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Midnight - New Years Eve, 2017

Chapter Text

4:00pm. Wednesday December 27, 2017. Yo-Go-Girl, LA.

“Jake,” Lydia said, “If I were you, I’d just get Linda the new biography of Euler for her birthday. She was telling me yesterday that she hoped she’d get it for Christmas, but she didn’t.”

“Thanks Lydia,” Jake sighed with relief and took the last bite of his banana frozen yogurt. “You’re a lifesaver.”

“No problem, Jake, but you didn’t get it from me,” she replied, giving him a wink. “Let me know how it goes!”

“Will do. Thanks again Lydia.” Jake threw out his bowl, and pushing his floppy blonde hair out of his eyes, left the shop with a wave. Lydia watched him go with a smile, and then turned to start checking the stock of spoons.

“I give that relationship six months before Linda gets bored with him.” Mary announced from the table where she was camped out in the rear of the shop.

“Hey, Debby Downer, don’t burst my bubble! Just because your thesis is getting you down doesn’t mean you can drag everyone else with you.” Lydia retorted. Mary’s thesis was due in a few months, and she’d taken to working at one of the tables in Lydia’s shop. She arrived as soon as it opened, set up a fortress of books, papers, and strawberry smoothie cups around her laptop, and stayed there hunched over her keyboard until Lydia kicked her out.

“This has nothing to do with my thesis and everything to do with the fact that Linda is about twice as smart as he is. Jake’s not dumb, but Linda is a certifiable genius. Eventually she’ll want someone who can keep up with her. Also, they’re in high-school! What, did you think they were going to get married?”

“Hush, Mary, you’re depressing me, and Sarah and Casey too!” Lydia turned to her employees, who, having seen many of these arguments, kept their expressions carefully neutral. “Oooh! Speaking of marriage, in light of the fact that Darcinator finally got his act together, and my recent success with Linda and Jake, I’ve been thinking-”

“Lord save us!” Mary drawled.

Lydia ignored her and continued, “-it’s a shame Gigi doesn’t have someone in her life. If she had a boyfriend she wouldn’t have to be Lizzie and Darcy’s third wheel all the time. I didn’t have any good candidates, but then the other day Eddie introduced us to his friend Theo, and I hadn’t spent five minutes with them before I thought to myself Theo and Gigi would be the cutest together!

“Lydia,” Mary sighed, resting her face in her hands, “I can see from your face that nothing I say is going to stop you, but be careful. I actually like Gigi, and Theo seems nice too, so know this. I’m not going to help you, and I’ll be really upset if you mess this up.”

“I don’t need your help, I just need you to get Eddie to invite Theo on our New Years Eve adventures.”

“Lydia-” Mary began.

“Come on!” Lydia pleaded, “Eddie said Theo just moved here last month, so he can’t have any plans. It would be terrible if he had to spend New Years all by himself in a new city!” Lydia gave Mary her best puppy eyes.

“Fine,” Mary relented. “But only because Eddie already asked if we would invite him. This is in no way an endorsement of your tactics.”

“Yes!” Lydia exclaimed, elongating the final ess. But before she could get too excited, a wave of customers came in, and Lydia didn’t have a spare moment until she flipped the sign to closed and waved goodbye to the last customer with an “I’m sure you’ll do fantastically on your driving test, Sally.” After she had closed for the day, she dialed Gigi’s number while she was on her way home.

“Hey Gigi! It’s Lydia. How are you doing up in winter wonderland? Have you gotten bored of watching my sister make eyes at your brother yet?”

Lydia heard a staticy laugh from the other end. “Hi Lydia! Life is good. To what do I owe the pleasure?”

“So,” Lydia began, trying to keep her voice casual. “Eddie has this old friend from high school, Theo, who just moved to the area to start a new job, and he doesn’t know anyone. Eddie’s been bugging Mary and me to invite him out with us on New Years. I don’t know him that well: I only met him once, but he seemed nice, and Eddie says he’s great. Anyway, I told Eddie sure, as long as you were okay with it.”

“Well, I can’t see any reason why not. The more the merrier, right? Did you ever settle on a final plan for the evening? I don’t really care what we’re doing, as long as karaoke is involved at some point.”

“Well, we’re starting with a potluck at Mary and Eddie’s. Then we’ll hit up that cool new karaoke place so you’ll shut up about it. After that, well, there’s a bar next door that’s doing a buy one get one free on some red specialty drink, so I figure we swing by there so I can get my groove on. Then I’ve got a bunch of ice cream, candy, and more booze if necessary at my apartment. Eventually, people can go home if they want, or we can have a big sleepover. My vote is for sleepover, but sadly it’s illegal for me to lock you all in my apartment and not let you go.”

“Lydia!” Gigi laughed, “That sounds great! Minus the bit about holding us hostage in your apartment.”

“Okay it’s plan. I’ve got to go,” Lydia was at her front door and unable to hold her phone and fumble for her keys at the same time. “But as soon as you get back we’re getting dinner and you are telling me everything about this proposal business. I’ve heard Lizzie’s version, but I’m sure she’s leaving some things out. We need to compare notes.”

“Sure thing, Lydia. Have a good night.”

“Wait! Before you go, when do you get back?” Lydia asked her.

Gigi paused. “Tomorrow night. I’ll probably be unpacking that night, but how about we do dinner Friday?”

“I can do Friday. Meet at the shop at 7?”

“It’s a date.” Gigi confirmed. Lydia hung up with a smile, plans and plots turning in her head.

Chapter Text

6:55pm. Friday December 29, 2017. Yo-Go-Girl, LA.

The following Friday, Gigi walked up to Lydia’s shop a few minutes early. The bell jangled softly as she pulled the door open and walked inside. Lydia's shop was humming with customers and a sugar sweet pop song gently played on the speakers. Smiling to herself, Gigi wound her way through the clumps of people until she reached Mary’s fortress, the last table in the farthest corner of the store and right next to the door to the back. “Lydia?” Gigi called, “You there?”

“Hey Gigi, just give me a few minutes, we’ve had a minor strawberry catastrophe,” Lydia's head poked out from the door, and then disappeared again.

Gigi pulled a chair up next to Mary and sat down to wait. “Hey Mary, how’s the thesis treating you?”

“Alright,” Mary grunted, barely looking up from her glowing screen.

“Are you coming with us tonight, or do you have to work?” Gigi asked.

“Oh,” Mary looked up for the first time, “I made plans with Eddie already. We’re going to show a friend of Eddie’s the downtown.”

“Ah, this wouldn’t happen to be the infamous Theo who is going to join us for New Year’s, would it?” Gigi laughed.

“The one and only,” Mary looked up at the clock, “Actually, now that you mention it, I should probably start packing up. Theo and Eddie are picking me up here on the way. They should be here any minute.” Mary started piling her books into her messenger bag.

There was a crash and clatter from the back, followed almost immediately by Lydia calling out, “We’re all okay, don’t worry!” Gigi and Mary shared a glance and a laugh. A few moments later, Lydia emerged from the back, looking a little frazzled, but smiling. “Alright, I think we’ve gotten that sorted out,” she sighed. “Mary, are you sure you can’t come tonight? We’re going to have a totally rocking girls night; lots of juicy gossip!”

“I told you Lydia, I made plans with Eddie.”

“Ooh,” Lydia squealed, “Speaking of!” The bell jingled again as Eddie and another man, Gigi assumed he must be Theo, entered the shop. Mary went over and gave Eddie a hug, and he kissed her forehead. Gigi stayed where she was and gave Eddie an awkward wave. “Hey Eddie, hi Theo,” Lydia said.

“Theo, you remember Mary’s cousin Lydia, don’t you?” Eddie asked, walking over to where Lydia and Gigi were standing, “But I don’t think you’ve met Gigi, Lydia’s, what, sister-in-law-to-be?”

“Friend,” Lydia supplied.

“Well, Theo, this is Georgiana Darcy. Gigi, this is Theodore Walsh. Theo and I were friends in high school.” Eddie made the introductions.

“It’s a pleasure,” Theo extended a hand. Gigi took it, and it left a weird tingle on her palm long after he’d let go of her hand. Suddenly Gigi couldn’t think what to do with her arms. I’m sure I was doing something with them before, and it didn’t feel awkward. But what was it? Gigi panicked. “Lydia was telling me about you the other day,” he continued. Theo was long and lanky, all bones and knees and elbows, with big brown eyes and brown curly hair. Gigi realized she’d perhaps been staring at his eyes for longer than was generally considered socially acceptable, so she looked at the floor instead and blushed. “Lydia says you were quite the tennis player when you were in college,” Theo added.

Gigi opened her mouth. Then she closed it again. She fiddled with the strap on her purse. The color rose in her cheeks. Oh my god, I probably look like a tomato with hair! “I-I, um. Well.” Say something. Say anything. You have a voice, Georgiana Darcy, use it! Just when Gigi began to despair, Lydia chimed in, “She was nationally ranked!” I might just kill that girl.

Scrambling to rectify the situation, Gigi blurted out, “Since I started graduate school I haven’t had time to practice as much as I’d like to. Do you play?” Since when is my voice so squeaky? Gigi wondered.

“Oh no,” he laughed. There was an awkward silence. Actually, Gigi thought, it’s been awkward for a while now. It’s just that now it’s awkward and silent at the same time. After a few moments, Theo continued, “I was a runner in college though. I was able to keep up with it back when was in Boston, but I haven’t found anywhere good to run here.”

“Gigi runs in that park, I forget the name of it, twice a week, don’t you?” Lydia asked. I’m sure Lizzie would understand why I had to kill her younger sister, Gigi thought, as she pondered the ways a straw could be used as a deadly weapon.

“Really? Where is it?” Theo’s eyes brightened. Gigi mumbled a vague description of the park’s location. “Oh,” his face fell. “I don’t know where that is. I’m still learning the city.”

“Why don’t you two run together tomorrow? Then Gigi can show you where it is, and you won’t get lost,” Lydia suggested brightly.

“Lydia!” Gigi glared at her friend. She saw disappointment cross Theo’s face. Oh god, now he thinks I don’t like him. Gigi panicked and added hastily, “It’s not that I don’t want to. It’s just--I mean--I’m sure I couldn’t keep up with you, if you ran in college, that is. You wouldn’t want to run with me, anyway, I’m too slow. But I’d be happy to write down the address for you, then you could just Google directions or something.” I should just never leave the house ever again. Clearly I am a failure at humanity, Gigi thought to herself.

“That’d be great,” Theo flashed her a very white smile.

Gigi felt something flutter in her stomach. Before she could say anything else and dig herself an even deeper hole, she grabbed a napkin, determined to at least complete the rest of this interaction like a normal human being. That resolution lasted about two seconds. She fumbled in her purse for a pen, but couldn’t find one, so she asked,“Hey, Mary, can I borrow a pen?” Mary provided one, which Gigi promptly dropped and had to chase halfway across the shop. Once she had recovered it she hastily scribbled down the address and handed the napkin to Theo, too embarrassed to even look at him.

“Thanks.” Theo smiled again. “I’ll definitely check it out.”

“You’re welcome,” Gigi frantically tried to think of something else to say that wasn’t incredibly stupid, “Well, you guys probably should get going.” Seriously, that’s the best you could come up with? 

“Yeah,” Theo wiped his hands on his thighs. “I guess you’re right. See you around?”

“It was nice to meet you,” Gigi began to extend her hand to offer him a handshake, but then thought better of it, and just pushed her hair out of her eyes.

Theo shifted uncomfortably, “It was nice to meet you too, Georgiana.”

Her name sounded strange and old fashioned and elegant in his voice. “Gigi,” she corrected. “Not even my grandmother called me Georgiana--unless I’d done something to make her angry.” She laughed nervously. You brought up your grandmother? Seriously? You need to just stop talking.

“It was nice to meet you then, Gigi.” He gave her an awkward half wave, and joined Mary and Eddie where they were waiting by the door. Gigi felt something move around in her stomach again, and tried to pretend she wasn’t stretching her neck a little bit to watch him walk away to the car.

“So,” Gigi turned to Lydia after they’d gone and tried to keep her voice casual, “are you ready?”

Lydia grinned at her, and grabbing Gigi’s elbow, she dragged her out of the shop, “Let’s get this show on the road!”

