AUTHOR: Sugah Sugah
SUMMARY: He may be clueless, but he sure can dance.
PAIRING: Ryan/Calleigh, Ryan/Natalia by default
RATING: T – bad language, suggestive dialogue. Makes for a fun read. I don't think it's bad enough to warrant an M, but should I hear otherwise, I'll up the rating.
DISCLAIMER: Dude, I'm telling you, they aren't mine.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Number 4 in "The Taste of Love" series, set after "Isosceles" and told from Calleigh's POV. Takes place between "Shock" and "Rampage". According to the CBS website, there was a week between those episodes.
Ryan and Natalia haven't shared a scene since "Dead Air" excited happy dance but I have to continue with the plot line I established in "All the Right Breaks", even though I am now convinced that Ryan asked Natalia out to see if she was the mole. Please, TPTB, let her be the mole. Then fire her and get Ryan and Calleigh together.
For more, please refer to the A/N at the end of the story. However, you might want to read the story first.
Reviews are welcome and always appreciated.
Shadowfax27: Here's that date you were so looking forward to. Hope it lives up to your expectations.
Dutchie: It's so nice to be loved.
The Boy Can Dance
Two days after the Nikki Beck case and Calleigh was still floating. Fantastic. That's what he'd called her. Fantastic. Granted, it was because she had put his name on the wedding present she'd gotten for Horatio and Marisol, but she'd take her celebrations where she could. And it was hard to ignore the fact that he had practically asked her to go to the wedding with him – as in a real date. In addition to all of that good stuff, he and Natalia seemed to be on the outs. Hence why she was currently floating. She was pretty sure that nothing would be able to pull her down from the clouds. If she weren't worried about what people would think, she'd skip to DNA. It was bad enough she was humming Belinda Carlisle; skipping would make her seem weird.
She passed Natalia's lab on her way to DNA and slowed her pace when she saw that Ryan was in there with her. The two of them were in the middle of a pretty heated conversation, and though Calleigh knew it was wrong to eavesdrop, she did it anyway. She tried to look casual as she moseyed past the lair of the office whore but wasn't sure she succeeded. Stooping down to tie her shoelaces, which were already double-knotted, was probably overkill, but the halls were empty, and Natalia and Ryan were too preoccupied to notice that she was even in earshot.
"For the last time," Natalia said, not even bothering to lower her voice, "I was not flirting with Eric."
Calleigh rolled her eyes. Natalia flirted with Delko more now than she had when they were together. Obvious flirting, too, like she was purposely trying to piss off Ryan.
"I'm not an idiot, Natalia," said Ryan. "I know flirting when I see it."
Untrue, thought Calleigh. Otherwise, he would have recognized the numerous times she had attempted to flirt with him. Of course, her flirting was subtler than Natalia's, but still. One would think that a criminalist would be more observant.
"You're being ridiculous."
"I'm not being ridiculous. I just think it's common courtesy for the woman I'm seeing to not flirt with other guys right in front of me."
Calleigh had moved to stand up but immediately crouched back down to fiddle with her laces some more. Her heart was pounding a mile a minute. Ryan had said, "the woman I'm seeing" and not "girlfriend". He and Natalia had been dating for weeks now, but he never referred to her as his girlfriend – not to Calleigh, not to Delko, not even when it was just him and Natalia.
"If you have something to say to me, why don't you just come out and say it?"
Calleigh took that as her cue to leave. As much as she was dying to hear the outcome of this conversation, she knew when to clear out. She'd already been adjusting her shoelaces for two minutes – far from an acceptable amount of time – and wasn't sure how much longer she could last without being caught by someone. So she scurried off to DNA, hoping that Ryan and Natalia wouldn't catch sight of her. Valera had paged her a few minutes ago with the results from the used condoms she'd brought back from her latest crime scene, and she was probably wondering where Calleigh was.
Valera looked up from her computer, eyebrows raised, when she entered. "You have something for me?" Calleigh asked.
