A big, big thank you to Lightwoman for proof reading thsi for me :) It's a chore I hate to do, and usually leads me to sitting on fics a few days before you guys get them. She volunteered to look it over for me, so you guys get more fic that much sooner from me! Yay!
Perhaps not to be is to be without your being,
without your going, that cuts noon light
like a blue flower, without your passing
later through fog and stones,
without the torch you lift in your hand
that others may not see as golden,
that perhaps no one believed blossomed
the glowing origin of the rose,
without, in the end, your being, your coming
suddenly, inspiringly, to know my life,
blaze of the rose-tree, wheat of the breeze:
and it follows that I am, because you are:
it follows from 'you are', that I am, and we:
and, because of love, you will, I will,
We will, come to be.
It follows that I am, because you are
She was, unsurprisingly, working when her cell phone chirped at her irritatingly. It wasn't that there was any particular rush on the paperwork, or even that she needed the distraction, but she knew if she went home, she wouldn't be able to sleep. She'd been asleep when the first call had come. The hospital. She was his emergency contact.
She sighed, digging through her purse for her phone, reaching just as the ringing ceased. Naturally. It was Cal's home number and she frowned. Emily was supposed to be staying with a friend. And Cal was still in the hospital, undoubtedly annoying the living hell out of the nursing staff. She hadn't wanted to leave, but he'd been sitting there, staring at her and Emily, plainly wanting them gone. And yes, she'd been short with him as she left – muttering it and maybe just meaning it a little bit. Because clearly he had no idea what it was like to be woken up by a stranger and the words car accident and loss of consciousness and ambulance. Her heart had almost asphyxiated her, so high in her throat and she just tried to breathe around it.
She'd waited to call Emily. Waited to see how he really was, how bad it was, because it was that exact reason he'd made her his emergency contact. Her relief at seeing him there, bruised but whole, had been palatable. She shook her head, shaking free of the memories as she pressed the send button on her cell phone, calling Emily back.
"Hi, Em. You called?"
"Gill?" Emily's voice sounded confused and she sighed in irritation. "Dad. I am going to kill him. He must have hit send before I grabbed the phone, I'm sorry Gill."
"Wait a minute – why is he not at the hospital?" Gillian brought a hand to her forehead, rubbing it in frustration as Emily's sigh carried down the line.
"Because he's Dad. I don't know, he just... showed up. I was just about to leave, and then of course he just loved that. He tried to call you, but I stopped him and now he's napping and wants beans on toast and I don't know what to do for after-care, is he allowed to eat? Am I supposed to wake him? How often? And what do I do once he's awake?" Emily's voice became more and more rushed as she spoke, and Gillian closed her eyes, chastising herself internally. She should have known better. He'd rushed them out for a reason – and God only knows what he'd done prior to making it home.
"It'll be okay Emily. Clear liquids only for now if he's hungry. He should be woken every hour – but I'm going to come over, okay?"
"Oh God Gillian, thank you. So much – you have no idea. He's gonna kill me for letting you come, but I don't even care." Emily sounded tired, and Gillian nodded even though Emily couldn't see that.
"Listen I'm just gonna stop by the supermarket really quick, and then I'll be there, okay? Sit tight." Emily thanked her again and Gillian hung up, sighing softly to herself. She knew she should have stayed at the hospital. She went against her instincts far too often when it came to him lately, and she'd had it come back to bite her a few times too many.
Frowning, she promised herself that she'd change that, as she stood, gathering a few files, her purse and coat before stepping out of her office with a renewed sense of purpose in her stride.
Emily opened the door to her a little more than a half hour later, with a smile on her face. "Hi Gill! What's all this?"
"I picked up some things for your Dad for tomorrow. It's a treat for him, not that he deserves one for checking out of the hospital AMA, but still. How is he? Has he woken at all?" She stepped through the door as she spoke, kicking her high heels off immediately before dropping her bags on the kitchen island, having come through the side door.
