This story is set in the current season. Where we flash back to is a varied version of the Season 7 Premiere episode 'Resurrection'. (And/or what would be considered to be deleted scenes from the episode.) All flashbacks are written in italics. The title comes from the Mark Twain quote that Calleigh mentions in Season 3 episode 4 'Murder in the Flash' - "The best of all lost arts is honesty."
I know it would appear that I am a little fixated on baby-fic at the moment and perhaps I am, but this is the idea that has come to me and it is particularly close to my heart, so I went with it. Please enjoy and know that I've done my best to respect the characters, as they are, in a situation that they have not been before.
With a determined stride, sunglasses in hand, Horatio headed toward the elevator with Calleigh, purposefully in tow. Frank had caught their suspect and with a great deal of time invested in this case, both Calleigh and Horatio had made a silent pact to be there when the man got the dressing-down of his life. And, as a team, the pair were fully intent to take part in his interrogation.
Calleigh in particular, was practically seething with the want to strangle the man. The torturing of a five-year-old girl and her grand-mother was just not something that was going to leave her subconcious for quite some time. The image was imbedded there, like a constant, sharp, pain to the back of her mind.
The rustle of Horatio's suit jacket and the swift clacking of Calleigh's heels on the ground, parted the sea of people before them as they passed the reception desk, though with a single inquisitive voice and the silence around them, their momentum came to a sudden halt.
"Officer Duquesne, there's a call for you from a Miss Shelby?" The officer behind the reception desk had a curious tone. Obviously, he'd never fielded a call from this particular woman and was somewhat confused that one with a very high pitched and almost condescending voice, from 'Lollipops DayCare Center' would be calling for Officer Duquesne.
Calleigh quickly glanced to Horatio who silently urged her to take the call, indicating that he would wait a few paces behind her. Tentatively, and with a small, gracious, smile; Calleigh took the phone and raised it to her ear. "This is Officer Duquesne."
"Oh, thank goodness," The woman on the other end of the line - Miss Shelby - exclaimed. "I've been trying to call you."
"Is everything alright?" Calleigh enquired, turning to meet Horatio's eye. He was standing to the side of the desk, twisting his glasses between his fingers as he watched her brow furrow.
"Yes, but," There was a pause on the line and Calleigh could feel her heart quickening. "I understand that Cleo's father was to be picking her up today?"
Calleigh's heart dropped into her stomach. "Yes, I," She stammered. "He would have picked her up," She checked her watch and her eyes bulged. "over two hours ago."
Silence on the other end of the line did little to nothing, to allay Calleigh's sudden fears. "Well, I'm sorry Miss Duquesne, but he hasn't yet arrived and the children have started arriving for their after-school-care, classes."
"You mean to tell me that Cleo is still there?" Calleigh met Horatio's eye when his head shot up, hearing now, the reason for the quiver in her tone. She didn't know what she was going to do. Panic rose in her throat and her heart was beating faster. Rage overtook her for a moment, fury at the man that had promised her he'd have their daughter home with him. Anger toward the man that had promised he'd be there, this one time.
She heard the ding of the elevator, turning, her cheeks reddened as Eric calmly made his way across the lobby. He shared a glance with Horatio, furrowing his brow at Calleigh's rigid spine and fists clenched tightly against the counter-top. Horatio looked away, avoiding eye-contact with either of them as Eric placed a gentle hand on Calleigh's shoulder, pressing his palm to her shoulder-blade and running a soothing hand across her back. She tensed even more, studiously ignoring his touch to the best of her ability.
"I apologise, Miss Shelby. I can't step away from work at the moment, but I'm going to send an officer over to pick her up. If you could please, for my peace of mind, ask for his identification before handing over my child?"
Calleigh could clearly hear the relief in the woman's voice as she spoke again. "That won't be a problem, Miss Duquesne. And, please, don't worry about the overtime, Cleo is a dear and the older children adore her. I understand that this situation was beyond your control and as long as it doesn't become a regular occurance, I'm happy to leave it just as it is."
"Well," Calleigh's shuddered breathing, slowly started to even out. "I appreciate that, Miss Shelby, thank you. Someone will be by to pick her up as soon as possible."
With a shaky hand, Calleigh slowly handed the phone back to the reception-desk officer and cautiously turned back toward Horatio, and Eric standing just behind her shoulder.
