Title: First Time
By: Tiffany F
Pairing: Horatio/Mac
Fandom: CSI: Miami/CSI: NY
Rating: AO
Warning: WiP
Disclaimers: I don't own anything you recognize and am only playing around.
Summary: This is yet another way that Horatio Caine and Mac Taylor could have started a relationship when Horatio went north chasing a killer. Slight spoilers for MIA-NYC Nonstop.

***

Mac heard the floor creek behind him and glanced back. And almost fell flat on his ass. The sun had come out and was shining through the window casting a halo of light around the other man. He had vibrant red hair, pale but obviously freckled skin and dark sunglasses hiding his eyes. The man was wearing a plain white dress shirt, gray slacks and a long black coat. A badge, ID card and gun were on his black belt. Mac finally found his voice. "Can I help you?"
 
"My name is Caine, Miami, CSI. I'm investigating a double murder case."
 
He took off his sunglasses and Mac was instantly taken with the other man's blue eyes. "Detective Mac Taylor, Crime Scene Unit First Grade; I'm listening." And he was. Mac was absorbing every word spoken in that deep, calm voice.
 
He knew that he was lost, that he had to make a move at some point. And it was petty of him but Mac was mad when Danny walked in and took Caine's attention away. What was wrong with him? Mac had only laid eyes on the Miami CSI half an hour ago and now he was acting like a jealous lover. He growled to himself. It was going to be a long case.
********************

It didn't take much to convince Horatio to join him for dinner that night. As they talked the two men found they had a lot in common and it only strengthened the bonds of friendship that had started to grow at the initial crime scene.
 
It took a little more effort to convince Horatio to go back to his apartment for a drink. Mac wondered if the other man had picked up on his more carnal interest and didn't know how to tell Mac he wasn't interested.
 
"Are you okay, Horatio?" Mac asked as he settled at the other end of the sofa, drink in hand. "You seem awfully tense all of a sudden."
 
"I'm fine," Horatio replied not meeting Mac's eyes.
 
Mac chuckled. "Do you want to try that again, Lieutenant?" he teased. "Because right now I seriously doubt you'd convince a trainee."
 
"That obvious, huh?" Horatio grinned. "Would you believe me if I said it was embarrassing?"
 
"As you're looking me in the eye this time, yes," Mac smiled. "You don't have to tell me if you don't want to."
 
"No, its okay," Horatio said. He took a deep breath. "I've never done this before."
 
"You've never had a drink with a friend after a rather good supper?"
 
"Don't tease, Mac, please," Horatio said. He set his glass down on the coffee table and buried his face in his hands.
 
Mac put his drink down as well and shifted closer, putting a hand on Horatio's shoulder. "I'm sorry, Horatio," he said. "So what have you done with men or women?"
 
"That's just it, Mac, I haven't," Horatio said his voice muffled. "I never had time when I was a kid and then I just dedicated myself to the job."
 
"No one caught your eye?"
 
"One of twice but I didn't think they'd want me because I don't have experience," Horatio admitted. "And I was afraid they'd laugh at me."
 
"You've jerked off though?" Mac asked almost afraid to hear the answer.
 
Horatio shrugged. "It's never done much for me."
 
The older man was flummoxed. When he'd pictured himself with Horatio it wasn't in the role of a teacher. But the idea wasn't repellant. In fact the thought that Horatio had never been touched was very, very arousing. He shifted a little trying to relieve the pressure on his growing erection. Then he reached out and pulled Horatio's hand away from his face. "Tell me if I go too far," he said softly.
 
Horatio's wonderful blue eyes widened in shock as Mac leaned in, closing the distance between them, and pressed their lips together. He felt his eyes close as Mac's soft but dry lips caressed and rubbed over his. He wasn't entirely sure what he was supposed to do with his hands and finally settled for leaving them where they were; in his lap encased by Mac's.
 
A slick wetness against his lips startled him and Horatio pulled back with a gasp. "Mac?"
 
"Shh, its okay, Horatio," Mac whispered roughly. "Just let me teach you what to do. Let me love you."
 
"Don't we have to be in bed?" Horatio asked a little puzzled.
 
"It's not a requirement but we can if you'd be more comfortable," Mac said.
 
"I'm honestly not sure," Horatio replied.  "Do we have to get undressed?"
 
Mac grinned and stood, watching as Horatio's eyes widened when he caught sight of the erection bulging behind Mac's zipper. "I'd rather not have shoes in my bed but everything else can stay on if you want."
 
Horatio reached out towards Mac and let his hand drop suddenly. Mac grabbed Horatio's left hand, kissed the palm and slowly guided it to his erection. He expected Horatio to pull away and moaned softly when he felt tentative fingers on him. He watched Horatio's face for any signs of discomfort or panic as the fingers grew bolder in their exploration.
 
The red head jerked back when Mac's hips moved. "Sorry," he said looking down.
 
"For what?" Mac asked. He pulled Horatio to his feet, attached his mouth to his lover's neck and started to guide them towards the bedroom.
 
"Being so jumpy," Horatio replied. "I want this, I do, but it's so new."
 
Mac pushed Horatio up against the hall wall and pressed their cloth-covered erections together. Horatio's eyes closed as Mac thrust slowly against him. "We'll just have to do this enough that the jumpiness vanishes," he purred. Mac attacked Horatio's mouth, tongue slipping in when the red head gasped. He knew his best option at that point was to get Horatio so lost on arousal that his nerves vanished. It took a little effort and coordination but Mac eventually got his hips and tongue thrusting at the same time.
 
Horatio's hands had attached to Mac's hips but started a slow journey up Mac's back and then just as slowly back down bypassing his hips and cupping his ass, pulling him in closer. Mac moaned into Horatio's mouth as the speed of his thrusts increased until he felt Horatio stiffen against him and knew his new lover had just climaxed.
 
"Horatio?"
 
"It's never been like that," Horatio panted, his body shuddering gently. "I want to learn more."
 
"Come here," Mac said pulling Horatio in for another kiss, tongue skillfully opening Horatio's lips and exploring his mouth. He moaned when he felt Horatio's tongue tentatively brush up against his own. He ran his hands up into Horatio's red hair and held his head in place as he deepened and took control of the kiss.
 
When they finally broke apart for air Mac pulled Horatio down the hall to his bedroom. "Tell me when you get uncomfortable, H," Mac said. "And I promise to stop then and there."
 
"I trust you," Horatio smiled.
 
Mac leaned in and started another deep kiss. He slowly ghosted his fingers up Horatio's arms and across to his chest. One by one he eased the white buttons through the button holes and pushed the shirt off and it fell to the floor.
 
"A black t-shirt under a white dress shirt?" Mac asked as he kissed and nipped along Horatio's jaw and neck.
 
"It helps keep me from getting sunburned," Horatio managed to gasp. He could feel his body starting to respond again and wasn't sure but thought that men in their mid-40s couldn't get hard again so fast without some kind of drug.
 
"On or off?" Mac asked. His hands were up under the shirt and he caught his lover's shiver.
 
"Will you take yours off too?"
 
In reply Mac quickly undid his blue dress shirt and dropped it along with his white tank top to the floor. Horatio reached out and touched the scar over Mac's heart. "What happened?"
 
"The Beirut bombing in 1983," Mac said.
 
"I'm sorry."
 
"We lost good men that day." Mac's hand covered Horatio's and squeezed. "How do you feel about taking off your t-shirt?"
 
"Why do I suspect you have plans for me?" Horatio asked. He pulled off the shirt and let it fall to the floor. "Now what?"
 
"Kick off your shoes and climb on the bed."
 
"What are you thinking?"
 
"I want to spend some time tasting you," Mac replied. "And see if I can work out your hot spots. Ultimately I'd love to have us both naked by the end of the night but it doesn't have to happen."
 
Horatio shifted. "These slacks are getting a little uncomfortable," he said.
 
"In that case let me get you a washcloth, you get cleaned up and under the covers," Mac said. "Then I'll join you."
 
One he was in the hall waiting for Horatio to call him back in, Mac's erection made itself known with feeling. He undid his black slacks and let them fall to the floor and took off his socks. Mac knew there was no way he'd be able to get Horatio to relax enough to get inside him but Mac didn't mind being on the receiving end and just hoped Horatio would last long enough to get that far.
 
"Mac," Horatio called softly from the bedroom.
 
The dark-haired detective went back in and paused at the sight of Horatio in his bed, covers around his waist, staring at him. "How are you feeling, H?"
 
"Nervous," Horatio replied his eyes locked on Mac's boxer shorts.
 
"Do you want to stop?" Mac asked. He crawled onto the bed and knelt next to Horatio's right hip.
 
"No," Horatio said, swallowing hard.
 
Mac reached out and ran his hands along Horatio's bare chest watching his lover's face the whole time. Horatio's eyes fluttered closed and he forced them open only to have them close again. Mac grinned and leaned in to kiss Horatio gently, swallowing the red head's moan as he deepened the kiss. Horatio's tongue was a little bolder this time and Mac lured it into his mouth, groaning as Horatio slowly explored. He shifted his weight a little so he could run his right hand down to Horatio's peaked nipple and played with it gently. Horatio's back arched up a little and he broke out of the kiss with a gasp. Mac grinned and latched onto Horatio's jaw, kissed along to his ear and spent several minutes licking and sucking Horatio's right ear while still pinching and rolling his nipple and then started a slow journey south. He found a small hot spot at the base of Horatio's neck where it joined his shoulder and Mac bit down, not hard enough to bruise, but enough to mark it for an hour or so. By this time Horatio's hands were clutching the covers tightly and his body was tense.
 
"Are you doing okay?" Mac asked softly, nipping along Horatio's collar bone.
 
"Yeah," Horatio panted in reply. He cried out when Mac's mouth found a nipple and closed on it, sucking and then biting gently. Mac spent some time working on Horatio's nipples before he pulled back and looked down at his now flushed and gasping lover.
 
"Do you want more?"
 
"What, what do you have in mind?" Horatio asked trying to get his breath back.
In reply Mac reached into his bedside table and pulled out some lube and a condom. The color drained out of Horatio's face and he pulled the covers up as if he was trying to hide under them. "Hey," Mac said. "Hey, let me explain what I'm thinking here."

"Okay," Horatio said, the blankets almost up to his chin.

"This is going to go on you," Mac said holding up the foil packet. "And then I'll show you how to use the lube to get me ready and then, if you're up to it, you'll get to slide slowly into my body and make love with me. How does that sound?"
 
