A/N: I don't own LTM* or any of the characters... but oh how I would love to borrow Cal for a while.
This story takes place during season 2, after "Exposed" and before "Darkness and Light." Several of the upcoming chapters will have flashbacks that help fill in a few of the missing pieces as to what is going on between these two. And lastly, in my little world, Wallowski doesn't exist. :) Thanks for reading!
The package had been delivered earlier that morning, wrapped in a plain brown envelope and marked only with her name on the front. "Doctor Gillian Foster," the label read. And even that much had been typed… there wasn't one single handwritten word to help her identify the sender. She wasn't overly suspicious; the Lightman Group had plenty of security measures, after all. They'd survived bombs and gunmen and even a few kidnappings – anything threatening tended to charge full force through the front door, totally conspicuous and unafraid of capture. One abnormal piece of mail barely gave her pause at all.
So it was with mild curiosity that Gillian slid the sharp metal point of her letter opener through the seal and peered at the contents inside. She saw only a few printed pages, and she casually spilled them onto her desktop, not expecting anything of real importance.
The pages landed face-up in front of her in a rather haphazard pile, and for a moment she didn't really focus on the specifics… she saw that they were all photographs, and that they were all candid shots of a rather intimate nature. But the most important details didn't hit her until several seconds later.
And when they did, she felt physically ill – like someone had knocked all the air from her lungs with one swift punch to the gut.
It was Cal's face staring back at her, completely oblivious to the camera lens… Cal's eyes that were foggy with desire as he kissed the beautiful blonde woman in his arms… Cal's hands that rested high on her thigh as he leaned into her body. Gillian pulled her hand away from the photos as if she'd been burned. Instantly, she felt tears begin to sting her eyes.
Whoever sent them was good. Damn good. If they wanted a reaction, they most certainly got one. She didn't know whether to cry or hit something. Part of her was tempted to do both. She'd never felt so foolish.
He had lied to her. All of that crap about 'no more secrets' had apparently just been a line. Just lip service, to smooth over the situation with Burns. And when he said he wanted her… in the worst possible way. Was that all just part of the con? At first, she'd thought he was bluffing – thought it was all part of the act. But since Dave left, Cal had been… different, somehow. He'd been less destructive and more caring. Baby steps. Not rushing into anything. Not risking anything.
Maybe that had all been part of the con, too.
The longer she looked at those pictures, the more furious she became – furious with him for acting like some Casanova reincarnate, and furious with herself for thinking that they were finally on the road to something stable. Something permanent. Something more than just friendship.
Gillian tried to blink away the unshed tears and then fanned her hands in front of her face to cool herself. She would not cry. Not now, not here, not this time. Not when Cal could walk through her office door at any second, unannounced and able to see right through her. He'd probably accuse her of being jealous and smothering and get a little thrill out of it in the process. It was a familiar pattern with them – their own game of cat and mouse, so to speak. Cal always liked to push his limits with her.
And she was jealous… irrationally so. She just wouldn't give him the satisfaction of seeing it this time.
Sighing deeply, Gillian picked up the first photograph to study Cal's face. Arousal… excitement… determination. She read every expression and filed them all away in her mind, like some kind of twisted scorecard. The second image was no different – although, she had to hand it to the photographer. He'd really zoomed in for a close-up on that one, leaving her with little doubt that the woman with Cal was enjoying it just as much as he was.
Was that the whole point of this little game? To make her want what she couldn't have?
On instinct, she raised one photograph in front of her and poised her fingers on opposite corners, ready to rip the image apart inch by inch until the last traces of his satisfied expression had been erased. She was hurt and she was angry, and in that moment the last face she wanted to see was that of Cal Lightman, in print or otherwise.
At then as if on cue, she heard the unmistakable sound of his footsteps approaching her office and she scowled. Of course, she thought. Everything else about this day has gone completely to hell – why not this?
Gillian sighed and dropped the photo back onto the desktop with the others. She didn't try to hide them – there was no point.
Without bothering to knock, Cal popped his head in her doorway and flashed her a charming smile. "There you are, love," he greeted, completely oblivious to the pictures on her desk and the anger that she felt. "Fancy a bite of lunch? I'm feeling a tad peckish myself and I thought you might like to join me."
Gillian barely looked at him – she knew he would be able to read her, and she wanted to avoid the confrontation that was bound to happen when he did. Well, not avoid it entirely – but at least postpone it until she'd had a chance to calm down a bit. An angry Foster versus a defensive Lightman wasn't exactly an office appropriate event. Best to wait until the rest of the staff had gone home, and she could strangle him in peace. "I'll pass," she answered brusquely. "Now if you'll excuse me…"
She swiveled her chair away from him, pretending to be engrossed in a case file. If ever she'd tried to dismiss anyone, it was now – she just hoped he'd catch on and not question her.
