Title: More or Less
Spoilers/Warnings: Spoilers for "10-7." This takes place a couple months after that episode. Also, there is mention of a romantic relationship between Speed and Tyler. It comes up in a conversation, but if slash bothers you, be aware.
Author's Notes: This was inspired by a combination of a conversation we all had on Talk CSI and a lot of Coldplay. Also, this is my second time writing for Tyler, so I'm not sure if I got the voice.
Eric snatches a salt shaker off the table. "So, you like this place? Calleigh and I come here sometimes."
"Yeah," Tyler says, glancing up from the menu. "I've never been here, but Speed liked it."
Nodding, Eric says, "Yeah, I guess he did."
Letting out a breath, Eric lifts up his menu and gazes at the green and white print. He doesn't really need the menu. He gets the same thing every time he comes here—a grilled chicken sandwich on wheat and a bowl of broccoli cheddar soup. As much as he doesn't like to admit it, though, Eric wants a small, but tangible barrier to hold between Tyler and him. He needs time to feel Tyler out, figure out how to talk to him.
Eric's always liked Tyler just fine. But if he's being honest, he has to admit that he doesn't really know the guy. The only occasion where he ever spent time with Tyler socially was when Speed invited them both out to a club or something. For all intents and purposes, Tyler was Speed's friend. And Speed isn't here.
"Thanks for suggesting this, Delko," Tyler says. "I don't get out much anymore."
Eric waves him off. "Ah, I still owe you for juicing up my phone when I lost my badge. You saved my ass, Tyler."
Tyler shrugs and flashes a quick grin. "Well, I had a MacGyver moment of inspiration."
Eric raises an eyebrow.
"You know," Tyler smiles, drawing in the air with his finger. "MacGyver. Richard Dean Anderson? Saving the world with duct tape?"
Shaking his head, Eric grins, "If you say so." He absentmindedly raps lightly on the table with his knuckles. "I didn't know what kind of place you'd like."
Leaning back in his seat, Tyler says, "This is great, Delko. Believe me. This is a step up. I subsist on frozen food and fast food. Good thing I have a metabolism conducive to my diet. By all rights, I shouldn't be able to fit through the door."
Eric lets out a laugh, his first real laugh in a while.
Tyler picks up his straw and starts to pry it from its wrapper. "Speed and I used to go to this cyber-café by his place all the time, though."
"Yeah." Tyler grins. "You know. You grab a mocha and hang out and surf the web?"
Eric narrows his eyes at Tyler. "Why?"
Beaming, Tyler bites his bottom lip. "For fun, Delko. You've never been?"
"Afraid not," Eric grins. "That's what you two did for fun?"
Tyler nods. "Among other things." He gazes at Eric for a moment, then he clears his throat and looks away. After a few seconds, he says, "Hey, have you talked to Calleigh?"
"Huh uh," Eric says. "She's finally back from visiting her mom. I know that much."
Tyler picks up a napkin and balls it up in his hands. "Do you think she'll come back to work at the lab?"
"I hope so. I need a cushion between me and Wolfe."
Smiling sympathetically, Tyler says, "He's not that bad."
"Are you kidding?" Eric asks. "Speed would've kicked his ass by now."
"I can picture that," Tyler laughs. Then, he lets out a strangled breath and says, "God, I miss him."
"I do, too." Eric closes his eyes and mentally tries to calculate how many weeks until they reach the one-year anniversary of Speed's death.
"You know," Tyler says, his voice cracking. "I still find his stuff in my apartment sometimes. And I still buy eggs I don't eat like I think he's going to be there for breakfast. Isn't that lame?"
Eric narrows his eyes. "You live across town, don't you? You must be a heck of a cook. He eat breakfast there a lot?"
Tyler gazes at Eric, and then licks his lips. "Only when he slept over," he says.
Eric is quiet for a moment, letting the reality of what he thinks Tyler is saying sink in. "Oh. You mean…"
Smiling slightly, Tyler shrugs. "Yeah."
Speed and Tyler. Tyler and Speed. Eric scolds himself internally for not realizing it earlier. After almost a minute of silence, he leans forward. "I'm sorry. I—"
Shaking his head, Tyler says, "Don't be."
