Author: Cassandra Mulder
Classification: Eli Stone; Eli/Maggie; romance
Spoilers: Grace, Should I Stay or Should I Go?, Owner of a Lonely Heart
Disclaimer: Eli Stone is the property of Greg Berlanti and ABC. Nothing, unfortunately, belongs to me, and no infringement is intended.
Summary: Sometimes what you were looking for is right where you left it.
Written: December 26 - 31, 2008
Word Count: 3008
A/N: As much as the cancellation of one of my favorite shows drives me insane, the second closest thing would probably be the treatment of the Eli/Maggie relationship this season and Eli's hardheaded reluctance to see what is so blatantly in front of his face. Enjoy!
Nothing, even in the mess that had been the last year of his life, had made Eli Stone any lonelier than the last few months. It seemed like every time there was someone he even remotely connected with, a horrible complication would arise before anything could get off the ground.
Grace had been misfortune waiting to happen, as much of a ticking time bomb as he was himself, and he had dared to date an heiress who didn't want anything serious. Of course she didn't, she could have anything or anyone she wanted, so why would she waste a significant amount of time on a guy who professed to be a prophet? No one else did.
He had his head in his hands when he heard a knock on the doorjamb. "Pity party of one," he said without looking up. It was late and he had thought no one was left at the office, so he had the door to the library open.
"I know, I heard," a familiar voice said and his head shot up.
"Maggie, I… What are you doing here at eleven-thirty at night?"
"I don't know, I just thought this friend of mine might be lonely so I decided to come see if he needed anything," Maggie said with a gentle smile.
Eli felt like he was going to cry, but it would have been an inopportune time - not to mention completely pathetic. "To whom have you been talking?" he tried to ask with humor, but he only ended up sounding as suspicious as he was.
Maggie sighed and sat down across from him. "Patti," she said, almost unable to meet his eyes.
"So, she, like, called you or something?" Eli asked, unable to keep from sounding as dumbfounded as he felt.
"Oh, no, we had a chat at the quilting bee she holds at her house," she said with a roll of her eyes that wasn't anywhere near as biting as she wished she could be.
"And you're still funny," he deadpanned, wiping a hand over his eyes.
"She's worried about you, Eli. And you know Patti, she can't just come out and tell you so. She said she's never seen you so sad, and then I got worried, and… Is there anything I can do? I know things have been really weird lately, but I already told you I don't want them to be anymore."
Looking in her eyes he thought he was close to a realization he should have let in before, but he still wasn't ready for it so he attempted to dodge the subject.
"I'm fine, Maggie. I've just had a lot of work lately, a lot of late, sleepless nights. I think it's all starting to catch up with me. You know how it goes."
She nodded, but she was looking at her hands. "Yeah, I do."
"I wish you'd come back," he said at the same time she managed a nearly-strangled, "I miss you."
"Why don't you come back?" he said. "Enough people have defected now that I can afford to pay you a decent salary,"
Maggie laughed. If it had been about the money, she would have worked for peanuts just to keep working with him.
"I'm serious, Maggie. You hate Posner and Klein and you know it."
"Everyone does, but they work there anyway," she said.
"That doesn't mean you have to," he pointed out, feeling increasingly desperate.
"It was never about the money, Eli. I was living on a junior associate's pay just fine - at least it was better than when I was in law school. And don't say, 'Then why did you go?' because we both know why I did, even if we refuse to talk about it."
"I don't know what to tell you, Maggie."
"You rarely do," she said, but she wasn't angry.
"So what do we do?"
She shrugged. "You're supposed to have all the answers, Eli. God knows I don't."
"I think He knows I don't either." The thing was, he had some of them, and a crucial one was literally staring him in the face at that very moment. He could take a deep breath and make the right decision for once, or he could blow it in classic Eli Stone fashion.
He didn't know what to say; every time he opened his mouth the latter seemed to happen.
"Why don't you go home and get some rest, Eli? I think you deserve a break at this point."
"You'd probably be the only one that thinks so."
"Shut up," she said, shaking her head. Eli looked shocked and she laughed. "You're not my superior anymore."
"It never seemed to matter much when I was," he said, but he returned her smile.
"It's midnight, so I will be going home like a normal person, and perhaps you should think about doing the same."
"Since when are we normal?"
"Since never, but we could try," she said, standing up.
He got up to follow her to the door, and when she turned around not realizing he was behind her, they almost collided. She leaned against the frame to give herself some space.
"Quit moping, Eli. If you need somebody to talk to or hang out with or whatever, just call me. I know things are hard post-break up and trying to get back out there, but your break up was awhile ago, so you need to pull yourself together."
