietly that she barely caught it.

They lay there afterwards, catching their breath and holding onto each other.

He placed the softest kiss to her lips before he pulled out of her, moving onto his back and holding out his arm as she shifted, grabbing the twisted sheets and covering themselves. She rested her head on his shoulder and laid one leg over his. He looked to her and she flashed him a big smile, making him smile in return.

“Was that satisfactory for the birthday lady?” William asked in a playful tone and Lizzie nodded. Her theory was definitely proven. Her body was more sensitive but it was in her advantage, for sure.

“Very,” Lizzie said happily. “It was good enough to cover both my birthday and our anniversary.”

“It’s our anniversary too? Oh dear.”

Lizzie snorted at his words. He said it so straight-faced that if she didn’t know him better, she would have figured he forgot. William would never forget anything.

“If you ever forgot our anniversary, I would be severely worried,” Lizzie said after a few moments.

“Not angry?” William asked curiously.

Lizzie shook her head. “Just worried. This day means just as much to me as it does to you. I’m happy each time we celebrate it.”

“I always look forward to it,” William admitted with a content sigh. “And just think about this. Next year, we’ll be celebrating with each other and—” He paused as he did the math in his head. “A four month-old.”

“Wow. It’s so weird to think that far ahead and realize it won’t just be the two of us anymore. Everything in our future is going to be determined by our not-so-hypothetical child.”

“Not-so-hypothetical child. Bit long for a nickname.”

Lizzie swatted at his chest and chuckled. “You’re silly.”

“You’re sillier.”

“What a comeback, husband.”

“I try my best, wife.”

Lizzie shifted and kissed him softly on the lips.

“Would you like some breakfast? I’m sure someone is up by now,” William said, glancing to their closed door.

“Food sounds pretty good right now,” Lizzie replied. “You know, I keep expecting to wake up and immediately have to rush to the bathroom to throw up.”

“Hopefully, you’re one of the lucky ones who never have morning sickness.”

“We’ll just have to wait and see.”

After phone calls from her parents and Gigi, a quick rinse in the shower together, and getting dressed, they ventured out to the kitchen. They found Jane and Brandon in the living room, talking on the couch. They exchanged morning greetings before they both wished her a happy birthday.

“Thank you, guys,” Lizzie smiled. “Where’s everybody else?”

“Charlotte’s still asleep and Fitz and Sam went for a run,” Brandon replied. “They should be back soon and then we can get started on breakfast.”

“We could always start now and it’ll ready by the time they get back,” Lizzie pointed out. She was hungry, especially after working up an appetite in the bedroom.

“Actually, I’ve got a little something planned,” Jane said brightly, typing on her phone. It was then that Lizzie noticed a laptop connected to the television and a wrapped present on the coffee table. William brushed his hand across the small of her back before he headed over to the computer to set things up.

“Are we calling the twins?” Lizzie asked. “Okay, that’s enough to make me wait for food.”

Bing, Scarlett, and Charlie were all displayed on the TV screen in moments once Lizzie and William joined Jane and Brandon on the couch. Lizzie could barely say hello before Scarlett and Charlie started singing her happy birthday, completely out of sync. She pressed her fingers to her mouth to stop from laughing but the sight before her eyes was more than amusing, especially when Scarlett started making up her own song. Bing tried to get them back in sync with the right words but failed, shrugging and letting them continue until they were done. Charlotte came shuffling in after a few minutes, most likely having woken up from the noise. Lizzie opened up their gift, which was a framed picture of her and the twins in front of the snowman they built at Christmas. They made a point to let her know that they picked both the frame and the picture. Too soon, it was time to say goodbye but she and William promised to call them again later.

“I can’t believe how much bigger they look, Jane. We just saw them at Christmas,” Brandon said, unplugging the computer.

“Don’t remind me. Charlie has grown half an inch. He’s officially taller than Scarlett,” Jane replied, joining William in the kitchen.

“He’s going to be tall like Bing, I’m sure,” William said, looking for a pan to make pancakes.

“That’s what Bing thinks,” Jane said. There was a knock on the door before she could continue her thought and Brandon offered to get it.

“Fitz and Sam probably forgot their key,” Brandon said, shaking his head.

It wasn’t either of them when he opened the door. Lydia was standing on the other side with a big grin on her face. Before anybody could have reacted, there was a loud crash on the other side of the house. Fitz and Sam appeared outside on the deck, practically slamming into the glass. They slid it open and they were both huffing, Sam resting his hands on his hips and Fitz doubling over, trying to catch his breath.

“Damnit, Little B! You couldn’t…have waited…two minutes!” Fitz gasped, still out of breath.

“You’re just too slow, Fitz. Deal with it,” Lydia retorted, giving a surprised Brandon a hug.

“What in the world is going on?” William asked as Lizzie and Charlotte jumped up from the couch, hurrying over to Lydia and giving her a hug.

“I thought you couldn’t make it!” Lizzie said in surprise.

“Originally, I couldn’t! Fitz texted me on Thursday night that Jane was definitely coming,” Lydia grinned as her oldest sister walked over to her to greet her with a hug. “I practically begged the other ASMs to take my shift today. I’ll have to work Saturdays for like…the next month but it was totes worth it to see all your reactions.”

“Well, we’re glad you could join us today,” William smiled at her before glancing over at Fitz and Sam. “Are you two okay?”

“We…were trying…to get back here before…she got here,” Fitz breathed, nodding in thanks when Brandon gave them both water. “She only texted me…” He held up four fingers to say that she let him know she was nearly there four minutes ago. Not enough time for him.

“You’re still too slow,” Sam chided before taking a big gulp of water, Charlotte and Lizzie snorting when they saw the playful look in his eyes. He wasn’t nearly as out of breath as Fitz.

“Don’t hit a man when he’s down, dude,” Fitz huffed.

“Okay boys. Don’t make me separate you two,” Brandon reprimanded.

“Yea. Not on our birthdays,” Charlotte said. Sam came over and gave her a chaste kiss, careful not to let sweat drip on her. Lizzie and Jane went outside with Lydia to get her overnight bag and to show her around the house.

“You two should go shower. We’ve got things to do today and breakfast is going to be ready soon,” William said.

“You got it, Darcy. Ten minutes.”

Breakfast was enjoyed by everybody out on the deck. Jane started an orange juice birthday toast for Lizzie and Charlotte, making them laugh. Afterwards, they all got ready to go for the day and piled into two cars. William and Sam had planned to visit a few places in the area, making sure that the day would be relaxing but fun. They spent some time at the local Sea Glass Museum, which boasted having the world’s largest sea glass exhibit. While most of the group ventured down to the sea glass beach, Lizzie and William stayed behind. He wanted her to pick a necklace made of sea glass and she was taking her time, trying to choose from three different shapes and colors. In the end, she chose a blue-green necklace that was loosely shaped like an L.

On the way to the Mendocino botanical gardens, they stopped at a place called Eggheads for lunch simply because Lizzie and Charlotte thought the name was funny, though the restaurant turned out to serve great food. Most of the afternoon was taken up at the botanical gardens where William had set up a personal tour. It ended up being a little slower than usual because the girls all wanted pictures together next to various plants. Near the end of the tour, Charlotte had snapped a particularly good shot of Lizzie and William walking behind the rest of the group, their hands clasped together and William kissing her temple.  

When they returned back to the house, they wanted to relax. Their reservation wasn’t for another two hours so they had some time to re-energize and get ready. Fitz and Brandon challenged Sam and William to a game of ping pong and the girls started a puzzle in the same room, getting more talking done than putting pieces together. Sam and William were surprisingly unbeatable which only made Fitz more competitive.

After the third game, William handed over his paddle to Lydia and headed outside to get some fresh air. Lizzie left the room a few minutes later, finding him leaning against the railing and watching the beginnings of a sunset.

“Hey you,” Lizzie said softly. He turned his head to her and smiled, shifting his body to make room for her to join him. He put his arms on the outside of hers as they leaned on the railing, kissed her neck, and rested his chin on her shoulder. They chose to watch the setting sun in silence, enjoying each other’s company. William began to press kisses along her shoulder and up her neck until he started nibbling on her earlobe. She angled her head towards him and he captured her lips, kissing her tenderly but passionately. She turned her body and pressed against his before she slid her arms around his torso, slipping them into the back pockets of his jeans as he cupped her face with his hands. There was no urgency between them but they couldn’t seem to get enough of each other.

“It’s been five years and you’re still making out like it’s the first night.”

Lizzie and William hesitantly parted and she hid her face in his chest while he looked over his shoulder. Charlotte was standing there in the sliding door frame with her arms crossed and a smirk on her face.

“You’re lucky it was me sent out here and not Fitz.”

“Where is he?” William asked, checking behind her for any other witnesses.

“He’s still pouting from losing another game,” Charlotte replied before adding. “We’re leaving in thirty minutes.”

“Thank you.” Lizzie peeked out from his arm, smiling sheepishly at Charlotte.

“Happy anniversary, by the way. It’s nice to see you guys still so in love after five years together.” Before they could respond, she turned and left, closing the door behind her.

Once everyone was ready for dinner, they headed to Mendo Bistro, a casual fine dining restaurant perfect for the evening. They were seated at a round table in the corner that was big enough for all eight of them and gave them a second-story view of the small town. Dinners and drinks were ordered and, as rehearsed, Lizzie said she was on antibiotics when Fitz pointed out the lack of alcohol in her Shirley Temple. Everyone seemed to accept her excuse without question and William gently squeezed her thigh, both happy it hadn’t turned into a big deal. The food was delicious and the conversation never stopped throughout the evening. When a round of birthday shots were ordered after dinner, she and the other designated drivers were given shots of pink lemonade. She and William exchanged amused looks before everybody downed their drinks.

“Everybody, listen up,” Fitz clinked his wine glass. “I know there have been a billion toasts tonight but I’m about to make it a billion and one.”

There was a bit of chuckling from the table before he continued.

“I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Lizzie and Charlotte for five plus years now and I can say with ease that I’m glad to be their friend. We’ve got two bad-ass women at this table and they deserve all the best and more. Here’s to the birthday ladies of the evening!” Fitz toasted. Everybody shouted ‘happy birthday’ before clinking their glasses and drinking.

“And to Darcy and Lizzie. We all know what you two were doing five years ago tonight,” Fitz said, laughing when Lizzie threw a napkin and Brandon elbowed him. “Seriously though, I’m happy for you both. Five years is an accomplishment but not many can show the kind of love you have for each other. You make it look effortless. Congratulations.”

Everybody clinked their glasses once more while William kissed Lizzie before they mouthed ‘I love you’ to each other. The waitress returned soon after, asking if anybody wanted dessert but they declined. After the check was paid, they ventured across the street to the local famed ice cream store called Cowlicks, where all the ice cream was handmade in unique flavors with local ingredients. Lizzie liked it so much that William bought a few pints of different flavors, storing them in the freezer when they returned home.

While some of the group decided to watch a movie in the living room, Lizzie convinced William to go for a walk on the beach with her. With their hands clasped together and their feet bare, they strolled along the empty beach and watched the waves as they crash towards the sand. Every so often, Lizzie would bump their joined hands against his hip and she would see the corner of his mouth lift.

“What’s on your mind?” Lizzie asked after bumping his hip for the umpteenth time.

“You should know that answer by now,” William replied, looking at her tenderly.

“A little bit more specific, sir.”

William took some time to form his words and Lizzie waited patiently, both of them stopping in their step.

“These past five years would have been nothing without you. I feel fortunate that you’ve been by my side for all of it. I get to wake up next to you and fall in love with you more every day.” William stroked the inside of her wrist with his thumb while he talked and she pressed her lips together as her eyes watered. He must have noticed because he leaned forward and kissed each corner, smiling warmly as he pulled away and his voice became softer. “I’m couldn’t be more proud to call you my wife and the future mother of our child.”

Lizzie tried to swallow the lump in her throat. She let go of his hand and throw her arms around him, pulling him in for a hug. He wrapped his arms around her waist and they held each other for a long time. William always had a way with words, even if it was difficult for him to find them in the beginning. She felt as fortunate as he did to have him in her life. She shifted in his arms and kissed him, hoping he could feel the love she had for him. He squeezed her waist and she knew that he did. When they finally broke apart, he pressed his forehead to hers and she brushed her fingers across his cheek.

“I wouldn’t trade a single moment with you for anything,” Lizzie whispered. “I love calling you my husband and I’m so excited to see you as a father. I couldn’t have a better partner than you. I love you and happy anniversary, William Darcy.”

“Happy anniversary, Elizabeth Darcy,” William replied proudly, kissing her once more.

 


 

Sunday, March 18th 

Jane had a flight at noon and Lydia needed to be back in time for work so she offered to give her a ride in the morning. William and the rest of the guys got up early Sunday morning to make breakfast for the girls, knowing it was the last thing everyone was able to do together. The sisters and Charlotte were all clearly touched at the gesture.

After breakfast, Lizzie helped Jane and Lydia pack up the car before they said their goodbyes. It was always hard to see Jane go, no matter how many times they called each other. What comforted Lizzie was that she knew she would see her again before the holidays. Her pregnancy assured her of it.

Sam and Charlotte were the next to head home when Sam got a call from a distressed patient. He really cared about his patients and gave them his number for emergencies. It was rare for one to call him so he knew it was important. They apologized about not being able to help with cleaning up the house before they were on their way.

William, Lizzie, Fitz and Brandon stayed behind to clean. Lizzie took care of the sheets on all the beds while the guys did the rest. By the time they were done, beds had been remade and the place looked spotless. William packed up the car, along with the new addition of a small cooler to keep the ice cream cold, and they were ready to go back home.

Soon after they started driving back, Lizzie fell asleep in the passenger seat.

The drive home was uneventful but it left him with plenty of time with his thoughts. He could barely believe it had been only a week ago that she told him she was pregnant. Only two days had passed since they saw the baby for the first time. Every time the thought of their baby popped into his head this weekend, he would smile to himself. He was surprised their friends weren’t more suspicious of his behavior but they had all chalked it up to his and Lizzie’s anniversary.

Lizzie finally woke up as he was pulling into the garage, looking a little bleary-eyed and disoriented.

“We’re home already?” Lizzie asked, her voice still laced with sleep.

“We are. How was your nap?”

“I’m sorry I fell asleep on you.” He pulled into his spot and turned off the car. They were able to get luggage and the rest of the things up to the apartment in one trip.

She yawned into the palm of her hand as he put away the ice cream and he saw it out of the corner of his eye. “Still tired?”

“Yes, which is ridiculous. You’d think the baby would be satisfied with a three-hour nap.”

He looked at her with a sympathetic look and walked up to her. He pulled her in for a side hug, rubbing her arm and kissing her temple.

“Why don’t you try and get more sleep until dinner? I’ll put something together.”

Lizzie pulled at her bottom lip as she contemplated the suggestion, a simple habit that he thought was inherently sexy and never got tired of seeing her do.

“I don’t know. I could get some work done…” she trailed off, not even buying her own excuse.

“Don’t guilt yourself out of something you obviously need. Let me take care of you,” William said quietly.

Lizzie exhaled and nodded. He knew he swayed her with those last words and it helped him relax.

“You win. I’ll take another nap.”

“Thank you. I’ll wake you up when dinner is ready.”

“Can we have that ice cream for dinner?”

William hesitated before replying. “Is this more parental practice?”

“Maybe.” Lizzie said, smiling a little.

“Are you craving it?”

“It’s so good.”

“Then we’ll have some,” William answered before adding. “But if our child was asking, my answer would be no.”

Lizzie’s eyes twinkled at his words before she began to walk away, heading towards the bedroom. She turned her head back to him when she reached the hallway.

“I can clearly tell who’s going to be the more fun parent.”

She disappeared around the corner before he had time to respond, her sweet laughter ringing down the hall. His look of surprise slowly morphed into a smile.

They were going to raise a child together and there was nobody else in the world he wanted to do it with other than her. He had truly lucked out when he fell in love with her.

Chapter Text

The rest of March passed by in a blur for Lizzie and William. On the weekends, they checked out a few apartment listings that Gigi expressed interest in. She would be returning home in the middle of April and was hoping to have a couple places narrowed down, if not one specific place ready for her to sign.

Lizzie and William made their first baby-related purchases together, while promising not to buy anything without the other until they found out the gender. It was just a couple baby books to read and a dry-erase board to stick to the fridge. William wanted to use it as a physical countdown to the baby’s arrival, despite the app that told them the same thing. Until everybody knew about the baby, it was used for grocery lists and messages to each other.

They quickly fell into a routine over the next few weeks. When they would come home from work, they would have dinner, go on a walk around the neighborhood, take a shower when they returned, and then Lizzie would be asleep soon after that. She expressed her annoyance in her fatigue more than once and couldn’t wait to get her energy levels back once the first trimester was over. She made a habit of noting any symptoms and changes in the baby app, even though she wasn’t experiencing much of either – except for two days that felt like glimpses of how much worse it could be.

The first time was during her eighth week. William came home to a darkened apartment but knew Lizzie was there. Her car was in the garage and she had texted him that she left work early because she was feeling off. He had suspicions she wasn’t giving him all the details so he wouldn’t rush home, but he still left work an hour earlier than usual. Only the kitchen light was on when he came in and noticed the message he had written on the board had been erased, replaced with only a big sad face. His brows knit in worry and went in search for Lizzie, heading to the bedroom first. That’s when he heard the sounds of heaving coming from their bathroom.

Lizzie was on her knees and hunched over, still in her work clothes and hugging the toilet. When he walked in, she barely turned to look at him, dropping her head to her arm with what little energy she had. Her face was pallid, and her hair was all over the place and sticking to her forehead. She looked miserable and William’s heart dropped at seeing her in such a state. He grabbed a hair tie from the countertop and approached her, calmly and quietly pulling her hair out of her face and putting it into a ponytail. Then he sat next to her, stretched out his legs, and began rubbing her back as another wave of nausea hit her.

After what seemed like ages to William, she finally stopped and let out a pitiful whimper before wiping her mouth with some toilet paper and flushing. She slunk down to rest her head in his lap, curling her legs up and closing her eyes. He stroked her cheek, watching her as the color in her face slowly started to return and her breathing became less ragged. She took a shaky breath after a while and tilted her head up to look at him. He offered her a comforting smile.

“Baby doesn’t like me today,” Lizzie mumbled and his smile was wiped from his face, which was quickly replaced a look of sympathy.

“Impossible,” William said softly. “You’re having a bad day. When did you first feel sick?”

“After lunch,” Lizzie said, briefly closing her eyes to steel herself. “Went out with a client.”

“I’m sure the baby just didn’t like what you ate,” William offered. “What did you have?”

“A BLT. I didn’t want to deal with the deli meat sandwiches and it sounded good to me.”

“You’ve eaten tomatoes, bread, and lettuce enough these past few weeks to know they’re not the culprit. I hate to say it, but I think you’re going to have to eliminate bacon for a while,” William concluded and Lizzie whimpered again. He wasn’t sure if it was because she didn’t feel well or that she couldn’t eat it anymore. “You need to drink some water. I don’t want you to get dehydrated. And I could make you some soup. It might help your stomach.”

“I might throw it up.” Lizzie shook her head.

“You might, but you still need to,” William said sternly. “How are you feeling right now?”

“Like shit,” Lizzie said bluntly and William held back a laugh out of surprise. He cleared his throat.

“I wish you told me earlier. I would have come home right away.”

“You would have just watched me throw up more.”

“I don’t care and I don’t mind. In sickness and in health,” he reminded her, brushing a loose strand of hair away from her face. “Especially when you’re pregnant.” He saw a hint of a smile from her. “Here’s what we’re going to do. I’m going to help you into the shower and then I’m going to make you some soup. By the time you’re done, we’ll see what you can keep down.”

“Can I negotiate?”

“I won’t budge on the soup. Or the water.”

“Boo,” Lizzie whined half-heartedly.

“I know. I’m the worst.”

William ended up joining Lizzie in the shower after he saw what little color she had drain from her face when he helped her up. He washed her hair and her body and she quietly thanked him for taking care of her. He could tell she was starting to feel better once they were dressed and settled on the couch. She had sips of water as they watched television and soon had the courage to try some soup that he made. While her stomach still felt sensitive, she was able to keep everything down, which relieved William. She almost felt normal by the time they made it to bed and confidently returned to work the next day, watching what she ate for the next couple days.

The second time was during her ninth week, a week before her next doctor appointment. He came home to a darkened apartment once more and found a trail of her things. Her bag had been left by the fridge, which must have been dropped when she hastily wrote ‘ugh’ on the board. Her shoes and jacket were in the hallway leading to their bedroom. He had found her in the dark, curled up on the bed, and covering her eyes with one hand. It turned out that she had developed a bad migraine over the course of the day and tried to work through it, which only made it worse. Her head was pounding, she felt nauseated, and was afraid she would throw up if she moved.

William took care of her, putting a cool cloth over her forehead and eyes, and covering her with a blanket. When he attempted to leave so she could get some rest, she feebly asked him to stay. He spent the rest of the evening by her side, getting her to drink a few sips of water every so often. It wasn’t until she finally fell asleep that he felt some relief. He hated to see her suffer and knew that sleep would be the ultimate cure for her pain.

After taking a quick shower and making himself some dinner, he spent some time researching and reading articles about migraines during pregnancy. While he was hoping this would be a rare occurrence, he wanted to be prepared. He realized how late it was when his vision started to become blurry, so he put an end to his research and went to bed.

 


 

Monday, April 16th (10 weeks, 3 days) 

“Do you think I have too many questions?” Lizzie asked William.

“No,” William said. “Only because they’re the same questions I want to ask.”

She smiled at his response. Lizzie and William were at the doctor’s office for her ten week check-up, sitting in the waiting room.

“It’s going to be fine,” William assured her, slipping his hand into hers.

“I’m unnecessarily nervous,” Lizzie confessed.

“Or antsy?” William offered.

“That’s you because Gigi’s coming home tomorrow.” Lizzie nudged him.

“I’m more thrilled at that prospect. Why are you nervous?”

“I don’t know,” Lizzie shrugged before her eyes flitted to her stomach. “I want everything to be okay. I want to know that the baby is okay and that I’m being healthy enough. And…I want the doctor to like us.”

“First of all, you’re doing a wonderful job. You’re staying active, you’re watching what you eat, and you’re taking your pre-natal vitamins,” William said, putting a hand on her still-flat stomach. “I have no doubts that our baby is doing well. Secondly, I don’t know who wouldn’t like you. You’re incredibly charismatic. You’ve won over people in an instant. Take me, for example. I was head over heels.”

“And how will you win her over?”

“Would a declaration be too soon?”

Lizzie chuckled. “Maybe a tiny bit.”

“I could take the role of the well-informed and supportive husband.”

“I’d go with that one. I like the sound of it.”

A door opened and a nurse stepped out. “Elizabeth Darcy?”

The two of them stood up and the nurse smiled, motioning William to sit back down. “I just need blood pressure and weight. She’ll be back in a minute.”

Lizzie gave him a little wave and he sat back down, checking out the waiting room. There were only a few other patients taking up chairs. One woman was frowning at something on her phone and looked to be at least seven months pregnant. His mind drifted to how Lizzie would look that far along and he smiled at the thought. He was eager to see her stomach grow and her body go through the joys of pregnancy. A smile lingered on his face when Lizzie came back out and returned to her seat next to him.

“Everything good?”

“My blood pressure is 118 over 82 and I’ve gained two pounds in the last month,” Lizzie said brightly.

“The rare time where it’s okay to be happy about a weight gain,” William mused.

“Yea, that’s funny. I’m going to ask the doctor about it.”

A few minutes later, they were being called again and brought into an exam room. Lizzie changed into a gown and sat on the examining table while William brought a chair over to be closer to her. They looked around the room, checking out the posters and the 3D models. There was a wall with pictures, too many to count, of all the babies their doctor had delivered over the years. Then with a quick knock at the door, it swung open and the doctor walked.

“Good morning, Elizabeth. My name is Dr. Elena Gates. I don’t mind if you call me Elena. We’ll be quite familiar with each other by the end of your pregnancy,” she joked. She was a thin woman and no more than 5’7”, wearing a brown sweater and jeans under her white coat. She wore glasses that brought out her blue eyes and had shoulder length light brown hair, with a few gray streaks throughout. She looked to be at least fifty years old and had a very friendly face.

“Good morning. Everybody calls me Lizzie and this is my husband, William,” Lizzie said as she shook each other their hands.

“It’s very nice to meet you both,” Dr. Gates said, taking a seat in front of the computer but ignoring it. “I’m sure you have questions for me and I’ll be happy to answer them, but I’d like to know a little about you before we get started. First-time parents?”

They both nodded and gave her a short history of the two of them, giving her a general idea of their medical history and an insight into their daily lives. The gesture quickly put Lizzie at ease and she knew immediately that they had made the right decision for their doctor. After a few minutes, Dr. Gates turned to the computer and went through her blood and urine test results, discussing everything in detail. Everything appeared to be right on track, which made Lizzie and William exchange a happy glance. 

“Why don’t you lie back for me?” Dr. Gates asked as she stood up and washed her hands. “How are you feeling?”

“A little tired, but that’s been my normal response for the past month,” Lizzie replied.

“Fatigue is quite common. You should be getting your energy back in the next couple weeks,” Dr. Gates said. “Any other symptoms?”

“I had a pretty bad migraine last week and one day of nausea where we discovered the baby doesn’t like bacon,” Lizzie said, glancing to William.

“Her body is also more sensitive than usual,” William added. Lizzie’s lips parted in surprise. While she never told him outright, she realized he was bound to notice that he could bring her to climax with even more ease than usual. After all, they had been sleeping together for five years and they knew each other’s bodies so well; of course he would notice.

“As in sore or tender?” Dr. Gates asked, wanting to clarify.

“Um…not really,” Lizzie said, a twinge of color appearing on her cheeks.

“Ah, I understand. Some other patients who experience that side effect have called it a perk.”

“It’s definitely not something I would complain about,” Lizzie said wryly.

Dr. Gates did a thorough examination of Lizzie, checking her thyroid and breasts before listening to her heart and lungs. She talked to both of them throughout the whole physical exam, answering a couple questions that William asked. Once she was finished with Lizzie’s internal exam, she threw out her gloves and grabbed the handheld Doppler machine. She had Lizzie pull up her gown to her rib cage, covering her legs and lower extremities with a sheet.

“I apologize if this is a little cold.” Dr. Gates grabbed a small tube of gel and squirted it onto Lizzie’s stomach before pressing the Doppler radar to her skin. They could hear the sound of whooshing as she slowly moved it around. “Have you two discussed whether you would like to do a nuchal translucency scan?”

“That’s to test for Down’s syndrome, right? As well as other possible abnormalities?” Lizzie asked. She looked at William and he was transfixed on Dr. Gate as she moved the wand slowly along her stomach.

Ba dum. Ba dum.

“Yes, it is. It can only be performed between eleven and fourteen weeks. It’s not a mandatory scan but I recommend them for all my patients. It puts them at ease.”

Ba dum. Ba dum. Ba dum. Ba dum

“We definitely want to it done,” Lizzie said slowly as she listened closely to the Doppler at the same time. “We’ve…actually talked about it in…detail.”

Ba dum. Ba dum. Ba dum Ba dum. Ba dum. Ba dum. Ba dum.

“Is that…” William paused and visibly swallowed, bringing his gaze to Lizzie. They both realized what it was and his eyes started to well up. She had seen the same look from him when they saw the baby for the first time at her first ultrasound. She loved him for not trying to hide his emotions, but it was making her want to cry too. She brought a hand up to her eyes and discreetly wiped away a tear. “That’s the heartbeat?”

“It is. The first sound was blood flowing through your placenta and the rapid beating is your baby,” Dr. Gates confirmed, pressing down more to get a better reading. It came through even clearer and William broke into a big smile.

“That’s incredible,” William breathed and Lizzie grabbed his hand.

“You’re welcome to record it.”

“Will,” Lizzie urgently whispered and he quickly pulled out his phone, setting it up and bringing it closer to her stomach. Dr. Gates turned the volume up and the heartbeat filled the room. It was a sound like no other and Lizzie could hardly believe it was real. They were both so affected and she was so happy he was here to share this moment with her. He leaned over and kissed her temple, whispering that he loved her as he recorded the heartbeat for a moment more. She knew they were going to wear that recording out, just like they had been doing with the video he took at her ultrasound. She had lost track of the number of times she had already watched it. It made her happy to see the proof and this was another amazing moment, telling her that she was really pregnant and going to have a baby.

“The heartbeat is 164,” Dr. Gates read off the Doppler.

“And that’s good?” William asked, putting his phone away.

“Yes. Very strong,” she said as she removed the wand and wiped the remaining gel off Lizzie’s stomach. “At ten weeks, the heart rate should be between 120 and 190 beats per minute.”

“That seems so fast,” Lizzie remarked, sitting up and adjusting her gown.

“It does, but it’s because of their size. Your baby’s only about the size of a kumquat and weighs less than a quarter of an ounce,” Dr. Gates told them before grabbing a thick packet on the table. She handed it to William and he began to flip through it. “This packet should be very helpful for you. There are week-to-week updates on the baby’s development as well as what may be changing for you, Lizzie. There’s information for the father-to-be, William. You’ll also be able to determine what kind of birth plan you’d like and what doctor appointments you’ll be needing to make over the coming months. I know it’s a lot of information right now but I always believe it’s better to be over-prepared than anything else.”

Lizzie smiled at William. “We tend to research a lot.”

“Of course,” Dr. Gates took a seat. “Now, I’m sure you have questions?”

“I do,” Lizzie nodded. “I was wondering what the typical weight gain was for pregnancy? I want to make that I’m eating enough but not gaining too much.”

“For someone your size and with your BMI, I would say between 25 to 35 pounds. Within the first trimester, you’ll typically gain up to five pounds so you’re on track with your two pound gain,” Dr. Gate answered.

“What about diet? Any restrictions or limitations she should be adhering to?” William asked.

“I’m sure with your research, you’ve learned that you need to avoid raw seafood and undercooked beef?” Lizzie and William nodded in unison. “You hear the typical saying that you’re eating for two now but that doesn’t necessarily mean you should be eating twice as much. An extra 300 to 350 calories a day is what I would recommend. Foods rich in calcium, vitamin C, and protein since the baby needs plenty of it. You don’t need to feel guilty if you find yourself eating an entire pint of ice cream in one sitting or anything though. It’s perfectly fine to indulge on occasion. Don’t ignore your cravings.”

“I’ve barely had any yet,” Lizzie said with a shrug. “What about exercise? Is there something you recommend? I’d like to stay active throughout my pregnancy.”

“How active are you typically?”

“My job keeps me pretty busy but I usually make it to the gym a few times a week. We’ll go on hikes on weekends sometimes. Lately, I’ve been too tired for either,” Lizzie said with a sigh. “We’ve started going on walks when we get home from work.”

“Sticking with a routine is good so I would keep up with those walks. There aren’t many restrictions for exercise with a low-risk pregnancy so once your energy returns, you’re welcome to do what you can. Listen to your body and know what you can handle,” Dr. Gates said, taking a pamphlet from her drawer. “I know it’s not for everyone, but I like to recommend prenatal yoga. You’ll learn more about concentration and breathing techniques that will help you in labor. It strengthens your stomach and pelvic floor and relieves daily stress as well as any discomfort you may feel in later in your pregnancy.”

“My sister and her husband tried that when she was pregnant,” Lizzie said, taking the pamphlet and dropping her gaze to William. “It sounds really beneficial. What do you say?”

“Bing keeps telling me he loves it,” William said with a shrug. “If you’d really like to try it, then I will too.”

“Thank you.” Lizzie squeezed his hand and smiled.

William and Lizzie asked a handful more questions and Dr. Gates was very patient, answering each of them thoroughly. Dr. Gates said goodbye to them, reminding them to make an appointment for their ultrasound and that she would see them again in a month. Lizzie started to get dressed and William excused himself from the room for a minute. She was ready to go by the time he returned.

“What did you forget?” Lizzie asked, grabbing her bag.

“Just another question and then I asked for her contact information for emergencies. I didn’t see it in the packet,” William replied, holding the door open for her.

“That would probably be a good thing to have.”

“Especially once you’re in your third trimester.”

They checked out with the nurse and then scheduled the next doctor appointment as well as her NT ultrasound. Once they were done, they headed off to work with a kiss good-bye and plans to go out for dinner before returning home.

 


 

Saturday, April 21st (11 weeks, 1 day) 

Lizzie was relaxing in the living room and watching a movie after having enjoyed a short nap. She still felt sluggish but not as much as the beginning of the week, so she hoped it was a sign that she would be back to her more energetic self in no time.

William was out accompanying Gigi as she checked out two apartments that he and Lizzie had narrowed down from her selection. If all went well, she would put in an offer and be able to move in at the beginning of May. In the meantime, she was crashing with Lydia despite offers from both William and Fitz to stay with them.

William came back in the early afternoon, bringing in the mail that included a decent-sized package. Lizzie paused her movie and jumped up from the couch to greet him.

“Hello,” Lizzie said happily as he gave her a kiss hello. “How was it?”

“It went quite well. I’ll let her tell you about it at dinner tonight,” William replied, putting down the package and sorting through the mail. “How was your nap?”

“It was refreshing. I can’t wait until I don’t feel tired an hour after getting up,” Lizzie said before tapping the box. “What is this?”

“It’s nothing.” William said, avoiding eye contact.

“It’s obviously something, Will.” Lizzie crossed her arms and stared him down. “Is it baby-related? We promised no purchases until we know the gender.”

“You’re surprisingly intimidating when you do that,” William noted. She pursed her lips but said nothing, staring and waiting for him to tell her. “Alright, fine. I bought something for the baby. I couldn’t resist though.”

“I’ve seen plenty of things I want to buy, but I’ve been able to resist,” Lizzie pointed out as he grabbed scissors.

“Here’s the thing. It’s for the baby, but it’s not for the baby,” William explained as he started opening the box. “It’s more for us.”

“What does that mean?” Lizzie tilted her head.

“Well…” William trailed off as he emptied the package of excess shipping paper. He took out a three-pack of ultrasound gel bottles and put it down on the counter before he pulled out a smaller box and held it out for her.

Lizzie’s face softened at the realization of what she was holding. “You bought a fetal Doppler?”

“I did. I asked Dr. Gates for recommendations on the best ones and she said Sonoline is the brand she uses. It’s more sensitive and picks up the heartbeat better than some others out there. Now we can listen to the baby’s heartbeat whenever we want,” William said cautiously, watching her reaction. Her shoulders relaxed and she looked up to him, her face reading that was clearly touched by his gesture. “Am I still in trouble?”

Lizzie shook her head and put the box down before wrapping her arms around him and bringing him in for a hug. “Thank you.”

“It was my pleasure,” William said softly, pressing his lips to her shoulder before she pulled away to look at him. “I thought it might help you…or both of us, really…when you’re nervous and we don’t have an appointment for a couple weeks. I’m not getting rid of the recording, though. That’s the first time we heard our baby and that’s a moment I’m going to always cherish.”

“Especially since we got to hear it together,” Lizzie added. “I’m glad you bought this. It was a good decision. I’m sorry for getting upset.”

“You had every right. I didn’t consult with you,” William said. “But I won’t be doing it again in the future without your input.”

“Thank you for being so considerate,” Lizzie murmured, standing on her toes and kissing his cheek.

“Anything for you.”

~~~~~~~~~~

Lizzie and William were getting ready in the bathroom for the monthly dinner, which would be at Sam and Charlotte’s place this time. She was fixing her hair while William was shaving sans shirt so as not to get anything on it.

“We’re not telling anybody tonight, right?” William asked.

Lizzie paused in her movements. “No way! Did you want to?”

“Not particularly but almost everybody is there.”

“With the exception of Lydia. If we told them tonight, all of my family would be out of the loop. I don’t want them finding out the news secondhand.”

“Good point,” William said, washing the shaving cream off his razor and wiping the excess cream from his face with a towel.

“I’d like to think we can be a little creative in our announcement too. They deserve more than a simple ‘I’m pregnant’.” Lizzie waved her hands around for dramatic flair.

“I would have been just as thrilled if you told me like that, but I get it. We’ll have to think of something good.”

“Whatever it is, I’d like to wait until after my next ultrasound.”

William moved right behind her and put his hand on her waist before bending down and kissing the crook of her shoulder. “More time for just you and me? That sounds ideal.”

“It does,” Lizzie brightened, glancing back at him. He kissed her lightly on the lips and smiled at her when he pulled away. She noticed a little shaving cream left over just below his ear and turned in his arms to wipe it off. “Missed a spot.”

“Anywhere else?” William asked. Lizzie gradually traced a finger along his jawline, keeping her gaze locked with his. Shivers ran down her spine as she noticed his eyes began to darken from her touch. He reached down and lifted her, putting her down on the bathroom counter so that they were eye level.

“All clean,” Lizzie murmured, toying with her bottom lip as he stepped between her legs.

“Maybe you should be a little more thorough,” William suggested heatedly. A smile tugged at the corners of Lizzie’s lips and she brought a hand to the back of his neck, pulling him closer. Her cheek grazed across his newly smooth one and she felt the warm exhale of his breath skate past her ear. She nibbled on his earlobe for a moment before gliding her lips excruciatingly slowly down his jaw, leaving open-mouthed kisses on his skin. His natural smell was intoxicating and she gladly breathed him in, feeling parts of her body awaken with need. As she reached his chin, she took a little gentle nip and he gasped in surprise. Their eyes met but his face was unreadable. It wasn’t until she noticed his gaze kept flickering to her mouth that she knew he was about to crack.

Quickly, he leaned forward and captured her lips in a heated kiss. She brushed her hand up his chest to around his neck and tightened her legs around him. He pulled her to the edge of the counter as her lips parted, moaning as his tongue moved across her own and along the roof of her mouth. She could easily lose track of time in these moments and be swayed by his kisses. His hands slid up the outside of her thighs and pushed up the fabric of her dress until her yellow cotton panties were exposed. He ran a finger along the band until he reached the middle and paused before moving down. His fingers skimmed along the apex of her thighs and she broke off the kiss with a gasp and a moan. He reached behind her and unzipped her dress before he lifted her off the counter and turned them towards the bedroom, his intentions obvious.

“We’re going to be late,” Lizzie said breathily, not caring in the slightest as he reached the bed.

“Who is ever on time anyway?” William smirked.

~~~~~~~~~~

They were late.

William and Lizzie had made it out the door fifteen minutes later than planned only to return a few minutes later after realizing they forgot the dessert they intended to bring. They hurried along the street after wasting another ten minutes looking for a parking spot.

Of course Lizzie was still on a two-orgasm high, so she wasn’t really worried about it. She was prepared for the possibility of teasing, especially when she had checked herself out in the rearview mirror and noticed a glow. More specifically, a sex glow.

“It could be a pregnancy glow,” William offered.

“Yea, I don’t think so,” Lizzie laughed gently. “Thank you for trying.”

“Either way, you’re gorgeous,” William said warmly, sliding an arm around the back of her waist and kissing the top of her head as they pressed the buzzer for Charlotte and Sam’s apartment.

“Thank you.” Lizzie smiled at him, giving him a quick kiss. The sound of a buzz filled the air and the door unlocked, giving them access inside. They headed towards the elevator and doors slid open without hesitation.

“Do we need to think of an excuse?” William asked as they stepped inside.

“They won’t believe anything we try.”

“We have such skeptical friends.”

The short elevator ride brought them to the third floor and they went straight for the second door on the left, knocking lightly. They heard approaching footsteps and Charlotte answered, swinging the door open wide.

“They’re alive, guys!” Charlotte shouted over her shoulder sarcastically. They smiled apologetically before simultaneously blurted out excuses.

“We couldn’t find parking.”

“We forgot the dessert and had to go back.”

