Hello there, for those of you that are reading "This Woman's Work" I want to apologise for not having updated as of late. I know that it seems strange, what with the regular speedy updates I have had previously. What happened was, I recently lost my computer; Just before the christmas break it decided to stop working and with it, I lost all of my notes, my completed epilogue. I have been doing my best to get it back underway, but it's a lot of work; especially now that it's reaching it's end, i've got a lot of things to tie up. So I hope you you're still waiting for it and I hope that you can enjoy it when it finally gets done. Again, I do apologise. I'm rather lost without my computer and won't have another one of my own for several months. Personally, I'm content borrowing my Mother's for the time being, but it certainly impedes on the ability to work on stories un-deterred. I'll work my best at that though.

For now, I hope that these can make a few of you smile. It's just a little something that I wrote a while ago, just thinking on how it'd have been if Calleigh and Eric would have met under different circumstances. I just, liked the idea of Calleigh bringing him into CSI, as opposed to it being Horatio. Lets see how you guys like that. Everything that comes later is basically the same in the show, give or take a few things. But it's superficial, really.

Enjoy.


"The secret of a man's being is not only to live, but to have something to live for."
~ Fyodor Dostoevsky

They first met out in the Everglades. A hurricane had just blown through Miami, the worst of the year, tearing down homes and ripping up gardens but by the grace of God, the deathtoll stood still and low. He stood waist deep in a stagnant body of water, covered from head to toe in diving gear and regardless, he could feel the chill of the still gusting wind sending shards of ice through his shoulders. Lieutenant Caine had said they were looking for the personal items of a woman found dead, floating nearly three miles down.

He stood there, ignoring the cold and the steady glare being sent his way by the dark brooding officer he'd been introduced to as Speedle. The man himself, had calculated this spot as the most likely destination the items would have drifted too, calculating windspeed and current. But Eric felt off-kilter. With his mouth-piece hanging between his lips he sent one final annoyed glance at the man - who'd since crossed his arms over his chest - and pulled his goggles down before diving down again.

He searched the river-bed. Crawling under rocks and dusting reeds and grit out of crevices, but he found nothing but an old aluminum can, a broken fishing rod and a boot. Why was it always boots? He asked himself, but as he breached the surface again, all thoughts that had previously occupied his mind, disappeared.

She was standing on the bank. Speedle had disappeared, thankfully, and she was standing in precisely the same spot as though she'd been there the entire time. He wondered to himself, if his subconcious mind had decided to picture Speedle as a beautiful woman in order to be able to work more efficiently with him. But if he really thought that through, he knew it was a load of bogus. With his track record, he'd have more luck picturing a beautiful woman looking like Speedle, so that he could focus.

She wasn't tall, by any means, and her long blonde hair was braided in tight pig-tails likely to prevent it getting caught up in the wind. Her clothes were figure-hugging, these were things he noticed, and she was wearing wading boots that were at least a size too big. If he'd allow himself the thought at a crime scene, he'd have thought she looked adorable if it weren't for the three foot rifle she had resting over her forearm.

"Did you freeze up?" She called out to him. And upon hearing that sweet southern twang, his knees had weakened just a little. It was a weakness he never thought he'd had. He'd always dated tall, brunettes who could recognise the traditional dishes his mother served up. But this girl was small but robust in a refined sort of way, standing with her weight shifted onto one leg so that her hip jutted out just so and her rifle dangled down toward the ground as though it were a useless trinket. Her voice was high, but drolling with that southern lilt and it immediately flicked a switch in him that had him wanting to hear it again and again. "You alright?" She called again and this time he was certain she noticed the goofy smile that spread out around his mouth-piece because her shoulders slumped a little and she adjusted her stance, smirking.

"I don't think this is where we should be looking." He called back and watched as she took a step, down into he water until her little feet disappeared into the sludge.

"Is that so?"

He swallowed, making note of how her brow arched beneath her dark sunglasses and she hugged her rifle almost smugly waiting for his reply. "Well, they said that the victim was killed early this morning, around six?" She nodded. "Well, calculating the windspeed at that time and the fact that the hurricane's only just passed us by, anything she'd have had with her would be at least another mile in that direction." He pointed, with his goggles hanging off his hand because he'd removed them in order to see her clearer, down-wind.

