A/N: Hello everyone! Just thought I'd let you know I haven't died, sorry it took so long to update! Something you should know about me is that I'm not a consistent writer. It might take me a week to update or it might take me a month. But still, stay with me, because eventually I will update! Another thing I wanted to discuss with you, my faithful readers and reviews, is the pairings in this story. At the moment where I am now, it could seriously go any possible way. I really have absolutely no idea what I plan to do with the pairings. It could be Tom/Doug, Tom/Judy, Doug/Judy, Tom/OC, Doug/OC, even Tom/Dennis. I need your opinion on what you're leaning toward! Personally, I'm leaning toward Tom/OC and Doug/Judy, or Tom/Doug and maybe Judy/Harry. Please tell me in your review what pairing you'd like best, because your opinion matters and could quite easily influence my writing! And if you're one of the people who doesn't read the long, boring author notes, then you'll never know you had the chance to be influential. What a shame. xD Okay, here's the next update, I'm not so sure about this chapter. It was kind of hard to write. Please tell me what you think! Now, for review responses:
rubydoo: Thanks for reviewing, and sorry I took so long to update!
LilaGrace: Thank you! I know exactly what you mean about Ioki, he always seemed like a boring and flat character to me (no offense meant to anyone who loves Ioki!). I tried to update soon, but writer's block and a life got in the way. P You're welcome for the length, this chapter's shorter, but hopefully still long enough for you. And don't worry about the anonymous reviewer thing, if it sounded in the last author's note that I didn't like anonymous reviewers, I didn't mean it to. I love all reviewers! And I also know what you mean about not trusting the internet, it always gives my computer viruses... Thanks for reviewing!
Oh, and one more thing, maybe I'm being a bit spoiled but I didn't get as many reviews on the third chapter as the others, and that makes me wonder if maybe it was a weak chapter. Oh, well, I hope this one is better and worth the wait! And a thanks to all my reviews who have accounts, if I forgot to respond to your review just PM me and I'll reply pronto. D
I lied - there's another things. The dreaded...
Disclaimer: I have stolen Tom and all of the others for my own personal use and will now use him to make money. KIDDING, KIDDING, KIDDING, DON'T SUE ME! I still don't own a thing. Happy?
Chapter Four: "We'll Get Through This"
Doug and his team lost track of Tom. Everything had been going smoothly until Tom and the gang decided to head off to who knows where. Doug had been crouching in the bushes with three other officers. They couldn't get close enough to hear what Tom and the others were saying, and Tom didn't have any wires – just a radio. Doug watched everyone, firmly imprinting their image in his mind. These were the guys he had to arrest.
When Tom turned away and walked off with the other guys, Doug expected Tom to radio him and explain the change of plans. He didn't. So Doug and the other officers just followed them at a distance.
Ryans seemed to be purposely taking the twistiest, most confusing path to wherever they were going. Doug followed, knowing he couldn't loose track of Tom. Tom could arrest two guys on his own, but with three, he would need backup.
Doug and his team managed to keep Tom in sight until they had to cross the street. Ryans jaywalked, of course. Doug was going to follow, but a huge track passed in front of him. By the time Doug could see the other side again, Tom and the others had gone.
Doug and the officers crossed the street anyway. When they were on the other side, Doug ordered a search. They split up, two looking one way, two looking the other. They searched fruitlessly for about ten minutes, but couldn't find any trace of Ryans, Tom, and the gang.
Doug was starting to panic. He couldn't loose Tom, not now! He could be in danger. Doug called the team together, trying to think of a plan.
At that moment, Officer Brookes, the rookie officer in the group, called Doug over.
"Penhall!" he said. "I think I've found something."
"Yeah?" Doug asked gruffly, trying not to get his hopes up. He didn't want to be disappointed.
Brookes pointed to an empty (strawberry-flavored) gum package near an alleyway. Next to it was a coupon for a bowling alley. Doug smiled. Good ole Tom. Thank you for being a litterbug for once in your life.
"Great job!" Doug said enthusiastically to Brookes, patting him on the back. "Those are Tom's, alright. C'mon guys, we're on the trail again."
