It started, as they all do, as a relatively normal day at the Lightman Group. Cal had just returned to his office after scolding Loker for chatting too much and distracting Torres from her work. He was looking around for something to do as an excuse for putting off calling back the congress woman who had left a message with Heidi earlier that morning. On top of that, he was also trying to avoid Gillian, because he knew she was spending the day working on payroll, and anything having to do with the company's finances had a tendency to stress her out.
He didn't know it at the time, but those moments in his office that day were the last few moments in which Cal Lightman thought he had ever experienced fear. It was true that he had been afraid for his life before, but always this fear had been accompanied by an adrenaline rush, an undercurrent of excitement from being in danger. What he was about to experience was pure, unadulterated terror. The kind of fear the flows slow and cold through your veins, narrowing your perspective and making you crazy. Crazy enough to do almost anything.
Later, they would come to know him as Erik Sanders, a man who suffered from both mild delusions and an attachment disorder. Later, they would come to know almost his entire life story, but right now, they knew nothing about him. Right now, he was just the insane man who shoved Gillian behind him as he waved a gun wildly in Cal's face.
"I'll kill him!" Sanders shrieked, and Gillian's heart lurched because she knew he meant it.
"Please -" Her voice sounding fragile and tiny in comparison to his.
"Shut up!" He boomed, red gaze flicking briefly to her. "Don't you see? I'm doing this because I love you; I'm saving you from him. All he ever does is hurt you!" Sanders was practically frothing at the mouth, his finger jittering unsteadily over the trigger.
"That's not true," Cal started.
"Shut up, you son of a bitch! All you've ever done is fuck with her emotions. You're poison to her; you're tainting her with your corrupt little world!"
Cal swallowed hard at the mention of his deepest and most private fear. He looked to Gillian, trying to gauge her reaction. She met his eyes and shook her head.
"Cal, that's not true." She murmured, and she meant it.
"Sometimes I think it is, luv," he thought, but said nothing. The last thing this bastard needed was more fuel on his already blazing fire.
"Yes it is," Sanders insisted, looking to Gillian in a way that conveyed desperation and even a sick sort of concern. "He's blinded you! He's been playing with your emotions for so long that you can't see him for the life-sucking leech he really is!"
Gillian's nostrils flared in anger. She took a step forward as if to punch Sanders only to promptly take a step back when she remembered the gun. "Cal is not a leech! He's my friend. My best friend and he cares about me as much as I care about him."
"But he hurts you! How many times has he done something that has upset you? How many times has he made you cry? If he really cared about you, he'd get his head out of his ass and stop torturing you like he does! I'm doing this because I love you, Gillian! I need you to understand that."
"No," She shook her head vehemently, "no no no, no you don't. If you really cared about me, you wouldn't be doing any of this. You would respect me and my decisions. And you would accept that my friendship with Cal is one of them. You're the one hurting me, and I think you know it." Slowly, she took a step toward him and gently placed a hand on his elbow. For a moment, Cal could have sworn that he saw that he saw a bit of hesitation, the slightest shake of Sanders' arm, but it was gone in the blink of an eye.
"Back off, Gilli, I don't want to have to hurt you." He growled, shrugging off her hand. She took a step back and blinked.
'Gilli?' Nobody had ever called her Gilli. Gill, yes, many people called her 'Gill,' but nobody had ever called her 'Gilli' and the fact that this man was the first one to do so made her take an immediate dislike to the nickname.
"Oi, you really should listen to her. She's right, you know." Cal said reasonably, appearing calm as ever in the face of calamity. Though Gillian knew better, she could see the shadows of fear hiding behind his imperturbable masking expression. "You say you love her, but to me it seems like you want her as a possession, not a lover. You're doing this all wrong."
"Yeah? What do you know about love? You screwed up your marriage didn't you?" Sanders shot right back. The levels of disgust and anger in his body language were frightening; he obviously hated Cal and would have little trouble shooting him. In addition to that he was, as his actions demonstrated, highly unstable.
"No, actually, I didn't. My divorce with my ex-wife was a mutual decision. It wasn't because of anything thing that either of us 'screwed up.' And, from what I'm seeing here, I know a lot more about love than you do"
"Yeah? Then prove it," Sanders tossed the gun at Cal. It skittered across the floor and stopped at his feet.
Eying the man warily, Cal bent slowly to pick up the gun. The second it was in his hand, Sanders lunged at Gillian, grabbing her and pulling her to his chest. Suddenly he was holding a knife that he had procured from god-knows-where to Gillian's throat.
"Don't you dare take a shot at me." He threatened, tightening his grip Gillian until his knuckles turned white. Gillian gasped slightly, then winced when the edge of the knife pressed harder against her.
"I don't want to have to hurt you, sweetheart," Sanders murmured into her ear. His breath was hot, but in a dank and disgusting way. "You know I love you. You know that right?"
It was at about this point that Cal started to wonder where the hell Reynolds was. Weren't situations like this the reason why he was assigned to The Lightman Group in the first place? What was the point of that if he was never around when they needed him?
"Yeah, yeah. I know. You love me. I know." She spoke quickly, nervously. Trying to come up with some way to appease him enough to let Cal go. "You know what, let's get out of here. Just the two of us. We-we can leave and just never come back, forget this ever happened."
Cal was proud; her voice barely shook.
But Sanders wasn't buying it. He shook his head. "No, no. You know we can't do that. We can't forget anything until he's dead. After he dies, then we can leave. Together."
"Now hang on just a minute here, I'm not dead yet," Cal interjected. "Look, Mr... whatever your name is. I want to make a deal with you. If I take this gun and put a bullet into my own head, I want you to let Gillian go. You can do that, yeah? Sometimes the things you love the most, you have to set free, right? So... if I kill myself, I want you to let her go. Just... leave her alone. I won't be hurting her anymore, so you won't need to worry about protecting her anymore, right?"
"Cal, don't do it!" Gillian exclaimed, but the shock in her voice was fake. One thing she knew about Cal was that he always had a plan, even in situations that appeared impossible to get out of.
"Let her go?" Sanders' eyes narrowed as he considered the 'deal.' "Fine. But not until you're dead."
"So it's a deal? You'll let her go?"
"Yes, it's a deal." But the slightest shake of his head 'no' gave him away. He was lying. Sanders was going to do whatever it was he had planned regardless of whether or not Cal killed himself. But in spite of this Cal raised the muzzle of the gun to his temple anyway.
"Cal? W-what are you doing?" Gillian questioned, voice shaking again, but this time her fear was real. While it was true that Cal always had a plan, such plans had usually involved stalling for time or talking his way out of things. Something in his eyes this time was different, and it told her that he was serious. She had always suspected that part of him fancied himself as a martyr.
"Gillian," Cal's eyes, all apology and determination, locked on hers, "I love you. You know that, yeah?"
"Cal, you're not actually -" Gillian was frantic now, panicking. Tears quickly formed and spilled down her cheeks. "Cal! He's lying! You see that, don't you? Cal?"
"Just get on with it!" Sanders screamed, holding back Gillian, who was trying to twist out of his grasp.
"I'm sorry, luv." Cal said softly. His eyes shimmered with unshed tears.
Unable to watch what was unable to happen, Gillian squeezed her eyes closed against a sight she feared would otherwise haunt her forever. A second later, a shot rang out. Gillian screamed.