Well, you asked, and you recieved ;) This is the sequel to 'What are 1190 Miles Between Friends?'.
This is also a double agent of sorts, being an entry to the MiamiFicTalk challenge as #12 'Broken'.
I hope you enjoy xx
Eric waited nervously at the Hummer. He absent-mindedly bounced on his feet and cracked his knuckles, his eyes trained on the warehouse in front of him. He'd gotten Horatio's call to leave the building fast, that there were explosives on a timer and that time was ticking away. He'd made it to safety expecting to see Horatio following not far behind. That was nearly a minute ago. "Horatio, where are you?" he said again, almost shouting into his two-way.
"I'm fine, Eric. Almost done."
"Get out, Horatio. You said it's gonna blow."
"All in due time."
His jaw set, his eyes hardened and head shook. He'd had about as much as he could take of Horatio's new-found invincibility. This wasn't the first time he'd played devil's advocate with an explosive scene - literally and figuratively. Every one was on edge when Horatio's Hummer would pull up; Eric had taken to warning Alexx in advance that her help would might be needed, and not only with the deceased.
He scanned every opening to the warehouse again. There was no life, not one flicker of movement within, so what was taking him so long? "Horatio…" he warned into his two-way again.
Something moved. Eric breathed a sigh of relief seeing Horatio saunter from the entrance. His fear was gone, but his anger certainly wasn't. If he didn't kill himself one of these days, Eric would be more than glad too.
Suddenly, there was a boom, then another, as two detonators exploded within the building. Orange and red shot up and out from every window, the roof jumped a few feet in the air and came crashing down, obliterating all in its path with a fiery rage.
Horatio was barely a foot away. He barely jumped at the noise and heat, just kept on walking towards Eric like nothing could hurt him. Eric might have laughed, seeing the scene from The Terminator play out before his eyes, but it was too real. Way too close for his liking.
Eric slammed the Hummer door shut and waited for Horatio to finally catch up. He could hear the sirens of the back-up, EMTs and fire crew nearing the scene, but they were barely a buzz compared to blood rushing to his ears and the conversations shouting through his mind.
"For Christ's sake, Horatio! What were you thinking?"
Horatio looked at him with a cautious eye - cautiousness for his CSI, not for himself. "There was still evidence in there. I wasn't going to let it go up in smoke."
"But you're going to let yourself?"
"I'm fine, Eric."
"Barely. You were four steps away from being blown up, and you walk out as if it's all in days work."
"It is." He dropped an evidence envelope into Eric's kit and took off his jacket.
"N-You-" he grunted in frustration. He'd tried a million times to get through to him, but nothing broke through. Nothing changed. He spun, trying to calm himself down, knowing that he was fighting a losing battle. "You're bleeding for God's sake," he gestured a single drip of red flowing from his hairline.
Horatio touched to the spot, barely feeling a tickle. "Superficial."
Alexx came bounding up, her ME kit in hand, stern but worried look etched across her features. "Horatio? What happened?"
"He's all yours, Alexx," Eric said, throwing his hands down. He walked off in the direction she'd just come from, with a stroke to his arm from the equally-pissed woman.
She put her kit on the open fender of the truck and put both hands on Horatio's face, tipping it so she could see the wound. "You're playing the devil's game, Horatio."
"I'm fine, Alexx."
"This is at least a stitch, baby. That is not fine." She fed her hands into the latex gloves and grabbed an alcohol wipe.
She sat him down next to her kit to get him at her height. He didn't even flinch as she saw to his wound, she made a note of looking. His eyes were cast far away and on the burning building behind her. She fought the temptation to see just how much pressure she'd need to get a reaction. She shook her head and went to get a butterfly stitch and attached it to the wound. Satisfied that it would hold and heal, she took a step back and removed her gloves. Horatio hadn't moved. "Baby?" she asked, putting a hand to his arm. "You okay?"
He snapped back to reality. He took a deep breath and stood up, "Done? Thanks. The body is over here," he took off.
Alexx watched him go. Her cell phone trilled to life in her pocket. She spun away from the sirens and water hoses, struggling to hear her caller.
Eric passed Horatio on his way back to Alexx. "He okay?" he asked, as she put the phone back in her pocket.