"I honestly didn't know," Eric says. "I must be dense." After what seems to Eric like a decade of silence, he says, "So, are you okay? I mean, that's a stupid question. Of course you're not."
"Delko, I'm fine," Tyler says. "More or less."
Eric shifts in his seat. "Were you two serious?"
"We were semi-serious," Tyler says, running his fingers through his blonde locks. "Well, maybe more than that. But I like to live in the moment, and Speed was never hot to talk about feelings. So we just kind of left it as it was." Tyler's normally jovial features become pained. "Sometimes I feel like I should've pushed it. There are a lot of things I want to say to him now, but I can't."
"I can't believe I didn't know," Eric says. "How have you not fallen apart? I'm barely holding it together. Screw that, I'm not holding it together."
"We all grieve in our own way, Delko," Tyler says. "Like I said, I live in the here and now. And the time I had with Speed was incredible. It was fun, it was intense, and he'd growl at me if he heard me say this—but, it was incredibly sweet. I'm thankful for the time I had with him, and I try to celebrate that." Tyler folds his arms across his chest. "That doesn't mean it doesn't hurt sometimes, though. There are times that it hurt like crazy."
I know the feeling , Eric thinks.
Tyler clears his throat. "I go home and cry every now and then. But I put on my smiley face when I come to work. You know," he says, "Most people never have what I had. Speed made this incredible imprint on my life, and that didn't disappear when he left me."
Eric leans closer to Tyler and half-whispers, "Did you talk to anyone? After?"
Tyler nods. "A bereavement counselor. And Valera."
"Valera knew?" Eric feels a tinge of jealously. How could Valera have known something this important about his best friend's life, while he remained clueless?
"Yeah," Tyler says. "It's not like we told her. She guessed, and we confirmed."
Rubbing his eyes, Eric says, "I guess I always kind of suspected that...you know."
"That Speed played for the other team?"
Eric smirks. "He was always getting hit on by pretty girls, but it didn't seem to faze him."
Tyler takes a sip from his glass of water. "He knew he was taken."
Smiling, Eric leans back against the brown vinyl backrest and says, "When I think of all the times I forced him to be my wingman."
"He loved being your wingman," Tyler smiles. "He thought the world of you, you know."
Eric bites down hard on the inside of his cheek. The last thing he needs is to start crying in front of Tyler. When he thinks he can talk without sobbing, Eric says, "I'm glad Speed had someone to love."
Tyler smiles, but doesn't say anything for more than a minute. Finally, he leans forward. "Speaking of true love," he says. "Why don't you just go talk to Calleigh?"
Eric licks his lips. "True love," he says cynically
"Come on, Delko," Tyler says. "It's pretty obvious how you two feel about each other."
"Painfully obvious." Glancing over his shoulder, Tyler says, "For the longest time, I thought you two were already together. But you aren't, right?"
Eric lets out a clipped, dry laugh "No. That would be too easy. Calleigh likes things complicated."
"You probably scare her," Tyler says, shifting in his seat. "I mean, she's already lost two people."
"I guess I do," Eric says, letting out a weary breath. "Ah. I guess we'll get it together someday."
Tyler gazes intently at Eric. "I'm glad Speed and I didn't wait for 'someday.'"
Calleigh leans against the doorframe, waiting for Eric to catch the elevator to her floor. She was sitting on the couch in the midst of a perfectly good depression when he buzzed for her to let him in. She almost ignored him. But then she thought, Who am I kidding? As a matter of fact, if she being honest with herself, Calleigh's been dying to see Eric. She's just glad he's the one coming to see her. Thus far, pride and heartbreak haven't let make the first move.
In a few seconds, Calleigh hears a knock on the door. She waits a moment, so she doesn't appear too eager. Then, she stands up straight and opens the door.
"Hey, you," she says.
Eric smiles. "Hey, you. I brought some food from the diner," he says, as he strolls into her inner sanctum.
She takes the Styrofoam container out of Eric's hands. "What did you bring me?" Calleigh tugs open the lid and peers inside. "Turkey with roasted tomato sauce," she says. "Good choice. Someone pays attention when I order."
