DISCLAIMER: CSI Miami and its characters are the property of Jerry Bruckheimer and CBS. No infringement intended.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

By sinjenkai


Part 11

By the time morning arrived, Natalia had managed to get couple hours sleep. She now understood what Calleigh had gone through after she had shot Jake.

As the morning lights crept through the window, Natalia finally slipped out of bed and went into the bathroom to shower, hoping that would help keeping her alert.

After drying off and getting dressed for work, she went back into the bedroom to find Calleigh still asleep. Standing beside the bed, looking down at her wife, Natalia once again realized how lucky she was to have Calleigh in her life and all that she would do to protect her and their life together.

Bending down, she gently brushed golden hair away from Calleigh's face before placing a soft kiss on her forehead.

Straightening up, Natalia walked into the kitchen to fix them some breakfast. Soon the aroma of sizzling bacon filled the air along with scrambled eggs and coffee.

She was just plating the food when Calleigh made her way out of the bedroom, rubbing her face.


"Babe... Don't you remember what happened the last time that you started off the morning by saying that?"

Placing her hand on the counter and following it around until she found her wife, Calleigh grinned.

"Of course, darlin'. I just wanted to see if you did."

Reaching up to tangle her fingers in silky caramel colored hair, Calleigh drew Natalia's head down for a kiss. Brushing her lips against Natalia's, Calleigh murmured.

"Morning my love. You're up awfully early. Did you sleep ok?"

"Morning Sunshine, I just thought that I would fix us breakfast. Why don't you go ahead and sit at the bar and I'll bring everything over."

Calleigh took a seat on one of the bar stools while noticing that Natalia ignored the question.

While they ate breakfast, they listened to the morning news on the television. As usual, the high gas price was one of the top stories, but one of the surprising stories was that the crime rate was down. One of the newscasters joked that it was because of all of the CSI's in town for the symposium and as soon as they all left, that it would shoot back up.

The clatter of Natalia's fork hitting her plate startled Calleigh and she turned her head in her wife's direction.

"You ok darlin'?"

Clearing her throat, Natalia answered.

"Yeah… Uh, my fork just slipped. Sorry if I scared you."

"It's alright…Hey, what time is it? Aren't you going to be late?"

Looking at the kitchen clock, Natalia swore.

"Shit, you're right. I gotta go. I gotta mee… I've got a meeting this morning and I can't be late. I'm sorry that I'm leaving you a mess to clean up."

Calleigh slid off the stool and wrapped her arms around her wife.

"I'm actually glad that you are. It gives me something to do. I'm going stir crazy here just listening to the television and stereo."

As soon as Calleigh wrapped her arms around her, Natalia's pulse rate started to calm down. Wrapping her own arms about the petite blonde, Natalia held her close and gave a silent prayer to keep her safe.

"We'll find you something that you can do this week-end babe, I promise. Now unfortunately, I have to go."

Bending her head, Natalia brushed her lips against Calleigh's before deepening the kiss, pulling Calleigh even closer.

Moaning, Calleigh moved her lips along Natalia's jaw line, nibbling gently.

"I wish that you didn't have to go."

"Hang on to that thought, babe. I'll be home as soon as I can, I promise. I love you Calleigh."

"I love you too, Talia."

Giving Calleigh another quick kiss, Natalia pulled away and walked over to the garage door. She took off her ring, placed it in the dish and with another look at her wife, reluctantly left.

Standing in the kitchen, touching her fingers to her lips, Calleigh thought for a moment before saying to herself.

"Something's up. She's not telling me something and I need to find out what it is."

Natalia made her way to work with her escort in record time. As soon as she put her purse in her locker and made sure that her cell phone was in her pocket, she walked into her lab and put on her lab coat. Soon she was concentrating on the test requests and their results.

She was so intent on the results that when Maxine Valera came in with some samples, Natalia jumped about a foot.

"Jeez, I'm sorry. I called out your name. What's up with you?"

Shaking her head, Natalia impatiently rubbed a hand over her face.

"Not sleeping well, sorry. Whatcha got for me?"

