This story was a request from nsynckal. I hope you like it! I'm not sure that it's quite what you were looking for, but I hope it'll do. *hugs* To everyone.
If Eric was honest with himself, he'd found that over the last few months, he'd been asssessing every single look that she gave him. Since reading his file - and he knew that there was no way that she couldn't have read his file - she'd been, different. She'd been flirting with him more and she'd been smiling more. Her comments had come to have more than just double meanings to the point where, sometimes he just couldn't quite pin down the meaning at all. Only that he was supposed to understand and that if he didn't pretend that he did, he was eventually going to lose out on something.
It was comments like "We make a good team." that had him reeling and confused and just a little bit suspicious. He rode with it, sure of it's surface meaning and a little dubious on the second layer at first. He knew that the way she spoke to him had changed that very day, that precise moment, because before that she'd always been a little patronizing, a little superior, a little bit too much like a big sister - which only managed to make him feel that the images she conjured in his head by simply walking towards him, were so very wrong. She'd always been the closest friend he'd ever had, but there was always a detachment there that he thought came from their age difference. She was more mature, more experienced more educated. But really, what was five years in the grand scheme of things? She'd had that air of sophistication that he was convinced he couldn't crack, couldn't measure up to. But then she read his file and all he could get from her sudden change in demeanor was that she was opening the doors for him as if they were never even locked.
He'd never counted Calleigh Duquesne as someone who deals with issues in black and white. But if he looked at her closely enough, looked back and studied her over the years, he'd come to the realisation that if anyone could be counted as a strictly black and white kind of person, it was her. No one could be as devoutly professional as her if they didn't see the world in black and white, right and wrong, good and evil, even if it was only when she was on the clock. Which made him wonder if he'd really been seeing her all these years, whilst he'd been adoring her. Of if he'd simply been watching a dream dance before his eyes. A perfect, complicated dream that could have been simplified in the blink of an eye, if only he'd really listened to her. Because she'd been singing it loud enough for years.
So, he watched her. He'd known her for seven years and only now had he realised how much good could come from really watching her. He'd trusted her too much, he decided. He'd fallen in love with her in a parking garage over a trashed BMW, a cheesy pick-up line and Horatio's impeccable timing and he thought that perhaps, that'd been too quick. He'd decided there and then that he was going to have her, one day, and he'd realised that she was one of those girls that he was going to have to wait for. It'd been a strange feeling, knowing within an instant, who he was going to spend the rest of his life with and for the first time ever, he hadn't even cared that she'd completely shut him down, literally laughing in his face. And he hadn't even been offended, which stunned him the most. He counted it as a 'not yet' rejection, as opposed to 'never ever'.
Getting back to Miami-Dade after three years in the academy, with a shiny new badge and a form that he was instructed to take to the on-site ballistics expert for evaluation, had been far different than he'd expected. He'd arrived with a smile on his face, flirting with the receptionist, joking with H before he'd realised that the petite blonde he'd met three years prior, with her long hair and her tight pants - tight but tasteful, he decided on second perusal - was not the glorified messenger/assistant he'd thought she was. She was a highly trained expert in a field he would have never associated with her had he not walked into the lab and seen her there. And as he'd stood at the back of the ballistics lab with his arms crossed over his chest and his hips rested against the workbench, he'd smiled at the way she swayed her hips before each shot, how she pulled the clip out and smacked a fresh one back in as though she could do it with her eyes closed and he gulped as she fired off the remainder of her twelve round clip before setting her gun down, taking her ear-muffs off and turning to him with narrowed eyes and an annoyed pursing of her lips. Something he found incredibly adorable.
In that moment they were friends over a shared history that consisted of one moment. But it was one moment that only they were aware of and he liked to think that that made it special in some way. Speedle had tried to convince him he knew her better, tried to scare him by warning him away from persuing her and taunted him with stories of what she did with her ex-boyfriend's severed heads and her favourite silver LadySmith. But Speedle didn't know they'd already come to an understanding and he wasn't going to be the one to tell him. He only wished he'd told him his plans, before that God guy his mother insisted was so great, had decided that his best-friend wasn't needed on this Earth anymore. And he was an honest man, he could admit that his relationship with God had been a little rocky after that. Their late-night conversations had turned to one-way accusations and instead of trying to fix it, he'd spent the better part of the last few years, doing his best to accept it. Mostly because he couldn't talk it out with a man that never answered and he wasn't really sure he could forgive him even if he ever did get a response.