"Bit harsh there, Gill," he replied, mockingly clutching his hand to his chest in a wounded gesture. "Least you could do is look at a guy when you shoot him down. Especially one who was going to treat you to dessert."
Cal shuffled toward her couch and flopped across the end that was closest to her desk. She could feel him watching her, weighing his options. "A chocolate dessert, at that," he finally offered, and she could hear the hurt in his voice.
Gillian still faced away from him, absently thumbing through the pages in the file she held. "I'm not hungry."
Don't elaborate, she thought. Maybe he'll take the hint and leave.
She heard the rustle of fabric as Cal shifted on the sofa… heard the change in his breathing as he mulled his next move. He didn't speak for several seconds, and when he did, the hurt in his voice had been wiped away. "Want to talk about it, Foster?"
So it was back to Foster now, she mused. Distancing language… Cal was in self-preservation mode. He knew she was angry with him, but he had no idea why.
Gillian didn't react at all. She knew she should bite her tongue, and she probably would have, if not for his next few words.
"Alright then, maybe we can just skip the talking all together – jump right to the 'kiss and make up' part, yeah?" His tone was dismissive and joking, and it only served to make her angrier.
Of course he didn't mean anything by it… he wasn't trying to make things worse. He was just doing what he always did, hoping to flirt his way out of trouble. Cal could be extremely charming when he wanted to be. Especially with her. But he also had a knack for saying exactly the wrong thing at exactly the wrong time.
Like right now.
Gillian could see herself almost from a third-person perspective. She watched her hands ball into fists against her desktop and then spun in her chair to face him head-on. She knew her expression screamed anger, and based on Cal's reaction, he clearly hadn't been expecting the severity of it. His mouth fell open in surprise before she had even spoken.
"Funny you should mention kissing," she spat. "Seems you've been doing a lot of that these days."
Cal recoiled, clearly stung by the anger behind her words. And when he did, a tiny voice in the back of Gillian's head began to nag her, insisting that Cal was not hers, and he could damn well kiss whoever he wanted, whenever he wanted, and there was nothing she could do about it at all.
He stood from the couch and approached her, not stopping until he rounded the corner of her desk and stood inches from her chair. His proximity forced her to look up at him, but she did not rise. "Something you want to say to me, then?" he asked.
Gillian glared, and simply reached for one of the photographs. She spun it in his direction, so that it pointed up at him as he hovered over her chair, and then tapped it angrily with her finger. "You know what they say, Cal," she said. "A picture is worth a thousand words."
Her tone was harsh and accusatory, and it took a few seconds for him to drop his gaze to the desktop. When he finally did look down to find his own face staring back, he was stunned. Literally speechless. A thousand questions instantly fired through his brain and fought for dominance. Who the hell took those pictures? Why on earth did they send them to Gillian? And why was the sight of them enough to make her look like she was ready to murder him?
Cal didn't know what to say or how to say it – but he knew he had to say something. He became fixated on Gillian's face and on all the emotions that flashed across it. Anger, predominantly… disappointment… sadness… and there, just a tiny little flicker of something she was doing her best to hide. Something she most definitely didn't want him to see. Jealousy.
He blinked rapidly and squinted, not trusting himself to have seen it correctly. She was jealous? Of that woman who wouldn't take no for an answer when he insisted that he was not interested? That yes, he did have someone special in his life. She'd pretty much thrown herself at him after two drinks, latching onto his mouth before he'd even seen it coming. Damn near took a crowbar to pry her away.
Hell, he didn't even remember her name.
Hindsight told him it was a really stupid move, but the words were out of his mouth before his better judgment could stop them. "Can't even remember her name, love."
He spoke the words gently… quietly. He was still in disbelief over the jealousy, and the last thing he meant to do was make anything worse, or make it sound like he was bragging – as if that woman was some kind of nameless conquest he'd just thrown aside.
But clearly that's what Gillian heard.
She was livid.
She slowly stood from her chair and faced him, folding her arms across her chest in a classic defensive posture. Cal could see the entire scene unfolding like some kind of twisted misunderstanding. He knew he needed to fix this before Gillian read more into the situation than was actually there. Before anger overran every other emotion he'd seen until she couldn't feel anything else.
His gut reaction was to apologize. Smooth it over, let her yell at him, and then walk away. He opened his mouth to do just that, and that's when it hit him. She had no reason to be jealous unless…
Holy shit. For a moment, Cal thought he might actually faint. After years of her sodding line and all the rules that went with it – all the hugs and the side-of-the-mouth kisses that left him full of an aching desire to snuff the bloody thing out and tell her how he really felt – was she finally ready for something more? It was almost more than he could process.
