Title: Tranquility Among The Chaos
Fandom: Sylum Universe: Kung Fu: The Legend Continues; CSI: Crime Scene Investigation; Historical Figures
Characters/Pairings: Peter Caine/Kermit Griffin, Nicolaus Valerius Meridius/Warrick Calhoun, Original Characters, Members of Shogun Clan, Members of Sylum Clan
Word Count: 12,217
Summary: As he lay dying on the floor of the Triad warehouse, Peter’s only regret that he never told his partner of his feelings. Maybe in his next life. His next life came sooner than he thought, so he holds tight to the only calm in a sea of chaos.
~ Autumn 2004 ~
The pain was finally gone, but it was getting hard to breathe. He had closed his eyes after his back hit the dusty floor of the not so abandoned warehouse, the bullet wound in his chest draining his life energy away. As he pulled his awareness inward in preparation for leaving this life behind, he thought it ironic that he was following the Caine family tradition of being on the wrong side of the Chinese Triads.
Thinking back over his thirty-seven years, his biggest regret was not telling his partner he’d fallen in love with him. The day Captain Blaisdell had introduced the new transfer from Dallas, Texas, Peter had been felt his heart stutter in his chest. As a child, he remembered his father describing how he felt the day he met his mother. The twelve-year-old boy had scoffed when Kwai Chang Caine said his heart stopped when his wife, Laura, stepped into his life … Now Peter knew what he meant. Kermit Griffin was average. Average height, average weight, brown hair, and eyes … Average. Until he took off his sunglasses. Then you saw the story of his life in those dark eyes.
Peter opened his eyes hoping to get one last look at his partner before his qi left his body. Hearing the anguish in Kermit’s voice as he called his name, Peter smiled when Kermit landed on his knees next to him.
“Glad you could make it.” Peter’s voice was a near whisper as he tried to reach for his partner.
“Thought I told you to be careful.” Kermit’s voice cracked as he tried to hide his emotions behind the façade he learned as a CIA operative and mercenary.
“I was. Tián turned out to be on the Triad’s payroll.” He squeezed Kermit’s hand as the pain returned. Kermit growled when he heard Peter’s backup had been the one to shoot him. “I waited for you. I didn’t want to leave until I got to say goodbye.” Peter tried to continue, but his energy had finally run out.
As the hazel eyes closed for the last time, Kermit began to panic. He should have listened to his Clan Leader. He thought he knew better … Thought he would have plenty of time to coax Peter to his side, and not just as his work partner. Now Peter was dying. Kermit had two choices. He could let him go and wait for his soul to one day return to him, or he could Turn the younger man. There could be fallout when Peter woke up. He might hate Kermit for Turning him without Consent. Peter was slow to anger, but his anger burnt like the arctic winter. Oh, how it hurt to fall so far off his high horse. Karma was a bitch who had come back to kick his ass after he treated his Clan Leader like dirt under his feet during their last phone call. Here he was kneeling in his Mate’s lifeblood getting ready to do the same thing he’d accused Nico of doing.
Sensitive ears picked up the slowing heartbeat of the man he held in his arms. Pulling his trusty switchblade from his pocket, Kermit laid it within easy reach as he bared Peter’s neck and dropped his fangs. There was a heavy dose of guilt mixed with his pleasure as he drank. Too soon he heard Peter’s heartbeat skip several beats. Hoping he’d been able to take enough blood to facilitate his Turning, he propped Peter against his chest while he flicked open his knife and ran the razor-sharp edge along the vein in his wrist.
“Come on Petey … Drink. Don’t give up on me now.” Kermit pled quietly to the man in his arms.
Looking around, Kermit wondered what happened to backup. At the first sound of gunshots, there should have been a dozen officers swarming their location. He finally saw his old friend and Chosen One, Captain Paul Blaisdell standing guard as he directed the transport of those arrested and getting the M.E.’s people busy picking up bodies while the paramedics took care of the wounded. Peter was beginning to stir, but all he did was shiver and attempt to curl into his Sire. Kermit knew he had to get the hungry, newborn Vampire away from the smell of his own blood, and all the meals on legs to keep him from going feral. Knowing Paul would control which crime scene techs collected evidence in this part of the warehouse, Kermit, with his precious burden, slipped out the side door and into his bright green Corvair.
Peter’s apartment was closer to their location, but there was no way Kermit was carrying a blood-soaked Peter through the lobby and up the elevator, so he crossed the bridge to Oakland and the security of his own home. He prayed Peter would stay unconscious until he got him cleaned up and in bed. He’d called Paul and passed on the information about Officer Jerry Tián. Since Peter had kneecapped the corrupt officer, it would be easy for them to move him to the prison ward after he came out of surgery. They would both need to do a lot of creative writing when it came time to do reports on this clusterfuck, especially since a cop shot a cop.
During the drive home, Kermit burned up the cell towers making arrangements for delivery of blood along with a Chosen One for Peter. Once home, he got the newborn Vampire stripped and in the shower after stripping off his own suit to help wash away signs of his death and rebirth. While he was trying to keep his ministrations on a strictly Sire/Childe level, the Vampire had started a Bond with his Mate when he Turned the younger man and it was pushing Kermit to complete that Bond. Holding his wet, naked Mate in his arms was not helping his good intentions to allow Peter to make the decision about what happened next between them.