"Just the usual: nail clippings, hair tags and our all time favorite, mucus. It's going to be a long day, I can just tell."

Reaching for the first sample, Natalia muttered.

"As long as it keeps my mind occupied, I don't care what it is."

Calleigh had long finished cleaning up the kitchen, making their bed and was now laying on the sofa listening to Drew Carey ask another contestant the price of a can of peas, when there was a knock at the front door.

Getting up, Calleigh made her way over to the door where she asked who it was.

"It's Horatio and Alexx, Calleigh."

She quickly opened the door.

"Hi guys. What are you doing here?"

Alexx took a step forward to wrap Calleigh in a hug.

"We were coming back from the courthouse and decided to take a slight detour to see how you were doing."

Hugging Alexx back before taking a step back to let them in, Calleigh replied.

"Take a detour anytime. Can I get you something to drink?"

Horatio took off his glasses, letting them dangle from his fingers.

"No, thank you. Actually, we also wanted to tell you that we think that you did a great job with Stetler the other day. I couldn't have done better myself."

Leading the way into the living room, Calleigh found the remote and turned off the television. Sitting on the far end of the sofa, she tucked her good leg under her, letting the injured one dangle off the front.

Alexx looked at her long time friend and saw someone that was as happy as she could be under these circumstances.

"You look good girl. Married life seems to agree with you."

The Duquesne grin exploded.

"Yup, it does. I can't even put into words how good it is."

"You don't have to. We can see it." Alexx Replied, laughing.

"Not just on you, on Natalia too." Horatio chimed in.

Calleigh turned her head in his direction, mimicking his head tilt and thinking for a moment.

"What's going on? There's another reason for you being here."

Working in companionable silence, Natalia and Valera were making short work of the request pile when Natalia's phone chirped. Pulling it out of her pocket, she froze when she looked at the caller id and it showed 'Unknown Caller'. Slowly she flipped it open and hit the speaker button.


A whimpering sound came through the speaker, followed by the muffled voice.

"She's waiting for you."

And then the phone went dead.

The room was silent for a moment, and then Valera gasped.

"My God! What was that all about?"

Natalia dropped the phone on the table and quickly backed away with a frightened look on her face. Whirling around, she grabbed the lab phone and started to call Calleigh, but as she was about to punch in the last few digits, she stopped and took a deep breath. Hanging the phone up briefly, she picked it back up and called Horatio.

"Horatio, I just got another call…The woman was whimpering and he said that she was waiting for me…No, Valera was here and I had it on speaker…I need to call Calleigh...You are?..Is she alright?..Ok, I'll be here."

Hanging her head as she replaced the receiver, Natalia took a deep breath before turning back to Valera.

"I need to ask you a favor. Please, please don't say anything about this to anyone."

"Hey, don't worry. I'm not saying a word."

Taking a couple of shaky steps, Natalia started out of the lab when Ryan bumped into her.

"Hey, where you going? Looks like you're supposed to be someplace else."

"What did you say Ryan?"

He took a step back.

"Easy, I said that it looks like you want to be somewhere else."

Shaking her head, Natalia patted him on the shoulder and headed towards the ladies room.

"It's ok. I just misunderstood. I'll talk to you in a bit, ok?"

He watched her walk away before he looked at his watch and took the elevator to the ground floor.

"Horatio, what's going on?"

Taking a deep breath, Horatio was about to answer her when his phone chirped.

"Caine…What was said?..Were you alone?..I'm here now…Yes…Yes…We'll be right there."

Closing the phone, Horatio knelt in front of Calleigh.

"Calleigh, sweetheart, I know that you're probably confused, but I'm going to ask you to trust me. I can't tell you what's going on right now, but you'll find out soon. I promise."

Standing, Horatio turned to Alexx.

"We've got to go right now. I'll explain on the way."

Calleigh pushed herself up off the sofa, grabbing hold of Horatio's arm.

"Horatio, was that Natalia? Is she alright? What's wrong?"

He gently placed his hands on her shoulders and spoke quietly.

