Title: to ease all woes
Author: Lady Charena
Fandom: Kung Fu – the legend continues
Codes: P/P, R
Sum: after “dragon’s daughter” - Caine takes care of Peter. Yeah, seems I can’t get enough of this particular stuff… <g>
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.
sleep, thou easer of all woes
Brother to death, sweetly thy self dispose
On this afflicted prince, fall like a cloud
In gentle show're, give nothing that is loud
Pass by his troubled senses; sing his pain
Like hollow murmuring wind, or silver rain
Into this princes gently, oh gently slide
And kiss him into slumber like a bride
(L'ame Immortelle - „silver rain“)
I wait outside the building for Peter. There is no need for me to stay and to wait for the decision of the Jury. I already know they will free Zia of all charges. Her eyes and her knowing smile told me she expects the same outcome. Despite everything we did, battled, and waged - it is not yet over. I can still feel Zia’s hatred, a burning cold that emanates from deep inside of her - like a cover of ice surrounding a blazing fire. One day she will return and I must be prepared…
I put these thoughts aside for later consideration for some people leave the building now and Peter is amongst them. I watch him shaking hands with two other men – then I see his eyes slowly search the street in front of the courthouse. It takes Peter only seconds to locate me and I send him a little smile of encouragement as he moves towards me. Fatigue is etched into the features of my child and I hurt to take care of him. Even though I am unsure if he will allow me to do so.
Peter stops, still several steps away from me and runs his fingers through his unruly hair. His lips are set in a thin line that speaks of frustration and his eyes drift aside instead of meeting mine. Minutes pass in uneasy silence and as he finally opens his mouth to speak, I cross the distance between us and stop him with a finger athwart his lips.
“We will speak of it, Peter,” I say and try to capture his gaze to make him understand. “But not now. Come.” After gently brushing the back of my hand across his cheek, I turn.
Peter’s hand settles upon my shoulder, holding me back. “And where do you want to go to, Pop?” he asks with a weary smile. “Home? Or… we could have a late lunch…”
I turn my head to look at him. “Are you hungry?”
Peter shakes his head.
“Then I would propose that we return home.“
“I’ll drive you,” Peter offers. “But afterwards I better return to the precinct. I’ve got a lot work to do.”
I cover his fingers with my hand and gently squeeze. “I thought you said you… `took the afternoon off`?” I ask and feel a fresh wave of tension emanating from my son.
“I did… but…”
“What is it, Peter?” I urge him as he hesitates.
He gives me a sad half-smile. “I… I’m not good company today, Dad. And I’m pretty sure you’re not finished with your new… lodgings…”
I do not react to his baiting and answer lightly. “It will have to wait. Come, Peter.” With this I slip out of his grasp and walk down the street to his car. I smile as I hear his fast steps as he closes up to me.
“Don’t even think of it,” Peter murmurs as he slips besides me into the car.
Puzzled I lift my eyes from the somehow difficult task to belt myself in to the grinning face of my son. Inclining my head slightly I wait for an explanation of his words.
Peter’s grin deepens. “I won’t let you drive.”
I hide my smile, cuff his chin and shake my head in mock desperation. Inside I feel a twinge of relief – the heavy cloud of anger and frustration surrounding my child is gone – even if will return shortly. “Drive,” I answer dryly and savour the amused light in Peter’s eyes. It warms my heart.
“Where to?” he asks, sending me a gaze that tells me I did not trick him.
“Your apartment.” Apparently he waits for me to say more but I lean back into the seat and finish with the safety belt.
After a moment I hear him sigh and turn the key. “Okay. Whatever you want.”
* * *
It is a silent ride – both in the car and later in the lift that carries us to Peter’s flat. I stand back and see Peter’s hand slightly tremble as he opens the door. I touch his arm and he turns his head to look at me across his shoulder. Peter chews at his lower lip. “Kelly’s maybe here,” he says in an almost apologizing tone.
She is not, for I sense no one in the apartment, but I wonder why this is of importance to him. I have met Kelly Blake only once for few minutes, but I know of her infrequent visits. A shadow I do not know how to interpret crosses his eyes – and vanishes – as I do not answer.
