Author's Note: This is set during season three's "Nothing to Lose." It's the final chapter of this short piece. If you haven't seen that episode or are unfamiliar with who Madison and Suzie are, this probably won't make much sense to you.

Also, please know that there are some curse words in this chapter. Not a lot, but they're in here so if coarse language offends, cover your ears...err, eyes, hehe.

For those who do read ahead – please, please, please review. Thank you to everyone who reviewed the first chapter; your kind words and thoughts helped me get through the revision of this last part.

Once again, I must thank my beta, Olly, for reading my fics and especially for helping me with this particular story. Thank you for keeping me in line with my original vision.

Disclaimer: I don't own anything. Don't sue my broke behind.

The Pain of Understanding

Part Two: Not my Family

By Duckie Nicks

Guilting her will not work. She has decided this. But he will try anyway, it seems. And when her teary hazel eyes did not soften, when she didn't back down, Horatio did what he always does - offers the same tired notion of family and responsibility.

"Whether we like it or not, Madison is family."

Fuck you. That's what she wants to say. No. She wants to punch him. Her hands, clenched at her sides, itch to do it. Knock the white teeth out of his treacherous mouth – that sounds about right.

She settles for, "Not my family."

And that ends the conversation.

Her legs are unsteady, but thankfully, Yelina thinks, they carry her to the elevator doors. She has half a mind to punch the button she wants, but her brother-in-law is watching her.

It's not a matter of pride or dignity; that was lost the moment Horatio uttered the words, "Madison is not my daughter."

Yelina isn't a fan of shrill women, but at this moment, she has no qualms about being one. Still she settles for firmly pressing the down button with her manicured index finger. Screaming, crying, punching things – none of it can make her feel better. At best, an outburst would make the man, whose blue eyes won't stop following her, feel bad. And considering Horatio has a guilt complex the size of Florida, the detective knows she can't make him feel worse than he already does.

Unfortunately.

The elevator doors shudder open, and she steps inside. When she spins around, her eyes meet his once more. He looks so sad, and she's sure that her face mirrors the emotion, but she hasn't the slightest temptation to comfort him. Or to find comfort with him. Yelina wonders, then, as the doors close, how close the two adults ever were.

If it only took one secret, simply required five little words for her to lose all faith in him, how well had she ever known him? Madison is not my daughter. And Ray…

Her teeth bite down on her lip.

The metallic doors close, and as she plummets to ground level, her anger drops to a simmer. The soft whoosh of the elevator is comforting, allows her to relive the past few minutes. And the pain she's been ignoring for the past five minutes begins to make itself known.

Her foolish husband. Hadn't she already suffered enough? Married to a drug addict who got himself killed. Raising their child by herself. What else did she – she shakes her head, her tight curls whipping through the air. She will not get upset here. Not in an elevator.

Her control has unraveled, but she will not break. Not for someone who couldn't keep his dick in his pants.

She wants to go sit in her car. Just…be alone. Her mind isn't clear enough to work a case. It's already hard for the usually calm woman to keep her hands from shaking.

Just sit somewhere in the quiet. That's all – the headstrong woman can't, won't, acknowledge her desire to collapse into the driver's seat and abandon this slipping façade.

Stepping out of the elevator, the Colombian walks outside. But as soon as the sunlight hits her face, she realizes this is the last place she wants to be. A police department's parking lot isn't exactly private, she knows, and more than the desire to be undisturbed, Yelina isn't ready for this to hit the light of day. With the hot rays beating down on her, it feels more real – as illogical as that is.

And so, before she's even aware of what her feet are doing, she turns around and walks back inside. Her office isn't an option. It's too…in the open. The crime lab is Horatio's territory, and she's not willing to go there just yet. But there is another possibility, she thinks.

Stetler's office is the perfect place for her to hide. No cop willingly goes into an IAB agent's office; there'd be few people, least of all Horatio, trafficking the area. Her boyfriend likes to keep the plastic mini-blinds on his windows closed, also, and though she's never understood why he wants the room that way, the cool dark place is where she wants to be.

