Disclaimer: I own none of the characters involved, Lie to Me belongs to Fox, etc, etc. No monetary gain is being made by this story.
A/n: I've been writing for Lie to Me recently, over at livejournal mostly, because it's my preferred site to use, but thought I should probably post these here too :) I accepte dthe fanfic100 challenge for this pairing, I have a prompt table with 100 prompts, and have to complete all 100 stories...eventually, haha. This will be the only fic I leave an a/n on, so I'm just generally letting you all know I appreciate and love any and all feedback you leave, the link to my livejournal fic community is on my profile, and yeah, enjoy :)
Leave Me the White
He slammed the door on his way out, and she could feel the reverberations through the floor she was currently curled up on, face pressed into the carpet as she sobbed. Her shoulders shook silently as the carpet itched against the wet skin of her face, but she was glad he had left, glad that the only witnesses to this failure were the furnishings of the room around her.
She cried so much, and so hard that she barely added any sound to the vacuum of silence in the room other than the congested, uneven breathing as she fought to get herself under control. Except that she couldn't – she couldn't control herself, not tonight. Alec, she was sure, had gone to lose himself in some grungy bathroom bar, filled with offensive writing on bathroom stalls that he eyed in between leaning over a small mirror in order to snort his way to oblivion. She couldn't care less about that than she did right now, curled in a ball in her daughter's (not her daughter's – never her daughter ever again) bedroom and wept her pain out into the Berber carpet.
She had told him to go. Asked, yelled, shouted, pleaded and outright begged actually. Because – because she couldn't stand to look at his face and see less pain than what she saw reflected in the mirror. Because she was the one who wanted Sophie, who wanted to fight for her, and he was the one who didn't want to go through a long battle only to lose in the end anyway. We wouldn't lose. I wouldn't lose.
She wasn't sure how long exactly had passed between his leaving and this moment, but she knew that the tears had finally stopped, even though the pain seemed more intense in their absence. She rolled on to her back with a sniffle, thankful for the blanketing dark that kept her from seeing the soft lilac walls, the crib Sophie had slept in just last night, just last night – oh God. It hurt so damn much, like someone had walked into her home and ripped open her chest, walking out with her heart and leaving her lying here with no discernable pulse, just an ugly wound that bled and bled and refused to clot. Which, in essence, they had.
Sophie had cried and cried as she was carried away by the social worker. She hadn't been able to watch her being carried out the door, had instead moved over to the stairs as fast as her feet could carry her. Alec had stood in the hallway awkwardly, his face stony and his hands shoved in his pockets as he walked the social worker to the door. Just... walked his daughter out of his life.
She didn't want to remember this. Not now. Not here in this far too quiet room, mostly empty except for the furniture. She had packed all of Sophie's clothes and blankets and stuffed toys for her. Children needed familiarity. Her blankets would comfort her. Because they smell like me.
New tears sprung forth, despite the fact that she was positive she had cried every single ounce of saline there was in her body already. Where did they keep coming from? I have to stop. She rolled onto her hands and knees, crawling past the almost closed door and out into the dimly lit hallway.
She shouldn't have asked (demanded) Alec to leave. Being alone right now wasn't doing anything for her, except allowing her to relive every smile Sophie had ever given her, every wave of her tiny fists, every blink of her big solemn eyes as she stared up at her Mommy. Her Mommy. The pain in her chest increased and she had to pause for a moment, leaning against the hallway wall as she stood, fighting to find the strength to move to the bathroom, despite the fact that she was pretty sure she was bleeding out onto the oak floors.
Finally, finally, she was able to stagger to the bathroom, put the taps on full cold and splash the frigid water onto her face. It took her breath momentarily, an icy stinging sensation against her skin. But that small pain made the larger one seem less, so she did it again and again until she was gasping from the effort of holding her breath. Afterward she scrubbed a towel over her face and stared at her reflection in the mirror. She looked terrible. Red and puffy, her face oddly swollen and her nose still running. But none of that fazed her, except for her eyes. They looked empty. She felt empty. Hollow and cavernous – nothing inside her but the echo of a love that was too painful to feel, and yet she couldn't stop herself from feeling it.
