Title: Rock and a Soft Place

Pairing: Calleigh/Natalia CSI Miami

Disclaimer: I do not own these characters. No infringement intended. No profit made.

SPOILERS!: Rock and a Hard Place! Quit reading NOW if you don't want to be spoiled.

Summary: So someone (I forget who I can blame for this) suggested I do a 'between the lines' kind of thing for the eps, and I guess the muse has taken the challenge.

Thank you: To Khandi Alexander. She was a wonderful part of CSI: Miami for 6 years and she will be missed.

We lost Alexx today.

Not like that. She's not hurt, or dead, but she's gone just the same. Out of the lab and out of our live, perhaps for good.

It shouldn't be this painful, but the thought of walking into Autopsy and not being greeted by her warm smile and fierce eyes has carved a hole in my chest, the likes of which I rarely feel for the still living.

For the first time in all my years here at Miami Dade, the morgue truly feels like a place of the dead.

I know Nat cried, though she tried her damndest to hold it in, she still feels that any show of emotion will mark her as weak. I know better, but she's not ready to hear it yet. I didn't bother. I've known Alexx for years. She and Horatio are my oldest, truest friends here and to see her walk down that hall away from me for the last time was something that deserved my tears.

No matter how much we tried to act like professionals the rest of the day, we'd lost one of our own, and nothing seemed quite right. Even the sunlight seemed empty and dull. I caught Eric staring off into space more than once, a lost expression on his handsome features, and I know he remembers Speed. Ryan seemed subdued. Though he tried to appear unaffected, his shoulders were hunched as if expecting a blow, and Horatio…Horatio hides it better than most, but I've known him for too long and when he met my eyes I could see the pain there he wouldn't let the others witness. There is little I could do or say though so I simply touch his hand, letting my own eyes fill with the bittersweet grief we share to tell him he's not alone. He understands, but it's a hollow comfort.

It's only later, at home, with Natalia's arms around me and her tears mingling with mine that I feel the ache in my chest begin to ease…just a little, but enough. Enough that I can kiss the woman I love and feel a swell of gratitude – for this too, I owe in part to Alexx. She understood our feelings before we did, encouraged us gently, and was the first with that radiant smile when we finally came to her together. She has protected us fiercely and never betrayed our secret and is one of the few people we have never had to hide from.

"I need to spend more time with the living," she told Horatio.

I look at Natalia, at the jeweled tears clinging to her lashes and slipping down her cheeks, and as I gently kiss them away, tasting salt and skin and her sadness, I think maybe this is the best way to honor the woman that meant so much to us all.

"I love you, so much," I whisper, watching as her expression melts into tenderness.

"I love you too," she whispers, her voice shaky. "I'm going to miss her so much."

"I know," I say. "I am too."

She hugs me close then and I let her, burying my face in her neck and wrapping my arms around her. Natalia is alive and whole and here and she grounds me in a way I never thought possible and I take a moment just to be grateful for what we have.

For a time I just listen to the heartbeat under my ear and my lover's gentle sniffles. And then suddenly she chuckles gently.


"She'd think we're idiots you know."

"Alexx?" I question. My mind seems to be stuck in neutral, replaying the events of today and its making me slow.

"Hmm," Natalia sniffs and then continues, her voice gaining strength as I sit back to look at her. "She'd tell us we're being stupid. She's not gone, she's just moved on. It's not like we'll never see each other again."

I blink. For all that I've known Alexx far longer than Nat, she's right and I feel a tiny bit of chagrin, because I can only too easily imagine my friend's exasperation – how she'd shake her heads at us and tell us to stop wasting what time we have together.

I look at the woman holding me with new respect, and feel a smile edging my lips.

"You're right. She'd think we're complete idiots. Do you remember the time…"

And just like that, the pain is gently lifted away by warm memories. The bitter sweet ache is still there, but as I snuggle back into Natalia's arms and we swap our best Alexx stories, it no longer feels like an ending.

Eventually we trail off, savoring our shared remembrance of a remarkable woman. Natalia's breathing softens and I feel my love loosing the battle with sleep.

Stretching out, our bodies tangled on the couch, I kiss her eyelids and whisper to her to let go. She tightens her hold on me and with a last sigh obeys, and as I follow her into rest, my last thought is,

Thank you Alexx. We'll miss you.