... ... ...
Cal couldn't sleep. It was 4:17am and all his mind would do was think about what Gillian had said before she had fallen asleep.
He had tried to reassure himself that she was drunk and therefore hadn't meant most, if any, of it, but he couldn't be convinced.
The fact that Gillian was drunk just made it worse. He had seen her tipsy before, and giggly after a few drinks; but full blown drunk was out of character for her. Losing control wasn't something Gillian did. And, after all that she had said, he couldn't shake the feeling that he had driven her to this.
... ... ...
The first thing that struck Cal as odd that night was the text message that woke him up. He frowned when his eyes caught sight of the time: 1:07am; his frown deepened when he saw Gillian's name on his phone. His intrigue quickly morphed into concern when he read her words: 'Actually, it doesn't matter.'
He quickly replied, 'What doesn't matter, love?', then he tapped the phone against his hand as he waited for a response.
The minutes that passed were the second thing he found odd. If she had just sent him a message then it shouldn't be taking her so long. He briefly considered that maybe she was texting in her sleep, but it wasn't a sufficient explanation to ease his worry.
He hit the speed dial on his phone and lifted it to his ear. He listened to the repeating tone as it rang, but he hung up when her voicemail service answered.
That was the third odd thing, and therefore marked the 'too many' point.
He immediately called her again, standing from his bed and sweeping round the room picking up clothes to throw on. He sensed it had been ringing long enough that the voicemail was about to answer again when an unfamiliar voice responded instead. A male voice.
"Who is this?" Cal demanded instantly, pausing part way through pulling on his shirt so that he could listen as closely as possible.
"Do you know the owner of this phone, Sir?" the voice asked him. It didn't sound threatening; the 'Sir' was polite, and Cal could hear hints of concern. But none of that was at all reassuring.
"She's my business partner. What's going on?" Cal replied urgently.
"I'm a bartender at Joe's, Sir. Do you know it?"
Cal nodded emphatically even though it couldn't be seen through the phone. He did know Joe's. Gillian had found him there on several occasions. "I do. Is she okay?"
Cal's shirt was on now and he swung open the door of his room and quickly made his way through the house, grabbing his wallet and keys.
"She's been here for several hours. We stopped serving her half an hour ago, but she stayed. She's just gone to the bathroom. She left her phone on her table."
Cal's mind was racing, trying to figure out what was going on. "I'm on my way," he told the bartender as he climbed into his car. "Keep her there. If she fights you, tell her Cal is on his way."
Cal hung up and started the car, pulling out onto the darkened street. Thankfully there was limited traffic at the early hour of the morning and the route to Gillian was mostly clear.
Cal's sleepy haze had quickly lifted when he thought Gillian might be in trouble. Now all he could think about was a potential explanation for why Gillian was at a bar, and why she was drunk.
She had been working on a case with Torres all day so he hadn't seen much of her. But each time she had checked in, she had seemed fine; and he didn't think anything about the case would have upset her.
He considered the date. It wasn't her wedding anniversary, it wasn't Sophie's birthday, or the date they had lost her; he couldn't think of anything of a significance that might affect her like this.
He pulled to a stop in a parking space near the bar and jogged up to the door, scanning the windows as he passed them. He didn't see her.
As he rushed inside, he spotted her in a booth in the far corner. Her arms were folded and her lower lip protruding in a pout. He laughed, involuntarily: It was such an unusual sight.
She noticed him as he approached and her eyes narrowed more than necessary.
"Hiya, love," he greeted her.
"You told them not to let me go?" she practically growled at him.
"For your own safety, darlin'. You can go now, come on." He was keeping it light, taking some time to check her over, observe her, see what was going on.
"Why, thank you," she drawled, sliding to the end of the seat.
He watched her as she began to stand, determining whether or not she would need his help. She wobbled a little but managed to straighten up.
"You expected me to fall," she accused as she stumbled towards him.
Again, he couldn't help but smile. This was something he had never expected to see, and, even drunk, she was adorable.
"You've had a lot to drink, love," he reminded her.
She shrugged. "I was thirsty. Doesn't mean I can't walk."
