Title: “On The Brink” Author: ducainefan Subject: H/C ship/relationship undertones, dark, angsty Rating: R (to be safe) Summary: How much pain can one man take? (SPOILER ALERT: MAJOR SPOILERS for two February 2007 episodes: “No Man’s Land” and “Man Down”) Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters on CSI:MIAMI, nor am I making any money off this - as a matter of fact I don't make much, so please don't sue! OK, everyone, this is the scene I want to see next week, and I hope the writers have thought about this. If they do this, or anything similar to this, I’ll be thrilled, but I want to say upfront I have no idea if they are, so no copyright infringement intended here. OK, enough said. Onto the story. “On The Brink” It was dark out, and raining, and Calleigh Duquesne didn’t feel like going home tonight. Eric was in critical condition – shot in an ambush. Clavo Cruz was still on the loose, and here she was no closer to breaking this case than she was two days ago when the blast went off in the courthouse. “Damnit,”she said, slamming her left hand down on the steering wheel, continuing to drive aimlessly down the streets of Miami. She was better than this. She would stay up all night if she had to, but orders from above told the day shift to walk away. They’d already been up for two days straight. They were a liability, and now things had become personal. One of their own was down. Calleigh thought about going back to the hospital, to see Eric. But she didn’t want to intrude on his family, who was keeping vigil tonight. His parents hadn’t been there when his sister died, and maybe that’s why they seemed so determined to be there for their only son as he hovered on the brink. “Stay with us Eric,” Calleigh sighed, sending a prayer to any deity that would listen. Turning a corner, Calleigh quickly realized where she was. She didn’t know if it was conscious or not, but she wound up on Horatio’s block. She’d had a nagging feeling inside her all day – she was worried about him. He never took help from anyone, and he’d been through so much. She never understood how he was always so strong, but seeing his face after Eric had been shot – she saw the pain, the regret. He was beating himself up. Blaming himself. Again. Calleigh parked outside Horatio’s apartment, looking at his window, which was dark. His car was there, and she figured he might be asleep, but something inside her was urging her to check anyway. She felt awkward, as if she was crossing some invisible line. But they were friends, “pals,” and she had known him long enough that he wouldn’t take her visit the wrong way. She took a deep breath, shutting off the engine and closing the car door, running through the rain to the overhang by the door to the apartment complex. She stood there for a minute, looking at his apartment number, until someone walked out. Calleigh quickly grabbed the door and went up the steps to Horatio’s place. “Horatio?” she said, knocking lightly at his door. There was no answer. “Horatio, it’s Calleigh.” Still no answer. She began to have second thoughts, not wanting to wake him. But she couldn’t get the vision of his face out of her mind. The look that he made when he had told her Eric had flatlined, but that they were able to revive him – for now. It was the same look he gave her after Speedle had died. “C’mon,” she said quietly, knocking again and then pulling her cell phone out of her jacket pocket. She dialed his number and waited. ----------------------------------- Horatio Caine sat on his couch in the dark, leaning forward, his hands folded in his lap. “This is it,” he thought quietly. “There’s nothing else.” A bottle of wine sat untouched on the small coffee table across from him, along with a glass. Next to it was a cleaning kit, also untouched, and beside that, his own gun. He listened to the rain, lightly beating on the window behind him. The darkness and the rain were comforting - they hid his sadness. Horatio felt utterly alone in this moment, and utterly responsible for everything. He brought a fist to his mouth, choking back the sob that came on suddenly. Everything was broken. Everything was bleeding. Everything was breaking down, including him. “Why now?” he wondered silently. Why not nine months ago when he lost his wife, or shortly after that, when he lost his brother? Why not 35 years ago when he killed his father, but lost his mother anyway? Why now? Horatio didn’t have the answer, and he didn’t really think he needed one. It was only a matter of time. That’s what Clavo had told him about the victim he had kidnapped. “Only five minutes of air left,” he had said. Time