Author's Note: This takes place during "Nothing to Lose" so if you're not familiar with the whole Madison/Suzie storyline of seasons 2 and 3, this probably won't make much sense.

To my beta, Olly thank you for all your hard work and editing skills. Without you, this fic would still be nothing more than a jumbled up thought in my brain. Many ducks to you.

Disclaimer: CSI:Miami and its characters belong to CBS and all of those people. If they were mine, season 5 would look a lot differently. So please don't sue me.

The Pain of Understanding

Part One: Not my Daughter

By Duckie Nicks

He's knee deep in a lie he never wanted to tell, caught in the story Yelina had created for him. And now he's going to be punished for it. It's not that the redhead doesn't understand. Horatio gets it – his empathy for her is what has been gnawing at his conscience.

She had assumed Madison was his. And, perhaps, on some level, he should be offended by her conclusion, but as always, Horatio understands. When faced with the truth, he too had wanted the little girl to be someone else's. But DNA doesn't lie, and so, he'd accepted the truth: Raymond had a daughter. His sister-in-law didn't have that luxury - the absoluteness of science.

Her answer was – is – incomplete, derived from small pieces of the puzzle. When the two women, the wife and the mistress, met and first really spoke to one another, Horatio watched them interact. His azure eyes could not be torn from the potential fiasco. It was only a matter of time…

And as the tall, olive-skinned woman crouched down to take in the four-year-old cherub, he swallowed uncomfortably. The invisible noose tightened around his neck. Quietly, his unsteady hand undid the top button on his shirt. But even with the proof looking back at her, Yelina didn't see it.

In that moment, he realized how much he had wanted her to figure it out. She would have been upset. That was to be expected, but at least then, he wouldn't have to lie about it. Wouldn't have to carry this around like a weight, wear the noose like a necklace.

There was a time when she would have spotted Raymond's qualities in a person first, and ever since this brief encounter, the brother-in-law wonders when he replaced his sibling in this manner. But she had only seen the aspects of Horatio in the little girl. The similarities are there, no doubt about it: the same alabaster skin, rust-colored hair. They are features Ray also shares. Shared, he corrects himself. He had long accepted his brother's death, but sometimes, he forgets. Finds it especially hard to remember when he keeps paying for Ray's mistakes.

When they were little, strangers would always ask Horatio's mother if she had twins. It's something he tries not to think about too much (in this regard, anyway), doesn't want to know if their similar looks is the root of Yelina's attraction. Still, as hard as he tries, he can't avoid wondering if he is more than just a replacement, a cheap substitution to his sister-in-law.

The main visible difference between the brothers had always been the eyes and nose, the older brother inheriting these features from his father. This too is something he doesn't want to ponder too much, but Horatio can't stop it, can't help but see his father every time he looks in the mirror.

And his father must have stubborn genes because when the redhead looks at Madison, he sees the first man he murdered. In his niece, these two painful secrets collide; she is the walking embodiment of what he can't escape. His brother's legacy, his dad's - so all consuming and powerful, Horatio constantly feels as though he is suffocating. There is no room for his own life, for his own mistakes and problems.

With Suzy's daughter ill, now that he is unable to help her (a foreign concept to him), Yelina learning the truth is unavoidable. He gets in his car after he calls the Colombian and makes his way back to the crime lab. As urgent as it all is, he's in no hurry to face the gallows.

The lieutenant decides that neutral territory is best for this. If alone, in his office, she'd probably feel more prone to…crying? Hitting him? Shooting him with her gun? Shooting him with his gun? He's not sure how the brunette will react, though any response seems reasonable to him.

She's not late. Horatio knows this. But as he stands waiting outside of the crime lab in the lobby, time seems to be both whizzing by and standing still. Finally, in her lavender blazer and white pants, his sister-in-law appears. Her heels scuff on the ceramic floor; the uneven sound, seemingly loud in the unusually quiet hallway, betrays her. He's the nervous one, but Yelina doesn't seem to be any more at ease with the conversation they're about to have.

"Hey. You sounded urgent." A brief moment of silence before she asks him, "What's up?"

He tilts his head to look at her, wants to get a good look at her before…before he ruins everything. Before he destroys this little bit of innocence she has left.