"Okay," Cal conceded, allowing her to pass in front of him.
He nodded his thanks to the bartender who was watching them - assuming he was the one who had answered Gillian's phone. Which reminded him:
"Have you got your phone, love?" he called after her.
She patted the pocket in the back of her jeans and drew Cal's eyes to where the shape of her phone could just be seen.
Cal forced his eyes back up to her head before he could get enraptured watching her hips sway. Now wasn't the time.
She pushed the door open and stepped into the cool air of the early morning. Cal managed to catch the closing door before it hit him, rolling his eyes as he stepped up beside her. She was taking slow, deep breaths, seeming to savour each one and Cal caught a glimpse of sadness in her eyes. His heart sank and his mind recommenced searching for an explanation.
"My car's this way, love," he told her, taking a gentle hold of her right elbow and guiding her in that direction. She snatched her arm away, but moved towards his car all the same.
"I didn't need you to come get me," she insisted. "I know where I live. I could have got a cab."
"I'm sure you could. But I wanted to come and get you. You know I don't trust taxi drivers."
He unlocked the car and opened the door for her.
She raised an eyebrow. "Such a gentleman when you want to be," she murmured as she slipped into the seat.
... ... ...
Gillian's guest bed was usually a haven of comfort, but after an hour of tossing and turning Cal couldn't lie in it any longer.
He swung his legs over the side, and sat up. Glancing at the clock he sighed heavily.4:53.
He dragged both hands across his face. He was exhausted but no matter how much he wished for sleep, it wasn't going to happen. He knew his mind wasn't going to rest until he had spoken to Gillian. He wanted to wake her up and ask her if she had meant what she had said. He needed to know where it had all come from; and ask her how long she had been thinking like that, and feeling like that. But waking her up now wouldn't be a good idea, so he could do nothing except pace the few steps to the window and back again.
He would have growled with frustration but he knew that would wake her.
... ... ...
"I can open my own door," Gillian insisted, holding her keys close to her body when Cal tried to take them from her.
Cal held up his hands in defence. "Okay… Okay. You do it."
She held up the keys and flicked through them, dismissing them with muttered reasons. "Office… Car… Cal's - … Oh, that's the key to your house," she giggled at him, waving it towards him.
Cal nodded, but she turned away and continued before he could comment.
"Back door… Mom's… A-ha!" She decided on a key and aimed it at the lock. She missed. "I did that on purpose," she told him, sheepishly. She tried again and this time met the lock but the key wouldn't fit. She fought with it for a second, before Cal stepped closer, taking a breath to offer to help. She cut him off before he could speak though. "I don't need your help," she snapped, shooting him a glare that might have scared anyone who couldn't read the sadness behind it.
In fact, it was the sadness that scared Cal.
"I know you don't need my help, love. But I'd like to help you anyway," he responded, diplomatically.
She stopped and looked straight at him, her eyes wide as if she was surprised by his words. "Why?"
He frowned. "Why what?"
"Why do you want to help me?"
How could she ask that? "Because I'm your friend and I want to make sure you get a good night's sleep."
She laughed, bitterly. "So you do want to get me into bed."
Cal really wished alcohol didn't make it so much more difficult to read micro expressions. Gillian was switching emotions from minute to minute and he was struggling to keep up, let alone understand it all.
"That was all Jake wanted," she said, turning back to the door and trying a different key. Cal knew it was her office key, so it wasn't going to work, but her words concerned him more.
"My date this evening."
Cal's eyebrows rose. "You had a date?"
She switched to another key and reprimanded him, "Don't sound so surprised! Some people want to date me."
That sounded like another dig at him but Cal was preoccupied with this 'Jake' who had left Gillian in this state. "I'm not surprised that you date, love. I'm surprised that your date left you alone like this."
"Don't be so overprotective, Cal. I left him." She had moved onto another key and that one wouldn't work either. "Ugh, this door is broken!" she exclaimed, shoving the keys into Cal's hand and stepping to the side.
Cal closed his hand around the keys and watched Gillian as she leant against the wall beside the door. He took a step closer to her, feeling his anger towards 'Jake' rising with every second. "What did he do?" he practically growled.
