WOW! This has been one hell of a long time coming. I'm so sorry guys!! I've had so many emails and tweets over the last couple of months, asking me to continue this and I'm so sorry that I haven't. What with losing my computer and then saving for a new one, having no access during the day and no inspiration in the small pockets of time I had to use the computer, really killed the mood. But this chapter is UP! It's actually completely different to the first draft that I lost, but that's alright. I actually like it. Essentially, this is it for the story. But, before you FREAK OUT, just read - It is the end, in the conventional sense of the word. But I do have a prologue in the works that will be anywhere from a 5,000 word single chapter, to two. We'll see, I have quite an in-depth little plot building for that one. So I hope you can hold out on it.
With this chapter, I was feeling a little nostalgic, hence all the talk of Speed. Just so you know it's not completely out of left field.
Anyway, I really hope that you can enjoy this and can I just share a little shameless pimping for a good cause? I'm going to anyway.
Does anyone reading this story watch "Legend of the Seeker"? If you do (if you don't rectify that NOW) please head to my twitter for links to petitions, campaigns and donations regarding saving the show from cancellation. It's an AMAZING and BEAUTIFUL show that honestly, deserves far more than 2 seasons. They're threatening to take it away from us and we can't just let that go without a fight. If terrible shows like 'Merlin' (I honestly, DON'T like it and it's in the same sort of genre as 'Legend of the Seeker') can keep on going, then anything is possible. Other shows have been brought back from the brink before, it can be done. Even if you don't much care, please re-tweet the petitions and the campaigns, anything and everything helps! And I'd really appreciate it. (Sorry for the pimping, on with story.)
And there you stand open heart - open doors
Full of life with the world that's wanting more
But I can see when the lights starts to fade
The day is gone and your smile has gone away.
May I, Trading Yesterday
The tension throughout the halls was palpable. Everyone had heard their raised voices coming from the waiting room and even though only those closest to the doors had heard what the argument had been about, everyone felt the pain right down to their bones, with the possibility of Calleigh and Eric being so at odds. They'd heard the yelling and they'd heard the ominous silence that had followed; knowing not if they'd fallen into angered staring or found a way to make up. And as he watched them leave the room, Eric with their daughter on his hip, headed for the elevator and Calleigh with a purposeful stride in his direction; his brow furrowed in turmoil for them.
Eric's strides were fast but long and he could see from the tension in Calleigh's shoulders and how she walked with short, clipped steps, that something was still bothering her. Eric didn't seem too destraught. He was smiling with Lotti as the elevator doors closed them inside and he even dipped his head with an expression he couldn't read, when Calleigh had momentarily turned her head and met his eye. He watched her then, as her husband and daughter disappeared and he noticed the faint pull at the edge of her lips. She wanted to smile, she did, but something was stopping her. Something was making her feel that she didn't have the right.
"Calleigh," He addressed her and she looked up at him, blinking as he stepped up to her.
"Horatio," She did smile then. Though the kind of smile that she offered him required far less effort, for it was an empty, professional platitude that could be easily mistaken for a warm and friendly welcome, had he been anyone less. He didn't call her on it though, knowing there was no malice intended in her standoff-ish behaviour. "I'm sorry, I haven't had a chance to analyse the fragments yet. I've been," She paused and glanced towards the closed elevator and he watched her, watched her fingers twitch and spin her wedding bands. "a little distracted."
"That's okay," He smiled softly, dipping his head to move closer though doing his best to avoid invading her space. When she was like this, her space was sacred. "do you need more time, ma'am? Did you want me to have Landau come in."
She looked up at him sharply. "No," She shook her head. "No, I'm fine. I just," She huffed out a breath, letting her shoulders sag just a little. "it's just Eric. He wants me to quit CSI."
"And what do you want?"
Calleigh smirked amusedly. "Horatio, you know what I want. And so does he."
"Perhaps what you want, and what's best, can't always go hand in hand."
