TITLE: Cannonball
AUTHOR: Sugah Sugah
SUMMARY: Ryan decides to take the plunge. (Just not the plunge he should be taking.)
SPOILERS: Through "Dead Air" (season 4, episode 21)
PAIRING: Ryan/Calleigh, Ryan/Natalia by default
RATING: K+
DISCLAIMER: They still aren't mine. Damn.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This fic should be read in conjunction with "All the Right Breaks". I wrote it in response to Shadowfax27 wondering what prompted Ryan to ask out Natalia and not Calleigh, because I was kind of curious myself.
Nice to see I'm not the only Calleigh/Ryan shipper out there.:) We are sadly lacking in fiction about the two of them. Let's remedy that, shall we?
Loosely based on the song "For You I Will (Confidence)" by Teddy Geiger.

Reviews are always appreciated.


Cannonball

"I'm gonna muster every ounce of confidence I have and cannonball into the water…" – Teddy Geiger

Ryan would never understand women. As long as he lived, they would always be a mystery – a mystery along the lines of why there were interstate highways in Hawaii, or how they get the fruit to float in the Jell-O, or if nothing sticks to Teflon then how does Teflon stick to the pan. Questions like that didn't have answers.

Well, maybe the Jell-O one.

It was late – two in the morning, maybe two-thirty; he couldn't see his clock from his supine position. He'd been lying in bed for the better part of four hours, trying to sleep and finding himself unable to do so because of all those unanswered questions dancing around in his head. The normal remedies for insomnia had failed him, so he was left to stare at the ceiling and ponder the mysteries of women, but two women in particular – Natalia Boa Vista and Calleigh Duquesne.

He liked Calleigh right from the start. It was hard not to. She just had that kind of personality that sucked him in. One look from her and he was gone; that really was all it had taken. A quiet "Thanks, Ryan," after he'd managed to prove that her father hadn't killed the guy he'd accidentally run over. Her gentle guidance as he struggled to learn the ins and outs of working in the crime lab. Constantly defending him to Delko. Her compassion after he froze in the field. The confidence in her walk. The way her eyes sparkled when she smiled. Her laugh.

She was the first person at the lab to really treat him like Ryan and not Tim Speedle's replacement, even though he knew it must have been hard for her. He got the sense that she and Speedle had been pretty close. But she was willing to give him a chance, even when it seemed like no one would ever see him as anything more than the guy who took Speedle's place. That was what he loved about her.

Wait… Had he really used the word "love"? Was that what he was experiencing? Were his feelings for Calleigh really that deep?

The answer came to him immediately. Yes. Otherwise he wouldn't be awake at two-thirty in the morning, reading what was probably way too much into her simple invitation for drinks. Weeks ago now, after the Phillip Gordon case, she'd asked him out for a beer. He was surprised, especially considering they'd spent most of that day arguing, but he wasn't stupid. When Calleigh Duquesne asks you out for a drink, you go. Calleigh Duquesne asks you to run naked through the streets of Miami, you go.

One drink turned into several, and before Ryan could believe it, he and Calleigh were sitting in the back booth, laughing about some dumb thing he'd done in college which hadn't been nearly as funny at the time. He was so far gone that he didn't even care that she'd probably never think of him as anything more than her coworker, because this was one of few conversations they'd had that didn't revolve around work or work-related topics. This was Calleigh and Ryan talking like Calleigh and Ryan, not like two criminalists.

The night ended with Calleigh saying, "We should do this again." Ryan had assumed that meant, We should do this again, but we won't. In his experience with women, that's what that statement usually meant.

But Calleigh proved him wrong. Not a week later, they had a case where an abusive father had accidentally killed his daughter, and it rattled Calleigh more than she was willing to let on. She thought she could hide the way her voice shook when she discussed the case, or the sadness in her eyes while surveying photos of the crime scene, or the halting, disjointed tone of someone close to tears. No one else seemed to notice – just acted like everything was fine – but Ryan cornered Calleigh outside DNA and asked her if she was okay. She'd thanked him for his concern and said she was fine, which he could tell was a lie, but he didn't push the issue. They nailed the scumbag, and after shift Calleigh asked him out for drinks again.

