He had watched her while Loker was with them. She was smiling, enjoying his tales of his time spent with the children. She laughed, occasionally, and at one point joined the younger man in singing the chorus of some song he and the kids had written.
To anyone else she would appear absolutely fine: But Cal could tell that she wasn't. And from the way she had avoided eye contact with Cal, and the tension – almost anger - that hardened her eyes whenever Cal spoke, it was clear to him that he was the reason she wasn't fine. He had searched his brain for what he had done; something in the day's events that would make her as unhappy towards him as she now seemed to be. Nothing had instantly come to mind.
Loker had left about five minutes ago; said he had a date. Cal had expected that Gillian would follow him; that she would make some excuse to not be alone with Cal. The fact that she had stayed, Cal thought, must be a good sign: Obviously they would sort out whatever was going on. Although, Cal didn't like to talk things over, and it didn't look like funny comments and a cute smile were going to solve it this time.
Gillian had been staring into her glass since Loker left. Her slender fingers, wrapped around the vessel, were tilting it and turning it, causing the amber liquid contained inside to slosh and swirl about the small space.
Again, Cal's mind raced through everything he had done that day; every conversation he had had with Gillian. He couldn't come up with anything. It unsettled him that she was so quiet. Usually she confronted him about things. When Zoë had turned up asking for their help; when he had lost himself in a suicide case and couldn't properly function; when he took out a loan to buy Zoë out of the Lightman Group; when he
had followed Alec. When he made mistakes – his one night stand with Poppy now springing to mind - she called him on them. He had accused her of mothering him, or smothering him, or told her it was none of her business, but, in truth, he found comfort in the fact that she was watching out for him.
This silence was new. She still had yet to look at him, and from the angle her head was tilted down at, he couldn't see a lot to read. He could see enough to tell that she wasn't deep in thought though. And this unnerved him even more.
He had caused the usually cheerful, playful Gillian Foster to sit silently, gazing absently into her drink. And he had no idea what he had done.
Of course, at some point in the five minutes, he could have asked her what was bothering her. There was a chance that his silence would make her angrier, obvious as it would be that he was trying to read her. But she seemed so alone, despite his presence in the room, and he wasn't even sure she remembered he was there. He felt as if he would be intruding on her personal space if he was to speak first.
Barely seconds later, Gillian's head lifted in time with her hand and she downed what remained of her drink. Only then, as her hand returned the glass to the coffee table in front of her did her eyes meet Cal's. Hard, with anger, but also shades of disappointment, they stared at him for what felt like minutes, but, Cal reasoned, could only really have been seconds. Then she blinked and, with a slight shake of her head, she stood from her seat and started towards the door.
"You're just going to leave?" Cal found himself asking, before she had had chance to reach for the door. The hostility in his voice was designed to provoke her; to force the conversation. Though he wasn't usually a fan of that, he wasn't about to let this carry on. He had seen Gillian disappointed in him before, but she never gave him the silent treatment. Something was very wrong.
She stopped at the door and turned slowly to face him. Cal was relieved that she had stopped: He hadn't been sure that she would.
"Are you pissed at me?" he challenged her not to answer.
She was trying to look stern and unaffected, but her entire body looked deflated. "Should I be pissed at you?" she responded, flatly.
Cal knew that his expression had given him away instantly, and Gillian laughed, humourlessly, and shook her head again. "Night, Cal."
She moved for the exit again and Cal's increasing concern brought him out of his chair.
"Just because I don't think you should be, doesn't mean you don't have good reason," he told her, hoping his light tone would encourage her to take pity on him a little and stay.
She opened the door and walked out.
Cal was right behind her though, he wasn't letting this drop. He was scared now. It seemed like an extreme reaction, but the feelings coursing through him were the same as when he was terrified: adrenaline, panic. Whatever was going on, he didn't like it. And he responded to her as he reacted to all fear, with anger and determination.
"Come on," he urged her, "Tell me what I've done. We can talk about it. I know how you like to talk about things."
She ignored him again, and continued on her path through the corridor until they reached her office. She moved into the space and toward her desk, picking up her bag, and checking to see if she had her keys.
Each action was conducted as if she was alone; she didn't acknowledge that he had followed her.
