The week that follows is one of the longest, most gruelling of their lives, but coming straight after the weekend they just experienced, it barely seems to bruise them. Calleigh rises early their last morning at the hospital, waking before her alarm even has a chance to sound. She slips from Eric's arms and he hardly stirs, showing her exactly how worn out he really is, despite his reassurance to the contrary. She contemplates sneaking out of the room without disturbing him but knowing he will panic if he wakes to her gone she quickly dismisses that idea.
She heads to the small ensuite. She has been dreaming of her steaming hot shower at home, knows the high pressure of the water beating down on her back would ease most of the tension she feels there. But having a shower here, doing as much as she can out of her morning routine here, delays the moment she will have to leave, the moment she will burst the little bubble they are living in together and face the world outside their hospital room. She steps out of the shower, dries off and slips into sweat pants and a tee-shirt. She didn't bring any work clothes with her when she hastily packed her bag days before. She towel dries her hair as best she can before combing it out and gathering it up into a bun. Eric will be disappointed, he loves her hair loose and flowing around her shoulders but she won't have time to blow dry it when she gets home and it will get horrifically frizzy if she leaves it out natural in this humidity. She takes her time with her makeup; at least she thought to throw that in when she packed. For some reason putting on her makeup has always soothed her. The well practiced almost mindless art, the steady brush of the eyeliner, careful swipe of mascara, slight tickle of the rouge brush. They all have the same effect on her, calming the nerves she is feeling at both leaving Eric and Xavier as well as heading back to work as the boss.
Finishing up she packs her stuff back into her bag and steps quietly out of the bathroom. She peers into the dimly lit room, but after the bright lights of the bathroom she can't quite make anything out. Turning back to the bathroom, she tries to pull the door closed with as little noise as possible, so focused on her task that when he speaks she jumps a mile.
"Hey Babe. It's not that time already is it?"
"Hey" she replies, turning back to him with a smile, waiting a few moments for her heart to stop pounding and her eyes to adjust to the light before heading over to him. It is not until she draws closer that she sees he is not the only one up. Xavier is wide awake also, staring at an old blue bear propped up near his head. One of Eric's arms is stretched over the side of the bassinet, his fingers lazily playing with the baby's tiny fists. She reaches for the bear as she pulls up next to the bassinet, tracing its soft fur and button nose with her index finger.
"Where did this little guy come from?"
"My mum and dad must have bought him in when they came back last night. He was on our chair. I didn't even notice him before, we have been sleeping on him all night. He used to be mine. Apparently I didn't sleep a night without him until I was 7. Then I got a transformer for my birthday. I still remember waking up with bits of plastic digging into me. Didn't stop me having it with me at all times for close to a year though. When I moved on from the transformer I never went back to this guy. Guess I had outgrown him by then."
Calleigh chuckles at his story, leaning over to press a kiss to Xavier's cheek before heading around the bassinet to give Eric a matching one, only to have him turn at the last moment and capture her kiss with his lips. He feels her smile against his lips before she pulls back, her hand threading through his hair and coming to rest at the top of his neck, her thumb rubbing softly behind his ear.
"You are going to make it impossible for me to leave here" she whispers, trying to fight the pull she feels before giving in and leaning back into him for another kiss. This time it is Eric smiling against her lips.
"Doesn't seem like you're trying very hard."
She sighs, pulling back just enough to press her forehead to his, her eyes drifting shut as their breathes mingle in the inch between their lips.
"I wish I didn't have to go."
"Are you nervous?"
"A little bit. I'm worried that I'm going to let Horatio down, that I won't be able to fill his shoes. I have so many people relying on me now and I'm worried that I won't be able to handle it all. And...I'm worried about leaving you. This weekend, we have been through so much. Some of it has been horrible. H and Nat, Ari. But some of it has been so wonderful. Getting you back, this beautiful little boy. I'm worried that the moment I leave, this little bubble the three of us are in is going to burst."
"Babe" he starts, reaching one hand up to cup her cheek.
"You have nothing to be worried about" he tells her as his thumb softly strokes the skin beneath her eye.
"I'm not saying it is going to be easy, but look what we have already come through. If we can get through this weekend and come out the other end stronger, then we can get through the few hiccups the next couple of days might bring us." Seeing his words are only have a slight effect on her he places a gentle kiss to her lips before pulling back enough to look properly into her eyes. Seeing them still firmly closed he sighs.
"Look at me babe" he urges, nudging her cheek softly with the hand he still has placed against her soft skin. Her eyes open immediately, the tears he sees threatening to fall almost break him.
"Cal" he chokes out, "I love you. I love you with all my heart and nothing, NOTHING that you might say or do, nothing anyone else might say or do, and nothing that might happen to or around us will ever change that. We might be in a little bubble now and everything is going to change when we leave here, but we just have to keep coming back to each other, back to this, Back to the three of us. I love you both so very much, and nothing is going to ever change that. We may stumble every now and then, and that's fine, as long as we keep coming back to this. Nothing will ever break us apart, I won't let it. I'll fight for us, forever."
