Title: Zu'o Ke' (Dream Visitor)
Author/pseudonym: Diana Bloomfield
Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com
Pairing: Kwai Chang Caine/ Peter Caine
Series: Sequel to Er Nai Zhi' Yi: Part 2 of Rea'i Jing (Love's Path)
Disclaimer: Michael Sloan et.all owns them, I'm just borrowing them.
Summary: As Pop and Peter adjust as a couple, Peter gets involved in a murder investigation and it results in some very disturbing nightmares. As the murders continue, Peter gets caught in a game of cat and mouse, but just who is the cat and who is the mouse?
Warnings:Incestuous, loving relationship between a father and his son.
Zu'o Ke' (Dream Visitor)
by Diana Bloomfield
Peter shifted from foot to foot on the exercise mat, his eyes gauging his father's in readiness. Kwai Chang Caine's face was impassive, his hands at his sides as he watched his only son. Peter swung hard with his hand in a punch. Caine easily deflected it and caught Peter with a arm bar joint lock and tossed his son effortlessly onto the ground.
Peter hopped back up and came at Caine with a side kick. Before he knew what happened, Peter found himself once more unceremoniously face down on the ungiving mat. Rolling onto his back, Peter looked up at Caine with chagrin. He vaguely wondered if there would ever come a time when he would actually best his pop at sparring, but knew he'd have a greater chance of going ice skating in Hades than to ever beat his pop at martial arts. He knew he still had too much to learn yet to get cocky, but he did admit to enjoying himself.
Dark brown eyes looked into Peter's, not with disappointment, but with concern.
"Peter, you seem...distracted," Caine stated as his hand reached out to pull Peter back up on his feet. "What is it that has you so preoccupied, Beloved?"
Peter felt his face heating up slightly at the endearment. It still unnerved him sometimes to see the depths of love and affection his pop was capable of, even if he had been the sole focus of it for the last two months. Sometimes it still hit him like a sucker punch when he realized that he not only loved his father, but was 'in' love with him as well, and that, beyond all his wildest dreams, Caine was apparently just as much in love with him.
Peter sometimes still had the desire to shout it out to the world and tell everyone he knew how much he loved his father and how terrific he felt being able to show that love in all ways and in all its glory. Fortunately, though, better sense always won out over those urges. He was not naive enough think that anyone else would understand their love, so he kept it locked away inside of his heart as though it were a precious treasure too rare for the common person to see.
It still got awkward at times though. Peter realized Mary Margaret didn't completely understand why Caine and she had drifted apart, and knew she never would. Peter was also getting tired of trying to hedge around Kermit's attempts at setting him up on dates. Then of course, there was also the Ancient, who was more than a little curious as to why over half of Peter's belongings now resided at Kwai Chang Caine's loft. Peter often suspected that Lo Si was aware of the change of the relationship between him and Pop, but if he was, Pop never mentioned anything about it and Peter never asked.
The soft voice of his father brought him back out of his musing. Peter looks up to see a mildly perturbed look flash across his dad's eyes before it was replaced by the tranquil look so typical and soothing about his pop.
"Sorry, didn't mean to space off on you," Peter offered with a helpless shrug.
Wrapping his arms around himself, Peter moved and stared out the open window of their loft and looked mutely at the sky that blazed scarlet from the setting sun.
As Peter stood in silence, not offering anymore in the way of explanation, Caine's concern grew. He realized that Peter had been plagued by something all day long, but what, he did not know.
Walking up behind his son, Caine slid his hands down the firm, muscled biceps, over solid forearms until his fingers linked with Peter's and, crossing both of their arms over Peter's chest, pulled his younger lover against him, bracing his welcomed weight.
Caine brushed his lips against Peter's neck. "Perhaps meditation would be of some comfort?" Caine offered. "We could meditate together and continue your lessons."
Peter sighed deeply and leaned his head back onto his father's shoulder, his head fitting perfectly in the crook.
"No, I don't think that would help tonight, Pop," Peter mumbled.
Their lessons on meditation would have to wait another night because he didn't think he could sit still and calm his mind long enough for the task. For some reason, a nagging sense of uneasiness has been hounding him all day; a sense of dread that had been following him like a black cloud over his head. He couldn't really put a name to, or describe, what he felt exactly so he didn't know how to explain it to his father.
Caine could feel the tightness of his son's body and the stress radiating from Peter's aura. Perhaps he could not offer much comfort to Peter's troubled mind at the moment, but perhaps he could soothe Peter's body. That was one comfort he knew he could provide.
"Come," Caine said softly, gently pulling Peter back in from the terrace.
Peter let himself be led back into the main room and the futon they shared. His dark eyes searched his father's as Caine's fingers started to unbutton the silken dark green shirt he wore. Pushing it off of Peter's shoulders, Caine gave himself a minute to run his hands appreciatively over the toned, exposed chest. He didn't meet Peter's eyes as he released the button of Peter's tight black jeans.
"Undress and lie on your stomach for me," Caine requested of him before leaving his son to his own devices while he searched on his table of herbs and plants for something special. Finding it, he made his way back to the bed where he was pleased to see his son unclothed, except for a pair of black briefs, and pillowing his head on his folded arms.
Even with his eyes already closed, Peter could feel the familiar shifting of the futon that announced his father's arrival and let a smile curve his lips as he felt his father's weight on top of him as his legs were straddled. The police officer didn't hold back a murmur when he felt a feather-soft kiss placed on the middle of his spine accompanied by the brush of his dad's silver hair as his pop bent his head for the kiss.
Peter let out a contented sigh as he felt soothing, warm oil being drizzled over the length of his back. It smelled heavily of eucalyptus and that was almost as soothing to Peter as the feel of Caine's sure fingers spreading it into his skin...almost.
A small smile teased Caine's lips as he heard, and felt, the rumbled purring coming from his son while he gently, methodically, kneaded the taut muscles under his fingers.
It always surprised him how these little tasks that he could do for Peter warmed him so. Sometimes Caine felt like he could not do enough to show his son how much he loved him completely. His sweet boy had suffered so many scars of his spirit during the years they had been separated, and he wanted to do all he could to fill those empty spaces in Peter's soul with unconditional love; to banish all foul memories of loneliness and replace them with tender ones that fear and doubts could not touch. It would take a good deal of time to work through all the layers of self-debasement, fears of being left alone once more, that Peter had built up. Added upon which were the walls of defenses Peter had constructed that did not allow for many to touch his heart, developed over the years of their separation. It was a task that Caine would gratefully take on as an honor and cherish.
Caine tenderly worked his fingers down the bands of muscle crisscrossing Peter's back, thumbs skillfully finding and manipulating the knots he found until they were worked out. Sliding down, Caine continued the massage over Peter's lower back, which was much more tense than his upper back. Slowly he felt his son relax, almost against his will, and give in to his touches.
Peter felt like a rag doll under his dad's talented caresses. He felt his muscles give and slacken as the stress drained away from his body, the sense of dread he had been feeling earlier almost nothing but a faint memory that teased the back of his mind. He could almost feel his dad's energy surging through his blood and rejuvenating his worn-out tendons and ligaments, and mildly wondered if his father just might not be recharging his ch'i while giving one of his world-famous massages. It wouldn't surprise him in the least if that were the case. Pop had the hardest time separating himself from his 'healer's mode'. Of course that didn't bother Peter in the least, since it was just one of the many reason that had made him fall in love with his pop. His dad never seemed to get tired of always being ready to help someone else, and though he was proud of his dad for it, sometimes it frightened Peter, too. Pop was sometimes so self-sacrificing, he willingly put himself in danger to keep someone else out of it. He knew that was just his pop's way...a 'Shaolin thing' as it was dubbed, but it still put Peter on edge sometimes. Peter forced those thoughts out of his mind and just let himself concentrate on the wondrous feelings of his father's fingers digging into his flesh and working it with gentle care.
Caine's firm hands worked their way down Peter's legs, working his way down lean calves. Caine enjoyed the feel of the warm skin under his palms, feeling the lifeblood surging through veins, how the muscles hummed with the vitality of his Peter. He could never seem to get enough of touching, stroking, and caressing his precious one's body and feeling it alive under him. Caine believed that the body was a sacred temple whose sole purpose was to house the soul, and he freely admitted to himself that Peter's body was a shrine of beauty. The soft curves and planes beckoned to be worshiped and adored, anointed with his touches.
Peter whimpered softly as he felt the familiar fingers that knew every secret his body possessed slide up the inside of his thighs. His legs fell farther apart by their own will as tiny tendrils of excitement wove through his spine and settled with a gentle ache due south. A murmur left his lips, and he squirmed as his father's strong hands cupped and squeezed his buttocks, his pop's thumbs snaking under the legs of his briefs to caress bare skin. While most of Peter's body was content and wanted to fall asleep, lost under the spell the massage wove, other parts of him definitely had other notions that wanted to be indulged and placated--other notions that were currently being pressed into the hard, unforgiving mattress.
"Dad," Peter whispered hoarsely.
Caine leaned down next to Peter's ear. "Yes, my love?" he asked, his own voice betraying him with some huskiness.
"If you don't let me roll over soon, some major damage is going to be done to my body here," Peter pleaded.
Caine chuckled softly, but relented and let his son roll over onto his back, though he did not move his body off his son's hips. Smokey hazel eyes burned into his as Caine ran his hands appreciatively over the bare chest under his palms; fingertips grazing Peter's nipples, squeezing them until they were hard and erect.
Peter moaned softly as his hips restlessly moved and pressed against the heat of Caine's groin, feeling the hardness and heat even through the pants he still wore. Peter ground himself against the firmness with intent as his hands came up to stroke Caine's chest through his silken shirt.
"Pop, you are definitely overdressed here," Peter protested, his fingers wrestling with the small buttons of Caine's shirt.
Caine captured Peter's wrists and raised both hands up. He gently laid a kiss in the center of each palm. "And you, my sweet one, are overanxious."
Peter growled in frustration as his arms were brought up by his head and held there as Caine leaned in and let his lips cover Peter's in a soft kiss that was barely felt. Caine nibbled on the full bottom lip, tracing it with his tongue before pulling it into his mouth to suck on. Tenderly he probed, until Peter's mouth opened up and allowed Caine to delve into the moist, sweet depths of his mouth. Caine relished the sweet flavor that was so unique to Peter, a taste so rare and individual that it could never be captured, a delicacy that he savored. Slowly, he let his lips drift over Peter's angular jawbone, down to the column of soft skin of Peter's throat that was arched back eagerly. His tongue drew little circles and his teeth nipped as he continued his journey down.
Peter moaned softly, his hips moving to gain more stimulation that it could not find, and Caine smiled inwardly. Though he often teased Peter about his eagerness, it pleased him how responsive Peter was to his ministrations, how the lightest touch or the briefest brush of his lips sent shivers he could feel through Peter's body.
What amazed Caine even more was how responsive he found his own body to be under his son's hands. For so long, Caine had believed his own passions were unable to reach such heights, had thought that part of himself long dead with Laura's passing, but Peter constantly proved to him that most definitely was not the case. With Mary Margaret, as with a few others with whom had shared his bed after Laura, it had simply been a joining of the body, not of the spirit. With his precious Peter, though, they merged on all levels--physical, emotional, and spiritual--filling him with a peace and joy he had never acquired before. At times, the mere thought of the force of it quite literally took his breath away. Even Shambhallah paled in comparison to the intensity, the purity.
"Pop, please," Peter moaned in a low, thick voice.
"Patience, my love," Caine scolded without any force behind it.
Caine released his hold on Peter's wrists to begin slowly unbuttoning his shirt, letting the silk fall off in a heap behind him as Peter's eyes roamed over him.
Peter's hands came up to stroke his father's bare chest, letting his fingertips spread through the crisp forest of curls, feeling the little hard, pebbled nubs that stood out under the stroking of his thumbs, down lean ribs and a muscular stomach that had been carved from decades of dedicated training. His father was in immaculate shape, and he never failed to appreciate that fact and pay homage to the tempered iron strength concealed within those muscles, loving gentleness caging raw power and undeniable energy.
Peter's hands drifted up firm arms, around curved, broad shoulders, until his fingers tangled in the soft silken hair and pulled his dad's head down for a hungry, consuming kiss. Peter explored the mouth that opened willingly for him until he was dizzy on the taste, heat, and desire radiating from his father. When he finally broke the kiss, his slender legs hooked behind his dad's knees and in one fluid motion, he flipped them so he was on top of his father and smiled down at his pop with mischievousness sparkling in his dark eyes.
Caine could have easily denied Peter the small victory, but he did not. Theirs was a relationship based on maintaining a harmony of power, subtle shifts of give and take when deemed necessary to keep the balance equal. Therefore, it was no great loss to occasionally bow to his son's will, and in fact, it actually added to the excitement that came from loving Peter. As he had told Peter often, he learned as much from Peter as Peter learned from him and that carried into all aspects of their lives together.
Peter leaned down and began kissing a trail down his father's chest, taking the time to suckle on a tender brown nub as his head was cradled there. He moved over to the other nub and continued lapping at it until he finally felt his dad moving under him and softly murmuring encouragement, which Peter needed none.
Peter gently nuzzled the fuzzy down of hair that trailed down his dad's stomach with his nose, his lips leaving opened-mouth kisses in their wake. He enjoyed the feel of his pop's hands running up and down his arms, scratching ever so lightly with fingernails. Finally, his kisses met the barrier of the top of his dad's black twill pants. His nose nuzzled against the tented, straining material and was able to feel the heat and smell the arousal coming from trapped hardness that met him. Peter's fingers unfastened the pants and pulled them open to expose the tender skin of his dad's abdomen, lavishing it with kisses and nips, his tongue dipping into a sensitive navel and down farther.
"Oh, Peter, please," Caine whispered, in a slightly breathless tone.
Peter couldn't help smirking. "Now who's the impatient one?" he teased even as he moved up for another fevered kiss. His lips sealed and captured a deep moan.
When the kiss ended, Peter sat back on his knees, his hands sliding up the firm legs and inner thighs, barely drifting over the bulge that was declaring itself. Grasping the band of his pop's pants, Peter pulled them down lean hips. His father's aching need peeked out and presented itself without shame or hesitation, the plump, rosy-hued head already leaking in anticipation. Peter urged with a little tug on the soft cotton pants, and his father shifted his hips enough for Peter to pull the material the rest of the way down and off.
Once they were tossed to the side, Peter went back to lovingly brushing his fingers over the flesh of his father's bare legs as his eyes took in the hard length, the milky-white beads at the tip glistening invitingly.
Caine's body tensed as he watched Peter's mahogany head moving closer and closer to the center of his frustrations. His lungs were not capable of more than the shallowest of breaths and his eyes were not wanting to remain open as the aching began growing and spreading through him, but he did not allow them to shut.
Caine watched as the tip of Peter's pink tongue flitted out between parted, full lips to dab at the head of his sex, the white droplets disappearing onto Peter's tongue only to be replenished instantly by his growing ardor.
Peter intimately and attentively ran his tongue across the thickly-veined length that was flushed from heat and desire, lifting and seeking the heat of Peter's mouth, twitching under soft lips.
"My love, my Peter," Caine murmured as his fingers sunk into soft chestnut hair.
Peter loved the husky timber his pop's voice got when he became needy; the sound was intoxicating and something he wasn't able to resist. Opening his mouth wider, he drew the rigid length past his lips until he felt it near the back of his throat. He started sucking gently, letting his teeth graze against satin-smooth skin and felt his blood heating up when he heard soft moans rumbling from his dad's chest. As he continued to suckle, using his tongue and cheeks to bring the most pleasure, a free hand slipped down to cup tightly-drawn testicles.
Caine's hips began thrusting lightly in counter-rhythm to Peter's tempo, and Peter's throat relaxed even more to accommodate him as he sped up. Cain watched the erotic sight of his erection disappearing over and over again into that exquisite mouth he never tired of tasting and feeling, the swollen lips taking him zealously. He looked down into dark brown eyes that were luminous, sparkling eyes alive with pleasure and fastened on his own. It was almost enough to shatter his well-trained control.
Peter gave several long licks to the solid, thickened sex before trailing his mouth down over the sac and gently suckling it, giving its due, and gaining even more moans that were starting to grow louder and more lustful. Peter's tongue then traveled the short path beyond to the most intimate opening of his father's body.
Caine gasped, drawing in a painful lung full of air as he felt the muscular ring of his body gently teased and probed with languid circles. He felt as though his body was being set ablaze, raging with sensations too intense to endure. He felt his muscles betraying him, starting to quiver helplessly as he groaned, powerless against the feelings. The warrior who had defended realms that could only be imagined by some, had cast out and battled the dark forces of evil, was completely vulnerable to the loving onslaught of his beloved, his heart's guide, his son.
Peter's velvet tongue pushed just past the ring of muscle and felt his father shaking under him as he probed and moistened the area, his hands attempting to hold onto squirming hips.
"Oh, Peter, my precious, precious Peter," Caine moaned helplessly.
Peter knew he was testing his father's limits and decided to up the stakes a little as his hand moved back to stroke his pop's steeled erection in time to his pushing with his tongue, teasing the reluctant and tight passage.
Caine groaned out his frustration, giving in to the sensations that his body still had not become completely accustomed to, his fingers scraping against the coverlet of the futon as to not pull on Peter's hair, his body twisting and shifting in search of fulfillment only to be left achingly needy.
Involuntary shudders let Peter know just how close to the edge his father was getting, and not wanting to end the journey so soon, he stopped himself. Sitting back, he let himself look into dark eyes flecked with gold and amber and smoldering with want and need. Peter's hands reached out to stroke over his father's chest, down ribs, over hips, and finally to soothingly glide over toned legs.
"Ready for me?" he whispered huskily. Of course he already knew the answer, but needed to hear it anyway.
"Always for you, Love," Caine murmured through the haze fogging his mind.
Peter smiled seductively as his fingers curled around the band of his briefs that were moistened and clinging to him. He watched his father's eyes fasten on him as he slowly, deliberately, peeled the black material down past his hips, releasing the rigid erection that had filled and grown to full size. Working them off, he tossed them onto the floor on top of his dad's clothing and reached for the oil used for the massage earlier.
Peter poured a liberal amount into his cupped hand and warmed it with the other before reaching out to coat the hard length that twitched in his fingers. Pouring some more, he then kept his eyes locked with his father as he prepared himself.
Caine's breath was once more trapped in his lungs, his entire body poised in anticipation as he watched his son slowly, carefully, position himself over his erect manhood. Peter's tongue darted out to wet dry lips, and he found his own mouth suddenly dry. His finger sought the curve of Peter's hips and helped to anchor him as Caine felt the tip of his member resting at the threshold of his son's body.
As if moving in slow motion, Peter slid his body down and onto his father's length until he was inside of him. Both men groaned with satisfaction when they were completely joined. Peter felt himself being filled by his dad's body as he was received and embraced by him.
The engulfing heat cloaked around Caine, plunged him into sweet constriction that threatened to rob him of his breath.
Peter held himself still for an endless moment, simply acknowledging and treasuring the feel of being filled utterly with his lover, his father. Never did he feel so complete, so whole of heart and spirit, until they reached that cherished moment of joining, making Peter feel as though he'd found the other half of his soul. He knew now, within these last two precious months, what he had been searching so hard to find in all of his endless encounters that had left him empty, not realizing that the love he sought was always there waiting for him in the flesh and blood form of his father.
Slowly Peter began moving as his muscles squeezed and tensed around the girth inside of him. His body trembled as the friction between them grew, the slide of his dad's body moving inside of it sending sparks through his entire system, banking the kindled heat building in his stomach.
Peter started to speed up, held securely by strong, agile hands. Caine's hips lifted up, bucking to meet each downward stroke in perfect time.
Faster and faster Peter strove on, his legs pumping harder and harder, a deep hungry aching claiming him, crying out to be met. The tight knot of fire started to spread further and further, making his body flush and damp from the exertion of trying to quench it.
Caine held tightly onto slick hips, his body pounding upward, passion surging through him, unable to bridle his control as the craving overtook him completely. Endearments and encouragements were spoken, but he was not able tell from whom they were coming; the sounds of urgent moans and plaintive cries filled the silence of the loft. The need wrapped around them as if it were a living entity demanding satisfaction. His eyes were fastened onto his son's and he was unable to look away. Peter was such a vision: his dark head tossed back, neck arched, full bottom lip caught between his teeth, his sensual body glistening with beads of perspiration, his chest heaving, his full sex jutting out in search of release.
"Oh Pop, Dad, Jesus, yes!" Peter moaned out, feeling his muscles tightening, warning him that the threads binding his control were near the breaking point.
Caine knew his own control was worn perilously thin, faltering, as he clung on in limbo with the edge rushing towards him. He reached out and wrapped his fingers around Peter's sex and began stroking him, his hand sliding over the moist, pulsing, throbbing skin in measure to their urgent thrusting.
Peter's cries were choked in his throat as his entire body spasmed and jerked, his seed flowing hot and free over his father's fingers, his sex quivering as it emptied.
Caine, hovering on the abyss himself, was pushed over by the sound of Peter's cries of completion and the squeezing of the sated body tightening around him, and he surrendered himself with a sharp cry. Spirals of ecstasy grabbed him and pulled him under and up at the same time, bliss crashed and receded violently through him as his own essence was given up and filled the chasm of his lover.
The room was silent, save for the heavy, rasping breathing. Peter's heart was pounding like a war drum in his ears, and his head was still hazed by a soft cloud of sated contentment. Warm eyes settled on his pop and a silly grin tugged at his lips. His father's body was moist from sweat, chest heaving with panting breaths, silver hair in disarray around his head, eyes shining brightly in pleasure and love. God, how he loved him!
Peter gingerly moved up, releasing his dad from his body before being wrapped in strong arms and pulled down on top of his father's chest. Tender lips closed over his for a long, slow, thorough kiss. Peter snuggled down and trailed light kisses across his dad's throat and chest.
"I love you, Pop," Peter whispered as his father's legs locked around him securely.
"My sweet love," Caine murmured back, his hand stealing up to brush through disheveled, soft, chestnut hair.
A cloak of satisfied exhaustion settled around Peter and he was lulled into slumber by the sound of a steady, sure heart that beat in harmony with his own, his well-loved body filled with warmth that seeped into him. The sense of dread from earlier was only a nebulous memory teasing the fringes of his mind.
It seemed only an instant had passed when Peter's consciousness was taunted back into the cruel state of wakefulness; a soft, light, and incredibly annoying chirping was disturbing him. From somewhere in his sleep-shrouded mind, realization set in that it was the beeper he now carried. He had gotten that and a cell phone so he could be reached when he was at his pop's.
He looked out of one squinted eye at his wrist watch and groaned when he saw it flashing three-fifteen in the morning. Letting out a very unhappy moan, he rolled off the futon and grabbed the small beeper, shooting it an evil look as he clicked it off. Eyes searching in the dark, he found his cell phone and dialed up the number from the beeper.
It rang twice at the other end and as soon as it was picked up, Peter said testily, "If this isn't an emergency, you've got a death wish."
"Good morning to you, too, Mary Sunshine," Kermit smirked on the other end.
"What's going on?" Peter asked, his voice still thick from sleep.
"Well, Sleeping Beauty, sorry to disturb you, but we've got a homicide. Male, late twenties, stabbed, in the woods off Collins Road," Kermit informed him ruefully.
"Shit," Peter whispered, his hand darting up through his already mussed hair. "I'll be there as soon as I can."
"Make it sooner than that," Kermit said. "Simms is even less of a morning person than you are."
Peter heard the line go dead as Kermit hung up, not waiting for a response. Folding up the phone, he rubbed a hand over his face and tried to focus his blurry eyes.
Peter turned to see his father sitting up and looking at him intensely.
"Sorry I woke you up, Pop, didn't mean to," Peter apologized.
Caine held up a hand to stop him. "What is the trouble?"
"A murder," Peter replied, as he scrambled around for his clothes.
"I...see," Caine said solemnly. "You have not had much rest, though," he pointed out.
Peter knew that his father was concerned about him driving when he was tired, but what choice did he have? "Tell me about it, I guess some criminals don't have any consideration, do they?" he asked, letting a small smile tug at tight lips.
Peter began pulling on his clothes when he realized he was in desperate need of a shower. Cursing to himself, he scampered into the bathroom, setting a new worlds record for the quickest shower, and reemerged in a rumpled shirt and wrinkled jeans.
Giving himself a once-over, he decided it would just have to do. As he padded back into the main room and located his tennis shoes, he saw his pop was up, dressed in a silk robe, with a steaming cup in his hand.
Caine handed him the cup. "This will help to keep you aware and energized," he explained as Peter sniffed at the odd-smelling tea. Taking a few sips, he decided to drink the rest in the car.
Peter shook his head in wonder, his hand cupping the back of his dad's neck and leaning in to kiss his forehead. "Get some sleep, okay?"
Caine nodded slightly. "Safe journey, my love," he said softly.
Peter moved down to softly kiss his lips. "Love you, I'll be back as soon as I can." Looking fondly at his pop, he gently tucked a loose strand of silver hair behind Caine's ear. "Try not to do any interdimensional traveling or demon chasing without me, okay?"
Caine opened his mouth to say something, but found it kissed gently before Peter pulled back, chuckling softly as he turned to leave.
It was mid-July, and the night was hot and muggy, the humid air clinging to Peter like a heavy blanket. The Stealth cut through the dusty, dirt-covered, back road that had been the perfect locale for hiding a heinous crime. Unfortunately for the criminal and fortunate for them, it wasn't as hidden as the murderer believed.
The car jostled over potholes, Peter trying to dodge the worst of them, for all the good it did, as his eyes scanned the area for signs of his fellow policemen from the 101st. It didn't take long before he found familiar vehicles parked along the side of the road next to the edge of a large wooded area.
Climbing out of the car, he walked the short distance to where Kermit was waiting for him.
"What do we have?" Peter asked as they walked down path and into a thick grove of trees that canopied the trail, making it nearly impenetrable by the full moon that hung low overhead.
"An anonymous tip was phoned in and led us to our John Doe, who was apparently stabbed through the heart," Kermit informed him.
"Christ," Peter muttered.
"Thing is, though, it wasn't done here. It looks to me like our perp took him on a little trip and dumped him for us to find," Kermit went on.
Peter and Kermit closed in on the group already gathered. Captain Simms, Skalany, and Blake were already there, as well as several forensics technicians who were bustling around with plastic bags in gloved hands.
Skalany was busy blocking off the scene the best that she could, considering their surroundings, using the trees as markers to tag with the yellow crime scene ribbon, while Blake and Simms were hovering over the corpse.
Peter took in a deep, steadying breath. "What do we know so far?" he asked softly as his captain turned her head, barely acknowledging him.
Peter looked down at the victim sprawled supine on the foliage and undergrowth that carpeted the ground. The body was devoid of clothing, arms and legs bent in unnatural contortions, lying limp and motionless. Peter could tell that it was a body of someone who had not seen his thirtieth birthday yet, as his eyes moved up to the gaping wound on the man's upper chest, noticing the dark crusting of clotted blood around the wound itself and other dry splotches that marred an otherwise smooth torso.
His gaze continued up to the victim's face. Dark golden curls, tangled and matted with mud and leaves, framed ivory cheekbones. The young man's face was delicate, with a rather demure nose, bowed lips that had once been rosy and full, high cheek bones curved into a defined jaw and rounded chin. Long lashes, thick and full, outlined the bluest eyes Peter had ever seen. Orbs of pure sapphire, turned dull and listless by death's hand, stared unblinking into his own. Peter's breath caught with the impact those eyes had on him and knew for the first time perhaps what women meant when the called a man not handsome, but beautiful.
"John Doe was stabbed once through the heart, completely severing the aorta, but there isn't enough blood around this site given the extent of the wound, so John was obviously dropped off here," Simms responded in a monotone voice as she walked around the body. "Some kind of acidic compound was used on his pads of his fingers to make IDing the body harder for our boys in forensics." She waved her hand at the victim's hands that were already covered with individual plastic bags to preserve any evidence that might be left behind under his fingernails. "Also, look at this," Simms said and hunched down next to the body and Peter did as well.
Taking a tip of a ballpoint pen, she pointed around the area of the victim's lips that were tinted a pale blue. "There are signs of cyanosis around the mouth, suggesting that the victim had
either been strangled or suffocated prior to the actual stabbing but there's absolutely no sign of trauma to the trachea or any bruising around the throat."
"There haven't been any missing person reports or anything that might give us a lead?" Peter asked, his eyes continuing to steal up and glance back into victim's.
"Nope, none, and no trace on the anonymous tip either. We're tentatively placing the time of death at between eleven and midnight unless forensics can give us something different to go on," Simms said and turned her face up to meet Peter's eyes for the first time since he had arrived. "Peter, I'm giving you this case. It's important that we find this killer and the sooner the better."
Peter looked at her with a grave expression. "You sound like you're not thinking that this was just a one-time random killing."
Simms looked down at the body. "Let's just say my instincts are telling me we need to stay thinking on our feet here. Find out what you can about him."
"I'll do my best," Peter responded, but his voice held no promises. He had a John Doe with no solid leads to go on and a trail that was getting colder by the minute. It wasn't looking good.
Simms, as if able to read his thoughts said, "If anyone can find the answers, it's my best homicide detective."
"Thanks," Peter said softly as she stood to leave.
Blake, who had been silent the entire time, finally spoke. "Too bad our only witness can't talk, huh?" His face was grim and determined.
"Yeah, too bad," Peter muttered. His gaze was once more pulled up to the sapphire eyes and the haunted expression that was trapped within them for all eternity.
The police officer couldn't help wondering what the angelic eyes had seen in his last moments of torment, of the horrors suffered that were seen in his final seconds on this plane of existence. Peter studied the wide, expressive eyes, as though by doing so, perhaps the answers would be found. Half-remembered prayers flittered through Peter's mind while, as if guided by sheer force, his hand drifted up and gentle fingertips pulled the man's eyelids down, drawing the shades of the windows to the soul.
As soon as his fingers touched, everything blurred in Peter's sight, and a numbing chill colder than an arctic wind flew through his system before he was blasted with a searing heat and a crackling sound popping in his ears. He jerked his hand back as though he'd been scorched, and his entire body trembled.
"Hey, are you all right?" Blake asked him in concern.
Peter struggled to find his voice. "Uh....yeah I'm fine," he said, his throat scratchy and hoarse. "I guess I just got spooked or something," he offered weakly.
Back at the 101st, Peter was working on some of his back log of reports at his desk when he was startled by his ringing phone.
"Caine here," he spoke into the mouthpiece perched on his shoulder.
"Hey, Peter, it's Nickie," Doctor Nicholas Elder, the coroner, said from the other end.
"Nickie!" Peter said excitedly. "Tell me you've been able to work your magic."
