"I dunno what you want me to say, Zoe! I really don't." Cal paced back and forth in frustration before finally stopping in front of his wife and looking at her intently. "She's my partner."
"And that's all she is?"
The suspicion in Zoe's voice did not go unnoticed by Cal. He threw his arms up into the air, silently trying to remember when his marriage had become such a mess of distrust and yelling. "Well no! I mean…" He could tell that had been the wrong thing to say. He quickly added, "Gillian is a friend. She's my business partner and a friend. You are my wife, Zoe. I dunno how many times I have to say that before you'll actually begin to believe it!"
"I'll believe it when you start acting like I'm your wife." Zoe began walking out of the kitchen.
"Wh…what the hell's that supposed to mean?" Cal followed angrily. He hated when she walked away from him. He grabbed her wrist before she could head upstairs. "Stop running away! I've done nothing wrong!"
Zoe opened her mouth to rebut but stopped when she caught a figure out of the corner of her eye. She tilted her head up and Cal followed suit…
Cal knocked on the glass door but poked his head into the office before he got an answer. "Hi." His eyes briefly met with Gillian's before he focused on his daughter.
Emily was curled up on the couch beside Gillian. Her eyes were red but she looked straight at her father, indicating she was ready to speak with him now. "Hi, Dad."
"I uh…" Cal awkwardly slid into the office and closer to the couch. "I'm done with my case. I'm ready to go if…if you are."
Emily nodded and tiredly got up from the couch. "I just wanna go to the bathroom…wash my face…" She trailed off, noting the look of concern on Cal's face. "I'm not gonna run away this time, don't worry. I'll be right back."
Cal nodded and as his daughter disappeared from the room, his attention switched to Gillian, who was now looking at him with an expression on her face that told him Emily had told her everything. He shrugged sheepishly, waving his hand as if he could literally brush away Gillian's inevitable words, "I know what you're gonna say but…"
"Your daughter's hurt, Cal. Nothing I say can possibly tell you more than seeing Emily in tears, I'm sure."
"I tried, I really did." He shook his head.
"I know. You took out a bank loan in our company's name and put our financial stability in danger. I know how badly you tried." She paused pointedly before continuing, "But right now, you need to focus on Emily. No matter what Zoe said, all Emily thinks right now is that her mother chose her job over her. That isn't something she'll just get over in a day or two."
"But Zoe stayed…I mean…" He stopped as Gillian gave him another knowing look. He nodded in defeat. "But it's not enough."
The two shared a silent moment before the door opened and Emily returned, looking slightly refreshed. She managed a smile as she grabbed her jacket and backpack. "Ok, I'm ready."
Cal nodded and placed a comforting arm around his daughter, leading her out the office. "Goodnight, Gillian."
Before Gillian could answer, Emily stopped and turned around. "Thanks for everything."
Gillian smiled, "You're welcome and goodnight, you two."
"Honey, why aren't you asleep?" Zoe gave Cal a quick look before turning back to their daughter, who was standing on the upper steps of the staircase looking down at them.
"Why are you always fighting?" Emily asked, her eyes darting from one parent to the other.
"Oh, love, it's nothing…it's really nothing. Your Mom and I were just disagreeing about something. We weren't fighting."
When Emily didn't respond, Zoe ascended the stairs and nudged her daughter back towards her room. "C'mon, it's late and you have school tomorrow. Back to bed."
Cal watched from the bottom of the staircase. As Emily entered her room, she gave one last look towards him. It broke his heart.
They had been silent since leaving the office. Cal wasn't sure how to begin or where to begin. He sneaked another glance at his daughter. Emily's face was turned towards the window. He sighed. Well, here goes nothing… "You know, your mother…"
"I hope you're not gonna start defending her again." Emily replied quietly but promptly, her face still turned towards the window.
"I just don't want you to think you mean any less to her just because…"
"I really don't wanna talk about it, Dad." She finally turned to look at him. "Please."
He nodded, turning his attention back to the road ahead. "Ok, alright…we don't have to talk about it right now. How about some dinner? What do you feel like?"
"How about Giovanni's?"
Interpreting the curiousity in her father's voice correctly, Emily smiled, "Gillian told me about it. She said you guys used to always go there. Best pizza in town, right?"
"You know, I never knew you were into pizza, Dad."
"Well…" He bit his tongue. He had always loved pizza but Zoe never did so, he would never have it when she was around. "you know, it just never came up, I guess."
"You mean Mom never liked it so you just went along with it."
"Well you make it sound like she forced me to stop eating it but, the truth is, I stopped on my own accord. Marriage is about compromise."
Emily frowned and looked at him again. "Dad, can I ask you something?"
"Sure, love, anything."
"Do you still love Mom?"
"I…" He rolled into an empty parking spot and put the car in park. Taking his time, he unbuckled his seatbelt and took the keys out of the ignition.
"You don't have to answer if you don't want to."
"It's not that I don't want to answer, it's just a rather complicated question."