"The wound is, but he certainly isn't." They watched him for a minute, ordering uniforms to secure the area and ushering neighbours back from the scene. "We're on, by the way."
"Where?" he asked, instantly knowing of her subject.
"His place. Best option."
"How do we get in?"
"I've got a key."
"Handy," he smiled at her, impressed.
"Isn't it?" she smirked back.
"Sooner the better," he nodded. "How?"
"I have a plan."
"Why am I not surprised?" he grinned as she left him to see to the body.
Sooner really was better than later, and easier to achieve than neither Alexx nor Eric could have imagined. Another scene had been called in, this one near the end of shift and linked to the previous one with major similarities: Burning warehouse, DB not far away.
Although, it wasn't burning until Horatio and Eric got there. Horatio was carefully approaching the building, gun trained on the entrance, when it went up. He was catapulted away with the force of the explosion, hitting the ground with a resounding thud. It took Eric to drag him away and get him to safety. He was conscious but completely out of it. Eric sat him against the side of the Hummer, calling for reinforcements. Horatio came too with a start, attempting to stand up but getting a firm hand to the shoulder keeping him still.
He maintained his 'Fine'-ness, but Eric was either not listening or plain ignoring his efforts, determined to wait for the EMT's for the all clear instead of his somewhat suicidal boss.
The ambulance careened into the parking lot of the warehouse, coming to a diagonal stop near to Eric, but far enough away from the fire. A fire engine passed them both to stop nearer to the blaze.
Eric explained the situation and stayed near to keep Horatio from batting away the penlights and gloved hands. Alexx was soon on hand, asking the paramedics what the diagnosis was. They told her he'd be fine - slight concussion but nothing to worry about. Eric mentioned that he had zoned out, but the paramedic said it was more shock than the knock to the head. All Horatio needed was a night's rest and good meal.
"Thanks, guys," Alexx smiled to the departing EMTs. She turned back to Horatio who was still braced against the Hummer. "Alright, you are going to stay right here while I do the prelim on the body, then I am taking you home and practically locking you in. If I see you move while I'm over there, there'll be hell to pay." She picked her kit up, "And that's doctor's orders."
"I got him," Eric said, fighting a smirk at Alexx's no-nonsense attitude. It was like watching a child be grounded by their disappointed mother after being told time and time again not to climb that tree.
She processed the body, bagging the contents of his pockets and putting them in her case for Eric later. She gave the go ahead for the body to be moved and packed up her kit and moved back to Horatio and Eric.
"Okay, ready to go?"
"I told you, I'm fine, Alexx. I need to get back to the lab and see what Frank has for us with this case."
"And I've told you, I'm not taking any of your crap. You're going home. Help me to the car, Eric?"
Eric, again, fought the smirk and helped Horatio to his feet and into Alexx's car. "Thanks, baby," she said, squeezing his arm and climbing into the driving seat.
"I'll see you tomorrow, H. Rest up," he said and tapped the side of the car as it drove away in a cloud of ash and debris.
As much as he resented being treated like an invalid, his head was pounding from the fall he'd taken, not to mention the muscles in his back. He was going to need to stock up on the aspirin if he wanted to survive the day after.
They stopped at traffic lights and Alexx pulled out her cell phone and typed out a text. She hit send and snapped it shut, putting it back in her pocket.
It wasn't too long until they reached Horatio's condo, she'd probably still beat the body back to the lab. She was just thankful that Horatio had survived another scene without being on her table.
She pulled to a stop and climbed out. Horatio was already peeling himself out of the door when Alexx made it to his side. "Keys," she almost demanded.
He raised a bemused eyebrow and relinquished hold. She led him up the drive way, ready if he took a stumble, and opened the door. She stood to the side as he walked in, only for him to come to a sudden stop as he set sight on his visitor.
Calleigh Duquesne stood up from the couch with a wary smile, "Hey, Handsome."
"What, no hug?" She smiled, taking a step closer to him.
"What's going on?"
"Alexx called me. Said you had a death wish?"
Horatio looked to Alexx.
"Don't look at me like that, you know it's true. I've lost count how many stitches I've had to give you these past few weeks. You're scaring everyone, and if you won't listen to us, maybe you'll listen to Calleigh." She walked over to the lady in question and gave her a hug, "It's good to see you, baby."
