Father and Son
Father and son were physically similar, same hair, same mouth, same build. Amery Caine stood just slightly stooped in deference to his age and his face was lined with extra time. Both things were rather dignified, graceful almost, on that body so much like Horatio's. This is what he'll look like in twenty odd years, Calleigh realized, not at all dismayed by the thought.
A semi automatic pistol edged in Eric's direction as Amery correctly determined who in the room was armed. Beretta Steel-I, Calleigh noted automatically as light glinted off the weapon's satin polish finish. Very nice.
The older version of Horatio took another step into the room and Calleigh started to see differences, eyes that reflected rather than revealed, a slight tremour in Amery's hands that had nothing to do with age, a coldness when he lifted a corner of his lip.
"So where's that apology, boy?"
The harsh voice disintegrated the last of the romantic image. Calleigh tossed her hair defiantly behind one shoulder as she lightly touched Horatio's arm. "You don't owe him anything," she whispered, thinking of a little red haired boy in the dark, his wrists stinging and bloody. "He deserves everything he got and more."
Horatio slid out of bed, placing himself directly between Calleigh and his father's Beretta.
"He didn't deserve to go to prison for killing my mother, Cal." Horatio faced his father squarely. "Sir, I'm sorry. I honestly thought…"
"Don't bother. You think too much, boy."
From the corner of one eye Horatio detected the slight waver of Eric debating whether or not to go for his weapon. "Whoa," he breathed, "don't do it."
With a sigh of frustration Eric eased his hand back.
"No, no, go ahead. Take it out of the holster," Amery grated. "Slowly, with two fingers. Lay it on the foot of the bed and back away."
"Just like he says, Eric." Horatio flicked his eyes sideways to watch as the younger man complied. After Eric backed off Amery cautiously reached over and picked up the weapon, slipping it into the pocket of his suit jacket. The Beretta edged sideways and Horatio visibly relaxed. It was pointed at him now instead of Eric.
"That's right, Dad. This has nothing to do with them. Let me put on some clothes and I'll go with you. Right now, no fuss, wherever you want."
"Calleigh." Just her name, spoken softly, and she knew absolutely that nothing would change Horatio's mind. Calmly he reached for the IV line and Calleigh flinched, knowing what was coming. The tape was barely holding and the needle was all ready half way out. A sharp tug finished the job.
"The closet's over there." Horatio indicated the narrow door with a flick of his eyes. "Can I get dressed, Dad? Please?"
A little boy, begging for permission, pulling his father back to the past and away from the present. Calleigh got ready to move when Horatio did, knowing full well there wasn't a stitch of clothing in the closet and that whatever idiotic plan he had in his head she would back him up and so would Eric, whether he wanted them to or not.
A small liquid plop of sound drew everyone's eyes down to the floor where a single drop of blood had dripped from the tip of Horatio's finger onto the linoleum. A second one followed it, then a third, and Amery smiled vaguely as his gaze wandered over Horatio's unbandaged wrists.
"Do those hurt at all, son?"
The half-growl, half-humourless-chuckle deep in Horatio's throat nearly broke Calleigh's heart.
"My, my, you're a brave one, aren't you?" she spat out at Amery. Calleigh knew she was breaking the spell Horatio had worked so hard to create and she didn't give a damn. "Well you better take a look around, old man. He's not a little boy anymore, and he's not alone. You are. Your brother's gone and you'll have to go through both of us before we let him go anywhere with you." Calleigh edged sideways just a bit from in behind Horatio and glanced at Eric on the other side of the room.
Horatio ground his teeth and growled softly, this time at her. Quickly he changed tactics to match before Eric got involved and all hell broke loose.
"She's right, you know. You're a coward, Amery. All this time I thought you killed Mum but you didn't even have the guts to do that, did you? Shaun had to do it for you." Horatio took two sudden strides forward into the Beretta and Calleigh sucked in a sharp breath.
"Got the guts to shoot?"
Horatio flowed, smooth as silk. Before anyone could blink Amery was disarmed, grunting from the pain of an arm twisted at the elbow and pressured into his back.
"I didn't think so," Horatio whispered into his ear.
