title:                  numb

author:              Lady Charena

fandom:            Kung Fu - the legend continues

codes:              P/P, PG-15 bis R

archive:            TOSTwins - others just ask

 

sum:                 Caine's six-months-absence caused a severe breach between father and son. After a painful confrontation, things cool down a bit. But as Caine prepares for a journey, Peter gets suddenly ill. Set between "Return of the Shadow Assassin" and "May I ride with you".

 

Disclaimer: This story's mine, but I do not intend to touch the rights of the owner of the characters from KF-TLC I've used. No moneymaking, no offence meant. Lyrics belong to Linkin Park.

 

 

 

 

************************************************

...I'm tired of being what you want me to be

 

feeling so faithless

lost under the surface

 

I don't know what you're expecting of me

put under the pressure

of walking in your shoes

 

I've become so numb

I can't feel you there

become so tired...

 

(Linkin Park "Numb")

*************************************************

 

 

"You will never be alone again. I will always be there for you. You will hear the sound of the flute. You will feel the wind of my hand stopping an attack."  --Caine, Return of the Shadow Assassin

 

 

I.

 

Footsteps clatter on the stairs of the iron fire escape and my ears confirm what my heart already knows - Peter has found my new home.

 

Relief and joy, still mingled with an undercurrent of concern, had been in Peter's thoughts all day. My awareness of him, which was disturbingly tempered during my absence, is restoring itself, much to my relief and I rejoice in our growing bond. The sun is just starting to set and I wonder why Peter chooses to spend the evening with me and not with the Blaisdells.

 

Paul Blaisdell was allowed to leave the hospital in the morning and my son decided to spend some time with him and... his... family.

 

I waited for them in front of the building, not wanting to intrude; yet I needed to be close to my son. I do not want to face the truth of my feelings, but can neither deny the shameful emotion of jealousy still lingering hidden deep inside of me. I find myself unable to look at Paul Blaisdell and not to see my loss. Not to feel anger about the years stolen from me, the lost joys and sorrows of observing my only child grow into the wondrous man he is now. It is an unworthy thought, more so because of who I am. And yet... I am only human and my heart is as easily betrayed or broken as any man's.

 

I had not seen my son for some days, in fact not since the battle with the ChiRu-Master and his student. After I accompanied Peter and Kelly Blake to Peter's apartment building, I left with Lo Si. Even if I had preferred to stay with my son, to soothe his anxiety and his distress, I could clearly see I would only disturb the young couple. Peter had to assure Kelly of their safety and to help her to deal with the things that occurred. There would be ample time later for me to get re-acquainted with my son and to comfort him.

 

When we arrived at my Master's home, Lo Si offered tea and started to inquire about my plans. I did not expect him to have already arranged quarters for me, assuming I would stay in town obviously even before I made the decision for myself. So I went to the brownstone building, apprehensive of my future. Lo Si and the Community provided me with the necessities for my new lodgings and I therefore spent over the following days much time with visits to pay my respects and relate my gratefulness.

 

Not Peter, but Kelly Blaisdell saw me at the hospital and made my presence known to the others. While Peter helped his foster father to get into the car, Annie addressed me with obvious joy and invited me to join them for a meal.

 

I gently declined her kind offer, but contrary to my expectations, Peter did not even try to persuade me to change my mind. He barely acknowledged my presence and for the first time since my return I felt like I could lose him again. Despite his words he has not forgiven me for leaving him.

 

I lift my head and watch Peter standing outside the closed French doors, both palms braced flat against the glass; he waits for me to come to him. So I stand and cross the room to meet his eyes through the clear barrier of the window. Following a sudden impulse I press my palms against the other side of the pane, covering his hands. I imagine the warmth of Peter's skin against mine and can almost feel it.

 

Tonight I find myself unable to read his hazel eyes and it is I, who breaks the gaze first, dropping my hands away from the glass to open the door.

 

"Am I invited?" Peter asks and my heart skips a beat at the weary sound of his voice as much as of him using this special words, meaning so much to both of us.

 

"You will never need ask for permission to enter these rooms, Peter," I quietly answer. Something close to disbelief shines in his eyes and I reach out for him, to caress his face. Peter flinches from my touch and I drop my hand, bending my head to hide both my shame and my pain.

 

Peter passes me by, entering the main room and I follow him, leaving the doors ajar.

 

"Well, a bit sparsely in decoration, but it seems like you're gonna stay for some time," he says and I cannot prevent to flinch at the cynicism coloring his words.

