Title: Unknown

Disclaimer: Not mine. Not making any money.

Spoilers: None yet. Take place after "Innocent," but no references to the episode.

Warnings: This will eventually be Speed/Eric slash. If that bothers you, you might want to pass this up. Also, there will be references in later chapters to domestic violence.

Author's Notes: This will eventually be Speed/Eric slash. However, I will also concentrate a fair amount on the friendship between Speed and Horatio. Basically, this is primarily Speed's story. The slash is integral to the story, but the prime focus is on Speed and his conflicts.

Chapter 1

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Leaning against the cold metal of my locker, I shut my eyes tightly, trying and failing to ward off the throbbing in my head.

We just wrapped up a case today. An old woman was found murdered in her sewing room, shot. I felt bad for her husband, a sweet little old man. When I first arrived on scene a few days ago, he stood there, tears running down his face, telling me he'd lost his love, and that life wasn't worth living anymore.

And I believed him. Me, the team cynic.

Turns out, the grieving husband had shot his wife of forty years because he's in love with the woman who gives violin lessons to his grandson. What the hell? Whatever happened to leaving someone if you don't love them?

Shaking my head, I slam the ball of my hand into my locker. Damn. Not the smartest thing I've ever done. Now I have a nasty pain in my hand to go with the one in my head.

Suddenly, Eric appears beside me. "Hey," he says cheerfully, "what'd that locker do to you?"

I just glare at him, as I massage my aching hand.

Eric gets the message and shrugging, turns to his own locker. Singing to himself, he pulls out some belongings, and then swings the locker door closed.

Then, as if suddenly inspired, he reaches out and pats me on the shoulder. "Hey. Cal and I are grabbing a bite to eat. We're thinking seafood. Wanna come with?"

Honestly, I don't know how they do it. I don't know how they can just pack away the events of the day and scurry off to eat seafood at some trendy hotspot.

I just want to crawl home and lie in bed until my head stops pounding.

"No thanks," I say, shaking my head.

"Oh, come on," Eric coaxes. "What are you going to do? Sit alone and brood?"

"Maybe I have plans," I say, sounding a little more hurt than I intended.

Eric smiles as if he just found out it's Christmas. "You have plans? With who?"

I'm pretty sure Eric thinks I'm making the whole thing up, but I really do have plans. And considering how late I've been working the past week, I'd better not show up late tonight.

"None of your business," I say.

"No," he grins. "You've got to give me something. Who is this mystery lady?"

Damn. Damn. Damn. Damn. This conversation is taking me somewhere I don't want to go. Especially not with Eric. I've managed to keep Mark a secret for months. I don't think I can handle this thing I have with him becoming public knowledge right now.

I stand there for a long moment, not saying anything. Pretty soon, I hear footsteps padding toward us. I'm guessing it's H, but I don't turn around to find out. Even though I know better, I'm hoping he'll ignore me.

"Hi guys," H says amiably. He turns and gazes at me, as if he's sizing me up. "Did I hear something about a mystery lady?"

Before I can answer, Eric says, "Speedle here has a new love in his life."

"I said I had plans," I snap, "I never said I had a girlfriend."

I must have sounded a little harsher than I meant to, because both H and Eric and staring at me.

Finally, Eric smiles warmly. "Sorry, man. If you change your mind, I've got my cell phone."

I feel terrible letting Eric walk away. As lousy as I feel, it'd be nice to go out for a while. Eric and I don't hang out as much as we used to, and as cheesy as it sounds, I miss him.

H and I watch Eric disappear out the door. Then, H turns to me and says, "So, Speed. How are you doing?"

I bite my bottom lip. I'm on thin ice with H right now. My nerves have been frayed lately, and so I've been what Calleigh calls, "surlier than usual." During this last case, I very nearly got into a shouting match with our victim's son when he found out we were going to charge his father with murder. I wound up in Horatio's office for that one. Not to mention I've called off work more these last two months than I've called off my whole career.

I shrug. "I'm fine."

Undeterred, he says, "This was a rough case, huh?"

"They're all rough, y'know?"

"Yes. Yes they are." H puts his hands on his hips. "Listen," he says. "I was wondering if you want to grab some dinner. We can talk."

A heart-to-heart with Horatio Caine. This I don't need.

"Actually, H," I say, "I do have plans. I wasn't making that up."

He smiles. "All right then. But listen," he says quietly, "if you decide you want to talk, let me know."

As I watch him leave, I'm tempted to stop him, tell him I've changed my mind. But instead, I let out a long breath and get ready to head off to meet Mark.