Peter picks up a piece of paper from the table after throwing his jacket onto the sofa. “Kelly’s working late and meets a friend from school tonight, means she won’t come,” he says, crushing the paper to a tight little ball. He drops heavily onto the couch and sighs. Peter’s eyes close and some of the tension leaves his body.
“I will make tea,” I offer to break the silence.
Without looking at me, Peter answers with little enthusiasm. “Tea sounds… okay. But I don’t think I have any of the stuff you’d usually drink. Sorry, Pop.”
With a small smile, I take a paper bag from my satchel. “This situation can be easily solved, my son.” Peter does not react, but I see him relax a bit more.
* * *
“Peter?” I put the cup onto the table and sit down next to my son on the sofa. During the few minutes it took me to prepare tea he has fallen asleep. He stirs and moves his shoulders in a futile attempt to release some of the tension in his body. Absentminded he rubs his temples.
I put a hand to his neck and massage the tense muscles while with the other I pick up the cup and offer it to Peter. “Drink,” I gently urge.
“None for you, Dad?”
I shake my head and continue the massage.
He takes the hot cup from my hand and inhales the rich fragrant of the beverage. Cautiously he sips and wriggles his nose at the taste. “Woah, this’s awful stuff, Pop. Geez, no wonder you’ll have none.”
“Drink,” I repeat and hide my smile. “It will help you to relax.”
With an exaggerated sigh, he drowns the contents of the cup in one large gulp. Putting it down to the table he dislodges from my grip. “A hot shower would do the same,” he says and moves to stand. “Without leaving a foul taste in my mouth.”
I do not show my disappointment in his reaction, but rise also. “Then I would advise you to take your hot shower.”
Peter turns and I read the guilt that shines in his eyes, before he averts his face. “Sorry,” he mumbles. “I didn’t meant to… it’s just I…”
I reach for him, cup his chin in my hand and make him look at me. ”Peter…”
“Sorry, Pop,” he interrupts before I can say more. “I’m… I’m not used to… be pampered. Not anymore. I mean… you…”
I stop him with a finger across his lips. Beneath my finger, they tremble slightly. I wonder what it is he fears? Did I cause him so much pain, that he is not able to trust me completely? “I would very much like to… pamper… you, my son,” I answer.
Peter leans into my touch. “Why?” he whispers, lowering his lids.
I shake my head. “Because I love you, Peter.” Releasing his face after a final caress, I step back and round the table. Then I take his arm and steer my stunned son towards the bathroom.
At the door he stops. “Whoa, wait a minute, Pop. What’re you doing?”
“I will take care of you.”
“Don’t you think I’m a bit too old for that?” he asks with an almost nervous tone. “Come on, I’m not a baby anymore, Pop. I can do this for myself.”
I only turn and look at him until – with a blush – he averts his face. Peter does not resist as I push him through the doorway and into the room. “Take your shirt off”, I order and step back to view the assortment of various bottles on a nearby shelf. I select a shampoo and turn to face Peter.
He returns my gaze with anticipation. “Gonna wash my hair, Pop?” he asks softly. “Can’t remember you ever doing it.”
I spot a stool in a corner of the room and move it in front of the basin. “Only when you were a very small boy,” I answer, invitingly patting the seat. “Sit down.”
Peter does not move. “You’re serious about this?”
I shrug, take a towel and fold it, placing it at the rim of the basin.
After a moment Peter sits down and gingerly puts his head back until his neck rests on the towel. There is a plastic bowl at one of the shelves, it is about the size of my hand. I take it and hold it under the stream of warm water to fill it. Using the other hand to brush back the errant strands of hair I start to wet it with the contents of the bowl. Peter involuntarily sighs with pleasure as the warm water slides down his skin and closes his eyes.
I put the bowl aside after filling it twice more and take the bottle with shampoo. I squeeze a generous amount of the flowery smelling fluid onto my palm and rub it between my hands to soft foam before I apply it to Peter’s hair. He closes his eyes as I start to spread the foam, gently massaging his scalp with my fingertips to ease the headache I sensed building since we left the courthouse.
A small, throaty sound escapes Peter. “This feels great, Pop,” he murmurs, his voice almost dreamy. “I’m melting.”