Calleigh seemed to consider it for a moment, studying her rings closely and breathing deeply. She had to admit that she had thought about the prospect of leaving, far more often than she'd admitted to Eric out loud. But each and every time she'd come to the thought that she could possibly handle leaving, she'd come up with a plethora of reasons to stay. Far too many to disregard and she knew that she'd go stark raving mad, in any other occupation. She could run a shooting range, but she'd worked in one during school and she'd never been too fond of the kind of guys that hit on her in those places. She could work for an independant lab, but she'd constantly be itching to go out into the field. And she could hand in her badge, but she'd always feel like there was more she could have done. She'd always feel that she was throwing in the towel and she knew she'd never be able to watch the news or read about a murder in the paper and not think of what she could have done to help them catch the killer.
She couldn't help everyone, she knew that. But being at CSI and knowing that she could help some of them, was something that made her life with Eric and Lotti all the more precious. Knowing that she had them, in a world where human cruelty ran rampant around her, made time worth turning. She didn't know how she'd cope if she didn't have that contrast and she was scared to think that they could ever mean less to her than they did when she thought any day soon, could be her last. It was a reckless thought she knew, but it was the kind of reckless that made her who she was and she knew that if anyone could understand, it was Eric. And that's why she knew in her heart that while he was still hurting and wishing for it to be different, he wasn't going to ask her again.
"This is what's best, Horatio." She smiled more genuinely this time. "Eric knows that, he knew it when he asked and he knew it when I refused. He has to come to terms with the fact that I'm not leaving and he will, I'm sure of it. It'll just take time, I think."
"He's stubborn." Horatio smirked.
Calleigh's eyes laughed and she looked up at him incredulously. "And I'm not?"
Horatio chuckled openly, something he rarely did. "I suppose you're right. Just," He sobered up. "remember what he's been through, Calleigh. Think of what you've both been through, particularly in these last two years. Give it some time, let things cool down and perhaps, in a while, consider it again."
"I thought you wouldn't want me to leave." She frowned and Horatio reached for her hand, gripping it gently between them and he smiled.
"I don't. But family is more important than this, Calleigh." He gestured around them.
"But you've spent your whole life here. You love it here."
He nodded, letting his eyes drop to their hands as he brought his other up to rest on top. Calleigh felt the cool metal of his sunglasses against he back of her knuckles and her lips twitched as though she'd just realised that it was Horatio Caine, holding her. "Do you think I wouldn't trade the thirty years I've worked for PD for a chance to go back and watch Kyle take his first step?"
And that's when it hit her, what he'd lost. She could see it in his slouched shoulders, his weathered brow. She could see it in the calm, controlled swagger of a man that had nothing left to lose and she realised then, that she didn't want to be that kind of ghost. She didn't want to be the kind of mother that saw her child on her one day off and only played with her when she didn't have a million and one case files to peruse. She didn't want to be the kind of wife that screamed at her husband for miniscule things because it was the big things they couldn't talk about and she didn't want to be the kind of wife, that after twenty years, no longer knew how to understand her husband because they spent every waking moment apart.
But then, she still felt that she couldn't leave and the weight of that notion seemed to want to drag her through the floor.
"Okay," She sighed. "I'll think about it. Maybe we'll be able to find a way to work together on it." She smiled hopefully and Horatio patted her hand, letting it go gently to fall back to her side.
"So," He smirked. "are we ready to get back to the case at hand."
"I'll have my report on the bomb ready in a couple of hours." She nodded. The conflicted nature of their conversation was forgotten for now and her manner was completely business. It was a trait Horatio knew, was invaluable in his second in command and despite his words, he knew that his department would suffer without her. He didn't want to lose her, but he'd watch her go with a smile if it meant she'd never lose her family.
