Zoe pushed her way through the doors to the Lightman group, slowly. On the outside, the world was calm and quiet - far too quiet for her liking - and far too peaceful for her fluttering heart. She was wired, her shoulders tense and her breathing labored. And upon seeing the bustling, frantic atmosphere beyond those frosted glass doors, she felt like the world was moving at the right pace. It was like inside was the real world and out there was the lie.
Out there, was where they didn't know she was missing. Out there was where they didn't even care.
She dropped her handbag down beside the reception desk. She knew it'd be safe there, but in all honesty, the safety of her meager possessions was the furthest from her mind as she tentatively eased her way down the hall, side-stepping rushed employees and thanking the gods a pair of sneakers had been the first shoes in her line of sight, when she'd dashed out of the house.
She had the letter clutched tightly in her hand and as she made her way towards his office, she could hear the eerie voice over the telephone, from earlier that morning, playing over and over in her mind. Her blood was running cold shivers down her spine with every step. She'd never been more terrified in her life.
Cal's office was the hub of the chaos. Phones were ringing off the hook and feet were pounding against the hard floors, muffled only by his rugs, in constant movement. As she stepped through the doorway, she could see him pacing behind his desk.
There were FBI agents everywhere, their blue and yellow jackets, a fluorescent reminder to her, of the terrible fear they faced and she felt a terrible weight on her heart with the knowledge that she was about to add to that fear.
She watched him, pacing back and forth. His shirt was twisted and his jacket looked like it hadn't been washed or pressed in weeks. His hair was oily and his hand running through it in anxious frustration, was the only thing keeping it in check. And suddenly she had some understanding of what Gillian had seen for weeks after she'd packed up Emily, and left him.
He had dark circles around his eyes and his shoulders were even more drawn in on him, than normal. His posture was a joke at the best of times, but right now, he looked positively fetal.
"Cal," She choked, edging toward the desk. She knew that she looked just as haggard as he did. Or at least that's how she felt. She knew the image was fresher in her eyes and wasn't surprised that at first glance, the all-seeing Cal Lightman, didn't notice.
"Not now, Zoe." He grouched, running his hand through his hair again, doing another lap of his desk.
"Cal," She kept her voice soft though not for a lack of trying to raise it. She simply didn't have the strength and she knew that, by the way his eyes shot up to her's, he knew that. "this can't wait."
She knew he didn't mean to be cruel; what he was going through, she'd never wish it on anyone, least of all, him. But she also didn't know where else to go. She didn't know what else to do and he had a right to know, even if she feared telling him. "Gillian's been missing for three days, Zoe." He hissed, storming up to her and invading her space, as if intimidating her by showing her his fears and passions reflected in his petrified eyes, would be enough to get her to back down. Not this time. Not today. Nothing could terrify her more than the news she held crumpled in her hand. "What the hell could be more important than finding her?"
She flinched imperceptibly at the personal attack. Now was not the time to get into their little triangle; which was never really a triangle when the choice of her or Gillian, actually came up. She'd learned not too long ago, that her time had run out. Gillian was the winner now and probably had been for quite some time. It was just that neither of them had the strength to admit what she meant to all of this.
When he was faced with the harsh reality of losing Gillian, near to seventy-two hours earlier, Zoe had learned where she stood. Now it didn't even matter.
Zoe didn't know how to respond to the question, because she didn't want to offer up an actual answer to it. She didn't want to admit, against Gillian's name, that there was something that could crush his soul so much more swiftly. So instead she said nothing. All she did was raise her shaking hand, intensified by the tears falling freely from her eyes, to hold the piece of paper out to him.
She knew immediately that he'd recognize it. He'd seen it before, though it bore a different name. He'd told her about it, the night he'd asked her to make sure Emily was locked up in the house and safe. She blamed herself now, for thinking that Gillian's kidnapping could have nothing to do with herself, nothing to do with Emily. But the terrifying realization was that, in Cal's eyes, both Emily and Gillian were precious and both Emily and Gillian's safety went hand in hand with their peril.
If someone wanted to hurt him, they were the first port of call.
