Disclaimer: Lie to Me characters and concept do not belong to me. Nor does any dialogue or storyline that I have used that come from any actual episodes.
A/N: Hey guys! I'm pulling the whole exam excuse again :-D But anyways, here's Honey, and a very sincere thanks for your patience.
x x x
Chapter 18: Honey
All in all, by the time Eric Matheson showed up at the Group waving his gun around and threatening to kill everyone in sight, the day hadn't been going well for Cal anyway.
Going to a singles mixer to investigate a potential cheating wife, and then having a shouting match with Gillian about their financial situation because he had bought Zoe out were not things he enjoyed.
The stupid mixer had put him in a bad mood already. In fact, he had been in a bad mood simply driving there. And it was all Gillian's fault really, having talked him into it in the first place. It was out of that frustration towards her more than anything that spurred him to approach the most attractive woman there and ask, "If we were in a hotel room, and you could order one thing from room service, would you get chocolate cake, strawberries or warm honey?"
It had been his pick-up line for years, and he always seemed to use it on women who chose warm honey. Except Gillian, who had retorted that she would get all three as well as something a little more substantial, and if he was too cheap to let her, then she wouldn't be in his hotel room for long. That conversation had happened before they had gotten together when he had used the line to flirt with a woman for a case once. Just the memory of that got him over his little flash of spite.
In any event, he accidently wound up with the woman slipping her card into his hand as he was leaving, a seductive look in her eyes. Definitely warm honey. He absent-mindedly shoved the card into his pocket for lack of anywhere else to put it and walked away, his last thought about her before she vanished from his mind being one of regret for approaching her at all.
Arriving back at the Group in a decidedly cranky mood, Cal disposed of the suspicious ex-husband and promptly got into a bitter argument with Gillian about the whole thing. They had been bickering on and off about this for a while, but the past week had been particularly bad. Gillian was stressed out, and he was stubborn. He had his dignity after all, and whether or not this whole financial crisis was his fault, he wasn't going to allow that to besmirch his science. In any event, this was the first argument actually to get out of hand, and the first time she had blatantly reminded him that he had caused this. She had just lost her temper and slammed an armful of paperwork into his chest when Matheson arrived with his arm around Torres' throat and his gun in the air.
It all got very serious very quickly when one of the interns sprinted out of the corridor, causing Matheson to prove exactly how trigger happy he was. Two of the loudest shots Cal had ever heard rang out, and he staggered sideways to make sure he stood between Gillian and Matheson, his hand held in front of him, as he yelled for Matheson to stop. He then very quickly manoeuvred Torres out of danger as he pointed out that he was Cal Lightman of the Lightman Group. He was the one Matheson was after. He was the one who could help. And then finally he manipulated the safety of the rest of his employees by convincing Matheson to follow him to his office.
Throughout the tense conversation Cal's heart pounded uncontrollably, but he was clear on his immediate objective, which was to ensure nobody got hurt. But that didn't stop him from saying fiercely to Gillian, "No police!"
He knew that look in her eye, the one that said she was pretty sure the police needed to be called. But as they made eye contact, he knew she had seen how serious he was, and knew that she trusted him. They were safe for now.
Well … safe-ish.
x x x
Gillian regained her composure very quickly. She did this thanks to years of experience being married to a drug addict who would come home in various states of disrepair. She bottled up all the sick fear that had flooded her stomach, and stashed it to the side so that she could face the job at hand. With Alec, it had merely involved shoving him into a shower or bed (depending on how likely it was he was going to fall over).
Right now, the problem was a bit more complex. But she took a breath, and decided that the first move was to get Reynolds, who probably had far more experience in dealing with this sort of thing and, conveniently, was not technically a cop. And Loker, because he was their best technical expert.
Reynolds, predictably, was less than impressed on discovering the situation. Gillian had to use her best vulnerable face to win him over. Luckily, that wasn't too difficult, because all she had to do was let out just the tiniest drop of the fear that was sealed away, just the smallest molecule, as she snapped loudly, "If we do not do exactly what this guy says, he will kill Cal!" and she was already so frightened that it showed all over her face.
