Word count: 3608
Disclaimer: CHiPs, Buffy, CSI and Diagnosis Murder don't belong to me.
A/N: Episodes mentioned are Crash Course (1/4/81) and Surf's Up (1/19/78).
Jon gazed out at the street from his balcony and wondered if it was really the right choice to be looking for a position outside L.A. It would be a drastic change, but maybe it would help. He needed to do something; just being here was hurting him too much. Every time Ponch smiled or flirted with a woman just cut too deep these days.
He laughed at himself and turned to go back inside; wondering when exactly he'd started to fall in love with the younger man. There wasn't that much difference in their ages; just enough that when they first met Jon considered him a bit of a punk...hell...that first meeting might have been it.
The first smile Ponch had shot off at him over his shoulder on that dirt bike after soaring over his patrol car. Yeah...that was the first time Jon had felt the thrill...only it hadn't hurt the way it did now.
Now he was so in love with Ponch he couldn't stand to be around the other man. Not quietly anyway; not while he went out with beautiful woman after beautiful woman. So he'd talked to Getraer about a transfer. Nothing was solid yet; he just asked if there were any positions open far, far away from L.A.
Getraer had looked a bit shocked, confused even, when Jon had mentioned it to him...but he hadn't asked why, just that he would look into things for him.
Maybe it was a bit much...but being in love with Ponch while the other man remained clueless had taken too much of a toll on him. He needed out and leaving L.A. seemed to be the only way.
“Frank, come in here for a second would you?”
Ponch turned on his heel, changed his direction, and stepped into Getraer's office. “What's up Sarge?”
“Close the door Frank.”
“Uh oh, now what did I do?”
Getraer sighed and motioned him forward. “Just close the door.” Not wanting to aggravate his sergeant further he did as told and stepped closer until he was in front of Getraer's desk.
“I thought this would be a good time to talk to you since Jon's off today.” Ponch felt a bad chill go through him at those words. “Do you have any idea what's going on with your partner?”
“Come on Frank.”
“I'm serious Sarge. I don't know what's going on with Jon. He always seems to be in a mood and nothing I do changes things. It’s like we don't even know how to talk to each other anymore.”
“Did he have a bad break up with a girl? Something going on with his sister or nephew here in L.A.?”
“Not that he's told me, but he barely speaks to me at all...it’s like I've lost my best friend and I don't know how to get him back.”
“We may all be losing him Frank.”
“What's that mean?”
“He came to me yesterday about a permanent transfer.”
Ponch felt lightheaded suddenly, his knees buckled, and he barely got to the guest chair in front of Getraer's desk. “He's leaving?”
“I take it you didn't know?”
“Nothing's permanent yet Frank, it was just a talk, and he hasn't brought me any paperwork, but he's looking for openings as far from L.A. as he can get.”
Ponch closed his eyes and took a couple of deep breaths, trying to hold the panic...and the anger at bay. “What do we do?”
“Take this weekend off...see if you can find out what's going on with him. I'll stall as long as I can with the inquiry.”
He swallowed and nodded. “Thanks Sarge.”
“I don't want to lose him either Frank...besides...the two of you always manage to find trouble...but when either of you are on your own its always ten times worse.”
“Don't I know it.”
Ponch wracked his brain all week trying to think of something he and Jon could do to reconnect. Anything involving women was out, Jon hadn't been on a date in ages and every time Ponch suggested they go on a double date the light seemed to die in Jon's eyes. He had no idea what was going on with his best friend, but having an audience wouldn't help him find anything out.
They used to do so much together, spending not only their work days together but all their free time as well. Ponch would never have gotten his car rebuilt (more than once) if it hadn’t been for Jon, and they'd both probably would have cashed in their chips if they hadn't been there for one another on the job. Getraer was right about that, they did better together than apart; it was the main reason why everyone turned a blind eye to their partnership. No other CHP officers rode with a partner unless they were training or on probation. Ponch was passed both stages, but Getraer kept them together.
It had worked so far, Jon kept Ponch in line when he was quick to anger...and Ponch had cooled Jon off when his anger finally boiled over. But now...Ponch didn't know what to do.
