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 15

Even though it was storming outside, the mood inside the DuVista home was jovial that morning. Calleigh couldn't stop giggling while Natalia was all smiles.

Natalia called Dr, Tatum and told her about Calleigh regaining her eyesight. The Doctor's response was quite positive, but she instructed them to continue putting in the drops, also continue to wear dark glasses and to come in to see her in a couple of days.

Calleigh realized that she still needed to use Mallory for a while as things were still very blurry and she could only see things up close. She was hopeful that it wouldn't take her too long to fully regain her sight, but she was still overjoyed that she could see anything at all.

After Calleigh took Mallory out for her morning business, then coming back in and drying her off a bit, they all got into Natalia's car and headed to the lab.

Before they had even driven a mile, Natalia's phone rang and without looking at the caller id, she answered it.

"I wonder if their families will hold you personally responsible. There's one more waiting for you."

"Who is this...? Why are you doing this?"

Pulling the car over, Natalia dropped the phone and leaned her head against the steering wheel.

"Talia, what did he say?"

"That he wondered if the families would hold me responsible and that there was another one waiting for me."

Reaching for her phone, Calleigh dialed Horatio while asking Natalia to drive to the beach where the other two bodies were found. When Horatio came on the line, he informed Calleigh that he had the beach under surveillance all night and that there were no reports of anyone showing up, but that he would meet them there.

By the time that they arrived at the site, the rain was coming down so hard that they could barely see ten feet in front of them. Horatio's Hummer pulled in right behind them and he rushed into Natalia's car.

"I checked with the officers that I had out here last night and they stated that they didn't see anything, but they also said it was storming so badly that they had a hard time seeing. Would you please tell me what exactly was said?"

Taking a deep breath, Natalia repeated, "He said that he wondered if the families were going to hold me personally responsible and that there was one more waiting for me."

"Thank you. Now what I would like is for you two to go onto the lab and let me and Ryan process the scene."

Holding up his hand, Horatio stopped Natalia before she could say anything.

"I am asking you to trust me. I understand that you have your fears about Ryan, but I trust him."

Entwining her fingers with Calleigh's hand that was on her thigh, Natalia responded:

"Of course, I trust you, and I know that you wouldn't do anything to harm either of us."

"Thank you. What I would like you to do is to take the clothes from the Daphne Lawson and go over them again. I feel that there is something that we are missing and you need to find it. Ladies, I'll see you later."

He got out of the car and rushed back to his vehicle, getting in and driving closer to where the sand started.

Natalia sat there for a few moments, reluctant to leave, but realizing that what she might find on the clothing may be the lead that they were looking for. So putting the car into gear, she slowly drove away and towards the lab.

It took the almost twice as long to get to the lab as some of the streets were becoming flooded. By the time that they got there, Calleigh's head was beginning to pound as the drive was in stops and starts.

Finally, they pulled into the parking lot just as the rain was beginning to slow down. Quickly while there was a lull in the rain, they got inside as fast as they could, shaking the rain from not only their coats, but from Mallory's too.

"Why don't you head to the gun vault and I'll be there in a few minutes with some aspirin and something to drink. Did you need anything else?"

Shaking her head, Calleigh ran her hands through her hair, trying to get rid of some of the excess water.

"No, but if you could find a towel, I would love to be able to dry Mallory off. The smell of wet dog is something that I really don't want in my vault."

Natalia chuckled and almost leaned forward to give her a kiss, but caught herself.

"Yeah, I can see how that would really ruin the atmosphere. Give me your stuff and I'll put it away and see you in a few minutes."

Turning towards the locker room, Natalia looked over her shoulder and smiled as Calleigh lifted her glasses and winked.

'How does she always know when I'm watching her?'

Walking into the locker room, Natalia put away their belongings, got some aspirin out of her locker and walked down to the storage room to find some towels. After grabbing a couple, she headed to the gun vault to find Calleigh and Mallory waiting for her outside the door.

"Here ya go babe."

Together they dried off Mallory the best that they could and then went around the corner to wash the smell off their hands with the dog following happily behind them.

"Well, I'd better get into the lab and get started on the clothing. If you need anything, give me a call and I can be here in just a few."

Reaching out, Calleigh placed a hand Natalia's arm, stopping her from leaving.

"Can I show you something first?"

"Of course."

Keying the security pad, Calleigh opened the door to the vault and walked inside with Mallory at her side and Natalia following behind. After giving Mallory the signal to stay and making sure that the door was closed, Calleigh turned to Natalia while taking off her glasses.

"I needed to see your face again."

Threading her fingers in caramel colored hair, Calleigh brought Natalia face down towards hers until she could see it clearly.

"Hello gorgeous."

"Hello my love. I can't tell you how much I love seeing your eyes sparkle again. I missed seeing your love reflecting through them."

Leaning down, Natalia captured Calleigh's lips with her own, taking her time to slowly nibble on the bottom lip. Pulling Calleigh between her legs, Natalia leaned up against the door and let her hands wander down the supple body.

Moving her lips down to nuzzle the pulse point on Natalia's neck that seemed to beckon her, Calleigh muttered.

"You in my gun vault…. Hmmm, you're lucky that you still have your clothes on… And you might want to leave if you want to keep it that way."

"My, my Cal… How do you know that this isn't one of my fantasies?"

Calleigh's head shot up with surprise.

"Oh Talia… Don't tease…You have no idea what I would like to do with you in there."

Pulling her wife firmly up against her, Natalia kissed her again, hard and long until they had to break apart to breathe.

"Baby, you have no idea what I would like to with you in here, but you're right, I had better go before we start something that we would take all day to finish."

Kissing Calleigh one last time, Natalia pushed away from the door and reluctantly let go of the blonde. Sighing, she stepped away, straightened her clothes and made sure that Calleigh didn't have any smeared make-up.

"I'll call you if I find anything and you call me if you need anything, but I know that you're going to be just fine. Remember I love you, Calleigh DuVista."

"And I love you, Natalia DuVista. I'll see you in a little bit… Just remember that we're going to continue this later."

Walking out, Natalia headed towards her lab with a smile while Calleigh turned to set up her table to begin her cleaning.

A few hours later, Natalia straightened up and tried to pop her back to get rid of the aches. She had finally found what they had missed before: it was a micro transmitter and it was attached to one of the buttons on Daphne Lawson's shirt. She knew from experience that it didn't have a very long range, so she called Horatio to let him know and to suggest that he maybe look for a signal booster nearby. He thanked her, and then let her know that Ryan was on his way in with a picture that was found on the body that she might want to look at.

Closing the phone, Natalia leaned against the table, closing her eyes for a bit. Whoever was doing this was very smart, had inside information, and worked with the team. To think that it was someone that they saw everyday was chilling and very scary. It made her wonder how much they actually knew about the people outside of work. In their job, they had to have complete trust in the person standing shoulder to shoulder with them, and to think that one could do something like this; she couldn't comprehend it.

When she opened her eyes, Natalia looked up to see Ryan standing at the door watching her. Motioning him to come in, she took a deep breath to prepare herself for whatever he was going to show her.

"He left her identification this time. Her name was Marcy LaForge and she was a CSI from San Francisco. There was another rose with the body along with another brand, but this brand is different. It looks like he took a soldering iron or a wood burning tool and signed your name."

Holding out a picture, he quietly said.

"He also left this."

Natalia cautiously took the picture and unfolded it. As the picture opened and came into view, she gasped and it fell from her hand to the floor. It was a picture of her holding Ryan against the wall from the day before. Along the bottom was written. 'You've got it all wrong.'

Turning away from Ryan to lean her hands against her desk, Natalia hung her head in shame, but before she could turn around and apologize, Ryan leaned down to pick up the picture.