And then Cal called her into his office.
She was more relieved to be in there with him than frightened of Matheson. Cal asked something insignificant about how the others were doing and she replied off-handedly, but they spoke mountains with their eyes. She told him that she loved him, that she was terrified for him and that she would do everything in her power to protect him. He told her that he knew that, that he loved her and that he would make sure they all got out of this alive. They shared in their longing for this not to be happening, to be back in the middle of some silly argument away from guns and angry madmen.
All this passed between them in seconds, before Cal handed her a piece of paper. He told her that this was the guy Eric knew to be the real suspect, and asked her to track him down and talk to him. His eyes told her how very sorry he was for asking her to do this, and begged her to be safe. When Matheson lost his temper and thrust his gun at Gillian, Cal yelled and reasoned and seemed firm and level. His voice told her that he was terrified, too. Terrified that she might get hurt. And when he looked at her again, his eyes were so vulnerable and tender, she thought her heart might break. And then she realised that his eyes were mirroring her own expression right now, and that he could see her own vulnerability, and that was why he was … She tried to stop thinking too much, because the bottle holding her fear was running out of space.
x x x
"You married?" Matheson asked suddenly.
"Not anymore, no," said Cal, as though he was having this conversation over a cup of coffee, as opposed to a gun. They had been sitting waiting for Gillian for somewhere around half an hour now.
"So, which one you banging? Uptown chick, or the salsa queen that drove me here?"
Feeling a flash of irritation, Cal had to exercise extreme self-control to prevent a typical snarky retort. Instead, he said mildy, "Not really your business, is it?"
"So, both of 'em?"
Cal didn't bother responding, which Matheson seemed to take as confirmation. "That's one thing I got over guys like you," he spat. "My woman loved me. We had something real. Guys like you ... empty. So, you try and fill yourself up with nice suits and stupid art and show-off books and by nailing your employees in the copy room."
Cal observed this tirade with interest, not remotely offended because he knew how off-base Matheson was, and began to pick up what bothered this guy.
"You got a job, Eric?" he asked curiously.
He was, truthfully, almost getting bored. He wanted to find something out, understand this guy. Anything other than waiting for Matheson suddenly to get angry for no clear reason and start gesturing with the gun yet again. Establishing that Matheson had some sort of complex about not being the provider of the house was interesting, and he stored the information away. His gun-wielding companion, however, didn't take kindly to being analysed, so Cal sighed and waited for him to calm down again.
He was tired.
No. He was scared.
x x x
It had been frightening enough for Gillian to convince Matheson that they needed to be in the lab to watch that stupid tape. She and Cal had exchanged a couple of quick "this is necessary, trust me please" looks, but behind it all, she saw that he was scared. And seeing Cal Lightman scared was extremely scary in itself.
But then Matheson got angry again when Cal found out about the loan his wife had been trying to pay back, and he got closer to the brink of his temper than he had so far. Gillian's heart came to a near stop as she stared at the monitor, too afraid even to cry. Cal's eyes were screwed shut as well. And Cal never closed his eyes. What he could see was his advantage, his weapon. Why was he closing his eyes?
She wanted to scream.
But once again, Matheson stopped himself, and gave the name of the friend he had borrowed the money from. Gillian's relief was so intense, that she had to vanish to the bathroom to allow the tears to leak out in private. She was strict with herself, though, and didn't allow a breakdown. Not yet.
Having Reynolds on her side was probably the only thing that kept her strong, because that man knew how to get things done, and he wasn't wasting that talent today.
x x x
This was all too much for Ben Reynolds.
He absolutely could not believe that he was doing this. This wasn't him. He wasn't a leave-the-cops-out-of-this-DIY-detective-thriller-paperback-Tom-damn-Cruise kind of guy. But one look at the frightened desperate eyes of Gillian Foster, and he was a lost cause. And as the day progressed, it became clearer to him exactly how aware she was of her power over men, and how willing she was to use it for Cal Lightman. How willing she was to do anything for him.