Hang gliding, sky diving, and any other number of sports would give them the chance to work off some energy but not to talk about what Jon was going through. There would be too many people at the skate park, and wait...dirt biking! That was it. They could hit the trails and on their breaks maybe he could get Jon to open up. It was worth a shot anyway.
Jon couldn't believe he'd agreed to this, a day alone with Ponch was just asking for more heartbreak...but he could tell Ponch was trying and he didn't have the heart to say no. Especially after the week they'd had with that crazy thief who thought the streets were his personal racetrack and demolition derby. It had been a heck of a way to start the new year.
The tumble Jon had taken on his bike had shaken Ponch up and he was determined to spend more time with Jon; to resolve the problems and tension between them. Even though Ponch had no idea why Jon had been so distant and irritable lately...but he was trying and Jon couldn't fault him for caring and trying to fix things. So he agreed to go dirt biking; just the two of them hitting the trails. The trick would be keeping the truth under wraps.
They rode through the trails for hours, from daybreak to noon, and Ponch felt the tension between them ease some. It was just them, the bikes, and the freedom of the trails. Dirt biking had been how they had first met, and how they had first bonded. He didn't regret challenging Jon back then when he'd been biking illegally and made the older man chase him down just to give him a citation. It had led to something worthwhile and Ponch couldn't imagine being anything other than a Highway Motor Officer. He loved being a CHP, and he loved working with Jon.
Ponch signaled to Jon and they pulled up short, off the trail for a moment. “What do you say we break for lunch? I left a basket in your truck.”
Jon laughed and Ponch felt even more at ease. “I thought that looked like a picnic basket. Race you.” And he was off, leaving Ponch in the dust. Ponch just grinned and took off after him.
Just as they got to the truck a trio of trail riders took off on their own bikes, two of them doing a series of jumps that was impressive and spoke of years of riding, the third rider while good didn't try the complicated tricks as they raced after their companions. Ponch pulled up beside Jon and they watched the other riders for a moment, appreciating the skill level they were seeing before the three disappeared around the bend in the trail.
“You know they're not bad...you think they're professionals?”
“The first two maybe, the third one is probably a more casual rider. Or they could be another couple of CHPs.”
“Nah, we'd have recognized the bikes and gear.”
“I guess so.” Jon dismounted and left his helmet and gloves on the seat of his bike running a hand through his tangled hair. “So where's that basket?”
“Hey Jon, can we talk first?”
Jon froze, body tense, but then he shook it off and smiled at Ponch. “Sure old buddy, what's on your mind?”
Ponch frowned at him. “Getraer called me into his office on your last solo day off.”
“Yeah...Jon...why do you want a transfer?”
Jon wouldn't meet his eyes; instead he leaned against the truck as if he were searching for something in the bed. “It’s personal Ponch.”
“But I'm your partner, heck I'm your best friend, there's nothing we don't tell each other.”
“There's a few things.”
“Like what?” Jon hung his head and didn't say anything until Ponch joined him at the truck, putting a hand on his shoulder. “Jon?”
“I can't tell you.”
“It’s too dangerous.”
“Jon, are you in some kind of trouble?”
“Not the way you're thinking.” Jon tried to pull away but Ponch held on. “Let go Ponch.”
“Not until you talk to me. I've done everything I can think of to cheer you up, but you won't go out with me anymore, no matter how beautiful the girl I find is. I was surprised you agreed to come with me today.”
“Yeah, and that was a mistake.”
Ponch shook him a little. “How can spending time with your buddy when he's worried about you be a mistake?”
“Because you drive me crazy Ponch! Every moment of every day!”
It was Ponch's turn to tense up. “Sorry...I didn't realize we'd grown that far apart.”
He released Jon's shoulder and started to pull away and Jon grabbed his hand in a fit of panic, gripping it tight. “I didn't mean it like that.”
“It sure sounded like it, and I don't mean to get on your nerves.”
“You don't get on my nerves Ponch.”
“Then explain what you do mean.”
Jon started to shake a bit, so he took a deep breath and pulled Ponch closer, putting their clasped hands over his heart. “I'm in love with you, you jerk.”
