Title: He Has Departed From This Strange World A Little Ahead of Me
Gillian, Cal/Gillian, Emily, Loker, Reynolds, Torres, Zoe – no spoilers, angst, character death PG-13
Disclaimer: I do not own this show or these characters. I hope they never do this.
Warning: Character death.
1.A massive thank you to my beyond wonderful beta, tempertemper77 for taking time out at Christmas to beta not one, but two fics from me. She catches the late night punctuation errors and Britishisms, and is forever encouraging and saying the kindest of things.
2. This is what came out while I was trying to get inside Gillian's head (re. Cal in Afghanistan) for my Christmas fic. Please don't read if you don't want to read about character death.
Forget you? I can barely even remember anything before you.
It started with flashing lights. A foot off the curb too soon and an errant driver (drunk, they found out later). As if no one else had ever started to walk as the lights were changing, as if this was the first to be held up as a lesson for all others, wait until the light is green. But the driver didn't wait until his light was green, he probably couldn't even see it.
She hears screaming; loud, desperate screams that eventually she realizes are coming from herself. Choking sobs, gasps for air, hands on a face that is no longer moving. There are no goodbyes, no parting words of love. This isn't a film and here and now, in real life, there just wasn't the time. Cal! Cal, come on, Cal. But she's talking to no one and everyone at the same time as a group gathers around them, the driver swerving around a corner at the far end of the street. They probably won't catch him and he'll probably drink himself to death instead, killing another couple of people on the way.
She'd never been one for bitter thoughts but as she sits there with his head in her lap is he getting colder? He's so cold listening to the sirens getting closer, closer, closer, she thinks how unfair life is. The rough road digs into her shins, marking her skin as she thinks, melodramatically, that her heart has been blackened and things aren't ever going to be the same again.
Apparently - in this situation that she never even contemplated, so serious was she that it would never happen - she is unable to deal. She, the rock, his rock, the organiser and the problem solver and the stick the pieces back together-er, can't even think what needs to be done, who needs to be called. Oh, God – Emily. - I called Zoe, Loker says. She thinks she said thank you. The thought of Emily offers a moment of clarity and she thinks, for a moment, that there is someone suffering worse than she is. This only makes her feel worse.
She opens her door and suddenly has arms full of Emily. She looks up to find Zoe, standing as far back from the door as she can to just about be seen as polite rather than unwilling to enter, her face for once entirely readable. Grief. Sorrow. And even now, in the aftermath of what none of them could ever have possibly been prepared for, and as Gillian breathes in a mouthful of Emily's hair her head is pressed so tightly into her neck, jealousy.
Gillian realises, as she thinks Zoe already has, that even without Cal there oh God, this isn't happening they are forever linked. The gap he has left will be grafted over by Emily herself and Gillian and Zoe will always be in each others' lives. Looking each other in the eye, there's almost a moment of respect for the other's strength, and realisation of, actually, how much they both need it. They may not like each other would they have liked each other if they hadn't had Cal in common? Probably not but they are sure as hell going to need each other. Funny how life throws you together, she thinks bitterly, as she clings to the only part of Cal left on this Earth.
As she lies in bed, she thinks about the line. Is it her fault that the closest he got to being where she is now was the room next door? She thinks that it is. She thinks about how afraid she was of spoiling their friendship, how terrified she was that he'd end up hurting her by falling in to bed with some hussy one night after they'd had the bitterest of arguments he'd never have done that, though, the ones that come out of loving each other so much and being able to read each other so well. It should make it easier, but it doesn't.
She thinks about all the things they'll never share and some of the things they did. She thinks that they were closer than most married couples could ever hope to be but that married couples got to hold each other and right now all she can wish for is that the other half of the bed were warm and his strong arms were wrapped around her waist. If she concentrates really hard, she can almost smell his scent in the air in her mind, but the line between reality and desperate hope have blurred so considerably.
She turns her head into her pillow and cries herself to sleep it takes a few hours.
She has the biggest dark circles under her eyes when she finally manages to shoo Loker out of her front door. He can read her as well as she could read herself damn this gift but he hasn't subjected her to his radical honesty once since it happened and he pretended to believe her when she said she was fine and was just going to go to bed even though he could read that she wasn't and she could read that he didn't believe her at all.
She lies in bed and wonders whether she's religious, what she believes in and whether she should believe in it anymore. She decides that she has to believe in heaven, at least, because that's where Cal is now and where she'll see him again one day. One day is too far away.
Ben forces her to leave the house. It's been five weeks exactly, and he's on her doorstep with a smile on his face and a plan for the day. It involves a lot of sugar, he says, and it almost draws a smile from her. It reminds her so much of him and who eats pudding at ten in the morning?
It's ten am, she tells Ben, almost crying but not and with a terribly sad smile on her face, it's time for chocolate pudding. He fits it in to the plan willingly.
Every time Torres looks at her, Gillian knows she's thinking how broken she looks. She can't hide anything from Torres, not a thing, and she finds that she can't even hide from herself just how broken she is.
She is missing a piece of herself. You've been reading too many of those romance novels, coming up with tosh like that. She hears him so clearly that she spins around. People in the hallway look at her strangely – but she's used to that now.
As the seasons change and The Lightman Group stays The Lightman Group Just Without Lightman, she adapts. She doesn't get used to it, doesn't like it she hates it, she hates it so fucking much, doesn't accept it. But she adapts, much like she does when he's away, and this is how she deals with it. One day at a time. Emily helps her a great deal, because when she looks into her eyes she sees him, and when Emily looks at her, she sees her father's life.
Together they go on with their lives, changed people though, really, not for the better.
It's been seven months. She's curled in the foetal position in the middle of her bed why not, it's not as if there's anyone to share it with when she screams into her pillow why did you leave me? She pounds the mattress with her fist and even she, in this state, can recognise the stage she's at that she's always preaching about to other people five stages of grief – you're currently experiencing anger.
But as soon as she registers it, it dissipates. She doesn't want to be angry at Cal, doesn't want to be sending those negative thoughts out there. Sniffling, she uncurls slightly, reaches for a tissue from the bedside table and blows her nose. She reaches out to finger the photo frame by her bed, her finger tracing his face, his smile, the line of his jaw.
I miss you. I love you. Goodnight, Cal.
Just as she's falling to sleep, she's positive that she hears it. Positive that he's there, next to her. Goodnight, love.
She goes to sleep with a smile on her face.
"Now he has departed from this strange world a little ahead of me. That means nothing. People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction between past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion."
- Albert Einstein