She groaned, murmuring incoherently as she shifted against him, unknowingly nuzzling her head further into the crook of his neck. She breathed out deeply, sending a chill through Eric's body as he felt her warm breath on his neck. He hated to wake her; he really did. But as he gazed out the window into the morning sky, noting its crisp, blue color, he knew he had no choice. He called her name once more, gently shaking her shoulder. She stirred against him, lifting her head from his shoulder. "Eric?" she mumbled sleepily.
He grinned. "Morning, sleepyhead." Reaching out, he gently smoothed out her hair. "Sleep well?" he asked softly.
She chuckled sleepily. "I don't think any kind of sleep in an airport could be considered good," she remarked, pausing to yawn. She sighed, her eyes widening just slightly as flashes of her dream came back to her. She ducked her head, hoping Eric didn't see the pink tint she knew was rising in her cheeks. "Oh God," she mumbled, another tiny chuckle escaping her.
Eric gave her an apologetic smile. "I hated to wake you, but I wanted to go check on our flight. It's stopped snowing, and a couple of planes have started boarding. I just wanted to see about ours."
Calleigh nodded. "Okay," she murmured. "Sorry I fell asleep on you again."
Eric laughed. "Don't worry about it; you needed the rest," he said, pulling himself to his feet. "I'll be right back."
Again she nodded, breathing out a sigh as she watched him walk away. A grin slowly spread over her lips as more of her dream came back to her.
Warmth. It was the feeling that spread through every inch of her, and in her still half-asleep state, she tried desperately to hold onto it, burrowing deeper under the covers. She held her eyes tightly closed, blocking out the first rays of the sun as they streamed in through the window, trying to pull her from her blissful state of sleep.
Vaguely there sounded a thump from downstairs, and Calleigh groaned, the last bit of sleep leaving her. However, she still didn't open her eyes, nor really move at all. She was far too comfortable to go investigate sounds downstairs when it would probably turn out that she was just hearing things.
And besides, the floor would be cold, so different from the cozy warmth of her bed. The very thought sent an unwelcome chill down her spine, and lazily she rolled over, searching for the warmth she always found in a certain pair of arms. But she couldn't help but give a disappointed whimper when she rolled over only into empty space. Bewildered, she finally opened her eyes, blinking sleepily in the early light. She mumbled his name a couple times, receiving nothing in response.
And there it was again, that strange thump sound from downstairs. With a yawn, Calleigh forced herself to sit up, glancing to the clock on the table to her left, the red numbers glaring back, almost mockingly. It wasn't even seven yet, but she should have known; of all mornings, this was the last morning that she should've expected to sleep in.
Resigned to the fact that there'd be no more sleep this morning, Calleigh slowly pulled herself from the warmth of the bed, immediately throwing her robe around her shoulders to combat the sudden chill that raced through her body. Sliding her feet into her fuzzy slippers, she padded toward the door and into the hall, heading down the stairs, a smile growing on her face with every step. Different images sprang to her mind, one after another, each of them involving their three year old daughter Emma and the assortment of wrapped gifts beneath the tree. She chuckled slightly; the odds weren't that good that any of the presents remained wrapped, considering Emma had inherited her father's penchant for mischief.
But as she slipped into the living room, Emma was nowhere to be found. Instead, the tree was lit, the gifts were still wrapped, and Eric stood in front of the tree, a sneaky grin on his face. Calleigh paused, her hands on his hips. "Eric? What are you doing up so early?"
"It's Christmas, babe!" he explained excitedly. "And Santa came!"
Calleigh giggled, shaking her head. "Eric, it's not even seven yet. The sun's barely even up."
He shrugged apologetically. "What can I say? I got excited."
"Eric, you're worse than Emma," Calleigh remarked, amused. "And besides, she's not even up." She paused, sticking out her lower lip in a pout. "And you left me. I was cold. And I missed you."
Eric chuckled. "Well, I guess I'll have to make up for that, won't I?"
"Uh-huh." She grinned sweetly, crossing the room to him. Lifting to her tiptoes, she pressed a soft kiss to his lips, her arms looping around his neck. "How long do you think we have until Emma wakes up?"
"'Bout an hour, at the most." He grinned, gently tugging at the belt of her robe. Calleigh raised a questioning eyebrow, shivering as his hands slowly slid along her hips, pulling her closer.
"Eric," she murmured, a grin of her own playing upon her lips, quickly followed by a giggle.
He kissed her softly, pulling back with a wink. "I bet Emma wants a baby brother or sister by next Christmas."
"You ever think about that?"
Calleigh jumped slightly, chuckling embarrassedly as her eyes landed on Eric. "You scared me," she said, laying her hand over her heart in emphasis.