 

'Am I responsible for your pain?' I hear my own voice asking Peter in the garden of the hospital. This time, I receive an answer, if only in my mind. 'Who else...' Calling my thoughts to order, I face my son who obviously awaits a response. "Peter..." He does not wait for me to finish - which might be as well for I am not sure what I can say to atone for the injuries I inflicted on him.

 

"Paul and Annie left in the afternoon for their vacation and Kelly's still visiting her parents." He runs a finger along the first of many shelves that will house my apothecary - if I choose to resume this part of my life. "Might be the best for her or them. To stay away from me, I mean. Kelly's lately a bit sick of having someone around who attracts mysterious killer like a damn trouble magnet."

 

"The return of the ChiRu had nothing to do with you, my son." I feel more secure now with the change of theme. "He... used... you as a bait for me. He did not succeed in killing Everett Cooper and was defeated by me. I am confident your... girl friend... will understand, if you explain..." Bitter laughter fills the room and I falter, realizing the horrifying sound comes from Peter.

 

"How noble," he mocks. "Is this the Shaolin priest speaking or my father?" Peter jerks round and I am taken aback by the rage and pain in his eyes. "Does it make you happy, taking all the blame?"

 

"Peter..."

 

He stands close to me. "Face it, Dad." His fingers stabs in my chest and an almost tangible wave of anger hits me like a kick to my stomach. "You're nowhere in this. *I* knew all his victims and they're only dead because they knew *me*. Kelly got into that mess, because she l-loves *me*. Paul nearly died because of *me*. That bastard made my nights a living hell, the nightmares almost driving me insane. I wasn't in control, he took away everything. He nearly k-killed *you*! Now you don't dare to take away the only thing he left to me - my responsibility for all of this..." Running his fingers through his hair, he turns and walks towards the French doors.

 

For one moment I fear he will run away from me - but he stops, leaning against the cool, smooth glass.

 

I am at a total loss for words. Yes, I understand that this is Peter - always blaming himself. I have already told him, that he is not responsible, yet he does not believe me. Perhaps he will, once he is calmer.

 

Hesitantly I follow him, stepping close to him and - as he shows no sign of resistance - take him in my arms. Peter remains stiff and cold in my embrace. I lay my face against his neck to listen to the strong beat of his heart and close my eyes. Perhaps it will calm the wild jumble of my thoughts...

 

Peter slips out of my embrace and turns. I open my eyes as I feel his breath brushing my face, but he does not meet my gaze as he reaches for my arms, pushes them down. "Don't...it won't work, Pop," he says. "Not this time... not anymore. I'm no child anymore and you can't drive away nightmares with a hug or a song." With a weary sigh he moves away from me and I feel cold invading me.

 

I turn my head; follow him only with my eyes as he walks aimlessly through the room. "You will always remain my child, Peter."

 

"Cut it, Pop. You're still seeing me as the twelve-year-old I've been, when... when the temple was destroyed." Propping himself against a table I intend to use as a workbench, he crosses his arms in front of his chest. "Is this why you left? Because you didn't find your good, little boy, but me? Face it, *he* is dead, died that night in the fire."

 

"No, Peter - you are still that boy..."

 

Raising his hand in a gesture learned from me, Peter stops me. "I remember the lecture, you don't have to repeat it. That's not the right time for your little tale of the Persian flaw, save it for another fool. It's about you and me, Pop. I'm not what you want." He shakes his head. "Must have been blind not to get this earlier. I knew you just stuck around because of Sing Ling, but I really thought you'd get used to me and would love me again. Me, not that picture of your lost boy you carried for fifteen years with you."

 

"Y-You..." I hesitate and will my voice to be steady and calm. "You are wrong, Peter. Please... you are exhausted and I understand your disappointment and the pain my absence caused to you. But you must believe me... you are the most important person in my life. Thinking you death... I did not only loose a child in the fire... lost my very soul in that night. You have returned it to me."

 

Peter shows still no reaction. "But you don't love me," he whispers. "I wish you would listen to your own words... father... you understand nothing. I can't be what you want me to be and you don't care. Just never stopping to try to get me into that neat, little mold marked "Peter Caine". You..." He falters. 

 

 

"You are wrong, Peter. You are... yourself." Each of his words drives into me like a knife, aiming unfailingly for my heart, ripping me in shreds. I watch the stranger, wearing my son's face and... feel helpless. "I do love you, Peter, the way you are." I dare not to go to him, so I only reach out with my mind for him - and meet a protective shield he raised, as cold and unforgiving as marble. It comes as shock, that the bond we shared ever since our reunion is gone... and that not I, but Peter is in control of it. I should have known... understood... earlier, why I sometimes could perceive his emotions and even thoughts so clearly and not at all at other times. "I will never stop loving you, my son."

