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.
Peu de Roue
She knew better. Knew, when she didn't find him at the championship game, exactly where she would find him.
She knew when she was walking toward the exit, her heels muffled on the plush carpet; she turned left when she should have gone right. Right was a quicker path to the front, where Ben was waiting with the car. Right was stress-free and a chance to finally relax.
Funny fact: she'd never been to Vegas before meeting Cal. And every time she'd been here since, tension wound itself through her body, like a razor sharp wire. It wasn't that she hated Vegas, really, but as soon as she stepped onto the tarmac in this gaudy hell hole, that tension seeped into every muscle on her frame, seizing her and making every smile a forced one, every laugh a pale imitation of what mirth should sound like.
But it was like a sixth sense, that tension; her shoulders would rise and a vague ache would creep into her neck and she would know. She did know, and she went left, past the roulette tables, instead of right, toward Ben's waiting promise of showing her a different side of Vegas.
And of course he was there.
Of course he was there. Rolling back on his heels, hands shoved in his pockets as he placed every single chip of his rather considerable stack on the one bet that had the odds stacked against it.
His glace was cursory, much like his question. Brief and meaningless because he didn't want to know if she was alright, any more than he wanted to see her there. It was an odd triangle they had, she and gambling and Cal. She knew he had control issues, and he knew she had control issues. But he liked it when the odds were a long shot and the house had the advantage anyway.
She stared at him helplessly for a moment, because what could she do at this point? He knew it, she knew it – the bet was placed, the ball was rolling. His eyes met hers for a split second, before they were drawn back to the table. She felt like she'd sprung roots, she couldn't seem to look away from the damn ball bouncing around the slick wheel.
It was like driving past a car crash. That morbid fascination; you had to look. She couldn't seem to move as the ball spun around the wheel, pulled by centrifugal force. It was a million dollars; of course she had to look.
It seemed to take forever, and her hands were gripping her purse so tightly she was sure she was damaging the soft leather beneath her nails. Her shoulders rose and rose and she felt as if the motion of the wheel was pulling her; tightly, more tightly, more tightly.
Comparatively, Cal was loose next to her, arms and shoulders relaxed and his head tilted back as he kept his eye on the ball. She held her breath, and waited for the ball to fall. He breathed evenly, the thrill of the high stakes relaxing him in a way nothing else could.
The ball started to skip, hop and skid to a halt, catching on each metal spoke and bouncing wildly before landing with a thud. The table was absolutely silent – a rarity at any casino, and the dealer raised his eyes with a tiny smile. "Zero."
"Zero." She breathed the word out next to him, the first drag of oxygen she'd had in a while, and the air rushed to her brain, leaving her light-headed and dizzy. "Zero."
"Damn it." Cal's breath puffed out before he shrugged with a grin. "Can't win 'em all."
She pivoted, her feet numb and clumsy as she glared at him. "Can't win them all? Are you – are you even – that was-" She couldn't even speak, because every lungful of air just fed the leaping flames she could feel burning in her stomach. She opened her mouth once, twice, before turning on her heel and pushing past the dismayed crowd – nobody likes to watch the house win.
She knew he was following her, could hear his muffled footsteps and feel his hand reaching out to grasp the back of her dress, fingertips scraping along sequins that seemed gaudy now. Plastic and not sparkly. Garish and not joyful.
She spun around so quickly he actually collided with her, putting his arms out to steady himself while she reverberated from the impact and residual rage. "Stop it. Don't touch me." Her words were quiet and deadly, but he heard her over the clanging bells of the slot machines and the metallic hiss of machines spitting out money into some poor fool's hands.
"Foster, it wasn't the fee. It was a bonus. Free money, yeah? For getting Jake back to the table."
"I don't care." She spat the words out and pushed him away from her, now was so not the time for him to be playing his space invasion game, crowding her so he could read her. She was fairly certain the gamblers across the casino floor, a good forty yards away, could read her emotions.
"You – you don't?"
"Nope." She pushed again, and stepped backwards for good measure. "Your bonus right? Your money, your reward for solving the case so quickly, right? Why should I care?"
"You couldn't have adopted this lackadaisical attitude a few days ago, Foster? I mean – I don't get it. This whole time you've been all 'people don't change, Cal' and 'stay away, Cal' and now all of a sudden you don't care?" His eyes were studying her intently, searching for any signs of deception, she knew, but she highly doubted that he could read anything beyond her anger.
