My Immortal
Chapter 8 - Bring Me To Life


Get better. For the next twelve days, those words or some variation of them were spoken by a myriad of visitors at Horatio's bedside. Word of his condition spread fairly quickly, and visitors came one after another to visit his bedside. Former teammates from his days on the bomb squad, close friends, victims and victims' family members whom he'd touched in a special way while working on their cases - all came to see him and tell him how important he was to them. Many left gifts, some told Horatio how they were doing now and how grateful they were for everything he had done for them, and some just stood silently and watched him breathe for their entire visit. Several people shed tears during their visits, and Speed was nearly brought to tears himself by the outpouring of gratitude and love Horatio received each day.

However, though many people cajoled, begged, or demanded Horatio go "get better", he seemed to be doing just the opposite. Speed eavesdropped on as many of the doctors' conversations about Horatio as he could. Apparently, while Horatio's gunshot wound was healing normally, he was still falling deeper and deeper into the coma. He still needed the machines to breathe for him, and his doctors were afraid that he would never regain consciousness, despite all the well-wishing visitors pleading with him to do just that.

Finally, almost three weeks after he'd been shot, Horatio took a turn for the worse. Late in the evening, a few hours after the last of the visitors were admitted for the day, one of the machines beside his bed started beeping. Speed jumped to his feet and rushed to Horatio's bed, peering at the machines to see what was going on. A nurse came in almost immediately on the same mission. She checked the machines and gasped. Speed's stomach churned. That couldn't be good. The nurse pushed a button on Horatio's bed, probably paging a doctor. A second later, however, Speed was far less concerned with what the nurse was doing. Horatio opened his eyes, looked at Speed standing over him and smiled broadly.

Speed smiled back automatically, but he was beyond confused. The nurse still seemed to be very worried about Horatio, and the machine was still beeping urgently. In a moment, Speed understood. Horatio sat up, and Speed saw a slightly translucent version of Horatio still lying in the hospital bed, eyes closed. Horatio hopped out of bed and grabbed Speed into a strong embrace. Speed squeezed back just as tightly, eyes beginning to fill with tears. He hadn't been able to touch Horatio and know Horatio could really feel him for far too long. Holding him and being held back was the most beautiful thing he'd ever experienced.

Too soon for Speed, Horatio pulled away and looked into his eyes. Horatio's eyes were filled with tears, too. "Oh God, I haven't seen you in... it's just been too long," he said. He pulled Speed into a tight hug again, then started kissing him.

Speed kissed back, tears streaming down his face. He'd been near Horatio for months, but he hadn't realized just how much he'd missed holding him and kissing him. They kissed each other over and over, until finally they started to calm down. They stared at each other for several seconds, and the world seemed to disappear for Speed. Just as it had when he'd first seen Horatio in the jewelry store, his vision clouded, and only Horatio could be seen clearly. He was beautiful.

"It's still dropping!!" Speed was startled by the seemingly out of place exclamation. The world suddenly came back into view, and Speed saw three nurses and two doctors bustling furiously around Horatio's body.

"Horatio," Speed said. "I love you so much."

Horatio smiled. "I love you, too." He glanced back at the hustle and bustle around his hospital bed. "Pretty strange, isn't it?"

Speed nodded. "I... I..." Speed's chest felt heavy, and he suddenly found speaking very difficult. "I want you to go back," he said.

Horatio looked at Speed, and his smile faltered slightly. "Why?" he asked.

Speed could feel tears falling fast down his face. "Because I love you," he said. "And... a lot of people love you. They... they need you to be alive."

"And I need to be with you," Horatio said fervently. "You don't know how much I've missed you all these months. Speed, I can't lose you again."

"I'll still be there," Speed said. "I'll stay with you as long as you live. We can..."

"Communicate with each other through kid's toys? Feel each other through cold spots and spontaneous breezes? I want you, Speed, not your ghost. I need you. I don't care about anything else."

