Title: Leaving

Pairing: Calleigh/Natalia CSI: Miami

Rating: PG (look, I wrote something with no smut!)

Spoilers: Reference to general season 4, Natalia's background, and Season 2 – Calleigh's background (the ORIGINAL one, before CBS made it less interesting)

Disclaimer: Any and all characters of CSI: Miami are the property of CBS, Jerry Bruckheimer and Alliance Atlantis pictures. This story is not intended as an infringement. No profit is being made.

A/N: This was also a response to a LJ challenge.

Dan Cooper was going to win the tech's pool this time, he just knew it. He had a fool proof plan. That money was his, he could taste it.

Several weeks ago, speculation had begun to creep around through the techs at the state of the plush leather couch in the break room. It wasn't obvious, but several nights during the past few weeks, the cushions had looked a little worse for wear.

So, in the best tradition of lab techs, hypotheses had been proposed, bets had been made, and the theorizing had gotten downright ridiculous. So far, the more plausible hypotheses included accidental re-arrangement due to a food/coffee spill. But since that was boring, (and the evidence pointed to a repeating event) the speculation largely ran to the possibility of certain, unprofessional nighttime activities in the break room. Bets had been placed on romantic interludes between several couples that were known to be in established relationships, as well as a few people that might be in relationships according to common gossip.

Less plausible (but so juicy and therefore making the betting rounds) were trysts between the intense, red-headed leader of the crime lab, Lt. Horatio Caine and any number of female (and male) CSI's, cops or technicians. The current front runner in the pool was a long denied, finally realized, passionate coupling between Lt. Caine and his beautiful blonde ballistics expert Calleigh Duquesne, followed closely by a tie between several variations on pairings with (or between) CSI's Eric Delko and Ryan Wolfe.

Cooper had his money firmly on a late night rendezvous between Delko, the handsome Cuban CSI and the lab's stunning, mocha skinned DNA tech, Natalia Boa Vista. Delko was a playboy, and Dan could just see Boa Vista being up for the thrill.

Mentally rubbing his hands together in glee, the AV specialist checked his ace in the hole one last time. The tiny camera was hidden in the frame of a poster hanging on the wall in the break room, pointing directly at the couch. Dan had even managed to make it transmit on a secure wireless connection to his private laptop in the lab – which was password locked and triple encoded – so it could record indefinitely and he would be the only one to see the results. He now had a perfectly focused, high resolution fly on the wall. With a final tweak, the sandy haired tech smiled and sauntered out of the break room.

Oooh yeah, this was going to be good.

Checking the connection and picture quality back at his lab, Dan set the computer to start recording at 9:30 pm and run till 6:00am. Satisfied now that he had the perfect front row seat to the action, Cooper smirked, locked his laptop and went back to video analysis from the latest traffic camera footage.

Several days passed however, with nothing interesting happening. People came, people went. Several techs and CSI's sat on, talked on and even fell asleep on the couch, but nothing to explain its rumpled state. Cooper had almost given up hope when he went to review the footage from Sunday night.

Only half paying attention as he fast-forwarded the recording, he didn't realize the significance of Natalia Boa Vista sitting on the couch until his brain registered the time stamp – 1:00 am.

Yes! This is it! He thought. For sure, he was about to win his part of the pot. No WAY would Boa Vista be there unless it was for…

His musings were interrupted as he replayed the footage at normal speed. There was no sound, he had set it up for visual only, so the image took on an almost surreal, play-like quality.

The stunning DNA tech didn't sit on the couch - she nearly collapsed. Every line in her body betrayed a deep pain and Cooper frowned at the screen. In front of him Natalia sat, motionless for a time, leaning her elbows on her knees and hanging her head; as if sitting up straight was too great an effort at the moment.

A knot of unease began to form in the AV tech's gut as he continued to watch and suddenly realized that Natalia's shoulders were shaking. In the silence, he couldn't hear her sobs, the young man could only watch in shock and increasing alarm as elegant hands fisted tightly in caramel colored hair – the grip turning her knuckles white.

The tableau of the beautiful CSI crying in silence disturbed Cooper greatly. Natalia was always outgoing and kind, and Dan knew he wasn't the only one in the lab with a bit of infatuation for her.

Just as his hand reached out, almost involuntarily, to touch the screen, the brunette reacted to something off camera, sitting up abruptly.

The move made Dan jump, yanking his hand back. He then felt incredibly foolish. He was here, in his living room, alone, watching footage that had been recorded last night.

Laughing at himself, the young tech refocused. Natalia was hastily scrubbing at red-rimmed eyes. Just as Dan was wondering if one of the night techs had been working late and surprised her - and thinking he needed to ask around, this was juicy stuff – he got another shock.

