Chapter 6

Nikko was trying to hack into his Dad's computer when Cal stuck his head round the side of the study door.

"Give up, junior: I re-encrypted it for him," Cal drawled lazily. "Have you seen Juliet around today?"

"She was in her lab last I saw," Nikko asnswered, ignoring the suggestion that he 'give up' his attempt on the computer. "Shouldn't you still be on crutches or something?"

"Yeah, yeah, I'll get back to 'em. There's just something I have to do first."

Nikko glanced up with a raised eyebrow, but Cal had already turned away.

Juliet wasn't in her lab. Nor was she in her rooms: Cal had tried both of those obvious choices before even considering Doctor Zond's office. He had also tried the kitchens, the main lab, Maggie's lab and the library. That only left a few possibilities. At least finding Nikko had confirmed that she was actually in the building somewhere.

He wandered through the artifact stores, checking darkened corners in case she had spotted him and decided to avoid him. Not that she was without cause: he'd hardly been that eager to find her himself until this morning. It wasn't that he'd suddenly undergone any great change of heart on the matter. He still felt exactly the same as he had six months ago, closer to seven now really. He knew even just seeing her was going to be painful, but this wasn't something he could let pass by. She had to know.

Eventually he tracked her down. She was in the basement, in the archives, engrossed in some old case files. He slowed his steps, walking so quietly that he was right behind her before she noticed his presence.

The shock and guilt on her face as she turned round to see who was there couldn't have been meant for him, Cal reasoned, so she must have been looking at something the others weren't aware of. She soon recovered, however, and a look of annoyance and irritation flooded across her features instead.

"Out of my way, Cal," said Juliet, trying to step around her colleague.

"Not this time," Cal replied, blocking her way with an arm firmly fixed to the shelving unit on either side of her. "You need to hear this, and for once, and I really mean this Juliet, for once this has nothing to do with you and me and what happened in Syria."

Juliet swallowed visibly. Her back was to the shelving unit and she really wanted to run right now. Not because Cal was scaring her: he wasn't. If there was anyone in the room she didn't trust, it was herself.

"Hear what?" Juliet snapped, looking away impatiently. "This had better be important!"

"I overheard a conversation this morning," Cal sighed. "I heard a voice I recognised, so I listened in. Rude of me, I know, but considering what I heard I think I've been justified on that point."

"Well?" Juliet folded her arms, for want of somewhere to put her hands, and leant back against the shelves. It was the unit that backed onto the wall of the basement, so she could press herself back against it as far as she could without worrying about toppling it.

Cal took a breath and winced. She wasn't going to make this easy for him, but then who would in her position?

"It was Anthony," he said, and caught the glance Juliet flashed towards him. "He was talking to somebody, on a cellphone. He didn't see me. He had his back towards me. I figured he'd just been walking you to work."

"He probably had," said Juliet warily.

"I don't know who he was talking to, he didn't mention any names. I didn't catch anything that came through the cellphone either. All I heard was 'Stop worrying. Everything's fine. She doesn't suspect anything.' Then there was a pause. Presumably the person on the other end wasn't inclined to stop worrying because the next thing he said was 'So what if it takes a little longer than planned! These things are never set in stone. I'm getting more access to the building every day. All I need is another week, maybe two, and we'll have what we want.' Then there was another pause and he hung up. Or rather, I'm guessing, whoever he's working for hung up on him."

"You don't know that has anything to do with me, Cal," Juliet snapped, meeting his eyes fully for the first time in their conversation. "That conversation could have been about anything! Anthony works in the real estate business: it could have been any one of a number of buildings he was talking about. Any one of a number of female rivals or difficult clients that 'doesn't suspect anything'! You have absolutely no evidence that he was talking about me or here or anything to do with Veritas! And you have absolutely no right to spy on him like that!"

"When did you get so blind, Juliet!" Cal snapped. "Stop making excuses for the man! He's not worth it! And don't try to tell me that he is, or that you love him anyway, because I know that's not true!"

"Don't tell me what I feel, Cal!" Juliet's voice rose angrily. "You don't have a clue what I feel!"

"Oh, really? You think?" Cal's eyebrows rose. "Tell me then. Convince me that you love this guy and that he is totally on the level and deserves you and I will walk away, right now, and never mention this again. Convince me that there is no good reason why you can't even bear to look at me unless you're yelling at me. That you are perfectly at ease in my company. That you're not uncomfortable with me this close." He let his arms bend slightly to bring him closer to her, and immediately Juliet's arms uncrossed themselves, her hands wavering in the space between them, ready to push him away but not quite able to bring herself to make contact. Cal bent his head down next to her ear. "Tell me your heart isn't beating faster right now because of me."

"Cal, don't do this," Juliet hissed. "I'm with Anthony now."

"You don't love him," Cal breathed into her ear.

"He loves me," Juliet replied, deflecting the telling statement.

"I love you."

Juliet's breath caught. There was no reply to that. What her heart wanted to say, her head wouldn't let her. What her head wanted to say, her heart wouldn't allow either. She swallowed again. He was so close now she could feel the warmth of his body surrounding her. It was a familiar warmth. Part of her was sure that if she closed her eyes and let herself feel comfortable in that warmth, they could turn back the clock and wake up in that underground maze in Syria, before everything had started to go wrong.

But everything had gone wrong, and clocks could not be turned backwards. She felt her fingertips graze his shirt and took a breath.

"Cal, please: let me go," Juliet whispered, her voice pained and stretched. "I'll talk to Anthony. I'll see what I can find out. Just let me go, please!"

Calvin backed off in silence, his hands in the air and his eyes on the floor. His cheeks were flushed, just like they had been that day he had caught her on her descent from the jet. He walked away without another word. This time she was sure her own face was burning too.