She braced herself for the coming storm. As he took the paper from her hands she straightened her shoulders and steeled herself for the blame. Pressing her eyes closed, knowing the pressure of her closed lids pushed out more tears, streaking her cheeks with lines of muted black; she waited for it to start.
But it never came.
Silence reigned for too long and she opened her eyes to see that he'd fallen to the floor. His back was pressed to the leg of his desk and his eyes closed tightly against the onslaught of tears he hadn't allowed himself to shed for Gillian. She wanted to reach for him, but her body wouldn't move. Her limbs screamed at her to go forward, but her mind chastised her and ridiculed her for being at fault.
She hadn't locked up his treasure like he'd asked. She hadn't heeded the panicked plea and she'd used her uneven footing with Gillian as justification for ignoring his warning.
"Cal," Her voice came out strained and dry, though whatever thought she may have been attempting to voice, died on her lips when he looked up at her.
She'd never seen such pain before. His eyes were rimmed red and his lips pressed into a thin line. She didn't know his science like Gillian, or even Loker or Torres. She didn't know the details, but having lived with him she knew the basics and she knew what she was seeing. There was anguish mixed with a rage and a hurt she couldn't barely fathom. She knew in her heart, that he wasn't going to blame her for this; not ultimately. But that didn't meant he wasn't going to hate her for it.
"I told you," His words were slow, calculated and sharp, piercing her right in the heart. "I told you to keep her safe. I told you not to let her out of your sight until we found Gill."
"I know, Cal," She finally found the strength to move towards him as he clambered to his feet. "I know but she wanted to go to school because she didn't want to think about Gillian out there, scared and lost or worse. She didn't want to be locked up at home, constantly terrified you weren't going to find her,"
He cut her off. "And so you let her go! Just because she didn't want to think about it?" He waved off the hand she reached out to him with. She could feel another presence behind her, knowing it was a man by the looming shadow he cast over Cal's desk. And she flinched as the voice interrupted them.
"Lightman, you got a call."
Zoe dodged out of his way as Reynolds stepped up to the desk, seeing the man's dark eyes take in her appearance with a sympathetic frown. She could see the flash of something in his eyes, but she couldn't pinpoint exactly what it was. The sympathy was there though and she knew that he was curious as to why she looked so rundown, knowing she and Gillian weren't exactly best friends. He didn't know the half of it, though.
"Ben," Cal instructed, his voice firm and steady. "get this over to your crime lab or whatever, I want to know if it's the same as the one I found at my house."
"Where'd this come from?" Ben questioned, taking the folded, rumpled piece of paper from Lightman and carefully opening it up. And it didn't even occur to Zoe to question why Ben was there because even after Cal and his falling out with the FBI, the very idea of Gillian missing - she knew - was enough to bring any man who cared for her, back into the fold. And seeing the two converse, it was like he'd never even been gone.
"That's from Zoe's," Cal eyed him, seeing the look of surprise Ben flashed when he looked back up. "I need to know if the same bastard that took Gillian, has my daughter."
Casting his eyes away and not even sparing Zoe a glance, Cal listened to the voice on the line Ben had handed him, though within seconds he waved for Ben to stop before he left, pulling him closer with a gesture of his hand. Intrigued, Ben rounded the desk, waiting to hear anything from Lightman's side of the conversation and watched closely as Lightman physically deflated.
"What do you want from me?" Cal asked, his voice all but defeated as he pressed his hand to his forehead. "Let me speak to them,"
Zoe's eyes lit up at the thought that Emily was still alive.
"What the bloody-hell do you want?" Cal screamed into the phone and Zoe glanced around, seeing all the heads in the room shoot up at the sound, casting the room into a deathly silence beyond Cal's erratic breathing. He lowered his voice, trying to calm himself before he spoke again. "If you want me to give you what you want," He pressed his eyes closed, taking deep breaths. "you'll let me speak to them."
