"You stop. I have to pee."
"Again?" Eric sighed.
"Well, I'm sorry, but when I drink something it tends to go straight to my bladder, which converts it into urine, and my body feels a strange compulsion to expel it. But I can assure you it's a habit I'm trying to break," Calleigh said sarcastically.
Eric sighed again, exaggerated it to convey his frustration and exhaustion. Not that he needed to, anyway. If the white of his knuckles, gripping the steering wheel, wasn't a sure telltale he didn't know what was.
"There's a diner coming up," Calleigh said, pointing at the location with urgency, her finger shaking in the air. "Eric, look, there it is."
"I can see it, Calleigh!"
"Fine, sorry," she said, sulking back in her seat.
Before the car even came to a complete stop, Calleigh had leapt out, heading straight into the diner and Eric sat there for a second, wondering how it was possible for someone so tiny to pee so much. He closed his eyes and let out a sigh, feeling the exhaustion in every one of his muscles. His neck hurt, his back hurt, his legs were killing him and all he wanted to do was get to the damn crime scene already. And coffee. He needed coffee. After grabbing the map that sat on the dashboard, he hid Calleigh's purse under her seat because hey, you can't be too careful, even in the middle of nowhere. And if for some reason it was stolen, Eric was sure she was gonna blame him and well, he didn't want to get into another argument with her. Better be safe than sorry.
He lingered outside for a couple of seconds, stretching his body and every one of his bones cracked in delight. He admired the scenery and wondered if he could ever live in a place so small and so far away from the city. Probably not, his fun loving, club hopping, night diving mind told him. It was a beautiful place, no question about that, but certainly not a place for him. Still, there was something strangely alluring about it, some kind of friendly energy that asked him to stay there forever. Considering how tired he was, that didn't seem like such a weird proposition.
He walked into the nearly empty diner and a man behind the counter nodded his head politely. "Evening. What can I get for you?"
"Two black coffees, one with sugar. To go."
The man went to pour some coffee into the cups and Eric briefly wondered just how long that coffee had been sitting there but he wasn't about to complain. As long as there was caffeine in it, he'd drink sewer water.
He spread the map on the counter in front of him and traced the road they were supposed to take with his index finger. Just a couple more hours. Seemed like the blink of an eye, but to his tired mind it sounded like an eternity.
"Where are you off to?" the man behind the counter asked, putting two cops of coffee in front of Eric, who reciprocated with a five dollar bill.
"Apalachicola," Eric replied.
The man's features lit up. "I have a cousin there! Peter."
"Really," Eric asked, trying to sound as excited as the man was but failing miserably. He reached for one of the coffees, drank a little of it, and his body immediately tried to spit it but he forced himself to swallow it down. It was dreadful. But he looked up at the man and smiled. "Small world."
Calleigh came out of the bathroom and stopped when she saw Eric by the counter. His body was hunched over, his head resting on his hands and he nodded unenthusiastically as the owner of the diner talked endlessly about God knows what.
She couldn't help but feel bad. They could have flown on the chopper to get that evidence and been there in five minutes but no. She wanted to see Florida. So she got Eric all excited about taking a road trip, to the point where he was really looking forward to it because he had never been to that part of Florida, either. Neither of them seemed to count on the fact that it took nine hours to get there, and nine hours inside a car became a torture. More to him, considering she couldn't stand being trapped in a car for so long. So with all the stops she kept forcing him to make, the nine hours would become ten, then eleven, and now, almost twelve.
When he sensed her approaching he looked up and found her smiling one of her apologetic smiles. She handed the owner the keys to the bathroom back and put her hand on Eric's shoulder, feeling his muscles tense up even more.
"Do you want me to drive?"
He shook his head, hint of a tired smile. "I'm okay."
"Are you sure?" Calleigh asked, kneading his muscles to relieve some of the tension away.
He didn't answer, just smiled at her and handed her the extra cup of coffee. "Let's go."
"Go see Peter," the man called out as Eric and Calleigh left the diner. "Tell him Roy sent you."
"We will, thanks," Eric said, opening the door for Calleigh and waving Roy goodbye at the same time.
"Who's Peter?" Calleigh asked once they were outside.