They stood there for a long moment, Ponch's eyes so wide his expression would have been comical if Jon hadn't just declared something so dangerous. The younger man's jaw had dropped and he didn't make a sound...Jon was almost afraid he'd broken his friend, shook his world view too badly.
Ponch finally found his words with teeth snapping together, throat clearing, and eyes blinking in disbelief. “Come again?”
“I'm. In love. With you.”
“I like women, and I like men. But I love you.”
“Since when do you like men?”
“Since High School.”
Ponch thought about the couple of guys he'd met that Jon had gone to school with and his eyes widened. “Have I met any-?”
“Only one of them.”
“When was the last time you...dated someone like me?”
“Ponch I've never dated anyone like you, you're the only person like you that I know.”
“I meant a man.”
“In the army...he didn't make it back.”
Jon smiled and started to let go of his hand, but Ponch tightened it and kept them connected, “Ponch?”
“Give me a while to get used to the idea. This is life changing information.”
“Not really...just don't spread it around. Not everyone will look the other way because I'm a fellow officer, I'd hate to get us killed because someone decided not to back us up in an emergency.”
“You really think anyone at central would do that to you?”
“You hear the same locker room talk that I do, I never want to take a chance on your life like that.”
“You got it, I won't say a word...but...this doesn't explain why you want to leave.”
“Envy, Ponch. I envy every woman you date, who gets what I want and can never have.”
“Oh...so no more double dates.”
“They hurt too much.”
“Okay then...no more bragging about my dates either. So it'll just be you and me when we go out.”
“Ponch, you can't just stop your social life because I'm lovesick.”
“And I told you, I need some time to get used to the idea...I'd do just about anything to keep you here, with me. Just...give me time...and don't make your request official until I figure this out.”
“There's nothing too-”
Ponch lifted Jon's hand to his lips and placed a chaste kiss on the knuckles, Jon's knees almost buckled from the contact. “Promise me.”
What could he do? “I promise.”
Lunch started out as a somber affair; neither of them mentioned the confession Ponch had dragged out of Jon, nor did they talk about Jon possibly leaving L.A. Instead they talked about how they could get together more often, the way they had for years doing any number of sports...or maybe even a vacation.
They were about halfway through their sandwiches when the three bikers from before came down the trail and stopped at the only other truck in the roped off area that served as a parking lot. It was a slow weekend for trail riders; the five of them were the only ones at the trail that weekend. Ponch waved at them and they started to walk toward them, faces still hidden behind their helmets.
When they got to the tailgate where Ponch and Jon were eating Ponch grinned at them. “We saw the three of you take off earlier, you looked good. You guys do this professionally?”
Looks were exchanged between the three before removing their helmets, the tallest one was at least 6' and when his helmet came off it was to reveal brown hair and blue eyes. The other two were shorter, both about 5'6” and one...was a woman. Her eyes were brown, her hair blonde, and she looked to be in her late forties...maybe early fifties. The third was a boy, no older than 16, whose eyes were an even lighter blue than the young man's.
The woman laughed at their expressions. “No, we're not professionals. I'm actually a housewife. Katherine Sloan.”
“Ma'am.” Jon recovered faster than Ponch did. “I'm Jon Baker and this is Frank Poncherello.”
“Nice to meet you, this is my son Steve and our neighbor David Hodges.”
They all shook hands and Ponch managed an apologetic smile. “Sorry if I offended you, but you do ride really well.”
“That's because we've been riding for the past sixteen years; and David here has been riding for the last six.” Steve ruffled the boy's hair and grinned at them, though David huffed a bit at the affection. “Care to ride the trails with us?”
Ponch looked at Jon and they nodded. Suddenly having an audience seemed like a good thing. They wouldn't be able to bring up Jon's confession, and it would give Ponch more time to think.
“We'd love too.”
It turned out that Katherine, who preferred to be called Kat, and Steve were even better trail riders than they had first appeared. The number of jumps and stunts made Ponch and Jon want to applaud had they not been riding right behind them. David was a more cautious rider and took things more seriously than mother and son. They kept it up until dusk, pulling into the lot and loading up their bikes into Jon and Steve's trucks.
