So, I've been trying out some different things in my writing lately, looking for some new challenges, and I decided to try writing a fic with different characters. This is the first fic I've written that isn't Cal and Gillian, although of course it's ABOUT them. Reviews much appreciated… let me know if I got these characters right or wrong – they're trickier to write than Cal or Gillian!
Disclaimer: As you know, none of these characters are mine. Not that I'd want Zoe and Alec, but I wouldn't mind the other two ;-)
They Want To
Zoe Lightman sipped her drink, her eyes scanning the room. Employees of the Lightman Group were scattered around, some drinking, some dancing, some just talking. In the last year, the company that her husband had started with Gillian Foster had grown into a successful business, something that, if she was honest, she'd never expected to happen. He hadn't had a choice about leaving the Pentagon, of course, and yes, he was good at what he did, but a private firm specialising in deception detection? It had disaster written all over it, and Zoe had been extremely reluctant to allow him to sink so much of their savings into starting a company from scratch. But here they were, celebrating the company's one year anniversary, and Zoe had to admit that she'd been wrong. Cal had pulled it off – she realised she never should have doubted him – and the company was going from strength to strength. Zoe supposed she should attribute some of the success to Gillian; she was, after all, Cal's partner in the firm, but it was far easier for Zoe to feel pride for her husband than his closest friend.
Speaking of Gillian Foster… there she was, shimmying across the dance floor in a deep purple dress, smiling brightly at everyone she saw. Turning slightly, Gillian caught Zoe's eye. Zoe watched her nod her head in greeting, her smile still firmly in place, but it had dimmed just a fraction. Zoe almost wanted to laugh; it seemed ironic that she was reading Gillian Foster. She wondered whether Gillian was aware of the fact that Zoe could read her some of the time, or whether she actually thought her secret was well hidden. Perhaps from most people, it was, but Zoe was no fool. If another woman was going to fall in love with her husband, she was hardly going to miss it.
She watched Cal catch Gillian's arm, spinning her around. He was never one for dancing at parties, but that rule seemed to have gone out the window tonight. Zoe tried to tell herself that it was because he was in the mood to celebrate, because he was happy, because he'd had a few drinks. Not because the woman in his arms was Gillian Foster, not his wife.
Edging her way around the room slightly, she eased herself into an empty chair besides the only other person in the room with reason to dislike seeing Cal and Gillian dance together. "Cheers." She clinked her glass to his before he even realised she was there.
"What? Oh. Yes." He took another sip of champagne.
They sat in silence for a moment, watching their giggling spouses perform a clumsy waltz. "They look so happy, don't they?" She didn't bother to hide the bitterness from her voice.
"What?" He turned towards her, but she didn't meet his eyes, keeping hers focussed on her husband.
"My husband. And your wife." She gestured towards them. "Dancing together. They look happy, don't they?" She met his eyes at last.
"Well, they have reason to be. We are here to celebrate the success of their company."
She laughed. "I hardly think that's why they're happy."
"What are you trying to say, Zoe?" There was a slight edge to his voice, although he tried to keep it controlled.
"Oh, come on. Don't tell me you don't see it. The way they look at each other, all the time, the way they look when they talk about each other…" She shrugged.
"So, what? You're saying they're having an affair?" He shook his head furiously. "Look, Zoe…"
"Oh, no, they're not having an affair." She laughed. "Little Miss Perfect would never cheat. I'll bet she's never even had a speeding ticket, she's hardly going to conduct an extra-marital affair, is she?"
"So what's your point?"
"They're not having an affair – but they want to."
He shook his head, attempting a smile to conceal his anger. "Look, Zoe, if your marriage is suffering then I'm sorry, but don't try shifting your issues onto me, because my marriage is fine."
"Sure." She took another sip of her drink, fixing her gaze back on Cal and Gillian, who were now slow dancing, their arms loosely draped around each other.
"I know they're good friends…" He tightened his grip on his champagne flute. "But Gillian and I are happy together, and I resent you implying… anything else."
She sighed. "Look, Alec, I'm not trying to make you feel bad. I'm sure Gillian does love you, and I can see how much you love her." Her face twitched slightly with contempt; she was familiar with that emotion, and felt it when it flickered across her face. "All I'm saying is… if Cal and I hadn't been married when those two met, she wouldn't be called Gillian Foster now."
She saw him clench his jaw. Well, could she blame him? No man wanted to face the truth that his wife had settled for second best.
"But you were. And Gill married me. And she loves me. Not him." He didn't even know why he felt the need to justify his marriage to her like this; he should have just walked away as soon as she started spouting her poison. He'd never even liked Zoe all that much, and now she was sitting next to him, casually discussing his marriage as though she didn't even care about what she was implying.
"She probably does love you. But… does she love you like that?" She flicked her eyes towards the couple in the centre of the dance floor, and Alec followed her gaze. Gillian was laughing as Cal swung her around, shuffling awkwardly but comically as she moved around him, swinging her hips and looking gorgeous, as always.
