Miami Fic Talk Challenge - #17 Celebration
Fic - #19
A/N - This was first posted to MFT around New Year, so I'm not so late to the game. For it to work, I had to take some form of creative licence. Speed and Hagen died in 2005, which TECHNICALLY they did, in that it was the season that began in 2005. Ah, technicalities. Good times. ;)

Lord, she didn't want to be there. Her heart was beating out of her chest and her stomach performing circus tricks inside of her. She was scared. She was actually scared of walking into a house full of her peers. What had Calleigh Duquesne come to within twelve months?

New Year was a time of reflection, but she'd had plenty of that living through the year past. She wished so much that she could wake up and find it was 2004. That year was a good year. She didn't lose as many people in that year. Alexx, however, was adamant that not only was everyone to attend her annual party, but they were all going to have a damn good time. Or else.

The year hadn't been particularly favourable to her either - she took Speed's death like a loss of a child - but she felt maybe a fraction of what had changed the lives of the Miami CSI's indefinitely. Calleigh's life especially. To say Alexx was worried about her would be like saying Newton was bemused about why things kept dropping on his toes.

Just ten days had passed since John's funeral. The shortest and yet longest days Calleigh had ever experienced. She hadn't been back to the gun range since the incident, and she'd be damned if she ever did again. For the time being, Calleigh was on leave, taking the well earned holidays she had saved up for the past twelve years. Monday signalled the ominous day she was to return to the hallways and to her new post in Trace. She could only imagine the stories floating around about her.

The car interior was beginning to feel very small. Her laboured breathing was making her head spin and she could feel bile start its way up. She had to get out, get out before she really made a fool of herself. At least Alexx's house was larger than her car, and had large glass doors overlooking the ocean which would calm her down. The ocean always calmed her down. Calleigh wasn't sure what emotion was affecting her most - the fear of confronting people who didn't know the whole truth about John's demise, or the hatred at herself for feeling scared. She swore to herself at thirteen years of age that she would never feel fear unless looking down the barrel of a gun.

Of course, that was what had happened. Near enough, anyway.

She shook her head and curled her hands into fists until she could feel the burn of ten crescent shapes into her palms. 'Get it together,' she told herself, 'You're not this person.'

"Calleigh," Alexx breathed, whipping the door open and wrapping her arms around Calleigh's neck. "Oh, honey, I'm so glad you came."

"I'm not so sure yet," she smiled lightly, folding into the hug. It was nice to have a hug that wasn't from her pillow.

"Yeah, well, leave that to me. I'll have you on karaoke in no time," Alexx smirked, linking arms and guiding her inside.

"You have karaoke?"

"No, but that's how much fun you'll be having," she winked.

There was a good turn out for the party, more than the year before. Calleigh's breath caught in her throat for a second when she noticed all the eyes that had shot to her direction.

(She came.)

(She's got some nerve.)

Alexx squeezed her arm and led her through the throng to the drinks table. "Here, get this down you," she smiled, placing a glass of wine in her hand. "If anyone gives you any trouble, you just send them to me, okay?"

"Yes, Mom," Calleigh sassed, but her eyes shone with the gratitude she felt. This wasn't easy on her, and she knew that Alexx would understand the inner turmoil she was trying to hide.

Jonathon Woods slid up next to the pair and gave Calleigh a hug. "Happy New Year, Cal."

"You too," she smiled.

As much as he fought the urge to, he knew it would have been more than his life was worth to give Calleigh a 'hang in there' smile or head tilt. He had the pleasure of being at the end of the wrath of Alexx, but at Calleigh too? He didn't fancy that. "Honey, we have a dip emergency."

"There's more in the cupboard," Alexx said, gesturing to the kitchen.

"Which… cupboard?"

She rolled her eyes to Calleigh in a fashion that said 'See what I have to put up with?'. "I'll be right back."

Calleigh chuckled, "Okay." She watched the husband and wife meander through the crowd and disappear into another room, leaving her to linger onto the guests again. Not allowing herself to hitch a breath again, she sipped at the glass in her hand.

(Huh, little black dress. More like little black widow, eh?)

She spotted Eric on the other side of the room, a bevy of beautiful interns and lab techs surrounding him. He gave her a wink when their eyes met.

Calleigh smirked, gesturing the women fawning for his attention. He held his hands up trying his very best to look innocent, but when girls where involved, Eric Delko was never innocent. She shot an incredulous look back and left him to adoring fans.

(Next victim?)

It wasn't often that Calleigh Duquesne had been left to her own devices at a party. Sometimes the attention wasn't much favoured, but she would give anything for a conversation not concerning death or guns or work in general. She would even go so far as talk about the weather or an equally mundane topic. She sipped at her wine again.

(I heard her Dad's an alcoholic.)

(Huh, even her own friends must be scared of her.)

She found herself thinking back to the New Year's party the year before, when two prominent guests where in attendance. She smiled, remembering how Eric and Tim where inseparable and surrounded by a hundred doe-eyed ladies. She wondered how Eric felt having all the attention to himself this year…

John had brought a woman along to the party, a Jenna, if memory served well. Calleigh remembered how Alexx told her that it was all for her benefit.

