mya_rofki: (kingsblkdragon)
[personal profile] mya_rofki





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Things settled into a comfortable groove after the Dinwiddie case. The GIS office seemed like a different place to Jared once he had reason to believe that the boss actually did like him and want him there.

He didn’t know if it was his change in attitude, or if it was simply that enough time had passed for the other investigators to get comfortable with him, but more and more he was also feeling like one of the team. Maybe team mascot would be the best comparison, because they still clearly worked to shield him from the rougher stuff, and mostly ignored him when a case got hot. But during downtime, someone or other was always coming by his desk to talk to him. When he wasn’t busy, he brought them coffee, and sometimes they’d take the opportunity to teach him something new about investigating. But more and more he found himself busier than he’d ever have imagined he’d be at the start of it all. He wondered if everyone else was as surprised as he was to find that he could actually be useful.

*****

On March 10, he had his second liaison meeting since the Dinwiddie case, and he was surprised to realize that he’d been at GIS for four months. In some ways he still felt like he’d just started at GIS, and in others, he felt like he’d been there for a year already.

He’d been given another zipdrive at the February meeting, and asked to copy everything on Speight’s work computer onto it. He’d found opportunities to do it in the month that followed, and he’d let them pass him by each time.

When the liaison asked for it in March, he outright lied and said he’d never been left alone in the office. He didn’t even feel guilty about it, just relieved that the liaison seemed to buy it.

He’d still never seen Pellegrino at a meeting, and he’d almost driven himself crazy, trying to remember every detail of the one time he’d met him, trying to figure out if he should have noticed something then that would tell him why the man had seemed so desperate to get him in place, and then never meet with him again.

He still didn’t know if the man at his meetings was an actual liaison, or an FBI agent masquerading as one. He supposed it didn’t really matter. There was nothing in his brusque attitude that made Jared want to confide in him, even if he still wanted out of his situation, which he could honestly admit to himself that he wasn’t sure he did anymore. Things weren’t perfect, but nowhere was perfect. His situation could’ve been a lot worse, and that was something he never forgot, even during the parts of living with Speight he didn’t really enjoy.

*****

Ackles picked him up from the March meeting alone. Jared was surprised, and secretly pleased. Out of everybody at the office, Ackles was the most fun to talk to, but Jared hardly ever got the chance to talk to him one on one.

“Everything go okay?” Ackles asked immediately.

“Yes, fine, sir.” Jared got up and started walking back to the car at Ackles’ side.

“Hope you weren’t waiting long. How long are these meetings usually? Speight said you’re always done when he gets there.”

“Oh. Uh, not long, sir. I mean, I usually have to wait a little while before they start. Once I’m in the meeting it’s pretty fast, sir.”

“Like half an hour?”

“I think maybe more like ten minutes, sir.”

Ackles’ eyebrows raised. “Seriously?”

Jared nodded uncertainly.

“What kind of questions does your liaison ask? I mean, you don’t have to tell me, but now I’m confused. I met a guy who worked as a YOAP liaison, at a conference last year, and he described his job as kind of a counsellor or something. It sounded a lot more intense than just ten minutes once a month.”

“I don’t really need counselling, sir,” Jared offered hesitantly. “I’m happy where I am. Maybe he can tell that he doesn’t need to waste his time.”

“Yeah, but...” Ackles started, then studied Jared for a minute before looking away. When he spoke next, he’d changed the subject completely. “I can take you back to the office if you have too much schoolwork or something, but I’m about to interview a witness. Whitfield said if you were interested you could tag along.”

“I, uh, I’m interested, sir.”

Ackles grinned. “You know, it never gets old, being called ‘sir.’ Makes me feel like a real grown-up.”
Jared smiled back.

“But,” Ackles continued after a minute. “You really don’t have to. Much as I like it, I’m not going to complain if you want to drop it and just call me ‘Ackles’ like everyone else does.”

“Agent Speight probably wouldn’t like it, sir,” Jared answered.

“You think so?” Ackles asked.

Jared shrugged.

“Are you sure it isn’t something he just wanted to start out with? I mean, he didn’t know what you were going to be like. He might have started out with stricter rules because he thought he’d need them.”

Jared shrugged again.

He wouldn’t have dared shrug in answer to any of the others, though it wasn’t like Hodge or Cassidy would’ve called him on it, he didn’t think. He liked them, and he thought they liked him too. It was just different with Ackles. He’d never had an older brother, but maybe Ackles was a little bit more like that.

“You’re not going to start going wild and tearing up the office if you’re allowed to call me ‘Ackles,’ are you?” Ackles asked jokingly. “I mean, I don’t want to instigate a rebellion.”

Jared smirked. “I might not be able to help myself, sir.”

Ackles grinned. “Anyway, you can call me what you want. You can even call me ‘Jensen,’ if you want to.”