"Gee, Maggie, you should have been a therapist."
She rolled her eyes.
"Are you really doing that well, though? You know, after I ruined your engagement?"
"I'm not saying it hasn't been a little depressing, but you saved me from all of that, Eli. Don't you see? If you hadn't blown the whistle on Scott, I'd have married him. I was going to go through with it, I was going to force myself through it no matter what I had to do."
"Because I was convinced it was part of my perfect life plan. High powered job, childhood sweetheart, all in the big city. Shows how much I know. I'm just not that girl. I'm small time from Ohio, and the man I thought had been waiting for me all this time was probably sleeping with every girl I went to high school with while I was out here trying to make something of myself." She tugged at the hem of her shirt and cleared her throat. "And I couldn't have you," she finished.
"Maggie, if I… I'm sorry if I had anything to do with that decision. I didn't mean to be." Why was it always so hard with her? She threw him to the point he didn't know what to say or do when he was around her.
"I am a big girl, and I knew I was making the wrong decision for all the wrong reasons and I did it anyway. I'm not going to say you weren't a factor because you were pretty much the factor, but that wasn't your fault. I don't know if you've noticed, but I can be sort of rash."
"Just a little," he said with a grin.
"Yeah. Well, I'll have to work on that so I don't cause everyone so much trouble the next time."
"That might be a good idea," he agreed. He didn't really care how much trouble she caused; she kept life interesting. A relatively normal kind of interesting compared to the vision kind of interesting.
"I guess I better be going," she said, looking out to the bullpen but not making a move to actually go.
That's when he decided to do something rash, and he closed the small space between them. His lips met hers and this time neither of them pulled away. There was a small squeak from Maggie just before she lifted her arms and wrapped them around his neck.
This was the answer, he knew it in his heart. She was right there all along, he knew what was supposed to happen all along, and no matter how much he resisted, she was there. She was always there.
His hands were resting on her hips and he slid them around to her back, his thumbs tracing slow circles into her skin through her blouse. He was so lost he didn't know who moaned first or how his knees stayed locked when she slowly deepened the kiss. Whatever seemed naïve or timid about Maggie was not reflected in her kisses.
Maggie's heart was racing and she didn't want to believe that it was real. If it was, one of them was going to screw things up sooner rather than later, and she couldn't deal with that again.
After what seemed like hours, they had to come up for breath, and he was pressing her into the door frame as she leaned against it, frantically trying to regain her composure.
She searched his eyes, trying to understand why this was happening again. She hadn't pulled away because she needed him so badly and she had to indulge herself if only for a moment.
He had made the first move, so he was waiting for her to make the first comment. The longer she was silent the more nervous he got.
"Eli… If you're doing this because you're lonely…"
"I'm not. I'm doing this because I need you. I know it now."
"All of the sudden?" she said with a frown.
"No. I've known it for awhile now, I just wouldn't let myself believe it."
"You mean you know it like you know other things? All the other things…"
Eli smiled mischievously. "Now, that would be cheating, Miss Dekker."
"That's not funny."
"No, it's really not. But it's a relief."
"A relief?" she said incredulously.
"Yeah, it's a relief because now I don't have to run from you anymore."
"I thought I was the one running," she said.
He couldn't help but notice she hadn't bothered to pull away so he moved closer, if that was possible. "Neither party was doing the other any favors, let's just put it that way."
"It wouldn't have been for lack of trying on one party's part," she teased.
"We're such a couple of lawyers."
"Well, at least two is a couple and not one and a half," she said with a quirk of her eyebrow.
"Do you remember everything I've ever said?"
"Just the insults."
"I think I was a little afraid of you, Maggie, while we're being perfectly honest here."
"Please. Why would you be afraid of me? No one is afraid of me."
"Because you were everything I knew I should have been trying to be all along. You cared about the things and the people I know I should have been caring about long before I started getting singing telegrams from God, and that scared me. I couldn't be around you because I didn't know if I could be you. And then there were other things that happened to me and I didn't know if I could be with you."
"Well, I'm not afraid of you. Not the aneurysm, not the visions, not your stubbornness. You're an amazing man with a huge heart, and you've been given a gift that makes a difference in people's lives. You've made a difference in mine," she said with a stern face in reaction to his disbelieving one, "and for the better, for all your self-deprecation."
"I wreck everything I touch. It's like Midas in reverse."
"Don't talk about yourself like that, Eli. I don't let anyone else, so I won't let you."
"My defender," he cracked.
"It's what I went to eight years of law school for, might as well put it to good use."
