Author's Notes: This fic came to me wholly realized one day back in October, and from that moment on, I've really tried to give the concept justice. I hope that I've succeeded in that respect and that you've, at least, enjoyed watching me try to do just that. A big thanks to Cillian Chase, Rainbow Stevie, Mtwapa, Nadya, Speedfanatic05, Kate, and Funky in Fishnet for leaving feedback. It definitely pushed me to get this thing done quickly – and inspired me to do it as well as I know how.

A ginormous THANK YOU to my beta, Olly, for being my saving grace. Thank you for encouraging me to do this. Thank you for reading through this entire thing and adding words and wows and just being the best beta and friend a person could have. Your writing inspires me – you inspire me. Thank you.

Please note that I have left the dates on Marisol's grave the same as on the show. Which means the same paradox (she's said to be older yet her birthday makes her younger than Eric) on the show exists in this fic. Hopefully this fact won't hinder your enjoyment of this chapter, hehe.

Disclaimer: I don't own it so suing would be mean.


Castaway Dreams

Section Five: Recreate

By Duckie Nicks

"Well, let's break down the word, shall we? Recreate. To create again. Begin again. To start over… Recreation isn't about relaxing. It's about re-defining… whatever's become undefined." -- Barbara Hall


Horatio

His pale hands clench at his side, the knuckles taking on an abnormally white hue. With his palms covered in a thin sheet of sweat, to say Horatio is nervous would be an understatement. He is terrified, more like. If his face weren't lined with age, if his red hair weren't settling into a dull rust, he'd think he was still thirteen.

That anyone can make him feel this way is irritating at best. The fact that it's his sister-in-law makes it all the more unbearable. But for all of his self-deprecation and awareness, Horatio's unable to make himself act his age – is unable to be more than a lovesick schoolboy around her. And rather than contemplate the idea that this woman has more control over his mind and body than he does, the redhead has come to accept it as a fact of life. Not in a manner dissimilar, he thinks, to a person accepting cockroaches in their apartment building.

It's a relentless feeling, one that has infiltrated (and probably always will) most aspects of his life. But today, the stakes seem much higher. And what is usually a pang in his stomach has metastasized into an insufferable pain radiating throughout his body. Assured dread coursing in every part of him, the redhead can almost taste the failure awaiting him.

He wants to throw up in her driveway, wants to run away from this – ignore it or… something. Anything to avoid the confrontation that is surely about to happen. But Horatio has also accepted that putting this off is no longer an option, will only make things worse.

Why hadn't she come to him? The question grabs hold of him, as his fists hit the wooden door. And Horatio knows that this is his last opportunity to leave unscathed. But his feet refuse to move. He can hear heels on hardwood from behind the door, and only now, after all those years on the bomb squad, does he accept that he has a death wish.

He can hear the muffled sound of metal sliding as Yelina unlocks the door, the physical barrier between them removed with a controlled jerk. Her eyes immediately rake over him, and his body unconsciously shifts under the intensity of her gaze.

Finally – "Horatio" breaks the silence. His name is said with no warmth or disgust, uttered with a detachment the redhead is familiar with. It's the same muted personality she offered after Ray died (well, after they thought he'd died). He hates it, and looking into her cold dark eyes, he's beginning to wonder if this is anything more than a suicide mission. Wonders if she's already too far gone…

Her arms crossover her chest, and he swallows hard.

"The boy… told me your dishwasher isn't working." It's an excuse – and a lame one at that, Horatio knows, but he's never been happier to have a cover story.

Her lips, devoid of make up, curl into the barest of smiles. The brother-in-law doesn't need to look into her eyes to know the darkness is still there. Nor does he want to see how right he is, and so his gaze never quite meets hers.

"I'm sure my son is heartbroken over the loss of an appliance he's never used." The sarcasm is not lost on him, nor is the underlying suspicion.

"Still," he counters, not ready to give in just yet. "I can look at it." His blue eyes drop down to the black toolbox sitting by his feet. The redhead may have a death wish, but he's prepared.

"It's broken," Yelina says firmly, reiterating what he already knows. But the edge in her voice tells him that she believes it to be unfixable.

The CSI takes the moment to list his options. The first: he can leave, which Horatio promised Ray Junior he wouldn't do, not until this was sorted out. Unacceptable. The second: he can fight the point, but… given that his stubborn nature is probably only outdone by hers, it's a battle he doesn't think he can win.

