Cal had to periodically remind himself to unclench his jaw. Stop gripping the steering wheel so tightly, it wasn't going anywhere. Relax his shoulders.
His truck rumbled through the suburban streets, looking as out of place as he felt.
Cal's eyes kept glancing over to the GPS as if his destination would suddenly disappear or he would somehow take a wrong turn and end up lost in the labyrinth of suburbia.
He should've called her first and let her know he was back. But how would he even start that conversation? It had been almost a year since he'd last seen his family (11 months and 16 days, not that Cal was keeping track).
He had tried to call Sarah not long after returning to Canada, but the number he had for her was disconnected. It made sense, they were all pretty adamant on not keeping the same phones for too long, to make it harder to be tracked. But the war was over now and he needed to speak to her. He tried to reach Cosima, Siobhan, hell even Marion Bowles but no luck. The only person that hadn't changed her number was Alison and she answered very chirpily when he finally got the nerve to call.
"Hendrix residence, Alison speaking."
"Alison? It's uh, it's Cal..."
"Oh Lord, you're back?"
"Yeah, it's done. Do you know how I can get a hold of Sarah, the number I have for her is no good."
"Well I'll do you one better, we're all having a little get together tomorrow. Why don't you swing by. It'll be good for her, and Kira."
"I don't know, I should probably call her first..."
"Oh nonsense, it'll be a fun surprise! I'll send you my address."
Cal had learned it was pointless arguing with Sarah and her sisters, they were all so damn stubborn, especially when it came to each other.
As he turned into Bailey Downs Sarah's voice rattled around his ears.
"You know I hate surprises..."
He parked at the far end of the street and let his mind drift back to the last time he'd seen Sarah. Iceland, almost a year ago.
Cal sat by the fire in the lounge, the radio barely above a whisper, as the bedroom door creaked open and Sarah tip toed into the warmth.
"It's 3 in the morning, what are you doing awake?"
"I slept on the plane, well Siobhan crushed something into my bourbon to stop me fidgeting the whole bloody flight" she chuckled. "Why are you still awake?"
"I don't sleep much these days, gotta stay vigilant, you know?" He smirked. "Also, there's only two beds in this cabin. You three all piled into mine and Kendall took Kira's. I'm sure she's a lovely woman but she doesn't seem like much of a cuddler."
"Nah she'd probably break your arm if you crawled in next to her."
Sarah made her way over to the couch and slumped into it.
"This place is nice, peaceful. Kira seems to love it here. How's she been?"
"She has good days and bad days. Misses you a lot. Misses all her 'aunties'. There really isn't much to keep a kid entertained here, we've watched Frozen about a thousand times."
"You're doing a good job. Being her dad. Shit, you're probably already a better parent to her than I've ever been..." Sarah tried to casually wipe a tear on her sleeve, it seemed like she was finally letting herself feel everything that had been happening to her. Cal knew better than to try and get her to open up about it. You didn't pry Sarah Manning's armour off her, you waited for her to take it off willingly.
"You want some tea? Coffee?" Cal asked, making his way to the kitchen.
"Um, hot chocolate if you got any."
"We certainly do, Kira didn't inherit your love of tea and I wanted her to have something warm to drink."
He busied himself boiling some water as Sarah watched him, her face a rubix cube of emotions.
"I really missed you." Sarah finally broke the brief silence.
"... I missed you too. More than I thought I would."
Cal walked over and dropped into the space next to her on the couch. Sarah turned to face him and wrapped her arms around his body, pulling him into her and burying her face into the nape of his neck. He breathed in deep, relishing the familiar smell of her hair, stroking her back.
"I'm so sorry, Cal. I pulled you out of your normal, peaceful life and threw you into all this shit."
"Before you came back into my life I wasn't living, I was existing. I was alone in a cabin in the middle of nowhere. My only friends were local cops and the occasional squirrel. You saved me. You gave me purpose. You gave me a family."
She pulled back from his arms and looked up into his eyes, glistening tears starting to form in hers.
