AUTHOR: Sugah Sugah
SUMMARY: An extramarital affair turns deadly for all those involved and has Ryan seriously thinking about this his "triangle".
SPOILERS: Through "Open Water"
PAIRING: Ryan/Calleigh, Ryan/Natalia by default
DISCLAIMER: They still aren't mine. Trust me, you'd know if they were.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I got a request to continue the whole Ryan/Calleigh storyline started in "All the Right Breaks", and I can't ignore a request like that. However, since I'm currently in the midst of "The Soul of the Father" – a multi-chapter fic – I might find it difficult to try to keep up with two at once, so instead of having a multi-chapter sequel, I decided instead to continue the story with a series of one-shots.
The title is explained later. I thought it was pretty clever on my part. I'm so very humble.
It was Ryan's day off, and he was standing next to Calleigh in trace documents, surveying photos of a crime scene at which he hadn't been present to process, learning the details of the case. Not that there were all that many details to learn. But there were a lot of photos, and Calleigh was slogging through each one, bringing him up to speed. He shouldn't have even had to assist on this case – he'd been in court yesterday while it was being processed – but apparently Calleigh had mentioned to Horatio that she needed help logging the vast amount of evidence, and as Delko had been assigned to another case, that left Ryan.
Normally, Ryan would have complained, but as it had been so long since he and Calleigh had worked together, he didn't mind the opportunity to spend some time with her, even if they were looking at hundreds of photos of dead bodies and blood spatter.
"Daniel Fricker," Calleigh said, pointing to a photo of victim number one, "age forty-five, an insurance salesman, came home early from work and found his wife, Joleen," She pointed to another photo, "engaging in intercourse with someone who was obviously not him."
It was a common story, unfortunately. For some reason, monogamy was not a concept many human beings could grasp. Granted, some members of the animal population – like lions or fish – took multiple partners, but animals were generally only concerned with procreation; not being able to experience emotion, it wasn't exactly a factor in their choice of partners. But humans had the cognitive ability to make emotional decisions and simply chose not to. Ryan didn't see what was so difficult about it. If beavers could do it, surely humans could as well.
He took one look at the extremely attractive, much younger wife of the portly, balding dead man and said, "Pool boy?"
Calleigh shook her head, smiling slightly, as though amused that that would be his first assumption. "No. Surprisingly, the Frickers did not have a pool."
Ryan turned to her with raised eyebrows. "Who doesn't have a pool in Miami?"
She didn't even blink. "The Frickers, apparently."
"Okay, so not the pool boy." Of course, just because the deceased couple didn't have a pool didn't mean that Mrs. Fricker wasn't banging a pool boy. He tried to think of someone else to whom the relatively wealthy woman might have easy access. "Gardener?"
Again, Calleigh shook her head, the smile lingering at the corners of her lips. "The Frickers did employ a gardener…" She reached across the table for her notepad and flipped through it. "…a Nancy Jenkins, who is currently in Scranton, Pennsylvania, visiting her sick aunt."
Ryan pursed his lips. Mr. Fricker would have understandably gotten upset over the fact that his wife was sleeping with anyone who wasn't him, but most cheating spouses tended to choose someone whom they saw on a regular basis – employees, friends, neighbors… "Mr. Fricker have any business partners?"
"Quite a few," said Calleigh. "But every one of them checks out."
"Every one of them? You've got to be kidding me."
"There was a big office meeting that afternoon, which Mr. Fricker left early, but security tapes confirm that all of his associates were still at the meeting at the time of the murders." She was smiling broadly at him now, that smile that sucked him in and made him breathless. She knew the answer and was trying to make him guess, and the fact that he was yet unable to was apparently quite funny.
He sighed and braced both hands on the table, careful not to let his ungloved fingers come to rest on any of the glossy photos spread on the table's surface. "I give up. Who was the other guy?"
Calleigh reached for yet another picture and dropped it in front of him. The kid in the photo looked barely old enough to drive. "Evan Stewart, seventeen. Paperboy."
Ryan swallowed hard, trying to dislodge the lump that had suddenly formed in his throat. At seventeen, the guy should have been battling arrogant jocks and pop quizzes, not lying on a slab in the morgue because he was having an affair with a married woman. Granted, the paperboy was closer to Mrs. Fricker in age than was her husband, but still, it wasn't something with which a seventeen-year-old should be concerned. When Ryan was seventeen, his greatest concern was who he should take to prom, not how he was going to keep up his torrid love affair with an older, married woman.