Charlotte gave them a disbelieving look before rolling her eyes. “Sure. Come on in. Everyone is already here. Sam just got dinner out of the oven a few minutes ago.”

~~~~~~~~~~~

“I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m thrilled Gigi is finally home,” Fitz said once dinner plates were cleared. Lizzie was in the kitchen helping Charlotte cut some cake and put scoops of ice cream on top of each slice. They were teased about their lateness but it wasn’t as bad as she expected. As the girls came out to serve everyone, William jumped up to help and get the rest of the plates.

“I’m happy to be back. I missed these dinners!” Gigi said, thanking Lizzie when she handed her a plate. “I’m still trying to adjust back to this time, though. The break from work is helping.”

“I told you,” William said, returning with the last two plates. He put one down in front of Lizzie before taking his seat. “A little time off is good now and then. Especially when you’re moving across continents.”

“Says the man who rarely took any time off B.L.T.”

“B.L.T.?” Sam asked in confusion.  

“Before Lizzie Time!” Gigi said as if it were obvious.

“That’s a new one if I ever heard one,” Lizzie chuckled and shared a look with William.

“Lydia said it once and I thought it was funny.” Gigi shrugged.

“Speaking of moving,” Brandon prompted. “Have you found a place?”

“I have! William and Lizzie graciously lent their time to check out some apartments I really liked, so thank you both for that.”

“It was a pleasure and pretty fun, actually,” Lizzie admitted.

“Well, I adored the one that’s five minutes away from you and William, but I fell in love with the apartment on Harrison as soon as I stepped in it. I put down an offer on the spot and they accepted within the hour!” Gigi said enthusiastically. Everyone talked at once.

“How exciting!”

“Nice location. I love the Mission district!”

“Congrats!”

“When are you moving in?”

“So, I’m going to be able to move in on May 1st. I’m going to need to buy a ton of new things but that’s part of the fun of starting fresh.”

“I’d be more than happy to go shopping with you,” Lizzie offered.

“Me too,” Charlotte piped up. “Half the furniture in this apartment is from estate sales, but I do enjoy shopping for other people.”

“I like our furniture, babe,” Sam said, a little sensitively. “It’s more lived in.”

“Hey, I’m not complaining. There’s a reason we picked it. I like helping other people spend their money.”

Gigi laughed. “Deal. You’ll have to show me your wedding pictures, though. I’m sad I missed it.”

“We can show them to you now! Sam created a slideshow for you, just in case,” Charlotte said.

“That’s so thoughtful of you!” Gigi said to Sam. He smiled and shrugged in response.

“Change of location, then. Cake and pictures in the living room.”

~~~~~~~~~~

“I know I sound like a broken record but I’m really happy you’re home now,” Lizzie said to Gigi. They were sitting next to each other on the couch, leaning back with their heads tilted towards each other. Charlotte sat on the floor, controlling the laptop slideshow that was showing wedding pictures. William was deep in a conversation with Sam, Fitz, and Brandon. Lizzie was getting tired but she was trying to hang on as long as she could. She knew William was catching on because he would glance her way every so often to check on her.

“I’m really happy to be back. I feel like I’ve missed so much. Thanksgiving, Sam and Charlotte’s wedding, your birthday! I can’t believe I missed the big celebration for your thirtieth birthdays,” Gigi said wistfully.

“We made sure to take plenty of pictures for all of those events. But I know it sucks to not be somewhere you want to be.”

“Thank you for that,” Gigi said appreciatively. “Charlotte, you looked stunning. I can’t believe you pulled that look off with so little time to prepare.”

“It was a challenge, but I was happy with the end result,” Charlotte said, glancing at them over her shoulder before turning back to the laptop.

“We’re going to make sure to do something big for your thirtieth,” Lizzie added. “Once we get there, that is.”

“I was going to say.” Gigi nudged her with her elbow. “In the meantime, we all need to go out and catch up. Talking on the phone all those months just wasn’t the same.”

“It’s really not. I like talking to you when you’re right next to me. You’re so much more visually appealing than my phone.”

Charlotte snorted. “That sounds like something William would say.”

William glanced over at the sound of his name and he looked at Lizzie quizzically. She shook her head subtly to let him know it was nothing and she was still doing okay. Secretly, she was hoping that Gigi would start yawning and then they’d find their reason to break up the party.

“Five years together will do that to a person.”

“When you start sounding like my brother, it’s time for me to steal you away. A girl’s night is mandatory now. I’m clearly the cooler one of the Darcy siblings.”

“I love you both and you’re each cool in your own way.”

“How Switzerland of you,” Charlotte chuckled.

Gigi turned to get William’s attention. “Your wife refuses to pick favorites!”

“That’s because I’m hers and she doesn’t want to hurt your feelings by saying so,” William said with a twinkle in his eye.

Lizzie brought a hand up and hid her smile behind her fingers as Gigi stuck her tongue out at him. William raised an eyebrow and gave her a distinctly older brother stare. “I know I raised you to have better manners than that, Georgiana.”

Lizzie could clearly hear William saying the same thing to their own children and her stomach fluttered with delight at the thought.

“Blame it on my jet lag. I can’t be held accountable when I’m tired.”

There was their out. Lizzie knew it and she could see it in William’s eyes that he figured it out as well. Surprisingly, it was Fitz that took the bait.

“Well, it is kind of late. I think we should call it a night,” Fitz said, rubbing his hands together as he stood up.

“Already?” Charlotte asked in surprise. “It’s barely nine.”

“I think so. I’m surprised I didn’t fall asleep on you guys!” Gigi said, scooting to the edge of the couch before getting up. The rest of the group followed suit and Lizzie sidled up next to William, resting her head on his shoulder as he put an arm around her. “Maybe we can have dinner at my place next month? I’ll have to find a great table big enough to fit everyone.”

“I’m sure you will. The place is spacious enough,” William said before glancing to Lizzie. “And we’ll host if you don’t.”

Everybody said their goodbyes and they were out the door, heading in different directions to their homes. Lizzie nearly fell asleep on the short drive but she managed to stay awake, listening to William as he recounted the conversations he had while she had been talking with Gigi. She felt a sense of relief once they made it home to their apartment. They both changed into pajamas, but only Lizzie went to bed immediately. William stayed up for another hour before feeling the overwhelming urge to join his wife. She was asleep when he got into bed, but still managed to gravitate towards him, letting out a soft sigh of content as his arms wrapped around her.

 


 

Friday, April 27th (12 weeks)  

William was in a closed-door meeting with Fitz and the board all day so he was unreachable. Things didn’t wrap up until nearly six but everyone was antsy to get home. William went to his office to gather his things and checked his phone for the first time since he got to work that day. There were a few voicemails from clients but it was Lizzie’s texts that caught his eye.

 

Lizzie @ 1:42 pm

I am having a DAY!

   

Lizzie @ 4:39 pm

I probably won’t be home until 8.

I’ll let you know when I leave.

 

Lizzie @ 4:43 pm

You’re in charge of dinner.

I want something completely unhealthy.

 

William grimaced. Lizzie knew he was going to be out of touch today. Whatever was happening must have been bad if that was her request for dinner. There was no point in responding to her now, considering the timestamps. He knew what he needed to do to hopefully turn her day around when she came home and he would need to stop by the grocery store. He put on his jacket and grabbed his messenger bag, patting his pockets to make sure he had his keys before leaving.

 

~~~~~~~~~~

 

Decent Enough Productions and Scholastic, Inc. announce Confessions of the Sullivan Sisters will be adapted into a web series.

 

William was reading off his phone in the kitchen when Lizzie finally came home just after eight. He met her halfway when she reached the end of the hallway. The look on her face was a mixture of frustration, sadness, and then relief. She dropped her bag with a sigh and walked right into his arms.

“Worst day,” Lizzie mumbled as he rubbed her back.

“I saw the announcement. I could swear you weren’t planning to do so for several weeks,” William began. “So I’m going to draw my own conclusions and assume that is the source of your troubles today?”

“You’d assume right,” Lizzie said with a heavy sigh. He steered her towards the kitchen and she sat down on the stool before he put a glass of apple juice in front of her, her drink of choice as of late. “You know Hannah?”

“The one you were so excited about hiring a few months ago?”

“Exactly. I had just put her on this Scholastic project because she showed a lot of potential from the smaller one we just finished. We were doing a Q&A on Twitter for fans and a few of them asked what her next project was. Before I could stop her, she gave out the title.”

“Ouch.” William leaned on the counter with his elbows, right across from her.

“Exactly. It blew up immediately and I had no time to stop it. She had just signed a non-disclosure agreement about the title no more than a week ago!”

William knew how serious that was and was beginning to see why Lizzie had such a bad day.

“I spent half the day on the phone with Scholastic convincing them that what she did was an accident and not to take legal action. They finally agreed, but only under one condition.”

“Oh no.”

“I had to let her go,” Lizzie said, pinching the bridge of her nose before she kept going. “It was clearly stated in the contract. She broke the contract, accidental or not, and I had to fire her.”

“I know the feeling. I’ve had to do it on two different occasions. It’s exceptionally difficult when that person has so much potential,” William commiserated.

“She’s lucky I convinced them not to sue her…or us, for that matter,” Lizzie said. “Hannah knew what was going to happen but I still took the time to explain everything to her. She apologized multiple times and was sobbing by the time I finally let her go.”

“That sounds really rough, love. I’m sorry you had to deal with that,” William said, reaching over and squeezing her hand.

“We weren’t planning to announce anything until we had casting set. We had this whole day of goodies planned with announcing the book and then revealing characters every hour or so,” Lizzie sighed again. “We’re still seeing girls for the sisters.”

“If it helps, the tweets I saw from the announcement were all positive.”

“It does help and it’s part of the reason why dealing with Scholastic wasn’t as bad as it could have been,” Lizzie said. “Once Hannah left, I did damage control with Scholastic so we could release an official announcement. We basically had to act like what Hannah did was intentional. Scholastic and I agreed to have anybody working on the project sign revised NDAs reflecting the incident today.”

“And that brings you to…”

“Finally coming home and being very hungry,” Lizzie said, taking in a whiff of air. “What smells so good?”

“That would be the pizza and breadsticks keeping warm in the oven,” William replied.

“Did you really have time to make a pizza?” Lizzie glanced at the clock on the microwave.

“Oh no. I had it delivered from Pizza Orgasmica. Double pepperoni and double cheese,” William said.

“Oh my god. That pizza is heavenly.”

“I remembered how much you loved it the last time we went. You asked for something unhealthy and I figured you’d want it to be delicious as well.”

“You have no idea how much I love you right now.”

“Would it increase if I mentioned there are two pints of ice cream in the freezer with our names on them?”

“The word ‘duh’ comes to mind.” William grabbed oven gloves and opened the oven door, pulling out the pizza and breadsticks while Lizzie took plates out from the cupboard. They served themselves, grabbed some extra napkins and headed to the couch to eat. She turned on the television and started a movie they had recorded from the night before.

Once they were done eating, William took their plates and put them in the dishwasher before returning to the couch. He patted his lap with his hand and she maneuvered herself, resting her feet on top of him. She moaned softly as he began to massage them.

“Thank you. I needed this,” Lizzie smiled.

“The massage or the food?”

“All of it. Letting me vent, taking care of dinner, and taking care of me.”

“It’s no trouble. You know I’m more than happy to help.”

“Well, it’s the next best thing next to a vacation.”

William chuckled. “We can arrange one, if you’d like.”

“I can’t leave right now. It’s not great timing.”

“I didn’t mean right now. I meant a couple months down the line. Before you hit your third trimester and travel is harder for you.”

“Oh! You mean like a…” Lizzie snapped her fingers, trying to remember the term. “A babymoon! I’ve read about those. Basically a honeymoon before the baby arrives.”

“Exactly. You could pick the destination. Anywhere you want to go,” William said. “We could even return to Fregate and recreate the mood of our first honeymoon.”

“There’s no way I’m traveling for a day while I’m pregnant.” Lizzie shook her head. “I do, however, love the sound of the second half.”

“So we’ll find paradise a shorter distance away.”

“Yes, that would be fantastic.”

“We have to decide where we’d like to go. Somewhere tropical? The beach? The mountains? The jungle?”

“I’m telling you right now. If this is our last big trip before Baby, I want to go somewhere beautiful and be as lazy as possible.”

“I will happily be lazy with you.”

“We’ll do some research and find a place soon.”

“Sounds like a plan.”

Lizzie paused the movie before turning off the television, gently tossing the remote onto the coffee table.

“You don’t want to watch it?”

“Not right now. I’d rather watch it this weekend when I can concentrate more.”

“Okay. I have a different idea to help end this day on a better note.” Lizzie tilted her head out of curiosity. “How about a warm bubble bath?”

Lizzie’s shoulders visibly relaxed and she nodded.

“Yes, I’m definitely in need of that.”

“And we can celebrate you reaching twelve weeks.”

“Wow. I didn’t even realize! I’m glad one of us is keeping track.”

“You’ve had a long day.” William reached over and put a hand on her stomach.

“I can’t wait until I actually start showing.”

“I’m very much looking forward to it.”

William smiled at her and gave her feet one last squeeze before removing them from his lap and standing up. He offered her a hand and helped her up. He put an arm around her shoulder and they started to walk towards the bedroom.

“Did you know the baby is about the size of a passion fruit now?”

“Really?”

“Also, the fingernails and toenails are beginning to form.”

Lizzie bumped his hip with hers. “Did you happen to memorize the facts for twelve weeks?”

“I’m a very proud father-to-be.”

“I’m going to take that as a yes.”

“It’s a very big yes,” William smiled.

“I’d love to hear more.”

William kissed the top of her head. “I’d love to tell you.”

Chapter Text

Thursday, May 3rd (12 weeks, 6 days)

“This book is ridiculous.” Lizzie tossed the pregnancy book onto the coffee table. After taking a long walk to and from dinner, she and William were spending the rest of their evening going through the pregnancy books they purchased. She was starting to realize the books they had bought were all less than helpful.

William sat on the opposite end of the couch, squeezing Lizzie’s feet and half reading his own book. He glanced to the table to see which one it was before looking back to her.

“This one isn’t much better,” William said, lifting his book.

“Ugh. It’s essentially telling me I should be nervous about everything,” Lizzie scoffed. “And the author says ‘down there.’” Lizzie pointed to her lap. “Multiple times. Is she eight? Why are you writing a book about pregnancy if you can’t even use the proper terms?”

William cringed. “The expectant father section in that book and this one are rather condescending. There is an actual section here advising me to not tell you that you may or may not look fat at any point in the pregnancy.”

“You’re lying!”

“I’m not.” William flipped to the page and handed it to her, pointing out the paragraph. Lizzie couldn’t help but laugh when she read it.

“You better not tell me I’m fat then.”

William stared at her like she was crazy.  “Elizabeth Darcy, what do you take me for?”

Before she could answer, he tugged on her leg and pulled her down the couch a fraction. She took the hint, tossed the book aside and moved over to him, climbing into his lap.

“One, I’m not an idiot. Despite what these books are trying to imply,” William started, brushing his hands up to her thighs. “Two, I don’t know what part of you thinks you might be. You’re not even showing yet.”

“But when I do…”

“Then you’ll start looking pregnant.” William moved a hand up to her waist and his fingertips brushed across a sliver of exposed skin. “And there will be a little more of you for me to love.”

Lizzie smiled then leaned in and kissed him softly. William brought a hand up and pressed it to the back of her neck, taking control and teasing her bottom lip. He slid his other hand to her back and pulled her closer into his lap and he heard a soft noise come from the back of her throat. They finally broke apart and he brushed his thumb along her cheek as he gave her a warm look.

“We should ask for good pregnancy books at our next doctor appointment,” Lizzie said.

“We can. There’s also Jane and Bing once we tell them the good news.”

Lizzie beamed at the thought. “As much as I love that we’re the only two that know right now, I’m really looking forward to finally telling people.”

“I am too.”

“Do you like the plans?”

“I do. This way, none of our friends will give us a hard time about being the first to know,” William said. “Are you sure Fran won’t be suspicious of anything?”

“I sure hope not. I’ll call my dad once I get to the post office so he can intercept the package, just in case.”

“Good thinking.”

“Want to make a bet on if Gigi will cry?” Lizzie teased and he chuckled.

“Lizzie, that’s a sucker’s bet. We both know she will.”

“Still, it’s going to be an interesting night.”

“Yes, it will be.” William glanced at the clock to see that it was nearly ten, well past Lizzie’s usual bed time. “Do you want to go to bed? It’s late for you. These books are giving us nothing and we’ve got your ultrasound appointment in the morning,”

“I’m…actually not that tired.”

“Really?”

“Really,” Lizzie assured. “I haven’t felt as tired the last couple of days, which I’ve been looking forward to for the last…six weeks.”

“I’m glad you’re starting to feel better.”

Lizzie rested her arms on his shoulders and began to play with the hair at the nape of his neck. “So I think I’ll feel even better just as I’m hitting my second trimester, which is apparently the best trimester. At least from what I’ve read online.”

“You still have a long day tomorrow. Are you sure you don’t want to go to bed?”

“Maybe if you tuck me in,” Lizzie waggled her eyebrows. She watched him closely as he contemplated his reply. There was desire apparent in his eyes and his grip on her waist got a little tighter. She was caught off guard when he slid her off his lap but acted quickly to stand in front of him between his legs.

“I’m giving you a head start.”

Lizzie lit up with delight and grinned before turning to go. He lightly smacked her butt and she gasped out of shock before laughing as she scurried out of his grasp. She looked over her shoulder just before she was turning the corner and saw him standing up from the couch with a playful expression all over his face, ready to go after her. That playful expression which guaranteed her a great night of passion and pleasure.

She couldn’t wait.

 


 

Friday, May 4th (13 weeks)  

Lizzie had scheduled her NT scan for the middle of the day. She told Katie she’d be gone for a couple hours with excuses of lunch and running errands. She didn’t know why she felt the need to make up a lie but she wasn’t quite ready for anybody to know. Things would change after next week though.

She sat in the waiting room after checking in, waiting for William to arrive. He was planning to meet her there but had been stuck in a meeting that ran longer than he intended. She was called in to take her blood pressure and weight and was nervous he wasn’t going to make it. As she was sent back to the waiting room, she saw him at the desk and she felt relief flood through her body. He thanked the woman at the desk and joined Lizzie, giving her a kiss hello.

“I’m sorry I’m late,” William apologized.

“It’s okay. They were just taking my vitals. The room should be ready in a minute,” Lizzie said, guiding them to some empty chairs.

“I was really worried I was going to miss it. I couldn’t get the meeting to end quickly enough. I’m sure Fitz is a little suspicious.”

“Oh well. If he asks, I’m sure you’ll think of a great excuse,” Lizzie said.

“You said they took your vitals?”

“Yep. Blood pressure is great and I’ve gained another half a pound.” Lizzie looked down at herself. “I don’t know where that half a pound is though.”

“This is what the book was talking about. It’s a test? It must be.” William cleared his throat before lowering it half an octave. “You’re not fat, love. I swear.”

Lizzie laughed and shoved him in his seat, earning a couple of strange looks from others in the waiting room.

“That’s not what I meant. It’s probably some of the water I drank for this.”

William teased her for a little longer before Lizzie’s name was called and they were taken to a room. She sat on the edge of the examining table and he took the chair closest to her as they waited for their technician. It wasn’t more than a minute before a plump older woman with curly black hair walked in, introducing herself as Polly. Lizzie and William talked to her for a few minutes, asking for permission for the session to be recorded on DVD. Once she popped the disc into the computer, she moved the examining table before Lizzie laid back and adjusted her clothing to prepare for the ultrasound.

“How long does this normally take?” Lizzie asked.

“About thirty to forty minutes, depending on how your baby is cooperating,” Polly informed, grabbing a tube of gel from the warming station.

“I hope the baby is cooperating then,” William chuckled, getting a little smile from Lizzie. He took her hand as Polly squirted gel onto her stomach.

“Whoa, that’s warm,” Lizzie gasped in surprise. “I was expecting it to be cold like last time.”

“I always warm my gel. It’s more comfortable for the patient,” Polly said, grabbing the ultrasound probe.

“I certainly appreciate it.”

Polly pressed the probe to Lizzie’s stomach and moved it around, setting up the monitor and clicking away at her keyboard. After a few moments, they caught a glimpse of their baby on the monitor and Lizzie squeezed William’s hand. With a touch of a few buttons, the screen zoomed in and everything became larger.

“There we are,” Polly said, mostly to herself. She immediately began taking measurements of the baby as she moved the probe a fraction.

“That’s amazing,” William said softly.

“Baby actually looks like a baby,” Lizzie added, bringing her free hand to her mouth.

“When was your last ultrasound?”

“I was only six weeks, so it was more of a blob.”

“There’s a lot of development between then and now, as you can see,” Polly said and she began to point to the screen and move the probe slightly. “Baby is in a good position right now. There’s the head and you can see the nose.”

William leaned forward a little. “And the lips.”

“Oh, you can! This is so cool.”

“Yes,” Polly nodded. “Also, the eyes are moving into position. You’re getting a nice profile right now.” She went quiet as she took a number of measurements of the head and neck and Lizzie and William looked on. Lizzie couldn’t get over how incredible it was to see their baby on that monitor. It was hard to fathom that what was on that screen was happening inside her. Even after their appointments over the last month and a half, she was falling in love all over again and her heart was bursting with love for this tiny baby. She could only imagine that William felt the same way, especially with that wonderful awestruck expression he was wearing. It was getting harder for her to hold back tears.

“You can see one arm,” William breathed. Polly held the probe still and all three of them watched as one arm moved across the screen.

“It’s like they’re waving at us, saying hello,” Lizzie said thickly, looking at her husband. He caught her gaze and gave the sweetest smile before kissing her temple. “Look at those tiny fingers.”

“One, two,” William counted to himself for a moment. “I see all five.”

“Thank goodness for that,” Lizzie chuckled. Polly moved the probe around a little more to show them the bottom of the feet, where William happily counted the toes. She managed to get a great full view of the baby and, as she continued measurements, she printed out a few pictures for them before continuing. Lizzie and William talked quietly to each other, watching the screen and makes guesses at what they saw on the screen. Polly measured the heartbeat and she turned up the sound so they could hear it loud and clear. Even though they had been listening to the heartbeat at home since William bought their personal Doppler, Lizzie thought she would never get tired of listening to that beautiful rhythm.

Polly kept on with the appointment, getting everything done that she needed to do. She wasn’t very talkative for much of it, but Lizzie and William created their own happy commentary. Near the end of the ultrasound, the baby began to bounce in a quick rhythm.

“Looks like the baby has hiccups,” Polly said.

“This early?”

“The lungs are starting to develop. Babies can get hiccups pretty often in the womb. It’s normal,” Polly replied. “You won’t be able to feel them until later.”

“That’s remarkable,” William said, staring at the monitor and watching as their baby kept hiccuping and bouncing up and down. “Is it possible to tell the sex at this point?”

“My equipment isn’t sensitive enough to get a proper reading,” Polly answered. “You should be able to find out at your twenty-week ultrasound.”

Polly wrapped the appointment up and printed out a few more pictures for them before giving them their recorded DVD.  She reminded them that they wouldn’t be finding out the results until their doctor’s appointment, which was in two weeks. She dismissed herself and Lizzie hurried into the small bathroom to empty her full bladder.

William waited patiently for Lizzie, holding onto the sonogram pictures until she came out. He looked down at them and sighed, breaking out into a smile. The baby had developed so much in such a short amount of time and his love increased tenfold from every glimpse that he saw and every heartbeat he heard. It was nothing short of magical to him.

“Ready?”

William looked up and his smile grew at the sight of his wife before him.

“I am.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Lizzie?” William called out as he walked into the bedroom. They had finished dinner a little while ago and he offered to put everything away while Lizzie went to get changed. He had cleaned up, put away the dishes, and set up a movie but Lizzie still hadn’t returned and he was starting to get a little worried. When he walked into their bedroom, he noticed the light was on in the bathroom and hoped he wouldn’t find her hunched over the toilet.

“Lizzie? Everything okay?” William asked, glancing into the bathroom. He found her standing sideways in front of the mirror with her shirt bunched up to her ribcage. She turned her head at the sound of her name being called and her cheeks reddened when she saw him. He leaned against the doorframe and crossed his arms across his chest. “What are you doing?”

“I was changing and I got a notification from the baby app,” Lizzie said, pointing to her phone on the counter. “It was telling me how big the baby is now that I’m thirteen weeks. Even after the ultrasound and seeing the baby today, it’s so much to process. He or she is the size of a lemon and they’re forming teeth already.”

“And they already have fingerprints.”

One corner of her mouth lifted. “You read it too.”

“I did,” William nodded. He sauntered over to her and brought his hands to her hips, bending down and kissing her shoulder. Lizzie brought a hand up and rested it on her stomach.

“So much is happening. Our baby is growing in here. Our baby can move,” Lizzie said softly. “I’m just, you know, trying to see any changes in the mirror.”

William studied their reflection in the mirror for a few moments and he covered her hand with his.

“Have you noticed anything?” William placed another kiss to her skin.

“Nada,” Lizzie shook her head and pulled down her shirt. “I feel pregnant though. Isn’t that what’s most important?” William gave her an encouraging smile. “It feels very real.”

“How so?”

“Seeing the baby at our first ultrasound? That was real. That was physical proof. Hearing the heartbeat? Real. Every single time we listen,” Lizzie’s voice was shaky. She noticed she was doing it more and more lately but continued. “And the ultrasound today? When the baby had hiccups and waved their arm around?”

“Real,” William finished.  

They stood there for a while before William slid his arms around her waist and she leaned into him. Lizzie decided to lighten the contemplative mood they found themselves in.

“That’s a good-looking couple,” Lizzie said playfully, referring to their reflections. William’s lips twitched up and hummed in agreement. “What do you think they’re thinking?”

“Probably that they’re going to be some good-looking parents.”

“Obviously,” Lizzie laughed, turning around. She raised her arms and put them on his shoulders. “Are they happy?”

William kissed her forehead. “Very.”

 


 

Saturday, May 12th (14 weeks, 1 day) 

Gigi’s initial date to move into her apartment was delayed by paperwork so she wasn’t able to move into her place until after the first weekend of May. Despite getting help from family and friends, she wasn’t ready for guests. Lizzie and William were more than happy to host and take the opportunity to tell everyone their news. Lizzie was especially happy because Lydia finally had a Saturday off and was coming for dinner so they’d be able to tell one of her sisters the news in person. They wouldn’t be telling Jane and Bing or her parents until the next day.

“When are they coming again?” Lizzie asked while they were making dinner.

“Within the hour,” William said, glancing to her. He could tell she was antsy because it was the third time she asked in five minutes. He put the knife down and, resting his hands on her shoulders, turned her to face him. “Take a breath, love.”

“I’m nervous,” Lizzie admitted, clasping her hands together to stop from fidgeting.

“I can tell,” William said. “Were you like this before you told me?”

“Worse. Maybe I was better at hiding it?”

“Or I was too tired to notice.”

“Probably. I felt like I was going to throw up before you opened that fortune,” Lizzie said. William gently squeezed her shoulders and looked at her reassuringly.

“We’re telling family and our closest friends. You know they’re going to be thrilled for us. I can almost certainly guarantee tears.”

Lizzie laughed. “Gigi.”

“Probably some screaming too.”

“Also Gigi.”

“My sister is predictable, to say the least.”

“You know the kind of nervous you felt when you were a kid? Like when it was Christmas Eve and you couldn’t sleep? Or on your birthday and you were anxious what your presents were?”

“That’s a good type of nervous.”

“It is,” Lizzie said. “And I’m also thinking about how our bubble is about to disappear.”

“I don’t think it’s going to disappear. We’re letting more people into it. We still have more milestones to experience, remember?”

“Thank you for being the logical one right now.”

“Any time.” William squeezed her hand.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Lizzie and William had agreed they were going to wait until after dinner and dessert to make their announcement so when dinner plates were starting to be cleared away, her nervous excitement returned. As a few of the guys cleared the table, Lizzie led the rest of the group to the living room and Lydia hurried to sit next to Lizzie after she put the brownies and cookies on the coffee table.

“What’s up, sis?” Lizzie asked when she sat down. She could tell her sister was in a good mood. Lydia had arrived practically bouncing with dessert in hand but wasn’t telling anyone why. There was a sparkle in her eyes and she was even more vibrant than usual.

“I wanna tell you something but I don’t want you to tease me,” Lydia replied.

Lizzie sat up straighter. She had an idea but she wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity to give her sister a hard time about it.

“Really? You tease me and William all the time. Besides, it’s practically what siblings do best!”

“Keep it to a minimum, at least?”

“I’ll try my best.”

“Okay so…I may have a date soon.”

Lizzie slapped her hand down on Lydia’s thigh out of excitement. “With Adam?”

Lydia broke out into a grin. “Yea.”

“Wait,” Gigi scooted closer to Lydia. “Is this the Adam from Lizzie’s Romeo and Juliet? The one who’s in that Poe musical at your theater?”

Lizzie and Lydia turned to her and Lydia nodded.

“He’s a cutie, Lyds! What took him so long?” Gigi asked.

“Actually, it was me who took so long. He’s asked a couple times. We’ve gone out together for group things but I’ve turned down the solo ones,” Lydia said. “I’ve only been in this new position for a few months and I don’t want to mess anything up, you know?”

“Good girl,” Lizzie said proudly.

“Anyway, Nevermore is finishing up in June—”

“No, that sucks!” Lizzie interrupted. “It’s so entertaining.”

“It’s a good thing, actually. It’s going on tour! Adam has another theater job lined up here that’s more long term, so he’s not going,” Lydia said. “Plus, the summer series is starting so you might finally have a chance to see Hamilton. No guarantees though since it’s still crazy popular. I can definitely get you in for The King and I and The Lion King.”

“Deal. William would love to see those.”

“So because he won’t be working at the theater anymore, I gave him a tentative yes,” Lydia said. “Once Nevermore is over, we’ll go out. I totes remain professional that way!”

“Why are we needing to remain professional?” Charlotte asked, reaching for a brownie. Lizzie glanced back and saw that the dining room table had been cleared. William walked up behind her and gave her shoulders a squeeze. She glanced up and smiled at him before getting up and giving her seat to Charlotte.

“Lydia has a date,” Gigi answered for her.

“Ooh, is it with that brooding theater hottie?” Fitz asked and Lydia blushed. Lizzie joined William’s side, taking a back seat as Lydia told the story all over again to the ones who had just joined. Lizzie left the room to get herself something to drink and William followed. Brandon was putting the last dish away and she thanked him before he went to join the others.

“How are you doing?” William asked quietly, watching her as she filled her glass with ice and water.

“Fine. Thirsty,” Lizzie joked, taking a sip. William glanced over to the living room at the sound of Gigi’s laugh.

“I’m thinking it’s a good time now.”

“Yea, it is,” Lizzie agreed.

“Okay,” William said, leaning forward and kissing her temple. “I’ll be right back.”

Lizzie walked back into the living room as William quietly slipped out of the room to his office.

“Hey, Lizzie,” Fitz called to get her attention. “Saw your Scholastic announcement! Exciting stuff. I haven’t read a YA book in forever but I think I’m gonna have to now.”

“You’re missing out, Fitz!” Gigi said. “The Sullivan Sisters is so juicy. I’m interested to see what you’ll do with it, Lizzie.”

“You could read it before and spoil yourself or read it after and imagine it with my cast.”

“Is it going to be a faithful adaptation or are you going to twist it around?” Charlotte asked.

Lizzie raised her brow. “How do you think I’m going to answer that?”

“I’m going to guess it’s faithful, babe,” Sam piped up, putting an arm over her shoulder. “Considering Scholastic is using her skills to garner teen interest in these books.”

“You married a smart man, Charlotte,” Lizzie said.

“It helps he’s got looks too,” Charlotte grinned.

“How are you doing with the casting?” Brandon asked.

“It’s…interesting. I’m trying to cast eighteen and above so I won’t have to deal with filming restrictions, but I need to make sure that they look young enough and could realistically look like sisters,” Lizzie said, noticing William walk back in out of the corner of her eye. Perfect timing. She could use this opportunity to set everything up and William was going to help her. “But, it has inspired me for another project.”

“Really? Is it one that we get to know more about?” Charlotte asked.

“Actually, yes.” Lizzie’s heart began to race as she looked at her husband, spotting the DVD in hand. He gave her a tender look and it was the silent encouragement she needed. “So, the idea for this project was originally conceived around November but it’s only been in development for about three months or so. It needs at least five or six months of gestation before it makes its debut.”

She could hear a snort from William and she didn’t dare look at him or she would break. She hadn’t told him exactly what she was planning to say.

“I haven’t told you guys about this project yet because it’s pretty close to my heart. I’ve been putting a lot of myself into this,” Lizzie continued. “And, really, it would be nothing if William hadn’t provided his own input.”

A slightly louder snort beside her before he masked it up with a cough, covering his mouth and trying to remain composed.

“So, there’s not a lot to show you right now but I wanted you all to be the first to see what I’ve been working on. This mostly has some auditions, some clips, and a rough trailer for things to come.” Lizzie said as William set up the DVD. Lizzie wasn’t lying about what was on the disc. She had taken audition tapes and deleted clips from old projects and edited it with footage of their ultrasound, which was going to be the last thing they saw.

“Is this the project that’s been tiring you out?” Fitz asked.

“Partially,” Lizzie replied, trying not to break out into a smile. “I can put more of the blame on my bigger projects and the back-to-back business trips.”

“It’s ready,” William announced, holding the remote in his hand as he came up to Lizzie’s side again.

“Perfect. Okay, try and save your comments and critiques until afterwards.”

Everybody nodded and William finally pressed play. The DVD was two minutes and forty seconds of fake-out footage but Lizzie couldn’t even watch any of those seconds. She snaked her way into William’s side and he put an arm around her waist, bringing his gaze from the TV to her. From this close proximity, she could feel William’s rapid heartbeat that seemed nearly as quick as hers. She was surprised. He looked so calm on the outside yet he was evidently just as nervous as her. He smiled and subtly shrugged his shoulders to tell her that it was impossible not to get caught up in the anticipation.

She kept her ears open, listening for the cue in the video where it would switch to their ultrasound. There was the sound of two guys laughing and there was one minute left. A groan of frustration and there were thirty seconds left. The swell of people singing in the background and she closed her eyes, swallowing visibly and swearing her heart was back in her throat. Ten seconds left.

Then the distinct sound of their baby’s heartbeat flowed through the speakers, simultaneously calming her nerves and telling her that the ultrasound was on display for all of them to see. Lizzie and William quickly looked to their friends and family to watch their reactions, but they all looked frozen in their place.

The silence stretched out for a few moments and then the room bursted with noise. Everybody leapt from their seats and started shouting at once.

“You’re having a baby!”

“Lizzie, you’re pregnant?!”

“Holy crap!”

Lizzie and William could only nod, completely overwhelmed by their reactions.

Gigi was squealing with excitement and jumping up and down in her place and her eyes were already glistening. Fitz and Brandon rushed towards William and Lizzie, Fitz grabbing him in a hug. William laughed in surprise as Fitz lifted him an inch off the ground.

“Darcy! I can’t believe it!” Fitz shouted, clapping him hard on the back.

“Congratulations, Lizzie!” Brandon hugged Lizzie. “This is amazing.”

Lizzie thanked him before she was swooped in for another hug by Fitz, Charlotte and then Sam. Lydia was surprisingly subdued but clearly happy as she tightly hugged her sister, congratulating her.

“YOU’RE HAVING A BABY!!” Gigi screamed louder than before, staring at the ultrasound that was still playing on the screen. She said it a few more times before the tears began to stream down her cheeks and repeated it through her sobs. Lizzie and William exchanged slightly worried glances before he hurried over to his sister. He pulled her in for a hug and rubbed her back to calm her down until her tears slowed.

“Better?” William asked gently, daring a glance at his sister.

“You’re having a baby,” Gigi said hoarsely, waving her hand near her face as if it would help stop her tears.

William smiled brightly at her and he could feel the familiar sting in the corner of his eyes. “We are.”

“I’m going to be an aunt?”

“You are.” William nodded.

“I’m so happy you two are having a baby. I mean, finally! It took you two long enough.”

William laughed gently, his smile spreading across his face.

“Mom and Dad would be elated for you. You know Mom would be sobbing right along with me,” Gigi sniffed, squeezing his arms. “You’re going to be the best father. I know from experience.”

Gigi’s words cracked his chest open wide and he blinked back the tears as gratitude seeped through his veins.

“Thank you, Georgiana,” William murmured.

“I’m just telling you what I know. That baby is so lucky to have you as a dad.”

They hugged each other again before he led her to Lizzie so she could congratulate her. Eventually, everybody calmed down enough and started asking for details.

“How many weeks?”

“Fourteen yesterday,” Lizzie replied.

“You’re so far along already!”

“We wanted to wait until I was in my second trimester, which I am now,” Lizzie said, glancing to her husband next to her. “And we wanted to tell you all at once.”

“Having any weird cravings yet, Lizzie D? Like pickles and herring?”

“Um, gross,” Lizzie cringed and brushed her hand across her stomach. “Not much so far. I still have some time to go so you never know.”

“So that project you just showed us?”

“Completely fake,” Lizzie smiled. “You’re all the first to know, so no blabbing to others.” Lizzie looked to Lydia. “Mom and Dad don’t even know.”

“You better hope she’s sitting down,” Lydia joked. “We don’t want another Jane and Bing situation.”

“We’re telling them all tomorrow.”

“Mother’s Day. That’s fitting,” Brandon said.

“When are you due?”

“November 9th.”

“No way!” Fitz exclaimed, jumping back up. “I won! I actually won!”

“Told you they’d bet on us,” William whispered in Lizzie’s ear.

“What were the terms of the bet this time?” Lizzie asked.

“We picked years and then months,” Brandon said before gesturing to Fitz. “And for once, Fitz was spot on.”

“2018 and October/November,” Fitz grinned, as if it needed to be stated. “Just had a feeling.”

“I was way off,” Sam added. They started telling William who bet what and Charlotte waved Lizzie over to her. Sam got up to talk to William and she took his seat, sandwiching herself between Charlotte and Lydia with Gigi sitting on the corner of the other couch.

“So,” Charlotte nudged her. “I did the math.”

Lizzie knew what was coming. “Of course you did.”

“Hawaii, huh?”

“What about Hawaii?” Gigi asked.

“Sam and I have been married for approximately fourteen weeks.”

Lydia snorted.

“Hawaii is a very romantic place, Char,” Lizzie said defensively, not giving her the satisfaction. “We weren’t just there for your wedding. William and I were celebrating our third anniversary.”

Charlotte smirked and Lizzie elbowed her.

“This was no surprise,” Lizzie said, bringing a hand to her stomach. “I mean, it was a surprise when we found out but we decided to start trying back in November.”

“Since then?” Lydia said in surprise.

“Yea,” Lizzie turned to her and smiled. “I found out I was pregnant pretty early on but we kept it between me and William for obvious reasons.”

“Wait, you weren’t on antibiotics!” Charlotte exclaimed.

“Nothing gets past you,” Lizzie chuckled. “I was only six weeks pregnant and had only found out the week before.”

“I’m so excited for you two,” Gigi said, bouncing a little in her seat. “I can’t wait to be an aunt.”

“Yea. Your baby is going to have the coolest aunts around.” Charlotte added.

“And uncles!” Fitz jumped in, making it apparent he was listening more to them than William.

“We’re around to help you whenever you need it,” Brandon offered. “Babysitting, anything.”

“That’s an offer we’re going to take you up on.”

They all talked for a while longer as their announcement had brought energy to the group and they were inundated with questions. It was a while before someone realized how late it was getting and their friends were slowly saying their goodbyes. Lizzie appreciated Gigi’s enthusiasm over the news, especially when William gave her a picture of the ultrasound. She started crying again and Fitz and Brandon had her leave with them, with only Sam, Charlotte, and Lydia staying behind.

Lizzie had noticed that Lydia had been quiet for most of the evening, sitting back and listening rather than being her usual animated self. As Sam and Charlotte talked to William by the door, Lizzie took a seat next to Lydia to talk to her.

“Hey Little Miss Mouse,” Lizzie teased and Lydia looked up from her phone, giving her a half-hearted smile. “Lydia, I know when something’s wrong with you so spill.”

Lydia’s brows furrowed and she pressed her lips together, taking her time. Lizzie waited.

“Okay, so I’m really happy you and William are having a baby. It’s pretty awesome,” Lydia began. “Especially after watching your ultrasound and hearing the heartbeat.”

“But?”

“But I feel like this means I’m going to see less of you,” Lydia confessed.

Lizzie was taken aback. “Are you kidding me? That’s not possible. You’re going to be a big part of this baby’s life.”

Lizzie chuckled but Lizzie noticed it didn’t reach her eyes. “That’s what Jane said too.”

Lizzie understood exactly how she felt now. It had been hard enough on them when Jane moved three thousand miles away. Bing and William had definitely helped, setting up charters so the sisters could see each other a little more often than the holidays. Then Jane had Scarlett and Charlie and those spontaneous weekend trips stopped. Jane was too afraid to travel with the babies during the first year, especially after Charlie had spent two weeks in the NICU. The only time they saw her that year was when they visited her, but those visits were few and far between because of work. It was getting better as the twins got older and Jane showing up on her birthday was truly a shock but the time away from each other was still hard.

“I get it. I miss Jane, too,” Lizzie said softly. “But Jane and the kids are in New York. William and I are here and we aren’t going anywhere. We’re going to need you. This baby needs at least one of their aunts around at all times. You’re supposed to be the one to show our child that their parents are super dorky.”

Lydia gave her a genuine smile and scoffed, “Easy to do.”

“And we’ll need a babysitter who we wholeheartedly trust. Not many people fit that criteria automatically,” Lizzie offered. “Plus, you need to be around to make sure Gigi doesn’t go overboard when you all plan the baby shower. I definitely don’t want royal prince or princess themed parties.”

“We can def- stay away from those.”

“I know we weren’t always close but you and I have worked hard to get where we are. I love that you’re ten minutes away and we can randomly go out to lunch or visit each other at work.” Lizzie grabbed her hand. “I love you and I know this baby is going to love you too.”

“I mean, who wouldn’t love me? I’m adorbs,” Lydia said brightly, beginning to perk up.

“There’s the sister I was looking for earlier,” Lizzie said before she hugged her.

“I can’t believe you’re pregnant! Mom and Dad are going to freak out. Well, you know, Mom mainly,” Lydia amended. “I feel kind of special that I know before them!”

“It’s such a relief that you know now. I have more people to talk about this with!”

“You can call me whenever you want to talk about things.”

“Or I’ll just come over!”

“Even better.”

“So, you guys are going on a babymoon?” Lydia asked.

“We are! It’s this little resort off the coast of Belize,” Lizzie said, pulling out her phone. “William was trying to convince me that we should go to two different places and split the vacation in half but I’d prefer to stay in one place.”

“Extra traveling when pregnant sounds terrible.”

“That was my argument,” Lizzie chuckled. “Cayo Espanto may be small but it looks gorgeous. I want to be lazy and relax the whole time.”

“I don’t blame you!” Lydia grabbed her phone. “Is that place over the water?”

“Yea but I don’t think my stomach can handle it,” Lizzie said. “Want to help pick which villa we should stay in? We haven’t quite decided. They’re all so nice.”

“Absolutely!”

 


 

Sunday, May 13th (Fourteen weeks, two days) 

William woke up earlier than usual for a Sunday. He had plans of his own for today. He was careful not to wake Lizzie when he got out of bed and went to the kitchen.

A little over thirty minutes later, he came back into the bedroom with a tray full of food and a carnation in a little white vase. He smiled in relief when he saw that Lizzie was still sleeping peacefully. But he didn’t want her to eat a cold breakfast so he bent down on her side of the bed and pushed a few tendrils of hair from her face, watching her as she stirred a little but didn’t wake.

It gave him a few moments to really look at his wife. Lizzie may not have seen any changes with her body but William certainly had. She was becoming even more beautiful right in front of his eyes. Over the past couple weeks, he had noticed that she was looking more radiant with every day that passed. Her skin was brighter and her hair was more vibrant and even a little more voluminous. Her breasts had become just a tad bit fuller, which really was only noticeable when she was naked.

“Lizzie. Wake up, love,” William murmured, brushing his knuckles along her cheek. She squirmed and sighed at his touch. He whispered her name again as he touched her arm and he swore he heard her moan. After a few moments, her eyes slowly opened and her cheeks flushed when she saw William crouched in front of her. “Good morning. Good dream? It took me a while to wake you.”

“It was, um, kind of vivid,” Lizzie admitted.

“Want to share?” William asked and she shook her head. He chuckled. “Fair enough.”

Lizzie started to get out of bed and he stopped her.

“Stay there,” William said before grabbing the tray from the bureau. “You’re getting breakfast in bed today.”

“What? Really?” Lizzie asked, sitting up and leaning against the headboard.

“Of course. Today is your first Mother’s Day,” William said warmly, setting the tray down in front of her.

“Just because our baby isn’t born yet, doesn’t mean you’re not already a mom,” William continued, briefly putting his hand on her stomach. “You’re taking care of our little one. In my eyes, that means we can celebrate today.”

Lizzie pressed her fingers to her lips and her eyes became a little glassy. She picked up the single white carnation in the vase and caught a whiff of the sweet scent, smiling at William at his gesture.

“After I was born, my dad would give one to my mom every year without fail. When I was old enough, I would give her one as well. Then Gigi was born and our mom received two from each of us. It’s…” William paused and looked down. His eyes flickered back up to hers after a few moments and they were filled with admiration. “It’s been a long time since I’ve bought a carnation.”

Lizzie wiped away the tears falling down her face, picking up the tray and setting it down next to her. She swung her legs off the bed and pulled William in for a hug.

“Thank you,” Lizzie whispered against his neck.

“Thank you for letting me continue the tradition,” William murmured. Lizzie pulled back and brought her hands up to frame his face, leaning in and kissing him with all that she could muster. He pressed a hand to the back of her neck and she slid off the bed onto her knees, not quite ready to end the kiss. They reluctantly pulled away and shared a smile before he gestured for her to get back into bed.

“What about you? Where’s your breakfast?” Lizzie asked, adjusting pillows against the headboard before she grabbed the tray and put it in front of her.

“I ate while I was making yours. There’s a few extra pieces of toast still.”

“Go get it!” Lizzie ordered. “Then it’s not as awkward for me.”

William chuckled. “I’ll be right back.”

He returned with toast and moved a chair next to the bed, keeping her company while she ate her breakfast. When she was done, he took the tray from her but told her to stay there for just a few minutes more while he went to the kitchen.

“I’m not going to spend the entire day in bed, am I?” Lizzie asked when he came back.

“No, I promise. Just after this one thing,” William said, walking into the closet. He emerged a moment later with a blue felt jewelry box.

“Oh no,” Lizzie said under her breath. William sat on the edge of the bed next to her and held out the box. “Can you just…can you tell me what it is first?”

“It’s a present for you,” William said, his lips curving up. She took it from him and looked down at the box for a moment. She knew just from the way he was watching her that it was important to him. The hinges creaked a little as she opened it and she brought a hand up to her chest.

“Will,” Lizzie gasped. There was a round gold locket inside, engraved with a beautiful leaf design on the front. There was a whimsical monogrammed design on the back of it and a gold chain to go with it. “This is beautiful.”

“It’s been in the family for a few generations.”

“A few? I have a feeling you’re underselling it,” Lizzie exhaled.

“It’s a family heirloom. I’ve wanted you to have it for a while but when you told me you were pregnant, I knew it was the right time,” William explained.

Lizzie took it out of the box and she heard the tiny click as she gently pried it open. On the inside were two pictures and her eyes began to well up again. On the left was one of her favorites of the two of them. His chin rested on her shoulder as they smiled for the camera, his own big enough to show his dimples while her cheeks were pink from laughing. On the right was a picture from their ultrasound.

“I was thinking you could replace that picture once the baby is born,” William suggested, pointing to the ultrasound. “But this way, it’s not empty until then. You’re still reminded of our family each time you open it.”

“Oh Will,” Lizzie said shakily. “It’s like you’re actively trying to make me cry,”

“I swear I’m not.” William reached up and wiped away a tear from her cheek.

“First the flower and now the locket?” Lizzie said, playfully narrowing her eyes at him. “You shouldn’t toy with a pregnant woman’s emotions.”

“I apologize. I’ll keep that in mind for the future,” He took the locket from her and unclasped the chain before putting it around her neck. “Do you like it?”

“I love it. It’s gorgeous, Will.” Lizzie looked down at her gift hanging from her neck. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome, love.” William leaned in and kissed her temple.

“Should I be expecting something else today? I just want to prepare myself.”

“I have little planned except dinner.”

“So if I want to lounge around on the couch with you all day, we can?”

“Absolutely. Today is about what you want,” William said affectionately. “But we should probably call your parents and Jane and Bing first.”

“Good idea. Give me a little time to get dressed and hydrate,” Lizzie quipped. “I have a feeling there’s going to be some waterworks.”

“I wouldn’t doubt it.”