He never realised that she'd always been so honest with him. He'd always thought that like most women, she had one story for him and the rest of the men in her life and another story for Alexx and her girlfriends with their fruity drinks and their secret language - 'girl talk'. But she always told him exactly where everything was and he only wished that he'd had the perspective to have seen that then. Even when she was with Hagen, she hadn't denied it - and even if it was a little desperate, he'd decided that her not mentioning it, didn't count as lying about it. And then when she was with Jake, she knew how he felt and she still talked about her dates with him, talked about the universe being against them when all they wanted was to have a nice dinner. And she'd known that he didn't like Jake, she'd known that he was jealous of the thick-haired cowboy who he believed, actually belonged in a biker gang and not in the police force. She'd known, and yet she'd fought tooth and nail to maintain what they'd decided and promised each other when Speedle had declared them his two best friends.
And he'd never stopped to pause and think about why she fought so damned hard to maintain that kind of friendship. Thinking on it now, after both his eyes and hers seemed to have opened, he wondered if it was because she was never quite sure about how he really felt. He was jealous of Jake and he was bitter about a lot of things, never about her, but how was she to know that? Too many arguments between them, had been sparked by petty things that he thought, maybe, she felt as though opening up to him would feel like stepping on a Bouncing Betty. Hearing the click and knowing that if she moved, either forward or backwards, she was going to get her foot blown off. And then he wanted to pull out his own service pistol and aim it at his temple; wanted to punish himself for being the one that had time and time again, forced her to take the second, safer option. If she'd chosen him all those years ago, he wondered if they'd have had a chance. But in his opinion, he'd grown up too slow and was barely ready when he'd felt the burn of flaming metal tear through his skull and into his brain, driving home the gut-wrenching thought that he was too late.
To say that he was overwhelmed that hers was the first voice he heard when he'd woken up, would have been the understatement of the century. He'd been confused and lost and living in a world where his sister hadn't died violently. He'd been sure that Marisol would be there, they just had to wait and see. But even in the pain and the fear and the agony that came with the truth that she was never coming, Calleigh's eyes had been the one thing that had always remained the same. The feeling that he got; that warm shiver of something that wasn't quite lust, wasn't quite fear, that went right up his spine whenever she smiled at him, was exactly the same in that world. But somehow, it was like a switch had been flicked inside his brain, like the bullet had ricocheted off a dorment part of his mind and the lights had flickered on. He'd said it in the hospital, strapped to the bed and taped down to machines and she'd laughed through tears, telling him that it was the drugs that made him feel that way and that she knew he was going to say the same thing to Horatio, when they swapped shifts by his bedside. And she'd seemed so sure, or scared, so he hadn't voiced that he never wanted her to leave.
Two years later and that part of his brain seemed to be back on shift again. It took long breaks, he had to admit, but who was he to complain? He was even jealous of that. He had to admit, the call out they'd recieved that morning, was pretty bizarre and it seemed to have all of them in a bit of a weird mood. Ryan was all for playing pranks and against his better judgement, Eric had thought it was finally time to side with the guy, against their common newbie. After all, it was just a bit of fun, right? And it was fun, up until the point he decided that being the one to actually perform the prank, hadn't been his most shining moment. He and Ryan decided after that, that their workplace was getting far too over-crowed with women who could kill them with a look. They had to practically beg Calleigh to make their peace, and for a moment he thought that Ryan was almost all for getting on his knees to beg her with that ridiculous puppy-dog look on his face. But she seemed to have a better plan; one of those raised eyebrows and a serious - 'You owe me big' - look, which he was all for, in the long run. It saved the knees of his trousers from getting covered in lab dust and it opened up a million doors into things Calleigh could make him do, all of which he was more than willing for. Because she could make him do anything too weird, could she? There was a decided shake of the head because no, Calleigh wasn't into weird.