"Like I could seriously hurt you," Horatio replied. But his hands loosened a little on the covers.
 
"Only if we try to move too fast," Mac said. "Come on, let me have the covers, Horatio. We can't do anything if they stay where they are."
 
"What about you?"
 
"Do you want me to take off my boxers first?" Mac asked.
 
"Please."
 
Mac smiled, leaned in to kiss Horatio again deeply and pulled back. He left the lube and foil packet on the bed next to Horatio's pillow and stood up slowly. Mac eased out of the boxers and dropped them to the floor, keeping an eye on Horatio's face the whole time. He'd hoped that, by the time they were in bed with nothing between them, that his lover would have relaxed a little more but it didn't seem like he was going to. Mac sighed softly to himself and settled back onto the bed, gently easing the covers out of Horatio's hands and down until they were on the floor at the foot of the bed. Then, with a small smile, he leaned in and licked the head of Horatio's erection, hands only just managing to grab Horatio's hips as they thrust up towards the warm, wet heat. Mac spent a few minutes licking and teasing Horatio before he opened his mouth and carefully took the head in, sucking gently.
 
"Mac," Horatio groaned, his eyes dropping closed as his head fell back on the pillow. "So good."
 
Mac knew that Horatio wouldn't last long if he overdid on the stimulation and he really, really wanted to feel his lover in him. So after far too short a time, in both their minds, he pulled back and reached for the condom and lube. Horatio managed to force his eyes open just as he felt the latex being smoothed over him.
 
"Watch, H," Mac said. He warmed some of the lube on his hands and then reached around and slid two fingers into his ass, pausing only for a moment to adjust to the angle rather than the penetration. Mac cracked his eyes open and saw that Horatio's eyes were glued to his hand as he started to move and stretch his body getting ready for Horatio's cock. After a couple of minutes he pulled his fingers out, added more lube and slid three fingers back in, moaning at the sensation thinking about how good Horatio would feel in him.
 
"Are you ready?" Mac asked.
 
Horatio nodded, swallowing hard. Mac smiled, reached for the lube again and carefully slicked Horatio's erection. The he straddled Horatio's hips, leaned in and kissed him before sitting up and slowly impaling himself on Horatio's cock. Mac moved slowly, both to give his body time to adjust to the intrusion but also to be sure that Horatio would last long enough to get them both to the peak of pleasure.
 
"Mac," Horatio moaned deep in his throat. His hands went to Mac's hips and gripped tightly. After what seemed like an eternity to him, Mac stilled, hands braced on Horatio's shoulders. "So good."
 
The older man moaned his agreement and lifted up just as slowly before dropping down, Horatio's hands helping his movements. Mac moved a few more times and then stilled. "We need to shift me onto my back, Horatio," he said.
 
"How?" Horatio asked.
 
"Up, out, off, over and back in," Mac replied. "And then you're in control."
 
It took some coordination that Mac was a little surprised they both had at that point and he groaned as Horatio slid back into him. "Change the angle of your thrusts," he panted as Horatio started moving. "You're searching for, yes!"
 
Horatio leaned down and initiated a deep kiss between them for the first time. Mac's hands tangled in Horatio's red hair again as his tongue slid against Horatio's and his legs wrapped up around his lover's hips, the change in angle allowing Horatio to slide in deeper.
 
"I'm not going to last," Horatio panted in-between kisses.
 
"Come for me, Horatio," Mac replied. He slid a hand between their bodies and wrapped a hand around his erection, stroking sharply. Horatio managed a couple more thrusts before his body seized up in a strong climax. Mac stroked himself a half dozen more times and came, the pleasure washing through his body.
 
"Horatio?" he asked.
 
"'m, okay," a muffled voice replied against Mac's neck.
 
It took some doing but Mac eventually managed to roll Horatio onto his back and stagger into the bathroom for another washcloth to clean them both up. Then he gathered up the blankets, curled up next to his lover and fell asleep.

***

A couple of months after they met in New York Mac flew down to Miami to visit Horatio. It was unusual for the red head to take any time off from the lab but there was a lull in the case load that let him be away from the lab for three days. He still wasn't entirely sure why, after all the years alone, he'd finally opened up and allowed someone to get close to him, to love him and be loved in return, but Horatio felt at home with Mac. He loved him and, if it were possible, wanted to spend forever with him. But he didn't know how that would be possible or even if he should ask Mac about it. Maybe he should just leave the situation alone and take what he could get.
 
"A penny for your thoughts," Mac said running a hand along Horatio's arm.
 
"I'm wondering about what's going to happen," Horatio admitted. "I've been thinking a lot about what happened in New York and my feelings and emotions from those nights we spent together."
 
"Horatio, I wouldn't have done anything if I didn't feel deeply for you," Mac said. "I loved you from the moment you stepped into my crime scene and the only thing I regret is that we live in two different cities and can't be together more. I'd love to be able to see you every day, sleep next to you every night and be able to kiss you whenever I want."
 
"What's going to happen to us, Mac?" Horatio asked. "Can we survive this distance between us?"
 
Mac shifted around until he was straddling Horatio's hips and leaned in for a deep kiss. "If we love each other as much as I think we do," he said. "But there's going to have to be a level of trust there too. I don't want anyone else, Horatio. I just want you."
 
"You're all I could ever want, Mac," Horatio said running a hand through Mac's short brown hair. He pulled him in for another kiss. "And I've been reading. I want you to make love to me tonight. I want to know what it feels like to have you inside me."
 
"Are you sure you're ready for this, Horatio?" Mac asked. He pushed Horatio's t-shirt off and ran his hands up and down his lover's bare chest. "It's a big step, one that shouldn't be taken lightly."
 
"I'm sure," Horatio said. "I wouldn't mention it if I didn't trust you. And I love you."
 
Mac smiled down at Horatio. "I love you too," he said. "I love you so much."
 
"Bed," Horatio sighed as he nuzzled against Mac's neck and chin.
 
"I'm going to take my time with you, relearn every inch of your body, and take you flying," Mac promised.
 
The lovers managed to stand up still wrapped around each other, lips pressed together as tightly as their bodies as they moved slowly through the hall down to Horatio's bedroom. The bed had been freshly made up with silk sheets and soft pillows and they fell onto the mattress still clinging together. Horatio rolled them until he was on his back with Mac over him, pressing him down into the bed. His hands roamed along Mac's back, pushing up under his t-shirt searching for bare skin.
 
"You're getting bolder," Mac teased feathering kisses along Horatio's freckled skin and down his neck. "I love you like this, H."
 
"Mac," Horatio moaned as Mac latched onto his neck just by his shoulder, sucking gently. "Will you strip for me, Mac? Can I see you naked, please?"
 
"Are you going to hide under the blankets again?" Mac asked. He kissed Horatio's nose and moved back, off the bed. He pulled off his t-shirt and let it drop to the floor along with his slacks. "You're blushing, Horatio Caine."
 
"I guess I'm still just," Horatio broke off and averted his eyes.
 
"Hey," Mac said. He got back onto the bed and took Horatio's chin in his hand. "Don't be embarrassed, Horatio. I guess I forgot how little experience you have in here. You don't ever have to be ashamed by what you're feeling or what you want."
 
"I'm sorry, Mac," Horatio said. He looked down. "I guess I'm still just afraid that my insecurities will drive us apart and you'll be sick of dealing with me."
 
Mac kissed Horatio softly and reached down to run his hand along Horatio's chest and stomach. He knew that Horatio was still really unsure of their relationship and it didn't help that they were in two different cities. Mac wished that there was a way that he could prove his love to Horatio in a more perm ant way than loving touches and words but that was all he had to work with at that point. "Let me love you, Horatio," Mac whispered. "Nothing will ever pull us apart; I love you too much to let that happen. And I'll do everything in my power to prove it to you over and over again." He leaned in and kissed Horatio gently, letting his less experienced lover take the lead. Mac moaned at the feel of Horatio's tongue against his own. There wasn't a reason that so simple an act should feel so erotic and make him so hard at the same time.
 
"I want to taste you, Horatio," Mac whispered.
 
"How?" Horatio asked.
 
"I'm going to suck you into my mouth, work you with my tongue and drink you dry," Mac replied. "I've been dreaming about this since you came home. Will you let me do it?"
 
Horatio moaned in response as his hands fell down to his side on the bed. Mac grinned down at him, kissed his nose again and moved down until he was level with Horatio's erection. He looked up and waited until Horatio was gazing down at him and then leaned in and licked the head of Horatio's erection, pausing to savor the flavor of his lover. Horatio swallowed hard at the look of bliss on Mac's face and let his eyes fall closed.
 
"No, H, look at me," Mac said. "I want you to watch as I take you in my mouth and learn your taste. And I want to be able to see your eyes as I take you flying in a way you never have before."
 
"Mac," Horatio said softly. He reached out a shaky hand and tangled his fingers in Mac's hair.
 
Mac grinned up at Horatio before he leaned down again and took just the head of Horatio's now leaking erection in his mouth, being careful not to let his teeth get involved. It had been a while since he'd performed in such a manner but as he felt the weight on his tongue and the salty taste in his mouth it all came back to him. Mac moaned softly in the back of his throat, the vibrations traveling through Horatio's cock directly to his brain and the pleasure center that was almost in overload.
 
What he hadn't shown Horatio was the lube that he'd slipped out of his pants pocket before he stripped. Mac slicked one of the fingers on his right hand and reached down to slowly slide it into Horatio's body. Horatio cried out at the intrusion and his body tensed around the stroking digit. Mac pulled back and rubbed Horatio's leg. "You need to relax, H," he said. "You need to relax your body and let me in. Let me show you how good this can feel."
 
"How?" Horatio panted.
 
"Trust me," Mac said. "Focus on what my mouth is doing to you."
 
"I'll try," Horatio said. His eyes closed as Mac's mouth found his erection again and started sucking harder than he had before. This time he added his tongue to wrap around the cock in his mouth. As he felt Horatio's body starting to relax he moved his finger back slowly and pressed it forward again. He knew that Horatio had asked to feel him in his body but if he couldn't get his lover to relax around one finger there was no way he was even going to try and make love with him.
 
Horatio hadn't been expecting the sensation of Mac's finger in his body. It hurt more than he'd been thinking it would and he wasn't sure if he really wanted to let Mac's cock into his body. He trusted Mac and loved him but he was scared too. He was scared that Mac would get carried away and end up hurting him.
 
