Speed walked blindly beside his captor, arm held in a painfully tight grip. The blindfold had been tied so tightly the pressure was making his head hurt, but he didn't dare ask for it to be loosened. The cigarette burns still hurt terribly, and he was in so much pain from his last beating that he could barely walk. He didn't need any more strikes against him.
He could feel the difference in the air when they stepped outside. After walking a few more feet, the man squeezed Speed's arm. "Stop." He stopped, and listened to the sound of a door being opened. He was pulled forward and forced to sit down. Speed began to panic the moment he realized that he wasn't sitting in the cabin of the car. He gripped the sides of the trunk and tried to get out. His captor shoved him roughly back, forcing him into the trunk.
"No!" Speed cried, still struggling to get some leverage and pull himself out of the trunk.
Speed was struck twice on his arm, hard. "What the hell is wrong with you?" Horatio's voice asked. "Be still!"
"Cl-laustrophobic," Speed choked out, still struglling to get away.
"Oh, damn," he said with an exasperated sigh. "How could I forget that?" Speed felt a hand grab his hair and jerk him forward. He was almost certain that he would be allowed to ride in the cabin, but before he was brought out of the trunk, there was a sharp, painful blow to his head, and he lost consciousness.
When Speed came to, he was still in the trunk. His head pounded, and he felt decidedly sick. He fought the nausea and his rising panic, trying hard not to focus on the confines of the trunk. It was almost impossible. Nearly every part of his body was touching something, no matter how hard he tried to curl in and pretend he was in wide open spaces. By the time the car stopped, he was light-headed from taking so many quick shallow breaths, and he was already starting to gag.
As soon as the trunk was opened, Speed shoved his head out and vomited. He prayed he wasn't losing his tiny meal all over the kidnapper's shoes. He could only imagine how many lashes that would be worth.
When the gagging stopped, Speed's arm was gripped again, and he was forced to walk quickly away from the car. Eventually, his bare feet made contact with a cold, hard surface, much like the floor of his cell. For a moment, Speed wondered if they had gone in some huge circle, simply for the purpose of making Speed insane, but soon, they stepped over a threshold and Speed felt wood under his feet, covered with a light film of dust.
After a moment, the blindfold was removed, and he could see that they were inside an empty warehouse. In the eerie light given off from the flashlight his kidnapper carried, Speed could see empty metal shelving lined up at at random intervals here and there, and chains of forgotten uses hanging from the ceiling. Before he could take in much more of the scene, Speed was jerked back to attention by a sharp squeeze on his arm.
"Walk." Speed walked forward, following the flashlight's beam and the guidance of his kidnapper. When they reached the far wall, the man inspected what looked like a small fuse box on the wall. He pressed a few buttons, and several flourescent lights came on, illuminating the cold warehouse. Another, much smaller box with several buttons on the outside hung from a hook on the bottom of the fuse box. It reminded Speed of a remote control from the sixties, only with many more buttons. The look-alike took it off its hook and looked it over for a few seconds, then looked at the ceiling, taking interest in some of the coiled chains above them. Speed looked up, too, wondering what the man was searching for. "Hey!" Speed jumped at the harsh tone. "What the fuck are you looking at?"
"I... n-nothing, sir," he said, lowering his eyes to the floor.
"Sit down and mind your own business," he snapped.
Speed sat with his back against the wall and stared at the floor. For the next few minutes, Horatio's double paced back and forth in front of Speed. He was still curious about what the man was doing, but not curious enough to risk getting beaten for being nosy. Finally, Speed saw the man's feet approach and stop only inches away from him.
"Get ready, Timothy." Speed looked up, disturbed by the man's tone. He held the giant remote in one hand, and his cell phone in the other. "Things are about to heat up."
"Ugh!!" Calleigh ran a hand through her hair and stood up, stalking away from the table. "Does the man never talk on the telephone?!"
