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To Make a Brand New Start

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Vivian hung up the phone and set it aside to steeple her fingers in front of her face, thinking. If Elle was planning on leaving, chances were she would stop by the Hair Affair before she went to say goodbye to that blonde stylist she was always gossiping with every time Vivian went in. That would be the best time to catch her. But when? Vivian frowned. Although she hadn't liked the perky blonde much at first, and had expected her to be gone by the end of the first semester, it had become apparent by now that, against all odds and expectations, Elle was meant to be a lawyer. If she were thinking clearly, there was no way Elle would let something like this shut her down so easily. That meant this was largely an emotional decision, and would be marked by sudden, big gestures. Elle would leave tomorrow, which meant she would visit the Hair Affair tomorrow to say goodbye to her stylist friend, which meant if Vivian was going to catch her, it had to be then. Vivian went to fetch her laptop.

"Honey-bear, what are you doing up?" Warner asked, coming out of their bedroom just as she resettled herself in her armchair and opened it on her lap. "Aren't you coming to bed?"

"Something's come up," she said shortly, in no mood to explain. Like Callahan, Vivian had come to realize over the course of their internship together that, despite his excellent grades, Warner was, in a lot of ways, simply not the brightest bulb in the batch. He took things too much at face value, refused to consider the idea that an issue or a person might not be quite what they seem at first glance, and (in an ironic twist that Vivian certainly didn't miss) he simply didn't take the work seriously enough. From his inappropriate joke in the courtroom to his refusal to acknowledge a coworker's contribution to a case out of thoughtlessness and ego, Vivian was coming to realize more and more that it was Warner, and not Elle, who did not belong at Harvard.

Case in point: "Well, can't it wait 'til morning?"

"If it could, don't you think I'd be in bed already?" Vivian pointed out, typing in the address for the local airport.

Warner sighed. "Come on, sweetheart, don't be like this. At least tell me what's going on."

Vivian sighed too; she had hoped to deal with this situation without involving her clueless fiancé. She knew full well he had never realized his ex was anything more than the dumb blonde she appeared to be -- a notion of which she had been loathe to disabuse him for a while, since Vivian knew full well that Warner still had feelings for Elle. She'd never had any illusions about the romantic nature of their relationship; it had simply been an advantageous connection. Warner had been looking for a partner who would look credible on the arm of a future senator, and Vivian had been looking for a man with ambition whose political career would complement and advance her own. She had thought that man was Warner; now she wasn't so sure.

So she hesitated before she said, "Elle is leaving."

"Leaving?" Warner said, puzzled. For a split second, Vivian wondered if her impression of him these past few months had been off-base. Then he chucked. "Well, it's about time. But what does that have to do with us?"

"I have to stop her, you idiot," Vivian snapped. "She's the only chance we have of winning this case -- or haven't you noticed, she's the only one who has managed to make any progress whatsoever with our client or the witnesses?"

"Wha -- you don't honestly believe she really got the alibi, do you?" Warner said. "She just said that to impress Callahan. If she really knew the alibi she'd tell us what it is."

"Warner," said Vivian, turning to face him, "tell me this: in all the time you've known Elle, both while you were dating and since you both came to Harvard Law, have you ever known her to lie?" Vivian had noticed, throughout their admittedly fraught interactions, that Elle was scrupulously honest; it simply didn't seem to occur to her to create any pretenses about herself or the events in her life. It was that very honesty that had so often gotten her in trouble in Callahan's class in the beginning: for the life of her, Elle simply couldn't seem to discern between a truthful answer and a correct one. Vivian had considered the ability to make such a distinction the greatest key to passing that class. Elle, however, had somehow managed to turn the lack of such an ability into her greatest strength, something that (though she would never admit it) Vivian admired her for.

"Well, why else wouldn't she tell us the alibi?" Warner insisted.

Vivian gave him an incredulous look. "Because she's Elle," she said. "You dated this girl for how long?"

Warner flushed. "That's -- I -- that's not the point!"

Vivian sighed again. "Go to bed, Warner," she said, turning back to her laptop. "I'll join you when I'm done." Finding what she was looking for, she flipped open her cell phone and dialed the airport's phone number, effectively ending the conversation between her and Warner. She heard her fiancé sigh, and was vaguely aware of him turning to go back to bed as a polite voice informed her that she had reached their local airport. Vivian patiently made her way through the labyrinth of menu options until finally, she managed to reach a human being.