Gillian rolled her eyes. "He didn't do anything. We had dinner, then we went dancing."
"Dancing?" Cal frowned.
"Yes, Cal: Dancing. I like dancing."
"So why did you leave?"
"You're very nosey… Are you going to fix my door or are we staying out here all night?"
Cal ignored her change of subject. "Why did you leave, Gillian?"
"Oh stop acting like you're going to hunt him down and -"
He edged closer. "Do I need to?"
"I just didn't like his dancing," she told him.
"There's more to it than that," he pressed.
"You're not to hunt him down!" she implored before admitting, "He was all over me." She shrugged as if it was no big deal. "And I didn't want him all over me."
"Did he hurt you?"
"Cal. I left. It's over. Fix my door."
"Did he hurt you, Gillian?" Cal asked again, so close to her now that her alcohol-scented breath brushed his cheek as she silently stared at him.
"No," she eventually replied, quietly. "Until his hands started wandering, it was actually a nice evening."
Cal frowned; she definitely looked sad, despite saying she had enjoyed herself. Maybe… "You really liked him," he stated, softly, not sure he was entirely comfortable with the idea, but not willing to let himself go there.
Gillian pushed away from the wall, studying Cal closely as the gap between them closed.
"Do I see jealousy, Cal?" she asked, slowly, her eyes locked on his and a slight smirk on her lips.
"You see anger, love, that he did this to you."
She laughed, short and sharp, and broke the eye contact. "Oh, he didn't do this."
... ... ...
By 5:03 he was tired of pacing. The view from the window offered nothing to distract him from his thoughts and his head was pounding. At this rate he would be in a worse state in the 'morning' than Gillian.
Maybe alcohol was the way to go.
He checked on Gillian before making his way downstairs. She was sound asleep and snoring softly. He would have found it amusing if he wasn't so worried about her.
He knew where she kept the scotch. He'd buy her some more; though he suspected she only kept it in for when he visited anyway.
He picked out a glass, poured himself a generous serving then took the bottle with him to the living room. He collapsed onto the sofa and took a long swig of his drink.
... ... ...
"Do you know why Zoe sleeps with you?" she asked, quite out of the blue when Cal had thought that she had fallen asleep.
He had been dozing off himself in the chair so wasn't entirely sure he had heard her correctly. He straightened up and rubbed at his eyes. "Er… I don't really -"
"From a psychological point of view," she continued, obviously not wanting a reply from him, "She sleeps with you to prove that you don't want me."
That surprised him and he looked over at her, but found she still had her eyes closed. He couldn't read anything about her feelings regarding what she had just said, but he thought he had heard pain in her voice.
"We both know she resented our relationship when you were married. I think it annoyed her that you didn't cheat on her. She'd have been justified in hating me then."
Cal's eyes were wide as he tried to process what she was saying. He had definitely not expected this.
"Zoe doesn't hate you -"
"Why lie, Cal?" Her eyes opened and immediately found his. "You don't like it that your business partner and your lover don't get along?"
She placed a heavy emphasis on 'business partner' and the bitterness in her tone almost physically hurt.
"Gillian -" he began, but he didn't know what to address first. He was suddenly completely lost.
She laughed, a hollow sound, and told him, "She loves it that you go back to her. Especially now that I'm available. Does her self esteem a world of good… You choose her."
The sadness in her eyes was overwhelming and Cal felt it weighing on his own heart. He'd had no idea that Gillian thought, or felt, any of this. Yes, she was drunk and so may have been over-dramatising, but the initial thought must have been there already.
He leant forward in the chair, desperate to reassure her. "Gillian, I don't choose her -"
"Oh I'm sorry," she interrupted him, "Have we slept together recently?"
His eyes practically jumped out of his head, and he started to feel the beginnings of a headache. Where the hell was this coming from and how was he supposed to respond to it?
He decided it was best to just terminate the line of conversation. "Gillian," he said patiently, "I think you should get some sleep."
Thankfully she was too drunk and tired to notice his deflection. "Are you staying?" she asked him softly.
He nodded. "Of course I am."