"Calleigh?" Eric breathed, concerned.
Pressing her eyes closed, Calleigh fought to control her anger. She wanted to hit something, a wall, the desk, Horatio, Eric, anything or anyone to eradicate the rage building within her. She'd never felt so betrayed, so humiliated and so infuriated. He had promised. He said it was fine, he'd said that he'd be there. Two hours, he'd left their daughter at daycare and the sun was already starting to set beyond the silhouettes of the palm trees, on the Miami horizon.
Opening her eyes again, Calleigh quivered beneath Eric's hand as she looked up at him. He could see then, the red rimming her eyes and the sharp green colour her eyes had taken in her anger. "Jake has left Cleo at daycare." She stated with barely contained fire. "It's been more than two hours and he didn't even call!" She practically sobbed the last of her sentance, feeling Eric's arm enclose her slightly, wishing that she could just fall into his embrace, though she knew she couldn't.
"I'll go." Eric whispered, hugging her to his chest with his arm around her shoulders. He kissed the top of her head and though normally, she would protest the gesture at work, she didn't fight the small touch of comfort.
Neither of them acknowledged Horatio standing there, quietly watching the exchange. He simply waited patiently for Calleigh, watching to see if his aid was needed before she inevitably returned to her professional, guarded self.
"Please," Calleigh rasped and Eric turned around, halfway towards the elevator and halfway back to her. "bring her back to me. Don't take her home. I want her here."
Eric closed the distance again, reaching out to wrap her in his arms briefly. He kissed her forehead and Calleigh dabbed at the tears that hadn't yet fallen, smiling through the anger she just couldn't seem to quash.
"We'll be back before you know it." He promised, letting her go and making his way back to elevator. He slowed his pace before he reached it, just in case she called him back again. But she didn't. He was safely enclosed and already descending when she finally released a long breath.
"I know she's fine," She admitted, seemingly speaking to Horatio, though she hadn't looked away from the elevator.
"Of course she is." His answer was simple and true. A fact, because Horatio was good with facts. His comfort right now, was not what she needed. But his facts, they would help. She wasn't going to break down, Horatio knew that. She'd punch through a glass wall before she'd cry in the lobby and he trusted her to gather herself, take a breath and calm herself before they left for the interrogation rooms. He knew that her quivering frame would abate once she got her mind back in her work and he knew that the reddness around her eyes was out of rage, if nothing else. She was strong and he had no doubts that the situation would be dealt with, swiftly and without recourse.
Calleigh nodded, taking a breath before looking up to him with a small smile that didn't reach her eyes. He could see the anger there, brimming behind her clenched teeth. But it was anger for Jake and an anger that may just cause their suspect to wish he'd never been born.
"Papi!" The squealling voice of Cleo reached his ears before he'd even raised his hand to the intercom. Eric smiled to her through the bars into the playground. He couldn't get to her from where he was, but the smile on her face melted his heart, regardless.
"I'm coming to get you, mija, just a minute, okay?" She waved her little hand, waddling off towards the doors back in to the center and picking up a rainbow coloured ball as she went. Pressing the intercom button, Eric moved closer when he heard a woman's sweetly voice from the other side. "Ah, I'm here to pick up Cleo Duquesne."
The door buzzed and Eric ducked inside, making his way down a narrow hall before he came to the reception desk. He smiled down at the girl, quickly taking his badge from his belt and resting it on the counter. "I'm here to pick up Cleo Duquesne." He restated, unsure as to whether this was the same woman he'd just spoken to over the crackly intercom.
"Yes, I heard." She smirked and Eric rolled his eyes with a smile.
"Papi!" His head spun around at the sound of her voice. She was rested on the hip of an older woman wearing a floral shirt and glasses held on with a gold chain. She had her arms stretched out to him, kicking her legs and reaching for him as desperately as she could.
"Are you Mr Berkeley?" The older woman frowned, obvious disaproval in her tone and Eric's eyes widened.
"Oh, no, ma'am." He exclaimed, holding his hands up in surrender as though she were going to decline handing Cleo to him if he were to say yes. Obviously, this woman held a certain distaste for Jake. Eric wasn't really all that surprised. "I, um," He stammered. "she calls me Papi. I'm, sort-of...kind of like..."
