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 20

It was late morning and the rain was continuing to come down as Natalia slowly awoke. Getting out of bed, she headed to the bathroom to freshen up and then went into the kitchen to see what Calleigh was fixing in the kitchen.

"Morning sunshine. How are you this morning?"

Calleigh turned slightly to glance at her wife. "I'm good darlin'. Did you sleep alright."

Snagging a slice of toast, Natalia took a bite before answering. "Not really. I'm still having dreams with Jethro in them. I was hoping that they would go away by now."

"Uh, yeah. I think that we need to talk about that. Actually I believe that we need to talk about what happened that night."

Natalia picked up the plates that were already filled with food and placed them on the table. Turning back, she caught a glimpse of Calleigh's face and gasped.

"Calleigh! What happened?" Going over to her wife, she gently touched the bruise with her lips.

"Well, I'd like to tell you that I ran into a cabinet door since I am so clumsy, but I have to say that you had a really bad dream last night."

Natalia took a step back in shock with a look of shame on her face. "No, please tell me that I did not do this to you."

Going over to take Natalia into her embrace, Calleigh held her close and whispered. "I know that you didn't mean to. It was just your dream, but I'm serious when I say that we need to talk about what happened that night. What we both went through and when we get that out in the open, I

think that we will both feel better."

Gazing down at her wife, Natalia saw the look of love and understanding mingling with worry. Carefully framing her face with her hands, Natalia gave her a gentle kiss.

"Ok, we'll talk. Can it at least wait until after breakfast?"

Quickly kissing Natalia's nose, Calleigh quipped before heading to the table. "Not a problem. Besides, I don't want my bacon to get cold. I hate cold bacon....well, I'll still eat it, but I prefer it hot like you."

Looking at Calleigh with a bemused expression on her face, Natalia just waited until she realized what she had said.

Hanging her head, Calleigh sighed. "What is it about you and bacon that always gets me in trouble?"

"Don't blame it on the bacon, babe. This is all you." Natalia exclaimed, through a playful smirk.

Calleigh sat down in her chair, pretending to sulk so Natalia came over to place a quick kiss atop her wife's head when Calleigh raised her face and instead received the kiss on her lips.

"Why thank you darlin'. I knew that I could count on you for some suga'."

Laughing, Natalia asked. "Some suga'? What in the world is that?"

Taking a bit of bacon, Calleigh chewed before she answered. "Haven't you ever heard that kisses are as sweet as sugar?"

"I have heard that before, but I never put it in that context before."

The rest of the meal was a playful banter, even though some of it seemed a bit forced. Natalia offered to clean up afterwards since Calleigh had fixed the meal, but she insisted on helping so it didn't take long for everything to be cleaned.

Going over to stand in front of the glass doors, Natalia stared out at the rain as Calleigh sat back down at the table, leaning her chin against her fist.

After a few moments, Natalia quietly started. "I was photographing the scene when he showed up. I really didn't think anything of it at first because he said that he lived nearby and he wanted to see what was going on, but when he said that he was there for our date, I started getting nervous."

She frowned for a moment as she thought back. "Then when he asked if Horatio had told me that I was going to see his game room, and he had one hand in his pocket with the other behind his back. When he brought around a rose dripping with blood, all I could think about was getting to you. I tried running away, but I tripped over my kit, and fell against a bookcase. He got upset when I wouldn't call him Jett, so he slapped me, and I went into a table and opened up my head. When I got up, he pushed me into a fish tank, knocking it over and before he tasered me, he said that I would never see you again."

Calleigh had quietly gotten up to go stand next to her, but she didn't reach out to touch her yet. Natalia's arms crossed across her chest, hugging herself and she was staring far out to sea.

Swallowing hard, she continued. "When I came to, my arms, and head were strapped to a wooden chair. He brought out a monitor and made me watch what he did to the others and every time that I looked away or closed my eyes, he would whip my hands. When that was finished, he allowed me to go into a bathroom to bandage my hands and that's when I called you. I had dropped my phone into a side pocket earlier and he had missed it somehow."

