"I thought you didn't like to eat anything where you couldn't see the meat." Gillian's surprise at seeing Cal in the doorway only lasted a second. She pointed to the take-out boxes he came bearing.
He shrugged. "I know you like eating weird and wonderful things. See this as…a peace offering of sorts."
She joined him at the table and her eyes widened greedily as he opened up the boxes, each containing some of her favourite take-out items. "Wow, you went all out."
"You seemed very angry." He responded quickly, not missing a beat.
Too busy already working on her first piece of sweet-and-sour pork, she simply smiled in response.
"Does that mean I'm forgiven?"
She swallowed the tasty bit of meat and looked at him. "I just wish you would trust me a little more. I've worked with you for six years now, Cal. That should mean something."
"It does, love! I just don't want our work to affect you the way it has affected me."
"What do you mean?" For a moment, she was confident she had caught a glimmer of openness on his face but it was gone quickly, like all of his other displays of emotion.
He shifted uncomfortably in his seat and fidgeted with a napkin on the table. He knew she was waiting for an answer but he struggled for the right words. Before he could respond, however, there was a sound in the lobby. Someone had arrived.
As if suddenly remembering why she was still here past office hours, Gillian shot up from her seat and gave her lips a quick wipe with a napkin. "That must be Betty Brandon." She stopped before fully exiting the kitchen. "Cal?" She waited until he looked up at her. "Don't leave yet, ok?"
Betty Brandon was a busty blonde who seemed to have a penchant for diamond jewelry. Everything her handbag down to her shoes was embossed with some sort of expensive brand name. Gillian didn't like to judge books by their covers but if she were to do so, she could see why someone like Betty would need ammunition if she and Chase Brandon were to ever get a divorce. Nothing pays better than having a judge know your husband cheated.
"So?" Betty obviously wanted to get down to business. "What did you find out?"
"All signs point to the possibility of your husband cheating."
"I knew it!" The blonde slammed the table with her hand. "That bastard would never be happy with just one woman."
"Mrs. Brandon, I just wanna be clear that our job was only to test whether or not he would cheat when given the chance. We don't actually have any evidence of him having cheated before. You would need at least that to succeed in divorce court."
"Divorce court? Who said anything about a divorce?"
Gillian bit her tongue, realizing she may have just said the wrong thing. "I'm sorry, I just assumed…"
"That I was asking you to find out whether or not he would cheat because I needed proof to use against him in a divorce?" Betty scoffed. "My husband is one of the richest men in the country. I would be the only loser in a divorce. I'm not letting him go this easily."
"So, if you don't mind me asking, what exactly do you plan to do?"
"Stay with him. Be the best wife I can be. And when he's not looking, I'm gonna take all his money and make sure he's left with nothing if he ever dares to leave me. He can play all he wants but, at the end of the day, I'm the one he'll come home to."
Gillian shook her head as she headed back towards the kitchen. She had just walked Betty Brandon out the door and was going through the woman's words in her head. My husband is one of the richest men in the country. I would be the only loser in a divorce. I'm not letting him go this easily. A few years back, she would've never understood why a woman like Betty would stay in a bad relationship. It used to seem so simple. If you're unhappy with someone, you leave. Now that she had gone through a bad marriage of her own, she knew it was never that easy…
Cal's voice snapped Gillian out of her thoughts. She looked up to find that she had walked right past the kitchen. She backtracked and found Cal still sitting inside, waiting for her as she had asked him to. "Hey, sorry about that."
"Food got a bit cold so I reheated them for you."
She smiled. "Thanks." Who said Cal Lightman was careless and insensitive? This was a side of him she had been privy to so many times and wanted others to see but knew they would probably never get to see.
"How did it go with the wife? No flipped tables or broken glass so, I assume it went well?"
"Better than well, actually." She picked up a pair of chopsticks and got herself a dumpling. "She plans to stay with him. Only wanted us to test him so she could prepare herself for a long bumpy road."
"What does that mean?"
"She's gonna steal all his money to make sure he never leaves her." She shook her head again as she tasted the dumpling. Somehow, she wasn't that hungry anymore. She put down her chopsticks. "I guess that's what love has become these days." When she noticed him looking at her intently, she shrugged. "I don't even know why I'm letting the case get to me so much. It's not like whatever happens in their marriage affects me."
"You're upset because you've always been eternally optimistic about these kinds of things…love and such. When things don't happen the way they do as in your romance novels, it upsets you."
"If this is your roundabout way of again reminding me of how naïve I am for reading romance novels…"
"It's not. Actually, I'm quite glad you're upset."
"Means you still have a heart."
She narrowed her eyes at him. "Which is usually a good thing…"
"It is. It means these last six years haven't gotten to you as much as I thought they had."
Something clicked in her mind. This sounded oddly like what Ria had said to her earlier. He thinks he's contaminated you. "Did you think they would? That I had changed?"
"Like to admit it or not, you have changed."
He nodded, still unsure whether this conversation was appropriate to have or not, but he knew there was no turning back now. "Do you remember when we were guests at the Korean ambassador's wedding banquet for his son? After everything had happened, Alec had come to you several times asking you to let him go. You refused."
"Yes, because it was against work protocol."
"So you said." He waited for a reaction but when he got none, he continued. "I believe you're a consummate professional but I also believe that what you did that day was more of a personal reason than a professional one."
"Oh, ok, so now you're gonna analyze my actions." Her voice was tinged with the slightest annoyance.