The tears she has been trying to hold in fall at his words and when he sees them, he's a goner as well, his own falling in a steady stream down his cheeks. She chuckles, bringing her hands up to wipe his away, as his own fingers do the same for her.
"Look at us, a pair of cry babies. We've shed more tears these past few days than the actual baby."
He chuckles in response before leaning up to capture her lips. "I mean it Cal" he responds, not allowing her to deflect his attention. "If I have learnt nothing else these last few days, it's that you have to fight for what you want and I want you, no one else. We can get through whatever is thrown our way as long as we keep fighting for each other."
"I know Eric. I love you too, both of you. I'm worried that it's not enough though. I don't know what I'm doing here. I mean I couldn't even manage a relationship when it was just the two of us, and now there's this beautiful little boy to take into account as well. And add to that all that I have to do at work now. I'm the boss Eric. In charge of all those people. If something goes wrong with an investigation it's on me. If a criminal gets away with it, it's on me. H has always been on top of everything, doesn't let anything slip through the cracks. What if I can't do it Eric. What if I mess up. I just don't want anything or anyone to slip through. I can't Eric. I'm the boss now, I'm responsible for all of them, for everything. For the team, for the victims, for their loved ones. Shit Eric, I'm the boss now!"
Eric feels Calleigh try to pull away from him. Her hands start shaking and her breaths get shallower as she starts to panic over everything she has taken on. But he doesn't let her go, his hand leaves her cheek where it has been resting and slides round to the back of her head as he untangles the fingers of his other hand from the baby's grasp, quickly slipping his arm around her, both hands now working to pull her against him. She doesn't fight for long, she very quickly gives in to the pressure of his hands and falls into him, her face burying into his neck, her body curling over his as their legs tangle together. Within seconds her arms are burrowing around behind him, making him chuckle softly at their insistent wriggling until he lifts his body slightly so they can make their way, wrapping around him, pulling her even tighter. He feels the tremors in her body as she tries desperately to hold her sobs. He knew this break down was coming. Calleigh is a worrier, cannot bear the thought of letting someone down. He worries too, worries he is not enough for her, that she still doesn't trust him enough. He is just so very thankful she is letting him see her worries, her fears, really see her; it shows him how truly into them she truly is. Now it is his job to step up and show her. Show her what he sees.
"Oh Baby. You won't mess up. You will do things differently to H and that's ok. You might make a few mistakes at first and that's ok. But you are extraordinary Cal. The way you care about every person you come across, the way you go out of your way to make their lives better in any way you can. That is you Cal and it means that you will never fail at this. It is a big ask and will be a lot of long, hard work, but I know you will not let any of the team down. You will stand behind each of them one hundred percent, just like you have always stood behind me, even when I have done the wrong thing and let you down. And sure, they will make mistakes, will mess up investigations, mislabel evidence and bungle interviews, 'cause they are human Cal, and everyone makes mistakes. But it will not be your fault. Hell, how many times did we mess up when H was boss? Nearly every damn day someone did something stupid that had him scratching his head in disbelief. But it was how he handled it that made him the boss he is. He's not perfect Cal, none of us are, but he never gave up on any of us. He always supports us one hundred percent and he fights for each and every one of us. You are the same Cal. You will not give up, ever. I hate to say it Cal, but there will be cases that won't get solved and even perps that might get away with it, but just like when you were an investigator you will never give up on any of them. Will support the team whole hearted and fight for every victim, every loved one, make sure none of them are ever forgotten. You will not rest until you get them the justice they deserve. So as long as you keep fighting you will never let any of us down, especially H. The fact you are stepping up and even attempting to fill his shoes will be making him so proud. He loves you Cal, almost as much as I do, and you will never be a disappointment to him, never ever to me. Just keep being you Cal and you will get through this, we will get through this."
Eric feels Calleigh calming against him, the tension leaving her body as he runs his hand up and down her back. Her face remains pressed against his neck, her breath warming his skin, filling him with a fierce need to love and protect her.
He gives her a few minutes. Just lays there with her pressed against him as he listens to her breathing even out, her body stop shaking, and her arms relax their hold on him. A noise from Xavier has him glancing over at the baby and the clock on the wall behind him catches his eye. Damn, it has gotten late. They have been laying here longer than he realised. Cal will start to panic again if she stays much longer. She hates to be late. He knows he should get her moving, but he is so happy with her here. Letting her go is the last thing he wants. He gives into his selfishness for a few minutes more before he finally accepts the inevitable.
"Cal baby, you need to get going" he tells her, though his hold on her never relents. She doesn't pull away, instead she sighs against him.