She began pulling things out of the bags as Emily stepped up beside her. "He's still asleep on the sofa. What's all this? Anise? Sherry vinegar?" Emily frowned down at the array of spices Gillian was pulling out of the bag.
"Here, take these and put them in a big pot, cover them with water, okay?" Gillian handed a bag to Emily and she took it, walking over to the cupboard and pulling out a large pot. As she was cutting the bag, she spoke again.
"Haricot beans? Gillian are you making Dad baked beans from scratch?" She sounded disbelieving and Gillian shrugged.
"The canned ones are terrible – full of sugar and preservatives. Plus it'll take me a while; I figured it would occupy my time while I'm up tonight. Your Dad has to be woken every hour, and you have school in the morning, so you need your sleep." As she spoke, Gillian was pulling out another large pot, placing it on the stove as she spoke.
"Okay, but can you tell me the recipe? Or write it down – I'm sure Dad is gonna love this. You're too good to him you know."
"I can write it down for you, but this makes lots and they'll be good for a few weeks." She put oil in the pot and began measuring out spices as she spoke. "Do you have any homework? You don't have to keep me company, Em. Who were you going to spend the night with before your Dad showed up?" Emily blushed, looking down at her hands and Gillian chuckled. "Oh Emily, no wonder your Dad enjoyed breaking that up. With Liam, really?"
"At his parents. It wasn't like I was ducking off to a Motel 8 or anything, god! Dad's been crazy since I told him about-"
"Not being a virgin?" Gillian supplied, and Emily didn't look surprised at all about her knowledge. "Listen Emily, your Dad just... loves you, very much. And it'll be hard for you to really understand until you're grown yourself with kids of your own, but it doesn't matter how old you get – you'll always be his little girl, you know. To him. And he means well, even if he chooses to go about it in the most irritating of ways, at times." She was slicing onion as she talked to Emily, who was looking mildly exasperated.
"Mom's not like this about it all. Why do you always defend Dad, Gillian? I mean, he's – I just don't get it sometimes." Emily had jumped up, sitting herself on the counter and watching as Gillian worked silently for a moment, scraping the onion into the pot and setting the heat on low while she started chopping garlic.
"Because I know he needs it when I'm discussing him with you, Emily. Just like every time your father comes to me all in a tizzy about you and your latest lies or lack thereof, I tell him to trust you." Emily looked at her silently for a moment; the only sound in the silence that surrounded them was the rhythmic chopping of Gillian knife on the cutting board, and Emily's feet thumping against the cupboards below her as she swung her legs.
"You really are the best, Gill." Emily leaned over impulsively, giving her a hug and Gillian blinked back tears as she smiled and shook her head. She was gathering the spice bouquet and avoiding Emily's eyes – so like her father's. "God this smells delicious already and it's not even nearly done. How long does it take?"
Gillian smiled as she added the bouquet and the garlic, stirring the contents of the pot. "The sauce takes about three hours or so. Then another three hours in the oven with the beans. It should be ready for your Dad in the morning."
"And me. I'm not the biggest fan of beans on toast, but I've a feeling these might change my mind. That's a lot of work just for beans." Emily frowned thoughtfully. "Maybe you shouldn't write the recipe. It'll be fun to watch how much grovelling Dad'll do for these in the future." She grinned, hopping off the counter. "Okay, well I'm gonna go read a bit before bed. Do you need anything? A spare toothbrush? Some PJ's?"
"I picked up a toothbrush on my way, and I swung by my place for a change of clothes, but thanks Em. Have a good sleep, alright? And don't worry about your Dad, okay? I'll take care of him." Emily hugged her again, properly this time and Gillian wrapped her arms around the younger woman's shoulders. As Emily pulled away, she pressed a kiss to Gillian's cheek, softly.
"I never worry about Dad when he's with you, Gill. S'why I wish he was with you all the time. If you need to nap, just come wake me up, okay? Night, Gill." She smiled softly before turning and heading up the stairs while Gillian watched her with a smile. Once she'd disappeared from view, she sighed, grabbing her bag and heading to the powder room downstairs to change into her pyjamas.