"You too," Calleigh smiled.
"Okay, I'm gone. And I'll be disappointed if I see you tomorrow, you hear, Horatio? It's a Friday, take a long weekend and relax. Doc-"
"Doctor's orders," he said at the same time. She gave him a smirk but pointed her finger as if to say 'Don't get cheeky'.
She shut the door behind her, taking his keys with her to move his Hummer from the scene and to make sure he really didn't leave his house.
Horatio's chin hit his chest.
"So, really? No hug?" Calleigh smirked, closing the final distance.
He smiled and took her in his arms. He had to admit, it was nice to have someone to envelope and someone to envelope him. "It's nice to see you," he said into her neck, her vanilla-scented hair tickling his cheek.
"You too," she said, her head resting on his shoulder.
"I don't need you to fix me though, I'm not broken."
"No one said you were," she said, peeling herself from his grasp and sitting him on the couch.
Calleigh disappeared into the kitchen and came back with two aspirin and a bottle of water. "Take these, they'll help your head."
He thanked her and took the pills, chasing them down with the full bottle. "So what exactly did Alexx tell you?" he asked as she took a seat next to him on the couch.
She sighed, taking in his dishevelled appearance. She'd never seen him this bad. His normally crystalline blue eyes were almost grey now, sleep but a distant memory. He was pale and gaunt, his hair limp against his skin and his clothes looked to be dripping off him. Alexx was right to call her. "She said she was worried about you, and I can see why. She said that she feared you'd given up."
"Given up on what?"
"Everything. That you'd finally burnt out, but wasn't listening to anyone who told you so."
He watched her look to her lap, fear already etched on her features. She'd been gone four months but barely changed at all - maybe a bit paler from the Chicago sun. He hadn't realised how much he missed her until he saw her stood there in the middle of his house. He always hoped she'd visit, just so he could check that Chicago was treating her well, but he in no way wanted the visit under such circumstances. "What do you think?"
She looked at him, trying to see what kind of answer he wanted. Tucking her legs under her, she said, "I think she was right. You look like you need a damn good feed and to sleep for a week. You look like you have been carrying everybody else's problems on your shoulders so you can bury your own…"
"And what are my problems exactly?"
She sighed. "Speed. Raymond. Yelina. Dare I even say, me?"
It broke her heart just a slight when his head drooped in silent confirmation.
"I'm sorry," she whispered. "I didn't leave just to spite you."
His snapped up, sending pain ricocheting through his skull. He closed his eyes until it subsided back to the dull ache. "Calleigh, I never thought that at all."
"Then why am I a problem?" she smirked, as if she'd got the upper hand.
His chin touched his chest again. "You were another person who left. I don't blame you for that though, I never for one second imagined I had some kind of hold or monopoly over you. I was happy for you that you're getting married. I am."
She nodded her head, not quite sure if she believed him that respect just yet. She couldn't help but believe him about her leaving though. She knew of all the people who had left or died in his life, but she never imagined that she had such a place in him that she would be added to the list. She silently hoped, maybe, but never believed it to be true. "Then why the kamikaze mission?"
He smiled a humourless smile. "I guess I was trying to ignore that I was on one. I think I though that if I did all the dangerous stuff, no one else would which would mean no one else would leave."
"But you could have killed yourself, from what I've been hearing."
The unspoken words of 'what have I left to live for?' hung in the air.
"Okay, you know what?" she said cheerfully, hoping to expel the somber white elephant from the room. "I am going to make us some dinner and you are going to have a long, hot shower."
"Oh really. And don't make me come in there and make sure," she smirked, a mischievous glint to her green eyes that made Horatio smile. He held his hands up in defense and left for the bedroom and en-suite. She watched him leave and unfolded herself from the couch with a sigh. She had no idea. Really.
She heard the shower start up not long after, and smiled that he was taking his orders. She had planned ahead and took into account that he probably had no decent food in his cupboards, and she was right. She'd stashed grocery bags in the kitchen filled with Miami's finest and knocked up her specialty.
Calleigh took the time to really think over the situation. She really hadn't seen him this bad. She tried to think back to when Raymond died, but even then, he was more determined than defeated. Now he just looked like he was running on fumes, ready to break down at any second. He had people there to catch him, but it was whether he would have let them. God, she hated to think what might have happened if he really did fall. What would he have done? Where would he have gone?
