"Speed," The word is a gasp, a pleading, breathless gasp as I wake up sweating and praying it's all been a dream.
Tears in my eyes; trickling down my face, strangely cool against my clammy skin.
Ringing phone, I don't want to answer it, if I can cocoon myself from the outside world long enough maybe it won't be true anymore.
Still ringing, loud, insistent, won't stop... please, please stop, don't want to answer it, don't want it to be true.
My shaking hand finally reaches for it, the machine won't pick it up I distantly remember I turned it off hours ago.
"Mr Caine, this is Dr Tracy, Mr Speedle is awake and asking for you." The voice came from the other end of the line.
What? No? That's all wrong, he died, I was there, I saw him die, had his blood on my face where I'd pressed my ear to his chest in a futile hope to still feel a beating heart.
Awake... dead... awake... dead... which... I don't... can't... nothing makes sense, he was dead, dead people don't wake up I don't understand, don’t know what to do, where is Speed?
"Mr Caine? Mr Caine?"
Still have the phone in my hand, lying Doctor, haven't I hurt enough for one day without more pain, more lies.
Lies and pain, I know them too well... lied to Speed... withheld the truth... too late now.
"Go Away! Leave me alone." It's my voice screaming but I barely recognise it, as I scream and throw the phone away from me, have to get away, get away somewhere, don't know... Speed... his apartment, safe, no one will come, and I'll be near him.
It works, the key I never used, the one I had 'in case of emergencies'. He's dead; does that constitute an emergency?
His parents haven't been to clear the place out yet... I can almost see his mother when she sees this mess... she shouldn't have to, she should only have the good memories, remember him as a good, clean, honest boy... can't let her see what a mess he really was.
Clean, scrub, everything gleams, two trips to the store for more supplies, and almost five full bin-liners, but you'd almost swear this place was a well-kept house.
Dark out, can't be sure of the time, don't want to turn on the lights to find out, I just know it's dark and a little cold, because Speed always kept his air conditioning just a little too high... he hated the Miami heat some days.
I should leave, but I can't, for all my cleaning, and scrubbing, this place still smells like him, feels like him, don't want to leave him like he left me.
I'll just nap a while, just a little while, on his couch, his couch that still smells like Speed, and beer, and something I'm not quite sure of, and I'm not really interested in, as long as it still smells like Speed.
"H... Horatio..." gentle hands shaking me. Calleigh... sweet Calleigh... she'd kill me if I called her that out loud, she's as tough as nails and smart to boot, going to make someone a very lucky man someday.
"H... it's me okay it's Calleigh, it's okay, come on wake up for me." Calleigh cajoles me. I was dreaming, it was nice... Speed was okay, and we were on the beach... he looks beautiful by sunset. If I wake up it'll all go away... Speed will go away.
"Horatio... Open your eyes." This time her voice is harsher, an order, I can't stop my body obeying it, and I hate it when they open to the harsh light of the Miami sun shining through the curtains, and making the day real.
"Jesus!" Eric's voice startles me.
Eric... Eric is here too?
"Horatio listen to me, you've got to come with us okay?" Calleigh tells me.
"No." I don't want to go, want to stay here, here where Speed is... here where he doesn't have to be dead.
"Horatio, please... I just need you to trust me okay?" Calleigh pleads.
"Can't... Speed... have to stay here..." I murmur.
"H, Speed is at the hospital, he's asking for you." Eric tells me.
No, not them too, they aren't in on this cruel, cruel, joke. Why? Why are they doing this to me?
"Stop it! Stop lying, stop it, stop it!"
"It's the drugs." I hear Calleigh vaguely, but I'm not there anymore, not with them, I don't want to be, want to go back to sleep, back to Speed.
"I'll call an ambulance." Eric says... think he's talking to Calleigh, but I don't care.
Why even bother? Too late for that don't you think? Speed is already dead.
Lights, people, strange, swirling colours, don't understand, don't care, I just want to be left alone, want to sleep, and dream, in dreams he's still here, I haven't lost him, it doesn't hurt as much when I dream.
Stop; let me go, just let me go back to him.
Tick-tock. Tick-tock. Time is meaningless. Tick-tock. Tick-tock. Time is careless.
Seconds, minutes, hours, days, doesn't matter, not important, not without Speed, he made time real for me, made me real... never knew it, never knew how he made me feel... never will.
Blurry, head hurts... where am I?
"Calleigh? My head hurts."
"You had a bad reaction to the drugs they gave you, you’re fine, and you’re in the hospital," She tells me.
Drugs? Shock... the Doctor said I was in shock. I remember.
Speed got shot, and there was blood, so much blood, and...
"Speed?" The name hits me like a firecracker going of in my brain.
"He's okay H, he's in another ward, I'll get your Doctor and see if he'll let you go down and see him."
"No, no he was dead, there was blood, I remember, there was blood... so much blood." I'm rambling and I know it but it's all I can remember, the blood and the heart that wasn't beating anymore.