was running out. Now, after everything that happened, all Horatio Caine could think of was how time was running out for his team. Who would be next? First Alexx, now Eric … he couldn’t bear it anymore. “I can’t let this happen,” he whispered, reaching for his gun. Shaking his head, he stared at it, not believing what he was thinking of doing. Suddenly, a buzzing sound drew him from his silent torture. He looked at his waist, realizing he had forgot to turn off his cell phone. He looked down. “Calleigh,” his caller ID read. Panic gripped him instantly as he forgot himself – he did that so easily and so often. He picked up his phone, answering, his voice raw with emotion. “Yea,” he whispered quietly. ---------------------------- Calleigh’s brows furrowed with concern at the sound of Horatio’s voice. She’d only heard him like that once before. “At least he picked up,” she thought. “Horatio,” Calleigh began, “Are you … alright?”There was a beat of silence. “Horatio?” “Is there news from the hospital,” he asked in a grave tone, finally breaking the silence. “Um… no, everything’s still the same,” she said. “I – um … I just wanted to …” Calleigh sighed, feeling awkward again. What if he wanted to be alone? What if he didn’t want the reminder of work haunting him tonight. She was about ready to end the conversation and leave, but she couldn’t shake the feeling that something was terribly wrong. “Horatio,” she began again. “I’m – I’m outside your door.” --------------------------------------------- Horatio looked up toward his doorway, his eyebrows rising in surprise. “Is … everything OK?” he asked, slightly confused. She’d known where he lived for quite some time — he let her know in case something happened to him — but she never had actually been to his apartment. “Horatio, can I – can I come in?” she asked, her voice low. Horatio shook his head silently. He couldn’t let her see him like this. He stayed silent, not knowing what to do. ------------------------------------------ “Horatio?” Calleigh said, worried. She tested the doorknob, and saw that the door was unlocked. “That’s unusual,” she thought. She began to tense, wondering if something more serious was going on. Maybe Clavo had gotten to him, was holding him hostage. “Horatio, I’m coming inside,” she said with determination, hanging up her phone. She slowly pulled her gun from holster, and pushed in the door. “Miami-Dade,” she shouted. Gun drawn, she was surprised at what she saw. ------------------------------------- Horatio looked up in surprise, his face catching the light from the window behind him. “Horatio,” Calleigh breathed, lowering her gun. “I -” He looked down quickly, realizing that she had seen. He wouldn’t speak, wouldn’t say a word, and his hand still cradled his gun. “Horatio,” she said quietly, and he could tell she was trying to draw on some of her training, trying to figure out how to deal with this situation. This was not what she had expected. He was surprised that she had come here – he wondered why. Had she thought he was in danger? Well, she was right, but not from any criminal – from himself. ------------------------------------ Calleigh tried to hide her nervousness. Horatio was always the strong one, supporting everyone else. “You hang in there,” he had told her after Speedle’s death as he embraced her. The first thing she saw was his face. He was crying. It wasn’t just a melancholy sadness. Tears were wet on his cheeks, his eyes were red. He looked like a wreck. It shocked her. Trying to calm herself, she thought about what her professors had taught her in psych class. When a person is contemplating suicide, what’s the first thing we do? “Attempt to identify with the person,” she said to herself, thinking, “That’s not going to be hard.” But this situation was hard. Damn hard. She’d already seen one person she cared about end his life in front of her — she didn’t know if she could go through that again. “Get yourself together, Calleigh, focus,” she told herself, eyeing the gun in Horatio’s hand. “Horatio,” she started quietly, swallowing the growing lump in her throat. “Do you mind if I sit down?” No response. Shutting the door behind her and locking it, Calleigh put her gun away and slowly made her way to the couch. “I’m just going to sit down here, Horatio, right beside you,” she said quietly. Still no response. He continued to stare down at his gun, and she eyed it along with him. Sitting down next to him tentatively, she took a breath, trying to calm herself. There was a long silence as she studied him, the darkness covering his face now, shielding him and preventing her from getting any kind