She seemed to think it over, looking up into the air and licking her lips thoughtfully. He waited, knowing by the badge on her hip that she was obviously superior to him in this situation, and hoped what she was coming to was a conclusion somewhat appreciative of his. "Why didn't you say anything before?" She questioned, stepping backwards out of the water and hooking her rifle over her shoulder as she went.

"I...this is the spot we were told to search."

Waving her hand up over her shoulder, she gestured for him to follow her. Nervously, he did, dragging himself and his gear back out of the water with considerable effort, following her along the bank and realising she was a lot shorter than he'd originally thought. He followed her over to an MDPD Hummer where he watched her toss the rifle across the backseat before heading around to the trunk and opening it up with a smirk in his direction. She gestured for him to drop his gear in and he did, wondering where all this was heading before she moved to hop in the driver's seat and he climbed in the passenger side after her.

Horatio had watched them. Noting how Calleigh had stepped down into the water to hear him clearer. How she'd cocked her eyebrow the way she does when she has a brilliant idea, or someone gives her one. He smirked, when the young diver followed her to the Hummer and did as instructed and he chuckled slightly, imagining the boy's face when her Hummer took off with a screech and a splattering of mud up Speed's back.

"I'm Calleigh Duquesne." She'd smiled that blinding smile that would soon become his daily drug, though he didn't know it yet. She made a face that suggested she disliked the form of greeting, because it was immediately followed by. "Don't ask me how to spell it. Southern." And a little chuckle. He could play that chuckle on repeat and never get bored.

"Eric Delko," He answered. "it's spelt how it sounds. Cuban and Russian."

"Ooo," She pursed her lips in the shape of a pronounced 'O' and he set his eyes on them. "spicy combo. I like it. So," She dodged a fallen tree and Eric gasped silently before setting his eyes on the road ahead of them as she drove a little too close to the water's edge. "where abouts do you reckon we should start looking?"

Eric's brain switched over from appreciation of the petite beauty beside him, to the case at hand. He turned around in his seat, seeing that the swarm of police cars he'd been able to see a moment ago were now gone. "About here, I think." He answered, biting his lower lip.

"You think?" She gave him a look. It was a look that reminded him of his third grade teacher who liked to torment kids into doubting themselves by asking them 'Are you sure?' when everyone was already certain the kid was right. She was testing him, he deduced, during the momentary flash-back to third grade.

"Here, right here." And it was that moment, that he'd met her eyes for the first time. They were green. Not just a grassy green or a moss kind of green, but a bright emerald green because of the light shining through the driver's side window at just the right angle to light up her face.

"Alright then."

The Hummer came to a stop and he immediately hopped out, knowing his wetsuit had left an Eric Delko imprint on her passenger seat, but getting the feeling that she didn't quite care. As he geared up he noticed how silent it could be, out in the 'glades and took a moment to breathe in the air as he slipped his tank onto his back. She met his eyes suddenly and they shared a look that could have meant anything, back then. Little did he know how heavy fleeting glances like that would one day become.

Right now she was this interesting, fascinating entity that had appeared at the height of a dull and rather run of the regular mill, day. She was exciting, he realised, because she was intrigued too. But he couldn't quite pin-point why. She was the kind of woman his sisters would never set him up with and likely the kind of woman he'd run a thousand miles from, if given the opportunity. At least he assumed she would be, if his first impression of her hadn't been the little stone-faced, gun-toting, Southern spit-fire with blonde tendrils of hair that had curl up in the humidity, sticking to the back of her neck, standing before him.

"I'll cover you." She stated. And all of a sudden the rifle was back over her forearm and he was standing there, wondering when she'd gone back to the car to get it.

"Don't you think they might need our help back at the scene?" He questioned, standing at the edge of the water. She shrugged, holding her glasses up, away from her eyes so that she could meet his with a smirk.

"I think they've got that covered, don't you?"

Eric laughed lightly and nodded his head. "Yeah, I guess." Before he slipped his goggles over his eyes, pushed his mouth-piece in and waded into the water. He glanced back for a moment, looking over his shoulder to see her standing there, rifle ready, scanning the water with her eyes for any sign of Aligators that might think he'd make a tasty entree. And it was with that image in his mind, that he dived under.

