The next morning, Peter rolled over and yawned. Breathing in deeply, Peter stirred even more when the scent of eggs and bacon hit his nose. Rubbing at blurry eyes, he pulled himself out of the warm cocoon of his blankets. When he rose and looked over in the kitchen area to see Jack dressed and standing over his stove.

"Good morning," Jack greeted. "I hope you like your eggs scrambled," he announced, stirring the sizzling skillet with his spatula.

Peter's stomach grumbled loudly its agreement as he dragged his hand through his tousled hair. "Yeah, sure, I love scrambled eggs, but why are you fixing breakfast?"

Jack shrugged. "I figured since I kicked you out of your own bed, the least I could do was fix us some breakfast."

"Did you sleep all right?" Peter asked, rolling his sleeping bag up.

"Yeah," Jack answered, pouring some orange juice in a couple of glasses. "I slept just fine."

"That's good," Peter responded, pursing his lips together.

He knew that the other man was lying to him. Peter had awoken several times throughout the night to hear Jack's soft cries and moans as the other man was obviously ensnared in a nightmare that Peter could only imagine. Of course, had he been someone not used to the violent underbelly of society, that tape could have caused him some nightmares himself. He decided to let it go for now and not call Jack on it.

After getting dressed himself, he sat down and filled his stomach with eggs, toast, juice, and bacon. As he ate, they talked about what kinds of questions might be asked of Jack and what to expect so Jack was a little more prepared for the meeting ahead.

Once at the office, the talk with D.A Timothy Stratton went quickly. After the meeting, Simms had told Peter she wanted him and Kermit to take shifts protecting Jack until the trial, where Jack would be testifying.

"Come on, let me introduce you to Kermit," Peter said, heading into the direction of the ex-mercenary's office.

"Kermit?" Jack asked with confusion.

"Detective Kermit Griffin," Peter said with a small smile. "I think you'll like him, he's...different."

" the frog?"

Peter's smile grew. "Don't let him hear you say that."

Peter stood in the doorway of Kermit's office for a few minutes. Kermit was bent over his keyboard, typing away obliviously, occasionally pausing long enough to pop a green gummy bear into his mouth.

"Hey, Kermit," Peter ventured.

Kermit held up one hand without even looking. "Hold on Pete, if I can just figure out this access code, I'll be looking at John Kennedy's autopsy report."

Peter sighed. "Kermit, c'mon, you've got orders from Simms to help me protect a witness."

A few more clicks of the keyboard. "Peter, the last thing I feel like doing right now babysitting some...." Kermit turned around on his chair just in time to see Peter step back, revealing the man standing behind him. "Witness."

The ex-mercenary, a master of control with the cool hand and quick wit, was all but struck speechless by the man standing in front of him. It was the same man he'd talked to a couple of weeks ago in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Someone who he had thought he'd never be seeing again. "It's you," the detective muttered, his eyes darting briefly over to Peter.

"Do you two know each other?" Peter asked, picking up on the look of recognition in Peter and Jack's eyes.

"We met briefly a couple of weeks ago," Kermit explained. "Never exchanged names though.

"Well, Kermit, this is Jack Greyson, Jack, this is Kermit Griffin," Peter introduced.

Kermit caught Jack's firm clasp and shook hands. "Yeah, nice to meet you." Kermit said dryly, then his turned his attention to Peter. "So what's going on?"

"Jack, you fill Kermit in, I'm going to see if I can get a search warrant for Haun's place," Peter said before taking off to make the phone call.

"So," Kermit said, leaning back against his desk, folding his arms across his chest. "Fill me in."

Jack looked into green tinted lenses, not used at all to talking to someone who's eyes he couldn't see. "Well, it started when I found this tape, and...."

Kermit said nothing, patiently listened to Jack's description of the last evening. When Jack got to talking about what he'd seen on the tape, Kermit arched an eyebrow.

"So how did you end up getting your hands on this tape?" Kermit asked, reaching for another handful of gummy bears.

"I accidentally took it when I moved out of Adam's apartment," Jack responded.

"Roommates?" Kermit asked, as he chewed.

"Lovers," Jack responded bluntly.

"Oh," was the only thing Kermit could say.

"Does that surprise you, Detective Griffin?" Jack asked, his voice taking on a slight edge.

Kermit shrugged. "Your life, your business," Kermit murmured. "So now you're going to testify against him once the D.A gets the tape and builds the case?"

"Yeah," Jack answered.

Kermit pushed his glasses up further on his nose. "From what you've just told me that you think he's involved in, either you're very stupid or pretty damn gutsy."

Jack felt his face flush a little. "Yeah, well I haven't figured that one out yet."

"You don't particularly strike me as someone short on brains," Kermit stated with a small smile "So, Jack Greyson, what do you do when you're not turning state's evidence," Kermit's voice dropped in tone slightly, "or giving advice in museums?"

"On good days, I'm an architect," Jack responded.

"And on the bad days?"

"I get by," Jack said softly.

Even if Kermit hadn't been adept at reading people's behaviors and emotions, he'd still have been able to pick up on the rueful tone in Jack's voice.

"Jack, can I ask you a personal question?" Kermit asked.

"What?" Jack asked, taking his glasses off and cleaning them with the front of his shirt.

"How did you ever get hooked up with anyone like Adam Haun to begin with?"

"Detective Griffin, I don't see how that's really any of your business," Jack objected.

Kermit held a hand up. "Look, I didn't mean anything by it. It's just that you strike me as someone who would have had better taste then that." 'Lord knows you're not lacking in the looks department that you couldn't have attracted someone better than scum like that,' Kermit added silently.

"And you've never made a bad decision in your life, Detective?" Jack asked sharply.

"More than my share," Kermit returned. "And I've paid for every one of them, too," he said honestly. "Let's hope the price isn't as high for you."

"I'm still worried about what's going to happen once Adam finds out I'm going to testify against him," Jack confided.

"Hey, don't sweat it, kid," Kermit said softly. "Neither Peter nor I are in the habit of losing witnesses. That's a record we'd kinda like to keep, so we're not going to start with you."

Jack smiled a little. "Hey, Kermit, since you asked me something personal, can I do the same to you?"

'As if it would be the first time.' Kermit shrugged. "Fire away."

"Do they call you Kermit because of the glasses?" Jack asked.

Kermit's smile broadened a little bit at the oh-so-familiar question. "Partly."

"You ever take them off?"

Kermit was silent for a long moment, his dark eyes studying the blond man in front of him intensely from behind said glasses.

Finally, he answered. "Who knows, maybe one of these days you'll get to find out."

Not knowing exactly why, Jack felt his cheeks flaming up again and found himself grateful when Peter returned.

"Ready to get back to my place?"

"Um, sure, ready when you are," Jack responded.

Kermit turned back to Jack. "Don't worry, kid, we're not going to let anything happen." Opening up the desk, he pulled out his .44 Magnum Desert Eagle. "You don't mind if my friend tags along, do you?"

Jack raised his eyebrow, but didn't say anything before Peter spoke.

"Do you need to stop at your place before going back to mine?"

Jack watched as Kermit pulled his jacket over his dress shirt, eyes still locked onto the massive weapon. "Huh?" He shook himself, realizing Peter meant he might need supplies, clothes and such. "Oh, yeah, we should probably swing back to my place so I can pick up a few things."

Taking Kermit's Corvair, they made good time and arrived at Jack's apartment in a matter of a few minutes. Peter and Kermit both followed the architect up. Jack was about to put his key in the lock when Kermit noticed some tool marks on the edge of Jack's door. Putting a hand on Jack's arm, Kermit stopped him from opening it.

"Looks like you've had some visitors," Kermit said in a low voice, drawing his weapon as Peter did.

Moving Jack behind them, Peter and Kermit gently nudged the door open, making sure to stay on each side of the doorway against the wall. Signaling, for Jack to stay there and Kermit to follow him, Peter entered the apartment.

The apartment was completely wrecked. Furniture was overturned, drawers were pulled out and thrown on the floor, clothes had landed all over, the television and stereo system were completely busted. Nothing looked like it had been spared.

Once they knew the place was secure, that the perpetrators were gone, they motioned for Jack to go ahead and come in.

"Christ!" Jack exclaimed, eyes flaring as he surveyed the damage.

"Compliments of your ex?" Kermit asked, his face grim as he put his gun away.

"I'd bet on it," Jack responded, his voice flat.

Peter walked over to the answering machine that was flashing with an unheard message. He pushed the button.

\\"Jackie boy, it's me again, baby doll. I told you I knew where you were. Just a little reminder that I can always find you. You're mine anytime I want you...."//

Jack grabbed the answering machine, pulled the power cord out of the wall, and hurled the machine clear across the room where it hit the far wall and shattered into several pieces.

