Title: Falling Skies
Cal, Gillian, Emily, Loker, Torres, Reynolds, Zoe, apoca!fic, pg-13
Author's Notes: A massive thank you to tempertemper and iam_space for the beta! This fic would be a lesser version of itself without them. This is set anytime mid-season 3 onwards.
Enjoy! Or not, maybe.
A human being is like a novel: until the last page you don't know how it will end.
- Yevgeny Zamyatin, We
It almost surprises them more that they never saw it coming.
The sky, when silence reigns and the air feels heavy, is a disconcerting shade of orange. When the sun comes up it burns red, and all Emily can think of is the bloodshed.
Cal and Emily break all speed laws the night it starts. Whatever possessions they could hold were thrown on the backseat and between them they have one blanket, five small bottles of water and a box of matches. Their house is now in two pieces and they didn't even think to grab anything else.
They can only pray that Gillian's is still in one piece.
There's a fluttering of the curtain and then the door is being flung wide open. Gillian has tears in her eyes as she wraps her arms around Emily and Cal wraps his arms around her. They stand, a mess of limbs, in her doorway until an explosion shakes the street and Cal pushes them inside.
"What the hell is going on?" Gillian asks, her eyes wide as she roughly pulls her hair back into a ponytail.
"No fucking idea," Cal replies, moving to the window, and Emily doesn't even bother to say anything reproachful this time.
Gillian's moving around, already on point, gathering up flashlights, batteries, candles and matches.
"We have matches, in the car," Emily says, her feet rooted to the spot, and is shocked at how small her own voice sounds.
Gillian stops what she's doing for a moment to smile at her. "Good. That's good. But you can never have too many matches, right?"
Emily shakes her head and starts to smile. Gillian's smile is so reassuring that, for a moment, Emily believes that everything will be all right.
Then another explosion blows the windows in and the power goes out.
Emily cries silently as Gillian picks pieces of glass out of Cal's cheek and hairline.
"It's all right, Em," he says, but every time he winces she winces too.
"Em, could you do me a favor? Could you grab the bottle of vodka from the liquor cabinet?" Gillian asks her, and Emily's never been more grateful for a distraction.
"Hey hey," Cal whispers, trying to smile at Gillian's reproachful look. "What? It might make this end of days go a little smoother, eh, love?"
Gillian ignores him, pours alcohol into his cuts as punishment and winces when all he can do is hiss. Then she takes a large swig of vodka, and passes him the bottle.
"Gillian Foster, as I live and breathe," he murmurs, before throwing his neck back and letting the cool liquid flow down his throat.
For a few moments, Emily feels as if she's interrupting something. She deals with the perfect moment in the imperfect time the only way she knows how. "Can I have some?"
They head to The Lightman Group like three musketeers, unable to stop themselves from staring out the windows of the fast moving car at the carnage that surrounds them. It's quiet and still; the calm before the next storm, perhaps. Buildings have collapsed, traffic lights no longer work and Gillian can't see a single person, bar an arm poking out from the rubble on 3rd Street. She has to look away.
She turns to Cal instead, watches the focus he has for the road before them as she feels the half-empty bottle of vodka rolling around at her feet.
"I never thought I'd be happy to see you," Cal states, his voice hard and unfeeling, but Eli feels the warmth wash over him in waves. Gillian hugs him tight, and then Emily does the same, and the four hours he's just spent alone in a room trying desperately to get the news channels to work so that he can have human contact with someone, anyone, are all but forgotten.
"Well, I am happy to see you," Gillian says, smiling as much as is possible in such circumstances. "Is there anyone else here?"
"No one," Eli replies, and winces because he knows Gillian can see just how helpless he's felt.
"Any word from Torres?" Cal asks, looking around as if she'll appear from behind a pillar.
The gloom increases a little bit more.
Ria's sure, as she opens her eyes, that the ceiling was never this close to her bed before. She struggles to move her right ankle and wonders, briefly, whether the cat's sleeping on it.
Then she remembers that she doesn't have a cat.
It's five short moments before she screams.
Emily's busy making sandwiches for everyone with whatever she can find in the kitchen when she senses Gillian's eyes on her. She doesn't turn around to greet her, instead busies herself spreading mayonnaise onto thinly cut bread and allocating one lettuce leaf to each. She'd never even thought about rationing anything before but she thinks she's rather good at it.