"Now I'm gonna say something I've wanted to say to you since you got here, but you gotta promise you won't punch me."
Sarah nodded and chewed her bottom lip, bracing herself.
"I love you, Sarah."
"...I, I love you too."
Cal grabbed the art supplies he'd bought for Kira and the baby toys he was told to bring for whoever this baby shower was for and walked into the warm summer air. Remembering Alison's instructions he headed round the back and heard voices as he approached the yard. Sarah's brother, her sister from California, and quite a few he didn't recognise. He took a big, deep breath to steady himself and pushed the door open.
All eyes shot his direction, some warm and welcoming, some surprised and some confused.
"Well what's this? Paul Bunyan's left the woods and trekked his arse into suburbia." Felix smiled and handed the small baby he was holding into a woman sitting next to him, who had to put down a martini glass to accept the bundle. He sauntered over and pulled Cal into a hug.
"It's good to see you again, lumberjack." he turned to face the rest of the people spread around the garden.
"Everyone this is Cal, Kira's dad. Among other things..."
Cal sheepishly smiled and waved at the accepting faces as Felix went around introducing everybody. A cop, a lawyer, a couple of scientists, a guy who owned a comic book store. Sarah's family.
Cosima was next to embrace him. "How's it going, man?"
"Good, you're looking a lot better than when I last saw you." He wasn't sure if bringing up her past illness would be well received but was grateful when she beamed a big smile at him.
"Yeah well it took some work but I'm ok now, we all are." She returned to where she was sitting and draped her legs into the lap of the blonde scientist named Delphine.
"Well, I suppose you're here to see my sister and niece?" Felix asked, pushing a bottle of beer into his hands and taking Kira's present
Cal thanked him and drained a few mouthfuls of the ice cold beer, trying to steady his burgeoning nerves.
"Yeah, where is she?"
Felix's head snapped to the door leading into the house, "Right there actually". He slinked away from Cal and rejoined the party, a coy smile on his face.
Cal turned to the door and saw her, hand on the door handle, eyes locked on his. She slowly opened the door and walked over to him. Placing a hand on his chest.
"Are you really here right now?"
He pulled her in to a tight embrace and once again filled himself with her familiar smell.
"I wanted to call you, but S said it wasn't safe to know where you were or what you were doing."
"Well she was right. Where is she anyway, I've got a few things to tell her about all this shit."
Sarah froze for a second and chewed her bottom lip to stop it from quivering.
"Come inside, I'll fill you in." she took his hand and lead him into the house.
"I know it's been a while since you've seen him but fill him in quickly darling, we're opening presents soon." Felix called to the laughter of the rest of the garden. Sarah stuck two fingers up at him and closed the door behind her.
"...and then we got Helena and her boys out of there..."
Cal exhaled deeply and placed his hands on Sarah's shoulders.
"I'm so sorry Sarah. About Siobhan, your sister. All of the hell you had to go through. I should've been here for you."
"Don't be stupid, you were doing important shit for us. We wouldn't be able to have a fucking garden party if it wasn't for you."
They let the silence linger between them for a while.
"Why didn't you tell me you were back in town anyway?"
"Alison insisted, she thought you'd appreciate the surprise."
"You know me better than that, Cal."
"Yeah, but who am I to argue with family."
As if she had been summoned, Alison made her way downstairs and pulled Cal into a hug. Her hair was completely different but Cal still knew it was her. It still baffled him how the identical women were so easy to tell apart.
"Oh I'm so glad you made it Cal. Wasn't this a fun surprise Sarah!" she beamed excitedly.
"You should've let him call me, Alison. I hate surprises." Sarah couldn't help an exasperated smile crawl across her lips. Alison ignored her protests and continued talking to Cal.
"Kira's upstairs with her cousins, do you want me to go get her?"
"Oh no, I'll see her in a second. I hear they're opening presents soon, I'm sure she'll want to be there for that."
"We haven't seen each other in a year Al, we're trying to have a conversation. Remember when we talked about getting better at picking up hints?" Sarah smiled and nudged Alison towards to door that leads to the garden.