Fifteen minutes later and three more rotted left boots, he found a water-logged handbag stuck under a rock. Dragging it out, he made his way back towards the edge, where she was waiting patiently, with a satisfied smile on her face. "What'ya get?" She questioned, holding out a large, clear evidence bag for him to drop the purse in to.

"Handbag. Looks like it hasn't been down there long."

She nodded. "Any ID inside?"

Still wearing his diving gloves, Eric reached in and pulled out a small wallet with hand-stitched flowers around the edges. He flipped it open, reading off the name on the driver's license. "Angela Ramirez. Twenty-six, she's an organ donor." Calleigh smiled wanely. Before gesturing for him to place the wallet back in the back and turning to look up into his eyes.

"Don't question yourself." She stated and Eric's brow furrowed.

"Excuse me?"

"You questioned your own instincts. You shouldn't, because you were right." He watched her walk back to the Hummer, sealing the bag and pulling a pen out of her back pocket, to fill in the form on the front.

"I'm not always going to be right." He countered.

"But you shouldn't question yourself. Not if you want to be a good CSI."

Eric stopped in his tracks, staring at her small back. "But I'm not a CSI."

He watched her release a deep breath, before turning to him. Her expression was all of a sudden, different. Her eyes were larger, her cheeks, pinker. And when she spoke, her voice was softer. "You could be."

Eric scoffed. "I work in under-water recovery. I only got into college on a football scholarship. And only went on to the Academy because I barely scraped past."

Calleigh laughed softly. "Doesn't mean you wouldn't be one of the best. You're good, I've seen that." Eric was shaking his head and Calleigh took a step towards him, so close that he had to look down to see her. "You've got it, Delko, you've just gotta speak up."

He nodded, though she wasn't quite convinced that he'd taken her word. He knew that, by the look she gave him as she turned back to the Hummer, resting the evidence bag on the hood as she filled it out. "I'm putting you down as having found the evidence." She stated in a voice that sounded a little too matter-of-fact for his liking.

"But wait, I told you, I'm not a CSI."

Calleigh shrugged. "Take that up with Lieutenant Caine, I'm just paying credit where credit's due." With that, she stepped around the car and hopped into the driver's seat and waited with the doors closed and the engine running, for Eric to put his gear away and hop back inside.

That was the first time he'd ever met her. She'd been bold and interesting and remarkably determined to prove that he had more to offer than that he was simply a good swimmer. He remembered sitting in the hallway of the Miami-Dade crime lab. She was standing with the red-haired Lieutenant he'd been introduced to as Horatio Caine. She'd changed her clothes, from the khaki shirt and jeans she'd been wearing out in the 'glades, to a red suede vest over a white shirt and black pants. Her hair was out and longer than he'd thought, hanging down her back and clipped up with glittering little flower clips on either side of her head. She looked idifferent/i and beautiful at the same time, smaller, but just as tough as he watched her with her back to him, talking to the Lieutenant who kept glancing in his direction.

"So I hear you made quite the discovery this morning, Officer Delko."

Eric looked up, seeing the red-haired man looking down at him with a pair of dark sunglasses hanging around his neck. "That's what Officer Duquesne seems to think."

"She's not often wrong." He stated, taking a seat beside him. "But you seem to think so. Would you care to enlighten me?"

Eric set his eyes down the hall, searching for her, but it seemed that she'd disappeared. It didn't matter anyway, she had to have been wrong. He wasn't built to be a CSI. "I did my job, that's all."

Horatio nodded. "What made you look where you did?"

Eric shrugged. "The wind was gusting, the waters were moving faster than normal. I've been out in the 'glades so often, I just knew it couldn't possibly have been where we were searching."

"And you believe that you took no steps beyond the bounds of your job?"

"Not really. I'm a diver, I'm trained to know the water."

Horatio looked out ahead of him and Eric watched him, wondering what the older man was thinking. "As CSIs, we're trained to see what other's don't. We're trained to look for clues that would normally be, overlooked. You did that today."