The Beretta clattered on the floor and Eric had it in his hand before the noise quit, curling his lip as he leveled the weapon at Amery's chest. "I got him, H. Nice move."
Horatio released his grip. Stepping to the side he gingerly reached into his father's suit pocket and removed Eric's nine mil. Two weapons were trained on Amery now, one rock steady, one wavering ever so slightly.
A spot of blood appeared on the front of Horatio's hospital gown and grew rapidly. Calleigh quietly walked up to him and gently pried the weapon from his hand, passing it grip first back to Eric. Horatio glanced down at the blood in confusion, then at Calleigh, blinked and lost his focus. She eased into him and put an arm around his waist before he did something else that was stupid, like a face plant on the lino.
Eric kept his eyes locked on Amery but there was more than enough blood for peripheral vision to pick up on. "Cal?" he asked sharply.
"It's okay, I can manage. Just get him the hell out of here!"
Calleigh heard Eric shout for help as he hustled Amery into the hallway but she had her hands full with Horatio who sagged against her with a faint groan. The door, which hadn't swung all the way shut yet, banged wide open as Alexx hit it with her shoulder and rushed into the room.
Calleigh staggered and the M.E. hurried to help her. Between them the two women managed to get a heavily bleeding Horatio over to the bed and lying down. Calleigh clung to his hand for dear life but moved to one side, giving Alexx room to work. The M.E. checked Horatio's pulse and his pupils, then applied pressure to his chest, her face bleak.
Horatio moaned in protest, tired of hurting, too tired to hide it.
"I know, honey," Alexx crooned, face crumpling, hands firm. "I know it hurts. I'm sorry."
He sighed and looked past her, searching for Calleigh. "Thank God I didn't kill him, Cal," was all he got out before he lost consciousness.
Horatio went back into surgery a second time to repair the newly inflicted damage. It was a setback but one that Calleigh was content to live with. It was finally over, he was safe and they could take their time now. He desperately needed to heal, in more ways than one, and when Calleigh thought about it clearly after her first few hours of sleep she realized that she did, too.
Horatio was strangely silent when he woke up and Calleigh simply let him be that way. She was always there, her fingers in his hair or her hand holding his, but she recognized his need for some private space to think in and she gave it to him, making sure everyone else respected those boundaries as well.
The physical end of things was another story, and there Calleigh did everything in her power to ease him. Although he never complained she could tell the slightest movement that strained the area around the knife wound was excruciating. Calleigh immediately requested a PCA pump with a morphine drip and both Dr. Swain and Alexx noticed that the button controlling it was always strategically located next to Calleigh's hand, not Horatio's. As far as the medical profession was concerned that was generally a bad idea but in this case neither of them had cause for complaint. Calleigh administered the morphine judiciously, never much and never until a certain shadow far back in the blue eyes told her it was time.
Guest Services offered a respite room which, in spite of Alexx's urging, Calleigh categorically refused to accept. A promise was a promise and in her mind staying with Horatio forever didn't mean in a nice room in another building on the other side of a busy Orlando street. She also politely turned down Alexx's offer to buy her something to wear besides the scrubs that the hospital had loaned her. Something fresh and deep and peaceful in Calleigh's eyes stilled her friend's objections before they ever left her lips.
"I'm perfectly fine," she assured Alexx, and she was. The M.E. did bring a tooth brush and a comb which Calleigh accepted gladly, and both Eric and Ryan were always popping in with little non-cafeteria treats for her to eat. When Calleigh needed to freshen up she simply found a residents locker room and made herself at home, blithely changing into clean scrubs after her shower and tossing the old ones down a laundry chute. Horatio mentioned liking the blue ones best so she grabbed them first if there were some in the stack, otherwise settling for her personal favorite, green.
A few times, when a new nurse came on shift, she was told in no uncertain terms that visiting hours were over. Calleigh never argued, she just haunted another ward in her scrubs, chatting with the patients who happened to be in the hallways. Sometimes she helped by pushing them to the lounge in their wheelchairs or wheeling their awkward IV poles as they made their way to the bathroom. After awhile, when she figured the coast was clear, she took the emergency stairwell either up or down to the surgical floor and slipped quietly back into Horatio's room when no one was looking.
