AN: yes it may look familiar. Just wanted to remind you of what happened last season...
"Anyway, I'm ramblin'. Just wanted to say that it's great to celebrate an important day with friends and family," Cal raised his wine glass. "So thank you and cheers."
There was an echo of 'cheers' around the table and then the gathered group fell back into pockets of conversation. Cal sat again and Gillian was immediately on his arm, leaning in with a warm smile to give him a kiss. She tasted like red wine and he could tell from the way her eyes swam slightly that she was a little bit tipsy. Cal gave her a grin as she pulled away again. "See I played nicely?"
Gillian gave him a nod, her blue eyes flashing in amusement, except in this light they seemed very dark. "I saw. I'm quite impressed."
"Quite?" Cal repeated.
"Yes," Gillian nodded. "Quite."
Cal broke into another grin. Gillian's fingers found their way into his hand and squeezed twice, a silent signal that asked if he was all right. Although probably on this occasion, it would be safe to assume she was telling him she was proud of him. The big birthday celebration had been her idea, of course, and she had had to talk Cal into it, of course, but he hadn't resisted too hard. They needed a celebration. Since Brandon Bloody Mitchell two years ago, things had been tough. All the trouble with Lewis's birth, the trouble with his hearing, the trouble with Gillian wanting more kids. Cal was amazed that through all of that he would be the solid rock, the stable one. And now that all those troubles were over with, Lewis was used to his hearing aids and doing well in pre-school and with his speech therapy, and Gillian had officially reached the point of no return for fertility and the subject had firmly been dropped once and for all; life was good. Cal didn't feel so tired and old and beaten down. This was celebrating his fiftieth birthday, even though he was actually turning fifty-one this year, but he felt at least ten years younger. At least. More like twelve.
Gillian was on his left and Lewis was supposed to be sitting next to her, but he was moving around the table, unassumingly charming the pants off everyone who was gathered; Ria and her husband Karl, Eli and a date, Zoe and her date, Kate and Matthew, Emily and AJ. A small group, but people Cal would consider good friends. Yeah, even Zoe. He'd known her for the better part of how long? Wait, how old was Emily? Twenty-four? Twenty-five? Or was he getting ahead of himself by a few years? He'd have to ask Gillian later. Maybe she was twenty-three. Now he was sure she was only twenty-three.
Now that dessert was over and a few speeches had been made people started to move around the table. Kate and Matthew excused themselves to get back to a baby sitter. Emily took AJ and moved into the vacated seats to talk to her mother. Gillian leaned in to Cal again. "Guess what?" She whispered.
"What's that?" Cal studied her eyes.
"Emily's wearing an engagement ring."
"She what?!" Cal blanched loudly, and almost choked on the spit in his mouth. He turned his head to his daughter.
"Don't be obvious!" Gillian admonished quietly, giving his arm a squeeze.
Cal felt a cold sweat break out between his shoulder blades. "What do you mean she's wearin' an engagement ring? Did she say somethin' to you?" His eyes studied his wife's face in a frenzy.
"Relax," Gillian told him pointedly and suddenly she seemed completely sober. "I just noticed she was wearing a diamond ring."
"On her right hand?"
Gillian shook her head amused. "No Cal, left hand, appropriate finger."
"So she didn't say anythin' to you?"
"No, I'm just guessing."
"Women's intuition?" Cal winced, hoping she was wrong. He had just gotten used to the idea that his little girl was grown up, a graduate, working and living with her boyfriend. And yeah, it had taken him years to get his head around the concept.
Gillian nodded. "This sage old woman's intuition."
Cal sighed heavily and finally relaxed. She could be wrong. She could be. She probably wasn't.
"And you better act surprised and happy for her when she tells you," Gillian warned.
"Do you think Zoe knows?"
Gillian looked down the table and let her eyes roam over all those gathered, under the pretence of searching for Lewis. "No," she turned back to Cal. "I don't think so. See how Emily's holding her hand under the table so her mother won't notice?"
Cal looked. Sure enough, Emily had her left hand in her lap, under the table cloth. "I thought I was meant to be the observant one."
"So did I," Gillian teased.
"Momma," Lewis inserted himself between them. He barely came up to the height of the table. His little hands pushed his parent's apart so he could climb into his mother's lap.
"Hi Lewis," Gillian greeted, always delighted to see him. Lewis rested his head on her chest and closed his eyes.
"I think that's our cue," Cal told Gillian.
"Yeah," she nodded stroking the back of Lewis's short hair. The curls were mostly gone and the fine hair was starting to thicken and darken slightly too. Lewis was growing up and showing a personality Cal hadn't encountered before in a two year old. Lewis was sweet and unassuming and didn't crave attention. He was happy to play by himself and wasn't prone to temper tantrums (except when he was tired and if they didn't take him home soon then he would quite happily put one on display) and if Cal was stupid enough to have another kid late in life he had struck gold with the mild mannered Lewis.