Breathing a sigh of relief as he pulled the covers over Peter, his home computer pinged the motion detectors on the perimeter of his property. Pulling up the screen, he saw his Chosen One walking up the driveway carrying a cooler. Meeting the young man at the door, Kermit escorted him to the kitchen, so they could empty the cooler and talk without their voices carrying to the upper floor.
“Man, you’re lucky I have a night job.” The dark-haired man grabbed a mug and filled it with coffee from the freshly brewed pot.
“I wouldn’t have gotten you out of bed, but this was important. My partner got shot this morning during a bust.” The Vampire joined his visitor at the table.
“I heard it when Inspector Joe got the call of officer down. Joe had called me to the club this morning to go over the liquor order when they got the call out. So, other than the fact the man’s your work partner, why Turn him?” Pepe arched his heavy eyebrows at the unusual show of emotion from the former mercenary.
Glaring from behind the dark lenses of his glasses, Pepe simply batted his eyelashes at Kermit and waited for his answer. Knowing the outlandish nightclub manager would wait forever or time to leave for work for an answer, Kermit gave a growl and said quietly, “It sometimes slips my mind you work for a couple of cops. Peter’s my Mate.”
“Thank all the Gods.” Pepe raised his hands toward the ceiling.
“Smartass.” Kermit snorted as he finished his coffee then pulled down several mugs to prepare Peter’s first meal as he heard the new Vampire starting to wake.
Blinking eyes that felt weighed down, Peter fought to bring his brain and body to consciousness. There was an urgency nagging him, but the last thing he remembered was laying on a filthy warehouse floor feeling his life leave his body. He remembered Kermit cradling him to his chest like there was nowhere else Peter should ever be, but things got blurry after telling his partner goodbye and closing his eyes.
Finally feeling like he could form coherent thoughts, Peter started to catalog his surroundings. Though he was naked in a strange bed, the scent on the sheets and pillows was familiar. He didn’t see his clothes, but he did see his service weapon and badge lying on the nightstand. A picture on the dresser along the scent convinced Peter he was sleeping in Kermit’s bed. Rubbing his hand over the scar tissue on his chest, he looked around until he recognized the duffle bag he kept in his car. Having been raised in a Shaolin temple until the age of 12, Peter had little modesty and the chill he felt was of little consequence as he headed to the shower. Once he was dressed, he settled in a lotus position on the bed to begin dealing with the incredible sense of hunger and the need to hunt that was trying to take control.
Dropping into a light meditation, Peter was able to push his hunger to the side. Once that was no long distracting him, he noticed he was hearing Kermit’s neighbor talking on the telephone. With Kermit’s paranoia, Peter knew the man had excellent soundproofing all throughout his house. He could also hear a heartbeat downstairs along with two distinct voices. Kermit’s, he recognized immediately, but the other he didn’t know. He was curious about why he only heard one heartbeat, but it was the smell that had him nearly bolting from the bed, down the stairs.
Not knowing of the battle being waged upstairs, Kermit placed the mugs of warmed blood on a tray with an admonishment to Pepe to stay in the kitchen until he called. He did not want to trigger the hunting instinct of a hungry baby Vampire.
“Not my first Turning, Kermit.” Pepe wrinkled his nose to mock Kermit.
“Don’t have enough friends to lose one, and I don’t want to have to deal with a guilt-ridden Peter if he loses control and hurts you.” He growled as he started up the stairs.
A brief expression of surprise passed over his face when he saw Peter, calm as you please, sitting in the middle of his bed. Hazel eyes flashed amber when the scent of warm blood filled his nose.
“Kermit, why do I have this extreme craving to tackle you for whatever is in the coffee mugs you’re holding?”
“Because you’re a freshly Turned Vampire who hasn’t had a chance to Feed.” He exacerbated his Texas drawl as he tried to add some humor to a situation that had him scared out of his green shades.
“An Immortal??!! How did I become an Immortal!?”
Stalling, Kermit answered Peter’s question with a question. “What’s the last thing you remember?”
“You. The last thing I remember is you.” He paused momentarily studying his partner. “There is something …”
Blushing furiously, Kermit handed Peter one of the mugs. “Drink these. When you’re finished, I’ll teach you how to Feed, and give you a condensed version of the How to be a Vampire Handbook.”
“Why are you blushing?” Peter smirked as he quickly emptied the three mugs, catching his lip on one of his fangs. “Damn.” He poked at the elongated tooth. “How do I stop doing that?”
“Think about them dropping and retracting. Extreme emotion can also make them drop.” Kermit called down the steps for Pepe to join them. “Pepe is one of my Chosen Ones whose schedule is flexible enough to help when I need him.” He explained when Peter arched his eyebrow at him.
“People that know about Vampires and provide support and fresh blood. Fresh is always better than cloned, especially if you’ve been injured, but being able to Feed on cloned blood gives us an extra layer of protection from Humans.”
“When I was at the temple, Ping Hi often told stories about the Immortals. His stories were mostly about the good they did throughout China and Japan, but he also told stories about a few that set themselves up like warlords, subjugating and killing people.”
“We call then Rogues … Vampires that threaten to expose the Clans to Humans. We have Hunters whose job it is to find them and put an end to them. There are a few that have built organizations akin to the Mafia or Yakuza.”
Before he could finish his lecture, Pepe stuck his head around the edge of the door frame. “Not interrupting, am I?” Eyes darted between the two Vampires.”
“Come on in. Pepe … Peter Caine … Pete … Pepe.” He tugged Peter off the bed to stand beside his Chosen One. “This is the first lesson every new Vampire learns. How to feed from a Human without hurting them.”
