For those interested in seeing
the picture of my original character, you can go here. Jack Greyson
"For as a young man marrieth a virgin so shall thy sons marry thee." Isaiah 62:5
By: Diana Bloomfield (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Detective Kermit Griffin had absolutely no clue what he was doing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art other than the fact that it was quiet there and he wanted to be alone. He had a lot on his mind and the precinct wasn't actually the most conducive environment for trying to clear his head. Especially when part of the problem happened to work there.
Well, okay, maybe Karen Simms wasn't exactly a 'problem', but things were still a little...strained...between them since the break-up. Oh, they might have parted on friendly terms, but it still had hit him like a brick between the eyes when he'd seen his fair captain cuddling up with the District Attorney, Timothy Stratton. It hadn't taken her any time at all, it seemed, to get...chummy...with the lawyer.
'You knew it was never going to work anyway, Griffin, no sense in trying to fool yourself into thinking otherwise,' a part of his mind chimed up. Yeah, that was probably right. Hell, as much as he hated to admit it, he thought Karen 'was' better off without him. Karen was a strong, capable, intelligent woman who'd already been involved in one bad marriage. If they'd stayed together...let it get even more serious than it had, what could he have offered her? She needed stability in her life, not to get tangled up with an ex-mercenary who might have to disappear on her without a moment's notice. Kermit cared about her far too much to have her put up with someone like him.
Kermit slid onto a stone bench and looked around the room he'd wondered into. 'Oh, isn't this just lovely,' he sneered to himself. Somehow the computer expert had managed to come upon the museum's latest modern art exhibit...entitled 'The Erotic Male Through the Millennium'. 'Oh brother, just what I need,' Kermit thought to himself.
All along the wall there stood paintings and photographs of men in all kinds of poses and stages of nudity throughout various periods of history. From the twenties, there was an black and white photo of an older gentleman with a waxed handle-barred mustache, and a younger man who was wearing a bowler hat. Their lips were only a scant inch apart, their eyes locked in a sultry stare. The older man's hand was caressing the younger one's cheek.
Another picture, a painting, depicted two Indian braves, one wearing war paint, the other one not. The brave with the war paint was gently wiping a tear away from the other's cheek, while his other hand pulled a wolf skin cape secure around his partner's shoulders. The brave without the war paint had a pained look on his face as he looked over his lover's shoulder to a gathering war party. It was obvious one was going to battle while the other was staying behind.
Kermit looked to another other wall where he saw another very aged looking photograph. This one looked to be taken during the Victorian era. This picture had a fairly young, well-built man, hair the color of rich chestnut, who was positioned on his knees towards the camera, hands resting on both bare legs, his white-frilled shirt was open down his exquisitely muscular chest as it rested half-way down his arms, exposing a nipple. The young man's groin was just hidden, as the front of his shirt angled and curved just enough to hint at what laid behind it while still showing off very toned inner-thighs. Behind the younger man, stood a much older man but regardless of his years, he was also well toned with a broad, bare chest and silver hair pulled back with a silk ribbon. This distinguished, older man stood behind the other, one hand on the kneeling boy's upper arm, while the other hand gently caressed the boy's long throat, the younger one's dark head was faced sideways, eyes closed and looking up.
Kermit's then focused on the picture directly next to it. Again, it was the same couple, only this time, the young man was on his knees, facing the older man, his check flush against the older one's belly, right above the groin area. The older man was again stroking the back of the younger one's neck as his hand held his lover's hand against his hip.
Kermit's gaze was held by the images in the two pictures, transfixed by the nature of the poses...and by the young man. The detective's throat seemed to narrow as he drew in a rather shaky breath. The young lover in the picture was captivating. The soulful eyes, the full lips, his expression....it was amazing. If the man were just a few years older, his shoulder-length hair shorter...he could have been...Peter.
'Get a grip, Griffin, you're losing it,' he growled to himself. But the more he stared at it, the more absorbed he became in it. The sultry look, the possessiveness of the older lover, the need and contentment from the younger one.... Kermit shook his head to clear it. 'Don't go there, Griffin, you know better than to let your thoughts travel that road,' the former mercenary's inner-voice warned him, even as he felt his legs moving to stand and draw him closer to the picture.
Kermit swallowed hard and sighed. "Damn it", he cursed softly at the picture. He could have sworn he'd dealt with his feelings for Peter, or at least squelched them enough that they didn't matter anymore. Obviously, they were on the surface more than he'd thought they had been.
He hadn't thought much about the...feelings...Peter stirred in him for longer than he had remembered. After all, when he'd first met Peter, he was barely more than a kid and still would have been off limits even if he hadn't been Blaisdell's foster son. But Peter had always been...special. Untamable spirit, a good heart, boundless energy, and so damn good looking!
Kermit shoved his hand through his curls angrily. He knew he shouldn't...couldn't...think of Peter that way. Maybe it was because Peter had gotten him to reveal more about himself than he ever thought he would. Maybe it was because he could relate to the void he'd sometimes see in those hazel eyes...the void of loneliness and despair he'd seen in the eyes of fifteen year old boy struggling to become a man, still hurting over the loss of his father. Kermit had seen the look himself when he'd seen the reflection in the mirror after he'd lost both his parents...and at least he had Marylyn and David...Peter didn't have anyone until Paul and Annie came along.
Since he had started working with Peter, it hadn't gotten any easier to ignore how he'd started to feel. Peter had matured into quite a man...still as attractive as ever, with the same generous heart and integrity that anyone couldn't help but find admirable. And damn, he had a way of crawling his way into your life, butting in whether you wanted him to or not.
Kermit sighed again. He thought he'd buried the thoughts, had become satisfied with just keeping an eye on the kid while he had found his pleasures in Karen's bed. He should have known he couldn't keep it a secret for good, especially from a very shrewd woman like Karen Simms. He still couldn't believe that for all his efforts on the job, he had to find out from his lover that he would sometimes call out a certain name when he was asleep. His beautiful captain never did come right out and say who's name he'd called, but since he could easily recall the painfully vivid dreams, she hadn't needed to.
That was actually the second part of the equation as to why they decided to part ways. Karen had told him that she loved him, and he believed her, but that while she hadn't been angry, she still thought they should have some 'time apart' so Kermit could work some things out that she felt he needed to. Kermit had tried everything he could think to get his captain to change her mind, but he had learned early on that when Karen Simms made up her mind, nothing next to divine intervention was going to get her to change it.
"Beautiful, isn't it?"
Kermit's head jerked around. Hell, he hadn't even felt anyone coming up behind him! 'You're losing your touch, Griffin,' he thought to himself as he surveyed the person intruding on his musings.
The man behind him was dressed in a black dress shirt and gray slacks. He was around Peter's age, maybe a little younger, with a well-built physique. The detective couldn't help noticing the stranger's vivid blue eyes. They stood out against the sharp contours of his cheekbones and nose. Brownish-blond hair with paler highlights threaded throughout framed his face.
"The photograph, it's beautiful, don't you think?" the stranger asked.
Kermit turned back to the picture for a moment. "It's all right," he mumbled dryly.
The blond smiled at him. "I'd heard this exhibit was going to be breathtaking, but I had no idea."
Kermit cocked an eyebrow, but made no further comments to the younger man.
"The various styles, the compositions...they're stunning," the blond stranger went on before his azure eyes leveled with Kermit's green shades. "I've got a feeling though, you didn't come here just to see the exhibit."
Kermit's eyes narrowed behind the tinted lenses. "What do you mean by that?"
"You just looked like a man with a lot on his mind." The stranger held the detective's gaze. "Anything you might want to talk about?"
"I don't really feel like talking."
The blond shrugged. "Whatever, makes no difference to me, I just thought it might be easier talking to someone you didn't know," the stranger offered.
"What are you, a shrink or something?" Kermit said sarcastically.
"Nah, just someone willing to listen if you want to talk," the blond responded.
The blond then returned his attention to the paintings, drawings, and photography along the walls, leaving Kermit to stew in his own thoughts. His mind had been chewing over the situation for days, if not longer. He'd turned his thoughts over and over and still hadn't come up with any kind of solution. Hell, he didn't even know if there 'was' a solution. 'Would it really kill you to get someone else's input on it? Maybe he could see something your missing because you're too close to it.'
Kermit followed the stranger, who was now looking at an intense picture of two male lovers in an embrace surrounded by a waterfall.
