Title: Sometimes She Wonders
Gillian, Cal/Gillian, angst, post-1x13 Sacrifice AU, pg-13
Author's Notes: Many thanks to my beta, tempertemper77! No spoilers past 1x13 Sacrifice, and therefore doesn't take into account any backstory we've been given in season 2. Originally a part of the plot!fic I'm working on, but I wanted to incorporate what we've learned in season 2 into that so hopefully this works as a stand-alone AU instead.
It's a bad night to be alone
But that's the way it goes
- A Fine Frenzy, Think of You
April 13th 1999
The quiet suburban street seemed too quiet and unassuming for the conversation he was having. Standing still with his cell phone pressed to his ear he wondered why he felt as if he were spinning.
"We need to give it another chance, Cal. Please, come home."
"Zo, it wasn't working for a reason. Many reasons, in fact. Those reasons aren't somehow going to disappear."
He heard her sigh - could imagine her pulling up her chair to the table, a straight flush in her hands a serene smile on her face as she knew she had her opponent trapped - and felt a gnawing at his gut.
"Okay, Cal. You're right. But just before you go, there's someone here who'd like to speak with you."
He heard the phone being passed from big hand to little hand, as he marvelled how yet again she had manipulated the situation and he'd been left with no other choice.
"Daddy? When are you coming home?"
Cal pinched the bridge of his nose exhaling slowly as he felt tears prick behind his eyelids. Everything had changed with those few words. Staring at Gillian's home, the warm light glowing from inside and the gentle heart it housed, he answered his daughter. "I'll be home soon, Em."
April 19th 1999
"I can't see you for a while."
She was standing in the doorway to her home, blocking his entrance to more than just her front room.
"Just," her voice broke as she placed her hand on his chest, "for a while. It's too hard. I need some space away from you if I'm ever going… to get over you."
"I don't want to lose you," he replied, desperation creeping into his voice.
She shook her head. "I don't want that either. You're in my life, Cal. I'm in your life. Perhaps not in the way that we want each other to be, but the way that it has to be." A painful pause as she choked a little on her words. "We both have to find a way to adjust to that idea." There were tears freely flowing down her cheeks, and Cal thought, tragically, that she had never looked more beautiful. She was being as honest with him as she ever had been, and it was tearing both of them apart.
"You're," it was his turn for his voice to break, "so strong."
Again, she shook her head. Her palm, still firmly on his chest, radiated heat that warmed him right to the core. "This isn't strength. I want nothing more than to be with you, to ask you to stay with me, not leave me, not do the right thing. I'm not strong, Cal. This is just me surviving the only way I know how."
His face felt damp and he suddenly realized that he, too, was crying. He was losing her and there was nothing he could do to stop it. Images of Emily flashed through his mind, her face young and hopeful and happy, and he wondered, not for the first time, why he couldn't have both that vision and the woman in front of him. Pulling Gillian towards him, her hand still resting on his chest between them and her other arm wrapping tightly around his neck, he buried his face in her hair. They clung to each other, crying, as they mourned the loss of all they could have been.
When they next saw each other, a few weeks later, they started to figure out who they were, to each other and to themselves, with their feelings suppressed and their friendship intact.
May 30th 2003
The church was beautiful. She was beautiful. He couldn't tear his eyes away from her even as he felt Zoe's boring into the side of his head. Alec was a lucky man. As he walked back down the aisle with his new bride, he nodded his head to Cal and Zoe in happy greeting. Gillian didn't look at him once, and he felt it like a punch to the gut.
Three weeks later, standing in his living room with fresh divorce papers in his hands, he thought about the irony of timing.
He'd always assumed they'd get their chance.
June 23rd 2009
The bar was quiet, just what she was looking for. She'd made a beeline straight for the solitary bar stool at the far end, shrouded in shadows.
She was slowly nursing her second scotch on the rocks when she'd noticed a second figure at the bar, an elderly gentleman with shoulders just as hunched as hers in defeat.
He was holding a photograph, stroking it gently with one hand as he held a cold beer in the other. He didn't seem much in the mood for drinking either, despite their surroundings.
She hadn't realized she was staring until he turned the photograph towards her slowly, allowing her to see.
"My wife, Vera. We met at a fairground in 1947 - I bought her cotton candy." He grinned at the memory, lost in thought.
"You loved her very much," Gillian uttered, softly.
"Yes, I did."
"I'm sorry for your loss."
"I can tell you mean that, so thank you." His voice was quiet, sad, and her heart went out to him. He studied her as she lost herself in thought. "What's got you so sad?"
She looked up, surprised. "Oh, nothing. I'm OK."
"No you aren't." His blunt honesty reminded her of someone else and she flinched a little at the paradoxical feelings of warmth and coldness that coursed through her veins. "I lost someone once," she continued. "Not in the same way, but I did."
"What happened?" There was sincere curiosity in the man's voice.
"He had a child," Gillian whispered. "He and his wife were separated, on the road to divorce. But family is a powerful thing," Gillian almost choked on her words, "more powerful that I could ever be for him. So he chose them. Rightfully so," she laughed, no trace of bitterness but no happiness, either, "but it didn't make it any less painful."
"What happened?" he asked.
"I moved on, married someone else."
"You aren't married now - how did that work out for you?" he pointed to her ring finger.
Gillian chuckled, this time bitterness radiating off of her, both at the memories of her failed marriage and at where she found herself now, childless and alone. "Not well."
He recognized that sympathies were not what she was looking for, so kept quiet. Long moments later she slid off her stool, reaching into her bag for a few bills to cover the drink she had barely touched.
"It was nice to meet you," she said softly as she brushed past him without a backwards glance.
'I hope you find what you're looking for," he called out after her, kindly. She stopped for a moment, looked down at the floor, and allowed a small smile to grace her face, before carrying on.
Sometimes she wondered what things would have been like, had they had been different.