TITLE: Anger Management for the Faint-Hearted
CHARACTERS: Gillian, Cal, Torres, Loker
SUMMARY: Harsh words, questioned loyalty, misguided love affairs. He is angry. Has been for quite a while. But now it's time to face it.
Dark room, dark thoughts. That's how it usually is. She finds her way forward, on a path she's walked a thousand times, maybe more. There's no misstep, not even a doubt.
He's at the window, staring out, only glass separating him from the harsh cold of this February night.
She counts the steps until she is right by his side. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight. The last one is just a small shuffle. They breathe in together and they breathe out. For a few seconds there's nothing more happening. He hasn't even acknowledged her, but she knows he can feel her body heat just as she can feel his. That's how close they are. In terms of location at least.
"You really hurt me by saying what you did in front of the whole team today," she starts. "We could have talked about this in private."
Now he's finally looking at her. She can barely make out his features in the darkness. "Afraid of losing your authority?" he asks and of course it's not really a question.
"No, I'm saying it hurt me." She wants to make him understand. Wishes she could.
"So you wouldn't feel hurt if I had told you to stay away from the case in private?"
"You made a show out of it. On purpose. That's what hurt."
He doesn't apologize. She didn't think he would. It hurts a little nevertheless, but her approach this evening is love, not confrontation. He might not see it that way, though.
He stays silent, staring ahead, but she can almost hear it raging inside his head. She's been hearing it for a while now, manifested in his actions mostly towards her.
"What makes you so angry, Cal?"
The silence that follows is long and uncomfortable. He hasn't expected that question and in a way she loves to see him surprised, because he rarely ever is.
He prepares an answer, she can feel it, but it takes him a while. "You shouldn't have talked to the Senator. It screwed up—"
She interrupts him. "No, I don't mean with this particular case, actually. I mean in general."
"I'm not angry," he says with anger in his voice he seems unable to suppress. She knows she hit a sore spot.
"The things you said about the Group being built on your sweat alone? About me not messing with your finances again? Mother Superior, clean like me, cat and mouse. Wallowski, Farr, this whole book mess, Naomi. Keeping me in the dark. Questioning my loyalty. Asking me to betray my principles." She inhales sharply, as if to recover from all the bad memories. "I remember all of that because it hurt. Just like today hurt. You were angry. Still are."
He flinches a little, but keeps his appearance casual. "Can't make an omelette without breaking eggs. We work together and sometimes there's friction." He makes it sound like there's absolutely nothing wrong with all of the things she just described. That being hurt in the process is normal collateral damage.
But it isn't. "I don't remember it being like that. I don't remember us being like that."
"You weren't exactly innocent in some of these situations."
"I'm not saying I didn't make mistakes." Her voice is still soft and she fights hard to keep it that way. "I didn't come to argue."
"Yeah? 'Cause that's exactly what it sounds like to me right now."
She doesn't know what to answer, so she says nothing. There's a fine line between letting him see her emotions and standing her ground. Almost impossible to balance.
After a while, he sighs in defeat. Maybe because he can too feel how uncomfortable the silence is. "Okay, yeah, I'm still angry an arsehole killed Claire. Aren't you?"
She nods, but knows it's not the whole story. "What about before that?"
He gets closer, but it's to intimidate, not for the sake of actually getting closer to her. "If there's something I wanted to talk to you about, then I'd come and tell you. Otherwise we ignore it, remember?"
She nods again, but not in agreement. "I'm just worried, that's all."
"I can take care of myself."
"I know that. Just sometimes it's better to talk about things."
"You're smothering, Foster. Again." He turns a little more towards her, so they're both facing each other. The language, however, is distancing, she notices. He would have never used Gillian in that sentence.
In a way she's disappointed again, even though she expected the conversation to take this turn. Maybe it's the disappointment speaking when she's asking the next question: "Are you still sleeping with Wallowski?"
He groans, rolls his eyes. "See, you're making me angry with all this crap."
She remembers why she came here and gently puts her right hand on his sternum, a gesture equally meant to establish proximity and to keep someone away. "I think you're mostly making yourself angry." She says it with love and understanding.
He seems perplexed, looking down to where her hand is and thinking through his options. Fight or flight, she knows it is. There's not much more for him when cornered.
She's waiting for his reaction to surface.
"Don't do that," he finally says. Quietly and pleading. So somewhere between fight and flight. That's almost progress.
