Author's Notes: I would like to thank Josu, Roots4Miami, and bananacupcakes for taking the time to leave me reviews. Knowing that there are still a few people out there would like this story and want to read it is nice. Also thank you to my beta, Olly, for helping me tweak this story time and time again.
Disclaimer: The show belongs to other people, not me.
No Other One
Chapter Seventy-Six: Keep your Distance
By Duckie Nicks
"The distance is nothing; it is only the first step that is difficult." – Madame Marie du Deffand
Years ago things had been different.
As Horatio stood on the front steps of the lab building, that was the thought that ran through his head. Years ago things – this – had been different. Yelina had been the one with the out of control child, and he'd been the one with the answers, the one who understood the boy.
Back then, she'd been in his current position, wondering with a maddening sense of betrayal why her son had done the things he'd done. And Horatio had been the one to make sense of all of that. He'd been the one to offer explanations when Ray hadn't; where the boy had cast doubt, the man had provided hope and support.
Yes, things had been different then.
They'd been better.
Of course, it went without saying that Horatio did not enjoy his current circumstances. He did not like having a son who betrayed him thoughtlessly. He did not like the unpredictable behavior and dilemmas that stemmed from that. And he definitely did not like having to depend on Yelina to give him some nugget of stability.
Rationally, he understood that he should have been grateful.
She'd clearly been the one to find Kyle and currently the only one who seemed to have some sort of relationship with him. And Horatio knew he should have valued her presence in their lives, because at least there was someone around who had gotten that far with the boy.
But Horatio didn't.
Frankly, grateful was the last thing he felt.
If anything, he felt resentful of the way she seemed to be wrapped up in all of this.
And why shouldn't he be allowed to feel that way? Was it really that wrong to want some time alone with his son? Was Horatio so out of line to wish for a chance to bond with his child without her interference?
He didn't think so. Even though some part of him could see how awful all of this sounded, he didn't think he was completely insane for wanting any of those things. Bitter? Yes. There was no denying how bitter he seemed in that moment. But crazy for feeling the way he did? No. As much as he wanted to banish himself of that ugly emotion, to deny himself it completely, he couldn't. Because, as ridiculous as it might have seemed, in his marrow, he knew he had every right to be displeased.
Admittedly… he didn't exactly know what was going on. Standing there, waiting for Yelina to return his son, Horatio was aware that he was completely ignorant right now. He had no idea what had happened or what was occurring now. And a more forgiving mind would have chosen to wait and see before getting angry, would implore him to do the same. But he couldn't do that.
Again, he could admit that there was a lot about this situation that he didn't know. He didn't know why Kyle had left or how Yelina had found him or any of that. But it was precisely that lack of knowledge that made Horatio so resentful.
He was the parent, not her.
He was the one who was supposed to know these things – the one who should have been informed the second she'd found the boy – no, the second he'd been lost.
Telling himself that with a certain amount of viciousness, Horatio could feel his thoughts meander and congeal into an unending sense of anger. Where each synapsis ended or began, he didn't know, couldn't sense it. Everything blurred together in his mind and without.
People came and went, as he stood in front of the entrance to the lab; in bright bursts of color, they flitted past him, some smiling, some frowning the second they saw him. Clearly, they recognized him, but waiting for Yelina and his son, he had no clue who they were; for him, they were one indiscernible person, a collected mass of individuals he couldn't be bothered with.
How many people passed him like this, he didn't know. How long he stood there like that, he also didn't know. But considering he had far more important matters on his mind, he barely cared.
No, he didn't care at all.
He was too focused on this one aspect of his life to concern himself with anything else.
And he wasn't going to apologize for that. As he waited for Yelina to return with Kyle, Horatio understood full well that, in a sense, he was wasting time. He could have been running lab samples or examining the findings of others; he could have been doing something.
But he wasn't.
He was just standing there, believing – rather foolishly – that, if he stared at the open-air parking lot long enough, Yelina would pull up that much sooner. Of course, given the way the long shadows shifted on the hot pavement, it seemed impossible for her to drive any slower. Again, he couldn't be sure how long he'd been waiting for her, but to him, she sure had taken her time.
And that angry thought stayed with him, as a friendly companion might, until she finally arrived.
Her sports car gleaming as a sunray hit it perfectly, Horatio slipped his sunglasses on. The very fact that they'd been off until now, he thought at that moment, was proof enough that he'd been distracted.
But at the same time, right then and there, that intense interest seemed to lessen. Coming in second place to his pride, it wasn't enough to have Horatio rushing to her side.
Part of him wanted to do just that, naturally. It might have been a small sliver of himself, but nevertheless, there was the inclination to hastily move toward the pair. To stalk toward them, throw open the passenger side door, and demand all the answers he didn't have – yes, it was tempting.
But he refused to give into that desire.