Into frame walked another figure he would recognize anywhere: petite, curvy and absolutely deadly with any kind of firearm, Calleigh Duquesne moved to sit on the couch next to Natalia, their knees almost touching.

Over the years as an AV technician for the MDPD, Dan had watched a lot of video. Most of it was bad (or worse) quality and most of it boasted confused, garbled, or no audio. In that time, the young man had gradually developed the ability to read lips. He wasn't fantastic at it, but here - where the figures were still, facing the camera, and easily illuminated by the even, flat light of the break room's nighttime lighting - he could make out most of what they were saying easily.

Unconsciously leaning forward, he watched the silent scene play out before him in pristine silence.

To his surprise, neither woman spoke at first. Calleigh simply handed Natalia a tissue, and the other woman wiped her eyes before clutching it in her hands, twisting it back and forth. Natalia was no longer slumped over, but she looked small, somehow drawn in and unsure. Dan had never seen her like this, she always seemed so effortlessly enthusiastic.

Calleigh looked like, well, Calleigh. Straight, calm and poised, she sat still, a soft, patient expression on her face. When nothing happened for a moment, Calleigh reached out her hand and laid it over Natalia's, stilling the nervous motions of the tanned woman's fingers.

The reaction it caused was unexpected. Natalia stilled, collecting herself and looking up at Calleigh. As she did, Dan paused the video, shocked. There was a look of such naked pain in the DNA tech's rich brown eyes, it made his breath catch.

Resuming play, Dan watched Natalia's face, trying to make out her words from the silent if beautiful images.

"I'm leaving Calleigh, I can't do this anymore. I escaped once, but he found me. I won't go through it all again."

Now Dan was confused, leaving? Escaped? He? Who is "he" and what did she escape?

Calleigh however, did not seem confused at all. Rather, a hard expression settled over her features and she reached out her other hand to cup Natalia's cheek and turn the grieving woman's gaze back to her own. There was something else there too. Again Dan paused the image, staring at the snapshot of Calleigh's luminous, faceted jade eyes. In them, the AV tech saw anger, and fear? Why would Calleigh be afraid?

Consumed now by what was playing out in front of him, Dan resumed the video and watched as Calleigh swallowed, locking eyes with Natalia.

"Natalia, what happened? Did he touch you?"

Natalia shook her head, but her gazed became liquid and Dan could see tears clinging to the edges of her eyes and aguish written plainly on her face.

"Not yet. But he's always there, just out of reach, watching and threatening. I can't even go home anymore, because he knows where I live. I can't sleep. This is the only place he won't come near me."

As Dan pieced together the conversation, his alarm grew. Whatever was going on, Natalia was in trouble. For the life of him though, he couldn't imagine who might want to hurt the beautiful woman.

Calleigh's thumb was now stroking Natalia's cheek; her pale, creamy skin a contrast to the bronzed color of Natalia's. Moving her other hand, the blonde gripped Natalia's fingers tightly before she spoke.

"Natalia, why didn't you come to me? You could stay with me, we can do something about him."

Calleigh's words triggered something in Natalia and she suddenly pulled away, sitting up straighter. There was absolute terror in her gaze as she replied.

"No! He doesn't know about us Calleigh! I won't involve you in this, I won't see you hurt! You don't know what he can do."

This raised Calleigh's hackles and Dan watched as, in silence, the petite blonde reached out and grabbed Natalia's hand. In the silence, Dan could very easily imagine the heat that the southerner's voice would have taken on – never shouting – but forceful nonetheless.

"I am involved Natalia! And I don't care what he can do, because I know what I can do, and I know that if he comes near you, or me, I will make sure it is the last thing he ever does. And how do you think your leaving would keep me from being hurt? Did you ever stop to think about that Natalia? What that would do to me? Or did you just think I would be better off with you gone?"

Dan frowned and replayed the scene. How would this affect Calleigh? Why would she be hurt if Natalia leaves? I mean I know they are friends, but what gives?

Confused, but sure he had the translation right, the AV continued playing the recording.

It was obvious from Natalia's expression that she had thought she would be protecting Calleigh if she left. Before she could reply to Calleigh's accusations however, the blonde spoke again, her expression now soft and sad.

"Do you trust me Natalia?"

The response was immediate and fierce.


Instead of replying verbally, Calleigh reached out, cupped her hand to Natalia's cheek, leaned forward and kissed her.

The AV tech's finger jabbed the 'pause' button and Dan sat stunned, his eyes huge as he stared at the frozen image.

Both women's eyes were closed, and Natalia appeared to be reaching out to Calleigh, not pushing her away.

Natalia and Calleigh. Oh my God. Natalia and Calleigh… It was stuck on repeating loop and the only thought that currently occupied his head.

Frantically hitting play, Dan watched, his mouth dry.

