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take the whole world with you when you go

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Strange, isn't it? Each man's life touches so
many other lives. When he isn't around,
he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?
- It's a Wonderful Life



There’s a ringing in his ears, but it’s oddly far away. He feels as if he’s stuffed his head full of cotton wool, and wonders what it is that’s dripping down his temple.




“He’s still not answering his cell,” Emily says, hopping slightly from one foot to the other in front of Gillian’s desk. “Something’s wrong.”

Every instinct Gillian has is saying the same thing, but instead she says, “I’m sure he’s just been caught up. He’ll be back any minute.”

She smiles bravely, and Emily doesn’t believe her.




Ria’s in the doorway, and the look on her face negates having to say anything, but she does so anyway.

“The hospital just called.”

“Oh, God,” Emily says, back on her feet from sitting down, but unable to move.

“They had to cut him out of the car.” She hadn’t meant to say it, but the shock she’d felt just moments ago being told the same information hadn’t yet converted into any kind of censor.

Gillian swallows, tightly, before spurring them into action. “Let’s go.”



It could have gone like this:

“Mrs Foster?”

“Ms,” she corrects, out of habit, her breath catching in her throat as she hears announcements in the background that only ever belong in hospital corridors.

“I have you listed as next of kin for a Mr Cal Lightman.”

It’s nothing so clichéd as the room beginning to spin, or the floor falling out from beneath her feet, but somewhere in Gillian’s mind she begins to wonder how she’s still standing, and just how well Emily has gotten at reading her face.

“No,” Emily whispers, as Gillian speaks without breaking eye contact.

“Where is he?”




The small waiting room’s filling up with the people in his life, and whenever another one arrives Gillian’s reply is always he’s going to be fine, trembling hands and a lack of eye contact undermining her surprisingly steady voice. She sits, unmoving, hands clenched in her lap and gaze staring straight ahead.

Emily’s next to her, Ria and Eli in the chairs to their right, Wallowski pacing before them, and Zoe standing, facing the wall in the corner. They’d barely even stitch together as a pathetic attempt at a patchwork quilt, this not-so-merry band of mismatched life supports.

The doctor approaches. “Are you the family?” What an interesting word.

Emily’s up first, speaking before Gillian can even put together words in her head. “How’s my Dad?”

The lab coat is so white, blinding almost, Gillian thinks, as she forgets to breathe.

“He’s pulled through. He’s going to be just fine.”

She breathes out.

“Can I see him?” Emily, again. So much more together than Gillian could even pretend to be.

The doctor nods, kindly. “No more than two at a time, though.”

Emily begins to move, and Zoe makes to walk after her before pausing, just ahead of Gillian. She turns back, looks the other woman in the eye.

Gillian finds her voice, finally, somehow. “No, go. She’s your daughter.”

“But he’s your…” Zoe can’t finish her sentence, because she doesn’t know how. Gillian looks at her. I’m not his anything.

Oh, yes, you are. Zoe takes one more second, and then she’s moving down the hall after Emily, and Gillian is left alone, surrounded by people.




It could have gone like this:

“I’m sorry.”

The lab coat is so white it’s blinding.

No. Oh, please God, no.




“He was lucky. Another couple of feet and we’d be telling a different story.”

It isn’t a story, Gillian feels like screaming. Cal isn’t a story, he’s a person, and he’s important, and people shouldn’t just be case files to people like you.

Instead, she says, “Officer, is there anything else I can help you with?”

Then Sharon Wallowski’s there, Miss I have a pile of five other homicide case files on my desk, and she’s moving the Officer along with her Detective badge and I’ve got this covered.

“It’s how we’re able to do our jobs, Gillian. By seeing them as case files. By not getting too involved.”

Has Cal been teaching you our science? Gillian feels like snapping, because how the hell else did she read that on her face, but instead, she says, “Do you think I don’t know that?” and turns away.




“He’s asking for you.”

Emily’s back and in front of her, a gentle hand on her shoulder.

“Room 112.”

She stands, and her legs are shaking but nobody would know. The corridor seems long as she begins her passage down it.




It could have gone like this:

The sheet is so white, it’s blinding.

“Is this him?”

Gillian struggles to breathe, struggles to stand, struggles to exist. “Yes. That’s Cal.”

She’s crying now, though she hasn’t quite realized it.

“Thank you,” the coroner says, quietly, replacing the sheet, breaking the connection, ending everything.

She walks back out to the group of non-family, and stands alone as Emily buries her head in Zoe’s chest.




Instead, it went like this:

“Cal? Can you hear me?”

He opens his eyes, and smiles at her. “This isn’t like the last time, love.”

“Actually, I think it was worse.”

“Then why do I feel better?”

He’s almost grinning, an expression that so rarely goes hand in hand with a split lip and a battered forehead.

“Are you feeling okay, Cal?” she asks as she steps forward, eyes glancing around at the drips, trying to establish just how high he is in that moment.

He grabs a hold of her hand as soon as she’s close enough. “Where have you been?”

She smiles. “I wanted Emily to see you first.”

“Yeah, but you let me open my eyes to my ex-wife, Gill. With no warning. I mean, isn’t she in Chicago? Was I dreaming? Because I swear she was just in here.”

Gillian’s smile falters, slightly. “You were out for twelve hours. You’ve amassed quite the group out in the waiting room.” She swallows, before attempting a joke. “Didn’t know you had so many friends.”

He sees straight through her. “I only need one.” He pulls her closer, raises her hand to his lips and kisses it gently. “I scared you this time.” He’s stating the obvious.

She gives in, perches on the edge of his bed, just above his hip. “You did,” she acknowledges, exhaustion creeping in now that he’s safe.

“That makes us even then.”

You look good in black and blue.

Yeah, well, we’re quite a pair.

She smiles, briefly, her eyes locked on the blankets tucked in around his chest. He follows her eye line, uses his free hand to pull them out and back. He scoots over, slowly, trying not to hiss as his ribs move before they’re ready to.

“Cal, what are you-“

“You’re exhausted, come on.” She’s about to protest but his tone is so quiet, so trusting and caring and she doesn’t have the strength to pretend to fight.

“Five minutes,” she murmurs as she maneuvers herself and tucks ever so gently into his side, her hand still in his, now resting above his heart.

“Five minutes,” he agrees, smiling as she fits her head into the space below his chin. He hears her breathing begin to even out. “I’m sorry for scaring you, love,” he whispers.

He feels her hand tighten its hold on his. “Glad you’re okay,” she hums, the vibrations spreading through his chest.

He makes sure she’s asleep before whispering, “I was never going to leave you, Gill.”



It could have gone like this:

“You left me.”




Instead it went like this:

“You stayed.”