"Ok, but don't be long, you know Helena won't want to wait forever to get the barbecue going." Alison grabbed a couple wine bottles and headed for the garden.
Cal closed the distance between them and took Sarah's hand in his.
"Sarah, I'm back for good. We don't have to run or hide from anyone ever again. I know you're a free spirit, you didn't ever want to be tied down. But I want to be apart of your life. You and Kira."
She considered him for a moment, staring at her feet a little as she stroked his hand.
"You know I've never been a good girlfriend to anyone." Even saying the word 'girlfriend' looked awkward coming out of her lips.
"Well I was thinking something else actually." Cal smiled and dropped to one knee. Sarah recoiled and bumped in to the wall she had been leaning on. Her eyes wide open with shock and fear.
Cal looked up at her before dropping her hand and tying his shoelace. He stood up again with a mischievous grin on his face.
"You twat! You almost gave me a heart attack! I was one second from bolting out the front door" Sarah punched his arm.
"I'm not gonna ask you to go steady with me Sarah. I want us to be a family, whatever that means. Whatever you want it to mean."
"We'll always be a family, Cal. But if you try something like that again I will kick you in the balls." she laughed reluctantly.
Cal leaned forward and pressed a soft kiss to her lips, one hand leaning on the wall behind her and the other finding her hip. She pushed her hands into his thick hair and deepened the embrace before something caused them both to stop. Another sister was making fake, mocking kissing sounds from the kitchen.
"Who is your friend, Sestra?" she asked sheepishly as she wrenched the lid off a pickle jar.
"Oi, what have I told you about sneaking around like a bloody ninja, meathead."
Sarah's sister ignored her and strolled over to Cal, a little too close and observed him.
"This is Cal, Helena. Kira's dad." Sarah put a hand on Helena's shoulder but she didn't budge.
"You are Kira's father?"
"Yes, and you are her Auntie Helena. I've seen her drawings of you, she spoke about you all the time."
"Yes she told me about you too. She missed you a lot. You haven't been around much lately. Why?"
"Uh, I was doing a lot of work to keep her, to keep all of you safe. But I'm here now."
"You are staying?"
"And you love my sestra? And my pleminnytsya?"
"With all my heart."
"Good. Come. We will eat and you will meet my babies. We are showering them today." she offered him a small smile before shoving a pickle in her mouth and heading into the garden.
"Well, she approves of me. That's good. I think." Cal was kind of confused about the whole interrogation but Sarah just smiled at him.
"Sorry, it's hard work being with a clone. We're all sort of a package deal. You should've seen how long it took Alison and Helena to warm up to Delphine. It wasn't until she baked us all brownies that Helena finally relented and called her sestra too."
"Well come on, let's go shower some babies, or something." he took Sarah's hand, kissed her forehead and headed back into the warm sunlight.
"And you're sure Auntie Alison doesn't mind you sleeping over." Cal asked, putting the finishing touches on an elaborate blanket fort.
"She said it's ok. She loves having all of us over. Uncle Donnie's gonna tell scary stories!" Kira smiled up at him. It was still surreal to him that this perfect, innocent child was his. Sarah's and his. Their daughter. He could see little shadows of Sarah all over her, when she would pout and when she was really concentrating on something. He remembered Sarah telling him she sees him in Kira's smile. Her laugh. He picked her up and squeezed her against her wiggling prostests.
"Good night monkey. I'll send your mom up to say good night before we leave."
"Good night daddy. I'm glad you're home."
Cal pressed a kiss on the top of her head and stroked her cheek.
As he headed into the basement he peered into the garden and saw Sarah and her sisters gathered around talking. Sarah was crying. He put a hand on the door handle before relenting and heading into the kitchen. She was with her sisters. They would help her get through this. And he'll be there when she needs him.
After Sarah had said good night to Kira and her cousins she coyly strolled over to him.
"You ok to drive?"
"I had half of one beer and a lot of coffee. I'll be fine."
"Walk you to your truck?" she offered with a small smile.
