Fingerprints of Love
Disclaimer: I own
nothing relating to CSI: Miami.
A/N: My first and most likely last foray into first person POV - feedback appreciated.
Summary: It's not how the new year starts, but how the old one ends. SC. Mild spoilers for 1x18, Dispo Day. Holiday fic.
resolution I have made, and try always to keep, is this:
To rise above the little things. John Burroughs
"If you don't stop scowling at her Speed, the entire Miami-Dade police department is going to know there's something going on between you two."
I swiveled my head to the left and fixed my scowl on my best friend, Eric Delko. My back was to the bar, and I had propped my elbows up on the edge in a pitiful attempt to look casual while I watched my ex-girlfriend, Calleigh Duquesne, glide across the dance floor with our boss, Horatio Caine. I had just witnessed Horatio bend down and whisper something in Cal's ear that had caused her to throw back her head and laugh with unbridled amusement. It was what I loved about her the most, her ability to give her affection so easily and effortlessly, so opposed to my slow to trust and quick to doubt nature, a difference that had had not a small part in our breakup a month earlier.
I wasn't worried about Horatio taking some sort of romantic interest in Cal. He is a man torn between a sense of fidelity to his worthless brother and a long-supressed but never extinguished love for his sister-in-law. Still, it's not hard for an outsider to see that he favors Cal. Horatio knows from first-hand experience that whatever happens to him, she will defend him. Cal, for her part, will forever remain grateful to Horatio for descending into the damp swamps of Louisiana to pluck her up and carry her away to the sunny shores of Miami like a wingless god with fiery red hair. Despite this obvious affection for one another, their relationship has remained strictly professional. And yet it irked me to see Horatio's hand resting on the small of Cal's very bare back, to see her manicured hand wrapped securely in his larger one, to watch his lips moving just beyond her ear as he whispered something that they alone were privy to.
I knew there was a reason I'd hated that damn dress.
"There's nothing going on between us," I growled before refocusing my scowl on Cal and Horatio. I was past the point of caring if I was being obvious or not. All I wanted was to have Cal back, but that possibility seemed rather bleak at the moment, and the blame for that rested solely at my feet.
Delko, who had been leaning against the bar as well, straightened up. "I thought you two were…"
I cut him off mid-sentence. "Yeah. We were. Past tense."
Only Delko and Alexx had known about my and Cal's relationship, and even though I had confided in him many times in the past, he was unaware of this latest development. Although (or perhaps because) he loved us both, he'd said from the beginning that our relationship was a bad idea. I was loathe to let him know that he'd been right.
Delko, however, wasn't finished quizzing me. The hardest part of all your friends being CSIs is that they have an insatiable curiosity and a nose for trouble. "When did this…?"
"About a month ago, okay?" I tried and failed to keep the irritation out of my voice.
"A month? You hadn't said anything…I just figured…"
"Yeah, well, sometimes with you it's hard to get a word in edgewise."
Delko was unfazed by my abrupt answer and continued to press the issue. "Do you want to talk about it?"
He chuckled softly and then shook his head. "Well, if it's all right with you, I'm going to go rescue H before he withers under your glare."
"You don't need my permission to dance with Calleigh. She can dance with whoever she wants. It's not like she's seeing anyone." I spat the words out like they had left a bad taste in my mouth.
Delko paused as he noticed the bitterness I was unable to suppress. "Are you sure you're okay with this?" I knew he was itching to get the story out of Cal, figuring that she'd be more willing to talk, but he was also genuinely concerned about me.
"It doesn't matter if I am or aren't – she's not mine anymore." The words cut my throat as I spoke them. Was it true? Were Cal and I really over? It was one thing to say it to myself; it was another to admit it out loud. Was this last month of misery all because of my wounded pride? Was the issue that had bothered me so much worth this amount of anguish?
I watched as Delko cut in on Horatio and Cal, and noticed as Horatio graciously handed Cal off to him. Cal smiled at Delko, a huge unrestrained smile that I hadn't seen in weeks. These days we rarely spoke, and she certainly hadn't smiled at me that way since the day she walked through the door carrying the dress she was currently wearing….
I was sitting on Cal's couch, flipping through the channels, waiting on her to come home. She'd told me earlier that afternoon that she just had to run by the mall "real quick", but that I could head on over to her place after work and she'd meet me there. Three hours later, I was still waiting on her.
Cal breezed through the door, her arms loaded with shopping bags and already talking a mile a minute. I don't know how she afforded so many clothes on our less than generous income, but Cal had assured me multiple times that she was a professional bargain shopper.