Doug and the other officers started walking down the alley after congratulating Brookes (who was enjoying the attention immensely). It was a long, dark, narrow, and ominous (to Doug) alley. They walked down single-file, with Doug in the front and Brookes at the back.
It took about five minutes to get to the end of the alley. Doug could see a bar in the distance, but there seemed to be nothing in the alley. For a frustrated moment, Doug thought he had lost the trail again, or maybe they had been following a false lead. He ventured a bit farther and noticed a sticky, dark, wet substance covering the floor. A terrible sense of dread enveloped Doug even before he saw the unmoving figure huddling against the wall. He knew right away who it was, and what the liquid was.
For a while, Doug just stood in shock, thinking useless thoughts, in denial. No, not Tom… it can't be Tom… and this isn't blood, it's just… lemonade or something…
Finally, he had the sense to shout, "Someone call 911!" Moving as if in a dream, Doug walked over to the still figure as the other officers sprang to action.
He gingerly cradled the head in his lap, inspecting the face in the dim light of the moon. He was unsurprised but saddened when he recognized Tom's face underneath all the blood and bruises.
Common sense seemed to have left Doug. He sat for a few minutes, searching for any sign of life from Tom. He thought he saw Tom's eyes flicker. So did that mean he was alive? Finally, Doug realized that he should check for a pulse. He put a finger on Tom's limp wrist and was extremely relived when he felt a weak, slow, but definite pulse.
Suddenly Tom stirred slightly and opened his eyes, blinking them in the dim light. He looked at Doug, his expression confused.
Shocked, but also happy and hopeful, Doug just smiled at Tom.
"Doug…" Tom whispered. His voice was horse and it was clearly hurting him to breathe. "Are… Are you dead too?"
Puzzled and worried, Doug should his head. "No," he said quietly. "You're alive. So am I. Just hang in there, buddy. You can do it."
Tom took another labored breath. "It hurts," he moaned pitifully.
"Shh," Doug said. "Don't talk. Just wait and stay with me 'till the ambulance comes."
Tom was silent for a while, and Doug was able to think. He was worried. He hated acting like Tom was a little kid, but he only seemed to be half-awake and barely aware of his surroundings. He was obviously hurt badly and seemed to be able to talk only with long, painful pauses in between words.
The waited in silence (punctured by Tom's harsh breathing) for a while, Doug mentally urging his partner to stay conscious. Come on, Tom, you can do this, if you can dress up like a woman and actually look like one, then you can easily stay conscious.
"Doug," Tom said suddenly, looking into Doug's eyes.
"Yeah?" Doug asked, studying Tom's soft brown eyes. Doug had always thought Tom's eyes were the most expressive part of him, and right now they were filled with pain, sadness, and urgency. Whatever Tom was going to say was important to him.
"If I don't make it… will you... tell Jude… that I'm sorry?" Tom's voice was barely above a whisper.
Stunned, Doug didn't respond for a while. There were so many things he wanted to say. You're gonna make it, Tom; don't talk like you're gonna die! And what about Jude? Are you seeing her? I thought you were gay! Instead, all he answered with was, "Sure, anything for you, buddy."
But Tom had already slipped back into unconsciousness.
It felt like hours 'till the ambulance came, but in reality, it was only several minutes. Doug watched numbly as the doctors and nurses loaded Tom onto a stretcher and then into the ambulance. While the other officers answered questions about what and where and when and how and why, Doug joined Tom in the ambulance. He knew he should call Fuller and the others, but someone had to stay with Tom. The other officers could figure out all the little details. Doug would make sure Tom was okay, and call everyone.
Everything was a confused blur of voices, memories, and pain.
Tom remembered talking to Doug, but he didn't remember exactly what he had said. And now he was in some room, with a bunch of annoying beeping noises and panicky voices all around him. He wished they would shut up and let him sleep.
Doug was still with him, Tom could tell. He was holding his hand, obviously trying to comfort Tom. Tom didn't really see why he needed comforting; everything was fine, just a little confusing. Tom tried to smile, but it hurt too much. The pain returned full blast, and he suddenly remembered why Doug would be trying to comfort him. Everything was not fine.
