Title: Under the Wire

Pairing: Calleigh/Natalia CSI: Miami

Rating: PG

Disclaimer: I do not own any part of CSI: Miami. No infringement intended, no profit made. Seriously, grad student. No money

SPOILERS: "Down to the Wire"

Summary: Set during/after the events of Down to the Wire. Calleigh has doubts.

Alone in the locker room, Calleigh held her badge, turning it over and over in her hands. In the warm glow of the dimly lit space its silver edges glinted mutedly. Gentle fingertips traced the familiar design, feeling the edges and ridges and the cool smoothness that was at once wholly familiar and startling alien. Her badge – this small sculpture of metal - was so much more than a symbol of her office, it was a promise that she upheld every day; that she would do right. Calleigh had never failed in that promise. Her resolution had never faltered, not even in the face of personal tragedy.

And then Rossi. Rossi was a bastard. More than that, he was the worst kind of bastard, he was smart. He had connections. He had gone after the team, and he had found the chinks in their armor. It stung….badly. It wasn't just Rossi himself though, it was everything he represented. It was every person who doubted her as an officer of the law, who broke the laws again and again without remorse, who looked at justice as something to be sneered at and spat on. It was the system that let criminals off on technicalities and paid prosecutors little while defense attorneys made millions tarnishing the reputations of the men and women who sought to protect people.

Calleigh rarely let herself doubt. She'd seen what lay down that road; the anger and bitterness and betrayal. The Detective had seen it tear apart relationships and lead to the bottom of a bottle, but she had never wavered.

And yet, when she could be dismissed so easily, for actions that had been taken for the sole purpose of keeping herself alive, when in the end, her clues had led her team to her, and to the killers…was it worth continuing to fight, to struggle every day in a never ending battle?

The silent locker room and lazy dust motes drifting in the sun had no answers for her.

Running a hand that suddenly felt heavy with exhaustion through her hair, Calleigh prepared to leave, replacing the badge on her hip where for the first time in a long time, she felt its weight as uncomfortable. Ultimately though, she was off the case and staying at the lab would only further jeopardize the team, so with a sigh, she grabbed her bag.

Her actions were stilled however, by the familiar click of heels on the tile. Even without turning, the Detective knew that stride, and so was unsurprised when Natalia sat down next to her.

For a moment neither spoke. Calleigh felt a strange unease and couldn't bring herself to look at the DNA tech. She knew it was through no fault of her own she'd been removed from the case, but she couldn't shake the small sliver of shame that stuck in her mind.

The silence stretched, and then Natalia asked hesitantly. "Are you ok?"

There were so many answers to that, but Calleigh's automatic response was off her lips before she could stop it. "I'm fine." Knowing as soon as she said it that it was a lie, and unfair to the woman beside her, and the shame dug a little deeper.

Clenching her jaw, the blonde finally looked up and caught the slightly wounded look on Natalia's face before the DNA tech tried to bury it. Her defenses crumbled a bit. "I'm sorry Nat, it's just… I hate this," she admitted, bitterness lacing her voice and sharpening her accent.

"I know Calleigh, we all do."

The blonde gave her a rueful, tired attempt at a smile that fell well short of its goal and looked away.

Another moment passed, and then Natalia started again. "Do you, do you want us to cool things off for a while?" she asked, and Calleigh could hear the faintest of tremors despite Natalia's obvious attempt at control.

Turning, the Detective regarded the woman sitting next to her. The irony of their position didn't escape her. Just a month ago they had sat reversed, the blonde offering her comfort as Natalia struggled with her first shooting. The event had been a catalyst, sparking a relationship the strength and intensity of which Calleigh never would have dared to imagine or hope. It still scared her at times if she stopped to think about it, and she knew Natalia felt the same way.

Now ishould/i have been one of those times. With Stetler and Rossi breathing down there necks, any hint of impropriety in the team, any whisper of a relationship between team members – especially one between two women – held the potential to be the end of their careers. The rational, logical part of the ballistics' expert understood the safety of Natalia's offer and knew it was the smart thing to do.

The rest of her however, really, really didn't give a damn.

Reaching over, she wrapped her hand around Natalia's, a tiny part of her marveling again at the soft strength of the elegant sculpture of muscle and bone beneath her fingers. Natalia's eyes were warm and dark, her hair touched with gold where the slow sunlight drifted into the room. Despite the simplicity of the connection, Calleigh felt the warmth of the brunette's hand in her blood and around her heart, and though her head said 'say yes,' her heart had different ideas.

"No," the answer was almost fierce.

"Are you sure?" Still the single thread of hesitation.


And just like that, doubt melted from Natalia's face. Bringing her other hand up, the brunette cradled Calleigh's between her palms, a small smile edging her lips.

"If we get caught…"

"We won't get caught. Stetler couldn't find his ass with both hands and a map, and Rossi… I will not let someone like him take away what we have. Not when I just found it," Calleigh finished softly, her eyes searching Natalia's face. What she saw made her swallow.

The brunette held perfectly still for a moment, Calleigh's words filtering through her mind, and then a slow, wicked grin bloomed.

Eyes dancing, Natalia leaned forward and pressed a gentle kiss to her lover's mouth.

A kiss that was returned with intensity.

Calleigh needed this: needed to feel Natalia against her, the yielding strength of her body, the liquid heat of her mouth, the satin warmth of her skin under her fingertips. Not even the thought that anyone could walk in on them held her back as the Detective felt a rush of reckless desire sweep through her.

It was Natalia who eased back first, breathing heavily with her eyes gone black and deep.

"Cal?" she managed.

"Are you complaining?"

Natalia snorted inelegantly, raising one eyebrow. "You know damn well I'm not, its just…"

Sighing, Calleigh pushed away her earlier anger. Untangling her hand from Natalia's, she reached up to tuck a stray wisp of hair behind the brunette's ear.

"I just needed to remember that you're real," she said finally, her eyes falling away in sudden embarrassment.

A gentle touch brought her back to meet Natalia's gaze. "I am real, and I'm here, and I'd be more than happy to kiss you right in front of Rossi and Stetler, just to watch them have a heart attack."

That made Calleigh grin impishly. "Stetler would implode. Rossi though," her expression turned grim. "Rossi is dangerous Nat. I don't want you hurt."

"We'll get him Cal. We're still a team and no one's managed to best Horatio yet. The only way that I could get hurt is if we aren't together, ok?"

The Detective's expression turned fond. "Ok."

"So, since you're off the case, does this mean you have all kinds of 'free time'?" Natalia leered comically at her lover.

The look startled a laugh from the ballistics expert. "Why Ms. Boa Vista, are you having impure thoughts?" she asked archly, laying on the accent.

"Oh honey you have no idea."

Calleigh's slow grin was downright naughty.

"Come on, lets go home. We can nail the bad guys tomorrow."

And with that, the two separated, Calleigh grabbed her stuff and they walked out of the lab to separate cars. The illusion was maintained, and no one looked at them twice as they left. Later, as they lay tangled in each other's arms, sleep tempting, Calleigh made a silent promise before darkness claimed her. This is what I fight for now, and no one will ever cause me to doubt again.