Her frown eased away. "It's alright. I understand." She grinned, finally stepping foward to allow Cleo to grasp Eric's shirt. He could do little more than take the girl into his arms and when she practically squealed with delight, wrapping her arms around his neck, he could do nothing but smile blindingly. "We see a lot of different kinds of families through here, Mr-"
"-Delko." He helped her. "Eric Delko." She nodded, smirking. "Listen, I'm sorry that Jake didn't pick her up on time. I mean, if Calleigh or I had known, we'd have come right away."
She raised her hand, shaking her head with a chuckle. "I assure you that it's fine, Mr Delko. Calleigh has never been late before and we all adore Cleo here. We don't mind such a minor slip." Her tone slowly turned firm, but no less kind. "Though, this is a business and if it becomes a habit we will be forced to charge Miss Duquesne for the overtime care."
"I completely understand." Eric nodded, his expression serious even as Cleo giggled on his hip, reaching for the little Disney Princess knapsack that the younger receptionist was handing her. She hugged it to her chest, finding difficulty holding it up if it weren't for Eric's free hand, helping her. He jostled on her hip, finding a comfortable position where he could hold her, the knapsack and his keys with relative ease. "Say goodbye to Miss Shelby." Eric encouraged Cleo and she beamed, waving her chubby little hand.
The blonde curls on top of her head bobbed as she dropped her head to Eric's shoulder, coyly snuggling closer. "Goodbye, Cleo." Both the women waved as Eric pushed his way out the door.
"Guess where we're going, mija." He smirked, buckling her into the seat in the back of Calleigh's car. He remembered the sadness in her eyes, the day she'd traded in her sky-blue crossfire for the silver BMW. He remembered thinking that trading a Chrysler for a BMW was really only something Calleigh could be upset about, with a small chuckle. But she'd loved that car and it made him smirk every time he borrowed this new one that had a safe-n-sound seat in the back and toys all over the floor. The image of a seven-month pregnant Calleigh behind the wheel in the showroom, near to tears over trading for a sedan, was an image that wasn't going to leave him any time soon. Sometimes he even brought it up, when he was feeling risque, knowing that discussing Calleigh's rather emotional state in the last few months of her pregnancy had been like playing a game of Russian Roulette.
"Beach!" The little girl bounced in her seat, making it difficult for Eric to get the last clip in place.
"Nope, guess again, mi pequeña princesa."
"Helado?" Her little brow furrowed, confused.
Eric chuckled. "No, mija, no ice cream. We're going to see Momma at work."
Her large, green eyes lit up brightly. Her lips widened in a glistening smile, just like her mother's, and it was in moments like that, where he saw the utter joy on her face, that he most greatly appreciated that she looked so much like Calleigh. She had Jake's easier-to-tan complexion, but everything else was Calleigh. From her green eyes to her blonde hair. Her laugh was contagious and her brain worked a mile a minute, just like her Momma.
Making her way out of the interrogation room, Calleigh knew that she should have felt accomplished. The man had confessed, been charged and packed off to a holding cell. They'd pulled another killer off the streets but she felt no better for it. Horatio had had to pull her back from him a few times as she'd recklessly faced-off with the man. She'd gotten within an inch of his face before Horatio's hand at her elbow had pulled her back, before his breath against her ear had whispered to her to calm down, that Cleo was fine and that she should take her anger out on Jake.
Horatio knew that the man deserved everything he got from her, but part of Calleigh thought that maybe Horatio didn't want her to burn herself out before she got a chance to tell Jake exactly how he'd made her feel. She'd placed her trust in him, again, and he'd disappointed. She didn't need to be wasting her frustration on their suspect. She needed to put as much conviction into her later conversation with Jake if he was ever going to understand just how important Cleo was. She knew, without doubt, that Jake loved Cleo with all of his heart. She'd seen him with her countless times. She knew that he'd do anything to make her happy. But he was careless and frivolous and his job was still more important. He would defend himself that at least she was safe, but Calleigh didn't have the luxury of affording him excuses.
Partly, she blamed herself. She'd known for years that she couldn't rely on him, not really. She'd known since before Cleo was born.