"Save it, Cal. I'm not interested in the details."
She brushed past him and headed for the doorway, leaving the photographs forgotten behind her.
He took two steps to follow her, finally managing to speak just as she reached the threshold. The entire situation was going straight to hell, and he was in a bit of a panic. "You don't understand, Gill," he shouted. "It's not what you think. She came on to me. And all I wanted…"
Gillian's gaze shot to his and the rest of the words died on his tongue. She raised her hands in front of her chest to stop him, letting him know she didn't want to hear anymore. As far as she was concerned, the conversation was finished.
Gillian shook her head and set her mouth in a firm line. Her eyes stared daggers at him, and she let out a noise of quiet disgust. "You must think I'm some kind of idiot, huh?" she said. "In the worst possible way."
Cal swallowed. His eyes were wide and his expression was an equal mix of confusion and irritation. She'd heard that? He wasn't sure she had, until now. Truth be told, he'd only meant to say it to Burns. And the guys with the guns. But not to Gillian… not like that.
"Gillian, let me explain," he implored, his voice rising in intensity as she flashed an expression of contempt and turned away again.
"Save it." The words were cold and harsh, and she barely looked back over her shoulder as she spoke them.
She stepped through her doorway and started to walk away from him again. He could hear the rapid click of her heels as she went, and for a moment he was frozen. By the time his body caught up with his brain and he was able to walk again, she was several paces away.
Cal was getting angry. This was all just one giant misunderstanding, but she wouldn't give him the chance to explain. She wouldn't even look at him, much less listen to reason. In Gillian's mind, he'd told her that he wanted her, and then only a few days later picked up some random blonde in some random bar – and thanks to some as yet nameless tosser that Cal now wanted to rip limb from limb, she had the photographic evidence to back it all up.
She didn't know the truth at all. She didn't know the words he'd spoken as he turned that woman down… or how the taste of her lips against his only made him positive that he never wanted to taste anyone other than Gillian for the rest of his life. And now she was all but convicting him of a betrayal he hadn't committed.
"Damn it Foster!" he shouted after her. "Don't you dare walk away from me."
The clarity of hindsight kicked in once again, and Cal winced at his own words. He shouldn't have shouted at her – shouldn't have said anything that could be interpreted as an ultimatum or a threat of any kind. It would only feed the fire of Gillian's anger, not calm it.
But it did get her attention. She stopped immediately, turned on her heel in a furious slow motion pivot, and stared him down from several feet away. "What did you see in her, Cal?"
That was a dangerous question, and he wasn't sure if there was a right way to answer it. The truth was, he'd seen nothing in that woman. He'd rebuffed her, tossed back the last of his drink, and left that bar alone – and then he'd spent the entire night in his bed thinking only of Gillian.
Irony was a real bitch.
"Gillian, please," he implored. "Please don't do this here." His irritation was barely controlled, but he made an effort to soften his voice this time because one of them needed to stay rational. He'd never seen Gillian like this – not once, in all the years he'd known her.
"I'm not trying to do this here. I'm trying to leave so that I can calm down. You're the one who keeps stopping me."
"That's because you won't listen to reason."
"Reason? Alright, fine. Give me one good reason why I shouldn't walk out that door right now."
Cal didn't know what to say. His irritation was steadily turning into anger and the longer she stared at him with that horrible look of disdain, the more he could feel himself starting to lose control. And so he didn't say anything. He tried, of course… cleared his throat and stuttered a bit, but it didn't amount to anything. The silence between them was deafening.
Gillian was the first to break it. "You know what, Cal? It's your loss. Because you'll just end up with someone half as good as me, anyway," she spat. She knew she sounded jealous and petty and completely irrational. She just didn't have the patience anymore to care.
By this time, they'd drawn a crowd. Loker and Torres lingered nearby, too curious to leave and too smart to speak up and get involved. Cal stole a glance at them, fuming silently that this was all playing out now. When his attention turned back to Gillian, he let the raw anger flash across his face unchecked. His eyes were slits and his nostrils flared as he bit back a reply.
Gillian smiled smugly at him, thinking she'd gotten the last word. She turned sharply on her heel and was halfway down the corridor away from him when his chortled reply stopped her cold.
"Bollocks, Foster," he shouted. "That's complete and utter crap, and you know it."
Despite their distance, there was no mistaking the fire in Gillian's eyes when she turned to face him again. "Right," she sneered, sarcasm thick and dripping as she took a few paces toward him. "Because the infallible Cal Lightman always gets exactly what he wants, doesn't he?"
Cal's mouth dropped opened in stunned silence. His gaze flitted between Gillian – furious and fuming – and the silent faces of the other staff members who had gathered behind Loker and Torres to watch the entire spectacle. It was a proverbial train wreck, right in the middle of the Lightman Group's main corridor, but Gillian didn't seem to care that they had an audience.
