"Can I use your bathroom, love?" Cal questioned as they pulled into her driveway, right behind her car. She eyed him, smirking as she unbuckled her seat-belt.
"Why didn't you go before we left the office?"
Cal could see the humor in her expression, even though to the outside observer she wouldn't have appeared to smile at all. "I didn't need to go at the office."
"Can't you wait until you get home? It's only five minutes away." This time she really did smirk. And Cal narrowed his eyes.
"Is there something in your bathroom you don't want me to see, Foster?"
Gillian laughed. "No, Cal, come on."
Entering the house, Gillian paused in the doorway with Cal just behind her, looking over her shoulder. She'd frozen in place, staring across her home in confusion and just a touch of fear. "Something the matter, love?" He asked, pressing his hand to her back as he moved up another step, sharing the space within the door-frame with her, his chest almost pressed to her back.
Gillian's whole body was tense, he could feel it, though he waited for her reply. "My kitchen light is on, Cal. I didn't leave it on this morning. I didn't even turn it on."
She looked at him as he lent forward, pressing his hand to her hip to move her aside just a little as he peered into her house. And sure enough, the hallway was alight with a glow coming straight from the kitchen. "Best check it out then." He pushed passed her, making his way down the hall and Gillian followed, closing the door behind her before she kept right at his back, her hand on his bicep.
"Well this is interesting." She could the hear hint of something in his voice, like he was feigning surprise. Trying to pretend, for her sake, that he'd known nothing of what they'd find.
Intrigued, Gillian passed him again and made her way into the kitchen, sure now from the tone of his voice, that it was safe to step out from his protection. There was no intruder in her home, just groceries laid out across her kitchen table, a single daisy in a tumbler in the center and an envelope resting up against the glass.
"Another secret admirer, hey, love?" Cal's tone was light and Gillian rolled her eyes, turning around the face him with her hands on her hips, Eli's rose still dangling from between her fingertips.
"You did this."
He shrugged. "Nah," He started to take off his jacket and threw it over one of the chairs as he crossed the kitchen, his eyes scrutinizing the ingredients laid out neatly. "best not let it all go to waste though." He looked up at her, waggling his eyebrows and gesturing for her to take off her coat. "You go hang that up and I'll get this started."
Gillian laughed gently as she took his coat from the chair and left the room to hang them both in the hall closet, kicking her shoes off while she was gone. When she returned, he'd pulled on her apron - that was decidedly less feminine than his own - and he was cutting vegetables. The stove was alight with a pot resting on it and there was a glass of red wine sitting in front of one of the chairs.
"Did you need any help?" She smiled and he grinned at her.
"It's alright, love, it's Valentine's Day. I'll be gentlemanly and do this for you."
"Make's a nice change," She smirked, picking up the wine and taking a sip.
Cal gave her a look that clearly expressed 'touche', before he pointed with the knife, to the letter resting up against the tiny flower. Eli's rose was still in her hand and Cal couldn't help but notice how she'd been carrying it around like a precious heirloom since she'd recieved it. She simply loved roses, he knew and as it was a gift, he had no doubts that Gillian treasured it on that merit alone. It didn't halt the flash of jealousy though, as she rested the rose on the table in front of her, before she reached for the small white envelope.
"Do you think it's from whoever laid all this out?" She questioned, her eyes alight with mischief. Cal shrugged.
"Why don't you read it and find out."
Gillian sat back in her chair, taking another sip of wine before she opened up the envelope and pulled out a single piece of paper. With a glance in his direction and that flutter of her eyelashes that had become so commonplace for her to direct his way, she unfolded it. Cal smirked at what he could recognize as the look that meant she was telling him she thought he was sexy and it never failed to raise a chuckle out of him. Because as spontaneous and gentlemanly as he was attempting to be, she was about to see just how choreographed the evening was.
Dad asked me to get all this ready for you. And you know he's not big on holidays, so just let him do this, okay? He said you'd fight it unless he had me tell you to just sit back and enjoy it, so that's what I'm here to do. Except, he didn't actually want me there so I've had to settle for this letter.
So sit back and relax. Dad's making you his specialty.
Happy Valentine's Day,
"Wow, Cal," Gillian breathed, looking up at him. He just smirked, throwing the chopped vegetables into a bowl. "you two planned all this?"
He shrugged. "It's just dinner, love."
"You spoil me." She laughed, before taking a sip of her wine and making herself comfortable to watch him cook. Cal reached over her counter to switch on the portable stereo she kept there and she blushed when she heard the music that started to play. "That's-"
"That's the song that was playing when I found you alone on the balcony with my ten-thousand dollar bottle of McCallan." Gillian averted her gaze sheepishly, though she couldn't fight the urge to look back up at him through her lashes.
"I'm sorry, I know you were saving that." She set her glass down, leaning forward so that he could see the full expanse of remorse in her expression. "I was just so angry and I felt entitled."