"I'm not saying what you did was wrong. You read Alec and you could tell he was lying to you. You didn't let him go because you were afraid of where he was really heading to." He could tell she was struggling with how to react. He knew he was right, which made it hard for her to be too angry. "You read him. You didn't want to admit to it but that's what you did. One of the greatest pitfalls of our job. Sometimes you can turn it off after work and sometimes…it just always stays on."
"I think this conversation is over." She got up from the table.
"The point I was trying to make was that you have changed and I take responsibility for it."
She had been prepared to storm out of there but stopped. She looked down at him. There was nothing but sincerity and sadness in his eyes. "It's not your fault."
"I got you into this. I begged you to quit your job at the clinic to come be my partner. This job changed you. It's my fault."
"Cal, I chose to come work with you because I believed in your vision. I believed in your talent." She sat back down. "Yes, I have learned a lot from working with you but even without you or this job, my marriage still would've fallen apart. I still would've realized Alec was lying. Everything else still would've happened."
He looked at her but said nothing. It was easier to feel guilty when your 'victim' wasn't sitting in front of you, trying to make you feel less guilty.
"Torres said you thought you had contaminated me. Is that what you had meant?"
Cal's attention was piqued. "That was a private conversation." But he knew that wasn't true. No part of his conversation with Matheson had been private. He had turned on the audio for the others himself. He looked away, suddenly embarrassed that Gillian had found out what he had said. "I told Matheson. It was just a conversation I tried using to get him to trust me."
"So you didn't mean it?"
"No, I did!" Why did this have to be so hard? He took a deep breath to calm his nerves. "I have always felt guilty about dragging you into all of this. Sometimes I think how pleasant and calm your life would be if I hadn't asked you to be my partner."
"Why didn't you ever tell me this?"
He considered it for a moment. "I guess having a gun pointed at your head can bring a lot of submerged feelings to the surface."
"Feelings?" She smiled. "I thought that was my department?"
He poked some dumplings around with a pair of chopsticks and suddenly remembered why he had come back to the office in the first place. "Now that I've taken a shot at being honest, you think maybe you can do the same?"
"When am I ever not honest with you?"
"Now? Why have you been acting so odd towards me all day? Last night, this morning…I thought we were good. I apologized for running out after Matheson had been subdued."
"You think that's what's wrong?"
"I don't know! Wouldn't be asking if I did."
"Why did you come to me last night? You could've gone to Zoe's. Emily was there. You could've gone home. You could've drank yourself to oblivion. Why my place?"
He frowned, not sure what the point of the question was. "Because I wanted to check on you. Make sure you were alright." He knew immediately by the expression on her face that he had said the wrong thing.
"That's what I thought." She sounded disappointed.
"Is that wrong?"
She looked at him for a long while before finally shaking her head. "No. It isn't."
He could tell she had been close to revealing the true answer to this mystery but had backed off at the last moment. For a long time, they sat in silence. He wasn't sure what she was thinking about but he was going through everything she had said to him tonight. Absolutely every single word. And it suddenly hit him. He knew what was wrong. Funny thing is, he had known the solution to this mystery earlier when he had been talking to Emily. He just never consciously put everything together until now.
"I came to you because I was afraid you were still upset. I knew you were very upset yesterday when everything was happening. I wanted to make sure you were alright. I mean that." He said pointedly. "But it wasn't just for you." Though the reaction from her was subtle, it did not go unnoticed by him. He could see her face slowly lighting up. "I came to you because I wanted to. Asking to stay over was as much for you as it was for me."
Finally, he had admitted it. Though he had said approximately the same thing to Emily earlier, he knew it meant nothing unless he could say it to Gillian. He waited with bated breath for her to say something.
Slowly, she began allowing her emotions to show on her face. Relieved. Grateful. Touched. "Thank you. For being honest."
"So that really was what you were upset about?" He tried his best not to sound incredulous, not wanting to offend her any further.
"I didn't want to have you come to me because you thought that was what I needed. Cal, no matter how upset I was, it was nothing compared to what you went through. You could've died." She paused, her voice cracking ever so slightly. "The last thing I wanted was for you to worry about me."
"But I was."
She laughed. "But you also came to me cuz you needed someone and you have to be able to admit that to move on."
"So this was all a ploy just to get me to open up?" He looked shocked but secretly, he was amused by how far she had gone just to care about him.
"Do you know what happens to people who don't open up? Who bottle everything inside until, one day, they just burst? They end up like Matheson."
"So you were afraid I'd take a bunch of people hostage and cause a scene."
"Cal, I'm serious."
"Why didn't you just ask me in a straightforward manner? Why put on such an act?"
"Would you have opened up if I had just asked you?"
He crossed his arms and studied the woman in front of him. "You are a lot better at this than I have ever given you credit for."
"That's what I keep saying." She grinned.
"And what if I hadn't said everything I just said? What then?"
"Then I wait. However long it would've taken, I would've waited until you were ready to talk to me."
"You must think you're a genius for besting the likes of me."
"Oh, Cal, I've always been able to best the likes of you. I just choose to let you believe otherwise."
The amusement in her voice was undeniable yet he didn't feel the least bit angry or annoyed that he had been played. On the contrary, he felt relieved to know what had been wrong and that, even though it had taken a while, he had ended up doing the right thing in her eyes. Even more satisfying was realizing no matter how much she had changed, there was always a part of Gillian that was always going to be sunny and optimistic.
"I hope you're not planning to take back all this food now that you know I wasn't actually upset with you."
A laugh escaped his lips. The first sincere laugh he had felt come up from the pits of his stomach all day. Yesterday, being held hostage was hell. Today, dealing with the aftermath was almost just as bad. But none of that mattered anymore because the morning after was finally over. Tomorrow would be a better day.