Chapter Text

7:15pm. Friday December 29, 2017. Emma’s Counter, LA.

Lydia put her foot on the gas and turned the radio up. “So,” she said as casually as she could muster, “Theo’s nice, right?”

“Yeah, I guess,” Gigi mumbled, looking out the window.

“Oh, come on,” Lydia practically shouted in frustration, “I could tell you were totally crushing on him. I’m surprised you were able to stop staring into his eyes long enough to speak. But if you’re going to get on that train, you’re going to need some serious help. It looks like someone’s been going to the Lizzie Bennet School of Totes Awk Flirting.” Gigi opened her mouth to retort, but Lydia was on a roll, “Well, given that your brother is--and it still boggles my mind that this is possible--a more awkward flirt than my sister, I suppose it’s not that surprising that you’re going to need to attend the Lydia Bennet School for Remedial Flirting.”

“I am not taking flirting lessons from you Lydia. I thought we were supposed to be talking about your sister’s love life, not mine. Or didn’t you want to hear my side of the story?” Gigi looked at Lydia archly.

“Fine, but you’re no fun.” Lydia pouted.

“Why don’t you tell me about Linda and Jake. What happened with them? When I left you thought you might be getting somewhere on that.” Lydia knew Gigi was trying to change the subject, but she took the bait and chattered on about her plans for them. Gigi had the Darcy stubbornness; if Lydia pushed too hard on this, Gigi might react by running in the opposite direction.

Lydia continued talking about the latest gossip from her shop until they reached the little cafe where the two women had all their discussions. When they were safely seated in their usual table, Lydia turned to Gigi, and said very seriously, “Okay, spill.”

“First I want to know what Lizzie told you. Then I can fill in any gaps. I don’t actually know that much. I was going to ask Lizzie for details but it felt awkward, you know? I really only have what William told me about it, and he’s not the chattiest.”

Lydia laughed at that. “There are many words I’d use to describe your brother, but chatty isn’t one of them.” Then, imitating her older sister, Lydia mimed holding a phone to her head and said, “I’d like to chat,” and cringed exaggeratedly. Both girls dissolved into giggles.

“Please tell me he didn’t start it like that!” Gigi gasped, sipping her water.

Lydia laughed so hard at that she saw stars. “No, as far as I can tell it was rather smooth. Apparently your brother managed to find some game under a rock somewhere. I sort of figured you had something to do with that.”

“No, that wasn’t me.” Gigi put her hands in the air, “I was pretty much uninvolved in the whole process. Minus setting the deadline, of course” Gigi acknowledged. She paused for a moment. “And then throwing them into a couple romantic situations. But that was it! Really!”

Lydia snorted and raised her eyebrows.

“Well, I guess there was that one midnight pep talk. And that other pep talk. And bringing the ring. Okay. Fine. I was involved in all of it except what he said.” Gigi considered. “Well, now that I mention it, I guess I did tell him not to call her ‘decent enough’ or insult her family this time. But that was a joke!”

Lydia rolled her eyes. “You. Uninvolved. Right.”

“Is that sarcasm I detect there, Lydia Bennet? We’ll make a Darcy of you yet,” Gigi teased. “You were telling me what Lizzie told you about how it happened?”

“Right. Focus, Lydia. Okay, here’s how it went down, as best as I can tell. At like one in the morning on Christmas Eve, I got a call from Lizzie. She was really depressed, because earlier she’d thought your brother was going to propose, and then he didn’t. I told her she should just ask him because it is the twenty first century after all.”

Gigi thought for a second, “Now that would have caused a Darcy-bot-malfunction,” she laughed. “I honestly don’t think that would have computed.”

“Well, regardless, Lizzie was too chicken to do it. So I told her that if she was too scared, then she really should stop whining about it. And anyway, I tried to cheer her up, but you don’t really care about that. As Lizzie tells it, after she hung up, she was looking out the window at the snow and being mopey and depressed, when your brother scared the crap out of her by sneaking up behind her, and then he said she was the most important thing in his life and he wanted to spend every Christmas with her!” Lydia squealed.

“Oh. My. God. Where did that come from?” Gigi asked. “My brother? Really? Mr. ‘I hope today will be a good day. Too.’?”

“Apparently. That’s what Lizzie says.” Lydia shrugged. “But don’t worry, your brother comes back. So after he says that, he doesn’t go on one knee or anything, he just stands there and holds the box out to her like he’s passing the potatoes at dinner or something.”

Gigi shook her head and sighed, “That sounds more like my brother. You just confirmed my belief that your sister and my brother are truly terrible people. They were engaged for a whole day before they told me. To make matters worse, they spent that whole day torturing me! And then they didn’t just tell me like normal people! Lizzie just wore the ring and waited for me to notice it.”

“Welcome to the Bennet family,” Lydia smiled. “Although, the way Lizzie tells it, you more than deserved it. There doesn’t happen to be video of your reaction, does there? Because I would pay good money for that. Lizzie says your head basically exploded. So, what’s your side of the story? I told you mine.”

“Well, I think I told you, William wasn’t going to do it this Christmas. He hadn’t even brought the ring. So I brought it for him, because someone clearly needed to do something. When he still wouldn’t do it, I told him that if he didn’t do it by New Years’ I was going to do it for him. Or have you or Fitz do it for him.”

Lydia choked on the sip of water she’d just taken. Gigi giggled cruelly at her friend’s misfortune as Lydia sputtered, coughed, and laughed. “You did that on purpose,” Lydia gasped between coughs. Gigi shrugged and smiled.

“Well, after that my terrible brother made me think he was going to propose when he picked Lizzie up at the airport, so I had a good conniption about that. But then he didn’t. Then I dragged them to a romantic ice skating rink and left them alone. But my brother lost his nerve because your sister said something that he misinterpreted.”

“And that’s their relationship in a nutshell,” Lydia pointed out, smiling.

Gigi nodded, “True. I had to give him a midnight pep-talk that night, and I guess right after that he saw Lizzie, who had just had her conversation with you, and he just went for it. And then they spent a whole day messing with my brain and making me see proposals everywhere before they told me. After I found out I don’t really know much, because I made myself scarce. I figured the last thing William would want was his little sister hanging around too much.”

“Yeah, Gigi, you’ve been playing third wheel there for a long time.” Lydia pointed out.

“You’re a fine one to talk, Lydia, you’ve been fifth wheel to Lizzie and Jane for just as long! Add to that Mary and Eddie and I’m starting to think you should become a professional extra wheel!”

“Fifth wheel is so not a thing!” Lydia exclaimed. “You just made that up! And even if it were a thing, being a third wheel is still way more lame than being a fifth wheel.” As they ate, they debated whether it was worse to be fifth wheel or third wheel. Lydia insisted that the awkwardness of it just being you and the couple was ameliorated by the presence of another couple, and Gigi was equally firm in her belief that the presence of an additional couple only accentuated the loner’s singledom.

Chapter Text

8:00pm. Friday December 29, 2017. Emma’s Counter, LA.

Polishing off the last of her sandwich, Lydia said, “Although judging by the scene at my shop earlier, I might be playing seventh wheel soon. Where does seven rank in your calculus?” Lydia’s taunt was rewarded with a blush from Gigi. “Ha!” She shouted triumphantly, “You’re blushing! I knew you liked him!”

“I’ve known him for less than five minutes. And anyway, right now I want to focus on my thesis. I’m graduating in May.” Gigi tried to change the subject.

“Gigi! Jumping on that train and finishing your thesis are not mutually exclusive!” Lydia pointed out, unwilling to let it drop.

“I think the engagement has made you a little over-eager, Lydia.” Gigi patted her friend’s hand. “Here’s something to think about, little-miss-matchmaker. The first time a boy broke up with me, my mom took me out for ice cream. Then when I was done crying, she gave me a hug and said, ‘Gigi, remember, it takes a very good man to be better than none at all, and any man who makes you feel like this isn’t a good man.’ It took me a long time to really understand what she meant, but now I get it. I’m not going to be jumping on any trains because I’m nervous about my thesis, or because they say nice things to me, or because I’m feeling like any sort of wheel, or because my friend thinks it’s a good idea, or because I’m feeling lonely.” Or because they have really nice eyes, a little voice in her head added. “A boyfriend isn’t going to fix any of that.” She looked at Lydia significantly. “I think we both learned that the hard way.”

“But if you never get on any trains, you might miss the train that you really want to take.” Lydia grimaced as she stretched that metaphor way past its breaking point. “You know what I mean. I’m all for not settling and having high standards, but there are very good men out there, and I think Theo might just be one of them.”

“If Theo is so amazing, why aren’t you getting on that train?” Gigi asked.

Lydia rolled her eyes, “Because he’s not right for me. He’s a little too bookish, and I need someone with a little more sense of adventure.”

“And we all know your ideal man is Han Solo,” Gigi teased.

Lydia rolled her eyes, “Don’t judge! He’s hot,”

“It’s not the fact that you think Han Solo is hot that I have a problem with, Lydia. My problem is that you think he’s hotter than Indiana Jones!” The rest of the meal was taken up with a lively debate on the relative merits of the two characters, and Gigi relaxed a little now that Lydia seemed to have dropped the subject.

10:00pm. Friday December 29, 2017. Gigi’s apartment.

Gigi had been staring at her computer screen looking at her thesis for hours without writing a word. Her mind kept returning to her mortifying performance at the yogurt shop that evening. Every time her eyes closed she saw herself chasing the pen across the floor, or bringing up her grandmother. He probably thinks you’re a total spaz. He probably is rethinking coming on New Years because he doesn’t even want to be in the same room as me. She turned up the music, hoping that would help her focus. It was always hard to come back to school work after a break, but this was different. You don’t even know him, the rational side of her pointed out, this is clearly premature. What she really needed was to tell someone about what happened, so he or she could tell her to snap out of it and get her head screwed on properly.

Usually in situations like this, Gigi would call Lydia. But that would just throw gasoline on the fire, so Lydia was a no-go. Fitz was off limits too, because he’d tell her brother, and it was way too early in the game to be having that conversation. She briefly considered calling Lizzie, but decided against it; she didn’t want her brother to know yet, and it seemed rude to put Lizzie in that position. The more she thought about it, really, calling anyone seemed like an overreaction. This whole thing is an overreaction, she told herself. Whenever she’d been stressed in highschool, Darcy had told her “Gigi, don’t waste your energy worrying about things you cannot change, or things that have not yet happened. Focus on what you can do or change today.”

“I can’t change what happened at the shop this evening. And Theo hasn’t said he hates me yet, but I can do my thesis today,” she told herself. “Focus on that. Theo isn’t going anywhere, and he’s a problem for another day.” As she finally started typing, Gigi was thankful that men were not like trains. She wasn’t going to miss anything if she just waited and got to know him a little better. Okay, that metaphor really needs to stop. And anyway, odds are, she reasoned, this is just a crush that feels like more than it actually is because Lydia is manipulating things. It should pass. And then everything will be back to normal.

 

Chapter Text

10:30pm. Friday December 29, 2017. Lydia’s Apartment.

“So, Mary, dish! What did Theo think of Gigi? Please tell me she didn’t ruin everything by being a little spazzy.” Lydia had planned on waiting for the next day before calling Mary to get Theo’s reaction, but she just had to know.

Mary sighed. “Lydia. We just got back, and all I want to do is shower and sleep. I really don’t want to have this conversation right now.”

“Just tell me, and I’ll leave you alone. It doesn’t have to be a long conversation.” Lydia pleaded.

“I don’t know that much! I didn’t interrogate him about her!” Mary protested.

Lydia sighed, “But he must have said something! Come on Mary, give me something to go on here! I need more info if I’m going to get this done.”

“Honestly, he was more interested in the park! He was really excited about that. As far as I can tell, in his mind, Gigi is ‘girl who told me a place where I can run,’ that’s it.”

“Hmm,” Lydia mused, “I think I can work with, ‘that girl who told me a place where I can run.’ It could be worse. At least she’s not ‘that girl who can’t even speak English,’ right?”

“He did say that she seemed a little spacy,” Mary admitted. “Can I go now?” Mary whined.

“Wait, did he use the word spacy? What did he say exactly!” Lydia suddenly was a little worried.