"How complicated can it be? You either love someone or you don't, right? If you're afraid about how I'll feel, you don't have to worry about that. I've watched you and Mom fight 24 hours a day since I was 8. I had gotten so used to it, it was almost weird seeing you two get along this past year."
Cal knew there was no getting around this question. He sighed, "I'll always have a place for your mother in my heart. She gave me you, after all."
"When you know there's a car crash ahead, you don't keep driving on that road, you know what I mean? You find a detour. Your mother and I…if we ever got back together, that would be a car crash, to put things lightly."
Emily chuckled, "I'm glad you know, Dad, cuz it would've been awkward if I had to tell you that. C'mon, I'm starving! So which pizza is best here?"
Cal looked up from where he was seated at his desk. He held his glass of scotch up and tilted it towards the figure in the door. "Wanna join me?"
"I thought you had left the ball to go home early." Gillian entered the office.
"I did, I did." He nodded drunkenly, "Cuz Zoe wanted to go home. To argue."
Gillian pursed her lips, trying to hold back the words she desperately wanted to say. Instead, she reached for the bottle of scotch and an empty glass on the portable bar by the desk. "Well you didn't miss much, in case you were wondering. Agent Hamlin got drunk as he does every year and Agent Morris's speech went about half an hour too long. Please remind me why we always agree to go to those FBI balls when they have nothing to do with us?" She closed her eyes and tilted her head back as she let the smooth liquor slide down her throat.
Cal squinted his eyes as he watched her intently. "Why did you and I never get together?"
Gillian's eyes popped open in shock. She looked at him as if to make sure what she had heard had been accurate. "Excuse me?" She asked, almost unable to keep the amusement out of her voice.
"You and I!" He gestured at the empty space between them. "Oh right…cuz you found uh…" He waved his hand around some more as he struggled to find the right name in his scotch-filled haze, "uh…Alec. Right. Alec!"
Was that disdain she had heard in his voice? No, it must've been the scotch talking. She placed her still half-filled glass down onto his desk rather loudly. "Go home, Cal. Argue some more. Go to sleep. Do whatever. Just go home."
"Oh wow, Gillian was right! This place is so good!" Emily said in between bites of her slice of pizza.
"You know, I was the one who introduced her to this place." Cal insisted with authority before taking a swig of his beer. He noticed his daughter give him a questionable smile but when she said nothing, he asked, "What?"
She shook her head, giving him another smile, "Nothing…"
"What? No, really, what?"
"It's nothing…it's just…do you notice that whenever you talk about Gillian, you seem really…relaxed? Happy, even. Yet when you talk about Mom, your face gets all tense and your shoulders roll up like a monster."
"Like a monster?" Cal considered it for a moment before shaking his head, "Well, that's not true at all!"
"Right, ok, Dad…" Emily shrugged, obviously unconvinced.
"I dunno what you're implying, Em, but I'm sure if you talked to any married man about their wives or ex-wives, they would respond in much the same way."
"That's not true. When I talk to Cecily's dad and he mentions her mom, he smiles, and I don't think you need to be a facial expression expert to know he's genuinely happy when he talks about her. Look, Dad, I'm not saying this is a bad thing. You and Mom have history. Not all of it is good. I understand." She paused before continuing with a bigger smile, "Plus, I think it's kinda cute that you have a crush on Gillian."
"Crush?" Cal's face scrunched up in mock disgust. "Emily! I am your father!"
Emily laughed. "So? You and Mom have been divorced for so long. I think it'd be nice if you found someone for yourself."
"Found someone for myself…" He repeated under his breath as if he couldn't believe what he was hearing.
"Yes, Dad, because as much as you hate to admit it, I'm growing up now and eventually I'll be leaving for college and then what? It'd be nice for you to find a companion and if that person happens to be Gillian, I think that would be great! She's great."
"Are you feeling alright, love?" He placed his hand on her forehead as if to check her temperature.
She swatted his hand away and laughed some more, "You can avoid it all you want but I can see the way you look at her." She paused before saying in a more serious tone, "It's like the way you used to look at Mom…before all the fighting began."
"I can't believe I'm having this conversation with my 17-year old daughter!" Cal leaned back in his chair.
"You just can't believe I noticed it. Plus, I find it funny that you haven't once denied that you actually like her." Emily's small smile grew into a grin.
Cal groaned at the sound of knocking on his door. It sounded like a jackhammer by the time he reached his ears. "Stop knocking, stop knocking…come in…" He grunted lazily as he lifted his head from his desk, which had done double-duty last night as his pillow.
"I see you didn't take my advice." Gillian stood authoritatively over him.
"No, I decided I'd have a better night's sleep here." He winced as he looked up at her, "You know…cuz if I had gone home, my wife would've nagged me until I had no choice but to come back here to sleep. So, really, I saved myself two trips and plenty of gas."
"Stop being smug and take these." She handed him a bottle of aspirin and a bottle of water. "We're supposed to be at the police station in half an hour. Go freshen up. I'll wait for you in the lobby."
"Oh, hey…" He waited until Gillian turned around to face him, "Thank you. I know I don't say that enough but thank you."
The look on her face softened. "Hurry up. Don't wanna be late."