"I'm just letting you know that I'm here. There. Wherever you want me to be." Her hand rests where it is, emphasizing her words through a touch.
He tries to stare her down, takes her hand away with his own, but his touch is lingering on for a little too long. It says something else than his expression and those rather harsh words this morning and then just a couple of seconds ago.
She won, she knows it. This time the cat is her; the one who is in charge.
"Just letting you know, alright. Whenever you're ready."
Not if, but when.
Shortly before midnight a text lights up her phone, asking if she is still awake.
When she opens the door, he is already there. Pacing, it seems. She knew he would come.
He doesn't really talk, but that's okay. He's here, that means he's not running away and she takes his presence as a quiet apology.
They spend the night in separate bedrooms under the same roof. Seems like a metaphor for them.
He's not ready yet, but that's okay.
He plops down on the sofa in her office the next evening, when everybody else is gone again. Business as usual, but that's just on the surface. "I need your help with the case," he announces while watching her take the seat next to him.
She's careful to neither be too close nor too distant. "No, you don't. You just feel bad about yesterday."
Disarming him with just one sentence. She locks on to his gaze, unrelenting. It's him again who averts eyes first and once more, she wins.
"If you came to apologize, you should say the actual words," she goes on.
Silence. Another look exchanged between two people who both know what might be going on and who are utterly at a loss with what's really going on at the same time.
He tries, but she can see he can't say it.
"I'm still seeing Wallowski," he eventually announces instead and she almost wants to laugh, because instead of doing something nice, he resorts to hurting her once more. His expression is not apologetic. Not slightly embarrassed nor sheepishly self-conscious. It's provocative. Not offensively so, but in the mild, concealed way that is him a lot of the time. She just hates to be on the receiving end of it.
The laugh dies in her throat. She tries to keep her voice even. "Okay. Well, I appreciate your honesty."
He nods, but it's still a provocation. "Sure."
"So are you in love with her then?" She knows the answer, but it's a pivotal moment. A make-it-or-break-it point in time.
"No." He seems offended by that very question. By the thought. By her.
"It's been over a year. I don't think it's weird to ask that question." She manages to smile a little and it unnerves him even more; why she would be nice about such a touchy topic.
"It's just sex." Probably the good kind.
"Does she know about that arrangement?"
"Yeah, 'course she does."
"You know that or you assume that? 'Cause maybe she just thinks you're an unconventional boyfriend." She shrugs her shoulders a little and still there is no accusation in her voice.
"Nah, she doesn't. We're both clear on the small print," he quips.
Attachment seen as a contract. Just like the one they signed together more than ten years ago. The one that bound them together relating to business and maybe even more. No one knows where they would be now without that piece of paper, written in formal, cold language.
"You're still more loyal to her than you are to me." It's a conclusion much more than an allegation. She accompanies it with a sad kind of smile.
There's a heavy veil of silence coming down between them. The world continues to operate, but in here it stops for a couple of long, tedious seconds. They both find other things to look at before they can establish eye contact again.
"That's not true," he tries to argue quietly after some time.
"It's just what it feels like."
"Are you jealous?" he wants to know.
"Do you want me to be?" she just asks back.
He comes closer so that she can feel his warm, gentle breath on her face. Maybe not really to kiss her, but just to see where it would be going. It's still provocation. Intimidation. Violation of the most personal of her space.
She closes her eyes and lets it happen for a moment, wondering whether she is angry now, too.
He's trying to regain the role of the cat, she knows, but she is determined to not let him. So instead she opens her eyes, gets up, gathers her things and leaves the office with him still sitting on the sofa.
The temperature in the conference room is icy. Not literally, but figuratively. Like a snowstorm has just gone through, leaving nothing but devastation covered by a thick, white blanket.
Cal is about to tear this blanket apart, though. He alternates between yelling at Loker and intimidating a fresh-faced intern, blaming them (but also everybody else in the room, really) for derailing their current case. Watching the scene unfold, however, she is quite sure who is actually to blame. It's Cal, no doubt.
Loker tries to protest, but after a while he's smart enough to just shut up and let Cal rage. The intern, though, looks like he is on the verge of tears.
A couple of times Gillian tries to intervene, but Cal just talks over her, giving her no chance to stand up for her employees. This is going to end in letters of resignation on her desk.
His eyes focus on her in the middle of all of this and she feels that something is about to hit her. She just sees it in his expression. In her head, she begs him to not say it, but of course he does.
