A/N: This is the only one of these you'll see throughout this story.

This story comes with a warning (several, actually). First, if you've read my stuff before, you'll not be used to this from me. Second, this story is non-linear. Third, and this is the most important one of all, read at your own risk (nothing's pretty).

Finally, I have taken liberties, and I won't apologize for them.

This is an outpouring in the vein of "The Freshmen" by The Verve Pipe. The prefaces to each chapter are from that song.

Disclaimer: I own nothing but the turmoil of my own soul. :D

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When I was young, I knew everything—

She a punk who rarely ever took advice

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Cal thought back to the day he first met Gillian. He had walked into her office at the Pentagon expecting some know-it-all woman in her late fifties ready to tell him to keep his mouth shut or else tell him he was crazy as though that was news he didn't already know.

What he hadn't expected was a young, beautiful woman with a definitive sparkle in her blue eyes—what he hadn't expected was Gillian Foster. The mischief she showed him that day was unmistakable.

Her hair pulled up into a simple ponytail made her face readily available and her beauty was the first thing that struck him.

He was married at the time; she was married at the time—and still something without a name passed between them. He had gone home to Zoe that night and she'd asked how it went. Cal had hesitated momentarily, deciding whether or not he should be honest with his wife and tell her that the psychologist he had been required to see wasn't at all what he expected.

Cal opted for truth with Zoe. In hindsight, it had probably been the wrong decision. She'd spent the next two hours picking countless fights with him. If he thought about it, he was certain that had been the moment that the seed that eventually grew roots and choked the life out of their marriage was planted.

He saw Gillian the next day—and the day after and the day after that. Cal knew there was more than what she was telling him, but he didn't push her for it. He could tell that there was something she wanted to say to him, but couldn't.

Cal read defiance in Gillian even back then. She wasn't supposed to be warning him—but she did. In her own little way, she did. And when Cal poked at her and prodded at her, she didn't back down—she held her ground. Cal knew then that she could never be temporary in his life—she must be made permanent.

So, he'd asked her to be his partner on this crazy adventure, and he hadn't really even thought twice back then. Perhaps he should have. Despite some of the things that he'd seen and done in his life, not all of them wonderful (far from it, actually), and despite being proved wrong time and time again, he was so sure of himself. He was sure of his capabilities, his promise—and he didn't stop to think, back then, how he would contaminate Gillian.

Cal likes to believe that if he had thought of it, that he might never have asked her. Mostly, he knows that's just wishful thinking, because he's been a selfish bastard nearly his whole life—and if there are fleeting moments when he's not, it's simply a fluke. So, even if he had considered it, he probably still would have asked her.

Gillian, of course, said yes. Cal didn't know exactly how many people had cautioned her against it. How many people had told her she'd end up regretting it. He couldn't know that her own husband pleaded with her not to do it—But, Gillian was never one for backing down. If anything, these warnings—these pleas—only served to solidify her decision. Lightman's work interested her—and Gillian did things for herself, not for others. So, she'd said yes three days after Cal had asked her—and Alec didn't speak to her for six after that.

Cal didn't know anything beyond a "yes."

Still, Cal often thought about present-day Gillian in comparison to the Gillian of the past. She had changed—

She was tentative now, more cautious somehow. Cal knew he was responsible for the change, and if he had allowed himself, he could have hated himself for it. Instead, he poured himself a glass of scotch and thought of Gillian.

He leaned back in his chair, surrounded by photos of his daughter and souvenirs from his travels and thought of her—at her house, clad in her pajamas, her hair up in a ponytail reading a book by Anita Shreve or Patricia Gaffney, and his heart clenched inside his chest.

She had changed—over so many years, who doesn't? But Cal was wary of why Gillian had changed, of the truth of it all.

As he felt the liquid burn his throat as he swallowed, he squeezed his eyes shut. He'd been watching her long enough and hard enough for so long that he was fairly certain of the reason, and a shudder ran through him—she had changed, yes. And, he worried, his greatest fear had come to fruition.