Summary: Eli and Ria know that, for all intents and purposes, Cal and Gillian are already an old married couple. Lately they've been giving each other the silent treatment, so their 'kids' decide they must work it out once and for all.
Rated T for language
The Parent Trap
"You got the music?" Ria asked Eli, as they met in the hallway and walked briskly toward the other end of the offices.
"Yep." said Eli, holding up a poker hand of jazz albums both classic and obscure. "Did you get the food?"
"It's all set up."
"Now we just have to get them here." Eli sighed, holding the door open for Ria and checking the hallway for any signs of their work superiors before ducking in after her.
"You really think this is going to work? Lightman's usually the one manipulating us, not the other way around."
"If Hayley Mills can do it all by herself, then a couple of trained experts like us are going to do fine."
"You mean Lindsay Lohan. If Lindsay Lohan can do it all by herself-"
"What? No, I'm talking about the original. We're going to do the song and dance and everything."
Ria shook her head, her arched eyebrow saying it all. "You can sing. I'll be pulling the strings from behind the curtain, thanks."
"You're right. I'm not singing in front of Lightman. But still, you really need to watch the original..."
A few minutes later, Gillian wandered into the office, looking for the sender of the mysterious note she'd received earlier that day. She'd recognized Loker's handwriting, and curiosity had been piqued enough for her to come into the office on a Saturday. The office was completely empty, which was odd, since there was always at least one or two employees around on the weekend, catching up on work or doing extra credit to impress the boss, whether they considered the boss to be Gillian herself or her supposed partner Cal. Gillian hesitated in the lobby, wondering if this was just a mean trick, or a dangerous situation she could be walking into.
"Dr. Foster," said a badly disguised voice on an improvised loudspeaker system. "Please report to the dining room. Dr. Foster to the dining room, please."
Eli stifled his laughter, grinning as he let go of the button that allowed him to perform as the voice of god. Ria rolled her eyes, stifling her own laughter as they both watched Gillian on the security monitors. She was looking all around the hallway now, eyebrows furrowed, with a strange smile on her face.
Dining room? Gillian wondered, checking the conference room first. Nope, that was empty too, and there were two chairs missing. She made her way to the more interesting section of the Lightman Group offices, keying into the secured area. She found the Cube - usually furnished only with a single table and-or chair - set up with a table straight out of a five star restaurant. The harsh flourescents had been left off, and the artificial candle in the center of the table made the room glow a warm pink-red. It had two place settings, and two plates with covers over them, presumably to keep the food warm until the guests of honor had arrived. Two very large glasses of a dark red wine stood waiting as well. Slowly and subtley, the volume of the music already playing in the room was raised until Gillian recognized the tune.
"Hello?" she called out skeptically, going through the mental list of people that had access to this room as she peered into its newly present shadows.
Eli turned away from the command console to look up at Ria standing behind him. "She made it." he said, relieved and smiling.
"If he's late, I'm gonna kill him." Ria muttered of her own responsibility. The subject of her worry arrived a few minutes later, not as punctual as Gillian but on time enough to count.
"This better be good." Cal called out as he breezed through the doorway. He kept walking, not planning on stopping until he found whoever it was that sent him that cryptic note. He'd imagined all sorts of scenarios - interventions, disgruntled employees, disgruntled former clients, even a surprise party. All scenarios ended with him either yelling at them or saying something sarcastic and cutting, and walking away without letting them get another word in.
"Dr. Lightman," Ria said in her best silky flight attendant impression. "Quit scowling and get your ass to dinner."
Cal stopped in place when he heard the voice, actually thrown off by the surprise.
"Who the hell is it then?" he demanded, looking vaguely in the direction of everywhere at once. There was no answer. "Oi!" he shouted, trying in vain to get the attention that was already on him. Still, no one answered, so he went straight for the Cube.
Gillian sighed. She was sitting in one of the borrowed conference room chairs, waiting for a romantic dinner to start, and she didn't even know who the other attendee was going to be. She was getting worried that it might be Loker himself, though she wondered why she'd be kept waiting if that was his master plan. She was preparing a set of polite yet stern rejections when she heard the beeping of the keypad outside. She held her breath, and her heart actually pounded for an extra beat when she saw Cal walk in the door.