The police detective glanced down at his watch. It had been six hours since Nickie had started the autopsy on the murder victim and in those six hours, Peter's mind had drifted off numerous times, wondering if they were going to be able to put a name to the victim.
"You could say that. We were lucky that John Doe had dental work done a few years back." Nickie responded.
"Terrific, give me what you've got," Peter said.
"Well, with post-mortem radiographs I took, I was able to find out that our John Doe was a twenty-seven-year-old named Brett Daniels. Need the most current address I've got on record?"
"Yeah, give it to me," Peter responded and scribbled the address down after being warned it was over three years old. "Thanks, man, I owe you one."
"Well, now that you mention it," Nickie said slowly. Peter could almost see the smile on the other man's face. "Do you know if Jody has been seeing anyone recently?"
Peter did his best to keep from laughing at that. "Sorry, man, but I don't think you're exactly her type."
"Why not?" the young coroner protested.
"I just happen to know for a fact that formaldehyde isn't a turn-on for her," Peter disappointed him.
"Isn't that always the way? The cute ones always have the hangups," Nickie returned with a fake forced sigh. "Oh, well, her loss. Catch you later, Peter."
"Thanks again," Peter said before hanging up the phone.
Peter turned to his computer and pulled up records from the DMV, finding the most current address of one Brett Daniels.
"Hey, partner?" he called out to Jody, who was busily bent over her desk, neck-deep in her own reports.
"Yeah?" she asked, without looking up.
"Got the name of our John Doe and his last known address," Peter informed her.
With that, her head snapped up. "Right behind you," she said, gratefully shoving the stack of papers to the side to wrestle with later.
As the tires of the Stealth hummed against the road, Jody realized how loud it seemed to be compared to the overwhelming silence of her partner.
Jody felt like she knew Peter inside and out, had learned much about the man who had covered her back on more than one occasion. She knew that if anything, Peter was rarely so introspective that it got to the point of silence.
There was a shadow that seemed to veil her partner. It wouldn't have been overtly obvious to the untrained eye, but Jody was a self-taught expert where her partner's moods were concerned. You should be, she chided herself, considering how long you spent noticing him for his other attributes that had absolutely nothing to do with being your partner.
There was a time, in the not-too-distant past, when Jody had honestly thought she had committed the cardinal sin of police work...falling in love with your partner. It had even gone so far as to cause her to make a ridiculous admission in the heat of the moment when their lives had been on the line in that infamous earthquake. She still felt her face flush every time she thought of that moment...and how badly it had stung when Peter let her off the hook so easily, too easily, when she recanted her foolish words.
Now she looked back at that time and could think of it fondly. She still cared deeply about Peter, would always hold him dear to her heart and give her life to protect him if need be. Now, though, her attraction to him had tempered out into a stronger bond that only developed when a deep trust developed. Jody cherished it, too, because she knew how difficult it was for Peter to trust anyone, especially the women in his life.
It was almost like Peter had an invisible shield surrounding him that only allowed for someone to get so close. The only exception to that rule appeared to be Peter's father, who seemed to have a part of Peter that was unobtainable for anyone else. And though Jody would never begrudge Peter's happiness at having his Shaolin father back in his life, nor would she ever deny the positive influence Caine seemed to have on her partner, she still had to wonder how many opportunities in Peter's life were being passed up so he could nurture his relationship with his priestly pop.
For awhile Jody had secretly hoped that Caine's interest in Skalany would occupy his time enough that Peter would be free to go out more, socialize in a wider circle. She wanted to see Peter happy, even if it wasn't with her, and hoped he would find that in his freedom. Unfortunately, things had since cooled down between Caine and Skalany, and Peter was spending even more time with his father.
It was no wonder Peter could never maintain a relationship! Any woman who wanted to be a part of Peter's life would inevitably end up fighting for his attention and devotion to Kwai Chang Caine. In all honesty, Jody didn't know many women, including herself, who were strong enough to deal with, or wanted to expel that kind of energy, in competition, especially once they realized they wouldn't win.
It had been a rather bitter truth to accept, and the biggest one that had helped her get past her feelings, but she was thankful in a way, too. If Peter had ever returned her attentions, chances were she would have never met Gregg Sutton. She and the lawyer had been dating for several months now and things were going well, better than well actually, and she was having serious hopes of some long-term happiness coming her way.
Casting a reflective glance at the police detective, Jody couldn't help feeling a small pang of regret when she thought about her happiness and wondered if Peter would ever know that feeling. In time, and maybe if he was very lucky, he'd open himself up and let it in.
All too soon, they had arrived at the apartment building where their murder victim had resided. Jody followed Peter in the double glass doors and buzzed the office.
A shrill voice rang out from the intercom. "How may I help you?"
"Peter Caine, I'm a detective from the 101st precinct. My partner and I would like to ask you a few questions about a resident of yours," he answered.
"Of course, Detective Caine, please come to the office and we'll be glad to be of assistance," the voice informed him.
"Thank you," Peter said, as the door buzzed to allow them inside.
Crossing the tiled floor of the lobby, Peter found the main office easily. A well-dressed older man, who was several inches shorter than Peter and at least fifty pounds heavier, was waiting for them.
"Hello, Detective Caine, I'm Alex Minors, the manager of this apartment," he introduced, thrusting out a pudgy hand at Peter, which Peter shook. "How can I help you?"
"My partner and I were hoping that you could provide some information about one of your tenants named Brett Daniels and answer a few questions we have," Peter told him.
"Brett, of course," Alex said with a nod of his balding head as he recalled the name. "He's not in any trouble, is he? He's always been such a good boy, and a wonderful tenant. Never had a bit of trouble out of him, and he always paid the rent several weeks early."
Peter cast a quick glance over to Jody. "Well, Mr. Minors, we're here investigating a homicide."
"Oh, dear!" Minors exclaimed, his ruddy complexion going suddenly ashen.
Jody was wondering if he was going to faint on them, before he shakily moved behind his desk and slowly sat down into his chair.
"Will you be all right, Mr. Minors?" Jody asked.
A beefy palm ran over the man's face. "Um, yeah, I've...I've just never known anyone personally who had been...." Minors let the sentence hanging in the air.
"I know this is a bit of a shock, sir," Peter began, after Minors' color peaked up a bit, "but could you tell us what you know about Brett that might help us find out what happened? For example, did he have any enemies that you know of?"
Minors' head shook negatively. "No, not Brett. I don't think he had an enemy in the world. I didn't know him well, but on the occasions we spoke, he was always came off as a shy, introverted young man. Seemed to keep to himself a lot."
"What about his job? Do you know where he worked?" Jody asked.
Dazed eyes turned to her. "Um, yeah, he worked full time as a paralegal at Manion, Deven, and Spiros. He was also taking night classes at the University in the hopes of becoming a lawyer."
Peter committed the name of the law firm to memory and made a mental note to check out the records at the University, making plans to interview Brett's professors. "Would it be possible to have access to Mr. Daniels' apartment?"
"Y...yeah, sure, I've got spare keys for every apartment in case of any emergencies," Minors answered, standing up with effort.
Peter and Jody rode with Minors on the elevator to the fifth floor. The silent manager walked down the carpeted hallway, and Peter watched as the man pulled out a jangling bundle of keys that had the apartment numbers written on tape on each one. Selecting the right one, 515, Minors unlocked the door and shoved it open for the police officers to enter, while he remained outside.
The summer sunlight pouring in off a terrace bathed the apartment in rich light. Surveying the scene, Jody could appreciate the beauty of the rooms. Beige shag carpeting covered the spacious flooring, except for where it led to a small kitchen that was tiled in black and white. The main room was tastefully decorated with contemporary furniture: a large, stuffed, off-white couch with matching armchairs; a coffee table with a brass base and glass top that balanced out with similar end tables; and in the center of the room stood a large entertainment center that held a television set and state-of-the-art stereo equipment.
Peter couldn't help wondering how a paralegal, who was sending himself through college, could possibly have enough spare money to set himself up in such nice surroundings. Wandering over to the entertainment center, Peter glanced through the collection of CD's and discovered that their murder victim had a varied taste in music, everything from blues to heavy metal.
"Are we looking for anything particular here, partner?" Jody asked, drawing Peter's attention back to her.
"Anything that can give us a clue as to what was going before he was killed," Peter answered, drifting over to a bookcase that held a medley of books on law and ethics.
On one of the end tables sat a answering machine that was blinking with unheard messages. Jody hit the rewind button, then played it. A masculine voice began talking.
\\ "Hi, Brett, look, if you're there, can you please pick up the phone? I really need to talk to you.// There was a brief pause, and then a deep sigh. \\ "God, Babe, you know how I hate this damn machine! Look, I know I was a royal ass tonight, but if you give me the chance, I'll make it up to you. Please...just call me, doesn't matter what time. I'll either be here or the office." //
The machine clicked back off, after a mechanical voice timed the call at nine-thirty the previous night. Jody gave Peter a quizzical look. "Think we might have a lead here?"
"Couldn't hurt. See if Kermit can get the phone records from last night so we can get a location of the call and a name to go with it," Peter told her.
As Jody dialed up the number on her cell phone, Peter moved off into the direction of the bedroom.
It was no surprise to see that Brett Daniels' bed, a huge, king-sized, four-poster, was neatly made with no signs that it had ever been used. The printed comforter was drawn up and unruffled.
The white walls were mostly barren, except for a sprinkling of small photos that adorned it; pictures that mostly seemed to be made up of whom Peter assumed were Brett's family. In one picture, Brett was in the center with an older blonde woman and man around him, and a much younger blonde girl with Brett's startling blue eyes sitting in front of them.
Peter instinctively knew that this was Brett's mother, father, and younger sister. How would the Daniels' react to finding out that their oldest son had been ripped from them by the hands of a killer? God, there was sometimes he really hated his job.
Peter's eyes followed the wall to another picture of a much younger looking Brett wearing a bright blue cap and gown, a soft smile brightening his entire face. Once more, Peter's eyes were transfixed by the beautiful blue gaze that looked so happy and innocent.
Finally, Peter's eyes came to rest on the final picture that didn't hang on the wall, but was in a heavy, wooden frame sitting by the head of the bed. This picture was much more recent, and embodied the image of Brett once more smiling enthusiastically, eyes glowing, as his arms were slung around the waist of another man. A man with ebony hair and piercing green eyes had his arm around Brett's waist as well, holding him so tightly that no light passed between them. Brett's handsome face was turned up, since the dark-haired man was several inches taller than he. As the dark-haired stranger looked down at the man he was holding, his free hand was gently resting on Brett's cheek.
Peter gulped slightly, feeling uncomfortable at the feeling of intimacy the picture portrayed. It was enough to make Peter feel like he was a Peeping Tom, yet he couldn't seem to pull his eyes away either.
As Peter held the wooden frame in his hand, he felt another jolt of icy fire shock his system, but with less intensity than before. The picture fell from his fingers onto the coverlet of the bed.
"Hey, Peter," Jody called out from the doorway.
Startled, Peter's head snapped up. It took several seconds for his dry tongue to become unstuck and functional. "Yeah?"
"Kermit found us an address and name, Ryan Paxton, along with digging up some info on him. You'll never guess where he works either."
"Manion, Deven, and Spiros?" Peter responded.
Jody cocked her head curiously. "Um, yeah, but how did you know?"
"Just a guess," Peter answered quickly.
Jody gave him another odd look before shrugging and walking back into the living room without commenting. Peter was grateful since he had no idea why he'd just said that, it just...slipped out. How could he have possible known....
"Peter, let's get a move on if you want to question this guy," Jody called impatiently.
Peter gave the photo on the bed one last lingering look before turning away and joining Powell outside.
The drive to the address Kermit had provided didn't take longer than fifteen minutes, including lights. The Stealth pulled up to the curb outside a very well-kept two-story brick house surrounded by a towering wooden fence that blocked its view from other suburban neighbors.
A concrete walkway led a path to the front door that Peter pounded upon. Peering in through a small glass window that was eye level in the door, Peter watched a man climbing down a spiral staircase and into the front hall. Even before the door opened, Peter recognized the man as the same gentleman in Brett's picture.
"May I help you?" Ryan Paxton asked, allowing the door to be cracked slightly.
"Yes, I'm Detective Peter Caine, and this is my partner, Detective Jody Powell. Mr. Paxton, we'd like a word with you, if we could," Peter said, flashing his badge for identification.
Paxton stepped back, allowing them to enter. "Can I ask what this concerns?"
Peter followed the man into the main living room. "Yes, did you know Brett Daniels?"
Ryan's green eyes, unreadable, snapped to Peter's. "Yes, he works as a paralegal at the law firm I work for." Glancing between Peter and Jody, he asked in a slightly shakier voice, "Why? What's happened?"
"Mr. Paxton," Jody began, "Brett Daniels was a victim in a homicide."
Dark green eyes widened, pupils constricted to pinpoints, and Ryan Paxton's face blanched and became a dull gray under his tan. Pale lips opened and hung open. Peter watched as the lawyer started to sway back and forth as his hands began shaking, and only Peter's quick reflexes caught the man in time to keep him from falling. Gently, Peter helped lower the man onto the plump brown sofa behind him.
"No, no, no," Ryan whispered in a string, unfocused eyes staring at Peter like he was some alien creature. "You're lying, Brett is fine, he's fine, just talked to him last night, he's fine," Ryan muttered in denial.
Peter placed a hesitant hand on the man's shoulder in sympathy. "I'm sorry, Mr. Paxton, but a positive identification was established."
"All my fault, I know it. It was all my fault...." Ryan's voice trailed off, listless.
"Mr. Paxton?" Jody asked, eyes narrowing as she searched the man's glistening eyes.
At hearing her soft voice, the lawyer blinked several times until he seemed to realize he wasn't alone. "C-could you please leave me and Detective Caine to talk in private?" he requested with a strangled voice that was barely heard, pained eyes beseeching.
Jody cast a circumspect look at her partner, but Peter nodded his head, giving his okay.
"I'll be waiting in the car," she told him and turned to leave.
Peter waited until he heard the front door shut before he turned back to Ryan. "Brett wasn't just someone you worked with, was he?"
Ryan shook his dark head. "No, we were...lovers." Green eyes bored into Peter's. "How...how did you know?"
"I saw a photograph of you and Brett together at Brett's apartment," Peter answered, taking a seat next to the other man.
Ryan's eyes squeezed shut desperately. "God, that was taken on our six-month anniversary," he choked.
Peter gave the lawyer a few moments to collect himself before asking his next question. "What did you mean when you said it was your fault?"
"I...we had a...he and I argued last night," Ryan stammered, disbelief still dulling his eyes.
"Want to take it from the beginning?" Peter gently cajoled.
Ryan stood up and walked over to a cabinet where he pulled out a fifth of bourbon. Pouring several fingers of it into a tumbler, he came back to sit on the sofa. A hand that trembled and shook raised the glass to dry lips, and he gulped down half the liquor in one swallow.
"As you already guessed," he began in a quiet voice, "Brett and I were lovers. We had been exclusive for over a year...fourteen months, three days actually."
"What happened last night?" Peter encouraged.
"Last night," Ryan gave a wry laugh. "God, how I wish I could go back and take it all back..."
"Take what back?"
Weary eyes searched Peter's for understanding. "I took Brett out to dinner last night. Our firm had just won a major case I was second chairing on, and I wanted to celebrate." Ryan paused, as though the events were playing out in his mind's eye like a movie. "Things were going great...until we started fighting. I said things I had no business saying, spiteful, hurtful things." The lawyer ran his hands over his face anxiously, trying to scrub the images out of his head. "I never should have said them."
"Every couple argues," Peter said softly. Lord knows he'd been known to say things he didn't mean to his pop in anger and frustration. It didn't happen often, but when it did, Peter could get very spiteful. He was endlessly thankful that Pop knew he never meant them and that his father was so understanding and forgiving.
"Yeah, but I let him take off. I should have made him stay with me, talk it out instead of letting him storm off. Dammit, if I had just made him talk to me...."
"What was the argument over?" Peter asked.
A few tears were squeezed from closed eyes. "He...we...we had been dating for so long, like I told you, and neither one of us was interested in anyone else. Hell, I even asked him to move in with me a month ago. But that wasn't good enough for him, he wanted more."
Ryan dragged in a ragged, harsh breath. "Yeah, more. He wanted us to get married."
"And you didn't want that?" Peter guessed.
Ryan's face contorted, turmoil glaring in his eyes. "No, I didn't, and he knew that. I--I thought he was all right with it."
"But he wasn't, was he?" Peter coaxed.
Ryan's dark hair shook. "No, he said he couldn't be with me anymore if I didn't want him enough to make that commitment to him. Didn't he know I loved him?" he moaned, looking to Peter for understanding.
Peter didn't speak, letting Ryan continued at his own pace.
"He said I was embarrassed of him, of our relationship. If that were true, why did I take him home to meet my parents over Christmas?" Ryan didn't wait for any answer, simply took another gulp of his bourbon. "I wasn't embarrassed of him, but he knew I couldn't marry him; he knew how things worked at the office, knew it was impossible. He knew what he was asking me to give up."
"And what was that?"
The lawyer looked completely defeated and beaten. "No one at our office knew about us, we'd been careful to keep it under wraps. Of course, it's not anything obvious, but anyone who works at Manion, Deven, and Spiros knows how the senior partners feel about homosexuality. The legal profession is still a closed boys club that won't tolerate...undesirables."
"If you were to get married, though, everything would be out in the open," Peter provided.
Ryan nodded. "I...I told Brett that I knew that a position was going to open up for senior partnership. It's been rumored Deven was being wooed by a corporate company. Dammit, I was in line for that partnership, it was so close I could smell it!"
"And if your relationship became public knowledge...." Peter let the statement trail off.
"I'd be ruined professionally," Ryan finished. "I told Brett to just be patient for just a little bit longer, to hang in there just until I got established and had the partnership in my grasp. Once I proved myself, I told him the other partners wouldn't care then if we got married...wouldn't care just as long as I kept winning major cases for them. He blew up at me, told me I was using it as an excuse, a cop-out, to keep from making a commitment to him. I told him he was being unreasonable and selfish, that if he loved he, he'd realize why this was so important to me...that I was doing it for both of us. It turned into a screaming match and ended up with him storming out of the restaurant."
"Did you try to go after him?"
"No," Ryan whispered. "I...I though he just needed some time to cool off, that he'd come back to me later on that night."
"What did you do after leaving the restaurant?" Peter asked.
Dull green eyes narrowed, flaring with rage. "Are you trying to establish whether or not I had an alibi, Detective Caine?"
"Well, as a lawyer, you know it wouldn't hurt to have one since you're the last one that we know of who saw Brett Daniels alive," Peter answered, trying to keep any defensiveness out of his voice.
Ryan let out a heavy sigh. "No, I don't have a alibi. After the argument, I went to the office to cool off myself and work on some research for a case that's getting ready to come to trial. There's no way to prove I was there, since no other employees were there at the time."
"Do you know where he could have gone after the fight, if anyone else might have seen him that night?" Peter asked.
Ryan shook his head negatively. "No, I called all of his friends from the office and school, hoping I could find him myself and work things out. None of them had seen him."
Peter stood. "I'm sorry for your loss," he said softly. "I know what it's like to lose someone you love."
Ryan nodded listlessly, and Peter knew his words were of little comfort to the grieving man.
"Look, if you have any information, think of anything that might be helpful later, give me a call." Peter scribbled down his number and extension on the back of a card and held it out to be snatched by limp fingers. "I might come back later on, if I need to ask you anything else."
Ryan stood and walked Peter to the door, still dazed. Peter's hand rested on the doorknob and was about to turn it when Ryan spoke.
"Has...has anyone notified...his family...yet?" Ryan's voice quivered.
"No, not yet," Peter answered gently.
"I-I'd better do it. Maurine might take it easier coming from someone she knows."
Peter nodded in understanding and opened door and made it to the front step.
Peter turned. "Yeah?"
"Get the son of a bitch that did this."
Peter's lips were drawn in a thin line of determination. "I plan on it."
Peter climbed into the driver's side of the Stealth and switched the ignition.
"Well? What happened?" Jody pressed immediately.
Peter recounted the entire narrative as they drove back to the station, the car weaving through traffic as he told Jody all of the details he had knowledge of.
"So you think he might have something to do with it?" Jody asked him.
"I'm not sure," Peter said, his eyes riveted to the road.
"Oh c'mon! The man has a chance to land himself a lucrative position in a major law firm, but one word from his temperamental lover and he's at risk of losing it all? Even you have got to admit that makes for a damn good motive," Jody insisted.
Peter thought back to the shattered man who had just found out that the person he loved had been cruelly killed. Images of the two men happy and content in that photo flashed through Peter's mind, jolting him at how vulnerable happiness can be. "Jody, why don't you wait until we get all the facts before becoming judge and jury, if that's all right with you?" Peter snapped as the car screeched to a halt in his parking spot.
Surprised eyes stared at her partner. "Fine, sorry! I didn't realize how touchy you were today, Caine."
"I'm not touchy," Peter snapped and realized his voice still had harsh edge to it. "Look, I'm just a little upset at someone thinking that they can get away with murder in my jurisdiction," he said, deliberately softening his tone.
"Uh-huh," Jody murmured. She didn't believe Peter. Something about this murder was affecting him differently than was typical, but one look at that hard, resolute Caine expression, and Jody knew that Peter wouldn't say anything more about it unless he wanted to...case closed, no exceptions.
Back at the precinct, Peter concentrated his efforts on compiling names of friends and teachers at the University, in case there may have been someone that might have held a grudge against Brett that Ryan Paxton didn't know about. He'd interview them tomorrow. He also ran a background check on Ryan, which hadn't turned up anything relevant. Before he knew it, his shift was over.
"Hey, Peter, want to go to Chandlers tonight?" Blake asked him, as he was ready to head out the door.
Peter recalled his promise to his pop to come back home as soon he could. It was a promise he couldn't wait to keep since his thoughts had been torn between his father and the murder case the entire day.
"Nah, I'll have to take a rain check tonight. Got a prior appointment," Peter informed him. "Maybe next time."
"Got a hot date?" Kermit asked, his green shades hiding the amusement Peter knew was in his eyes.
"Ha, as if there was a chance of that," Skalany muttered under her breath.
"And just what do you mean by that?" Peter asked defensively.
Skalany held up her hands in mock surrender. "Nothing, it's just it's been so long since I've seen you on a date, I figured you forgot what one was."
"Just because I don't announce my social life like some people, doesn't mean I don't have one," Peter informed her, narrowed eyes staring her down.
TJ came up and slung a friendly arm around his shoulder. "Yeah, maybe Peter here just doesn't like to kiss and tell," he said with a suggestive waggle of his eyebrows. Peter merely looked at his unlikely ally.
"Since when?" Kermit threw in good-naturedly.
Peter glared in ill humor. "Since I outgrew adolescence, thank you very much, which apparently some of you still haven't. Now, if you guys are done grilling me, I've got to go."
Once in the sanctuary of the Stealth, Peter resisted the urge to pound his fists on the steering wheel. Dammit, what was eating at him to make him so sensitive? He knew that the guys were only having a little fun with him, but his patience was worn paper-thin. Taking deep breaths, he tried to center himself.
Peter knew that part of the problem was taking the kidding too seriously. Why did it bother him that Skalany was trying to make him out to be a monk? That was as far from the truth as it could get. Of course no one had any clue about how wrong that assumption was because no one was aware of the entire truth of the situation either.
And yes, he didn't hang out with the gang as much as he use to, but that wasn't exactly his fault either. How would it look when other people brought dates to Chandlers and Peter would show up alone and not able to explain why he didn't want to date anyone?
For a split second, Peter let himself fantasize how it would be to be able to show up to spend the night out with the gang with his pop on his arm. To be able to take his pop onto the dance floor and share a slow dance with him without worrying about how it looked; to let everyone know he had both claimed and been claimed.
"God, Pete," he admonished himself, "you're thinking like some societal throwback to the cave man."
So what if no one else knew what Peter had with his pop? The important thing was that he knew it, knew the security and passion that came with his father's unfaltering love. In his book that made him pretty damn lucky, and sacrificing boasting rights was nothing in comparison.
Feeling resolute, Peter started the car and wove himself through the congested traffic with a clearer head.
Driving to his apartment, Peter stopped in long enough to pick up his mail, all bills, and check any messages that might be on his answering machine. He glanced around the surroundings and felt an odd sense of disconnection with the place that used to be his home.
Since he and Pop had been drawn together, Peter really only kept the place because it provided a cover...that, and his father's place wasn't large enough to keep all his belongings in. An expensive storage closet, Peter thought to himself. So why was he really hanging on to it? There was nothing being stored in it that he couldn't live without...so that left the excuse of using it as a cover. Peter felt a sense of bitterness at that thought. Why should he have to have any kind of cover?
Peter also couldn't help shaking the feeling that there was even more to it than that. Looking over to the wall, Peter's eyes fell on the familiar picture of him and the Blaisdell family...before Pop returned.
The apartment had been his before his dad had ever come back into his life; a place that had been safe ...a home...even before Pop's return. Maybe a part of him was keeping it because he didn't completely believe that his pop wasn't going to take off again and he'd need a roof over his head? He frowned as he locked the door behind him. He refused to let himself get into that frame of mind.
As Peter drove over to his pop's loft, he tried to figure out just where all these questions were coming from. Could it be the murder case doing this to him, he wondered? He thought once more about the handsome face and blue eyes of Brett Daniels, how he looked so alive and happy in the picture with Ryan.
Peter thought, too, about Brett wanting to make that love sealed with the commitment of marriage. Wasn't that to be expected, though? Once someone found a love like that, it just seemed natural to assume they wanted to take it to the next logical step. Even if it wasn't exactly legally binding, it would still be spiritually binding, and wasn't that what was most important?
Peter's mind was still swirling with convoluted thoughts as he bounded up the stairs where he knew his pop would be waiting for him. Maybe talking to his pop would help settle his mind down, Peter thought. His desire to relax in his lover's arms growing with each step.
Peter heard the music even before he stepped into the room. Not surprised, he found his father fingering his wooden flute, the soft, subtle notes soothing Peter, wrapping around him like a comfortable old robe. He was home, his true home, and immediately feeling foolish for his earlier thoughts.
As soon as Caine looked up, a warm smile curved his lips, and pleasure sparkled in his eyes. Once more Peter's heart did that funny flip-flop in his chest and couldn't stop himself from smiling in return.
"Hi, Pop," Peter greeted.
Caine set the flute to the side and opened his arms wide in invitation. Peter didn't hesitate and gathered his father in a tight hug. Their lips brushed softly together in a brief kiss.
"Hello, my love," Caine returned when he pulled back. "I trust your day went well?"
Peter shrugged, drawing another smile from Pop, who wondered if Peter realized the similarity of his gesture and Caine's own.
"As well as I could expect it to with a murder investigation. Tell you what, I'll tell you all about it over dinner," Peter offered.
Caine asked, "You remembered, did you not, that we planned on having dinner with Lo Si this evening?"
Damn, no, he hadn't. There went his plans for a quiet night with his pop. "Sorry, Pop, it slipped my mind. I had a lot to think about. Do I have time to shower and change?"
Caine nodded. "Yes, if you do so quickly. He is expecting us soon."
Peter wasted no time in hoofing it into the bathroom and stripping himself down. It would feel good to get into some clean clothes after being out in the sweltering summer heat. Even with the air conditioning, he felt hot and sticky.
Turning the shower on a cool, fine mist, Peter started soaping up. He was in the midst of shampooing his hair when he felt the breeze of the shower stall being opened. His eyes roamed over the sight of his father's nude body as he stepped up behind Peter and into the spray of water.
Peter's eyes drifted shut as his father's soapy hands caressed over him, lightly brushing across his nipples as his chest was washed, and down farther. Soon he was completely covered in soap, a soft ache spreading through him as his father washed his most intimate areas thoroughly.
Once he was rinsed, Peter took the soap in his hands and sudsed them up. He returned the washing he'd gotten caress for caress, paying patient attention to his father's sex and muscled half-spheres of his rear. He then squirted shampoo into his hands and gently washed his pop's long, silken hair. Using his cupped hands, Peter rinsed the hair that plastered to his father's head.
When they were both completely clean, Peter let his hands roam over his father's slick, slippery body, pulling him close for a long, heated kiss.
"Just how soon is Lo Si expecting us?" Peter asked, shooting his father his best beguiling grin.
"Peter...." Caine warned.
Stealing one more kiss Peter said, "I know, I know...later, right?"
"Later," Caine said in a voice that held a promise.
Turning the water off and stepping out, they took turns drying each other off with large fluffy towels. Soon they were both dressed and headed to Lo Si's apartment.
Peter was surprised at how much he ended up enjoying himself as the night wore on. The food was wonderful. Lo Si made a spectacular vegetarian lasagna with a tossed salad and for dessert, a chilled pie that melted in Peter's mouth.
Peter listened with genuine interest as Pop discussed several patients he had worked with earlier at the hospital, and how he had managed to actually reduce the severity of one little girl's epileptic seizure.
Lo Si discussed how he was working on a new herbal remedy he hoped would help one of his clients with asthma along with a few other things he'd been working on with some new plants he'd been tending. Peter found this interesting because he'd come to realize he enjoyed learning about the various medicinal properties of the herbs and plants Lo Si and Pop were always growing. He was amazed at what they were capable of helping with...even if Peter did still have the urge to make pizza out of some of them... and both Pop and the Ancient were more than willing to teach him what they knew.
Eventually they had gotten around to talking about the murder investigation, and Peter told them the bare bones of it.
"So you do not feel as though this man Paxton is a suspect?" Lo Si asked him, finishing off the last bit of his pie.
"I...I don't know. Jody is right in that he does have a perfect motive but...."
"But your instincts do not feel he is the one responsible," Pop finished for him.
"I don't think so...I just don't feel it, you know?" Peter said helplessly, feeling inadequate at explaining himself.
"Do not worry, Peter," Lo Si said. "The truth cannot remained veiled indefinitely. The light always refuses to be overshadowed by lies. Your instincts will never fail you if you listen to them," the Ancient reassured.
They talked for awhile longer until Caine noticed how fatigue was wearing on his son. He could tell by his boy's posture and the lines of weariness etched and marring his handsome features. The day had apparently been a laborious one.
"I believe it is time to bid you a good night, Lo Si. The hour is late and we do not wish to overstay our welcome," Caine excused himself and noticed the flash of relief in Peter's dark eyes.
"That will never happen, my friend. You are always welcome," Lo Si assured him. "Thank you for your company."
Caine bowed slightly and the Ancient returned it. With a hand on Peter's forearm, his father steered him out of the apartment and back to their own.
Once inside, Caine continued to guide Peter over to the futon and helped him undress by pulling the dark blue T-shirt Peter was wearing over his head.