Horatio understood her frustration. After almost four hours of monitoring, the only phone call Peter Underwood had taken was an unsuccessful attempt to sell the new resident a subscription to Field and Stream. Wolfe sighed and drummed his fingers on the table.
"Coffee. You guys want coffee?" No one answered, and Wolfe nodded. "I'm gonna get coffee," he said decisively. He stood up, and the phone rang.
"Guess who." Horatio gasped, jarred by the sound of his own voice coming from someone else. His voice. Even though he had already seen the physical evidence proving he had a twin, the experience of hearing his own disembodied voice over the receiver, knowing he hadn't spoken the words, was unsettling at best.
"Oh my God! Is it really you?"
"Yeah, it's me. How've you been?"
"I've been all right. Oh, it's so good to hear your voice. I was worried about you."
"Worried about me? Why? You know I can take care of myself."
"The police are looking for you, Ulysses," Underwood said gravely.
There was a long pause, then Ulysses said, "Listen, Number One. I need your help. I hate to pull you into something after all this time, but-"
"Name it, Captain. If you need my help, all you have to do is ask."
"I knew I could count on you," he said. "Meet me at the warehouse on 5th and Main. Don't let anyone follow you."
Horatio was already on his feet. "Did we lock the wireless signal?"
"He's right where he says he is, H," Eric said. "We got him."
"Wolfe, call for backup and meet us there. Calleigh, Eric, let's go. It's time to bring Speed home."
"I hate to pull you into something after all this time, but..." The man smiled. "I knew I could count on you. Meet me at the warehouse on 5th and Main. Don't let anyone follow you."
Speed listened to the conversation with a growing sense of confusion, bordering on alarm. Why was he talking to this "Number One" as if they hadn't spoken in years, when he'd just finished talking to him before their impromptu road trip? What was he doing?
Speed was so intent on puzzling out what his abductor was up to that it was several seconds before he realized that he was staring up at the man's face with a frown that would almost certainly be construed as disrespectful. He lowered his eyes immediately after he realized his mistake. "What's the matter, Timothy?" he asked. "Do you have a problem?"
"Are you sure? The way you were looking at me, I thought surely you had a problem."
Speed shook his head. "No, s-sir, n-no problem."
"Hm. You're lucky I'm in such a good mood," he said, stepping away.
Speed was unable to relax, even though the danger of another beating had apparently passed. He knew something was building, and it frightened him. He longed to ask what exactly was going on, but he didn't want to attract any more negative attention.
After a few minutes, Speed thought he could hear faint, barely distinguishable sounds coming from outside the warehouse. He tensed, straining to hear more. The Horatio twin took a few steps toward the door, listening as well. After a moment, he turned quickly, a bright (and, to Speed, disturbing) smile on his face.
"It's time! Get up." Speed started to stand, but the dizziness from his recent blow to the head made him slow. "Up!" the man shouted. "Get up!" He yanked Speed to his feet and forced him to face the door. He stood behind Speed, pressing the gun against the back of his head. He leaned close to Speed, stopping only after he was close enough for Speed to feel his breath making the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end. "Now. Stand very still, and be very careful, Timothy. Do you understand me?"
"Y-yes, sir." He moved back, but the gun stayed pressed against Speed's neck. Speed stood in front of him, shivering and growing more and more nervous as the seconds passed. Speed began to think that they had been imagining things, or that the noises were animals or random cars. Suddenly, the door burst open, proving him wrong.
Horatio strode in, flanked by Eric and Calleigh. Speed could have cried from sheer relief. He choked back a guttural sob at the sight of Horatio, gun drawn, eyes fixed on him with an unreadable expression. It was all he could do to force himself to be still, even with the gun against his neck. He wanted to run to Horatio, fall into his arms and just be held. He wanted it so much it almost made him sick, but he gritted his teeth and stayed still. Horatio was here. Horatio would make it right.
