The next morning, Peter Caine was held captive at his desk by the paperwork and reports he knew he'd have to have filed by the end of his shift. As suspected, he had to recount the events leading up to Haun's arrest, as well as what happened during the bust itself...in triplicate. He'd also had the pleasure of dealing with the requisition forms to get reimbursed for the cost of staying at the hotel for several nights.
On a note that had brought him satisfaction, he'd also found out that McKnight had been brought in before his shift had started. The Feds had worked with the Coast Guard to nail the drug dealer as soon as he'd hit U.S waters, so the dealer had never even made it to the Starcliff hotel to carry out the deal.
Usually Peter didn't care much for the Feds coming in and stepping all over his territory. Even he had been forced to admit that the knowledge of one more drug dealer being put out of operation and one less shipment of poison being distributed on his streets made him feel pretty damn good. Yeah, of course there'd be someone to take McKnight's place, there always was, but that was a battle to be fought on another day.
"Detective Caine, my office, now," Captain Simms called out from her office doorway.
Peter's head snapped up in acknowledgement as he tried to decipher his captain's tone. With Simms, he never knew if that tone meant he was going to be praised or dressed down. It was just the luck of the draw.
"Yeah, you wanted to see me?" Peter said, entering the office.
Karen Simms closed the door behind him and walked behind her desk as Peter leaned against the file cabinet patiently.
"First of all, I wanted to tell you that I just got off the phone with Dr. Sabourin. Seems like Officer Brewster is now listed in stable condition."
The last Peter had heard about Brewster, he had underwent immediate abdominal surgery. Though Peter had talked to Dr. Sabourin and it sounded like the operation went well, the physician made it clear that Brewster wasn't out of critical condition at that time. "That's good to know."
Simms crossed her arms across her bosom. "The other thing I wanted to talk to you about is what happened last night."
"Captain...." Peter started to protest.
The blonde woman held out her hand to stave off any further comments. "Detective Caine, while the way you and Detective Griffin handled the situation was highly unorthodox, and while regard to regulations in such a situation was glaringly ignored without my approval...."
Peter felt like closing his eyes, anticipating the next blow he knew was coming...one he couldn't dodge.
"...you and Detective Griffin handled yourselves well. You two took control of the situation and did a very good job of making sure no civilians were endangered. Well done, Detective."
Peter felt his cheeks burning a little and tried to not look overly pleased with himself. "Thank you, Ma'am."
"And try it again, you'll find yourself suspended without pay. Am I understood?"
Peter sobered abruptly. "Yes, Ma'am."
Leaving the office, Peter bumped into Broderick at the coffeepot.
"Peter, someone's here to see you."
Peter could sense his father's presence acutely. The air around him always seemed to shift and heat a little, prickling against his nerves. "My Pop, right?"
"Yeah, but how did you...."
"Shaolin secret," Peter returned with a grin.
Back at his desk, his father was sitting, hands folded in his lap, in Peter's chair. The officer slid his hands over his dad's shoulders and behind his hair to rub at his neck.
"What are you doing here, Pop?"
"I came for two reason," Pop stated.
"Which were?" Peter prompted.
"First was to see if you were free for lunch," Caine stated.
"Yeah, sure," Peter reassured him. "Did you have something in mind?"
"Yes. I wish for us to go...shopping," Caine said with a big smile.
"Shopping...okay...for anything in particular?" Peter asked, more than ready to humor his father.
"I thought we could pick up a few things for our new home," Caine told him.
Peter found himself grinning. His lover wanted him to go and help furnish their new apartment. It wouldn't be 'his' stuff mingled in with his Pop's anymore, it'd be 'their' stuff. Peter liked the sound of that. "Sounds good to me, I'll pick you up as soon as I get off."
"Good, I am pleased, my son."
"So what's the second reason you stopped by?" Peter asked.
Caine's expression turned somber. "I had also planned on asking Mary Margaret to dinner this evening." Caine looked with concern at his lover. "Would that bother you?"
Peter was touched that his father thought enough to ask him. "Nah, Pop, it's not going to bother me." Peter lowered his voice and leaned in closer to his Pop's ear. "I know you know you're mine. If you recall, you proved it to me quite thoroughly this morning...several times." Peter grinned even more when he saw the edges of his dad's ears turn crimson. "Besides, you two really do need to talk."
"So you would not mind if we did not share dinner together this evening?" Caine asked.
"Nope, I'll be fine. Besides, tonight Kermit and I are going to have our little talk. Just make sure to let me know how it goes, okay?"
"Of course. I will be anxious to hear of your meeting as well," Caine told him.
"Looks like we'll both be coming home with something to talk about," Peter murmured. He then glanced over to Skalany hunched over her desk. "Go ahead and talk to her, Pop, you both need to get this resolved."
"I will see you at lunch, my darling," Caine whispered very softly.
Peter winked at him. "Go, Pop, the sooner I get my paperwork done, the sooner I can get lunch."
Caine lifted himself from Peter's chair and in a few short strides, came to stop in front of Skalany's desk.
He announced himself by asking, "Mary Margaret, may I talk with you for a moment?"
The startled brunette looked up from her folder. "Caine! Hello," she greeted. "What can I do for you?"
"I would like to know if you are free for dinner this evening. It would please me greatly if you would do me that honor."
It took a moment for Skalany to gather her thoughts enough to answer. "Um, yeah, I don't have anything planned this evening. I think dinner would be nice."
Caine smiled fondly at her. "Good, I will meet you at eight o'clock?"
"All right, eight it is then."
Caine tipped his head. "Eight it is. Where would you like to dine?"
"Um, how about O'Ryan's?"
"I will look forward to it. Until then." Caine left with a bow.
As soon as the healer was gone, Jody rolled her chair right over to Skalany's desk. "Mary Margaret, what did Caine want?"
Skalany blinked a couple of times, still feeling a little dazed. "He, ah, wanted to have dinner tonight."
"Are you going?" Jody asked quietly.
"Yeah," the brunette answered. "How else am I going to get a chance to see what he wants to talk about?" She lowered her voice even more. "Or tell him what I need to."
Mary Margaret waited at the table, her eyes scanning the crowd nervously. Absentmindedly, she smoothed out the folds of her favorite dark red dress that she was sure in a few more months she wouldn't even be able to squeeze into.
All around her, the waiters bustled about, clearing and setting tables. There was a low hum of activity as the patrons talked quietly among themselves, couples seated at various tables enjoying the soft music and low glimmer of candlelight.
'God, what had possessed me to choose 'this' restaurant,' Skalany thought to herself, while she sipped on her glass of ice water.
When she'd told Caine where to meet her, she had recalled the place had great food, but she'd forgotten that it was also aimed at having a very cozy, romantic atmosphere. It really wasn't the best locale if she was really wanting to just stay on friendly terms tonight instead of making Caine think she had any romantic notations of where the evening was going to lead.
"Just do what you have to do," she ordered herself, as she wished her water had also come with a couple of fingers of scotch or anything else that strong. Her hand shook as she lifted her glass and her stomach had enough butterflies to start some kid's bug collection.
She almost didn't even have to look up when he entered, she could practically feel his presence flood the room as it always did whenever he was near. When she finally allowed herself to pull her eyes up, her heart nearly leapt from her throat.
Caine was wearing black dress pants and a black silk shirt with white Chinese characters on it. Half of his hair was pulled back into a tight ponytail. 'Damn, how does he manage to get better looking every time I see him?' Skalany asked herself as Caine made his way across the restaurant floor with his natural fluidness. She couldn't seem to pull her eyes away from. She stood once he was near the table.
"Ah, Mary Margaret, I trust you were not waiting long?" Caine asked as he took both of her hands and kissed her knuckles.
"I, uh," Skalany stammered slightly. "No, I just arrived actually," she fibbed. Actually she'd gotten there over a half -an-hour ago so she'd have time to build up her courage before he got there.
