A/N: This is set after Eric was put on medical leave with the events in 5x13 (the civil lawsuit claim). I'd imagined Natalia helping him, especially because of their own interactions in 5x13 (when Eric is given the papers). Kinda AU, not necessarily ship content (but can be) so yeah..
"Thank you for doing the garden, Maria. It looks lovely." Carmen Delko, Eric's mother, said as she reached into her purse to hand the DNA expert her last bit of cash.
Natalia just smiled. Ever since getting shot, Eric was completely unaware of the civil suit that put him in a lot of debt. He'd been played by two scammers who conned him into a legal suit. Because the hospital bills would be large, Boa Vista had jumped in to help with the money problems. Half of the collected fund was her own income that she'd saved aside, the rest was from familial sponsors, extra jobs and overtime. Plus what was taken from Eric's own paycheck.
Eric's parents were happy to contribute to what she was doing. Something like that took a lot of love for a person. The recovery process was going to be lengthy. There were things he didn't remember, as well as memories that were shaky.
"I'll come over next week to put the tree in." Natalia said. "Thank you for this. I really want to help him pay this off."
"It means a lot."
Carmen pulled Natalia into a tight hug. She accepted it warmly. Family was the most important thing to him, and she would only ever make it a collective effort.
"See you next week, Mrs Delko." Natalia smiled as they broke the hug.
Afterwards, Natalia went to Eric's apartment since she needed her cheque book to put in the last bit of the civil suit money. She used the key he gave her and quickly went inside, going to the kitchen to grab her stuff. This whole thing had been a sham.
She was glad she had taken that seminar in accounting. Otherwise this would've been harder than it was since she knew how to do it. Natalia picked up her cheque book but got distracted by her phone. The CSI set the book down and answered the phone call, leaning against the table.
It was her attorney. They'd accepted the fight against the claim since the con-artist, male one, had been arrested. But the money still had to go to the woman.
"The request went through, Steph? That's great."
As Natalia was talking to their lawyer, she didn't notice Eric come out of his bedroom. He had been forced back onto medical leave so he was stuck at home, only going out for shopping, therapy or to get a check up at the hospital. Delko knew he'd been sleeping a lot recently.. though he'd never noticed Natalia coming in and out of his apartment.
He heard her conversations about the civil suit. And a lot about payments. But nothing he could really infer from.
On the counter he saw a piece of paper with different amounts ticked off. Eric wiped his eyes, leaning over and picking up the papers. A civil suit that was addressed to him. The sheet after had pictures from what seemed to be a hidden CCTV camera that showed the man attacking his girlfriend, then showed him stepping in.
It all made sense now.
"No, no.. I can come to the office. I'm at Eric's place getting the papers. We've got the last installment to pay off the debt and then this whole debacle is over."
He was tired. Not in the most sober state of mind. But he knew when someone was trying to help. Eric finally remembered what happened that day. The civil suit was a LOT of money.
Natalia put away her phone. She looked up and saw Eric looking through the confidential papers. If they weren't his papers, she would've said something. And this was his apartment. She couldn't blame him for being curious. "How are you feeling? I left your meds on the nightstand."
"Better.. thank you. My mama is ecstatic, and now I know why." Eric said.
"I've been doing her garden in return for small payments that go fully towards paying this off."
She reached into her bag and handed him the papers from the firm her lawyer worked for. A top firm that had the highest ratings in Miami. This money situation really had sparked a massive argument over the rights and wrongs of this debate.
"My attorney is now your attorney. There's pasta in the refrigerator, I'll be back once I settle this-" Before she could walk away, Eric grabbed her hand.
Natalia turned back to face him. He was grinning like an idiot and she was blushing, speechless. "Yes?"
"Why are you doing this for me? I don't deserve it.."
"Well please accept it, it's taken me months to gather the money to slowly pay this off." She told him.
Eric nodded. Natalia couldn't get over how cute he looked. Dressed in his pajamas, with scratchy stubble on his chin and those chocolate brown eyes that she could stare at all day long. She could see the longing in his eyes. Calleigh may be the romance aspect, but this was what she was doing for a friend in need.
He was lonely. Though, the company he wanted wasn't within Calleigh. But someone else. "That's the last payment?"
"Yeah! Now I have newly found evidence that proves you tried to stop a domestic fight, con or not. Evidence is evidence and I will testify to it. Calleigh can't because it's believed you're dating."
"Can I come with you?"
"Ok, how about you go take a shower, get dressed and meet me in the car with the papers? I'm more than happy to bring you."
"Thanks Nat. I owe you, big time."
Once Eric was ready, dressed in a light grey suit with a fresh white dress shirt, and he'd shaved that stubble, they gathered everything to head to the bank. They were both looking very serious.
Natalia carried the bag into the building. Her pantsuit altered the very sweet, wifey look she had. It wasn't surprising for a former federal agent and daughter of a fashionista. Arm in arm with her friend. The man she'd been accounting for. He looked better than ever.