Stay or go – he doesn't like either road, at least the way they present themselves at the moment. But leaving isn't an acceptable alternative. Regardless of how effective he's going to be, Horatio promised his nephew. And the secret Yelina has been keeping might just destroy them once and for all, but it can't be ignored any longer.

Overcome with a definite sadness, he glances at her, quite sure that he looks like a deer in headlights. It's then, finally, for whatever reason, that her eyes soften ever so slightly. The orbs are no longer a deadly onyx; the familiar colors of green and amber flit around her pupils.

An "all right" slips out in a sigh as she moves away from the door. A small concession, sure, but Horatio takes what he can get.

Since Yelina bought the house, the brother-in-law has only been inside a handful of times. It's another reminder of how distant this family has become. But even still, there is a wonderful familiarity he already associates with the home. Brilliant shades of coral and cream decorate the various rooms wall to wall. The overall look could be gaudy if uncontrolled, but, under the Colombian's careful eye, the plethora of jeweled earth tones provides warmth to the entire space.

A kindness that the homeowner at present seems incapable of, he thinks, as she mechanically shuts the door behind him and shoots him a glare. The truth is obvious to him: he is wearing on her patience, and so obediently, the redhead walks to the kitchen.

On the stove is a pot shaking from heat. She's obviously cooking something – the scent is familiar to him, though right now, he's too preoccupied with the way Yelina is staring at him to figure out what it is. And it goes without saying that Horatio is too cowed to ask.

"Well?" She demands, interrupting his thoughts. And quickly, he plunks the metal tool kit and his thin body onto the ceramic floor tiles.

In his head, when he originally thought of this plan, he had decided that right about now would be the point where he came clean. But now, in the actual moment, the task seems too daunting, and so he blindly looks at the broken dishwasher. His brow furrows in concentration, unsure of how to fix the white appliance.

"You do know what you're doing, yes?"

His blue eyes snap back to her, and he moves his tongue uncharacteristically along his teeth, chewing on a possible answer. Finally… "I'll be fine" is his choice.

"Did I miss something? Last time I checked repair wasn't one of your skills," she says tartly.

"I'm a bomb expert." Machines are machines, after all.

"That's my point, Horatio. And I really have no desire to take you to the emergency room."

She looks as though she wants to say more, but doesn't, and so, the redhead shrugs off her concern, such as it is. Opening his tool kit, he takes out a wrench, clueless as to how to fix the problems at hand. But the small movement seems to satisfy his sister-in-law, as she begins to bustle about the kitchen.

He sits silently, pretending to do his work. Every so often, he glances at her, watches as she calmly grabs some vegetables from the refrigerator. And it's then that Horatio is finally fed up enough with his own cowardly behavior. It's time. Even though there are no words, it is time.

Reaching into the toolbox once more, he deftly snatches the proverbial smoking gun in his hand and stands up.

"Ray came to me," he starts, breaking the silence. His voice betrays his nerves, the tones wavering ever so slightly. And she stops washing the jalapenos in her soft hands to turn and look at him. Her eyes are both guarded and open – a curious mixture, the redhead thinks. By now, his sister-in-law has surely taken note of his uncharacteristic behavior, has figured out that something is wrong.

"Stopped by the lab… two days ago," Horatio clarifies. "He was upset."

An eyebrow cocks in confusion. "Yes?"

"He found this," and that's all Horatio can say, as he hands her the wrinkled medical bill. He's confronting her, yes, but he also knows that pushing her too far will only result in disaster (and possibly a trip to the hospital).

Her curls bounce as she snatches the paper, her eyes shining in recognition and then disbelief. "But…" Her voice trails off. She tries again, taking a deep breath – "I…"

And then more silence. Words have obviously failed her, not that he can fault her for that, and so he tries to press on.

"He thought you'd… had an abortion."

At the last words, she jerks back slightly as though she had been hit. But she doesn't give into the emotions surfacing in her eyes. Only a hand grips the countertop.

"And you?" she asks. "Do you think so little of me as well?"

He takes a small step closer to her, his eyes bright with sorrow, but she doesn't look at him. Her gaze is on the floor. Another step closer to her, and he crouches just a little so that he is in her line of sight.

"No." Firm and unyielding. The truth – he knows – conveyed in one simple word. Yet, she bristles at it anyway, shuffles on her feet. "No. Never," he says again.