of read on him. Not sure what to say, Calleigh decided to let her instincts take over. “What are you doing, handsome?” she asked softly, her voice cracking a bit. She could tell using that familiar term had affected him, as he sighed, still looking down. He shook his head. “I – I don’t know,” he said in a rasp. “OK, Horatio, it’s OK …” she replied, putting a hand on his shoulder. He didn’t flinch, which was a good sign, she thought. She began to rub his back gently. “It’s OK, you can tell me … you know you can trust me…” “I do,” he said, looking up at her, tears still staining his face. She swallowed hard, trying to steal back the tears that were forming in her own eyes. “Go with your gut, it’s the only way,”she told herself, letting herself go completely with him. “Now, Horatio,” she said, still rubbing his back lightly, “I hope you’re not thinkin’ of … saddlin’ me with all your case files – you wouldn’t do that to me, now, would you, handsome?” She smiled through her tears, trying to win him over. She was always able to use her charm on the job, and she hoped that it would work now, when it was genuine. “I, uh…” Horatio stammered — something else Calleigh wasn’t use to — and looked back at his gun. She became increasingly nervous. “Horatio, I think you should give that to me,” she said, nodding toward the weapon in his hand. “I … I can’t,” he rasped, gripping it tighter. Calleigh began to think she might have brought up the gun too soon. “Damnit,” she thought to herself, trying to recover. “Why?” she asked, a tear escaping her eye. “Because,” he started, his voice low, “I failed.” “No,” she said, moving closer to him, still rubbing his back. “Eric’s going to be fine, you’ll see. We’ll be fine. We’ll get through this like we always do.” She was trying to reassure him, but she could tell he was breaking. “No,” he said in a tone that sent a chill down her spine. “It’s over.” He cocked the gun. Calleigh heard the click and reach over him as he pulled the gun to his head. “No!” she shouted. ------------------------------------------------ He wasn’t sure what had done it. His emotions darkened, the voice inside his head demanding that he end it. Do Calleigh and the rest of the team a favor. Whatever the catalyst was, it didn’t matter. Horatio snapped, tilting the barrel to his temple. As he readied to pull the trigger, he felt Calleigh’s hand grip his wrist, pushing his hand away as he squeezed the trigger. The bullet hit the lamp on the table next to him. Calleigh straddled him, both hands on his wrist and pried the gun from his fingers. “Damn it, Horatio,” she hissed, tossing the gun away, holding him down. “Damn it!” He could hear the pain in her voice, mixed with anger. Shocked at his own actions, Horatio’s eyes widened, avoiding contact with Calleighs. His breathing increased as he his eyes darted into the darkness. ------------------------------------------------ “Damn it,” Calleigh whispered again, watching as he looked away. “Horatio,” she said with intensity, her left hand still clasping his wrist. Looking at his eyes, she could see he was processing what had just happened, and was slowly coming to his senses. “Horatio?” she said, this time with a softness that got his attention. His blue eyes locked onto hers, and she swore she could feel his soul piercing her – begging her to understand, a hint of confusion in his stare. She’d never felt so connected to someone before. Holding his gaze, she gently let go of his wrist. Calleigh had an intense desire to touch his face, to wipe away his tears. She was conflicted about her feelings in the moment, but told herself to continue going with her gut. “Horatio,” she said again, her right hand gently caressing the side of his face. ------------------------------------------------- Horatio was in deep now. This is why he didn’t want to look at her – he knew her eyes could burn a hole right through him – right to his soul. He was so conflicted and confused. Did he really just attempt to kill himself? Looking into Calleigh’s eyes, he felt himself breaking in a different way – his lieutenant exterior falling by the way side as she stroked his face. God, how he cared for her. He was in awe , and said the only thing he could think of. “You saved me,” he rasped. He watched as Calleigh half-laughed, and two tears escaped from her eyes. “Yea, I guess I did, babe,” she replied, still caressing his cheek lightly, wiping away another errant tear that slid down. “I – uhh…” Horatio chuckled nervously, finally breaking eye contact. “It’s OK,” she said soothingly. “You’re OK.” Horatio shook his head, knowing full well he was not OK. He also knew