"Hey, Tim," she said, leaning over the back of the couch to kiss me quickly on the cheek. "I got a dress for the Police Commissioner's New Year's Eve ball next month. Do you want to see it?"
"Sure," I replied, flicking off the TV and tossing the remote on the coffee table. I really didn't give a damn about the dress, but I knew that it meant a lot to Cal. I'd rather see her without the dress on, but knew from past experience that such a comment - even if it was truthful - would not be appreciated.
"Let me just put the rest of this up. I'll be right back."
Cal continued down the hall to her bedroom while I leaned back on the couch and closed my eyes. Five minutes later I heard the tap-tap of her heels on the hardwood floor as she made her way back down the hallway. I opened my eyes, sucking in my breath as I did so.
Cal's dress was nice, but I wasn't noticing it so much as the way it made her look, which was stunning. Cal's beautiful even on her worst day, but in this dress her beauty was nearly blinding.
"Do you like it?" she asked, smiling broadly at me as she twirled around slowly to give me the full view.
Despite my appreciation for Delko's concern, I still had to smirk a bit when I saw him ask Cal if everything between us was alright. Cal knew where I was; she was as acutely aware of my presence as I was of hers. Her head jerked to the left as if to search my eyes out and confirm what I'd told Delko, but she stopped short and swiveled her head back around, meeting eyes with him instead. I could see her bite her lip, and knew that she was debating on spilling everything. A moment later, she shook her head, and for once, Delko didn't push the issue.
The two floated across the floor, and I forced myself to turn my eyes elsewhere. I'm not a jealous type by nature, but I can't stand to see anyone touching Cal, especially when I can't get near her. The fact that her dress had every man in the room drooling certainly didn't help...
It wasn't until I saw the back side of her dress that the beginnings of a frown crossed my face. I tried to suppress it before Cal turned back around, but even then she could tell something was wrong.
"Tim? What's the matter? Do you not like it?"
I furrowed my brow, thinking of how best to approach the question. I'm not good with discussing my feelings, and have a rather nasty habit of either putting my foot in my mouth or avoiding the whole issue all together. Cal understands this, and tries to work with me, but she can get a little defensive, and some of my less than thoughtful comments have sparked a fire in her the likes of which I never want to face again.
"No, I love it. You look…gorgeous." That much was true. The dress, as I've already mentioned, was exceedingly flattering to Cal's figure, not that it needed any improvement. It was a dark navy, almost black, and it clung to her torso and waist in all the right places before falling to her ankles. It was made of some shimmery-type material that was capable of both flowing and clinging as need be, and even though the halter-top styled neckline was modest, the back was anything but. Actually, there was no back to the dress, and that's what had me upset. The material draped down her sides, leaving the entirety of her arms and back exposed until gathering low to drape around her hips. It was hot and scandalous and I liked it just fine as long as she didn't leave the apartment wearing it. I knew that if Cal walked into the room wearing that dress then she wouldn't stand a chance fending off every man in the room.
Cal sat down next to me then, and took my hand in hers. "What is it then?"
"It's just…ah…a little revealing, don't you think? Every guy that doesn't have a heart attack the moment you show up is going to make a beeline straight for you."
Surprisingly, Cal laughed. "Jealous, Tim? Good thing I'll have you there to protect me."
Those damning words of mine were bearing out. Cal, inundated with requests to dance, had barely stepped off the dance floor all night. When she did leave, it was always on the arm of some man, who would gallantly escort her to the bar for a drink. More than one had tried to convince her to leave, but Cal would always sweetly shake her head no. I hated to think of what my reaction might have been if she'd said yes. Only once that night had I seen her without a male escort, and that had been when she'd excused herself to head to the ladies' room with Valera, presumably to discuss the aforementioned men. I'd done little else other than glower at her and her dance partners all night. In fact, the only time I took my eyes off Cal was when Hagen asked her to dance, and because I just couldn't bear to watch her twirl around in the arms of her former lover, I skulked off to the balcony to glare at the moon instead.
It bothered me how jealous I was. I've never been prone to fits of jealousy before, and Cal has certainly given me no reason to be jealous. For sure, she's friendly with everyone she meets, and has a harmless flirty manner about her, but when we were together I never had any doubts that she loved anyone but me. And how she loved me...
Cal and I had been seeing each other for just over three months when she first told me that she loved me. I don't think she meant to, but we were dozing off, and as she snuggled against me she softly whispered, "Love you, Tim," just moments before her breathing evened out. I'd been nearly asleep myself, but her words jolted me awake, and I'd spent the better part of that night running my fingers through her hair and wondering what exactly she'd meant.