Turning to look in Calleigh's direction, Natalia's eyes were glazed over in memory. "He had a very fixed ideal of how women should act and talk to men. He said that I had led him on, even though I told him that I was in a relationship. It was also my fault that I hurt my head and cut up my hands. Then he would turn around and be very courteous and polite. He was truly psychotic. When I told him that I couldn't do a proper job of bandaging my hands, he lost it." Reaching up, she touched her cheek. "He hit me, then dragged me back to the chair, strapped me back down and brought out his taser. He put leads all over my chest and turned on the taser. I had never felt pain like that before, but there was no way that I was going to give him the satisfaction. I had noticed in all of the videos that he had gotten most excited when they screamed, so I was determined not to. He brought out a camera and started filming while he increased the voltage. It wasn't until he had it on high and then threatened to go after you did I finally scream."

Finally reaching out, Natalia drew Calleigh to her; taking comfort in the strength and the love of her wife. Still holding her, Natalia let her hands trace idle patterns on her back as she continued. "Then he asked me if you had ever talked about John Hagen. I told him that you had never said anything, but that I had heard different things from other people. I never did understand why he told me that story, and I asked him. He just stood there looking at me in disbelief, like it should have been obvious. Then he just walked away and was gone for so long that I hoped that he had left. Then I felt something pressed to the back of my head and I heard the sound of a gun hammer being pulled back. Instantly I knew that you would have been able to tell me what kind of gun that it was. Then I whispered that I loved you and closed my eyes. There was the sound of an empty chamber. Then he did it again and this time a shot rang out. It scared me so bad that I dislocated my shoulder. He was very apologetic about that and allowed me to go into the bathroom to pop it back in. I tried to get away, but he strapped me back to the chair. This is when he cut my legs and then called you."

Pulling away a bit so that she could look down at Calleigh's face, Natalia's eyes were bright with unshed tears. "When I heard your scream, I dislocated my shoulder again trying to get out of the chair. When he hung up the phone, I knew that I wasn't going to get out of there alive. My life was over and I didn't get to tell you that I loved you before I died."

Reaching up, Calleigh caressed her face and ran her fingers through Natalia's hair as she waited for her to finish.

"After that, I just shut down. I didn't respond to anything that he did to me. No matter how he tortured me, I showed no emotion. That's when he started to go into detail on what he was going to do to you after I was dead. He was going shave your head. Said that you were too vain about your hair. He also said that he was sorry that you were blind, because he would have blinded you to teach you humility. When he described to me how he was going to carve my name into your skin that got him very excited. He had a picture of you and he pointed out where he was going to start at when he got a sudden idea. That's when he laid the scalpel down on my leg and walked away. I think that he figured that I couldn't get it, that I was too out of it to care anymore, but I knew that this was my only chance to stop him from coming after you. I got free, but made everything look normal. When he came back, he brought the brands that he had used on the other women and said that he was going to put my name all over your body so you would soon hate me more than you hated him."

Calleigh clasped Natalia closer to her as she began to tremble in earnest, not just the tiny shocks that had been throughout.

"When the lights went out, he walked away; I took the knife and got out of the chair. When he came back and found me gone, he taunted me by telling me that he hadn't finished telling me what he was going to do to you. That's when I stabbed him. I honestly wanted him dead. I didn't care if I died during the process, but there was no way that he was going to have the chance to hurt you. I was going to do whatever I had to do, but he was not going to leave that building ever again. He pulled out the knife as he knocked me to the ground, and was kneeling over me when Horatio came in. He told Jethro that he wasn't going to hurt me again, but he tried one last time to kill me and that's when he was shot. I don't remember too much after that until I saw you at the hospital."

Slowly collapsing to the floor; Natalia began to sob and all Calleigh could do was to hold her close; letting her get all of this out of her system.

"I was ready to die; I would have gladly too if it had meant that you wouldn't be hurt. I wouldn't be able to bear it if you had been hurt because of me. There had already been too much pain because of me."

