"Calleigh, I saw him," Eric whispered, holding her close in the privacy of the lab. "I saw him." It felt so real. Not like a ghost, or a hallucination, but like he was really there, talking to him, helping him with that crime scene.
"Oh Eric," she murmured, ghosting her fingers over his cheek. "I wish you had. You know that."
"I did," he insisted in vain, pulling her closer to him. "He looked good."
"Of course he did." She wasn't sure if her proclamation was a comfort or a curse. It could go either way, she supposed. But there was no way that Speed could look anything but good. "If it was real, though, Eric, why isn't he here with us?"
He didn't have an answer to that. "I…I don't know," he said dejectedly, his shoulders slumping forward. "But it was real, Calleigh, you have to believe me."
She smiled her famous Calleigh smile and patted his shirt. "I believe you," she said, pecking his cheek and straightening his shirt. "I just wish that it was real," she mentally completed the sentence.
There was activity on his credit card. There shouldn't be activity on his credit card. They exchanged glances as they found out. "Calleigh?" Eric asked, feeling sick to his stomach. "Could it be?" Neither of them had to finish the question, they both knew the answer.
And as they tracked the activity on the card, and discovered it was currently being used at a bar, Calleigh prepared herself mentally for what could happen when they found out who was on the other end. It could be a bank mistake, a very convoluted mistake at that. Or it could be identity theft. Who better to steal an identity from than a long-deceased valued member of the community? Or…she didn't dare to think about the third option. It was too painful to think about.
She made her way gracefully through the bar, carefully investigating the face of every patron, looking for who could be the perpetrator.
And then she saw a familiar person, hunched over the bar, nursing an amber-colored drink. She made her way over, and took the stool next to him. "Hi," she said brightly.
The person looked up from his drink and looked over at her. "Calleigh?" he whispered, not daring to believe it.
Hearing the person's voice, her heart plummeted into her stomach. "Oh…oh God," she said, feeling faint. "Is it?"
"It's me, Calleigh," Speed said quietly, his eyes tired, a thin coat of facial hair coating his chin. "I never thought I'd see you again."
She grasped onto the bar, feeling her sweat drip onto the wood. Sure, she had thought about what would happen if he was still alive, but she thought it was something that would be reserved for the nighttime hours. And this was, she glanced out the window to see the sun shining in, most definitely not nighttime. Taking a fold of skin between her index finger and thumb, she pinched herself. "Owwww," she muttered under her breath.
"You're not dreaming," he said, downing the remainder of the glass and turning to face her. "So you don't have to pinch yourself."
"You can't blame me for thinking this is a dream," she said.
"I guess not."
"Calleigh? Did you find out anything?" Eric ambled over.
"Eric," Speed said, glancing over at him.
Eric's eyes widened as he looked at Calleigh. "Is it…?"
"Yes, it is," she murmured, shuffling her feet. "I…I think we should move this conversation somewhere else."
"That would…be a good idea," Speed said, getting up from his barstool. "We have a lot of things to talk about."
"So," Calleigh said a short time later, pouring each of them a glass of iced tea. "You expect to waltz right back into our lives, three years later, and expect everything to be just as you left it?"
"That's not what I meant at all, Calleigh," Speed said, sipping the iced tea. "I just…I thought you both would take me coming back better."
"Speed," Eric said, watching the ice cube drift lazily through the liquid. "You don't know how much she cried when we thought…"
"I cried?" she said, her eyebrows flying upward in shock. "I seem to recall that both of us cried our share of tears, Eric Delko."
"Okay, so, we did," he amended. "But we took it hard, Speed. Very hard."
"Aren't you two a couple now, though?" He had noticed how they looked at each other. There was no way they weren't together.
Calleigh let out a sigh and looked over to Eric for guidance. "Yes. That didn't come about until about six months ago though."
"You two had been broken up?" He frowned slightly. A part of him had entertained the notion that the two of them had remained together, but grief made people do crazy things. Silently, he cursed that he had ever agreed to take the mission, with all of the risks it entailed. If he hadn't, then everything would have been easier for all of them.
"In the direct aftermath of your death, yes," Calleigh said. "And then we began making up for lost time when we realized how little of it we actually had." She reached over for Eric's hand and gently squeezed it.