There was a tense moment when nothing happened. No one spoke. No one moved. Then, finally, Horatio said his name. "Speed." His voice cracked, and Speed could feel tears coming to his eyes. To hear Horatio's voice again, coming from Horatio and calling his name with love, seemed to him the most stunningly beautiful sound he had ever heard. "Are you okay?"
Speed nodded and took an involuntary step forward. "Timothy!" Speed jumped and his trembling grew more violent. "Down."
Speed closed his eyes, unwilling to see the expressions on his friends' faces while he was brought to his knees. He could feel the pressure of the gun against the side of his head. I won't kill you before you get to see your boyfriend again. Speed could feel the tears rolling down his cheeks. Was this why Horatio had been brought here? To watch him... Speed held his breath, clenched his fists tightly, and waited for the end.
Horatio approached the warehouse door slowly, wary of an ambush. The warehouse lights were on, which struck him as odd for a man who was supposed to be hiding out. Calleigh cleared the shiny Camry with the New York plates, noting softly that there were biological matter resembling vomit near the trunk. Horatio nodded his acknowledgment and continued his slow approach. Horatio stepped up to the door while Eric made a quick circuit of the building. He came back and gave Horatio the all-clear signal.
Horatio listened carefully for a moment, intent on picking up any sounds from inside the building. He heard nothing. He glanced at Calleigh and Eric. "Here we go."
Horatio kicked open the warehouse door and stepped inside. Speed stood directly across from him, blocking his view of the perpetrator. Horatio felt a nearly overpowering surge of relief when he saw Speed, followed almost immediately by horror and fury. Speed was thin - he'd lost at least thirty pounds since Horatio had last seen him. His face and arms were badly bruised, and his shirt was stained with dried blood. His eyes, seeming much larger now that his face was so drawn, glistened with unshed tears, and he trembled visibly.
"Speed," Horatio said, unable to keep his voice as steady as he would have liked. "Are you okay?"
Speed nodded, taking a hesitant step forward. "Timothy!" Horatio glared, unnerved by the sound of his own voice, so harsh and sharp. "Down."
Horatio's fury rose to a whole new level when he saw his beloved Speed sink to his knees on command. He strode forward, but stopped suddenly when Ulysses held the gun to Speed's head. Horatio looked into Ulysses' eyes, taken aback by the sight of his double, despite all his mental preparation. Ulysses seemed almost equally affected, and for a moment, it seemed they were both experiencing the exact same sense of wonder.
In less than a second, the moment passed, and Horatio trained his gun on Ulysses' head. "Don't do it," he said grimly, slowly closing the gap between them. He could hear Calleigh and Eric moving with him.
"Duquesne and Delko, I want you to back off," Ulysses said. Horatio took another step forward and Ulysses scowled, shoving the gun harder against Speed's head. "Keep them back, Horatio!"
Horatio tensed and glanced at his team mates. They looked hesitantly at him, searching for guidance. "It's all right," he said softly, then took another step toward Ulysses and Speed. Ulysses didn't object, and Horatio continued to walk, very slowly, toward the two men. "Let him go, Ulysses," Horatio said. "It's over. You must know that."
Ulysses shook his head. "Not quite." He held up a small, black box and pressed a button. Suddenly, a raucous sound of clanking chains filled the air around him. He looked up to see metal walls dropping down from the ceiling. Within seconds, the walls had slammed to the floor, closing the three men in a steel trap at least ten feet high.
"H!" Eric's panicked voice was slightly muffled. "Horatio! Damn!"
"Horatio, are you okay?" Calleigh's voice called, sounding equally strained.
"I'm fine," Horatio called out. "Call Wolfe and find out where that backup is!" The first shock over, he focused his attention back on Ulysses and Speed, who was now staring at the metal walls in horror. Ulysses grinned at Horatio, never once moving the gun from Speed's head. "Let him go, Ulysses," Horatio said. "Backup is on the way, and there's no way out."