Taking Natalia's face between her hands, gently forcing her to look her in the eyes. "No, it wasn't because of you. None of what happened was your fault. This was all Jethro. If you had died, I would have soon followed. There would have been nothing here for me to live for. You have given my life reason and with you gone, there would have been nothing. The only thing that I would have lived for was to track down Jethro and kill him. After that, nothing."

Searching the worried jade green eyes, Natalia found it hard to believe the words that had just been uttered. Shaking her head, she argued. "No, you wouldn't have done that. You couldn't. Turning your back on your life's work."

Quietly Calleigh justified. "That's all it is darlin'. Work. You are my life, my reason now. Everything I do now is because of you, for you and with you. I've said it before that you brought color into my world and without you, it would have all gone to grey and I couldn't face that again. When I listened to the phone call, and I heard the gun shot; all of the color began to bleed away. All I could see was grey, but then Horatio came to say that they had found you and I saw red. I wanted Jethro dead. And… God help me, I insinuated that to Horatio. I didn't say it aloud, but he knew what I meant and I think that he agreed. I'm not going to apologize that, but I want… no, I need you to understand that I have… will do anything that I feel in necessary to protect you, just like I know that you will do for me. You've already proved that when you held Stetler at gun point."

With a gentle touch, Natalia reached out to caress Calleigh's face, softening the fierce gaze with her own. Slowly the fire ebbed out, being replaced with love and understanding.

"We're lucky, you know that? We found each other exactly when we needed each other the most and were smart enough to know it. Most people can't say that."

Nodding her head, Calleigh agreed. "Yup, and we're smart enough to talk about all of our fears and worries because we know that we are stronger together. Hell, Horatio even said that love makes us stronger and I've got so much love for you that I should be a super hero."

With that, Natalia threw back her head and let loose a full-blown laugh. "Bullet Girl to the rescue. I can see you now."

After catching her breath, Natalia sobered a bit by saying. "Ok, so like I said yesterday. I'm not going to let Jethro control me anymore. I got away, I survived, and he's no longer in control."

"But you didn't get away, not really. He's still with you; he's in your dreams. Jethro is still abusing you and you're letting him."

Natalia hesitated for a moment, looking outside before turning back. "Would you mind if I went for a walk?"

"You do see the rain, right?"

Kissing her wife lightly on the lips. "I'm not going to melt. I just need to get out for a bit."

"I understand. Why don't you take Mallory with you? She needs to get out for awhile anyway."

Natalia agreed as they stood up. Calling to the dog, Natalia opened the door and they walked out into the rain. Calleigh stood in the open doorway and watched as they walked away. She knew that Natalia had opened up a lot of emotions that she had been hiding from and needed to deal with them in her own fashion

The rain was not as hard as it had been earlier, but Natalia was soon soaked, but she really didn't notice. As she walked farther down the beach, the more vivid the details of that night as they came back to her mind. She could feel the wood from the chair underneath her hands and smell the rust of the walls. She didn't hear the rain hitting the water, instead she heard as it hit the metal roof of the room she had been in. Looking down at the sand, she saw instead the drops of blood as it hit the concrete from the cuts on her legs.

Abruptly stopping, she turned to face the ocean and started to scream as she swore at Jethro for what he had put her through. When she finished with Jethro; she started in on Stetler for what he did to Calleigh and to their team and after that she went off on her ex-husband Nick Townsend for his abuse. When screaming wasn't enough, she took off running, trying to get the phantoms out of her mind, ignoring the pain as it ripped through her legs. She could hear Jethro cackling in the background, telling her that she was never going to be a real woman.

Tripping in the sand, she landed hard on her hands and knees as Jethro suddenly appeared in front of her with Calleigh strapped in the same wooden chair that she had been in. He was using a white-hot brand on her chest, searing Natalia's name into the pale skin.

"NO! You're dead! You're not here!."

Leaning forward, the phantom sneered. "But I am. You're bringing me here. You're giving me permission to do what I want. I'm not finished with either one of you yet."

