x x x
For the life of me,
I cannot believe
We'd ever die for these sins.
x x x
It was an idle Tuesday that Cal had almost died. If the bullet had been a quarter of an inch this way or that—if a doctor hadn't been nearby, if an ambulance hadn't been right around the corner—if a lot of things.
And Gillian had seen it all. Cal had been watching her face the entire time, even as he felt the bullet rip through layers of his flesh, one by one, his eyes had stayed on her face and he'd watched as several emotions—horror, disbelief, sadness, fear—manifested themselves on her delicate features.
She had ridden with him to the hospital, but she hadn't touched him at all on the fifteen minute ride there, and Cal felt the absence as the seconds ticked by. Cal squeezed his eyes shut, knowing that she'd think it was because of the pain. It wasn't pain, though. Cal clenched his teeth together hard to avoid asking for her touch. He was too wrapped up in his own emotional turmoil to be able to accurately discern from her face and body language whether or not she actually wanted to give it—and Cal knew he'd already taken too much from her without her willing consent.
So he gritted his teeth, shut his eyes and gripped the sides of the gurney. He imagined her soft palm on his cheek, her fingers caressing his hair—her lips on his hairline—the warmth of her touch, he thought, would heal him.
When he opened his eyes, he saw Gillian's hands folded neatly in her lap, worry creasing her brow. He watched as her right thumb smoothed over her left one in a self-comforting gesture.
He tried to speak—to tell her what he had realized when he had realized—that word—when he'd heard the harsh, cold sound of the bullet leave the gun. The word that he needed to remember—that he was certain would have regenerative properties when put into the context of their relationship. He opened his mouth to speak. He watched Gillian lean slightly forward—but nothing came out, save his breath, and moments later the ambulance came to a halt in front of the hospital.
Gillian ignored questions of "Who are you, ma'am?" "Are you his wife?" and various other questions hurled at her—she kept her face expressionless, and she kept her eyes on Cal, ignoring their requests, each one more frantic than the last until they finally quit asking. They'd gotten the message; she wasn't leaving. Gillian remained at Cal's side until the doctor, a bald bespectacled man in his late 50s came with the news.
"Good news, Dr. Lightman," He'd said, "You're going to be fine."
The doctor then went into the logistics of precisely how and why but Cal couldn't recall them if asked because his gaze was, once again, fixed on Gillian as she heard the news. cal watched as relief washed over her face—she met his gaze, offered him a small smile and then she turned and began to walk out of the room.
Cal watched as her form retreated—he could no longer see his blood spattering her white shirt—just her fragile posture as she crossed the threshold of his hospital room, her black heels eerily quiet against the white speckled linoleum.
Gillian didn't return to the hospital. As he watched her go, Cal knew she wouldn't—but he couldn't keep a small part of himself from waiting for her anyway.
Zoe and Emily came to see him—Gillian had called them. Zoe's presence felt hollow even as she hugged him with tears in her eyes—even as she placed the back of her fingers against his cheek and whispered "I'm so glad you're alright."
Emily threw her arms around him and he felt his heart catch like it usually did—he held her tightly with his left arm—his uninjured side—and kissed the side of her temple as she sobbed into his shoulder, "I could've lost you, dad." She whispered, over and over and over again as Cal shushed her and whispered back, "You didn't, love," until it became like a prayer and he wasn't speaking to Emily any longer.
Even with Emily's heart beating so close to his own, Cal still felt broken. Zoe and Emily stayed with him for four hours until the doctor came in to explain the conditions of his release from the hospital.
Zoe had begged Cal to stay with her for a few days insisting that he would feel better—that he needed her. Cal knew it wasn't true—he thanked her, hugged Emily tightly, kissed her on the cheek, and then declined.
"Just drop me at my car, Zo." He said, finally, and ignored the look of pain followed quickly by anger that crossed her face. Zoe, despite her wishes to the contrary, obliged and she pulled into the Lightman Group parking lot and shoved the car into park.
Cal avoided her eyes as she spoke, "I am glad you're alright." She said. Cal smiled and got out of the car, whispering a thanks and a quick 'love you' to Emily.
Cal shut the door and walked over to his car. Unlocking the door, he felt a stab of pain in his shoulder—ignoring it, he slid into the driver's seat and closed the door, grateful for the way the steel quieted everything. He jammed his key in the ignition and started to turn it, but hesitated. Instead, he put his hands on his steering wheel and laid his forehead against them. He could hear little else but his own breathing and for a moment he was comforted before he felt panic overtake him. Suddenly, he could hear the heavy blood rushing through his veins and he moved to turn the key again, but couldn't. Sighing, he ripped the key out of the ignition—he just couldn't go home and be surrounded thoroughly by himself.
He looked out his front windshield at the Lightman Group building—the grey concrete and glass reaching for the sky which was quickly turning a particularly lovely shade of orange as the sun began to go to bed.