"Have a seat. Okay?"

She mutters an okay, and they sit down on the leather bench, their legs so close to touching. He leans forward to rest his elbows and arms on his knees, and as she looks in his eyes – as she senses that what he wants to talk about is big – her body mimics his.

"That look in your eyes. I've only seen it once before." Yes, when Raymond died, he thinks. If only his brother were a quiet dead man…His mind is tempted to continue down this road with her; he had told her a long time ago that she wouldn't be alone in that, but this will have to be an exception.

"Suzie Barnham, Yelina" he says. The name, two simple words, easy to remember, and yet, so unbelievably complicated – four syllables spelled out the end of Yelina's world as she knew it, would destroy whatever faith she had left in her dead husband.

But just as she hadn't seen the truth when the Columbian had gotten on her knees and looked Madison in the eyes – she still didn't recognize what was going on. She smirks, turns her head away for a moment before responding.

"From the elevator. Yes." Her curls quiver as she shakes her head in confusion. "Um…I already told you. You don't have to explain yourself."

Horatio is sure that his stomach has tied itself into a firm knot. He had only readied himself for her anger and for the tears, but he hadn't even begun to prepare for her compassion…for this...he's quite certain that even if he had, it would be useless now. He's about to break her heart, he thinks, but she's only concerned for him. He takes a deep breath.

"I mentioned that there are complications with Suzie, didn't I? And there are." And there always will be it seems.

Her eyes look off in the distance for a moment, and then she cocks her head, once again mimicking him. "Yes?" She raises her eyebrows, just a little, making her look even more heartbreakingly sympathetic.

He lets out the breath he has been holding. His eyes rest on her hands. He's taking the cowardly way out, can't look her in the eyes, but there is no other conceivable way. Not for him.

"Madison is not my daughter."

She smiles in disbelief, obviously unsure of what he's trying to say. "What do you mean not your daughter? She looks just like…"

The truth finally makes itself known. "Like…Ray," she realizes.

"I'm sorry." His eyes venture to look in her own, and he is not surprised to see the betrayal or the shock. The ineffectual words tumble from his mouth once more, "I'm so sorry, Yelina."

Her long lashes flutter quickly; tears are forming in her eyes, though she has too much pride to let them fall, he knows. "But…" And then it's the next inevitable question, the one where his sister-in-law learns how long he has betrayed her. "How long have you known?"

He stops looking at her then. "I've known all along."

The truth shall set you free, he thinks with irony. The two had been close until Yelina first met Madison. Until he chose to lie to her. And then, whatever Horatio had been approaching with the beautiful woman…a relationship? He didn't know where they had been headed – not that it mattered now. All he understood was that once Madison was real, was a part of his life Yelina knew about, things had changed. She had stopped trusting him; she'd stopped believing that waiting his insecurities out was worth it.

But now, the truth is out. Instead of bridging the gap, it feels, as she stands up, steps away from him, that everything is much worse. There are only a few feet between them, but she's never felt less attainable. He's tempted to close the distance, to touch her. Knowing that doing so won't improve matters, Horatio fiddles with his sunglasses instead.

The ever-present chasm between them has deepened. Words are useless now, though he does his best to explain the situation. No defense or explanation can fill the void, can quench her anger at him or at Ray. She is moving farther away from him.

He has betrayed her in the worst kind of way; he has no right to ask her for anything. His brother may have had the affair, but Horatio is no better. It's a truth he's all too aware of. He too has been disloyal to her. And now if Madison dies, it will not be Yelina's fault, but rather his own. This will be his own failure, his own burden because he could have told the Colombian the truth months ago. Maybe that would have made all the difference.

"The child could die," he tries. But she will never forgive either Caine brother, he knows. And he doesn't blame her. She turns away, heading towards the elevator. He does not follow.

It is within his rights as an uncle to be angry with her – for choosing her own petty need for revenge, for comforting herself in a blanket of fury over doing the right thing, but the redhead doesn't have the heart for it. Because, as useless as it is, he understands why. Horatio understands herAnd he can't help but think, as she disappears behind the elevator doors, that it was this sympathy for her that got him into this mess in the first place.

End Part 1