Author's Notes: This fic was originally started after "Raising Caine" aired, so spoilers are through that episode. For those reading No Other One, this has nothing to do with that, as this piece will be canon-compliant in terms of Julia being alive, Kyle going to prison, etc. Please note, this fic does contain sex, so if that's not your cup of tea, I wouldn't recommend reading through till the end.

Please read and review.

Disclaimer: I don't own the show.

Gazing Through Windows
By Duckie Nicks

The rain had started almost as soon as Kyle had gotten into Julia's car. The hurricane-like weather appearing in the middle of winter, water fell to the ground in torrents, flooding the streets. The beaches were deserted, which Horatio liked, but with waves unruly and sand trodden with rain, it was hardly a place of solace. Churning, shifting, moving, neither the redhead nor the storm showed any signs of stopping.

As soon as Kyle had gotten into Julia's car, the rain had started, and Horatio had fled.

What else could he do?

Going back to work like nothing had changed – like nothing had happened – was not an option. Not when he was unable to pretend that his son's choice didn't bother him. Not when the voice inside of him whispered that this was a disaster.

And it really was just that – a disaster.

Horatio had never been John, and she'd never really been Julia. They were strangers to one another, their child born out of lies. And now his son was leaving to be with her.

There was no stopping it – no attempt on his part to do so, because the redhead could tell… there was no point.

Kyle had chosen his mother for a reason.

The boy wanted another chance.

And his son might have been completely misguided, but Horatio didn't have it in him to separate a mother from her child; he was many things, yes – hypocrite, liar, murderer – but he wouldn't do that to his own son.

The redhead wasn't going to be his father and rip the boy from his mother, thereby cementing that desire to be together.

He wouldn't do that, he told himself over and over, as the hours passed.

Night fell quickly, hastily, on Miami, and Kyle was now surely laughing happily somewhere with Julia. The thought haunted him, taunted him. And all the while, Horatio drove around in his Hummer – nowhere to go, no one to go to.

His blue eyes were beyond tired, and in the back of his mind, he knew he would have to go home soon, whether someone else was there or not.

But for so long, the redhead had imagined getting his son out of jail and the two making a life together…

And he wasn't ready to face the contradictory truth now.

He'd dreamed of a new start, a chance to raise the boy and give him all the things he deserved. And now without that, the idea of returning to an empty childless home was one Horatio could not bear.

So he continued to drive aimlessly through Miami, barely aware of the roads and cars surrounding him. Amidst the sound of raindrops and windshield wipers, all the redhead could hear were the words his son had uttered in goodbye.

Only months after meeting, they had said goodbye, and Julia now had everything she wanted. And Horatio was… all alone. Which was just all too appropriate, really.

Forced abandonment and rushed goodbyes were part and parcel to him, an undeniable fact written on his genes it seemed. It was what he knew, all he could understand.

Making a random left turn, Horatio began to comprehend: if Kyle had chosen him… the father wouldn't know what to do. Leaving – being left – was something he was well versed in. Staying, on the other hand, was a foreign concept to him.

So… it was all for the best, probably. His son would live happily with his mother, whoever she was, and Horatio would be destined to live the rest of his days alone.

But the thought – no matter how sensible it sounded to him – hurt, made his bones ache. Hands gripping the steering wheel, at that moment, he knew: even if he never went home, it wouldn't matter. Kyle's decision would follow him no matter where Horatio went. He could drive as quickly as he wanted, but there would be no escaping that feeling of betrayal.

And all at once, there was the desire to gather up what little family he had left – to keep them near so that they couldn't run. So that they couldn't be taken from him or disappear.

He'd pushed everyone away for years, and probably would have continued to do so if not for this feeling inside. Because now he knew, could comprehend what he had done to both Yelina and Ray Junior. Because it was one thing to shove them aside, thinking they'd be better off, and another entirely to be the one cast aside.

Taking a few more quick turns, though, Horatio couldn't deny that perhaps they'd never been better off without him. The redhead immediately recognized how conceited it was to think that, but… he thought it was probably true. Yelina had never openly said it – she wasn't that kind of person. She had never cried for him, had never begged him to love her.

And maybe that was how he told himself that she didn't want him, because there was no obvious need there. But in all of their recent conversations, she'd alluded to it. The subtext, drifting along with her words, had always been there for him to find.

He'd been stupid to ignore it for so long, he thought, and Horatio could only hope that it wasn't too late.

Though, as he parked his car in front of her house, he worried that it already was.

His fingers hitting the doorbell twice, it took her five minutes to come to the door. And immediately his brain seemed to shut off, rational thought gone from him completely, because… there she was, and more than that, now he would have to give voice to the things weighing him down.

It was something Horatio had never learned how to do – ask for someone's company, ask for their comfort. And now it seemed like an impossible hurdle to leap over.

Her hooded eyes looked him over as she stood there, and he couldn't help but take in her full appearance as well. Rich, unruly curls spilled down over her shoulders, tangling with the little bit of ivory lace lining the top of her too thin chemise. The redhead instinctively swallowed hard.

He quickly looked upward, his eyes meeting hers, trying not to think about how the white cotton gown clung to her curves.

And in doing so, he finally noticed how tired she looked. Somehow her appearance matched the exhaustion he felt, and Horatio wondered lazily then if she'd been asleep.

Her eyebrows raising questioningly, her toned arms quickly wrapped around her body to ward off the storm's chill.

"Horatio?" Yelina asked, breaking the silence.

His mind reeling, he wanted to give her an explanation, but it was impossible to find the words.

