Disclaimer: My best friend is a lawyer and says I need to tell you that Horatio and the members of his team and all references to events in CSI: Miami are not mine, no matter how much I want Horatio to be mine. I am making no profit on this (see the sad state of my students loans and you'll believe me) and certainly no copyright infringement is intended. Additionally, I have no claim on the song "Delaney Talks to Statues" by Jimmy Buffett, but it did serve as the inspiration for this fic.
Setting: This takes place during the summer before Madison goes to kindergarten and has recovered from her illness. Also, the relationship among the team members is healthy and not that disorganized sadness we were left with at the end of the third season.
Madison Talks to Statues
"Hi, Horatio," Suzie said over the telephone.
Horatio sat back in his office chair, a worried crease forming above his eyebrows. "Suzie," he greeted. "Is everything alright?"
"Oh, sure, it's fine," she told him. "You've done so much, and I hate to ask you for another favor –"
Horatio smiled to himself. He had come to learn Suzie's tones of voice; this was the "I'm not in trouble but I need a little help" tone that held more apology than worry.
"You're family," he said. "What can I do for you?"
"Well, the hotel is expanding and I'm getting promoted," she said quickly. "But I need to go to a week's training in Washington, D.C. I've already asked my regular babysitter, but she can't take Madison for that long and I can't bring her with me."
Horatio chuckled. Only Suzie would find a promotion to be a crisis. "Suzie, it would be my pleasure to watch Madison for you."
"Really, Horatio?" she asked, sounding surprised and relieved at the same time. "You don't mind, do you?"
"Madison is my niece," he reminded Suzie. "I don't mind."
"Oh, Horatio, you're wonderful," Suzie said happily. "Can I bring her over on Sunday? I know you have to work, so she can still go to daycare at the hotel during the day. And I'll be back next Saturday."
"That would be fine," Horatio said, checking his calendar. Luckily, the next week didn't seem to have anything too important listed. He hoped they could get by without a major case occurring. "Now, tell me about this promotion."
Sunday afternoon arrived with a little red-haired girl clutching a worn stuffed bunny rabbit. She looked up at her uncle with big blue eyes and freckles. Suzie and Horatio discussed contact numbers and schedules while Madison crept through Horatio's patio home, peeking into rooms and then out on the lanai.
"The daycare opens at seven, but I usually get her there around eight," Suzie was saying. "Madison should be in bed by eight o'clock. And don't worry if all she wants to eat is macaroni and cheese."
Horatio smiled, glancing down for a moment. "Suzie, we will be fine. I used to watch Ray Jr. for Yelina and –" he cut himself off, smile gone.
"And Raymond," Suzie finished. Horatio looked up at the young woman who had once been his brother's lover. "You can say his name, Horatio."
Horatio nodded. "Madison and I will have a good time," he continued, unsure how to talk about Raymond with Suzie. "You, you go to your training. Don't worry about us."
Suzie shouldered her carry bag and bobbed her. "Okay." She remembered something. "Oh, and her bath time is seven-thirty, right before bed. It helps to settle her down for the night."
Bath time? Horatio thought. Suzie continued, "You need to watch her and help her in and out of the tub."
"She, uhm, she needs help?" he found himself asking.
Suzie smiled, amused by his sudden discomfort. "She's five, Horatio. You can't leave her alone in the tub."
"Right," he said. "Of course." He tried to look nonchalant. "Not a problem."
Suzie stood on her toes to look past Horatio. "Madison," she called, "come say bye-bye to Mommy."
Madison ran across the livingroom as Suzie knelt down. She threw her arms around her mother, still clinging to the bunny. Suzie closed her eyes and kissed the top of her daughter's head. Horatio watched mother and child, hands on his hips. By some twist, these two were his little family, he thought. He knew he wanted good things for them; especially Madison who needed him as no child ever had.
"I love you, baby girl," Suzie said, untangling herself from the five-year-old and tapping her on the nose. "You be good for your uncle, okay."
Madison looked up at her with wide, intense eyes, so like Raymond's, Horatio thought. "Yes, Mommy." She looked from Suzie to Horatio and smiled.
As Suzie left Horatio said to Madison, "You can wave from the front window." So they stood at the window and Madison waved as her mother drove away. She looked up at Horatio and smiled.
"You're tall," she told him. "Really tall."
Horatio looked down at Madison. "Yes, I am," he said. "So, Madison, what do you want to do this afternoon?"
Madison's face lit in a grin. "Swimming!" she said. "Can I go swimming in your pool?"
"Uhm," Horatio thought, glancing through the glass doors at the pool on the lanai. "Yes," he said, "did you bring a swimming suit and uhm –" he could picture the inflatable arm bands for children, but couldn't think of the name. He motioned above his arm, hoping she'd understand. "Something to help you – uhm – swim in deep water?"