"Fuck you, you bastard! Fuck you!" Jack yelled out. "Just fuck you...."

Jack's body was shaking as he felt Peter's firm hands on his shoulders. He was drawn back against Peter's solid chest.

"Hey," Peter said soothingly. "It's going to be okay. Nothing got wrecked you can't replace and you didn't get hurt. Let's get what's salvageable and get it back to my place, okay?"

Jack waited a few seconds until he could trust his voice. "Yeah, okay."

"C'mon kid, I'll even help you pack up," Kermit offered.


Jody finished filling out the final lines on her latest report, though it made little dent in her caseload. Deciding she needed a few minutes break, she poured herself a fresh cup of swill they called coffee there, and went into the bathroom to freshen up a bit.

The first thing that greeted her when she walked into the lady's room was the sound of retching heaves coming from one of the stalls.

"Hey, are you okay?" she called out with concern.

Another choked sound escaped and a few coughs were heard before the person in the stall answered. "Yeah, I'll be fine in a minute."

Jody sighed when she recognized the voice of Mary Margaret and realized the other detective was dealing with morning sickness yet again. As she heard the flush from the stall and the door open, Jody ran cool water over a paper towel and had it ready for Mary Margaret when she came out.

"Thanks," Skalany murmured, wiping her eyes and forehead with the cool cloth.

"Mary Margaret, have you bothered seeing a doctor about that? You're going to end up dehydrated if you keep up the way you're going," she warned.

"I've talked to the doctor," Mary Margaret told her, blotting her mouth. "He said it wasn't that uncommon for me to be getting as sick as I have been, but he's been keeping a close eye on my weight and says I'm fine."

Jody looked at her skeptically in the mirror. "Are you sure?"

The other detective sighed. She was glad she'd confided in Jody awhile back about being pregnant. It was a relief not to have to keep it quite so secret. With Jody being the only one she'd told, at least she had one friend who was supporting her. Unfortunately, it was also making her feel she was under a microscope of a mother hen.

"Really, Jody," she responded. "I've been drinking lots of water and juice and stuff, so I should be fine."

Jody decided to let it drop for the time being. "Skalany, can I ask you something?"


"Have you told him yet?" Jody asked.

"Who?" Skalany asked, pulling out a brush from her purse and running it through her dark hair.

"The baby's father," Jody clarified. "Have you told him yet?"

Mary Margaret let her eyes drop from the mirror, not wanting to face Jody's scrutiny.

"No, I haven't," she responded quietly.

"Mary Margaret!" Jody exclaimed. "You told me you were going to tell him last week."

"Well, I was," Skalany said defensively. "But...when I tried...."

"When you tried, what? What happened?" Jody asked.

"I...I...choked," Skalany admitted. "I just couldn't bring myself to even go to him to talk to him."

"Why on earth not?" Jody sighed.

"I'm scared, all right," Skalany snapped. "You don't know how complicated this is, Jo."

Jody turned around to rest her back against the sink so she could look her friend in the face. "You're right, I 'don't' know how complicated it is because I don't know all of the details, but I do know one thing."

"What?" Skalany asked softly.

"The baby's father has a right to know, a right to be in the kid's life." Jody broke eye contact to study her feet for a moment. "It isn't easy on a kid thinking that their father doesn't want anything to do with them."

"Hey, it's not like that," Skalany objected. "I've got every intention on telling him, but I've got to find the right time."

"When would that be, when you start showing?" Jody asked. "You're time is running out hon, it's time to bite the bullet," she said gently.

"I know, I know," Skalany said with a sigh. "I'm just...frightened. I don't want this blowing up in my face, Jo," she whispered in a shaky voice.

Jody grabbed the other detective's hand and gave it a firm squeeze. "Then do yourself a favor and tell him soon. The longer you put it off, the worse it's going to be," she advised.

"I know that, really I do, but what if it all turns out wrong and...." Skalany's lip started trembling and her eyes glazed over, threatening to tear up.

Jody pulled her friend into her arms and held her as the that were welling up finally spilled over. Jody rubbed Mary Margaret's back and petted her hair silently until her friend calmed down and the sniffling eased.

Taking a dry paper towel, she blotted at Mary Margaret's eyes. "That's a risk you're going to have to take. If you don't take it, you're never going to know." Jody smiled at her. "What would happen if it all turned out right? You won't know for sure unless you talk to him."

Skalany nodded, taking in a couple of deep, steadying breaths. "Yeah, you're right and I'm going to talk to him soon."

Jody pushed some of Mary Margaret's dark hair back and out of her face. "You promise?"

Skalany gave her a watery smile. "I promise, partner."

"Good, I'll hold you to that," Jody guaranteed. "And you better let me know how it goes."

"I will," Mary Margaret said. "I just may need all the support I can get."

"And you'll get it," Jody promised. "Now wipe the mascara off your face or you'll end up giving Strenlich a heart attack," she teased and was rewarded with a chuckle.


Adam Haun was sitting at one of his favorite bars. It was quiet, it was dark, and it was perfect for keeping a low profile. He nursed his beer, letting the cold liquor slide down his throat. Suddenly a pair of thin arms circled his neck and he felt warm lips against the side of his throat.

"Hey baby, I missed you," the warm voice cooed in his ear.

Smiling slightly, Adam reached behind him and pulled a thin, masculine body onto his lap. Brant was a sexy little thing with shoulder length bleached blond hair, ice blue eyes, and completely suckable lips. Although a little on the dim side, Adam found him a great piece of ass in the sack. That and the fact Brant amused him were the only two reasons Adam kept him around.

Adam slid his hand in-between Brant's thighs, and scowled at the glaring bartender before kissing the blond hard. "You better have missed me," Adam snarled with a quick bite to Brant's neck and a pinch to his inner-thigh.

"You going to take me to the concert tonight?" Brant demanded, taking a swallow of Adam's beer.

"We'll see," Adam responded dully.

"But you promised...."

Adam grabbed a handful of Brant's hair and jerked his head back hard. "Don't you tell me what promises I've made," he snapped. "I said we'll see about it and if you push it, you're going to make me 'very' angry," Adam snarled, jerking Brant's head back some more. "And you don't like it when I'm angry, do you, darling?"

"N-no," Brant whispered, lowering his eyes submissively.

Adam nodded his head approvingly and took Brant's mouth in a rough kiss, thrusting his tongue in to taste every inch before pulling back and pushing the blond man off his lap.

"Good, remember that, now go get us that table in back," Adam ordered, pointing with the neck of his beer bottle in the general direction.

Brant nodded and took off just as Adam's cell phone started to ring. Taking it out of his pocket, he flipped it open.

"Yeah, what do you want?"

"Mr. Haun, I have some news that distresses me greatly," the voice on the other end responded.

Adam immediately recognized the voice of his boss. "What's happened?"

"It seems our friend in the D.A's office has told me about a little incident with a former associate of yours," the man on the other line said.

"What are you talking about?" Adam demanded.

"It seems your...friend...Jack Greyson has something that belongs to both of us. A certain tape, shall we say?"

A shiver shot through Adam, knowing instinctively what tape his boss was referring to. "What's the news?"

"It seems young Jack Greyson wants to turn this particular tape over as evidence and plans on testifying against you, Mr. Haun." The voice grew quieter and more menacing. "You know that must 'not' happen. I have invested too much time and energy into this operation to solidify our relationship with our drug dealing friends in Singapore to let a careless mistake on your part unravel the whole thing."

"Yes, Sir," Adam said.

"Now, since this is your mess, I'm leaving you responsible for cleaning it up. You've got my permission to do whatever is necessary to tie up the loose end in any way you see fit. Is that clear?" his boss asked him.

"Yes, Sir, perfectly clear," Adam responded with a dark smile starting to curve on his lips.

"Good, and I trust you will have no problems handling this problem, because if so, I'm certainly capable of finding someone else who can," the man on the other end warned.

"No, Sir, it won't be a problem at all," Adam promised. "I'll be able to take care of this without a problem."

"Good, keep me informed," his boss told him.

"I will," Adam responded before hearing a click on the other end.

Adam immediately dialed up another number. It rang several times before it was picked up.


"Mikey, it's Adam. Have you been keeping an eye on who I asked you to?" Adam asked.

"Yeah, last night he stayed with this cop out of the 101st. Goes by the name of Peter Caine," the other man responded.

"Good, and you know where they are now?" Adam asked.

"Yeah, I can find them," the other man answered.

"Listen, I want you to take care of Jack and this Peter Caine, and I need it done soon. Can you do it?"

"Sure thing, you know taking out cops is my specialty," Mikey responded with a little too much cockiness in his voice for Adam's taste.

"Just make it a done deal, all right?" Adam snapped.

