Summary: Horatio put on his sunglasses and slowly turned around in a circle, taking one final look at the water and the city he'd loved. "It looks like Miami is finally closed for business."
First of all, I want to point out that this is a story that's a crossover with The Stand. As such, just about everyone and their brother has died. Died as in dead. D-E-A-D. It is a death!fic! There are a few graphic descriptions of certain people's deaths and other iggy things that happen. While I can, and will promise you that the main pairing, Horatio/Speed, have made it through the Flu, just about everyone else is dead.
I don't want to ruin the surprise for people, but just the fact that this is crossed over with The Stand should give people the clue that not many people made it through the Flu. I just didn't want someone to read this and go "Why didn't you say it was a deathfic?" It is! So don't say I didn't warn you!
And while it is a death fic, I gotta say it's still awfully fluffy. Sort of. You won't want to slash your wrists or anything. There's hope at the end of it, at least I think so. I know I'm spoiling y'all even more by saying that but I'm the type of person who sees Death Fic as a warning and shies away and I didn't want to scare y'all too badly.
So ... yeah. Hope you like the story! And that's just odd to say about a death fic. ~rolls eyes at self~
Horatio stood in the sand of his favorite beach and watched the sun rise up over the Atlantic, the dark of the sky slowly lightening to purple and then a pinkish-reddish hue that would eventually give way to bright blue skies and the dazzling sun that normally brought thousands of people to Miami at any given time of the year.
It was the morning of the fifth of July, and Horatio could detect the faint smell of smoke. Only this year it didn't have that hint of gunpowder that the pyrotechnics with the fire department would have used for the city's fireworks display over Miami Beach.
No, this smoke smelled of burnt homes and businesses. It smelled of overturned cars and overheated wiring and heat lightning that had ignited the dry grasses and timber in the Everglades.
It smelled of human flesh, cracking and crisping as the dead were cremated by the dozens of fires large and small that were slowly overtaking the city.
In the past two weeks, Miami had become a city of the dead and Mother Nature had started reclaiming it.
Horatio continued to watch the sun slowly rise out of the water, his sunglasses firmly in place. He didn't want to turn around and see the ruin his city had become, and he knew if he looked to his left, twenty yards away there was a line of lounge chairs. Most of them were empty but a few had corpses. He wondered if they had been part of the city's homeless who had no beds to retreat to when the Superflu came, or if some of the city's darker people had dragged the corpses out there to put on some sort of macabre display.
For once, Horatio didn't want to know.
Looking right was no better. There was an overturned beach patrol buggy, and a body on the ground a few feet away. There was nothing Horatio could do for the body; the morgues were full even if the power had been running to keep the bodies preserved. There was no criminal to bring to justice, only the Flu and those who created it and let it loose on the world. With any luck, and if there was such a thing as justice, they had been the first to die. They certainly hadn't been the last.
The first in Horatio's personal circle to get sick had been Alexx. In a way it wasn't surprising. Any time there's an epidemic the doctors, the ones who dive in and treat the victims, are usually the first to tire themselves out and then accidentally get infected. Forget to put on a mask, prick themselves with a dirty needle, rub their tired eyes with gloved hands and then belatedly remember they had just soothed a dying patient with the same hand.
Only she hadn't gotten Captain Tripps from the hospital, or one of the patrol officers or detectives who came in coughing. Alexx hadn't even gotten it from one of the recent dead she usually tended to as a medical examiner. Alexx came in one sunny morning complaining about her husband Peter's summer cold and how he'd already given it to their son. She started coughing two hours later.
Three days later she, her husband and Bryan were dead. The only survivor of that family was her little girl, Janie, who hadn't spoken a word since.
Eric was the next to die, but he wasn't alone. His mother and his sister, Marisol, had died that morning in the overcrowded hospital. Eric died at home, his father and two remaining sisters following him the next day. Now, twenty-five days after Alexx first gave a delicate cough into her hand, Tia Delko, the two-year old niece of his co-worker, and more importantly, his friend, was all that was left of the vast Delko family.