"Ten percent off on oysters," Eric replied.
"Ah." Instinctively, she brought the cup of coffee to her lips. Unable to catch Eric's warning signs, she took a sip of it but spit it out immediately. "Ugh!"
Eric couldn't help but snicker. "Sorry, I forgot."
"It tastes like licking envelopes," Calleigh said, disgusted look on her face as she threw the cup in a nearby trash can, but she shot him a serious look when she turned around and saw him laughing.
"Now we're even," Eric said, unlocking her door.
"For being a pain in the ass," he replied.
Calleigh mock gasped as he turned on the engine and drove out of the parking lot; she was glad he didn't seem to be in a bad mood anymore. "Am I a pain in the ass?"
Eric rolled his eyes playfully. "Eric, I need to pee. Eric, I'm hungry. Eric, I'm thirsty. Eric, my back hurts. Eric, I need to pee again. Eric, are those oranges? Let's buy some oranges, Eric," he mocked in a feminine voice.
"I do not sound like that," she said defensively.
"In my head you do," Eric replied.
Calleigh didn't want to dignify that with a response. She just chuckled and rested her head on the cool window. Watching as the landscape seemed to rush by, they settled on a comfortable silence.
And as it turned out, it was a good thing that she didn't drink that coffee, because twenty minutes into the trip, she was fast asleep. And Eric began to miss the company, but then convinced himself this was better because now he was free to look at her without having to think of excuses. Her head was turned away from him but he could see just enough of it to catch every one of her sleep expressions. Her legs were crossed, her hands rested on her lap, and her hair was blowing in the air conditioner's breeze in a way that just... blew his mind. Couldn't believe just one person could be so beautiful.
In the last couple of months, he couldn't help but notice something had been changing. He had no idea what. Just... something. Something Eric was sure he had been feeling all along but he was pretty sure she would never reciprocate. But then, little things started to happen. And maybe they were just little things, but he couldn't help it. He was trained to look for hidden clues and these looked like clues, alright. And maybe he was just grasping at straws, but things that were so insignificant suddenly seemed to have become important. Like hands and arms brushing against each other as they examined some evidence, suddenly standing dangerously close to him when she had a world of space around her, or the shiver he felt on her every time he put his hand on the small of her back. Not to mention the fact that she had stopped scolding him about the hand on her back. Usually she would keep her distance or flat out remind him how much she hated when he did that, apparently found it patronizing and demeaning. Not now she didn't, and considering this was Calleigh, that was big. And then that interesting shiver began to appear and well, he was no Holmes, but when he put it all together, there was definitely... something.
But then something would happen in Calleigh World and she would retrieve to her shell again. Suddenly she would start trying to avoid him, she'd be mad at him for no reason whatsoever, or would go an entire day without saying a word to him. It was... frustrating, to say the least. He shouldn't complain, really, because getting mixed signals was definitely better than getting no signals at all. But it was still frustrating. She had always been insane, but this was starting to get ridiculous.
So when she mentioned they should drive to Apalachicola rather than taking the helicopter, his first reaction was to say no. Having Calleigh near him for two seconds was dangerous enough; having Calleigh near him for nine hours would be a complete disaster. But then she started talking about the beautiful landscape, the friendly people and he couldn't help it. She seemed so excited about it, so happy that he would hate himself for taking that happiness away from her. So what if the guys teased him about being wrapped around her finger? He could be wrapped around worse things. Or better things, but he was getting way ahead of himself.
An hour later, she was still asleep, and Eric debated on whether or not he should wake her because he was having a hard time concentrating on the road. And if he fell asleep behind the wheel and ended up hurting her in a car accident he would never forgive himself. But then his cell phone started ringing and it startled her out of her slumber.
He reached for it quickly, glad for the distraction. "Delko."
"Eric, where are you?"
Horatio. And he didn't sound pleased. Considering he wasn't happy about their road trip to begin with... well, Eric wasn't so glad about the phone call anymore.
"We're almost there," Eric replied.
"I just got a call from the sheriff; he's been waiting for you all afternoon," Horatio said.
Definitely not a courtesy call.
"I know, but we caught a little traffic on the way," Eric lied, feeling Calleigh tense up a bit next to him.