Tom concentrated on blocking out the memories, noises and pain. He hoped that they got to wherever they were going soon. He figured it was probably a hospital. He could only kind of remember why everything hurt. He hoped that when they reached their destination, the pain would stop. After a while, Tom blacked out again.
They finally arrived at the hospital. Doug had watched Tom closely during the ride, but he never seemed fully conscious. He moved a little and opened his eyes a bit, but that was all. Right now, he was unconscious. Doug feverently hoped he wasn't too late, and that Tom would be okay.
They brought Tom into the hospital, Doug following blindly, until a doctor stopped Doug from going any further than the waiting room. Doug watched his best friend be taken away to some random room, and then turned his eyes to the doctor.
He looked nice enough - he was a middle-aged, balding man with glasses. Still, Doug hated hospitals. The too-clean smell of them, being surrounding by dying, bleeding, hurt people and having to listen to the sobbing of friends and family of the patients were all factors about hospitals that made them decidedly not fun. And the fact that usually, when you went to a hospital, it was because you or someone you knew was hurt, or because you had to take a nasty shot or blood test or something.
Besides, everyone had bad memories of hospitals, especially Doug, as an accident-prone kid and as a police officer.
"Is he going to be okay?" Doug asked the doctor anxiously.
The doctor (his nameplate read Dr. Willis) paused for a terribly long time, and finally answered. "We don't know. We can't have any idea until we know all of his injuries. He's in ER right now. While we're waiting, could you tell me a few basic details about him? Do you know him well?"
Doug nodded, knowing the questions would be coming very soon. He would answer to the best of his ability; if the doctors could help Tom, then Doug would help the doctors. It was really quite simple.
"Okay," Dr. Willis said in his slow, calm voice. "First, what's your name?"
"Doug Penhall," Doug replied.
After a while of this, Doug had answered all the questions Dr. Willis needed about Tom and himself. He was allowed to do whatever he wanted, and Doug decided to call Fuller.
Even though it was early in the morning, around 5:00 AM, Fuller picked up the phone almost immediately.
"Captain? It's me, Doug."
"PENHALL!" Fuller's stern, loud tones almost deafened Doug's ears. "Where have you been? You're more than three hours late. And where's Hanson?"
"Uh, that's why I'm calling you," Doug said timidly. "Tom's… Tom's in the hospital."
He had finally said it. Doug licked his lips nervously, hoping Fuller would come. He didn't want to be the only one responsible for Tom. Doug had never taken responsibility very well.
After a long silence, Fuller finally answered. "What?"
"Tom's in the hospital," Doug repeated.
"As a patient?" Fuller asked (just to be sure), his voice betraying no emotion.
"Yeah… They beat him up – I think. Like they did to the gay men." Doug gulped, wondering why Tom had been beaten up. Had the homophobes found out that Tom was an undercover cop, that he was gay, or both? Or maybe the homophobes hadn't been involved at all, but that was very unlikely.
Tom would be able to tell them, if – no, when – he was okay.
"I'll be coming right away," Fuller said, interrupting Doug's musings. "What hospital is he in?"
"Um…" Doug stalled, realizing that in his daze he hadn't even found out the name of the hospital. Luckily, he could see the name and logo (a disgustingly pink tulip) all over the place. "East Garden Medical Center," Doug finally replied.
"Right," Fuller answered grimly. "I'll be there as soon as possible."
'As soon as possible' turned out to be almost two hours later. Fuller had a lot of things to do. First, he had to call everyone important to Tom who he thought should know about Tom's 'condition'. That included the whole Jumpstreet gang and Mrs. Hanson.
The phone call to Mrs. Hanson had been very uncomfortable. Having already lost her husband to the police force, Mrs. Hanson was almost hysterical when she found out about what had happened to her only son. She was especially upset because Fuller could offer no reassurance, having heard none himself, but at least the had promised to keep her posted.
Hoffs, Ioki, and Booker were all on a case, and they would be over as soon as they could escape from the suspects without suspicion.
It was almost 7:00 AM as Fuller drove to the hospital. With all his duties aside, he was finally able to worry about Tom.
