"You can't score any higher than 'eat'?"
Gillian smiled, enjoying the banter between father and daughter. She had missed this. For the last couple of months - since Clare's death - Cal's behaviour had been… strange. Not as damaging to their relationship as his previous bout of unusual behaviour, but it had still concerned her. He was distant. But it wasn't so much a physical distance. He was still there; he still wandered into her office at seemingly random intervals; he still pushed himself into her personal space. Only the random intervals didn't seem so random; the invasion of her space seemed forced - as if he was trying to keep everything normal. There was something missing in his eyes. At first she had thought he was unsure how to behave while she was grieving, but that had never been a problem for him before. And as time progressed, it only worried her further as she struggled to identify what had caused the shift.
Two days ago she had decided that enough was enough and asked him what was going on. He had seemed genuinely surprised at her question; had apologised and explained he hadn't realised he was acting strangely. She wasn't sure whether to believe him or not, but then he had invited her to a home-cooked dinner, with him and Emily, and she thought she'd seen that familiar spark of affection in his eyes. And he had insisted. So here she was. And everything actually felt normal.
Cal shrugged in answer to Emily's disbelieving question. "Would if I could."
"Yeah sure." Emily rolled her eyes but Gillian spotted a smile as the young woman ducked her head. "You're letting Gillian win."
Cal feigned shock at her words. "I am offended you would -"
Gillian leaned over the small table and looked at Cal's letters while he spoke, then she cut him off with, "It does seem like you are letting me win," and a smirk.
Cal swatted her away and Emily laughed and shared a conspiratorial smile with Gillian as the latter straightened up again.
"I'm just doing the gentlemanly thing," Cal defended.
"Yeah," Emily scoffed, returning her attention to her own letters, "More like you're just in love with her!"
Gillian's eyes widened, but she forced a laugh, not quite understanding the joke, but sure that Emily must be winding her Dad up with that for a reason. She continued to study her letters as she waited for Cal's responding quip. It was when no response came that she lifted her eyes to glance first at Emily, then at Cal. The two were locked in a stare. Emily looked horrified and Cal looked terrified. This prompted her to lift her head and look between them again.
"I… er.. have an essay to write," Emily stammered, avoiding Gillian's gaze and making her escape; leaving Cal and Gillian alone.
"What was that?" Gillian breathed, looking to Cal with a deeply furrowed brow and a whole mix of emotions swirling round her mind. She tried to fight them back, not letting herself even consider the implications of what Emily had said.
Cal gave a small shrug and tried to laugh it off. "Oh, she often forgets -"
"Cal," she reprimanded his lame attempt at deflection. "I thought it was a private joke…"
"Yeah, it -"
"… Until I saw how you both reacted."
Though Cal's eyes remained fixed on hers, she could tell that he wanted to divert his gaze, and that he too would flee if he could. And, for Cal, that was even more unusual than the behaviour of the last month. Which meant that Emily's remark was true.
That didn't help to clear any of the jumble of feelings rushing through Gillian. Though it did give hope the upper hand.
"She thinks you're in love with me," she stated, calmly, not quite sure how to proceed with this conversation, or what she actually wanted the outcome to be; it was becoming increasingly difficult to think about anything accept the fact itself: Cal. In love. With her.
"She has an overactive -"
"Cal," she stopped him again, "Did you tell her that you're in love with me?"
She watched his expression shift from desperately trying to hide any sign of the truth, to a serious look that revealed everything. "She asked," he replied, quietly.
Remarkably, she found that she felt relieved at his admission, and only a little bit terrified. She couldn't help smiling at his comment - as if the only reason he had never told her of his feelings was that she had never asked.
"Were you going to tell me?" she asked.
Now he did duck his gaze, though he looked back at her, apology written across his features, as he said, "Probably not."
Gillian nodded, a little disappointed, but understanding his hesitance - that would be a huge risk, and he didn't take those when it came to her. And, besides, she hadn't exactly been forthcoming with her own feelings.
The question now was whether or not they could take the risk together, and she found that the answer, at least on her part, was a resounding yes.
"I see," she responded, softly, glancing down at the Scrabble board, marvelling at how very, very differently this evening was now going.
"I'm sorry, love, I… Emily beat it out of me. I was barely even ready to admit it to myself."
She could hear the joking in his tone; knew that there hadn't really been any beating involved. But she could believe that he had tried to conceal his feelings from himself.
"It's okay," she assured him, smirking as she caught sight of the word 'eat' as she moved to face him again. She found his eyes, held his gaze, and confidently told him, "I know exactly what you mean."
He started to smile, but then it paused while his eyes widened, and she knew that he understood exactly what she meant.
Her own smile widened, and she observed, "You know, reading microexpressions is all well and good, but, when it comes to communicating, we seem to have stopped using our words."
"Apparently so," he agreed.
"Thank goodness for Emily."
Cal laughed, once. "Yeah… Though I think she can stew a little longer, doing her fake essay."
"No. Just busy: You and I have some communicating to do."
Gillian's lips curved into a gentle smile. "Yes we do."
He leaned towards her and she was delighted to see his eyes shining with their usual mischief. His voice was low when he spoke, asking her, "Did you have your heart set on using our words?"
She laughed, and rolled her eyes, at him, but had to admit that the heat surging through her certainly confirmed that she did not.
"I could be persuaded to delay it a little while."
She had always loved Cal's grin, but the one he shot her now - happy, nervous, predatory - she knew would be etched into her memory forever.
"And how might I persuade you?" he asked, his eyes fixed firmly on hers as his head drew nearer and he softly - ever so softly - touched his lips to hers.
He kept it brief, and no sooner had he been there, he was gone.
Gillian licked her lips and sighed, "That's a start."
"Oh good. Because I don't mind doing that again."
He inched forward but she placed her hand flat on his chest to halt him. "We do need to talk, Cal."
He nodded. "I know, darling… And we will."
Gillian's response was lost into their next kiss, but, she surmised, on this occasion, it didn't really need to be said. As Cal's hands tangled in her hair, and his lips parted beneath hers, it was obvious that they would talk…'later'.