That night ended up much the same way as the other, with Calleigh and Ryan crammed into a tiny booth in the back corner, sharing stories. This time, it was Calleigh's turn, and she relayed some anecdotes from her childhood in Louisiana. They each had a little more to drink than the last time, and when Ryan went to put Calleigh in a cab, she tripped. He went to catch her but couldn't, and the two of them ended up sprawled on the sidewalk outside the bar – Ryan on his back with Calleigh on top of him.

For one brief, glorious, shining moment, Ryan actually considered kissing her. She was so close and so warm in his arms, and he felt like if he didn't kiss her his head was going to explode. But he didn't kiss her, and his head didn't explode, and the next day at work they acted like nothing had happened.

The next week, when Calleigh again asked him out for drinks, by some unspoken agreement they each consumed a little less alcohol.

Every time they went out for a drink, Ryan hoped that Calleigh would send him a sign – let him know that she was interested in him as more than a friend. But each night ended with him putting her in a cab, alone, and he was beginning to think that whatever relationship they had was just meant to be platonic.

Platonic. Now there was an evil word.

So he'd resigned himself to just being Calleigh's friend. Hell, being Calleigh's friend was better than not being anything with her, than not seeing her face every day, than not hearing that soft lilt in her southern accent, than not laughing with her over a pitcher of Bud Light in one of the dingiest bars he thought he'd ever seen.

Then Natalia threw a party.

When Natalia first started at the lab, he'd considered asking her out, if only because at the time, he was fairly certain he didn't stand a shot with Calleigh. When Delko mentioned that there was something going on between him and Natalia, Ryan backed off. He and Delko weren't always on the friendliest of terms, and the last thing Ryan wanted to do was piss off the guy by going after his woman. But when he went to Natalia's he couldn't help but notice that Delko wasn't there, and she was definitely sending out some kind of vibe – like she was interested in him, in more than just a platonic sense.

At first, it struck him as weird. After all, she and Delko were supposedly…doing their thing, so she couldn't possibly be interested in him. But they were talking, and he ended up being the last person to leave her house, and it just seemed to him like Natalia was trying to give him a signal – give him the green light.

If Calleigh just wanted to be friends, he could just be friends. As strong as his feelings for Calleigh were, he was a guy – a normal, red-blooded, American man with urges and needs that needed to be filled. Especially on nights when he and Calleigh went out, and they were sitting so close that he could smell her shampoo, and then he ended up watching TV on his couch. Alone.

Ryan rolled over on his side and saw that it was closer to three now than two-thirty. He had to get up in less than three hours to go into the lab, and he hadn't managed to get any sleep. As long as he had a few hours sleep and a couple of shots of caffeine in him, he'd be good to go, but he wasn't going to fall asleep anytime soon with all these lingering questions mulling around in his brain.

Decision time, he told himself, staring at the numbers on his clock until they became fuzzy. Go after Natalia, or wait for Calleigh?

He wanted Calleigh, but she quite obviously didn't want him back, or she would have given him some kind of sign. Ordinarily, he would have construed her invitation for drinks as a sign, but she sometimes went out for drinks with Delko, so he didn't want to read too much into what was probably just two friends going out after work. And if Natalia was into him, that was an opportunity Ryan shouldn't pass up. It wouldn't be like he was betraying Calleigh in any way – they were just friends.

So it's settled then. I'm going with Natalia. Provided that she's not still with Delko.

First thing in the morning, which was really only in a few hours – or whenever he got the opportunity, Ryan would ask Delko what the deal was with him and Natalia. If Delko gave him the green light, then he'd take the plunge and ask Natalia out. He had those Mexican wrestling tickets that Josh had given him; he'd never admit it, but he loved Mexican wrestling. It wasn't his favorite sport or anything like that, but it was always entertaining. Only place in the world, probably, that a guy could sit and watch three grown men in spandex and capes chasing after a rooster.

If Natalia said no, then that was that. He'd know he misinterpreted whatever vibe he thought she was sending him, and he could go back to waiting for Calleigh.

But if Natalia said yes…

Ryan yawned and finally felt the onset of sleep. Going out with Natalia wouldn't mean he was over Calleigh in any way, but he couldn't be expected to wait around forever. He loved Calleigh, but she obviously didn't love him.

As he drifted off to sleep, he idly wondered how different things would be if he'd just kissed Calleigh when he had the chance.