Title: Hope in fragments
Cal, Gillian, Emily, Wallowski, pg
Author's Notes: Thank you, as always, to me beta, tempertemper. This is for crumpled_up, who asked me for a girls' day out with Gillian and Emily. This... is not that, in any way whatsoever. But I hope you like it anyway. It's actually something that could fit into an AU of the long post-series story, The Coldest Sky, that I've been working on since the show finished (obviously creating one new universe wasn't enough for me). I hope to have that out in the world in September, but please don't hold it against me if it takes a little longer. In the meantime, I offer you this little one-shot which could be set anytime late season 3/post series.
I often feel I am living in fragments, slipping over words,
leaving the rest of the sentence blank in order to move onto
the next page. Maybe there is hope in fragments, that what
is lost can always be filled in by someone who knows.
- The Realm of Possiblity, David Levithan
The sound of the news report echoed down the empty hallways of The Lightman Group. Gillian sat on the couch in her office, her door open, a tumbler of scotch in her hand. She swirled the liquid around, concentrating on the motion as it lipped around the edges.
When Sharon Wallowski entered the room, the first thing she noticed was the frown on Gillian's face.
"He's seen it?" she asked, already knowing the answer.
Gillian didn't answer, instead shot the other woman a look that clearly said, you think?.
Sharon reached a hand up to pinch the bridge of her nose. "We did everything we could. Your team, and my team."
Gillian mulled over her words for a few moments before standing, using her free hand to straighten out her dress. She picked up her purse from the table, walking towards Sharon. "Yes," she agreed, quietly, in a rare moment of mutual respect, handing her glass of scotch over to the other woman before retreating towards the door. "He's in his office," she said, without looking back. "If he asks, I've gone home."
"Where's Foster?" Cal asked, the moment Sharon walked in. He was eyeing the glass in her hand warily, as if the chain of events that lead to it had the power to answer all of the questions thundering around in his head.
"She went home."
"You saw her?"
Cal was quiet a moment; the only sound the droning voice of the reporter recapping the day's events. They knew the secondary headline like the back of their hands, and Cal finally silenced the television, exhaustion seeping into his bones.
"There was nothing we could do," Sharon finally uttered, bored of the silence and the mood descending upon the room. Five more seconds of it and she planned to down the liquid currently resting in the glass she held.
Cal looked up, then, both defeated and angered at the same time. He picked his keys up off his desk and replied to her only as he blew past. "What good are you to me if you can't stop him from saying that live on the bloody news?"
Listening to his retreating footsteps, Sharon sighed before lifting the glass to her lips and swallowing her only remaining companion.
The evening lost to a scotch-induced haze once he'd reached home, and the night lost to tossing and turning between his sheets, Cal greeted the morning sunlight in even less of a good mood than he'd ended the day before. Angry clients and damaged reputations pushed to a corner of his mind, he scrubbed a hand over his face and figured the world deserved his scruff this boringly sunny Saturday, forgoing shaving to stand under a hot shower for almost half an hour instead.
"He's up," Emily whispered, conspiratorially, across the island counter in the kitchen.
Gillian looked up from the recipe book in her hands, glancing quickly over at the stairs. She waited as Emily held her breath, listening for familiar sounds upstairs before eventually breathing out. "He's in the shower. The mood he came home in last night, he'll be in there for a good half an hour."
Gillian winced. "That bad?"
Emily nodded, sagely. "There was scotch involved."
Gillian cleared her throat, unwilling to let Emily in on the knowledge that she, too, had dealt with her problems in the same way the night before. Instead, she said, "So, do you have a pancake skillet?"
He could hear murmurs as he descended the stairs.
"We're out of time," he heard his daughter whisper, and wondered who the hell was in his house.
"Emily! Why in God's name does my house smell like a bleedin' bakery?" he shouted as he rounded the corner, only to come face to face with Gillian, holding out a plate full of pancakes.
"Good morning," she smiled, sweetly.
"Who let you in my kitchen?" he asked gruffly, recovering from the shock of seeing his partner in the only way he knew how.
"I did," Emily piped up from behind Gillian. "It's my kitchen, too." She placed a forkful of pancakes in her mouth before talking around them, "Besides, I didn't feel like facing your terrible mood by myself this morning."
"What mood?" Cal shouted.
"Eat your pancakes, Cal," Gillian ordered, pushing the plate into his chest until his hands automatically reached up to take it before it fell to the floor. Smiling smugly at him, she moved back to her stool at the island and proceeded to continue eating her own.
"What is happening here?" he asked, more to himself.
"We're ganging up on you until your mood improves," Emily replied, matter-of-factly.
"And you think pancakes are going to do that?"
"Yes," Emily stated, placing her empty plate in the sink. "You're welcome for your pancakes. I'm going to get dressed."
Cal watched her run up the stairs, before turning to Gillian. "Did you call her or did she call you?"
Gillian gave him a level look. "She called me."
"You left last night." It was a statement of fact, but Gillian could tell it was a question. Why did you leave?
"You weren't in the mood to be helped," she answered, levelly, placing her fork down on her plate and turning to him fully.
"That's never stopped you before," he muttered, sliding his plate of untouched pancakes onto the counter next to hers.
She eyed him coolly. "Well, maybe I'm learning from my mistakes."
He looked up at her, sharply, hurt and surprise clouding his features.
She sighed. "Did Wallowski help?"
She hadn't meant to ask. Didn't want to know. And yet, for the age-old reason she refused to acknowledge, she actually did.
He sank onto the stool next to hers, rubbing a hand over his face. When he spoke, his words were quiet. "I left just after you did. Thought perhaps I'd catch up to you downstairs."
Long moments stretched out before she reached a hand up to his cheek, running her fingers lightly over his day-old stubble, then retracting them just as quickly and looking away. The moment was not lost on Cal. "There was nothing she could have done, Cal."
He struggled to believe his partner was defending Sharon Wallowski, of all people, and opened his mouth to argue.
"There was nothing she could have done," Gillian repeated, softly, finally looking up with a look that spoke volumes. It will be okay, he saw there. It's just a bump in the road. You'll survive this. We'll survive this.
He nodded, just once. "You came round to make me pancakes?"
She smiled, grateful for the deflection. "Well, I didn't come around with the purpose of making pancakes, but I did end up making pancakes."
Gillian nodded, smiling softly.
"It'll be fine," Cal stated, finally, aloud, feeling, for the first time, as if it might be true.
"Eat your pancakes, Cal," Gillian said, softly, nudging his plate back towards him and picking up her fork once more.
A forkful mere millimeters away from her mouth, she paused, smiling brightly at Cal, when she heard Emily shout down from the top of the stairs.
"Gillian? Is it… safe to come down?"