"But I-"

Horatio cut him off. "Officer Duquesne seems to think that you'd make a good CSI. Two years ago, she was a beat-cop on the streets of New Orleans, now she can identify bullet calibers on site. I'm willing to give you the benefit of her opinion."

"What's that mean?"

"I'm offering you a job, Officer Delko. I've read over your file, you have a B.S. in Chemistry, is that correct?" Eric nodded. "Do you want to be a CSI?" Horatio questioned and Eric let his eyes wander along the hall again, down the dark lines of the black walls to a glass door and a blonde head sticking out just far enough to be seen. Quickly, he turned back to Horatio.

"Yes."

"Good," Horatio stood, glancing at Calleigh who's head disappeared into what Eric could only assume was a lab before he looked back down at the younger man. "-then we'll see you Monday."

"Monday." Eric repeated and Horatio nodded.

"Monday."

And the man was suddenly gone, striding down the hall before he disappeared around a corner and Eric was left sitting there with jittering knees and itchy palms. It was then that he felt it, something strange and new and as he listened to the soft clicking of shoes, getting louder as they neared him, Eric could feel something inside of him growing. Something that wouldn't be realised for seven long years.

Looking up, he saw that she was smiling down at him with her pearly white teeth and her laughing eyes. "I believe, this calls for a celebration." She stated and as he was about to open his mouth to answer her, he caught sight of the man stepping up behind her. The grouchy, sarcastic cop from earlier that morning.

"Hey Cal, we going out for that drink?" He questioned, stepping up to them and not even bothering to check if he was interrupting a conversation.

"Yeah," She grinned cheerfully and Eric thought he could watch her do that for the rest of his life. "-Delko's going to come with us. We're celebrating his new job."

"New job?" Speedle questioned, looking down at Delko with his perpetual frown. "where?"

"Here," She laughed. "Eric's our new CSI."

"S'that so?"

Eric nodded and that seemed to be enough for Speedle who took a deep breath and nodded, patting Calleigh's back as he turned towards the door, tucking his wallet into his back pocket. "Alright then, lets go, Bullet Girl." He called back over his shoulder and Eric suddenly felt a small hand around his arm, pulling him up.

"He's actually great once you get to know him. A good CSI and a pretty good guy. No less morose though," She laughed and Eric grinned down at her, smilling wider than he'd smiled all afternoon.

"Why do they call you Bullet Girl?" He found himself asking though that hadn't been the question at the top of his list.

"Oh, well," She chuckled. "i'm a bit of an expert in Ballistics."

Eric blinked. "Really?"

"Foremost in the entire state of Florida." Speedle called out from ahead and Calleigh's cheeks went pink.

"Not really," She whispered, stepping through the door as Eric held it open for her.

"You know what," Eric started and Calleigh looked to him as if to answer with 'What?'. He smiled, resting his hand on her shoulder as they walked side by side, down the front steps of the crime lab. "for the first time today, I think I believe him."

***

It was strange. The first day he'd met Speedle, he didn't like him. The man was gruff and short-tempered and as far as CSIs went, he was lazy. And then there was Calleigh, perky and meticulous and it really had him perplexed, that they could be such great friends.

His first few cases, he worked with Megan. She was nice and friendly, but seemed to have a chip on her shoulder, where Horatio was concerned. Speedle liked to press her buttons and he realised after a few weeks, that Calleigh wasn't just the energizer-morale-bunny for the entire lab, with her cheerful smile, her crazy and confusing southern jokes and plethora of ways she could wear her pig-tails. She was also peace keeper, throwing herself into the line of fire when Speedle took things one step too far.

After a while, he learnt that Speedle's anarchistic nature was more out of respect for his coworkers, than detestation. He liked to spark arguments in people who posed a challenge and eventually, Eric finally worked out that Megan actually liked it. That she actually spurred him on. And then a few months into the job, he was finally catching on, finally getting a hang of how the team worked, how they bounced off each other and finally, he was starting to feel like part of the fray. But suddenly Megan was gone and the dynamic shifted.

Thankfully, regaining footing was something he didn't have to do alone anymore. Horatio pulled them up and Calleigh took it upon herself, to hold their hands. There wasn't an official announcement. No loud-speaker or bulletin, just an understanding. She became Assistant Supervisor to the lab and Eric was handed a certificate that said, in embossed gold lettering, that he was a level One CSI.

