by Diana Bloomfield
Peter ambled up the stairs to the loft he shared with his father and lover, Kwai Chang Caine. It took only seconds for the soft strains of his father's wooden flute to hit his ears. Could his father actually be playing 'Silent Night'? Peter wondered, as the familiar melody drifted to him.
His eyes adjusted to the dimly lit loft, only a few candles casting their glow to banish the shadows that lurked. In the air, Peter could smell the familiar scent of incense burning, but mingled with it was the smell of...gingerbread? Mrs. Lwai must have been baking again, he mused, his empty stomach rumbling with the thought of freshly-baked cookies.
Peter's gaze fell upon his father sitting cross-legged on the futon. His father's focus was completely absorbed into each note that rose from the skillful fingering. He had not looked up since Peter arrived. There was a wistful sadness in his Pop's expression, which resonated in the notes. Peter could tell his dad's mind had drifted off to someplace far away.
It had been a look his pop had been getting more and more frequently through this last month. Peter had tried to talk to Pop about whatever it was that was bugging him, but Caine kept insisting everything was just fine. Pop might have been a Shamballah master, but Peter was becoming a master when it came to his lover's moods. That, with the skill of being a trained observer when people weren't being level with him, had told Peter his pop wasn't being completely truthful when he pretended to be feeling just fine. Peter paused in the doorway and listened as the final note was played out.
"Play it again, Sam," Peter mumbled in his best Humphrey Bogart impression, which wasn't really that good.
Pop looked up and smiled, the sadness in his eyes immediately dissipating. "Hello, my beloved," Caine greeted as Peter moved from the doorway into Caine's open arms for a welcoming hug and the brush of warm lips in an all-too-brief kiss. "I did not expect you back until later this evening. You said you must work late."
Peter smiled softly. Without thought, his hand reached up and brushed some loose strands of hair back behind his dad's ear."I know, I was supposed to," he answered.
"So what made your plans change?" Pop asked.
"Jody was supposed to have the night off to go visit her family, but there was a snowstorm in Chicago so her flight got canceled. She offered to cover my shift," Peter responded.
Actually, Jody had practically shoved Peter out the door when she'd seen how antsy and moody he'd been when she came to visit the gang at the 101st. Peter had tried hard to cover his disappointment at having to work on Christmas Eve. Yeah, he'd done it every year since he had started at the 101st, just because he wanted other people to be able to spend that time with their family, so it hadn't come as a surprise when he'd been scheduled this year.
Things had changed though, in this last year. It was the first Christmas Eve he'd have been spending with his father since they became lovers. It was a special night for him and he'd wanted it off. When Jody had realized how much he'd wanted it off, although not knowing the reason for it, she immediately volunteered. With a grateful, hardy hug and a kiss that had taken Jody by surprise, Peter had promised to cover any other holiday Jody wanted him to and took off without a second glance back.
"I am...quite pleased...that you could be here tonight," Caine murmured softly, his fingers brushing against Peter's cheek.
"So am I," Peter murmured back. "So am I."
Caine held his sweet boy for some time, simply glad to feel the reassuring heat from Peter's body. It was solace to his troubled spirit. For the past several weeks, Caine had felt himself getting more and more agitated, his soul feeling like it was lacking its usual contentment and he really did not know why. Nothing extraordinary had happened recently, no unusual circumstances had arisen, no battles fought...nothing that could explain a certain gnawing he felt deep inside that had been growing and growing.
He had tried to hide his lingering state of uneasiness from Peter. He did not wish to have his lover worrying about him when Peter had his own problems and stresses to concern himself with. It was something he was determined to alleviate himself.
"Would you like some...hot chocolate?" Caine asked, finally breaking the silence. Caine watched Peter smile like he often had as a child, the years practically melting from his son's features.
"Hey, yeah, that'd hit the spot," Peter responded.
Peter remembered how, in the wintertime, Pop would bring in hot chocolate to Peter after he had settled down in bed. As the steaming chocolate heated his insides to chase away the winter's chill, Peter would listen attentively as Pop would tell him various ancient tales of dragons and warriors. He'd loved that special quiet time with his father. For a change, that had felt like 'their' time, when no one else interfered with temple business or seeking Caine's advice.
Caine too, shared the memories floating through his son's mind and smiled in remembrance. It seemed like even then, there never seemed to be enough time that he could spend with Peter.Time always seemed too illusive when you are with those you love. Even as that love had changed and blossomed since their reunion, time was still as precious.
"Do I get a story, too?" Peter asked, his eyes twinkling mischievously.
"Perhaps I can tell you the story of the impertinent son and his patient father," Caine said, his own lips curving into a hint of a smile.
Peter's roguish gaze met his dad's without faltering."Already heard it."
"But obviously, it needs repeating," Caine remarked, pulling himself free from Peter's embrace.
Peter tightened his hold. "Nah, stay put, I'll fix it," he told his dad, giving him a kiss to his forehead before moving off to the kitchen.
As he pulled out a pan and started heating the milk, Peter thought about Christmas years past. They had never celebrated Christmas at the temple, but when Peter was at the orphanage, people from the Salvation Army would bring gifts and give them a small Christmas dinner. It hadn't until he'd started living with the Blaisdells that Christmas had taken on a new meaning of love and family.
Now, as Peter watched his father walk out onto the terrace and into the frosty December night air, he felt an overwhelming rush of gratitude for being able to spend it with the one person he loved more than anyone else on this Earth. His father's staggering love for him was more of a gift than he felt he had any right to have. It also made him wish that much more desperately that his pop would level with him and let him in. 'Well, looks like you're the one who's going to have to teach the lesson this time,' Peter thought to himself. 'If you can't learn to lean on me every now and again, Pop, what kind of relationship are we really going to have?'