He felt his back arch and he came, falling back on the bed as Mac continued to suckle him gently. "Mac," Horatio finally moaned.
 
Mac pulled back and crawled up Horatio's body for a kiss. "Here, H," he said. He rolled onto his side and took Horatio's hand in his own and wrapped it around his erection. "Like this, Horatio." He put his own hand over Horatio's and showed him exactly how he liked to be stroked. His head fell back and his eyes closed as Horatio's touch grew firmer and grew in confidence. Mac moaned softly as Horatio's lips on his own and a tongue lapping at his lips. "Horatio," he cried as he came.
 
"I'm sorry, Mac," Horatio said as he buried his face against Mac's neck.
 
"Don't be, Horatio," Mac said running his fingers through the red hair. "That's a big step and not ever man enjoys it even if they're in a gay relationship. I'm not going to force you into anything. When you're comfortable we'll go further. But for now this is enough for me. I love you."
 
"I love you too, Mac," Horatio whispered.

***

Horatio stretched out on his bed and took out the book he had hidden under the mattress. He'd never kept anything hidden in his bedroom before, not even as a teen, so it seemed fairly strange to him that he was doing it now. And it wasn't just a book. He'd been to see Artie and bought a small toy that his friend assured him would help get him ready for penetration. Horatio still hadn't given up on feeling his lover inside his body but he was still very nervous about it. Hence the book and the toy. He'd be able to control everything and didn't have to worry about being hurt. That was really Horatio's ultimate fear, that his lover would lose control and inadvertently hurt him.
 
He knew that trust was the primary element that was required in their relationship not only because Horatio had next to no experience but because they were in two different cities and there was always a chance that something could happen.
 
He settled back against his pillows and opened the book. As he read Horatio's hand traveled softly up and down his bare chest and stomach, his fingertips just ghosting over his skin. Ever since Mac had shown him how to awake the nerve endings in his body, Horatio had found that he enjoyed his own touch more.
 
Horatio groaned when his phone rang. He didn't have a choice but to answer as he was on call for the weekend. "Horatio," he said.
 
"What would have done if it was work calling, Horatio?" Mac asked. "Because its really obvious in your tone what you were doing right before you answered the phone."
 
"I was just thinking about you," Horatio replied putting the book down.
 
"And what were you doing when you were thinking about me?"
 
"I was thinking that I still want to feel you in me," Horatio said. "At least once, Mac. So when are we going to be able to get together again?"
 
"A couple weeks," Mac sighed. "My case load just tripled for some reason. I'm blaming the weather at the moment but I'm sure there's a more logical reason."
 
"Let me guess, its been colder than hell for the past month and you've had a week of nice weather," Horatio said. "And everyone has cabin fever."
 
Mac laughed. "You hit it perfectly," he said. "So I'm home and all alone on my sofa with an erection that's just begging for a touch and my lover on the phone. What should we do about this?"
 
"You don't want phone sex do you?" Horatio asked. He could feel the heat flushing through his body, more from embarrassment than arousal. But he also noticed that his erection hadn't waned any.
 
"Why not?" Mac all but purred. "Would you like me to start, Horatio?"
 
"Please," Horatio said. "I'm not sure exactly what I should say."
 
"Just tell me what you want me to do to your body," Mac said. "Okay, let's see here. I can see you on the bed, Horatio, stretched out with your cock hard and dripping just for me. I'd start at your neck at that hot spot I found next to your collar bone. I'd spend some time just kissing and licking there and then bite down if you want me to mark you as mine. It's so hot thinking about you wearing my mark for a couple of days. Then I'd kiss down your chest to your nipples and spend some time there kissing, licking and sucking until both of them are hard, red and wet."
 
During the description Horatio found his hand mirroring Mac's words and he moaned deeply as he pinched and rolled his left nipple. "Mac," he said. "Want to feel you so badly."
 
"Soon," Mac promised. "Do you want me to go lower?"
 
"Please," Horatio said.
 
"I love how your nipples taste, Horatio," Mac said. "The sweat tang of your skin contrasted with the texture of your chest hair. I'd spend some time licking and sucking my way slowly down your stomach and just as I got close in to your cock I think I'd bypass it for the moment and spend some time on your legs."
 
"Mac, don't tease," Horatio moaned. His hand wrapped around his cock and he started stroking it slowly, still developing the touch that felt the best to him.
 
"You want me to suck on your cock, Horatio?" Mac asked with an answering moan in his voice.
 
"Now," Horatio said. His hips pushed up into his hand and he took a chance. He found the lube on the bed, turned on the speaker phone, slicked both hands, returned one to stroking his cock and the other he trailed down and teased the entrance to his body. "Mac."
 
"Are you getting close, H? Tell me what you're doing?"
 
"Stroking my cock," Horatio said. "Just like you taught me and it feels so good. I wish it was you doing it though."
 
"I wish it was too," Mac said. "Then I'd lick the head of your erection, holding your cock still and treat you like an ice cream cone, Horatio. I'd just lick and lap at you, teasing you and taking you higher. When you started moaning my name I'd take the head into my mouth and suck. I love the weight of your erection against my tongue as I move up and down your erection. I'm going to take my time working you slowly and as you get more and more turned on I'll slick my finger and slide it slowly into your body. I want to be in you so badly, Horatio. Feel the tight heat of your body clenching down on me as I move in your body, taking you higher than you've ever gone before and when you climax your body is going to clamp down on mine and take me over the edge with you."
 
Horatio moaned again at the pictures his lover was painting in his mind as the pleasure spiked through his body and he came with a loud cry of Mac's name. Over the phone he could hear the answering cry as Mac climaxed as well.
 
"Let's plan a weekend together next month," Mac said when he could talk again. "A chance for the two of us to get out of our cities for a couple of days and just be together. How does that sound?"
 
"Like a plan," Horatio sighed. "I miss you, Mac."
 
"I miss you too," Mac said. "I'll talk to you tomorrow, Horatio. Go to sleep now."
 
"Okay, bye Mac," Horatio said. "Love you."
 
"Love you too."

***

Horatio had managed to wrap everything up at the lab sooner than he'd thought and decided to fly to New York to surprise his lover. When he got to the lab he signed in as a guest and went Mac hunting.
 
"Hey H," Danny called when he saw the red head out in the halls. "What's going on?"
 
"Hello, Danny," Horatio said. "I'm looking for Mac, is he here?"
 
"Nah, he had to take off early," Danny replied. "He got roped in to taking our ME to some function or another. Mac was griping about it 'cause he had to wear a tux and he really don't like those things."
 
The red head laughed. "He doesn't know I'm in town," he said. "If Mac happens to come back tonight would you keep it a secret, please? I want to surprise him."
 
"Yeah, you got it," Danny said. "Are you gonna head to his place?"
 
"I am," Horatio smiled. "Thanks, Danny."
 
"Hey, any time."
********************
 
Mac had given Horatio a key to his apartment the last time they had spent the weekend together so Horatio let himself quietly into his lover's apartment. He didn't have to call out, there was only one soft light on in the hall and the home had a dead feel about it. There was no question in Horatio's mind that his lover was sill out for the evening. So he relocked the door behind him and went into the living room to find something to read and settled into a chair in the far corner where he wouldn't be immediately visible from the door. If he'd been a little more bold he would have stripped and settled into bed to wait for his lover's return, but Horatio could feel the blush rising as he thought about it. It would be enough to surprise Mac from the chair in the living room.
 
Horatio got lost in the book he'd found on the coffee table, a new text on forensic anthropology by Dr. Bill Bass of the Body Farm, and jumped a little when he heard the key in the lock. He frowned when it sounded like it took several tries for the key to find the lock and wondered if Mac was all right. Horatio put the book down and had just started to stand when the door opened and Mac almost fell into the apartment. The reason for the fall soon became apparent as the door was kicked closed Mac was wrapped around a dark-haired woman working to get her dress off as frantically as she was attempting to strip Mac of his tux. They vanished down the hall towards Mac's bedroom and Horatio didn't move until the door to that room was shut as well.
 
He wiped the tears from his eyes as he took Mac's key off his key ring and set it carefully on top of the book on the coffee table. Horatio took a moment to make sure there was nothing out of place and left, closing the door silently behind him.
********************
 
When Mac came out of the bedroom not fifteen minutes later he was embarrassed. He could hear movement behind him and sighed. "I'm sorry, Peyton."
 
"It's not your fault, Mac," she said. "Everyone is entitled to an off night. Thank you for taking me to the dinner tonight. I'll see you tomorrow at work."
 
"Are you okay to get home?"
 
"I'll be fine, Mac."
 
Mac ran his hand through his hair and locked the door behind the ME. He wasn't exactly sure what had happened. It was just supposed to be dinner and some boring function that she needed an escort for and ended up with them in his bed. And he couldn't get hard, no matter what he tried. He decided on a shower after he changed the bed sheets to get rid of her perfume and then maybe he'd call Horatio.
 
Guilt washed through him at the thought of his innocent lover down in Miami. Mac hadn't realized how much he loved the other man until he looked down at Peyton and saw brown eyes instead of twinkling blue. And he realized exactly what he was doing. He really needed to talk with his lover, to hear Horatio's voice and get back on a more even keel.
 
A glint of metal caught Mac's attention. He frowned as he sat down on the couch and looked at the key on the book. Mac was certain it hadn't been there before he left for work that morning or when he came home to change into his tux. And the book had been moved too. It wasn't on a subject just anyone would find interesting and Mac seriously doubted anyone would break into his apartment just to read a book on forensic anthropology. With a sinking heart Mac went to his front door and tried the key. It fit perfectly and turned the lock smoothly. There was only one other person who had a key to Mac's apartment. It was Horatio.
********************
 
When Horatio got back to his hotel room he finally let the tears he had been holding back fall. He hadn't cried in years, not since his mother died, and he wiped them away as best he could. Then he pulled out his cell phone and called his best friend. "Tim."
 
"Horatio, what's wrong?" Speed asked. "Are you crying?"
 
"Yeah," Horatio admitted with a sniffle. "I'm an idiot, Tim."
 
"No you're not. Now tell me what the hell happened and who I have to kill," Speed growled. "Because they are so not getting away with this. Do you need me to come to New York? Are you coming home? What are you going to do next?"
 
"I don't know," Horatio said. "I've been so confused since this whole thing started and I thought I finally found someone who loved me for me and didn't want anything but love in return. I thought I could trust him."
 
