A/N: So I found this sitting on my hard drive, half finished, and thought, 'huh. I should finish this.' I started writing it after watching 3x01, but then lost steam when I read all the other post-eps for that episode, lol. Anyway, so five monthes in the making and here you go. And big thanks to G :), who helped me beat the tense out of this fic. It was past vs present all up in here in a battle of epic proportions. True story.
It makes a sound like thunder
And like a fool who will never see the truth,
I keep thinking something's gonna change.
Just for the record? She has a great poker face.
The anger is almost blindingly instant. It roars around inside of her, and she feels it rumble and the sound is so loud, she almost thinks he hears it for a second. It is the hot, blinding noise of rage followed by the absolute silence of arcing fear.
He can't be serious.
There is so much wrong with this little tête-à-tête, so many things wrong with everything he just said to her, she isn't sure if she could pinpoint just one reason for her rage and fear and rage and fear but, yeah, mostly rage.
Her mouth trembles, for just a second.
Of course he sees that, because he doesn't say anything else, believing that he's made his point.
And he has, really, really made his point.
Cal Lightman is the seer of all god damned truths. Every single one of them. He sees them. He doesn't understand a single fucking one of them, but he sees them.
He is an expert in his field, and his field is truth. He wields that truth like a dagger, knowing every soft spot to slip it in where the most damage will be done. He is lethal, when the truth is cradled within his hands, glinting in the low light and shadows between them.
The ride back to the office is silent. She doesn't even turn the radio on, like she always does, to sing along, like she always does. It's a habit that irritates him, she knows, it's part of why she always does it.
The wheels hum on the pavement, and her body vibrates with repressed anger until they are finely in tune, harmonizing at the same frequency. He's out of the car before she's even finished unbuckling her seatbelt.
She pauses for a minute in the sudden hush of the car interior, her hand still holding her seatbelt in place. It's shaking, but she takes one breath, then two and unbuckles before following him in.
She doesn't think she could be any angrier with him than she is right now.
Of course, she thought wrong.
Offers of group hugs and she is so damn disgusted with him right now.
Because she has to.
Because if she doesn't, she'll cry.
Or kick the shit out of him.
He reads that laugh as forgiveness. It isn't.
But she lets him think that because being this angry is taking up all of her energy right now, and if she even attempts to argue with him now, it will sound insane, and come in fits and starts of bitter words, choked by the impotence of rage.
She watches the door close behind him and she stands there for a long time. She wishes, god, she just wishes that she could walk away from this like she has every other disappointment in her life. Her father. Her husband. Now, her partner.
But she can't afford to leave. And despite his threats of being through with her, he can't afford to push her out either. They're stuck with each other, and that thought is both sickening and empowering. He can posture about his finances and his name on the god damn wall – but really? What can he do?
The answer is not a damned thing.
When her doorbell rings later that night, she is on her second scotch, kneeling by her coffee table and re-running their earlier conversations over and over in her mind, savouring the way the remembrance of it feeds the rumbling, stormy atmospheric presence inside of her.
Her first reaction is relief. A welcome distraction.
Her second one is to pray to all that is holy that he isn't the one at her door.
Thankfully, he's not. And she didn't expect him to be, really. He's out on his date (and even the thought of that ratchets up the pressure inside of her, surely the storm will break soon) and as far as he's concerned, it's over with. Done.
It's Emily at her door with a bag of Chinese and a nervous smile.
"Hey Gill! I'm not interrupting anything, am I?" Her smile is tight, perfunctory and polite. Gillian smiles warmly, genuinely for the first time in what feels like forever, and shakes her head.
"Not at all, Emily. Come on in. What brings you by?"
"Well, I was out getting supper, and I was driving back to Dad's place, but he's out, and Rick is with his parents tonight... the thought of the empty house just didn't seem appealing tonight, you know? I was really close by, so I thought maybe I'd check and see if you wanted to keep me company." Her smile is warmer this time, now that she's inside and Gillian is taking the bags from her with a grin.