She moved through the sitting room on her way back, pausing a moment to look at Cal, asleep on the couch. His mouth was slightly open and she could hear soft snoring, which caused her to smile in response. Not out and out sawing, but a softer sound in the back of his throat. I could live with that. She shook her head, banishing her own fanciful thoughts before sitting on the edge of the coffee table, putting a hand on his shoulder softly. "Cal," she called, and his eyes shot open.
"Gill?" He blinked in the dim light and she leaned forward, checking that his pupils were dilated the same amount. "What're you doing here? Where's Em?" He was shifting and yawning as he spoke and she smiled.
"She's upstairs, and I'm here to help, obviously." She was still checking his eyes and he inhaled sharply as she pulled back. "Come on, you gotta get up and walk a bit for me."
"Oh come on Gill. You're not gonna make me do all that tripe are you?" He was struggling into a sitting position, the blanket tangling around his legs as he groaned in frustration.
"Every hour on the hour." She sing-songed, and he glared at her as he stood up, swaying slightly until she stepped closer and he could put an arm over her shoulder.
"Bloody hell. What now? Need me to do a jig?" She laughed softly, shaking her head negatively.
"No, just walk a few steps." He turned into her, one hand slipping into her other one and his other hand settling on her waist. He walked them in a box step, left, forward, right, back. "You gonna dance with me every time I wake you?" She spoke with a smile and he cocked his head at her.
"Maybe, if you wake me nicely. Have I passed all your tests then? Can I go back to sleep?" He sat down heavily, and she sat next to him, concern on her face.
"Yes you can, are you in any pain? Do you need something?"
"Can't feel a thing, darling. I do have a place or two you can kiss and make better though." He was grinning at her lasciviously even as he was lying down again, and she was pulling the blanket up and around him.
She leaned forward, brushing her lips over his temple lightly. She smiled at his disappointed pout as she pulled back. "There. Feel better?"
"Yeah. Loads better." His voice was serious and he turned on his side, shoving a hand under his pillow. "Every hour?" He looked up at her as she nodded and he moaned again. "Least it's you here. Em'd probably sadistically take out her frustration over not going to Willy's on me. Plus you smell nice." She frowned at his last non sequiter.
"Yeah like vanilla, and sugar and spice and... all those nice girly things. I like how you smell. S'nice." She shook her head, tucking the blanket in and standing as she smoothed it over his back and shoulders.
"I think I like concussed Cal better than your normal self."
"My normal self will take offense to that in the morning." He paused for a beat, his eyes sliding closed. "If he remembers, that is." She smiled down at him, before creeping out of the room silently, going back into the kitchen to get started on the tomatoes. She hummed lightly as she peeled and seeded them, chopping them up and setting the juice aside. She prepared the remaining ingredients mindlessly, mixing them into the pot and keeping an eye on the heat. Once she was finished, all that was left was to stir and check on it every now and again for the next few hours.
She walked out of the kitchen, heading to the bookshelf before selecting a book and wandering in to the sitting room to curl up in the chair that was kitty corner to the couch. She opened the book and paid absolutely no attention to the words on the page, instead frowning at Cal over the top of the book. He really should be in bed, but he looked comfortable, sprawled across the couch like he was. A smile crossed her face as she watched the rise and fall of his chest for a moment. At times she wondered if he was a five year old boy trapped in a forty-seven year old man's body. The way he could never sit still, or just sit properly, how grandiose his body language always was. She knew that part of it was a defence mechanism. If every gesture was exaggerated it made it that much harder to read or interpret. She barely paid attention to his overt actions any more, it was just something to step around and avoid while she watched for those unconscious movements of his. Slight sways and small missteps.