Cal took in the scene before him all at once, his eyebrows rising and his mouth coming open wordlessly. She'd turned at the sound of the door opening, and his breath caught in his throat at the sight of her there waiting for him. He read all the expressions that passed over her face like a list of emotions; surprise, relief, curiosity, and finally embarrassment at the inevitable thought that he was reading her and could tell exactly what she was feeling. He missed the lust however, the way he always did, since he was busy dealing with his own as he glanced at the rest of her body. She was on display up there in the box, and she felt it the same way she always did when he looked at her that way. No, those up and down glances never escaped her. She just tried to dismiss them as one of his many ticks.
"Did you set this up?" Gillian asked, even as Cal lifted a finger to point at her, his brows lowering into a deeply inquisitive furrow to ask the same question without speaking. "No." she answered him, shaking her head, not bothering to hide the disappointment that now colored her features.
"Me either." Cal said, even more puzzled.
"Please take your seat, Dr. Lightman." The disembodied voice came back, male this time, and Cal let his head roll to the side.
"Loker?" Cal wondered aloud, placing the voice instantly.
"A delicious meal with a beautiful companion awaits you, sir." said Eli from the next room over, trying to sound fanciful. Ria pushed him away from the microphone, leaning over to give her own incentive.
"Sit down and start eating. We'll explain everything after the first course."
With his finger still on the button, Eli covered the mic and whispered a scolding to his partner in crime. "Come on! It's all about the mood, we have to ease them into it!"
"Get your hand off the button, they can hear us!" Ria hissed, and she was right. Cal's face contorted into a unique blend of relevatory disgust and disbelief. Those feelings were directed only at the hiding meddlers of course, at the combination of their audacity and incompetence. However, when Gillian spotted it, she took it personally, and she looked down at the table setting with a sudden annoyance. After a brief moment of reflection she stood up, ready to leave the room and the office, and Cal realized then with a shameful amount of regret what had just happened. Lucky for him, the entire room was rigged.
"Lock it, lock it!" Eli whispered, his voice now cut off from the other room. Ria lunged for another recently added security measure, and Gillian heard a loud clunk as an extra magnetic lock engaged on the Cube's door. Her mouth came open in angry shock, and she looked around the room at the many cameras she knew were out there in the dark.
"Hey!" she called out sharply, hitting an open palm against the glass a few times.
"The door opens only for Lightman." Eli told them, with only a hint of apology in his voice. He watched Gillian from the camera angle in the upper corner, as she crossed her arms and turned, jaw skewing as she fumed at her current situation. If she hadn't been with the three people she trusted with her life there would have been a chair through the glass already.
"What's gonna happen if I step into that box, Loker?" Cal asked the room. "Ya gonna gas me?"
"Only one way to find out." Ria said suggestively over the loudspeaker..
"Ah, and Torres." Cal said, sighing. "I should have known you'd be in on this together."
"In on what?" Gillian demanded harshly, calling Cal's attention back to her anger. He regarded her carefully, the concern and caring in his eyes only making Gillian more pissed off. She turned away and paced the box again. Cal's pride took over then, and he put his hands out beside him and shrugged.
"How the hell should I know?" he said, matching her snotty attitude in spite of his guilt. It was easier that way, keeping her mad at him. Keeping her that arm's length away.
"Ahh, they're ruining it." Eli growled, their carefully laid plan going slightly off course. They should already have been staring longingly into each other's eyes at this point, and now Gillian couldn't even bring herself to look at Cal. Ria put her hand on Eli's shoulder reassuringly, and she opened the mic up again.
"Just sit down, both of you." she instructed them, gently this time for Gillian's benefit. "You guys have been causing a lot of tension in the office lately, and Loker and I think it's lame. You fight like an old married couple, and your employees are getting scared that you're going to get a divorce and make us all choose between you. It's disruptive for the work environment, and it's painfully obvious you two belong together. So, we brought you here to talk it out."
As Ria spoke, Cal looked to Gillian, hungry for some sort of data, but she was turned away from him. Together? Together as in professionally? Is that how Gillian heard it?
"And what if we don't want to?"
"Then you can come back on Monday and explain to Gillian why she was left in there for a day and a half."
Obviously...obviously...there was no way they would follow through on that threat. But, she was already in there, and if he refused now...
Cal cleared his throat in a sarcastic manner, and strolled dutifully toward the door. He knew how these hostage situations worked, and a free meal was a free meal. There was also something about climbing into a cage with Gillian. Whether he ended up apologizing, like he knew they all wanted him to, or antagonizing her, and whether she ended up forgiving him or still hating him, it would be an interesting exchange.
