Thanks: To Irony882. You girl, save me from the pit of the grammatical abyss. And to Drommie (FluffyBlonde) for allowing me to be her first beta job J Love to you both.
Dedication: This one is dedicated to Jacks (Lemon Green) for being amazing and setting me a challenge to break my writers block. She has waited oh so patiently for this one. She gave me , a goat, honey and a night on the town to incorporate in this. Here is the result:
I feel empty. Physically and emotionally. I can't remember the last time I ate; I can't remember the last time I smiled. It's painful, the dull throb of nothingness that starts deep in my stomach, spreading to tie my heart in knots.
The pitiful journey I have been on my entire life had come to a surprising bend. My father's final escapade didn't end the way he wanted it to; it wasn't just another night lost in a dingy bar. The call I received wasn't, for once, from a nameless waitress, but the police. Held without bail. His final warning had gone unheeded and I know they couldn't do anymore for him.
Maybe a stint behind bars would do some good. More than I could do.
I knew I should never have handed those keys back over. Those months where he couldn't drive were my happiest. I didn't live in constant fear of the visit telling me he had wrapped himself around a tree or killed someone. But I couldn't do it forever. I'm a cop, not a chauffeur. Now I wish I'd kept at it. What was a few more months to save a woman from a broken leg and my father from an alcohol-induced, reckless endangerment charge?
It was the wake-up call I know we both needed.
The dull throb turns to pain and I sit, feeling dizzy all of a sudden. The lack of food and sleep catches me off guard and I fight a dry heave. My heart can't take much more; it's barely holding together as it is.
Horatio's words filter through my mind, triggered by something I can't quite figure out, 'If you need anything...' I remember his unconvinced frown when I smiled, a silent plea for him to leave it. And he does; of course he does, because he's too polite to push me. If only everyone else would take note.
Of course, by 'everyone', I know inside I mean Eric, but that vague coverage protects me from the possibilities. Verbalizing those emotions has never been a strong point of mine.
I can, however, use metaphors, and do so quite often. I feel it's a way of distancing myself from the meaning behind the words, but of course, it just seeks to make the feelings more vivid. A lost child on a beach, a young goat trapped in a field; metaphorical representations of emotions I refuse to acknowledge I possess.
The loud knock startles me from my thoughts, throwing my concentration, leaving me vulnerable. I answer, catching a glimpse of the clock, noting that it's past nine and I'm still not out of my work clothes. I wonder briefly if it's because I don't want to let go. As a CSI, I can help my father; as a daughter, I can't.
He smiles softly as he enters, a tentative hand reaching to graze my cheek.
"You okay?" His voice is so quiet and I have to strain to catch his words. I don't reply, opting instead to grace him with a small nod. I fear he'll catch the lie in my words, forgetting momentarily that the lie is in my eyes. My non-verbal form of communication was just as ineffective at hiding the truth and, as he sighs, I feel strangely like crying.
He steps closer, entering my apartment without my permission, moving closer to the couch in the living room. Part of me feels like he should ask for permission because it's been so damn long since he was last here. But then, I remind myself, whose fault is that?
"Coffee?" I offer, knowing my underlying request that he stays for a long time does not go unnoticed, as he accepts, even though it's after nine and coffee perhaps isn't such a good idea. I choose instead to sit, arm brushing against his as I join him on the couch, eyes to the floor. His hand once again finds my cheek, lifting it this time, so my eyes meet his.
His eyes search mine, boring holes into my soul, searching for that one fragile wall he knows he can push over. I begin to tremble as I realize his intentions, powerless to pull away from him. He pulls me closer as he finds it, the tears forming in his eyes to match my own.
"I wish I could make you happy, Querida." He whispers against my ear. My face presses closer to his chest, head snuggled under his chin. The Spanish pet name sends shivers across my back, comforting me greatly.
"You do," I reply, knowing my reassurance is futile. He'll blame himself and worry until I'm 100 percent myself again It's what he does, what he's always done. Eric's guilt is a path I have walked along many times before. Hagen's suicide, Speed's death, my numerous times in danger were all events Eric should have done more to prevent.
At least, in his guilty Catholic eyes.
He sits up suddenly, looking in my eyes for a moment with an intense, unreadable expression.
"You need to get out of here."
And I know what he means. Except for work, I've not left my apartment in over a week. I smile, nodding silently.
"Let me take you?" He asks, and just before I open my mouth to protest, I'm struck with a sudden urge to hug him. I want to go out, I want to smile, I want to spend time with someone. Him.