He sighed, turning over on to his back and she glanced at her watch, startled out of her thoughts. It was nearly an hour again, so she put her unread book down, moving out to the kitchen to stir the sauce and put the kettle on. She filled the tea ball halfway with loose tea leaves while she waited, setting the tea pot out. The kettle just began to boil, and she removed it from the heat right away, adding a bit to scald the pot and pouring it out before filling the tea pot with the water. Then she dropped the tea ball in, closing the cover before wiping her hands on a rag and moving back into the sitting room.
Once again she put a gentle hand on his shoulder, leaning forward and calling his name softly. He didn't respond so she ran a hand through his hair as she said his name once more and his eyes opened. "Gill? What're you doing he- oh wait. Wait, no I remember." His hands moved to his head and she helped him sit up.
"How's your head?" Her voice was soft but he winced anyway and she rubbed a hand over his back soothingly. "Alright, I'll get you something for the pain. Did they send you home with anything?"
"Just parcemetol. It's on the counter in the kitchen." He stood, swaying into her slightly, and her hand that was on his back slid down to wrap around his waist. "Two birds with one stone, yeah? I'll walk there and you can give me some pain killers. I wouldn't mind a cup of tea, either." He sounded hopeful and she smiled.
"I just put a pot on. Come on, we'll get you a cup and you can take your pills." She walked with him to the kitchen. It wasn't that she thought he needed the support to walk, but she liked the feel of him against her side. He was warm, and his arm was around her shoulders, so she knew he didn't mind the closeness.
"Of course you did, darling. That's because you're one in a million. Maybe even one in a billion." She sat him down on one of the stools at the island before walking over to the counter and getting him a glass of water and two pills. He swallowed both eagerly and then watched her while she checked the tea and, deciding it was steeped enough, pulled the tea ball out before setting it on a piece of paper towel next to her. She reached up for two tea cups, added milk and sugar to both before pouring the tea in.
She walked back to the island, handing him his cup and he sipped it gratefully, his eyes closed. "Do you know that even Em can't make a pot of tea properly? Zoe never bothered trying to learn but you always manage to make it perfectly." His eyes opened and she waved him off gently.
"It's not like it takes great skill or anything." She protested and he shook his head gingerly.
"No, but it does take timing. And you always seem to have that. It's me that completely lacks it apparently." She frowned across at him and he cradled his cup under his face, inhaling deeply. He frowned, putting his cup down and inhaling again. "What – what is that?" His eyes were fully open now and he glanced around, taking in the pots on the stove. "What you making, love?"
"What's it smell like?" She smiled, placing her own cup on the island next to his before moving over to the stove and stirring the sauce unnecessarily. He inhaled again and she moved back over to where he sat.
"It smells like my childhood. You're making baked beans?" She nodded and picked up her tea to take a sip. She placed her cup down again, just in time, because his hand was on her arm, pulling her over to him until she stood flush against him, his arm around her waist.
"Emily said you wanted beans on toast. I wonder if you have the things to make bread," she mused aloud and he eyed her with a slight smile on his face.
"Christ, if you make the bread I'm gonna have to marry you Gill. Just to keep you on as a cook. And the sex wouldn't be terrible, either." He waggled his brows at her and she giggled slightly, blushing. His fingers were smoothing the fabric of her shirt at her hip and she stared down at him as he sat there, seemingly lost in thought.
"Is it the thought of the food or the sex that's rendering you speechless?" She teased and he startled out of his thoughts.
"Neither actually. I was just thinking about my mum. I mean, the hallucination of her I had. I almost..." His voice trailed off and his eyes focussed at a point over her shoulder. She reached out, placing a hand on his shoulder and used the other to turn his face to her. His whiskers scratched against her palm, but it was a warm, scratchy feeling, and she smiled at the sensation.
"Hey." She spoke softly, approaching the conversation warily. He hadn't spoken much about his time at the mental institution, and she hadn't pressed him about it, because she knew that was the easiest way to get him to clam up about everything. "You okay?" His eyes met hers and he stared at her for a moment, seemingly searching for something in her eyes. The kitchen was silent around them and his hand tightened on her waist as he swallowed.
