Author's notes: This fic fulfills fanfic100 (the LJ community) prompt dark and alphabetasoup (another LJ community) prompt, Ares (the God of War). As always, a huge thank you to my beta. Without your help, I don't think I would have ever finished this, much less posted it. Also, thanks to Vashti. Your encouragement and advice means a lot.
As always, feel free to leave a review.
Disclaimer: I don't own CSI Miami or any of its characters – as though you were really confused about that. Don't sue me, please.
In the Depths of Winter
By Duckie Nicks
Interviewing criminals was easy. They were bad, obviously, had committed evil, and he was the crusading lieutenant, the paragon of virtue of goodness. Even when there were deviations from this, the variation still held true to the melody. And in the end, it was an easy task, one that allowed Horatio to define himself. He liked the simplicity of it.
With victims, it wasn't so easy. There were times when the person sitting across from him was wholly unlikable. Of course, it was possible for someone to want help and still be a decent person, he knew, but the cases that stuck with Horatio – the ones that nagged him – were the ones where the victim said nothing. Instead of taking his extended hand, these individuals so lost and destroyed by their imprisonment retreated farther into the familiarity of their cages.
And the woman tentatively sipping her coffee in front of him was no different. Her olive skin was stained black and blue. A puffy, uncomfortable-looking bruise messily framed one of her brown eyes. The woman's left hand, immobile in a white cast, the other appendage, littered with small scratches and uneven, broken nails, cradled the ceramic mug.
The evidence spoke for her (as it usually did for victims), but the scared woman would not lodge a complaint against her husband. And without her, Horatio knew, there would be no case. So too, he understood that it was her choice to return to the monster that did this. That fact alone had been his mantra for the last week, ever since the tidal wave. But that didn't mean he was immune to the situation or that he felt comfortable accepting it.
Perhaps today was just one of those inevitable days, which every cop was familiar with at one point or another. One of those moments where he felt powerless at his job. Or maybe it was the result of knowing how these situations usually resolved themselves – of having lived through the cycle of forgiveness and abuse.
He didn't know, though the redhead suspected it had more to do with the latter. But for whatever reason, Horatio felt less capable of restraint. And Calleigh, the blonde sitting next to him, must have sensed this because every time his blood began to heat, she redirected the conversation elsewhere.
Not that they were getting anywhere with the victim. Horatio's colleague asked her once more how she was injured. It was the fifth time the question had been posed – and somehow the woman had managed to stray farther and farther from the truth with each answer.
"I had fallen down the steps," the dark-haired woman started. "I had fallen and hurt my wrist. But I couldn't leave my children to go to the hospital."
"Ma'am," Calleigh began. "If you had gone to the hospital, there would have been all sorts of nurses and doctors who could have kept the kids pre-occupied."
It was a chink in the woman's story, but somehow Horatio didn't think that much mattered. And really, it didn't as the Latina brushed Calleigh off.
"I didn't know that…" There was an awkward pause, but the woman continued with her story undeterred. "I didn't know – and it didn't really matter because it hurt, but I didn't think it was that bad…"
The woman kept concocting the ridiculous tale, and Horatio knew that the battle was lost, that it wouldn't matter what they said. Sitting across the table from her, he half listened, half lamented the situation.
Until she mentioned, "And I bent down to get a pot and hit my eye."
The redhead had heard those words before, only a few days ago in fact. And Horatio got up from the table at the week-old memory.
At the time, the rest of Miami had been fleeing the coastal city. They had feared their homes being washed away and their children possibly drowning from the tidal wave. But in the forefront of the lieutenant's mind had been his sister-in-law and that black eye.
And the one thought that nagged him since then was that he hadn't wanted this. Horatio had never enjoyed or felt comfortable with his feelings for Yelina (or her feelings for him, for that matter). He'd never wanted to have this hold over her, had never wanted her to pine for him. The brother-in-law had truly wanted her to be happy again.
Even if it meant being with someone like Rick Stetler. And after he'd thought that, this past week, Horatio typically followed the sentiment with confusion, with "I didn't like Stetler, but…"
But in the end, the redhead had been wrong, and as some sort of cosmic punishment, he'd' had to listen to the same awful excuse he'd heard before, was hearing now, and would surely hear again.
Sensing the eyes of the two women in the interrogation room on him, Horatio plucked his sunglasses from his coat pocket. Calleigh continued with the interview, her words indistinct to his ears. His attention stayed where it was, his mind trapped in the lies and black eye of another victim.