But as she walked away and he watched her go, an idea struck him. It was something that had been building for some time, something he'd put a lot of thought into over the years, as he'd watched Calleigh grow and change and learn. And he felt, now that she had mellowed in her demeanor but not in her heart, while she'd strengthened and she'd sobered and she'd aged, professionally, he was starting to think that she just might be ready. She'd always been a spitfire, that was something that he'd taken as a positive in her reviews, not a negative, when he'd hired her. 'Speaks out of turn' had been one comment review, but he'd read that as 'says what her superiors don't want to hear'. He'd learnt he was right, on her first day in the lab and it had been then that he'd decided that she had a bright future. He'd needed smart people that weren't afraid of disagreeing.
Now she was a wife and mother and still the strongest person he knew. Now, he felt that she was more than ready.
And who could heed the words of Charlie Darwin
The lords of war just profit from decay
And trade their children's promise for the jingle
The way we trade our hard earned time for pay
~ Charlie Darwin, The Low Anthem
Before closing up her locker, she took one final glance, running her fingers along the photo of Lotti that Eric had taped to the inside. She smiled to herself silently, listening to the click of the metal lock as it closed tight for the night. She was ready to go home. There was tiring days and then there was the day that had been thrust upon her by a crazed, narcessistic bomb maker who thought that planting poorly constructed - yet incredibly effective - bombs in the most crowded areas of Miami, was the best way to get attention for their narrow-minded and fascist beliefs, Eric's irrational - yet rational - attempts to make her leave the job she loved and Ryan's ever present foot in his mouth. Sometimes it was just too much. But most of the time, these days, there wasn't anything a small smile from her daughter couldn't fix.
She found herself wondering, for the second time in not so long, what Speed would think of her now; she was a mother and a wife and a supervisor. She had responsibilities that he'd never known her to bear and she'd always looked up at him like a big brother. She'd known Horatio far longer, but she'd always been so much closer to Eric and Speed, closer to Speed even, as ironic as that sounded considering she was weighing that against the man, her best friend, come; her husband. Closer to Speed, she smiled, slowly lowering herself down to sit on the bench beside her handbag; but she loved Eric. It was different.
"I thought you'd have already headed home." Horatio's voice startled her slightly and she looked up, smiling nervously as she rubbed her hands together between her knees.
"I am," She licked her lips. "just packing up and then I'm off. I'm picking up Lotti from Carmen's and I'm going to meet Eric at the Hospital, to see Walter."
"I'm glad I caught you then." He smiled, sitting down on the bench beside her. His leg was barely an inch from hers, their shoulders were touching and she could feel his breath on the side of her face whenever he turned to her. But she wasn't uncomfortable with the closeness. It warmed her, like a hug from her father or a kiss to the forehead from her brother. It made her smile.
"Yeah?" She questioned, dragging her handbag into her lap, feigning to search for something in it's depths. She could see that he had something to talk about and she feared that maybe he was going to have something more to say about what happened this morning with Walter, what happened with Eric. She feared that he was going to side with his brother-in-law.
"Yeah." His smile was warm and pleasant but she found herself nodding and letting her chin drop to her chest, letting her hair fall across her face just a little. She wasn't sure if she could handle it, were he asking her to step away. "I wanted to ask a favour of you."
"Oh?" She didn't quite lift her head, but it raised a little; curious.
"Yes," She could hear the smirk on his lips. After fourteen years, she knew this man as well as she knew the one that shared her bed. Well, knew him as well as she was willing to, consdering the comparison. "You know, Calleigh, I'm not getting any younger."
Her head did lift then and she met his eyes suddenly. "Horatio, I," He raised a hand and she silenced.
"There's nothing to worry about. But, you've done a great job over the years. You're one of the best CSIs I've ever worked with and I was just thinking that, it's about time you were rewarded for it."
Calleigh sucked in her bottom lip. "I don't; I don't understand."
Slipping down lower, resting his elbows on his knees with his sunglasses dangling from his fingers in between, Horatio met her lowered eyes. "I'm putting you up for promotion, Calleigh."
Her breath caught in her throat. "Hor-"
He cut her off with a small smile. "Lieutenant Duquesne, has a nice ring you it, don't you think?"