"Okay, let me run this by you," Kermit began. "What would you think if you had been involved in a relationship with a very fine woman and thought you were pretty satisfied with how things were going for a long while. Then your lady friend decides she wants to break things off because of some...problems...she thinks you need to work out."
"What kind of problems?" the younger man asked.
"She thinks you might have feelings for a close friend...a male friend," Kermit answered, once more glad his green shades kept his eyes hidden.
The blond turned back to look Kermit directly in the face. "What happened to make her think that?"
"She heard me talk in my sleep, but that's not the important thing here, what's important is what I'm going to do now," Kermit snapped. "This lady and I work together, so does my friend."
The blond titled his head slightly. "Do you think your lady friend might have been right? 'Do' you have feelings for your other friend?"
"I don't know, maybe," Kermit muttered. "Yeah, okay, so I find him attractive, but I've always considered him off limits, so I've dealt with it."
"Off limits, huh? Why?" the stranger asked, sitting back down on the stone bench and waited until Kermit sat down as well.
"Long story, you don't need to know the details."
The blond paused for a moment. "Okay, so I take it you've never told him about the attraction?"
"Hell no!" Kermit exclaimed. "There's no way I'm risking a friendship with something like that."
"But your ex-lover seems to think you've still got problems with it."
"Yeah," Kermit growled.
The blond was silent for a long moment, his eyes concentrating on the same photograph Kermit had been drawn to. Finally, when he spoke, his voice was soft. "Have you thought about the possibility that your male friend isn't really part of the problem...at least not entirely?"
"What are you talking about?" Kermit demanded.
"What do you see when you look at this picture?" the younger man asked, nodding his head towards the image that he'd just been looking at.
Kermit swallowed and didn't answer right away. "I see a couple of men holding each other, on the verge of making love."
"Yeah, but what else do you see in the picture? What does it make you feel?" the stranger pressed.
"That the couple is...in love," Kermit said softly. "That there's...passion...between them, almost a hunger growing between them." The words were starting to stick in Kermit's throat as it grew thick, making his voice a little husky.
The blond man nodded his head. "Exactly, but you know what?"
"All it is you're seeing is a flat two dimensional image, a lifeless piece of film." The younger man turned face the detective. "What it makes you feel though, is what the picture itself represents, what it symbolizes and how you identify with it."
Kermit's eyes narrowed. "What are you getting at?"
The blonde shrugged. "Maybe it's the same thing with your male friend. It's possible that what you're seeing in him is the embodiment of something else and maybe that's what your ex-lover picked up on."
Kermit's thoughts slammed to an abrupt halt. Had the stranger just suggested that he....
Suddenly a high-pitched buzzing sounded and the blond reached in his pocket to pull out a beeper.
"Hey, listen, I wish I could stay and talk longer, but I've got to call the office. I'll see you later."
"Um, yeah," Kermit managed.
The blonde rose and looked down at him. "If you ask me though, it sounds like something you deserve to look into a little further."
Kermit watched the young blond whom he'd never even exchanged names with as he slipped out of the gallery. Still stunned, Kermit was completely speechless as he was once more left alone with his thoughts that now had a new spin to them.
Rain pelted down from overhead on the dreary, early August night. Vickie Jackson raised her face up to the storm, letting the cleansing drops splatter on her face and into her eyes. For a brief second, she closed her eyes and remembered an earlier time in her life when she was still a child and loved to play in the rain. She'd loved splashing in the puddles, spraying the muddy water all around and then getting in trouble by her mother for tracking up their kitchen floor. A part of her heart grieved for the loss of that innocence...before she had ran away at fourteen...before she had learned the harsh reality of life on the streets...before she'd started turning tricks.
She let out a little sarcastic laugh as she shoved the shoulder strap of her black halter back up and flung her wet, dark hair out of her eyes. 'No sense in getting sentimental in your old age, hon,' she told herself. And sometimes, she did feel old. Ten years on the streets had the way of doing that to a person and Vickie had been no exception. Life hadn't been 'too' bad to her though...she'd avoided the lure of drugs that often had claimed so many of her friends' lives...and she did reasonably well in making enough to afford a run down efficiency apartment on the west side. And did it without the help of some worthless pimp either, thank you very much! Still, it wasn't exactly the way she'd planned her life as a little girl when she was read fairytales, played with Barbie dolls, and believed she'd be married with a family by now.
Stiletto pumps clicked against the concrete sidewalk as she passed a closed clothing store. A glance in the dark, reflective glass showed a dark Buick Century slowing down as it came up behind her, rolling to a stop as automatic, tinted windows came down.
"Hey, baby doll, wanna party?"
Vickie kept her smile to herself as she slowly ran her hands down her short skirt that almost didn't make it half way down her thighs. She turned around and peered into the window. 'Jackpot', she thought to herself. In the driver's side was a fairly attractive looking Asian man dressed in a gray tee. The passenger, the man who'd called her over, was a Caucasian man with a definitely more muscular build and short, cropped blond hair.
"Depends on who's going to be invited to this party, sweetheart," she answered, walking up to the car. Neither of these men seemed to be setting off her internal alarms as she looked them over.
"Got a problem with taking us both on?" the Asian finally spoke to her. His dark brown almond-shaped eyes raked over her head to toe and it made her shiver.
"Nah, handsome, but it's going to cost you double," she told him. "Eighty for a double blow job, two-fifty for a fuck."
The Asian looked at the blond and nodded. "We've got a hotel room down the street. We could go there if you don't have a place around here."
"Sounds good to me," Vickie remarked. Out-of-towners, even better. Maybe she could fleece them before she took off when it was done and over with.
"Get in," the blond said, the doors clicking as the driver unlocked them.
Vickie climbed in, her leather skirt hiking up a bit as she slid across the dark blue cloth seat. "So, where you boys from?" she asked as the car was put into gear and they took off.
"We're here on business...a conference," the blond offered.
"And out on the prowl for a little fun, hey?" Vickie remarked.
"Yeah, something like that," the Asian replied.
Vickie quickly realized once they didn't say anymore that she was not in the company of the world's two greatest conversationalists. She didn't really care though, since what they wanted her to do didn't require a lot of verbalizing anyway. After all, how much skill did moaning take?
The Century pulled into the parking lot of a reasonably clean looking hotel. They drove around to the back lot where a long row of building, all looking like the other, stood in the shape of an L. They drove on to the shorter row of building and parked.
"Here we go, babe," the Asian said as he shut off the car and got out.
Vickie climbed out of the back seat and followed the Asian to one of the doors as the blond man stayed behind her. "I forgot to tell you two, you gotta use condoms...I don't go bareback, ever."
The Asian fished out the large key from his pocket. "I wouldn't worry about that if I were you, doll."
Vickie gave him an odd look as he flung open the door, but didn't say a word as the blond hustled her inside. As soon as she was across the threshold, she became aware of the other two men occupying the room, one of them holding a video recorder.
"Hey, just what the hell is this?" Vickie screeched as the blond shoved her hard onto the bed and on top of the sun faded print spread.
"You're worst nightmare, whore, scene one," the Asian sneered, taking the camera out of the hands of the other man.
Vickie's chest started pumping wildly in her chest and tried to scramble away as she watched the blond and the other two men coming to surround her.
As Caine and Ariel left the small diner where they had just finished eating, Caine noticed the rain coming down had turned into a fine mist instead of the downpour from earlier. To keep the dampness from Ariel, he slipped off his thin jacket and wrapped it around the young woman's shoulders as they walked. "Thank you, for a lovely dinner," the apothecary said, turning his head slightly to look at her.
The dark haired woman suddenly stopped, took Caine by the arm to stop him too, and placed a soft kiss on his cheek.
"Thank 'you' for all your help, Caine," Ariel stated, smirking a little at Caine's discomfiture as he blushed slightly and gave her a shrug of his shoulders.
"I...did nothing, it was you who made the decision to turn your life around," he told her.
"Maybe, but it was your help that landed me that job at the hospital that's even going to give me tuition reimbursement for getting my G.E.D and paying me to go on further if I want to. Who'd imagine me back in school after all this time?"
"The desire was always there," Caine told her. "You merely needed a little...direction along your path."
They slowly began walking again; the rain all but stopped.
"Yeah, well, I figure buying you dinner every now and again is the least I could do to say thank you," she said softly.
"And even that, is more than is necessary," Caine informed her.
Ariel shrugged. "With Peter working night shift tonight, I figured why should you cook for just one if you didn't have to?"