"Well, maybe we should let Foster talk to the Senator again. Worked like a charm the last time."
Sarcasm. The ugly kind.
She rolls her eyes and leaves the room without saying anything. He's trying so hard to be the asshole. What could they be if he put all that energy into something good?
She avoids him for two days after that. Or maybe avoidance is the wrong word here.
Let's say, she doesn't actively put herself in the same room with him and keeps to her own cases instead. The ones they haven't screwed up yet.
He avoids her, too.
And in his case—she is sure—it really is avoidance.
She finds him rummaging through things in his library, looking heavily frustrated. She approaches; uncertain of what to make of all of this. Of him. Of them. She tries to comprehend what she might be seeing, but there just seems to be no logical conclusion.
She clears her throat to announce she's there. He doesn't look up, just keeps on sifting through stacks of books, manila folders, photos, and loose pieces of paper.
"Are you looking for something?" she asks.
"Yeah, sanity." He still doesn't look up and shifts his attention to the safe now. He fails to open it once, then twice, then gives up and goes back to the stack of books.
"Wallowski is out there, waiting for you, I guess."
He doesn't seem too happy about that. "Told her not to come here."
She is confused, but still there are no explanations. "Do you want me to tell her something?"
"Nah," he replies and fishes for his phone in his right jeans pocket. He types a few words she can't see from where she's standing and puts the phone back. Once more, he tries to open the safe, but no success. Even more frustrated he sits down on the small couch and breathes out heavily. It's surrender.
She sits down next to him. Nothing happens for a whole while. She wishes she could be close to him again. Not just in the physical sense, but in heart and spirit. He seems miles away, though, on a whole other journey, running away from her, himself and the things that used to be.
His body is crouched forward, bare forearms resting on his thighs. His head hangs down low. Defeated and maybe even a little more.
Now even more so than usually, she wants to be angry with him, but instead she feels for him deeply.
There's a memory of their touch about a week ago coming back to her. Both of them in his office and her hand on his sternum. She can still feel it tingling in her fingers and oddly enough she remembers it fondly. Mostly because she misses what they had in their touches. Apart from Alec, there's probably nobody else she shared so many moments of close contact with as with Cal.
She reaches out to put her hand on his forearm. Again, it lingers there, but this time he doesn't fight it. He just looks her in the eye after it becomes clear that she has no intention of pulling away, but still says nothing.
"Are you still trying to tell me you're not angry?"
There's the hint of a sad smile on his lips.
They continue sitting there without saying a word, but her hand on his arm is what connects them. She's not ready to let go.
After a while he looks at her again. "Why are you staying?" Heavy words travelling through heavy air.
She's not sure what he's after, so her reflection on his question takes a little too long.
That's when he specifies: "I know about the job offer from the Mayor's office."
So this is where it's going. He doesn't seem hurt, just genuinely curious.
"I didn't even consider it for a second. That's why I didn't tell you." Her hand is still on his arm and she has no intention of changing anything about that.
"It's a great opportunity. Big cases, big career, lots of money."
She just shrugs her shoulders, because this means nothing to her. "Yes, but it's without you."
"Without the guy who hurts you all the time?"
"Without the guy I love working with. Despite it all." It's the truth and after a couple of seconds she lets him have a bit more of it. "Without the guy I love spending time with," she adds quietly. "Or at least used to."
He nods without answering and is slightly alarmed when she takes away her had from his warm skin. She does it, however, to put her arm around his shoulders instead and that's enough invitation for him to lean into her as well and engulf her in a hug.
They hold on tight and she can feel his heart beat against her own chest. It feels like the most genuine interaction they've had since Claire died. When he was there for her for a couple of weeks and then slowly slipped away again.
His one hand on her back is caressing her gently, while she traces a path up to the nape of his neck to entwine her fingers with his hair. She truly misses him.
After a minute or two, she presses a kiss on the stubble next to his ear and whispers: "You're good enough. Don't hide behind thinking you're not." Then she breaks away from their embrace.
He is staring at her. There's an expression of deep realization on his face. Mostly his eyes, irises sprinkled with mystery and small wrinkles speaking of some good times had. "How do you know?"
"Cal," she says, tenderly as only she could do, "I've known for a long time. I'm just waiting for you to get there."
He comes closer again all of a sudden and for a moment she once more thinks he is about to kiss her. But he doesn't and just searches her eyes even more intensely. She isn't hiding anything.
