CHARACTERS: Gillian, Cal, Torres, Loker, Zoe
SUMMARY: A journey throughout the years – told by small notes they've given each other.
Cal: "I thought the truth would set you free."
Gillian: "Speaking of which, do you still have that note that I brought you? I want it for my office."
Cal: "You really are a pack-rat."
(from 1.01 'Pilot')
"You got my number, right?"
These are turbulent times, making her fear unknown dangers behind every corner. Her steps are cautious, led by memories of threats made on her doorstep and cover-ups she doesn't fully understand. It makes it hard to breathe sometimes, but she knows she has to pull through. For herself, and also for him. Mostly for him, actually.
She's only known him for a month and oftentimes wonders why he is affecting her so deeply. There's no obvious answer; maybe not even a more complicated, obscured one. She has accepted that sometimes there are no answers at all.
He, on the other hand, it seems, hasn't. Always looking, always analyzing, never letting go. It brings out the fear in her that he might find out, and then they will both go down along with their families.
She breathes in deeply one last time before cautiously opening the door to the tiny space they gave him as a pity excuse for an office. It's creative chaos in there—much like she imagines his mind to be.
He looks up and something like a smile lights up his face. "Hey."
"Hey, Dr. Lightman."
"Cal," he insists.
She nods and gets a little closer. "Just returning your book, Cal." It still sounds a little uneasy coming from her mouth. "It's a great read."
"You can keep it." It's earnest and somehow full of meaning.
She puts the book down on his desk nevertheless. "I might buy my own copy, when it's officially released."
"Sure, make me rich." He grins and sometimes she feels intimidated when he's looking at her, imagining what he might read from the way she bites her lip or simply holds her arms. "Are you okay?" he then asks, maybe picking up on it.
"Yeah," she says, but she is not. "Really just wanted to give this back to you." Her hand gestures to the book again. She has more on her mind, but can't say any of it out loud to him. She wishes she could, letting go of this burden, but it's impossible. "I guess, I'll see you around." She takes some small steps back in the direction of the door.
"I'll only be here for a couple more days."
"Oh," she replies and even though she should have seen this coming, it surprises her nevertheless.
He just shrugs, like it's no big deal. "They want me out, trying all they can—and I'm sick of their bullshit. Might start my own thing."
"They're fools. They don't realize what they're losing."
He smiles again and it's warm and maybe even a little shy. Nothing she's seen on him before. And all of a sudden she feels like she's doing it, too: analyzing, looking for cues, interpreting, and trying to make sense.
"I have to go to a meeting," she says, debating in her head whether it is best for him to leave, because this nightmare will be over then, or whether she wants him to stick around just for getting to know him and his science better. Again, there's no definitive answer.
"You got my number, right?" It seems important to him.
"Yes, and you have mine." She smiles back and slowly continues on her way to the door. "Thanks again for the book."
She doesn't say goodbye, because she doesn't want it to be one.
He keeps looking at the closed door long after she is gone. Something about her seemed strange, but he can't put his finger on it.
Despite his background, he doesn't really believe in psychobabble, therapy, talking things through. But talking to her somehow always felt good. In her office on more official business or just in between when they would occasionally run into each other.
He reaches out for the book to put it back on one of the shelves that soon won't be his anymore. It's a bit of paper sticking out from the pages that catches his attention, though. He opens the book and finds a note handwritten on Pentagon stationary in between the pages.
'Did you know that with the exception of the muscles around the eyes,
those of the larynx have more nerves than any other muscles in the human body?
Each can produce a different pulse wave and sound quality.
They're our vocal palette: through them we color our voices with affection,
bitterness, pleasure, disgust, etc.
I think there's something in there, linking your research to voice analysis.
Have you ever thought about that?
Let me know if I can be of any help.
She wanted him to see this. It's why she insisted on returning the book. He wonders why she wouldn't just say it to him, but reading the note again, he decides that it's actually much more fascinating this way; his science directly linked to her field of expertise by putting the words in his book.
He's smiling to himself, taking the note and putting it in the locked-up drawer next to other important documents.
He's going to call her the day he leaves this shithole behind.
