Disclaimer: Nothing about this wonderful show or these gorgeous characters is mine. Sadly.
Cal shifted his feet awkwardly, not totally sure how they'd arrived at this moment. Gillian was upset, he knew that – well that was to be expected, she was going through a divorce. But her posture, her hands alternating between being on her hips or waving crossly at him, the look on her face and the tone of her voice all indicated that she was angry with him. Perhaps it had something to do with the comment he'd just made about it being her decision to leave Alec. Possibly not your wisest choice of words, Cal, he reflected as she started another angry tirade.
"You have no idea what I'm going through, Cal. You think your divorce was worse than mine because Zoe was the one who walked out on you, you think you suffered more than I am because you were the one left standing in the empty room instead of the one walking out the door. But you have no idea what it's like for me. You don't know what it's like to be forced to admit that your marriage isn't working, that it's failed, that you've failed." Her eyes were bright with tears, but she fought hard not to let any of them spill onto her cheeks. "You have no idea what it's like to walk away from the person you always thought you'd grow old with, to firmly plant yourself back at square one, to take yourself even further away from the life you always wanted, the future you always imagined, the dreams you always hoped you'd fulfil. You know what it's like to have your heart broken, I know, but you don't know what it's like to have your heart broken and break someone else's at the same time. You think it's easier for me because I was the one who made the decision, I was the one who spoke the words aloud, but it's not. It's just not, okay?" She broke off, her breathing a little heavy, and folded her arms defensively across her chest.
"Okay, love." He took a half step back. "I'm sorry."
She exhaled deeply. "I'm not trying to diminish what you went through, Cal. I was there, I saw your pain, I know how much it hurt when Zoe left you…"
"Yeah, it did. And I know you're hurting right now, love. And I hate to think that you don't realise I see that, or, worse, that you think I don't care."
She sighed softly. "I know you care."
"It's not a competition, is it?" He gave her a small smile. "'My divorce is worse than your divorce' or something."
"Sounds like one of those trashy reality shows."
"Yeah." He paused, his smile fading. "I was a miserable sodding bastard after Zoe left, I know that. And you were there for me, putting up with all my crap and my moods…"
"And the smelly shirt…" she reminded him, a smile tugging at the corner of her mouth.
"Exactly. Now, I can't imagine you doing that, but whatever you have to do, you know I'm here, right?"
"I know." She gave him another small smile. "It's just… divorce is hard."
"You're preaching to the choir, love. Worst thing was Emily being caught in the middle of it all, you're lucky you don't have that to deal with."
He didn't need to see her face to know the insensitivity of his words; the realisation crashed over him the second he heard himself say it.
"Thanks for reminding me," she said coldly, and he reached out to grab her arm.
"Gill, I'm sorry. I didn't mean…"
"That you're happy I'm childless because it'll make the divorce process easier? No, of course you didn't." He hated the bitter edge he heard in her voice, and tightened his grip on her arm.
"You know I didn't."
She shook her arm to release his hand and stepped away. "Just leave me alone, Cal."
"No? No, you're not going to leave me alone?"
Her lips thinned in anger, then she pushed past him with a huff of annoyance. "Fine. Then I'll leave. You can stay here in my office, but I need to be elsewhere."
"Not like this. Gill, please don't leave things like this."
She stopped at the doorway, her back to him, and he could see her shoulders slowly start to relax. "Please," he added. "I don't want you to leave angry with me."
She turned to face him, closed her eyes and sighed. Opening them slowly, she started to speak. "I'm not angry with you, Cal. I just… need some space, and some time, by myself."
"What I said…"
"I know you didn't mean it." Her tone was softer now, but that didn't make him feel any better about that stupid remark. "I over-reacted, because I'm emotionally vulnerable and sensitive right now."
He took a tentative step towards her, as if afraid she wouldn't let him near her. "So… we're okay?"
She gave him a small smile and a nod. "We're okay. You know that even when we argue, we're okay. Or that we will be."
"I know we always have been before. I know you've always forgiven me when I've been a selfish bastard or a stupid idiot, that you've always stuck by me when I've screwed up and been patient with me when I know I haven't deserved it. But things are different now, Gill. You said yourself the divorce is hard on you… and if I make it worse, I mean, if I…"
She could see the concern on his face, and gave him a gentle smile as she closed the distance between them and rested both hands on his shoulders. "You've never not been deserving of my patience or forgiveness, Cal. And you've done more than enough to repay me for any kindness I've shown you."
"Hardly true, love," he said, meeting her eyes then looking away in shame, and she moved her head so he was forced to keep eye contact.
"Hey." When he held her gaze she continued to speak. "You're not making it worse. Okay, I could have done without the little reminder that you had a child to consider in the middle of everything and I don't…" She cupped his cheek when he tried to look away, clearly angry with himself. "But it's not your fault that I don't have a child, and I would never wish that things were different for you, that you didn't have Emily… you know that whatever my own issues, I love Emily, and I am really pleased that you have her in your life."
He nodded. "I know, love, but…"
"But nothing," she said firmly. "Now let me finish. You said you were making this worse for me. Well, I've got news for you, Cal. When someone is going through a divorce, it's difficult, yes, and, like I said, sometimes they do need a bit of time and space by themselves, but you know what else they need?" She waited a second before continuing, then said softly, "their best friend, Cal. They need their best friend." He brushed a lock of her hair behind her ear and she smiled, her hand dropping from his cheek. "You think you can do that for me?"
"Reckon I can give it a go."
"Good." She stepped closer and wrapped her arms around him, feeling him return the hug immediately. "Because I'm going to need you."
As he tightened his embrace, he couldn't help thinking how remarkable it was that she was the one going through the divorce, he was the one who'd just been an insensitive bastard, and yet she was the one who was comforting him. Only Gillian, he thought with a wry smile. "I'll be here," he promised. "Always."
"Good," she said again, stepping back.
"Still want your alone time now?" he asked her, and she laughed softly.
"Yes, please. As much as I love you, Cal… yes. I would like to be alone right now."
"Okay." He leant forward and kissed her forehead, then walked to the door. "But you know where I am if you need me."
"When I need you," she clarified, and he smiled.
"Yeah. Bye, love." He walked towards his own office, managing somehow to resist the temptation to glance back at her. His mind was a jumble of things; anger over his stupid comment about her not having a child, relief that she wasn't angry with him anymore, sadness at the pain that she was going through, gratitude for her friendship, determination to be the best friend that she deserved. And there was something else, although he couldn't quite find the right word to define the feeling. But it had everything to do with her saying, "as much as I love you." He sat down in his chair, picked up his paperweight and began turning it over idly in his hands as her voice in his head said the phrase over and over. However she'd meant it, it was nice to hear.
Ten minutes later, he finally put the paperweight down, switched on his computer and forced himself to resume working. It was still there, though, in the back of his mind; in the midst of his concern for her, and the warm feeling left by her hug and her gentle smile, was a flicker of something else. He couldn't be sure, but he thought it might be hope.