Caine was well aware of the fact that Ariel knew that Peter was living with him now, but the woman had no clue about what all their living arrangement entailed. It did not seem odd to the formerly homeless woman that Peter had moved back in with his father, understanding that they were close, but did not know how close...that they were in fact lovers.
Caine opened his mouth, prepared to say something about his son when the hairs on the back of his neck pricked up and stood on end in a familiar warning. Immediately his hand darted out across Ariel's stomach to hold her back from the unknown danger as his dark eyes narrowed and scanned the ill-lit surroundings.
A faint voice called to them from a near by alley. "Help me..." The voice was fragile and weak and Caine could pick up the desperation in the tone as it pleaded for help from someone...anyone...that was near.
Both Caine and Ariel rushed down the deserted alley that was cluttered with garbage and discarded refuse. Laying face down in one of the piles was a very thin, unclothed, dark haired figure. Caine dropped down on one knee and gently rolled the body over.
Ariel gasped. "My God, that's Vickie!" she exclaimed, dropping down next to Caine.
The woman was badly beaten, blood pooled under her from her mouth; her eyes already swollen from punches; livid bruising showing up around her neck in signs that she'd been strangled. Caine did not have to exam the young woman to know she had extensive internal damage, and several broken bones, as a result of her attack. Ariel took off Caine's jacket and covered the woman with it.
"Go now," Caine ordered. "You must call for an ambulance."
Ariel nodded and ran off back in the direction from which they had come, back towards the restaurant where she knew there was a pay phone, as Caine stayed with the woman who slipped into unconsciousness.
Once at the hospital, Ariel was pacing the floor as Caine watched her. The formerly homeless woman had grown silent on the drive over in the back of the ambulance, but her concern was quite obvious. Her dark eyes jerked up every time someone came through the metal double doors that her friend had been carted past, disappointed when it wasn't Dr. Sabourin who'd promised to keep her appraised of the situation.
Caine came up behind her and gently laid his hands on her shoulders and squeezed them in assurance. Ariel paused in her pacing, leaned back against Caine's chest, and briefly let some of the Shaolin priest's calmness wash over her.
"She is in capable hands," Caine reminded her gently.
"Yeah, I know," Ariel granted. "It's just...."
"It is just...what?" Caine prompted.
"I feel...guilty...somehow," she confessed. Turning around, she faced Caine and looked into his mild eyes. "You see, before things changed, she'd kinda look out for me, you know? Make sure I had enough to eat, a place to stay if the weather got bad...that sort of thing."
Caine nodded in understanding. "And now you feel as though you were not there for her when she needed you?"
"Yeah, like somehow I should have stopped this," Ariel said softly.
Caine took both of her hands into his own. "I do not know how or why this happened, but I am certain that you would have not been able to stop it from happening. You are here now, and that will no doubt provide her comfort in the aftermath."
Ariel nodded. "Yeah, I guess I'm the closest thing to family that she's got around here. She hasn't spoken to her real family in years."
At that moment, both of their heads turned when they saw Dr. Sabourin stepping out of the double doors. The brunette doctor saw them immediately and walked over to them.
"Caine, how are you?" she greeted with a smile.
Though their first meeting had been rocky, Dr. Sabourin had developed quite a fondness for the apothecary over time. She had been filled with doubt and skepticism when she first met him while he was trying to save a little girl with liver problems who by all appearances had been terminal and fading fast. Through a tea made from a rare herb, he'd managed to completely reverse the disease process and left the child thriving. It was that day that convinced her that the healer had a lot to teach her and her respect for him bloomed.
Caine shrugged. "I am well," he responded. "What is the condition of the patient?"
The doctor's face turned grave. "If she'd arrived just five minutes later, the internal bleeding was so bad that she would have died," she said honestly, her eyes going back and forth between Caine and Ariel. "Luckily, we were able stop the bleeding, and replace the blood lost. The bad news is that she suffered extensive head trauma. While in surgery, she slipped into a coma."
Ariel's body started trembling. She simply could not believe this was happening to someone she knew, someone she'd considered a friend. "How...how long is it going to last?"
"I don't know," Dr. Sabourin told her. "It's hard to say. As much physical damage as she suffered, it could be days or it could turn completely irreversible. There is no way to be certain."
Ariel turned to Caine. "Why don't you go back home and wait for Peter to get back. Let him know what's happened. I'll stay here in case she wakes up."
"Are you certain?" he asked, even though seeing the determination in her eyes. "Will you be all right?"
Ariel nodded. "I'll be okay. I'll feel better once I know Peter will be trying to find out who did this to Vickie."
With a subdued nod of assent, Caine arranged the worn fedora on his head and left.
If it hadn't been for a distinct lack of sunlight coming through the windows, Peter Caine would have had no clue that he was on night shift instead of day shift. He'd been perpetually busy from the second he'd stepped foot in the 101st. He'd followed up on several leads, went over some medical reports from Nickie Elder, and was still buried up to his neck in unprocessed reports.
"Hey, partner, it can't be all that bad," Mary Margaret said when Peter let out a low moan as Strenlich walked over and sat a few more manila folders down on top of Peter's pile.
He shot her an annoyed glance. "Are you kidding? I've got five murders on my plate. All homeless or prostitutes and all killed by severe beatings over the last three months." His hand shot through his mussed hair. "I need to be on the streets digging up leads, not sitting behind the desk filling out reports," he grumbled.
"Hey, it's all part of the job, Peter," Mary Margaret reminded him. "You think I like it any better than you?"
Peter winced slightly in his seat. He seemed to keep forgetting that Mary Margaret had been restricted to light duty after being released and given the okay from the hospital after she had gotten shot. She seemed to be doing remarkably well, but Peter knew she was even more miserable than he was at being kept off the streets.
A part of him couldn't help thinking that being desk bound might not have been the best thing to happen to Skalany for the time being. Even though he wasn't supposed to know, Mary Margaret was several months pregnant.
Man, had it only been weeks since Pop had told him about the baby? It seemed much longer than that. Peter had been so certain that the baby was going to destroy everything he'd found with his father...his lover. Peter's fingers drifted to the jade medallion around his neck...the pendant, a constant reminder that they were going to have a commitment ceremony soon. It reminded him how nothing was going to change between him and Pop, even if Mary Margaret's child was also Pop's.
Since then, he'd taken it on himself to keep an eye out on Mary Margaret and the baby, which is why he was glad she wasn't putting herself in danger on the streets. It wasn't as though he didn't think Mary Margaret wasn't capable of taking care of herself, she was one of the best cops on the force, but he was still glad he didn't have to worry as much about her as he would if she was on the streets.
"Yo, Peter, still with me here?" Mary Margaret called, snapping her fingers at him.
"I'm sorry, what did you say?" Peter asked, shaking himself out of his thoughts.
"What I said, is that if you want me to, I can take some of that paperwork off your hands," Mary Margaret responded, fanning herself with one of the empty folders.
"Really? You're sure?" Peter perked up.
"Yeah, why not. It's not like there's much else around here for me to do," Skalany answered with a resigned sigh.
Peter noticed that Skalany was looking a bit flushed and a little on the gray side. Having seen her disappearing into the bathroom, he suspected that the battle with morning sickness was on. Getting up, he walked over, got himself a cup of coffee and also grabbed a can of ginger ale, opened it and sat it on her desk in front of her. She looked up with a surprised expression.
"Thanks," she responded appreciatively, taking a sip of the cool liquid.
"No problem," he shrugged, leaned down and kissed her on the forehead. "Thanks, by the way for helping with the paperwork. I'll bring you back some dinner later on. Rice soup maybe?" He knew something light would be better for her if her stomach was giving her trouble.
Mary Margaret's eyes narrowed slightly and measured Peter from head to toe. "All right, who are you, and where is the real Peter Caine?"
Peter reared back with mock indignation. "What? Here I am, simply trying to do a favor for a friend and...."
"Okay, okay," Mary Margaret said with a laugh, holding her hands up in surrender. "Yes, some rice soup sounds great," she conceded. "Can I get some yogurt out of you too?"
"Sure thing," Peter agreed.
"Okay, so tell me about this case you've got. Are the murders connected?" Mary Margaret asked, wanting to be in the thick of things as much as possible. She hated being on desk duty, it made her feel left out of the loop.
"They've got to be...they're too similar not to be, but so far we've got nothing to go on and if there are any witnesses, they're certainly not chomping at the bit to come forward," Peter told her.