At least that's what he'd thought, before he'd stepped into the lab to see her rifling through a box of goodies, all of which had something to do with sexual gratification. Outwardly, he smirked as he noticed her notice him. On the inside, he was laughing his ass off. He'd noticed her from half way down the hall. She was laying all of the items out on the bench, cataloguing each one and marking it down. He smiled at the way her brows furrowed when she held up certain items and chuckled against his will when she cocked her eyebrow at the fluffy pink hand-cuffs. Knowing that one of her favourite colours was pink, he could only imagine what she must have been pondering before she set them aside and reached into the box again. He'd stood just outside the door, watching her as she read over the label on the box that was no larger than a CD case with her brows knitted together, forming that tight little v that he found so incredibly endearing, and finally he took that as his cue to make his precense known.
Her eyes had widened when she'd seen him and that small box was back out of sight before he could even play it coy and ask - "What's in the box?"
"Everything one might imagine a sex-cierge would carry, plus a few things he wouldn't." She smirked, her characteristic humour, back in it's rightful place. He continued to stare at her, attempting to read her and doing his best to look like he really hadn't noticed what she'd hidden from him. But then her laughter was gone, replaced with that matter-of-fact police work, as fast as he could blink and he remembered why she was the best. Which, of course, only made him want to stare at her more. It was an occupational hazard, he was sure of it.
He was standing in front of Calleigh, with a table covered in padded face-masks, hand-cuffs, gags and whips between them. She was thinking about the case and he was momentarily lost in a trance, watching her moving lips and only, really, taking in about every third word. Definately an occupational hazard.
Although, paying attention to what she'd said or not, they did manage to catch the killer and the result of the case only seemed to add to the pile of reasons he was starting to feel that life and love could be so very fickle if miss-treated. He didn't measure his life by these women that had betrayed their husbands for money or a breif change from suburban life. It wasn't something that you really could compare to, because so many marriages really were loving and functioning. Many marriages, the good ones, do last and he was sure that at some point, he was going to find that. And he liked to think that Calleigh, knowing what she knew and the depths of human vanity, would never stoop to that level should he ever see a time in his life when he could have all that he'd wanted for such a very long time.
Brushing a towel over his head as he stepped out of the bathroom, he smiled at the sound of the one random Johnny Cash song that his cousin had clandestinly stashed on his iPod as he made his way down the hall. His pasta was still simmering on the stove and as he made his way into the kitchen, cranking the song up nostalgically, he smirked as he heard his front bell, ping. Dailing the music back down, he quickly pulled his pajama pants over his boxers and made his way to the door, immediately regretting that he hadn't grabbed a shirt as he noticed who it was beyond the peephole.
Too late to turn back now, he reached down for the handle and cautiously opened the door. Standing there, in a pair of acid-wash hipster jeans, a worn t-shirt that said "Save a horse, ride a cowboy" and a pair of very loved Ugg boots; Calleigh had her hair pulled back in a tidy pony-tail, though draped over one shoulder and a smile plastered on her face. She was wearing larger earrings than she normally did at work, but that was no new surprise for him. He knew that she loved earrings and had even sat through her description of every single pair she owned - which was a lot - when he'd had nothing better to do on one of his lunchbreaks years ago, when Speed was at a seminar and he'd thought she couldn't possibly hold the record for most elaborate jewellery collection in the world.
"Can I come in?" She questioned and it was then that he realised he'd been staring at her. And thankfully for her, handn't noticed her eyes rake over his bared muscles.
"Oh, sure," He shook away the cobwebs that formed in his brain as he'd drifted off and smiled as he stepped aside to let her into his house. He closed the door behind her, smiling as she made herself at home, dropping her handbag over the back of the sofa before taking a seat and looking back at him. "you want a drink?" He asked, detouring into the kitchen to turn off his dinner and she smiled, nodding her head. They both knew that she didn't have to specify what she wanted. He didn't keep sweet-tea in his house and she didn't drink coffee. When it was just the two of them, it was beer or water if she'd spoken to her father within the last week.
Minutes later he joined her, popping the tops off both bottles before he handed her one. "Thank you." She smiled sweetly and he nodded, dropping down into the sofa beside her and grabbing the under-shirt that he had draped over the arm of the nearest chair. He knew that she was watching him pull it on and he decided not to speculate on the look in her eyes, because he was sure he could only appreciate at it if it really meant what he hoped it meant; for him to take the shirt straight back off again.