Giving him a sad smile, Yelina awkwardly steps around him with a wide berth. As she takes a seat at the kitchen table, he wonders (before grabbing a chair himself) when they switched places. When she became the one in hiding, the one in denial, and he the pursuer, the seeker, the light in the dark.

"I suppose…" her stilted voice cuts across his thoughts. "I suppose you want to know why I didn't tell you."

Perhaps if it were anyone else, Horatio might have responded to the understatement sarcastically. That he wants to know is a given. It's all he's thought about for the past two days. He's obsessed over every last detail – over what could have gone wrong, over what he could have done, over how he should have known. But he says nothing to her, knowing that demanding answers won't make any of it easier.

He looks over at her, instead, and offers her a sheepish glance. Another sad smile is made just for him, and she continues, "I wasn't going to tell you."

It's a painful admittance, and he bites down on the inside of his cheek to keep himself from talking.

"You had the right, I know," she consoles him. "But I…" Her voice dies out, and her tongue quickly licks her lips before Yelina tries again. "I… didn't know how. What words are there to say –"

Pain flashes in the hazel orbs, and the adults sit in silence, listening to the sounds of the rattling pot on the stove. Eventually, the brunette pushes a stray curl out of her face and continues. "I waited too late to tell you I was pregnant and then… What would have been the point in telling you or Ray? Hmm? What good would that have done anybody?"

Horatio can feel his cheeks flush with anger. He deserved to know, he thinks. Perhaps nothing would have changed, but… after a minute, he finds his voice. "I could have –"

But his thoughts are cut short by her words.

"Do. Not." Her eyes are a deadly black. "Do not sit there and entertain your guilt complex, Horatio, with all that you could have done." And then, as an afterthought, "it wouldn't have mattered."

He frowns, feels properly chastised. Yet, the harshness of her words is unable to stop the niggling in the back of his mind. He should have done something. Anything. The older man looks down at his hands, cannot speak, the bitter taste of guilt too hard to bear. The wooden chair creaks underneath him, as he shifts in his seat.

When he finally does return his gaze to her, she mirrors his frown, crosses her bare arms over her chest.

"You obviously don't agree," Yelina says. "So tell me: in your mind, what would you have done?"

"I…" But he has no answers, no plan of attack. Nothing. And the redhead bows his head in shame because he believes that he should have the answer, should be able to give her something.

Her heels click on the tiled floor as she walks over to him. His sister-in-law kneels down on the floor, takes one of his cool, rough hands in hers, and Horatio can't help but look at her.

"Listen to me," she says gently. "This is not your fault. Nor mine. There's nothing you or I could have done or should have done." Her thin fingers squeeze around his hand. "It's not our fault."

She says it with such conviction that Horatio has no choice but to believe her, cannot find it within him to fight her on this.

Finally, the brother-in-law says, his voice low and raspy with emotion, "I could have been there for you." Admittedly, it's not much, his presence having lost its potency long ago, he thinks. But despite that, he could have been there. It's a fact, one that seemingly accentuates the gulf between them. One that reflects how much time has taken from them.

And her response is so soft that he has to strain to hear her – "You're here now." The words, quiet and gentle, are a balm to his weary soul, are nothing less than the promise of his own redemption. His hand moves in hers, clasps onto the delicate skin.

When she first returned from Rio, Horatio had said that what was left in Miami was family. And it seems now to be truer than ever. Their worlds have changed, entirely, irreparably. All around them the death of their loved ones, but they are no longer alone. In this moment, time stands still, only to rewind and move forward once more. They have been apart but no longer, and in their contact, the fractures begin to repair until they are whole again.

Until they are one.


Calleigh

The first real thing you learn in the police business, Calleigh thinks, is that it's a job that cannot be done without the absolute trust in the people you work with. Any situation can turn ugly, and when staring down the barrel of a gun, knowing that there's someone else in the room wanting your well being is a blessing. And it's for this reason that the blonde hates newbies; they make her nervous.

After years of working together, the bond she has with Horatio and Eric is obvious. The CSI trusts them both with every aspect of this job and then some. With Ryan, though she knows he's done some terrible things, Calleigh is beginning to develop that implicit confidence. But of all her co-workers, that the blonde trusts Natalia Boa Vista is surprising, to say the least.

Half the lab still wants to kill the brunette for being the mole, and Calleigh doesn't really understand how she can look past it. But she does… Maybe it's just simply nice to have another woman on the team, a rarity in this field. Perhaps the ballistics expert could empathize with Boa Vista's desire to do good (only to have it all work out for the worst). God only knows both their lives could serve as a cautionary tale for fellow do-gooders.