The best Ben could manage was to try compromises. He managed to get the rest of the employees of the Group out safely. He also managed to get Gillian to move Matheson into the lab. That had been all so far, but still, it was something. However, he couldn't stop her from going alone into that bar to flirt Zancanelli into Reynolds' grasp.
He gaped as she put on lipstick, flashed him her cleavage and disappeared from his view. It occurred to him then that he now had more than one reason for Lightman to kill him when he got out of there: he had let Gillian do this ridiculously dangerous thing alone, and he was having decidedly inappropriate thoughts about her after the little view she had given him. He was only human after all.
To his relief, her plan worked.
Regardless, he had to find a way to resist her charms. Because he was pretty sure somehow that this was all a terribly bad idea. He knew how dedicated she was to Lightman, how dedicated they were to each other. But this had to stop. He had to be the voice of reason. He had to protect the both of them from themselves.
x x x
It took some more discussion, but it all became clear very soon. Clear how Matheson revered his wife, and how he hated himself. Clear by the look in his eyes.
"That's your guilt, isn't it?" murmured Cal, staring at him. "For contaminating her. You didn't want to drag her into your world. You considered her a pure soul, and you tried like hell to keep her that way." He suddenly winced to himself as realisation flooded him. "And now she's dead."
Matheson glared at him and Cal felt his own heart fill with misery as he began to identify more and more with this man.
"There's no way you could tell that just by looking at my face," said Matheson softly, and Cal could see the pain etched into every one of his features.
"No, just the guilt part," Cal mumbled. Right now, he only had Gillian's face in his mind's eye, those bright clear eyes, so good, so innocent, so pure. And he, Cal, was putting her in danger. Danger of losing that. Of losing herself.
Matheson was watching him as he slowly sat down. He seemed to have realised that they had something in common.
"Where does the rest come from, then?" he asked Cal.
There was a long silence as Cal fought the desire to tell Matheson to mind his own bloody business again. Instead, against all his instincts, he whispered the truth.
"Well, that's how I feel sometimes about a woman I know."
It was somewhere around there that Cal became desperate to get out of the situation. Get out of the possibility of hurting Gillian by getting himself killed. And so he tried as hard as he could to talk Matheson down. It was working, too, until the stupid cops showed up.
And all of a sudden, despite Torres' deft handling of the situation, the likelihood of his death seemed very high indeed.
He hated how afraid he was.
He hated that he had to see Gillian crying as she begged Matheson to let him go.
He hated her pain and terror.
He hated the possibility of leaving her.
x x x
Telling Matheson the truth about why Connie had died was not something Gillian relished. It would be so painful for him that she knew he might react in a temper. Might kill Cal. But she had to tell him, because there was nothing left to do. He reacted with predictable stunned horror, and began to display the irrational pain and anger. Seeing the opportunity to get Cal out safely slipping away, and feeling her eyes fill with tears at the thought, she managed to say shakily, "Eric, we did everything that y-you asked. Let him go."
"Foster," mumbled Cal warningly, staring at her, but she kept her eyes on Eric.
"Please," she begged, but it certainly wasn't working.
"Gillian," said Cal now, and she finally looked into his eyes. They were both terrified. His eyes begged her to walk away, begged her to stop, and it took everything she had to listen to him. To trust him. She swallowed hard, nodded, and backed slowly out of the room. Unable to tear her eyes away. Always afraid that this would be the last time she would see him alive.
She told him she loved him with her eyes.
x x x
Reynolds was watching the monitor over their shoulders as Matheson began to yell that he wanted to speak to Zancanelli. Watched as he got angrier. Watched as Gillian covered her mouth in panic, as Torres blanched, as everyone around him more or less reacted as though Lightman had just been shot.
It was scary for him, knowing that they all knew this guy was about to shoot.
Even scarier when Gillian rounded on him and told him that they had to do what Matheson said.