"You are," Cal stopped chopping in order to drive the point home. "you are entitled, love. To more than I've ever offered you. I'm spoiling you because it's Valentine's day and you're best friend I have."
Gillian blushed. "I know you don't believe in Valentine's day, Cal."
"But you do, darling." She caught his eye as she looked up, seeing the truth there. She caught a touch of honesty he wasn't normally so ready to share and she smiled, swallowing as she nodded. She wasn't entirely sure what to say, because they weren't together and it wasn't like that was going to change any time soon. They were both too damned stubborn for that. She liked to hope, though, that something would resolve itself in time.
But she feared to lose this. As she imagined he did too.
"This smells wonderful, Cal." Gillian pressed her eyes closed and savored the aroma as he set a plate down in front of her. Cal just watched her, smiling as she took the knife and fork he offered her and he waited as she tentatively took the first bite.
Her eyes shot up to him in an instant, the surprise evident on her face. "Bit hot for you, Darling?" He smirked and Gillian chewed slowly, trying not to laugh as the spice of the over-hot Chicken Masala slowly burned her tongue.
She swallowed the piece; coughing out a laugh as she slapped his arm and Cal just laughed. "I can make something else, if it's too hot."
Gillian laughed happily. "No, Cal," She fanned her mouth with her hand, playing up how hot it was, just for him. "it's fine. I just wasn't expecting it, that's all. It's actually delicious."
He looked surprised for a moment and she dipped her head to the side, curious. "Seriously?" He questioned. "That's really hot stuff, Gill."
She smirked, taking another bite. "I know," She spoke around it, pressing her shoulder into his before happily digging into the meal. Cal was amazed, confused and proud. He'd expected her to spit it back out and insist he was trying to poison her or something. Because he'd never met a woman that could handle his Chicken Masala; though it had never even occurred to him why he'd never yet made it for Gillian. Clara had needed a beer to wash it away, Emily was a lightweight and every time that he'd mentioned he was going to make it, back when he was married, Zoe would show up with a box of take-out Chinese and a condescending smile.
"You really like it?" He couldn't quite wrap his head around it. Even to test that he'd actually made it correctly, he shoveled a huge bite into his mouth, pleased to feel the familiar burn.
"Yes, Cal," She giggled, licking the back of her fork without knowing how suggestive the action was. "I like it."
He swallowed. Noticing that she'd almost devoured the whole serving already. If there was anything he knew for certain about Gillian Foster; it was that the woman could eat. Where all that food went, he had no idea. But she could pack it away.
"But you know, I'm a little disappointed."
"Why's that, darling?"
Gillian looked at him through her lashes, finishing up the last few bites of the chicken on her plate. "Not even a candlelit dinner? I mean, I know this isn't a date or anything, Cal, but it's Valentine's day."
Cal chuckled heartily. "Having your dinner cooked for you isn't romantic enough, Love?"
"It's not that," She blushed and Cal nodded, stealing her plate away before she could finish scraping the sauce up with her fork. "hey!" She protested. "I was eating that."
"Well, considering my fancy dinner and delectable table decorations haven't been appreciated," He gestured to the daisy that was becoming rather limp in the tumbler in the middle of her dining table. Gillian smirked, eyes sparkling and Cal could see that she was picking up on the joke. "I think I'll just have to take this outside. Come on, love." He grabbed her wrist, yanking her up from her seat and out of the kitchen, towards the back door. She just managed to grab her rose before she staggered from her chair, holding it tight between the fingers that he wasn't grasping.
"Cal, dinner was lovely and the flower was sweet."
"That was the point, love. To make you feel appreciated," He looked back over his shoulder with a wink. "An' all that."
"So where are we going?"
"As I said; outside," He pressed his hand to the doorknob, taking a deep breath before pulling her quickly out into the backyard.
The image that caught Gillian as she stepped out onto the single concrete step, was one that would have completely floored her, had Cal not been holding her hand and had she not had the other hand - with her rose still dangling between her fingers - pressed to the door-frame.
She stepped out slowly, letting go of his hand and passing him silently. She knew he was watching her, knew that her complete and utter, awestruck expression was causing him a great deal of joy, as well as self-satisfaction.
She could feel the thick grass beneath her bare feet as she stepped down into the yard. Felt the pull of the stem of the flower, as it slipped from between her fingers. But she didn't care, because before her was the most beautiful and romantic thing she'd ever seen.
Her entire yard was covered in a beautiful spattering of candles. From big to small and all in different glass jars. They dangled from low-hanging tree branches and formed a path across the grass to where there was a small, checkered blanket laid out on the ground. "Cal," She breathed, not sure how to elaborate further on the one word capable of leaving her lips in that moment. Her entire yard was glowing like starlight and it took her breath away.
"Yeah, I know," He chuckled. "I tell the little brat to get some candles and she buys out the whole shop."
