Hank took a deep breath as he neared his brother and best friend. Of all the times to run into them, it had to
be when he lost his temper with Gwen's mother. Damn, Luis had that cop mode protector look about him and Sam… Sam
had that very unflattering brotherly smirk that always drove him crazy.
He gave an inward sigh then stopped a couple of feet in front of them, waiting to see which of them would react
to his defending Gwen to her mother first. His gut said Luis, but he couldn't really discount his brother at this
"Why didn't you tell me you were involved with Gwen Hotchkiss?" Luis asked as his eyes shot over his
shoulder to the two women currently involved in what he knew was a serious discussion.
"Because it wasn't any of your business." Hank muttered under his breath drawing a laugh from his brother.
"Sam, don't you dare -"
"They are more than involved." Sam replied his blue eyes dancing with laughter. "I think my little
brother has fallen head over heels in love with her."
"What?" Luis asked his dark eyes widening in surprise as he glanced back and forth between him and Sam.
Sam bobbed his head up and down then let out another laugh and turned to Luis. "I've been suspecting something
was up from the last few months, but Hank never would tell me what was going on or who the mystery woman he's been
seeing for the last six months was. Then I caught him coming in early this morning. His shirt was open, buttons
ripped off, and he had this totally perplexed expression on his face. But also looked like he lost his best friend.
Now I know the reason. Hell, I should have realized it sooner. My baby bro is in love."
Hank closed his eyes as Luis and Sam continued to talk about him as if he wasn't even standing there. He didn't
know why he was surprised really. They'd done that to him more times than he could count. Usually though it was
when he did something incredibly stupid. He frowned at that thought then glanced over his shoulder to where Gwen
and his mother were standing. He did love her. He loved her with everything he had inside him, but… but she wouldn't
let him tell her and that hurt. It hurt more than he could ever say.
Hank started in surprise as a voice filled with what sounded like laughter, practically yelled into his ear. "You
don’t have to yell Luis. I'm standing right here."
"You may be standing here, but your head was over there where Gwen is standing." Luis shook his head
then let out a laugh. "Man, I never would have bet on you and Gwen. Not in a million years. What on earth
do you two have in common?"
"A lot more than you and Sheridan do." Hank quipped earning himself a scowl from Luis and a laugh from
Sam. He turned toward his brother with a glare. "What the hell are you laughing at?"
"Right now?" He asked his lips breaking out into a wide smile. "I'm laughing at my totally unprepared
for what's going on brother. I swear Gwen's got you tied in some pretty tight knots. What's going on? You two have
a fight this morning? That why you were so upset this morning?"
"None of your business." Hank replied still glaring at his brother. "So just butt your nose right
"No can do, brother of mine." Sam replied with a chuckle. "I would not miss seeing you this tortured
for anything in the world. Would you, Luis?"
"No way." His best buddy replied with a laugh. "He gave me hell when I was going through the same
thing with Sheridan. No way am I going to miss the opportunity to repay the favor."
"And you call yourself a friend?" Hank said swinging his glare in Luis' direction. "You're supposed
to be better than that!"
"Yeah well, we all have our faults." Luis said trying to stifle his laugh, but not being very successful.
"Man I have waited years to see you fall for a woman. And to think it's Gwen Hotchkiss of all people. That's
Hank narrowed his eyes at that. "What is wrong with Gwen?"
Luis' eyes widened at the anger in his voice and the laughter that had been in his voice quickly died. "Nothing
is wrong with Gwen."
"Then why did you say it like that?"
Luis sighed and turned to look at Sam. "Man, he is so gone."
Sam laughed then looked at him and grinned. "Yep."
"Dammit!" Hank yelled as he ran a hand through his hair in frustration. "Would you two please stop
talking about me like I'm not even here!"
Both men looked at each other then broke out into a fit of laughter. Hank broke out into a fit of curses, which
only made the men in front of him laugh harder.
"Mother," Gwen said for the third time in less than five minutes. "My relationship with Hank is
none of your business."
"I don't see why you won't answer my question." Her mother replied with a raised brow. "Are you
or are you not in love with Hank Bennett? It's a simple question. Yes or no?"
Gwen frowned then turned her head to look at the man in question. He stood with his back to her, but she could
tell by his stance that his conversation with Sam and Luis was going about as well as hers was with her mother.
She sighed. What had they gotten themselves into? It was easier when they were just friends.
No one knew they were friends. No one knew they hung out as much as they did. Sure they had been in public places
together before, but no one questioned them about it. They just assumed they had run into each other by accident.
No one thought about the possibility that they had planned on meeting up or had arrived together.
But it would be different, now she thought turning her attention back to her mother and raising a hand to run it
through her long blond strands. Now everyone would be questioning them. What they felt for each other. How long
they had known each other. Why they kept the fact that they knew each other a secret.
She sighed. She didn't want to answer questions. She wasn't ready to admit what she felt for Hank out loud, which
was the entire reason she was in the mood she was in now. She was scared of what she felt for Hank, because if
what she was feeling really was love, which she knew it was, then that placed her heart in danger again. She knew
it didn't make sense to keep it a secret when she had already blabbed it to Hank, but that had been a heat of the
moment type confession and she knew he wanted a confession from the heart. But she wasn't ready to give neither
that confession nor was she ready to hear the one that he would give afterwards. She just wasn't ready to… to deal
with it yet. She just -
"Gwen!" Her mother yelled, her high-pitched voice jerking her out of her thoughts. "Are you listening
to me? I asked you a question! Do you or do you not love Hank Bennett?"
"Just answer me!"
"I don't want - "
"Gwen, are you in love with Hank or not! It's a simple -"
"Alright!" Gwen yelled finally unable to take it any longer. "Yes, I love Hank! Are you satisfied?"
"She might not be." A voice replied from behind her. "But I sure as hell am."
Gwen took a deep breath as her heart began to beat to an erratic tune. His warm, gentle fingers circled her arm
and her tongue shot out to moisten her suddenly dry lips, as he slowly, gently swung her around to face him. Her
eyes were level with his jaw, but one finger of his left hand placed directly under her chin, quickly remedied
that situation and before she could even blink, she was lost in an intense brown stare. "You said it again."
She licked her lips as the cotton in her mouth intensified and then froze, when his eyes darkened to a deep black
"Don't ask me to forget it again, Gwen." Hank replied as he took a step closer and cut the few scant
inches between their bodies. "Because I can tell you right now that I can't do it. I can't forget that you
said you love me anymore than I can forget that I love you too."
"I mean it." He whispered as he raised a hand to move a lock of her blond hair behind her ear. "I
love you too, Gwen. I know neither of us expected it to happen, but it has and I'm not sorry. Are you?"
Was she? Was she sorry that Hank had said those three little words that she'd been so afraid to hear? No, she thought
as a smile spread across her face, she wasn't sorry. She wasn't afraid of the fact that Hank loved her. She had
been before, but now that he had actually said the words she felt… she felt…free. "I'm not sorry, Hank."
"Does this mean that you want to be more than friends?" Hank asked the corners of his lips curved upward
into a smile that sent every nerve in her body into a frenzy.
She smiled. "I think we were always more than friends. It just took us a little while to realize it."
"I think you're right." Hank replied as he wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her body tight
against his. Just before his lips covered hers, he whispered four words, four words that she knew without a doubt
in her mind would remain a part of her memory for as long as she lived. "I love you, Gwen."
I love you too.