Tia would look at Horatio and his lover with big wide eyes that were so confused and Horatio hated the fact that he had no answers for her. That was one of the reasons he'd gotten into forensics in the first place, when the victims asked him why did someone do such a thing, Horatio liked to have answers.
There were no answers to Captain Tripps. At least not anymore. Whatever answers there might have been were in the grave.
Frank Tripp died in harness. He'd been sick but tried to continue to work. When he became too ill to go out he answered phones and tried to help the few dispatchers who were still working. When the fever got too high and his lymph nodes and neck started swelling and he started to become delirious they had taken him to one of the bunk rooms for officers pulling long shifts and tried to use damp washcloths to bring the fever down. He died not long after.
Yelena had been one of the lucky few to die in the hospital, Ray Jr. at her side the entire time. By some sort of miracle, the young man never got sick and during one of his visits Horatio noticed more than one person looking at them both with hate-filled eyes, cursing them for their good health while everyone they loved were dead or dying. He had taken the young man back to the station with him when Yelena slipped in delirium. He never got a phone call telling him she was dead.
Calliegh, bright, beautiful, wonderful Calliegh had been next. By then the National Guard was out and even they were among those panicking and rioting. Horatio had gathered his people and what was left of their families back at the labs and had done what he could. Calliegh died on the couch in his office, and he'd been holding her hand. It was the least he could do for his friend.
The Flu hadn't caused the next two deaths. That had been despair or maybe just simple insanity. John Hagan, Calliegh's on-again, off-again beau took his lover's body back into the ballistics lab after Horatio and his lover had said goodbye, and, laying her down in front of Calliegh's prized exemplar cabinet, laid down beside her and ate his gun.
Officer Aaron Jessop, a young man Horatio had great hopes for, died protecting a young woman from a group of men out looking for "slaves". He along with a few other survivors had been going through different areas of the city, looking for others, and found some of the darker elements trying to force a young nurse into a van. He was shot and killed, but not before killing one of his assailants and wounding three others, the shots alerting the others that he needed help. He died as he had lived, protecting others.
The nurse's name was Kate Daniels and she was one of the first survivors they'd gathered back at the police station. They found a retired Army doctor tending to a young girl who was the last survivor of her family. Dr. Peirce's hands shook with age and Horatio could tell by the look in his eyes that he had seen too much death, but little Meg wouldn't let go of his him unless he was going to the bathroom. The old man would tug on her braids – her titan-red hair reminiscent of Horatio's before age and the sun had faded his own bright red out some – and called her his Little Leg Growth.
Patrol Officer Ryan Wolfe and another officer had taken a Hummer and drove down U. S. 1 down to Key West and worked their way back up. It took them three days to check all the Keys and they only found twenty survivors.
By that time, the dreams had started. Horatio had never been one for superstition or faith, he trusted science. Then science betrayed them all and all he and the other survivors were left with were the dreams of an old black woman who "still baked her own bread" and a man with Darkness for a face and whose boot heels echoed on empty streets lined with the dead.
Horatio found Dexter Morgan four days into their search for the living. He'd had heard good things about the blood-spatter analysts but for some reason had never met the man. He was always leaving when Horatio walked into a room or meeting. At the time Horatio thought nothing of it since he wasn't part of his lab, but the man he found in the satellite lab had blood covered clothes and eyes that showed an empty soul.
He refused to come with them, saying he had work to do in Las Vegas, but had asked Horatio to take care of a young boy named Cody. Horatio's hand had gone to his gun at the mention of Vegas but the man looked at him and promised he was going there to undermine Flagg, not help him. This was said with no emotion whatsoever. Horatio took Cody back to the station and hoped like hell that the man's obvious problems had started after the Flu.
He didn't like to think otherwise.
Amazingly enough Rick Stetler was one of the ones immune. Maybe not so surprising. His lover would say that it was because heaven didn't want him and Satan was afraid he'd take over or nit-pick him to distraction. Privately Horatio wondered if Stetler was like a cockroach, able survive a nuclear blast. He certainly scuttled like one at times.