"What did Mac do?" Speed asked.
 
"He wasn't at the lab when I got there and Danny told me Mac had to take their ME out to some kind of dinner," Horatio replied. "So I went to his apartment to surprise him when he got home."
 
"H, don't draw this out," Speed said. "It's only going to cause you more pain. Come on, tell me and then I'll kill Mac for you."
 
Horatio snorted. "For some strange reason I thought Danny meant Sid Hammerback," he said. "I didn't know they'd got a new ME here. When Mac got home he was wrapped around a woman. God, Speed, it was like watching a porn movie."
 
"When have you watched porn?" Speed asked.
 
"Tim."
 
"Sorry," Speed said. "You just caught me off guard is all. So I guess I need to kill the bitch then."
 
"You can't kill anyone," Horatio said. "Hang on a second." He took his phone away from his ear and saw that Mac was trying to call him. "He's calling, what should I do?"
 
"Do you really want to talk with him now?" Speed asked. "When the emotions are still so raw that you could end up saying something you'll both regret? I know how you feel about Mac, Horatio. Can you forgive him for this?"
 
"I don't know, Tim, I really don't," Horatio replied. "I thought he loved me and he was doing all that stuff to that woman. How can I trust him again?"
 
"I don't have an answer for that one, H," Speed said. "But maybe it would be a good idea to get some space and think about things before you talk with Mac. Then you'll have your thoughts more in order than you do now. Are you going to be able to sleep tonight?"
 
"Probably not," Horatio said. "I might see about a red eye back home. Then I can get back to work in the morning."
 
It was Speed's turn to snort. "I don't think hiding in your work is the answer, Horatio Caine," he said. "Don't make me sic Alexx on you."
 
"You wouldn't," Horatio said.
 
"If you're in as bad a shape as I think you are then oh yeah I would," Speed said. "You need someone to take care of you and I don't think you'll let me close enough to do it. Is there any alcohol in your room?"
 
"Speed, you know I don't drink," Horatio said.
 
"Oh yeah, that's right, your old man," Speed said. There was a soft sound of skin on skin as Speed slapped his forehead. "I'm sorry, H, I forgot. Tea bags then?"
 
"I would doubt it," Horatio sighed. "Maybe I'll stay until morning, Speed. I have a feeling Mac's going to be haunting the airport looking for me."
 
"Horatio, how the hell would he know you've been in New York?"
 
"I had a key to his apartment," Horatio replied softly. "I left it behind when I left tonight. He told me I'm the only one he's ever given a key to. Providing that's the truth it shouldn't take too long for him to work out I was in his apartment. He's calling again."
 
"Turn your phone off, Horatio," Speed said. "Let him talk to your voice mail and I'll delete them when you get home. You need some time to think things through and figure out what you want. I'll go shopping in the morning for you and make you lunch. How's that sound?"
 
"Would you make chocolate chip cookies too?" Horatio asked.
 
"Only if you promise not to tell anyone where you got them," Speed replied with a smile. "I'll see you when you get home tomorrow and we can spend the day watching movies or something."
 
"Thanks, Tim," Horatio said. "I don't know what I'd do without you."
 
"I don't either and we're not finding out," Speed said. "Now turn off your phone, take a hot shower and lay down for a while."
 
"Now you sound like Alexx."
 
"Well god knows she's said it to me enough," Speed grinned. "Usually after Delko and I have a fight and I'm on her sofa."
 
Horatio smiled. "Tell Eric I'm sorry for calling so late," he said.
 
"He's still at work," Speed said. "There was a break in his case that he had to go back in for. Now shower, Horatio. I'm not telling you again."
 
"Yes, mom," Horatio teased. He hung up on Speed's rather colorful cursing and closed his eyes with a sigh, feeling the tears threatening to fall again. Horatio decided to take Tim's advice. He turned off his phone and went towards the bathroom for a long, hot shower.
********************
 
When Horatio got out of the shower an hour later he realized he was no longer alone. He wrapped the towel tighter around his waist and picked up his gun from the table in his bedroom. He moved slowly towards the main part of the hotel room and peeked around the corner.
 
"Horatio."
 
"How'd you get in here, Mac?" Horatio asked not lowering the gun.
 
"I told them it was an emergency and used my badge," Mac replied. "You can put the gun down, Horatio. I don't have mine with me. I left home too quickly to remember it."
 
"Why are you here?"
 
"To talk with you," Mac said. "I got worried when you weren't answering your cell phone and it started going directly to voice mail."
 
Horatio let the gun drop a little. "And why would you be so worried about me?" he asked softly.
 
"Because I know you were at my apartment tonight," Mac sighed. "And I have a pretty good idea of what you saw too." He put a key down on the table in front of him. "I found this in my living room."
 
"I figured I didn't need it any more," Horatio said.
 
"Nothing happened, Horatio," Mac said.
 
"That's not what it looked like from where I was."
 
"I couldn't get hard for her, Horatio. She left not fifteen minutes after she got there," Mac said. "I've spent the past hour and a half searching for you. I needed to be able to explain what happened."
 
"Stay there, Mac," Horatio said bringing the gun up again.
 
"H, please," Mac said his hand dropping down to his side. "Please get dressed and let's talk. I love you and I don't want our relationship to end."
 
"You might not have a choice in that matter any more, Mac," Horatio said. "As it seemed like you were pretty clear in what you wanted tonight and it wasn't me."
 
Mac ran his hand through his hair and took a step forward. "I know you won't shoot me, Horatio," he said. "You are the only one I want. I'm not sure what happened tonight but it was a huge mistake, one I'm willing to pay for for the rest of my life but I want that life to have you in it. I love you, Horatio Caine."
 
"I told you to stay there, Mac," Horatio said. "I don't want you to touch me."
 
"Horatio," Mac whispered. "Please, can we at least talk like normal people? I can't let it end like this."
 
"I need time, Mac," Horatio said. "I need time and space to be able to think. I refuse to be used by anyone for any reason. I want to trust you but I've been hurt too many times in the past to blindly trust again."
 
"H."
 
"Leave, Mac," Horatio said, willing the tears he could feel in his eyes not to fall until he was alone.
 
"Okay," Mac finally said, his shoulders slumping. "But I'm not going to give up, Horatio. You are the only one I want in my life, in my bed and my heart. I love you and I'm so sorry for what happened tonight. I swear that nothing happened beyond some kissing with Peyton. All I could see were your eyes and I realized what a mistake I'd made."
 
"Go," Horatio whispered, a tear running down his cheek. "Now."
 
"I love you," Mac said. He turned to leave. "Have someone call me so I know you made it home safely, please."
 
When the door was closed, Horatio almost sprinted across the room to put the chain on, something he should have done when he got back to the room in the first place, before he slid to the door, wrapped his arms around his legs and wept.

***

Horatio curled up under the covers after he got himself under control. He wanted to hate himself for feeling such strong motions but just couldn't. He hadn't let himself feel anything so strongly in so long and Horatio marveled at Mac's ability to make him fell again.
 
He wasn't sure if he slept or not but the sun in his eyes finally convinced him to get up, dressed and fly home. Horatio know that Speed would be waiting for him and the thought brought a smile to his face. The younger man was the best friend Horatio had ever had.
 
The white envelope on the floor by the door should have been a surprise but it wasn't in many ways Mac Taylor was just as if not more stubborn than Horatio. It was probably just as well Horatio had finally remembered to put the chair on the night before, otherwise he might have found Mac waiting for him and Horatio just wasn't strong enough to face Mac right now. He tucked the letter into his pocket to read when he got home and had Speed with him for support.
 
Truthfully Horatio was in two minds about what he should do next. Part of him wanted to stay in New York, find Mac and just hold the other man. Horatio had never felt as complete as he had when he was with Mac. If he believed in such things Horatio would give into the argument that it meant they belonged together. But the other part of him couldn't forget how Mac looked when he was trying to strip that woman. He'd looked just as frantic as he ever had when he was with Horatio and the red head couldn't help but wonder how much, if at all, Mac really loved him.
 
Horatio was only too aware of what could happen to a gay man, especially one who was in the military or on the police force if they were found out, or even suspected. Horatio would never forget the night his father had found out about the fireman downstairs who had been helping Horatio with his homework. The elder Caine had dragged eleven-year-old Horatio down to the fireman, Hank's, apartment. And he'd forced Horatio to watch as he beat Hank into unconsciousness and then set him on fire. Horatio had managed to get the fire out but it was too late. Hank had died. And Horatio had lied to the cops, not to protect his father, but because he knew that he'd suffer a similar fate if he ever talked. And Horatio had been careful from that day on to make sure no one ever got close to him again. By the time his father died it was too deeply ingrained in him for Horatio to change his ways.
 
So why did he let Mac in so deeply, to places that hadn't been touched since before Hank was murdered. Horatio knew his fireman friend hadn't been gay and wasn't a child molester and also knew his father's actions were designed to instill fear in his soon. It had worked although Horatio was more concerned about what might happen to his mother and brother if he wasn't there to protect them from his father.
 
Horatio also knew that Mac had been married and lost his wife the day the towers fell. The part of him that was hurting said that Mac had just been looking for a warm body in his bed again. That all the care and attention had only been leading up to one end and that was to claim Horatio. He wondered if Mac would have dumped him after he took Horatio for the first time. Horatio had been aching to know what it felt like to have his lover inside his body as they both climaxed but now he was afraid. He really didn't want Mac close to him until he worked through everything in his mind.
 
The more logical side pointed out that Mac had risked everything when he seduced Horatio. He couldn't imagine life would be easy for Mac if anyone at work learned he was in a same-sex relationship. Why would Mac risk everything if he didn't feel something deep for Horatio?
 
Which brought him full circle back to the question of what he was going to do. Would it be possible for Horatio to forgive Mac for what he had done and move forward in the relationship? Or would it be better to just leave Mac behind and return to his solitary life? Horatio had enjoyed having Mac to talk to and be with and had hoped that they'd be able to figure out a way they could live together some day in the future. That would've been a major sticking point as there was no way Horatio would be able to return to New York there were just too many painful memories there and he didn't think Mac would ever leave his city.
 
Maybe they had been doomed from the start and Horatio had been too blind to notice it. The thought hurt but not nearly as much as what Mac had done.
 
