Title: Hail To Whatever You Found In The Sunlight That Surrounds You
Cal/Gillian, Zoe, Emily, pre-series (during flashback-time of Sweet Sixteen)/post-ep, pg
Spoilers: 2x12 Sweet Sixteen
Author's Notes: As always, a big thank you to my beta, tempertemper77. This is not the fic I set out to write after I saw this episode, but I hope that you'll enjoy it anyway. Title is a song by Rilo Kiley.
Blurry memories of us
Come back from time to time
- Royksopp, Sparks
"Something's different," Zoe says, thoughtfully, observing her husband over the rim of her glass of wine. She wonders why her pulse is racing, why her instincts are screaming at her that her world has just shifted without telling her; without her even knowing why.
"Different how?" Cal asks, his brows creasing in confusion.
"You. You're different." She can't explain it, knows he'll wave it away as her female intuition gone doolally and she'll be no better off. Come to think of it, she wonders why she's even bothered to bring it up in the first place.
"You're imagining things, love," comes his reply. She isn't at all surprised.
Zoe wonders how much of her enthusiasm to surprise Cal at work is based in actually wanting to see her husband, and how much is based in her growing concerns that something is different.
She knows he'll be suspicious. She's never once shown an interest in seeing his place of work before, and is prepared for the onslaught of questions with fake smiles and practiced answers that she knows he'll see straight through.
The halls are surprisingly quiet and, though the security guard on the front desk has told her which area of the building he is in, she finds it to be so vast she is struggling to remember all of the directions.
A woman approaches her; dark pencil skirt, white shirt and long brown hair tied back. She's carrying what looks like the contents of her desk in a box. It's probably the worst moment to ask her, and she probably doesn't even know who Cal is, but Zoe thinks it's worth a shot.
"Excuse me?" she as asks she gets closer. "Do you know where I could find Cal Lightman's office?"
The woman smiles. She has an aura of calm about her and Zoe immediately feels uncomfortable. "You're nearly there." She smiles again, understanding in her voice. "Just keep going down this hallway, it's the third on the right." She gestures with her head.
"Thank you," Zoe mutters, forcing a half smile before she starts off again.
"He isn't there, though. You know that, right?" The woman's voice calls after her, almost as if she's given directions out of habit without really thinking about the current circumstances.
"I beg your pardon?" Zoe asks, confused.
"He quit this morning," the woman answers. She's no longer smiling, in fact has a look upon her face that Zoe can't quite decipher. She's apparently shaken from her thoughts by the sound of her phone ringing and she smiles a small, apologetic smile Zoe's way before she continues on. Zoe briefly wonders how she's going to juggle the box with answering the phone at the same time but soon discovers she needn't have spared it a thought.
As Zoe begins once again to walk in the opposite direction, she catches the words uttered in hushed tones down the phone.
"Dr. Gillian Foster. Yes, I'm on my way."
Gillian meets him two blocks from the Pentagon and they silently start walking as far away from it as they can get.
They find themselves in an Irish bar of all places, through subconscious planning or bitter irony they aren't sure. He orders the drinks while she seeks out a table and five minutes later they're drowning their sins in the corner booth at the back. Never before has the expression been so literal, for either of them.
They don't speak. He peels the label off of his beer bottle while she grinds her bottom lip between her teeth. The silence stretches across the great divide of the table, even as they are surrounded by a cacophony of voices.
She wants to talk about it, feel better somehow. But she of all people realizes that this feeling, this guilt, doesn't just go away. It's something that you learn to live with, adjusting as necessary.
She's startled out of her own thoughts by Cal raising his bottle to her glass.
He says nothing, but his expression resolutely says, "We're never doing this again."
She chinks her glass against his before taking a big swig.
He walks her home. She lives over fifteen blocks away while he lives ten in the opposite direction, yet neither of them think to part company, or at least hail a cab. Around the fifth block mark she stops to toe out of her stilettos and he remarks that he's amazed she's walked so far in them already. She laughs, humorlessly, as she pads along in stockinged feet. He likes the contradictions she embodies; smart and refined, yet casual and genuine.
"What made you buy my book in the first place? Was it because you knew I was coming to see you?" he asks as they cross over on to block seven.
"I'm surrounded by brilliant liars. People who make a living out of false statements. I just wanted to know what I was really dealing with." Her honesty shocks him and he's once again reminded, as she shyly tucks a wayward strand of hair behind her ear and sends him an embarrassed glance, that she's unlike anyone he's ever really met before.
She takes his silence as acceptance, and briefly wonders why she feels so comfortable around this brash man.