A half-hour later, Peter’s hunger was satiated, Pepe was headed back to work, and Kermit finally found his phone. Checking his watch, he figured Stokes should be awake. It had been several years since he’d punched speed dial #2, so it took him several minutes to settle his nerves and tamp down on his temper before pushing the button.
“Nick, it’s Kermit.”
A long pause followed that. Holding onto his patience, he waited out his Clan Leader.
“It’s good to hear from you. How are things?”
“I moved to San Francisco a few years ago, but I didn’t call to give you the Reader’s Digest version of my life. I called to tell you I’ve got a baby Vampire here.”
“Who and what happened.” Nicolaus Meridius prided himself on his patience. As a crime scene investigator and the head of a Clan of Vampires that were some of the most obnoxious and eccentric bunch on the planet, he needed it. There was just something about Kermit Griffin that shredded his patience like a cat with a roll of toilet paper. Some day he was going to sit down with the ex-mercenary … Or maybe they needed to go out in the middle of nowhere where they could work things out without someone calling the police or causing vast amounts of property damage. Kermit’s voice pulled his attention away from his thoughts.
“Peter Caine.” Kermit paused giving Nick a chance to comment. Since the silence continued, he gave the CSI a quick rundown. “Peter got a tip about a delivery to a suspected Triad drug warehouse. We moved in for the takedown, one of the Triad’s bought cops shot Peter and left him to die. I came in with the second wave and found him bleeding out. He told me he waited for me.” Kermit stopped his recitation as the emotions of almost losing his Mate caused his throat to close.
“Kermit. What’s wrong? Griffin, answer me!” Nico demanded.
The strident tone of his Clan Leader’s voice helped Kermit get a handle on his emotions. “Sorry. Nick, I apologize for every time I gave you grief about Warrick’s Turning.”
“Kermit, what did you do?” He waved off Warrick, who’d come out of their bedroom after feeling a spike in their Bond.
“Peter’s my Mate. He lost consciousness before I could get his Consent to be Turned, but I could not kneel in the pool of his blood and watch him die.”
“How’s he adjusting? Do I need to send someone to handle it if he doesn’t want to be a Vampire?”
“No.” Kermit breathed a sigh of relief. “Pete’s not like most people. My Chosen One had just arrived, and I was busy with him when he woke up. He took a shower, got dressed, and was sitting in the middle of bed meditating by the time I was able to check on him.”
“Sounds like a perfect fit for your temper. Does he know about the Mate thing?”
“Peter can be just as passionate as I am about things, he’s just doesn’t go about as loudly as I do.” Kermit chuckled weakly. “I haven’t told him about being my Mate, but from what I’m getting through our nascent Bond, I don’t think it’ll be a problem.
“That’s one less problem. Now, how are you explaining him not being dead?”
“Our Captain, Paul Blaisdell, is a Chosen One, so we’re covered. They arrested the dirty cop that shot Peter. The story is he’s in protective custody though I doubt Tián will live to make his trial. He’s in the hospital prison ward because Pete kneecapped him, but even if he refuses to talk, the Triad won’t take the chance on Tián’s loyalty. I’ll go, in the next day or two and clear Pete’s apartment then take some vacation to help in my partner’s recovery. That should give us time to make a trip to wherever you are.”
“Warrick and I are off this weekend. A quick trip to Vegas would give credence to your protective custody story.”
“I’ll check with Pete about any plans he might have and let you know.”
“Sounds good. I’ll call Caesar’s and have them hold a room for you. Ask for Charlie at the desk, he’ll get you settled.” Nico started to end the call then thought better of it. “Kermit, I’m happy for you. Take care of your Mate.” He ended the call.
Kermit stared at his phone in surprise before shaking it off and heading to the kitchen to discuss Bonding.
While Kermit went off to make phone calls, Peter poked around, curious about his work partner. Finding filters and coffee, he put a fresh pot to brewing and settled at the table in the breakfast nook to contemplate all he’d learned over the past few hours. He was pulled from his thoughts by the beep of the coffeemaker. He was settled with a cup of Kermit’s gourmet blend when the man himself came around the corner and greeted him with a smile.
“Nick’s got the weekend off, so we’ll be taking a quick trip to Vegas. Once this mess with Tián settles, we’ll try to take a trip to New Orleans while you’re on medical leave.”
“Yeah. You can’t return to work sooner than you would if you were still Human.” Seeing the frown on the younger man’s face, Kermit laughed. “Yes, you still have to jump through all the hoops to get back to work. The good news is we have people who sign off on all that for us. Plus the Captain is in the know.”
“You’re telling me Paul knows about Vampires? What about Annie?” Peter had lived with the Blaisdell’s for several months before his 18th birthday when his foster parents had needed to move from the area. He knew a bit of Paul’s past with some government agency that never stepped out of the shadows but never had any indication Annie knew of her husband’s shadowy past.
“Just Paul. Annie hasn’t a clue … Well, you know Annie.” He shared a chuckle with Peter. Though she’d lost her sight, there was little that escaped her notice.
“If I have to be off anyway.” He ducked his head to take a quick drink from his cup. “Are we going to talk about the elephant in the house?” He asked shyly.
“Are you sure you’re ready to acknowledge what it is?” Kermit arched an eyebrow at his Mate.
“About that … I’ve been ready since about a month after the Captain made us partners. Laying on the floor of that warehouse, it was my biggest regret.”
