DISCLAIMER: CSI Miami and its characters are the property of Jerry Bruckheimer and CBS. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: My eternal thanks to my very good friends, atfm and mrswoman for their masterful beta skills.
SPOILERS: References to Episode 609 – Stand Your Ground.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
The Sixth Day of Christmas
Natalia stepped into the bar and hesitated momentarily as she allowed her eyes to adjust to the low lighting. She heard laughter and whistles coming from the bar area and, for some reason, glanced overhead.
There it was; the cause of the leering sounds from the bar area, a sprig of mistletoe taped above the doorway. Quickly, Natalia scooted towards the booths which lined the walls of the bar; tonight, she wanted solitude, not the attention of a bunch of drunken women.
Reassured that the beam above the booth held only garland, Natalia slid into the seat and sighed in relief. She briefly glanced back towards the group of women, pleased to see they were now ignoring her. Natalia moved her gaze across the room.
As was her practice, she briefly scanned the bar, looking for that special someone who would catch her eye. She was always disappointed, but it never stopped her from trying. Amazingly, this time, her eyes found the one she'd been searching for. Natalia was stunned; this wasn't the weak imitation that she'd been looking for to take the place of the one she couldn't have. No, this was the real deal; it was really her.
Calleigh Duquesne stared at six glasses lining the bar; each filled to the brim, looking exactly as they had when the bartender had placed them in front of her. The only shift in her focus was when she moved her eyes from glass to glass. She never noticed Natalia's approach or the slender body sliding onto the adjacent stool.
Natalia sat quietly, waiting for the other woman to realize that someone had moved into her space. She bided her time contemplating why Calleigh was sitting in front of so many drinks, and, more importantly, why her colleague just happened to be sitting in the middle of her gay bar.
Silence ensued, and Natalia became frustrated. She'd never find the answers to her questions without conversation, and it was quite apparent that Calleigh was in her own little world. If Natalia wanted answers, then she was going to have to take the lead.
"Calleigh?" Natalia spoke softly, hoping the sound of her name would pull the ballistics specialist from her thoughts.
The only sign that Calleigh had heard her name was the slight narrowing of her eyes, but it was the glasses of liquor that continued to hold her attention.
Natalia tried again, adding a bit more volume.
This time Calleigh tilted her head slightly, but she stubbornly refused to take her eyes off the drinks. Natalia reached out and placed her hand on the other woman's forearm. Tired green eyes tracked to the tanned hand.
"Calleigh, are you okay?"
Still somewhat dazed, Calleigh raised her head and stared into eyes filled with concern and compassion.
"Natalia? What are you doing here?"
Natalia considered lying. None of her colleagues were aware of her sexual preference, but, sitting at the bar, touching Calleigh's arm, Natalia opted for the truth.
"This is my bar, Calleigh." Natalia smiled easily, pleased that Calleigh hadn't jerked her arm away.
"Yeah? I come here to think sometimes."
Natalia briefly wondered how she'd never seen Calleigh here before.
"*I* come here to be free." Natalia eased her hand from Calleigh's arm. Rejection of her words was one thing, but rejection of her touch would be too much to bear.
Calleigh grabbed the retreating hand. "What do you mean, Nat?"
"I'm gay, Calleigh."
Releasing Natalia's hand, Calleigh turned her gaze back to the drinks, and Natalia's heart sunk as a blanket of sadness enveloped her. Calleigh's reaction had hurt more than she'd ever imagined.
"These drinks nearly cost me my career." Calleigh's words and the sudden subject change startled Natalia, but she sat perfectly still and waited for Calleigh to continue.
"Stetler accused me of being drunk, said six mimosas had been charged to my bar tab. I only had two, Nat."
Natalia dared to touch the other woman again, and Calleigh welcomed the gesture as she swiveled her stool towards Natalia.
"Did the bartender make a mistake?"
Calleigh shook her head. "No, it was me who made the mistake."
"Your mistake? How's that possible?"
"Very poor judgment of character, Nat; that's what I'm guilty of."
Natalia tilted her head and frowned. "I don't understand, Calleigh."
Calleigh swept her hand over the top of the glasses. "Jake's my mistake; he had four drinks before we met up; Stetler thought all six were mine. Jake came through in the end, but the damage had already been done." She glanced up at Natalia. "If he's not an alcoholic, he'll soon become one."
"I'm so sorry, Calleigh."
"I'm not, Nat, not really. I'm just glad I found out now; helluva way to find out though."
Natalia motioned the bartender over, handing him her credit card. "Could you take these drinks away, please? Put them on my card."
"Nat . . ." Calleigh's protest fell on dear ears as Natalia lightly squeezed her arm.
"It's over now, Calleigh. You're wonderful at your job, and everyone knows it. Don't dwell in the past; you need to move on."
"I know; it's just I'm just so pissed off at the whole situation. Don't even get me started on Horatio."
Natalia grimaced. "Oh, honey, you don't have to worry about that. He's the last person I want to hear about."
Calleigh laughed aloud. "He really is a pompous ass, isn't he?"
"That he is." Natalia turned towards the bartender. "Hey, can we get a couple of beers over here?"
"Nat, I don't think. . ."
"Hush, Calleigh, it's just one beer."
Calleigh relaxed; Natalia was right. She was off the clock, and one beer certainly wouldn't hurt anything.
"So, this is your bar, huh?" Calleigh glanced around the establishment. "Nice place."
Natalia laughed. "You said you've been here before."
"I have; I've just never really paid any attention to the atmosphere or the customers."
"What do you think now?" Natalia grabbed the cold beer and took a long swig. Calleigh followed the path of the liquid from the soft-looking lips and down the elegant neck.
"I definitely like what I see." Calleigh moved her eyes back to the rim of the bottle, nestled firmly against Natalia's mouth.
Natalia was completely unaware of Calleigh's change in focus as she slowly sipped her beer. Their easy conversation soon shifted to Christmas plans with both women discovering that the other intended to spend Christmas alone. Slightly amused by Natalia's lack of perceptiveness, Calleigh continued to look at her as an idea formed in her head.
Calleigh smiled; she knew just what to do with her new discovery.
"Hey, Nat, why don't you come to my place for Christmas dinner?"
Natalia's eyebrows rose. "Can you cook?"
"No," Calleigh laughed, "but I do a mean catering service."
"I don't want to impose, Calleigh." Natalia gripped her bottle tightly, hoping Calleigh wouldn't withdraw the invitation.
"You wouldn't be imposing; I'd love to have you join me." Calleigh placed her hand on top of Natalia's. "Please?"
"Okay, but I bring dessert."
"Deal." Calleigh kept her hand in place. Natalia's warmth soothed her and eased the troubled feelings she'd had of late.
In the quiet corner of the bar, the two women leaned in close as they made plans for their holiday. With the prospect of spending the day together, Natalia dared to hope that the feelings she harbored for Calleigh would someday be returned.
Calleigh listened to Natalia's smooth tones as if hearing them for the first time. This Christmas she'd finally get her wish. For the first time in what seemed like forever, she'd be spending Christmas with someone else, and she couldn't think of anyone she'd rather share the day with than Natalia. Leaning back against the bar, she listened to an excited Natalia as she mapped out more of their day.
Calleigh smiled; her hopes for the New Year were looking better and better as well.
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