"Are you all right?" she asked.

He thought it was almost odd how he'd been driven here to connect with her. Odd how that was exactly what he wanted, but now, in this moment, Horatio found it almost impossible. Because only a very small part of him – the one trying to claw its way out – wanted to tell her the truth.

"Horatio? Are you okay?" she repeated.

He was miserable – that was a fact. But all heard was himself saying, "Uh… Yeah, I'm fine." And as if unable to look at her and lie, the redhead cast his gaze downward once more.

Truth be told, he hated himself for all of it – for wanting her, for pushing her away despite that, for… lying now and not even being all that good at it.

"Do you want to come inside?" Yelina asked, gently interrupting his thoughts.

"Uh… no. No, I…" His voice trailed off, his nerves desiccating his mouth and tongue. He was being weak by trying to avoid this, part of him thought. Just as another part simultaneously believed he was being weak by wanting to give in to her concern.

"Okay." Looking back at her once more, Horatio could see the kind smile tugging at her lips, not to mention the concern flitting through her eyes. He thought she looked heartbreakingly sweet, looked like someone a person could confess their secrets to safely. And more than that, the redhead knew Yelina was that sort of person.


The fear that she might turn him away, reject him, wouldn't abate simply because he rationally understood who she was.

"Horatio," she said, the smile somehow infusing with her tones. "It's cold. You're wet. Please come inside."

Glancing down at himself, he could see that she was right. Drops of rain stained his shirt, and only then did he think that it was, actually, cool outside.

It was odd how he hadn't noticed before. Somehow he'd missed that. Suddenly it felt as though Horatio had awoken, the mist retreating from his mind. And now the redhead could feel how the chill was nipping at his fingertips and cheeks.

Looking back at the brunette, he thought that, with only the thin nightgown on, she must have been cold as well. Inwardly, Horatio berated himself for not noticing it earlier. Guilt tugging at him, he stepped inside, nervously shutting the door behind him.

The approving smile she gave him meant more to him than he thought it should. But nevertheless, he didn't feel at ease to talk just yet, despite knowing that Yelina was no threat. And so she turned from him then and walked further into the home.

Instinctively, he followed, the wet soles of his shoes squeaking ever so slightly against the hardwood flooring. Still feeling unsure of the whole situation, Horatio didn't know why he kept moving away from the door. He didn't want to be forced to tell the truth, didn't know if he was ready for that. And yet… some part of him felt as though he had to follow her, afraid that if Yelina moved out of sight, she too would run like Kyle and all the rest had.

Turning to him briefly, the brunette asked, "Do you want some tea… coffee?"

"No," he nearly whispered, not trusting himself to give more of a response.

She offered another smile before veering off into the living room. As Yelina sat on the couch, the brunette grabbed the throw laying on one of the cushions. Tiredly, Yelina wrapped it around her shoulders, her curls getting loosely caught in the dark red velvety material.

He stood in front of her, hoping she would be the one to say something. But instead, once again, fate worked against him, and she remained silent. Her eyes watched him, waiting. And Horatio felt simultaneously the need to tell her everything and the desperate desire to run.

He could have stood there all night, heels lightly bouncing on the ground, with his mind warring over what he should do. There was no clear path to take, no obvious answer. And Horatio couldn't help but feel as though he was losing what little sanity he had left. Because, as the pieces of himself each screamed for different actions, the redhead knew it was foolish to get this far and give up. Just as he also understood that running away from Yelina was something he'd always done – and could probably continue to do so with minimal damage.

Stay or go.

Change or remain alone for the rest of his days. The voices – demons and angels alike – whispered, shouted, chanted in his head for action.

He felt like a guitar string being tuned beyond its breaking point, like a zipper being ripped apart slowly tooth by tooth.

But then the balm to his soul, her accent soft and warm, Yelina said his name gently. And though she said no more, it was enough to pull him out of his thoughts. His name uttered once, and his imagined last-standing walls crumbled.

"Kyle… is out of prison," Horatio confessed.

"I heard," she told him. Just as he wondered how she knew that, the brunette explained, "It was on the news… something happened to your witness?"

His cool blue eyes darted to meet hers and began to search for a hint of accusation. Automatically, the redhead defended himself. "I didn't –"

"I wasn't accusing you, Horatio," she said softly. As she spoke, he noticed how her smile seemed to fade.

An uncomfortable silence began to creep up on them, and Horatio shifted on his feet. He didn't know what to say, and his fidgeting only seemed to add to the tension settling into the room.

Not knowing what to do, the redhead shoved all pretense aside, deciding to push forward regardless of whether or not it was the right thing to do. "The boy's mother is alive, Yelina." The rushed words sounded more desperate and upset than he wanted.

"Heard about that too." Looking more closely at her, Horatio thought he could see some mirth dancing in her eyes.

"I should have told you," he stated simply. It was, at the moment anyway, the closest he could get to an actual apology.

And the smile she gave him bolstered him somewhat. "You've been a little busy."

Whether it was due to her implicit forgiveness, her empathy, years of pent-up feelings, or the way her thin nightgown had begun to ride up her toned legs, Horatio didn't know. But in that instant, he felt so completely… overcome. He didn't know the reason exactly, but whatever it was, it had somehow made his inner control falter, and he said, "I need –" before cutting himself off.

His mouth furiously clamped down on the words threatening to spill out.

"What do you need, Horatio?" she asked quietly in an almost… seductive manner, he thought.

