Jon leaned against the back wall of the briefing room; he'd wanted to come in to central before picking up Old Grey from the stables and heading out to Wyoming so that he could say goodbye to everyone.
"...which brings me to my last item," said Getraer from the head of the room. He cleared his throat before continuing: "We're losing one of our own today as he goes home to Wyoming to help out on the family ranch...so I'd like to say a few words about Officer Jon Baker. Jon, would you come up here, please?"
Jon glanced around the room nervously; he wasn't expecting this. As he looked around he caught Ponch's eye; his partner mouthed the words "go on" and jerked his head towards the front of the room. Jon reluctantly walked forward and stood next to Getraer.
"Jon, on behalf of the whole department I'd like to say that it's been an honor and a pleasure. You are one of the finest officers I've ever worked with. You're dependable, honest, hard working...and above all, a good friend. I hope you know there's always a home for you with the CHP, and that you'll come back to us soon. We're sure gonna miss you around here."
"Thanks, Sarge," said Jon quietly as he embraced his Sergeant. Someone started clapping, and as Jon broke away from Getraer he saw every officer in the room on their feet, applauding and whistling for him. Jon gazed around, humbled, and then bit his lip hard as a wave of emotion threatened to overtake him. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Getraer motion to someone, and Sharon, one of the station's secretaries, came in with a large cake that said "Goodbye Jon," in blue frosting, complete with a mini CHP motor and helmet stuck on top.
Sharon set the cake down on the table at the front of the room and began cutting the cake; passing out slices on the small paper plates that were already present on the table. As the officers came up to claim their piece, Ponch strode up behind Jon.
"Surprise," he said, smiling.
"Ponch, you didn't have to..."
Ponch cut him off. "Don't be so modest. A partner like you deserves a good send off."
Soon, the officers began coming up to Jon and wishing him well as they headed out to hit their beats.
"Keep in touch, pal," said Grossie, shaking Jon's hand.
Bonnie, who was weeping openly, gave Jon a hug and a kiss on the cheek. "Take care of yourself...I'll miss you," she said.
Bear came up next to shake Jon's hand. "Take it easy, Jon."
One by one, the officers said their goodbyes to Jon and began trickling out of the briefing room until only Jon and Ponch were left.
The two men were quiet for a moment.
"Ponch," said Jon slowly, "I just wanted to...say thanks for...and that I'll miss...," but Jon's voice caught.
Ponch nodded and said, "you too." After almost six years together as partners, and even longer as friends, both men recognized the other's gratitude for the friendship and the memories; for always looking out for one another and being there for each other in the good times and bad, as well as how much they'd miss each other.
"I'll uh...keep in touch," said Jon.
"And hey, you can come visit the ol' homestead anytime. Maybe I'll finally get you on a horse," grinned Jon.
Ponch laughed. "Keep dreaming, partner."
"Well, I'd better hit the road..."
"Yeah, I've got to hit the bricks."
Jon extended his hand. Ponch shook it, but then pulled Jon in for a hug.
"You take care of yourself, Ponch."
"You too." Ponch smiled weakly at Jon and then strode out of the briefing room, putting on his sunglasses as he did so, as he didn't want anyone to see the tears brimming in his eyes.
Jon took a moment before leaving the briefing room to take it all in. He sighed heavily as he remembered his first day at central and as a motor officer, sneaking in to briefings late and hoping that Getraer wouldn't notice (even though he and Ponch knew full well that their Sargeant was on to them), and all the good times he'd had with his partner and the people at central. This place had become his home, and the officers like family, making it that much harder to leave them behind. He reflected too on what Abby had said to him the other night, and knew that he would indeed leave a part of himself here at Central, and take pieces - all the fond memories and friendships - to carry with him forever. When he got in his truck, he finally allowed the tears that had been building to flow for a few moments, before regaining his composure and starting the engine.
Ponch walked through the door into the bright California sunshine, and took a deep breath as he climbed aboard his motor and revved the engine. He waved to Jon when his truck passed him out of the CHP lot. Then, he rode off alone. But though he and Jon were both going their separate ways for now, each could take solace in knowing that the bonds of true friendship are never broken, and that no matter what, they'd always be partners.
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