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If You Want My Love, You've Got It (Part Eight of "Peeping Through the Closet Door")

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9IYWMLYGI01

Booker stared at the badge in Penhall’s hand. “Why are you giving me this?”

In Penhall’s mind, that was the sixty-four-thousand-dollar question. He had no idea why Tom felt compelled to give his badge to Booker for safekeeping, and he couldn’t help but wonder if his friend’s concussion was having more of an impact than first thought. Tom had never been close to Dennis, and it made no sense for him to hand over one of his most valued possessions to a man he barely communicated with. Except Doug had noticed a subtle shift in Tom’s demeanor, and he’d pinpointed the start of his strange behavior as the day after his birthday. Something had changed that night, something pivotal, but try as he might, he couldn’t remember anything unusual happening during the celebrations. His recollection was a fun night filled with laughter, dancing, and plenty of drinking, none of which were out of the ordinary when the team got together to party and unwind. Theirs was a unique camaraderie, built on friendship and trust, and they all respected each other equally. Only Booker was on the outer, due partly to his shaky start at Jump Street. But while Penhall, Hoffs, and Ioki had learned to accept him as part of their team, Hanson still held a grudge. And so, the more Doug thought about it, the crazier the whole situation seemed. However, despite his misgivings—and the teensy bit of jealousy stabbing at his heart—he would do as Tom asked. If Hanson wanted Booker to have his badge, then he would hand it over. Maybe not with a smile, but with a clear conscience that he’d at least honored his friend’s wish.

Shoving the badge closer to Booker, Penhall huffed out a sigh. “How should I know? I thought you could tell me what’s going on. All he said was he wanted you to hold onto it, and for you to give it back to him when he gets home. I’m starting to think the bang to his head scrambled his brain.”

But while Penhall’s observation seemed the logical answer, Booker knew better. Tom was giving him a sign, a somewhat cryptic sign, but a sign nonetheless. Communication had been re-established through the small, yet significant gesture and the ball was now in his court. He could tell Doug to keep the badge, or he could take it and give it back to Tom the following day. The choice was his to make.

Indecision furrowed his brow. He wasn’t sure he was ready to see the man who had broken his heart, especially without the buffer of other people in the room. However, he also wasn’t sure he was ready to give up his dream of having a relationship with the one person who had infected his soul to the point of obsession. He’d hankered after Tom for months, and to throw away what they had because of an argument—or a misunderstanding, depending on who you believed—seemed the perfect example of cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face. Was he allowing his ego to get in the way of the relationship he’d coveted since first laying eyes on Tom, and if so, to what purpose? What had begun as a mere should I?/shouldn’t I? scenario, was fast becoming a personal conundrum of epic proportions, and the more he analyzed his feelings, the more confused he became. He loved Tom, he knew he did, but was he prepared to give his heart and soul to a relationship that had blossomed from a drunken night out? Before the night of June 9th, the answer was a definitive no. But that wasn’t the only problem. There was also the small yet oh so important matter of Tom’s sexuality. The object of his affection was straight… except, despite his inflated ego, Booker did not believe he had the seductive power to change someone’s sexual preference, so by that logic, Tom wasn’t straight. It was a confusing predicament to find himself in, and so his mind went around in circles, each new thought driving him crazy until a stress headache began to pulse behind his eyes. He was running out of time. Penhall expected an answer, but even as he opened his mouth to speak, he still had no idea what he would say. “Um—”

“What are you doing with Hanson’s badge?”

Both officers turned to face their captain, but it was Penhall who spoke first. “Tom gave it to me yesterday. He asked me to give it to Booker.”

Dennis shot the officer a look of annoyance. The last thing he wanted was Fuller getting involved in what was proving to be an awkward conversation. But when his captain took the police identification out of Penhall’s hand, he knew he had no choice but to speak up. “Tom wants me to keep it safe until he’s released from the hospital. You know, for security reasons.”

Captain Fuller studied the photo in the battered wallet for several moments before handing the I.D. over to Booker. “Then you’d better hold onto it.”

“Yes, Coach,” Booker muttered, and taking the proffered credentials, he shoved them in the back pocket of his jeans.

With a nod of his head, Fuller turned and walked away, leaving Penhall to ponder the reasoning behind Tom’s request, and Booker wondering what he would say to the man who had turned his world upside down. The two officers exchanged a look, but neither knew what to say, and so, without uttering a word, they each returned to their desks to contemplate Tom’s decision in silence.

