Thrill of the Chase

BY : OpenPage
Category: 1 through F > 21 Jump Street
Dragon prints: 191
Disclaimer: I do not own 21JS or the characters. I do not make any money from the writing of this story. All characters and events in this story are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead is coincidental.

 

Having spent a week at home recuperating, Tom was more than ready to get back to work. Although not fit enough to return to active duty, in his mind, paperwork was preferable to the boredom of daytime television. Soap operas were not to his intellectual taste, and so he’d spent his time lying on the sofa reading. But after finishing Tom Clancy’s ‘Clear and Present Danger’ and John Grisham’s ‘A Time to Kill’ in record time, boredom had set in. He was so desperate for something to do, he’d even considered taking up knitting to pass the time, and horrified he’d even contemplated such an activity, he’d launched a crusade to get himself back in the saddle, so to speak. At first, Fuller was reluctant, citing pressure from the commissioner to enforce a duty of care when dealing with injured officers. But after hounding his superior for a solid three days, Tom’s persistence—along with a little help from Penhall—had finally paid off. Worn down by the constant pestering, Fuller eventually gave him permission to return to work, but on the strict proviso he observed his doctor’s advice and didn’t overdo it. It was a relief for the young officer to have a reason to get up in the morning, but he also had an ulterior motive for returning to the chapel before his ribs had fully healed. During his convalescence, he’d barely heard from Booker, and he was starting to wonder if his plan to forgo sex in preference of a more platonic relationship had backfired. Too much time on one’s hands was a recipe for overthinking, and Tom was the king of overthinking. However, despite his propensity for careful deliberation of the facts while looking at each situation from all angles, for some inexplicable reason, when it came to Booker, he failed to see the obvious. Even though the dark-haired officer had informed him he was working around the clock on a case, it didn’t register as a reason for his lack of communication. Whether it was the constant pain radiating from his fractured ribs or the long days spent on his own, Tom felt moody, headachy, and generally out of sorts. Not to mention ignored. He’d expected his lover to shower him with attention, and all he’d received was the occasional rushed phone call and the vague promise of a visit. Life dating Booker wasn’t turning out quite as he’d expected, and he was man enough to admit the rejection hurt. However, as he was the one who had insisted on curtailing their amorous play, he had no one to blame but himself. It was a bitter pill to swallow, but he was too proud and too stubborn to admit he might be wrong, and so he suffered the consequences while silently lamenting the stupidity of his actions.

**

Excited at the prospect of returning to work, Tom rose early, his mind primed and ready to face the day. The dull throb in his side slowed him to a frustrating pace, but he’d allowed himself plenty of time to fix himself breakfast, shower, dress, and call for a cab. Not having his Mustang was more than an annoying inconvenience, losing his beloved car had left an indelible ache in his heart, and he knew he would live with the regret forever. If he’d just paid attention to the road instead of worrying about Booker, his prize possession wouldn’t be sitting in some junkyard waiting to be crushed into a metal cube the size of a hay bale. It was a depressing thought and one he tried not to dwell on. As his grandmother always said, “Yesterday is history, tomorrow's a mystery, and today is a gift of God, which is why we call it the present.” And while he no longer believed in a higher power, he’d always found some measure of comfort in the words. He couldn’t change the past, but the present was his for the taking. Life was short, and while determined to stick to his guns when it came to his no sex policy, that didn’t mean he wouldn’t do everything in his power to prove to Booker once and for all that he wanted him in his life.

After taking an agonizing five minutes to tie his bootlaces, Tom rose to his feet and walked over to the phone. Lifting the receiver, he started to dial the number of the local cab company when a knock at his door caught his attention. Annoyed at the interruption, he slammed the handset down on the cradle and hobbling over to the door, he yanked it open. “What?”

A middle-aged man dressed in a chauffeur's uniform tipped his cap. “Good morning, sir, your limousine is waiting downstairs.”

Tom stared at the man, his expression blank. “My what?”

“Limousine, sir,” the man repeated. “I was hired to drive you to and from work for as long as you require my services.”

“Oh, uh… What?”

The driver smiled politely. “I’m your personal chauffeur, sir.”

