1. I've finally found my prize
When all the smoke has cleared, and Enid has slapped Elle on the back and set up a shopping appointment, and Vivienne has hugged all of them and made them promise to come to dinner later, Elle and Emmett finally move in for a long hug. Elle finally breaks away and looks at Emmett, her eyes shining, her arms still on his. Emmett smiles down at her, hoping all the things he doesn't have the words to say are in his own eyes.
But at that point Emmett spots Warner, patiently waiting at the corner, and he steps back a little. "I think someone wants to talk to you," he says to Elle.
Elle looks back, sees Warner, turns back to Emmett swiftly. "He -- but I -- you can't think -- I don't -- you-- " she stammers, and he smiles fondly at her. Elle inarticulate, something he thought he'd never see happen because of him. He knows her so well that he knows exactly what she's trying to say.
"It's okay. I'll see you later," he says gently. He gives in to the temptation to draw her closer again, whisper in her ear, "I love you, Elle!" and kiss the tip of her ear, very softly, just to be able to disengage from her and see her totally speechless and flustered. He grins at her and walks away.
He does turn around once more to see her staring back at him, eyes wide, her lips parted slightly, a hand on the spot on her ear that he kissed, before she finally walks toward Warner. Emmett smiles. He'll see her later, for sure.
2. How much I want you to stay
"Callahan hit on me," Elle says, looking distraught and more upset than Emmett has ever seen her. He longs to take her in her arms and kiss her tears away. "He kissed me, he fired me. He made it very clear I don't belong. Law school clearly isn't for me. I'm going back to California, where I make sense."
"Elle," Emmett says, "you don't have to do this! We'll fix it, we'll fight it--"
Elle looks at him sadly. "Emmett, it's no use. There's no reason for me to stay." She reaches out to close the door.
He later thinks, if he had been a trifle slower, or she had been a bit faster, it would never have happened, or if he had realized what awful timing it was a little bit sooner, or if he had been thinking more about her problems and less about himself -- but as it is she has not quite closed the door when he blurts out, "What about love? I love you." His brain, too late, catches up to his mouth, and he adds belatedly, "The timing's bad, I know--"
Elle stands perfectly still. Even years later, and no matter how hard he tries, Emmett will never be able to forget the look of utter betrayal that crosses her face at that moment. She does not cry, or yell. She whispers, "I thought you were different. I thought you saw something in me besides my looks. I thought there was something in me my besides my looks. And now it turns out Callahan and you were just after me because of that. Guess I was wrong." And then she really does shut the door.
"Wait-- Elle -- that's not what I meant at all!" Emmett shouts to her closed door. "That's not what I love about you!" He stays by her door for quite a long time, trying to get her to open it, until one of her neighbors gets tired of his shouting and testily asks him to leave. Frantically, he calls Vivienne, Enid, and Warner, anything to get her to stay. He even visits Paulette's salon the next day to try to find her. Paulette says she hasn't seen Elle, although Elle did, apparently, write a goodbye note that Paulette found shoved under the door that morning. Paulette won't show him the note.
In the end, it doesn't much matter in the grand scheme of things. Warner, of all people, spots an inconsistency in Chutney Wyndham's story (something about the timing of her hair appointment; Warner says he has a lot of experience waiting for women to get their hair done, at which point Vivienne shoots him the tenth dirty look of the day), and with that and the discredited testimony of Argitakos, there's not enough evidence to prove Brooke Wyndham guilty. Everyone on the team (now that Elle's gone) still believes Brooke was guilty, but whatever, there's no proof, they've won.
Emmett is made associate, but resigns from the firm shortly thereafter. He can't stay, knowing what Callahan has done. (Vivienne and Enid also quit Callahan's internship right after the Wyndham trial, for reasons Emmett does not inquire into, but can guess. Warner stays.) He emails Elle, calls her, even sends her a letter. There is no response to the emails and calls, and the letter is sent back to him.
