The Shelter of His Arms

A/N This fic is the very first one I wrote and posted on the site so long ago. My, how far we've come since then.

Calleigh sighed and finished cleaning the gun she had just disassembled. Sighing had become a disturbing pattern with her after the events of recent weeks. The team had worked a case that had shaken all of them, most of all the tenderhearted ballistics expert. The perp had been high on meth and had kidnapped his own infant son. In a shocking turn of events, they had been able to save the father, but not before he had murdered his own child in a meth induced episode of insane rage. Lingering memories weighed heavily on Calleigh's mind. After all, she had been the one who had tried to talk the father into handing over the child, unsuccessfully. The whole staff had noticed the impact the case had on her. She wasn't focused, she ate little, and was obviously losing weight; and they suspected she wasn't sleeping either. Everyone was concerned, especially Lieutenant Horatio Caine.

He knew that Calleigh was not going home at night when the rest of the staff left. Rather, she was staying until very late, working on small and unimportant tasks that could have been left for someone else. He suspected she was valiantly trying to block the turbulent emotions she was feeling by working incessantly, never giving her mind time to drift back to the case and its brutal conclusion. He knew her strength, but also knew that everyone had a breaking point. After silently observing several days of the uncharacteristic behavior from her, he decided to have a heart to heart with his ballistics expert.

She was in the lab, listlessly going through the motions of documenting test results from a case they were working. Horatio approached her quietly but she knew he was there. She senses his presence behind her before she felt his hands settle onto her shoulders. She closed her eyes at the comforting sensation the accompanied his touch. He didn't speak, merely applied the slightest of pressure to pull her back against him. For only a second she resisted, and then allowed her weary body to relax against the warmth of his solid chest. His arms went around her with the familiarity of close friends and settled at her slender waist. Concern for her well being increased dramatically when he felt the obvious weight loss she'd suffered.

"Talk to me, Calleigh," he said in that dark velvet voice of his. "I know you haven't slept much since the Carson case. Are you okay?"

She felt his warm breath flow across her hair, and the simple sound of his voice broke the tenuous control she had over her emotions. Tears began to cascade down her face. Without consciously thinking, she turned in his arms, buried her face against his shoulder and began to weep; deep wracking sobs that shook her petite frame. She only vaguely felt his hands begin to stroke her back and shoulders in a soothing caress, while her subconscious mind registered his whispered words.

"I'm here, Calleigh. I'm here."

Horatio's heart ached at the obvious pain tormenting the woman in his arms. She had such a commanding presence when in the lab or out in the field that it was easy for people who didn't know her well to overlook the gentle, feminine creature behind the badge and gun of one of Miami-Dade's finest detectives. He marveled at how long she had managed to keep her raw emotions pent up after the devastating loss of the Carson baby. Memories replayed the grisly scene in his mind, culminating with that fatal split second when the man snapped completely and dashed the helpless baby to the ground in front of Calleigh. The memory of her stricken face was burned into his mind, as was dead weight of her body in his arms when she had collapsed at the scene, shocked and overcome with grief.

They were both unaware of the passing of time, only that her tears were slowing, subsiding. Even so, she did not move to leave the shelter of his arms. Instead, she nestled closer to him, finding solace in the sound of his steadily beating heart beneath her cheek. Finally she raised her tear-stained face to his and looked into his blue eyes.

"Thank you, Horatio. I needed to let go, but was afraid if I let myself fall apart, I'd never be able to get myself back together again." Her voice was tremulous, hesitant and small. It tugged at his heart in a way he hadn't quite expected.

"As long as I'm here, you don't have to worry about falling apart," he assured her. "I will always help you pick up the pieces, Sweetheart."

He loosened his hold on her just enough to raise one hand to her face to wipe away the remaining traces of tears. Her tiny intake of breath at the tender touch did not escape his notice, and his eyes darkened at what he saw reflected there in her emerald gaze. Awareness of the intimacy of their embrace shimmered through the lingering tears. Gauging her reaction carefully, Horatio slowly lowered his head and brushed a soft kiss across her lips. At the first touch of his lips on hers, Calleigh drew in a shuddering breath and pressed herself closer to his lean form. The full contact of her alluring body against his elicited a moan from him, and he tightened his arms around her. This time the kiss was not soft. For long seconds they were lost in the hungry embrace, all thoughts gone except the unexpected passion that had flared between them. Desire ran like liquid fire through her veins following the trail of his restless hands stroking over her back and hips. Finally oxygen became a necessity and they broke apart from each other reluctantly. Both drew in shaky breaths. Horatio rested his forehead against hers and murmured softly, the sound stroking across her already heightened senses.

"Calleigh…Calleigh, where do we go from here?"

"I'm not sure, Handsome. Where…where do you want it to go?" she answered breathlessly.

His answer melted her heart. "All the way to eternity, Sweetheart. All the way to eternity."