After the Storm

BY : OpenPage
Category: 1 through F > 21 Jump Street
Dragon prints: 193
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.

 

It wasn’t the loud whistly keow of the Western gulls flying overhead that woke Booker from a dreamless sleep. Nor was it the foul aftertaste of whiskey thickening his saliva. It was the dull throb in his nose and painful ache in his jaw that roused his senses, the discomfort slowly intensifying as his mind floated toward consciousness. A low moan rumbled in the back of his throat, and opening his eyes, he squinted against the harsh sunlight blazing through the open window. Although his brain screamed at him not to move, he pushed himself into a sitting position and touched his nose, his fingers gingerly exploring the bruised flesh and damaged bone before moving down and investigating his swollen jaw. There were no apparent bumps, and he breathed a somewhat stuffed-up sigh of relief. If his nose was broken, it was at least straight, which eased his mind. But he knew without looking in a mirror that he was sporting two very impressive black eyes, and they would need some explaining once he returned to work. The accuracy of Tom’s punch had him lamenting his bad luck while secretly marveling at his lover’s prowess. The young officer might not be the most muscular man on the planet, but there was no doubt he could hold his own in a fight.

Swinging his legs over the side of the mattress, Booker rubbed a hand over his sleep-mussed hair. A loud burp trembled over his parted lips, his toxic whiskey-soaked breath managing to find its way through his swollen nasal passages. He screwed up his face in disgust, but as pain flared across the bridge of his nose, he instantly regretted the rashness of his decision. With a hiss, he drew in a sharp intake of breath and closing his eyes, he waited for his suffering to subside. Several long minutes passed until he felt strong enough to stand, and rising to his feet, he shuffled into the living area.

Dirty crockery sat on the kitchen counter, the remnants of the cooked breakfast churning Booker’s stomach. With no sign of Tom, he staggered into the bathroom and relieved his aching bladder. Leaving the toilet seat up, he flushed and stumbled over to the hand basin. He paused for a moment, studying his battered face in the mirror before turning on the faucet and washing his hands. It wasn’t only his face that had taken a beating, his pride had taken a flogging too. On any other day, he would have given as good as he got, if not better. But his dull, inebriated mind had proved no match for a pissed off officer with Tom’s training. He vaguely remembered slugging his lover, his punch clumsy and off target, and his blow would have done minimal damage if Tom hadn’t happened to be standing on the back balcony. Not that he was proud of sending his lover tumbling down a flight of stairs, he wasn’t, but it was a little satisfying knowing he’d inflicted some damage, however minor. It was a man thing. He’d managed to save face—even if it were more by good luck than good judgment—and the knowledge helped lessen the pain of his damaged ego. It wasn’t a fair fight, not by a long shot, but they were both nursing injuries, and in Booker’s hungover mind, that helped even the score in the macho world of testosterone-fueled fist fights.

With thoughts of Tom swirling through his mind, the dark-haired officer turned off the faucet and wandered back into the living area. When he noticed both backpacks still sitting on the floor, he visibly relaxed. Tom hadn’t left, which meant he was probably out for a walk. It was what his lover did when he wanted to think, and a shiver of foreboding ran down the length of his spine. Hanson tended to over analyze certain situations, and he hoped their little spat wasn’t enough of a provocation to have him reevaluating their relationship until they’d at least had a chance to talk things through.

In need of some water, Booker entered the small kitchen. As he headed toward the refrigerator, he caught sight of the blue gift box lying in the bottom of the trash can, it’s wrapping covered in discarded eggshells. A pang of regret stabbed through his heart, and stopping, he stared down at the packaging. It amazed him something so innocuous had managed to cause such heartache. But it wasn’t the box that had divided them, it was the small, shiny key contained within. And if Tom had thought the symbolic gesture would unlock the remaining secrets hidden within his heart, he was sorely mistaken. He wasn’t looking for a token expression of affection, he was looking for a solid commitment, and until his lover was one-hundred-percent on board, then he would stubbornly stand his ground.

The sound of a door sliding open sent a flutter through Booker’s heart and turning around, he watched as Tom entered the condo. Noticing Booker’s battered face, the young officer stopped, his dark eyes shining with remorse as he slowly closed the door. “Are you okay?”

Self-conscious of his injuries, Booker ducked his head. “Yeah,” he muttered, his eyes focusing on the floor. “You?”

“Yeah,” Tom murmured, his fingers brushing over the lump on the side of his head. An awkward silence followed before the young officer pulled the key to the condo out of his pocket and slid it across the kitchen counter. “The lease is paid through to Sunday. Stay. Go. I don’t care. But I think it’s best if I catch the next bus out of here.”

Booker lifted his head, his dark eyes projecting a deep sadness. “Don’t leave. We haven’t even talked about what happened.”

Tom’s penitent expression melted into one of annoyance. “What do you want to talk about, Booker? Huh? About how I gave you a key to my apartment, and you threw it back in my face? How’s that for starters? Jesus Christ! I’ve never given anyone a key to my home before, and if that doesn’t prove how much I love you, then I don’t know—”

“Whoa! What did you say?”