"Just march Zancanelli out there so this guy can shoot him?" he demanded furiously. "Welcome to the one thing I won't do today!"
He felt as though she must have lost her mind. And it made him realise how afraid she must be, how desperate she must be, how he would never be able to live with himself if he allowed Cal Lightman to die on her.
It seemed Loker had the same sense of urgency, because he came up with a ridiculous idea that Ben only went with because he had no other choice. Because it was the only chance he had that Gillian Foster wouldn't break into pieces in front of him.
And thank God that plan worked, too.
x x x
Cal couldn't think much. He felt the need to throw up, or something. In a daze, he walked out, handed the gun to Gillian, and didn't respond to her touch. He felt too sick. He had to get away. He walked and walked until he realised he was at his car, and then he got in and drove. He needed a drink, for God's sake.
He stopped at the first bar he came across, which happened to be a hotel bar, and sat on a barstool. He ordered a scotch, and ignored the world. All he could think was that he really needed his heart rate to slow down, his stomach to stop clenching, his breathing to stop coming in gasps. His phone buzzed, and he took it out of his pocket. It was a text from Gillian. All it said was, "I'll be at my place. Love."
He hesitated. He knew he should call her, or reply, but at that moment he was far too terrified to make contact. Terrified of the pain, of the guilt. He didn't want to reach for meaning. He just couldn't care right now.
He suddenly realised there was a card that he was gripping along with his phone. He must have had it in his pocket as well. He slipped it out from behind the phone, and stared at it. Then he clicked. The warm honey girl.
Before he had really thought about it, he was calling the number on the card.
"Hi," he said.
There was a pause, and then she asked, "I'm sorry, who's this?"
"We met at the mixer today."
"Oh, right," he could hear the warmth in her voice. "I recognise the accent."
"Care to join me for a drink?"
After he had hung up, he found himself feeling more numb than before, which was an improvement. At that point, he didn't feel guilty or afraid. He had no intention of sleeping with her, or making any kind of a move. He just wanted to have a superficial flirtatious conversation with someone who had no idea what kind of day he'd had, and who didn't care. Someone who hadn't spent the day terrified and heartbroken because of him. Someone who didn't have a pure soul that he would taint.
She arrived twenty minutes later, as he was ordering his third scotch. She looked unbelievably beautiful, and he could tell she had put in the effort to look that way. He felt a bit bad for her, but she would get over it in the end.
She sat down, smiling invitingly, and he felt helplessly flattered that she seemed so attracted to him. She didn't even know him. Actually, that probably helped, he thought dryly to himself. Unfortunately, he found that he was unable to hold a light-hearted conversation, and his flirtatious programming seemed to have shut down.
A simple question like, "So what do you do?" elicited only introspection and gloom. Maybe this wasn't what he needed after all. He suddenly wished he could just be held for a while. In silence. In comfort.
Almost as though the universe was trying to make a point, her next words were, "So, describe your perfect woman."
He thought of all the things he could say about Gillian, the many many things. Stuff like she's intelligent and beautiful and all those classic words. Then his favourite things about her, like she's loyal and she loves unconditionally and she loves my daughter and I trust her. She's always on my side. She protects me. She lets me protect her. Or try, anyway. He could protect her from everything except himself, and no-one could deny that he brought trouble and pain. Today was a perfect example. But the one that stuck out, that flew into his head first and permeated every other description was: She's my best friend. So that's what he said.
"She's my best friend."
Warm honey girl's eyebrows shot up, and he realised that he was being a jerk to her, too.
"I shouldn't be here," he admitted apologetically. "I'm sorry."
The girl eyed him in some annoyance, but then nodded her head and sipped her drink.
"Well, does your best friend know she's your ideal woman?" she asked.
"Yeah, but I guess the real question is whether or not I'm her ideal man."
He stared for a while, and then admitted softly, "She seems to think so, but probably not."
The girl rolled her eyes, and waved at the barman to bring her another drink.
"Look, since you just wasted my evening, I'm not going to be polite about this," she informed him. "But you're being a chauvinist jerk."
