Choices

Wethersby Posner and Klein was no more. The first day after the acrimonious split, the news reverberated throughout the building as every member of staff struggled to understand what it meant for their job. Partners where huddled behind closed doors while associates took stock of their wins versus losses and what their average monthly billings were.

Eli walked out of the elevator and, rather than get caught up in the speculation about who would be going where, ducked quickly into the library. Behind the closed doors he could remain in relative peace. Many of his former colleagues blamed him for Jordan's defection so he counted on them treating him as something of a pariah until matters were settled.

Jordan and Taylor were still hammering out the details of the tenancy of Posner and Klein's firm, which was theoretically trespassing on Jordan's property. He would work out what was best for his new, unnamed firm, but Eli suspected he wouldn't turn away a good leasing tenant if Posner and Klein agreed on the price. Perhaps they would be co-locating for a while after all.

It was hard to concentrate on work but there was too much to be done to be idle. Plus it kept his mind off his latest vision of Maggie, something he wasn't ready to acknowledge yet. His immediate reaction had been one of shock. Eli had never imagined Maggie could choose not to come over to Jordan's firm. Surely she must have known that Eli would take her with him. For all their battles they were still a good team. Maggie always fought for the underdog and that's exactly what Jordan's new firm would be doing.

It didn't seem possible that she would choose the dark side – any more than her defending the paint manufacturers in Supreme Court. It was inconceivable to Eli.

But he cast it from his mind, determined to focus on the momentous task at hand of establishing a new practice with Jordan. He was on his tenth page of notes when she appeared inside the library.

"It's crazy out there, huh?" Maggie said as she shut the doors behind her. She was wearing her hair pulled back from her face in a déjà vu style that stunned Eli momentarily.

"Uh, yeah," he managed to say in response before diverting his eyes.

"I can't believe this has happened, when everything was so normal a week ago," she went on, walking slowly towards him. "I thought that when you came back things would just go back to the way they were before your operation… I guess that was pretty naïve."

"Maybe idealistic," he offered with a small smile. "There's nothing wrong with a little idealism."

"Except when everything you thought you knew is gone."

"It'll be okay, Maggie."

She looked away from him, twisting her hands anxiously.

"Eli…" She stopped, clearly struggling with her words. "I need to talk to you."

He felt his stomach drop from disappointment but his face did not betray any emotion. He set his pen down calmly.

"You're staying," he stated quietly.

"I've been thinking about it."

"No, you haven't," Eli replied. "You've already made your decision."

Maggie's brow furrowed and color rose on her cheeks and neck. "Don't tell me, you saw it in a vision."

He looked down, deciding no good could come from him telling the truth. He could never tell her some of the things he'd seen in his visions as they pertained to her. To them.

"No," he lied. "I can see it in your face. You can barely look at me."

Maggie blinked, forcing herself to meet his gaze but faltering under it. She cleared her throat. "How do I even know there's a place for me at the new firm? At least I have a job here."

"I told Jordan yesterday that I wanted you with us. And Patti. Taylor. Jordan's making the decision about who else he wants on board." Eli smiled sadly. "I already told him I wanted you there."

Maggie was slack-jawed as she struggled to keep her composure. Her tear-filled eyes were downcast for a few moments but then she sniffed and looked up, determination settling on her features.

"I can't do it anymore, Eli. I need to focus on my career and my fiancé. I have a wedding to organize and a life to build. I don't need any distractions… and that's what you are. I need to move forward."

Eli nodded but said nothing.

"It's not that I don't appreciate everything you taught me, or the faith you showed in me… I'll always be grateful for that. But now I need to do this on my own."

"I understand," Eli said, trying to sound it. "It's okay, Maggie."

She pressed her lips together in what he suspected was a smile, but she looked anything but happy.

"Good luck with everything," he said more positively than before.

"You, too," she replied.

Neither of them said anything, but this time Maggie was looking deep into his eyes until Eli finally looked away.

"I'd better go." Maggie straightened her shoulders before she left the library.

Eli watched, his mouth turning down, as she walked across the office and disappeared from view.