Ria and Eli waited until Cal's hand was on the door to unlock it. He walked into the tiny room, and his presence in front of the opening was the only reason Gillian didn't make a run for it. She didn't want to risk making physical contact with him right now, and not for any of those good, fun reasons. The door lock clicked back in place the moment it closed behind him. They were trapped together, and Gillian's anger met with a familiar dread. Whether he ended up apologizing or antagonizing her, Gillian would have to face her feelings for him either way.
"Sit." Ria reminded them after a few seconds of standing around. Cal pulled his chair out, sat down and pulled the lid off his plate so he could scrutinize the meal.
"Let's see here...poisoned chicken cutlet in a you're-so-fired reduction, how very nice."
"It's a balsamic glaze." Ria corrected him. "And you're welcome."
"Dr. Foster, please lift your lid." Eli instructed her.
In an angry rush, Gillian walked back to her seat, sat down, lifted the lid from her plate and slammed it down on the table next to it. It was the same meal, with a pudding cup to the upper left of the chicken. She could feel laughter trying to fight it's way out of her body, but she supressed it, because she was supposed to be furious. She still couldn't entirely control the smile, manifesting itself as a pout on her pursed lips. It was just too absurd. At least the kids truly cared.
Cal grinned, thinking the same thought. "You're gonna eat that first, aren't ya?" he asked Gillian. Her smile disappeared at the sound of his voice saying something so familiar and friendly to her. No, he wasn't allowed to do that. Not yet, anyway.
They began to eat in silence. Cal kept throwing Gillian long glances, while Gillian steadfastly ignored him, keeping her eyes on her plate. After a few minutes of that, Eli's voice returned.
"Topics of conversations might include...how beautiful Gillian looks this evening?" he suggested.
"Or how disheveled Lightman looks." Ria added. "Good job on the dressing up there, boss."
Gillian smirked, finally looking up at Cal. The notes had clearly stated they were to show up looking their best. Gillian had followed the instruction; not that she didn't usually look her best, but she'd clearly put effort into putting herself together that night. It's what had stolen Cal's breath upon his arrival, after all. Meanwhile, Cal had ignored that part of the note, too annoyed by the interruption in his life and too suspicious that it might be something unpleasant. Gillian looked away from him, back to her food, feeling superior but also disappointed that he hadn't tried a little harder. Well, if I'd known, he wanted to say to her. Now he felt even more like a heel.
"Telll herrr she's beauutifulll..." Eli said in a low, drawn out voice.
"You look great, love." Cal said in a tight voice, rushing out the words and taking a big gulp of wine.
Ria sighed harshly. "Now say it like you mean it." she said into the mic.
"Come on, Cal." Gillian urged him sarcastically. "You're a good liar. I'm sure I'll believe you."
"Ooh, ouch." Eli said quietly, off the record and only to Ria.
Cal stared at Gillian after that, until she had to look away and drink her wine too.
"No, this is good." Ria declared, only to Eli. "She needs to be meaner to him. He'll get defensive, she'll yell, he'll be put in his place and apologize - no, he'll grovel, and then we can all go home."
"I'm not going home until they make out." said Eli.
"Gillian." said Cal, since she was only looking at her food again. She placed a bite of chicken in her mouth and chewed it slowly. It tasted good, but he could clearly see she was more tense than he'd ever seen her before, and that wasn't good for digestion. "Gill." he said, louder that time, leaning over his plate. Still, she ignored him. "Dr. Foster." he almost yelled, causing Gillian to look up at him with death in her eyes. He didn't flinch. "You're bloody gorgeous." he said, looking right back at her. "You always are, always were, and you always will be, and I'm not sure what I'm gonna do if I don't get a cold shower soon 'cause you're even more bloody gorgeous when you're epically pissed at me."
"Now, that..." Eli muttered, zooming a camera in on Gillian's face as some of the ice in her expression began melting involuntarily. "Is progress."
"Most gorgeous when you're smilin', of course." Cal added. He watched Gillian, her eyes darting back to her plate. She didn't have a smile inside her at the moment. She wanted to be able to forgive him, she really did. She just...couldn't right now. So she stabbed another piece of chicken and ate instead.
Gillian continued to pick at her plate with her fork. Ria began to suspect she actually enjoyed giving Cal the silent treatment. Cal took great pleasure in riling up the straight-laced Gillian Foster, especially when he wasn't supposed to. He was quiet now, though. Cal knew he'd gone too far as of late. At least, he could tell Gillian thought so.