he would never talk to a shrink about this, but that he needed to talk to someone. He hated placing burdens on people – his job was to protect them. “Calleigh…” he started, looking up at her again. He shifted, and they both were suddenly very much aware of the position they were in. Calleigh was still straddling him, and Horatio swallowed hard. Looking at her, something inside him broke – his heart he thought – and he reached out to her, pulling her in for a kiss. ------------------------------------------------- Caught off-guard, Calleigh’s eyebrows rose as Horatio kissed her slowly. She soon returned the gesture, both her hands coming to his face now. Her head was spinning. “This doesn’t make any sense,” she thought, remembering how, just seconds earlier he had meant to kill himself. This was moving too quickly. “Horatio,” she gasped, breaking the kiss. Conscious of how fragile he was, she tried to find words that wouldn’t hurt him. “Wait … we don’t – Let’s not complicate things more than they are right now.” He nodded, and they both looked slightly embarrassed. “I’m – I’m sorry,” he began. “Shhh…” she said, putting a finger to his lips. “I just want you to tell me what’s going on.” He nodded again, and she slowly moved off of him, sitting next to him again. Interlocking her hand with his, she urged him to talk to her, confide in her. ------------------------------------------------ Horatio silently cursed himself for his actions. He was out of line, and he knew it. “How much more of my life can I screw up?” he thought. When Calleigh took his hand in hers, he felt a bit more at ease. There was definitely something between them – there had been for a long time – that now needed to be explored. But now was not the time. The demons in his head were roaming free, and they needed to be reined in first, so that he could deal with the rest of this mess more clearly. “I …” he began, his voice full of emotion, “I’m responsible for all this.” “For what? For Eric? For what happened at that courthouse on Tuesday?” “For everything,” he said with a sigh. “I – I try to serve and protect – but it seems the ones I care about the most are always the ones that pay.” “Horatio,” Calleigh started. “You know Clavo’s doing all this because of me.” “Because you put him where he belongs, Horatio. Because you gave him what he deserved.” “It doesn’t matter,” he began, unwanted tears creeping into his eyes again. “Yes it does,” Calleigh replied, firmly grasping his hand. “You’re a good man. You’re the best man I’ve ever known – you’re brave, selfless, always seeking the greater good. But you have to remember that you can’t control other people’s actions. What Clavo did, he did because he’s a killer – not because of some wrong that you committed.” “I – I just have a hard time accepting that,” Horatio replied. Calleigh entwined their fingers, her other hand moving to his face, pulling him to her gaze. “Horatio, in all the time you’ve known me, have you ever known me to be a liar?” “Of course not,” Horatio rasped. “Well, I’ll tell you, I’m not about to start now,” she said. “We need you – If you go down, we go down.” “No, Calleigh, you – you’re the rock of this team, you held it together when I needed you to, you —” “I only did my job,” she replied, cutting him off. “And I had a pretty good teacher to help me along the way,” she added with a smile. Horatio smiled back, looking down at their hands. His heart ached. He thought of everything they had been through together, how she had helped him through crisis after crisis over the past 10 years. Even when she was only a rookie – and he believed his brother had been killed – she had helped him, probably in ways she didn’t even know. By never prying, by staying focused on the job, by keeping her head down, by respecting him enough to give him space. Through all those times, he always kept some distance between them, never wanting to jeopardize her career. Never wanting to play favorites with his team. But as he sat with her now, he could feel realization creeping from his heart to his head. He had unknowingly, and unwillingly, fallen in love with Calleigh Duquesne. “Horatio?” Calleigh asked, concerned by his silence. He looked up at her, swallowing hard. “Horatio, what is it?” “I – uh …OK,” he said. “I sometimes think … if I had met you at another time, another place …” “Are we complicating things again?” she asked, a blush slightly appearing across her cheeks. “Umm … maybe,” he said. “Horatio,” she started, “I – I know there’s something here – between us – but right now I want to focus on what’s going on with you. You almost killed yourself. Do you have any