Jared nodded, too dry-mouthed to talk. Jensen. He knew that Speight probably would hate it, but it would be so amazing. He could just imagine walking up to Ackles’ desk and saying ‘Good morning, Jensen,' and how Cassidy and Hodge would grin and wait for Ackles to maybe tell him off, but instead Ackles, Jensen, would just smile back and say 'Good morning, Jared.' And after that, maybe Cassidy and Hodge would let him drop the ‘ma’am’ and ‘sir’ and just call them Cassidy and Hodge.

He hadn’t realized how much he wanted to stop using ‘sir’ and ‘ma’am’ until Jensen offered him the alternative.

Jensen started up the car, but he didn’t put it into gear. He turned to Jared and said casually, “I know I’m not your official liaison, but you can come to me anyway, if you ever just want to talk to somebody. We’re friends. Friends listen to each other's problems.” Jared nodded, and though there was no chance at all that he would ever tell Jensen Ackles his problems, it was nice to hear it, and feel that Jensen meant it.

*****

The witness was being held at a police station. He’d been arrested for possession with intent to sell, and he was claiming to have information on an ongoing GIS investigation, hoping to get his charges dropped. Until they knew for sure that he was telling the truth, the metro PD were maintaining custody of him. Jared wasn’t sure he’d have agreed to come if he’d known that going in. Police officers made him nervous. Walking into a police station, even with Jensen Ackles by his side, felt like walking into den full of lions.

He could only keep half his mind on what Jensen was explaining to him, because it took a lot of focus to appear untroubled as he felt the eyes of every cop they passed take in his collar. It was a relief to finally follow Jensen out of the hallway and into a darkened observation room.

Of course, there were a sound tech and two more officers in the room already, so the relief was short lived.

The sound tech ignored them. The officers introduced themselves to Jensen and gave Jared a cool once over.

“I’m Agent Jensen Ackles. This is our team’s apprentice, Jared,” Ackles said with a smile. “He’s going to watch the interview today.”

Jared knew Jensen well enough to see that behind the flash of white teeth, he was geared up for a fight. But the officers just exchanged a glance and then nodded.

“Have at him then,” said the first one, nodding towards the one-way mirror.

“He’s all yours,” chimed in the second.

“Gee, thanks.” Jensen gave the officers a friendly grin, then turned to Jared. “You good?”

“Yes, sir.”

“You guys going to stay and watch?” Jensen asked the officers.

“Oh yeah, we wanna see how GIS does things,” said the first one. It was a tiny bit too flat to be a joke. It put Jared’s hackles up.

“Well, I’ll try to give you a good show then,” Jensen answered.

The second officer snorted. Jensen gave him a sharp look, but the officer didn’t say anything, and after a beat, Jensen turned and opened the door. Jared swallowed against the urge to call him back and ask if he could wait in the car, instead.

He was probably just being paranoid. They were officers of the law, after all, and it wasn’t like they’d said anything really hostile, or even paid much attention to him at all so far.

Jensen entered the room on the other side of the glass. Jared watched him introduce himself to the witness, turning on his smile and instantly putting the guy at ease. He started out with small talk, still smiling brightly.

“This is what they teach ‘em at GIS?” the first cop asked the second, after a minute. They were behind Jared, and he worked to keep his neck from tensing. “This happy crappy we’re all friends here bullshit? What’s he gonna do, blow him to get his answers?”

The second cop laughed meanly. “Sure. It’s a new interrogation technique. You know how your brain spills when your dick spills?”

Jared kept his eyes on Jensen, who was leading the witness through his story, still smiling and being charming. When he put on that look, he seemed like he should still be in high school, though Jared knew from Speight that he was 23.

“So you saw her leave the building with a guy?” he asked the witness, hint of a puzzled frown on his face.

“Oh yeah. Yeah. Big black guy. Looked like he could’ve snapped her in half, and she looked scared too.”

Jensen nodded. “And then what?”

“Then I followed them a little ways. I was worried for her, you know? I mean, we were neighbors. I didn’t know her that well? But I couldn’t just go about my day and forget about it. That’s not the kind of guy I am.”

Jensen nodded understandingly.

“Yeah right, asshole,” the first cop muttered. “You believe this bullshit?”

“You believe GIS guy in there, eating it up with a spoon?” the second cop said. Then he spoke to Jared for the first time. “Hey, you, he does know not all witnesses tell the truth, right?”

Jared turned but kept his eyes on the ground as he answered, “Yes, sir. He knows.”

“Well good then. Cause it doesn’t seem like he knows.”

Jared said nothing.

“What are you, the quiet type?” the second cop sniggered, and the first cop laughed too. “No really, are you shy or something? C’mon, we’re not gonna bite you. What was your name? Jared?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Well don’t worry, Jared. We don’t mean anything by it. I’m sure your, what do you call it? Your handler? I’m sure he’s a very good agent, really.”

