A Matter of Perspective

Jon shook his head and smirked at his partner who suddenly looked quite uncomfortable. Their quiet lunch had turned into a small gathering of California's finest officers, all comparing notes from the beach party two days prior. Those who had arrived at the party without dates had all left with someone "special", and now the stories were being told. Not one to be outdone, Ponch had of course won the heart of a gorgeous Russian model named Svetlana and regaled the group with racy tidbits of their two day relationship.

Bonnie had chided him for 'objectifying women' while Bear and Turner (sort of) came to his defense, and Grossie was oddly silent for once. The problem came when Ponch tried to pull Jon and his girlfriend Melissa into the mix, and after a brief moral struggle on his part, Jon finally shared something that shocked them all.

"We're not sleeping together, Ponch."

Jon smiled as he watched the looks of shock, confusion, pride and disappointment all cross his friend's faces. His favorite was the look of smug satisfaction Bonnie wore.

Ponch swallowed hard and felt his face flush red. "Why not," he asked with a nervous chuckle. "You two have been together for what, a month now?"

Now color rose in Jon's cheeks at the unspoken question: You haven't had sex in a month?

Jon nodded, "Yes Ponch. Melissa and I have been together for just over a month."

"How can you not be sleeping with her, Jon? She's cute, she's sexy, she's-"

"Off limits. End of discussion."

They all recognized the warning tone in Jon's voice, and Ponch backed down. He started to perspire slightly as he glanced around the group and then back to Jon. He wiped his face with his napkin slowly, mind racing with confusion and curiosity. Before he could come up with anything to say, Grossie finally broke his silence.

"I don't think Ponch can do it."

"I can't do what, Grossman?"

"Not sleep with a woman you're dating."

A flash of anger and guilt raced through his body at the accusation. "You honestly don't think I can do it, do you Grossie?"

The group laughed as he replied. "We know you can show a girl a good time, Ponch. We just don't think you know what to do with them if your goal isn't the bedroom."

Jon wisely ducked his head to hide the huge grin on his face.

Ten minutes later, the ground rules were laid. "Okay Ponch," Barry said. "Here's the rules: Date whomever you want, but under no circumstances do you have any kind of sex for three weeks."

"You do know what that means, right Ponch? Or do I have to spell it out for you?"

"No, Grossman. I get it. I can do nothing with a woman that can be construed as 'sex'. I'm gonna show all of you that I know how to treat ladies right, without taking them to bed."

All of a sudden, the reality of the situation hit him. He, Officer Frank Poncherello, was going to be celibate for the next three weeks.

-Later that afternoon-

As the red Fiat pulled back into traffic, Ponch walked back to his bike and put away his pinchbook. Jon stared at him for a moment, then put on his sunglasses and started his motor.

"C'mon, Jon," Ponch said in exasperation. "Cut me some slack. It was an honest question. Don't you ride away from me, partner!" Ponch jumped in front of Jon's bike, grabbing a hold of the windshield with both hands.

"Let it go, Ponch," Jon replied testily.

"Not until you give me an answer to my question. I'm not lookin' for the hairy details or specifics. I just want an answer to help me get through the next three weeks."

Jon sighed and turned off the engine, then took off his glasses. "My personal life with Melissa is none of your damn business."

"I know, partner. I know. But I'm really asking an honest-to-God question. Why aren't you sleeping with her?"

Averting his eyes, Jon considered his words carefully before answering. If this were any other situation, he'd stand his ground and Ponch could drown in his stupid curiosity. But with the bet at lunch this afternoon, his partner deserved some sort of answer.

"Melissa was, I mean, she has..." Why is it so hard to find the right thing to say? "There were... men in her past that were, um, less than kind to her and that makes being intimate... difficult."

Ponch recognized the tone instantly, and the pit in his stomach intensified. "She was raped?"

"She was right up front with me from the start. She doesn't have sex. Period. Any relationship with her would not include the bedroom. And I agreed."

"You willingly agreed to this? But, how do you know if..."

"Relationships aren't all about sex, Ponch." Jon looked him right in the eyes as he made his next statement. "And I'm not saying that it's been easy, either. I'm not the 'alter boy' everyone thinks I am, but if a lady says no, I'm going to respect that. We do… well…"

Ponch smiled as he watched Jon's cheeks turn pink. This was more of an answer than he'd hoped for by far.