"Yes, hello, my friend Elle Woods is leaving town tomorrow and I want to meet her at the airport to say goodbye. I can't reach her cell, so I was wondering if you could tell me what time her flight leaves so I can make sure to be there on time." The agent assured her that it wasn't a problem and asked if Vivian knew her final destination (Vivian guessed it was probably LAX, though she knew there were a couple of other airports in that area that Elle might also have selected as her destination). It didn't take long to get the information; Vivian thanked the agent and hung up. It was a midmorning flight, which meant that if (when) Elle stopped by the Hair Affair, it would be early in the morning. Vivian yawned; that meant she really did need to go to bed. First, though, she had one more phone call to make.

"Hello, is this Mr. Woods? My name is Vivian Kensington, I'm one of your daughter's classmates at Harvard…"

---

The next morning, Vivian rose early, to Warner's sleepy disgruntlement, so that she could swing by the Hair Affair in time to catch Elle and still arrive on time for the trial later on. As she was finishing off her morning coffee, laptop open in front of her to make sure there had been no flight changes during the night, Warner wandered into the kitchen.

"Honeybear, what are you doing up?" he asked through a yawn, still in his boxers and T-shirt from the night before.

"I have a hair appointment this morning," said Vivian, uninterested in discussing the details.

Warner frowned. "A hair appointment? But you just got a trim last week."

"I want to get it touched up a bit," Vivian said. And she probably would, while waiting for Elle to arrive.

"Honeybear, does this have to do with Elle?" said Warner.

Vivian sighed. "Yes, Warner, it has to do with Elle."

He shook his head as he dug out a box of cereal. "I still don't understand why that's so important to you."

Because Callahan was a dick? Because they needed Elle for the trial? Because, when it came right down to it, Vivian couldn't let such a brilliant lawyer ruin her life on account of one stupid prick? Vivian considered saying one or more of these things, and decided it wasn't worth it. "I'm not surprised," she said curtly instead.

Warner stopped in his tracks. "What's that supposed to mean?"

"It means that, as usual, you are failing to see the bigger picture, and I no longer find it surprising," said Vivian, closing her laptop and going to put her mug in the sink.

"Now hold on just a minute! Just because I don't think it's worth it to risk being late to court just to make sure some blonde floozy sticks around--"

It was Vivian's turn to stop dead in her tracks. Slowly, she turned, and fixed Warner with a cold stare. "That 'blonde floozy,'" she said icily, "is your ex-girlfriend." Warner quailed under his fiancee's icy glare. "Tell me, Warner, is this how you would talk about me if you and I were to break up?"

"But -- but you and I aren't going to break up," Warner faltered. "We're forever, baby. You and me, and three kids, just like--"

"The Kennedys, yes, I know. And I'm willing to bet you said exactly the same things to Elle when you were together," said Vivian, her eyes still fixed on him. Warner opened and closed his mouth several times, but couldn't seem to find an answer to that. Vivian looked down at the four-carat, princess-cut diamond winking prettily up at her. If she was honest with herself, she had known this wasn't working out for quite some time. Gently, Vivian tugged the ring off her finger. In spite of everything, there was a lump in her throat as she held it out and said quietly, "I believe this is yours."

Silence fell as Warner stared at her outstretched hand for a long moment; then he looked up, and something in his eyes crumbled. "Baby, don't do this," he said quietly. It was only then, as something inside her crumbled in response, that Vivian realized she had truly come to care for Warner. Still, her resolve held firm.

"Warner, this isn't working out." If she were Elle, maybe she could have found some way to soften to blow; as she was instead Vivian, she had only the honest truth to give him. "I'm sorry." And she was, but not sorry enough to change her mind. Warner made no move to take the ring from her hand; carefully, Vivian set it down on the kitchen counter. Without looking at him, Vivian went to slide her laptop into its protective compartment in her bag and slung it over her shoulder. "I'll see you at the trial," she said, and moved around him to exit the apartment they shared. It was only once she had stepped inside the elevator and selected the garage level that she finally closed her eyes and brought a hand up to her mouth, willing herself not to cry. It wasn't that she regretted doing it, exactly; it was only that it was hard to hurt someone that way, even when it was the right thing to do. Vivian took a moment to wish the conversation had gone differently -- that maybe she hadn't made that crack about the bigger picture, for instance, or that she could have found some way to reassure Warner and make it less painful for him. Then the door opened with a ding; Vivian opened her eyes, lowered her hand, took a deep breath, and strode through it. It was too late for any of that now. The best she could do was move forward, and she had an appointment at the Hair Affair.