“He is, sir,” Jared said stiffly, looking up against his better judgement. They were studying him closely.

“You known him long?”

“Four months, sir.”

“And I bet he’s taught you a lot in those four months,” the first cop said, straightfaced, but Jared could see the gleam in his eye, and he could just guess what the man was implying. The way the second cop was smirking was all the confirmation he needed.

“If you don’t mind, sir, I’d like to watch the interview,” he said quietly.

“Oh, of course, of course,” the first cop said. “Didn’t mean to interrupt your learning process.”

“Yeah, God knows I’m learning a lot watching this guy in action,” snickered the second cop.

Jared turned back to the window, shoulders practically up to his ears. To his relief, they didn’t address any more comments to him, though the comments about Jensen’s every move never stopped. To Jared it was obvious that Jensen was just trying to lull the witness into a false sense of security, but the officers didn’t seem to be watching the same interrogation he was. He wondered how they thought Jensen had gotten the job at GIS if he was such a moron, but decided on second thought that he really didn’t want to hear their theories.

Jensen led the guy through his entire night, then started chatting with him about the basketball game that had been on that night. Jared narrowed his eyes. Jensen sounded like an enthused sports fan, but there was no reason he’d be talking basketball with the guy unless he was leading up to something.

“So then, you’re saying you didn’t actually see her at eight,” he threw in casually. “Because you just said you saw the end of the game. In the bar.”

“Oh. Oh yeah, it must have been later than eight then,” the guy waffled. Behind him, the comments abruptly stopped. Jared could practically hear the cops’ ears prick up.

“So what time then?”

“Uh. It must have been like, nine.”

“Nine, huh? That’s weird, since your landlady, Mrs. Flores, didn’t hear your neighbor leave her apartment at nine. She heard her leave it at eight.”

The guy froze up briefly, but tried to recover with some story about Mrs. Flores always getting times confused.

Jensen let that pass, and then continued picking at detail after detail with the same placid tone, until he finally leaned forward and his voice got hard.

“So let me get this straight, just so it’s clear in my head: you’re coming up the sidewalk toward your building, which is on your left. You’re on the same side of the street as your building...”

The man nodded quickly.

“You see a big black man exit the building with your neighbor. They turn left, away from you. And you can see your neighbor’s face well enough to know that she’s terrified, despite the fact that at every point during this situation as you’ve described it, she would’ve been blocked from you completely by this huge guy? Do you have x-ray vision?”

“What? No-”

“Can you see through human bodies? Because there is no way you saw her face, not in the scenario you just described and confirmed for me.” Jensen’s voice had frozen cold as ice, and the guy sweated. “Tell me the truth: you were at the bar all night. You never saw your neighbor, or any huge black guy, nice use of racism there, by the way, you scumbag. You got arrested and thought that using your neighbor’s recent brutal murder would be a great way to earn yourself a get out of jail free card. The only question I have left is: Did you kill her yourself, or are you covering up for the person who did?”

The guy’s eyes practically bulged out of his head.

“No- No, man, I don’t know anything about it, okay? I lied okay? I lied about seeing her and the guy. But I didn’t do it and I don’t know who did, okay? It’s nothing to do with me, I swear it on my mother.”

“Well, either way, you just opened up a nice big investigation on yourself, bigger than any two-bit drug bust would’ve gotten you. So congratulations. Good plan.”

Jensen interrogated him for another fifteen minutes, but he was sticking to his new story, that he didn’t know anything and had been at the bar all night, and Jared believed this one a lot more.

The cops behind him had switched to focusing their disdain on the scumbag, and off of Jensen for the most part, so Jared relaxed a little, but he still felt much better when Jensen ended the interrogation and came back to the observation room.

“You see that?” he asked Jared, grinning. “I hope you took notes, because that was textbook. If he’d thought his story through for ten minutes before he told it I’d probably still be in there trying to find a hole. Never tell the lie without running it through in your own head first.”

“You sure you should be telling him that?” The first cop asked, snidely.

“I can’t believe they let one of these snots into a law enforcement office in the first place,” the second one added. “There’s something screwy there.”

“Or have they changed the program recently?”

“Yeah, like now the point isn’t to teach them how to be better citizens. It’s teaching them how to be better criminals.”

“Well, you know, if they don’t get caught again, they don’t clog up our system again. It’s efficient.”

“That’s enough,” Jensen said tightly. “Jared’s a credit to the office.”

“If you say so,” said the first one.

“I do,” Jensen answered immediately. “Now if you don’t have anything more about this guy than what you sent us, we’ll be on our way. I’ll be in touch if my boss decides he wants to transfer custody to GIS.”

“What exactly does he do around the office, anyway?” persisted the second guy.