"If you're here to tell me that everything's going to be alright, I wish you wouldn't bother," she says. She doesn't mean for her words to come out harshly – to Gillian, of all people – but she hasn't been able to get hold of Zoe and Cal's in his own world trying to figure out how on earth a facial expressions expert can be of any use whatsoever at a time like this, and all she feels is alone.
"I don't think I could even tell that lie to myself at this point," Gillian replies, leaning heavily against the doorframe, and the quietness of her tone makes Emily turn around.
Emily has known Gillian for more than half her life and one word she's never associated with her is small, but she's in flats so she can run when necessary and her hair's pulled off her face showing up her freckles and Emily's struck by how young she looks. "You're just as lost as I am, aren't you?"
Gillian smiles, or at least tries, biting her lip. "'So we beat on, boats against the current'…"
"…'Borne back ceaselessly into the past.'"
Gillian shrugs her shoulders. "It somehow seems appropriate."
Emily moves towards her, then, wrapping her arms around Gillian tightly and breathing in her familiar smell. She smiles into her shoulder. "The Great Gatsby is always appropriate."
Eli sneaks outside for a cigarette. His first in three and a half years, but he feels the situation he's found himself in coupled with the good luck of finding a pack in the drawer of the abandoned security desk warrant it.
It's dark, still and quiet. There are no traffic noises, no birds singing goodnight to each other, no cheers or catcalls coming from the bar a couple of blocks away. He folds himself into a corner of the building's entrance and fills his lungs with smoke and dusty air.
"Loker." He nearly jumps out of his skin. He turns to see Ben Reynolds striding out of the shadows of the night.
"You scared the shit out of me," is the only greeting he can come up with, before, "you blend in in the dark, you know."
Ben chuckles, humorlessly. "Yeah, sorry about that. Nice to see that honesty thing of yours hasn't taken a hit like the rest of this town."
Eli smiles then. "It's good to see you."
Ben looks at him, takes in the un-tucked shirt and the death stick hanging between his fingers. "It's good to find someone alive."
Eli throws the cigarette down, stamps on it with a little too much force. "Then you'll love who's congregating upstairs."
"Ben," Gillian breathes, and suddenly Ben finds his arms full of his favorite psychologist. "It's so good to see you."
He holds her, firmly, taking in the other survivors standing behind her. "It's good to see you, too."
She steps back, looks to Cal happily; expectantly. "Good to see you, Reynolds," he says, and it isn't just to appease her.
"You too, Lightman." Ben's struck by how he actually means the words he's just spoken.
"Come on," Gillian says, wrapping her arms around Emily's shoulders and gesturing for Ben to follow. "Emily just made delicious sandwiches."
"Hardly," Emily scoffs, but she tucks herself into Gillian's side as they head back down the corridor.
Ben smiles, falling into step with Cal and Eli. "Sounds good."
"My Mom's house was… flattened. I found her," Ben's voice breaks, "but I was too late. And then I just had to leave her there, because… you know, where would I take her?"
No one knows what to say. Gillian's about to speak when Emily's quiet voice carries over from the other side of the room. "She'd understand."
Ben nods, tries to smile. He takes in Emily's form, curled into the armchair in Lightman's study where they've all ended up. She has an open book in her lap but she hasn't turned a page in thirty-five minutes. "You managed to get hold of your Mom yet?"
She shakes her head firmly, and answers as if she's been asked if she knows the directions to the library. "No."
They fall silent again, and Gillian curls closer into Cal's side on the couch.
"Hello?" Ria's voice seems to echo off the walls and all she can hear is silence until the multitude of footfalls builds up around the corner. She's completely alone and then suddenly she isn't, separated only by the length of the corridor from Cal, Gillian, Emily, Eli and Ben who are looking at her with a mixture of joy and concern.
Safe in the knowledge that she is with people she trusts, she lets go of the wall holding her up and falls to the floor.
Ria wakes disorientated for a second time. This time it feels as if the ground is moving beneath her, and she ignores the voice in the back of her head belonging to the kid she was at school chanting the earth moves round the sun and is spinning beneath your feet! Because, and she's tested it, you can't actually feel the world moving. So why does it feel like she can?
"Welcome back, sunshine." It's Loker's voice, and when she opens her eyes it's to see him crammed into the section of the backseat that she isn't currently occupying, lying down with her head in Ben's lap and her leg outstretched.
"What's going on?" she asks, groggily. They're in a car and it's going too fast.
"The Lightman Group was hit," Eli replies quietly. "We got out just in time."
Ria notices that her leg has been bandaged, but she can see the darkening red coming through. It's throbbing like she'd never have believed possible.