Mary Margaret could well imagine her occasional partner's frustrations. In some ways, the community of those who lived on the streets were as tightly knit and closed mouthed as the Chinese community. Neither one taking to trusting cops too easily regardless of the circumstances.
"What about crazy Jane?" Skalany asked him. Crazy Jane was the self-appointed nickname for a homeless woman who sometimes helped them out with the gossip of the homeless underground.
"I've already talked to her," Peter replied absently. "She hasn't heard anything either."
"Well, go ahead and hit the streets and see if you can't dig anything up," Skalany told him. "I'll cover the paperwork."
"Thanks," Peter said, already out of his seat. "I owe you one."
"More than one, buddy boy," she called to his retreating back. "Hey, and don't forget my yogurt!"
Jack Greyson stepped out of his bathroom, glad to have changed out of his dress shirt and slacks for a more comfortable T-shirt and faded jeans. As he was drying his dark blond hair, head buried under a thick towel, he caught the tail end of a news report about a devastating avalanche in Switzerland that killed hundreds of tourists. Shaking his head, he turned the TV off and decided to get some dinner in his stomach since he'd worked through lunch at the office.
The architect glanced over his meagerly furnished apartment. He had enough furnishings to be comfortable, but nothing overly extravagant since he wasn't around his place that much to begin with.
It wasn't anything he could help, really. Ever since his break-up with Adam Haun several months ago, he didn't care much for the feeling of coming home to an empty apartment. Yeah, he was glad he left Adam, it was the only sensible thing to do under the circumstances, and he didn't regret his decision in the least. Still though, sometimes in the late night hours, the walls had a way of closing in on him. Jack shook himself out of that thought and reminded himself of what could have happened if he'd stayed with Adam...the thought sent a shiver through him.
Jack looked over to his answering machine when he caught sight of the glowing light that told him he had a message. Someone had called while he had been in the shower. He walked over to it and pressed the play button.
\\ "You know who this is, so why don't you pick up your phone?"// There was a lengthy pause. \\ "Fine, but just remember one thing, Jackie boy, you're mine. You know what that means, don't you? No matter where you go, what you do...I'll know. You can't run and you can't hide. One of these days you're going to get tired of trying and beg me to take you back."//
Jack shuddered at Adam's voice...he always did. Oh, Adam's tone didn't sound threatening in the least, but Jack knew him all too well...knew what Adam was capable of and fear shot through him. When was enough going to be enough? When were the cops going to do anything about him? Adam wasn't intimidated in the least by the restraining order he'd been talked into getting, and now the calls were getting even more and more frequent. Jack wondered how much more he could take...he felt Adam's eyes on him everywhere he went, knew he was being followed. What was going to happen on the day that Adam decided he wasn't satisfied with just watching and harassing Jack on the phone anymore?
Jack wrapped his arms around himself and walked over to the picture window looking out from his living room and closed the drapes tightly. 'This is ridiculous,' Jack told himself. 'There's no reason for a man to be afraid in his own home!' But even as he told himself that, he couldn't squelch the rising fear prickling under his skin. His heart was thumping heavily in his chest, his mouth was getting dry, and he could feel himself getting chilled. He shut his eyes and took a long deep breath, and kept taking deep breaths until he calmed down. 'Get it together, Jack. You need a good night's sleep for once.' If the truth had been known, he'd not had a good night's sleep since before he'd left Adam...every little noise woke him up.
'Maybe a movie before bed would help me sleep?' he wondered to himself. Jack found his eyes shifting to a large cardboard box on the floor by the television set. It held a few of his possessions he'd grabbed when he packed in a hurry and left Adam while he'd been at work. He'd just thrown things together and got out as fast as he could without looking back and many of the things he'd taken were still packed away. It had been easier to just leave most things in boxes instead of dealing with what had brought him to that point.
'Well, you're going to have to do it sometime, now is as good a time as any.' Walking over to the box, he crouched down on his knees and opened up the flaps where most of his movie collection waited for him. He dug through the box, feeling the need for a light comedy to ease the tension he felt, when he found an unlabeled blank tape within the pile. He looked with confusion at the tape. He didn't remember packing it, but he'd grabbed things so fast, it wouldn't be surprising if he'd grabbed a few of Adam's things and tossed them into the mix. The tape had to be one of them.
Pushing the play button, Jack sat back on his heels and watched the tape turn to grainy snow. He hit the fast-forward until a blonde woman appeared on the screen. Three men surrounded her, one grabbed her wrists while another one tied them to the bedpost, and the third held her legs down. Jack grabbed the remote and took the TV off of mute.
"No! Stop, please, for God sakes, I'll do anything you want, just don't hurt me!" the blonde pleaded, thrashing her legs around on the bed.
One of the men on the tape slapped her viciously across the face. "You're damn right you're going to do anything we want, you little bitch, and we'll do with you whatever we want to."
What the hell was this? Jack had never seen this tape before and his stomach lurched as he continued to watch the scene playing out in front of him with a horrible fascination.
The woman cried out and flailed, but instantly turned white and stopped her screaming when one of the men pulled out a large hunting knife. The dark haired man trailed the tip of the blade along the side of the woman's throat and down her chest and over her stomach.
"That's a good girl, just go with it, baby," he whispered harshly, a thin smile pulling his lips up.
The man then grabbed the bunch of the fabric of her T-shirt in one hand and sliced through it with ease. Sliding the blade against the woman's trembling chest, a flick of the wrist took care of the skimpy black-lace bra she wore underneath. He pawed one of her small breasts and pinched a nipple, causing her to cry out and whimper.
"Please don't, please..." the blonde begged, tears starting to streak down her pale cheeks.
The dark haired man simply laughed at her. "C'mon babe, we're just starting to have fun," he taunted her, one hand sliding up under the band of the shorts she wore. The other two men were grinning lasciviously and removing their own clothing.
The dark haired man then slid the glinting silver blade under the shorts and shredded them as well, tossing them to the floor next to the bed. Now left only in her panties, the blonde woman shivered and sniffled, seeming to have lost her energy to even try to fight off the men around her since she didn't have any of her limbs free. The steel blade sliced up the side of her panties, then the other side. Once she was fully exposed, the dark haired man took the panties and held the blonde's face as he shoved them in her mouth to gag her.
Jack watched the tape, fighting down his urge to give into his tumultuous, queasy stomach. The woman was repeatedly struck and beaten as all three men took their turns in using her body in every conceivable way without mercy. The young woman's muffled cries only seemed to urge them on to give her even more abuse, her pale face bruised and bloody as they continued their attack.
Finally, when all three men had their fill, the man with short, cropped blonde hair wrapped his beefy hands around her neck and began squeezing. The woman's hands came up and grabbed at the guy's wrists, but she was no match for his obvious strength. Her head twisted violently from side to side, trying to gasp for the smallest of breath. Her body was depressed deeply into the bed as the guy moved up and put all of his effort into choking her. Blue eyes bulged out as her pale skin turned an ashen gray, droplets of bright red blood poured out of her flaring nostrils. The blond man's fingers didn't release her until she'd quit moving.
Jack was still staring at the screen when it turned to snow again. Oh shit, God, what had he just watched? His hands shook as he pushed the eject button, his fingers trembling as he took the tape. What was he going to do? He had to tell someone about this, someone had to know about it...someone who could do something about it.
As his numb mind started to kick back into action, the shock was propelling him across the room to grab at his phone. Quickly, his finger punched in the number of the only one he knew might be able to help him...his uncle. Joseph Greyson was a private investigator and the only family Jack had in town. He'd know how to handle this.
The line on the other end rang several times. "Come on, come on!" Jack urged from his end.
There was a click on the other end. "Joe Greyson here."
Jack expelled the breath he'd been holding. "Uncle Joe, it's Jack, listen..."
"I'm not in at the office at the moment, but if you'd leave a message, I'll get back to you as soon as I can."
Shit! The answering machine. Jack waited to hear the beep before speaking again. "Uncle, this is Jack. Look, this is important. Call me back just as soon as you can," Jack pleaded into the phone and slammed it back down.
The architect ran his hand impatiently through his dark golden hair and shoved it out of his face. Okay, so what was he going to do now? If Adam had this film, then he 'had' to have been involved with it somehow. God, he'd just witnessed a murder!
Jack felt the walls starting to close in around him, his breathing was turning more erratic and his pulse was racing wildly. 'Get a grip, Greyson, now!' he told himself. He forced his breathing to slow down and squeezed his eyes shut until he felt the rising panic start to subside.