Of course, she would rather be alone. But sometimes, to be with Rick was as good as being completely by herself. He's not quite the prick she had first envisioned him to be; the IAB agent can be sensitive, loving, and romantic – something that would come as a shock to most of her colleagues. However, as the amount of time they've been together increases, Yelina can see him becoming what she had feared he would be.

At moments, he's gentle and loving. Other times…

It's not hard for him to be vindictive or cruel. And lately she's become less sure which side she'll encounter on any given day. Still. Despite their problems, right now the curly-haired woman doesn't trust anyone else. Or at least doesn't trust herself to be anywhere else.

The door is open, but her knuckles rap against the aluminum frame to alert the tall man to her presence. His dark eyes immediately look up from the paper work he's filling out.

"Hey." He's lived in Miami for almost ten years, and yet, his voice is still rounded off by a slight Mississippi drawl, which he tries so hard to cover up.

"Hi," she says, her own tones thickened by her Colombian accent.

She doesn't wait for an invitation. Her hand gently pushes the door shut, the soft click cutting through their silence.

As the tall woman approaches his desk, he asks, "You finish your shift?"

There are two empty black and metal chairs she could sit in, but that's not what she wants. And so as she shakes her head "no," she climbs onto his lap. It's an odd thing to do. For her at least. Yelina isn't the kind of woman to openly display affection like this; she prefers small smiles and secretive glances.

And though Rick doesn't say anything, his body, stiffening in surprise, betrays him. She settles back on his thigh, lays her head down on his shoulder, presses her nose against his neck.

The muscles in his neck vibrate as Rick tells her, "You know – I could write you up for this."

A long dark curl once trapped between the two bodies falls into Yelina's eyesight. . His teasing does little to lighten her mood. Still, she does her best to play along – "Hmm. Then I guess I'll sit here and watch you fill out the paperwork."

An arm snakes around her waist, his fingers splaying out possessively across her hipbone. His other hand creeps up towards her face and pushes the stray curl out of the way. It's nice, she thinks, to have this moment. Lately everything between the two of them has been complicated.

Just like everything else it seems.

"What's wrong?" he asks.

She probably should have anticipated this moment, should have known that her boyfriend wouldn't just accept this affection blindly. And yet…she hadn't, and she's not in the mood to tell him what's happened. Not in the mood to acknowledge this out loud. Again.

"Nothing." The words are less convincing than she'd hoped.

He balks at her. "Come on. Tell me."

"It's nothing – I'm fine."

The cop sighs and throws his hands in the air. It's not the first time a guy has gotten fed up with her; she's had a few dates since Raymond died, and Rick, like the others, has started to realize that it's hard to compete with a dead man – has learned that despite being beautiful, she's damaged. Damaged to the point that she's unbearable. Undesirable.

Yelina understood why the others left. She was not – is not - oblivious to the impracticalities of holding on to Ray. As many times as someone else had wished she would get over him, there were easily a thousand more instances where she had wanted to move on, had tried to forget what it was like to wake up next to her husband. But feelings could not be willed away, and sometimes it was just simpler to give into the heady seduction of memory than it was to fight it.

Now, with memories tainted, forgetting might be easier.

Still the fact that Stetler has stuck around this long is a testament, she thinks, to his determination.

"Yelina, I gotta wonder." His words break through her thoughts. "You keep sayin' you want this relationship to work. But that's just talk, isn't it?"

She pulls away from him to look into his eyes. "No, I –"

"Aww, come on!" It's impossible to miss his frustration, though it's not hard to understand. "If you really wanted to be with me, you'd tell me what's going on with you. But all you want is your brother-in-law, right? I'm just some guy you screw around with to make him jealous."

It hurts.

Hearing those things hurt. Perhaps they're not false…but nonetheless the words cut through her; she'd rather be slapped, would rather deal with the momentary sting than the lingering torment of insult and accusation.

Bogged down by everything that has happened, she can't find either the patience to quell his fears – or the proper words to even try.

It makes matters worse.