Kermit thumped his mug down on the table causing the coffee to nearly slosh over the side. “Why are sitting here?”
“Waiting for you to get over your old maid jitters?” Peter teased.
“Old maid jitters!” Kermit squawked as Peter was already moving toward the stairs.
Chasing his Mate up the stairs, Kermit appreciated the effects years of martial arts had done for the younger man. He’d have to remember to send a ‘thank you’ gift to Peter’s neighbor, Lo Si. The Ancient Chinese man had nagged Peter to resume the training he’d begun as a child in the Shaolin temple, and it certainly had paid off. His attention was abruptly returned to the present when a sweatshirt landed in his face as Peter started stripping clothes as he crossed the threshold of Kermit’s bedroom.
Running his fingers through the silver streak in his Mate’s dark hair, Peter contemplated the speed with which his entire world had changed. This morning he’d gone to work nursing his unrequited feelings for his partner, now as the sun set on San Francisco, he had been shot, died, been brought back to ‘life’, and mated to the man he’d felt drawn to since the first time they shook hands.
Quieting his thoughts, he hoped they weren’t permanently stuck together since he and Kermit both passed out during their climaxes when he’d sank his fangs into Kermit’s neck. The Bond humming peacefully in the back of his mind was a pleasant surprise. He wondered if everyone’s Bond was so noticeable, or if the continuation of his training with The Ancient was responsible. Leaving those thoughts for later, Peter hoped Kermit didn’t come up swinging when he tried to get them unstuck so he could get to the bathroom.
Trying to slide out of bed without disturbing Kermit, Peter was surprised to find dust pooled on his stomach instead of dried semen. Thankful for small blessings, he made it to the bathroom without waking his Mate, though the man was beginning to stir by the time he finished his second or was it third shower of the day.
A quick sandwich and a mug of warmed blood later, the two men began working to clear up the confusion caused by Peter and Kermit’s disappearance from the scene of the raid. Using Kermit’s remote connection to his computer at the office, they filed their reports on the warehouse raid, downplaying the severity of Peter’s wound while making sure Officer Jerry Tián was clearly implicated for attempted murder, bribery, and corruption.
They were discussing their trip to Las Vegas and hopefully New Orleans when Kermit’s phone pinged an alert. Checking his camera, the ex-mercenary smiled when he saw who was parking in his driveway.
“It’s Paul.” Kermit’s mouth dropped open when the police Captain opened the back of his Suburban. “I told him to bring some things from your apartment … I didn’t know he was going to move everything.”
“I live in a furnished apartment, Kermit. Other than a few books and pictures, I don’t have a lot of stuff. Just a habit I got into when we lived at the Temple. When we ended up between the rebels and the Chinese army, there wasn’t time to pack anything. Some of the adults snuck back after the battle, but there wasn’t a whole lot left.”
With a quick pivot, Peter was out the door to help Paul. Though the older man was in good shape, he didn’t need to be hauling his stuff up all the stairs in Kermit’s house. Kermit’s expression was thoughtful as he followed Peter to lend a hand emptying the SUV. He wondered how fast he could get rid of their Captain so he could prod Peter a little more about his childhood.
With Peter’s belongings stashed in his second bedroom, the three police officers sat around Kermit’s home office discussing the Vampires’ plans.
“I’ve already talked to Nick. If things get crazy with the Triads trying to take out Pete, we can go to New Orleans for an extended stay.” Kermit suggested.
“I’d hate to lose two of my best detectives. Because of Peter, we have the best relations we’ve had in Chinatown ever, and I’m not thrilled about having to start from scratch.” Paul lamented.
“If I need to leave, I’ll give you the names of a couple of people on the beat that have pretty good rapport with the neighborhood. You might want to have a meeting with The Ancient. He has his knobby finger on the pulse of what’s happening.”
“The Ancient?” Paul sounded skeptical.
“That’s what everyone calls him. His name is Lo Si. He might look like a Chinese garden gnome, but he kicks serious ass in the kwoon.” He paused thinking about the old man who treated Peter like a grandson. “I need to see him before we go anywhere. He’ll be worried if I just disappear with no explanation and believe me, he has a network better than we do.”
The men spent a few more minutes making plans before Paul stood to take his leave.
“Thanks for clearing out my apartment. I use the building cleaning service, so I’ll call them and the manager tomorrow. When do you think they’ll be doing the interviews on the shooting?”
“I’ll find out tomorrow and let you know. Don’t forget to dig up a sling. You did get shot after all. Everyone will be expecting to see you wrapped up.” Paul reminded them.
“I’m sure I can scrounge up a sling or two.” Kermit smirked at the two men.
“Kermit always seemed to have whatever we needed whenever we needed it when we were on a mission.” The men exchanged a look of shared memories. “Anyway, Annie will have my hide if I’m late tonight.” He pulled Peter into a quick hug. “Glad we didn’t lose you today, son.” The Captain was out the door before Peter could form an answer.
Kermit woke the next morning to an empty bed and the smell of coffee. Pausing on the way to the shower, he looked out the window to see Peter in the backyard going through a serious of katas he recognized from when he’d find Peter at the kwoon. He’d wanted to drive to Las Vegas, but not knowing when they would be called in for interviews about the shooting, put the kybosh on that idea. He’d booked their flight for Friday evening figuring they’d get with Nick and Warrick sometime Saturday afternoon then have time to spend with Peter before they flew back on Sunday.
