Eurydice Sings Harmony
Gillian is just so… fucking brilliant.
Radiant and clever and funny and kind, and brilliant. All the softness that he could never be, wrapped up in a single person destined to cross his path.
Well… destined seems a bit far-fetched. Bit sappy. There is no such thing as destiny.
It still feels like he ought to thank someone though, for the crossing. Send some flowers, or a box of Cadbury's and a card.
Gillian Foster is curled up naked next to him, the two of them in her bed, and Cal cannot stop staring at her for love nor money. One of her hands is curled under her chin, her body angled almost onto her stomach, her leg bent up and resting against his, her face turned towards him in her sleep. Her mouth is even open, just a fraction, not even enough for spit to drool out; her lips are a little bit pink after last night, which makes him feel rather accomplished.
I know what I'm doing, she said to him, and bloody hell, did she ever.
He's still waiting for the other shoe to drop, and he resigns himself to the idea that he probably always will; is probably always going to expect this to end badly, which is why he didn't have an answer for Emily and hadn't entertained telling Gillian about his feelings. Cal has a tendency to ruin good things because he can't keep his mouth shut, and because he has lived his whole life hypervigilant against those closest to him. Fear of fists, of rejection, of being left, of leaving; all things that most people can relate to but that he distills into an acute mélange of emotional repression with his training and skill sets, and dogged pursuit of truth over happiness.
It has taken him a long time – and some choice words from his ex-wife, once – to make him realise that doubts aren't suspicious; that fear isn't to be loathed; that love can (sometimes, at least with his girls) be trusted. He spent so much of his life looking for the emotions, he never dedicated enough time to the aftermath; to the fact Zoe said I do despite her doubts; his mother said she loved him despite the pain in her eyes; his friends (used to, not so much now) would invite him to dinner, even if they hesitated for a moment. People kept giving him chances and he kept pushing them away, focussing on the bad and never the good, and fucking hell, he is so very sorry for some of the fallout he has caused because of it. His only redemption is that Emily will never not love him, and he works his arse off to earn it every single day, pouring all his heart and soul into being a good dad. (It's his favourite job, his crowning achievement.)
And Gillian has proven she will never not love him, either. And he is trying his damnedest to be better for her, too. He owes her that; he knows he hasn't always been the best partner to her – the best friend (even as her best friend) – and he absolutely knows that she should really have dropped him a long time ago.
But she hasn't. She didn't. Because she actually… somehow… still likes him? Loves him, even.
That alone is a mystery worth solving. It's not purely admiration for his skill, or intrigue over his manner, or even just lust. She really, truly likes him; all of him, all the cracked and burned corners he hides from everyone but her; all the silliness and pettiness and petulance he doesn't hide from anyone. She knows it all and likes it all (or at least tolerates with good humour the parts she doesn't like so much), and he would be the first to admit (to Reynolds, to Zoe, to anybody who asked) that he doesn't deserve her, but he loves her for it.
Well. Not only for it. He's not bloody Othello. He loves her for a lot of things. But he appreciates her for it; for never leaving him, even in the darkest of their dark days. Even lately, when he's been pressing every button and grating on every nerve for reasons he couldn't articulate until now.
I don't have an answer for that one, love. Because the answer would have been to tell Gillian how he felt, and like balls was he ever going to risk what they have by taking the first step. Better to grate on her nerves and hope she went away.
(No! Don't do that. Don't go away Gillian. Never go away.)
He's wanted her for longer than is decent. They are as close as two people can be without being lovers; for years they were each other's shadow and balance, and it's remarkable to think that truly, very little is going to change, because what is there to change? What can they possibly do to each other, for each other, that will signal any kind of shift in their relationship except, end up in the same bed and make love for hours? They already do all the other, mundane, everyday, boring bits as it is. Mum and Dad, the staff call them behind their backs, and it's painfully accurate.
Cal reaches out a finger, wanting to touch some part of her, to prove she's real. Her leg is still warm against his, but it's not enough (it will never be enough. Now he's tasted her, it will take a lifetime to be enough.) He wants to run his fingers across every expanse of her warm and sleep-soft skin; the sides of her ribs, her sternum between her breasts; the crease where her bum meets her thighs, where so few people have ever been. He wants ten hands and twelve mouths so he can cover the entire expanse of her body all at once and never let her leave his bed (his heart.) He wants so much, and he wants to tell her about it, and yet all he has is two hands and one mouth and no language in the world to articulate it all.