"I would love to. I haven't even thought about cooking yet and today was – well, it wasn't my best day." She is unpacking the food as she speaks, and Emily looks over with a frown before leaning over and hugging her tightly. The movement surprises her, and she finds herself ridiculously blinking back tears while hugging her back. If she'd gotten to keep her daughter, she often thinks she would have loved for Sophie to be just like Emily.
"Bad days suck." Emily pulls out chopsticks and hands a pair to her before dropping onto the carpet in front of the coffee table and picking up a carton. Gillian joins her on the floor, picking up her own carton, suddenly realizing she is starving. "Was it Dad's fault? Because I gotta say, I wouldn't be shocked if it was."
She looks up as she speaks, freezing for a moment before continuing in a rush. "You know what? Never mind – it's none of my business. I didn't mean to upset you."
"It's okay." Gillian waves her apology off with greasy chopsticks. She wonders if Cal (Lightman, she reminds herself. Distance is key.) realizes just how good Emily is at reading people. "Partly your Dad's fault, yes. His editor stopped by today."
"Editor? What editor?"
"That's what I said, when Heidi told me she was coming, thirty minutes before the actual meeting. Apparently he's had a book deal for two years, for a book he's yet to start writing. Or mention." She is stabbing the beef and broccoli in her carton as she speaks, and Emily winces sympathetically.
"Oh, he can be such an idiot sometimes. Was the meeting bad?"
"It wasn't good. But it's nothing for you to worry about, Emily." She takes a bite of her food, and her stomach growls in appreciation, causing the both of them to giggle. "He just needs to write it. Says it's all in his head."
"Can I help? Maybe I could talk to him about it, or like, encourage him somehow? Oh! I could write something for it! Maybe like a foreword, or something? I mean, I know those are usually written by like, famous scientific-y people or whatever, but maybe it'd put like a- like a personal touch on it? And if I finish it before he starts, the guilt couldn't hurt, right?" Emily looks at her nervously, and Gillian nods with a smile.
"No, that could actually work. Really, Em, you're the only one he listens to."
"No! He listens to you, Gill. If you only knew-"
"Emily," Gillian interrupts the girl's earnest speech quickly. "I think – I think whatever you were about to say, your father probably wouldn't want you to say. And frankly, I'm not in any place to hear it right now. Just – just, change of subject, okay? How are you and Rick?"
"We're good." Emily blushes and looks down with a soft smile. "We're kind of great. Well, as great as we can be with Dad practically chaperoning every single date we have. Ever since he found out about the whole, you know," Emily gestures awkwardly and pokes at her food, "sex thing, he's been particularly overbearing. More so than usual, if possible. I don't suppose you could like, talk to him about that?"
"I'm probably the last person he wants to hear from right now, Em, I'm sorry." She smiles sadly at the younger girl and Emily frowns thoughtfully.
"You know – I mean, he's my Dad, I know – but if you ever needed someone to talk to Gill, I'd be here, you know that, right?"
Gillian smiles again, feeling the tension ease within her slightly, as the pressure recedes even more.
"Right back atcha, kid."
"Okay, what did you do?" Emily slams the door before striding through the hall and past the dining room to where her father is searching the lower cupboards in the kitchen, clattering pots and pans. His head pops over the counter.
"Be specific, love. What did I do when? And to whom?" He bounces to his feet with a large pot in his hands and moves over to the stove quickly.
"What did you do today, to Gillian?"
"None of your business, love. And how do you even know-"
"Dad!" Emily sighs in exasperation, slamming her purse on the counter and glaring at him. "I had dinner with Gill tonight, uninvited, so don't give me that look – and she was upset. Really upset. Not in any way that you could see, but I could see it."
"Oh and that's automatically my fault, is it?"
"Frankly, well, yeah. So what did you do?" She crosses her arms and stares at him, refusing to look away, even when he peers at her in his intense way.
"Leave it alone, Em."