Mary sighed, “Lydia, I don’t remember. He just was saying how happy he was that he could have a nice place to run again. He said it was nice of Gigi to tell him where it was. He asked if she was always that nervous, and that was it. Please, Lydia? Can I go?”

“Did you tell him she’s not usually that weird? Did you tell him she can usually put two sentences together? Please tell me you said something?” Lydia begged.

Lydia could practically hear Mary’s eyes rolling over the telephone. “I said she did seem unusually on edge and flustered, and that she had just flown back yesterday, so maybe it was that.”

“You’re the best!” Lydia squealed happily. “What did he say to that?”

“Oh?” Mary responded.

“I said, what did he say to that?”

“I know. That’s what he said. He said, ‘Oh?’ And really, that was all. I’m hanging up now Lydia, and I’m not taking any of your calls until tomorrow.”

Lydia heard the phone go click on the other end. She sat at her desk, looking over the December accounting reports for the shop, chewing on her pen, and thinking about Gigi and Theo. This business might be more complicated than she’d anticipated. She’d known going into this project that Gigi wasn’t the smoothest flirt, having seen Gigi with a few boyfriends over the course of the past four years, but this was a whole new level of painful. It appeared that Theo’s goofy charm turned Gigi’s slightly chaotic energy into a class A awkward disaster. It was kind of adorable, but definitely not what Lydia was going for, and not at all what Lydia had hoped their first meeting would be like.

Lydia pulled a scrap of paper over to her and started thinking about how she could use New Years Eve to fix things:

  • Make sure Gigi looks fabulous. (This shouldn’t be hard).
  • Get her talking about her thesis/design/things she likes.
  • Stay away from tennis--that didn’t work well today.
  • NO PENS.
  • Get Theo talking about something he’s passionate about.
  • What is Theo passionate about? Running? That didn’t seem to work today.
  • What is his job anyway? Find out from Mary.
  • Karaoke: Make them sing together? Could this backfire? Too awkward?
  • Alcohol. (Lydia's laws, FTW)
  • But not too much Alcohol.

Lydia realized as she made the list that she was facing an extra hurdle in this scenario: she didn’t know Theo. In the case of Linda and Jake, she’d known both of them for a few months before she shoved them at each other. She’d only met Theo once before she started pushing him at Gigi. The Lydia Bennet doesn’t back down at an extra challenge, she told herself, doodling on the scrap of paper. And anyway, Gigi is totally crushing on him already, Lydia consoled herself, So I’m basically halfway there. I just need to get Theo to develop a crush on Gigi, and Gigi is usually compleatly adorable. This is totally doable, if I can get Gigi to act like her normal self.

 

Chapter Text

6:44am. Saturday December 30, 2017. Gigi’s Apartment.

Gigi gave up on getting any more sleep the the fourth time she woke up from a nightmare that ended with her getting run over by a train wearing an ex-boyfriend’s face. She had some errands to do, and the usual loose ends to tie up after a vacation, but beyond that the day stretched empty ahead of her. Let’s see, Gigi thought brushing her teeth, I could get an early start on my thesis, or I could go for a run. Run. Definitely. Maybe I can exercise this crush out, Gigi reasoned to herself.

She pulled on her leggings and an old pink t-shirt from her tennis days that said You Got Served on it in blue lettering. She didn’t even bother to brush her hair before she put a headband on to keep it out of her eyes. After a quick granola bar and glass of orange juice, Gigi grabbed her keys, iPod, and headphones and jogged out the door.

The park where she liked to run was about half a mile from her building, so Gigi usually jogged there, ran another three or four miles, and then walked back. Cranking her workout music up as loud as it would go, Gigi felt her muscles creak back to life as she set off down the sidewalk. She hadn’t run at all for the week that she had been at the cabin, and she definitely felt it. The discomfort wasn’t entirely unwelcome though; it was one more thing that helped keep her mind off certain men.

It was unseasonably warm, and by the time she reached the park, Gigi was already breathing deeply and her forehead was beaded with sweat. Wiping her face on her shirt, she paused at the gate to stretch her legs out a bit before setting off again. Gigi set herself a grueling pace, making sure she had no space in her head for anything except the music in her ears, the feeling of the trail under her feet, and the sound of her breathing. It was cooler in the shade of the park, and Gigi soon found her rhythm.

Thanks to her faster-than-usual pace, she was soon coming up on the end of the one and a half mile loop. She slowed for a second, trying to decide if she wanted to take another lap, when suddenly an all too familiar lanky figure came up next to her. Oh my god. I totally forgot I told him about the park. Maybe it’s not him. No, it’s definitely him. No. Please no. Please let it not be him. This is a dream. Please no. This is so not happening to me. Do I have time to hide? No. Maybe he won’t recognize me. Please let him not recognize me, Gigi pleaded, trying to turn her face away from him. For a brief moment, Gigi thought she might be in the clear, but then he looked again, and said, “Gigi!”

Fuck. Why didn’t I at least brush my hair this morning? Gigi stopped and forced a smile, “Theo, hi! I guess you found the park.” Gigi was very aware of her hair half plastered to her head with sweat and half sticking out at weird angles, her bright red face, and her bright pink t-shirt that would be immature on a middle school girl.

“Yeah, this place is great! Thanks for the recommendation,” Theo didn’t even look like he’d been running at all, he just had a healthy glow about him. The part of her brain that wasn’t praying she’d be suddenly incinerated by a freak lightning strike noticed that his arms were surprisingly muscular.

“You’re welcome,” Gigi gasped.

“Are you taking another lap? I’m going to do one more and then call it a day. Would you like to take it together?” Theo asked.

“I was going to do another, but I wouldn’t want to slow you down,” Gigi protested.

Theo waved a hand dismissively, “That won’t be a problem, this is a recovery run for me. I’m supposed to be taking it slowly. And anyway, I’d like the company.”

“Well, then, I guess. Why not?” Gigi couldn’t think of a polite way to refuse, and maybe she’d get a chance to get to know him better. Hopefully I won’t trip and fall on my face. She pulled her headphones out, and set off at a jog. Theo loped along next to her. He barely looked like he was exerting any effort to keep up with her. “What did you run in college?” Gigi asked between breaths, as she upped the pace a little bit, trying to show him that she wasn’t totally slow. He easily adjusted to match the new rhythm.

“I ran distance. Cross country was my best event, that’s 8K. And then in the winter I would run the 5K and the 10K for indoor track, and in the spring I’d run those and sometimes the steeplechase outside as well. Now I mostly just run marathons and half-marathons. A bunch of my teammates from college were living in Boston, and I ran with them all the time.” If she hadn’t been jogging next to him, Gigi would never have guessed he was running. There was no strain in his voice at all.

“I think you mentioned you recently moved here for a job? What do you do?” Gigi panted, trying to keep him talking so he wouldn’t notice how much she was struggling with the pace. But you can’t slow down now! That would be embarrassing and he would totally judge you, a little voice in her head said, so she kept running. And if I don’t have enough energy to run and talk, I can’t say anything stupid.

“I’m an actuary,” He replied. Seeing the look of confusion on her face, he continued, “It’s sort of like a statistician. I help insurance companies set their rates. The insurance company I work for is having a huge expansion in California, and they asked my boss back in Boston to come and head up the new actuarial team. He asked me to come with him, and I said yes.” Theo  talked for awhile about living in Boston, but eventually that stream of conversation dried up.

After that they ran together in silence for a while. Gigi was focusing too hard on maintaining her speed to talk. Not that she had the breath to carry on a conversation anyway. As they passed the one mile mark, the world was starting to spin a little in front of her eyes. When they passed the one and a quarter mile mark she felt a little sick, but Gigi focused on the ground in front of her, and fought to run in a straight line. They were so close to the end at this point, she could make it one more quarter mile. Completing the lap at this pace had become a personal vendetta, and Gigi stubbornly fought to maintain her rhythm.

“You okay?” Theo looked over at her with some concern.

Gigi nodded, too winded to speak, and they ran on. A few minutes later, she felt herself slowing down, despite her best efforts to keep her speed up. Then she felt her breakfast coming up, despite her best efforts to keep it down. Somehow she made it behind a tree before she actually lost the granola bar and orange juice, so hopefully Theo hadn’t seen the worst of it.

When the nausea had faded, it was replaced with a burning embarrassment so strong Gigi thought she might vomit again. I can’t go back out there, she thought frantically. I can never see him again. He can’t come to New Years. How will I explain that to Lydia? I’m sure that conversation will go so well. “Oh, by the way, Lydia, is there any way we can un-invite Eddie’s friend Theo to our New Year’s plans?”

“But Gigi! WHY? I’m so sure you’re madly in love with him!”

“Well, you see Lydia, I just threw up in front of him, so if I ever see him again I’m going to die of embarrassment, and I’m sure he never wants to see me again, so it’s really better for everyone if he just doesn’t come.” Gigi looked around, trying to decide if she could make a break for it bushwhacking style and just leave, because the odds of the earth actually swallowing her up were slim. Unfortunately, her legs were trembling, and the world was still spinning, so the more likely outcome was that she’d end up wandering around lost for a long time.

“Gigi?” Theo called.

Bracing herself, Gigi walked back towards the path. When she got there, Theo was gently bouncing in place, looking concerned. She leaned against a tree for support and rasped, “You should just go on ahead.”

Theo jogged over to her, “Are you feeling dizzy and sick, or just sick?”

“Both,” Gigi thought for a second. “Yeah, definitely both.”

“You’re probably dehydrated. Have you been drinking water?” He was all business. Gigi shook her head. “I’ve got some back at the parking lot. Why don’t you wait here, and I can go get it. It’s not that far.” Before she could say anything he had turned and run off. His long legs quickly carried him out of sight around the next bend.

“Maybe he just won’t come back,” Gigi sighed. She slid down the tree to a sitting position, resting her head on her knees. Sweat stung her eyes, and she still felt a little sick to her stomach. “That might be best,” she muttered. She felt her cheeks burning and she wasn’t sure if it was from exertion or shame. Gigi pressed her eyes shut and prayed that she’d just disappear.

 

Chapter Text

7:10am. Saturday December 30, 2017. Glen Elm Park, LA.

“Here, you’ll feel better after you drink this,” Gigi opened her eyes to find an irritatingly un-tired looking Theo offering her a water bottle. He was right. She did feel better after a couple sips. “Do you think you can make it the rest of the way now?” Theo offered her a hand. She took it and stood up.

She waited as the world spun around her. Reluctantly releasing his hand, she started slowly walking back towards the start of the loop. “I’m sorry for ruining your run,” she began.

Theo laughed. Gigi felt sick to her stomach again, for reasons that had nothing to do with exercise. Her shame must have shown on her face, because he quickly amended, “don’t worry about it. I’ve been there. All runners have been there. Back when I was in college, when my parents couldn’t come to my meets, I’d send them recap texts: the distance I ran, the time I ran it in, and the number of times I threw up.”

Gigi had to smile weakly at that. “Funny, that does make me feel a little better.”

“Misery loves company,” Theo replied.

Then, figuring at this point she couldn’t possibly make the situation any worse, she asked, “Out of morbid curiosity, what was your personal best? Or should that be worst?”

“Worst.” Theo answered. “It definitely should be worst. In college there was a race that I ran when I had what ended up being the beginnings of the flu that was three. I think that was the highest it ever got.”

“Well, if I’m going to keep up with you in that statistic, clearly I need to be training harder.” Now you make a joke, Gigi thought as Theo guffawed, now that you’ve already ruined everything. Where was this Gigi yesterday when I needed her?

“I don’t think you want to win that competition,” Theo smiled. “How are you feeling?”

“Much better, thank you.” Figuring at this point they’d talked about that particular subject long enough, Gigi decided to try a different one, “Lydia says you’re coming with us on New Year’s Eve?”

“Yeah, I guess.” Theo shrugged.

“What, are you afraid I’ll throw up again now?” Gigi nervously joked.

Theo laughed. “I wasn’t until you mentioned it.”

“But really, you should come. It’s gonna be a great time.” Why is it, Gigi wondered, that things are less awkward now, after I’ve made a complete fool of myself, than they were when we first met? A little voice in the back of her head answered, it’s because now you have nothing to lose.

“I don’t know.”

“Why not? Come on! I know Lydia can be,” Gigi paused looking for the right word. “Intense, but she’s really a lot of fun. I can’t speak for my own company, but I hope you won’t take today as indicative.”