He stops his finger from inching closer to her cheek; doesn't want to wake her when she looks so peaceful. And his bladder is starting to protest.
He smiles a quick, fleeting flick of the corner of his mouth, and then goes to slide out from his side of the bed.
Her hand reaches out to stop him, resting flat on his pectoral. Her eyes are still adorably closed; she's not even fully conscious, he can tell.
"You're leaving?" she rasps. Her fingers rub from side to side very slightly, like they've done so many times over shirts and jackets. Her touch is like fire on his bare skin. (He hates the tint of sadness in her voice.)
"Need t'do a wizz", he replies; picks up her hand and kisses the pads of her fingers one by one before dropping it back down near her chin.
"Well, come straight back", she says, and snuggles back into herself with a contented sigh.
He grins. "You know it", he mutters, launching off the bed to get it over with and return as fast as humanly possible. (He collects his briefs from the floor as he moves to the ensuite. Might as well try for some modesty, given how little they showed towards the poor house last night.)
He tracks the trail of their clothes out her bedroom door, down her hallway, one red-soled heel in the doorway next to… is that his tee shirt or her blouse? … and then shakes his head. He's impressed by them. Not bad, for the first go.
He's back in her room less than a minute later, adjusting the waistband of his briefs as he looks her over. Fuck, she looks good in my bed, he thinks, smirking to himself. (He knows that it's technically her bed, but that's not even remotely the point.) It is positively delicious to see her curled naked under the sheets, hair mussed and face clear.
"Downright indecent, you are", he mutters out loud. To her? To himself? Who knows, it's all true.
She snorts, laughing at him, and at something else flitting through her mind. Her eyes are still closed, a small grin playing on her face as she rolls her face into her pillow and then back again, nestling into her bedsheets for the foreseeable future.
"Something funny?" he asks. He places his hand on his hips and stares down at her from where he stands next to the bed.
She cracks one eye open and looks at him from under her lashes. "I was just wondering… who's going to read you the riot act about me? You can't very well do it yourself"
She's teasing him, mercilessly teasing his constant protective streak, calling back to the warnings he gave Dave and the ways he confronted Alec. She's giving him shit for the way he would give her other men shit, but now he's her man, and it's got him stumped. He grins at her, though her eyes are closed again and she's far too smug to see how her joke landed. He jerks side to side on the spot, his grin turning a little bit feral, and then moves three steps across the room. She cracks her eyes open to watch him go, when she realises he isn't next to her any longer.
Cal fronts up to her dresser with the mirror on top. Squares his shoulders and jerks them around a little bit, like he's making a show in a boxer's ring. He thumbs his nose, sniffs, lays it on thick once he notices she's watching him, and pretends to ignore the grin plastered all over her face. His finger comes up to point at himself in the mirror.
"Don't fuck this up", he says. (A performance DeNiro would be proud of.)
His gaze flicks across the reflection and finds hers watching him still; his bravado and dramatics aren't fooling her one bit – she's still grinning at him, but in that way that says she sees him, truly sees him; sees what he's doing and where it's coming from and what he's trying to hide before he can fully hide it. She's letting him put on this show for her benefit, knowing full well there is a cacophony, a chorus belting don't fuck this up, don't fuck this up in four part harmony inside his head, just about every waking moment. There probably always will be, and it will mingle with all the other songs he sings to himself in the quiet and lonely dark. About Emily, about Zoe, about his mother and father. Looking at her face, at the openness and the lack of fear, he knows that he's been singing her song for a long time, too. And now she knows it as well.
"Handle with care", he adds, still looking at her. His voice is softer; her eyes blink slowly in response, hearing him. Hearing it all.
He turns around to face her again and ambles towards the bed. She raises her top arm from where it's curled, the invitation clear; come here and stay, and who is he to refuse.
He launches himself onto the bed, bouncing them both around as she giggles at him in delight and pulls him in close to her body, with him on top of the bed covers.
"Get in and snuggle me", she grouches at him. Cal complies.
