Disclaimer: As usual, I don't own any of this

Chapter One


He knew straight away something was wrong, could tell just from her voice, but as he glanced up at her his suspicion was confirmed. Gillian stood in the doorway, her posture, expression and entire demeanour screaming at him that all was not well with his partner.

"Yes, love?"

"I need some time off." She took a few tentative steps into the room, nervously tucking her hair behind her ear.

"Okay." He wasn't about to refuse her request, not that he really had a right to; as equity partner, she didn't require his permission to take some leave. Still, under other circumstances he might try and argue – tell her that now wasn't the best time, that the company would struggle without her presence for a few days or however long it was that she planned to be gone for, that with the financial state the company was in right now (which, admittedly, was his fault) they could really do with her being around to help them work through as many cases as possible. He might have teased her, pretended to be irritated by her request, kidded her that she was being selfish when really, Gillian Foster was the most selfless person he knew. But now was not the time.

That didn't mean he wasn't going to question her about it, though. It just meant he would be more gentle than usual. "Why, love?"

"I…" She swallowed. "I just need some personal time, Cal. That's all."


"Cal." She shook her head, clearly not wanting to talk about it, not that he was going to let that stop him.

He stood up and walked towards her, placing a hand gently on her arm.

"What's wrong, love?" he asked softly, stooping slightly as he sought out her eyes. Eventually she met his gaze, and he saw a myriad of emotions flashing across her face; sadness, fear, guilt… guilt? What's that about? Being able to read microexpressions and recognise human emotions was one thing, piecing what you saw together to create an entire picture of that person and what they were thinking and feeling – and, more importantly, why they were thinking and feeling that – was another thing altogether.

"I… I have to go home for a bit," she said, tearing her gaze away from his and casting her eyes downwards in a clear display of shame.

"To California?" he asked with a small frown. Gillian hadn't been home to LA in a long, long time.

She nodded. "I've got some… family stuff to deal with."

"Everything okay?" No, it wasn't. Of course it wasn't. He knew that, and she probably knew that he knew that. Still, he was giving her the chance to explain, if she wanted to. And if she didn't, he'd let it go. Let her hide behind her lies if she wanted to, he wouldn't push her.

"Everything's fine."

"That's a lie." Way to go on the whole 'not pushing her' thing, Cal, he told himself, sighing inwardly.

She looked surprised at his accusation, and took half a step back. "I…"

"Tell me, Foster. What's happened to make you go running back home for the first time in years?"

"I'm okay, Cal," she said, attempting a smile of reassurance.

"Pretty sure that's not the question I asked, love." He took a step towards her, making up the distance she had put between them with her hesitant retreat. "I'm not letting you out of here 'til you tell me what's going on, so you might as well tell me now." He tried to keep his tone soft, but she raised her eyebrows at his words, a look of irritation on her face.

"You won't let me leave?" He wouldn't have minded the irritation if it had wiped away her sadness, but it was still there, along with the fear, and the guilt and the shame… why the hell was she feeling so guilty?

"I care about you," he said simply, shoving his hands into his pockets and shrugging helplessly. "I know something's wrong, and if you go gallivanting off home without telling me what's wrong first, I'll spend every minute you're gone going through all the terrible possibilities that my mind can generate as to what's going on. And that's hardly fair, is it?" He attempted a smile, and was pleased when she returned it, although half heartedly.

"I suppose not." She sighed, knotting her fingers together. Sadness crossed her face again. "It's my father," she said at last, and Cal felt a flicker of anger cross his face before he could stop it.

"What's he done now?" He tried not to let his emotions show, but his question came out as more of a growl, which didn't escape her notice. Cal was hardly her father's biggest fan.

"He died, Cal," she said, tears starting to spill out onto her cheeks. "He died."