Alec couldn't fix this. He couldn't help her out of this feeling; because he was too busy helping himself out. They'd screamed at each other before he'd left. It had started because he wanted to comfort her. She'd taken offense to that because how could he even be capable of comforting her? Shouldn't he be in such pain that he couldn't comfort anyone but himself? He'd insisted and insisted on staying, no matter how she'd asked him to go, over and over again. Eventually it had devolved into her trying; trying to hurt him just so she could feel like someone else was in this much pain with her.
She had accused him of never loving Sophie the way she had. Of never wanting her as much as she had. He'd blamed her, saying that a child wasn't a band-aid that could hold a marriage together. But you never fail at anything, do you Gillian? Oh, except motherhood, apparently. She had hit him, over and over, striking out at him and telling him to get the fuck out (and she never curses. Ever.) and go snort his problems away, since they both know that's what he'd been dying to do since the day they brought Sophie home. He'd gotten silent then, staring at her until he finally just nodded, reminding her if that was what she wanted, who was he to refuse? Then he had walked out of the room and out of the house with the faintly echoing parting shot reverberating around the room. Maybe I just won't come back.
She felt like she had nothing left to say, nothing left inside of her that could possibly make any of this okay. She just... didn't want to feel this anymore. And even though she knew she shouldn't, she found herself in her too bright kitchen, fumbling to turn two of the three lights off until just the ambient glow from the fixture above her sink remained. The warm light reflected off of the large wine glass she pulled down from the cupboard, and shimmered across the dark red wine as she filled the cup up. She wished it was that easy – that she, like the glass could be filled up by the wine.
She was just about to take a sip when the phone rang; the harsh shrill jarring her so badly she sloshed wine over the rim and onto her tank top and the counter top, where it pooled before creeping over the edge and dripping onto the white tile. "God dammit." She whispered harshly, her voice rough from hours of yelling followed by hours of crying until her throat was raw. The phone kept ringing, insisting on her attention as she took a soothing sip, leaving the dark red pool on the floor as she reached for the phone. "What?" Her greeting was tired, and she fully expected it to be Alec, calling because he was too high or too stupid to realize home was the last number her should be dialling right now.
"Oi! Foster – that how you answer the phone now? Listen – look, I know you're still on leave and all, but we caught a case that has video footage, but I can't see their bloody faces you know?"
"Cal..." Her voice was a rough whisper, clearly not loud enough because Cal kept speaking as if she had never spoken in the first place.
"-need you to come in and do your thing, or I can bring it by if that's easier. See how much Sophie's grown in the last week while you take a look-" She felt like she was cracking in two as he spoke her daughter's (not her daughter's) name, sliding down the wall because her legs couldn't support her anymore. She whimpered, trying, trying to stop herself from losing it again.
"Don't," she choked the word out harshly, "don't call me – don't – just don't, Cal. I – I can't."
"What happened?" His voice was strong and demanding. "Fos – Gillian, what's happened?" She couldn't stop the renewed tears then, almost silent except for the great gasps of air she needed to survive. Glass shattered in the background and the wine pooled all around her but her hands were shaking too much to do anything about it, she could barely hang on to the phone.
"I- I have to go." She barely got the words out, and she was positive that even though she had, Call probably hadn't understood what the hell she was saying, but the phone slid from her grasp and clattered to the floor, landing with a splash in the middle of the wine.