Yet the morning after the night the survivors had agreed to head to Nebraska, Stetler was gone along with a handful of others. No note was left, but Horatio knew in his soul that the man was headed to Las Vegas.
That of course, turned his mind to the friends and colleagues he'd made from that city, and others. Catherine Willows had come off a bit strong when he'd first met her, but she and Warrick Brown were good CSIs and good people. From what he'd heard their supervisor, Dr. Gil Grissom was a good man as well, if a bit strange. He wondered if they had survived the Flu.
He wondered if they'd be able to get out of Vegas before Flagg got there.
He'd formed a long-distance friendship with Mac Taylor from the New York lab, and his lover called his friend Danny Messer at least once a week. He wondered how their lab had fared in the wake of the Flu. His first partner when he was just a rookie, the man who trained him, Don Cragen was a captain in the Special Victims Unit. Did he make it through? Did his first girlfriend? The first boy he kissed?
Okay, his first girlfriend --if she was living-- was probably halfway to Vegas by now. She'd been a real piece of work.
A wave washed up almost to his feet and Horatio shook himself out of his thoughts and stepped back. The tide was starting to come in and bits of driftwood and other debris was being washed up on the shore. It was still early but the sun had cleared the horizon and the sky was turning blue. Horatio relished the sight, tried to memorize it. In the water he could see dolphins playing, undisturbed by humans swimming or water skis. Gulls circled over the waves before sweeping down to catch breakfast, their familiar caws seeming loud without the usual sounds of humanity.
He would miss Miami.
The waves came closer and he took a few more steps back, turning slightly to the side so he could still see the ocean but could now see the familiar architecture of Miami. The morning light was glinting off the windows of the Wachovia building. Miami's skyline had always been a beautiful sight, and there had been plans to build even more skyscrapers in the coming years. Even now the Four Seasons Hotel & Tower stood nearly completed. It was depressing to think they'd never be finished.
In the distance was the sound of a motor and Horatio tensed up, his hand going to the butt of his gun. While they believed they had gathered all of the survivors in the area, a total of some forty-five people, there was always the chance there were others out there like the four who had killed Jessop. Most of the adult survivors and some of the teens, including Ray Jr., had all been getting a quick lesson in firearms and self-defense.
As the sound got closer though, Horatio relaxed and a rueful smile crossed his face. He would recognize that engine anywhere, it was as familiar as his own Hummer's. He should have known better than to try to escape Speed's mother-henning.
Alexx's death had hit his Speed hard, harder than any of their other friends. His lover really had looked to her as a mother. With her death, Speed had taken over as the team's caretaker, taking first Janie and then Tia and Ray under his wing, going so far as to provide schooling for the children despite the world falling apart around them.
While Horatio had organized their defense at the station and looked for other survivors, Speed had taken over organizing supplies and getting everyone fed. It had been Speed's idea to acquire one of those outdoor grills and propane tanks to cook with, and Speed who suggested clearing the morgue of bodies and using the generator in there to keep any perishables they could scrounge cool along with the various medicines that Dr. Peirce and the other medical people were gathering.
Horatio didn't know what he would have done if Speed had died of the plague. And that was part of his problem.
All of the survivors, except for maybe baby Tia, had more than their fair share of survivor's guilt. What made them immune? Why were they alive when so many good people died?
There wasn't an answer for that, not that it would matter. There was no way there could be a good answer for that.
Out of the corner of his eye he saw the yellow Ducati come to a stop and Speed putting down the kickstand. The first day or two after most of the plague victims had seemed to have died and they had started gathering more survivors at the station, Speed had taken advantage and not worn a helmet. At the time, Horatio hadn't said anything. After all, despite his lover's habit of, well, speeding, he trusted Tim's ability to handle his motorcycle. It had been the other drivers he'd worried about.
That had stopped when his lover had gotten splattered with one of Florida's famous – or infamous – love bugs and had nearly wrecked when one hit him on the corner of his eye while going at 85 miles an hour. It was and wasn't funny, Speed could have died but the humor overrode anything else when Speed had been swearing and scraping bug remains off his Ducati and Horatio had broke down laughing which had eventually led to Speed laughing and then the laughter turned to tears as they allowed themselves to grieve.