"No H, he's okay, the EMT's got him back, he's alive, he's even awake, remember, the Doctor called you to tell you." Calleigh tells me, she's worried I can tell, not her fault, she wasn't there, she can't understand, I'm not even sure I do.
"The drugs H, they made you a little crazy, we found you at Speed's place... and brought you here, think, concentrate on what happened after Speed got shot." Her voice is pleading, I don't want to, don't want to relive that, but I do.
"There was blood, and he couldn't feel anything, he was so scared, and I just kept telling him to breath, just breath..."
//"Speed... look at me, your gonna be ok, you'll be fine." Blood, blood leaked from his chest, from his mouth as he fought to speak as he fought to breath.
"I... I can't feel anything."
"Hang in there... All right, Speed, Speed... keep breathing... Speed."
"Can't feel anything."
"I know, I know, I understand, just keep breathing."
He's shaking, convulsing, a doctor would probably say.
"Okay Partner... Speed... Speed... Speed... Speed."
No... No... No, he's not breathing, he has to be... his heart, please, please let it be beating... no...
Lights, sirens move, move, and let them help him.
Too late, too late... I can't breath, can't move, can't... Speed.
Breathing? He's breathing? No, no he's dead, I know, I checked, his blood is caking the side of my face he...//
"Easy H... just take it easy... the Doctor is gonna be here in a minute." Calleigh tried to sooth me.
I feel sick, have to hold it back.
"Horatio, come on," where? Why?
See Speed? No, please no, don't make me see his body again, can't, can't see him dead again, makes it too real, don’t' want it to be, want to sleep, please just let me go home and sleep.
ICU... not the morgue... why... Speed is dead, he is, I saw him die, I couldn't hear his heart beat...
Sick, retching, can't seem to stop.
"Easy H..." Calleigh says, is that her rubbing my back?
"It's okay, that’s it, get it all out of your system."
Soothing voice has Calleigh... slowly bringing me back to reality... and...
Can't be real, can it? He looks real... so many tubes, and his chest wrapped in stark white bandages, or what would have been stark white I imagine before all the blood seeped into them.
Sounds hoarse... of course he would if he'd been shot, which he was but he died, I know he did.
"EMT's got him back H, remember." Calleigh again, with the soothing voice and soothing words, and I want to believe this is real but what if it's not, what if I'm asleep and this is all just... wishful thinking?
"EMT's... I... was in the ambulance, they wouldn't let me see him... shock... drugs..."
Things are so confused, not sure what's real anymore.
"H... come... here." Speed, if he really is Speed at all... tells me.
Okay, wheel forwards a little, don't crash into the bed, that’s a good sign.
Hands... skin... warm hands... not cold, warm like alive hands are... gentle on my face, brushing back hair from my eyes... warm... and real.
"Speed." The word is like a benediction, choking in my throat and only half way making its way out of my mouth.
"I'm okay H," he tells me softly... my mind latched onto the fact that he needs to shave... but then when doesn't he?
"We'll tell you later H, the Doctor says the drugs are still gonna take another day or two to wash out of your system, how many did you take?" Calleigh asks.
"I... don't know."
That’s not a lie, I don't know, I stopped counting after the first six or seven... just wanted to forget everything.
"It's okay, I'm going to get some coffee, why don't you stay with Speed." Calleigh said, smiling that sad little smile, the one that tells me she knows what I did, tried to do, the one that tells me she won't say anything, and the one that tells me, I need to talk to Speed... alone.
"How many?" Speed asks once she's out of earshot. His voice is still croaky and weak, but then he got shot just a couple of days ago, the jewellery store... the boy, what happened to the boy?
"Found him... How many?" Speed asks again, like he's reading my mind or maybe I said that out loud, I honestly don't know anymore.
"Lost count after the first few, didn't really care." I tell him, and it’s a startling new level of honesty I wasn't sure I'd be able or willing to give him, but once I said it, once I tell him that, I can't seem to stop.
"You were dead... you weren't breathing, heart wasn't beating, and they wouldn't let me near you; wouldn't let me... I'd lost you and I'd never even had you to begin with, just wanted to forget, make it go away."
"Oh... Horatio... why..." he stops speaking, and starts coughing, violently, coughing, and there's blood, no, no, not more blood, please not more blood.
Nurses... Doctors... Calleigh, please, please tell me he's okay, please?
"He's fine H, he's okay, just relax." Calleigh tries to sooth me, holding me close.
"Mr Caine, I think you should go back to your own room for now." One of the nurses tells me.
"No!" I can't, I can't go, have to stay, with him, with Speed... with Tim... I can't go, can't.
"Mr Caine I really must insist."
"No! I won't... can't... please..." I know I'm begging, and I don't care.
Nothing makes any sense anymore, I'm not even sure I'm me anymore, I just know I have to stay here, stay with Speed, at all costs.
"Okay, okay, you can stay, but Mr Speedle needs his rest." She instructs me seriously.
"I just... I won't make any trouble." I promise.
He's been asleep for hours... of course he has, he was shot two days ago, shot... almost... *did* die...