Speed smiled, though his tears were still falling. He was beginning to care less and less about how much he thought Horatio was needed in the world, and more about how much he needed Horatio. How happy he would be if Horatio could stay with him forever. That really would be heaven. He heard the doctors and nurses surrounding Horatio's bed grow a little more frantic, but it was a dull murmur compared to the sound of Horatio breathing right in front of him. He took Horatio's hands in his and was about to embrace him when someone ran into the room and slammed into them full force.

Speed, Horatio and the unknown person tumbled to the floor together. Speed worked to extract himself from the tangle. After a few moments, he could see that the person who'd run into them was a thin young man who looked to be in his early twenties. His whole body trembled, and he was weeping and stammering out apologies. When they finally got to their feet, the young man edged away, looking like he might be about to run again.

"Hold on," Horatio said.

The boy darted away from them, but Speed grabbed his arm. "Wait!" Speed said.

The young man cringed and raised an arm in defense. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry!" he said hastily. "Please don't!"

Speed frowned. "I'm not going to hit you," he said gently. "What's the matter?"

The boy ran his free hand through his dark curls and stared at the ground. "I... I just want to leave. Please."

"Where are you going, son?" Horatio asked.

"Heaven. Hell. Wherever, it's gotta be better than my house." He glanced up at Speed for a second before turning his eyes to the floor again. "Please let me go, sir," he whispered.

Speed and Horatio looked at each other, expressions mirroring each other in their pity for the young man. "It's really that bad?" Speed asked. "There's nothing you'd miss? No one who'll miss you?"

The young man snorted. "No," he said in disgust. "My mother's dead, my brother hates me and my father tried to kill me. Again." He looked at them each in turn, then tugged away from Speed. "He succeeded this time," he said.

"Wait, there has to be something you want to live for," Speed said. "You just-"

"There's nothing," the boy snapped. "Let go of me!" He snatched his arm away. "I'm not going back again, ever! If you care about my life so much, you live it!" The young man ran off before they could stop him.

Speed looked at Horatio, eyes wide, heart racing. "Dammit, we're losing him!" one of the doctor's shouted, breaking through the silence.

Speed gasped. "Go!" he said.

"What are you-"

"I'm gonna find that kid! Then I'll find you. Go! " Horatio moved back toward his own body, and Speed headed in the direction the young man had come from. With one last look at Horatio, he took off as fast as he could, more than grateful for his super-natural speed. He found the young man four rooms away, surrounded, as Horatio had been, by several nurses and doctors. His body looked to Speed just as Horatio's had - slightly transparent. Like the shadow of a real person.

Feeling a bit like he was sneaking into someone's house, Speed stepped through the medical staff and sat down on the bed. He laid down in the same place as the young man's body, shuddering at the odd feeling of being in the same physical space as something else. Speed whispered a short prayer to whoever would listen, shut his eyes and hoped for the best.


Pain! The first thing Speed was aware of was blinding pain in his chest. He screamed and opened his eyes. Fear! Strangers in bizarre outfits surrounded him. One of them held two metal plates over his body. Somehow, Speed knew the metal plates were what had caused the pain. He cringed and shook his head."Oh my god, he's back!" one of the strangers exclaimed. "He's alive!"

The strangers all started grinning, patting each other on the back and shaking hands. One of them - an older man with a kind face - smiled at him and patted his shoulder gently. "You'll be all right now, Jeremy. You'll be okay. You just rest, and we'll get you home as soon as we can, okay?"

Speed only stared at him. There was a sickening twist in his gut at the mention of "home". He didn't want to go there. He never wanted to go there again, ever, but he had no idea why. He knew that he was supposed to be Jeremy, but he didn't understand that either. He was Timothy, not Jeremy. Speed closed his eyes and tried to shut out all the confusing information. The kindly older man said something about giving "Jeremy" some space, and the room got quieter. Speed relaxed a little, and soon fell fast asleep.