"Pop..." Peter started to protest because he still had things he wanted to talk to his father about, but a yawn cut him off.
"To bed with you, you are barely steady on your feet," Caine said gently.
Peter kicked off his shoes and peeled off his jeans and crawled under the thin, crisp, cool sheet.
In moments Caine was beside him. Peter rolled into the warm body, molding himself against the firm muscles and not really caring that it was too warm outside for cuddling. Broad hands soothingly ran over him in a lulling touch, warm breath caressed his neck.
"Pop?" Peter asked hesitantly.
"Yes, my darling one?" Caine murmured.
In the dark, Peter tilted his head up and tried to search his father's eyes. "Do you ever wish we could...have more together?"
"More?" Caine asked curiously. "What more could I possibly ask for?"
Peter sighed. "You know, wish we didn't have to be so damn secretive all the time." Peter twisted slightly. "I mean, don't you ever wish we didn't have to hide how we feel from everyone?"
Caine's hand came up to stroke Peter's cheek. "My beloved, we hide nothing. How do you hide something that shines so brightly between us?"
Peter's arms tightened around him. "Yeah, you're right, I guess I'm just being foolish huh?"
Caine kissed him softly. "Not foolish, Love. It is natural to want to declare your love and to share the happiness that it makes you feel with others."
"Natural, just not practical huh?" Peter murmured.
"Emotions, such as love, are seldom practical," Caine said.
Peter had to laugh at that. "Yeah, I can't deny that."
Caine brushed his lips firmly against Peter's temple. "Sleep now, my sweet one. We will talk more in the morning."
Peter yawned and murmured something unintelligible as Caine continued to stroke his hands over the smooth, honeyed skin. Caine allowed himself the pleasure of watching his boy drift off into sleep. Peter's chest gently rose and fell in a slow and steady rhythm, and his face relaxed, making him look younger than he truly was.
Caine was able to still see traces of the peaceful, innocent, trouble-free boy from the temple. An innocence from a time long ago and a distant place, sometimes feeling like another lifetime to Caine. It was all too rare to see flashes of that serene joy that had once graced his son's face so freely. Occasionally in sleep, and sometimes after lovemaking, Caine was granted the pleasure of witnessing it, but it was always too fleeting.
Fingers stole through his son's chestnut hair. He had felt Peter's inner turmoil earlier, had seen it clearly written on Peter's face upon returning from his labors at the precinct. And now he realized from where the tumultuous emotions were arising. They stemmed from Peter's self-doubts. His boy still refused to believe in his soul that Caine would not somehow abandon him once more, refused to relinquish that last binding thread of fear that did not want to trust in him...in their love.
The truth of Peter's uncertainty caused a dull aching to coil around Caine's heart, though he could not hold his son responsible for them. He knew all too well that the fear held validity. They had been taken from each other once, and there was no guarantee that it could not happen once more. Still, there must be something that could be done to prove to Peter that it would not be by his own choice if it were to happen again. He did not know what more he could do that would cast out those last clinging misgivings that imprisoned his sweet one's heart from loving fully.
Caine had noticed the strange quality Peter's eyes had taken on when he was discussing how Brett Daniels had sought marriage. Perhaps Peter, too, whether he was aware of it as such or not, desired a more symbolic showing of their commitment to one another? Might that be the key to unlocking Peter from his apprehension and freeing his heart to the joys of a love that was unhindered by mistrust?
Moonlight spilled in through the open window, casting a surreal silver glow around Peter's exquisite form. In the stillness that followed the descending of night, Caine decided that soon he would seek Lo Si's advice and followed his boy into a restful slumber.
Dark, it was so dark. His eyes were open, he knew that, but they wouldn't focus. Why couldn't he focus? He tried to lift his hand to his eyes but his muscles wouldn't move, couldn't move. His mind screamed at him to run, get out and don't look back. His legs didn't budge, wouldn't listen to his pleading mind, and a cry stuck in his dry throat, strangling him. Heart bounding, terror of the shadows filling his veins and clogging his mouth. Goosebumps rose on sweaty skin; he could feel the beads dripping down his chest and off of his forehead into his still blurred eyes.
"My innocent lamb." The shadow spoke, the raw, deep voice moving closer and closer.
He tried harder to focus on the approaching figure, but all he could see was an ocean of red moving towards him soundlessly.
Hands, cold and callused, reached out deft fingers to caress his cheeks almost chastely. His skin crawled and he tried to recoil, but couldn't. Though he was not bound, neither was he free. His body simply refused to follow his command.
Those cold hands trailed down his bare chest and seemed to have no intention of stopping their journey.
"Once I have made you pure again, have returned you to grace, then you shall be released of your Earthly bonds."
The dark voice delivered its cryptic promise to him in a thick whisper that chilled the deepest regions of his heart. Panic surfed through him, crushing his chest.
The shadow's hands were everywhere on him, touching him with cool efficiency. He felt his body shudder in revulsion on the inside, but stayed steady on the surface.
The shadow loomed over him, the waves of crimson crisp and smooth against him as it laid in folds around him. He felt his legs being lifted and held firmly.
"Oh, yes, though you're tainted now, soon, so soon, you will be cleansed and be worthy once more." Lips hovered over his and barely touched him. "I shall save you," the voice pledged in a tone that was almost benign, but he could sense a hint of something else...something baneful...resting just beneath. Something he hadn't recognized until it was too late.
He felt himself savagely entered and his senses became dull, numbed. Though his body was unable to protest, held captive, his mind soared free, drifting off to a place where he was warm and safe once more, leaving his body behind as if it were nothing more than a husk.
Soft eyes, the color of jade, welcomed him.
Peter jerked with a start, his heart racing wildly. He was gasping for breath as his arms came up to battle his foe. Hands grabbed at his arms and he drew back to punch, only it was caught and he was pulled against a solid mound of chest.
Blinking rapidly, his mind processed quickly where he was at and who it was grabbing him.
"Pop," his throat choked out.
"Are you all right, Peter?" Caine asked softly, even as his arms were closing around his boy's shaking, sweat-drenched body.
Peter closed his eyes as his arms wound around Caine tightly. His forehead leaned against his Pop's as his heart slowed down and his breathing settled until his chest wasn't aching quite so much.
"Sorry, Pop, I guess I had a nightmare and got carried away," Peter explained.
"No apologies are necessary, Beloved, but what troubled your dreams so? Why do you tremble?" Caine asked, his eyes searching his boy's for answers.
Peter's mind took him back to when he was in the temple.
~ ~ ~
The seven-year-old stood at the entrance to his father's room. His father was fast asleep, his chest rising and falling slowly and deeply. Maybe he should have just stayed in bed, he told himself. 'Peter, you're being stupid, turn around and go back to bed before Ping Hi wants to know what you're doing up,' the boy chastised himself. He turned to leave.
"Peter." His father's voice stopped him in mid-step.
"Yes, father?" he asked hesitantly.
"Why are you not in bed?" his father asked, as he sat up.
Peter began to move uncertainly into the room, then stopped as if he didn't know if he had the right to go in.
Seeing this, his father smiled slightly and patted the edge of the bed. "Come, tell me."
Peter climbed up on the bed and settled himself beside his father.
"Now what is this about?" Caine asked gently.
"Father, you know that it is Halloween Eve, right?" Peter asked, glancing between his father and the floor.
"Yes," Caine answered slowly.
"Well, some of the older boys...Binah, Chen, and Liang were...telling ghost stories," Peter explained, a blush starting to stain his cheeks.
"Ah, I see," Caine said slowly, not letting the smile he felt play on his mouth. "And you listened to these?"
"Yes, sir," Peter responded.
"And they play in your mind now as you try to sleep," Caine said knowingly.
Peter's huge brown eyes stared up into his. "I-I know it's silly, that I should be brave, but...."
Caine slipped his arm around his son's slight shoulders. "My son, the imagination has an enormous power. It can be a instrument for creativity or, as is the case now, it can be a instrument that takes over the mind and leads you on a frightening path, fogging the mind and misleading it to view things as they are not." Caine ran his fingers soothingly over his son's small cheek. "But what you must remember is that it is 'only' a tool, one that you are in control of, you must not allow it to control you. Do you understand?"
Peter's head bobbed up and down in a nod. "Yes, Father."
"Good," Caine said, kissing his boy's forehead lightly. "There is nothing that haunts the night that does not exist in the day."
"Father?" Peter asked, his eyes studying the floor in front of him, the shadow of his swinging feet darting back and forth.
"I-I understand what you said, but...."
Eyes, saucer round, looked up into his face beseechingly. "May I still sleep here...with you...tonight?"
Caine's eyes softened as he studied the seven-year-old. "Yes, but on the condition that it is only for tonight."
His boy's face lit up in a smile as they moved to lay on the bed. Caine pulled the blanket up around his son's chin and tucked it under Peter as he dropped a protective arm around his boy's shoulders.
"G'night Dad," Peter said with a yawn.
"Good night, Son," Caine said back, his eyes closing once more.
Peter fell asleep feeling safe and secure, knowing that on the off chance if the monsters from the older boys' stories did exist, his pop would fight them off. His father could fight anything.
~ ~ ~
His father's voice brought Peter back to the present. For a minute, he longed for that time so long ago when evil was only in fairytales and folklore and the good guys always won and his dad could always protect him. Though his father was still his strongest comfort, the difference now was that he didn't believe his nightmare was the production of an overactive imagination. The evil was too strong and too real.
"I-I don't know exactly what was going on in the dream," Peter began. "I remember being held captive, not able to move, but I wasn't even tied down. Isn't that crazy?"
Caine was silent and let his boy continue.
"There was this...man...there. I didn't recognize him or got to see his face; there was all this red around me. He whispered stuff to me, I don't remember what he said exactly, but it scared me to death." Caine watched as Peter's eyes took on a glassy look. "Then he...he...."
"He what, Love?" Pop coaxed gently.
"R...raped me," Peter said in a shaky voice, recalling too vividly the helplessness he'd felt, those grimy hands running over his skin, his body taken and him with no way of fighting back. He could almost still hear the whispered voice in his mind. It had been 'so' real!
"Peter," Caine whispered softly, his fingers smoothing back damp, dark hair. His lips dropped kisses on Peter's cheeks and mouth. "It is safe, you cannot be harmed now. Dreams have no power over you any longer."
Peter let his lover's voice flow over him, giving himself a brief moment to believe it, letting himself be soothed; once more his father chased the bogeyman back into the shadows where he belonged, before the small voice in the back of his mind reminded Peter that the nightmare hadn't felt like any ordinary nightmare and that he was no longer a small child who'd listened to one too many ghost stories.
Caine gently pulled his son back down to their warm bed and drew the covers over them. Caine kissed Peter deeply, claiming his mouth with firm lips before he laid gentle kisses to each of Peter's eyelids. The healer then raised one hand and pressed his middle finger to the center of Peter's forehead, in the area between his boy's eyes.
"Sleep now, my love. Your rest will not be impeded anymore tonight," Caine whispered, his finger running a trail down Peter's nose and over soft lips where it was kissed.
Peter curled up in his arms, head against his chest as Caine's embrace tightened around him. Peter's eyes drifted shut and soon Caine heard the sound of stable, fixed, breathing that let him know his son had managed to drift once more to sleep.
As Caine allowed his own eyes to close, his hand kept a gentle stroking rhythm over his son's back. He tried to not allow images of his lover's body being taken and abused, but they still flashed across his mind.
'It was a dream, nothing more,' Caine told himself. Though, even as he thought this, he sensed it was not the case. He felt the evil that had infested his son's dreams was as real and as powerful as any he had known.
True to Pop's word, Peter had managed to sleep the rest of the night without anymore dreams to make him wake up in a cold sweat. He had even woken up feeling a little more clear headed and at ease than he had for the last couple of days. He should have known it wouldn't last.
"There's been another murder," Simms said, slapping a file folder down on Peter's desk in front of his face.
"What?" Peter asked.
"It was just called in. A body was discovered down at the pier, and it sounds familiar." The captain's eyes spoke volumes and Peter knew what they were both thinking, but neither wanted to admit aloud. "I'd suggest you get on it immediately Detective." she ordered.
"Yes, Ma'am," Peter responded, already moving towards the door with Jody, who had heard everything, close at his heels.
The breeze coming off surrounding water at the wharf was stiff and cool, managing to shave a few degrees off the morning sun that was just getting a good start at warming up the cloudless day. Birds were soaring over head, their shrill calls carried off on the current of wind they glided on. They watched, with beaded eyes, the humans below who were in the midst of preserving a crime scene.
The yellow crime scene banner was already in place. Chief Strenlich and Roger Chin were taking statements from the couple of witnesses that had apparently been the ones who discovered the latest victim. Nickie Elders and his technicians were busying themselves with taking photos, securing the scene, and collecting samples from the witnesses.
"Same M.O.?" Peter asked Strenlich, as he crouched next to the Chief.
"After seeing the morgue photos of Daniels, yeah, I'm thinking so," Strenlich answered. "A couple of fishermen managed to snag a surprise when they were hauling in their nets."
Peter's eyes scanned the body in front of him with analytical precision. Another male, young, Asian. The nude body showed no signs of trauma with the exception of the large stab wound to the smooth, hairless chest. Peter noticed that the lips of the victim also tinted the same shade of blue that Brett Daniels had been. Peter thought that could have been from the body being submerged underwater, but somehow he doubted it. Large, almond eyes stared back at Peter with a glassy gaze that, to Peter, seemed to demand answers - making a final silent plea as to why his life was taken from him. Peter had no answers.
"Nickie, my man, what can you tell me?" Peter asked the coroner.
"Not much yet, since its just the preliminaries, but core body temp puts the victim's time of death at about three am this morning," the dark haired doctor informed him. "Also, there is evidence that he was sexually assaulted prior to death," Nickie said, his voice dropping with uneasiness. "Like the other victim."
"What?" Peter asked, his face blanching. "You didn't say anything about Daniels being sexually assaulted."
"I wasn't completely done with the examination when I talked to you," Nickie said with a shrug.
Raped. They had both been raped before they died. Peter's mind darted back to the previous night, unwilling recalling the horrible nightmare that woke him up. A shudder ran through him when he realized that his nightmare had been occurring around the same time an innocent Asian man was living the last few moments of his life. 'Come on, Pete, shake it off, it was a coincidence...just a weird coincidence.' That's what he told himself at least, but Peter's instincts weren't letting him off the hook so easily.
"Hey, Pete, you all right? You're not going to pass out on me or anything are you?" Nickie asked with concern. He definitely didn't like Peter's color, which at the moment looked worse than some of his clientele.
Peter shook his head, collecting his thoughts. "Uh, yeah, Nickie, I'm fine," he said, even as his stomach was clenching up on him. "Tell me, you have any idea why both victims have the same purplish tint to their lips?"
"Not a clue. I've got a feeling that this is going to be similar to the Daniels case though. Damage to his lung tissue suggested that Daniels had suffered asphyxiation, but there wasn't any physical findings to go along with that. No bruises, no throat damage at all," Elder responded.
"Drugs maybe?" Peter suggested.
"That's what I wondered myself, but when I ran a toxicology screening it showed up negative," the medical examiner reported with dismay.
Peter had seldom seen the coroner look so frustrated. He knew Nickie was blaming himself, feeling like he was missing something but having no idea what.
"Well, I've never seen you turn down a challenge yet," Peter said in encouragement.
A ghost of a smile played across Nickie's lips until it settled back into a grim, determined line. "And I don't plan on starting. I'll get you some answers, Peter,"
"I know you will, Nickie, I know you will," Peter said with certainty. Nickie had his faults, that was a fact, but Peter never had any doubts when it came to the coroner's professional skill. He was one of the best in his field.
Peter was startled when his cell phone began ringing. He flipped it open and barked, "Detective Caine."
"Mr. Caine," a hesitant young feminine voice was on the other end, " I...I was given your number by Ryan Paxton. I am...was...a friend of Brett's."
"What can I do for you?" Peter asked.
"Look, can we...meet somewhere and talk?" the woman asked.
"Sure thing, just name the place and time," Peter encouraged.
There was a brief pause on the other end. "Um, how about the library at the university in a a half an hour?"
'Well, that explains how the woman and Brett were acquainted,' Peter thought to himself. "Sure, I can do that," he answered. "Who will I be looking for?"
"Morgan Gates," the woman said. "I'll be easy enough to find 'cause the library is usually nearly empty this early. I'll be waiting in the law section."
"All right, Ms. Gates, I'll be there shortly," Peter reassured her.
"Thank you," she said before the phone clicked off.
The campus was mildly busy. A few of the co-eds unfortunate enough to be in school over the summer were making their way across the streets in-between the various dormitories that dotted the surrounding area. Like any college campus, it was littered with the standard businesses that catered to the college crowd: several book stores, various coffee shops, and of course a multitude of fast food joints.
It mildly crossed Peter's mind that he'd skipped breakfast that morning and his stomach was stirring to life with the various smells coming his way, but since he'd been turned on to a pretty steady vegetarian diet while being around his pop so much, a burger dripping with grease and fat-loaded French fries didn't sound appealing enough to go through a drive-thru - even if he had the spare time, which he didn't.
He drove the Stealth to the visitor's parking lot, parked it, and started making his way across campus to the library.
Morgan Gates hadn't been exaggerating about the lack of students; in fact the only person that Peter saw as he glanced around the huge building that was stacked to the ceiling with endless rows of books as far as the eye could see, was a sole librarian sitting at a crescent-shaped desk.
"Excuse me, Ma'am, but where is your legal section?" Peter whispered.
The white-haired woman gave him a grandmotherly smile, answering in a normal voice. "Along the far left wall, dear."
"Thank you," Peter said and headed in that direction.
Peter came to a small round study table where a young woman sat, absorbed in a book. Her head was bent, a long braid of fiery red hair hanging down her slender frame. She wore a bright yellow tank top and tanned denim shorts.
"Ms. Gates?" Peter asked.
The red-haired woman let out a small gasp. Pale blue eyes went wide in a way that reminded Peter of a startled kitten.
"Yeah, sorry, didn't mean to sneak up on you like that," Peter apologized.
"That's okay, I guess I'm just a little antsy," she explained, smiling uncertainly. "You know...after what happened to Brett."
Peter took the seat across from her. "You said you were a friend of his?" he asked, taking the opening she offered.
"Yeah, we were taking a class together. We studied together a lot." Her voice started to choke up on her. "Why? Why would anyone want to hurt him?"
"We don't know yet, Morgan," Peter said softly. "Do you think you may know something that could help us out?"
Pale blue eyes shifted uneasily around the stacks of books that walled around them. "I don't know, I mean I don't know if it's important or anything but...."
Peter laid his hand down on top of the young woman's smaller one. "Anything can be important here Morgan, tell me," he prompted.
She let his hand stay there as her eyes measured him, as though trying to figure out if he could be trusted or not.
"If I tell you this, you've got to promise not to tell Ryan about it. I mean he doesn't know and I don't want it to get back to him and have it hurt him. I owe Brett that," she said finally.
Peter eyes narrowed at the odd request. "Everything you tell me will be in strict confidence, it won't go any further," he told her.
She drew in a breath. "Okay, well, the class we were in together, Civil Procedures, which is taught by Professor Mills. He's what I wanted to talk to you about."
Peter knew the name. Jonathan Mills was on the list of people he'd wanted to interview. "What about him?"
Morgan leaned in closer to Peter. "Well, like I said, I don't know if it means anything or not, but Brett mentioned something to me a few months ago. I didn't think about it anymore after that, but now...I just don't know."
Peter waited silently and let the girl gathered her scattered thoughts in order.
"You see, Brett was helping Professor Mills as an assistant, doing research for him to help with an extensive article that Mills was working on for publication," Morgan explained. "They were spending a lot of together and, well, one night Brett called me sounding all freaked out." Morgan's eyes looked deeply into Peter's. "I mean, you don't...didn't...know Brett, so you don't know that he wasn't the kind to get freaked out over just anything."
Peter kept quiet and she continued. "I got him to meet me for coffee. That's when he told me that Professor Mills had actually...come on to him."
"Come on to him? What did he tell you exactly?" Peter asked.
"He said that they had both been over at the Professor's house, going over some files when Mills had kissed him, tried touching him. Brett was completely stunned. He didn't have any idea that Mills was even remotely interested in him...like that...until that night," Morgan replied, shoving a few loose strands of dark red hair out of her face.
"What did he do about it?" Peter queried.
"What could he do?" Morgan retorted. "He told Mills that while he was flattered, he was already happily involved. He told me that Mills wasn't content with that, made vague comments that Brett's classes could become much easier if he'd reconsider, if you know what I mean."
Peter nodded his head. He knew the type, the kind of men who get off in trying to exert their power over other people. It never failed to piss him off. "How did Brett handle that?"
"He told me that he told Mills no again and took off, but not before Mills threatened to fail him...and reminded him that he was good friends with Manion, Brett's boss," Morgan told him.
"I see," Peter murmured. "Did Mills ever threaten him after that? Did he ever pressure him anymore?"
"No," Morgan answered. "If he did, Brett never said anything else to me about it."
"And you say he never told Ryan about any of it?" Peter asked.
"Nope, I told him I thought he should, but he didn't want to hurt Ryan or to have Ryan go ballistic and do something stupid over it," Morgan told him.
"Ballistic?" Peter questioned.
"Yeah, Ryan wasn't the jealous type, but he was very protective of Brett. He wouldn't have stood by and just do nothing if he knew Brett was being coerced like that."
Peter sense that Morgan had more than a good idea of the level of love he felt they had together. She also seemed to know how much pain Ryan was in and that knowing this now would make it worse. He wouldn't mention it to the attorney unless he absolutely had to.
"Thank you, Morgan, for sharing this with me," Peter said, patting the hand he still covered.
"Like I said, I don't know if it means anything or not, but Brett was a good friend and didn't deserve to be killed. Maybe what I told you will help, maybe it won't, but at least you know."
Peter gave the girl's hand another squeeze before standing up, knowing where his next stop would be.
Outside of Jonathan Mills' office was a smaller office where a slight brunette sat behind a large desk piled with papers.
"Hello, I'm Detective Caine, here to see Mr. Mills," Peter introduced.
If the secretary was surprised to have a cop show up to see her boss, she didn't show it. "I'm afraid Professor Mills isn't here at the moment, but he's due to return soon. You're welcome to wait in his office," she said before going back to ignoring him.
"Yeah, thanks," Peter murmured.
As soon as Peter stepped into the office, he suspected it was larger than most on campus, no doubt reserved for those on staff with tenure. There were several large bookcases on either side of a window that had a wide view of a courtyard; a large oak desk that had computer sitting atop of it softly humming was in the center of the room, a file cabinet sitting beside it. Along wooden paneled walls, hung pictures of people that looked to have both professional and personal association with Professor Mills side by side with diplomas and degrees. What Peter wasn't expecting though, was seeing that the documents and pictures shared it's space with a medley of swords, daggers, and knives of all shapes, sizes, and designs - some Peter didn't recognized, some he did: the dagesse from Fourteenth century Italy, a crecy from the same time period, as was a beautifully crafted scimitar.
Peter's urge to take a closer inspection was immediately halted when the door opened up behind him.
"Ah, Detective Caine, I do hope I haven't kept you waiting long," the voice behind him said.
The man who walked around him was a very trim, tall, dark-haired man. His pleasant looking face did not look to be overly aged, but the patch of gray budding on the sides of his temples told Peter that the man was not all that young either. Wire rimmed glasses camouflaged inquisitive hazel eyes.
"No, I just arrived a few minutes ago," Peter responded and shook an outstretched hand that was offered.
As the professor moved around the desk and sat down in the overstuffed leather chair behind it, Peter took a seat in one of the hard-backed chairs in front of him.
"Can I be of some assistance to you?"
"You might be able to be Professor. I know that by now, you are probably aware of a homicide yesterday that involved one of your former students," Peter began.
"Yes, Brett Daniels. I read it in this morning's paper. It came as quite a shock to me," Jonathan remarked, his voice betraying nothing.
"I'm sure," Peter mumbled. "Since he was a former student, I was hoping that I could ask you a few questions."
"Of course, though I'm not sure how much help I could offer you," Mills said.
"I was informed that for a brief time, Brett was assisting you while you were working on an article for publication," Peter stated.
"Yes, that's true. He helped me for several months," Mills granted easily.
"In all of that time, do you know if Brett had been threatened at all? Given any indication that anyone was making him unconformable or uneasy? Anything that seemed out of the ordinary?" Peter asked, his astute gaze never wavering from Mills.
The professor did not speak, but seemed to think long and hard for several minutes before answering. "I don't believe so," he said slowly. "He seemed to be well liked and his behavior never seemed off while we were working together."
"Mind if I ask what caused Brett to decide not to work with you any longer?" Peter asked, wanting to see if he would get a reaction.
Mills' expression didn't change. "No, of course not. Brett told me that he found helping me, going to classes, and working full-time was simply too much for him. He felt that his class work was suffering from it."
"And was it?" Peter asked.
"Not that I could tell, his grades were always more than satisfactory," Mills responded. "I suspect it was more of a case of Brett not wanting more study time, as much as wanting some more personal time."
"What do you mean?" Peter urged.
"Well, once Brett mentioned to me that he was seeing someone, so I suppose he wanted more time to devoted to socializing," Mills replied.
It was Peter's turn to be silent for a good long moment. Peter studied the man's face and his instincts told him that the professor was lying. Peter felt it, knew it. Unfortunately instincts weren't admissible as evidence in court.
"Well, I'm sorry to have taken up your time today, but I'm sure you understand why I needed to interview you. We try to follow up on anything that might give us a lead," Peter said, raising from his chair.
"But of course, Detective, and if I can be of anymore help, please don't hesitate to ask." Mills said, standing to show Peter to the door.
Peter stopped at the open door and looked over his shoulder. "By the way, I have to tell you, that's one hell of a weapon collection you've got there. You own some real beauties."
Mills looked pleasantly surprised and pleased. "Thank you, Detective. I've spent quite a few years acquiring it. When my father passed away, I inherited a number of them and continued to add various pieces after that. My collection at home is even more impressive than this."
Peter quirked an eyebrow at that. "Everyone needs a hobby, don't they?"
"That they do, Detective," Mills said with a forced smile. "Well, so long. Again do let me know if I can be of any assistance."
"I certainly will," Peter assured him, holding his eyes for a moment more before leaving.
Peter was heading across a courtyard, about to seek out Michael Curtis, one of Brett's current instructors and the next on his list to interview, when his cell phone rang again.
"Caine," he said.
"Pete, it's Nickie here," the coroner greeted him.
Peter immediately picked up on the familiar tone Nickie had in his voice, that tone that let Peter know Nickie had found something. "Yeah, talk to me, buddy."
"You need it high tail it back to morgue, I think you're going to like what I found," Elders told him.
Interviews could wait, Peter decided. "Okay, be there as soon as I can," he told him before hanging up.
As Peter shoved past the heavy metal double doors of the morgue, he couldn't help taking note that it wasn't the bright fluorescent lighting that buzzed over head, the dreary pasty white walls, or even the almost pleasant fact that the place was at least twenty degrees cooler than the temperature outside that he noticed with his first steps in...it was the smell; it always was. That pungent combination of antiseptic and chemicals reagents accentuated with the underlying smell of acrid blood and tissue in various stages of decay never went unnoticed. With Peter's empty stomach, it was almost enough to make him light-headed.
As soon as Nickie Elder caught sight of Peter, he swooped in, pulling his filter mask down on his face to reveal an excited grin.
"What did you find, Nickie?" Peter asked, his heart picking up its pace slightly in anticipation.
"C'mon, and I'll show you," Nickie said, and Peter could tell it was taking all of Nickie's control not to grab Peter by the arm.
"You know, I knew there had to be some kind ofconnection between the two deaths. I mean, it was just too blatantly obvious that the stab wounds were nearly identical. This guy was good though, nearly no trace evidence was left behind at all, but I knew there had to be something we could go on here."
Peter patiently listened to Nickie's spiel that was so typical of the medical examiner when he got excited. He knew Elder would get to the point...eventually.
"Well, on the Asian kid - David Ling, that's his name by the way- when I was doing the autopsy, I though I could see something on the guy's right hand and I thought maybe...well, I wasn't too sure what I thought. Anyhow, following a hunch, I used some fluorescent powder on the hand and under the light, I found something rather interesting," Nickie said, walking over to a counter and picking up two sets of orange colored goggles off of it.
"What, Nickie? Just tell me," Peter snapped, starting to get exasperated. They were now standing next to a metal examining table where David Ling was lying, covered only by a thin, white sheet.
"I'll do you one better than that," Nickie grinned, tossing one of the sets of goggles at Peter and pulling the other pair on himself.
Peter gave the coroner an annoyed look, but pulled the goggles on anyway. Nickie walked over and flipped the light switch off, drowning the morgue in blackness.
Suddenly a beam of blue-green light broke through the darkness and swung onto the hand, palm up, of the deceased Asian that was dangling off the side.
Nickie's gloved hand picked up the hand and turned it over. When he did, Peter saw a bright green peace symbol, the size of a quarter, on the back of the corpse's hand.
"It's a stamp," Nickie explained. "You know, the type they use in bars to identify customers who've already paid the cover charge so they can get in and out if they want." Nickie paused for a moment. "When I checked out Brett Daniels again, I found the same stamp on him."
"You got any idea what bar uses this symbol?" Peter asked, taking the goggles off as Nickie flipped the light back on.
"Yeah, I think they use it at the Falcon's Club," Nickie answered.
Peter saw a bit of a blush staining Nickie's cheeks and Peter instantly realized why. The Falcon's Club was a rather well known gay bar in the area. For a split second their eyes locked, both trying to gauge the other's thoughts. Nickie was the first to break it.
"I think you might have a connection here," the coroner said with a small cough to clear his throat.
"Looks like," Peter agreed. "Good work, Nickie."
"Just doing what I get paid for," Nickie shrugged.
The Falcon's Club was nearly deserted, though Peter hadn't expected anything else since it was still only mid-afternoon. It would be hours yet before the place came alive with patrons.
The place would have appealed to Peter in his cruising days when he had been seeking out various women to soothe his emptiness or the rareman that he'd explore with a little. Though that particular time in his life was far behind him, he could still appreciate character of the bar. The basic set up was simple, essentially there were only two rooms connected by an arched doorframe where there was a step-off.
In the first room was an oblong bar with a brass railing around its lacquered surface, surrounding it were high swivel stools. Behind it stood a large oval mirror that took up the entire back wall, below that stood shelves stocked with better than average selection of alcohol. Small tables set up with small candle-lit lamps took up most of the hardwood floor space. Sitting in the corner was a jukebox. In the the second room, which was twice as large as the first, stood a smaller bar off to the side by the door. More tables filled in the half of the floor that didn't make a large dance floor that surrounded with state of the art speakers that was at least five feet tall and just as wide. Hooded multi-color stage lights hung overhead. Peter's eyes traveled up the spiral staircase that led to a second level to the room. Looking through iron railings, Peter could see that there were tables, small sets loveseats, and off in a corner a pool table and a couple of slot machines. Also on that level, were several closed doors that Peter took to be offices.
