FF100 Word Prompt: #65 – Passing

Summary: A moment between Horatio and Yelina in "Lost Son"

Disclaimer: I don't own the show. So don't sue me, please.

Sweeten this Hand

by Duckie Nicks

Horatio stepped out of the jeweler's. It was a nice day, the kind that attracted people to Miami: warm, not a cloud in sight, but not hot. The weather could easily lull a person into a false sense of security, could make someone believe that nothing could wrong on a day like this. Horatio was not one of those people. Today was gorgeous, but Speed was dead. No, dead was too benign. Shot. Killed. Murdered.

He pushed the thought aside, though he could feel the blood drying on his hands, his face, and in his hair. The crimson liquid was hardening, making his skin itchy and uncomfortable, but this, too, would have to be put off for later. Right now, there was a child who needed him, and every moment Horatio stopped to think about what had just happened was another moment lost, another moment this kid had to suffer through. No time could be wasted.

Outside was complete chaos. News crews were already there, as were the usual curious onlookers that the cameras seemed to attract. The lieutenant saw plenty of patrolmen, but no one he could directly associate with the case. The cops too were here for the spectacle it seemed. The redhead needed Yelina or Frank or anyone he knew. Who the hell is here, he wondered furiously.

He could hear her heels clicking on the pavement, knew it was her before he'd even turned to face her. Mouth slightly agape, Yelina took in his current appearance. The man didn't look her in the eyes as she appraised him, felt that if he did, his control would falter even more than it already had.

She was an example of those affected by these crimes, the constant reminder of victims he had failed. First, his brother, now Speed, and if he weren't quick enough, the Williams boy was soon to follow. Perhaps sensing his discomfort, the curly-haired Colombian filled him in on what was happening. They'd found the jeweler.

"Patrol picked him up two blocks away. He only speaks Bulgarian. Now we're waiting for a translator."

Anger bubbled inside of him. The jeweler had spoken English only moments before. There was a little boy missing, and this was wasting time. It was half-assed police work, inferiority at its finest. Wasting time. He needed to save that child, couldn't handle the possibility of more blood being on his hands. More failure.

"I am not going to wait," he told her in staccato, harsh tones, and purposefully, Horatio walked towards the jeweler, towards the man responsible for Speed's death. All Rudy had to do was answer the questions; there was no need to have his guards open fire. No point in Tim's death. The rage inside would no longer be kept at bay. He grabbed the guy, the murderer, and shoved him a way before grabbing him again.

"Horatio," she rebuked, and leaned in to add, "Film at eleven." Following her eye line, he could see the camera crew. And it was enough to calm him down, at least for the moment.

"I'm going to put you in the car," he told the jeweler and proceeded to do so mechanically and under Yelina's supervision. The anger that had swelled so urgently inside of him moments ago had dissipated. For now the monster within had gone quiet.

"Where's the boy?" Horatio demanded. The jeweler acted as most guilty people act, feigning ignorance. Normally the cop was willing to play along, but not today. "Rudy," he warned, his tone getting dangerous. "Do not play with me."

But the Bulgarian didn't confess to any kidnapping. And it made no sense to Horatio. He could feel this little boy slipping away, becoming ever the more elusive, lost, as the imaginary clock ticked on. He needed to do something, needed to get moving. Closing the door to the car, he turned to Yelina and said, "He goes nowhere."

There must be something he'd missed, he thought as he turned back to the jewelry store. Just had to be something, some clue, some little bit of evidence that he'd not seen in his shortsightedness, anything that would help him put the pieces together. His mind was racing, and his feet picked up on the frenetic pace, and when he felt a hand grab one of his own, he had to reign himself in.

"Horatio. Stop." He wheeled around to face her, hoping for some good news. Perhaps the boy had been found or the jeweler had confessed, but she continued in a different vein. "Maybe you should take a moment." The concern in her eyes was cloying to him, and he resented it.

"I'm fine."

"You're not fine," she argued back. He was feeling argumentative and was about to tell her how wrong she was, but Yelina pressed on, tightening her grip on his hand. "I know you want to find this boy, okay? I understand that, but right now you're not thinking clearly, and if you continue to go through our suspects as you have this one…" She left the thought unfinished.

"You want me to sit and talk to the shrink while the Williams boy is out there? Is that it? I already told your boyfriend I'm not going to do that."

Later on, he would decide that it was at that moment that she realized just how out of control he really was – when he couldn't even contain his hatred for Stetler, which he had tried so hard to keep away from her. But right now, Horatio couldn't help himself. He was mad at IAB for showing up as soon as anything went wrong, ready to point fingers, quick to blame.

"All right," she said diplomatically, but still took a step closer to him, the invasion of personal space done purposely to throw him off balance. "At least let me clean you up."