"Foster patched you up, before you get all worried that you were left in my hands."
Ria smiles as she hears a "Too right," from the front seat. She looks over to see Cal driving, Emily in the middle with her head on Gillian's shoulder.
They look like a family taking a daytrip, apart from the black sky outside the windshield lit up by flashing red.
They find an abandoned house and pile out of the car and into the pink-painted building in less than thirty seconds – quite a feat when Ria can barely walk.
The fridge, Gillian is delighted to find, houses cheese, ham, even some salad, and, most importantly, chocolate. Together with the beer Eli discovers in a cooler box on the backstep, they almost have a proper meal.
She tries her hardest not to feel uncomfortable about eating food belonging to people who are most probably now dead. She gets enough together for the six of them along with whatever drinks she can find, and carries them through to the living room.
"Dinner's ready." She aims for lighthearted but it comes out a little strained.
They start to join her on the floor around the coffee table – Ria on the couch with Eli handing things back to her – and Cal produces the vodka bottle from his jacket, proposing drinking games to get them through the night.
The sky's lighting up in flashes again as Emily pulls the curtains even tighter together before joining them.
"You shouldn't be out here."
Gillian's sitting on the back step, staring up into the night sky. "I needed some air."
Ben drops down beside her. "Yeah, I know that feeling."
"I hate that we can no longer see the stars. I've always felt safe knowing that they're always there, and now I don't even know that. I presume they are, still up there in space and that it's just the smog stopping me from seeing them, but what if even they are gone now?"
He shrugs out of his jacket and wraps it round her shaking shoulders, leaving his steady arm there. "It would take more than this to move the stars, Gill. Trust me, they're still there."
She's quiet for a while, still searching the sky, before she turns her worried face to his. "Are we going to make it through this, Ben?"
She's been holding everyone together so well these past few days that no one seems to have noticed that she's quietly fraying around the edges. He smiles at her, because she's Gillian Foster and she's always managed to calm his heart. "Yes. Yes, we are."
"Good," she whispers, and rests her head on his shoulder.
He points up into the sky, nudging her to follow his eye line. "I imagine right about there's where Cassiopeia is. And just over there's the Big Dipper."
"Or The Plough," Gillian whispers.
"The Plough? Who on earth calls that a plough?" Ben asks, incredulously.
She giggles, tucking closer into his side in thanks. "Cal does. It must be an British thing."
"It's a weird thing," Ben chuckles, before transforming back into her star guide. "Now, we can't forget about Orion's belt…"
Cal feels helpless. He's failing as a father, as a partner, as a boss, and as a man.
Ria's leg is infected. Eli's with her on the couch, trying to take her mind off the pain, and Cal can but watch. Gillian's bandaged and re-bandaged as many times as she can with the limited supplies she can find, and those have all but run out now.
"Dad, it's not your fault." Emily's beside him, reading his every thought, and sometimes he wishes he'd never started to teach her the damned science.
"Maybe not, but there should still be something I can do." He grits his teeth, glances out at the porch where Gillian's wrapped up in Reynolds and takes a deep breath.
"They're just friends, you know," Emily murmurs.
Distracted, he turns to look at her. "Who are?"
"Gill and Ben," Emily says, gesturing towards the pair outside with her chin.
Cal thinks about lying, saying he has no idea what she's talking about, but she's managed to make him feel a thousand times better in the space of five seconds so he doesn't. "You're too smart for your own good sometimes," he points at her for good measure, and tells the truth instead.
"About you getting shot..." Cal tries.
"It's forgotten, Lightman," Ben replies. Truth is, he forgave him long ago.
"Good. That's... good." Cal pats him on the back, and it's a little awkward, but it's real, too.
Two days later and they're all starving, Ria's another shade paler and Eli can't stop pacing.
"I'm going out," Ben says quietly to Cal and Gillian, "see if I can find anything. There must be a hospital around that got missed and she needs some meds."
"We've checked, remember? I don't think this is a good idea," Gillian replies, concern creasing her brow.
"I can't sit around here doing nothing." He's pulling on his jacket as he speaks.
Gillian stops him, a hand on his arm. "You don't have to be a hero. This isn't your fight."
They share a look that almost makes Cal feel out of place as Ben covers Gillian's hand with his own. "Maybe not. But Ria can't fight it herself and someone has to do it for her."
Gillian looks down. "That's not what I meant."
"No, I know that. " He pauses. "Gillian, I've watched you care for her night and day since she came and found us. You've barely slept, and I've seen you trying to feed her part of your rations as well as her own. You're the hero in this story, I'm just trying to do my bit."