"Maybe you should write it down."
He drives her crazy. In every way, on every day. He knows and—worst of all—he fucking likes it.
"You know how to do this, right?" she asks and is seriously worried. This is a bad, bad idea. One of her worst.
"Ruining this company?" he mocks. "Sure." He grins while she is pointing at the spreadsheet summarizing their expenses in miniscule numbers and she hates him. Why the hell did she ever agree to launch a company with him?
"This is important, Cal." She wants to shake him and make him listen, but she knows just well enough that nothing can make him do the things she wants him to do. It's the frustrating truth she has learned to live with.
"Yeah, I get it, Foster. Stop worrying."
When it comes to going on vacation and leaving the company behind, one of them is just as good as the other. Or rather just as bad. She wants to go away for these three weeks so badly, but she can't trust him to not make a mess of the numbers. The numbers are really all she cares about. Everything else will be fine.
"Take me though it again. What do you have to do for the payroll?"
He looks at her and starts to grin again, but somehow the seriousness on her face makes him reconsider. Almost lost and like a little schoolboy who suddenly wants to please his teacher, he then rummages around in the folders in front of him, looks back to the spreadsheet open on his computer, and then up to her again.
"I press a button and it all works out automatically?" he asks, knowing well enough it's not even remotely that easy.
Her gaze is still serious and stern. "Maybe you should write it down."
He leans back in his chair and she's not convinced anymore that he's still aiming to please her. "I think I'm good. I'll just text you if I'm at my wits' end."
She remains adamant, crosses her arms in front of her chest to send a clear signal. "I don't want to hear from you in the next three weeks."
"That's rather harsh."
"You will not mess up my well-deserved vacation. Now listen, 'cause I'll only explain it one more time."
He sits up straight and listens (or at least does well in pretending to), but long after he is already gone that evening, she is still working hard to make sure he won't kill this company in the three weeks to come.
First thing he does in the morning is checking her office to see if she really went on vacation. He wasn't entirely sure until he sees the empty chair with his own eyes.
It makes him smile, but when he enters his own office, she makes him actually laugh out loud. His desk, the cabinets, the files in the drawers, and even the shelves of his study are strewn with post-it notes with her neat handwriting. Color-coded for different tasks and in meticulous detail.
He plops down on his chair and admires the view, glancing over some of the notes, but eventually his eyes focus on the pink post-it stuck on top of his laptop. She left it there because it's the most important one.
'Despite it all, I believe in you, Cal Lightman. Make me proud.'
He gets out his phone and selects her name from the list she is already on top of anyway.
'I promised to not text you, but I gotta make an exception. You usually act like the sane one, but sometimes I'm not sure who actually is the crazy one of the two of us. Have a nice time, love.'
He has every intention to not screw it up.
"I don't want to go home."
She's a ghost he sees hurrying over the corridors of the Group and he desperately wishes he wasn't so damn awful at expressing his compassion. Or any honest feeling for that matter.
Instead he tries hard to keep the cases from her, so she can slowly settle back in, but whenever he doesn't pay attention for only a few seconds, she seems to have snapped up more work. At one point he realizes she's burying herself in work to bury the pain under the rubble with her. A coping mechanism taken right out of his book of stupid decisions.
He watches her making some tea from the distance. She hasn't seen him yet and there's an endless debate happening in his head—going over and trying to cheer her up or staying here before he can say something insensitive.
Even the way she pours the water into the mug seems sad to him. Before he can make a final decision on what to do, she takes it out of his hands and leaves the kitchen with the steaming mug.
As she goes past him, she smiles a sad smile that's about a million miles from reaching her eyes, and he doesn't get out a single, damn word. Just smiles back, empty and fake.
The plain white envelope doesn't bear her name, but it's clear that it's a message meant for her.
She's in the office early again, because somehow she can't stand the tension at home. She sits down and takes the envelope, looking at it from all angles, but getting no clue. She doesn't really need one, though. It's pretty obvious who it is from and she doesn't need more than the first sentence to be entirely sure.
'I'm so sorry this happened to you, love. I've never seen you happier than in the last few weeks,
so I can only imagine how devastating the loss must be to you.