"I understand what you are going through and if I had been in your shoes, I would have thought the same, but I need you to understand that I would do nothing to harm either you, Calleigh or anyone else. But that's enough of this, what you found on the clothing will help us catch this guy."

Taking a deep breath, Natalia picked up the transmitter and turned around to hand it to him.

"This was attached to one of the buttons on her shirt. I've already called Horatio to see if he can find a signal booster nearby. If you want, you can take it to the A/V lab to see if they can find anything about it and I'll check the rose and the ink on the picture. But if he's been repeating himself, we both know what I'll find."

"Yeah, I know. I'll head right over."

He took the transmitter and started to leave.

"Hey Ryan… Umm… Are we good?"

Ducking his head, Ryan gave slight nod.

"Yeah, we're good. Let me get started on this. You owe me a beer though."


He left the lab, Natalia began the test on both the rose and the picture, and as they surmised; the blood on the rose was from Daphne while the ink was from Marcy. She took the reports out of the printer and laid them on her desk, while reaching for her phone. Opening it, she called Horatio to give him the results and to tell him that Ryan had the transmitter, but he didn't answer so she left him a voice mail. Hanging up, she called Calleigh while leaning against the desk.

"Hey babe… Are you having fun? Really…! And how's Mallory doing? Do you need me to take her out? Ok… Yeah… There was a transmitter on her shirt…Yeah… No, I'll be there in a bit and we can go to lunch… Really? That's good because I love you too. A bushel and a peck… Ok, I'll see you in a bit."

Closing the phone, Natalia was startled when she turned and saw Eric standing in the open doorway. He was staring at the hand that held her cell phone. Looking down, Natalia saw that she was still wearing the ring that Calleigh had given her, it was simple - no big to do, nothing humongous, but when Eric had noticed the diamond on Nat's finger, he nearly had a heart attack.

"It looks and sounds like you've gotten someone new in your life. I'm glad because you deserve to be happy. Who's the lucky guy? I want to tell him that he's got someone special and he better treat you right."

Closing her eyes for an instant, Natalia came to a decision.

"It's not a guy, Eric… I'm with Calleigh… We've been together for about six months now… I'm sorry that we didn't tell you sooner, but we couldn't figure how out to do it."

Taking a step back, Eric shook his head.

"No.. No..You're trying to pull a joke on me… You can't be with Calleigh… She's not like that… You're not like that… Where's Calleigh? Is she at your house? Where?"

"She's in the gun vault cleaning guns… Eric wait."

Watching him turn and storm off, Natalia swore to herself as she called Calleigh again.

"Hey… A heads up… I just told Eric and he's on his way over to you… He heard us talking and saw the ring and I didn't want to lie anymore… You're not mad? Ok good."

An officer walked in and informed her that she had to go out to a house invasion scene.

"Ok…Listen, I've got to go out to a scene and I'll come by when I get back…I will…You too..Bye."

Closing the phone again, Natalia grabbed her kit, got the address to the scene and walked out to the Hummers. As she pulled away, she was relieved when she looked in the rear view mirror and saw a patrol car following close behind.

By the time that Calleigh hung up the phone, there was a knocking at the vault door.

"Mallory, stay."

Opening the door, she had to take a step back as Eric rushed in.

As soon as he came into the room, Mallory got to her feet and growled, stopping Eric in his tracks, but she didn't move from her spot.

"What is that?"

Closing the door and walking over to the dog to calm her down, Calleigh answered.

"This is Mallory and she's helping me to get around until my eyesight fully returns. Easy girl."

After calming the dog, Calleigh walked back over to her worktable to lean against it while facing Eric.

"So how are you Eric? What's up?"

"I want to know if it is true,"

"You need to be a bit clearer. Is what true?"

Taking a step closer to Calleigh, Eric paused again when Mallory took a step in his direction.

"Um... What Natalia said... That you two are together."

Quietly Calleigh answered.

"Yes... We've been together for a little over six months... I've tried to tell you a couple of times, but there never seemed to be the right moment."

"But you know that I have feelings for you... You know that I wanted us to be together."

Pushing away from the table to place a gentle hand on his arm, Calleigh explained.

"Yes, I know that you have feelings for me and I have them for you too, but Eric, as a friend. We've know each other for over seven years and I trust you with my life. We've supported each other through deaths, hard times and everything in between and your friendship is something that I cherish."

Eric looked down at the woman who he had thought he might have a future with.

"When did it start?"

Taking a deep breath, Calleigh gave a slight smile as she thought back.

"I think that we had been dancing around each other for quite awhile, neither one wanting to show our feelings, but it really started the day that I was shot down at the docks by George Kornspan. I somehow ended up at Natalia's house and things just progressed from there."

"Are you happy Calleigh? Do you love her? Does she love you?"

Giving him a full-blown Duquesne smile was answer enough.

"I've never been happier and yes, I'm in love with her and she with me."

"It doesn't bother you that she and I...?"

Shaking her head, Calleigh replied.

"We both have our pasts and we don't dwell on it. She knows my history and I hers, but we just concentrate on the future"

Eric wrapped his arms around her in a big hug.

"All I've ever wanted was for you to be happy; the both of you to be happy and if it's not with me, at least I know that you've both got someone special."

"Thank you Eric. That means a lot." Calleigh's voice was muffled against Eric's shirt.

"Well, I'd better go get Natalia and head off to a home invasion."

Stepping away from him, Calleigh looked alarmed.

"What do you mean? Were you supposed to go with her to the scene?"

"Yeah, but I wanted to come talk with you first. She's probably waiting on me outside."

Shaking her head, Calleigh reached for her phone and dialed Natalia's number.

"Damn it, you've been at the symposium all week and don't know what's going on. Some crazy guy has been threatening Natalia and she's not supposed to go to a scene without at least two other officers with her. She called right before you knocked on the door and said that she was taking off."

"Hey babe...Are you there yet... Ok... Well, Eric is on his way and should be there soon... No, everything is all right... We're good... Ok, I'll see you when you get back... I love you...Bye."

Turning back to Eric, she sighed with relief.

"She's already there, but Officer Tomas is there with her so she's already started processing."

"I'll head right over. See you after while."

Eric opened the door and started to leave, but turned and said.

"I'm just glad that you both are happy. At least you both have good taste in women."

"Gee thanks."

Smiling, Calleigh started humming and returned to her work.

Closing her phone and putting it in a pocket on her pant leg seam, Natalia resumed photographing the room. The owners of the home were already on their way to the station with Frank Tripp, Natalia knew what they were going through and sympathized. Whoever had done this, had wanted to destroy, not steal; that lead Natalia to believe that it probably was just some teenagers out having fun. However she knew that the evidence could point in another direction so she was very careful to document everything.

A thump came from the outside, but it was raining so hard that she didn't think anything of it. A few minutes later another noise caught Natalia's attention and when she looked up, Jethro was standing in the doorway.

"Hi Jethro, what are you doing here?"

"Good afternoon Natalia. I live nearby, saw the patrol car and thought that I would see what happened."

Shaking her head, Natalia took one last picture before putting the camera away.

"I'm sorry, but I can't have you on the scene because you're not authorized."

"You're right, I'm not authorized, but you should've known I was coming, after all, we did have a date."

Looking over at the young man, Natalia began to feel scared.

"You mean our date to go out for coffee? We can go out once I get back to the lab."

Shaking his head, he started towards her with one hand held behind his back and the other in his pant pocket.

"No, not our coffee date. Didn't Horatio tell you that I want you to see my game room?"

He pulled his hand from behind his back to show her a white rose that was dripping red.