Having spent enough time interrogating criminals, Horatio knew that to appear desperate was to give someone else the upper hand. And going to them eagerly was, he understood, tantamount to the same thing; it would be letting them both know that he craved answers, answers they had and could decide not to give him if they felt they were in control.
Determined to avoid that, he forced himself to stand still and wait for them to come to him.
Of course though, they would take their time in doing that as well. Instead of hurrying out of the car, instead of displaying any indication that they knew he'd been waiting for them, they stayed where they were. And even from a distance, Horatio could see Yelina lean over to say something to Kyle.
What she was telling him… obviously Horatio didn't know. In equal measures though, he couldn't help but wonder what she was saying and resent that she felt close enough to Kyle to offer him any advice whatsoever.
Yet, it was solely the latter emotion that fueled Horatio when he finally came face-to-face with Yelina and his son.
"Horatio," she said pleasantly, as both she and Kyle came to a stop in front of him. Her tone of voice was casual; she was speaking as though absolutely nothing was wrong with the situation they all found themselves in, and Horatio noted with tempered disgust that she had a hand on the boy's shoulder, as though she were reassuring him.
And that was the last straw for Horatio.
He didn't want to be a jerk; he'd tried to tell himself that his feelings were unwarranted, even though some part of him knew that they absolutely were. But now it seemed like being angry was unavoidable.
Being mad at her was unavoidable.
And if he kept the ire out of his voice, it was only by a miracle and not by effort or self-control. "Yelina…. I think we need to talk."
The "alone" part of the sentence went unsaid, but she seemed to understand that that was what he wanted. Because she instantly agreed with a nod of her head and said to Kyle, "Why don't you wait in your father's office?"
Horatio was sure that his son had no idea where that was. But to be completely frank, Kyle also looked so relieved to have an out that he didn't seem to care about that fact.
"Fine," he said in a tone that barely concealed the sound of his mollified sigh. And before Horatio had a chance to give him directions, the boy slipped into the entrance of the building without so much as a look back.
"I assume you wanted to do this without him," Yelina offered in explanation as the doors shut behind Kyle.
"I did. Yes." Horatio refocused his gaze on her, and he was glad that she could not make out the anger in his eyes from behind his sunglasses.
Oh, she would know the truth soon enough. Rage seemed to coil within him like a snake angling to strike, and he knew that he didn't possess enough self-control to tame the creature inside of him. And maybe it was because of that that he was equally filled with shame.
She would know how he felt, but he was so out of control with his ire that he wished to keep that knowledge to himself for as long as humanly possible.
"I… did not want… Kyle around for… this," he explained slowly.
"You should talk to him, Horatio. You should open up to him more."
She wasn't being judgmental, her hazel eyes warm and friendly. But he didn't respond in kind.
"Some of us… don't feel the need to… open up to –"
"You're mad at me?" Yelina asked in dismay.
"No." He was lying. "I –"
"You are," she insisted. Folding her arms across her chest, she continued. "You're upset that I was the one who found him."
He wouldn't admit to that, not in those words. But what he said was "You do seem to be the one who… is around when something goes wrong."
Yelina's eyes narrowed on him. "You have a rather short-sighted habit of turning your phone off. Kyle was missing. Did you expect me to do something different?"
The sentence went unfinished.
And from the way she scoffed haughtily, she didn't seem surprised by this.
"You don't know what to say," she told him knowingly. "Because you expected of me precisely what I did."
"I… suppose." He bounced on the soles of his feet but refused to say more.
Yet she remained unfooled. "You have found that it is hard to relate to Kyle. That is to be anticipated. But you have told yourself that it shouldn't be so, so you've decided to blame me for –"
"I don't blame you."
She looked at him sadly. "You don't think I know when you're mad at me, Horatio?" For a brief moment, she seemed ready to take a step closer to him. But ultimately, she decided against it. "I can tell."
"I appreciate… what you're doing," he said lamely, knowing how stupid the words sounded as they left his mouth.
"I do not believe that." He opened his mouth to try and convince her otherwise, but she spoke before he even had a chance. "I think on some level you are… maybe. But overall, you resent that I have had these opportunities you haven't."
And he supposed he couldn't argue with that. At least, he guessed it didn't sound that awful; admitting that didn't make him sound like too much of an ungrateful jerk, anyway. So he reluctantly, cautiously nodded his head.
"There will be other times for you –"
"You don't think… I've lost… plenty of those… already?" He cocked his head to the side.
"Of course," she said in agreement. "But there will be other chances for –"
"I am… tired of losing the few I have had."
Yelina smiled though it was not one of joy. "Good. Because from where I am standing, Kyle has plenty that he needs to tell you. And if you're not willing to –"
"If I am not willing?" he asked, repeating her words. "I don't know what… the boy said. But I… have been –"
"That is not what I'm saying," she said with a hint of frustration.