"Yeah I know" but still she stays firm against him. He knows it is going to be up to him to push her. His girl, usually so strong and independent, cannot find it in herself to let go of him. He buries his nose in her hair, taking one last deep breath, memorising her scent to get himself through the long day ahead without her, before moving his hands to her shoulders and slowly pushing her away from him. Her body starts to move, but her head doesn't leave its place and her arms tighten their hold on him.
"Cal" he sighs, "you really need to get going."
"Trying to get rid of me?" she laughs, her smile pressing against him, her teeth nipping his skin.
"Cal" he warns.
"Sorry" she murmurs, clearly not sorry at all as her tongue comes out to tease the spot.
"Cal, you are really testing me here. I don't have that much self control" he warns her, a growl in his voice that has her giggling against him. But before he knows it she has risen off him with a sigh, her arms leaving him as her hands reach up to fix her hair and he misses her immediately, wants to reach out and pull her back down. She seems to read his thoughts and leans down to give him a kiss, a gentle press of her lips that leaves him wanting more. Who is he kidding, he always wants more, can never get enough of her. She moves around the room, gathering her things, settling the last of her nerves. He watches her from his chair, knows if he gets up he will be more of a hindrance to her than a help, will end up trying to find a way to make her stay. As she gets the last of her things and turns back to him to say goodbye one look at her face has him laughing.
"Babe, you might want to fix your make-up before you leave. Two words, stunned panda." The death glare she shots him as she heads into the bathroom kills any thoughts he may have had of following her in.
Minutes later she returns, her makeup perfect one more. She heads to Xavier first kissing his forehead.
"Have a good day sweet boy. I'll see you later."
She then heads for Eric, leaning over to kiss him one last time. As she pulls away she whispers against his lips so softly Eric nearly misses it.
He grabs her hand before she can get away, her eyes immediately finding his questioning ones.
"For talking me down yet again Eric. I don't think I would get through this without you. You make me believe I just might be able to do it. So thank you."
"Babe, you don't have to thank me. You can do it, I'm just telling you what you can't see. You never have to thank me for the truth."
Calleigh finally heads out of the hospital, the sun much higher in the sky than she would have liked, but she is still early enough to head back to her place, change and get her things before heading into work, cutting it a lot finer than she wants, but still leaving her enough time to get there and get her bearings before she has to start dealing with everything. She drives home, her thoughts on Eric and Xavier more often than she would ever admit, much more often than those of her day ahead, but as she rushes to get ready and races back to her car her mind shifts, while her boys are still at the back of her mind, they always will be, her thoughts are now set firmly on her day to come, what she will face, what she will have to deal with.
As she pulls into the parking lot she hesitates for a second as she passes Horatio's bay, his name has already been covered with tape, her own now neatly written in marker, but she doesn't stop, she keeps driving and parks in her usual bay. She takes a moment to gather herself, several deep breaths calming her before she gets out the car and heads to the large glass building she has entered so many times without a second thought. Walking past Horatio's bay she rips the tape off, glad to see his name still boldly printed below before she steps up to the door of the building, reaching out to grasp the handle and pull the heavy glass towards her a determined focus settles upon her, the last of her nerves drifting away as she steps through the doorway. She can do this. For Horatio, for Eric, for herself.
She is waylaid as soon as she enters the building, everyone she passes stoping her to ask after Horatio and Natalia and congratulate her on her 'promotion'. It is a good twenty minutes later when she finally steps off the elevator and the first thing she sees has her heart stopping. Horatio's office is lit up like every other morning and for a second she expects to see him starting back at her over his desk as she approaches the doo, like the last few days have all been a dream. Instead it is not H in his office but rather one of the admin girls clearing his things into boxes. Calleigh refuses to even enter the office, the poor girl nearly crying when Calleigh yells at her to stop before shooing her out, turning off the lights and firmly pulling the door closed behind her. Everyone in the lab watches as she pulls out the set of keys she had been given upon her arrival and sorts through before finding the right one, the click of the lock in Horatio's door echoing around the otherwise silent lab.
"Horatio will be back and until that time we are to keep the lab running as best we can without him. But we will not be replacing him. His parking bay is always his, as is his office and the only person that will ever change that is Horatio himself. So as long as I am in charge you will find me over here" she says as she indicates one of three empty conference rooms across the hall, "we can make do with only two conference rooms for the time being. No one is to step foot in Horatio's office. If you need to for any reason you come to me. Do you all understand?" she questions, the immediate nods of every head turned her way drawing a smile to her lips, a smile that is quickly matched by each and every person there. "Good, now if ya'll don't mind I'll just make myself at home here. Can someone help me move some of this furniture around?"
Author's Note: Terrible place to end the chapter I know, but the chapter was too long to upload as one. Enjoy xxx