“And how old is this fucking kid? You guys hiring middle schoolers to run your investigations now?” chimed in the first one.

They were both older than Jensen by a good fifteen years, and whether they’d decided they didn’t like him personally, or they had some kind of grudge against GIS, they didn’t seem shy about staring him down with unveiled disdain. Jared found himself sidling closer to Jensen with every second that ticked by.

“How old are you?” the first one asked him.

“Don’t answer that, Jared,” Jensen snapped out quickly. “That’s really none of your business, is it? But if you’d like more information on how the YOAP works, I’m sure I could find you a number for that. Or you could go ahead and call up my boss, if you have concerns on how the investigation’s being run. But, just so you know, Special Agent Whitfield is the one who suggested I bring Jared along today.” He loomed over the shorter officer, and the man fell back a step, leaving the way to the door half clear.

“Then your boss is as nutballs as you are,” snarled the other one. “I hope you check your wallet before you leave every day. And I really hope you don’t leave him unsupervised, ever. These little punks wouldn’t know the meaning of the word ‘honest’ if it bit them in the ass.”

Jensen switched his glare to the new target, and the second cop stepped aside. Jensen propelled Jared out in front of him towards the door, snapping, “If I wanted your opinion I’d ask for it. But, you know, thanks for the advice. Very helpful.”

If the guys said anything else, the door closing cut it off.

Jensen didn’t speak again until they were buckled into the car. “Metro PD are assholes,” he said stiffly. “You alright, Jared?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Did they say anything to you while I was in there?”

“No, sir.”

Jensen studied him a minute, then nodded. “Remember what I said though. You can tell me anything.”

Yes, Jensen, Jared thought. It sounded good.

“Yes, sir,” he said aloud.

*****

“Agent Ackles said today that I- if I wanted to I could call him Ackles. Like everybody else does,” Jared offered tentatively on the car ride home that night.

Speight huffed. “That’s a great idea. I can’t see how that would be a problem at all.”

Jared bit his lip. He knew he should just drop it.

“Why- why would it be such a bad idea, sir?” he asked anyway.

“You can’t see it?” Speight snorted. “After the hard time Ackles told us you guys had at Metro today, you’re asking me why it would be a bad idea?”

“But-” Jared started, then cut himself off. He should probably change the subject, and he should definitely stop arguing now.

“But what?” Speight prodded darkly.

“But it... I mean, I don’t think it would’ve made a difference what I called him today, sir.”

“Oh you don’t, huh?” Speight laughed darkly.

“No, sir. I mean, I think those cops just didn’t like GIS, sir. They were prejudiced against us from the very start, and it was nothing Jensen or I did-”

Speight’s face darkened like a hurricane had just made landfall.

Jensen, Jared thought. Why did I say Jensen? I’ve never called him that before today.

He waited for Speight to say something, or at least glare at him. Speight stared forward at the road, knuckles white on the wheel, and the longer the silence went on, the worse the sick feeling in the pit of Jared’s stomach grew.

*****

They’d just gotten home when Speight finally broke the silence.

“So it’s Jensen now, huh?” He’d stopped at the table in the hallway where his mail collected, back to Jared. “It’s nice to see you’re such good friends.”

He flipped too casually through some old envelopes, that Jared knew for a fact were all junkmail. He opened his mouth to defend himself somehow, but he couldn’t think of what to say. Speight abruptly dropped the mail he was holding and moved further into the house to the living room. Jared trailed him like a ghost, watched him sink onto the couch and flip on the TV. Usually Speight would pat the seat beside him, or tell him he could go to his room, or tell him to get something for them from the kitchen.

Speight settled on a rerun of Gilligan’s Island, a show that he didn’t even like on a good day. He stared intently at the screen, but his mouth wasn’t even twitching at the jokes. He looked stony and absolutely unapproachable. Jared thought about going to hide in his room, but he was afraid that would only make things worse.

Maybe forgiveness would be easier to earn if Speight didn’t have an empty stomach.

“Sir, are you hungry?” he asked softly. Speight kept staring at the TV and didn’t so much as blink. Please, thought Jared, frightened. But there was nothing, and Jared couldn’t repeat the question. He walked a few steps closer, approaching from the side so he wouldn’t block Speight’s view. He never thought he’d see the day when he was longing for a display of lust, a covetous glance. He’d give anything if Speight would just look at him, even if it was with hunger, even if it was with anger. He stopped beside Speight and instead of sitting on the sofa next to him as he usually would, he dropped to a kneel at his feet. Speight shifted, and Jared thought finally, even as his heart picked up a little in anxiety.

