"It's good to be back!"
Doug's bellow echoed through the chapel. Silence followed. He bowed. Everyone clapped. A second later, Jump Street returned to business as usual. He made a beeline to Judy's desk. The time away had been far too long.
"Doug!" Her eyes flittered briefly toward Tom's desk before locking on Doug. She fixed him with an overly bright smile. "When did you get back?"
"Just now." He pointed his thumb over his shoulder. "Didn't you hear my grand entrance?"
"I'm knee deep in reports." Looking down at the documents that littered her desk, she shrugged. "I guess I was distracted."
"Aw, and here I was hoping you'd be happy I was back."
Her gaze flew to his. "I am! It's just that with you gone, Fuller's been riding us pretty hard. If I don't get this stuff done, I'm put on a waiting list for my next undercover assignment."
Doug's mouth dropped open. "Fuller said that? No way. We're the old-timers around here. He wouldn't bench us."
"Yeah, right. You'd better finish your report for this case and make sure your old cases are closed--"
Doug opened his mouth to speak but in that same moment, a voice yelled, "PENHALL!"
"Oh, boy!" He wanted to catch up with her. The weeks away put the brakes on their relationship in a big way. The drive to work all he could think of was getting them back on track. But that would have to wait. "Coming, boss!" He lightly touched her shoulder. "Maybe lunch later?"
She nodded once. "Sure."
Minutes after Doug disappeared inside the Captain's office, Judy's heart still pounded an erratic beat. She counted to ten. The relaxation technique failed miserably. She tried to focus on her mountain of reports, but that didn't work either. The sound of Tom calling her name in the throes of passion echoed in her mind. Although she and Doug hadn't made an official claim on the other, she couldn't bear the thought of him knowing that she'd been intimate with his best friend. She had to guarantee that wouldn't happen.
She glanced at the desk closest to hers. Hanson's empty desk mocked her. She frowned. With Fuller's new rule in place, she knew Tom wasn't on a new case. Where was he? She considered asking around, but thought better of it. A short investigation into his whereabouts wouldn't put her too far behind in her work.
Fifteen minutes later, she found him in the basement going through a filing cabinet of old records. He heard her footsteps and looked up with a tentative smile.
"Hey. What's up?"
"I was looking for you," she blurted.
A quizzical frown marred his handsome face. "Yeah? You found me. Are you okay?"
Shrugging, she wrung her hands together. "Truthfully, I don't know what I am. Doug is back."
Tom froze. The color drained from his face and looked away from her. "Oh. He didn't call me."
"Me either," she said. "He just showed up. Fuller's talking to him now."
"So, immediately you came looking for me--"
"To make sure I keep my mouth shut," he continued. "I said I would. I don't want to hurt him."
"Neither do I," she said. "He's a nice guy. A momentary lapse in good judgment shouldn't ruin any of our friendships."
He nodded. His silence echoed in the room.
Judy wished she could read his mind. Since that night, Tom continued to behave the way he always had. Friendly, cooperative and open. But there was the occasional glance that set her soul on fire. Their eyes would lock and she'd remember everything. Her body betrayed her at the whiff of his cologne or the sound of his voice. She'd just now come to the point where she could talk to him without her temperature rising.
"Doug's one of the best friends I've ever had," he said. "I won't lie to him."
"He'd have no reason to ask," she said quickly. "It was one time."
Tom gave her a curious look and said, "Yeah. One time."
Tom got through the day with by the skin of his teeth. Sitting across from Judy used to be fun. It was a hidden pleasure. Watching her throughout the day and sometimes catching her eye. But with Doug's return, everything changed. At the end of the day, Tom fired up his Mustang without a backward glance.
He drove for hours. By the time he got home, his answering machine blinked with several messages. He dreaded listening to them. Things with Amy had been tense since the unexpected, magical night with Judy. He didn't want to hurt Amy, but he didn't care about her as much as she cared for him. In all their nights together, he never experienced a bond as strong as what he shared with Judy. He lay in bed for hours remembering the feel of her skin and the scent of her body. Wanting Judy Hoffs threatened to consume him.
Ignoring the answering machine, he took a quick shower and heated leftovers for dinner. As he was washing the solitary plate, knocks pounded on his door. He knew that knock and grudgingly moved to open the door.
"Yeah," his friend and partner said, pushing inside the apartment. "What gives? Are you sick or…um busy? If Amy's here, I can leave."
"No, I'm alone. Have a seat." Tom closed and locked the door. "Want a beer?"
"Sure. Staying at the military school, I almost forgot the taste."
Tom grabbed a beer from the fridge and tossed it to Doug. "What? Those schools are loaded with kids trying to make a quick buck, usually by sneaking in alcohol."
"Not at that school. I swear it was a fortress." Doug twisted the top off and swallowed a long gulp. When he was done, he wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and belched. "Man, that was good. So tell, what have I missed?"
"Not much. Same old, same old." Tom busied himself with straightening the magazines on the coffee table. "You know nothing never changes around here."
"Well, that's not always the case. What are you doing Friday night?"
"I'm not saying, yet. Just keep it open. I may have a few surprises planned."
He waved off the warning in Tom's voice. "Relax, these are good surprises."
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