Disclaimer: Well, obviously, I don't own anything dealing with CSI: Miami.
A/N: Be warned: Not your typical, fluffy E/C ficlet. And sorry if some of the words tend to run together; that keeps happening with everything I upload for some reason.
She knew at the very moment he stepped in the room that he was in one of his no-nonsense moods; that he wasn't going to leave until he got the answer he was looking for. It was a quality she admired in him most of the time.
Just not, however, when it pertained to her. His persistence was commendable during his interrogations of suspects, but whenever he rounded on her, she found nothing in it deserving of praise.
"Are you sure you're okay?"
She rolled her eyes, her back still to him. It was a question she endured several times a day now, although she had no problem in answering it when it came from Horatio, or Ryan, or anyone else.
Only when it came from Eric did she have difficulty stringing together a response. Because she knew he didn't for one second believe her customary response of "I'm fine."
There was also the little issue that she found it harder to lie to him than to anyone else.
She sighed and closed her locker, keeping her back to him. She did not want to face him tonight. "I'm fine, Eric," she said wearily. "I was just getting ready to go home."
"You don't sound fine."
"I'm tired," she said simply, just wishing he would leave her alone. She draped her purse over her shoulder and made to move past Eric, keeping her eyes averted.
Deftly, a hand clasped her arm as she brushed past him. She stopped, unable to suppress the shiver that went through her at his touch. "Eric, please…" she said, a note of pleading in her voice.
"Look at me." Eric said plainly.
"Let me go," she replied, attempting to pull away from him. "I'm not playing games with you right now."
"I never said anything about games."
"Then let me go."
"I can't do that."
"And why in the world not, Eric?" she asked, exasperated.
"Because I just want to know that you're okay."
"What, Eric?" she asked tersely. She turned to face him for the first time, immediately hating what she saw in his eyes. Concern, empathy, compassion – none of which she wanted. Least of all from him.
Just as his eyes revealed the depths of his thoughts to her, Calleigh's stormy green eyes, normally a soft peridot hue, were a book of emotion to Eric. He could read her completely through her eyes. He could see determination and resolve, but those were always there. Other emotions were there, but in that moment, there was one emotion that thoroughly alarmed Eric; one emotion that he had never seen in Calleigh: Fear.
Calleigh's eyes widened. She looked away once again, realizing her mistake seconds too late. The last thing she'd wanted to do was make eye contact with him. She might as well have poured all of her deepest secrets out to him.
"I need to go," she murmured, wanting to sink into the ground and disappear.
Calleigh blinked. "Excuse me?"
"You heard me," Eric said, sternly but softly. "Talk to me, Cal."
"We've been talking," Calleigh replied shortly.
Eric lightly moved his hand down her arm, taking her hand in his. He took her other hand as well, pulling her closer to him. "We talk, but we don't talk."
Calleigh tried to fight another shiver. Unsuccessfully, of course. She looked wildly around the room, still refusing to meet his eyes. "What are you talking about, Eric?"
"We talk about mundane things, but not about what's important. It's always been like that, but lately, it just seems like you're pulling farther away. From everyone."
"Why does that matter to you?"
Eric looked at her in disbelief. "I care about you, Calleigh; we all do. I'm worried about you."
"I don't need anybody to worry about me," Calleigh said, pulling her hands from Eric's and crossing them defensively over her chest. "I am perfectly fine," she said with a note of finality as she moved to the door.
Eric sighed, looking at the floor. "No, you're not," he said quietly.
Calleigh froze, her hand clutching the doorknob. She slowly turned and lifted her gaze to meet Eric's for the second time that night. She spoke in a controlled voice, but the anger was evident in her eyes. "If I weren't handling things just fine by myself, I would have gone to someone."
Eric met her gaze unrelentingly. "No, Calleigh, I don't think you would have."
"Delko, what makes you think that you know what I would and wouldn't do?" Calleigh asked, voice raised.
Eric flinched slightly. The last name card; also known as Calleigh's last warning to back off and leave her alone. But Eric wasn't backing down that easily. "I know you better than you think I do. I know you were rattled after Hagen shot himself in the middle of your lab. I tried to talk to you then, but you know what you did? You pushed everyone away; not that anyone could get to you anyway, not after the walls you put up when Speed died!"
"Speedle has nothing to do with this!" Calleigh yelled.
"He has everything to do with this, Calleigh!" Eric said, matching Calleigh's voice level. "At least before he died, you showed some semblance of emotion every now and then!"
"We all changed when he died! You cannot look at me and tell me that I'm the only one who's different!"
"No, but you're the only one who's not done anything about it!" Eric yelled. Calleigh opened her mouth to retort, but Eric easily cut her off. "You never went any farther than the mandatory counseling session, did you? You know why, Calleigh? You hate the very idea of asking for help; you've been like that since I've known you. You are so afraid of losing control; you'll do anything to hold on to that control, no matter what kind of internal anguish it puts you through. You are so determined to prove that you can do everything alone that you won't even stop to acknowledge the fact that someone might want to walk beside you, to help you up when you fall, to--"
"Why do you even care, Eric?" Calleigh interrupted.
"Because I don't want to lose you, Calleigh!" Eric shouted. "Sometimes it feels like Speed wasn't the only one who died; sometimes it's like you died along with him! I care way too much about you to just stand here and watch you slip away from me!"
His words echoed through the little room, finally fading into a resonating silence. A silence that was anything but silent. Everything in that one moment was magnified tenfold; their breathing, the pounding of their hearts, the usually undetectable tick of the clock in the corner. Words were left unspoken as both of them were lost in each other's eyes; his showing hope and pleading; hers reflecting silent disbelief.
Calleigh tore her eyes away from his and without a word, silently slipped out the door and into the night. Eric closed his eyes and leaned against the wall, the only sound left in the room being that of silence, pierced once by the lonely click of the closing door.