The bump of the airplane landing in Miami jarred Horatio from his very muddled thoughts and he sighed. Speed was waiting for him and it would help to have someone to talk to.
********************
 
When Horatio walked into his home the smell of chocolate chip cookies drew him to the kitchen. "How do you manage to do all this and not burn it or make a mess?" Horatio asked leaning up against the kitchen island.
 
Speed looked over and smacked Horatio's hand away from the cooling cookies. "I have a chemistry degree," he said. "If I can keep the trace lab in order then I can do anything. And those are for after you eat your breakfast."
 
"I'm not hungry," Horatio said.
 
"I don't care," Speed replied. "I made you ham slices, eggs and toast and you're going to eat it before it gets cold. You need someone to take care of you and I need someone to fuss over, so there."
 
"What happened to Eric?" Horatio asked. "Is he okay?"
 
"He's fine, he just had a little trouble with a witness," Speed said. "Tripp was there and took care of it with no problem but I think it shook Eric up a little."
 
"You should go be with your lover," Horatio said. He looked down at the plate in front of him. "That's where you belong."
 
"Actually I called Alexx," Speed snickered. "And after I explained the situation she promised to take care of everything. I figured you didn't need her here glaring at you while you ate so she's feeding Eric. And he knows what's going on and understands why I'm here. You know you look like shit, H."
 
Horatio snorted into his juice. "Don't sugar coat it, Tim."
 
"You wouldn't want me to lie to you, would you H?"
 
"No," Horatio said. He took the letter out of his pocket and slid it across the table. "That was in my room when I woke up this morning. I haven't read it yet."
 
"Are you sure you want me to read it first?" Speed asked.
 
"I can't," Horatio said.
 
"I know," Speed said softly. He opened the envelope and unfolded the paper.

**Horatio,
 
I don't know that I even have the words to tell you how sorry I am. There is no excuse for what you witnessed last night and I'm not going to insult either of us by trying. I am in the wrong. I made a horrible mistake and I'm willing to do anything in my power to make amends. To be honest I'm not even sure what did happen between me and Peyton. Maybe I just needed that last piece of evidence to prove that I'm in the place I want to be, with the person I want to be with.
 
To find true love once is remarkable but to find it twice defies all probability. I loved Claire with all my being and locked my heart away when the towers came down. I never thought I'd find anyone that I'd want to let that close to me again. Then came a crime scene where you appeared. Horatio, it was as if you had mother nature doing special effects just for you. The sun came out and cast a halo around you and I was lost. I only know that I wanted more with you. Then we clicked so easily as friends and I began to believe that it was possible.
 
When I learned you were untouched I never hesitated. I was surprised by what you were saying but it only made me love you more. I've never seen you as a prize, Horatio. I've only seen you as the man I want beside me until we die.
 
I can't begin to tell you how my heart broke when I saw your key on the table in my living room. After Peyton left I was going to take as hot a shower as I could stand to get rid of her touch. I was going to dispose of the sheets and then call you. I don't know if I would have told you over the phone but I never would have hidden this from you. When I realized you witnessed it I knew that you were hurt and had run. When I called you and kept getting your voicemail I was so worried that something had happened to you. The thought of losing you like I lost Claire almost broke me. I knew I had to find you.
 
Even after I was in the hotel room and could hear the shower I was still almost in a panic. That panic and concern didn't fade until I saw you in the doorway. And you were holding your gun. I don't know that I let it show but it hurt to see you so afraid of me. The only thing I wanted was to take you in my arms and just hold you. But you were skittish and something told me that you would shoot me given half the chance. I could hear you sobbing after you latched the door behind me and it broke my heart. That's when it really hit home how much I had hurt you and I was at a loss of what to do next.
 
I know I have no right to ask this of you but can you find it in your heart to give me a chance to prove my love? I love you so much, Horatio. I just want a chance to make things right between us.
 
You are the only one I want, the only one I can see. Please, Horatio, give me an opportunity to prove to you that I love and desire only you.

Mac.**
 
"What am I going to do, Tim?" Horatio asked when his friend was done reading the letter.
 
"What's your heart say?"
 
"I'm so confused," Horatio said. "Part of me says to forgive him and the other part says to run and hide. I don't know what to do."
 
"You're going to have to make that decision for yourself, H," Speed said. "But it probably wouldn't hurt anything to talk to him and hear what he has to say."
 
"It's just so hard, Tim," Horatio said. "I'm trying to follow the evidence and that all points to Mac wanting to be with that woman. But if he's telling me the truth then the evidence is lying."
 
Speed snorted. "Eat your eggs, they're getting cold," he said. "Horatio, you always know when someone is lying to you. I don't know how but you always do. So is Mac Taylor lying about what happened after you left his apartment?"
 
"No," Horatio sighed. "He's not lying to me. But that makes things even more confusing."
 
"Do you want me to call him?" Speed asked. "I can put some ground rules in play and let him know if he screws up again he's a dead man."
 
"Please," Horatio said. "I'm going to go take a nap, Tim. You go on home and take care of Eric and I'll see you at work tomorrow."
 
"Are you sure you'll be okay?"
 
"Leave the cookies," Horatio said. "Thank you for doing all of this, Tim. Especially when your own partner needs you."

***

When Mac dragged into work an hour late looking like he hadn't slept the whole team noticed. Stella tried to ask him what was wrong but he just stared at her until she left. He knew that he shouldn't be too hopeful that Horatio would call him but Mac was hoping that one of the Miami team would call to let him know that Horatio had gotten home okay. The more Mac thought about what had happened the more unsure he was of the events that led up to him taking Peyton home with him.
 
"Hey Mac," Danny's voice broke through his thoughts.
 
"What do you need, Danny?"
 
"I'm just wondering if Horatio found you," Danny replied. "He stopped by the lab the other night looking for you; said he had a surprise or something."
 
"He found me," Mac said softly. "And I wish he hadn't."
 
"Why's that, Mac?"
 
"Have you ever done something stupid and wished you could go back in time to fix it?" Mac asked.
 
"Hell Mac, you know the answer to that," Danny said with a small grin. "Does this have something to do with why you look so bad?"
 
"I'm not ready to talk about it."
 
"Okay, that's cool but when you are, give me a call," Danny said. "And we'll go have a beer, yeah?"
 
"Sure."
 
Danny nodded and left the office. Mac wondered briefly if Stella had put the young man up to it but dismissed the idea almost as fast. He knew that Danny was always alert to the moods of the team and tried to help out where and when he could.
 
Mac's gaze fell on the picture of Claire he had on his desk and almost groaned. He couldn't believe he'd never consciously noticed it before but Peyton looked a great deal like Claire. He could've kicked himself. That had to be the reason they'd ended up like they did but Mac was still confused about it. If he was truly happy with Horatio why would he have allowed things to progress as far as they had with Peyton? The fact that his body had refused to respond to her showed that a major part of him knew something was wrong but it shouldn't have gone as far as it did.
 
He grabbed his cell phone and flipped it open, trying to school his tone to be as professional as possible and also to try and keep the hope out of it as well. "Taylor."
 
"Hello Detective Taylor, this is Tim Speedle in Miami."
 
"Speed, is Horatio okay?" Mac asked.
 
"No," Speed replied with a snort. "Thanks to your stunt the other night, Horatio is curled up in his bed attempting to hide from everyone."
 
"Did he get my letter?"
 
"He asked me to read it to him," Speed said. "And he agreed that I could call you and set up some ground rules. I'm going to start with this one; if you hurt him again I will kill you and no one will ever find your body."
 
"If I hurt Horatio again I'll kill myself and save you the trouble," Mac said. "Does this mean he's going to try and forgive me?"
 
"It means he is willing to listen but you're playing by my rules from now on," Speed said.
 
Mac bit back a sigh. "I'm willing to do anything, Tim," he said. "And I did figure something out. Peyton looks like my late wife. I know it's not an excuse but it's likely the reason."
 
"If you decide you want to be with Horatio then you had better be ready to commit solely to him," Speed said. "And that includes no flirting with anyone, no dating and no bringing women or men to your apartment for any sort of sexual reason. That also means no going to their apartment, a hotel, your office, car, taxi..."
 
"I get the idea," Mac said. "And I don't welcome people into my space easily."
 
Speed snorted again but didn't comment on it. "The next rule is that you let Horatio reestablish phone contact," he said. "You can write, email or text but you do not call him until he calls you first. He says he needs time to think and you are going to give it to him."
 
"Is that everything?" Mac asked.
 
"No; if and when Horatio decides to see you again my partner Eric and I will go on the date with you. You can kiss Horatio on the cheek at the start of the evening and then he sets the limits for the rest of the time. And you will respect those limits and no push him for more before he's ready."
 
Mac was starting to feel like he'd traveled back in time and had landed in the 1800s. "I'm not disagreeing, Tim, but don't you think this is a little extreme?"
 
"No I don't," Speed replied. "I think you need to ask Horatio about his past, about his family, so you can understand where he's coming from. But don't push him. H is feeling extremely hurt and betrayed right now and you could really hurt him if you push too hard."
 
"Do you think he'll ever be able to forgive me, Tim?" Mac asked. "Or do you think this is a complete waste of time?"
 
"You are the first person Horatio has ever let near him in such a manner and you threw it back in his face," Speed snapped. "What do you think?"
 
"I think that it's probably hopeless but I have to try," Mac said. "Because I love him and I'm willing to do any and everything to prove it."
 
"Last thing," Speed said. "You have to let me know at least a week in advance if you plan to come to Miami for any reason. And you won't make that first trip down here until Horatio has reestablished phone contact with you."
 
"All right," Mac sighed. "Thanks for calling, Speed. I know you are already doing it but keep a close eye on Horatio for me, please."
 
"Mac," Speed warned.
 
"I'm not going to stop worrying about him," Mac said. "Especially not after he kept his gun on me the whole time I was in his hotel room. You can set all the rules you want but nothing will change the fact that I love him and am worried about him. Good-bye, Tim, I've got a case."
********************
 
When Horatio arrived at the lab the next day he found Calleigh and Alexx in the break room both looking a little dreamy-eyed. "Good morning, ladies," he said.
 
"Horatio," Alexx said in the tone that meant her mother radar was pinging. "How are you doing, sugar?"
 
"I'm fine, Alexx," Horatio said. "Now what has my two favorite women looking like its Valentines Day?"
 
"You've got a secret admirer," Calleigh replied with a small sigh.
 
"A what?" Horatio asked.
 