"Yeah, right here," said Valera, pulling a sheet of paper of the printer and handing it to Calleigh without glancing at it. As Calleigh skimmed over the information, Valera continued. "I paged you ten minutes ago. What took you so long?"
Calleigh didn't look up from her results. "I had a few things to finish up."
Valera stared at her for a moment, then turned back to her computer screen. "Natalia and Ryan having another argument?"
Calleigh felt her face dissolve into a smile. She didn't even try to deny it. "Is it that obvious?"
"I wouldn't worry about it. This lab is full of men; they're so clueless it's not even funny."
It was true. Calleigh had never known a group of criminalists to be so oblivious. Stick them at a crime scene and they could find the most miniscule pieces of evidence. Horatio was excellent in that capacity. Cooper the AV tech could spot a forged security tape from across the room. Delko could manually match fingerprints in seconds. Ryan could identify a lot of trace substances by smell. But stick those same guys in any kind of social situation involving women, and they were teenage boys without a clue, operating under basic elementary school logic.
Well, maybe not Delko. He certainly didn't have any problems in the relationship department.
Calleigh cocked an eyebrow and lowered the paper. "But you noticed."
Valera shrugged. "You'd have noticed if it were me. We're women. We notice these things."
Something suddenly occurred to Calleigh. "Do you think Natalia noticed?"
Valera gave a short, cold laugh. "That girl can't see past the end of her nose."
Privately, Calleigh agreed, but she chose not to say anything. Things had a way of spreading in this lab; the last thing she wanted was for Natalia – or Ryan – to find out what she'd said. So she let Valera's comment slide. She held up the sheet of paper. "DNA's not a match to the boyfriend."
"Sorry," Valera said, shaking her head. "I can't make it match."
"This job would be a lot easier if you could."
Valera laughed – a bit more warmly this time – and said, "I can't even begin to tell you how illegal that would be."
"I know, I know." Calleigh sighed and turned to leave. Abruptly she stopped and turned back to Valera. "Have they been fighting a lot?"
"Oh, yeah. If either one of them happens to mention it, tell them the whole lab doesn't want to know their business."
Calleigh grinned. "Well, then what would we talk about?"
Calleigh waved the paper in lieu of waving her hand. "Thanks, Valera."
"Anytime," Valera said as Calleigh stepped out of the lab.
She made her way back to the layout room; she was going to have to reexamine all the crime scene photos to see if she missed anything. The prime suspect in the murder of a local dancer was the deceased's boyfriend, but if the DNA on the condoms didn't match, it meant that he may not have been the last person to see her alive. It really threw a wrench into her theory. She was so engrossed in the DNA results that she wasn't paying attention to where she was walking; she didn't realize that she was nearing Natalia's lab, and she didn't notice that Ryan was on his way out until he crashed into her.
Luckily she only had the one paper to drop, and it was only through Ryan's quick reflexes that she didn't end up sprawled on the floor. He wrapped his arms around her waist to steady her as she fell, and she braced her hands on his chest. They ended up spinning around as he struggled to maintain his footing.
Even when they physically stopped spinning, Calleigh's head was spinning. They had come to a stop but neither of them had moved; Ryan still had his arms around her waist, and she could feel his heartbeat through his shirt. She felt lightheaded, but she wasn't sure if that was due to the spinning or to the close proximity of one very attractive ex-patrol officer who happened to smell really, really good.
Damn, he smelled good.
She reluctantly stepped out of his embrace and knelt down to pick up her DNA results. She infused as much calm into her voice as she could, considering she felt like she was about to faint. "You're quick on your feet."
Ryan cleared his throat. "I've had practice."
Calleigh smiled at him. "Have you now?" she asked, as coyly as possible. Natalia wasn't the only one who knew how to flirt; two could play that game. She turned on her heel and started back to the layout room. She knew Ryan was watching, so she slipped a little more sashay into her stride than usual.
Sure enough, Ryan followed her into the room. "Yeah, I used to dance."