 

Without thinking I cross the room and frame Peter's face with both hands. This time he does not flinch from my touch. He meets my eyes, but still I cannot read the emotions in his hazel orbs. Slowly I pull him closer and he does not resist, but after a moment finally relaxes into my embrace. I feel a wave of relief as he drops his face to my shoulder, his arms coming hesitantly around me. I take him down with me, until we both sit on the floor and continue to hold Peter, gently kissing the top of his head as his pent-up anger, sorrow and pain releases in exhausted tears.

 

Peter is in much confusion, but with the reality of my child in my arms, I do believe we will overcome whatever causes this distance between us. I have to find a way for I cannot live without my son.

 

 

 

II.

 

Tonight Peter is wary and tense. Instead of talking, he sits quietly on the raised platform, watching my every movement as I divest dried leaves - which have medical use - from their stems, which have none. It is not a particular difficult work, even if the delicate leaves are easily crushed without the proper care.

 

I pause, looking up from the herbs and turn my attention to my child. The herbs remind me of Peter - as strongly as its leaves are attached to the stems, my son is attached to his worries and his pain. The attempt to separate him from it, if not done with outmost care, could easily crush him. 

 

Even if I sometimes get tired of his constant desire to talk, tonight I would welcome to hear his voice and with pleasure listen to his descriptions of cases or experiences with his colleagues. But tonight he revealed nothing more than having heard from Annie, that they are enjoying their vacation and Paul's health is further improving. His silence fills the room like a heavy cloud and I put the herbs away to sit next to him on the platform.

 

We did not talk about the night four days ago, when Peter finally had fallen asleep in my arms. I continued to hold him until he woke a few hours later, embarrassed by what he considered a weakness. He wordlessly slipped out of my embrace, went to the bathroom to wash away any trace of his tears and then left after kissing my forehead.

 

Peter avoids my gaze; instead he focuses on the bedroll, leaning against the wall. I packed earlier this evening for a short journey to the woods outside the town. "You... you're leaving, Pop?"

 

His voice sounds brittle and insecure and I ache deep inside for him. I brush my palm over his hand, curled into a fist. "I will only be gone for two days, Peter. I believe you would call this a... weekend-trip?" My attempt to light his mood fades away as I see him pale. "Peter?" Grasping his shoulders I turn him around so he is facing me. "What is wrong, my son?"

 

"I-I don't feel so good, Pop. I think I'm gonna... I'm gonna be sick..."

 

He bolts out of my grasp and vanishes into the bathroom. Concerned I listen to the sounds of retching and afterwards running water. When he returns, wet strands of hair fall into his face. I approach him, touching my hands to his cheeks and forehead. Peter burns with fever and I feel him shiver. "Come." I lead him quickly back to the platform, unroll the futon and make him lie down. After I help him undress, I pull a blanket out of a nearby drawer and tuck him in. "Rest. I will bring you tea to settle your stomach." Peter does not answer; he merely nods and closes his eyes.

 

It takes only minutes to prepare the healing tea and when I return, Peter seems asleep. Moisture bathes his forehead and face. I fetch a cloth to carefully wipe it away. His eyes snap open at the contact and I am puzzled by the frightened look he sends me. "Try to sit up and drink this."

 

Peter does not complain and therefore I know he really feels not well. He sits and I drape the blanket closer around his feverish body. Peter reaches for the cup I put down next to him, but instead of taking it, he brushes it off the edge of the platform. I manage to catch it before it clutters on the floor, but the tea spills over my fingers. "Peter?"

 

He cradles his left wrist with the right hand, a look of horror on his face. "I-I can't feel my fingers, Pop. My hand... it's numb, I can't move it!"

 

Taking it between my hands, I stretch out his curled fingers and try to determine the cause for this sudden paralysis. I can find nothing wrong. The skin is intact and its color healthy. There are no injuries to his wrist or knuckles, no sprained ligament. I release his hand and gently push him back until he lies down. "Do not concern yourself overly, Peter. I am sure, this is only a temporary... dysfunction... perhaps you sprained your wrist slightly without noticing it or it is a cramp, the muscles in your entire arm are very tense." I leave his side for a moment to refill the cup and to get a soothing ointment from my workbench.