"Go look in your office and I want to know who it is when you figure out," Calleigh said.
 
It still didn't make any sense to Horatio so he took his coffee and made his way to his office where he found Tim Speedle and a large bouquet of flowers. "Speed?"
 
"There's a card but you can guess who they're from," Speed said. "I talked with him yesterday, H, and laid down the law. I guess he's already finding loopholes."
 
Horatio reached in, being careful of the thorns on the roses and pulled out the small envelope. His name was written across the front and it was sealed. He used the letter opener he kept on his desk and pulled out the card. Horatio smiled and handed it to Speed.
 
"Because it is not forbidden and I love you," Speed read with a small snort. "He's creative, I'll give him that."
 
"I want to forgive him, Tim, but I'm scared I'll get hurt again," Horatio said softly. He stroked one of the red roses gently.
 
"Sometimes you have to take the bad with the good," Speed said. "Look at Delko; it was just my luck to fall in love with a womanizer."
 
"But he's never strayed, has he?" Horatio asked.
 
"Not that I know of but I've had to drag him out by his ear a few times," Speed replied.
 
"And therein lies the difference," Horatio said. He glanced at his cell phone. "Come on, we have a call out."
********************
 
The victim of a hit and run was waiting for them in the middle of the street along with Alexx and Frank. While Speed started the photography Horatio went to join the detective. "What have we got, Frank?"
 
"According to witnesses the vic stepped off the curb with the light, took four steps and was hit," Frank replied. "No one can really agree on the color or make of the car so I sure hope you guys can find something."
 
"I'm sure we will," Horatio said. "Alexx, what have you got?"
 
"He was hit from the side, Horatio," Alexx said. "I think he hit the top of the car and then landed again but I won't be sure until I get him on my table. He didn't see it coming."
 
"I've got a cell phone and a briefcase," Speed said. "It looks like our victim was on the phone when he was hit. Do you think he's a local rather than a tourist?"
 
Alexx handed Horatio a wallet. He opened it and looked at the ID. "He is and there's a business card as well," Horatio said. "It looks like we might have a few leads."
********************
 
While Frank went and talked with the victim's boss and co-workers, Horatio and Speed made a quick detour on their way back to the lab to speak with the victim's family. When they got to his house they found his daughter, a student at the university, home with a bad cold. She told them that her mother had been dead for five years and her younger brother was at school.
 
Halfway through their conversation a German Shepherd puppy came running into the room and jumped up on Horatio's legs begging for attention.
 
"Phoenix, down," the girl said. "I'm so sorry, Lieutenant Caine; we're still trying to teach him some manners."
 
"It's okay," Horatio said. He knelt down on one   knee and rubbed the puppy's stomach. "Ma'am, can you think of anyone who would want to hurt your father?"
 
Speed watched Horatio's interaction with the dog and had to fight not to smile. He didn't bring it up until they were in the Hummer driving back to the lab. "I didn't know you liked dogs, H."
 
"I had a dog growing up," Horatio said. "He liked to get into everything, including the trash, and I couldn't stop him. But I usually got it cleaned up before my father got home."
 
"What happened?"
 
"He got into the trash which, for some reason, wasn't under the sink where it belonged," Horatio said. "My father came home while I was cleaning it up, kicked my dog to death and broke my arm."
 
Speed put his hand on Horatio's shoulder. "I'm sorry, Horatio."
 
"That was the last pet we had," Horatio said. "I wasn't going to risk an innocent life."
 
"It's a good thing he's already dead, H."
 
"I know, Tim," Horatio sighed. "I know."

***

Horatio took the flowers home with him and set them on the coffee table in his living room. Then he got a diet pop and the new notebook he'd bought on his way home. It had been a long time since he had kept a journal but something was nagging at him that writing down his thoughts would be a good way to work through everything and decide what he wanted to do next.

He settled onto his sofa with a sigh. It had been a long day not adding in the emotional turmoil he had swirling through him. Horatio had a feeling that his writings would mimic his thoughts and go in circles for a while. But it didn't matter because it was unlikely anyone would ever see them.

**Dear Mac,

There are so few I choose to let close to me. And even fewer that I let close enough to get into my heart. Yes there is a reason for that, a painful one that not even my best friend knows fully. By now you probably know that Tim Speedle is my best friend and the one I've confided in the most. And even with him I've held back.

I was five the first time my father hit me. I had left my crayons and paper out on the coffee table in the living room when I went in for supper. He hit me hard enough to knock out two of my baby teeth and my mother kept me home from school for a couple of days until the swelling was gone. I just remember being told it was my fault I couldn't go to school because I'd been messy.

The situation only worsened over the years as my father started drinking more. He killed my dog. He put me in the hospital a couple of times, different ones of course so no one would figure out what was going on. I tried, once, to reach out to someone. My father killed him and told me he'd do the same to my mother and me if I told anyone. I tried to save my friend but I couldn't.

I made the conscious choice not to date because I swore when my dog and my friend died because of me that I'd never risk another life. After my father's death at my hands, fear of rejection for my lack of experience took over and I remained alone.

I remained alone until a case brought me back to New York and I met you. In you I saw something that scared and warmed me at the same time. I honestly believed you were worth opening up to and trusting.

Now I'm confused. I'm so confused, Mac. You showed me so much love and caring that I believed you really did, or do, love me in return. My heart was yours after our first night together. You were always so gentle, even when we were frantic to touch, that I believed you would never hurt me. I knew our relationship would be hard being in two different cities but I was willing to work at it because I did love you.

I never got a chance to tell you but I came to New York with a present for you. I bought a couple of toys and have been using them as much as possible to stretch and train my body. I was ready to take the final step with you and let you in on every level. When I went to the lab and Danny told me where you were I thought I'd be able to surprise you. With how the evening played out I'm glad I didn't go with my first instinct which was to strip and wait for you in your bed.

Instead it was me that received the surprise. I could tell how much you wanted to touch her because you used the same touches on me whenever we managed to be together. It made me questions so many things, not only what you told me but also what you showed me.
**

Horatio closed the book when his doorbell rang. He sighed and stood, making his way to the door. "Alexx?"

"Hey Horatio," Alexx said with a soft smile. "Timmy said you probably needed some dinner and, as my family is visiting relatives up in Orlando, I thought I'd bring something over for you."

"Thank you, Alexx, but I'm really not that hungry," Horatio said. He stepped back to let his friend inside.

"Horatio Caine, you are not going to make yourself sick," Alexx said. "If you don't want the pasta I made for you then I'm going to the store and getting you some soup but you are going to eat."

He grinned sadly. "I'll try," Horatio said.

"Oh sugar, I know it's hard," Alexx said. She put the dish down and pulled Horatio into a hug. "Opening your heart to love can be one of the most deadly things you can do. But it can also be one of the most rewarding too."

"If you say so," Horatio sighed. He kissed the top of Alexx's head and went to sit at the table.

"Have you been holding back, Horatio?" she asked. Alexx started digging through the kitchen to find dishes and forks. "What do you want to drink?"

"Water is fine," Horatio said. "I talk to Speed when I need someone."

"He told me that you're having trouble with your boyfriend," Alexx said. "There you go, sugar. You start on that and let me know if you want more."

Horatio had to smile. Alexx mothered the whole team with such love and style that it was impossible to tell her no. But he was a little worried that Speed had told Alexx everything that had been going on and it just reinforced Horatio's desire not to let anyone get close to him.

"That's all he told me," Alexx said. "But if you want to tell me more then I'm willing to listen."

"Not yet," Horatio sighed. "Maybe not ever, Alexx. It's hard to know for sure."

"Well I'll tell you this much, Horatio. Love is worth everything in the end. Sometimes you have to be hurt to really know what you want and it is harder than hell to take that final step and let the person back in again," she said. "But it works out in the end."

"Are you speaking from personal experience?" Horatio asked.

"No, I'm not," Alexx replied. "But I've seen it happen so many times. Look at Tim and Eric. They had to go through so much to be together but they're happy now that they are. I don't know that I've ever seen such a perfect match as those two boys."

"Speed was telling me some stories," Horatio said. "But I'm not sure if it was meant to make me feel better or just take my mind off of everything."

"Sugar, do I know the man who stole and broke your heart?" Alexx asked.

"He's not from around here," Horatio said. "Which might have been one problem. There's so much distance between us that it's hard to be together when all we had was the phone."

On cue Horatio's phone beeped. He took it out of his pocket and saw that he had a new text message. Frowning slightly he opened it and saw that the message was from Mac. It said to check his email.

"Good news, Horatio?"

"I'm not sure, Alexx," Horatio said. "Although it makes me wonder if technology is advancing a little too far."

"What do you mean?"

"I just got a text message telling me I have email," Horatio said with a small smile.

Alexx laughed. "Then someone wants to make sure that you are checking your email so it must be important," she said. "But you're not leaving the table until you're done eating, Horatio. You are not going to make yourself sick."

"All right," Horatio said softly.
********************

Later that night after Alexx had left, making sure to count the number of meals she'd made and left in the fridge so she'd be sure he was eating, Horatio secured his house and made his way to his home office. He wasn't really sure he wanted to check his email to see what Mac had sent him but he would.

The message was just general information about Mac's day at the lab; how his team was doing and general gossip. But there was a link at the end to an online video. Horatio debated for a few minutes before clicking on it. As he waited for the youtube video to load Horatio wondered exactly what Mac was doing and how it fit in with the apology the other man seemed so determined to make.

Horatio hadn't spent much time listening to Elton John in the past but as the slow song washed over him he realized exactly how the lyrics related to him. He was amazed that Mac had been able to track down such an expressive song. Horatio had to wipe the tears from his eyes several times as the song ended. He saved the message to show to Speed and went to bed.

***

As much as it pained Mac to admit it, Tim Speedle was right. He really didn't know much about his lover's past or family. And as he didn't want to ask such a personal question in an email or text message, Mac decided it was time to do some research.
 
"Hey Mac, we're all heading to Sullivan's," Danny said as he tapped on the door. "Do you want to come along? It might make you feel better."
 
"No thanks, Danny, I've got stuff I need to take care of here. I'll see you tomorrow."
 
"All right, but don't blame me if Stella drags you outta here," Danny grinned. "She's got that look on her face again."
 
"I'll keep my eyes open," Mac said. "Good night, Danny."
 
"Don't work too hard," Danny said as he shut the door.
 