Speight stood and flicked the TV off, cast the remote aside carelessly to clatter on the coffee table. Without a word he walked around Jared and exited the room. Jared knelt still, stunned. He didn’t move as he heard Speight rustling around in the kitchen and using the microwave. His stomach grumbled but he ignored it. He smelt a TV dinner heating up. He listened to Speight pull his meal out, sit down at the table, eat and throw the tray away, drop his fork in the dishwasher. He waited. Speight came back into the living room and stared at him from just inside the doorway without speaking. Jared stared back and tried to convey just how fucking sorry he was with his eyes alone.

“Go to your room, and go to bed,” said Speight, and turned and walked out of the room. Jared’s heart plummeted down to his guts, but after a minute he pulled it together and did as he was told. He brushed his teeth and changed into his pajamas, and then wound up sitting on the side of the bed, not able to get beneath the covers and acknowledge utter defeat just yet. If he left it til the morning, tomorrow would be miserable. They were always tired and in a rush in the morning. Nothing would get resolved.

Anyway, he was pretty sure that any sleep he did manage to get would be plagued with nightmares. How could he sleep well with the feeling of utter doom that was hanging over his head? He didn’t even know what he was so afraid of. Speight had never hit him or hurt him. Speight had said a million times that he loved him. Still his stomach rolled with terror.

He’d never gone to Speight uninvited. He imagined putting his hand on the knob and just pushing Speight’s door open, walking right in like it was his right. It seemed like it would only make things worse. But maybe Speight was sitting in his room, waiting for Jared to come make it right, and getting angrier and angrier.

He gnawed on his lip and weighed and measured and still couldn’t bring himself to move. He felt nothing like the boy who’d calmly lied to his liaison earlier. He felt nothing like the kid that Jensen Ackles had smiled at and called a friend. He wasn’t actually either of those boys. This boy, quivering on the side of his bed in his pajamas, too afraid to move without permission, was who he really was.

He was so absorbed in his thoughts that he almost missed the footsteps. They were hard to hear. The hall outside his door had a long carpet running down it, and Speight moved quietly anyway. It was an old house though, and there were some floorboards that had to be avoided if a person didn’t want to be heard. They creaked, one after another, and he wondered if he should turn off the light and climb under the covers, if sitting up with the lights on after Speight had ordered him to go to bed would count as another black mark against him. Speight was coming too fast though, and it seemed worse to be caught in the act of doing anything, no matter how innocuous, than to have chosen a position and stuck with it.

Speight pushed the door open. He watched Jared from the doorway for a few seconds, and Jared saw that his face was pale, with a bright flush high on his cheeks.

“You want to be friends with Ackles, is that it?” he asked angrily, as though they were in the middle of a conversation already. Not for the first time, Jared wondered what thoughts passed through Speight’s head. Jared had never been in love himself. He thought maybe he’d understand better if only he had.

“Yes, sir,” Jared answered truthfully. He didn’t see how he could lie about that, but thought maybe if Speight gave him a chance to explain that friendship with Jensen Ackles wasn’t a threat to them, it would be okay.

Speight’s breath caught, and he looked like Jared had just admitted to high treason.

“You do. You do want to be friends with him,” Speight said, stalking towards the bed. The flush on his cheeks grew fiercer with each second, and Jared couldn’t help leaning back when Speight came to a halt in front of him.

Why?” Speight asked incredulously. “That arrogant little prick. Why do you think you need him? Don’t I give you enough? Enough affection? Enough attention? You have to go panting after him like some...” He trailed off, eyes glittering, and Jared began to babble.

“Sir, no,” he said, low and urgent. “Please sir, I want to be friends with everyone on the team because I don’t want to lose this apprenticeship. I don’t want anyone complaining that I don’t fit in, that I should go to another placement. Please, sir, I’m sorry. Please listen, I thought it, would be easier, safer, if I were friends with him, and with everybody else too. If they-”

“You think I’d let them take you away?!” Speight cried. “You think you can’t trust me to keep you safe, here with me? Haven’t I told you I’ll never let you go? Didn’t you smile when I said that? Didn’t you nod and say ‘Yes, sir?’ Were you lying then? Do you think I’m some incompetent, that I can’t protect you? And you can just lie to me when you want?” Jared cringed back. Speight had never been this angry with him before. “You want to make friends? I’m not enough for you? Because let me tell you, I have some friends who’d love to meet you, but I always thought I was enough. I know someone who’s offered me a lot of things for a night with you, but I’m never even tempted! I turn him down flat! I tell him no for you! To protect you!” Jared stared at him and felt his throat constrict like a large hand was pinching it, his lungs stutter and squeeze shut.

“Please sir,” he whispered.

“Is that what you want?!” Speight cut him off. His voice dropped into a low venomous hiss, that Jared hated even worse than the screaming. “Do you still want to make friends, Jared? Do you? Tell me you want to make friends.” Speight’s hands landed on him, squeezing in over his ears, holding his face immobile. If Speight weren’t clutching him he’d shake his head.