"It already is, Adam, it already is," the guy promised.


Peter unlocked the door to his apartment, letting both Kermit and Jack inside first, each man toting the boxes and bags Jack had packed up quickly.

"Mind if I call my uncle?" Jack asked, setting his armload down on Peter's floor. "Yesterday I left him a message that might make him worry if I don't clear it up," he told them.

"Yeah, sure, go ahead," Peter responded, sitting his own load of bags down.

"Just be careful what you say to him," Kermit warned, looking at Jack dead on through his green shades. "You don't want to risk telling him too much about what's going on. If someone thinks he knows too much...." Kermit let the sentence just hang, knowing the kid got his full meaning.

Jack nodded. "Right." Picking up the phone, Jack dialed out.

Both Kermit and Peter tried not to eavesdrop on the conversation, but neither were they going to wander very far from the one they were protecting.

"Yeah, Uncle Joe, it's me, Jack." There was a short pause. "No, I'm all right, everything's fine," Jack reassured his uncle. "Yeah, I know, I'm sorry about the message. I didn't mean to make you worry." Another pause. "No, it's no big deal, really. I've got everything under control now with some help of a couple of friends," Jack said, turning and smiling a little at Peter and Kermit, then turned his back on them again. "Okay, okay, I promise that I'll call you if I need you...."

As Kermit watched Jack talking, suddenly he noticed a beam of bright red light coming through the window and pinpointing right on the back of Jack's head.

As if in slow motion, Kermit barely heard himself yelling out to Peter to get down as his body started to move on pure instinct and adrenaline. The ex-mercenary lunged out, tackling Jack around the waist, and forcing him to the floor.

...rat tat tat tat...rat tat tat tat...rat tat tat tat....

Bullets sprayed in all around them, the sound blasting and echoing off the walls. Shattered glass exploded and showered over them in sharp shards.

Scrambling up to cover the younger man's body with his own, Kermit wrapped his arm around Jack's head and buried his own face between Jack's shoulder-blades. Out of the corner of Kermit's eye, he watched as Peter dived and rolled for cover behind a chair, the wall behind him getting riddled with the rain of gunfire. Kermit breathed a small sigh of relief and thanked who ever listened that Peter Caine had more lives than a cat.

"Stay here!" Peter cried out to Kermit. "I'm going after them."

"Peter!" Kermit called out, but it was too late. The other detective was already crawling to the door on his belly, had it opened and sprinted out before Kermit could finish his protest. "Damn him!" he growled.

Hitting the pavement, Peter ducked behind the safety of Kermit's Corvair. Edging his way over to crouch behind a mailbox, Peter scanned the surroundings. The sun shone brightly overhead and he shaded his eyes as he looked up at the building. He knew the sniper was on the roof, he could tell that by the angle the fire had come from. The shots had stopped moments ago, so Peter assumed the sniper was out of ammo. He knew it was a risky assumption, but it was the one he had to go with.

Racing across the street, he threw his back against the cold brick of the building, checked the safety of his own weapon, and rushed inside. Legs pumping, he pounded up the stairwell he knew would lead to the roof. Once at the door, he wasn't surprised to find it locked. Gun out of his holster and raised, Peter threw his shoulder against the door and with one hard attempt, it gave.

Staying low, gun steady in hand, and eyes constantly on the move, Peter moved out onto the top of the building. Sensitive hearing picked up no sounds around him, other than birds chirping and the sound of cars driving by. Moving steadily forward, Peter approached the edge of the roof.

Trying to calm down his racing thumping heart, Peter gave in to the fact that the assailant, whoever it was, had disappeared on him.

Seeing a glint refracting off something metallic by the sunlight, Peter walked closer to the ledge. Dropping down on one knee, he scooped up a empty magazine cartridge. He knew it came from the assault riffle of the assassin and slid it carefully into his pocket for Nickie to deal with later. He was sure that ballistics would match the cartridge of the gun to the type of bullets embedded in the walls of his apartment.

Peter wasted no time getting back to his own apartment, flying up the steps as fast as his feet would carry him. Once inside, he found Kermit kneeling in front of Jack, assessing the younger man and making sure he was all right.

"Are you two all right?" Peter asked, out of breath.

"Yeah, we're fine," Kermit answered for both of them, even as Peter noticed Jack's very pale skin and shaking hands.


"Yeah, fine," the other man responded, dull eyes seeming to look right through Peter.

"Looks like they've found out about the tape," Peter commented, his eyes looking into Kermit's angry ones.

"Oh yeah," Kermit drawled. "I think that's a sure thing. Did you find anything?"

"Just the magazine they left behind. Nickie can do ballistics on it once I dig a couple of the bullets out of my wall here," Peter told him.

"Meanwhile, I think it'd be a wise course of action to regroup over at your father's place," Kermit advised. "After all, it's not safe at Jack's place and obviously they figured out where you live."

Peter grudgingly had to admit that Kermit was right. Though he didn't want to involve his lover in this if he didn't have to, it looked like it wasn't really his call to make anymore. "Okay, let's get going."

In the Corvair, Peter noticed that Kermit covertly kept checking the rear view mirror to make sure they weren't being tailed. Peter knew they weren't, but it didn't hurt to play on the side of caution after what had happened. Looking behind him, Peter could see how visibly shaken Jack was. The other man hadn't spoken a word since saying he was fine.

Peter looked over at the other detective and thought about the promise he made his father to think of someone to be his witness during the bonding ceremony.

Even though there'd been times where he and Kermit had been at odds with each other, the truth was that next to his Pop, he would trust Kermit with his life if it came down to it. Ever since the whole Thomas Shelton thing, Peter had realized that when it counted, Kermit was going to be there for him.

He really wanted to ask Kermit to be his witness, but how on earth would he even bring it up? What would Kermit even think if he knew the truth about him and his pop? He'd known Kermit for so long, had first met him when he was still a kid through Paul. Peter knew Kermit had a unique outlook on life, but was he 'really' ready to accept the fact that Peter was 'in' love with his father?

Peter was so wrapped up in his own thoughts that he was hardly aware of when they pulled up to his and Pop's loft.

"I am here, Peter," Caine called from the terrace. "Please, come in, Kermit, Jack."

Peter wasn't surprised in the least that Caine had been expecting them, he knew his pop would be. Walking out, their eyes met. What Peter hadn't expected was that Lo Si would be keeping his father company.

"Hello, Lo Si," Peter greeted distractedly.

"Hello, young Peter," the elder man greeted in kind, his eyes taking Kermit and Jack. "Hello, Detective Griffin. And you must be Jack Greyson, Peter's friend. Kwai Chang Caine has been telling me of you."

Kermit nodded. "This man is also known as the Ancient," he informed Jack.

"A pleasure to meet you," Jack managed softly, not even really seeming to see the older man.

Lo Si noticed the looks being flashed between Peter and Caine. Both men were quite anxious to have a few moments of privacy.

"Detective Griffin, Jack, would you do an old man the pleasure of trying a new blend of tea I have created? I would really like some opinions on it," Lo Si said, starting to move inside, his arm reaching up around Jack's shoulders to steer him along.

"Yeah, sure, why not," Kermit shrugged. He too, could sense that Peter needed to talk to his father alone.

"Sure," Jack murmured, looking back at Peter momentarily before following Lo Si into the kitchen area.

Once alone, Caine turned to Peter. "There was an attack," he declared.

"Yeah, there was," Peter said. "A sniper tried to take us out. We're certain they've found out we have the film somehow."


Peter went to his father, letting his pop's arms wrap around them. He nuzzled against Pop's neck, resting his head on his father's shoulder.

"It's all right, we're all fine," Peter whispered.

Caine's hand came up to pet Peter's hair, pressing Peter's lips against his throat.

"I saw the attack, my darling, but did not have time enough to warn you," Caine admitted with regret.

Peter reached up and stroked his cheek. "It's okay, no one got hurt." Peter breathed in the warm, earthy scent of his lover and sighed. "I missed you last night."

"I missed you as well," Caine said. "I missed holding you close, feeling your body against me, my darling."

God, had it only been a single night they were apart? It felt like it was ages ago since the last time they'd been together. The look in his father's eyes made Peter ache. Not caring who was only several rooms away, Peter leaned over and laid claim to his father's mouth, yearning for his taste.

Caine's arms tightened their hold around his younger lover as his mouth opened under the pressure of his son's lips, enjoying the feeling of Peter's tongue invading and exploring the contours inside.

Peter felt Caine's tongue sliding against his own, battling to taste and explore as well. Peter felt his own internal temperature upping a few degrees as Caine caressed his back. Peter wrapped his fingers in the loose silver hair around his father's shoulders and held Caine's head immobile.

When they finally pulled apart, their breathing was hot and coming in waves. Peter gulped hard, closing his eyes and nuzzling against his father's cheek.