I sincerely hope you find the happiness you deserve one day.
You know I'm bad with stuff like that. Sorry about that.
I wish I could help you, but I realise I probably can't.
However, if you need somebody to pour you a stiff drink, give bad advice you shouldn't listen to,
or maybe just sit with you in silence, I'm your man.'
She reads it four or five times and it hurts more and less with every time.
Hours later she enters his office and gently closes the door behind her. "Can I take you up on that offer to just sit with you in silence? I don't want to go home."
He nods without saying anything and walks around his desk to take the other one of the two chairs. And they do indeed just sit there in silence until she feels like she can at least breathe again.
"You're the only one who likes me."
He gets horribly drunk. That's all he really remembers. It's also all he ever wants to feel again.
She's furious with him. Furious like never before. It was a losing game from the moment she realized he wouldn't turn up to this meeting. Now she's just trying to contain the damage, but neither her charm nor the generous fee offer she makes can change anything. They specifically asked for Cal and of course this is the only wish she can't grant them right now.
Normally she would be worried. Worried that he hadn't turned up to an important contract negotiation and that he didn't return any of her calls. But the last couple of weeks had given her a pretty good idea of what probably happened and in which state he might be in.
There are no signatures under carefully worded contracts and she packs her things, while thinking of what to do next. She opts for the most difficult route—unlike him who often takes the easy way out.
Of course he doesn't open the door, but she has a spare key of her own and lets herself in. The house is a mess and probably pretty much demonstrates what it looks like inside of him.
When she sees him on the sofa—limbs tangled and overall far from looking comfortable—she finds it hard, however, to still summon up the same fury she felt earlier. She does feel sorry for him. She also wants to shake him until his head is screwed on right again, but it's a tactic with little to no chance of success. She's tried it before. She failed.
As she approaches him, she can smell the booze. On him and on the coffee table next to the sofa. When she wakes him, it is almost gently, but it takes a bit of a firmer grip to finally get him to really open his eyes.
He looks at her like he really doesn't have a clue of what's going on. There's also a lot of sadness in his eyes and now it kind of is impossible to drag him over the coals.
"You missed the meeting; they didn't sign."
"Sorry," he mumbles and closes his eyes again. "Idiots," he adds.
She sighs. "You need to get your life back in order."
"Hhm," he agrees with probably little intention to actually do something.
"She's not gonna come back to you, if you're being like that."
He opens his eyes again and for a brief moment he almost looks sober and clear. "She's not gonna come back even if I had my life in order." The syllables are still slurred, though. Then he closes his eyes again and crawls into an even more uncomfortable fetal position.
There's nothing she could possibly respond to that, so she grabs his arm and slowly helps him stand up. "Come on, let's get you to bed."
He doesn't fight it, but he also doesn't help. It takes a while and lots of strength to get him into a half-decent standing position. His left arm is slung over her shoulders, so he doesn't fall over and look like even more of an idiot.
After some steps, there seems to be some cooperation coming from him and it's easier to guide him to where he should have already been several hours ago. She feels his gaze on her, watching her strained face from the side.
"I love you, Gillian Foster," he mumbles, but with a little happier inflection. "You're the only one who likes me."
Now his words make him seem like an even bigger idiot. They also break her heart, but that's another story.
She doesn't know what to say, so she says nothing and drags him into his bed, clothes still on, duvet tucked under his chin. Her phone is ringing while she frees the bed of some dirty laundry that has probably been there for a while. She looks at the caller ID, but she has no nerve to actually answer.
"Is that Alec?" Cal asks and doesn't even wait for her confirmation. "Bloody lucky bastard."
"Shut up and sleep it off. I'm checking on you again tonight and you'll be back in the office in a fresh shirt tomorrow, okay? You hear me?"
"Yessir," he replies lazily and makes himself giggle.
He is indeed back the next day, with an apology note in hand that he gives to her when nobody is looking.
'I'm sorry about yesterday.
I hope I didn't say anything too inappropriate.
Well, I probably did, so double sorry.
Thank you for helping me out.'