Peter poured the hot chocolate into two large mugs and carried them out onto the terrace, wordlessly handing one to his father. Looking over his pop's shoulder, Peter could see the town below all decked out with lights strung up and garlands everywhere, and watched as people rushed around for last minute shopping. While Peter could see Pop staring below too, he knew they were not seeing the same thing. Pop was lost in the world of his own thoughts.
Finally, Peter watched as Pop seemed to shake himself free from whatever musings were grabbing at him.
"I have something for you, Son," Caine said finally.
"For Christmas," Caine responded, pulling Peter back inside the warmth of the loft.
Peter lifted his eyebrow, but didn't say anything as Pop walked over to the sofa. Reaching behind it, Pop brought out a rather plain package, obviously hand-wrapped, that had a single bright red bow on top.
"I know we do not typically celebrate Christmas, but I desired to give this to you," Pop stated, handing the package over to Peter.
With care, Peter slid his finger along the flaps in an attempt to open the package without ripping the paper. The edges gave way and Peter laid them open to reveal a small book covered in expensive leather. Opening the flap, Peter read the words inked in his father's precise handwriting.
May your path always lead you to the truth, and light, as well as to my heart.
I love you, Pop'
"It is a journal of your own to fill," Caine explained softly. "To record your adventures and thoughts."
"Oh, Pop," Peter murmured huskily, his voice quivering slightly as his eyes started getting suspiciously moist. "I love you." With that, he kissed his father firmly on the lips, lingering until Pop finally drew back.
"I am pleased," Pop whispered, brushing some hair out of Peter's eyes.
"Thank you," Peter said.
"You are welcome," Caine responded as Peter pulled him over to the sofa.
Sitting down and tugging his dad with him, Peter wrapped his arms snugly around his lover. He figured it would be as good as a time as any to ask his dad what had been bothering him.
"Dad, can I ask you something?"
"Anything, my precious one," Caine answered.
"What's going on with you?"
"What do you mean, Beloved?" Caine asked with confusion.
Peter turned his hazel eyes squarely onto his father. "Pop, I know something has been bothering you for weeks now. Tell me what it is?"
"It is...not important," Caine dismissed.
"Bullshit," Peter said bluntly. "If it's important enough to be bothering you, it's important enough to tell me."
"Don't 'Peter' me," the younger Caine challenged, then sighed heavily. "Look, Pop, you know I love you. I can tell when something is bothering you, so just spill it, all right?" Maybe the hard edge to his tone would shake his pop up enough to tell him.
"Peter, it is nothing, really," Caine said, though his tone was not certain. "It is just...."
"Just what?" Peter prodded gently.
Caine looked out the window and into the December darkness. "I...it is just that this holiday represents a closeness to family, of being with those you love and cherish." Caine's eyes swung back onto Peter, his fingers brushing against Peter's jawline and caressing his cheek. "And Ihave so much love to share this season, for the first time since...."
"Since mom died?" Peter finished.
Pop nodded, glancing back down to the floor for a minute to hide the pain he knew was in his eyes. "Yes," he answered and looked back up into Peter's eyes when he was ready. "And though I love you with all my heart and am so happy that you are part of my life again, but...."
"Something is still missing this year?"
Caine nodded, feeling both guilty and selfish. There was no reason to have an emptiness inside of him when his sweet child, as well as his partner in life, was giving him all the love he had to give. How could he be so ungrateful, to dare insult the Fates that way?
With shame in his eyes, he turned his face back to Peter, surprised to see his lover grinning broadly.
Peter held his finger to his Pop's lips, silencing the forthcoming questions he could see in his father's eyes.
"I think I know exactly what's missing."
Caine watched with confusion as Peter took his leather coat off the back of the sofa and dug into the pocket, producing an envelope with a green ribbon tied around it.
"I got you a Christmas present too," Peter said, his eyes dancing with anticipation as Caine slowly opened the envelope and drew out two small pieces of paper.
Caine read the printing on the paper. "Plane tickets...to...France?"
Peter was now grinning from ear to ear. "Yup, I made reservations at a little bed and breakfast in St. Adelle. Granddad is expecting us tomorrow afternoon, and so is Martin," Peter reported, loving the shocked expression on his dad's face. "We're all suppose to stay through the New Year."
Pop opened his mouth and closed it again, before trying one more time to speak. "Peter, I...I do not know what to say."
Peter kissed his pop's mouth softly, nuzzling his nose against his father's. "You don't have to say anything," Peter said, snuggling up against Caine's chest as Pop wrapped his arms about him. "It's like you said, Christmas is meant to be with family, and those you love and cherish."
Caine claimed Peter's lips in a long, drawn-out kiss, a heated exploration of the inner sweetness of his boy's mouth.
"You amaze me, my precious one," he whispered after relinquishing the tender recesses of his lover's mouth.
Peter blushed slightly. "Hey, if you think that's something, wait until your next gift."
"What would that be?" Caine asked suspiciously.
"When I teach you what mistletoe is really used for," Peter responded with a devilish waggle of his eyebrows.
Caine laughed out loud, filled with such a feeling of joy and inundated with such a rush of love for his sweet boy. The apothecary knew it was going to be a Christmas they both were going to remember for a long time to come. In the meantime, he decided he was going to show Peter how much he was loved.
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