Cal's panic surged, and with it was a flare of anger: Why did he deserve to be ignored? Well, she could pretend all she wanted that he wasn't there, but she wouldn't be getting out of her office without noticing him. She would need to pass through the doorway, and that was exactly where he was going to stand. He folded his arms and leaned against the doorframe, his eyes fixed on her, tracing her every movement.
She tidied some papers and files that were on her desk; closed the blinds and then Cal sensed that she was frustrated that she had run out of things to do.
But, she maintained her composure as she turned toward the door and she walked towards him, stopping a foot away when he didn't move.
"Excuse me, please?" she requested politely.
Cal shook his head. "No."
"I'd like to go home," she stated, a hint of tiredness in her voice.
Cal frowned. "You want to leave without sorting this out?"
"There's nothing to sort."
Cal saw on her face that it wasn't that there was nothing to sort, but rather she didn't want to sort it. Each second with Gillian was just confusing him further. He had clearly done something serious, but he couldn't understand what it was or why she wasn't berating him for it.
"That's a lie." It didn't need saying – she would know that he knew she was lying – but it gave him something to say. This was completely uncharted territory, he had no idea which words to choose to make this better, and not worse. "Why don't you want to talk about it, love? I'm offering to talk to you here. You're gonna give up that chance?" He risked a small smile, hoping to see the same dance across her lips, alleviating some of the tension.
She just continued to stare at him, her look fast developing into a glare as she grew impatient. Well at least that was a response. Perhaps winding her up was the best route to take.
"Come on," he pushed, "If I've upset you, tell me what I've done and I'll fix it."
Sadness flashed in her eyes before she hid it. He had trained her well, but she still wasn't fast enough to hide from him.
"There," he said, pointing at her eyes, "I have upset you. What caused that?"
"Just move please, Cal. There's nothing for you to fix. It's done. Over."
What surprised Cal most about that statement was that she looked like she was telling the absolute truth. And what worried Cal the most about that was that it was quite clear that something major was over. She wasn't talking about whatever it was he had done today; she hadn't moved past it and all would be forgiven after a good night's sleep. No, something had changed between them. That is what she meant by 'over'.
"Well now I'm definitely not moving," Cal assured her, his heart and mind racing. What the hell was going on?
"Fine," Gillian muttered, pivoting to return to her office.
But she only turned for a split second and then she made for the door. Cal was ready for her though, his arm blocking her path, bringing his body close to hers. It reacted as it always did when in close proximity to Gillian. Her scent wafted around him and he felt each nerve ending come alive; he could feel her body heat through his shirt and felt his own temperature rise as he felt the pull of attraction. It was a response he fought on a daily basis – usually several times a day. Normally the contact was brief and Gillian wasn't present, or wasn't looking at him, as he tried to regain his composure. Now, however, she was looking straight at him. And he had trained her well, there was no way she was going to miss the signs of arousal on his face.
Cal watched as her eyes widened and darkened, before returning to the stony glower it seemed he was deserving of.
Dropping back, away from him, Gillian did head deeper into the room this time.
"You shouldn't have a problem with this Cal." Her statement surprised him, as he hadn't expected her to speak. She had her back to him, her hands were planted on her hips, but the firm stance she was going for was betrayed by the downward tilt of her head. "It's what you've been asking me to do for years," she continued.
"I don't remember ever asking you to stop talking to me," Cal returned, hoping this was going to be the conversation, and she wasn't going to close up again.
Her head lifted and she rotated to face him. "You can't have it both ways, Cal. I haven't got the energy for it."
Cal frowned, he still had no idea what was going on, but he needed her to continue. "So… you've chosen which way I'm allowed to have it?" he asked, plucking a question out of what she had said, to prompt her to elaborate.
She shook her head. "No. You did that."
That didn't clarify much. "I did?"
"I'd just been ignoring the signs because I didn't want it to go this way. But I've had enough now. If this is what you want then… So be it. But don't look so surprised."
Cal's heart was pounding now. He didn't like where this seemed to be going. "You think I want you to stop talking to me?"
Gillian let out a laugh – short and sharp and completely devoid of amusement. "I'm not going to stop talking to you, Cal. How would the company function then?"
"Then what the hell are you talking about?" Cal exclaimed, far too confused to carry on like this.
Gillian raised an eyebrow, and smiled, sadly, at him. "I suspected you didn't know what I'm talking about… I guess that confirms I've made the right decision."