idea …” she stopped, her voice breaking. She ducked her head as her emotions overcame her, and she began to cry in earnest. “I – I’m so sorry,” he said, reaching out to touch her face. “I just … lost my mind a little. I don’t know … I don’t know why … I just …” Calleigh looked up at him, tears welling in her eyes. “You know, Horatio, you’re always trying to save the world,” she began. “Why don’t you try letting someone save you, for a change.” He swallowed, nodding. “I think I just did,” he said with a half-smile. “Good,” she said, reaching out to him. “Then trust me … let go with me … Come here.” Calleigh opened her arms, pulling him in, holding him. Horatio let his head rest on her chest as he closed his eyes. She gently stroked his hair, and his back, whispering in his ear, trying to sooth him again. “It’s OK,” she rasped. “Let it go. Let it all go.” Horatio sighed, giving up. He allowed his emotions to seep in again, and he squeezed his eyes shut even tighter. He couldn’t fight it anymore. She had broken him. But he was beautifully broken. --------------------------------------------- Calleigh felt a shudder come from Horatio’s body just before he broke down, his whole form shaking as sobs began to come from his mouth. She was surprised that he actually did let go, and held him even tighter, rocking him. “I know,” she said, her voice thick with emotion. “I’m here.” She knew his pain went deep, but she wasn’t prepared for the onslaught of emotion – she had opened the floodgates, and now she was drowning in him – in his pain. But it was so beautiful, she thought. Beautiful to see him finally dealing with his anger, his hurt, his guilt. Beautiful to see him becoming whole again in front of her. His cries were muffled as he slumped against her now, losing all his fight. He surrendered to her completely, letting her cradle him, comfort him. She stroked his hair, kissing his head gently, reassuring him. He was like a lost child, she thought. “It’s alright, I’m here, babe,” she whispered, continuing to comfort him. -------------------------------------------- “If only she knew half of what I was crying over,” Horatio thought as he wept. He knew once this was over that he would want to tell her everything. He cried for his parents, his brother. For Speed and Marisol. And now for Eric. He cried at the fact that he was 50 and alone – that he had never had children, and that the brief hope he had to have a life with someone was snatched away from him so cruelly. Feeling Calleigh rock him gently, hearing her voice, he began to realize he was not alone. He had never leaned on anyone like this, but he didn’t have a choice now. Things had gotten out of control. The thought of him pulling the trigger to end his life flashed before him, and his sobs increased. He gripped Calleigh’s arm, holding onto her tightly. He mumbled incoherent words, allowing himself this release. After a few minutes, his sobs began to subside, and he brought his hands to his face, trying to compose himself. Wiping his eyes, he slowly lifted himself from Calleigh’s embrace. He could tell she was unsure – not certain whether she had done the right thing. Her green eyes were filled with concern. He desperately wanted to reassure her, to tell her he was going to be alright. If only he could convince himself. “Thank you,” he said to her simply, then reached into his pocket and grabbing his handkerchief. “Any time,” she drawled, her eyes still glistening with unshed tears. Horatio shook his head, realizing the situation he had put them in. They were forced to reconcile these feelings now. They were tied together. “Horatio,” she began tentatively, “I need you to tell me what’s going on inside of you … It’s important …” He sighed, nodding. “I, uh, I suppose I owe you some sort of explanation for all this,” he choked out. “I don’t want an explanation, Horatio, I want the truth,” she replied. He was amazed at her strength, and keenness. She wasn’t going to let him get away with hiding anymore. “I know,” he said quietly. “I – I haven’t really felt … anything since Rio,” he began. She nodded, listening intently, urging him silently to go on. “I – I killed Riaz … probably saved Eric’s life … but when I … stabbed him … I felt … sick …” Horatio paused, recalling the moment. “I … I didn’t know … For the first time in a long time, I wasn’t sure if I did the right thing…” He stopped again, and Calleigh tried to comfort him. “It was self-defense, Horatio,” she started. “Was it self-defense to go to Brazil?” he countered. “I’ve never – I’ve always told the citizens that I serve that justice is not for them to deliver, but I’m a