“Usually I mostly hang out with other actuaries. We don’t tend to do things like karaoke.” Theo rubbed his hands together.

“Variety is the spice of life! Us non-actuaries don’t bite, you know. You just moved to a new city. It might be time to try some other new things too. You don’t actually have to sing; you could just make fun of the rest of us.” Gigi fell silent, realizing she probably sounded too eager.

At length Theo responded, “Oh, don’t worry. Eddie would never let me hear the end of it if I didn’t come.”

“What are you going to bring to the potluck?” Gigi asked. This topic of conversation took them all the way back to the entrance to the park. When they got there, Gigi handed the water bottle back to Theo. “Thanks. And I really am sorry for messing up your run.”

“Don’t worry about it. Just remember to drink water next time.” Theo walked over to his car.

“I will. I don’t think I’ll forget soon, not after that.”

Theo looked around, “Do you not have a car? Do you need a ride?”

“Oh, no, I live about half a mile away, so usually I jog here, run, and then walk back.” Gigi explained.

“Ah,” Theo nodded. “Will you be okay walking back?”

“Yeah. I think so. There’s a coffee shop on the way. I can stop there if I need to rest.” Gigi said.

“Okay then.” Theo opened the car door.

Gigi waved, “I’ll see you tomorrow.” Theo waved back, and drove off. Gigi set off for her apartment lost in thought. About half way back, she admitted that she had a crush on Theo. A few minutes later, she accepted that he would probably never think of her as anyone other than ‘barf girl.’ Unless she could do something to change his mind, he would probably never be able to see past the truly horrific first impression she’d made--scratch that--the pair of truly horrific first impressions she’d made. But, then again, he’d been really nice to her after she’d ruined everything. So maybe he was open to getting to know her better? She needed advice, but seeing as she’d sooner relive the events of this morning then tell anyone about them, she was going to have to figure this one out on her own.

Chapter Text

11:00am. Saturday December 30, 2017. The Darcy Ski Cabin.

Lizzie was curled up next to the fire, looking over the numbers from the Christmas episode of Sense and Sensibility. Darcy was on the couch nominally reading a report from marketing, but actually watching Lizzie think. He loved watching her mental process play out on her wonderfully expressive face. The numbers were good; he could tell by the twinkle in her eyes, and the smile that played across her lips. She had an idea for something new, he could read it in the way her eyebrows slightly furrowed, and the way her fingers played with the corner of the page. The peaceful room was disturbed by the cheery jingle of Lizzie’s phone ringing. “Oh, that’s Lydia,” Lizzie said, answering. “Hey Lyds. What’s up?”

Darcy turned his eyes to his paper but listened to the half of the conversation he could hear. “Yeah, I guess that was kind of mean, but she did deserve it...no I don’t think I’ve met him....oh, dear...” Lizzie dissolved into laughter, “I guess she does take after William in that way...grandmothers are never a good topic...Happy New Years to you too...Not to kill Mom before the wedding, what’s yours?...have fun tomorrow night...love you too.”

“What was that about?” He asked when she hung up.

Lizzie came over and sat next to him on the couch. “My sister just keyed me into a juicy bit of gossip.” Darcy raised his eyebrows and went back to his reading. “Come on, aren’t you the slightest bit curious? It involves Gigi.” Lizzie wheedled.

“You have my undivided attention,” Darcy lowered his reading and looked at her expectantly.

“So,” Lizzie began, “Lydia and Gigi met up last night to compare notes about the proposal. But, while Gigi was waiting for Lydia to finish up at the shop, a friend of Eddie’s--that’s Mary’s boyfriend--came by. Apparently Gigi tried to flirt with him, and it was a category five hurricane of awkward and facepalming. She was dropping things all over the place, she brought up her grandmother, and at no point in the conversation did she utter a well-formed sentence.” Lizzie cackled. “Lydia is convinced that Gigi has a huge crush on him, and if Lydia’s description of events is accurate, I’m inclined to believe her. Anyway this guy, Thomas or something, is going to be coming on their New Year’s adventures now, so we should stay tuned for further updates.” Lizzie grinned broadly.

“Your amusement at my sister’s romantic misfortune is rather uncharitable,” Darcy pointed out.

“After all the--completely justified, by the way--teasing you’ve gotten from her about your lack of social finesse, you’re not taking a little bit of pleasure in seeing the tables turned?” Lizzie asked.

“Well, I suppose, when you frame it like that...” The corners of his mouth twitched. “It is probably good for her to be knocked down a few pegs.”

“You know what you have to do,” Lizzie nudged. Darcy shook his head. “You have to call her! We need to hear the story from the source. And tease her. But mostly get the real story. You know how Lydia can exaggerate sometimes. And I want to know more about this Thomas!”

Darcy picked up his reading again. “If you are so curious, you should call her yourself. I know from experience that you are just going to require me to parrot back everything she says to you anyway.”

“You’re just teasing.” Lizzie gently punched him in the arm. “I know you won’t be able to resist getting the scoop straight from the source.”

He cocked his head at her. “I am entirely serious. You should call her yourself though.” Darcy tried to ignore the worry that had begun to grow in his chest. He felt it every time Gigi started dating a new man. He knew it was irrational, and that his sister was a grown woman who could make her own decisions. But still, he worried.

“But she’s your sister,” Lizzie whined. “She’s not going to talk to me about her love life."

Lizzie leaned against him, kissed him, and stared directly into his eyes, giving him her best pout. “Please?”

“Fine.” Darcy smiled at her as he pulled out his phone. “But I don’t know why you think Gigi will be more willing to talk about her love life with me.” As he dialed his sister’s number, he heard the echo of Lizzie’s voice in his head, What can I say? I fold like a road map.

Chapter Text

11:15am. Saturday December 30, 2017. Gigi’s Apartment.

Gigi sat cross legged on the couch with her computer on her lap, a jar of nutella in one hand, and a highlighter perched behind her ear. Idly sucking on her spoon, she tried to decide if that paragraph was really worth keeping. She was completely absorbed in her work when her cellphone buzzed at her from the coffee table. Unrolling herself from her position she grabbed the phone and walked over to the window.

“William! Hey, how are you?” Gigi played with the drawstring of her pajama pants.

“I am well. How have you been getting on?”

Gigi paced back over to the couch, “Things are good. Had dinner with Lydia last night, went for a run this morning, now I’m just working on the thesis. To what do I owe the pleasure?”

“Lizzie just had a very interesting phone call from Lydia. Apparently there’s something I should know about a fellow named Thomas and an embarrassing encounter?”

The wheels turned frantically in Gigi’s head, “What!” she screamed, “How can--she wasn’t even there! That’s it! Clearly she’s a deep cover agent with the CIA or something, because there is no way! Just. No. Way. It wasn’t my fault, I was dehydrated, I got sick. It happens,-”

Gigi had several other choice words, but her brother cut her off, “Gigi, what’s this about you getting sick? Are you alright? Do you need me to come to L.A.?”

“Oh,” Gigi collapsed on the couch, realizing that he hadn’t been talking about her adventure that morning, but rather the encounter last evening, “This was about the shop yesterday, wasn’t it.”

“Gigi, are you okay? You said you were sick?”

Gigi ran her fingers through her still-damp hair. “I’m fine; I’m not sick. I went for a run this morning. I pushed myself a little too hard, I was a little dehydrated, and well, you know, I got sick.”

“Oh. I understand. Are you sure you’re alright now?”

“I already feel better.” Gigi sighed.

“That is good. But where does the Thomas fellow figure into this? I don’t understand.” Gigi could picture the puzzled expression on Darcy’s face as he tried to fit the pieces together.

“His name is Theo. And he doesn’t, at least not anymore. Not after this morning,” Gigi said.

“Gigi, start at the beginning,” Darcy said, “I have no idea what you are talking about.”

She told him everything. How she’d acted really weird the first time, and how she’d tried to impress Theo, and then in doing so made herself sick the second time. “And the worst part is, he was super nice about it after. He gave me water and offered me a ride. But,” she finished, trying to make her voice chipper, “It’s, like, not even a big deal, right? Because I didn’t really know him, he just seemed kind of nice, and I just thought, maybe, you know? But now, I guess not.” Gigi shrugged.

“Gigi,” her brother paused. “Usually I feel out of my depth when advising on relationships, however, I feel I may be of some assistance to you here. Unfortunate first impressions is one of my areas of expertise. Apparently it runs in the family.” Gigi laughed at that. “I do not believe all hope is lost for you. All you did, as far as I understand, is embarrassed yourself, and in the grand scheme of things, not terribly badly. He doesn’t hate you. You haven’t insulted his family. It could be much much worse; I would know.”

“Oh,” Gigi replied, “Just give me time. I’ve still got all of tomorrow to get that done. I’m sure I’ll find a way.”

“Remember what I always told you-”

Gigi cut him off, smiling, “I know, I know. Don’t worry about things that haven’t happened yet and things you can’t change.”

“If Theo does not see how wonderful you are, he is not worth your time.”

Gigi rolled her eyes, “Thanks, Dr. Phil. But you’re getting way ahead of yourself. I don’t even like him that much.”

“You think that, Gigi, if it makes you feel better.”

“This is the part where I’d hit you if you were here.” Gigi teased. “Someone needs to invent a way to hit annoying siblings over the phone.”

“I will get R and D right on that,” Darcy promised, “It will be the key feature of Domino 3.0.”

“Happy New Year, dork,” Gigi said. “And at least I can take comfort in the fact that however badly I crash and burn tomorrow, I’ll still be the Darcy sibling with the most social finesse.”

“And here I was, hoping that your recent experiences would have garnered me some sympathy. Also, I would like to remind you that only one Darcy sibling is currently engaged.”

Bye, William. Happy New Year.”

“Goodbye, Gigi. Have fun tomorrow, and be safe.” Gigi hung up the phone and sat back down on the couch.

“I give it half an hour, tops, for that little tidbit of information to travel from William to Lizzie to Lydia,” Gigi muttered to herself. “The question is should I head it off and call Lydia myself?” Burying her face in the pillow, Gigi decided she’d rather enjoy her last half-hour of peace. She turned back to her thesis, munched on another spoonful of nutella, and waited for the other shoe to drop.

Chapter Text

12:00pm. Saturday December 30, 2017. Lydia’s Apartment.

Lydia turned the music up and did a little twirl as she finished unloading her dishwasher. She was surprised to hear her phone ring, and even more surprised to see her sister’s name on the phone. “Yo, Lizzie, what’s up? Couldn’t even make it an hour without hearing my voice?” Lydia grooved on over to the stereo and turned the music off.

“No, Lydia, William just asked me to call you to see if you thought Gigi was okay after this morning? When he talked to her she seemed pretty down about it. She was trying to put on a good face, but he was worried it might be worse than she was letting on.”

Lydia was confused. “I haven’t talked to her since last night. What happened this morning?”

Lydia heard Lizzie say to Darcy, “She hasn’t heard from her. Lydia doesn’t know about this morning, they haven’t talked about it.” Darcy replied, but Lydia couldn’t hear what he said.

“Well,” Lizzie returned to the call, “I’ll let Gigi give you all the gory details, because I only know what William said she told him, but just a heads up, you may want to shift from matchmaking mode into heartbreak and recovery mode.”

Lydia groaned, “Oh, no. What happened?”

“I’ll let Gigi fill you in. But she needs a friend right now. Love ya, sis.” Lizzie hung up.

“Wait! Lizzie!” Lydia cried, but her sister was gone. “Ugh, why does no one ever tell me anything around here,” she muttered as she dialed Gigi’s number.

“I’m surprised it took you that long,” Gigi greeted her. “I had it pegged to be half an hour, but you took almost a full 45 minutes. So go ahead. I’m ready for it. Which barf joke are you going to use first?”

“Wait? What’s this about barf? I thought this was about Theo. Lizzie said I should be ready for heartbreak and recovery?” Lydia had not expected that welcome.

“Well, it’s about barf and Theo,” Gigi began.

“Hold up,” Lydia stopped her. “I have a feeling I’m going to want to be sitting down for this.” Lydia walked over to the sofa and sat down. “Okay. I’m ready. Before we get any farther, on a scale of Bing and Jane’s first meeting to Darcy and Lizzie’s first meeting, exactly how bad was it?”