 

Joining him at the platform once more, I kneel behind him and carefully cradle his head onto my knees. Putting the cup to his lips I coax Peter to drink the tea to calm his upset stomach. Bending down I kiss his forehead and then brush my fingers across his temples, absorbing as much of his fear and confusion as I can to relax him. And for a moment he is again my little boy, ill, frightened... but trusting me to make him well...  "There is no need to be afraid, Peter. Let me massage your hand." I gently pry the fingers of his right hand from the left wrist and start to massage it with the ointment. "Try to relax, Peter." I bent down to whisper in his ear. "I am here, I am with you." I brush his cheek with my lips before I straighten again and resume the massage, traveling my fingers up his arm.

 

Peter does not answer, but I feel him relax into my touch. Working on his arm, I listen to his breathing, slowly deepening into sleep. At the time I finish with his left arm and start to massage the right arm, he is already sound asleep.

 

* * *

 

I reach across the small table and brush back an errand strand of hair, falling into Peter's forehead. For a moment his eyes light up at my touch, before he lowers his gaze. "You are feeling better," I state.

 

Peter shrugs. "Yeah, I think." He sips the tea I offered him, but it is obvious he would prefer his usual morning brew of coffee. "My belly feels hollow, but I'm not sick and my hand's okay again. Whatever you did, it worked just fine."

 

"Then perhaps you will allow me to massage you again?" I watch my son carefully. "Tonight? To relief the tension." His eyes snap back to me, searching my face for... I am not sure what he needs from me... reassurance of what?

 

"But your trip?" he asks, looking away once more.

 

"My journey is not of such a significance that it cannot be postponed, Peter. Your health is much more important to me. I think you... neglected... it during my absence," I add with a stern tone.

 

I watch Peter chew onto his lower lip, than he looks at me from beneath lowered lashes. "Trying to pamper me, Pop?" he asks softly, a small smile tugging at the corners of his mouth.

 

"If this is, what you need, my son, it will be my pleasure to... pamper... you." I find it suddenly hard to maintain my stern expression, faced with Peter's gentle affection.

 

He breaks into a wide grin. "I'm glad you're staying." Bouncing from his chair, he rounds the table to kiss my forehead. "Gotta go, Pop. Thanks for letting me stay. I'll see you tonight." Not waiting for an answer, he leaves.

 

Puzzled I watch him go. Something about his behavior... something is wrong. I can sense it but am unable to put it into words. Suddenly I feel like I must be very careful with my unpredictable, yet so fragile child...

 

 

 

 

************************************************

...every step that I take is another mistake to you

 

I've become so numb

I can't feel you there

become so tired

so much more aware

I'm becoming this

all I want to do

is be more like me

and be less like you...

(Linkin Park "Numb")

*************************************************

 

 

 

 

III.

 

 

I have spent a pleasurable afternoon in Peter's company, visiting some of the places he used to 'hang out' as a teenager. Now we are heading back towards Chinatown, where we will have an early dinner. The streets are filled with people, for it is a Saturday evening and Peter grips my arm as if he is afraid of losing me in the ongoing mass of pedestrians. I smile at him and pat his shoulder, oddly pleased with his protective manner.

 

During the last two weeks, Peter spent almost every off-duty time with me. Even if I am grateful that the breach between us seems to heal, I wonder why he chooses to do so. My careful inquiries about his relationship with Kelly Blake were met with vague explanations about a change in their shift modus, so he and Kelly were on opposite shifts.

 

After we selected a restaurant and are now comfortably settled at a table, I pause to watch my quicksilver son. His moods change as fast as lightning and at the moment he is hilarious, unable to sit still he fidgets in his chair, toys with the menu or runs his fingers through his hair.

 

With a smile I reach across the table to catch his hand, massaging his palm for a few moments with my thumb. Peter startles, but quickly relaxes. "Thanks," he whispers, averting my eyes. "I'm a real... don't you... don't you ever tire of me being..."

 

He falters and I add with another smile: "...of you being... Peter? No, my son. And I will never tire of you either. I love you."

 

Relief shines in his gaze as he finally meets mine, but I do not miss the wariness lurking behind it. I lower my eyes to his hand and wonder if my child will ever be able to completely trust me again.

 

Our dinner arrives and I release Peter's hand.

 

* * *

 

We linger over tea, strangely reluctant to end our day together. I watch my son who is clearly subdued now. Running the tip of his finger round the rim of the cup, he seems lost in contemplation. In an attempt to divert his thoughts, I tell him about Lo Si's request that I may accompany him at a journey to visit an old friend.

