A/N- Well, somewhere over a year since I last posted, my muse has finally returned! And of course, on a completely different and new story, but at least it's a good length and finished, so maybe my muse will let me continue Ways A Man Can Go. We'll see. I could not, for the life of me, come up with a title that was not agonizingly cheesy... so here is A Study In Pink, the same title used for the first episode of BBC's Sherlock (which you should be watching).
Disclaimer- As beautiful as it would be to call Christian Borle and the role of Elle mine, sadly, nothing belongs to me. Skype, 'Legally Blonde', etc- not mine.
Emmett straightens his tie self-consciously, resisting the urge to rake his fingers through his perfectly combed and gelled hair; his tie had been perfect before he needlessly straightened it and it had taken more than a reasonable amount of time to tame his hair into submission. Despite all of his efforts and looking impeccable in his suit, Emmett still deflates as he looks at his reflection in the mirror. No matter what expensive suit he puts on, no matter how perfectly flat his hair lays, he knows that it is not good enough. It will never be good enough. He knows, however, that he will do whatever it takes to simply keep her in his life, even if she ends up married to someone else. He inhales deeply and closes his eyes.
They had just won their case. She, rather, had just won their case, with only minimal guidance from him. He had watched her with a mix of pride and love as she blew Chutney's alibi out of the water effortlessly and had been beyond thrilled when she had thrown herself at him in triumph as the charges against Brooke were dropped. He had held her close, relishing the feel of the woman in his arms and basking in her scent. He felt complete. This was it, this was what he needed. She was what he needed. He had decided then and there to take her out to dinner and tell her how he felt about her. As she pulled away from him, beaming and incandescently happy, he opened his mouth to ask her to dinner before spotting Warner behind her with an expectant look. He swallowed, his throat feeling tight. "I think there's someone who wants to talk to you..." He said, releasing her from his arms. She turned around and saw Warner before turning back to him with a questioning glance. "I'm... I'm gonna see you later." He had said with a forced smile, before turning and walking away.
He now realizes that there is probably nothing to worry about. Elle had told him that she was entirely over Warner and had moved on months ago, so he ignores the nervous knots in his stomach. He had texted Elle shortly thereafter, asking her to dinner. He hadn't anticipated such an immediate response, but then, that was Elle. She replied in the affirmative and asked him to meet her outside her dorm in an hour.
So here he is, standing in the bathroom of a sandwich shop five minutes away from her dorm, having a minor meltdown. He is nothing special, just some guy, to be entirely honest, but if she considers him worthy enough to spend time and money on, why not take the risk? He swallows at that and pointlessly adjusts his tie one last time before trudging out the door and toward the woman he loves.
As he approaches her door, he realizes belatedly that he should have gotten her flowers. It is definitely too late to grab flowers now, so he takes a moment before knocking on her door.
"One second!" He hears her cry from somewhere inside and the simple sound of her voice causes a smile to spread across his face. He laughs quietly at the fact that two words from her can make him smile when the door suddenly swings open and amidst a sea of pink, there is Elle. His breath stops, his pulse quickens and all that he can see, smell or think is Elle Woods. She is absolutely radiant, more so than usual, in a pink top and skirt that emphasizes her curves and accentuates her tiny waist with her hair knotted in a loose bun on one side. "Emmett!" She cries breathlessly, wrapping him in a tight embrace.
He wraps his arms around her waist, smelling the sweetness of her hair and skin. She is absolutely perfect, he marvels, she fits into his arms as though she was meant to stay there. Emmett hopes that she does.
"OhmyGod Emmett," She says in a rush as she pulls back, grabbing his hands earnestly. "I cannot thank you enough for everything you've done for me these past few days. Well, months I guess!" She giggles with a lopsided grin. "It means the world to me."
"You don't need to thank me for anything," He replies as the warm feeling in his chest continues to blossom, "you had everything you needed the whole time, I just helped you realize it." He squeezes her hands.
Elle rolls her eyes good-naturedly. "Thanks, Glinda the good witch." Finally dropping his hands, she turns inside and grabs a pink clutch. "Well, Mr Forrest, are you ready to go out for a celebratory dinner?"
He grins at her and offers her his arm. "Shall we, Miss Woods comma Elle?"
They take her shiny pink convertible to the restaurant where they are immediately whisked off to a table tucked in the corner but still overlooking the street. Elle orders the two of them a bottle of wine and they place their orders with the waiter. Emmett takes a sip of his ice water, nerves gnawing away at his stomach again. Was this a date? Would she want this to be a date?
"Warner proposed to me." She mentions casually. Emmett chokes on his ice water and narrowly avoids spraying it all over his place setting, lap and Elle. He coughs loudly several times until he feels that his airways are clear. He cannot possibly have heard her correctly; wasn't Warner engaged to Vivienne? Even if that wasn't true, why on earth was Elle out to dinner with him rather than celebrating with Warner? He chanced a glance down at her hands to find them conspicuously bare of any jewelry.
