10:30 AM; CLINSTONE, THE AUSTEN-TAYLOR HOUSEHOLD, MASTER BEDROOM
Bo sat down on the edge of the bed and pulled on a pair of dry socks. His feet felt like ice, thanks to the hours spent outside, wet snow seeping into his shoes. With a heavy sigh, he pushed himself back to his feet and grabbed his phone from the nightstand. Truly, the last thing he wanted to do was go to work and autopsy Ed Hackman. If the liver was damaged extensively—and he was, on average, ninety-nine percent certain that it would be—he’d have to cut into it, take more samples, and run more tests.
More tests ran the possible risk of having to make new calculations on the drug cocktail. Bo didn’t want to deal with new calculations—although he did enjoy a heavy round of calculating every now and then.
Clearing his throat, he left the bedroom and headed into the kitchen. Jensen stood near one of the counters, hunched over with his elbows resting on the smooth service. His cell phone held between his hands, Bo could only assume the younger man was scrolling through Pinterest, an assumption that was confirmed the moment Bo walked behind him and glanced at his screen.
“Guilty as charged,” Jensen said.
Bo chuckled. “Why do you like it so much?” he questioned.
“Pretty pictures, treehouses, cake, pie, and breakfast recipes beyond my wildest dreams. What’s not to like?”
“I suppose that makes sense for someone like you.” A pause. “Not that that’s an insult.”
Jensen snorted. “I know, babe.” He pushed away from the counter, smacking a palm against Bo’s backside. “I’ll be in the car. Make your coffee and meet me there?”
“Will do,” Bo said softly. As Jensen walked away from him, he leaned back and smacked the younger man’s rear. Jensen whirled around to face him, and Bo offered the most innocent of smiles. “Yes?” he asked.
“I love you,” Jensen said simply. “You’re coming out of your little ‘never touch, no PDA’ shell… and I love it.”
One corner of Bo’s mouth lifted as he let out a breath of air, nothing but a silent little laugh. “I love you, too, Jens.” He cocked his head to the side. “How about we just go to Little Delights and get coffee there? Maybe pick up a late, light breakfast to tide us over until lunch.”
“I sure as hell like that idea.” Jensen held out a hand, which Bo accepted without and complaints. “When’re we flying out to L.A.?” he asked.
“Friday evening after work.”
“Frank will pick us up at the airport and we’ll head to San Diego. Jamal will watch the girls Friday night, and we’ll get the night to ourselves at home, and then we spend all of Saturday and fair share of Sunday with Jamal.” Bo pulled open the front door, twisting the lock before stepping outside, Jensen only two steps behind. “I called Wayne. He’ll be joining us for brunch with Jamal and Frank.”
“Even if I wanted to be around her, she wouldn’t show up,” Bo said, latching the door. “You know that.”
“I know.” Jensen cleared his throat, stepping around Bo to open the passenger side door of his car. “If we’re going to be around Jamal all weekend, there’s no way I’ll be able to lie to him about Kathy. I don’t care that he sees me as family or that he ordained our wedding, I’m still fucking terrified of him, and I can’t lie to his face.”
Bo offered a smile. “That’s okay, love.” He leaned up and kissed him. “If you tell him, you tell him. I already told you that. As long as I am not forced to tell him, it’s okay.”
“Absolutely. You do whatever you have to do.”
“My pleasure.” The blonde nodded his head toward the car. “Let’s get back to work.” Jensen nodded, tapping a hand against the hood of the car as he walked around to the driver’s side. With a soft sigh, Bo slid into the passenger seat, closing the door behind him. He clicked his seat belt into place, closing his eyes once he heard Jensen do the same. Jensen started the car and backed out of the drive, laying his right hand on Bo’s thigh. Bo moved a hand to cover Jensen’s curling his fingers beneath the younger man’s palm.
The three-minute drive back to Clinstone’s police station was silent, save for the music on the radio station and the four-minute stop at Little Delights Diner for coffee and blueberry scones. The couple walked across the parking lot and into the station together, parting ways at Jensen’s desk. While the younger man sat down, Bo headed through the large room that contained the homicide department’s officers’ desks, into the corridor, and down the stairs. He knew Kayla was with Jacob, and he preferred to keep it that way.
Leaving her alone in the lab while he was in tagging and processing evidence or performing an autopsy wasn’t something he considered ideal.
Bo pushed open the door to the morgue and stepped inside, flipping on the light as the door closed behind him. He glanced to his left, his gaze landing on the metal door across the room. He glanced down at his watch.
The autopsy can wait, he decided, crossing the room to set his satchel and camera case on the counter. He headed back to the metal door and pulled it open, stepping inside. There were three plastic crates set on the floor of the room, evidence bags waiting to be labeled and processed. He shut the door, a soft smile on his face.
Organization. He could thrive in that any day of the week.
11:51 AM; CLINSTONE POLICE DEPARTMENT, DETECTIVE JENSEN TAYLOR’S DESK
Jensen stopped typing as he caught sight of a hand in his peripheral. He glanced down at the ring on his husband’s left hand before looking up to meet his blue-eyed gaze. “Hey.”