It's not much given the contract they just lost and all the shit he has put her through in recent weeks, but it's him and it's honest. Later, she asks him if he needs any help with the house or anything else in his life and he accepts the offer, looking a little relieved.
"I know you're upset, but just breathe, okay."
She can already hear him yell at Torres while still about thirty seconds away from his office. Really yell. Not just talk agitatedly. He is tearing her apart.
When she arrives at his office and sees them both standing in his study, looking down at the broken pieces of a pottery bowl, she understands.
He doesn't even acknowledge her arriving at the scene and just keeps shouting at Torres, who is standing there almost like a small child who doesn't know what's going on. She obviously doesn't understand and Gillian can't blame her.
She puts her hand on Ria's shoulder and gestures her to leave. "Go home, Ria," she says calmly, "it's okay."
"I didn't mean to break it," she mutters. "What the hell is going on?"
"Just go home."
Torres leaves—now almost as angry as he is, and that leaves the two of them standing over the broken pieces. He bristles with anger and is only seconds away from going off on her as well. Guilty by association.
She touches his arm lightly. "I know you're upset, but just breathe, okay."
She bends down and collects the pieces of the formerly nondescript bowl carefully. He continues fuming; she can feel it from his presence without even looking at him. It's really immense sadness rather than anger, but it's the only way he can express it.
"Can't even walk past a fucking shelf without knocking things over", he presses out between narrowed lips.
"It was an accident. Don't blame her."
He makes a disparaging sound and leaves the room, while she keeps picking up the pieces in silence. This is going to be a tough week.
First they lose a case in court, then he misreads a minor expression, somebody in the lab gave their notice, and Foster has been annoyingly absent in all of this. Probably hiding from his moods. He can't blame her, but he also needs her.
He sits down behind his desk and still finds it hard to look over to the study, but an object catches his eye rather unexpectedly and he gets up again to inspect it.
There's the bowl. Mended. The cracks are still visible, but they are filled in with shiny golden material. The work of a professional for sure.
He checks out the little cardboard next to the bowl that is printed to look like a label describing an object exhibited in a museum.
Pottery bowl from The Old Country, ca. 1970s, used for breakfast (?)
Broken and repaired using 'Kintsugi', the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery by mending the areas of breakage with gold.
I know you're upset this memory of your mom broke.
I hope this can soothe it a little.
The philosophy behind 'Kintsugi' treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object,
rather than something to disguise.
An embracing of the flawed or imperfect.
Try seeing it that way.
And apologize to Torres.'
Things, events or gestures rarely ever make him tear up, but this one does. She is embracing his flawed imperfection like no one else.
"Would you mind picking up some things for me?"
She knows how to play him. He thinks she doesn't, but come on, she's a woman after all.
When he's coming into her office, wondering and worrying why she's working late again, it's all part of her plan. She sighs a little, points to a pile of numbers he won't understand, nor be particularly interested in and asks him for a favor.
"Would you mind picking up some things for me?"
He seems confused, but eager to help, and she hands him the carefully folded paper (she's good, hoping he's not better), as well as a dry-cleaning ticket.
He just looks at the ticket, not at the folded note, awaiting her instructions.
"I have a dress at the dry-cleaner's, and I need some stuff from the post office."
It seems he didn't smell the rat and tells her: "Aye, aye, boss."
On his way to the dry-cleaner's, he unfolds the little note of errands to run. There's some boring stuff like stamps and cushioned envelopes (do they not have that stuff somewhere in the office?), but the list ends with an item that makes him smile.
She's good. She could have just told him, but playing games is more fun. He knows that more than anybody.
'For my birthday next week:
that Moleskine calendar with The Little Prince – don't judge, it's cute
(now you don't have to ask around at the office any longer
and you also don't have to pretend you forgot my birthday
A week later he gives her the calendar with the details of a dinner date scribbled in for the following week.
"I love meerkats, they're cute."
He's been sneaking off on dates with the same curly-haired woman for a couple of weeks now.
For once he's not rubbing it in, and that's actually the thing that worries her the most. She isn't even sure if he noticed that she noticed.
