A CSI Miami FanFic

By NiteJasmine

Sequel to my short piece "PENANCE." You should probably read that first so you get Horatio's mindset for this. Special thanks to one of my favorite fellow authors, Lieutenant Caine, for inspiring this one. Hope I did it proud! H/Cal romance, Rated M mainly for later chapters and just to be safe…

Horatio is struggling with his crushing loneliness. Calleigh not only takes notice, she wants to find some way to comfort him…

Calleigh looked up as Horatio entered the ballistics lab. She was about the flash him her trademark megawatt smile, but she could see that he was all business right now. So she quickly ran through the evidence she had collected from the scene earlier, and had determined that the victim had been killed with a small caliber round, possibly a .38 or even a .22. But she had no match on the murder weapon yet. However, due to the fact that such a large number of guns had been seized from the suspect's home, she still had quite a few handguns to process.

"I'll let you know what I find out," she said, reaching for the next weapon on the table to be tested.

Horatio nodded and with a cursory 'thank you,' turned and strode from the lab and disappeared down the hallway out of sight.

Calleigh watched him walk away, a look of guarded concern clouding her lovely features. She was actually starting to become genuinely worried about her boss. She always knew that Horatio Caine kept his feelings and innermost thoughts tightly bottled up and locked deep inside. He was gentle and caring with the victims, and drove himself relentlessly in pursuing the criminals who had done them harm. He was a consummate professional, and did his job exceedingly well, as always.

But she had been noticing changes in him over the last several months. Subtle changes. And they were getting worse. Nobody else may have noticed them, but she certainly did. She had always had a very special place in her heart for that man, and several times, she had almost worked up the courage to act on it. But she had made the mistake of dating someone in her workplace before, and tried to learn from that fiasco. So for fear of damaging their friendship or their ability to work together, she kept her own desires and deep feelings for the strong red-head very well hidden. But she always kept an affectionate and protective eye on him.

And lately, he just seemed more distant, more stressed. And not just when he was working a specific case. It was all the time. He just seemed… tired. Those sky blue eyes of his that used to sparkle so brightly now just looked sad and dark. And although Horatio wasn't one to be strolling around flashing a movie-star-smile, she couldn't remember the last time she had actually seen him smile. At anything or anyone. He didn't hang out with the team off-duty, he never dated (she was sure she would have heard it through the grapevine around here if he was), and only took his vacation time if he was forced to. And even then, he never went anywhere. He would take a couple days at a time, and just stay home until it was time to come back to work.

She sighed heavily, then re-focused her attention back to the task at hand and got back to work. She continued methodically going through the test firing and comparison of the pile of the weapons on the table. But the entire rest of the afternoon, she just couldn't get Horatio Caine off of her mind. It was still nagging at her. She was genuinely worried about him, but had no idea what to do about it.

Then finally, at close to five o'clock, the very last gun she tested came up as a perfect match. She had the murder weapon. She was excited to have some good news about the case, and even more delighted to have a good reason to call Horatio.

He answered on the first ring and she cheerfully shared the good news.

"Thank you Calleigh," he said flatly. "Good work. I'll have Frank pick him up." Click. The phone went dead as he hung up the other end. Calleigh stared at her phone, wishing she could reach through it and into his head and find out what was wrong with him.

She sighed again and then began the arduous task of securing all the firearms on the table into evidence bags and logging them into the locker. This was going to take a while…

It was nearly 6:30 when she was finally turning off the lights and locking the door. Just as she crossed the lobby, she saw a familiar looking woman standing at the Reception desk, looking perplexed.

Calleigh recognized her as Monica Tomlinson, the mother of one of the murder victims from last week. It had been an exceptionally tough case for everyone involved. Mrs. Tomlinson's only daughter, 13-year-old Erica, had been kidnapped and brutalized, and the poor woman had been absolutely devastated. However, due to everyone's diligence and hard work, her daughter's killer was now behind bars and facing a probable death sentence.

Noticing the agitation the woman was showing, Calleigh approached her.

"Mrs. Tomlinson?" Calleigh asked softly.

The woman turned, and an expression of great relief came over her face.

"Miss Duquesne," she said gratefully. "Oh, I'm so glad you're here. I was really hoping to catch Lieutenant Caine, but they said he's already gone for the day. But I think you can probably help me."

She pulled a small silver cross on a delicate silver chain from her pocket. She took Calleigh's hand and placed the cross in her palm, then closed her hand around it.

"This was Erica's. And I wanted Lieutenant Caine to have it. Erica would have wanted that."

Calleigh looked at the woman, unable to find any appropriate words.

"I'm flying up to Ohio tonight, to be with family. Would you please make sure that he gets it? And tell him how grateful I am that he found my daughter's… killer and put him in jail." She had to stop for a moment before continuing. "You have no idea what that means to me, to know that that animal is going to pay for what he did to my baby. So, would you please see that he gets this? Would you please do that for me?" She asked, looking close to tears.

"Of course I will," Calleigh answered, moved by the flood of emotion from the woman.

Impulsively, Mrs. Tomlinson reached out and hugged Calleigh.

"Oh, thank you… thank you so much…" The woman said, tears now rolling down her face. "Thank you…"

The grieving mother released her and quickly exited the building, leaving Calleigh speechless. She opened her hand and stared at the beautiful little cross that had hung around the neck of a pretty and happy little girl whose life had been ended far too soon.

Life's too short… She thought to herself.

She could have just left the gift on his desk, but she didn't want to take the chance of anything happening to something this special. So she figured she would stop by Horatio's house on the way home and give it to him personally.

She tucked the tiny gift into her pocket and headed for the parking lot.