"Hey, good morning."
Gillian exited the elevator and kept walking towards her office, "Morning. Did we have a case this morning? What's going on?"
"No, no…I just…wanted to say good morning." Cal followed closely behind.
After placing a few files on her desk and taking a sip of the coffee that had been in her other hand, she stopped and looked at him suspiciously, "What did you do?"
"Ok…" She replied carefully, studying his face for an answer. "How's Emily?"
"Much better after she got a taste of Giovanni's pizza."
"Oh, you brought her! Great!" She smiled, "When I told her, she seemed surprised to find out you ate pizza."
"Yeah, yeah…Zoe was never that into it…" He trailed off.
"Right." She sat down and began fiddling around with her computer. She slowly looked back at him when she noticed he hadn't left. "Cal, is there something you need to speak to me about?"
"Uh…yeah…there is…actually something…" He took a few steps closer to her desk and placed his hand on the back of his head. Why was this so hard? "Um…I just wanted to see if…you know…maybe you still liked pizza?"
"You wanted to see if I still liked pizza?" She frowned. "Yes, Cal, I do still like pizza. I was lucky, I didn't have a husband who stopped me from liking it."
He ignored the smirk on her face and stumbled awkwardly on, "That's good because I was just wondering if maybe you wanted to…have pizza…with me and Em tonight."
"You're gonna have Giovanni's pizza again tonight?" She continued to frown, unable to figure out what was wrong with Cal today. "Sure, that sounds good."
"Good, good…yeah, good. Alright then, I'll see you later." With that, he turned abruptly and left her, still confused, alone in her office.
Cal ran his hand through his hair once more as he headed towards the lobby where he found Gillian waiting for him. Having freshened up in the bathroom and taken two aspirins, his head had begun to clear up and it wasn't until now that he noted the simple black dress his partner had on that morning. Why was she always in black? He remembered when he had first met her. She had always worn a lot of pink. He used to think that was very weird but now that she was wearing a lot of black, he found himself missing her pink clothing.
The sound of his name snapped him out of his thoughts. "Yeah?"
"Sure, yeah." He followed her into the elevator and when the doors closed, he turned to her and said, "You should wear more colour. You look good in pink." When she didn't respond, he didn't dare to look at her. Had he offended her? As he ran through the possibilities in his head, he missed the small smile that had developed on her face.
"I'm glad you like this place, Emily."
Emily smiled, "Yeah, but clearly not as much as my dad likes it." She looked pointedly at her father.
Cal ignored her and gestured at Gillian's empty can of soda. "How about another orange soda? Yeah?" Before she could reply, he was out of his seat and heading towards the counter.
"Emily, is your father alright today? He seems a little jumpy."
Emily glanced back at Cal to make sure he was out of earshot before she turned to Gillian and whispered, "He's nervous."
"I know you've probably had a lot of guys ask you out before and stuff and usually first dates don't include the guy's daughter but…" Emily rolled her eyes, "you know my dad. He's not exactly Mr. Social and I don't think he's dated anyone since Mom…or even anyone besides Mom, so he's a little out of touch. I really didn't think he'd be so nervous to ask me to come along but…"
"Whoa, wait…what are you saying, Emily? Are you saying your dad wants to ask me out?"
"Long story short, yeah."
Before Gillian could react, Cal returned with a brand new can of orange soda for her. "What'd I miss?" He sat down and looked at both ladies.
"I just told Gillian you wanted to ask her out since she had no idea that you technically already did today and now I'm gonna go to the bathroom for a really long time so I don't have to be here to witness the awkwardness that will now occur."
Gillian couldn't help but laugh at the open-mouth-expression on Cal's face as he watched his daughter trot away. "So, Cal? What is this about?"
"I dunno what Emily told you but…she seems to think that I…that you and I…" He shook his head, "Oh hell, I don't even know how to say this." He paused and looked at her. When she said nothing, he continued, "My daughter seems to think I should ask you out on a date of some sort."
"So this was Emily's idea?" She could barely keep the disappointment out of her voice.
"Well yeah…" He could tell he had said the wrong thing again. He had a knack for that. "I mean, no! Well, yes, it was her idea but I wouldn't have done it if I hadn't wanted it myself. I mean, since Zoe, I never really gave much thought to this kinda stuff, I just tried to focus on Emily and on work and…and you were still with Alec and I would never have done anything to jeopardize that…not that I think I had enough power or influence to do so and…" He stopped, realizing he wasn't making much sense.
"Cal, all you had to do was ask."
"Right, well, I thought I did?"
"I mean, ask and actually let me know it's a date."
"Yeah, yeah….and not use my daughter as an excuse, I suppose that would be good too."
"Yes, Cal, that would be good too."
He fidgeted with the napkin on the table before sheepishly glancing up at Gillian, who was still looking at him with an amused smile, "I'm horrible at this."
She let out the laugh she had been holding back. "Yeah, well, you can't be good at everything."
"So this…you think this might get me off the hook about the whole taking out a bank loan to buy out Zoe thing?"
"Not a chance, Cal, not a chance."