**

The following evening

Booker stood outside Tom’s apartment, the stiffness of his stance a postural indicator of his nervous apprehension. The prickly heat of uncertainty tingled from his scalp to the soles of his feet. He still wasn’t convinced he’d made the right decision, but having spent the previous night tossing and turning, the little voice inside his head had finally convinced him Tom was worthy of a second chance. He was prepared to put his heart on the line one last time, and whether or not it paid off, was now up to Tom.

And so, without giving himself time to overthink his actions, he lifted his hand and rapped his knuckles on the door. A long, agonizing countdown began… one second… two seconds… three seconds… four seconds… the painful silence that followed so intense, he could hear his own blood roaring in his ears.

But just as he was about to leave, the sound of a chain pulling back caught his attention, and his heart skipped a beat. He waited… alert… anxious… and moments later, the door swung slowly open, revealing Tom’s ashen face.

“Dennis.”

The sound of his name sent a flutter through Booker’s heart, and it was then he knew he’d made the right choice. A slow smile formed on his lips, but it quickly vanished as he took in his lover’s appearance. Wrapped in a blanket, Tom looked weak and drawn. A curtain of hair concealed his bandaged temple, but his pained expression and the deathly pallor of his skin all pointed toward physical suffering and stepping forward, the dark-haired officer placed his palm against his friend’s cheek. “Jesus, Hanson. Didn’t they give you any pain meds?”

Mustering all his inner fortitude, Tom put on a brave face, his strained smile making a mockery of his usual cheeky grin. “They did, but I’m not taking them.”

Booker’s brows arched in surprise. “For God’s sake, Tom. You’re in pain. Why do you have to always play the hero?”

“Don’t,” Tom pleaded, his dark, expressive eyes begging for understanding. “I know what I’m… do you wanna come in?”

There was a hint of optimism in Tom’s hastily delivered invitation, a hope that Booker would drop the matter of his pain management so they could begin the process of rekindling their relationship. Time stood still, a near feverish anticipation undulating from the injured officer in heavy waves. The moment of truth had arrived, and the next words out of Booker’s mouth would seal both their fates forever.

Several long seconds stretched out in silence before Booker finally spoke. “Okay,” he acquiesced, his lips twitching into a half smile. “I could use a drink.”

Relief temporarily masked the pain in Tom’s eyes, and stepping back from the door, he motioned his friend inside.

Stepping into the dimly lit living area, the familiarity of the apartment immediately brought a barrage of memories to the forefront of Booker’s conscious thought. Tom’s tentative fingers stroking his erection through his jeans… the thickness of his lover’s penis gliding through his hand… the low moans of arousal ringing in his ears… the scent of sex permeating the air... heat… want… lust… need… growing… throbbing… aching... the perpetual cycle of retrospection flashed through Booker’s mind, the vivid imagery twitching his cock to life. Just thinking about their past dalliances made him horny, and for the second time in less than a few minutes, he was glad he’d trusted his gut. Tom ignited a fire inside him unlike anything he’d ever experienced before, and that type of sensory stimulation was a rarity. Not that it was all about the sex, it wasn’t. The man standing before him ticked all the boxes when it came to the perfect partner. But he wasn’t that naive that he didn’t understand the importance of sexual chemistry. There was no doubt Tom revved his engine, and when the desire was that strong, the sex was always earth-shattering. And although many would deny its importance, Booker was man enough to admit that sex did matter. He was a passionate, charismatic lover, and he couldn’t imagine spending his life with someone who didn’t evoke the deepest of his primal emotions. Tom really was his ideal mate, except for the one persistent problem that continued to rear its ugly head… was he really bisexual or was his foray into homosexual sex just a case of curiosity and experimentation?

“Bourbon okay?”

Aware of his growing arousal, Booker’s cheeks flushed red. “S-Sure,” he stammered awkwardly. “Whatever’s open.”

Observing the noticeable bulge in his friend’s jeans, Tom couldn’t help but have some fun. “Is that my badge in your pocket or are you just pleased to see me?”

Booker let out a shaky laugh. “Geez, Hanson. Get your mind out of the gutter.”

Tom grinned, and with the ice now broken, he hobbled over to the kitchen and poured his friend a drink. As he carried it back, the blanket around his shoulders slipped to the floor, revealing his naked torso. Booker’s gaze honed in on Tom’s bruised rib cage, and ignoring the young officers attempt to hand him the glass, he stepped forward and placed a tender hand on his side.