"It's a waste of my time, and yours apparently, Cal. I'm smothering remember?" It was a kaleidoscope juxtaposition, the lights were blurring at the edge of her vision and it seems too colourful and frantic a place for this discussion. "So this is me, not smothering. This is me, attempting to not slap the hell out of you in the middle of a god damn casino floor, because I'll be damned if I become some tacky Vegas cliché in a god damned cocktail dress Lightman! You know why? Because it's not my problem."
"What you mean is, I'm not your problem. Is that it, love?" He was sliding his hands onto his hips now and she shook her head before releasing a short breath.
"I'm not doing this, Cal. Do me a favour and go tell Ben that I'm sorry, but I can't – I'm going up to my room." She didn't wait for him to agree or disagree, barely even finished spitting the words out before she turned and headed toward the bank of elevators, the lights blurring and swimming around her as she tried oh so desperately not to blink. If she didn't blink, she wasn't crying.
The sounds seemed to increase, loud obnoxious voices of too drunk patrons, screams of delight as coins spilled onto the floor while sirens wailed. She slipped into the elevator with a sigh of relief before pressing the button for her floor.
She looked down as the elevator rose, and the sequins of her dress seemed to twinkle in the bright lightings, shimmering and swimming through the wetness filming her eyes.
The first thing she did was kick off those stupid shoes and yank off that dress. She pulled it straight up over her head, tossing it on the floor in a pile of nice, dull satin liner. Her fingers went through her hair next, pulling out the clips holding it back before she stood in just her underwear, tears streaking down her face. She hated this – hated crying when she was really spitting mad, but it was an emotional release, and the rational side of her brain knew this, and indulged it.
She strode into the bathroom, wrenching the taps and watching the water pour into the tub as she removed her last article of clothing. A hotel robe hung by the door and she pushed her arms into the sleeves, roughly tying the belt before heading back into her room to break the seal on her mini bar. They'd been given excellent rooms though – and there was nothing miniature about anything inside it. She by passed the chocolate bars, thought they were tempting – maybe later, and grabbed the bottle of red wine.
Her tears had subsided now, and her focus was on opening the bottle. The cork twisted out easily with the corkscrew that she eyed with murderous intent. The sudden pop and release of pressure made her grip the bottle neck in relief as her eyes wandered the room for a glass. No wine glasses to be seen – what kind of hotel had full size bottles of wine and only tumblers to drink it out of? She grabbed a glass, hearing the first tell-tale muffled footsteps arriving at her door.
She ignored the knocks. He'd give up, or go find other means eventually, but either way, she planned on being unavailable. She took the glass and bottle into the bathroom with her, breathing in the suddenly steam filled air.
Seconds later she was sinking into the almost too hot to bear water, glass tumbler gripped in her hand, because she did not drink from the bottle. There were rules about these things when you were the child of an alcoholic.
She could hear muffled noise outside her door, but she ignored it for the moment, drinking her first glass of wine swiftly as she glared at her own reflection in the taps. Her mascara had run earlier, and she lifted a hand to scrub at her face, the hot water stinging and painful on the sensitive skin. Her hands shook less as she poured herself a second glass, sipping it more slowly. Another rule, never down two in a row. It didn't matter anyway, because she could feel the warmth spreading from her stomach, inching across her skin slowly until suddenly, like a spring released, she uncoiled and sank into the water.
She took one deep breath, another sip of wine, and then another deep breath. Like Lamaze, but with wine. She swallowed once more, before setting the half empty glass on the tiled floor beside the tub and sinking even further into the water.
Outside, in her room, she heard the soft sound of the door opening and closing just as quietly. "Foster? You in there?"
"Go away, Cal." Her voice was tired, fuzzy from the wine and softened by the fact that he sounded absolutely pathetic.
"I would, I really would, if I could. But I can't, I feel..." He paused for a moment and she exhaled softly, waiting for him to finish. "I just can't, I'm sorry."
She heard a muffled sound, and when he spoke next his voice was lower, closer to her level.
"I really thought I would win, if it helps any."
She laughed, a short chuckle that sounded absolutely nothing like laughter. "Really? 37 to 1 odds and you thought you would win? Your math skills blow, Cal."
"Which is why you're in charge of the work accounts and whatnot." He fell silent for a moment and she lay still in the water, feeling resentful and unwilling to fill the vacuum he'd created. "I'm an ass."