My wife, he thought. My beautiful, smart, wonderful wife. Of course he'd always known she and Cal had a deep friendship. Was he jealous of the amount of time that Cal spent with his wife? Of course. But then, he was busy too, working long hours, going on business trips that took him away from home. And he'd hardly be a good husband if he wasn't supportive of his wife's career. Did it irritate him that Cal and Gillian seemed to be able to communicate without words? Yes, sometimes. Did he sometimes wish he could read his wife as well as Cal could? Yes, he did. But was he confident that his wife loved him? Yes. They'd only been married eighteen months; perhaps Zoe, with her five year old marriage, could afford more cynicism, but he wasn't going to let her spoil anything, not when the best thing that had ever happened to him had chosen to spend the rest of her life with him.
"Gillian would never cheat on me."
"No, of course not. She'll be the dutiful wife until it kills her, but," Zoe leaned closer to Alec, "that doesn't mean she doesn't want to."
"And Cal wouldn't cheat on you," he added, trying to ignore Zoe's comment.
"No," she agreed. "He wouldn't. Especially since we have Emily. But, like I said… doesn't mean he doesn't want to."
Alec stood up, placing his glass on the table beside him. "I'm going to dance with my wife."
Zoe snorted. "You do that."
"This conversation…" He clenched his jaw.
"It's alright, I won't talk about it again. I can see how much the truth upsets you."
"It's fine. Go. Dance with your wife. Look at her lovingly and try not to think about who she wishes she was dancing with, just like he'll be doing when I'm dancing with him."
"Gillian loves me." He ground the statement out through gritted teeth, and Zoe threw her head back, a cruel edge to her laugh.
"And Cal loves me. And yet…" She gestured back to the dance floor. Cal and Gillian were still swaying lightly to the music, their arms wrapped around each other.
Alec shook his head. "Don't take any problems you have in your marriage out on me, Zoe. Gill and I are fine."
"Of course you are." She was mocking him, and he knew it.
He headed towards the dance floor, trying to walk normally rather than stomp. It briefly crossed his mind that Zoe might see his actions as an attempt to prove his point, or exert his dominance in the situation – 'she's my wife, not yours' - but he didn't really care. He'd barely seen his wife for the last week, and here she was, looking stunning, and he wasn't going to pass up the opportunity to dance with her and hold her close to him all evening.
Zoe watched Alec stride across the room, catching Gillian by the elbow and saying something to her and Cal. No, Zoe thought, Cal will never cheat on me. He may have his flaws, and God knows that thrill-seeking husband of hers thrived on danger, but his loyalty was something she never doubted. At least, the loyalty he could control. His feelings for Gillian Foster… that was something she knew he couldn't control. He had never acted on it, and he never would, and that was enough. Just like she knew Gillian would never betray her husband, or even admit to the idea that she was in love with another man.
She watched as Cal sought her out with his eyes, then started walking towards her, grinning. They'll never cheat. But, they want to. And she couldn't pretend that that didn't hurt. Taking that hurt out on Alec was hardly fair, and, she reflected, she probably could have handled that conversation a bit better. But she and Alec were in the same boat, so to speak; the only difference was, he was either oblivious to the truth or willing to ignore it, and that seemed to be working for him. As Cal extended an arm to her, offering himself as a dance partner, she forced a smile. Perhaps denial could work for her, too. At least for tonight.
As Alec enveloped his wife in his arms, he closed his eyes, breathing in the scent of her. She swayed lightly in his arms, moving with graceful ease. He swallowed. As much as he wanted to focus on the sheer joy of being with the woman he loved on an evening that was supposed to be about celebration, he couldn't stop Zoe's voice echoing in his head. They'll never cheat… but they want to. He pulled back slightly, meeting Gillian's eyes. She smiled at him with such warmth, he almost wanted to laugh at his own stupidity for ever thinking her heart lay elsewhere. Instinctively he looked for Zoe; why shouldn't he flaunt his happy marriage, especially after what she'd said? But she wasn't sitting down anymore. A few seconds later he saw her, dancing with Cal. She looked happy enough, but it seemed a little contrived. Cal was dancing with his wife now, and Alec was dancing with his. Everything was as it should be. He saw Cal glance up as he and Zoe danced past them, his eyes locking on Gillian's for a fraction of a second. Her smiled widened a little, then she turned her attention back to Alec.
"You okay?" she asked, her voice tinged with concern. She'd probably seen whatever it was that had just passed over his face – what had it been, he wondered? Anger? Jealousy? Sadness? Or realisation, of a truth he'd been trying to ignore since the day he met this incredible woman?
He forced a smile, then pulled her close to him. "I'm fine," he whispered in her ear. They continued to dance, and he focussed only on what mattered; his wife in his arms, her gentle smile, her delicate laugh, the happiness that seemed to flow from her which always lit up the room. He couldn't quite shift the thought, though, no matter how hard he tried, and perhaps he never would. That even if they never would… they wanted to.