His reaction slowly faded however, as he watched the two women.

The kiss was gentle, tender even, and Dan watched as slow tears escaped from Natalia's eyes, spilling over thick lashes. Calleigh reached up to cup Natalia's cheek with her other hand, and pulling back, used her thumbs to tenderly wipe away the evidence of the other woman's pain. The crystal quality of the video showed that Calleigh's own eyes glistened, though no tears yet fell.

Suddenly Natalia shuddered and wrapped her arms around the ballistics expert. The smaller woman retuned the embrace fiercely and rested her head on top of Natalia's, closing her eyes and kissing the caramel hair under her cheek.

"When was the last time you slept love?"

Whatever Natalia's reply was, her face was buried in Calleigh's shoulder and thus lost to the young man watching. The answer obviously didn't please the blonde CSI though, and she pulled back to meet Natalia's gaze again.

"Natalia, this stops now. I will not watch you give up everything you have worked for here, and I will not stand here idly while you walk out that door and leave me behind, do you hear me?"

The expression on Natalia's face said clearly that she was desperate to believe Calleigh, but the fear still lingered and she dropped her gaze.

Dan watched as a swift, calculating expression flitted across the blonde's face before she spoke once more.

"Natalia, do you want to leave me?"

"NO!" The fierceness and fear in the darker woman's face was heart wrenching, but Calleigh had apparently been expecting it.

"Then stay. Stay with me Natalia, and trust in me. Trust in me and the team. We will fix this. I swear to you, Nick won't ever hurt you again.

And even though she wasn't talking to Cooper, the young tech believed her. Jade eyes sparked with anger and determination, and a small part of Dan fleetingly wished that he had someone in his life willing to fight for him like that.

Through the recording played, the scene seemed frozen as neither woman moved, but searched each other's eyes. Again it was Natalia who broke the tableau, but this time, it was not to look away. Rather, she simply nodded, a kind of exhausted peace settling over her features.

Calleigh's expression turned tender, and reaching out, she drew Natalia with her to lie back on the couch. Stretching out, the two women embraced tightly, wrapped around each other in a tangle of limbs as they lay side by side. Natalia rested her head on Calleigh's shoulder, pressing her face close the creamy skin of the blonde's neck, and closing her eyes. Calleigh held the darker woman tightly, running one hand through Natalia's hair and shutting her eyes tightly, as if trying to imprint the feeling of the other woman in her arms on her senses forever.

Dan watched as Natalia said something, but was unable to make out the words.

Calleigh's reply however, made such knowledge unnecessary.

"Don't apologize. I know what it is to run from abuse."

Dan was so stunned at the revelation, he had to go back and replay the recording to catch what was said next.

Natalia lifted her head to catch Calleigh's gaze; chocolate to jade, and this time, Dan had no trouble reading the words as they lift her lips.

"I love you Calleigh."

Leaning up to press an infinitely tender kiss on full, coral lips, Calleigh replied, "I love you too, Natalia."

With that, both women lay back and shut their eyes.

Calleigh's hands resumed their rhythmical stroking, and she spoke, "Sleep love, tomorrow is a new day."

Whatever reply Natalia gave, Dan couldn't see it, and after a time, Calleigh's hands slowed and stilled, the only movement being the gentle rise and fall of the blonde woman's chest.

Dan paused the image and leaned back, blinking as he was suddenly aware that he was alone, in his living room, in his apartment. The scene that played out before him had drawn him in completely, and now, as he was thrown back to reality, it left him lonely and unsettled.

Cooper stared at the screen and the picture of the two women whom he saw every day - and knew absolutely nothing about, he realized. Their candid talk of escaping abuse had shocked him to the core, and he gained a whole new respect and admiration for his colleagues. Dan was glad for them, he realized. They had found strength and sanctuary with each other, and hopefully - with Natalia apparently deciding to stay and take action - they could find peace.

A part of the AV tech was jealous however. Though he had had good relationships in the past, the sheer strength and depth of the emotional connection between the two was beautiful, and rare; and Dan knew it. He felt privileged to have witnessed it though, and a part of him wanted to watch it again – to be drawn into those silent, powerful moments. Staring at the two figures frozen in electronic eternity however, he recognized there was only one choice.

He did not hesitate when his computer asked him to confirm deletion of the file.

With a sigh, Dan shut down and closed his laptop. He would take the camera down tomorrow. He didn't know if Calleigh and Natalia were really the ones rumpling the couch, but he no longer cared. In a business where they saw the worst of humanity every day, his friends and colleagues deserved whatever moments of peace and pleasure they could steal, and no-one deserved to have that rare, precious time degraded for the amusement of others.

Stretching, Cooper stood and turned out the lights. It was late and, he realized with a bittersweet smile, tomorrow was a new day.