by Bob

The orange blossoms are all around him, swirling in the air. The tickle his nose and catch in his hair and dance down his outstretched arms. The breeze is warm and sweet-smelling, and he pretends it's all not real. If he tries hard enough to pretend, the flower's kiss is a snowflake melting down his cheek, the breeze is an icy January snap like dragon's teeth, the smell is hard and acrid and tastes like pine trees and blood and bricks. Somewhere, a thousand miles to the north, it's still below freezing at night. Somewhere, a thousand miles away, his old friend sleeps with water dripping from a rotten ceiling and pooling behind his ear, and he can hear it go drip-drop, drip-drop. He concentrates so hard he can taste the bitter tin wire tang of the water from the hallway's puddles, he can smell the grey air.


He starts from an almost dream, an almost real fantasy. Horatio's hand almost on his face reminds him of that old friend, his wise, sage and maddening smile. Same large, round, swirling blue hurricane eyes, like the weatherman's doppler map on TV seen through squinty eyes, blurred and beautiful.


"Yeah." It feels like love, but not a romance novel. No, it feels like he used to feel for his captain, his old friend. He would fight for Horatio and there's the scary part, he'd crew-battle for a cop, for a man who wears not a captain's badge but a cop's badge, a golden eagle run rampant over a city's beloved seal. Cutter should call this city home but can't and maybe it's better that he doesn't. He might forget the wind's kiss as he ran across the gabled rooftops, all lanky limbs, shouting over the snowflakes for Limpet and Artemus to follow.

More than fire, he's always loved the snow. Even more than fire.

"You okay?" Always the same gentle press of the question, like layer upon layer of blankets on a winter night, not the drowning gullet of the humidity here.

"I'm fine." He's fine, only remembering, which mean's he's not fine, but who can tell anyway? They always do this now, since the case was over and Cutter exonerated, they always sit in the park on Thursday afternoons and watch the children and springtime. It is always green here, nothing of the sudden overnight lushness of a Massachusetts May. None of those rich paint colors, like an artist had taken the freshest brush and the brightest paint and the whitest canvas and given it all perfect new breath. No. But there are the blossoms, tickling his face like snowflakes, life and death.

In the snow was hiding, in the cold was the promise that there would somewhere be warmth.

In Limpet's arms in the biting night was warmth and safety and the promise of dawn, of a someday somewhere sort of sanctity that kept them going. Something like Miami, where it's eternally warm and the air smells like a dozen different kinds of fruit and the blossoms fall like the snowflake flowers of a crabapple tree.

He's found somewhere. He's fine.

He smiles.


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