"Dance?" Calleigh couldn't picture Ryan dancing. He was too serious for that. She just couldn't imagine how someone as OCD as Ryan could do anything as wildly uncontrolled as dancing. Ryan was all rules and regulations; dancing was all emotions and urges. She gave a soft little laugh. "Dancing, right. I bet you were a drunk college boy going to clubs trying to pick up girls who were way out your league."
Ryan smiled and rubbed his eyebrow with his index finger. "Drunk, maybe. Girls out of my league? Come on."
And now Ryan was flirting with her. This was the dance they did. This quick and easy, friendly flirtatious banter was their specialty, but it never led to anything. She'd thought that asking him out for drinks repeatedly was enough of a signal for him to make the next move, but he hadn't taken the bait, and in the end, she'd had to ask him out for dinner. He'd declined – plans with the office whore – but she had detected the trace hint of hope in his voice when she'd suggested they do dinner some other time.
"You're pulling my leg," Calleigh said, smiling again. Her DNA results lay forgotten on the table in front of her.
Ryan shook his head. "No, I'm serious. I took dance."
She looked at him, trying to determine what kind of dancing would have enticed a guy like him. "Ballroom."
He wore a look of mock indignation as he covered his heart with his hand. "That hurts, Calleigh."
She laughed. "So what did you take?"
He looked at the ceiling. She could see his tongue rolling around the inside of his cheek, and she knew that she was going to love his answer, because he was obviously embarrassed. Finally, he heaved an overdramatic sigh and said, "Salsa."
She laughed so hard she snorted. He narrowed his eyes, and she covered her mouth with her hand, unable to believe that she had actually done that. She hadn't snorted while laughing in years. But it was just so hilarious – the idea of Ryan salsa dancing. She tried to picture it and saw him twirling around the dance floor in khakis and a sweater vest with a girl who resembled Marisol.
"Is that so hard to believe?"
She shook her head, still laughing. Now she was laughing so hard that tears were streaming down her face. When she thought of Ryan, she did not think salsa. He was too…white. He was too white to salsa.
"Don't choke," said Ryan, because she couldn't seem to stop laughing. "I don't see what's so funny."
Calleigh gulped greedily for air, struggling to calm down. When she managed to compose herself she said, "I'm sorry, but that's something I've got to see."
Ryan raised his eyebrows. He blinked a few times in rapid succession and smiled a bit. "There's a salsa club about ten blocks from my apartment. If you want, we could go there. You know, sometime."
He was so cute. She smiled and turned her attention back to her DNA results, though there was nothing new she could learn from them. She hoped he couldn't see the flush that she could feel creeping up her cheeks. "Sounds like fun." She looked at him over her shoulder. "How about tonight?"
"Tonight," Ryan said, and his voice cracked a little. "Yeah, sure. Uh, tonight sounds good."
"Great," said Calleigh. She grabbed a stack of photos from the table and started flipping through them. "Meet me there at eight?"
"Eight." His voice cracked again. "Right." He cleared his throat. "Eight it is."
She floated home, where she tried on just about every article of clothing that she owned, finally settling on a simple black dress with a flowing skirt – the kind that made a girl look like a parasol when she turned. As for footwear, she chose a pair of strappy black heels that looked amazing but where uncomfortable as all hell. She really wasn't expecting to do that much dancing. She was convinced that Ryan was full of it.
It was still early when she arrived at the club – La Llama. The name struck her as odd until she remembered that llama was Spanish for flame. The Flame. Appropriate, she thought, considering that every flame had to have a spark, something to ignite it. Maybe tonight would be that spark.
Five minutes to eight, she spotted Ryan jogging across the street. He caught sight of her and nearly stopped in his tracks; he probably would have but a Jaguar was barreling through the intersection. The driver was laying on the horn, and Ryan managed to get to the sidewalk moments before he would have been on the business end of a 480. He whistled as he approached her, his eyes roving up and down her body. He was looking at her in a way he never had before. She found that she could barely breathe.
"You look amazing," he said. He sounded just as breathless as she felt.
"So do you," she said, and he did. He was wearing black pants and a light-green T-shirt – sage was probably the color Calleigh was thinking. The T-shirt was tight, and it clung to him in all the right places, showing off the lean muscles of his chest and abdomen without being too…overt. He'd worn a shirt like that maybe once before; Valera had referred to it as his "Ricky Martin shirt".