She watches them cross the street from the window of her office. He's not really walking close to her; but the thing is they're walking together at all—God knows where to. She saw them kiss once, at the corner of the street, and oh well, maybe she can be the jealous type, too.
She tries a breathing technique she learned in one of her yoga classes and reminds herself that he can do whatever he wants to do. He is free and so is she. Or are they really?
As she watches them disappear into the night, she thinks back to their conversation this morning.
"You're like a vigilant meerkat hovering above the lousy finances of this company," he joked and she loves it when he gives her a wide, almost full-body grin like that.
"I love meerkats, they're cute," she replied and laughed along.
He watches her eat the last bits of the Chicken Alfredo, but his mind is somewhere else. He doesn't even know where exactly.
"What are you daydreaming about?" she asks as she finishes the meal and dabs her mouth with a napkin.
He looks at her; she's beautiful, smart, witty, someone to be reckoned with. She laughs about his stupid jokes and surprised him with a bottle of gin from South London one day. And yet there is something missing.
They met on a case, but no—for once she wasn't a suspect. Just somebody on the sidelines who happened to ask him out for a drink (he liked the boldness).
"Okay, McDreamy," she continues playfully, "your place or mine?"
He smiles and ponders the question in his head. "Yours."
"Alright, mine it is. Let's get out of here."
He nods and rummages around in the pocket of his jacket to find his wallet. He finds it, but it's not the only thing in there. There's a piece of paper, neatly folded up, that he fishes from the pocket as well and folds apart under the table.
It's a drawing. No words, just black felt-tip pen on ruled paper. A meerkat with a helmet and rotor blades coming out of it; like it is a little animal helicopter. It's hovering over a pile of money and seemingly smiling.
His heart sinks—not because he doesn't like it (he actually thinks it's hilarious), but because he's here and he's never even been aware of the fact that she could fucking draw like that. He stares at it and is horribly aware of all of his shortcomings all of a sudden.
"Have you seen a ghost?" she asks from the other side of the table and he might as well.
"Nah, I just remembered something. I think I might need to get back to the office."
She's momentarily taken aback, but regains her composure quickly. "Oh, okay. Will you come over later?"
"Probably not, sorry."
He pays for their dinner and leaves her with a swift kiss on the cheek.
All of a sudden he knows what is missing here. He knew it all along.
"Please don't embarrass me."
Being the giant egocentric he is, he believed they had made a mistake. That they had meant to invite him, but accidentally wrote Gillian Foster on the envelope and in the letterhead.
Of course they hadn't made a mistake.
They wanted her to speak at the keynote of the Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association. Specifically her. He himself had proofread the excellent paper she had handed in on 'Truth and Responsibility'.
And so they take a two-hour flight to St. Louis on a Wednesday morning in November and he can feel her nervousness seeping through the quiet exterior in the seat next to him. He leans over. "Do you want me to give the speech instead?" he jokes and she just rolls her eyes.
The next day, right before she is about to take the big stage in front of nearly a thousand people, he gives her an encouraging hug and hands her the folder with her notes. "Please don't embarrass me," he deadpans and revels in the genuinely cute laugh she gives him in return.
And then he takes his seat in the first row, while she seems to float across the stage to the lectern and begins a speech that could only be described as perfect.
He's just a couple of yards away from her, but despite the hall being filled with so many people, he only sees and hears her. Hanging on to her lips, thinking about everything they've been through.
Wow, she is stunning. It's not the first time he ever thought that, but it's certainly the most intense. Even the guy next to him seems to think that, judging by some of the hushed comments, but he's not the one who gets to take her out for dinner tonight.
It's frightening and exhilarating at the same time. Almost like an out-of-body-experience. She can see herself standing in front of this huge auditorium and giving the speech of her life. If things are going well, they might leave St. Louis with a truckload of new potential contracts. Contracts they desperately need.
At one point she runs out of breath and stumbles upon some of her words, but it's him she's looking at in this tiny moment of insecurity and he's giving her the most supportive and warm smile she could ever imagine. She breathes in and goes on; like nothing has happened, but everything happened.