Backing away, Natalia tripped over her kit in her haste to get away, falling down hard against a bookcase. Quickly she got to her feet, desperately looking for a way to get away and out of the house.

"Jethro, please don't do this... You don't have to do this."

Shaking his head, the young man advanced.

"Natalia, how many times do I have to tell you to call me Jet? You just don't take direction well, do you? We'll have to see about that. Now, shall we go for our date?"

"No Jet, I'm not going anywhere with you."

Faster than she thought he could move, he slapped her hard, sending her crashing onto a table and cutting open her forehead.

"Now see what you've done? You've hurt yourself and now you're bleeding."

Pushing herself to her feet, Natalia stumbled towards the door only to be grabbed by her hair from behind and shoved her into an aquarium; shattering it and spilling water and blood onto the rug.

"Where do you think that you're going? Let me guess, you're trying to break our date again and get home to your wife."

Rising to her knees, Natalia could barely make out his silhouette as water and blood dripped down her face. She tried to resist as he grabbed her arm and pulled her to her feet.

"I do hope that you've said all that you wanted to say to Ms. Duquesne because you are never going to see her again."

When Natalia tried one last time to get away, Jethro pulled out his taser and stunned her into silence. He looked at her laying on the floor for a moment before he reached into his shirt pocket, taking out a two vials of blood and poured them on the rug to mingle with hers. Laying the rose on top of her kit, he leaned down and effortlessly picked her up, carried her outside, put her in his car and drove away.

After the car turned corner, Eric's champagne colored Hummer came around the opposite corner and stopped in front of the house. Getting out with his kit, he ran went up the walkway and as he turned the corner to go into the door, he skidded to a stop as he saw Officer Tomas lying in a heap. Quietly placing his kit on the ground, he pulled his gun and made his way over to the downed officer to check his pulse. It was weak, but he was alive, so Eric slowly peered around the corner into the house. What he saw made his blood run cold. He carefully made his way into the room, making sure that he didn't disturb anything and verified that there was no one else in the house before he went back outside and called for Horatio.

"H... Natalia is missing and the officer that was posted outside is unconscious... No, I haven't called it in yet, was just about to... It looks like there was a fight... There's a rose on Natalia's kit... Ok, I'll be here."

Hanging up with Horatio, Eric called in the officer down and stayed with the officer until the medics showed up.

Across town, Horatio changed direction and headed towards the scene as he called Alexx.

"Alexx... Natalia's been taken... Eric is at the scene right now and I'm headed there... Would you tell Calleigh? I don't want her to hear about it from a stranger... If you can, get her to go home and I'll get over there as soon as possible... Thank you."

Closing the phone, Horatio gripped the steering wheel harder and a look of steel determination came over his face.

Alexx slumped against her desk a moment and offered a prayer for Natalia and then another for Calleigh before she straightened up and walked out to find the young woman. As she rounded a corner, she spotted Ryan and called out. As she walked up to him, he could tell that she was upset and asked what was wrong.

"Natalia was taken and I need to tell Calleigh. We don't want her hearing it from someone else."

"Damn it, we need to find this guy and we need to find him now. This is going to devastate Calleigh."

Together, they walked towards the gun vault only to find it empty. As they walked towards the locker room, Calleigh exited and headed towards the break room.

"Calleigh, hold up a minute."

"Hey Alexx! How are you today?"

Walking up to the blonde, Alexx reached out to take her hand. Taking a deep breath, Alexx quietly stated.

"I'm sorry Calleigh, but... Natalia's been taken."

The smile on Calleigh's face disappeared.

"Please tell me that you're kidding."

"I'm sorry baby girl, but I'm not. Horatio is on his way to the scene right now."

Shaking her head, Calleigh dropped Mallory's leash and backed away.

"No, you're wrong… She's just stepped away from the scene for a moment… She'll be right back… Natalia will be right back."

Her hands were trembling violently, and a hug from Alexx did little to calm her down. Ryan was left to carry her into the break room after she collapsed.

After she came to, Calleigh pushed off the damp cloth that Alexx had place on her forehead and sat up.

"I need to go to the scene. I need to see what it looks like. I need to see for myself."

Soothingly Alexx tried once again to calm her.

"Sweetheart, you can't… Can you..? Can you see?"

"Yes… Sort of. It's very blurry and we didn't want to tell people until I could see clearer, but I can see and I need to see the scene. Alexx, you need to take me."

Looking at Ryan, Alexx knew that there wasn't going to be any way that she would be able to talk Calleigh out of this and she could understand why she needed to do it.

Kneeling in front of Calleigh, Ryan took both of her hands into his grasp and softly, but determinedly stated

"Calleigh, I know that you need to be involved and I am going to do everything that I can to help you, so I'm going to bring you up to speed."

Closing her eyes for moment to get her thoughts in order, Calleigh took a deep breath and then opened her eyes, leaned forward and concentrated on Ryan's face

"Ok, this is what we found out today. The newest victim's name was Marcy LaForge and she was a CSI from San Francisco. Everything was identical to the other victims with the exception of the branding. This time he used either a soldiering tool or a wood burning pen and signed Natalia's name. And he left another picture and that's where I feel that he made his first mistake.."

"NO! His first mistake was targeting my wife ." Calleigh voice coldly stated.

"Yes, well the picture that he left this time was of yesterday when Natalia had me pinned against the wall. Now there wasn't anyone around other than us so I know that somehow this guy has this place wired."

"Ryan… Wait… We all know the reasons that Natalia had for thinking that this was you, but let's think back. All of this started after Stetler came to the house and we recorded him, right? And what did we do the next day? We came here and listened to the recording. Now I'm the only one that listened to the entire incident, but I did it in the A/V lab. What if someone in the lab records everything that is played there? I know that Natalia found a transmitter on Daphne Lawson's shirt so he was listening to the conversation at the beach… I remember that she spoke with you when she was at the scene… What did she say?"

Thinking back just a moment, Ryan answered.

"She said that she was holding me personally responsible for your safety and that she would hold me accountable if anything happened to you."

Snarling, Calleigh clinched her fist and struggled to maintain her composure.

"I know who it is… It's Jethro… The nighttime A/V lab technician… We bumped into him last night as we were leaving and he and Natalia were to have coffee today. She kept forgetting about it and promised him that it would happen today. He told her that he would hold her accountable for the date. And we used his console to listen to Stetler's recording… It has to be him."

Squeezing her hands, Ryan vowed.

"Let Alexx take you to the scene, then take you home and I promise that will do everything within my power to track him down from here. I'm asking you to trust me."

"I don't care how you do it. Just find him Ryan and get Natalia away from him."

Standing, the young man left the room with a single-minded intention. To make whoever was causing his friends pain, be made to pay.

Calleigh pulled Mallory into her embrace from where she was sitting at her feet and stroked her gently before turning to Alexx.

"Now let's go to the scene. I'll need you to describe everything to me in detail, but I want to know it everything. You might want to let Horatio know that I'm headed over there and there is nothing that you can do to stop me other than to knock me out."

Standing, Calleigh squared her shoulders, took Mallory's leash and started walking out of the room, leaving Alexx to watch in awe. Alexx knew that Calleigh wouldn't dare show weakness, but she also know that in the very near future that she would have to end the façade that she had just put on and deal with everything. All Alexx could do was to be there for her when it happened. Sighing, she followed Calleigh out while calling Horatio to give him a heads up.

(Natalia's POV)

Sounds slowly drifted into Natalia's consciousness and as she tried to get comfortable, she became aware of her throbbing head. As she remembered what had happened, she opened her eyes to discover that her arms and head were strapped onto a high back wooden chair. Wildly she looked around, trying to locate Jethro.