"You said I made the decision," Cal pushed, trying to annoy her; hoping to infuriate her. If he could push the right buttons she would drop the resigned tone she was using and fight. She was too calm and Cal didn't like it.
"You decided the outcome. I decided it's going to happen now."
"Are you trying to freak me out with this calm, passive demeanour?" Cal asked as he swept closer to her, tilting his head from side to side and watching her closely for any sign that she was cracking. "Is that what this is? Something big is going on here Gillian, I can tell that much from the defeated look in your eyes. Stop being so God damn diplomatic and give me hell for whatever it is I've done."
Sadness flashed ever so quickly across her eyes again and then was gone. "It's just time for a change. It's been a long time coming, Cal… It's for the best."
"Are you going somewhere?" He panicked. The thought of her not being here every day physically hurt.
"Then what's going on? If your silent treatment is an example of what things'll be like after this 'change' then I don't want it."
"That wasn't silent treatment, Cal. I just had nothing to say."
"Oh no, love. I've been on the receiving end of silent treatment often enough to know when I'm receiving it," he insisted, thinking back on his time with Zoë. "What's going on?"
"I had nothing to say, Cal." She fixed her eyes on his, no doubt to let him see that she was telling the truth. "I was hoping that you would have something to say… But, when you didn't… I found I had nothing. I'm done. You get your wish."
Cal advanced even closer to her, edging into her personal space as he always did. "I don't know what bloody wish you're granting and I don't know what happened today to cause this. Are you gonna clue me in or shall we carry on like this all night?"
Gillian opened her mouth as if to speak but stopped herself, a resolute determination appearing in her eyes and tightened jaw.
And Cal came to a realisation. "You don't think you should have to tell me."
Anger now flickered on her face and her mouth opened again, but she clamped it shut before any words came out.
"No. Go on. Say what was on your mind then," he pressed. He was getting to the root of this now, he knew, but he was really going to have to push her to reveal whatever it was she was so resolved to hide. "Go on. Don't hold back on my account, quite clearly you don't care about upsetting me tonight!"
"Well if you're happy to be oblivious to what's going on around you, then why should I care?"
He knew the anger she was shooting at him now was because he had forced her into an outburst she had wanted to avoid.
"Oblivious?" Cal repeated. "I think you'll find I'm one of the most observant people in the world, love."
Gillian met his gaze and coolly stated, "Just because you see everything, doesn't mean you understand it."
Cal's eyes narrowed as he processed that. "So something happened today that I either didn't see, or didn't understand… Let's see… We had a group of school children in," he watched her closely for a reaction – her face softened a little at the mention of the kids. "A guy drove a tractor up to – … There. What was that?" Cal leaned closer to her, studying her features intently. "The guy with the tractor," he repeated so he could watch her again. The same thing sparked in her eyes. Fear. "Fear. Understandable. We thought he had a bomb… So we solved the case, saved the guy's family, saved the guy – " Cal stopped again. There was fear in Gillian's eyes again as he talked about saving the guy. "Your fear isn't linked to the bomb," he mused aloud, pieces clicking into place. "I walked up to the tractor and told him to – "
Gillian broke eye contact with him now and Cal was flushed with understanding and guilt.
"You were scared when I went out to the tractor." He could see it again in her face. He frowned. "But we knew there was no bomb."
She shrugged, trying to look impassive. "We could have been wrong… But we weren't, so…" She trailed off, not finishing that thought, but stepping to the side as if their conversation was over.
Cal caught hold of her hand as she tried to pass him. It was a gentle hold; but he hoped it was enough to stop her. "Gill, we knew there was no bomb. It was perfectly safe," he said softly.
She did stop, turning only her head to look at him. "We were ninety-nine percent sure there was no bomb… You didn't need to go out there."
"They didn't believe us."
"You could have found another way, Cal. But you didn't. Because that wouldn't be you. You have to take chances: with cases; with money; with your life. It's all some sort of game to you."
She slipped her hand out of his and moved toward the door.
"You can't have only just realised that, love," he called after her.
"No," she replied, stopping at the threshold of her office and glancing back at him. "I've known it all along. And I thought I was helping you by having your back, or picking up the pieces afterwards, or lying to Emily so that you wouldn't have to. I thought… I thought that would all mean something to you. That maybe you needed to know that someone did care what you did; that you would realise it did affect other people and you would stop…"
Cal watched as Gillian struggled with what she was saying. She looked so disappointed and disheartened. Guilt churned in his stomach as she continued and he realised how much he had hurt her.
