Why

Summary: Speed used to wonder why he bothered to do his job. He doesn't wonder any more. Set in the first-to-second season.

He asked Horatio once, why they bothered with forensics. Why they bothered with the back-breaking labor of matching bullet shells and DNA, hunting fingerprints and chemical compositions.

That was after they'd spent three or four days on a case. Their suspect had openly confessed even, and they couldn't arrest him because of diplomatic immunity. The whole team was frustrated, especially Horatio. Perhaps that was why the older man had neither snapped at him, nor answered him. At least, not right then.

He knew he'd never forget the answer Horatio did finally give him. A day later, when the parents of one of the two murdered girls came to the CSI office. Looking for answers. Looking for closure. Looking for any scrap of comfort or hope they could find, even knowing the truth of the devastating loss they faced. And Horatio had turned to him, and spoke quietly. "You wanted to know why...why forensics. This is why."

He'd watched as the older man walked over and settled onto the bench next to the crying mother. Watched as the grief stricken father turned, and Horatio sat forward so he could face them both. He only half-heard the words the other man spoke, words about the deceased, about the case, but it didn't stop him from seeing the results.

Pain. Tears. Sorrow. All the emotions he'd expected. What he hadn't expected was the realization that Horatio was somehow sharing those emotions, and in sharing them, redirecting them. And in redirecting them, he turned his words to words of...not encouragement, that would have been cruel. But closure. Answers. There was no healing the loss, but he gave them the truth, and something to ease the hurt. Like a branding iron turned against a terrible wound to cauterize it and start the healing process. And yet, somehow, Speed couldn't tell who received the burn, Horatio or the parents. Or both.

And then...he didn't know how it had happened, but suddenly it was a group hug. The mother flung her arms around Horatio's shoulders, and the father shifted forward to clasp his other arm. But it wasn't a normal group hug, it was two devastated and grieving parents clinging to a slender red-haired man for support. He'd watched as Horatio slid another inch or so forward on the bench, moving to accommodate the embrace those two needed. Watched as the man he most respected held up two lost souls, visibly accepting their anguish, taking it with his own anger and pain.

He hadn't stayed to watch further. This was a private thing. This was Horatio's...his gift? His mercy? His grief? His form of mourning? Speed couldn't say. As he'd walked away that day, disappearing into the lab, he didn't know what he'd seen, only that it was somehow both great and terrible. It reminded him of church as a boy, hearing the story of Jesus on a cross. The comparison disturbed him, not in the least because he wasn't particularly religious. Even more disturbing was the sacrifice it implied.

He hadn't asked, what Horatio had done, nor why the man had showed it to him. But after that day, he had watched. He hadn't told anyone else, again from that knowledge that what he'd witnessed was a private thing. But he'd watched Horatio after that. Watched as a pattern emerged. Every case they had, there was a victim. Either that, or a victim's loved ones. And in every single case, Horatio was there, speaking, listening. Reaching out and taking the burden from other shoulders. Taking the grief and pulling it into himself. He watched the man comfort grieving relatives, attend funerals, and walk the streets of Miami in silence.

He would have liked to shrug off the whole thing as being something Horatio did. Like analyzing chemicals on a piece of evidence. He would have liked for it to be simple, scientific. But it wasn't. Because he could see the suffering it caused his boss. He could see the pain that lurked, that tinged even his smiles with sadness. He would have liked to put a stop to it, even if it meant telling Calleigh and Delko, and even Alexx what he saw. But he couldn't do that. Because...watching Horatio, he understood why.

It was because Horatio needed closure as much as the victims and their families did. It didn't matter that there was no way of predicting when and where a murderer would strike. When and where a store would get robbed, or some idiot would do something senseless. There was no telling when drugs or alcohol would make a man crazy, leading him to violence. There were a million things that could go wrong in a city like Miami, and no way to prevent any of them. And yet...Horatio took each crime as a failure. And each case as a search for answers, for closure. Every time he solved a case, it was for his sake as well as the victims. Every time he put a criminal behind bars, it was so he could sleep at night.

Gradually, he'd come to realize why the others never said anything. They already knew. Delko knew, Calleigh knew. And he'd learned that Horatio had suffered his own losses. A brother killed in the line of duty, whose name was spoken with varying tones of respect, uncertainty and contempt. A wife, murdered in circumstances he didn't ever hear discussed. And he knew the other reason why.

No one had given Horatio closure. He carried the wound, raw even after all that time. There was no way to heal it, no way to spare himself, so he gave the healing to others, and found comfort in their relief from the pain. He had no way to heal his own wounds, so he healed others, and let their gratitude act as an ointment, soothing the ache he could never quite hide in his own soul.

After he learned that, Speed no longer had to ask why. Not why Horatio did as he did, nor why he himself worked so hard for the man. He knew why he did forensics, why he'd slave away over every single last piece of evidence Horatio gave him, or that he brought from a crime scene.

He couldn't heal Horatio. He lacked the words to even try, and the social skills to come across as anything more than awkward and terribly embarrassed. And of all things, he didn't want to admit he'd been watching, a silent intruder on Horatio's private torment. Not that Horatio would have been angry. He might even have been a little touched. But it would have been a difficult conversation, and Speed didn't feel up to the challenge.

He couldn't heal Horatio. But he could, and would, work to give him answers. He'd work overtime, triple time, all the time he needed, stare at screens and microscopes until his eyes crossed. Anything to help provide Horatio with that closure. Anything to find the answers, so the man could return to his ritual of speaking to the victims and their families. So he could relax.

More than anything, Speed knew he wanted to take the strain of needing to find the answers from his superior's shoulders. He couldn't take the sadness from the man's smile, but he could at least give Horatio more reasons to smile. Every time he could identify something for the man, it was a triumph. Every time he found the answer to solve the case, found that one last bit of evidence that would prove the criminal guilty, he was glad. Not simply because he had the answer, but because the shadows in Horatio's eyes would lift, ever so slightly. The darkness would ease, the burden lightened just a fraction from the man's shoulders.

He never again asked Horatio why they bothered. He didn't need to. He knew.

Author's Note: Was watching this series out of curiosity while on sick leave...and I saw the scene at the end of Season 2 Episode 1. And this just sort of demanded to be written.