Jack watched the security guard walk off after having ordered Adam to leave 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 his hand. "No problem. Hey, if you ever...you know...need someone to talk to about it...."
Jack could feel that beginning fluttering deep in the pit of his stomach, the room starting to sway a little in front of his eyes.
"Thanks, but there isn't much to say about it. I'd rather forget about it actually."
"Yeah, I understand," came Peter's understanding reply.
Jack gave himself a mental shake. "Peter, I've been having a great time, but...I think I need to go home."
"Okay, 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." He watched as Peter's cheeks became flushed 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.
Jack gave a brief nod and turned to leave. 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.
The memory faded from behind Jack's closed eyelids. Opening them up, he knew he had his answer. Peter Caine would help him.
Clutching the videocassette
in his hand in his fingers he headed out the door with one destination
clear in his mind...Chinatown.
Caine stood outside on the veranda under the cloudless night sky, broom in hand. He'd started his cleaning soon after arriving home as he waited for Peter to return to him from work. In the background, coming from Peter's portable radio, soft jazz lofted on the night breeze. Caine let the soft strains soothe him as he made quick work of the dirt that had collected on his balcony. Smiling a little to himself, he found it strange how he took comfort in the music while he worked when he used to be satisfied working in silence. Ah, but it was just another influence of Peter's presence, as his son often liked to hear music while working around the loft himself.
With that chore quickly completed, he moved over to his workbench and gathered up several jars of herbs. Placing the dried tail of a small scorpion into his mortar along with other various roots, he began crushing them into a fine powder and preparing Mrs. Feng's arthritis medicine. He would have to visit Ting Yung's shop soon in order to replace some of his rarer ingredients.
The breeze blew in from the veranda with a gust, causing several of Caine's candles to flicker. Suddenly the apothecary tilted his head, his senses became heightened. A visitor approached, but it was no one with whom Caine was familiar. He walked into the main room to wait for his guest.
"Hello?" a masculine voice called out, heard before the form of a young man with sandy blond hair presented himself.
"Hello," Caine greeted and bowed slightly. "May I help you?"
Jack stared at the man before him for a moment. This was definitely not Peter Caine, but there was something distinctly familiar in the warm, inquisitive hazel gaze that was looking him over.
"I'm looking for Peter Caine? I was told I could find him here."
"Ah," Caine clasped his hands in front of him. "You seek my son. I am afraid he is not here at the moment."
"When do you expect him back? I need to talk to him about something immediately," Jack declared, his hand darting through his ruffled hair.
Caine could tell by the young man's flushed face, wide eyes, and nervous movements that this was indeed a very serious matter to the gentleman, though he got no sense of what the problem was.
"Please, sit," Caine offered and indicated the sofa in the corner. "Perhaps I could be of some help."
"I-I don't know," Jack stammered a bit. "Peter might be the only one who can help with this, and I'm not even sure if he could."
"Please...ah..." Caine paused.
"Oh, Jack...Jack Greyson," the architect introduced himself.
Caine nodded. "Please, come sit and wait for Peter then. In the meantime, perhaps you will share the problem with me?"
Jack felt Caine's warm hand on his shoulder, exerting the gentlest of pressure to urge him towards the sofa.
"Would you like some tea while we wait?" Caine offered.
"Huh? Oh, yeah, tea. You don't have to go to any trouble for me," Jack responded, his foot tapping up and down on the wooden floor.
"It would be no trouble at all," Caine assured him and disappeared into the kitchen.
Jack spared a moment to take in the surroundings of the loft. The soft glow of candlelight filled the room and bathed it with warmth, an altar stood against one wall, and opposite that stood a wooden bench filled with jars of all kinds. The architect couldn't help getting the feeling that he'd somehow stepped back nearly a hundred years into the past at least. Only the room's decor of a modern sofa he was sitting on and the modern bookcase and stereo that he could see from where he sat destroyed the illusion. The combination of new and old gave him a very comforting feeling.
Moments passed slowly by, the pounding in Jack's chest abating ever so slowly. His whirling mind was actually starting to slow down a bit. He watched Caine return, carrying two cups of fine porcelain with him. Jack accepted one of the proffered cups.
"Thanks," he murmured, taking a sip of the spiced beverage. It didn't taste like any tea Jack had ever tried before. The blend was rich, full, and sweet as it slid down his throat. "This is wonderful."
Caine bowed his head ever so slightly. "Thank you," he said, taking a sip of his own. "Perhaps now you will tell me what has you so troubled?"
Jack's eyes flittered to the door and back to the serene hazel gaze resting on him.
Caine could see the agitation the younger man continued to have. He laid his hand softly on Jack's forearm. "You are safe here," Caine reminded him softly.
Jack looked up from his cup quickly, as he tried to read the expression on this relative stranger's face. He wasn't expecting to find open concern and genuine interest from a man he'd only just met. There was such a sense of calmness Jack could feel emanating from the other man, and he could almost feel him transmitting it through the hand still on his arm.
"I've never even asked your name," Jack said abruptly, realizing that it had slipped his mind while worrying about the tape.
Jack watched Peter's father shrug his shoulders humbly. "I am Kwai Chang Caine."
"Kwai Chang," Jack repeated, trying out the sound of it. "The reason I need to talk to Peter is because I have something important to tell him about and it needs to be soon," Jack said, his voice sounding steadier than he actually felt. "I'm in trouble and I didn't have anyone else I knew of to turn to besides your son."
"Because he is a police officer," Caine said calmly.
Jack nodded. He had found out that Peter had lied to him when a few hours after they had met at the Falcon's Club, Sandra Mason had broke in with a news report. The report was of the murderer that had been stalking gay men having been brought down by police after an undercover police officer lured him. Somehow, Jack had the suspicion it had been Peter who had been the one undercover. The next day, he went to the newspaper archives and discovered Peter's career was fairly well chronicled. He'd read about everything from Peter rescuing a busload of children held hostage to stopping an assassination attempt on a well known foreign dignitary and even Peter's own escape from a courthouse where he was being investigated for murder. He realized then why Peter 'had' to lie about what he did and who he was that night to protect his cover.
"If you wish to talk about...." Caine begun.
"No," Jack cut in, shaking his head. "I can't tell you about it because I'm afraid that it would be a risk to anyone else who knows."
Caine smiled a little at that, touched by the concern. He began to say something when he felt his son's presence very nearby. "I believe Peter is here now." Within moments, both men heard Peter's calls from the stairwell.
"Hi, Pop, look, I can't stay long, just stopping for a quick bite. It looks like I'll be working longer tonight because of..."
Peter stopped short when he realized that he and his lover were not alone in the loft. His eyes darting back from his father to the face of another he recognized but hadn't seen in weeks. Met by a pair the soft blue eyes flecked with green from behind a pair of glasses.
"Jack? Hi," Peter greeted with surprise.
"Peter, your friend has come looking for your assistance," Caine told him, as Peter shrugged out of his jacket and tossed it over the sofa.
"Yeah, Peter, I need your help," Jack told him, his heart starting to race again.
"Why? What's happened?" Peter asked, his eyes focusing on Jack now instead of his father.
Peter watched Jack glancing over at his lover and knew by Jack's serious expression that the other man didn't know if Caine should witness what he was going to say or not.
"Whatever it is your going to say is as safe with my Pop as it is with me," Peter reassured him, coming to stand near his father.
Shifting his eyes between the older and younger Caine, Jack began telling them both about the tape he'd just found, and what he witnessed on it. He watched as the expression on the two other men's faces grew more and more grave as he continued to tell his story. In a shaky voice, he left nothing out in the way of details, then paused for their reactions.
Peter was the first to speak. "All right, first of all, you're not going back to your place. Chances are if they haven't noticed the tape has been missing yet, they will soon enough and probably know where to start looking."
"Then what are you suggesting? Police custody?" Jack asked.
"Something like that," Peter murmured, going over to his coat on the couch and pulling out his cell phone. "I'm going to call my captain and see what she'd suggest, but I think I know what we're going to end up doing here." He dialed into the office and requested to be transferred to Simms' office.
As Caine listened to Peter discussing the details to Simms, he sipped his tea and watched the eye contact play back and forth between Jack and his son. His son was barely making eye contact with either himself or Jack and the other young man's gaze kept shifting from the floor to Peter when his son was not watching. The apothecary could sense a current of unease, or perhaps uncertainty was a more accurate description, between each man and it disrupted the harmony of the loft.