"So what do I owe the pleasure?" He grinned, clinking bottles with her in a silent toast to everything and nothing.
"You owe me." She smirked mischievously.
"For what, exactly?" He took a swig.
"I saved you from Tara."
Eric chuckled. "She wasn't going to hurt me. Maybe Ryan."
She laughed. "No," Calleigh agreed. "but she has the power and would have had the will to make your professional life, hell." He looked her up and down with narrowed, appraising eyes. Wondering if only she'd really known how much she'd already managed to obliviously do that. Compared to her - and he could never really blame her for being so wonderful - Tara wasn't scary in the slightest.
He scoffed for show, knowing full-well that she was right.
"Scoff all you like, Eric, you know I'm right. You're just lucky that she managed to identify the knife, in spite of your idiocy."
Deciding to ignore the 'idiocy' comment, he took another sip; watching as she kicked off her boots, wriggled her toes that were painted Power Orange, before tucking her legs up under her on the sofa and taking a long drink of her beer. "So what if you are." He decided to agree, be it back-handedly with a slight touch of childish petulance thrown into his tone.
Calleigh picked up on it and smiled with her eyes. "Well, you owe me."
"You've said that twice now. What's my punishment?"
Her fingers twitched nervously for a moment as she nibbled on her plump lower lip. Her fingernail edged the label on her bottle back slightly and she stared at it for a moment, with those wide gemstone eyes, before she set it aside and pulled her handbag over between them. She met his eye for a moment and he wondered what she was up to before she dove in to search for something.
He wasn't going to be the one to tell her that it was a ridiculously over-sized handbag because he knew that she took pride in her fashion labels and he had no doubt that her gun was buried in there somewhere. "So I was thinking," He blinked, thankful he'd realised she was speaking. He continued to watch her as she searched, smiling gently at the fact that she was practically crawling into it. "that you could help me try something."
"Try something?" He was so grateful that his voice hadn't shaken at the implication he'd taken from that statement.
"Yes," She looked up for a moment, meeting his eye. "you're my best friend." There was that mischievous smile again and he had to admit that it damn-near creeped him out at times and probably would have terrified him in this instance, had he not been so infatuated with her. And he even found himself randomly hoping that it really did have something to do with fluffy pink hand-cuffs. But then he caught up with her again and realised what she'd said. He was her 'best-friend'. No hand cuffs.
"Yeah, and?" He did his best not to sound disappointed. He'd never been one for hand-cuffs in the bedroom anyway, so he wasn't quite sure why he was disappointed at that moment, but he'd think that over later; at that moment, she was pulling something from her bag.
"This," She held the small box out to him, label up and he blinked as he took it into his hand.
"Seriously?" His voice was raspy, he could hear it.
"I've never tried them before."
He looked up into her eyes, so innocent when normally they were so wise. He had to smile, even though he was completely stuck for a coherant sentance and she grinned. "Where-" He cleared his throat. "Where did you get these?"
"In a store," She shrugged. "one that specialises in that sort of thing."
"A sex shop? You went to a sex shop?"
"Yeah, Valera raves about it. They're actually really nice there and I wore my badge and gun, you know," She smiled coyly. "I got cold feet going in there without an official reason. Don't tell anyone?"
"That you used your status in law enforcement to get away with shopping in a sex store?" He could practically hear his voice cracking, the stranger the conversation became. "Who would I tell?"
Calleigh giggled nervously. "So, will you try them with me?"
Eric swallowed. He could feel the sweat break out on the back of his neck and even though that part of his brain that had wanted to see her naked for well over ten years was screaming at him to say yes, oh god, yes! He was nervous and a little perplexed.
"You want to try these?"
"Yeah." She nodded and he wondered how she could seem so unperturbed by what she was asking of him. Couldn't she see that it was strange? Even for her quirky sense of humour.
"Um," He licked his lips, realising how dry they'd become. "sure."
"Great!" She grabbed the box back from him and started to open it up before he stopped her with a hand on hers.
She looked up at him. "What?"
"Should we really do this here?"
Calleigh blinked, looking around his small loungeroom. "Where else?"
"Don't you want to go into the bedroom."
She cocked her head to the side just a little. "Why?"
"Well, because they're, you know..."