“Hi.” Bo smiled faintly. “I thought we could grab Kay from Jake’s office and take our lunch.”
Jensen looked down, checking his watch. His brow furrowed, “You’re already done with the autopsy.”
“I bagged and tagged evidence. I haven’t done the autopsy yet,” Bo said. “That’s the first thing I’ll do when we get back. And then the drug cocktail, and then the test on the liver.”
“You’ll be here for quite a while then.”
“I know, but if it makes any sort of progress in the case…”
“Then it’s worth it,” Jensen said softly. Bo only nodded. “That works for me. I have, like, a sentence or three to finish typing here, and then we can leave. All right?”
“Sure, Jens. I’ll go get Kay.”
3:14 PM; CLINSTONE POLICE DEPARTMENT, MORGUE
Bo looked up as Jacob walked into the morgue. “Hey, Jake,” he greeted.
Jacob nodded his greeting. “How’re you doing?”
“Uh… depends. How am I doing on the case? Or how am I doing?”
“How’re you doing?”
Bo nodded slightly, leaning back against the counter as he pulled off his gloves. “Still a bit tired, but I’m okay. Excited and… nervous for the twins.” He laughed softly. “Jensen just texted me a few minutes ago, and our Social Security cards came in. We’ll take an early lunch tomorrow, get our licenses changed. Bank accounts and debit cards are after that, and then… and then I’m Bo Austen-Taylor. This is all so damn surreal,” he said.
“That’s good, Bo. Hell, it’s amazing. It’s normal to be nervous. It’s a good thing,” Jacob said, lifting himself onto the counter.
Again, the blonde nodded. “Yes, I suppose. But it’s all so incredibly surreal,” he repeated, “and I keep worrying that it won’t be long before I wake up and find out that none of it was real.”
“Not everything good has to be a dream, Bo,” Jacob said softly. “If this was all a dream, you wouldn’t have been through so much hell. You have to know that.”
“I suppose,” Bo murmured. He fiddled with his gloves for a moment before tossing them into the garbage. He lifted his gaze to Jacob’s face. “What if the hell is part of the trick, hmm? What if it’s all some sick ploy to make me think it’s not a dream? And then… and then I wake up in bed with Bridge and… and she’s murdered a few days later?”
“It doesn’t work that way.”
“Are the dream expert?”
“No, but I’ve had plenty of dreams, even more nightmares.” Jacob cleared his throat, clasping his hands between his knees. “You got a sticky note?”
“I always do. Why?”
“Can I have one?” Jacob questioned. Bo crossed the room and opened his satchel. He pulled out a pad of sticky notes and tossed them Jacob’s way. The lieutenant pulled a pen from his pocket, clicked the end of it, and jotted down a message. He moved his leg just enough to pull open one of the drawers beneath the counter. Peeling back the top sticky note, he stuck it in the bottom of the drawer. “There,” he said, closing the drawer again. “You wake up from the dream, and then you check that drawer,” he said simply, tossing the pad back to Bo.
The blonde’s brow furrowed. “What’d you write?”
Jacob shrugged. “That’s for the real you to find out, the one that isn’t scared of waking up, the one that knows he’s in the real world again,” he explained. He nodded toward the notebook on the table. “How’d the autopsy go?”
“Same as the previous two victims. The liver’s entirely shot. I have to run a few tests on the samples I took to see if the concentration of each drug is the same. Then I’ll test it on a healthy liver,” Bo said.
“You can’t do that tomorrow?”
“Jensen’s going to be at home with the girls. I can handle staying late.”
“Is this you rushing to solve a case again?”
Bo shook his head. “No. This is just me doing what I used to do best.”
“Ah,” Jacob whispered. “If you’re here, you can’t wake up from whatever kind of dream you think this is.” He shook his head, jumping down from the counter. “I love you, Blondie, but you don’t have to hate yourself so much that you think the only way something good could happen to you is if you dreamed it all up.” He nodded toward the door. “For the first time in forever, I’m going home on time. Don’t stay here all night, okay?”
“Sure, Jake. Drive safe.”
“You betcha, Blondie. See you tomorrow.”
Bo watched the lieutenant leave before he crossed the room and pulled open the drawer Jacob had stuck the sticky note in. The yellow square was filled with Jacob’s messy handwriting. He read through the note thrice, a smile on his face, his brow furrowed, his eyes stinging.
*October 9, 2020 – Hunter = Steven Brady
– send Pitman out for blood on the guy + protect Bridget
*NOW find Jensen Taylor (he’s in L.A.) + marry the fuck outta him
– he’s your guy + he’s fucking perfect
– LT (probs still detective in non-dreamland) Jake
Bo let out a short scoff of a laugh, sticky the note back to the bottom of the drawer. He wiped his cheek on his shoulder, closing the drawer with the very tips of his fingers. He crossed the room and grabbed his satchel and his camera bag. The testing could wait until tomorrow. Jacob was right. Jensen Taylor was his guy, and he was fucking perfect.
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