But he refused to answer, turning away from her. Stalking towards the window, the redhead looked past his own reflection in the glass. His eyes focused on the street outside. The rain, illuminated by a streetlight, had abated somewhat, but the storm raging inside of himself would not follow suit.

Not to her, but to the windowpane, Horatio said defeated, "Kyle… chose to live with her." It was a woefully inadequate thing to say, but there was no way he could tell her anymore.

He wasn't even sure she had heard him, anyway, until he felt her. Her lips, soft and supple, brushed against the back of his neck, her "I'm sorry" whispered into his red hair. And if there was one thing he cherished about Yelina, it was her ability to read between his lines – to instinctively understand what he needed. The words didn't need to be said. Her arms wrapped around him, her cheek coming to rest by his shoulder.

She was feeling bold, or at least Horatio could only assume as much. Maybe the brunette knew that this was what he wanted… needed even. And though it was impossible to stop himself from tensing at the sudden contact, the redhead eventually let out the breath he hadn't even been aware of holding.

"I think it's a mistake," Horatio confessed, placing one hand on top of hers.

"Why didn't you contest the custody?"

He sighed. "I… couldn't. Once Kyle decided, I…" His voice trailed off momentarily. "I didn't stop him," the redhead finally finished. From the slight movement against him, Horatio could feel her nodding. "And if something happens…"

He couldn't finish the thought.

"If you really believe something will happen, then you need to fight for custody, Horatio."

"I don't know what I believe," he admitted. Cliché though it was to say it, it was the truth.

Yes, the redhead worried something would happen. But he couldn't peg what made him feel that way. Even if Julia had killed her husband or had something to do with Mrs. Newberry, that didn't necessarily mean she would harm Kyle. After everything she'd done to insinuate herself back into the boy's life, maybe she really did deserve the teenager.

And it hit him then what really scared him. Yes, he was terrified that something bad would happen, but more than that… what if nothing occurred? What if everything went well?

What if Kyle ended up staying with his mother forever?

Since he didn't have enough courage to give voice to that question, it remained inside of his head, lingering. It gnawed at him, made him want to shove his fist through his reflection in the windowpane.

"What are you afraid of?" Yelina asked, her voice soft and low.

He didn't want to tell her, but the way she was talking was seductive in a way that made him feel safe and comfortable. It wasn't over the top how she did it – just enticing enough to temporarily stun the demons inside.

Sighing, he told her, "That something will happen… that nothing will happen."

Looking at her reflection in the strain-streaked glass, Horatio could see the confusion flit across her face. He watched, taking note of each eyebrow quirk and hard swallow, as she worked his words out in her head. And as Yelina thought it through, a little piece of him hoped she wouldn't figure it out. Because… being afraid of your own son's happiness hardly seemed admirable.

"You're scared…" She paused for a moment before continuing, audibly unsure, "That he'll adjust to life with his mother and… what – never look back?"

A nod of the head was all the answer he could give.

"Horatio…" Sympathy, or maybe it was just pity, laced her tones, and suddenly finding this to be cloying, the redhead pulled away from her.

"It's not right, I get it," he told her quickly, his legs scrambling back towards the couch.

No," the brunette told him exasperated. "No, that's not what I meant." But he shook his head, refusing to believe her.

He could only think that he needed to leave. Needed to get away, because it had surely been a mistake to come here. He'd gone too far, had crossed a line he really hadn't wanted to cross. And she didn't even understand, the redhead thought, so there was no point staying.

But as he headed towards the door, Yelina reached out and grabbed his hand, forcing him to stop.

"Don't go," she told him.

"I should."

"I don't want you to."

Silence falling over them once more, Horatio could feel the energy in the room shift. The panic that had filled the air seemed to wane ever so slightly, allowing him to breathe once more. Because even though he still felt tempted to flee, Yelina had asked him to stay. And while the request went against his better judgment, the redhead couldn't say no.

Perhaps sensing this change too, the brunette took a step closer. Her hazel eyes focusing on him, she told him reassuringly, "It's not wrong to think that, Horatio. But," and her voice got stronger then, "You are wrong."

A beat.

Two, as his mind tried to work through her words. His eyebrows quirking, he cocked his head. "That… doesn't make sense."

At that moment, unless he was very much mistaken, Horatio thought he heard her growl ever so slightly.

Her words stressed and heavily laced with her accent, Yelina said, "I mean it's natural to worry –"

"That my son will be happy?" Just saying it again renewed that deep sense of guilt running through him.


In all the years he had known her, Horatio didn't think he'd ever heard her speak with such… conviction. Anger, joy, sadness – obviously, but there was such belief in her voice, and he relished each nuance contained in the tone of her words.


As much as he wanted to believe her, the redhead couldn't.

He didn't know much about fatherhood, which could have easily been in the running for understatement of the year. His own father had been more phantom than figure. There were no lessons to be learned from that man – unless the lesson was how to make your children hate you with as little effort as possible.

True, the redhead conceded, the past few months had taught Horatio a lot. But… it was all impractical in a way. He'd done the right thing by keeping Kyle protected in prison, for example, but… that did not fall under normal father-son parameters, Horatio thought.

And despite what Yelina said, the redhead couldn't think his feelings were acceptable now. He didn't know much about parenting, but that he was sure of.

"You're jealous," she said simply, interrupting his thoughts.

"I don't –"

"You're afraid that he'll be happy without you, and that you'll be left alone." His silence was probably more telling than he would have liked. "And I'm telling you…" Her voice trailed off before she spoke quietly once more. "It's okay to feel that way – means you care."