For whatever reason, there had always been a basic friendship between the women. And then, the ex-husband had showed up today, cementing the ladies' bond.

Within hours, everyone in the lab had heard about Nick one way or the other. Rumors of past abuse swirled everywhere, and though everyone should have known better, some whispered that, based on Natalia's house and expensive tastes, the marriage couldn't have been that bad.

Calleigh was not of that belief, having recognized the fear, the shame… the similar mask of strength. Though the circumstances were different, the blonde understood. Out of kindness, the southerner approached the newest CSI.

But it's not until work ends and Calleigh is about to leave that Natalia takes the proffered outlet. When the blonde enters the locker room, the other woman is there, but doesn't look up or acknowledge her presence. And so the older CSI follows her lead, opens her locker silently to grab her purse. Finally –

"What you did for me today… I mean just asking if I was okay… Thanks," Natalia says meekly.

The blonde shrugs her shoulders, gives the other woman a smile. "Sure."

Boa Vista rubs the palms of her hands against her black slacks. "I've been working here a while now, and I don't know how many times someone's brought up your dad or your ex-boyfriend –" She cuts herself off, and Calleigh is thankful for that. "It just… never occurred to me to see how you were doing."

Once more the blonde shrugs, closing her locker. She's come to accept that there are about three people she can depend on for anything – all of whom work in this building. She's learned that trust is a gift few people deserve, and normally Calleigh wouldn't think much of the half apology.

But looking at the younger woman, the ballistics expert understands: Natalia has learned the same painful lesson. Both have seen the horrors of human nature, have known what it's like to be afraid of someone you love. They understand what it means to fear someone whose job is to love, respect, and protect you. They've learned to keep their thoughts to themselves.

And though neither woman utters it, they both know what the other has experienced, get that they are similar. Green eyes meet brown ones, and the connection is firmly made.

"It's okay," Calleigh says, and with those words, out of their tormented pasts, the two women are friends.


Speedle

He once read that, in ancient Rome, after the appropriate mourning period, a dead person's house was swept to get rid of the deceased's ghost. At the time, Ryan thought his OCD cost him his job. But after reading that tidbit, he thinks being hired under those circumstances was appropriate.

That said, the CSI hadn't felt less welcome. They resented him for not being Speedle, and Ryan didn't help matters by acting entitled, superior. And for a year, the team lived on this horrible cycle. The more he tried to prove himself, the more they hated him, believing he was just being cocky; their dislike only served to be more motivation for the brown-haired man to be perfect.

If he weren't so egotistical, he would have, Ryan knows, quit a long time ago. And so, at some point he had accepted that he'd never fit in. He would always be the newbie, the competition, the odd man out, the outsider, etc. Nothing more than "Mr. Wolfe."

Yet he couldn't have ever anticipated the team's response to his injured eye and everything afterwards. They were supportive, helpful, and sympathetic in the months that followed the shooting – something he had long believed impossible (at least, in their treatment of him). Ryan had seen all of these qualities in his colleagues before, but this was the first time he had been on the receiving end of their better graces.

Eric had practically kept him alive driving him to the hospital. Calleigh was more forgiving of his mistakes. And, perhaps most surprisingly, Alexx and Horatio had broken the law to shield him from IAB, to defend him.

Even now, months later, Ryan's still not sure why things changed. Perhaps it was because he had finally learned, in a trial by fire manner, that being a good CSI didn't mean being perfect. Maybe the rest of the team had come to accept this new person in the mix. Perhaps they were finally beyond expecting Speedle to come walking through the door. By accepting that the old CSI was dead, they had learned to open their hearts and accept this former patrol cop.

Whatever the reason, now Ryan knows that when he enters the building, they trust, respect, and most importantly, like him. The young man finally understands that the cycle has been broken and that they can all begin again.


Yelina

Even though only three days have passed since Horatio showed up on her doorstep, Yelina is sure she has recalled the events of that encounter thousands of times. Each second, each word replays in her mind – Horatio's timidity, her anger, and the resulting revelations.

She feels guilty, perhaps as he does, that they have spent so much time apart, ignoring one another. If their family has been crumbling, their actions haven't helped matters. Nor does it help, the brunette thinks, that she lied to her brother-in-law three days ago.