"But you do know that the choices you make affect other people. You know that Emily is terrified whenever she doesn't know where you're working; you knew that putting all of our money on double zero at roulette was a stupid idea; you knew that – "
She stopped herself, but Cal could see where this was going, and he finished the utterance for her.
"I knew that sleeping with Poppy would hurt you."
Gillian's eyes widened in surprise that he had said that but she didn't dispute it. Instead she concluded her train of thought, "And yet, you do these things anyway… Well if you don't care. I don't care. You told me to stop mothering you, and smothering you; I've had looks to tell me things are none of my business and I should stay out of them. I ignored all that because I thought that somewhere, deep down, you appreciated me really. And one day you would see how much it hurts… the people you care about and you would stop. Or at least think before you act… But in less than six months you have been held hostage, gone out to Afghanistan, staked a million dollars - that we really could have done with - on a ridiculous risk, slept with a suspect, put yourself in danger for an old friend and stood next to a potentially explosive tractor! You don't care, Cal. So why the hell should I?"
Cal was taken aback by the build up of force in Gillian's tirade. He had no idea that she felt like this. She had always just been there, like she had said. And he had always just assumed that she would be. He had seen how scared she was when he was at gunpoint; he'd seen her fear when he was in Afghanistan. But they were friends, of course she was afraid for him. He had no idea it had come to this.
"Gill, I do care," he tried to reassure her as he quickly moved to her.
She backed away from him. "Actions speak louder than words, Cal and yours are loud and clear. Your thrill, first and foremost. Never mind the people who love you; who have to watch you throw yourself into danger on a regular basis. You don't spare us a second thought. So I'm going to think of myself. It's not good for me to worry so much, so I'm not going to do it."
He saw her intention to leave again and searched for something to say, landing on, "So you'll just stand by and watch me kill myself?"
He knew the moment the words left his lips that he shouldn't have said them. That was emotional blackmail if ever he heard it and really proved everything she had said about him.
The look she shot him was cold. "You expect me to do that anyway."
Cal marvelled at her excellent response and almost missed her walking away. Darting after her, he caught up with her a few steps away from her office and spun her round to face him. "I do care," he repeated, right in her face.
"But it's not enough is it? We're not enough for you. You have to have that thrill, and we can't give you that. I was stupid to think that I – that we could."
"I heard that," he said, stepping closer to her, but releasing the hold he had on her arms so that she was free to go if she wanted to.
"You're deflecting," she said, edging backwards toward the wall but making no move to escape.
"I don't think I am. We're getting to the root of the problem here… Gill, I had no idea that you felt like this."
"I thought I'd got through to you, after Eric Matheson. When you turned up on my doorstep I thought you'd realised that we'd both been through hell that day. I thought you'd been scared enough to last a lifetime – I certainly had… But no."
"It's who I am."
"I know… And normally I'd not expect a person to change, but you don't need to be like that anymore, Cal. You don't need to prove to the world that you can take care of yourself. There are other people who you need to take care of, and other people who want to help take care of you. It's time to stop pushing people away. Otherwise you will lose them."
"You said you weren't going anywhere."
"I'm not. But I can't go on like this. There's no reason for me to keep watching you nearly die… One day it won't be a near miss, Cal…"
It broke his heart to see tears in her eyes now.
"… One day I will stand in there and watch you die. Are you okay with that? Because I sure as hell am not."
A couple of tears slipped onto her cheeks now and she forcefully swiped at them.
"So your plan is to stop caring?" he asked her, quietly, leaning even closer, pinning her body between his and the wall now.
He watched the same reaction in her eyes that he had seen in the doorway earlier, before she skilfully hid it again.
"I can't give up caring, Cal. No matter how much I want to… But I'm giving up hoping. That way, the next time you do something reckless, I won't feel disappointed in you."
The words cut into him, deeply and sharply. The notion that he had driven Gillian to give up hope was frightening. She was always hopeful. It was one of the many, many things that he loved about her.