Calleigh looked down at the box again, smirking. "Are you nervous, Eric? I thought you'd be used to these kinds of things."
He dropped his hand from hers so fast that it was almost like it'd burnt him. Thankfully for him, she didn't appear to take offense. "Well," He cleared his throat. "I mean, I've dated a few girls that liked different things but, never these."
"Never?" Her eyes appeared wider as she smiled. "Wow, a first for both of us then."
He laughed nervously. "I guess so."
Before he could protest again, she was ripping the box open and he was wondering if he should watch or not watch. He expected that any moment now, she was going to remove her shirt and his heart was beating fast as she pulled the bra-shaped piece out of the packet. "Do you want the bra or the panties?" She questioned, sniffing the box almost approvingly and he continued to stare at her, completely confused as she added, "They're strawberry flavoured."
He wasn't entirely sure how to answer. He'd been through so much with her, overcome adversity, faced death, faced killers, faced a drunk Speedle and yet, he didn't quite know how to handle this particular moment. Calleigh must have finally recognised his confusion, because her mouth fell open in a way that seemed to suggest she was both stunned and amused at the same time. "You-" She started, but stopped herself as she looked down at the packet. Eric was picking frantically at the label on his beer bottle and slowly her cheeks started to heat up as she realised what she'd done. "You thought I wanted to wear them for you?" She tried so hard not to laugh, he could see it and he was grateful to her, because he couldn't imagine ever being as embarressed as he was in that moment.
"I just wanted to see what they tasted like." She said softly and he nodded, doing his best to take slow, deep breaths.
"You went and bought Edible Undies from a sex shop, just to taste them?"
She shrugged. "The case made me think of it. Eric," She averted her eyes for a moment. "I'm sorry if I made you uncomfortable."
"No!" He sat up straighter, immediately hating the impression that she'd recieved. He was uncomfortable, but he didn't want her to feel as though she'd done anything wrong. "No, it's alright," He smiled, tilting his head to encourage her to meet his eyes. "it's alright," He brushed his palms up and down her arms, seeing in her eyes the same depth that had always been there for him to explore. Now it seemed, comments like "girls love flowers" were sending his Calleigh-meter haywire. He wasn't sure quite how to read her anymore, but at the same time, she was being so completely open that it partly scared him. Perhaps it was like opening an encyclopeadia; every peice of information you could ever want, right at your fingertips but so much more information that you had to wade through in order to get the one fact you're looking for. Maybe she was offering too much, but he wasn't going to be the one to ask her to stop. "I'll taste them with you."
"You're sure?" The corner of her mouth twitched up and he knew that something had passed between them throughout this strange little conversation, something that had deepened a connection that was already growing and he did wonder, briefly, if it could mean they'd made some progress.
"Yeah, I'm sure. Hand me that bra."
Calleigh giggled and he counted himself blessed for being one of the few priviledged enough to hear that sound as he shoved a corner of the bra into his mouth and pulled it between his teeth.
"Is it good?" She smirked, pulling out the panties and waiting for his opinion.
He shrugged. "Tastes like candy."
Calleigh's eyes sparkled again as she chewed on the edge of the panties, struggling to break the stretchy texture as she laughed. "Strawberry candy," She waggled her eyebrows and he let out a deep breath, learning to enjoy the moment for what it was. He realised, after a few bites and Calleigh resting her head on his shoulder as he stretched his arm out across the back of the sofa, that he wasn't sure why he'd ever assumed she'd actually wanted to wear them. It wasn't really hygenic to wear them, then eat them and he had to laugh at how old they must have looked, eating the undies right out of the packet, curled up on the sofa in their pajamas. Calleigh chuckled at the precise moment that thought registered in his mind and he did wonder, however briefly, if she really could read his thoughts.
She buried her face in his chest for a moment and he resisted the urge to shiver at the feel of her so close.
"I was just imagining myself, actually wearing these things." Eric would have laughed, in order to go along with her train of thought, but the image it conjured in his head seemed to be so drastically different to the thoughts she seemed to be having, so he kept his mouth shut and hoped that she didn't notice his body heating up just a little. Of course, luck had never really been his strength and Calleigh's whole body tensed against his side. "I shouldn't have said that."
He paused. "No, probably not."