Gigi had to laugh at that. “Ricky Collins at Jane and Bing’s wedding?”

“Alright. Hit me with it. I’m ready.” Lydia braced herself.

“So I went for a run this morning in that park I like. I saw Theo just as I was finishing. He asked if I wanted to take another lap with him. So I did. And I wanted to impress him, so pushed it a little too hard, and I was dehydrated-”

Lydia saw where this was going, “Oh, no! Gigi! You didn’t!”

“I did.” Lydia could hear the cringe in Gigi’s voice.

Lydia checked her watch. “I can be there in half an hour. Don’t argue.”

12:30pm. Saturday December 30, 2017. Gigi’s Apartment.

Lydia knocked on Gigi’s door right on time, holding a bag full of Reese's Cups, a tub of Chocolate Ice Cream, and a bag of Cheetos. Gigi let Lydia in with a smile. In less than five minutes, the two were seated on the couch, Gigi with the ice cream, and Lydia with the Cheetos. “Okay. Tell me everything.” Lydia said.

“Where was I? How far did I get before your Heartbreak and Recovery Emergency Protocols kicked in?” Gigi smiled.

“You were dehydrated and trying to keep up with Theo.” Lydia prompted.

“Yeah, I was feeling good until about the mile mark, and at that point I figured I could make it another half mile. With about a quarter-mile left, everything went to hell. I managed to get behind a tree though. So that’s something.” Gigi tried to crack a smile.

“You poor thing.” Lydia cried. “I would have just died.”

“I wasn’t that lucky. I considered making a break for it, but at that point I didn’t have enough energy.” Gigi shook her head, blushing at the memory. “He was perfectly nice about it after, but I’m sure I’ll never be able to redeem myself from that. He also was rethinking coming to New Years. The only reason he wasn’t going to back out was because Eddie wouldn’t let him.”

Lydia gave her a sympathetic look. “Well, you’ll just have to change his mind then.”

“Lydia, between this morning and yesterday evening, I think the universe is trying to tell me something.”

“Gigi,” Lydia smiled, and through a mouthful of cheeto said. “I bet that’s exactly what Darcy said after you pushed him in that room with Lizzie.”

Gigi rolled her eyes. “That was different!”

“Yeah, different in that THEO DOESN’T HATE YOU, AND NEVER DID. If anything your situation is better.”

“So my brother’s already told me. And since when did you get so involved in my love life?” Gigi wondered.

Lydia grinned at her. “After all you did for your brother and my sister, I figured it was time for someone to return the favor.”

“I don’t know if I want this favor.” Gigi looked at her warily.

Lydia laughed, “That never stopped you, did it?”

“I’ve created a monster,” Gigi sighed, taking another bite of ice cream. “Thanks for the ice cream, Lydia. And the company. Misery loves company.” Gigi remembered Theo’s laugh and fought to keep the pain she felt in her chest from showing on her face.

“Well, if I’m going to shove you at boys, I’ve got to be there catch you when you fall. It’s the least I could do.” Lydia smiled. “And anyway, heartbreak and recovery-”

“Are your specialty, so you’ve said.” Gigi finished.

“Oh! Idea!” Lydia bounced up and down. “Oh, don’t look at me like that. You’ll like this idea.”

Gigi smirked. “You always say that.”

“I know exactly what will cheer you up. Come on, help me move the rug. It’s time for sock slides.” They pulled the rolled up rug up off to the side, and Lydia took up her position at one of the corners. She ran a couple steps and deftly slid across the slick floor, coming to a halt only when she bumped into a wall. Gigi followed her, with slightly less finesse. Gigi veered slightly off course, and had to grab a window sill to steady herself. Within fifteen minutes, both women were collapsed on the couch in a fit of giggles. “See. I told you it would help you feel better.” Lydia gasped.

“Next time, you have got to teach me how to go on one foot. That is super cool.” Gigi said.

“Sure thing. So. Tomorrow, you should come over to my place. We can get ready and then head over to Mary’s together. You need to look perfect if we’re going to make this work. And I don’t trust you not to just give up. What were you going to wear?”

“My blue dress?” Gigi hazarded.

Lydia groaned. “Nope. Not anymore. Wear the pink one with the gold beads. Much better for you. You can borrow my gold heels.”

“I’ll wear the pink dress, and I’ll come over, but you’ve got to promise that this is just getting ready. No surprises.” Gigi wagged a finger emphatically.

“Cross my heart. Just getting ready. Just the two of us.” Lydia sang, collecting the remains of the food. “Alright, I’ve got to work on the cake for Mary’s tomorrow.”

As Gigi closed the door behind her with a wave, Gigi added, “Oh, and when you talk to Lizzie and William, you can tell them I’m fine. And tell William although I appreciate his concern, it really isn’t that big of a deal.”

Lydia gave Gigi a knowing smile and a wave. “See you tomorrow. Leave everything to me. I’ve got a plan.”

Gigi rolled her eyes, “That’s what I’m afraid of.”

Lydia stuck her tongue out.

Chapter Text

12:00pm. Sunday December 31, 2017. Theo’s Apartment.

“Are you sure it’s not a problem for me to come, Eddie? I won’t be offended at all.” Theo couldn’t tell Eddie that he’d rather stay at home alone, but he really hoped Eddie would say that it would be better if the group went without him.

“Don’t be ridiculous. I want you to get to know my friends. And I know if you don’t come with us you’ll just be at home by yourself. That’s no way to start the year.”

Theo wasn’t sure he wanted to get to know Eddie’s friends. They weren’t anything like his friends back in Boston. His old friends had done normal things like go to the movies, or go hiking. They didn’t do karaoke. And they certainly weren’t nationally ranked in tennis. They had normal jobs: lawyers, accountants, doctors. They didn’t own frozen yogurt shops with cutesy names or have multiple ski houses in the Sierras. His old friends had been comfortable. Not for the first time, he wished he’d said no coming to LA.

“Theo, it’s just a potluck. If you want to leave after dinner, I’ll give you an out. But just give them a chance. If you still feel the same way when we leave for karaoke, you can go back to hanging out with the stuffed suits. But I think it won’t kill you to have a little fun in your life, and Lydia is nothing if not fun.”

“Fine. Two questions.”

“Shoot.”

“What am I supposed to bring? And what should I wear? In light of your earlier comment, I’m assuming not a suit.” Theo joked.

Eddie laughed. “You would show up to a party in your work clothes. Just look vaguely nice, don’t worry about it. As for what to bring, I know Gigi’s on the salad, and Lydia’s got the cake. Mary and I have main and appetizers covered, so if you could bring a side dish and some bread, that’d be great.”

“Great. Will do.”

“Cool. See you at six then.” Eddie hung up.

6:04pm. Sunday December 31, 2017. Mary and Eddie’s Apartment.

With some apprehension, Theo pressed the buzzer on the front door of the address Eddie had given him. He muttered as he climbed the stairs, “One way or another, it’ll be an adventure.”

He shifted the tray to his other hand and rapped exactly twice on the door. Dinner party, he reminded himself. This is normal. You’ve gone to countless dinner parties. You know how to do this. The door swung open to a peel of laughter and the sound of casual conversation. A small dark haired pretty woman stepped out to greet him. He didn’t recognize her right away; this elegant woman looked nothing like the athletic girl he’d met the other morning at the park, or the nervous student he’d bumped into at Lydia’s shop. “Oh, Gigi!” He recovered. “Hey.”

“Didn’t recognize me?” She smiled. “I clean up alright, no?” She gave a little spin. She was really pretty, he realized, and just as quickly, he shut that thought down. There was enough on his plate right now with his new job. Bubbly, confusing, gorgeous women who used to be nationally ranked in tennis were complications he didn’t need.

“You look great.” He tried on a smile. It didn’t fit.

She reached out for the tray, “Let me take that for you.” He handed it to her, and stepped inside. “What did you bring?” Gigi pulled up a corner of the foil. “Ooh, baked asparagus,” she peered into the bowl, “and...mushrooms in rice?” She ran off to the kitchen before he could answer.

“Hey, man,” Eddie grabbed his shoulder. “You’re almost five whole minutes late,” he teased, “I was starting to worry you weren’t going to come. We’re in the kitchen.” He beckoned for Theo to follow him.

Theo hadn’t made it a single step into the kitchen before a blur of red hair slammed into him. “Theo!” Lydia embraced him.

“Sorry about Lydia,” Mary called over from the stove. “You’ve met her twice now, so, as far as she’s concerned, you're now her best friend.”

“Hi, Lydia,” Theo said uncomfortably, disentangling himself from her long arms.

Lydia didn’t notice his awkwardness, instead turning around to retort, “it’s called being friendly. You should try it sometime.”

“Red or white wine?” Gigi yelled from across the room.

“Um, white?” Gigi nodded and poured. Theo leaned on the counter and listened to Lydia and Mary bicker. Gigi danced over to where he was standing with the wine, the floaty skirt on her pink dress swishing as she carefully avoided Mary and Lydia.

“Here you go,” Gigi smiled at him again, placing the glass next to him.

“I thought they were supposed to be friends?” Theo looked quizzically at Gigi, gesturing with his head towards Mary and Lydia, who were still fighting.

“They’re cousins. And anyway, that’s just how Lydia shows she likes you: she pokes fun at you. And Mary is sarcasm incarnate. It’s the natural order of things,” Gigi shrugged. “You only need to worry if they stop teasing each other. It’s the same with my brother and me. It’s all in good fun. Don’t you have siblings?”

“I have a younger brother, Sam. He’s a junior at Boston College.” Theo felt a pang of homesickness when he thought of his brother.

“You miss him.” Gigi observed.

“Yeah. I miss a lot of things.” Theo admitted.

Gigi leaned her elbows on the counter and took a swig of her own glass of wine. “Me too. Usually my brother is in San Francisco, and I’m here in LA. It’s not as bad as across the country, but it still sucks sometimes.”

“But you have your sups adorbs sister-in-law Lydia to keep you company!” They both started as Lydia wrapped an arm around each of them and poked her head into the conversation. “There’s spinach dip on the table over there, if you want it.” She added, and disappeared again.

Theo blinked, and turned back to Gigi. “So, that’s how you know Lydia and Mary. I was wondering.”

“I can see how you wouldn’t expect that we’d necessarily get along.” Gigi laughed.

“So your brother is married to Lydia’s older sister?” Theo confirmed.

Gigi smiled, “It’s a long story, but kind of. My brother is engaged to Lizzie, Lydia’s older sister. Lydia’s other sister, Jane, is married already and lives in New York. Jane is married to a close friend of my brother’s.”

“Oh. You’re going to have to make me a chart one of these days. Is this your same brother who lives in San Francisco and just got engaged?”

“Yep. I’ve just got the one, William. And he is more than enough brother for me.” Gigi said.

Theo laughed. “I know what you mean. Sam was always more energetic than I was. He’s the interesting one.”

“I’m sure that’s not true,” Gigi gently punched his shoulder. “After all. I think you’re interesting. I’ve never met a -- what was it you said you did again?”

“Actuary.”

“I’ve never met an actuary before.” Gigi finished.

Theo groaned. “Oh, no. Don’t get me started talking about work. I’ll put all of you to sleep, and then we’ll miss midnight.”

“But what does an actuary do all day? How does one become an actuary? Do you have to go to actuary school?” Gigi’s eyes sparkled with curiosity.

Complications, Theo reminded himself, but he couldn’t resist. “My undergraduate degree was in statistics. One of my good friends who was in the year ahead of me at school became an actuary, and I just sort of followed his path. Being an actuary is mostly a lot of math. You have to sit the actuarial exams to get certified.”

“Ooh,” Gigi breathed, as if she were encountering an exotic species of animal. “You’re a math person. Unfortunately for you, my brother got all the mathematical ability in the Darcy family, so if you want to talk shop, it’ll have to be with him. But,” she added brightening, “I got all the artistic talent, and all the social finesse. So it’s not that bad a deal.”

Theo looked at her with mock fear on his face, “Wait, you got all the social finesse? I’m not sure I want to meet your brother.”

Gigi laughed, and Theo thought the room got brighter. His eyes met hers, and for a moment his heart stopped.

“Hey, guys, come on, it’s time for dinner and lists!” Lydia called from the table, killing the moment.