Elle is back at Harvard Law in the fall. Apparently Vivienne somehow convinced her to come back, although not in time to finish up the Wyndham trial; the two have become, improbably, close friends. He goes to Elle's room several times. The first two times she doesn't answer. The third time she lets him in, but that's even worse, as she explains to him very calmly and kindly that she's not mad at him, she doesn't hold what he said against him, she knows he didn't mean it that way, it was very sweet really, she just can't handle it right now, it brings back too much, and can he please just stay away until she is able to deal with it?
So he does. He stays away from Vivienne, as well, who ended up interning at the same firm Emmett is now working at, but who makes it clear she does not particularly wish to talk to him. He hears the news that Elle and Warner have gotten back together not from her, but from another random intern who has no idea he knows the two of them. He starts dating an FBI agent he meets during one of his cases, someone who doesn't need or want law school help, someone who wears more black than pink, someone who doesn't criticize his clothes or tell him what to do about his integrity. They both work very long hours, which suits them both. Eventually he proposes to her, and she accepts.
(She does happen to be blonde and pretty and short and from Southern California, but she does not comment on this when she sees the pictures of him and Elle, any more than Emmett himself comments when he meets her ex-boyfriend and finds that he is brown-haired and lanky. Their shared silence is another reason, he tells himself, that they are a good match.)
So you might say everything ends well. Emmett thinks so, some days. Most days, really. It's perhaps not the life he wanted most to have, and maybe not the life Elle wanted most to have either, but he's more-or-less content and hopes she is too. It's only occasionally, when he is wakeful in the middle of the night, that he still thinks about how telling Elle he loved her was the biggest mistake of his life.
3. Here's your chance to make it
As Elle and Emmett get ready to leave the department store, he steps close to her, and she envelops him in a hug, an extremely platonic hug. Normally he'd accept that and go on, but for once, probably because Elle has been telling him this whole time he needs more confidence, he's feeling reckless and like he might as well go all the way. What the hell, right? He steps back from her and says seriously, "I love you, Elle."
"Emmett, I already said there's no need to thank me!" Elle says gaily, catching his hands in hers.
Emmett frowns. "No, really," he says gently. "I do. I love you."
Elle drops his hands. "That's... very kind of you," she says. "I... don't know what to say."
Emmett has a sinking feeling, but even so, he knows he's done the right thing by telling her. Elle might as well know how he feels, and know it before he gets deeper in. God. He's already too deeply in. "I know you're still in love with Warner," he says quietly. "It's okay. I'm cool with being friends. It doesn't change our friendship."
Elle blinks. "I'm not still in love with Warner."
It's not an expression of undying devotion, but hey, things are already looking up from a minute ago. "Um, you're not?" This, he can work with. It already seems easier to be around an Elle who's not desperately in love with another guy.
Elle shakes her head. "Nah, I got over him ages ago. Probably around the time Callahan's internship started -- I was just too busy to mope." She rolls her eyes. "He wouldn't stop trying to convince me to give up Brooke's alibi today -- it was really obnoixious. I wondered how I could ever have been in love with him!"
Emmett judges it best not to mention all the times he's wondered the same thing. In fact, maybe he shouldn't mention Warner at all. They make their way to the food court for dinner. By tacit consent they don't talk about Emmett's revelation. They talk about Brooke's trial, what ramifications Argitakos' testimony tomorrow is likely to have on their legal strategy. On the T heading for Harvard Square, Elle teases him about how surprised everyone is going to be about his new suit, and Emmett teases her in return about how she should wear pink to take the attention off of him.
As they walk along Mass Ave, Emmett is starting to relax -- maybe things can go back to the way they were, without any fuss -- when Elle says, "Hey, um. I've thought about what you said. At the department store."
Emmett braces himself; he can feel himself retreating back in his shell, and he turns away from her so he doesn't have to see her face. "Hey, listen, we can forget I ever said that --"
"No, wait," Elle says, seizing his arm and forcing him to turn back to her. "I think I'd like -- I mean, I think I might love you too -- oh, this is what I think," and she kisses him.