Gillian pulls Ben to her, tightly. "Come back to us in one piece, all right?"
His hands come to rest gently on her lower back. "I'll try my best." His voice is low and gravelly, but his hand's firm when he releases Gillian and offers Cal a solid handshake. Gillian smiles at their typical display of manliness, but she knows that Cal's just as worried as she is as he wraps his arm around her waist and they stand on the doorstep watching Ben leave.
She buries her head in the crook of Cal's neck when Ben disappears from view.
They never see him again.
They wait for him as long as they can.
They move again, five nights later.
They lose Torres on a Tuesday. Gillian's been keeping score of the days that pass ("So I can keep a grasp on reality" – "Reality's long gone, love") but Cal notices that she's also started keeping a tally of the number of people they've lost. Bodies they've seen on the street, friends they know have been taken, Reynolds who never came back, Torres, injured and broken, who was plucked from right in front of them, her eyes wide with fear.
That strike on the wall is almost violent.
Loker's next. He's brave and noble and all the things Gillian always knew he could be and Cal always wanted him to be. He dies because he stays out in the open long enough to push Emily under cover.
Emily says she'll never forgive herself. It should have been her.
Cal can't even begin to say thank you. He talks aloud sometimes when he thinks no one is listening, thanking Eli for saving his daughter's life.
Gillian can't help but notice how their numbers have dwindled from six to three in less than a week.
She doesn't put a lot of stock in their chances.
They move on again.
(Emily managed to speak to Zoe before the phone lines went down. She was in her office, hiding beneath her desk even though she knew it futile as she listened to the heavy thud of steps progressively getting closer and closer to her barricaded office door. She managed to tell her daughter that she loved her, that she was proud of her, and that she knew she would fight her way through this mess to the other side where she could continue growing into the woman Zoe always knew her daughter was going to be.
Then she hung up, so that Emily wouldn't have to hear what happened next.
Emily hasn't cried yet, seven days later. Gillian only hopes that they all have enough time that she will.)
Cal wakes, a day later, to the feeling that something isn't right.
There's a note beside him.
We need more supplies. Don't worry, I'll be careful. Gx
He half-smiles that even in this situation, she adorns her notes to him with an x (Emily started the tradition when she was eleven, and Gillian's made sure to keep it alive ever since). Then he's on his feet, un-barricading the door from the inside that she's done mightily well from the outside and stepping out into the hazy sunlight.
He calls her name, walks a few paces in one direction, then a few more in the other.
The wind picks up and blows the dirt and dust along the road. It gets in his eyes and he feels them stinging, and before he knows it he's crying because he's exhausted and worried and he knows, he can feel it in his bones, that something is desperately wrong.
She's hiding. She's shivering and sweating at the same time and the dust is coating her skin, clinging to the moisture. It's been thirteen hours since she left, twelve since she threw herself into this ditch and covered herself with debris. Her muscles ache from being in the same position and she's so hungry for the fruit she'd managed to scavenge for but that lays scattered on the road up above her.
The noise hasn't stopped, and she's tired of covering her ears.
They're coming closer. They've been inching around her location for hours as if they sense that she's there, they just don't know where.
She wishes for Cal. Wishes for him to be there to rescue her as he always wants to and she always wants him to. She's never been against fairy tales in real life and has always wished for her own knight in shining armor. Hers may be adorned with tattoos and speak with a gruff English accent, but he's hers all the same.
But he isn't here.
Then, silence reigns. She pulls herself up as much as she dares, peeking out of the makeshift trench. She sees her moment, and prepares herself to run.
Gillian Foster takes a deep breath and learns to save herself.
Gillian's been gone for fourteen hours. Cal imagines that this is what hell is like.
Emily curls into the corner, staring out of the broken window at the moon fighting with the clouds. It seems that everyone is fighting these days, as she listens to her Dad and Gillian and tries to block out what she's hearing.
"How could you be so stupid? You could've died! We could've lost you!"
"We all would have died, Cal, without any food. Emily needs you. I was the logical choice."
"There is nothing logical about this situation, Foster!"
Her Dad had been a mess while she'd been gone; feared the worst and acted in accordance. Emily hadn't had the time to process the future without Gillian in it, and luckily now she won't have to. For Cal, however, it was all he'd been able to think about.
It goes quiet and for a brief moment Emily wonders whether they've killed each other. Then she sees them out of the corner of her eye, arms wrapped tightly around each other as they sway in and out of her eye line. She sees, more than hears, her Dad's quiet pleas of "please, don't ever do that to me again".
