Summary: Tom finds out more about Doug's childhood Tom/Doug friendship, H/C, warnings: mentions of child abuse
Spoilers: It's the next case after the one in Best Days of Our Lives - spoilers for that episode. It's about halfway through season two. I think any story about Doug necessarily has spoilers for that ep but hey. Just a warning.
A/N: I surely can't be the only one who adores Doug Penhall, yes, even over Tom. Tom's fine, but Doug is so cute and adorable! Nothing like brotherly love between two tough guys. Doug H/C is in severely short supply so if anyone wants to point me to any others or write more -please do!
"Hanson, Ioki, my office."
Captain Fuller called, walking purposefully into his office with the two officers behind him.
"Rulton High," he said as he handed each of them a case file, "we've got a 15 year old kid with a suspicious looking medical history."
"Suspicious how?" Ioki asked.
"We think he's being abused. But we don't know who it is, or when it happens. It's probably one of the parents but keep your eyes open for other possibilities. Ioki you work on getting the proof, Hanson you work on the kid, try to get him in a place where he'll testify against whoever it is. Understood?"
"Yes Cap'n," Ioki answered. They both stood but Hanson lingered behind. Fuller sighed, anticipating the query before it came as Ioki left.
"Cap'n, I'm not complaining or anything..."
"But is there any reason I'm not working with Penhall on this?"
"You ought to stay flexible Hanson, we need to keep you all working as a team."
Tom raised his eyebrows at the answer and Fuller sighed, knowing his answer wasn't a good enough reason.
"Is he in some kind of trouble?" Tom guessed. He wondered if it related to his partner's behaviour on the last assignment, and his sensitivity towards suicide. But Doug hadn't done anything wrong. Besides, Tom had been guilty of a bad attitude in the past without being penalised for it.
"No." the captain replied firmly. "And neither is Hoffs. I just want you and Ioki on this case, that's my decision. I am, after all, the captain of this precinct." he continued, irately. "Is that a problem?"
"No. No problem."
Tom left quietly and started reading through the casefile.
"Hey man what's this? You ask to switch partner or something? How come you get a case and I don't?" Doug casually jumped onto his desk with a mock-hurt expression.
"Yeah Penhall... I just" he sighed dramatically "Couldn't take all the junk food and bad jokes any more. Ya know? Don't take it personally man."
"Seriously what is it? Maybe I can help anyway. Cap hasn't assigned me anything else to do." Doug grumbled.
"Suspected child abuse case."
"Huh." Penhall said as he read through it, pensively. He looked up and then dropped the file back on Hanson's desk.
"I gotta go talk to the Captain."
Tom watched him enter and stayed watching until he exited quietly, shutting the door behind him. He looked over at Tom briefly but it was enough for him to see the anger and hurt in Doug's expression. He met him at the coffee pot.
"Just fine." Doug bit out as he slammed the pot into the machine with more force than necessary.
"Hey take it easy man. We need that coffee machine." Tom said as he took a cup of his own and replaced it gently. "What's up?"
"I told you, everything's just fine. I mean, the cap'n doesn't think I can do my job n all, but aside from that everything's just peachy." Tom almost winced at the bitterness in his partner's voice as he stormed out, passed Judy.
"What was that all about?" she asked, gesturing over her shoulder.
"I don't know." Tom said with a frown. He hated not knowing what was going on, particularly when it was his partner. How could he back him up or help without knowing anything? Being Tom Hanson meant only having one option at times like this. Taking matters into his own hands.
After the shift had ended he went to see his partner. He knew that for all the tough exterior, inside there was a warm, decent person who deserved a friend. Tom trusted him with his life, and respected him more than he ever let on. He also knew he hadn't been such a great friend every time Doug needed one. This time would be different.
He banged on his door and was taken aback by how quickly it opened.
"Hanson. Lemme ask you something," Doug said as he walked into his lounge. Tom followed, shutting the door behind him, already worried by his friend's behaviour.
"When we was working that case- ya know, and uh turned out that kid was being abused, only by the time we got there he'd near killed his father? You remember?"
"Did I do anything wrong? You can tell me honestly Hanson - just be brutally honest."
Tom gave a short laugh. "What do you mean?"
Doug repeated the question re-iterating each word. "Did. I. Do. Anything. Wrong. I mean as a cop. Just answer the question."
"No. No we just ...followed our training."
"Exactly. We were trained for that kinda thing and we followed the training. In fact if anyone's gonna throw out the rulebook, then no offence but it's usually you."
Doug was pacing up and down and looked thoroughly on edge.
"Hey man, what's this all about?" Tom stood, looking helpless while his friend stopped pacing and finally looked at him.
"Fuller didn't think I was up to the job on the case he gave you and Ioki."
Tom didn't hide his confusion. He again wondered if this related to the last case where Doug had been hit hard by the constant talk of suicide. Truthfully, Tom had been hit hard by his friend's confession to him, and had been dwelling on it a lot. It was bad enough thinking about an 8 year old kid trying to kill himself, a kid with two dead alcoholic parents, but when that kid was your best friend and partner, it left him thinking a lot when he should have been sleeping.
