1-Always the Last to Know 2-Nemesis 3-A Shaky Start 4-Roommates 5-Hazing Days 6-Try a Little Tenderness 7-Tides of Change 8-Seal of Fate 9-More than a Feeling 10-Welcome to Your Nightmare 11-The Nightmare Continues 12-An Unlikely Hero 13-There's No Place like Home 14-Shelter for a Bloodstained Soul 15-Don't Shoot the Messenger 16-Cause and Effect 17-Truth and Consequence 18-Tears after Midnight 19-A Helping Hand 20-Fortis Cor (Brave Heart) 21-He Sold His Soul ... 22-Fade to Black 23-Gambling for Love 24-Dinner and a Show 25-Tommy, Can You Hear Me? 26-Lead Us Not into Temptation 27-The Changing Heart Paradigm 28-Shot Through the Heart 29-Choices 30-Flee from Me, Keeper of the Gloom 31-Ripping a Hole in a Paper Heart 32-Don't Look Back in Anger 33-True Lies 34-Just a Kiss Away 35-Broken, Beaten and Scarred 36-The Ripple Effect 37-Just West of Crazy 38-Homecoming 39-The Trust I Seek 40-Inveigled 41-Breathing New Life 42-Don’t You Forget about Me 43-Why Can’t This Be Love? 44-Eyes of a Stranger 45-Seeing Is Believing 46-C’mon, Baby, Light My Fire 47-Your Gay Friend 48-Help Is a Four Letter Word 49-Love Means You Have To Say You're Sorry 50-Sometimes You’ve Gotta Fall Before You Fly 51-Everything I Do, I Do It For You 52-Taking Back Control 53-Coming Together 54-Face Off 55-Smoking Gun 56-The Cop and The Pool Boy
This story is dedicated to my wonderful, loyal reader, vidalhbea. Thank you for all your positive feedback, I really do appreciate the time you take to comment on my stories. Big hugs! xx
When Doug Penhall entered the bustling operations room of the Jump Street Chapel, he found his gaze immediately drawn to his best friend, Tom Hanson. It was not unusual for him to beeline to Tom when he arrived at work; they always had plenty to talk about, such as baseball, girls, football, girls, hockey, and of course, girls. But what caught his attention on that particular morning was the intensity of Tom’s gaze. With his brow puckered in concentration and his full, bowed lips pursed in a displeased moue, Tom’s stare remained fixed, although on what, Doug had no idea. However, his curiosity was genuinely piqued and forgoing his habitual early morning trip to the coffeemaker, he sauntered over to Tom’s desk, pulled up a chair and sat down. “Whatcha lookin’ at, buddy?”
Without moving a muscle or breaking his gaze, Tom spoke in a low, conspiratorial voice. “Him.”
Doug followed Tom’s line of sight, expecting to see someone acting in a suspicious or inappropriate manner, but all he saw were their coworkers, Dennis Booker and Judy Hoffs chatting amicably next to the water cooler. His expression mirrored Tom’s, and he found himself drawn into the web of intrigue. “Booker?” he queried in a hushed tone, his eyes focusing on the dark-haired officer’s handsome face. “Why? What’d he do?”
Tom’s eyes narrowed into wary slits. “Nothing… yet.”
“Yet?” Doug parroted, his curiosity growing with each passing second. “What is it you think he’s gonna do?”
“Who knows?” Tom muttered, his eyes blazing with mistrust. “But it’s gonna be something that humiliates me, you can count on that.”
There was no mistaking the paranoia in Tom’s voice, and raising his eyebrows, Doug shifted his gaze to his friend. “Okay, I give up. What’s this about?”
Although reluctant to take his eyes off Booker for even a second, Tom eventually turned in Doug’s direction. “He unnerves me,” he confided quietly. “He's always staring at me like he’s plotting his next prank. I don’t trust him.”