His mother made Ropa Vieja and he invited Speedle over coffee in the breakroom. The man took it in his stride and insisted upon supplying the beer. He asked Calleigh to join them, quietly, while she was in her lab. But before he'd had the chance to ask her phone buzzed and she dashed off with an apologetic smile and a less than explanatory - 'I have to go, it's my Dad.' He'd hoped that Speedle would turn up with her in his wake, but she didn't come. He didn't understand back then, because she kept so much to herself but he and Speedle shared beers with his father and Speedle teased him about the way he looked at Calleigh because they'd all but forgotten that day nearly a year ago, when they weren't friends. His father asked him who she was and with narrowed eyes in Speedle's direction he growled and shook his head.

"Come on, Son." His father insisted, having seen his son with that kind of look on his face before. It was Mariella Reyes in the eighth grade, if he recalled correctly, and Marisol had sing-songed at the dinner table one night, that Eric had a crush.

"She's a friend, Pa." Was his reply and Speedle laughed, rolling back on the sofa with his hand against his stomach as his father pressed him for more. "This is your fault, Speed." The man just laughed and mocked him by pretending to wipe tears from his eyes.

"You've gotta admit, Eric, you do kind of stare at her."

"No," Eric shook his head. "I don't. I respect her."

"And that means you can't ask her out?" Speed questioned, sharing a glance with Eric's father and Eric started to hate the fact that he'd introduced them.

"Like a boss," Eric pressed. "I respect her like a boss."

Speedle nodded, taking a swig of beer but Eric could see that he didn't believe a word that he'd said.

They went out for drinks the following night and Eric thought that the topic had passed, but as he chugged his beer and leant back on the bar-stool, one arm slung over the back, Speedle had brought it back up. "I know you like her." It was simple and matter-of-fact and Eric wanted to close his eyes against it, to ignore it. But, as he'd picked up over the past year, CSIs were very observant, Speedle ironically, in particular.

"Wouldn't matter." Eric muttered, fiddling with his beer bottle.

"Why's that?" And it was in that moment, that he'd realised Speedle was taking it very seriously. It was in that moment that he'd realised he'd gained one of his greatest friends, in the scruffy, gloomy, closet geek.

"She's a forever girl." He'd stated, not sure if Speed was going to catch the meaning, though he was pleasently surprised when the small smile on his face, indicated that he did.

"That she is." He'd nodded. "And one day you'll want that." Eric smirked in his friend's direction, taking a swig of his beer as Speed's face broke out in a grin. "And I'm going to be there, when you realise it and find yourself begging on your knees for her to give you a chance."

Eric laughed, holding his beer up and they clinked bottles. Little did they know.

Three years out of seven. He didn't make it.

Eric stood by her side at the funeral. He could see out of the corner of his eye, that there was a single tear streaming down her face. She didn't sniffle though, she didn't make any other outward signs that she was shattered inside. Because as close a friend as Speed had become to him, he'd been just as close to her. Movie nights and cold fried chicken on her couch, was never going to be the same.

Horatio gave a eulogy on behalf of the department. All the good things that their friend was and none of the bad. They didn't speak of the things he stole from Calleigh's kit or the way he hazed Eric in his first few weeks. He was Timothy Speedle, their brave and honorable colleague, their sarcastic yet honest friend and because 'forever girl' had become the code-word the two men shared for their tiny blonde friend, Eric didn't feel nearly as ashamed as he should have, when his hand tingled at the feel of her fingers entwining with his, clutching his hand until her knuckles were white as they lowered the casket and said their final goodbyes.

-------------------

Everyone was a little darker after that. Cases kept coming, killers kept killing and then there was Ryan and suddenly, Eric was the teacher. Suddenly he was Speedle and Calleigh would share her laughs with him, the way she used to with the man they never said the name of anymore, because their smiles stayed stronger when they never admitted he was entirely gone. Then eventually a severed head was funny and when she answered the phone, she stopped hiding the fact that she'd ask him to finish up because she had to go; her Dad was too drunk to drive home from the bar. She stopped being Calleigh the Forever Girl and became Calleigh, his best friend and when he heard that she was dating John Hagen; he swallowed his jealousy with six bottles of beer and a one night stand on the beach.