"I am glad, it is in poor taste to keep such a lovely lady waiting," Caine said with a smile as he pushed Skalany's chair in for her.
'Enough with the charm already, you're not supposed to be nice to me!' Skalany's mind yelled out as Caine took the seat opposite her. She knew she was starting to blush and ordered herself to stop it.
"Have you been feeling well since you returned to work?" Caine asked softly.
Skalany looked into the dark brown eyes studying her and saw the concern in his gaze.
"I've been fine. I don't particularly care for being on desk duty, but that shouldn't last much longer."
"Ah," Caine nodded slightly. "That must indeed be very frustrating for you."
"Oh, you don't know the half of it," Skalany responded, starting to feel some of the tension inside of her abating slightly.
After the meal arrived, Caine and Skalany spent a leisurely time eating and talking. Before she knew it, Skalany glanced at her watch and over an hour had slipped by.
As they talked, Skalany found herself studying the man across from her intensely. Her chest ached in remembrance of just how well their bodies had once fit together, of the sweet taste of his kisses on her mouth, the warmth of his lips and hands as he so tenderly loved her body. She felt a warm stinging behind her closed eyes.
"Mary Margaret?" Caine asked gently.
"Hmm?" Skalany murmured, not trusting her voice to crack if she said more.
"Tell me what is wrong," Caine urged her, reaching out across the table and running his finger across her jaw before tilting her face upwards to meet his.
She looked into warm eyes that seemed to search her soul. "What happened to us?" she asked finally. "Or was there even an 'us' to begin with?"
"Mary Margaret, I...."
"Did you even care about me?" she asked, barely above a whisper.
Caine pulled her hand into his and squeezed it fiercely. "Of course I cared about you, Mary Margaret, I have always cared very deeply for you," he breathed into her hair. "As I still do, and will always."
"But not enough to love me," she stated.
"Mary Margaret, if I ever misled you...." Caine began.
Skalany shook her dark head. "No, no, you didn't." She sighed. "You never had to, I did enough of it to myself for the both of us."
"Mary Margaret, I wish I knew what could be said right now," Caine said, his feet still keeping tempo to the rhythm of the song.
"Just answer me one thing?" Mary Margaret asked, trying to keep her voice from shaking too much.
"Anything," Caine answered softly.
"Was it me?" she asked, swallowing the lump in her throat. "Was it something I did or didn't do, or am I just not loveable enough, or what?"
"Oh, sweet Mary Margaret," Caine murmured, one hand stroking her long, mahogany hair. "It was never anything on your part. We were just not meant to be." His voice was a soft whisper in her ear. "As for not being...loveable...you, Mary Margaret are like the Golden Elf."
When she said nothing, he explained further. "The Golden Elf is a beautiful and vibrant orchid whose bright yellow petals thrive in the wintertime. Its golden blossom is like a tiny captured ray of the sun itself that flourishes and gives of its beauty against the stark, gray winter Earth and reminds all who sees it of the hope and joy there is to be had in the spring." Caine moved his hand to cup her cheek. "Just as your kind and giving heart gives joy and hope to those around you." His fingers stroked against her skin. "One day, you will find someone truly worthy of the treasured gift of your love. Someone whose heart is free to love you as you deserve."
Skalany felt the dam holding her tears back finally collapse, sending them streaming down her cheeks in hot splashes.
Pulling out of Caine's tight grip, she pulled out a Kleenex and blotted at her eyes, knowing she was probably smearing her mascara and beyond caring about it.
She felt Caine once more slide his hand into hers and squeeze it. He said nothing and she was grateful for the silence as she collected herself.
"Talk to me, Mary Margaret," Caine prodded gently.
"Caine, I've got something I have to tell you, but I don't know if I can," she confided finally.
His thumb stroked the inside of her wrist. "Mary Margaret, you have always been able to share anything with me. Nothing has changed between us in that respect."
She listened to his soothing voice, looked into his serene face. 'I can do this,' she told herself. 'He should know.' Taking in a deep breath, she said, "Caine, I'm pregnant."
Caine smiled gently and squeezed her hand. "I know."
Skalany blinked and choked back an inane need to start laughing hysterically. Of all the reactions she'd expected from him, that was far from what she'd been waiting for. 'Of course he knew, he's Kwai Chang Caine, why wouldn't he have known? He probably knew before you did,' she said to herself, trying to swallow the giddy laughter creeping up on her.
"How long?" she asked. "How long have you known?"
Caine's smile faded slightly. "When you had been shot. I could feel the child's ch'i from inside of you." Although it was the truth, it was not the whole truth. Caine however, would not betray Jody Powell's confidence.
Skalany looked deeply into Caine's eyes. "Then why didn't you ever ask me about it?"
Caine shrugged. "I knew that you would approach me with the news when you felt the time was right to do so."
Mary Margaret thought about the emotional roller coaster she'd been riding this last couple months and wanted to get angry at Caine for putting her through it, but couldn't bring herself to. She knew she had no one but herself to blame for not bringing it up sooner.
She squeezed his hand back. "Well, since you know about that, you should know something else that you might be wondering about."
"Yes?" he asked slowly.
"The baby isn't yours," she said finally.
Caine expelled the breath he'd been holding, feeling as though he had just received a side-kick to his mid-section. A strange mixture of relief and regret spiked through him. A small part of his heart admitted that he had wondered what it would be like to have another child, another part of himself relieved that it was not to be.
"Then who is the father?" he asked gently.
Skalany looked down at the table before another squeeze of her fingers brought her eyes back up.
"Blake," she said softly.
Caine raised an eyebrow in surprise.
"Well, you see, remember the last night we were together?" Skalany asked.
"I do," Caine responded.
"About a week after that, I was at Delancy's with the gang," Skalany began. "Anyway, when I got ready to leave, my car wouldn't start. Blake offered me a ride home." Skalany looked Caine right in the eyes. "I don't know if I was just feeling lonely, or felt I had something to prove, but I asked him up, and found myself coming on to him, enjoying having him respond back." She looked back down at the table for a few moments before continuing. "Anyway, we had started seeing each other after that night, but I didn't know I was pregnant."
"Does he know yet?" Caine asked softly.
Skalany shook her head. "No, not yet. It's all so new between us. I don't know what to think, or how I feel even. I can only imagine how he'll take the news."
"Are you afraid he does not care about you, does not...love...you?" Caine asked.
He could sense that part of Mary Margaret's reluctance stemmed from what had transpired between her and himself, and it caused him pain that he had hurt her so deeply that she was afraid to open herself to love again. He also had seen the look in Blake's eyes when he gazed upon Mary Margaret, knew his feelings for the detective to be true, and real, just like his own for his Peter.
Skalany couldn't bring herself to answer, the words just wouldn't come.
Caine took both of her hands in his. "Mary Margaret, if you have feelings for Blake, you must take the chance and share them with him. Do not be afraid to let your heart be opened to the joys of love. Tell him of the child you will share together, allow him to give of his love to you."
A few more belated tears were squeezed from Skalany's closed eyes, and Caine's thumbs gently wiped them away.
"Do not let your fear hold your heart captive. Your capacity to love is so great, do not hold it prisoner like I had done for so many years," Caine whispered to her.
Skalany nodded. "Yeah, I should talk to him."
"Yes, the two of you have much to discuss," Caine said.
Skalany cupped Caine's cheek. "You always know just what to say," she whispered. "Thank you for that."
Caine kissed her palm. "I will always be willing to listen if you need to talk."
"Thanks," she said quietly. She then stood. "I guess I should be getting back home, it's getting late and I don't have the energy I used to," she said with a weak smile.
Caine took her coat and helped into it. He then pressed his lips against her forehead.
"Remember, I will always be here for you," he said softly.
Standing on her toes, Skalany kissed his cheek. Caine then watched her turn and walk away.
Kermit was drumming his fingers against the bar top, his other hand swirling his beer around before taking a healthy drink of it. Delancy's was abnormally empty for a weekend night, but there was still enough noise around so there was a soft hum flowing through the place.