Well maybe not… lied, her mind counters. Yelina had told the truth when she said that the words hadn't come to her. The Colombian knows she didn't really know how to tell him about her pregnancy, much less the… not being pregnant anymore. Her hand rakes through her curls, tugging slightly as she tucks a stray lock behind her ear.

No, she hadn't lied about that. Language had been of no use, is still completely inadequate to express what her body feels, knows, to be true.

But Yelina had omitted the part where she was afraid to tell Horatio for entirely selfish reasons; she never wanted to see him reject her. God had given her a perfect little gift, and she was terrified that her brother-in-law would look at her and finally lose interest, having figured out that she loved Ray. That she had been too weak to push him away completely.

The brunette feels bad for leaving that part out, the part of her that feels tainted, that makes her want to bathe in boric acid and scrub till the water turns red. She feels guilty because it's proof that as much as Yelina trusts him…

She has faith in Horatio like she hasn't in anyone else, but even then, there are some things best kept secret.

Of course, three days ago, the look in his eyes… the blue orbs so open and loving, it had been impossible to imagine him rejecting her for this (or anything else). At first, Yelina believed that she had imagined the look, had merely wanted to believe he would look at her that way. But after days of analyzing and re-analyzing, she knows it wasn't make believe.

And maybe… it meant that she didn't need to reveal that part of herself to him or anyone else.

She imagines herself burying that truth somewhere in the back of her mind. But one thing Yelina will no longer ignore, will no longer hide is the feeling that Ray Junior is hiding something.

He had been sneaky for months, but in the past few days, her son has been even more secretive than usual. And it's upsetting, to say the least, to know that something isn't right, and yet, not have any idea of how to make it better, to fix whatever is going on. This past year has nearly destroyed her relationship with her child, and Yelina will never forgive herself for it, she thinks.

There is only one thing to do: talk to him. Snooping around his room is an option she doesn't wish to take. Because as horrible as it's been with her son, the mother needs to know if her child will open up to her, needs to see how badly their bond has been damaged.

Of course, that's easier said than done. She is naturally afraid of what might be wrong, but there's more to it than that. Ray hardly comes home these days, and when he's here, she usually isn't (or she's asleep), the only proof of his presence an unmade bed or a piece of half-eaten toast. Yelina will talk to him, she's decided, but she has to wait for him to be around in order to do that.

And in the end, it's Ray Junior who approaches her first. She'd wanted to stay awake for when he did come home, but the stress of the last few days had gotten to the brunette, and she'd fallen asleep.

Hours later, the sound of something falling in her bathroom wakes her up. Dazed, her first instinct is to grab her gun. She reaches down along the side of the bed till her manicured fingertips hit the carpet. Sliding her hand under the bed, Yelina blindly snatches the box, which holds her weapon.

But she pauses as the bathroom door is opened, light filtering into the bedroom. Through her bleary eyes, she can make out her son's outline, newly lanky body with that mop of black curls.

She's not sure what he's doing, only knows that it's late, and being so close to the precipice of sleep, Yelina rolls over and closes her eyes.

Not even a minute has passed when his "Mom?" breaks through the silence. His voice is tentative, worried. "Mom," he says again, and she rolls over once more, sits up slightly. "I think…" he begins slowly. "I think I need your help."

And with proverbial warning bells going off, it's enough to get her out of bed. Her feet stumble on the carpet as she walks towards Ray. Lazily, she pushes her hair out of her face.

"What's wrong?" He doesn't immediately respond, only to eventually step back into the lit bathroom and sit on the toilet seat; the sight is enough to make her feel like her heart has stopped. His bottom lip is unnaturally thick, swollen, oozing… and pierced. "What happened?" Her voice is weary.

Yelina takes a step forward, raises her hand. Lightly she runs a fingertip along the tormented flesh.

"Some guys and I did it a few days ago. It was fine until yesterday – I swear."

Her response to the lie is a frown. And then, "it'll have to come out." With both hands, the mother carefully begins to undo the small black ball holding the silver ring in place. It's impossible to miss the pain in his brown eyes, but she knows it can't be helped. And though she's trying as hard as she can to not hurt him, Ray still pulls back in pain when her thumb slips.

"Ouch!"

"Sit still." Her voice is harsh, even to her ears, but she's not in the mood (especially at two a.m.) to comfort him. Without another word, Yelina returns to her task.

But despite the warning in her voice, Ray still tries to fight her. "Oww! Stop!" He pulls away from her and rubs his face. "I only wanted you to help me clean it! Jesus, just because you don't like it doesn't mean it has to come out. I'm not a little kid you can boss around anymore."

