Ryan couldn't take it anymore. Day in and day out, all they did was compare him to Speed. It wasn't as obvious as it used to be—no, it was more subtle now. Calleigh would give him this look. Her forehead would wrinkle and she would pinch her lips. "Look at you Ryan," her hard eyes would say, "you're nothing like Speed. You'll never be half of him." Horatio and Alexx just look at him sadly, from time to time. Ryan hates it when they have that expression of on their faces; it is a constant cue that Ryan is a walking reminder of what these people have lost.
But Eric is by far the worst. While the others would never say anything to his face out of the marginal respect they have for Ryan, Eric talks. He and Eric could be working a case and subtly, oh-so-casually, Eric will slip "That's not how Speed would have done it" into the conversation. Or a, "Are you sure you're doing it right? Speed did it differently." Ryan's personal favorite is "Man, Ryan, we lost one of the greatest trace experts when Speed died. No one can replace him." That comment had never failed to make Ryan irrationally angry.
For crying out loud, didn't these people realize that he wasn't trying to replace Speed? That he was just trying to do his job the best way he knew how? It has been a year, one whole freaking year, since that day in the jewelry store. Surely by now he has done enough to make them like him, and if not that, at least respect him.
If anything, though, things have just been getting worse--the people he worked with seemed to hate him more with time instead of the opposite. It didn't help that Ryan seemed to be getting all the hard cases, ones that guaranteed Eric was going to be a snit about. Ryan knew that it was going to be a bad case when his cell phone had gone off at four this morning. And he was right. Ryan and Eric had spent the majority of the day processing a crime scene at one of the waterfront bars. A man was found dead slumped in one of the bar stools, with no obvious cause of death, and a sniper rifle in a duffle bag at his feet. Needless to say the Horatio and the department were a little anxious to ID the man and find out why he died with such a high caliber weapon near him. The two CSI's boiled underneath the blinding Miami sun, collecting evidence to figure out what had happened to this guy.
They finally made it back to the lab as the sun was starting to sink into the horizon, setting the sky on fire. Ryan trudged into the break room hoping to find something to drink. He had a mountain of trace evidence to process—clothing, sand, some weird glop that the victim had had all over his hands. From the looks of it he was going to be here well into the night. Plus, Eric had been particularly irritating today—he managed to bring up Speed in every other sentence. Not only that, but Eric had used Speed's name as noun, verb, adjective, and every other part of speech he could find. If one more person compared him to Speed today, Ryan refused to be held responsible for his actions.
Filling up a cup with water, Ryan gratefully sipped the cool liquid. He leaned against the counter, eyes closed, enjoying the momentary quiet of the room. His anger and frustration slowly seeped out of him. Muscles that had been clenched all day relaxed.
Ryan heard the door to the break room swing open. He opened his eyes to see Eric staring pointedly at him. Eric sighed loudly and mumbled something, enunciating the words 'Ryan' and 'Speed', before going to grab a soda out of the fridge. Ryan shook his head in disgust. Would these people never let up? Ryan's patience was all but used up for the day.
"What now?" he snapped.
Eric took a gulp of soda before replying. "It's nothing—just Speed never would have taken a break if he knew that a case was resting on how fast he analyzed the evidence. Especially since we may have other snipers running around the city, armed and dangerous."
"I'm getting something to drink!" Ryan answered incredulously. "You're doing the same thing, in case you hadn't noticed."
"I'm just saying," Eric said. The look on his face said everything. It was scribbled with scorn and contempt.
"Well, I'm not Speed."
"Yeah," Eric agreed with a snort. "Damn straight you're not Speed."
Ryan closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose. This was getting to be too much. He had work to do and Eric's attitude and bitching didn't help. "Eric, listen. I know Speed was your friends and all, but could you stop comparing me to Speed all the time?"
Anger flared in Eric's eyes. "Oh, so you think you're too good to be compared to Speed?" Eric's voice got louder. "Speed was good, no great, at what he did. We lost a great trace expert that day," he paused, "and you're a fool to think you can replace him Ryan."
Ryan could feel something inside him snap—that this was the last straw. He had been kind and patient, he had taken all the verbal barbs and looks of disdain. But not anymore. Looking down at his drink he whispered something.
"What was that Ryan?"
He looked up right into Eric's eyes. Ryan's eyes looked like to chips of glittering back ice. "I said, Speed wasn't a god. He made mistakes," Ryan said articulating each word. "He made plenty of mistakes—he died because of a mistake he made."
"Shut up!" Eric yelled. "You don't know what you're talking about." He walked up to the younger CSI until he was inches from Ryan's face. "Don't you ever, ever, insult Speed. Do you hear me?"
"No," Ryan yelled back. "You listen Delko. Every single day for the last year everyone at this lab has compared me to Speed—told me how I was never going to replace him, how I am never doing a good enough job. I am doing a damn good job but all of you refuse to see it."
"What, you think you're better at this than he was?" Eric asked angrily. "Because I'll have you know—"
"I. Am. Not. Speed. I am not trying to replace him. I'm not trying to make him look like a bad person. I'm just Ryan Wolfe trying to be a good CSI. I know you two were close, but get over it already."
Eric shoved Ryan into counter. "You don't know anything Wolfe. Speed and I were close, real friends. Not like you'd understand, but I lost the closest thing I ever had to a brother the day he died."
Ryan just stared at Eric after that admission. His eyes narrowed into slits as he looked over Eric, seemingly trying to figure something out. He nodded his head slightly before he shoved Eric off of him.
Calleigh and Horatio, who had been talking in the hallway saw the activity in the break room and hurried over. From the looks of things, Ryan and Eric were going to beat each other black and blue.
"Wolfe, what the hell?" Eric screamed. Ryan took out his wallet. After rifling though it for a moment, he handed Eric a picture. He then finished the water he had been drinking and walked out the door.
"I'll be in my lab working if you need anything," he said quietly to Calleigh and Horatio as he passed them.
"Eric what was going on in here?" Calleigh asked. "Why were you two fighting this time?" Those two boys were always a step away from each others throats.
But Eric didn't say anything. His eyes were wide and his mouth was hanging slightly open as he stared at what Ryan had given him.
"Eric, what is it?" Horatio asked softly.
Eric silently handed Calleigh the small photograph Ryan had handed him moments ago. The picture was of Speed. His normally somber face was lit up with happiness and they could see the love in his eyes as he gazed at the man sitting in his arms. Calleigh and Horatio gasped in shock. She turned the picture over, to find Speeds neat handwriting on the back.
I just want you to know you are everything to me. I love you so much. And these last six years have been the greatest of my life. You brought light to a life that had none. You bring out the best in me and make me a better man. Happy seven year anniversary babe. They've been the best years of my life.
Love, with all my heart,