"You should set up on your own," she says, thoughtfully, as they're nearing block ten. They've slowed considerably; their destination approaching too fast even though the conversation has been sporadic at best. It's the most comfortable silence either one of them has been immersed in for a while.
"What, Lightman and Lightman?" he chuckles.
"Well, just Lightman. Unless there are two of you and you keep the other one hidden," she jokes back.
"No one would employ my services after this fiasco," he continues, seriously.
"Of course they would. That was one branch of an enormous network that we just had the misfortune of dealing with. There's FBI, CIA, local law enforcement. I'm sure plenty of people would want to employ your services."
He's quiet for long moments, wondering why he's never really given it much proper thought, while just ten blocks of walking next to him and she's already convinced.
"I wouldn't know where to start." It's a lame excuse, and even as he hears the words fall from his mouth he recognizes the avoidance in himself. The psychologist in her must be having a field day.
But instead she just helpfully offers, "You start with a name. A business card. A little publicity, a business phone number - regardless of where you actually pick it up."
By the time they reach the eleventh block, she's outlined him an entire business plan.
He's had four and a half blocks to mull over her words and he thinks he came to a decision around block thirteen.
"You should do it with me," he states as they stand on the sidewalk outside her home.
She looks a little shocked. "Excuse me?"
"The business. You should do it with me."
She looks relieved, and then startled. "That's not what I meant when I..."
But he cuts her off, waving his hand. "I know that. But I'd never have thought of it without you. It's not like you're busy at the moment, is it?"
She smiles, accepting the truth in his words. "We barely know each other. You haven't really thought this through."
He isn't smiling anymore, though. He's looking at her like he really sees her. "I'm serious. Be my partner in all of this." He pauses, looks up at the darkened sky, then back at her. "At least think about it."
They aren't friends yet, barely acquaintances, so he places a hand on her arm briefly and bids her goodnight. She watches him walk away as she mulls over his words, wondering how things got to this point and why she can't stop smiling.
The next day she turns up on his doorstep with a shoebox full of ideas.
Zoe's had one of those days. Make that three days. As she walks up the path, her thoughts consumed by the relief of the thought of dumping her bags inside the door, kicking off her heels and curling into the sofa in front of a roaring fire, she smiles softly at the warm light glowing from the front window and the smell of baking wafting out as she nears the front door. She wonders what disaster Cal and Emily have managed to cook up this time, and decides resolutely that instead of remaking whatever cake they've failed to make rise this evening, she'll order in instead. She's tired today.
Her key turns softly in the lock, the gentle click doing nothing to notify the occupants of the house to her return. She can hear Emily giggling, uncontrollably, and as she kicks off her shoes and starts to pad towards the kitchen she hears the laughter of two other people join in. She freezes in the hallway, trying to identify the female laugh and failing, and wonders just how long she's been away on business because it feels like everything has changed.
She rounds the corner to a flour-covered daughter, her husband and a woman she's definitely seen before. Her long brown hair is down this time, flowing around her shoulders, and the ever-present calmness surrounds her. Zoe can't stand it.
"Mom!" Emily rejoices, running at her full-tilt and Zoe tries not to grimace as she imagines the flour that is now coating her expensive navy suit. While she wraps her arms around Emily, her eyes don't leave the pair in the room.
"Zoe," Cal starts, finally regaining his voice. "We weren't expecting you until the morning!" And then he's moving towards her, offering her the most awkward peck on the cheek she's ever received from him and she wonders why it is that she's feeling like the other woman, standing in her own kitchen with her own daughter and her own husband. This isn't the way it's supposed to go.
"My conference ended early. I thought I'd surprise you guys," she answers, almost cattily, as she eyes Gillian warily again.
"Sorry, where are my manners," Cal says, leading her further into the room. "Zo, this is Dr. Gillian Foster. Foster - my wife, Zoe."
"We've met," Gillian says with a look of recognition and embarrassment that she didn't think to query who it was looking for Cal in the winding hallways of the Pentagon. "Not properly, though." She sets her wine glass down on the side and steps forward, a lovely smile on her face. "It's a pleasure to meet you," she offers. "I've heard so much about you."
Zoe shakes her hand, her smile thin as she returns, "That's funny. I haven't heard anything about you."
Gillian's smile falters as she looks to Cal, stepping back. The temperature in the room just plummeted and the happy atmosphere went right along with it.
"I should go," Gillian smiles, though even Zoe can see that it's a little forced this time. "Leave you to your evening together."
Zoe says nothing as Cal looks between the two, confused as to what has just happened.
"Bye, Gill!" Emily exclaims, walking towards her and wrapping her arms around her hips.
"Em, darling, you're getting flour all over Gillian here," Zoe says, almost positive that she's kept the childish glee out of her voice.