She couldn't think like that. He was here, he was alive and he was going to be back to normal, if she had to build him back to perfection herself. She wasn't sure that wasn't such a bad idea anyway. Without the added guilt of being some part responsible to his semi-breakdown, she just hadn't been happy away.
Her job was good and Chicago was beautiful, but it was certainly no Miami. Even John… he was a sweetie, he really was, but he was working practically 24/7, and when he was home, he was sleeping. It sounded awful, but that wasn't what she had signed up for. Not to mention his moods when he was over-worked and over-tired. When he had found the box of gifts from everyone here…God, she was practically packed and on the next flight home.
Home. It was still 'home' to her. It was more home than Louisiana had ever been, and more than Chicago would ever be. But she had commitments, responsibilities, and she was always taught that you stay true to your responsibilities. But to the point where you was unhappy?
She had been running on autopilot in preparing the meal. She knew the recipe like the she knew the words to her favourite song. She was ready to plate it up when Horatio appeared at her side, giving her a start.
"I didn't know I had Maple Chicken, Louisiana rice and corn cobs in my cupboards…" he smirked over her shoulder.
"You'd be surprised what a Southern woman can cook up," she grinned, spooning the rice onto the plates.
They sat down to eat and Calleigh was delighted to see Horatio really tuck into a meal. He ate it like he hadn't eaten in a month, which she could quite believe he hadn't, other than a burrito from the vendor maybe. And, yeah, they were chock full of goodness and taste.
She even offered him some more rice, which he took with an embarrassed but thankful smile. They caught up on their small talk while eating. Horatio told her the latest gossip from the labs, all acquired with a keen sense of hearing and an Eric and a Ryan. They retreated to the balcony to see the sunset after dinner.
She was possibly transferring her hope into the sight, but he looked better already. Scrubbed clean, freshly shaven and with a smile that wasn't buried too far deep down.
They watched the final pigments of the day fade with the vanishing sun. Horatio was reclined back on one lounger, Calleigh on the other. She looked over out of instinct one minute to see him flat out asleep. He looked so relaxed, so content. She took a small slice of pride and satisfaction as she rose to retrieve a couple of blankets. She lay one over him and tucked herself into the other, watching the sun finally disappear into the horizon.
Calleigh began to stir, a brightness in her eyes and warming to her face she found uncomfortable. She turned over and pulled the deep-red quilt further up to her neck and around her body. It slowly began to filter in that she had gone to sleep outside, and that she definitely wasn't anymore. She opened her eyes to find what she guessed was Horatio's bedroom. Oversized black and white photographs of the Miami skyline adorned one wall, while New York projected from another. She really thought back; she had definitely gone to sleep outside…
She twisted herself out, still wearing her clothes from the day before, which was some kind of blessing, though still a confusing one. She found Horatio in the kitchen starting up the coffee and breakfast. "Do you know you have a revolving balcony?"
"Excuse me?" he asked with a chuckle.
"I went to sleep on the balcony, and woke up in a bed…"
"I thought it better that you take the bed. I have become very versed in couch positions, anyway."
"It's too early to take that the dirty way, isn't it?"
He laughed again, "I think so."
Calleigh nodded and took the proffered coffee. "How do you feel?"
"Better, thank you."
"How's your head?" she asked, moving his hair to see the stitches.
"Slight throbbing, but the percussion band has gone which I'm thankful for."
"How does bacon sound?"
"I thought so. Why don't grab a shower while I rustle us some food up?"
"Sounds good to me," she smiled and put the coffee cup on the counter. Her bags were still by the door from the night before. She left them there to make sure he didn't think she was inviting herself for the night, and fully intended to leave him for a hotel, but she fell asleep herself. Plus, leaving a man with a slight concussion was never a good idea. Even if you do sleep through said man carrying you from the balcony and into his bed…
Horatio prepared the breakfast, his mind running through the night before and, of course, what he should be doing at work right now. He forced himself to rid his thoughts of work- it was because of that that he was now locked in his house. He was starting to see where everyone was coming from about his attitude. He really was escaping from every one and every thing by making his work even more a part of his life - to the point that it was nearly his only life. He couldn't have imagined that he had such a support base though, one that would cross that line and call in reinforcements from different states. It was good to see Calleigh though. It hadn't been the same since she had announced her moving, but it was like he told her, he had no hold over her and was happy that her life was moving on in a way she was happy about. Even if it was with John…
Calleigh appeared back in the kitchen as Horatio was placing rashers of bacon on their plates. She thanked him and refilled their coffees, as he turned to take the cup from her she mentioned, "You're oozing," with a gesture to his wound. "First aid?"