"Pop, I've got to take this clip to Nickie for analyzing, so Jack is going to have to stay here. Is that okay?" Peter asked, his voice thick and husky.

"Of course it is, Beloved," Caine responded. "He will be fine."

"With you on the job, I know he will be," Peter said with a small smile. He leaned in for a few more brief kisses and nibbles. "Mmm, I need some more of those for the road," Peter murmured.

"As many as you want, Sweet One, they are yours," Caine returned in that low voice that never failed to reduce Peter's knees to the consistency of melted butter.

Peter groaned softly and rubbed his cheek against his father's jawline. "That I promise to collect on." With another tight squeeze, Peter reluctantly pulled away from his dad's arms. "I've got to get to the precinct."

"I will see you soon, my darling," Pop whispered.

Just as Peter turned to walk away, Caine's hand struck out, grabbed him by the neck of the shirt, turned him around, and pulled him in for another long, hard kiss.

When the kiss ended, Peter watched Caine's eyes dancing merrily.

"One for...the road...." Caine whispered and winked.

Peter chuckled softly, mouthed 'I love you', and winked back before going back inside.

"Come on, Kermit, lets get this stuff back to Nickie," Peter called out.


Adam's phone rang again. One arm was still slung around Brant's waist as they danced.

"Yeah?" he snapped.

"I missed, Adam," the voice on the other end said.

"Hold on, Mikey, I can barely hear you," Adam all but screamed over the blaring music.

Gripping Brant's arm, Adam pulled the other man out with him as he moved outside into the alley behind the bar. His free hand slinking down the front of Brant's tight jeans as he talked.

"Okay, Mikey, tell me what's up," Adam said.

"I said, I missed, Adam. I didn't get them," the voice repeated.

"What the fuck do you 'mean' you didn't get them? How God damn hard can it be to kill one cop and a friggin architect for Christ sakes?" Adam yelled.

"Hey, there were two cops and I missed my shot. It happens," Mikey yelled back.

"I don't really give a rat's ass 'why' it happened Mikey. I was depending on you! In a couple of days my boss is gonna be meeting with Fung Lue. Listen and listen good, this matter with Jack 'has' to be taken care of because if Fung Lue catches wind of it, he's going to bail on the deal and if that happens I won't 'have' to worry about any cop taking care of me, know what I mean?" Adam told him, pulling Brant back against him to rub his semi-rigid cock against the blond's sweet ass.

"Yeah, I understand, but..."

"No, no buts," Adam interrupted. "Let me spell this out for you, Mikey. If I go down, 'you' go down right along with me, you got it?"

"Yeah, yeah, I got it," Mikey responded.

"Good," Adam said, his fingers unzipping Brant's jeans. "Now where is Jack and the cop?"

"They're at the cop's father's place. He's some old man who's some kind of priest in Chinatown."

Adam smiled cruelly. "A priest, huh? Well, old Jackie-boy is going to need a miracle worker once I get through with him." Hanging up on Mikey, Adam placed one more call.


Caine watched as both Peter and Kermit left, his eyes following his younger lover out the door and tracked him by his Ch'i until the car was around the block.

When he turned around, he met the Ancient's knowing smile.

"Are your plans for the Bonding ceremony coming along?" Lo Si asked in a whisper.

"Yes, Master, they are coming along, although there is still much left to be done to prepare," Caine answered.

"Very good, very good, just let me know when you are ready to proceed," Lo Si told him.

"I will, Master," Caine responded, with a slight bow.

"In the meantime, I will leave so you may talk to young Jack," Lo Si said as he drew near to the door.

"Do not feel like you must rush away, my friend," Caine said.

Lo Si leaned in closer to Caine, "Actually, Kwai Chang Caine, I really must rush. I am to meet Mai Weng for a date."

Caine raised an eyebrow and smiled. "The widow you have been instructing in Tai Chi?"

Lo Si smiled and his dark eyes glittered. "Yes, that is her. She said she likes the...way I move," he said with a waggle of his eyebrows.

Caine just chuckled, his eyes crinkling as he looked at his master. "Well, I certainly hope you have an enjoyable time."

Lo Si smiled. "So do I, my old friend, so do I."

The Ancient left, leaving Caine still with a smile on his face as he turned back to the face his solitary guest. Jack was still sipping his tea at the table.

"How are you, Jack?" Caine asked softly. "Peter told me there was an attack at his loft."

"I'm fine, thanks to Kermit," Jack said, looking into his cup. "I still can't believe I was shot at," he said with a shake of his blond head.

Caine reached out and touched his arm. "The path you have chosen is not one which will be easy, but as in any journey, a single step is all it takes to begin your way along the path. You have already taken that first step, and have those whom will assist you along it."

"I'm just afraid that Adam isn't going to stop until, and he won't care who he takes down with me to do it," Jack said, barely above a whisper. "Maybe it just isn't worth it."

Caine's hand tightened momentarily on the young man's arm. "You know that is not the truth, you must listen to the inner voice in here," he said, placing a hand on his own chest. "That voice will always guide you along towards the truth."

"How can you tell that my inner voice is even talking to me?" Jack asked softly, his eyes gazing out the window into the clear, bright daylight.

Caine took the seat directly in front of Jack, so the younger man's gaze would not evade him. "Because, I have the ability to see beyond what the eyes can be blinded to. I am able to see past the cloaks of fears and doubts that can veil the truth."

"And what truth do you see within me?" Jack asked, his eyes now searching Caine's, finding himself drawn to the acquiescent hazel eyes.

Caine's gaze was steady. "The truth I see is that you are a young man with a kind heart, who has great strength of moral character, someone with a very generous spirit."

Jack felt his cheeks starting to flame up slightly. "You-you see all that within me? When you haven't even known me that long?"

"I do," Caine said with a slight nod. "And as for not knowing you long, one does not need to measure time when the truth is apparent. One minute or one millennia passing does not dim or brighten the light of truth." Caine's face turned more grave as he continued to speak. "Just as I can also sense the anguish and torment that has cast a shadow over your heart and life." Caine reached over and placed his large hand over Jack's. "You have seen much pain, have you not? And is not that pain the true cause of your fear of Adam?"

Jack stared at Caine for a very long moment, his eyes shifting back down to his cup of tea. "You know, this tea reminds me a lot of the tea my grandmother would make when me and my dad would visit her."

"You enjoyed the time you spent at your grandmother's?" Caine asked softly.

Jack smiled a little. "Yeah, she had this farm, and every summer I'd go there and spend the entire summer with her and Granddad."

"It sounds as though you have many fond memories of the farm and your grandparents," Caine said, sipping his own tea.

"Yeah, it was a great place for a little kid, so much to see and do when you're used to living in the city," Jack said, his mind drifting back to those days that he had almost been too young to have memories of. "It was so quiet and peaceful too. At night, you could sit outside and listen to the sounds of the night animals around, it was like a place that was so untouched, and...." Jack searched for the words.

"Safe?" Caine supplied.

"Yeah, I suppose," Jack said softly. "It 'did' feel safe."

"Do you ever long to find that security again? Caine asked gently.

Jack's eyes jerked back up, but he didn't say anything.

"What did Adam do to you that makes you yearn for that sense of safety you are seeking?" Caine reached out and took Jack's hand in his once more and squeezed the younger man's fingers in encouragement.

"He...he beat me," Jack whispered finally.

Caine nodded, his hand still not letting Jack's go, knowing that the younger man might find the strength to continue from the connection.

"How did it begin?" Caine asked gently.

Jack chuckled mirthlessly. "Do you know how many times I've asked myself the same thing?" Sighing, he ran his hand through his dark blond hair. "When we first got together, things were fine between us. He was tender, acted like he cared about me...what a joke that was," he snorted. "Anyhow, the first time it happened, we were...." Jack's face turned a little red and he shifted his eyes away from Caine's." bed together. He had slapped me, hard," Jack whispered, still not knowing why he was sharing so much with this older man whom he'd just met. "Of course, the next day he apologized, said he hadn't meant it, that he'd only been playing around and thought it would enhance our...lovemaking...but didn't think he'd hit me that hard."

"And you accepted the explanation," Caine stated evenly.

Jack nodded. "Yeah, I thought he loved me, I guess I wanted to believe it was the truth."

"Then you discovered that it was not."

Jack let a moment slip by before responding, and when he did, his voice so low that it was hard to hear. "The next week, he came home drunk, giving me a black eye and a bloody nose. The next morning, the excuses started in again...he'd drunk too much and hadn't realized what he had done, begged me to forgive him, give him a second chance. Well, I fell for it...again...and forgave him."

