Holding On
"I'd die in your arms if you were dead too."

The cool metal of the gun's handle was quickly warming in Eric's palm as he waited. Sweat began to prickle around his hairline as he waited for Horatio to make his grand entrance and put an end to the horrible game that Cooper had started less than a week ago. But as milliseconds crawled by like hours and Calleigh's face became more and more frightened, Eric felt his trigger finger begin to tremble slightly. He could feel their carefully constructed plan begin to shatter more and more with each second.

Where was H?

The blonde's vibrant green eyes locked on his, and Eric understood the silent plea in them. She needed him to do something, needed him to save her. And he wanted to. He wanted to pull the trigger then and there, but that wasn't part of the plan.

They had decided that Horatio would apprehend the kidnapper from behind. Eric, Ryan, and Frank were only there as a precaution.

Point but don't shoot… unless things got out of hand.

That had been the instructions.

As a million different thoughts raced through his mind, Delko's gaze never once left the blonde's. It seemed as if 'out of hand' was much closer to being a possibility than he cared to admit. H's lack of appearance had rattled the man, but that didn't stop him from doing his job. The slender fingers of her raised hands had begun to shake, and Eric knew that the time for 'unless' had come.

With Horatio nowhere in sight and Calleigh still captive, Eric broke eye contact with the woman for the first time since she'd stepped into the room. Casting a sidelong glance towards Ryan, Delko had to clench his teeth together to keep from gasping.

There was no one there.

Terrified of what he'd find, but desperate to confirm his fears, Eric carefully shifted his eyes to where Tripp had been sitting moments before. As he had expected, Frank was nowhere to be seen. Prepared for the empty chair, Delko took as deep a breath as was possible and turned his focus back to Calleigh.

Back to the woman he'd fallen in love with over the past year.

Once again, their eyes locked, hers a silent plea, his offering a promise. Suddenly aware of the weight of the gun in his hand and the heat of the metal pressing into his palm, he took a deep breath before pulling the trigger. His eyes never once left Calleigh's.

Eric Delko had expected the gunshot to be deafening in the small room. He'd expected the force of the shot to reverberate through his hands and the stench of the gunpowder to burn his nose.

What he hadn't expected was for the gun to disappear from his grasp the moment he'd thought about pulling the trigger.

Frozen in shock, Eric didn't have a chance to blink or even breathe as the kidnapper's own shot ripped through the room.

With his arm still frozen in mid air, Eric watched in horror as the bullet ripped through Calleigh's sternum. Marring the exposed expanse of milky skin, a thick stream of blood so dark it was almost black began to pour from the wound. As her heartbeat sped up to try and compensate for the trauma, the flow of blood increased.

The gunshot still ringing in his ears, Eric looked on in helpless horror as the blonde's lips formed a ghastly 'oh' and the light faded from her emerald eyes. Despite the fact that her heart was still beating, Calleigh Duquesne was gone.

As her body slumped to the floor and the kidnapper took off, Eric Delko sprang out of his seat. The chair clattered to the ground as he skidded around the table dropping to the floor beside Calleigh's lifeless body.

Gently pulling her limp form into his arms, Eric softly brushed a few strands of hair out of her face with a trembling hand. The blood from his hands stained the blonde's locks a startling shade of red. Unable to help himself, Eric pressed his lips against her forehead as he rocked her body in his arms. With his eyes burning from the ache of unshed tears, Eric screamed out in horror.

"Nooooo!"

The scream ripped through Eric's exhausted body as his terror transcended dreams to consciousness. With his heart fighting to break free of his chest, the man tried to take a deep breath, but all he could manage were a few staccato bursts of air. In the oppressive darkness of night, he knew that Calleigh was ok. Knew that she was tucked safely into her own bed. He'd seen to that himself. But after the… nightmare, he needed to know for sure.

He needed to see her.

To see that she was ok.

Eric needed to feel the beating of her heart before he'd be convinced that Calleigh was alive. That she was safe.

Desperate to get out of bed, Eric tried to extricate himself from sheets that felt like lead blankets. The thin cotton was drenched with sweat, which only increased the vice-like grip the bedding had on his body. It took all of the strength he possessed to keep himself from screaming and viciously ripping the fabric away from his skin. Struggling with the bedding, it seemed like an eternity passed before he was free.

If it hadn't been for the fact that his feet and chest were bare, Eric would have bolted out of his apartment then and there. He'd have rushed to Calleigh's house without stopping to lock his door. But despite his fears and anxiety, the man was still able to access some common sense.

The laces of his running shoes were still tied, but he managed to shove his feet into them anyway. The backs were bent down but that didn't matter; they were only shoes, and this was Calleigh. Taking strides so large and fast that he was just short of running, Eric made his way out of the bedroom grabbing a white shirt off the top of his hamper on the way.