She drops her hands to her side. The last thing the exhausted mother wants is a fight, and Yelina works hard to pick her words carefully. Quietly, slowly – "Raymond… I would be lying if I said that I liked this. But, at the moment, that is not my concern. Honey – it's infected; it has to come out."

"No! You're just saying that cause you're mad."

Her teeth bite down on her lower lip. She's never quite realized it until now, but out of all the qualities he could inherit from his parents… somehow her child has the infuriating combination of her stubbornness and her husband's stupidity.

"Listen to me, all right?" She tucks a dark curl behind her ear. "You went and pierced your lip. Fine. I already said I didn't like it, which is, frankly, the reason you probably did it. But I can live with that." Her tongue runs along her teeth for a moment, as she struggles to find the right words. "I can accept that," she reiterates. "What I cannot accept – what I will never accept, child – is you being hurt and not coming to me. The idea of you… my son being hurt is enough to make me lose. my. mind."

He looks away briefly, and eventually, Yelina is able to remove the silver hoop. Her fingers hold it up to his eye level so he can see. "You say you're not a child." She tosses the ring into the wastebasket near by. "An adult isn't afraid to ask for help; a man doesn't hide when he's hurt."

The surly teenager stands up, and it's then that she realizes how tall he is. Ray's almost the same size these days.

"Oh really?" he asks, his voice filled with sarcasm. "Is that what a grown up does? I wouldn't know, given the 'adults' I'm around. I mean there's Dad with his fake deaths and his drug problems, and Horatio who acts like a fucking pod person these days. And then there's you! What kind of grown up are you? You walk around here like – like nothing's happened! And you're carrying around this huge secret and don't tell anyone!"

It's impossible to ignore the anger and hatred coming from him, filling the room until Yelina thinks there's no untainted air to breathe. She feels as though she's been slapped in the face. And given how he obviously, undeniably thinks of her, she'd rather he be violent.

The Colombian knows that this is one of those times where if she says the wrong thing… there will be no more chances for her. She could get mad, could yell at him or ground him for saying any one of those things, but… that would make the situation far worse, and it's not in her, and an "I'm sorry" slips out before she has a chance to anything else.

"You're right. And whether you believe it or not," she says. "I am sorry. I should have told you about it all."

"Yeah, you should have," he agrees rather snottily.

"I know… But after everything we've been through, I didn't know how to tell you." He opens his mouth to comment, but she silences him by continuing, "It's not a very good reason, right? I know. But you've been so… mad at me lately that I was afraid of how you would take the news."

"I would have handled it fine."

"Really?" she snaps back. "How many teenagers do you know, Ray, who are interested in having a new sibling?" He looks away. "Listen to me: I should have told you. That I was pregnant, that I lost the baby – everything."

"Yeah."

"And I would love it if some day you could forgive me for that… and for all the other mistakes I've made and ways I've failed you. I really hope you can eventually because… almost everyone else in our family is gone and… I love you, Raymond." She turns to walk out the door but pauses. "I just hope one day that will be enough for you." And then as an afterthought, "you should put alcohol on that, all right?"

Without another word, she leaves, stumbling back to bed. The conversation has left her exhausted. The brunette crawls under the coral linens and closes her eyes.

But not more than five minutes pass before the bathroom door is opened, and once more, his voice fills the room.

"Te quiero, Mama."

The three words – I love you – uttered in her native tongue have always left her breathless. Yelina has never understood why this is, but the effect is the same each time. And, though he says nothing else, the mother knows in her marrow that the phrase is given to her, meant for her - a gift of forgiveness, of apology. I love you whispered in the dark of night – a beacon of hope.

And even though Ray is back in his bedroom by the time she replies, "Te quiero con toda mi alma," she knows that the sentiment has reached him. That somehow he has finally heard her.

She closes her eyes once more, but this time when Yelina falls asleep, her full lips are firmly upturned in a smile. In the end, despite the death and violence around them, they know they still have each other, the bond between them still there.

And finally, dawn comes.


Eric

He visits her grave often, has been spending more time standing on the worn patch of grass since he's been shot.

Each time, his dark eyes scan the black engraved letters over and over again, hoping for some understanding – wanting the question why to be finally answered.

Marisol Delko Caine. 1978. 2006.

A mantra etched into the deepest recesses of his being.

