title: I am a constant satellite (aka.five times Cal touches Gillian (and one time he doesn't))
Cal/Gillian, 3320 words, pg-13
Author's Notes: A big thank you to my beta, tempertemper who, two years after this show ended, is still happy to read my ramblings. Any dialogue you recognise has only been used to set the scene. These characters, sadly, do not belong to me, either! Song title comes from the song Gravity by Vienna Teng. Spoilers for the entire show, but specifically 1x10 Undercover, 2x09 Fold Equity, and 2x12 Sweet Sixteen.
I am a constant satellite.
This is the fate you've carved on me
The law of gravity
- Vienna Teng, Gravity
He shakes her hand like she's the enemy, walls up so high she can't see over them. "It's nice to meet you," she says and smiles, his hand warm in hers, and it doesn't take a facial expressions expert to know that he's already running through ways to get her to say what she needs to say so that he can leave again. His monologue about what her purpose is in relation to him isn't nearly as original as he thinks it is, but she lets him have his moment while she gets herself comfortable in her chair.
"I'm here to help you, Doctor Lightman, not judge you, or rubberstamp anyone's attempt to discredit you – or your science," she begins, amused by his ways far more than she should be. She blocks out the memory of last night's visitor, of the third party threats she'd been on the receiving end of, of how her hands shook as she locked the door firmly behind him as her intruder stole away into the night as if he'd never been there. "Who was that?" Alec had asked, stepping into the living room rubbing a towel through his wet hair. "Wrong house," she'd smiled, but it fell from her face as soon as her husband had turned his back, his swift acceptance and inability to notice her shaking hands hurting her more that she cared to admit.
Cal pulls her back to the present, her copy of his book in his hand. "Is this a plant? I mean, is this supposed to soften me up?"
"Yes, that's exactly what it is."
"Well, it's working." She doesn't need to be able to see her own face to know that her smile is genuine; she can feel it, the warmth she has for this man who has yet to show her any kind of openness; but stops herself before she can begin to question why. He may think he's hiding everything from her, but she already feels like she's known him for weeks.
His attempt at a casual pose on her couch amuses her no end, but she manages to suppress the smile wanting to find its way back onto her face. He starts talking, and all of a sudden he's serious, sincere, and she finds herself liking him even more. The air changes around them, tenses and relaxes in accordance with his words. And yet, by the end of their truncated session, she can't remember a time she ever felt as helpless as right in that moment, as he gleaned that she wanted to tell him something she couldn't, and walked out the door with more determination than he'd walked in with. She's never felt such an irreparable sense of failure, all of her research and practicing masking facial expressions in the mirror coming to nothing in the end. The image she has of Emily, the girl she's never even met, flashes before her eyes. She pictures brown hair and brown eyes, inquisitive and cautious like the father she's just met. Gillian squeezes her eyes shut, prays to something she isn't so sure she believes in, that that little girl will be all right.
He surprises her by coming back, and she finds the demons that had settled firmly on her shoulders that night come back with a vengeance. Only this time, she can't risk letting him leave without his knowing that she is on his side. "You know that in the war against terror, there's often… collateral damage. As awful as that sounds." Brown hair and brown eyes, and a smile full of innocence.
"I'm sor- what, um, what are you saying?"
She fears she's signing her own death warrant, but she'll be damned if another child dies and she did nothing to help stop it. "Some collateral damage can be avoided."
Cal reacts just as she'd predicted. "You talking about my Emily?"
"We would be irresponsible not to talk about Emily."
In the weeks that follow, she realizes that even Cal can ignore what is in front of him when he really wants to.
It isn't long before they move past the mess that is Jimmy Doyle and late night visitors, burying their individual fears as deep down as they can as the experience brings them closer together. Mutual respect becomes coffee, and "Do you know what you're going to do now?" and "Actually, that's something I wanted to talk to you about." Before she really knows it, she's signing her name next to his in blue ink, and her name is going up on a different wall in a building with far fewer security checks. She questions herself for not really questioning herself once the keys are in one hand and her copy of the lease is in the other.
"Stop that," he chides her, gently, and she can't help but smile.
"This is how it's going to be from now on? You reading everything on my face?"
He flinches, memories of arguments with Zoe, last week, last month, just yesterday, "I was going to tell you, Cal, when I was ready to, once I had processed it, but you just never give me that chance, do you?" and he stills in the empty hallway by the wall where his name will hang in bright lights because if no one else is going to appreciate him and his science, then at least he can appreciate himself.