He'd thought that was the end for his chances, so he'd cut his losses and mourned in silence, never wishing to break her heart by interfering where he couldn't step up to the mark with his whole being. He smiled during the day and listened intently to her excited ramblings, all the while wishing to go home and scream into a pillow like his sisters used to do when their high-school boyfriends shattered their dreams of a white-picket fence future. Then one day it was all over because of something John had said, something that would never be repeated, and those silent mourning's had turned to barely contained rage. Suddenly, he stopped being the jealous guy that wanted what another man had within his stupid, arrogant grasp and he became the embittered best-friend who had the shovels ready in the back of his car, ready to dig whenever she gave him the heads up.

She slowly became aware of his willingness to be there for her, through rain, hail or the suicide of an ex-boyfriend and he'd felt a bastard for a moment, for ever joking - even in his mind - about helping her discard the bloodied remnants of John Hagen.

Friendship seemed easier after that. They built upon the cobblestones of shared experiences and they formed a bond that made it easy to laugh over a beer but harder to look each other in the eye without seeing too much. She caught the eye of Peter Elliot, someone he'd certainly never have pictured she'd be interested in and he'd wondered for a moment, if she was starting to feel the push to settle for second best. Every now and then, when she'd had a few too many Mimosas down at Brendan's after work, with his arm draped over the back of her chair and his ears far too open for such unguarded moments, she'd admit that she felt she was getting too old.

He'd laugh, but five beers under his own belt and he'd forgotten that was the wrong response. She covered his faux pas expertly though - it was somewhat of a specific skill she had - and she'd smile wanly and quietly clear her throat, agreeing that she was being silly for appearance sake. He always caught the treble in her voice, but he'd never quiet found the perfect way to make it right, so silence became his friend when his mouth so obviously was not. And he'd especially hated his lack of verbal finesse the night she'd told him, with a slight slur to her thickened Southern drawl that the only reason she wasn't drinking with Peter that night was because he was having dinner with his fiancé.

Nights like that were forgotten by her and catalogued by him as reasons to feel all more attached to her and he was surprised that she had more faith in him than he'd ever given her credit for. Her first instinct, when confronted with the idea that he was stepping out on his duties, was that there had to be a clearer explanation for why such a decorated man was buying marijuana off the streets. He knew that her faith in him wasn't completely doubtless, because for Calleigh Duquesne to trust implicitly, a hard road of proof and obstacles had to be overcome - and he made a note to ask Horatio for a map to that road - but it was something and he'd taken it wholeheartedly and under the proviso that he never disappoint her again. He knew he could never promise that, but he'd made a vow to himself to try his very best.

He hadn't expected she'd be so warm after Marisol's funeral. She hadn't known her at all, but he'd caught her eye across his sister's mahogany casket, where she stood with her arm linked in Horatio's and realised there really was no way he could have expected any less. She was Calleigh, and with each day that seemed to mean more and more. Her name seemed to harbour a more profound significance with each stolen glance, like a proverb or an ancient verse. She'd carried around the hors'durves and secretly handed more tissues to his mother when both women were sure they weren't being watched.

If he hadn't loved her before that moment, cramped in the livingroom of his parent's house in Little Havana - where he knew everyone and could barely speak while she knew no one but navigated the room with grace and better Spanish than he could manage at that moment - he'd have fallen in love with her then. And then it was back to work and the idea that she got more calls from his mother didn't make him as uncomfortable as it should have when they were 'just friends'. He knew his mother saw more, while he was only praying for more, but to her credit, she mothered the southern belle and divulged none of his secrets.

And he'd laughed the first day Calleigh had come to work with a small lunch bag and a smirk on her lips, laughing at the idea that Carmen Delko, his mother, had gone to her house the previous night with a pile of pack-lunches that smelt like a Cuban holiday. He'd shrugged his shoulders and complained that not even he had ever received such royal treatment, but she'd looked at him in that way that made them both sure they knew that wasn't true and they'd laughed about it on and off, until an undercover cop was shot, killed and Jake Berkeley was suddenly around every corner.