Within ten minutes of waking up, Eric Delko was out of his apartment and rushing towards his car. As he started the ignition, he prayed that there wouldn't be any late night traffic to get in his way. Pressing his foot down on the gas, he gave the car as much speed as thought he could without getting himself pulled over.

Thankfully, however, traffic was light, and no one had cared enough about a speeding vehicle to pull him over.

Even though the drive felt like a lifetime, a thousand lifetimes really, he was pulling up in front of the blonde's house in a surprisingly short amount of time. The clock told him that he'd left his apartment eighteen minutes ago. He had never made it to her home in that amount of time before.

He'd wanted to pull into her driveway, but for some reason it felt wrong. Or no, it didn't feel wrong. Eric Delko wanted to see his car parked next to Calleigh's in a driveway. Oh, they'd parked in driveways next to each other before, but the houses attached were always crime scenes. And that wasn't good enough. He'd wanted their cars together in front of their home.

Yes, Eric wanted to park in her driveway. But not like this.

Shutting off the car's engine, the man stared across the street at the blonde's house. All of the lights were off, and the curtains were drawn. Everything appeared peaceful, and he knew Calleigh was tucked away in her bed with a glass of water on the bedside table. The bathroom light had been left on to keep her company. He knew all of this, because he'd seen to it himself. Eric had wanted to stay the night, to camp out on the couch.

But she wouldn't let him.

The woman had said he was being silly and that after a shower and dinner under his care… She just wanted to go to bed. More importantly, she just wanted to get back to normal so that she could just put the whole ordeal behind her. Calleigh was dealing with the ordeal the best she could, and she didn't want to drag it out any more than necessary. But as she'd been trying to convince him that she really was ok, Eric had seen the sadness in her green eyes. He'd seen the fear that lurked just beneath her steely surface.

And it had hurt him to the core.

In the end, he'd relented. After all, he'd wanted to help, and if his presence weren't helping, it was best he leave. However, that didn't mean he'd left right away, and after as much fussing as she would allow, Eric left for the night. It was with a very uneasy mind that he went home and crawled into bed.

Unable to stand it anymore, Eric tapped his fingers on the steering wheel nervously before jumping out of the car. His pace was brisk, almost a run, as he crossed the deserted street to the woman's house. From the time he'd woken up until now, he'd been focused on one thing.

Seeing Calleigh.

But in his rush to see her, he hadn't actually come up with a plan. He was feet from her door without an explanation for his presence, on her doorstep, at three in the morning. The man supposed that he should have come up with something, but he didn't care. Easing his nerves and calming the frantic beating of his heart was more important than coming up with some lie.

Considering that this was the middle of the night, he should have rung the doorbell. He should have raised his finger and pressed the small glowing button. But he couldn't. The door's chime was slow and controlled, he needed to be urgent. Though he knew it would probably startle the sleeping woman, Eric balled up his fist and rapped on the door. Echoing through the night, the sound contained all of his worries and fear.

Eric wasn't sure how long it took Calleigh to get to the door. It could have been seconds, and it could have been days. What he did know was that it was taking her far too long. And the wait only served to make him more anxious. Deep down he knew nothing was wrong, and she merely needed time to wake up and make her way down to the front door. But that didn't make him any less worried.

Lost in another repetition of the dream that had brought him to the woman's doorstep, Delko jumped when the front hall lights flickered on. His mind stopped just before the fatal shot was fired, and he had to take a few deeps breaths to steady himself. Frantically drumming his fingers on his thighs was the only thing keeping him from trying to rip the door off its hinges to try and get to her.

There were a few metallic clicks that sounded like gunshots in the quiet night, and instantly, the man's gaze dropped to the silver door handle. Unable to stop himself, Eric placed his hands on the doorframe and dropped his head to stare at the slowly twisting knob. The fear created by the dream and the anxiety of waiting were quickly becoming too much to bear. Though he would have thought it impossible, his heart began to beat more fiercely against his ribs. He was convinced that the organ must have been bruised by the merciless pounding against his bones.

When the door began to creak, he had to fight back the urge to push it open all the way as quickly as he could. Instead, he gripped the white doorframe more tightly praying that he wouldn't pull the nails loose.

It wasn't until the door was completely open, the warm hallway light completely engulfing him, that he lifted his gaze. The moment he did, his breath caught in his throat and his heart quit beating for the first time since he'd woken up that night. The moment his eyes met her emerald ones, Eric was hit with a wave of relief and desire that froze him to the spot.

Calleigh looked just as she had when he'd left her earlier save a few wrinkles created by sleep. Her blonde locks hung loose and straight, the curls washed away by a long shower. The ends of her hair caressed her bare shoulders, her white tank top exposing her arms and sternum. Her muscular legs were covered by a pair of soft pink pajama pants, and her feet were covered in heavy white socks.