I didn't have to wait long for my answer. Just a few weeks later we again were lying in bed when Cal draped herself across my chest and locked eyes with me. "I love you so much, Tim," she said, the confidence in her voice never once wavering. She fiddled with my hair for a moment as she waited for me to respond. I'd spent a great deal of time over the past few weeks contemplating not only what she'd said but what I'd say if she said it again. Did I love her? I thought I did. I wasn't really sure what it meant to be in love, having never let any girl get anywhere near as close to my heart as Cal had managed to do in the brief amount of time we'd been together, but I was acutely aware of the tight feeling that settled in my chest every time her name crossed my mind. I knew that I didn't want to be without her, and that I was willing to do anything to keep that from happening. And if I hadn't discovered something just that very afternoon, I wouldn't have hesitated to return her words. As it was, I'd stumbled across something that had completely destroyed the fragile trust I'd begun to place in Cal.
Cal must have seen the panic in my eyes, because she slid off my chest and curled up next to me.
"It's okay, Tim. You don't have to say it back. I understand. I just can't keep my feelings to myself any longer. But that doesn't mean that you need to feel any pressure to reciprocate something you don't feel. I know all of this relationship stuff is hard for you, and I appreciate every effort you've made. There's not a doubt in my mind that one day you'll love me as much as I love you, and I'm willing to wait for as long as it takes you."
She'd meant what she'd said too. One month later, she was still patiently waiting on me to reciprocate her feelings when our relationship crashed and burned. Although she was hurt that I hadn't yet returned her affection, that wasn't what had precipitated the breakup. No, it all went back to that damn dress...
I'd been alone for maybe ten minutes when I felt a presence next to me. I wasn't interested in conversation, so I ignored the person, hoping that whoever it was would get the hint and leave. No such luck.
"What's up with you and Calleigh?" Ryan's familiar voice asked.
"Nothing," I said.
"It's just that I heard…well, talk around the lab is that you two were seeing each other." He was trying to sound casual, and failing miserable. Everyone at the lab was well aware of Ryan's crush on Cal.
"You shouldn't believe everything you hear, Ryan," I responded tersely.
"So you're not seeing each other?" He was really going to have to cut out this naïve angle he was working.
"Go to hell, Ryan." I hated to be so rude to him, but I was in no mood to play twenty questions about the current gossip on the lab rumor mill.
Ryan pushed off the railing and left, leaving me to brood in blissful silence once more. It had long since become obviously apparent that Cal didn't need me, or anyone else for that matter, to protect her. She had every man in that room's attention, and she was enjoying every minute of it...
"You don't need me to protect you, Cal." The annoyance was clear in my voice.
"I know that, silly. I was just thinking…" Calleigh's words trailed off as she chewed her bottom lip. "I was hoping that maybe we could come out, as it were, at this party."
"You want to go public with our relationship?" I was shocked. It had been Calleigh who had been emphatic from the beginning about keeping things between us private. I wouldn't have even gone to the party, much less used it to announce that Cal and I were seeing each other, if Horatio had not reminded our team that very morning that our attendance was required, and stared straight at me as he did so.
"Yeah, I think so. What do you think?" She slipped out of her heels, curling her bare feet up under her as she nestled her head on my shoulder.
"I thought you wanted to keep it private."
"I did. No one at the lab needed to know that I was sleeping with my co-worker. But we've moved past that, don't you think? I know we're not engaged, or even considering it, but I think things are fairly serious, don't you?"
The way she said 'don't you' left no doubt as to what my answer should be. I ignored her question. "It was never just 'sleeping with my co-worker' for me, Cal."
Cal sighed. "You know what I mean. I wasn't sure how long this would last."
Her last statement ignited my smoldering anger. "It's nice to know that you placed such confidence in me, Cal. What do you take me for? A complete cad? I'm not like Delko. I haven't slept my way through the entire DNA staff. Hell, I haven't even slept with a single person from DNA. But it makes sense, I suppose. You can't trust me with this relationship, and you sure as hell can't trust me to clean my gun."
That last part slipped out accidentally, I swear. I hadn't planned on bringing it up at all until I was done stewing over it, but I was simply floored by Calleigh's lack of faith in me. Just that afternoon I'd confirmed what I'd suspected ever since the day Cal had first told me she loved me.
Even though I had sworn up and down to Cal a million times that I was being more responsible about caring for my gun, she had obviously not believed me. Granted, I'd nearly gotten myself killed once for not cleaning it, but I'd learned my lesson. What wasn't going to be so easy to explain was how I knew that she was checking up on me.
"Excuse me?" Cal had been leaning against my shoulder, but she pushed off me then, and moved to the opposite end of the couch.
