Disclaimer: Don't own, don't sue. Just playing for enjoyment :)
A/N: So I read a fabulous story in a different fandom (Nikita) that kind of used this same style. It was A Study in Transience by Gnails here, if you're curious. Just want to give credit for the inspiration behind the format. ANYWAY. It's not the first time I've written stories like this - numbered or non linear, but I started this really specifically based off of the prompt from my fictable - Not Enough. Um, it's not exactly happy. I don't think it's angstangstangst either though. IDEK. Rambling note is rambling, okay? I'll stop now. And for the record, I know there have been a lot of fic's touching on the subjest of Gillian's past posted here over the last few days, lol. I started this before that, and I guess great minds think alike or whatever, but sorry for like, adding to the spam on the subject lolol. :)
been waiting here my whole damn life
"I'm telling you, it's creepy. She just... sits there and reads. All damn day! It's not natural." He's not even trying to be quiet, but then, he never does try.
"She's just deep, honey. Still waters and all that, you know?" Her voice is tired, worn-down like a bank being raged at by an angry sea, each crash just lets a little more sediment slip away.
"Yeah well," the bottle is drained and dropped on the floor with a thud. It rolls into her view and the light from the living room shines through it, making shadow and light patterns on the cream rug – so many greens, it distracts her for a moment, "she needs to cheer the fuck up. It's creepy."
She is curled in a ball on the stairs, and the tears feel hot on her face and she can't breathe even though she feels like she's suffocating.
"Kid needs to learn to smile."
Her smile always has a practiced ease to it. Eyes crinkle and every single one is genuine.
It's a wonder, really, that he hasn't caught on to that little bit of intel. No one smiles genuinely all the time.
But it's an art, and she has practiced the hell out of it, so she's able to smile when he needs her to and watch him walk away with a laugh.
She stands there long after the door closes, and the smile needs to be eased off of her face gradually – it hurts like a charlie horse or a muscle spasm. Like it's just been clenched too hard for too long.
Maybe she should stop smiling.
"God, Gillian, I don't understand what's wrong with you. I'm not trashed, okay?"
He absolutely is trashed. She can smell the whiskey and beer from here, and she's currently across the room he'd dragged them into, glaring at him with her arms crossed.
"If you think that I am having sex with you on Tommy Marsh's parent's bed while any number of your other drunken, idiotic friends could stumble in, you are insane."
"Why you gotta be so uptight, babe? Jesus Christ. If I were still dating Melissa she'd have-"
"Yeah well, that's because Melissa is a whore, John. But if that's what you want, feel free. You can fuck her in here." She can feel the heat crawling up her neck and onto her cheeks and she doesn't care, she hates him. She stomps past him and wrenches open the door, glaring at him as she goes. "Asshole."
"Oh please, you stupid bitch. I was just trying to win a bet anyway – see who could bag the ice queen's v-card first. Your tits aren't even big enough anyway." She just walks on, because she's an expert and ignoring drunken slurs tossed her way.
At the top of the stairs everyone turns to look at her and the music gets turned down and whispers spread through the room insidiously. She twists her face in disgust – lip up, chin raised as she tosses a venomous glare over her shoulder. "As if I'd sleep with someone with a dick that small. Oh and PS? I'm not a virgin, douchebag."
She is never not happy in her father's presence. She is cheerful and talkative and everything she thinks he wants her to be.
He still drinks.
And tells her she should 'do something with her hair.'
So she combs and braids her hair every day, and put on dresses and skirts and looks as pretty as she can while she sits up straight and smiles and smiles and smiles while she talks to him.
He still drinks.
And asks why she doesn't have any friends.
She has friends – but he's drunk when she comes home from school and he's drunk when they eat supper and on PA days, sometimes she watches him open a beer at ten in the morning. She has friends. But she would never ever ever bring them home.
So she pins pictures, all over the walls of her room. Her and her friends – sleepovers and birthday parties and beach trips and camping trips and they are all smiling in every single one.
He drinks vodka one night, and chases it with red wine and tears the photos down while screaming at her that she's ashamed of her own family because she never brings these friends home.
She is still smiling the next day, but she is wearing black and eating ice cream straight from the carton when he says in his soft, apologetic, hung-over voice that she looks like a picture. So normal.
She smiles so brightly he can't see the tears.
Alec proposes with a cherry ring pop and a charming smile by a park bench in the middle of a frosted December morning.
It had just started snowing, and they've been dating for almost a year.
He makes her laugh, and he looks at her in a way no other man ever has before – like she's unimaginable. She bites her lip and watches him, down on his knees in the frosted grass and his glasses are fogging up.