But Speed had started to wear a helmet again. He said it was so when they left Miami he'd be patched into Horatio's Hummer thanks to the microphone in the helmet, but Horatio knew it was so he wouldn't get any more bugs in the face.
Horatio only had to wait a few moments before he heard Speed's voice. "I don't know why I bothered to look for you at the house, I should have known you would come here."
Horatio responded with a wordless hum but allowed Speed to pull him into his arms.
"Ready to talk about the dreams yet?"
They'd all been having dreams. Mother Abigail on her front porch in Heminford Home, Nebraska. Rocking away in her old rocking chair, humming one hymn or another. The corn taller than it should be for July. Sometimes the dreams would turn dark and it would suddenly be night and there would be animals – rats, snakes, something larger sometimes – in the corn. They were His.
The Dark Man's dreams were always different. Sometimes it was just dark and terrifying. Bodies on the roadway coming to life and attacking, people being crucified on crosses made out of telephone poles.
But the other type of dreams Flagg sent, the temptation ones, the ones promising him the ability to track down some of the worst miscreants left alive if only he came and worked for Flagg. Those were the ones that bothered him.
But it was the ones about Speed that Flagg sent that were the worst. Those were the ones that kept Horatio from sleeping. No amount of over the counter medicine or even the xanax that Dr. Peirce was handing out could suppress those.
"Come on, H, tell me."
Horatio sighed and took off his sunglasses. They were leaving Miami today, at least they were supposed to be. Before the fires became worse and gutted the city. But Speed would handcuff him to the bed and force everyone to stay unless Horatio told him about the dreams. His lover was evil like that.
"We're walking into a jewelry store and you're talking about how you're never giving up your motorcycle. I don't know why but I get the feeling it's in the fall. Then things ... change. There are men coming from the back and shots are fired. The next thing I know is that you're lying on the ground bleeding ..."
Horatio stopped to collect his thoughts for a moment before going on. Since the Flu, he had been much more emotional at times. That was a good thing, he supposed, but he wasn't always comfortable with it. Even with Speed. Thankfully Speed understood him, as always, and pulled him closer without interrupting him.
"Everything stops at that moment, except for me. I'm sitting on the floor, your head in my lap. There's blood on your lips. And then the owner of the store's face seems to – to melt and it's Flagg. There's a few minutes of ... sympathy I suppose. He's sorry he's having to show me this. But he's wanting to prove a point, that I should be thankful for the Flu. If it hadn't been for 'good ol' Captain Tripps' the scene in the jewelery store would have been my future. Your future. You would have died that day, Speed. And then Flagg starts pointing out that I was thankful, for the Flu. Thankful that all those good people I had sworn to protect were dead." Horatio took a deep breath. "It varies from that point. Sometimes Flagg points out how many people died, and sometimes he asks me how the people following Mother Abigail would feel to know I was waking up each day thanking god for destroying their families just so mine could survive."
The sound of the gulls overhead seemed louder to him, but that was just because Horatio was waiting for Speed to say something. To berate him, to console him, to tell him not to worry ... anything.
Finally Speed took a deep breath. "Look, I may not be very religious but there's one thing I remembered our parish priest back in Syracuse saying that I've always kept in mind. The devil, or Flagg if you want, is two-faced. He'll either try to scare people into following him, or he'll tempt them. That scene in the jewelry store may have been what was going to happen. I might have been fated to die if the Flu hadn't killed nearly everyone and their brother off. Then again he might be lying through his teeth and getting a hard on from all the angsting you're doing about it. Screw him. Don't let that bastard jerk you around, Horatio Caine. You are a good man, and just because you're glad we both made it through alive doesn't mean anything else."
"Survivor's guilt." Horatio knew that was the problem, how could he not? But it was one thing to acknowledge the problem and another thing to deal with it.
"Yep. You're not the only one who Flagg's playing around with, you know. It's how he gets his jollies."