"It comes with greasy fries," he smirks. "I figured you could use a guilty pleasure."
Calleigh pops a fry into her mouth, and then reseals the container. "Thank you for this. I mean that," she says, trying her best not to sound too needy.
Stretching, Eric drops down onto the couch. "I wasn't sure if you were eating"
She rolls her eyes. "I've already had this conversation with my father, Eric."
"Sorry," he grins sheepishly. "I worry."
Slumping against the back of the couch, Eric says, "So, how was your mom's?"
"Oh, it was nice," Calleigh says. "We went shoe shopping." When Eric rolls his eyes, she flashes an indignant glare. "I got a really cute pair of sandals and a nice pair of boots. Did you already eat?"
"Yeah," Eric says. "I had dinner with Tyler."
"Tyler?" Calleigh says. "That's nice."
"Yeah," Eric says. "I wish I'd gotten to know him earlier."
Calleigh cocks her head at Eric. He sounds almost wistful. Part of her wants to wrap her arms around him and comfort him, even though she not sure he actually needs comforting. But the rest of her feels as though her arms would break if she touched him.
Suddenly feeling the urge to move around, Calleigh holds up her food and says, "I'm going to stick this in the refrigerator. I'll eat later."
"Have you eaten anything today?" Eric asks.
"I ate an apple."
"An apple is a snack, Calleigh," he says, willing himself up off the couch to follow her into the kitchen.. "Turkey and fries is dinner."
Calleigh smiles. "And when I'm ready for dinner, I'll eat it." She yanks open the refrigerator and places the food inside, careful not to let Eric see how little food she has on hand.
"It's better warm," Eric says.
"Well, I'll just pop it right in my microwave and it'll be hot in second."
Eric lets out a breath and shoots her a look somewhere between a glare and a grin. "So," he says, as they walk back into the living room. "You done playing hooky? You gonna come back to work?"
"Eric," Calleigh drawls. "I honestly don't know what I'm going to do."
"Did you have your post-traumatic?"
Calleigh rolls her eyes. "Unlike some people—you and Horatio—I don't put things off. I went, it's done, and it's out of the way."
"So, you just saw him once?" Eric asks.
"Her," Calleigh corrects. "Once was all I needed. If the counselor had felt I needed more, she would've made me come back.."
"She doesn't know what a good faker you are," Eric says evenly. When Calleigh starts to object, Eric shakes his head and hold up a hand. "Listen, Cal. Hagen killed himself practically in front of you."
"I'm aware of that," she snaps. "I was there."
"Well," Eric says. "I think you probably need to talk about it."
She lets out a breath. "Let's not get into this, all right?"
"No," Eric says. "We're gonna get into it."
"Eric, I don't want to talk about this right now."
"Too bad," he snaps.
Calleigh throws her hands up. "Why are you so stubborn tonight?"
Eric starts to pace. "Because I've already lost one person I love!" He glares at her. "I'm not losing you, too." He takes a step toward her. " Calleigh, I am so tired of screwing around and acting like I'm not in love with you. How long are we going to do this?"
Calleigh stares at him, folding her arms across her chest so Eric can't tell she's trembling. Eric usually doesn't raise his voice at her. If he wanted to get her undivided attention, he got it. She gazes at him, as he stands there, his fists and jaw clenched. He looks almost feral. Any other time, Calleigh would have to argue with herself to keep from jumping him where he stands.
She shakes her head. "Eric, I—"
Eric places a hand on each of her by the shoulders. "Calleigh," he says softly. "I'm not asking for more than you can give right now. All right? I'm not an insensitive bastard. But you can damn well let me be here for you." He strokes her cheek with his knuckle. "Stop pushing me away."
Calleigh loathes being vulnerable. Strength was something she was forced to learn as a child in order to survive. The very thought of relinquishing part of that strength to another person paralyzes her with fear.
Swallowing, she lets her head fall against Eric's chest. He gathers her into his arms and grips her firmly.
"Stay for awhile," she chokes.
Cradling her protectively, he whispers, "You know I will."