 

Peter looks at me and I am taken aback by the fear I detect in wide, hazel eyes. "A journey?" he echoes.

 

"Peter..." I stop as I notice he started to rub his left arm. "What is wrong, my son?" I suddenly remember the night two weeks ago, when I told Peter about my plans to travel to the mountains and he went ill.

 

He pretends not to hear me. "Traveling with the old guy must be fun, so why shouldn't you go with him. A visit to an old friend - huh? I wonder how old an "old" friend of Lo Si is, I mean, Lo Si's really old and that makes..."

 

I stop his senseless chatter with a raised hand. "Peter - please tell me why this disturbs you so much? I will leave only for a few days, perhaps a week."

 

"I-It's nothing, Pop. You just... surprised me, that's all," he lies, unable to look at me.

 

I watch with concern his right hand grip the left wrist so hard his knuckles turn white. "Peter, what is wrong with your arm?"

 

"I-I don't know. It feels strange... the skin tickles, must be a... cramp."

 

I round the table to stand next to him and travel my hand down his arm. "We better leave, Peter, and I take you to the Ancient, so he can examine you."

 

"Don't you think you're rushing things? It's just a cramp," Peter protests. Getting up, he flings money on the table and tugs away his arm.

 

Hesitantly I release him and watch him leave the restaurant without waiting for me.

 

Peter is only a few steps afar as I close up to him. As I touch his shoulder, he stops and turns to look at me. "Sorry," he murmurs, dropping his gaze to the ground. "I know you're worried, Pop, but I... can't we spend the rest of the evening alone? I mean, I really like Lo Si, but... I don't want to share you with someone."

 

I stare at him in wonder, yet slightly taken aback by his words. For once I cannot imagine to answer him, so I only nod and follow him, as he walks away.

 

* * *

 

I sense a presence in my home as we proceed up the stairs. Lo Si is waiting for us and I fear, Peter will not welcome his company. My son is ahead of me, taking three stairs at once and I see him vanishing into the corridor. I follow him more slowly and fairly apprehensive of the upcoming encounter.

 

It is very silent as I enter the main room. Peter is propped against my workbench, head bent, the very picture of a sullen boy.

 

"Peter," I chide gently, receiving a hurt gaze from my son. I frown and Peter blushes, dropping his eyes to the floor.

 

Lo Si greets me with an amused smile. "It seems to me that this is not the proper time for a visit, my friend," he says with a soft chuckle. "But I sensed your distress and came to offer my assistance."

 

"We are honored by your visit," I reply. "Master, would you please examine Peter's left arm? He experienced a..." Ancient eyes meet mine with an expression I... cannot... read and I falter, slightly disturbed. He seems to be amused...?

 

Lo Si bows. "You do not need my humble abilities as an healer to determine the cause of distress for your son, Kwai Chang Caine." His eyes return to Peter, accompanied by a smile. "And young Peter does not need a healer for his body, but a... father... to mend his heart. I am not able to provide the help he needs, it is for you to find the... right cure... for your child, my friend." Gnarled fingers interlaced, he bows again - and leaves.

 

My attention snaps back to Peter, I will contemplate Lo Si's words later - or rather the things he left unsaid... I put down my jacket and hat, leaving the satchel on a nearby chair. I cross the room to stand in front of my son.

 

Peter's shoulders are slouched and I grasp his chin to tip his head up. "We will talk about your... lack of respect for the Ancient... later." His eyes, wide and startled, meet mine and I smile to reassure him. "Later," I repeat, slowly caressing his cheeks with the tips of my fingers. "For now I need you to tell me what it is that troubles you so much." My free hand rubs his left arm; even through the layers of clothing I can feel the strain in his muscles, the coldness of his skin. Running my fingers up from his cheek to his forehead, I brush Peter's temple. "Your body... reacts to the pain of the mind..." I say gently, taking up the suggestion Lo Si relayed to me.

 

A shiver runs through Peter's body and then he breaks free from my grip, turning his head to the side. "I don't know what you're talking about, Pop. I'm fine." An annoyed warning flashes in his eyes.

 

I will not let his anger divert me from my goal. "I will not accept a lie, Peter," I answer calmly. "You are not 'fine'."

 

"Stop this, Pop! You don't know everything."

 

I feel myself getting angry at the insolent tone in his voice, but I control my emotions. "No, I do not know everything," I answer calmly. "But I know you, Peter."

 

Slowly he turns his face to look at me. "Really? Do you?"