Theo looked at Gigi. “What’s lists?”

“Oh, it’s a Bennet family New Year’s tradition. Don’t worry, you can be on my team. Go sit down, I’m going to refill my wine. Do you need some?”

“Yeah, I guess. Thanks.” He handed her his empty glass. He hadn’t even realized he’d been drinking it. Gigi took it from him and sashayed back to the counter. Theo walked over to the table and found himself a seat between Mary and Lydia, still thinking about how Gigi’s fingers had brushed his when she took his glass. Complications.

Chapter Text

6:30pm. Sunday December 31, 2017. Mary and Eddie’s Apartment.

Gigi carefully slid into a seat between Lydia and Theo. Handing Theo his wine, she said, “Alright. Let’s get this party started. Lydia why don’t you explain lists to Theo while we pass around the food?” Gigi picked up the stuffed peppers and helped herself.

Lists was a game that the Bennet girls had played every New Years growing up, and over the years it had grown to include Mary, Eddie, Bing, Caroline, Charlotte, Darcy, Fitz, and Gigi. Every year on New Year’s Eve, all participants filled out a sheet of predictions for the coming year. Then, last year’s sheets were read and graded. The winner got to chose one of the questions on the ballot next year, and bragging rights.

“It’s not fair for Theo to play on his own yet, so this year you’ll be on Gigi’s team.” Lydia concluded. “Next year you’ll be on your own though. I’ve got the sheets from last year here. I figured I’d read them first, because it’s easier to grade and eat at the same time than it is to write and eat at the same time.” Lydia paused to spoon some pasta on her plate. “Everyone got their food?” Lydia asked, pulling out a stack of papers. There was a murmur of assent. “Lizzie is on the top, so we’ll start with her.”

Lydia read out the answers, and the room filled with warmth and memories. Every so often, Gigi would lean over and whisper an explanation to Theo. She could tell he was uncomfortable and a little lost. She felt sorry for him. Lists was really only fun and interesting if you knew the people involved, so she tried to hurry Lydia along. At the end of the tally, Lydia was the winner.

“Lydia wins about half the time,” Gigi whispered to Theo. “We can’t decide if it’s because she’s clairvoyant, because she’s just lucky, or because she has spies.”

Theo did laugh at that. “None of those possibilities would surprise me.”

Gigi finished chewing her last bite of bread. “Now it’s our turn to fill out the sheet for this year. You ready?’

“I don’t know how much help I’ll be,” Theo played with the crumbs on his plate. “But I’ll give it a shot.”

“Superbowl winners?” Gigi looked at him. “Come on, I haven’t gotten this one right in years. You must know something about football.”

“I’m more of a baseball fan,” Theo admitted. “But if I had to guess, I’d say the Packers.”

“Great, thanks.” Gigi wrote with a smile. “Musician most likely to make a comeback?” Theo started to protest that his knowledge of music petered out pretty quickly after 1900, but Gigi had already written something down, and was on to the next one, “Most ill advised movie franchise reboot?”

“Oh, I know this one!” Theo exclaimed. “There are rumors they’re making another Spider Man series!”

“Didn’t they do that two years ago?” Gigi laughed, writing it down.

“Exactly.” Theo said dryly.

“Ok, This year Lydia Bennet will...open a second location of Yo-Go-Girl.” There was one of these questions for each of them. Theo didn’t have much to contribute, not knowing most of the people involved, but Gigi noticed that he was listening intently to everything she said. His eyes never strayed from her face, and she felt herself blushing. The last question on the sheet was her own. This year Gigi Darcy will....continue her streak of perpetual singledom. She wrote silently. “Alright. That’s it,” she turned to Theo, folding the paper and putting it in the envelope. Sealing the paper inside. “Alright, now we both have to sign it.” Gigi hastily did so, and passed the envelope and pen over to Theo. “Sorry if that was boring,” Gigi said, “Hopefully the rest of the evening will be more entertaining.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Theo brushed her concerns aside, “It was,” he paused, searching for the right word.

“Illuminating?” Lydia suggested, and then collapsed in a pile of giggles. Gigi covered her mouth, but a few chuckles escaped through her fingers.

“I was going to say informative, but I suppose illuminating works.” Theo replied.

Gigi laughed again, “Oh, no, Lydia was just referencing something my brother once said to her sister. Don’t worry about it, it’s a long story.”

“Ah,” Theo sighed. “I’m assuming this has something to do with why you say you got all the social finesse in the family.”

“That, and my brother’s quasi-creepy love affair with four-syllable words.”

“Five.” Theo corrected.

“What?”

“Illuminating has five syllables.”

Gigi gently swatted his shoulder, “You know what I mean.”

“He might,” Mary pointed out, “but clarity in thought and speech is an admirable goal for its own sake-”

“Oh my god Mary, no one cares about your thesis anymore.” Lydia cried.

“Admirable?” Theo asked, “It looks like Gigi’s brother isn’t the only one with an affinity for four-syllable words.”

“Ugh,” Gigi groaned with a smile. “I’ve got a four-syllable word for you,” she turned to Theo and enunciated, “Ir-ri-ta-ting.”

“If the three of you don’t stop,” Lydia threatened, “I’m going to have pull out some four letter words.”

“I don’t care about what you say, Lydia, as long as we still get some of that cake,” Eddie said. Lydia took that as her cue to go to the kitchen and start getting the dessert ready.

“So, Eddie, how did you say you knew Theo?” Gigi asked.

Eddie grinned, “Theo was my best friend all the way through school, but then his family moved to Boston after tenth grade. We had the same light-up shoes on the first day of kindergarten, and the rest is history. And someone needed to make sure this guy had some fun.” Gigi laughed as Eddie regaled them with tales of their childhood exploits. They all seemed to involve Eddie dragging Theo into a mess, or Theo pulling Eddie out of a mess.

She couldn’t help noticing how much time Theo spent looking at her. She caught him staring multiple times, and each time she smiled at him, but she had to wonder if he was staring because he couldn’t forget yesterday morning, or for other reasons. Gigi wasn’t sure which one she wanted. “I’m going to go see if Lydia needs help with the cake,” Gigi excused herself, bringing her wine glass with her. As she walked to the kitchen, she could feel Theo’s eyes boring into her back.

“Hey, I was wondering if you needed any help,” Gigi whispered to Lydia as she entered. “I also need more wine.”

“Oh hey,” Lydia sang. “You’re doing great. I think things are going really well. Have you seen the way he looks at you now? He’s halfway in love with you already, and there’s no one on earth who could see your rendition of All That Jazz and not fall in love with you, so, basically it’s in the bag. If he hasn’t asked you out by midnight, I will never trust my own judgement again.” Lydia leaned back against the counter with a self-satisfied look.

“Lydia!” Gigi hissed, “You’ve forgotten one thing. I’m not sure if I want to go out with him.”

Lydia looked confused, “But you as much as said you were in love with him when we were getting ready.”

“I said I might have a crush on him. That’s totally different. And keep your voice down.”

“If you like him, and he likes you, why on earth wouldn’t you go on a date with him?” Lydia genuinely didn’t understand.

Gigi sighed dramatically, “Let’s see, I don’t know about you, but I don’t have the best history with charming athletic men.”

“Oh my god, Gigi. First, the fact that you think he’s charming is hilarious, and second, Theo has nothing in common with George. I googled him you know.”

“Who?” Gigi asked, “George?”

Lydia rolled her eyes, “No, dummy, Theo. He was Magna Cum Laude from Harvard, class of 2012. He’s a genius. Like a real genius.”

“So?” Gigi asked, pouring herself a glass of wine. “Geniuses can be assholes too. Just look at my brother pre-Lizzie.”

“Theo has a work ethic. He has a steady job; he’s worked at that company for four years. He has no online dating profiles, he doesn’t even have an embarrassing old myspace page. Eddie has known him for years; you can’t get a better reference than that. And regardless of all that, you’re not the same. You’re older and wiser, you’ve got lots of friends who care about you, and you know the signs. No one will be able to do that to you again.”

Gigi smiled at Lydia and took a sip of her wine. Heartbreak and Recovery really is her specialty, Gigi marvelled.

“Now,” Lydia said, brightening, “How about we get the lovely people out there some cake, and then you get yourself some mancake?” Lydia jabbed Gigi in the ribs with a bony elbow.

“Lydia!” Gigi shrieked. But she smiled, and took the stacks of plates that Lydia handed her. Carefully balancing the plates and her half full glass of wine, she headed out to the dining room again.

Chapter Text

7:20pm. Sunday, December 31, 2017. Mary and Eddie’s Apartment.

Lydia and Gigi emerged from the kitchen holding the cake and a new round of plates. As the plates made their way around the table, and Lydia cut the cake, Gigi poured everyone a fresh glass of wine. When everyone had a large slice of chocolate cake, Gigi proposed a toast, “To 2018, may it bring everyone a wonderful new adventure.” They all drank to it, and Theo mused, my new adventure may be coming sooner rather than later.

He dug into the cake, rather than dwelling on that possibility. “Hey, Theo,” Eddie asked. “Did you ever sort out that business with your landlord?” This was it, Theo thought. The out that Eddie had promised. He opened his mouth to say that he hadn’t and he needed to head out early. But he saw Gigi laughing at something Lydia had said, and, for what might have been the first time in his adult life, Theo made an impulsive decision.

“You know, I did.” He smiled.

Eddie grinned back, “Great.” Theo took a gulp of water, trying to ignore the voice in his head that was insisting he’d just made a very poor choice.

“So,” Lydia turned to Gigi, “I believe on Christmas, you threw down the gauntlet. Are you ready to face me?”

“I was born ready,” Gigi glared at Lydia, who ignored her and took a large bite of cake.

“We’ll see about that.” Lydia responded. “Oh! Idea! Theo can judge; he’s impartial.”

Theo started at the mention of his name. “Wait. I am? What?”

“There can be three rounds,” Lydia rolled on, “First I’ll pick a song for you, and you can pick a song for me, and then we get to pick songs for ourselves, and we’ll close it out with our traditional duet.”

Theo was still confused.“What am I judging now?”

“Karaoke showdown, tonight, me and Gigi.” Lydia explained, as if nothing could be more natural in the world.

“What, is some bizarre version of ‘pistols at dawn’?” Theo asked, laughing,

Lydia fixed him with a dirty look, and very solemnly said, “Karaoke Showdown is serious business, Theodore Walsh. We don’t laugh about Karaoke Showdown. We expect you to judge thoughtfully and carefully with all due respect for the-” Lydia broke, and laughed, “I’m just messing.”

Theo smiled, playing along with Lydia’s game, “Well, then, if I’m going to do this properly, you’re going to have to tell me what criteria I should be evaluating.”

“Well, not talent, that’s for sure,” Mary quipped, “Otherwise these two would be tied at zero, and I’d win by default.”

“Talent,” Lydia began, shooting Mary a pointed glance. “Show-womanship-”

“Dance moves,” Gigi added, wiggling her shoulders, “and song choice.” She smiled at him and scraped the last bit of icing off her plate.

Theo took another big gulp of water.

7:55pm. Sunday December 31, 2017. Treblemaker Karaoke.

The group walked down the sidewalk, chatting idly. The warm spell had held, and there was a pleasant breeze. The streets were full of throngs of celebrants, and the sound of music was in the air. Theo lagged behind a little, his hands in his pockets, happy to just listen to the conversation. He was lost in thought when suddenly Gigi grabbed his elbow and pulled him down the street. “Come on! Hurry up! It’s right down here!”

His first thought was that it was very purple. He wouldn’t have even known the place existed if Gigi hadn’t dragged him in the door and up the stairs. Now he was sitting very close to Gigi in a purple vinyl booth, and Lydia was handing him a glass of an unnaturally violet colored liquid. Thankfully Mary on his other side looked like she was feeling about as comfortable as he was. Eddie was between them, and he looked like his usual cheerful self. He turned to Mary, and, practically shouting over a truly abysmal rendition of Life is a Highway, asked “Do you actually sing here? And what is this drink?”

Mary laughed, “It wouldn’t be my first choice of activity, but I do enjoy watching Gigi and Lydia make fools of themselves, so it has some entertainment value. No one knows what’s in that drink. Lydia loves it though; she drinks it all the time, and she’s not dead yet, so I’m reasonably sure it’s not toxic.”