Damn, he looked good.
His eyes roamed down her body once more and came to rest at her feet. He met her gaze. "Those look uncomfortable."
She probably should have said something cute, about how beauty is pain, or some cliché like that, but she could not stop staring at his eyes. The shirt he was wearing made them seem greener than they had been earlier that day.
Ryan rubbed his nose. "Is everything okay?"
She nodded and finally found her voice. "What color are your eyes?"
He laughed, as though understanding. "I call them chameleons. They always seem to change color depending on what I wear. My mom used to call them 'mood eyes'."
Calleigh wondered if telling him that he had pretty eyes was a compliment guys liked to hear. She'd never told a guy that before, but she'd never really considered a guy's eyes to be pretty – not like Ryan's were. They stared at each other for another few minutes, and then Ryan cleared his throat. "Now, I know you didn't get all dressed up just to stand on the sidewalk all night."
She smiled. He had somehow, using his innate Ryan-ness, managed to alleviate some of the tension and make her relax. "That's a different kind of evening. Maybe some other time."
He raised his eyebrows, obviously intrigued, then took her hand and led her into the club. Calleigh had been to clubs before – not for a long time, but still, it wasn't like this was anything new to her – and in her opinion, they were all the same. There was a dance floor in the center of the club, black tile catching the reflection of the overhead lights, which flashed red and yellow and made the whole room look like she was standing in a jar of salsa. Perhaps that was the point. The music was loud and pulsing, quite unlike the peppy '80s pop number she'd been humming earlier that day. It had a primal beat to it, and as if to drive that point home, the couples out on the floor looked more like they were having sex than dancing.
There was no way Ryan had ever done this. It was impossible. He just didn't have it in him.
"Are you sure you want to do this?" he asked. He had leaned in close – so close that she could smell his cologne, and damn, he still smelled good – but he still had to shout to be heard over the music.
"Why not?" she asked.
"You just looked kind of freaked for a minute there."
Damn. She hoped she'd hidden her unease better than that. Truth was, after seeing the "dancing" taking place out on the floor, Calleigh wasn't quite sure she could go through with this. She hadn't expected to do much dancing, but this could hardly be called dancing. It was some kind of advanced stage of foreplay. Being that close to Ryan, moving like that with him, Calleigh wasn't sure she'd be able to control herself, and he did technically have a girlfriend, even if he didn't refer to her as such.
"I just don't think my body can move like that," she said. She prayed that he bought it. She wasn't about to tell him the truth.
He just smiled – that irresistible smile like he had a secret – and took her hand. "Sure you can," he said, and he led them out on the dance floor. "It's all about instinct. You just listen to the music and let go."
Calleigh couldn't imagine Ryan "letting go" of anything, and she felt so ridiculous out on the dance floor of a salsa club with him that she had to bite her lip to keep from laughing out loud. No one at the lab would ever believe this. She wondered if she should tell Ryan that this was stupid and suggest they just go get a late dinner, but something about him stopped her. Maybe it was the way he bobbed his head in time with the music, presumably trying to find the rhythm. Maybe it was the way he slid his hand reverently down her side before resting it almost possessively on the curve of her hip. Maybe it was the fact that his pupils had dilated so much that his pseudo-green eyes were nearly obsidian. Maybe it was because there was no force on Earth strong enough to pull her away from his arms. Maybe it was because she was desperately in love with the guy, and she wasn't stupid.
And then suddenly they were moving. He moved so fast, twirling her around, moving his feet in a way she honestly never thought she'd see. They parried back and forth, a Latin kind of cha-cha waltz, his hands never leaving her body, his eyes never leaving her face.
She was impressed. The boy could dance.