Eric grinned. "Sorry," he said, though he really wasn't. He wasn't sorry that he'd sneaked up on her. It'd given him the chance, albeit brief, to see Calleigh without her walls around her. She hadn't known he was watching her, and she'd let her guard down. He certainly wasn't sorry he'd seen her like that. "So, do you?" he asked again, lowering himself to the floor next to her, handing her a cup of coffee.
"Thank you," she replied gratefully, taking a sip. She swallowed, giving Eric a smile. "You remembered the sugar."
Eric chuckled. "Extra sugar, if I recall correctly."
Calleigh nodded, her eyes sparkling slightly. "What you find out about our flight?"
Eric raised an eyebrow; was she intentionally avoiding his question? "Oh, they say it won't be much longer. They hope to start boarding ours in about an hour or so." Gently he nudged her side. "Now are you gonna answer my question?" he teased. "Do you ever think about that?" he asked again, turning his eyes to where moments before Calleigh's own gaze had been trained. A few yards away, there was a young mother and her two small children, also stuck in the airport thanks to the snowstorm. The mother held the youngest, a baby of maybe eight months, in her arms, quietly feeding him a bottle. The other child, a girl of about five or six, played quietly with a couple dolls on the floor next to them.
In sneaking up on her, Eric hadn't missed the longing look in Calleigh's eyes as she watched them. It was the same look that resided there whenever she worked on a case that involved a child. The few times that Eric had been able to watch her interacting with one, he'd honestly been blown away.
"You ever think about having any?" he asked softly.
Calleigh sighed, resting her head against the wall. She raised her cup to her lips, taking a long sip, grateful for the chance to stall for even just a moment. "I don't know," she murmured. Truthfully, she had, just as he'd crept up on her. As the last wisps of her dream had faded away, she'd been mesmerized by the family sitting a few yards away, and her mind had wandered to the idea of having a family of her own, awakening a maternal longing in her that she hadn't really felt before. She sighed, feeling oddly empty. "I don't know," she repeated.
""Why not? I've seen you with kids, Calleigh," he pointed out. "You're a natural with them. You'd be a great mother."
Calleigh looked down, the ghost of a smile touching her lips. "I don't know, Eric…"
"Trust me, Calleigh. You'd be amazing."
Calleigh smiled sheepishly, nervously pushing her hair behind her ears. "You think so?"
He let out a breath, giving her a long look before he answered. He wanted her to look at him first, which she did after a few seconds of silence. "Yeah, I do."
She smiled shyly, giggling softly after a moment. "This isn't the part where we make some sort of pact, is it?"
"Yeah, you know. Like, if we both reach a certain age and neither of us has kids, then we have kids together?"
Eric laughed. "You know, in ten years if neither of us are married with kids, we both may be looking at that idea a little more favorably."
"Well, that's a bridge we can cross in ten years, then," Calleigh replied with a laugh of her own.
For a moment Eric watched her, loving the sound of her laugh. He shifted slightly on the floor, his hand brushing against his bag, reminding him. "Oh, hey, before I forget," he said, reaching into his bag. "Merry Christmas," he said, holding out a small, wrapped box.
Calleigh blinked, making no move to take it from him. "Eric…what?"
He chuckled, shaking his head. "The idea is that you're supposed to open it, you know." He reached out, taking her hand and placing the box firmly in her grasp. "Now open it."
Looking down slowly, Calleigh could only stare at the box in her hand. She breathed in deeply, unsure of why her heart was suddenly pounding against her chest. "Eric…"
Eric rolled his eyes, letting out an exaggerated sigh. "Am I gonna have to open it for you?" he teased, grinning playfully.
Chuckling softly, Calleigh lifted her other hand and began to pull ever so gently at the wrapping paper, eliciting another sigh from Eric. Really, she was driving him crazy. "Calleigh, that paper cost less than two dollars. Just rip it off!"
She narrowed her eyes at him, briefly toying with the idea of slowing down even more, just to torment him. But curiosity got the best of her, and she pulled the rest of the paper off. Underneath was a simple, white box, and Calleigh glanced up at Eric hesitantly.
Gently, Calleigh pulled the top from the box, a soft gasp escaping her as a beautiful necklace was revealed to her. It was beautiful, yet simple; just the kind of piece Calleigh would love. And Eric knew that.
"Do you like it?" he asked, smiling.
"Eric…where?" She looked around wildly, not seeing anywhere in the tiny airport where he could've possibly bought it.
He chuckled. "I have my ways," he said with a wink. "You were wrong; I, uh, wasn't completely against the idea of shopping back in Alabama. I just couldn't go with you, because I had yet to find something perfect for you. And then I found this," he said, taking the box from her hand. He gently removed the necklace, holding it in front of them. "And this just seemed to have your name on it."
"Eric, it's gorgeous, but I can't…"
He silenced her, gently placing a finger over her lips. "Yeah, yeah you can. I mean, I'm not gonna wear it," he joked, eliciting a small chuckle from her. He moved closer to her, gently reaching out and lifting Calleigh's hair over her left shoulder. Unclasping the chain, he slid it around her neck and fastened it into place, smiling as it fell perfectly against her silky skin. He pulled back, looking at her admiringly. "See? Perfect."