Drawing in a sharp intake of breath, Tom visibly winced. But the soothing heat radiating from the warm flesh of Booker’s hand instantly dulled his pain, and closing his eyes, he drew strength from the tender touch.

“Did you miss me?” Booker whispered, the warm tendrils of his breath wafting over the shell-like indentation of his lover’s ear.

The tumbler of bourbon slipped from between Tom’s fingers, shattering on impact, the force exploding shards of glass and Jack Daniel’s across the floor. Both men jumped, the sound bursting the bubble of intimacy shrouding them. Pain flared in Tom’s ribs, and doubling over, he clutched his side, a loud moan trembling from between his lips. Immediately, two strong arms enveloped him, steadying his shaking body. “Here, let me help you,” Booker murmured, mindful the splinters of glass littering the floor, he helped Tom over to the sofa.

“Thanks,” Tom gasped, tears of pain glistening in his eyes, and settling back against the cushions, he exhaled a weighty sigh.

“Better?”

“Much,” Tom breathed, and closing his eyes, he focused on not passing out.

Taking a seat beside the injured officer, Booker cast a worried eye over his pale complexion. Several minutes passed, and noticing Tom’s breathing had eased, he laid a hand on his friend’s thigh. “Tommy?”

“Mmm?”

A tender smile played over Booker’s lips. “Do you want to rest, baby?”

“Mmm,” Tom murmured without opening his eyes.

“Okay,” Booker whispered, and getting to his feet, he picked up the discarded blanket and gently placed it over his friend’s lap.

“Don’t go,” Tom mumbled. “I want you t’stay with me.”

Booker’s heart dipped, and returning to the sofa, he sat down. He gazed down at Tom before carefully pulling him into his arms, his nose nuzzling into his lover’s hair. “I’m not going anywhere. Now, go to sleep. We can talk when you wake up.”

“M’kay,” Tom breathed, and snuggling against the warmth of Booker’s body, he fell into a restful slumber.

Chapter Text

8IYWMLYGI03

The pleasing scent of freshly ground coffee wafted through the apartment, infiltrating Tom’s dream with its aromatic fragrance. Opening his eyes, he found himself alone on the sofa, the blanket he’d had draped around his shoulders now neatly tucked around his boxer-clad body. He rubbed the sleep from his eyes, and stifling a yawn, he threw back the blanket and looked around his apartment.

“Hey, sleepyhead.”

Booker stood leaning against the kitchen counter, a cup of coffee in his hand. It was then Tom noticed the gleaming floor, the remnants of broken glass and spilled bourbon now nothing more than a distant memory. “You cleaned up,” he observed with a grateful smile. “How long was I asleep?”

Glancing at his watch, Booker swirled the remaining coffee in his cup before downing it in one gulp and placing the empty vessel in the sink. “A couple of hours. It’s after nine, so I guess I should get going.”

“Don’t.”

The softly spoken request sent an unexpected shiver down Booker’s spine. It still amazed him how Tom’s voice had the power to make him weak at the knees. Even the utterance of a simple word sent his heart dipping and stomach somersaulting. He was spellbound, touched by the magical allure that was Tom Hanson. It was a strange feeling knowing another person had that amount of control over his emotions, but he hoped the enchantment never wore off. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d felt so physically alive when in the presence of another human being, and even though he wasn’t sure if he and Tom were a couple, the thrill was too wondrous not to enjoy.

Pushing off from the edge of the counter, the dark-haired officer walked over to the sofa and perched on the arm. “Okay. I guess I could hang for a while. How’s the pain?”

“I can live with it,” Tom muttered while refusing to meet Booker’s inquiring gaze.

“You don’t have to, you know.”

The quietly spoken attestation was not what Tom wanted to hear, and his lower lip pushed into a moody, yet to Booker, somewhat endearing pout. “You promised you wouldn’t bring that up again.”

Booker grinned. “Well, technically, I didn’t promise so—” When Tom’s pout turned into a scowl, he immediately stopped talking. The last thing he wanted was to provoke an argument, and so he shut down the conversation before it got out of hand. “Okay. Point taken.”

Tom’s frown slowly melted into a look of self-consciousness. Although he and Booker had shared several intimate moments together, he suddenly felt weirdly exposed, sitting there, with just his boxers covering his nakedness. Carefully rising to his feet, he gave his friend an awkward smile. “I think I’ll get dressed.”

“Don’t do it on my account,” Booker replied, a salacious grin forming on his lips. “The view looks pretty damn good from here.”