Calleigh was giving him an odd look, and Ryan quickly averted his eyes. He loudly cleared his throat and said, "So, what, Mr. Fricker comes home, finds his wife with the paperboy, goes ballistic and kills them both, then turns the gun on himself?"
The look of concern never faded from Calleigh's face, but she nodded. "It certainly looks that way. The Frickers kept no other weapons in the house other than the .38 found in Mr. Fricker's hand, and all bullets came back a match to that gun. Blood pools on the bed and the floor are consistent with murder-suicide, and spatter on the wall suggests that Evan and Mrs. Fricker didn't even see it coming."
Ryan folded his arms across his chest and turned to look at Calleigh. "If you already had the case solved," he said, "why call me in on my day off? You obviously don't need my help in processing the evidence. It looks to me like you're done."
Calleigh flashed him a patented Calleigh Duquesne-stop-the-planet smile and reached across the table for another picture. Stretching caused the sleeve of her lab coat to bunch up, and the bare skin of her forearm brushed against his knuckles. He tried to ignore the shivers that shot up his spine at the brief contact, but he couldn't.
Truth was, he'd loved Calleigh for a long time. Even his current pseudo-relationship with Natalia wasn't going to change how he felt. But Ryan wasn't a lion, he was a beaver. Whatever quasi, poorly defined relationship he had with Natalia, it was still a relationship, and he wasn't going to be one of those guys who strayed. He'd been raised better than that.
But when Calleigh looked at him the way she sometimes looked at him, when she gave him that smile, sometimes he just wanted to say, To hell with it, and take her into one of the showers in the locker room.
"I said it looked to be murder-suicide," she said, "but then I found this."
She held up her hard-sought photo – a bloody shoeprint. Ryan jammed his hands in the pocket of his lab coat, because his fingers were itching to take the photo from her and examine it more closely, but he wasn't wearing his gloves and he wasn't about to contaminate evidence.
"So Mr. Fricker stepped in either the paperboy or his wife's blood pool before he shot himself," Ryan said, trying to picture the scene in his head. It would have been a lot easier had he actually been there. Damn court. "Probably walked over to see if they were really dead."
"Makes sense," said Calleigh, nodding, and that half-smile was back, "if that print had come from Mr. Fricker's shoe."
Now Ryan was intrigued. This case had just gotten a lot more interesting. "It's not Mr. Fricker's?"
Calleigh shook her head. "It doesn't match the shoes he was wearing, and it doesn't match any of the shoes in his closet." She brought the photo closer to her face. "I was thinking of taking it to Natalia, seeing if maybe any similar shoeprints were found in any of her cold cases."
Ryan coughed. "I'll, uh, I'll take it to her."
Calleigh smiled at him again, but there was something different about this one; it wasn't quite genuine. He wondered if maybe something was bothering her, but before he could ask, she held the photo just out of his reach, and said, "Not without gloves, you won't."
"Right," he said. He gloved up, took the photo from Calleigh, and walked through the halls of the lab.
He couldn't help but notice how closely this case paralleled his own, messed up life. He never imagined that he would ever be involved in a love triangle – love triangles seemed like something that only happened on soap operas or in romantic comedies. But here he was, right in the middle of prime office gossip, which was so not where he wanted to be. It wasn't exactly a secret – him and Natalia – though they had never come out and told everyone officially that they were dating.
Truthfully, Ryan wasn't even sure they were dating – officially or not. He didn't know how to classify what the two of them had, or if they even had anything. He got the feeling, every time he was with her, that she wanted to be somewhere else. Or with someone else. Or both. And Ryan knew who that someone else was, and it killed him, but at the same time, he couldn't help thinking that he must seem the same way. He and Natalia had only been together once or twice, but each time, he'd closed his eyes and imagined that her hair was blonde and her eyes were blue.
He stopped suddenly and dropped his head into his hands. God, what Calleigh must think of him.
Some lame-ass triangle. It was so warped and out of proportion that it wasn't even really a triangle anymore. At least, it wasn't a very equal triangle. It reminded him more of an isosceles triangle – two sides equal and the other just kind of out there on its own, left to its own devices. Sometimes he felt like that side, that the other two sides would be just fine without him and he was just there to bring it all together.
He took his time walking to Natalia's lab, suddenly not very anxious to see her, and when he caught a glimpse of her through the glass, he realized why. Delko was in there. They were just talking, but for all the tension between the two of them lately, it certainly didn't show. Delko was leaning on the table, talking with his hands, presumably describing what it was like diving in shark-infested waters for the Mike Harris case. Natalia laughed at something Delko said – Ryan was still too far way to make out just exactly what they were saying – and tossed her hair casually over her shoulder.
