Reed & Reed Offices, Afternoon, 3 pm
Kate glanced over at Ben's office. She could see him arranging some things on his desk. His office already looked very settled. Movers had come in early that morning along with an interior design team to put everything together. They were done before noon. It looked like he had always been there by the time they were finished. She had already seen him meet with a client that afternoon. He moved fast.
Ben had bought into Reed & Reed the prior evening as an equal partner. Lauren discussed it with Kate beforehand and told her that as long as his offer was reasonable, they needed to bring him in to keep the firm afloat. They were in trouble financially and since they had torpedoed Bob Mahoney's insulting offer (after Kate threw her water on him during lunch when he condescendingly told Lauren and Kate, "…let's face it, the only real asset Reed & Reed has left is the building"), there wouldn't be any further offers from Bob Mahoney's firm. Plus Kate had collaborated with Ben and helped win Ben's client millions against Bob's corporate client. With Reed & Reed's client base dwindling and the economy in a downturn/unofficial recession, they needed Ben's buy-in and the additional business he would bring to the firm – badly – desperately even.
Of course, Lauren didn't know about Kate and Ben. In fact, no one knew about Kate and Ben except Kate and Ben. Leo knew Kate had been having some sort of clandestine affair of late, but he didn't know who it was just that Kate was less stressed out about Justin and her Dad and her boat because of it. As far as Leo was concerned, if "getting her groove on" helped Kate get through her problems, it was all good. Kate was still staying with Lauren temporarily until she found a new place to live, which was demanding enough for Kate on its own. Leo told her, reassuringly, that the universe was helping her make a whole new start. Kate told him she wished the universe would just mind its own business.
Kate was expecting Justin to come by her office soon. He was setting up a meeting for a mediation involving a liability waiver between the city's Mercy Franciscan Hospital and the FBI. They hadn't been talking lately because Justin admitted to Kate that he had cheated on her once during their marriage. Kate was with him at his office at the time. She had stopped by to congratulate him on his run for the DA's seat. Since his boss was planning to rerun for that spot, it put Justin in a very tenuous position and she wanted to offer her moral support since she truly believed Justin was the best man for the job. He was a stand-up guy who believed in serving a greater good through public office. A real grown-up boy scout. DA Davidson was a true politician – self-serving, connected, ruthless and sneakily corrupt (but smart about it so he always looked good and never got caught).
They had started to talk about putting their divorce papers aside and possibly reconciling, when he told her about the cheating. He thought he should be honest so they had a "clean slate" going forward. Kate stormed out of his office and back to Reed & Reed and then Leo drove her home. She was crying in his car when they both saw her boat – where she had been living since her Dad died and she split up with Justin - blow up. Literally. She would always think of it as the night from hell, complete with the fiery demise of her father's boat.
Now she was waiting to see Justin. She had their divorce papers ready for him as well. It was time to let go of the past and accept they no longer belonged together. Kate flipped open the deceptively cheerful, bright blue folder that held the documents. She glanced through them and made sure she had signed everywhere necessary. She had already put "sign here" stick-ums where Justin's signature was required. She closed the folder again.
When she looked up she saw Ben in the doorway watching her. "Hey, got a minute?" He asked. Kate leaned back in her chair. "Sure, come in. What do you need? All moved in?" She inquired. Ben walked into her office and sat down in one of the guest chairs in front of Kate's desk. "Pretty much. Just a few minor things to do. There's some business I need to discuss though. I have a client who is suing one of Lauren's clients for defamation," Ben stated. "Seriously? You're planning to sue your own partner?" Kate asked disbelievingly. "That's the thing. I have had my client, Jenny Chang, for a while. She is a fresh, hot new designer – very in demand from coast to coast. Last year she 'left the nest' of an old fuddy-duddy designer named Ian Sanders to work on her own designs. But she didn't launch her label until this year after her non-compete agreement expired. Ian Sanders, who is Lauren's client, is trying to sue her for breach of contract, so we are countering with a defamation suit. It's a total waste of time though, all around, because Ian Sanders doesn't have a leg to stand on," Ben said assuredly.