Trying to pull her thoughts from her mind to her body, her hands balled and beat against her thighs again, this time matching the crash of the waves in her ears. She forced herself to mentally release Calleigh from that chair and have her start to walk away. Away from the monster that was still reaching out to mar her soul.

Still on her knees, her body gave way, bringing her hands down to the sand to stop herself from totally collapsing. She was completely emotionally and physically exhausted. So much so, that she was retching up what was left of breakfast. Her hair was hanging in wet strands while her clothes clung to her like a second skin as her stomach heaved again. Her pants now also soaked with blood from her reopened wounds.

Somewhere in the back of her mind, she heard her name being screamed out, but it truly didn't register until suddenly, Calleigh was there, skidding to a stop and dropping to her knees, reaching out to her wife only to have her shrink away.

"No, you can't be here. He'll find you and force me to watch as he plays with you. You've got to leave. It's the only way that you'll truly be safe is away from me."

Slowly Calleigh reached out to barely touch the now cold hand that was in the sand, not saying anything. She stayed that way for the longest time, then very carefully began to inch her hand up past Natalia's wrist, then elbow, then shoulder before slowly pulling her into her embrace. Natalia's body was trembling so badly that it terrified Calleigh and she began to worry on how they were going to get back to the cabin.

"Talia… honey… we need to get you back to the cabin. Can you get up?"

Slowly, Natalia turned her head until Calleigh's worried face filled her sight. "I'm not sure."

Looking up the beach to gauge the distance to the cabin, Calleigh came to a decision. Turning back to the shivering woman. "Darlin', I hate to do this, but I'm going to leave you here to run back to the cabin and get the Hummer. It shouldn't take me more than fifteen minutes to get there and back. I'll leave Mallory here with you."

Slowly she stood up, careful to not move Natalia anymore than she had to. With one final glance at her wife, Calleigh took off at a dead run towards the cabin. It took her about ten minutes to get there and she dashed inside to grab the keys to the Hummer and some blankets to wrap Natalia in. Rushing outside to the Hummer, she jumped in, started it up and roared out onto the beach in the direction of her wife. Stopping a few feet away from Natalia, Calleigh slammed the vehicle into park, jumped out and ran over to help her stand.

Looking up though the rain at her worried spouse, Natalia tried to blink the water from her eyes. "I'm sorry Calleigh. I am so sorry."

Kneeling beside the tearful woman, Calleigh shook her head and softly murmured. "Baby, you have nothing to be sorry for. Let's just get you up, into the Hummer and back to the cabin. There's a nice warm shower waiting on us and I don't intend on making it wait."

Carefully helping Natalia stand, Calleigh got them over to the passenger side door, opened it and got her safely inside, before rushing around to the other side to let Mallory in and get in herself. Turning the vehicle around, she swiftly drove back to the cabin and stopped it as close to back deck as possible as that was the closest entrance to the bathroom.

After getting Natalia out of the vehicle, Calleigh got her inside and into the bathroom. Quickly she took a towel and laid it on the living room floor, telling Mallory to lay down, before going back into the other room to care for her wife. As she walked into the room, she found Natalia backing away from the mirror with a look of terror on her face.

"Talia! What's the matter?"

Backing herself into a corner, Natalia slid down the wall until she was down on the floor curled up, silently crying. She didn't take her eyes off the mirror though for an instant. With a shaky breath, she whispered. "Jethro is in the mirror. I know that he's dead, but I can still see him there. I'm going crazy."

Calleigh didn't hesitate for an instant as she whirled around and confronted the mirror by shouting. "You can't have her. Not again. She's not yours to have. She's mine and I'm not giving her up without a fight. I don't care if you're only in her mind, I'm not going to let you win."

Turning back to kneel beside the now silent woman, Calleigh slowly reached out to grasp Natalia's hand, but she was pushed away.

"No! Stay away from me! He'll get to you if you're near me."

Placing her body in Natalia's line of sight, Calleigh calmly talked to her. "Talia, he's not going to get us. He can't. I know that you know that. Don't let him win. You're stronger than that. We're stronger than that. Remember what you said earlier? That you're not going to let him control you anymore. I know that you can do this. I'm not going anywhere. I am yours, more than I am my own."