After another long stretch of uncomfortable silence, Eli spoke up.
"Other topics of conversation might include...why you're so pissed at each other? Please, discuss."
"I'm not pissed at 'er." Cal insisted immediately, looking up at the faceless cameras. "She's the one with the bug up 'er arse." he explained, pointing in Gillian's direction. Gillian leaned back in her chair, resisting an eye roll but looking plenty displeased anyway.
"Don't tell us." said Eli. "Tell her."
"And be nice about it." Ria reminded him warningly. "You're on thin ice as it is."
"Funny, I don't remember asking either of you..." Cal began to make his snide remark, but he stopped when he glanced back at Gillian. He liked to tease her, not hurt her. And she looked really hurt.
"I'm not pissed at ya." he said to Gillian, his tone much gentler. She stared down at her plate, studying a soft carrot that was growing colder with each passing moment. "But you're pissed at me, yeah?" Cal continued. He chewed his lower lip, getting more frustrated and worried as the silence grew. "You heard the man behind the curtain, love. Tell us why."
"Go on. Let's have it. I promise I won't interrupt. Or argue. Too much."
He just kept rambling. Gillian looked up from her plate, the look of scolding she gave him familiar enough to put him somewhat at ease. It was one of the looks he lived for, the one that attempted to rein him in, telling him to calm down or take a step back. Still, she didn't answer for a long time. Everyone else wondered if it was only because her list of complaints was too long to cover in one meal. Gillian considered leaving again, but she did recognize the fact that Cal had stayed. Unlike her, Cal had walked into the box after their plan had been revealed, with the knowledge that the door would be locked behind him. That had to mean something.
Finally, after much thinking on her part and much fidgeting on Cal's, she spoke.
"I don't remember." she said to her plate.
Cal leaned forward, his lovingly incredulous smile creeping into his voice too. "You don't remember?" he said. She looked up, and he leaned back, hands up in surrender. Like he'd said - epically pissed. "Sorry." he said, though he said it with humor. "I'm sorry, it's just...I do so many terrible things. There's a veritable list of items to choose from, and you can't even name one?"
"You just-" Gillian interrupted him loudly so he'd stop talking. "You've been pressing that button." she said. "And I know you're doing it on purpose. You always do it on purpose. And I don't know why, but lately it feels different. Like it's malicious."
Under the table, Cal's right heel was bouncing, all of his anxiety held in his Achilles tendon so she wouldn't see it. She remembered. She just didn't want to face what it all meant. He was also in denial, of course. There was no question, sometimes the things he did, he did to hurt her. Intentionally. But never this much. It was just, how else was he going to make her feel anything for him?
"You wanna know why I press that button?" Cal asked.
"You piss me off just to get a reaction." Gillian stated, tired, as if she'd known it all along.
"Well, that's part of it." Cal conceded.
"And what's the rest?" Gillian asked at once, though afterward she regretted opening the door. He was giving her one of those looks, those intense looks that just dared her to read him. That was the problem, however. Gillian was reading the frustration and the underlying anger, but she was misinterpreting it. Emotions were easy. Motivations were the tricky part, especially when she was so dangerously close to the subject.
"I press that button..." Cal said, pressing his fingertip into the table as if the physical button was in front of him. " 'Cause you don't let me press the other ones."
As usual, he paused at half an explanation, giving the words some time to sink in. Once he realized she wasn't going to deny it, he went on.
"You keep me an arm's length away. You literally push me away when I get close to you."
Gillian held in a very frustrated sigh. There was a reason she put a hand on his chest when he got close. She didn't need him all up in her face like that, not when he was in one of his moods. When he was comforting, maybe. But not when he was confronting. Still, she felt guilty that he felt that way. There were times before communication had broken down between them, when he'd only been flirting or trying to be silly, and she'd pushed him away like she didn't like it. Like she didn't love it when he did that.
"I want your attention." said Cal. "Duh." he added with a little wobble of the head to keep things light.
Gillian looked at him with an utterly disappointed, reproachful expression. Come on, you don't have to be like that. "You have my attention." she said.
"Not the kind I want."
"What kind do you want, Cal?"
Cal kept his mouth shut, and the silence was painful.
Read me, you impossible woman.
"You pick the damnedest times to be speechless." Gillian told him, not for the first time.
