Title: Broken In The Early Morn
Cal/Gillian, post-2x11 Beat the Devil, angst, hurt/comfort, pg
Author's Notes: Thank you to my beta, tempertemper77. This would be much less fun without you! I did research PTSD for the purpose of this story, but I have no personal experience of it so I hope I've got it right.
I hear you can't trust in your own
Now the grey is broken in the early morn
And the words forming barely have a voice
It's just your heart that's breaking without choice
- Calexico, All Systems Red
"Fancy a quick bite?"
She's so close to saying yes, to doing the natural thing. Instead she feels a war waging inside of her, hears Helen's voice in her ear and sees Cal gambling away a million dollars in Vegas, the two fusing together and holding her back.
"Thanks," she hears herself uttering, the words so unfamiliar. "I've got work..."
She moves, putting the desk between them.
"OK. Another time, then," she hears him say.
"Yeah, another time." She pauses. Wonders where all her comforting words have disappeared to, the very same ones she's drawn upon every other time they've found themselves in this situation. "I'm glad you're ok," she adds, the only thing she can find to utter from behind the wall she's building between them.
She pretends not to notice the lost look upon his face, the feeling of guilt she can feel seeping into her bones as she mirrors his goodbye and leaves him to wrestle his demons alone.
She can't stay away for long; feels the pain he's going through regardless of whether she's in the same room or not. That evening, Gillian finds him in his office. It's raining outside as he sits in his desk chair, facing the window as the wind lashes the angry water against the window. He flinches every time.
"I'm fine, love." She pretends to believe him, pretends that the faint gasps she hears are in fact the air conditioning that isn't on, pretends not to see how white his knuckles are as he grips the arm rests. She doesn't need to see his face to know. Instead she walks forward, sets a glass with a single measure of scotch on his desk.
"You're OK, Cal," she agrees as she places a hand on his shoulder and stands beside him in quiet solidarity.
She knows he thinks he's fooled her. If he pretends to himself that she believes nothing's wrong, it makes it easier for him to believe so, too. So when she comes in the next morning to find him already working, his suit jacket crumpled, his face unshaven and his body surrounded by an overpowering smell of deodorant, she pretends it's just like any other day. It's still raining.
"Cal," she murmurs, leaning on the doorframe to his study as he once again sits watching the sky cry never-ending tears. "You need to go home."
He turns to her then, not quite meeting her eyes. "It's only seven o'clock, love. You trying to get rid of me?"
She smiles but it doesn't reach her eyes. When he glances up briefly, he sees the faint trace of moisture in them and he has to look away.
She moves towards him silently, placing her hand on his shoulder and once again murmuring the words. "You're OK, Cal."
She goes home, alone, and just as she's crawling into bed she hears the drops of water from the plants outside her window slow. She knows it's stopping, finally.
She imagines him, hesitently stepping out of the building before moving towards his car with a purposeful stride as if to convince the world around him that he is fine; that the water from the puddles sloshing around his feet isn't making him want to wretch, that the moisture in the air isn't suffocating him, that it isn't his breath he can see fogging the air in front of him in rapid bursts.
She curls into a ball on the edge of the bed and falls into a fitful sleep.
She calls him early the next morning, says she has a case file that she needs to show him, that she'll swing by and pick him up. He convinces himself that she doesn't have an ulterior motive as he wipes his underarms with dry tissues, dowses himself in deodorant and pulls on a clean shirt. He convinces himself that he smells just fine.
"Hi," she greets him as she breezes past him through the open door, just like any other day. They settle at the table, him at the head, her at the side. Their knees bump as they both lean forward to pour over the new evidence, and she tries not to grimace every time he shifts and the air moves her way.
He moves to stand, decisively saying, "Let's go get the bastard, then," but she stills him, her hand over his as he's picking up the case file. "Cal," she says, softly, "don't you want to shave first?" She runs her fingers over the gruff on his chin affectionately. He shakes his head no. Inhaling quietly, she continues. "Take a shower, maybe?"
He falters, just for a second. "Are you telling me I smell, Foster?" he jokes and is up from the table and heading towards the front door before she can even acknowledge the tingle in her fingers and the rapid beat of her heart.
The air is fresh as it whips around his head and he wonders, not for the first time, why he agreed to accompany Gillian for a walk. The air is warm but there are grey clouds looming above and he feels the weather changing in the pit of his stomach. He's taking a bite of his sandwich when he feels the first raindrop on his face. He stills, instantly, swallowing on reflex and nearly choking.