hypocrite. I’ve gone around blowing people away … and sure, they were all justifiable, but I wonder if I’ve really been serving justice or just vengence.” “Vengence? Against who? Horatio, you had no choice …” “There’s always a choice,” he said. “I’ve taken far more lives than I’ve saved over the past two years, and at what cost?” He looked up at her, and saw a hesitation in her eyes, knowing that she was holding something back. “What is it, Calleigh?” he asked, somewhat surprised. “What do you want to tell me?” “I…” she started, but he saw that she was having trouble mustering the courage to finish her sentence. He had never seen her like this. “Calleigh, it’s OK, you can tell me,” he said gently. “Horatio,” she began again, “I think … I think you might be right…” “About?” “About what’s happening to you,” she said, looking right through him. “I – I’ve never seen you so withdrawn from the team – from me. You’ve been through so much, and I don’t think you’ve allowed yourself time to process everything, and maybe it is bleeding into your work.” Horatio nodded silently. He knew she would tell him the truth, no matter what. "Thank you," he said again, this time taking her hand in his. "Are we … are we crossing a line here?" Calleigh asked, and Horatio could tell she was unsure of what would come next. "I think … I think we're just turning a corner," he replied. She smiled at that, and he was reminded of how comforting that smile was. Her energy, her intelligence, her upbeat attitude – he had taken it all for granted. Looking at her now, he was amazed at how worn her face had become, how her original positive glow had dimmed over the past few years. And he couldn't help but feel partially responsible for that. "Horatio…what is it?" Shaken from his thoughts, he looked at her. "Are you … are you alright?" he asked. "Sure, Horatio, I'm fine." "The truth?" he asked, his eyes burning into hers. ------------------------ Now Horatio wanted the truth, she thought. Looking down, she said, "I don't think now's the time to talk about how I've been …" she said quietly. But he insisted. "What is it Calleigh? Tell me." Looking into his eyes, she couldn't deny him. "It's just … there's been so much going on … at the lab, at home…" "Is it your father?" "I – I just don't know what to do, Horatio. You say one day at a time goes both ways, but there comes a time when even that isn't enough anymore." "I understand," he said. She wondered what he meant. He had always carefully guarded his past, but she could tell he was identifying with her. However, she decided to let it go for now, figuring he had already been through enough for one night. "Thanks," she said quietly. "But there's something else," he started. He could read her like an open book. She couldn't fool him. He was too sharp for that. "Yes, yes there is," she said with a sigh. "I – I was offered a promotion while you were in Brazil." His eyebrows went up in surprise, and she knew this was the first he was hearing of it. That, however, did not surprise her. "It was Stetler," she explained. "He told me, if I left the team, there was an opening for lieutenant waiting for me in Tampa. I don't know how the hell he pulled those strings, or why, but … It was just strange." "And you declined it?" "Of course I did," she said, surprised he would pose that question. "I wouldn't trust Stetler with my back-up, let alone my career." "But the offer still stands," Horatio said, urging her to continue. "Yes," she sighed. "But I can't take it. I can't abandon the team now, especially not after what happened…" "Calleigh, I understand if you want to walk away," Horatio said. "As a matter of fact, I think it might be worth considering. " "Are you saying you want me to leave?" Calleigh said, taken aback by Horatio's response. "No," he said intensely, and she knew she had taken him the wrong way. "I would never want to lose my bullet girl." She smiled at the phrase. "But…" she said, knowing there was more. "But," Horatio continued, "all things being equal, you might be better off in Tampa. Safer, anyway." "Horatio," Calleigh replied, determination in her voice, "I'm not going anywhere. I'm not leaving this team … or you." Giving her a quick smile, he nodded, letting go of her hand. "That's what I hoped you would say," he said softly. "Does this mean … does this mean we have to go backwards?" "What do you mean?" "I mean," Calleigh started. "I mean I've wanted to … to be with you … for so long now, but because you were my … my boss … I just, I never thought you even felt …" "Shhh," he said, reaching out to her. "Come here." He embraced her. "I'm not going backward