Her life unravels on a Thursday morning. To anyone else, nothing was remarkable about that particular Thursday. It was early October, that part of the year where weather gets cooler, more brisk but leaves you somehow feeling invigorated and alive when the crisp air bites at your cheeks. Cool enough to warrant walking a little closer to someone than you would in the warm heat of the summer, yet not cold enough that you're rushing to get inside. To Gillian, it was the most romantic time of the year. And again, she had accepted her fate of spending her favorite time of year alone.
She'd realized years ago that she was in love with her partner but the stars never seemed to align quite right for them. She was still married when she realized what Cal meant to her, knee deep in the muck of a marriage she so desperately wanted to work. Her epiphany had stopped her dead in her tracks. Alec never seemed to put any work into their relationship and she was so tired of scratching and clawing for any bit of attention from him. Especially when Cal was so giving in that respect. Cal always took the time to check in with her, making sure that the cases weren't too much for her, particularly the ones involving kids. When she'd been attacked by the copycat rapist, Alec hadn't even called to check on her. She knew he would be informed because she still had him listed as her emergency contact in her medical files, but he'd never brought it up even after he returned home. By then her arm was healed enough to be free of the sling and the bruising had faded to a light enough yellow that she could cover it easily enough with makeup. Cal had been the one to save her, to hold her hand as they set her shoulder, to insist that she stay in his guest room so she wouldn't be alone. Cal had picked up the pieces where her husband let them fall.
After her divorce, she felt free, exhilarated at the possibility of a future with Cal, until he brought the first woman around. He had never been shy about his conquests but they bothered her so much more now than they ever had before. They were monopolizing his time, stealing away the moments that she could be spending with him, getting up the nerve to do something that could change the course of their relationship. These women were distracting him from reading what she was writing so clearly all over her face. Before, she had been deliberate in what she allowed him to see. Nothing more than flashes of true emotion that she deemed too personal, too important to let him analyze. Now, she was taking no effort to hide what she'd finally come to accept about her partner. Every time she thought they were getting somewhere, someone would interrupt, ruining the moment.
She thought the line would be crossed the night after Cal was held hostage in their offices, his own sanctuary. He'd shown up at her doorstep, clearly a little buzzed from a heady mix of scotch and adrenaline. He was on edge in a way that she'd never seen before. She made every effort to read his emotions that night, to listen for the cues in his voice, but he was all over the place. When he finally asked to come in, she stopped him for a fierce embrace, the first physical reassurance that she'd gotten that he was indeed in her home, safe and sound. The loaded moment passed as he threw himself down on her couch, making himself more at home than anyone else had ever managed around her. While fleeting, that moment felt right.
After Ben was shot, something shifted deep within Cal. He became reckless not only with himself and the reputation of the company, but with their friendship as well. She felt him pushing her away through pointed insults and appalling behavior. His intimate knowledge of her own past and psyche morphed into a lethal weapon in his hands. She knew that he was goading her and struggled against his attack at first, but after weeks of an unending onslaught of what felt like the most brutal personal attacks, her perseverance was gone and she played right into his hands, retreating into herself and let a few arrows fly of her own when he'd gone too far. In those moments, the ones where he'd pushed her past her breaking point, she could see the faintest hint of regret on his face. Barely there, hidden behind contempt and anger, but enough to give her a glimpse of hope that their friendship could be salvaged.
In the end, it's the death of his father that brings his world crashing to the ground. He's always been tight-lipped about his family, especially his father, so it's a bit of a shock to her when he takes it so hard. He sends her a text late one night saying that he'll be out the next day, requesting that she cover his appointments. She is initially upset, assuming he was flaking on his responsibilities to her and the company, until she reads the last word he's typed. Sorry. Cal hasn't apologized to her for anything in weeks, just shrugging off whatever he'd done. She didn't push for any information because she knows she won't get it, but settles for a simple acceptance to assure him she'd gotten the message. The following day, he came in late in the evening, after everyone else had gone home. It was clear to her that he was expecting an empty office, mostly by how intoxicated he'd allowed himself to become. He never let his employees see him this far gone, and rarely let her. She met him in the hallway after hearing the clatter of his keys meeting the floor. He hastily picked them up and set a quick path to his office. She followed him in, wordless, waiting for him to choose what to tell her. The silence was loaded, dripping with unasked questions and palpable discomfort. He finally chose the words of simple truth: my father is dead.