I do not answer but continue to wash my son’s hair. A smile tugs at the corners of my mouth as I discover how much I enjoy this little task. Even if I am now used to the sight of rich hair on Peter’s head, I am still amazed of its feeling, sliding through my fingers like shreds of silk.
My thoughts start to drift... and suddenly I image myself trailing my hands down Peter’s chest, spreading foam in lazy circles across smooth skin and hard muscle. Teasing his nipples with slippery fingertips into hard nubs until he moans with pleasure and begs me to never stop…
Disturbing images flash in my mind like clouds driven by storm and I hear my blood pounding like thunder in my ears… I picture myself joining Peter in the shower, washing his exquisite body beneath the silver rain of water. Learning the gentle curves of muscles, the smoothness of skin by hands and lips, discovering and exploring every hidden cavity with my tongue. I see myself go down on my knees in front of him to taste his swelling manhood, to feel it nudge and stretch my mouth… I image Peter braced against the cool tiles of the wall, legs apart, open to my mercy… hear his voice begging me to… enter him, to fill him…
Deep in his throat Peter makes a strangled sound, something between a sob and a purr - and I snap out of my fantasies.
Holding my breath for long moments, I regain control back and will my wild beating heart to calm down. Relief floods me that Peter’s powers of perception and his knowledge of our bond are still little or he would have immediately sensed the turmoil in my mind. I am not ready to face this – and I do not think I ever will. To lose him for a second time would destroy me utterly and I am sure, if he would ever learn of my true feelings, he would recoil from me in horror. No father is supposed to desire his son in the way of a lover… but to my infinite shame I do.
Peter asked why I had to leave after guarding the Emperor and re-establishing our family honor. I told him the truth – that I needed to find my path – but I also told him a lie. I ran away from him, from the burden of unwanted feelings and desires, he woke inside of me and tried to get rid of them in solitude.
But I failed - because wherever I went, whatever I did, during those six months Peter never left me. The pain, he so bravely tried to hide at the street, etched the image of his wounded eyes deep into my soul, where they hunted me during the days. And the hopelessness, that saddened his voice followed me into my dreams, until my heart threatened to shatter. If not for the return of the Chi Ru I might not have found the courage to face my wounded son, not so soon… maybe never, I will never know.
Once I thought I left my heart with the grave that – so I was told - contained the dead body of my only child. But after feeling Peter for the first time again in my arms, alive and secure, his love filled the empty void in my chest. I had never felt so much delight since the day he was born and given into my hands, small, fragile, slippery with Laura’s blood and so very beautiful…
I pull back my hands and stare at them in wonder – and horror. To even image to touch his body with the same hands in such intimate ways… I release my breath and involuntarily lift my eyes to meet my reflection in the mirror above the basin. The image of my eyes shows a fire I dare not to question, instead I close my lids and try to rise every wall I can, to block out my confusion and fire from sight. As I open my eyes, they are dark, barren and lifeless like cold obsidian… as would be my life without Peter. So I do not really have any other choice but to hide...
“Why did you stop?”
Peter’s voice interrupts me and I drop my gaze to his face. His features are now relaxed, his lips smiling instead compressed into a thin line of frustration. For a moment I see my little boy looking at me with eyes wide with love and wonder and the image tugs devastatingly at my heart. I do not know what to answer – and I dare not to speak, for I fear my voice would reveal too much.
I turn on the faucet, cleanse my hands and use a second towel to wipe away a trickle of foam, sliding down Peter’s forehead towards his closed eyes - as his lids suddenly snap open. His eyes fix on me with such pure love that I have to look away after a moment and to fight down another surge of unwanted emotion.
“Pop?” he asks with a strange note in his voice. “Everything alright?” A frown creases his forehead and instinctively my hand moves to smooth the crinkles away with a featherlike caress.
“It is nothing, Peter.” I manage a reassuring smile and see with some relief his eyes drifting shut again. I love you, I add silently. And I need you… please forgive me for my love, Peter - for loving you too much for both our sake…
Blindly grasping for the bowl, I regain control again as my fingers grab cool plastic. Turning on the faucet, I fill the bowl to thoroughly rinse the shampoo out of Peter’s hair.