He'd almost forgotten that he had literal, and not just figurative, blood on his hands. As he stood there looking at her, a gust of wind blew through. The surrounding air became tainted with the metallic smell, and he thought he might get sick. The Williams boy was suddenly not feeling so important, the scent of what once belonged to Speedle filling his nostrils, and it was too much. Looking down, his fingers and nails were stained crimson. He wanted to claw his own skin off. So wrapped up in this, he could barely choke out an okay, could barely register that she was leading him to her car.

"Sit," she said to him softly, and he did so in the passenger seat, his legs hanging out the door. Yelina leaned in the car, reaching past him, grabbing some wipes wedged in a crevice near the driver's seat. She cupped his chin, looked into his eyes for a moment, but said nothing else before going to work on wiping the blood away.

He closed his eyes, needed to block this quiet moment of intimacy out. She said something to him about cleaning his hands, but the words didn't register in his mind, and she, without repeating herself, continued to clean him up.

When she turned her attention to his hands, Horatio allowed himself to look at her. She was crouched in front of him, her delicate, manicured fingers wrapped around his wrist. Her face was relaxed, but it was obvious in her greenish eyes that she was concerned. She gently wiped the towel back and forth, the wet rag turning from white to pink, becoming crimson stained. How appropriate, he thought.

"By the time we're done," she offered in a thick accent, "we'll have an interpreter, I'm sure. We're not losing time, Horatio."

That wasn't exactly true, and the slight falter in her eyes told him that she knew it as well. With this suspect, no, the man was already under arrest – but every moment they looked in the wrong places, every innocent person they interrogated – every mistake and distraction brought that little boy closer and closer to death.

"You've already scared him; he'll confess soon if –"

Horatio bucked against the notion, wrenched his wet and still bloodied hands away from hers.

"No. He won't."

She didn't say anything, just grabbed his hands again firmly and pulled them back towards her. Even still, with the blood on him, with the guilt visible for her to see, there was a hint of softness in the grasp. A minute into her task, when he had calmed down enough, felt his heart race slowing, she offered, "Then we'll let the evidence speak for itself, right?"

It was something he had said countless times to numerous people. Evidence was concrete; evidence was scientific and therefore, better than any eyewitness account. But what did they have?

He went through the mental list, the catalogue of everything they had discovered. There had to be something – Locard stated as much. Start from the beginning. A boy was missing, the kidnapping occurring at karate class. The martial arts instructor had been paid to look the other way. The Grand Prix used to take the boy was stolen, had been ditched. Evidence from the car was still being processed. The father was killed delivering ransom on a stolen boat with a .22 bullet. Gun went off at close range. The jewelry used to pay the ransom was fake, a fact that the Williams hadn't known. And following up this lead had led to…Speed.

Locard's theory on transfer would have to be amended, Horatio decided. Even once the blood had been washed away, even when that was gone, this day would bear witness against him forever. Horatio would always carry this burden, would be tethered to it like an ox to the yoke.

He stopped the chain of thoughts in its tracks. Going down that road would not be productive. There was no time to think about Speed, as cruel and cold as it was. Or the ways this tragedy could have been avoided. There were, he realized, other leads that still needed to be figured out. The tooth marks on the fake emerald and…the palm print!

Stick with the science, he told himself. Match the print. Find the perp and eventually the child. The evidence was their only hope right now. It was this little boy's only hope.

"There," Yelina announced, letting go of his hands.

He looked down to see the spotless appendages and then smiled his appreciation. It wasn't much, wasn't a huge toothy grin, but the detective standing in front of him seemed to intuitively understand how he felt. Unneeded words, in any case, would fall short; there was no vocabulary that could reflect, express his feelings – or hers – nothing that could create more comprehension than this invisible language, than this silence, they already shared.

The small smile she gave him in return was proof of that. She knew that he had needed this moment – just more evidence of something he didn't want to see in his sister-in-law. Of course, her hopes had been for him to calm down, and that hadn't really happened. Beneath this thin layer of calm was a torturous feeling for which there was no name. Still, it had given him a chance to look at the evidence in a completely different way, and now, there was still hope for this little boy.

Horatio got up and maneuvered around her to leave. The sound of the door shutting came from behind, and though he didn't turn around, he could still make out the sound of Yelina's heels on the pavement; through the chaos, there was always her.

"Where are you going?" she asked him, her pace quickening to catch up to him.

"To the evidence."

The Colombian stopped, did not follow. His rough hands palmed the sunglasses in his pocket. Taking them out, he slid them on deftly and as he did so, called to her without turning or stopping, "Thank you, Yelina."

Author's Note: Thanks to Olly, my lovely beta, for putting up with all sorts of questions and problems. And a thanks to Prin as well for helping me make this story better. :-)