Fuller cared a lot about his officers, more than he liked to admit and definitely more than he showed. He felt personally responsible whenever one of them was injured. He felt horrible about Tom and knew that Doug hadn't told him everything over the phone. Fuller had no idea how bad Tom was and only the vaguest idea of what had happened to him. He only knew that one of his best officers was in the hospital, and that Doug had probably been waiting for Fuller for over two hours.
Feeling guilty at that thought, Fuller gunned the accelerator, and five minutes later arrived at East Garden Medical Center.
Doug had waited anxiously, wishing Fuller would hurry up. He couldn't sleep or concentrate. He just fidgeted and paced until finally, over two hours past the phone call, Fuller walked into the waiting room.
Relieved, Doug walked over to meet him. "What took you so long?" he asked, a bit rudely.
Fuller gave Doug a stern glare but let the disrespect go for the moment. He knew Doug must be worried. His best friend was in the hospital, and he probably felt a least partially responsible. "I had to make a few phone calls," Fuller explained. "And the traffic was bad. Hoffs, Booker, and Ioki will be over as soon as they can, but while we're waiting, tell me exactly what happened and what you saw."
For the next half hour, Doug filled Fuller in on everything he knew about the case and what he suspected had happened to Tom. Of course, he didn't mention that Tom was gay. That wasn't for him to tell.
"So," Fuller said when Doug got to the part where he found Tom. "How did he look? How bad was he?"
"Really bad, Captain," Doug admitted sadly. "He was bleeding badly, and his face was bruised and swollen. It really looked like he was beaten up. And he was also having serious difficulty breathing, and had to pause between words when he talked… He was slipping in and out of conciousness, and I talked to him once, but he never really seemed to know what was going on. I'm really worried about him, Captain."
Doug stared hopefully at Fuller. He wanted reassurance, even though he knew he should know better. He was a mature adult (okay, maybe not mature, but he was an adult!) and a police offcer. He faced morality every day. He knew victims of beatings often died, and if they survived, they often suffered from conditions such as PTSD (Post Tramatic Stress Disorder) or other mental or physical problems. But Tom was strong in every way. With the support of his friends and family (and medical assistance), he would make it.
As Doug suspected, Fuller was unable to offer any reassurance. The two sat in silence, lost in thought. While Doug convinced himself that Tom would make it, Fuller faced the facts. He thought of himself as sensible and relistc. From what Doug had said, it sounded like Tom was in a lot of trouble. But he had a chance. A very, very slim chance, but it was something.
Fuller and Doug passed the time until, finally, Dr. Willis came up to talk to them.
The doctor walked up with a grim expression on his lined face. "I'm afraid the news is not good," was the first thing Dr. Willis said to them.
Doug and Fuller exchanged glances. "Go on," Fuller said.
"Officer Thomas Hanson has at least eight broken ribs. His left leg is also broken. We expect that he has a concussion and internal bleeding. We've done everything we can for the moment. You can see him right now, but he's unconscious. You should prepare yourself – it won't look pretty."
Doug nodded. He knew exactly what Dr. Willis meant. Seeing Tom hooked up to all those machines would be hard. But he had to see him, had to know that he was alive. "I want to see him," Doug said.
"You go ahead," Fuller replied. Having just spotted Judy, Harry, and Booker enter the hospital, he added, "I'll tell Hoffs, Ioki, and Booker what's going on."
Doug nodded and allowed himself to be led though the white, sterile hallways to Room 28. Tom's room.
Doug took a deep breath, mentally preparing himself for what he was going to see. Then he opened the door and stepped in.
He hadn't prepared himself well enough. Tom lay in the bed, his eyes closed. Around him were what seemed like a hundred beeping machines, displaying all of his vitals. IV drips fed Tom, and he was breathing using a respirator. Tom himself looked terrible. A few seemingly mocking rays of light from the sun shone through the window onto Tom, throwing his injuries into sharp detail. His eyes were closed, and his skin was almost as white as the sheets covering him. His face was swathed with bandages. At least it had been cleaned of all the blood, but that only made his terrible bruises more visible. In colors ranging from blue to black to purple to yellow, they covered Tom's entire face. Doug winced just looking at them, cursing whoever had done this to Tom a thousand times over.