Taking a step forward, the brunette cupped his cheek with the soft palm of her right hand. In the back of his mind, he once again thought she was feeling bold – stepping over their boundaries like this. Or maybe Yelina just realized… he was feeling too defeated to fight it anymore.

"But you're wrong," she admonished softly. "Your son loves you."

He wanted to snipe back that, having never witnessed their relationship, she really couldn't know that. But uttering that truth was more depressing than he could bear, and it would open a can of worms he wished to remain tightly closed.

Horatio bit down on his tongue instead.

"You think he'll stop caring because you don't see each other every day?" The incredulity in her voice couldn't be ignored. "It doesn't work like that. You're his father," she stressed. "You of all people should understand that physical distance means nothing."

He wriggled under her assessment, not liking at all where this was headed but powerless to stop it. "You push everyone away," she said. "Because you're scared of getting close. At least in any way that requires you to share yourself."

From her lightly accent tones, Horatio could tell that there was no malice in what she was saying. Which made it all the harder to ignore, and he shuffled his feet under her unfortunately accurate critique.

"Does it work, Horatio?" She stroked his cheek with her thumb. Slowly her fingertip moving in gentle circles, Yelina whispered, "Does the distance help you forget the feelings you are so terrified of having?"

He swallowed hard, his eyes trying to look anywhere but at the penetrating hazel ones appraising him. And for his part, Horatio didn't know what to say, because now they weren't talking about Kyle.

Now, they were talking about them, and Horatio hadn't prepared himself for that conversation. And… in the back of his mind, he couldn't help but admire the way she'd been able to sneak that into the conversation.

"Did it work?" Yelina whispered once more.

On the one hand, he wanted to lie, especially after he'd been blind-sighted this way. But Horatio knew that she would see the lie for what it was. And in this case, if he could say yes and mean it, then it meant that Kyle could do the same thing.

It would mean that Kyle really could forget about him.

The fear welling inside of him, he shook his head. "No," he told her, sounding strangled. And then feeling uncomfortable, Horatio turned it back on her. "I can't believe I didn't see that question coming."

She smirked, ever so slightly. "You're getting slow in your old age."

Her words were light, teasing, and it was almost hard to remember what had made him feel so miserable earlier.

Nothing, he realized, could make him completely forget about Kyle. And frankly, he wondered if he would ever be able to not think about this day and all the changes that had happened.

But Yelina's jab eased his pain nonetheless, because… there was hope.

Here she was, he thought, a woman who had lost her husband twice in… horrific ways, but she wasn't miserable. Her eyes were bright with mirth dancing around the almost green irises, and that meant more to him than he could say. Because for years, at least the first few after Ray had died the first time, Horatio had thought she would never look at anyone like that again.

That the joy on her face had something to do with him made it seem that much more special. Because he'd tried so hard to push her away, and yet… it hadn't mattered. Which normally would have caused panic to well up inside of him. But now, instead, there was only the burgeoning of hope, hope that Kyle might still want a relationship with him.

Assuming Yelina wasn't just an exception, a traitorous voice whispered.

"You okay?" she asked, interrupting his thoughts again.

"I… uh, I don't know." It was the truth. Caught between the desire to believe her and the demon that said he couldn't, Horatio didn't know what to do. "What if… you're just an exception?" There was something so childlike and broken about his own voice, he thought, that it didn't surprise him in the least when she pulled him into a hug.

Or maybe that was the wrong term for what they were doing. Yelina's arms were wrapped around him tightly, but he didn't move. His body stiff and awkward, all he could think was she was too close.

Way too close.

She was natural at showing affection, her head coming to rest on his shoulder. But he was the opposite with his limbs hanging limply.

Yes, he thought once more; she was too close. Because through his own clothes, he could feel the warmth of her body. The heat radiating off of her only seemed to add to the charged air between them. And though he tried not to think about it, Horatio couldn't help but notice her scent. Wafting leisurely around them was the lingering smell of perfume and shampoo. That, along with the way her lips pressed into his shoulder, made him feel completely intoxicated.

"He will recognize his mistake, Horatio, and Kyle will want a relationship with you." Yelina, he thought, exuded confidence with her words. "He'll come back."

"You don't know that," he stressed.

"I do." One of her hands patted his back softly. "Children only stay away if they're scared of what their parents might do or if their parents have already cast them aside. Neither" – her words came out almost viciously, she was so vehement about it – "of those things sound like you."

Burying his face in her curly hair, he conceded quietly, "At least one of us is sure."

"Now you're just sounding pathetic" was her innocent retort, as she pulled away. The smile on her face was impossible to miss, as was the way they lingered in each other's personal space.

She was only inches from him, just far enough so that she could look him in the eyes. And he didn't know if it was the loss of contact or the way she was smiling that made him do it, but before he could stop himself… his hands moved, coming to rest on her hips. The thin cotton material felt soft against his rough fingertips. But the sheer chemise did little to hide the fact that his sister-in-law wasn't wearing underwear.

Don't think about that, Horatio told himself, mentally forcing the thought aside as best as he could.

But it didn't matter, because even if he could do that, he couldn't ignore the way Yelina looked at him through her dark lashes. Or the way her full lips had parted ever so slightly, revealing just a sliver of her white teeth. And when her hands came to rest on his shoulders, it definitely didn't matter. Because the need to kiss her overrode everything – and anything – else he could think about.

His lips pressing firmly against hers, it was the culmination of what he'd dreamed about doing for years. Her mouth parted eagerly, and his tongue slipped inside enthusiastically, greedily.