~~~~~~~~~~

Lizzie and William called Jane and Bing first since they knew they had big plans for the afternoon and didn’t want to cut into them. William set Domino up in the living room and Lizzie sent her sister a text to let her know they were ready. Jane and Bing popped up on the screen with Charlie and Scarlett sitting on their laps.

“Hello Lee family!” Lizzie waved. “Happy Mother’s Day!”

“Auntie Lizzie! Uncle William!” Charlie and Scarlett yelled. Jane told them to lower their voices and they repeated themselves more quietly.

“Hey, you two,” Lizzie waved at the screen. “Are you pampering your mom?”

Clearly the twins didn’t understand the term ‘pampering’ so Jane and Bing quickly explained it to them. Lizzie could clearly see on their faces when it clicked.

“We made her breakfast!” Charlie said.

“And gave her flowers!” Scarlett added.

“It sounds like you two are taking good care of your mom,” William said.

“They really are,” Jane said, hugging Scarlett from behind. She giggled and squirmed in her mom’s lap.

They spent some time catching up, telling each other about their weeks. Jane had a little fashion show where she got to show off some of her new line. The turnout was better than she expected and had a handful of buyers lined up. Bing was in a volunteer slump at his center but he was positive that things would turn around since summer was right around the corner. The twins started to get a little antsy so Jane and Bing let them go play, making sure they were still in their line of sight.

Lizzie squeezed William’s thigh, letting him know that it was a good time to tell them. He subtly nodded, giving her a hint of a smile. They had a plan for telling them. It was a simpler than the night before but Lizzie didn’t want to just blurt it out.

“Hey, Jane. I’m sending you two a short video I want you to watch,” Lizzie said, typing away on her phone. Her heart pounded a little harder in her chest as she attached a shortened recording of their ultrasound to the email. “Let me know when you get it.”

“Is this a trailer for The Sullivan Sisters project?” Jane asked.

“We’re still casting for it,” Lizzie said, pressing send on the email.

“I started reading it, Lizzie,” Bing admitted and Lizzie looked surprised. “Yea, I know. It’s intended for the teenage audience but it’s pretty interesting. The girl at the book store gave me the weirdest look.”

“I’ve read it too, Bing. Don’t worry,” William chuckled. “I luckily had Lizzie’s copy so I didn’t have that experience.”

“Cheater!”

“I think I got the email, Lizzie. Is it the one titled Number 1?” Jane asked, squinting and leaning closer towards the screen.

“That’s it. The video should be attached to it.”

Lizzie made sure that the screen cap of the video was a white screen because she didn’t want to give it away immediately. She even edited in ten seconds of a white screen so when she opened the video, it wouldn’t look suspicious.

“What have you sent us? Does it have to do with your Shakespeare series?” Jane asked before cringing. “I hate to say I’m behind on it again but I am.”

“Just watch it, Jane,” Lizzie urged.

“Okay, okay. Watching it now.”

William slipped his fingers between Lizzie’s and caressed her wrist with his thumb, calming her down. When Jane told Lizzie she was pregnant, there were was no fanfare or anything. She simply said the words to her. But when she told everybody she was having twins, she sent them a video of the ultrasound and let it speak for her. Lizzie wanted to do the same thing.

“I think there might be something wrong with the video, Lizzie,” Bing started. “It’s just a white scre…Holy crap!”

“YOU’RE PREGNANT?!” Jane yelled, jumping out of her seat and out of frame.

“Darcy! Are you kidding?!” Bing asked in disbelief. “You’re having a baby!”

“We really are,” William said proudly, putting an arm around Lizzie’s shoulder and kissing her temple.

“This is huge, dude. You’re going to be a father! You must be thrilled!”

“I’m over the moon, Bing.”

“Lizzie! Oh my god! This is amazing!” Jane sat back down, grabbing Bing’s arm and shaking him a little. “How far along are you?”

“Fourteen weeks. I’m due November ninth,” Lizzie said.

“So close to the twins’ birthday!” Jane clapped excitedly and Bing laughed.

“Mommy’s not using her inside voice!” Charlie’s head came into frame, his ears covered with his hands. Bing lifted him up and sat him down on his lap. “Why is Mommy loud?”

“Auntie Lizzie just shared some really good news with us, honey,” Jane smiled at him.

“What’s happening?” Scarlett’s head appeared in frame and Jane picked her up.

“Auntie Lizzie and Uncle William are having a baby,” Bing told her. “You’re going to have a new cousin.”

“Right now?” Charlie asked. William chuckled and Lizzie pressed her lips together to stop herself from laughing.

“Oh no, sweetie,” Jane said gently, brushing her hand through his hair. “You see, there’s a baby in Auntie Lizzie’s tummy, but they need time to grow. One day, she or he will be a real person for you to love.”

“Can you have a girl?” Scarlett requested and the adults laughed.

“A boy! Like me!” Charlie shouted.

“We don’t know what the baby is yet, Charlie,” Lizzie said, pressing a hand to her stomach.

“We hope you’ll love them just the same whether you have a girl cousin or a boy cousin,” William added.

Charlie looked like he was contemplating it for a moment. “Okay.”

“Can we play with them?” Scarlett asked.

“Once they’re big enough,” Jane replied. They talked to Jane and Bing for a little while longer, giving them details of the past weeks and how they found out themselves. Eventually, Bing needed to get the twins ready for their Mother’s Day outing. He told William to call him for any advice he needed and congratulated them again before taking the twins and leaving. William gave Lizzie and Jane a few moments alone and she thanked him by squeezing his hand before he left.

“I can’t believe my little sister is going to have a baby! I’m so happy for you and William!”

“We’re pretty ecstatic about it.”

“How are you feeling?”

“I’ve been exhausted the past two months and taking so many naps,” Lizzie said. “I’m actually feeling normal again this past week! Finally.”

“I don’t think I took so many naps as when I was pregnant with the twins. Bing was kind of adorable about it and always worried I wasn’t getting enough sleep,” Jane smiled. “Trust me. Listen to your body and sleep if you’re tired.”

“Oh, I am.”

Jane told her a few different stories and Lizzie was so relieved that she finally had another person to talk to about pregnancy. Jane had gone through worse than Lizzie during her first trimester, dealing with morning sickness nearly every day and even making it in the emergency room once for dehydration.

“You call me for any questions. I mean it,” Jane insisted. “Any time of day or night. I don’t care. I’m here for you.”

“That’s really kind of you, Jane,” Lizzie replied. “And I’m totally taking advantage of your offer. The books we’ve been reading kind of suck.”

“Oh, they’re all terrible. Even worse if you’re having more than one. The websites are better. I’ll email you links to some of my favorite ones I used when I was pregnant.”

“Thank you! I was kind of hoping you’d know the best ones.”

“Definitely,” Jane nodded. “I’ll even send you links to some online stores that I loved the most. I can’t wait until you find out if you’re having a boy or a girl! You have to tell me right away, okay? And give me enough notice for the baby shower!”

“I definitely will, Jane. It won’t be for a while but you’ll have to talk to Lydia and Gigi because they’re pretty psyched too.”

“I’m assuming you haven’t told Mom and Dad yet? We were just talking to them right before you, and I know Mom would have spilled that news.”

“We’re calling them next,” Lizzie said, smiling. It was true; her mom wouldn’t miss an opportunity to brag to everyone that her daughter was pregnant. “I’m just hoping Mom doesn’t faint again.”

“You’ll have to tell me how she reacts!” Jane said. She paused and turned her head at the sound in the background. “It sounds like Bing needs my help so I have to go. I love you so much, sis. Congratulations to both of you! Good luck with Mom and Dad!”

“I love you too! Have a great Mother’s Day!”

“You too, Mother-to-be!”

Lizzie gave Jane a little wave before they hung up. She stood up from the couch to go look for William and found him on the balcony, checking his email.

“Hey there,” Lizzie said. He turned at the sound of her voice and smiled. “Jane had to help Bing with the twins.”

“That went pretty well,” William said, coming back inside and closing the door behind him. He slipped an arm around her waist and they began to head back to the living room

“Yea, it did,” Lizzie beamed. “It felt good to talk to Jane about everything.”

“I’m glad. I know you’ve been wanting to for a while.”

“Mmmhmm,” Lizzie hummed. “Now I can call her whenever.”

“Good.” William kissed the top of her head. “Ready to tell your parents?”

“This one should be a doozy.”

Within a few minutes, Mr. and Mrs. Bennet were on their screen and Lizzie and William were wishing Mrs. Bennet a happy Mother’s Day.

“Thank you, you two!” Mrs. Bennet cooed. “It’s so nice to hear from all my daughters today. Lydia sent me flowers and Jane made me a lovely scarf. It’s just darlin’.”

“Speaking of gifts, Dad, would you mind?” Lizzie asked.

“Of course, pumpkin,” he replied, disappearing out of frame.

“It’s so nice to be thought of once in a while. You’ll see someday, Lizzie,” Mrs. Bennet continued. “When you become a mother, whenever that may be, you’ll be showered with gifts and today won’t be just a regular ol’ day for you!”

Lizzie toyed with the locket of her necklace and didn’t dare look at William because she knew he was holding back a laugh. She listened to her mom’s antics and let her keep going because it was going to be her last one for a while. Her dad sat back down soon after with a box in his hands. Lizzie and William had purposely mailed the package addressed to her dad. Her mom was notorious for opening packages earlier than she should have when her name was on it. While sending it to her dad wasn’t guaranteed to make her mom suspicious and want to open it, it would definitely deter her.

“Lizzie, what are you doin’ givin’ your father presents in front of me? On Mother’s Day, no less!” Mrs. Bennet huffed.

“Mom, it’s actually for you,” Lizzie smiled and Mr. Bennet chuckled, handing her the package.

“For me? What is it, Thomas?”

“I don’t know, dear. I was given strict instructions to not open it and to give it to you today.”

“The utter betrayal from my own husband and child! Were you part of this too, William?”

“I was. I apologize, Fran.”

“I’m sorry, Mom.” Lizzie refrained from shaking her head and William squeezed her thigh. “Hopefully what’s inside will make up for that.”

“It better,” Mrs. Bennet said. Mr. Bennet offered her some scissors and she began to open it. “Did you know that Jane and Bing send me a wonderful package? It had all my favorite sweets in it and that scarf Jane made…”

Lizzie was barely paying attention to what her mom was saying, rambling on about Jane and Bing’s gift. She was more focused on watching her open the package as her dad patiently watched in silence. First was the card that she laid on top so it would be the first thing she read. She and William spent way too long in the greeting card aisle trying to find the best one that would give a subtle hint at their news without actually giving it away.

“To the best grandma around,” Mrs. Bennet read aloud when she opened it. She handed it to Mr. Bennet so he could read it. “You’re darn right I am. The twins drew me pictures and put them in with the package! Jane assured me they were drawings of me and them playin’ together. I was thinkin’ of…”

She pulled back the tissue paper and stopped mid-sentence. Her eyes went wide. Inside the box was a picture frame with their sonogram and the saying ‘hello grandma’ on the bottom of it. Her mother sat there motionless, as if she couldn’t quite process what she was looking at.

“Lizzie!” Mr. Bennet exclaimed, seeing the contents in the frame. “Really?”

Lizzie nodded and his expression softened, pressing a hand to his chest. His eyes began to well up and a proud smile slowly spread across his face. Lizzie felt the hot sting of tears at her father’s display and she turned to William, who smiled warmly at her and kissed her forehead. Her mom was still frozen in place, her jaw hanging open.

“Congratulations!” Mr. Bennet said gently. “I’m thrilled for the both of you.”

“Thank you, Dad. We’re pretty excited ourselves.”

“I would imagine so. How are you feeling?”

“Surprisingly well right now.”

“And I’m taking care of both of them as best as I can.”

William’s tone was so heartfelt and Lizzie could barely stand it. She felt goosebumps rise on her skin as he took her hand and she looked down at her lap, smiling to herself.

“William, remember what I’ve told you?”

“Yes, Thomas.” William exhaled. “I will absolutely call you for advice.”

Mrs. Bennet began to fidget and came to life again right before their eyes. She stood up and sat back down, laughing to herself and clasping her hands together as if in prayer.

“Oh my stars! Is it true?! A baby! You two are finally havin’ a baby!?” Mrs. Bennet finally spoke. “My dear Lizzie! You’ll be so happy!”

Lizzie laughed softly at her mother’s delayed enthusiasm.

“And with such a charmin’ man as the father! Imagine if you have a boy! How handsome and tall he’d be,” Mrs. Bennet cooed. William pushed back his chin, a rare move for him now, but understandable with Mrs. Bennet’s praising. “Oh Lizzie! I couldn’t be more pleased with this news! First Jane and Bing give me two grandbabies and now you’re givin’ me one! I apologize that I’ve been so pushy but I hope you’ll forgive me. Havin’ a baby is such a wonderful experience and you’ll find out soon enough. When are you due?”

“Hmm? Oh!” Lizzie was caught off guard, expecting her mom to go on even longer than that. Her dad chuckled. “November ninth.”

“That’s still months away. Whatever will I do until then! I shall go distracted. There’s so much to do! Aren’t you just so excited to shop for all the adorable clothes and the baby furniture! And the nursery! It’s going to be spectacular!”

Lizzie expected this. Her mom had become so invested in Jane’s pregnancy, especially because she was having twins. She figured her mom would be enthusiastic about her pregnancy after she had been urging them to start a family for so long.

Mrs. Bennet clapped her hands. “This is the best day of my life!” Lizzie saw her dad subtly shake his head in amusement when she said it. When her mom finally calmed down, she asked Lizzie and William the same questions everyone had been asking them all weekend with Mr. Bennet interjecting with his own questions occasionally. Time passed by quickly and it was nearing eleven.

“Oh dear! We have to get goin’! Your father’s taking me out for lunch for Mother’s Day,” Mrs. Bennet said before gasping and clapping her hands together. “This’ll be your day next year! Isn’t that wonderful?”

“Actually, Fran, we’re celebrating this year as well,” William cleared his throat, taking Lizzie’s hand in his. He glanced to her with such a warm look and his lips curved up, making her heart flutter. “Lizzie has as much of a right to celebrate as any other mother.”

“Well said, William,” Mr. Bennet said with a twinkle in his eye. ‘Enjoy the rest of your day, you two.”

“Thank you, Dad. Have fun at lunch, Mom.”

“I will! Call me any time. I’m here for you, dear!”

Her parents disappeared and Domino returned to the home screen. Lizzie let out a heavy sigh and leaned back against the couch.

“That went well,” Lizzie said. When William joined her, she curled against him and she began to play with his hand.

“It did. Is it weird I expected more screaming?”

“Not at all. I was ready to turn the sound down, just in case.”

“Your mom is enthusiastic, for sure,” William said. “But she has a big heart and it’s apparent in her love for you and your sisters. As well as with Scarlett and Charlie.”

Lizzie softly kissed him before pulling back and fixing her gaze on him. “So, who do we have left?”

“Aunt Catherine, but she’s unreachable at the moment. Traveling all day,” William said. “I have a meeting with her first thing tomorrow morning. Do you mind if I tell her without you?”

“Not at all. We told who we wanted to tell together. It’s been my favorite part of this weekend.”

William raised an eyebrow and shifted Lizzie onto his lap. She brought her arms up to his shoulders and smiled at him.

“Is this where you convince me you can make this weekend even better?”

“Yep.”

“Ready and waiting to be convinced, pampered, and taken care of today.”

“Sounds right up my alley.”

Lizzie leaned in close to his ear and whispered. “I’m all yours.”

  


 

Monday, May 14th (14 weeks, 3 days)

Catherine DeBourgh was in San Francisco for three days to meet with a handful of venture capitalists, hoping to find a new business to invest in. The first item on her agenda was to meet with William to check on the progress of the company’s latest projects. Needless to say, she was impressed by the end of their meeting.

William purposely waited to inform his Aunt Catherine of his and Lizzie’s news until they were finished with business. She usually asked how they were doing and showed as much interest as she could. While their personal relationship was lukewarm at best, it was much better than it was a few years ago when they spoke little more than a few words to each other that didn’t have to do with business.

Once William broke the news, she offered her congratulations and gave him a somewhat stilted hug. After a weekend of excited screams, happy tears, and warm hugs, he couldn’t help but be a little disappointed by her reaction. He walked her from the conference room to the elevator once she was ready to leave and patiently waited until the doors slid closed. He was lost in thought as he walked to his office and barely noticed Fitz come up next to him.

“Daddy D! How are—”

“Nope.”

Fitz was thrown off. “What?”

“No to that nickname,” William narrowed his eyes at him.

“Oh, come on!” Fitz clapped him on the back. “It’s a great one.”

“Nope.”

“Papa D?”

“Even worse.”

“Father D?”

William scoffed. “I’d sound like a priest, Fitz. Darcy is just fine. There’s no need for extra nicknames.”

“You’re no fun, man.” Fitz pouted.

“Yes but you’re well aware of that fact by now.” William and Fitz stopped in front of Mrs. Reynolds’s desk. “Do I have any messages?”

“Your meeting at one has been pushed to two and Todd in IT called, saying he fixed the glitch with the timestamps,” Mrs. Reynolds replied, handing him his messages.

“Thank you.”

Fitz leaned in towards William and theatrically whispered, “Have you told her yet?”

William sighed and rolled his eyes, entertained by Fitz’s enthusiasm. “I was getting to that.”

“Told me what?” Mrs. Reynolds glanced between the two of them.

“Well…Lizzie’s pregnant. We’re having a baby,” William said, unable to stop the smile from spreading across his face.

“Oh!” Mrs. Reynolds gasped and her hands flew to cover her mouth as her eyes began to water. She stood up and walked around her desk, pausing in front of him. He had a feeling she wanted to hug him so he opened his arms and she took the bait, hugging him fiercely. This was the reaction he wanted from Aunt Catherine. She pulled away and squeezed his biceps. “Congratulations, William. What wonderful news!”

“Thank you, Sue. We’re very excited.”

“You should be! Your parents would be so happy!” Sue beamed. “How long have you known, Fitz?”

“Only since Saturday. This man is a locked box! Never gave it away.”

“We were waiting until Lizzie made it to her second trimester.”

“Already? I can’t believe it.”

William glanced to Fitz for a second. “You know, since my meeting was pushed back, Fitz and I can treat you to lunch today and you can ask what you’d like.”

“Are you sure?”

“Sure thing, Mrs. R! Pemberley Digital family is our family too,” Fitz said. “Right, Darce?”

“Exactly,” William chuckled. “11:30?”

“See you then.”

~~~~~~~~~~

 

When Lizzie got out of her first meeting of the morning, she returned to her office to check her email. Most of it was from her normal clientele but the one on the top surprised her. It was from Aunt Catherine. Lizzie knew William had a meeting with her first thing in the morning and that he was planning to tell her. Before she opened the email, she decided to text him a message to make sure.

 

Lizzie @ 10:32 am

Hey!

Were you able to tell Aunt Catherine the news?

 

William @ 10:34 am

I was.

She said congrats and gave me a hug.

 

Lizzie @ 10:34 am

She hugged you??

 

William @ 10:35 am

It’s wasn’t as heartwarming as you might imagine.

 

Lizzie @ 10:36 am

:(

Sorry.

 

William @ 10:36 am

Can’t expect tears from everyone we tell.

Why do you ask?

 

Lizzie @ 10:38 am

I’m staring at an email from her right now.

 

William @ 10:38 am

What?

What does it say?

I will not tolerate insults of my pregnant wife.

 

Lizzie @ 10:39 am

Hold on.

About to read it now.

 

Lizzie put her phone down and opened the email, hoping to calm William before he got upset.

Dear Elizabeth,

            I thought I’d take a moment out of my schedule to sit down and send you an email. My nephew has informed me that you are expecting. Let me be one of the many to offer you congratulations. I have never been a maternal sort or had the desire to have children. I left that task up to my sister. She produced two intelligent and exceptional children that have grown up to be intelligent and exceptional adults. And now you and William are bringing another generation of Darcys into the world and I can’t help but feel proud on my sister and brother-in-law’s behalf…

The email went on further, telling Lizzie about when William’s parents first broke the news of their own pregnancy and a gift she had given them. It was more touching than she expected and found herself tearing up at least once. William texted her a couple times while she read on, obviously anxious to know what his aunt told her. She finally finished it a few minutes later and texted her husband to ease his worries.

 

Lizzie @ 10:46 am

It was good.

Pretty touching, actually.

 

William @ 10:47 am

You’re not lying to calm me down, are you?

 

Lizzie @ 10:47 am

Not at all.

Congratulated me.

Said you and Gigi are intelligent adults

Talked about your parents

 

William @ 10:48 am

Will you let me read it tonight?

 

Lizzie @ 10:49 am

I’ll read it to you.

There’s a couple things that are meant just for me.

Good things. Don’t worry.

 

William @ 10:51 am

I’ll accept that.

I have a conference call in a few so I need to go.

Love you.

 

Lizzie @ 10:51 am

We love you too

 

Lizzie smiled to herself and returned back to the email, reading one specific section where Aunt Catherine talked about a gift she gave to William’s parents. A flash of that particular gift popped up in her mind. She remembered it was stored away in the storage locker with other knickknacks and furniture from William’s childhood home. She had an idea and picked up her phone, scrolling to the one person she wanted to talk to the most. 

“Hey Gigi? It’s Lizzie. I need your help with something.”

Chapter Text

After the initial excitement of breaking the news to their closest family and friends, things didn’t exactly die down for Lizzie and William. They both informed their fellow managers and other higher-ups within their companies but didn’t expressly announce it to the rest of their employees. So naturally, it spread like wildfire throughout both companies. They were congratulated nearly daily and both Lizzie and William discovered there were pools going around the offices on whether they were going to have a boy or a girl.

As Lizzie neared sixteen weeks, she began to notice her old energy returning. She got a boost during her sixteen-week checkup, when Dr. Gates informed them that the NT scan results were normal and she was right on track. She also approved of their babymoon destination, telling Lizzie to avoid only a few activities.

Lizzie even convinced William to check out a yoga class that she found and it turned out that they were both naturals. Despite his initial hesitations about the class, William was the one to pick up the poses a hair quicker than Lizzie. She was already noticing the not-so-subtle glances other women gave her husband in the few classes they had taken so far. It left her with the smug satisfaction that she was the one going home with him.

While Lizzie still wasn’t showing, she was starting to feel some interesting effects of being pregnant. It all started with a dream a couple weeks prior. One very detailed and dirty dream that left Lizzie flustered when she thought about it. She thought it was a one-time event until the night after she hit her sixteen-week mark. The dream made another appearance and she woke up that Saturday morning feeling a little frisky and a lot disappointed William was already out of bed. When she went looking for him, she found a note on the board on the fridge stating he had gone for a bike ride. She accepted defeat, knowing he’d be gone awhile, and promptly took a cold shower to calm down her raging pregnancy hormones.

If only she knew that those dreams were just the beginning.

 


 

Sunday, May 27th (16 weeks and 2 days)  

The bedroom was beginning to fill up with steam as Lizzie was getting out of bed. William must have been taking an exceptionally hot shower and she realized he had left the bathroom door open. The only thing that confused Lizzie was that she couldn’t hear any water running. She called out his name but she got nothing in response so she slowly walked towards the bathroom. She could feel the warmth on her skin as she walked inside but couldn’t make anything out in the thick air. She called his name again and she heard his low voice saying her name in return.

She could see a vague shape and heard the sound of a mirror being wiped of steam. Her eyes darted towards the noise and she saw her husband’s reflection looking right back at her. He hadn’t shaved in a few days, his eyes were piercing blue, and his drying hair was sticking up in all directions. The steam began to dissipate but the room was still humid. She took a step forward so she was within arm’s reach of him. He was shirtless, in a towel, and his skin was glistening and begging to be touched. She had the intense urge to grab him and kiss him senseless but her arms refused to obey. Instead, her eyes did the work and drank in the sight of him. It was then that she noticed his towel wasn’t really a towel at all. It was a red and black plaid kilt. It sat low on his hips, with that little trail of hair disappearing in the fabric, showing off his Adonis belt. She was taken aback by his attire but one thing was for sure: he wore it well.

“Why are you wearing that?” Lizzie asked breathlessly.

“Why not?” William replied smoothly, turning to face her.  He ran a hand through his hair, making it even messier, and crossed his arms over his chest. Lizzie was about to spontaneously combust from the image before her.

“Are you…” Lizzie paused as he began to approach her. She backed up slowly, unsure why since she was ready to pounce.

“Am I what?” William asked huskily.

“Are you wearing anything underneath?” Lizzie swallowed as her back hit the wall. William stopped inches before her and hovered over her. That perfect little smirk appeared on his face and he bent down close enough that his nose grazed against hers.

“Check for yourself.”

Lizzie’s eyes darted down to his groin and back up again. He quirked an eyebrow to let her know he was waiting. She brought a hand to his hard chest and trailed her fingers slowly down past the ridges of his stomach muscles, hooking them onto the rough fabric of the kilt. She tugged a little and he took a small step forward, a deep noise escaping his throat. Pausing for only a second longer, she dipped her hand under his kilt and found her answer. She grinned and brushed her fingers against his hard length. His nostrils flared and his jaw tensed and it made her want to rip the kilt off and have her way with him. Or better yet…

She stared him straight in the eye and unbuttoned her shirt as he watched her every movement. Letting it drop to the floor, she stood before him in only a skimpy pair of silk underwear. Then she shimmied out of them and kicked them off to the other side of the room. She reached out and dipped a finger back into his kilt and yanked him forward. He braced himself by putting his hands on the wall next to her shoulders and he licked his lips in anticipation.

“Tell me what you want.”

Her brain was telling her it would be much better if she showed him. She turned around, laid her hands flat on the wall and arched her back into him. William leaned in and pressed his erection against her. Heat pooled between her thighs at the contrast of his hardness and the rough fabric of his kilt. William flicked the tip of her earlobe with his tongue before biting down, tugging lightly. She was too wound up for teasing. Why couldn’t he read her mind and do exactly what she wanted without her having to say anything?

Lizzie grabbed his hands in frustration, guiding one to her breast and the other to where she was throbbing for him. He quickly took control and began to massage her breast. She gasped in delight when he gently rolled her nipple between his fingers. Her eyes fluttered and she slammed her hand on the wall for support as he slowly traced her sex, teasing her further.

“Lizzie.”

Her name was barely more than a whisper and it felt so far away, despite her feeling his warm breath skating past her ear. She let out a guttural moan when he began to rub circles over her clit, pressing down just enough to make her crave more. He dragged his lips from her ear to her shoulder and bit down on her skin. The myriad of sensations felt like too much and yet she wanted the scrape of his teeth, the scratch of the fabric on her bare skin, and the roughness of his hands.

“Lizzie.”

She began to rock her hips against his hand, desperate to feel more. She could feel the ache building quickly, bringing her closer to release and to a pleasure so pure. Her gaze drifted to the mirror and watched their reflections wishing he would just bend her over and finally bury himself deep inside her. She moaned again as he quickened the circling rhythm against her.

Then, she felt the tickle of his lips as he leaned in close to her ear once more.

“What are you dreaming of?”

Everything around her began to melt away around her and the words were repeated, sounding closer than ever.

“Elizabeth…”

Lizzie cautiously opened her eyes, slowly coming to the realization that it was all a dream. Another dirty and detailed dream that left her unsettled but also very much wanting. She could either take full advantage or pretend nothing happened. Before she had a chance to think too much about it, she rolled over towards William and sat up. She pushed him down on the mattress and hitched her leg over, sitting down on his lap.

“Good morning,” William said lowly, surprised by her actions. “Sleep well?”

“Very.” Lizzie nodded as she pulled her sleep shirt off and tossed it away. She caught that flash of desire in his eyes and she subtly wiggled her hips, feeling the stirrings of his arousal.

“Are you going to tell me about it?”

Lizzie put her hands on his torso and gradually moved them up his chest, bending down close to his face. “Live with the mystery.”

She closed the gap between them, kissing him roughly and passionately. William brought one hand and wrapped it around the back of her neck as her tongue traced his bottom lip. His other hand glided up her pale skin and cupped one breast. It was even better than her dream and she sighed at his touch. His lips parted and she brushed her tongue along his. She started to rock her hips on top of him, getting more and more impatient as she felt him harden beneath her. They kissed until they were desperate for air before Lizzie pulled away and gasped for breath. She looked down at him and their gazes locked, reading desire in each other’s eyes

Lizzie sat up on her knees, swinging her leg off him, all too happy to have an abundance of energy in her second trimester. She removed her underwear while William took advantage and hastily removed his pajama pants and boxers in one swift movement, kicking them off to the end of the bed. As he started to sit up, Lizzie pushed him back down and waggled her eyebrows, letting him know that she was in charge. He rested his hands on her upper thighs as she straddled him once more. She grabbed his erection and William quietly grunted as she gave him a little squeeze while she positioned herself above him.

After the build-up from her vivid dream, she had zero patience to tease her husband – and herself – even a moment more. She pressed him against her slick and aching entrance and then slid down, taking in every inch of his hard length. She let out a shaky breath as he filled her up, only scratching the surface of her needs. Pressing her hands down on his chest, she began to rock her hips back and forth. There was little finesse in her movement but she was determined to get that pleasure she was seeking in her dream. It was taking her no time at all with her newly awoken hormones. She dropped her head back and moaned as William thrust up inside her, timing it perfectly as she rocked forward. The heat in her lower belly was raging and her skin was scalding from his every touch, building up her arousal to impossible heights. It was only seconds later and Lizzie slammed her eyes shut as a burst of pleasure spread throughout her, her toes curling at the intensity. A low cry ripped from her throat as she trembled above him, giving her the satisfaction she was aching for.

William didn’t pause in his movement and his thrusts became more powerful, getting Lizzie wound up again quickly. He sat up and pulled her in for a deep kiss, threading his fingers through her hair. She wrapped her arms around him, clutching at his back as the heat between her thighs began to build again. She clenched around him and he groaned, untangling his hands from her hair and grabbing her thighs. He slid both hands to the back of her knees and tugged, pulling her closer and maneuvering her to wrap her legs around him. Lizzie whimpered at the new angle and it brought her even closer to more pleasure.

“Will…please…” Lizzie pleaded with a shaky voice. William moved a hand between them and pressed his thumb to her clit, subtly circling her sensitive spot. Lizzie moaned and dropped her head to his shoulder, tightening her grip around him. She climaxed once more, his name caught in her throat. He continued to massage her, prolonging her bliss and coaxing out a few more bursts of pleasure. It was too much but exactly what she needed and all she could do was cling to William as her body thrummed.

When he eventually pulled his hand away, he held onto her hips and his strokes became more demanding. She lifted her head and kissed him fiercely, lips bruising, as she clenched around him and bared down. He thrust up and lost all semblance of control, holding her hips still as he came and breaking off the kiss to gasp her name. Lizzie quickly untangled her legs as he fell back, bringing her with him as he continued to pulse inside her.

Their ragged breaths filled the air as they laid there for the next few minutes, too spent from their activities to move. Finally, Lizzie pushed herself up and looked at William, giving him a little smile and a peck on the cheek. Then she maneuvered herself off him and moved to her side, not wanting to put any more pressure on her stomach. She draped a leg over his and rested her head on his shoulder.

“Wow,” William breathed.

“Agreed.”

“You really do have more energy now.”

“Bless the second trimester,” Lizzie hummed before adding. “We’ll have to be more creative in our positions once I start getting a belly.”

“We’re okay for now.” William’s eyes flickered to her relatively flat stomach. “But I look forward to our…experimentation.”

“I bet you do,” Lizzie giggled, sitting up. “I’m in desperate need of a shower.”

“Would you like company?” William asked as she started to round the bed. She looked back at his naked body and she felt stirrings of desire again as she flashes of kilt and steam flooded her mind. It surprised her and that her hormones would revive so quickly after such passion. She didn’t dare question it though. She licked her lips, then smiled.

“You know it.”

 


 

Saturday, June 2nd (17 weeks and 1 day)

 

So began a pattern over the next week. Lizzie would have the raunchiest dreams with the most vivid details every night. Each morning, she’d wake up craving sex and William was all too happy to oblige. She quickly discovered that being pregnant was giving her more intense orgasms than ever before and it barely took her any time to get there, not that it was ever a problem in the first place. She was starting to feel like a teenager who had just discovered sex for the first time.

She read about other women in some pregnancy threads had dealt with the same thing. She even called Jane out of curiosity, who admitted that she often had similar dreams but they weren’t always about Bing. So far, Lizzie had been lucky enough that all her dreams only starred her husband. Some of them involved positions and in places and even different time periods, which seemed completely outrageous to her once she woke up. The one that made her blush the most was when she dreamt of two of him at the same time, partially because she actually climaxed in her sleep. She would take the details of that specific dream to her grave.

After asking a couple times that week, William finally broke her down and got her to admit what was happening after a particularly vigorous session in the shower Saturday morning.

“I’m not complaining about your renewed stamina, Lizzie,” William said from the kitchen as he poured them each a glass of water. He brought her over a glass and handed it to her before sitting down. “I’m rather enjoying it, actually. I wish you would fill me in, at least.”

Lizzie took a sip before putting it down and facing him. “I’ve been having dreams.”

“I figured as much. You’ve been squirming around all week and you’re usually a deep sleeper.”

“They’re kind of detailed,” Lizzie said hastily, pushing aside the stirrings of embarrassment. She tried to change the subject. “Did you know that women have more dreams when they’re pregnant? And somehow they’re more memorable because of our hormones and that we’re getting up in the middle of the night to pee.”

“Please tell me.”

“Okay,” Lizzie sighed. “I’ve been having some pretty racy dreams.” He arched an eyebrow and he had a hint of a smile. “Sex dreams, in fact.”

“Have you really?”

“Yea. I’m kind of surprised with what my subconscious has been coming up with.”

“Are…are you embarrassed about that?” William asked gently. “I was hoping you’d tell me everything that’s happening to you during this pregnancy.”

“I do want to tell you! I don’t know. I’ve never really had a detailed sex dream before, let alone multiple ones,” Lizzie admitted. “I wasn’t sure how you’d react. Plus, they seem so real.”

“Are they about other people?”

“No!” Lizzie said, laughing a little. “All you.”

“Well…it’s not like you’re controlling your dreams.” William reached over and took her hand. “But maybe you could tell me about them from now on? We could maybe, uh, reenact one or two.”

“If you don’t mind hearing about them.”

“I’d only want to hear the ones about you and me,” William amended. “If your mind happens to go astray.”

Lizzie smiled. “Okay. Some of the dreams have been in different time periods so those would be harder to…recreate.”

William chuckled in surprise. “You’re kidding.” Lizzie shook her head. “Are you willing to tell me any of them?”

“Well…there was one where you were wearing a kilt. It felt current and we were in the bathroom. Things progressed rather quickly once I saw you.” Lizzie pulled on her bottom lip and her eyes glazed over for a moment. She must have been thinking about the details. “I attribute that one to watching Outlander the night before.”

“Interesting,” William said simply.

“And another where we were in Regency times.”

“After we watched that Jane Austen movie Tuesday night?”

“Yea…Everything we watched this week, I swear. There was something about your mouth when you spoke,” Lizzie said cheekily, brushing her fingers along his knee and licking her lips. “You also pulled that off that outfit quite well. Everything in that dream was very scandalous.”

“Maybe you can tell me the details of that one later,” William suggested, leaning in and kissing the corner of her mouth. “Anything that doesn’t involve costumes?”

“A few positions and places,” Lizzie said, explaining them. William was impressed and surprised but in the end, he suggested they try at least one position on their upcoming trip, as long as she was comfortable. She told him a few more dreams and he noticed her starting to squirm a little. He had to admit that what she was telling him was starting to get him a little hot under the collar.

“And what was your last dream about?”

“You were a very talented…circus performer,” Lizzie said.

William’s brows furrowed in confusion. “What? Like with lions and elephants?”

“Like with ropes and aerial tricks.”

“What exactly had you so…riled up?”

“Well, you gave me a private show. The lighting was only on you and you only wore these well-fitted black pants, which made you look incredible. You were pulling yourself up with one arm, spinning around, and totally showing off,” Lizzie explained. Her forehead scrunched up, telling William that she was clearly thinking about how to word what she wanted to say. “After you showed me your best tricks, you…Well, you used the rope on me.”

William’s eyes widened at the admission. Then he briefly remembered the time she used handcuffs on him during their honeymoon and how taking away his ability to touch her drove him up a wall. He immediately understood why she had been so hands-on in the shower.

“And you enjoyed it.”

“My dream self certainly did,” Lizzie nodded slowly. “Then again, my dream self is enjoying a lot lately. I’m beginning to see why certain women love being pregnant so much.”

“And why certain men love their wives when they’re pregnant,” William said. “I’m one of them.”

Just when they’re pregnant, huh? Should I be barefoot and in the kitchen too?”

“Don’t twist my words,” William narrowed his eyes at her. He tugged on her hand and she scooted in closer, draping her legs across his lap. “I love you in every condition, whether you’re pregnant or not. I love you when you’re pregnant –” William rested a hand on her stomach. “—because you’re carrying our child. And I guarantee that I’ll love you even more after you have this baby because you’ll be that much more beautiful to me.”

Lizzie brought a hand to his cheek and kissed him slowly and softly. When she pulled away, she sighed. “I put you on the spot and you still come up with things like that. How lucky am I?”

“As lucky as me,” William chuckled. Lizzie smiled and kissed his cheek before sliding her legs off his lap and standing up. She held out a hand for him.

“Come on.”

“Where are we going?” William asked as he got up.

“I’m craving some fruit,” Lizzie said. “And I want to go to the farmer’s market for it.”

“We have fruit here,” William said, gesturing to the kitchen as he followed her to the bedroom to get ready.

“It’s not as fresh!” Lizzie replied, matter-of-factly. “I’d like get some exercise today and I thought we could walk there.”

“It does look like a nice day for a walk,” William noted, glancing out to the balcony.

“Exactly!” Lizzie said brightly, grabbing her tennis shoes and a pair of socks from the closet. She sat down next to him on the bed and nudged his shoulder. “It’ll be like a fun little date. What do you say? Will you go out with me?”

William smiled at her playfulness. “Gladly.”

 


 

Lizzie’s dreams did not subside at all and it was starting to affect her concentration. She tried her best to focus at work, especially during her meetings and when checking the progress of projects. She was going to be gone for nearly two weeks on her trip and Andrea would be in charge, as per usual. Still, she found herself daydreaming about William and their morning sessions throughout the week. She’d text him about her fantasies when she had some downtime and he’d respond in kind. By the end of the day, he was nearly as eager to see her as she was. It started to feel like the days after they returned from their honeymoon and they couldn’t get enough of each other. 

They would be leaving for their babymoon in Belize on Sunday and not coming back until a couple days before her twenty-week ultrasound. William had originally wanted to spend a full two weeks at their destination, but she convinced him that extending their trip would delay them from finding out the gender of the baby. It worked like a charm since she knew he was just as anxious to find out what they were having as she was.

They packed throughout the week and Lizzie declared that she was all done on Friday night, with the exception of a few last-minute items. Then, on Saturday, William found Lizzie in the bedroom in her bra and a pair of shorts with half the contents of her suitcase laid out on the bed.

“I thought you were done,” William said.

“I thought I was. Then I tried to put on those pants.” Lizzie pointed to the ones folded on the chair. “And I couldn’t button them.”

William walked over and picked up the pants in question. “Aren’t these the ones that were tight to begin with? You only bought them because you like the way your butt looks in them?”

“You do, too! And that’s not the point. I don’t want to be uncomfortable on this vacation,” Lizzie said in a huff.

“Well, most of your clothes are adjustable, loose, and made for tropical weather,” William said.

“I’m eighteen weeks pregnant and have gained six pounds. I could gain more while we’re there or even pop!”

“Pop?”

“I could start showing finally. Gigi said it yesterday while we had lunch. I think she’s just as antsy for me to get a belly as I am. So far only my hips are a little wider,” Lizzie grumbled, looking down. “And I’m always wearing a bra now because my boobs are bigger. I’m getting belly envy when we go to the doctor. These women have these really cute bellies and I just look like I had a big meal.”

William smiled sympathetically and walked over to her side of the bed, kissing her temple before sitting down before her.

“Dr. Gates said women show at different rates. I read that you can take longer to show with your first pregnancy because your stomach muscles are stronger. The baby could be hanging out near your back too. I read that’s another reason you wouldn’t be showing yet,” William said before putting his hands on her hips, grazing his thumbs along her bare skin. “For the record, I like these hips. And you know my thoughts on your breasts.” 

“Will,” Lizzie laughed, swatting his shoulder. “In my head, I pictured I would be big already because Baby would be taking after you.”

“You know, I was an average-sized newborn. I didn’t come out this tall.”

“You’re hilarious.”

“All I’m saying is Baby could still take after me,” William said, sliding his hand to her stomach.  “I am very much looking forward to seeing you grow. I’m sure it will be sooner than you expect. In the meantime, may I help you out with your packing predicament?”

“Nice alliteration,” Lizzie teased. “And yes, I would very much like your help.”

 


 

Sunday, June 10th (18 weeks and 2 days)  

Lizzie and William left for the airport first thing Sunday morning. William made arrangements for a chartered plane because he wanted Lizzie to be comfortable, it would be the quickest route, and all the commercial flights had at least one stop. It would have added hours to their traveling time and neither liked the sound of it. Lizzie fell asleep shortly after they took off while William read, catching himself watching his wife sleep a few times. When she finally woke up, they ate a light lunch and talked for the rest of the flight.

They landed at the International Airport in Belize City just after three pm, losing only an hour to the time difference. A representative from the resort was waiting for them once they got through customs and brought them to a helicopter to transfer them to their final destination. The ride was only thirty minutes long but Lizzie and William were mesmerized by the breath-taking views of the Caribbean Sea below them. The representative pointed out small Cayes they passed over, letting them know they were available to them to explore during their stay. The island began to come into view and Lizzie lit up, thankful to be almost there and so close to relaxation. They landed a few minutes later and their representative led them away from the noise of the helicopter to a line of staff waiting to greet them, introducing them to a woman in uniform while they took their luggage to their place.

“Welcome to Cayo Espanto. My name is Anya. We’ve been expecting you!”

Cayo Espanto was a small private island off the coast of Belize, surrounded by the clear blue waters of the Caribbean Sea. There were only seven villas on the four acres of land and staff outnumbered the guests. When Lizzie and William were looking for a destination similar to their honeymoon, they were thrilled to stumble upon this one. Not only did the privacy lure them in, but the island offered a babymoon package that would cater directly to them. Meals would be tailored to Lizzie’s dietary restrictions and they would have a personal houseman, much like on Fregate. The hardest part of planning the trip had been figuring out which villa to choose from.

“Casa Manana is ready and waiting for you,” Anya said, gesturing for them to follow her. There was a path of raked sand before them with floral designs every ten or so feet. Anya told them a little about the island during their short walk to their place. Their villa came into view through the trees and Lizzie smiled at William. It was the most secluded one on the island, situated on the opposite end of the island from most of the others. ‘Welcome’ was written in the sand at the bottom of their stairs and a staff member in khakis and a blue shirt was waiting for them, holding a tray of drinks in one hand. The staff member handed them each a wet towel before they walked inside to put their luggage down. Every door to the villa was open, providing a view of the water in almost every direction.

“Will!” Lizzie whispered excitedly. “This place is amazing!”

“It is,” William agreed. The main room of the villa had a large king-size bed with a mosquito net hanging above it and tucked behind the head. There was a small granite end table on each side of the bed and a lamp on each end of the headboard. A bureau that hid a large flat-screen TV was in the right corner of the bedroom, two wicker chairs were placed a couple feet from the end of the bed, and a small coffee table sat between them. Just behind the bedroom was an open room, where two staff members were putting their luggage away. The bedroom led out to the deck, which wrapped around the entire villa. A hammock was hung between two pillars hung off to the left side of the villa and two lounge chairs sat right in front of the small plunge pool. A short set of stairs led straight to the water, which was only a few feet from them. There was a private pier to the left of the pool, which had a small deck with two more lounge chairs and a large umbrella between them for shade.

Before they had the chance to explore any more, the staff member with the tray returned and handed them each an ice-cold drink.

“Non-alcoholic, ma’am,” the staff member assured her.

“Thank you,” Lizzie said, taking a sip of the refreshing beverage. He smiled and tucked the tray beneath his arm before excusing himself. William walked over to and put his arm around her waist, kissing her temple before taking a sip of his own drink. “Does yours have alcohol in it?”

William shook his head. “Lemonade.”

The two staff members emerged from the room behind the bedroom to introduce themselves.

“Good afternoon. My name is Omed and this is Jonathan,” Omed said, gesturing between himself and the man beside him. “We are here for anything you need. We took the liberty of having a few things prepared for you for your arrival.” They followed the two men outside where they noticed two chairs and a table to the right of the pool. There was a tablet as well as a few appetizers on the table for them, still steaming hot. He explained that the tablet was used to make orders for any meals and activities, as well as contacting them. “Don’t hesitate to call us at any time. We hope you enjoy your stay.”

William thanked both men before they left, leaving him and Lizzie alone to enjoy themselves.

“What do you say we eat and then explore?” William suggested.

“I say yes please.”