From that moment on, she focuses on him whenever she feels slightly insecure, and he is there. Smiling broadly and probably also sensing that this could be a game changer for their currently struggling business. Or maybe not just that.
She turns a page to see the last of her notes, but her handwriting is not the only thing she finds. There's a post-it stuck to the page (maybe deliberately pink) and of course she could reliably identify his handwriting from thousands of samples.
'You're doing great.
You deserve this.
I'm so proud of you.'
It throws her off track for a couple of seconds, but she clears her throat (there's a sudden lump in there) and goes on, looking at him and smiling.
He gives her a little wink and all she can think about is that he can be so fucking heart-melting when he wants to be.
When they meet again afterwards, she thanks him for the note and still manages to poke a bit of fun at him. "You couldn't possibly have known I was going to be brilliant up there."
He chuckles, but it's confident. "Nah, I knew."
"That is a crime in itself."
This case is a fucking maze. Whatever turn they take, it's always the wrong one and they end up where they've been before—disoriented and exasperated.
He's sitting next to her in the lab; so close their upper arms are touching and neither of them is doing anything about it. They're both staring at the screen in front of them, while Torres is standing behind them, almost like a third wheel to their well-oiled machine.
Funnily enough, they're all watching Loker. Even funnier: He is their last hope.
He's wearing a wire and managed to position the hidden camera in just the right way, so they can see him as well as the sleazy guy they've been after for weeks.
"He's gonna screw it up," he grumbles towards Gillian and rolls his eyes. He just knows he will. All there is left is praying to a God he doesn't believe in.
Having Cal next to her makes her even more nervous than what she's seeing on the screen. He's a bundle of nerves on the edge; even more so than usual and it drives her crazy.
"Can you just trust him for once?" she asks, but she knows he can't.
He shuts up, but the nervous fidgeting continues.
She's trying to get a better idea of what's going on in the suspect's face, but the camera picture is not the best. Maybe she needs to rely on what she's hearing in his voice and words.
Loker is pretending that he wants to warn the suspect, not trusting what his bosses are doing. Probably not a role for which he has a whole lot of lying to do. Maybe that's what Cal irks even more.
Loker is leaning forward a bit more, using a conspiratorial tone in his voice. "When Dr. Foster interviewed you, you were showing signs of nervousness."
The guy seems taken aback. "Was I?"
Loker reassures him. "Happens to the best of us. There are some things I could teach you. Being interviewed by attractive women makes most men nervous. Doesn't mean you're lying."
The guy snorts a little. "Nah, come on, Dr. Foster is a 4. Maybe a 5 at most. Not the type to make me nervous."
Funnily enough, Loker flinches a little, while Cal next to her is groaning loudly.
"That is a crime in itself," he complains and now she can also feel Torres getting nervous behind them. She tries to just continue focusing on the screen, but it's almost impossible now.
"Well, I'm actually glad," she says and rolls her eyes.
As Loker goes on, things settle down a little. Cal has stopped fidgeting and seems to be lost in thought. She can only hope it's about the case and how they're going to successfully maneuver themselves out of it.
After a while he takes her pen and scribbles down some words on the piece of paper in front of her—in the lower right-hand corner, so that Torres can't see any of it.
'You're my 11."
Nothing more, just plain and simple. She smiles at him and he pretends nothing has happened.
When Loker is done, they still don't have anything to go with, so Cal sends Torres away to dig up something else. And to be alone with her, it seems.
"You don't have to make me feel better. I'm not offended. Not by this guy."
"I wasn't trying to make you feel better. Just telling the truth, love."
"No truth in subjectivity, eh?" she teases the scientist, but it's the guy that apparently adores her answering.
"And yet, my truth is better than his." He shrugs and who is she to disagree.
She grins and takes a few seconds of idle silence before asking the question that is on her mind. "Are you flirting with me?"
He grins back. "You know I would never."
"Can't believe you used the laminator and the label printer at the office."
She hadn't realized Zoe is here, but as soon as she enters the anteroom to his office, she can hear her. Her them. Arguing. Nothing new really, though Zoe hasn't been here in a while.
