This story came to me, sometime between "Seeing Red" and "Out of Time". While it's not necessarilly specific to either, you can imagine it as a scene that takes place sometime during "Out of Time" if you like. Just a small look into the inner-working's of Horatio's brain and that he is finally about to really see what has become of two of the most important people in his life. (Title from Hamlet, in reference to the first CSI, Horatio, and his wish to recount the tales of love and tragedy to "the yet unknowing world".)
The halls of the hospital were dimmed. Lit only by the lights from the nurses station, casting an eerie glow along the walls. It was silent, but for the snoring of a few and the quiet sobbing of others, curled in their beds with the knowledge that they were never going to leave this place. Visiting hours were long over, and with them went the one hope for those who spent their days hiding from the truth in the faces of those they loved. The night was frightening, for most of them here. The night meant silence and time. Too much time to mull over the very fact that time itself, was running out.
Slowly, with calm and steady control, the sound of constant foot-falls filled the silent hall. They stilled a few of the tears, halting the breath of the few that, for the breifest moment, thought that perhaps their neice had come back for another hug, or their father wanted one last chance to say what he hadn't been able to voice when the sunlight streamed through the windows onto their pale, blistered face. But when the foot-falls walked on by, a small choke would cry out and the sounds of tears would be muffled by the soft down of the stiff white pillows.
The feet carried on to the end of the hall, where the one light shone and a small basket of plastic flowers sat perched on the edge of the desk. His hands were clasped tightly together, a pair of dark black sunglasses, dangling from his fingertips as he whispered the name of the most recent addition. It was more silent at that end of the hall. Mostly because, their patients had no idea of the anguish that filled their lives. They didn't long for visitors to quell the pain and the fear in the middle of the night, nor did they care for visitors much the day. The sounds of faint snoring were muffled by the beeps of machines and there was something painfully clinical, about the entire place.
The nurse whispered a bed number and he nodded, sucking in his bottom lip as he cast his eyes down the hall, to where the shadows covered the slight bend in the hall and the room sat alone and out of the way. He didn't hear her follow him, but when she stepped up beside him with a chart pressed to her chest, he was uncharacteristically grateful for the company. She smiled softly, when he caught her eye and he knew that she could sense his foreboding. It was her job, after all, holding people's hands and knowing that whatever was said, nothing said could ever be enough at times like these. "Just here," She whispered, stepping past the door and turning to gesture through it.
He hesitated. Standing there on the threshold, he stared at her and the chart in her hands, unable to will his eyes to look up and into the room and see his face. A part of him didn't want to look, because then it'd make it all seem real. If he looked, it meant that he and Calleigh had spent the entire day trudging through mud and reeds and it meant that he'd seen the strongest, most talented and spirited person he'd ever known, crumble before his eyes. It would mean he'd witnessed the fall of a great lady. And he couldn't barely fathom the thought of that.
He knew that she'd ridden back in the ambulance with him. He knew that there was barely anyone strong enough to drag her away. It hadn't been the physical strain that would have been enough, but with the tears coating her cheeks and the overwhelming agony she was going through in order to hold them back, none of them had the will to tell her to walk away. And he couldn't help but think it had finally reached the point where he had asked too much. For years, they stood by him. Eric had raged by his side when Marisol was gone. They disappeared to Rio and they'd done things that, back in Miami, they didn't speak of. But Calleigh, she'd likely had the worst job of all. Constantly, the two of them would go and shatter and think the unthinkable and she was always there, back at the lab. She was always waiting and hoping and knowing, but never saying. She never killed, she never cheated or stole. But she knew. And that was perhaps, what made him hurt the most. Eric had always been there to share the burden and Calleigh had always been there to gather up the pieces of them both. The pair of them were always there, always had his back. And they'd suffered for it.
"Oh," The nurse's sudden, surprised voice caught him a little off-guard and he looked up at her with a frown before following her line of sight. "They didn't tell me that there were any visitors remaining in the ward. I'll just have to let her know," Horatio cut her off as she took a step into the room, with a hand to her elbow.
"No," He whispered, guiding her back to his side as he studied the pair before them. He'd always known that there was a closeness within his team that couldn't be calculated or fully explained by hear-say or a departmental review. He'd always known that relationships, be they platonic or romantic, could not be dictated or organised to fit into the formula deemed suitable by those who can not do, but preach. The truth of the matter was, they were close. Probably closer than they should have been, but all he could gather from that was that they mattered to each other. And if he were to sumise everything into one little idea he knew he'd realise that that was all that mattered to him.
He knew he'd never seen her so fragile. He'd never seen her so broken and if given enough time and willpower, he knew she'd build up enough defenses to stop him from seeing it ever again. Eric mattered to him, that's why he'd avoided including him in one of the most important and dangerous missions of his career, no, his life. That's why he'd protected him and in doing so, protected her. But there was a small part of him that nagged at him, begged him to finally see that as much as Eric mattered to him, he mattered more to her. And he'd never allowed himself to notice before.
Horatio smiled faintly, at the way her head was rested againt his shoulder, how her arm was stretched across his middle and how her legs were tucked up into his side. His heart broke, just slightly, at how she seemed to cling to him, even though there was no way he could know that she was there. And he began to wonder just how much between them he had missed, when he was turning a blind eye to Jake Berkeley and fighting his own internal battles. "Please, leave her." He whispered, not letting his eyes drift from the slumbering woman with her tear-stained face pressed to the chest of a man he'd proudly call; Brother.
He cut her off. "She's exhausted. She has been on her feet all day. I think she deserves this little reprieve, don't you?" With the expression on her face, he knew that she was melting and with a slight smile, he did his best to drive the notion home.
"But she's not family." The nurse half-heartedly protested and Horatio smiled, looking back up at Calleigh as she nuzzled her face into Eric's chest, holding him just a little tighter.
"Yes," He looked away, turning to make his way back down the hall with a quiet stride. "she is."