A/N: So this story came about as a result of two things. First, when I was writing my original post-ep to Canary's Song, I had a terrible time keeping them from screwing everything up the next morning and that got me thinking about how, despite what my shipper heart might want, Cal and Gillian are so not ready to take their relationship to the next step. The second bit of impetus was my thoughts regarding the stories that recognize this but lay all (or most) of the blame at Cal's door. That led me around to taking a long look at Gillian and realizing that she often fits the profile of the typical enabler, and as such, she is part of the problem.
Now I feel the need to explain a few things about the writing in this story. You will notice that the first chapter (which starts off as another post-ep for the balcony scene) is written in a rather odd almost stream of consciousness style, complete with parenthetical inserts. I originally intended to do the whole story that way, but then it grew and it became impossible to keep the narrative going that way. I decided to leave the first chapter as is and use it as a prologue, but then switch to a more straightforward form for the remainder of the story. There might be a return to S-O-C at the very end, but I don't know yet.
Also, if you find yourself reading portions that seem to be repeating previous action, you are not mistaken. Since I wanted to examine their skewed views of themselves and each other, I have chosen to tell many of the important moments twice - once from each of their viewpoints. This should also tip you off not to take the characters impressions or ideas about things as any sort of gospel - they might be right, they might be wrong, they might be anywhere in between.
OK, I'm almost done with this, the longest A/N in history. Just one final word about the poem that prefaces the story (and which provided my title). It is one of my favorites and is often listed as one of ED's love poems, but there is an alternate reading that says it is about finding your true self as opposed to the face you show the world. This dual meaning made it perfect since this story touches on both topics. Anyway ... enjoy.
As always, don't own the show, don't own the characters, don't own the poem, etc., etc., ... blah, blah, blah.
Of All the Souls that Stand Create
Of all the souls that stand create
I have elected one.
When sense from spirit files away,
And subterfuge is done;
When that which is and that which was
Apart, intrinsic, stand,
And this brief tragedy of flesh
Is shifted like a sand;
When figures show their royal front
And mists are carved away,—
Behold the atom I preferred
To all the lists of clay!
- Emily Dickinson
Prologue: Part One
She reached up and turned off the headlamp on that ridiculous helmet he was wearing. Even after all the liquid courage she had imbibed, she still felt the need to do this under the cover of darkness. Then slowly, oh so very slowly, she swayed towards him, her eyes closing and her heart beating fast as she wondered (worried) if he would meet her halfway.
And he did. In that split second before they touched, she could feel his breath against her face and the tiny knot of uncertainty in the pit of her stomach untied itself and she breathed out the smallest of sighs, so that when their lips finally met, hers were already parted. After that it was little more than a blur of sensations - his tongue against her teeth, her hand in his hair, the way he crushed her against himself, fingers bunching up in the soft fabric of her sweater. And underneath it all a she could feel the tie that bound them, the tie that kept them careening back into one another every time they stretched it. She felt it relax, able to slacken now that they were finally close enough to ease its tension.
But it was over almost as soon as it began. With a tiny groan (was it pleasure or pain), Cal stepped back, cupping her face between his hands and staring into her eyes in the dim light.
"No, Gill," he said. "We're not doing this, love. Not tonight. Not when you're drunk. Not when you might regret it in the morning."
And all she could think was ... damn you, Cal Lightman. Damn you for picking the worst time to be a gentleman.
The problem was, Gillian thought to herself the next morning as her head pounded with the aftereffects of the scotch, the same alcohol that had let her step off the cliff of their relationship had also prevented her from reading his reaction to her leap. She had no idea whether he had stopped out of (misguided) chivalry or if that had just been a convenient excuse to end an awkward interlude.
He had wanted her. Yes, that much had been easy to read. Her hand drifted towards her stomach as she remembered the feel of him, all of him, pressed up against her. Then she snatched her hand back (don't think about that), and bit her lip as she tried to reconstruct his expression when he broke away from their embrace. Because wanting her didn't really mean much - Cal Lightman had wanted lots of women. That she knew for sure since she had watched him parade them in and out in the years since he and Zoe had divorced.