Calleigh sat up suddenly, kneeling on the sofa and looking down at him. They were the same as they'd always been. He was tall, she was tiny, he had dark hair, she had blond, he had brown eyes, she had green and they both had the kind of lips each of them had watched from afar and wished they could nibble. But, suddenly there was something different floating in the space between them. Calleigh had known for a long time, that he'd had feelings for her because he'd never really gone out of his way to make it a secret, and she'd always had feelings for him, though she'd always feared that if she showed them, his feelings were never going to be as strong as hers.
But sitting on the sofa, right beside each other with a piece of strawberry underpants stuck to her lip, there was an electricity between them that she hadn't been willing to acknowledge before. An electricity that had always been there, but had been muffled by the fact that Speedle had always been in the room with them, sitting between them, or Ryan had always known just the right moment to barge into the locker-room. Now they were alone and nothing was going to interfere and Calleigh's breath hitched as he reached up with his thumb, to brush the small piece of candy away.
"Maybe this wasn't the best idea." She whispered, feeling her breath quivering and knowing that he had felt it against his hand.
"I don't think you believe that." He answered, keeping his fingers pressed gently to her chin.
"I just, I don't think we're ready."
"It's been years, Cal."
"I know," She cast her eyes down, fiddling with the edge of the box and wondering what a phsycologist would say about what she'd done. It was so obvious to her, that it'd been a thinly veiled ploy, conscious or not and as she blinked, trying to look away from him, she knew why she'd done it. She was ready to want him. She just wasn't quite sure that he was ready to give her what she needed. And she knew that he was aware of what that was and figured that perhaps that's why he'd resisted for so long. Perhaps that's why he'd been just there, just out of her reach, and hadn't said a word.
He wasn't ready.
But then there he was, reaching across, touching her cheeks and tilting her eyes back to meet his. He was smiling and his lips were red and she could feel his heart pounding in his chest as she felt herself moving foward, felt her body moving towards his of it's own accord and felt her palm press to his chest. The rise and fall of his breathing against her hand, soothed her and she watched it move up and down, listened to the sound of the crickets outside as he slowly, painstakingly moved to press the lightest of kisses to her cheek, just short of her mouth. Her lips quivered against his as they parted just slightly, as a breath escaped her and she could feel his fingers ghosting along her arm, guiding her free hand to rest against his knee. "Maybe this isn't the best idea." She breathed, arching up on her knees, looking down to him as he smiled behind the golden curtain of her hair.
"You keep saying that," He reached up with a smirk, parting her hair as he ran his fingers through it, resting his palm against the back of her head as he slowly pulled her back down. "but you don't mean it." His lips were on hers before she could even think of a response and she smiled against his mouth, slipping her leg over him until she was kneeling above him, straddling him. "And you're certainly not fighting it." He laughed, brushing his fingers along her sides and smiling when he felt the warmth of her skin where her shirt had ridden up.
"Why are you still talking?" She questioned before pressing her lips more forcefully against his, raking her nails over the back of his head as his hands dipped underneath her shirt and she lowered herself to sit in his lap.
"So that I can stay sane." He chuckled and she noticed how suddenly, his hands were on the outside of her shirt and his arms were simply wrapped around her, holding her as his kisses slowed down.
"Why's that?" She brushed her fingers along his brow adoringly.
"One of us has to make sure this doesn't go too far."
There was silence between them for a moment as Calleigh sat back a little, staring into his eyes. He studied her closely and realised how her expression softened. The box of half-eaten underpants lay forgotten on the sofa cushion and her hair was in disarray from where his fingers had run through it. She looked undeniably disheveled and he had to admit that he rather like the wild-looking, wanton Calleigh that she was right then. "Thank you." She whispered, suddenly realising how determindly he'd always stood by her side. There she was, finally losing herself in him when a part of her knew they weren't entirely ready. But he was holding back, biting his tongue and doing his best to protect them both from doing something they'd regret.
It was going to happen, he was sure of that now and from the look in her eyes, he could feel that it was coming soon. But not yet, she wasn't entirely over Jake and he wasn't entirely sure that he could offer up everything she'd always missed out on. But this felt like a promise of something to come, a door sitting ajar for them to walk through when they were both ready to take either other's hand and walk through together.