And, at that moment, Horatio swore he heard Yelina say stop. The voice was insistent, heard over the other women's' words. He turned abruptly, only to still be with Calleigh and the same victim. And just as he started to write the moment off as sheer insanity, the redhead turned, looked out the window.
She was there – as was Stetler, his hands not so innocently groping her. Once more, she said stop, but this time, the playful tone in her voice was unmistakable and unbearable. Her long hair blowing in the wind, her laughing carried up into the building. They looked happy, he thought. In love. The couple didn't have a care in the world, and she'd only been hit a week ago.
Horatio watched them both through the white metal mini-blinds. Both interested and appalled, the redhead couldn't tear his attention from the display.
He'd seen the cycle before, had grown up with it, but this was not right. His jaw clenched and unclenched rhythmically, his fingers itching for his gun. The law be damned, Horatio wanted to scream. This was not right. This was unbearable, unacceptable, and Rick was a bastard who needed some sense beaten into him.
His blood was boiling, but despite his feelings, Horatio hadn't acted on them. So far, he'd done little more than threaten the dark-haired man.
The brother-in-law hated himself for it, but the fact was he couldn't hurt Stetler without causing Yelina more pain. And that was an unacceptable consequence. He couldn't hurt her, couldn't interfere in her life. And though the desire to kill Rick was strong, in the end, Horatio couldn't do it.
What a hero, the redhead thought caustically. A lieutenant who was unwilling and unable to stop this. The lines between criminal and cop seemed impossibly blurred now.
"Horatio?" His name was drawn out by Calleigh's southern twang, and he looked over to see that the witness had left.
"Where is –"
"We're not gonna get anywhere," the blonde said simply. Her boots clicking on the tile, Calleigh came to stand next to him, shoulder to shoulder. She quickly assessed the situation, saw Yelina outside.
The two colleagues stood together in silence before the ballistics expert carefully admitted, "I saw the black eye."
Horatio didn't respond, unsure of what to say to his colleague. Unsure of how much blame she would in turn put on him.
"You decide to kill him yet?" The redhead looked over, could see the playfulness in her eyes.
His answer to the question was simple – "Not yet." And Calleigh gave him one of her knowing smiles, all lips and moxie with just the barest hints of teeth.
It made the weight on his shoulders seem less oppressive, if only momentarily. She said nothing else, and for that, Horatio was grateful. He didn't need to hear her say that there wasn't anything he could do. Horatio didn't believe that quite yet. Nor could he handle her encouraging him to express his feelings or anything else she might say.
He didn't want to hear it because the truth was Horatio no longer knew where he stood with his sister-in-law. And he definitely didn't want to hear someone else's thoughts on the subject. His alone were more than enough.
Calleigh left the room quietly, and it took him more than a moment to realize that he was alone, could play the voyeur all he wanted now.
Everywhere else in life, Horatio understood his place and how he should act in the situation, but not here. Not with Yelina, who had so effortlessly gotten under his skin.
He could handle his father, his brother – true evil in the world. His powerless hands had at one point constructed a world – an identity he could live with, and yet, she had come his life and picked it apart with the same ease she had when they ate stone crabs together.
Horatio wanted to fix this, to save her like he knew he had done for so many others but… there was a chance she'd never let him in again. The brunette might punish him the same way he had rebuked her for years. And at some point, he knew that he should be willing to let her go. Knew it but couldn't do it.
Watching the couple for a few minutes more, Horatio knew he had to pry himself away from the image. Knowing that this was going on was one thing. But seeing it was another matter entirely. The lieutenant itched to pull out his gun and end the problem right then and there.
Another kiss between the two of them, and Horatio began to calculate the wind factor and how shooting through the glass would affect the trajectory of a single bullet. He knew it would have been so easy to do it, but instead, the brother-in-law sighed. This was her decision, he told himself again. And he walked away, knowing that had he looked any longer, he might have killed Rick, regardless of Yelina's feelings (or his own fears).
And once home later that night, as he drank his neat scotch (today had not been a day for watered down alcohol), Horatio could only hope that she would leave. Could only pray for her to walk away so that Ray Junior and he wouldn't have to pick up the pieces.
His mind understood the latter was possible – even probable given the situation. But some part of him believed, needed to know that she would heed his warning. It was a thought, a desire that required his faith. And if there were any woman he would pick up the pieces for…
The thought went unfinished in his mind.
Horatio wasn't sure if that indescribable knowledge made things any better, but it was something.