Instead, he could only moan .“No. No. Sir please. I’m sorry, sir, please. Please.”

Speight lunged down and kissed him painfully hard.

“So you don’t want to make friends anymore?” he asked when he pulled back.

Jared panted and whispered, “No, sir, please. No other friends, just you.”

“You don’t think I need help keeping you safe?”

“No, sir. Please, I’m sorry, I didn’t think-”

“No. You didn’t,” Speight snapped. “I love you. I love you so much it hurts me sometimes. And to hear you say- admit to my face that you as good as lied to me...”

“I’m sorry, sir. I won’t do that again, sir.”

“I won’t hear you slipping up and calling him, or anyone else, by disrespectful titles any more?”

“No, sir, I promise.” Speight nodded, and his hands eased up slightly but his eyes were still fierce.

“It’s my fault too. I’ve been too easy on you. You’re young and you need rules. Sometimes I forget that. I take responsibility for that, for relaxing the rules too much. That makes it all the more important that I punish you now.”

“Yes, sir.”

Speight let Jared go and pulled the remote control to the collar from his pocket. He’d stopped carrying it around everywhere months ago, so he must have picked it up before he came in to talk to Jared. Jared shuddered and looked at Speight pleadingly. Speight’s eyes still burned with clumsily-suppressed anger.

Jared clenched his hands into the bedspread and bit his tongue so he wouldn’t beg.

“Lie back, I don’t want to hurt you.” Speight’s eyes dared Jared to protest. Jared guessed it was a test. If he were truly repentant, he’d take his punishment quietly. He lay back like Speight had asked, and stared at the ceiling with his hands still fisted and his face impassive.

He saw the barest flicker of movement and braced himself harder. A few seconds ticked by. Then the pain started. Knowing that he’d been through it once before did nothing to help him prepare himself.

It ripped through him mercilessly, jittering current down through his skin and muscle and deep into his bones. The word ‘pain’ couldn’t do it justice. He didn’t know how he could’ve ever forgotten what pain that bad felt like. It was a buzzing, inescapable, hysterical agony like his entire body was a giant funny bone that someone kept smashing, again and again and again.

It went on forever, and it made him want to die. Long before it ended, he could hear his own strangled scream, feel his muscles cramp tighter and tighter in on themselves until he was sure they must be ripping. Nothing that hurt that bad could leave a person unharmed. He was curiously aware of his surroundings, despite being trapped apart from them. He was aware of every molecule of his body, because they were all screaming. He knew he was completely rigid on the bed. He knew in his head he was screaming ‘Enough! Enough! Enough!’ but all he heard from his own lips was an inarticulate cry of pain and suffering.

Finally it ended. Speight must have gone for the full thirty seconds. Jared’s muscles unclenched and one more low moan of pain escaped. He sucked in a deep breath and felt water drip from the corners of his eyes. His everything felt too loose, like his body had clenched so tightly it had ripped things it shouldn’t free; skin and muscle and bone, and now his pieces couldn’t reattach.

“Jared, look at me.” Speight leaned in over him before he’d even drawn a breath. The man’s eyes were red and wet, his mouth twisted in misery. “Oh God. That hurt. That hurt me too,” he wheezed, and stroked Jared’s hair back from his forehead with a shaking hand. Jared dazedly released the bedspread from his fisted hands, tried to breathe deep. “You’re alright. It’s done, now. It’s over.”

He allowed himself to be pulled up and into Speight’s arms. Speight tucked Jared’s face against his neck and wrapped him tightly in his arms. He started to rock him back and forth, mumbling the whole while about how horrible it was to have to do that. When Jared’s lungs finally started working again, he couldn’t stop himself from beginning to cry. He couldn’t stop crying for a long time.

When they’d both finally wound down, Speight led Jared down the hall into his room. He arranged him on the bed and wrapped himself around him.

“I love you,” Speight murmured in his ear. “Don’t ever, ever make me do that again, okay? I love you too much.”

Jared nodded his head, and Speight kissed him on the ear. His stomach clenched, but Speight just settled in behind him and didn’t ask him for anything more. It was good. Jared didn’t think he had anything more to give that night.

*****

In April, he met with his liaison again. This time, he passed over the thumbdrive full of the contents of Speight’s work computer, as well as a list of all the people he’d heard Speight talking to on the phone, and what he could remember hearing from his side of the conversation. Lastly, he passed over fifty-two pages of a file that Speight had kept in a locked drawer in his desk. He still couldn’t quite believe he’d taken it. He couldn’t believe he was actually handing it over.

The liaison raised his eyebrows, but didn’t say more than “Okay. Well. We’ll look this over. Thank you, Jared. See you next month.” The meeting lasted about ten minutes, as usual. Afterward, Jared went and dry heaved in the bathroom.