When Emmett and Elle come in together the next morning, a little late, Enid is the only one who notices. She looks from Elle to Emmett and gives Emmett a questioning look. Emmett unrepentantly grins back at her -- he rather feels like he's had a goofy grin on his face for the past twelve hours, for that matter -- but by that time everyone else has noticed Emmett's new suit. "Is that you, Emmett?" Callahan says incredulously.
"Elle took me shopping," Emmett says, and lays his hand on Elle's, in a possessive gesture he wouldn't have thought of making a day ago.
Callahan looks at their hands, then at Emmett, and raises his eyebrows. Emmett looks at him and removes his hand from Elle's, but in a deliberate and measured way that calls attention to it rather than otherwise, and keeps holding Callahan's gaze. Enid tilts her head. Warner starts to catch on at about this point, and frowns deeply. Vivienne, next to him, is struggling not to laugh, though Emmett's not sure if it's because she approves or because she's just glad that Elle is no longer a rival for Warner.
The side of Callahan's mouth twitches, and he looks away. "Well," he says. "You look very professional, Emmett. Mind your behavior in court matches, and you'll do just fine."
"Of course, Professor," Emmett says equably. "Shall we look at the case notes, then?"
Callahan dismisses all of them that evening to get some sleep. He looks pointedly at Elle and Emmett as he says this. As Elle and Emmett are walking home, holding hands, Elle says, "What was going on with you and Callahan this morning?"
"Hmm?" Emmett says, distracted by how nice her hand feels in his.
"It almost seemed like you were, I don't know, doing some sort of alpha male thing with him. When we first came in this morning."
Emmett laughs, a bit shamefacedly. "Sorry. I'm not usually like that. It just sort of... happened, because I suddenly remembered a story -- it was before my time, I don't even know if it's true or not -- of Callahan sleeping with one of his interns." He frowns. "She quit law school after that summer, now that's a fact, everyone was talking about it when I started in the fall. Seems silly to quit, even if the thing with Callahan was true."
Elle sighs. "I don't know, I can totally see it," she says. "You think you're doing something right, making a difference -- and then you find out people just think you're a pretty face. I might have done the same thing, in her place, if Callahan hit on me."
Emmett thinks that one of the things he loves best about Elle is her ability to show him another point of view, a more compassionate one. Although it is sometimes a bit hard to admit she's right. "Okay, I get that," he finally says, squeezing her hand. "Although I'd like to think, if you were in her place, that I could convince you to stay. Because you're worth so much more than that."
Elle smiles at him. "You're what I want, Emmett; how could I leave you?"Then she frowns. "Wait. Do you think Callahan only gave me the internship because he wanted me to -- because he thought I was a pretty face?"
Emmett shakes his head. "Whatever nefarious purposes he might or might not have had -- and look, let's forget the whole thing, I'm probably totally maligning him; he clearly hasn't made any moves on you, and the story might be apocryphal anyway -- he wouldn't sign on an intern just for that." He snorts. "You remember, he didn't ask for your resume until you demolished Warner in class that day."
By this time they are at Elle's apartment. Elle wraps herself around him, saying, "That's one of the things I love about you, Emmett; you always make me feel better about myself," and kisses him. "I'm so glad you told me how you felt," she whispers, and kisses him again, a long lingering kiss.
Emmett had had noble plans to leave Elle so that they can both get some sleep tonight, and he does eventually escape, but not as soon as he had intended.
4. Though I dreamed of this day long ago
Elle hasn't heard from the Forrest-Kensingtons in a couple of years, except for Christmas cards, when Emmett's email pops up in her inbox, saying he'll be in Boston for a couple of days and asking if she and Oliver would like to grab dinner. Oliver will be out of town that week, but she's available for dinner, and replies telling him so. After a couple of emails back and forth working out details, she makes reservations at the Indian place in Harvard Square that they used to frequent when Elle was a student.