Bit by bit, she stood up, bringing Natalia up with her until they were both standing. Calleigh made sure that she kept her body between Natalia and the mirror at all times. Gradually, she turned them ever so slowly until Natalia was facing in the opposite direction. Reaching down, she started unbuttoning Natalia's shirt until she was able to drop the soaking wet article aside. Stopping for a moment, she stretched over to turn on the shower so that the water would warm up before reaching back to carefully pulled down her pants. She was glad that they were still quite damp so that they weren't sticking to the cuts. As her eyes came level with the injuries, Calleigh was relieved to see that they weren't completely reopened. Only a couple of places had gapped so Calleigh gave a sigh of relief.

As she stood up, Calleigh quickly removed her own clothes and drew her shivering wife into the steaming shower, quickly adjusting the water to a perfect temperature. Stepping under the water, she gently pulled on Natalia's hand until her body was a breath away from her own. Reaching up with her free hand, Calleigh brought Natalia's fearful gaze down to look into her eyes.

"I want you to listen to me very carefully. We're not going to let Jethro win. Like everything else, we're stronger together than we are apart and I'm not going to lose you over a ghost. Not this ghost or any other that may be around. Remember that the past is just that, the past. We control our future, you and I. So whenever you think that you see Jethro, you remember that you're Natalia DuVista and you tell him to fuck off."

With the last remark, Natalia gave a little smile and some of the fear bled out. Nodding her head, Natalia tried to look away, but Calleigh wasn't having any of that. Bringing the gaze back up, Calleigh quietly reminded her. "Don't forget, we also have a wedding to start planning unless you've changed your mind."

Shaking her head, the fear instantly left her eyes to be replaced with determination. "No, I haven't changed my mind. I want to spend my life with you, even though part of me wants you to stay far away." Narrowing her eyes, Natalia ground out. "My name is Natalia DuVista and I am not going to let anyone or anything to get between me and my wife."

Calleigh gave her one of the Duquesne megawatt smiles. "That's the woman I fell in love with. The one that doesn't take no for an answer. Now let's get you warmed up and into some dry clothes."

The shower didn't take long at all, as Calleigh knew that Natalia was soon going to crash as the adrenaline and nerves bottomed out. Carefully drying her off, Calleigh helped her pull on a pair of shorts and a soft t-shirt before she pulled on something herself. Grabbing the first aid kit as they started to leave the room, Natalia stopped them to put the drops on Calleigh's eyes.

"We're not going to forget to do this again." Carefully Natalia leaned back Calleigh's head and applied the drops. After wiping the excess away, she leaned down and gave each lid a gentle kiss before she placed an even softer one on a pair of inviting lips.

Blinking her eyes open, Calleigh looked up into tired brown eyes. "Let's get you to bed darlin'. You look like you're ready to pass out and I want to get those cuts closed as soon as possible."

They made their way into the living room where they were greeted by the thumping of Mallory's tail against the floor. Getting Natalia situated on the bed, Calleigh went and got her pain medication and a glass of juice before coming back to sit beside her.

"Do you want to take a whole pill or half of one?"

Reaching for the glass of juice, Natalia answered. "I think that half of one will do the trick. I'm not in a lot of pain, just really uncomfortable right now. Why don't you go ahead and dry off Mallory while we wait for this to kick in before we close up the cuts?"

Calleigh agreed and soon had a happy dry dog asleep at the foot of the bed. Opening the first aid kit, she discovered that Horatio had it supplied with almost everything someone might need. One of the first things that she saw was Liquid Band-Aids. Pulling that out of the kit, she gently applied it to the cuts that needed closing and within twenty minutes or so, she was finished.

When she finally sat back and looked at her handiwork with a very critical eye, Calleigh was satisfied, but she was very happy that she had not caused Natalia too much pain. One of the reasons that it had take so long was that she kept stopping every time that she heard Natalia give a sharp intake of breath. Looking at her wife's face, Calleigh could see the weariness and knew that she would soon be asleep.