"All right, Captain, first thing in the morning," Peter assured Karen Simms before clicking the phone shut and turning to Jack. "Jack, here's what's going to happen. Captain Simms thinks the best idea right now is for you to stay at my apartment until tomorrow morning when she's going to set up an appointment for you to talk to the DA and turn the tape over."
"Peter, staying at your place? Are you sure?" Jack asked.
"Yeah, my apartment is pretty secure and I'll be able to do my job better if I'm on my own turf," Peter said, deliberately choosing not to make eye contact with his lover. "It isn't going to be a problem, is it?"
"I-no-but is it going to be safe? I mean...."
Peter was close enough to lay a hand on Jack's shoulder, giving it a little squeeze. "Don't worry, its going to be fine," he said with a conviction that didn't ring totally true. The past had taught Peter repeatedly that nothing is a certainty.
Jack gave him a hesitant smile. "All right, it doesn't sound like I have much of a choice here, do I?" he asked, looking towards Caine.
"My son is very stubborn once his mind is set," Caine stated, then turned to hold his boy's gaze. "But when it comes to police matters, you could not ask to be put into safer hands."
Peter felt the blood starting to rise to his cheeks before turning back to Jack. "Um...why don't you go downstairs and wait for me in the blue Stealth out by the curb. I'll be out in a minute."
Peter watched Jack leave, then turned to his father. "Pop...."
"Peter, are you certain that he would not be safer with both of our protection?" Caine asked.
Peter moved into Pop's embrace and circled the older man's waist with his arms. The police officer let his forehead fall against his father's. "Pop, I don't want you to take this the wrong way, but...."
"Yes, Beloved?" Caine encouraged.
Peter sighed. "You're a trouble magnet...it seeks you out almost as much as it does me." Peter kissed Caine's lips and let them linger there a moment. "I'd just feel better if I knew I wasn't tempting Fate 'too' much, you know?" Pop smiled and Peter nuzzled against his cheek. "Besides, it'd be kinda hard to explain the living arrangements if Jack stayed here."
"Ah," Caine said slowly. "You do not wish your friend to get the...wrong idea."
Peter smiled mischievously, his hands running up and down his lover's broad back. "Or in this case, the right idea."
There was a momentary lag and Peter could tell something was concerning his father.
"What is it Pop?"
Caine's dark eyes locked onto those of his son. "Is this man the gentleman you met while undercover?"
Peter's eyes studied the floor for a second before answering. "Yeah, yeah he is." Peter had told Caine the following night after Terry Ames had been taken down, about meeting Jack and how he had danced and talked with the architect. It hadn't felt right 'not' to tell Caine about it, but he 'had' left out certain details...like how he'd almost been kissed.
"The fear he feels is great," Caine stated firmly.
"And it should. If what's on that tape is genuine...."
"It is." Caine confirmed.
Peter didn't even bother questioning how his lover knew for certain. "Yeah, well, all the more reason for him to fear those animals that made it. If they find out he has that kind of evidence, there's no way they're not going to try and do something about it."
"All the more reason for you to be careful, Precious One," Caine reminded him gently, his hands caressing Peter's hips.
"I know, Pop, I know," Peter murmured, leaning in for another tender assault on his father's warm lips that parted under his.
Peter took a moment to savor the spicy taste offered to him, his tongue sweeping across his older lover's teeth, stroking against the soft inner-cheeks, before each of their tongues challenged the other in a sensual battle of supremacy that neither lost or won.
When the kiss ended, Peter closed his eyes and leaned even more against his father's chest. "God, I'm going to miss you tonight so much."
"As will I, you, my darling," Caine promised him, rubbing his cheek against his lover's. "Have you decided on a witness for our ceremony yet?"
Peter's eyes sparkled as he thought about the bonding ceremony they had been planing. "I haven't asked them yet, but yeah, I've got someone in mind."
Caine kissed Peter's full lips once more. "Good, do not wait too long to discuss it with them, as it should not be much longer before the time will be right to hold the ceremony."
"I won't," Peter promised, nuzzling against Pop's nose and stealing one more kiss. "I guess I should go," he said with regret.
"Yes," Caine agreed, a hand coming up to finger the pendant around Peter's neck, the one he'd given his son in promise of their joining. "Stay safe, my darling. If you need me, I will be there."
Peter smiled softly. "I know you will." Peter snatched one more kiss, one hand stroking his father's silver hair "Love you."
"I love you, too," Caine responded, squeezing his lover tightly in one last hug. "Now go, your friend is waiting."
With a nod, Peter pulled himself from Caine's embrace, grabbed his coat and took off down the stairs, feeling his father's gaze on him with every step.
Once on the road, Peter looked over to Jack out of the corner of his eye. "Are you okay?"
Jack's gaze followed the passing of the street lamps and intersection lights as the Stealth moved steadily along. "I...I still can't believe it," Jack whispered. "What I saw... what they did to that girl. It was just...." Jack shivered, even though the heater was blowing right on him.
"Yeah, it never ceases to amaze me at the depths human depravity can sink to," Peter mumbled, his eyes trained on the slick road, raindrops glistening against the headlight beams.
Jack looked over at Peter. "Yeah, I guess you've probably seen your fair share."
Peter glanced over. "More than I've ever wanted to, trust me."
The two men remained quiet for the rest of the trip until Peter pulled into the parking lot behind an old warehouse off of the pier.
"I thought we were going to your place?" Jack asked.
"We are, but I need to make a pit stop first," Peter told him. "Come on in with me."
Both men entered the old building, dull, hazy yellow lighting barely lit their way as their steps echoed on the concrete. The amount of dust and the pungent smell of must told Jack this building had been abandoned for quite sometime.
"Yo, Donny, where are you?" Peter called out, his voice bouncing off the walls.
"Could you perhaps be any louder, Peter?" they heard another voice respond.
Out of the shadows, Peter watched as Donny Double D approached.
"Hey, Donny, glad you could show up," Peter greeted. He turned to Jack. "This is Donny Double D, a friend of mine that often is the first to hear about the goings on underground." Peter turned back to Donny. "Donny, this is Jack, a friend of mine."
"Nice to make your acquaintance." Donny shook Jack's hand. "You must be all right if you're a friend of Peter's here."
"You're his informant?" Jack asked.
Donny smiled a little. "Actually, I prefer to think of myself as an information specialist, but informant would suffice." He then turned his attentions onto Peter. "Speaking of which, Pete, I don't know how much longer I will be able to assist you in these nocturnal engagements. You see, Lula is starting to get upset with my frequent absences."
"What's the problem, Donny?" Peter asked.
"Well, you see, Lula, though she's the love of my life, can tend to become rather...insecure...sometimes," Donny said.
"Lula? Insecure?" Peter asked, trying to hide a smile.
Donny held up his hands helplessly. "I know, I know, you'd never think such a strong woman as my Lula would behave in such a manner, but when I depart anymore to make our encounters, she can tend to get rather upset. Believe it or not, she thinks that 'I' am being unfaithful to her!" Donny pressed both hands against his own chest, sounding completely appalled at the suggestion.
"Oh, come on, Donny. Lula knows you'd never cheat on her, you love her too much," Peter argued.
"Believe me, I know this, but apparently my darling wife will not be soothed by my words of reassurance," Donny stated. "I mean, as soon as I'm ready to start out the door, she does one of these numbers...." Donny grabbed Peter by the flaps of his leather jacket and jerked him forward. " 'You little weasel, if I 'ever' find out you've been stepping out on me, I swear there ain't going be enough of you left to mop up with a kleenex."
Peter arched his eyebrow and glanced down at Donny's hands on his coat. "Donny?"
Donny glanced too, dropped his hold and patted Peter's chest. "Sorry, Peter, but I just don't know what I'm going to do with her."
"What do you think could be causing this all of a sudden?" Peter asked. Lula had seemed to mellow out slightly after they'd gotten married.
"I don't know, Peter, but it appears that since Lula has become in family way...."
"She's pregnant?" Peter exclaimed.
Donny blushed and grinned happily. "Yeah, we found this out last month."
Peter slapped his friend heartily on the back. "My god, congratulations, Donny! Who would have thought it? You becoming a father!"
"Not me, Peter, believe me," Donny confided. "I haven't been this frightened since Lula and I got married."
"I'm sure it's going to be just fine," Peter assured him. "You're going to make a great dad."
"You really think so?" the smaller man asked with uncertainty.