When Speed awoke, he was in pain again. This time, the pain wasn't confined to his chest. He was sore all over, with extra-sore spots in his ribs, his right ankle, and his head. He looked angrily at the various IVs plugged into his arms. Surely one of these damn things has a morphine drip in it. Speed tried to ignore the pain as best he could and focus on where the hell he was and what was going on. Slowly, Speed began to remember what had happened over the past months. His more recent memories were confusing, because he kept getting snatches of memories that didn't seem to belong to him.

The false memories were disjointed, and all seemed to relate directly to his physical pain. He remembered being struck in the chest with some kind of stick. He remembered punches to his chest, arms and face, and several kicks to his legs and back. He remembered twisting his ankle and falling down stairs. He remembered hitting his head hard on a very hard surface. Speed shuddered at the strange flash-backs that didn't belong to him. If that's what Jeremy had meant by his father trying to kill him, he could understand why he wouldn't have wanted to come back.

Speed waited as long as he could, but finally called for a nurse and asked if he could have something to ease the pain. The nurse conslted a chart, gave him a shot, then left him alone. Soon, Speed was asleep again, only to be awakened by a harsh voice calling to him. "Jeremy!" the voice hissed. "Jeremy! I know you hear me, you rotten little son of a bitch."

Speed opened his eyes and glared at the man speaking. He was a large, beefy man in his late fifties. Speed immediately noticed the abrasions on his knuckles - a clear sign that he'd been punching something pretty hard. This asshole must be dad. Speed quickly pressed the button for the nurse's station. Jeremy's father glared and raised a hand. "Right here in the hospital? Man, you must be a complete idiot."

The man stared at Jeremy in disbelief, probably having never heard such a candid statement from his son. He lifted a warning finger. "You're delirious, so I'll let that go for now," he said darkly. "But you're gonna eat those words when we get home. And if you tell anybody what happened to you, I swear I'll kill you."

Speed just stared at him, remarkably unfazed by the death threat. He supposed it must be hard to put the fear of death into a person who'd already been dead for months. Jeremy's father seemed nonplussed by Speed's reaction. He growled, muttered something about delirium and stormed out of the room just as one of the nurses walked in. Speed didn't bring up the encounter with his not-father - merely asked for a glass of water and something to eat. When he got the meal, he ate slowly, and settled in to figure a way out of this place and back to Horatio.

The next morning, Jeremy's father came in briefly to reinforce his threat. Speed pretended to be apathetic, but he was actually starting to get pretty pissed. Who did this asshole think he was, threatening him like that? Son of a bitch.

After Jeremy's father "visited" him, no one else came to see him. No siblings, cousins, no friends. No one. He was left to his own devices, except for periodic visits from hospital staff. Most of them seemed to feel sorry for him, and a few spoke to him with a degree of familiarity that told Speed Jeremy spent way too much time in the hospital. He spent nearly two weeks confined to his hospital bed.

When he was finally allowed out of bed, he immediately went in search of Horatio. He found it difficult to get around, and not just because Jeremy's three broken ribs and twisted ankle kept him confined to a wheelchair. He felt like he didn't quite fit in Jeremy's body. Jeremy was two inches shorter than Speed had been, and several pounds thinner. Moving and controlling the foreign limbs was a bit awkward, somewhat like being stuck in an ill-fitting costume.

Still, Speed managed to wheel himself to Horatio's room in intensive care. He was disappointed to find that Horatio was not there. The nurse's station informed him that Horatio had been released from the hospital three days before. Speed was eager to get out himself, but he had no idea how close he was to a release date.

Five more days passed, and with each day, Speed felt stronger and more attuned to his new body. He practiced the exercises that the physical therapist had taught him during her two complimentary visits, and struggled to get around the room without succumbing to dizziness. Slowly, the effects of his concussion started to fade, and he finally started to feel truly better. One of the doctor's mentioned something about gathering documents and processing his release from the hospital.

