BETA READ by redlikeh2
A very gentle knock on the door of his office made Lieutenant Horatio Caine look up to identify the source of the sound. He swallowed, and hoped that she wasn't going to say what he knew would come. "Calleigh," he whispered, noticing how she trembled.
"Horatio," she replied barely audible and slowly made her way to the chair right in front of the desk. She had occupied that chair a few years before, being the redhead's second-in-command. The blond police officer and CSI took in a deep breath before she continued, trying to gather all her strength to say the words that Calleigh Duquesne would never have thought to voice before now. She could feel Horatio's concerned eyes upon her. She knew it would have to be said now.
Both she and Horatio and the rest of the team had attended Eric's funeral about five days ago. His mother had decided to undo the machines keeping him alive. The chance he would have ever awakened from the coma was small, and if he had, he would have had serious complications. The hospital staff hadn't been able to say what complications exactly or how severe, but he would never have been able to walk or talk again. He would have almost surely been forced to live on as an invalid. They all knew Eric, who loved to dive and run every day, would never have been able to cope with that kind of existence. Understandable, of course. It had been a hard decision, but not really hers. It had only been a couple of days when– She couldn't allow herself to think about it. She couldn't.
"I can no longer be a CSI. I have had most of it: being threatened, on a hit list, being mislead and abducted... And I could handle that, because it is part of doing this job; it's the risk you take for fighting at the good side. Friends, and lovers," Calleigh swallowed, "come and go continually, that's part of life... Honestly, though, who still remains of the team I joined? It's just us. Megan's gone, Speed's gone, Alexx's gone, and Eric..."
Tears welled up into her green eyes, and she tried hard to keep them at bay. "Megan and I weren't really close to start with. We had different opinions and... other methods. Speed... He should have cleaned his gun..." Calleigh whispered, and she slowly started crying. She couldn't help it anymore. "When Alexx left it felt like losing my mother figure. I went to Alexx with anything, and in the very first place, she was my friend. And Eric..." The blonde's breath caught momentarily and Horatio looked at her worriedly. "I killed him!"
"Calleigh..." Horatio tried in an attempt to get through her and make her see it all in its context. She must have lost that ability. "I killed him, Horatio!" The red haired man stood up from his chair behind the desk and walked over to comfort her. She was breaking down in pieces. Horatio knelt in front of her and gently took her hands into his, rubbing the tops with his thumbs while watching her closely. When she regained some calm, she looked up at him tearfully. "I talked to Deputy Head Burrows of Special Weapons And Tactics this morning. He's willing to accept my application as a member of SWAT. I just need some papers to be done before I can undergo the psychological and other tests and start training. If I don't make it through the tests, I'm going to go back to Louisiana and become a teacher there at Tulane University or something."
"Weren't you the one to beg to differ when I said I didn't look good in all black?"
Horatio couldn't help but smile sadly as she quoted. That conversation already seemed ages back. He could hardly imagine there had been times when he and Calleigh had been inseparable. Since Marisol and especially since the Rio affaire, the two of them seemed to have grown apart. Only then it occurred to him just how incredibly he had missed their teamwork and conversations; how much he had missed her. He wondered if she could feel the same way.
"I have a degree in Physics. I have been your ballistics expert for–"
"Calleigh, I don't think that you're incapable of doing it, I'm just..."
"Just what?" Calleigh shrieked. When he didn't answer her, she easily pulled a bundle of papers out of her purse, letting go of his hand with her left and still clinging onto his other with the right one, and handed them to him. "Then I don't think you would mind signing my resignation papers."
"Calleigh... You just said it yourself. It's just us. Are you going to leave me behind?"
The young blonde looked at him and swallowed. She thought about what she had told Detective John Hagen in happier days. That she would walk the lonely road with him, Horatio. Suddenly, she didn't feel so sure anymore about her decision.
"I don't doubt or underestimate your abilities, I just... I understand that you need to get away from it all for a little while, but I don't think this is the right decision. Please don't leave me," Horatio whispered without thinking about what he'd said, reaching out with his hand to stroke her light blond hair out of her eyes.
"Oh, I..." Calleigh cried into his shoulder. The redhead lovingly ran his right hand up and down her back comforting her, the left still holding onto hers. His own blue eyes were filled with hurt and grief. "It hurts..." Calleigh whispered. "It hurts, Horatio..."
"I know, sweetheart," Horatio whispered, carefully planting his lips into her hair.
Suddenly, Calleigh pulled back and looked at him sadly, shaking with sobs still. "It's been ages since you called me that."
"It's been too long, I know," Horatio answered, looking even more hurt at this point. He felt sorry for that; for not having spent more time with the woman who had stolen his heart since the very first day she had walked in there and to whom he hadn't really talked for years. "Please don't... I love you," he admitted after all these years. He would try anything to keep her with him. Even though he knew there was little chance someone as beautiful as Calleigh could love an old guy like him, he still felt the need to express what he felt before she left.
"I love you, too," Calleigh cried still, sobbing into the redhead's shoulder. "I always have... I always wanted you, no matter what or who I... I just... It's just... It always ends badly with my boyfriends. One killed himself right in front of me, the other suddenly appeared to be engaged to the woman who tried her best to take our lab down. Then you have Jake, who doesn't care about being dirty or not and who's more dedicated to his ATF job than me, and the last one I killed myself."
"Shh... It's all right now," Horatio soothed, and simply couldn't help but smile. She'd just said she loved him. "I'm going to help you get through this, Calleigh. We're going to get through this together. We're going to take it slow."
"Don't let go..." Calleigh practically begged.
"I won't. Ever."