"What if I don't get there?" He takes cover behind some kind of lopsided smirk, but she knows it's a serious question. A serious concern.
"You'll get there, if you want to," she replies as if it's not a big deal. Waiting is okay, when the outcome is them.
"You can do anything you set your mind to?"
"Yeah, like that."
They simply stare at each other and maybe he even starts believing in those words that were just spoken. He seems to ponder it in his head while trying to find some truth in her eyes.
"Can I help you find whatever you're looking for?"
"I'm looking for a lot of things," he says, still staring into her eyes deeply. "But right now, I need to find Emily's references for college. She gave them to me to read and she'll kill me if I lost those damn things."
"Well, then we better find them."
And they do. It takes her about ten minutes to make him retrace all his steps systematically instead of just trying to conquer chaos with an even more chaotic approach like he had tried before. Et voilà, there they are.
Well, that's why he needs her. They both grin at each other and know that.
"Good talking to you", she concludes while leaving his office eventually. "And you should do something about this anger."
It takes him five days to show up at her house again at night. That's longer than she expected, but not long enough to seriously have her worried. He's predictable in his unpredictability.
"I called things off with Wallowski." He blurts it out just a second after she opens the door.
If he's hoping for a pat on the back, she's not giving it to him. She just nods slowly.
He seems confused by that, squinting his eyes. "Are you not gonna say anything?"
It makes her roll her eyes in return. He really wants this pat on the back badly, the confirmation that he did something right, instead of dragging them both down further into misery. But damn, no, she can't do this anymore. "You're still trying to hurt me."
"By breaking it off? I'm not sure I can follow."
"By coming here and announcing it like that. Like you did something really great and now I should admire you for it and be grateful."
He is taken aback even in the physical sense and stumbles a few steps backwards, hands in pockets and a thoughtful expression on his face. She can see that he is trying to put words to his thoughts, but apparently that's not an easy quest.
"Okay, this conversation did not go in the direction I thought it would go," he finally says and still keeps his distance. There is the hint of a smile on his face, though. It might be admiration.
"Sorry," she just replies.
"You're getting better at this game. You're the cat."
"I know, but I'm tired of playing it." She's not surprised that his thoughts also brought him to the cat and mouse metaphor and that he ran with it. It's his clever mind that she probably loves the most.
"Mhm," he acknowledges and agrees.
There's nothing to say for a couple of seconds, but she can see that he is trying to think of a new direction, now that the one he had already rehearsed in his mind didn't work out.
"When you said that I'm more loyal to Wallowski than to you, that hurt," he admits quietly, "because I can see it from where you stand."
She can feel his pain, which is actually her pain condensed into unusual words from his mouth. She starts speaking quietly: "In the beginning, you were still worried about the state of us. You kept asking me if we're okay. And then it seemed you just didn't care anymore."
"There's no way to not care about you. About us."
He is close enough again to be touched, so her right hand first travels to his sternum, applying some affectionate pressure there, and then further to his cheek. She gently gives it a few strokes, the stubble raspy on her palms, and he just lets her without backing away.
"You should go home."
"Are we good?" he asks and the urgency, the sorrow and worry he puts in these just three words almost break her heart.
"Yes, we're good."
He leaves and once the door is closed, some tears run down her face, accompanied by a small sob. No, this was not how she had imagined this conversation to go, either.
So yes, they lose the contract for Cal's current case and he summons a meeting in the big conference room. She is leaning against one of the glass walls, keeping a safe distance from whatever outburst might follow. She's not sure she can handle it, so she is slowly inhaling, even more slowly exhaling, and trying to keep at least a calm demeanor.
Inside of her chest, however, a tiny knot of anger is bubbling under the surface. Again, he did not tell her about this beforehand. She saw the email that terminated the contract, but before she had a chance to even speak to him, he had sent out an invitation to this meeting. Still keeping her in the dark, apparently.
He enters the room last—talk about being dramatic and all. Hands in jeans pockets, confident stride. Nothing out of the ordinary. The room is silent almost immediately. Probably because they all fear the same thing she is.
"I know all of you tried really hard to make this work." He waits for a couple of seconds and looks around to meet weary faces staring back at him. "And then I screwed it up."
The words are running through her mind a couple of times, but it takes a while for them to register. It's still eerily quiet.
"So, just wanted to let you all know that it's nobody's fault but mine. Apologies to Loker and," he intensely looks at the guy next to Loker, "intern whatever-your-name-is. You deserved some of the yelling, but not all."