She nodded too, and he could see that she was grateful to him for being there. She rolled her head to the side and closed her eyes. "Zoe won't like that," she muttered.
Riddled with concern and confusion, Cal softly told her, "Just forget about Zoe."
Her next words were barely audible but he caught them. "I wish I could."
... ... ...
Cal woke up to the sound of Gillian's gentle voice calling his name. His eyes fluttered open and he took in his surroundings: Gillian's living room? Remembering why he was there, he shook his head to clear it and looked around until he spotted Gillian sitting in a chair across from him.
"I do have a spare room, you know," she smiled, but he could see the tension around her eyes – not surprising, she probably had one hell of a headache.
"Yeah," Cal muttered, sitting up. He saw Gillian's eyes flick towards the bottle of scotch on the table and for a split second she looked guilty. "Your spare bed is not as comfy as you might think," he added as he watched her defensive walls go up.
Her eyes moved back to him. "I'm sorry you had to pick me up."
He must have looked surprised because she added, "I recall that much… Everything else is… fuzzy."
Cal smiled at her use of the word 'fuzzy'. It sounded so cute when she said it. "It wasn't a problem. How are you feeling?"
She cringed. "Like a truck is driving back and forth across my head. I took the painkillers you left out for me… Thank you."
Cal shrugged. "No need… Do you feel sick at all?"
A slight blush tinged her cheeks and she looked down. "We don't need to discuss that." She laughed slightly and looked back to him. "How did you end up picking me up?" she asked, her forehead creased with minor confusion.
"That part's fuzzy?"
"You sent me a text message," he explained, knowing that she would make some assumptions about how that led to him picking her up. He hadn't decided yet whether he was going to tell her everything about the night before. If she didn't remember it then approaching the topic was a little more difficult.
"Ah," she nodded, and then she seemed to regret it, wincing in pain. "Well, I'm sorry."
"It's all right, love."
Gillian nodded again, though it involved less movement this time.
He had been intending to assure her that it really was all right; to lightly remind her that she had done the same for him on numerous occasions. He stopped when panic flashed across her eyes and he realised that she did remember, at least some of it. And, she obviously didn't want him to bring it up.
Unfortunately, he found that knowing she wanted to pretend it never happened made him want to talk about it all the more. Something was at the root of the remarks she had made while drunk and he needed to know how to fix it. He would just have to figure out how to broach the subject.
He didn't get much thinking time though because Gillian abruptly stood from her chair.
"I've already disturbed your Friday night," she commented, apologetically, "I shouldn't ruin your Saturday as well."
Cal stood up, out of politeness, but desperately tried to think of something to say that would forestall her dismissal of him. He needed to talk to her. If he left that would be an unspoken agreement that he wasn't going to ask any questions. "I don't have any plans, love. I can stay if you like."
Of course she knew exactly what he was doing. "Cal." She said only his name but her tone carried ample warning.
"Gill," he responded, his tone completely affectionate.
"I don't -"
"At least reassure me, now you're sober, that I don't have to go and hunt down Jake."
"You don't need to hunt down Jake."
"Gillian, I've never seen you as drunk as you were last night, let alone had to go and pick you up from a pub. If you don't give me something to ease my mind I am going to have to follow you everywhere to make sure you're okay."
"Cal, I'm fine…"
"Following you it is," he remarked and he sat down again.
"I don't know what you want me to say... I was drunk, Cal. You know what that's like."
"I do... But you always know why, love."
She looked ready to squirm out from under his gaze but she stood her ground. He wished he could bring himself to back off but he couldn't shake the feeling that this could be a turning point in their relationship and he didn't want to miss the opportunity. Evidently there were opportunities she already felt that he had not taken.
"Gill, we don't have to do this now but I think we have things to talk about and if I leave you'll avoid the topic forever."
"Cal, I was drunk. I take everything you say when you're drunk with a pinch of salt."
"Okay. We'll ignore what you said. But can we at least cover why you were drunk?"
She hesitated for a further moment before eventually sitting down. "I suppose I owe you that."
"You don't owe me anything, darling. We are still far from even on what I owe you."