Booker’s transfer from Internal Affairs to the Jump Street program a few months before had been both a blessing and a curse. He was an exceptional cop who, like all the officers working at Jump Street, still looked young enough to pass as a teenager. However, because of the circumstances of his arrival—being sent undercover to see if the team were, in fact, guilty of entrapping minors—his acclimation from official nark to undercover nark had been a somewhat bumpy transition. But, even after Tom’s accusations of rape and racism, he had taken it all in his stride and eventually, after working together, Doug, Judy, and Harry had accepted him as one of their own. Only Tom held on to a lingering animosity, his distrust of Booker causing the two men to argue constantly, much to the annoyance of their captain. But Tom could not shake off his genuine dislike of Dennis Booker. As far as he was concerned, the arrogant cop was bad news, and he could not understand why nobody else could see it.
The suspicion in Tom’s eyes coupled with the tension in his body brought an amused, lopsided grin to Doug’s lips, and he could not resist teasing his best friend. “I don't think it's a prank he's plotting, Hanson,” he chuckled knowingly. “I think he has other things planned for you.”
With a childlike innocence that gratified Penhall’s sense of humor even more, Tom’s dark eyes filled with bewilderment. “Huh?”
Unable to contain his mirth any longer, Penhall laughed loudly and clapped Tom forcefully on the back, propelling him forward in his chair. “Aw, c’mon, Tommy, even you can’t be that naïve. Surely you know?”
Tom’s expression quickly turned from confusion to annoyance. “Know what? Jesus, Doug, quit foolin’ around. If you know something about him, you’d better tell me.”
Doug’s eyes sparkled with merriment and placing a companionable arm around Tom, he gave his shoulders a friendly squeeze. “Let’s just say, when you're around, Booker gets a little...”
Unsure of what Doug was talking about, Tom’s brow once again knitted in confusion. “A little what?”
Without thinking through the consequences of his actions, Doug blurted out the word with a snort. “Horny.”
Tom’s mouth dropped open, his lips forming a perfect O and pulling away from Doug’s embrace, his eyes grew wide with disbelief and the color drained from his face. “Wh-what did you say?”
It was at the precise moment when Tom’s words stammered from his lips that Doug realized he might have made a mistake. Hanson was not homophobic, but telling a straight man that another man lusted after him was a recipe for disaster, especially when there was bad blood between the two men. It was supposed to be nothing more than a bit of fun, some lighthearted teasing to relieve the tension that often built up when they were on assignment. Going undercover to bust teens and young adults week after week was a necessary but often difficult part of the job, and light relief and good-natured teasing were all part of life at the Chapel. But as Doug took in the look of horror on Tom’s face, he realized he had taken the joke too far—even though what he had said was true—and with a nervous grin, he attempted to defuse the situation in his unique, bumbling way. “Don’t take it personally, Tommy. I’m sure loads of gay guys find you attractive and some straight guys too. Geez, if I swung that way I’d—”
“Booker’s gay?” Tom gasped in a loud whisper, his large, startled eyes portraying his shock.
“Yeah… well, technically he’s bi,” Doug explained before his eyebrows shot up in surprise. “I thought you knew?”
“How would I know?” Tom hissed in an angry rush of words, his body jerking in a similar way to a child throwing a tantrum. “It’s not like he’s wearing a fucking sign around his neck!”
The idea of Booker wearing a neon sign that flashed, I’M BISEXUAL, HONK IF YOU THINK I’M SEXY was too much for Doug, and he started to snigger like a twelve-year-old. But Tom’s irate and somewhat confused expression soon sobered his mood and swallowing down the last of his giggles, he once again placed an arm around his friend’s shoulders. “Lighten up, Hanson. It’s not a big deal. So, Booker swings both ways, it’s not like his sexuality affects how he does his job. He’s a good cop, and that’s all that matters.”
“Yeah?” Tom muttered moodily, his face a picture of despondency. “That’s easy for you to say. You’re not the one featuring in his wet dreams.”
Penhall raised both hands in a halting gesture. “Whoa! Jesus, Tom, enough! I don’t need that image floating around in my head.”