It took a moment for the penny to drop, and when it did, a look of understanding passed over Tom’s face. “Did Booker hire you?”

“That’s not for me to say, sir,” the driver replied, his deadpan expression giving nothing away. “Are you ready to leave or would you like me to wait downstairs?”

Feeling as though he were in a dream, Tom gave a quick glance over his shoulder before grabbing his keys from the bowl by the door. “I’m ready, let’s go.”

“As you wish,” the chauffeur murmured, and taking a step back, he waited for Tom to lock the apartment before following him down the stairs. Once outside, he hurried forward and opened the door of the black Cadillac Brougham Limousine parked on the street.

“Um, thanks,” Tom muttered and ducking his head, he climbed into the Caddy’s spacious interior.

The man responded with a polite nod, and once his passenger was inside, he carefully closed the door.

The dark leather upholstery squeaked slightly as Tom settled back into his seat. It was his first time in a limousine, and with a look of childish wonder, he soaked up the opulent atmosphere. Out of the corner of his eye, he spied a single red rose tucked into a silver ice bucket. Curious, he plucked the delicate flower from its hiding place. Attached to the stem was a small pink envelope, and with trembling fingers, he opened the flap. Inside were two Dodgers’ tickets, along with a scented card, which read:

I know no ways to mince it in love, but directly to say:
“I love you.”

Despite the disastrous consequences of professing his feelings a week before, to Booker’s credit, he hadn't shied away from using the ‘L’ word, and a look of wonderment passed over Tom’s face. The pageantry of Shakespeare’s prose evoked a long-forgotten memory inside him, and staring at the rose, he lightly fingered the delicate red petals. He’d studied many of The Bard’s plays in high school, and although hard going, he’d found them profound and deeply moving. Like Chaucer before him and later, the great Charles Dickens, Shakespeare not only engaged his mind, he captivated his heart along with the more primitive parts of his psyche. It was his secret shame. He was a sucker for romantic poetry, and it appeared Booker had picked the one thing guaranteed to woo the pants off him. Was it blind luck, coincidence or divine intervention? Tom honestly did not know nor did he care. There was a fine line between sincerity and taking the piss, but the dark-haired officer’s gambit had paid off. In Tom’s mind, there was no malice in the scripted prose, just a heartfelt declaration of the truth. Booker loved him, really loved him, and by taking his suggestion seriously, it showed how much the officer respected him as a man and as a partner. It was a touching display of real devotion, and the simple yet effective gesture colored Tom’s thoughts with the brightest of hues. The prospect of a happy ever after lit up his mind like a rainbow peeking through the dark, swirling depths of a storm cloud, and with it came a glimmer of hope for the future. His and Booker’s relationship might have started out as a drunken romp, but that didn’t mean it couldn’t turn into one of the greatest love stories ever told. It was a revelation of sorts, and for Tom, life suddenly seemed less complicated. Hopefully, his cautious nature would prove a blessing, but if not, he knew in his heart he’d done everything in his power to make the relationship work.

Settling back in his seat, Tom stared out at the urban landscape moving past his window. He was surprised to see they were only a block away from the chapel, and a shiver of nervous anticipation sent a tingle down his spine. While he wasn’t certain he’d see Booker, he was keen to reinsert himself back into his vocation. The Jump Street officers were his family, and as an added bonus, he got to work with them day in, day out, keeping the schools and colleges of L.A. free from crime. It was a win-win situation and spending a week forcibly separated from the life he adored had proven harder than he would have imagined. But all that was in the past. He was back, albeit in a limited capacity, and no matter what mind-numbing chore Fuller saddled him with, he would do it with enthusiasm and without complaint.

So caught up in his own musings, Tom didn’t notice the car had stopped until the chauffeur opened the door, and it was then a heart-stopping panic sucked the air from his lungs. How would he explain his regal mode of transport to his coworkers without raising suspicion about his private life? Suddenly, Booker’s sweet gesture seemed fraught with complications, darkening the mood of the auspicious occasion beneath a black cloud of rising anxiety. It was not the start he’d anticipated when he'd woken up that morning, but he only had himself to blame. If he’d had his wits about him, he could have asked the driver to drop him off down the street, rather than outside the chapel in full view of his fellow officers. But it wasn’t a complete disaster. Maybe Lady Luck would smile down at him, and no one would see him disembark, giving the chauffeur time to drive away before anyone noticed his arrival. And while he didn’t like his odds, it was all he had, and ignoring the steadily increasing pain in his side, he scrambled from the limousine. But as it turned out, Lady Luck wasn’t smiling down on him that day, she was sitting back, smoking a cigarette and laughing her ass off.