The ex-mercenary glanced down at his watch. Peter was going on a half an hour late. Why did the kid ask him to meet him if he was going to stand him up? He debated whether or not to leave and let Peter find him at his apartment if he wanted to talk to him so badly, but then he reflected on the last time he'd talked to Peter, when he'd asked Kermit to meet him at the bar. There had been something the detective had picked up on in Caine's voice, his demeanor, which let Kermit know that this was something important to the kid. That was the only reason he was sticking around.
The ex-mercenary felt the kid's presence almost as soon as he entered. He mused that Peter always had a way of making any place he walked into almost vibrate with his energy. Not unlike the way his father did. Turning on his stool, he watched as the younger detective approach.
"Sorry I'm late," Peter apologized, sitting on the stool beside Kermit.
"Want anything, Pete?" Mike, the bartender, asked him.
"Just a cola," Peter asked, his insides churning so much so that for a second he considered ordering something a lot stronger, even though he hadn't touched a drop of the stuff since he and Pop got together.
Mike slid the glass to Peter and he glanced over to Kermit out of the corner of his eyes. "Let's take this to the back."
Kermit raised an eyebrow, but didn't say anything. The nervous energy was practically radiating off the younger man in waves. It was obvious whatever Peter had called him here for was going to be something big.
Kermit reached out and grabbed Peter's forearm before Peter stood. "Is this going to be a beer conversation or a bourbon one?"
Peter's hazel eyes leveled with Kermit's, they were grim and apprehensive. "That depends on you're reaction," Peter responded and then paused for a moment, "but whisky probably wouldn't hurt."
'Shit,' Kermit thought to himself, 'this is worse than I thought.' Ordering a couple of whisky chasers for his beer, Kermit took his mug and followed the younger detective back to a rather secluded booth. Sliding across from Peter, Kermit's eyes locked onto the younger man's.
"All right, what's up?"
Peter took a drink to moisten his mouth before speaking. "Look, Kermit, how long have we've known each other?"
Kermit sipped his beer. "Years. Since you were snot-nosed and wet behind the ears," he responded mildly, wondering where this was going.
Peter smiled a little at that. "Yeah, well, in all that time, I think we've become good friends...very good friends."
"You know me better than most," Kermit admitted.
"And you know I trust you, right?"
Kermit sighed. "Where is this going, Pete?"
Peter's voice dropped a notch. "What I'm trying to say, is that I'm counting on that trust going both ways here. This is important, Kermit."
The ex-mercenary uncharacteristically removed his shades, sitting them to the side. He leaned forward, his arms resting on the table. "I just said you know me better than most, you ought to know by now that you can trust me with anything."
Peter leaned forward as well, hazel eyes boring into brown. "That's what I'm relying on here, because what I'm going to tell you can't go any further than us."
Kermit was starting to get spooked by the graveness of Peter's tone, and he didn't spook easily. "Just tell me."
Peter took Kermit's unspoken promise as his word and slowly started to think of how to begin. "Well, you know how I've pretty much moved into Pop's loft?"
"There's a lot more to it that you 'don't' know about," Peter told him.
"So, start shedding the light," Kermit demanded.
Peter hesitated, wondering where to start. "Well, a couple of months ago, right before I moved in with Pop, something happened between us."
"What?" Kermit asked guardedly.
"He told me that he loved me," Peter said softly, his eyes looking into his cola, starting to feel the flush on his cheeks that the remembrance of that night brought.
"Yeah, so what?" Kermit asked over his beer. "So your dad loves you, big deal. It's no big news flash that he cares about you."
"Um, no, not exactly, Kermit," Peter faltered slightly, "I mean he said he was 'in' love with me."
Kermit's frosted glass stopped halfway to his mouth. "In...love with you?"
"Yeah, and you want to hear something crazy?" Peter asked with a hint of a smile. "I'm just as much in love with him."
"Whoa, hold on a second here, Peter," Kermit ordered, his eyes glancing around to make sure no one was close enough to over-hear them. "Are you saying that you and your dad are...."
"Lovers," Peter admitted softly. Now that it was out, that he'd actually spoke the words to someone they both knew, it wasn't as scary as he thought it would be. In fact, it felt like he'd just unloaded a huge, oppressive weight off of his chest that had been threatening to smother him.
Kermit found himself unable to do much more than stare and blink at the younger man sitting across from him. Peter Caine, who he had known since Peter was fifteen years old, was sitting across the table from him, telling him that not only was he involved in a homosexual relationship, but that the relationship also happened to be with his own biological father. What the fuck was going on?
"Kermit, I know it's hard to believe," Peter stated. "Hell, I wouldn't believe it myself until I actually heard him say it, and even then it took awhile before it sunk in," Peter said, his mouth turning up in a soft smile.
Kermit knew that he should be saying something, making some kind of coherent argument or asking questions, but not only was his thinking thrown off-line, he was more than a little afraid to ask questions since he wasn't at all sure he wanted any answers.
"You're fucking your father," Kermit muttered, as though hearing the words aloud would somehow make them make more sense to him.
"No," Peter said, slamming his glass down on the table top, his hazel eyes taking on an angry intensity. "I am not 'fucking' him. Yes, we make love, but Christ, it goes so much further than that," Peter said, shoving a restless hand through his hair.
"What Pop and I have going is better than anything I've ever had with anyone else," Peter said, trying to sort out his own thoughts which he'd never put into words for anyone else other than Pop before. "I mean, being loved by him is incredible and more intense than I can even describe." Peter's eyes met Kermit's and he took a sip of cola. "You know what I used to be like, hopping from one bad relationship to another, never staying too long once things looked like they could get serious or else trying to love women who were so completely wrong for me."
Kermit couldn't argue that point any. It had killed him a little bit inside each time he had been forced to watch Peter make one horrible mistake in a relationship after another. The kid had either always set himself up to fall flat on his face or kept himself hidden so well behind that damnable wall of his that no one had a chance of scaling it. He'd always chalked it up to Peter's unwillingness to commit, but now....
"Now, with Pop, I've finally found something real, the thing I'd been looking for everywhere else," Peter said softly. "He makes me feel more alive than I've felt since I was...a kid."
The younger detective's voice was filled with a passion that Kermit had never heard from Peter before, the hazel eyes were glowing with honest conviction and a silent pleading for his understanding. Peter was leaning forward, looking at him with an earnestness he'd remembered seeing in the kid's features a few times when he was a lot younger. Also, there was something else shining so brightly in Peter's eyes that he couldn't ever remember seeing before - contentment. Peter finally looked content and happy. Why hadn't he noticed it before?
As Kermit downed a second whisky, Peter went on.
"And I can tell you, I don't have a clue as to how he ended up falling in love with me, but I've never been any happier than I am now," Peter said, his eyes turning soft as his thoughts drifted. "I mean, he's got this way of looking inside me no one has ever been able to do, you know? It's like he just...knows...what I need, and it's not just the psychic thing either," Peter said emphatically. "Well, maybe that's part of it, but there's more too - like we've got this bond between us that doesn't have anything to do with us being father and son...."
Kermit started on his third shooter as his gut twisted and churned inside of him. The thought that for the last several months, Peter had been involved with...in love with...another man. The bourbon helped numb the ache that had hit him without warning. God, he hoped Peter was sure about what he was doing. What would happen if the news of this got out? It could destroy both Caines completely. Reputations would be shot, years of trust down the toilet.
Then of course, they'd end up having to face people like Lasher. Kermit cared about the kid, and truth be known, about Peter's father too, too much to want to see them have to deal with people like that. He'd made a promise to Blaisdell to protect Peter and he'd do so in a heartbeat, but even he didn't know if he'd be able to protect the kid from the backlash of something like this. Looking into Peter's eyes though, he could tell that Peter's mind was made up and the kid had already come to terms with all the same thoughts that were tumbling around in his own head right now.