There was no stopping this now, even if he wanted to.

Horatio's hands traveled upwards, fingertips pressing insistently into her sides. He wanted to touch every inch of her but instead settled for tangling his fingers in her hair. Soft rich curls slipped easily through his hands. And he couldn't help but be surprised at how little resistance there was. In all his years of imagining this, he'd thought her curls would be harder to slide his fingertips through, would be just as feisty as the rest of her could be.

But, as they broke the kiss, when her eyes looked at him so… yieldingly, he saw just how wrong he'd been about that.

There were no words spoken as she pushed his suit coat off his shoulders and down his arms. The black material falling to the ground unnoticed was as good a confirmation as any that this was going to happen.

His normally steady hands fumbled to unbutton his own shirt, so much so that he had to tear his gaze from her to see what he was doing. As another button slipped through his rough fingertips, Horatio sighed in frustration.

And she laughed then, loudly, making him feel even more unprepared and completely inadequate.

"Let me help," Yelina suggested. With great finesse, she managed to undo the rest of the buttons. Her palms flat against his skin, the brunette took her time in pushing the shirt off him. It too ended up on the floor in a heap. But he was far more interested in her to pay attention.

Looking at her now, he could see the desire in her eyes. The irises had darkened somehow, turning into a deep brown. And the insecurity he'd felt so keenly moments before seemed to evaporate instantly. Because it was obvious in the way she dragged him closer for another kiss that she wanted him. And God, he wanted her. His tongue sweeping along the recesses of her mouth, Horatio desperately hoped she understood – he wanted, needed her.

Her teeth nipping slightly at his bottom lip, Yelina looked down then, undoing his belt buckle as quickly as she could. There was something frantic in the way she shoved his pants and underwear down at the same time. A shiver ran up his spine when his erection hit the cool air; a bead of precum already dotting the head of his cock, he was more than ready for her body.

The arrogant smirk on her face said she knew it too.

And, as he kicked off his shoes and wiggled his way out of the rest of his clothes, his dick bobbing in the cool air, Horatio thought it was hardly romantic, hardly how he wanted the first time to be.

But they were past that now, beyond being able to control themselves. They'd waited too long for that, he decided, as his fingers curved under the bottom of her white chemise. His palms flat against her ass, he pulled Yelina closer to him. Kneading the tight smooth muscles beneath his hands, Horatio gasped as she curled her own hand around his dick.

She stroked lightly, her ghostly grip not enough, thankfully, to make him come all over her manicured nails. Her touch just enough to make him want more, he panted into her hair, murmured, "God, Yelina," into the silky expanse of her neck.

Taking that as a sign, she stroked a little harder, turning her head so she could kiss his cheek. Her lips making her way to his insistently, she let out a sigh muffled by his mouth when they kissed once more. The sound so longing and filled with need, it made Horatio wonder just how long she'd been wanting this to happen. How long she'd dreamed about this (in his mind, there was no doubt that she had), and if it had been as long as he had – and if she'd ever given up on the idea of it happening, so too like he had.

So many questions plaguing his mind, there was only one that needed immediate answering. And that was whether or not she was ready for him, was how long they'd have to wait before their dream would become a reality.

Sliding his right hand under the curve of her ass, his fingertips dancing along her thigh, he incessantly sought his answer. Horatio slipped a thumb between her slick folds, the wet heat of her body immediate and obvious.

Thank God, he thought, because if she hadn't wanted him as much as he'd wanted her…

The thought went unfinished as he lightly flicked her clit with his nail, the act enough to turn Yelina's sigh into a mewl that sounded so sweet to his ears. Urged on, he started to slide his hand along the inner contours of her thighs further. His index finger just outside of her moist opening, Horatio was surprised when she pushed his hand away.

Her own hands no longer stroking him, he suddenly felt cold and confused.

Maybe she wanted to stop?

But looking into her eyes, Horatio knew that that was not what she was thinking.

Tugging at the thin chemise, Yelina quickly, unceremoniously pulled it off. And he was grateful that she no longer had her fingers curled around him, because he easily could have come to the mere sight of her.

She was beautiful, more beautiful than anyone ever had the right to be; she was perfect.

Curls in a shade that reminded him of Mahogany wood in warm sunlight spilled over her tan shoulders. The dark strands delicately covering the upper swells of her breasts, luckily her hair was short enough to leave her nipples in his view.

And what an incredible view it was.

He'd never seen anything so perfect in all honesty.

Her tight nipples were impossibly enticing, practically called out for his mouth to descend and suck on them. The roof of his mouth and tongue feeling dry suddenly, it was with effort that Horatio forced his gaze on the rest of her body.

Not that he didn't want to see what the remainder of her curves looked like to his disillusioned mind; obviously he did, but, in the back of his mind, the redhead couldn't believe that her body might be that perfect, couldn't believe that there wasn't some hideous flaw that she'd miraculously kept hidden. Because, in Horatio's experience, sexually and otherwise, there was always something being kept a secret.

There was always something horrible beneath the surface.

But not in this case, he realized almost immediately. Her lithe legs were longer than he could have imagined; her stomach flatter and toned far beyond anything he'd pictured in his head and her hips rounder and softer than anything he could have dreamed of, she was the perfect combination of strength and gentleness, of flat lines and sweetly smooth curves.

For all of the years he had known her, Yelina had barely aged if at all. There were no extra pounds on her as there were now on him; unlike his own face, hers were free from deep lines and wrinkles. Only the faint c-section scar, where the skin was slightly white and raised in a neatly straight line, proved that she'd given birth.