She thinks about her concept of love, and how she really does love him.
Maybe not as much as she should, but they're young and love grows.
It's possible anyway, and he loves her and even better, he wants her because she is more than enough for him. So she laughs, and says yes and he slips the candy ring on her finger, with a promise to buy her a better one once they finish school and hugs him so tightly that she cries.
He just pulls back and tells her to go ahead – he knows she wants to eat it.
She grins, and they walk home, their cheeks frozen in too wide smiles and their tongues are red.
When she retells the story, she changes the flavour to orange. And he never ever corrects her.
The day they officially open The Lightman Group, she and Cal grin and their laughter echoes off the wall of their tiny, postage stamp sized empty office space.
The carpet is thin and worn down, but she kicks her shoes off anyway, and they open a bottle of white wine and she bounces around while waving their very first case file under his nose.
Okay, so it's totally just a consult on a police case, but it is theirs and they are going to prove to the world that they can do this together. The folder is orange, and this makes the bubble of happiness in her seem so big it could swallow the whole room.
They have no furniture – just one filing cabinet and a chair and an old radio that is always on the jazz station.
Miles Davies' 'Summertime' comes on and he dances her around the room with a grin on his face.
He toasts to everything – the tiny office, to their partnership, to orange file folders and the police department, to his daughter's spelling test and those ugly red shoes she wears when she's alone in her office which she never will be again, because it's their office now.
She laughs and drinks to every single one.
It's not like he hits her when he drinks.
He never even gets really blindingly drunk all that often. But it's like – it's like beer is his substitute for water, and he exceeds the recommended daily intake.
And it's just a fact in her house that if you want Dad to do anything, you better have a six pack for his troubles.
And sure there are no rages, but just once – in her whole life, just once –
She'd like to think he could spend time with her without having to dull the pain.
Shouldn't this not be painful?
And she tries and she tries and she tries.
But none of it is ever enough to get him to put down the bottle.
She's never enough.
Her first college party, she gets high.
Because she's always hated drinking.
So when a guy sitting next to her offers her a joint, she smokes it and thinks why not?
And she likes it actually. There's a clarity to being stoned that just doesn't exist with alcohol. A languidness and she is laughing her ass off, but she is fully aware that what she's laughing at isn't that funny.
Except it kind of really fucking is.
She's high, but she feels absolutely in control of herself – like, for example she wouldn't be making any questionable sexual choices any time soon, and she was aware that she couldn't operate a car – or any machinery at all for that matter – right now.
She's just laughing and laughing and really wants a cheeseburger.
Or a Happy Meal because those come with toys. So she wants a Happy Meal with like, five cheeseburgers. And she says this. A lot.
Until finally one guy who is the designated driver looks over and asks her if she'd like to take a drive to McDonald's. She is all over that.
She gets her five cheeseburgers and forgoes the fries, because they're bad for her and he watches her eat and laughs at her stupid jokes.
He decides to say screw his friends, they can find their own rides home, and buys one more bag of cheeseburgers and they go back to his place where they proceed to roll another joint and watch Saturday Night Live.
And yeah, so that's the story of how she meets Alec.
She goes to work, and she can tell that Cal hasn't showered, let alone gone home to sleep or change his shirt.
It's not like his wardrobe is so varied that anyone would notice, but she does and pulls him aside.
She smiles, and tells him gently to go home and come back in an hour. He argues, gets belligerent, and walks away twice.
She chases after him both times, and each time her smile is a little more forced.
She can smell beer on his breath and finally she gives him a look and informs him that he smells like an alcoholic (and I would know) and that he needs a shower because he stinks, so would he please, please, please go home?
He stares at her in dumbfounded silence for a minute before focussing on her face and tilting his head to the left.
He doesn't go home until he extracts the full meaning behind her allusion to alcoholism. She cries, and tells him it's stupid and resists and resists while he presses and presses until finally he just figures it out for himself.
He goes home.
And she never sees him drink beer in front of her again.
When Alec meets Cal (it sounds like a joke but it's not) she feels awkward. Sort of like she'd imagine a cheater feels if their mistress ever met their wife.
Not that she's a cheater.
Anyway, they all meet awkwardly at the office, three weeks after they've moved in, and they are working on their second case and Cal is getting frustrated by their crappy recording equipment so he's not in the best mood. And Alec is pissy because she's been working late nights because there is just the two of them and they really need to try to wrap cases up within a week, maximum, if they want to be able to do things like oh say, pay bills.