They roll and prod and pull the sheet around them so that he's tucked against and around her, his head level with her neck so she can hold him close to her under the covers. His lips rest on the divot between her tendons and collarbone, licking her skin and breathing her in. He feels the press of her breasts, her ribs, as she takes a long deep inhale and then lets it out in a steady stream, like a sigh. Her hand cards into his hair, the other up and down his back, touching everywhere she can while making it physically impossible for him to move back even an inch.
"Handle with care", she echoes against the top of his head. She plants a kiss there. Another. Her fingers massage his scalp. Their legs are entwined. (He could fucking purr over what she's doing to him.)
And God, but she does though. Handles him with so much care. The patience of a saint and the sense of a sinner. He would undoubtedly be dead were it not for her. Even the threat of leaving Emily alone isn't enough to temper his worst habits in his most ruinous moments, and he knows he owes the state of his life to Gillian; her diligent monitoring of him, her custodianship of the company, the value she seems to place on his existence that he rarely bestows himself. (The value she has placed on his life, since before she even knew him.) He'd be locked up, or in the loony bin, or worse, if not for her constant meddling and endless patience.
He's been testing her, he knows. Pushing up against the boundaries of acceptable nonsense like a herd of cattle against a fence, just to find the weak spots – the points of contact that might make the fence give way – and prove once and for all that she does have a limit.
It took him a hot minute to realise he was never going to find it. It doesn't exist. But he was hurting her deeply; his pushing was never going to bring the fence down, but it was going to warp it so far out of shape it became unrecognisable and useless anyway. He was only hurting her, with all his terrible (inconsiderate, bloody stupid) behaviour these past months, corrupting the one incorruptable thing that has ever waltzed into his life, trying to stoop her down to his level in a way he never did before. And yes, they are better now – mended again. But they are harsher too, and a little pricklier, and he knows a lot of that is just life catching up to them, but at least a bit is his fault. Because he made her question him; made her defensive.
That she forgives him is no surprise. That she stayed… Well, that sometimes still surprises the hell out of him.
Handle With Care.
He promises himself (and he promises her) that he will aim to get better at it. (Or at least not worse.)
"Nice riot act", she says to him. Even he can hear the smile in her voice.
"You're a cuddler", he retorts. He's still not used to not deflecting, even with her long and naked body pressing all over him. It's going to take him a while to get used to this being the new normal.
"So are you", she counters.
"No m'not", he mumbles. His point is completely undercut by his arms and legs pulling her closer, his lips encumbered by her throat. He runs his hand down her back, over the curve of her arse, fingertips pressing into that crease he so desperately fell in love with last night, the point where her bum meets the top of her leg.
She laughs at him more. "It's a good thing, Cal. I like it"
"'Course you bloody would, you'll have me like one of your romance novel blokes in a minute"
Again, he knows he has no leg to stand on in this argument while he's nuzzling her collarbone and running his hand further down her thigh so he can coax her leg up high over the top of his hip, wrapping her around him and opening her up to him in the process. He would have pegged her for a cuddler, if anyone had asked him. He's not sure if she's genuinely surprised that he is too, and frankly doesn't care.
"No need for that", she hums, pulling her chin back just far enough to look down at his face. "I'll have you just like this, always. No fiction necessary"
He preens under her look – her indulgent, amused, adoring look of exasperation – while he scoots himself up a little bit so they're level, presses his lips to hers firmly, and then rolls her under him. He feels more than hears her moan against his lips. He kisses her once, twice, a third time for good measure, each one long and lazy while his hands roam flat over her sides, her breasts, her shoulders. Runs one hand down the length of one arm until it's her hand in his, and then brings it up next to her head and presses her hand into the mattress while pushing his full weight against her. Just to hear her breath catch – just to feel the way her leg tightens around him, where it's still wrapped over his hip.
Cal pulls back and watches as Gillian catches her breath; she's completely trusting of the way he's pinning her down, her expression open and loving; wanting him, exactly like this.
"You're still my blind spot", he says softly, eyes taking a slow meander from her messy hair to the happiness in the corners of her eyes, to her parted lips and slightly puffed breath. He isn't reading her as a scientist now, and he knows that she knows it; he's reading her as a man overcome, a new lover and an old friend in one. He's memorising the exact way her face looks the morning after the first time, knowing there's only ever going to be one of these days. There will be a million other moments that happen from now on, and they have a decade full of a million more behind them – all fraught with history or bubbling with laughter. But there will only ever be this moment once, and he intends to commit every second of it to memory, even if he doesn't understand a single thing about it, and maybe never will. If this thing ever ends (because he's always thinking that way, always planning, just a little bit) it will be this singular moment he will fall asleep remembering, until the day he dies. (And he better fucking go first, too.)