On the date of his release, Speed was given clothes that had belonged to Jeremy, as well as his wallet and other belongings. Speed donned the threadbare clothes, which seemed to be just a little too small for him. When's the last time they bought this kid any clothes? A less familiar nurse informed him that someone had contacted his family to secure a ride. Speed frowned. No way he was dealing with that freak again. He found a pay phone and dialed Horatio's number. The machine picked up, but Speed decided against leaving a message. Instead, he called H's cell phone number. Voicemail. Speed sighed. He tried the station directly. "Miami Dade Police Department, how can I help you?"

"Hi Claudia, this is Detective Sp-" Speed stopped suddenly. Shit. "Um... I... c-could I speak with Lieutenant Horatio Caine please?"

"I'm sorry," Claudia said slowly, sounding confused. "Lt. Caine is in court today. Is there a message I can leave him?"

"Could you tell him... um... tell him I need a ride from Washington Memorial Hospital?"

"I'll give him the message. What's your name, sir?"

"T- Jeremy. Jeremy..." Speed hastily pulled out the wallet and checked his driver's license. "Richardson," he said. "Jeremy Richardson."

"Okay, Mr. Richardson. I'll give him the message as soon as he gets in."

"Thanks."

Speed sat in the waiting room, guessing that Jeremy's family wouldn't rush to the hospital immediately the moment they heard he'd been released. Speed took some time to look over his belongings. He had a set of house keys and a pack of gum in his pocket. His wallet was fairly barren as well. Driver's license, four dollars and an alumni card from Florida State University. Well, Speed thought. Jeremy's got a degree!

Speed studied the driver's license. His full name was Jeremy Edward Richardson. He was 22 years old (born in January), 5'11, 136 pounds, with black hair, brown eyes and a worried expression, even in his DMV photo. Speed was struck by the similarities to his own true face. If Jeremy's cheeks were filled out a little more, and if his eyes were shaped just a little differently, he probably could have passed for a close relative of Speed. Speed would definitely miss seeing himself in the mirror, but considering the circumstances, he was glad to have found such a close match. He'd get used to the differences.

Speed found a few of the less boring magazines, and flipped through them to pass the time. He'd made it to magazine number four when an unfamiliar voice shouted at him. "Jeremy! Hey, Jeremy!!" Speed looked up slowly. A tall, muscular young man bearing a strong resemblance to Jeremy's father was walking toward him. "Come on, get up! Let's go, you little shit!" Several people in the waiting room gasped at the boy's language. Speed merely sighed and slowly put the magazines down with deliberate care and attention. The other man, presumably Jeremy's brother, took Speed by the arm and yanked him to his feet, setting Speed's head spinning. "I said let's go, asshole! I don't have all day!"

Speed wrenched his arm away from the man and glared. "Back off, you stupid son of a bitch!"

Jeremy's brother glared, grabbed his shirt front and gave him a violent shake. "Didn't I warn you never to call me stupid?"

Speed's head swam, and he started to sweat. This was the last thing he needed right after recovery from a concussion. "What's going on here, Jake??" a loud voice shouted. Speed's stomach churned. Great. Jeremy's father stood over them, looking expectantly at the two of them.

"He called me stupid again," Jake replied.

The father growled and grabbed Speed by his collar. "I warned you about calling us stupid!" he bellowed. "I didn't let you go to school just so you could come back to my house and insult my family!! Come on!" The two of them began dragging him out of the hospital and toward the parking lot. Speed stumbled along as best he could, too dizzy to put up a struggle. "Uriah Richardson didn't raise his sons to be disrespectful," Jeremy's father muttered angrily. "I told you you'd eat those words, didn't I? Goddam uppity son of a bitch. You're gonna learn. One way or another, you're gonna learn."