"Yes." She eyed the remaining wine in her glass before pulling herself up into a sitting position, water sloshing as she leaned over to drain the remainder.
"Are you in the tub, Foster?" Surprise coloured his voice and his pitch lowered on her name and she smirked. She liked this. He couldn't see her to read her face, and she didn't need to see him to read his voice. It wasn't often that she ever got a leg up on Cal Lightman.
"What, did you think I locked myself in here to cry, Cal? Of course I'm in the tub!"
"Why did you come? Here, I mean. To Vegas." He sounded unsure and she rolled her eyes as her toes stretched up, pushing the release for the drain.
"You know why, Cal." She suddenly felt drained, like the suction pulling the water down into the pipes was draining all of her energy along with it. Stepping out of the tub, she pulled the robe on again, ignoring the towels that filled the shelf above the toilet. It was black satin, so the dampness didn't show, at least, and she poured what was left of the wine bottle into her glass before she picked it up off of the floor and opened the door. He was sitting, his back against the wall, and he looked up as she exited.
"You don't trust me." He stated.
"Should I trust you? In this town, with these people?" She had a hand on her hip and the glass was loosely hanging from her fingertips as she stared at him incredulously. "It isn't even a matter of trust Cal. I trust you, with so much, every day. But Vegas? It's a matter of track records, and odds. And I don't gamble, Cal." She placed the glass, still half-full, on the desk by the window before walking back over to where he sat.
"Always take the safe bet, do you Foster?" He had a half smile that she knew he didn't deserve to wear, and he definitely didn't deserve a returning smile, but she gave him a half-hearted one anyway before sighing and sliding down the wall next to him, until she was seated, her legs stretched out next to his, the robe clinging to her skin above her knees. She tugged it down and he heaved a disappointed sigh while she resisted the urge to laugh. He was so damn frustrating and endearing and stubborn.
"Not always. I prefer to think of it as protecting my investments. And I've invested a lot Cal." She turned her head to the side, facing him and allowing him to look at her. His eyes roamed her face, curious and hesitant.
"I know, love. I'm sorry about...", he waved a hand around before dropping it into his lap, "all of this."
"I'm tired, Cal. It's not even the gambling, thought I do hate that, it's your whole demeanour in this town. It makes me feel..." She struggled for a moment, dropping her gaze before looking up and meeting his eyes. "I don't know. Less. Like no matter what, I'm just not enough."
He made a negative sound in the back of his throat, lifting his arm and putting it around her shoulders, pulling her flush against his side. "No, Gillian. Not less. Of the two of us, I think we both know you've always been the more here. I'm – I mean, well look at me love. I just bet a million bloody dollars on the longest odds in the entire place."
She leaned her head, resting it for a moment on his shoulder and sighing. "It would have been a nice win though." She smiled, and she could feel his chuckle. "Put us back in the black."
"Oi, and who said I would have shared it?" His tone was weak and his joke fell flat into the silence. "I mean, I would have, at least bought you something nice. Diamonds maybe, or a pony; girls always love that. A swimming pool filled with that horrid pixie sugar crap you're always eating."
"A slushie machine for the office." She joined in, because it was easier to forgive him than to hold a grudge. Less painful too, because staying mad at him had always seemed to hurt her more.
"Enough pudding to fill every bathtub in this hotel."
"Five male assistants for my office."
"Well that's getting a bit carried away, don't you think?" She laughed softly, and shook her head. "Well I don't know if I approve of these random blokes fawning about your office, at your whim. You'll just have to make do with me."
"Are you offering to fawn about my office at my whim?" She lifted her head to meet his stare, a smile tugging at the corner of her mouth.
"If need be." He turned, shifting his body slightly until he was facing her directly. "It's the least I could do. I'm sorry about what I said – about the smothering."
"I was smothering, Cal. In my defence though, I saw you give Ben that money for the first bet." She shrugged and smiled slightly.
"I know. Bloody git is terrible at subterfuge. How he was an undercover agent is beyond me, love. I reckon we did him a big favour, taking him on." She laughed softly, sinking back into his frame as his arm tightened around her. "Are – we alright, Foster?"
She leaned up to press a soft kiss to his stubbled cheek. She didn't respond verbally, simply looking at him with a small half-smile. They were, and they weren't. But they'd get there.