The men decided to get Peter moved in proper after breakfast, but before that Kermit wanted to give Peter some tips for handling his enhanced senses. Peter had given him a familiar smirk while assuring him that Lo Si made sure his advanced students worked diligently with their senses and situational awareness. Lunch dishes were drying in the rack when a call from Captain Blaisdell with the times for their interviews led to a conversation about official reports and keeping Vampires off the radar. It also allowed them to firm up their plans for Vegas.
Peter was feeling sheepish about lying to his friends at the precinct, but Kermit’s solicitous behavior, along with the sling helped sell the fiction that he was recovering from any injury. Kermit’s protective actions earned good-natured teasing from their colleagues. While waiting to be called in for his interview, his new reality finally hit the new Vampire. The bubble he and Kermit had been living in all week began to deflate. His friends … The family that had evolved around him since the destruction of the temple … They would all age and die while he and Kermit would remain unchanging.
Feeling the myriad of emotions coming through his Bond with Peter, Kermit mentally urged his interviewer to wrap things up. This was not a good time for his Mate to have an ‘OH MY GOD EVERYBODY’S GOING TO DIE BUT ME!’ moment. Before he could bully his way out of the conference room, a wave of calm rolled over Kermit. Taking a deep breath himself, he sent a silent thank you to The Ancient for pushing Peter to continue the training he began as a child. He’d have to send the man his weight in his favorite Krispy Kremes for watching over Peter. Able to relax, Kermit finished his recitation with the ease of one used to editing the truth. Twenty minutes later the interview concluded, leaving Kermit to make a beeline for his Mate.
He found Peter exiting another conference room as he entered the bullpen. Before anyone could waylay the men, Captain Blaisdell practically shoved them out the door telling them to check in once a day until Tián went to trial. With their bags sitting under their desks, the men grabbed a cab that had just dropped its fare and headed to the airport for their weekend in Las Vegas.
Watching the fascination on his Mate’s face, Kermit made himself a promise to do his best to keep putting that expression on Peter’s face. He nearly laughed out loud when the cab stopped in front of Caesar’s Palace Hotel.
“Kermit, can we afford this?”
“Of course. I’ve made some excellent investments,” he gave Peter a wink, “along with our Clan discount, it may be the only time the odds aren’t stacked in favor of the house.” He teased as he led the way to the check-in desk. He stopped when he found the name tag reading Charlie. “Reservation for Griffin.”
“I have you right here, Mr. Griffin. Suite for two. You’re on the 14th floor right below the penthouse.” Charlie gave Kermit and Peter a wink. “This message was left for you.” He handed Kermit an envelope along with their keycards. “Let me get the attendant to help with your bags.”
Since no one seemed to be concerned with Peter’s murmured objections, he nearly punched his Mate when the man grabbed his hand, startling him out of his grumbling. Noticing the feelings of amusement rolling across their Bond.
“I see there are a few items we need to cover in this brand new relationship of ours.” Peter glared at the dark glasses still covering Kermit’s eyes.
“Does this mean the honeymoon’s over?” Kermit teased.
“No, it means I can pull my weight. I’m not some trophy eye candy to stand around while the ‘big boys’ talk.” Peter growled.
Kermit laughed until the elevator doors opened and the porter did his best to leave the two crazy people behind as quickly as he could.
While Peter poked around the suite and unpacked his luggage, Kermit opened the envelope left for them.
“Nick invited us to dinner in their penthouse Saturday evening.”
“Is that when we’ll do the swearing loyalty thing?” Peter headed to the mini-bar and pulled out a couple of beers.
“If you want, but I’d like to hear what all Nick and Warrick have to tell us before we make any decisions.” He tapped his bottled against Peter’s.
“He is your Clan Leader, right?”
“Yeah, but I’ve only been on the fringes of the Clan the past few years, so I’d like to catch up on what’s been happening.” Kermit paused. He didn’t want to influence Peter’s decision to swear to Sylum, but as a cop, he knew Peter would want any and all information. “I don’t want to tell you what to do, but I have to tell you Nick and I don’t have the best relationship.”
“Sounds like there’s a story there.”
“Yeah.” He scrubbed his hand through his hair. “I was a detective in Dallas when Nico joined the force as Nick Stokes. My family had been Chosen Ones for years, so it was my job to be there if something happened to Nick or something needed a mundane explanation. There was this case … A murder investigation that led to a cartel bringing drugs through Mexico from Brazil. He wanted me to back off. I thought I knew better and kept pushing until I woke up dead. Turns out the drug cartel were Rogue vampires, and I offered myself up like a lamb to slaughter.”
“Why did they turn you instead of just killing you? I mean … I’m happy they did …” Peter stuttered.
Kermit shrugged as he got up to get stare out the window at the lights of Las Vegas. “Maybe they wanted to rub it in Nick’s face that they were operating in his territory. There was nothing left but ash when the Clan’s Hunters cleared the warehouse where I was Turned.”
“Soooo, you have an adversarial relationship because of an I told you so moment?”
A blush climbed Kermit’s neck at Peter’s question. “I got over being humiliated. I stayed in Dallas until Nick moved to Vegas. I ended up in San Fran with you as a partner. I called Nick when I realized you were my Mate. I think he laughed at me for a week over that, but then he got pissed when I drug my feet about telling you. It can drive a Vampire over the edge if we lose them before Bonding. We had some very loud conversation over that topic.”
“Didn’t you want me to be your Mate?” The insecure child raised in the foster care system peeked out of the confident young police detective.