His mind then, unbidden, went traveling down another path. As he sat there, staring into Peter's resolute face, he was suddenly buffeted by imagines of Peter's face as he writhed with pleasure brought to him by the hands and body of his father. Kwai Chang's agile knowledgeable hands learning every secret of Peter's body, doing the things to Peterto bring him to the peak of ecstasy, the younger Caine's face flushed with desire and lust, Peter's throaty voice crying out in pleasure.... When the waitress brought over another fresh whisky Kermit had signaled for, it disappeared almost immediately. The cool whisky did little to blot out the vivid images as they brought back flashes of the dreams he'd had in the past and had been plagued even worse since the night they'd taken down Adam. Though instead of fragments and pieces he'd used to have, the dream had been fully played out in rich, excruciating detail. Instead of Peter's face haunting his dream though, now it was the blond architect that followed him into sleep, causing him to relive their night together in the hotel. Except in the dream, not only did they touch, but it went so much further. The surreal sensations had caused Kermit to wake up in a heated sweat with an aching in his gut that made it hard to breathe.
Kermit hadn't talked to Jack since they'd said their good-byes at Jack's apartment, but something kept nagging at him to call the younger man. He'd even went so far as to pick up the phone several times and even dial the first six numbers, but he could never complete the call. What could Kermit have to say to him anyway? He'd needed to see the case through and Adam was now in custody, so what was the problem?
"I can't believe I've finally found someone I love as much as I do Pop," Peter continued. "Hell, I didn't even really believed it existed until I felt it myself."
Somewhere in the back of his whisky soaked mind, Kermit realized that this admission answered quite a lot of questions he'd had. It made sense of the cooling off of Caine and Skalany's on and off courtship, Peter's string of dateless weekends, the resentment he'd felt Peter had shown when any of the others in the 101st teased him about it.... Shit, it made too much sense. As he sat there, Kermit tried to digest it all in measured doses, like the whisky.
"Kermit, talk to me, say something," Peter beseeched softly.
"Say what? That I understand what you've been telling me?" Kermit asked, knocking back the whisky so fast that it burned down his throat. It felt good. "Sorry, kid, I can't exactly do that."
"Then just tell me what you're thinking," Peter said softly.
"Have you thought about the kind of reaction this would get from Paul, or Annie? Or how the community would react for that matter?"
Peter started to stand up. "Forget it, I should have known better than to..."
Kermit gripped his forearm and yanked the younger man back in his seat. "Just sit down and shut up, will you?"
Peter looked pointedly down at Kermit's hand on his arm until the ex-mercenary released his grip. Running a hand through his hair, Kermit sighed heavily.
"Like I said, I can't really understand and I'm not about to pretend that I do." Kermit looked down at the floor and then back up at Peter. "I've seen a lot, more than most people, and after seeing some of the things you and your dad have gotten into, I consider myself as having a pretty open mind." Kermit sat back and momentarily stared up at the ceiling. "Christ, Peter, I'm a father myself...I've got a son." Kermit didn't take time to register Peter's shock over this tidbit of news. "So you can see how hard this is for me to really get a grasp on."
"Yeah, but...." Peter started to protest.
"Thing is though," Kermit interrupted, "maybe it should surprise me, but it doesn't, not really." The words hit him even as he said them. Maybe it was the alcohol, maybe he'd just lived too long, he didn't know, but he knew it was the truth as soon as it came out.
"What do you mean?"
Kermit tried to put his thoughts into some kind of sensible order. "This...thing...that has been going on between you and your dad found each other...this emotional dance...you've been doing around each other started almost from day one," Kermit hoped what he was saying he was making because he sure didn't feel like he was. "It's not that strange you guys took it to the next level." Kermit shook his head wearily. "Hell, if it were anybody else...."
Peter's brow wrinkled thoughtfully. "Just what are you saying, Kermit?"
Kermit shut his eyes for just a moment, then met clear, intense hazel eyes. "I guess what I'm saying, is that we've always been friends and this isn't going to change that. I may not understand it all, but I'm still willing to support you as friend if you need it."
Peter's tense body nearly melted into the seat, his hand reaching out to squeeze Kermit's hand quickly. "Thanks," he said softly.
"So what do you want from me?" Kermit asked.
"I got the feeling that there's more to it than what you've told me so far, so what do you need from me?" Kermit explained.
"Actually, now that you mention it," Peter said, allowing a soft smile to play over his mouth, "I need you as a witness."
"A witness to what?" Kermit asked skeptically.
"A witness when Pop and I take our vows in a bonding ceremony," Peter explained.
"Bonding ceremony?" Kermit asked, certain the liquor was short-circuiting too many of his brain cells. "As in like a...marriage ceremony?"
Peter's smile broadened. "Yeah, something like that."
"And you want me to be your...Best Man?"
"That's about the size of it," Peter responded. "What do you think? Will you do it?" Peter waited a few seconds, and after Kermit didn't respond, he started getting more and more worried. "I mean, I know this might be a lot to ask of you, and I'll understand if you can't or won't, but...."
"I'll do it," Kermit responded so quietly that Peter almost didn't hear him.
Peter walked up the stairs of his and Pop's loft still in daze. He still couldn't quite believe Kermit had agreed to be at the ceremony with them. He could have sworn it was going to take a lot more convincing and explaining than he had done to get Kermit to agree to it. Shaking his head, Peter thought in wonder at how his friends could still surprise him. Pop had been right, all he had to do was speak his heart and Kermit had agreed. Who would have thought it?
While climbing the last half of the flight of stairs, Peter could hear the soft strain's of his lover's wooden flute floating down to greet him. The melody was soft and light, but fringed with shades of melancholy that Peter could detect only because he knew his dad's playing so well. His stomach started to flutter as he wondered how Pop's meeting with Skalany went.
As Peter entered the loft, he saw his dad was playing out on the balcony. His father seemed to be serenading the full, bright moon above him, the beautiful concerto wooing the gentle night as his dad lifted his eyes up to the heavenly body. In return, the glowing orb, vigilant sentinel of eventide, showed her pleasure by casting a vibrant halo of pale light that draped over his father in a gauzy curtain of silver that highlighted his soft hair and glinted in his eyes. Peter couldn't help feeling like he was intruding upon something nearly sacred as he moved even closer with all the stealth of his Shaolin training.
At last, the final notes floated heavenward in the softest of whispers and Pop turned to his son. "Xi'na'ider'en, why are you so quiet?"
"I didn't want to disturb you," Peter answered softly, unable to keep himself from moving the rest of the distance and capturing his lover's mouth in a kiss. "That was beautiful."
Pop shrugged. "I am glad it pleased you," he said, lightly holding Peter by the waist.
"It sounded kinda familiar, do I know it?" Peter asked.
"Yes, you might," Caine said softly. "It was a song I made up for you when you were still a tiny baby in your cradle." Caine told him. "It always soothed you."
Peter's gaze was pensive as he looked deeply into his dad's eyes. "Did you need soothing, Pop?" he asked gently, pleased by the surprise in his dad's eyes. "How did the dinner with Mary Margaret go?"
Caine did not release his boy, but he did not hold his gaze either. "It went well considering. I did not like having to hurt her though. She has such a gentle spirit."
Peter stroked his fingers through Pop's hair. "I know," he said solemnly. As he held onto his dad and waited until his pop was ready to talk, his thoughts turned to Jody. He had truly cared about her too, and it was the hardest thing he'd done when he'd had to turn her down.
"The child is not mine," Pop whispered quietly, his eyes searching Peter's.
"Aw, Pop, I'm sorry," Peter said, surprising himself as he realized that he actually meant it. He had mentally prepared himself for finding out the baby 'was' Pop's, preparing how he'd react if Pop gave him the news. This took him off guard, and while he was relieved and could see some of that relief in Pop's eyes, there was also a shadow of sorrow there he didn't like seeing.
"There is nothing to be sorry for, Peter," Pop said quietly. "It is as Fate dictated, it is as it should be."