She takes a moment to look around the room and reads faces of bafflement, doubting that the guy looking like Cal Lightman really is in fact Cal Lightman. And she can certainly sympathize.
He goes on, though, not letting anybody in the room off the hook. "Oh, and special apologies to Dr. Foster over there. She did in fact not screw this up. She tried saving it, before I could screw it up. Sorry, Dr. Foster."
He looks at her with an intensity that makes breathing a little harder for a moment. After a while she realizes he is expecting her to say something. By now the whole room is looking at her, too—along with him.
"Apology accepted," she says softly and shoots him a look that adds 'you bastard'.
He grins and leaves the room first. "Back to work," he yells from the hallway.
They get out of his car and while crossing the street, he is unusually close. Well, maybe not unusually, because him being all over her personal space used to be a common thing, but she is strangely aware that he hasn't done this in a couple of month. Maybe to intimidate, but not in simply casual, friendly situations.
His arm is brushing against hers while they are walking. "So, I read this book on anger management," he announces. "Ugh, it was awful."
It tugs on the corners of her mouth, but she's trying to suppress the smile. "'Cause it hit a little too close to home?"
"Nah, 'cause it's crap. I'm now angry about wasting my time on that."
"Well, what did it say?"
He rolls his eyes. "Be zen and breathe and all that crap."
"Did it recommend any soul searching on the causes of anger?"
He gives her a little fake laugh. "Yeah, guess what, the problem is me. I truly didn't know that before."
"Oh, so you really are angry with yourself and not with me or anybody else?"
They arrive at the impressive building taking up a whole block with grey granite and white marble. After taking the steps up to the entrance, he holds the door open for her.
"You read that book too, haven't you?" he just replies and gives her a little wink.
A couple of minutes later, after the mayor has just arrived and sat down, Cal nonchalantly opens the meeting with: "Did you guys offer Dr. Foster a job? Don't do that. I'd like to keep her." Then he just goes on as if nothing has happened.
Again, she doesn't quite know whether she should be charmed or embarrassed. So she smiles and lets him get away with it once again. It's probably always going to be both with him.
Torres confronts her in her office and Gillian—out of sheer habit—braces herself from whatever he might have screwed up now.
"Is Lightman alright?" Ria asks in disbelief. "He hugged me today."
Well, good question. Is he?
Gillian just shrugs her shoulders.
They meet again in his dark office, late at night, harsh cold outside, but this time it's warmer in here. He gets up from his chair when she moves closer, so eventually they are both facing each other in front of the big windows again.
They look at each other, but neither of them says anything. There's a slight smile on their lips, though.
He lowers his gaze after some time and looks up and down, almost admiringly taking her in, before finally settling on putting the palm of his hand on her breastbone, just below her throat. It's not sexual, but as intimate as it can be.
Everything mirrors where they've been before.
She moves her own hand to cover his, but it's not to take it away like he did about three weeks ago. Instead she holds him in place.
"I can do anything I set my mind to," he says.
She nods, staring into his eyes as best as she can in this darkness. "Are you gonna say sorry?"
"I already did."
"Not for all the months of treating me badly." She would not let this go. It hurt too much and it hurt right now, with him being so close, yet thinking of all the distance he had put between them. "I don't think you realize how much you've hurt me."
His gaze is relentless, his hand still firmly in place. "I do. I'm just good at pushing it away."
Her fingers enclose his a little more tightly. Nothing is easy, but it's also not so damn complicated. "I always meant well," she starts. "When I froze your assets, when I asked you to stay out of this Wallowski Internal Affairs investigation. I always meant for you to not get hurt. Screw this company. It's you I'm trying to protect."
"I know," he whispers and his voice breaks a little. "I always meant well with you, too. Not so much with myself, though. And then I hurt you, while in fact trying to hurt myself. Trying to convince myself that I'm not worth it."
"That sounds ugly," he admits, but there's no denying that it was in fact exactly this.
She can see that he is sorry, can feel it in her heart and his touch. But the words still won't come out. A small wave of disappointment washes over her, but at the same time, it's impossible for her to be angry with him right now.
She squeezes his hand on her sternum a little and he slowly takes it away, carefully guiding it down next to her body until he reaches her hand again. His touch on her fingers is ever so lightly.
"I'm gonna go," she lets him know.