“NO!” Kermit sat on the coffee table, so he was facing Peter. “Never that. It was my own insecurities. You were on a serial dating spree the first six months I was in town, and then you, pardon the pun, became a monk. I didn’t know if you’d even be receptive to me, to the Vampire thing …”
“I was attracted to you, but I know what can happen to cops that color outside the lines, even in San Francisco, so I felt like I needed to enhance my reputation. I finally realized what I was doing. I talked with Lo Si about what I felt, which is something I never want to do again anytime soon, and I stopped using other people to try to fill the empty place.”
“Aren’t we a pair of idiots.”
“That was Lo Si’s opinion, too, but back to you and Nick.”
“I don’t know. Maybe there’s something where we knew each other in a past life. Some of us can access memories from past lives, but I’m not one of them. Nick and I do fine for a while, but after a while, we start to rub each other wrong. Like when he told me to back off my investigation into the drug cartel but didn’t tell me why. He keeps his information too close to the vest and it pisses me off. I can’t do my job if I don’t have all the information. I’m really bad at need to know, which ultimately leads to words that leads to yelling.” Kermit’s chuckle was on the dark side.
“So, you think I should hold off on the whole swearing thing until we can get to New Orleans?”
“We need to see how this Triad business shakes out. If Tián makes it out alive, you and I know he won’t talk. He may take himself out for his failure to complete his mission.”
“Technically, he didn’t fail. They didn’t know you were my ace in the hole.” Peter pulled Kermit off the coffee table into his lap, for a deep, wet kiss.
Several hours later, the Mates visited one of the hotel’s nightclub for a nightcap. Watching Peter on the ‘hunt’ was such a turn-on to Kermit, he was soon dragging Peter back to their suite.
“Please tell me you aren’t going to spend the evening baiting Kermit.” Green eyes met brown across the desk where the two men were demolishing piles of paperwork involved in the running of their Clan.
“I don’t set out to piss the man off, but he just keeps pushing.”
Warrick rolled his eyes. “He spent a good part of his life as an information/IT guy for the black ops teams before he became a cop. It makes you just as mad when he won’t let you play your little information games. Personally, I don’t blame him. Not giving him the information he needed got him Turned without Consent. Those Rogues figured we’d be so busy with a starving baby Vampire we wouldn’t notice them going out the back door.”
“It’s not my fault he didn’t drop the investigation.” Nico pouted.
“Are you even listening to yourself? A detective following leads on drugs running through his city is not going to stop because you say so. You could have told him they were Rogues and the Clan’s Hunters were on the job.”
“He was Chosen and Human. He should have done as he was told!” Nico slammed his pen down on the desk. He still felt guilty about Dallas. He’d added a few goodies to his altars in thanks that the Rogues had Turned Kermit instead of killing him and leaving the body for the Jimmy and Noah to find.
“Like that works with people like Kermit. Army. CIA Black ops. Detective. Does that sound like someone that just sits down when they’re told to drop a case with little to no information?”
“He should be over it now that he’s got his Mate. I was looking over Peter Caine’s background check. With training, they’d make a good hunting pair. Caine would temper Kermit’s impulsiveness.”
“You obviously didn’t read the same file I did.” Warrick gave his Mate a gimlet stare. “Caine’s jumped first and asked questions later for most of his career. The fact that it’s worked out more times than not gives him the devil’s own luck.” He muttered.
“Think we should train them as Hunters?”
“I think we’d be fools not to. Caine trained in a Shaolin temple until he was 12. According to people in Chinatown, he spends a lot of time with an old man that teaches kung fu and gives the neighborhood kids a place to hang out. They might be better left where they are. We don’t have a lot of resources in San Francisco.” A wicked light filled green eyes. “I wonder if he’s any relation to Horatio?”
“I think it is.” He picked up his phone. “Think I’ll have Gabriel shake the Caine family tree … See what falls out.” He hit the speed dial for the Clan’s Lead Hunter.
“You can sleep on the couch.”
Warrick’s smile wouldn’t be out of place on a shark. He knew his chances of being relegated to the couch were slim to none. “What time are we expecting our guests?”
Ringing the doorbell on the penthouse, Peter smirked as he watched Kermit fidget with his glasses and cuffs.
“Shouldn’t I be the one that’s nervous?”
“Brat.” Kermit chuckled, finally relaxing. It was Nick and Warrick. No reason to be nervous. Right?
Inviting the laughing men into the penthouse, Nick’s tone was dry as the Sahara. “Do I want to know? By the way, welcome to our humble abode.”
“It’s been some years since we’ve been face to face, so …” A light blush stained his cheeks as he shrugged away his nervousness. “Anyway, this is Inspector Peter Caine, baby Vampire, and Mate. Peter meet our Clan Leaders General Nicolaus Valerius Meridius aka CSI Nick Stokes and Pirate Captain Warrick Calhoun aka CSI Warrick Brown.”
“Pleasure.” Peter shook hands with both men as Nick herded them to the couches in the living area.
“Drink?” Warrick offered as he moved toward the bar to fill everyone’s order.
“You’re Clan, Kermit. There’s never any reason to be nervous unless there is.” He smirked at Kermit before turning his attention to Peter. “I’m sure Kermit’s given you the Vampire primer, so we’ll need to see about you getting training with a sword and making some decisions about what kind of role you would like to have in the Clan.”
The two leaders gave Kermit a questioning look. “I had to leave something for you to teach him. We were busy with Mate things.” Kermit leered.
