The long day was finally surrendering to the night over the beaches of Miami. The palm frongs danced in the cooling breeze as the deep orange of the disappearing sun, cast a glow over the city. Shadows crept their way up towards the front steps of the crime lab, as Calleigh lowered herself down beside him. He was sitting casually, one shoulder - the good one - rested on the top step as he reclined, resting his injured arm across his stomach with one leg stretched out ahead of him and the other knee, bent up towards him.
She cast a small smile in his direction, as she pulled her knees up to her chest and rested her elbows on top of them. They'd been through a lot, in the past few days and as she looked out towards the setting sun, seeing the orange hue reflecting off the ocean, she started to feel herself finally relax.
"I did it for you." He whispered, without looking away from the horizon. The admission didn't make her head turn either, because she'd known. A part of her had always known, that for the better part of the last three years, everything he did, he did for her in some way. This was no different. He'd been running from the Mob, yes. But fighting back? That was optional. He chose to fight. He could have run, hid. He could have begged Horatio to sign the papers that would change his name for six months to a year and he could have disappeared to who knows where. She wouldn't have known where he went or who he became. And though she'd become accustomed to that feeling with Jake, unlike with him, she would have stared at her ceiling of a night time, unable to sleep yet too exhausted to move and think of Eric and where he might be.
When she finally did sleep she would be bombarded with images of picnics in the sun and small children with dark skin and green eyes. She'd see a little girl with curly black pig-tails and a boy to whom swimming, was like breathing. She'd forever live in a world of possibly's and likely, she'd die there, if he'd never come back.
But he fought, not because he feared for his life, but because he feared for a life without her. She was his constant, his rock. He could always count on her child-like smile, whenever a bullet fragment was recovered from the body of their latest victim, because Ballistics was an exact science, after all. And so was she. She had her problems, as everyone does. But he knew all about her father, her child-hood - Or as much as she had told him in that regard - he knew that she was rather guarded in her emotions but like every one he knew, who had a heart, her eyes still shone with a watery gleam when their jobs took them to the very peak of human cruelty. They had learnt to take turns at bringing each other back, though. Sometimes he'd make a joke, when the locker-room was dark and quiet and she was staring into her small locker as though the secrets of the world were hiding inside, ready to burst out and make it all seem like a terrible nightmare. He'd make her smile and she'd thank him and on days that were too tough for him to bare, she'd make him real southern fried chicken and grin over her salad as she watched him devour it.
"I know." She whispered, hugging her knees tighter to her chest and closing her eyes, letting the the salty breeze run it's fingers through her hair. That statement didn't phaze him either. Because none of what they'd said so far, needed to be said and he smiled, glancing up at her, watching the crimson-edged shadows waltz across her face. Watching her, with her eyes closed, he marvelled at how the light danced on the very tips of her eyelashes, casting a colourful glow over her cheeks that reminded him of the Aurora Borealis. He'd read about it in books and had the chance to go see it once, but passed it up for work. It was something he'd regretted for the longest time, up until this moment.
Looking down, Eric lost himself in his thoughts for a moment, wondering if she blamed herself for his current state. He knew she would, afterall, it was her bullet that the ER nurse had pulled from his arm. She'd looked at it herself and she'd confirmed it with slightly glistening eyes. He hadn't seen her for the rest of the day and when he arrived back at the lab, with a fanfare of well-wishes and deep sighs of relief for his well-being, he'd recieved nothing but a rather generic hug and a kiss to the cheek, something he could have easily gotten from Valera or Natalia.
From her, he'd hoped for more. He'd hoped that maybe she'd be so over-whelmed to see him alive that she'd throw their little secret pact to the wind and wrap her arms around his neck like a vice, planting kisses along his jaw until, in front of their entire world and Stetler, he felt the velvet of her lips against his for the first time in too long. But she hadn't, she'd smiled and waited patiently as everyone hugged him and patted his good shoulder whilst congratulating him on a job well done. She'd watched from over Horatio's shoulder as the two men - like brothers - shook hands and embraced and he'd caught her eye, causing her to look away. She was ashamed and worst of all it was only him, who felt undeniably, that she had no reason to be.
After sharing that she was grateful he'd made it, she turned on her heel and disappeared to her lab. He'd watched her go and frowned when Ryan had stepped into his line of sight with a genuine, yet oblivious smile. A part of him had known that she would come to him. For the sake of all they'd shared, they had the understanding that no matter how painful, they'd always meet on their differences and work at them. They were a team, in everyway they understood and neither, not even the queen of 'I'm fine, let me alone', would turn their back on that. So he'd waited, out there on the steps of the lab, watching as friend after friend, nodded their goodbyes as they left for the night and the odd nightshift person he knew, shook his hand as they passed by.
"I don't blame you." He whispered. "Never could." And her eyes squeezed closed, tighter and her lips pressed into a thin line as she nodded stiffly. Knowing it was the truth, but not yet able to completely forgive herself.