Embarrassed, Tom sat back down, a light flush creeping up his neck. But the heat wasn’t restricted to the upper part of his body. A delightful warmth began to spread downward from the pit of his stomach, the titillating sensation emanating throughout his groin making him squirm. However, as much as his cock screamed ‘touch me!’, he wasn’t about to fall into the same trap again. If he were to throw caution to the wind and abandon his heterosexual lifestyle completely by taking a chance on love with Dennis, he wanted to do it right. Their fledgling affair was built purely on sex, and he didn’t want a relationship based solely on physical necessity. He wanted the emotional aspect as well… the mental connection that brought two people together in both an intellectual and empathic capacity. Sex was great for satisfying the primordial urges, but he needed more. Love was a three-dimensional entity, and while many based the Triangular Theory of Love on three orthogonal dimensions: intimacy, passion, and commitment, for Tom, the theory went much deeper. Trust and respect were high on his agenda, and although he’d shared some highly memorable and intimate moments with Booker, he wasn’t sure he completely trusted him. A mere two-and-a-half-weeks ago, he’d barely acknowledged Dennis as a person, and the speed with which he’d allowed himself to fall under his beguiling spell was more than a little disconcerting. But that didn’t mean he wasn’t open to pursuing a proper relationship… he was. He just needed to lay down some ground rules, and he hoped that whatever happened thereon, his moral standpoint would somehow, give him the peace of mind he craved.

Gathering the discarded blanket into his lap, he spoke the four most dreaded words in any relationship. “We need to talk.”

Fear pricked at Booker’s skin, the ghostly sensation raising the hairs on his arms. The ‘We need to talk’ talk was never a good omen, and he briefly wondered if he’d misread the signals. There was no doubt in his mind the spark was still there, and he was certain Tom felt it too. Like every great love story, the sexual tension between them was palpable, but was it enough for Tom to act on his desires? The seed of doubt was again planted, and Booker was no longer sure. But he hoped he hadn't inadvertently said or done something stupid that had prompted Tom to have the talk because if he had, he would rue the day he had opened his big mouth.

With his thoughts in a cyclonic whirl, articulating his innermost feelings wasn’t an option for Booker, and so he replied with a simple, “About?”

Detecting a strained tone in his friend’s voice, Tom leaned forward and rested a reassuring hand on his knee. “Just hear me out, okay?”

A moody pout formed on Booker’s lips. “Do I have a choice?”

Tom snatched his hand away, the sudden movement sending shockwaves of pain through his body. He drew in a sharp breath and placing a stabilizing hand against his side, he silently counted to ten. He was pissed off, but rather than telling Booker to take a long walk off a short pier, he bravely fought through his suffering and continued his dialogue. “Of course you do,” he advised in a calm voice. “No one’s holding you to ransom. If you want, you can get up and walk out of here right now.”

Booker’s muscles twitched. Every nerve, every fiber of his being screamed at him to stand up and get the hell out of Dodge. Staying wasn’t worth the humiliation. Staying wasn’t worth witnessing Tom’s expression when he told him it was over. Staying wasn’t worth the assault charge he’d face when he punched the smile off Tom’s face. Stay… go… stay… go… the words bounced around inside his head, mocking him to the point of distraction. Should he stay or should he go?

In the end, he stayed.

Taking a deep breath, it took all his patience not to yell at Tom for leading him on. But he couldn’t quite contain the anger pulsing through his veins. “Go on,” he sneered. “Let’s hear what the straight and oh so boring Tom Hanson has to say.”

Hurt flickered in Tom’s eyes. Things weren’t going to plan, and he started to wonder if attempting to explain himself was worth the aggravation. He was tired, he was in pain, and all he wanted to do was find a comfortable position and sleep until his damaged ribs healed. But as that wasn’t a realistic option, he battled on through gritted teeth. “Don’t you see what’s happening? Don’t you understand why we keep having these arguments.”

Unable to stay seated any longer, Booker rose to his feet. “You’re doing such a bang-up job,” he growled. “Why don’t you explain it to me, genius.”

Tom could feel his anger mounting and pinching the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger, he screwed his eyes closed for several seconds. When he opened them again, Booker was still glowering at him and lowering his hand, he let out a sigh. “It’s simple. We don’t trust each other.”

A look of surprise passed over Booker’s face before his trademark sneer returned. “Bullshit.”

“Is it?”