Afterwards I take a fresh towel and guide him to sit up, so I can dry his hair. A trickle of water slides along his neck, shoulder and down his chest. Without thinking I move to catch it with the soft towel. My fingers touch Peter’s bare skin and I cannot resist running my fingertips along his rips, marveling in the warmth it radiates. I feel a shiver running through his body and hear his breath falter…
“Peter,” I whisper, never knowing what I am about to say. “I…”
Suddenly Peter’s hands come up to push mine away. Surprised I step back, the towel dangling from my hand.
“It’s… uh… that’s sufficient, Dad. It’ll dry… you don’t have to…” Peter’s eyes travel to the floor as if searching for answers. “I better change,” he finally says as he rises and leaves the bathroom without another word.
For a very long moment I stand rooted to the floor and stare at the door Peter carefully closed behind him. I know I should leave now, take my satchel and return to my new lodgings as long as I am able to do so without shaming my son – or myself. Instead I turn and use the towel to cleanse and dry the basin, close and put the bottle with shampoo back to its place and hang up the wet towels to dry. After moving the stool back to where I took it from I am finished and leave.
* * *
The living room is empty but I sense Peter in his bedroom. So I pick up the empty cup from the table and rinse it. I neatly fold the paper bag with the herbs I used to prepare the tea for Peter and am about to put it into my satchel as my son enters. He stops and our eyes meet across the room.
“You’re… you’re not leaving, Pop? You gonna stay, won’t you?” he asks, his voice very close to those of a pleading child.
He has changed into jeans and a worn, blue sweater that he seems to have outgrown several years ago. His feet are bare. An errant lock falls into his forehead and I ache to brush it back, to feel it slide across my skin... Instead I close my fingers around the strap of the satchel, almost tearing it off. “I will only stay if you wish me to stay.”
“Good.” Relief shines in his living eyes. “I… really like having you around…”, he adds with a nervous tune to his chatter. “I’ll even… drink more of this stuff… I mean the tea you made, if you want me to. It’s not that bad, really. I just…” he stops and shrugs. “It helped somehow... but… your… pampering… I liked even more. I mean… washing my hair… it really felt good…”
I cannot prevent the escape of a smile and seeing my amusement, he fells silent. A delicious blush colors his cheeks and he runs his fingers through his hair, avoiding my gaze. I drop the satchel, leave the kitchen area and step down to stand close enough to him to feel the heat radiate from his body. Slowly lifting my hand, I run the knuckles of my right hand down his cheek and see his eyes close. “You are greatly disturbed, my son.” I caress his lips, tracing their shape with just a single fingertip – knowing I should not do this.
He heaves a sigh. “It’s just… too much of everything. Zia…” His lips compress into thin, white lines and I rub the pad of my thumb over them, until he relaxes. “No… I don’t want to think about her. Not now.” He opens his eyes and I see confusion, mixed with pain and exhaustion. “I’m so tired, father,” he quietly pleads.
I gently cup his jaw and lean forward to place a tender kiss onto his cheek. The same moment Peter moves his head and my lips brush the corner of his mouth. It is only a fleeting touch, but I feel myself go rigid in panic. “I do not think you require more tea, but you must try to rest.”
Peter hides his face against my shoulder and so I am not able to see if he noticed my lapse. “Sleep sounds fine,” he murmurs. “I didn’t get much last night. But I’m afraid I’ll… I’ll dream.”
I pull him close to me and feel his arms hesitantly settle around my waist. “I will stay to guard your sleep,” I whisper. “You will be safe.” Without thinking I start to rock him like I did when he was a baby and would not sleep. Stroking my hands up and down his back I bring my mouth close to his ear and start to hum a wordless, soothing melody, I remember from his childhood. A violent shudder cruises Peter’s body before he relaxes into my embrace.
For long minutes I hold him this way and sense his tension finally beginning to seep away. I slip my fingers into his still slightly wet hair and start to massage his scalp. A soft moan vibrates against the sensitive skin of my throat, where I can feel the gentle brush of Peter’s breath, his mouth close to the pulse point and my wild throbbing blood beneath it.
