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Michelle Perry


Oh, dear God, he's bleeding. "Speed! Speed." Horatio rushed over to Speed and dropped to his knees beside him. Speed's eyes were wide with fear and he was clearly going into shock. His body shook and he was having trouble breathing. "Hold on. Let me see it, okay?"

"My... my chest," Speed croaked. Horatio tried to unbutton Speed's shirt, but he couldn't make his fingers cooperate. Finally, he ripped the shirt open and forced his hand under the vest. "My...chest."

"Okay. Hold on. Here you go. Wait wait wait wait wait," Horatio muttered. Oh, God. Horatio's hand met the warm, wet patch of cloth he knew to be Speedle's blood-soaked shirt. The Kevlar didn't catch it. Oh, God.

Speed watched Horatio's face, eyes still filled with terror. "Am I... going to..."

"Shhhh," Horatio said gently, resting his free hand on Speed's head. "Just breathe, okay, breathe. Keep breathing if you can." He tore his eyes away from Speed and started shouting. "Okay, RESCUE! Get me a rescue, right now!!! " Several people moved in response to his command, and he turned his attention back to Speed. His heart sank. The young man was going deeper into shock. His body was shaking more violently, and his breathing was even more sporadic. "Speed, don't," he warned. "Don't you do it. Hold on, you hear me? Hold on!" Speed's eyes were open, but Horatio could tell they weren't seeing anything. He could feel Speed's blood welling between his fingers and spreading further across Speed's chest. Too much. There's too much blood. He's not going to make it.

Just as Horatio completed the thought, the rescue team arrived. "Come on, Lieutenant." Horatio tried to move, but he found he was unable to budge - unable to take his hand away from the hole out of which Speed's life was swiftly flowing. A paramedic forcefully pulled him out of the way, and the rescue team got to work.

Horatio moved nearer to Speed's head, careful not to get in the way of the team. "Hold on, Speed," he said. "Hold on. Hold on." He kept repeating the words over and over again, hoping against all reason that Speedle would be able to obey him. He was still silently willing Speed to hold on even after he heard one of the paramedics swear softly - even after the bustling activity around him died down.

After a moment, a gentle hand was laid on his shoulder. "I'm sorry, Lieutenant. He's gone."

Gone. It was supposed to be more gentle than saying the word dead. But it was no less final. Horatio stared at Speed's still form in disbelief. He'd known it would happen, but it didn't matter. It shouldn't have happened. He should have... what? He should have done anything. Should have pulled the vest off before the rescue team got there. Seconds were wasted. He should have let the woman and the kid fend for themselves. They would have been all right. No one was targeting them. He should have rammed the motorcycle as soon as he saw the Kevlar on the fake cop. He should have...

Horatio looked down and saw, for the first time, his own blood-covered hand. His stomach churned. There's blood on my hands. His blood. His blood is on my hands. He looked up, shaken, and looked sadly at Speed. With his clean hand, he reached out to close Speed's half-opened eyes. Just before Horatio's hand reached his face, Speed's eyes jerked open. Horatio gasped and drew back, shocked. He might have been happy, except that Speed's eyes glared at him, angry and hurt. In a clear voice, unhindered by the collapsed lung, or the fact that he was supposed to be dead, Speed spoke. "How could you let this happen to me?"

Horatio recoiled as if he'd been struck. The impossibility of a dead man speaking to him wasn't what made him reel. It was the accusation. The hurt. The disappointment. How could you let this happen to me? How could you let this happen? How could you? How could you? Horatio started to shake. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry." He stared at his hands. They were both red now. Red and dripping with Speedle's blood. "Blood. Blood! It's on my hands. Oh God, his blood is on my hands! His blood is on my hands!"


Horatio woke with a start, shaking and sweating. He reached for the comfort of Speed's arms and let a small whimper escape when his hands met empty space. He stared at the spot where Speed's head should be resting, struggling to keep his tears at bay. It was true this time. He was gone. No more strong arms to wrap around him and protect him from his own guilt. No more rumbling voice telling him, "I'm fine, H. It wasn't your fault. I love you." No more... anything.

Horatio pulled Speed's pillow to him and hugged it tightly, letting the misery take over completely. In the morning, he would put on his brave face. In the morning, he would be the tower of strength that everyone on his team (and off) would lean on. But tonight... tonight, he was a vulnerable, and frightened - alone with nothing but his dismal thoughts to keep him company. Tonight, there was blood on his hands, and there was no one left to wash it clean.

Fin


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