Fighting emotion, Cal exited his car and headed into the building—he would go to his office and fuss over paperwork, open old documents on his computer and rework them, if he really got desperate, he'd work on an outline for his book—and he'd pretend. He'd pretend that everything wasn't falling apart around him, he'd pretend that his shoulder didn't hurt, that his eyes weren't tired and that his heart didn't feel tangled.
He shoved his hands in his pockets as he walked down the hallway to his office—he opened the door and ran his hand across his bookshelf on the way to his chair. Sitting down, he felt his shoulder ache and he squeezed his eyes shut listening to the hum of the quiet building. He recognized the familiar sounds and he tried to single them out as he strained his ears—the whir of the computers, still on in the lab, were the loudest. Listening intently, he heard another sound that seemed all at once familiar and foreign to him—he leant forward slightly trying to find an angle that would allow him to hear better. Finding that his new position could not correctly help him discern precisely what the noise was, he rose from his chair.
When he opened the door to his office, the sound grew slightly more pronounced, and he could tell from which direction it was coming—he started down the hallway, and eventually he found the source.
Standing in front of Gillian's office, he looked through the window and saw that she was hunched over her desk, her face buried in her hands as her body shook lightly in a sullen rhythm. The sky behind her offered a most beautiful backdrop to a sight that nearly stopped his heart.
Pushing her door, which was slightly ajar, open further, Cal slipped inside. Her breath caught in her throat as she sobbed into her hands and the sound nearly hurt his ears—not because of how loud it was, but because of how raw it was.
Cal cleared his throat lightly, and at the sound, Gillian's head shot up and he was at once confronted with her gaze. The tracks down her cheek were black with mascara and her eyes were a most bright shade of red—briefly, Cal thought that she still looked ridiculously beautiful.
Cal watched as surprise passed over her face. She, of course, hadn't expected him to be in the building, let alone in her office watching the emotion slide down her face.
She leaned back into her chair and tilted her head to one side—her face was red in various spots and her eyes were glassy—she swiped at the tracks down her cheek which only caused them to smear more thoroughly.
Struck again by her beauty even in complete sorrow, he exhaled, "Christ."
Using both of her hands, she ran her hands under her eyes and raised her eyebrows at him.
"Darling…" Cal said, his voice gentle.
At his tone, her tears began to well up again, and she spoke around them, her voice taut, "Don't." She said, waving her hand in the air, "Don't say it like that." She finished, her voice breaking on the last word so that it sounded as though she had choked it out.
Cal stepped toward her, his eyes full and heavy as he watched her cry. He reached the edge of her desk and then he stopped, his gaze still fixed on her—he pursed his lips and tilted his head, allowing her to read him.
Gillian sighed through her tears and she opened her mouth to speak and Cal felt himself suck in an anticipatory breath as he waited for her words. She let the silence hover for a minute as she tried to calm her tears. She looked at the blood, now dried, still on her shirt—his blood, and he saw her cringe slightly. Finally, she took a steadying breath and spoke, "You can't keep doing this to me, Cal," She said, her voice quiet.
Suddenly, Cal was in front of her chair and he pulled her up from her seated position and enveloped her in a hug. Gripping her tightly to him, he clutched at her hair—Cal knew, immediately, that she wasn't simply talking about his life or death stunt today. He smoothed his hand over her hair again and again as she gripped the shirt on his back, her fingers cold on his skin even through the shirt.
"I know," He whispered softly around the lump that had formed in his throat.
He could feel her tears on his neck, "I can't." She said, and Cal felt her try to pull away. He tightened his grip on her, "I can't," She said again until it became a recitation—
Cal tugged on her hair gently, and her face fell away from his neck—she reluctantly met his gaze—"Hey." He said as he brushed his thumb along her jaw line. "Everything's just been so fucked up." He said, whispering, trying to quell his own impending tears.
The timbre of his voice made her eyes well again, and she cursed her sensitivity as she bit her lip in an attempt to regain her composure. She nodded slightly. Seeing the emotion wash over her features, Cal pulled her back into his embrace—he pressed his lips against her hair and felt her warmth seep into his bones and his physical pain was forgotten as he felt himself surrounded by Gillian.
Cal's face grew serious, then, in the growing dark of Gillian's office. Leaning slightly down, Cal pressed his lips to her ear—through the curtain of her hair, Gillian felt his hot breath as she heard his voice curl around a muffled word. He whispered it over and over again—a specific type of confession, and through the window he watched with wonder as the sun disappeared behind the horizon—and he marveled at the feel of Gillian against him, at the way his blood rushed through his veins, at the breaths they drew together, still, after all these years—at all the sins for which he desperately needed to atone.
A/N: Thank you all for reading this - your wonderful reviews were completely amazing; this story is really close to my heart for some reason, and I thank you for the time you spent reading, for the journey you took with me- for the beautiful words you sent my way. It means the world.
Every time I got a review for this story, it made my heart smile. And for those of you over on Twitter (you know who you are) who have expressed so much love for this story (in ways that just blow my mind and humble me beyond words): thank you, thank you, thank you.
I can only hope the end did justice to the wonderful things you had to say about this story throughout.
Finally, I'd just like to point out: I totally tricked you into reading a song-fic!