"Well, hello my dear. I was wondering when you were going to wake up. Would you care for something to drink?" Jethro's voice came from behind her.

"No, but you can let me go."

Walking around to stand in front of the young woman, Jethro gazed at her fondly before reaching out to caress her face.

"That is so predictable and I had hoped that you would be smart enough not to ask that."

Natalia grimaced, her facial muscles flinching.

"Don't you touch me."

He stopped his hand before it reached her face and his eyes grew dark. His jaw tightened and he drew in a deep breath through his nostrils before delivering a hard slap to Natalia's face.

"It is not proper for a woman to tell a man what he can or can't do. The man is always in charge of a relationship, and it would do you well to remember this. I'm sorry that you made me correct you like this, but I know that women can act without thinking sometimes. Now if you would excuse me for a moment, I need to go prepare for our entertainment."

He walked off, leaving Natalia finally able to get a good look at her surroundings. It looked like to her that she was in some sort of warehouse where the walls were made of aluminum and with old wiring along the walls. As she looked around for some kind of idea to where she was, she could tell that it was raining again, but it sounded like a boat hitting the side of a dock at regular intervals.

Trying to move her arms, she realized that he had her securely strapped down and there was no way that she was going to be able to free herself. However, as she moved her legs, she discovered that he hadn't found her cell phone that she had dropped in her pants side seam pocket. Now all she had to do was to convince him to free her and maybe she would be able to call for help.

She heard something being rolled in her direction and then Jethro came into view with a monitor and a DVD player.

"I thought that you might like to see what was done to your stand-ins, after all, it's because of you that they were chosen."

"Please Jet, I don't want to see. I already know what happened to them. What I don't know is why? Why did you do this?"

Taking a few minutes to set everything up to his liking, before he turned to stand directly in front of her.

"Since I haven't explained the ground rules, I'm going to let that slide, but it will be the only time. The rules are: Always answer me when I ask you a question, never talk back and always acknowledge that I have given you instructions."

He stared at her for a few moments, waiting for her to say something and when she didn't, he cocked his head.

"Which part of acknowledging your instructions didn't you get?"

Remembering that Jethro had always been very proper, Natalia decided to take a gamble. She knew that she had to gain some time for Calleigh and their team to find her so she took a deep breath and started the fight for her life.

"With respect, but I was taught that a gentleman always answers a ladies questions before asking his own."

Nodding his head, Jethro agreed that he was wrong.

"Yes, my error, please excuse my lapse in manners. You asked me why I did I do this. I did it because you told me that we would go for coffee and led me to believe that I stood a chance with you. Then I find out that you are in a relationship with Ms. Duquesne, and you still didn't have the common courtesy to show up for our date. So it is you that forced me to do this to get you to notice me."

"But Jet, I did tell you that I was in a relationship with someone else. I wasn't leading you on."

Slapping her hard, Jethro placed his face inches from hers.

"Did you learn nothing from all of those sexual harassment classes that we were forced to go through? It is not what your intention may be, but the way that it is perceived. I saw it as leading me on and every court in the land will back me up. I answered you question and now we will watch my newest favorite movie."

For the next three hours Natalia had to concentrate on not being sick as she was forced to watch the video. Every time that she closed her eyes, he would slash a riding crop across her hands. By the time it was finished, both hands were bleeding rather badly.

When he finally turned off the monitor, Jethro calmly walked over to the chair and looked down at Natalia, shaking his head.

"Look at yourself. You're a mess. Don't you know that ladies should always be clean and neat?"

Gritting her teeth, Natalia barely ground out.

"My apologies, but would you mind if I use the facilities to freshen up a bit?"

"Of course, please. Be my guest."

Jethro swiftly unstrapped her arms and head, and then offered his hand to her to help her from the chair. Placing the hand in the crook of his arm, he walked her over to the bathroom and showed her the inside.

"There is a first aid kit, there on the shelf so please help yourself to whatever you need to clean up. I am afraid though I am going to have to give you a time limit of fifteen minutes to complete this as I have more entertainment planned for the evening."

He closed the door and left Natalia in peace if only for a short time. She walked over and pulled the kit off the shelf, taking it over to the sink to open it up. Grimacing with pain, she quickly rinsed off her hands, applied antibiotics and wrapped them with bandages. Looking at her watch, she saw that she only had a couple of minutes left, so she gingerly reached into the side pocket and pulled out her phone. Dialing quickly, she barely had time to hear Calleigh's worried voice almost shout her name before Jethro was knocking on the door.

"Near the water." Was all that she was able to whisper before she slid the still connected phone back into the pocket before opening the door and walking out.

"I'm sorry for the delay, Jet. It was difficult to wrap my hands."

Looking at her hands, Jethro tsked.

"I would have thought that you would have a better knowledge of first aid."

Without thinking, Natalia shot back.

"It's rather hard to do first aid on yourself, when both hands are injured."

In a blink of an eye, Jethro hit Natalia so hard that she fell down to her knees. Reaching down, he grabbed a handful of caramel hair and pulled her to her feet.

"You are a slow learner, aren't you? Well, I have just the way to teach you."

Pulling her by the hair back over to the chair, he strapped her arms and head back to the chair and stalked away.

"Calleigh, I don't know if you can hear me, but I'm near the water in a metal building." Natalia said in a low voice as she heard him head back out.

Once again stopping in front of her, Jethro placed his taser on the table next to the chair and then reached out to start unbuttoning Natalia's shirt until it hung open, leaving her chest and a lacey white bra in full sight. Pulling leads out of his pocket, he used surgical tape to attach them to various points on Natalia's chest and then hooked them up to the taser.

"I do apologize for touching you without your permission, but you have forced me to do this to teach you a lesson. We're going to start off mild until I get the response that I'm looking for. It's of course, up to you to how long this will last."

With that, he turned the taser on low and watched with glee as Natalia jumped and gritted her teeth as the sound filled the air. He left the taser on as he placed it on the table and went to get his video camera, setting it up in front of her. After getting it in position and turning it on, he walked back over and turned the taser off.

"Now that wasn't too bad, was it? You handled that better than the first two stand-ins. They couldn't take even the lowest setting without crying, but let's just see shall we how well you do."

Turning it back on, he stopped briefly at low before he kicked it up a level and Natalia began to shake and clinched her fists, making the cuts open up and soak the bandages. He watched her in amazement as she stared him down, clinching her jaw and fists, not making a sound. He stared back for a long time, searching for something in her eyes; he didn't like what he saw. Narrowing his eyes, his face changed and he raised the level up even higher, making Natalia spasm hard against the bonds and start panting.

Natalia tried to blink the sweat out of her eyes while maintaining her stare. It felt like she was going to crack a tooth, she was grinding her jaw so hard, but there was no way that she was going to give him the satisfaction of hearing her make a noise.

As he watched, he realized that this beautiful woman in front of him was a lot stronger and more stubborn than he had anticipated and that made him furious. Jethro wanted to hear Natalia scream, he wanted to have her voice in his collection, but he could tell that there was no way that she was going to scream without provocation so he did the first thing that he thought of.

Leaning close enough he could see the pulse beat in her eyes.

"If you don't scream for me, I promise you that I will leave you here and go find Ms. Duquesne and do to her exactly what I did to the other women."

He barely finished the sentence before Natalia screamed out.


"Oh… That was perfect… Thank you…"

Jethro turned off the taser and clapped his hands as he went over, hit the rewind on the camera and played the scream again. After playing it a few more times, he walked back to the now quiet woman. Picking up a towel, he gently wiped the sweat from her face and neck.

"Thank you so very much for my gift. However, as much as I enjoyed that, I feel that there is so much more that you can give me."

Walking behind her, he continued to talk.