"But it did not stop then," Caine said softly, trying to not let his own growing anger surface. He made a great effort to understand others, to keep his mind open and not develop predisposed judgements about an individual, but occasionally he found it much more of a challenge than others.

"No, it got to the point where he didn't even have to be drunk at all, and the beatings got worse," Jack confided in a murmur.

Caine knew that he was treading lightly on very emotional waters. Jack's desire to talk about these matters was strong within him, but there was also the hesitation of fear that Caine could still feel from the younger man. Perhaps it was a feeling of shame, or of betrayal, but there was a web cloaking Peter's friend from sharing much more at the moment. Caine was disturbed by this because he sensed it went much further than what he had first originally thought. He would have to wait until Jack was ready to face the demons that haunted him, then he could offer his assistance if it were welcomed.

"Anger and love occasionally intermingle and one can be mistaken for the other because of the intensity from which it is born. Genuine love however, when it is true, is not based on fear, intimidation, or power, but instead has a foundation based on respect, trust, and regard for the other," Caine said softly.

Seeing the flicker of emotions within Jack's azure eyes, Caine realized he had hit upon something deep inside the other man. Perhaps he should allow time for Jack to consider his words. "Would you care for some lunch?"

Jack raised an eyebrow. "Uh, yeah, sure," he responded, realizing he was actually feeling a bit hungry.

Caine rose. "Do you like Lo Mein?"

Jack smiled a little. "I love it."

Caine smiled and moved into the kitchen. He had begun gathering the necessary ingredients when he felt Jack approaching from behind.

"May I help?"

"If you wish, but it is not necessary," Caine responded.

"I'd like to help," Jack returned.

"Then you may prepare the salad if you would like," Caine offered, pointing out the lettuce and the other makings for a salad he'd sat out.

As they worked side by side, the situation felt a little odd to Caine. He was used to having only Peter's company when performing such mundane matters or performing them alone when Peter was working, that he now found the company welcome, but peculiar. He kept his thoughts to himself as the water began to simmer.

"You know, Peter even met Adam once," Jack commented as he tore the lettuce and put it into a bowl.

"Did he?" Caine asked curiously. Peter had made no mention of this to him.

"Yeah, he did, on the night we met," Jack responded, pulling some tomatoes over and starting to slice them.

Caine started mixing some special herbs that he would add to the Lo Mein later. "What had happened?"

Jack frown as he continued chopping. "We were dancing when Adam showed up and tried cause trouble." His chopping began to get more forceful. "I honestly think Peter would have gotten into a fight with him if that security guard hadn't shown up."

Caine had little doubt his son would have done just that. Peter seldom backed down from a confrontation, especially if someone else was at risk.

"You're the one who taught Peter Kung-Fu, aren't you?" Jack asked, placing the sliced tomatoes into a bowl.

Caine looked up at that. "Yes, myself and the other monks taught him at the temple."

Jack smiled a little. "I've got the feeling he was quite the handful when he was younger."

Caine smiled tenderly. "Some things do not change much over time," he said as he stirred the noodles and preparing the wok for vegetables. "His foster father often described him as holding a tiger by the tail."

"All spunk and energy, I bet," Jack said, starting to mix up ingredients.

"Very...spirited," Pop agreed, thinking of his lover fondly.

Jack's voice turned softer as he spoke. "He...had told me about how the temple had burned down and how you were separated for so long. I can only imagine what that must have been like for you."

Caine's smile faded, his eyes looking out the window. "It was one of the hardest things I have ever endured," he responded quietly.

"What's it been like, finding him again after so long?" Jack asked curiously, hoping he wasn't overstepping his bounds by asking, but finding himself unable to keep the question to himself.

"It has been a series of trials and lessons for both of us, but nothing has brought me more happiness than to be reunited with him once more," Pop answered slowly.

"Peter is a very lucky man," Jack commented, moving to pour the noodles into a bowl.

Caine cocked his head. He wondered at how much this young man really knew about his and Peter's relationship. "What do you mean?"

Jack didn't meet Caine's eyes. "Not many sons get a second chance like that with their fathers."

Caine was prepared to try and encourage Jack to expand on that thought when he felt the approach of evil. Setting the pot down, Caine reached out and moved Jack behind him.


Caine watched as three very large men enter through his open door. The largest of the trio had dishwater blond hair that hung low enough that it passed his jawline. It veiled a faded, jagged scar running the length of his cheek. In his beefy hands, he carried a rifle. The second one was an Asian that Caine did not recognize from Chinatown and his hair was drew back into a half-ponytail. He held a handgun while a large knife shimmered from his side. The smallest of the three trailed in with a smug expression on a dark face. He had a tattoo of red and yellow flames on one biceps.

"What is it that you want?" Caine asked, his eyes narrowing at the malice that filled the aura of the room.

"Not much, Old Man," the one with the tattoo answered, his lips curving into an baneful smile. "I'll just have your friend here come with us, and no one needs to get hurt."

Caine's look was stern as he held his hands, fingers locked together, in front of him. "I cannot permit that."

The tattooed one laughed wryly as he moved even closer to Caine. "Hey, guys, can you believe this? He can't 'permit' that." He stopped when only inches separated them. Dark eyes glared into his. "And, just how do you expect to stop us, Priest?"

"By any means required," Caine warned, his tone low and deep.

The man chuckled, looked over his shoulder at his partners before turning back around to Caine and swinging.

Caine moved his head, and caught the punch by the man's wrist. Giving it a hard twist, Caine pushed back and sent the man reeling into his colleagues.

"Okay, hold it right there," the blond with the rifle stated, raising the sight to aim at Caine. "That's enough, Priest."

Caine raised his right hand without taking a step. The blond watched him curiously, not noticing that his gun was starting to glow a violent red until the heat made him drop it.

While his colleague shook his blistering hand, the Asian had circled behind Caine. The apothecary pivoted and struck out with a front kick, sending the other pistol flying across the room.

Still slightly stunned, the Asian managed to attempt a sidekick aimed at Caine's chest. Caine fell to the floor, avoiding the kick and striking out with a foot sweep to bring the Asian down into a heap, hard. Jumping up, Caine delivered a heel-of-the-palm strike to the Asian's sternum, knocking him out cold.

Spinning around, Caine was ready for the blond that was now moving in on him and instinctively feeling the one with the tattoos from behind. Caine thrust out with a back kick to the tattooed man's gut, sending him pitching back and into Caine's medicine table. The bottles and bowls went crashing and shattering to the floor.

Caine recovered his stance and was ready when the blond threw a right hook, left uppercut combination. Forearm blocks kept each blow from landing as Caine caught one wrist. Using the blow's force, Caine sent the man lurching forward, putting distance between them.

Reeling around, Caine launched a fluid roundhouse kick that struck the blond against the side of the head with such force that it knocked him off of his feet.

"Okay, Priest, cool it, now."

Whirling around, Caine saw that tattooed man had grabbed the fallen Asian's knife and now had one arm around Jack's throat, the other hand holding the blade pressed against Jack's jugular.

"Blondie here and I are going to leave now, and I'd suggest you save the Bruce Lee heroics unless you want to see Blondie's throat sliced ear to ear."

The Asian started moving towards the door, watching as Caine's fingers curling and uncurling at his sides. The smug smile he walked in with now planted firmly on his face as he took pleasure in the apothecary's frustration.

Swallowing hard, his throat moving against the sharp edge of the blade, Jack took a few steps. His eyes were locked with Caine's. Suddenly, he drew a free arm up and drove it straight back into his captor's abdomen with every bit of strength he had. The tattooed man hunched over and moaned out in pain. Taking the opportunity of the slackened grasp, Jack grabbed the man's knife hand around the wrist, bent down, and pulling hard, sent the man with the tattoo flying head over heels over his shoulder.

Struggling to their knees, and slowly rising, the blond man helped the smaller one up.

"Let's get outta here," the blonde snarled to the tattooed man.

The sneering tattooed man nodded and grabbed one arm of the still-unconscious Asian while the blond got the other one. Together they hauled their heavy load to the door. The tattooed man paused to look back over his shoulder.

"You ain't seen the last of us, Priest," he warned bitterly, eyes glaring.

Caine bowed ever so slightly in acceptance of the challenge and allowed the three men to leave until they met at another time and place.

Caine turned his attention back to Jack. "Are you all right?" His skilled hands quickly assessed the younger man's throat for any injuries.

"I'm fine," Jack responded, moving his shoulder around in a circle. The twinge he was feeling let him know he'd definitely be feeling that flip later on. "Those were some terrific moves," he commented. He'd been in awe of the speed and agility with which Caine had delivered all of his blows. He'd never seen anyone move quite like that before.

Caine smiled a little and shrugged. "Moves which took me many, many years to master." He then looked Jack in the eyes, once certain that the younger man had no injuries elsewhere. "That was a skilled move of your own."