"Hey, buddy, we're closed now. What are you wanting?" asked a voice from behind him.
Peter spun to see a man who was easily six-five and three hundred pounds moving towards him. A black T-shirt with the Falcon's logo on it was stretched across the brick wall of his chest and led down to tight jeans. The mammoth of a man had a shiny bald head, trimmed moustache, and stony brown eyes fixed on Peter.
Peter withdrew his badge. "Detective Peter Caine of the 101st. You work here?"
"Yeah, I'm Mitch, the security around here," he answered. "And you still haven't told me what you're doing here," he commented, folding tree-sized arms across his chest and staring down at Peter.
Right, Pete, like law enforcement is going to intimidate this guy. "I'm following up on a couple of homicides. Maybe you can help me?"
"How?" Mitch asked.
Peter pulled out a couple of morgue photographs of David Ling and Brett Daniels. "Do you recognize either of these two men?"
Mitch's eyes bore into Peter's for a moment longer until he snatched the pictures out of Peter's fingers and studied them closely.
"Yeah, this one," Mitch said, indicating David Ling, "is a regular here. The other one I haven't seen before."
"Have you noticed anything weird going on the last few nights? Anyone that looks suspicious at all or out of place?" Peter asked, hoping the hulk of a man had seen something he could use.
"Detective Caine, you see all types of people in this place," Mitch told him dully. "But no, I've not seen anyone that looked dangerous in the last few nights. On the other hand though, I'm not the only one who works security either," he said with a noncommittal shrug.
"Well, these victims were apparently last seen here, so I'd advise you to keep an eye out for anything out of the ordinary," Peter warned him.
"I'll take that under consideration, Detective, but after being in this profession for the last ten years, I'd think I'm pretty good at spotting trouble," Mitch responded, not attempting to keep a touch of sarcasm out of his voice.
Yeah, right, and that's why are two people dead? "If you think of something, you'll be sure and let us know, all right?"
"Sure thing, Detective," Mitch responded, but from his tone Peter realized he had a better chance of finding Jimmy Hoffa than counting on this guy to give the police any help. To Mitch, this was his problem and his job to handle it as he saw fit...outsiders weren't welcomed.
Peter bit back a smile because he knew Mitch wasn't the only one with a stubborn streak in him, as Pop took every available opportunity to remind him. "Glad to hear it," he said a little too cheerfully.
"Now, if you'll excuse me, I do need to get back to work," Mitch commented.
Mitch moved to take Peter's arm, undoubtedly going to escort him to the door, but Peter was quicker. "I can find my way out myself, thank you."
Peter was never quite so glad to see a shift end as he was this one. The day had been an enlightening one, but also a frustrating one. For every answer Peter was given, several more questions took their place. All Peter could think of was getting home to his father. With Pop, he could unwind, forget about being a cop for a few hours and just concentrate on them. A smile formed as Peter thought about him and Pop and a night alone without any interruptions. Maybe they could finish what they had started in the shower last night? The rich possibilities had Peter feeling so pleasant that he didn't even care when a Buick cut him off to make a left turn from the right hand lane.
Peter parked the Stealth in its usual spot outside Pop's building and Peter took the stairs two at a time, half-formed fantasies floating through his mind.
"Hi Pop!" he called out.
There was no answer.
Peter took a quick look through the loft, knowing his pop didn't always answer him, preferring to be sought out. His father wasn't anywhere to be found.
With a shrug, Peter decided to head downstairs and pay Lo Si a visit.
"Ah, Peter," Lo Si said happily as soon as Peter entered. "I am afraid your father is not here."
"How did you know..." Peter didn't finish the question. "Um, never mind. Do you know where he is?"
The Ancient busied himself by fussing over some plants that were barely beginning to bud. "This is the day he delivers medicines to those who are unable to leave their houses. You know this."
Peter smiled sheepishly. "Yeah, I guess I forgot. It's hard trying to remember his schedule will all he does to keep busy."
Lo Si turned and patted Peter's shoulder. "Yes, he is a very busy man, but he knows where his priorities lie. He will be back shortly."
Peter looked curiously into sparkling almond-shaped eyes and was going to ask him what he had meant by that exactly, but didn't get the chance.
"So, young Peter, how is your murder investigation coming?"
For some reason that Peter didn't quite understand, he found himself telling Lo Si all of the details of the day, absently helping the Ancient separate and jar herbs as he talked.
"That is sad that Daniels felt intimidated by Mills threats to go to his lover's superior," Lo Si said with a shake of his head.
"What do you mean?" Peter asked, not meeting the Ancient's eyes.
"I mean, Peter, it is sad to think that love can be capable of being used as a weapon like that. Whom a person loves is a personal decision and should not be judged by it. To know that there still exists men like this Paxton's bosses remind me how far some people still need to grow in their search for enlightenment."
Peter couldn't suppress his surprise and the Ancient laughed.
"You are shocked that this old man has such liberal views?"
Peter cast shamefaced eyes up at the elderly man. "Well...I...." Peter floundered.
Lo Si shook his head. "Peter, it is precisely my age that grants me this insight. I have been around long enough to see love in all its shapes and forms. Love is marvelous in all its forms, whether it is the love of a teacher for a student, a love between two adults, or...even a love between a father and son."
Peter nearly dropped a small clay pot he had been holding at the mention of the last one. Lo Si's hand shot out at the last minute and caught it, rescuing his rare herbs.
"Speaking of fathers," Lo Si said, cocking his head, "I believe yours has returned."
Peter didn't hear anything and was about to ask him just how he knew, but then thought better of it. "Thanks Lo Si," he said, "for the impromptu botany lessons and for just listening to me."
The old man shrugged. "My door is always open and you are always welcome, so don't be a stranger."
Peter's eyebrow shot up. Smiling, he slapped the man who was like a grandfather to him on the shoulder. "I'd be careful what you ask for, you just might get it."
As Peter turned to leave, he found himself wondering once more just exactly what the old man knew. Walking out the door, Peter wasn't aware of a sly smile forming on wise lips.
When Peter entered the loft, the first thing he noticed was the smell of something cooking. The smell rolled towards him, making his stomach rumble loudly at the neglect it had suffered all day.
Peter let the smell lead him to his father, who was stirring something Peter couldn't see in a deep skillet. Walking lightly, he came up behind his pop and wrapped one arm around his father's middle and squeezed, while the other hand moved his father's ponytail out of the way to expose his neck for a kiss.
"Smells good," Peter commented. "I haven't eaten all day. What is it?" He rested his chin on his pop's shoulder.
"I am preparing spicy vegetable Lo Mein for our evening meal. And you should not skip meals, Son, it is not healthy," Caine admonished, as he set the spatula he was using aside and turned in Peter's arms and kissed him, lips meshing in a warm, moist union that was quickly robbing Peter of his breath. "Besides, you need to keep up your strength."
Peter's eyes sparkled. "And what might I be needing that strength for?" he asked with a waggle of his eyebrows, his thumbs hooking into the back of the band of his father's twill pants and pulled him closer.
"Imp," Caine responded and swatted his boy on the behind. Peter's answering chuckle was captured in another short kiss.
"Need any help?" Peter offered. Feeling playful or not, he was still starving.
"Yes, you can prepare the salad," Caine responded, turning his attention back to the neglected simmering vegetables in the skillet.
So it began as they worked side by side in the close quarters of the kitchen, their hips sometimes bumping as they moved around each other - sometimes by accident, sometimes not.
Companionable silence surrounded them in their work, and Caine was pleased to see Peter content enough that he did not deem conversation necessary. Though he enjoyed the sound of his son's voice, the silence held a charm of its own.
Caine occasionally cast his glance sideways as he watched his boy set to the task of chopping carrots, red pepper, mushrooms, and water chestnuts, and adding in baby corn, snow peas, and bean sprouts. He felt his son's eyes on him, while he tended the soba noodles, and prepared the other ingredients that would go with it; the ginger root, garlic, red pepper, and hot chili oil only a few of which that would add the proper seasoning. He knew how much Peter enjoyed spicy food and it was something Caine did not indulge in as often as his son would like. Tonight though would be an exception.
As soon as the noodles were drained and the oil was on the salad, both men carried the dishes over to the table that Peter had already set. Caine poured himself some water and in filled the other glass with Peter's preferred soda. Caine knew that with the spice of dinner, both of them would have the glasses empty soon and more than likely would need refills.
As his father was finishing with the table, Peter went around and lit some of the candles that were spread throughout the loft; twilight was setting in and it wouldn't be long before night fell. That done, he went over to where his portable boom box, one of his first possessions to make the trip from his apartment to Pop's loft, and found a station that was playing soft bluesy music.
"Did you see Mrs. Chung today?" Peter asked, taking a bite of pasta, taste exploding on his tongue. He made a low murmur of appreciation.
"I did," Caine responded, pleased that Peter was enjoying his meal.
"How is she doing?" Peter asked, taking a sip of his soda. His eyes were near watering, just how he liked it.
"As well as can be expected," Caine answered. Mrs. Chung had been diagnosed with cancer some months ago and he had been helping her in her fight against the disease. "I am afraid though, that it will not be much longer before my efforts will prove futile. The disease is strong within her. Soon I will then only be able to offer her comfort of mind."
This saddened Peter. He had liked Mrs. Chung a lot, she was a very sweet lady who was always so happy and vibrant. At least he knew she wouldn't have any better company to confide in and turn to than his pop.
"Hung Cho, however is doing much better," Caine said. Mr. Cho had Parkinson's and Caine had discovered a root that eased his tremors. "Tell me though, how is your case progressing?"
The excitement started to grow in Peter again, as he told his father about the discoveries that Nickie had made, and the connections he'd uncovered.
"I sense your animosity towards this Professor Mills," Caine remarked, chewing slowly on his bite of salad.
"Yeah, well the guy's a creep," Peter mumbled around his fork. "I know he was lying, I just know it. That jerk was a step away from ruining Ryan's career just to get to Brett."
"And this angers you," Caine commented thoughtfully.
"Hell, yeah, it angers me, Pop. I mean, just who did this guy think he was trying to take advantage of Brett like that? People who take advantage of authority like that just rub me the wrong way," Peter responded irritably. Caine could see the flames of hostility flashing through dark eyes. Peter, seeming to realize the tone his voice took on, shook his head. "Sorry, Pop, I don't know why its bothering me so much," he apologized.
"Do not try and atone for your feelings, Peter," Caine said. His hand reached out and picked up Peter's. As he held it, his thumb stroked the tender underside of Peter's wrist. "Even as a child, you have always felt deeply, have always championed those who are prayed upon by those who seek to abuse. It is part of who you are, what you are," Caine declared, and then added in a softer voice, "It is one of the many attributes that I love you for."
Any anger Peter may have had left instantly melted and dissolved, most of his insides quickly following. For a moment he couldn't seem to be able to look his father in the eyes, his throat going dry and his tongue sticking to the roof of his mouth. Suddenly the murder investigation, the leads, all of his concerns, seemed to be phased from his mind; the only thing that seemed to matter was that he was with the one person that meant more to him than his own life. He cherished moments like this so much, wanted to burn them into his memory in a place so deep no one could touch - a place where they would stay protected no matter what might happen in their future.
With Peter's hand still in his own, Caine stood and waited for Peter to join him. Peter looked between his father and the empty dishes cluttering the table.
"Will wait until tomorrow," Caine whispered and gently urged his son to his feet.
The bluesy songs had given way to the latest Phil Collins song, as Caine tugged Peter into the circle of his arms. Peter locked his fingers behind his father's neck as Caine fit his thumbs into the empty belt loops on Peter's jeans. Together their bodies began to sway to the music. Caine moved his mouth near Peter's ear and began singing softly.
'Come stop your crying and we'll be all right. Just take my hand, hold it tight. I will protect you from all around you. I will be here, don't you cry. Born so small, you seemed so strong. My arms will hold you, keep you safe and warm. This bond between us cannot be broken. I will be here, don't you cry. 'Cause you'll be in my heart, yes, you'll be in my heart from this day on for now and forever more. You'll be in my heart, no mater what they say. You'll be here in my heart for always...'
Peter sighed softly, drawing in the earthy smell of his dad as he pressed his body as tightly to his father as he could. His eyes drifted close as he let his father's silken voice, deep, husky, and seductive, become the only thing that existed.
'Why can't they understand the way we feel? They just can't trust what they can't explain. I know we're different, but deep inside we're not different at all...'
Peter rubbed his cheek against his father's. As their bodies rocked back and forth as one, Peter could feel the lazy stirring of arousal in his stomach being nurtured by the nearness of his father and the singing that resonate deep inside of him.
'Don't listen to them, what do they know? We need each other to have and to hold. They'll see in time, I know...'
Caine nuzzled Peter's neck, his hands sliding down to cup and caress Peter's taut rear through its denim barrier. His singing was hindered only slightly as he moved to sample soft lips. 'When destiny calls you, you must be strong. I may not be with you, but you've got to hold on. They'll see in time, I know. We'll show them together, because you'll be in my heart, yes you'll be in my heart. From this day forward 'till forever more. Just look over your shoulder and I'll be with you always and always...'
As the song ended, Caine could resist no longer and slipped his tongue into the enveloping warmth of his son's mouth. Peter's mouth opened, his own tongue battling to taste the heat of his father. Out maneuvered, Peter found his tongue captured and suckled, a soft moan overtaking him.
When their bodies demanded air and they brokethe kiss, Peter opened his eyes. Caine noticed that they had turned several shades darker in arousal and were radiant with anticipation.
Peter cleared his thick throat. "You know, if I didn't know better, I'd swear my father was trying to seduce me."
Caine pulled Peter close enough to feel his firming sex pressing against his own. "And if he were, would he be...successful?"
Peter rubbed the nub of his nose behind Caine's ear, his tongue tickling the earlobe as he whispered, "You tell me." Peter rotated his hips, grinding them against his pop. "Or can't you tell?"
Caine growled softly, his lips ensnaring and claiming Peters in a hard, demanding kiss. Peter's lips hungrily and eagerly returned the kiss, his body molding against Caine's.
Somewhere in the background Peter Cetera began singing about being the hero someone was dreaming of and fighting for their honor as Caine danced Peter over to futon.
With a decidedly roguish grin, Peter climbed onto the futon and sat up on his knees. Caine watched as his boy closed his eyes and let his body sway to the music. Side to side he moved, his torso and hips keeping time with the song. With the languidly of the willow that bowed and yielded to the wind, so too was Peter's body to the melody.
Caine watched, entranced. Peter's hands started at his thighs and began moving up painfully slow. Peter's lissome hands crept up over the black cotton shirt he wore, stroking the muscles of his chest through the material, his body still keeping tempo to the beat of the music.
In perfect imitation of the nimble snake, Peter's hands slithered up above his dark head and slowly wind down the back of his arched neck. Drawing down the corded muscles of his rippling throat, Peter reached the first button of his shirt. Caine watched in fascination as his beautiful serpent began to shed his skin.
The healer watched as the deft linger over each button before it was pushed through. Little by little, the smooth chest was being unveiled to Caine's keen gaze.
He was one more again taken aback by his sweet lover. One of the most pleasant surprises Caine had discovered when he took his son as a lover was how sensual a creature his boy was. Peter had in the beginning been a little hesitant at exploring that side of himself. Caine had assumed that Peter's former lovers had not truly appreciate or nurtured that aspect of Peter's being. It had been something Caine had meant to rectify. He had gently coaxed Peter into releasing and embracing that part of himself. Peter, as usual, had been a very quick study.
Even though his eyes were still shut, Peter could feel his father's hot gaze resting upon him. The heat was so tangible it felt like it was branding him, turning his blood to liquid fire. He felt such a sense of empowerment from knowing how completely absorbed Caine's attention was on him. Excitement wove through him as almost felt the waves of arousal radiating off his father and knowing he was the cause of it.
When the buttons were undone, Peter's shoulders twisted gracefully and the cloth fell behind him. The candlelight flickered on tawny muscles, shadows and light fought to dominate the dips and valleys, highlights licking at golden skin.
Peter's hands felt their way down his bare torso before he brought his index finger up to his parted lips. His tongue stole out to moisten the tip of his finger before curling around and drawing it into his mouth. Half-hooded dark eyes gazed at his father as he nursed his finger.
Amply wetted, the finger then drifted down to moisten one of his sensitive nipples, then the other until they were hard and erect. A warm breeze drifted in from the open window, teasing the taut skin. Peter felt the warm glow aching in his stomach starting to awaken and creep through his body and bury itself in his groin that was already thickening and growing under watchful eyes. He gently squeezed his nipples and let a soft moan form in his throat.
Down farther, they drifted, playing in the fine dusting of pale hairs that led a path down his abdomen. The sharp contours of his muscles bunched and tightened under his skin as he kept time to the melody.
Caine's breathing was light and becoming hitched as he kept his gazed fixed on Peter's sure fingers. His desire was growing surely and steadily, the inferno of passion being stroked with each touch Peter teased him with. Caine longed to go to his son, let it be his hands to be the ones to pleasure the sumptuous body of his beloved, but he resisted the urge knowing that Peter was not quite ready for that yet.
Peter let one hand slink down to tenderly stroke his growing length, teasingly light before letting his fingers play with the zipper. Idly, his finger pinched the tab and slowly released the the fastening. The teeth pulled open, parting the material only enough to hint at the riches underneath, for Peter was once more unhindered by underwear.
Peter's fingers disappeared into the shadows of the denim, his breathing coming in small pants as he grazed over his heated member. He was already slick with expectancy and he groaned low in his chest as he harden further. His eyes closed in pleasure.
Peter heard the moan echoed in his ears when he brought his fingers to his lips again and bathed them with his tongue. Opening his eyes, his gaze locked with the flaming embers flickering in his father's eyes.
Peter reached out his hand and Pop took it readily. Peter captured the other hand and brought both of them up and they flared out over his chest. Peter's fingers covered Caine's as he guided them over his body, pressing against the touch as they tickled his nipples, lovingly traced over his ribs, and skimmed over his stomach. Peter's kept Caine's fingers trapped as he pushed them down to firmly cup and caress his erection, arching his body into the touch.
Peter's hands released his father's hands finally to slide up his arms and pull him closer by his shoulders, sealing his mouth over his pop's again.
Caine's hands moved up and pushed the rest of Peter's jeans down his hips, fingertips seizing fleshy curves of Peter's buttocks. One finger trailing over the cleft between the soft globes.
"Want you so much, Pop," Peter breathed. "You make me feel so good. Love me?" he implored.
And you breathe life into my soul, my beautiful boy. Caine moved his mouth very close to Peter's ear and whispered, "For forever and always."
Caine pulled back to see Peter's eyes glowing with such love and tenderness flowing from him, Caine felt as though he could easily get lost in them.
Pop urged Peter back onto the futon and released Peter's legs from the bonds of his jeans, tossing them to the side. His son turned and watched him as he disrobed himself, his silk shirt coming to land in a rumpled mass on top of Peter's jeans, his well-worn twill trousers quickly following suit.
Caine climbed onto the futon and into the surrounding arms of his sweet one. Their bodies connected and slid together, fitting together in perfect harmony, as naturally as two counterpart forces unable to resist the pull of the other. At the contact, Peter hissed with the sizzling stimulation. The police officer's hands scraped down Caine's back, down the curve of his spine until he found a handhold on the rounded cheeks of his pop's rear and pulled his father down hard onto him.
Their bodies moved against each other, the heat of anticipation already glowing around them. Friction grew steadily, the embers of desire fueled hotter, weaving strands of longing through their beings.
Their lips hungrily consumed the other, clinging on as they took in one another's breath. Caine's mouth tore itself free only to rain kisses over Peter's throat and chest.
Peter moaned, his fingers still clutching at his father's buttocks urgently. His body was singing with need and want, the humming of it vibrating in his blood. He ground himself purposefully against his father's hardness, sweat starting to trickle on his forehead.
"Jesus, Pop, need you so much, now," Peter moaned out.
Caine was also consumed by raging need that cried out for gratification; the wall of his control having been chipped away by teasing of earlier and the feel of his son's hot flesh writhing demandingly against his own. There was a calling between them that went beyond words, a plea of both of their bodies that longed for the communion of all that they were - an ancient aria sired from love, desire, and devotion that transcended all else.
Caine's finger sought the sandalwood oil that was kept nearby. Opening it, he poured the oil onto his fingers and coated his pulsing member liberally. Peter watched on, his body squirming in readiness.
Caine brought his fingers to the opening of his son's body and gently rubbed the pad of his finger across it, grazing the muscular ring. Peter moaned softly, moving his hips invitingly, his sex twitching with yearning. Peter's eyes fluttered shut, anticipating the pleasure he knew would come. He felt the tip of his father's fingertip enter him.
Behind his lids, Peter saw a cloak of red. His heart began racing as the fear slammed into him with the force of a physical blow. Slivers of panic bit into him, numbing him. The shadows was closing in on him and he fought to breathe, the walls of his chest collapsing in on him. Trapped, he was trapped and his muscles couldn't move.
"Peter!" his father called out. "Open your eyes for me."
Peter struggled to follow the commands of that voice, clinging to it, knowing nothing would happen to him as long as could hang on to that voice and the safety it promised.
His eyes slowly opened and the form of his father began to take shape. Concerned eyes bore into him with confusion. Familiar knuckles were stroking his cheek.
"Where were you, my precious one?" Caine asked in a husky voice.
Peter struggled to speak, his throat not wanting to cooperate with him. "I-I don't know," he said helplessly, his hand scrubbing at his face.
"I could feel your fear, but could not see through your eyes. Tell me what you were seeing," Caine said softly.
Peter's eyes shifted around the room, trying to get his bearings. "I'm not sure, but I think I had a flashback to the dream I had last night," he said, his voice shaking badly.
"Where you were...raped?" Caine asked hesitantly. Peter could only nod, not trusting himself to speak. Caine pulled Peter into his arms and held him hard against his chest. "Oh, precious one," he murmured against Peter's hair. He held his lover until the trembling receded.
"Pop? What the hell is wrong with me?" Peter's voice quivered and his eyes were glistening with the threat of tears.
Caine gently rocked his beloved back and forth, his hands stroking chilled skin. "Shhh, sweet one, all is all right now," he murmured soothingly. Framing Peter's face with both of his hands, Caine looked deeply into tormented eyes. "Beloved, I do not believe there is anything wrong with you." He laid down and pulled Peter onto him, his arms tightening around him.
"Then what's going on with me? First the dream, and now flashbacks?" Peter asked, burying his head against his father's shoulder.
Caine kept up soothing caresses. "I believe there is another force at work, though what exactly, I do not know yet."
Peter felt tears stinging at his eyes. "I'm sorry. Pop."
"What for, my love?" Caine asked, his hand stroking through the soft strands of chestnut hair.
Peter ran his hand over his father's broad chest. "I...I was so ready, wanted you so much, and I...spoiled it."
He was promptly cut off with a long, hard, penetrating kiss.
"You spoiled nothing, Peter," Caine assured him.
Frustration filled Peter's expression. "But it's not fair to you. I...I wanted to be able to please you."
Caine's thumb rubbed back and forth over Peter's bottom lip. "You always please me, more than words can express."
Peter leaned over to kiss his father deeply, urgently. Tiny vines of the prior excitement crept up Peter's spine, the frustration slowly melting away.
"And I still want to please you," Peter said softly against Caine's lips.
Caine gauged Peter's eyes, reading the conflicting emotions of need, want, love, worry, apprehension all battling within the hazel pools. He could sense how important this was to Peter.
Caine's hand slid down Peter's stomach to encircle Peter's sex that was now mostly deflated. Peter gasped as Caine started to gently stroke the member. The rhythm was slow and steady at first, but started to gain speed a little. Peter moaned, his hips instinctively lifting to meet his father's hand. Peter chewed his lower lip between his teeth as his member started to fill and grow. Peter's eyes begin to shut.
"Keep them open, Love," Caine commanded softly. "Focus on me."
"Oh Christ, Dad," Peter moaned out, but did as he was asked, his eyes locked onto his father's dark gaze.
Peter's body jerked and arched up into his father's squeezing fingers, Caine's thumb circling the fleshy head that was starting to turn a deep rosy hue. Caine's fingers quickened their pace more, his free hand coming down to tickle the soft hairs on Peter's testicles.
Peter's muscles were quivering, the fire of need hot and tight in his stomach, rekindling quickly to its former intensity. It was a struggle not to shut his eyes, but somehow he was managing, his gaze focused on his father's hands that were bringing him such pleasure.
"Oh, Dad, please, please," he begged out.
Caine closed his mouth over Peter's, capturing his pleas and moaning softly in return. His kiss broke off and trailed to Peter's ear, worrying his earlobe.
"Do you still want to please me, my sweet one?" Caine murmured huskily.
"Oh, yes," Peter moaned, his hands gripping Caine's shoulder.
"Then make love to me?" The words were spoken so softly, Peter almost didn't hear him.
Peter's eyes burned into Caine's. Peter could hardly comprehend what his father was saying. It was a rarity that Caine vocalized the desire to have Peter take him, having only happened twice in their months of lovemaking together. It caught Peter off guard.
"Are you sure?" Peter asked with concern. "I mean, I don't want you to if it's just because...." His voice trailed off helplessly.
Caine kissed Peter softly, deeply. "I am certain, Peter, I want you," Caine assured him when the kiss ended. "I want to feel you inside of me, feel you're heat surrounding me, feel you're sex nestled and quivering deep within me," Caine murmured, his breath flowing against Peter's ear. Peter's response was a deep groan.
Caine realized as he said this, how true it was. He did find himself desiring all that he had mentioned to Peter and more. It would be fulfilling for both of them with the risk of Peter's flashbacks severely limited, since it would be his son who would have control. Picking up the discarded sandalwood oil, Caine pressed the flask into Peter's palm.
Shaking fingers worked the cork out and poured some of the slick oil over them. Peter moved in between Caine's parted legs, sitting on his knees. Gently, lissome fingers probed at the cleft and the vulnerable opening concealed there.
Caine groaned softly as he was parted and touched intimately. The pad Peter's finger teased the tight muscular rim, barely teasing the sensitive area. Caine was unable to steel his body from the racking shudder that claimed him. Peter felt the wavelets under his father's skin and it encouraged more. Very gently, he inserted his finger and began slow, deliberate circles to loosen the tight passage.
Peter couldn't believe how utterly hot and tight his father was as he continued his motions. Caine moaned, his hips began to squirm against the invader, the pressure and friction fueling his longing for more.
"Peter, yes," Caine murmured, his fingers slinking down his stomach to lightly stroke his hard, leaking erection in tune to Peter's probing.
"Let me," Peter whispered, the fingers brushing his father's aside to wrap around and caress the hot, ruddy length.
Caine relinquished his control and groaned as another finger was added. Both worked in concert to spread him, loosen him. Pleasure washed over him, inundating him in an overwhelming carnal hunger that left a deep ache in the core of him; a hunger that could only be sated by his beloved.
"Please...Peter, precious one, need you, want you," Caine moaned out, his body grinding against Peter's fingers inside of him and arching up into the stroking hand around his sex almost simultaneously.
Peter removed his fingers and sought the oil. Caine's blazing gaze watched as Peter as he poured the liquid into his palm and coat his straining member with it. Peter moved over his dad, one arm holding him steady as the other held the head of his erection at the brim of the tight ring of his lover's body. Caine's hands come up around his waist to help hold and guide him.
Peter looked ardently into his pop's eyes, needed to be certain that his lover was ready for him. Dark brown eyes gleamed back up at him with raw longing, barely contained need, and steadfast sureness. It was all the reassurance Peter needed.
Tentatively, he pushed his hips forward as Caine pushed up to meet him. Peter found himself slowly sinking into the channel, immersed in smothering heat, and a rigid tightness that made him tremble as it closed in around him.
Peter felt his father's body relax around him, taking him in until they were united fully, melding together as one. Caine's strong legs wrapped around his hips.
"Yes...." Caine murmured in satisfaction, until his mouth was overtaken by Peter's probing tongue, holding him captive in an absorbing kiss.
The hands around his waist urged Peter to move, and he gently began to pull himself almost all the way out, only to push forward again in long, slow strokes.
Caine moans, his body raising with each thrust to meet it in perfect time, their tempo resonating in perfect oneness.
"So good," Caine whispered, his hands tangling in Peter's chestnut hair.
Peter couldn't hold himself back from speeding up, his moans blending with his father's until there was no separation of the two.
Caine's body twisted and writhed against Peter's, striving to meet the driving need that ached within him. The intense pleasure clashed with Caine's control and he struggled to keep it in rein, but the pleasure was quickly overtaking him.
Peter felt himself barreling towards the edge that was looming so, so, close. A few moments more and he'd topple headlong, helpless to stop it. The friction, the heat, the need, too commanding to be refused. His hand reached between their bodies and wrapped around his father's length and started to stroke in beat to his trusts, urging him, tempting him to let go of the last fragment of his mastered control.
Caine's restraint came crashing down around him, the battle hopelessly lost to his lover's tender assault. His neck arched back, muscles trembling as he cried out. Ecstasy curled and swelled through him as his seed spilled forth between them, coating Peter's fingers.
Cain felt Peter's muscles lurching, felt the clenching of Peter's stomach a scant moment before a cry was torn from his throat, Peter's manhood quivering deep inside him as he was filled with searing essence of his lover.
Peter's senses narrowed only to the rhapsody of pleasure surging through him, to the freedom of release. Only gradually did he become aware of his own soft murmurings of contentment and the more tangible sensations of his father's hands stroking him tenderly, heard the loving endearments whispered into the stillness of the night.
Loathing the moment of separation, but knowing it couldn't be delayed forever, Peter cautiously slipped himself out of his father's body.
Peter's weight settled on Caine's chest and Caine's fingers stroked the skin on the back of Peter's neck, his other arm tight around his waist. Drowsy kisses were given and exchanged, Caine nibbling on the soft lips. Their legs rubbing against each other lazily and settled still entangled around the other.
Peter tried to fend off sleep, but he was too sated and satisfied to fight for long. Caine watched the long lashes of his son flutter against his cheeks and slowly drifted off to sleep. Caught in a cloud of drowsiness himself, Caine too, gave in to sleep.
Down, down, he drifted back into his body, wishing with every fiber of his being that he could just die...just stay in that blissful state of nothing. Maybe if he was lucky, God would be merciful. The pain was excruciating, blinding him with white-hot searing intensity. It was worse than he'd ever known his life - and he couldn't even cry out.