For a few moments, none of them spoke. Speed glanced between the two of them. A part of him had hoped that they'd take him back easily. But nothing in their lives was ever easy. He had never really contemplated what changes the intervening years would bring to them. When the opportunity to come back had presented itself, he ran with it. Now, a part of him wished that he had decided to stay put.
"If you'd be happier without me, I'll just leave," Speed said, breaking the silence. "No need to hang around where I'm not welcome."
Calleigh looked over at him, a fire dancing in her eyes. "Don't you dare walk out that door, Timothy Speedle."
"Because I still love you, man," Eric said. "And I've never stopped loving you, or Calleigh. Not for a moment."
Speed cast a glance at Calleigh, the words remaining unspoken. The words didn't have to be spoken. They both knew what was being asked with his expression.
"You know I've never stopped loving you, Speed," Calleigh said, cracking a smile. "We were hurt."
"I understand that," he said, scuffing his heel against the chair leg. "And I wish I could…"
"Stop right there," Eric said. "We can't keep living in the past."
Calleigh nodded. "That's what Eric and I learned."
"You two are so happy together. I can tell it just by looking at you. Why would you need to add me back into the equation?"
"Because we still love you, if you missed the memo before. It's going to take time to rebuild what we had," Calleigh said, reaching out a hand to Speed. "But I'm willing to try, for what we did have."
"As am I," Eric replied, placing his hand next to hers. "Only if you're willing to try as well."
Speed looked between Calleigh and Eric; their faces so inviting and warm… it was like he was living in a dream. It was what he had been missing all this time, all the nights alone. Three long years of waiting for the moment he was sure would never come. He reached out his hand, resting gently on their palms, feeling the contours of their individual hands beneath his fingertips. "Of course," he said.
Calleigh pulled him into a firm embrace, with Eric wrapping his arms around both. "It's so good to have you back," she whispered.
"We have a lot to catch up on," Eric said, a glint sparkling in his eyes.
"So why don't we start now?" Speed asked, pressing his lips to Eric's. "No better time than the present, after all. We can't keep living in the past." He echoed Eric's words from earlier.
"Using my own words against me now, are we?" Eric said, laughing idly, pulling Speed close to him. "Not that I'm protesting…"
As the moon hung high in the sky later that night, silvery stars pricking through to the earth below, Speed lay wedged between Calleigh and Eric, a thin blanket their only cover. Faint snores emanated from a sleeping Eric, and Speed threaded his fingers idly through Calleigh's hair. "You startled me," she whispered, turning over to face him.
"I didn't realize you were still awake," he said, a sheepish grin crossing his face. "Sorry."
"Don't apologize," she said, running one hand over his face. "Today has been…well, not what I expected."
"I didn't expect it to happen this way either, to be fair."
"How did you expect it to happen?"
"If I was going the cliché way, it would have been showing up on your doorstep in the pouring rain with a bouquet of a dozen red roses and a box of chocolate."
"I meant the Timothy Speedle way, not a chick flick."
"I don't know. I hadn't thought that far ahead."
"How long have you been back in Miami?" she asked, asking the question that she had been secretly wondering ever since that afternoon.
He counted backward in his head. "I landed a week ago."
"Where were you before this?"
"Somewhere really far away from Miami, it was the total opposite of warm and sunny. I ended up missing it here, believe it or not."
"Missing Miami, or missing Eric and I?"
"Both, actually. More you two though, I could have lived with the snow and changing seasons if I had certain people with me."
She grinned. "We missed you too. Things have been rough here."
"I know," he whispered. "Well, I don't know the details, but I know that it couldn't have been easy here."
"Never leave us again?" It was more of a plea than anything. She didn't want to go through more emotional turmoil, not after the tantalizing promise of something more stable.
"Never, Calleigh. That's a promise." He gently kissed her. "Now, let's get some sleep."
"Okay," she said, turning over. "Love ya," she murmured as she drifted off.
"Love you too," he whispered, settling his head on the pillow. It was a long time coming, but he was home again, right where he belonged.
Author's Note: The possibility of me continuing this into a series is not out of the question, just unlikely at this point in time. For now, it's finished as is.
Thanks everyone for reading!