~~~~~~~~~

When they finished with their drinks and welcome food, they took some time to check out the rest of the place. They found a mini fridge in the small room behind the bedroom, filled with bottles of water, various juices, and some clear sodas. To the right of that room was the bathroom. There was a granite counter with one sink and a toilet on the opposite side. The shower was beyond that, just outside with wooden panels for privacy. Lizzie laughed and said outdoor showers were starting to become a thing with them.

The reviews they read had been right: they were on the most secluded part of the island. All of the other villas were behind them and there was nobody on either side of them when they hung out on the dock for a bit. As the sun began to set, they understood exactly why it was one of the most popular villas. They would easily be able to watch the sunset from bed, which they easily found out as Lizzie tested out the bed in her modified signature way. William refused to let her jump on the bed, for fear she would fall. Instead, she sat on her knees and bounced a few times before declaring it comfortable.

They stayed in the rest of the evening. They had a late dinner out on their deck and closed up all the doors in the villa before enjoying a shower together. Then, they fell into bed to test out the bed in an entirely different way. They didn’t call it a night until a couple hours later when they had worn each other out, and they had no trouble falling asleep.

 


 

Wednesday, June 13th (18 weeks and 5 days) 

Lizzie felt more relaxed than she had in months. Ever since her company had signed on to partner with Scholastic, she felt like her workload had doubled. She loved what she did and she knew she was lucky to be working with such an established company, but she was sorely in need of a break. William had been pulling late nights as well so she was happy to have ten uninterrupted days of just the two of them.

They spent Monday and Tuesday being as lazy as possible, which was far too easy to do on the island. Their meals were brought to them at a moment’s notice with stellar service. They caught up on some much needed rest, intermittently napping over the first two days.  

Lizzie was using today to catch up on reading. Lathered in sunscreen, dressed in shorts and a bikini top and armed with her tablet, she staked her claim in the hammock. William took the opportunity to spend some time in their personal plunge pool, swimming very short laps and working on his breath control. She didn’t even notice he had stopped until he was standing above her.

“What are you reading?”

Lizzie adjusted her straw hat and glanced up, smiling at him. He was rubbing a towel over his head and drying off drops of water from the pool.

“I’m reading about the baby’s development. I haven’t checked the app in almost three weeks. I’m terribly behind.”

William grimaced. “I haven’t read the eighteen week one yet.”

“Join me!” Lizzie said. He started to grab a nearby chair and she stopped him. “No, Will. This hammock is big enough for two.”

“I’m all wet,” William stated the obvious.

“Since when have I cared before?” Lizzie sat up, putting one foot on the deck for stability. It took them a few moments to get re-situated but they were comfortable in the hammock together, with Lizzie using William’s arm as support behind her neck.

“What is Baby up to today?”

“Baby is almost the size of a tomato now,” Lizzie answered, reading from the tablet. “And apparently can yawn!”

“Have you felt Baby move yet?”

“No. According to this, I should be able to soon though.”

“You know, I’m really looking forward to finding out what we’re having so we’ll no longer have to refer to Baby as Baby,” William said as he began to stroke her hair.

“Early in this pregnancy, I didn’t want to know.” Lizzie glanced to him. “I thought we could wait until the baby comes. Make it a surprise for all of us.”

“But?”

“I really want to know,” Lizzie admitted, resting a hand on her stomach. “We’re in the dark until we go back home. We haven’t even discussed baby names yet!”

“Do you have any in mind?”

“A handful. What about you?”

“Well, there’s been the tradition of naming the boys after the father,” William said and she squirmed a bit. “But I have a feeling you’re not quite sold on that.”

“I’m not one to mess with tradition but I do have my reservations about it. William Darcy has so much history attached to the name. If we’re having a boy, I want him to have his own unique identity. Naming him William puts that history on his shoulders as soon as he’s born. He might feel that pressure that he doesn’t have a choice but to follow in his father’s footsteps. There’s the assumption that he’d take over Pemberley without really giving him a chance to figure out what he wants to do for himself,” Lizzie paused for a few moments. “Do you remember when Gigi was terrified to tell you she wasn’t going to grad school?”

“I do.”

“And you said she could achieve whatever she wanted because she’s a Darcy?”

William nodded.

“Darcy is what’s most important in this scenario. I took your last name for a reason. I respect and admire everything that your parents achieved before you and what you’ve done since. I am proud to be part of the Darcy legacy and even more so to expand upon it,” Lizzie continued. “I’d want our son to have a clean slate. His successes and failures should be his own. Being a Darcy gives him more opportunities but he should still be able to carve out his own path rather than it be laid out for him.”

“Wow.” William rubbed a hand down his face. “I can’t deny that I never felt that pressure myself. I knew I’d run Pemberley one day. My father did it and my grandfather before him. I do realize it was a little to do with sharing a name. I see your point, Lizzie. You really feel strongly about this.”

“I’m willing to compromise though. I’d love to use William as a middle name.”

“I think I can agree to that.”

“And if we’re having a girl, I really want to use Anne for the middle name,” Lizzie said. William’s expression softened and he brought a hand up to rest on her cheek, kissing her tenderly before pressing his forehead to hers.

“I’d like that very much,” William murmured.

“I hoped you would,” Lizzie said with a sigh. “So now, we just need to figure out names that will go well with William and Anne.”

“I hadn’t considered boys’ names before this.”

“Well, maybe I can help. I like classic, but overly used names like Katie, Sarah, or Megan are out. I don’t want something that sounds made up or gives other kids the opportunity to tease our kid,” Lizzie said.

“Like?”

“Like if we converged our first names to be entirely unique. Say…” Lizzie paused, scrunching her nose up in thought. “Willizie or Eliziam.”

William broke into laughter. “That’s cruel and unusual punishment.”

“They’re terrible examples but I’m just trying to get my point across.”

“You mean you don’t like the name Liliam?” William asked, waggling his eyebrows playfully.

“For a boy or a girl?”

“Either.”

Lizzie snorted. “Can you imagine? Liliam William Darcy?”

“It’s wrong on too many levels.” William shook his head before looking at her. “What about Lily?”

“I like that actually. It goes well with Anne. Lily Anne.”

“It does. What are some of your literary inspired names?”

“Girls’ names first? There’s Olivia, from Shakespeare. Elinor from Jane Austen, but I don’t like the spelling. I don’t quite like the spelling from Lord of the Rings either,” Lizzie started. “Madeline from Madeline, Penelope from The Odyssey, Matilda from the children’s series…”

“What about Emma and Alice?” William suggested. “Or Claire?”

“As much as I like Emma, it’s too popular now.”

“True. I really like some of the ones you mentioned. They’re very elegant sounding.”

“Aren’t they? Alice and Claire are nice suggestions too. We need to start a list.”

“Did you talk about literary names with Jane when she was pregnant?” William asked.

“We did. Scarlett is from Gone with the Wind, obviously,” Lizzie replied. “It was a contender of mine a long time ago but it works so much better with Lee than it would Darcy.”

William took the tablet from her and opened up a new document, adding the names they liked the most of the ones they had just mentioned. They mentioned some more off the top of their head. Lizzie vetoed some of William’s choices, including Edith and Hazel, and he vetoed a few of hers. They had a list of ten girls’ names by the end of it.

“This is a good list. We haven’t even turned to the internet yet,” Lizzie noted.

“We’ll get there,” William said. “Now for boys.”

“Westley!” Lizzie blurted out.

“Veto. As much as we love the movie, we’re not using any names from it.”

“I wouldn’t do that to our son!” Lizzie laughed. “Westley William? No name alliterations. That goes for the girl’s names too. It’s why I didn’t suggest Abigail even though I like it.”

“What about Matthew?”

“I like it. Add it,” Lizzie said before tapping on his arm. “Also Jack and Henry.”

“Good ones. Jack Darcy. Henry Darcy,” William tested them out. “Zachary?”

“Too Saved by the Bell for me.”

“Alright then…” William was caught off guard for a moment. “Daniel? Oh wait. That doesn’t work. We don’t want alliterations with the last name either. Nathaniel?”

They agreed on seven names for boys before they decided they were done discussing names for the time being. If one of them had thought of another name in the future, they made a ‘to-be discussed’ column and added the list to their phones.

Lizzie was really happy to have this time just with William. They hadn’t had a moment in their busy schedules to relax and talk about something as simple as baby names. It felt like one step closer to parenthood. She was beginning to realize just how much they needed some time alone with each other before the baby came. There was still so much to do but this getaway was giving them the time they needed to prepare for their growing family.

~~~~~~~~~

Somehow, the hammock became their place for talking about baby business. After a romantic sunset dinner on Wednesday set up on the end of their dock, they migrated back to the hammock. They discussed ideas for how to decorate the nursery. They would need to get rid of the rest of the furniture in the guest bedroom but they had already made a dent by selling the bed a couple weeks prior. Eventually, they agreed to keep things gender neutral and contemporary.

William brought up the subject of researching schools and Lizzie scoffed at the idea.

“I think we have some time, Will,” Lizzie said. “Our kid wouldn’t be going for some time.”

“There are waiting lists for preschools,” William replied. “Some as long as three or four years.”

“You’re kidding.”

“I’m not. Bing warned me about it. Scarlett and Charlie have been on a waiting list since they were born. San Francisco has some very good preschools and our child should be in the best. We should really look into them.”

“Put it on the list of things to do when we get back."

“And while we’re on the subject, we should start researching the private schools too.”

“Wait a minute. What happened to the option of public school?”

William blinked. “I assumed our child would be going to private school.”

“Just because you went? I went to public school and I turned out quite well, thank you very much,” Lizzie said defensively.

“I’m not dismissing your education, Lizzie,” William said. “We have the money and the opportunity to give our child the best choice in schooling.”

“Give me a reason why we should choose a private school over a public one.”

“I can give you several. The schools and classroom sizes are smaller. There’s less of a chance that a student can slip through the cracks and be ignored. There’s a sense of community amongst peers, as I felt when I went to private school. Students aren’t inundated with state testing so there is less focus on paperwork and test scores. Teachers can be more creative in teaching their students.”

“We did have a lot of tests in school,” Lizzie frowned.

“Funding is especially important for private schools. Public schools cut their budget and the arts programs are usually the first ones to go. How terrible would it be for our child to not be exposed to the arts like us?” William asked, looking at her. “There is more available to a student in the private school system and parents are more involved. I want to be involved in our child’s education. They don’t have to go to the same school that I did. It was certainly a good school but there may be better now.”

“We’re arguing a lot today about what we want. Me with the baby names and now you with schooling.”

William chuckled. “I think of it more as a passionate debate. Isn’t that what we do best?”

“I suppose so,” Lizzie relaxed against him. “Did you like your uniform?”

William nodded. “I didn’t mind it. I essentially wear the same thing to work.”

“Your suits are not the same as a shirt and tie,” Lizzie said with a twinkle in her eye.

“If only my seventeen-year old self knew the perks of a suit,” William smirked. Lizzie laughed before putting a hand to her stomach. “You okay?”

“Yea. Dinner is still digesting apparently,” Lizzie said, waving it off. “I’ve seen the pictures of you at seventeen and you looked nice in a suit but really, it’s nothing compared to now.”

“I’m well aware of your affinity for my wardrobe,” William murmured, leaning in closer. Lizzie rested a hand on the back of his neck as he kissed her. His mouth moved languidly across hers, gently nipping on her bottom lip. He swept his tongue across hers and she whimpered as he kept going. He shifted above her slightly and the hammock became unsteady, catching them off guard and breaking out into laughter.

“This isn’t going to work,” Lizzie concluded. William glanced towards the bedroom and her eyes followed. Their gazes met again and she pulled on her bottom lip. She saw a flash of desire in his eyes and she was ready to go just with that look. “That is definitely going to work.”

“Follow me, Mrs. Darcy.”

 


 

Thursday, June 14th (18 weeks and 6 days) 

William was wide awake.

Lizzie was next to him, moaning in her sleep. No matter how many times he woke up before her, he wasn’t quite used to her recent vivid dreaming. His body always reacted to those soft sounds of hers but her squirming next to and against him really took a toll on him. He tried not to wake her when this happened, even though it was nearly every morning. It was better that she wake herself up. Sometimes, she’d wake up and her cheeks would get red, embarrassed about the details. It took her a few moments to warm up and then she’d either tell him or, on more than one occasion, show him. He was happy with both.

She moaned his name and he rubbed his eyes with the palm of his hands as his tolerance wore thin. She was making him harder every moment she was asleep. She began to squirm more and her breathing was a little more erratic. A low noise escaped from her throat and her eyes fluttered open and slowly but surely focused on him.

“Morning.” William turned onto his side to face her.

“Hi.” Lizzie’s cheeks brightened and she licked her lips. “I had a very good dream.”

“You don’t say,” William replied cheekily.

“Oh, I’ll keep the details to myself then,” she said, meeting his tease.

“How about just the highlights?” William reached out and began to caress her bare arm.

Lizzie looked him over for a few moments before talking. “Let’s just say I had the rope dream again but this time, you were in my favorite suit of yours.”

“So dream me is just as talented fully dressed with these ropes as he is barely dressed?” William asked, playing along. She scooted in closer to him and he caught a flash of her smug look when her leg brushed up against his bulge. She loved knowing that she could affect him so easily, even when she was asleep.

“Maybe more so. Especially when ties are involved,” Lizzie said sultrily.

William leaned in close, leaving only a few inches between them.

“Would you like to try something?”

“As long as it involves you and your naked body.”

William quirked an eyebrow at her blunt response but it didn’t deter him. “I hope your patience is strong this morning.”

He rolled away from her and swung his legs to the floor before moving the sheets off him. He only wore a pair of gray boxer briefs and it did nothing to hide his need for her. Lizzie’s eyes were glued to his as he started to walk around the bed to the small room holding their luggage. It took him a moment to remember where he packed them but he found what he was looking for in a side pocket.

As he returned to the room, something soft landed on his head. He stopped and pulled it off, realizing it was the shirt Lizzie was wearing. She wasn’t wearing it anymore. She was resting against the headboard with the sheet wrapped around her, twirling her underwear around her finger, and looking entirely too pleased with herself.

William grinned. He stopped at the edge of the bed and she flung the underwear at him, hitting him square in the chest. He didn’t even flinch.

“What’s in your hands?” Lizzie asked.

William unrolled two silk ties and held them up for her. Her eyes lit up at the realization of what was about to happen.

“There are stipulations to this, as there were when you used those handcuffs on me,” William started and Lizzie nodded eagerly, all ready to go. “I don’t intend to gag you, blindfold you, or even deprive you of pleasure. If you want to be untied at any time, you tell me right away. I brought the two softest ties I own for your comfort. This is your fantasy so you tell me what you want, but I will stop if I think you’re not enjoying yourself.”

“I love it when you talk dirty,” Lizzie teased. Her smile faltered when she saw the serious expression on his face. “We’ve done things like this before. Why the concern?”

“Never while you were pregnant. I’m just trying to be careful.”

“Okay, I get it. I love that you are,” Lizzie said sweetly. She stretched her arms out for him and waited. “Now, get over here already before I lose my patience.”

William chuckled as he began to crawl on his knees across the bed towards her. “Try sleeping next to someone writhing next to you and moaning your name and then talk to me about patience.”

“Writhing?” Lizzie repeated as he paused in front of her. He reached out for her arm and brought it closer to him, kissing her wrist before he secured one end of the tie around it.

“You were squirming, at the very least.” William took her other arm, pressed his lips to her wrist, and tied the other tie to it.

“I blame my hormones,” Lizzie said. William leaned in and softly kissed her.

“Fair enough.”

Lizzie waved her wrists around a little bit, looking at him. “This is ineffective when I can move around.”

“Tell me what to do next, love,” William replied, taking hold of her wrists. “What did our dream selves do?”

“We were far more comfortable with ropes than I care to admit.”

“Tell me what you want.”

Lizzie’s swallowed visibly, remembering those were the exact words he said in her dream. It turned her on even more and he focused on him as he offered a comforting smile, brushing his thumbs across her skin.

“Tie me to the bedposts and…have your way with me.”

“Anything you want,” William murmured. Lizzie propped up some pillows behind her, the sheet wrapped around her body falling a bit as she slid down against them. He took one arm and grabbed the end of the tie, tying her to one bedpost and making sure it was secure. He repeated his actions with her other arm and then scooted back as Lizzie gently tugged on each tie. Neither budged and she seemed satisfied. “Happy?”

“I’ll be happier when you actually start doing something,” Lizzie said petulantly. William chuckled and dragged down the sheet wrapped around her until she was completely exposed. He bent down and kissed her, running his hand down her body from her neck to her breast. His fingers brushed across her skin and she whimpered as he massaged her. Just as her lips parted to deepen the kiss, he began pulling away a little to tease her. “You said you wouldn’t deny me pleasure.”

“Just making sure you’re paying attention,” William breathed before capturing her lips again. This time he held nothing back and his hands wandered over her body. She squirmed beneath him, bending her knees and hooking her legs around him. She was trying to bring him in closer to relieve the ache between her thighs the only way she could. He smiled against her lips and kissed her more passionately, moving down a little and pressing his arousal against her. She broke off the kiss and gasped and he began to leave a trail of kisses along her jaw and down her neck. He nipped at her neck and then dragged the tip of his tongue across her collar bone and back again.

William kissed his way down to the valley of her breasts and his breath skated across her skin. Lizzie’s body jerked as he lazily circled his tongue around one nipple, taking his time. She moaned once he began flicking her with the tip of his tongue. He slid one hand down her body to between her thighs and kept his eyes on her, watching her reaction. She wrapped her fingers around each tie, desperate to hold onto something as he brought her pleasure. She moved her hips to the rhythm of his fingers and she was biting on her bottom lip as if she was concentrated on his touch.

“More,” she whispered.

William placed a kiss on each breast and then slowly made his way south. He paused at her torso and looked up to her, flashing her a smile as she finally focused on his face. He pressed his lips to her stomach, like he had been doing for the past few months, and kept on his path. When he pulled his hand away, Lizzie groaned in frustration.

He chuckled while he settled between her legs, running his fingertips along the outside of her thighs “Don’t worry. I said I wouldn’t tease.”

Before she could respond, he buried his face between her legs. The bed vibrated as she yanked at the ties, caught off guard by his quick actions. He held onto her hips to keep her steady and she hooked her legs over his shoulders. He stroked back and forth along her slick entrance with his tongue, occasionally switching to focus on her clit. He missed the feeling of her fingers in his hair but the sight of her pulling on her restraints and the noises she was making made him almost uncomfortably hard. She gasped as he brought her in even closer, dipping his tongue inside her. His teeth grazed along her clit and she dug her heels into his back, lifting her hips slightly off the bed. He heard her whispering ‘yes’ over and over again and felt her climaxing moments later. Her back arched, she cried out his name, and he could feel her pulsing around his tongue.

William watched her as pleasure coursed through her body and he slowly pulled away, sliding her legs off his shoulders. He sat up and quickly removed his only layer of clothing that separated them. Then he repositioned himself, sat on his knees, and rested her legs on his upper thighs.

“On or off?”

“What?” Lizzie was still coming down from her high and wasn’t completely focused yet.

“On or off?” William nodded to her restraints, scooting forward until he was right against her entrance. He could feel a few twitches from her and he was throbbing to get inside her. He swore he saw a little grin from her as he did it and his lust began to overtake him. He asked one more time as he pushed a fraction inside her and her body jerked. “On or off, love?”

“On,” Lizzie gasped. A growl rumbled from his chest and he pushed into her the rest of the way. He had control over both of them and it made him feel alive. Lizzie had been the one holding the reins these past few weeks, though he happily and willingly went along with whatever she wanted. Now, he was the one in charge. Watching her as she succumbed to his rhythm, rocking her hips in time with his own, got his blood pumping and power surged throughout him. He drove into her with all the passion he had and Lizzie moaned, gripping her restraints once more. There was a part of him that ached to hear her beg because it was music to his ears, despite his promise to not tease her. Instead, he slowed his strokes down considerably and used all the restraint he had to keep the torturously unhurried rhythm going.

“Will, don’t you dare,” Lizzie pleaded.

“Dare do what?” William slid his hand between his thighs and began to make tantalizingly slow circles around her most sensitive spot. She whimpered and bucked her hips, squeezing her legs around him to get him to speed up.

“Please.”

William bent down and hovered millimeters from her lips. “Please what?”

Lizzie lifted her head and grabbed his bottom lip with her teeth, pulling until he groaned. “I…just…Please.”

“As you wish,” William said huskily before kissing her roughly. She glared as he broke the kiss and sat back up before slipping out of her. He lifted her slightly off the bed and moved forward so that her butt rested on his upper thighs. Then he slammed back into her and they both moaned.  He held onto her hips as he drove into her, holding back nothing. Their skin glistened with sweat and their breathing was heavy while their bodies moved in sync. He was getting closer to release and it didn’t helped when she kept clenching around him, using the only move she was capable of at the moment. His fingers dug into her skin and he concentrated solely on her. She was so close and his thrusts became more and more deliberate, which was exactly what she needed. Her breath came out in shaky bursts as she orgasmed. William couldn’t hold back any longer and came moments later, groaning as the ecstasy rippled through his body.

His breathing was ragged but he felt more awake than ever. He bent down and placed kisses all over Lizzie’s face, the corners of his mouth twitching up when he heard her soft purrs. Anxious to feel her touch again, he reached out and blindly untied her wrists from their bindings while he kissed her. As soon as she threaded her fingers through his hair, he closed his eyes and hummed contently. After a few moments, he gently pulled out of her and laid down on his stomach next to her, smiling at her when she curled into his body and kissed his shoulder.

“Did that live up to your dreams?” William murmured and Lizzie snickered.

“It was incredible,” Lizzie replied, brushing her fingers along his overheated skin.

“Would you try it again?”

Lizzie shook her head. “I love touching you too much.”

“I missed your touch,” William let out a breath. “I think I could use a shower.”

“Me too.” Lizzie put a hand to her stomach. “I’m hungry, as well. My stomach is rumbling.”

“Well, how about I order some breakfast while you get in the shower? I’ll join you when I’m done,” William suggested.

“Sounds good,” Lizzie said, sitting up and looking back at him. “Be sure to ask to ask for some strawberry jam and toast, okay?”

“Another craving?”

“Baby likes the fruit. What can I say?”

“Then let’s not disappoint Baby, shall we?”

~~~~~~~~~~

The rest of Thursday was even more adventurous for them. They spent time in the clear blue waters surrounding the island, snorkeling with sea turtles and schools of fish. They remembered to bring an underwater camera and took some great pictures of the sea life swimming with them. For dinner, their housemen set up a romantic picnic on a nearby deserted island. Lizzie and William were left alone to enjoy their food and the silence that the island brought. They took advantage of their solitude to explore the tiny island but weren’t daring enough to go further than making out on the beach. They witnessed a truly spectacular sunset, the sky painted with deep shades of reds and pinks, and they used it as the background for some pictures of each other. It wasn’t until long after the sun disappeared over the horizon that their housemen returned to pick them up. It had been a long but memorable day and they couldn’t wait to see what the next day had in store for them.

~~~~~~~~~

Over the next couple days, William and Lizzie indulged. Lizzie had a mother-to-be spa treatment, which included a prenatal massage, facial, and getting her nails done, and William was treated to a deep-tissue massage right by the water. They had custom-made meals all over the island. Breakfast in bed, lunch on a private cruise where they explored the surrounding islands, and a candlelit dinner on their veranda. Whatever they wanted, Omed and Jonathan were more than happy to accommodate them and only appeared when they were called.

It felt like they were the only ones on the island and Lizzie and William readily agreed that taking this vacation was just what they needed.

 


 

Sunday, June 17th (19 weeks and 2 days)  

Before they had even arrived on the island, Lizzie had made arrangements to have every meal for today include William’s favorite foods. After he was so thoughtful on Mother’s Day, she wanted to make sure his Father’s Day would be just as special. She woke up before him and had breakfast set up on the end of their dock, under a large umbrella. Once the housemen left, she stood there for a few minutes, looking out on the horizon and watched the rising sun shimmer along the clear water.

She felt a flutter of excitement from the thought of celebrating future Father’s Days with their son or daughter and she smiled to herself.

Another moment later and she felt something else.

She looked down and brought a hand to her stomach, hoping it wasn’t a fluke. She held her breath and waited, gasping when she felt it again.

The baby was moving! She concentrated as the baby move again and it felt like bubbles rising to the surface and popping. Little twitches that weren’t noticeable on the outside but unmistakenly were on the inside. It brought tears of joy to her eyes and she quietly laughed as the baby moved once more. She could barely describe her emotions. To finally have such a tangible sign that the baby was alive and growing was powerful.

Lizzie hurried down the deck towards the villa, throwing the doors open. William stirred at the commotion.

“Will! Will! Wake up!” Lizzie exclaimed as she climbed onto the bed.

“Wazhappening?” He lifted his head and rubbed his eyes before reaching for his glasses. “Lizzie? Is everything okay?”

“Everything’s amazing,” Lizzie said, wiping away a tear. “I felt the baby move.”

“Wait, what?” William sat up and his gaze moved from her face to her stomach and back again. “Really?”

“Yes!” Lizzie said excitedly, bringing her hand to her stomach as she felt movement again. “Baby is moving right now.”

“That’s incredible.” William rested a hand on hers. They sat still for a little bit and stared at her stomach, as if waiting for something dramatic to happen. William looked back up to her, with a sweet smile, and shook his head. “I can’t feel anything.”

“It’s still early. It’s so subtle right now.”

“I’m patient.”

Lizzie beamed. “Baby has awesome timing.”

“Yea?”

Lizzie nodded and brought her hands up to rest on his cheeks, leaning in and kissing him softly.

“Happy Father’s Day.”

“I’d nearly forgotten. I’d say that first baby movement is about the best gift you could give me.”

“I guess I don’t need to do everything else I planned then,” Lizzie teased and William raised a curious brow.

“You planned things?”

“Yea. Breakfast is waiting for you at the end of our dock.”

William climbed out of bed and offered a hand to Lizzie to help her out as well.

“Let me put on a shirt and I’ll be right there.”

“Or,” Lizzie paused, resting her hands on his chest and looked at him impishly. “Just come with me. I don’t mind the view.”

William laughed as she pulled on his hand. “You’re incorrigible.”

“I’m adorable and you love me.”

“That I do.”

~~~~~~~~~~~

After breakfast, they spent the morning in their personal pool, playing around and having fun with each other. Clouds began to roll in during their intimate lunch and they felt a few drops of water fall on them. Thankfully, the rain storm held off until after their housemen cleared things away and left them alone. William migrated to the hammock, thankfully covered by the overhang, and waited for Lizzie to return from their room. By the time she came back, the sky had opened up and it began to pour.

“So much for a sunny day.” Lizzie said as she emerged. She changed to a thin white thigh-length shirt with a black and blue two piece underneath. William went for more simple and did away with his shirt, leaving him in only a pair of black shorts.

“Tropical storms do happen on occasion,” William replied, looking out at the rain before returning his gaze to her. She had a package in her hand and he gestured to it. “What do you have there?”

“I got you something,” Lizzie said. “But you gotta make room for me.”

William and Lizzie had become experts on how to move in the hammock over the past week and positioned themselves to face each other. Lizzie promptly handed over the package once they were settled and he realized there was a card attached to it.