"I didn't actually drink that much. I hadn't eaten much at dinner so I think it just went straight to my head."
"Why were you at Joe's alone?"
"Because I left Jake in the club."
He shot her a look to reprimand her for that flippant response. "You didn't go home."
"I wanted some time to think... Joe's always seems to work well for you for that." She accompanied that with a small smile and he felt relieved that she wasn't too angry at him for forcing this conversation.
"And did it work for you?"
He leaned towards her and lowered his voice. "I'll let you in on a secret... It's not Joe's that helps, love."
"Now you tell me! Should I have drunk something in particular? What is the secret?"
"Well, for me, I always feel better when I see you walk in."
"It's true. Whatever drove me there, I forget all about it when you arrive... Until the next day, of course, when I feel like crap for dragging you out in the middle of the night."
"Not because you consumed copious amounts of alcohol the night before?"
"The effect of that doesn't even compare... What do you feel worse about right now?"
She nodded to accept his point.
"But you weren't pleased to see me last night," he pointed out. "I'd even suggest that I made you feel worse."
"That's not... completely true. It felt good to know that I wasn't alone when I fell asleep... And to find you still here this morning."
"And yet you tried to throw me out."
"I was embarrassed."
"No need to be, love. I was bound to find out one day that you are only human."
"My secret's out."
"It's safe with me." He hoped she understood that he would not discuss last night with anyone.
"Thanks Cal... For last night. For now."
"Do you want some breakfast?" she offered, standing. "I'm not ready to eat yet but I can fix you something."
"I'm not hungry. Sit down, love. Rest; recover."
"I'll just get a glass of water. Do you want a coffee? Tea?"
"Okay. Tea would be nice, love, thanks." At least the offer meant that she genuinely didn't object to him staying.
He stood up and followed her into the kitchen.
"I don't need to be supervised," she joked. But, despite the jovial tone, he couldn't help but be reminded of her repeated insistence last night that she did not need his help.
"I know that. I'm just keeping you company... But you know that if you ever do need me, I'll be there. You know that, darling?"
"It was a joke, Cal."
"I know. But I want to make sure you know that I'm here. Whenever. And you don't have to be drunk."
"Oh I won't be doing that again."
"You and Em, Gill, you're the most important people in the world to me."
Her mouth opened to respond but she clamped it shut and busied herself with putting water in the kettle.
"Zoe is third, darling."
He noticed the split second pause in her actions. "Cal..."
"Of course I care about her but there's nothing more between us now. That's over."
"You don't have to explain anything to me."
"I know, but I want to." He took a step closer to her. "Gill, you scared me last night. And I know I said we won't talk about what you said while you were drunk but - without going into any specifics - the only conclusion I can come to is that you don't know how important you are to me. I need to fix that, darling." He cut her off before she uttered a response. "And don't say it isn't true. I'm sorry, love. I'm sorry I'm a complete idiot; I'm sorry I take you for granted."
"Cal, you don't need to apologise."
"I disagree. You are the most loving, kind-hearted person I have ever met. And you deserve to know that you are appreciated and you are loved... I love you, Gill."
"I know. I do know all that, Cal. Don't worry... And I know you. I know you love me. You have your own way of showing it."
She shot him the most adorable smile as she said that and his lips curled into one of their own. She knew full well what his 'I love you' had really meant. But if she wasn't ready to fully acknowledge it then he could wait. He would use the time in between to prove it to her.
"One day, darling, we will talk about the things you said last night," he threatened, teasingly.
She took a sip from her water, regarding him over the glass, with a playful sparkle in her eyes. "We'll see," she responded after lowering her drink.
Cal laughed out loud. "Yes we will."
"In the meantime, on a Saturday morning I like to curl up on the couch and watch a sappy movie."
Cal exaggerated a groan. "If you'd told me that in the first place, I'd have left you alone."
Laughing, she poured the water for his tea. "If only I'd known."
She finished preparing his drink then turned to face him. Before she handed it over she asked him, softly, "Are you staying?"
Whether she had intentionally echoed their conversation from earlier or not, he couldn't tell. Either way, his answer was the same. "Of course I am."