For the first time that morning, Tom’s lips twitched into something resembling a smile. “I hope the vision haunts you for the rest of your life,” he teased softly. “You deserve—”
At the sound of his name, Tom turned his head in the direction of his captain’s office. Adam Fuller stood in the doorway, his stance tense and his expression serious. Tom knew the look all too well, and adrenaline surged through his system, increasing his heart rate and twitching his muscles in readiness for what was to come. He was about to embark on another case, and his usual happy and optimistic nature immediately returned. It was the rush he lived for; it was his life.
Grateful their captain had interrupted their disturbing conversation, he jumped enthusiastically to his feet. “Coming, Coach.”
Fuller nodded and returned to his office. When Tom entered the room, he motioned for him to take a seat and tenting his fingers under his chin, he leaned back in his chair. “There have been reports of extreme mistreatment during Hell Week. Last semester, two pledges were admitted to the hospital, one for alcohol poisoning, and the other for heatstroke. The abuse is escalating.”
Tom shrugged his shoulders apathetically. “So? Hazings are ritualistic rites of passage that have existed for centuries. If you become a pledge, you know what you’re getting into.”
A little surprised by Tom’s cavalier attitude, Fuller furrowed his brow. “Not the point,” he replied in a terse voice. “These young men are desperate for acceptance, and they’ll do anything to get it. We need to apprehend the abusers before somebody dies.”
It was not exactly the type of case Hanson had been hoping for, but he was willing to do anything to put some distance between himself and Dennis. “Sure, Coach,” he agreed with a smile and leaning forward, he accepted the manila folder his captain handed to him. But when he opened the file and started to read, his relaxed disposition immediately vanished and for the second time in less than five minutes, the blood drained from his face. “Booker? You’re sending me in with Booker?”
Fuller suppressed a cunning smile. He was well aware of the friction between the two headstrong officers, and he was determined to put an end to it. There was no room for egotism on the force and if Booker and Hanson could not find a way to work together, one of them would have to transfer to another department. Cops needed to be able to trust their partners with their lives and in Fuller’s mind, the hazing case was the perfect bonding assignment for the two men.
“C’mon, Cap’n, you can’t be serious!” Tom continued, the pitch of his voice rising to a whine. “Why can’t you partner me with Doug?”
As a captain, Fuller was one of the best in Los Angeles. He was tough but fair, and he was closer to the officers under his charge than he was to his son. But that did not mean he was easy to manipulate. He was the superior officer, and he expected his subordinates to put their differences behind them and obey his command. However, as he studied Tom’s pale face, the level of the young officer’s distress concerned and puzzled him. He could not understand why Hanson felt such animosity towards Booker when the two young officers were so alike. It was a mystery and before sending the two men into what could be a volatile situation, he decided to probe a little deeper.
“Can you give me one valid reason why you don’t want to work with Booker?” he asked quietly.
Tom wanted to leap to his feet and scream there were a million reasons. Booker was egotistical, smug, overconfident, opinionated and most unnervingly, he had a crush on him. But he knew better than to offer up such lame excuses, and so he remained tight-lipped, his mouth set in a hard line as his captain continued to stare at him, waiting for an answer. Eventually, he blew out his cheeks and shifting uncomfortably in his seat, he pushed his lower lip into a petulant pout and muttered what was probably the feeblest excuse of all. “I just don't like him.”
The response was not what Fuller expected, and he found himself losing patience. With his mind made up, he narrowed his eyes into slits and gave Hanson his patented no nonsense stare. “You'd better find a way to like him. We're a team, Hanson, and I issue assignments based on the suitability of my officers. I admit, I would have partnered you with Ioki, but he’s already on a case. Booker’s the next best fit, so you’d better learn to get along, because if you don't, we’re going to have a problem. Understood?”
Embarrassed by the reprimand, Tom lowered his gaze to the floor. “Yes, Coach,” he mumbled under his breath. After Penhall’s revelation, the thought of working closely with Booker unnerved him. However, he was a dedicated cop, and he was determined not to let his feelings get in the way of his job. He figured it would only take a few days to bust the students responsible for the abuse and then everything would return to normal. But what he did not know was his relationship with Booker was about to get a whole lot more complicated, and life as he knew it would never be the same again.