Eric tried not to look, tried not to stare, but he couldn't keep his eyes from the point on her chest that had been pierced in his dream only an hour ago. The milky skin was pristine, completely unmarred by anything. Not even a freckle. Even though he could see that there was nothing wrong, Eric wanted to reach out and run his fingers over the perfect flesh to make sure.

Tearing his eyes away from the spot, Eric met Calleigh's again, and he didn't bother to stop the deep sigh from escaping his lungs. He wanted to reach out, run his fingers through her soft, blonde hair. He wanted to pull her body possessively into his own and press greedy kisses against her lips and cheeks and anywhere else he could reach without letting go. Eric knew that if he were ever allowed to hold her like that, he would never let go.

He'd never be Iable/I to let her go.

Her voice, thick with sleep, her accent more pronounced than normal, she sounded concerned when she finally spoke. "Eric?"

He couldn't answer.

Eric longed to kiss her in the moonlight and stroke her silky hair, but he couldn't. Finally releasing the doorframe, he stepped just inside her home and wrapped his arms around her waist and gently pulled her lithe frame into his own. As she tentatively placed her arms around his waist, Eric pressed his face into her hair. The soft scent of her shampoo and gentle apple of her body wash intoxicated him.

He could have stayed that way all night, her chest rising and falling reassuringly against his. His fingers twisting around the ends of her hair. But all too soon, Calleigh pulled away. The loss of her contact was too much to bear, and Eric kept his hands on the small of her back even though the hug was over.

Though she'd pulled away, Calleigh stayed close, her hands placed gently on Eric's arms. Looking up, she searched the man's features for some kind of explanation. "Eric? What's wrong?"

He'd have given anything in the world to pull her back to him. To feel her head pressed against his chest. But he couldn't. He wouldn't. From the look on her face and the tone of her voice, Eric could tell that he was scaring her. And that was the last thing he wanted to do. So, even though it killed him, Eric let his hands fall.

Looking down into the woman's worried eyes, he couldn't bring himself to tell her the truth. He couldn't bring himself to tell her that he'd seen her get shot and that she'd died in his arms earlier that night. When he did open his mouth, Eric found that he couldn't say much of anything at all. "I just… Today… I…"

"Come in." Her tone was understanding, yet still concerned, as she stepped aside for him to enter.

Stepping into the house, Eric stuck his hands deep in his pockets in an effort to keep from reaching out to her again. But even with them shoved between two layers of fabric, he found the temptation difficult to resist. It would have been so easy to just stop the blonde in the hallway and pull her into another hug. He knew she would understand. After all, they'd had a trying few days. But he knew that if he did, he would worry her.

During their years working together, the two had become friends, and he'd come to realize that he wanted more. But despite his feelings for Calleigh, and the occasional hug, the two had never been overly touchy feely. And as much as Eric wanted to change that, now was not the time. And so, keeping his impulses just barely under control, he followed the blonde into her kitchen.

One of the things that Eric loved the most about Calleigh's house was the kitchen. Years ago he had crashed on her couch, and the next morning she'd made him breakfast. Of course, "breakfast" had only consisted of toast with raspberry jam and a cup of very weak coffee, but that didn't matter. The two hadn't even sat that the small dining table, choosing instead to lean on the counter top as they ate. It was one of the best breakfasts he'd ever had.

When he'd walked into the kitchen that morning, Eric had stopped in his tracks at the smell of the percolating coffee beans. It was a scent that could only be described as heavenly. And as his feelings towards the blonde had begun to change over time, it was one that he had come to associate with Calleigh, along with the smell of her favorite shampoo and perfume.

Now, stepping into the small room, Eric looked around. He'd been there a few hours earlier; the white Styrofoam containers on the counter were a testament to that fact. From the messy stacking of the boxes, he could tell that she hadn't been in there since he'd left. Eric had wanted to throw them away, but Calleigh had said she would take care of them in the morning. The man had only agreed because the woman was so tired. Though he'd only been there a few hours ago, staring at the empty cartons, it felt like a lifetime ago. And for the first time since he'd woke up, Eric realized how exhausted he really was as he tried to stifle a yawn.

A fact that Calleigh seemed to notice as well. "Why don't you sit down?" The blonde patted his arm gently before turning towards the counter. "I'll make some coffee."

As the woman began opening cupboards, pulling out a small bag of coffee and a filter, Eric sank down into one of the wooden chairs. Every muscle, tendon, and bone in his body was screaming out for sleep, but he wouldn't succumb yet. He couldn't. Watching the blonde's every move, Eric wished that she would stop messing with the coffee machine and turn around.

Just for a minute.

But she didn't.

He watched as she measured out a few scoops of the ground coffee beans and poured them into the filter. His eyes followed her movements as she crossed to the sink and filled the glass pot full of water. Each time, his eyes moved to follow her, they cried out in weary protest. Unable to stand it, Eric pressed the heels of his hands into his closed eyelids. An explosion of stars burst forth as he rubbed them.

