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17 March 2011 @ 11:56 pm
Fic: The Ties That Bind (Lie To Me, Cal and Terry)  
Title: The Ties That Bind
Fandom: Lie To Me
Rating: PG
Word count: ~2100
Summary: Cal visits London and looks up old friends. But maybe that's not it, maybe they won't ever be done with one another no matter how much they change, no matter how far apart they grow.
Notes: Written for malnpudl as part of help_japan. So much love to zulu for being a beta who is never fazed by whatever fandom I chuck at her.


In the spring, when the the rain falls on London in fits and starts, the Met calls Cal in to consult on a case. The whole affair goes about as well as it usually does when Cal works on a case. There are some skeptics, some pragmatists, and all of them are at their wits' end trying to make heads or tails out of the only suspect they have. The whole incident goes quickly enough, and by the time Cal's through with the suspect, the police have enough to make arrests and close the case.

Still, after everything shakes out Cal has an extra day without anything scheduled. "I'm crawling out of my skin here," he says to Foster when he calls her from his hotel room. He can't stop his feet from pacing. When he tries to sit down, he can't stop his knees from jittering. Emily better be keeping herself out of trouble or he's going to jump the sodding ocean to make sure she's all right. Loker and Torres are under Foster's careful eye, but he's sure they're in the process of causing an international incident somewhere.

"Don't blame me," Foster says. "You're the one who booked the flights." He can almost see the smirk she must be wearing. "I think you should go look him up again."

"Who?" Cal says, but it's no use lying to her. He wasn't exactly pleased with how things ended the last time he saw Terry, and this is a chance to put things right. Not that Cal has any reason to believe it's even possible at this point.

Foster continues as if she didn't even hear him. "Or you could find where Sally Robinson went. You're going to have to tell me the story behind her someday."

"No, I don't," Cal says, sulking, but by then he's just being contrary for the sake of it.

---

Terry never drifted very far from where they'd grown up together in the East End. Cal has no trouble finding him again through old friends of friends. These days, Terry's running books under the table for footie games -- which is just legal enough for Cal's peace of mind -- and he lives only two doors down from where his parents used to live. It's a changed neighborhood, gentrified a bit, but there's still an air of rough-and-tumble that Cal remembers. As he walks through it, he wants to put his hands on the old brick and soak up the missing years, wants to touch the way it used to be. Not that he ever particularly liked those days.

Terry's eyebrows go up with genuine surprise when Cal shows up at his doorstep. "Cal Lightman, you bastard," he says, "what the hell are you doing here?" He looks better than he did when Cal last saw him in Washington D.C. That might be because his face hasn't been smashed up and his fingers aren't broken and nothing about his expression is faked.

Cal says, "I thought that I wouldn't wait twenty-two years this time around." It's almost an apology.

(The last time he'd seen Terry on this street, Cal had just finished his doctoral degree, and Terry had a new scheme he'd wanted to try, a new mark he wanted to hit. Cal didn't want any part in it. "You've forgotten where you come from, mate," Terry had said, yelling loudly enough to wake his mother in her bedroom on the second floor. "And you still owe me for--"

At the time, Cal had wanted to punch him, but he held back, because Cal did still owe him. Not that it had mattered. Cal had disappeared into his MI-6 training the week after, and that was it, he was never planning on coming back. Funny how time can thwart you like that.)

This Terry, the one right in front of him and showing his age around his eyes, just laughs. "All right, then," he says. "Let's go to the pub."

---

The pub they go to is one of their old haunts and one of Terry's current ones. It smells almost exactly the way it used to, like old wood and cheap ale, but without the lingering scent of cigarette smoke. Terry leads them to their usual table in the front, and it's almost like they were here yesterday, drinking too much and singing too loud and laughing too hard. It dredges up a visceral, almost painful feeling. Cal's never been all that good at handling nostalgia. He's not used to it. There's not a whole lot of his life he'd care to relive.

"So what brings you back in to town?" Terry asks, still smiling. He always was the better salesman. Cal could talk rings around almost anyone, but Terry could make you like him. It's done him almost as much bad as good, as far as Cal can tell.

"Case," Cal says. He takes a sip of his drink and tries to get a good read on Terry's expression. There's still a bit of scheming in his eyes, but he's not trying to play Cal just yet, so Cal's willing to let it go. "I'm on the first flight out tomorrow morning."

"Works for me," Terry says. He fidgets in his seat, trying not to give something away. It's some sort of anxiety juding by the tension around his mouth. Cal would need to probe deeper to pick it apart. Terry's face is no longer the completely open book it once was. There are new things hidden there that Cal doesn't know. Twenty fucking years. It had been so easy the first time around, to push it all away and lock it up because he never thought he'd need to use any of it again. "How're the family these days?" Terry asks.

Cal frowns into his pint glass. Now they're just filling up the empty spaces in the conversation. They shouldn't be reduced to this. "I didn't come here to make small talk."