“Well that’s reassuring,” he muttered. He took a little sip. It tasted like purple and made his nose tingle.

“That,” Gigi said decidedly, “Is not how you drink a Grape of Wrath. Watch.” Without breaking eye contact with him, she raised the glass and swallowed the whole thing in two gulps. In for a penny, in for a pound, Theo thought. Might as well get all my bad choices for the year out of the way now. Trying to imitate her, he took a large swallow.

He marvelled, “it’s not as bad this way.” He finished it. He watched as Lydia and Gigi badgered Mary to sing something. The purple light shone on Gigi’s dark hair. Gigi was a puzzle. He couldn’t quite figure her out. Theo had thought he’d had her pegged as a nervous grad student when they’d first met. But Lydia had said she’d been nationally ranked in tennis. He’d found out from Mary that she was actually heiress to an entertainment empire. But she went running twice a week and she wore funny t-shirts. And she loved karaoke at places that had purple specialty drinks. He felt like he’d met seven different Gigis in the three days he’d known her. He watched her arms wave as she gestured from Mary to the stage.

“Looks like someone’s got a bit of a crush,” Eddie broke his concentration.

“No, sorry, just got distracted.” Theo hastily looked at the table.

Thankfully, at that moment, the very drunk woman currently on stage finished ruining Bad Romance, and it was Lydia’s turn to sing. “Alright, Theo, are you ready to judge?” Gigi asked. He nodded.

“Now, everyone remember, Gigi picked this for me, and I’ve never sung it before, so-” Lydia began.

“Just shut up and sing, Lydia,” Gigi gave her a shove towards the stage.

Lydia made a valiant effort, but she was no match for It’s Raining Men. Her performance was charming, and she smiled and danced her way through it, but she forgot some of the lyrics and her rhythm left much to be desired. It was hard not to enjoy her performance though, because she more than made up for any lack of talent with enthusiasm and sheer willpower. After she finished, Lydia came running over, and Gigi greeted her, “Is that the best you’ve got?”

“Oh, don’t worry,” Lydia said, squeezing into the booth, “I’m just getting warmed up. For my first time doing that song, you’ve got to admit, I was pretty good. And it’s time to put your money where your mouth is, lady. You’re up.”

“I can’t believe you’re making me sing this song,” Gigi whined.

“Oh, shut up, I’ve seen you singing along to it in the car. And it has, like, 700 plays on your iPod. It’s on your workout playlist. Don’t try to pretend you don’t know it. I bet when you’re feeling sad, this is the song you sing and dance around in your pajamas to.” Lydia whispered something in Gigi’s ear that Theo couldn’t catch. Gigi rolled her eyes and pranced off to the stage.

The intro started, it was a catchy song; exactly the sort of song he would have expected Lydia to pick. Pop, and sugar sweet. He vaguely remembered hearing it at a party when he was right out of college. Gigi bounced her shoulders to the beat. As she sang the first verse, she strutted away from them to the other side of the room. He could tell Lydia was right, Gigi knew every word to this song. She can sing too, he realized. She was untrained, but her voice was sweet, and quite pleasant. That’s just not fair, he thought, nationally ranked in tennis, lovely singing voice, and absolutely gorgeous. Then sadly, she’s totally out of my league.

Suddenly she spun around and, looking directly at him, she walked back across the stage towards the booth where they were sitting, as she transitioned into the chorus:

“Looking for some trouble tonight
Take my hand, I'll show you the wild, side
Like it's the last night of our lives
We'll keep dancing 'till we die.”

She turned away again, but for Theo the world was still spinning. Was that meant for me? Was she actually staring at me, or was that wishful thinking. Am I reading too much into this? Is this all just that weird purple drink talking? Lydia was bobbing to the beat next to him and mouthing the words along with it. He returned his focus to Gigi, who was still belting her way through the song on the stage. She bounced, spun, and strutted her way across the stage with no inhibition. He was mesmerised, and mentally added an eighth Gigi to the list he was keeping in his head.

Chapter Text

8:30pm. Sunday December 31, 2017. Treblemaker Karaoke.

The song ended, and Gigi struck a pose with her hands in the air. She returned to the table, and everyone gave her a round of applause. “That was fantastic!” Lydia squealed, giving Gigi a giant hug. “I knew that would be a great song for you. What did you think Theo?” Lydia looked at him expectantly.

“Well,” he said, very carefully not looking at Gigi, “Lydia had great dance moves, but I think we all have to admit that Gigi was a clear winner that round.”

“You know,” Mary said, “When you sing that song, Gigi, it’s almost tolerable.”

“Thanks, Mary. That’s high praise indeed, from you” Gigi smiled. Her cheeks were flushed with adrenaline, and her eyes sparkled. She slid into the booth, and when she settled next to him, her arm was pressed against his. He felt his stomach flop. I’m in for it now, he thought to himself with a wry smile. She leaned over and whispered to him, “What I really want to know is, how the hell did Lydia know that was my pajama jam song?”

“I thought we’d established this,” Theo responded, “Spies. Or possibly clairvoyant abilities. Jury’s still out.”

Gigi burst out laughing, “You’re a quick study, Theodore Walsh!” She giggled again. “Out of curiosity, what’s your pajama jam?”

“My what?”

“Your pajama jam. The song you’d never admit you like, but you put on sometimes late at night and dance around to in your pajamas.” Gigi explained.

“Oh, I don’t really know much about music once you get past 1900. I’m more a fan of classical music.” Theo protested.

“Theo!” Gigi screamed, “Beethoven is not a proper pajama jam! Come on. You must have something.”

Picking at the edge of the table, Theo muttered, “Back when I was in college sometimes I’d put on Born to Run when I was in the middle of an all nighter, but I haven’t done that in years.”

“That’s more like it!” Gigi laughed. Thankfully, at that moment her attention was diverted, “Lydia! Who are you texting?”

“No one,” Lydia said hastily, and quickly returned her phone to her purse. “Who’s up for another round of Grape of Wrath?” Before anyone could say no, Lydia had already run off. And that was how Theo found himself staring at another full glass of purple liquid. I think it might actually be glowing, he thought to himself. I wonder if it’s radioactive. This whole experience was starting to feel surreal. What am I doing here? I should have taken Eddie’s out.

“Having fun?” Eddie asked.

Theo shrugged, “I don’t know. Do you sing at these things? If I remember correctly, back in school you weren’t half bad.”

“Sometimes. Are you planning to sing tonight?”

Theo laughed. “There aren’t enough weird purple drinks in the world to get me up there.” He gestured to the front.

“Challenge accepted!” Lydia shouted. “Drink up.” She pointed at his untouched drink.

“Don’t pester him, Lydia.” Mary shot Theo a sympathetic look.

“Thank you,” He mouthed at her.

Mary smiled, “Lydia forgets sometimes that not everyone is as uninhibited as she is.”

“Theo could use a little uninhibiting,” Eddie laughed.

“Hey,” he protested, “I’m here, right? And I already had one of those things.”

Eddie rolled his eyes, “Aw, shucks! I guess that means you’ve blown your entire fun budget for 2018, and it hasn’t even started yet.”

“I do not have a fun budget!” Theo protested.

“You do so have a fun budget, I bet you’ve got it on a spreadsheet and everything.” Eddie teased.

“If you don’t stop with the fun budget, I’ll tell the story about our eighth grade winter formal.” Theo countered. That shut Eddie up.

“Theo!” Gigi tapped his shoulder, “Pay attention, we’re about to start round two!”

He turned around to see that Lydia was already on the stage. He laughed when he heard the song that Lydia had chosen for herself. “I should have known,” he said to Gigi.

Gigi grinned at him, “You don’t want to miss this,” she replied as Lydia struck a dramatic pose with her back to them. When the music started, she tapped her foot to the beat, and when the vocals came on, she spun around and belted out the first verse. Theo made a mental note to never get on Lydia’s bad side, because the angry girl on stage was frightening.

When she finished her last, screaming “I wanna start a fight,” and transitioned into the chorus, his jaw dropped.

So, so what, I’m still a rockstar,
I’ve got my rock moves,
And I don’t need you.
And guess what?
I’m havin’ more fun, 
And now that we’re done,
I’m gonna show you.” Lydia had choreography. This wasn’t just jumping up and down to the beat, or shimmying her hips a little, this was a routine, a routine with spins, hip-pops, and kicks. He couldn’t help smiling as she danced. Out of the corner of his eye, he even saw Mary crack a little grin. Lydia was on fire, and she finished with a bang. She ran over to the table, and triumphantly received the round of applause they gave her. “I don’t know what you can possibly do to top that,” Lydia crowed to Gigi. “I mean, your rendition of All that Jazz is good, but not that good.”

“Oh, I’m not doing All that Jazz; I’ve got something new planned.” Gigi grinned. “Just for you, Lydia” She ran up to the microphone, leaving a very perplexed Lydia in her wake. Theo watched her go. He looked at Gigi, then at his still untouched drink. I guess I’m about to meet Gigi number nine, he sighed. Before he could talk himself out of it, he swallowed the purple drink.

Chapter Text

9:15pm. Sunday, December 31, 2017. Treblemaker Karaoke.

“But she always sings All that Jazz,” Lydia gaped. That was the plan! She knows it backwards and forwards! She’s really good at it! She sings that, and Theo falls in love with her. That’s how this is supposed to go. Lydia watched Gigi take the microphone, and prayed her friend knew what she was doing. When it became clear that Gigi was familiar with the song, Lydia breathed a sigh of relief, and took a sip of her drink. Then Gigi hit the chorus, and Lydia choked. “Just for you, Lydia” Gigi had said. She had some nerve! Especially after what she just pulled on her brother.

Mary, who understood exactly what was going on, took a break from laughing to ask “Hey, Lydia, are you okay over there?”

Lydia waved and gave her a thumbs up.

“Good,” Mary continued, “Because I am so not giving you mouth to mouth.”

Lydia finally gathered enough air to speak, and announced, “For the record, I would not recommend trying to inhale these drinks. I feel like an electric eel just took up residency in my lungs.” Lydia looked at Gigi on stage, and then back to Theo, trying to decide if she could read any signs of love on his face. For someone who didn’t have at least a little bit of a crush on her, he did spend an awful lot of time looking at Gigi. Her phone buzzed in her purse. That was probably Lizzie texting her back. Buzz: Glad to hear Gigi’s doing well. Any chance we can get a picture of Theo? I’m dying of curiosity. Lydia looked up at Gigi, who was flouncing through the last chorus.

You can’t hurry love

No, you just have to wait

Love don’t come easy,

It’s a game of give and take

Under the table, Lydia tapped out a text to Lizzie. She’s not singing All that Jazz. Instead she’s doing a very pointed rendition of You Can’t Hurry Love. Thought you might appreciate the irony. I’ll see what I can do about the picture. Gigi walked over, and Lydia scrambled to hide her phone.

“I have to give you some credit, Gigi.” Mary smiled, “That was a classic in the ‘Karaoke song choice as joke’ genre.”

Gigi grinned widely as she slid into her seat. “I thought it was apropos for this evening.”

“Why?” Theo asked her innocently.

“Um, nothing?” Gigi shot Lydia a look of pure panic.

“It’s just ironic for Gigi to sing that song now, when over Christmas, she took it upon herself to uh, expedite her older brother’s relationship.” Lydia explained hurriedly.

“Hey,” Gigi protested, “Everyone agrees that it was for the best!”

Seeing that Theo still had a confused look on his face Lydia clarified, “So, Gigi’s brother and my sister Lizzie have been going out for basically four years now, and everyone and their pet hamster has been expecting them to get married for almost as long. This Christmas Gigi decided that she was tired of waiting, and told her brother that if he didn’t propose by midnight tonight, she would do it for him.” Theo exploded with laughter.

“Well, it worked, didn’t it?” Gigi shrugged. “And you’re one to talk, Lydia! I seem to recall you once had Bing throw a party entirely for the purpose of setting him up with your sister.”

Lydia countered, “Do you really want to play this game with me? Three words: The. Lizzie. Trap.”

“Linda and Jake.” Gigi shot back.

“The eagle and the tiger?” Lydia asked.

“Mary and Eddie.”

“Wait. Wait.” Theo interrupted. “Eddie, I need to hear this story.”