They dragged him through the parking lot and slammed him into a blue pickup that Speed assumed belonged to the family. "You're gonna get it now, pansy," Jake said.

Uriah didn't waste any time on formalities. He punched Speed squarely in the chest. Excruciating pain seared through Speed's cracked ribs. He bent double and fell to his knees, struggling to catch his breath and stay conscious. Jake laughed, and Speed felt a foot contact with his stomach. Completely breathless, Speed fell back on his panic training from the academy. He curled in on himself tightly, forcing his knees up despite the pain in his ribs. He tucked his head down and prepared to ride out the beating. He felt several kicks and punches, coming too quickly for one person to be delivering them.

Speed tried to shut out his mounting fear. Who knew what kind of damage they were doing to his frail, still-healing body? Uriah's death threats hadn't frightened him, but now, faced with the real possibility that his new life might already be cut short, he started to panic. This couldn't happen! He didn't want to die again! Horatio was alive, and he finally had the chance to be with him again. And these insane bastards were about to steal that from him!

The beating went on, without slowing down in the least. It didn't seem like his attackers planned to stop any time soon. Tears came to Speed's eyes, and he started to cry, as much from despair as from the agony the Richardsons were putting his body through. Suddenly, Speed heard the sound of tires screeching and a car door slammed. "HEY! HEY!!!" Speed could have cried with relief, if he weren't already crying. Horatio! "Miami Dade Police!" Horatio shouted. "Back away! NOW!!"

The kicking stopped, and Speed heard shuffling feet. Speed dared to slowly uncurl himself. He looked up at Horatio, brilliant red hair rustling in the breeze, gun drawn, face the picture of pure fury. It was the most beautiful thing Speed had ever seen. "Horatio," he croaked. "H, help me."

Horatio snapped his head in Speed's direction, shocked to hear his own name. His eyes widened when he saw Speed's face. "You're..."

"Hey, officer," Uriah said. "We were just-"

Horatio trained his gun on Uriah's head. "On the ground, right now!" Uriah moved as if he were about to comply, but Speed saw his hand edge toward his jacket. "Do it and you're dead," Horatio said quietly. "Get. Down. Now." Both Richardsons slowly got on the ground. Horatio quickly disarmed Uriah and checked Jake for weapons. He called for rescue and for backup, then focused on Speed. "You all right, son?" he asked. Speed nodded. He tried to get to his knees, but his head started spinning again and he swayed. "Easy, son. Take it easy." Horatio steadied him with one hand, and helped him sit up. He looked like he wanted to ask Speed something, but glanced at the two men on the ground and kept silent.

In about two minutes, paramedics arrived at the hospital parking lot. They helped Speed onto a gurney and started to carry him toward the hospital. "H! No, I don't want-"

"Wait a minute." The paramedics stopped, and Horatio looked at Speed. "Is your name Jeremy?" Horatio asked.

"Yes and no," Speed said.

Horatio swallowed hard. "Have... have we met before?"

Speed nodded again. "Last night. And before that, too. In the mirror."

Horatio took a deep breath, and put a hand to his mouth. Speed could see the joy and the hope shining in his eyes. He gently touched Speed's head and looked into his eyes. "Listen to me, okay? I know you want to stay here, but I need to have someone check you out. I can't... I can't afford to lose you. Do you understand?" Speed nodded. "I'll be there the moment backup arrives." Horatio stepped back and motioned for the paramedics to go ahead.

Speed kept his eyes on Horatio until he couldn't see him anymore. He suffered through a preliminary examination, and he was deemed to be in stable condition. They took him to X-ray to check out his ribs and make sure no other bones were broken. Then they moved him to a room to wait for his doctor. Horatio made it to the room first. He stood beside the bed and looked down worriedly. "How are you?"

"Fine, I think," he said. "They gave me something for the pain." He looked at Horatio's suit and tie. "Did you come straight from court?" Horatio nodded slowly. "Testified against Ryan?"