"I'd bet on it," Peter said with another slap to his back. "Although this 'does' explain why Lula has been acting the way she has."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, it seems like most women start thinking about how the pregnancy is going to affect their looks as they start getting further along and they get to thinking that their husbands don't find them attractive anymore," Peter explained.
"Are you kidding?" Donny asked, astonished. "I think she's the most beautiful woman in the world, even more so now."
"Well, then don't tell me that, tell her," Peter advised. "I tell you what, why don't you take her on a nice romantic date. Do the dinner, the flowers, and the whole bit. Maybe you can even get away for the weekend to a little bed and breakfast or something, make her feel special. She'll love it and realize you still love her."
"You think that might work?" Danny asked.
Peter shrugged. "It certainly couldn't hurt."
Donny thought about it for a moment. "You know, I 'have' been wanting to take Lula on a second honeymoon for months...." The shorter man's dark brown eyes looked at Peter. "Thanks, Pete, I just might do that. Now, since you have helped me, how may I be of service to you?"
Peter's smile faded as he got down to business. "Donny, what have you heard about a snuff film ring operating in this area, or about any prostitutes or street people that end up missing and found dead later?"
"I am truly sorry, Peter, but I've not heard anything on such matters. The associates I keep company with are not into dealings that are that unsavory," Donny informed him. "But I 'will' keep my eyes open and my ears to the ground. If anything turns up, I'll let you know immediately."
Peter nodded. "Thanks, Donny, and give Lula my love."
"Will do, Pete, will do," Donny said, as he moved back into the shadows he'd appeared from.
Once back at the apartment, Peter opened the door and flipped the light on. He couldn't help thinking how weird it felt to be standing there, even though for quite awhile he had lived there. Looking around, his train sets were still there, photographs of the Blaisdells hung on the wall...everything looking as it always had, but now it seemed so empty. 'Probably because Pop's not here,' Peter thought to himself.
Shaking the thought off, he turned to Jack, "Hey, have you had dinner yet?"
Jack's eyes were taking in the surroundings with interest. He found it fascinating that the apartment contained the scent of incense, much like Peter's father's loft did. Far from being the only Asian touch, he also noted the Chinese prints hanging on the wall, a rice streamer that hung near one side of the window, while a set of bamboo wind chimes hung from the other. Next to the wall by the door, there was also a Feng Shui Pa Kua mirror.
"Interesting," Jack commented mildly, shrugging off his coat.
"What is?" Peter asked, taking the jacket.
"The combination of Eastern and Western style you've decorated the place in," Jack replied.
"Well, I like I told you, I am a fourth Chinese," Peter stated.
"So you really weren't lying about that the night we met?" Jack asked casually.
Peter's eyes shifted down to the floor for a moment, before meeting Jack's gaze head on. "No, I wasn't lying about that, just like I didn't lie about a lot of the things I told you about myself that night. I had to lie about what I did for a living, but that was about it. Otherwise a murderer would still be free and killing out there."
"I know, I know," Jack murmured. "I know you had your reasons for lying to me, but I just wish you hadn't had to."
Peter moved behind the other man, and rested his hands on Jack's shoulders. He leaned in until his mouth was close enough to Jack's ear that the architect could feel Peter's breath against it.
"I know, I didn't like lying to you either. I hated it actually, but I didn't have any options. It was either lie to you or blow my cover. I'm sorry if it hurt you."
Jack closed his eyes for a brief second before responding. "It's not that big of a deal. Like I said, you had your reasons and I understand that. At least now, you've got no reasons to lie to me anymore."
Peter squeezed his shoulders. "That's right, and I won't either. Thanks for understanding." Releasing Jack's shoulders, taking a step back, he asked, "Now, have you had dinner yet?"
"Um, no, I haven't," Jack responded in a slightly louder voice. "I was going to but then I found the...tape."
"Okay, make yourself comfortable and I'll see what I can scrounge up. I haven't went shopping for food in quite awhile, but I think I've got some pasta, a jar of alfredo sauce, and some frozen bread sticks if you're not too picky," Peter told him.
"That's be just fine," Jack assured him.
As Peter started gathering the needed materials in the kitchen, he watched Jack wander over to his bookshelf and thumb over his book collection, and drawing out a battered copy of a book on Zen philosophy.
"So, you weren't kidding when you said you knew a thing or two about Eastern cultures," Jack murmured with a smile.
"Nope, it's sort of mandatory when you grow up in a Shaolin temple," Peter commented, putting the pot of water on to boil and getting the breadsticks ready to go into the oven.
"So, you honestly grew up in a Shaolin temple?" Jack asked. Peter had told him as much the night they met, also that the temple had burned down.
"Yeah, since I was two," Peter replied.
"What was that like?" Jack asked, not even able to imagine growing up in an environment like Peter must have.
Peter shrugged. "It wasn't too bad, considering. We had some fun times around the lessons and meditating."
Jack could tell Peter wasn't really comfortable talking about that time in his life, so he decided to let it drop for the moment. "So how did a child raised in a Shaolin temple turn out to be a cop?"
"My foster dad was a cop and I followed after him," Peter replied, breaking the pasta in his hands and letting it fall into the boiling water.
"Foster father? Then...who did we meet at the loft? I thought that was your father?" Jack asked.
Peter smiled again, as he stirred the heating sauce. "That was my Pop. Remember how I told you there was a fire at the temple?"
"Yeah," Jack said, walking into the kitchen and grabbing the plates and silverware out of Peter's hands. At the look Peter gave him, Jack just smiled and said, "If you cook, the least I could do is set the table and clean up afterwards."
Nodding, Peter went on. "Well, during the fire me and my dad got separated. I thought he had been killed, and he thought the same thing had happened to me. It wasn't until a few years ago that we found each other again."
"Man, that must have been hard on you. How old were you when it happened?" Jack asked, setting the napkins on the plates.
"I was twelve," Peter responded, and looked down into the sauce he was still stirring. "And it was hard on me, the bleakest time I've ever known," he said softly. He startled slightly when he felt Jack's hand pressed against his back.
"Yeah, but things eventually worked out, you and your dad found each other again," Jack said softly, leaving his hand on Peter's back for a few seconds before taking the basket of hot, steaming bread.
Peter smiled warmly, thinking of his Pop back at their loft. "Yeah, we did, and I'll always be thankful for that."
Peter clicked on his stereo, letting the sounds of a soulful saxophone belting out a blues tune drift through the apartment. Both men then moved over to the table and began filling their plates with food.
"It sounds like you and your father are really close," Jack commented, winding some strands of the pasta around the tines of his fork.
"We are close," Peter responded. 'Very close,' he added silently. "What about you and your father?" Peter asked, wanting to change the topic slightly to more comfortable grounds.
Jack shrugged as he took a bite and swallowed. "I lost him when I was eight."
"I'm sorry," Peter murmured softly. "How did it happen?"
"He was in construction. He was up on scaffolding, doing some work for a high rise, when he took a fall." Jack pushed some of the pasta around on his plate. "He was killed instantly."
Peter looked into Jack's vivid blue eyes, seeing the pain that he recognized all too well. The pain the came with the grief of a son having lost his father...the same pain that had stared at him in the mirror for years.
"I'm really sorry," Peter offered gently.
Jack seemed to give himself a shake. "Yeah, well, that was a long time ago."
"Yeah, but time doesn't always heal everything," Peter said, moving his eyes to study his pasta as well. "That's one of the greatest all time myths around." It was Peter's turn to give himself a quick mental shake. "Enough of this, mind if I ask you something?"
"Go ahead," Jack asked, sipping on his iced tea.
"Tell me, how did you ever get involved with someone like Adam?" Peter asked rather abruptly.
Jack paused with his fork halfway up to his mouth. "It's a long story," he responded, and finished his bite.
"We've got the time," Peter reminded him. "That is if you feel like talking about it."
"Not that much to tell, really," Jack said softly. "We met and I fell for him hard. At the time he seemed so sweet...so charming. I moved in with him, and for awhile everything was great...then it turned ugly. I won't go into details, but lets just say I found out what kind of a person he 'really' was."
"So why did you stay with him after that?" Peter asked gently.
"Because, the fool I was, I thought I was actually in love with him." Jack sighed. "He could be 'so' gentle and loving of a person when he wanted to be, but then when he turned on you...." Jack shivered in remembrance. "It-it was enough to make me afraid to leave."
"Well, you eventually did, so what happened to finally make you leave him?" Peter asked, finishing the last few bites of his meal.