Finally I release him from my arms and pretend to ignore the disappointment flashing over his features. Taking his arm, I steer him towards the bedroom and make him sit down on the bed. Like an exhausted child I undress him, first the sweater, than the jeans. Peter does not make a movement to resist, but obediently rises his arms and lifts his legs to help me. Then I push him back and he passively yields to my gently urging and reclines on his back. Like I did when he was a boy, I tuck the corners of the thin comforter in and brush my fingertips across Peter’s temples to bid him good dreams. “Sleep, my son.”
Before I can withdraw my hand, Peter takes it, brings it to his mouth and lays a tender kiss onto my palm. As if pulled forward by an invisible string, I bend down to equally gentle kiss his forehead. I straighten but he still does not release me. “I will stay,” I reassure him.
Peter’s finger fall from mine, and his eyes drift shut. Hesitantly I sit on the edge of the bed, my feelings once more in uproar. Peter’s innocent caresses are almost more than I can take. It must be because of the strain of the last days that my control is so brittle…
I wait until Peter’s breath changes to the deep, regular pattern that indicates deep sleep, before I give in to the urge to lay down next to him, close enough to almost touch his body, but without actually touching him. I acknowledge my weakness… and I will try to correct it. Later. For now I indulge myself with running my fingers through Peter’s hair…
* * *
A strange presence in the apartment stirs me – I have fallen asleep without noticing it. During his slumber Peter had snuggled up to me, his face pillowed on my chest, one arm flung around my waist to hold me close to him. My fingers rest against the back of his head and I bend down to tenderly kiss him – as I hear the door opens.
I lift my gaze to meet the puzzled eyes of Kelly Blake.
Slowly I release my child and slip out of Peter’s grasp. The eyes of the woman follow me as I rise and straighten my clothes. I move to prevent her from going to the bed and touch her arm, but she flinches back as if burnt by my hand. “Peter needs to rest,” I say in a low voice. “Please do not disturb him.” I stir her out of the room and close the door behind me.
Kelly moves away from me. “You’re Peter’s father,” she states flatly. “He used to talk a lot about you during the six months you… vanished.”
I silently bow my head.
She clears her throat and hugs herself as if feeling cold. “Is he okay?” she asks.
“Peter will be… okay… after he is allowed sufficient time to rest,” I answer. Strong waves of uneasiness emanate from her and she carefully keeps her distance to me.
“Quite a nice… pair… you both made,” she continues. “Peter seldom gets this cozy with me.”
I am taken aback by the sharp edge of bitterness in her voice. “Please do not mention this to Peter. It will only embarrass him.” I pass her by to fetch my satchel.
“What will embarrass me?” Peter joins us. He is dressed again and stands in the door of the bedroom, looking all tousled and sleepy. “You’re talking about me, don’t you? Kelly – I thought you’d be out tonight? What happened to your friend?”
“Peter...” I hesitate as my son moves to embrace and kiss the woman. Deep inside I feel jealousy raise its ugly face and bend my head in shame.
A warm hand rubbing my shoulder startles me and I look up into the smiling eyes of my son. I search the room but Kelly is not here, the sound of water running in the bathroom indicates she is there. I am grateful for a moment alone with my son and reach for his hand.
“I feel way better, Pop. What ever you did, it worked.”
I dare not to look at his face and do not answer. Instead I take my satchel and sling the strap over my shoulder.
“Kelly got her date cancelled. Why don’t you join us for Dinner? You could get to know her and…”
I release his hand and brush it off my shoulder, which stops him. “I would rather prefer to go home, Peter. It has been a rather demanding day for me, too.”
“Okay. I’ll drive you.”
I hear disappointment in his voice but force myself not to react to it. “This is not necessary. I will walk.”
“You’re sure, Pop?”
Finally I look at him, but do not answer. Hurt about my rejection shines in his eyes. I ache to comfort him, but cannot bring myself to touch him right now.
“Earth to Pop? Talk to me.” Amusement and worry mingles in Peter’s voice.
I raise my hand and fleetingly brush his cheek with my knuckles. “You know where to find me if you need me, Peter.” I turn to go.
At the door Peter stops me and I look at him. “Thanks for being here, father,” he says and bends forwards to drop a gentle kiss to my forehead. “And for staying with me.”
I nod, once, for I do not know what to answer him and leave. As I step onto the street it starts to rain, but I do not feel it penetrate my clothes.