"What was that?" Gillian asks, pointing to his face, eyes bright and a grin growing on her face. He isn't forthcoming, and it makes her smile even wider. "See? Sometimes there are things that you don't want people to see, either." She begins walking down the corridor, pretending to scout for an office when, really, she knew the first time she stepped onto the floor which one she wanted to be hers. "We should really draw a line somewhere," she calls back to him, and the laughter in her voice is enough to pull him back to today, enough to give him hope about the paperwork he's just signed, enough to make him run after his new partner and throw his arm around her shoulders, because this is theirs now, and everything feels like a new beginning.
Her office is warm and inviting, and he finds himself drawn to her for reasons he refuses to explain.
"You didn't just happen to find Alec's glasses that night, did you? You thought he was having an affair."
He doesn't hesitate; doesn't want to hide the truth from her any longer. "I was afraid you were going to get hurt." His fingers hover over her arm, barely touching; a steady presence of quiet support.
She pauses, watching him closely, her eyes dropping their guard, just for a moment. "You were protecting me?"
Cal swears he feels something akin to his heart constricting; her words come out surprised, and he wonders just who he is and what he's done to make her find his protection something to be startled by. "Something like that, yeah."
His voice is too soft, his are eyes too perceptive, and she has to look away because this isn't something she is ready to deal with; it isn't even anything she is ready to acknowledge. "You know the line we talk about, you know the line we have to draw because we see things people are hiding - things they don't want us to know… I think we should respect the line. I think it's best for both of us. " When she finally looks up, she sees resignation, an unquestioning acceptance that she is not ready to talk to him yet. Yet still, there is hope brimming in his eyes, and she shuts it out like pressed fingers to a flame. "Goodnight, Cal."
"'Night, love," he replies, and his mask is back just long enough for him to stand and exit the room. He makes it halfway down the corridor before her voice in his head is too much and he has to stop, has to close his eyes and watch the scene that just played out all over again, has to remember her face as she said, things they don't want us to know… He hears Zoe, all anger and frustration, everyone has doubts, Cal, everyone!, and puts one foot in front of the other until he's picked up his pace, until he's far enough away from Gillian's office that there's no chance he'll go back and ruin everything. He has to force himself to keep walking, before he loses her, too.
He, the world-class deception expert, lies to himself after Vegas. He tells himself that he ignored Gillian in that dress for her own good; got wind that Reynolds had it in the cards to show her the town, be the gentleman she'd never find in he himself, allow her the fun she never allowed herself to have because she was always cleaning up his sorry messes. That she deserves better than his sorry excuse for a decent man, his sorry excuse for friendship and, worse than that, his extremely sorry excuse for love he can rarely even admit to himself.
He tells himself that; on the flight back, in the cab home, lying in bed that night when no matter which side he chooses to lie on, he just can't sleep, because the truth is too much to bear.
The truth is… He hadn't noticed. Bright lights, noises of the casino, a roulette table, and one million dollars worth of chips in his hands? No, he hadn't noticed his partner beside him, worry and concern clouding her features, disbelief that he would sink that far, that he would go back to being that man. Disappointed in him; disappointed in herself that she couldn't stop him. Disappointed that he couldn't be a better man.
He stares at the ceiling, pictures her six months, a year, two years down the line, smiling at another man. A better man. A man who noticed.
Cal, promise me you'll never go back to Vegas?
It's dark, and she's standing in front of him with tears in her eyes. He questions the last seven years, his partner, his own ability in this science that he has constructed a career out of; the science he's believed in, unquestioningly, until this very moment.
"So, were you ever going to tell me?"
He can see that she's trying to explain; begging him to understand that the turmoil he sees in her eyes is something long suppressed; something that she has lived with every day she's known him and never mentioned. The betrayal and amazement battle for first position in his mind, but what he really can't believe is that he never saw a crack in her facade. Never even suspected. And it terrifies him.
"He came to me, in the middle of the night, before our first session," she begins, and he hangs on her every word anyway. "Not to my office, to my house. My house. I… I'd never seen him before, and I never saw him again. He told me to do what I had to do to keep you quiet, or Doyle wouldn't be the only man to lose his wife and daughter."
She steps towards him, then, imploringly. "If I told you that, it would have been proof positive of a cover-up, and you would've never let go. So… I couldn't let you do that. To you. Your family. You'd never have gotten to blow the whistle. He would've cut you down before you put it to your lips."
"So, all that talk about you being a bad liar? That's just an act? Right? That's a lie?"
She's close enough now that he can see the light dance in the tears in her eyes. "Depends on the lie."
He imagines her opening her door to a stranger who moves past her into her home against her will. His fists clench at the mere thought of it now, and yet he knows, instinctively, that she would have held her ground. Her composure in their first session gave nothing away while he gave everything away, all talk and meaningless hand gestures to try to throw her off the scent. She had done neither of those things. She'd been so still he hadn't even bothered to look closer, because she was an inconvenience to him, someone he had to see to keep his job, and it had never even crossed his mind that she may have secrets, too. By the time he saw her for what she was, he was past ever believing she could keep something like this from him.
