At 9.23 am, Cal realises that he doesn't know if Gillian has arrived at work yet. The realisation brings with it a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach but he refuses to acknowledge it. Instead he sweeps from his seat, tapping his fingers on his desk as he moves past it.
Along with ignoring his feeling of dread, he also refuses to think about why Gillian's absence is scaring him, choosing instead to mentally list all the possible explanations for her not having popped into his office this morning. It's only a short walk to her office though - even shorter given the speed with which he is moving - so he doesn't need to come up with many.
She is sitting behind her desk and though he is rushed with relief at seeing her, Cal still will not admit that he has any reason to worry. It gets harder to dismiss though when he steps into the room and she doesn't look up.
"Morning, love," he chirps, as if everything is fine and he sees no reason why it shouldn't be.
She responds with, "Morning," but she still doesn't look at him.
"Something I should know about?" he asks, waving his hand in the direction of the folder she is feigning great interest in. He drops himself into a chair, opposite her, leaning back, but watching her intently.
She turns the page, her focus never shifting as she tells him, "It's Loker's case from yesterday. I'm just checking it before I file it."
She is more of an expert at listening than he is, but he hears the slight quiver in her voice when she says 'yesterday'. That confirms his fear as to why she is avoiding him. He frowns, leaning forward. She had said they were okay; that she was okay.
"You said you'd forgiven me, love," he states and watches as her eyes still. He has her full attention now and she knows exactly what he is talking about.
"I have," she tells him, but she continues to avoid meeting his gaze.
"Then why are you avoiding me?"
She is not a good liar.
"Could you stop working while we sort this out?"
He thinks he hears her sigh before she raises her head and looks square at him for the first time. She looks tired, and anxious.
"We don't need to sort anything out, Cal. I do understand why you did it. I have forgiven you."
It looks like she's telling the truth, but he can't trust his judgement, he is too close to this. If she is being honest then there is something else. She is definitely not entirely okay with the previous day's events, and he has no intention of leaving before he knows what's really going on.
"But you are avoiding me," he insists, his head tilted, eyes narrowed as he studies her response.
She flashes anger - probably that he is trying to read her. "I just - … I need some space, Cal."
Those words seem to cut directly into his heart, causing his chest to constrict with fear. "You said we're okay," he reminds her, pointing at her to use some of the adrenaline now pumping through his system.
She nods. "We are. Cal, there was no other way yesterday could have gone. Yes, I was terrified that you had been killed, but you saved an eleven year old boy, Cal. And if you hadn't run into the building, he would be dead." The quiver in her voice is more pronounced now, and tears are forming along her lower eyelids. "How could I be mad at you for that?" She looks down and away, and Cal knows exactly what that means.
"But you are mad at me," he observes, interpreting her shame.
"No!" she insists, looking up at him again. "I was. Yesterday. I was a whole jumble of - … But I'm proud of you." A small smile as she says it. "A lot of people wouldn't have done what you did. And you saved his life… So when you asked if I forgive you for scaring me, of course I do."
"Then what's -"
"I understood, Cal. I understood that it had to be you. I understand every time you put your life on the line. It's for truth, or justice… Or to save someone else. You wouldn't be the Cal Lightman I know if you didn't do it… I don't blame you. If you'd have asked for forgiveness each time I'd have assured you of it in a heartbeat. But forgiving and forgetting are two very different things, Cal. And every time I think I've lost you, it all comes flooding back. All the other times I've held my breath waiting for news that you're okay; expecting news that you're not. Every time I've been sure my heart has stopped as I've watched bombs fall on your location, or someone press a gun to your head, or -"
Her voice breaks and tears trickle down her cheeks. Cal can feel his own forming as he sweeps out of his seat and leans across her desk, resting his hand on hers and squeezing it reassuringly.
"Hey, I'm okay."
She nods, the movement jolting some of her tears onto her desk. "I know." She forces a smile, and turns her hand over within his grasp so that she can squeeze it back. "It just takes a bit of time for me to shake those images."