"Fix it, Dad. I don't care what you did – you fix it. Because Gillian has been there for me, and for you more times than I can even count. For God's sake, Dad, she's never let us down. Ever. The big stuff, the stupid little stuff. Do you remember that time I had that school play on Greek history and I was Helen? I was eleven, and I wanted to be Helen so bad, but I didn't want to try out, because I knew Mom couldn't sew for shit, and you – well, I mean, look at you. So I decided I could be in the chorus, and that way, I could buy an outfit and it wouldn't matter because nobody would see me back there."
"But you were Helen..."
"Yeah, I was. Because Gillian saw how upset I was after school one day when I was at the office. She asked me what was wrong, and I ended up crying all over her and do you know what she did, Dad? She spent that night, making me the most beautiful costume I'd ever seen. There was aqua dip dying, and gold glitter and it was gorgeous. And the next day, when I got to the office after school? She gave it to me, and told me that now I had to be Helen, and she knew I would be great." She blinks back sudden tears as she remembers just how awesome that day had been. She had been the star – and all of her friends had been so jealous of her dress. "I asked her to come to the play, after I got the part, Dad. I mean, if it hadn't been for her... and do you know what she told me? That she didn't want to make Mom uncomfortable."
"What's your point, love, other than the fact that Foster is a regular Susie homemaker?"
"Dad! You just – ugh!" She's screeching a little now and stamping her foot, but sometimes she just wants to literally knock some sense into her Dad. He is so damn blind about some things. "My point is that Gillian has been there – for both of us, in ways you don't even know about. And if what I saw tonight was any indication? You screwed up, Dad. Badly. And I will not forgive you if we lose her."
"Emily, you know Foster would never take anything I did out on you, love."
"Yeah, of course I know that, Dad. I was just there for three hours, despite whatever douchebaggery you subjected her to today, and she was fabulous, even if she was sad. I know I won't lose her, Dad, but I don't want us to lose her. So. You. Fix it." She glares at him once more, before turning on her heel and going up the stairs to her room, leaving him standing there with his hands on his hips and his mouth open.
She doesn't want to hear whatever he was about to say.
"The Lightman Group was built on my sweat. I don't see anyone else's name on the door. Or on my book jacket, for that matter."
"You mess with my finances again, and you and I are through. Now you're the language expert, you tell me; do I mean that?"
He jerks awake, his neck lolling back awkwardly as he slouches in his office chair with his feet on the desk.
Foster's avoiding him.
Can't blame her, really, though can he? He's been, frankly, a right bastard to her. The problem is that there is more than one problem here, isn't there? Oh sure, he's had a rows with her over the finances, but this time it wasn't just about the finances.
It used to be that Foster was the one person who trusted him fully. Gave him the room to be who he needed to be, and never asked him to change.
They used to be closer.
But lately her support feels a lot more like control, and yes, it was stupid of him to lash out like that but he loathes feeling out of control of anything in his life.
To be honest, he's been absolutely fine with letting her avoid him. Because, you know, she sort of deserves the break. And yes, he realizes that it was poncey of him to accuse her of being controlling when he was the one lurking in alleys and following her boyfriends and husband and basically anyone who got involved in her life.
But, see, Foster was Foster. And when he did those things – which, yes, were intrusive and overbearing and often ended disastrously – but when he did those things, he was... well, protecting her.
People could be right bastards.
He would know. He is people. Most times.
His fingers beats a pattern on his chest as he blows out a breath and he falls deeper in thought. It's not like doesn't know he can be a bit of an ass. Foster knows that. She also knows about all of his control issues (discovered them very early on after a four hour discussion about what to name the business that he'd all but pleaded with her to help him start) and not only that, she knows why he has them.
They don't discuss it.
They don't discuss a lot actually, relying on their specific skills to read each other. Oftentimes, it feels like they participate in entire silent conversations.
According to his daughter, though, they have to discuss this.
He doesn't want to. And don't judge, because who would, really? It's bound to be an awkward, uncomfortable conversation in which he will flounder verbally, searching for the right words and never finding them, and she will sit there, all benevolent and graceful and gorgeous and watch him drown in his own guilt and bitter diatribe.