She looked down, unable to keep from smiling as she gently slid the necklace through her fingers. It was beautiful, and she did love it, but still she couldn't help but feel bad. She bit her lip, slightly embarrassed. "But I didn't get you anything," she admitted quietly.
Eric shrugged. Honestly, he didn't care. But he knew she wasn't going to let it go until she felt like they were equal. That was Calleigh. But he thought for a moment, and eventually he did come upon one thing he wanted from her. "Then come with me to dinner tonight," he said quietly, staring deep into her eyes. She finally looked back up at him, meeting his eyes intensely; unwaveringly.
For a moment she hesitated, biting her lip again. "I don't know, Eric."
He grinned. "Come on, Cal. It'll be fun. And then this way you don't have to go out and buy anything for me, since this is what I want. Please?" He reached out, taking her hand gently, linking his fingers with hers. "Besides, I wanna show you how Christmas is supposed to be," he added softly.
She didn't reply; instead, she simply gazed into his eyes. After a moment she grinned, and before Eric could react, Calleigh leaned closer to him, pressing her lips gently against his. It was soft, yet lingering, and the feeling of Calleigh's lips on his own sent electricity racing through every last inch of him. It wasn't how he'd imagined their first kiss (and, granted, he'd put a lot of thought into imagining it). He always thought he'd ask her out to dinner and they'd share a walk on the beach afterwards, and he would proceed to sweep her off her feet.
He never imagined he'd be kissing her while sitting on the floor of a crowded airport, on Christmas morning, while waiting for their plane to start boarding.
But somehow, this was even more satisfying than what his imagination had cooked up. Because this was real, in every sense of the word. This was real, and Eric didn't have to imagine the softness of her lips anymore. He didn't have to imagine her taste anymore, because now he knew.
Calleigh slowly pulled back, shivering herself at the intensity of what had just happened. She gave a shy smile, biting her lip. A bit of confusion came over her as Eric blinked and looked up at the ceiling. "What are you doing?" she asked with a giggle.
"I was, uh, looking for mistletoe," he clarified, training his eyes back on her after a moment.
Calleigh laughed; the sound music to Eric's ears. She captured his lips again with hers, kissing him lightly. "Well, there's not any," she whispered before her lips were again on his, this time much more deeply. She felt his hand come up to her cheek, gently cupping her face as he deepened the kiss further. Calleigh let out a quiet moan as her lips parted for him, granting him access that he gladly took. Her hand managed to end up on his thigh before she came to her senses, and reluctantly she broke away, blushing lightly. After all, they were still in the middle of the airport.
Eric couldn't help but grin widely as he watched her. A shy, embarrassed Calleigh was an adorable Calleigh, blushing cheeks, swollen lips, and all. At first, when she'd broken the kiss, Eric had been afraid of her reaction. He'd been afraid she'd run from him, and then she'd force them both to ignore this for the rest of her lives. But the relief that spread through him when he realized that she too couldn't hide a smile was immeasurable. He reached out, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear, surprised when she looked up at him, causing his grin to widen even more. He was fairly sure he looked like an idiot, but he didn't care. "So, that was a yes, right?"
Calleigh tilted her head slightly. "What?"
He chuckled. "Christmas dinner? You'll come with me?"
"Yeah," she murmured, nodding slightly. "Even though you manipulated me into saying yes," she teased.
"Hey, you're the one who kissed me," he reminded her with a grin.
"Yeah, and I'm gonna do it again," she replied, leaning into him. But just before their lips touched, she stopped, a thought coming to her. "I'll come…on one condition."
Eric stared at her, the sudden, evil glint in her eyes not escaping him. He raised an eyebrow, wondering what he'd gotten himself into now. "What?"
Calleigh gave a low, devious giggle. "You, ah, you have to wear the Santa hat."
Eric let out a deep breath, knowing it wasn't an argument he was going to win. Wordlessly, he reached to his side and into the bag of souvenirs they'd bought the day before. With a lopsided grin, he pulled the Santa hat from the bag and slid it over his head.
Calleigh grinned, a joyful sparkle in her eyes. "Perfect," she murmured, echoing his earlier sentiment as she leaned in and once more caught his lips with hers, kissing him soundly, her arms looping around his neck.
As far as Eric was concerned, being stuck in an airport wearing a Santa hat was only a small price to pay for what he could honestly call the best Christmas present he'd ever received. Sure, he didn't like being stuck in the airport, and the Santa hat sort of itched, but it was only a slight inconvenience compared to what had come of it.
And if it was by slight inconvenience that Calleigh Duquesne just happened to land in his arms, then Eric could deal with that. Happily. Happily, and for many Christmases to come.
Merry Christmas, everybody!