Calleigh looked up from her scope as she heard the sound of her lab door being opened. Immediately, her soft expression of focus in her work, hardened to an anger-filled scowl. Her eyebrows pulled together, her shoulders clenched and her back, though already straight from her efforts to ward off a constant ache, straightened still.
"I don't want to talk to you." She stated. Matter-of-factly and leaving no room for question or rebuke.
"Calleigh," He admonished, subconciously holding out his hands in a sign of surrender, but she was already looking back down at her striated bullet, doing her best to ignore him and the seering fire shooting up her spine. "Calleigh, please, let me explain."
She snapped. For all her efforts at staying calm and collected, she couldn't hold back any longer. Known as the one that could endure anything, stay strong and stoic in the face of all adversity, Calleigh Duquesne, snapped.
"Five months, Jake!" She shrieked, spinning back to him. "I have been pregnant, five months!" She was seething. "You've had that long to get your act together, you promised me. But you've been absent three out of five, my Doctor doesn't have a clue what you look like and asks about you every time I have to turn up with my Dad, or worse, alone. God, Jake? What am I supposed to do?"
He took a step back. Calleigh's face was red and her hands were clenched in fists against the countertop. She took long, calming breaths that did nothing to douse the flames in her heart. Her heart was broken, torn asunder and she was more ashamed of the fact that she'd seen this coming.
"I missed the appointment?" He questioned, his voice sounding almost innocently unaware that that was exactly what had triggered an anger that had been a long time building on small things amounting.
"Missed the appointment," She gasped in an exsasperated, frustrated breath; annoyed that all he could state was the obvious. "Jake, I thought that when we found out about this baby, things would change. You promised me that you were getting out, that we were going to try and make this work."
"Calleigh," He tried to jump in, no doubt to attempt to defend himself. But she wasn't having any of it.
"It's not working." She stated simply, softly, firmly and finally.
His face fell. "Calleigh, no."
"I can't do it, Jake. The stress is not good for me, it's not good for her." Jake's eyes widened and she could see by the way his chest rose and fell, faster than before, that his heartrate had quickened. "That's right, Jake, we're having a little girl. Her heart sounds like a galloping pony and she's beautiful," She breathed out the last. "and I had to sit there today, holding Eric's hand while I found out that you and I were having a daughter, because you were nowhere to be found. Do you have any idea how that made me feel?"
Jake's jaw hardened. "You went with Eric?" He practically spat the name and Calleigh's nostrils flared in anger. She stood up, holding a hand to the purple fabric stretched over her pronounced belly as she rounded the table towards him with purposeful strides.
She raised a finger, shaking it at him before her fury could form just the right words. "You have no right!" She boomed. "Yes! I went to the appointment today, with Eric. And you know why? Because he was here, Jake. Eric is here. He is here, every damned day and you! You can't even find it in you to be here for a whole week at a time. You don't tell me where you're going, when you'll be home. You don't even tell me when you're leaving! You know what," Her anger dissepated suddenly and she took a step back. "I'm done fighting about this. Just leave."
"Calleigh," He'd barely said a word, knowing deep down that the words he had said, were undoubtedly the wrong ones but he wanted another chance. Dealt no small amount of second chances from Calleigh, he knew that he was wishful to hope for just one more, but it was possible, he thought, with Calleigh it was possible. She wanted this as much as he did.
"No," She shook her head, stepping back from him as she cast her eyes away. "no, Jake. No more fighting, no more trying and no more second chances. I want you to leave, now. And I want you and your things gone from my house by the time Eric drives me home."
"Eric again," He muttered and even as the words had left his mouth, he'd known it was the wrong move. It was a stupid, characteristic move that had gotten him in hot water countless times before. But this wasn't hot water now, this was the bottom of the dried up pool he'd been hopping in and out of, non-challantly for the entirety of their relationship. He just never realised that he'd ever find a way to push her right over the edge.
"Yes! Eric!" She screamed. "Because I'm not getting in the car with you, Jake and he offered."
"So you told him about this, you planned this?" He felt that he had a right to know, about that in the least. What he didn't need to know was that she was making this up as she went along.
Calleigh sighed, almost deflated and her voice softened, her effort expelled. "When I left the doctor's office and broke down into tears in the hall, Jake - because we're having a little girl," She smiled through the tears that were rimming her eyes. "Eric was there. You weren't and that's the biggest problem. You're never here. You've never been here when I needed you. Never."