"But, Horatio," She protested. "there can't be two Lieutenants running the same shift, it's not done. I don't want to-"
"It'll take months for the paperwork to go through, you'll need to be trained, you'll need to be assessed. That's time enough for me to get my affairs in order."
Calleigh's breath quickened as she wrapped her small hand around his wrist, begging him with her eyes, not to do this. "Horatio, you can't leave."
"Yes I can." He smiled, that smile that always made her feel that somewhere deep down, he was a man that had always wanted a daughter and that in some way, she'd brought him a small measure of that joy. "I will do this, Calleigh. I'm getting old and you're over qualified to be doing the job that you're doing. You deserve acknowledgement and you deserve the flexibility and the safety, so that you can be home for your family."
"Please don't do this just because Eric and I had a fight. We fight all the time, but," She whimpered. "but we make up and we smile and it's never a big deal when we wake up in the morning. We're married, we're supposed to fight, Horatio. Don't do this just because you feel that you need to help."
He wrapped his arm around her shoulders gently. "That's not why I'm doing it."
She looked at him confusedly.
"Fourteen years ago, a young CSI spoke out of turn. She told me about a new research into comparing bullets. She made me realise that times were changing and that the lab needed to change with them. She taught me that science evolves and we need to evolve with it or drown." Tears were streaming down Calleigh's face as Horatio curled her hand into both of his own. "It's her turn now. I've gone as far as I can, Calleigh. You're the future of this place, you always were." He reached up, touching her cheek gently. "You helped me bring this place to life. Now it's your turn to keep it going."
If ever you're in doubt,
In case you haven't noticed.
There's nothing I won't do to make it up,
I just wanna thank you for all that you've done.
Thank you, Sean John
Rapping his knuckles against the window-pane gently, Eric waited for movement on the bed before he made his way into the room. It was darkened and the curtains were drawn, so he didn't want to wake the sleeping occupant if he could help it. But, there was movement and a gravelly voice that called for him to come in. Slowly, he made his way around the bed, seeing that there was no other way for the man to lay but face down. He studied his back, wondering for a moment as he paused, where and how many had hit him.
"You're gonna have to come around here," He waved his arm out, wincing. "-there ain't a chance I'm gonna be able to see you. Who is it, anyway?"
Eric smiled as he dipped his head into view, stowing his hands in his pockets as he met the man's eye. "Hey, I think we met like, once before. I'm Eric."
"Right," Walter grimaced, not at the thought but at a sharp pain that radiated from his lower back. "Calleigh's husband."
He nodded. "Yeah, look, she's kind of why I'm here."
Walter tipped his head to the chair in the corner of the room and Eric smirked, grabbing it by the backrest and dragging it over so that Walter didn't have to strain his neck to see him. "I'm a bit drugged up, sorry." Walter admonished but Eric shook his head.
"Nah, it's alright, man. I just," He took a deep breath, lowering his voice because he knew that what he had come here to do was going to be difficult. Not because the sentiment was difficult to stomach, actually it was completely the opposite. It was difficult, because he didn't quite know how to say it in any way that would give it's depth justice. To be truely grateful, beyond reckoning; he just didn't know how to put it into words. Too many times in the past two years, had he been so very thankful. And too many times had he lacked the eloquence to voice it. A simple 'thank you' just wasn't enough, but so often that's all he knew how to say. He wanted to thank her doctors; but then he'd looked into Calleigh's eyes and seen that it was her unwillingness to let go that had saved her. He wanted to thank the world, the stars and the universe for Lotti; but even then he couldn't help but feel there was something divine involved. Be it that or pure, unbridled, luck. He was raised to believe in both and couldn't sway his heart. So he'd taken to thanking the silence around him, with his face buried in thickened blonde hair and the smell of vanilla filling his senses in the middle of the night, peppering reverant kisses along her neck. But even that had never been enough. "-I came here to say, thank you, I guess."
Walter chuckled, tucking his hands under his pillow and sitting up as high as he could manage. "You mean, for saving Calleigh?"