And it hit him then:

Ray Junior.

Rational thought beginning to penetrate his haze of desire, Horatio took a small step backwards. The tiny motion enough to make her brow furrow in confusion, she half-whispered, "Horatio?"

Words not immediately coming to him, he swallowed hard. Shifting lightly on his feet, the redhead hesitated to turn away, to deny her and himself what they both clearly wanted. "I… Ray Junior?" he asked. The three words were vague, seemingly unrelated.

But as she briefly closed her eyes and sighed, Yelina easily put his concern together. Her sooty eyelashes parting once more, the compassion was obvious to spot in her greenish irises. "Horatio," she drawled slowly, her accented voice making his name sound lush and weighty.

Pushing a soft curl behind her ear, she took a step closer to him, removing the distance he had tried to place between them. So near that he could actually feel heat radiating off her body and smell her shampoo, Yelina spoke calmly, "He's spending the night at a friend's house." She offered him a wry smile then. "Usually I make sure I'm alone before I get naked and have sex in my living room."

The joking comment prompted a smile of his own. His mood lightening momentarily, Horatio said, a tiny amount of teasing in his voice, "You're … not alone."

"No, I'm not." Raising a hand to his chest, she gently stroked the skin underneath her fingertips. "I'm with you."

"That you are," he replied easily, unsure of what to do or else to say.

"Horatio," she said again, her voice taking on a forlorn quality that made his heart ache. "If you want to go… you should go. But," she told him slowly. "I would really like you to stay."

"I know," he replied.

In truth, Horatio wanted that too, wanted to stay, to kiss her, to make love to her. Had there ever been a time since he'd met her that he hadn't wanted to do that, he wondered.

No, such a time had never existed; he'd wanted her since the moment he'd met her. And though the redhead liked to ignore what his heart had to say on the matter most of the time, he knew, in that same organ, that there would never be a day where he would be free from this attraction.

It had taken hold of him in a way that nothing else ever had; she'd drawn him in in a way that Julia might have been able to, had their relationship been predicated on something other than lies. His son's mother had failed to capture hold of him in the manner Yelina had done so with ease.

And yet it was because of Julia that this was so hard to give into.

Because try as he might to ignore the question in his mind, Horatio could not do so; he could not ignore how painful this would be if it ended in the same way any of his other relationships had ended.

If he lost Yelina…

More than a sense of propriety, more than a respect for a specter no one could truly respect, his hesitancy was born from the fear of losing her. Whether it was death or the simple realization that they just didn't work together, it didn't really matter to him. It would hurt, and Horatio, as desensitized as he was to the sting death and betrayal left behind, didn't think he could handle losing her.

Standing on the balls of her feet, Yelina kissed him suddenly. Her lips briefly touching his, she pulled away almost immediately to whisper, "Why are you so afraid to take what you want?"

She was too warm, too beautiful, too close.

His voice caught in the back of his throat, he said nothing.

Her mouth capturing his lower lip, she tugged slightly. Teasing him with the barest of teeth, Yelina held on for a second. Blood slowly making its way back down to his groin, he couldn't help but splay his hands around her hips. When her grip on him finally eased up, she kissed him again. "You have nothing to worry about," she told him reassuringly. "It's just me."

But in his mind, that was precisely the problem. Not a mere woman whose number he could lose (as though that had ever been an option for him), Yelina was…

He would never refer to her as "the one." Those words were too girly and sentimental for his hardened mind. And yet… part of him understood that perhaps that was exactly what she was to him. If not the one, then certainly, Yelina was the standard by which everyone else was to be measured. Beautiful and kind in equal measures, she was not perfect, he supposed, by everyone's standards, but she was as close as anyone could possibly come to it. He was sure of that much, even surer that she was everything he could ever want in another human being.

And it was that fact that made it seem almost a necessity to keep her away. Obviously his brother had thought differently, but Horatio knew that he could not date her knowing that he might hurt her. Couldn't get close knowing that that contact might taint her in some way or knowing that there would come a day where she realized she really was too good for him.

His hesitation apparent to her, Yelina interrupted his thoughts. "You have no reason to doubt me," she reminded gently. Her arms sliding along his skin down to his elbows, her fingers gripped him tightly. "I wouldn't hurt you."

"I know," he replied immediately, the conviction never quite there.

Her eyes were bright, her gaze paradoxically soft. "You push me away," she said, accusation buried deep underneath the gentle tones. "That's why it hurts, Horatio. You push me away, and we both end up in places we don't want to be." Yelina's full lips turned down into a frown. And when she spoke again, her voice was much more tentative, more so than he had ever dreamed possible from a woman so strong. "Please don't do that." Her curls wavering slightly as she shook her head, she told him, "Stop pushing me away. I can't do that anymore."

Her voice so heartbreakingly imploring, Horatio found himself nodding his head. The gesture not even remotely analyzed in his own head, it was a spontaneous act.

It was one he could not find himself regretting, even as part of him screamed for a retreat.

Her lips finding his once more, the doubt within him died. Because he could no longer deny this, deny that his desire to be safe was what was making both of them miserable.

And maybe most surprisingly, Horatio no longer wanted to deny those truths he'd kept buried within him for so long.

He was ready for this, ready to trust her enough to silently agree to her pleas.

His hands were rough, far less gentle than she deserved. But he couldn't help himself. Finally allowing himself to experience what he'd previously thought he'd only ever be able to fantasize about, he didn't have enough control to hold back.