"I never wanted to let you down, love," Cal said, gently placing his right hand against her cheek, erasing her tear tracks with his thumb. Looking deep into her eyes he could see that she was torn between standing her ground and crumbling into their friendship. He desperately searched for something to say that would fix this. He knew he couldn't promise never to do anything reckless again. They both knew he would end up breaking that promise. But they were standing at a precipice here, and one wrong move would push their friendship over the edge. He had to do something, now. Maybe he could try explaining himself. She had opened up to him, perhaps she would appreciate the same.
"Gill," he began, watching his fingers as they softly stroked her face. He felt her tense under his touch, preparing herself for what he was going to say. He returned his gaze to her eyes and continued, "It isn't always about the thrill. Matheson, Afghanistan, today: it was about finding the truth. You know how I am about the truth. That's why we do this. That's why you agreed to join me to do this… When I'm looking for the truth, I don't necessarily see anything else – potential danger to myself, for example, seems to get blocked out…" She hadn't broken eye contact, or attempted to move away, so Cal hoped he was doing okay. She was keeping her expression very unreadable. "… But, sometimes, yeah, I do go for the thrill, the rush. Because I enjoy it… And because…" He hesitated. This really had to come out right. "… I want you to reprimand me." Her eyes tightened but luckily she let him continue. "I know I tell you to back off, but I like knowing that you care. I like seeing the agitation, the concern… the jealousy. Because I'm human. Hell, we all like to know that someone cares. But at the same time, I know I'm no good for you. So I have to prove that. I need to see that you care, for my sake, for my ego… But, for your sake, I need to push you away… I'm sorry that I have hurt you, that I worry you, that I have driven you to this. I never, ever wanted to do anything like that. I just – "
She cut him off, her face still an emotionless mask. "You were trying to protect me."
He couldn't tell whether she was pleased about that, whether she understood, whether she believed him, or whether she was incredulous and thought it was the biggest load of crap she had ever heard. Maybe it did sound like crap, maybe he was an absolute bastard. But it was true. Messed up, but true.
"I don't want protecting," she told him, sternly. "I want… I need to see that you care. For my ego," she used his words. "Because I'm human, too."
"I do care," he insisted, his other hand falling to her hip now, holding her, urging her to believe him.
She nodded. "Sometimes I can see that. But when you push me away; when you throw your life onto the line without a moment's thought as to how the hell I would cope without you…" He could feel her chest rising more rapidly as her breathing rate deepened; could see the pain in her eyes now as she was too upset to hide it. "When you flaunt your one night stands right in front of me, making out that I'm in the wrong for caring… Well, it works. I do think that you're no good for me. I know that I'm an idiot to keep bouncing back. But I do keep bouncing back. Because I can't not care for you. Even tonight. As I stared into that glass I decided I'd had enough. I was going to stop caring. But minutes later I knew that was never going to happen. It seems it doesn't matter what you do. You probably are no good for me…" She spoke those seven words pointedly, emphasising each one, but then her voice dropped to barely above a whisper. "…But apparently I want you anyway."
Cal knew his face had just flashed confusion and surprise, he hadn't expected that to be where she was going with that speech. Granted, she could mean in her life, as a friend, as the partners that they were. But her tone and the deep, deep affection that was swirling in her eyes, told him the full meaning of her words.
She resumed speaking before he had come up with a response. "You're too late to protect me," she informed him. "I'm in too deep. Push all you want; I'll still be there."
It was a sign of just how messed up their relationship was that she sounded resigned to that fact; dejected that she couldn't change it; that it seemed she had no control over her own feelings. These were feelings that should have brought happiness to both of them, but instead she was exhausted and he felt the need to apologise.
"I'm sorry, love," he told her, sincerely, hoping against hope that there was something he could say or do to eradicate her pain.
Her shoulders moved in a small shrug. "It's not your fault. Like you say, you tried your best."
He could see everything in her eyes now. How deeply she cared for him; how much she loved him.
He fought the urge to move forward and bring his lips to hers, showing her that he felt the same way. That he had been terrified when he realised Jenkins' copycat would be after her; that he had hated the way Vas was looking at her and speaking to her; that he had spent all night wondering what was going on after she had left him at the roulette table and gone out on the town with Ben... That he still wondered about that. Because Ben would be better for her. Ben wouldn't do this to her.
He had fought a similar urge to kiss her when he stood on her doorstep and could see that she had been just as disturbed by the hostage event as he was; and when he saw her for the first time after he returned from Afghanistan; and later that night when she had given him his Christmas present in the privacy of his office, and had told him how relieved she was that he was okay.
