Some notes: This story is a series of vignettes, which popped into my head in October 2006. It came to me whole; I've just found the time to write it. I hope I've done my muse some justice.
Each chapter is divided into 6 sections with a total of 5 chapters. The order of the sections is: Horatio, Calleigh, Speed, Yelina, Eric, Alex. To be safe, spoilers up through season 5.
Thanks to crimelab.nl for their amazing website – all facts are taken from there. Quite simply without their character backgrounds section, I wouldn't have been able to write this story.
Naturally without my beta, Olly, there would be no fanfic to read. Thank you for putting up with me and helping me, even when it started to make you have dreams about Horatio. :duck:
As always, please review, dear reader.
Disclaimer: I own nothing. Don't sue me.
Section One: Mom
By Duckie Nicks
"Tolstoy said that happiness is what gets families together. I think what really connects human beings is what makes us miserable." -- Alejandro González Iñárritu
The little bundle wearing a blue hat weighs six pounds exactly. Less than Horatio's birth weight of seven pounds, four ounces. And that's what he'll always be to her. Less than. Tiny Raymond has only been in this world for sixteen hours, but already he is a disappointment, and she's not quite sure why.
She'll never confess her feelings to her friends, will never be able to say, "I don't want my baby."
What kind of mother doesn't want her own child? The question repeats itself in her mind, but no matter how many times she asks, there is no answer, no easy response. Her only conclusion is that she must be a bad person. Beyond redemption.
When her friends had their babies, they always spoke with awe at how their hearts had grown, talked about how amazed they were that they could love something so much, so fully.
But she feels no such growth. Her heart is the same size it was before, and there is only room for her Horatio. Her little boy with the bright red hair is three, is her sole hope. And maybe he knows the truth about her, knows that she can't quite muster up the same love for her youngest son.
Because, even though it's only been sixteen hours, Horatio has been quiet and careful; he doesn't mind playing silently with his toys in the hospital room, doesn't mind that she hasn't been able to love him as she did before giving birth. Still a toddler, but already a man – never demanding, never questioning. He willingly puts Ray before himself.
He's all needs, won't give her an hour's peace and quiet, and she knows it comes with the territory of being a baby, but she can't help herself. As he cries, curls his little hands into fists, and screams for her breasts, she cannot feel any motherly concern for him, doesn't even register his sobs until a nurse holds the wriggling infant out to her. Reluctantly, she takes him, and as he latches onto her, suckles the life out of her, she can see the accusing look in his eyes – "You don't love me."
He knows the truth and so does she, but still he will defiantly try to gain her love for the rest of his life. Only Raymond doesn't understand: he is not Horatio, and no trying in the world can change that…
Mama is better at playing pretend than Daddy, the eight-year-old blonde thinks. Calleigh admires the way Mama can go for days at a time without messing up. Daddy can barely last for ten minutes.
He's a good prince when they play Sleeping Beauty; he always wakes her up with a peck to the forehead. But instead of Prince Charming and Princess Aurora living happily ever after, sometimes, well…most of the time, Prince Charming turns into a horsy who wants to be ridden.
It's always at this point that Calleigh stops, and in her precociousness, places her hands on her hips and tells Daddy that the Prince is not a horse.
"You sure, Lamb Chop?"
She frowns. He should know by now that no one knows more about fairy tales than she does.
"Yes. I am," she responds curtly.
"Really? Cause I think I remember a horse in there somewhere."
Calleigh says nothing, but shakes her head, her blonde braids whipping through the air around her.
"You're absolutely sure?"
He gives into her argument, even though Daddy's the bestest lawyer in the whole world, and he likes to tickle her before ending the game and telling her that he needs to do some work.
But Mama – she knows how to make believe. Calleigh thinks Mama would live in their fantasy world, where Daddy doesn't drink and get the belt, forever if she could. Calleigh likes this world, this cocoon, this little piece of heaven. The young girl always sits outside the kitchen when Mama has friends over, enjoys hearing how perfect life is, likes to pretend that the lie is real.