The coffee machine began to bubble and pop as the pin pricks of light faded from his eyes. The rich smell of the freshly brewed coffee quickly filled the kitchen, intoxicating his senses. Breathing in the rich aroma, Eric was content to keep his eyes shut and indulge all of the feelings and memories the scent evoked.

Lost in memories of breakfast shared and daydreams of breakfasts that would hopefully someday be, Eric barely noticed the hand on his shoulder. It just felt so natural, so right. It wasn't until the woman pressed a little harder and gave a tiny squeeze that he realized how… unfamiliar the tender touch really was.

Slowly, he opened his eyes, afraid that he'd scare her off if he moved to fast. Desperate to see her, to look into her bright green eyes, Eric turned his head to look up at the blonde. As his deep brown eyes locked onto hers, the man placed one shaky hand over Calleigh's as he searched for something to say.

Nothing came.

"Eric?" Her soft voice, thick with its southern accent, was filled with worry.

Their eyes stayed locked together, hers searching for the answer to his unspoken worry. He was desperate for reassurance, for her to tell him that it was ok. The "it" could have been anything in the world. He didn't care what. Eric just needed to know that everything was ok.

Even though he was half-asleep, the man's breathing quickened as the blonde placed her free hand on his cheek. Eric's tortured eyes fell shut at the contact as he relished the feel of her soft palm against his stubbly jaw.

Since he'd stepped into her house, Eric had managed to keep from reaching out again. He'd managed to stop himself from taking what he so desperately wanted. What he desperately needed. But the feel of her skin against his was just too much. He couldn't hold back any longer.

Sitting at the kitchen table with Calleigh standing over him, Eric knew that he could simply reach out and put his arms around her waist. But that wasn't good enough. It wasn't close enough. His chest continued to rise and fall with increasingly labored effort as their eyes continued to speak silently.

Though he hated to do it, Eric took his hand off of hers and slipped out of the chair. The legs scraped against the tile as his movements pushed it away. Eric's knees met the cool tile, the edges of the ceramic and grout digging painfully into his kneecaps. But looking up at Calleigh, her green eyes full of heartbreak, the pain didn't matter. The gesture was over the top, out of the realm of what he'd normally do, but it felt right.

He'd thought it would have been easy, so easy to just reach out and pull her body toward his. But as his heart began to pound against his ribs, and she stood, waiting to see what he was going to do… Eric hesitated.

His hands were poised to slip around her waist, but they froze just as his fingertips brushed over the soft cotton of her tank top. He needed to know that this was ok. That she wouldn't recoil at his touch. Eric's pause was a silent question that she answered with another brush of fingers over his cheek.

The gentle caress was just enough to soothe his shattered nerves.

In an effort to touch as much of the woman as possible, Eric spread out his fingers as he slid his palms around he curves of her waist. As the muscles of her back relaxed under his touch, the man pulled Calleigh's body towards his own. Wrapping his arms around her waist as tightly as he could without hurting her, Eric pressed his face against her stomach.

As her ribcage expanded and contracted with each breath, the man allowed his eyes to fall shut. Pressed against her body, Eric felt his own breathing slow and sync up with her own. And though he couldn't feel her heartbeat, he liked to imagine that it was beating at the same pace as his own.

Attempting to close any remaining gaps between their bodies, to bring them as close together as he possibly could, Eric wrapped his arms a little more tightly around the blonde's body. Finally convinced that they couldn't possibly get any closer, Eric allowed himself to relax against Calleigh.

Only moments ago, her hand had been pressed against his cheek, but now, Calleigh's own arms were sliding over Eric' shoulders. Pressing her hands into his shoulder blades, Eric felt hot, bitter tears begin to prickle at the backs of his eyes and refused to let them fall.

The coffee had long since finished brewing, the enticing aroma mixing with Calleigh's own personal scent to create an even more amazing aroma. With his face pressed against the woman's stomach and the wonderful scent that was Calleigh intoxicating his senses, Eric found himself completely calm for the first time since he'd woken up. Greedily gripping the fabric of her tank top in his hands, Eric was finally able to utter the words that had been fighting their way out all night.

The man turned his face slightly, running the tip of his nose over her stomach as she began to rub the hairs at the base of his neck. It was only a whisper, one that Calleigh couldn't hear, but, he knew she'd Ifelt/I the words anyway. "I can't lose you Calleigh."

Squeeka Cuomo's Notes
- Disclaimer: Not mine.
- The opening lyrics are from the song "Little Things" by Bush.
- Katie: Congrats on winning round one of "Hatchling Fest". You did an awesome job. :D I hope that you like this since… it's your prize. :duck: Anyway… thank you for being such an awesome beta.
- Reviews are love.