"I can be here!" He fought.
"No Jake," She shook her head, moving behind her workbench again, as a measure of protection. "you've proven time and again that you can't. Please, just go."
There was a few moments of silence between them, the air thick with unsaid disappointments before Jake's voice broke through. Calleigh's hand was rested on the dial of her scope, feigning to return to her work, when the sound reached her ears.
"I have rights, you know." She knew he was referring to their unborn baby.
"Yeah," She nodded. "you do. We'll work something out, Jake. But right now, you and I are over."
Jake left without another word. Calleigh listened to the sound of the door click closed before the silence engulfed her and she felt as though a thousand bricks had landed on her chest. She tried hard to breathe, bracing her hands on the edge of the bench as she took air in slowly and let it out in a shuddering release. Her chest contorted painfully and she wanted desperately to run out into the hall and call his name. But she knew that even though she was desperate to take it all back, she'd meant every word.
She couldn't raise a child with a man that was never there when she needed him. She couldn't raise her daughter to rely on a man who couldn't be there, if not for her mother, then to hear her sing at her school play. She couldn't let her daughter grow up with the same expectations from men that she had; none. If she couldn't be with someone who was going to put his family first; raise her daughter with someone that was going to be there. Then she was going to absolutely and resolutely, do it alone.
Calleigh blinked, shaking her head to get rid of the painful memory even though she knew it was never going away. She could recall that entire day with startling clarity because on top of everything Jake had or hadn't done, it was also the day that they'd all thought Horatio was dead. She remembered standing out on the rain-washed tarmac, holding her head in one hand - not even caring to hold back her hair, whipping in the wind - with her other hand pressed to her belly as she broke down in tears. She remembered glancing up at Eric, seeing that he could barely breathe. She remembered the pain and the anguish in his eyes, when he'd reefed the collar of Ryan's shirt towards him, demanding an explanation.
She remembered standing by Eric that day, feeling a fury for more than one man and an ache in her heart for her best friend. With reddened eyes and a rigid spine, she'd demanded that they catch whoever was responsible for Horatio's murder, leaving behind her own joy on the unforgiving asphalt as Eric helped her into the Hummer, vision blurred and lips pressed tightly into a thin line.
They'd only been heading back from her doctor, when Ryan had made the call that Horatio was down.
But then, everything changed. Horatio was fine and she and Eric were fine. Ryan wasn't dirty, Jake showed up with the guns from the Crypt-Kings and the lab regained it's balance. And Calleigh then remembered how it felt to know that while the lab had found it's footing, she was never going to be standing on the same feet again. She was a single mother with a half-finished nursery, a sports-car to trade in and a wardrobe full of six-inch heels that she hadn't been able to wear in over three months.
"There's your momma!" Calleigh jolted out of her thoughts when she heard the sound of Eric's voice following the ping of the elevator and she spun around quickly, her hair whipping across her face as she crouched down to the ground, scooping Cleo into her arms as her little girl awkwardly ran towards her, holding her arms out wide.
"Hi baby." She sighed, lifting Cleo up into her arms as she hugged her tightly, kissing her cheeks.
"Momma, Papi came to get me from school!"
Calleigh smirked at Eric over Cleo's little shoulder. "Yes, I know."
"Can we go for ice cream now?" She questioned, looking into Calleigh's eyes and she laughed, glancing at Eric who raised his hands in order to profess his innocence.
"I promised her nothing." He defended and Calleigh shrugged.
"It's alright, we'll get her some on the way home." Lowering Cleo back down to the ground, Calleigh held her hand tightly and crouched down to her level. "Sweetpea, we're going to go home soon. But I still have some work to do. How about, you come with me while I see Tio Horatio and then you, me and Papi will get some ice cream. How does that sound?"
Cleo raised her arms with a squeal of delight. "Yes!" She boomed and Calleigh laughed, switching her hand into her left so that they could walk down the hall together. Eric followed them close behind, smiling at the way Calleigh had to bend slightly to the left because Cleo was so small for her age. That was another thing that she had from Calleigh, that he loved; her size. Sometimes people thought that she was well under eighteen months old, even though to Calleigh and him, she was clearly three years. She was, petite, for lack of a better word. And like her mother, it meant that it was all the easier for him to hold them both in his arms.