Horatio nodded and smiled, tears filling his eyes. "It is you," he whispered. "I thought I must be dreaming." He took Speed's hand in his and kissed it gently. It looked like he wanted to say something, but (understandably) words failed him. He just brushed his few tears away, and continued to smile at Speed.

They were still holding hands and grinning at each other when the doctor arrived. He was shocked to see Speed back in the hospital, not four hours after he'd signed his release forms. He also seemed perplexed by Horatio's presence. "Can I help you, sir?"

"My name is Lt. Horatio Caine. I'm with Miami Dade PD."

"Oh! Good, good. I'm glad you've finally decided to report this, Jeremy," he said, coming over and starting his examination. "My God, what did they do to you this time? You just left!"

"Yeah, I guess I pissed them off pretty bad. Again."

The doctor shook his head. "This has to stop. You can't go back there again, Jeremy."

"I wo-"

"I mean it this time!" the doctor said urgently. "They almost killed you! Can you keep him away from them, Lieutenant? He's not a minor, but..."

"They won't hurt him again if I can help it," Horatio said. "I caught them in the act, so they'll each be going to jail for a long time."

Jeremy's doctor looked pleased. "That's wonderful! I mean... I know they're your family," he said sheepishly.

"I'm ecstatic, doctor," Speed said, finally managing to break into the mostly one-sided conversation. "Now when can I get out of here?"

The doctor smiled and continued his examination and checked his chart. "Well, you've managed to escape a second concussion," he said. "There's some bad bruising, but I'll have to check on the x-rays to be sure they didn't break anything else. Assuming there are no new breaks, and they didn't do too much damage to your ribs, you should be able to leave in a few days."

"Days?!"

"Jeremy, you suffered a harsh beating before you had time to recover from an even more severe attack. I just wouldn't feel safe not keeping you here at least overnight."

Speed looked imploringly at Horatio. "It's all right," Horatio said. "I won't leave until we can leave together."

Relieved, Speed settled back against the pillows and tried to relax. It was an understatement to say that he was tired of the hospital. He'd spent the last three and a half weeks stuck by himself in one room with only hospital staff for company. He was far from eager to spend any more time there. However, he also knew that a heavy dose of painkillers was the only thing standing between him and some awful aches and pains all over his body. It was probably safer and smarter to stay in the hospital, at least for a little while.

As promised, Horatio stayed with Speed for the rest of his hospital stay. He left a message with Claudia that he'd be available on his cell phone only. According to the x-rays, the Richardsons had indeed aggravated the fractures in Speed's ribs, but the damage wasn't so bad that he'd have to spend too much more time in the hospital. They kept him overnight (Horatio slept on a cot in the same room), and he was released first thing the next morning. The doctor prescribed a heavy-duty pain killer, no lifting for at least a week, and lots of rest.

Horatio helped Speed into his car and they left the hospital. "I guess we should go to Jeremy's house," Speed said.

"You feel up to it?"

Speed nodded. "I guess so. Anyway, my clothes won't fit anymore."

Horatio smiled and they headed for the address on Jeremy's license. They ended up at a small two-story dwelling in a fairly innocent-looking neighborhood. They got out of the car, and Speed fished out Jeremy's house keys. When they got to the door, Speed had to struggle to put the key to the lock. A sudden, powerful urge to run suddenly overcame him, and he had to remind himself several times that no one was in the house.

They stepped inside, and took a look around. The house was fairly messy, which Speed would have expected with three bachelors living there. He felt oddly familiar with the house, and he hated everything about it. He began to get short flashes of memory, similar to the false memories he'd had at the hospital. That belt hanging over the arm of a chair. He'd been beaten with it many times. That door in the corner led to the closet. He'd been locked in there for hours on end more than once. That wall. He'd been slammed against it. The stove. The baseball bat. The stairway. Almost every single item in the house triggered a memory involving some kind of physical pain. The images overwhelmed him and he staggered, legs threatening to give out.