She doesn't respond, unsure of what he needs or how he's feeling, so she is simply there, allowing the choice to be his. He rambles about how they hadn't been close in years, but she can read between the lines, understanding that his father was the last living link to his beloved mother. This loss was dredging up all sorts of things from his past and he was sinking in it. For the first time that night, he looked her in the eyes and sheepishly asked if she would drive him home. She nods, gathers her things from her office, and meets him at the door. Hs stills for a moment in the doorway, seeming to be toying with an idea, and then wraps her in the tightest hug she's ever received. She runs her hands gently along his back, swaying their bodies in a slight rocking motion, soothing him as if he were a child. She feels, rather than hears, his shuddering sobs and decides in that moment that she would offer whatever kind of support he would take that night.
They finally make it to his dark home, pulling into the drive in silence. She unlocks the front door with her own key as he's fishing his out from his pocket. The house is cold and quiet as they enter. His presence is looming behind her, close even by his standards, and she can sense that something has changed in their dynamic. She slips off her heels in the entryway, leaving them scattered amongst his and Emily's shoes, not allowing herself to think of how natural it feels. He's shedding his jacket behind her, dropping his keys on the counter and ridding himself of his own shoes. She turns to face him, to ask him what she can do to help but he cuts her off with a forceful kiss instead. He's pressing her against the wall, crowding her space before she can even process what's happening. Every rational part of her is screaming that one of them will regret doing this when he's drunk and vulnerable but the part of her that has been silent for so long has surfaced with a passion. Intoxication lowered impulses, it didn't manufacture them. If Cal is kissing her, he's considered it before and tonight, and that was good enough for her. She responds quickly, giving as good as she got. Lips part, tongues meet, nails run the length of lithe bodies. She allows him to align his body with hers, sandwiching her between himself and the wall. Much like she's always suspected, their first encounter was not going to be the slow, tender lovemaking that most people would fantasize about. She's never fooled herself into thinking that a first time with Cal would be explosive. Passionate. Loaded with meaning and emotions that neither one of them could easily convey. And she was okay with it. She thought back to her self-made promise as she'd held him in her arms. If this was the kind of support he needed, she was glad he sought her out rather than a stranger. And if she relished it a little too much for the circumstances, so be it.
They hadn't made it to the bedroom before the first round but managed to make it up the stairs before the second one began. In the hallway, it was clearly Cal's emotional release. However, in his bed, she knew something had clicked for him. He'd made a decision and she already knew she wouldn't like the outcome. She saw serenity and a hint of shame on his face. She knew instinctively that the shame wasn't in regards to what they were doing but she couldn't piece together what was happening in that brilliant mind of his. As the second round became a third, Cal's actions spoke to her where his words couldn't. She knew this was his way of telling her goodbye.
He exhausts them both, leaving them slick with sweat and fighting sleep as they attempt to navigate their friendship following this terrifying step. She doesn't want to say the wrong thing, so she says nothing, bringing her hand to smooth a stray lock of hair from his forehead. He looks her in the eye and whispers into the cooling air of his bedroom. Thank you, Gill. She understands that he's thanking her for much more than what she's done tonight, but she simply gives him a polite platitude before she takes his hand in hers and brings it to her lips for a gentle kiss. He closes his eyes then, letting out a deep breath neither of them was aware he was holding, and she allows herself to drift to a peaceful sleep in the bed of the man she loves.
If she thought he would be there when she woke, she was only fooling herself. Last night had been a profoundly intimate goodbye. She didn't know where he was going, if he was running to or from something, but she knew he would be gone. Most people would assume Cal was a fighter in a flight or fight situation, and in most situations, they'd be right. What she knew, though, was that when things got tough emotionally for Cal, he fled. He didn't stick around to fight through his emotional battles. He left when things got tough without so much as a look back. She found his note on top of her clothes, which he'd neatly folded before leaving her in his bed.
I'll be unreachable for a while. Emily will have my information if you need it. I just need a bit of time to get back to my old self. I know you've missed him, love. Thank you for everything. Truly. It's meant the world to me.
She wants nothing more than to go home and take the longest bath of her life and have a bottle of wine to boot, but it's Thursday morning. She's needed in the office, especially if Cal is gone. She begrudgingly pulls on her dress from the night before, doing the walk of shame through his empty house. She notes the absence of key items that tell her he's very serious about leaving. His favorite jacket, his briefcase and laptop, the picture of Emily from the mantle, his tattered suitcase. All of them were gone, leaving holes in his home and her life. She allows herself five minutes of tears, perched on his bed, surrounded by his scent, before she makes her way downstairs, pulls her heels back on, and locks the door behind her.