“Yeah, it is,” Booker shot back. “We work side by side on cases every day. If you didn’t trust me, you wouldn’t work with me. How’s that for insight?”

There was a sliver of logic behind the statement, but Tom wasn’t about to give up. He knew he was right, and he needed Booker to understand so they could move forward with their relationship. “Okay, yeah, I get that. We trust each other at work. But think about it, Dennis. We hardly know each other, so it makes sense we sometimes... misinterpret what the other one is thinking or saying.”

“Oh, give me a break!” Booker snorted, his eyes rolling for dramatic effect. “Did I misinterpret you saying, um, okay? ‘Cause if I did, boy, is my face red!”

“Sarcasm isn’t helping, Dennis,” Tom replied in a quiet voice. “I’m trying to explain myself. Why are you deliberately provoking me?”

“Because I still don’t get where you’re going with this,” Booker sulked. “If you orchestrated this little stunt to get me here so you could tell me our relationship really is over, then congratulations, I fell for it, ‘cause I thought you invited me here to make up.”

“Can I have my badge?”

Thinking Tom was asking for his identification so he could get him out of the apartment, Booker reached into his back pocket, and pulling out the badge, he pitched it at the young officer. “Here! HAPPY?”

The badge hit Tom in the chest before harmlessly falling into his lap. The young officer stared at the battered wallet for a moment before picking it up and holding it out in front of him. “I gave this to you for a reason. It was a gesture of trust. Get it?”

Narrowing his eyes, Booker studied Tom’s face. “What exactly are you saying?”

Tossing his badge onto the sofa, Tom climbed painfully to his feet and stood in front of his friend. “I’m saying I want us to be a couple, but we need to start from the beginning. You know, get to know each other better before we jump into bed.”

Booker’s wide-eyed expression conveyed a slow dawning of understanding. “Are you saying you want to date?”

Tom’s face blushed red, the pinkish hue highlighting his cheekbones. But he stood his ground, his gaze fixed on Booker’s startled expression. “Yeah, that’s what I’m saying.”

Booker wiped a shaky hand over his mouth. “What does that mean, exactly?”

Stepping forward, Tom took hold of his lover’s hand, a coy smile tilting his lips. “What it means is, I want you to woo me.”

Before he could prevent his emotions from bubbling forth, a loud chuckle erupted from deep inside Booker’s chest. “You want me to woo you?” he snorted, the old-fashioned phrase transforming his bemused expression into a wide grin. “Geez, Hanson, what century were you born in?”

Embarrassed, Tom quickly released Booker’s fingers and taking a step back, he wrapped his arms around his aching torso. “Forget it,” he muttered, a deep hurt projecting from his dark eyes. “It was a stupid idea. You’re obviously not interested so—”

“Hey,” Booker interrupted, and taking hold of Tom’s hand, he gave it a light squeeze. “I didn’t mean to poke fun. I get it, I do, and of course I’m interested. It’s just… does this really mean no sex?”

The cheeky inflection in Booker’s question helped ease some of the tension, but it also made light of what Tom considered a meaningful conversation. However, rather than getting angry, it only helped strengthen the young officer’s resolve. He had the courage of his convictions, and if his lover wasn’t prepared to put the physical aspect of their relationship on hold, then he knew the best thing he could do was walk away.

Unable to meet his lover’s gaze, he lowered his eyes to the floor. “I want to be with you,” he reiterated in a soft voice. “But for this to work, I need to slow things down. So, yeah, that means no sex... at least for a while. I know I’m asking a lot, so if you don’t want—”

“Yes.”

Slowly lifting his gaze, Tom peered out through a curtain of hair. “Yes? Yes, what?”

Gently cupping Tom’s face in the palm of his free hand, Booker lovingly stroked his cheek with the pad of his thumb. “Yes, to dating. Yes, to no sex. Yes, to all of it. I love you, Tommy, and if this is what it takes for you to trust me, then I’m willing to play the perfect gentleman… at least for a while.”

A sigh of relief expelled from between Tom’s lips. And while he was desperate for his lover to take him seriously, he also wanted to remove the remaining tension in the room. Conflict made him uncomfortable, and so, in a gesture of reconciliation, he offered his lover a cheeky smile. “Gentleman, huh? This’ll be interesting.”

Carefully gathering Tom into his arms, Booker placed a loving kiss on top of his head. “Baby, by the time I’ve finished wooing you, you’re gonna be begging me for sex.”

A low chuckle resonated in the back of Tom’s throat. “Game on.”