"Good." He was once again repeating what she had said earlier. But this time, the word had bitterness and anger coating the single syllable. "Because I… have been doing my best to –"
"I know." Her voice was much kinder than his could ever be at this point. "And I can't imagine what this has been like for you – no more than you can imagine what it has been like for me."
His eyes narrowed on her. "You… want me to apologize again?"
"Of course not."
"Then you… forgive –"
She didn't say anything to cut him off. He ended up doing that all on his own when he saw the dark glare filled with loathing she shot at him. "Okay," he said quietly.
"I am…." She shrugged. "Accepting it." He nodded his head, knowing that he couldn't really say anything to encourage her without sounding patronizing. "Lucky for all of us, your son is a good kid."
Again Horatio inclined his head in agreement.
"But I think… he is unsure as to whether or not he can trust any of us."
Horatio couldn't help but sound acerbic. "He seems to trust you just –"
"You need to push him," Yelina interrupted, ignoring the pot shot he'd just hurled her way.
And that surprised him. "What?"
"You need to push him. You're frustrated by the fact that I have seemed to have found some… common ground with him, and you have yet to," she said pointedly.
He didn't argue the point.
"So I am telling you: if you want to forge a relationship with him, you have to push him to talk to you."
Horatio raised an eyebrow. "You don't think I have… talked to him?"
Her answer was immediate. "I'm sure you have. Tried to anyway. But you take his acquiescence as agreement and –"
Yelina." His voice was quiet, but the word got her attention nevertheless. "I know you… want to help, and… I appreciate that. But…."
He paused and wondered if he was doing the right thing. When she hadn't been here, he'd been sure of it, convinced that his anger was righteous and that anything he said to her now was equally so. But now that she was standing in front of him, now that she had once again demonstrated a level of forgiveness for his actions he'd never anticipated, he wasn't sure.
He wasn't sure at all.
In his heart, he knew she was just trying to be helpful. Just as he knew that, if he were taking offense to her aid, it was because he seemed to be flailing so awfully on his own.
Equally in his heart did he believe that he couldn't rely on her help to get through this. Pride aside, he was sure that, if he did use her every step of the way, it would only hurt him in the end.
In an immediate sense, sure, he would become closer to Kyle; they would bond that much faster. Horatio could see that her help would ensure that happening.
But at the same time, he feared taking that lifeline. Because if he used her help, wouldn't that signal to Kyle that his father was always interested in taking the easy way out? Wouldn't that say, "I want to get to know you, but rather than work for it myself, I used the Cliff Notes version?"
In his mind, the answers to those questions were ironclad yeses.
That was exactly how this would look.
And because of that, he knew that he couldn't – even if part of him wanted to – accept Yelina's guidance in this matter.
"I need you… to stay away," he said finally, the words coming out just as ambiguous as he felt.
There was, however, no confusion as to how she felt.
Hurt practically seeping out of every inch of her body, she looked as though he'd slapped her. Her eyes sorrowful, mouth turned downward in a frown, she said, "I am not the problem –"
"I know you're not," he said quickly, his tongue seemingly too thick to make the sentence come out with even the slightest hint of grace. "I… know."
"Then why are you doing this?"
"Because… if I use you… he will never trust me."
Her brow furrowed in confusion. "That is not true."
"I think… it is."
Horatio wanted to add, "And that's all that matters," but didn't. He knew that he didn't need to do that; Yelina was smart enough to read between the lines, to instinctively know what he was trying to tell her.
Which was why it came as no surprise that, after a tense moment of silence, she nodded her head. "If that is what you want," she said in defeat.
There was no sympathy in the tones, no apology. Maybe there should have been. Okay, there definitely should have been. But Horatio couldn't muster up those feelings inside of him even if he'd really tried. Because, deep down, he knew that this was the right thing to do. And even if some part of him didn't want to do it, he knew things had to be this way. So there was no point in apologizing for something that couldn't be helped.
"All right," Yelina said, her voice tense and thick with emotion. Absent-mindedly, nervously, she jingled her car keys in her hand. Looking back at the parking lot for a moment, she was clearly debating whether or not it was worth continuing this conversation.
Apparently, it wasn't for her.
Nodding her head a few times, her curls bobbing up and down laconically, she said, "Then I will leave you two alone. I have a case –"
They descended into an uncomfortable silence once more, and also once more, Horatio felt the need to apologize or explain himself. And just as he had before, he did neither of those things, instead choosing to keep his intense gaze on her the whole time.
"Okay," she said after a moment or two. She started to walk back into the building, the conversation clearly over. But she stopped in front of the entrance doors. Pausing, she looked back. Her voice strong, she insisted, "You need to talk to Kyle."
And that was all she said before walking away.