Hey everyone… this is my first AU fic, so feedback will be much appreciated. I wasn't sure whether to attempt this or not when the idea first came to me, but the idea wouldn't go away and I wanted a challenge, so here it is. I've tried to keep it in character even though it's AU… let me know what you think and thanks for reading :-]
Disclaimer: Never have and never will own anything to do with Lie to Me
Gillian Foster took another bite of her toast as her husband Alec walked into the kitchen, adjusting his tie as his eyes scanned the room. "Have you seen that file I was looking at last night?"
Gillian pointed towards the living room. "Coffee table," she mumbled through a mouthful of breakfast, and Alec nodded.
"Thanks." He retrieved the file, then popped back into the kitchen to kiss Gillian briefly. "What time are you heading in today?"
"Not 'til about ten, my first patient isn't until half past."
"Okay. I'll try to be home by six."
They shared a brief smile as Alec headed out the door, and Gillian slowly finished off the last of her toast. Crossing the room to the sink, she washed up her plate and placed it carefully on the draining board, her eye catching the calendar that hung on the wall as she did so. Today was Thursday, she knew that of course, but she hadn't realised the date. But there it was, staring at her in black and white. April 17th. The day she had left her old life behind and started a new one; the day everything had changed. Gillian closed her eyes, her mind racing back to that day…
One Year Ago
Her flight wasn't until the evening, and Gillian found herself rather at a loose end. Alec had flown out three days ago to start work and get things settled in the new house, including being there to receive all their furniture and belongings. Things were all tied up in D.C; the house was empty, she'd said her goodbyes, and everything she needed for her flight, including a new romance novel and three large bars of chocolate, were safely stashed in her bag. But there was one more thing Gillian had to do today before she left for Seattle; one goodbye she had yet to say, and if she was honest, she was putting it off. Because this one was going to be the hardest of all.
Cal stood in Gillian's office – what usedto be her office, he supposed he shouldn't call it that now. But whether it stood empty for a decade or was occupied by someone else a few days later, it would always be hers. He sat in the chair behind her desk, closing his eyes, trying to picture the room as it had always been. Photos on the desk, her favourite picture on the walls, her books on the shelf. Her office had always felt so warm, so friendly, so Gillian, but now it felt cold and empty, just as he suspected his life would feel once she'd boarded that plane.
He opened his eyes when he heard the click of the door, startled to see her standing there. "Changed your mind?" he joked, hoping she wouldn't see the pain on his face, or the desperate hope behind the words that maybe, just maybe, she had.
She crossed the room towards him and he stood up as she approached. Wordlessly she wrapped her arms around him, enveloping him in a hug that neither wanted to ever end. How long they stood like that, Cal didn't know; all he knew was that it was Gillian who broke away first. She quickly wiped under her eyes, and he saw the tears glistening there and rolling silently down her cheeks. He reached up and caught a tear with his thumb, smiling at her gently. "Don't go getting all sentimental on me now, Foster," he said softly. "You know I don't know what to do with myself when women start crying in my presence."
"I'm sorry," she sniffed. "It's just…"
"I know, love," he said, pulling her close to him again. "I know."
"I'm doing the right thing, aren't I?" Her voice was so quiet, muffled against his chest, and Cal wondered if she'd really just spoken, or if he had imagined it.
"Not for me to say, love. Got to make the decision that's right for you." His heart ached to say those words; where the strength came from to say the right thing and be passive in this situation, he had no idea. He wanted, more than anything, to tell her she was making the wrong decision. That leaving the Lightman Group to set up her own practice wouldn't make her happy; that Seattle wasn't her home, D.C was; that her husband didn't deserve a woman who would pack up her whole life and start again just for him, and his job, and the chance to save their failing marriage. He wanted to tell her, ask her, begher to stay – but he couldn't. She had made her decision, and he would respect that. Even if it broke his heart to watch her walk away, he had to let her lead her own life.
He felt her sigh softly against him, shaking slightly with the tears he knew had not ceased. "You keep this up, Foster, and you'll start me off," he warned her. "And if you think I don't know what to do when women start crying, you have no bloomin' idea how lousy I am at dealing with my own tears."