Weeks pass. She takes over all of Cal's duties at work, desperately trying to reassure clients and workers alike that the Lightman Group can survive without Dr. Lightman while he takes some time. Ria steps up without question, helping her friend as she watches her struggle with the weight of Cal's quick departure. Loker puts off his job search, giving his full attention to the company as long as she needs him to. He's always had a soft spot for her, in the vein of a snarky younger brother. She puts in even longer hours at the office, sleeping in Cal's office so often that she compiles a small wardrobe that hangs in her office closet for the mornings she doesn't make it home. His office still smells faintly of him, some combination of scotch and cologne that she's never been able to identify. It's oddly comforting.
Every Saturday, she stops by his house, dusting and vacuuming, tidying up a room every week, making sure to throw out expired food. She tells herself that it's because she wants him to relax when he gets home, not because she feels surrounded by him while she's there. She's so tired but the loneliness is inescapable. She's never realized how much her life revolves around Cal. Without him to talk to, she's essentially alone. Her employees are there but she's desperately tried to maintain a strictly professional relationship with them, leaving them oblivious to how much she's struggling with the loss of her partner. Emily has updated her a few times through texts that are sparse in detail. Evidently, he's asked her not to share with Gillian where he is, and Gillian is trying to give him whatever space he needs so he'll return sooner. She does her best to put on a solid front for the girl, to not worry her when she's already got enough on her plate. But with the loss of Cal comes the loss of his daughter, a relationship she cherishes. One that she misses almost as much as she misses the girl's father. In a way, they are her family, filling the holes left by an inattentive husband and a daughter wrenched from her arms. She misses Saturday afternoons spent in the Lightman kitchen with them, so she spends her lonely Saturdays alone in this house that no longer feels like anyone's home.
It has been 51 days since she woke up alone in Cal's bed. 51 days since she's gotten a good night's rest. 51 days since she's heard from her partner, best friend, and man that she loves. She's constantly tired, blaming it on the incredibly long hours she's pulling at the office. Hours that are partially due to Cal's absence at work and partially due to Cal's absence from her life. She works until she can't tell contempt from fear on a person's face, can't understand what she's seeing on another person so she won't have to think about what everyone else can see on her face everyday. She cries in Cal's office after everyone else has gone home, missing him sometimes so badly that it physically takes her breath away. Her appetite, while historically not large, has dwindled. Even chocolate cake has lost some of its appeal. As a psychologist, she knows that she's probably depressed, possibly in some stage of grief over the loss of her closest relationship. And she accepts that. Until she sees the box.
She's cleaning, this time in her own home, trying to occupy her mind with something other than work. The kitchen is spotless, the living room tidied, so she moves to the bathroom. She decides to reorganize the cabinet under the sink, eliminating the tidal wave of products that fall out every time she reaches for a fresh towel. Removing everything from the cabinet, she sets the items on the sink, one at a time. She reaches for a box, setting it on the counter without a second thought until she sees the bright pink packaging. Tampons. Or, tampon, rather. She'd meant to pick up more but completely forgot in the chaos of her recent life. And then she panics. That was before Cal left. She remembers distinctly because he'd made a snide comment about her hormones running him over like a truck. That was nearly two months ago. Shit.
Two days later, she sits in the sterile exam room at her gynecologist's office. She's barely slept in the panic of the last two days. She hadn't bothered with a home test because she needed a factual, completely certain answer and a plastic stick from a pharmacy was not going to cut it. Sleep had evaded her since her realization, so on top of the pure fear and panic, she is exhausted. Running on fumes even more so than she has been in the last few weeks. She knows she looks like a mess, wearing leggings and an oversized shirt, hair in the remnants of a messy bun, face naked of any makeup. She'd called in a personal day at the office, assuring Ria that there wasn't anything pressing that she and Loker couldn't handle until tomorrow. She'd chosen to ignore the tone of surprise and hint of worry she heard in the girl's voice and promised to be in tomorrow. Waiting for the doctor, she absentmindedly picks at her nails and glances around the room, distracting herself by reading each informational poster on the walls, trying and failing to soothe her tired nerves.
The doctor enters and they engage in some polite small talk before she is handed a cup and directed to the restroom. She complies and returns to the room, waiting anxiously. Her mind wanders to what this could mean for her life. She might finally have the chance to be a mother, one who could never have her child ripped from her life. One with an undeniable claim to her child for life instead of 57 dismissed days that only she seems to remember. A child that would have her smile and his eyes. Her warmth and his curiosity. A child of their shared brilliant minds. A piece of Cal that she could carry with her forever, even if he never came back to her again.