He's gone too far, he knows. Knew when he was saying it really, knew that the words he was using were chosen by design, to hurt her. He just wanted her to back off, and his anger turned a verbal push into a vicious shove.
He felt the guilt immediately. And yes he can feel it. Sometimes. Not often. After all it's not often that he does something he truly feels shameful for. But he saw the disgust on her face, before the nervous smile she gave him.
In his head, it went in slow motion. Her eyes cooled and her lip rose and she looked at him and showed him exactly how she felt about him in that moment. She'd been disgusted.
They've been through a lot.
She went down to Vegas to bail him out of a jail cell, when even his own wife refused to help.
Foster saw him the week after Zoe left him, when he didn't shower, eat or even leave his house.
She saved his daughter's life when she lied to him about the pentagon investigation.
She agreed to be his partner, fully invested in the idea that he wouldn't bollocks the whole thing up and people might actually pay him for his skills.
Never, not pulling his ass out of the house post-divorce, bailing him out of jail, not at any point in their past had she ever looked at him with that expression.
Of course he never ever spoke to her in that way before. With malicious intent to harm.
According to his daughter, he succeeded.
He doesn't feel very victorious.
He has to fix this.
Dropping his feet to the floor with a thud, he bounces up from his chair quickly.
No time like the present.
She hates Thursdays.
They are always awful, mocking her with the fact that it isn't quite Friday by making everything go wrong. It's garbage day at her condo unit and her bag broke while she was carrying it to the bin this morning. She had to spend half of her morning time (it was coffee time that was sacrificed, which just made Thursday even worse) sorting her recyclables, because she never ever wants to do it on Wednesday night, and to top an incredibly shitty day off, every second week it is payday and this is it.
Twice a month she gets to look at the books and wonders if they could actually afford to pay all the cheques she's spent all morning signing.
She woke up that morning, with the knowledge that, God, it was Thursday and a raw, empty aching feeling pressing against her sternum. It was so quiet in her bedroom; she imagined she could hear the splintering.
The anger is gone. Being that angry for this long... it isn't feasible. Eventually the anger had left, and the pain that had been waiting for the anger to expend itself in a bolt of lightning, rained down on her in a torrent.
She feels like there is nothing left but the drenched remnants of her soul, swelled and sodden with that same tired ache.
It comes after a week that is both worse and better, because Cal has somehow miraculously decided to let her avoid the hell out of him. She isn't sure why exactly, but she sure as hell isn't questioning it.
Of course, it makes for a really boring week. No surprise office visits, no offers for lunch or stumbling non-apologies. Not even any antagonistic greetings or arguments. Hell, Loker didn't even complain about him once this week.
It is quiet. Too quiet.
She knows he is around, of course. He closed three cases this week. Emily e-mailed her the proof of her foreword before she showed him, and sent her another message to let her know that Cal started work on the book.
That is a relief, but she isn't holding her breath. Starting a book is easy; finishing it is the actual difficult part.
Just then a knock sounds, and his head pops around the door.
Her first reaction is confusion. Since when does he ever knock?
Her second is a painful breath, drawn in and held in her seized lungs. It hurts. She can't even dredge up one ounce of anger or rage, looking at him. All she feels is intense sadness, disappointment and pain.
And then the awkward silence stretches out four beats too long as he shifts his weight from left to right, leaning one way and then the other.
She is so damn tired of it all. The communicating without words, the reading and being read. Can't they just say what they need to say to each other? Ever?
"Is there something you needed?" Her voice sounds rough and low, out of practice and not like her usual tone at all. And she curses inwardly, because she spoke for the sake of breaking this odd tension that curled itself around the both of them like a constrictor. She could have chosen better words, less loaded ones that weren't fraught with hidden meaning. "I mean, is there – why are you here?"