So what results is so much male posturing, she almost sprouts a penis herself while watching it occur.
Alec is passive aggressive and this shocks the hell out of her, because she would never have used that word to describe him before today.
Cal is aggressive aggressive, but there is no shock, because she figures that this is his default setting.
He does notice her decidedly unhappy look and manages to pull back somewhat, however. She's not particularly happy that the man who noticed her distress and accommodated it wasn't her husband.
Their wedding is a big deal, and Gillian finds herself wishing the day before that they had just gone to some stupid chapel in Vegas and gotten it over with.
The paperwork hasn't arrived from the archdiocese and she has this, God forgive her, asshole of a priest telling her she should pray it arrives, and her maid of honour isn't speaking to one of her bridesmaids, and the flowers are the wrong colour, but whatever, it works. She wants to be really drunk right now, but she doesn't do that, so she just glares at the priest, tells the bridesmaids to work it the fuck out, and calls the florist and yells at that woman until she makes her cry and promise her a discount.
She feels better after that.
But then her soon-to-be brother -in-law carries a passed out Alec in the apartment and he is ridiculously wasted. She makes Alec's brother put him in bed and then kicks him out and when she sees white powder on Alec's black pants she goes to brush it off. But something – some small voice tells her to just taste it, and after she does –
She cries for four straight hours.
She looks terrible the next morning but not as terrible as he does, and she screams at him for forty minutes straight while he swears up and down that it was a one-time thing, and he would never ever do it again, he didn't even like it.
She finally calms down enough to look at him with a puffy, tear-swollen face. (You could have died, Alec.)
He apologizes for thirty more minutes and she's almost late for her hair and make-up appointment.
The bridesmaids took one look at her, and then each other, and everyone got along fucking fabulously that day.
She sniffles and gets her hair washed and tells herself that this will just be a really funny story to tell to their very close friends one day.
The first time she gets drunk – blindingly drunk – she is eighteen and mad as hell.
Her father showed up at her graduation today, and he was drunk enough that he stumbled when walking and got handsy with the row in front of him as he tried to get to his seat. Everyone turned those oh, poor Gillian eyes on her.
So she was pissed, beyond pissed. She went to her grad party and drank long island iced tea until she threw up, rebounded and then drank some more.
She spent the night hung over the toilet, dry heaving while her father screamed at her about god damn responsibility and being too young to fucking drink, and how could she do this to them? Her poor mother was crying and it was all her god damned fault.
Finally, when the heaving subsided but the screaming didn't, she stood up unsteadily, stupid with drunken bravery and screamed right back at him. (I learned from the best, and don't you fucking talk to me about what I'm doing to Mom, when you've had a twenty year head start on that.) He'd blinked and gone really white before getting really red, and he'd never ever ever hit her in his life.
Until that night.
She cried herself to sleep, her face stinging and her arm bruised from where he'd dragged her down the hall and thrown her into her room.
She didn't start her university scholarship for another two months, but she packed everything she owned the next morning and calmly informed her mother that she was leaving now, and she'd talk to her when she left her Dad.
She didn't speak to either of her parents for another seven years.
He calls her right after Zoe leaves him.
He goes to a bar, drinks ridiculous amounts of alcohol and then calls her from the cab on his way home.
She can tell he's drunk. Hell, Alec can tell he's drunk because he is lying in bed next to her and Cal is that ridiculously loud drunk person on the phone. Like he can't quite grasp the concept that yes, she can hear him just fine. She ignores Alec's very clear 'No, no, no, no, NO' looks and tells him she'll be right there.
She hangs up and looks at her husband who is sitting up on his elbows and looking at her with disappointment.
But she shrugs, and mumbles something about how if the situations were reversed – (You think about that one often, do you, Gillian?) – and she slips out of bed and out of the hands that are trying to grasp her arms and keep her there.
She pulls on pyjama pants and a bra and a tank top and throws a hoodie on top of all that and she is out of the door with Alec's please dont's and he doesn't need you's ringing in her ears.
He does need her.
Alec just doesn't want him too.
She hums while she drives to keep herself awake and lets herself into his house when she gets there. She has a key to his place, but he doesn't have one to hers. Sometimes, when she has time, she finds this ironic, because she is open and he is closed.
But not with everything.
She finds him curled up in Emily's bed, clutching her pillow and not crying but as close to it as she's ever seen him.
And he talks.
And he talks and he talks and he talks more than he ever has in their entire relationship.