"I'm not ready to get out yet," Ulysses said. "And this little cozy room will secure our privacy for a while. Now put down the gun."
"You know I can't do that."
"Put it down!" He clipped the giant remote to his belt and yanked Speed by the hair, pressing the gun to the back of his head. "Do you want to see his face blown off? I'm not going to count to three and give you a chance to shoot me, Horatio, I'm just going to do it if you don't put the fucking gun down now!"
Horatio hesitated. If he shot now he ran the risk Ulysses clenching his fist in death and killing Speed. But if he put the gun down, all the firepower would be with Ulysses alone, and he might kill Speed anyway. One look at Speed, shaking and struggling against tears, decided it for him. If he held onto the gun, Speed would definitely die. Horatio lowered his arms and clicked the safety on his gun. He slowly put the weapon down and stepped back.
"Slide it over here," Ulysses said. Horatio slid the gun toward Ulysses, who stopped it with his foot.
"All right," Horatio said. "What do you want from me?"
"I wanted you to get to know me, Horatio," he said simply. "I wanted you to know what it was like to be me."
"Why Speed?" Horatio asked. "Why not just take me? He's innocent in this."
"Well, technically, so are you, Horatio," Ulysses said. "So was Peter. And so was I. I figured it would be more... effective if you were the one making the discoveries, since I am your brother. Besides, if I took you, how could you know the helplessness of watching someone you love get hurt when there's nothing you can do about it?"
Horatio's anger flared. "I already know what that's like! My life hasn't been a bed of roses either, Ulysses."
"Tell me about it," he said, looking genuinely interested.
Horatio looked down at Speed, who was watching him nervously, still on his knees with a gun to his head. How the hell was he going to get them out of this? "My... our father was abusive. He beat our mother, and he beat me and Raymond, my... our little brother."
"The narc?" Horatio nodded. "Died nobly in the line of duty, right?"
"Yes," Horatio said. "I protected him from our father, just like you protected Peter from Joseph and Lila. I tried to protect our mother, too, but..." Horatio's voice faltered. He hated talking about this, but if it would keep Speed alive, he would have to do it. "I... I couldn't save her. I fought my hardest. I... killed him. But I still couldn't save her."
Ulysses looked thoughtful. "Hm. Amazing how life creates parallels, isn't it?" Horatio thought, for just a moment, that he might have gained a step. Then Ulysses glared. "Still, I could have done without being that bastard's little..." His chest started to heave, and his face grew red. "Why would she keep you, and not me?"
The question was strained - almost a plea. Horatio took a slow, cautious step forward. "She wanted both of us, Ulysses," he said. "I want to show you something." He took another step forward, and reached slowly into his breast pocket.
Ulysses gave Speed's hair a rough jerk, and Speed cried out. "Be careful, Horatio," Ulysses growled.
Horatio moved slowly, pulling out the corner of his mother's diary. "It's just a book," he said softly. He took it the rest of the way out and held it out to him. "Take it," he said.
"Slide it to Timothy." Horatio put the book on the floor and slid it toward Speed. "Pick it up," Ulysses ordered, letting go of Speed's hair. Hands shaking, Speed picked up the book and waited for the next instruction. "What do you want me to see?" Ulysses asked.
"Speed," Horatio said gently. "Try and find May 30, 1960."
"Yes, sir." Speed looked up after he said the words, clearly horrified by the automatic response.
"It's okay, Speed," Horatio said, shoving down his own whirlwind of emotions. "Go ahead."
Speed looked up at Horatio when he had found the page. "Hold it up so I can see it, Timothy," Ulysses commanded. Speed did as he was told, and Ulysses read through the entry, his expression changing to one of slight confusion.
"There's another. August ninth."
"Find it," Ulysses snapped. Speed hastily found the page and held it up for Ulysses to see. He read it, and his eyes grew shiny. "So much for that pipe dream," he said, his voice thick with emotion. Horatio recalled the last line of the entry: I just pray that he'll be placed in a happy home.
