… … …
Cal was still chuckling to himself, Emily's eye-rolling just prolonging it. William, too, was giggling, though he probably didn't fully understand what Cal had done. Gillian was trying to hold back her amusement, not wanting Cal to think she approved of his behaviour. Emily did have a point.
"One day, you could just go through security without playing games with them," Emily suggested to her father.
"Where would the fun be in that?" he replied, dropping an arm across Emily's shoulders and hugging her to him.
"It's airport security, Dad: It's not supposed to be fun."
Despite her objections to his earlier 'teasing' of the security officers, Emily threaded her arm round Cal's waist and walked that way with him as the group made their way to the coffee shop to pass some time before their flight. Gillian smiled to herself. She always loved watching Cal and Emily interact. There had been a time when it used to evoke a mixture of delight, amusement and painful longing. It wasn't exactly envy, but it did provoke an ache in her heart, that she might never share that bond with anyone. But now… She looked down at William, walking along beside her, their joined hands swinging between them. A wide smile spread across her lips. Now, she had William.
Sensing her looking at him, William looked up at her, a grin plastered on his little face.
"Are you excited?" Gillian asked him – though it was quite obvious what the answer was. That grin had not left his features for even a second today.
He nodded emphatically. "I'm really excited," he told her, drawing out 'really' for emphasis.
Gillian reflected his excitement in her own expression.
"I'm gonna sit next to the window on the plane," he reminded her.
"Yes you are. Remember you also need to get some sleep on the plane though. It will be morning when we get to England."
William nodded. "Lots of sleep."
Gillian squeezed his hand. "Then we can go and see the Eye."
"And the Tower."
"And the Bridge."
"And the castle."
This listing of sights continued until they reached the coffee shop. They spotted an available booth in the back corner and made their way through. Stowing all their carry-on luggage under the table first, Emily and William then sat down while Cal and Gillian went to order their drinks.
"Try not to annoy the staff," Emily warned Cal as he turned to walk away.
Cal turned back. "No promises, love," he winked.
"Your dad is funny," William said to Emily when they were on their own. His eyes were fixed on the topic of his observation.
"Yes he is," Emily agreed, looking in the same direction. She still found Cal's need to wind up airport security infuriating, but she had to admit that he kept things interesting.
"He's not gonna be my dad."
Emily's head whipped round to look at William, wondering where that comment had come from. "Er…" She tried to figure out the best way to respond. "Who told you that?"
"My Mom," William replied, innocently unaware of the fact that his answer would actually just intrigue Emily further.
Emily knew her mouth was opening and closing like a fish, but she was struggling to come up with an explanation as to why Gillian would have said that. "Why?" she had asked before she could stop herself.
"Some children only have a mom."
Emily smiled. That wasn't quite what she had meant. "Did you ask your mom if my dad was going to be your dad?" She couldn't fathom that it would have come up in conversation any other way.
William nodded and pieces started to click into place in Emily's mind. She had noticed, over the last couple of weeks, that Gillian and William had been spending less time with Cal than usual. Her dad hadn't said anything but he seemed a little lost without them.
"Do you want my dad to be your dad?" Emily asked William.
William pursed his lips and his little forehead creased in deep thought. Emily couldn't help but smile: He really was adorable. William looked again towards Cal as he continued to ponder the question. He was certainly giving it some consideration.
"You said Cal Lightyear is a cool dad," he stated after another minute of silence.
"He is," Emily agreed, remembering a conversation she and William had one day when she was babysitting.
"Mom said he is a very good dad."
Again, Emily voiced her agreement and William continued to think. She was starting to wonder if he had forgotten what she had asked him when he remarked, "Mom loves me enough for a trillion zillion mazillion moms and dads." And the wide grin that spread across his face as he said that prompted the same reaction from Emily.
"Yes she does," she told him. Then she tickled his side.
Gillian smiled to herself as she watched William and Emily laughing together. They had seemed to be embroiled in quite a serious conversation at first, but now William was wriggling in his seat as Emily teased him.
Gillian's smile wavered, though, when Cal stepped closer to her when they moved forward in the line.
"You still can't believe he's really yours, can you?" Cal asked her, his voice quiet beside her ear.
She smiled again and moved away so she could turn and face him without being too close. "Sometimes," she admitted when she met his eyes.
"Well, he is."
"I know," she nodded.
They shared a smile and then a silence descended on them again. Gillian was trying not to feel awkward but, since William's question about Cal being his dad, she hadn't felt entirely comfortable in Cal's company. She had found herself conscious of her every move and word; determined to keep a distance between them.
Cal's voice brought her out of her thoughts but, before she had to reply, the line moved forward and it was their turn to order.
Cal didn't let it drop though, resuming his questioning once their order had been placed. "I haven't seen much of you the last two weeks."
"You've seen me nearly every day," she countered.
"Only at work."
"We've been getting ready for this trip."
"I think you've been avoiding me," he stated, sidling closer to her.
"You're nervous… Worried about what might happen, are you?"
Gillian rolled her eyes in an attempt to cover her actual reaction to that, but her cheeks felt warm and she was in no doubt that she was blushing. Damn him.
"I'd imagine very little, as we have our children with us."
She ignored the little trill of excitement she felt when her choice of phrase threw up images of them all as a little family unit. She'd have rolled her eyes again if it had fit in with their conversation.
Cal was silent for a moment before he responded. He was watching her closely. He probably knew exactly where her thoughts had taken her. This was why distance had been a good idea recently. She was taunted by thoughts of Cal as William's dad while she simultaneously tried to make sure William was not going to get hurt. That was easier to deal with when Cal wasn't standing in front of her, pretending not to read her.