Madison watched him and shook her head 'no' looking crestfallen. She held her bunny limply.
Horatio smiled at her. "That's alright," he told her. He leaned down to her. "That just means we have to go shopping first."
Madison's grin returned and she hopped up and down. Horatio took his keys from the peg by the door and held it open for Madison. She waited by the car door for him to unlock the doors and help her to climb in the back seat and buckled her in. When he leaned over to snap the buckle, she kissed his cheek.
The kiss caught him off-guard. He paused and tilted his head, studying the child. "And, and what was that for?"
"Because I like you," she said.
Horatio nodded and smiled in return. "Well, that's good," he told her. "Because I like you too."
Madison giggled while he went to the driver's side and started the car.
At Wal-Mart, Horatio leaned from the clerk the arm bands for swimming were called "floaties" and that Madison really needed an inflatable dolphin. Also, bubbles seemed like fun and that they would be having hot dogs and macaroni and cheese for dinner. He thanked two women when they commented on "what a beautiful little girl" he had.
Back home, he sat on the lanai while Madison yelled "watch me!" attempting to do cannonballs into the pool. The floaties kept her from ducking too far under the surface while she managed to splash water all over the white deck. He listened while she talked to the plastic dolphin; it seemed the two of them were on an adventure to find gold on a sunken ship.
He gave up trying to read the case file he had brought home and watched her play. Madison chattered to herself, paddling from one of the pool to the other. When he checked his watch, Horatio was surprised to find it was almost six o'clock.
"Madison," he said, "time to dry off. We're going to have dinner."
"Can Dolphin eat with us?" Madison asked, paddling toward the steps in the shallow end of the pool. She was pulling the plastic toy with her across the water. Horatio met her at the edge with an oversized beach towel and wrapped her up as soon as she stepped from the water, still holding the dolphin's fin.
"Uhm –" Horatio started but Madison was too quick and ran across the lanai, still in the towel, and plunked the dolphin down in one of the chairs at the outdoor table. Horatio watched her. "Well, I guess so."
She beamed at him.
"Go dry off and change into your clothes," Horatio instructed. "I'm going to start dinner."
"Okay." With that, Madison dropped the towel and climbed through the sliding door.
Horatio closed the door after her and went into the kitchen. Shaking his head, he listened to Madison continued to talk to herself – or in this case, her bunny – while he read the back of the Kraft macaroni and cheese box. He took out the packet of hot dogs and sliced them to add to the boiling macaroni. While that was simmering, he took out bowls and tableware to set the dinner table for Madison and himself – and dolphin.
Madison returned, dressed in shorts and a little t-shirt that said "Princess" on it. She followed him around the kitchen while he took milk, butter and cheese from the fridge. While he was mixing the macaroni and cheese, she dragged a chair across the floor to climb up and watch.
"Do you like macaroni and cheese, Uncle Horatio?" she asked, leaning on the counter.
"I do," he told her with a smile.
She continued to watch and frowned as he added the extra shredded cheese. "That's not how Mommy makes it," she scolded him.
Horatio tilted his head with a glance toward her. "I know. But this, this is special macaroni and cheese." He added a dash of onion powder and some pepper. "Only members of the Caine family know how to make it this way."
Madison perked up. "Who's the Caine family?" she asked.
Horatio spooned servings into their bowls and helped Madison step down from the chair to take her dish. "We are. You and me."
"Is Mommy?" Madison asked. Horatio opened the door for her to go outside. Madison set her dish down. Horatio put his at his place and pulled the chair out for the little girl.
"Mommy," Horatio started, thinking how to explain that. "Well, yes, Mommy is, too."
Madison leaned both elbows on the table. "Doesn't Dolphin get a bowl?" she asked.
Horatio looked at the plastic pool toy staring at him from across the table. It had a big painted grin. Madison was frowning in concern.
"Well, I think dolphin wouldn't like macaroni and cheese," Horatio said. "Dolphins like fish and we don't have any fish tonight."
"Oh." Madison absorbed this. Horatio picked up his fork. Madison watched him. "Aren't we going to say the thing before we eat?"
"The thing?" Horatio asked, trying to figure out what she was referring to. Madison nodded emphatically.
"The thing," she said. "Mommy says this thing before we eat. 'Bleashus O lord an – an –"
Horatio understood. He took Madison's hand. "You're right. We need to say the thing before we eat." He gently squeezed her hand and said the grace before meals his mother had taught him and Raymond as boys. "Bless us, Oh Lord, and these, thy gifts, which we are about to receive –"
Bath. Horatio checked his watch again. It was almost seven-thirty and his niece needed her bath. Madison was busy stalking geckos across the lanai screen, all the while telling them how nice she was and how much they would like to live in the plastic container he had given her.
