A/N: Apologies all around for taking so long to get this out. Many people aren't going to be happy with this, as this is the last chapter of Shadows and Light. The story has come to it's end. I will leave it up to the readers if they would like to see a Part 2 come out, and I will be more than happy to take suggestions on who should star in a part 2 (if anyone would like to see it, that is). I have to say that the reviews help tremendously, keeping me upbeat when stories like these can be really hard to finish. But finish it I have! Thank you all so much for supporting it with reviews and adding it to your favorites list. It has made my first fic for CSI: Miami something totally enjoyable! :D
As ever, I do not own CSI: Miami or anything connected to it. Please don't sue. This is purely for fun.
He stepped towards us like a dark dream, like I'd always imagined a fallen angel to walk. Shadowless grace, and yet an earthly quality to him that kept one from thinking him a trick of the imagination. His footsteps weren't soundless but neither did they echo across the expanse of the cathedral. Just… soft. Muted. Like the sound was traveling across dimensions and what should have echoed loudly came through as a muffled and polite resonance. The hush rose up around us, a silent noise broken only by his footsteps and flickering of candle flames against wax.
I couldn't breathe in the silence, suffocating on emotions and quiet until I trembled uncontrollably.
Again, he was dressed in all black, his hair and eyes glittering like precious gems against all that unrelieved black. It was like looking at stars against the velvety backdrop of night. I was mesmerized by him, lost somewhere between amazement and horror. Here was a killer, a man that had the blood of so many on his hands, and all I wanted to do was take those hands and wash them clean with my tears.
Like Yelina had. And like Julia before her. And like Suzie before her. And Marisol before her…
"I can't," I shuttered out, my voice a hoarse whisper. "Can't you see that I can't be like them? Let me go, please. I'm begging you, Horatio, let me go. Don't turn me into another ghost to haunt your home."
He stood before me, and I flat out refused to look into his eyes. I knew if I did, I would take back those words so fast I would literally choke on them. It was easy to say the things I had said to Yelina when not staring into those sapphire orbs. It was easy to play the righteous woman when not faced with the greatest temptation in your life. And it was so easy to show others how to fix their problems when your own weren't staring you in the face.
"Yelina," he said softly, and I had the feeling that his eyes never left me. "Could you give us a few moments, please?"
I don't think the other woman turned to face him, either. I think that maybe, possibly, I had gotten through to her. Maybe she realized what she was now, too, and what fate she was trying to condemn me to as well. She was a ghost like all the others, a living reassurance that he could be loved and forgiven. And yet somehow along the way, we all had let love blind ourselves to the simple fact that forgiveness—true forgiveness—had to start inside the heart.
We could forgive him until the end of the world, but if he could not forgive himself, he was never going to move on. He was never going to truly love anyone ever again.
I'll never know if she nodded or if she did glance back at the man we both loved with all our being. I just remember the sound of her shoes clicking against the marble floor, the soft boom as the doors closed behind her. And left us alone together.
"May I touch you, Megan?"
I was sobbing again, head bowed and arms wrapped around myself so tight I was cutting off circulation. "No," I whispered.
He sighed slightly, the sound so sad.
"Will you let me go?" I asked, staring hard at the floor.
"No. You are free to leave here, but I will never let you go."
I looked up then, swiftly, eyes wide and terrified. "You have to let me go, Horatio. Why can't you see that? You have to let us all go. And you have to forgive yourself for what you've done."
He tipped his head to the side, the look of sorrow on his features matching the trembling in my voice. "Don't you think I know that?" he asked softly, reaching out, his fingertips brushing my cheek. "You know that each life taken, all the blood spilled, cuts into my heart and burns itself into my brain. I can't stop the cycle, Megan. Not if it means I have to forgive those that have wronged me. Not if it means I can't protect those I love."
His fingers felt like fire on my skin, a delicious warmth that I wanted to wrap myself in for all time. Here he was, offering me safety and security, everything I could want. Except the one thing I truly needed above all else. "You can't love, and that is your problem. That is why you keep us here, haunting your heart and your soul. Horatio, you can't love until you forgive yourself. It has nothing to do with those that have wronged you."
He turned away from me, pacing a few steps and placing his hands on his hips. I knew that pose so well, the lines of helpless frustration in his body. "Why do you say this to me?"
I looked around then, at the setting of our conversation. A tomb, a sacred place for memories of those long departed. A church meant for worship and joy and all the things that made life worth living. And we stood talking about ghosts and sins, things unclean and unfit for reverence. And I knew then the whole of it, the reasons why I was made privy to the things that he had hidden from Yelina and the others.
I was his dark mirror. I was his wake-up call. I was the face in the mirror that he hid from, the totality of all the things he feared.