“Today is your day to do nothing,” William said, reading the card out loud and then opening it. “Except me. Happy Father’s Day.” Lizzie tried to pull off her most innocent look and he snorted. She had written a little more underneath, telling him she couldn’t wait to see him as a father to their baby and how much she loved him. He looked up and reached out to squeeze her leg. “Thank you. I love you, too. And I’ll make sure to follow this card’s instruction today.”

“I would hope so.”

William inspected the wrapped package for a moment before she nudged his side, impatient for him to open it. He tore off the wrapping off the box and dropped it to the ground before pulling the top off it. Inside was a leather bound book, similar to the calendar she gave him years ago, and a pen attached to the side. The front was embossed with ‘My first calendar’ in gold writing.

“Lizzie, this is beautiful,” William said softly, taking the book out of the box and putting the box on the ground. He opened it up to inspect it.

“It’s similar to your personal calendar. The first date in there is the day I found out about Baby,” Lizzie said, brushing her hand across her stomach. “And it ends at December 2019 to signify the end of our first year with Baby. You can order the pages from the same company that you do now and I’ve added some of my own things to it. I thought you’d like to keep track of the big moments.”

“I want to keep track of all the moments.” William flipped through the pages. Each page held only a few dates, leaving plenty of space for William to write without as much limitation. He looked at the first page and read Lizzie’s entry. His heart expanded from her beautiful words when she found out they were going to have a baby. He noticed a few wordy entries and couldn’t wait to read them on his own. Then he flipped to the current date and uncapped the pen before he started to write.

“What are you adding?” Lizzie asked.

“Hold on,” William said as he was finishing. He capped the pen and attached it back to the journal before handing it to her.

-Informally celebrating Father’s Day for the first time. Ecstatic over the realization that next year’s celebration will be including our little boy or girl.

-Happily recording first baby movements today. So far, only felt by Lizzie but knowing the baby is moving is more than enough for me right now.

Lizzie lowered the book to her lap and looked at him fondly, moving her hand to one section of her stomach. “Baby’s moving again. Now that I know what it feels like, I can’t believe I didn’t notice earlier.”

“Maybe you did and you mistook it for something else?”

“That’s probably it. Either way, it’s amazing.”

“I’m looking forward to feeling the baby move eventually,” William said, pausing when thunder rumbled in the distance. “You know what I realized? We’ll be finding out if we’re having a boy or a girl at the end of this week.”

“That’s right!” Lizzie’s smiled widened and she was radiant at the thought.

“And then we can finally put an end to those office bets.”

“I don’t mind it so much. Everybody knows our story from my videos. They’re just…enthusiastic about this news,” Lizzie explained. “Besides, I know there’s another one in my office about when I’ll actually have the baby.”

“I wouldn’t put it past our friends to have that same bet going.”

“Neither would I.”

Lightning flashed nearby and a loud clap of thunder sounded from above. Lizzie was more startled than William and he caressed her leg to calm her.

“I think it’s time we go inside, at least until the storm subsides,” William suggested as it began to rain even harder.

“Yea, it’s getting a little crazy,” Lizzie said nervously as they carefully got out of the hammock. William put an arm around her waist and kissed her temple as he led them inside. She put his calendar down on the table before closing the side doors.

“Indoors is safer,” William said as he closed the last door. He held up his card as she walked back over to him. “Besides, I need to work on my to-do list.”

Lizzie snickered while she grabbed the strings on his shorts and began to play with them. She pulled him in closer and she arched her neck up to look up at him.

“I can help you with that.”

William tossed the card onto the table and then leaned in and kissed her cheek while he slid his arms down her back. He cupped the back of her thighs and picked her up, his eyes gleaming with mischief.

“I was hoping you would.”

 


 

Lizzie and William made the most of their vacation as it neared its end. On Monday, they took a day trip to the mainland of Belize and had a private tour of the Mayan Ruins. They spent the day at their own pace, seeing the ruins of Caracol, Lamanai, and others. Part of the trip included lunch on a small cruise ship as they were taken down the river. They didn’t return to Cayo Espanto until the sun was going down and they were both exhausted. Lizzie spent most of the evening trying not to fall asleep so early since it was their second to last night but she lost the fight just after eight pm while she was laying on a deck chair by the pool. William ended up carrying her to bed and joined her a couple hours later. 

Tuesday was their last full day of their trip. Lizzie and William spent most of the morning reading to each other as they leisurely rocked together in the hammock. After a wonderful lunch, they migrated inside to start packing before they left the next day. William kept unintentionally distracting Lizzie and they briefly abandoned their efforts to satisfy her carnal cravings. Later, Lizzie went swimming in their personal plunge pool and enjoyed the cool breeze. The sun began to set and sky was beginning to change colors when William came outside.

“Mind if I join you?”

Lizzie looked back over her shoulder and saw that William was dressed in her favorite pair of swim shorts that he owned, the blue ones that sat low on his hips to show off his V muscles and stopped a few inches above the knee to give her a peek of his muscular thighs. She flashed him an impish grin.

“I was hoping you would.”

William came over and lowered himself into the water, wading over to her as she rested her arms on the ledge. He framed her body and kissed her shoulder.

“Beautiful sunset,” William remarked.

“Mmhmm. They’ve all been stunning,” Lizzie murmured. “It’s a little sad it’s our last one here. The time has flown by.”

“It has.”

“I’m going to miss this place.”

William rested his chin on her shoulder. “You weren’t disappointed with some of your restrictions, were you? You still enjoyed yourself?”

Lizzie leaned back into him a little and sighed.

“I’ve loved every moment.”

“I’m glad.”

“We’ll have to come back here someday,” Lizzie said once the sun hit the horizon.

“We should,” William added. “Though if we came back to every place we’ve said that for, we’d be in an eternal loop.”

“They’re all so nice though!” Lizzie laughed.

“I know,” William said warmly. “I still have so many places in the world I want you to see.”

Lizzie turned in his arms and slid her arms around his neck, leaning in and kissing him softly.

“I look forward to those trips,” Lizzie replied. “I’m really looking forward to our first real family vacation even though I know it’s going to be a long time from now.”

“The possibilities are endless.”

“And that’s one of the best parts about being with you.”

“Having no limitations?”

Lizzie nodded. “It makes my world so much bigger because you’re in it. And better.”

“You make my world better, Lizzie.” William brought a hand into the water and placed it on her stomach. “And we’ll both do that for this baby. This baby is going to be loved to the fullest.”

A big smile spread across Lizzie’s face. “Indeed, they will.”

~~~~~~~~~

William had a romantic candlelit dinner set up on the end of their dock for their last main meal. He even had music playing in the background as they ate. It was easily the best meal they had during the entire stay and Lizzie was practically ready to lick her plate by the end of it.

Afterwards, they slow-danced and William rested his cheek on the top of her head. It was a perfect way to end their trip and it became a memory they loved to reminisce about in the years ahead.

 


 

Wednesday, June 20th (19 weeks and 5 days)  

Lizzie and William woke up early for their long day of travel. They had a small breakfast before they said goodbye to their housemen, leaving them both a generous tip for all their hard work. Their helicopter arrived shortly after and the island staff was there once again to wish them a farewell. William set it up so that the helicopter would fly them over reef barriers as well as the infamous Blue Hole, the largest sinkhole in the world. It was the longest transfer back to the airport, but worth it for the pictures alone.

A private jet was waiting for them when they landed at the international airport and they were able to take off within the hour. Lizzie and William settled in for the six-hour flight, watching a couple movies together to pass the time. They landed in San Francisco in mid-afternoon, gaining back the hour they lost while in Belize. Lizzie was tired when they finally got home and she rested her head on William’s shoulder in the elevator ride.

“I think it’s nap time for you,” William teased, watching the numbers above the door climb.

“You sounded just like a parent,” Lizzie chuckled. “All you’re missing from that sentence is ‘little missy’.”

“I’m practicing.”

Lizzie lifted her head and smiled at him. “You’re doing pretty well already.”

The elevator dinged and they dragged themselves to their apartment. William dug around for his keys and unlocked the door, holding it open for Lizzie. She rolled her suitcase to the end of the hallway and went straight for the fridge to get some water. William came in and grabbed Lizzie’s suitcase, taking their things to the bedroom. As soon as he disappeared, Lizzie double-checked Gigi’s last message on her phone telling her everything was ready for her in the guest bedroom. She hurried down the hall and glanced inside, smiling at what she saw.

“Hey, Will?” Lizzie called as she walked down the hall. William appeared in the doorway a moment later and raised both brows.

“Yes, love?”

“Can you come with me?” Lizzie gestured over her shoulder to the guest bedroom.

“Sure,” William said, following her towards the guest bedroom. She stepped in first and waited for him. “Five minutes home and you want to go over more…What’s this?”

Set in the middle of the room was a wooden rocking chair painted white. It had gray cushioning with a white flourishing pattern all over it and big red bow placed on the seat.

“It’s for you.”

“Thank you? What happened to not buying anything yet?”

“Actually, I didn’t buy it,” Lizzie said and he looked at her in confusion. “Let me explain. Remember when Aunt Catherine emailed me shortly after you told her we’re having a baby?”

“And you wouldn’t let me read it all?” William frowned.

“Mainly because I didn’t want to give away hints to this. She told me about when your parents announced they were having you and about this gift she gave them when you were born,” Lizzie paused before gesturing to the chair. “A rocking chair.”

“I vaguely remember a rocking chair like this when Gigi was little but it had different fabric. It was darker, with a red and purple pattern.” William tried to recall from his memory.

“This is that chair,” Lizzie said, looking at him. “It was in storage and I asked Gigi to help me out. The fabric wasn’t in great shape. It was worn in some places and ripped in others. We went to a few different furniture places, but the fabric had long been discontinued. So we picked a newer, more neutral fabric, had it reupholstered and repainted, and Gigi brought it here while we were gone.”

William looked stunned as he stepped towards the chair, running his hand across the frame and the fabric. “You did all this for me?”

“I wanted to give you some kind of connection back to your parents. They used to rock you and Gigi to sleep in this chair and now you’ll get to rock our own child to sleep in it,” Lizzie said tenderly.

“Thank you, Lizzie.” William’s voice broke. His eyes were glassy as he walked over to her, framed her face with his hands, and kissed her. Lizzie grabbed fistfuls of his shirt and clenched her eyes shut as she felt all his love flowing through the kiss. After a few moments, he pulled away a little and rested his forehead against hers.

“You’re welcome,” Lizzie whispered. “Want to try it?”

“Of course.” William said. He took the bow off and tossed it to the side before taking a seat and sitting back in it. He closed his eyes and rocked back and forth, testing out the chair. Lizzie watched him and felt proud of how at ease he looked. After a little bit, he opened his eyes and patted his knee. She smiled and sat on his lap. She pulled her legs up, resting her head on his shoulder, and he hooked an arm around her legs.

“You like it?” She asked as he gently rocked them in the chair.

“No I love it,” William replied. “And I love you for thinking of this.”

“I love you too.”

“This chair is going to get a lot of use,” William said. “Along with that glider you want to get.”

“It’s comfortable! It’s a must buy,” Lizzie said matter-of-factly.

“Don’t worry. We have plenty of room for both.”

“I know,” Lizzie said. “And just think, a little over twenty weeks and we’ll be doing just that.”

William sighed and kissed the top of her head.

“I can’t wait.”

Chapter Text

Friday, June 22nd (20 weeks)

William returned to his regular work schedule the day after they came home from Belize. He had meetings lined up for most of Thursday, which had been delayed because of his vacation, and had no trouble getting back into the groove of things. Lizzie was surprisingly dealing with the effects of jetlag, despite the one-hour difference. William told her to take it easy when he saw how groggy she was, so she worked from home where she was still able to get a lot done. He checked in with her a few times throughout the day and brought dinner home, satisfying her craving for Greek food. After some downtime on the couch with William, she knew she’d be ready to return to the office the next day.

Lizzie woke up before the alarm on Friday morning. She simply couldn’t sleep anymore. She was excited about her ultrasound at the end of the day and finding out the sex of their baby. When she and William went to bed, they spent a little time discussing more baby names. Only two names had been added to their actual list but it was fun looking up names with each other.

“Good morning.”

Lizzie turned her head to see that William was also awake.

“Morning. How long have you been awake?” Lizzie asked.

“Not long. Just a few minutes.” William turned on his side to face her.

“Any particular reason why you’re awake before you need to be?” Lizzie asked playfully, despite knowing full well why he was. She saw a sparkle in his eyes as he took a moment to think of his answer.

“I have this feeling today is going to be a good day,” William said, scooting forward and sliding his hand over to her stomach. His eyebrows shot up in surprise and Lizzie’s eyes widened, understanding his reaction. She pulled the covers back to see that her stomach was no longer flat. She was finally showing a bit. She actually had a little belly and was beginning to look pregnant for the first time. “Look at you. It’s about time!”

“I didn’t think my body would take ‘growing overnight’ so literally,” Lizzie laughed as he rubbed his hand over her small protruding belly. “I hit twenty weeks and I get a twelve-week belly.”

“Have you been on the forums and comparing pictures again?”       

“For a bit, yesterday. I was curious and I had a little downtime,” Lizzie said with a shrug, watching him as he shifted further down on the bed. “This feels like another stepping stone for us. Finding out I’m pregnant to the ultrasound to hearing the heartbeat to telling everyone. I finally felt movement this week and now we have more physical evidence I’m pregnant. And we find out if we’re having a boy or girl today. I love each day more and more.”

“Physical evidence,” William echoed with a half-smile. “That sounds like something old me would say. And I love each day more and more, too.”

He pushed her shirt up and bent his head down closer to her. She watched him for a few moments as he pressed light kisses to all over her skin before she ruffled his hair. “You like my little belly?”

William’s half-smile turned into a full blown one, spreading his fingers across her skin. “I love it. Our baby is growing right here. I’ve been looking forward to this part for weeks.”

“You and me both.”

“You know, the app said that Baby should be able to hear noises outside the womb around now. Your voice would be the most recognizable but I’m hoping if I talk to your belly enough, I might be recognized as well.”

“I would love that,” Lizzie murmured, running her fingers through his hair.

“From now on, I’m carving out time every day just for this,” William said proudly, kissing her stomach again.

Lizzie smiled. “I think that will be our favorite time of day then.”

William’s face brightened. “I love when you refer to yourself in the plural sense.”

“I’m growing a tiny human right here so I count as two people right now.”

The alarms on their phones started beeping almost simultaneously, breaking their moment.

Lizzie sighed, grabbing her phone from the nightstand and swiping the alarm away. “It’s time to get up.”

“It would appear that way,” William said, sitting up and grabbing his own phone to do the same. Lizzie swung her feet off the bed and stood up. “We have to get ready for work.”

“We could save time by showering together,” Lizzie suggested as she rounded the corner to his side of the bed.

“That is almost never true,” William teased back as she stopped in front of him and held out her hand.

“Excuse me, but are you turning down an offer from your pregnant and hormonal wife?” Lizzie scoffed.

William chuckled, grabbed her hand and stood up, pressing a kiss to her forehead. “I would never.”

~~~~~~~~~

Lizzie’s work day was relatively non-eventful, despite her return to the office. She had lunch with Andrea and Katie because she could tell they were chomping at the bit to ask her about her trip as soon as she walked in. She ended up not eating much of her lunch because they had asked her so many questions. Her afternoon was full of meetings and ended with a conference call that felt like it would never end. It didn’t help that she kept glancing at the clock every five minutes until the call was over.

Twenty minutes later, Lizzie packed up, locked up her office, and left to meet William at the doctors. He beat her there by a few minutes, looking just as anxious as she felt as he sat on the bench outside, waiting for her. They kissed each other hello and went inside to check in. He stayed in the waiting room while they took her vitals and then the nurse called him back to join her in the room she set them up in, telling them the wait should only be a few minutes more.

“How was work?” William asked, sitting down on the chair next to the examining table.

“It was good, but it dragged. I think it was a mix of returning from vacation and wanting to get here,” Lizzie said.

“Mine dragged as well,” William replied. “I had a meeting with Edgar.”

Lizzie grimaced. “The one who likes to talk your ear off about the most inane things?”

“That’s the one. I would have been late if it weren’t for Fitz.”

“Thank goodness for Fitz then.”

“Exactly,” William said before his phone pinged. He pulled it out of his pocket and he snorted. “Fitz just texted ‘hlp’.” William showed Lizzie his screen.

“I bet he’s texting under the desk without looking,” Lizzie said. “Text Gigi to save him in a few minutes. He deserves that much.”

“I’m doing that…now,” William mumbled as he finished typing. His phone pinged within moments and he rolled his eyes. “She’ll save him but she wants to know the baby’s gender first.”

“We’ll see about that.”

As he was sending another message, a female technician walked into their room. It was a young woman, about as short as Lizzie, with a severe black bob and a big smile on her face.

“Good afternoon! Sorry about the wait. I had triplets who wouldn’t cooperate,” she joked, shaking their hands as they said their names. She introduced herself as Fay and washed her hands before taking a seat by the equipment. “So we’re here for your…thirteen-week ultrasound?”

Lizzie exchanged a quick worried look with William and shook her head. “Twenty.”

“I’m so sorry! Hold on,” Fay said, logging into the computer. “Right. Here it is. I misread it before I came in. You just look so tiny! Then again, most would after my last patient.”

Fay began to explain that she would be looking for a number of things in the ultrasound, including checking the internal organs and making sure everything looked normal. All the results would be given to their doctor so she wouldn’t be able to tell them anything. “Except the gender, if you’d like to know. As long as the baby is in a good position, we should be able to find out today.”

“We want to know,” Lizzie nodded quickly, smiling at William. Fay had her lie back on the table and Lizzie adjusted her clothes so her belly was exposed. Fay made small talk with them as she set everything up, asking the same questions the other technicians had asked them before.

“Okay, let’s get started,” Fay said. She squirted gel onto Lizzie’s belly and pressing the transducer probe to her skin, spreading the gel. The click of a few buttons and their baby was on the monitor for them to see. William grabbed her hand as Fay began to take measurements.

“We can see so much more than the thirteen-week ultrasound,” Lizzie said with wonder.

“The baby measures about the same size as a small banana at twenty weeks,” Fay explained. “They would fit in the palm of your hand currently. You’re right on track for size, so no worries there.”

Fay moved the probe and the screen focused on the profile of the baby’s head. As she took more measurements, the baby brought their hand close to their face.

“Look at that.” William kept his eyes glued to the screen as the baby began moving their hand around.

“Baby is fascinated with their hand,” Lizzie said softly. The baby wiggled around on the screen a moment later and she smiled. “I felt that.”

“As the baby gets bigger, it’s going to be more pronounced.”

“I’m looking forward to that day,” William sighed.

“You should be able to feel more soon,” Fay said, adjusting the probe. “You’re just getting into the stage where they will be more noticeable.”

Lizzie and William were mesmerized as they looked at the details of their baby’s profile on the screen. Fay stayed quiet as she went about her work, pressing buttons and changing angles. The wait seemed unbearable. Every time she paused to take screenshots, they thought she was going to tell them the baby’s sex. She slowly moved the probe to capture angles of the baby’s body to get what she needed but lingered when she was checking the baby’s internal organs. Lizzie winced slightly as Fay pressed the probe a little harder into her stomach, moving it around as if she was looking for something.

“Is everything okay?” William asked, brushing his thumb across Lizzie’s wrist to comfort her.

“The baby’s not quite in the right position.” Fay said, not elaborating. She moved the probe a few different ways but she didn’t seem satisfied enough with the angles she was getting. After a little while, she moved on to take some more measurements of the rest of the baby.

“Can you see the sex?” Lizzie asked.

“Nearly done and then we’ll take a look,” Fay replied with a kind smile.

“What’s a few more minutes?” William said to Lizzie.

“The more we get to see of Baby, I’m okay with it,” Lizzie said softly. William looked at her affectionately and he pushed his chair in closer to the exam table as they watched the screen. It was a couple more minutes before Fay was finished with the exam.

“Alright, I caught a glimpse of the sex a little while ago but we’re going to confirm it right now,” Fay said, getting the probe into a good position. “Let’s hope baby cooperates for this.”

Lizzie squeezed William’s hand and they kept their eyes on the monitor as they waited for Fay to show them the sex. After a minute of moving the probe around, Fay paused, pressed a couple buttons and froze the screen.

“There we are,” Fay said, explaining what was on the screen. “You’re looking at the legs from the bottom and then right here? Those little white lines?”

“Yea.” They both said as they leaned in closer to the monitor.

“You’re having a girl.”

William straightened in his chair and Lizzie brought a hand up to her chest.

“You’re sure?” Lizzie asked in disbelief, looking between her stunned husband and the monitor.

“Very. This…” Fay circled the sex on the monitor. “…is what we lovingly call the hamburger sign. It’s a girl.”

“We’re having a girl,” William repeated, his voice full of awe. Lizzie turned to him and she watched him as he lit up and the biggest smile spread across his face. It was the same wonderful smile she saw when she told him they were having a baby, with his dimples clearly showing and his eyes shining. She was sure her expression matched and she felt positively giddy.

“It’s a girl,” Lizzie whispered to him as he leaned in close to her. He nodded and brought his hand up to her cheek, wiping away a lone tear before kissing her.

Fay quickly tapped away on the keyboard, typing ‘I’m a girl!’ on the screen cap before printing a couple copies for them. She handed them, along with a sonogram strip of great shots of the baby, to William.

“Congratulations, you two,” Fay said, grabbing a cloth and wiping away some of the gel on Lizzie’s stomach before handing it to her. “You’re all done! I’ll give you a moment and you can leave when you’re ready.”

“Thank you,” William said as she started to leave.

“It was my pleasure,” Fay smiled before closing the door. Lizzie wiped away rest of the excess gel and then pulled her shirt down, putting the cloth aside. She shifted and her legs hung off the side as she faced William, who was still smiling widely.

“We’re going to have a girl,” Lizzie said with a happy sigh. “Guess my argument for those boys’ names were all for naught.”

“I wouldn’t say that.” William stood up and held out his hand to help her off the table. “You convinced me for any future boy Darcy.”

“That’s good to know,” Lizzie said, grabbing her bag and sliding the sonogram pictures in.

“But right now,” William started, putting his hand on her stomach. “We focus all our attention on her.”

“I like the sound of that very much.”

“Finally being able to use pronouns for our daughter?”

“Stop.” Lizzie laughed gently and grabbed the end of his tie, tugging it a little. “You’re going to turn me into a wreck.”

“I don’t think I can just yet,” William rested his forehead on hers. “I’m so thrilled to finally know.”

“Me too,” Lizzie whispered. She closed the space and kissed him, continually playing with the end of his tie. After a moment, they pulled away and shared a happy look. “So, I say we eat.”

“How about going out to celebrate? I’ll follow you home and then I’ll drive.”

“Sounds good.”

After Lizzie and William double-checked that they had everything, they left and headed to the parking lot. Lizzie took the lead as they drove home and William waited in the garage when she ran to freshen up and drop off her things. She returned with a bounce in her step and looking more radiant than before.

“Could we go to The Cliff House?” Lizzie asked.

“Sure,” William said. “Call and see if you can get a reservation.”

“It takes ten minutes to get there from here. I think we’ll be okay this early.”

“There’s somewhere I want to take you first. It might take some time.”

“No hints?” Lizzie asked, holding the phone up to her ear.

William shook his head and one corner of his mouth lifted as he kept his eyes on the road. Lizzie talked to the hostess, getting a reservation for an hour and a half later. Lizzie was unsure of where they were going but he seemed to know. After a few minutes, he started looking for parking and lucked out pretty quickly.

“Okay. Where are we going?” Lizzie asked, getting out of the car.

“It’s just half a block down,” William said, slipping his hand into hers. As they walked down the block, William’s phone pinged a couple times.

“Aren’t you going to check that?”

“It’s just Gigi wanting to know if we’re having a boy or a girl. She can wait until dinner tomorrow.”

“You’re delightfully evil.” Lizzie bumped their joined hands against his hip.

William grinned. “Thank you.”

“She might take to Twitter again,” Lizzie reminded him.

“That was rather ineffective, wasn’t it? It only riled up the natives. I was happily too busy,” William said with a knowing look. “Besides, that was a different time. I’m sure she’ll simply leave me a heated voicemail.”

“Or two.”

“That’s the sacrifice I’ll gladly make so you and I can keep this news to ourselves for a day.”

“Our bubble,” Lizzie smiled.

“Exactly,” William said, slowing down. He glanced up and stopped, indicating that they were at their final destination. “We’re here.”

Lizzie glanced up to see that the marquee said ‘That’s Tot’ before looking at the window display of various baby clothing and gear. “Will!”

William looked entirely too pleased with himself. “You said no purchases until we find out the gender. Well, we found out the gender.”

“I didn’t expect you’d want to go shopping two seconds later.” Lizzie said.

“Fitz and I have driven past this place a few times on the way to a client,” William told her. “I was curious and looked it up one night. They have more gender neutral choices than other stores. It’s not all pink and blue, which is something we’ve both wanted very little of.”

William opened the door and led them inside. Lizzie noticed a few other customers in the store and two employees welcomed them as the bell above rang. The place was spacious with brightly painted walls and tasteful baby décor all over them. There were racks upon racks of different colored baby clothes, separated by size. She noticed cribs and other baby equipment, including car seats and rockers, in the far corner.

“So you only gave us a little time to shop?”

“This is more of a celebratory purchase,” William said with a twinkle in his eye.

Lizzie and William headed straight for the newborn section, noticing how diverse the collection was. Pink was still present for some of the onesies but it was used as an accent or for the lettering. Lizzie was delighted to be sharing this little moment with William and he looked just as thrilled to be there.

“Okay, this one is adorable,” Lizzie said, holding up a white newborn-sized onesie that said ‘Hello. I’m new here!’ inside a pale green circle on the chest. She passed it to him and he held it up. She watched a sweet expression pass on his face.

“It’s scary to realize she’ll be this little,” William said, looking at Lizzie. She gave him a curious look. “Scary in a good way, if that makes sense.”

“I think…it’s the thought that she’ll be completely dependent on us.”

“Yes, I think so,” William said, glancing down at other onesies before looking back at her and bumping her shoulder. “I can’t wait to hold her.”

“Me neither,” Lizzie sighed, briefly closing her eyes when he pressed his lips to her head. She resisted the urge to bring her hand up to her belly when she felt the baby move but smiled to herself. Then she found two onesies with ‘Thing 1’ and ‘Thing 2’ on the chest and pointed them out to him. “Remember when Charlie and Scarlett were this small?”

“I do,” William nodded. “And when Charlie finally brought came from the hospital. They were so relieved. Bing let me hold him after he fell asleep and he was so little in my arms. I was afraid of waking him up and I was probably in that same position for nearly an hour before Bing took him back. I’m sure we’ll find ourselves in plenty of those situations soon enough.”

“Oh my god. This is a must buy for today,” Lizzie said swiftly, picking up a purple onesie and holding it up.

“’Daddy’s little girl’.” William’s face lit up as he read it out loud. “What about you? She’s your little girl too.”

“Oh, she’s going to love me. We’re already bonding,” Lizzie joked, rubbing her belly. “I just happen to be closer with my dad and I want that for you and her too.”

“I don’t think you have anything to worry about. What everyone is saying will probably be true. She’s going to have me wrapped around her finger.”

Lizzie brightened. Her cheeks were starting to hurt from smiling so much but the occasion called for it. She brought a hand up and pressed it to the back of his neck, pulling him down for a kiss. They pulled apart a few moments later and lingered. “I’m happy you brought me here.”

“I’m glad you like it,” William murmured as his eyes darted to the clock on the wall. “We still have a little time before we need to leave.”

“We’ve barely scratched the surface. I say we keep shopping.”

~~~~~~~~~~

Lizzie and William ended up buying four different onesies, including one that had a pattern of little black bows all over it. They made it to the Cliff House on time and ordered mocktails along with their meal for a little fun. Dinner was even more delicious than they expected and they could barely eat another bite. They took their dessert to go and William suggested they go for a walk on the beach. Lizzie readily agreed and they put their stuff in the car before heading down to the water. The weather was cool but not so much that Lizzie needed a jacket. They talked about how happy they were about having a girl and discussed baby names, all while walking hand-in-hand.

Once the sun had completely disappeared from the sky, the temperature dropped and Lizzie was ready to go home. They spent the rest of the evening on the couch, half-watching a movie but focusing more on looking up nursery pictures together. While they generally knew what they wanted, Lizzie insisted on research. She fell asleep on his shoulder and he carried her to bed before joining her soon after.

 


 

Saturday, June 23rd (20 weeks and 1 day) 

Lizzie woke before William feeling ravenous. She got out of bed and slipped on an oversized t-shirt, leaving her husband to keep sleeping. Grabbing her phone, she shuffled towards the kitchen and checked her missed messages, snorting when she noticed the missed calls from Gigi. When she got into the kitchen, she saw a name written on the message board and figured it was a suggestion from William. She looked at it for a moment before she grabbed eggs and some cheese from the fridge to start making herself some breakfast.

She was focused on preparing the food in front of her when she heard William’s steps approaching. He came up behind her and slid his arms around her, laying his hands flat on her little belly and kissing the crook of her neck.

“How are my two favorite girls?”

“We’re hungry,” Lizzie said, playing along. She turned around and slid her hands up his bare chest, resting her arms on his shoulders. “How long have you been waiting to say that?”

“Probably the moment we found out about her,” William replied, making Lizzie snicker. “How are you besides starving?”

“Pretty well rested, actually. I woke up and felt her moving a little so I took it as a sign we needed food,” Lizzie said, her eyes darting to her stomach and back to him.

“Cheesy scrambled eggs?”

“Yep.”

“Would you like me to do it?”

“You sure? I was nearly done with the cheese.” Lizzie glanced over her shoulder to the small grated pile.

“It’s fine. I’ll make them. Have a seat,” William said. Lizzie thanked him with a kiss and grabbed her apple juice, taking a seat at the island.

“So, Gigi has taken to pouting on my phone now.” Lizzie said. “I’ve got a couple text messages and a voicemail from her.”

“She was probably tired of hearing my outgoing message,” William quipped. “She’s never been a patient person. You’re welcome to tell her she’ll find out tonight, but she might pounce as soon as we walk in.”

“She might pounce either way but I’ll keep my mouth shut until then. She wants us to bring the appetizers for tonight, by the way.”

“We’ll go to the store later this morning.”

“And I saw your name suggestion. Was that there last night?”

William turned around and looked at the name on the board before looking at her.

“Woke up in the middle of the night and that was in my head so I wrote it down,” William replied. “Do you like it?”

“Cora? It’s a very pretty name. It sounds Irish.”

“Mmm. It would go with your literary choices. Cora is a character in Last of the Mohicans,” William clarified. “I like the sound of Cora Darcy.”

“Me too. It’ll go on our list.”

“It keeps growing,” William said as he grabbed a bowl from the cupboard and started cracking eggs on the side of it. “We’re going to have to eliminate names at some point.”

“Eventually,” Lizzie shrugged. William leaned against the counter as he mixed the eggs with the shredded cheese. “But we just found out she’s a girl. Isn’t this the part where we pour through baby name books and websites even with the names we’ve written down? We’ll start seriously knocking names off the list in a month or two.”

“I can agree to that,” William said.

“Good,” Lizzie said before finishing off her glass of apple juice. “What happened to breakfast? Your girls are starving.”

William smiled. “Coming right up.”

~~~~~~~~~

“You ready?”

William had his finger poised on the buzzer to Gigi’s apartment building. He had noticed Lizzie was fidgeting and adjusting her outfit as they reached the front entrance and stopped. She changed three times before they left, wanting to look cute but comfortable. In the end, she chose a plain sleeveless black blouse with a blue cardigan that didn’t show her off.

“You look beautiful. I don’t know why you’re fussing,” William said and she shrugged, tugging at her blouse again.

“I’m not quite used to the stomach yet.”

They were buzzed in and took the elevator to her floor. William barely knocked once before Gigi opened the door, greeting him with a glare and a hand on her hip.

“It’s not nice to ignore your sister, William,” Gigi said, emphasizing his full first name. Lizzie snickered beside him and Gigi whipped her head to her. “You either. I thought we were on the same team!”

“We brought you a housewarming present?” Lizzie offered with a toothy smile, holding up a bag of presents for everyone from their babymoon.

“Trying to win back my love with gifts,” Gigi huffed. “Come in already. Charlotte and Sam are on the way over and Brandon and Lydia are in the kitchen. Fitz should be back from the store in a minute. I misplaced my bottle opener.”

“We could have picked it up if you needed,” William said as Gigi narrowed her eyes at him.

Something in Lizzie snapped at Gigi’s petulance. Lizzie was going to be protective of her family, no matter what. Even if that meant telling off someone close to her in order to do it.

“You know what, Gigi? Don’t take your annoyance out at him. Or me, for that matter. This is our baby. Our first baby,” Lizzie gestured between her and William. “We’re more than happy to share news with you but we decide when. We wanted some time to ourselves once we found out. It will be the same when the baby is born. We’ll want time to ourselves then too. You need to give us that.”

Gigi’s glare disappeared and she looked remorseful. “It’s hard not to get caught up in all this. A baby is a big deal in this small family. But I’m sorry for pushing.”

“I know, Gigi. I’m happy you’re energetic about it, but Lizzie’s right. You need to give us time to digest our news and celebrate it ourselves before we bring you into it. I assure you, you’re at the top of the list whenever we have something to tell you all,” William said. Gigi looked a little deflated and he pulled her in for a hug. He rubbed one hand up and down her back, murmuring near her ear. “You’re going to be a great aunt, you know.”

“Thank you,” Gigi said appreciatively as they pulled away.

“Are you okay?” he asked.

“I am.”

“Alright, I’m going to get the appetizers ready.”

He glanced to Lizzie and she smiled at him before he disappeared into the kitchen, where other voices were coming from. Lizzie gave Gigi a reassuring pat on her shoulder and that was the end of it.

“Do you want a tour? You haven’t seen the place since I’ve settled in.”

“I’d love one.” Lizzie nodded. There was a small room directly to the right of them that Gigi had turned into an office of sorts, with a skinny desk and chair tucked in. A wooden cabinet against the opposite wall held a hidden murphy bed. The pale-blue bathroom was the first door on the right side of the hallway and across from it were folding shutter doors that hid a washer and dryer, one of the many reasons why Gigi loved the place. A little further down the hall was the entrance to a fully equipped kitchen, updated with modern appliances, marble countertops, and white cabinets. William and Brandon were preparing food and talking to Lydia, who was sitting on the other side of the breakfast bar.

“Hey, sis! Lookin’ good,” Lydia waved. “Getting the tour?”

“Hello! I am. Keeping the guys company?”

“As always. I want to hear about the trip!”

“As soon as I see the rest of the place. Hi Brandon. It’s nice to see you.”

“Nice to see you too, Lizzie,” Brandon said. “We’re anxiously awaiting to hear the news. William’s very tight-lipped.”

“Shall we continue, Gigi?”

“Upstairs!”

“I see how it is!” Brandon’s voice echoed as Gigi led her upstairs to the second level. The mezzanine den had two plush chairs and a table facing a television on the wall. It was just off the master bedroom and overlooked the living area on the first floor. The living room was furnished with a big plush couch facing a large fireplace, along with a smaller matching couch and wooden coffee table. The connected dining room had a long wooden table with eight chairs and beyond that was the breakfast bar with three stools tucked beneath them.

“I like this little set-up,” Lizzie commented. “And the high ceilings are such a perk!”

“I love it. It makes me feel like I have infinite space,” Gigi said, heading into the large master bedroom. A king-sized bed was against one wall and was framed by wood bedside tables with modern looking lamps. Beyond that was an enclosed and private deck with a few plants and plush furniture. Last but not least was the bathroom, showing off marble countertops, double sinks, and a moderately-sized tub shower.

“I love your decorating style, Gigi. This place is perfect for you,” Lizzie said as they walked back out to the den. “It’s so different than when we first saw it.”

“It’s fun to decorate a place from scratch,” Gigi grinned. They headed back downstairs and met with Charlotte, Sam, and Fitz as they were coming in. The noise level in the loft grew as they greeted each before Gigi herded them down the hallway to the rest of the group. They all gathered around the breakfast bar and in the kitchen, catching up with each other.

~~~~~~~~~

Lizzie was full. Everybody had contributed to dinner and it was all so delicious but she couldn’t eat another bite. Even after Charlotte brought out ice cream and cookies for dessert.

“Lizzie?” Charlotte asked, holding an empty bowl.

“No more room.”

“William?”

“None for me, thank you,” William replied. He stretched and rested his arm on the back of Lizzie’s chair, turning to her. “How are you doing?”

“Pretty well,” Lizzie said brightly, squeezing his lower thigh. “Thanks.”

“I was thinking of passing out gifts. Now’s a good time.”

Lizzie nodded. “I’ll help.”

William cleared their places of dishes while Lizzie went to go get the bag of gifts she left by the door. Gigi caught on to what they were doing and sat up straighter in her seat.

“William and I got you all things from our trip.” Lizzie returned and began passing the gifts around. “They’re not much but there wasn’t a lot of opportunity for souvenir shopping.”

“That’s nice of you to think of us,” Sam said, smiling as she handed him a little box.

“When are we going to see the pictures?” Fitz asked. “The trip sounds amazing.”

Lizzie laughed. “How about once everyone is done with their dessert?”

Lizzie handed Gigi a card and William took the empty bag from her, folding it up and putting it down. “Think of this as a housewarming present.”

“No need to wait, guys. You can open them,” William said.

He slid his arm around Lizzie’s waist as their friends began to open their small gifts of various jewelry for them. Their gaze was more focused on Gigi as she tore open the envelope, pulling out a card with a house on the front. She opened the card to read it and moments later, she jumped out of her seat and let out a shriek of excitement. Everybody turned at the noise.

“Are you kidding?! Really?”

“Really,” William confirmed proudly.

“Oh my god!” Gigi squealed, pressing the card to her chest as she bounced up and down. “I was hoping! This is so exciting!!”

Lizzie and William laughed in delight as she kept bouncing, hugging them both as the rest of the group looked on in confusion.

“What in the world is going on?” Charlotte asked.

“Can I read it out loud?” Gigi asked Lizzie and William.

“Go ahead, Gigi,” William consented.

“William and Lizzie gave me a lovely card and signed it…” Gigi paused for effect, holding it open to read to them. “Love from William, Lizzie, and Baby Girl Darcy.”

Everybody at the table jumped up from their seats in excitement and talked at once. Lizzie and William beamed at each other as the others reacted.

“A girl!”

“You’re having a girl! That’s awesome!”

“How exciting!”

“I won again!” Fitz exclaimed, getting a laugh from half the group. “I mean, I’m psyched for you two!”

“Nice save, Fitz,” William shook his head in amusement. Fitz came over and clapped him on the back while Lydia, Gigi, and Charlotte practically pounced on Lizzie.

“But really, Darcy. I’m happy for you. You must be excited!” Fitz said enthusiastically.

“Beyond belief,” William replied. “We would have been happy either way but there was a small part of me that hoped we would have a girl first.”

“A small part of me too. Only Charlotte and I guessed girl,” Fitz said, nodding to her.

“We’re the smart ones,” Charlotte joked, giving him a high five. “Have you guys decided on a theme yet?”

“We’ve only known for a day!” Lizzie said. “But we are respectfully asking you all to try and stay away from the pink.” Gigi looked ready to protest. “I know it may be hard to resist, but we’d really like it if you make an attempt when buying whatever you’re planning to buy.”

“No pink at all?” Gigi asked, looking desperate.

“As long as pink isn’t the primary color,” William clarified. “We’d never say no to anything green.”

“Can I ask for one more thing?” Gigi asked.

“Of course,” William said.

“Any chance you have pictures from the ultrasound yesterday?”

Lizzie smiled slowly. “We do. Want to see them?”

“The word ‘duh’ comes to mind!”

~~~~~~~~~

Charlotte and Sam called it an early night after William had shown everyone pictures of their trip. Lydia and Lizzie were sharing the couch, catching up while the rest of the group was hanging around the breakfast bar. Every so often, she’d catch William’s glance towards her way and she’d smile at him.

“So, is it weird to be off so many days in a row?” Lizzie asked. The musical Nevermore had ended its run three days prior on the twentieth and the next musical production wouldn’t be starting for another month. The theater was taking advantage of being dark and doing some much -needed renovations for two of out of those four weeks. The main crew, including Lydia, was given the time off with pay.