"Do I need a reason to have a meeting with my partner?" His tone is flippant, and he shoves his hands into his pockets before tilting forward and peering at her intently. She stares at him for a beat, silently choosing her next words carefully. Is this what every conversation is going to become? A silent battle where they pick over their words as if they were weapons? His would be blunt instruments, she decides. Bats and clubs – swung with maximum force and bashing into her. Hers though – hers would be like shuriken. Silent, seemingly small, but thrown with deadly accuracy.
"Am I your partner today? I thought I was just an employee." She keeps her eyes on him as she speaks, her voice more calm now that she has her weapon of choice in hand, so to speak.
"Foster..." he sighs heavily before striding into her office and letting the door close behind him with a muffled thud. He stands, looking down at her for a moment before pulling his hands out of his pockets and throwing himself onto her sofa.
"Lightman." She responds in kind and he turns to face her. She meets his gaze evenly, her hands pressed into the file in her lap and irrationally wishing she still had her shoes on. She isn't sure why that matters, but she would feel better if she wasn't sitting in her armchair with her stockinged feet curled into the area rug below them.
He stares at her in silence, and then looks down and away with a released breath. "Look, I just came in here, yeah? Because I hadn't seen you all week and I wanted to – I wanted to... to..." his voice flounders awkwardly, and if this were an argument they'd had four months ago, or two years ago, or five, or seven, she'd have found this adorable and amusing and stepped in to complete his thought for him.
This time, she simply stares at him, waiting him out. She isn't going to apologize for him.
Not this time.
Not ever again.
"Well you know, Foster. I was – and on Monday I just, the finances you see, and the editor, and I just needed that money!"
"To pay back the editor. I know." It is why she froze the accounts. And sure, it'd been controlling and she'd known he'd hate it, but if she hadn't of done that, nobody's cheques would be getting paid today. Not even his.
"And you interfered, and it got my back up, and I realize that I may have... over reacted somewhat-" His hands gesture in front of him as he speaks and she stares in complete disbelief. Over reacted.
In her head, she is totally clutching her next shuriken in her first so tightly her imaginary palm is bleeding.
"Over reacted?" She doesn't raise her voice at all, just scoffs at him as she stares until he has to meet her eyes. "Is that what that was?"
"Yes." He smiles for a moment before actually looking at her and the smile slides from his face quickly. "I mean... yes? It's not like I actually meant any of that. I was – I was angry."
"The problem with communicating in anger, Cal, is that the filter gets turned off. People don't say things they don't mean when they're angry – they say things they never meant to say. You meant it. Don't try to pretend you didn't, please. Give me at least that much respect, Cal."
"What?" He stares at her for a beat, his mouth opening and closing before he leans forward, placing his elbows on his knees with his torso still turned to face her. "No, really, what? I don't respect you? That's complete rubbish Gill, and you know it."
"I know it? How, exactly, do I know it? Oh, I get it – from all those times you've listened to my opinion on cases. Or on this business. Or maybe all those times you've respected my decisions and let things go when I asked you to? Or, wait – it must be how you respect me by treating me like the full partner I am in this company."
"Okay, I get that I may or may not have always treated you the way I should have, but Gill, you know me. You know how I feel – about this. I've always respected you." His stare is intense and searching, and she sighs softly to herself because she knows that he believes everything he is saying.
"I don't feel that way, Cal. I feel like – you know what, I don't even know. I'm tired. I really don't want to do this today, of all days. Cal, please?" Exhaustion is seeping into her bones and she feels on the verge of tears, which is ridiculous. This isn't, shouldn't be worth crying over.
There are two solutions, and she hates both of them. She either forgives him and they carry on, him doing what he's always done and her lying to herself that they are whole again with no cracks to show for it, or she refuses to let them go back and every day becomes a struggle fraught with tension. Either way, she loses. And she hates that.