"Natalia has not been hurt. We have a situation going on at work and I really can't talk about it right now, but you will know what's going on as soon as possible.

Brushing his hands aside, Calleigh grabbed hold of his shirt and growled out.

"Fine, but I want you to promise me, promise me Horatio, that you'll keep Natalia safe. You have her call me as soon as she can. Ok?"

"I promise you Calleigh, that I will do everything within my power to keep Natalia safe. You know that she's safe at work."

Alexx reached out to envelope Calleigh in a hug.

"I'll have her call you as soon as possible, I promise. I know that it's gonna be hard, but try not to worry."

And with that, the two of them rushed out, leaving Calleigh once again standing alone, but this time extremely worried about her wife.

Natalia was still in the bathroom when Horatio and Alexx made it in so Alexx went to check on her. She found her sitting in a chair with her head in her hands. Kneeling down beside the upset woman, Alexx rubbed her back for a few moments in silence. Until finally asking in a quiet tone.

"Are you doing ok?"

Raising her tear stained face up to look at Alexx, all Natalia could do was shake her head.

"Don't you worry girl. Horatio will get to the bottom of this. And Calleigh is fine. We had stopped by on our way from the courthouse just to say hello. She's worried as hell and wants you to call her as soon as possible. I don't think that you can keep this from her any longer."

Taking a deep breath, Natalia agreed.

"I know. I was planning to tell her tonight. There's just no way that I can keep this a secret from her, I just can't… I just… How do I tell her Alexx?.. How do I tell her that someone is targeting me without sending her into her protective mode? Something that she honestly can't do right now."

"Just tell her the truth. I know that you two can figure something out so that she won't feel so anxious while you're here."

Standing up, Natalia gave Alexx a quick hug and they walked out to find Horatio. They found him in Natalia's lab just finishing up a conversation with Valera.

Valera walked out and as Natalia walked in, and Horatio looked at her with concern in his eyes.

"Valera has already told me about the conversation."

Interrupting him, Natalia asked.

"How's Calleigh?"

"She's worried, but fine."

Natalia dropped down in a nearby chair, cradling her head in her hands.

"Horatio, there has to be something that we can do to find this woman."

Horatio was about to reply when one of the technicians came in with Natalia's phone.

"Lt. Caine, the caller left his phone on and we've got the location."

Immediately, both Horatio and Natalia were moving. Natalia grabbed her kit and the phone out of the techs hand and joined Horatio at the elevator.

Jogging outside, they met up with Ryan who was coming up the walkway.

"Mr. Wolfe, if you would join us."

It was a fifteen-minute drive to South Point Beach and luckily, the beach was empty of tourists. Only a police cruiser stood as a sentinel, showing that they were needed.

Getting out of the hummer, both Ryan and Natalia grabbed their kits as Horatio made his way over to the cruiser and was directed to the body.

The was a small group of palm trees a bit off the side and once everyone got closer, they saw the body of a young woman leaning against one of the trees. She looked like she was asleep as her legs were crossed at the ankles and her hands were lying on her lap. It was only when Horatio knelt next to her, that could he tell that her eyes, nose and mouth were glued shut.

Coming up and standing next to Horatio, Natalia gasped and placed a hand over her mouth.

"Oh My God!"

Standing, Horatio tried to get her away from the body.

"Natalia, you do not need to see this."

Pulling away from his grasp, Natalia growled out.

"I'm staying. She's this way because of me and I owe her that much."

Ryan interjected.

"Horatio, there are no footprints leading away from the body. It looks like whoever left her, somehow brushed them away."

Looking at the seriousness in Natalia's face, Horatio said.

"Mr. Wolfe, I want you to back track to the road to see if you can locate any type of tracks whatsoever. Natalia, you and I will process the body."

Slowly and meticulously, the two of them photographed and gather what little evidence was around or on the body. Natalia was about to stand up when she noticed a tiny corner of paper sticking out of her pant pocket. Gingerly, she pulled it out with her rubber-gloved fingers and saw that it was a folded photo. Standing up, she took a deep breath and unfolded it.