“It’s pretty nice. I’m going to visit Mom and Dad for a few days. I missed Father’s Day because of work and Mom has been pestering me since Mother’s Day,” Lydia said.

“So since I told her I’m pregnant?”

Lydia snorted. “Yea. I don’t mind. I haven’t seen them since the holidays. I’m sure she’ll be expecting the scoop.”

“Just don’t tell her we’re having a girl yet,” Lizzie said.

“Like I’d give that away,” Lydia said. “Remember what she did to Jane?”

“Oh my god,” Lizzie groaned, covering her face with her hands. When Jane and Bing let their mom know they were having a girl and a boy, she conveniently only focused on the first part and mailed Jane all her long-out-of-style baby clothes. Thankfully, Jane used her skills and made cuter clothes, as well as a blanket for each twin. “I can only hope she doesn’t do that for us.”

“I’m sure Jane would help you out.”

“I bet. We’re simply keeping Mom and Dad in the dark for a little longer…for their own good,” Lizzie stated. “Either way, I hope you have a good time.”

“I’m looking forward to seeing them.”

“Don’t hesitate to call me if you need a break.”

“You know I will,” Lydia grinned, bumping her shoulder with Lizzie. Lizzie bumped her back.

“Anything new on the Adam front now that Nevermore is over?”

“Maaaybe.” Lydia said evasively.

“Did I hear Adam’s name?” Gigi asked, hurrying over to join them on the couch. “Spill.”

“Okay, so we may have had a lunch date yesterday…”

 


 

Monday, June 25th (20 weeks and 3 days)  

On Monday, Lizzie and William’s day started with a doctor appointment. Dr. Gates checked Lizzie out and told her she was right on track. Then she went over the ultrasound results with them.

“I have a couple notes from the technician,” Dr. Gates said. She explained that the baby wasn’t in a good enough position to see all the chambers of the heart and one kidney was slightly larger than the other. She assured them that the issue was fairly common and usually corrected itself before birth. She wanted them to have another ultrasound in eight weeks’ time but was confident that everything would be fine. She also encouraged them to start discussing birth plans. Afterwards, Lizzie and William asked a handful of questions that she happily answered.

They went off to work and were busy the whole day, barely having time to think of little else. When William got home, Lizzie was in the kitchen cooking dinner and talking on the phone with Jane about the ultrasound results. William took over dinner and shooed her out, letting her talk to Jane for a bit more. She emerged from the bedroom ten minutes later and walked right into William’s arms.

“Jane’s excited we’re having a girl,” Lizzie mumbled into his shirt.

“I figured she would be.”

“And she said not to worry about the kidney issue. Scarlett also had it and she was fine when she was born,” Lizzie added.

“Bing said the same thing.”

Lizzie quickly pulled away and looked up at him.

“I called him on the way home,” William confessed. “We think alike, you and me.”

“It’s funny that even after the reassurance from the doctor, I feel better when hearing about it from my sister,” Lizzie mused.

William bent down and kissed her forehead. “I have a feeling everything is going to be just fine.”

“Me too.” 

 


 

 Tuesday, June 26th (20 weeks and 4 days)

Lizzie and William met with Fitz and Gigi after work, wanting to try a new Thai place that opened up in Gigi’s neighborhood. They talked about possible plans for the upcoming Fourth of July, debating between going down to the wharf to watch the show or using Lizzie and William’s balcony. Lizzie was hoping for a quieter affair like they had in the past, knowing that things could get hectic. Fitz and Gigi also offered their services to clear out the rest of the furniture in the guest room so Lizzie and William could decorate. 

Once dinner was over, they said their goodbyes and drove home in separate cars, having come straight from work. Lizzie beat him by thirty seconds and teasingly gloated all the way up the elevator ride. He thought she looked too cute as she did a little celebratory dance that he merely watched.

“It was sheer luck you got here before me.”

“You would have beat me if you hadn’t let that person ahead of you,” Lizzie concluded as they walked into their apartment.

“I’ll try to be less polite next time,” William joked, hanging up his coat and undoing his tie.

“Whatever you think will work,” Lizzie said. “I’m going to go change. Maybe we can watch a movie?”

“Sure. I also wanted to show you something I’ve been looking at.”

“Okay. I’ll be right back,” Lizzie said, taking his tie off his neck to bring to the bedroom. He chuckled as she swayed her hips while she walked, knowing he was watching her.

William grabbed his tablet and set on the couch, pulling up what he wanted to show her. Almost ten minutes went by but she hadn’t returned. William got up and headed to the bedroom to see what was up. He found Lizzie sitting on the end of the bed with her hand pressed to her stomach, her expression focused.

“Lizzie?”

She looked up and smiled.

“Hey, sorry. I got distracted. Did you want to show me something?”

“I did.” William walked over and sat down next to her, handing her the tablet. “I was planning on trading in my car. I wanted to show you what I’m thinking of getting.”

“Oh yay. Car talk,” Lizzie said flatly. A little over a year ago, Lizzie’s car troubles reached a peak. Expensive parts needed to be replaced and it barely passed the smog test. William insisted she needed to get a new car but she was being overly stubborn on the matter. He left out dealership magazines for her to look at, sent her emails on sales coming up on certain cars, and a couple dealerships even called her after her supposed inquiries. William slept on the couch for the last one. It wasn’t until her close call where her car broke down in the middle of an intersection that she gave up the fight. She said goodbye to her old car and bought a new one, much to the relief of her husband.

“It’s a sore subject, I know,” William said. “I don’t want to think about what could have happened to you.”

“I’m sorry. We both went about it the wrong way,” Lizzie admitted before looking at the tablet. “So, I thought you liked your car? It’s only four years old.”

“It’s a fine car but I want something a little better for the baby,” William said, pulling up the page.

“A Tesla. Fancy.”

“Specifically the Model X,” William said.

“Are those wing doors?” Lizzie’s eyes widened. “Like in Back to the Future? Is that necessary, Will?”

“I was debating on the models and saw the unveiling. It’s rather convenient for your tall husband,” William pointed out, playing that part of the video. “I won’t have to bend down as much for the car seat.”

“Oh, I like that,” Lizzie murmured, watching the video. After a moment, she smiled and brought a hand to her belly. “I think she does too.”

“She’s moving again? Do you think I’d be able to feel her yet?”

“Probably not? She’s moving just enough for me.”

“You’re just rubbing it in my face now,” William said playfully and Lizzie snickered.

“Yes, that’s exactly what I’m doing, Will.”

“Lie down and I’ll have a talk with her.”

Lizzie moved on the bed and fluffed the pillows before lying down. William put the tablet down and shifted until he was close to her raised stomach, resting his hand on her. Then he cleared his throat as Lizzie watched in amusement.

“Hello there, my little girl. This is your dad speaking,” William started, gently tapping on Lizzie’s stomach. “I want to ask you a question.”

Lizzie giggled and he glanced up at her through his eyelashes.

“Your stomach moves when you laugh. This is helping none, Mrs. Darcy,” William said as the corner of his mouth twitched up.

Lizzie took a breath. “Sorry, Mr. Darcy. Continue.”

“As I was saying.” William brought his gaze back to her stomach. “Why are you only moving for your mom and not for me? I want to feel you move, too.”

Lizzie let out a little gasp and William looked up.

“You can’t feel that?”

William rubbed her belly for a moment and then shook his head. “No.”

“Keep talking.”

“Do you know how much I love you, my girl? I love you as much as I love your mom,” William said while he caressed her stomach with his thumb. “I can’t wait to tell you the stories of us. She had my heart from the beginning, just like you do. I think you’re going to be as beautiful as your mom, too. She always takes my breath away.”

Lizzie pressed her lips together and wiped away a tear before she reached down to run her fingers though his hair. He smiled up at her and then kissed her belly.

“Is she still moving?”

Lizzie nodded. “Feels a bit like she’s doing somersaults."

“Are you having fun in there? Are you playing around for Mom?” William continued. “Do you like it when I talk to you? You’re going to hear from me every day. I promise, baby girl.”

“You’re being so adorable right now,” Lizzie teased.

“I’m only going to get worse when she’s born,” William said.

“You hear that, baby girl? Your dad’s going to be embarrassing!” Lizzie said in a sickly sweet tone and William laughed.

“Don’t tell lies to our baby,” William narrowed his eyes at her. He put his lips close to her stomach. “Your mom is just being silly.”

Both your parents are silly people, baby girl.”

“I’m silly?”

“It’s part of the reason I love you so much. You put on a wig for me, even after you were uncomfortable,” Lizzie reminded him.

“I was smitten. I would have done anything you asked.”

“And that’s why our baby is going to be spoiled. She’ll look up at you with big doe eyes and you’ll crumble.”

“I think I did pretty well with Gigi.”

“Yea,” Lizzie agreed. “But there’s a difference between your fourteen-year-old sister and your three-year-old daughter asking for a pony.”

“You’re going to have to help me out.”

“As long as I don’t have to be the bad parent all the time,” Lizzie snickered, ruffling his hair. Her cell phone started ringing and she realized she left it on the further bedside table.

“That’s a promise I can keep,” William said as he stretched out to get it for her. He looked at the screen. “It’s Lydia. Isn’t she visiting Thomas and Fran?”

“Yea. I said she could call anytime,” Lizzie nodded as he handed her the phone. She answered it. “Hey Lydia!”

“Lizzie?” Lydia’s voice was crackling and breaking up. There was too much noise in the background and Lizzie couldn’t make out anything.

“Lydia? You’re following who? I can barely hear you,” Lizzie said, covering her other ear and getting up from the bed. She took a few steps and everything cleared up. Lydia sounded frantic.

“Lizzie! I’m following the ambulance! It’s Dad!”

Chapter Text

Tuesday, June 26th (20 weeks and 4 days)

William had a small number of days he never wanted to relive. The day he found Gigi and George together. The day Lizzie rejected him so harshly. The day of his parents’ death. Despite how happily it had started, today was quickly joining the ranks.

The look of panic on Lizzie’s face as she was talking to Lydia nearly sent him into a panic himself. She was in shock, staring at the phone when the call ended. It was eerily similar to another time so long ago and he knew he had to take care of her. He sat her down and she told him what she knew. Her father had collapsed in the middle of a restaurant and he was being rushed to the hospital. She had no idea what condition he was in. William made the swift decision that they would leave for Santa Rosa immediately. He threw some clothes and essentials in a suitcase for them, while Lizzie called Jane and Bing.  

William drove the hour and twenty minutes to their destination, hoping to shave even a little time off of that. Every minute that passed without knowing anything was excruciating. William could see the pain in Lizzie’s eyes and he knew exactly how she felt. He had experienced this before too and he hoped that this time would be different than the last.

They arrived in Santa Rosa just before nine pm, heading straight to the Kaiser hospital. William entered the parking lot and got stuck behind a car going five miles an hour. There was a space up ahead but Lizzie lost her patience, groaned in frustration, and unbuckled her seatbelt before resting her hand on the door handle.

“Lizzie…” William said nervously, tapping on the brakes.

“Just go! We’re almost there!” Lizzie urged.

“I’m watching out for you,” William said softly. She looked at him with those lost eyes and let go of the handle. He was finally able to pull into the spot and turned off the car. He reached over and squeezed her hand in comfort. Lizzie nodded and blinked back the tears, refusing to let them fall.

They got out of the car and he hurried over to her side, holding out his hand. She grabbed it with both of hers as they headed towards the entrance, following the signs to the E.R. waiting room. When they walked in, Lydia was pacing back and forth in front of her mom, who was sitting in a chair and staring off into the distance.

“Lizzie!” Lydia hurried over to her, pulling her in for a hug. William went to check on Mrs. Bennet, who had yet to react to their arrival.

“Fran,” William said softly, crouching down in front of her. She turned and looked at him. Her eyes were red-rimmed but she still managed to smile at him.

“William,” Mrs. Bennet whispered. “How nice of you to come.”

“Of course we’d come,” William shook his head. “Fran, do you know anything?”

“He collapsed,” she said, not elaborating.

“Mom, what happened?” Lizzie asked, sitting down in the chair opposite of her mom.

“We were goin’ out to dinner to celebrate Lydia bein’ here. He’d been lookin’ forward to her visit and wanted to do somethin’ special so we went to this quaint little place that opened up a few months ago. We’d been hearin’ about how good the food was…” Mrs. Bennet rambled. Lizzie looked to Lydia in desperation.

“He had a heart attack,” Lydia interrupted. “He was quiet on the way to dinner but…no more than usual. He looked so pale though,” Lydia hugged her own arms. “He kept bringing his hand to his chest. I thought it might be heartburn. He stood up to excuse himself just after we were seated and then …crumbled to the floor.”

“Lydia, have you heard anything? Talked to a doctor?” William asked, standing back up.

“Maybe fifteen minutes ago,” Lydia said. “Basically telling us that it was a heart attack and he’s stable. They’re doing tests right now to figure out why it happened.”

“Stable?” Lizzie repeated. She sat up straighter in her seat and William relaxed a bit. A heart attack was serious but it was still a relief in his mind. They were not out of the woods, by far, but Thomas Bennet was still here. It was already better than that nightmarish night fourteen years ago.

“He’s okay for now?”

“For now,” Lydia nodded. “We were told to wait and that it would probably be a while.” She wiped her face with the back of her hand. “I’m glad you’re here.”

Lizzie beckoned her over, urging her to sit. “We wouldn’t be anywhere else.”

William’s phone buzzed and he quickly dug it out of his pocket, seeing Bing’s name flash on the screen.

“Bing. I’ll be right back,” William promised Lizzie. He took one last glance at them before turning the corner and answering the phone.

“Darcy! Please tell me good news.”

“Thomas had a heart attack,” William replied. He repeated what Lydia had told him and realized how little he actually knew. Bing let him know of his travel plans. Jane was taking a red eye and would be there in the morning and he would be not far behind, once his parents arrived to take care of the twins. They talked for a minute more before hanging up.

William leaned against the wall and rubbed his hands down his face. Long dormant feelings were waking up and he felt the panic rising. He tamped it down and focused, knowing he needed to be strong for Lizzie. He unlocked his phone and called Gigi, letting her know about the situation. There was something about the tone of her voice that was soothing to him and helped his anxiety. She promised to take care of everything back in San Francisco and he promised to keep her updated.

He felt a crack in his chest when he walked back into the stark waiting room. Lydia had moved to sit next to her mom and her head was on her shoulder. Lizzie was still sitting across from them, fidgeting with her hands. They looked lost as they waited for news and he felt completely helpless. His shoes squeaked across the linoleum floor as he rejoined them, sitting in the uncomfortable burnt orange chair next to his wife. Lizzie blindly reached for his hand and he held it tightly as she rested her head on his shoulder.

A television was mounted to the wall and airing the local news on mute with closed captioning on. A clock was next to it, loudly ticking away every second and providing enough noise for the ones waiting in chairs. A nurse came in and William saw hope flash across Fran’s face, which quickly faded as the woman walked right past them to a couple in the other corner. He kept his focus on Fran a few moments more, noticing some of the same little details that he saw in his wife. There was no doubt of their relation. Their expressions were identical with their little forehead crinkling just between their eyes and the shape of their downturned lips. Fran shifted in her seat and William looked away, feeling intrusive.

Lydia murmured something to her mom and she shook her head. Lydia frowned and was obviously not happy with her response. She caught William’s gaze and he looked at her curiously.

“Do you need something?” William asked.

“Mom should eat,” Lydia insisted. “She didn’t have dinner.”

“You missed it too,” she pointed out. “I’m not hungry.”

“I just heard your stomach growling,” Lydia said, giving her mom a no-nonsense look.

“I can go out and get something,” William offered, glancing up at the clock to see it was ten forty-five. “I’ll ask to see what’s around here that’s open.”

“You don’t have to,” Mrs. Bennet said weakly, not really putting up a fight.

“Do you want me to go with you?” Lizzie asked, looking at him. There was no light in her eyes and he felt a pang. He shook his head, needing a second before speaking.

“Stay with them,” William replied. He squeezed her hand and kissed her temple. “I’ll be back soon.”

William asked a man at the desk what was currently open around the area and he was given a map of the nearest restaurants. There was a Carrows across the freeway open until three am and went there. He ordered a couple club sandwiches and garden salads and waited as they were made. Lizzie texted him that they were getting news and to hurry back, making him almost want to abandon his order. It only took a couple more minutes to get the food but the time dragged nearly as much as it did when he was in the waiting room. When he returned, he barely caught a glimpse of the doctor as he left.

“What happened?” William asked and all three women turned their heads towards him. Lizzie made a beeline for him but he couldn’t read the expression on her face.

“He’s being admitted to the cardiac unit,” Lizzie said. “They did some tests and discovered he had a heart attack because of blocked arteries. He’s going to get some rest and the doctor will discuss surgical options in the morning. He says the best thing for this case would be bypass surgery.”

“Open heart surgery?” William asked in disbelief.

Lizzie nodded and her eyes began to water. “There are a couple options apparently. We’ll know more in the morning.”

“So, nothing else?”

They all shook their head. William put the bags down on the table beside him and took a deep breath, not quite sure what to do with the news.

“Do you want to go back to the house, Mom?” Lydia suggested.

“I’m not goin’ anywhere except to my husband’s room as soon as he’s moved. You three should go,” Mrs. Bennet said. She grabbed her purse and dug around, pulling out the keys and handing them to Lizzie. “Go back to the house and get some sleep. Come back in the mornin’.”

“Mom, we should be staying with you,” Lizzie pressed.

“You shouldn’t be alone,” Lydia added.

“Don’t be silly, Lydia. I’ll be with your father,” Mrs. Bennet dismissed. “And you need your rest, Lizzie. You’re pregnant. I will not have you sleepin’ in hospital chairs when there’s a perfectly good bed you can use at the house. Tell her, William.”

“Will,” Lizzie urged, her brows furrowing as she looked at him.

“I’m sorry, Lizzie. I’m with Fran on this one. You and the baby need rest,” William replied tenderly. “I’ll take you and Lydia home and bring you right back here early tomorrow morning.”

“Fine,” Lizzie said curtly, turning to her mom. “You call us if anything happens between now and then.”

“You know I will, dear,” Mrs. Bennet assured. “Now go. There’s no point stayin’ here right now.”

Lydia gave her mom a tight hug and then grabbed one of the bags of food, heading outside to wait for Lizzie and William.

“Fran, make sure you eat,” William said gently, squeezing her arm in comfort. She nodded and managed a fraction of a smile.

“Take care of my girls,” Mrs. Bennet implored and he smiled, giving her a hug. He left the room, to give Lizzie and her mom a few moments alone. He walked outside and found Lydia, standing by the curb kicking at a weed growing out of the sidewalk.

“Lydia?”

She turned at the sound of her voice and she wiped away a tear from her cheek. He took another step forward and repeated her name more softly.

“Did it hurt this much?” she asked.

William thought about it for a moment before answering honestly. “More so. In my situation, it was…final.”

Lydia looked down and shook her head. “How did you get through it?”

“I just…” William searched for the words before shrugging. “…did.”

“It’s not fair.”

“It rarely is.”

“I wish…things had been different for you,” Lydia said.

“Me too,” William exhaled. “This time will be.”

Lydia stared at him for a long time, as if analyzing what he said. Then she smiled faintly and nodded. It provided him the barest amount of relief that he could comfort her, even with how she was feeling.

Lizzie walked out a few moments later and William brought them home. Lydia offered to sleep on the pull-out couch so that Lizzie and William could have the guest bed. Lizzie was too tired and accepted without challenging the gesture. He brought in their luggage into the bedroom and went into the bathroom to get ready for bed. When he finally came out, Lizzie was sitting on the edge of the bed wearing her pajama bottoms but holding the shirt in her hands. He said her name.

She turned and looked at him with the saddest expression, making him feel sick to his stomach. He closed the distance between them and sat down next to her, reaching out and caressing her thigh.

“I just wanted to see him,” Lizzie’s voice quavered. “They say he’s stable. They say he’ll make a recovery. They say these things but it’s not the same as seeing him. I just needed to see for myself that my dad is going to be okay.”

William could feel her frustration and he put an arm around her as tears began to slide down her cheeks. “First thing in the morning.”

“It’s not soon enough.” Lizzie buried her head in his shoulder.

“I know it’s not, love. I know,” William repeated, his hand caressing up and down her back. There was little else he could say. She clung to him as he laid them back on the bed. She had held it together until this moment and he was impressed by the strength that she showed for her mother and sister. The only comfort he could provide was being there for her and letting her cry.

The sobs slowed down after midnight and were eventually replaced with her even breaths of slumber. While he felt comfort that she was sleeping, he laid awake for a while more, listening to the ticking of the clock on the bedside table. Seconds and minutes passed by him as his mind drifted to thoughts of Lizzie's father and the last few hours. It was well past two am before he gave into his exhaustion.

 


 

Wednesday, June 27th (20 weeks and 5 days)  

Jane showed up at the house just before seven in the morning, waking everybody up. She looked worn out and anxious but she was relieved once William filled her in while Lizzie and Lydia made breakfast. Mrs. Bennet called and told them the doctor would be discussing the plan with her soon so they should return soon. William got them all in the car shortly afterwards and drove them to the hospital.

The cardiac unit was on the third floor and the whole elevator ride was quiet. Lizzie stuck to William’s side, holding his hand like a lifeline. They checked in at the nurses’ station, where a nurse told them the room was down the hall and around the corner. Mrs. Bennet was out in the hall, talking to the doctor.

“Just in time!” Mrs. Bennet said on seeing them. “Dr. Parsons just got here. These are my daughters and my son-in-law.”

William stopped so he could hear the explanation. Lizzie arched her neck to peer into the room to get a glimpse of her father. She squeezed William’s hand, letting him know she saw him but stayed to listen to the doctor.

“As I was telling your mother, there are a few options on how to proceed now that we’ve assessed the damage. In this case, he has more than one blocked artery and I want to go in and fix that immediately. What I would normally do is a coronary bypass, but with his age, it would be a long recovery.”

“He can handle it. My father is strong,” Lizzie said adamantly.

“As I’ve witnessed yesterday, yes,” Dr. Parsons agreed.

“What’s the alternative?” William asked.

“Minimally invasive heart bypass surgery,” Dr. Parsons answered. He began to explain what the procedure was and what the benefits were. There would be a shorter hospital stay, smaller risk of infection, and quicker recovery.

“What about the cost?” Mrs. Bennet asked.

“Mom,” Lydia said softly, coming up to her side.

“It’s considerably less.”

“Mom, we should do it. It sounds like it’s best for Dad,” Jane advised.

“I’d like to perform the surgery sooner than later,” Dr. Parsons said and William could sense the urgency in his voice.

“Can you give us a moment?”

“Yes, ma’am. I’ll be at the nurses’ station,” he said, walking away to give them privacy.

William spoke up. “Fran, you don’t need to worry about the cost. Whatever it is, I’ll take care of it.”

“Bing and I can help too,” Jane offered.

“You shouldn’t have to worry about money on top of this,” William added.

“You’re too kind,” Mrs. Bennet began to protest.

“Fran, please,” William said. “Let us help you.”

Mrs. Bennet finally agreed and Jane and Lydia followed her to talk to the doctor again and get more information. Lizzie let go of William’s hand and slid her arms around him, giving him a hug.

“Thank you,” Lizzie whispered into his shirt. He pressed his lips to the top of her head before they pulled away.

“You don’t need to thank me,” William murmured, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. “Your family is my family. You are my family.”

“And I’m working on making it bigger,” Lizzie half-heartedly joked and William smiled, brushing his hand across her stomach. He saw Mrs. Bennet beckoning him over out of the corner of his eye and he held up one finger, letting her know he’d be there in a moment.

“You are,” William brushed his fingers across her cheek. He turned her around and faced her towards the room, bending his head down and speaking close to her ear. “Now, go see your dad.” He gave her a tiny push and she shot him a grateful look before walking into her father’s room.

William helped Fran, going over the consent form and filling out some paperwork with her. She shooed him away when she was done needing his help and he returned to the waiting room. Lizzie was already sitting in the room and he was sure he had only been helping her mother for less than ten minutes. He sat next to her and looked at her curiously.

“He was sleeping. I didn’t want to wake him.”

“Did it help?” William asked softly.

“Only a little,” Lizzie said, a little dejectedly.

William put an arm around her and she leaned into him while they waited. Mrs. Bennet returned soon after and everybody sat up straighter in their seat.

“They’re takin’ your father up to surgery soon,” Mrs. Bennet informed them. “I was told it was going to be quite some time.”

“Until they’re done?” Jane asked.

“And until we can see him.”

All three sisters exchanged frustrated glares and then Lizzie said what they were all thinking.

“So, all we can do is wait.”

~~~~~~~~~~

It had been nearly three hours since her dad had been taken by a surgical nurse and Lizzie was going stir crazy. She wasn’t the only one. Her mom hadn’t said much of anything since he was wheeled away. Jane kept checking her phone for Bing’s arrival. Lizzie saw Lydia discreetly wiping tears away on two separate occasions.

William was the rock amongst them. Getting her to the hospital as quickly as possible, taking care of her as well as her mom and Lydia last night, making sure they were getting rest and eating. She would have been a mess without him. It wasn’t lost on her that he knew what to do in this situation because he had been through it himself. He had to be hurting too with memories of his own parents’ death being dredged up. On top of that, he and her dad had become close over the years, bonding in a female-dominated family. The fact that he was being the strong one for her made her love him that much more.

Seeing her dad was not as comforting as she hoped it would be. She had always seen him as invincible. Of course, he joked about getting older, but she never saw it. It was difficult to process the sight before her when she walked into the hospital room. There were wires everywhere, sticking out of his hospital gown and his arm, and there was an oxygen tube tucked under his nose. The smile he usually greeted her with was absent as he lay there asleep, looking paler and weaker than she’d ever seen him. Barely more than a minute passed before she felt the overwhelming need to leave again, furiously wiping her cheeks dry and feeling like a terrible person for not handling it well.

The first break of silence came from Jane, whose phone jingled. She apologized, set it to silent, and then checked her message.

“Bing just landed,” she said to nobody in particular and stood up. “I’m…going to get some air and wait for him outside. Come get me if you learn anything between now and then?”

“We will,” William assured her before he looked to Lizzie. “Do you want something to eat?”

“I’m not that hungry,” Lizzie said.

“You should still eat. Baby needs nourishment,” William advised gently, taking her hand. Lizzie felt the baby move at his words and it was like her daughter was unconsciously agreeing with him.

“Nothing too heavy,” Lizzie said, giving in. He subtly smiled and nodded, leaning in and kissing her temple.

“Lydia?” William called her name and she turned her head their way, her eyes still a little red from crying. “I’m going to get some food for everyone. I could use an extra pair of hands. Would you mind coming with me?”

“Yea, alright,” Lydia replied hoarsely, standing up. William brushed his hand across Lizzie’s leg and gave her a warm look before getting up. She knew what he was doing. William guided Lydia out of the room and his hand hovered near her lower back for support. Lizzie and her mom were left alone in the surgical waiting room. The only noise was the quiet chatter of the two receptionists at the desk around the corner, the tick tock of the second hand, and the occasional phone ringing.

“Did you know you were my easiest pregnancy?” Her mom spoke up out of nowhere. It took Lizzie out of her trance of staring at the fish tank in the corner.

“What?” Lizzie asked in confusion.

“You were my easiest,” Mrs. Bennet repeated. “I had mornin’ sickness with Jane every day for five and a half months straight. Lydia made me fiercely dizzy and I gained forty pounds. But you? Barely a symptom. I didn’t even realize I was pregnant until I was three months along.”

“I was tired in the first trimester,” Lizzie told her, getting up from her seat and sitting down next to her mom. “Not much else. I only just started showing too.”

“And you’re glowin’, sweetheart. Your hair is getting’ so full. Pregnancy agrees with you,” Mrs. Bennet complimented and Lizzie smiled at her. “Your father was always tellin’ me how pretty I was, even with all the weight I gained. You should have seen his face every time I told him we were havin’ a baby. He was beyond overjoyed. With Jane, he went out and bought a crib the next day. He didn’t actually put it together until five months later, though.”

Lizzie chuckled. “I’ve never heard this before.”

“You remember details at the strangest times,” Mrs. Bennet said wistfully, her gaze seemingly focusing on the floor.

“Mom?” Lizzie said after a minute had passed. She finally turned her head to look at Lizzie and smiled at her, but it didn’t reach her eyes.

“You were my easiest labor too.”

Lizzie reached out and took her mom’s hand. For once, she wanted her mom to keep talking about the subject she loved to ramble about so often. She had been so quiet over the past day and listening to her as she told Lizzie these stories was distracting her from thinking about her dad’s surgery.

“I was in labor with Jane for thirty-six hours and half of that was back labor. I was pushin’ for so long. It was exhaustin’, to say the least. But then they put your sister in my arms and I forgot all about that pain I had just endured.” Mrs. Bennet said. “There’s nothing else in the world quite like holdin’ your baby after waitin’ all those months. You can easily get lost that moment.”

“I bet,” Lizzie murmured, remembering just how excited they got over hearing the baby’s heartbeat and first movements. It would be so much more once their baby was born.

“It was an adjustment to go from two of us to three of us but somehow, we figured it out,” Mrs. Bennet sighed, pausing for a few moments. “She was a bit like Lydia before you came along.”

“Really?”

“She was a rambunctious toddler. It’s surprisin’, I know,” Mrs. Bennet chuckled. “But it’s true. Half the reason I didn’t realize I was pregnant with you for so long was cuz I was busy runnin’ after her all the time. She didn’t calm down until you came along. She immediately went into big sister mode as soon as we brought you home. I think she was waitin’ for you.”

Lizzie smiled at that.

“And then with you? Five hours from start to finish. I pushed for maybe ten minutes before I heard your cries,” Mrs. Bennet continued. “No matter how many babies you have, the first time you hear them cry is precious.”

“And Lydia?”

“Fourteen hours. That little troublemaker decided to take her sweet time. She was nearly two weeks late and I almost had a C-section with her,” Mrs. Bennet shook her head at the memory. “She had this gunk in her lungs when she came out and we didn’t hear her cries for two whole minutes. Probably the worst two minutes of my life.”

Up until now, Lizzie thought. The amount of waiting they had been doing over the past twenty-four hours was wreaking havoc on her emotions. She couldn’t imagine how her mom was feeling.

“And your dad was there for every second. I don’t know how I would have gotten through those hours without him by my side,” she said, her voice shaking a little. Lizzie squeezed her mom’s hand, patiently waiting for her to continue. “He was smitten with all of you, but I knew from the very beginning that you and your dad had a special relationship. You were his girl, through and through.”

“How so?” Lizzie’s voice broke as she began to cry. She was hating her hormones right now.

“After I held you for a bit, the nurses took you to clean you up and you were just cryin’ your head off, hatin’ every second of it. They wrapped you in a blanket and placed you in his arms and it was like magic. You stopped cryin’ right there and then. I still remember that moment like it was yesterday. You just stared at him for what seemed like forever, hangin’ on his every word,” Mrs. Bennet paused for a moment, trying and failing to keep her emotions in check. Tears began to slide down her cheeks.  “From then on, I knew. He could calm you down like nobody else. I could rock you girls to sleep with ease, but he’d get those tears to stop in moments.”

What she would give for her dad to be sitting next to her right now and do exactly that.

“Both your dad and I could get Jane to stop crying and Lydia was happy with anybody who held her, but you always seemed most content in your dad’s arms,” she sighed. “You know your first real word was “Daddy”? When you learned to crawl, you’d crawl faster towards him, especially when he came home from work. Your first steps were towards him. You’d take his hand when crossing the street, every time. He’s never said it but I know you’re his favorite.”

“Mom.” Lizzie wept at her admission. Why did it feel like her heart was breaking? “You know I love you, right? I’m sorry if I haven’t said it enough.”

“Oh, I know you do, sweetheart,” she said roughly, wiping away some of Lizzie’s tears even though it was pointless. They were streaming down their faces. “A mother knows their child’s love. You came to me first for so many other things. I’ve never thought you loved me any less just because of how close you were with your father. I had hoped one of you would have that kind of bond with him, Elizabeth. All parents have different relationships with their children. Just like you and William will with your child.”

“Girl,” Lizzie told her mom. Despite their initial decision to keep the gender from her for longer, Lizzie didn’t see the reason anymore. It seemed like a paltry concern to keep her mom in the dark when they were dealing with much bigger issues. It actually felt good to tell her mom. “We’re having a girl.”

“A daughter,” Mrs. Bennet brought a hand up to her chest and sighed. “You and William must be delighted.”

“We are,” Lizzie sniffled.

“Your dad’s going to be pleased to know he’s getting another granddaughter.”

“I just want to tell him,” Lizzie whispered.

“You will soon, Lizzie.”

“He’s going to get through this, Mom. He has to,” Lizzie said adamantly.

“He better. I’m not ready for anythin’ else.” Lizzie looked at her mom, catching the fear in her eyes. Lizzie pulled her in for a hug, hoping it would help at all. Her mom slid her arms around her and began rubbing her back just like when she was little. It took all Lizzie had not to start sobbing all over again. It was the type of embrace only a mother could give and it was exactly what they both needed.

“Did something happen to Dad? Is he okay?” a voice asked anxiously.

Lizzie and her mom pulled apart to see Jane standing there with Bing right next to her, seemingly holding her up by her arms. They must not have heard them coming in. The expression on Jane’s face was one of worry and panic.

“No, we haven’t heard anything,” Lizzie said, taking a deep breath and wiping her cheeks. Bing handed her and Mrs. Bennet tissues.

“Lizzie and I were talkin’. We just got a little caught up. We must look a mess,” Mrs. Bennet said, dabbing her face with tissues before standing up. “It’s good to see you, Bing.”

“You too, Fran. I wish it was on better circumstances,” Bing replied, hugging her. Lizzie stood up and moved to Jane’s side. She slid her arm around her waist and they shared tired smiles.

“I’m positive my husband will be just fine,” Mrs. Bennet said, lifting up her chin. Her face may have been puffy and her eyes red from crying but Lizzie felt a sense of pride for her mom. “Now, come sit with me. William and Lydia should be back with food soon and we still have plenty of waitin’ to do. I’m sure you have new pictures of the twins to share?”

Bing took a seat next to her and took out his phone. “As a matter of fact, I do.”

~~~~~~~~~

Lizzie awoke with a start.

She didn’t even remember falling asleep. One minute she was talking to Jane and the next, she was lying across three chairs with her head in her eldest sister’s lap.

“Hey sleepyhead,” Lydia said with a smile, sitting across from her. Lizzie sat up and stretched out before looking to Jane.

“Did I fall asleep while talking to you?” Lizzie asked.

“Mid-sentence,” Jane nodded.

“Oh god,” Lizzie groaned. “I’m so sorry.”

“Don’t be. You’re pregnant,” Jane waved it off. “I once fell asleep at my own fashion show.”

Lizzie chuckled at her confession. “What time is it?”

“A little after four.”

“That long? Wait…Dad!” Lizzie grabbed Jane’s arm. “What happened?”

“He’s out of surgery.”

“He did really well,” Lydia and Jane said at the same time. They went on to explain that he got out of surgery a couple hours ago and was brought to the recovery room. Lydia took their mom back to the house to freshen up and get a change of clothes. They returned in time to hear the news that he had woken up and was taken to the ICU but visitors wouldn’t be allowed for at least another hour. Now, their mom was talking to a nutritionist and getting advice on changing their dad’s daily diet after Dr. Parsons strongly recommended it.

“Where are William and Bing?” Lizzie asked, noticing they were missing.

“They’re making arrangements for a home health care nurse for Dad once he’s able to go home. Bing and William suggested that Mom may need help during the first few weeks and we agreed that it would be a good idea. Mom shouldn’t have to go through the extra stress,” Jane explained.

“That’s…a great idea. I missed so much,” Lizzie said gloomily, frowning a bit. “Why didn’t you wake me up?”

“William and I were pretty insistent on letting you sleep,” Jane said. “I doubt any of us got a lot of it last night.”

“You were kind of dead to the world. I probably could have drawn a mustache on you and you wouldn’t have woken up,” Lydia teased and Lizzie stuck her tongue out at her. Lydia flashed her a smile and then stood up. “I’m going to get something to drink. Want anything?”

She took her sisters’ requests before leaving the room.

“Things have been so hectic here that I’ve barely had a chance to ask how you are,” Jane said sweetly. “So…what’s new?”

“I’ve been feeling the baby move. I’m surprised I didn’t feel her sooner because she’s getting stronger.” Lizzie brought a hand up to her stomach. “I think she’s what woke me up.”

“That was one my favorite things about being pregnant,” Jane said pensively. “Even when one was using my bladder as a trampoline and the other was kicking my ribs. It was my reminder that they were alive and growing in there. Can William feel the movement yet? Bing could feel them so early.”

“Because you had twins!” Lizzie nudged her shoulder and Jane laughed. “He hasn’t. I can tell he’s getting anxious to though.”

“Hopefully, he won’t have to wait much longer,” Jane said. “I heard you’re banning pink from the wardrobe.”

“Did Lydia tell you that?” 

“Mom, actually.”

“Funny, I didn’t tell her as much,” Lizzie said. “I’m merely asking everyone to limit the color. I’m pretty sure my fashionista sister can figure something out.”

“I may have something up my sleeve.” Jane smiled. They sat there in silence for a few minutes before Lydia returned, giving them bottles of water and sitting down next to Jane.

“It’s times like these I wish you were closer,” Lizzie said.

“Yea. It’s hard to not miss you every day,” Lydia added.

“I miss you both so much too,” Jane said, taking Lizzie’s hand. “I’m thankful everything turned out the way it did. I was so scared the whole plane ride here.”

“I don’t want to think about what could have happened,” Lizzie sighed.

“It was terrifying enough to see Dad collapse like that,” Lydia admitted in a whisper. Jane reached over, squeezed her knee in comfort, and Lydia rested her head on her shoulder.

“You know, I can picture Mom going into Dad’s hospital room and blaming him for ignoring her poor nerves,” Lizzie began, trying to think of something lighter.

“And he’d insist that he was thinking about them this whole time,” Lydia said, catching on to what she was doing. “Remember when Mom gave him a hard time about supposedly forgetting her birthday?”

“Yes!” Lizzie and Jane laughed.

“He had that trip planned for months and he just let her go on and on,” Jane reminisced. “And once she was done, he showed her those tickets and she practically fainted.”

“That’s Dad for you,” Lizzie said softly.

“Girls? Girls!”

Mrs. Bennet hurried into the room with William and Bing closely behind her. The look on their mom’s face was eager and they all sat up straighter in their seats.

“What’s up, Mom?” Lizzie asked.

“Your dad’s off the ventilator!” she said excitedly. “He can have visitors now!”

 

~~~~~~~~~

“Lizzie, your dad is askin’ for you.”

Everyone was sitting in the hallway outside of her dad’s room, waiting to see him. The ICU had a rule that only one person at a time could be in the room so as not to tire them out. They all agreed that Mrs. Bennet should go first while Lizzie impatiently sat there. When her mom came out and told her of his request, her heart leapt to her throat and William gave her an encouraging smile. She stood up and walked into his room.

Nearly twenty-four hours after hearing the news, over an hour of driving, three different waiting rooms, and too many tears, Lizzie heard the one thing she had been dying to hear: her father’s voice.

“Hi, Lizzie.”

His voice was hoarse from having been on a ventilator and he looked weary. It was still difficult for Lizzie to see all those wires sticking out of him and connected to the surrounding monitors. Then, a gentle but confident smile from her dad and it comforted her as she approached the chair next to his bed.

“Hi, Dad,” Lizzie breathed a sigh of relief as she sat down.

“How are you doing?”

“I think that’s my line.”

“We know the answer to that one,” Mr. Bennet said jokingly.

“I’m doing…well.” Lizzie replied. “All things considered.”

“I’m so sorry that I’ve put you all through this,” he said softly. Lizzie felt the threat of tears and she hated that she was so emotional right now. She had cried more in the past two days than she had in the last year. “I never wanted to upset you so much.”

“Dad,” Lizzie shook her head and looked down at her lap.

“Those tears better not be for me. Your mother gave me quite enough of them.”

Lizzie laughed, wiping away a rogue tear. “You can’t really tell a pregnant woman not to cry.”

“I suppose it’s a futile request.” Mr. Bennet offered his hand and Lizzie took it. “This is temporary.”

“I know,” Lizzie nodded and exhaled. “You’re going to get better. You’ll get out of here and be back to your old self in no time.”

“With a few lifestyle changes, of course,” he said. “It sounds like there’s going to be a lot of tofu in my future.”

“That’s not so bad,” Lizzie said. “I know some great recipes.”

“If that’s what I have to do to ensure that I’ll be around for you and that grandchild.” Mr. Bennet pointed to her stomach. “I’ll do it.”

“Granddaughter,” Lizzie amended. His expression softened and she squeezed his hand as a smile spread across her face.

“Wonderful. Simply wonderful,” Mr. Bennet beamed. “Don’t worry. I’ll be around for this granddaughter.”

“She’s eager to meet you, Dad.” Lizzie rubbed her little belly.

“As am I,” Mr. Bennet murmured. His eyes drooped a little and he took a deep breath. “And don’t you worry. I’ve hidden all your baby clothes.”

Lizzie was taken aback. “You did what?”

“After your mother mailed Jane all her baby clothes, I took the steps to ensure she wouldn’t do it again with you and Lydia,” Mr. Bennet explained. “Now, if you do want them…”

“No, Dad,” Lizzie chuckled. “That’s fine, thank you.”

Lizzie could see that he was getting tired but was trying to hide it.

“Dad, as much as I want to stay here, you need your rest,” Lizzie said. “And you have two other antsy daughters outside.”

“Would you mind sending Lydia in here?” Mr. Bennet requested.

“Of course, Dad,” Lizzie said, patting his hand before she stood up. “I’ll be back to see you again soon.”

He smiled gently. “I look forward to it, Lizzie.”