"Did he?" Emmett manages, waving off Elle's look of concern.
"Um, are you okay?" She asks him, eyes wide. He waves her off again, so she hesitantly relaxes. "He did. Vivienne dumped him and he proposed to me with the same ring." Shaking her head, she laughs prettily. "Even if I still wanted to marry him, I would have told him no just based on the fact that he used the same ring that Vivienne was wearing!" Her eyes sparkle as she laughs and Emmett is suddenly able to breath again.
"You said no." He breathes, eyes wide.
"Well of course I said no!" Confusion creeps onto her face, a tiny frown emerging. "Emmett, seriously. Why would I have said yes? I haven't been in love with Warner for a long time."
A guilty feeling spreads through his chest and he winces slightly. "I don't know, Elle. I was afraid that you'd say yes, but I'm very glad that you didn't."
The smile returns to her face. "Thank you, Emmett. That really means a lot. I'm doing this for myself now, not for anyone else. I don't need to be with someone to validate myself, I am enough on my own!"
Although he is impressed by her confidence and realization, his heart sinks. Obviously, she does not want a relationship right now with anyone. So much for telling her how he feels tonight. He nods slightly as he tries to force his feelings for Elle into a deep, rarely visited part of himself.
He glances up, startled. Her entrancing brown eyes watch him with concern as she takes a sip of the pinot grigo she had ordered. "Sorry?"
He shakes his head, clearing his previous thoughts. "Nothing at all. I'm just really happy for you. You're an incredibly strong, brilliant and beautiful woman and I'm glad that you're finally appreciating what you can do when you put your mind to it."
She reaches across the table and takes his hand. "Thank you Emmett. You're the best friend a girl could ask for."
There's that feeling in his chest again, that tightening, sinking feeling that makes him want to crawl in a hole. He wonders miserably how he could have ever thought that she would be interested in someone like poor, geeky Emmett. The realization that he would spend his life as her best friend, watching someone else make her happy so long as he could see her happy, strikes him with a pang. He resigns himself to this fate, promising himself that he will never tell Elle how he feels. This is probably self-destructive, but Emmett doesn't really care. Fighting back a wince, he raises his glass to her. "To best friends."
"To best friends." She echoes with a broad smile as they clink their glasses together.
Occasionally, when Elle and Emmett are hanging out, Vivienne joins them. In the weeks since the trial, Elle and Vivienne have developed a rather close friendship. Emmett is mildly relieved that she now has someone to talk fashion and pop culture with, not that Emmett ever really minded. It simply made it easier for him to not lose himself in her brown eyes as she talked about the latest trends in nail polish or what was going on with the Hollywood elite. The three of them mesh easily and Emmett is surprised to find that he and Vivienne have very much in common, despite their different backgrounds.
Vivienne is tall, almost near his height with piercing grey eyes. Elle had taken her to Paulette's salon post-trial to fix her "seriously tragic hairdo!" and she had returned with a much more flattering style that emphasized her classic features. She has a very deadpan sense of humor that appeals to Emmett and they quickly establish a snappy banter back and forth, keeping both themselves and Elle laughing more often than not. Both he and Vivienne share a strong love of Italian food and environmental documentaries, so one night when Elle has plans with Paulette, Vivienne invites him over for fettucini and a Planet Earth marathon. He accepts, and the two of them find themselves curled up on Vivienne's couch with steaming bowls of chicken fettucini alfredo, glasses of white zinfandael and learning about the "shallow seas". They half pay attention to the tv, chatting easily about Vivienne's coursework, Emmett's search for a new firm and their childhoods. As the night continues and the bottle of wine grows emptier, Vivienne tells him the details of her break-up with Warner. Feeling courageous and emboldened by the alcohol, Emmett says, "Look, I'm sorry, but Warner just seems like a total jerk. I don't, I don't understand how you and Elle ever put up with this guy. He treats women like crap yet all of these smart, beautiful women are falling all over themselves to be with him. I don't get it."
Vivienne eyes him with a small smile. "Smart, beautiful women, eh?"
"Elle deserves so much better. So do you! Someone who will appreciate you for everything you are, not just a pretty face and gorgeous body!" He pictures Elle in his mind's eye. Sweet, brilliant, beautiful Elle who had followed Warner across the country because she loved him. He supposed that he should be grateful to Warner; if Elle hadn't followed him here, he would never have met her. The thought of a life without Elle brings knots into his stomach, so he brushes it aside. He refocuses on the present moment, finding Vivienne still smiling at him with an eyebrow raised. "What?"
