It's Kelli's birthday, so in my head it's Gillian's too. And we never got to see her birthday on the show, so here's my interpretation of how the day could go :-)
Disclaimer: Blah blah
Gillian opened one sleepy eye, and stifled a yawn. She hadn't slept badly, but it had been quite late when she'd eventually drifted off to sleep. Her first thought was that it was no longer her birthday – just an ordinary Thursday. Her second thought was that it had been one hell of a birthday. She felt him stir beside her, open his eyes and blink tiredly at her. Then, "morning, love," he said, his sleepy voice sounding even sexier.
She smiled as she moved her face to his and kissed him. "Good morning," she murmured, thinking she'd been wrong. This was not going to be an ordinary Thursday at all.
24 Hours Earlier
Gillian opened her eyes and forced them to focus on the soft red glow of her alarm clock. The alarm was going to go off in eight minutes anyway, she might as well get up now. She fumbled for the button to turn it off, then sat up, stretched, yawned. Her mind flashed back to a year ago – waking up with someone else in the bed, cards to open, presents. For all his faults, Alec had managed to pull himself together on days that mattered, like birthdays and anniversaries. She wasn't sorry they'd divorced – their marriage wasn't working, and she was, for the most part, happy exploring life as a single woman – but there were certainly times, like this, when it would be nice to wake up to someone to say happy birthday to her.
Half an hour later she was showered and dressed, and drinking coffee while she buttered a piece of toast. When the doorbell rang her heart jumped – she didn't want to get her hopes up, but perhaps it was a delivery? Someone had sent her flowers, or something?
She walked quickly to the door and hurriedly opened it, smiling when she saw a delivery man standing on her doorstep. "Can I help you?" she asked pleasantly, and he jerked his head towards the parcel at his feet.
"Delivery for next door. They're not in. Could you sign for it"?
She swallowed her disappointment, and nodded. "Of course."
When he'd gone, she returned to her now almost cold piece of toast, munching on it a little sadly before going to finish getting ready for work. It's just another day, Gillian, she told herself as she finished applying her makeup. Just another day.
When she arrived at the office, she was greeted warmly by all who crossed her path – but that was no different to usual. There was no mention of birthdays, or congratulations, and by lunchtime Gillian had almost forgotten it was her birthday. She was swamped with work, she hadn't even seen Cal, and it was only her growling stomach that convinced her she should take a break and get some food.
She was just walking towards the break room when she heard a familiar voice carrying down the corridor. "There she is!"
She turned, smiling. "Hi, Cal." Her smile grew wider as she saw he was holding a large bouquet of tulips, her favourites.
"Happy birthday, darling," he said, kissing her cheek and handing her the flowers. "Sorry I've been out all morning. I tried to call, but no bloody signal where I was."
She raised an eyebrow. "Do I want to know where you were?"
"Probably not." He shrugged off his jacket and tossed it over a chair in the break room, then flopped into a seat and watched as she tended to the flowers. "So. Got plans for tonight?"
"I... no," she admitted. "I was hoping to meet up with a couple of friends, but tonight isn't really a good time for them."
"Excellent," he said, putting his feet up on the chair. "You're free to have dinner with me, then? 'Cause I've already booked the table."
She laughed. "I'm free. Thank you."
"Anything for you, birthday girl," he said, jumping up and giving her another quick kiss. "Sorry I've got to dash out again now... I'll pick you up at seven, okay?"
"Okay," she nodded, feeling happier than she had all day. "See you later."
Ten minutes later, Anna came into the break room and handed Gillian a card and a box of chocolates. "I'm sorry I couldn't give these to you earlier," she apologised. "Dr Lightman's orders."
"He asked you not to give me anything?" Gillian said, her eyes narrowed in suspicion. "Why?"
"He just said we weren't allowed to acknowledge your birthday until he'd seen you today," she replied. "I think he just wanted to be the first, you know? To wish you happy birthday."
"Right," Gillian said, trying to keep her face neutral. "I see. Well, thank you, Anna. For the card, and the chocolates. And the information."
"Anytime," Anna said, and the two shared a knowing look before she turned to leave.
Gillian took another bite of her salad, her eyes on the tulips Cal had given her, her mind on the dinner they'd share tonight, amongst other things.
It was 6.59pm when he rang her doorbell, and she laughed as she opened her door. She quickly took in his appearance; a crisp white shirt and black suit that fitted him so well, and a tie. He looked very smart, and very nice. Very nice. She swallowed, trying to keep her eyes on his face. "Hi."
"Hi," he returned, his eyes sweeping up and down her body. "Bloody hell. You look even more gorgeous than usual."
She felt a blush rising on her cheeks, and stepped aside to let him enter. "I just need to put my shoes on and grab my bag, I won't be a minute."
"Sure," he said, eyeing her figure appreciatively as she walked away.
True to her word, it was barely a minute before she returned, wearing black heels and holding a small black bag. He couldn't help giving her another once over as she approached; the turquoise dress really was stunning.
"New dress?" he queried, and she nodded. "Very nice," he said, and she laughed.