Their lips still pressed together in a messy kiss, he used his hands to push her down to the ground. She easily complied, though her eyes darkened a fraction, as she realized what was going to happen; her legs spread easily in invitation, as he dropped to the floor himself.

Nestling himself between her warm thighs, Horatio couldn't help but take a second to relish in this moment.

This would change everything.

He leaned down and placed a soft, chaste kiss on her left breast. His mouth slowly making its way to her heart, Horatio pressed his lips one last time to the area.

Things were going to change, were changing in that very moment.

And while the redhead was not entirely prepared for what would come, he… could no longer resist finding out.

He was no longer going to push his family away out of fear, he told himself in a bizarre moment of determination that would surely wither within hours. Because… as much as it had hurt, still hurt to see Kyle choose Julia, Horatio understood that he would not have preferred to have never known his son.

Nor did he wish any longer that he'd never met Julia, the first woman to break his heart.

All the pain she had caused, all the suffering he'd experienced as a result, almost suddenly seemed… worth it.

The thought practically delusional to his cautious mind, Horatio didn't know if he actually believed any of the ideas flitting through his body. After all, there was something to be said for the wonderfully yielding woman beneath him. Her scent incredibly intoxicating, her soft hands warmly rubbing his upper back – it was decidedly not out of the question that he'd become simply incapable of thinking that this was a bad idea. Especially as his prick teased the outside of her wet opening, the feeling making his breath hitch in the back of his throat, he was sure there was no way he could even begin to think this was wrong.

But he gave into that potentially false sense of conviction regardless and pushed forward anyway. His dick thrusting into her, Yelina gasped loudly, her hands tensing as she urged him closer. Her vagina so tight, slick, and warm, the rest of her so beautiful and welcoming, Horatio couldn't help but give her exactly what she wanted.

Slowly, he lowered himself onto her; his weight braced on elbows strategically placed on each side of her, they were pressed tightly together now.

Her hardened nipples rubbed against his softened-by-age pecks; her warm breath tickled his shoulder, and, above the soft patter of rain, the muffled sound of a whimper in the back of her throat reached his ears.

The combined sensations were almost too much. And though he longed to give her time to adjust, he couldn't.

He physically could not do it.

Whispering into her hair an apology, Horatio began to thrust, nearly pulling out of her before pushing himself back in. His rhythm as harried as he had felt all day, it was not the slow lovemaking that Yelina clearly deserved.

Nor was it anything like what he'd imagined in his dreams.

In the back of his mind, the redhead supposed that he'd never really believed he'd be able to control himself. But nonetheless, all of his fantasies until now had involved him being in control, being able to resist the desire to drive himself into her over and over as quickly as he could. In all of his dreams, he'd been as careful and cautious as he was in the rest of his life.

But this… what he was doing right now was practically the opposite of that. His movements were strong, fast. There were more kisses – so many more kisses – than anything he'd imagined. Her lips were on his, her tongue teasing his own. And then her mouth was running the length of his jaw, along the bulging veins in his neck, kisses planted left and right, everywhere and anywhere she could reach. Sometimes, when he would push into her especially hard, she would moan into his shoulder, teeth scraping lightly against his pale skin.

Her hands were all over him, stroking up and down his back one minute, gliding along his chest the next. Her soft touch warm and incessant, if she were opposed to his pace, she didn't say that.

In fact, the only words Yelina seemed to utter were ones of encouragement. Her breath tickled his ear as she spoke, her voice hoarse. "You have… no idea how long I've wanted to do this," she murmured, her words occasionally broken up by soft kisses placed along the shell of his ear.

"Yes, I do," Horatio replied through gritted teeth. He did have an idea in his mind about how long she'd wanted him. And even if he hadn't, the redhead knew exactly how many years it had been since she'd first gotten under his skin. If necessary, he'd use his own timeline to fill in the blanks just as easily as he was now filling her.

The space between her thighs shrank as she pressed her legs against the outside of his hips. Sweat covering him in a thin sheen and beginning to pool along the curves of her body, he was still able to slide easily in and out of her.

Reaching up, Yelina pressed her forehead against his, their gazes meeting. "I want you so badly," she admitted freely, her voice low and thick.

The affection and desire visible in her eyes and voice coupled with the knowledge that those emotions had to be reflected in his own gaze, Horatio buried his face in her curls; it was too much for him, made him want to come inside of her in that moment.

And he was determined to make it last longer.

Too afraid of what would happen when it was over, he didn't want it to end.

It was a fear she seemed to implicitly understand. One of her arms pulling him into a makeshift hug, her other hand cupped his cheek and guided him to look at her. "You have nothing to be afraid of," she told him firmly. "I just want you… please."

Something frantic sounding in her voice, it was enough to make him kiss her as hard as he knew how. His pace speeding up, he couldn't help but give her exactly what she wanted. His balls slapping against the curve of her ass, he was moving closer and closer to the brink. Horatio's desire increasing exponentially, infinitely, with each thrust, he knew it wouldn't be long.

Yelina didn't seem to mind, thank God. Her legs loosely wrapping around his lower back, she drew him in impossibly closer; the slight change in angle was perfect. Her lips rubbing against his, she spoke into his mouth, encouraging him, "Come on."

He shook his head, didn't want to come knowing that she probably wouldn't.

"It's okay," she murmured quietly. Her voice insistent, she repeated, "It's okay, Horatio." But even if it wasn't, he couldn't stop himself from quickly spiraling out of what little control he had left; he thrust into her sharply, making her hiss.