As Elle approaches the restaurant, she sees Emmett waiting at the entrance, and hurries to hug him. She studies him as the hug ends, trying to assess what is different about him. He wears his expensive suit more casually, she decides, without the discomfort that she used to see in him. He has more of the aura of a man who has power and knows it. Elle thinks that Vivienne has been good for him. She wonders what Emmett is seeing in her. Perhaps that she now moves more sleekly through the whole legal world she has become more immersed in; perhaps that she still wears pink, but mixes it with black for a style that arouses no comment but is still uniquely her own; Oliver has been good for her, too.
They exchange greetings. As they sit down, Elle asks after Emmett's political work in DC, and Emmett asks after her practice; Elle tells a couple of stories about the more high-profile cases that have come into her office, and Emmett talks about the budget difficulties he's struggling with at the moment. Over dinner, Elle tells Emmett about how Oliver has taken over Joyce Riley's job as the chief of the trial division in the Boston district attorney's office (occasionally meaning he has to recuse himself from cases when Elle's firm has been hired by the client), and Emmett mentions the recent reorganizations at the international law organization Vivienne is heading. (Elle is always happy to get news of Vivienne -- her one real regret is that she should have stayed in closer contact with Vivienne, but their nascent friendship fell apart when Vivienne started dating Emmett. Elle totally knew it was irrational for her to be resentful of Vivienne when Elle was dating Oliver herself, but it didn't change things.)
Elle asks after Cecilia and Chloe, whose names and features she knows from the Christmas cards. Emmett is happy to talk about Cecilia's kindergarden adventures and Chloe's preschool mishaps for quite a whie. "And you and Oliver?" Emmett asks. "Still enjoying the dual-income no-kids lifestyle?"
Elle hesitates just for a second, and has just a little smile on her face, but even after all these years that's enough for Emmett to sense something is up. "Are you -- you're not -- " He sits back. "You are." Elle nods, and a huge smile breaks over his face. "When? Do you know whether you're having a boy or girl? How are you feeling? Have I missed anything?"
Elle laughs. "December second, or so they say. We don't know gender yet, but we will in another three weeks. A lot of food seems to make me very unhappy, but at least I can still eat Indian food. And I don't know if you've missed anything, you've got more experience than I have!" She grins. "You're finding out awfully early. Oliver and I haven't told anyone except family."
Emmett says solemnly, "I am honored."
After dinner, neither of them is quite ready to say goodbye. They walk past the Harvard Houses and down to the Charles River. "Do you ever think of the Brooke Wyndham case?" Emmett asks abruptly.
Elle says, honestly, "Sometimes I think about it a lot. Sometimes I go months without thinking about it."
They walk a bit in silence. "I think about it a lot too, sometimes," Emmett says. "I feel like it was kind of a turning point; it's how you and Oliver met, and how I got to know Vivienne..." Emmett pauses. "I was rather in love with you at the time, you know."
Elle is startled. "You were? I had no idea... You never said anything!"
Emmett says, "I was going to, the night Callahan hit on you... I was going to say something before you told me about him, but under the circumstances, it didn't seem like the right thing to do at all."
Elle laughs dryly. "Well, you had the right instincts there. I probably would have run screaming. That would definitely have been worse." She asks, curiously, "But why not tell me after that? I... would have responded."
Emmett smiles, a little painfully, and shrugs. "It's... interesting to know that, at this late date. I guess I was a little scared. I didn't want anything to change. I wanted things to keep on being the way that they were, I really valued our friendship, I just wanted not have to deal with anything emotional and messy. I would have hated to have lost you as a friend because I made the mistake of trying to pursue you romantically."
"Things changed anyway when I started dating Oliver," Elle points out. She doesn't say, you lost me as a friend anyway, because it's not true -- they are still friends -- but everything was different between them, after Assistant District Attorney Oliver Obeck, with the good humor and affability that Elle has since learned is an integral part of his nature, went up to Elle after the Wyndham trial to congratulate her on the win, and asked for her number while he was at it.