"Alright, love." His voice is disappointed and she flinches, from the tone or the endearment she doesn't know. Maybe both. He stands reluctantly, moving closer to her chair and crouching down in front of her. His hand hovers over her knees, but it never touches her. It just hangs, hesitating and suspended an inch from her legs. "It's just – I feel like this is some sort of... pivotal moment or something, yeah? Like if I leave right now, that's going to – going to break something between us that I don't want broken. I know you're tired, and that's probably selfish of me, but there it is. I don't want to lose you, darling."
The burning sensation increases behind her eyes and she lowers her head, pressing a palm to her forehead as she breathed evenly. It takes a minute before she can look back up at him. "Can we at least not do this here? Not in my office, which I've just spent twelve hours in, just not... here."
"Could I..." his voice is uncharacteristically hesitant as he looks into her eyes, his hands finally settling on one of hers. Even that touch is light, barely there as if he isn't sure if he has permission to complete it. "I could follow you home? Could I?"
She nods even as he's speaking, her shoulders slumping in resignation. At least her house has wine. Lots and lots of it.
The night his wife had left him, she'd looked at him as he came in the door and his stomach had dropped, replaced by an intensely sick feeling. He'd known.
Before she'd even opened her mouth, before he'd even noticed the bags stacked by the back door, he'd known.
As he follows Gillian's car, he feels that same feeling again, and he has to grip the steering wheel so tightly it hurts, just in an effort to make it go away.
He's done a lot of stupid things in his life. Really, terribly stupid things. For all those stupid things, there isn't much he ever regretted, but his words to her earlier this week were one of them.
Panic is rising, and his foot presses down on the gas pedal harder, trying to outrun a feeling that exists within him. He never passes her car though, and he even stops for petrol to give her time to arrive at home without him crowding behind her.
The feeling of dread, balling tightly in knots beneath his chest, grows and grows with each step he takes up her path. He hadn't been lying earlier, when he'd told her he felt like this was a pivotal moment for them. It could go either way, and the thought nearly terrifies him.
She left the door ajar, and he doesn't know if he should be grateful she took the action of knocking away from him, or annoyed by her lack of safety protocol. He clicks the door shut behind him as he moves into her hall, passing her open living space and heading for her kitchen, where he knows she will be.
She is sipping a glass of wine, sitting on a stool and her shoulders are slumped forward. She looks like she's as willing to do this he was, which wasn't a whole bloody lot of willingness to deal with.
"So." Her voice is worn down, tired and faded, and he frowns as he moves up next to her, opting to lean against the counter by her glass instead of sitting across from her. He can tell by the way her posture stiffens that this choice annoys her, but he recognizes the island for what it is – something to be a barrier between them, and he can't allow either one of them the space right now. Give either of their fears and insecurities an inch, and they'd be running after them for miles.
"I know you don't want to do this. Hell, I don't want to do this, Gillian. Because this is going to be a difficult, awkward and potentially painful conversation." He speaks in a conversational tone, as if saying all of this out loud lessens his own fear and anxiety about it. The tightness in his chest and pounding of his heart seem to echo with laughter behind his ribcage.
"Probably, not potentially." She sighs softly, turning her torso so that she can look at him. She looks at him a lot, and he often wonders how often she actually sees him. Some small corner of his mind whispers right back, how often do you see her? "But it has to get done, right? Fine. Shall you start or shall I?"
He stares at her, not just to look for small hints at her emotions, but to actually lean backwards slightly and see her.
What he sees damn near takes his breath away.
She's gorgeous. Of course she's gorgeous – she always has been and has that timeless grace and beauty that ensured she always would be. But that isn't what he sees, isn't what stole the oxygen from his lungs. It's the expression that she carries in her eyes, her mouth, her chin, her eyebrows, her shoulders, her spine. It's defeat, and it makes that knot of anxiety within him burn until he feels like there's a physical ache there, burning away the flesh that surrounds his heart.