The irrational, troglodyte part of his brain had screamed that he didn't like the fact that she didn't need him to smile anymore and ironically, the rational part of his brain hadn't said much to the contrary.

She and Jake grew closer and he felt as though he'd lost her all over again because apparently six years of the closest friendship he had ever known, didn't compare to fifteen years distance from an old flame. She changed and it wasn't just her hair that seemed more flyaway than before. They didn't go out anymore because any time he asked, she had that look in her eye that he was sure meant -"I'm going to have to ask Jake." - and he hated that she felt she needed to ask permission. He also hated that she felt she could talk to him about her boyfriend and while he was glad that she still thought they had that kind of friendship, it was only a matter of time before he cracked.

And when he did, the surprise that he received in return was more than he'd ever bargained for.

She'd known.

For six long years, he'd been back and forth between pining for her, lusting after her, adoring her and loving her. All the while, hating her and she'd been sitting there, quietly, sweetly, looking in every other direction but straight at him and she'd known. For a split second, he'd loathed her, but then he'd seen the way her bottom lip was shaking, how she rubbed her palms together because they were sweating and he'd realised that there was something else there and the hate – that could never have really been tangible – had drifted away on the warm Miami tide. He didn't know what it was, but admitting to him that she'd known had made her more nervous than the idea of shaking down a suspect and that, in turn, unnerved him.

He'd lost his nerve after that, kept his cool and stayed silent, watching from the sidelines as she walked down the front steps with Jake. He made his dislike of the man no secret, but assured her that he'd never do anything to get in the way. Her eyes, for the briefest of moments, had looked like they'd asked him to take that promise back but it was gone before he could completely process it.

Then more often Jake wasn't there when she needed him and it had become so hard for him to be there in the boyfriend's stead that their friendship suffered. He couldn't just turn up at her house with a pizza and a stupid action movie, because she only asked questions he didn't want to answer and she didn't go looking for him on her lunchbreak because she was waiting to hear just a peep out of the man that had promised he'd be there, but never was.

He ached for her, even when he couldn't see why she didn't sever what was barely there - how could he? When he couldn't see in Jake, what she could see. And he'd have been lying if he said he wasn't glad Jake wasn't there to pull her away from his bedside when he was shot. Horatio had said she'd spent nights there with an open novel pressed to her chest as she slept, but then Alexx had done the same thing and he refused to hope that it had meant something more for Calleigh.

It was only after they'd thought Horatio was dead and they'd finally found something that made them stand together, that each of them had learnt a different lesson. It was only when she'd quietly told Jake that she didn't have it in her heart, to spend her life waiting, playing second fiddle to a job that was going to kill him, that Eric finally realised that for seven years, he'd been the bastard he'd never intended to be.

She had been waiting.

There she was, telling Jake that she couldn't wait for a man that couldn't love her enough and he felt both pride and resentment for the fact that that was exactly what she'd been doing for him. He tried to justify it to himself, by saying that it was different, but at its most basic level, it was anything but different and so blatantly - exactly the same - that it made him want to hit her upside the head and tell her she was being hypocritical. But then, it was Calleigh and she had been waiting, all these years, for a word from him; he couldn't help but feel that if she was being hypocritical, it was his fault. And he couldn't pass up the chance she was offering.

He'd always thought he could forgive her almost anything, and considering he'd never been overtly fond of Jake, he could be honest with himself in admitting that he really didn't care what the man thought. If he thought less of Calleigh that was his prerogative and his own loss, so it didn't weigh heavily on Eric's heart.

So, as he stood by the bar in the very first place he'd met with Calleigh all those years ago, when Speedle was onto his third beer and she was toasting his transfer to CSI - he smiled as he watched her walk through the doors. She was a vision in a fitted black dress; it was tight with a boat neck and brushed silkily against her thighs in slow motion as she caught his eye and walked towards him. Her skin was flushed from a day out on the beach, scavenging through evidence with Natalia and Wolfe. She blushed slightly, letting her cheeks pink only slightly before she cleared her throat and glanced at the dancefloor.

She was giving him the chance of a lifetime. With silence and smiling eyes. And for the first time since he'd met her, the only thing that worried him, was whether on not he'd step on her toes as he finally took her hand and asked her to dance.

The End.