… … …
At first, she was just running. She didn't know if she was running from something, or to something; she didn't know where she was going or where she had been. She just knew she had to run. And she did. Her legs pushed her onward; the ground solid beneath each footfall. Her breath came faster and deeper in a gradually aching chest. She ran until she woke up - breathless, hot and feeling like she had never even been to sleep.
Last week, she was running through a hospital. Along corridors; round corners; past doctors and patients and nurses who watched her pass by. She ran up stairs and through doors that just led to more corridors and more corners and more doors. And she just kept running. Until she woke up - heart pounding, legs tangled in the bed sheets, mouth dry.
Tonight, she's running towards their building. Sirens flash around her; their staff watch her as she runs straight past them; Ben tries to stop her but she pushes him away. And she runs and runs and runs but she never gets any closer to the doors. And then windows smash above her as flames gush outwards and she drops to the ground.
And she lies there until she wakes up - hands shaking, tears streaming down her cheeks, heart racing.
She sweeps from her bed, running the short distance to her spare room and a sob racks through her when she sees him lying there, snoring softly.
She pulls the door closed and collapses against it - the mixture of fear and relief bringing more and more tears until she's kneeling on the floor and crying her heart out.
Images of the fire and the ambulance and his lifeless body invade her thoughts when she closes her eyes. She forces them open but the stinging of tears is against her.
She startles upright when the door opens and she automatically wipes at her eyes as Cal looks down at her.
He drops to his knees and brings both hands to her face, his thumbs stroking at her tears as they, rebelliously, continue to fall.
She touches his chest, his arms, wherever she can to prove he's alive. "I couldn't get there -… I was running and running and running and -"
He softly shushes her and pulls her to him, one hand sliding into her hair, the other falling to the small of her back. "It's okay… I'm okay. You don't need to run anymore," he soothes.
His words filter through the jumble in her mind and she freezes. You don't need to run anymore.
She pulls back and looks at his face. She traces her fingertips over the still fierce scars on his cheeks; she remembers the blood and the blisters; the excruciating wait to hear that he was okay; how close - too close - she came to losing him.
And she wonders why she has insisted on running.
She brushes her fingers over his lips. Just lightly. And she catches the darkening of his eyes.
He whispers, "Gillian," and he does try for warning but she can hear the desire behind it.
"I'm tired of running, Cal," she whispers back.
She closes the distance between them; gently presses her lips to his. And it's right, she can tell. This is where she had been going. This is what she was supposed to run to.
She's here now. She can stop.