Natalia was reminded on a daily basis – usually wordlessly – that she was far too good-looking to be a criminalist. She'd spent her year working cold cases practically fending men off with test tubes, and the field was no better. She needed back-up before anybody outside the crime scenes would believe she was anything other than a pretty face with an odd dress-up habit.
Alright, perhaps she was stretching the truth just a little, but she was feeling more than a little self-conscious on this particular day.
The bizarre series of events had begun, she theorized, shortly after 9am, when she had bumped, literally, into her boss on his way in from a crime scene. He apologized, she apologized, he asked if she was all right, and they parted ways.
No, certainly nothing strange about that.
About an hour later, when she lifted her head for the first time since digging into some trace evidence, she noticed him. Horatio was watching her through the glass window. Their eyes met, and he walked away.
Happened all the time.
It was an hour later, after she had caught him staring for the sixth time, that she started to wonder. A trip to the washroom confirmed there was nothing on her – in fact, she'd been wearing her labcoat up until that point.
Shirt? Perfectly clean. Make-up? Un-smudged. Hair? Some minor ruffles.
Hour two, and she began to worry whether or not she was a suspect under watch. A loud "I'm taking lunch!" had dispelled that theory, though she could've sworn she'd seen a momentary hitch in Horatio's facial expression.
Hour three, and she was considering filing a harassment suit.
By hour four, Natalia was quite sure Horatio was madly in love with her.
Somewhere between hours two and three, she had confided in Calleigh, who had stifled a laugh, but in the end agreed to confirm Natalia's suspicions.
"'Well' what? Oh, that! Eric and I both noticed, actually."
"This really isn't funny!"
"I'm serious! Eric says he's checking you out.
Natalia couldn't concentrate. She was suddenly afraid to turn around. Would he be there? Was he waiting to...to...ask her to dinner? Invite her over?
It was maddening. Natalia put a hand to her chest to stifle her heart. It felt...cold.
Pulling off her labcoat, Natalia made a dash for the ladies'. For a few seconds she merely stared into the mirror, breathing nervously. She lifted her hand to her heart. There was something cool...in her shirt?
Tugging out her collar, she gave it a cursory glance, and several things snapped into place at once.
Natalia burst out laughing.
She felt over-whelmed. She leaned against the mirror, shoulders shaking, desperately trying to control the spell that had overcome her.
The door opened, and a puzzled Calleigh raised an eyebrow.
"Nat, are you all right?"
Natalia breathed deeply for a few seconds, then lifted her hand. Between her fingers she clutched a key.
"This," declared Natalia, still grinning, "Has been in my shirt all day."
Calleigh looked as lost as her friend had been not five minutes ago.
"It's Horatio's! I remember everything now!"
"I didn't bump into him this morning; we bumped into each other! He wasn't even looking; he was holding his keys! He must've taken one off the ring, and it—it—"
She began to laugh again. The two of them held each other's arms, trying to keep quiet.
Natalia sighed as she exited the washroom, sometime after Calleigh. It had taken more than a moment to compose herself, in light of everything that had happened, and her outrageous misinterpretations.
How could she have suspected, even for a second, that Horatio Caine, Mister Professional, had four hours to wile away staring at her chest.
"Miss Boa Vista."
Speak of the devil. He was standing against the wall, next to the washroom.
Natalia shook her head. "Why didn't you say anything?"
Horatio smiled. "Well, to be honest, at first I thought you knew."
"What? If I knew, why would I—?" Natalia crossed her arms and frowned in mock outrage.
Horatio had the decency to look mildly ashamed, and toyed with his sunglasses. Then he shrugged. "A bet, perhaps?" he suggested.
"No, just an embarrassing mistake. But you know, you really should've asked. I was starting to wonder why you were...staring, and..." Natalia trailed off, unsure of how to finish the sentence appropriately.
"You're right, and I apologize," said Horatio.
For a moment, they said nothing. Finally, Natalia held the key, the object of her torment, out in front of her.
"Well, I guess you'll want it back, then," she smiled.
He smiled back, and took a step forward. "That's alright, ma'am; I have a spare."
Natalia was left stunned.
Summary: By hour four, Natalia was quite sure Horatio was madly in love with her.