She laughed, but it was a laugh lacking her usual warmth. "Okay. I'll stop." She pulled away from him, wiping her eyes again, and took a step back to survey her office. "It looks different," she said quietly, running her hand along the edge of the desk.
"Yeah, it does."
She nodded. "I'm keeping you from your work," she said at last, and he shook his head with a sad smile.
"Work can wait."
"Never thought I'd hear you say that."
"Some things are more important than work," he told her softly, and she sucked her bottom lip, trying to stop it trembling. "You want me to come to the airport with you?" he asked, and she shook her head.
"I don't think… I don't think I could handle that," she admitted. "Besides, it feels right to do it here. Say our… our goodbyes, I mean." Her voice broke a little on the word goodbyes, and Cal found himself swallowing in response to that word. It sounded so final.
"Come on, Foster. Pull yourself together. It's not goodbye forever, is it? I mean, if I ever decide I'm ready to take another vacation, I can swing by Seattle." She smiled, but it didn't reach her eyes. "Besides," he said, standing so he was now directly in front of her, forcing her to meet his gaze. "You're always welcome back here. This is your home."
Gillian choked back a sob at his words, and stood up to hug him again, squeezing him tighter than she had before. Resting her head on his shoulder, she bit back the words she wanted to say, knowing it would only make the situation harder. I don't want to leave you. I want to be with you. I love you.
After what seemed like an eternity, she lifted her head, and kissed him on the lips. "Goodbye, Cal," she whispered, the most heart-wrenching thing he'd ever heard her say. Slowly she walked towards the door, knowing if she looked back at his face now she'd never leave.
"Bye love," he said quietly, and before he knew it she was gone. The sound of her heels faded as she retreated along the corridor, leaving the building. Leaving the city. Leaving his life.
Life in Seattle had been an adjustment, but it wasn't all bad. Her practice was going well. They'd decorated the house so it felt more like home, it was situated in a good neighbourhood and they had friendly neighbours. Alec's new job was going well, and was much less stressful. As a result, he was working less hours, hadn't relapsed, and they had more time to spend together as a couple. They went out to dinner – Seattle certainly had some lovely restaurants – they went to the theatre, they even took walks together through the park. On the surface, life was good. Life was very good.
But there was something missing. Or rather, someone.
Gillian hadn't seen Cal since the day she'd left him standing in her office; a year ago today. They'd spoken on the phone a few times; sent each other birthday cards with little presents attached, had promised they'd try and meet up at Christmas, but hadn't. Gillian had a feeling that if she saw Cal again, she wouldn't be able to tear herself away. Leaving him once was hard enough. Leaving him twice would be impossible.
So, this was her life now. Here, with Alec. And I'm not unhappy, she thought. But I am heartbroken. How those two contrasting sentences could both be true Gillian didn't understand, but they were.
She stood in her kitchen for a long time, a thousand thoughts whirling through her mind. Her decision to move to Seattle with Alec had been the most difficult of her life, and she'd had to weigh up the pros and cons, consider every angle, and make a lot of arrangements. Selling the house and buying a new one, making decisions about where to take her career, dissolving her partnership with Cal. Gillian Foster wasn't one to make decisions lightly, but suddenly she felt like a switch had flicked in her mind – or was it in her heart?
What are you doing, Gillian?she asked herself as she ran upstairs. She asked herself that question a thousand times over the hours that followed; when she was on the phone, when she was throwing things into a bag, when she was boarding the plane. You don't make rash decisions like this!A voice was screaming in her head, what are you doing? This is completely irresponsible, and reckless, and you haven't thought this through…
For once, she didn't care. The voice of practicality could go to hell; whatever had prompted this change in her she had no idea, but it was the right thing to do. Not for Alec. Not for her patients. Not for her staff. But it's the right thing for me. How many times in her life had she done the right thing, even though it had made her heart feel like it was shattering into a thousand pieces? She'd given up everything for Alec because she wanted to support him, because she wanted to be a good wife, because it felt like the right thing to doto try and make her marriage work. Now, she was being irresponsible. Her decision would cause problems and complications, prompt difficult conversations and awkward explanations, create hurt and confusion and devastation.