"I know you've been checking, Calleigh. Isn't my word good enough?" The fact that I addressed her by her full first name was not lost on either one of us. Cal once said that she could always tell when I was mad, because I would resort to calling her Calleigh.
"Tim, you're imagining things." Cal crossed her arms and glared at me, daring me to disagree.
"Actually, I'm not. I just printed my gun this afternoon, and guess whose fingerprints were all over the magazine?"
Cal gasped. "You fingerprinted your gun because you thought I was checking up on you? Why didn't you just ask?" She was now as angry as me.
"Calleigh, you got your hand caught in the cookie jar, okay? And why should I bother asking when you can't be honest with me about what you're doing?"
"Tim, I only did it because I care. The day I realized that I loved you, it started itching like a chigger under my skin. I just couldn't stand the idea of you leaving one morning and not coming back. I don't want to lose you, Tim." Her voice cracked.
"Deceit is still deceit even when it's done for noble reasons. Look Calleigh, I know I screwed up big time on that dispo day, and I can understand you having doubts. But you should have just asked me. If you love me like you say you do, then you have to trust me as well. I don't believe that there can be love without trust."
Cal's face fell. "Is that why you've never told me you loved me? Because you don't trust me? Did you even believe me when I said that I loved you?"
I dropped my gaze to the floor, unable to look at the hurt in her face anymore. "No, I believed you, Calleigh. I just thought that you had more faith in me. I thought you had more faith in us."
"I do have faith in us…and you, Tim. Why do you think I want to go public?"
"I don't know.
Why would you want to go public?" Despite my best efforts, sarcasm
was creeping into my voice.
Calleigh ignored my tone. "Because I love you, Tim. Because I don't ever want to be with anyone else but you, and I don't care what the repercussions of that decision are anymore."
I wanted to believe her, I really did. I wanted to drop the whole issue and forget it had even come up. I wanted to say to hell with it all and go public, to show everyone that, for some unknown reason, Calleigh Duquesne had decided to fall in love me. But the interwoven mess of my gun, her love and our trust in each other had inserted itself in between us like a brick wall. Unless it was dealt with, torn down, then there would be no moving forward. There would be no us.
"You want to go public with a relationship that is completely lacking in trust? If we can't be honest with each other Calleigh, then there's no point in involving everyone else."
Cal looked at me, her eyes hard with anger yet shimmering with unfallen tears. "You think I don't trust you at all?"
I buried my head in my hands. "I don't know, Calleigh. I don't know what to think or feel about any of this anymore."
"Do you love me?" she asked softly. I looked up at her then, aware that the future of our relationship depended on my answer.
"I want to."
"But you don't."
How was I supposed to answer that? I had trusted her and she had loved me, but I couldn't let myself love her because she couldn't trust me.
"No," I finally said. "I do love you. But I need you to trust me, and I can't go on in this relationship if you don't."
"So this is all my fault?"
"No. I should have starting cleaning my gun a long time ago, and if I had then we wouldn't even have this problem."
"But we do."
"We do," I agreed, and it was in that silent moment that followed my statement that we both realized our relationship was over.
Now, a month later, I was no longer sure what I'd been so upset over. Certainly whatever it was hadn't been worth losing Cal. My bruised ego had long since healed, but I wasn't sure the hole in my heart ever would. Cal had been right to worry about the state of my gun, whereas I'd had no basis for not trusting her. And that was what the whole matter boiled down to, really. I hadn't been willing to trust her, even though she'd given me and our relationship nothing short of everything since day one. If anyone should be upset over a lack of trust, it was her, because my inability to believe in us was a far more grievous offense than hers. What was killing me was that she'd known this, had been aware of my hesitation and it hadn't mattered to her – she'd loved me anyway. My suspicious self, on the other hand, had latched onto the first thing I could find to prove that, once again, believing in a relationship and trusting someone else was foolhardy. I'd let my irritation over the gun fester until I honestly believed that I was the wronged party in the relationship, and then I'd thrown my ill-gotten information back in Calleigh's face.
I couldn't believe that it had taken me over a month to figure this out, but I was determined to have the issue resolved before the clock hit midnight and ushered us willing or not into the New Year. I'd started the year without Calleigh, but I refused to end it the same way. I'm not normally one for symbolic gestures or getting caught up in the holiday spirit, but the implications behind this night were significant enough for even my hard-headed self to comprehend.