Mac had to smile at how perceptive his young friend could be and focused on his computer. He wasn't sure of the best way to find information on Horatio's family so he simply entered the last name Caine into the newspaper archive search database that he favored.
 
The most recent article that popped up was about a man named Raymond Caine, an undercover narco cop who had been killed while he was working. At the end it mentioned Horatio as Raymond's older brother. Mac skimmed through the related articles and had to close his eyes for a moment. He couldn't begin to imagine what Horatio had been and likely still went through wondering if his brother was dirty or not.
 
The next article on the main list was about the death of an Elizabeth Caine at the hands of her husband. And then one on a Rodger Caine who was killed by his son. Mac read them both and felt an ice lump start to form in his stomach. Horatio had come home, found his father beating his mother, tried to save her and ended up killing his father. And then the mother had died anyway.
 
The last article was about a fireman named Hank Peterson. Ma was puzzled about what that had to do with Horatio until he started reading the article. He spared a thought that his lover was cute even as a kid but his primary focus was on what had happened. It didn't take much to read between the lines and figure out that Horatio had lied to the police. Mac just wasn't sure why.
 
He had picked up his cell phone and was halfway through dialing Horatio's number before he remembered he wasn't allowed to call. Mac growled and snapped the phone closed again. He had already picked out the song for the day so he went to the page and then opened his email. Mac typed another note to Horatio telling him about his day and attached the video link. Then he added a small note at the end and left for the day.
********************
 
Horatio was in his office working on reports when his computer beeped, letting him know he had a new email message. He finished the report he was working on, printed it for the case folder the hit and run driver had been arrested and then opened his inbox.
 
He wasn't too surprised to see that it was from Mac. Horatio couldn't help but smile at the description of Danny and Hawke's experiment and Stella's reaction to the loud bang and burst of light. Mac went on to say that he wasn't entirely sure what case the experiment had been for but it was fun to watch Stella chase Danny around the lab.
 
He clicked on the video link and, while he was waiting for it to load, finished reading the email. Horatio was puzzled by the last line and read it several times before the music started.
 
"Mac?" Speed asked from the door. "He's got an eclectic taste in music."
 
"I keep waiting for the jazz music," Horatio said. "Come and take a look at this, Speed."
 
Speed leaned over and read the line Horatio pointed to. "I understand but I want to know more," he read.
 
"Do you have any idea what he's talking about?" Horatio asked. "Because I don't."
 
"I told him he needed to ask you about your family," Speed replied.
 
"Tim, you don't think he went and found the police reports, do you?"
 
"I doubt it because that doesn't make any sense," Speed said soothingly. "Let me give him a call and I'll find out what's going on. Are you done for the day?"
 
"I've got one more report to write," Horatio said.
 
"You do that and then come to dinner with Eric and me. We've been wanting to try that new place on the beach and would love to have you come."
 
Horatio smiled weakly. "I'll think about it."
********************
 
Mac groaned when he saw the name on the caller ID. "Am I in for another lecture, Speedle?"
 
"You'd better believe it," Speed growled. "What the hell were you thinking researching Horatio like you would any other suspect and then letting him know about it? The man guards his personal life like a precious stone. He almost fainted when he thought you were reading the old police reports."
 
"I wasn't reading police reports because I didn't know there were any," Mac said. "I was in the newspaper archives and I only skimmed the results. Besides, you were the one who said I needed to know about Horatio's past and family."
 
"I told you to ask him about his family," Speed yelled. "There's a huge difference in asking someone and digging through their dirty laundry."
 
"Well, I am a CSI," Mac said.
 
"That's not funny, Taylor," Speed snarled.
 
He would have said more but the phone was taken from his hand. "Hello, Mac," Horatio said softly.
 
"Horatio," Mac whispered. He'd thought he'd never hear his lover's voice again.
 
"I'll understand if you don't want to be with me anymore," Horatio said in the same soft tone. "It's not how I would have chosen for you to find out about my past but what's done is done."
 
"It doesn't change anything, Horatio," Mac said. "I still want to be with you. I just didn't know how else to go about this. I didn't read the police reports. I saw the news articles on your parents and brother. I am so sorry about Raymond."
 
"So am I," Horatio said. "I still need time, Mac. I want to forgive you. I want to be back with you but I don't know if I can trust you."
 
"What can I do to help?" Mac asked.
 
"I don't know," Horatio replied. "I don't." He handed the phone back to Speed and left the room.
 
"Horatio?" Mac asked. "H?"
 
"He's gone," Speed replied. "I suppose we can count that as him reestablishing phone contact with you but don't deluge him with calls, Taylor."
 
Mac sighed. "I won't," he said. "Speed, I'd like to come to Miami."
 
"And do what?"
 
"Take Horatio to dinner and spend some time with him," Mac said. "I know you and or your partner have to be with us at all times and I'll follow the rules. But I really would like to see Horatio again."
 
"And what happens if he's not ready to see you?"
 
"Then I'll respect that," Mac said. "But I want to try."
 
"I think it's too soon, but okay," Speed said. "But you're going to talk with a friend of mine while you're down here."
 
"Another stipulation of yours?"
 
Speed chuckled, thinking of Alexx's exact words. "Nope," he said. "Hers. She considers the whole team her children and that includes Horatio. Think of it as meeting mom."
 
"Should I be worried?"
 
"Yes."

***

When Mac walked off the airplane in Miami he was a little surprised when a scruffy looking man walked right up to him. "I'm your ride, Taylor, so let's go."
 
"Speedle?"
 
"Yep," Speed said. "My friend is waiting at the lab to talk with you and it's not a good idea to keep her waiting longer than necessary."
 
"How's Horatio doing?" Mac asked as he followed the other man through the busy airport towards the parking area.
 
"He's a nervous wreck but managing to hide it well," Speed said. "Eric and I picked out the restaurant we're going to tonight. It's on the beach, moderately priced and fairly isolated as well. I don't like the idea of taking Horatio out in public for your first time back together but he's insisting on it."
 
"I promise to behave myself," Mac sighed. "Speedle, I know you don't believe me but the last thing I want to do is hurt Horatio."
 
"You're right, I don't believe you," Speed said. "You didn't hear him right after he left your apartment. He was crying so hard that I could barely understand a word he said. I've known H for years and I've never seen or heard him so broken before."
 
"You've never made a mistake with the one you love?"
 
"I'm far from innocent when it comes to my own lover but I've never cheated on him," Speed snapped. He pulled out into traffic. "And I've never broken his heart so badly that his friends are afraid that it can't be mended again."
 
"What can I do to convince you all that I want to help Horatio?"
 
"I wish I had an answer for that one," Speed said. "But I don't."
********************
 
Alexx was busy cleaning her tools after her last autopsy of the day when the door to the main room opened and Speed walked in followed by a dark haired man. "Hey Alexx," Speed said. "This is Mac Taylor from New York, the guy I was telling you about."
 
"Of course," Alexx said. "Welcome to Miami, Detective Taylor. I just wanted to talk with you for a couple of minutes before you leave for supper."
 
"What can I do for you, ma'am?" Mac asked.
 
She picked up her rib cutters and started to wipe them down. "Horatio Caine is one of my closest friends," Alexx said. "And I'm worried about him. It's obvious to anyone who knows him that Horatio has been hurt deeply. I know that you're the one who hurt him and I just wanted to make sure you understood a few things."
 
"I wish my team was as loyal to me," Mac commented.
 
"We're loyal to Horatio because he's loyal to us," Speed commented. "We are a family and we watch out for each other and that's something you have to learn."
 
Alexx opened and closed the rib cutters a few times before shaking her head and picking up the sponge again. "Timmy is going along with you tonight and he's going to be giving me a full report on the evening," she said. "And if I think for one moment that you've hurt Horatio then I'll have Timmy bring you back here and you'll get to meet a few of my friends."
 
"Friends?" Mac asked, his eyes fixed on the rib cutters.
 
"Starting with these," Alexx said. She grinned as Mac jumped when she snapped the cutters closed. Her eyes locked on his groin. "And I promise you won't like the results."
********************
 
Mac didn't dare to open his mouth until he was back in the Hummer with Speed. "Did she threaten to castrate me?" he finally asked.
 
"Yeah," Speed replied.
 
"I think I'm starting to understand exactly how much trouble I'm really in," Mac sighed. "But I'm still not giving up, Speed. I'm not going to give up on Horatio no matter how many threats you lay on my head."
 
"We're here," Speed said. "Remember the rules, a kiss on the cheek if he lets you that close and then Horatio sets the limits for the rest of the evening. If I think you're pressuring him for anything I won't hesitate to hit you."
 
"I'll behave," Mac said. He closed his eyes for a moment and took a deep breath. "Do I look as nervous as I feel?"
 
"Yes," Speed said. He hopped out of the Hummer and started towards the house.
 
Mac stood on the walk for a second just happy that he was able to see Horatio's house again. He'd been thinking that there wasn't a chance in hell that he'd ever be welcome back in Miami, let alone in his lover's house, although he was well aware of exactly how tenuous his welcome was.
 
"Are you coming or not?" Speed asked from the doorway.
 
"Yeah," Mac replied. He hurried to catch up with the other man and followed him into the house.
 
Speed walked up to a young Hispanic man and kissed him quickly. "Eric, this is Mac Taylor," he said. "Where's Horatio?"
 
"Out on the back deck," Eric replied.
 
"Save it," Mac said holding up a hand. "I've heard all the threats I can handle for one day. May I have a moment alone with Horatio?"
 
"No," Speed said. "But I'll stay in the doorway. Remember what I said about respecting his limits."
 
Mac took a deep breath, tried not to sigh and walked through the kitchen and out onto the deck. Horatio was standing facing the ocean. "Hello, Mac," he said softly.
 
"How'd you know I was here?" Mac asked.
 
"You can come over, just don't touch me," Horatio replied. "I heard the front door open."
 
"You know you're setting the rules for the evening, right Horatio?" Mac said softly.
 
"Yeah," Horatio said.
 
"I'll say it a thousand times, but I'm so sorry Horatio," Mac sighed. "You have a good team here; they're ready to kill to protect you."
 
Horatio snorted. "They won't hurt you, Mac," he said. "No matter what happens to me. You don't have to fear for your personal safety."
 
"You know I'd rather die than hurt you," Mac said. "And if I thought it would help anything then I would because I know how badly I did hurt you. I can see it in your eyes."
 
"You read the articles, you know what I grew up around," Horatio said softly.
 