"There are a lot more entries like that in there, Ulysses. Our mother never stopped looking for you. She never forgot you."
Ulysses clamped his jaw tightly. "Give it back, Timothy."
"No," Horatio said. "I want you to have it." Ulysses looked at him, genuinely surprised. He took the book from Speed and slipped it into an inner pocket. Horatio could hear the sound of sirens screaming outside.
"Well," Ulysses said. "It looks like the moment of truth has arrived." He pointed the gun at Speed and clicked the safety off.
"Ulysses!" Horatio cried, surprised by the panic he could hear in his own voice. "Don't make this worse. Right now, it's a kidnapping, and a few vandalism charges. A decent lawyer can-"
"What? Get my sentence reduced to seventy-five years?" Ulysses smiled and shook his head. "Not a chance, Horatio. Do you know what would happen to me, walking around Federal prison with your face? Do you know what the guards would do to me after kidnapping a cop? We're twins, Horatio, and neither one of us is an idiot. You know I wouldn't last a day."
"Don't make this murder, Ulysses. Speed is innocent."
"Lay down, Timothy." Speed looked at Horatio with wide, teary eyes, chest heaving. "Do it, Timothy. Don't make me discipline you in front of Horatio." Speed whimpered, and his breathing grew even more ragged. He glanced once more at Horatio, his eyes crying for Horatio to save him. He lay face down on the floor, and Ulysses kept the gun aimed at his head. Horatio forced himself to take slow, even breaths.
"You're right, Horatio," Ulysses said. "Speed is innocent. And so is Peter." Horatio frowned slightly. "Peter is innocent," Ulysses repeated. "He's not an accessory. He didn't help me plan this, he didn't help me fund it. He's off the record."
Horatio nodded slowly. He understood Ulysses completely. Peter Underwood had obviously helped his brother to stage a meeting, so that CSI would come out to this warehouse, but he hadn't done anything else criminal. If convincing the D.A. not to prosecute Underwood was a condition of Speed's release, so be it. "I'll make sure he isn't touched by this," Horatio said. "I give you my word."
Ulysses took three steps backward and smiled at Horatio. "If you're anything like me, and I know you are, I trust you to make good on that." Horatio heard the searing hiss of a welding iron, and glanced at the right wall. "Well, brother," Ulysses said. "Our little reunion is at an end."
Ulysses raised the gun, and Horatio feared for a moment that he was going to shoot himself. Instead, he clicked the safety back on, holstered the gun, and pressed another button on the remote control. The floor dropped from under him, and he disappeared beneath the wooden slats.
Horatio's eyes widened, and he moved toward the trap door. By the time he reached it, the door had been raised again. There were no handles, and the seam had been made to fit the pattern of the floorboards.
A moment later, all thoughts of Ulysses and his unexpected escape were driven from his mind. "Horatio?" He turned away from the trap door to see Speed sitting up, face streaked with tears, trembling arm outstretched.
Horatio was at Speed's side in an instant. He wrapped his arms around Speed and held him tight, fighting tears of his own when he felt just how thin and frail Speed had become. Speed trembled in his arms and clutched his shirt like a small child, staring at his face as if he wanted to memorize every detail. Horatio kissed his forehead and smiled. "It's over, sweetheart," he said. "Everything's all right now. I promise you that. No one's ever going to hurt you like that again, as long as I live."
Speed opened his eyes slowly. He was in a low-lit room, lying on something smooth and soft. Mmmmm. A bed. He hadn't seen a bed in a long time. He ran his hand along the crisp sheet. His sheets weren't this sharp. They were softer than this. Smoother. Whose bed was he in?
He turned his head slowly and smiled. Horatio! Then he frowned and tensed slightly. Was it Horatio? There was reason to believe that it might not be, even though the idea seemed almost silly to him. There was reason to believe that he was in danger. He swallowed nervously. He didn't want to be in danger. He wanted to go home.