Her thoughts are interrupted by the doctor, who walks in with a smile. The test confirms what she's known in her soul for the last two days. She is directed to lie back as the ultrasound machine is wheeled closer to the bed. She lifts her shirt and jumps a little at the cold gel on the transducer. She nervously waits for the doctor's gentle explanation of what she's observing on the screen, a blur of black and white movement to her own untrained eye. The frame freezes as the doctor points to a small mass in the center of the screen. A staccato rhythm echoes through the room as she makes out the faint but unmistakable shape of a head on the screen. The doctor continues to talk as she performs a few measurements and calculations, but Gillian is transfixed by the image of the baby on the monitor. A gentle hand on her arm brings her attention back to the doctor, who is handing her a box of tissues. It's clear by the woman's face that she had asked a question and hadn't received a response. She apologizes and redirects her attention to the conversation at hand, confirming that she's a little shy of two months along and could expect a due date sometime in the later part of August. She's given directions on changes that would need to be made to her routine, a new prescription to be filled, when to schedule a follow-up appointment, and possible side effects to be prepared for. The doctor cleans the gel from her skin and asks if she wants a copy of the sonogram. Without hesitation, she agrees.
Gill is thankful for the early morning appointment because she needs most of the day to pull her thoughts together. Fear and panic were the predominant emotions she's experienced in the last two days, but exhilaration takes over as she walks out of the doctor's office. Her dream of having a child, one that she's held onto since she was a child herself, is finally in her grasp. Completely unexpected and unplanned but entirely exciting. She walks herself down to the pharmacy, enjoying the rather warm day for December in DC. Fall may be her favorite time of year, but Christmas is a close second, and with the long hours she's been putting in at the office, she's failed to see any of the beautiful decorations that dot the streets of the city. She knows that she probably looks like a fool to other pedestrians on the street, but she can't wipe the smile from her face. It's been too long since anything has elicited a truly genuine smile from her normally bright countenance. Taking in the spirit of the holidays and the unadulterated joy from the news, she feels more like herself than she has in weeks. She feels the flutter of her heart and realizes that Maya Angelou was right. Hope was the thing with feathers, and it was allowing her to soar.
When she returns to work the next morning, she doesn't tell anyone about her latest development, but she can't keep the smile off her face. Loker eyes her suspiciously, now used to the frown that has taken up residence on her face in the past few weeks. Ria studies her when she thinks Gillian isn't looking. In so many ways, the girl is like Cal, always determined to understand the emotions playing through everyone else while reading their faces like anyone else would read the paper. The two of them lack tact, sometimes to a painful extent. Ria, however, has the sense not to ask but to let Gillian offer her the information instead, at her own pace, which she appreciates since she's not ready to share the news and has yet to come up with a valid explanation of her sudden shift in mood. They carry on as they have been since Cal's departure, taking on cases that he would have deemed unworthy of their time to ensure that their bank account continues to climb towards a safer, less terrifying total. The three of them work comfortably together, settling into roles that evenly split the duties of their missing fourth man. And aside from missing Cal, she is happy.
She finally has to share the news with Ria and Loker when she finds that none of her clothing will hide the burgeoning swell of her stomach, leaving her no choice but to wear a dress that clearly shows the momentous change in her life. Thankfully, the morning is cold enough to warrant a coat on her walk into the office, allowing her a moment of reprieve behind her closed door to formulate what to divulge to her employees. In the end, it doesn't really matter as Loker barges through her closed door in his typical fashion, failing to knock as she is hanging her coat on the rack in the back corner of her office. She's completely exposed and Loker stops dead in his tracks, his question trailing off as his mouth hangs open. Pure shock and confusion is written plainly on his face. If she wasn't utterly unprepared as to how to explain the situation, she would have found his reaction comical. A soft grunt sounds through the heavy silence as Ria runs into Loker following his abrupt stop. Her head peeks around Eli's shoulder and surprise flashes across her face before morphing into one of the brightest smiles Gillian's ever seen on the girl. Gill returns the expression, placing a hand on the curve of her stomach. Ria congratulates her and nudges Loker so she can bring Gill in for a tight hug and a look that is asking questions but not expecting answers, a restraint that Gillian is beyond thankful for in this moment. Eli seems uncomfortable, as though he's unsure what to do with the information before him and awkwardly shuffles over for a gentle, if fleeting, hug. Gill turns the conversation back to Loker's question that had brought them into the room in the first place, and business returns as usual.