"Not what you might do, love," he said eventually, and he took another step nearer to her, lowering his voice, "What you might reveal."
Now she could, believably, roll her eyes again. "I'm sure I'll be fine," she told him.
She just wasn't sure she believed that.
… … …
Once they moved to their gate, William settled himself, kneeling on a chair, his eyes taking in the activity outside the large windows with absolute awe. Gillian settled to watching him, absolute adoration all over her face. And Cal settled to watching Gillian.
Emily sat, with a small smile, as she watched them all.
… … …
When it came to boarding, William was a mixture of excitement and nerves. Standing in line, he fluctuated between grinning up at Gillian, giddy to be only minutes away from his long anticipated plane journey, and edging gradually closer to her, occasional glimpses of worry evident on his little features. Gillian held his hand securely, her thumb stroking soothingly across his knuckles. She smiled encouragingly whenever he looked unsure, and Cal, from time to time, ruffled William's hair, distracting him temporarily as he fought with his free hand to fight Cal off, giggling all the while.
As they approached the front of the line, Gillian handed William his passport and boarding pass so he could present them to the flight attendant himself. They moved forward and he received a full, welcoming smile from the young lady who took them from him.
"Thank you very much, Sir," she greeted him, and William stood tall and proud, positively beaming.
She scanned his boarding pass, placed it with his passport and passed them back. "Enjoy your flight, Sir."
Gillian grinned at William while she waited for her own documents to be returned. He was leaning backwards, trying to see beyond the door to the walkway, but, at the same time, he was trying not to appear to be doing so. Which resulted more than once in him wobbling off balance.
All done, she encouraged him forwards and assured him Cal and Emily would be right behind them when he looked a little concerned about moving on.
They approached the door to the plane, stalled a moment longer by the waiting passengers in front of them.
William tugged on Gillian's hand and, after checking that the line wasn't about to move, she crouched down to speak to him.
"Is that the outside of the plane?" he whispered.
"Wow!" he said, slowly, his eyes wide in amazement.
Gillian had never really considered how amazing it was to be so close to the outside of an airplane. But, then, she had never looked at it from the point of view of a five year old boy to whom planes had only ever been something in the sky – where, of course, you can't get near the outside.
"Can I touch it?" William asked, still quietly.
"Sure. As we go past you can touch it," she smiled.
His eyes widened even further. "Thank you."
Cal and Emily had joined them by the time the line started to move again. William told them, excitedly, that he was allowed to touch the outside of the plane, and they shared in his enthusiasm heartily. When the moment came, they stopped just outside the door and William reached out his hand, tentatively, touching it quickly, before returning it to place his palm flat against the metal. The adults shared mischievous looks before they all did the same.
… … …
Cal secured all their carry-on luggage - insisting on being a gentleman – and the group settled themselves into their seats. William took his window seat, gazing out at the airport and gasping with amazement when the plane started to move and the airport got further away.
He looked rather worried during the safety video, turning to Gillian, seated beside him, with a deep frown when it showed what to do in the event of a water landing.
"Don't worry," she told him, "They just have to tell us this in case there's an emergency. I've been on lots and lots of planes before. It's nothing to worry about."
He still looked unconvinced but once the video was over and take off began all his worries seemed to evaporate. And he started laughing. A proper, full chuckle, with the occasional high pitched squeak. Gillian, Emily and Cal shared amused and enchanted smiles, their own laughter emerging as William's continued.
"That was fun!" William exclaimed, full of glee.
"That was only the beginning," Gillian told him, with a wink.
Across the aisle, the lady sitting beside Cal leant closer to him and commented, with a smile, "I'm actually terrified of flying. Listening to your son laughing made that take off a lot easier."
Cal didn't correct her. He simply responded, "Glad we could help."
… … …
Emily smiled to Gillian and then William as they passed her, heading for the restroom, then she sat back down in her seat. She glanced at her dad, seated across the aisle from her, engrossed in his book. She had been waiting for an opportunity to speak to him on his own and she decided this might be the only one she got. She knew he wouldn't appreciate her making a big deal of what she had to say so she feigned interest in the magazine she had been reading earlier. She kept her tone casual as she commented, "William asked Gill if you're going to be his dad."
Cal didn't respond but she could tell he had heard what she said. He went very still and his eyes stopped skimming the lines of text. She took his silence as an invitation to continue.
"That probably explains why they haven't been around as much. She doesn't want him to get too attached."
After a beat, Cal murmured, "Sounds plausible."
She looked at her dad again but, although he had spoken, he was maintaining the pretence of reading. "You realise he already is attached?"
Cal turned the page, probably just for good measure. "Yeah."
"And you know I'm rather attached to Gillian, right?"
"Okay… Don't mess this up."
She waited through another moment of silence, then Cal met her eyes for the first time.
A grin spread across Emily's lips. She had expected him to stay quiet, or promise to "try not to", or to tell her he would do his best not to mess it up. Those two words were even better. There was no room for doubt there: Just Lightman determination. Granted, her dad looked somewhat terrified, but what mattered was that he knew what he wanted and what he had to do. Emily offered him an encouraging, excited smile and then stood up as she saw Gillian and William returning from the restroom. She only had two seconds to do it, but she hoped she managed to tone down her smile so that Gillian wouldn't be suspicious of what had been discussed in her absence.
She saw no sign of intrigue on the other woman's face and so concluded that she had succeeded. Once Gillian and William were seated, Emily sat down and clicked her seatbelt into place, feeling quite smug, even if she couldn't show it. She had already been looking forward to this vacation but, now, her anticipation had reached a whole new level. It was definitely going to be fun.