Peter gently reached out and stroked his dad's cheek. "Don't dismiss this so easily, Pop. This is me you're talking to, remember?" His hands wove around his dad's neck and stroked the skin. "You can't lie to me, you never could. I can tell you're hurting at least a little bit."
"Not...hurting...exactly," Caine said quietly, turning his back to rest against the wall and pulling Peter closer. "Perhaps a little...disappointed...but not hurt."
"Tell me about it," Peter requested in a hushed tone.
Pop shook his head slightly. "I do not wish to hurt you, Sweet One."
Peter grasped Pop's chin and made him look at him. "What would hurt me, Qi'na'ide, would be thinking you feel there are still some things you can't share with me."
Pop expelled a weighty sigh. "Peter, I feel that you were just so young when we lost each other. I was robbed of so much of your precious life...."
"And you hoped you might get another chance of making that up, right?"
"Yes," Pop confessed.
Peter smiled gently. "Pop, I won't lie and say I know what you're feeling right now, because I don't. I do know that if that baby was yours, it'd be getting the best father there is and it'd never want for love." Peter hugged his lover tighter to him. "Yeah, there were times we had our problems when we found each other again," Peter carded through Caine's hair, "but never did I doubt you loved me, Pop." His lips brushed his dad's hairline. "Neither would have Mary Margaret's baby."
Caine looked deeply into Peter's hazel gaze. Emotions so strong squeezed at Caine's heart with such a force, he was at a loss for words. Instead, he kissed his son's lips. Peter grasped the back of his Pop's neck and pulled him forward for another long, tender kiss.
"Besides," Peter whispered, "I love you so much, Pop, and I'm just glad we've got the time now to be able to share that."
"As am I, Darling," Pop said just as quietly.
They continued to hold each other as the warm, summer breeze blew against them. Neither was willing to leave the peaceful cloak of night.
"Yes, my sweet one?"
"If it's not your baby, then whose is it?" Peter asked as the thought occurred to him.
Pop smiled enigmatically. "I know whose it is, but I shall not tell you because it is Mary Margaret's place to reveal that when she is ready to do so."
"Aw, c'mon, Pop, tell me. I won't say anything," Peter urged him.
"I will not," Pop said determinedly.
"Fine," Peter said.
Caine had to smile at Peter's pouting expression. He had almost forgotten how adorable the look was on Peter as a child, and it remained so. "How did your meeting with Kermit go?"
Peter's smile returned. "Would you believe he said yes? He agreed to come."
"That is wonderful. Did you not believe he would agree?" Caine asked.
"I had my doubts," Peter admitted. "He definitely surprised me." Peter nibbled at Pop's lips. "The ceremony is actually planned."
"So it would seem," Pop agreed contentedly. He reached down and linked his fingers with Peter's. "Come, Sweet One, it is late and we need our rest."
Peter's eyes simmered as he was tugged along. "I agree we need to get to bed, but I don't necessarily feel like resting yet."
Peter watched Caine wet his lips slowly and felt himself pulled down for a heated, promising kiss before being tugged into the main room.
"Would you tell me if I guessed who it was? You can tell me if I get warm or...."
Kermit drove the Corvair hard and fast along the harbor area. The salt from the sea and the heat of the evening clung to his skin as the mint-colored street lights seen through his shades swept past him. The radio blared on a rock station that wasn't usually his style, but it seemed to fit his present mood.
He'd been driving for hours since talking to Peter, hoping to clear his disjointed thoughts. So far he'd been utterly unsuccessful.
Peter and Kwai Chang Caine...a bonding ceremony. The thought just kept rolling over and over again in his mind. Yes, he'd told Peter he'd go to the ceremony, yes he'd said that it had been no big deal with him. So why did it feel like it was?
'Maybe because the kid has more guts than you do?' his mind taunted him.
That gave Kermit a reason to pause over the lingering thought. Peter was a lot like himself in many ways, each of them had their own walls of self-preservation firmly in place, this Kermit knew. He also was acutely aware of all the losses each of them had suffered in life that helped build those walls piece by piece.
Now things were different though. Kermit had felt it for the past few months, but could never pigeonhole what that change had been, could never name it...now he knew.
Peter's wall had been shattered because he finally let someone in...Kermit hadn't.
How was it that the kid was so willing to risk everything he had for it, though?
'What's he really risking?' his mind asked. 'A life of emotional exile because by being too much of a coward to take love when it's right there in front of him? To be like you in another twenty years?'
Kermit's gut clutched and twisted into itself. He started thinking about how he hadn't always been quite so hardened. When he'd married both Marina and Lisa, he'd given the marriages everything he had, perhaps it wasn't always enough, but he had put the effort into. It wasn't until his failed marriage to Lisa that it had sunk in that sometimes it doesn't matter how much effort is involved, things aren't always meant to work out.
So somewhere along the line he'd just quit trying so damn hard. Got fed up with all the games, all the hassles. Just like with Karen...he'd let her put most of the effort into whatever it was they'd had. 'And where did that get you?'
Words, in Jack's voice played in his ears. 'At least I'm not hiding behind a pair of sun glasses and an oversized gun, trying to rationalize why I'm still alone.'
Was there more to it than finding himself tired of playing the games involved in being with someone that was really holding him back? And why did it seem like Peter, so like him, seemed to have more guts than he did?
Kermit had the urge to invest in another bottle of whisky waiting for him at home, but instead he had taken a few turns subconsciously and had wound up pulling up next to Jack Greyson's apartment building.
Sliding his sunglasses off, Kermit looked up into the window he knew to be Jack's. Silhouetted against the drawn shade, Kermit could make out the form of the blond man walking across his floor.
The detective turned off the engine, just watching for a moment. 'Just go in and talk to him if you think that's what you need to do,' his thoughts whispered. What could it hurt to talk to him?
Kermit pulled the keys out of the ignition when his cell phone rang.
He flipped it on. "Hello?"
"Kermit?" Karen Simms' voice sounded full of static due to a rather bad connection.
"The District Attorney needs some clarification on the report you submitted on the Kwan case. Can you come in and straighten it out?"
Kermit sighed. "Yeah, tell him I'll be there in a few minutes."
Clicking the phone off again, Kermit jammed the keys into the ignition. Pulling away, he looked into the rearview mirror at the building pensively.
Several Weeks Later
The courtroom was hot and stuffy, the air stagnant and still. Kermit looked around the large room and, not for the first time, took notice of the diverse array of individuals that came to witness the justice system at work.
Usually the ex-mercenary didn't like being anywhere near a courtroom unless it was either required of him or he had a vested interest in the outcome of a case, such as when Peter and Simms had each been falsely accused of murders they hadn't committed.
Today there was only one case on the docket that had held any interest whatsoever for him - Adam Haun's arraignment hearing.
Haun, dressed in an expensive dark gray suit, was now up in front of the bench. An oily looking attorney was at his side. The middle-aged lawyer had graying hair that came to form a widow's peak against a high forehead, his custom-made suit looked as though it cost a week's worth of Kermit's salary, and he carried himself with a smug confidence Kermit found grating. The detective had no doubts that this was one of Kwan's sharks.
Judge Reynolds, a regal looking woman with reddish-brown hair presided over the bench. Kermit had met the woman before when Caine was on jury duty and he liked the way the woman ran things and conveyed herself. When she was in the room, there was little doubt as who had control over it.
"Mr. Maclamier, you're client is charged with five counts of conspiracy to commit murder, two counts of attempted murder, one count of assault and battery, and one count of kidnapping. How does he plead?"
"He pleads not guilty, your Honor," Maclamier answered with confidence.
"Does the State have anything further to say?" Judge Reynolds asked.
"Yes, it does, your Honor," District Attorney Stratton declared. "In view of the charges against Mr. Haun, the State believes he is a high risk for flight and should be denied bail."
