The knock at the door was so soft that, at first, Cal didn't realise that's what it was. It was only when Emily asked if he had heard it too that he sat up. She moved away from him and he made his way to the front door.
When he opened the door, Gillian was halfway down the path, her hands tucked in the pockets of her jacket, her steps slow.
"Gill?" he called after her, loud enough, but in a gentle tone.
She stopped and turned to face him and, as he had feared, the dim light revealed tear streaks on her cheeks, red circles around her eyes. He kicked himself - hard - for having let her persuade him to leave her home alone.
"You were right," she whispered as he drew nearer to her.
He sensed she was referring to his attempt at insisting she shouldn't be alone, so he quipped, "First time for everything, love," to lighten things a little.
A watery laugh was her response as he wrapped an arm around her shoulders and pulled her in close to him, leading her back towards the house.
He reluctantly let go of her after they stepped inside. As he closed the door he heard Emily's voice query, "Gillian?"
Turning, he saw guilt on Gillian's features before she said, "Oh, I'm sorry to - I should have -"
"You're not interrupting," Emily assured her, taking the few steps needed to take her into Gillian's personal space and wrap her arms around her.
Cal's heart broke to watch Gillian try to hold back. For a second, she turned her head away and balled her hands into fists at her sides. Her lips quivered, her jaw trembled, and she closed her eyes for extra strength. But she failed. After that first second, her arms came up and returned Emily's hug. Tears streamed down her cheeks as she held her tightly.
Cal crossed to them quickly and wrapped his own arms around Gillian's shoulders. She turned into him, loosening her grip on Emily who took a step backwards, allowing Cal to envelope Gill in the comfort of his embrace. Her gentle crying morphed to heart-wrenching sobs, and Cal whispered soothing words to her as he stroked her hair.
Emily met his eyes, tears of concern for their friend shining there. He tried to send her a reassuring look, but wasn't sure if it was clear enough for her to understand.
He clearly understood the look she sent back to him though: A reminder of their earlier conversation; of his admission; of the question he had no answer for. A suggestion that he give it some thought - and soon. Because what good reason could there possibly be?
Emily left them alone, and Cal stayed where he was, holding Gillian while her crying subsided, while she composed herself again. He led her into the living room when she tried again to apologise for coming and gently pushed her onto the couch. He ordered her to stay there and made his way into the kitchen to make them some tea.
And while he waited for the water to boil, he thought about how relieved he was that she had come to him. He thought about how far he would go to protect her; how she and Emily were the two most important things in the world to him.
And then he thought about Gillian's reaction to him calling Wallowski; about how he had treated her since making his association with that detective; about the loyalty she still showed him in spite of all that.
And as he poured the water into their cups he thought about Emily's blunt question; and how answering her with complete honesty had lifted somewhat of a weight from his chest. The only weight remaining now was the question he had been trying to avoid for several years: What was he waiting for?
He carried their drinks through to the living room, stalling in the doorway at the sight of Gillian curled up on her side, her head resting on the arm of the couch, sound asleep. A small smile curled his lips - adoring her; glad that she was able to rest. He placed the cups on the table, grabbed a blanket and carefully covered her. Then he sat down beside her and watched her sleep.
And as he watched he thought, again, about just how far he would go to protect her And he realised the answer to that hanging question.
He was waiting until he could trust himself not to hurt her.
He hoped she would be able to wait for him too.