Sharon Wallowski tapped her fingernails against her desk to the staccato beat of the lullaby her mother used to sing. The comfort barely touched her in the state she was in, even when she began to hum the tune quietly to herself. Today her heart would not rest because her mind was racing too fast in a direction she never imagined. She couldn’t tell if she would find herself at a dead end. Her stomach roiled and bile rose up in her throat, the bitter acid taste strong in her mouth as the wall clock clicked monotonously. In ten minutes, everything would be an unknown. Her shift would end and she would have to leave the precinct, but she couldn’t go home, not right away. There was something she had to do first, something she had never wanted to do.
She could ruin everything. If the one painful thing she couldn’t protect them from came between them, she could never forgive herself. She was already that hindrance between them, that sore spot that never healed. And now she had sharp edges. Now she could draw blood. But she had never wanted to be a weapon, never wanted to make them recoil from each other because of her sting. It was never supposed to happen this way.
Sharon jumped as the clock chimed five, instantly ceasing her song. It was time. Now or never. She stuffed her keys into the pocket of her jeans and closed up the file she had been ignoring for the past hour, locking it in a desk drawer. She called out a goodbye to her co-workers as she made her way out of the building and into the blinding sun, trying to ignore the echo of her rapid pulse. Shading her eyes with her hand, she searched out her car and walked over to it. The door handle was cold under her fingers and she clutched it tightly, the image of her white-knuckled fist gripping even whiter plastic fresh in her mind. She pulled open the door and sunk into the hot leather seat. Procrastination was easy as she let the warm air from outside cool the air of her car slightly, breathing in the summer breeze. But she was on a time limit. She snapped the door closed and shut her eyes too, bringing forth images of puppies and ocean waves to steel her resolve. She could do this. She didn’t need to be so afraid. She could do this.
She drove the familiar path slower than she could have, all of her breaths measured. It wasn’t a long drive. Within twenty minutes she had arrived at the Lightman Group, the building tall and imposing in its sleek and modern design. The lot was practically empty as people filed out for the day, allowing Sharon to get a close parking spot. She pushed open the door and got to the elevator just as it opened and let a flood of people out. When it had emptied, she stepped in and wrung her hands together before clicking the button for the fourteenth floor. They would see everything if she didn’t take action. She employed the skills that Cal had taught her that day in his living room, when he had rested his fingers on her cheeks just firmly enough that she could feel every tiny muscle in her face. She relaxed her face now like she had under his touch, becoming the picture of neutrality. It flowed into her shoulders and down her back, making her appear calm in a way she didn’t think she could ever feel again. When the elevator pinged and the metal doors slid open, she was ready. With her head up high, she walked into the lobby where the secretary, Anna, had been packing up her things to leave.
“Hey Anna, is Lightman still around by any chance?” Sharon asked as she approached the tall desk.
“Yeah. He and Dr. Foster are finishing up a case in his office, I think,” Anna said, pointing a polite smile her way.
Sharon refused to let her face flicker. She had expected they’d be together, even imagined it’d be an issue trying to get Cal alone when Foster so clearly disliked her presence around him at all. She simply nodded her thanks to Anna and walked down towards the offices. When she reached the closed door, she hesitated and then reached out to knock.
“S’open!” rang out with a British lilt, sending her brain into overdrive.
How did she say it? How did she get him to let her say it?
She pushed open the door and took a tentative step inside. Cal was sitting in his desk chair while Foster sat perched on the edge of his desk, close enough to touch. It didn’t look different, but it was. She could tell by the way they looked at each other that what she heard was true and it only served to put a lump in her throat. There used to be longing between them when they were so close, even fear. But there wasn’t a speck of tension between them anymore, just love. Cal watched Foster as she turned to see her standing dumbly. He barely looked up at the intrusion at all until he noticed it was her who stood there. She was unwelcome. It was obvious before Cal said a word. But pain niggled and that’s what she was. She couldn’t just go away.
“Whatever case you’re on, we can’t help you,” Cal said.
Sharon sighed. “It’s not a case.”
