… … …
She sweeps into the doorway, blocking his exit. He tries to rile her with, "I remember hiring you, but I don't remember marrying you"; persuade her not to care; drive her to move out of his way. But she stands her ground, just intensifies her glare.
"If you do this, I won't be picking up the pieces this time," she insists.
He shrugs. "All right." She remains in place and he can see that, behind the anger, her eyes are trying to plead with him not to do it. But he's always been an idiot. "Well? Move out of the way, love."
She hesitates only a split second and then she steps aside, her hands falling to her sides. He notices her right hand curling into a fist with anxiety and agitation, but he ignores it and continues on his way.
… … …
He walks into his office, his mind distracted, trying to work out the best way to fix things with Gillian. He's been through hell, but all that he can think about is her. He knows he doesn't deserve her forgiveness; if he's honest with himself he thinks he isn't going to get it. The pain of the day's events is nothing compared to that of knowing that he created this mess.
His steps falter when he finds the object of his thoughts sitting behind his desk. He stops and stares at her, knowing he is frowning deeply; unable to comprehend why she is there.
She stares back, sadness in her eyes, tension in her features. Her hands are folded in her lap, but her fingers are restless. She's fighting against revealing something. Anger, no doubt… But that doesn't explain why she is there after she specifically told him she wouldn't be.
"All right, love?" he asks, quietly. He knows it's a lame start, but he can't think of anything else to say.
"Not really," she replies, forcing her hands to still.
He nods and lets out a bitter laugh. "Me neither." But then she knows that. And she knew that would be the case before he even left this morning. And he chose to not only ignore her, but to insult her in the process. Idiot is an understatement.
She doesn't respond to his apparent self-pity.
He shuffles his feet a few times, his mind racing, searching for the right thing to say: If there is a right thing to say.
She's just watching him, waiting. He's still confused as to her presence. He'd believed her when she said she wouldn't be picking up the pieces. He'd seen the hurt, the fear and the anger; he'd felt sure he had pushed her too far this time. Yet, here she was. And if she just wanted to make sure he really was alive, she could have left by now.
But she hasn't.
He has a chance to at least attempt to repair the damage. So, why isn't he speaking?
"Gill, I'm -"
"Don't," she stops him. "Don't apologise. There's no point saying the words, when in a week, two weeks, six months, you'll just do it again…"
She's still eerily calm, and she stands up from her seat.
"I wanted to know that you're okay. I'm going home now."
She moves past the desk, walks past him, and he's aware that he's watching her with his mouth hanging open. He doesn't know what he's supposed to do.
She's still walking, and he's still watching. He sets off after her, calling her name.
"Gillian… You're going to leave it like this?"
She doesn't stop, and she doesn't turn around. "I'm tired, Cal. I'll see you tomorrow."
"Wait… Gillian, please?"
He manages to pass her, stopping ahead of the doorway so her exit is blocked.
"I am sorry. I -"
She stops and rolls her eyes. "I told myself not to be here when you got back. I told myself to get out of the chair and leave. Seems you're not the only one who ignores me."
"Gill, I know sorry doesn't cover it. I know you don't want to hear -"
"I can't keep doing it, Cal," she cuts him off. "Why is it okay for you to do whatever you like to me? Why is it acceptable for you to bemoan the fact that I nag you and smother you, but then expect me to do it anyway? I'm your partner, Cal. I'm not your employee and I'm certainly not your wife. I don't have to put up with this."
She takes a step to attempt to dodge him and he slides into the doorway itself; his hands braced on the frame, blocking the way as she had done that morning.
"Let me fix it?" he asks hopefully.
She doesn't respond verbally, but he can see her inner battle in her eyes. She wants to give in but he has pushed her too far and he's driven her to self-preservation: She's safer if she pulls away now.
And it's not that he wants her to be unsafe. If he thought that she would be happy to walk away from this now he would stand aside. But he knows it's killing her as much as it is killing him. He knows they are too much to each other for this to be the beginning of the end. She's too nice, and too beautiful of character, for it to sit right with her that she walked away.
"You said you wouldn't be picking up the pieces… Let me pick them up?"
He sees a flash of hope in her eyes but it is rapidly replaced by fear. She shakes her head.
"We're stuck in a vicious cycle, Cal. Something's got to -"
"No, if I fix it, it breaks the cycle. Normally you push aside your true feelings and forgive me for trampling all over them… This time, I see them. I know what I've done, Gillian. And I know I don't want to do it again."
He hopes that the depth of honesty he intends with those words can also be seen on his face and his body language. He hopes she'll believe him. Because this isn't an apology, empty words only to be uttered again in the future. This is the realisation that he has never treated her how she deserves to be treated; that he has never thanked her for catching him on his way down; for being there to pick up the pieces every time he has caused the world to shatter around them. He tells other people; he shows them how much he appreciates her, how much he cares. But he has never told her. Because he has never needed to… and he hid behind that.
"I know I can't fix it tonight. I know I have to prove to you in a week, two weeks, six months' time that I'm not going to do it all over again… Let me? Let me prove it, Gillian? You are my partner - and you deserve to be treated as such."
Her expression hasn't changed at all while he was speaking. He can't judge her reaction. He can't tell if she's going to believe him or not.
"Why now?" she asks.
It's such a simple question, but he knows there is no simple answer.
"Because you scared me today… I was caught up in the adrenaline of rushing into danger, and the root of my fear got obscured. But when I came out of it alive, I was still terrified. And all I could think about was you."
She's still glaring at him, but she isn't arguing and she hasn't tried to leave.
"I've taken you for granted for eight years, love. But not anymore."
The muscles in her face quiver as he watches her try to take control of her emotions. She opens her mouth to speak, but then closes it again and clears her throat before saying, "Good answer."
He smiles, every muscle in his body relaxing with relief. "And completely off the cuff, love. I didn't rehearse it."
His hands drop from the doorframe now he knows she won't run. His fingers ache: He hadn't been aware that he was holding on so tightly.
She gives a short laugh, but it doesn't quite reach her eyes, and tells him, "Okay. We'll do this your way."
He beams at her, knowing he probably looks absolutely crazy, but not caring: It is an outward manifestation of what he feels.
"Now, I really am tired. Can I go?"
He doesn't know that he flashes panic until she assures him, "I didn't just agree to this so I could get out of here."
He smiles, sheepishly, and she smiles back - her first genuine one of the evening. She pulls him into a brief hug. "I'm glad you're okay, Cal," she tells him quietly. "And I'm looking forward to being your partner."
When she drops back he returns, "I think I'm going to enjoy it, too."
Though she smiles at him, she emits a gentle sigh and he imagines she is thinking about the eight years he has wasted.
"See you in the morning," she says, softly.
He nods and steps out of her way. The similarity to the morning's events is not lost on him as she passes, and his words come back to haunt him again.
"Er, just so you, you know, know, love…" he calls after her.
She stops and looks back.
"…I think I would enjoy being married to you as well."
She laughs out loud and shakes her head. "You'd hate it."
He watches her walk away, his eyes drifting over her as they always do. And when she's probably out of ear shot he mutters, "Oh, I don't know, love."