Every night, she prays that it will become true. Maybe tomorrow she'll wake up and Daddy won't get angry and Mama won't be sad and everyone will be safe and happy. She thinks if she colors in the lines, if she gets the A on the math test, if she is good and perfect and kind that she will no longer have to play pretend.
She still believes that. If she can identify the criminal, if she gets the bad guy, then just maybe….
Did I let the neighbor's dog out today? Will they come back from their vacation with dog crap all over their white furniture? I'm bleeding, and I just bought this shirt. Dry cleaners are going to charge me extra.
I'm dying. I'm bleeding all over the place, and I'm thinking about the most random shit, Speedle thinks. If the dog does crap all over the place, it's their own damn fault; his neighbors should have trained the drooling mutt years ago.
Maybe I'll make it out, he reassures himself, focusing on what's at hand. Speedle can still register Horatio, his boss, his friend. Can't see him anymore, but knows he's there, can feel the soft cotton of the handkerchief blot the blood forming around his mouth.
He can remember when he got sick from eating too much Halloween candy and his mother had lovingly tended to him, had wiped his mouth in the same way. Her hands were much softer, Speedle thinks. But then, there's no one quite like your mother. No one can replace her – something Tim's mother had a hard time accepting.
She had worked to protect children, had tried to be a surrogate mother to them. But it hadn't always worked. Too many cases, not enough time or money. It was hard for her every time a child slipped through the cracks, when a teenager turned away from her proffered help and looked towards drugs or violence, when a child was returned to an abusive parent.
Now the retired social worker is losing her own son.
And that's the kicker, isn't it? He can deal with dying, but his mom – how will she deal with losing him? Speedle tries to fight it, tries to hold on, but in the end, it is the same as when he broke the lamp bouncing the basketball inside the house: sorry, Mom.
Yelina loved it when Ray Jr. first called her "Mommy." Not the infantile mama, but a full, loud MOMMY. She loved being that, cherished that role. It was nice, the Colombian-born woman thought, to be more than a cop, a daughter, a friend, a wife.
Mommy – there was no sound sweeter to her ears. The word made her feel whole, complete, satisfied, and when her husband had started to come home less and less, it was the job of Mommy that kept her going.
Eventually, though, as all children do, Ray Junior grew up. Mommy was slowly being replaced with Mom, and Yelina hated it. Mom was cold, felt as though it were only one step away from "I don't need you anymore." She wasn't quite sure when the word had crept into Ray's vocabulary, just noticed it more and more as Mommy became obsolete. Now, the name he used to so affectionately cry out was only used when her son wanted something he knew he couldn't have.
It was ridiculous, she realized, to be upset over this. There were real problems in the world – things she dealt with every day: violence, drugs, corruption. And at some point, Ray was going to have to grow up and become a man; he couldn't be a baby forever. Yelina knew that she was being silly, but nonetheless… she hated Mom.
And now. "Mommy" is back, interspersed between her son's cries for Daddy. Over and over – "I want Daddy! No! I want Daddy, Mommy! Daddy!"
They're both on the living room floor, her back against the couch, his entire body huddled against her. His hands clutch at her, grabbing her hair, her shirt, any part of her he can. Her arms are wrapped around him in a fierce embrace. Despite her tears, she tries to offer him comfort. It's what a Mommy does.
Rocks him back and forth, kisses his forehead, his hair, tries to muster up the conviction to tell her baby that it will all be okay, but she cannot. Tries to calm him down, but there can be no relief for the heaviness, for the pain they both are feeling.
"Mommy! Bring back Daddy."
"I…I can't," the words clumsily come from her mouth.
"Yes," he sobs.
And this is their conversation for the next two hours. She wanted to be Mommy again, and now she is, but it's not the same. The name is there, but the meaning is gone. The sun no longer rises and sets at her will. She can't make everything better like a Mommy should be able to.