"I take you for granted." He speaks softly, and her eyes shoot up to meet his, startled. "I do. I take you for granted because you've always been there, and I take it for granted that you always will be, no matter what I do to you." He pauses, sighing and turning his body into the counter so he can rest on his elbows and look over at her with a frank expression. "Maybe I test you, Gill. Because everyone who's said they'd be there and never leave before has always left because I hurt them, or because they hurt themselves. I think it's pretty fucking clear that I have trust issues. I pushed you away because you were too close, too much shit happened in the last year, and I put you through hell for all of it. Your divorce, and Vegas and some of those cases were just –" He runs a hand over his face as he pauses.
"I did freeze the accounts to control your access to the money." Her confession is just as quiet as his, and he meets her gaze for a moment, seeing the hurt and the pain and the shame and anger within it. "But Cal, what you don't understand is that I haven't been able to draw my pay four times this quarter, simply because we couldn't afford me. And if you had paid that editor her money back, nobody would have gotten paid today." He stares at her in shock, because he'd never even known that their finances were that bad. Guilt eases in to his chest, sitting firmly on top of the burning mess of emotion already located there, and he wonders just how in the hell would his heart take it all? How has hers?
"I didn't know-"
She cuts him off with a sharp shrug and a swig of her wine. "You didn't want to know, Cal."
He doesn't protest because they both know she's right. What's the point in arguing? They're sitting (leaning) here trying to repair something, repair him, her, them and he doesn't even fucking know when exactly they broke.
Was it Vegas? Ben's shooting? Poppy? Clara? Helen? Zoe? He fidgets, because it crosses his mind that maybe they've been broken all along. Maybe his view was already cracked before he met her, and when they fused their lives together, those cracks spread across their joined lives like a spider web.
He'd been hoping she was the bulletproof kind of glass – invisible layers above and below that could hold them all together, no matter what.
"I shouldn't have left that all to you, Gillian. All the administrative and finance stuff." He pauses and she looks over at him. The wine's stained her lips a bit so that they look like a darker shade of pink than they normally do. "I should have been a better partner."
"All I want, Cal," she sighs and the tension seeps out of her frame, her spine relaxes and she leans an elbow on the counter, her head on that hand as she smiles sadly, "is for us to be equal. I thought that was what we agreed on."
He nods, because she's right – he did agree to those terms in the beginning. But it's been more her than him and he's been piling things on her side of the scale little by little while he simply handles cases. Training. Research for a book he's put off writing. "I am really, truly sorry, love." He looks away and his words are low, but they are sincere. He means them and he knows she can see that. Read it. Hear it. "What can I do?"
She laughs, and he knows it's not from humour but from the pointlessness of the question. What can they do?
She wipes a hand across her eyes, and he knows without looking that she is rubbing tears out of her eyes, catching them before they fall, because that's what she does. Catches things before they fall. Tears. The company. Him.
Sometimes he wishes she didn't have to do that. But wishing that is tantamount to wishing her out of his life, and he can never quite think that and mean it. Because how on earth would he manage if she wasn't there? How would he function? How would he survive a lack of Gillian Foster in his everyday life?
He doesn't think (he knows, he know, he knows) he could.
He feels a sudden, blinding need to tell her that. Because that at least is something he can do.
"I don't know, Cal." She sounds small, tiny and defeated and he hates the sound of it. He prefers her voice low, warm and slow. So he reaches over, and picks up one of her hands in his, traces his fingers over the back of her hand idly until she stops staring at the stem of her wine glass on her counter, and looks at him instead.
"Okay, here's what's going to happen, Gill," he begins and she leans forward slightly as she listens, surprise written on her face for a moment before she watches him neutrally. "We're gonna take every case we can – no matter what the hell it is. I'm gonna try to find us another – I mean not the FBI. Obviously, but something like that. Maybe make some calls to the police chief, maybe have a meeting or two. I'm not gonna bitch about the domestic cases, or even the boring ones, though I can't promise not to pass most of those off to Torres and Loker." She smiles slightly at his words, and he pauses for a moment, because she's smiling at him and two days ago he'd felt like that would never happen again.