"I almost took more, you know. I just wanted – I was so tempted to take it again. Just to see her again. Have her sit with me again, and talk to me. There was so much – so much I wanted to say to her, and I didn't get the chance." He sighed softly, dropping his gaze and pressing forward until his forehead rested against her sternum. His arms were loose around her waist, but she felt as though he was holding on to her for dear life.
"Oh Cal. You can still say those things you know. You could write her a letter, or just close your eyes and imagine her there." Her hands stroked the back of his head and she felt his breath, warm against her skin as he sighed.
"I know. I know that, I do, but it was so nice to believe that she was really there. That I was really hugging her. I even went so far as to get some, you know. Ergot." He sighed again and she realized that her hands had stilled as he spoke, so she continued to stroke them through the back of his hair gently.
"And?" She breathed the question out lightly, even though her heart was pounding in her chest – and she knew he could feel that. He must be able to.
"I couldn't do it. What – what would that be doing?" He lifted his head to look at her, his face just a few inches from hers, his hands sliding to rest on her hips and her arms around his neck, her hands still buried in his hair. They were often invading each other's space, but this was a whole new level, a whole new area they'd never entered before now. "It would be me, choosing to turn to a drug for something I should be able to find on my own. I couldn't do that to Em." She shook her head in agreement and one of his hands lifted, coming to rest against her neck, his fingers brushing just below her ear. She felt like she couldn't move, but the force of her heartbeats were propelling her forward, millimetre by millimetre. "I couldn't do that to you, Gill. Last thing you need really." He smiled then, a slight twitch of his lips at the corner, so brief it felt like seeing a ghost. "I would have done it that night you know, if you'd let me. If you hadn't had enough sense to step back."
"Done what?" The question was barely a whisper and she felt over heated, like she must be flushed, because she was so damn hot, all through her core, and the air in the room was stifling.
"Kissed you." She sucked in a breath sharply, her ribs rising and he nodded silently, as if agreeing with something she hadn't even said.
"You surprised me. I didn't think you were-"
"Serious?" She nodded at his question and his fingers traced along her jaw line as he nodded. "As it turns out, I was slightly high at the time. Also I knew you'd back down. Because I didn't have a chance – or that's what I thought anyway." Her fingers were still absent-mindedly scratching through the hair at the back of his neck and she inched in just a bit closer. "But then you told me I hadn't tried hard enough. I didn't even know that the option was on the table."
"I just meant," she paused, taking in a breath as she thought it over. What had she thought? "I thought that you were teasing. The truth is..." she paused, because she didn't want to say what the truth was. That he wouldn't have to try very hard at all. Just the attempt and she knew, she'd be there with him, one hundred percent. Part of her had always been his, and she wasn't sure she wanted him knowing that. That she could never leave him, it wasn't possible because he owned a part of her, and she could leave, but never whole. And who would she be then? Not herself, surely.
She licked her lips, and bit one, feeling overly exposed, and like he was far too close to discovering everything. He was waiting, his hand not allowing her to drop his gaze, while his other hand on her hip was gripping her tightly, as if pinning her down. When she didn't continue he sighed softly, his fingers relaxing somewhat. "I never tried. Not just because I never imagined you as something within my reach, Gill, but because I almost love you too much. Do you understand?" She began to nod, an automatic response as the shock of his words washed over her, so that halfway through she shook her head instead. It was his turn to lick his lips then, and she watched his tongue trace the path, her face flushed as he swallowed heavily.
"It's like this, Gillian. I let you in – further than I've ever let anyone else in, yeah? You – you know more about me than any other person walking this planet. I've let you see things, let you ride with me through things that I would never let anyone else get even close to. And now that you're in – in there, in here-" his hand dropped briefly to tap his chest before it reached up to slide down her arm until he was cupping her elbow, his fingers tracing the soft skin inside the bend of her arm as his eyes watched her and she moved in that much closer. "I don't rightly think I know how to be the way I was before, you know? How to be me, without you."