It was a picture of her taken a month or so before Jake's investigation when the team was helping at a Girl and Boys Club of Miami street fair. She was applying clown makeup on the children and laughing at their expressions. Written over the top of the picture in red was 'This will be you."

Natalia must have made a noise because Horatio turned from Alexx who had just arrived to pick up the body. Wordlessly, Natalia handed the picture to him and looked back down at the body with tears in her eyes.

"I am so sorry this happened to you. I promise that I will find out who did this and I will make them pay."

Alexx silently looked at the picture before going over to stand next to Natalia, gently rubbing her back. After a few quiet moments, she said.

"This is not your fault and I don't want you to even start thinking that it is. Now I want you to go back to the lab with Ryan and start your tests on what you have. I'll call you when I have something else for you."

"No, I'll ride back with Ryan, but I want to be there during your examination. I love you Alexx, but I know that you will try to hide something that you don't want me to see. And I have to see it all. I have to know what she went through."

Alexx reluctantly agreed so Natalia closed up her kit and slowly trudged back towards the Hummer and Ryan.

Horatio stayed behind to say a few words to Alexx.

"You knew that she was going to insist on being there. She's a lot like Calleigh when she makes up her mind."

"I know, but I thought that I should at least try."

After finally making it to the Hummer and putting away her kit, Natalia opened up the front passenger door and sat down. Leaning her arms against the dashboard, she rested her head against them with her eyes closed, trying to block out what she had just witnessed. She heard the sound of someone walking towards her in the sand, but knew that she was safe here so she didn't bother to look up. It sounded like whoever it was just stopped a few feet away and was standing there watching here and that was starting to scare her so she slowly raised and turned her head to look.

Ryan was standing there with his arms crossed across his chest with a somber look on his face.

"You shouldn't have to go through this. There are other places that you should be right now."

"I know, I should be at home with Calleigh. I think that we're gonna have to get a security system because I'll just worry too much about her at work if she stays there alone, even though there is someone watching the house."

Ryan nodded his head while walking to the rear of the Hummer to put away his kit as Horatio walked up.

"Ready to go? We'll meet Alexx as soon as we get back."

The ride back to the lab was deathly quiet as each person was wrapped up in their own thoughts. As Horatio parked, he directed Ryan to start on the traces that they had found on the scene and he would go with Natalia to the morgue.

"H, are you sure that she should do this?"

"This is her choice and I'm going to stand by and support her."

Walking into the morgue, they found Alexx just as she was about to start undressing the body. Taking off the shoes, she placed each one in an individual bag and then moved up to the pants. She was about to unfasten them when something caused her eye on the shirt. It looked like parts of it had dried to the victim's chest so she carefully unbuttoned the shirt and started opening it. Bending her head down to take a look, her eyes went wide at what she saw and she hastily dropped it, turning to Natalia.

"You don't need to see this."

Closing her eyes for a brief moment to get her emotions and fears into check, Natalia opened them back with a look of steel determination.

"Yes, I do. I'm going to see it eventually, so we better just get it over with."

Alexx minutely motioned her head to Horatio, who took a step closer to the young woman and then turned back to the body. Quietly she murmured to the body.

"I'm so sorry that you had to go through this, honey."

Once again, she picked up the shirt, this time pulling it up and away from the body, exposing the chest. And there on the left breast was a brand of only one word.

'N A T A L I A.'

Natalia took a step back and placed a hand over her own breast.

"Oh My God!"

Keeping a hand near Natalia's back to make sure that she didn't fall, Horatio felt a cold fury at what he saw.

Swallowing hard to rid herself of the lump in her throat, Natalia walked forward a couple of steps to get a better look. Clenching and unclenching her jaw, Natalia motioned for Alexx to continue.

It took them a better part of two hours to complete the examination. In the end, Alexx had determined that the young woman had not been raped, but had died of suffocation the day before. Turning to leave, Horatio and Natalia were once again met by Ryan, who this time had test results in his hand.

"The red ink is the victim's blood." He paused before he continued with a nod from Horatio.