"Excuse me?" snapped Cal.
She gave an exasperated sigh.
"It's her call, not yours. If she thinks you're her perfect man, and God help her if she does, that's her business, and you should just be grateful. And maybe try to be better than you're being right now."
She picked up the drink that had just been handed to her, took a slug and then glared sulkily at the wall behind the bar.
Cal thought about the fact that she might have a point in the end, and that he truly was grateful, and he did try to be as good for Gillian as possible. Until he went and did something stupid like run away from her after the love of her life (as she sometimes called him) had spent the day nearly getting killed before her eyes. This wasn't trying. This was running. He was glad he had caught himself. It was sometimes too easy to slip into self-loathing and lose perspective.
x x x
Gillian was sitting huddled up on her couch and staring at the TV without interest. She had no idea what she was watching, and she didn't care. She was using all her concentration on trying not to think about Cal. She knew he would come over at some point, probably when she was already asleep so he wouldn't have to talk about it. Not that she was likely to fall asleep with any ease that night.
She was surprised, therefore, when she heard his keys at the door just after eight. So early. He let himself in, and she stood up at once to go to him, to wrap her arms around him in a tight desperate hug, which he fiercely returned. When they eventually pulled apart, he turned to close the door, before moving to hold her in his arms again. Unable to help herself, she pulled him into another embrace, burying her face in his neck. She could feel him burrow into her hair, and then he mumbled, "I'm sorry I ran out like that."
"That's okay," she murmured gently. "Everyone's dealing with it in their own way ..." She paused, and then asked, "Where'd you go?"
He sighed into her hair, and said, "A bar. No fun without you there."
She smiled, and kissed the skin that was at her mouth. Neither of them felt any inclination to let go.
"Look, that whole accounts thing," he said, uncomfortably, "I mean, we'd be working out of a shoebox if it weren't for you, so really, that's all yours. And I'll respect that."
She chuckled gently, amused that he had been worrying about that of all things, and said, "It's okay. I know you hate that kind of stuff, and I mean, we're better than cheating spouse cases. Besides, I don't need to be sending you off to flirt with other women."
There was a pause from her shoulder, and then his muffled voice said quietly, "Well, whatever you decide. I'm just sorry I got so angry."
"We were both angry; I didn't take it personally," she said comfortingly into his collar.
He pulled away then, and kissed her warmly. Then he asked her, "Do you think of me as your ideal man?"
She hadn't seen that coming, but she decided not to question it. He'd had a hard day after all.
"Of course," she said sincerely. "You're my best friend, and I love you. What else could I ask for?"
"Even when I'm ... Causing trouble?"
She grinned at him, and said, "Well, you wouldn't be you if you didn't cause trouble."
He smiled back at her, but she was a bit startled to see pain in his eyes.
"What's the matter?" she asked, concerned.
"I ... I just want you to be happy, you know."
He was muttering, and avoiding her eyes. She leaned over to kiss the side of his mouth, and told him very firmly, "I'm happy. I'm happy with you."
He smiled widely this time, and she was relieved to see a light return to his eyes.
"So, you should move in with me, then."
Surprised, she nevertheless smiled and said, "I should?"
"Yeah. We make each other happy. I'd like to live with the person who makes me happy."
She found herself feeling a great rush of affection for him. It wasn't as though she hadn't seen this coming - it had been brought up before. But he was speaking with decision this time, looking at her earnestly, and then, almost as though he had been standing in her head, he added, "We've talked about it before. Don't you think it's about time?"
She nodded, and murmured, "I guess it is." Then she reached over with her hand, and ran her fingers over his cheek.
"That's a yes, then?"
"It's a yes."
She was surprised at how happy he looked right then. Just happy. He hugged her warmly again, and sighed into her ear, "It helps, coming home to you after a day like today."
"Good," she said against his neck, and then added because she absolutely couldn't not, "I love you so much, Cal."
"Back at you, darling."
x x x
A/N: Thanks!Hope that was worth the read. I really appreciate your thoughts! :-)