"Well, do you know anyone who would meet that criteria?" Seeing his confused look, she continues, "Someone who will appreciate me for me, not just how I look?" As he processes this, she leans in and kisses him. Her lips are warm and incredibly soft, one of her hands has come up to rest lightly on his cheek. It feels incredibly nice, he thinks rather dazedly, he hasn't kissed anyone since he and his last girlfriend broke up over a year ago. He realizes, probably several moments late, that he should kiss her back. So he does. This is not something he had had in mind, not something he would have even imagined, but Vivienne is also kind, also brilliant and also beautiful. Most importantly, Vivienne is right here kissing him sweetly on her couch. The kiss is gentle and sweet and perfect for the moment and Emmett realizes that this is fine, this is good. He cannot have Elle, but why not take the measure of happiness Vivienne was offering him?
Vivienne eventually pulls back, brushing her hair behind her ear. "Was that... was that okay?"
"More than okay." He murmurs back with a smile.
"I'm surprised I had the courage to kiss you." She admits with a small laugh. "I always thought you were in love with Elle!"
A nervous laugh escapes him. What could he possibly say to that? He finally comes up with a non-committal "It's not like that." before kissing her gently.
She sighs happily into the kiss before cuddling into his side, picking up her alfredo from the table and settling back in to watch tv. Emmett looks down at her with a vague smile before nodding to himself. Why deny himself happiness? It is best to try to move on, and move on now.
Over the next week, Emmett and Vivienne establish that they are officially dating, although their dates generally consist of cooking together and kissing on one of their couches. Emmett hasn't spent very much time outside of that with Vivienne and has barely even seen Elle; he has finally found a firm with an open position for him via one of his former professors and has just finished the paperwork making him officially a part of Kandusky, Bennett and Porter Legal. He had wanted to take Vivienne out to celebrate but she had already made plans with Whitney, so he grabs his phone and calls Elle. After two rings, she picks up.
"Emmett, hi!" She chirps and it hits him how much he has missed her every day. Now that he has Vivienne, spending time with Elle shouldn't be as painful... right?
"Hey Elle," He says with a smile, "what are you up to?"
"Just reading the new Vogue and waiting for my toes to dry. I feel like I haven't seen you in ages!"
"It's only been a few days!" He protests through a smile. "I miss you too."
"So come over, silly! We'll hang out and get dinner, okay?" Her voice is filled with excitement, and that in and of itself makes his pulse pick up. Does she miss him as much as he misses her? Probably not, but he can entertain the thought.
"Okay, I'll head over. By the way, I have some big news." He tells her as he begins the walk to her dorm. Her building is only ten blocks from his apartment, so he takes the opportunity to stretch his legs. When he worked for Callahan, he had to take the bus crosstown and make a connection before finally reaching the firm. He figures that he can take his bike to his new job until he has enough saved up for a car that will actually start on command.
"Tell me!" She exclaims; he pictures her bouncing around her dorm and laughs to himself.
"I got a job. I'm working for Kandusky, Bennett and Porter Legal; they were really impressed with my resume and work on Brooke's case... not to mention one of my former professors recommended me. I'll start with them in the summer after my TA gig with Callahan." He can't believe his luck; he was well aware of the possible repercussions of quitting his work for Callahan and supervising Elle but somehow, however improbably, it had worked out in his favor. Callahan was staying through the end of the year; Vivienne had threatened to report him for sexual harrassment and to save his reputation and career, he had promised to resign at the end of the semester.
As soon as he had finished, Elle happily shrieked into the phone. "OhmyGod Emmett, that's amazing! I am so beyond excited for you! We're going to have to go shopping and get you some more suits and a new briefcase, I think Armani is having a sale this weekend-"
"Elle," He laughs as warmth floods his chest at how genuinely happy she is for him. "I don't think we need to break the bank. I have a few suits that will work for now. I don't have a whole lot of money."
He can practically hear her roll her eyes. "You will not be paying, silly goose! It's a congratulations present from me! And don't even try to stop me- I still have your measurements from last time." She threatens with a gigggle. "Hurry up and get here! I'm going to hug you til you pass out!"
"Fine, fine," He grumbles good-naturedly. "I'll be there in about ten minutes." They bid their goodbyes and he continues his walk to her dorm. It occurs to him on the way that neither he nor Vivienne have mentioned their relationship to Elle; he wonders if he should say anything. Well, why shouldn't he? She will probably be thrilled that two of her best friends are dating and demand all sorts of gory details, not that there are any as of yet. He and Vivienne are content to take things slowly and just enjoy being with each other; there are no declarations of strong feelings or silly promises. He wonders if there ever will be, although he knows that the relationship is very new. Neither of the two are very much for big gestures or frivolous sentiment, which suits both of them equally. He can't help but think of Elle, however; big gestures and sentiment are essential to her personality and they are definitely part of why Emmett loves her. He curses inwardly under his breath as he stumbles: it had been difficult to shove the thought of him being in love with Elle out of the forefront of his mind and yet, here it is again. But it is true, he loves Elle Woods for what she is, and she is flamboyant and open in her excitement and love for her friends. And, he reminds himself, he is very lucky to have her as his best friend.
