Tuesday: March 6, 2029
12:03 PM; CLINSTONE POLICE DEPARTMENT, DETECTIVE SERGEANT JENSEN AUSTEN-TAYLOR’S DESK
Jensen glanced over at the hand on his desk. Catching sight of Bo’s wedding ring, he lifted his head. “Hi, baby.”
Bo offered a small smile. “Hi.” He cleared his throat. “Lunch?”
Jensen looked down at his watch, nodding. “Sure, Eli.” He closed the lid of his laptop and rose to his feet. He glanced over at Ryan Jass’s desk. The man was gone, his laptop closed. Jensen figured he had already left for lunch.
Jensen rounded his desk and headed for Jacob’s office, Bo trailing behind him. “Hey, LT.”
“Don’t call me that,” Jacob reminded as he lifted his head. “Whatcha want?” he asked.
“We’re going out for lunch. Can we get you anything?” Jensen asked.
“Depends. Is Bo behind you?” Jacob asked. The younger man nodded. “I’ll take a salad, then, but send Blondie in here real fast.”
Bo hesitated before walking into the office. He gave a quick smile to Jensen, who nodded once before closing the door. “Yes, sir?”
“Don’t call me that,” Jacob said softly. “You barely spoke to me yesterday. Are you pissed at the shit I said about you and Jamal?”
“No, although you were rather snippy with me,” Bo said.
“Yeah, I know, and I’m real damn sorry for that. You know that, don’t you?” Jacob asked. Bo only nodded. “So… what’s up, brother?”
“I’m depressed, Jake,” Bo said after a moment. He’d already told Jensen, and Jensen had told Jamal for him. There was no harm in telling his best friend, his… ‘bestie’, as Jacob loved to call it. “I took that pain out on myself again.”
Jacob’s mouth opened and closed several times before he asked, “When?”
“While I was in L.A.,” Bo said. Before Jacob could speak again, Bo added, “There was nothing you could have done, Jake. It was just a single moment, one moment where I finally gave into the pain, the desperation. Just one moment. No one could have stopped that.”
“I’m sorry, Bo. So damn sorry,” Jacob whispered.
Bo chuckled humorlessly. “Yeah, me, too.” He cleared his throat, uncomfortably shoving his hands into his pockets. “But, uh, I was a little distracted last night. It’s like… for every good thing that comes my way, a bad thing happens. Caleb Lehmann apologized—good thing. Bad thing? Timothy’s dying.”
“Ah, Jesus Christ,” Jacob murmured. He steepled his fingers in front of his mouth, sapphire eyes focused on Bo. “What happens now?”
“I include him in as much of my and the kids’ lives as possible. He made amends. It’s the least I can do for him. He’s still, you know, family.” Bo offered a shrug. “For all intents and purposes anyway.”
“I’m sorry, Bo.”
“Thank you,” Bo said softly. He cleared his throat, jerking a thumb over his shoulder. “A salad, then?” The lieutenant nodded. “Chicken or bacon?”
“Oh, don’t tempt me with heart disease, brother. I’ll settle for chicken.”
Bo rolled his eyes, but he couldn’t help the small smile that tugged at one corner of his mouth. “Sure thing, Jake. Chicken salad.” He nodded, turning for the door. He wrapped a hand around the doorknob. “Thanks for asking, Jake. And listening.”
“That’s what I’m here for, Blondie. Any time of night or day. I’m just a few steps away, always,” Jacob said, his voice soft, caring, gentle.
“I… Yeah, I know. I just need a little bit of a reminder sometimes.” Bo nodded once. “But thanks, Jake. Again.”
“You betcha, Blondie.”
Bo lifted a hand in departure before opening the door and stepping back into the detective desk bay of the station. He grabbed Jensen’s hand, threading his fingers through the younger man’s.
It wasn’t until they were in the parking lot that Jensen asked, “Are you okay? Or… I mean, as okay as you can be?”
Bo nodded slowly. “I, uh, I’m okay. Have you managed to get your hands on the woman’s laptop or cell phone?”
“No, babe. I haven’t contacted her family yet. I wanna wait. That wound is… incredibly fresh for those more people. Let’s wait just a little bit, okay?” Jensen asked. Bo nodded. “What about you, Eli? Figure out anything from staring at case files?”
Bo scoffed. “I wish. I just needed a good distraction from everything else,” he said. He cleared his throat, thanking Jensen as the younger man pulled open the passenger side of the door. Bo slid into the car, clicking his seat belt into place as Jensen closed the door.
Once Jensen was in the car, Bo said, “I remembered something that happened the day before I… you know.”
A muscle in Jensen’s jaw ticked as he started the car. “Yeah?” he asked, doing his best to keep the sudden tightness out of his voice.
“I went out for coffee after Jamal and I got back to the station. He was doing paperwork, and I was going to grab something for him, too.” Bo clasped his hands together, resting them between his thighs. “I saw Mister Wilkinson when I was walking.”
“Werewolf,” Jensen stated. Bo nodded. “And that… set something off?”
“I didn’t care that I saw him, if that makes any sense. He wasn’t hurting anyone. He even had that younger guy with him. Ashton something.” A pause. “Lawrence. He was there. But Wilkinson, he saw me.”
“Did he do something to you?” Jensen asked.
“Not to me, no. But he made sure to touch me when he walked past. He was walking backward so he could stare at me. He just… he dragged a finger over his wrist, smiled, and winked at me. It was a reminder that he was free, that he was a killer, that he was free, and I was still more trapped by my own sadness and self-hatred and self-harm than that bastard would ever be.”