Jack blushed a little. "Yeah, well, I took a self-defense class several years ago. I guess some of it stuck with me."

Caine smiled and cuffed his chin. "More than you thought, apparently."

"Hey, Pop, what's going on? I thought I heard some racket up here."

Caine turned to the sound of his son's voice as his sweet one leapt up the steps and rushed into the room with Kermit close on his heels.

As soon as Peter entered, his eyes scanned his father, making sure his lover was fine. He then took in the debris of jars and bowls and the other signs of the struggle.

"What the hell happened here?" Peter asked, nearly taking Pop into a embrace until he remembered they weren't alone.

"Nothing that could not be dealt with," Caine reassured him, reaching out to run his hand through Peter's hair; the brief touch was the only physical comfort he would afford himself to give at the moment.

"Are you all right," Kermit asked Jack, moving in to inspect the kid himself. Jack nodded in response.

"Adam's men did this, didn't they?" Peter asked with a scowl.

Peter could feel his blood pressure starting to rise, the pounding of it bounding against his veins. Shooting up his old apartment was one thing. It didn't matter much to him, not much that he cared about had gotten wrecked. That he could deal with. What he 'couldn't' deal with was a handful of second-rate goons coming into his and Pop's place...'their' home...and threatening 'his' lover. The fact he knew full well that Pop could handle himself was a moot one, it was the idea of it that really got to the police officer. His father's warm fingers wrapped around his wrist were enough to pull him out of his thoughts.

"Yes, it was Adam's men," Caine answered softly.

"They were after me," Jack announced. "I was the one they wanted."

"Everyone is always wanting something, doesn't mean they'll get it," Kermit said, flipping out his cell phone and hitting speed dial.

As Jack listened to Kermit talking with his captain, Peter felt Pop's thumb stroking his wrist and tried not to get distracted by the soothingly familiar touch. Peter listened to Kermit as he relayed what had happened at their loft.

"Peter, how did the meeting with Nickie Elder go? Was anything new discovered?" Pop asked quietly.

"Oh yeah, Nickie said that when the report came in, it showed that bullets I pulled out of my loft walls are the same type that was found at one of the other murder scenes where the girl had been shot execution style," Peter told him. "Once we find the gun, he's sure we'll get a positive match."

Caine thought about Ariel's friend who was still lying in the hospital with her struggle between this life and the next. He certainly hope justice would be served to the ones who had put her in that state.

"Yeah, okay, Chancellor's Hotel, gottcha," Kermit spoke. He flipped off the phone and turned to the other three.

"So what did Simms have to say?" Peter asked, although he already had a strong suspicion.

"She wants us, 'all' of us," the ex-mercenary emphasized, "to hole up at Chancellor's Hotel until Adam is apprehended."

"" Caine asked.

"Yep, us on the inside with Jack and several uniform standing guard on outside and several more in units patrolling at regular intervals," Kermit supplied.

"It's not just going to be us," Peter added. "I want my dad staying there too."

"Peter...." Both Kermit and Pop responded.

"It's non negotiable," Peter persisted. He turned to his pop. "Dad, after what just happened, I'd rather that we lay low for a few days, just until things cool off, okay?" He didn't give his father a chance to speak before turning to Kermit. "I want him going with us, end of discussion."

The ex-mercenary shrugged. "No sweat off my back if you want to take the Old Man along." Kermit had long ago become very used to the 'determined Peter' face and knew that when the younger man made up his mind about something, there was no use in wasting his breath.

Once downstairs, Kermit took Jack in the Corvair while Peter followed with Pop in the Stealth. When a light stopped them, Peter felt his lover's eyes on him.

"What?" he asked, tapping on the steering wheel and waiting for the light to change.

"Beloved, why was it so important to you that I come along?" Caine asked finally, once Peter's eyes shifted to him in the silence.

"Besides the fact that those goons know where we live now and might come back?" Peter asked a little flippantly.

"Yes, besides that, for I know you are well aware of the fact we have many enemies," Caine returned.

"You're not mad at me, are you? Peter asked, stepping on the gas as soon as the light turned. He looked over. "I mean, I know I didn't ask you about it first, but...." Peter trailed off.

Caine resisted the urge to smile. "No, my love, I am not upset with you. I merely wish to understand the motive behind it."

With one hand on the wheel, Peter reached over and took Pop's hand in his and brought it up to press a kiss against it. "No motive, other than I thought it'd give us a chance to spend a little time together."

When they stopped at the next light, Peter leaned over and brushed his lips against Caine's in a firm, but quick kiss. "Can I help it if I want to be with you?"

"I've missed you too, my sweet one," Caine responded, letting his hand fall to Peter's thigh and rest there.

Peter linked his fingers with Caine's and moved their joined hands higher up and further in on his thigh. Caine brushed his thumb back and forth his boy's jean clad leg, the silence between them, a comfortable companion.

As Caine watched the traffic pass by with his son's hand over his own, he thought about the couple they were following and the young architect in need of their help. Once more Caine found his line of thought drawn to just how well Peter and Jack knew one another and the extent of their relationship. He was convinced that Peter had not told him everything of their first meeting, but he did not know why.

"Pop, what's going on?" Peter asked him, softly breaking the solitude of his thoughts.

"What do you mean, Beloved?" Caine asked.

Peter looked at him, stopping for a red light. "You look like you're off a million miles from here for some reason. Is anything wrong?"

"Nothing is...wrong," Caine said slowly, thinking of just what he wanted to say to his lover.

"But..." Peter prodded.

"But I am curious about something."

"About what?" Peter asked, hazel eyes seeking his Pop's.

Caine took a breath. "I am curious about what you have not told me about the night you were undercover and met Jack for the first time."

Peter hesitated. "There's not much I didn't tell you about it. I mean he offered to buy me a drink, we started talking, we danced some...."

"Was he attracted to you or you to him?" Caine found himself asking. It was not a question he wanted to have to ask, but he would not allow the truth to be hidden just because of a fear of the answer.

Peter paused and blinked, giving Caine the answer he needed. The apothecary felt a strange twinge when he thought of his lover and the blond man he'd recently met. It was a feeling he usually reserved for thoughts of Paul Blaisdell, but felt them surfacing once more in his mind. After all, Jack Greyson was much closer to Peter's age than he was, as well as being a very attractive man. He could not blame Peter for becoming interested at Jack's attentions. Nor could Caine blame Jack for his attraction to Peter. After all, he better than any other, knew how easy it was to succumb to Peter's beauty and loving heart.

Peter swallowed. He must have been emotionally open at the moment, because somehow he could feel his father's uncertainties and the discord he was feeling. "Pop, I was undercover and playing out a role," Peter said quietly. "I had to do a little fudging on the truth with Jack and let him think some things that maybe I shouldn't have because I couldn't be completely honest with him and keep my cover at the same time."

"You are saying that you did not discourage his interest in you," Pop stated.

"I know I should have," Peter said, "but at first I wasn't sure if he could have been the killer we were after, but then once I knew he wasn't...."

"You found yourself attracted to him," Caine said.

Peter squeezed Pop's hand, reaffirming the physical hold as he struggled with his thoughts. "Well, maybe a little," Peter said. There was no way he'd lie to Pop. He couldn't...wouldn't do that to them. "But not exactly. It was just that I was...flattered..." Peter faltered a little. "I mean, out of all the guys at the bar he 'could' have talked to, he chose to single me out and it...felt nice. I mean, I didn't know what he'd see in me, but..." Peter shrugged helplessly.

Pop shook his head. "Sweet One, you still do not know the power you occasionally possess over people." Caine squeezed Peter's hand back hard. "Why can you not see that other men might find you attractive, desirable, as much as I do?"

Peter blushed from his neck to the roots of his hair. "Pop, it's just not something I think about, all right? I don't even want anyone but you taking a notice in me."

While that placated Caine slightly. After all, he realized that everyone, even 'his' Peter needed affirmation that they are still desirable and wanted on a physical level. "On that night, while finding yourself flattered by his attentions, did anything happen?"

"We...flirted...a bit," Peter confessed. "And while we were dancing, Jack tried to kiss me," he admitted and quickly went on to say "but I turned away and let him believe I just wanted to take things slowly."

Caine tried to not let the hurt crawl inside his heart, kept it at bay. "Was that all that happened?"

Peter's pensive gaze found his. "No," Peter declared. 'No sense holding back now,' he told himself. 'Better go for broke because I'm not lying to him now.' "Last night, while we were talking, he caught me off guard and actually kissed me."

"I see," Pop said softly.