"If I may ask, what did Ms. Duquesne ever tell you about John Hagen?"

Licking her lips, Natalia worked her jaw back and forth a few times to loosen it up, but remained silent. Closing her eyes, she tried to get her breathing under control and just thought of Calleigh. As long as she could keep her in her mind, Natalia knew that she could get through anything. She also knew that she just had to hang on until the team found her. Natalia knew that Horatio would feel some sort of responsibility and would do everything possible to track her down.

Jethro's voice came right next to her.

"I believe that I asked you a question Natalia. I'm still waiting for an answer."

"She's never talked about him. I know what happened from others, but not from her."

Walking around so that he could see her face, he told her his version of the incident.

"Well, I'm sure that you know that they had a fling, but for some reason he had to go on medical leave for a 'bad back'. We all know what that is, right? When he came back on duty, he was different, everyone could see it. Something had scared him and he was looking on becoming a hero so he could get his nerve back. Anyway, he stole a piece of evidence from a crime scene and your beloved discovered the void that it had left in the dust. Well, he couldn't let her of all people discover what it was so he stood behind her and pulled his gun, held it to her head, then cocked it. You had to know that he wasn't in his right mind, pulling a gun on the 'Bullet Girl' and have her figure out the type of gun. Once he saw how that one single action had affected Ms. Duquesne, he couldn't live with himself and shot himself in front of her, with the same gun that he had pulled on her. Fitting don't you think?"

"Why did you tell me that story Jet? I don't understand."

Staring at her for a moment, Jethro couldn't believe that this woman had the nerve to question him. She was nothing like he thought she would be. Then he realized what had happened. She had been corrupted by Ms. Duquesne and now had been led astray and to make matters worse, she was too far gone to be educated in the way that he thought proper women should behave.

Shaking his head, he walked behind her and silence prevailed in the room for quite a long time. So long in fact, that Natalia actually began to think that maybe he had left when something was pressed to the back of her head right above the strap. Then the sound of a hammer being pulled back and a gun being cocked filled her ears.

Closing her eyes, quietly she whispered.

"I love you Calleigh."


"Oops… No bullet… Let's try again."

Once again the sound of the gun being cocked filled her consciousness and the only thing that kept her from totally losing it, was the mental picture of Calleigh.


The noise startled Natalia so badly that she wrenched her shoulder out of its socket, crying out.

"Natalia! I'm so sorry. Here let me help you with that."

"Please Jet…Unstrap me for a moment and allow me to go to the bathroom so I can pop it back in. Please."

"Of course."

Removing the straps and then the leads to the taser, Jethro held out his hand to help her from the chair, but Natalia ignored it. Slowly she pushed herself up and stood there for a few moments to regain her balance before she took a slow step, then another and soon had made her way into the bathroom and closed the door behind her. Moving over to the wall, Natalia closed her eyes in concentration and then slammed her shoulder into it. A sharp pain ripped through her, but she did hear a resounding pop and the joint slid back in place.

Muttering to herself, she went over to the sink to remove the blood soaked bandages and to clean up.

"I guess that I did learn something watching Xena all those years."

Listening for a moment, she reached into her pocket and brought out the phone. When she saw that the battery was spent, she almost started crying, but hoped that maybe the team had traced the signal. Putting the dead phone behind the first aid kit, Natalia went back out before Jethro had a chance to come get her.

Seeing that he wasn't around, she quickly spied a door and headed that way, but before she had had gone a couple of feet, the sound of a shotgun being pumped stopped her in her tracks.

"Please come back to your seat. We're not finished yet."

Turning around, Natalia was puzzled when she saw that he wasn't holding a gun, but was instead holding a tape recorder.

Shrugging his shoulders, he motioned to the chair while he explained.

"I hate guns, but I enjoy the respect and the fear that they command."

He once again strapped her to the chair, leaving her head free, but instead strapped her legs. Hooking the leads back up, he then pulled out a cell phone and place it on the table next to the chair while picking up a scalpel that Natalia had not noticed before.

"I do hope that these are not a favorite pair of slacks."

He then proceeded to cut the seam all the way from the hem to the top of her thighs on both legs. Pulling the cloth aside, he smiled as smooth bronze skin came into view. Shaking his head, he placed the knife against the inner thigh and pulled it down, leaving a thin line of red trailing behind. He did it three times more on that leg and then repeated to on the other leg.

Natalia never made a sound other than pulling in deep breaths and expelling the air. Sweat was once again breaking out on her face and neck, but still no sound escaped her lips.

When he finally put down the scalpel and picked up the phone, Natalia was doing everything in her power not to pass out. He punched in the number, put it on speaker and it rang through.


It was Calleigh's voice.

He held up a finger for silence.


This time he placed his hand on one of her thighs and dug his nails into one of the cuts, making Natalia whimper. There still was silence on the speaker so he squeezed even harder and she whimpered again.

"Natalia... Is that you?"

He smiled as he stepped away from her and reached for the taser on the table.

"Very good Ms. Duquesne. I thought for a moment that you weren't going to live up to you reputation."

"What do you want Jethro? You wouldn't call unless you wanted something from me?"

Throwing back his head, Jethro laughed and it sent shivers down Natalia spine.

"I just thought that you should share in the punishment since you were a willing participant in the so called crime."

"What crime are you talking about Jethro? We did nothing wrong."

Turning on the taser and hitting the button, the sound of electricity filled the air a split second before a scream was ripped out of Natalia as he also dug his nails back into the cuts. Cutting it off, he asked Calleigh.

"Did you know that your wife is very good at withstanding pain? It takes quite a lot to get any kind of sound out of her. I'm having to work twice as hard as I did on the other girls... You want to know your crime... If it hadn't been for you, Natalia would have noticed me and I wouldn't have been forced to do all that I've done."

"You're right... I should have left her when all of this started... It's my fault.. Not hers, so why don't you let me exchange places with her."

When Natalia heard that, she strained at the straps and pleaded.

"NO! You stay away from her Jet...I'm the one that ignored you… Dismissed you as nothing... Whatever you are going to do, you do it to me..."

Jethro was grinning like a schoolboy in a candy store. He actually had two women fighting over him. This was getting better and better.

"Oh, I will Natalia... I will, but first I think that it's time that you tell Ms Duquesne good-bye."

"No... Jethro wait..." Calleigh pleaded. "Wouldn't you rather have the both of us...? Two sets of voices... Two sets of screams...?"

This time Natalia pleaded with her wife.

"Calleigh... No... Stay away... You have to stay away... I need to know that you're waiting for me..."

Holding up the tape recorder, the sound of a shotgun being pumped filled the room.

Jethro smiled as he said.

"Well, then she's going to have a very long wait."

A blast rang out.

Natalia heard the phone being dropped and then a heart-wrenching wail.

"NOOOOoooooo! Natalia!... Oh God!... Natalia."

Straining against her bounds, Natalia didn't care that just repaired shoulder dislocated again. All she care about was what her wife was going through. She listened as Calleigh chanted.

"No, no, no. Not true, not true. No, no, no."

Jethro started laughing, rubbing his hands together in glee.

Breathing hard, Natalia started saying.

"It's just a sound effect... Just a sound effect... That's all it is... A sound effect."

Still giggling, Jethro asked.

"Well, Ms. Duquesne. Did you learned your lesson...? Next time it might not be a joke... Like now."

Holding up the tape recorder again, he pressed the play button again and a gunshot rang out right before he pressed the end button on the phone. He started laughing again as he replaced everything on the table and walked out of sight.

(Calleigh's POV)

Earlier that day when Alexx and Calleigh pulled up at the scene, Calleigh barely took enough time to tell Mallory to stay in the car before she got out, pulling her raincoat tighter while impatiently waiting for Alexx to come around and lead her inside. Putting her hand on Alexx's shoulder, Calleigh made her way to the front door and waited for permission to enter.