 

"Peter..." The raw pain in his eyes takes away my breath. I reach for him, cupping his cheek with my hand.

 

He briefly closes his eyes. "Let me go, Father," he whispers. Then, with a sigh, he steps back, dislodging my grip. Without another word he leaves.

 

I stand motionless, arm still raised, until I hear Peter's footfalls on the stairs.

 

 

 

 

************************************************

...holding too tightly

afraid to lose control

'cause everything that you thought I would be

has fallen apart right in front of you

 

every step that I take is another mistake to you

and every second I waste is more than I can take...

 

(Linkin Park "Numb")

*************************************************

 

 

 

 

IV

 

After a night spent in meditation, I give in to my desire to see Peter. I hope he is now calmer than at the night before and we will be able to talk about what frightens him so much. Even if I still do not understand why it needed Lo Si to point out to me that Peter's problems are linked to his mental condition rather than to his physical state. I should have seen it right from the beginning.

 

I do not announce my presence as I enter Peter's home. Darkness greets me, for the blinds are still closed against the morning sun. I leave them this way, finding Peter's bedroom without the aid of light.

 

Peter is asleep but he does not rest peacefully. His body, only partially covered by a wrinkled blanket, twists and turns. Sweat bathes his forehead and his mouth moves ceaselessly, he obviously tries to speak in his dream.

 

I sit down at the edge of the bed, hesitantly reaching out for him I touch his cheek, feel the clammy skin at his forehead. Suddenly Peter jerks, as if fighting against an invisible enemy, he turns and twists, his arms connecting with my body.

 

A scream of pure horror is torn from his lips, even as I bent to gather him in my arms, pulling him close to me. "Peter! Peter, wake up!"

 

He shudders and clings to me. "Father... don't leave, don't leave me ever," he whispers, his voice that of a child. "I'll be good, I promise. Just... don't leave me. I'll do everything you want..."

 

"Peter." I ache with the pain I hear in his voice. "My Peter..."

 

I can feel the change in his breathing, it calms down as he works through the last threads of his dream. Once he is awake, Peter slowly releases himself from my embrace to lie down again.

 

"Sorry," he mumbles, his voice still hoarse.

 

Peter does not look at me as I brush back the wet strands from his forehead. "You have done nothing that requires forgiveness."

 

Sitting up, he rubs his eyes. "What's you're doing here, Dad?" he asks. "It's... way too early to... for a visit, you know?"

 

"I needed to see you, my son." A shiver runs through Peter's body and I involuntarily move nearer to him, as if trying to banish the coldness I sense in him with my closeness. "We have to talk."

 

Turning his head aside, Peter runs his fingers through his hair. "I don't feel like talking right now, Dad," he murmurs. "Can't we put it off until tonight? I'll need a shower..."

 

He tries to move around me to get up, but I stop my son by taking hold of his shoulders. His eyes meet mine, tired and wary. And filled with a desolation that scares me. I bent forward to press my forehead against his and hear Peter sigh. I wish... I know, it is futile to wish... to be able to look inside my son, to rip out his fears at the roots like a gardener may remove weeds...

 

Peter gently moves out of my grip and gets up. He moves towards the window, brushing aside the blinds. His back remains turned to me, tense and unforgiving.

 

Pale morning light enters the room, filling it with a gray coldness... until I discover it is my son, who emanates the cold.

 

I cannot stand by and do nothing and so I move to him. I step close to him, not quite touching - but near enough to let him feel my warmth. "Tell me..." I whisper and he shivers as my breath touches his cold skin. "...about your dream."

 

Peter takes a deep breath. "Sometime... we are so far apart, father," he finally says. "Even when we stand close like this..." Again he shivers and I lay my hands upon his shoulders. I long to warm him.

 

"You... walked away from me. In my dream. I call... but you don't even bother to listen, never stopping. Like... I'm a disappointment to you and you don't want me anymore. That's why you're leaving."

 

Running my hands down his arms I take his fingers into mine. They feel like icicles. I pull him into my embrace, holding him close to my body.

 

"I feel so cold then, Pop. Frozen to the spot. I try to run, to call, to... but I can't. Can't move..."

 

"You are safe, Peter. I will not..." I am about to lie to my child, to give him a promise I might not be able to fulfill. There is no way to tell what the future holds for us. "You are everything to me, Peter. You are not alone. You will never be alone." I bury my face in the crook of his neck to feel the strong beat of his heart against my skin. "There might come a time, when I will be forced to go - but I will always be with you..." I move my hand from his waist to his chest, where his heart flutters against the ribs like a caged bird. "...here." Then I slip my fingers up to his face to touch his temple. "And here." I straighten and turn him around, so Peter has to face me. "Do you believe me, my son?"