Peter turned worried eyes onto Pop at a stop sign. "Pop, just as soon as it happened I told him that I was sorry if I led him on at all, but that I was happy with you." Peter clutched his father's hand tightly. "I hated hurting him, but I wasn't going to let him think there might be a chance when you're all I want, all I need." Peter fought the urge to pull over to a curb because he wanted to see his father's face so badly. "Pop, you've got to believe me, you gotta know I only want you. I'd never be able to cheat on you, can't even think that I'd ever...."

Caine heard the desperation and near panic in his son's voice. He quickly moved to reassure his son, rubbing their joined hands up and down Peter's leg. "Peter, Sweet One, I believe you, and I trust you. Do not doubt that. I...simply needed to hear you tell me first hand what happened."

"Thank God," Peter breathed out, reaching out his arm and pulling his lover to him. "Pop, you don't have anything to worry about. No one could 'ever' make me as happy as you do. I love you so much, never doubt that."

'My sweet, loving child,' Caine thought as he stroked Peter's thigh. 'I do not know just how long I shall be granted the gift of your love, but as long as I am, I will treasure it,' Caine swore in silence.

After arriving at the hotel and parking, the two reluctantly released the other to follow Kermit and Jack up to the tenth floor where they would be staying. Frank Strenlich was already waiting on them when they walked down the hall. Standing behind him, were a couple of officers in uniform that Peter didn't know well.

"What's he doing here?" Strenlich asked in way of a greeting, his eyes on Kwai Chang.

"Because I 'want' him here," Peter responded. "Is there a problem with that?"

Frank shook his head. While he admired the other officer's devotion to his father, Frank couldn't help thinking it was starting to border on just plain weird. Looking at the older Chinaman, though, Frank had to admit it wasn't anything weirder than the rest of what made Peter a Caine.

"No problem, I guess," Frank gave in finally.

"Good then, Pop and I will take one suite, you and Jack can take the other, Kermit," Peter offered, turning his attentions to the other detective.

"That works for me," Kermit said. "If there's any trouble, he'll know," the ex-mercenary said with an ever-so-slight smile as he hitched his thumb at Caine.

"O'Mally and Barns here will be standing guard for the first shift," Strenlich told them, nodding his head to the two men behind him.

"I don't think we really need them, do you?" Peter asked.

"Protocol, Pete, you know that," Frank reminded him.

"Yeah, but it sure seems like a waste of their time," he returned.

"Let Simms decide that, Peter, it's not your call."

With that, Frank left the group of four to settle into their rooms on their own.

Peter threw open the door and scanned the inside. The decor was pretty standard: a small living area with well-kept but worn sofa and chairs, a modest kitchenette area with a fridge and stove, and two other doorways that Peter assumed lead to the bedroom and bathroom.

"Not the Ritz, but it'll do," Peter commented.

"It will suit our needs," Caine said mildly.

Peter looked into his father's eyes, grateful that he knew the other two cops that had followed him in couldn't decipher Pop's tone of voice like he could, because if they could, they'd be picking up a subtle undertone they had no business picking up on.

Peter cleared his throat before turning and going over to the connecting door.

"Hey, you guys want food from the Golden Dragon?" Peter called out through the oak.

"Sure, Peter, I want the chicken and broccoli," Kermit responded.

"I'll take an order of sweet and sour shrimp," Jack called out.

"Okay, and we'll take two number seventeens," Peter said, turning back to O'Mally and Barns. Pulling out a wallet, he peeled off several bills and handed them over. "While you're at it, get yourselves something too. The least I can do is buy you guys dinner," Peter commenting, having been in their very same positions many a time.

Barns and O'Mally looked at each other for a moment.

"Okay, I'll go and get the food, you stay here outside," Barns said finally.

Peter watched both men leave, locking the door and pulling it shut behind them. The cop turned to his father.

"Ah, privacy at last," Peter said with a smile.

"I would hardly call one officer outside with Kermit and Jack mere feet away...privacy," Caine stated, though could not help matching his son's smile.

The apothecary sat down on the sofa and looked expectantly at his younger lover. Peter came over, planted himself across his dad's lap, and propped his feet up on the arm of the sofa.

"This from a man who makes a habit of leaving his door wide open?" Peter asked, wrapping his arms around his dad's waist and hugging him tightly. "What's the matter, think they're going to hear something they shouldn't?" Peter asked, his eyes gleaming mischievously.

Caine slid his lips against Peter, his own embrace tightening. "I am not the one who is so...boisterous...when we are together."

Peter felt his cheeks flaming up hotly, remembering all to well how a couple of weeks ago when Mrs. Tsang from downstairs, came up and asked Caine if Peter was ill because of all the moaning she'd heard. Peter had overheard his father's response, a simple assurance that he was 'tending to his son', and awed at Caine's ability to keep such a straight face while saying it.

"Yeah, well," Peter coughed. "I seem to recall several times you got quite vocal yourself," he responded, his fingers playing with the curls of his father's chest through the V of his shirt. He nuzzled his nose against Caine's throat. "And I don't remember you complaining either."

Caine slid his hand up Peter's shirt to stroke his son's firm abdomen, fingertips tracing each line of muscle under the cloth.

"And what would I have to complain of, my sweet one, when you bring me such pleasure?"

Peter closed his eyes at the honeyed tone that seemed to have such a intimate connect with his blood supply. Moving his head, he covered Pop's lips in a very tender and unhurried kiss that he felt clear down to his toes. Peter curled his fingers in Pop's hair, his other hand pulling Caine tight against him.

When the need to breath demanded that they part, Peter's eyes burned into his father's, the hazel eyes staring back at him so open and adoring. Peter's heart thumping against his ribcage, as he slid his own hands under Caine's shirt just to be able to feel warm skin against his fingers.

Peter wondered if it was always going to be like this between them; one touch, one kiss and that was all that was needed to stir the fires in him. It was as though they were completely attuned to each other and he'd never before experienced anything that even came close to comparing. His dad's eyes searched his face, looked so deeply into his eyes, that it made Peter wonder if Pop was burning it deep into his memory for later.

There were times he longed to do that too, capture a moment, seize one of their quiet times together and just hold onto it for dear life. Pop always reminded him though, that the past was just that, and it wasn't something that could be clung onto. So instead, he just took and enjoyed each moment that came and tried to remember they still had a lifetime of them ahead.

Caine trailed a fingertip down the bridge of Peter's nose. His finger lingering on the slightly crooked bridge. Peter didn't fight the smile that tugged at his lips.


"You have never told me the story of how you broke your handsome nose," Caine said quietly.

Peter shrugged, his hands still resting under his father's shirt, playing back and forth over Caine's stomach. "It happened during a high school basketball game," Peter explained. "Third quarter in the regional championship. We were down by ten points and I had the ball and was about ready to shoot when the kid guarding me fouled me with an elbow to the face."

"I am sure that must have been very painful," Caine said.

"Oh yeah," Peter responded, his nose almost throbbing just from the thought of it. "There I was, blood everywhere, Annie wanting me to go to the hospital, Paul ready to take me...."

"And what did you do?" Caine asked, nuzzling his nose against Peter's neck.

"Stayed and finished the game," Peter answered. "We ended up winning by two points."

Pop trailed a finger down Peter's cheek. "I wish I could have been there for you that night."

Peter leaned forward and kissed Pop softly. "You're here now, that's all I really care about."

They traded lingering kisses, Pop's hand running up and down Peter's thigh as he kissed Peter's jaw, and neck. His tongue darted out for quick tastes of skin, then back to wrestle playfully with Peter's.

Peter let his hand thread through the curtain of silver hair, letting it drift over and through his fingers. His bottom shifted and wiggled against his dad's lap as his lips coquettishly stole more kisses that Caine surrendered up willingly.

Peter sighed and snuggled further against Pop's warmth. "I can't wait until we finally have the ceremony," Peter murmured. "Still can't believe it's going to happen."

Pop picked up the medallion around Peter's neck, the one that spoke of their promise of the bonding ceremony, and turned it over in his fingers. "Believe it, my darling. Lo Si just asked of our plans today."

"Yeah, I've still got to ask Kermit to be my witness yet," Peter said with a sigh.

"Are you concerned with how he will react?" Caine asked, his lips against Peter's neck.

"A little, yeah," Peter admitted. "I mean, he's known me since I was fifteen, watched me do a lot of growing up, and...well, if he makes a big issue out of this, I don't know what exactly I'm gonna do." Peter twisted his body and looked his dad more directly. "I'd hate for this to do anything to our friendship."

Pop nuzzled his nose against Peter's ear. "Do you believe it might?"

Peter shrugged a little. "Maybe, hell, I don't know. With Kermit, it's hard to know how he's going to react. He's so by-the-gut when it comes to dealing with stuff." Peter eyes searched his pop's. "And when it comes to crawling inside his head, it's almost as impossible as it used to be with you."