Things are starting to get clearer... I remember the EMT's coming, rushing him off, I remember insisting on going with him, and arguing with the nurses, trying to stay with him, but they wouldn't let me... remember the needle, to help me sleep, go home they told me, sleep, take these when you wake up... pills, little white ones, innocuous little things... after that, nothing is clear, just blur after blur... taking the pills, drinking, I think it was scotch, can't remember, Speed's place, cleaning, and then I think Calleigh came... it's all one big mesh of images and sounds that don't really make sense anymore.
Hours, days, weeks... everything is clear now... Speed is alive, I'm alive, the little boy is safe with his mother, and Speed is alive.
"Hey partner, ready to get out of here?" I ask him.
They are finally letting him go. I've been here everyday, before and after shift, even sometimes in the middle of, who really needs to eat on their lunch break anyway I ask you?
"I'm ready... very ready." He tells me, already dressed.
He's still in some pain, but the meds manage it just fine, he won't be back to work for at least another three weeks, which suits me fine, I don't want him back there at all, but he's insistent, he loves his job... I love him, but I can't tell him that, not yet.
We both know it's there, in the background of every conversation, what I said to him that day... I can't remember it all, I was still fairly out of it with those damn pills, but I remember enough, and he remembers enough. We both know it's real and it's waiting, but it's never quite mentioned, wrong place, wrong time, I don't know when or where the right one is, but the hospital wasn't it.
His place is shiny and neat, he’s impressed, but not so much when he finds I cleaned it under the influence of the damn drugs, in my defence, I've been back twice since then to give it a quick going over, so all my hard work wasn't in vein.
Calleigh and Eric tease that it'll be a pig sty again before the day is done, but it's good natured, and it's in the sprit of friends... it's nice... the four of us just sitting here, we don’t' really do this, we should do it more often. My team are my family, but how often do I let them see that?
The leave eventually, and I tell them I'll see them tomorrow for shift. It's been a little weird, not having Speed around I have to admit, but it still gives me chills when I consider that we almost lost him, and I don't know how I'm going to handle it when he goes back into the field.
I'm staying here. I don't have to, but I'm not quite ready to give up my self-enforced nursing duties just yet.
"H do me a favour and sit down, your making me dizzy." Speed eventually insists.
"Sorry, guess it's good to be home huh?" I ask for lack of anything better to say.
"Beats the hospital any day, feels strange though... not sure this place feels like home anymore, It doesn't feel like... me... anymore."
"Give yourself a few days to messy the place up again and you'll be fine." I tell him, earning a laugh.
"Don't think dust bunnies under the bed are going to help any... just I feel... different... you know... not like me anymore. Just before we went in there, I said I had time to get a vehicle with doors remember, except I almost didn't... I died... not just nearly, but actually... I want... I want a car... and a house... a proper house not just an apartment, and... someone... someone to spend time with, talk to, just be with, and... Hell I probably sound crazy."
"No... no... you don't... sounds pretty normal... things everyone wants, just most people think they've got time and then when things like this happen and you realize maybe you don't have as much time as you thought to do things, to tell people you care... and... things."
"954... what... that’s Meg... Megan's..."
"She told me if I ever needed... I almost called a thousand times... it was number one on my speed dial for a while..."
"Not now?" I ask, not sure exactly what his answer will be.
"No... not for a while... I... you're number one now." he tells me.
It's not all he's telling me, this is very important, I have to really pay attention here I know, I can feel it, that moment both of us were holding back from before is here, and there is no more hiding, no more waiting, it's now, and it's real, and I'm more scared than I've ever been in my entire life, not even thinking he was dead scared me this much, because dead is one thing, but alive, and if this all goes wrong... how would I ever face him again?
"Speed... Tim... I..." Damn it H, you know what you want to say just say it, don't fuck this up.
He's looking at me, eyes full of curiosity, his usual mussed up self, un-shaven, un-kept, but with a curiosity in his eyes that would almost lead you to believe he was full of nothing but innocence... he's beautiful... doesn't know it, but he is.
"Beautiful," Is what I tell him, the only word I can form, because my mouth refuses to work with my brain to tell him how I feel, so I have to trust me hands, my lips to do it for me when I hold his face, the stubble there tickling the palms of my hands as I kiss him.
"You're so beautiful," I murmur, over and over until the words are choking us both because there is nothing left to say except that I love him, and my mind and my heart are screaming it but my mouth just won't seem to say it, rambling on and on about how beautiful he is, and I can't breath, and I can't speak anymore, and the only thing left is tears.
Mine, his, mingling, as we hold on tight and just let them fall, great racketing sobs, just coming one after the other, time standing in one place as we let all the pain, and fear just wash away in our tears.
"I love you," I say, finally able to get the words out around the tears, and around the lump in my throat.
"Love you too."
He loves me... Speed... me... love... lost him, but he came back to me... we found each other, somewhere in the wreckage of what was almost the worst day of my life, second only to the day I lost my brother, we found each other.