anymore," he said, his voice returning back to its normal timber, strong and reassuring. He kissed her forehead. "I love you," he whispered. A soft sob escaped Calleigh's lips, and she could tell Horatio was surprised. "Sweetheart? " he asked, concerned. "No," she started, "No, it's just … I was so afraid to tell you for so long … I can't believe this is real." "It's real," he reassured her. "I'm here, we're here, and we're going to be OK." "Clavo's still out there, Horatio," she said, pulling back slightly. "I know," he said, looking into the darkness, determined now. "But we're going to catch him," he said, putting his finger under her chin and tilting her head up towards him. "We're going to catch him, Calleigh, do you hear me?" She nodded, and moved forward, kissing him gently. Just as the kiss began to intensify, they both felt a vibration. It was Horatio's phone. ---------------- "Damn," he thought to himself, trying to clear his head. Looking at his caller ID, he saw it was the hospital. Noting that Calleigh saw it to, he nodded to her, trying to reassure her. "Horatio Caine," he said, answering. "Yes … yes doctor I understand … That's, that's wonderful news, that's …yes, that's the best news I could've hoped for doctor." He was smiling now, and Calleigh breathed a sigh of relief. "No, no we'll be down, doctor … We? Oh, um … my team. My team will be down there tonight … yes … Yes, he's fighter … Thank you doctor." Horatio closed his phone, and looked at Calleigh, who was anxious to hear what had just transpired. "Good news, I take it?" she said hopefully. "The best kind," he replied. "Eric's awake, and his vitals are coming back to normal. The doctors think he could be out of the hospital in a few days." "That's … that's unbelievable, " she said, shaking her head and smiling. "Yea," he said. "You never gave up on him, did you?" she asked. "No, no I don't give up very easily," he said. "I know that," she replied, giving him a grin. "Let's … let's get out of here." "Yea," he said quietly, getting up. He reached his hand out to her, helping her off the couch. ---------------------- Taking his hand, Calleigh pulled herself up, glancing to her right. As she looked at the coffee table, she recognized the items. It was the gun cleaning kit he had given Speedle – she could tell because she gave it to Horatio to give to Tim. She picked out herself. Next to it was the bottle of wine she had gotten Horatio for his wedding. `I guess they never had a chance to open it,' she thought sadly. "Calleigh?" Horatio said. "Are you OK?" Looking back up at him, she nodded amazed that he was still here, standing strong in front of her. "I am," she said. "How about you?" "I'm … I'm getting there," he said. "You ready?" "Hang on," Calleigh began, walking across the room. She picked up his gun, looking at it. Walking over to him, she reached for his hand. "Do you … do you want me to hang onto this for a little while?" "I … No," he replied. "I'm OK … I'm not … going down that road again, I promise … I wouldn't want to dump all my case files on you," he added with a smile. Calleigh looked down at the gun again. Seeing her hesitation, he started again, more seriously. "Calleigh, look at me. I swear to you – I'm not going there again. You saved me, remember?" She smiled up at him, and he gave her that look – the look he knew would reassure her. "OK," she said, letting go of his hand. "OK, here you go lieutenant." She reached for his belt, opening his holster, and gently slid the gun back into place, closing the clip. "That," Horatio said, arching his eyebrow, "was sexy, detective." "Well, y'all know us southerners Always willin' to lend hand," she replied with a smile. "Thank you," he said, smirking. "I'll have to remember that." "Horatio," Calleigh said, her tone turning more serious, "Are you really OK with this … with us?" "I – I don't know what else to do at this point," he said. "I can't pretend anymore … And you?" "I – I think we should take it slow," she started. "I agree," he said. "And, I don't – I don't know … if someone finds out … I don't know if I'm comfortable hiding this." "Let's just play things by ear, OK?" Horatio responded. "OK," she said. "I – I love you," she added quickly, squeezing his hand before moving toward the door. "We're going to be OK," Horatio said as he grabbed his jacket and opened the door. "We're all going to be OK." "I know," she said with a smile. "We've got you back now." "You've got me back," he said. "You've got me, sweetheart." He put his hand on the small of her back, guiding her as they both walked out of the apartment, closing the door behind them. THE END???