My inspiration for this story, was based in both this song and the dance performed by Ade and Melissa on "So You Think You Can Dance" Top 8. The story of the choreoraphy, was of a woman battling Breast Cancer and the man who's strength, carries her through it. From the man's perspective, carrying and caring for her, touching her so gently. And her trust in him, throwing herself into his arms, crying into his chest. It was simply amazing and it touched my soul unlike any other dance I've ever seen. When I saw it, I adored it and when I analysed it from watching it repeatedly, I realised that I liked to picture Eric and Calleigh this way. Calleigh with Melissa's trust in her partner and Eric, with Ade's strength and presence and hope. I really hope that I can portray well, what I felt when watching this dance. If Tyce Diorio doesn't get an Emmy for it, like Nigel said, I'll be hugely surprised.
Littered with small quotes related to coping with Cancer, interspersed with lyrics from this song. I hope you enjoy.
All The Things I Should've Said That I Never Said,
All The Things We Should Have Done That We Never Did,
All The Things I Should've Given But I Didn't,
Oh Darling Make It Go, Make It Go Away.
~ Maxwell, This Woman's Work
As the sun barely grazed the horizon across Miami beach, Alexx crouched over the body of a young woman, no older than twenty-five who seemed to have fallen victim to a crime based purely on wrong place, wrong time. Running her fingers along the girl's cheek, she frowned and could feel the tears prick at her eyes, like they so often did when someone so young, met such an unfair end. "Poor baby," She whispered, hearing Eric step up beside her in the sand, knowing him, even though she didn't look to him. "you barely started to live, didn't you."
Eric almost hated it when he caught her like this. So wrapped up in the victim, so entwined in their story, even before she'd discovered what that story was. Sometimes it worried him, the way she could become so attached, so quickly. But then he'd look around himself at the rest of them and realise that, without her, the victims would never have that connection to the world around them. They'd never have the care that they deserved, because the rest of the team kept themselves so detached. They respected the victims, they fought for them, but they never let themselves get as close to them as Alexx did, because it just hurt too much.
"Hey Alexx," He forced a smile, crouching down on one knee and feeling the damp sand seeping through his pants as the gently growing sunshine warmed his back.
"Morning, baby." She smiled up at him, meeting his eyes through those thick black glasses that hid the momentary pain that washed over her face at every crime scene. Sometimes he wondered if one day, she'd just break down. But that wasn't the way she was. He knew that every case touched her, that every victim pulled at her heart, but he also knew that every night she went home, she ate dinner with her family and she felt the hope and love and life that kept her going from day to day. She had the privilege of that balance and sometimes, he was jealous of her. "Where's Calleigh?" She questioned and his eyes snapped up at her, blinking a few times before he was completely able to pull himself out of his thoughts. "Eric," She pressed.
He licked his lips. "Oh, ah, she had an appointment this morning. She called me, asked if I could cover the scene."
Alexx's faint smile turned into a frown. "What kind of appointment? Is she alright?"
"I don't know Alexx," He flipped open his kit, pulling on a pair of gloves as he focused his eyes on the bruises along the young girl's arm. "I'm sure she's fine, we'll just have to see when she gets back."
He knew that Alexx knew about their relationship, Calleigh had laughed about letting it slip to her when it happened and he'd been grateful at the time, that they'd been able to share it with one of the people he respected and cared for the most. And as intuitive as she was, he knew that she was aware he was holding something back. But to her credit, she didn't press and he was grateful for that. He didn't know if he'd be able to voice the fears that had coursed through him the previous night, because the idea of the strongest woman he knew, facing something so small and insidious, was just not something he thought he was ready to accept, just yet.
Alexx smiled wanly, turning her eyes back to the body as he flipped his camera on. She knew that something was brewing in him. The normally bright and cheerful young man that she considered one of her own sons, was lost in a small storm inside his head. She watched him as he fiddled with the camera, his frown crinkling his handsome face and the tension in his shoulders was palpable. Something was bothering him, something big. And she only hoped that in time, he'd come to her or at the very least, she'd seen his light return after seeing Calleigh later in the day.
"I know you've got a little life in you yet.
I know you've got a lot of strength left."
"I know you've got a little life in you yet.
Calleigh faltered as she stepped off the elevator. She took two steps out, breathing the smell of the lab in deeply - the smell of the chemicals, coffee and the lingering metallic dust from the firing range just past the reception desk - before taking a hesitant step back. 'I can't do this' - she stammered in her mind, clutching the strap of her handbag across her chest and feeling that dull ache in her heart. 'I'm not strong enough for this'.