"Figured it was worth a go." Terry's smile goes hard and brittle, like it could blow away any second now. He looks away. "I'm sorry," he says. "You went clean. I should've respected that."

"You're damn right you should have, you twat," Cal says. Terry's always been something of an idiot. Too clever by half, sure, but he's got a gambler's addiction to the thrill of the next big bet, the next big chance. Maybe Cal could have put a stop to things when they were younger, but Cal had been an idiot himself back then. It had always seemed like a better idea to follow Terry's lead, since Terry was fourteen months older, a whole lot braver and could sell condoms to nuns. He could sell anything to Cal, too.

"I didn't really expect to ever see you again," Terry continues. "I thought you were done with all this."

"I am," Cal says, as he tilts the glass into his mouth. "Doesn't mean I'm done with you." He may never be. Even in the darkest days in Washington D.C., when Cal was twisting Terry's broken fingers to force the truth out of him and when Cal had a gun pointed straight at his head by dangerous fucking gangsters, he knew that he knew that he was going to go down with Terry if it came to that and vice versa. The ties that bind them are thicker than blood, strong enough to last through the years between them.

They sit there quietly, letting the silence linger in the air. It's late afternoon, and the gray light creeps across their table, casting pale shadows on Terry's face. They've gotten old. When they were younger, they enjoyed nothing more than the sounds of their own voices: planning their next con, arguing about the meanings behind particular facial expressions, voicing their opinions about the latest Clash album. Now there's nothing left to say.

---

When the six o'clock crowd begins to to filter in, they go for a walk outside on familiar city streets. Cal had forgotten how London could feel. Home for him is the house he shares from time to time with Emily, in their quiet suburb where everything is new and quiet and far apart, but he has roots here too, roots that grow deep and thick and knotted.

Terry fills him in on the new shops, the new neighbors, the new nooks and crannies that Cal has never seen before. A lot has changed in the time that Cal has been gone, but it surprises him to hear about the things that haven't. Billy Haversham still lives in the house he grew up in with his own two children. The corner store where Cal and Terry used to shoplift their first cigarettes still looks exactly the same as it used to, right down to the rusting bells hanging from the front door, though Terry says the owners have changed. They even pass by their old school yard, which is empty at this time of day, but it still feels the same, like youthful restlessness and anger. Along the way, Terry briefly mentions his father's funeral. Cal bites his tongue to keep from apologizing. He'd liked Terry's dad well enough, and he's sure Terry's sisters were beside themselves when it happened, but Cal was long gone by then. He might have even been in Bolivia at the time.

In the end, they come back to the older stories, the ones they'd made together. Terry still tells the story of the banker they'd taken for five hundred quid the exact same way he used to, right down to his perfect imitation of of the man's half-affected public school accent. Terry's retelling of how he'd stolen of the answer key to their maths final during fifth year, on the other hand, has managed to acquire a suspicious teacher, a car chase, and Mary Erikson's breasts over the years, no matter how much Terry insists Cal must be misremembering things. They stick to the good things, the things that don't have the power to tear them apart. They talk about friends that they've loved, the places that they've lived in, the old rhythms of their lives. Cal doesn't mention anything that's happened in the intervening twenty years, and neither does Terry. It doesn't feel like they're reopening an old book so much as they're closing it. From the carefully maintained cheerfulness on Terry's face, Cal thinks Terry must agree.

---

By five a.m., they're half-pissed and half-asleep, since Terry suggested a pub crawl around ten and they hadn't left until final call. They're leaning on each other, with Cal's nose mashed into Terry's shoulder as they sit on Terry's least-disgusting couch.

"I need to get back to the hotel," Cal says. He pulls himself up, does his best not too wobble too much on his feet. It's been fun, but he doesn't want to stay, can't stay. "Take care of yourself, all right? Or I'll come back here and kill you myself."

"I'll hold you to that," Terry says. He pulls Cal into a tight hug, and he presses a sloppy kiss to Cal's cheek. His breath is loud in Cal's ear. "I don't regret it, you know, taking the fall for you. You deserved it so much more than I did, and it was hard not to resent you for that."

Cal can't see his face with their arms around each other, and he thinks that maybe it's better this way. This way he can't see all the ways in which Terry might be lying to himself, to Cal. "I know," he says, and he wonders if this is the last time they'll ever see each other. They have no new stories to tell each other, after all. They've become different people with different lives. But maybe that's not it, maybe they won't ever be done with one another no matter how much they change, no matter how far apart they grow. It didn't stick last time, did it?

Terry pulls back. "Of course you do, you bastard." He's smiling again, and this time his smile is warm and real and he looks almost like he's sixteen again, too brave and too stupid to know any better. He lets go of Cal's shoulders and shoves him out the door. Cal stumbles out onto the pavement and looks up. The sky is tinted blue-gray with the pre-morning light. The air smells like impending rain.

He glances over his shoulder just for a moment, but the door closes behind him with a click.


FIN
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