She put her hands on her hips defiantly and pressed on, undeterred. "What's that?" she mocked. "No witty reply, Cal? Come on now – we both know you always have to get the last word. It must be killing you to know that I'm right. To know that I've finally woken up and faced the truth."
And with that, Cal snapped. He charged toward her, eyes narrowed and fists clenched. To hell with the audience. He was so furious he was almost vibrating. "Bullshit, Foster," he spat. "You wouldn't know the truth of this if it bit you in the arse."
In that moment, Cal was a man at his breaking point – anyone could have seen it. Loker and Torres each took a few steps backward, making sure they were both well out of his line of fire. And if Gillian hadn't known him so well, she might have been worried too. She might have been concerned that he would strike out at her, verbally or otherwise. But that wasn't Cal, and no matter how unhinged he looked in that second, she wasn't afraid of him.
All she expected him to do was to stare her down – to try and invade her personal space and intimidate her, just like she'd seen him do at least a hundred times with a hundred different suspects. And it almost always ended the same way. Cal won, his opponent tucked tail and ran, and the infamous Lightman ego grew bigger with every victory.
Gillian was determined not to give him the satisfaction. She would hold her ground. She would stand right there in front of him and take it – he could get right up in her face, say whatever he wanted, but she would most certainly not back down this time.
Not. This. Time.
The very small part of her brain that was still thinking rationally tried to warn her. Tried to tap her on the shoulder and whisper that she was being impulsive and jealous and that she needed to shut up before she said something she would really regret.
But that inner voice was quiet, and the rest of her was damn near screaming.
"Then why don't you enlighten me, Lightman," she mocked. "Why don't you try complete honesty for once? After all these years, you owe me at least that much."
Cal stepped closer to her then, just as she'd known he would. He was close enough that she could feel his breath on her face – feel the angry heat radiating from his body directly onto hers. She knew it was a challenge; he wanted her to back down and let it go. But she didn't budge… didn't blink, didn't flinch, didn't move at all, save for the path her eyes followed as they locked onto his.
Any good psychologist knows that the line between anger and passion is a fine one, and so she should have seen it coming a mile away. But she didn't notice that split second when it all changed – when the fiery glint in Cal's eye shifted from fury to stubborn resolve. She didn't expect him to grab for her, to pull her by the wrists until her chest was flush against his. She didn't expect him to wrap one hand around the back of her neck and the other around her waist. And she certainly didn't expect the words he whispered through his gritted teeth as he tightened his fingers in her hair and tilted her face up toward his.
"You want the truth?" he growled.
She knew it was rhetorical, but his voice was a dare, as if he didn't think she could handle the truth. And so she tossed out one of her own in reply. "Don't lie to me now."
As soon as her words hit the air, his lips crashed upon hers and she gasped against his mouth. There was no pretense – no whispered words of praise or affection, or any of the other things she'd always imagined their first kiss would be. Cal was desperate and domineering, and completely unmindful of their audience.
Gillian was thrown off balance. She stumbled against him, letting her hands rest on his shoulders for support as he opened his mouth and plunged his tongue against hers, stroking with wild intensity. She felt his fingers flexing against her waist, felt his heartbeat pounding against her chest… felt her own resolve slipping with each passing second as she started to melt against him. She was too overwhelmed to still be angry, and too distracted to care.
At some point, Gillian's hands began to clutch at him. She fisted his shirt in her fingers, pulling him tighter against her body even as her inner voice was screaming that she needed to break away. This was not the way it was supposed to happen. This was crazy… it was reckless and destructive and dangerous, and a thousand other things that could potentially break her heart. Just one kiss, and the man had completely thrown her into a tailspin.
And the scariest part? She felt completely alive in his arms. It was exhilarating.
With no warning, Cal wrenched his lips from hers and brought both hands to frame her face. They were inches apart now, both out of breath and emotionally exhausted. Gillian's mouth fell open in surprise, and she stood silently blinking at him, trying to make sense out of what had just happened… of what was now going to change between them.
Cal let out one deep, shaky breath and then cupped her cheek in his palm. He looked directly into her eyes to speak the words that would hit her like a punch to the gut. "It's you or no one, Gillian. That's the bloody truth, and it always has been. And if I can't have you, then I don't want anyone else."
His voice was different now – the anger was gone, replaced by a clear pang of regret. Gillian blanched; she opened her mouth to say something, but the words wouldn't come.
Cal took a small step backwards, letting his left hand linger against her cheek for one final second before he turned and walked away. Gillian was left staring after him. She couldn't move, couldn't speak… could barely even breathe. Only one clear thought rang through her mind.
What the hell have I done?