"You're gonna bring me up to date on the books, and I'm gonna start helping you out there. As soon as we're back on our feet – in the black, red, blue or whatever the hell the good colour is, we'll hire an accountant and someone to deal with the other crap – the HR stuff."
Her smile is weak, but her hand is curling around his and the pressure inside him is easing, just slightly. "I don't know if I trust you with books if you don't even know if we're in the black or in the red."
"Well, red is bad, isn't it?" He grins and she sighs, but her hand is squeezing his now and he feels like maybe they can do this. But that's only fixing their company and nowhere near fixing them.
"Yes, Cal, red is bad." She speaks patiently and her tone is warming up, a fact he is grateful for.
"Gill," his smile slides away and she looks up at him, sobering at the seriousness she can see on his face. "I just, I want you to know – want to tell you, really, just how much of an ass I am. I know you think I don't respect you, and I know I've been bollocks at showing it lately but I don't know what I would do without you. You're my best friend, and you deserve better than what I've been shovelling at you these past few months."
"Cal..." Her tone is a protest but he shakes his head, stopping her words.
"No, you deserve to hear this Gill. I honestly don't know how I would manage without you. And I don't just mean professionally, but personally. The thought of a life without you terrifies me, more than I'll probably ever admit to you. I just – I can't lose you, darling, so I need you to do me a favour and just like, slap the hell out of me right? The next time I get out of line or anything, Gill – just give it to me straight yeah? Don't hold back, because I need you." Her hand is gripping his tightly now, and she sighs, the breath catching on the intake as she stands and finally lets go of his hand, in order to wrap her arms around him, shoulders and neck.
His arms go around her back and he leans into her, pressing her into the counter behind her, his face buried by her neck as he breathes the scent of her in deeply. They sway for a moment, and he doesn't speak, and neither does she. They just hold each other, and exist.
"I promise to slap the hell out of you next time, okay?" Her voice is a whisper against his ear, and her breath is hot against the skin there, and he feels like no other part of his body exists except for that ear. He nods against her neck, feels her hair against his face, feels how small she is in his arms, feels her pressed against him in delightful ways.
"For anything, really. Feel free to slap me at any given moment I'm being a tosser."
"That into S and M are we, Cal?" She teases, and for a half a moment, he has an image of her in leather and seven inch heels and he's absorbed in the fantasy as she slides back a little bit, her eyes scanning his face before she chuckles. "Wow, I never actually knew that."
He feels flustered, which is unlike him, so he grins cheekily down at her, and turns his embarrassment into bravado. "Well love, you can't bring up things like that without me imagining them. And you would look lovely in a nice dominatrix outfit." She blushes, before arching a brow at him, still not stepping out of his arms, but their hold is looser and she seems more relaxed. He watches her blush spread, and she is far too classy to give voice to any of the rejoinders he can practically see dripping of the end of her tongue. "Are we okay?" He asks her honestly, and she smiles, running a hand over his shoulders absently.
"Honestly?" She questions and he nods, even though she doesn't expect any response. "No. Not yet. It still hurts, and I'm not sure if I can trust that things will change."
He can feel his face fall, he can feel his chest suddenly constrict and she leans into him a bit, hugging him a little tighter as she looks up at him with a small smile. "No, Cal, stop it. I'm not saying we won't ever be okay, I'm just saying that I can't lie to you and say it is right this very moment. I may not trust that things will change, but I hope they will. I don't want to lose you, or the company, or us. Okay?"
He nods, partly because he knows she is making perfect sense, and partly because he is agreeing with her. "I'll prove it to you, I swear Gill." The ache eases again, and he breathes easier.
It's not gone completely, and he can still see the network of cracks and lines that is shattered between them. But he can see her on the other side of that glass, and he knows that she isn't going anywhere, that she's willing to help him repair those cracks.
He has his partner back.
He has his best friend back.
And those will have to be enough, until some cracks healed, until he can look at her and she will see him, all of him, clearly.
Standing in the loose circle of her arms, with her heart beating against his and her warmth seeping into his, he thinks that he can wait.
He knows that she'll be worth it.