His forehead creased. He had never given a little girl a bath before and wasn't quite sure how to go about doing that. He had bathed Ray Jr. as toddler but Madison was beyond that stage of life.
He briefly considered calling Alexx but decided he'd rather save that for something a bit more important than a bath. Horatio checked his watch again. Seven-thirty-five. He took a deep breath.
"Madison," he called. "Time for your bath and bed."
Madison was crouched by the corner of the screen, chattering happily to a frozen gecko. She looked over her shoulder. "I don't wanna."
Horatio considered letting her have her way, but then remembered he was the adult in the matter. "Yes, Madison," he said. "It's time."
She stood up and put her hands on her hips, looking as defiant as a five-year-old could. Horatio faced her in return, hands also on his hips, looking over the tops of his sunglasses.
Madison stuck out her bottom lip and dragged her feet inside the house. Horatio followed, and went into the bathroom while she ducked in the guest room – Madison's bedroom for the week – to take off her clothes. While she did that, Horatio found a soft bath towel for her and hunted through his cabinets for bubble bath left by a former girlfriend. He filled the tub, checking the temperature to make sure it wouldn't burn her. The bubbles cover the water nicely.
"Do I have to, Uncle Horatio?" Madison pleaded. She had come in behind him, carrying her pink pajamas and underwear – and bunny.
Horatio cleared his throat, seeing the naked child. He turned away and pretended to be studying the shampoo bottle. "Yes, Madison," he told her. "Now, hop in the tub."
Madison dropped her pajamas on the floor and took his hand to climb in the tub. She giggled as the bubbles tickled at her chin. Horatio grabbed bunny before he could be dunked in the bath, too.
Horatio handed Madison a washcloth and a bar of soap. "Now suds up, sweetheart," he told her.
Madison pursed her lips together and studied the cloth and soap. She rubbed the washcloth against the soap, which then jumped from her hand and splashed into the tub. Bubbles splashed out and landed on Horatio's shirt. Madison giggled.
"Alright," Horatio said. "Why – uhm – why don't you wash up and I'll – I'll just – How about I read to you?"
"Okay," Madison said. She scrubbed at her arms.
"Right." Horatio looked around the bathroom. Nothing to read. He turned back to Madison. "Stay right there," he ordered her.
She blew a handful of bubbles at him and giggled. Horatio brushed them away and ducked out of the bathroom and into her bedroom. In her bookbag, he found a picture book Suzie had packed. Horatio hurried back to the bath.
A layer of bubbles covered the water. No sign of Madison.
Panic hit him full in the chest. Horatio lunged at the bathtub, thrusting both arms under the water. He frantically scoured the bottom of the tub.
There was giggling from behind Horatio. Soaked from the waist up, he turned around to see Madison dripping in the doorway, holding her dolphin. Horatio hung his head.
"Madison," Horatio said. He didn't even bother to ask where she had gone. "Back in the tub."
"Dolphin, too?" she asked innocently.
Horatio stood up and took the two steps to her, picking Madison up under her arms. He set her back in the water. "Dolphin, too," he said.
While she splashed in the bubbled, Horatio sat on the closed toilet seat, drying his arms with a hand towel. He glanced at the book, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.
"Mommy washes my hair for me," Madison pointed out.
Horatio surveyed the stringy red tresses on her head. He thought about that challenge for a moment and then saw the drinking cup by the sink.
"We can do that," he said, picking up the cup. He scooped water from the tub and poured it over her head before putting shampoo in Madison's hair. She giggled some more and told the dolphin all about her teacher, Mrs. Marcy, while he washed her hair.
Bath finished, Horatio helped Madison out and quickly wrapped her in the towel. "Madison," he said, handing her back her pajamas, "why don't you get dressed in your room and tell me when you're ready?"
"Okay," she said, bobbing her head once more. Since he was on his knees and at her height, she pecked his cheek and skipped out of the bathroom.
The spot she kissed felt warm and he gingerly touched his cheek. His shirt was soaked, his knees were wet and there was water all over the floor.
Horatio sat on the edge of Madison's bed, the last light of the day filtering through the window blinds. She lay back on the pillow, wet hair tied in a braid, hugging bunny. Dolphin sat at attention beside the door.
"Alright," he said, opening the picture book. "If you give a mouse a cookie," he turned the page, making sure she could see the pictures, "he's going to ask for a glass of milk."
Madison watched him intently with her big blue eyes. Every so often she would yawn. Horatio continued to read until her breath slowed and she drifted to sleep.
Horatio closed the book and placed it by the bedside. He watched her sleep for a moment before lightly kissing her forehead.
"Sleep well, Madison," he whispered, tucking bunny in as well. "I like you, too."