Looking up, Horatio took one look at Calleigh's face and knew that there wasn't a chance that he was going to be able to talk her out of coming inside. Walking over to the two women, Horatio took Calleigh's hand and led her in, describing everything that he saw. When he described the carpet with the broken fish tank and the blood, she took off her sunglasses and knelt down to take a closer look. There was so much blood that the carpet was stained a pale pink and all Calleigh could do was pray that nothing had happened to Natalia.

Standing, Calleigh turned and saw Eric as he was trying to leave before she knew he was there.

"It's not your fault you know? If you had been here, he might have hurt or killed you just to get to her."

Turning back to stand in front of his friend, Eric couldn't help, but feel responsible.

"You don't know that Calleigh. Maybe I could have stopped him."

Placing a hand on his arm, Calleigh had to agree, but she did so reluctantly.

"You're right you might have, but he's already killed three CSI's and this way you can help get Natalia back."

"And we will Calleigh. I promise you."

Acknowledging him with a nod of her head, Calleigh looked at Horatio.

"Did Ryan call you yet with any information?"

"Yes, it seems that Jethro has kept busy during the night shift. It appears that almost every hallway has a micro-camera with a microphone set up while his console recorded everything that was played on it to a disc drive that was set up in a janitor's closet. There is no telling what information he has in his possession. Eric will be heading over to his home address while Ryan is searching through the records to see if there are any other properties that he owns."

Nodding her head, Calleigh sighed as she wanted to be doing something, but once again acutely aware of her limitations. Shoving her hands in her coat pocket, she knew the answer to the question that she was about to ask, but asked it anyway.

"What do you want me to do?"

Stepping closer so that Calleigh could see his face, Horatio softly requested.

"Please let Alexx take you home and wait for me there. I know that you want to stay, but you will help me more by me just knowing that you're somewhere safe. While I wasn't able to keep my promise to you to keep Natalia safe; I'm going to do my best to keep the promise I made to her to keep you safe"

"Ok, I can do that."

Shoving her hands deep into her coat pockets, Calleigh took a couple of steps and then stopped as her phone chirped. Pulling out of a pocket, she held it close to her eyes and gasped as she saw Natalia's number. Flipping it open, she barely had time to get out Natalia's name before she heard, "Near the water."

Putting her hand over her mouth, Calleigh could do nothing more than listen to what was happening to her wife. After hearing Natalia being hit, Calleigh motioned to Horatio to listen in and they both heard most of the whispered location. He stepped away briefly to call up Ryan to have him get a fix on Natalia's phone before stepping back close to listen in again.

There was no way that either one of them could ignore the sound of the taser and Calleigh shuddered to think what Natalia was feeling. When the whine went up another level, Calleigh

leaned against her friend, drawing strength from his presence, but as the whine went higher, Calleigh grabbed his arm and squeezed it so hard it made him wince.

Once Jethro made his threat and Natalia screamed, Calleigh lost the fight to stay standing and slumped to the floor. Alex was instantly by her side and Horatio slipped the phone from her hand.

Kneeling next to her, Horatio whispered.

"Calleigh, listen to me. Let Alexx take you home. I'm going to take your phone back to the lab and we're going to triangulate her position. We're going to get her back, I promise you."

Patting Alexx on the back, Horatio hurried off.

Looking around, Alexx noticed that everyone had stepped out of the room to give Calleigh time to pull herself back together.

With her head against Alexx's shoulder, Calleigh couldn't help, but replay Natalia's scream. Closing her eyes, she immediately got a mental image of what had happened and her eyes flew open again.

"Take me home Alexx. I need to feel Natalia... To be around her belongings... Please, please take me home."

Helping her friend up, Alexx tucked Calleigh's hand up near her elbow and they slowly walked outside. The rain was coming down in a steady downpour and they quickly made their way to the car with Alexx making sure that Calleigh was safely inside before going around and getting in herself.

The ride to the house was quiet and before Calleigh realized, they were pulling into the driveway. Digging through her pockets, she found her keys and thumbed the remote to open the garage door. After Alexx drove in, but before she could shut off the car, Calleigh stopped her.

"Please don't take this wrong, but you don't need to stay. I'll be fine here with Mallory."

"Sugar, are you sure? I don't mind staying here until they bring Natalia home, and they will bring her home."

Shaking her head, Calleigh opened the door, letting Mallory out before getting out herself.

"No, I'll be ok. Thank you though. I'll talk with you later and thank you so very much."

Alexx watched as Calleigh made her way over to the door, unlocked it and went inside with her dog. Putting the car in reverse, she pulled out and wasn't surprised when the garage door came down. As she drove away, she realized that she also wasn't surprised that Calleigh wanted to be alone. Showing weakness to anyone was something that Calleigh just couldn't do; anyone other than Natalia. Sighing she drove back towards the lab.

Walking into the house, Calleigh turned off the alarm and reset it before walking into the kitchen to pour out some food for Mallory. Slowly making her way into their bedroom, Calleigh took off her clothes and put on the nightclothes that Natalia had worn the night before, breathing in the scent that lingered. Taking Natalia's pillow from the bed, she took it into the living room and sat on the sofa. Holding the pillow close to her chest, she slowly began rocking as silent tears began to trail down her face. Burying her face in the pillow, she took a deep breath and screamed…. and screamed… and screamed until her voice was raw.

Mallory padded over, placed her head on Calleigh's lap and looked up at her. Gradually releasing the pillow, Calleigh reached out and rubbed the dog's head. Laying down, she let her arm drape over the dog and just listened to the rain, trying not to imagine what her wife was going through. Tears continued to silently fall as the day edged into night and still she didn't move.

Finally she roused herself and opened the sliding door and gave Mallory the signal to play and she went into the kitchen to look around. Opening the refrigerator door, she spied a bottle of white wine and took it out, placing it on the counter. Closing the door, she went in search of a corkscrew and after a few moments, found it. Making her way back to the wine, she took off the protective covering and started to insert the metal tip when the phone rang. She just let it ring, but did stop what she was doing when Natalia voice came over the speaker.

'Hi, I'm not at home right now, but if you will leave a message and I'll call you as soon as I can. Thanks.'

"Calleigh…It's Ryan… Please pick up."

It took Calleigh a moment to snap out of her daze to pick up the phone.

"Ryan… I'm here…No, you don't need to, I'm fine. You stay there and do whatever you can… Yes, if you hear anything, please let me know… Thank you."

Hanging up the phone, Calleigh went over to the answering machine and hit the message button and Natalia's voice once again filled the room. Unplugging the machine from the phone, Calleigh set the message to repeat continually. Walking back into the living room, she laid back down on the sofa, reaching again for Natalia's pillow, and Calleigh fell asleep listening to Natalia's voice on the answering machine; the timbre and rise of it soothing her frazzled nerves.

Calleigh had been asleep for a couple of hours when the phone woke her with a start.

Struggling to get to her feet, she got off the sofa and made her way over to where she left the phone. Turning off the answering machine, she answered.


There was nothing.



Straining to hear, Calleigh thought that she heard a tiny noise in the background so she waited to see if it repeated. Finally a whimpering noise came more discernable.

"Natalia... Is that you...?"

"Very good Ms. Duquesne... I thought for a moment that you weren't going to live up to you reputation."

Quickly Calleigh pulled out her cell phone and texted Horatio that Jethro was on her home line.

"What do you want Jethro? You wouldn't call unless you wanted something from me?"

Dark laughter filled Calleigh's ear.