I was the embodiment of his personal darkness. Because, out of all the people he had collected to live in this grand house, I was the only one that had known true, uncomplicated love. The fact that I had lost it, that my husband had died and left me to carry on in his absence, meant little. I had known that first brush of true love, the taste of undiluted joy. And most of all, I had known what was it was like to walk through the fire of loss and come out as myself.
While he still lingered in the flames.
My tears never stopped, but suddenly I wasn't so cold anymore. I walked up behind him, slipping my arms around his waist, holding him close. His head fell back, brushing the crown of mine. "Because you brought me here to tell you these things."
His breath hitched, and I could feel him fighting for control. "You never mourned her, did you?" I asked softly. "You never let yourself grieve for any of them. There was always someone else that needed you, one more case to solve. Never enough time to give vent to your sorrow so that you could begin to heal. And all the others, Julia and Yelina and Suzie… they wrapped your grief in layers of comfort, buried it with themselves until they had nothing left to give. And so they became living ghosts to make your dead ones, didn't they? They emptied themselves trying to keep you strong. And you entomb them like you do Marisol. All in the name of protection."
He turned in my arms, falling to his knees. Tears silently made their way down his face, his hands locked around my waist this time. "I knew you would see it," he whispered. "Let me confess to you, Megan. Be my light this time."
I shook my head slowly, my hands caressing his hair. "I'm not the one that can absolve you, Horatio."
He shook his head, looking away. "I am not ready to confess to Him, yet."
"Then confess to yourself," I took his face in my hands, forcing him to look at me again. "Tell yourself all the things you have done and the reasons why."
"Will you help me?"
I had every reason to refuse him. I had every desire to run away, to hide from what he would say. He had begun his confession that morning, I realized, the moment he had invited me to lunch. That time in the study had been the crack in the dam, so to speak, a testing of the waters to see if he was ready to take this step. Only fear had gotten in the way and I had been too overwhelmed to see it. Fear had given way to the need for comfort, to our lovemaking.
And that comfort, much like the comfort given by the women before me, had been enough to put a bandage on the hurt in his soul. He had convinced himself that if he kept me with him, I would bind that hurt forever. Instead, I would have slowly withered to nothing, giving him everything until I was like Yelina. Standing before a tomb, waiting for the horror of this life to end so that I could find release. Dead inside, and waiting for my body to catch up with my soul.
"Okay," I said simply, and reached for his hand.
He lead me out of that cathedral, that place of beautiful horror, out of the depths and confusion of the hedge maze, and back into his home.
I stood beside him in that wonderful bedroom, the sheets still smelling of his cologne and my perfume and our love-making. I made him stand before the mirror of the bathroom, made him face himself, and listened as he told himself all the things he had done. I listened to it all, wept with him instead of for him like the others had done. And in the end, it was my arms that cradled him as the dam of his grief finally broke and he let it drown him.
The gates of the Ravenswood Estate closed behind me with mechanical and silent efficiency. The former Mala Noche guards waved me through without complaint, apparently receiving some silent memo or something from their leader. It didn't bother me anymore, those gang-bangers turned guardians. It should have, but it didn't. And the fact that it didn't bother me should have bothered me all the more. But after everything I had learned, everything I had seen, the thugs weren't so much as a blip on my radar anymore. I had eyes only for the future that lay before me. Dawn was breaking in the east, painting the iron gates in shades of rose as I drove down that long and winding path. The Florida heat was rising with that sun, promising another scorcher of a day. Par for the course when living in the Sunshine state. I smiled softly at that rising warmth, turning the H3 down the road that would lead to the bridge off of Star Island.
It was such a contrast to the day I had arrived. There was light and calmness instead of thunder and gloom. I smiled instead of frowned. And the rising sun held the color of hope rather than the weight of blood. I will never utter the words he had confessed in that bedroom, never speak again of the things that transpired afterwards long into the morning hours.
All I can say is this: Life and Death had fought in that stretch of time between yesterday and today, and the battlefield had been the bruised and shattered soul of one Horatio Caine. I want to say that life won out in the end. I want to believe that with all my heart. But I knew better than anyone that this was only the start of the healing process for him. What happens next in his life would be up to him and those around him.
I had done my part. I had broken the self-imposed curse that froze him in time, just as he knew I would. The rest? Well, that was now in the hands of those that cherished him. Love had done its part. And there was more to life than love. God, there was so much more. If he was lucky, he'd understand that, too, in time.
I waited until I was over the deepest part of the bay that separated the insanely rich on Star Island from the rest of us poor working slobs before I threw my badge into the waters. Twenty years of my life tumbled with that gold-colored piece of metal, falling into an abyss to hopefully never be seen again. I would never be able to wear it with any integrity, not after what I had witnessed in this past day. And not with the lies that I would pen in my last report.
I would keep his secrets.
I would always love him.
But I would always love myself, too.