Title: 5 times…

Title: 5 times…

Pairing: Calleigh/Natalia, CSI: Miami

Rating: PG – 13 for a little angst and swearing

Disclaimers: not mine (but dear lord do I wish they were)

Spoilers: Not really, though a couple of them are episode related, you wouldn't know it unless you've seen the ep, in which case, you can't whine about spoilers now can you?

Summary: (It was supposed to be five and five, but instead its…)

6 times Natalia and Calleigh never got to say I love you. And 4 times Calleigh and Natalia told the team about their relationship.

One

"You don't understand, he's here to hurt me and he won't stop until he gets what he wants!"

"That is not going to happen."

Horatio had promised.

Horatio had lied.

They're all there, in black elegant and stark. Alexx's dark eyes are distant and shadowed. Eric and Ryan wear matching expressions of barely contained anger. Horatio's pain and guilt surround him, a nearly palpable aura.

But it's Calleigh whose eyesight is stubbornly blurred and whose hand trembles as her fingers lose their grip on the single white rose, watching it drop lifeless onto the shining oak.

"Forgive me, Natalia," Horatio's plea is a whisper on the breeze, but it's Calleigh who flinches as the guns give their final salute.

Two

So, she thinks with some distant, disconnected part of her that seems to watch everything from outside her body, this is what denial feels like.

She knows vaguely that Eric is holding her back; holding her close to his solid form and trying to talk to her. She can't feel him; can't hear the words he must be saying. All she knows is what she sees.

Blonde hair spreads like an angelic halo amidst a thick, darkening stain of blood; sparkling jade eyes are forever clouded, and one delicate hand is outstretched as if in silent plea to the weapon she gave such loyalty to. The weapon that for all her trust, couldn't help her in that final moment.

Three

She looks up, to this day unable to say why, but something in her must have sensed – must have known. The sight that greets her is as cruel as any blow Nick ever dealt her; worse in many ways, Nick at least made sure her pain was private.

In front of the whole lab, Jake claims her as his own… and she lets him.

Too stunned to move, she can only watch as Calleigh walks to the elevator. For a second, Calleigh turns and their eyes meet, and the confusion and uncertainty are achingly apparent to Natalia. She wants to call out, to reach out; to do something to bring her friend back, but then Calleigh's eyes slide away and the doors close and her last thread of hope is quietly severed.

Four

Calleigh knows she should be thrilled for them. God knows both of them have been dealt too much pain in their lives. It's a good match too. Horatio will never let anyone hurt her, and Natalia's strong enough to help him face his demons.

She hasn't seen him this happy in years; not even with Marisol, and Natalia is positively radiant. The whole lab is excited, clinging to this scrap of joy after so many tragedies. She tells herself she can bear it, that she can keep going and be thankful for them. But every time Natalia smiles at him, it drives a knife through her heart.

The wedding is simple, perfect. They leave for their honeymoon the next day.

24 hours later Calleigh's two weeks notice clears. She won't see them return.

Five

"5000 points bitch! Count 'em up!"

It's been two years to the day and the sound of the machine gun fire still echoes in her mind, a phantom pain that she accepts will always be with her.

Two years to the day is the only thing she's really sure of any more. It's been months since she lost the struggle and left the lab. There were too many regrets shadowing the glass walls and darkening the slow Miami sunlight. There had been too many days when the light would hit her hands and she swore she could still see the blood on her hands, feel its terrible heat slip between her fingers as they pressed futilely against gaping wounds while she refused to acknowledge the stark truth that the life she was trying to hang onto was already lost.

She grabs a bottle off the counter, only mildly irritated to find it empty. She has spares. It takes only a moment to find one that's half full and she doesn't bother with the glass. The numbing warmth of the liquor is the only thing that softens the constant staccato reminder of her loss.

Two years to the day.

Six

Her eyes are dry. She didn't cry for Speed, she won't cry now. In the echoing silence of the morgue she stands unblinking and numb – her mind protecting itself from the tearing grief by simply shutting down. Better this icy numbness than hot, choking loss.

She is cold, like the skin under her hand and the gleaming metal of the autopsy table; she doesn't think she will ever be warm again.

Alexx left her alone, a soft touch on her arm the only exchange between them.

The body – she can't bring herself to think the name yet – will leave soon, taken to the funeral home and then to its final resting place.

Beyond the shell of shock, she can feel the anger and the regret hovering, pressing in; trying to find the cracks in her mind. She should go - the world is waiting – but there is still time to do one last thing.

Calleigh speaks, and the words she feared to give to the living are now bestowed upon the dead. She turns and leaves and the silence moves in to replace her. It cannot completely overcome the power of those words however, and a tiny sliver of them remains, forever a reminder of what might have been.

"I love you, Natalia."

4 times Calleigh and Natalia tell the team.

One

Alexx, Calleigh is convinced, always knew. Their friend's warm eyes sparkle with a secret but she's never said anything, so Natalia doubted.

Weeks later, Ryan blurts out the question and Natalia watches as Calleigh calmly answers in the affirmative. Out of the corner of her eye, she sees Alexx give a knowing smirk.

Looks like Calleigh was right after all.

Two

They debate for months about how to tell Eric, until it becomes a well-worn joke. They've been putting it off, but Natalia's going to start showing soon and that means questions they can't avoid.

Calleigh is worried Eric will be upset, Natalia doesn't entirely disagree. In the end, their fears are groundless; the only things they receive are his most devilish smile and a hug.

"You're not mad?" Calleigh asks, still unsure.

"Hell no," he says with a definite twinkle in his eyes. "This is way better than you and Jake."

They both smack him then, but they're all smiling.

Three

Calleigh wants to tell Horatio herself. He's her oldest friend here and Natalia respects the bond they share. She knows Cal wants it to be quiet, private, a moment for shared happiness. There's no doubt in either of their minds he won't approve, but they both know IAB could cause trouble so Calleigh wants Horatio to know.

Fate, as usual, has other ideas.

The "curse" intervenes and suddenly there is the accident. Natalia is covered in blood and there is chaos everywhere. People are shouting and running, but the only thing Calleigh sees is her lover.

Natalia's sitting down, the EMT's have finished patching her up, but Calleigh is still fussing, when a smooth voice interrupts.

"Natalia, I'm glad to see you're alright. Ladies," he pauses and ducks his head and they can see he's trying not to smile. "Is there something you wanted to tell me?"

So Horatio finds out…along with half the lab.

Four

When they talk about it later, they always agree they should have had a camera, because Ryan's expression was priceless.

It was like watching a web page load with a bad connection: the way the realization very, very slowly dawned on him, and when it did…

"Wait, you guys are together? As in…" He trails off, obviously still unable to truly grasp what's going on.

With a radiant and slightly evil smile, Calleigh pats him on the shoulder as she walks past him.

"Yep, three months now," she replies brightly as she stands on tiptoe to give Natalia a slow, sweet kiss on the mouth before sauntering back to ballistics. Natalia gets to watch Ryan's eyes try to bug out his head.

Yeah, they really should have had a camera.

Fin.