"If you can't read me by now, I think you should consider a career change."
"I guess you're my blind spot." she said wryly.
"Only when you put me there." Cal countered. Gillian closed her eyes for another frustrated moment, and when she opened them she was looking somewhere else. The feelings he stirred in her, good and bad, she wasn't sure she could handle right now, especially with an audience watching their every move.
"You're scared." Cal went on. "I get it. I mean, I'm petrified myself. If I wasn't such a good liar I'd be shaking like a leaf right now. Aside from my daughter, this is the only good, solid thing in my life. This," he said with emphasis, gesturing between the two of them. "Is something I cannot afford to mess up. But, you know, I said I wasn't gonna interrupt, and here I am doin' all the talking. Would you care to weigh in?"
"If you don't want to mess this up," said Gillian, still comfortable in her denial as to what 'this' really was. "Then stop treating me like the enemy."
You call me your best friend. Let's go back to the days when it felt like that was true.
Cal didn't have a quick answer for that. For every reply that popped into his head, he could already hear Gillian's counter. How could she still not know what this was? Even Loker and Torres could see this. They'd locked them in a box because of this. Were they really stuck in there until Gillian finally saw this in all its glory? Because that could take another seven years or more.
Eli leaned toward the microphone. Ria put her hand on his shoulder, afraid he might disrupt the momentum of the conversation if he said anything. Sadly, it had stalled out on its own. Cal had backed down, still afraid of startling Gillian out of her denial. He'd said some crazy things to her in the past, but never I'm in love with you. Those were uncharted waters. He had no idea how she'd react, and in this case alone, getting no reaction at all was better than getting a bad one. Test, test, everything was a test - trust, loyalty, patience - but that was one test he couldn't give until he was already sure of the result. Until she cornered him, not the other way around.
"You should eat your pudding." said Cal, leaning back in his chair and gesturing lazily toward the cup. "I know you want to."
Half of him wanted her to smile. The other half accepted why she didn't. Another pointless discussion, leading them nowhere but back to square one. Epically pissed was right. At that point, pudding may have been the only thing keeping her from slapping him.
They let her eat it in silence, and she tried not to cry into the chocolatey goodness. It wasn't fair, being ambushed like this. She'd been trying to ignore the anger as usual, waiting for it to fade away like it always did. Now she had to face the fact that none of it had ever faded away at all, but had been left invisible and festering, building up until a final straw situation. She'd reached her limit all of a sudden, and now she was locked in a box with it, and with Cal.
She finished faster than she'd intended. Cal would have been jealous of the spoon, if licking the last of the pudding off of it hadn't been accompanied by such a sad little frown.
"Alright," they heard Eli say suddenly. He was trying to stay upbeat. "We've got another exercise for you."
"Wonderful." Gillian muttered, setting her empty pudding cup down and leaning back in her chair. Cal grimaced at the cameras. They'd really planned this whole thing out.
"We want you both to make a confession. It has to be something you've never admitted to each other before. And it has to involve your feelings toward the other person."
"Any other rules?" Cal called out. Then, conspiratorially to Gillian: "I'm confused already."
Gillian looked away and sighed. She reached for her wine glass and took a very very big gulp.
"His employee benefits don't pay for his therapy, do they?" Cal asked worriedly.
Gillian swallowed a little too quickly so she could respond. "No, Cal," she said, her voice strained as the wine's harsh effect on her throat faded. "He pays for that out of his own pocket. That's how hard it is to work for you."
"I'm sure he talks about the Oedipus complex he's got for you as well, dear."
"I can hear you." Eli snapped at Cal. "FYI."
"He knows." Gillian said patiently to Eli. They fell silent, waiting for Cal to start.
"I'm first, then." he muttered, the expectant raise of Gillian's eyebrows his confirmation. "Alright," he said, clapping his hands rubbing them together in preparation. "Let's make it a good one, shall we?"
He leaned forward, looking at her, while he thought of something that would hint largely at the truth without actually admitting it. She had to see it already. She had to. Didn't she?
"It makes me physically ill," Cal said slowly, and he spoke as if the words made him ill as well. "...to think about you kissing another man."
All eyes were on Gillian after that. She was suddenly beside herself, thinking about all the women he shamelessly pursued, ignoring Gillian in both business and friendship while he went at it. As much as she tried to ignore them, the emotions associated with that issue sat so close to the surface you'd hear them boiling if you stood close enough on a bad day. She'd had one boyfriend since Alec, one man that hadn't been scared off by Cal's antics, one relationship that had been so real for her, so much more real than any of Lightman's conquests. It had ended in total heartbreak, and Cal still found a way to make it about himself.