Eric nodded silently.
"Geez, man, you don't have to thank me. I didn't do it for that."
Eric pulled in a deep breath. "I know, It's just; I don't know if you understand what you did for her today. What you did for me."
Walter smiled a knowing, calming smile. "When we were walking through that market this morning," He was still smiling and Eric couldn't help but feel that there was something profound to it. "she was telling me that your little girl said her first word and you know, the smile on her face..." Walter bit his lip, grinning and Eric ducked his head, pressing his eyes closed as he nodded slowly. "...I knew that I couldn't let anything destroy that."
Eric looked up. "But you stood in front of a bomb for her. Not many people would be willing to do that."
"Hey," Walter shrugged as best he could. "there was no way I was letting her take that hit. You can see what it's done to me, she wouldn't have survived; I think we all know that." Eric's breath shuddered for a moment, hearing what they all knew, voiced so suddenly. And he could see by the bandages and the cushions and the tubes. He knew that if it had been Calleigh, the damage would have been irreparable. "Not only that, I respect her. And, I'd do it again."
Eric released a sigh. "If you ever, need anything."
Walter nodded, understanding the half-completed promise for what it was. "And if you're ever worried, just know that there isn't a single one of us down there at CSI that wouldn't do what I did today."
Eric smirked. "Even Wolfe?"
"Especially Wolfe." Walter laughed. "But I know you know that."
"Yeah," Eric sighed, scuffing his toe along the rail on the floor beneath the bed. "I know."
(I Know You've Got A Little Life In You Yet)
Give Me Your Hand Baby,
(I Know You've Got A Lot Of Strength Left)
Give Me Your Pretty Hand,
(I Know You've Got A Little Life In You Yet)
~ This Woman's Work, Maxwell
Eric had been sitting with Walter, laughing and chatting for what felt like hours. He respected the man greatly, not only for what he'd done for Calleigh, but his entire outlook on the job that Eric found himself missing, from time to time. What he missed about it was the cases, the puzzles and the profound feeling that he was giving something back to the country that his parents had fought so hard to bring him to. The country that had opened it's arms and given him the better life it promised.
That aside, he had no intentions of going back and still harboured the faint glimmer of hope that Calleigh would decide to spend her days diving with him rather than combing her way through bomb fragments and bullet casings. But he knew the hope was faint and pointless. She was never going to give it up and he was callous for asking her to. Of all of them, she was the one that was in it for the long haul. She was the one that would make Lieutenant, the one that would make Director; She was the one that, if any of them could get that far, would make State Commisioner. Even Speed had known that
He smiled at the thought of Speed, casting a glance over at Walter and seeing that the man had dozed off for the third time, he smirked and thought about the memories he'd shared with his long lost friend. Considering it, he felt a small, sharp pain in his heart as he looked up to the window, seeing Calleigh standing there with their beautiful, stunning little girl rested on her hip. They were both smiling and Calleigh was waving. In Lotti's excitement of seeing her father across the room, she was practically slapping at Calleigh's chest as she flailed in delight, shreiking her laughter, to which Eric could only grin.
Calleigh's smile turned sorrowful though, as she stood there, sharing a look with him. It was as though she knew just what he'd just been thinking. As though she felt, as well, the pain of being unable to share their future with Speed.
Eric had never thought that the pain would come to be so bad, or lasting. Sitting in his heart like a dull ache that withered, but never completely went away. Keeping Speed's credit card inside his wallet, he supposed, didn't really help him in seeking closure. But it was a mere trifle. Speedle was a colleague and sure, most of their weekends had been spent lounging on Calleigh's couch with beers, fried chicken and sweet tea, after all of which, Calleigh would hound them until they took a jog down the beach - Sometimes he wasn't so grateful that she lived so close to the water. But he was a colleague and the pain should have been nothing more than the pain of losing a colleague. It wasn't like they'd lost a brother. But then, he thought, the longer they went without Speed's dry, sarcastic, wit, the more he realised that their colleagues - Speed, Horatio, Alexx - were never just colleagues. And he really had lost a brother. He even felt guilty on occasion, when he'd be down at the market or shopping with Calleigh and he'd open his phone to call Marisol before realising that she was never going to answer. He felt guilty that he could sometimes forget she was gone, but the lingering feeling of Speed's absence was always there.