Horatio caught him before he fell and looked worriedly at him. "We need to get you home," he said.

"I'll be okay," Speed said. "I just need a minute." Speed leaned against Horatio and tried to calm down. Finally, the false memories faded and he was able to function again. He led Horatio upstairs, knowing instinctively where Jeremy's room was. They passed two large, well furnished bedrooms before they came to Jeremy's small room.

The room was messy, like all the others, but this mess was different. Speed recognized the feel immediately. This was probably the neatest room in the house under normal circumstances, but this was clearly where the struggle had started. There was an overturned chair, several items on the floor, probably knocked over by flailing limbs, and an open suitcase, whose contents had been dumped onto the floor.

"Looks like Jeremy may have been trying to leave home," Horatio said, pointing to the suitcase and the open closet.

Speed nodded his agreement. "Take a look at this," he said, pointing to a shattered picture frame lying face down in the middle of the floor. Speed picked it up and turned it over. A diploma. Another memory flashed into his mind. His father, taking the frame off the wall and slamming it over his head. Speed shuddered and looked at the diploma in his hands. Black hairs clung to the broken glass, held in place with dried blood. He sighed. Poor kid.

Speed took the diploma out of the frame, grabbed a few items of clothing to hold him until they could go shopping again, and looked around for any other items he might find useful. All he found were a few more documents from school, Jeremy's social security card and a letter requesting a second interview for a position as a lab technician in a research facility near the school. "This must have been his ticket out," Speed said, showing Horatio the letter.

"Father couldn't have been too happy about that," Horatio said. "College grad gets a new job, and he decides to leave home instead of giving his money to dad."

"That would definitely be enough to set him on the attack against Jeremy." Speed shook his head. "Looks like anything would have been enough."

Horatio put a hand on Speed's shoulder. "Listen. I know Jeremy is gone now, but that doesn't mean we can't help him get some kind of justice. Do you feel well enough to take a trip to the station to file a police report?"

"Definitely," Speed replied.

Horatio helped Speed carry his new possessions down to the car, then took him to file his police report. He took Speed home after that, despite Speed's protests that he would be fine at the station until Horatio got off duty. In the end, Speed was glad that Horatio had insisted on putting him to bed. He was happy to be home again, after spending close to two months in the hospital, first watching over Horatio, then being stuckthere himself. He obediently got into bed and let Horatio pull the covers over him. Before Horatio even closed the door behind him, Speed was fast asleep.


Three weeks later, both Speed's case against the Richardson's and the state's case against Ryan Wolfe had been brought to a close. Uriah and Jake Richardson were both convicted of aggravated assault. Wolfe was convicted of second degree murder, assaulting a police officer and attempted murder of an officer. He faced life imprisonment without possibility of parole. One week after Wolfe's case was closed, Speed sat in an interview room at the police station. Across from him sat Horatio, Calleigh, and Eric. Although he knew them all well, he found the situation extremely intimidating. Horatio was the only one who looked at him with a modicum of kindness. Eric and Calleigh's stern expressions told him loud and clear that they would be pulling no punches today.

"Mr. Richardson," Calleigh began, her voice as hard as if she were speaking to the most degenerate criminal imaginable. "Although you passed your psychiatric evaluation, I have some concerns about your background. Do you think your family's history of physical abuse will affect your relationships on the job?"

Speed took a breath. Jeez, Cal, get right to it why don't you? "Yes, ma'am, I believe it will," he said. Calleigh raised her eyebrows, and Speed explained himself. "I think that by knowing what it was like to be treated so badly, I will be more likely to treat my co-workers with the respect they deserve." Calleigh nodded curtly and made a note in her file.

"Mr. Richardson," Eric said.

"Yes, sir?"

"I notice that you spent six months as an intern at the Talahassee Police Department. What did you do there?"