"H, I only know what they put in the paper and you know how things can be twisted around by the media," Mac said. "I would like to hear about your past from you when you're ready to tell me about it. I'm sorry I pushed like I did but I wanted to know what had happened and it seemed like the best way at the time."
 
"Do you think there's hope for us, Mac?" Horatio asked.
 
"If I can earn your trust back, yes," Mac replied seriously.
 
"I don't know if I can trust that deeply again," Horatio said. "When I let you into my heart like I did, it was the first time since I was eleven that I had trusted anyone so deeply. And then you took that trust and threw it back in my face like it didn't matter."
 
Mac moved closer, being careful not to touch the other man. "Horatio, I know exactly how much you opened to me but I also know that you kept pieces of you back," he said. "If you would have me I'm willing to take all my vacation and sick time off from the lab to try and make things right with you."
 
"I don't know that we can do that in a month," Horatio sighed. "I don't know if I'd be able to do it if we had years."
 
"The last time I took a vacation or a sick day was before my wife died," Mac said. "I'm not sure exactly how much time I have saved up but I'm willing to be its close onto a year or more. And I'm willing to spend it all with you, if you'll let me."
 
"Mac, there's a part of me that wants nothing more than to feel your arms around me again and your lips on mine," Horatio said. "That part of me still wants to feel you in my body and have you in bed with me. But another part of me says that opening up to you again like that will only hurt me. I've been going in circles over this since I left New York. And I'm no closer to an answer than I was before."
 
"I can promise you that you'll never have to worry about me straying or cheating on you ever again," Mac said. "I've thought over the events of that night and realized that our new ME looks like Claire. I don't have an excuse for my actions, things got out of control and you're the one paying for it. But I'm not lying to you when I say that I couldn't respond to her. She felt wrong against me and looked wrong. All I wanted was to see your expressive blue eyes and your wonderful red hair. I felt disgusted when I realized exactly what I was doing. If there had been a way to burn the bedding I would have. You're the only one I want, Horatio Caine."
 
Horatio sighed and moved a little closer to Mac, letting their arms touch. "I want to be with you too, Mac, but I don't know how."
 
"Will you trust me to teach you?" Mac asked. "I swear no sex or touching until you're ready. We'll do it right this time. We're going to talk and learn things about each other and then we'll move back to the physical relationship."
 
"I don't know, Mac," Horatio said. "But I'll think about it."
********************
 
Eric walked up behind Speed and wrapped his arms around his lover. "How are they doing?" he whispered in Speed's ear.
 
"It's hard to say," Speed replied. "Mac's offered to take time off from his lab to come down here and spend time with H. Maybe he'll be able to fix this after all."
 
"And if he can't?"
 
"Then we're going to be spending a long time picking up the pieces of Horatio's heart and soul," Speed said.

***

Horatio was silent through dinner, staring out at the waves. Speed and Eric took the time to question Mac about not only himself but New York as well. And Speed made a special point to ask about Danny. After they had finished up their desserts, Horatio stirred. "Come walk with me, Mac," he said softly.
 
Mac looked automatically towards Speed. "Go ahead," Speed snorted. "You know the rules and what'll happen if you don't follow them."
 
"Alexx Woods will be the least of my worries," Mac said as he stood to follow Horatio down onto the beach.
 
The red head took off his shoes and socks and left them tucked under the stairs leading up to the restaurant's deck. He was rolling up his jeans as Mac followed suit. "You met Alexx?" Horatio asked.
 
"And her little friends," Mac replied. "She told me in no uncertain terms what she'd do to me if I hurt you again. You have a loyal team here, Horatio. I wish I could say the same about a couple of my people."
 
"It was hard on you, losing Aiden," Horatio said.
 
"It was but I think it was harder on Danny," Mac said. "I trust Stella and Danny with my life. Hawkes won't carry a gun but he's a loyal man and I know Don always has my back. It's Lindsay I'm not sure of. It's like she never really fit into place."
 
"I know how that is," Horatio sighed. "We had a woman named Megan who used to work with us. She brought Speed into the lab and was his mentor until her husband was killed and she left the force. When she came back she wasn't the same. In the end, she vanished again. I have no idea where she went or what happened to her."
 
"I can speak from experience that losing someone you love changes you," Mac said. "And I know you can too. Horatio, would you be willing to tell me about your firefighter friend?"
 
Horatio stopped and let the waves wash over his feet. "I love the ocean, Mac," he said. "Whenever I have a hard day, or I just need a chance to relax, I go to the beach. I'll just sit and watch the waves wash up over and over again until the sound helps to calm my mind down. And I especially love the beach at night, when I don't have to worry about getting a sun burn."
 
"You must come out here a lot," Mac said.
 
"There's not one beach I favor over another," Horatio said. "They all have the ocean. It's more a matter of which one I can get to the fastest when I need to calm down. That's one reason I live where I do. So I can hear the waves at night."
 
"Have you always loved the ocean or did you fall in love when you moved to Miami?" Mac asked.
 
Horatio snorted softly. "When I was eight my uncle took me to the shore for the weekend," he said. "I was awed by the waves crashing on the shore and wanted to swim but he wouldn't let me. There was a storm off shore and it was too dangerous. But I snuck out onto the deck at night and just listened to them. I wanted to memorize how they sounded. Then, when things got bad at home, I was able to go back to the ocean and I felt at peace."
 
"I'm glad your uncle gave you such a precious gift," Mac said.
 
"Me too, although he paid for it in the end," Horatio said. "My father didn't like the idea of me leaving the city so he banned my uncle from ever coming over again. It didn't stop him, but he didn't dare come around the house. He died of a heart attack a couple of years ago."
 
"I'm sorry," Mac said.
 
"Hank found me on the stairs one day after school," Horatio said. "I was working on algebra. My teacher had encouraged me to check the book out of the school library because she could see that I had a quick mind and was ahead of my class in math and science. She did what she could to help me but I wasn't allowed to stay after school for any reason so I was mostly working on my own. I didn't like working in the apartment because it was too loud and I was punished if I left a mess anywhere. Hank was an engineer, he was the one who drive the engine to the fire and also worked the pumps to get the water to the fire so he was really good at math. He walked past me a couple of times without saying anything more than a hello but I could tell that he wanted to help me. Finally, after he'd had a really bad day at work, he sat out on the stairs with me and we just talked for a bit. Even back then I could tell when someone was lying to me or wanted something bad and he didn't. He just wanted to be my friend. I figured out later that he'd heard some of the shouting from my apartment and wanted to make sure that everything was okay; he was the reason the cops had shown up a time or two."
 
"Firefighters are some of the nicest, most noble men and women I've met," Mac said. "Horatio, is it okay for me to put my hand on your shoulder?"
 
Horatio nodded. "It took some time because I was still pretty wary about adults wanting to be friends with me," he continued. "But Hank proved himself to be a true friend, one who also happened to be an excellent teacher. When it got too cold to work outside, he invited me into his home. It became a place I could go without worrying that my father would find out because, as far as he knew, I was in the building and close enough to get to him fast if he called. I have my suspicions on how he found out about Hank but one night my father dragged me down to Hank's apartment. He broke down the door and attacked Hank. I'm not sure if the beating killed him or if it was the fact that my father poured lighter fluid over him and set him on fire, but I was too late to save him. That's when I vowed never to let anyone get close to me again."
 
"I'm sorry, Horatio," Mac said, squeezing his lover's shoulder. "How old were you at the time?"
 
"I was eleven. My teachers all noticed the fact that I withdrew from everything but my studies and tried to tell my parents about their concerns but they didn't care," Horatio said. "You're the first person I've ever let get that close to me, and that includes Speed. He's my best friend but he doesn't know everything about me."
 
"Thank you for trusting me enough to tell me about Hank," Mac said. "Is there a memorial for him up in New York?"
 
"No," Horatio said. He reached up and put his hand over Mac's. "I lied to the cops because my father threatened my mother. She was so beaten into submission at that point that I felt I had to protect her in any way I could. I'm sure the officers knew I was lying but there wasn't the forensics back then so they couldn't prove anything."
 
"Horatio, when you're feeling more stable, how would you feel about going back to New York and getting a proper headstone for Hank?" Mac asked. "I can find out where he's buried easily enough and you could finally get a chance to tell him good-bye and thank you."
 
"It's my fault he's dead, Mac," Horatio said. "I seriously doubt that he'd want to hear my voice again, if he even could wherever he is."
 
Mac moved around in front of Horatio and made eye contact as best he could in the dark. "Horatio, if you found a young boy who needed help you'd give it to him without question," he said. "I know you would; you've got such a big heart. And if the parent came after you for helping their child, would you blame the child for that or would you blame the idiot parent who was too blind to see what was really going on?"
 
"The parent," Horatio said softly.
 
"So why do you hold so firmly to this idea that it's your fault?"
 
"Because I didn't have to go to his apartment," Horatio replied. "I already knew what my father was capable of and I should've known better than to try and make friends with anyone. I drew my father's attention to Hank and that's what got him killed."
 
"You are so stubborn," Mac said. He ran a finger along Horatio's cheek. "I think it has to be this red hair of yours. I'll concede the point for now, Horatio, but I'm going to manage to convince you at some point that Hank's death was not your fault. Yes, you knew that your father was violent. But you didn't know that he would kill someone just because they wanted to be your friend. Look back at the situation with an adult's eyes, with your lieutenant's eyes. I know your heart tells you that you killed Hank, but you know better than that."
 
"Do that again," Horatio said softly.
 
"This?" Mac asked. He ran his finger along Horatio's cheek again. Horatio closed his eyes and leaned into the touch. "I still love you, Horatio, and right now I'd like nothing more than to take you home and hold you all night. But I know that Speed, Alexx, Eric and probably the rest of your team would kill me for it."
 
"Not if I told them it was at my request," Horatio said. "I didn't realize how much I'd missed your touch, Mac."
 
"I have too," Mac said. "We'll have plenty of time together when I get back from New York. It shouldn't take more than a week for me to get everything in order and let my boss know I'm taking an extended leave of absence and Stella can take over the shift for me."
 
"Are you sure you want to do this, Mac?"
 
"I'm positive," Mac replied. "Horatio, I'd quit the lab and move to Miami tomorrow if I was positive we'd be together forever. But I think this is the best course of action right now because you're still healing."
 
"You're right, Mac," Horatio said. "Come on, we should get back before Speed starts to worry."

***

Next part of First Time.