Silence surrounded them for several moments and Zoe studied Cal's face intently. Normally he was a closed, locked book. Normally, for anyone but Gillian - who seemed to be the only one capable of reading what he didn't want other's to see - it was near impossible to have any idea what he was thinking or feeling. But the way his eyes widened and his shoulders slumped, she knew immediately what was going on.
"Oh my god, Gill, love, are you hurt? Are you alright, Darling?" Silence again as they all waited on baited breath. "Calm down, Darling, it's alright, you're going to be alright. Is Emily there with you, is she okay?"
Zoe's heart fell into her stomach as Cal released a breath in relief.
"Listen to me, Darling. We're going to give this plonker what he wants," He shook his head, gesturing wildly at the phone. "no, love, I don't care. No, not when it comes to you and Em, no." He was pacing again and all Zoe could do was watch him, biting her nails and knowing that beside her, even though she couldn't see it, Ben was chewing anxiously on his lip. "You just, you hold on, alright," Zoe could see the tears in his eyes again, surprised that he didn't turn his face toward the window. She knew the moment between him and Gillian was private on some level, but the idea of him leaving his emotions so raw and open for the whole room to see, seemed to give her the permission she needed to watch, unflinchingly. "you stay close to Em and you don't let her go, alright love? I'm going to get you out of this. No, darling," He breathed, his voice lowering to just a little more than a choked whisper. "if it's the last thing I do. You just stick together, I know you're strong. You can do this, no," His eyes widened and Zoe tensed as he seemed to panic. "no, Gill! Gill!" He screamed into the phone, but the conversation was over, they all knew it. "You bastard, if you hurt either of them, I swear-"
He seemed to have been cut off and Zoe could feel her heart beating wildly in her chest.
He stared at the phone for a long time and not a single person in the room dared to so much as cough. Slowly, he lowered his hand to rest the receiver on the desk, studying the wooden surface. "Reynolds, get Loker and Torres in here." The man was gone in an instant and Zoe's heart had suddenly moved from her stomach to her throat, living in a perpetual state of being anywhere but where it should.
"Cal," She started, realizing that that seemed to have been all she was really able to say since she arrived.
He held his hand up to silence her. "Just," She froze as he met her eye, his hand still held out between them. "Just, don't. Gill's in pain, Zo. I could hear it. You just," He made his way around the desk. "just stay here."
She opened her mouth to respond but Torres, Loker and Reynolds dashing back through the door, silenced her.
"Torres, stay here with Zoe," He turned to look at her then, his piercing eyes practically tearing the skin from her bones. And she knew why he was so afraid. The part of her that wasn't terrified was touched, and she knew that he'd be able to see that if he weren't so wrapped up in fear. "don't let her out of your sight. Go with her to the bathroom, if you have to."
Ria nodded, smart enough to know not to argue with him. But Zoe opened her mouth to protest. "Don't argue with me Zoe; I'm not in the mood." And within moments, followed by Reynolds and a rather confused Loker, he was gone. She slumped down into the worn couch, pressing her hands to the inside of her thighs as she shook with worry.
"They're going to get them out of this." Torres smiled though Zoe could see the worry there.
She shrugged. "Maybe if he does, he'll be so happy he won't remember how badly I've screwed up. I allowed my own rivalry get in the way and I could lose Emily because of it." She was in tears now, her shoulders pulled up high as she sobbed. Torres didn't touch her though, not sure what to do or say. "I don't even dislike Gillian," She admitted. "I really don't and I don't think I ever did. It was just easier that way, you know," She looked to Torres, to see if she really did understand. She seemed too, but a part of her wondered if that understanding was simply calculated empathy. "It was easier to blame her as though she had something to do with any of our problems." Her voice became raspy. "It was never her fault."
Zoe could see Torres visibly wince at her words. She knew that she and Loker would have been filled in on the details and she knew they'd have known of his plea to protect Emily. So she knew that a part of them probably blamed her too. It was bad enough Gillian was missing, whom they all loved. But now Emily was missing too and the potential of losing Cal as well as his two most treasured people in the world, was eating away at them all.
"He's going to get them out of this, he has to." Torres' voice cracked and Zoe wondered if she was saying it more for her own benefit, than her's.