Tom looked surprisingly small and fragile, surrounded by the hulking machines and outlined by the sun. He also looked so… vulnerable. Doug was surprised, and a bit saddened; Tom was the strongest person he kenw. Never had he seemed fragile or vulnerable, not until he was fighting for his life in a hospital bed.
Doug swallowed and walked over to Tom. He studied Tom's face closely. He looked almost peaceful, as if he was sleeping instead of unconscious.
"Hey, buddy," Doug whispered, his voice cracking slightly.
He got no answer. Even though he wasn't expecting one, it was still disappointing and depressing. "Hang in there, Tom, please. You can't just leave us. We need you," Doug continued tearfully.
He watched the still, seemingly lifeless figure of his beast friend in the world. Doug could imagine Tom doing som many things – laughing, fighting, crying, making some smart-ass comment, giving one of his 'looks', losing that infamous and terrible temper of his. Tom comforting Doug, Tom annoying Doug, Tom teasing Doug. Tom as Tommy McQuaid. But none of the Toms Doug imagined were as lifeless, fragile, and vulnerable as the Tom lying before him. Suddenly, Doug couldn't stand it anymore. A single tear fell from his eyes onto Tom's bruised cheek. Doug gently wiped it off, and still Tom did not move. Doug sniffled, rubbed his eyes, and, feeling a bit stupid, told himself to get a grip. He walked out of Tom's room to where Fuller and the rest of the Jumpstreet gang were waiting.
By the time Doug reached Judy, Harry, and Dennis, they already knew everything. Doug could tell by the grim expressions on their faces.
Harry was the first one to speak. "How is he?" he asked nevously.
"Bad," Doug said, for what felt like the tenth time. "He was unconscious when I saw him, hooked up to all these machines… and he didn't move, or say a thing… he looks really bad too…" Doug stopped talking, knowing that if he went on he would burst into tears. You're 24, he mentally chided himself. Get a grip on yourself.
Booker, Harry, Judy, and Fuller exchanged glances. They could all tell Doug was upset, but they didn't say anything. Mercifully, even Dennis was silent. He actually felt a bit out of place and awkward around all these people who were friends of Tom and who cared about him a lot. Dennis hardly knew Tom, but they had never liked each other, and Dennis had always taken extreme care to be as rude and mean as he could to Tom, and annoy him as much as possible. And now, Tom was in the hospital.
"Let's go see him," Harry said, breaking the uncomfortable silence.
"Okay," Fuller agreed.
"I'll stay here," Doug said quietly. He didn't want to face Tom again, especially with other people in the room.
Fuller nodded in understanding and headed off towards Room 28. Booker and Ioki followed, but Judy hung back.
"Aren't you going?" Doug asked her.
"Yeah," she responded quietly. Judy was confused. She had been so mad at Tom. That, she was able to handle. But now, he was severely injured in the hospital. It was possible that the last memory he'd have of Judy was her yelling at him, and then giving him the silent treatment. She felt tears sting her eyes and sniffed, blinking them away and feeling foolish.
Doug was immediately by her side. "It's okay to cry, Jude," he whispered, and she saw his hazel eyes were also tearful.
She gave in to her tears, and Doug held her as sobs wracked her body. Doug cried a few tears himself.
"We'll get through this, Jude," Doug told her quietly, wanting to believe what he was saying so badly it hurt. "In a few months, Tom will be fine, and so will we. We'll even be stronger because of it."
Judy smiled. Doug let go of her and she dried her tears. "Thank you," she told him sincerely.
Doug grinned. "We all need some comfort sometime."
"Come on," Judy replied with a small smile. She suddenly felt strong enough to face Tom, and she could tell Doug did too. "Tom's wating for us." She linked her arm with Doug's and, together, they walked to Room 28. Judy was now feeling quite optimistic. We will get through this, she thought confidently. And, just like Doug said, we'll be stronger because of it.
A/N: Yep, another dreaded author's note. Sorry about ending the chapter with a thought again, that's kinda tacky and repetitive I know, but I was having trouble deciding how I should end this chapter. Anyway, please let me know what you think about this chapter (and the pairings) by clicking the (as Nuky rightly said) 'wonderful review button'!