Whenever he rested so did she, sleeping on a chair with her head happily nestled beside him on the bed until the duty nurse with the gray curls who never once asked her to leave quietly arranged for a cot to be brought in. Dr. Swain never objected when he stopped by for a routine visit or on rounds and found her there. He spoke openly to both of them about Horatio's condition which was steadily, if slowly, improving.
Six days after the second surgery was a particularly warm and sunny morning in Orlando. Everyone else had gone home to Miami and as Calleigh gazed longingly out the window she heard Horatio stir restlessly behind her. He hadn't slept much at all the night before and she could tell he was getting extremely tired of being on his back all the time. His shoulders were better, he could sit up and eat one handed by himself and the IV was gone. He had gone for a few short walks and had regained enough upper body strength to roll himself over onto his side but the strain of staying that way made his chest muscles ache unbearably after only a few minutes.
An idea occurred to Calleigh and she hurried towards the bed. "Let's see if you can rest on your side with some support behind your back," she suggested. Horatio felt her ease under the sheets behind him. He rolled onto his side, relaxing against her warm body with a sigh of contentment as she snuggled close and spooned into a contour that matched his. They lay that way comfortably for a long time and Calleigh was certain Horatio had drifted off when suddenly he spoke.
"Cal, did you consider suicide? When you thought I was dead?"
The hospital wasn't stirring yet and it was very quiet in the early morning room. For a brief instant Horatio wondered if Calleigh had perhaps gone to sleep. A quick analysis of the tight, controlled breathing next to his ear told him she hadn't.
"Cal? Did you?" he prompted.
"Yes." A whisper of breath against his neck.
He felt like his heart would stop. "I don't ever want you to do that again."
Her arm tightened briefly around his waist. "I didn't know if I could live without you," she whispered. "And I made so many mistakes in the parkade, Horatio. When you almost quit breathing in the ambulance I knew if you died it would be all my fault. And then I thought you did and I couldn't stand it, knowing I killed you..."
"Calleigh, whoa. Wait a minute. What are you talking about, what mistakes?"
She clutched him, hard, and he flinched in silence, biting back the cry of pain. All the guilt came pouring out in a tortured torrent and Horatio just lay still and listened, letting it wash over him.
"I'm sorry," he whispered, when she finally sobbed herself out. "Cal, I'm so sorry. It was just as much my fault as yours. Please don't blame yourself. I don't."
The now familiar touch of her fingertips ran through his hair, hesitating feather light over the still tender surgical site. "It's growing back," she reported, changing the subject, and he let her.
"Thank God for small favours," he grumbled. "If you know a good hair dresser maybe we can get the rest cut to match. I used to look good in a crew cut."
Calleigh didn't giggle like he'd hoped she would but the tension eased and she gradually relaxed against him. "Can I ask you something, love?" she wondered after a long time.
"You know you can."
"Did he…your father…did he ever…oh, damn it, Horatio, I just keep seeing that hook over and over again and thinking about you as a little boy…"
"Shhh, it's okay, Cal. He never did, he just talked about it and then he'd lose his nerve and lock me in the closet instead. Shaun's the one who had the guts to finally do it. At least he waited until I was old enough to handle it." There was a brief pause and a shudder. "I think."
She didn't say anything, just hugged him. It was strange but this time when her arms tightened around him it didn't hurt at all.
"You know," he went on thoughtfully, "when I came at Shaun from behind with the knife he had the Glock in his left hand. I can see it so very clearly now, every time I close my eyes. I noticed what kind of gun it was, for God's sake, I should have noticed what hand he was holding it in. I should have realized he wasn't my father."
"Horatio, that wouldn't have changed anything."
"I suppose not." Horatio sighed. "God, it's all so complicated."
"It doesn't have to be, love. Just quit blaming yourself for things that aren't your fault…"
He chucked and her voice trailed off as she realized what she'd just said. Calleigh felt an irresistible urge to swat him and she did, although not nearly as hard as she would have liked.
"You know, come to think of it," she protested, "why I'm letting you off so easy after that damn stupid stunt you pulled?"