"Um, never mind what we do or don't do. Just try and treat Svetlana the way you treat Bonnie or Sindy. You don't wanna have sex with them, do ya?"

Ponch shuddered and laughed. "No! I mean, not that they aren't…"

"I get it, Ponch. And this subject is now closed."

-Eight days later-

As Jon settled on the couch next to Melissa, the doorbell rang. He started to get up, but she placed her hand on his arm.

"This is our time together. They'll go away…" The pounding on the door made them both jump, and Jon sighed heavily.

"No Mel, he won't go away."

Trying to hide his frustration as he walked to the door, Jon pasted on a smile as he opened the door. "Hi, Ponch. Look, I-"

"Man, I gotta talk to you, now." Ponch strode in like a gale force wind and was talking just as fast. "I'm going stir crazy! I don't think I can keep this up much longer. I don't know how you do it. If I don't get some serious act…shun… oh. Hi, Melissa…"

He stood in the living room looking like a cornered rabbit. Jon stood holding the front door open, one hand on his hip, and Melissa was sitting on the couch staring up at him with an amused-yet-slightly-annoyed look.

Jon cleared his throat and made a questioning gesture with his hand. "Well…?"

It had all seemed so easy when he made that bet with Grossie and the others. He had laughed with them, but somewhere deep down, their words stung and burned his soul. He had jumped on the challenge and the bet was made before he had realized just what he'd done. Ponch hung his head, feeling utterly defeated.

Melissa looked over at Jon and let out a slow breath. "Look, obviously your partner needs you right now, so I'm just gonna go and..."

"How come you two are so happy if you aren't, well, you know. I just don't get it. Am I really that shallow?"

Jon closed the door and walked over to Ponch. "Do you really want me to answer that," he asked gently. He made sure his friend saw him smile and the twinkle in his eyes, and Ponch chuckled sadly as he sat in the chair next to the couch.

Melissa stood up and grabbed her purse. "Call me later," she said as she kissed Jon on the cheek and let herself out.

Jon sat down on the couch and looked over at his longtime friend.

"Talk to me, Ponch."

"What's there to say? Svetlana decided I wasn't any fun anymore and dumped me. Denise and Sasha got mad when I wouldn't take them to bed, and April left me for some guy at the club who would 'really show her a good time...' " He ran his hands through his hair. "How the hell do you do it, Jon? How do you date someone and not sleep with them?"

"For starters, I don't base my entire relationship on how good she is in bed. I get to know her, talk to her…"

"And I don't?"

Sighing heavily, Jon pondered his response. "Not always, no."

Ponch stood up angrily. "Yeah? Well, fat lotta help you've been partner. I've gotta go."

"Ponch."

"What?"

Jon stood up and grabbed a rope from the saddle next to the couch and started tying knots in it. After a moment he looked up at Ponch. "You seem to think that this is a cake walk for me, like I don't feel the same things you feel when I look at a woman. You've seen Melissa. Do you know how hard it is to kiss her and not go any farther?"

The frustration in Jon's voice matched exactly what Ponch couldn't articulate and it actually surprised him. He watched his partner's hands fly over the rope, tying, untying, retying the knots.

"I really, really like her, Ponch. I mean, really like her. But because of that bastard ex-husband and his drunk poker buddies… they're just damn lucky they're already in jail for what they did to her. Because I'd beat the crap outta them for making her-"

"Jon! I get it," Ponch interjected. "I don't need to know." He reached out and grabbed one end of the rope and took it out of Jon's hands. "You'd better give me this before you think I'm them and use it on me."

The rope had not been tied into a lasso, but was looking more like a noose. Jon swore loudly before flopping down on the couch, his head in his hands. Ponch put the rope on the kitchen table and then walked back to the couch and sat down beside his friend. They sat in silence for a few minutes before Jon finally spoke again.

"You want to know how I do it, Ponch? I'm not even entirely sure myself. She trusts me, and I don't want to break that trust. We actually tried to do it once, but..." he gave a sad sigh. "Well, things got too hot she started to panic. And at that moment, the one thing I wanted to do more than anything was protect her. My needs didn't matter anymore."

Jon stood up and started to pace the floor, then looked back at Ponch. "I'd love to show her how I feel about her, to make love to her, but that's not going to happen any time soon. And I'll tell ya something, partner. I've gotten to know Mel better than any other woman I've dated in a long time, and its a really good feeling. As frustrating as it is at times, it's made me realize that sex isn't as important as you might think."