"I-I'd rather really not get into it, you know?" Jack said, shifting around in his seat a bit, wiping damp palms on the legs of his jeans. He didn't even want to 'think' about that right now, let alone talk about it, even to Peter, whom he felt, would listen...and understand.
"Hey, hey," Peter murmured. "That's fine, you have the right to remain silent if you want to," he said with a small smile. "It was just a question, not an interrogation." Peter knew from questioning witnesses and suspects both when it was time to back off, and Jack was definitely giving out those signals right now.
Jack got up from the table, walking over to the Lionel train set he'd seen when he first walked in Peter's place. Gently, he ran a fingertip along the well-preserved engine. "I used to have a train set almost exactly like this when I was younger." Jack's voice turned a bit wistful as he went on. "Sometimes I'd dream about what it would be like if I could just climb aboard the thing and just take off, you know? Did you ever do that?" he asked, turned to face Peter, who had moved up behind him.
"Plenty of times," Peter responded softly. "Where did you like to go?" Sometimes Peter had imagined the train as this time machine that would take him back to any time he'd wanted to go to, usually he'd dream of it taking him back to the day the temple burned down. If he'd only known what was going to happen a few minutes before....
Jack shrugged, turning back to the train set, picking up the caboose and turning it over in his hands. "It never mattered where, just as long as it was far away from where I was at and safe, where no one knew me." Jack turned to the police officer who was standing right behind him now. "Peter, what's going to happen tomorrow?"
Peter flipped on the power and started to send the train along its track. "What's going to happen is that you're going to turn the tape over to the D.A, and then you're going to have to testify against Adam." Peter turned and looked into Jack's blue eyes. "Do you think you'll be able to handle that?"
"If it'll put Adam away for...." Jack couldn't bring himself to say the words, admit out loud that his former lover had a part in committing murder. "Yeah, I'll manage somehow."
"And don't think you'll be going it alone, either," Peter told him. "I won't lie to you and say it's going to be a walk in the park, but you're going to have support and protection." Peter's face was an expression of determination and resolve shone clearly in his eyes. "I promise you that."
"Thanks, Peter," Jack whispered. Somehow, looking into the police officer's soft, hazel eyes, he thought maybe things 'would' turn out all right after all. Not having known Peter all that long, he could still sense this man was a man of his word if nothing else.
Before Peter fully aware of what was happening, Jack closed the brief distance between them, his head moving in closer until Peter felt the brush of warm lips brushing against his own. The hesitant touch of Jack's mouth on his was over in the space of a heartbeat, but the tingling left in the aftermath lingered.
"I'm sorry," Jack apologized, "but I had been wanting to do that since the night we met."
"I...uh..." Peter was momentarily at a loss for words. He glanced down at the floor while he thought of what he was going to say.
"Hey," Jack murmured, reaching out to bring Peter's face up to meet his eyes. "What's wrong?"
Peter met the architect's gaze. "Jack, it's just...remember how I said that I wasn't going to lie to you anymore?"
"Yeah," Jack said slowly. One of his hands reached out for Peter's and squeezed it. "So talk to me."
"I think you should know that I'm already involved with someone," Peter confessed. "I have been for quite sometime."
"Seriously?" Jack asked around the lump rising in his throat, which seemed to be growing with every beat of his heart.
"Very. We're committed to each other," Peter answered. 'Or at least will be soon,' he amended silently. "And I wouldn't do anything that would hurt him or jeopardize what I have with him."
Jack's eyes lifted to look outside Peter's window, not wanting to look into the detective's face. "And I wouldn't want you to. If you have someone you love, then you should do anything and everything to hang onto it. I'm just sorry that...."
"Hey, no, you don't have anything to be sorry for," Peter jumped in firmly. "I should have mentioned it earlier."
"And I shouldn't have just assumed that you weren't involved with someone already," Jack added, pushing his wire framed glasses up further on the bridge of his nose.
The silence lingered for a moment before Peter finally spoke again.
"I tell you what, why don't just say no one's at fault and just call it a night? It's going to be a long day tomorrow," he suggested.
"Sounds good to me, but I don't have anything on me, how is this going to work?"
Peter thought for a second. "Well, I've got plenty of towels and cloths if you want to take a shower, and there's a new toothbrush you can use in the top left drawer below the sink along with my toothpaste. What else could you use?"
"Um, something to wear?" Jack knew his cheeks were starting to stain up on him. There was no way he was admitting to normally sleeping in the nude when he was alone.
"No problem," Peter said and headed into his bedroom. When he came out, he tossed Jack a pair of black shorts he often would wear at the gym. "These should fit you. Are they okay?"
"They're fine, thanks" Jack responded. He didn't even really look at them as he headed into the bathroom to change and take care of his nightly grooming.
Once alone, Jack let himself have it. 'Man, Greyson, you really screwed up royally didn't you? Where was your head? You should have 'known' someone like Peter was already off the market," he berated. Splashing water on his face and running his hands through his dark golden hair, he looked into the mirror. 'And it's not like it's really a good time to even be 'thinking' about a relationship right now anyway, not with being up to your ass in trouble as it is,' he warned himself. He knew he was right. Until things were settled with Adam once and for all, it was going to be constant ghost that was going to keep interfering in his life.
Walking out of the bathroom, Jack was quite surprised to see Peter bent over and spreading out a sleeping bag out on his living room floor.
"Um, what are you doing, Peter?"
Peter glanced back over his shoulder. For a second, he didn't hear the question. Peter's eyes shifted from Jack's long, lean, toned legs, up slender hips outlined in the black cotton shorts, to a trim, tight stomach, up to see a broad, well-defined and perfectly smooth chest, then finally into Jack's dark azure eyes.
"Uh, what do you mean what am I doing?" Peter finally asked.
"With the sleeping bag."
Peter turned his head to the blanket he was laying out. "Oh, well, since my sofa is over at my father's place, I thought I'd sleep in the sleeping bag while you can take my bed."
"Oh no," Jack protested. "I'm not going to be responsible for kicking you out of your bed. I'll take the floor."
"No," Peter said adamantly. "I insist. Besides, as often as I've gone camping, this isn't a big deal."
Jack narrowed his eyes. "Are you sure? It doesn't look very comfortable."
Peter smiled. "I'll be fine, really. I'm used to sleeping on a firm surface." He thought about how his dad's futon was pretty firm, and about the times he and Pop had made love on the floor and became too exhausted to move, so they'd just lay there in each other's arms. His smile grew a little wider. "I'll be fine," he repeated.
"If you're sure," Jack said, still reluctant.
"Of course I'm sure, now go get some sleep," Peter insisted.
"All right. Good night, Peter," Jack said softly before turning into the doorway of Peter's bedroom.
Once the door closed and Peter knew Jack had settled down for the night, he finished getting ready for bed himself. After a quick shower, he made his way around the apartment to make sure the door and windows were locked. Once he was satisfied, he checked the safety on his nine millimeter and sat it down on the coffee table beside the sleeping bag. After lighting some incense and a single small candle, he then settled down for sleep himself.
Lying there, in the dark as the candle's flame danced on the ceiling's shadows, it occurred to Peter that it was first night since he and Pop became lovers that they hadn't spent the night together. Flopping over to his side, Peter shut his eyes and tried not to think about how much he was missing Pop's arms wrapped around him and holding him against his chest as they spooned up together in one of their favorite positions. He also tried not thinking about how deafening the silence was without the sound of his lover's steady breathing in his ear.
Peter flipped over on his stomach, punched his pillow down and pulled it under him. 'Come on, Caine, you've slept in bed by yourself plenty of times. One night isn't going to kill you,' he told himself. Vaguely in the back of his mind, he wondered if his Pop was having as hard of a time sleeping tonight as he was. A half an hour later, he was still unable to relax enough to sleep. Sighing heavily into the darkness, he admitted it to himself...he missed his lover and he was worse than a junkie without his fix.
"Pop, what am I suppose to do? I need to get some rest, but I can't seem to get it without you near," he told the walls.
Forcing his eyes closed once more, Peter was surprised when he felt a warm, comforting sensation flowing over him like hot syrup...thick, sweet and completely deluging him.
'I miss you as well, my precious one. We are linked, even if we are not physically together. Rest now, Beloved, and come back to me soon.'
Peter smiled at his father's voice in his mind, as clear and real as if he were in the room with him. Pulling the sleeping bag up over his shoulders, Peter shut his eyes and felt the tension drain slowly from his muscles.
"Soon, Lover, just as soon as I can," he whispered in promise as the blanket of sleep enfolded him.