"So let me guess," Rick continues. "You did what you always do, and you went to him first. Right? Begged him to make things better, and he was probably too busy saving some other poor woman, so you had to settle for good old Stetler."

"That's not true."

"Answer me this: does Horatio know what's bothering you?"

"You don't understand," she tries.

He smiles cruelly at her. "Oh, I think I do."

And she knows now that she can either run away from this relationship and break it off or she can tell him the truth.

Yelina is unsure of how much longer this relationship can continue anyway. But she can't bear the idea of always being in love with her husband. Not after what he has done. He was supposed to be the gold standard for everyone else to follow. No. Ray was supposed to be the only one; there should have never been anyone else to fill his shoes – no need for a replacement.

She feels dirty, wants to take a shower, scrub and claw at her delicate skin. Wants to finally rid herself of the Caine influence and stain.

This isn't about being with Rick or not being with him anymore, she realizes. She just wants to be free from both her husband and her brother-in-law. And so, with clarity, Yelina knows what to do.

One of her arms wraps around his shoulders.

"Horatio does know, yes," she concedes. And this time, before he can ruin this moment of honesty with bullshit and insults, Yelina continues, "Not because I went to him…"

His dark eyes look at her with burgeoning curiosity and lingering doubt.

Whatever nerve she had seems to have disappeared, evaporated into the air along with Rick's anger. But she can't stop now. She will finish what she has started.

And why should she keep this quiet? To protect someone who didn't give a damn about her? No. She won't keep a dead man's secret. "He came to me. And…told me that Ray…fathered another child."

She thinks there should be a feeling of relief associated with telling the truth. Or something. But there's nothing other than warmth rushing to her cheeks, flushing her olive skin with shame.

"So he finally told you, huh?"

It's not the reaction she is expecting. The dark-haired woman had hoped for – had desperately needed to hear calm words brimming with sympathy. But as is his way, Stetler disappoints.

"What do you mean – finally? You sound as though you already know." Her eyes harden, glare at him, and he has the grace to shrink back into the seat and look a little guilty.

"I don't. I didn't. Just – that little girl? The one you thought was Horatio's? She looks a heck of a lot like your husband."

Her eyes narrow on him for a moment, and though some nagging part of her still thinks he's lying, he shows no signs of guilt – does not shift under her gaze.

Everyone but her. Yelina gets up then, cannot bear the contact, the heat from Rick's warm body. How many people had seen the truth and decided not to tell her? Was there any part of her life not tainted by this lie?

She wraps her arms around her body, crosses her chest protectively.

"So I'm really the last to figure it out," she says quietly, her words tinged as much with a deep bitterness as they are with her accent. She doesn't turn to face him, though it's impossible to miss the creak of the chair as he gets up out of it.

His hands wrap around her elbows. It's meant to be a sweet gesture, but his fingers dig into her flesh a little too hard. He pulls her back against his body to envelop her in a hug – just a little too harshly.

Rick whispers soft words of comfort into her ear. But, with breath too hot and voice too cool, it feels forced. Yelina had wanted to hear how she couldn't have known the truth, wanted to hear that this wasn't her fault, and he's giving it to her. This is what she wanted.

But it's not.

Or maybe it is. The more he says, "It's not your fault," the more Yelina's beginning to think it is.

"The girl's sick," she says.

"That's not your problem" is his simple response.

"I guess."

And that's the truth. She's not really sure what is and isn't her problem in this situation.

"She's not family, Yelina. You don't have to help her if you don't want to."

Unsure of how to respond, the curly-haired woman remains silent. She had only a half hour earlier said the same words herself. Not my family. But as easy as it is to give into that sentiment – as much as she understood what Stetler is saying – something inside of her… some sharp pang of guilt begins to move through her body.

Feels it in her stomach. She wants to throw up all over her shoes, but the feeling persists, radiates through her, begins to whisper in her head: it doesn't matter if she's family or not. The thought is shoved aside as he changes the subject.

"You know what we need?" he asks her. Without giving her a chance to answer, Rick pushes forward, "we need to just get away. Go to a hotel, you know?"