Yet no matter how many times he reads the three familiar words, the answer remains ever elusive, slipping through his fingers. Marisol Delko Caine over and over, but Eric is only greeted with silence.

If he were honest with himself, the CSI would admit that he usually leaves this place more dejected than when he came. But he is unable to break the cycle nor does he want to. Because the very moment he starts to move on, it will be the time, Eric thinks, that he starts to forget his big sister.

And when that happens, then she will become nothing more than a number – one of Riaz's many victims. Her essence will become limited to this tiny patch of worn grass with a headstone and a few wilted flowers. Then she will be merely a name with a beginning and an ending. His sister deserves better.

Watching her slip away into distant memory and eventual nothingness is not an option. It will never be one.

His visits are regular, perfectly timed for almost guaranteed privacy. The CSI waits till the graveyard is about to close. Each time, the sun hangs low in the sky, a heavy bed of reds and orange. Her grave is to the east, and Eric appreciates the feeling of the lingering warmth on his back as he faces assured death and darkness. There's a certain symbolism, a rightness, the normally scientific man feels, to it.

Today, his trek is no different. His walk is slower since he was shot – less even, and the brother treads carefully over the grassy plain to the grave he wants. Every now and then, his dark eyes glance from side to side; he is alone, but surrounded by people. Gray headstones of marble and memory are as far as he can see, and he wonders how many of them have been forgotten or have died from some sort of senseless violence. Eric wonders, but doesn't want to know the answer.

Yet, as he approaches her, the recovering CSI understands that he is not, in fact, alone. It surprises him – that they haven't met here before (at least when it wasn't planned). And he is tempted to leave the redhead alone, but Eric knows that if he walks away now, he'll have to wait until tomorrow to see his sister. The choice is easily made.

Horatio doesn't look up; Eric doesn't look at him either. Neither man speaks up, and Eric thinks that, just as he never talks to Marisol, his boss is probably the same way. They stand in silence, tied only by their grief, until the last of the light disappears.

And as they turn and leave her together, the dark-haired man understands instinctively. They had both lost something, but through that, a bond had been formed. Horatio had been his boss for years, a colleague and friend. They had been brothers-in-law and brothers-in-arms, but now, as they walk shoulder to shoulder away from her, they are, simply, brothers.


Alexx

The resignation letter feels heavy in her clutched sweaty grasp. This is it, Alexx thinks. All she has to do is walk in there, hand it in, and she can be done. She can be free of this job and the horrors that come with it.

Her gait is unsteady, and the normally confident woman stops twice on the short distance to the door to regain her composure. It's for the best, she tells herself. This has never been her dream; she'd wanted to help people live, not become entangled with criminals. She steels herself once more before going inside.

But once in the building, now surrounded by her colleagues and the people she's worked side by side with for years, Alexx finds it harder to remember why she wants out. If anything, her mind is betraying her, the first memories she has of working here floating to the surface.

She had been young and unsure, then. She'd been sure that being a medical examiner was beneath her. And she had been wrong.

Some might believe that her job had been a waste – that as the people she worked on were already dead, very little good could come from it; the work wouldn't be as satisfying. And Alexx knows that there are days like that, days where giving in is much easier than continuing. These last few weeks are the worst she's ever felt in this profession.

But doing what she does… the dark-haired woman also knows that she's helped other people, has prevented crimes from being committed. It is a fact she had forgotten, but now… the resignation letter feels even heavier.

And looking around at the people going about their business, Alexx knows the one undeniable truth about all of them is that they would protect her. That even if someone was foolish and desperate enough to put her life at risk again, her friends would keep her safe. This surrogate family would do anything to make sure that she could return to her other family.

There's still risk, she knows, but Alexx has also accepted that without risk, her life would have turned out very different. She would have never dated her husband and therefore would have never had her beautiful children. And the doctor is more than aware that when she played it safe, more people had gotten hurt.

Alexx knows she can leave now and never look back. But what would that teach her children? That quitting when things get hard is okay? That never doing what you truly love because you don't want to get hurt is acceptable? Neither are lessons she wants her children to absorb.

And though going back to work scares her, though she knows she could get hurt again, there's something freeing in that knowledge. She smiles for the first time in weeks and walks to the nearest trashcan. Her strong, capable hands crush the white flag in her grasp.

She will not surrender, will not give up. Alexx is back.


Le fin. (5/5)

Translation: Te quiero (con toda mi alma): I love you (with all of my soul).