"Call him when you get there and meet with him first thing in the morning, Eric. I need that evidence as soon as humanly possible," he barked and hung up, didn't even wait for Eric to reply.
Eric put the phone away, his mind no longer lagging.
"You lied to him," Calleigh muttered next to him.
She thought about it for a while, inspected her fingertips and asked, "Is he mad?"
Eric shook his head and gave her a reassuring smile but she didn't buy it.
"Maybe we shouldn't have stopped so much," she said.
"Hey," Eric said soothingly, patting her thigh, "when he finds out you're trying to quit that horrible and unnatural peeing habit, I'm sure he'll understand." Calleigh laughed, brushing her hand against his hand for a second and there it was again, that little 'something'. He definitely wasn't crazy. He removed his hand and put it back on the steering wheel, could tell she was a little uncomfortable about it and the last thing he wanted right now was more tension between them.
Half an hour later, Eric had never been so happy to see a road trip come to an end. Apparently Calleigh hadn't, either, because she did everything short of kissing the ground when they arrived at their hotel. He walked around the back of the car, opened the trunk and began taking all the bags and equipment out when Calleigh's "not so happy" voice caught his attention.
"Who made the reservations?" Calleigh asked.
"I don't know," Eric replied.
"This is a bed and breakfast."
Eric frowned. "What? No, it's not."
"This is a bed and breakfast," she repeated.
"Calleigh, do you really think they would put us in a bed and breakfast? These people get paid to make reservations," Eric said, coming around to stand next to her.
"Okay," Calleigh said. Walking towards a sign outside the "hotel", she pointed at it. "So the words 'bed and breakfast' over here, that's just a typo."
Eric read the sign, and read it again. And then again and again before he grunted, "Oh, you've gotta be kidding me."
"I'm just saying, that's a hell of a typo," Calleigh added, sarcastically.
"Maybe we have the wrong address," Eric said, looking for the map and itinerary.
"Kinda looks like somebody rested their elbow on the keyboard and miraculously typed the words 'bed and breakfast'."
"This is the right address."
"If you think about it, that's kind of amazing. I would like to meet the person who made this typo and shake their hand," she ended.
"Okay, Calleigh, I get it. This is bad."
"Just bad?" Calleigh exclaimed. "Eric, I'm tired, and smelly, and tired! And now we have to drive around town for God knows how long to find a hotel?"
"Relax," Eric said. "Maybe they have two rooms."
Calleigh sighed and rolled her eyes. No way would they have two rooms, she watched television. When things like this happened, there were never two rooms. She was so frustrated she wanted to scream, but when she saw Eric walk up the pathway to the house, bags and kits hanging from his shoulders and hands, she had no other choice but to follow him.
They opened the door and a bell rang above them. Eric stopped at the doorway, looking around the room. There were flowers everywhere – on the ceiling, on the walls, on the desk... yeah, this was bad.
"Good evening," a scrawny looking boy greeted from behind the counter. "Do you have reservations?"
"Uh, I think so," Eric said.
Calleigh walked towards the counter, suddenly all business and professionalism and Eric immediately felt bad for the boy. "Hi, I'm Calleigh Duquesne, this is Eric Delko" she said charmingly, Southern accent rearing its ugly head. "We work for the Miami Dade police department--"
"Oh, God," the boy whined.
"No, everything's okay," Calleigh chuckled. "We're here to investigate a crime and our secretary usually does the reservations, but she must have made a mistake because... this is a bed and breakfast."
The boy looked from Calleigh to Eric to Calleigh again. "Is there something wrong?"
Calleigh blinked a couple of times before continuing. "Is there a way that maybe we could rent two rooms," looking at the tag on his shirt, she added, "Brian?"
"Well," Brian started, nervously, "the thing about a bed and breakfast is that, you know, it's for couples and all."
"Look, we'll pay you extra," Eric added. "Whatever you want."
"But you already reserved one room," Brian continued, looking through his reservations book.
"Yeah," Eric said, getting a little frustrated. "But now we want two."
"But, there's only one room available," Brian said.
"Of course," Calleigh sighed. She knew it. "Do you have a phone we could use? And the yellow pages?"