“I’ll kill him,” Jensen said plainly. “I’ll rip his damn heart out, see how he likes it.”
“Well, see, that’s sweet and all, but it’s illegal,” Bo said.
“That’s why being family to Jamal is beneficial, Eli,” Jensen said.
Bo shook his head, looking over at the younger man. His jaw was tense, his fingers tight around the steering wheel. “I don’t mean to make you angry about any of this, Jens. I just didn’t want to sit here and pretend that there wasn’t some kind of trigger that started this. I figured that was something you deserved.”
“I know, baby. And I thank you for that, honestly.” Jensen looked over at Bo before reaching over to lay a hand on his husband’s thigh. “It just pisses me off that this smug bastard gets to walk the streets of L.A. like he didn’t murder people and rip their hearts out of their chests. He doesn’t deserve that, and you don’t need to be tortured by that.”
“Yeah,” Bo murmured. “Is it wrong that a part of me still holds some sort of terribly unfair grudge against Celia for getting him out of there, consequence free?”
“No, babe. There’s nothing wrong about that. It’s human. Normal,” Jensen assured. “What makes you feel wrong about it?”
“Well, she’s my friend, and she got me out of jail, and I wasn’t exactly innocent,” Bo said quietly. “Not to mention that it’s, you know, her job to fight for people like Wilkinson, even if they don’t deserve it.”
“Even when they deserve absolutely nothing from anyone,” Jensen corrected. “But you’re allowed to be pissed about it, or feel like you were wronged somehow, ‘cause you were wronged. She made a promise to you, and she broke it so she could go fight for Dominic fucking Wilkinson.”
Bo lifted his shoulders. “I suppose,” he mumbled. “None of this is her fault. I just think part of me still feels a bit betrayed by the whole ordeal. Maybe it was just one more point that drove the pain home… you know?”
For the first time, Bo looked back out the window. Jensen had taken the long way to the diner. “Afraid I’ll stop talking if you reach the parking lot too soon?” he asked, looking back over at his husband.
Jensen smiled almost nervously, his cheeks flushing. “Sorta,” he admitted after a moment. “You aren’t notorious for speaking about your feelings, Eli. Whenever that happens, I like to keep it going as long as I can.”
“I really only talk about them when I need help distinguishing what said emotion actually is. Otherwise, I don’t quite understand the appeal of discussing them.” Bo cleared his throat, laying his hand over Jensen’s. “But, if I’m to be entirely candid here, this is nice. Sometimes, you just need to remind me to talk about it, that’s all. I need to be prompted.”
Jensen smiled faintly, nodding. “Sure, baby. Reminders.” He rested his wrist on the steering wheel, clearing his throat. “I think that, once a day, we should just sit down and talk about this kind of shit. Like a… like our own little therapy session, just you and me. I’m no professional, and I’m not, you know, certified in psychology or the human mind or whatever, but I’m a damn good listener. Maybe talking about all that stuff you keep bottled up way more often than we do can help you out a bit.”
Bo thought it over for a moment. “I’d like that,” he said softly. “Maybe… at night? After we shower, but before we actually go to bed?”
“Yeah. I like that idea,” Jensen said with a nod. “And… maybe one of these days, we’ll teach you how to love yourself,” he added quietly.
“Do you think it’s truly possible to love yourself?” Bo asked. “The idea sounds lovely in theory, but is it really anything more than that? Than a theory?”
“Hell, yeah, it’s possible. I love myself nowadays more than I ever considered possible in school or in college. And, you know, there’s Jake and Katie, Amber, your parents. They love themselves, not to a point where they think they’re better than everyone else, but to a point where they look in the mirror or reflect on who they are and truly like what they see. That’s loving yourself. Doesn’t mean you have to be obsessed with yourself or any of that shit. It just means you don’t hate everything you see when you catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror.”
Bo let out a breath. “That’d be nice,” he said softly. “You’d really help me get there?”
“I’ve been trying to help you get there for the last six years, Eli. You’ve just never opened yourself up to that,” Jensen said. He sighed. “I love you. I want you to be able to love you, too.”
“Yeah,” Bo mumbled. He squeezed Jensen’s hand. “I love you, and I’ll work on myself. For you. For the kids. For anyone and everyone that loves me.”
“Thank you,” Jensen whispered. Bo nodded once. “We’ll go to Little Delights, get some food… You wanna eat there?”
“Might as well.”
“Sweet,” Jensen murmured. He cleared his throat. “You, uh, you wanna switch topics, I imagine?”
Bo smiled faintly, shaking his head. “No, it’s okay. The only things I need or want to talk about is the vigilante in Los Angeles, and the dead woman here.”
“I’ll get her phone and computer soon, Eli. Promise,” Jensen said.
“You’re scared of doing it, aren’t you? Of confronting a grieving family?” Bo asked.
“Yeah,” Jensen admitted. “I’ve never liked it, Eli. Not when you let a family know their kid or sibling or parent is gone, and not during an investigation that follows. When there doesn’t need to be investigation, it feels even worse.” A pause. “I don’t mean… that there doesn’t need to be an investigation. I just mean, you know, that, umm…”
“It’s okay. Neither one of us are fully convinced it was a homicide of any kind, and neither one of us fully believe it was a suicide. I’m okay with that,” Bo said. “But I know what you mean. I can call Jamal.”
“No, I’ll do it.”
“Are you sure?” Bo asked.
Jensen nodded once. “Yeah, Eli, I think I can handle it,” he said.
“Okay, love. Thank you.”
“Sure thing, Eli.” If nothing else, Jensen figured he could at least be the one to call Jamal when or if all else failed.
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