But Gillian just smiles, brushing the flour off her jeans as Emily steps away. "Oh, that's OK. It's only flour!"
Zoe wonders why her reaction couldn't have been as accepting, as she looks down at her white-covered suit.
When she looks back on this moment, years later, Zoe realizes that things were never going to be any different considering this was how they started out.
It's only after Gillian has left and Emily has gone to bed that Zoe has time to notice that the kitchen table is covered in paperwork. There are spreadsheets, logo designs, budget plans and briefs. The Lightman Group. Dr. Cal Lightman and Dr. Gillian Foster.
"What the hell is this?" she spins round, the letterhead piece of paper in her hand.
"I'm starting my own business," Cal shrugs.
"Just like that? And with Gillian?" she fumes.
Again, he shrugs, and it only angers Zoe more. "It was her idea."
"Of course it was," Zoe counters, and the hurt and anger resonating off of her make Cal wonder whether perhaps that was the entirely wrong thing to say. "You didn't even think to ask me?"
"Zoe, you aren't interested in any of this stuff. You hate it when I read you, you resent the science itself altogether. Why would I ever think you'd want anything to do with this?"
"Oh, and I suppose your dear Gillian wants to know all about this science of yours, wants you to teach her everything you know. Oh, Cal, train me to be a deception expert, pretty please!"
"It's not like that, Zoe, and you know it," Cal responds, trying to stay calm. He can read the jealousy all over Zoe's face and wonders what else she needs beyond a wedding ring and a daughter and a house and photographs everywhere to prove that she has him to herself.
She's quiet, and he can see her calming herself down as her breath steadies, but her eyes are still full of fire.
"Well," she finally says, sweetly. "You're going to need financing, aren't you? Maybe that's something that I can help with."
He doesn't realize it at the time, but when he looks back he sees just how good a power play that was.
They've found themselves in the very same Irish bar that they holed up in seven years ago. Again, he gets the drinks in while she prays that the booth in the back corner is free; makes her way towards it and sinks happily into it when she finds that it is.
She's lost in thought when he joins her, and he places her drink on the table and waves a hand in front of her face before he manages to pull her from her memories. She smiles, focusing on him. He's bought them the very same drinks they drank all that time ago, even though both of their tastes have since changed.
Out of habit he begins peeling the label off the bottle and she pulls her lip between her teeth, but then she realizes what she's doing and releases it, reaching out a hand and placing it on his, stilling his actions as well.
Her movement jolts him out of his thoughts. "I'm sorry I ever doubted you." He can't believe that now, after everything they've been through, he'd still throw suspicion her way.
"I would have doubted me, too, based on all the evidence."
"I shouldn't have been going by the evidence and we both know that," he replies, softly.
She smiles at that, tilting her head to the side in silent agreement. "You weren't, not really. I am your blind spot after all," she grins at him. She's taken her hand back and is cradling her glass with both hands.
"That you are, love," he agrees, and there's something in his voice that makes her breath catch.
He wonders how he can make up for the fear that he's caused her to feel. He wonders how he can ever apologize enough considering, as it turns out, she's been protecting him the entire time. All these years he'd thought he was the one protecting her, keeping her away from the dark and in the light, but it turns out she'd been forced into the shadows before she'd even met him and all he'd done was help keep her there.
"Don't do this to yourself," she whispers, as she sees all of these emotions flitter across his face. "I would do it all again in a heartbeat."
"I'm going to make sure that you never have to," he replies, and his fierce certainty both reassures and scares her. She feels safe, yet uncertain at the same time, almost as if she's standing atop a cliff holding his hand and the sun is shining, but he has one foot over the edge and she knows she's never going to let go so she might just fall with him if it ever comes to that.
She reaches across the table and grasps his hand tightly. "We're in this together."
He holds back just as tightly, as he feels them come to balance for what is apparently the first time since they met; and he realizes that they both blame themselves for a certain amount of darkness in each other's lives. "Yeah, we are," he murmurs.
She smiles, because it's true. She isn't carrying this burden alone now and the relief of that realization makes tears come to her eyes for the second time that evening.
He waits until she looks up at him, forgets his beer bottle as he reaches his spare hand up to cup her cheek. He wipes away the stray tears with the pad of his thumb before he speaks.
"Thank you." He wants to add to it, to affirm that you only act the way she has done for people that you care for, even love. But he finds the words lodged in his throat because she's still in this darker part of the world because of him and he's unwavering in his certainty that he is never going to do anything to add to that. He thinks, or at least he hopes, that she feels the same. That'll have to do for now.
She says nothing, just turns her cheek into his palm and gives him a soft smile.
It's the only confirmation he needs.