She's aware of the rumors that are spreading throughout the company, but she addresses none of them. Letting her employees wonder if she'd resorted to artificial insemination was currently preferable to explaining the messy truth. Weeks pass as the company regains its strength and reputation. Clients seem to be at ease with the fact that Dr. Lightman isn't available by seeing the work that they've managed to do without him there. A few high profile cases had come their way and the team had knocked them out of the park. She's proud of how her employees have stepped up into more responsibilities. It's reassuring her that things will run smoothly while she's on leave. She secretly hopes that Cal will return by then, for reasons beyond just the company, but in the realistic case that he doesn't, she's confident that Ria and Loker will be able to handle things in her absence. Her bump is undeniable now, protruding from her thin frame, a constant reminder of the second life she's now responsible for.
It's also a daily reminder that there will be a baby arriving in a few months that is half her, half Cal and he is still completely in the dark about any of it. She hasn't heard from him since the night he left. Emily provides her with very vague updates about her father, so she's gathered that he moved onto some new research after dealing with his father's arrangements. She hasn't pried for any more information, nor has she offered up any of her own. She wants to tell Emily, but she needs to tell Cal first. At the moment, she's not sure she would know how to tell him if he returned tomorrow, let alone when he's halfway across the world. Some small part of her wonders if he'll even want the baby. Maybe that part of his life is done now that Emily is out of the house. Will he even want to be involved? The more rational side of her brain reassures her that he's a good father, that he wouldn't abandon his own child as his parents did to him, but she doesn't want to trap him into a second go at parenthood. She doesn't want to guilt him into anything. But of course, right now, he's not here to even worry about, so she tries to put it all out of her mind. The tactic works well enough, save for some recurring dreams that are a picture of domestic bliss featuring all three of them. She knows she's in denial but she's happy, so she tells herself that's all that matters right now. And then she runs into Zoe and Emily.
She's enjoying a Saturday afternoon in the March sun on the terrace of her favorite cafe. She's brought a bit of work and a romance novel along for company on this spring day, enjoying a warm cup of hot chocolate, complete with whipped cream. She's tuned out of her surroundings, deep in a case file, when she hears her name. She looks up to see Emily Lightman coming in quickly for a hug, not even allowing her time to stand up and greet her. The girl's smile is infectious, bringing a matching one to Gill's face. Zoe stands back a bit, a small smile masking the tinge of jealousy that flashes across her face before she expertly schools her expression into a more neutral one. Emily's hug is awkward with Gill still seated as Emily stands, but she feels the moment recognition courses through the girl's body. A blush colors Gill's cheeks as she hears the girl ask in shock: are you pregnant?
Her hand comes to rest over the baby, a gesture she's found herself doing much more frequently in the recent weeks as she sheepishly confirms Emily's suspicion, as though there was any doubt. Zoe's eyes widen but she remains quiet as her daughter excitedly congratulates her. Gillian shuffles her things around, inviting them to join her for a bit if they have the time. Emily excitedly accepts, looking to her mother for permission. Zoe looks wholly uncomfortable but hides it well, acquiescing to her daughter's request. Emily takes drink orders for the three of them and heads inside, leaving the two women alone.
The air at the table is thick with their rocky history, so Gillian opts for a small smile and silence until Zoe decides differently. She's tidying up her files before the other woman finally musters up the nerve to start the conversation, remarking on the fact that she didn't know Gillian was seeing anyone. She has become accustomed to fielding this question in the last few months, replying with her now typical line that she isn't involved with anyone, hoping to convey with her tone that she doesn't wish to discuss the topic further. Zoe takes the hint and offers her a simple congratulation, waiting silently for her daughter's return. When Emily does return, the girl fills Gill in on everything she's experienced at Berkeley so far, explaining that she's home on spring break and returned to the city with Zoe so she could catch up on old friends while her mother works a case in DC.
As Emily talks, the baby grows restless, much like her father. His father. Its father? She decided not to find out the sex, secretly feeling like Cal should be there for that discovery since he wasn't there for the initial one. Gender neutral nurseries were a trend now anyway, so she'd recruited the help of Ria and Loker one weekend to paint her spare room in a soft yellow and assemble the furniture she'd purchased. Returning her attention to Emily, she noticed her large brown eyes, open wide right as she's recounting a story from school, along with her rounded cheekbones and thin nose. Would these be found on her child's face? Would the baby resemble her or look undeniably like Cal? The possibilities have filled her dreams and she's beginning to grow impatient in her pregnancy, wanting to hold her child now instead of waiting so many more weeks.