There had been opportunities to tell her how he felt, but if tonight had shown him anything it was that he was right to hold back. He was not good for her, in fact he would go so far as to say he was bad for her. She deserved so much more.
"Are we okay?" he asked her, knowing she would be expecting the conversation to go in this direction. She had shielded her admission of her feelings. To come out and say that she was in love with him would have forced them into a situation that wouldn't necessarily have been salvageable. By not openly saying that, she had left this route clear: they both knew it was the way it had to go.
She still looked disappointed though as she nodded. "We're okay."
"Until next time I do something reckless?" he joked, pleased and relieved when the smile she responded with did reach her eyes.
"If you must do something reckless, then, just, consult me on it first?"
He grinned, relieved beyond words that they were okay. This had been one of the most frightening periods of his life.
"Will do, love," he promised, fully intending to keep it. Leaning forward, he embraced her in a hug.
Her hands moved across his shoulders and she pulled herself closer to him, no doubt feeling the same sense of relief that he did. Cal knew they could never be more than this, it wouldn't be fair to her. But to not have her in his life at all, he thought, just might kill him.
The hug ended when Gillian gradually pulled away, but her hands stopped, one on each shoulder, and she looked at him with tired, but beautiful, eyes.
"Can I go home now?" she asked with a small, teasing smirk.
Cal responded with a contented grin and nodded. "You really should, you look exhausted."
One hand playfully slapped him, and confirmed for him that they were okay.
"Okay. Night, Cal."
"Night, love," he returned as she leaned across to instigate the parting (also used in greeting) kiss that had become part of their friendship in recent months.
Her lips touched softly to his cheek, just beyond his lips, and his returned the same.
But, when he expected her to pull back, Gillian didn't, and as the pressure of her hands on his shoulders increased ever so slightly, Cal felt a shift in the atmosphere. The air was suddenly charged, and he wasn't just imagining it.
Gillian's head turned mere millimetres, her shaky breath tickling across his lips, as his stomach felt heavy with anticipation. What was she doing?
Neither of them moved to decide one way or the other how this would end. Gillian's breathing grew deeper and shakier and Cal closed his eyes, fighting the desire to finish what she had started. This wasn't good for them. She wasn't supposed to do this.
Cal knew he had to say something before they did something they would regret. Forcing words past his fear and desire he managed a rough whisper, "Now wouldn't that be reckless?"
Even with his eyes closed, he could still tell that Gillian had shifted her eyes to look at his now. He dared to look at her, despite feeling that might be his undoing.
He had been right. Her intention was very clear in her wide eyes.
"Just consult me on it first," she responded, her voice quiet and breathless.
He felt himself falling. She was making it too hard to resist her.
"Gillian," he breathed; a last attempt at reminding her they shouldn't do this.
"That'll do," she breathed in return and then her lips were on his and Cal couldn't think about anything else.
It was as soft and sweet as Cal had imagined it would be. It began just a touch of her lips to his and then she moved and as her lower lip slipped between his, Cal was powerless not to respond.
He pressed forward, melting into her, pulling her closer. She reacted in kind, wrapping her arms around his neck and parting her lips, and a shiver fluttered through Cal's entire body when she ran her tongue across his bottom lip. He granted her the access, tasting her as she tasted him, their tongues brushing against each other, and the kiss deepened. Years of attraction, months of holding back and the adrenaline of thinking he was losing her were poured into it, Cal's mind racing with disbelief that it was actually happening.
He slipped one hand into her hair, the other to the small of her back and held her against him. Inching slowly forward, he backed her up the few steps needed to rest against the wall. His arousal stirred at feeling her body flush against his, but a tiny gasp from Gillian was enough to bring him back to reality, and to remind him that he was supposed to be fighting this.
Caressing her neck, he gradually pulled away, breaking the kiss down into brief touches before resting his forehead against hers.
Before he had gathered what to say, Gillian pre-empted his argument. Her voice was quiet and breathless from the kiss. "You decided you're no good for me. I'd like to know for sure, one way or the other. Before it's too late."
Cal longed to just agree to her suggestion, to resume that kiss where they left off, but he knew himself and no matter how much he loved Gillian, he was likely to still do things that would hurt her.
But before he could voice that, Gillian spoke again, practically addressing his thoughts.