Reaching into his pocket, as the sunlight beaming through the clouds started to turn from orange to purple, he pulled his hand back out and sat up a little, holding it out to her with his palm up and a small object, resting against his life-line. Her eyes drifted open as she heard him shuffle beside her and as she looked down at his hand, letting her mouth open just slightly with well contained surprise, she looked up into his eyes.
"Nearly fifteen years ago, my Mother gave me this for you." He stated and she frowned slightly in confusion.
"Eric, I didn't know you fifteen years ago."
He chuckled gently, reaching for her hand that felt so small and delicate next to his, he carefully slipped the small ring onto her finger. It was a wide flat band made of a rose-coloured gold, with a fine pattern that wrapped all the way around her finger, like lace. It was old, she could see and as he slid it over her knuckle, she shivered.
"Doesn't matter," He smiled. "She said it was mine to give to the woman I wanted to spend the rest of my life with and I can't imagine anyone else, fitting that bill." She watched him questioningly as he ran his thumb around it clock-wise, then back again. "It was my Grandmother's." He stated, letting go of her hand and sitting back just a little.
She stared at it, holding her hand up to the sun as they sat, side by side on the step close enough to hear the other's breath but far enough apart, for his elbow to rest on the step between them. He watched her study it, with a small smile on her lips. He'd expected that when he gave it to her, there would be candles and music and a carefully prepared meal. He'd imagined that they'd have talked about it, long before they acted on it, but as he watched the smile grace her features of a pure and unadulterated joy, he knew that his timing was perfect.
He'd committed terrible sins to ensure a life with her and he was willing to do it all over again, if it meant he could see that smile on her face again. His greatest fear after she'd realised the bullet was her own, was that he'd never see her smile at him again. "So," He cleared his throat and she looked down at him, resting her elbows back on her knees.
"So," She mimicked with a smirk that had hidden behind it, a faint glimmer of fear and a touch of shame that would one day pass.
"What do you think?"
"I think," She grinned, letting her own misgivings go, and it didn't go unnoticed to him that the ring had already blended in perfectly, with everything about her that made her beautiful. "-I think that you've got yourself a deal, Diverman."
"The rest of my life is going to be a very long time." He warned, seeing her smile spread wider on her lips, as if it were even possible and she nodded, biting her bottom lip.
"To be honest, I have given forever some thought and," She looked back out to the horizon as the last remaining rays disappeared beneath the line of the black ocean and she nodded. "-after these last few days, I've realised that forever might get a little boring if I had to face it without you."
Leaning down towards him, until her posture nearly mimicked his own and her lips were inches away from his she stopped as his finger rested on her chin. "Just one promise?" He questioned and she nodded, awaiting it patiently. "Don't shoot me again." He chuckled and though she smiled, there was a flicker of pain there. One day they'd be able to joke about it and he believed that when they got there, the pain behind her smile wouldn't follow but for now, she straightened her shoulders just a little and let out a breath.
"If you promise not to give me reason to." She smirked and he laughed heartily, letting his eyes drop to her lips as they brushed against his. The touch was featherlight and it was over, before they'd actually kissed, but he took it because he knew this new arrangement was going to come with all sorts of secrets and hesitations, where work was concerned.
"So, two kids, a dog and a white picket fence?" He questioned and she grinned, setting her eyes on a streetlight in the distance.
"How about a shooting range, a cat and we agree on the kids?"
Eric rested his chin against his chest, nibbling on his lip as the smile stayed steady on his lips. "Never been one for normalcy, have you?"
Calleigh looked down at him. "Would I be all that interesting If I were?" Her accent was thicker now, wrapping around him like a warming blanket as the chill of the night set in.
"Not really," He admonished. "But you'd still be wearing that ring." And she nodded as a small blush crept up her neck. "-come on," He pulled himself up, reaching down to offer her a hand. "Lets go home before anyone sees that ring and starts asking questions." Eric let go of her hand, taking a few steps down towards the parking lot before feeling her fingers lace with his, the cool gold of the ring touching the palm of his hand.
Eric didn't turn. He had stopped in his place, his fingers wrapped tightly in her grasp, but he didn't move. She took a step towards him and he could hear the click of her heels as she stepped down one step and then the next, until she was right beside him, looking up at him. He turned his eyes down to their hands and even though he knew that she'd never hurt him intentionally, he could still feel the sting in his shoulder and the tension in his back only got worse, the longer she held on. With a gentle caress against the side of his hand, she let go, taking one more step down and looking back toward him with a smile. "Then let them ask." She stated and he grinned widely feeling the warmth her presence wrap around him as though she'd never left his side.
He nodded, stepping around her almost as though he was about to request she tango with him, ducking his head low to brush his lips against her temple as he crossed to her other side, holding out his good hand for her. And she took it, lifting their hands up between them so that she could watch her pale fingers wrap around his darker ones and with a light tug, he guided her towards her car.