He kissed her again, briefly, just looking for an excuse to make her stick around.
"You're really not afraid, Maggie? I could die anytime."
"Of course you could," she said matter-of-factly, but her eyes started to mist a little. She didn't want to be a liar, but she didn't want to show him any fear now either. He was what she wanted and that was all there was to it. "I don't have a brain aneurysm and I could die anytime, too. I could be in a car accident tomorrow, or I could live to be a hundred. But what difference is that going to make if I wasn't happy at some point in my life? We can't not do something or not be with someone just because it might end. It's going to end, we all die someday. If we don't live first, then what's the point? If we're not living in the first place, then why are we here?
"I think you're the one who is afraid of you dying. I'm not going to say I'm not scared, too, because I would prefer it if you were around for a very long time, but I would rather have mere months or years with you than to never have you at all. That's the point you've been missing all along. Love doesn't work on the condition of how long we're going to be here, or no one would be together at all because no one has any idea."
Eli was overwhelmed by her honesty and her clarity, and by the acceptance that had always been there but he hadn't had the good sense to appreciate. He felt the tears prickling his eyes as he pulled her to him and hugged her tightly.
She rested her head on his shoulder and held him just as tightly as she silently thanked God that things seemed to finally be going her way.
When he pulled back there were tears running down his face and she did the best she could to wipe them away. She knew he had been really overwhelmed lately, but she was starting to really worry.
"Eli, what's wrong?" she asked, stroking his cheek.
"Nothing's wrong. Not anymore. I love you, Maggie."
"I think I'm having hallucinations now," she said breathlessly.
"That's kinda my thing. This is for real."
"I love you, too, Eli. You know that, that's not going to change. Not under any circumstances, not even the ones with which you seem to come up," she said with the brightest smile he had seen from her in a long time.
"I'm sorry I caused you so much pain to get to this point. I've been told repeatedly that I can be a real ass."
"I can't imagine who would say such a thing," she said.
"You'd be surprised."
"Maybe not." She laughed.
He rather felt like an ass for causing himself so much stress all these months. When he finally stopped fighting his fate and relinquished himself to it, his burdens felt infinitely lighter. He knew that she would help him carry them as she had when she had had no obligation to him personally to do so.
He felt indescribable and she could see it in his eyes. He had never been in her plans, but it was funny the way things worked themselves out.
"We're going to be all right?" he asked.
"We're going to be better than all right, and something tells me you already know it," she said, narrowing her eyes. "If you're keeping anything from me, Eli…"
"Don't worry, Maggie. That's all I can tell you. Don't worry." He didn't want to spoil the surprises ahead for her any more than necessary.
She smiled. "I won't then. I believe you."
"For what?" she said with a frown.
"For believing me, that's always refreshing."
"I've always believed you." She always would, and that seemed to be the thing she had such a hard time drilling through that brain of his.
"I know. Would you believe me if I said I had to take you home?"
"Yes, but you're still not getting past the front door," she said with a laugh.
"Too fast?" he asked, doing his best to look appropriately sheepish.
"Way too fast. Don't worry, we have plenty of time."
"I hope you're right," he said wistfully.
"I know I am because you told me not to worry. Now take me home, please, Mr. Stone, we have a lot to process tomorrow."
"Like you coming back to work for me."
"We'll see," she said, her head still spinning that this was even happening at all. She was convinced she'd wake up any minute and it would all be a dream. It wouldn't have been the first time.
He kissed her again, reluctantly let her go, and watched as she gathered her bag and coat to leave.
"Are you sure this isn't one of my visions?" he asked as they walked out into the cool night air.
"As long as you assure me I'm not dreaming I'll tell you that it's not a vision," she said, linking her arm through his.
"You're not dreaming," he said.
"Then I think we're good, because I'm pretty sure this is not a vision."
He shrugged. "If it was, it would happen eventually anyway. I win either way."
"You do like to win," she teased.
"I'm pretty sure this is my biggest victory yet, seeing as it wasn't looking good and I didn't deserve it."
Tears filled her eyes at his words. "You deserve to be happy, Eli. Everyone does." If he belittled himself one more time she thought she was going to have to smack him. "So let's just stop with the shoulda, coulda, woulda business and appreciate that you had a revelation, even if you should have had it ages ago."
"What? I've been right here all along, what was the hold up?"
"It was a rhetorical question, Eli. Also, I think there was some sarcasm. I can't explain these things to you all the time. Will we be able to hold a conversation?"
"You're really going to make me pay, aren't you?" he said with mock dread.
"In so very many ways."
He couldn't wait to get started.