~~~~~~~~~

 

Her dad fell back to sleep soon after Lydia and Jane each had the chance to speak to him. William told her that he was happy enough with her getting the chance to speak to her dad and he would wait until the morning to see him.

It took some convincing to get her mom to come back home but everybody insisting that she would sleep easier in her own bed. The guys took care of dinner and cleaned up afterwards. As it got late, Jane and Bing checked into a hotel nearby while Lydia stuck with the pull-out couch at home. Despite the long nap Lizzie had in the afternoon, she felt herself getting tired as the night wore on. William sent her to bed. Despite her exhaustion, she spent almost an hour tossing and turning before finally falling asleep.


 

Thursday, June 28th (20 weeks and 6 days) 

The morning proved to be somewhat hectic for Mrs. Bennet and her daughters. Mr. Bennet had been moved from the ICU to the cardiac unit after Dr. Parsons was happy with his improvement. Everybody seemed to have things to do in preparation for Mr. Bennet’s release in a couple days but William was the first to offer keeping Mr. Bennet company since he had had so little time with him up until then. So, for the first time since Tuesday, he found himself alone and sitting by his father-in-law’s bedside as he slept.

The room was quiet, with the exception of the constant beeping of the heart monitor and the ticking of the clock on the wall, which William began to find comforting. He spent some time answering some emails until a nurse came in to change the IV bag and Mr. Bennet woke up right after she left.

“William? How long have I been asleep?” Mr. Bennet hit a button for the bed so he could sit up and talk to William.

“Maybe a little over an hour. I didn’t want to wake you.”

“Where’s Fran? And the girls?”

“Lydia is with Bing out grocery shopping for you. Jane, Lizzie, and Fran are meeting with the home care nurse,” William explained. “They should be back in a bit after they have lunch.”

“Did you draw the short end of the straw?” he joked.

“I’m happy to be here, Thomas.”

“Good, good.” Mr. Bennet said absently. “William, I want to thank you.”

“For what?”

“For being there for the family the past few days. I know it couldn’t have been easy for you, all things considered,” Mr. Bennet said softly, pausing for a few moments. “Both Lydia and Fran have told me how much of a help you were to them. And I know you’re always there for Lizzie.”

“Thomas.” William leaned forward in his chair, resting his elbows on his knees. “You don’t need to thank me.”

“I’m still grateful,” Mr. Bennet reiterated. William’s lips twitched up but didn’t break out into a full smile. “You might not think it’s much but I do. Offering to pay for my hospital bills and setting up a home care nurse? That’s above and beyond caring.”

“No, it’s not at all. I don’t want you and Fran to have to worry about the money, especially since you’re going to be off work for at least the next month. The nurse will help you in your recovery and make sure you’re back on your feet sooner than later. I would have done the same thing for my own father…and you’re the closest I have to one now.”

“I’m honored that you think of me as such. Fran has thought of you and Bing as her own sons for years now.”

“I know,” William smiled. “I suspect Gigi appreciates calls from Fran more than she lets on.”

“We’re both happy she’s back from London.”

“As am I. Especially now with Lizzie being pregnant,” William said. “I want my daughter to be surrounded by as much family as possible. You and Fran will be her only grandparents so you’ve got to show her twice as much love.”

Mr. Bennet chuckled softly. “Fran has enough love to fill an entire house so I think we’ve got you covered.”

“Good,” William said simply.

“And how are you doing, William?” he asked. “Are you excited to be a father?”

“I am,” William started, exhaling. “Honestly, I think I’m ninety percent excited and ten percent terrified.”

“I don’t know a single parent-to-be who wasn’t terrified in the beginning,” Mr. Bennet said. “Myself included.”

“Really?” William said with surprise, looking at him.

“Oh, absolutely. I was terrified I wouldn’t be a good enough father or the right role model for my girls. In the first few months with Jane, I was nervous just holding her. Bath time was completely nerve-wracking,” Mr. Bennet admitted.

“Does that fear ever go away?”

“It…changes. Just because my daughters are married or living on their own doesn’t mean I don’t stop worrying about them or their safety. I’m sure you’re the same with Gigi.”

“That’s true.”

“Can I give you some fatherly advice?”

William smiled a little and nodded. “Please do.”

“Ignore what people try to tell you. There are plenty of people who are going to want to give you tips on how to raise your baby. They think that because they’re parents, they know what’s best for you and your family,” Mr. Bennet said, pausing for a few moments. “But what works for one child may not work for yours. You’re going to figure it out. Trust me on that.”

“Thank you, Thomas.”

“It’s my pleasure,” Mr. Bennet murmured, resting his head back on the pillow. William noticed him wince a little and it put him on alert. He knew he’d be dealing with a lot of pain from his surgery but he didn’t want him to have to suffer more than he needed to.

“Can I get you anything?”

“I believe my pain medication is beginning to wear off,” he answered, his voice more drained than before. “I’ve pressed the call button but nothing.”

“Let me see what the hold-up is. I’ll be right back.”

As William got up, Mr. Bennet cleared his throat and he looked back before he thanked him again. William gave him a reassuring look and shot his words right back at him.

“It’s my pleasure.”

 


 

Sunday, July 1st (21 weeks and 2 days) 

During the latter half of Thursday, Mr. Bennet was encouraged by the nurse on duty to get out of bed and start walking short distances. Lizzie and her sisters took turns helping him out. He was able to complete a full lap around the nurses’ station by the end of the day without overexerting himself.

The next couple days were much the same way. His walks lasted longer and his energy levels were slowly rising. It would still be a few weeks before he would be back to normal, but Dr. Parsons was pleased with the speed of his recovery.

The Bennet family got the best news they had heard all week on Saturday evening: Mr. Bennet was being released from the hospital on Sunday morning. Everybody had prepared for his inevitable trip home already and were anxious to get him out of the hospital.

Jane and Bing planned to fly back to New York after they brought him home. This unplanned trip had officially become the longest amount of time spent away from the twins. Bing’s parents stepped up, all too happy to look after them for as long as they needed. They checked in daily throughout the week with the twins, which became a highlight for Mrs. Bennet as well.

William and Bing stayed at the hospital with Mrs. Bennet while Mr. Bennet was getting one last check-up with Dr. Parsons. Once he gave the all clear, they started the process of releasing him. It was nearly noon by the time William was wheeling Mr. Bennet down the hallway towards the parking lot and he could feel the weight being lifted off his shoulders. He could only imagine how much better Lizzie felt compared to the beginning of the week. It seemed like a life time ago.

Bing waited in the parking lot and they both helped their father-in-law into the car, making sure he was comfortable before Bing drove them back to the house. It was hard not to keep asking Mr. Bennet how he was doing every few minutes but William kept himself busy by texting Lizzie throughout the drive.

Mr. Bennet was greeted with a welcome home banner, balloons, and three very eager daughters when he walked through the door.

“Welcome home, Dad,” all three girl chorused happily as William and Bing guided him to a chair.

He smiled at them as he sat down, exhaling softly. “It’s good to be home.”

~~~~~~~~~~

Jane and Bing left for the airport after lunch. Lydia planned to stay until the next day, thankful for her vacation. Lizzie set a goal to get on the road after dinner but it took William much longer than that to actually get her in the car. She was hesitant to leave her dad, despite the help from the very sweet home care nurse, Yolanda, who was already proving her worth. William understood her predicament, but he wanted to get her home and into their own bed. She hadn’t been sleeping well for most of the week, tossing and turning and even waking up a few times throughout the night. It was the end of a stressful week and he wanted her to have a good night’s rest before going back to work the next day.

Their goodbyes took more than an hour and unfortunately didn’t get on the road until just after nine pm. The drive home was uneventful and quiet for the most part. The atmosphere was much different than the drive there. The tension was gone but William still wanted to comfort her. He could tell something was on Lizzie’s mind as she stared out the window for most of the trip. He occasionally reached over and squeezed her knee to reassure her that everything would be okay. She’d turn and smile back at him but the smile didn’t quite reach her eyes. She gave him space when he was like this so he would do the same for her, knowing she’d let it out eventually.

With a small bit of Sunday night city traffic, William pulled into their parking structure just after ten thirty at night. He unloaded the car and Lizzie walked beside him, still in her quiet mode. When they got into the apartment, they found the mail lying on the dining room table for them and a note from Gigi. She had taken care of things for them and she was glad to hear Lizzie’s father was doing so well. Lizzie mumbled that she was going to take a shower and shuffled down the hallway, towards their bedroom. William spent some time going through the pile of mail before going to grab a bottle of water from the fridge, only to find out that Gigi had done some grocery shopping for them. He’d have to thank her for all her help. As William headed towards the bedroom, Lizzie came out with a pile of clothes.

“Are you starting a laundry this late?” William asked.

“Just putting it in the laundry room,” Lizzie replied over her shoulder, barely pausing. “Shower’s free.”

“Thanks,” William said, watching her until she turned the corner. He forced himself to move. It was getting late and he wanted to get in the shower before bed.

He took his time in the bathroom, especially after he skipped the last few days of shaving. He guessed that it had to be well after eleven by the time he was done. When he walked out, he was surprised to see that Lizzie wasn’t in bed. In fact, she wasn’t in the bedroom at all. He found her in the living room, sitting on the couch with her laptop, and only one lamp on to give her light.

“Lizzie? What are you doing?”

Lizzie looked up at him for a second before returning her gaze to the screen.

“We’re not prepared.”

William frowned. “Not prepared for what?”

“For an emergency.”

William realized exactly what had been bothering her. He joined her on the couch and put his arm around her.

“You want to do this now?”

Lizzie looked hard at him. “When do you suggest we do this? I don’t have anything ready. I don’t have a will or an advance directive on file. What if something should happen to me? Or the baby? Or both you and me? We don’t even have a guardian for her.”

William’s heart began to hurt for her as she kept going.

“Do you even know what do to if I got into an accident? Or that I’m registered as a donor? I don’t know any of this stuff for you.” Lizzie pressed a finger to his chest. “Why haven’t we talked about this before?”

William sighed. “We haven’t needed to.”

“But we should.” Lizzie’s voice was small for a moment.

“Lizzie…”

“We need to be prepared. We should know if one of us wants extreme measures taken after an accident or if nothing should be done,” Lizzie said adamantly.

“You want nothing?” William asked softly.

Lizzie shook her head and her eyes began to glisten. “I don’t want machines keeping me alive. I can’t bear the thought of you holding on longer than necessary when there’s no chance of me getting better.”

“I wouldn’t want that for you either,” William admitted, reaching over and brushing a tear from her cheek. “In the very rare event that something should happen to us.”

“But it’s kind of hard to say that considering what’s happened to my dad and your parents,” Lizzie said quietly.

William looked at her for a few moments, trying to figure out what to tell her. Then he took her computer and set it on the table. Lizzie turned towards him and he grabbed her hands.

“You’re right. It’s a good idea to have all of this written up and filed for emergencies. We should be knowledgeable of each other’s wishes in medical emergencies. I honestly don’t know why we never talked about it before…but starting this conversation late at night is not the best idea,” William said. Lizzie started to protest and he stopped her, squeezing her hands and giving her a smile. “I’m going to call my lawyer in the morning and he can meet with us so we can get this all taken care of. I haven’t updated my will since you’ve become pregnant and I want the baby in it. How does that sound?”

“It sounds like a good plan,” Lizzie nodded.

“Do you have any idea of who you’d want as guardian?”

“Not in the slightest. There’s Jane and Bing and then I think that if they raised her, she wouldn’t see my parents often enough. It would be hard for Gigi if she was still alone. Same with Lydia. I honestly don’t know if Charlotte and Sam want kids,” Lizzie shrugged. “It’s so difficult to choose the people who would be best for hypothetically raising our little girl.”

“Yea.” William looked down, brushing his thumbs across the tops of her hands. “It is but we’ll figure it out. Lizzie, how long has this been bothering you?”

“Since my mom basically admitted the other day that they don’t have a will or anything else. It was after we met with Yolanda. If my dad hadn’t…” Lizzie replied, pausing and visibly swallowing. “If things had been worse, it would have been a mess. We gave her an earful and sat her down at the computer to get some of this done.”

“Where was I?”

“Being a wonderful husband and sitting with my dad at the hospital,” Lizzie said, smiling a little. William brought a hand up to cup her cheek before leaning forward and kissing her forehead.

“I had a good talk with him so I’m glad I was there,” William murmured. “I wish you talked to me about this earlier instead of letting it eat away at you.”

“I know,” Lizzie sighed. “It’s been hard to think straight this past week.”

“Is there anything else you want to talk about?”

“There’s a lot, really. We haven’t discussed a labor plan or how much time we’re going to take off or what we’re going to do afterwards.”

William exhaled.

“That is also a sooner-than-later conversation. How about we carve out some time next weekend and figure that all out?”

“That works. I mean, we’re already using the weekend to clear out the room,” Lizzie reminded.

“Perfect. Next weekend is all about Baby,” William said with a hint of a smile.

Lizzie nodded. “One more thing.”

“What’s that?”

“Can we go to bed? I’m so tired.”

“Yes. That was the whole reason I came out looking for you.”

William helped her off the couch and led them to the bedroom. It barely took any time to get ready and then William followed Lizzie into bed, curling up behind her and sliding his hand to her stomach. He pressed a soft kiss to the crook of her neck and she hummed happily, feeling her relax against him for the first time in days.

He was all ready to fall asleep when he felt a small nudge against his palm.

“Wow,” Lizzie said, mostly to herself. “Baby’s got good timing, waiting until I’m in bed.”

Giddiness started to bubble up inside him but he waited before he said anything. Then it happened again. A little nudge! He wasn’t imagining it. He was feeling the baby move.

“Lizzie…”

“It’s fine. She’s probably trying to get…into a…good position,” Lizzie said slowly before flipping around and looking at him expectantly. “Did you?”

William nodded eagerly. “I think I did!”

William reached over and turned on a light while Lizzie lay on her back. She grabbed his hand and brought it to her stomach, moving his hand to one particular spot. He didn’t have to wait long until he felt the nudge again and he laughed softly.

“I can feel her,” William said in awe, glancing between Lizzie and her stomach. “I can feel our daughter!”

“Isn’t it amazing?”

William smiled. “It’s slight but it’s enough for me to catch it.”

“Imagine how she’ll feel in the weeks to come as she’s getting bigger,” Lizzie sighed, placing her hand on top of his. “Hopefully she’ll move for her dad more often.”

“Oh, I’m looking forward to that.”

Lizzie moved their hands an inch or so and they both focused on watching her stomach, their heads pressed together. After a minute or two, he felt the baby move again and they turned to smile at each other.

“Do you think she knows?” Lizzie asked.

“What time it is?” he countered innocently.

“No, silly,” Lizzie giggled. “That we needed a little happiness right now.”

William thought about it for a bit. A lot of answers went through his mind but, in the end, he went for the simplest one. “Yes, I’d like to think so.”

“Me too.” Lizzie brought her free hand up and rested it on his cheek. He closed the gap between them and kissed her softly and then lingering, looking into her eyes. The light was back. It had been missing all week and it brought him joy to see it again.

“Things are going to be okay, love,” William whispered. “Our little girl is proof of that.”

Chapter Text

Saturday, July 7th (22 weeks and 1 day)

The days following Lizzie and William’s return home largely consisted of checking in with her parents and making up for the time they missed at work while they were in Santa Rosa. While William wasn’t happy about Lizzie pulling late nights, he couldn’t really argue when he was doing the same thing. The good thing was that it wasn’t as much as they expected since both Andrea and Fitz had helped out tremendously.

The next Saturday was a full day for Lizzie and William. Their friends were coming over in the morning and helping clear out the guest bedroom so the walls could be painted. Gigi and Charlotte would be helping her pick colors while the guys moved the furniture, she knew she wanted one wall to be chalkboard paint. She told William as such over breakfast and was all ready to defend her choice with pictures and reasoning but William liked the idea immediately.

“You’re not teasing me?” Lizzie asked and it brought a smile to William’s face over her choice of words.

“I’m not. It’s a nice idea,” William replied as he put away the dishes. “Our daughter will have a designated place in her room where she’s allowed to draw on the wall and not get in trouble. Besides, I’m sure chalk is easier to clean off walls than markers if she did wander.”

“I just really like the look of it. We can write her name on it when we bring her home and everything. What do you think?”

“I like it but we still have to buy the crib in order to put it against that wall.”

“As if you don’t have a folder of your top picks already,” Lizzie teased and he looked away for a second. “You can show me them later today and we’ll decide. We should start ordering furniture anyway.”

“But first the walls need to be painted and the old furniture needs to go.”

“It’s a good thing we’re doing just that today and having the painters come on Monday!” Lizzie said with a silly grin.

“I wonder how much of your wit she’ll inherit.”

“Just enough,” Lizzie replied as he put a hand on her belly. She smiled and laid her hand on top of his.

William beamed, mirroring her own expression. “I can’t wait to find out.”

~~~~~~~~~~

Fitz and Brandon were the first to show up, dressed in old jeans and t-shirts, and ready to move a room full of furniture. They had borrowed a small moving truck since Lizzie and William were planning to donate everything in the room.

“Hey! Thank you for your help today!” Lizzie said, hugging Brandon.

“It’s our pleasure, Lizzie. I’m sure you’re antsy to get decorating.”

William greeted Brandon while Fitz held out his arms for Lizzie.

“Hey, momma-to-be,” Fitz greeted, pulling her in for a hug. “How’s your dad?”

“He’s doing better! We just called him last night. He still has some ways to go but he walked all the way around the block yesterday without getting winded,” Lizzie told him.

“That’s great, Lizzie D! Your dad’s a trooper. I’m happy it’s all worked out.”

“I am, too.”

“And you’re lookin’ good!” Fitz said, eying her belly. “How’s baby D doing?”

“She’s getting more active.” Lizzie looked down at her stomach for a moment. “I definitely know she’s in there.”

“You can feel her?” Fitz asked as his eyebrows rose.

“We can. She’s kicking already,” William answered for her. Lizzie smiled at her husband’s pride. He was being true to his word and talking to her belly every night. Last night was a particularly good night because the baby seemed to be responding to his voice with the most powerful kicks that Lizzie had felt so far.

“She’s that strong in that little amount of space?”

“I’m twenty-two weeks, Fitz,” Lizzie laughed. “I’m starting to think there’s some truth to that old wives’ tale that you’re smaller when carrying a girl.”

“It’s possible. Seems to me that she’s taking more after you more than her dad,” Fitz joked.

William rolled his eyes before speaking up.

“Again, I was not born this tall.”

Lizzie put a hand on his arm. “He’s going to think what he wants to think. This is not an argument you’ll be winning.”

William sighed dramatically. “All right then. Should we get started?”

~~~~~~~~~~

 

Gigi, Charlotte, and Sam all arrived within ten minutes of each other. Lydia was back at work and had a lot to do so she wouldn’t be able to help out that day. Gigi and Charlotte were there more to keep Lizzie company since William refused to let her move anything.

They were still productive though. They migrated downstairs to get out of the way of the guys while they moved furniture. Lizzie was able to call Jane and get her set up on Domino so they could discuss the baby shower and all agree on a date that would work for everyone. While Lizzie wouldn’t be part of all the planning, she had a few requests that she wanted to make sure they would respect.

“I don’t want the baby games. Nothing where you melt chocolate in a diaper, can’t say the word ‘baby’, or have to taste baby food to guess what it is,” Lizzie listed off, counting each one with her fingers.

“What would you say to a onesie decorating station?” Jane asked.

“Like the one you had?” Charlotte recalled from Jane’s baby shower.

“That was fun!” Gigi added.

“Sure. That one was pretty enjoyable actually,” Lizzie agreed.

“Perfect! I’ll take care of that one,” Jane offered.

“Remember to write something on the invites about trying to avoid pink, please? I don’t want to get twenty dresses that have tutus and say ‘Princess’ on them. Also, make sure the shower is gender-neutral since William will be there. I’m sure Bing will be too?”

“I’m sure Fitz would fuss until he got an invite,” Gigi mentioned and the girls laughed.

“We can make Fitz babysit the twins,” Jane suggested lightly and Lizzie saw the twinkle in her eyes.

“Knowing him, he’d probably love it,” Lizzie said.

“Don’t worry,” Charlotte piped up. “It will be one big party so the guys won’t feel out of place.”

“Great! I trust you ladies not to go completely overboard on everything.”

Lizzie started to get up from her seat when Jane stopped her.

“Lizzie!” Jane exclaimed and she quickly sat back down. “Don’t forget to send me your registries so I can put that information on the invites!”

“We’re still working on them. I’ll email you by the end of the weekend,” she promised. After another moment, she left them to plan things out and went back upstairs to get herself some water. William and Fitz came walking down the hallway and past the kitchen. William stopped and Fitz clapped him on the back as he kept going, turning the corner to the guest bedroom.

“Hey, how’s it going?” Lizzie asked, grabbing water from the fridge.

“About halfway done. I’m glad we got rid of the bed when we did,” William replied, thanking her as she handed him water and taking a big gulp. “How about you?”

“I think it’s going well. I told them what I wanted so here’s hoping.” Lizzie crossed her fingers and William chuckled. “I’m giving them some time to plan.”

“I’m sure they’ll take it all into consideration,” William said. He heard his name being called from the room and he put the water back on the counter, kissing her quickly on the forehead. “Back to the heavy lifting, I go.”

“Don’t hurt yourself!” Lizzie patted his butt when he turned and he laughed as he left.

~~~~~~~~~

It took a couple hours to completely empty out the room, leaving only the rocking chair. While Fitz and William drove the truck to a donation center, the rest of the group dusted and swept the floor. They were finished by the time William and Fitz returned and Lizzie ordered lunch to thank everyone for their help.

Lizzie and William spent the afternoon testing out a virtual paint app to see how the walls would look with the colors they chose, figuring out which wall would look best as the chalkboard wall. They also spent time looking at William’s top choices for cribs, along with other baby essentials. After picking their favorites and getting everything ordered, they worked on finishing the baby registry. It took some time because one of them would get sucked into a review spiral before adding it to the registry. There was still a ton to do before the baby arrived but it was a big step in their plans.

All in all, Saturday was a very productive day for the two of them. They were satisfied when they called it quits for dinner and relaxed the rest of the evening. When they went to bed, William had some belly time – as Lizzie had so lovingly nicknamed it-where he would tell the baby various stories of anything and everything. It was easily her favorite time of the day and his too.

 


 

Sunday, July 8th (22 weeks and 2 days)

 

Lizzie and William sat down at the dining room table, both armed with their calendars. They were going to figure out how much time they’d be taking off as well as their schedules for once the baby came.

“Alright,” Lizzie opened up her calendar and got comfortable. “First of all, how much time are you willing to take off?”

“As much as you,” William replied. “I have quite a bit of time to work with since I had the year-long parental leave implemented.”

“Things would be so much easier if I wasn’t running my own company and just worked at Pemberley,” Lizzie said with a dramatic sigh.

“I offered.”

“Oh, shut up,” Lizzie laughed. “I’m just saying that while I want to take more time off, I don’t think it’s doable. Someday, I hope we can get parental leave up to a year for the employees. I can’t leave my company for that long even if we did have it though.”

“So how long are you thinking?”

Lizzie took a moment to answer. “Three months. My company is more dependent on me being there and three months is the standard for maternity leave right now. While I love Andrea and think she can get things done, I can’t just disappear for a year.”

“True. Your company is still creating its foundation. Hopefully by the time we have our second one, D.E.P. will have grown enough that you could theoretically take more time off. I mean, if you wanted to.”

“I’d like to think that my company can run without my constant attendance somewhere down the line. Maybe I could skive off for three months and just hang out in a random town.”

William narrowed his eyes at her and she just barely held back her playful smile.

“And how about before the baby comes? I’d prefer that you not work up until your due date and have her at work.”

“I’m thinking I’m going to start working from home once I hit thirty-six weeks,” Lizzie said. “I’d rather not go into labor in my office either and who knows how uncomfortable I’ll be by then. I can just go in for any meetings where I’m absolutely needed and Andrea can’t handle.”

“Good. That makes me feel better,” William said, flipping the pages of his calendar to October. “I was thinking I’d start working from home around then as well. Or at least the next week.”

William pointed it out to her in his calendar. She noticed little numbers on every Friday, which indicated how many weeks pregnant she was, and she brightened at the realization.

“Just before I hit thirty-seven weeks,” Lizzie agreed, pointing to the middle of the week. “I know the doctor appointments will be more frequent in the end. I can also use you to fetch me things while I rest and grow this baby some more.”

William chuckled and kissed her temple. “Whatever you need, I’ll get it for you. Now, what do we do after those three months?”

“I can tell you what’s not going to happen,” Lizzie started. “We’re not getting a nanny. I want her to be raised by us, not by a complete stranger. I know it’s going to be difficult since we’ll be working parents but I want to be there as much as possible for her. My mom was the stay-at-home parent and my dad did everything he could to be home on time for dinner and around for the weekends.”

“My parents were very adamant about being there for me and Gigi. I did have a nanny when I was young but my parents were still quite hands-on. I often did my homework in my parents’ offices when I was little. At least one of them would come to my events. I know it wasn’t easy for them all the time but they always tried to make it work,” William said, pausing for a moment. “I want to do that for our daughter. I want to be home for dinner every night, even if that means cutting back time at the office for me.”

“I want to try and do the same. I know Andrea and Lara will be helpful but it’s not always going to be easy.”

“So what do you suggest we do once we return to work? P.D. has a daycare but I’m not comfortable bringing her until she’s six months, at least.”

Lizzie’s brows furrowed as she thought about their solution.

“Okay so let’s try to be sensible about this. We’re both running companies but we want to be there for this little girl as much as possible. What if…What if we eased back into work in the beginning and split our days?”

“Like one of us works mornings and the other works afternoons?”

“Yea. That way, we’re still going to work every day but one of us is always with the baby. We can split the days evenly too. Say I go to work Monday and Wednesday mornings while you go in the afternoon and then you go to work Tuesday and Thursday mornings and me in the afternoon. Then we just split the Fridays to alternate mornings and afternoons,” Lizzie explained. “We can get work done from home as well but it gives us equal amounts of time with her and plenty of time in the office. We can work out the schedule based on our busiest days. I think that even with me needing to be there for the company, this may be the best solution.”

“This is good. It’s going to be a work in progress as time goes on,” William agreed. “But I think this could really work.”

“I hope so.” Lizzie sounded relieved. “There’s going to be sacrifices from both of us but it’s worth it.”

William smiled and reached over to rub her belly for a moment. “Now that we have that all figured out and we’re still on the subject, what about a labor plan?”

“I’ve got a plan. I go into labor and have the baby,” Lizzie said simply.

“Ha ha.” William paused before continuing. “I don’t know what you’d think of this, but what if we hired a doula?”

“A doula? Like Jane and Bing had?”

“I was talking to Bing last week and he brought it up, asking if we have one. He said she was incredibly helpful with a lot of his anxieties.”

Lizzie’s expression softened. “Do you have anxiety about this?”

“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t. We’ve never been through this and I know that it’s going to be intense,” William said. “I want what’s best for you and to be there for you for whatever you need so it would be good for me to be the calmer one, don’t you think?”

“You’re right. I remember Jane saying her doula was amazing. Having somebody in that room who knows what they’re doing would be an enormous help.”

“It would be. I know our doctor won’t be there the whole time and I’m sure the nurse will be in and out. The doula would be a good presence for both of us.”

“It’s a good idea. I’m surprised we didn’t think about it before. Have you done any research?”

“Actually, no. I wanted to run it by you first and I was researching cribs more.”

Lizzie smiled and wrote a note for herself. “We’ll do some research together then and meet with a few. Hopefully we’ll have someone within the next few weeks.”

“Okay,” William sighed in relief. “So, does that change your labor plan in any way?”

Lizzie snickered. “Honestly, I never had a complicated plan or anything. It’s not like I needed to have certain music played at certain times or anything like that.” Lizzie grabbed William’s hand. “All I need is you by my side and helping me through it. I don’t want anybody else in that room except the people who need to be there. As much as I love our families, that’s just added stress.”

“I think they’ll understand.”

“Yea. It’s just about you and me on that day,” Lizzie said before adding. “Or days, depending on how long this little girl decides to take.”

“Hopefully not too long. I already know it’s going to be difficult to not be able to do much while you’re in pain.”

“You’re going to be helping me through that pain, you know. You won’t just be sitting there,” Lizzie reminded him. “Another thing? I don’t want to be induced.”

“Even if you’re a few days late?”

“Nope.”

“What about more than a week late and you’re completely uncomfortable?”

“The only reason I’ll agree is if it’s a medical necessity. I don’t want to force my body into labor before she’s ready to be born,” Lizzie said. “And I need you to be on board with my decision.”

“I am, Lizzie. We’re trying to make this whole thing as stress-free as possible and I don’t think being induced will help with that,” William replied. “From what I’ve read, Pitocin makes contractions even more unbearable.”

“Exactly. I want to avoid a C-section if possible too,” Lizzie said. “Also, I’m seriously thinking about saying yes to the epidural. And quite possibly, the pain medication too.”

“If you want the epidural, then get it. Whatever gives you relief, I’m all for it,” William said. “And I will do whatever I can to help you through everything.”

“Oh! I have one request and I need you to promise me that you won’t be break it.”

“What is it?”

“I don’t want you to peek while I’m pushing. Actually, I don’t want you to look at all,” she said adamantly.

William chuckled before seeing her serious expression and looked puzzled.

“What?”

“No, I mean it. I don’t want you to look at any point during labor. I know you may be eager to see our daughter but I need you to not do that.”

“Lizzie…”

“I’m serious, William! It’s not a pretty sight. I don’t even want to see that. You could be traumatized by what you see and then never want to go down there again.”

“I…I don’t think anything could stop me from giving you pleasure, Lizzie.”

“Please promise me. I need you to be looking at me and encouraging me until the very end. I want us to see our daughter for the first time together.”

“I feel like you could have led with that and gotten me to agree much faster,” William said and Lizzie shrugged, smiling a little. “Okay, I promise I won’t look. We will see our daughter together when she’s out and ready to be seen.”

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.” William leaned forward and kissed her temple. “You beautiful, silly woman.”

“You love me.” Lizzie grinned.

“More and more every day,” William said warmly before sighing. “What else do we need to go over? I’m sure there’s plenty.”

“There is.”

They talked about needing go back to yoga after taking the last two weeks off. Their yoga instructor also taught the prenatal couples class and they wanted to switch soon. They also needed to look into a childbirth class and see what would work with their schedule. By the end, their list of things to do was just as long as it was when they sat down, only it was a list of different tasks. That said, they still felt accomplished after their very productive weekend.

They decided to go out for lunch and Lizzie suggested they walk to wherever they decided to go. They spent most of the afternoon outdoors, enjoying the weather and window shopping but not having any particular destination. They stopped at the grocery store on the way home and picked up food to make for dinner as well as some other goodies Lizzie was craving.

The evening was spent getting some work done while exchanging flirtatious glances. It was only a matter of time before one of them caved and lately, it was always Lizzie. Her hormones gave her almost no patience and when she was in the mood, which was often in her second trimester, she was really in the mood. He was more than a little playful with her, matching her friskiness. She finally got up and began to shed her clothes, leaving a trail behind her. She paused at the hallway.

“That’s an invitation to follow, as if you were unaware,” Lizzie said coyly.

He grinned and pulled off his shirt. “Right behind you, love.”

 


 

On Monday, William stayed home to let the painters in. He confirmed the paint colors with them and went over the instructions one more time. Fitz and Brandon had used them a couple times when they repainted the outside of their house and redecorated a few rooms. 

William and Lizzie came home to a finished room, three walls painted in mint green with white trim. The chalkboard wall looked even better than they expected, with the beautiful black sheen and just waiting to be tested. It still smelled of paint fumes and William didn’t want Lizzie in there too long so he opened the balcony doors open overnight to get rid of the smell quicker and shooed her out of the room.

William surprised Lizzie after she came home from work the next day and gave her a present when they finished dinner. She opened it to find a brand new box of colored chalk and supplies to clean the board. She lit up with happiness and kissed him as a thank you before they tested out the wall.

~~~~~~~~~

They settled back into a routine over the next few weeks. If William wasn’t biking early in the morning, he’d join Lizzie on her morning walk. Her naughty hormonal-induced dreams continued but were not on a nightly basis anymore. When they did occur, they led to mornings where they skipped biking and walking. But no matter what the exercise, they always worked up a sweat and an appetite. They returned to yoga class and attended three nights a week. After talking with the instructor, they decided not to go to the prenatal yoga class until Lizzie was seven months along.

The group’s monthly dinner was at Charlotte and Sam’s place. Gigi had gone to London the day before for two weeks for a quarterly meeting and to impress some big wigs, and Brandon was at a work retreat but Lydia had the day off. Lizzie got the scoop on her and Adam. Things were going well but they were taking it slow, not wanting to push the other. At the end of the night, she asked the group if it was alright to bring him to a future dinner and they eagerly said yes.

Lizzie had a doctor appointment at twenty-four weeks and everything checked out well. They mentioned their desire to hire a doula to their doctor and she agreed they were beneficial, telling them of her experiences with them in the past and recommending a few to them. Lizzie also asked if it was okay to be the size she was, with her total weight gain of only ten pounds. The weekly app told them how big the baby was getting, but Lizzie’s body had only changed a little since she began to show. Dr. Gates assured her that she was fine, the baby was looking good, and she was simply carrying small.

In a way, Lizzie was thankful for it because only a few people were commenting on her pregnancy, decreasing the amount of strangers touching her belly without permission. She had yet to shop for maternity clothes though and it was something she was looking forward to doing. Jane had let her in on a few secrets she had used when she was pregnant, like using a hair tie to help keep her pants closed. Lizzie could still zip up her pants but had been leaving the top button undone because it was digging into her skin lately. She thanked her sister profusely for that one.

After doing research on the doctor’s recommendations and a few others, Lizzie and William set up meetings with three different doulas with hopes of finding one that would help them out. Lizzie found it easy to dislike the first potential woman when she arrived ten minutes late and had an overbearing attitude. William liked the second woman but knew it wasn’t going to work out because Lizzie didn’t seem to have a connection with her. They hoped their last meeting would go better.

It did.

They met her at a café down the street from their place. She offered an infectious smile when she greeted them, giving them each a two-handed handshake as they introduced themselves.

“I’m Hannah Richards. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

“Please sit!” Lizzie gestured to the empty chair. “Tell us about yourself.”

Hannah pushed her long, brown hair over to one shoulder and spoke up. She had become a doula when she was just twenty-three, knowing it was exactly what she wanted to do after helping her older sister deliver her first child. She was in her mid-thirties, married, and a mother to one ten-year-old daughter. She gave off a sweet and caring vibe that reminded Lizzie of Jane but she had a little snark as well as assertiveness. She had exactly the kind of attitude they were both looking for.

She asked what they were hoping for with their labor experience and listened intently, making notes for herself. Once they were done, she went through her own experiences of being a doula, which only impressed Lizzie and William more. By the end of the meeting, Lizzie felt like she had known this woman for ages and knew she’d be comfortable having someone like her in the room with them. Hannah even offered to take pictures of their first moments with the baby, since they would obviously be too preoccupied. After one simple exchange of glances between Lizzie and William, they offered her the job on the spot and she happily accepted. They scheduled another meeting to be had at their home and exchanged information so they could go over specifics before they left. Lizzie and William felt relieved and happy they found someone who meshed so well with them. They knew they’d be in good hands.


 

Monday, July 30th (25 weeks and 3 days) 

In Lizzie’s twenty-fifth week, she had to take a glucose screening for gestational diabetes. She psyched herself out after asking Jane about it and reading about it on some forums, where many posters weren’t fans of the test. She also found conflicting information on whether to eat or not before the test. It was too much information and she promptly gave up, deciding to eat her regular breakfast. She drank a disgustingly sweet drink an hour before the test and William accompanied her to the lab, waiting outside while she had her blood drawn. She came out a few minutes later with a blue band around her elbow and shrugged, saying it wasn’t as bad as she expected. She promised to text him her results once she found out and they went their separate ways to work.

And then she got a call from her doctor’s office around lunch.

 

Lizzie @ 12:38 pm

I freaking FAILED.

I’ve never failed ANYTHING in my life!

UGH!

I have to take the stupid three hour test now.

 

William @ 12:42 pm

What? What happened?

What was the number?

 

Lizzie @ 12:42 pm

141.

Two points lower and I would have been fine.

It’s so stupid.

 

William @ 12:43 pm

They’re testing these things for a reason.

 

Lizzie @ 12:43 pm

:-/ I know.

 

William @ 12:44 pm

I’m sure it’s nothing though.

 

Lizzie @ 12:45 pm

I HOPE it’s nothing.

I’m really bummed.

It was one thing I thought I didn’t need to worry about.

 

William @ 12:45 pm

I’m so sorry, love.

When do you take the 3 hour test?

 

Lizzie @ 12:45 pm

Friday.

Will you come with me?

I have to fast and I hate how I feel when I do.

 

William @ 12:47 pm

I would have either way.

You know that.

 

Lizzie @ 12:47 pm

It’s just short notice.

I had to rearrange my own schedule.

 

William @ 12:47 pm

It will be fine.

I will be there with bells on.

 

Lizzie @ 12:48 pm

That might be a little noisy for other patients.

 

William @ 12:50 pm

Ha ha. You think you’re so cute.

 

Lizzie @ 12:51 pm

:-D

 

William @ 12:52 pm

By the way, another package was delivered.

Got a notification to pick it up in the lobby.

 

Lizzie @ 12:55 pm

Yay! Think it’s the crib?

 

William @ 12:55 pm

It’s that or the dresser.

Hoping it’s the crib though.

 

William @ 12:56 pm

Then I can put it together this weekend.

 

Lizzie @ 12:57 pm

That’s certainly something to look forward to.

Also, Jane said she’s barely had anybody say no to the baby shower.

 

William @ 12:57 pm

People are happy for us.

Hope we can make it ;-)

 

Lizzie @ 12:58 pm

Cute.

I’m clearly rubbing off on you.

 

William @ 12:59 pm

Clearly.

I’ve got a meeting in a few minutes.

Talk to you tonight.

Want me to pick up dinner?

 

Lizzie @ 12:59 pm

Ooh, yes!

In the mood for something from Blue Barn.

 

William @ 1:00 pm

Perfect. Text me what you want.

I’ll let you know when I’m heading out.

Love you both.

 

Lizzie @ 1:00 pm

Will do!

Love you too.


 

Friday, August 3rd (26 weeks)  

Lizzie wasn’t allowed to eat or drink after midnight and all she could have was the overly sweet glucose drink again. William gave her a sympathetic look when she cringed after finished. She took the tiniest sip of water to get rid of the taste.

“This is going to be a long day,” Lizzie grumbled as they were leaving. “Did you eat anything?”

“I had something while you were getting ready. I didn’t want to eat in front of you,” William mentioned, locking the door behind her.

“Nice but unnecessary.”

William shrugged as they walked to the elevator and waited.

“Just trying to be considerate,” he said as he slipped an arm around her waist. “I’ll take you out to lunch after you finish. I made time for it.”

Lizzie looked up at him and smiled. “As long as you don’t mention food again until then.”

William chuckled but he knew she was serious. “You’ve got a deal.”

It didn’t take long to make it to the hospital and find a parking spot. William took a seat nearest to the entrance of the lab and watched Lizzie as she waited in line behind an older woman. The woman turned and said something to Lizzie, making her smile. They exchanged a few more words before the woman was called to check in. He kept his eyes on his wife as she brought a hand to her stomach as she waited. He noticed she did it more often these days, now that she was showing and feeling the baby move. She was looking more radiant every day.

Lizzie finally checked in and she waved at him as she walked right into the lab, bypassing a few others still waiting. She came out soon after with her sleeve rolled up and pressing a cotton ball to the crook of her elbow.

“One down, three to go,” Lizzie said as she sat next to him. He gestured to her arm.

“Why no tape?”

“She be taking it off again in an hour. I don’t want to get the area irritated,” Lizzie replied.

“Good thinking. So, are you getting special treatment today? Walking in ahead of five people?” William teased.

“I’m obviously more important,” Lizzie said, nudging his shoulder. William put his arm around her.

“I certainly think so.”

Lizzie made a little humming noise with her throat and rested her head on his shoulder. They had a lot waiting around to do.