Gillian was brought back only by a question from the peanut gallery.
"Is there anything you'd like to say to that?" Ria asked. She winced afterward at how it sounded. Kind of lame, confrontational, and way too soon.
"No." Gillian said almost immediately, the most obvious lie she'd ever told. She laughed bitterly, and in utter disbelief, at his audacity, her eyes sparkling dangerously with anger. "No, I have nothing to say to that."
Cal nodded, feeling the knife in his heart turn. Gillian was seething over there on her side of the table. His confession had really set something off.
He shrugged. "Your turn then."
Her jaw was set. She was choosing her words carefully.
"I've lost sleep," Gillian began, as slow as Cal but much sharper, trying very hard to drive the point home at a normal volume. "Wondering when and why you started to hate me."
The knife twisted again; it felt like Cal's heart was having the blood squeezed out of it. "Wha'?" he asked flatly, stunned by the very concept that anyone, let alone he, could ever hate Gillian Foster.
"The way you treat me sometimes..." Gillian said, shaking her head and making it obvious she was recalling very specific instances. "And those looks, Cal. Stop gaping, you know what I'm talking about."
"Please tell me anyway." he said. "I mean, this isn't one of 'em, is it?"
"No, that's..." Gillian searched for words to describe Cal's current expression.
"Complete and utter dumbfounded shock?" Cal offered.
"Yes." said Gillian, disgusted by his innocent tone.
"Jesus, Gill. You can't be serious?"
"That's right, in your eyes I'm a joke."
"That's not what I meant."
"No, that's what I meant."
"I don't hate you. I couldn't, I don't think it's possible."
Gillian stared at him, and it dawned on her that maybe he was even further in denial than she was. "You really believe that." she stated.
"Because it's true!" Cal said, his volume rising defensively.
In the control room, Eli and Ria watched and listened with a mixture of pride and horror.
"God, they are so fucked up." Ria muttered.
"Fucked up for each other." said Eli.
"Do you still think this is going to work?" she asked.
"Didn't you say it earlier?" said Eli. "He'll get defensive, she'll yell..."
"He'll grovel, she'll forgive him." Ria completed the chain of events, though she was less confident this time.
"Look at that face." Eli zoomed one of the cameras in on Cal. "If that's not an 'oh my god, I'm going to have to grovel' face, I don't know what is."
"She's so hurt though."
"Well, she's angry."
"She's hurt. When you're in love with someone as long as these two have been, and you get treated the way Lightman treats her, it builds up."
Eli looked up at Ria, who stood beside him in the room as well as in solidarity. "I'm glad you see it too."
"Don't raise your voice at me!" Gillian shot back, even though it was good to see she could get a rise out of him after all.
"I can't help it, you're bein' ridiculous!" Cal squawked, discussion level raised to heated debate.
"This is how I feel, Cal." Gillian said. "You saying it's ridiculous doesn't magically change that."
"Well I'm sorry you feel that way." said Cal. "Because it was never my intention to make you believe ...I mean, for god's sake, we're not- "
Cal cut himself off, and he laughed. He covered his face with his hands, dragging them down, making his face look droopy as the realization set in, and he laughed again into his fingers. "Oh god."
"Not what?" Gillian prompted, at first sickened, and then simply made curious, by Cal's silly laughter.
"I was gonna say we're not school children. But we are. That's exactly what we are. I'm the mean little shit who won't stop poking the girl he likes, and you're the angry bird who thinks he hates her because of it."
Gillian paused, her anger dissipating in the confusion. He made it sound like it was a good thing.
"What?" she asked harshly anyway, thinking she should hold on to the anger just in case.
"The poking. It's a waste of time, in'it?"
"Cal, what are you-"
"I'm in love with you!" Cal shouted, his head thrown back and his arms spread wide. He brought his hands back to his lap and looked at Gillian. "There, I said it."
Gillian's eyebrows were frozen in their raised position, her mouth hanging open as she took in Cal's latest display of crazy. "Ah-h," she said, her throat making mysterious sounds on their own. "What?" she said, echoing Cal's earlier dumbfounded shock.