Still her son cries for Daddy, for his Mommy fix everything. Still he weeps for the time when his biggest concern was whether or not he'd be allowed to have dessert after dinner – she too cries for that time, now seemingly long gone. Never to return.
Yelina had worried about her son growing up too soon for her liking, but all in one night, Ray Junior has lost his innocence, has aged years right before her eyes. The childish name is back, but behind it is the knowledge that the world has fallen apart, has gone desperately awry. And no amount of Mommy's in the world can change that, unfortunately, they both think. Yelina had wanted to be Mommy again, and God has granted her wish, she knows, but now…now, she wishes she had never asked for this.
Eventually, Ray falls asleep at her side, his hands still gripping her tightly. She carries him to his bedroom, finally realizes that her son is no longer the baby he once was, both physically and emotionally. She's relieved of his weight as she gently lays him on his bed, but not relieved of the guilt she feels. Pulling the covers up over his prone body, she thinks she'll never be relieved of it. And maybe, that's how it should be…
This is her fault. This is what she wanted. The appropriate phrase nags at her, comes to her unbidden: be careful what you wish for.
She follows him everywhere, haunts him. Or maybe he's been the one tracing her footsteps.
The logistics don't matter.
He's never been Eric Delko. It's always Marisol's little brother – even in his own home. The dark-haired boy thinks bitterly that most people probably don't know his name; after all, his family rarely uses his name, preferring a harsh "you" or a snap of fingers to get his attention.
On particularly bad days, he lazily thinks it would be nice to have something that is his own. To have some part of life where he isn't constantly compared to a sibling. A place where what he does is what he does. No more, no less.
Sometimes when the seven-year-old boy crawls under his covers at night, unable to sleep, he imagines a world where there is no Mari. Behind his dark eyes, Eric can see himself being the one most praised – being the child who got the highest grades, the one who scored the last goal, the one who came first in his mother's eyes. And the thought never fails to calm him down, to lull him into a peaceful sleep.
But the solace is always short lived and becoming increasingly harder to find. Because to be ignored and looked over by coaches and teachers is one thing; by his family is another matter. His own parents see him as little more than a ghost.
It would be easier to ignore, Eric thinks, if there were big grievances – if they locked him in the basement and beat him while allowing her free reign of the house. But instead, it's little things that make him retire to the world behind his eyes. The worst moments are always the ones overlooked by everyone else: the fact that his father wakes Mari up with a kiss and he gets a pound on the door; the everyday reality where his mother gives his sister the best sandwich for lunch and he gets the day-old lunchmeat smashed between staling white bread.
The little boy knows better than to complain because commenting gets him nowhere. At best, he gets a conciliatory smile from his mother and the old adage to suck it up. There's nothing he can do, nothing his family will do, and so as the years have progressed, his mouth has permanently set itself into a frown. As time goes by, Eric begins to wonder if he will ever be the only child, if he will ever be the only thing that matters to his mother.
He knows it's wrong to want your sister dead. Wrong to let this jealousy, this reckless craving for individuality and singular love get in the way of family and duty. But the young boy is beyond caring; this is his wish, the only thing he longs for – to truly and finally be his mother's baby.
Besides, was it too much to ask of his parents – to want his mother to love him as she did her daughters? Was it really wrong for him to need her affection? Eric tries to rationalize – it's not like he's asking for a puppy or a new pair of shoes; all he really wants is five minutes in the spotlight instead of constantly being relegated to his sisters' shadows.
And so, with time passing by, the dark-haired child spends his nights underneath his blankets, hoping and praying for something to happen. If only his mother loved him more than anything. If only she weren't around. If only – like a poison invading his mind. It's all he can think of.
If only she were gone.