Standing in the centre of the lobby, Calleigh brushed her ankles together nervously, watching the world continue on as if she weren't even there, watching how the lab still managed to cope, when she wasn't around. And that in itself, sparked a fear in her that she hadn't ever pondered until that moment. Ahead of her, she caught sight of Eric stepping out of the Trace lab and on instinct, she turned on her heel and moved as quickly as she could, towards the locker-room. She didn't know that he'd seen her, didn't know that he'd seen the flash of panic that sparked in her eyes.
Stumbling into the darkened room, Calleigh was thankful for the shadows that shrouded the room in countless corners were she could curl up and disappear if she needed. She dropped her handbag just short of her closed locker and with a deep, anguished breath, she pressed her forehead against the cold metal, blinking rapidly to ward off tears.
"Cal," His voice behind her whispered. Slowly, her eyes closed and her breath caught in her throat. She wasn't ready for this, she wasn't ready for his compassion, his care. She wasn't ready to look up and see the love in his eyes because she was frightened that she just might break if she looked too deep. "Calleigh, look at me." He choked, begging but not yet reaching out to touch her and the part of her that wanted so desperately for him to do it, knew that he kept his distance because he knew it's what she needed, not because he wanted the space between them in any way, shape or form. He was a toucher, a holder. He needed to reach out and feel something tangible because as much pain as it caused, he needed this to be real. She needed to step away, to close herself off, to feel nothing because the last thing she wanted in the world, was for this to be real.
He was about to open his mouth and call her name again, but she turned, pressing her back into the hard metal of the lockers because she needed the strength of something solid at her back that wasn't his warm, comforting embrace. She knew that if he touched her now, she'd never be able to get the words out and she knew that he needed to know the truth. Wrapping her arms around herself, she flinched when he reached out to touch the tips of his fingers to her elbow, recoiling as though he'd never tried it and she watched painfully, as his fingers curled back into his hand. Feeling so much further away from her than she ever wanted his hands.
"It wasn't nothing," She rasped and as she focused her eyes on the buttons of his red, floral shirt, she could see his chest rising higher and falling deeper as his heart pounded behind it.
"Cal," That one word, those three simple letters that formed the breadth of her name on his lips, tore at her heart in a way she'd never thought possible. It was frustratingly silent in the room, as the weight of her news was finally clawing it's way between them. He'd been there, standing in the shower with her the week before, he'd seen the terror in her eyes as she'd found the one thing, no woman ever wanted to find. He'd been there last night, when the doctor had called with her results, unwilling to give them so freely over the phone.
He'd begged to go with her. Threatened to call in sick that morning, but she'd insisted that he go, asked him politely to answer the call-out as she'd stepped out into the crisp, fresh air of dawn and closed the front door of her home - their home - with a quiet, controlled click, behind her.
"The Doctor said that it was a malignant tumor; Ductal Carcinoma, I think he called it." She nodded, swallowing deeply and avoiding with all of the strength she had, meeting his eyes. "It's fairly advanced, he said."
She cut him off, raising her chin high and taking a deep breath as she met his eyes, refusing to let the few tears forming in the corners of her eyes, fall. "I'm booked in for surgery next week. And after that, he wants to start me on a course of chemotherapy."
"What?" Eric's mouth fell open and within seconds, the barriers he was keeping between them were all but dissolved. He reached out, grasping her elbows and pulling her towards him, holding her close and crouching down, low enough to meet her eyes. "Calleigh, this," He breathed. "this is insane."
"I know," She choked, finally letting her arms fall to her sides, letting his hands roam up over her shoulders until his palms were pressed against her cheeks. "Eric," She paused, feeling her heart beating faster as he ran his fingers through her hair, holding her head in his hands as her fingers itched to touch him, feel him so close to her. But she didn't touch him, because if she did in that very moment, she wouldn't have been able to divulge the one truth that was eating her alive. "and I'm terrified."