"Under the sink."
She grabbed the kit and hopped up on the counter to be at his height. She took a wipe and butterfly stitch from the box and looked at the gash. It wasn't too deep, but it was still bleeding a slight. She tilted his head to the side and carefully peeled off the stitch already there. She grabbed the wipe and pulled him closer, in between her legs. She ignored the resistant look from him and attended to the wound, lightly cleaning in and around the area. She flashed him a smile as she took the new stitch from her thigh and attached it. "There you go," she smiled again and grabbed a piece of bacon from the plate, taking a bite.
"Thank you," he said, removing himself, looking anywhere but at her. "You know, you're free to call John. I'm going to take a shower, so you can have some privacy."
She hopped down from the counter, "I'll talk to him later," she shrugged, taking the remaining rasher and putting the plate in the sink.
Horatio eyed her suspiciously, wondering if he was going to get to return the favour with advice this weekend. He knew that there was no way he was going to be able to rush Calleigh, so left the matter for her own time. He excused himself for the bathroom while Calleigh mentioned she'd tidy up the breakfast dishes.
She piled the plates and grill pan into the sink and turned on the water, her hand going to grab the liquid soap. Finding it near empty, she went on a search for a new bottle. The cupboard below the sink that had housed the first aid kit bared no results, nor the one next to it. The small cupboard by the wall didn't have any soap, but had some things of much more interest.
Her heart dropped when she set sight on them, instantly growing again with anger, fear and disbelief coursing through her veins. Her fingers wrapped around the neck of an almost empty bottle of whiskey, placing it on the bench above her. She pulled out another, and another, and another. Seven in total, not all whiskey; some gin and vodka thrown into the mix.
Calleigh braced her hands against the counter as she rose, eyeing them in all their destructive glory. Words were escaping when she tried to fathom where his head was at – turning to drink.
The man in question stepped back into the kitchen, coming to an abrupt halt at the sight in front of him. His head hung low.
She turned to him, hurt in her green eyes. "I-I can't believe this. What, life got so hard for you that needed booze? I never thought you'd stoop to this. What were you thinking? For Christ's sake, Horatio, you are not alone! Do you not see how many people need you?
"You're the closest thing Ray and Madison have to a father, and you were going to let them lose you too? What about Eric? He has a good head on his shoulders, but only because you put it there. He looks up to you like a father, Horatio, especially after Speed. You were the only thing anchoring him. Ryan? He's just a baby. He thinks he knows it all, but needs you to teach him everything or he's going to get himself shot.
"For God's sake, Horatio, there is only you who blames yourself for Speed's death. He did that to himself! We told him a hundred times to care for his gun but, like always, he was too lazy. Telling him another time wouldn't have made a blind bit of difference – that was Speed.
"If you can't see this, then I can't help you. I refuse to watch another person I care about kill himself with alcohol." She took a breath, feeling her face flushed with anger and betrayal, and marched past him to the balcony.
She sat on the steps leading down to the beach, her mind still screaming at Horatio, her heart aching for having to do so. Taking deep, filling and relaxing breaths, she listened as the patio doors slowly slid open behind her.
Horatio sat down next to her, his eyes cast in the same direction as hers. "I apologise, Calleigh. I…I have no excuse."
"Just tell me you understand, now." Calleigh asked, turning to see his answer from his steel-blue eyes.
"I do," he whispered. His stare told her he was genuine.
"Alcohol ruined my childhood and still rules my father's life, and mine by association. I can't sit here and watch you go down the same path."
"You won't have too, Calleigh. I promise you won't have too."
A bashful smile crept onto her lips, "I'm sorry I shouted."
He smiled back, "I needed it."
"You really did," she began to smirk, her green eyes twinkling again.
He laughed and squeezed her knee. "Thank you for coming."
She wrapped her hand around his, "You're welcome."