0 0 0 0

Taylor strode into his office without knocking, ignoring the fact he was on a call. She waited with her arms crossed over her chest, a frown creasing her brow. Matt tried to pay attention to the client on the other end of the line but it was difficult under her glare. He smiled as he ended the call, turning his attention on her.

"To what do I owe the pleasure?" he asked.

"I can't believe it," Taylor said, ignoring his glib tone. "I mean, I knew who you were when we started seeing each other but I honestly didn't think you could do this."

"What have I done now?"

"It's what you haven't done," she said hotly. "You haven't been loyal."

"What are you talking about?"

"The new firm, Matt. You chose to stay with Posner and Klein."

Matt showed no surprise that she knew, despite the fact he'd only confirmed his decision in Posner's offer twenty minutes earlier. News was traveling faster than usual in the fractured law firm.

"What happened?" Taylor asked. She didn't hide the disgust in her voice. "Did they offer you more money? Dangle a junior partnership in front of your nose? Just what did it take to buy you off?"

"I'm guessing nothing I can say here is going to make a difference, right?" Matt smiled which incensed her further.

"You know, I ignored what people said, I ignored my own instincts when I got involved with you."

"Taylor…"

"Don't. If you're just going to make some smart remark, you can just save it. I'm not interested."

Matt could restrain himself no more. "Well, great, because God forbid we should actually have a conversation about it."

"This isn't a conversation, it's a fight."

"Really? You and me fighting… what a novel concept."

"You're a jerk, you know that?"

"I never pretended to be otherwise, sweetheart," he said darkly.

Taylor tutted under her breath and her frown deepened.

"Shouldn't you be off saving the whales or stopping some unsuspecting kid from being adopted by a celebrity?" Matt asked.

"Of course you'd make a joke, because you can't fathom a law firm where people are actually trying to make a difference."

"No, I really can't."

"God, I'm such an idiot," she said. "I can't believe I fell for your bullshit."

She turned abruptly, no longer wanting to even look at him, and headed for the door.

"Taylor," Matt said sharply.

"What?"

He grew solemn. "I never lied to you about who I am. I never pretended to be anyone else. And I'm not joining your father's firm because I wasn't offered a position in it."

Taylor said nothing, lost for words momentarily.

"He's already made all the offers he's going to. Turns out Jordan doesn't see the leadership qualities in me that he did a while back," Matt said, trying to smile. "Or he was hoping that this – whatever you and I have – would disappear if we were on opposing sides. Guess he wasn't far wrong."

Taylor swallowed hard, deflated. "I didn't know."

"Well, that's some consolation."

"I'm sorry," she said. "I thought…"

"Don't worry about it."

"Do you want me to –"

Matt help up his hand quickly. "No. Whatever you're thinking of saying to him, no."

Taylor nodded wanly. She bit her lip and paused before responding. "Are you going to be okay here?"

"At Posner and Klein? Sure. It'll be better even. Less competition. And, thanks to our – whatever it is you and I have – my new managing partner did offer me a substantial raise so I wouldn't jump ship. So I have no complaints."

"Whatever it is you and I have…" she mused.

"I've given up trying to define it. Plus I don't suppose recent events have really helped matters on that score."

She looked away.

"It's okay, Taylor. I get it."

"I just don't see how it could work, with you here and me with my father and Eli."

"The way it was supposed to be, huh?"

Taylor frowned again. "It's nothing like that. Eli and I will never get back together. But I can't be working with them and sleeping with you. Not the way things are at the moment."

"You never heard of sleeping with the enemy?" Matt replied.

She deflected his attempt at humor. "Maybe when things aren't so volatile…"

"Okay." His voice revealed no emotion.

Taylor waited in case he was going to stop her again, but he wasn't looking at her anymore. "I'll see you around?"

Matt smiled faintly in response. She turned and walked to his door, her hand stopping on the glass. Taylor looked back at him.

"For what it's worth, I think he made a mistake. My father."

"No, he didn't. You just wish it were that way. I'm where I'm supposed to be."

Taylor looked down, knowing he was telling the truth.

"But thanks for saying it anyway," he said.

Taylor pushed open the office door and was gone.

FIN