He reaches her dorm and welcomes the onslaught of pink as Elle launches herself at him in a flying bear hug. He does not breathe in the scent of her hair as she buries her face in his neck, laughing with excitement, and he certainly does not relish the feeling of the small blonde wrapped around him, her arms squeezing him as tightly as she can. And he definitely does not imprint this moment in his brain to look back on when he's alone. Elle eventually releases him and sits him down on her bed, pressing him for all of the little details about his new job. He tells her everything that he knows and is once again impressed by her thoughtful questions about the firm and what the new job meant for him.
"I'm really relieved," He admits to her, staring at his hands, "I was nervous that after everything that happened with Brooke's trial, no one would want to hire me."
Confusion flitted across her face. "What do you mean?"
He sighed. "I was taking a huge risk, Elle. I didn't have a strong position in the firm where people would know me and my skills as a lawyer when I publicly quit, so that I could supervise a first-year intern. Don't get me wrong," He quickly adds, seeing her face, "I knew it was the right thing to do. You were the only one of us that Brooke trusted and your instincts were right about two of the case's major turning points. That says a whole lot. But I knew that wasn't going to look good to prospective employers."
"Why would you even take that risk?" She asks him quietly.
It takes all of his willpower to not break down and admit that he loves her, that he has loved her for a while now and would do anything for her. He does not tell her that, however, and with a painful swallow manages to say, "Because you're my best friend and I care about you."
She gazes at him steadily for a moment, her face incredibly solemn, before she leans over and presses a chaste kiss to his cheek. "I can't believe that you did that for me." She whispers, eyes trained on his. "I knew you were brave to begin with, but I had no idea about all of that."
He can feel the spot where her lips touched his cheek tingling, in fact, he is positive that his face is bright red. His heart may pop out of his chest. "What are friends for?" He manages.
She laughs and lightly smacks his arm. "Exactly! Now let's grab dinner, I'm starving."
Despite Emmett's misgivings, Elle manages to drag him to a sushi bar. Not only has he never eaten sushi before, the most Japanese thing he's ever eaten was teriyaki flavored noodles that came in a plastic bowl. He's definitely not certain about eating raw fish and seaweed, but if it makes Elle happy, he's more than willing to give it a shot. He initially plans to order the least intimidating things on the menu, just to find that everything on the menu is intimidating. He lets Elle order for the both of them, somewhat embarassedly, before wracking up the nerve to tell her about his relationship with Vivienne.
He clears his throat. "Um, Elle... Vivienne's been spending a lot of time with us lately."
"I know! I just love her to death! I feel so bad for hating her when she was dating Warner, she didn't know what a butthead he is." As she takes a tiny sip of her sake, her eyes widen. "Oh no, Emmett, do you not like her? I thought you guys got along really well, but is all the banter serious? I will just die if you two don't like each other!"
Seeing the look of genuine distress on Elle's face, Emmett has to bite back a snort. "No, no," He laughs, "I promise that isn't an issue." He drinks from his own glass and continues, watching her carefully, "Actually, Vivienne and I are dating."
If he didn't know her so well, he wouldn't have noticed her smile freezing, the tension that suddenly appears in her neck or the slightly lost look in her eyes. But he does and he notices all of this and is incredibly confused. "...dating? You and Vivienne?" She echoes him. And just like that, she all smiles and effervescence again. "That's fantastic! Oh Emmett, I am so happy for you two!" She jumps up from her seat and wraps him in an awkward hug, as he is still sitting down. "For how long?" She asks as she sits back down.
He is still watching her, stuck on her strange initial reaction. "Um... just about a week. Not very long." There is still something off in her eyes that he can't place. "Is... is that okay? I don't want you to feel like a third wheel or anything." He tells her, irrationally hoping that she will tell him that yes, it bothers her because SHE loves him and wants him all to herself.
Her laugh cuts through that fantasy quickly. "No, of course not! Have you gone out on any dates yet?" She leans in, and he finds no trace of whatever there was before lingering in her eyes. He reluctantly lets the thought go and tells Elle the details of his relationship with Vivienne.
Time passes. Spring eventually blossoms into summer, bringing the end of the school year. Callahan announces his resignation and packs his office in a hurry, leaving Emmett to do the last minute cleaning. He doesn't mind, however; he has a whole two weeks to himself before starting with Kandusky, Bennett and Porter. He spends his time with the girls, both seperately and as a group. Life in general has become a pleasant blur, each lovely moment blending into the next. It isn't until he and Vivienne are packing up her dorm, the day before she heads back to Michigan, that anything really changes.