Calleigh would tell him that it was nothing to be ashamed of. Marisol was so engrained in his personal life that the idea of just picking up the phone and calling her was second nature, almost habit. It was nothing to be ashamed of to skip the pain and head straight for what he'd always taken for granted. But with Speed, it was always there. Every day Calleigh would come home talking of Ryan and Jesse and Walter; Natalia. The plaque in the lobby of MDPD with Speed's name engraved in polished bronze, was a constant reminder. And now, being so happy - with Calleigh - he really felt that they were missing a leg.
Looking into her eyes, smiling as he matched Lotti's grin, he started to think that after all they'd suffered, maybe, Lotti was finally the replacement for what they'd lost. He'd thought that it was Ryan or even Natalia that was meant to fill that void. But he and Calleigh had become so much more closed off from office friendships after it happened that they just never found a way to be close enough to them. They filled a space, but not the gaping chasm that was left. He thought that maybe, finally, after pushing them to their very limits, and seeing them still standing tall, the God he'd prayed to all his life had finally gifted them with the most precious of treasures. Something to bring them back from the edge.
Beckoning them in with a wave of his hand, Eric pressed a finger to his lips to shush them as Calleigh made her way in. Doing her best to calm her over-excited daughter. Eric stood quickly, taking Lotti into his arms to calm her quickly so that she wouldn't wake Walter. Calleigh just rolled her eyes as Lotti wrapped her arms around Eric's neck and looked down at Calleigh as though she'd just won a prize. Mommy's little girl, Daddy's little Angel. Calleigh laughed silently.
"He's sleeping?" She whispered, wrapping her arm around Eric's waist as he rested his across her shoulders.
He nodded. "Yeah. Just dozed off again. We had a good talk today. He's a great guy."
"Yeah," Calleigh smiled. "I like him." She took a breath, waiting a beat before looking up at him, smiling at the sight of her daughter's curly-haired head resting on his shoulder. "You look very thoughtful."
Eric sighed, hugging her tighter into his side, to which she only hugged him back, resting her palm to his stomach. "Yeah, I was just thinking about Speed; Marisol."
Calleigh nodded, taking a deep breath as she pressed her eyes closed. "Yeah. It's been so long. I wish they could have seen what's become of us."
Calleigh looked back up into his eyes as he turned down to her. She smirked. "And you know this?"
He chuckled quietly. "It's a thought that just came to me. I mean, if anyone's up there rooting for us, it's them. Someone had to have put in a word for us, considering." He shrugged.
Calleigh smiled thoughtfully. "It's a nice thought."
They stood there in silence for a time, holding each other and listening to the beeping of machines that surrounded Walter's bed. Finally, with a deep sigh, Eric felt at peace. Thinking about Speed and Marisol and realising that Calleigh was still as passionate about her work as she was ever going to be, realising that she couldn't have better people around her to care for and protect her when he couldn't, his heart felt lighter. He felt safer in the idea of sitting by her side, sixty years from now, with a pitcher of sweet tea and a plate of home-made cookies, watching the world pass them by, watching their grandchildren play as he held her hand tightly in his own. He felt safer in the knowledge that she was going to do everything in her power to get there.
Calleigh broke the silence with a sigh and a squeeze of his hip and Eric broke his reverie to look down, realising that his gaze had drifted back to the bed.
"Eric," She hesitated, her voice wavering just slightly. He dipped his head, kissing her temple and grinning as Lotti rested her tiny hand against his cheek.
"What is it, babe?"
She smiled sweetly at the endearment. Looking up into his eyes, so close she could kiss his lips. She breathed again, searching his eyes. "I have, some news."