He's curling his arms around her before the thought is fully processed, because in spite of everything, he finally recognizes that she had been protecting a family she didn't even know. That she had been protecting a man she didn't even know. A man who sat in her office and tried to pick her apart, but was looking at all the wrong stitches.
He wants to ask her to never lie to him again; to beg her, in fact. She's crying silent tears into his shoulder as years of buried secrets find their way off of her chest and she can breathe again.
"I'd do it again." Her words are quiet, but her voice is strong. She's daring him to argue with her, but he can't, because her strength is one of the things he loves about her, and her loyalty is another.
He's about to open his mouth, about to make promises of him never putting her in a situation again where she would have to, but he clamps it shut as he realizes he hadn't even met her the first time this happened, and he'd still managed to bring darkness to her door. It's a sobering thought, and one that makes him want to retreat into the solitude of his den, leave her to shine brightly without him there to cast her a shadow.
He doesn't. He holds her tight.
His hands are warm against her skin, pressing down against her heart, and she thinks that everything is fine, wonderful, even, until she hears him call her name.
It's strained and painful, as if it's taking everything he has to push the word out into the air, heavy and laden with emotion she can't quite place. His hands are warm, they're against her skin, and everything is wonderful.
Except, she realizes, as her brain catches up with time and his vocal pitch finally makes sense amid the rushing blood between her ears, everything is not wonderful. It isn't even fine.
"Cal," she gasps, because just seconds ago his warm hands were on her skin, by her heart, and she was light, happy, and now she knows the warmth she feels from his hands is from her own blood coating them, pumping out of her body, out of her heart, and it races faster with the recognition that she is on the cold ground just outside the restaurant, and her life is pouring out of her and onto him and he hasn't even kissed her yet. Hasn't walked her home, hasn't muttered "Can we do this again?" as he steps from one foot to the other in her doorway because he still believes they live in a world where she would say no.
She hears the sirens, tries to tilt her head back to see them coming, but the pull on the muscles in her chest causes her to wheeze out in pain so he instinctively applies more pressure until she's crying out. There are people around them now, whispering amongst themselves, but when she opens her eyes she only sees Cal, only sees her future with him, however long it takes them to get there, only remembers their first official date they just stepped away from and how he'd reserved her a slice of chocolate cake for dessert "just in case they run out".
The sirens are getting closer. She fast-forwards the evening in her mind to the bit she hasn't got to yet. "Can we do this again?"
"Gill?" he breathes, hands slipping against her skin.
"Yes," she breathes, before her eyes close and her head rolls gently to the side.
His fingertips are dancing across her skin, around her scar, like whispering winds you can barely feel. His eyes travel back up to hers as she speaks his name, and he's looking at her as if the last three years never happened, as if his knees are still getting damp from the light rain shower that had scattered across the sidewalk minutes before Gillian's blood began to pool onto it.
"I'm right here, Cal."
He looks from her scar to her face and back again, and can't help but pull her close, smile into her neck as her arms weave up around his, kiss the dip just above her collarbone.
"Are you going to let me finish getting dressed now?" She smiles into his shoulder, her shirt hanging open between them as the morning sun warms her back.
"You know that's your worst habit, don't you?" he whispers against her skin, and before she knows it her shirt is sliding from her shoulders and falling to the floor. It'll crease, she knows, but she can't find it within herself to care.
Cal tilts his head forwards, lips brushing gently between her breasts, kissing the ever-present reminder that he almost lost her but didn't, thanks his lucky stars that she's standing here before him, whole and alive and breathing, smiling, as her hands find their way to his hair and he breathes against her skin.
A sound from downstairs causes them both to still, before her fingers are gently pulling his hair until he's looking at her, straightening up in front of her, and she's reaching down to grab her discarded shirt off the floor before he can think to stop her. She reads it on his face, can't help but smile for two reasons now.
"Emily's home," she whispers, and it's infectious because before he even knows it he's smiling and he isn't even touching her anymore.
"She's early," he pretends to grumble, even as he helps her button up her shirt.
Her fingers fall to his as the last button is fastened, and she notices the shadows still lingering in his eyes.
"Cal, I'm still here."
"You almost weren't."
She leans forward, kisses him gently, firmly, and pulls away just before he can deepen it. "Emily's home," she reminds him.
"She has such bloody brilliant timing."
"I wonder where she gets that from…" Gillian drawls, moving back in time in her mind to waking up in a hospital room, to Cal's "Can we do this again?" before hurriedly trying to explain that he meant the date and not the shooting, but she tried to smile through parched lips and pushed out a single word with her hoarse voice. "Yes."
Cal smiles, then, and the shadows are gone for another year, and his hand is warm and steady against the small of her back as he guides her downstairs.