"Come on then," he said, walking out the door. "Let's get going. I doubt they hold your table if you're late at Obelisk."
Gillian dropped the keys just as she was locking the door, her eyes widening as she turned to look at Cal. "Obelisk? Is that a joke?"
"Why, you don't want to go there?" he asked, trying to sound casual, but she could detect the faintest hint of nervousness in his voice.
"Of course I – I would love to – I mean, I've always wanted to – I just can't believe you – I – we..."
He chuckled. "Darling, I believe they call that rambling."
She bent to pick up the keys, and finished locking the door before placing them in her bag and turning back to face him properly. "Obelisk sounds fantastic, Cal. Thank you," she said, and he grinned.
"Come on." He gestured to the car. "Your carriage awaits."
As he held the door open for her to climb in, Gillian thought this might just turn out to be the best birthday she'd ever had.
Gillian couldn't remember the last time she'd had such a fantastic meal. She and Cal had shared some delicious antipasti, which was followed by a porcini ravioli with sage butter that made her want to lick her plate clean. For the main course, she'd been torn between so many dishes on the menu before finally settling on the steak, which had earned her a nod of approval from Cal, who ordered the same.
They then had cheese, served with a delicious fig jam, before ordering their desserts. She'd chosen chocolate hazelnut cake, while Cal had chosen pear spice cake. ("Doesn't mean I like cake, Foster," he'd told her. "Just means it's your birthday, and I'm having cake.")
The conversation had been flowing as easily as the wine; work (although nothing too heavy), Emily, birthdays as a child. They'd both had memories to share of those, although there was always a flicker of sadness behind Cal's eyes when he reminisced about his childhood.
Just as Gillian was about to change the subject again, Cal suddenly pulled a square, silver box out of his pocket. "Suppose I should give you this now," he said, placing the box in front of her.
"What... Cal, you already brought me flowers. And, this..." She gestured at the restaurant. "Or is this not my present?" she asked, suddenly confused. Obelisk was expensive, especially with the wine they'd been drinking.
"No, no," he said waving his hand. "Of course dinner is part of your present. And the flowers. And this." He poked the box, sending it another centimetre in her direction. "Go on, then. Open it."
He was nervous, she could tell. Slowly she reached forward, and picked up the small box. It had lilac ribbon tied around it, which she gently pulled off. When she slid the lid off the box, she let out an audible gasp that had the couple at the next table looking in their direction.
"Cal..." she breathed, pulling the bracelet from the box. "It's... perfect." She felt her eyes start to fill up, and tried to blink back the tears that threatened to spill. She wasn't the kind of woman who cried at jewellery – she hadn't even cried when Alec proposed to her. But the bracelet before her wasn't just any bracelet – it was a charm bracelet; a delicate silver chain that was already adorned with a few charms Cal had chosen for her. She fingered them, one by one.
There was a piece of cake, which made her laugh. "Had to have something to show your sweet tooth," he commented. Then there was a book; "You are an academic, after all," he said, then when she met his eyes, added, "And it's to represent all those trashy romance novels you read."
"They're not trashy, Cal," she said, laughing again, and looked back at the other charms.
There was a pair of sunglasses, ("You did grow up in California, love,"), a high heeled shoe, ("you do have some nice shoes," he'd admitted, making her laugh even more), and...
"What's this?" she said, touching one of the charms, a small solid box.
"It's a cube," he said, suddenly looking a bit embarrassed. "I wanted to get you something to show our work, you know... But you should have seen their faces in the store when I asked what charms they had of liars."
She giggled, fingering the silver cube. "I love it." There was one charm left, and Gillian touched her finger to it even more gently than to the others. It was a small, silver heart.
"This is to show... what exactly?" she asked quietly.
"That you have a big heart," he said immediately. "You're kind, generous, loving. Lovely," he added, and she swallowed, blinking back another tear.
"Thank you," she said, finding those two words were suddenly woefully inadequate. "Would you?" She held out the bracelet and her wrist, and he gently unfastened it, secured it around her wrist before fastening it again.
"Looks nice," he said lightly, as she gently withdrew her hand from his.
"It's beautiful," she said. "And so thoughtful, Cal. Really."
He smiled. "Glad you like it."
She opened her mouth to speak, to tell him she didn't just like it, she loved it, but they were interrupted by the arrival of their desserts. And Gillian could hardly miss their arrival – her chocolate hazelnut cake had four candles on top of it, and the waitress - followed by Cal and most of the restaurant's other patrons – were singing Happy Birthday. She felt her cheeks redden a little, embarrassed to be in the spotlight but mostly delighted by the attention and by the thoughtfulness of this sweet man she'd spent the evening with. Her business partner. Her best friend. Did best friends give this kind of gift? She wondered.
When they'd finished singing, Gillian blew out the candles, extinguishing all four in one go.
"Make a wish," Cal said as she exhaled.
"I did," she assured him with a coy smile.
"One for every decade, there," Cal said as she started pulling the candles out.
"Thanks," she said, rolling her eyes at him. "I'm trying to forget."