The door to his office is slightly ajar and from where she comes to a sudden halt, she can see him from the side, but he's not seeing her. Instead his eyes are fixed on where Zoe must be standing somewhere close to his desk.
"What?" he asks her provocatively.
Gillian hears her sneer. "That's the thing, Cal. You're just not capable of any kind of lasting, meaningful relationship."
"Ah yeah?" he just replies, thick annoyance all over his accent.
"You don't even have fucking friends. You know, like a normal person, Cal."
"Not true, but yeah, sure, why don't you keep believing that."
"Oh, you mean Gillian? Sweet little Gillian who will do everything for you. She's around because you love to be admired like that. And you've always had the hots for her."
"I'm done here," he says and turns around, "send me whatever I need to sign when you're normal again."
Gillian moves back a little, not even able to fully comprehend what she just overheard, but Cal quickly opens the door and walks in her direction before she has any chance to leave. He looks her in the eye with some surprise on his face, but it hardens immediately and he just passes her by. She tries to grab his hand in the movement, but he won't let her and just walks out into the hallway.
She wonders what to do now, but goes for the brave option.
"Seems like Cal was just on his way out," she says to Zoe as she walks into Cal's office. "Haven't seen you here in a while." It's innocent. She's sweet little Gillian after all.
Surprise. Fear. Guilt. Shame. Wow, what a distinct display of all of these emotions. She suddenly understands what Cal meant when he said it was just too hard to ignore all that.
"Just needed a signature from him," Zoe says. Gillian knows that she is trying to read anything on her face, but there's nothing she will see. She learned from the best.
"Well, hope you got it." She starts leaving again. "You know your way out, right?"
Before Zoe can even say something in return, she is already gone.
It's only about half an hour later when he comes to her office and stops at the door.
"Sorry, I left you standing there like that earlier."
She walks over and stops in front of him, deliberately close. "No worries. You're okay?"
He shrugs. "How much of that did you hear?"
"Started with Zoe saying you weren't capable of any kind of relationship. Did I miss a lot?"
"Ah yeah, a whole shitshow that started with some minor parenting issue. I think the relationship thing was her main point, though. Glad you were there for that one." They both smile a little. "She shouldn't have said what she said about you. Sorry 'bout that."
She shakes her head gently. "She's not wrong. I do admire you. Nothing wrong with that, though."
He murmurs some agreement. She waits for him to admit that the other part of Zoe's rant is true as well (the one concerning him), but of course he doesn't.
Instead he does something unusual. He takes her arm and gently kisses the inside of her wrist, before he leaves her standing there again. A special talent of his.
She can feel his lips for a long time.
The doorbell rings while he is debating whether to open another beer.
It's her and he is not only immensely glad (God, it could have been Zoe), but also stupidly happy. "You want a beer?" he greets her.
She takes one and while he opens the bottles in the kitchen, she walks up to him and gives him a rough-and-ready piece of laminated paper. He recognizes his handwriting on it.
'Do you want to be my business partner?
He doesn't turn it around, but remembers writing it on the back of a random business card all those years ago. On the lamination she added something with a label printer and that alone makes him laugh—imagining Gillian Foster operating that label printer for him.
'Proof that Cal Lightman can have a lasting relationship.'
"You're giving me something I gave you years ago?"
"Yeah, good thing I'm keeping everything, eh?"
She's the cutest, he thinks. The way she is standing there, beer in hand, all happy about that little gift and the smile on his face it produced.
"Is this an Iron Man reference?"
"Wow, you got a pop culture reference! I'm so proud of you."
"Just 'cause you made me watch that film."
He looks at the piece of the past in his hands again. She has probably kept a lot of things that tell stories of what they have developed in more than a decade together. So has he, actually.
"Look," she starts again, "Zoe doesn't really know me, I don't really know her. But I know you. And that's how I know that she's wrong on that one." She points to the card in his hand. "You're capable of meaningful relationships."
He nods and smiles. "Can't believe you used the laminator and the label printer at the office."
"The things I do for you."
"I'm a really important guy around here, you know?"