 

"I don't know what to think..." He closes his eyes and I see tears at the tips of his lashes. "Same old song."

 

My hands travel down his spine, sliding easily on slightly wet skin. With a sigh he leans into my touch, arching his back like a cat. My sensuous son... I smile and stop.

 

Peter's eyes open. "Pop?" he asks with a catch in his voice.

 

I release him from my embrace. "Lay down on your bed, Peter. On your stomach."

 

He watches me for a moment, trying to determine the meaning of my request - then he turns and does as I told him. Stretching out on his stomach, he rests his face in the crook of his arms, hidden from my view.

 

I leave the bedroom for a moment to find the oil I provided him with - to tend his strained muscles after a workout or an especially stressful day. I would have preferred to massage him regularly, but accepted his objection that he couldn't spare the time. Now I wonder if such intimacy would have helped to seal the void between us. It is an idle thought... I find the oil in the bathroom and return to my son.

 

Peter still lies in the same position I left him. Slipping out of my shoes, I also shed my jacket and put it down to the floor, next to where my satchel lies. Then I sit down on the bed.

 

"Pop?"

 

Still there is a painful suspicious tone in Peter's voice as if he is... afraid... of me. It hurts to think that he might never again entrust me. No. I will try whatever is needed to win back his trust. Removing the cork from the container, I pour an ample amount of almond oil into my palm, then put it to the nightstand, where it will be within reach. It quickly warms in my hands and I let it drip from my fingers. Peter winces once, surprised. His head lifts for a second and he glances at me across his shoulder. Then he turns away again. I am not forgiven. Not so fast.

 

I move my hands down his spine, spreading the oil. Peter's skin shines golden in the morning sun, smooth like silk beneath my palms. And so very cold. Even as I start to massage him, his flesh warms only gradually.

 

"Your dream, Peter..." I hesitate as he almost immediately tenses.

 

"I don't want to talk about it right now, Dad. It's nothing. I had trouble sleeping for quite a while." 'You would know if you had been here...'

 

He speaks his though not aloud, but I can hear it anyway. There is a clear warning in his voice and I decide to let the topic rest - for now. Perhaps it is unwise... too much has been left unsaid between my son and me. I run my palms up his back and rub his neck with my knuckles, causing Peter to shiver. I marvel about the complexity of his reactions - even though he seems to be angry with me, he reacts to my touch like a flower opening to the sun.

 

I fetch more oil and straddle his waist, so I can properly work his shoulders. A stifled gasp comes from Peter and I stop to watch him carefully for any signs of uneasiness or discomfort.

 

Peter moves his head only far enough to send me a look across his shoulder, then he pillows his face once more against his arms.

 

I slide my fingertips down his back, along the spine. Peter trembles. His skin feels much warmer now, especially where my bent legs touch his sides. And I wonder...

 

I stop at the elastic band of his briefs, my palms flat against the small of his back. Peter's breath ceases. I sit still and listen. The wild beat of his heart fills my ears, breaking the silence as effectively, as if it would reverberating from the walls... From nowhere a strange tension comes to hang over us like a cloud.

 

I move my fingers in little circles and Peter gasps. He feels... I feel... I can clearly sense his arousal, mingled with a sharp longing that tears at my heart.

 

I look down at my hands. I did not expect him to be aroused sexually from my touch. I did not think he would... Closing my eyes I wonder if Peter is aware of his own feelings. Or does he consider it simply a simple physical response? The way I should see it, too...

 

I slide my hands up again, tracing his spine, to rest my palms at his shoulders. I stare down at Peter. It is almost as if I see him for the first time. Not my lost child. Not my son - but the exquisite man he has grown to. I watch him, like a stranger would do... Shining, soft hair. The broad expanse of his back, his strong shoulders, is golden in the early light of the day. A narrow waist. The gentle swell of his buttocks. Long legs. He is beautiful. Something close to awe fills me, as I remember his sweet pleas not to leave him. He is mine.

 

But until this moment I was blind for the fact that I also belong to him. Perhaps I am even stronger attached to him than he can probably know - nor can I...

 

I feel an almost overwhelming desire to taste him, to know him intimately. Now.

