A/N: "Forgiveness is the release of all hope for a better past." (Buddy Wakefield, "Hurling Crowbirds at Mockingbars")
"You know mercy whenever someone shoves a stick of morphine straight up into your heart—
Goddamn, it felt amazing the days you were happy to see me."
Gillian Foster watched as Cal Lightman entered the building with a particular swagger to his step. It was one with which she had become, as his business partner of nearly ten years, intimately familiar. He strode into the office with a coffee cup in his hand—the coffee cup in the break room had decided to simply up and die.
Gillian noticed the fact that he was only carrying one cup of coffee in his hands—she bit back the wave of nausea when she thought about the fact that there had been a time, not so very long ago, when, knowing full well that the machine was broken and knowing her affinity for coffee, he would have brought her a cup as well.
Her eyes flickered from the cup in his hand to his eyes as he strode up, stopping momentarily in front of her.
"Good morning, Foster," He said, smiling. He continued walking before he had even gotten the last syllable of her name out. Cal moved quickly, but not too quickly to notice that the smile didn't reach his eyes.
"Morning," She returned quietly before making the snap decision to fall in line behind him.
Cal threw a look over his shoulder and raised his eyebrow in silent question, but he did not stop walking toward his office.
"We need to talk." She said, simply, still trailing him and trying to keep the butterflies in her stomach from making their way into her throat—she'd have enough trouble reciting words without the added pressure of having to speak around them.
"You think?" He said, as they finally reached his office. They crossed the threshold, and Cal shut the door behind them.
Gillian stopped, rather awkwardly, in the middle of his office. She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear and then folded her arms over her chest in a defensive measure. Cal walked around to the other side of his desk and took a seat in his chair.
"Did you have fun last night?" She asked—she tried to keep her tone light, but she knew she'd failed miserably when Cal leaned back in his chair and narrowed his eyes at her.
"Really, Foster?" Was his response.
"Really, Cal," She said.
Cal crossed his arms over his chest and pressed his lips together tightly. Cal Lightman, trained in reading body language, had taught Gillian well. He was trying to communicate the fact that he, in fact, did not want to talk about it.
Sighing, Gillian sat down in the chair across from his desk, but she kept her arms crossed. Her stomach churned and she tried not to let the emotion beginning to well up slip into her words when she arched an eyebrow at him and asked, "Mother Superior?"
Cal's lips thinned out and his brow furrowed and Gillian could have sworn that she saw a flicker of remorse flash across his face. But as quickly as she saw it, it was gone and replaced with no emotion at all.
"What about it?" He asked, tapping his finger against his elbow.
Gillian felt her heart drop down into her stomach at the exact moment she felt tears welling in her eyes. Squeezing her eyes shut tightly, she pressed her back into the chair and tightened her grip on her own arms, while simultaneously biting her lip. Willing herself not to cry, she said, "What is going on with you?" She said, and he stared at her. "What's going on with us, Cal? What is this?" She motioned between them and she mentally patted herself on the back for not allowing the absolute desperation she felt to seep into her tone.
"You know the answers to all of those questions." He said, tilting his head to the right.
Gillian laughed, but it held no mirth—"Yeah," She breathed out, "Maybe I do." She said, "But the way you walked in here this morning, more than any other time before, broke my heart."
Gillian watched as Cal's mouth dropped open slightly and he sucked in air—she had caught him off guard with her honesty. It had been her intent, really, but she still felt a wave of nervousness as she watched the emotions crawl over his face—shock, anger, sadness, and one that looked remarkably like hope.
The silence hung heavily between them before Cal cleared his throat and then spoke, "What do you mean?" He queried.
Gillian took a steadying breath and then folded her hands in her lap—her gaze flickered between her hands and Cal's searching gaze as she spoke—"You weren't happy to see me." She said, matter-of-factly, as though that would explain everything.
"I wasn't happy to see you." Cal repeated slowly, trying to understand her meaning. Failing, he asked, "What does that mean?"
Gillian laughed a little, "Just what it says, I guess." Inhaling, she focused her attention on her hands and wrung them together, playing with the ring that adorned her right index finger, "There was a time," She began tentatively, "When you used to—I don't know, light up when you saw me. You were happy, Cal, genuinely happy to see me—" She trailed off, still playing with her ring. "It's been happening less and less—and then these last few days it's just…gone." She finished, and she finally met his gaze.
Cal was giving nothing away. He nodded his head slowly, "Okay…"
Gillian felt the tears welling up in her eyes, "You really have no idea, do you?" She asked him.
Cal raised his eyebrows and shook his head, indicating that no, he didn't have an idea.
"You being happy to see me…" She trailed off, "Made me happy, Cal. Honestly," She said, her voice quivering slightly, betraying her, "When I lost Sophie—" Her voice broke on the name, "And when Alec and I got divorced—that look you gave me—the Gee, Foster, I'm glad to see you look—it got me through." She said, her hand moving involuntarily to her stomach as she contemplated the loss.
Cal was silent—at a loss for words, and his face wasn't speaking, either.
"So, what's changed?" She questioned, her gaze meeting his—her eyes were glassy from the tears but the blue was still brilliant.
Cal shrugged, "I don't know."
Gillian exhaled, "Bullshit."
A flash of anger passed over Cal's face—"I don't know."
"You do know, Cal—" She said, "You've changed."
"I haven't," He replied, pursing his lips and shaking his head in defiance.
"You have." Gillian said, nodding once in the affirmative, "I mean you've always been—well, you," She said, waving her hand in his general direction, "But lately you've been more reckless, haven't you? Exceedingly so—unabashedly so. You've metamorphosed into this guy," She emphasized the word, "That doesn't care whom he hurts or how badly he hurts them, so long as you're amused and enthralled." She finished, her lip curling up slightly.
Cal read her anger and he took in some of it for his own, "Now wait a bloody minute!" He said, pointing his finger at her and leaning forward in his chair.
"Tell me it's not true." Gillian said, her eyes issuing a challenge.
Cal opened his mouth to respond, but didn't. He took a breath and Gillian's smugness spurred him on, "What about you, eh, Foster?" He asked, leaning even farther forward.
"What about me?" She asked, her chin jutting out slightly.
"I'm the one that's changed—but you're the same old happy-go-lucky Foster, are you?" He asked, his tone abrasive.
She swallowed, "I didn't say that," She answered, "But this isn't about me—it's about you." She said, swallowing the lump that had formed in her throat.
Cal smirked, "Well, then, let's make it about you for a second, shall we?"
Gillian rolled her eyes.
"No, I mean, really, Foster—let's make it about you, yeah? So, what? I used to be happy to see you and then I magically wasn't?" He read her face, "Oh, so it was gradual, was it? And when did you start building your life around me, Foster?" Cal read her face again, ignoring the rules they'd made long ago, "Oh really? That long?" His tone was mocking and Gillian bit her lip to keep from crying, "So, I changed into this drastically reckless bloke obsessed with adrenaline and you—what. Foster? Saw it happening? Saw me pull away from you?" He was squinting at her.
Her voice was barely a whisper when she spoke next, "Stop, Cal." She said, her glossy eyes searching his, imploring him—asking him.
"What was yesterday, Gillian?" He asked, finally, leaning back in his chair and placing his palms flat on the desk.