"Which one?" he asked innocently, hoping to defuse her. It didn't work.
"You have a point there, it is quite the list," Calleigh grumbled, "but somehow yanking the knife out of your chest comes to mind. Do you have any idea how angry I am with you for doing that? It's going to take a hell of a long time and a hell of a lot of work to convince me to forgive you for that one. Maybe you should start now."
"I'd like to." Horatio opened his eyes. "Cal, can we go home?"
Calleigh lifted her head slightly. "What, you mean now?"
"I mean right now, this very minute. Can we?"
She lay her head back down again so he wouldn't see her smile. Having anticipated the question she was, for once, way ahead of him, having all ready spoken with Dr. Swain about this very subject the night before.
"I don't see why not," she surprised him with an answer instead of an argument. Horatio propped himself up on an elbow and Calleigh sat up quickly before he did something painful to himself trying to get a look at her.
"Did I hear you correctly, Miss Duquesne?" he asked with a hint of playfulness.
"You did, sir. Let's do it." Calleigh laughed excitedly as she hopped off the bed and made quick work of gathering up the few things they had accumulated while Horatio concentrated on the tedious task of getting himself slowly mobile. He paused for a moment to catch his breath, watching with pleasure as she moved around the small room, tidying it efficiently. With a start he realized that the scrubs were gone and Calleigh was fully dressed. He had no idea how the hell he could have missed that pair of white jeans for this long but it didn't say much at all for his powers of observation.
"Did you know something I didn't?" he wondered and observed with delight as the smile broke forth and filled the room, vying for brightness with the sunshine streaming in the window and winning hands down. Now that would be impossible to miss.
Calleigh took a hanger from the closet and handed him a small, neatly folded pile of clothing. "Can you manage?" she asked and he nodded, still speechless in the aftermath of the smile.
"Then I'll go and arrange for the paperwork while you dress," she told him with a quick kiss. "I hope they fit."
They did indeed fit, at least if Calleigh's appraising glance when she got back was any indication. He signed the papers she handed him without reading them and didn't offer a single word of argument when Calleigh scooped up the small bag that held their few possessions and waved him into the wheelchair that had magically appeared outside in the hallway. There was another surprise waiting in the parkade, a spotlessly clean Miami Dade PD Hummer, the interior detailed to perfection.
"They took a rental back and left the Hummer for us," Calleigh answered his quizzical look as she gave him a hand getting up on the running board and returned the wheelchair to the smiling nurse's aide who had accompanied them. "We all thought you'd be more comfortable with the extra room." She cupped his elbow, hovering like a nervous hummingbird as he eased himself gingerly onto the seat.
"Okay?" she asked solicitously, reaching across to help him with the seat belt.
"Cal, I won't break. I'm just a little sore."
"Right. I know that." Calleigh closed the heavy door for him and ran around the front of Hummer, climbing happily behind the wheel and backing them neatly out of the tight parking stall. As she maneuvered through the cramped lanes to the parkade exit Horatio couldn't help thinking how tiny her slender body looked in contrast with the powerful machine so completely and competently under her control. Much like when she held a gun, he mused, only then the feeling that swept over him was even more intense. Sexy is what it was, at least in his book. Just plain sexy.
Leaning forward Calleigh checked traffic before pulling across the sidewalk onto the busy Orlando street. Out of habit Horatio did too, regretting it the instant he mirrored her movement. Calleigh saw the grimace as the seat belt pulled across his chest and sent him a sharp reminder that he was merely a passenger and should behave himself accordingly. Stifling a groan he gingerly undid the belt and let it retract.
"Maybe this was a bad idea," she ventured, wincing in sympathy as she merged the Hummer into traffic. "We could have flown."
"Calleigh, you worry too much. Just drive," he told her with a wide smile as he leaned his head back on the leather headrest and let his eyes fall shut. "I feel better all ready."
They left the snarl of Orlando behind them and were on the turnpike headed for Miami with the windows open and the humid air blowing through the vehicle when he lifted his head again, feeling peaceful.
"Cal, I don't want to go home right away. Is that okay?"
"Is by me, love, although I really think you should rest." She took her eyes off the road for a moment and eyed him critically. "If you don't mind my saying so, you're looking a little green around the gills. I hope it's not my driving."