She leaned her head against the wall, cursing herself for answering the damn thing in the first place. She was still crying, silent tears that rolled down her face as she tried to breathe evenly and get herself under control. She figured she had fifteen minutes, maybe less. He can't see me like this. It was a thought she repeated, over and over in her head, trying to grasp onto the frayed edges of her snapped control and draw it around herself. Cal – Cal wasn't like Alec. She knew Alec's weaknesses, knew what to say to make him just go away, and knew what buttons to push so that he would leave her the hell alone. Cal... she didn't even know if those buttons existed with him. If they did, she sure as hell hadn't discovered them yet. Ten minutes. She pushed herself up, grabbing a tea towel and soaking up the wine, scooping the glass up with it before throwing everything in the trash. She wet the next tea towel, ice cold and such a relief as she pressed it to her face for a moment before she wiped the floor and counter down once more, before chucking that towel in the garbage as well. The stain wouldn't come out, she knew.
He can't see me like this. It was a mantra as she ran upstairs, oddly grateful for Cal's predictable reaction of charging in, since it gave her something else to think about, to be concerned about as she yanked her tank top and yoga pants off and pulled on a fresh set. She could concentrate on yanking the brush through her hair as she gathered it into a ponytail and not on how the bed smelled like Alec, or how she had changed Sophie just there, only this morning.
She didn't bother with make-up, because an hour wouldn't be long enough to make her look like she hadn't just had her own heart ripped out, and even then, all the make-up in the world wouldn't hide her from Cal Lightman's searching gaze.
She was coming down the stairs when her front door burst open and she paused – he didn't have a key, how had he gotten in? But by then he had spotted her and was slamming the door behind him before loping across the hall and meeting her on the stairs. "Foster! What happened? Are you alright? Where in the bloody hell is Alec? Is Sophie okay?" The questions were fired at her, one after the other and she tried to manage a smile, but she couldn't even bother, because instead her head was shaking and so was the rest of her body. "You're scaring me Gillian." His voice was soft and his hands were on her upper arms, wrapped tightly as he peered at her face in the darkened hall.
She sank then – would have fallen really, but for his hands holding her up and guiding the both of them down on the stairs.
"They're gone." Her voice was a dry whisper and she was shocked that the tears didn't start again, but something – some indefinable part of herself wouldn't allow herself to fall apart, not in front of Cal.
"What? That absolute bastard – I told you Gillian, the man is an absolute waste of-"
"No, no, Cal. Not like –she decided she wanted her back. Just – just like that. She wanted her back and it didn't matter that she was mine now – ours now. It didn't matter, they just – just took her and, and-" She couldn't get the words out, not because of the tears but because of the absolute rage she felt building up within her.
"Oh, Gillian, love.."
"Who does that? Who does that? Who gives up their baby and then just changes their mind, like they're asking for a refund on a purse, not a life. How could she do that?" His arms were fully around her now, gripping her tightly to his chest – so tightly she almost couldn't breathe, but it felt safe. Comforting. "Harder, Cal, please? Can you – tighter?" She barely got the words out, but somehow he heard her and complied, his grip tightening even further until all she could feel was his strength, and all she could do was barely breathe and listen to the pounding of his heart in his chest. It was so loud. Loud enough for two hearts, or maybe three. It was loud enough. Loud enough to fill the silence that fell as he just held on tight, and sat on the stairs, rocking her back and forth.
"I'm so sorry, love. So, so sorry." He whispered the words over and over again, and though she had rejected any such comfort from Alec, she accepted it now, whispered harshly in the dark night in an English accent. Dimly she wondered if that meant something, but the train of thought was too difficult – too dangerous – to follow, especially right now.
"I know." Her words were whispered into his chest, and she didn't know if he heard them, but she continued anyway, pretending that it was like telling secrets to his heart. No one would know. "I fought with Alec. Sent him away – I couldn't look at him. Couldn't stand to see his face, so impassive, so- so, I couldn't look at him. It was bad, Cal. Really bad." His arms tensed around her, and she could feel the words, just dying to escape his lips. Could almost hear them, as if his heart were whispering secrets right back into her ear. If she looked up, she knew what his face would look like, lips thinned out, hooded eyes glaring as he fought not to speak, not to push his wiry frame into action. Action being, most likely, pummelling the crap out of her erstwhile husband. "I did it on purpose. Made him leave, Cal. He had no choice."
