Title: Flicker
Fandom: CSI: Miami
Characters: Calleigh Duquesne/Eric Delko
Prompt: 033. Too Much
Word Count: 1049
Rating: PG
Summary: "You don't have to worry about me, you know that, right?" "I'm always worried about losing you, though. Too many close calls." Post-ep to 10.02.

"You doing okay?" Eric asked, cornering Calleigh sitting in the locker room later that day. "I can't believe I didn't ask you earlier."

"Yeah, after the last time, they gave me an inhaler, told me it was for emergencies - better safe than sorry, you know? And they told me to avoid smoke whenever possible -"

"I guess this means electric candles on your birthday cakes from now on?"

Calleigh laughed and lightly slapped the top of his arm. "No. I can handle candles, just not wildfires. Or house fires. Or, well, I should probably avoid fireplaces, if the flue gets backed up. Going to a cigar bar is probably out too."

"All favorite haunts of yours, anyway." There was a devious sparkle in his eye from the laugh he was obviously suppressing - they were able to go from deadly serious to friendly banter in the blink of an eye, and that was something she had always enjoyed.

"You know it." She paused for a moment, before recalling what she was going to say, before he diverted it onto his tangent about birthday cakes, "You don't have to worry about me, you know that, right?"

"I'm always worried about losing you, though. Too many close calls."

"As am I." She dropped her hand to her thigh and smoothed an imaginary wrinkle from her pants leg, rubbing a straight line back and forth with the pad of her thumb. And there they were, back to serious, without missing a beat. A flicker of understanding passed between them at that moment, the cloak covering the double meaning in their words falling away. "It never used to be this bad," she continued, "but it seems like things have gotten worse."

"It's not like it was ever easy," Eric replied. "Look at Speed."

Calleigh grimaced. "I know. But you had your shooting - and then it seemed like one or the other of us was in the hospital because of something or another on the job -"

"And somewhere along the way, we lost us."

"We lost us," she repeated, letting the words and the choice of pronouns roll over her tongue. "What happened to us?"

"I don't know." He paused for a beat. "I never thought we'd get to this point -"

"Where we barely talk, except at work?"

"Yeah, that. I thought that - once you and I got together - then that would be the end of the dating scene. I wanted to settle down with you, Calleigh, raise a family, grow old together."

"Eric -"

"I thought maybe we both wanted that," he continued, not hearing her interjection.

"I do want that," she said in a soft, shaky whisper. "I want stability. I want a family - I want what you want."

"But do you want it with me, or will the next suspect to walk into interrogation fit the bill?"

"If you don't already know the answer to that question, then you're not the same Eric I fell in love with." She bit her lip after her impromptu confession - she was Calleigh, after all. She was the one that was supposed to keep her cards close to her chest and not let anyone in - which was the remarkable thing about Eric in the first place, that he had managed to find his way into her mind - and heart, she reminded herself - and that she didn't really mind it, not at all.

Even the strongest of castles had to let down their drawbridges sometimes.

She thought she was pretty decent at reading Eric's facial expressions, and she tried to decipher the one currently flickering across his face. There was confusion - and a little surprise - and she found herself squinting a bit, but there it was, painted clear across his face: there was love. She always suspected that he was in love with her; that much was nothing new. But they hadn't been together in a while, and she didn't know - until now, that was - that time had not dissipated any feelings he had for her.

He clasped his hand over hers and squeezed it tightly, and she relaxed into his touch. With his other hand, he tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear, and whispered in a low voice, "You don't know how long I've wanted to hear you say something like that."

"How long?"

"Too long," he said. "If something had happened to you -"

"Or you," she whispered, more to herself, as he continued talking.

"- And I didn't know what you said, I don't know what I would have done."

She drew her lower lip in between her teeth and gnawed at it, slowly, thoughtfully. He was right. Damn it, he was right. And she knew if she allowed him in and closed the drawbridge behind him, that it would be like nothing had changed between them, except it had, because they weren't exactly the same people as they had been. But Eric was still Eric, and she knew the feel of him - both physically, the contours of his body, and mentally. There wouldn't be as many new avenues to discover; it'd be more retracing of familiar old paths.

"What can I do?" she asked.

"Well, I was going to ask you if you knew anyone who wanted to try out that new seafood restaurant -"

"I've been planning to go there for weeks, but haven't had the time."

"- Then I was going to ask you if you wanted to continue our conversation there."

"You really thought I was going to take you up on it before you even asked me?"

"Let's say, I had a hunch."

She felt her stomach rumble. "Dinner does sound really good - and as I said, I've been wanting to try that place for a while -"

"Then let's go."

They stood up in near-unison, and she offered him a small, hopeful smile as he led the way to his car. Each step they took was a step closer to an uncertain future - the only thing she was certain about was that she wanted this man to be an integral part of it.

She didn't want to take the risk of losing him for good.