I stalked back into the room and found Calleigh, who was dancing with Ryan, his usual smug look even more pronounced. The large clock on one of the walls lent a clue – with less than two minutes to go until the New Year, Ryan was virtually assured of being in Calleigh's arms when the clock hit zero, and most likely assumed he'd earn a kiss for his efforts. His hands were on her bare back, just like everyone else's hands had been all evening, and my temper flared to new heights. First thing I was doing when I took Calleigh home was peeling that dress off of her and putting her in the tub so that I could wash away the remnants of every man who'd dare to caress her back that evening. And then I'd reclaim her for my own, running my hands over all the places that were going to be mine alone from there on out. In no uncertain terms I glared at Ryan over Cal's shoulder until he nodded to her and she turned around to face me.
"Tim." Her voice held an element of surprise.
I touched her arm gently and then looked at Ryan. "Excuse me, but I'd like to dance with my girlfriend now," I said. I could see Ryan's jaw go slack, but he wisely kept his mouth shut and moved away.
Calleigh glared at me. "Timothy Speedle, who do you think you are? I am not your girlfriend anymore. You made that very clear."
Despite her anger, she allowed me to put one hand on her waist and take her other in my own. I leaned in and whispered, "We need to talk. Keep dancing."
Cal's jaw was rigid, but she began to move in rhythm with me, and any eyes that had been watching us after the scene with Ryan quickly lost interest and looked elsewhere, the excitement in the room increasing as the clock wound down.
"What are you doing?" she hissed.
I looked at her, trying to soften my gaze as best I knew how. "Cal, I'm here to ask for your forgiveness…and a second chance."
Cal blinked rapidly and then looked away. We were silent for several moments before she replied.
"You really hurt me, Tim," she said finally.
"I know, babe," I said, my mouth almost grazing her ear. My body was nearly shaking at the closeness of our bodies after a month apart, and it took every ounce of my restraint -and an appreciation of Cal's ability to kick my ass - not to pull her body against mine and kiss her senseless. "And I'd take back every minute of that hurt and then some if I could. I was a real jerk, Cal. It just took losing you to realize it."
Cal remained silent, so I pressed on, determined to fix things no matter how hard it was. "I've missed you, Cal. I've missed us."
"I've missed us too, Tim," Cal admitted, although her gaze was still focused over my left shoulder. "But missing each other isn't going to fix what was wrong."
"I know, babe," I told her again. "That's why I'm here to apologize for what I said, and to tell you that I was wrong. I was wrong about everything."
Cal shifted her gaze to my face. "About everything?" she asked softly, and I found myself agreeing before I realized what she was really asking.
Cal gave a small nod. "I see."
For the life of me I couldn't figure out why this admission had her upset. I replayed the conversation over in my head, finally tripping over what was bothering her. "Cal?" I said.
"I wasn't wrong when I said I loved you."
I felt her release a breath neither of us realized she'd been holding. I kept talking, not ready to hear her shoot me down. "I was wrong about you not trusting me. I should have turned all those accusations on myself, Cal. It was me who didn't trust you, me who wouldn't believe in us. You gave everything of yourself to our relationship, even when I wasn't capable of giving anything back, even though I didn't deserve it. You believed in me – and us – and you deserved to have my trust and love in return. Cal, if you'll take me back, you can have everything that I should have given you a long time ago. You can check my gun three times a day if that's what it takes."
I bit my cheek to keep from flat out pleading her to take me back, although I wouldn't have hesitated to fall at her feet and beg in front of all these people if that's what it took. Holding Cal again after all this time only confirmed what I'd known all along and was too stubborn to realize. Without her, I was nothing. She was everything I'd ever needed and ever wanted, and if I couldn't be with her then I didn't want to go on living.
I watched Cal chew on her lower lip, digesting what I'd said. Finally, she turned her green eyes on me. "I think once a day will suffice."
Her answer was not what I'd been expecting, and it took me a second to realize that she was teasing me. My mouth opened to respond, but she stopped me by placing a single finger on my lips. "Shh," she murmured, then removed her hand and stepped into me until our bodies met. Her head came to rest on my shoulder, and I could feel her exhale a content sigh against the collar of my shirt. My hand slid from her hip to the small of her back, where I was rewarded with the feel of her soft skin under my fingers.
I knew there was a reason I'd liked this damn dress.
I closed my eyes in silent thanks and then craned my head down to press a soft kiss to her temple. "Love you, Cal," I whispered, aware that our sudden display of affection had the attention of nearly everyone in the room and not carrying one bit.
"I love you too, Tim."
The ten second countdown began then, and we were again lost in our own world. I pressed my lips to Calleigh's, and left them there until everyone cheered "Happy New Year!" and burst into horribly off-key versions of Auld Lang Syne.
Now we were only one of many couples in the crowd locking lips. "Are you ready to get out of here?" I asked, already gently guiding her towards an exit as we danced.
"I thought you'd never asked," she laughed, taking my hand in hers and pulling me towards the door.