She turns her attention back to the stillness outside the window and wishes for a happy ending.
"I never thought we'd get here," he murmurs, a hand gently smoothing her hair as his arms tighten around her.
She smiles into his chest. "Me neither. Gave up waiting for you to make your move after months, no, years, of you never doing anything about it."
She's teasing him, but he can't help but be mock outraged. "Me? Why couldn't you be the one to make a move?"
"Call me old-fashioned, Cal," she smiles.
He smiles back, ducking his face down to meet her eyes as they lay, legs intertwined on the cold floor. "You're so old-fashioned, Gill."
She watches him, eyelashes fluttering occasionally as she struggles to stay awake in this moment in the middle of the night.
"I love you," he says, quietly.
She bites her lip, her smile widening. "Oh, Cal, I love you, too."
He brings his lips to hers, pouring everything he wishes they could have into his kiss. She deserves better than this, heartfelt confessions on a cold concrete floor just in case they run out of time. He wants his future with her, and he's terrified that he won't get it.
She breaks their kiss, breathing heavily, making sure to place gentle kisses to the corner of his mouth, his cheek, his jaw line. She buries her face in his sweatshirt, and breathes in the smell of him. She can only wish for more time.
It's morning, if you can call it that, and Cal and Emily are sitting just outside the doorway.
"So, you and Gill, huh?" Emily's trying to suppress a grin and failing miserably. For a moment, it feels like a normal morning in their kitchen at home, Gillian still asleep upstairs in a comfortable bed and not inside the abandoned building on a concrete floor instead.
Cal can't stop smiling.
"I told you you guys were meant to be, Dad."
"I never thought I was good enough," he says, picking up a stick and poking at the dirt beneath his feet with it.
Emily watches him, quietly, before responding. "You're all she's ever wanted."
Cal sobers. "I need you to promise me something, Em. If anything happens to me…"
"No, hear me out. If anything happens to me, I need for you to look after each other."
She plays along. "Of course we will, Dad."
"She loves you like you're her own flesh and blood, Em. And you'll want to take it out on someone if the worst does happen. Don't let her be that someone."
"Dad, I could never blame her for something happening to you."
He's insistent, and she wonders whether he senses things are about to change. "Promise me. We're a family; you, me and Gill. We need each other."
"Yes, we do. Now will you quit talking like this? You're scaring me." She's jittery, her gaze flicking between Cal and the road spread out before them.
He does stop, lays down the stick by his feet and shuffles over to her side, wrapping an arm around her shoulders. "I love you, Em."
Clinging to him, she whispers, "I love you, too, Dad."
It's then that they hear a noise in an otherwise silent street.
Emily's scream pierces the air. "DAD!"
Gillian's on her feet and outside in seconds, only to face her worst nightmares.
She grabs Emily's hand. "Em, come on." Tries to pull her.
She fights against her. "No! No I'm not leaving him! I won't do it!"
Gillian can't stop her tears from flowing as she meets Cal's eye. He has blood pouring out of one temple and his right arm's at a terrible angle, but they both know what's coming next. He tells her everything she needs to know with his eyes, and she mouths 'I love you' before she turns away, dragging Emily, screaming and digging her heels in, as far away as possible as fast as she can.
"We can't just leave him! We can't just leave him!"
Emily's strong but Gillian's stronger, and she's doing what she's doing knowing full well that it's what Cal wants.
It doesn't stop her from knowing that Emily's screams will haunt her for the rest of her life.
They're both crying, sitting huddled in the dark, and neither think they'll ever be able to stop. Emily hasn't asked yet and Gillian hasn't explained. Perhaps she won't ever need to, she thinks, as Emily clings to her and whispers, over and over again, "You're my family now, you're my family now, you're my family now".
She rocks her daughter back and forth, clinging to the only part of Cal left in her world. "Yes, I am. We're going to get through this."
One day, she might believe her own words. But for now, for this night, their shirts will absorb each other's tears.
It's barely dawn when they hear it. The military siren. The loud-haler announcement.
They peel themselves off of the floor and make their way outside.
They're both dressed in ripped jeans and brown shirts that used to be white as they turn the corner to walk down the boulevard. Helicopters are circling above and a battered civilization is slowly, bravely, crawling out of the wreckage.
Gillian stops Emily, hope in her red-rimmed eyes. "Look."
Emily follows her gaze, as they stand side by side, the gentle breeze blowing their hair.
The sun is coming up.