"Have a guess anyway", she says to him, answering his unspoken I still can't read you. She punctuates her dare with her other hand coming up to run the backs of her fingers over the five-o'clock stubble on his cheek. Her touch is like a whisper. He closes his eyes into; into the contrast it makes with their other hands, still wrapped tight and firm together like they're in the throes of passion.
Yin and yang, dark and light. They're always going to be two sides of the same coin.
"If I was a gambling man…" he starts, running his lips against her cheek, her nose.
(He can feel her smirk. He is suitably impressed that she bites her tongue about it.)
"I would have to say…"
He kisses her other cheek, then rests his mouth against hers without fully kissing her.
(He can feel her smirk turn into a smile.)
"That you're thinking about being late to our Wednesday morning staff meeting"
(He knows she must feel the shit-eating grin he's got going on now, in answer to her burst of giggles.)
Her free hand pulls his body down into her so she can kiss him through her laughter. He pulls back a second later with an expectant look, awaiting her assessment with a feeling like freedom blooming in his chest. She wipes the smile from her face and pretends to frown at him with a false seriousness.
"So, so close", she says. She makes a face like a schoolteacher. He tweaks his brow in askance. She narrows her eyes. "I was thinking about our morning meeting, that's true"
He nods, licking his lips, and does some sort of dance with his mouth. "But?"
Her look becomes sly, and it sends a shiver up his spine to have her turn the naughtiness against him, finally, to get to witness firsthand the extent of her sensuality and sexuality. The last remaining bastion of Gillian, now all his.
"But", she drawls, licking her own lips. "I was thinking… it's not until ten o'clock"
His eyebrows raise. He pulls himself up. (He gets the hint.) Looking at the clock on her opposite bedside with wide and eager eyes, he says, "It's only seven thirty"
Her smirk turns wild; her free hand runs down the length of his back and doesn't stop at his underwear, diving straight under the band to cup his arse cheek. "Exactly", she whispers.
"Oh. Doctor", he growls, and then promptly attacks her neck with his teeth.
"These", she says, flicking his pants. "Off"
He's pulling himself up before he can really think about it, the heat between them turning from homely and playful to something far dirtier, and the corresponding spread of arousal ricochets up his back and through his groin.
"Doctor's orders, is it?" he says as he fumbles off his pants one-handed.
"Something like that", she huffs. A flush is rapidly spreading across her chest in the most beguiling way, and he wants to take advantage of it, he really does, but it wouldn't be him (wouldn't be them) if he didn't continue to tease her – poke her buttons and get her steamed up in frustration, as well as other things.
"Need me to bend over the table, too?"
He looks at her. She looks at him. It's the mirror of moments they've had almost every day of their lives together – every office argument, every back and forth in the lab, in his office, in the coffee shop, at his house, over a dinner that Emily lovingly prepared so they weren't relegated to beans on toast (again). It's the same look of fondness and impatience and amusement and need that he's seen a thousand and one times, and he feels like a damned fool not to have realised sooner that sometimes (often), she did want him just as much as he wanted her. That his teasing over her calling him sexy with her eyes was probably right on the money. She's looking at him the same way she (no doubt) will tomorrow, when he makes a lewd joke; next week when he flirts with a cheating wife; later today when he bangs on in the meeting about Wallowski's part in the kidnapping case.
She doesn't need to say it for him to hear it, but she says it anyway, one eyebrow raised. "You finished?"
He smiles, does a tongue flick thing against the inside of his cheek, gives her a once-over, lets go of her captured hand to give himself leverage, lets his smile turn into a grubby little smirk.
"Not even close to finished, darlin", he leers. "Not until I finish you"
And then delights in her shriek of laughter as he launches himself backwards, diving under the covers as he flicks them over his head, and begins a truly decadent assault on all the places her pencil skirts used to hide from him. He's got an hour and a half, maybe two if she lets them run a bit late. He's not wasting a goddamned second.