He prints the two pages from his computer and smiles to himself with almost perverse delight as he puts them in between the other papers, sticks the note on them, and walks over to her office.
He dumps a pile of CVs on her desk and it's one of those days where he just makes her oh-so-mad. She rolls her eyes at him. "Really? You haven't looked at any of them?"
"Yeah, sorry. I'm a really important guy around here, you know?"
She's not hiding how this is making her feel and he of course picks up on it, too. He presses a swift kiss to her temple and is on his way again. "Sorry, darling. You're much better at this anyway."
Gone as fast as he had turned up. She sighs and takes a look at some of the CVs. Harvard, Georgetown, Yale. Somebody wrote their thesis on micro expressions. An internship with Rader, interesting. Cal will hate that, so naturally she has to invite this applicant.
She flips through some more until she comes to a CV with a note on top next to the picture.
'Love this guy. Smart, charismatic and good-looking. Can you believe it?'
The picture is a goofy selfie of him. Played again, she thinks, but sometimes she likes to be.
The writing mixes some facts with fiction or things he probably wishes were true (she's pretty sure he isn't 5'8—and why is he putting his height in there anyway?).
It might be his application for her heart, but he already got that job some time ago. Long time ago, actually.
"I'll manage with love and darling."
There's small twitches here and there that he notices, but he's telling himself to let it go. Or at least he's trying to tell himself. Of course, from then on he notices even more of them and by the time they're sitting down for dinner, he is actively looking for clues.
She takes the cutlery and looks him straight in the eye, breathing out audibly before speaking. "I put in some paperwork to change my name back to my maiden name.
"Oh," he just says and breathes an internal sigh of relief, because he had worried for it to be something much more severe. Like breaking up with him over a dinner he had just cooked for her.
"It's weird still having his name."
"Yeah. Surprised you kept it for so long. Zoe kicked me out of bed and dropped the name the very same second."
She gives him a dirty look and still can't hide the smile behind it. She rarely ever can.
"Can I still call you Foster?"
"That would kind of defeat the purpose. How about Gillian?"
"I'll manage with love and darling," he says with a nonchalant wave of the hand. "Good thing we didn't call it the Lightman & Foster Group."
She smiles sweetly. "I would have insisted on Foster & Lightman Group. Rolls better off the tongue. But yeah, luckily we didn't."
He takes a bite and ponders the name in his head a bit. Foster & Lightman Group. Yeah, sounds good. Better. Like the thing they have actually built.
"You know," he goes on, "if you'd marry me, we could both be the Lightman in the Lightman Group."
"Nice try," she says with an adorable smile and he thinks that it really was quite a nice try.
As she walks past the big letters on the wall, she notices the two small post-its from the corner of her eye. She stops to see what it is. Together they read:
Put between 'LIGHTMAN' and 'GROUP', it creates The Lightman & Foster Group.
As she laughs and shakes her head, she rearranges the two post-its to their rightful position and looks at her creation from a little further away.
The Foster & Lightman Group. As it should be.
(His & her side)
They're back at where they started: the Pentagon. Confidential briefing. He didn't think they'd ever trust him with any kind of information, much less confidential ones, again. But here they are.
He's still holding a grudge, obviously, because they fucked him over once and they'd sure as hell do it again if need be. But right now they're desperate for the help of the Lightman Group and oh joy, does that feel good.
She already sensed that this might not be the best idea (knowing him) and of course she's not wrong. He doesn't even try to hide his disdain for this organization. This could potentially be disastrous, but as it were, she actually enjoys his shenanigans in this case. With slight amusement on her face, she watches him taking them apart and poking fun at them whenever he can.
After an especially crude remark, she carefully rips a page from her notebook when nobody is looking and writes something down. She hands it over to him under the table, remembering days at school, and watches his face as he reads it. Then he takes the pen himself.
It reads like that after a while of back-and-forth:
'You're an idiot.
—At least I'm your idiot.
—That's your only redeeming quality.
—That and how you put your mouth to use when you're not talking.
They barely make it home before he can put his mouth to good use and she moans quietly while crumbling up the paper of their little conversation in her hand.
She's going to keep them of course. Him and the note, that is.