"See, all this time I thought you knew. I thought you were just scared to take the extra step. Or, maybe you didn't want it discussed because you didn't feel the same way. But I can't have you walkin around thinking I actually hate you. Because, the way I feel, is, in fact, quite the opposite."
Gillian felt lightheaded, so beside herself she was almost having a near-death experience. Angry Gill had left the building.
"I love you." Cal said, in case it hadn't sunk in. "In that way." he added, in case it had sunk in the wrong way.
"Holy shit. He actually said it." Ria muttered, her wide eyes glued to the screen with Cal's face on it. It was the first time she'd seen him genuinely worried about the outcome of an interaction in the Cube.
"And she looks...pale." Eli said of Gillian.
"I think I'm gonna puke." said Gillian, the lightheaded feeling only getting worse.
"Well, now who's the mean one?" Cal said petulantly.
"No, I mean...I'm gonna pass out." she corrected herself, even though both were distinct possibilities.
"Why?" Cal pressed her for more details. "Because you don't feel the same way, or because you're still scared?"
With one hand over her stomach she stood up, hoping it would help the dizziness.
"Please tell me you're scared, Gill. If I confessed all of that for nothing, the rest of my weekend's going to be ruined."
Gillian's nervous laughter pealed through the room like jingle bells. Still cracking jokes. she thought, her inner monologue choppy. Defense mechanism. Must find one for self.
Cal noticed her swaying, and he started to believe her. He stood up as she took a step away from the table. She faced the wall, and she held a hand up when he tried to get closer. Cal stopped and put his hands in his pockets, wanting nothing more than to comfort her physically, but knowing that he couldn't until she gave the go ahead. She took a few deep breaths through her nose, exhaling them through her mouth.
"You..." she said carefully. "Are a very clever man."
"Why's that?" Cal asked.
"I'm not angry anymore." Gillian answered. She let out another shaky laugh and Cal smiled, though his eyes narrowed curiously. He was fascinated by her reaction.
"You still haven't answered my question." he said.
It was no wonder. Switching gears between thinking she might never be able to forgive him and the elation she should have been feeling was going to take her a minute or two. Gillian felt like she'd just seen proof of extraterrestrial life. Except this was stranger. She glanced at him briefly, to make sure he hadn't sprouted another head or antennae, and she found him standing much closer than before.
"Oh." Cal put a hand over his heart when he caught a glimpse of what she was really thinking. "You're scared." he said, letting out a small, triumphant laugh. It was a respectful laugh; he was just so damn relieved. That meant she felt the same way. "I'm scared too." he was quick to reassure her, taking another step forward and halting. He leaned sideways, trying to get her to look at him again. "So why don't we go be big, fat, scaredy cats together?" he suggested. "How's that sound?"
Gillian swallowed hard, thinking it over. So this...was that. She wasn't answering, but she wasn't saying no either.
"It'd be better wouldn't it? Being scared together?" Cal prodded, inching closer. "Cause...we'd be havin' sex while we're at it?"
She laughed, and he was close enough to reach his arms out and hug her. She let him pull her into an embrace, her body slowly relaxing as he enveloped her in it. The more she relaxed, the tighter he squeezed, until he felt her arms softly wrap themselves around his waist.
"I'm sorry for bein' a mean little shit to you, Gill." He spoke quietly, his mouth right next to her ear.
"I just want to feel like I'm respected." she said quietly, still stuck in business mode.
"Then allow me to apologize for that ill-timed sexual innuendo."
She chuckled, dazed as she marveled at the night's dizzying turn of events. All would be forgiven. He loved her. And he wanted to have sex.
"I thought innuendo involved some form of subtlety." she joked.
She didn't see his grin, but she felt it when he squeezed her. Sarcasm like that was a good sign.
"I'll try harder next time." said Cal. "But, might I remind you, subtlety didn't exactly work on you the first hundred times."
Gillian felt tears coming, and she had to keep telling herself, I'm not a cry baby, I'm not a cry baby... He'd really meant it, all those times. All those comments. All that ogling.
"I didn't think you saw me that way."
"You're such a liar." he said in disbelief. Gillian felt Cal pull his head back, even while still holding her tight. She bowed her head, not sure she could look into his eyes just yet. He was so close.
"I thought you were just messing with me."
"It's called flirting, love. What on earth made you think you were off limits in that department?"
Cal watched as one of her eyebrows arched, and he remembered the conversation they'd just had.