He laughed. "Don't worry, you just get more beautiful the older you get, darling. Like me." He winked.
"Yes, Cal," she said, lifting her first forkful of cake to her mouth. "You're getting more beautiful by the day."
"Glad you agree," he said breezily, tucking into his cake.
They munched in silence for a few minutes, before Gillian suddenly frowned slightly, looking up at Cal. "The candles... in the cake..."
"You asked them, before we arrived, to put candles in my dessert..."
"Yes..." he said slowly. "How amazing of you to work that out, Gillian. I'm so glad you're my business partner. What a remarkably sharp brain you have."
"Shut up," she giggled. "I mean... I very nearly had the rose petal panna cotta, didn't I? How would they have put candles in that?"
"I knew you'd have the cake," he said, waving his fork at her. "It was never going to be the panna cotta."
"Hmm," she said. "It could have been the panna cotta. It sounded delicious."
"Gillian, my love, you will always want to eat cake more than panna cotta. And on your birthday, of all days – of course you were going to choose the cake. How is it?" he asked, and she looked down at her plate and nodded.
"It's good. Delicious."
"Good," he said softly, taking another bite of his own, and she smiled.
Forty minutes later they'd arrived back at Gillian's. They'd had to take a cab – Cal had left his car parked near the restaurant after having too much wine to drink – and had once again ignored Gillian's attempts to pay for anything. She'd tried during the meal – "Just let me pay a little," which he'd firmly disallowed – and then the cab. "You paid for the meal, Cal, I can pay the cab fare," she'd said, but once again he'd put his foot down.
"It's your birthday," he reminded her as they walked up the path to her front door.
"Yes," she said, her face lighting up with another smile. "And it's been a fantastic birthday. Slow start..." she said, watching his face closely.
"Oh?" he asked innocently.
"Mm hmm," she said. "I didn't get any birthday attention all morning, apart from a couple of messages from friends outside of work... it seems our employees were under the impression they weren't allowed to wish me happy birthday until after you'd done so."
"Daft lot. Where do they get these ideas?"
She laughed. "I have no idea." She held the door open. "Are you coming in?"
"Am I invited?" he asked, hopping up the step.
"Well, if you weren't invited, would I be asking you if you were coming in? And would we have sent the cab away?"
He grinned. "Excellent points, both. Thanks."
He closed the door behind him, then followed her into the kitchen.
"Coffee?" She called.
"Could murder a cup of tea," he said, sitting down at her kitchen table, and she smiled.
Five minutes later they were both sipping their drinks. Gillian had kicked off her shoes, and Cal's jacket was over the back of his chair. He'd been quite quiet, she noticed, since they'd got back.
"Can I just say..." She leaned forward slightly in her chair. "Thank you, again. This evening was... wonderful."
He smiled, but there was still something on his face that made her feel he was hesitating about something. "Good. You deserve it, love."
She ran her finger around the rim of her cup, wondering what to say next. It was the first time that evening there'd been any real dip in the conversation, and she didn't like it. Just as she'd thought of something to say – not the most interesting, but still – he suddenly spoke.
"The heart wasn't just because you're kind, Gill."
Whatever she'd been expecting him to say, it certainly wasn't that. "I... what?" she asked, putting her cup back on the table.
"I mean, you are," he said. "Don't get me wrong. You're the kindest, sweetest, loveliest person I know. But," he replaced his cup on the table too, and met her eyes across the table. "I didn't choose a heart for your bracelet because of that. The cake means you love eating cake, the shoe means you like buying shoes, the cube means we work in a place that has a cube shaped room..." He took a slightly deeper breath. "And the heart means that I love you."
She felt her heart thump wildly in her chest, and brushed a lock of hair out of her face as she tried to work out how to reply. "Love like... friend love, or... love love?" she asked. She didn't want to make this more awkward for him, but she had to be clear. He had to be clear.
His eyes never left hers as he clarified for her. "Love love."
She swallowed. "I see." She fingered the charm bracelet around her wrist, her hand immediately closing over the silver heart. She closed her eyes, a smile spreading across her face as she let his words sink in. When she opened her eyes he was staring at her, a mixture of hope and apprehension on his face.
"I love you too, Cal," she said, and his expression changed into what she could only describe as pure joy. It had been a long time since she'd seen that look on him – even then, it had always been because of Emily.
"I do," she said, her hand still rubbing the heart on her bracelet. "I have done for quite some time, actually."
"Really?" He grinned at her, more relaxed now than she'd seen him all evening. "You never said."
"Nor did you!" she exclaimed with a laugh.
"I think you'll find I just did, love," he pointed out. "About two minutes ago."
She laughed. "Fair enough." She stood up, then sat down sideways on his lap, her hands clasped behind his head, the charms on her bracelet jangling near his ear. "I'm glad you told me," she whispered, her lips hovering above his.
"Me too," he said, one hand trailing her leg, the other playing softly with her hair. "Me too."
As she brought her lips to his, Gillian knew this would definitely be a birthday to remember.
I may write a second, smuttier chapter of this for those who like that sort of thing. Possibly ;-) Thanks for reading!