They got up and said their farewells, but invited the rest of them to stay and finish the wine on the table; everything was already paid for. "I'll walk you out," Emily got to her feet too. AJ followed dutifully. "Why don't you come out with us Mom?" She suggested and Cal felt fear grip his heart. Zoe shot Cal a 'look' but he gave a slight shrug; no, he didn't know what it was about.
They made small talk while Gillian put Lewis in his car seat. Cal could hear him resisting her, which he always found ironic seeing as he was the one who wanted to go home to sleep. It was his bed time after all and also a work night. Cal could do with going home to sleep too. How convenient to have the excuse of a grumpy two year old.
"So what's this all about then?" Cal prompted his daughter as Gillian approached them again, Lewis now screaming his head off in the car. She linked her arm into the crook of his elbow and gave it a squeeze. She was telling him to behave.
"We didn't want to rain on your parade Dad," Emily started. "But seeing as we're leaving tomorrow and we're on a tight schedule." They had only come down to DC for the birthday party. "We're going to do this now."
"Do what now?" Zoe asked.
Emily reached out for AJ's hand and an excited light fell into her eyes. She watched her father's face while AJ made the announcement that they were going to get married.
"Oh my god!" Zoe burst out.
Cal broke into a smile. Ten points to Gillian, she was right. "Congratulations!" He offered stepping forward to embrace them both while Zoe did the same thing. They ended up in a group hug. Then Cal stepped away to shake AJ's hand while Zoe hugged Emily and examined the ring and then Cal hugged Emily while Zoe hugged AJ. Then Cal realised Gillian was standing on the cusp of their group and pulled her against his side. She offered Emily a hug and her congratulations too. And in the meantime, Lewis decided he needed to yell louder because he was clearly forgotten.
"We should really go," Cal pointed out reluctantly. "What time are you flyin' again?"
"Dad," Emily complained. "For the fifth time, our flight is at six thirty."
"Right," Cal remembered again for the fifth time. Too early to have breakfast and polite farewells. He pulled her into another tight hug. He kissed her forehead. "Talk to you soon."
Emily beamed, "Sure."
Cal shook AJ's hand again as Emily said goodbyes to Gillian and then Cal turned to Zoe, mother of his daughter, who was now engaged to get married. He gave her a light hug. "She's growin' up."
"I know," Zoe sighed.
"Talk to you late-a too."
Zoe nodded. Gillian was waiting for Cal by the car and as he approached she slipped into the passenger's seat. Cal slammed his car door shut and turned to her as he twisted the key in the ignition. "You were right."
She gave him a slightly smug smile. "I know."
Cal turned away to pull on his seatbelt. "Hey Lewis!" He raised his voice to be heard over the unsettled toddler. "Home time buddy." Lewis ignored him. "Wave to your sista." He demonstrated and Lewis copied, waving a hand pitifully while tears streaked down his cheeks and he looked as though he almost regretted having a fit when he could have had extended hugs with someone he wouldn't see for a while.
Cal looked over from the video playing on his wall. "Hey."
Gillian had a folder in her hands, displayed in front of her and she looked triumphant, which immediately made Cal feel suspicious. "I found someone I like."
"What? More than me?"
"Yes, that's exactly it," she replied lightly. She held out the folder to him by the corners and he was reminded of the day she had done the exact same thing when trying to convince him to hire Ria Dupree. "Have a look," she offered while Lewis finally followed her into the room, pulling along behind him a duck on a string. It quaked and opened its mouth as the wheels it was on rotated around. Lewis was taking absent steps, not paying attention to where he was going; he was more interested in the duck. Since he had been wearing his hearing aids, he was a lot more interested in noise.
"Tell me what it is," Cal retorted refusing to take the file.
"Doctor Paul Roberts."
Cal stood, pretending to be bored. Gillian rolled her eyes exaggeratedly. "He's a psychologist."
"What do we need anotha one of those for?"
"Cal," Gillian whined. Behind her, Lewis walked into one of the single chairs Cal had grouped around a low table to the side of his office. He seemed startled that there was something in his way. Cal chuckled amused. Gillian turned to see what he was looking at. She turned back to her husband. "Cal, focus on me," she used her 'Lewis' tone of voice. "This is important."
Cal re-connected with her eyes. "All right," he paused the video and turned to face her dutifully. "I'm listenin'," he said slowly and pointedly.
"We talked about hiring another psychologist to help with the case load around here. Especially because I'm only working part time at the moment and we're getting steadily busier."
"So," Gillian pushed the file into his chest and held it. "I want you to read through the file and tell me what you think."
