Disclaimer: I don't own Lie to Me. Sure wish I did, though. Screw you Fox.
Cal knocked cheerfully on Gillian's door, slightly early for their lunch date. With work having been so hectic lately, they'd barely seen each other. It was Gillian who suggested they meet for lunch on Saturday – actually schedule time to see each other, rather than settling for the brief greetings and two–minute summations of their day that their current work schedule was providing.
When she opened the door, however, Cal's sunny mood instantly vanished. This was not something that usually happened when he saw Gillian Foster; usually it was the opposite.
"Hi," she said quietly, stepping aside to let him in.
"What's wrong?" he asked instantly, his hands on her shoulders. "What happened?"
"Nothing happened, Cal, I'm fine." She gave him a watery smile, and stepped away from him to close the front door.
"Something's wrong," he told her. "And don't tell me not to read you," he said quickly, before she could complain he was invading her privacy with his face reading skills. "Any moron would be able to see you're upset, Gill. Do you want to talk about it?"
She sat down at one end of her sofa, and he gently took a place next to her. After a few moments of idly picking at a loose thread at the sleeve of her blouse, she spoke. "I got a call, earlier, from someone I went to high school with. Our gym teacher, Miss Pryer – she died."
"I'm sorry, love," he said, squeezing her shoulder. "Were you close?"
She sniffed. "I hated her."
"Ah," he said, understanding. "Well, plenty of kids hate their teachers when they're at school. It doesn't mean they really hated them, you know? I can't imagine you really hating anyone without good reason."
She shook her head. "It just makes it so much worse... ask me anytime, about Miss Pryer, and I'd have told you what a... bitch, she was." She shivered slightly at the word, and Cal knew it wasn't easy for her to refer to the deceased in such a way, even if she was talking about how she used to feel. "I'd have told you how she yelled at us if we didn't get changed quickly enough, and how she never believed you when you gave her your reason for not being able to go swimming... you know," she said, a little embarrassed, and he nodded to show he understood. "And how she used to give you these looks if you missed a goal in hockey or something, you know... like... 'you're such a loser'..." She trailed off.
"So she wasn't the friendliest teacher in the world," he said gently. "You disliking her then didn't have any effect on her death, did it? I doubt she lived a miserable life because a few of her students thought she was a mean-spirited woman who never allowed them enough time to get changed into their sports kit."
"It's not that." She reached for a tissue, dabbing at her eyes. "I mean... I do feel guilty. I feel sad that she's dead, and sorry for always saying I hated her, and all of that, but..."
"But what, love?" he asked, puzzled as to what else could be causing her to feel this way.
"She never married."
"Right," he said, not really following her meaning.
"She lived near the school... everyone always talked about how whenever they saw her, she was alone, never even had a boyfriend... she was in her forties when she taught us, but people nicknamed her Virgin Bitch. She wasn't the most... attractive..." She trailed off, chewing her bottom lip as anger towards herself and her peers started to spill out.
"It's not your fault she died a spinster," he said gently. "And she probably didn't even know about those nicknames. Your remorse just shows what a caring person you are."
"Don't you get it, Cal?" She turned to him. "She never married. As far as we know, she didn't have anyone. She wasn't popular with students – I don't remember her being popular with teachers, either. Did she have friends? Family? Did she have anyone at all?"
"I'm sure she did, Gill. Teachers don't exactly flaunt their social life in front of their pupils, do they? And you haven't seen her in over twenty years. How do you know she died alone?"
"The obituary didn't mention anyone. Laura read it to me over the phone."
"Not every obituary mentions those left behind."
She shook her head, sliding further down into the couch. "I know I should just be sad for her, and I am – and guilty – but... I can't help, selfishly, thinking about... me."
"You?" His surprise was evident. "What are you talking about, Gill?"
"She had no husband, no children. I have no husband, and no children. If something were to..."
"Stop that," he said sharply. "Stop that right now, Foster, do you hear me?"
When she looked at him, his jaw was set tight, and there was a pain behind his eyes she hadn't seen before. "I just mean..."
"You're nothing like her," he told her. "For a start, she doesn't sound like the nicest person in the world. A title, which, I believe, could quite easily be handed to you without any arguments from anyone."
She attempted a smile, but it was no more than a brief twitching of her lips before the sadness fell back across her features. "I just don't want to die alone, Cal."
"Hey." He reached for her hand, entwining their fingers, and waited until she met his eyes. "You are not alone."
Her smile was stronger this time, but still tinged with sadness. She squeezed his hand. "I know, Cal."
He reached up and gently tucked a stray lock of hair behind her ear, his fingers lightly brushing against her cheek before he settled his hand on her lap, where his other hand still grasped hers. "You're not alone," he repeated, his gaze locked on hers. There was a firmness to his voice that caused her thoughts to jolt slightly, and unspoken words following his declaration that she felt, even if he did not say them out loud. They were words for another day; a day when she is not saddled with grief and guilt, when her thoughts are not trapped in the past while also worrying about the future, when they can take the moment as it comes, and see where it leads them.
On another day, those words will come. Why she will never be alone; how, exactly, he is going to be there for her; what that means, for both of them. He knows now is not the time, and so does she – but it doesn't matter. His friendship is a rock she knows she can always lean on, and the promise of something more, although not yet concrete, is enough for now. Because she knows the day will come. Just not today.