“You can swear loyalty to the Clan, continue your lives in San Francisco while keeping your ear to the ground for any information that would advantageous to the Clan. At some point, you move on to your next life before people begin to question why you’re not aging.” Nick paused to take a drink of his beer.
“You can train as a Hunter for the Clan. If a situation with Rogues comes up, we’ll send you out to take care of it.” Warrick added. “Or if a situation comes up where we need to move you to keep you off the radar, we can move you to another Clan until the situation is resolved.”
“I’m already trained with a sword.” Peter shrugged. Silence greeted his announcement. “I was getting bored, so Lo Si put me in weapons training. I’m having some trouble with the chains, but I’m fairly proficient with most bladed weapons.”
“Sounds like something you could use, Kermit.” Nick arched an eyebrow.
“I am a bit rusty.”
Their conversation was interrupted by the arrival of dinner. Topics were kept on the light side as the Clan Leaders told them about the happenings in the Clan.
“Speed finally found his Laird?” Kermit grinned at Nick.
“Yeah. I expect my kids to have their Mates before Christmas.” Nick sounded like a proud father.
“Congratulations?” Peter added feeling like a fifth wheel as the three men talked about people he didn’t know.
“Don’t worry, you’ll meet everyone when you visit the Manor.” Nick assured him.
“After hearing the stories, I’m not sure that’s a good thing.” Peter chuckled.
“I promise, we have members who are normal.” Warrick assured him. “They tend to live away from the Manor.”
“If anyone knows about living with a cast of characters, it’s me.” Peter assured them. “The temple had its share of colorful characters, including my father.”
“Where is your father?” Warrick’s question caused Kermit and Nick to turn their attention to their Mates.
“We were reunited a few years ago when he came to San Francisco following rumors about my mother. He stayed until he got word the woman thought to be my mother had moved on from California and was working on an archaeological dig in the Yucatan. If they were Vampires, I would say they were Mates. Their whole world consisted of two. Don’t get me wrong, they included me, but after her supposed death, father took up permanent residence at the Shaolin temple where he had been treating her illness. It was several years before my father returned to himself, but there is always this aura of grief around him.”
“Sorry, man.” Warrick offered comfort with a light touch to his arm.
Peter gave a shrug. “It was just how it was. Part of him died with her. I hope she really is alive. I’m not sure how I feel about a woman who would abandon her husband and child, and never try to find them again. I’ll cross that bridge if he ever brings her through the door. Maybe they’ll drop by San Francisco when they stop running from whatever happened in China.”
“Seems like pissing off warlords and Triads is a family tradition.” Nico teased wanting to lift the mood.
“Apparently it’s a talent passed down through the Caine line.” Kermit joined in teasing his Mate.
“It’s been a great evening, but you two are here for a reason. Is swearing loyalty to Sylum something you want, or would you prefer to look into becoming part of a different Clan?”
“Since I only know the Clans through Kermit’s experience, I don’t mind swearing to Sylum for now.”
“What do you mean for now?” Kermit looked alarmed.
“Just a feeling this isn’t our final stop.” Peter soothed as he knelt to swear loyalty to Nicolaus Meridius and Sylum Clan.
Since their flight left McCarran at 6 am, Peter and Kermit took their leave of Nico and Warrick, and as they made their goodnights, it with a promise to visit New Orleans at the earliest possibility. After landing in San Francisco and taking a cab to Kermit’s, they grabbed a couple more hours of sleep before facing whatever comes next.
Black eyes narrowed as they scrutinized the two men sitting across from him. One man was a friend of only a few years, and the other he had known since his birth. Cursing Kwai Chang Caine for leaving him to continue the education of his son while he chased after the ghost of his supposedly dead wife. Though Peter was his grandson, he should be enjoying his old age with people catering to his Ancient status while he enjoyed his soap operas. Instead, he was meddling in matters better left to young people, and once again being called on as a Chosen One.
“What has happened that you are now an Immortal?”
“I was shot by the man who was my backup when we raided a Triad warehouse.”
“He worked for the Triad?”
“Yes, Kermit found me right before I crossed over. Not only did he Turn me, but he’s also my Mate.”
“I see.” The Ancient really did ‘see’. Since Peter had introduced him to his new partner, he had seen a connection between the two men. “Then I am forever in his debt for I would not wish to not have you in my life.”
Peter ducked his head to hide his flush. He’d developed familial feelings for the elder priest during their time as student and mentor. Lo Si always seemed to be there when Peter needed someone. “After meeting with the Clan’s Leaders, I was encouraged to take sword training since the only way to kill an Imm … Vampire is by beheading.”
“Then we will see to your training.” He gave Kermit a calculating look. “I assume your Mate will be joining you in your training?”
“Of course, he will. He said he was rusty.” Peter gave Kermit a wide grin.
“I suggest you move into the third floor. You will need to be close at hand to train after you get off work.”
“But …” Kermit sputtered. “I have a place …”
“Which is fine, but until you have become proficient once more, I will not have Peter not have proper back-up, which means you will be here.” Lo Si scolded.
“Fine. We’ll move into the third floor during training.” Kermit surrendered. “Can we check it out to see what we need to move in to make it habitable?”
“Of course. The door is not locked. Peter knows the way.”
After feeling like he passed through a labyrinth of stairs and hallways, Kermit followed Peter through a door into an open space that could be utilized in many ways with the only walls being around what Kermit assumed was a bedroom and bath. The living area was simply furnished, and peeking in the bedroom, it looked like all they would need was their clothes, a few more items to round out the kitchen, and linens. Seeing cable and Internet connections, caused Kermit to relax, though it was no secret Lo Si loved to watch ‘his shows’.