Brian's face suddenly conveyed panic and he put his hands on the side of his head. "Oh, God, I screwed up, didn't I? I screwed up! The one thing she said to me, Brian, don't scare the costumers--"
Calleigh looked at Eric, asking him what to do with her eyes but she could tell he was clueless, too. So she reached and patted Brian's arm. "It's okay, Brian; it's not your fault."
"She's gonna fire me," he continued.
"No one's gonna fire you, Brian," Eric said. "This was obviously our mistake."
"But now you're leaving," Brian sulked.
Calleigh sighed. "Look, it's not that we don't love this," she said, pointing at all the flowers, "It's just that, we're not a couple, and there's only one room available and... you see where I'm going with this?"
"Yup, I'm getting fired, that's where you're going with it," Brian said.
"Eric," Calleigh said pleadingly, turned around and saw he was already talking on his cell phone. She looked at Brian and gave him a reassuring pat on his arm, "Nobody's getting fired."
"I hope so."
Calleigh nodded a couple of times, glancing at Eric to see what he was doing or trying to hear what he was saying, but he was too far away, concentrated on the phone call. So she looked at Brian again and smiled. "That's a lot of flowers in the room."
"My mom likes flowers," Brian said.
"You work for your mom?"
"Yeah," Brian replied.
"Well, that's nice."
"Not really, she just hired me so I would stop smoking pot," he said, and then his eyes grew wide as he looked at Calleigh. "Oh my God, you're cops."
"It's okay," Calleigh said, shaking her head but if it was possible Brian looked more nervous than he had been.
"I... I was just..."
"Holding it for a friend?" Calleigh finished his sentence.
"Yeah!" Brian exclaimed.
"I believe you," Calleigh winked.
Eric finally came back and sighed. "I talked to Stephanie, she said she looked everywhere but this was the only room available. Apparently, it's oyster season."
"What?" Calleigh asked.
"Oyster season. It started yesterday," Brian said.
"Well," Calleigh sighed, irritated. "Can't people get oysters anywhere else?"
"Guess not," Eric said.
"What are we gonna do?" Calleigh asked him.
Eric sighed again. His head hurt so much from lack of sleep, his vision was beginning to blur. Other than sleeping in the car, he had no idea what they were supposed to do and it was too late for his brain to think of something. "You know what? We'll take it."
"Eric," Calleigh complained.
"Calleigh, I'm tired, I have a headache, and if this day doesn't end any time soon I'm going to kill someone. And based on proximity, there's a 90 percent chance that person is going to be you. So let's take the room, it's just one night."
"But it's one bed," she said.
"I'll sleep on the floor," Eric said, handing Calleigh her bag.
"Great!" Brian said. "Oh, thank God."
"Guess you'll be keeping your job, Brian," Calleigh said.
"I'll show you to your room," Brian smiled, suddenly full of energy.
They followed Brian upstairs, and much to their dismay, there were even more flowers up there. In wallpaper form, in real form, in picture form... Calleigh couldn't understand how flowers made it romantic. If anything, it was just scaring the crap out of her.
"So there are other people here?" Eric asked.
"Everybody's sleeping," Brian said.
A glance at her watch reminded Calleigh it was nearly ten at night and she sighed. If everyone in the house drove as long as they did, she really couldn't blame them.
Brian opened a door to one of the rooms and neither Calleigh nor Eric seemed to care that the room was full of blue. Blue rug, blue sheets, blue wallpaper... at least it wasn't flowers.
"Um, if you need anything, I'll be downstairs," Brian said. "There are blankets in that chest and the bathroom is right here."
"Thanks, Brian," Calleigh said.
"Good night," the boy said and left the room.
Calleigh didn't waste any time. She walked straight into the bathroom, bag still in hand, grateful that they didn't have to share a bathroom with other people. She let the hot water run and looked at her reflection in the mirror, suddenly too self conscious to take her clothes off while Eric was in the other room. Not that he would just walk in on her, she knew that, but only one door separated them and it made her feel vulnerable. But she mentally scolded herself. This was Eric. Her best friend. She had nothing to worry about. So what if they had to share a small room? Like he said, it was just one night.