"I don't really expect you to change, Cal. What I said tonight, I... It all just seemed to come together. Yes everything I said was true, but, you saw me, I got nowhere with not caring. Because it is too late." She moved her hands to his face and gently moved his head away from hers so she could squarely meet his eyes. "If you're going to end up hurting me, I'll get hurt: Whether we pursue this or not. Avoiding this won't protect me... And I do not want to have to live with what ifs."
It would be so easy to give in to her every wish. Just looking into her eyes Cal could feel his resolve crumbling. She was countering his arguments without him even voicing them! If that wasn't a sign that she was perfect for him then he didn't know what was.
But he still had no sign that he was right for her; that he could make her as happy as she deserved to be. And he refused to be selfish on this. Seeing Gillian happy was more important to him than his own happiness.
Then two words stopped his train of thought. She locked her eyes on his, and a small smile graced her lips and brought a sparkle to her entire face as she whispered, "Trust me."
He did. He always had, and from the moment they met he had known that he always would. So why was he doubting her now?
"It's a hell of a risk, love," he told her, his voice quiet with the heavy emotion coursing through him.
Her smile widened and Cal wondered how she could be so confident that he wasn't going to screw it all up.
"It's a risk I'm willing to take, Cal. And it's nothing compared to risks you have willingly taken in the not so distant past," she reminded him pointedly.
Cal took her hands in his and held them between them, resting against his chest. "You're wrong, Gill. You are one of the two most important people in my life. I was horrified and terrified to see how much I have hurt you. I can't knowingly put you in a situation where I might hurt you even more."
"You're not putting me anywhere. I've put myself there. If you recall, I kissed you," she smirked.
She had an answer for everything tonight. "Gill –"
"The only excuse I will accept is that you don't feel that way about me... And I was there for that kiss; I'd know you were lying."
She leaned forward and touched her lips to his, just a feather light ghost of a kiss.
"This could be good," she whispered, her words dancing across his lips as she spoke.
Cal heard all of his arguments again in his head, reiterated to himself that she was too important to lose, and tried to convince himself to end this before it went too far. But then he heard her words again. 'Trust me.'
And he always would.
Dusting her lips with a fleeting caress, an echo of the one she had bestowed on him, Cal then corrected her, "This could be amazing."
He felt her laugh as much as he heard it. "You think a lot of yourself," she remarked.
Cal grinned, roguishly, enjoying the look of happiness that shone in Gillian's eyes, proud, yet still in disbelief, that he was being allowed to put it there. Then he shook his head once. "I think a lot of you," he confessed.
Her cheeks flushed a little and she ducked her head shyly.
Cal slipped his hands into her hair and touched his lips to her forehead. "Do you want to get some dinner?" he whispered.
He felt her nod, and she tilted her head up, within his hold. "Take-out," she stated.
He raised his eyebrows. "Are you trying to dictate the terms of our date?"
Gillian smiled, innocently. "Yes."
Cal laughed. "I suppose I should get used to that."
Her smile widened and she leaned up and kissed him, softly, but forcefully. It lasted only a second before she tried to pull back, but he stopped her.
"Oh I can get used to that," he murmured against her mouth, and brought her back to him.
This kiss was tender and slow, confirming and reiterating the feelings they had spoken of tonight. Cal took his time, exploring the new sensations, committing the feelings to memory, enjoying being permitted to show what had been hidden for so long.
Gillian tasted of the scotch they had been drinking, intermingled with hints of chocolate. She would gasp if he grazed her lips with his teeth, and release a gentle whimper if he stroked the side of her neck with his fingers. So, of course, Cal intended to do both of those as often as he could. Starting now.
He brushed his fingertips over the sensitive spot he had found, and Gillian shivered as her lips parted to release their small sound. He did it again, ever so gentle, barely touching, and couldn't help but smile when she hummed against his lips.
Her lips curved into a smile too, and then moved off his. She trailed a staccato line of fluttering butterfly kisses along his cheek, coming to rest beside his ear. "I know what you're doing," she breathed, surprising him by nipping at his ear lobe with her teeth.
A shiver of his own shook Cal's body and he breathed in deeply for some control.
After another nip at his ear, Gillian moved her head back and faced him again. "Let's go, Cal. I'm starving." She smirked, and Cal knew it was in response to the mock frustrated glare that he was sending her.