A moody pout formed on Tom’s lower lip, and shoving his hands in his pockets, he stared at Booker’s battered face. “I said, if giving you a key doesn’t prove how much I love you, then I don’t know—”

“You love me?”

Surprise arched Tom’s brow. “Well, yeah. Of course I do. Why would you doubt that?”

“Because this is the first time you’ve said it.”

And it was at that moment Tom started to understand how much he’d underestimated what it was Booker wanted from him. It wasn’t just about proving his devotion in loving gestures, it was about openly expressing it in words. But as a private person, he didn’t always know how to articulate his emotions, not even to those he loved the most. His lover, on the other hand, was overtly passionate and wore his feelings openly like a shield of honor. Unabashed, proud, the dark-haired officer strutted around without a care in the world, saying what he thought without ever overthinking the consequences. Except, the more Tom thought about it, the more he wondered if it were all a farce. Booker had never come out as bisexual to any of their colleagues, and yet he expected him to shout it from the rooftops. It was a double standard, and one Tom was determined to get out in the open. But before he could confront his lover with his revelation, Booker offered up an unexpected apology. “Look, Tommy, I’m sorry I overreacted about the key, but you kinda caught me by surprise.”

Taken aback, Tom’s mounting anger flowed from his muscles, and his stance visibly relaxed. “I know,” he admitted with a sigh. “It was a stupid thing to—”

“It wasn’t stupid,” Booker reassured in a soft voice. “It was really thoughtful. It’s just… I guess we want different things, and that kinda frustrates me.”

“Meaning?”

Booker took his time before answering, choosing his words carefully so as not to provoke another explosive argument. “You want the perfect relationship, but you want it behind closed doors. I want it all, the passion, the fights, the ups, the downs, and I want the world to see it. I’m sorry, Tom, I’m not into this secret squirrel shit. If you’re too ashamed to admit we’re a couple, then I guess, as much as I love you, I have to accept this is never gonna work.”

“How long did it take you?”

The hurriedly spoken question took Booker by surprise, and his eyebrows drew together into a frown. “I don't know what you mean. How long did it take me to what?”

Tom rubbed a nervous hand over his mouth, his mind actively contemplating the wisdom of adding more fuel to an already volatile situation. But he was genuinely curious, and so he ignored his gut and voiced his thoughts. “When you knew you were bi, how long did it take you to tell your family and friends? A day? A week? A month? A year? ‘Cause I’ve been grappling with these feelings for less than two months and you seem to think that’s long enough for me to come to terms with everything that’s changed in my life. Well, it’s not. I’m still struggling, Dennis, and it’s not because I don’t love you... I do. I love you more than I’ve loved anyone. But that doesn’t mean I’m comfortable telling Doug or anyone else about us, and if you really cared about me, you’d understand and you wouldn’t keep pressuring me to come out when I’m not ready. You’ve had time to come to terms with your sexuality, I haven’t. This is a big deal for me, and if you can’t give me the space I need, then maybe you’re right, maybe this relationship isn’t going to work.”

Booker’s frown deepened. “So, this is how it’s gonna be, is it, Hanson? You’re gonna blame me every time you get cold feet about us, is that it? It’s not my fault I’m comfortable with my sexuality, and you’re not.”

Exhaling an annoyed pfft, Tom rolled his eyes for dramatic effect. “Stop dodging the question. There’s a reason you won’t tell me how long it took you to come out to your family and friends and I think it’s because it was more than two months, and that means you’re the one with the fucking problem, not me.”

A look of uncertainty passed over Booker’s face, and as he gazed back at Tom, suddenly, everything the young officer was saying made sense. But he was too proud to admit he was wrong, and so he shifted his gaze to the floor, his mind searching for the right words to end their argument without openly acknowledging he too, was at fault.

Sensing Booker needed time to get his thoughts in order, Tom picked up the Caddy’s keys. “How about I leave you alone for a while, let you think things through, and then we can talk.”

Booker’s head snapped up. “You won’t go back to L.A. without me, will you?”

The hint of panic in his lover’s voice helped settle Tom’s nerves. “No… at least not yet. I’ll just drive around for a while, take in the sights.”

With the beginnings of a headache pulsing behind his left eye, Booker felt a certain amount of relief Tom was leaving for a few hours. He needed to clear his head before making one of the most important decisions of his life. Did he allow his lover the time he needed or did he give up on his dream and walk away? He’d carried a torch for Tom ever since he’d first laid eyes on him, and to lose him over something so petty just seemed stupid. But he had his pride. He was tired of making allowances, and he wished his lover would hurry up and accept his sexuality so they could move forward to the next phase of their lives. But he was also known for his dogged determination. He wasn’t afraid to fight for what he wanted, and he wanted Tom, more than he’d ever wanted anyone, the problem was, he wasn’t sure it was enough anymore.

As the pain in his head intensified, the dark-haired officer managed to maintain his composure by offering Tom a wan smile. “Okay. Well, I guess I’ll see you when you get back.”

“Yeah, see you then,” Tom murmured, and turning away, he walked out the door.

 



You need to be logged in to leave a review for this story.
Report Story