He was once asked to describe his ideal woman. While for some a response to that would require use of their imagination, he didn't even need to put much thought into it. His ideal woman was a constant in his mind. She was there when he closed his eyes to sleep; she was there when he woke up in the mornings. He knew it was clichéd, and he was unlikely to ever say it out loud, but it was true. His ideal woman was not a dream; she wasn't an idea of what the perfect woman would be like. His ideal woman existed. She knew him, probably even better than he knew himself; she knew all his mannerisms; all his habits; knew when he needed to talk and when he needed to be left alone. She could right his wrongs, salvage situations that his sometimes one track mind could create - on occasion repairing damage before he was even aware that he had done it. She had saved him, their company and his sanity many a time and never expected any thanks.
Above all that, she understood him: what his work meant to him, what he hoped that The Lightman Group would achieve. She understood, and accepted, that he could see everything and trusted that he wouldn't let that ruin their friendship. That trust made him all the more determined not to let her down. She made him want to offer her the same unending support he had received in the seven years they had worked together. He knew he would be a very different person, in a very different place, if he hadn't met her.
She had a smile that could erase every negative thought or moment in an instant. When she smiled, he smiled: It was impossible not to. And when she was puzzled, or intrigued, she had the most adorable little frown. Her brow would furrow slightly and her lips purse. When she was amusedly curious as to what he was up to, the same frown mingled with a hint of a smile across her lips. It was unbelievably tempting to confuse her all the time just to see it. On quiet days he would sometimes permit himself that entertainment. He was pretty sure she knew what he was doing, but she played along anyway: Something else that made her perfect.
His list of what made her his ideal woman could continue ad infinitum. He could mention her mind; her talent in her field and developing skills in his; he could talk about her caring nature, her protective side, her sensitivity. She could be strong when it was necessary, but she wasn't impenetrable, she cared deeply, and, while it sometimes got her into trouble, he didn't think she should be any other way.
He could describe her body, her dress sense, the way she moved; could speak for hours about her laugh and the sound of her voice; could write a paper on her beauty and her ability to look bloody gorgeous at any time of day, in any situation. Ask him anything about her and he could talk for days.
But, when he was asked, weeks ago, to describe his ideal woman, he declined. It wasn't because he couldn't do it. But rather because the description would make it obvious who she was. And, while the woman who had asked it of him would not have recognised her, Cal would have. And it was one thing for him to think it, but quite another to say it out loud. He had deflected with the 'real question' of whether he was her ideal man, not ready to admit to his thoughts. But that quickly posited cover had haunted him ever since and now…
Well, now the object of his thoughts was sitting across from him, frowning her curious frown because he had been quiet for longer than necessary. He had been too lost in his thoughts to realise that she was waiting for a response from him.
"Cal?" she prompted.
"Sorry, love," he apologised with a sheepish smile.
"Where did you go?" she asked him.
"Just thinking." Her ability to know when not to push for more information was another item on his list, and, as he knew would happen, her smile widened as her curiosity deepened, but she didn't enquire any further.
"Okay," she said slowly as she stood from her chair. "Well, I'm going to call it a night. You should too."
He nodded, and smiled, appreciative of her concern for his work-life balance. The shaking of her head as she crossed his office told him that she knew he was unlikely to take her advice.
He watched her walk away, his mind running again through the list; through his description of his ideal woman, and his curiosity was too much this time.
His voice stopped her as she reached the door and she turned back.
"Describe your ideal man," he requested and her eyes widened in surprise.
"Now?" she asked with raised eyebrows.
He shrugged. "Whenever you're ready, love."
She frowned - that intrigued, curious frown again - and was silent for a while, eyes fixed on his. He could practically see her mind trying to work out his motive for asking.
Eventually, her lips quirked into a mischievous smile, her eyes sparkled with amusement and she shook her head twice. "No," she told him, opening the door and disappearing through it.
He stared after her for a second before chuckling to himself, marvelling at how she could still surprise him with her responses. He schooled his laughter when her hand appeared on the door frame, quickly followed by her head peeking into the room.
She fixed her eyes on his again and smiled cheekily, and he felt his pulse quicken, pounding in his neck.
"Because the description would make it obvious who it is."
She vanished from sight again, but not before he caught the brief flash of nervousness in her eyes.
He grinned to himself.