The redheaded man smiled, but his eyes looked sad. "It's me, Speed," he said quietly.
Speed smiled, relieved. "This isn't home."
Horatio shook his head. "We have to stay here for a little while longer, but I promise to take you home as soon as I can."
Speed nodded. "I love you so much," he said.
Horatio smiled. "I love you, too. Oh, Speed, I was so afraid I would lose you."
Speed closed his eyes, still feeling drowsy. "You couldn't," he said. "You always make it right." He felt a gentle hand on his head, and Speed slowly drifted back to sleep.
When he awoke again, the lights were much brighter, and he felt far less foggy. He was in a hospital room. He had another brief moment of nervousness when he saw Horatio sitting beside him. What if he'd come back and... Horatio patted his arm. "It's me, Speed," he said. "It's only me."
Speed sighed and closed his eyes. "I'm sorry, Horatio," he said weakly, hating the hurt he could see in Horatio's face. "I'm so sorry. I just can't..."
"I understand, Speed. We'll get through it together, okay?"
Speed nodded. When Speed felt well enough, Horatio called in the photographer, and pictures were taken of his many bruises. He was extremely embarrassed at having to expose his body to a stranger, even though he had photographed the wounds of other victims many times before. When it was done, he leaned back against the pillows, gripping the covers and trying not to seem upset.
"I'm sorry, Speed. I know this is difficult," Horatio said. "But there's just one more thing, and you can rest. I think we should call in the SART nurse now."
Speed shook his head. "I don't need one," he said.
"Speed, I know it happened a while ago, but you know that evidence-"
"No," Speed said. "It didn't. He didn't rape me."
Horatio looked confused. "Speed. He left messages for us, telling us things that had happened in his childhood. Things he planned to do to you. That was one of them."
"I thought it felt like he was acting things out at times," Speed said, remembering the ritualistic tone he'd noticed at certain times during his captivity. "He sounded like he was reciting lines when he... when he hit me. But he didn't rape me. He tried." Speed shuddered. "He almost did. But I..." Speed hesitated, almost too ashamed to talk about it even to Horatio. "I was crying," he said in a voice so low Horatio had to lean in to hear. "I couldn't stop, and he didn't - he couldn't go through with it."
Horatio heaved a deep sigh of relief. "Thank God," he whispered. "I was so afraid you wouldn't be able to... to trust me again."
"Me, too. It was bad enough to have him yelling at me, and b-beating me l-looking like you, but I would have just..." His lip started to tremble, and he looked into Horatio's eyes. "I love you. It would have killed me."
"It's over now," Horatio said. "Over."
"Did... did we catch him?"
Horatio shook his head. "He got into a maze of tunneling under the warehouse. Calleigh's working on getting the plans from the city, so that we can find out which tunnels lead out to open air. I'm afraid, though, that by the time we get the plans and search each one, he'll already be gone."
"Do you think he'll come back?" Speed asked, unable to mask the panic at the edge of his voice.
"No, Speed. No. He got what he wanted. He won't come back."
Speed tried to relax, but it was difficult. He comforted himself in the knowledge that even if the man - Ulysses - did come back, Horatio would protect him. They would be ready this time. Horatio wouldn't let Speed get hurt again.
Horatio smiled when Speed got into the car. He was still very thin, but the bruises were healing, and so was Speed. Only rarely did he look at Horatio as if he wasn't sure who he was. It usually happened after Speed woke suddenly from a particularly bad nightmare, and he recovered more quickly than he had in the first few weeks after his return.
Ulysses had escaped. They found several places in the tunnel system which could have brought him to freedom, and no one could find evidence to place him in any particular opening. They kept the wire tap on Underwood's house for weeks, but he never received another call from his brother. The tap was removed after Underwood left Florida to take a tour through his other stores.