'He wants you to see what you're missing.'

'Oh please, we're not teenagers. He's moved on, and so have I.'

'Oh really, and who is this person that you have moved on with then?'

'Okay, so he moved on a little more literally than I did, but I'm working every hour God sends, and that doesn't exactly cooperate with a healthy love life.'

'How many times have I told you that?'

'Oh shush, you! I'm happy for John, but our ship has well and truly sailed. You wont be seeing him in my life like that again.'

The irony of the whole conversation sent another shot of pain shattering through her heart. She wanted so badly to see Tim hooking his iPod to the hi-fi, only to get a cup upside the head from Alexx; or to have John watching her over that girl's shoulder.

(Is she crying?)

She blinked furiously, wiping at her cheeks. What the hell was she doing? What was she doing there? She couldn't do this, she had to get out, she needed fresh air.

(Did you see that? She is crying. Where's she going? Can you see?)

The air hit her over-heated skin and a flurry of goose-bumps travelled up her arms. She leant against the railing, holding a hand to her chest to try to calm herself down. She was panicking again. The doctor told her she probably would do, that it was perfectly normal. She just had to breathe. Breathe. Breathe.

She wanted to go home. She wanted to curl back into her bed and drown out her thoughts with the loudest music she could find. The thought of walking back through all those people, though, was almost enough to bring on another attack. She stared at the ocean for what felt like hours. She had always been drawn to the ocean, it was a place she could go to sort her head, hear her mind. It was soothing.

She closed her eyes and just listened to the waves, using the crashing of the water onto the beach as a guide to her breathing. Her heart beat finally slowed and the loud rushing of blood disappeared from her ears. It was perfect.

She slowly opened her eyes, the reflected moonlight on the water making them sting until they became used. It was then that she noticed the presence at her side.

"Good Lord, Horatio. You frightened the life outta me!" Her heart beat had elevated again from the shock. "You're the quietest person I know."

"I didn't want to disturb you. You looked very peaceful," he said, leaning against the railing next to her. He had watched from a distance as she sped from the room, and saw with distain the number of heads that followed her, only to turn back and whisper. He slowly made his towards her, knowing that she wouldn't want him to see her without the strong, defiant façade he knew so well.

"Yeah," she scoffed. Not altogether sure what 'peaceful' was anymore.

They stood their for a while, not saying a word but sharing a million conversations. There was something about Horatio Caine, just his presence had a calming influence. You didn't need to utter a word, but your mind would be clear of all the questions it begged to ask but didn't have the courage. It was something that had saved her on many an un-commented occasion. She didn't know, but the feeling was reciprocated.

Eventually, Horatio gestured out to the burning horizon. "Red sky at night, should be a nice day tomorrow."

Calleigh's head snapped to him. "Yeah," she smiled, her eyes shining. "Yeah, it should."

"I always forget the rest of that saying. Red sky at night…"

Calleigh followed his eye line. "Red sky at night, shepherd's delight. Red sky in the morning, shepherd's warning."

"How on Earth do you know that?" her smirked, looking to her.

She chuckled, "I have no idea!"

"What else do you know?"

"I know that if you see a cow lying down it means there'll be rain."

"I don't think that'll really help us in Miami though…"

"No, I guess not."

"I'll tell you what I know, the Dolphin's have really got to buck their ideas up if they want to get to the playoffs next season."

"Oh I know! There defence is wide open! But did you see that touchdown in the closing minutes against the Giants?"

"They've still got the ability, they just need to use it more often," Horatio muttered, gulping some more of his beer.

Calleigh nodded, her eyes slowly returning to the horizon. She had actually forgotten about everything for a minute there. Let herself get wrapped up in the mundane aspects of life that she craved for so much.

There was a commotion inside the house which Horatio and Calleigh both turned too. How had it gotten to the countdown already? Everyone was turned to the television, watching as the ball was dropping the final few inches. The guests were shouting the numbers, confetti flying through the air and noise-makers at the ready.

They all let up a cheer as it finally rang midnight.

Calleigh sighed, her back resting against the railing. "2006."

Horatio put his bottle out in front of him. "To Tim and John, may you rest in peace in 2005."

She gave a deep breath. "Tim and John. Always missed, never forgotten." They clinked bottle to glass and took a sip.

They watched as people twisted their arms and joined hands, swinging on the spot and singing 'Auld Lang Syne' as loud as they could muster.

"C'mon," Horatio smiled, opening the door and making the singing that much louder.

Calleigh took another breath, deep and cleansing and nodded her head. She smiled a grateful smile at her friend and her boss, thanking him how they always thanked each other.

Once inside, Alexx beckoned them over to her group and let them slide in beside her as they joined in the traditional dance. Alexx, Jonathon, Eric - linked with his apparent pick of the ladies - all shot each other the same smile. One that said 'Here's to the new year and the new start. Things are going to be different.'