"I can't keep asking my mom to watch Ray." Her stomach clenches a little, hoping that this doesn't upset him, that he doesn't think she's pushing him away.

Thankfully, her boyfriend's attention drifts to what they should do tonight. And as he goes on and on in a half whisper about how they should get a bottle of tequila and screw all night long, the unwanted thoughts float back into her mind.

If this girl died, could she live with that? Wasn't it her job to help and protect the innocent?

The questions go unanswered for the rest of the time she's in Rick's office. His lusty talk and wandering hands make it impossible to think, and when she finally leaves twenty minutes later, she sighs with relief. Perhaps she had been better off sitting in her car.

As she pulls out of the parking lot, Yelina thinks about what has happened in only an hour's time. And with reliving it, the anger surges again - though much less than before. The feeling isn't alone.

The betrayal. The shame – they're making themselves known more so than ever. The regret coursing through her body is impossible to ignore. Remorse for everything she'd done wrong, including for forgiving her husband on so many occasions, for turning a blind eye to his ways. Regret for being forced to see the truth.

And lastly, as she's still thinking about how Ray could do this to her, a scenario crashes over her. It's the situation she hopes to never be in. If the roles were reversed.

If instead of Madison, it was Ray Junior – her son – who was sick. And unable to bear this nightmarish thought, she makes her decision.

She jerkily changes lanes, all the while understanding what she must do. Even if it kills her.

As a cop, it is her duty to do this. Besides, she'd helped far worse people than a sick four year old.

What Rick had said had made sense, but it hadn't felt right; he had spent years fighting for what he wanted. Her boyfriend held no allegiances to his colleagues, didn't feel as though he should protect them. And in his mind, there wasn't any responsibility here for her.

She knew that then – and it was probably why she had gone to him, had told him the truth. Yelina wanted nothing more than for someone to agree with her, and she'd gotten it. Only it was wrong.

It is wrong.

Her car pulls up to Ray's school. Class doesn't let out for another 20 minutes, but maybe in that time, she thinks, she'll have worked out a way to tell him what's happened. Daddy is – was – a cheating jackass won't cut it, though cursing in her head seems to offer some comfort.

But then nothing Yelina thinks of sounds good enough for her son. Because it's not.

And just when she's about to give up, as she starts to think that maybe she could live with Madison's death if it meant protecting her son, the metallic sounding school bell clangs through the air.

It's impossible to spot him at first. Hoards of eager children rush out the doors – huddling in front of the school in small packs to talk or running to catch their bus. She waits patiently.

Finally Ray Junior pushes his way through the small crowd, emerging from his peers – and she knows there's no turning back. Walking towards her with unruly hair (which he will have to get cut soon, no matter how much he fights, she notes) and yellow shirt, her son is the reason, the only reason of any importance.

He is why she will try to help this little girl.

As a cop, she had responsibilities, sure. As a human being – fine. But none of that had mattered until the thought had invaded her mind, the what if scenario that would haunt any parent. If it were Ray... As a mother, there was no other alternative.

She'll never forgive her husband for this. Certainly Yelina has no intention of absolving this other woman of her mistakes. But who knows where this would go if the children became part of this…this…hell.

The curly-haired woman had told her brother-in-law that she didn't want her son to pay for Ray's mistakes. And now, she knows that it wouldn't be right to punish Ray's daughter for what he did either.

But as her son, confused, gets in the car and asks why she's here, she feels her cheeks flush with nervousness. Her hands feel clammy, and again, Ray Junior wants to know what's going on.

He looks at her in much the same way that she probably looked at Horatio, she thinks. As the words come from her mouth, filling the air with a palpable heaviness, Yelina knows she's doing the proper thing. Lying to her child, possibly killing another – it would have been morally reprehensible.

What she's doing is good – what anyone in this situation should do. And yet…as she undoes five years of lies about Daddy being a good man who just pretended to be bad, as she sees her normally stoic son's lips start to quiver and eyes fill with tears – as their carefully remade world shatters once more around them, Yelina can't help but feel empty.

She's doing the right thing, but why does it have to hurt so much?

End Part 2/2