"You just might be the death of me, Gillian Foster," he ground out through gritted teeth, though knew his happiness was still glistening in his eyes.
"Well," she responded, with a shrug, "Better me than… anything else."
Cal nodded. "True."
"Get your keys," she instructed him, with a gentle shove towards his office. "I'll wait here."
"Ah, 'get your coat, you've pulled'," Cal muttered to himself as he started to walk to his office. He shot a grin over his shoulder, to Gillian who he could hear giggling behind him.
She smiled radiantly at him from where she was leaning against the wall, and Cal felt a rush of excitement ripple through his veins. He still couldn't believe this was real. Maybe he'd wake up soon and realise it wasn't – though, admittedly a lot more conversation had gone on here than usually featured in his dreams about Gillian.
He grabbed his keys from his desk and flicked the office lights off as he wasted no time at all returning to where he left Gillian.
Their eyes met as he walked towards her and Cal's heart skipped with a ridiculous giddiness reminiscent of his first ever date.
Gillian pushed away from the wall as he neared her and moved to fall into step beside him. However, when he noted the expression on her face, Cal stopped walking.
"What?" he asked her.
Her brow furrowed. "'What?' what?"
"What's the mischievous look for?" he clarified, waving his hand in front of her face.
Gillian shrugged, but he could see that the smile on her lips was there beyond her control. "I was just thinking."
"Something mischievous?" he probed.
"Not so much mischievous as..." She trailed off, and Cal watched, curious, as her cheeks blushed. When she continued, she didn't finish that sentence. "I was just thinking that I'm beginning to see why you like to be reckless."
Cal laughed, more with shock than amusement. "I told you that I'm bad for you."
"We'll see," Gillian said, cheekily.
Cal draped his arm across her shoulders. "Shall we go home, love?"
Gillian smiled. "Probably best. I know you have cameras on this corridor."
"Maybe you're bad for me," Cal mused, as he pulled her closer and they began the walk out.
Gillian looked up at him. "Only if you ask nicely."
Cal almost choked on the air he was inhaling, and Gillian fell into a fit of giggles beside him.
He stopped walking again. He turned her to face him and he was rushed with his love for her again as she looked at him, questioning why they had stopped, but her face still glowing from her laughter.
He held her against him, sliding his other arm around her waist and for a moment was completely lost in her eyes. Then he remembered why he had stopped them.
"Are you sure you're sure about this?"
She sent him a pointed look, a reprimand for too much thinking. "We've been over this."
"But you've been through a lot today, you might not be thinking – "
"Cal, I am thinking more clearly than ever. What I went through today showed me that something has to change. I'd prefer it to go this way."
Cal nodded. "Me too."
"Then why have we stopped?" she smiled.
Cal just stared at her a moment longer. If this was a dream, he was perfectly okay with never waking up. But he knew this was real, and the implications of that were really starting to hit him. "Normally I wouldn't hesitate to do something reckless…" At Gillian's raised eyebrow he added, "As you know, love… But…" He hesitated. His mind was swirling with his love for her, with his desire to kiss her again, to kiss her forever. But at the same time he felt that pull to protect her, to shield her from him.
"… This time you're scared," she finished for him.
"I'm terrified, love," he admitted, with a nervous laugh. "This is you and me. We're a team. We work. I can't lose that."
Gillian nodded, and snuggled closer to him with a mysterious smile. "Cal, that is exactly why we don't need to worry," she said, quietly. "This is you and me: Being reckless together. This will work…" she assured him, before adding, with a teasing smirk, "Providing you actually let us get as far as leaving the building."
His heart was still pounding, his stomach still felt like it was tied in knots, and his mind was still screaming that he wasn't good enough for Gillian. But she was standing in front of him, telling him it was okay for him to take this risk… Because she was willing to take it with him. And Gillian was usually good at judging situations.
She was right: He had to stop worrying. And they had to leave the building.
"Let's go home, love," he said, before kissing her softly, hoping she would get that he was thanking her for… well, being her.
She smiled up at him when he pulled back, and she nodded. "Finally!"
Her arm settled around his waist, and he rested his across her shoulders and they did get as far as the door, and they did leave their offices.
And as they walked - and Cal's fear stepped aside for the fact that it all felt so natural, and so right - he couldn't help but observe, "If I'd have known you'd react like this to being reckless, I'd have invited you to do it with me ages ago."