He nods but doesn't break eye contact. As she starts moving away, his fingers hold on to hers, making both their arms stretch out a little until there is no other way than to let go. He's not forcing it. His fingers slowly slip from hers and his hand is going back to his side—useless now that she is gone.
She turns around, before walking through the door, checking again, but apart from what his face is telling her, he does not seem to want to say anything.
"Stop hugging employees," she scolds him jokingly. "It freaks them out."
He laughs. "Torres is a tattletale. Are you my employee?"
"I'm the co-owner of this business. A business that I saved dozens of times from your stupidity. So no, not your employee, and you're welcome."
She leaves, walking along the hallway with disappointment still aching in her chest. It's shortly before making the right turn to the exit, when he catches up with her again. His hand is on her shoulder, almost burning through the fabric of her blouse. Gone is the light touch from just a few seconds ago.
There is some anger when she faces him and it's not only his expression. There's a weird, twisted anger inside of her too now.
"What do you want me to do?" he asks and seems at loss. It's not harsh, it's desperate.
She exhales sharply and presses the words through almost gritted teeth. "I just want you to say it."
He takes his eyes off her and focuses on something behind her. It takes her a couple of seconds to realize that Torres is standing behind them, apparently just coming out of her office and leaving as well.
"Sorry, don't mind me," she says sheepishly and hurries out.
They both look to the ground, but there's nothing to find there. No answers, no right words, not even the wrong ones.
He goes on with his voice much more quiet. "I feel like I couldn't possibly apologize enough. For what I did, for what I might do in the future." Only then are his eyes focusing on hers again. "But for all it's worth: I'm sorry. I'm sorry about hurting you."
Then he kisses her lightly—so close to her mouth that she can't decide whether it is one of those kisses they had shared so many times before or whether it is just a little more.
He turns around, going back to his office and not looking back.
This is strange in a way. Or maybe it isn't. She can feel his energy before she even looks up and actually sees him standing there. It's a certain force he carries with him all the time, yet when she reads the expression on his face, there's uncertainty.
"Hi," he simply states.
"Hi," she echoes and closes her book, looking at him for answers to unspoken questions.
"Can I sit down with you?"
"Sure." He takes the chair across from her, but with the coffee table being so small, he is still close to her.
She looks at him for a while. Curiously and aware that he has the ability to always surprise her one way or another. The beige button-down he is wearing seems unfamiliar. Neither to formal, nor too casual. "How did you know I was here?"
"I didn't. You weren't at home, so I checked some of your favorite places."
"How long did that take you?"
A casual shrug. "Just about an hour. I got lucky."
"You could have just asked, you know."
"Yeah, but where's the fun in that?"
She smiles, still cradling the book in her lap. "You have funny ways of saying 'I care about you'."
He looks around the café as if the answer he is about to mutter isn't even that important. "I have funny ways of saying almost anything related to, you know, uh, my feelings." Only for the last four or five words, he faces her again.
He's the nervous kind of cocky. She's not seen it for a while. In fact, she's not seen it very often at all in ten or so years. Maybe when he danced on her doorstep a couple of times, unable to put words to his thoughts or maybe not daring to for fear of consequences.
"Is that a new shirt?" she asks to add to his uneasiness. It's a fun game to play when for once he is on the receiving end of it.
"Yeah, Em said I should buy it."
"Looks good on you. Are you wearing it to impress me?"
"Yeah. Is it working? There's not much else I could impress you with."
It gets another smile from her, although it also makes her heart sink a tiny bit at the same time. The truth that he could impress her with a lot of things—that he actually does—is lost on him. "What are you doing here?"
He leans forward instead of further back, putting his forearms on the table and looking her straight in the eye. "I guess, I'm trying to not hide."
She puts the book aside and does the same as he; arms on the table, looking him in the eye, thinking about where they've been and where they're going. "Is this a date?"
"I suppose it could be." Head slightly tilted, irises slightly widened. Curious as to what she might reply.
She reaches out to touch his arms with both of her hands. He feels warm and familiar, like the guy she has been searching for for almost two years. The one that is not constantly at war with himself over her. "I'm tired of this dance. It's exhausting." They've been there before.
"I am, too."
"So, is it a date then?"
"Yeah, it's a date."
They both grin.
Bright room, bright thoughts. That's how unusual it is. They find their way forward, on a path they've kind of walked a thousand times before, but not quite like that. There's no misstep, not even a doubt.
Not if, now's when.