Eddie laughed. “Well, back in the day, Lydia had a video blog, and she used to drag Mary on it every so often. In one of her videos, Lydia teased Mary about having a crush on me. Some girls at school found out, and started spreading rumors. Of course, I was thrilled, because I’d been crushing on her for a long time. That’s about it. It’s not that good of a story.”

“I think it’s cute,” Theo protested. “But seriously, someone make me a chart. Eddie, you didn’t warn me that your friends’ social lives are more complicated than some of my actuarial tables.”

Everyone chuckled at that. Lydia and Gigi coerced Mary, and then Eddie to take a turn on the stage. When Eddie returned, Lydia tried Theo again. “So, come on, Theo, you’re the only one who hasn’t sung yet. What do you say?”

Theo shook his head. “Nope. Not happening. Like I said before, not enough drinks in this bar. Probably not enough drinks in the state to make that happen.”

“I’ll do it with you,” Eddie offered. “We can do a duet.”

“Still not happening. But I appreciate the offer.”

Lydia pouted, “Fine, but some day I’ll get you up there, if I have to drag you kicking and screaming. I guess Gigi and I will do round three of our showdown, and we can leave. You ready, Gigi?” Lydia turned to her friend.

“I’m insulted that you’d even ask.” With a high five, Lydia threaded her arm through Gigi’s they walked up to the stage together. The two girls belted out Girls Just Want to Have Fun together, and Lydia smiled, because she knew that no matter what happened or didn’t happen between Gigi and Theo, she and Gigi would always be an unbeatable team.

Chapter Text

10:15pm. Sunday December 31, 2017. Horizon Bar.

“So, where are we off to now?” Theo asked Gigi as the group made their way out of the Karaoke bar.

“Lydia claims the bar next door is having a sale on some red drink that she wants to try, so I think that’s our next stop.” Gigi tripped on the narrow staircase, and in a panic, grabbed Theo’s arm for balance.

“Are you okay?” He asked, a look of genuine concern on his face, as she fell into his chest.

I am touching his chest. He is holding my arm. Abort. Abort. Oh god. What do I do? I’m getting dizzy. I can’t breathe. As soon as she had collected herself, Gigi backed away from him and smoothed the front of her dress. “Yeah, I’m fine. These are Lydia’s shoes, she let me borrow them, so I’m not used to them. Er, thanks for catching me. Sorry if I hurt you.”

“No problem. I just wanted to make sure you got through today without a medical problem.” He offered her his elbow. She laced her arm through his, and they continued down the stairs together.

“Yeah. Unconscious in the hospital would be a great way to start 2018.” Gigi laughed. Her heart banged in her ears.

“So is this red drink have a cutesy name too? Something like The Scarlet Letter?” Theo joked when they were out on the sidewalk.

“No, I think it’s called Alice's Adventures in Watermelon,” Gigi responded.

Theo groaned. “Ew. That doesn’t sound appetizing at all. I’d rather drink Pearsuasion.”

“Stop. Stop.” Gigi cried. They walked together in silence for a while. Finally Gigi said, “I’m partial to The Punch-back of Notre Dame.”

“That’s really bad. And this really does need to stop.” Theo laughed, but then he continued, “I think Lime and Punishment is the best though.” They both collapsed in a fit of giggles.

When they got to the bar, Lydia made a beeline to the dance floor, and Mary and Eddie took up residence in a corner. “Do you, uh, want to dance,” Gigi offered.

“I feel about my dancing the same way I feel about my singing,” Theo explained, “I prefer not to inflict it on other people.”

“I’m sure you’re not giving yourself enough credit.” Gigi walked through the dance room and out to the balcony patio, where she leaned on the railing. Theo followed and took up residence on the piece of railing next to her. They stood together there in only partially awkward silence for a while. “So,” Gigi began grasping about for a topic of conversation. “Where in Boston did you live?”

“My parents live in Arlington, and that’s where I lived until I graduated from high school. Then I did my undergrad at Harvard, in Cambridge. I think Lydia mentioned your brother had gone to Harvard. Do you know what year he was?”

“William was class of 2009. Would you have overlapped at all?” Gigi asked.

“He would have been a senior when I was a freshman; I was class of 2012. What was his house?” Theo furrowed his brow in concentration.

“I think he was Eliot.” Gigi supplied.

“I was Currier,” Theo replied. “I don’t think we ran into each other.” The conversation trailed off again. Gigi picked at her nail polish.

“You know, I, uh, I went to boarding school up in Wakefield from 8th to 12th grade.” Gigi tried to get the conversation going again.

“Really?” Theo perked up. “Where?”

“Ashford.”

“No way! I raced against you guys all the time!” Finally Gigi had found a topic that felt natural. They spoke at length about a bitterly fought soccer championship match that had ended in a fistfight, and tried to see if they’d had any common acquaintances (they didn’t). Theo told her about his ill-fated attempt to join the school orchestra. “I had no talent, but lots of enthusiasm. I stayed just long enough to fall in love with the music, but not long enough to develop any skill. It’s one of the great tragedies of my life.”

“Yeah, you mentioned earlier that you were a lover of classical music.” Gigi shifted on the railing so her arm was touching his. “So, Handel or Hayden?” This triggered an intense debate, and watching Theo passionately defend his choice of Hayden, Gigi thought, okay, maybe Lydia is right. I am kind of in love with him. Especially his eyes. Yeah, I’m definitely in love with his eyes. Did Lydia really think he was going to ask me out? We’re really close together. If I leaned over two inches I could just kiss him. It wouldn’t be that hard. After all, it worked for Lizzie. Yeah, but William was in the process of confessing his love. Theo is talking about classical cadences. That gave her an idea. “Do you mind holding the rest of that thought while I run to the bathroom?” Gigi asked apologetically. “I’ll be right back.”

She ducked and weaved through the crowd until she found the ladies room. Hiding herself in a stall she pulled her phone out of her purse. “Hey, William!” She shouted over the music.

“Gigi, is everything alright?” her brother asked.

“Everything’s fine. It’s great. I can’t talk long, but I was just wondering. I know you and I were planning on going to the symphony this coming weekend, but-” she paused, trying to think how she could accomplish her goal without mentioning Theo.

Her brother was too smart for that, though. “Ah, things must be going very well,” he chuckled. “I should probably be catching up on work anyway. Tell Theo I say hello. I cannot wait to meet this fellow. Lizzie’s reports from Lydia have been intriguing, to say the least.”

“Thanks William.” Gigi hung up on him before he could tease her any more. She ran back to Theo, carelessly bumping into people as she tore through the bar. “Sorry about that; you were saying?” After he’d finished his thought, Gigi braced herself and said, “So, uh, this conversation reminded me, I was supposed to go to the symphony with my brother next Sunday, but seeing as he’s now engaged, if you will, he can’t make it.” She paused to scrutinize Theo’s face. “I wasn’t going to go, because it’d be weird to go alone, and other than my brother, no one else I know would be interested. But if you might be--that is--it seems like you are--” she floundered. “What I mean to say is, if you’re interested, I’d appreciate the company.”

“That sounds like a lot of fun. But only if there’s no Brahms. I can’t stand Brahms.”

“No Brahms, I promise. And you better watch yourself, those are fighting words in the Darcy family.” Theo responded to her warning flippantly, and soon the two were engaged in a new discussion. Gigi was so engrossed in the repartee she didn’t notice Lydia come up behind her.

“There you are!” Lydia burst into the conversation. “We’ve been looking for you two everywhere. Did you know it’s almost midnight? We’re going to have to hurry if we want to make it back to my apartment in time for champagne. Come on! Mary and Eddie are waiting outside for us!” Lydia grabbed Gigi’s elbow in one hand, Theo’s in the other, and practically frog-marched the two of them out of the establishment. When they got to the sidewalk outside, Lydia released Theo, but kept a firm grip on Gigi’s arm, dragging her to the front of the group. “So,” Lydia whispered, “What did he say?”

“What did who say to what?” Gigi asked, confused.

Lydia rolled her eyes. “I just got a text from Lizzie. She says you asked Theo to the symphony? What did he say?”

“He said yes.” Gigi blushed.

“Yes!” Lydia celebrated. “Oh, I am so good at this matchmaking thing. I should sell the Froyo shop and go into that business.”

Gigi rolled her eyes, “Slow down there Lydia, we’re going to the symphony, not getting married.”

“Yeah, yeah, whatever.” Lydia let go of Gigi’s arm to pull out her phone. Gigi could see her frantically tapping out a text to Lizzie. Gigi slowed her pace and let Mary and Eddie, who were holding hands overtake her, and fell into step with Theo.

“Did you make a resolution?” She asked him.

“You know, I didn’t,” He admitted. “I think this year I’m just going to focus on dealing with all the changes I’ve already made, rather than trying to generate any more of them. I’m really glad I came out tonight. You know, living on the East Coast, you always hear about the people in LA. There’s a certain stereotype, and I was worried I wouldn’t fit in.” He looked at her fondly. “But now I think it’s going to work out.”

The people in the restaurant they were walking by began to count down. “10...9...8...7...6...5...4...3...2...1...” Out of the corner of her eye, Gigi saw Eddie plant a kiss on Mary, and a crazy thought popped into her head. That’s insanity, one part of her argued, urging her to dismiss the idea. Why not? another part challenged, Just go for it. Maybe it was the Grape of Wrath, maybe it was the fact that it was New Years Eve, or maybe it was just Theo’s charming smile, but the why not? voice won out. She grabbed his arm, and gently gave him a quick peck on the lips.

Chapter Text

12:01am. Monday January 1, 2018. Outside Lydia’s Apartment.

Ten, was the first thing that ran through his head when her lips met his. There was a tenth Gigi, and she was kissing him. Far too soon, she stopped. “Oh my god,” she blurted out, beet red with embarrassment, covering her face with her hands. “I’m so sorry. That was-I mean-what was I thinking! I’m really sorry.” Gigi continued on in this manner for a while, as Theo tried to shake off  the daze of happy confusion that clung to him. Lydia, Eddie, Mary, and several of the patrons of the restaurant were all staring at him. Lydia was slack-jawed, and, for the first time in Theo’s experience of her, speechless.

Nervously he took Gigi’s hand, and whispered in her ear, “Don’t apologize. It’s the best beginning of a year I’ve had in awhile.” She chuckled at that. The group walked on, and Theo could see Lydia pursing her lips tightly, trying not to say anything, as she texted furiously on her phone.

“So, uh, so much for no more life changes, huh?” Gigi asked him.

“Well, everyone gives up on their resolution eventually.” Theo shrugged. “I just gave up on mine faster than most.”

“Dude, we’re barely even a minute into 2018.” Gigi rolled her eyes.

“Well, then maybe I have time to reformulate my resolution.” Theo thought for a second. “I know! This year, rather than fighting against changes, I will embrace any surprises that come my way.” He gave Gigi a bear hug.

“What are you doing?” She laughed.

Theo let her go, and explained, “I’m embracing you. You’re very surprising.” He thought he saw Mary gag out of the corner of his eye. Lydia on the other hand looked like was clapping and jumping up and down.

“Hurry up, nerds,” Lydia called out affectionately. “We’re already late!”

Theo picked up the pace, and he and Gigi swiftly closed the gap. They were almost at Lydia’s when Gigi’s phone rang. “It’s just my brother.” She sighed, and ignored the call. “After what he pulled at Christmas, there’s no way I’m not letting him stew for a bit.” A few seconds later, it rang again. “Nice try buddy!” She hit ignore again. “He tried to call on Lizzie’s phone,” Gigi explained. “Like he thought I wouldn’t see right through that.” She paused. I probably should text Fitz though. Don’t want him to hear through the rumor mill and freak.”

“Wait,” Theo asked, “Who’s Fitz?”

“Oh,” Gigi waved a hand. “Fitz is a friend of the family. Don’t worry, you’ll love him. Everybody loves Fitz.”

“Oh, dear,” Theo groaned. “There’s more of you?”

Gigi swatted him playfully, “What happened to your New Years resolution?”

“I’m still working on it.” He gave her shoulder a squeeze. He watched her chat with Lydia and Mary, the streetlights haloing her hair. One thing’s for sure, 2018 will certainly bring a lot of surprises for me to embrace. And you know what, maybe that’s not such a bad thing.