"Why don't you just make a decision? I trust you."
"Because funnily enough we're business partners and I've always upheld my end of that."
Cal fixed her with feigned shock. "Ouch. I resent that." He took the folder. "Can I read it late-a?"
"When is later?"
"You're such a nag!" Cal complained.
Lewis reached where they were standing. "Oohhhh!" He pointed to the duck.
"You're such an..." Gillian started to complain and then, aware of their son standing right beneath them, changed her mind and twirled the index finger of her left hand around the extended thumb of her right hand.
"What was that?" Cal asked.
"Look it up," Gillian suggested.
"I was jokin', by the way," Cal felt Lewis's hand on his thigh. He made a mental note to look up the sign, suspecting she had called him something rude, or suggested he go do something rude to himself.
"I would like to move quickly on this Cal," Gillian added. She winced and Cal looked down to see Lewis digging his fingernails into her leg while he balanced himself. She reached down to extricate Lewis's hand from her skin.
"I'll look at the file before I come home tonight."
Lewis protested at being forcibly removed. He screeched at her, then tried hitting her.
"You're hurting me," Gillian told him gently. She signed 'hurt': both hands with index fingers raised rotating in different directions in front of her chest. Lewis pouted at her and then promptly burst into tears. Gillian sighed. "I'll take him home; it's time for his nap anyway."
"All right," Cal agreed. She gave him a quick kiss and signed to Lewis that they were going to get in the car (imitating holding on to a steering wheel) so they could go home (closed fingers against the mouth and then an open palm against her right cheek).
"Say goodbye to Dad," she signed 'goodbye' and 'Dad'. Gillian had thought it was a good idea to encourage Lewis to sign, to cover those times when he wasn't wearing his hearing aids and a myriad of other reasons she could justify (because hearing aids were complicated affairs, just because he was getting used to wearing them, didn't mean Lewis was hearing every word clearly or even understanding them). She insisted they practice as much as possible to get used to it, so it would become habit. Cal didn't have a problem with any of that. Only that she was so much better at it than he was and he felt like he was letting his family down. They went to classes and had books to help learn but it was really hard to sign and speak at the same time. It wasn't like learning French, where Cal would just convert the word to English and then say it; no, he had to literally speak two languages simultaneously.
Lewis, red in the face now, tears streaming down his cheeks, gave his father a half hearted wave 'goodbye'. Cal crouched down to his level. "Give Daddy a kiss." He signed the informal 'father' and 'kiss', by bringing his fingertips to their respective thumbs of both hands and bringing them together. Lewis knew the meaning of more signed words than spoken words but that was only because his vocal development was about a year behind what it should be. His speech therapist, Stephanie, said he understood quite a lot, that his comprehension wasn't behind, he just couldn't say what he knew. He had picked up on listening to instructions quite well and he could follow what was said to him, especially when it was signed to him.
There were several reasoning's behind signing to him while teaching him to speak at the same time. Speaking two languages and doing two things at the same time was good for his brain development. And it would also assimilate him into another culture.
Lewis came forward and pressed his wet mouth against Cal's. Cal scooped him into a hug and placed several quick kisses on Lewis's lips and then nose and then forehead. He told Lewis to have sweet dreams, but he couldn't sign any of those words. Cal told Lewis he loved him, and gave the appropriate sign for it too. It was one of the first things they had learnt. Seemed fitting, seeing as it was one of the first things Lewis had heard them actually say.
Gillian took Lewis's hand once Cal put him on the ground again and started the slower walk across Cal's office. Cal watched and stood waiting for them to disappear through the doorway before going back to work, listening to the duck quack and knowing Gillian there would be a parting shot she expected him not to miss. "Cal?"
"Please read the file."
Cal nodded. "Of course my darlin'," he responded politely. He was pretty sure he heard Gillian sigh and grinned to himself. He turned back to the wall and started watching his video again, and then Ria came in.
"Is Gillian still here?"
Gillian, because asking for Doctor Foster made Cal feel uneasy, and asking for Doctor Lightman invited too many smart arse responses from him.
"Nope, she took Lewis home."
"Oh crap," Ria groaned lightly. "Can you look at this then? I'm stuck." She gave a brief outline of the case and the bit she was stuck on. She couldn't explain a behaviour the woman she was interviewing was displaying. Cal took an educated guess based on the woman's background and current life status. Without being in the lab or seeing the footage he wouldn't know for sure. He gave Ria a few follow up questions to try and help her move on. Then he went back to the video he was watching. He had forgotten what he was doing. Then Eli came in and Cal thought it was much nicer having Gillian around, not just because he liked the comfort of having her close by, but so she could field all these annoying interruptions. The file, now sitting on his desk, that she had brought in earlier, gave a little wave, indicating it was still waiting patiently for his attention.