It was easier than she thought – letting go. She lost herself in the music, enjoying the freedom of not worrying what other people would think of her. As far as she was concerned, it was just her and Ryan out there on the dance floor. He picked her up and spun her effortlessly, then put her down gently, obviously remembering that she'd stupidly worn shoes not intended for dancing. He raised her arms above her head and turned her – pirouette style – and then lightly ran his fingers along the sensitive skin of her inner arm. She couldn't ignore the way her body responded to his touch, the goose bumps that spread from where his fingers had been, or the fire that settled in the pit of her belly.
This was a bad idea. This was a very bad idea. But no way in hell was she going to stop this.
The music crescendoed until it was almost unrecognizable as music – it was just drums, a beat, a pulse. It was a heartbeat playing over the sound system, and the pace got faster and faster, like it was working frantically towards release. Hell, she almost came right there on the floor, in front of all those other people, because Ryan was touching her in a way she'd never been touched before and looking at her like he just couldn't wait to rip off all her clothes.
At last he spun her outwards, then pulled her back towards him so that she crashed against his body. His hands went to the small of her back, and he pressed her hips against his, and she gasped as she felt the telltale sign of his arousal. Almost without thinking, she raised one of her legs and wrapped it around his hip, and as the song came to a frenzied, pulsating end, Ryan lowered her into a dip. The ends of her hair just barely brushed the floor, and he held her in place with one hand supporting the small of her back. The other hand slid up the leg wrapped around his hip until it came to rest around mid-thigh.
For a moment, they stood like that, frozen, locked in a battle of wills. Calleigh was breathing heavily – she knew physical exertion was only part of the reason – and she couldn't help but notice just how close Ryan's lips were to her own. One inch – one tiny, insignificant inch – and she'd be kissing him, and oh, god, did she want to kiss him right them. After a display like that, how could she not?
The music continued – a slower beat, to give people a chance to cool down – but all Calleigh could focus on were Ryan's lips. They were close, so close, and right then she wanted to taste him, to feel his body against her the way it had been seconds before, during the dance. But she knew that it wouldn't stop at kissing, and a part of her didn't care.
Screw propriety. Ignore the knowledge that dating a coworker is never a good idea. Forget the fact that he technically has a girlfriend. Just remember the way he looked at you, the way he touched you, and know that no matter how hard you look and how long you search, you may never find another guy who can make you feel the way you feel right now.
Okay. Twist my arm.
She surged forward, intent on pressing her lips to his, but he pulled back at the last second. He looked like he was in pain, like he couldn't believe he was actually doing what he was doing, but he straightened and brought Calleigh to her feet.
He didn't say anything. He didn't have to. The reason why he'd pulled away was ringing through her head loud and clear: Natalia. He wouldn't cheat on her; that wasn't the kind of guy he was. But there was no way he could ignore what had just happened between them. A spark like that was sure to ignite a flame.
Burn, baby. Burn.
He used his head to gesture toward the bar and guided her off the floor by gently placing his hand on the small of her back. They both took a seat on the stools and ordered drinks – gin and tonic for him, martini for her – and sat in silence for a good five minutes before Ryan turned to look at her.
She opened her mouth to apologize for what she had almost done, but he smiled and shook his head. She returned the smile and felt the flush heat her cheeks for the second time that day.
"I told you I could dance."
A/N: The Belinda Carlisle song to which I refer is "Heaven Is a Place on Earth". I was trying to think of songs I would hum if I were in a good mood and it was revolved around a guy, and for some reason that one came to mind. Corny, I know. But I like corn. Also cheese.
A 480 is police code for a felony hit and run.
A "Ricky Martin shirt" is one of those tight T-shirts like Ricky Martin sometimes wore. My friends and I used to say that about this one guy who always wore shirts like that. Damn, he looked good in those shirts.
"Mood eyes" refers to eyes that never really have the same color all the time. I had a friend in high school whose eyes seemed to change color depending on what color he happened to be wearing.
What exactly does one wear salsa dancing? Never been. And as such, please forgive me if my description of the club is completely off base. My clubbing experience is limited to college bars, one or two dance clubs, and that one discotheque I went to in France, in which I fell asleep.
Never fear! More is coming, including the much-anticipated "breakup" where our beloved ex-patrol officer ends his relationship with the office whore."