"So noted," Judge Reynolds stated. "If no further comments are to be made, I declare that Adam Haun will be held over for trial without bail until such time a jury is selected. Jury selection will begin immediately after lunch." The fall of the gavel resonated throughout the room as the judge rose and strode off through the chamber doors behind her bench.
Hands chained in front of him, Adam was brought down the aisle by two armed guards. Looking up, his eyes met Kermit's and he paused in the walkway.
"Couldn't resist coming, could you, Detective Griffin?"
"I'm in this 'till the end, Haun," Kermit answered.
A cold smile teased Adam's lips. "You may have protected Jack this time, Detective, but there's a couple of things you fail to realize."
"And just what would that be?" Kermit challenged.
"That my...influence...is very far reaching, more so than you even realize. Also...." Adam's voice dropped low and harsh, "I will take whatever steps are needed to ensure I keep what's mine."
"And I'll take whatever steps necessary to make sure you fail," Kermit assured him.
"We shall see, Detective, we shall see," Adam said, eyes glaring as the guards shoved him forward.
As Adam was taken out, Kermit looked down at his watch. "Damn, I'm running late," he murmured to himself.
"Hey, Pop, have you talked to Lo Si today?" Peter asked, as he walked out of the bedroom.
"I have not," Caine answered casually, turning the mixture in his mortar into a fine powder.
Peter paced back and forth in front of his father's workbench. "Are you sure everything is okay? I mean, Lo Si knows we're going to be ready in a few minutes, right?"
Caine looked up, but did not answer his son, who did not seem to want to wait for an answer anyway.
Caine watched as Peter walked outside onto the terrace for a moment, took in a breath of fresh air and walked back in. The energy pouring off his son in waves was tinged with nervousness and apprehension. It clung to Peter's aura and followed him as he paced.
"Am I dressed all right?" Peter asked, pausing in his pacing for a moment to look over Caine's shoulder. "I know you said I didn't need to worry about it because we'd be changing clothes anyway, but..."
Caine looked at his son, who was wearing the same very handsome and well-tailored suit he had purchased for his reunion at the orphanage - the reunion he had not made it to. He himself, was dressed in his okra robe that was secured with a darker sash around his waist.
"You are," Caine said softly, "as striking as you always are, my beautiful lover, but...."
"But what?" Peter asked, his eyes seeking out Pop's.
Caine gently reached out and cupped Peter's cheek, caressing the freshly shaven skin with his fingers tips. "But...your handsome face has too many lines of worry marring it. You must try to...relax...Sweet One."
Peter closed his eyes, let his cheek rub against his father's strong hand, absorbing the comforting heat. When he opened his eyes, his dad's warm brown ones were gazing deeply at him, so full of love and confidence. How was it his father could be so calm when his own stomach was twisted in knots. Looking at his father, Peter couldn't see any signs that this day had any significant meaning, it could have easily been any other normal day where Pop was expecting a patient to see him any minute.
"Relax, right...nothing important is going on, no reason at all to be nervous," Peter said a bit bitterly, not knowing why it annoyed him so much that Pop could be so sedate when he felt like he was unraveling at the seams.
Pop took both of Peter's hands. "Darling, why are you so unsettled?"
"Why aren't you 'more' unsettled?" Peter returned. "I mean, in a while we're going to be...." He let the sentence drop, the reality of it hitting him hard in the gut. "I mean, aren't you even a 'little' nervous?"
Caine smiled affectionately. "Wo' qi'na'ide, why would I be nervous? Soon, we will meet our destiny and become bonded in all ways. Never have I been so happy as I am at this moment."
"Never?" Peter asked softly.
Caine leaned forward to brush his lips across his son's. "Never," he whispered, in affirmation, against his boy's mouth, suckling and biting Peter's soft lips.
Peter wrapped his arms around his dad's waist, holding him close as his lips were gently teased in the way that made him ache deep inside. Momentarily the liquid heat of his lover's kiss seemed to melt away the knots tangled in his stomach. When they pulled away slightly, Peter rested his head against Pop's forehead.
"I guess I'm just having a hard time believing this is really going to happen," Peter admitted softly. "I mean, I keep thinking something is going to end up happening to ruin it."
"What do you think might happen?" Caine asked, believing Peter's fears might diminish if he spoke them aloud.
Peter shrugged. "Anything, everything," he said edgily. It just seemed too far-fetched not to believe some kind of trouble was going to hit them. Every time Peter started feeling a little too content or happy, they ended up having to deal with demons, sociopaths, terrorists.... "Something always happens."
"Pop, I just want this to come off without a hitch," Peter said emphatically. "Just this once, just today, I want to have this ceremony with you and not have to worry about anything."
Both of Caine's hands cupped Peter's face, forcing his boy's eyes to meet his. "There is not going to be any disturbances for us today, I promise you that."
Peter stared into his father's clear, sharp, confident gaze and knew Pop was certain about it. He wanted to believe it so badly, but....
"Then do so, trust in me," Caine said softly.
Peter moved the small distance and seized Pop's lips for another brief kiss. "Always," he promised. The officer glanced at his wristwatch. "Where the hell is Kermit?"
"Right here," Kermit answered, as he walked into the loft.
Peter jerked his head around, and was just about to pull away from Pop, when he reminded himself that he no longer had to worry about that. At least with Kermit, he no longer had to hide the relationship he had with his father. He stayed in his father's tight embrace as Kermit approached.
"You didn't think I'd be late, did you?" the computer expert asked mildly, pushing the shades up on the bridge of his nose.
"Never doubted you," Peter returned, though the appreciation in his eyes spoke volumes as he met Kermit's green-tinted gaze.
"Let's do this thing then, shall we?" Kermit asked, with just a hint of a smile.
Hand in hand, Peter and Caine led Kermit down to Lo Si's apartment. The elderly healer was waiting for them.
"Ah, Kwai Chang, young Peter," Lo Si greeted them, the hem of his black robe brushing against the floor as he drew closer. "Are you both prepared for our journey?" His dark eyes dancing gaily with mirth.
"We are," Caine answered, glancing reassuringly at his lover.
"Excuse me, journey?" Kermit interrupted. "I thought we were going to do the ceremony here."
"Not precisely," Lo Si stated, his agile hand gesturing over to a small stand where a large, ivory shaded book laid open. A faint glowing emanated from the pages.
"Hey, isn't that...." Kermit faltered.
"The one and the same," Peter responded. "How are your frequent flyer miles?" he asked mischievously.
"You didn't say anything about going to Shambhala," Kermit protested.
"You didn't ask," Peter returned. "Come on, it's safe," Peter assured him.
Kermit watched as Caine, Lo Si, and Peter all took a hold of one another's hands. Three pairs of dark eyes were looking at him expectantly and waiting patiently.
Kermit sighed with resignation. "What the hell." Taking one of Peter's hands and one of the Ancient's, he completed the circle.
Kermit's eyes were fixed on the book as it started to shake and vibrate on the table. A gust of wind stirred and blew through the room, rising from seemingly out of nowhere. The pages flickered and flipped faster and faster. The faint glow grew brighter and brighter, becoming so intense, Kermit finally was forced to look away. There was a blazing flash and Kermit squeezed his eyes shut.
The former mercenary felt like he was falling and flying at the same time, spinning helplessly through what, he had no idea. Opening his eyes to slits, he seen that he and the others were in this tunnel that was filled with reddish-white light that was muted by waves of cloudy smoke that billowed around them. Kermit tried to hold on, fingers clutching Peter's and Lo Si's, but his grip slipped, the chain broken as all four men rushed towards the glowing at the end of the tunnel.
When the spinning stopped and Kermit felt himself on solid footing again, he looked around. He was standing in the center of a stone floor, a high ceiling above his head. Turning, he saw a large altar, hundreds of candles were lit around and behind it. Along the walls, many prayer flags were displayed, adding a simple but elegant touch to the stone walls.