In a single heartbeat she was held tightly in his embrace. He wrapped his arms around her shoulders, pulling her against him ferociously as her small hands wound around his waist and clung desperately to the bunched fabric of his shirt at the small of his back. And like she knew it would, as soon as she was locked in his protective hold, her resolve faltered, the dam broke and her tears came. Her knees crumpled out from under her and she felt her back slide down the lockers. Eric's arms stayed around her and her face stayed buried in his chest as the pair of them slid down to the floor together. She could feel the tears pouring from her eyes and she knew, she just knew, that her mascara was staining the small white flowers that covered his chest. "I can't do this," She cried, clinging to him, pulling him down and further into her until he was on his knees, clutching her like the broken pieces of a china doll.
"Yes you can," He whispered, running his fingers through her hair, holding her close to his chest and she could feel his strong hand gripping the back of her neck through the tousled blond tendrils that had also fallen in her face. For a moment, vanity flashed in her eyes as she realised that one day soon, she wasn't going to be able to look at him through cascading blond locks. He wasn't going to be able to smile like a child as he played with her hair whilst he thought she was sleeping. And it was then, she realised, that she was focusing on the one thing she thought she'd fear the most, to avoid the nagging thought that if this surgery didn't work, she could lose not only her hair, but her breasts. She could lose her ovaries and thinking of her own life as secondary, she was terrified that she'd never meet the eyes of a dark-skinned child who'd call him 'Papi' and run in the house after being told it was dangerous.
"No," She wept. "it's not fair."
"No," Eric smiled, brushing the hair out of her eyes and for the first time since they'd fallen to the ground together, he let her see the tears that were trickling down his face. "no, Cal, it's not fair. But you know what," He lent forward, kissing her forehead with the same reverence he'd shown her the first time he spent the night in her bed.
"What?" She sobbed, feeling the tears ebbing away as he lay gentle kisses across her face.
"We're going to get through it."
"You can't know that." She choked, dropping her eyes to his chest, but he was stronger. He gripped her head in his hands, forcefully making her look up at him as he brushed his thumb gently across her cheek.
"Yes I can," He whispered. Sitting on his legs and pulling her up until she was on her knees before him. "I can," He reiterated and Calleigh's resolve struggled with her anguish again, begging her to let it give up so that she could fall into his arms and disappear. "because you're the strongest person I know. And you're going to spend the rest of my life, proving it."
"Eric," She shook her head but he stopped her.
"No, Cal, you can't do this. You have to fight, even now."
"But what if I can't?" She questioned. "What if I'm really not strong enough."
Eric stopped everything for a moment. His thumb on her cheek stilled, his fingers in her hair stopped drawing soothing circles on her scalp, his arms tucked tightly under her arms and around her shoulders loosened a little and his breathing paused before it all burst out of him in waves as he clung to her. "Then no woman in history would have ever beaten this. Because no one is as strong as you."
"Eric," Horatio stepped up behind him in the fingerprinting lab and with a heavy breath, he knew what the man was going to ask. "how is she coping?" Turning slowly, Eric placed his evidence down on the table, to make sure his trembling hands didn't let it fall to the floor. He nodded, letting out a shuddered breath that didn't go unnoticed by Horatio.
"She's Calleigh," He shrugged, lacking in any better way to explain it. "she's," He shook his head, unable to free himself of the cobwebs that had plagued him all of the previous day and well into the night, when he'd lain there, watching her sleep and praying silently that he had the strength to pull her through this. "she's coping," He paused, seeing the skepticism in the older man's eyes. "she's trying."
"I just wish there was something I could," He stopped himself and Eric studied the man standing before him. His shoulders were slumped, his glasses were curiously missing and his face looked drawn and lost. Even though he didn't have his sunglasses to hold, Horatio's nervousness manifested itself in the twitching of his fingers, where his glasses normally would have been.
"You're doing it," He answered softly. "she's trying to be strong, but I'm scared that if she doesn't have us backing her every single step of the way, she's going to shut down." There, it was out there, Eric's worst fear realised in one single sentence. A tear escaped his eye and Eric brushed it away quickly, hoping Horatio hadn't seen it. If he had, it wasn't mentioned and Eric was grateful for that. "Look, H," He started, turning in his spot so that he could look his friend in the eye, straight on.
"Calleigh and I have talked about this and I was going to come to you later today, but I guess now's as good a time as any." Eric watched him nod slowly, knowing that in Horatio's mind, he was already putting the pieces together, though he wouldn't say anything out loud, that he didn't feel Eric was comfortable telling him first. "I'm going to be with Calleigh on this," He took a deep breath. "we've been in this relationship for so many months and we're just sick of dancing around and running away and hoping that there's going to be some chance for us."