~~~~~~~~~~

The first hour of waiting wasn’t too terrible. Other patients were providing enough material to keep them occupied, including a little boy who kept running away from his mom, and talking about whatever was on their mind until it was time for her to go back in. She came out a few minutes later with a little bounce in her step, pressing another cotton ball to her arm.

“The results came back for the first test and I’m on track already,” Lizzie said happily.

“Nice!” William replied. “Only two more hours to go.”

“Two more long hours.”

“At least you’re not waiting around alone,” William offered.

Lizzie smiled at him. “Thank you for coming.”

“I haven’t missed anything yet. I certainly wouldn’t leave you to spend three hours by yourself in the lab waiting room, especially when fasting is involved,” William said before lowering his voice. “Then I’d miss all this entertainment and it just wouldn’t be the same with you explaining it.”

“I don’t know. I’m sure it would still be great. I’ve been told I’m a natural storyteller,” Lizzie said cheekily and William raised an impressed eyebrow.

“You got me there.”

For much of that hour, Lizzie took to her phone to answer some emails and take her mind off slow-growing hunger. William spent his time checking out the room but not being too obvious about it and answering Lizzie when she asked a question. There was a television mounted to the wall showing some Disney movie on mute. People came and went in waves, their gaze usually fixated on the changing number on the wall. Two little kids were playing with their toys in the corner while their moms talked and waited for their numbers to be called. Time seemed to pass a little slower than the hour before but Lizzie was doing well. Just before she needed to go in again, he reached over and squeezed her leg. She looked up and over to him, giving him a warm look. She checked the clock and exhaled before getting up and going back for her third draw.

While he waited for her to return, a mother came over carrying her daughter and asked if it was all right to sit in the chairs across from him. He gestured to the empty chairs and told her it was okay. She had her blond hair in pigtails and was wearing a blue princess dress with fairy wings attached to the back. The mother sat down and her daughter slid out of her lap and then looked to William and gave him a toothy smile. He smiled in return and she giggled. She started to dance in a clumsy circle and sing to herself.

“How old is she, if you don’t mind me asking?” William inquired after a few moments.

“Almost three,” the mother replied, glancing between him and her daughter. “Do you have any of your own?”

Lizzie’s timing was impeccable and came walking out at that moment, quirking her head and looking at him curiously before sitting down.

“We will soon,” William replied proudly, slipping his fingers between Lizzie’s.

“Congratulations!” she said, looking to Lizzie. “How far along are you?”

“Twenty-five…Actually, twenty-six weeks today,” Lizzie responded. “Six and a half months.”

“You look fantastic! I would have figured four months,” she said.

“I just say she’s shy,” Lizzie joked, watching the girl dance around some more.

“I like that answer,” the mother laughed softly. “I got so big by the end that my husband was tying my shoes for me.”

Lizzie nudged William. “I’m sure mine will be willing to do that.”

The little girl took a big leap in front of them as if she was performing for them.

Lizzie leaned forward.  “You have a really pretty dress on.”

She stopped dancing and smiled really wide.

“I’m a faiwy pwincess!” the little girl exclaimed.

“You sure are!” Lizzie agreed. The little girl began spinning in big circles and giggling.

“She must love you guys. She doesn’t perform for everybody.”

“We feel very honored then,” William said.

After a few moments of them watching her twirl around, the mother reached out for her.

“Looks like it’s her turn,” she said, picking her daughter up. “Wish us luck.”

“Good luck,” Lizzie said, waving to the little girl. She waved back before they went inside.

“Such a cute little girl!” Lizzie brought a hand up to her chest.

“She was pretty adorable,” William agreed.

“I can’t wait to have moments like that.”

William looked at her affectionately. “Only fourteen more weeks and we will.”

“That can’t come soon enough,” Lizzie murmured. “Also, my last blood draw came back normal too.”

“It really is turning out to be nothing.”

“Only one more blood draw but it’s looking that way.”

Lizzie exhaled and leaned back in her chair, getting herself comfortable for another hour of waiting. Within a few minutes, they heard the little girl coming out. She was bawling, with her arm sporting a colored bandage, and the mother was rubbing her back, telling her it was going to be okay. Lizzie pushed out her bottom lip in empathy and the mother gave them a look and subtly shrugged as she passed them.

“And those will be different kinds of moments,” William noted.

“I’m not looking forward to those at all,” Lizzie whimpered. “I can’t imagine what Jane and Bing go through with getting shots for two kids at once.”

“We’ll get through it together and figure it out.”

William nodded before rubbing his hands together. “So, one more blood draw and you’re done.”

“Fifty more minutes,” Lizzie said. “Whoever decided pregnant women should fast was a cruel, cruel person.”

~~~~~~~~~~

 

Lizzie practically skipped into the room to get her last blood draw, all too eager to be done with the test. William laughed as he watched her go and gathered their stuff so he’d be ready for her when she came out. Barely a minute passed before she returned, waving her hands around and wearing a blue wrap around her arm.

“Done!” Lizzie exclaimed, taking her bag from him. “The third blood draw came back normal too.”

“I’m sure the last draw will be too. You know what that means now?”

“Time for food! Your girls are starving!”

“Then let’s feed you both,” William said with a twinkle in his eye. “You’re going to love this place.”

“Will, I would love a hot pocket at this point,” Lizzie said snarkily.

“I promise you. This food is much better than a hot pocket,” William added “And I also have a little surprise for you.”

“Ooh. I love surprises.”


 

Saturday, August 4th (26 weeks and 1 day) 

Once Lizzie discovered that she passed the glucose test at lunch, William took the opportunity to tell Lizzie her surprise, which was a prenatal massage for Saturday morning. She practically squealed with delight when she had opened the envelope. They had already set aside time that day to work on the nursery so he knew she was free.

After her massage on Saturday, Lizzie returned home, feeling completely relaxed and armed with a new body pillow recommended by the massage therapist. She put it down in the living room and went back into the kitchen. As she was grabbing a bottle of water, she heard a clatter coming from the nursery, followed by William’s voice.

“Damnit!”

Lizzie shut the fridge door and went to see what happened. William was sitting on the floor and leaning against the wall, with one leg stretched out and the other bent. He had instructions in his hand and was frowning but she couldn’t help but notice how good he looked in his jeans and fitted white t-shirt. His hair was mussed up, standing up at different angles, which meant he must have been running his hand through it. He was surrounded by parts of the crib waiting to be put together and various tools.

“Need some assistance?”

William’s head snapped up and a look of relief and happiness spread across his face.

“Hey, beautiful. When did you get back?”

“Just now. Heard your cry for help,” Lizzie said cheekily. He sighed dramatically and stood up, giving her a sweet kiss.

“I’m having a bit of trouble with reading the instructions and putting the crib together at the same time,” William admitted. “I was saving the crib for last but had hoped to be done with it by the time you got home.”

“It’s okay. I can help now. You sure got a lot done,” Lizzie commented, looking around. All the furniture that had been arriving the past week had been unpacked, the boxes were gone, and they all had a place in the room. The mattress was leaning against the wall, the glider was placed at one corner of the chalkboard walk and the rocking chair at the other, waiting to frame the crib. Matching floor lamps were placed next to each chair. The changing table with drawers for storage below it was placed against the wall nearest to the bathroom door and a hamper on one side. Near the table was a dresser they would be piling full of baby clothes. Next to the French doors that opened out to the balcony was a bookshelf as tall as Lizzie, waiting to be filled with various baby books and toys.

“I wasn’t sure where you wanted everything so I put things where I thought they worked. I’ll move whatever you want,” William said, looking around. “The bookshelf should be secured to the wall once we figure out where it should go permanently.”

“I actually like it for now. Good job, you,” Lizzie said lightly, leaning in and toying with the band of his jeans. William glanced down at her hand play before returning his gaze to her, the corner of his lips twitching up and just barely quirking his eyebrow. She stood up on her toes and gave him a kiss before stepping back. “So, what can I do?”

“Would you mind reading me the instructions? It will be helpful,” William said. He bent down and grabbed them, giving Lizzie a great view of his butt in his well-fitted jeans. He caught her blatant stare when he turned to give them to her and merely smirked but said nothing. She couldn’t help herself. There was just something about the way her husband looked in jeans and white t-shirt, so simple but so sexy.

She took a seat in her glider for the first time, practically sinking against the cushions and bringing her feet up on the footrest. It was even more comfortable than she expected, which was great since she knew she’d probably be spending many hours in the chair.

“Do you like it?” William asked, looking up at her.

“Yes,” Lizzie murmured, closing her eyes momentarily and bringing a hand to her stomach. The baby gave a little kick of approval. “We both do.”

William smiled in response.

Lizzie began to read instructions to him until she reached where he left off. He began working on what tripped him up earlier while Lizzie watched on with her head resting on the cushion, waiting until he’d need to be read the next step.

“You look relaxed.”

“I am relaxed,” Lizzie replied, smiling at him. “Thank you so much for the massage. It’s just what I needed. They were all so kind and welcoming there.”

“I hope so,” William said, reaching for a tool. “Considering you’re going to be seeing them every two weeks from now until the baby is born.”

Lizzie froze. “What?”

“I’ve set it up so that you’ll be getting a prenatal massage with them every other Saturday morning. They’re flexible if you want to go a little earlier or later but I know Saturday mornings work best for you,” William explained.

“Will,” Lizzie looked at him in awe. “Are you serious?”

“You’re carrying our child and your body is changing in amazing and beautiful ways, all while I’m sitting here wondering what I can do for you.” William put down his tools and faced her, resting his arms on his knees. “I can build this crib. I can cook for you. I can go out at four in the morning to pick up what you crave.” Lizzie laughed gently at that, remembering the story where Jane told her she made Bing do that exact task. “I can carry you to bed when you’ve fallen asleep on the couch. If the massages help you while you deal with those changes, then I will feel that much better.”

“I…” Lizzie shook her head but was smiling. “I have the most ridiculous husband ever.”

“Is that a good or bad thing?”

“Good. Definitely good,” Lizzie said warmly.

William reached over and squeezing her thigh. “Now, let’s get back to this crib I said I’d build for you.”

She spent the better part of the next thirty minutes reading the instructions to him while he put the crib together. She got distracted a couple times when his shirt would ride up as he grabbed a new tool or part of the crib. He had caught on by the end because his movements were more purposeful, showing off for her as he finished the crib. After testing to make sure the crib was well-built, he grabbed the mattress and lifted it over his head. His shirt hiked up again, giving her another fantastic view, and he made his smirk obvious before he placed it in the crib. Then he pushed it against the wall, making sure it was even between the two chairs. They both stepped back and Lizzie slid her arm around his waist as they admired his handy work.

“Look at what you built,” Lizzie murmured, her voice laced with pride. “It’s beautiful.”

“You think so?”

“Absolutely. She’s going to love it too.” Lizzie slid her free hand to her stomach and William’s gaze followed. He smiled, mostly to himself.

“I surprised even myself,” William said. Lizzie turned towards him and slid her hands to his chest, toying with the fabric of his shirt.

“You shouldn’t be. I know for a fact that you’re quite good with your hands,” Lizzie said with a twinkle in her eyes.

“You are terrible.”

“I know.” Lizzie gave him a mischievous look. “What are you going to do about it?”

William glanced down, watching her hand movements for a moment before leaning in close and kissing her. “Whatever you want.”

Chapter Text

Saturday, August 11th (27 weeks and 1 day)

“Are you almost ready?”

William leaned against the doorframe, crossing his arms, and watching Lizzie as she was finishing fixing her hair. Gigi had come back from London only two days before but she called up the girls to say she was in dire need for a day out. Charlotte said yes since Sam was at a week-long conference but Lydia was already committed to a work event. Lizzie suggested the three of them go shopping first since some of her pants were getting too snug.

“Nearly.” Lizzie glanced at his reflection as he approached her. He slid his arms around her waist and flattened his palms against her belly. She saw his eyebrow rise in surprise and she knew he could feel the baby moving. “She’s been doing somersaults for the past twenty minutes.”

“I bet she knows Mom is finally getting clothes that won’t squish her.”

“Shut up, you.” Lizzie laughed, gently elbowing him. “I am looking forward to having some pants that actually feel secure. Jane recommended a few brands that are pretty stylish and won’t make me look like a whale.”

“You won’t ever look like a whale,” William replied. “I’m sure of it.”

“That’s the reassurance I’ll need when I’m thirty-nine weeks and look like I’ve swallowed a beach ball.”

“Nonsense. You’re gorgeous now and you will be even more so at thirty-nine weeks,” William said, kissing her shoulder.

Lizzie glanced over her shoulder at him and smiled. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.”

“So, do you have any fun plans while I go cavorting with Gigi and Charlotte for the day?”

“Points for vocabulary, Mrs. Darcy,” William teased. “I’m going to get a few errands done and go into work. We’re getting closer to release on the messaging extensions app and I want to see the progress in person.”

“I have a feeling that’s going to be a big success for you,” Lizzie said, finishing putting her hair up as he stepped back and leaned against the wall.

“I don’t think it’s as big as Domino, but I believe people will like it.”

“Oh, c’mon. I’ll be one of the first to use it. Finally being able to bold, italicize, and underline when texting? It’s so simple yet helpful.”

“You know that’s not all the app will be for, right?”

“I’m focusing on what I want to use it for,” Lizzie explained. Her phone vibrated a couple times with notifications and there was the faint sound of a knock a moment later. “That’s Gigi and Charlotte.”

“I’ll get the door.”

“Thank you! I just need another minute.”

William leaned against the doorframe and smiled at her. “I think I can entertain for a few minutes. It will be nice to catch up with my sister.”

~~~~~~~~~~

“I’m so happy you guys agreed to go out,” Gigi said as they walked into the clothing store.

“I would have said yes to anything. The apartment is too quiet when Sam isn’t there,” Charlotte replied. “I’m too used to him. It’s so annoying.”

Lizzie laughed. “I’m the same way when William is gone.”

“You two are pathetic,” Gigi joked.

Lizzie and Charlotte exchanged looks before nodding. “We really are.”

“Well, I pretty much did nothing but work the whole time I was in London so I need some fun.”

“And I need some new clothes that fit so it all works out!” Lizzie said.

“I can’t believe you haven’t bought any maternity clothes yet,” Gigi said.

“I haven’t really had the time, honestly.” Lizzie shrugged. They asked the sales associate where the maternity section was and they were pointed to the second floor.

“It helps that you’re not really big,” Charlotte said.

“Yeah, but I can’t button these pants at all anymore,” Lizzie admitted. She lifted her shirt a fraction to show them the hair tie trick and Charlotte snorted.

Gigi looped her arm with Lizzie’s. “We need to get you some new clothes, stat!”

The girls spent some time looking through the maternity section, finding some cute shirts along with different kinds of pants that Lizzie so desperately needed. With arms full, they made their way to the empty dressing room and Gigi and Charlotte sat down to wait for Lizzie’s mini fashion show. It wasn’t long before she found something she liked.

“Oh my god. This is what a pair of pants is supposed to feel like,” Lizzie said with a relieved groan, hearing snickers from outside her dressing room.

“Show us!”

Lizzie pulled her shirt down before stepping out. “They don’t even look like maternity jeans.”

“I’m going to say it. They may your butt look amazing,” Gigi pointed out. Lizzie turned to look at herself in the mirror and she agreed. “You can’t even tell there’s that stretchy band underneath.”

“I think that’s why they call them secret fit belly jeans,” Lizzie said. “There’s enough stretch to it that I can wear these until I go into labor.”

“Buy a few pairs,” Charlotte said. “You could totally wear them after the baby comes too.”

“If I’m not totally sick of them by then,” Lizzie quipped, closing the door behind her. “How goes the planning for the baby shower?”

“We’re pretty much done, actually,” Charlotte spoke up. “I’m waiting for a couple things to come in the mail.”

“I found a few things in London in what little spare time I had,” Gigi said.

“How are you not dealing with jet lag and exhaustion? It sounds like you wore yourself out over there, Gigi.” Lizzie said, sounding concerned as she stepped out to show them a shirt. She wasn’t sure about the style and made a face. Both girls gave a thumbs down and she went back into her stall.

“I slept on the plane and for half of yesterday. London was a lot of work but it was necessary since it was a big international client. I’m going back in October for a couple weeks too.”

“As long as you’re back in time,” Lizzie said, showing them another top. It was multi-colored and more fitting, framing her belly just right. The girls gave her each two thumbs up.

“I wouldn’t miss my niece’s debut for the world!” Gigi assured.

“Speaking of,” Lizzie said. “I need to find a dress for the baby shower. Will you two help me?”

“What are we here for again?” Charlotte asked with a hint of sarcasm. Gigi elbowed her in the ribs and Lizzie kept herself from laughing when Charlotte grimaced and rubbed her hand against her ribs.

“Don’t listen to her. We’ll find you something that you make you the center of attention.”

“I mean, I do love a statement dress, but I kind of already assumed I would be,” Lizzie quipped.

~~~~~~~~~

After a very successful shopping trip where Lizzie expanded her wardrobe and all of them found outfits for the baby shower, they went out to lunch. Gigi and Charlotte left it up to Lizzie to pick the place and she chose a little bistro near where they were shopping.

“What’s been your weirdest craving so far?” Gigi asked as they were finishing up.

“You know, I haven’t had too many. It’s more along the lines of something sounds good so I’ll get it and then I’m satisfied,” Lizzie said, brushing a hand across her belly. “She does really like the fruit, especially when it’s fresh. William and I have been taking more walks to the farmers’ market.”

“At least it’s healthy!” Charlotte piped up. “I had an employee who ate nothing but peanut butter and butter sandwiches for four months and she only liked this one brand of peanut butter that was sold in the city. This was when I was at the old office, by the way. Her husband had to make the drive all the time because she went through the jars like it was nothing.”

Lizzie shook her head. “William is more than happy to go out if I want something but I haven’t really needed him to yet.”

“Maybe the cravings will come in these last three months,” Gigi said. “Send him out at three am for nachos and then when he gets back, say you don’t want it anymore!”

“You sounded a little too gleeful there. You want your brother to deal with that?”

“He needs stories to share for the next couple in the group who has a baby.” Gigi couldn’t help but glance at Charlotte, who immediately put her hands up.

“We just got married and you saw how long that took. There’s no baby in our immediate future,” Charlotte insisted.

“Have you two actually discussed it?” Lizzie looked at her.

“Well, yea. We’ve been together for four years so the subject has come up before. We’d like to have one eventually.”

“We should time it to where we have our second while you’re having your first,” Lizzie joked.

“Our mothers would love that!” Charlotte snorted. “Why don’t we join a book club while we’re at it?”

“Only if it’s Regency-themed.” They burst into laughter and bumped shoulders.

“You know what I think we should do?” Charlotte looked between them.

“Frozen yogurt?” Lizzie offered and the girls snickered.

“And here you just said you didn’t really have cravings,” Charlotte teased her.

“I’m in the mood for frozen yogurt. There’s a difference.” Lizzie lifted her chin in defiance.  

“Right. Anyway, we should go back to my place and watch some movies. I can only do so much work when Sam is away before I drive myself crazy.”

“Oh, I’m in. It’s been ages since I had time to watch movies,” Gigi said, signaling their waiter for the check.

“Sounds like a great idea, Char,” Lizzie agreed. “Anything in mind?”

“I can think of a movie or two.”

~~~~~~~~~~ 

Lizzie checked in William before the girls picked up frozen yogurt and headed to Charlotte’s. A baby-related movie marathon had clearly been planned. There was a pile of movies on the table, including Look Who’s Talking, Three Men and a Baby, and Father Of the Bride Part II. She shrugged and settled down on the couch to enjoy her frozen yogurt, putting her feet up to get comfortable.

Lizzie felt the baby move soon after the credits for the second movie began. She laid a hand on her stomach for a moment and realized how rhythmic her movements were. The baby had hiccups. She laughed and asked.

“Do you guys want to feel something strange?”

“Is she moving?” Gigi asked. She reached out and then hesitated, pulling her hand back. “May I?”

“I love that you’re asking but you don’t need to, Gigi. You’re not a stranger,” Lizzie said as they scooted in closer to her. Gigi and Charlotte both tentatively laid hands on her belly to see if they could feel something. They barely had to wait. Gigi gasped.

“Whoa,” Charlotte said under her breath, pulling her hand away for a moment before bringing it back.

“This is so cool,” Gigi breathed. “She moves like this all the time?”

“She has hiccups right now,” Lizzie clarified.

“I didn’t even know babies could get hiccups in the womb!” Charlotte exclaimed.

“Neither did I. She had them a while ago during one of my ultrasounds. The technician explained that it’s because the lungs are developing,” she explained further. “It’s happened a few times over the past two weeks but I’ve been the only one to feel it.”

“Not even William?” Gigi glanced up to her.

“Not yet. She moves for him when he talks to her, though,” Lizzie said happily.

“Does he talk to her often?”

“Every day.”

“My brother’s such a dork.”

“But I still love him,” Lizzie smiled.

“She’s stopped.” Charlotte dropped her hand.

“If she starts moving again, I’ll let you know.”

“Do you two want some tea or anything? I’m going to make some since we’re paused.”

“I’d love some. Thanks, Char,” Lizzie said.

“Me too. Need any help?” Gigi asked as Charlotte got up.

“I’m good. I’ll be back.”

After she headed for the kitchen, Lizzie got up and felt the annoyingly familiar urge to pee. She hurried off to the bathroom, hearing Gigi’s snickering behind her.

“All better?” Gigi asked when she returned.

“Yes. I’m getting to that lovely phase where my bladder begins to shrink,” Lizzie sighed.

“I can’t believe how quickly time is passing!” Gigi said as Lizzie sat back down.

“I’m only a week away from my third trimester,” Lizzie said. “I’m probably going to explode to gargantuan proportions when I hit my eighth month.”

“I call B.S.,” Charlotte said, coming into the room with a tray of drinks. “People had a hard time believing Jane was having twins and your mom was all belly from the pictures I’ve seen. Me on other hand? I’ve seen the evidence. I’m going to look like Violet Beauregarde. You’ll have to roll me from one room to the next.”

Lizzie cackled. “As long as you do the same for me if I get there.”

“Are you getting excited?” Gigi asked, turning her body to face Lizzie and Charlotte.

“That’s one word for it.” Lizzie glanced down at her hands before looking back up. “Nervous, terrified, eager…take your pick. Being pregnant really is a roller coaster of emotions sometimes.”

“You okay?” Gigi tilted her head in concern.

“Yea…” Lizzie sighed. “I can’t wait to meet her and hold her in my arms, but that doesn’t mean I’m not a bit terrified about being in labor. Sometimes, it’s hard to wrap my head around the fact that I have a human being growing inside of me and I’ll be pushing her out in a few short months. Like…my body is built for this kind of thing. I willingly agreed to let it go through this massive change and at the end of it all, there’s the pain of childbirth. Do you know how many women have told me their labor stories? I didn’t ask them to tell me. They just see that I’m pregnant and decide to scare the ever-loving crap out of me for no good reason.”

Charlotte scoffed. “I would have just walked away from them.”

“I would have if they weren’t clients. I have enough to worry about. We have an extra ultrasound next week to make sure she’s developing like she should be and I’m trying not to get too in my head about it. I keep having to tell myself that she will be okay,” Lizzie said before adding. “And now that I feel her moving every day? I pay attention to that. If I don’t feel her for a few hours, I worry that something’s wrong with her. My first thought isn’t that she’s probably resting but that something’s happened.”

“Have you talked to William about this?” Charlotte asked.

“Only about her moving. He came home the other day and I was really stressed out because I hadn’t felt her moving in hours. He calmed me down by having us listen to her heartbeat with the fetal monitor. I feel so silly jumping to the worst conclusion so quickly sometimes.”

“I’m sure you’re not the only one who’s done this, Lizzie,” Gigi offered. “Maybe you should talk to William.”

“I don’t need him to worry more than he already is. We’re both nervous about becoming parents. This is more something I need to vent about to girlfriends and my sisters but not my husband. I know I’m in good hands with William,” Lizzie said, flashing a quick smile. “Now that we have a doula, I have someone to talk to who knows what I’m going through and help me get through it. William was right. She’s a big help.”

“My brother always goes that extra step,” Gigi noted. “If he could figure out a way to have the baby himself, you know he would.”

“Oh god, don’t put that weird image in my head!” Lizzie laughed.

“You mean you don’t want to picture William with the body of a seahorse?” Charlotte teased.

“Stop!” Lizzie waved her hands around to indicate that she had had enough. “Today has been really good and I’m glad you suggested it, Gigi. It’s nice to hang out with you two and be able to talk about this. Honestly, I love being pregnant ninety-eight percent of the time, but my mind gets to me for that other two percent.”

“We’re here whenever you need us.” Gigi took her hand. “And I’m sure Jane has plenty of advice too.”

“She has seriously been a blessing. She’s been more than happy to answer even my smallest questions. It helps to have someone close to you who’s been through this before.”

“So I get to come to you when I’m freaking out?” Gigi asked with a twinkle in her eyes.

“Do you have a secret to tell me?” Lizzie joked.

“No! The most action I’ve gotten in the past couple months was literally running into my next door neighbor,” Gigi said flatly. “Much to the relief of my brother. He’d freak out even if I didn’t get pregnant until I was forty.”

“It’s hard to watch your younger siblings grow up,” Charlotte spoke. “Maria just moved in with her boyfriend. I keep thinking that’s impossible, she’s just a baby – but she’s not.”

“It’s especially hard when they raised you,” Lizzie said softly to Gigi.

“I love that though. He’s so involved and shows that he cares. I know he wants me to have the best out of life.” Gigi put a hand on Lizzie’s stomach. “And he’ll do the same for her. She lucked out. She’s getting a good dad.”

Lizzie smiled widely. “I know.”

“And the mom isn’t so bad either,” Charlotte joked.

~~~~~~~~~

Lizzie came home shortly before nine to jazz music filling up the apartment. William was sitting on the couch with the back to the hallway so he was unable to see her come in. She quietly put her stuff down and slipped out of her shoes before walking over to him, noticing he was on the computer. She brushed her hand along his shoulders and he jumped a little before looking over his shoulder.

William grabbed at his chest, closing his computer. “You scared me.”

“I’m sorry,” Lizzie apologized. She walked around to join him and he moved his computer off his lap. He was barefoot and wearing his glasses, and comfortable jeans and a plain t-shirt. She bent down to kiss him hello. “Hi, handsome.”

“Hi, beautiful,” he replied, bringing his hands up to her hips and leaning in close to her belly. “Hello there, my sweet girl.”

The baby kicked in response and he glanced up at her with a happy expression. Then he guided her to the couch and she lay down, resting her head in his lap.

“How was your day?”

‘It was good. I had a really nice time with Gigi and Charlotte,” Lizzie murmured. He rested one hand on top of her stomach and she closed her eyes momentarily as he began to run his fingers through her hair. “We went shopping and I found pants that actually fit me as well as some really comfortable shirts. I also got a few dresses and a few others things you’ll like.”

“Looking forward to seeing them.”

“Then we went out to lunch, which was delicious and healthy. I balanced the healthy with some frozen yogurt afterwards,” Lizzie said and William chuckled. “Then we had a baby-themed movie marathon at Charlotte’s place. We had take-out for dinner and now I’m home with you.”

“Baby-themed movie marathon?” William repeated. “Anything good?”

“Just some classic eighties and nineties movies that overdramatized everything.”

“Isn’t that usually the case?”

“Yea. My company should create a realistic series about it. Show women what they should actually expect.”

“It’s not a bad idea, Lizzie,” William said. “It would be good for nervous first-timers.”

“Maybe, someday,” Lizzie hummed, looking up at him. “How was your day?”

“Not bad. Some real progress is being made with the messaging app. I spent most of the morning with the team and caught up on some work in my office for the afternoon –”

“Did you eat lunch?” Lizzie interrupted. “I know you sometimes forget when you’re in the office on the weekends.”

“I did. I had lunch delivered,” William assured her. “A turkey sandwich and fruit salad, if you were planning to ask.”

“I wasn’t but thank you for the details,” Lizzie said with a bright expression. He leaned down and kissed her forehead.

“I spent most of the afternoon in the office and then I ran a few errands before meeting up with Fitz for dinner,” William concluded. “I’ve been reading for most of the evening, waiting for you to come home.”

“Sounds quite relaxing,” Lizzie murmured, letting her eyes droop.

“You’re tired,” William said matter-of-factly and she nodded. “Did you over-exert yourself?”

“It’s just been a long day,” Lizzie shrugged.

“How would you like to continue this conversation in the bedroom? I won’t even be upset if you fall asleep on me.”

Lizzie laughed. “First of all, you’re used to me falling asleep on you. Second of all, I would have fallen asleep on you in here.”

William brushed his knuckles along her cheek. “But this way, you won’t fall asleep in these clothes.”

“I knew there was a reason I wanted to keep you.”

William smiled and stood up, offering her a hand and helping her up. He slid his arm around her waist and they sauntered to the bedroom together.

 


 

 Wednesday, August 22nd (28 weeks and 5 days) 

Lizzie had officially hit her third trimester the previous Friday when they had their extra ultrasound. She expressed her worries about the baby and the possibilities of the results to William a couple days prior and he confessed to feeling some anxiety as well. Somehow it made her feel better, knowing that she wasn’t alone in her concerns. They discussed it a little more while they sat in the waiting room before finally being called in. While they knew they wouldn’t be told the results of the ultrasound, they were more than happy to watch their daughter on the monitor as the technician took her measurements and made her notes. In the end, William couldn’t resist and asked if everything was all right. The technician said nothing as she handed him pictures she printed out but gave them a reassuring smile.

They didn’t hear about the results until at the end of Lizzie’s doctor appointment on Wednesday afternoon. Dr. Gates asked how she was doing as she examined her and took measurements of her belly before listening for the heartbeat with her fetal monitor.

“She has a good, strong heartbeat,” Dr. Gates noted. “You’re beginning to round out more. I told you some women take longer.”

Lizzie had noticed it, as well. While she her stomach seemed to change from day to day because of the baby’s position, she no longer had belly envy. She had begun to wear her maternity pants last week and couldn’t believe the difference in comfort. The best part was that William told her that she made them look sexy. Thankfully, she had yet to experience the swollen ankles but it helped that her husband would massage her feet at night after work.

“Alright, I’m sure you’re antsy to hear the results of the ultrasound,” Dr. Gates said, clicking away at her keyboard.

“Maybe just a little,” William commented and Lizzie reached out for his hand.

“From the technician’s notes, your baby was very cooperative this time. She could see all the chambers of the heart and saw no malformations,” Dr. Gates read and William squeezed Lizzie’s hand “And both kidneys are the same size and appear to be growing at the same rate.”

“What a relief,” Lizzie breathed.

“Sometimes, one kidney grows faster than the other. Most of the time, as with your case, it’s nothing. I just wanted to check to be sure,” Dr. Gates explained.

“We appreciate it,” William thanked her. “What should we expect now?”

“Now you start preparing for her arrival. You have eleven weeks to go but time goes by quickly. You should take your tour of the labor and delivery department soon,” Dr. Gates suggested. She went on to ask if they had signed up for the childbirth class, which they had and would be taking in a couple weeks. Afterwards, they asked a few more questions before they were done. All in all, it had been a successful appointment and they left it feeling happier than they had been all week.

 


 

Friday, August 24th (29 weeks)

Bing, Jane, and the twins were set to arrive in San Francisco in the late afternoon for Lizzie’s baby shower on Saturday. They made arrangements to stay in a hotel since Mr. and Mrs. Bennet would be using the remaining guest room at Lizzie and William’s once they arrived in the morning. 

They made tentative plans to meet Lizzie and William after work at their apartment, even offering to bring over dinner so they wouldn’t have to go through any extra trouble. Lizzie and William happily agreed and made sure to leave their offices on time. The two had only been home for thirty minutes when they heard knocks on the door.

“Already? I’m glad I left when I did,” Lizzie commented. They had finished changing out of their work clothes and were setting up the table for dinner.

“I’ll get it,” William offered, handing her the rest of the forks and quickly kissing her cheek. She flashed him a smile as he headed down the hallway and to the front door. There was the sound of the door being unlocked and then children shouting, followed by Jane and Bing’s distinct voices saying not to attack their uncle. Lizzie laughed, clearly able to picture it, and put the last fork down before walking towards the noise. When she turned the corner, she saw Scarlett and Charlie firmly attached to William’s legs as he lumbered down the hallway. He locked eyes with her and his face broke out into a boyish grin as he continued his trek.

“Hello there,” Lizzie said warmly, waving to Bing and Jane who were behind the spectacle.

“Lizzie!” Jane exclaimed. She handed Bing a bag of food, hurried over, and gave her a hug before pulling away and grabbing her hands. Her eyes darted down to her belly and then back up. “Look at you! It’s so good to see you.”

“You too!” Lizzie said. She was unable to resist the urge to glance down at her belly for a moment. She beamed at Bing as he walked past her to put the food down. “I’ve grown a bit since last we saw each other.”

“You look amazing!” Jane said happily, laying her hands on her round belly for a moment. Bing popped up next to Jane and she pulled her hands away.

“You really do,” Bing agreed, giving Lizzie a hug. “How are you feeling?”

“Pretty good, actually. Today is a good day.”

Giggles from the twins continued when William made it to the end of the hallway and paused, taking an exaggerated breath. Lizzie knew he could handle them, especially with the amount of bicycling and yoga he had been doing. Jane turned to look at her kids and bent down to their level. “Are you going to say hello to your Auntie Lizzie? Remember to be careful.”

Scarlett and Charlie began to detach themselves from William’s legs and toddled over to her, giving her big smiles. William took the opportunity to help Bing get dinner all set up.

“Hi Auntie Lizzie!” they chorused. Lizzie got down on her knees, a little slowly, and held out her arms. Scarlett hugged her first and planted a big kiss on her cheek.

“Thank you,” Lizzie smiled at her as she pulled away.

“Mommy says we hafta be careful around your tummy,” Scarlett said, stepping back as Charlie hugged Lizzie.

“Is your tummy okay?” Charlie asked with genuine concern. It was such a sweet question and Lizzie held back her laugh.

“Do you remember me and your uncle William telling you that you’re going to have a cousin soon?” Lizzie reminded them, glancing up at Jane. She had an encouraging look on her face and let her continue. They reminded them nearly every Sunday during their phone calls when Lizzie would give updates to Jane and Bing.

“Uh huh,” they both said.

“Well, she’s in my tummy. She still has to grow bigger and get stronger before she comes out. I’m protecting her right here,” Lizzie said, putting her hands on her belly.

Charlie walked over to Jane and tugged on her leg before she picked him up. Scarlett came closer to her and Lizzie saw the nervous look on Jane’s face. She bent over and put her hands on her stomach and Jane took a step forward. Lizzie gave her a look to let her know it was okay and Scarlett leaned in close.

“Hellooo!” Scarlett shouted to her belly. Lizzie pressed her bottom lips together to keep from breaking at the sight before her. “Auntie Lizzie, can she hear me?”

“I don’t know. She might if you get closer,” Lizzie suggested playfully. She could feel William’s eyes on her but she didn’t dare look. Lizzie maneuvered herself so she was cross-legged and sitting on her butt instead of her knees and Scarlett climbed into her lap. She said ‘hello’ and introduced herself, babbling for a few moments. Then she pressed her ear to Lizzie’s stomach and Lizzie brushed her hair out of the way. Scarlett pulled back and Lizzie looked at her expectantly.

“It sounds like the ocean!”

She heard snorts behind her and then throats clearing to mask it.

“The ocean, huh?”

“Ya! Just like when Mommy and Daddy took us. It’s all ‘whoosh’ and stuff.” Scarlett climbed out of her lap. Lizzie heard more snickers and glanced behind her shoulder to see William and Bing’s shoulders shaking. She quickly turned back so she wouldn’t start laughing too. “When will she come out?”

“Right around your birthday,” Lizzie answered. “You’ll meet her at Thanksgiving.”

“Mommy, is that a long time away?” Charlie spoke up. Scarlett seemingly lost interest and ran over to Bing, holding up her arms until he picked her up.

“You’ll be meeting your new cousin in a few months,” Jane replied. “And it will be sooner than you realize.”

Lizzie sat there and digested Jane’s words, realizing that there were only so many weeks left until the baby was born. It was less than three months away and she felt a flutter of excitement in her chest. There was a hand on her shoulder and she whipped her head around to see William looking at her with a warm expression. He must have been feeling the same thing.

“Dinner’s ready,” William said gently, offering her a hand. She took it and he helped her up before he brushed his lips across her temple.

“That went well, I think,” Lizzie murmured, only loud enough for him to hear.

“At least they didn’t use your legs for transportation,” William replied.

Lizzie snickered. “I think you’ll need to get used to that, mister.”

His lips tipped up. “Gladly.”

 


 

Saturday, August 25th (29 weeks and 1 day) 

Saturday morning was a flurry of activity. Lizzie’s parents arrived as she and William were finishing up breakfast, nearly an hour earlier than they were expecting. Mrs. Bennet was eager to see her grandchildren and start setting up for the baby shower that wasn’t for another six hours. Lizzie was more than fine about the early arrival, considering she hadn’t seen her father since they brought him home from the hospital. They called to check up on him once a week but it was a different thing entirely to see him in person. William grabbed their suitcases and took Mrs. Bennet with him to let Lizzie and her dad have a little time to catch up.

“I’m so glad you’re here, Dad,” Lizzie said, pulling away from their hug. “You look fantastic. How are you feeling?”

“Quite well, actually,” Mr. Bennet replied. “I’ve been back to work since Monday and I’m taking my time to get settled. They have been very understanding about my health. Your mother is still hell-bent on making sure I’m eating right but today is a cheat day so I’m having dessert.” Lizzie laughed at his admission. “I’m also going on my daily walks. She’s even joining me sometimes.”

“That’s really good to hear, Dad,” Lizzie said. “Maybe you and I can go on a walk while you’re here this weekend. William and I have gotten in the habit of it.”

“That sounds lovely, dear,” Mr. Bennet said as Lizzie led them to the couch. “You look splendid. How’s my granddaughter doing?”

“She’s pretty active lately and my doctor says she’s right on track with her development,” Lizzie said. Then she held up a finger and stopped herself from sitting down. “Which reminds me. I have a picture for you and Mom. I’ll be right back.”

Lizzie went to the nursery to grab a copy of the latest sonogram. They had been keeping them there and planned on framing them to hang on the wall. They had been too busy to get to it just yet. Her father was sitting on the couch when she returned and gave it to him.

“We had an ultrasound last week to make sure everything was okay,” Lizzie explained, joining him.

“She’s getting big,” Mr. Bennet noted proudly. “You and Jane have so many ultrasounds these days. It wasn’t as common with you girls. Your mother had one for each of you, only because she was insistent and wanted to know what we were having each time.”

“They’re more cautious now. I’m grateful for these glimpses. Nine months is a long time to wait to see your child.”

“The wait is