Kate looked perturbed. "My Dad, Teddy, knew Ian Sanders for years. He was a friend as well as a client. Ian used to make me ugly track suits every year," Kate said, sounding a little nostalgic. "Well, Lauren should drop him. The case is a dog and he has been losing money every year for the last 6 years because his designs are hopelessly out of date. He's dead weight as a client," Ben said matter-of-factly. "Ben, he's been a client for twenty years! We can't just drop him. You should drop your client," Kate stated emphatically. "Ridiculous. Jenny Chang is the darling of the fashion world and she's just getting started. We need to keep the winners and drop the losers. Reed & Reed is in trouble Kate. We need to do something to dig ourselves out of this ditch. What do you think is the smart business decision here?" Ben asked pointedly. Kate looked conflicted. She knew Ben made a good point about the firm's standing. They did need help getting "out from under" that's why Ben was there in the first place. "We need to talk to Lauren about this," Kate said firmly. "Great, let's go see her," Ben said, standing up. Kate shook her head and held up her hand like a stop sign. "It has to be later. Right now I'm expecting Justin and then I have a mediation right after. I'll have to check in with you when I'm done," Kate finished in a rush.
"Justin's coming here?" Ben inquired, raising his eyebrows and sitting back in the chair. "Uh huh, any minute," Kate replied guardedly. "For business?" Ben pressed. "Mostly," Kate said simply. Ben rested his chin on his hand and looked intently at Kate. Kate looked back at him unflinchingly, remaining quiet. "Do you have some papers for him to sign?" Ben said bluntly, clearly annoyed. "Ben….," Kate warned. "What? I seem to remember talking about this, remember that night?" Ben challenged. "Yeah, and I remember telling you to drop it already," Kate said, also clearly annoyed. They stared at each other a moment, not speaking. Ben sighed loudly, quickly deciding it was still not worth fighting about. "Fine. Whatever. Let me know when you get back and we'll go talk to Lauren," he said, dismissing the argument. He stood up and started to walk back to his office. "Ben?" Kate called. He turned back and looked at Kate. Kate held up the bright blue folder that contained the divorce papers. "When I'm ready, I'll give it to him," she said. Ben looked at the folder then back at Kate. "Totally up to you - it's apparently none of my business," he said brusquely and went back to his office. Kate shook her head, muttering to herself, "Well, yeah, obviously."
Even though she planned to give the papers to Justin that day when she saw him, Kate didn't want Ben to think he could pressure her into doing something, anything for that matter, before she was ready. He had to be handled a little bit, otherwise she had a feeling he could become overbearing. He was obviously used to getting his way. Besides, they weren't even dating, officially. They had seen each other, quietly, a couple of times. Ben acted like there was something more between them. Of course, if she was truly honest about it, he was right. Kate had admitted as much the last time they were together when she told him that she felt oddly close to him, given the relatively short amount of time they had known each other. Something had developed between them and now they were partners, which changed everything. Her "charming distraction with no complications" was just one office over, with her assistant Leo in between. Now she would likely see Ben every day – which was certainly distracting and complicated. Kate didn't know if they would or should continue seeing each other. "We're going to have to talk about this. Otherwise, it could get real sticky, real fast," Kate thought anxiously.
Ben was forcing himself to squelch his irritation with Kate. He had too much to do to get rattled emotionally right now. He was probably going to have a "showdown" with Lauren later over the Jenny Chang v Ian Sanders lawsuit and he needed Kate's support as a partner, giving him a 2 to 1 advantage, to effectively win his argument. The personal stuff with Kate would have to wait, but he was definitely going to get back to it, one way or the other.
Kate walked over to Leo's desk. "Hey Leo, I'm still waiting for Justin to come in and set up our mediation between the hospital and the FBI. Anything else going on I need to know about?" Kate asked. Leo knew Kate very well – he had been assigned as her assistant for several years now. Right after she became a lawyer, now a mediator, and even before that when he was in the temp office pool and she was still in law school, working summers at the firm. After all that time, he knew that she didn't need to go over her schedule with him at all. She just needed to talk because she was upset about something. Leo noticed their new partner, Ben Grogan, left her office in a "huff" so he guessed it had something to do with that.