"OK, where?" The relief in his eyes is obvious and it makes me somewhat sad to see how happy I can make him just by agreeing to spend time with him.
I want it to be her choice. Recent events have caused her to lose the control she holds so tightly. I know how much she hates that. In letting her make the decision, I know I am giving her a little back and I can tell she's grateful, though she'll never acknowledge it.
I watch her ponder for a moment, eyebrows scrunched up in concentration, top lip caught between her teeth. It strikes me at odd times just how beautiful she is. The slight hint of vulnerability makes her eyes brighter than they usually are. I wish she'd let me see that more often. She's told me countless times that she trusts me, but she has never trusted me with the one thing I would do anything to protect. Her.
In my mind, things have been changing between us. People say sometimes a switch is flicked that makes you realize what's important to you. In my case, it was a bullet.
One shot to the head and all my confusion had gone right out of the window. Before, I didn't even know who I was; never mind what I was doing. After Speed's death, more girls filtered through my life than ever before; I don't remember most of them. But now? Now I know exactly what I want. Who I want.
I don't know if Calleigh has picked up on the sudden change, but the spark between us is apparently obvious, if you listened to Natalia and Valera. Those two are worse than old ladies, double-teaming me to find out all the dirt about Calleigh and me They seem determined to get us together. There is one main problem, though. And that problem comes in the form of Jake Berkley.
She seems genuinely happy. I can't tell if that's because she's with Jake or because she's with someone. Calleigh was lonely. She would never admit it but I can read Calleigh like a book. She'd played Jake's games before, she'd been through it all with him so part of me wondered if he was just a way to fight the loneliness. If so, she was going to hurt herself.
It's strange that after my little epiphany of sorts I'm seeing her for the first time. I mean, really seeing her.
But she's changed, too. Subtle changes. No longer does she try to hide her vulnerability from me; she doesn't try to mask her emotions when she's around me. If anything, she's going out of her way to let me know how she feels. Maybe it's my imagination, maybe it's wishful thinking, but I swear she is flirting with me more than usual. Her gazes are more intense, her touches more lingering. But I can't say anything because of that one little problem.
I wonder where Jake is. But I don't have to think about it for too long because I realize Jake will never be there when Calleigh needs him. Literally or metaphorically. The fact that she doesn't seem to be questioning it confirms my beliefs; this is nothing new.
Her voice stops my thoughts, "How about… Vogue?" She asks and I am surprised she chooses a club. I was expecting her to pick somewhere, I don't know, more down-beat. She must catch the question in my eyes because she immediately mummers, "I feel like getting lost in a crowd."
And suddenly, I want to hold her. Hold her tight and squeeze away all the hurt in her life. She's experienced more pain and anguish than any human should have to endure. I just want to make it all go away. But I can't hold her the way I want to. I have to settle for supporting her as a friend.
"Vogue it is," I reply, reaching out to touch her hair, rethinking my move and letting my hand drop before it reaches its target. I am sure I catch a hint of disappointment in her eyes.
But she smiles and looks away before I can analyze any further. "Just let me get changed."
"Oh, boy! Should I take a nap?" I joke, because it's the only thing I can do to get the moment back on safe ground. My joke pays off as a small smile graces her face and, after giving me a well-deserved elbow to the ribs, she disappears into the bedroom.
Only 20 minutes later, she emerges looking like an angel. Well, a very bad angel. A dark pencil skirt elongates her legs and a dark blue fitted shirt leaves little to the imagination. It's odd how she can have so much on and make it look like she's wearing nothing at all. She has pulled her hair down from her pony tail, falling in soft curls around her face. Her eyes are amazing, smoky eye shadow making the green even more intense. It was a toss-up between the eyes and the body that could tie my tongue in knots faster. The lips could do it, too. But all three thrown at me at once? A
strangled sound came from the back of my throat. Great.
She simply smiles knowingly, holds out a hand for me to take and pulls me towards the door, grabbing her purse before we left.
The club is really busy. People milling about, dancing and laughing. I feel really out of place but am intent on having a good time with Eric. He was right; I need to get out more. Being with Jake is harder than I thought; he is making me feel lonelier than I was before. I don't remember it being like this last time we were together. But I've changed. He hasn't.
We dance for a while; he keeps catching my eye with nervous glances. It is strangely familiar, being in his arms. I can't remember the last time we hugged.