"Sure." he held the front door open for her and they slowly walked up the quiet suburban streets.
"It's getting late, you got somewhere to stay?" she asked. Trying to sound casual.
"Well I was gonna get a room at a hotel in the city probably."
"Really? Cos you know, Felix is spending the night with Colin. Kira's staying here tonight."
"Yeah..." Cal was willing to play this game as long as Sarah was. He wanted her to ask him. He wasn't gonna push this on her.
"Well, it's just gonna be me on my own. In that big old house. Might get lonely you know..."
"I mean, I guess I could come over for a drink. Not to assume anything. I know you're not that kind of girl."
"Just get in the truck you arsehole."
As they pulled into the drive Sarah went an opened the door only to see Cal pull two suitcases out of the trunk and head into the house.
"Cheeky sod." she laughed.
"Oh, are we still pretending that this wasn't always gonna be the outcome? I can put them back if you'd like." he started walking back towards the door when she grabbed his arm.
"Put the bags in the lounge and come upstairs before I kick the shite out of you."
"Yes ma'am." he smiled as he watched her begin undressing halfway up the stairs.
He entered the bedroom to see her already under the covers waiting for him. He stripped off his shirt and fumbled with his boots causing Sarah to bury her face in the pillow with laughter.
"How can you be so smooth and such a dork at the same time?" she asked as he pulled his jeans off. She bit her bottom lip and lifted the sheet, inviting him in.
They kissed deeply and passionately, Cal had always remembered Sarah's hunger whenever they were intimate in the past. Desperately clinging to every inch of him, scared that he would disappear if she couldn't feel him. But it was different this time, there was a freedom to her. She was no longer in a frenzied rush, clawing at him, begging him. She was playful, laughing, whispering into his ear. They still fit together like two puzzle pieces.
As he woke he instinctively looked over to the other side of the bed that had always been empty before.
There she was. Still sleeping peacefully, the sunlight dancing across her soft skin.
He'd always thought the phrase 'you complete me' was cliched and ridiculous. But then he remembered how empty he'd felt in all the years he'd spent without her and it suddenly made sense.
Sarah wasn't going anywhere this time.
"Are you just gonna watch me sleep like a weirdo or are you gonna get breakfast going?" she mumbled sleepily.
"I love you."
Her eyes shot opened and she slid over to him, kissing him. She pressed her forehead against his and closed her eyes again.
"I love you too, now come on, I'm hungry." she started pushing him off the bed until he finally got up and made his way downstairs.
He returned with a tray loaded with bacon, eggs, toast and a cup of tea. Sarah had thrown on an old t-shirt he recognised as one of his own that mysteriously vanished from his cabin last year some time.
"Wow, breakfast in bed. A girl could get used this whole 'domestic' thing." she took a big forkful of egg and swatted at his hand as he stole a strip of bacon.
She reached out and grabbed his hand, looking up into his eyes.
"Thanks, Cal. For everything. For not getting fed up with me. Just, thanks."
He squeezed her hand back and returned her soft smile.
"Don't mention it, and seeing as how your such a fan of the domestic life, eat up, get dressed. We're gonna go pick up Kira and go to this science museum she kept talking about last night."
"Oh god, one step at a time babe. Can't we pick her up later? Yesterday was a lot and I really want to just stay here with you. For a bit, yeah?"
"Sure. But it won't be just us for long. My parents are coming over for lunch and to meet you and Kira."
"WHAT?!" she spluttered bits of egg.
"I'm kidding! You are too easy." she moved the food aside and jumped out of bed, punching any part of him she could reach.
"Don't make me change my mind about all this, you twat."
"Oh come on, you know you love me. I just heard you say it. You don't throw that around lightly."
Sarah frustratingly couldn't stop the smile spreading over her face.
"You know, I was wondering where this t-shirt went." he said playfully tugging at the bottom of it. "It was one of my favourites, I think I'll take it back actually." he pulled the shirt over Sarah's head with a swift motion leaving her standing there naked. She stared at him determinedly.
"Well, lumberjack. What now?"