When the tests come back positive years later, when cancer becomes personal, part of their every day vocabulary, and ceases to be a foreign concept to the Delkos, Eric can only look down at his own hands. It's been a long time since he wished for something like this to happen.
Marisol is silently shedding tears, his father cursing in a mixture of Spanish and Russian under his breath. His mother is outwardly sobbing, and he knows the truth, then; he can hear the hollow words echoing in his head.
His hands are clean, but he imagines the blood. He knows what he's done.
Janie is young, but she's not stupid (no matter what her brother says). Something has happened to her mother. The little girl isn't sure what's wrong, but something isn't right; the world feels out of balance. It's not every day that story time is interrupted to talk about strangers.
But Janie figures it must be bad. Really bad. Because her mom is super strong, and she works with dead people (well, not with them – she finds out who killed them), helps catch criminals. And if her mother is this upset, if she cannot prevent the slight hitch in her voice or the tears from forming in her eyes, then whatever has happened must be unimaginably terrible.
The curly-haired daughter says nothing, doesn't ask questions. She doesn't think for a second her parents will tell her anything anyway. And when her annoying brother makes a peep during the tense dinner, asks what's the matter, the dark look exchanged between the adults is answer enough.
Bryan repeats the question, but still no response from either parent. Just the scattered sounds of their knives scraping against their ceramic plates. The query is raised one last time before their mother silences him with a look.
And yet despite the unspoken warning – drop it – Janie is unable to stop thinking about what might have happened. The worry gnaws at her stomach, isn't soothed away by the nightly routine of fairy tales and kisses.
She lays there in the dark, her mind racing at the possibilities. None of them seem very realistic.
For a brief moment, the tired youngster gives up, kicks her blankets off her small body. The night is inexplicably warm, and she rolls over in agitation. But for all of her tossing and turning in the vain hope of cooling off, Janie can already feel the thin layer of sweat forming on her brow. Too hot to fall asleep now, she decides to get a glass of water.
Her feet pad quietly on the carpet, and with as much stealth as she can muster, the girl slips out of her door. She holds her breath; it's silly she knows, but the last thing Janie wants it to get caught, to get in trouble for sneaking out of her room.
She tiptoes down the steps. Her small feet shuffle around on the wooden planks, carefully avoiding the parts of the stairs that creak. Triumphantly, Janie reaches the landing, and her lips curl up in a smile.
The toothy grin doesn't last, however, when she realizes she isn't alone; her parents' voices filter into the hallway where she stands frozen. It's wrong, she knows, to eavesdrop, but the temptation is too great.
She creeps toward the doorway and crouches down, the hem of her nightgown dusting the floor.
"Alexx, he could have killed you," the little girl can hear her father say. There's a long silence before her mother offers any response.
"You don't think I know that? You don't think I know exactly what could – "
There's a slight scuffle as a chair is pushed back, rubs against the floor. And though Janie is straining to hear, she's pretty sure her mother is crying now, the small whimper and repetitive sniffles impossible to miss.
Her dad whispers something, but the daughter can't quite make out the words. A few more minutes pass before she hears her mother's voice again.
"He's dead. I checked myself. And if he wasn't…" There's a dangerous edge to the familiar tones. "I promise you – I will never let anyone take me away from you and the kids."
Janie moves away from the door then, her mind on overload. She scrambles back up the steps, this time not caring if she hits a creaking stair.
As she crawls back into bed, huddles under the covers, she thinks that she should be relieved at her mother's words. Mommy wasn't going anywhere.
But up until that point, it had never crossed the little girl's mind that her mother could leave them. She'd known that death was real, that it existed, but…up until tonight, dying wasn't an option for her mother.
Her mom was strong, capable of overcoming anything. And now… Janie refuses to finish the thought. Perhaps if she doesn't say it out loud, doesn't think about it, it won't happen.
Acknowledged or not, the idea nags at her, cannot be ignored. She closes her eyes and drifts off into a fitful sleep, her dreams tainted with the color of crimson.