“Today has been great.” Katherine told them. “It’s been a while since we've had this much fun on the trails, not since Carol last came with us.”
“Who's Carol?” Ponch asked.
“My younger sister.” Steve said, offering no further explanation. It seemed to be a sore subject so neither of them inquired further about her. David shaking his head in warning where Steve couldn't see him was the biggest clue though.
“Well the fun doesn't have to end.” Jon told them, steering the conversation. “We could all go grab a bite to eat.”
“What do you think David?” Steve asked. “Think your mom can spare you for a bit longer?”
“She and Chelsie are going to the movies tonight; she knows I'm with you, so obviously its fine.”
Steve ruffled his hair again and David batted his hand away with a smile. Katherine grinned at Ponch and Jon. “Perfect, it’s all settled. Besides, Mark is working late anyway and there's an all night diner in Malibu that you'll love.”
“Oh we always love Malibu.” Ponch told her.
Katherine stopped and looked at him for a moment, eyes a little wide, then she snapped her fingers. “That's why you're familiar!”
She laughed. “Ponch we've met before.”
“Trust me Kat; I'd remember meeting a classy lady like yourself.”
“It was in Malibu, you needed to use my car for an emergency road block. Some guy had stolen a car with a baby in the back seat.”
He stared at her for a moment before he was grinning back at her. “That was you? You were a brunette then, that's why I didn't recognize you.”
“Call it a midlife crisis, I only kept it brunette for a few weeks, but that was a clever stunt, faking an accident to save that baby.”
“You told us about that.” Steve said.
“So you two are CHP?” David asked.
“Yeah we are. I was Ponch's training officer...and then we got partnered up when he ended up on probation.”
“Jon's being modest. He's the reason I joined the Highway Patrol, when we met I was trail riding illegally and he caught up to me in a patrol car so he could give me a citation.”
“We're still partners though.”
Ponch laughed. “Because the Sergeant doesn't trust us on our own; especially me.”
“Why?” David wanted to know.
“Because we always find trouble, even when we don't go looking for it.”
“You like it though?” Steve asked.
Before either could answer Katherine motioned toward the trucks. “Follow us boys so we can continue our conversation with a side of food. My treat.”
“We couldn't let you do that Kat.”
“Its fine, come on now.”
They gave up, perhaps too easily, and followed the trio to the diner Katherine had told them about. The food was as good as she'd said and Steve started right where they'd left off, by asking them how they liked being CHP officers.
It turned out he would be graduating from the Police Academy soon and would be joining the LAPD, but was curious about other areas of law enforcement. Ultimately he wanted to be a homicide detective like his grandfather. It made his dad Mark the black sheep in the family since he was a doctor.
David was indeed in high school and his strongest subjects were math and science. He was actually pretty quiet for a teenager, but when he did talk there was sometimes a biting sarcasm to his voice. It was obvious he got along well with Steve and Kat though and his words were never cruel and hateful.
They grew close to Kat and Steve, and to a lesser extent David, more quickly than they had thought possible. So quick that before they knew it they were making plans to get together when Mark was off work so they could all go out again.
It was late when Mark got home and he was exhausted, he stumbled in the front door, locked it behind him and somehow made it to the master bedroom. There he shed his clothes, glad that he'd showered at the hospital, and changed into pajamas before crawling into bed. Katherine was already there, curled up on her side, and she moved into him as he let the day's tension leech from his body.
“I met a dragon today.”
Her words made him sit up straight and fumble for the bedside lamp; he got it on and turned blinded eyes to her. She was blinking in the sudden light. “What?”
“I met a dragon today...and I might have met his mate too.”
“A bonded pair?”
“No, not yet. Maybe soon though.” She frowned.
“We talked quite a bit, and I got the impression that they've been in a lot of dangerous situations but he hasn't changed to save his mate yet.”
“Maybe he's found a way to save his mate each time without changing.”
He smiled down at her. “So when do I get to meet them?”
Mark laughed and turned off the lamp before snuggling back in bed beside her. “I should get some sleep then.”