Ryan froze. She was flirting. She shouldn't be flirting. She was supposed to be mad at Delko. She resented the way he'd tossed her aside, claimed that she was "clear for landing", so she certainly shouldn't be flirting with the guy.
She never flirted with Ryan. It hadn't bothered him until now; he just figured she wasn't the flirting type.
Son of a bitch.
He walked into her lab as loudly as possible, clearing his throat to announce his presence. Some of the sparkle faded from Natalia's eyes, and Delko tensed immediately. Ryan held up the picture.
"Calleigh wanted to compare this with your cold case files," he said, tossing the photo onto the table. "See if you could get any matches."
Natalia delicately lifted the photo to examine it, and Delko peered at it over her shoulder. "Are you sure Calleigh wanted you to do that?" Delko asked.
Ryan nodded, his jaw clenched so tightly that the sides of his mouth hurt. "Yes."
Delko raised his eyebrows. "This from that murder-suicide she's working?"
Ryan gritted his teeth. "Yes." Delko started laughing. It caught Ryan off guard; all of the reactions he was expecting, laughter had not been one of them. "What's so funny?"
Delko shook his head, still laughing softly. He held up his right foot so that Ryan could see the tread on the bottom of his shoe.
It matched the bloody footprint in the picture.
"I was trying to avoid the body and accidentally stepped in the blood pool," Delko said, grinning. "I compromised the scene, so I had to document it. Surely Calleigh would have told you that."
Ryan felt his cheeks grow hot. It had been hard enough for him to be respected around the lab; the last thing he needed was for someone – especially Calleigh – to play a joke like this on him. The fact that it was Calleigh…that was what hurt the most. This was something more Delko's speed, not Calleigh's. He gritted his teeth again, completely ignored Delko, and turned to Natalia. "We still on for tonight?"
Natalia looked startled, but she nodded. "Sure."
Her response was less than enthusiastic, but it served to wipe that smug smile off Delko's face, which was the reason Ryan brought it up in the first place. "Okay, great," said Ryan. He forced a smile. "I'll meet you here after shift."
Calleigh was storing the photos in a clear plastic tub when Ryan returned to trace documents. She looked up when he entered, and if she at all felt guilty for that joke she'd played on him, she didn't show it. She was smiling brightly at him.
"So…" he said, staring at the picture he was holding, "…it turns out that Delko's your killer."
She looked as though she was struggling not to laugh. "I always suspected there was something off about him."
Ryan sighed. She didn't seem to realize how upset he was about this. "That wasn't funny, Calleigh."
Her face grew more sympathetic, but her smile lingered. "I'm sorry, Ryan. I didn't mean to embarrass you. I felt bad that Horatio called you in on your day off. I was just trying to make things interesting."
He grunted in response.
"Come on, Ryan," she said. "We do this kind of thing all the time. One time Eric sent me on a wild goose chase, looking for DNA results that he had in his hand."
He only grunted again.
"I'll make it up to you," Calleigh said, stowing the last of the photos in the tub. "How about I buy you dinner tonight?"
His jaw dropped. He wasn't sure he'd heard her correctly. Was she asking him out to dinner? Oh, my God. She is. She was giving him that sign he so desperately wanted, that sign he'd been waiting for ever since she first asked him out for drinks. A dinner invitation was a significant jump forward from a drink invitation. Sure, she was throwing it out as a way to make up for embarrassing him, but she'd never asked Delko out to dinner, had she? No, he didn't think so.
He opened his mouth to say "yes" and then remembered that he had plans with Natalia.
Son of a bitch.
"I can't tonight," he said, suddenly hating this whole stupid situation and wishing he could just blow off Natalia and go out with Calleigh instead, since he'd only asked out Natalia because he didn't think Calleigh ever would. "Natalia and I have plans."
"Oh," Calleigh said, and he thought he detected a trace of disappointment in her voice, but that may have been because he desperately hoped it was there. She snapped the lid on the tub and picked it up. "Some other time, then."
She made her way to the door, obviously intending to leave it at that, but he wasn't about to let her get away with that. "Promise?" he asked.
Calleigh turned to look at him but said nothing. For a minute, he thought she was just going to ignore him, but then she did the most impossible thing.
She winked. Then she left the room.
His heart leapt into his throat. Calleigh Duquesne had just winked at him. That had to mean something, right?