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12 November 2006 @ 01:52 pm
Title: Convalescence
Author: Carolina
Rating: G
Challenge #12 - Adulation
Word Count: 1,814 (fuck that shit)
Spoilers: None
Author's notes: 30+ people in this community and only 2 entries? Come on, guys.

At night she lay awake in bed, staring at the ceiling and trying not to remember.

But the words still came back to her. Trying to stop them seemed, at times, to fuel their fury. Inevitably all returned with a slight shiver, the memory of that afternoon, the reaction the words 'Eric', 'shot', and 'emergency room' had elicited, the panic that overtook her in those minutes (though they felt like hours) it took her to drop everything at the lab and drive to the hospital. It was hard to forget the image of him lying in that gurney, blood rushing out of him as the doctors tried to stop it and the nurses tried to keep her out of the room as they promised they had everything under control. She could still remember the agony of the waiting room, the pacing, the trembling of her fingers, the first time she realized and wondered: what would she do without him? She didn't remember the answer, but she did recall the temporary relief she felt when she saw Horatio enter the room that left her as soon as they both sat down to resume the waiting.

Mostly she'll never forget the first time he opened his eyes, his skin pale and his voice weak, his hand on her hand as she spilled tears over him, worried still and yet fighting the urge to both kiss him and kill him at the same time.

That was then and it was hard to forget. It was hard to stop thinking. Most nights she became obsessed with What Ifs. What if the first bullet had severed the femoral artery? What if the second bullet had perforated an organ? What if the perp had aimed a little higher? What if he were gone now, just like Speed was? She was sure the odds had been against them before, but fate had proven her wrong. And if it happened twice, it could happen a third time and next time he might not be so lucky. Next time it might be her. Next time it might all come to an end.

He spent most of his nights snoring lightly next to her; she spent the same hours trying to forget. It was hard to. Too hard, at times.

It became absurdly easy, however, every day that she came home for lunch and found him on the couch, his bad leg up on her coffee table, that stupid show tune reverberating through her apartment like a choir of badly tuned crows.

She threw her bag on an overstuffed chair and stood over him in the living room. He barely acknowledged her entry, just as he did every day from 11 to noon. Her presence only warranted a soft kiss during the commercial break, and as she sat next to him and frowned at the television he asked her about her day. She asked him about his physical therapy. He assured her he would be back on his feet in no time. She assured him healing was more important than work. He began to tell her it's fine, because apparently Delkos are genetically predisposed to magical healing, but he never really finished the sentence because the vapid show tune returned like a viral outbreak.

Every day she tried to watch. She tried to see what he saw. She tried to be open-minded and understanding but it was futile. Five minutes into it she found herself scowling at the blond woman in front of the camera and inevitably she'd snap.

"Eric, why do you have to watch this?"

He looked at her, as he looked at her day after day, with that hurt expression on his face and running his hand through his bad leg. "It's Martha."

Calleigh sighed helplessly. "You're a guy, Eric. This show is for soccer moms and pedophiles."

"I like her," he said, as if that was the only justification he needed. And then he grinned foolishly. It was hard to remember when he smiled at her like that.

But not impossible.

"I made you something."

She braced herself, watching suspiciously as he reached for something on the floor and presented it to her as though he were presenting her with the meaning of life. Calleigh tried to smile, though she was sure there was barely a hint of it. She only stared listlessly at her soft tissue dispenser, formerly white, now completely covered by flowered fabric and frilly bows.

"Oh," she said, trying her hardest to inject a little enthusiasm to her reaction. If he noticed the fake tone he didn't say anything. "You know," she added, appreciating the dainty object from all angles. "I think your mother would love this."

"I know," Eric said, reaching for the object's twin. "That's why I made her one, too."

Calleigh chuckled mirthlessly, staring at the monstrosities in front of her with disdain.

When she agreed to take care of Eric she thought she'd have to deal with a lot of anger, frustration, pain, the inevitable whirlwind of emotions that come after being shot and incapacitated. It's not easy being convalescent. It's not easy depending on others to do the basic things - like getting out of bed, showering, walking. Eric had always been independent and stubborn, and Calleigh knew the shooting would not just shatter his trust on the job, but bruise his male ego as well. She was ready for the lashings, the trauma, the anger, the drama.