Speight chattered nonstop on the car ride back. Jared could barely stand to look at him. He honestly wasn’t sure what might have spilled out if Speight had ever stopped talking on the way, so he supposed it was a stroke of pure luck that Speight had just made a brilliant deduction on their current case and couldn’t stop explaining it to him long enough to take a deep breath.

Back at the office, Jensen was being irritable and Cassidy was baiting him while Hodge was, as usual, trying to keep the peace. He was only about 90% successful, and Jared was distracted enough by the intermittent bickering the rest of the day not to lose his lunch in the middle of the squad room.

In bed that night, Jared lay awake long after Speight had begun snoring. When he finally fell asleep, he dreamed about his family. He was standing behind them, horrorstricken, as they watched a volcano erupt without moving. In the dream, he tried to tug on their arms, shout at them over and over that they had to come with him, but they didn’t seem to hear him, and he couldn’t budge them. The boiling cloud of ash crept closer and closer through the air, and they wouldn’t move. He woke up choking and crying out.

Speight mumbled “Jared?” in his ear.

Jared let out a sob.

“What’s wrong?” Speight sounded instantly alert. He pulled Jared over onto his back and peered anxiously at his face.

Jared knew he needed to tell Speight what he’d done. He opened his mouth, but instead of speaking he let out another sob.

“Oh hey, shh shh shh,” Speight soothed. He rubbed gently at Jared’s arms. “It was only a dream, baby. Okay? It was just a bad dream.”

The concern in his voice made Jared realize that he couldn’t tell him what he’d done. He never wanted Speight to know how he’d been betrayed.

*****

At the May meeting, Pellegrino was there. Jared stepped into the room and almost did a double-take.

“Jared,” Pellegrino smiled welcomingly. He took in Jared’s expression and added with a smirk “Surprised to see me?”

Jared just nodded.

“I’m sorry. I probably should have stayed away today. If Speight saw me talking to you, it wouldn’t be easy to explain. But I really, and I mean really, wanted to know where that file came from.”

Jared sank cautiously into his chair. He had a lot of questions of his own.

“He keeps it in his desk, sir.”

“His desk at home?”

“Yes, sir.”

“So, forgive me for asking the obvious, but isn’t he going to notice it missing at some point? Or have you thought of that?” Pellegrino’s eyes gleamed with curiosity. He was dying to know.

“How much longer, sir? How much longer do you think until...” Jared trailed off before his voice got shaky.

“We already had a lot on him, from the computers, and our own investigating. But with what you gave us? You eliminated months more of evidence gathering. The arrest will be coming a lot sooner, thanks to that file. Why? Is he going to notice?”

“No, sir. I- That was just a copy. I waited until he was sleeping and scanned in the file. Then I sent it to my computer at work and printed it out there. There’s nothing missing for him to notice.”

Pellegrino nodded approvingly. “Weren’t you afraid he’d wake up while you were scanning? Fifty-two pages...”

“I- He has a bottle of sleeping pills in the medicine cabinet in his bathroom, sir. I knew he’d wake up otherwise, so I, um, put one in his wine after dinner.”

Pellegrino laughed. “In-fucking-credible,” he murmured to himself. Then, to Jared, he said aloud “Jesus kid, do you know how risky that was? What if he noticed he’d been drugged? What if he caught you printing out the file at the office?”

“Sir, I- I waited for a night when he was really tired anyway, when we’d had a big case. I might not have needed the pills at all, but I wanted to be certain. And I waited until he was out of the office on a witness interview to print them all. I was careful, sir.”

“Careful,” Pellegrino repeated. “Just out of curiosity, what was the most dangerous part, would you say?”

“I- um. I think it was bringing them to the liaison meeting, sir.”

“Why?”

“Because I had to bring them in my bookbag, sir, and say I wanted to work on schoolwork while I waited. But I hadn’t ever done that before, so I was afraid he’d get suspicious and ask to look in the bag.”

“But he didn’t, obviously.”

“No, sir.”

“And you weren’t as worried about people thinking it was strange that you were printing out fifty-two pages of financial information in the middle of the office?”

“No, sir. I-I’m allowed to use the printer, sir. I have to, for my job. And they were all focused on the case anyway. I mean, I was nervous, but I didn’t really need to be. No one said anything.”

“In-fucking-credible,” Pellegrino laughed again. “I don’t know whether to be impressed by your skills or appalled by their complacency at GIS.”

Jared bit his tongue.

“How did you know this was the file we needed?”

“Well, he kept it locked up, sir. It was the only drawer I needed a key for. And then, when I looked at it, while I was trying to decide if I needed to scan it all in for sure, it just... looked right. Looked important.”

“It looked important,” Pellegrino repeated.

“Well, there’ve been cases where we had to use people’s financial information, sir. It looked... like that.”