And we have an I.D. Her name is Kris Jackson and she is an Orange County CSI."

Any control that Natalia had managed struggle to maintain, vanished instantly at Ryan's words. She quickly excused herself and ran to the ladies room with Alexx following.

Horatio took a moment to watch her leave before turning to Ryan to give him instructions.

Natalia rushed into the ladies room and barely made it into a stall before she emptied the contents of her stomach until all she was left were dry heaves. Leaning back on her heels and taking deep breaths until she was able to calm her nerves, Natalia was startled as Alexx's hand crept into her line of vision with a damp cloth.

"Here sweetheart. In case that you need to clean yourself up."

Hanging her head momentarily, Natalia took a deep breath and stood up, turning to her friend.

"I don't know how I'm ever going to be able to thank you enough."

Laying her arms about Natalia's shoulders, Alexx drew her close.

"Don't you worry about it. This is what family does."

Suddenly Natalia gasped.

"Shit… I haven't called Calleigh… She's probably climbing the walls by now."

"Don't call her, just go home. You've done enough for the day. Take care of yourself and your wife."

Hugging Alexx again, Natalia went to her locker, retrieved her personal items and headed home.

Horatio met Alexx outside the bathroom and they watched her drive off. Turning to Horatio, Alexx quietly asked.

"Did you notice?"

"That they could be sisters, yes."

As she pulled up into the garage, closed the door and turned off the car, Natalia still wasn't sure what she was going to tell Calleigh.

She was just opening the car door when the door from the kitchen burst open.

"Talia! Is that you?"

Calleigh stood in the doorway with her hair looking like she had dragged her hands through it a million times and her face lined with worry.

Quickly making her way to stand in front of her wife, Natalia whispered.

"Yes, my love. It's me."

She went to caress Calleigh's face, but stopped herself; instead, she began to collapse to the floor.

"I am so sorry…I should have called…I'm sorry…This is my fault."

Hearing the movement, Calleigh followed her to the floor to gather her in her arms and held her close. They sat on the floor for quite awhile as Natalia cried and Calleigh whispered reassuring words.

Only when Natalia had finally cried herself out, did she look up at Calleigh and saw the worry on her face. Reaching up to caress it, Natalia whispered.

"Forgive me my love; I should have called you sooner."

"I've been so worried, I'm just glad that you're home safe."

They got up off the floor and made their way into the kitchen, but not before Natalia made sure that the door was locked.

"Have you eaten today darlin'? I can fix you a sandwich or maybe a salad if you want."

"No, I don't think that I could keep anything down right now, maybe later. All I want to do right now is take a shower. I feel dirty and just want to get clean."

Taking Natalia hand in hers, Calleigh slowly led her through the bedroom into the bathroom. Quickly removing her own clothes, Calleigh took off Natalia's clothes at a slower pace in an effort to keep her emotions in check.

When they were both nude, Calleigh again took Natalia's hand, this time leading her into the shower while getting the water to a perfect temperature. Then she had her love to stand under the cascading water, letting it wash over her. Once Calleigh was sure that Natalia was relaxed just enough, she grabbed the body sponge, liquid soap and worked up a lather before starting on the bronze body. She took her time, making sure that she covered every inch of the pliant body.

As Calleigh's hands roamed over her body, Natalia forced out all of the recent images from her mind and concentrated on the gentle touch. This touch wasn't a sexual one; it was a gentle healing one that seemed to promise that all would be all right. And Natalia knew that even though Calleigh hadn't promised verbally, that she would try to the best of her ability to make everything all right.

But, then as she looked down at Calleigh's upturned face, Natalia couldn't help, but see the face of Kris Jackson and swallowed the lump in her throat. Closing her eyes, she leaned against the cool tiled walls and tried to get her thoughts in order.

A slow Southern drawl caressed her ears.

"Darlin', just talk to me. I may not be able to help you, but I can listen and maybe together, we can work it out. As a very smart woman once told me, together we can get through anything."

"And when did you get so smart?"

Reaching up to pull Natalia's lips to hers, Calleigh murmured.