Sometimes, she cursed her devil's advocate tendencies. It was the therapist in her, always highlighting the other point of view, always seeking to make others see outside of themselves. Right now she hated it. "He had a choice, love, he just chose to be a tosser." His words were soft, but edged with a real anger and she snaked her arms around his waist, pulling him even closer to her, so she could hear what his heart was really trying to tell her. "Never mind him, though, love. Let's get you up to bed, shall we? Because I'm an old man, and these stairs are bloody killing me." She released him immediately, pulling back.
"I'm sorry, Cal, I shouldn't have-"
"Oh I see how it is. So you're agreeing that I'm old, are you? For shame, love. And here I thought you'd tell me how young and virile I still am." He was doing what he always did – using humour to distance them from the pain at hand. She couldn't quite manage to meet his efforts this time though, instead she looked at him with panicked eyes.
"Not my room, okay Cal? I was – she was just – this morning, and I-"
"Shh, love. Spare room it is then." He was gathering her up even as he spoke, not quite lifting her, but supporting her as she stood on her own two feet. He guided her into the guest bedroom, sitting her on the bed and pushing her back until she lay down. "I'm just gonna call Zoe, okay love? Just let her know that I won't be home."
"No Cal, you don't have to stay. I don't really want to talk about it."
"That's fine, Gillian. Nothing left to say anyway, is there? Nothing you can articulate, anyway. But if you think I'm gonna leave you all on your own like this, you're insane. We're partners, yeah? I'll be right back." She stared at the door, inhaling the sheets that smelled like nothing and no one but fabric softener as she counted the seconds, and listened to the thump of his feet on the stairs, the sound of his movement downstairs, followed by the inevitable murmur of his voice as he spoke to Zoe. She could hear the strain, even if she couldn't hear the words and she fidgeted, knowing that she was causing an argument between her best friend and his wife. But then she thought about how Zoe was at home, with her daughter asleep just down the hall, and she found that she didn't really give a damn if Zoe wasn't happy right now. She had her daughter. And tomorrow, she would get Cal back. She on the other hand, had and empty crib and just needed her friend for one damn night. Just one night – he could hold it (and her) together in her stead. She'd be better in the morning.
His footfalls were heavy on the stairs – Cal was like a kid, always thumping around with his full weight in every step, even though she knew for a fact he could be light on his feet when he was required to be. "You awake, love?" His head was poking through the door and he had two glasses of what looked like scotch in his hands. She made a face and he chuckled. "I know you hate the stuff, but it'll help you sleep. Doctor's orders." He pressed the glass into her hands and watched as she swallowed the entire contents in one gulp, gasping a little as it burned down her throat and settled in her belly.
"I'm a doctor too, you know." She complained as she set the glass on the bedside table.
"Well, yeah, but I've been one longer, so I win." He stood watching as she laid back, shifting awkwardly for a moment.
"I'm sorry if I caused any problems with-"
"Don't you be worrying about that now, eh? You need to sleep, love."
"Will you stay? I mean, in here, with me? I know it probably seems stupid, and I still don't want to talk but I just... feel better when you're-" He was kicking his shoes off and clambering over her and onto the bed before she had even finished speaking. His arms wrapped around her, pulling her tight against him, her back to his chest.
"This alright?" His voice was soft and she didn't answer verbally, just nodded and closed her eyes. His breathing was soft and even, and she revelled in the feel of his warmth at her back – Alec wasn't a snuggler and she, well, she just didn't complain. Every breath she took, she could smell fabric softener and him and she gripped the forearm that was around her waist tightly, pulling his arm up until she was cradling it by her face, both arms wrapped around it.
She didn't sleep. But she lay there for hours, feeling his heart beat against her back, strong enough that she could feel it reverberate through her own ribcage. Almost like it's my own.
Strong enough for the both of them.