A DOZEN YEARS OF "ALMOSTS": an Eric & Calleigh Retrospective

by Mia

Summary: Based partly on spoilers for episode 8.20. A retrospective of my favorite Calleigh & Eric "missed opportunity" scenes/moments throughout the series, told from Eric's P.O.V. as he sits vigil by her hospital bed in "Backfire."

(In some chapters, I'll exercise a bit of literary license to extend a few E/C scenes actually appearing in the show, and/or to add a "continuation scene" or two that I would've liked to see following certain E/C show-moments).

Featured Characters: Calleigh Duquesne and Eric Delko

Rating: T (PG-13). This fic will not turn into an "M," I promise (LOL)!

Disclaimer: I do not own the characters from "CSI: Miami," or any dialogue from episodic scripts that I've incorporated into my story. The rights to those characters, the scripts and to the show belong to the creators of the show, Jerry Bruckheimer Television, and CBS.


A Dozen Years of "Almosts": an Eric & Calleigh Retrospective

A/N: This first section is a bit longer than my other chapters will likely be, because it consists of a Prologue plus Chapter 1. Future chapters may be somewhat shorter.

Prologue

Eric sits numbly at Calleigh's hospital bedside, barely hearing the rhythmic beeping emanating from the nearby ventilator. He fights back tears of panic as he tenderly strokes the cool, pallid skin of her hand, noticing how small - how fragile - it feels in his palm. If someone had told him that he'd be in this position again just over a year after Calleigh's last brush with death, he would've laughed in their face and labeled them overly-pessimistic at best, and at worst, delusional. Admittedly, both his job and Calleigh's bring them face-to-face on a daily basis with the most morbid aspects of humanity, but, nonetheless, he would've liked to think that even fate couldn't be this cruel. Yet here he is again, keeping vigil over the woman he loves more than anything, fighting the sickening sense of dread that coils ever tighter in his gut. The feeling of déjà-vu is overwhelming and inescapable, weighing on his mind like a lead cloak.

Last year, when he sat in an eerily similar spot, praying to God, all the saints, and every deity he knew of to help Calleigh survive her near-fatal bout of smoke-inhalation, he told himself that if she did pull through, he would go to the ends of the earth to make sure she knew how he felt about her. Throughout his life, he'd heard the platitudes about "living each day like it was your last," and he'd always thought of them as somewhat trite; but they resonated deeply with him when he faced the real prospect of losing Calleigh for good. He vowed that if she came back to him from the brink of death, he'd bite the bullet and suggest that they be true partners, romantically as well as professionally. And if she said yes (which, thankfully, she did), he'd do his darndest to make her happy.

Those lofty intentions were, sadly, skewered in the wake of his subsequent screw-ups. Despite knowing how jealously Calleigh guarded her trust, and despite his determination to prove himself different from the succession of men who'd betrayed it, Eric simply ended up following their suit. He watched the glow of new love in her eyes gradually dim as he kept secrets from her; first about his biological father, and then, about his abrupt decision to leave CSI permanently.

Now, as he looks back on it all, Eric can't help but think about how much time he's wasted; and another wave of agonizing regret washes over him when he considers what his mistakes might cost him if Calleigh never wakes up. She might die without ever knowing just how much he loves her, because he's never actually said the words to her. Over the years, they've both hinted at it and talked around it, but he's never had the guts to lay his emotions completely on the line, and the possibility that he may never get to do so causes Eric's head to swim. He supposes that he shouldn't really be surprised at this painfully ironic situation - after all, in the dozen or so years he's known Calleigh, their relationship has often seemed like a series of missed opportunities and lost moments. The ambient noise from the hospital slowly fades away as Eric sits back and loses himself in the memories of the numerous "almosts" that have led them to this point ...