“Ooo! Someone’s got a girlfriend!”

Penhall’s teasing sing-song voice sent Tom’s heart into a panic, the arrhythmic beat fluttering heavily in this chest. Realizing he still had the single stem rose clutched in his hand, he attempted to hide it behind his back. But it was too late. The jig was up. Penhall had witnessed it all, and he had no choice but to face the interrogation.

“So, who is she?” Penhall asked, his eyebrows waggling for effect. “It’s that cute redhead at the courthouse, isn’t it? What’s her name? Sheryl? Sherilyn? Sherry? And organizing a limo and flowers for your first day back at work? Wow, man! Now that’s what I call love.”

Tom lowered his eyes to the ground. “It’s nobody,” he mumbled. “Just drop it, okay?”

“So, it’s a secret admirer then?” Penhall quizzed. “How intriguing.”

The chauffeur stepped forward. “What time shall I pick you up, sir?”

Penhall’s mouth dropped open, and he temporarily forgot all about Tom’s mystery lover. “You’re getting a limo ride home?” he exclaimed, a childish excitement shining from his eyes. “Can you drop me off at my place on the way through?”

Caught off guard, Tom’s eyes flitted between his friend, the chauffeur, and back again. “Uh, I guess,” he muttered before turning to address the driver. “Five o’clock, if that’s okay.”

“Very good, sir,” the chauffeur replied.

“Cool!” Doug exclaimed, his Cheshire cat grin communicating his elation.

Overwhelmed by the turn of events, Tom rubbed a shaky hand over his mouth. “Yeah, cool,” he muttered against his fingers, but in reality, his heart wasn’t in it. While having Doug in the vehicle wouldn’t ruin the experience per se, he wanted to savor the thrill of Booker’s loving gesture alone and without interruption. But his best friend’s excitement was infectious, and as the limousine pulled away, a small smile tilted his lips. Maybe having Doug in the car would heighten the experience rather than dampen it. After all, there was nothing more exhilarating than having a juicy secret, and dating Booker was, without a doubt, the juiciest of them all. And the thought of sitting in a limousine paid for by his lover, with a best friend who didn’t have a clue what was going on awakened Tom’s dark side. His and Booker’s clandestine affair added an element of excitement that, if he played his cards right, could take their relationship to a higher level. He imagined fantasizing about his lover while Doug sat next to him, innocently chatting away while risque visions floated around in his head. The concept amused him, and he stifled a snort. Things were once again, looking up.

With a wistful sigh, Penhall placed a companionable hand on Tom’s shoulder. “It’s good to have you back, buddy.”

Tom turned and faced his friend, his smile widening. “Thanks. It’s good to be back.”

Doug returned a grin. “So, let’s go find you something to do.”

“Roger that,” Tom laughed, and with his best friend by his side, he walked into the chapel.

**

Kept occupied by the mountain of incident reports Fuller had asked him to file, Tom barely registered the time, and it was only when his stomach growled that he realized it was almost two o’clock in the afternoon. Signaling to Penhall that he was taking a break, he walked outside and headed toward his favorite diner. All around him, the sounds of the city rose like a constant tide, the familiarity of the urban noise strangely comforting. Even the persistent throb in his side didn’t dampen his jubilant mood. Life was good, really good, and the cherry on the cake was the knowledge he would share all his experiences with the man who was slowly but surely, stealing his heart.

Stopping outside Nic’s Diner, Tom pushed open the door. Overhead, a bell tinkled, announcing his arrival, the gentle chime transforming into a loud jangle as the door slammed closed behind him. Only a few patrons inhabited the small eating area, the ghostly aroma of strong coffee and grilled cheese hinting at what was on order. It wasn’t the most elegant of eateries, but the food was top notch and the staff friendly and attentive, making it a favorite amongst the Jump Street officers.