He talks about how much he loves his daughter, and how he tried to make it work. But it didn't work. And he talks about how he and Zoe had been fighting more, and how he proposed after the pregnancy test, which should have been a fucking sign.
She listens. To every single word, and doesn't sooth him, or offer advice, she just sits on the floor by the bed and rests her cheek on the edge of the mattress and she watches him and listens.
Finally he stops talking and just stares at her. (It's my fault.) He is so drunk his words blur together softly but she can hear the edge underneath and one of his hands releases the pillow he has hugged to his chest and it reaches out, clumsily touching her face. He just looks at her, and she can see him blinking slowly in the soft light of the desk lamp. He's almost asleep. (Sh'knew I loved you more.)
He falls asleep.
And then she cries.
It's an accident.
Two blue lines on a stick she just urinated all over and then stared at for ninety seconds and her stomach is somewhere around her toes and she thinks she could vomit.
She's not ready for a baby.
She's not ready for a baby.
But fate has something else in mind and she is swallowing bile, thinking over and over again as she clutches the porcelain lip of her tub. This should be something happy. And it wasn't planned and she's not ready, and all she can think is the first time she learned about her son or daughter's existence, she felt absolute dread.
Sometimes she hates him.
Hates him because he gets to go out, snort innocuous looking powder up his nose and forget everything that she sits at home alone and thinks about.
He thinks she can't tell.
Thinks she doesn't notice, yeah, she fucking notices okay? She does his laundry and sees his eyes, all iris and not because she happens to not look good that night. He chooses to go out there and snort oblivion straight into his blood stream and she chooses to sit in an empty room and cry so much she feels like she will turn inside out.
Sometimes, she wonders why the fuck she's still here.
She loves her mother, because she spends extra time with her to compensate for the fact that her father, well –
To compensate for her father.
She teaches her how to bake. And how to cook. And how to do a perfect French braid.
She tucks her into bed every night even though she's a little old for it now, and she reads with her, or does stupid quizzes from teen magazines with or, or sometimes they lay in bed and watch whatever is on the television.
She loves her mother.
She just hates her choices.
After the third miscarriage, she thinks it's time to give up.
She thinks if she feels that particular twinge one more time, if she has to get a mild sedative and a numbing shot while a nameless, faceless doctor scrapes and vacuums her out until she's hollow once more, she may go insane.
She just – she just can't. She can't. Not anymore. Not anymore, and she just can't.
She spends her nights at the office. Because Alec won't be home when she gets there. He'll be out taking his own mild sedative and numbing agents. And she hates him right now anyway, because she knows – she knows, she knows he blames her for all of this.
He doesn't ever say it.
But he doesn't ever have to.
And she drinks scotch and sits in her empty office, in her empty building at her empty desk contemplating her empty womb and her empty life.
Cal comes in, almost as haggard looking as she is because Zoe and Emily have only been gone for a little over a month. He stands in the doorway and simply looks at her before crossing the room and pulling her out of her chair. He leads them over to the sofa, and they both sink into it with a sad sigh.
His arm wraps around her and he hugs her to his side tightly. She turns her head with tears in her eyes and looks at him and sniffs slightly. (I hate this.) His finger s squeeze her shoulder and she loves that and he tilts his head to look at her (What?) and she can see the lines by his eyes (Everything.) and she can see his sad smile and the way his eyes are soft and his voice is softer (Not me though?) and she thinks she loves him a little bit.
And he moves.
And they kiss.
And before the guilt sets in, and before the shock sobers her up a little bit, before she pulls away but after her fingers are in his hair, she knows.
It's not a little bit at all.
Her parents show up one day out of the blue, when she is twenty-six.
She is a doctor with an important job, and she feels a bit of spite in showing that to them. They are shocked when they find out she got married.
She is shocked that they are here together.
Her father cries, and apologizes. Talks about AA and how he'll make it up to her. She stands there awkwardly and doesn't know how to tell him that she doesn't really think that will ever be possible.
Her mother cries and hugs her tightly, for twenty minutes straight. And she cries, because yeah, she still loves her Mom.
They exchange stilted conversation in between bouts of painful honesty. They feel better when they leave, she can tell.
She really doesn't though.
He slouches on her couch and deflects every question she asks him like a pro.
Really, because he is a pro.
But his body language, and more importantly the opposite of what it is saying fascinates her. He fascinates her. He reads her, and turns the tables so many times during the one hour session that she honestly feels a bit dizzy afterward.
But he looks at her after his hour is up, with the first genuine expression she's seen all day. Curiosity. He is narrowing his eyes and staring at her with fascination and he leans forward and so does she, which is a giveaway tell, but she doesn't care. She has nothing to hide.