"What are you saying, Eric?"
Smiling out at the sunset, Calleigh took a deep breath as his arms curled around her and his hands rested firmly on the railing in front of her. The air was cool, for a Spring Miami evening, but with his chest pressed to his back and his breath on the back of her neck, she could barely feel the crisp chill in the air. "Hey," He whispered, pressing a kiss behind her ear as she leant into him, reaching for his arms and pulling them around until their hands were entwined together against her stomach. "what are you doing out here?"
"Just thinking," She smiled, closing her eyes and savouring the feel of him.
"Mm," His lips curl up against her earlobe. "about what?"
"Everything that's going to change. You, us, what we can't have."
"Calleigh," He sighed, feeling her tense in front of him, so he held her tighter, refusing to let her walk away from him even if she'd wanted to. "we can have everything we want. We've just got to work a little harder to get it. It doesn't mean we can't have it."
"It's the story of my life, though," She whispered dejectedly. "do a little more housework, so my parents would leave me out of their arguments. Work a little harder in school, so I could move away to college instead of staying home. Work a little harder at the academy, because no one took me seriously. Wait a little longer for the best relationship of my life, only to have to fight to keep it, hide it to have it and now this," She slumped back against him, closing her eyes and letting him simply hold her. "it's too much."
Silence descended over them for a while, wrapping them in the cool breeze and the feel of each other until Eric found the strength to speak. "Calleigh, I don't think this would have happened to you, if you weren't able to handle it."
"It happens to people every day, Eric, it's not as simple as that."
"But it can be," He choked. "it can be as simple as that. You've proved time and again, that you're a fighter. You don't back down and you certainly don't let go until you have what you want." He smiled, tilting his head around until he could meet her eyes. "and I know, I'm patient, I've waited for you for so long. Now that I have you, Cal," He grinned, leaning down to press a kiss to her lips. "now that I have you, I'm not going to let this take you away."
It took nearly all of her energy, to smile up at him. But once the corners of her mouth twitched heavenward ever so slightly, the warmth of his arms and the depth of his words did the rest. "Eric," With her eyes blinking shut, she lent her head back into the crook of his arm and sighed.
"I tell you what," He brushed her hair away from her face and wrapped his arms tighter around her. "tomorrow, I'll go to Horatio and I'll tell him everything about us. I'll let him know that I want to be with you, whenever you need me."
"Eric, you can't do that,"
"I can," He grinned. "I will, it's done. I'm not going to let you go through this alone."
"I'm saying, H, that for the past eight months, Calleigh and I have been together," He met the man's eyes. "I know that it's inappropriate and it's unprofessional but it's done and I really, honestly care for her, I can't just sit back and watch her go through this." The two men stood there for several moments in silence. Eric looked out to the hall where friends and colleagues walked on by without a clue as to what was going on within. He'd only told Horatio that morning, about the news Calleigh had received the previous day. She'd sat there in silence, gripping his hand tightly and fighting the tears that burned at her eyes, whenever she was forced to let the words leave her lips. And the for the first time in over ten years of working in the lab, she was thankful for Horatio's kind, quiet voice, urging her to go home and rest.
"Eric," He nodded, adjusting his footing. "I understand what you're saying. And I'll tell you what," He smiled softly. "Keep me apprised of Calleigh's situation, get your work done and I'll smooth things over with Stetler if any questions arise."
"What about the team?" Eric frowned, knowing that it wasn't only the three of them that were going to bear the brunt of this. He knew that, even though he and Horatio had known her the longest, Natalia, Ryan and Frank felt just as close to her and they were going to need reassurance that she was alright. They were going to want to be there with them. And Alexx, he could barely even stomach the thought of how Alexx was going to react to the news. Just the day before, he'd told her that Calleigh was fine, that there was nothing to worry about. And now they were going to have to tell her that the woman she'd mothered for near to ten years, had Breast Cancer.
"I'll deal with the team. Now, Eric, what I want you to do right now is head home, spend some time with Calleigh and make sure she's alright. Her surgery is scheduled for Tuesday, is that correct?"
"Alright then, I expect to see you Monday just to finish off your outstanding paperwork. But as of Tuesday, you're on call for her, do you understand me?" Eric nodded again, slower, dumbfounded that Horatio was being so supportive in the face of the fact they'd lied to him for over eight months. Apparently, none of that mattered right now and the most important thing was Calleigh.
"Alright. Thanks, H."