Emmett digs his hands into his pockets in a way that Elle remembers so distinctly from ten years ago that she has to close her eyes for a second. "Yeah. I realized I should have said something, then. But at that point, Vivienne and I started seeing each other, so it all worked out." He smiles. "You know, in a way I owe it all to you; I'm not sure Vivienne really noticed me until you gave me that lecture about dressing the part and took me shopping." He exhales. "When you started dating Oliver... You broke my heart a little, but you also handed me the chance to find my own way, without you -- I think I'd gotten a little dependent on you, emotionally."
Elle nods. "I think I got a little dependent on you, too -- I wasn't clinging to you like I did to Warner, but still, I got through that first year of law school by having you hold my hand. It was good for me to get away from that." She laughs. "I suppose marrying a DA was certainly a good way to do it, since we can't talk about cases together!"
Emmett looks at her from the corner of his eye. "On the other hand -- don't get me wrong, I don't regret the life I have; I'm happy with Vivienne and Cecilia and Chloe -- I just wonder, sometimes, what would have happened. If I hadn't been too chicken to tell you how I felt."
Elle sighs. "Yeah. I understand. I love Oliver, I love our life together, I wouldn't want it any other way, and yet at the same time... you always wonder what might have been."
5. I've found my way to love
Elle knocks on Emmett's door, but there is no answer, and finally she fishes out the key that Emmett gave her "for emergencies." It's not precisely an emergency, but he did tell her he would be there, and he knew she was coming over, so... better find out what's going on.
When she walks in, it becomes clear why he didn't answer the door; he has fallen asleep, sprawled out across his couch in an extremely ungraceful manner, and is snoring quietly. He's taken off his tie and jacket, but otherwise is still dressed in the nice suit she bought for him two days ago, which is starting to look rather rumpled, and she makes a mental note to fix him up with an iron and an ironing board. There is a little bit of drool on the corner of his mouth. She thinks that he looks utterly beautiful.
Elle sits down beside him, takes his limp hands in hers, runs her fingers up and down his. As she does so, he stirs, his eyes flutter open, and suddenly her hands are caught in a grip so strong she thinks she might have bruises tomorrow, but she can't bring herself to care, seeing the way he's looking at her. "You came," he says, and his hands relax a bit, curl around hers.
"Hey, we agreed I'd come by later after I talked to Warner," she says. "Did you not think I would? Did you think I'd run off with Warner or something?"
"I hoped you'd come," he said simply. "I didn't know. I thought you would, but I knew you'd loved Warner for so long, I thought that maybe--"
Elle remembers how, with Warner, there was so much calculation about when and to what degree to flirt, when to say what words signfifying what degree of devotion. She could probably have filled a whole book with the precise details. She does not think at all before saying, "It's you I love, Emmett," and leaning over to kiss him.
The kiss is not scripted and storybook, like her first kiss with Warner. It is -- is real, and that makes it so right, so wonderful -- Emmett is everything she ever wanted -- he makes a noise deep in his throat and reaches out to tangle a hand in her hair and pull her closer -- and she leans too far over the sprawled-out position he is still in, and loses her balance. She topples onto his other arm, and her elbow slams into his chest. After a brief silence, Emmett says, "Ow," and they both burst out laughing.
"That," Emmett says, still grinning as they disentangle themselves and he rubs his arm, "has got to be the most awkward first kiss I've ever had." He pauses, as she, also still grinning, regains her balance. "And the nicest. I -- I love you, Elle."
"I love you too," Elle says, unable to stop smiling, "and can you -- here, move this way -- can we try that again from a more stable position?" She laughs. "Unless you want me to fall on you again."
"I don't actually mind smart beautiful amazing women falling on me when they do it without crushing my arm," Emmett teases, but he does sit up and take her in his arms.
Elle thinks that she would never have been able to have a conversation like that with Warner, and decides she prefers this quite a bit. And she thinks that the second kiss is equally as nice as the first, but quite a bit more comfortable. And then she doesn't think about anything but Emmett.