Kermit watched various monks dressed in silvery robes, hoods drawn over their heads, moving about. They didn't seem to pay them much attention to their...abrupt...entrance. Of course for them, he thought to himself, it probably wasn't an unusual occurrence to have guests 'drop in'.
"So this is Shambhala," Kermit said aloud to no one in particular. "Interesting place. I'll have to tell my travel agent about it."
Peter glanced at him blandly before turning back to Lo Si. "We're here, now what?"
Lo Si smiled at Peter's impatience. "Now, young Peter, you and your father must prepare for the ceremony."
At that time, two monks appeared before them. One took Peter's forearm to guide him, while Caine followed the second. Kermit watched as they led the father and son away down a corridor.
"Where are they taking them?" Kermit asked, turning towards the much older apothecary.
"They are going to be dressed in the ceremonial garments," Lo Si answered.
Kermit began pacing around a little, his eyes in a constant state of motion behind his glasses. "Let me ask you something, don't you think all of this is just a little bit...weird?" Kermit asked. "Even for them?"
"Weird in what way, Detective Griffin?" Lo Si asked. "Because they are father and son, or because they are two males?"
"Oh yeah," Kermit answered.
Lo Si chuckled softly. "I do not find it...weird...as you would call it, Kermit." Old hands folded themselves in front of Lo Si's abdomen. "You see, I believe that souls are without form, nor do they recognize constraints such as sexual orientation or even ancestry. A soul only recognizes the desire to find its other half...no matter what form of flesh it takes."
"But they're father and son for Christ sakes," Kermit protested.
"Yes, that they are," the Ancient agreed, "but their hearts only know the love they have for one another. A very deep and powerful love." Lo Si's dark eyes narrowed slightly. "You too, sense their love for one another or else you would not have agreed to come here today."
Kermit didn't look at Lo Si, but rather past him. "I came here because Peter asked me to, that's the only reason."
Lo Si lightly touched Kermit's arm. "The strongest reason, perhaps, but not the only one."
Kermit shifted uneasily on his feet. He found it unnerving, the way Lo Si was looking him straight in the eyes, as if older man could read some kind of secret or hidden truth like he was an open book. Kermit liked his privacy, and Lo Si seemed to know more than he was comfortable with.
"How long does it take to get dressed anyway?" Kermit muttered.
"Their preparations are not meant to be rushed. Each must approach the ceremony with a calm spirit and centered mind," Lo Si told him.
'Great, Peter Caine, calm and centered? We'll be here forever,' Kermit groused to himself. He was beginning to wonder if he had made a mistake in agreeing to be here. Was he actually going to be capable of standing by Peter's side while he makes vows to his own father. His thoughts then turned to his own son, Jim, and wondered how the kid was doing. Man, the whole thing was starting to feel bizarre.
Kermit didn't know how long they had waited, it could have been minutes or hours, but eventually a young monk approached Lo Si and whispered something in the older man's ear. Lo Si whispered something in return before the young monk left.
"The ceremony will begin in a few minutes," Lo Si announced to Kermit.
Lo Si moved to stand in front of the altar, and indicated to Kermit where he should stand with a gesture of his hand. The same monk who had spoken to Lo Si earlier, returned with a black robe lined with dark purple draped over his arm. He presented it to Lo Si and they both bowed to one another before the Ancient slipped the robe onto his slender frame.
Kermit turned when he heard movement behind him. Coming from two different directions, Peter and Kwai Chang Caine both came forward led by the two monks who had helped them prepare. From all around, other monks within the temple began to gather.
The former mercenary's eyes took in Kwai Chang's outfit. Even he had to admit that the older priest had a commanding presence in the light silver robe that almost seemed to glow in the flickering light of the candles. The robe covered a pair of black silks from what Kermit could tell. The large hood hid Caine's face.
Kermit then felt his breath catch as he focused on Peter. The younger Caine was wearing a robe similar to his father's, except it was stark ivory, as were the silks he wore. Both were almost translucent and had a lustrous quality that was almost surreal. The hood covered the other detective's head and face like his father's did.
Both men came forward to stand in front of the Ancient. They bowed to him and he bowed in return. Caine and Peter then turned to face each other.
"Kwai Chang Caine, Peter Caine, you have come forward today in order to declare your devotion to one another," Lo Si announced. "Proclaim now, your willingness to extend that declaration to your friends and your fellow priests. Reveal yourselves to them."
Kermit watched as Peter's hands, steady and sure, reached up and gently pushed back the heavy hood. Kwai Chang's hair fell softly around his shoulders in waves and his dark eyes shone brightly.
The priest then reached out, momentarily fingering the soft looking ivory material of Peter's hood before pushing it back to rest around Peter's neck in folds. Kermit felt a clenching somewhere in his chest, a fleeting stabbing ache. Peter's skin was flushed in expectancy, his eyes soft and radiant with emotion and an inner-energy that seemed more amplified than usual. Kermit remembered to force himself to breathe, the aching swelling with each beat of his heart. Would there ever be someone looking at him the way Peter was now at this very moment looking at his father?
Lo Si held out a hand-carved flask made out of what appeared to be ivory. Tipping the bottle, he poured a little of the its contents onto his fingers. With his index finger, the Ancient drew an invisible design on Caine's forehead. Peter bent down and Lo Si did the same for him.
"What's that for?" Kermit whispered very quietly to a young priest standing beside him.
The priest leaned in towards Kermit and spoke in a soft, respectful tone. "It's symbolic, it's meant to be a purification."
Kermit nodded, his eyes never leaving the couple.
"Which of you will present the tashi-delak?" Lo Si asked.
"I do," Caine said quietly. From the folds of his robe, the apothecary produced a beautifully embroidered silk scarf that was as pure white as Peter's cloak.
"Will the witness please bind Peter's and Kwai Chang's left wrists together now," Lo Si instructed.
Kermit reached out and took the scarf that Caine held out, while Peter offered his left wrist. Looping the silk around Caine's wrist first, the computer expert then encircled it about Peter's wrist.
"May this scarf bring good fortune to your union. May it represent the binding of your hearts and spirits to one another for all time as you travel life's path in unity."
As Lo Si spoke this, both Peter and Caine held the end of the scarf nearest them and pulled. Together they drew the silk off of their wrists until there was a knot at the center. Peter then took it from his father and handed it back with a unsteady smile to Kermit.
"Did you also wish to exchange rings?" the Ancient asked next.
"Yeah, we do," Peter asked, his voice thick and husky.
Sliding the silver band of his black onyx ring off of his right hand and picking up his father's left hand, he slid the band on. Swallowing hard, Peter gazed into his older lover's eyes and saw so much love in that tender gaze, felt so much flowing through their joined hands, that it was like the strength of a tidal wave hitting him full force. It was actually going to happen, he and his father were going to be bonded. He couldn't quite believe, didn't quite dare to.
Then his father smiled at him. That gentle, loving smile that was his and his alone. He knew it then. The love that his father felt for him, that filled him so completely, was going to be his forever.
Peter then felt his dad taking his left hand and with his eyes still locked to his dad's, felt a band slide onto his own finger. He didn't look down, not wanting to break the contact with his father's gaze. He didn't need to see it to know it was the gold and ruby ring of his ancestors which he had once held onto slid into place where this time it would stay. There was a sharp stinging in his eyes, but his gaze didn't falter from his dad's. His heart was beating so loudly in his ears, he nearly didn't hear when Lo Si spoke next.
"May the exchanging of rings symbolize your love. Walk slowly, see clearly, follow each other in pleasure and in pain. Together seek truth. May the forces of the universe bind you together. May your spirits be as one."
Kermit watched, wordlessly, as Caine pulled Peter closer and covered the younger man's mouth with his own. Again the ache was reborn as he watched Caine's gentle, but firm taking of Peter's lips and Peter's fervent response. The kiss lasted for several drawn out moments and when they parted, both men's eyes glowed with a flare of passion. Kermit recalled when he'd shared a kiss that nearly matched such intensity, aching to feel it again.