"Would you like for me to fix you some soup before you go to sleep?

Shaking her head, Natalia gingerly slid down deeper into the bed. "No thanks. My stomach is still somewhat queasy. All I want to do right now is to touch you somehow and go to sleep. Would you mind lying down with me until I drop off?"

Closing the kit, Calleigh put it aside as she went around the bed to crawl over and lay down next to her wife. Reaching out, she threaded her fingers with Natalia's and tucked their joined hands underneath her chin. "I have nowhere else I would rather be and I could use a nap too."

It seemed to Calleigh that as soon as Natalia closed her eyes, she was sound asleep. As she lay there, watching Natalia sleep, Calleigh's guilt exploded to the surface. She felt that she had pushed Natalia into reliving that night too soon and the result of that was glaringly obvious, she had snapped. Calleigh had been so sure of herself that since she handled the aftermath so well, that Natalia would also. Mentally shaking her head. "Yeah, right. Like you're handling your ghost so well."

Carefully getting out of bed, Calleigh walk over to the glass door to watch the rain drizzling down. It looked like it would be clearing up soon. Turning back to look at her sleeping wife, she hoped that Natalia was have a peaceful slumber and get the rest that she so desperately needed.

Deciding that she needed something to do, Calleigh went around picking up the wet towels and clothes to start a couple loads of laundry. Once she got the first load in, she went into the kitchen to fix something to eat. Finally settling on a grilled cheese and bacon sandwich, she set to work. As the bacon sizzled, Calleigh had to laugh at herself. "Nope, you're not addicted to bacon. Not in the least."

Grabbing a bottle of beer from the fridge, Calleigh sat down at the table where she could watch Natalia sleeping. As she ate, Calleigh replayed different times in their relationship; like the day that they first met. She had come up on the elevator and gotten off at the labs floor and was amazed by the transformation. New labs with glass and chrome, very impressive. The best new addition happened to walk down the hall towards her. A beautiful woman in white pants and a blue and white blouse with caramel colored hair and the most beautiful brown eyes. Calleigh almost melted on sight; she had actually. She should have realized then, that they were going to be together because when Natalia had walked away, Calleigh couldn't remember one word of what she had said.

The rest of the afternoon and early evening was spent in this fashion with Calleigh going over different scenes and events that had happened to them over the past four years while watching Natalia sleep. When she finally took a good look around, she saw that it was just getting dark and it had finally stopped raining. Looking at the table, she was surprised to see her empty plate along with four empty beer bottles. She didn't even remember getting up to get more.

Pushing her chair away from the table, she stood up to walk over to the bed and knelt down so that she could get a closer look at her wife. Gently brush her hair away from her face, Calleigh marveled at the softness of her skin before leaning forward to place a kiss on her lips.

Standing, she went over to the glass doors, opened them while giving Mallory the command to play. She walked out on the back deck, and took a deep breath of still damp air. Everything felt so new and fresh after the rains. Leaning back her head, she watched as the stars were just beginning to come out, sparkling like diamonds on black velvet.

As she looked up, a shooting star tore across the sky. Without hesitation, Calleigh closed her eyes and whispered a prayer. "I'm asking anyone who is listening. I know that I'm not very religious. I'm a scientist, but I don't know what else to do. I was alone once, not caring about anything, but my work. Then Natalia came into my life, and showed me what I had given up. Please, please don't let the love in her eyes go out and be replaced with madness. I won't be able to take the emptiness that it leaves behind."

She stayed that was for quite a long time with her eyes closed, fervently wishing with every fiber of her being for her prayers to be answered, before she lowered her head and called Mallory to go back inside, Locking the doors, she quickly clean up the dishes and bottles before going back over to the bed. Gingerly, she crawled over to the exact spot that she had been in before and reached for Natalia's hand as before, putting them in the same position.

"I love you Talia." Floated on the air and Calleigh finally closed her eyes to sleep.

Part 21

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