“Don’t tell me they let you help with the investigations!”

“A little, sir. I’m an apprentice. They’re teaching me how to do the job, sir.”

Pellegrino shook his head and laughed again.

“So, how’ve things been going with Speight?” he asked when he’d sobered.

“Fine, sir,” Jared said automatically.

“How’s he been treating you?” Pellegrino’s gaze was intent, and Jared suddenly found it hard to meet.

“Fine, sir.”

“But not fine enough to stop you from drugging him and turning him in,” Pellegrino observed.

Jared shrugged.

“Okay. How about this: would you say he trusts you now?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Do you trust him back?”

“Sir, I... He’s a corrupt agent, you told me that. It would be stupid of me to trust him.”

“So you don’t feel even a little bit guilty for turning him in? He’s given you a home and it sounds like you’re fitting in well at the office too.”

Jared shrugged.

“For a while, you know, it seemed like you didn’t want to help anymore. The reports I was getting from here were that you were unenthusiastic, and it took you months to fill that second thumbdrive. I wasn’t sure whether you’d changed your mind, or whether you truly didn’t have the opportunity. Now I see that you’re more resourceful than I’d hoped you could possibly be, and you’ve clearly got more guts than I’d have guessed. So I wonder why it took you so long to make your move.”

“I like working there, sir. I wasn’t sure...”

“You weren’t sure you wanted to leave?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Don't worry, Jared. I thought that might be the case. But I am curious to know what changed your mind.”

“I- I knew it was only a matter of time anyway. I realized it would be stupid of me to drag it out.”

“You just realized that one day. Out of the blue.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Honestly Jared, I’m sorry, but for some reason I’m finding that hard to believe. What’s really going on here? This evidence you gave us is almost too good to be true, and I don’t want to fall all over myself using it, only to discover there was something I should’ve looked at more closely about it. What changed your mind? Something must have happened.”

“I- Sir, I... It was just...”

“Just what? Tell me what happened Jared... Did Richard Speight do something to make you change your mind?”

Jared nodded shortly.

“What did he do?”

Jared chanced a look up and found Pellegrino’s eyes gleaming with a look he recognized from the investigators at GIS. Except none of them ever directed it at him, because to them he wasn’t a case.

“It was just after the March liaison meeting, sir,” he began reluctantly. “I made a stupid mistake and Speight was angry and he, when we got home he... shocked me... with the collar.” Jared swallowed. “That’s when I realized-”

“He used the collar to punish you,” Pellegrino cut in.

“Yes, sir.”

“Do you know how illegal that is?” Pellegrino said. “That breaks child abuse laws and YOAP rules. Was that even the only time?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Has he ever hit you?”

“No, sir.” Jared fixed his eyes on his lap.

“You can tell me, Jared. This is only going to make it even easier to throw the book at him. What else did he do to you?”

“Nothing, sir.”

“Jared, come on. You’re telling me everything was roses until the day he suddenly lost it because you made a mistake? I’m sorry, kid, that just doesn’t compute.”

Jared shrugged.

“Jared, look at me.”

Jared did.

“What else did he do to you?”

Jared just shook his head.

“Alright." Pellegrino looked disappointed. "We’re not done talking about this, but if you don’t want to talk about it today, we won’t talk about it today. We’ve got him nailed. We’ve got everything we need on him, and right now we’re trying to go farther. We want his associates. We want everybody we can get who took money from him, or gave money to him, or conspired with him, or just looked the other way.

"But it’s gonna take a couple more weeks until we arrest him, and a lot can happen in a couple of weeks. What I’m saying is, if you need to be pulled, right now, today, I can make that happen. It’s not ideal, and it might raise some flags. I don’t want to do it. But I will, if you tell me that’s what you need.”

Jared thought about being pulled right there and then. He’d never have to face Speight again, but he’d never be back at GIS either. “I’m fine, sir.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, sir.”

“If you’re sure that you’re fine there, then here’s what’s going to happen. As soon as we’ve got everything we think we’re going to, we’ll come to arrest him. Probably at home. The local PD will take temporary custody of you, because until I’ve got the paperwork sorted from Speight’s arrest, I can’t get your paperwork rolling. You’ll wait it out at the police station, probably just a few hours. I’ll have you out of there as soon as I can. Now, listen up, this is important: while you’re there, I don’t want you saying word one to anybody. I don’t want you to open your mouth. You got that?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Do you promise you’ll keep your mouth shut until I come for you?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Alright then. You’ve been doing well so far. Don’t fuck it up in the home stretch.”

“How much longer, sir?” Jared asked again.

This time, Pellegrino sighed and answered. “Don’t hold me to this, but I’d say two weeks, tops.”

Dazed, Jared left what he guessed would be his final liaison meeting.



Part Two: Chapter Six

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December 2011

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