Gillian's smile glowed brighter as she turned to him, running back to him to grasp his hand and pull him with her. "No, Cal, it's perfect. It's brilliant," She stopped in the center of the candles, his hand gripped tightly in her own, her other hand holding tight to his wrist and the small blanket only three feet away. "it's the most beautiful thing anyone's ever done for me."
She looked up into his eyes, catching something there that she'd seen a million times before but had always been too terrified to acknowledge. He reached up with his free hand and brushed a lock of hair behind her ear, using the excuse to lightly run his fingertips from her temple to her jaw. Gillian just watched him, surprised Cal was capable of this level of tenderness and yet; not really surprised at all.
The whole day he'd said nothing and barely even acknowledged that it was an international holiday celebrated by millions around the world. And yet, all the while he'd been planning this and she felt over-joyed and almost privileged to know that she was the one person he was willing to share this kind of beauty of soul, with.
He was a gruff, hard, antagonistic man and while she could probably attribute most of the plans to his daughter, she knew that the very fact he'd carried this all out, was testament to how much he cared. To how tender he could really be. And she'd never doubted it.
"It's not dinner by candlelight, I know," His eyes were piercing as the candlelight flickered across his face. "but how about dessert by candlelight, yeah?"
Gillian swallowed, looking down at the two pudding-cups rested in the center of the blanket and she laughed, openly, squeezing his hand as she turned to look back up at him. "It sounds perfect to me."
She dropped his hand, running over to take her seat on the blanket, picking up one of the cups and eagerly tearing off the lid. Cal joined her, picking up his own with a devilish smirk. "You know, because I'm terrible at making desserts."
"It's fine, Cal," She nodded. "really, this is more than I could have ever asked for. And I've never wanted for commercialized romantic cliches anyway." She giggled, looking down at the pudding cups. "Anyway, we can make our own cliches."
"Gill," He spoke hesitantly and Gillian's giddy smile all but fell away. He saw that and saw the fear in her eyes because Gillian was anything but stupid and she knew what was coming. After all, she could always read him better than he could read her. She was his blind-spot, but he was her open book. "do you think we could make this work?"
Her breath caught in her throat. "You and me, you mean?"
He nodded slowly. The air around them was suddenly thick and heavy, the yard silent but for their breathing, the dull tune of Sinatra still playing through the back door and their hushed voices. They didn't need to speak any louder, with how close they were to one another. "Yeah."
She fiddled with the edge of her pudding-cup, having only taken one bite before he'd asked the question she wasn't sure she'd ever get to answer. "Yeah, I mean," She took a deep breath, her shoulders rising and falling as she weighed up the options. "I hate you and love you at the same time," She caught his smirk and it eased her thumping heart. "and we've had our fair share of trouble, but look where we are?" She looked up and around them, encased in an almost fairytale world with the candles around them and the stars above them. She looked back down into his eyes, seeing that love that was always there and only now, choosing to name it. "We argue and we talk and we keep each others secrets. I know you, Cal, better than I know anyone. Better than I want to know anyone else; you tell me what the logical next step to that is?"
"Sex." He smirked and Gillian blushed profusely, bursting into laughter until he reached out for her hand. He ran his fingers over her's, brushing his thumb across her palm as he turned her hand over. Silence descended on them as they watched his fingers trace patterns across her hand and Gillian felt warm from the inside out, just watching him as his head slowly tilted up and he looked into her eyes again.
It was different this time, though. The way he looked at her, while as open as it ever was; was raw and unencumbered. And that look was there again, but the flood-gates had been opened and she could see the true extent of it, even though she couldn't see it's end. Her heart leaped into her throat as he edged closer to her, sitting cross-legged on the blanket as close as he could get to her. And he smiled, whispering. "I...love you, Gill."
She giggled, gripping his hand tighter as she pressed her forehead to his. "I know how hard that was for you to say."
Cal laughed, tilting his head up to kiss her forehead. "Nah, darling, I don't think you've got any idea."
"No, I think I do." Reaching up, she pressed her palm to his jaw, running her thumb across his cheek. "And I know what it meant for you to say it, the way you just did. And I'm grateful that you would do that for me."
"I'd do anything for you."
She sighed, unable to lose her smile now if she tried, remembering every thing that he had done for her, everything that he'd already proven he would do for her. How far, he would go for her. "I know."
"But don't make me say the other thing."
Gillian laughed heartily, leaning forward and pressing a chaste kiss to his lips that caught him off-guard and unprepared. He blinked as she pulled away, smiling brightly at him. "It's alright, I won't." She winked. "Because you've always been my Valentine anyway, you don't have to ask."
Cal laughed, reaching out to grasp the back of her head, pulling her to him to press his lips firmly, hungrily to hers. She smiled against his mouth, in spite of the force with which he kissed her. "What did I ever do to deserve you, love?" He questioned and Gillian shrugged, pressing her palm to his chest in order to lay him down on his back on the grass. She joined him, lying right beside him with her hand clasped in his, looking up through the trees and the candles, to the stars above. And with a smirk she answered-
"God only knows."