The shadow was engulfing him, surrounding him, in him. His breath was muffled by the folds of red cloaking him. From somewhere in the hazy state of his mind, he recognized the bitter smell of his own blood. Still the pain rolled on.
Breath, hot and heavy, washed across his skin in pants. Finally the silence was broken when the shadow cried out and another form of heat shot through his limp, worthless, unmoving body.
Callused fingers brushed over his cold, clammy skin like a mother tending her babe.
"Can you feel it, my lamb?" The shadow's low, thick voice crooned to him. "Do you feel the purity flowing through you, cleansing you from evil?"
Fingers combed through his hair, and the voice continued its litany. "You feel the light of grace shining down on you now, I know you do. It is a rebirth of innocence you are experiencing." The hand slid down his chest fondly. "How envious I am of what you must be feeling. Soon enough, though, I will come to know it well. Yes, very well indeed."
The shadow's weight was lifted, and the current of red receded with one more sharp pain spearing him. The darkness lessened slightly as more candlelight began flickering over the ceiling above his head, and though he heard the sounds of the shadow moving around him, he was unable to turn his head to watch.
The shadow came to stand before him once more, the endless red trailing behind. Without warning he felt something warm, slick, and tangy being dribbled over his chest, the warmth almost scalding to his cold skin. The shadow's hands were once more brushing over his chest with assiduous care.
"Now that your soul has been cleansed, the same must be done with the body," the shadow explained casually. "Then you will truly be ready for your journey into a new realm where evil can't hold you bonded any longer."
The shadow's hands stopped stroking the warm liquid over his torso and were removed from him. There were more sounds filtering into his ears, the sound of hinges and then something being closed with a hard snap. When the shadow came to stand over him once more, the imposing figure filling his vision, it raised something in the air that sliced through the layers of pain.
A lump of fear formed in his parched, tight throat as his blurred eyes fixed on the object the shadow held. Gripped in both hands was a large bronze dagger. Though the handle was swaddled with a black cloth, it was held close enough for him to see that it contained triplet faces with expressions of peace, wrath, and joy. Glinting off the steeled blade that glowed golden by the flames of the candles was the etching of a snake that twisted and curled around the fiery copper leading to an eagle at the bottom.
"My lamb, now you are once more pure, you shall lead me into the light," the shadow said, the voice serene and ethereal.
As the dagger was poised above his heart, the oddest sense of calm floated around him. For the first time he completely realized what Fate seemed to have in store with him, and with that knowledge, the certainty and the fear became replaced with peace. His mind recalled a prayer from his childhood and it was chanted in his thoughts like a mantra.
"May you become one with the light," the shadow said, the booming voice directed to the sky above.
Images fluttered through his mind, bringing forth from behind closed lids those he cherished most in his life: his intelligent, sometimes flighty mother, his stubborn but hard-working father who always encouraged him, his sweet, advantageous sister who never judged him...they were all there. Finally his mind settled onto the one dearest to him of all...his Ryan.
'Sorry, my sweetheart, I loved you,' his mind whispered to the image.
Seconds later, he felt the blade pierce his skin, and a ripping pain tore at him. After that came the sweet shroud of blackness, and the pain was no more.
The sound of his own throaty outcry ringing in his ears startled Peter awake, wrenching him violently from the clinging images in his mind. His heart was pounding painfully against his ribcage. Wheezing, he struggled to catch his breath. His urge to lash out was thwarted, his arms pinned to his side by a strong, protective embrace. Peter tried to find his voice again, but it was snared in his throat.
"Yet another dream has upset you," Caine stated rather than asked. His boy's skin was chilled despite the heat of the summer night, and the fright still caused residual shudders to ebb through his body.
Caine re-situated them so that Peter was pulled back against his chest as he sat them both up and held his arms around his boy snugly. Caine slowly let his own aura infuse into Peter's in an attempt to draw some of the fear away from his sweet one. Peter leaned his head back against his pop's shoulder, letting the familiar touch, heat, and smell of his lover calm him.
"Pop, I think I'm losing my mind here," Peter whispered softly, shakily.
Caine's arms tightened their embrace. "No," he said with conviction. "You are not."
"Then what is going on with me? With these dreams?" Peter asked, wanting to shut his eyes and rub them, but unable to bring himself to close them again, the images still too fresh in his mind.
"Peter, explain to me what was in your dream," Caine urged.
"I'd rather not, not right now anyway," Peter responded, running his hands absently over the forearms around him.
"Please, Peter, it is important," Caine appealed.
Peter wanted to ask why, but he held his tongue. If his pop thought it was important, that was all he really needed to know.
"All right," Peter began, "do you remember the other dream I told you about?"
"I do," Caine said with a slight nod.
"Well, it was sort of the same thing this time, but different," Peter tried to explain.
"How so?" Caine asked.
"This seemed to be after I was...raped," Peter said, stumbling over the word that stuck on his dry tongue. "And whoever it was in my dream used this dagger to...kill...me."
"And were not the victims whose deaths you have been investigating killed by a stab wound to the heart?" Caine asked pointedly.
Peter turned his head to the side in order to look his pop, his hair a silver-white in the crisp moonlight and his expression somber. "What are you getting at here, Pop?"
"What I am...getting at...darling one, is that I believe what you are experiencing are not dreams as much as they are visions," Caine stated, his fingers stroking over Peter's hands as he spoke. "After all, this would not be the first time you have had visions such as these."
Peter's eyes bored into his pop's. "You're talking about Eagleton, aren't you?" Peter recalled all too clearly the time he received visions from another killer...a former cop, one who had quite literally wanted to take over Caine's life, believing that Peter had what Eagleton deserved to have.
"But, Pop, I knew Eagleton, we were in the police academy together. You told me it was our connection that led me to see the murders through his eyes," Peter said.
"Yes, you are right," Pop told him.
"This is different though, it doesn't feel the same at all," Peter said, feeling frustrated.
"But it is, Love," Caine assured him. "Tell me, whose eyes do you see out of in these dreams?"
"The...victim's," Peter responded and turned his head again. "But I don't know Brett Daniels or David Ling," he protested. "This doesn't make sense."
"Yes," Pop said slowly, "perhaps you do not know either victim, but at some point I believe a connection was made with one of them. Do you recall feeling anything while on this case that has been out of the ordinary?"
Peter thought over the last few days, and his stomach grew queasy when he recalled the strange pull he'd felt around Brett Daniels.
"You're thoughts are of the paralegal, are they not?" Pop asked shrewdly.
Peter wondered once more if his pop was able to read his mind, or if his face was simply that decipherable to his father's erudite eyes. Either way, he knew that he didn't have to answer his pop for him to know the truth.
"Somehow there was a connection forged between you and Brett Daniels," Pop said softly, his fingers fanning out over Peter's stomach.
"But why? I didn't know him or anything about him until after he was killed."
Pop was quiet for a few moments before finally speaking. "I believe that in you, Brett Daniels' spirit sees the quest for the truth, your desire for justice. He is attempting to aid your search for his slayer in the only way he is capable."
The last thing Peter wanted to admit at the moment was that his father seemed to be right. The more he thought about the events over the last couple of days, he realized that the dreams and flashbacks hadn't started until after the strange experience at Brett Daniels' crime scene. Also, Peter couldn't shake the feelings he'd had about Brett and Ryan both since the murder. He felt a kinship in the love they'd had for one another, but beyond that he had also noticed his own protectiveness where they were concerned. He'd agreed to keep silent about Mills because he didn't want to see Ryan suffer anymore if he could avoid it, and then there was the deep anger he'd felt towards Mills; watching that arrogant bastard lying through his perfect smile. Normally, a suspect who was lying never got to Peter - in fact he had come to expect it - but this time had been different. He realized it wasn't Mills lying that had gotten to him as much as the fact he'd tried to force himself on Brett.
Peter shook his head restlessly in denial. He didn't want his father to be right this time, not about this. Caine's arms tightened around his unsettled lover. He could easily feel the swells of emotions tumbling through his precious one.
"Share with me, Love," Caine urged softly.
"I don't want these damn dreams," Peter whispered. "I don't want to go through the same thing I did with Eagleton."
Peter waited for his pop to tell him that it wasn't a choice to be made, that it came with being Shaolin; that he had a duty to seek the light of truth within the shadows of lies. The lecture never came; instead there was only silence as he was held snugly.
"Pop, when I was dealing with Eagleton, I felt so out of control. I never knew from one minute to the next what was going to happen or how to stop it. I hated that helpless feeling." Peter spoke so softly he wasn't even sure how his pop could hear him, but Peter knew he did. "Also, I don't want kicked off the force."
"That will not happen," Caine assured him.
"Oh? You're sure about that, are you?" Peter asked flippantly. "Do you realize how close I came to having just that happen last time? Simms was a heartbeat away from pulling my badge and gun before I turned them over. If I go in there this time and tell her about having dreams about the murders, she won't hesitate to send me to the department shrink."
"Peter, you must have faith," Caine said with conviction. "Captain Simms has grown to know you well, she does not doubt your abilities as an officer."
Peter closed his eyes. "Yeah, maybe not on normal days, but she'd remember how I was before. She might trust me most of the time, but if she thought for a second I could lose it and end up getting myself, or worse, a partner hurt, because of impaired judgement, she'd do what she felt was right as a captain and pull me." Peter turned his face to look once more at his dad. "And I can't say I'd blame her for it either. I mean, I'd be likely to do the exact same thing in her position."
"Your judgement is not impaired," Caine whispered. "In fact, you are seeing with more clarity than you were before the dreams."
"She wouldn't see it that way," Peter murmured back. "I just can't tell her."
"So no one else is aware of your dreams either?" Pop asked, his hands still stroking over the smooth skin of Peter's stomach.
"Nope, and I plan on keeping it that way," Peter replied in a tone that held no room for changing his mind.
Caine sighed softly into Peter's hair and placed a kiss into the chestnut strands. Somehow it did not seem fair that his loving boy should be forced to shoulder the weight of such secrets, for he knew it was a heavy burden for his lover. He could feel how it bothered Peter when the lines between Shaolin and police officer melded and blurred. Peter's identity was enshrouded within both and occasionally one warred to dominate the other. As a father and teacher, he knew that it was something that Peter must come to terms with within himself, but as a lover he longed for a way to shield Peter from it. He knew that was an impossibility, but there was something he was capable of doing that would make Peter realize he did not have to journey this particular path alone.
"Peter, Love, if you would allow me...I believe I could help you determine what the dreams are trying to show you," Caine said gently.
Peter was quiet for a long moment. "How?"
"I could...dream walk...with you," Caine answered slowly.
Peter shifted around on the bed. "What are you talking about?"
Caine let his eyes close in the darkness. "There is a way that I could consciously follow you into a dream state and become one with the dream. Once there, we would be mere observers of the nightmare, witness to everything but incapable of altering the dream's path."
"So...I'd have to relieve the dream again?" Peter asked tentatively.
Caine's hand continued to soothingly finger his lover's hair. "Yes, but I would be there with you also."
Peter wasn't able to find his voice. Images that he'd just woken from were still painfully vivid in his mind's eye. He didn't relish the thought of going back into that world again this soon, his pulse beating faster and his breathing becoming more shallow at the mere thought of it.
"I...I don't know," he said finally. He hated himself for sounding like a coward, and he knew logically that a dream couldn't hurt him, but he couldn't shake the uneasiness and fear that gnawed and twisted in his gut.
Using his hand, Pop turned Peter's face up to his own and softly brushed a kiss across his lips. "It does not have to be on this night, Love," he told him. He then moved back down on the futon and pulled Peter tightly into him until they were spooned together. "Sleep, darling one, you are in need of rest."
As Peter lay in his father's embrace, feeling the even breathing against his neck, he cautiously let his eyes drift shut. The last thought he had was wondering why he felt as though he was somehow betraying Brett Daniels.
The next morning, Peter stirred in bed, rolled over and flopped an arm out to the side to find it landing on an empty futon. Opening an eye, he looked over to see that he was indeed alone in bed. Stretching his muscles, he got up and yawned as he rubbed at his eyes. He was so tired, and his head felt like it weighed a ton.
Padding barefoot into the kitchen, he saw some banana muffins in a small wicker basket sitting beside a pot of steaming tea. A small smile teased him as he also saw a piece of rice paper beside the basket. He picked it up and read it.
These were a gift from Mrs. Shen Kang Rui. Now there are no excuses for missing your breakfast meal. I awoke very early this morning to gather mushrooms with Lo Si and did not wish to wake you.
All my love goes with you,
Peter sighed happily, momentarily forgetting how tired he was as he bit into one of the warm muffins. Pouring himself a cup of the tea, he ate hastily and checked his watch to make sure he had time for a quick shower before heading off to the precinct. When he reemerged, damp and tousled, he actually felt closer to human again.
Kermit Griffin looked up from his computer screen and his hidden dark gaze followed Karen Simms' entrance into the 101st. He didn't particularly like what he saw. Though Simms was usually able to screen herself from others in the precinct, mercenary-astute eyes were able to see past the adept Captain's barriers to realize when something was troubling one of the few on
Kermit's list of people he considered a friend, or possibly a bit more when he was being honest with himself; it was a short and exclusive list to say the least. And the fact that something was
troubling Simms was obvious in the blonde's body language and hard, leveling stare.
That stare landed on Roger Chin. "Chin, do you have those statement forms and UCR reports from the Tennison robbery?"
The Asian detective squirmed a little in his seat. "No, Ma'am, they haven't been processed yet."
"What do you mean they haven't been processed yet, Detective?" Simms barked. "I specifically recall telling you that I wanted those reports on my desk first thing this morning. At what point did I make myself unclear, Officer Chin?"
"I'm sorry Captain, but...." Chin started to speak.
"Save it, Chin," Simms cut him off. "You have one hour, one, to get those reports on my desk. Do I make myself perfectly clear?"
"Yes, Ma'am," the detective muttered.
Simms pointedly ignored the sympathetic glances being shot Chin's way. One of them was coming from Jody Powell.
"Powell, tell Caine when he gets here that I want him in my office." She didn't wait for the response, simply closed the door to her office with a resonating slam.
Kermit gave the captain a few moments to compose herself before flicking off his computer screen and casually ambling to her office. He brought a cup of coffee with him as a peace offering.
He didn't bother knocking before going in. "Isn't there some department rule about not taking heads before nine a.m.?" Kermit asked.
"Huh? Oh, Kermit," Simms acknowledged, looking up from a file in her hand. She offered him a weak smile.
"Truce?" he asked, holding the Styrofoam cup out to her.
"Sure you want to trust me with caffeine right now, Detective Griffin?" Simms asked with a touch of amusement that didn't quite reach her eyes.
"I'll take my chances," Griffin retorted, as she took the offered cup. "I like living dangerously, remember?" A shadow of a smile played over his face.
Simms took a long sip of the coffee and sighed deeply.
"Now," Kermit started, perching himself on the corner of her desk, "are you going to tell me what's really going on with you or do I take you down to interrogation?"
She gave him a cold glare before finally shutting her eyes and rubbing the bridge of her nose. "It's this damn case," she said, smacking the file in her hand down on the desk.
Kermit slid off the desk and came up behind Karen. With one hand on her shoulder, he flipped the file open. The picture was of a male - mulatto male by the looks of it. Like the others, he looked rather young - too young to be lying on the morgue slab. Dark curls laid against tanned skin and soft hazel eyes were glazed over. He too had apparently been stabbed fatally through the chest.
"Another one, huh?" he asked, giving her shoulder an extra squeeze.
"Yeah, he was found early this morning in a dumpster in Chinatown," Simms said softly. "Nickie's report is the same as the others except this time he said that the victim had been killed about eight days ago."
Simms flung the file shut. "Dammit, Kermit, the kid was just twenty-one!"
Kermit put both hands on Karen's shoulders and gently started to knead them. Reluctantly, Simms tilted her head back to rest against his stomach.
"Easy there, Captain," Kermit murmured. "You've seen worse."
"I know, but it doesn't make it any easier," Karen said, barely audible.
"You usually don't let stuff like this get to you," Kermit said matter-of-factly. "So why are you making it personal?"
"Because it is personal, Kermit," Simms said, the edge in her voice not hiding her bitterness. "Did I ever tell you about my younger brother, Caleb?"
"Nope," Kermit responded, his hands moving to rub her neck. "So tell me about him." He made no move to look down into her face, sensing it would be easier for her to talk if she wasn't looking at him.
"He was gay," she declared softly. "None of the family had a problem with it, but as you can probably guess, that's not something that could be said for a lot of people." Karen still had her head resting on Kermit's stomach and felt, rather than saw, his answering nod.
"Anyhow, when he was nineteen, still a baby in his big sister's eyes, he was at a party in college. I guess he drank more he should have and didn't realize he was getting himself in trouble when he accepted a ride back to his frat building with a guy he'd only met that night." Karen's voice dropped an octave, and Kermit could still hear the raw pain causing her throat to choke as she continued.
"The following day they found him on the beach. He'd been beaten to death and left to rot, but not before the bastard that killed him had carved the word...'fag'...into his back with a hunting knife."
Karen's voice cracked as she turned eyes that stung with unshed tears up to Kermit's rigid face. "So yeah, Kermit, you can say I'm taking this..." she said with a wave of her hand at the file on her desk, "...personally."
Kermit turned her chair around and Karen found her cheek pressed into her detective's stomach as strong hands petted her golden hair. The tears Karen tried to keep back spilled forth onto the white cotton shirt Kermit wore. Endless minutes passed until she finally got a hold on herself again and the tears slowed down.
Kermit pulled back slightly, cupping his captain's face in hands that had been responsible for taking many lives and tenderly wiped her tears off of her cheeks with his thumbs.
"Hey, I know I've told you about David before, right?" he asked.
Karen nodded mutely. One night long ago Kermit had shared the story of how his little brother, a cop and former addict, had been set up and killed with a heroin overdose.
"Then you know I know what you're dealing with right now," he said.
"Does it ever quit hurting?" Simms asked with a shaky sigh.
"No," Kermit said in callused voice. One hand reached up and removed his green shades. Deep brown eyes looked into her shining blue ones without wavering. "But it does get easier, and you keep on taking each day as it comes."
"And the anger?"
Kermit's knuckles brushed across her cheek. "You got to let it go, or else it'll eat you up until there's nothing left." His own voice dropped as he added, "Trust me on that one."
"I...I don't know if I can let it go," Karen confided.
"Well," Kermit said, clearing his throat. "If you'd like, maybe we could get together tonight and talk about it some more?"
Karen's fingers reached up to capture Kermit's and she squeezed them meaningfully. "I think I'd like that. I think I'd like it a lot."
He squeezed her fingers back. "Good, count on it then."
With a watery smile, Simms rubbed the remaining wetness off her face, fluffed her hair, and squared her shoulder. "Now, Detective Griffin, you should get back to work before people start to talk."
"You're so right, Captain," he said with a small bow and a half smile. "We can't have people talking, now can we?"
When his back was turned to her and he started to leave, she called out a soft, "Thank you."
The detective turned and gave her a wink before pulling his green sunglasses back down to perch on his nose.
After the door was shut, Karen sat back in her seat and let her eyes drift shut once more, the image of her little brother floating behind her closed lids. The moment was interrupted by a sharp knock on her door.
"What!" she snapped.
The door opened and Peter Caine stuck his dark head inside. "Jody said you wanted to see me?"
"Yeah, come in, Peter," Simms waved him in.
Without fanfare, she held out the file in front of her.
"What's this?" Peter asked, even as he opened it up, his dark eyes narrowing as he looked at the photos.
"Another murder, Peter," Simms told him. "This one happened about eight days ago. He was found this morning in Chinatown."
Peter's eyes didn't meet hers, instead he was absorbed in the report from Nickie. "Same M.O as the others."
"That's right," Simms stated, standing up and starting to pace the floor in front of him. "Peter, let's face it. We've got a serial killer on our hands." She turned and faced him. "Just how close are you with your leads?"
"Getting closer by the day," Peter responded.
"We don't have days to spare, Detective," she told him and stopped her pacing long enough to rest her hands on the desk across from him. "I don't know why the killer is stalking these victims, but I do know he's got to be stopped before he strikes again." Her eyes leveled with his. "Look, Detective Caine, I don't care what leads you use, or how you catch this butcher, just as long as you do catch him." Their eyes held one another's. "Do you understand?"
Peter paused for several seconds before responding. "Yes, Ma'am, I believe I do."
After an early morning of tea at the Golden Dragon, spending some time in Ting Yung's shop and picking up some ingredients that had been needed, Caine and the Ancient found themselves in the dark and damp basement of their building. It was a place where Caine could usually find serenity in both the cool calmness of his surroundings and in the subdued disposition of his dearest friend. On this day though, there was no serenity to be found. Caine knew he had much to discuss with Lo Si, but for some reason lacked the fortitude to broach the subject he really wished to discuss with the older man.
"Kwai Chang Caine, we are finally alone, out of the way of prying eyes," Lo Si mentioned, gently digging around a root. "If you wish to speak to me in private, now would be the time to do so."
Caine's hands, covered in soil, paused in the uprooting of a plant. "I...have...wished to talk with you, but find myself at a loss on how to begin."
"I am assuming that this has to do with Peter?" Lo Si asked, his eyes not meeting Caine's.
"Yes, Master, it does," Caine replied softly.
"I have been aware for quite some time of your...special bond...that you have forged with Peter over the years," Lo Si informed him, "and how it's...intensified...these last several months."
"You are most...observant...my friend," Caine remarked.
"One does not need to be observant when the truth glares like a beacon," Lo Si responded, trying to keep his voice neutral.
"Is it that...obvious?" Caine asked, his forehead marred with a worried crease.
"Only to those that would intentionally seek to see it, otherwise, no, it would not be overly obvious to most," the Ancient replied and then turned with a slight smile to face his friend. "Then again, I am not like most."
Caine chuckled softly, relief washing through him at the ease in which Lo Si seemed to be regarding this entire conversation. "So you, as Peter would say, are 'okay with this'?"
Lo Si put his trowel down and fully faced his friend, a serious expression falling over his face like a mask. "Kwai Chang Caine, it would be impossible of me to deny how Peter has blossomed under your love, guidance, and support. More importantly is the remarkable change I've seen in you as a result of his love."
Caine cocked his head in a questioning gesture, and the Ancient continued.
"When we first met, you were still mourning the loss of Laura. There was such emptiness inside of you, such a deep, raging sorrow that I thought it would never fade." Lo Si moved his hands to rest on Caine's shoulders. "Then you found Peter, and little by little that despair started to diminish. He has brought you back and filled you with such a love that only a precious few ever manage to find." Lo Si squeezed his shoulders. "It would be selfish of me not to appreciate the power that the two of you share, or the bond it creates."
Caine in turn put his hands on the Ancient's shoulder. "Thank you, my dear friend," he said softly.
Lo Si nodded slightly. "Now, since I know you did not necessarily come to seek my approval, what else is it that's been troubling you?"
Caine glanced down at the ground, momentarily gathering his thoughts before meeting the Ancient's dark brown gaze again. "Since you know about Peter and myself, I wonder what you would think if I decided to make the bond between us...permanent."
Lo Si's eyes narrowed slightly in thought. "Do you mean as in a...commitment ceremony?"
"Yes," Caine said quietly.
"Actually," Lo Si said slowly, "I find that a good idea."
Lo Si nodded. "Yes, I do. I have sensed for some time that Peter has had a longing for such security. He has many fears when it comes to you leaving him again."
"Yes, it troubles me that the fear of being alone once more is so great within him," Caine confided.
Lo Si's eyes bored into Caine's. "I suspect that he is not alone in his fears."
"He...is not," Caine conceded. "At times I do not believe I would survive such a separation again. My soul would...wither...without his love."
Their eyes met with mutual understanding.
"All the more reason to have the commitment ceremony," Lo Si proclaimed.
Caine fell silent once more and looked away from Lo Si's eyes.
"Do you still have reservations about this path?" he coaxed.
"I do," Caine admitted. "What if this is not the right path for Peter?"
"Why wouldn't it be?"
Caine sighed and looked up at the cracked ceiling above his head. "I love him in all ways possible, but a part of me still wonders about whether I should be encouraging Peter to find someone with whom he could have children...to carry on the Caine line."
Lo Si gave him a disapproving glare. "Kwai Chang Caine, you know that it is the spirit, not the blood, that continues a heritage. That spirit can be passed on, if need be, if the heart is true."
"Are you suggesting that Peter could...adopt...a child?" Caine asked scrupulously.
Lo Si shrugged his shoulders in a perfect imitation of Caine. "That would be Peter's decision to make, as is his decision of whom he wishes to join with in life." With a small smile, he added, "It would appear to me that is one decision he has already made."
"Then there is also the differences in our ages," Caine brought up.
"What does that matter?"
"As you have already mentioned, a separation would undoubtedly bring much pain to Peter. Imagine how that pain would be amplified upon my...death...if we share all bonds, not just that of father and son."
"Yes, but what would hurt Peter more? To share his life with you and experience all of the happiness he longs for, regardless of however long the two of you are granted, or to forever long for something in his soul that would be denied to him?" the Ancient pointed out. "Besides, is it not possible that these concerns are just your own and do not burden Peter?"
Caine again fell silent as he thought on the Ancient's words. Could it be he was confusing Peter's possible fears for his own? He then thought of how his life would be without Peter in it, to be without his love...or to have him give that love to another. The pain that surfaced was intolerable. His precious one had come to mean too much to him. It would seem their path was laid before them, now it was up to Caine to take those first few tentative steps.
"You are right," he admitted to Lo Si. "The only way I can be certain is to discuss it with Peter himself."
"Then you will ask him to bond with you in the commitment ceremony?" Lo Si asked, wanting to be certain.
"Yes, I shall," Caine answered with conviction.
Lo Si's face remained impassive as he nodded. Caine gathered up a few of the jars of mushrooms he had collected and placed them in his satchel. He placed his battered fedora on his head and looked once more at his old friend.
"I must leave and find Peter, but there is one more thing I must ask you."
"Anything, my friend," Lo Si responded.
Two pairs of brown eyes stared at one another. "If Peter agrees to the ceremony, would it be too much trouble to ask you to do us the honor of performing the ceremony?"
"It would be a privilege, my dear friend," Lo Si responded.
Caine bowed his head in acquiesce with a fist-in-open-hand salute that Lo Si returned.
As Caine departed, Lo Si went back to gathering the mushrooms, deep in thought. Kwai Chang Caine would never be made aware that once in the temple old Ping Hai had a vision of a much older Caine and his boy who at the time was still so very young. The vision had told him the inevitable path that the two Caines would come to know and walk together. Also, Kwai Chang Caine and his Peter would never realize that the only way in which to find that path was to have Ping Hai separate them for so many years. It was only in the darkness of the suffering that they had to endure would the brilliance of their love bloom to its full extent. Though it had tormented the Ancient to no end to be forced to cause such heartache, seeing the vast love in Caine's eyes minutes ago did much to ease his conscience. Now it would seem that all would turn out as it should.
"A commitment ceremony," Lo Si mumbled aloud to himself, and a broad smile split on his face. "Bloody marvelous!"
No sooner had Caine stepped foot outside the steps of their building when he saw a very familiar blue car pull up. He watched as his son climbed out and reached him.
"Ah, Peter, I was just coming to find you. There is something I wish to discuss with you," Caine said with a warm smile, using much control not to pull Peter into a kiss right there on the curb.
"Can it wait until later, Pop?" Peter asked. "Right now I've got something pretty important to talk to you about."
Caine's smile waned slightly, but one look at Peter's face and he knew that what he wanted to talk about could wait a little longer. "Yes, it can wait, come and let us talk inside."
Peter was led back up to their loft and he walked out onto the terrace with his father coming to stand behind him.
"Now, what is it, Love?" Caine asked.
Peter turned and leaned back against the railing as he looked into his pop's face. "Dad, I want you to dream walk with me," he said in a rush.
Caine's eyes narrowed. "Are you certain you wish to pursue this?" He remembered well the previous night and how upset Peter had seemed to become at the thought of it.
Peter dragged a hand through his dark hair. "No, I'm not sure," he admitted, "but if it's going to help catch the killer, then I'm willing to give it a try."
"Peter, there would be no guarantee that it would be successful in aiding in the capture of the murderer," Caine warned him.
Peter's eyes were stony and willful. "Yeah, but right now it just might be the best chance we'll have."
"As you wish," Caine agreed. "We must make the preparations."
Coming back into the main room, Caine lit some incense as an offering at the alter, giving a silent prayer of thanks as he did. Peter then watched his father pull out two mats, lay them side by side, and unfold them.
"Come and lie down," Caine summoned, patting the mat.
Peter gave him a dubious look, but did what he asked as he heard his pop making movements around his medicine table. When his father returned, he squatted down next to Peter.
"Open your mouth, Son," Caine instructed, and Peter obliged.
Peter felt a small leaf being slipped under his tongue. It had a sharp, bitter taste that made Peter screw his face up at the offensive taste.
"God, Pop, this is horrible! What am I suppose to do with it?" Peter asked, his words slurring a bit as he tried to talk around the leaf stuck in his mouth.
Caine placed a silencing finger on Peter's lips. "This will help you attain a state of rest you will need for this to work. Usually I make this into a tea that tastes much better, but it will work more quickly in its natural form," he explained. "Do not chew it, let the oil come naturally."
Peter nodded slightly without speaking, trying to keep the grimace off of his face as the taste got even worse. It was only moments before he found himself beginninging to get drowsy and sluggish. His eyelids started to feel heavy and his eyes grainy.
"It will not be long now," Caine murmured, "before you will fall asleep and dream." He bent down and gently brushed his lips against Peter's closed mouth. "Do not fear though, I will be right beside you."
Caine lay down on the other woven mat beside his son and let his eyes drift shut. His hand reached out and sought Peter's, their fingers entwining as they lay side by side. Both felt the jolt of blue-white charge that twisted around and coursed through their hands and forearms.
When the hazy, gauzy cloud lifted from Peter's mind, a wave of fear hit him with full force. There was no mistaking the feeling of familiarity or the cold panic running through his blood and pricking him like slivers.
"Pop," he called out, surprising himself when his voice actually worked.
"I am here," came the soft reply, familiar hands settling on his shoulders.
Peter's senses surfed the wave of relief he felt washing through him. With the fear calming within him, Peter was able to objectively take in his surroundings.
The first thing he noticed was that he was not only capable of talking, but moving. As if to test this, he let hands clench and unclench at his sides while his eyes moved around the ill-lit room. Peter looked around and saw the glowing flickering of candles, but no windows anywhere. The air was heavy, cool, and condensed, and the smell of old blood was unmistakable. They must be in a basement somewhere, Peter realized, even though in the dream state, much of what he saw was blurry and vaporous, almost translucent.
