Summary:Marisol survives being shot, but Horatio and Eric are determined to keep her safe. With the help of the team, Marisol Delko Caine dies...and Maria Espinoza, in witness protection, takes her place. From there...well, it isn't easy being the undercover wife of Miami's most prominent CSI. Can Marisol and Horatio keep it together? Or will the strain be too great for them? Will have spoilers for episodes in the following seasons.
Chapter One: Bedside Vigil
Marisol's eyes slipped closed. Horatio caressed his young wife's fingers, feeling the tears in his own eyes. "Stay with me sweetheart. Stay with me."
A sigh was his only answer, but the rhythm of the heart monitor was steady, giving him hope. He rubbed her hand again, before leaning forward to press a gentle kiss to the upturned cheek. "I...it's all right Mari. I'll take a rain check on dinner. Just...stay with me."
A sound made him look up. Eric was standing nearby, his face still as stone and his eyes raging. He could see the barely contained anger and pain in the other man's gaze, and it was that which forced him to stand. "Eric..."
"How is she?" The younger man looked at him.
"Stable for now. The doctors aren't sure yet..." Horatio shifted, then looked up, meeting his new brother's eyes. "I won't let her go, Eric."
"I know, H. But...what do we do after that?" Eric's teeth were practically grinding. "We know we're both Mala Noche targets, so she is too. How are we going to protect her? We can't hunt them and keep her safe at the same time." He looked away, his shoulders tense. "Marisol is..."
"She's the most important thing in my life." Horatio said it quietly, but he saw the younger man start. "Unless it's what she wants, I'm not letting her go, Eric." Steely blue eyes met dark brown-black ones. "But...you have a point."
"So what are we going to do?" The younger CSI was watching him. "How do we keep her safe, H? Tell me that. Cause I'm not letting Mala Noche get away with this."
Horatio frowned. An idea was forming in his mind. "We can't do anything without Marisol's consent. But if she agrees...I have an idea. After she's safe..." His eyes came up to meet his colleagues. "After she's safe...we hunt Riaz, and the rest of his gang."
Eric considered a moment, then nodded. "All right. I'm with you. Just tell me what to do."
"First...we wait. Why don't you go back to CSI, and wait for my call." Horatio met his brother's eyes, this time with compassion in his own. "One of us should be with the team. I'll let you know if there's any change."
There was visible reluctance in the younger man's gaze, but her finally nodded. "All right. But...if there's any change..."
"You'll know immediately." Horatio returned the nod, then watched as the other man strode out the door. Then he turned, and resumed his seat beside the still figure on the bed. One hand reached out to take his wife's. "Marisol..."
He wasn't sure how long he remained there, sitting beside her bed. His team, especially Eric and Calliegh, sent him periodic updates. A part of him wanted, almost needed, to be out in the field, venting his anger and frustration. But he couldn't bring himself to move. He was terrified that if he turned away, even for a moment, Marisol would slip away. So he remained, holding her hand, listening to the soft beeping of the machines and monitors, taking comfort in the rhythms that meant she hadn't given up on him yet.
He was slipping into a sort of half-doze when the rhythm changed. His eyes shot open, adrenalin pounding through his system. "Marisol?"
For a moment, there was nothing. Then her eyes fluttered open. "Horatio?" The word was barely a breath, but it was his name, in her voice.
"It's all right. I'm here Mari. I'm right here beside you." He stood, leaning forward over the bed so he could take her hand in one of his, then wrap his other arm around her head and shoulders in a gentle, comforting embrace. "I'm right here beside you. Everything's going to be okay."
"Horatio." A gentle smile creased her face. Her hand, wrapped in his, gave him a gentle squeeze. Horatio forced a smile onto his face. She smiled back. "I love you."
"I love you too, Marisol." He stroked her face with a gentle thumb. "I love you too, sweetheart."
The smile widened, then her eyes slipped closed. Horatio swallowed hard, then looked up as the doctor entered the room. "Doctor..."
The man checked the monitors, then Marisol's vitals by hand. Then he checked under the bandages, the scars left by surgery. Finally, he straightened, and a smile crossed his face. "Well, it was touch and go for a while there, but it appears she's entered a normal healing sleep. We need to keep her for a few more days to be absolutely certain, but I believe she's going to make it."
Horatio swallowed again, feeling something in his stomach and shoulders unknot for the first time in days. "Thank you doctor."
"Not a problem." The man smiled at him, then looked at the sleeping form on the bed. "Actually, I'd say it's more your miracle than mine. Sometimes what they really need is to have someone beside them."
"My miracle..." Horatio swallowed. "She is...certainly that."
The doctor chuckled slightly, the relaxation of his tone bringing a small smile to Horatio's face. Then he spoke again. "Lieutenant...why don't you use our shower facilities here, then come back and get some rest. I can have a small cot set up for you, if you'd rather stay with your wife."
"I would. But...I think I'll wait until her brother gets here. I need to let him know about her change in status."
"As you like. Let me know whatever you need." The doctor checked Marisol's status once more, then turned. "I'll be right down the hall if you need me."
"Thank you, Doctor." Horatio waited until the other man left the room, then pulled out his phone. "Eric...it's Horatio. About Marisol...she's going to be okay." The other man's relief was palpable, even across the phone line. "That's right. They'll keep her for a few more days, and you and I should stay with her, but it appears she's going to recover. So we...we need to decide what to do next."