Horatio kept his promise to Ulysses and convinced the D.A. not to press charges against Underwood. The only evidence they had that he knew anything about the crime was the recorded call, and they had both been careful to make it seem as if that was the first time they had spoken in years. Underwood had even called Horatio a few minutes after the call to say that he'd heard from his brother, though he hesitated to say where he was located. Horatio was sure that it was all a ruse to keep up the illusion that he wasn't in league with his brother, especially since Speed had told Horatio about the previous call. Still, the case was difficult to make.
There was no other evidence that Ulysses had been assisted by Peter Underwood. Even the rental car he used could not be tied to him. He hadn't actually gone to meet Ulysses, and there was no evidence that he had helped him in any way other than their telephone call. Speed was certain that Underwood had never come to him in the cell before Ulysses revealed himself. He was shorter than Ulysses, and Speed felt that the mannerisms and speech patterns had been consistent throughout. Also, he was not interested in seeing Underwood prosecuted if it in any way increased his likelihood of being attacked by Ulysses again.
Horatio still wasnít sure how he felt about having a twin brother. He was appalled by what Ulysses had done to Speed, but he wondered what he would have been driven to if he'd had such an awful childhood. His father had been abusive, yes, but his mother had been a steadying and gentle force, shielding him from much that Ulysses had been exposed to. He suspected Ulysses of killing his adoptive parents, but hadnít he ended up killing his own father for the same reasons? Biologically, they were the same person. Only their circumstances were different. Horatio couldnít help but sympathize with him in some way because of this. And even that bothered him a little.
None of these musings could depress him for very long, though, when Speed was nearby. He grinned at the package Speed set down in the back seat. "So... how are the parents?"
"Good," Speed said. "Still worried about how skinny I am, though. Obviously." He jerked his head in the direction of the back seat. "Ma says that casserole is guaranteed to make me gain at least five pounds."
Horatio chuckled. "Well, keep it away from me, okay?"
"Between her and Alexx, I'll be lucky if I don't end up fifty pounds heavier than I was before!"
"Oh, you'll be fine. The martial arts lessons will keep you toned, I'm sure."
"Hmph. We'll see. So what are you going to show me?" he asked. "And why won't you just tell me what it is??"
"Because it's a surprise," Horatio said. "What kind of surprise would it be if I told you ahead of time?"
Horatio drove to his house and let Speed in. Speed frowned slightly at the sight of the end table set. Horatio just smiled and beckoned to Speed. "Come on, don't you want to see the surprise?"
Speed caught up, and Horatio led the way to his bedroom. He opened the door, and Speed gasped. "You..."
Horatio smiled. It had been difficult making sure his parents would be able to keep him occupied throughout the morning, and he'd had just enough time to do what he wanted. Speed's dresser fit nicely on the right wall, and his favorite blankets went well with the color scheme in Horatio's room. "I, um... I'd like you to live with me, Speed," he said. "Permanently, not just on the weekends."
Speed beamed. "YES," he said fervently, pulling Horatio into a tight embrace. "But what about work?" he murmured softly. "We're not supposed to..."
"We can keep your apartment. You can go there first if you want, or just keep riding your bike to work."
Speed smiled, and Horatio kissed him gently on the lips. "When I was in that room with him, I kept thinking, 'I want to go home'," Speed whispered. "I knew everything would be okay if I could just go home. But all this time I've still been afraid, and I think now I know why."
"Oh?" Horatio asked.
"I wasn't home yet. I was in my apartment, with all my stuff. But that's not home. This is. You are." Speed sighed, and squeezed Horatio, leaning his head on Horatio's shoulder. "I'm happy when I'm with you. I'm safe. I feel like nothing can hurt me when I'm with you."
"It can't," Horatio said, kissing him and holding him tight. "I won't let it." He held Speed tightly, breathing in his scent, again feeling the intense joy and gratitude that had come over him when he first realized just how close he'd come to losing Speed forever. Never again. I'll never let you go again.