"Nah, you're right." he admitted. "Stupid question." He saw her lips then, as they evened into a smile. He moved his head, trying to kiss those lips, but she pulled back. This close, he could feel as much as see her breath catch in her throat.
"Am I really that scary?" he said quietly, wishing she would lift her eyelashes and show herself to him.
Eli and Ria were, at this point, literally on the edges of their seats, holding hands so tight it hurt them both.
"Come onnn..." Ria said through clenched teeth.
"Ow. Ria, ow. Ow..."
Gillian was thinking. She was thinking she thought entirely too much. With her eyes still cast down, she shook her head. Her answer to his question was no, because he was definitely not the scary part. Scary was the idea of losing him, of ruining what they had for a chance at something more. No, Cal wasn't scary. In spite of all the scary emotions he stirred in her - from anger to love, both at heart melting temperatures - his arms still felt like the safest place she'd ever been.
Cal moved again to kiss her, and this time she held her breath. It wasn't as if they hadn't done this before. It just hadn't meant so much until now.
Ria made an embarrassingly girly sound as Cal leaned in, and Gillian finally let him kiss her.
"Oh my god," Eli shouted. "Finally!"
It was a sweet kiss, and it seemed to bring Gillian back down to earth.
"That wasn't so bad. Was it?" Cal asked once it ended.
"No, it wasn't." said Gillian. She looked up at him then, and he took in all the emotion in her eyes like a flaming shot of whiskey. It burned him, in the best way possible. They kissed again, and Gillian leaned into it. He moved a hand to her face, holding her softly, the heat building quickly. Her lips were parting for him, and he was just about taste her tongue for the first time when the voice of god intervened.
"Does this mean we're not fired?" Eli's voice asked, because he just couldn't resist. Gillian broke away from the kiss and buried her face in Cal's shoulder. In the heat of the moment she'd forgotten where she was, and that they were being watched. Cal wrapped his arms around her shoulders and tilted his head back.
"Just barely." he called out to the surveillance team. "But if you interrupt us again I'll kill you." The smile on his face betrayed the threatening words, and he quickly returned to Gillian, wondering where she thought she could hide in his jacket. "Where'd you go?" he said playfully, trying to lift her head from his shoulder.
"Oh my god, I have to text Emily." Ria said, rushing to find her phone. "And Ben."
"Call the papers and have them stop the presses while you're at it." said Eli. "Because this is huge."
"It's the Pearl Harbor of love!" Ria declared, excited and distracted by the texting.
"Yes." said Eli as he squinted at his surrogate sister. "Yes, it's exactly like Pearl Harbor, Ria."
"Shut up, Loker. I'm happy."
Eli turned and watched Gillian and Cal on the monitors for a few more moments, proud that their hard work had paid off. If you could call locking their superiors in a glass box with chicken cutlets hard work. With a smile on his face, he reached for the button to unlock the door to the Cube.
Inside the cube, the sound didn't seem as harsh as it had earlier. The warm lighting didn't seem as absurd, and the romantic music no longer felt silly. It all felt like an extension of their embrace. It was quite cozy, actually, in their home away from home. It was a home they already shared.
They were no longer prisoners, but Cal and Gillian stayed where they were, locked in a kiss that seemed like it would go on forever.
With the back of her hand, Ria gave Eli's arm a light slap.
"It's time to go." she said, her bag already slung over her shoulder.
"But-" Eli started, gesturing toward the monitors.
"They're not going to come out and thank us. Let's get out of here and give them some privacy."
Eli sighed and smile in acquiescence, getting up to go as Ria reached for the mic for the last time.
"We're leaving now." she said slyly, the suggestion clear in her voice. "Have a good night..."
The only indication that they'd heard her was the distinct upturn of both Cal's and Gillian's lips, which were still pressed against one another.
"We probably should have put a bed in there." said Eli, holding the door for Ria as they left the office. "For convenience's sake."
"They may have needed us to push them together," Ria remarked wryly, "But I'm sure they'll figure that part out on their own."
"If they have trouble I'd be happy to demonstrate..."
"Ew! Oedipus complex was so on the money."
"What do you mean, ew? She's not my real mom!"
"I know, but still!"
"But still what?"
The echoes of their conversation faded as they left the Lightman Group offices. If he'd heard them, Cal would have stopped to wonder what he was doing employing children like these, but he was far too busy thinking that they should have put a bed in the Cube.
A/N: Let me know what you thought. :) Constructive criticism very welcome on this one.