So she took her clothes off and a minute later stood in the middle of a hot waterfall that felt glorious on her skin. Screw the bed; she could sleep in the tub. But then remembered Eric was probably waiting out there and she finished her shower quickly, turned the faucet off against her will. This whole sharing a room thing already wasn't working.
She reached inside her bag, thankful she had never been a lingerie kind of girl, and put on her tank top and pajama pants. She was also thankful she had never been one to sleep in the nude. That would definitely put a strain on this whole one room ordeal.
When she came out, she found Eric scribbling something on a piece of paper, cell phone to his ear. He looked up at her and there was a lingering look she didn't like too much. Surely he had seen her in a tank top before; she wore them to work all the time. But the pajama pants suddenly seemed fascinating to him. He looked up and his eyes caught her gaze, but before any of them could react, someone at the other end of the line averted his attention and he looked away quickly.
"Yeah," Eric said into the phone and wrote something else on the piece of paper. "Alright, good night." He hung up and turned to Calleigh. "That was the sheriff. He'll meet us in the station at 8."
"Great," Calleigh said absentmindedly. She put her bag down, started to draw the sheets back but looked up when Eric wasn't moving. He was looking at her again and yeah, that vulnerability was back. It made her angry when he did that. It made her feel like she was completely exposed, unguarded, a feeling she had always tried to avoid. How he was able to make her feel like that, Calleigh had no idea, but she hated him when he did it.
Eric must have felt her discomfort, because he quickly picked up his bag and headed towards the bathroom. She followed him with her eyes, and let out a sigh when he closed the door behind him.
She lay down and thanked God at least the bed was comfortable. Not that it would matter anyway, in her current state she'd be able to sleep in a bed of rocks. A quick glance at the floor and she saw Eric had already made a little bed for himself out of sheets and blankets. But despite her exhaustion, sleep wasn't coming easily. She could hear Eric in the bathroom, could feel his every single move, even with the water running. She heard him shower, heard him brush his teeth, and heard him dress up. Every sound he made seemed too loud and distracting.
So Calleigh was still wide awake when Eric came out of the bathroom. The room was dark but her eyes had already adjusted to it and she watched as he fiddled with his cell phone, probably to put a timer on it so it would wake them up and she couldn't believe she was just about to fall asleep without setting up any form of alarm clock. Didn't fail to notice he wasn't wearing a shirt, or pajama pants, just a pair of boxers and... well, at least he wasn't a nude sleeper, either.
He lay down on his little bed, his bones cracking, but the silence she was expecting didn't last very long. He laid on his back, lay on his side, on his other side, but couldn't seem to find a comfortable position. For ten minutes he kept grunting at the hardwood floor and she could tell he wasn't faking it, either. Could have ignored it, but after the 12 hours he spent behind the wheel... well, she couldn't help but feel sorry for the guy. This was her fault, after all.
So when he grunted again and turned on his side, she couldn't hold the guilt back any longer.
"Oh, just get up here!" Calleigh finally exploded.
"What?" Eric asked.
"Sounds like you're trying to give birth down there."
"I'm fine," he grunted.
"It's a big bed," she continued.
"I said I'm fine."
"Calleigh, really, that's not a very good idea," he said.
"Why?" she asked, but he didn't reply. Of course she knew the answer, but she also wanted to believe they were comfortable enough around each other to share a bed without getting into trouble. It's not like he hadn't slept on her couch thousands of times before. "We're adults, Eric, not--"
"Fine," he interrupted, standing up and coming around the bed, pillow in hand.
"That was a little quick," Calleigh commented, feeling the bed dip next to her.
"Why don't you lay there for five minutes, and then tell me how quick that was," Eric said.
Calleigh closed her eyes, tried to fall asleep as he found a comfortable spot next to her, but then she felt the need to turn around and lay some ground rules. "By the way, there's an imaginary line right here," she said, startling him. She traced a line in the middle of the bed, top to bottom, with her finger. "You cross that line; I will be forced to use my gun."
"And people wonder why you're not married," Eric joked.
Calleigh turned around, giving him her back and she fell asleep with a smile. She was sure they had just been overreacting. There was absolutely nothing to worry about.
To be continued...