He is taping a box full of her books closed when she calls his name, leaning against the back of the sofa. He straightens up, wincing slightly at the twinge in his back. "What's up, Viv?"
"We should probably talk." She says with a small, sad smile.
Normally, that phrase would terrify a man in a relationship, but Emmett feels a mix of resignation and relief. He likes Vivienne, he enjoys her company, the simple happiness that their togetherness provides. But he knows that there is no spark, there is no passion between them. "Yeah," He finally replies, "We probably should."
She takes a deep breath, looking serious, before bursting out laughing. He can't help but join her; it seems so ridiculous, this dramatic build-up for something inevitable that won't end up hurting either party. After they both calm down and catch their breaths, she smiles at him and shakes her head. "Okay, let's try this again."
He grins at her. "Let me save you the trouble." She raises an eyebrow, still smiling. "I know and I agree; you're an amazing woman, Vivienne, but we just don't belong together." His grin grows lopsided. "We're too good of friends to wreck it with romance."
Vivienne visibly relaxes and sits on the back of her couch. "Oh thank God," She says as she tucks hair behind her ear, "I was afraid you wouldn't be okay with this. You're a fantastic friend Emmett and a really wonderful man. It's just obvious that you're meant to be with someone else." Her smile grows mischievious and Emmett's eyes widen.
"What does that mean, exactly?" He asks with trepidation. She couldn't know, could she?
"It's obvious to anyone with eyes that you're in love with Elle." Her eyes sparkle with laughter as a horrified expression spreads across his face. "Don't even protest. It's true: you know it, I know it, everyone knows it... everyone except Elle." She amends.
He stares at her and thinks about this for a moment, before realizing something. Maybe he didn't want Elle to know, but... how could she possibly not? "Excuse me? How can she not know?" He thinks back on the past year- everything he has done for Elle: tutoring her to win back Warner, all of the clothes he let her buy him, standing up to Callahan and nearly sacrificing his career because he believed in her, standing down when Warner decided he wanted her back... and she had no idea how he felt? "Vivienne, I have done everything short of writing it in the sky with an airplane. How could she possibly not know?"
She smirks at him. "She's a girl. More importantly, she's Elle Woods. She may be brilliant, but she's oblivious."
"Obliviously perfect." He says under his breath. If he had to pick two words to describe Elle Woods, he thinks. those would be them. Obliviously perfect. He shakes his head and looks back up at her. "She doesn't feel that way about me though. She made it clear that she doesn't want to be in a relationship."
Vivienne raises an eyebrow. "When did she say that?"
"When we went to dinner after she turned down Warner's proposal. She said that she doesn't need a relationship to validate herself, she's fine on her own."
"For someone as smart as you are, you can be a total blithering moron." She informs him as she massages her temples. "Elle does not need to define herself by whoever she's dating. That was all that she meant by that. She got into law school on her own merit and she will pursue a law career because she is good at it. That's it."
He wonders how on Earth he missed such a simple concept. How did he take that simple sentence and turn it into a world-shattering statement?
Her eyes soften as she watches him process this. "Emmett, just because she doesn't need a man to define her in life, it doesn't mean she doesn't want a man in her life. She wants you. She needs you." She takes a moment and smiles. "She loves you."
She loves him. She loves him. She loves him. "Oh my God."
With a laugh, she smacks him in the arm. "Go." She simply says before heading into the kitchen, presumably to continue packing.
Emmett doesn't think twice; he grabs his bag and runs, flying down stairs and racing across sidewalks to finally, agonizingly (literally, his lungs are on fire) take the final steps to Elle's door. He's feeling manic and crazy; his adrenaline is up and nothing can possibly bring him down. He loves this woman and she is apparently crazy enough to love him too. With that thought, he knocks on the door.
"Come in!" He hears Elle call from somewhere inside. He opens the door to find the room starkly empty. The walls are still decidedly pink, but all of her accessories and knick knacks, everything that made the room so very Elle, are now gone. All the remains to show that Elle once lived here are four Louis Vutton suitcases and Bruiser curled up by her purse. Elle trots out of the bathroom with a scrub brush, still managing to look absolutely flawless and immediately lights up upon seeing him. "Emmett, hi!" She runs over to him, dropping the scrub brush and gives him a quick squeeze. "Sorry I look so gross, I just finished cleaning out the bathroom!" She laughs, wiping a bead of sweat from her forehead.
"I don't think you could ever look gross." And she doesn't: she's barefoot, wearing tight denim shorts and a snug t-shirt. If this is gross, he can't imagine how she looks when she thinks she looks amazing.
She giggles and shakes her head. "You are too much! Are you coming to see me off?"
The three of them had gone to dinner the night before as a last hurrah for the semester and he had promised her that he would come say goodbye. Well, he's here now and it may as well count for something important, he thinks. "Absolutely, wouldn't miss it for the world." He looks around again, mildly confused. "Elle, where's all of your stuff?"