"Cal?" Her voice is concerned, but all he can hear is the drops falling harder, hitting pavement, plant, hair, face, anything in their path. He panics.
"Breathe," she says, and suddenly she's in front of him, her calm eyes a beacon for him in his sea of unrest. She breathes in and out, slowly, as the rain continues to plaster her hair to her face and her white shirt sticks to her skin. Any other day and he'd be enjoying this moment, but instead all he can think about is how much his lungs are burning, how his nose feels dry and how much he wants to throw up the half sandwich he's just eaten, the other half of which has fallen out of his grasp and on to the ground as his hands form fists at his sides.
"Cal," Gillian's voice pulls him back to the present, "look at me." He does, watches how she breathes evenly, her lungs filling with air, not water. "Breathe with me, come on." She smiles, encouragingly. "It's only rain, Cal. It's rolling off you, see?" She runs her hand down his face, dislodging the drops from his stubble, flicking them off her hand dramatically as they also fall to the ground.
He's gripping her other hand, he realizes, her fingers going white, but she doesn't complain. "Get me out of here." His voice is ragged, only just managing to push the words through his mouth as his lungs battle to fill his body with much-needed oxygen.
They run to the cover of a nearby building and he moves as far into the corner as he can, folding himself in to the wall.
They're both shivering as she places a calming hand on his shoulder. "You're OK, Cal," she soothes.
It's forty-five minutes, thirty-seven minutes after the rain stopped falling and the sun came back out, before she manages to pull him away from the corner and back to the safety of The Lightman Group. She pretends not to notice how his teeth are still chattering as he pretends that they aren't.
They are the only two left. He knocks on her door, checking she isn't planning to stay all night. It's a veiled query, a barely suppressed hope that he might have an excuse to camp out all night in his office again. She glances out the window briefly, sees the dry road and shakes her head.
"I'll be right behind you, I just have some paperwork to finish."
"Goodnight, love," he says, and she wishes she could bring herself to go with him, go anywhere, but he isn't ready to listen to her and her self preservation is still ruling her actions. Instead she just wishes him goodnight in return and goes back to her paperwork.
True to her word, fifteen minutes later she's switching off her desk lamp and shrugging into her raincoat - it's started raining again and she's preparing to face the elements.
As soon as she rounds the corner downstairs she sees him. He's hunched in the corner, just outside the main doors but under the cover of the building.
"It started raining as soon as I got down here," he says by way of greeting, his voice sounding almost puzzled.
"Oh," she responds, feeling entirely useless; she should have more comforting words to utter. He doesn't notice, however, just hunches over even further. "I can't seem to move," he continues, the self-loathing in his tone reawakening her senses.
A gentle hand on his shoulder has him turning towards her slightly. "You're OK, Cal."
"Am I?" he answers, taking in her sad eyes and allowing her to see his.
She gives him a half smile. "You will be." She pauses, considers her next words carefully. "When I was a little girl, I used to love going for walks in the rain. The air is so fresh, the water so liberating." She paused to smell the air, the smile on her face nothing short of honest.
"Trying to re-associate water with something positive. Nice, Foster," he replies, almost admiringly.
"Worth a shot," she smiles.
They're quiet for long moments, the only sound the rain as it falls to the ground. He ponders, in the back of his mind, why she's standing further away than she usually would. He wonders when these cracks started to appear.
Every now and then he flinches as distinct drops are heard making contact with solid objects, and he's watching it like it's the enemy approaching. Finally, he takes a deep breath and says, "If you'll go with me."
Surprise washes over her face but she recovers quickly, leaning the umbrella she was holding against the wall and holding out her hand for him to take.
He does, and they stand there for many minutes just watching the rain come down. Eventually, slowly, he squeezes her hand lightly and she guides them out from under cover. As the first raindrops hit his forehead he grips her hand so tightly she worries he might crush it, but as they step further and both allow the rain to soak them to the skin, his grip loosens until he's holding her hand as if it's precious treasure.
She comes round to stand in front of him, still holding onto his hand. "You OK?" A question this time, as he realises the confirmation must come from him.
He tilts his head up to the darkened sky, quelling the panic he feels at the change in angle and the water hitting his face. Finally he looks down, takes in her bedraggled appearance and squeezes her hand once more.
"I'm getting there, love."