She notices a concerned expression on the girl's face and apologizes for zoning out during their conversation. Emily asks if she's alright, so she tells a half truth about being distracted because the baby is kicking. Her face softens and she smiles, clearly so happy to see her friend finally having her dream come true. Gillian sees a flash of curiosity on her face and knows that, just like her father, she wants to pry information out of Gill. Emily, however, knows it would be terribly rude to ask about the paternity of the baby, and ultimately bites her tongue. Zoe reminds Emily that they have another obligation, standing from the table in preparation to leave. Emily hugs Gill tightly, promising to find her before she leaves town so they can have a proper dinner. She blinks away tears as Emily whispers in her ear: this baby will be so lucky to have you as their mom, Gill.
It's nearly three weeks later when he returns. 184 days since she's seen his face, heard his voice, had any contact at all with him. Gill is spending her Saturday morning curled up on her couch in a pair of sweatpants she'd stolen from Cal's drawer on one of her cleaning trips, sipping a cup of chamomile tea. There's a marathon of old romance movies on TV today, so she's allowing herself to miss Cal and lounge around. Her sixth month of pregnancy was wearing her down. Halfway through the first movie, the peaceful quiet of her home is shattered by a demanding knock at the door. The visitor continues to knock until she answers the door, and she's preparing to give them a piece of her mind until she lays her eyes on him. Cal.
He's sporting a thin beard and a deeper tan than she's ever seen on him. She freezes, unsure how to greet her best friend turned lover who left six months ago and cut all contact with her. He seems just as shocked, eyes glued to her growing midsection currently dressed in his clothing. Tears fill her eyes, brought on at the sight of her best friend standing safely in front of her and the gravity of the moment. She says his name, trying to start a conversation but not knowing where to take it, so his name is all that she manages. He looks up to her face at the sound of her voice. His eyes are so expressive, and she knows that he's allowing her to see all the emotions he can't verbalize in the moment. Shock is the most obvious. Flashes of hurt and anger come next, causing her heart to race, leading the baby to kick gently at her. She's noticed it more lately; when her emotions start to get the better of her, the baby will kick as though they're reading her emotions and reminding her that she's not alone. Her first instinct is to bring her hand to her stomach, to soothe away the kicks, but she's afraid that it will look like a protective gesture to Cal, one that she's performing to protect their child from him, so she takes a deep breath instead.
She asks him if he's okay, afraid that a sudden return means he's hurt or something's happened with Emily, but he shakes the question off. She realizes he's here because of her, that someone had told him about the pregnancy and it paralyzes her. He reads the question on her face, informing her that Emily had asked him if he knew about Gill's pregnancy on their last phone call. He mumbles something about getting on a boat and three planes as fast as he could get his things together and that he was now standing on her doorstep to see for himself if it was true. She knows the question that he's too afraid to ask, sees the glimmer of hope and the panic of fear cross his face. Answering his unspoken question, she assures him. Yes, Cal. This baby is yours.
Tears of relief fill his eyes and she's not exactly sure what to do next. She can count the number of times she's seen him cry on one hand. Her first instinct is to gather him in her arms and not let him go, afraid that if she does, he will leave again and won't return, so she envelopes him in the tightest hug she can manage with the swell of their child between them. The baby is still kicking, probably hard enough now that Cal could feel it too, so she takes one of his hands in her own and brings it to her stomach, letting him feel the irrefutable proof of the life they've created together. He lets out a shaky breath, looking her in the eye as they just stand there in her doorway. She hugs him again and kisses his cheek gently before tugging on his hand to lead him into her home. The exhaustion is obvious on his face and she's sure he hasn't slept since he stepped foot on the first boat that started his journey back to her. His body moves toward her couch, but she tugs on his hand again and leads him further into the hallway, making the trek to her bedroom. His eyes are confused, skeptical about what she is leading him into, but she lets go of his hand and turns down the covers on her bed, climbing in and wordlessly asking him to join her.
He nudges his shoes off, sheds his jacket, and slides in next to her, staying silent but reading every expression she is offering on her face. She props herself up with some pillows against her headboard and guides his head to her lap with a hand on his neck. He acquiesces without a word until his head is cradled between the baby and her thighs, her hand in his hair, carding through the tangled locks, softly scratching his scalp. His eyes close and the tension in his face and shoulders slowly dissipates, leaving his face the most at peace she thinks she's ever seen. She knows he'll be asleep soon, so she says it quickly, before sleep can take him: we're so thankful you're home.