A hand threading through the bright red strands of his hair, she forced him to kiss her once more. Their lips meeting one last time, she finally told him, "Come for me."

But he hesitated, trying frantically to hold off for her.

"Come for me," Yelina repeated again, her voice sounding even more encouraging. "Please. I won't be mad; I won't hurt you," she told him reassuringly, placing a kiss on his Adam's apple as he swallowed hard. "Come, Horatio. Come for me."

And this time, no matter how much he might have wanted to do otherwise, Horatio couldn't help but obey. His gaze fading to white, stars exploded in the corner of his sight, and he closed his eyes at the onslaught of sensation. A noise, animalistic, loud, and barely recognizable as coming from himself, escaped him, as he came hard. His orgasm more forceful than he would have ever thought possible, he clung to Yelina as wave after wave of pleasure hit him. The feeling stretching out for an impossible amount of time, seconds, minutes, disappeared beneath the white noise clouding his mind.

Finally, when his arms and body could no longer take the strain, Horatio collapsed on top of Yelina. Her own body warm and breath panting, he could hear the pounding of her heart as he laid his head against her chest. He was shaking, a direct contrast to the way she calmly laid, her weight supporting them both.

His haze slowly began to recede as his own heart rate began to even out. Lazily returning to earth, Horatio silently began to understand that she hadn't… that he hadn't made her come. He rolled off of her, pulling out unceremoniously.

Feeling guilty, embarrassed, and penitent all at once, he started to slide his left hand down her body. This wasn't his preferred method, was definitely not how he imagined getting her off the first time they were together.

But he was no longer a young man.

If there had ever been a time when his refractory period was mere minutes, and Horatio doubted that there had been, it had been a long time ago. And taking a step back in progress by having to finger her was hardly what he wanted to do. It wasn't his preferred method, he thought once more.

But, his dick soft and mouth panting, it was the only method available.

And yet Yelina didn't seem interested. His hand nearing her inner thigh, he was surprised when her fingers clasped around his and tugged on him. Their hands coming to rest on her ribs, she held onto him tightly, even as he tried to head southward once more.

"Don't," she told him, sounding tired.

"But –"

Interrupting him, Yelina said, "Don't worry about it."

Unable to stop himself, confused, Horatio frowned into the bony ridge of her clavicle. "But… you didn't…"

Her hand squeezed his, giving him pause. Reassuringly she pressed a kiss to his sweaty forehead. "There are more important things, right?" He could hear the smile in her voice, but he hesitated to agree. So she continued talking. "Horatio… Tonight…" She struggled to find the right words, her jaw twitching slightly, as she mulled over what she wanted to say. "Tonight was about you," Yelina explained, no accusation or anger in her tone. "You… needed someone; you needed to know that things were going to be okay. And they are," she said firmly, warmly. "That is what mattered to me – nothing else, all right?"

He nodded his head slowly, still remaining unconvinced. Really, the way she put it, it almost sounded as though he could have gone to anyone. And that concerned Horatio; he didn't want her to think that this was only about finding… comfort in someone.

"Yelina, I didn't… that's not –"

"You came to me," she told him, almost in awe of that fact. Her voice sounding both grateful and sad, she said, "You finally… trusted me."

Her accent suspiciously thick, Horatio hazarded a glance at her. And he was not surprised to see her hazel irises glistening, nor did it surprise him to feel a pang of guilt course through him. Because this was the last bit of proof, as though he'd really needed it, that his decision to keep her at arm's length had always been more hurtful than helpful.

True, the tears that threatened to fall were ones of… relief – or at least that was what Horatio suspected. They were potentially ones of joy, but almost immediately he realized that they would have never been there if he'd done things differently. If he'd just accepted his own feelings for her, this wouldn't be happening.

No apology adequate enough, he didn't even know where to begin. His hand fidgeting nervously in hers, the redhead searched within himself for the words he wanted to say.

But she stopped him. "I am just… really glad that you decided to do that," she told him honestly. "That's all that matters to me." And, as though realizing that she had somehow sparked this reaction in him, Yelina shook her head. Curls tickling his cheek, her face seemed remarkably more relaxed when she stopped moving. A smile, almost a grin, on her face, she said, "Besides… we have… plenty of time to perfect what it is we're doing."

The confidence in her voice made him smirk. "You sound incredibly sure," Horatio mentioned.

"I am." Her gaze turning defiant on him, Yelina remarked, "We've been toeing the line for years. But you crossed it -"

"You might have had something to do with that," he pointed out, placing a chaste kiss on her lips.

She ignored the comment. "It's a thin line," she told him. "But once you cross it… it's not quite so easy to go back over." Her tones were soft, earnest.

And as much as part of him wished she were not speaking the truth, Horatio knew she was.

They could not go back to the way things were.

He could not get dressed and leave and pretend that absolutely nothing had happened. His mind would replay this moment over and over, and even if it hadn't, the redhead doubted that she would be so quick to forget. So that meant…

Things had changed.


He'd stepped over the threshold, come inside; he'd nearly seamlessly stopped gazing in through the window at the life he wanted and had… begun to actually live it. And now that he was here, now that he had taken that first step….

There was no getting out of it.

There was no escaping.

For the first time, however, he no longer wished to gaze through windows and glance down other paths to see what else was available, to see what dangers lay ahead.

For the first time in so long, Horatio was content to be exactly where he was.

The world opening in a way he never imagined possible, he cocked his head. Looking down on her, Horatio replied smiling, "You know… you just might be right about that."

The End