In the middle of the room was a full-sized bed covered with black silk sheets. Lying in the the center was an unmoving, unnaturally pale, Brett Daniels. Straddling his waist was a figure cloaked in a crimson robe with large, flowing sleeves and a hood that hid his face. Peter shivered as he watched the hands of the robed figure rubbing oil over Brett's chest.
"Now that your soul has been cleansed, the same must be done with the body."
Peter shivered violently as he heard the gruff voice speaking so calmly as his hand ran over Brett's chest. He remembered that voice, would know it anywhere.
"Then you will truly be ready for your journey into a new realm where evil can't hold you bonded any longer."
Peter felt his dad's hand on his arm as they watched the cloaked figure turn around. Peter gasped in surprise when he got his first look at the figure's face that until then had only been shadows in his dreams. The face was covered completely in a mask. Made of dark wood, the mask had ears that tapered up from the side into strong points; cheeks high and round led to a long, sleek nose that spiked out and turned down slightly at the tip; on either side of the nose sat beady eyes that were slanted sharply up towards the ears and creased the forehead similarly, only the smallest of holes carved into the mask's irises allowed for the wearer to see; and thick, thornish eyebrows were roosted on top of the eyes. Below the nose was a small carved-out area for the mouth; farther below was a molded goatee that curved to create the chin and reached up to meet the mouth, the ends twisting up to the corners of the lips. The top of the mask was marked by two broad, stubby horns; between them was a solitary engraved circle that was the size of an iris.
Peter watched as the robed figure moved across the room to a oblong box that seemed to made of a pure carved ivory and was surrounded in a circle of burning candles and incense. He lifted the box and opened up the hinged top, and Peter knew without looking what it was being lifted from the container.
Unable to tear his eyes away, Peter watched as the dagger from his nightmare appear before him. The masked man wrapped the handle of the bronze dagger in black cloth before drawing closer to to Brett. Peter could see the terror flashing in dazed blue eyes as recognition became clear.
"My lamb, now you are once more pure, you shall lead me into the light," the shadow said as he lifted the dagger into the air and over Brett's chest.
"No!" Peter called out and tried to rush the figure, but Pop held him back.
"Peter, no! Remember, you cannot alter the dream, you may merely watch and learn," Caine reminded him quietly, his composure unruffled.
"But, Dad..." Peter protested and watched on in a feeling of helplessness.
"May you become one with the light," the shadow said without pause and lifted his arms up higher.
As he did, Peter choked on a gasped when the sleeves of the masked figure's fell back to reveal two very distinctive marking on his forearms - the same brand his father bore. Peter was still trying to assimilate this as he watched the dagger being plunged into Brett's chest. Peter wanted to call out but found his words trapped in his throat. He felt his arms grasped tightly, anchoring him.
"Peter, look at me, Love," his father commanded.
Peter turned from the sight of dark crimson blood pouring in rivulets from Brett's chest, spilling over to soak the silk sheets underneath of him as the dagger was pulled out with a gut-twisting suction, the bronze blade dripping. He looked numbly into the schooled face of his lover.
"Peter, I will begin to count back from ten. When I reach one, we will both reawaken," Caine stated.
Peter nodded his head, still unable to get his mouth to work, and slowly Caine began counting back. Peter concentrated on the soft voice that soothed him so deeply as the countdown continued.
A smoky gray cloud began to fog Peter's mind, closing around him, layering him in the calm darkness. Slowly his eyes opened again and he turned his head to the form lying next to him. His pop was looking at him with an unreadable expression.
"Shaolin, he's Shaolin," Peter murmured as he sat up.
"No," Caine snapped harshly. "He is not Shaolin."
"But...the brands," Peter protested.
"Are meaningless," Caine stated. "Perhaps at one time he was Shaolin, but he has since turned to the dark path."
"So he's a renegade Shaolin, like Tan?" Peter asked.
"Renegade, yes, but not like Tan," Caine replied. "Tan's evil was based on corruption and greed. This one's evil was created by a very different seed, one without reasoning. I do not believe he even perceives what he does is evil."
"What are you saying?" Peter asked incredulously. "So he's a former Shaolin who just snapped?"
Caine shook his head. "Peter, I believe he feels justification in his acts."
Peter shook his head in denial. There were just too many thoughts swirling around in his head for him to sort through them all.
"How could anyone justify slaughtering like that?"
"In a clouded mind, the paths of dark and light become converged so closely that one becomes undistinguishable from the other," Caine reminded him.
"So why do you think these killings are happening?" Peter asked finally, rubbing at his temples in a vain effort to thwart an oncoming headache.
"Did you not notice mask he wore?" Caine asked him, pulling Peter between his opened legs. Gently brushing his son's fingers aside, he took over the massaging.
"Yeah...it kinda looked familiar," Peter responded, realizing for the first time the sense of odd fascination he'd had while looking at the mask.
"Yes...." Caine said slowly. "That is because there was a similar one in the room of Antiquities at the temple."
Dawning of realization suddenly hit Peter as he remembered the repulsive-looking mask.
"Danny, you're going to end up getting me in trouble," ten-year-old Peter Caine told his friend as they opened the lock to the Antiquities room. "You know we aren't supposed to be in here."
"Oh, c'mon Peter, aren't you even the least curious what's in here? I mean, they keep it locked up like a vault, so it's got to have something good in it," the other dark-haired boy rationalized as the lock fell open.
"Well..." Peter said slowly, then turned and grinned at his friend. "Okay, but we only stay in there for five minutes, deal?"
"Deal," Danny said with enthusiasm.
The boys entered the room and were awestruck by the various artifacts: pictures, books, and carvings, all capturing two ten-year-olds' imagination and curiosity immediately.
Peter walked over to a shelf and picked up a wooden mask.
"Hey, Danny, look at this," Peter said, holding it in front of his face. "Isn't this the ugliest thing you've ever seen?"
"Peter!" a stern voice called out, causing both boys to jump. Standing in the doorway with a very displeased look was his father.
"Um...Father, we were just..." Peter started to stammer, the mask lowering and hanging by his fingers.
Caine raised a hand. "You know you are not allowed in here." He walked over and snatched the mask out of his son's fingers. "And this is not a toy to be played with."
Peter's large eyes were downcast toward the floor. "Yes, Father."
Caine turned to Danny. "Danny, Master Khan has a list of chores for you. Go see to them now."
"Y-yes, Sir," the boy faltered and wasted no time in leaving, throwing an apologetic look over his shoulder at Peter.
Once Danny was gone, Caine's eyes landed back onto Peter's. Sighing inwardly, Caine wondered if he would ever be capable of remaining upset at his boy. He seriously doubted it, because one look into sad brown eyes and he seemed incapable of staying upset. Also, he remembered all too well what it was like to have the curiosity of a boy.
"Peter, do you know what this is?" Caine asked, holding the mask up slightly.
"No, Sir," Peter answered in a small voice.
"It is a Wunuo mask used by our ancestors for ceremonies," Caine told him.
"Really?" Peter asked, looking up at him with wide eyes. "What kind of ceremonies?"
"Exorcism ceremonies, in order release evil spirits."
"Yes," Caine nodded. "Which is why they are not be treated as toys. Though they have not been used in centuries, it is still part of our heritage and should be treated with respect."
"I'm sorry, Father," Peter said meekly. "I meant no disrespect."
Caine sat the mask back on the shelf and put his arm around his son's shoulders. "I believe you, Son, but you still knew that this room was off limits and you must be punished."
"Yes, Sir," Peter said with resignation of the doomed.
"You will be grounded for a week," Caine decreed.
Peter didn't protest, only nodded, as he knew it would be useless to even try. Judgement had been passed and now the only thing left was to serve his time.
"Are you mad at me?" Peter had to know before he left the room.
Caine's expression softened and a faint smile played on his mouth. "I am not," he reassured his boy and lightly slapped his cheek with affection. "Now, you have chores you need to start on as well."
Peter looked up at him and smiled warmly. "Yes, Sir."
Knowing all was well, Peter took off for his chores.
~ ~ ~
"So, this renegade Shaolin is trying to exorcise the victims?" Peter asked, still feeling like he was one step behind in the game.
"It would appear so," Caine told him. "Even the weapon he used yields to the belief he is trying to exonerate the victims from some evil."
"What about the weapon, Pop?" Peter asked, trying desperately not to let his mind call up the image of that dagger being plunged in Brett Daniel's chest.
"The dagger he was holding is a Phurba, a ritual Tibetan dagger used for exorcising demons," Caine told him.
"So what kind of demon is this Shaolin suppose to be trying to release?" Peter asked, feeling a knot of frustration building along his spine.
Caine shrugged. "I...do not know."
"Great," Peter mumbled. "So we still have no idea who the killer is, but at least we where he seems to be striking and...some...idea as to why."
"Will you share this with Captain Simms now?" Caine asked neutrally.
Peter remained silent and reflective for a long length of time. Caine could almost feel Peter going through thoughts and ideas one by one and discarding them while he decided on the course of action he would take.
"No," Peter said finally. "What I have in mind might work better if they stay out of it."
"Peter..." Caine drew out, knowing that tone of voice. "What have you planned?"
"Well, since we know that the only connection that all three victims shared was last being seen at the Falcon's Club, then that's where they are being targeted, right?"
"Yes," Caine agreed slowly.
"Then why not give the murderer a new target?" Peter said with a ghost of a smile.
"I see," Caine said, "and I believe I know who this target will be?"
"Intimately well," Peter said, his smile broadening a little before it was replaced with a somber look.
"But you do not plan on telling the others at the precinct about your plans to go...undercover...?"
"No, if this killer is Shaolin, then he's going to sense if he's being watched. We've got to do this carefully and the less who know about it, the less chance there will be of a screw-up," Peter told him.
"But will you not need...back up?" Caine asked, the concern obvious in his voice.
"Of course I'll need back up," Peter agreed. "And I'll have the best back up there is...you," he said and turned a full-fledged smile onto his father. "We're a team, remember?"
Caine shook his head. "No, Peter, the danger to you is too great. I cannot allow you to do this." Caine couldn't stop the images from plaguing his mind of his sweet boy meeting the same fate as the others if something were to go wrong. He would die himself before he would allow such a thing to happen to his precious Peter.
Peter turned and took both of his father's hands into his own.
"Pop, try to understand where I'm coming from. If we don't do something, and soon, another person is going to die because I didn't act. I'm not going to let that happen. He has to be stopped." With a rueful shrug of his shoulders, he added, "Besides, who better to stop a Shaolin killer than a Shaolin cop?"
Dark brown eyes met lighter ones. Caine was filled with a mixture of fear for his son that vied with such overflowing love and pride for his boy's inner strength and determination.
Caine's hand reached out to cup Peter's cheek. "If anything were to happen to you...."
Peter's hand grasped his pop's and he pressed his cheek against it. "Nothing's going to happen, not with you watching my back." Peter leaned in and gently kissed him. "Don't you know by now I'm not that easy to get rid of?"
Caine gently slapped him on the cheek and Peter chuckled.
"So, what is...the plan...?" Caine asked.
"The plan is simple," Peter told him. "I go to the Falcon's Club tonight looking like I'm set to find some action."
Peter's face tinted to a shade of crimson. "Yeah, action, you know...." He helplessly gestured a hand between them. "Like I'm looking for some...um, companionship."
"Ah," Caine said with understanding. "And what will I be doing while you are searching for...action?"
"You'll be in the club too, after waiting about a half an hour or so after I get there. I don't want it to look like you're with me so we have a better chance of getting the murderer to approach me," Peter explained.
"I see," Caine said. "Then I will help you to identify the killer if we see him."
"You got it," Peter agreed. "Now, there is one thing I've got to know before we do this."
"Do you have any idea what kept Brett and the others from being able to move once they were taken?" Peter asked him.
Caine nodded. "I believe I do," he answered. "There are several herbs that I know of, and once they are combined, they create a slow-acting toxin. It is an odorless, tasteless toxin that at first causes disorientation and then paralysis of the central nervous system...rendering the victim immobile and eventually causing respiratory depression," he stated. "I believe it was this toxin that was used on the victims when they were abducted."
"If that's true, then why didn't Nickie pick it up on the toxicology screenings?" Peter wondered.
"Because within several hours of ingestion, the chemicals begin to break down, leaving no trace in the bloodstream," Caine answered.
"And you said it causes respiratory depression?" Peter asked.
Caine nodded affirmatively. "Now you realize one of the reasons why I fear for your safety."
Peter took Caine into his arms and rested his forehead against his father's. "Dad, I've put my life in your hands before and you've never let me down yet. I've got no reason to think this time is going to be any different."
"Yes, but the unexpected can always happen," Caine reminded him, his hands resting on Peter's waist.
"Pop, this killer doesn't stand a chance. We're unbeatable when we're together," Peter said with such conviction that Caine had to smile.
"Just promise me you will take every precaution to keep yourself safe."
Peter shot him a smug look. "What do you think I am? A super-cop or something?" He then leaned in to plant another kiss on Caine's supple lips. "I promise."
They stayed there holding one another for a long minute, both reluctant to let the moment go.
"Well," Peter said finally, pulling himself back, "if I plan on baiting anyone tonight, I need to shower and change."
Caine watched his boy slip out of his arms and disappear into the bathroom. As the water started to run, Caine decided he would wait until Peter left for the Falcon's Club to shower and change himself. He knew that he would have to look the part in order to...fit in...with the crowd at a nightclub. It would not take anything as drastic as his 'Gaston' or 'Rocky' persona, but it would no doubt call for something a little special.
As he was musing over this, Peter stepped out of the bathroom and Caine's breath caught. His son walked out wearing an stark white, long-sleeved shirt rolled up on his forearms and unbuttoned halfway down his chest revealing a black cotton tank top--the particularly soft one that was a favorite of Caine's, for it magnificently showed off Peter's muscled arms. A pair of extremely snug-fitting, faded black jeans finished the outfit. Peter's skin glowed from the warmth of the shower, and his dark hair was still slightly damp and disheveled.
"Well, how do I look, Pop?" Peter asked and couldn't help blushing a little at the heat flaring in his lover's eyes.
"Most...exquisite," Caine whispered. "If you looked any more tempting, I would not allow you to leave and would keep you here for myself."
Peter swallowed hard as his jeans grew even tighter across his loins. He felt a stirring inside his gut and tried to promptly squash it, forcing himself to remember the task at hand. It never ceased to astonish him at how quickly his body could respond to his pop's mere presence.
"Thanks," Peter murmured and cleared his throat. "Let's hope the murderer feels the same."
Caine lifted his hand to Peter's cheek, his thumb brushing against a bottom lip before he leaned in to thieve a kiss. "Please, be careful, my darling," he urged.
Peter brushed his cheek against his father's. "I've got too much going for me not to be."
They kissed once more; it was a slow, long, painfully tender, and rich with promises and reassurances. A mute testimony of what each wanted to declare but words lacked to express.
Both of Peter's hands cupped his pop's neck, his thumbs stroking the warm skin, as Caine's hands held his forearms. Peter's eyes were shut as their foreheads pressed together.
"Gotta go, Pop," he said softly, regretfully.
"Yes," Caine said slowly.
"Half an hour, right?"
"Thirty minutes and not a moment longer," Caine promised.
With a sigh, Peter pulled away and turned for the door, not risking a look back.
* * *
"Get back! I'll kill her, I swear to God I will!"
Mary Margaret Skalany knew if anyone had bad Karma following them around, it had to be her. She had been a mere five minutes from the refuge of her apartment. Five wonderfully enticing minutes to go and then she had planned to shower and collapse after a rough day at the precinct. That's when the domestic disturbance call had come in over the scanner. Of course she had been the closest officer to the scene, and of course she'd obligated to take it. Now she found it hard to remember exactly why.
"Look, just put the gun and we'll talk this out, okay?" Skalany said with much more calm than she felt as she looked down the sight of her .45.
When she arrived on the scene, she heard loud yelling from the apartment, mostly masculine. She tried knocking on the door, announcing she was with the police department. The woman had yelled in from outside that her husband had a loaded gun. That's when Skalany, with a lot of effort, had kicked the door in; in the same instant, the six foot-six Latino male grabbed his wife in a stranglehold around her neck and trained the M-1911 pistol to her head. In the background, several young kids could be heard crying hysterically.
"Talk? What would I want to talk to you about?" the Mexican man asked with a sneer, his wife's face draining of color as a beefy arm pressed into her windpipe.
"What's your name?" Mary Margaret asked in a neutral voice.
The Latino man blinked a couple of times, taken off guard by the question. "Romon," he answered slowly.
"Okay, Romon, what if we talk about why you're upset enough to want to hurt your wife?" Skalany probed gently.
"Ex-wife, we ain't married anymore," Romon said.
In his dark brown eyes, Mary Margaret could see a tempest of rage roaring and she knew this was going to have to be treated as delicate matter if everyone was going to come out of it intact.
"So how long have you two been separated?" she asked, trying not only to distract the man, but to also gain a little useful information.
"Two years and the bitch here won't let me see my kids even though I pay support," Romon said and jerked roughly on the woman's neck for emphasis.
"That's bullshit and you know it," the woman croaked out around his arm. "You're just pissed that I started seeing Renaldo. Before that you didn't want to have anything to do with the kids!"
"Shut up you little whore! Just shut your face!" he screamed into her ear. "Did you really think I'd just sit by and let my kids call that punk-assed creep Papa?"
"Hey, Romon," Skalany said, drawing the man's attention back to herself. "You know, if you want custody rights, there's other ways of going about it."
"Yeah, right," the dark-haired man sneered, "Like some judge is going to grant me custody when I've just got laid off?" He jerked on the woman again, her tanned face starting to go ashen. "Nah, it'd be easier to just take the kids, you know?"
"Over my dead body, Romon," the woman squawked.
He tapped the pistol's tip against her skull. "Don't tempt me, you little perra!"
She spit in his face and Skalany watched the man's tanned face turning a livid red with rage. The situation was getting worse.
"Romon," Skalany said gently and keeping her voice as relaxed as she could. Her eyes were locked onto the dull gray gun. "Why don't you give me the gun and we can all sit down and talk about this reasonably." Hesitantly she took a step forward.
"Get back, lady, I'm warning you right now. Why don't you just leave and I'll handle this my own way," Romon said, his voice deepening as he pulled himself and his ex-wife a couple of steps back.
"Sorry, Romon. I can't do that," Skalany said, another step forward marking her words.
"Lady, I'm serious! One more step closer and I'm going to blow her brains all over this wall, I swear I will!" he roared.
Dammit! If she had to shoot to wound him, she didn't think she'd have a clear shot around the woman. Her own .45 didn't waiver. "You really wouldn't want to do that would you? She's the mother of your children. Stop a minute and think about what that would do to them. If you love them as much as you say you do, prove it...let her go," Skalany challenged and saw a flicker of awareness in dark eyes. She pressed on. "Listen to them, can't you hear them crying? They're scared, Romon, they're scared of you."
Mary Margaret watched something flash across the Hispanic's features, the steady hand on the gun lowering just a fraction of an inch.
Suddenly Romon's ex-wife seized the opportunity to grab at the hand that held the gun in an attempt to pry pistol loose. Caught by surprise, Romon couldn't keep the wayward gun from being waved around.
"No!" Skalany cried out. The sound of her voice was drowned out by the deafening ringing of a gunshot blast, the echo bouncing off the walls of the tiny apartment. Mary Margaret had half a second to register the sound as a gun being fired before she felt the tearing heat consuming her body, then she became oblivious once the grayness fell around her.
Caine stepped out of the bathroom, toweling his hair dry from his shower. The emerald green silk shirt he wore tucked into a pair of cotton pants, clung to his still-damp skin. He walked across the floor and into the living room to fetch his shoes. He knew without the need to look at the watch around his wrist that twenty minutes had passed since his boy had left, and momentarily he would be leaving to join him. The slight knot of anxiety in his stomach tightened with each passing moment.
Caine's head popped up, his eyes narrowed, and his hearing became more acute. He felt a presence approaching and could feel fear and anxiety reaching out from the presence, but there appeared to be no malice, so he allowed himself to relax slightly.
"Caine, are you here?"
Caine instantly recognized the familiar voice of Peter's friend and co-worker, Jody, as she called out before he even reached the top of the stairs.
"I am," Caine answered.
The blonde-haired detective entered the room, and it took only one look for Caine to realize that something was not as it should be, that something was very wrong.
"Do you know where Peter is?" Powell asked in the way of a greeting.
"He is...not here," Caine informed the frowning police officer. Shrewd brown eyes narrowed with concern. "What has happened?"
Jody's face was set in an unreadable expression. "I just heard on the scanner that Mary Margaret was shot a few minutes ago."
A frigid shiver ran through Caine's body and centered in a heart that skipped several beats. Though he and Mary Margaret did not share the closeness they once had before he found Peter's love, he still cared about her a great deal. He should go to her, he knew that, but another part of his mind reminded him that he was due to meet Peter in a matter of minutes.
"Kermit and I were on the way to the hospital and thought that maybe you and Peter would want to come with me. That you would come with me."
Jody shifted slightly and looked at Caine with worried eyes. Caine was still not able to find his voice. He knew from instinct that there was something else Jody wasn't telling him.
"Jody, there is more you wish to say to me?" Caine said, giving her the opening.
"It's about Mary Margaret, she asked me not to say anything to anyone, but...."
Caine reached over and took both of her hands in his. "Now is not the time for secrets. If there is something you feel I should know, please, tell me," he urged her.
"I...the other day I walked in on Skalany in the bathroom and she was getting sick. I helped her clean up and asked her if she was feeling all right or if she was coming down with something and...."
"Yes," Caine encouraged, and Jody looked like she was uncertain of whether she should go on or not.
"And...well, she broke down and started crying and I had to hold her until she got herself together," Jody told him and then looked up to meet his gaze head on. "Caine, she's pregnant."
Caine felt like someone had snatched the very air out of his lungs and he could feel the color draining from his face. A child? Could it be? Was it possible? Mary Margaret was with child? His child? And now both mother and infant were in danger. In the back of his mind, Caine wondered why Mary Margaret had kept this from him, but the larger part of him knew that wasn't important right now, what was important was that he be there for the unborn infant who was possibly of his blood and his former lover.
"Look, I know things between you and Skalany have cooled off these last couple of months, but she needs you...both of them need you," Jody said, putting Caine's thoughts into words.
Caine thought about Peter and the murderer he intended to capture, and then he thought about Mary Margaret who was already in trouble. Using his ch'i to reach out to Peter, Caine could sense that there was no immediate threat posed to Peter's safety. His decision, though difficult, was quickly made. One child was safe for now; the other was not.
"Yes," he said to Jody as he reached for his satchel and laid it across his chest. "You are right, we must go to Mary Margaret."
Peter was amazed at the transformation that the Falcon's Club underwent with the setting of the son. The club was alive with the swarming and buzzing of people. Loud music thumped in the background, the vibration of the beat being carried along the floor.
Peter had made himself comfortable on a stool at the bar. From his vantage point, he could see who entered the club and had a clear view of the dance floor as well, which was also packed with bodies. So far he had not seen anyone who had aroused his suspicions, but the night was still young and Peter knew it could be some hours yet before the killer showed up.
Casting glance at his watch, Peter was surprised to see that his half-hour wait for his father was up and there was still no sign of his lover. He fidgeted on his seat and tried to swallow down his increasing worry with a sip of his beer. His father wouldn't be late, not for something like this. What if something happened to him, Peter couldn't help wondering. He dismissed the thought almost as soon as he had it. He was certain he would have felt something, knew from experience that his instincts would let him know if anything wasn't right with his pop, and he just didn't get those vibes. If he had been in tune with his pop before, the bond was even stronger now that they were lovers and he trusted that bond. So where are you then, Pop?
Even from his good position, the police officer realized that with it being a Friday night and how packed the place was, it was going to be quite a job keeping tabs on everyone who entered and exited the place. He also couldn't help noticing that he already had several admirers; he could feel their stares on him like a heat wave. A part of him couldn't help being flattered, but it was only a very small part. The rest of him felt a little sleazy because he was already quite happily off the market, and he felt the slightest twinge of regret at having to pretend to be otherwise - almost like he was cheating on his father somehow. Don't be stupid, the rational part of his mind kicked in. You're here on a job, that's it. Do what you gotta do, Pete, to get it done, he told himself.
Knowing that the one he was looking for was Shaolin, Peter realized that if he wasn't careful the killer would sense that Peter was a police officer. Pushing out all of his concerns, he effectively raised the shield of his mind like his pop had taught him. He knew there were drawbacks to this, but he couldn't risk not protecting his cover. While his mind was cloaked to the murderer's, that also meant that the murderer's would be cloaked to him, too, making it more difficult to sense him. With mental shields raised, Peter settled in for a long evening.
Once at the hospital, it didn't take Kermit, Jody, and Caine long to find the others waiting in the emergency room waiting area. Blake, Kincaid, Strenlich, and Simms were already there and all had the same look of worry.
"How is she?" Kermit asked, breaking the looming silence of the place.
Simms had her arms wrapped around her and was pacing in front of the chairs. She stopped at looked at the detective. "We don't know yet, she's being taken care of right now."
"The doctor hasn't come out to tell us anything yet," TJ added.
"How the hell did it happen?" Kermit growled.
Blake's watery eyes turned to Griffin. "She answered a domestic disturbance, the guy had a gun and was holding the ex-wife hostage. She made a grab for the gun when Skalany had him distracted and it went off," he recounted in a flat voice that didn't reveal the pain that was so obvious in his eyes.
"Dammit," Kermit snarled, shoving his fisted hands into his pants pockets. "What about the perp?"
"He was apprehended when back-up finally got there," Simms responded.
Caine, without speaking, took a seat beside Jody while Peter's captain absently shifted over to stand beside Kermit.
"Do you think she's going to be okay?" Jody asked, her eyes lifting to meet Caine's.
The priest placed a reassuring hand on the female detective's knee. "I...do not know, but I do know that Mary Margaret has much inner strength. She will fight this."
She gave him a faint smile and patted his hand with her free one. "Having you here is going to mean a lot to her."
Caine's eyes shifted uneasily from Jody's face to the tiled floor in front of him. "Yes, the love of her friends will help to strengthen her ch'i."
Caine knew that by her curious look, Jody wanted to know what had happened between Mary Margaret and himself, but she left the question unasked.
Together the handful of friends banded together to wait for news from the doctors.
Peter started to nurse his second beer and wondered if the night was going to be a bust. So far he'd had absolutely no luck in spotting anyone that drew his attention. Of course he knew the killer wasn't going to exactly be advertising his whereabouts, but Peter had still been hoping that something or someone was going to spike his instincts into action - there had been nothing. Remember what Pop keeps telling you about patience, Peter, he reminded himself and tried to stifle the antsy feeling he had been getting.
His thoughts were disturbed when he felt a hand come to rest on his shoulder. Turning, Peter faced a man who looked to be near his age and height, with dirty blonde hair that was streaked with brighter blond from the sun, evident from his honey-skinned tan. He wore glasses that accentuated soft blue eyes.
"Hello," the blonde said. "My name is Jack," he introduced with an outstretched hand.
"Peter," he said as he shook the hand. After they finished shaking, Jack let his fingers linger on Peter's. "Look, I hope I'm not being overly forward here, but I've been watching you for quite awhile and I just had to take the chance to see if you'd let me buy you a drink...and maybe keep you company?"
Peter had fielded several come-on attempts already and realized that if he kept it up, he was going to seem too conspicuous. Peter's eyes looked over the man who was wearing a black dress shirt and blue jeans and decided that he was innocent enough not to cause him any trouble and seemed just interested enough to help Peter keep his cover intact.
"Well, I've already got a drink," Peter said, holding up his beer and watched as Jack's smile faded slightly. "But I can always use good company."
Jack's smile returned, and he took the seat next to Peter.
"So, Peter, I know this is going to sound like a bad line, but are you new here?" Jack blushed a little. "I mean, I've been here a few times, but I've never seen you before." He cleared his throat a little. "I'm sure I would have remembered you if I had."
"I just moved here recently," Peter lied with ease. "The computer software company I worked for decided to downsize, and I had to relocate for another job here in town."
"Really? Where were you from originally?" Jack asked.
"Seattle," Peter answered without a pause.
Blue eyes looked deeply into Peter's. "Well, I'd say I'm sorry you lost your job, but I'd be lying if I did since it led you here...and to me."
Peter actually started to feel a flushing of his cheeks, and he pulled his eyes away from Jack's. "So, I told you what I do for a living, what about yourself?"
"Architect," Jack answered in return. "Actually I've even been part of the team that has been doing the renovation work on the east side of Chinatown. I tell you, it's absolutely fascinating working in that section of town."
"Really?" Peter asked with genuine interest. "So you like working in Chinatown?"
"Are you kidding?" Jack asked with obvious enthusiasm. "That area is so rich and alive with Eastern culture, it's amazing what you can lean just by observing. It's affected me so much that I've even done a little research into their heritage." Jack paused for a moment, apparently aware that he was sounding too eager but unable to control himself. He took a sip of the Jack and Coke in front of him. "I'm sorry, here I am going on and on, and I don't even know if you know anything about the Eastern culture, let alone care enough to listen to my jabbering."
Peter couldn't stop himself from letting a sly smile slip. "Actually, I've learned a thing or two about it over the years."
Caine looked up as Jody stood in front of him, two white Styrofoam cups in her hands. She held one out to him.
"I thought you could use this," she said and handed him a cup of steaming tea from the vending machine, keeping the coffee for herself. "I know it's not the usual herbal stuff you like, but...." She shrugged her shoulders.
Caine, touched by the thought, took the cup of bland, weak tea. "Thank you," he said softly and was rewarded with a hesitant smile.
As Caine had been sitting and waiting, he'd had some time to process the news of the pregnancy a bit more. He still had no answers to how they would deal with this situation. It would be a difficult way for them to go if Mary Margaret still held resentment towards him for making a break from her, but hopefully she would allow him to be a part of the child's life. The child should not suffer or not know its father because it was not meant to be between the father and mother. Mary Margaret was not the type to be vengeful, but Caine knew from experience that pain often brought about changes in the person that would not have been there before. What would he say to Mary Margaret about the child? If she asked Jody to keep the pregnancy concealed then she must have her reasons for it for the time being. He would respect that decision. He would not pressure her to reveal her secret; she would have to come to him on her own about it.
How would he explain all of this to Peter? He knew it was not something he would be capable of keeping from his lover if they were going to have a life together based on truth and trust. He hoped his sweet one would be able to accept this somehow. With his thoughts turning once more to his lover, Caine reached out to Peter to make certain that all was well. He was filled with relief when he knew Peter was still all right.