She watched him silently, her mouth dry with anticipation, and she swallowed as she nodded. "I know. I do know, Cal. I know just what you mean."
"I know you do, darling." He pulled her across the remaining inches between them, and wrapped both of his arms around her waist, his face buried just below her chin, his breath warm and ticklish against the hollow of her throat. She wrapped her arms around his shoulders, pressing a soft kiss to the top of his head, her eyes filled with tears suddenly. "The thing is, though, Gill." His voice was muffled and she smoothed her hands down over his head, neck and back as she stood pressed against him. She waited, but he didn't continue and she smiled with her cheek pressed to the top of his head.
"You're going to blame all this on the concussion tomorrow, you know."
"Maybe I won't even remember. Maybe I'll be thanking the bloke who ploughed into me?" He lifted his head until his chin rested on her chest and she looked down at him with a smile. "It's nothing that hasn't needed to be said. The thing is, I think all of that is scaring the shit out of us. And it's stopping us from realizing that I can be more than just me with you, or you can be more than just you, with me. We could be... well, we. Together."
"What if we're not ready?" Her whisper was soft, but the tremble in her voice was very real, and felt louder than her words. He sighed softly, and seemed to consider her for a moment.
"What if we are, and the window is really very small and we're missing it? Timing, Gill. It's just a matter of timing. And you've always been good at that."
"And you're bollocks at it." She repeated softly, a small smile creeping on to her face.
"So it's best left up to you, then, yeah? You'll know when."
"And until then?"
"We'll just continue to be." His voice was soft, and she searched his face, looking for any sign of hesitation, fear or frustration. None were present, not even the slightest bit, and she exhaled the breath she didn't realize she'd been holding.
"How about now?" She smiled and he blinked in confusion.
"What like now now? Right this minute?" She brought her hands up, cradling his face between them as the tears she'd been holding back spilled over and she nodded.
"I was so scared when I got that call tonight Cal." She laughed slightly, looking down at him, using her fingers to smooth away the sadness at the corners of his eyes. "All the ridiculously stupid stuff you do to get yourself into trouble, and you could have died tonight. In a god damned car crash." She took a breath, pulling his face up so she could look directly into his eyes. She leaned down, brushing her lips against his, and he pressed upward, his mouth sliding open just as hers did and he tilted left just when she did, sliding her tongue along his lips, the same path his had taken. She wasn't startled when his tongue met hers halfway through, and she sank into him, her hands sliding back into his hair even as his slid up her ribs to rest on her back, between her shoulder blades, pulling her in closer. She was lost in the taste of him, rich and intoxicating, when the clock in the kitchen let out a soft chime. She pulled back with a laugh, a grin on her face. "It's time to wake you up again."
His eyes were still closed and he muttered, "If this is all a dream, I am never waking up."
"No," she laughed slightly, "I just meant I'd have to wake you up again right now. You should be resting." Her hands smoothed through his hair and he leaned his head back with a smile, opening his eyes finally.
"Only if you rest with me. We'll set the alarm on my phone, and you can wake me up for a dance every hour, Ginger." He was grinning and she nodded in agreement. "It'll have to be the bed though, couch's too small."
"What about the beans?" She glanced at the stove for a moment. "I suppose I can just check on them every hour. They are on low, after all."
"Plus they'll be ready to go in the oven in an hour, and then I won't have to worry." She pointed out even as he was pulling her up the stairs by her arm.
"Exactly. And then I get beans on toast in the morning, served up by one of the most gorgeous women I know." He shot a smug smile over his shoulder and pulled her along. "Should get into accidents more often."
"One of the most gorgeous women?" She questioned archly as she followed him down the hall, into the darkness of his bedroom. He pulled his phone out of his pocket, setting the alarm dutifully and placing it on his bedside table. He pulled her down on to the bed beside him, where she curled into his side, his arm around her and her head on his chest.