"Everything is fine Kate. You have a few calls to return if you want to do that before Justin arrives, but that's about it right now. What's going on there?" Leo said, inclining his head towards Ben's office. "Oh, nothing really. He is suing Lauren, but other than that, nothing much," Kate said sarcastically. "He's suing Lauren?" Leo repeated incredulously. "Well, actually, he's counter suing Ian Sanders on behalf of his client, Jenny Chang, some hot, new designer," Kate detailed. "That sounds juicy," Leo said simply. "Yeah, except we have to talk to Lauren about it. Ian was a friend and a long-term client of Teddy's and I don't see that conversation going well because I think I'm coming in on Ben's side," Kate finished, rolling her eyes and shaking her head, indicating "trouble". "Really?" Leo said sounding surprised. Kate shrugged. Leo looked past Kate and said politely, "Good afternoon Justin." "Hi Leo," Justin returned. Kate turned and faced Justin. "Kate," Justin said, sounding almost formal. "Justin. Let's go to my office for a moment," Kate said in a professional tone, gesturing toward her office. Leo noticed the tension and decided to completely ignore it, not giving it another thought and instead, returning to the mountain of work on his desk.
Ben saw Justin arrive and watched him follow Kate to her office. He forced himself to focus on the casework in front of him instead of getting swept up in the feeling of anger and jealousy trying to "raise its ugly head". Taking a deep breath, he brushed off his feelings and started reading.
Kate sat behind her desk and Justin sat where Ben had just been sitting – on a guest chair in front of her desk. In the past they would typically sit on the couch together - when they were on friendlier terms. "Hi Kate," Justin said quietly. "Hi Justin," Kate returned. They looked at each other in silence for a moment. There was too much to be said in the brief time they had before the mediation, so both decided internally, not to talk about anything other than the mediation at hand. "The administrator from the hospital will be here shortly, as will 2 agents from the FBI. I'm here to make the introductions in an official capacity from the DA's office as a liaison for the FBI," Justin explained. "Okay, I haven't done a mediation like this before, but does that also mean that you aren't staying for the meeting?" Kate inquired. "Correct. The mediation is all you. The DA is simply on record as being involved in facilitating the meeting," Justin clarified. Kate looked doubtful. "It sounds like some kind of official rhetoric, also known as, cover your a**, on someone's part," Kate said suspiciously. "No, don't get the wrong idea about this, it's just protocol to have local law enforcement involved when federal law enforcement - like the FBI or CIA or TSA - comes to town for something like this. It doesn't happen that often, but the DA's office has to be on record as having knowledge of the meeting and then signed off," Justin further explained.
"Uh huh. So I should just shut up and not ask any questions?" Kate asked bluntly. "No, no, that's not what I am saying – at all. I am just explaining protocol here," Justin said, exasperated. "Okay, fine. Because I'm telling you right now, I'm going to ask lots of questions," Kate said defiantly. "Just do your job, that's all anyone expects," Justin replied. Kate still looked suspicious, but then adopted an artificially cheerful tone and said enthusiastically, "Great! I'm all set to help people!" Justin shook his head, indicating his own doubt about the pending mediation, wishing he could stay to protect the FBI agents from Kate. Unfortunately, he didn't have the time or the authorization to sit in on the meeting, so he just shrugged and resigned himself to the circumstances. "Sounds good to me," he said uncommittedly. Kate bristled at Justin's reply and what she interpreted as a cavalier attitude.
Just then, Leo walked into Kate's office. "The FBI agents are here; I had them escorted to the conference room. I'm going to check in on them now and ask if they want coffee or anything else," Leo announced. "Thanks Leo, we'll be in shortly," Kate replied appreciatively, standing up and walking around the desk to Justin. She held a bright blue folder. Justin stood up and Kate handed it to him. Justin looked puzzled. "For the mediation?" He asked. "No, it's the final document to dissolve our marriage. These are the divorce papers I had ready for you the night you were mugged awhile back," Kate explained. "I've been stalling this, but I think we need to move on, for both our sakes," the words caught in her throat a little as Kate said them. Justin looked at her sadly. "I'm sorry Kate," he said sincerely. "Me too, but it's time to rip off the band aid," Kate replied, unconvincingly philosophical. "Okay," Justin agreed. They walked together to the conference room trailing behind Leo a few paces.
As they walked past Ben's office he glanced up and saw Justin holding the bright blue folder. The remnants of his anger and jealousy dissolved and he felt better immediately. At least now he and Kate had a chance – even though he didn't expect it to be easy. Kate was a challenge and he didn't have the best track record himself, in terms of relationships, but now there was a possibility for something more. A very intriguing, exciting possibility for something more. Ben smiled and focused again on the case in front of him.