Jody took her seat and looked around at her comrades. TJ was leaned against the hard-backed chair, resting with his eyes shut; Kermit and her captain were sitting near each other on the other side of the room, their fingers brushing, curling into each other's as they thought they weren't being watched; Blake was absently pacing around and not talking to anyone. She'd bet her entire pension that she knew what each and every one of them were thinking, too - the same thing she herself was. Everyone was imagining what it would be like if they had been the ones shot. It was impossible to be a cop and not wonder about it, unconsciously feeling like they were living on borrowed time as it was, and in a spit second, in one wrong move, and that's it...game, set, and match, do not pass go, do not collect two hundred dollars...they're gone. Jody also realized that every cop believed that they had a handle on it, that they could take the risk and consequences that came with the job - until tragedy struck a little too close to home like with Mary Margaret and it rocked their world, turned their well-organized sense of justice and duty on its ear. As good little cops, they were expected to chalk it up as part of the job description and shake it off. Well, dammit, she was tired of shaking it off!
Jody almost jerked when she felt a hand on hers. Gently, Caine pried loose her clutched fingers that were squeezing the cup without her notice.
"Jody, you were close to scalding yourself," the priest gently chided.
"Sorry," she mumbled. "I guess the waiting is starting to get to me."
Caine nodded in understanding and placed his arm around her shoulders and pulled her close until her head rested on his shoulder. Jody felt like she should object for some reason, but found she couldn't - the calmness that exuded from him was just too nice to resist.
"I am sure we will receive new soon," Caine said softly. Jody only nodded wearily.
Minutes stretched on until a doctor came out of the double doors. Caine immediately recognized him as Doctor Samson, a doctor he had worked with on a number of occasions during the rounds he would make to see his patients. Leonard Samson was both an excellent physician and a pleasant man with a broad mind who embraced new thoughts and ideas with zeal.
"Caine, my friend, what are you doing here?" Samson asked as their eyes met.
"I am...waiting for word on Mary Margaret Skalany, as we all are," Caine said, his hand gesturing to the others in the waiting area.
"Yes, well, Detective Skalany suffered a wound to the anterior chest. The bullet nicked the lung and penetrated the plural cavity," Samson informed them.
"What's her condition?" Blake asked, his voice shaking ever so slightly.
"We had to insert a chest tube after removing the bullet and replace the blood she's lost. Right now her condition is stable and she's been moved to a private room on the third floor," the middle-aged doctor reported.
"Can she have visitors?" Simms finally spoke up to ask.
"Yes," Samson replied, "but she's still pretty weak and none too comfortable, so I'll have to ask that only one or two of you go in at a time and that you don't stay long."
Everyone nodded, and Simms moved over to Caine. "Maybe you should go in first," she suggested.
"Yeah, I think she'd like that," TJ chimed in when Caine was just about to yield to someone else.
"Yeah, we can wait until you're done," Strenlich insisted and Kermit nodded. Blake was the only one who seemed to have no response.
Bowing slightly in assent, he made his move to the elevators and to the third floor. Once it reached its destination and Caine stepped onto the ward of the third floor, he had no need to ask a nurse what room Mary Margaret was in; he could feel her energy, though weaker than normal, from the hallway. Knocking on the heavy door to announce his arrival, he pressed the bar and entered.
Caine's heart lurched in his chest at the sight of his former lover. Mary Margaret's fair face was wan and pale, and her lovely, vibrant eyes were sunk in with dark circles underneath that made them appear bruised. From under her nose, there was a pronged cannula that was administering several liters of air to ease her breathing, Caine knew. Attached to her index finger was a thin wire that lead to monitor that observed and recorded the amount of oxygen in her blood...a pulse oximeter...Caine believed he'd heard it referred to. Setting beside it was the drain that led from the tube that had been inserted between Mary Margaret's ribs and covered with gauze.
"Caine," she called out in a raw voice. A small moan escaped when she tried to move around a little in the bed.
It hurt to see the look of surprise in Mary Margaret's eyes. Though she tried to hide it, it was obvious that she did not believe he would come to see her. He had hoped that she would know that even now he still cared for her deeply and valued her friendship, but apparently that was not the case.
"Do you wish for my company, or would you prefer rest?" he asked her.
"Please...stay," she said hoarsely and instinctively held out her hand, which he took. It was cool and clammy. "I'm...glad you're here, a little surprised, but glad."
"Why would I not have come?" Caine asked softy, fingers reaching up to brush dark bangs out of her eyes. "Someone I care about a great deal had been hurt, I had no other choice."
Caine watched as Mary Margaret's eyes squeezed shut, as though stung by his words that meant to comfort.
"How are...you feeling?" Caine asked her.
"Like someone decided to use me as target practice," she said and offered a weak smile that he returned.
"Yes, I can imagine," Caine responded. "Is there much pain?"
"Only when I breathe," she said barely above a whisper. "They gave me something, I think, but it hasn't kicked in yet."
"Perhaps I can help," Caine said. "Would you mind...."
"No," Skalany said quickly. "If you can make it stop hurting so bad, do it, please."
Nodding, Caine drew closer and reached for Mary Margaret's neck and using his forefinger and thumb, squeezed a certain area with a nerve grouping he knew would cause an amount of numbness to set in and ease her breathing. As he did this, his other hand inconspicuously moved to her abdomen where he checked the status of the child. He was relieved to feel the infant's life-force was strong and stable. Sweet Mary Margaret, how can you keep such a thing from me?
"How is that?" he asked after applying the accupressure.
She paused for a moment, when she answered, her voice was a bit stronger. "Better I think."
Caine's fingers stroked the back of her hand. "Mary Margaret, I am sorry that I was unable to prevent this. I had no warning or vision of this occurring. Perhaps if I had, I would have been able to stop it in time." I had believed I lost one child in the past; I would never allow that to happen a second time. I would never allow any harm to befall either of you.
Skalany's hand squeezed his and her head shook slightly. "Don't, Caine, don't blame yourself for this. You can't be expected to know about things like this all the time." She shut her eyes for a moment, a small sigh escaping. "No one blames you, least of all me. If anything, I should blame myself for going in without back-up."
Caine's mind flashed for a second onto his son, his worry surfacing once again. With effort he forced it out of his mind. "Mary Margaret, you only carried out the action as you saw fit at the time. Had you not intervened, the young woman's former husband could have easily shot her," he reassured her.
Mary Margaret looked into the steady gaze of her one-time lover. Dammit, Caine! Why do you have to look at me with those eyes, that tenderness? Don't you realize it's killing me to see you after all this time? I can't bear even hearing you say my name without thinking about the way it sounded when we made love.
"Yeah, well, I guess I can be thankful that she made it out of the situation unharmed at least," Skalany granted.
"As did the children," Caine reminded her, his fingers still stroking over her hand. "You are a brave and strong woman, Mary Margaret."
If I'm so damn strong, then why do I feel like I'm going to break down if you don't get out of here? Mary Margaret couldn't stand the feel of his touch any longer, it was becoming too distracting, and let her hand fall back to her side.
Caine let it go willingly. He knew there was much they had to discuss, but it was neither the time nor the place for such a talk. When the time was right, their talk would come, but it would not be on this night.
"Mary Margaret, there are others waiting to see you. I do not want to...monopolize...your time and energy," he told her. "If you wish, I would like to come back later to see you." Caine looked momentarily down on the floor before facing her again. "That is, if I am welcome."
"Of course you're welcome, always," Skalany told him softly, cursing herself at the same time for being so damn masochistic. Her feelings for him were still too strong to deal with all of it right now.
Caine gave a small nod and leaned down to brush his lips against Mary Margaret's temple. Skalany watched his broad back in retreat. She felt the stinging behind her closed eyelids and fought off the tears that threatened to start falling. Caine was right, she was strong, or she was damn well going to act like it at least.
When Jody walked in a few minutes later, she was greeted with a bold smile.
Peter had become so absorbed in talking with Jack that he didn't realize time was passing so quickly. He still kept an eye on their surroundings and especially kept an eye out for his father, but so far there still was no one who'd set off his warning bells and no sign of his father.
What was surprising Peter, though, was that somehow in his attempts to keep his cover intact, Peter was finding that Jack actually was good company. Jack was intelligent, funny, and unlike a lot of people in the club, actually seemed to want to get to know him instead of being on the look out for a 'fast fuck'. Peter knew those signals well from more than one woman he'd been with over the years, knew the vibes they gave off, and he wasn't getting those vibes from Jack. Peter had even begun mixing more and more of the truth about himself sandwiched within the lies, even to the point of sharing some stories about the orphanage. The more they talked, the guiltier Peter started to feel about having to lie to Jack in the first place.
There was a slow song starting to play, and the fast gyrating of the dancers slowed down as couples were drawn close to each other, bodies pressed tightly as they swayed to the rhythm. Peter watched this and felt Jack's hand on his wrist.
"Would you mind if I asked you to dance?" Jack asked with a shy smile. "This is the only kind of music I can really dance to, otherwise I typically have two left feet," he explained sheepishly.
This wouldn't be a good idea, Peter told himself. You don't need to be leading him on. But Peter also reminded himself that he was suppose to blending in to the scene if he was really going to become bait. Come on, Peter, it's only a dance, what are you afraid of? the cop part of him spoke up. Just a dance, he could dance this once, right?
"It'd be my pleasure," Peter said after another stiff swallow of beer. Standing, he deftly took Jack's hand in his own and wove them through the masses of bodies and onto the floor. They looked at each other for a half a moment, and by some unspoken signal, Peter pulled Jack lightly into his arms. As Peter's hands fell to Jack's hips, the architect's came to rest on Peter's shoulders. Together, their feet moved to the tempo of the melody, their bodies swaying.
"You're a great dancer," Jack murmured.
"Mmm, thanks," Peter said softly, not aware as they drew even closer.
This isn't so bad, Peter thought to himself.
The music continued playing, the beat pulsing. They were close enough that Peter could feel the heat of Jack's body through the black shirt, close enough to notice the smallest flecks of green within the blueness of Jack's eyes. Peter watched those eyes shut as Jack moved to rest his chin on Peter's shoulder, and a puff of a sigh brushed across Peter's neck.
The soft strain of the tune played on and Peter could smell the spicy scent of Jack's cologne - it was the same his father wore. Without fully realizing it, Peter's own eyes drifted shut as he was filled with thoughts of his lover. His mind centered on the last time he and his pop had danced like he was now, how it felt being held in his arms, of the sweet loving they'd shared afterwards, of his father under him and in need of him.
"Peter," the soft voice breathed his name. It took the police officer several seconds to realize that the voice didn't belong to his lover. "Tell me what you were thinking just then," Jack prompted.
"Mmm? Why?" Peter murmured, shaking his head a little to clear it.
"Because you just looked so...happy...satisfied," Jack replied. Their faces were only inches apart. "It was enough to make me...."
"Make you what?" Peter asked softly.
"Want to kiss you," Jack confessed in a whisper and started to close the distance between them.
Peter had enough presence of mind to turn his head just in time, their cheeks brushing against each other.
"I-I can't, I'm sorry," Peter whispered, his eyes squeezing tightly shut again.
Jack gently nuzzled his neck. "Hey, hey, it's okay. You just want to take things slow, right?"
Peter couldn't meet the other man's eyes. "Yeah...something like that," he murmured.
"Look at me, Peter," Jack said with a stronger voice, Peter's eyes raising in response. "I understand, really."
Oh, if you only did, Peter thought to himself as he watched the other man smile tenderly at him.
"Besides, you'll find out I've got a lot of patience. Life is too full of pleasure to want to rush things."
Peter was about to say something when a stranger approached them from behind.
"Hey, just what the hell do you think you're doing with my boyfriend?"
Peter turned to see an Asian man in a dark blue tank top and jeans, dark eyes glaring at them. Though the man was about a head shorter than Peter, he was very muscular and broad-chested.
"Excuse me?" Peter asked, taken off guard.
"I said, get your hands off my boyfriend...now," the Asian responded.
"Dammit, Adam," Jack snapped. "I told you it was over! Why can't you just get over it?"
"Hey, look," Adam said, his voice softening, as he stepped in between Peter and Jack, his hand reaching up to caress Jack's cheek. "Listen, babe, I told you that I was sorry. You know how I get sometimes when I drink, and you know I didn't mean it." Adam ran his hands up and down Jack's arms. "Come on, why don't you come back home and we'll talk about it. Let me show you how sorry I really am," Adam murmured.
Jack jerked away from him. "No! I said the last time that it was done and over with, that if you laid finger on me again that I was out of there and I meant it. Now leave me alone! Quit calling me, quit bothering me at work, just quit!"
Adam grabbed Jack by the arms and shook him. "Listen here, you little bastard, no one leaves me, you got that? No one!"
Peter reached out, grabbed Adam's wrist, gave it a hard snap twist, and held it as his free hand reached out and drew Jack behind him.
"Now, I believe my friend here asked you very nicely to quit bothering him," Peter said mildly and put a little more pressure on the wrist as Adam squirmed. "Also, it's not very polite to go around touching people who don't want to be touched. I'd suggest the smart thing for you to do would be to leave before we create a scene here." With a shove, Peter released the Asian. He didn't want a scene and risk bringing himself unwanted attention, but he wasn't about to just stand to the side either. If Adam wanted a fight, he'd get one.
Dark brown eyes glowered with pent-up rage and looked over Peter's shoulder at Jack.
"Fine, but you've not seen the end of this, Jack. No one leaves me, remember that," Adam growled.
"Is there a problem here?" A new voice asked.
The men turned to see another large man looking at them in irritation. The man was tanned, and had dark, curled, glossy hair that reached the base of his neck. A thin mustache covered his top lip and a long-sleeved black t-shirt he filled out that read 'Security' on the front.
Peter looked Adam squarely in the eye. "I don't know, is there a problem here?"
The Asian tugged at his blue tank top and straightened it up. "Nah, no problem," he answered, and his narrowed eyes sent a penetrating scowl at Jack. "In fact, I was just leaving."
"Good, I'll show you the way then," the security guard responded.
"I think I can manage on my own," Adam snarled.
"See that you do," the guard warned.
Jack and Peter watched as Adam wove through the crowd and made his way to through the door.
Peter turned to the security guard. "Um, thanks...."
"Terry," the guard offered. "And you can thank me by staying out of trouble."
"You got it," Peter said and offered the guard a smile of appreciation.
Jack watched Terry walk off before turning to Peter. "Peter, I'm so sorry to have dragged you in on that. Adam just can't take a hint," he said and took Peter's hand in his. "Thank you."
Peter squeezed the hand in his. "No problem. Hey, if you ever...you know...need someone to talk to about it...."
Jack's eyes seemed to look right through Peter. A haunted look clouding his features. "Thanks, but there isn't much to say about it. I'd rather forget about it actually."
"Yeah, I understand," Peter said and decided that it wasn't a subject opened to discussion right now.
Jack seemed to give himself a mental shake. "Peter, I've been having a great time, but...I think I need to go home."
Peter could easily tell how obviously shaken-up Jack still was about the run-in with his ex-boyfriend. "Think you'll be okay or would you like some company home?"
A reluctant smile teased the edges of Jack's mouth. "You know, any other time, I'd jump at the offer." Peter felt his cheeks flushing again. "But right now, I think I need to be alone."
"All right, if you're sure you're going to be okay," Peter conceded, but didn't like the haunted look coming back into Jack's eyes as he started to move away. Peter caught him by his hand and tugged until Jack turned around again. "Hey, if you change your mind and decide you want to talk, or if you ever need any help with anything, come to Chinatown, ask for Caine, and you'll be able to find me."
"I'll do that," Jack said softly and gave Peter a final glance before disappearing into the mob of people.
Peter watched Jack's departure and then made his way back to his seat at the bar and the cold beer still waiting for him there. The frosty alcohol slid down his parched throat in a wave of coolness. It didn't do anything to settle down the bile that was churning around in his stomach. He couldn't believe what had nearly happened out there on the dance floor, how close he had come to letting another man, someone other than his lover...kiss him. What the hell had he been thinking? He knew it had been a mistake to keep up the charade with Jack. God, he felt like such a slime! What would his pop think if he knew what had just happened? Peter's gut twisted sharply at the thought of what it would have looked like to his father and how it would've hurt him. Yeah, hell, he liked flirting, always had - in fact ,he inherited his flirting ways from Pop himself - but this time it was different somehow in a way Peter couldn't exactly put into words. There was no excuse for it, it shouldn't have happened. And Jack! Jack hadn't deserved to be deceived like that either. Peter took another long gulp of his beer.
The police officer's thoughts turned to Jack, and more precisely Jack and Adam. Peter had definitely not liked the looks of Adam in the least. All the rage he'd felt coming from Adam made him worry about Jack's safety. He'd seen that undercurrent of anger in others during his career and knew that the control keeping it in check could snap at any second. He couldn't help wondering how Jack had ever gotten involved with someone like that in the first place. A knot of apprehension in his stomach twisted a little more tightly. Should he have insisted on taking Jack home in case Adam showed up there for him? Jack did seem pretty certain things were going to be all right, so maybe he'd be okay. At least Peter knew Jack would be able to find him again if he needed him.
Peter tried to push the thoughts out of his mind, remembering that he was at the bar for a reason and he needed to be concentrating on a killer. He shut his eyes briefly as the pounding music started giving him a headache. The sweltering heat of the night didn't do much to help his head either.
Peter watched as the number of the club's clientele started trickling down, people pairing off and going in their own directions to spend the night together. His frustration was growing in leaps and bounds with each passing minute; each minute where he wasn't any closer to knowing who the killer was. Was he even here, or was Peter just wasting his time when he could be home? Maybe he'd have to come back tomorrow night. The thought wasn't a pleasant one.
God, he was hot. The heat in the place was getting ridiculous. Didn't they know what air-conditioning was? Peter pulled at the white shirt that clung to him. The pounding in his head had turned into a gentle roar so ferocious that it made his vision cut in and out. Peter knew he'd only had a couple of beers, so it couldn't be the alcohol causing his headache - not this soon anyhow. The flashing lights from the dance floor were hurting his eyes, and he shut them for a moment to block them out.
I need air, need some fresh air, Peter decided and stood up on legs that seemed to sway under him. Man, the heat must be getting to me more than I thought, he told himself as he hauled himself to his feet and towards the door. As he nearly stumbled while moving, his head swimming wildly, his instincts told him that he was not feeling the effects of heat or liquor, but that somehow he'd been more successful at attempting to lure the killer than he'd thought - he knew he'd been drugged.
From where he swayed on his feet, he could see the exit to the place. The door twisted and curved in front of his eyes like a bad image in a fun house mirror. His fingers clutched the edge of the bar as he made his way toward it. He had to get to his father somehow; his lover would know what to do about the drug, would help get it out of his system before it caused damage. He had to make it to his lover, that thought the only one that was clear within his fogged mind. He stumbled over someone's feet, and forceful hands caught his upper arms before he had a chance to fall.
"Whoa, steady there," the voice said, as Peter focused his eyes to see that it was coming from the security guard...Terry. The dark-eyed man scrutinized him. "You okay?"
"I...drugged...been drugged," Peter managed to mumble, his strength starting to slip. "I got to get home."
Terry looked grimly into Peter's face. "Yeah, I thought I saw that blond guy slip something into your drink earlier, but I was too far away to tell for sure."
Jack? Jack drugged me? Peter thought hazily. It couldn't have been, could it? Peter realized he didn't know Jack well, but he's trusted him immediately and usually his instincts were right on the mark when it came to reading people. Besides that, he knew for a fact that Jack definitely did not have any Shaolin brands on his arms, so it couldn't have been him. Yeah, but what if he was involved with the murderer? his cop's mind chimed in. He could be the one who sets up the victims for the murderer's attack later on, he thought to himself. For all you know, the killer is waiting for you out in the parking lot. In his current condition, he knew he'd not be any match to protect himself if that were the case. He needed his father, and needed him now. He started to make his way to the door again before Terry's strong hands stopped him.
"Hey, where do you think you're going?" the security officer asked, blocking Peter's path with his bulky body.
"Need to get to Chinatown, I need to see my father," Peter said, wondering if his words were actually slurred or if they just sounded that way to him. He tried to push past Terry, but didn't quite succeed.
"You're not going anywhere, partner," Terry informed him. "At least not by yourself. You're in no condition to drive."
"Yeah, but...." Peter started to protest.
"Nope, tell you what, my shift ends in a couple of minutes. What if I gave you a ride into Chinatown or wherever it is you're wanting to go?" Terry offered.
The security guard gently guided him to an empty stool and urged him down. "Stay here and I'll go clock out," Terry ordered and disappeared before Peter had a chance to respond.
Peter sat still, letting his eyes close in an attempt to stop the violent spinning filling his heavy head. The ringing in his ears battled the throbbing music still pulsating through the place, his head expanding and contracting in time with every thump of the drum beat. Only a hand resting on his knee caused him to open up his eyes.
"Ready?" Terry asked.
"Yeah," Peter responded with a nod he instantly regretted.
Peter felt hands on his elbows encouraging him to his feet. The strong fingers rested at the small of his back and propelled him forward. Peter concentrated on getting one foot to step in front of the other and before he knew it, the sticky, humid night breeze was blowing across his face and he knew there was concrete under his feet.
"Over this way," Terry urged, steering Peter to a black Lumina parked under a street light.
Peter vaguely noticed the security guard opening up the passenger side door and felt his knees giving way to land in a heap on the plush leather seat. Terry helped push his legs into the vehicle.
"Man, you're in sad shape," the security officer commented absently as he shut the door and walked around to the driver's side and climbed in.
The engine roared to life and the electric seat belt settled around Peter's chest as he rested the back of his head against the cool leather seat that was soothing to his hot skin.
"So, where are we going?" Terry asked as he slipped the car into gear.
"Chinatown," Peter murmured. "To my father's." Peter then gave the security guard the address to their loft.
"Don't worry, lamb, you're in good hands now," Terry said, his eyes steady on the road.
Peter blinked a couple of times in confusion. "What did you just say?" he asked, as Terry's voice echoed through his head.
Terry turned his dark eyes onto Peter. "I said to just relax, that you're in good hands, and I'll make sure you get home."
Peter eyes drifted shut, giving in to the weighted lids he couldn't fight any longer. The road droned under the tires in a hypnotic rhythm, and Peter occasionally felt the car careening around corners. The seatbelt tugged on him as the car slowed for a stoplight.
"We're nearly there, it won't be long now," Peter heard Terry say.
The voice roused the police detective to look out the window and into the darkness of the night. When he did, Peter noticed that he was in very unfamiliar surroundings.
"Hey, where are we going?" Peter managed to ask, trying to sit up straighter in his seat for a better look, but lacking the strength. "This isn't Chinatown."
Peter felt Terry's hand come to rest on his knee and slide up to his thigh, fingers squeezing slightly.
"Don't worry, you've been chosen for something very special," Terry told him, his voice dropping to a tone that froze Peter's blood. "Very special indeed."
Peter's mind tried to deny what his instincts were telling him, but he knew that voice almost as well as his own. With effort, Peter moved to grab the hand on his thigh to push it away. When he did, the long-sleeved t-shirt Terry wore was shoved up, revealing the brand of the dragon burned into his muscular flesh.
"I'm a cop, you know, this isn't going to work," Peter murmured, his tongue feeling huge and bulky in his mouth.
Terry's hand reached up to caress Peter's cheek. There was an eerily calm smile that turned up the corners of his mouth.
"No matter, my innocent, they don't know where you are," he said with an unnerving certainty. "Besides, I'm too powerful for them to stop me now. Soon, all will be completed. When you are received, then at last, so too will I," Terry informed him mildly.
An endless swirl of questions plagued Peter's mind, the biggest one was wondering what Terry was trying to complete. He tried to think through his options, knowing there had to be a way he could escape. His thinking was so scattered, though, that the thoughts barely flittered through his mind before they were gone again, too wispy to cling to. The car continued on its course in the unfamiliar area of town while Peter's chest was tightening, and his breathing was becoming more and more shallow. Pop, where are you? Peter called out in his thoughts. A chill swept through him when he let himself wonder if his father even knew where to look for him. It had seemed like an eternity since he last felt his pop's comforting presence. He closed his eyes and could see his father's face, helping him to calm down and slow his breathing.
The car rolled to a stop, the tires crunching on crushed rock. Terry climbed out of the driver's side and walked around to open Peter's door. Reaching in, the security guard grabbed Peter by the waist, pulled him out, and in one swift movement, threw him over his shoulder in a fireman's carry and began walking forward.
Peter watched as the gravel crunching under Terry's tennis shoes turned into concrete as he heard a door opening, creaking on hinges. The clipped footsteps echoed loudly through out the building and then were swallowed in the vast emptiness. Peter realized that they were in an abandoned warehouse, but he still didn't know where.
Quite a few steps later, Peter heard the grating being opened to a freight elevator. The gears grinded noisily as it started moving down. The lift jerked and jarred to a halt, and the gate was pushed back. Peter was carried down a long length of hallway that was illuminated by dim yellow bulbs caged in wire grid work that were placed in regular intervals along the wall. In the distance, he heard the soft whirling of a power generator.
Turning into a doorway, suddenly came aware of being in the room of his nightmares. He knew it well from his dream walking with his father. Shadows danced on the walls from the flickering candlelight and the cool, damp air seeped deep into Peter's bones. Gently, he was laid down on the bed he knew was in the center of the room. The black silk sheets were crisp and cool under his weight.
Peter's limbs were sprawled bonelessly on the coverlet as he watched the dark-haired fallen Shaolin sit on the edge of the bed next to him. Fingers worked the buttons of his shirt loose, and firm hands tugged the shirt from the waistband of his jeans. With that tossed, Terry then pulled the black tank top Peter wore up and over his head. Sure, broad hands took Peter by the shoulders and pushed him back until his head landed on the soft downy pillow beneath him.
"My innocent lamb," Terry said softly, his fingers pinching Peter's chin and forcing him to turn his head and look into his eyes. "Do you realize how lucky you are? No, I suppose you don't." The hand fondled his cheek almost reverently. "Well, you soon will. You see, evil has bound your soul, and you don't even recognize it. I do, though; my eyes have been opened to the light of truth. It grants me the ability to free your soul, and in the process, return myself to grace." The one-time Shaolin leaned close to Peter's ear and whispered huskily, "I am your savior, Peter, and you'll come to see that in time." Dry, cool lips pressed a kiss to Peter's. "The veil will be lifted from your eyes, too."
Peter tried to move and pull away from the hands that sought the button of his fly, but he couldn't move, his muscles paralyzed with drugs and fear. Terry pulled the zipper of his jeans down; Peter heard the release of the teeth but was helpless to stop it. Slowly and deliberately, Terry pulled the taut denim down Peter's hips, farther down lean legs and off to the floor.
The police officer felt a shudder as the hands took free reign over his legs, softly touching and drawing fingertips over his thighs and hips.
"So innocent, such a bright soul to be tainted," the raspy voice whispered. "I can hardly wait to release you and restore you to the glory you are deserving of."
Terry reached up and hooked his fingers into the band of Peter's briefs, gently pulling the last barrier down over his hips and farther until they were off completely. Peter could feel the burning hot gaze of the other man fall on him, taking in the sight of his nude body that no longer obeyed him. A wrenching sob was caught in his throat as the fear roared through him like an untamed tidal wave, unavoidable and all-consuming. He was helpless to do anything else but ride out the storm and hope it wouldn't swallow him whole.
Terry leaned down, and Peter felt his lips brush against lower abdomen. "Now, my lamb, I must prepare myself for the ceremony of purification, then I will return to you."
The bed shifted, and Peter heard footsteps leaving the room until he was alone. His heart was pounding against his ribs, each thumping counting off the seconds, and it was so loud in his ears. His lungs felt like they were burning, each breath firing sharp pains along his nerves.
It had to be a nightmare. It was the only explanation Peter could come up with that made sense to his foggy mind. It would only be a few minutes before his own screaming would jar him awake, and he'd find himself lying safe and sound in his own bed with only hours to go before having to get up for work. He closed his eyes and clung to the thought until he heard the approaching steps of Terry's return. When he opened them, Peter saw the billowing red of the robes and looked into the grisly wooden mask that had been the last image Brett Daniel's eyes had seen before death had taken him.
Suddenly that sobering thought added enough clarity to Peter's muddled mind to make him fully aware of the reality of his situation. The morgue pictures of Brett Daniels, David Ling, and the last victim fluttered through his mind,.and he finally realized that it wasn't a dream, that he would be the next victim of this psychopath. First his body was going to violated, then he would be stabbed through the heart - just like the others.
Mildly he wondered which one of his fellow cops would be the one to find his body. He hoped it wasn't Jody, he didn't think she'd be capable of handling it. Would Nickie be the one to do the autopsy on him? Would he get a police burial or would his pop insist on a small, quiet, dignified Shaolin burial? Aw, Pop, Peter's mind cried out as the thoughts tumbled into one another. He'd had so many plans for him and his father, so many things he wanted them to see and do together. They had a whole lifetime left to spend with each other. I love you, Pop, I hope you know it, remember it, the voice in his mind spoke out even as he felt the renegade Shaolin's hands roaming over his bare chest.
"Don't worry, my innocent lamb, I won't hurt you," the throaty voice whispered in promise. "Once your body has been purified, then I will be able to purge the evil clinging to your soul, and then you will be ready to be embraced by the light."
Peter watched as the other man climbed onto the bed, lifting the hem of the heavy robe as he did so. Hands opened up Peter's legs as Terry moved between them, then ran his fingers up and down them tenderly. Peter squeezed his eyes shut. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he took solace in the thought that it would all be over quickly.
"NO!" A thunderous voice called out, the loud peal ringing through out the room.
The masked face snapped around to see a man with long silver hair and wearing a green silk shirt standing in the doorway.
"You will not harm my son!"
Terry looked into the cold brown eyes that glared with rage and anger. He sensed there was something quite different about this stranger who had dared entered his lair. With a glance spared for his lamb, he slowly rose from the bed.
"You are Shaolin," he said to the older man with certainty.
"I am," the man in the green silk stated.
Terry let a cruel smile form on his lips under the mask. "Ah, this is a great honor then, to be allowed to sacrifice both a Shaolin father as well as his son."
Kwai Chang Caine moved further into the room, a part of him noting Peter's pale skin, shallow breathing, and increased temperature. He would have to tend to his boy soon to be able to reverse the affects of the drug.
"You will sacrifice no one this night," Caine said in a voice that barely hid his fury. How dare this man try to take his son away from him!
"You can try to stop me if you'd like, but I will succeed in being accepted by the light." Terry began circling his opponent who stood steady in a guarded stance. "I was once like you, Shaolin, until I learned the only true path to Shambhallah."
Suddenly Terry came at Caine with strike aimed at the head. Caine blocked it with his left forearm and delivered a solid right punch to the renegade Shaolin's stomach. Terry dropped to the ground and rolled, coming up from behind Caine and aimed a low side kick. Caine spun around, causing Terry's kick to find only air as Caine returned with a side kick of his own that sent Terry backwards. Caine followed with a roundhouse to the former Shaolin's head.