Though envy and yearning stained Kermit's heart, he still was forced to admit that the pleasure, pure and absolute, on both the elder and younger Caine's faces suited them well. He wondered if it'd ever come to suit him in the same way.
"Oh, come on, just admit it, it wasn't so bad, now was it?" Peter asked, throwing the door open to the Caine's loft as he was followed in by his Pop and Kermit.
"All right, I admit it, okay? The return wasn't nearly as bad as the first time," Kermit stated, though he had no intentions on going to Shambhala again anytime soon.
"That was nice of the monks to put on a celebration for us after the ceremony," Peter commented to his bondmate.
"Yes, it was indeed," Caine agreed.
"Yeah, but what on Earth was in that tea Lo Si passed around?" Kermit's head was still spinning slightly from it.
"You do not wish to know," Caine assured him.
Kermit shoved his hands in his pockets. "So, ah, what do you two have planned now?"
Caine smiled broadly the detective. "The Mayor owns a cabin upstate. I thought it would be nice to spend some time there."
"You're staying in the Mayor's cabin?" Kermit asked, not quite believing Caine had some of the connections he did.
"Yeah, she's not using it for the next couple of weeks, so it wasn't a problem," Peter explained. "Though we're still not even packed yet, Pop. When are we getting out of here?"
"Soon, Beloved," Caine answered.
Kermit started feeling distinctly uncomfortable. He'd never seen Peter and Caine sharing such easy intimacy with each other as they had today. "Well, I guess I should be going."
Before he got to the door, he felt a hand on his shoulder. Turning around, Kermit looked into Peter's eyes.
"Thanks for being here with me today. You don't know what it meant."
"Yeah, well...." Kermit didn't quite know what to say to either of the men. He was spared of having to come up with anything when he heard a familiar voice calling out.
"Caine, Peter, are you here?"
Kermit jerked at the sound Jack's voice, a voice he'd heard nightly in his dreams yet hadn't heard in person in weeks.
"Yeah, Jack, we're home," Peter answered.
When Jack got to the door, Peter noticed how the blond froze at seeing Kermit.
"It is a pleasure to see you," Caine greeted. "What may we do for you?"
Jack came further into the room, his eyes still on Kermit rather than the Caines. Suddenly realizing he was staring, Jack pulled his eyes back to Caine.
"I, uh, just stopped by because I never had a chance to thank either of you for what you did to help me out," Jack said softly.
"There is no need to thank us," Caine insisted. "We are just happy that we were able to help you."
"You'll never know how much you did for me," Jack stated, "not only with Adam, but with some of the other changes I've made."
"What kind of changes do you mean?" Peter asked.
Jack shoved his hands in his pockets. "Well, after the night on the roof, I realized I needed to make some changes to my life." He paused for a moment before going on. "I decided to talk to my Uncle Joe, to try to put aside the past." The blond looked between both Caines. "You two reminded me how important family can be."
"So what happened?" Peter pressed.
"Well, we talked quite a bit and he convinced me to give working with him a try. He's going to show me the ropes of being a private investigator and I'll run the business with him."
Peter smiled and squeezed Jack's shoulder. "That's great. And you know if you need any police help, you've got it."
"Thanks, Peter," Jack said with a soft smile. He then looked at Caine. "Caine, I was wondering...."
"Yes," the healer encouraged.
"Would you consider continuing to teach me Kung Fu?" Jack asked hesitantly.
Fist in hand, Caine bowed deeply. "I would be honored to have you as a student."
"Thank you, thank you both so much." Jack looked over once more to Kermit. "Well, I'd better get going. I've got plans to meet my uncle for dinner."
"Come by in two weeks and we will discuss classes," Caine told him.
With good-byes said, Jack turned and left the trio of men alone, a glance spared to Kermit before he left.
"Yeah, well I need to get going too," Kermit repeated from earlier. "The two of you have a good time on your trip."
"Rest assured that we will," Caine said with a mischievous smile. Peter's cheeks burned bright red.
"Um, that's not what I...." Kermit faltered, "oh forget it, I'll see you later."
"Thanks again, Kermit," Peter called out to the retreating detective.
Kermit took the steps down to the street two at a time, hoping to catch up to the young blond before he left. The ex-mercenary was out onto the sidewalk before he actually caught sight of the blond.
"Jack, wait up!" Kermit called out.
Jack stopped and turned around. "Yeah?"
Kermit caught up to him. "I need to talk to you."
Jack shoved his hands in his pockets and refused to look up him. "What did you want?"
Kermit took a breath. "I was at Adam's arraignment today."
"How did it go?" Jack asked quietly.
Kermit shrugged. "He's being held without bail."
"I'm glad," Jack said. "I couldn't stand the thought of him being out on the streets."
"Yeah, well, I'm not so sure that he's not going to try to find some way to cause trouble anyway," Kermit admitted.
"So what are you saying, Kermit?" Jack asked, his eyes squinting as he looked up into the sky.
"Well, I was thinking about it and...."
"And what?" Jack pressed.
Kermit took a deep breath. "And I want you to move in with me until the trial's over."
"Move in with you?"
"Yeah, I want you to stay with me in case Adam tries something. It'd just make me feel better knowing you're safe," Kermit admitted to him.
"Why?" Jack asked after a few moments of silence.
Jack looked him directly in the eyes. "Why do you want me to move in with you? Just so you can keep an eye on me? Well, if that's the only reason, forget it. I'd rather take the chance of being on my own."
Turning his back on the detective, Jack started walking away.
"Hey, just what do you want from me?" Kermit demanded, grabbing Jack's shoulder and turning him around.
Blue-green eyes glared at Kermit. "What do I want from you? How about knowing why I didn't hear a word from you after you dropped me off at home? How about telling me what the night we spent together meant to you? How about...."
Jack's words were cut off as his lips were taken in a soft, deep kiss. His breath caught in his throat as the older man's warm tongue invaded his mouth and took his in tender control. Kermit's arms wound around him and pulled him into a firm embrace, their bodies molding and melding as Jack was pushed against the car behind him.
Surprise fused into response as Jack began kissing Kermit back. Dueling, teasing, savoring, Jack gave as good as he was getting, pressing himself even further into the firm body in front of him.
When the kiss finally ended, Jack was panting and stared into Kermit's dark gaze.
"Move in now, analyze it later?" Kermit asked, holding out his hand.
Jack nodded, taking Kermit's offered hand. Together they walked to the Corvair.
From high above, Caine was resting against his son, lover, and now mate. Peter's arms were wound tight around him and Peter's chin had come to rest on top of his head.
"You know they're in love, don't you?" Peter whispered against his father's ear.
"Yes," Caine answered softly, relaxing in his son's embrace.
Peter nuzzled the soft skin behind Caine's ear and pressed his lips to it. "Think they'll be as lucky as us?"
"I do not know," Caine answered honestly. "One can only hope they find the joy I have found with you."
Turning in his mate's arms, Caine firmly kissed his boy's sweet lips. The feel and taste stirred an instant spark of longing in the healer, causing him to think of what they'd share come nightfall and their joining would truly be complete. Leaving his mate's lips, Caine let his kisses trace his lover's cheeks and eyes.
"My sweet love," Caine breathed softly against his lover's lips.
"Mmmm," Peter hummed against him. "Pop, we need to leave if we're going to get to the cabin before nightfall."
"Yes, tonight shall be a special one for us," Caine whispered in a promise.
"It's already been special, Pop," Peter stated.
"Yes, it will be a rebirth for each of us, something neither have experienced before," Caine told him.
Peter looked down at the ring on his finger, his thumb rubbed back and forth against it. "I can't wait, Pop, I love you."
Caine kissed his precious child's lips again softly caressing them. "And I love you, Wo' qi'na'ide," he whispered. "Come and let us finish preparing for our journey."
Arms around one another's waists, Peter and Caine walked into the loft to pack for their trip. Each realizing and embracing the new path that lay ahead of them.