 

Without thinking I lean down, my breath brushing the side of his face. "Peter." My mouth touches his ear and he jumps. "My beautiful Peter." I retreat to press my lips against his neck, tracing the wild jumble of his heart with the tip of my tongue. "I love you," I whisper.

 

Peter moans, instinctively moving his face more to the side to give me more access. His eyes are closed, I can see his lashes tremble against his cheeks. His features are strained, but I find no trace of discomfort in them. Could he possibly want this... as much... as I want... him?

 

Perhaps I should feel shocked. Perhaps I should have seen us walking toward this new... intimacy... long ago. Perhaps I should get up and leave him at the moment, break his heart and loose his trust for good - better then to consider making love to my own son.

 

I cannot. I feel the awakening of passion deep inside me. A desire I had for many years believed to be death, wiped away like every other feeling with the loss of my child...

 

A magic spell seems to settle upon us.

 

I bury my face in his hair, inhaling his sweet, unique scent. It fills my senses like an exotic drug. Peter shivers. My hands move like out of their own will. Brushing up and down his sides, round his shoulders, along his arms, caressing as much skin as they can reach. I move my lips to Peter's cheek, gently kissing the corner of his mouth. Slowly his lips part and he gasps for air. But there is no sign of resistance...

 

 

...and I run my palms again along his back, this time not stopping at the waist band of his briefs, but push the fabric down to caress the smooth skin below. Heat radiates now from his body and sears me, luring me closer like a moth, tumbling down into the fire, blinded by the flames.

 

Peter lies very still as I straddle his upper legs, so I can watch my fingers play with the gently curves of his buttocks. I hear his breath, shallow and fast, as if there is not enough oxygen in the air.

 

Suddenly Peter turns beneath me. His eyes are wide and dark with arousal as he stares at me. I do not move as his gaze locks into mine. He sits slowly up, until we are face to face.

 

I wait.

 

Hesitantly Peter lifts his hands and frames my face, brushing back my hair.

 

I smile.

 

"You know..." His voice is hoarse. "...how much I love you."

 

I nod, for he seems to wait for a response.

 

"I don't want to lose you." He licks his lips, a nervous gesture I find endearing.

 

"You will not."

 

Peter moves closer to me, I feel his breath brushing my lips. "Pop, what are we doing?" he whispers. "What happens..."

 

I stop his questions with a kiss... probably fearing the answer... For a second Peter seems frozen in shock, then he opens his mouth for me. Delicately, like a flowering bud. Our lips and tongues tease, soft and moist and hungry.

 

Peter grips my head so hard it is almost painful, but I do not care.

 

I slide my hands across his chest, rubbing circles from one side to the other. Beneath my fingers, his nipples are hard and erect. Of my doing. I brush them over and over again with my palms and listen to Peter's moans of pleasure.

 

I close my eyes and lay the side of my face against his cheek.

 

"Pop..." His voice catches.

 

I brush again over his rigid nipples and squeeze them between the backs of my fingers. Then I travel my hands further down, until I my fingertips brush his erection, straining against the restriction of his briefs. With a smile I push the material down and curls my fingers around his throbbing sex.

 

Peter gasps for air, his hips moving like a piston, thrusting mindlessly in my hand as I stroke him tenderly. A sweet moan comes over his lips and I blindly seek his mouth, sensing he is already nearing his release.

 

I swallow his cry, as he jerks in my grip and hot fluid covers my fingers...

 

* * *

 

I sit back as Peter's hands fall from my face. He leans forward and I enfold him in an embrace. Slowly his breath settles into a normal pattern.

 

"Peter?"

 

After a second he lifts his face and looks at me. To my surprise his features are guarded, almost... lifeless. "Does it make you happy... teasing me?" he whispers pained. "Play with me, Pop?"

 

"No! I do not, Peter." I cradle his face in my hands. "Never. I..."

 

"Then maybe I'm still dreaming. Can't be true..." Peter closes his eyes, a single tear eases down his cheek. "You can't love me so much..."

 

I lean forwards to kiss it from his skin, but instead our lips meet. "I love you more than anything..." I whisper in his mouth. But all the same, a feeling of loss fills me, a sense of losing something of immense value. I brush it away, store it in the back of my mind for later contemplation.

 

I gently push Peter back, until he lies flat on his back once more. Still I cannot read his face, but the flames in his eyes lure me further and I bent down to kiss him more. Perhaps the fire will burn us both...

 

 

**********************************************

...but I know

I may end up failing too

but I know

you were just like me

with someone disappointed in you.

 

(Linkin Park "Numb")

***********************************************

 

 

 

end