"The day that I fell in love with you."

"Good answer."

The kiss started slow, tender and giving, but soon turned hard and needy with Natalia pushing Calleigh up against the wall.

Dragging her lips away from Calleigh's, Natalia moved along her jaw until she was able to nibble on Calleigh's creamy throat. Then suddenly she took a step back with a disgusted look on her face.

"NO!... I'm not going to use you in that way… I won't let him get to you though me."

"Talia…. You're not….Right now you need to feel something pure… And our love is the purest thing that I know… Share with me darlin'…It's ok."

Once again, Natalia collapsed to the floor with Calleigh holding her. This time, there were no tears, just words pouring out as Natalia described the crime scene, the body and some of what they found. She couldn't bring herself to tell her about the calls, the brand or the picture, not just yet. She knew that Calleigh would demand to be with her and she couldn't let that happen.

By the tone and cadence of Natalia's voice, Calleigh could tell that there was more that she was holding back, but knew that eventually it would come out.

Then taking a quiet breath, Natalia told her that the victim was an Orange County C.S.I..

Calleigh's anger became almost pliable, as she had heard of the victim through friends in Orlando.

"Whoever this is, he crossed the line doing this to an officer. He's gonna have teams from both jurisdiction hunting for him."

"I think that Horatio is going to try and keep it in house for as long as possible. He feels that if Orange County comes down, they will try to take over, which is natural when one of their own is involved."

Calleigh stood, helping Natalia to her feet.

"Come on, let's get out, dry off and fix something to eat. Afterwards we can just go to bed and snuggle. I just need to hold you to reassure myself that you're safe."

Pulling Calleigh once again into her embrace, Natalia whispered.

"I 'm sorry that I didn't call you sooner. It won't happen again. I don't have an excuse other than I was focused on the case."

Chuckling Calleigh replied.

"It's ok darlin'. I've been on the receiving end of your focus before and I know how intense you can be."

"Oh really!  And that's a bad thing?"

"No ma'am, not at all. I love the intensity that you put once you start something, especially when it is me that you're concentrating on."

Throwing her head back with a genuine laugh, Natalia responded.

"Babe, you're my favorite subject and I sometimes feel the need to do a detailed study of your body."

"Well, anytime and anyplace that you want to study me, you're more than welcome to."

With that, they got out of the shower, dried off and put on some loungewear. After Natalia put the drops in Calleigh's eyes, they went into the kitchen to see what they wanted to eat. Deciding on a salad, they soon had it put together and were eating. Between bites, Natalia brought up the idea of getting a security system and asked Calleigh what she thought.

"I think that it is a good idea. I have a friend in the business and I can give him a call to see if he can come by Saturday. Oh! Don't forget that they are going to deliver the hot tub on Saturday too. So can I entice you into joining me in a hot soak and a chilled bottle of wine Saturday night?"

"You in a hot tub! No enticement needed. I'm there with bells on."

Calleigh's gasp said it all, but she had to respond.

"Just the thought of that works for me."

They finished up with dinner, cleaned up and decided to lay down on the sofa, listening to soft jazz. Natalia lay down, drawing Calleigh into her embrace and felt that all was right with the world for that moment. Closing her eyes, she concentrated on the warm body in her arms and the love that she felt in her heart.

It was close to midnight when they roused themselves to get up and finally got into bed.

Across town, the shadowy figure played with his modified taser. He was able to adjust the voltage that went through the leads and enjoyed the play of spasms as they coursed through his newest toy. Putting it on a medium setting, he left it on as he walked over to pick up the first piece of glowing steel. He had decided that with this toy, she should see everything as he did it so her eyes went wide as he approached her, trying to twist out of the way even though her body was pulsating.

"Natalia handled everything very well today, but we'll see if she can keep it up. Now I want you to enjoy this as much as I will and I want to hear it."

Placing the steel on the tender skin, he was rewarded with an earsplitting scream.

"Perfect! That'll be a great sound bite. Now what's next? Oh yeah! I need to remember to buy dog food before I go home. I had better write that down before I forget."

Part 12

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