He smiled gently. "There's a place that always makes me feel better. I'd like to take you there."
"Okay, only I'll take you. Just give me directions."
"We've got a ways to go yet. Take the South Turnpike towards Homestead and wake me up before we hit #1." He yawned and closed his eyes, then immediately opened them. "You won't fall asleep at the wheel if I…"
"Horatio, go to sleep," she ordered, laughing, and three hours later she woke him up, just short of the #1 South off ramp.
"Key Largo?" she asked and he nodded, stretching cautiously as she lane changed smoothly for the next exit. He glanced in passing at the dashboard clock, then back again.
"Calleigh," he said sternly, "how fast have we been going?"
She shrugged, grinning innocently. "I used the lights but I was afraid the siren would wake you. Sleep well?"
Horatio grinned back. "Better than in the hospital, but I can't wait for my own bed tonight." He paused awkwardly for a moment. "Is that okay with you? My place, I mean."
"You bet," she said easily. "Mine's still pretty much a crime scene in my head although Eric says they've cleaned it up. I'm in no rush to go back other than for some clothes and stuff."
"Okay. Good, that's good. Go left on Ocean Bay," he directed and several minutes later Calleigh pulled up in front of a bright blue and white building.
"Is this the place?" she wondered, smiling curiously. The sign mentioned dolphins but other than that she had no idea where they were or what they were doing.
"Yep. You'll love it. Come on." Suddenly full of enthusiasm Horatio meant to jump out, run around to her side, open the door and give her his hand as she stepped off the Hummer's running board. In actual fact he was still struggling with the unwieldy passenger door when she arrived, grinning, to rescue him. Once his feet were firmly planted on pavement, however, Horatio seemed to know where he was going and his steps quickened as they walked around to the back of the building. Calleigh heard the sound of lapping water and dolphins chattering.
"They run a therapy program here for sick kids to come and swim with the dolphins," he explained, steering her towards a bench some distance from the water. They sat down companionably close together and held hands, watching a couple of bottle nose dolphins playfully chase each other around a small pond.
After a little while a small boy in swim trunks and a safety vest pelted out of the building and down the floating ramp. A woman in a bathing suit hurried after him on intercept course, barely catching up in time to help the child into the water. The dolphins approached immediately, gently touching the small swimmer with their snouts and squirting him with water. A peel of childish laughter made Calleigh grin.
"That's Benjamin," Horatio told her, "and his therapist, Mollie."
Benjamin had red hair, too. Even from a distance he was a beautiful little boy, creamy skin, freckles and an infectious laugh. Calleigh watched him for awhile and then she watched Horatio instead, basking in the joy that lit up his face as Benjamin held onto the dolphin's fin and got a slow ride around the pool.
"Some of them have cerebral palsy or MS and their muscles need the exercise to keep from deteriorating any further," he explained, his eyes still focused on the distant child. "Others have incurable cancer, they've gone through surgery and chemotherapy and they're dying anyway but they come because they love it and it makes them laugh. The dolphins always seem to know which children those are and they're especially gentle. And some of the kids are simply getting stronger, they've been sick for a long time but they're on the road to recovery."
They watched Benjamin splash for awhile longer until Calleigh came up with the courage to ask. "Is he dying or getting better?"
Horatio smiled. "He's getting better."
When the session was over Mollie lifted a protesting Benjamin out of the water and handed him a towel, but before any drying took place he spotted the spectators on the bench and took off with a squeal of delight, heading straight for Horatio. The therapist shaded her eyes to see who it was and gave them a wave.
Calleigh waved back and a tender smile touched her face as Horatio opened his arms and absorbed the shock of the small running body into his. She knew it must have hurt but there was no outward sign of any pain. As he folded his arms around Benjamin and looked at her over top of the wet, red head all she saw was peace in his eyes at the very start of the journey back to being whole.
Final hugs and heartfelt thanks to all of you, your reviews and PMs have been my life and my lifeline as I wrote Parkade. Please don't stop now, I would love a last word from each and every one of you. A sincere thank you to my beta Corine on the other side of that very big ocean.