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Double Ace Flush

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Double-Ace Flush: A hand in which a wild card in a flush (where all five cards are of the same suit) always plays as an ace, even if one is already present.

*****

She is his blind spot, and always has been.

Back when they first met, he had looked her up through various connections (some Pentagon, some MI6, a few less-than-legal), and all had been in agreement. Gillian Foster (nee Sommers) was damned good at her job. Her research into vocal inflections and their use in deception had promise, but very little application other than in her counseling. She was being wasted by those DOD wankers, though he had done something to change that.

He asked her to be his partner barely six months after meeting her. She'd proven herself not only an excellent psychologist but a good friend, continuing to meet with him, talk to him, counsel him, even, after the Doyle mess. She'd stepped up to handle a good deal of the financial and business-related work, and become the public face of the Lightman Group. She was courteous - if not friendly, and well, who could blame her? - with Zoe, ensuring that Cal didn't just claim "out of sight, out of mind" on the other 1/3rd shareholder, and loved Emily from the moment she met her.

It was bloody annoying, really, because Zoe had been right in one of those parting shots she gave during a truly excellent fight a few months before they'd divorced.

"You think she's perfect, Cal. God help you the day you discover she isn't."

She lied for him, covered up murder for him. For Emily. For seven years.

The bitch of it is, he isn't angry with her. It would almost be better if he were; he could have a target for this knot in his stomach of anger and frustration and regret and bitterness, instead of what he's feeling now.

Guilt.

Because she's an even better person than he'd given her credit for. She'd crafted an entire facade and maintained it for seven years because she wanted to protect him and his family. Layered over it the Gillian he thought he knew - the one who was serious and stern and a romantic sap, whom he could read like a book.

He could strangle her. He could kiss her. He could lock her in her office for a year to keep her safe. All three of which would probably get him a punch in the face and her never speaking to him again.

He barely hears the knock on his door; can't imagine who it could be. Emily has a key and she's off at Melissa Littleton's party (yes, she's there, yes, it's being supervised, because he'd called Kristin Littleton and checked), and no one else should be out in this sort of weather. It's been pouring all day and they'd closed early. Besides the weather, Loker's still looking at them both like he wants to murder them, Torres has her hands full with Loker, and he and Gillian had barely been able to speak.

So he'd gone home, thrown on some of his oldest jeans and a Sex Pistols shirt, and clanged around the kitchen. He had the beginning and middle of a half-decent attempt at shepherd's pie, but the twist to Gillian's mouth and the tears on her face are still in his head. Even cooking isn't relaxing, so he'd thrown most of the potatoes out (too salty anyway) and put the beef and vegetable filling in the refrigerator.

The knock comes again, louder this time, and he gives his hands a quick rinse before heading into the living room and opening the door. Gillian, drenched from the rain, stands on his steps and doesn't bother to hide the sadness on her face.

"Foster, what is it?"

"Can I-?"

"Yeah, of course," he says, stepping aside and passing her the hand towel. It's not going to do much, but it dries her face and neck.

"I'm not-"

"You're not interrupting a thing."

"You're in the middle of cooking," she says, motioning to the mess in the kitchen behind him.

He laughs - nothing in there is edible at all. "Tried to. Couldn't concentrate. That's the remnants of a piss-poor attempt at shepherd's pie. Put twice the amount of salt in the potatoes and I think I forgot to defrost the carrots."

To anyone else, it would sound like he was making light of a cooking disaster, but Gillian knows better: cooking is what he taught himself after his mother died, as a way of feeding himself, his father, and his younger brother. Cooking is how he remembers Mum, her recipes and her stories and the way she made the kitchen smell. Cooking relaxes him and he very rarely makes mistakes.

It means he's more rattled than he wants to admit.

"If this is about what happened yesterday - Doyle and Emily and my part in everything . . ."

He can't talk about this any more, and he lets her see that. Lets his mouth set and his eyes widen and shows her the guilt and the fear. He puts it into his voice, too, knows she'll read that quicker than his expression.