Ponch stared at the floor as he tried to digest the conversation. He glanced up at Jon and felt a camaraderie that they didn't have before- knowing that Jon struggled with his decision made things look a little better from his point of view.

"It's nice to know you're not as perfect as we think you are, partner." They both laughed and Ponch stood up. "But seriously, thanks for giving me some perspective. C'mon, let's stop by Acapulco's for a drink. I think after tonight, we could both use one."

-Two weeks later: "Judgment Day"-

Jon and Ponch were the last to arrive for lunch. The others were all there, waiting to find out the results of the bet. They knew Ponch had succeeded for at least the first eight or nine days of he challenge because he had been incredibly moody and didn't tolerate any teasing from anyone. But somewhere after that, he seemed to have a different attitude.

This entire test of his will was based on the honor system, and more than one officer questioned the possibility of false results. Jon, however, quickly put their worries to rest and assured them that this had become a matter of honor for Ponch, and if he didn't fulfill the requirements of the challenge, he'd say so. Maybe not directly, but they'd know it.

"Here they come, guys," Bonnie called to the others as the partners walked in.

They took their time ordering their food, and when they finally sat down, Grossie pulled out his trusty notepad and started going over the pool results.

"Bonnie said you'd last ten days, Jeb said one week, Barry... Bear you have a lot of faith in Ponch. He gave you two and a half weeks."

"Gee, thanks Bear. I appreciate the vote of confidence," Ponch said as he flashed his trademark grin.

"Well, don't thank me too soon," Bear said warily. "I figured you could go at least a week, so I was gonna say eight days, but Sindy took that. Bonnie took ten, so I decided-"

Ponch frowned. "Like I said, thanks for the vote of confidence." They all laughed and Grossie finished reading off the list.

"And finally, your long time friend and partner, Jon."

A look of shock crossed Ponch's face. "You bet against me?"

"Three weeks," Jon and Grossie said together.

Ponch grinned widely and puffed out his chest. "Now there's a true friend!"

"It was the only slot left," Jon replied quietly. The table erupted in laughter as Jon smiled innocently.

"Ha, ha partner. Very funny."

Grossie cleared his throat and said above the chatter, "Okay, Ponch. It's time to tell us how you did."

The table got very quiet and they all leaned forward to hear what Ponch would say.

"Officer Frank Poncherello," Artie intoned, "In the matter of being celibate for three weeks, not engaging in any kind of sexual activity, what say you: did you succeed, or did you fail?"

"He's succeeded for at least the past two weeks," came the reply from the table behind them. "And I have to say it's been a rather refreshing change of pace."

The well-dressed woman walked over to the officer's table and put her hand on Ponch's shoulder. "I'm not entirely sure about this whole challenge thing, but now that he's won, I do know that if he's half as fun in bed tonight as he is out of it..."

Ponch turned bright red as five pairs of eyes moved from the woman and back to him again, and he stood up quickly.

"Um, Courtney, sweetie. My uh, friends aren't interested in the details. Here, let me walk you to your car. Thank you so much for coming down..." He quickly ushered her away from the table as the others tried to stifle their laughter. Once he was outside, they roared.

It was several minutes before anyone could speak more than two words without cracking up again. Grossie reached into his pocket and handed Jon a small wad of cash.

"Well, Jon, you called it. I don't know how..." he smacked Bonnie on the arm as her newest fit of giggles seemed to envelop him as well. "I don't... hooo, okay... don't know how he did it, but here's your cash."

Jon glanced out the window and saw Ponch walking back in and smiled. As he sat down, Jon handed the cash to Ponch.

"Here. Take her out for a nice dinner to celebrate before you..." He tried valiantly to keep from giggling, but Bonnie's laugh was too infectious. Even Ponch finally allowed himself to chuckle and shook his head at his friends.

"You guys are too much. Jon, why don't you and Melissa double with us tonight? We can go catch a movie and then go dancing."

"Don't you and Courtneyhave planstonight?" Turner laughed and winked at Ponch.

Now it was Ponch's turn to laugh. "You guys have the dirtiest minds. No, we don't have plans, other than to go see a movie and go dancing. I kinda like what I've got going with her. Why ruin it with casual sex? So Jon, are ya in?"

The End