"I just thought that you should share in the punishment since you were a willing participant in the so called crime."

"What crime are you talking about Jethro? We did nothing wrong."

When her phone vibrated, Calleigh squinted to see the see the screen.

'Keep him on line. Tracing.'

The sound of electricity filled the earpiece moments before a scream split the air, sending Calleigh sliding to the floor.

"Did you know that your wife is very good at withstanding pain? It takes quite a lot to get any kind of sound out of her. I'm having to work twice as hard as I did on the other girls. You want to know your crime? If it hadn't been for you, Natalia would have noticed me and I wouldn't have been forced to do all that I've done."

Gritting her teeth, Calleigh contained herself from shooting back a comment, instead she simply stated.

"You're right... I should have left her when all of this started... It's my fault.. Not hers, so why don't you let me exchange places with her."

Before the words were even out of her mouth, Calleigh heard Natalia scream.

"NO! You stay away from her Jet...I'm the one that ignored you… Dismissed you as nothing... Whatever you are going to do, you do it to me..."

Jethro's voice sounded positively giddy.

"Oh, I will Natalia... I will, but first I think that it's time that you tell Ms Duquesne good-bye."

"No... Jethro wait..." Calleigh pleaded. "Wouldn't you rather have the both of us? Two sets of voices... Two sets of screams?"

"Calleigh... No... Stay away... You have to stay away... I need to know that you're waiting for me."

Suddenly the sound of a pump shotgun filled Calleigh's mind, followed by the words.

"Well, then she's going to have a very long wait."

The following explosion caused Calleigh to drop the phone and start screaming.

"NOOOOoooooo! Natalia...! Oh God!... Natalia."

Tears poured down her face as Calleigh held herself, rocking back and forth.

"No, no, no. Not true, not true. No, no, no."

After a few moments, Calleigh heard maniacal laughter coming from the phone. Slowly she reached over, picked it up and held it to her ear.

The laughing continued until he had to take a breath and then in the background, Calleigh heard the sweetest noise.

"It's just a sound effect... Just a sound effect... That's all it is... A sound effect."

Still giggling, Jethro asked.

"Well, Ms. Duquesne. Did you learn your lesson? Next time it might not be a joke... Like now."

A gunshot rang out and then the phone went dead.

Dropping the phone, Calleigh sat there numb, slowly rocking until Horatio finally got her attention by knocking on the kitchen window.

Calleigh felt like she was moving in slow motion as she got to her feet to make her way over to the front door, turned off the security system and then opened the door.

"Please tell me you found him. Please tell me."

"We've found him Calleigh."

He caught her just before she hit the ground, so he took her over and gently laid her on the sofa. Alexx came in after him and knelt down beside her.

"Stay with her Alexx. I'll call you as soon as I have some news."

Before he could leave, Calleigh reached for his hand, stopping him.

Kneeling down so that Calleigh could see his face, they stared at each other for a long moment before Horatio simply stated.

"I will."

Standing quickly, he rushed off, leaving Alexx to worry over their friend.

After hanging up the phone, Jethro stared at Natalia for a long time as she sat and silently cried. Her head hung down and her normally shiny, caramel colored hair hung limp and dull, shielding her face.

Walking over and cupping her chin, Jethro brought her face up so that he could watch her emotions.

"You're dead to her now. She has no reason to believe that you're alive."

Tears slowly fell down her face, her eyes lifeless and unfocused. It was as though he was talking to a statue, and he wanted more.

Reaching down with his other hand, Jethro dug his nails into one of the cuts and twisted.

Nothing showed on Natalia's face, not a flicker of anything.

Squeezing harder, Jethro snarled as he didn't get any response and he wanted something, anything. Snatching his hands away, he went and cleaned her blood from his hand.

As he looked at Natalia from behind, he realized that she would never become what he wanted her to be and she would need to be discarded. However, a thought sprang to mind and he grinned with the possibilities.

Grabbing a pad and pen, he went back to stand in front of the silent woman, making sure that the camera still had a good shot of her face.

"Like I said, you're dead to Calleigh now and soon you actually will be, but I thought that you should know what I have planned for your wife after you're gone."

Leaning casually on the table next to the chair, he started taking notes.

"The first thing that I'm going to do is to cut her hair. Vanity is one of the original seven deadly sins and Ms. Duquesne is very proud of her hair. Therefore, I think that I will shave her head first thing."

After pausing to judge Natalia's reaction, he continued.

"It's too bad that she's blind, or actually, you might think that it's a good thing: because I believe that I would have taken her sight. Without her sight, she loses the 'holier than thou' aura and becomes just like the rest of the common folk. And she needs to learn humility."

There! A slight tightening of her jaw and he knew he was on the right track. Quickly turning around, he put down the pad, reached into one of the table's drawers and pulled out a picture.

Picking up the scalpel, he walked over and stood next to the chair. Holding the picture up so that Natalia could see that it was a copy of the one he sent of Calleigh with Mallory.

"I will then strap her to this very chair, just like you are now, and cut your name into her skin.... no maybe not cut... maybe... hold on a second. There is something I want to show you."

He placed the knife down on Natalia's thigh where she couldn't get it and walked away.

Looking down, Natalia knew that this would be her one chance and she has to make it quick. Gritting her teeth against the pain, she moved her dislocated arm, sliding it down until she could touch the knife with her fingers. Lifting her leg as high as she could against the straps, she was able to pick up the scalpel and turn it to cut the strap that held her wrist. Swiftly she unstrapped her other wrist, but placed the strap so it seemed still fastened. Then she simply laid the scalpel back down on her thigh and resumed the same position as before, making sure that everything looked the same.

Jethro's voice sounded excited as he came back into the room.

"I shall use one of these on Ms. Duquesne... or maybe both."

He came around carrying the metal brands that he had used on the first two women and the wood burning tool he had used on the final one.

"I will brand your name onto her skin so many times that she will soon hate you more than she hates me. After that..."

The storm had continued around them and had gotten worse and the building was suddenly plunged in darkness.

Jethro walked over to a blacked out window, opened it slightly and peered out to see that a lot of the surrounding area was indeed dark. He returned to the back room and found a flashlight. Turning it on, he went back into the other room only to find the chair empty.

"Come now Natalia, you should know that the guest of honor cannot leave the party early. It's rude, especially to the host. So come on out, Natalia, and let me tell you what else I have planned for the lovely Ms. Duquesne."

Suddenly he had a sharp pain on his left side and when he looked down, he was astonished to see his scalpel sticking out.

Then he heard a feral growl.

"You're never going to get anywhere close to my wife. I swear to everything that is holy that you're not going to walk out of here tonight."

He turned the flashlight around, illuminating Natalia's face and took a step back.

Her eyes were wild. He couldn't believe that she could show that much anger, much less act on it.

Taking a deep breath, Jethro did two things at once; he pulled out the knife with his left hand while delivering a backhand to Natalia's face, making her drop to the ground. Breathing deeply, he stood over her with blood dripping from the knife and from his wound. Kicking at her, he struck her on the head, reopening the gash on her forehead. Snarling he kneeled, then reached to grab a handful of hair and yanked her head up.

"You're going to pay for that. I was going to make your dismissal as painless as possible, but now I'm going to make it last for days. Drawing it out until you plead for me to end it."

"I beg to differ."

Horatio's voice reverberated through the room as a light was shone on Jethro's face.

"You're not going to do one more to thing to Ms. Boa Vista, Jethro. This ends right now."

"Lieutenant Caine, I beg to differ. I believe that I can end her life before you can get to me."

Walking towards the wide-eyed man, Horatio kept his voice low.

'Well, Jethro… You may be right… However… Will you be faster than the gentleman to your left…? Or maybe faster than the one on your right? What do you think?"