But there was wanting ... and there was wanting. And she had no idea which one applied in her case.
So she pretended nothing had happened. Or, more accurately, that she didn't remember (like she could ever forget one of his kisses) what had happened. She brewed herself a pot of strong coffee, took four Advil and a long shower, and made sure she got into the office on time. She did not want him to call to check on her. When she finally spoke to him she wanted (needed) to be able to see his face.
He must have been waiting for her (was that a good sign?). He came sidling up to her while she was still in reception collecting her mail and wishing her head would stop pounding. He slid in close (oh God, so close), tilting himself to get between her and the counter, and stared up into her face, searching.
Which told her nothing, really, because the only thing she could see on his face when he gave her that look was concern (and fear ... she didn't want to see the fear). So she schooled her own features into the look she had become an expert at. The look that said butter wouldn't melt in her mouth (don't think of melting). The look that asked what he was staring at because there was nothing there to see.
"Ah, yeah," he said, in that way of his that made it into a one word exclamation (of discovery ... or regret . She thought maybe she saw a little regret ... but regret for what? What happened ... or what didn't happen?).
"What?" She was the very picture of confused innocence.
"Thought maybe you'd be feeling a bit less than chipper this morning, love."
"I'm fine, Cal," she replied. Then (feeling more frightened than fine, and just a touch nauseous) she turned away and headed down the hall to her office.
She didn't see the way the way he watched her leave. Eyes pinned to her back, he sagged against the counter, looking for all the world like a little child watching the one thing he wanted disappear into the distance.
Prologue: Part Two
She reached up and turned off the headlamp on the ridiculous helmet he was wearing and his heart leaped in his chest. He watched, mesmerized, as she swayed towards him. Unable to stop himself, he took a step towards her and the next thing he knew, she was in his arms and he was kissing her. And it felt so right to be holding (finally more than holding) her.
And the taste of her (oh god, the taste) as his tongue explored her mouth made him fist his fingers in her sweater and pull her even closer in some wordless desire to actually inhabit her. It all swirled together into nothing (and everything) more than a blur - the smell of her, the feel of her belly against the pressure in his groin, the after taste of scotch (wait ... the scotch) on her tongue.
That was what made him finally come to his senses. Because he was Cal (the rotter) and she was the one bright and shining thing in his otherwise tarnished life. This wasn't going to happen (so hard to make his mouth form the words), not tonight, not while she was drunk. For once in his life he was going to do the right thing.
Because even though he might regret his uncharacteristic bout of self-control in the morning, it would be even worse if she regretted the lack of hers the morning ... after.
Not calling her the next morning (or not calling her all night, for that matter) was one of the hardest things he had ever done. Unable to sleep, he had risen before dawn and headed for the office (you will not drive to her house), arriving in the soft grey light of dawn. Then he had sat at his desk waiting, ticking off the minutes until he could call (without it meaning something she might not want to know).
But then, just as he was thinking it was finally time, he heard the buzzer of the front entrance, and then the sound of her voice as she greeted Anna. She sounded totally normal (is normal good ... or bad?). Although he knew he should wait until she got to her office, he couldn't, so he stalked down the hallway and slid up into her space, peering at her face in search of some clue as to exactly what had happened last night.
And saw nothing. He had been so very afraid of what he might find (disgust ... at him, at herself), but he had never thought he would see ... nothing. She looked exactly like she did every day, perfect and unperturbed. Was it possible she didn't even remember (but how could that be when every second still burned in his brain). He couldn't help himself, and so he probed a bit.
"Thought maybe you'd be feeling a bit less than chipper this morning, love."
"I'm fine, Cal," she said in dismissal before she turned away.
And there it was, yet another thing they weren't going to talk about. And he still had no idea (why the scotch, why last night, why not this morning) ... why.