“Then we definitely can’t help you,” he said.
She shifted from foot to foot, not knowing how to bring it up at all, nonetheless in front of the love of his life. Cal shifted his focus again, picking up a photo from the desk in front of him and examining it, marking it with a permanent marker.
“I need to talk to you… alone,” she said.
“You’re still here?”
“Cal,” she practically begged, unable to get him to understand. She let her face twist, let him see, hoped he would care when he saw it.
“Whatever you have to say, you can say it in front of Foster.” He said it firmly, like there was not a single thing in the world he wouldn’t trust her with. But this was big. It would hurt them both, trust be damned.
She didn’t want to come out with it, but she couldn’t just walk away without letting him know. That would be worse. It had to be worse to lie. So Sharon was honest, dropped into a guilty defeat. Her eyes focused on her feet and when she looked back up, her forehead was tense between upturned brows. Foster tilted her head as she appraised her, her mouth flicking into a frown.
“Cal,” Foster spoke with an intimate softness. “It’s okay. You two talk and I’ll call you later.”
The woman was an angel. Even disliking her as much as she did, she was empathetic. Sharon couldn’t imagine what the truth would do to her, almost didn’t want to know.
“No need,” Cal insisted, placing his hand over hers and lowering his volume as he continued to speak. “No more secrets.”
“I really think it’d be better if-" Sharon started.
“Shazzer,” he said, exasperated. “Get to the point, yeah?”
She sighed again. “Okay,” she said.
A stain on the wallpaper caught her attention and she stared at it, feeling numb even as she practiced the words she was going to say. It wasn't her fault, it just was. She didn’t have to feel guilty. She tore her eyes from the distance and focused them, glancing over Foster before settling on Cal.
“I’m pregnant. Um, from you.” The words nearly ran together in her haste.
The silence that followed was thick. Cal’s jaw fell slack and Foster blinked quickly, slowly drawing away from Cal’s proximity.
“I’m gonna… I’m gonna go,” she said as she stood. “You talk. I’m gonna… yeah.”
The poor woman was practically a blur, she walked out so quickly, barely managing an awkward gesture towards the door before she was through it. Cal didn’t even say anything as she departed, just stared after her, then turned his attention to Sharon, almost unblinking. Sharon knew it would hit hard. It was why she hadn’t wanted to say it. But, she couldn’t keep it a secret. It would be even more wrong. He would hate her for not giving him a chance with this child. His own daughter was everything to him.
Finally getting a grip on himself, Cal managed words. “Is there something I’m not getting here? We were careful.”
“Freak accident?” She laughed, but he just stared. “I don’t get it either, but it’s true. I, um, have blood test results. Ten weeks.”
She watched as he worked the math, counting back the months. She knew the exact date of conception and he would too. It was the last time, the goodbye after deciding that whatever it was between them was not enough. It had been just after the last case they had worked together, the one he had asked her to take instead of the other way ‘round. It was for Foster, that case. She had looked pale and small, delicate as Sharon had questioned her about what she had seen before she found her friend murdered. Cal had hovered and given her his jacket, kept her from falling apart. He had loved her then. He just couldn’t admit it yet. He loved Foster and then he had slept with her instead and it wasn’t supposed to come between them but now it was a wedge in what was otherwise perfect. Now their one night lapse in judgement could impede on the truly special bond between Cal and Foster.
“Claire,” he said quietly, obviously remembering the same thing as she had. “Just my bloody luck.”
“This was never supposed to happen,” she said. “God, it’s just the worst timing ever with you and Foster having just… This was never supposed to happen.”
He was silent again and Sharon couldn't keep her stomach from flipping as he looked at her, couldn’t control the rolling waves of anxiety in her gut. He tilted his head to study her, to really look.
“What are you… what do you plan on doing?” he asked.
Sharon looked down and broke out in a grin. There was a tiny gleam of happiness in what was bleak in so many ways. When she looked back up, her smile was contained to her eyes. With a melodious laugh, she said, “I’m going to be a mother.”