She'd never really prepared herself for the arts and crafts. She never allowed herself a moment to adjust to the idea of Martha Stuart invading her living room day after day. She knew this temporary living arrangement would be hard to adjust to. They'd been dating now for over six months and she knew she loved him, but the shooting had been a test to their relationship. She thought she knew every little thing about Eric Delko. She'd been wrong.

In her most patronizing tone, Martha now explained how to make the perfect passion fruit crème brulee. Eric watched obsessively. Calleigh frowned.

"You know she did time, right? She stole money from her own company."

Eric looked at her as though she'd just insulted his own mother. "That was blown out of proportion by the media, Calleigh. Just because she's a celebrity she gets the third degree. Nobody would've cared if it'd been some---"

"Okay, okay." She raised her hands in front of her and he stopped, made a little angry noise and returned to his precious show. Calleigh watched him. She'd yet to find anything remotely interesting about Martha Stuart, or a possible explanation as to why Eric adored her so much. In the beginning, she tried to convince herself that maybe he was bored at home all day, and the show was merely a distraction. She told herself it was okay that he had a hobby, and on the grand scale of things this was definitely better than, say, collecting jars of his own urine. But later on it became increasingly obvious that Eric's admiration of Martha had a long history. She thought maybe it had something to do with growing up with three older sisters. God knows that's bound to mess a man up. Except Eric was relatively normal in all the other areas of his life. So Martha remained a mystery. She tried to be okay with it, really. She was sure she had her strange habits as well.

Her eyes traveled down to the side of his ribs, where she knew the first bullet had hit him, and she wanted to trace it with her fingers like he did whenever he fell asleep, but she stopped herself and looked around the room. His crutches were leaning against the side of the couch, and on the other side of the room a box she hadn't noticed before. She narrowed her eyes at it and quickly realized he'd yet to open it.

"Are you waiting for a rhinestones shipment or for Martha's segment on how to create a dazzling carrying case?"

He ignored her, or at least pretended to ignore her (she knew the difference) and his shoulders sagged slightly as he continued to watch the TV.

She slid her hand down his spinal chord and his skin trembled. "You know, I always thought canes were kinda sexy."

"Yeah, I know about your House fantasy, Cal. You talk in your sleep."

Calleigh scoffed. "Oh, you don't want to play the Hugh Laurie card, because if you play the Hugh Laurie card I'm gonna play the Martha Stuart card and we all know my Hugh Laurie adulation isn't nearly as disturbing as your Martha Stuart fetish."

"I don't have a fetish," Eric said defensively. "Forgive me for taking an interest in the arts."

"Funny how all of a sudden you're an art connoisseur, and yet when I wanna go to a gallery I have to practically drag you by your feet as you leave claw marks on the floor."

"What can I say? Two bullet holes tend to change your perspective on life."

Calleigh ignored him and his bitter tone and walked over, picking up the box and she could feel his eyes on the back of her head. She tore it apart and brought the cane into the light. It was a gorgeous black palmwood strong walking cane with a beautiful grain pattern. She turned around and caught him looking at it.

She smiled. "Wanna break it in?"

Eric looked at it, but something on the television caught his attention (or possibly he was feigning indifference again) and he shook his head. "Maybe later."

Calleigh sighed quietly and put the cane down carefully. She walked over to the couch and sat next to him again. The television was advertising this week's soap opera line-up and silently he put his hand on her leg. There were good days and bad days, and days in between, but then Martha came on the screen again and she could've sworn it was a good day despite the heavy presence of the cane in the room.

But he sat there, content, watching his show and Calleigh sighed again, and she surrendered into him as he wrapped his arm around her. She felt his heart pulsating against her cheek and she was plagued once again by one of the most predominant questions - what if the bleeding hadn't stopped? - and so she relaxed and closed her eyes. She loved him enough to take him in, to help him get dressed every morning, to help him shower each night, to let him lean on her shoulder as he practiced his walking, to allow herself to be his punching bag when the leg gave in and the anger took over.

She would just have to love him a little bit more to accommodate Martha as well.
ss_momo on January 7th, 2007 08:37 am (UTC)
Haha, awesome. Very cute :)
marija_magda on February 10th, 2008 02:16 pm (UTC)
Very nice! I really laughed at this one...