“Hey, Tommy!” the diner’s owner greeted from behind the counter. “How’s them ribs healing?”

The comment triggered a conscious awareness in Tom, and the dull ache radiating through his side intensified. Placing a hand on his ribs, he offered the cheerful Italian a smile. “I’ll live.”

“The usual?” Nic asked, referring to Tom’s standard order of a hot dog and cola. “Or are you gonna surprise us all and order something different today.”

“You know me, Nic,” Tom replied with a laugh. “I hate change, so you’d better make it the usual,” and taking out his wallet, he handed over a five-dollar bill.

“Keep your money,” Nic grinned. “Someone’s started a tab for you. As of now, you’re a kept man.”

Tom’s eyebrows arched in surprise. “Someone? Someone who?”

With a knowing smile, Nic tapped a finger against the side of his nose. “Well, that’d be telling, and as I’m sworn to secrecy and a man of my word, I can’t tell you. So, why don’t you take a seat and I’ll bring your order over.”

The diner’s surroundings took on a strange dreamlike quality, and Tom all but floated over to a table and sat down. Although he had no proof Booker was behind the grand gesture, in his heart, he knew it was another private communication from the dark-haired officer. Doug was sweet and generous, but secretly paying for a meal wasn’t his style. And while Fuller, Judy, and Harry were all pleased to see him back at work, he doubted any of them would even think of implementing such a scheme. All fingers pointed to Booker, and the knowledge brought a goofy smile to Tom’s lips. His lover was going out of his way to make him feel cherished, and it was an eye-opening experience. In an age of defined gender roles, it was a subtle glimpse into the life of a courted woman, and the comparison had his face flaming red. But not because he felt embarrassed by the parallel. Never in his wildest dreams had he envisaged Booker taking his proposal so seriously, and the ingenuity of the officer’s imaginative expressions of love genuinely touched him. In all honesty, he hadn't had very high expectations, his mind settling on a few nice dinners followed by a movie or drinks. But the reality was far more inventive, to the point where he couldn’t wait to see what other surprises his lover had in store for him. And with the intrigue came an intense, physical longing. Maybe Booker was right, maybe he would end up wooing the pants off him.

Consumed by his thoughts, Tom didn’t see Nic approached until he was standing right next to him. “One hot dog, heavy on the mustard and a bottle of coke to wash it all down,” the diner owner quipped as he placed the items on the table, along with a folded paper napkin. “Buon appetito!”

“Thanks, Nicco,” Tom answered with a smile. He waited for the diner owner to leave before taking a swig of cola, the carbonated bubbles momentarily dancing over his tongue before exploding with a burst of flavor. His stomach growled, urging him to hurry up, and opening up the napkin, he started to place it over his lap when he noticed something written on the paper. Looking closer, his hands began to tremble, the familiar scrawl causing his heart to dip.

Doubt thou the stars are fire;
Doubt that the sun doth move;
Doubt truth to be a liar;
But never doubt I love.

The emotive last line sent a rush of blood to Tom’s groin, the delightful sensation making him squirm. Booker had gifted him more Shakespeare, this time part of a love poem from ‘Hamlet’. It was a declaration of the heart, and the significance of the final line resonated deep inside his soul. His lover wanted him to know what they had wasn’t a fling. It wasn’t lust, it wasn’t an affair, it was a deep emotional connection of two souls, an intense and intelligent interaction that bound them together in a way that far surpassed any physical attraction. It was not a cliché, it was love in its rawest form, and by stating it, he proved yet again, he wasn’t afraid to express his feelings.

“Is everything okay? You haven’t touched your food.”

Tom’s head snapped up, and he quickly shoved the napkin out of sight. “Uh, yeah. Thanks.”

An amused smile played over Nic’s lips. “You look a little flustered, Tommaso. Are you sure everything’s okay?”

It was obvious the impudent Italian knew exactly what was going on, and despite Tom’s initial embarrassment, to his surprise, he realized he didn’t care. Boldly spreading the napkin over his lap with the writing facing upward, he gifted his friend a large grin. “You know what, Nicco? Things are pretty damn good.”

But little did he know, life was about to get a whole lot better.

 

To be continued...

 



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