Chapter 1 - Introductions

The moment he first laid eyes on Calleigh Duquesne would be forever burned into Eric Delko's brain. A bit at a loss as to what to do with his chemistry degree from the University of Miami, he'd been working as a tow-truck driver (or "automotive recovery expert," as he preferred to call himself), so he could make some money while figuring out what to do with his life. That day, in a rather unusual and exciting turn of events, a car that he'd pulled from the Florida Everglades had become a crime scene when he'd discovered a dead body in the trunk. He'd just brought the vehicle in question to the MDPD's vehicle storage facility for police processing, when Calleigh first walked into his life. Truth be told, he felt her before he saw her; he sensed her approaching behind him, like a ball of energy or force of nature drawing him to her like a magnet to metal. When she called out to him to get his attention (little did she know how much of it she already had), he turned to face her, curious to see whose presence was causing the hairs on the back of his neck to stand up. When his gaze finally came to rest upon her, he felt like the wind had been knocked out of him. To call her "beautiful" was an understatement. "Stunning" was more like it, if his dumbfounded reaction to her was any indication. And she only made things worse - or better, depending on your standpoint - by giving him one of what he would come to think of as her trademark, vivacious Calleigh-smiles, with the power to weaken the knees and capture the heart of just about every red-blooded male she came into contact with. Her eyes were a vivid shade of emerald green, full of contagious enthusiasm coupled with a hint of sass and an undertone of wide-eyed innocence, which made him feel oddly protective of her.

As borderline-corny as it sounded, she looked like a cross between a sun-goddess and an angel, with pin-straight, glossy blond hair that hung down her back. Eric wondered at his sudden urge to run his hands through the lustrous strands, since he traditionally tended to gravitate towards brunettes; the taller and leggier, the better. In contrast, Calleigh was a potent dose of fair-haired femininity all wrapped up in a petite package. To sum it up, although she possessed all of the attributes that he didn't normally consider his "type," he nonetheless found himself totally, utterly, and completely gobsmacked by her. Eric usually regarded himself as pretty smooth when it came to interacting with attractive women, but he caught himself gawking at her like a fumbling teenage boy, sporting a silly grin as his eyes shamelessly swept over her form.

If he thought he'd been knocked flat on his rear just by her appearance, it was the sound of her voice that truly did him in. It was literally music to his ears, a melodic Southern twang that he already knew he'd never get tired of hearing. He wondered briefly whether her lilting accent would become more pronounced when she was excited, angry, or, better still, in the throes of passion. That last image was particularly distracting, and he had to force himself to focus on what she was actually saying so he wouldn't look like a complete fool.

From her perky introduction, he was able to glean that Calleigh was a new member of Horatio Caine's investigative police team, and that she'd come to take the car on his tow truck off his hands. Eric had run into Horatio occasionally over the past couple of years, when his towing services had been needed at one of H.'s crime scenes. Eric liked and respected Horatio, and normally, this might have caused him to think twice before hitting on a member of H.'s team. But before that cautionary thought could make it from Eric's brain to his mouth, he was asking for Calleigh's phone number, giving her that slow, suave smile that signaled that he was interested in much more than friendly chit-chat.

He'd scarcely uttered the cheesy pick-up line before Calleigh shot him down in the sweetest, but most cruel of ways: She burst into giggles. Despite the fact that she was turning him down cold, Eric couldn't help but join her in laughter, recognizing the humor in his somewhat uninspired overtures. Underneath it all, he quietly admired her spunk and willingness to call him on his B.S. One thing was for certain; the lovely Officer Duquesne was no shrinking violet. They'd only known each other for a grand total of two minutes, but already, she'd seen right through his feeble attempt at posturing and gone straight for the truth. That made her a refreshing change from his normal dating circles, where game-playing and little-white-lies were the norm.

Eric almost persisted, sorely tempted to remind Calleigh that he really wasn't, as she put it, "even remotely related" to her job. After all, he worked for a private towing company that wasn't under contract with the MDPD; and it was just a fluke that the car he'd pulled out of the Everglades happened to be related to a crime. He wanted to reassure her that their professional paths would never have a reason to cross, so it was okay for them to socialize after-hours.

But a little voice in his head made him hold his tongue. He'd only just met Calleigh, but Eric could already tell that she was a woman you committed to for the long-haul; not one of the girlfriends-of-the-week or flavors-of-the-month that he tended to favor so much at this point in his life. Right now, he had a feeling that he didn't have it in him to be the kind of man she deserved. He never wanted to be the one to put tears in her gorgeous jade eyes, and he'd most certainly end up doing just that if they got romantically involved. So he let her gentle rejection slide for the time being, answering her with a cryptic "we'll see ..." (If only he knew how prophetic his words would turn out to be!)

Looking back on it, it was probably for the best that they didn't date back then, since a few months later, at Horatio's suggestion, Eric enrolled in the police academy and then joined the MDPD's CSI team upon graduation. So he and Calleigh ended up being co-workers after all ...


This is my 1st multi-chapter "CSI: Miami" fic, so please R&R. I love feedback, but please be kind. Future chapters will depend in part on people's comments, esp. as to whether the theme of this story is an avenue worth pursuing. Thanks in advance.