"Is this to do with the last case or something?" he asked, trying to sound casual.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
Tom shrugged. "Hey I didn't mean anything I just wondered why Fuller would think that."
"Do you think I'm up to the job?"
There was a sincerity to the question that made Tom deflate inside. His partner was asking him if he respected or trusted him.
"What do you think man? Of course I do."
Doug sat down in defeat and Tom sat opposite on the coffee table.
"Doug" he said plainly. "Talk to me. What's this about."
Doug ran his hands over his face and through his hair. Then he caught Tom's eyes and shook his head.
"What is this are you my shrink now or something? First I tell you about my mother and now you wanna talk about this?"
"WHAT this? What is it we're even talking about?" Tom said with impatience.
"Hey you're my partner. You can talk to me. I'll listen - I'm listening just tell me what's wrong." Tom felt out of his depth suddenly - he felt sure that Judy would be much much better at this than him. But his partner was hurting and he wanted to help. "Why didn't Fuller want you working this case?"
"Because-" Doug took a deep breath. "Because he said I had a "suspicious medical history" too and that made me unsuitable for the case."
Tom stared at his friend, who fidgeted under his gaze. "A suspicious medical history. That's code for child abuse right?"
Doug adopted his 'talking to an idiot' voice. "I told you. My mom killed herself when I was six. My dad turned to alcoholism and I turned to bad behaviour. I was a bad kid."
"And that makes it ok?" Tom asked in disbelief.
Doug slammed his fist on the coffee table making him jump. "No it doesn't make it ok."
"Well...ok then did your dad go to prison?"
"Because he didn't and anyway he's dead now so what does it matter."
Tom said nothing, wishing there was something he could say but knowing there wasn't.
"Look the point is- when has it ever gotten in the way of the job before? Huh? Abused kids is what we do it's part of the job - if Fuller thinks I'm not fit for the job then fine, I'll quit."
"Doug just stop will ya?" Tom said desperately. This whole thing seemed to be spinning out of control. He'd just found out his best friend was abused, on top of everything else shitty that had happened in his childhood. "It's kind of a lot to take in"
"I'm sorry man I shouldn't be layin' all this on you."
"I'm your partner that's what I'm here for. I just need...time to process is all. I mean, it's a big deal. I guess you never talked about this before either right?"
Doug shrugged in the negative.
"Well. I'm glad you told me."
"Hey it's not so much of a big deal. I got through it didn't I?"
They both looked at the floor.
"Didn't you have anyone?" Tom asked cautiously.
"Nah...I didn't want anyone else's help. I was kind of...pissed off. A lot."
They both laughed lightly.
"Those kids you think there's no hope for? That are all just going straight to prison or end up dead? I was one of those kids once."
Tom looked hard at his friend. He'd wanted some perspective, and hadn't realised his partner was it. Tom was so cynical about all the kids they came into contact with. But here was one kid who turned it around and became a cop. Not just a cop, but a good guy. Someone who would always try to do the right thing.
He'd been given a terrible hand in life - but he'd found his way out. The kids weren't all bad. Some were just pretending to be, to protect themselves from getting hurt.
"You really thinking of quitting?" Tom asked, keeping his tone neutral, though inside he felt like he did when Jenko died- no one would replace Doug.
Penhall shrugged. "Ah, I dunno." he looked at the floor. "If Fuller doesn't think I can do my job then sure, maybe. But I'm not much good at anything else to tell you the truth."
"Fuller's just concerned about you. After the last case he just wants to make sure you're ok. Come on Doug you can't quit - what about the McQuaid brothers?"
Doug looked up and met his smile, laughing a little. He stopped.
"I just wish Fuller respected me as much as he does you. I know I'm not as smart as you or as neat as you or anything but I can still do my job."
Tom frowned, not sure what to say. He sighed.
"Honestly ... hey, I can't even imagine what growing up musta been like for you. Sounds like it wasn't much fun. I think if it were me though, I dunno. I'm not sure I could handle a case like this if I'd been in the same place myself. It's bad enough as it is ya know?"
"That's just it though Hanson - maybe I'd be better at connecting with the kid since I know what it's like. Fuller didn't even give me a chance."
"Do you really want this case?"
"I just thought if I could take all that crap that happened to me and use it for something good...maybe it wouldn't be so bad."
"Why don't we talk to Fuller tomorrow morning?"
Doug looked at him, his mouth quirking upwards.
"Nah. You keep it Hanson. Ioki doesn't get out much."
"Sitting here talking to you about all this ...again ..." he laughed, "well, maybe Fuller's right and I just need a break from all this girly emotional stuff." he looked at the floor then at Tom. "You eaten yet?"
"You wanna order a pizza or something?"
"Sure. And hey - thanks."
"If you can't trust your partner who can you trust?" Doug slapped an arm over Tom's shoulder and Tom grinned.