Terry staggered back, ears ringing. His ribs ached and he knew they had been cracked, but using his mental control, he was able to rise above the pain. Terry had been thrown by the sheer force of the other man's strength. He'd not counted on the priest's skills to rival his own. No matter, he was too close now to watch all he had worked for be taken away from him by one Shaolin priest.
Terry's hands drew back to hammer forward with a left hook and a right uppercut combination, but Caine had sensed the punches telegraphed before they came and blocked each with ease. Catching the renegade Shaolin's wrist, Caine used the momentum of the punch to hurl him into the wall behind them.
Terry's rage blazed in his dark eyes, his entire body quivering with fury. He pivoted around with an animalistic gnarl, ready to lunge at the priest. When he turned, his adversary had vanished.
Terry's senses made him spin around, his body automatically falling into a horse stance as his eyes focused on Caine. Both of the priest's hands were angled in a perfect crane's beak, and his legs worked with flowing grace to launch a double-front-kick with lighting speed to the ex-Shaolin's chest.
The impact of the thrust sent Terry sprawling backwards and knocked him into a small wooden table that splintered under his weight. The table's possessions, a carved ivory box, incense burners, and several candles, were toppled. The ivory box landed face down, the carved dagger falling beside the shaken murderer. Terry's left hand shot out and clutched at the knife, securing a hold on the carved handle.
Caine's staunch gaze did not move from the gleaming weapon. "End this now," he barked in a dangerously low voice.
"With pleasure," Terry growled, as he rose. "As I said, you will be sacrificed tonight along with your boy."
Terry tossed the dagger from his left hand to his right then charged forward, the bronze blade aimed straight at Caine's torso.
Caine dodged out of the blade's path, his left hand coming down in a ridge blow to Terry's knife hand, at the same time hitting the inside of the killer's wrist with his right. Terry's hand flew open, Caine catching the weapon before it hit the floor.
While propelling the former Shaolin in front of him, Caine stepped back and with a spinning kick, sent Terry pitching to the floor and landing flat on his back.
Caine's fingers curled around the handle of the dagger still in his hand as it was held up and ready for assault. The warrior in him realized just how easy it would be to kill the man in front of him, to end his existence without hesitation. An ancient voice born from the ashes of pure vengeance sung to him in a siren's call, vibrated in his blood. The man in front of him had come too close to destroying his precious one's spirit before wanting to end his life, and Caine felt his forefathers crying out with the need to protect his own at any cost, even if the cost was lifeblood.
Father, I need you...it hurts so much.
Caine heard his lover's thoughts as clearly as if he had spoken aloud, though it was weak. He could actually feel Peter's pain from the poison that was draining his ch'i. It cut through the haze in Caine's mind.
I am here, my sweet son, he answered without words. His eyes flickered back to the murderer still on the floor.
"Do you think I fear death, Shaolin?" Terry asked, his bloodied lips curling viciously as his hideous laugher tore through the room. "I welcome death, Priest!" Dark eyes shone with a deranged glow. "I watched the Dark Warrior kill my father, old man, and now I want to join him in the land of light," Terry bellowed. "So come on!" he challenged.
Father, Dad...need you, Peter's thoughts weakly called out to Caine once more.
Cold brown eyes glared into the man's on the floor. "Your death will not taint my hands," Caine growled as the priest's hand flew forward with a heel-of-the-palm strike upwards at the killer's face, crushing the cartilage of his nose and knocking him unconscious.
With the present threat taken care of, Caine's focus immediately shifted to his lover. Caine left the boneless heap of the man on the floor and rushed over to his son. Taking out a vial from his satchel containing a thick red elixir, he opened the cork and held the rim of the vial to Peter's pale lips.
"Drink this, Love," he murmured as one hand tilted Peter's limp head back and the other tipped the contents of the vial. The elixir would not reverse the affects of the herbal drug, but it would be enough to halt the process until he got his sweet one home where he could heal him properly.
Very gently, Pop pulled the black silk sheet around Peter's nude body and took him in his arms. Caine continued to feed Peter more of the elixir when he felt someone approaching. He knew without looking that it was Detective Kermit Griffin.
"What happened here?" Kermit asked upon entering the room. Caine could feel the detective's anxiety rise when he saw how unresponsive Peter was.
"Peter went undercover to lure the killer you sought," Pop explained as he poured more of the liquid into Peter's mouth. "He... succeeded," the priest said with a nod of his head towards the unconscious figure on the floor.
Dammit, kid, you and your hero complex. Dark eyes behind green shades flickered onto the priest sitting on the edge of the bed next to the younger detective. Has to be a genetic thing. "Is he going to be okay?" Kermit asked, trying to keep the concern out of his voice.
"He will," Caine answered as the last of the elixir disappeared. "But I must get him back to the loft quickly."
"Let's go then," Griffin knelt down on one knee and used a set of handcuffs to lock around one of the unmoving man's wrists, hooked the cuffs behind the leg of the bed, then secured the other wrist. "I'll put in a call on the radio for a uniform to come by and pick up our little friend here."
Kermit took the man's chin in his hand and lifted it only to let it drop back against his chest. "I don't think he's going to going anywhere." Kermit hid a small smile. Caine was certainly...effective...when he wanted to be. "You going to need help getting Peter to the car?" Kermit asked, as he stood.
"No," Caine responded.
Kermit watched as the priest gently hefted the weight of his boy into his arms and rose without so much as a grunt. Of course not, what was I thinking? Kermit asked himself with a shake of his salt-and-pepper head.
Outside, Kermit opened the door of his car so that Caine could lay Peter in the back seat.
"How did you know where to find us?" Caine asked as he slid into the back seat as well and cradled Peter's head on his lap.
Kermit slammed the door shut and peered at Caine through the open window of the Kermitmobile.
"I had a hunch at the hospital that Peter might have been up to one of his infamous stunts, so I followed you here for backup," Kermit said and let a smile slip into place. "You're not the only one around here able to follow people without being noticed."
Kermit made good time as he maneuvered the lime green car through the late night traffic. He ran a stop sign and looked into the rearview mirror at Caine who was tenderly running his fingers through Peter's damp hair. The kid still had a strange bluish tint that Kermit didn't like one bit. His foot laid a little heavier on the gas.
Pop? Where are we?
Caine's fingers continued stroking his son's chestnut hair. "We are going home, my love," he whispered very softly into Peter's ear and brushed his lips against Peter's cheek, heedless of the keen brown eyes on them.
Once at Caine's building, Kermit followed the apothecary, as he carried Peter effortlessly up the flights of steps to their apartment. There he waited until Caine settled Peter into the futon and pulled the covers up around him.
"I'll tell the Captain not to expect Peter in for a couple of days," the older detective said finally.
"With proper treatment, he will be better by tomorrow morning," Caine said. Walking over to his table of medicines, he began combining some ingredients in a bowl.
"Yeah, well, I'll just forget I heard that," Kermit muttered, pushing his shades up on his nose. "After what the kid has been through, he deserves a little R and R."
Caine nodded his head, his eyes still on his son. "I am sure he will...appreciate...the time off," he offered and continued stirring the contents in the small ceramic dish and moving it over a flame to heat.
Kermit's eyes followed Caine's. "Just get him better. He keeps things...interesting...around the precinct," he said quietly.
Caine knew that was as close as the ex-mercenary was going to get at expressing his concerns for Peter at the moment. Even though Kermit didn't vocalize his feelings for Peter, Caine knew that Peter was one of the few who had seen through the hardened persona Kermit surrounded himself with and that not only did Kermit consider his son a friend, but someone he would go to extremes to protect if it were needed.
"I will be sure to...tell him that...when he awakens," Caine stated slowly.
"Yeah, do that, and I'll keep you updated on any news about Skalany," Kermit extended.
"Please, do," Caine responded, though he was most certain he would now be able to sense if there was any change in Mary Margaret's condition.
With a nod, the detective turned and left the healer alone to take care of the cop.
Caine brought the bowl over to the futon and moved the pillows under Peter's head so that it was raised. He then brought the rim of the white bowl to Peter's lips and gently fed the warmed liquid to his lover, pausing every so often to allow Peter a chance to swallow. He continued this until none of the liquid remained.
Once the medication was rendered, Caine then stood up from the futon and disrobed, letting his clothing rest where they fell, and climbed under the blankets. Pulling Peter close into him, Caine wrapped his son with his arms and legs and held on tightly as his hands petted and caressed his boy's motionless body.
"All is well now, Beloved, you safe at home where no one can touch you. Feel my love for you, precious one," he whispered into the shell of Peter's ear, brushing his lips across Peter's cool ones.
The healer was gratified to see some of his son's natural color staining his skin once more, and he could feel Peter's breathing ease, his lungs loosening up under the drug's hold. Caine could feel the steady pulsing of Peter's heart, and took refuge in the rhythm that matched his own. He stayed awake for hours, merely listening to the sounds of the night and soothing Peter, losing himself in the awareness of his son...needing to reassure himself that Peter was indeed safe now. Slowly, sleep won out and Caine gave in to it.
The next morning Peter stirred, turned his head and yawned. His eyes focused on the much-loved. familiar face of his father. He could feel the weight of his pop's arms still holding him securely, and the heat of his father's thigh over his own was comfortably warm. Moving only slightly, he buried his nose in the silky softness of his father's hair, deeply breathing in his scent. It smelled slightly of incense, sage, pine, and other scents all mingled together in one earthy, masculine scent that would always remind him of his lover.
The morning light cascaded in through the balcony window, giving Peter the perfect opportunity to watch his father sleep. He moved to prop himself up on one elbow and looked into his father's tranquil face. A finger, unbidden, moved and traced the edge of the line where silver hair met his father's forehead. It trailed over the tanned skin of the broad forehead that so often was furrowed in deep thought, or other times in disapproval. He noticed a little spray of lines around brown eyes that could either be warm or stern. Peter loved the way they would always crinkle in delight when his father laughed. He let his finger skim over the creases around the mouth that always deepened when his pop smiled or frowned. Other lines, less distinctive, were imprinted on the tanned skin, each one creating a tapestry that was Time's testimony to Kwai Chang Caine's life - a tapestry of a life full of love, happiness, sorrow, and pain. It was a face Peter cherished.
"Good morning, sweet one," Caine murmured and opened his eyes to gaze up at his smiling son. "How do you feel this morning?"
Peter leaned down and covered his father's mouth in a long, tender assault. "Much better," he replied when he finally broke the kiss out of need of air. "Whatever you gave me last night did the trick."
Caine's fingers reached up and cupped Peter's cheek, stroking it gently. "I am pleased."
Peter opened his mouth, about to say something when they heard Peter's cell phone ringing. The police officer stretched and reached across his pop and flipped the phone down, pushing the button at the same time.
"Caine," he said as he turned and settled back into his dad's embrace.
"Hey, partner, how are doing?" the familiar female voice on the other end asked.
"Hey, Jo," Peter said with a smile. Good ol' Jody, always checking up on me. "Depends on what you've heard."
"What I've heard is that you went undercover without back-up," she said bluntly, "and the Captain is none too pleased about that. Quite frankly, I'm not either. What were you thinking? No...don't answer that, it's obvious you weren't."
Peter cringed from the phone a little, his face in a grimace. "Just how mad is Simms?"
"Mad enough," Jody responded. Which translated to Peter to mean, You're not going to see the light of day for weeks because of paperwork you'll be doing. "Well, I had my reasons for doing what I did, Jo, you don't know the whole story," Peter told her.
"Yeah, well, that's because you never let me in on the whole story, Peter," Jody returned, and Peter picked up the hurt tone in her voice.
"Jody, if I went in there with the cavalry charging in behind me, the killer would have bolted," Peter said with certainty.
Jody was silent for a long moment and Peter knew she was warring with herself as to whether or not to get into the age-old argument of Peter's cavalier attitude where his safety was concerned. Apparently she didn't feel like expending the energy in this round.
"Well, the killer is what I wanted to talk to you about." Jody then filled Peter in on the arrest and arraignment of Terry Ames.
Peter listened to all of the information while doing his best not to let images from the night before flash through his mind. He could still see the man's face in his mind, could still hear his voice. He shivered, and Pop's arms tightened around him.
"Okay, Jo, thank for the update," Peter said when she finished.
"No problem, just hurry up and get back to work, all right? I kinda miss seeing your ugly face around here," she told him before hanging up.
Peter closed the phone and tossed it gently to the floor before settling back into his dad's arms again.
"That was Jody," Peter informed him, though the officer was sure his pop knew very well who it had been. "Seems that Terry Ames has to undergo a psychiatric evaluation before the arraignment is even going to be held. Apparently during his confession, Terry said he killed Brett and the others because he believed that...homosexuality...was the greatest sin there is, and by sacrificing them after saving them, it would make him worthy of ascending to wherever it is he believed his father was taken when he was killed." Peter's eyes fell onto Caine's. "They don't think he'll be found fit to stand trial because he keeps ranting about how the Dark Warrior killed his father."
Caine's and Peter's eyes met and held, both knowing that they were one of the few who held knowledge of things most people wouldn't be able to...or wouldn't want to comprehend. The existence of Shambhallah and the Dark Warrior was one of those secrets.
"There is much grief in his soul, that grief blinded him...caused him to lose the way of the Tao," Caine said, his voice free of anger or judgement.
Peter broke the gaze to look at the wall behind his pop. "Well, watching your father die and knowing you have no control over it can be rough." The officer's voice was soft and husky.
Caine grabbed Peter's chin with his thumb and forefinger, bringing his son's dark eyes level with own. "Peter...."
His son turned away slightly and Caine let him go. He wanted to question Peter about his comment, to have Peter open up to him, but knew it would be of no use. His son would not share his thoughts if he did not wish to. When Peter looked at him again, Caine could tell there was yet more on his son's mind.
"Yes?" Caine asked slowly.
"Where were you last night? Why didn't you show up until he almost...until it was almost too late?" Peter asked finally.
"I was...at the hospital," Caine answered as Peter turned to face him more fully, stunned.
Caine took a deep breath. "Mary Margaret was shot last night."
"My God, Pop! Is she okay? How bad was it," Peter asked, eyes wide.
"She will be all right," Pop assured his boy. "The wound caused some damage to one of her lungs, but it will heal."
Peter let go of the breath he'd been holding onto. "Thank God." He was grateful that Skalany would be fine, even though a very small part of him was still upset that Pop hadn't arrived before things had taken a turn. The important thing that he was all right. "Maybe we should go visit her this afternoon, you think? Hey, maybe I should think about going in. It's going to be hard on the rest of the gang if Skalany and I both are out."
"Peter," Caine interrupted.
"What?" the officer asked, pausing.
"There is more I must tell you," Caine said slowly.
Peter noted the grave expression on his father's face, the same one his father wore every time he had something to say that he didn't think Peter was going to like hearing.
"What is it, Pop?" Peter asked, trying to keep the anxiety out of his voice. "Come on and tell me."
Caine closed his, steeling himself for what he must do. Peter deserved the truth. "What I am about to tell you, you must not repeat because it was told to me in confidence."
Peter squirmed a little on the futon. "All right, I promise, just tell me because you're starting to worry me here."
Caine slowly let his eyes open. "Mary Margaret is with child."
Peter stared. "Say what?"
Caine's arms instinctively tightened their hold. "Last night, before I was to meet you at the club, Jody arrived to tell me of Mary Margaret's shooting. When I was hesitant to leave, she told me that Mary Margaret confided in her that she is pregnant." Caine sighed. "It is because of the child that I went. I had to know if all was well with the infant as well as the mother."
Caine watched on as Peter's eyes grew barren of emotion, his features shaping to a stiff mask.
"Is it yours?" he asked flatly.
Caine was unable to keep himself from shrugging. "I...do not know," he whispered, and in a stronger voice added, "She does not know I am aware of the pregnancy, so we have not discussed it."
Peter sucked on his bottom lip and nodded his head. "Right."
The police officer was motionless for a long moment and said nothing more, until he finally pulled out of his father's embrace, got up from the futon, and began yanking on the first pair of jeans he grabbed.
"Peter, we must talk about this," Caine said, his voice a mixture of concern and sternness.
Peter roughly jerked a T-shirt over his head and stuffed it down into his jeans, his back to his father. "I don't think there's much to talk about."
"Peter...." Tiny threads of fear wove their way around Caine's heart.
Peter spun around. "No!" The cop's eyes closed tightly, and he forced himself to breathe evenly. "Look, I said I don't want to talk about it right now, leave it alone," he warned, reaching for the door and opening it. "Just...leave it alone." The door slammed shut behind him with a loud bang that rattled the bottle and jars on Caine's work table.
Peter found himself driving aimlessly, not knowing where he was heading and losing track of the time. He had the windows all the way down and the radio up, trying to drown out his thoughts in the blaring music.
Before he was aware of it, he ended up at a park along the outskirts of town. He turned into the entrance and let the Stealth find its own way along the twisting and curving roads that led farther and farther into the bowels of the park. Seeing a sign that read 'Lake Wintaka', Peter turned and followed it.
The car rolled to a stop in a graveled spot several yards away from a crystalline blue body of water that shimmered under the summer sun. Peter climbed out of the car, slammed the door shut with more force than he needed to, and began walking.
The lake was a gleaming, prismatic cerulean. The surface rippled, caught on the summer breeze, and danced invitingly with the teasing promise of coolness within its depths. Birds squawked overhead, darting around the tops of the plentiful trees offering their leafy shade. A reddish-brown squirrel stopped several feet in front of Peter, stood up on his hind legs and gave the human interloper a curious look before scampering away again. It was fairly quiet and sedate, as it was technically a work day for most people.
It was a beautiful, warm day, but it couldn't ward off the chill that had been creeping with icy fingers through Peter since he'd left the loft. A baby. His father...his lover might be having a child with Skalany!
A small part of Peter wanted to be happy for his pop, knowing that if the shoe was on the other foot, Pop would be pleased for him. After all, this could be a chance Pop could have for teaching and loving another Caine child without the pain of being separated for half the baby's life. Could he really deny his father that joy?
A bigger part of Peter was wrapped with fear. He'd just found the love he'd been looking for all of his life. Pop was the most important person in his life and he did not want to lose that or his love for anything, but he couldn't deny that Skalany being pregnant definitely would change things between them. He couldn't imagine Caine not being there for Mary Margaret and the baby...maybe even in a permanent sense. That thought squeezed like a vice around Peter's heart and caused such an ache that he had to sit down by the sandy bank of the lake to catch his breath. How could they possibly go back to the way things were, to just being father and son when they had come to mean so much more to one another? Would he be able to survive that? Peter didn't know if he'd be able to go back to life 'as normal' after having all he'd ever desired within his grasp. It wasn't fair that he was expected to let go of it! Dammit, Pop! If you'd just have told me how you felt, you wouldn't have had to sleep with her in the first place!
Peter picked up some pebbles and started skimming them off the reflective surface, listening to the plopping before they sank. Was it his father he was really angry with? Yes, he was slightly resentful, but he knew it wasn't all Pop's fault. He hadn't been completely honest with his feelings for his dad either, had fought them for so long before giving in to them. If he had just told him a little sooner...before his father turned to Mary Margaret for the companionship he should have given his dad. Now they both were going to have deal with the consequences of it.
What was he going to do? Peter skipped another stone and scared off a couple of ducks that had fluttered down for a rest. There was one thing he knew for certain. He loved his father and would go on loving him regardless of how this was going to affect him.
If you love him, prove it, the voice in his mind whispered. He squeezed his eyes shut, not wanting to listen to the rational side of himself, but as much as he tried, he couldn't ignore it. He knew what he was going to have to do. If he truly loved his dad, he was going to have to support him in whatever way he needed...even if it meant letting go. He could not in good conscience even consider asking Pop to not be a part of the baby's life - it wouldn't be fair to either of them. He'd spent a long and lonely fifteen years without his dad in his life; he wasn't going to allow another child to suffer and not know his pop at all.
"Detective Caine?" a voice called him out of his thoughts.
Peter took in a ragged breath and looked up into the green eyes of Ryan Paxton.
"I'm sorry if I'm disturbing you," Ryan apologized, as he looked out across the lake.
"No, you're not disturbing me," Peter lied, trying to keep his expression clear of his early thoughts. "I was just enjoy the day."
"Yeah, me, too," the lawyer said softly and moved to take a seat next to Peter. "This was one of Brett's favorite places," Ryan confided, his voice dropping to barely more than a pained whisper. "I feel him here sometimes, know what I mean?"
Peter nodded. "Yeah, believe it or not, I do." He turned to face the man next to him. "When I was a kid, I thought my father had been killed. For years after that, there were times I'd be walking down the street and swear I heard him calling my name, only to turn around to find no one there. Or there were times I could close my eyes and feel him there next to me, but when I opened them again, he'd be gone."
"How long does it take before that stops happening?" Ryan asked huskily.
"It doesn't," Peter said candidly.
Ryan was quiet for several long minutes before finally speaking again, his voice thick and a little harsh. "Detective, I just wanted to thank you."
"For what?" Peter asked.
Green eyes met his. "For catching Brett's killer," the lawyer answered. "When I read this mornings paper about a cop going undercover to catch Terry Ames, somehow I knew it was you."
Peter shrugged. "I wanted him off the streets as much as you did," he said.
Ryan reached over and squeezed Peter's shoulder. "What you did means a lot to not only me, but Brett's family. Thanks to you, they can finally find a little peace."
Peter stared ahead into the lake. "And what about you?"
"Me?" Ryan asked, and shrugged. "I'll survive. What other choice do I have?" he asked solemnly. "I tell you one thing though, Peter," the lawyer said, and Peter swung his eyes up to meet the other's. "If you've got someone in your life right now that you love, do me a favor and tell them," Ryan said, looking deeply into Peter's dark brown eyes. "I'll never regret loving Brett for a second, and would do anything if I could tell him that right now." Shining green eyes looked skyward. "One thing I do regret though, is not giving Brett the security he needed. If I had it all to do over again, I would have married him in a heartbeat."
"I'm sure he knew you loved him," Peter whispered, gently laying his hand on the other man's leg. "In the end, that's what matters the most, not the disagreements or the misunderstandings."
"Yeah, you're right, that's why it's important to tell those you love how much they mean to you while you can." Ryan's voice was shaky and Peter knew it was taking the lawyer a great effort to keep a rein on his control. "Thanks again for all you did, Detective," Ryan said softly, squeezing Peter's shoulder once before standing up and with a lingering look at the lake, began to walk away.
Peter watched the other man leave and could still feel the despair coming from the lawyer and couldn't help feeling sympathetic to him. After all, he knew what it was like to lose people he loved, but he knew, too, that time had a way of dulling the ache.
"That was wise advice, Son."
Peter turned and looked up into the gentle, smiling face of his lover.
"Pop, what are you doing here?" Peter asked, trying and failing to keep the annoyance out of his voice. It was still too painful to look into those dark brown eyes that knew his every secret.
Caine eased himself down beside Peter. "I came to find you," he responded quietly.
"How'd you know I'd even be here? I didn't even have any idea where I'd end up," Peter said without looking at his father.
"This," Caine said with a graceful wave of his hand to indicate the lake, "is similar to the secret place you had as a child. Whenever your thoughts are clouded, you seem to find clarity and peace from the water." Caine shrugged his shoulders. "It was...not difficult...to figure out that you would be led here." Caine let his hand slide up to Peter's cheek. "Also, you could never be so far away from me that I would not feel you, Love."
Peter resisted the urge to rub his face against the palm. "Pop, look, I've got some things I need to talk to you about."
"As do I," Caine stated.
"Let me go first, okay?" Peter asked and moved to fully look his father in the eyes. "Dad, you know how much I love you, right?"
"As strongly as my love for you," Caine whispered in response.
Peter coughed and cleared his throat. "Well, I've been doing a lot of thinking about the...baby," Peter said and looked into his dad's earnest face. "I...it wouldn't be right if the baby is yours for you not to be a part of its life. I couldn't ask that of you. It wouldn't be fair to you or the baby."
Caine looked into the large, uncertain eyes of his boy and the pain he saw in them caused his heart to constrict. "You are correct. If Mary Margaret is having my child, I have every intention on being a part of his or her life," he told Peter, who closed his eyes at the words. He then took his son's face in both of his hands and leaned in for a tender kiss. Peter's lips quivered under his. "Do not think though, that it will change my feelings for you, my love."
When Caine drew back from the kiss, he saw the surprise and disbelief in his boy's confused gaze.
"But if it is your child, it's going to change everything," Peter said, looking away. "We both know that."
Caine grasped Peter's chin and forced their eyes to meet. "I know no such thing."
"No, no buts," Caine interrupted and cut him off. "Peter, why must bringing a new life into the world alter the love I have for you?" Peter said nothing, but his eyes spoke volumes to the elder Caine. "Do you believe that I would deny my feelings for you and choose instead to be with Mary Margaret because she has mothered my child?"
Peter gulped hard, knowing that his pop had hit on the raw nerve that he had been guarding so closely, not wanting to admit to it.
Caine's silver head shook. "My darling, sweet Peter, what is it going to take to convince you that what exists between us is real and cannot change?" His fingers stroked his son's cheek. "Even if Mary Margaret's child is mine, I have no plans on trying to make a life with her. You spoke of fairness to both the child and myself. If I were not to follow my heart, be true to myself, then that would not be fair to the child, its mother, or myself. I would be living a life of dishonesty. I could not allow that and Mary Margaret would not wish for that either."
The priest leaned in once more to claim Peter's soft, yielding ones. Their lips clung to one another even as they broke for air. Caine's thumb moved to caress the ripe, swollen skin of Peter's lips. "There is only one in my heart whom I wish to make a life with. Only one whom I would vow to be with in all ways."
Dazed dark eyes narrowed. "Pop, just what are you saying?"
Caine's hand slid from Peter's cheek to rest at his neck. He could feel his son's thundering pulse. He tenderly smiled at his precious one, feeling the power of his love for Peter surge inside of him, filling him with a deep certainty about their path.
"Do you remember yesterday when I spent the morning with Lo Si?" Caine asked.
"Yeah," Peter answered slowly, wondering where this was leading.
"I needed to talk to him about...us," Caine stated and watched as Peter's eyes grew large.
"You told him about us?" Peter asked in surprise. Lo Si was like another grandfather to Peter. To suspect he knew about him and Pop was one thing, but to know he knew.... "How...how did he take it?"
Caine smiled gently. "He was...already aware...of our relationship and had been for some time," he reassured his boy.
Peter blinked a couple of times and forced his mouth shut. "Um...so, ah, what did you talk to him about?"
"I asked him if he would be willing to perform a commitment ceremony for us," Caine declared.
"A c-commitment ceremony?" Peter stammered, eyes full of bewilderment.
Caine took both of Peter's hands into his own. "That is right, Love, I wish to have a ceremony to celebrate and recognize our love, bonding us together and joining our paths for the ultimate journey." Intense dark brown eyes held overwhelmed brown eyes captive. "That is, if you wish for us to have such a ceremony."
Peter's mind went completely numb, devoid of any tangible thoughts. All he could do was look into the vast pool of brown; the resolute, unwavering gaze was so full of love, affection, and a silent pledge that whispered to the secret part of Peter's heart that longed to believe what he was hearing.
Peter was not aware of the moisture of a single tear escaping to roll unheeded down his cheek until his father leaned over and brought his head down to catch the clinging drop with his lips, letting them linger on Peter's skin.
"Tell me your thoughts, Precious One," Caine whispered huskily, his lips moving against Peter's cheek.
Peter tried to swallow around the lump squeezing his throat and fought to find his voice. When he did, it was choked and hoarse. "That I've never wanted anything more, and that I've never loved anyone as much as I love you." Peter turned his lips to his father's. "Yes, Pop, yes...."
There was so much Peter wanted to say, but he was still too stunned to really collect all the thoughts swirling like a cyclone in his mind. His pop wanted him...wanted his love...and wanted to claim him as not just a lover, but as a partner for life. Peter couldn't quite dare believe it.
Caine brushed his lips back and forth over Peter's, then moved to explore his lover's jaw line, the hollow below his Adam's apple, up in nibbles along his throat. Peter's fingers dug into his shoulders, and he moved his neck a fraction of an inch to encourage more exploration. Caine's lips suckled at the patch of flesh behind Peter's ear before pulling away, Peter's head automatically following him.
"I have something for you," the priest whispered. "Something I want you to have."
Peter watched Caine dig into his satchel and withdraw a jade pendant. Caine lifted the medallion, opened the gold chain with his fingers, and gently looped it around Peter's neck. The small ornate object fell against Peter's chest.
Peter lifted the pendant and looked at it with dawning realization. "Dad, this looks like..."
"The same type of medallion that your grandfather gave your grandmother," Caine said with a smile. "Yes, it is the same as that which has been given to those in our family when they have found their one, the one to whom their soul is bound to."
"Pop...." Peter's voice cracked, husky with raw emotion.
Caine leaned in and cover his boy's lips in a long, deep, consuming kiss. Peter returned it with fervor, his lips eagerly opening, meshing - claiming all the passion and love he felt from his father, clinging to it.
They finally forced themselves to pull away when the need for air reared its head. Peter looked deeply into his pop's eyes. They were burning with a raging, smoking spark, fueled with a mixture of passion and love.
"I love you," the healer whispered vehemently.
Peter's eyes sparkled and a smile curved on his lips. "I know."
Caine let out a surprised laugh, taken off-guard by both the response and the pure joy dancing in his son's eyes. Somehow he knew Peter, perhaps for the first time in their tentative relationship, did not merely hear the words, but started to truly believe them. One more step on their long journey taken in tandem.
Caine stood and held out his hand for his boy. Peter's fingers grasped his and he pulled his son up.
"Come," Caine said and wrapped his arm around Peter's waist. "You have several days off from work still and we have much to celebrate."
They started walking up the rocky path back to the Stealth, Peter's arm resting around his pop's shoulders.
Caine turned his head. "Hmm?"
"I love you, too," Peter murmured.
Twinkling dark eyes gazed into the police officer's. "I know."
Peter's arm tightened around his father as they reached the car. Watching his lover climb into the seat beside him, Peter was amazed once more by the strange way Fate often worked. There had been a time in the not-too-distant past where he would have flatly refused to believe he would ever find the kind of love he'd found with his pop. He'd been teased by it too many times in the past to be lured by the hope again...or so he had thought. Yet here he stood, on the verge of what he knew to be his destiny, and he was ready to meet it head on, regardless of what the future held. What seemed to be such an impossibility once, now waited for him on the threshold of his dreams. As he turned on the ignition and put the car into gear, he knew the time had come to give life to those dreams. After all, what were dreams but a reality yet to be explored?
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