Caine brushed his lips against his son's lips, unable to sate his need for the taste of his boy. "Perhaps Kermit will surprise you."

Peter's finger drew little circle patterns against Caine's stomach. "Who knows, maybe you're right. I probably shouldn't sell him short yet, but I just wish I could just talk to him and get it over with so I'd know one way or another."

Caine's lips vibrated against Peter's throat as he spoke. "When the time is right to approach him with our news, you will know."

As Caine held his sweet one in his embrace, he truly hoped that Kermit's reaction would not bring pain to his precious Peter. Caine could tell that Peter had much respect for the older detective, cared about him and their friendship, as well as cared about the opinion Kermit held of him. He had never held false notions that their relationship would not affect other areas of Peter's life, just as his own life had been affected by loving Peter, but he had not wished for the risk of Peter losing treasured friendships.

Peter cuddled closer. "Regardless of he reacts, I do know one thing, it's not going to have any affect on whether or not I go through with the ceremony." Peter's eyes glared with determination. "I've never wanted anything more than I've wanted this ceremony." Peter reached out and stroked Caine's cheek with the back of his fingers gently. "For us to be one."

Caine's chest ached at the thick timbre of Peter's voice, of the passionate conviction ablaze in his hazel eyes. There was so much love and need wrapped up in the precious package of his boy's heart, and he would always be eternally grateful for it being placed in his care.

"And we shall be, wo' qi'na'ide (my beloved)," Caine reassured him, kissing each of Peter's eyelids as he made his promise.

Peter's arms tightened their hold. "Pop, I was wondering...."

"Yes?" Pop encouraged softly.

"What was it like when you married Mother?"

Caine frowned. "Peter, what makes you ask such a question?"

Peter took Pop's hand in his. "It's...just...well, you haven't talked about her much lately, and with the ceremony coming up, I got a little curious." Peter's hazel eyes looked deeply into Caine's. "I don't want you to, you know, feel like you can't talk about her just because we're...."

Caine's thumb brushed back and forth against Peter's bottom lip. Perhaps lately, since they had made the transition to become lovers, Caine had refrained from mentioning Laura all that much. It was not because he thought of her any less than he ever had, but he had wanted to spare Peter's feelings. He had forgotten to consider that his memories of Laura were the only ties to his mother that Peter still had. It would not be fair to either of them to deny them.

"My darling, I will gladly share of my memories if you wish to hear them," he answered finally.

Peter scooted down onto the couch further until his head rested in Pop's lap. "Good, then tell me all about the day you got married." Raising up his father's shirt a little, Peter placed a soft kiss on his hard stomach. "Tell me a story."

Caine smiled down at his boy, his fingers trailing through Peter's chestnut hair. "Your mother was absolutely beautiful that day." His mind drifted back to the day that seemed like a lifetime ago. "She always was very beautiful, but that day she looked like a true angel. She wore a gown of ivory lace that made her porcelain skin glow. Her golden hair rivaled the sun's brightness that summer day."

Peter closed his eyes and smiled. He could almost smell Arabian jasmine in the air. He could imagine how beautiful she'd looked, her face flushed with happiness and anticipation, the joy in her bright blue eyes. He felt like he could almost reach out his hand and could touch the image his father's words were painting.

"I bet she was so happy," Peter said softly. "How could she not have been?"

Pop's face turned serious. "It was a very bittersweet day for us."

Peter's face furrowed with confusion. "Why? What happened?"

Caine's hand continued to thread through Peter's hair while his hand drifted over his younger lover's stomach. "Her family did not approve of the marriage, they had even tried to persuade her to change her mind."

"Why on Earth didn't they approve? What was their problem?" Peter asked.

Caine's eyes looked past Peter, his mind still focused on a time long since gone. "You're maternal grandfather had come from a very prestigious lineage, both very wealthy and very powerful."

"And let me guess, they didn't approve of you marrying their little girl," Peter said, trying but failing to keep the bitterness out of his tone.

"They did not," Caine agreed. "They did not think I was...suitable...for their daughter, not only because of my heritage, but also because of my social standing. They did not see what I had to offer Laura."

"Then they were fools," Peter growled.

Pop ignored the comment and continued. "When I asked for her hand in marriage, her father not only refused, but tried to offer me a sum of money not to see Laura any longer."

"I bet she was furious when she found out," Peter said, rubbing his nose against Caine's stomach.

Caine smiled softly at that. "A storm from Mother Nature would have less intensity." Caine leaned down and kissed Peter's forehead. "She told her father that he had no right to have done such a thing, and that not only was she going to marry me and did not want her father present, but that she would never speak to him again."

'Way to go, Mom,' Peter thought to himself. 'Tell him for not thinking Dad was good enough for you.' "So, did anyone from the family come to the wedding?"

"Only one," Caine answered softly. "Her older brother, Peter, was my best man."

"Did Mom ever talk to her dad again?" Peter asked quietly. "Did she ever stay in touch with any of her family after you guys got married?"

"She spoke to Peter often, before the illness, but as for her father and mother, no, she never spoke to them." Caine looked down into Peter's face and seeing, not for the first time, just how much of Laura was there in their son's eyes. "I had tried to encourage her to reconcile with them many times, but like you," he said stroking Peter's cheek, "she was very stubborn in her convictions."

Peter noticed the wistful look in his father's eyes, the sadness in his tone. He was certain his father was hurting for all the pain he was sure his mother had went through, the loss she must have felt. He hugged Pop's waist tightly.

"When she became pregnant with you, I urged her to go to her parents, to share the news. I believed that upon hearing they would soon have a grandchild, it would help heal the wounds. Peter had agreed with me, and went to talk with their father." Caine swallowed around the small lump in his throat as he recalled the time. "Not only did their father tell Peter that he claimed no grandchild, but that neither did he claim his daughter." Caine's hand dipped under Peter's shirt to rub his abdomen and sternum. "Though your mother claimed it did not matter, I knew she felt it deeply."

Peter sat up, and kissed Caine with aching tenderness, wishing he could kiss away all the hurt and pain his grandparents, especially his grandfather, had caused him. When he pulled back, his eyes met his father's with affection. "If they couldn't see what kind of a man you are, how good you are, then it was their loss. He was an idiot to turn his back on his daughter like that and he deserved having her never speak to him again." Peter's hand cupped Caine's face. "I'm just sorry that they hurt you...and much."

Caine wrapped his arms around Peter, holding him close and petting his back. 'Yes,' Caine thought to himself, 'it was their loss for not getting a chance to know what a truly beautiful, noble, intelligent grandson, who is so like his mother in so many ways, they had.'

"Whatever happened to Peter?" the officer asked after a few moments of cuddling.

"We were close, even after Laura's death," Caine responded, "until his own death in Vietnam."

"So you kept in touch, even after we moved to the temple?"

Caine brushed Peter's hair back. "Yes, Beloved, we kept in touch by letters." He kissed Peter's temple. "I can share them with you sometime, if you wish."

Peter kissed Pop back. "Yeah, I'd like that, I think," Peter said softly. He was about to say more when they heard a knock on the door.

"Hey, Peter, your take-out is here." O'Mally's voice echoed through the door.

With a lingering look, Peter pulled himself free from his father's embrace to answer the door.

"Here you go, Pete," Barns announced, loading Peter's arms down with several large sacks.

"Thanks, man," Peter said, his stomach starting to growl as soon as the smell of the food hit his nose, reminding him that he'd skipped lunch.

Peter pulled out several containers of noodles, rice, stir-fried and steamed vegetables and opened them up on the coffee table. He handed his pop the steamed vegetables mixed with some of the rice and smothered his with sauce, only feeling slightly guilty as he felt Pop watching him.

"Don't give me that look, Dad, the sauce isn't that bad for you."

His father gave him one of his skeptical looks.

Sitting down, Peter swung one leg over his father's and moved in close.

"You got to learn to live a little more dangerously, take a few chances," Peter teased, mischievous dancing in his eyes. Picking up a piece of broccoli with his chopsticks, he held it out near his dad's lips. "Give it a try."

Looking doubtful, Caine moved forward and wrapped his lips around the chopsticks, pulling the vegetable stalk into his mouth.

"Now, see, you got some of the sauce on your lips," Peter said in mock reproach. Leaning forward his tongue darted out to lick his father's lips until Caine opened and allowed him entrance for a slow kiss.

"See," he said when he pulled back, "the sauce isn't so bad, is it?"

"Mmm, no, I would have to say not," Caine said in a low voice.

Picking up a piece of steamed broccoli with his fingers, he dangled it just out of reach so Peter had to grab for it. Peter's mouth captured the morsel as he held Pop's finger between his lips and gently suckled until Caine finally pulled his fingers free. They continued sharing bite of food and kisses until the cartons were empty and their hunger was sated.