Speed thought back on the research he and Horatio had done earlier that week. "I spent two months assisting in the DNA lab and four months assisting trace."

Eric frowned slightly and made a notation in his file. "Did you get the chance to do any field work during your internship?" he asked.

"Yes, sir. The trace expert took me out to two crime scenes so that I could watch them work."

"But you didn't actually do anything," Eric said.

Speed cleared his throat nervously. "Um... they weren't ready to let me handle evidence at the scene yet, sir," he said. "Detective Miller told me what he needed to collect, taught me how to choose the right tools and showed me the proper way to store the evidence until we got back to the lab." Eric nodded and made a few more notes.

"Mr. Richardson," Horatio said. "I noticed in your application that you have had no formal firearms training, but you are interested in field work. If you do go into the field with us, you'll have to carry a weapon. Will that be a problem for you?"

"No, Lieutenant. I haven't had formal training, but I've spent a lot of time at firing ranges with my father and brother. I'm very familiar with using and maintaining firearms."

"Good. You will, of course, be willing to take our marksman's exam and attend our firearms training courses if you're hired?"

"Yes, sir." Horatio made notes, while Calleigh asked another question.

After over thirty minutes of grueling questioning, Speed was asked to wait outside the room while the three criminalists made a decision. He sat in the waiting room for about forty-five minutes, trying not to fidget. Finally, after adjusting and readjusting his tie about seventeen times, brushing countless pieces of imaginary dust off his sleeves and pants, and picking over his resume and request letters, Eric came into the waiting room. "Follow me," he said, expression still as grim and foreboding as ever. Speed followed, getting more and more nervous with every step. He sat down in his chair and waited to hear his fate.

"Well, Mr. Richardson," Horatio began, flipping through his notes. "We have reviewed your application and thoroughly discussed your answers during this, and our two previous interviews. I think you should know that you faced some very tough competition for this position." Speed swallowed nervously. "Very few people have actually made it to the third interview," Horatio continued. He sifted through his notes a little more, then finally closed the file and looked up at Speed. "Congratulations, Mr. Richardson," he said, smiling. "Welcome to the Miami-Dade crime lab."

Speed grinned broadly and let out a sigh of relief. "Thank you, Lieutenant," he said, shaking Horatio's hand. Eric and Calleigh (both smiling now) shook hands with him in turn and welcomed him aboard.

"Come on," Eric said. "I'll show you around. You don't mind, do you H?"

"Go right ahead. Just make sure to fill out your paperwork after the tour, Jeremy."

"Yes, sir," Speed said.

"Come on," Eric said, patting Speed on the back. Still not quite used to being so thin, Speed stumbled forward a little. "Sorry," Eric said. "That didn't hurt you, did it?"

"No, no, I'm okay," Speed said.

"Good. Why don't we visit Dr. Woods first? I think she's processing a head injury today." Speed stopped in his tracks. Eric looked back and smiled. "Come on, rookie. What's the matter?" Speed looked back at Horatio and Calleigh. They smiled innocently at him and Horatio gave him a little wave.

"Have fun," he said. Speed gave Horatio a look that he hoped said, you are going to get it tonight, without being too obvious to Calleigh. Horatio just smiled wider. Speed shook his head and caught up to Eric, resigned to his fate. This is just too ironic, he thought.

"Oh, by the way," Eric said. "You step on any toes around here and I will eat you alive." Speed raised his eyebrows. "We clear?" Eric asked.

"As crystal, sir," Speed replied.

"Great," Eric said cheerfully. "I think I'm gonna like you, kid. Maybe after a month or two I'll let you stop calling me 'sir'." Speed smiled. Being smaller, and significantly younger than Eric was going to be a little tough, but he would get used to it. He'd also get used to being called by a different name outside the house and having people see him inside a different skin. None of it really mattered to him anymore. All that mattered now was that he was back home with the people he knew and loved, doing the job that made him happy.

Fin


Chapter 7

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