He knows exactly how she feels. He knows he will never be free of the fear that grips him amid the chaos of whatever situation he has put himself in. The fear of never seeing Emily or Gillian again. It knocks him sick to think of them hurt and crying because of his actions - but it's like Gillian said, he has to do it. He knows that Emily would know how much he loves her; he tells her regularly to make sure. But he has never told Gillian.
He assumes that she must have noticed. He's pretty sure Loker and Torres see it, so Gillian must have noticed. He could tell her, but he knows he'd be doing it for selfish reasons. He is haunted by the fear of dying without having told Gillian how he feels. But would it really be of any comfort to her?
He's brought out of his thoughts when he realises she is frowning at him.
"Where did you go?" she whispers, softly stroking his hand with her thumb.
Even with her tear stained cheeks and blood shot eyes, she is one of the most beautiful sights he has ever seen. He tells her, "I know I throw myself into these things on a regular basis, but that doesn't mean they don't terrify me… I didn't sleep at all last night. Every time I closed my eyes, I saw you and Emily, telling me off for leaving you…" He reaches out with his free hand and brushes some moisture from her cheek. "Tears streaming down your beautiful faces."
She leans into his touch and closes her eyes and he feels compelled to ask, "Why do you hide all this from me, Gill?"
When her eyes open, they immediately find his, a look of solemn determination in them. "Yesterday," she begins, her voice shaky at first but gaining strength as she continues, "If you'd known how much I love you, and how terrified I was, standing in the lab watching that video feed and knowing what you had to do. Would you have thought twice?"
He holds her gaze and she must see something she reads to be an answer because she resumes, "You already hesitate because of Emily, Cal, and so you should. But you shouldn't want to change for me. It would be selfish of me to expect you to."
She ducks her head away from his hand and tries to free the hand he holds. Obviously she has decided the conversation is over. He holds tighter.
"If I'd have died yesterday, would you have wondered if I love you too?" he asks directly.
Her eyes return to his, but he can tell she's going to avoid answering. "Cal -"
He leans closer, the desk pressing into his thighs, and she looks up at him. "Every time, I hate myself for nearly dying without having told you that I love you; without knowing how wonderful it would be to have you as more than just my partner and best friend… But then I persuade myself it would be better for you if you didn't know; that I'm being selfish… Well, I will die one day, whether it be sooner or later. Maybe all these near misses are to tell me to be selfish…" He returns his hand to her cheek, caressing it gently. "Maybe it's time we were both selfish."
It's pain that crosses her features just before she closes her eyes, and Cal feels tension grip her face. He feels his heart fall. He's pushed it too far.
He softly strokes his thumb across her cheekbone and she opens her eyes. He smiles apologetically at her, and she swallows hard before saying, "Maybe we're caught up in yesterday and… Maybe we shouldn't be making any decisions or changes."
Cal nods, understanding where this is coming from. "Maybe you're right." He caresses her cheek one last time and then drops back. "I'll be in my office if you need me," he tells her.
She looks concerned that she may have damaged their friendship by turning him down, so he smiles reassuringly.
"We'll get lunch later?" he suggests.
She looks visibly relieved. "That'd be nice."
"Unless of course some work comes up and we have to do that," he quips, and he's happy to see her smile reach her eyes.
"Let's hope not," she returns.
"One o'clock," he tells her. "I'll call for you."
"Okay," she smiles.
"You know where I am if you need me before then."
She nods and quietly thanks him, and then he swings open the door and heads back to his office.
He knows that she'll replay that conversation over and over and curse herself for opening up to him, and curse him for doing the same to her. He knows she'll hate herself for being first to say the 'L' word; and hate him for not just pretending he didn't hear it.
But when they go for lunch later and everything is perfectly normal, he knows she'll forgive herself, and she'll forgive him. But she won't forget that he loves her. And he won't forget that she feels the same. And one day they won't be caught up in the fallout from one of his near death experiences. One day it will be time to make a change - and he intends to make that one day that she won't want to forget.