"Okay fine, the most gorgeous woman I know."
"And don't you forget it." She spoke softly, pausing to yawn, before closing her eyes sleepily.
"Not even for a second, love. Never have, never will." She smiled as she slipped into a deep sleep, comforted by the steady beating of his heart below her ear.
Emily padded into the kitchen the next morning, to be handed a cup of tea by a smiling Gillian, while her Dad grinned at her from the island, a plate of beans on toast in front of him. Or what she assumed had been a plate of beans on toast. It was more a bunch of beans and some crumbs and her Dad shoving the last piece of toast into his mouth.
"Morning, Em." He spoke around the food and she shook her head, pulling a face at him before sipping her tea with a grateful sigh.
"Morning, Emily. Would you like some breakfast?" Gillian's greeting was much more civil, and way more polite so Emily returned her smile.
"Morning Gill. Dad." She spoke pointedly and he paused with his spoon halfway to his mouth. He shrugged, shovelling the last of his food in and chewing and swallowing before addressing her.
"Listen, you'd understand if you ate some of these."
"Ha, likely story! You'd be just as lacking in table manners if it was a bowl of cold cereal in front of you Dad, and we all know it." She stuck her tongue out at him, before turning to Gillian with a smile. "The tea is great Gill. And I will try some of the beans if Dad hasn't eaten it all. Just a bit though, I have to leave soon, or I'll be late for school." Gillian nodded with a smile, humming as she took the empty plate from the table before turning back to the counter. Emily watched her Dad watching Gillian and she felt a sudden urge to grin. Her Dad always watched Gillian, always with this same expression, but it was different today. She couldn't put her finger on it, so she sipped her tea and watched as Gillian turned around for a moment smiling brightly at them both and Emily nearly spit out her tea in her excitement. "Oh my god!"
"What?" Her Dad frowned over at her, attempting to appear irritable and failing. Miserably. She smiled, sliding her eyes over to Gill, before looking back at her Dad with her brows raised. He scowled across at her. "Oh shut up, you." He grumbled and she grinned.
"I'm happy for you Dad." She smiled and watched as a flush crawled up the back of his neck. Deciding to give him a reprieve she finished her tea, picking up the pot to pour a fresh cup, and re-filling his too. "How's your head?"
"Better, thank you very much." He leaned back as Gillian returned, sliding a second plate in front of him and a smaller plate in front of her. Emily picked up the toast and took a bite, her eyes widening as the flavours spread across her tongue. "Ohmygod." She spoke again, without swallowing and her Dad clapped, pointing at her from across the table.
"Ha! See?" She glared at him, but didn't speak again until she'd finished eating.
"Gillian, that was the best thing I've ever eaten in my life." Gillian blushed, waving her hand in the air dismissively. "No, Gill, seriously. I hate to tell you this but I'm never going to be able to eat beans from the can ever again. And this leaves us with only two options."
"Oh?" Gillian smiled from across the island, where she sat next to Cal.
"Yes. Either A: I starve because beans on toast make up about seventy percent of Dad's diet. Or..."
Gillian arched a brow at her in question. "Or?"
"Or you agree to save my life and move in here so you can cook for me for the rest of my life." She paused for a beat and glanced at her Dad, who was grinning. "Oh by the way Dad, I'm never moving out. But only if you can somehow convince this fabulous woman before us to stay here. Good luck with that one." She stood up to Gillian's grin and her father's affronted tones.
"Oi! I'll have you know I can be perfectly charming when I've a mind to be. And no matter because she loves me anyway, Em! Em! Are you listening?" Emily slung her bag over her shoulder and walked around the island, pressing a kiss to her Dad's cheek, and then another quick kiss to Gillian's.
"Sure Dad, whatever. I'll believe it when I see it." She walked out of the door, closing it on Gillian's laughter. She paused, listening to her laughter turn to shrieks before silence suddenly reigned. Grinning mischievously, she banged on the door loudly. "That's a good start, Dad!"