Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters here and I make exactly bobkus by playing with them.
A/N: Set sometime in early to middle first season, Alec's particular habit the only spoiler.
Warning: Mentions of abuse.
Nothing More, Nothing Less
The cold water drips from her chin, droplets pat-pattering against the ceramic basin. A soft wash cloth scrubs away the persistent tracks of mascara until her eyes are only rimmed in red. The bruise on her face is already so obvious no one will miss it no matter how hard she tries to hide it.
That doesn't stop her from pulling apart her make-up bag, searching for the harshest concealer she has. One tube, barely used, kept from the Ackerman case. This isn't the first time her cheekbone's been hit.
She applies the make-up heavily, feels it lay like a paste across her skin, covering, hiding. She should be putting ice to it, healing it as best she can. But she can't bear to stay in the house for too long, not tonight. She can't go out though, not looking like this, so she keeps adding and rubbing until she finally gives it up as a lost cause.
In the mirror the bruise looks faded now, like an older injury, not one only an hour and thirty-two minutes (how many seconds?) old. It's not perfect. She takes a moment to wish her skin wasn't so fair, complection so pale. That might make it easier to cover up.
Mascara, eyeliner, a little bit of lipstick, she pushes away the pot of blusher; she really doesn't need any more colour on her cheeks. A few more minutes to straighten out her dress, adjust the fall of her curls against her neck and she slips out of the bathroom.
Her coat and bag are in the hall closet, her shoes scattered by the door where she left them when she got home. She almost can't believe that was only a few hours ago. The dinner plates lay abandoned on the table, the food barely touched, she passes them on her way through the house. Takes note of the wine glasses, hers half full, his empty, the bottle missing.
She walks around the toppled chair, hips swaying as she manoeuvres herself past it and into the living room.
She finds Alec where she knew she would. Sprawled across the sofa, one leg and arm trailing the floor, head fallen back along the sofa's arm. He probably dropped the wine bottle when he passed out, the last of its contents forming a shallow pool of red against their cream carpet.
There on the table are the remains of what started it all. The blade, the mirror, the specks of white that just never really went away. She hates them all, these innocuous tools, the drug that has the power to turn her husband against her with just a few words.
On some level she understands why he thinks he needs the drugs. She even understands the harsh words when she tries to tell him otherwise and maybe it's her own fault for getting in his way tonight. But he doesn't look relaxed now; one hand still clenched tight on his lap, and she can't begin to see what it is that he needs to run from almost every night.
The lines on his head are deep, deeper in the low light of the room than they are each morning. She still wants to soothe them away, press kisses against his forehead until he pulls her down to him, curl up against his chest and wait for the hurt to pass again. And if this were last year, she would. If the sleep was due to alcohol or exhaustion then she could. But it will take more than kisses to wake him from this. It will take more than his hand on her back to make the pain disappear this time.
Her heels slip onto her feet, giving her height and straightening her back. Fitting. She grabs her bag and coat and looks for any sign that he notices. Nothing.
Pulling her phone from her bag she sends a message to the only person she knows she can go to. The only person she trusts to see her now. The message is her safety, a reminder.
She doesn't slam the door as she leaves, no one would hear it.
'Remember the line. G.'
The single line of text stares up at him from the backlit screen. At first his thoughts turned to the last case, the last conversation. But now he's sure he hasn't approached their line for weeks. Hasn't looked at her and tried to read between the obvious lies about her husband and her life. Hasn't commented on the false cheer she's been bringing to the office with the Slushies and cake.
So he waits, beer on the table, files piled up on the floor. Waits for what he's sure will be her knock on his door. He knows what she wants, he thinks. Friendship without the strings that come with his gift and hers.
A sudden thought. He bounces from the couch, heads for the kitchen, sending a passing glance at the dishes stacked in the sink. He raids the freezer, pulling out the cartons of ice cream from the very back; Rocky Road and plain old Vanilla. Remnants of the last time he needed her and she came.