A flashing thought of a man in a dark coat and dark pants and mud on his shoes in her foyer staring at her with a dark gaze crosses her mind and she amends.
Nothing much to hide.
She can tell he sees that memory too because his head is tilted and he licks his lips in anticipation. She says nothing, even under the heavy pressure of his gaze. He smiles suddenly, and stands. (Congratulations, love.)
She remains seated, perfectly alright with letting him think this is his assertion of power. (For what?)
She leaves him.
Or rather, she kicks him out. After the night she never even thinks about (never admits to thinking about) in her office with Cal, but Alec's tears and mournful eyes and promises make her falter. He checks himself into rehab which makes her change her mind.
He's what she knows.
And he loves her. And he is making an effort to let her be enough for him.
Cal. Well, he's unknown. And even more unpredictable. And hasn't said a word about anything that happened that night. She knows he wants to forget it, too – different reasons than hers, and she'd wager she could guess them all, but he wants to pretend and she just never was a good risk taker. Not with this.
Not with her heart.
She doesn't know how they got here really.
Every time she tries to think about it, her chest hurts and her eyes sting and she develops sudden sinus issues and jesus christ.
She bites her lip and pauses, her hand tightening on the glass in front of her.
Really, she doesn't know how she got here.
What the hell was wrong with her? Because, according to scientific theory – it had to be her. She was the constant variable in all of these relationships. All these men who couldn't seem to find her enough – logically, it must means that she's not enough, right?
She takes another drink and it tastes bitterer than the last.
Maybe she'd just get a fucking dog.
She was never Daddy's little girl.
Oh, she tried when she was younger, and even into her teenage years she secretly longed for his approval or his notice or his anything, really. She just wanted him to see her.
She failed classes, and broke laws and got arrested (twice).
Being the good little girl hadn't worked.
But being the bad girl didn't work either, and she realized this at sixteen, going into her sophomore year of school. She needed to be able to take care of herself when she left. And so, suddenly she was getting top grades again, taking advanced classes and trying again.
Difference was, this time she was trying for her own sake.
And no one else's.
She just can't handle him choosing the drugs over her, twice.
And deep down, she knows that this has been an issue with him throughout their entire marriage, and she berates herself for being so god damned blind about it.
She never thought she would see a day that she would be glad that Sophie had been taken. But she thinks about going through this divorce – about dealing with Alec's addiction while raising a child and she shudders. She wouldn't wish this on Sophie – she loved her too much for that. And she wasn't naive enough to believe that losing Sophie was the cause of Alec's drug use.
It was just the convenient excuse. A justification for something that he'd been doing for years anyway.
She'd married him because she wanted to be accepted, and loved. She'd wanted stability and safety in her life, someone who would always be there because they had chosen to be there.
She's not a fan of the irony that is the candy coating on her divorce.
She knows him better than he thinks she does.
She definitely knows she can read him far better than he can read her.
He thinks she loves him.
He thinks she will only be hurt by him.
He's right about both things, but he isn't thinking clearly, and he is conveniently ignoring the existence of multifactorial causation for her behaviour. It's a fundamental theme in their area of study. He has a psychology doctorate, just like she does, but he's been studying his own specific science for so long, he's forgotten the rules of what it was based on in the first place.
He sees lies, upon lies, upon lies, upon lies – but what he doesn't see is the mountain of reasons behind the lies. In his mind, there is one cause for every act – every lie, every truth, every inquiry, every silence.
That's not how it works.
And she keeps waiting for him to just see that.
He assumes it's his choice – their dance that they've been doing for years. This waltzing will they or won't they or will they or won't they repetitive footwork they've been engaged in for close to a decade.
For her, it's never been about will or won't. It's been about should or shouldn't.
Or shouldn't she?
The problem isn't with him. It never has been, because she has always seen who and what he is. He is not perfect. He actually isn't even very ideal. He's is a pessimist and she is a realist masked as an optimist. He is has history he won't tell her about, and she has history he doesn't even know exists.
None of this is the start of any type of fairytale. She's beyond expecting those anyway.
But he actually believes that the state of their relationship has always been his to choose. He feels like he cannot hurt her, so he pushes her away. He feels like he cannot possibly deserve her, so he never attempts to reach that next level.
Some days she almost wishes he would. Just to see the expression on his face when he finds out it's never been his choice.
It's always been hers.
And she's not enough.
Not even for herself.
But he doesn't make the attempt. Even though he comes almost almost almost close sometimes.
She just continues to wait.