Two additional lights clicked on showing Ryan and Eric as they aimed both their flashlights and guns on him.

Slowly turning his head to take in the whole room, Jethro gradually lowered the arm that held the knife until it was at his waist. Cocking his head in an imitation of the man confronting him, he lowered his voice so that Horatio had to strain to hear him, but Natalia could hear him clearly.

"I do believe Natalia, that you are going to be correct, and I'm not going to walk out of here. I am so sorry that we didn't get to spend more time together, but I do want to thank you for enjoyment you have given me."

They stared at each other for a moment before Jethro took a deep breath and even more quietly said.

"But you're not going to walk out either."

Swiftly he pulled back his hand and thrust it towards Natalia's chest. Three shots rang out, driving the young man's body back and away from Natalia.

"Eric… Ryan… Stay where you are please… Don't move."

Horatio laid his flashlight down on the concrete floor, lighting up the trembling woman. Slowly he made his way over to Natalia, almost crawling on his hands and knees as not to startle her, speaking softly all along the way.

"Natalia…I'm right here… I'm going to come over and pick you up. And then I am going to take you to Calleigh. All right?"

Her eyes stared at the man that was moving towards her, not recognizing him, but his voice was soothing and slowly getting through the fog in her mind.

"Let's go see Calleigh, Natalia. She's waiting for you at the hospital."

After a second, Natalia looked puzzled and then worried.

"What's wrong with Calleigh? Why is she at the hospital?"

"Nothing's wrong with Calleigh. She's going to meet us there so we can get you checked out."

Reaching out, he gently picked her up, stood up and started walking out.

"Gentlemen, if you would please process the scene and call me with any updates. And Eric, would you please call Calleigh?"

Natalia wrapped her arms tightly about Horatio and tucked her head on his shoulder. She couldn't stop the trembling and her teeth were beginning to chatter. She clung tightly to the Lieutenant and begged him to take her away; back home, to Calleigh. She couldn't seem to control herself and she was sure that Horatio took her to be a fool.

"I'm sorry to cause you so much trouble Horatio. I promise to find a way to make it up to you."

Taking his time to make his way out of the darkened building without bumping into anything, Horatio's smooth voice began to settle her fears.

"Natalia, you are no trouble, and I don't want you to worry yourself. None of this was your fault. We'll be at the ambulance soon."

The waiting officers and emergency technicians had been ordered to keep their lights off so it was pitch black, but everyone could see Horatio carrying someone in his arms towards the waiting police blockade.

As soon as they passed the blockades, lights were turned on, an EMT quickly placed Natalia on a stretcher, and they were soon on their way. The brunette was still unsure that her nightmare was truly over, and so refused to let go of Horatio all the way to the hospital. She also refused to let the EMT touch her even though she was still bleeding and Horatio begged her.

"No, no one touches me until I've seen Calleigh. No one else."

"Natalia, You need to let this gentleman help you." Horatio pleaded.

"Horatio, I can't explain, but I don't want anyone else touching me until I've seen Calleigh. Please take me to Calleigh."

Patting her shoulder, Horatio assured her that they were almost there; in fact they were pulling into the emergency entrance within minutes and were rushed inside. Horatio spoke with the doctors and even though they didn't understand, they agreed to wait and treat her after she had been with Calleigh.

Within moments of arriving, Alexx and Calleigh rushed in and even though Calleigh was in a hurry to get to her wife, Horatio stopped her.

"Calleigh, Natalia has some cuts on her legs, a gash on her forehead and her hands are badly cut and is still bleeding. She also has a dislocated shoulder and I know that she has to be in pain, but she refuses to let anyone treat her until she sees you. "

Closing her eyes and getting her mind-set, Calleigh prepared herself for what she was about to see. Nodding to Horatio, she let him escort her where her wife was.

"You might want to tell the doctors that I'm not leaving. Whatever they're going to do, will be with me in the room. I'm not letting her out of my sight. Not today anyway. You tell them Horatio."

Nodding his understanding, he opened the door to the room, stepped aside to let her enter and closed the door behind her before he went in search of the doctors.

The room was dimly lit so Calleigh had to feel her way along the wall until she reached Natalia's side. Finding the bed, she ran her hand along the sheets until she touched soft skin.

"Darlin, I'm here."

Leaning in close, Calleigh strained to focus on her wife's face. As it came into view, she was barely able to stop the gasp from escaping. There was a deep gash on Natalia's forehead that ran from the middle of her hairline to the right side and her face bruised from where Jethro had hit her.

While the damage was awful to see, it was the way that Natalia's eyes looked that scared Calleigh the most. They were dull with no life in the at all, staring straight ahead.

Reaching up, Calleigh gently pushed Natalia's hair away from her face so that she could caress it, trying to get her wife attention.

Softly Calleigh whispered.

"Talia, I'm here. Come on baby. Look at me. I'm right here and I'm not going anywhere. I'm staying right by your side. I'm not going to leave you. Natalia, darlin'. Please look at me."

Ever so slowly, Natalia turned her head in Calleigh's direction, but when she looked at Calleigh, there was no recognition. Just a blank stare.

Gingerly Calleigh took one of Natalia's hand within her grasp, wincing slightly as she saw the damage, but carefully place it over her own heart.

"Do you feel that darlin'. My heart is beating your name. When I couldn't see, I just placed my hand over my heart and I saw you as clear as day. You have taken over my heart, Natalia. You are my heart, my life and my love. And don't forget, I can see you now. I see the woman that I'm in love with and I want her to see me. Please see me Talia."

The room was silent for a long moment and then Natalia blinked. She gave her head a tiny shake and then blinked again. Frowning, she looked down at her hand on Calleigh's chest and then looked back up into the eyes of her wife. Turning her head slowly, she looked around the room until she looked again on Calleigh.

Licking her lips, and with her voice very scratchy, Natalia whispered.

"Is it over?"

"Yes my love, it's over."

With those words, Natalia collapsed into Calleigh's arms, weeping as the fear of the last eighteen hours melted away.

Getting up on the bed, Calleigh held her, rubbing her back until she quit crying and then very slowly she leaned back so that she could see Natalia's face. Softly brushing away the tears, Calleigh placed a gentle kiss upon Natalia's lips.

"Is it alright with you if we get the doctors in here now so that can treat you?"

Shaking her head, Natalia scooted back.

"Not yet. In a minute…Um…I wanted to show you what he did to me…I need to see your face when you see…If you want to walk away afterwards, I'll understand."

"Natalia, I'm not going anywhere. For better or for worse, remember? You're stuck with me."

They both swallowed lumps in their throats as Natalia slowly lifted the sheet that was covering her thighs. The long scalpel cuts and nail marks were almost obscured by the caked on blood, but Calleigh leaned down and place a gentle kiss near the wounds.

Looking back into Natalia's scared eyes, Calleigh reassured her.

"Those don't change how I feel about you. Nothing can every do that. We'll get through this together darlin'. Now I would like for you to let me bring the doctors in. I'm not going anywhere, I'm staying right here with you."

Releasing the breath that she had been holding, Natalia closed her eyes for a moment and when she opened them again, they were gazing at her wife filled with love.

"I love you Calleigh DuVista."

"And I love you Natalia DuVista. I'm just going to get them ok?"

Taking the few steps over to the door, Calleigh opened the door and motioned for them to come in. Almost immediately, the room was filled with people surrounding Natalia's bed.

"Calleigh...Calleigh, where are you?" Natalia's voice sounded a bit panicked.

Moving to the foot of the bed, Calleigh reached down, placing a hand on one of Natalia's legs.

"I'm right here darlin'. I'm not going anywhere."

Part 16

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