"I put it in storage. Oh! I talked to Daddy last night; he said I could come back early to find an apartment!" She squeals, grabbing his hands. "I totally didn't mind how close I was to class, but living in a dorm is just not my style. I need my own space to be totally me! And the carpet in here totally clashes with my color scheme." She wrinkles her nose at the heinous orange-brown carpeting. Emmett has never noticed up until now and is grateful at that- it's a really awful combination.
"That's great!" He tells her with a smile. "I'd be more than happy to help you look when you come back."
Her eyes widen and sparkle. "You are the best, undoubtedly."
This is the moment, he thinks. He is going to tell her. He gathers his courage and takes the plunge. "Vivienne and I broke up." He winces slightly, the statement is completely random and abrupt, but at least he got the ball rolling.
"Oh no, what happened?" She asks, laying a hand on his arm. "Are you okay?"
He shrugs, eager to get to his point before he loses his nerve. "Yeah, it was a mutual split. We're better off as friends."
She looks into his eyes, incredibly solemn, and nods. "Well, I'm glad you're still friends. That would have been mega awkward in the fall!" Her smile comes back full force as she hugs him again.
He is ready. The moment is here. He wraps his arms around her and says, "Elle-"
"Ugh, I'm all sweaty. I'm gonna go change really quick, I'll just be a sec!" She pulls away, grabs one of her suitcases and jogs into her bathroom, shutting the door behind her. Emmett sinks onto the couch, resting his head in his hands. Almost! He was so close to telling her! He can't lose his nerve now, though. Once she's dressed again, he'll pull her into his arms, look into her eyes and tell her-
"Rufus is in the car and I found my old Backstreet Boys cds! Are you ready for a road trip?" Paulette bursts in through the door, gigantic sunglasses obscuring most of her face. She pushes them up into her hair as she spots Emmett. "Well, hey there, guy!" She calls, setting down her bag and keys and joining him on the couch. "What are you doing here, handsome? Where's Elle?"
Emmett just barely manages to stifle a groan. Paulette is fun and one of Elle's best friends, he himself even enjoys her company, but this is the absolute worst possible timing in the history of the world. "Hey Paulette," He forces a smile that he is sure she can see through, "Just coming to say goodbye; Elle's changing in the bathroom."
"Oh, she is?" She asks loudly before leaning in, poking him in the chest and whispering, "Have you told her yet?"
He blinks. "...excuse me?"
She sighs and leans in closer. "Have you told her that you love her yet?"
He squeezes his eyes shut, fighting to remain calm. Apparently, Vivienne was not exaggerating when she said that it was obvious to everyone. "No, I have not. I am trying to, in fact, that is what I am doing here right now!" He hisses before something occurs to him. "How do you even know that Vivienne and I broke up?"
She shrugs. "I didn't, but it was bound to happen. We gotta work on your timing, pal; we have to leave for the airport like right now!"
Elle finally emerges from the bathroom, a vision in a floaty pink dress, and drags her suitcase over to join the others. "Hi Paulette!" She chirps. "Are we all set?"
"Absolutely!" Paulette responds, grabbing her things and fiddling with her keys. "Let's grab your stuff." Elle slings her purse (with Bruiser tucked comfortably inside) over her shoulder and grabs one as Paulette also grabs one, leaving Emmett with two. The three make their way down to Elle's car (apparently, Paulette is keeping it until Elle is back) and load up the trunk. He is running out of time, he thinks in a panic, as she sets her bag down in the passenger seat. Bruiser jumps out and joins Rufus in the back, the two sniffing each other happily. She turns to him, an indescribably sad look on her face and embraces him tightly.
"Oh Emmett..." She whispers softly, her voice pleasantly humming against his neck.
"I'm coming with you!" It's out before he can process it, but it makes sense. It buys him at least another hour to find the right moment, to come up with the perfect words to express his heart. She pulls away and stares at him, mouth agape.
"What?" Elle and Paulette echo.
"To the airport." He clarifies, feeling slightly stupid. "I'm going with you to the airport."
Both women smile as Paulette gets in on the driver's side. Rufus immediately hops into the passenger seat, Bruiser following behind. "Whoops, I guess you two will have to sit in the back!" Paulette calls to them in a rather smug tone of voice.
"Paulette, don't be ridiculous-" Elle starts to say before Emmett pulls open the door to the backseat.
"No, no, it's fine. Get in!" He says, giving her a pointed look.
She looks at him strangely for a moment, before shrugging and getting in. They fasten their seatbelts and as they pull away from the curb, Elle looks out the window and waves. "Bye Harvard! See you in a few months, and you'd better be ready for me when I'm back!" She bursts into giggles and slumps in her seat. She gazes over at Emmett with a fond smile as he laughs. "You know, never in a thousand years would I ever have imagined that I would be at Harvard Law, acing my classes and loving my life in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I wouldn't have it any other way, though." She leans her head back and closes her eyes. "Paulette, turn on Backstreet Boys!" She calls suddenly.