"Leave it alone, yeah? We don't need to talk about it now." She slowly nods, and he realizes she's been shivering and dripping rainwater all over his kitchen floor. "Especially not when you're drenched. Christ, Gill, you'll catch your death. Stop listening to me yammer on and go take a shower. You know where the towels and clean clothes are."

She goes upstairs, leaving her jacket draped over the kitchen chair, and he wrings it out over the sink. He throws it in the dryer along with some of Em's laundry, and hits the start button a little too hard when he hears the shower sputter to life.

Gillian. Naked. In his shower.

This is so far beyond what would be the best time to be thinking about her like this. She's upset. He's angry. They're both emotionally drained. It's barely been a week since the break-in and the bruise on her face has just healed. She's just survived a bombing.

She was never, ever, supposed to get involved with the likes of Doyle and the IRA.

That part of his life isn't something he's proud of; hunting down supposed terrorists and getting far too many people hurt. Lying to Zoe and Emily every time a case went south and he got hurt. Gillian was supposed to be his outlet, his pressure valve: someone to talk to about it, but never be involved in it.

He's up the stairs before he even realizes it. He tries to play it off by puttering around in Emily's room, straightening her drawers and hanging up clothes, but he's listening with every fibre of his being for a sound from the bathroom. There's a muffled thud and a small cry, and that's it, he has to make sure she's all right, because he's bloody not.

"Gill?" he asks, standing with his ear to the door. "Talk to me, love."

Her voice comes out strained, like she's been crying too softly to hear. "Dropped the shampoo bottle. It's - I'm fine."

"Sure about that?"

He's pushing, he knows he is, but he hates it when she cries. It's one of the times he feels powerless, when Gillian or Emily or Zoe cry, because he can't do a thing to fix what's wrong.

"No, not really," she admits, a sob in her voice.

"Can I come in? I promise, I'll shut my eyes or turn away or whatever you want."

To his surprise, the door opens immediately. Gillian has a towel wrapped around her, wet hair dangling in strands around her face. She looks beautiful, but so achingly sad that his hand curls into a fist, looking for something to lash out against. Unfortunately, that something might just be himself.

"Cal, I -" She stops, then backs up, letting him inside the bathroom and motioning for him to shut the door. "I'm sorry, I don't know what's wrong. I'm just a mess right now."

He huffs out a laugh. "So am I. Pair of well-adjusted headshrinkers we are."

She laughs, and it's breathtaking, even mixed in with the tears. Oh, he is so completely fucked, isn't he, falling for his partner? It's just like him to fall for her once she's revealed a seven-year-long deception and hidden talent for secret-keeping. She keeps him honest and sane, and if he ruins their friendship over this infatuation, he'll never forgive himself.

He must be staring, because her eyes are narrowed, and he watches as she steps forward, gently touching the scar at the bridge of his nose, where Doyle had broken it. Her fingertips are so light, but he can feel each one against his skin.

"I wanted to be the one to save you." He cocks his head, unsure of where she's going with this confession. "Even before I knew you. The DOD psychiatrists talked about you when I first got your case. They called you the Mad Hatter, said you'd crack me within an hour. So I studied your work - your papers on the hallmarks of deception, the physiological aspect of lies, your thesis from Oxford on suppression of emotion. I wasn't going to let you walk all over me."

He has to smile - that's so Gillian. Always studying, always researching and theorizing and learning. Being the best she's capable of.

"I was resolved that I would be your equal. Then Finch came, telling me he'd kill Emily and Zoe if you went public, and I couldn't let that happen. So I decided I'd put all that research to use on conning you - the ultimate gamble. I was so sure you'd see that I was in on it. But it was worth it, being the one that held the power, no matter how terrible that power was."

Even wearing one of his fluffy blue and white bath towels, Gillian Foster is a force to be reckoned with. She's bloody amazing, and this proves it.

She's always been an ace, he realizes half-deliriously. She just looked like a queen.