Horatio turned in Speed's arms so he could see his lover's face. "You too, eh?"
"Yeah." Speed's voice was harsh. "Bastard. Flagg points out that where we're going is going to be filled with 'so-called good religious people' and how most of them won't like gays." While he was technically bisexual, Speed had been gay bashed before when he was younger and his own parents had been less than happy about Speed's life choices – his job choice, his moving away, his relationship with Horatio – and Horatio could guess how many demons the dreams had brought up for his lover.
Horatio sighed and leaned his forehead against Speed's. "I would think that most of the radical type right-wing people will be heading for Vegas." The loudmouth preacher who had been going on about the end of days had left at the same time Stetler had. "We've never cared what others thought about us, we shouldn't let a little thing like the world ended to change that."
Speed chuckled. "Oh, nice and sarcastic. I've been rubbing off on you, H."
Horatio smirked and squeezed Speed's middle. "Not lately but maybe we'll get Ray to watch the girls tonight for an hour and do some rubbing then."
Speed pulled back for a moment, his mouth gaping before he started laughing. Horatio had to let him go, Speed was laughing so hard. It was a good sound, one of his favorites and he couldn't help but smile at Speed.
He loved this man with all his heart. He wasn't going to let some ominous dream of the future destroy what he had now, or any of Flagg's machinations. And if Nebraska or wherever they ended up didn't accept them for who they were, they'd leave. Speed and his little family, Ray Jr., Tia and Janie, was more important.
"What are you thinking?"
Speed had stopped laughing and was giving Horatio one of his looks. Horatio gave him his most innocent look back. "Whatever do you mean?"
"I mean that you're thinking up something wicked. Everyone else always thought you had no sense of humor but I know better than that, H, you're thinking up a prank."
Horatio reached out and grabbed Speed's hand and started walking up the beach to the vehicles. "No prank, Speed, I promise. I just thought that since we're leaving in a couple of hours, that now would be a good time to face my fears. I know where that jewelery store is, I thought we'd go there, see if anything was left by the looters."
Speed took a moment to catch up to him, but his hand never left Horatio's. "What? You want a souvenir of where I was supposed to have died, H? That's ... twisted and morbid." He chuckled. "I kinda like that idea."
Horatio rolled his eyes. "It figures you would." He'd keep quiet on what he was looking for until he saw the selection. Hopefully there would still be some wedding rings in stock that would fit them.
They came to a stop near the vehicles and paused. Separate vehicles were a pain in the ass at times but Speed would cut off his arm before leaving his Ducati. Horatio understood that, he'd even insisted on leading their group of survivor's out of Miami in his favorite Hummer while the kids and most of the survivor's who couldn't shoot that well would be protected in RV's. It had been Speed's suggestion, saying it would be easier to keep the kids calm if there were bathrooms, food and beds available, not to mention DVD players. Speed and Ryan would be scouting ahead on bikes while the rest of their group followed along behind Horatio's Hummer. One of the survivors was a mechanic and he was in charge of the wrecker while one of the doctor's drove an ambulance in case they found any more survivors that needed medical help.
The rest of the survivors would follow in RV's, with a couple of the other surviving police would guard the read of their convoy. Horatio had been unsure about giving Detective Lowery a Hummer but the man was a good cop if a bit undisciplined. He trusted the man to watch his back. They were planning on leaving just after noon, and while they probably wouldn't get very far today hopefully once they managed to make it to the interstate there wouldn't be that many cars blocking the way.
At the end, people had done everything to try to escape the Flu. Getting in their cars even as they were coughing, hoping they could out run it. It didn't make much sense to Horatio, but he supposed none of it did really.
"It's going to be weird, leaving Miami."
Speed's statement echoed what Horatio was thinking and he hummed an agreement and fiddled with the sunglasses in his hand. "It is. We can always come back at a later date."
Speed picked up his helmet and shrugged. "It will never be the same."
"No. No, I suppose it won't be." Horatio put on his sunglasses and slowly turned around in a circle, taking one final look at the water and the city he'd loved. "It looks like Miami is finally closed for business."