"Mr Delko, hey." The bank teller said.
"We're here to cash in the last cheque." Eric stated as Natalia passed him the cheque that his mom gave her.
The bank teller took it, making sure it was valued and then took it. Any funds in would go straight to the suit. That was the last of it. Eric hadn't had to worry about his apartment whilst being ill. Boa Vista had become his personal accountant. A good job she'd done too. Got him a lawyer, fought the claim and got it reduced.
"You've successfully paid it off. Just go to the court and confirm, then it should be all good."
After their visit to the courthouse, the civil suit was ruled as paid out. Eric hugged Natalia as soon as they left the court. He didn't know how he'd ever thank her for the amount of time, effort and hard work she'd put into fighting this.
Natalia embraced him tightly. She could feel the emotion in the way he held her. It genuinely had left him in disbelief. "It's over now. You can focus on getting better, Eric." She whispered.
"I don't deserve you." Eric said quietly.
"You don't need to say that, Eric. I did it because I wanted to."
Eric chuckled. "And that's exactly why I don't deserve to have someone like you. You care a little too much."
Natalia laughed and shook her head as they pulled away. She wanted to disagree, that it was really just a good deed to help a friend, but there was truly a lot more to it. Even in her sake. His mom called her by the first name on her birth certificate.
That's when his phone went. He looked at it, seeing Calleigh's initials pop up on the screen. "Aren't you going to get it?" Natalia asked. He felt compelled to. Especially since he kicked her out yesterday because he didn't want anything done for him that day. But she couldn't hold it against him. He was still on medical leave, getting better and re-learning just to solidify everything he knows.
"Later. Right now.. I want to catch up with you on things."
"Really?" Her excitement quietened, but the smile was still broad on her face.
"Yeah, I'd love to know how you renovated my parents' garden! Papi can now go outside and do his own gardening while my mama can watch. You made their backyard feel homely again. Gave it a Cuban feel, and I have to thank you for that."
Eric knew that eventually he'd know why Natalia put so much effort into paying off the 'compensation' just so the woman would leave him alone. She pulled money together, got him one of the city's top attorneys and came by every day to check up on him. Yet never bragged about it. Not to anyone. He greatly appreciated efforts like that.
She'd been honest to his parents too. Natalia showed them the way it could be perceived and papers that stated the following events. His mom cried, whilst his papi didn't know what to say. But what Eric was sure of.. was that she had comforted his mother and assured his dad that everything was under control. That was more than enough for him to know how much she cared.
"Wanna talk over homemade pasta?" She suggested, raising an eyebrow.
"Over homemade pasta." He confirmed with a smile.
The walk back to her car was a short one, although, a conversation had tuned it into double the time taken. He missed talking to Natalia. Everything came so easy. She was like his own legal advisor, whilst being his best friend. Natalia could tell he was now at ease with the situation. A lot more than before.
A small part of her self doubt was curious as to why he hadn't kicked her out earlier. She was in his apartment, talking to the lawyer she hired for him with loads of paper copies and binders in her bag. But when Boa Vista asked him, all he did was show her a voicemail. Dated to the day he got shot. It said:
"Eric," She sniffled. "I know you won't hear this, but I need to vent and I don't exactly feel like talking to Frank about something like this.. That man shouldn't have had the balls to try and kill you. Shoot you down so brutally without mercy," Natalia paused to take a deep breath. "You could be dying.. but today is not your dying day. I pray it's not. Without you.. I wouldn't be who I am today. You were the first person not to make fun of my scars, and tell me I was beautiful,"
Her voice drew shaky as her despair was no longer hidden, "You're the best thing that could've happened to me.. I- I love you.." The strength it took to hold on to her emotions was hard. Especially when she had spent an hour breaking down. "We always had a thing about trust, t-that's why I tell you this now. Be strong.."
Natalia didn't even realize she'd sent it. As far as she knew, it'd been discarded of. Yet she understood why he kept it. To keep reminder that they could trust one another with anything. Even if it wasn't easy to admit to, their trust is what kept their relationship secretly stronger.
"I didn't kick you out because I'd gotten used to you coming over. Bringing food and hanging out.. I guess, I was glad to have that feeling agin.."
Her heart was ready to burst into flames. Maybe it wasn't as unrequited as she portrayed it. He really did care about her too. "It can still be that way, Eric.. we're friends. You're my best friend. Just call me, and I'll be there in a heartbeat."
"Reiterating my words, hmm?"
"Because they're still relevant," She took his hand and smiled. "don't give up on me. I'll always be here."
He immediately pulled her back into a second, tighter embrace. Natalia didn't hold back the second time around. Delko needed to know she was all in. Every part of her was sure that this would be their time. His actions were his words speaking to her. "No one else comes close to you, 'Talia.."