Paulette obliges and the car is suddenly filled with the sounds of mediocre 90s pop. Paulette is singing along (badly), Elle is dancing in her seat (still with her eyes shut), and Emmett wonders why on Earth he decided to join them on this car ride. He is debating the merits of throwing himself out of the car when a small hand grabs his and entwines their fingers. He looks over at Elle, startled, to find her still dancing with her eyes closed. She starts singing along softly, however, in a surprisingly pretty voice: "I don't care who you are, where you're from, what you did as long as you love me! Who you are, where you're from, don't care what you did as long as you love me!"
He is staring at her, more than aware that he probably looks like a gaping idiot, but he doesn't know what else to do. She hums along to the next verse, bopping her head in time with the music before finally opening her eyes and looking at him. He is still frozen, not entirely sure what is happening. "What?" She asks with a tiny smile. "Don't you like the Backstreet Boys?"
"You know," He replies, most of his attention still focused on the fact that she is still holding his hand and has been singing a terrible pop ballad to him, "I was doing other things in the nineties, like studying. And working."
Elle huffs at this and folds her arms, pouting playfully. Emmett mourns the loss of her small, warm hand in his. "You butthead." She says in a low tone, staring determinedly out the window, but he can see a smile playing at the corners of her mouth. He takes a moment to simply stare at her in the fading light: her honey-blonde hair and golden skin, deep brown eyes that shine, the perfect little cupid's bow above her lip. He savors this moment, knowing that he won't see her again until August, late July if he's lucky. She is stunningly beautiful, and he marvels at the idea that this incredible woman before him might actually love him as much as he does her.
He nudges her with his shoulder. "Hey."
She turns back to him, returning the nudge as the pout quickly spreads into a grin. "Hay is for horses."
They laugh for a moment as he rolls his eyes good-naturedly. "Haha, very funny." He looks into her eyes and sighs quietly. "I'm really going to miss you, Elle." She meets his eyes somberly and nods.
"I'm going to miss you too, Emmett. I'm going to call you all the time," She informs him determinedly. "You're going to be so sick of me by the time August rolls around!''
"That's definitely not going to happen, I could never get sick of you." He takes her hand this time and strokes the back of it with his thumb. "You're my best friend... and I love you." His eyes widen immediately after he says it. That was NOT the way that was supposed to come out at all! He loves her as a best friend, but he is actually in love with her and he has no idea what to say to fix this. He just wants to sink back into the seat and disappear.
She is smiling, but there is something sad in her eyes. "You're my best friend too, and you mean the world to me!"
It takes all of his willpower to not slam his head against the car window at her deliberate word choice. Paulette, however, does not have the same level of self control. He and Elle are jerked violently forward, their seatbeats keeping them relatively in place, as Paulette slams on the brakes. Car horns immediately sound as the cars behind them are forced to maneuver around them, but she pays no mind to the rules of the road. They are standing still in the middle of the highway as Paulette turns in her seat and scowls at them. "Oh for God's sakes!" She screeches. "Emmett, just TELL her!"
He is absolutely mortified and terrified and probably bruising from the seatbelt. "I'm getting there! Just drive the car!" He nearly yells from sheer panic. Paulette gives him a look, before turning around and hitting the gas. The car starts as she quickly gets back up to speed and rejoins traffic.
Emmett takes a deep breath, a billion different ways to tell her how he feels racing through his head. It's now or never, or at least, it's now or have Paulette stop violently in the middle of the highway again, so he needs to take advantage of the moment. He's rehearsed this moment in his head dozens of times, but he had always envisioned the moment being perfect- out to a romantic dinner, on a park bench somewhere, sitting on a blanket under the stars, even at the airport before she left, but never had he imagined he would be sitting with her in the back of her shiny pink convertible as they are being driven to the airport, trying to find the words before Paulette gets them into an accident. He abandons any hope of eloquence and throws caution and dignity to the wind. "Elle," He says, a slight tremor in his voice, "It's been a very long time since I had a best friend, and you absolutely are, but you're so much more than that to me. You're an absolutely amazing woman; you light up any room just by being in it. You accept people for who they are; you accepted me for who I am, scruffy corduroy and all." He laughs, the words flowing much more easily, "You changed my life from the moment you sat down next to me on that bench. Just seeing you, being with you... Hell, even hearing your voice makes me smile! You help me stay positive and give me a new perspective on things. I'm constantly amazed by how empathetic you are- helping out Paulette with her ex when you two had barely known each other, dropping everything just to take me shopping for Brooke's trial, you really care about other people. You are absolutely brilliant, even if you needed a little of my help on your study habits, your mind is just incredible. And, on top of it all, you are stunningly beautiful. And," He finally takes a breath and bites his lip. "I am so unbelievably in love with you."