But I have to do it.Partially she felt guilty, reflecting on what was going to happen; you can't just walk away from your problems Gillian! But her guilt was coupled with a fierce determination to stand up for herself for once – to do what shewanted to do, instead of what made everyone else happy. It's your life, Gillian, she told herself. If you don't do what makes you happy now, when will you? Besides, the voice in her head that was propelling her to do this, the voice that controlled her heart and not her head, continued, I'm not running away from anything. I'm running towards something.
Cal stood in Gillian's office; a year later and it was still empty. He didn't care if his employees thought he was crazy or stupid for not allowing anyone to take over the room, didn't care if people occasionally commented on the fact that he had yet to remove her nameplate from the door. When, a few months ago, a new research assistant had started at the company, he'd walked past Gillian's office with Cal, and seen the name on the door. "Dr Foster? I don't think I've met her yet, who is she?"
"She's gone," was all Cal had said, before continuing down the corridor, refusing to elaborate further. Tom, the new guy, had probably assumed Cal meant she'd died; well, if he's curious enough he can ask around and find out, Cal had thought.
Over the last year, he'd spent a lot of time in this room; in a way it had become an extension of his own office. If thoughts wouldn't come easily, he'd find inspiration in here. If a case was proving tricky, he'd review things in her room, often finding he would see more in there. If he was simply missing her – god, how he missed her – he'd come and just sit behind her desk or on the sofa. Twice he'd even slept on that sofa, curled up like a baby, hugging the cushions that she'd chosen that, even now, smelt like her. Or was that just his mind playing tricks on him?
Now, here he stood again, like he had so many times before. There was a plant in the corner of the room that he watered daily. There was a framed photo on her desk, of the two of them from a few years ago. Emily had taken it, when the three of them had spent the day at the park, and it had always been one of his favourites. Until a year ago, it had been in his office. But her desk looked empty with no photos, so here it sat. A constant reminder of what they'd had. Of what they'd lost.
The date hadn't escaped his notice. When she'd first told him she and Alec were moving to Seattle, his first question – although a million had sprung to mind – was 'when?' How much time do I have left with you,was what he'd really meant.
"April, I think," she'd replied, and later the date had been confirmed. April 17th.
How had a year passed already? He wondered what she was doing today. What she was wearing. Was she at home right now, or at work? At the shops, buying groceries? With Alec… He closed his eyes, trying to conjure up an image of her. He hadn't seen her in a year – did she look any different? Had she grown her hair? Did she have it curly now, or straight?
He'd imagined, more times than he could count, that she came back to him. He'd wake from his dreams with the bittersweet memory of her bright smile, the realisation that it was just that – a dream – hitting him like cold water.
He heard a click of the door and opened his eyes, ready to berate whoever it was who had come in. It had become an unspoken rule since Gillian's departure that no one entered her office besides him, except the cleaners after hours, and everyone knew better than to disturb him when he was in there.
When he saw her standing there, he figured he must be dreaming. Just another fantasy. His mind had done an even better job this time – she looked so real, just as beautiful as she had the last time he'd seen her, perhaps even more so.
She started to walk towards him, and Cal waited for the moment when he'd wake up, but it didn't come. A second later she was in his arms. The feel of her breath on his neck, her arms wrapped around him and her cheek pressed against his jolted him back to reality. It's not a dream. She's really here.
"Foster," he said, not caring if his face showed every emotion he was feeling at that moment. Surprise. Delight. Fear. If she's come back for a brief visit and then leaves me again…
"Ssh." She put a finger to his lips, her bright blue eyes locked on his. Removing her finger she kissed him gently, just as she had the day she left.
"I've come home, Cal," she said simply, the weight of her words flooding Cal with a joy stronger than he'd ever known. As he pulled her towards him for another hug, he squeezed his eyes shut, hardly daring to open them in case he found her gone when he did, just like in all his dreams.
As his arms encased her, hugging her more tightly than ever, Gillian felt a single tear slip down her cheek. But this was different from the tears she'd cried a year ago. This was where she belonged. In D.C. At The Lightman Group. In Cal's arms. This was home.