A few songs later, we extract ourselves from each other's arms. My mood has slipped again, my thoughts of Jake making me even more upset so Eric suggests a drink.
I stand at the bar whilst Eric orders drinks. Non-alcoholic. I don't feel like going down that road tonight. Alcohol has cause my family more problems than I care to think about.
My eye catches a young girl across the bar. She's smiling, flirting with the bartender who is slowly pouring honey into her vodka, clearly enjoying her attention more that he should, given his forty year seniority. I wonder what her life is like, if being so carefree about alcohol is doing her well. If the alcohol-induced confidence of tonight will be worth it tomorrow morning when she's turning out some guy and she's late for work with a hangover. I turn back to Eric and am immediately angry. All I can see in his eyes is pity.
"Eric, stop it." I say, rather coldly.
"Stop what?" His voice is a little higher than usual and I can tell he didn't know what he was doing.
"Stop feeling sorry for me." I am getting wound up; I am blaming him for everything. I want to stop but someone else has taken over my vocal chords. "Stop looking at me like I'm a victim. Like I need your help. Because I don't Eric, I don't need you." I am hitting his chest, punctuating my words with my frustration, ignorant of the small crowd that is now looking at us. He stands there and takes it, hands on my shoulders, trying to comfort me. I feel the tears, and let my head drop, trying to hide them from him.
He pulled me closer, cooing in my ear; I could barely hear him over the music. "It's Okay Calleigh." His voice has that tentative tone again. I'd frightened him; I've never lost it like that. I am just so frustrated. With my dad, with myself, with Jake. Where the hell was he anyway? He couldn't say he didn't know because he was with the arresting officer when he rang me. The bastard just didn't care. So why do I? I don't. I just don't want to be alone again.
I don't know what to do. She just lost it entirely. I really should have anticipated it. But with Calleigh, all the times she should have broken down, she retained that wall. It had finally fallen and, even after all the times I'd prayed for it to happen, I have never been so unprepared.
We've only been here an hour, but I find myself pulling her to the door and into a cab. So much for a night on the town. I knew I should have recommended somewhere more quiet. I watch her intently as we were driven home. I can see the guilt playing on her features, and that hurts me even more. She shouldn't feel guilty for being human.
Once at her block, I pay the driver and walk through her lobby and up to her apartment. It was a walk I had taken many times before and I find myself smiling at the familiarity.
She pauses, hand poised to unlock the door, and turns to me. "Eric, I'm sorry." Her voice was so riddled with guilt, I felt my heart crack a little more.
She smiled, genuinely this time and glanced up at me again. She stepped closer, placing one hand on my hip, "Thank you," she says, softly. "I don't know what I would have done without you tonight."
The reverence and sincerity in her voice nearly floors me. God, how I love her. She's the only one who has stuck by me though everything; she has forgiven me more times than I deserve and there she was, apologizing for being human. I love her dedication and her willingness to believe I am a good man.
But mostly, I love her for standing by me when most would have run. I want to tell her all this. The straps around my heart are getting weaker by the second and if I don't do something, this torrent of emotion is going to come out faster than Niagara Falls.
I look at her, reaching a hand to trace her jaw, noting her shiver. My hand moves to the back of her neck and suddenly, our lips are millimeters apart. I can feel her hot breath on my lips, I can smell her perfume. All my senses are overcome by Calleigh.
Everything she is, I want. Everything I am, I want to give to her.
Her eyes glint, and I can see a little fear there. I find myself leaning closer and she doesn't pull away. If anything, she leans a little closer. In the background, I hear a faint click but I can't focus on anything but her.
We both turn suddenly, breaking apart from our embrace.
"Jake!" Calleigh says, surprised, arms crossing in front of her. "What are you doing here?"
"I…" He looks towards me icily, "I just came over to see you, that OK?"
"Um, yeah." She turns to me again, but she doesn't say goodbye. She simply looks at me and, just when she is about to speak, Jake's voice breaks the moment. Again.
"Calleigh?" He questions, indicting his head into her apartment, encouraging her inside.
"Yeah," she calls, not breaking eye contact with me. "Goodnight, Eric." Her voice is quiet. She enters the through door, ignoring the daggers I was shooting Jake. She forces a smile and shuts the door.
I turn away; I couldn't look at that door, knowing they were together in there. I murmur a soft "Goodnight" to the empty air.
And with that, I leave.
OK: I do have an idea for another chapter. But let me know what you thought of his one, if you can? Thanks.