Her eyes light up and absolutely sparkle; her smile is absolutely radiant as she replies, "I love you too, So, so much."
Paulette squeals and claps from the driver's seat, nearly losing control of the car, but her joy is obvious. "Oh my God you two, it is about freaking time!" She shouts happily.
The couple in the back seat laughs as they look at each other shyly. His eyes flicker to her lips and slowly meet her eyes again. He can feel the warmth of her breath ghosting across his skin and shivers slightly as she leans into him. One of his hands tangles in her hair, the other wraps around her waist and pulls her the rest of the way to him, their lips meeting in a soft kiss. She immediately melts into it and therefore into him, one arm winding behind his neck and the other resting comfortably against his chest. He relishes the softness of his lips against hers and their sheer physical closeness. They pull apart, resting their foreheads together.
Elle giggles softly. "I have waited so long for you to say that."
"And it only took him a near-death experience to admit it! How romantic!" Paulette cries out as she swerves into the airport, following the constant loop of traffic to departures.
"Well, if you hadn't been driving like a lunatic, we could have avoided all of that!" Emmett cries, but he's still grinning like an idiot. After all, the woman he's desperately in love with loves him too and just let him kiss her!
"It was definitely worth it." Elle kisses him again, softly and sweetly.
And with a start, Emmett realizes that she's right. It has all been worth it. Everything that has led them to this moment has been worth it. Elle snuggles into him as much as her seatbelt will allow, and he wraps his arms around her as best he can. It's not ideal, she's about to leave for Malibu for three months, but he wouldn't trade this for anything. All too soon, Paulette pulls up to the curb at JetBlue departures and it is time for Elle to leave. All three step out of the car, Emmett and Paulette grabbing bags from the trunk as Elle uses the curbside check-in. He watches as Paulette plucks Bruiser from the passenger seat and deposits him in Elle's purse before giving her friend a hug and air kisses. They're saying something to each other but Emmett doesn't hear it. He is preserving the past few minutes mentally, the way she felt pressed against him, the feeling of her lips on his, the way she's almost glowing right now as she prepares to leave for the summer. This is easily one of the best days of his life. She turns to him now with a smile, her eyes glistening. "Well," She says quietly, "I guess this is it."
He nods, a smile spreading across his face. "I guess it is."
She nods back at him for a moment before flinging herself into his arms. "OhmyGod I am going to miss you so much!" She says breathlessly. "But I'm going to call you when I get back home, and we can talk via Skype-"
He looks at her strangely. "Um, what is Skype?"
Her eyes widen in horror. "Do you have a webcam?" He nods in the affirmative and she sighs happily. "When you go home, download Skype! We can videochat and talk on the phone!" She squeals and squeezes him tighter.
"Absolutely." He says with a laugh as he checks his watch. "Elle, you need to get going." He tells her gently.
She looks at him sadly before nodding. "Why do you always have to be right?" They laugh together for a moment. He strokes her cheek lightly as he watches her fight back tears.
"Elle..." He murmurs before kissing her gently. "It's only for a few months. You'll be back here before you know it."
She smiles, several tears gliding her down cheeks. "Just don't go falling in love with any pretty brunettes while I'm gone." She teases as she reluctantly pulls away from him.
He shakes his head as he crosses his arms. "Never." He tells her seriously before stealing a glance at his watch again. "Okay, this time I'm serious. You're gonna miss your flight!" His voice seems stuck in his throat, he thinks with a wince; the last impression he wants to have Elle leave with is his sounding like Kermit the frog. With some effort, he clears his throat and tries again. "You really should get going."
"I'll call you the second I land." She promises before leaning close and kissing him, her fingers knotting in his hair briefly. She fits perfectly in his arms and the sensation is familiar, but now he can honestly appreciate the feeling. This is beyond platonic; it is the embrace of two people freshly in love. They step apart, maximizing each last bit of contact before Elle finally turns, purse and carry on in hand, and begins to walk into the airport.
"Elle!" The word bursts from his lips, his heart clenching.
She spins around quickly with a questioning look. "Hmmm?"
"I love you." A goofy grin spreads across his face. "That's all."
She laughs, a sound of pure unadulterated joy, and Emmett savors the sound of her laughter. "I love you too." She finally replies before blowing him a kiss and walking inside.
He watches her disappear into the crowd of people checking in, his gaze lingering long after she has faded from view. He eventually nods and turns back to Paulette and wordlessly, the two return to Elle's pink convertible. It is going to be a long summer without her, but like everything else that involves Miss Woods-comma-Elle, he is absolutely positive that it (and she) will be worth the wait.
Hope you liked it!