Flecks of ice fall to the floor as he wipes his hand across the lids, finding room in the fridge between what's left of last week's groceries and a sandwich that's seen better days. Long case.
He turns back to the living room, considers starting in on the dishes when he hears her at the door. A light knock. She never rings the bell. He's always liked that.
Her face is shadowed, the light from the porch not reaching her when he opens the door. There's a moment. Silence and stillness when he can feel her eyes on his face, searching. He waits, controls his expression, shows her only what she'll want to see.
He sees her body relax, almost fold in on itself and he takes a step back, holds the door wide.
"Come in, love."
He pushes the door closed behind her, takes the coat from her shoulders as she stands, back to him, shoulders tense beneath the grey dress.
"Love?" It isn't like her to be so silent. So still. She turns, slowly. Eyes on his shoes, hands twisting at her waist.
"Cal, I-" One hand raised, fingers on her chin he tilts her head, watches her hair fall back, her eyes close. Sees the bruise on her right cheek she tried to hide.
The hand at his side curls into a fist, fingertips pressed deep into his palm as he clenches and flexes. He knows what this is. Understands the message all the more now he's seen what sent her running to him tonight. He knows his face reads like a book on anger. Hatred. He's glad for her closed eyes, so she doesn't have to see his reactions, so for just a moment he doesn't have to feign control.
Dragging his eyes off the dark mark he focusses on everything else she isn't going to acknowledge tonight. Pain, fear, anger, sadness, guilt. Shame. It's there in very line of her face, every tremor of her skin beneath his fingers. He wants to make her confront it. Everything. But she brought up the line and he knows. She'll run if he tries. Better to ignore it now; the white elephant that came in with her, than lose her to the night.
Releasing her chin, his fingers brush across her untouched cheek, trailing into the curls at her neck as he pulls her close. Holds her tight.
Her arms are slow to wrap around his waist, but when they do she clings to him tight. Body shaking as she gives in for a moment.
He pulls back before she can. Not because it's what he wants, but because she'll never forgive him if he makes her break before she's ready.
"Come on." Her hand in his, fingers entwined, he leads her to the couch. Waits until she settles in the corner, heels kicked off and legs curled up beneath her, before stepping into the kitchen. He hears her sigh as he opens the fridge, pulling the ice cream out. Grabbing a clean kitchen towel, he folds it around some loose ice cubes. Spoons, painkillers and a slightly warm bottle of water from a cupboard completes his search and he bundles everything into his arms.
He finds her staring at the far wall. Gaze intense like it's showing her the video from a new case. Or holds all the answers to the questions she's probably not letting herself ask just yet.
Placing the ice cream and water on the coffee table, he holds the ice in her line of sight, waiting for the slight flinch when she comes back down to Earth.
She takes it from him, pressing it tentatively against her cheek, a sad smile for him that almost breaks his heart.
"Here love, take these." He hands her the water and pills, settles beside her on the couch as she swallows. He pulls the ice cream and spoons onto the arm of the sofa, spreads one arm out across the back cushions. And waits.
It doesn't take long. She crawls the small gap towards him and when he can, he hooks her waist with his arm and drags her the rest of the way. She snuggles into his side, head on his chest. He dips his head into her hair, presses a kiss into the soft curls as a hand twists into his shirt.
Her voice is barely there. He nods into her hair and reaches for the Rocky Road and their spoons. He thinks he can almost sense the smile that must reach her lips when the first spoonful reaches her mouth, smiles himself at the little groan of pleasure she releases. This is his Gillian Foster.
He takes a spoonful himself with his left hand, forgoing his usual plain choice, and then tugs the towel from her limp hand. Holding it in his right hand, he presses it back against her cheek as they eat, arm wrapped around her shoulders.
The room slowly fills with her gentle giggles and his low laughter. Night continues to fall and they fight over the last marshmallow. The soft clanging of spoons covers the deafening silence made by the questions they each aren't ready to face yet. Soon, they'll have no choice.
But not here, not tonight.