“Looks like if we use both our cars, we can do everything in one trip.” Kermit grumbled as he continued to poke around the loft.
“As soon as Lo Si finds out we’re off all week, he’ll throw us in the deep in, so we better get moved in today.” Peter chuckled at Kermit’s grimace.
“Oh yeah.” They started back down the steps.
That set the pattern for the days to come. Until they returned to work, The Ancient put the two Vampires through their paces. By the time Peter was ‘recovered’ from his gunshot wound, they had decided to stay in Chinatown on workdays, and spend their days off at Kermit’s house in Oakland. They also heard Officer Jerry Tián was out on bail set so high there was no way he had made it without help from his Triad employer. Word through Kermit’s contacts was the man had left the country.
Lying spread eagle on the hardwood floor, Kermit wondered why he was panting hard since he really didn’t need to breathe. When his focus returned to the world outside of muscles screaming with exhaustion and sweat, he saw hazel eyes dancing with humor and love and the handsome face of his Mate smiling down at him.
“Ready to go again?”
“I thought a younger Mate might be the death of me, but this is not how I imagined it.” Kermit complained as he pushed himself off the floor.
“Oh. What did you imagine?” Peter leered as he backed away from Kermit.
He’d learned how sneaky the former mercenary was when they were sparring. Years of structured teaching in the temple and under Lo Si’s watchful eye lulled him into a false sense of security, but the free form sparring with Kermit had jarred him out of his complacency.
“I’ll show as soon as I crawl up the stairs.”
“You should run with me in the morning. Build up your endurance.”
“I’ll show you endurance.” Kermit growled as he lunged toward his opponent.
~ After the Battle of Hamunaptra 2006 ~
He looked around the loft making sure everything was set for their three week absence. Their bags were by the door ready for their morning departure. Peter was downstairs speaking with twins that somehow ended up running the kwoon, Lo Si, and their lives so smoothly they hadn’t noticed until they were explaining to the young women the duties of Chosen Ones.
Daiyu and Meihui Kato had been living on the fringes of the Chinatown community when Peter and Kermit had literally tripped over them on one of their evening runs. Their parents had been killed in an accident, and due to having recently turned 18, and their mixed Japanese/Chinese heritage, they had been shunned by both communities. This meant the twins had fallen through the cracks in the system while waiting for the probate of their parents’ wills. They had brought the young women back to kwoon where they had converted the third floor into a hostel for youngsters needing shelter.
In no time, Lo Si had taken Daiyu and Meihui into his home where they were treated as beloved granddaughters. Trailing behind The Ancient each day, they were soon submerged in the day to day running of kwoon while things settled with their parents’ estate. Kermit found living in a household full of people speaking Japanese and Chinese had increased both his and Peter’s fluency and seemed to make the residents of Chinatown believe Peter was the ancient Shaolin priest’s protégé. After two years of being corralled into Lo Si’s stillroom, he very well could be. The thought of his Mate as an apothecary Shaolin cop brought a smile to his face as he set a kettle to boil. Peter’s last class would soon be over, and he always liked to wind down before heading to bed.
Knowing Lo Si would be well cared for made their decision to go to New Orleans during their vacation much easier. Every time they had made such a plan during the past two years, there was always some disaster in the making at the Manor that had Nico telling them, ‘Now’s not a good time.’ When Kermit had called three weeks ago, Thomas had informed him that things were in a holiday lull, so now would be a good time to visit.
Hearing the door open and close, Kermit poured boiling water over the herbs in the teapot and carried them to the coffee table.
“Bless you, Kermit. Is it the full moon or something in the air? Everyone acted like they were holding live wires all evening.” He pulled his Mate in for an unhurried kiss before pouring two cups of tea.
“Maybe you were telegraphing your excitement over going on vacation.” Kermit teased.
“For two years I’ve been hearing about this marvelous Manor nearly covering the state of Louisiana. Of course, I’m excited.” Peter rolled his eyes.
“Welllll … Maybe not the whole state. But it’s everything you ever imagined an antebellum plantation being.”
“Maybe I should practice my Rhett Butler impersonation.”
“No need.” Kermit laughed. “They’re a bunch of pirates. Sylum has some of the most diverse, talented, crazy people you’d ever want to meet. Right in the middle of all the crazy is an island of calm known as Thomas Efford, Chief of Staff.”
“Sounds like fun.” Peter set his empty cup back on the tray. “I’m heading for the shower then bed. We’ve got a long day tomorrow of doing nothing.”
“There’s a novel concept … Doing nothing.” Kermit chuckled as he cleaned up the tea set while Peter showered. Though he was a night owl, bed sounded good since it contained a freshly showered Peter.
They got lucky on their early morning flight with it only being half full. Kermit looked up from the novel he’d been wanting to read for the last six months to see Peter reading a book on Chinese herbal medicine. With Vampire healing, there was little chance he could take the rite of passage into the Shaolin priesthood, but The Ancient was determined Peter would have the education. Kermit had questioned the elder priest about his desire to see Peter finish the training he began in the temple, a sly look entered black eyes. “There has always been someone from the line of Kwai Chang Caine to carry on the traditions of the Shaolin,” was the only answer Lo Si would give. With a sappy smile of someone in love on his face, Kermit pushed his glasses up his nose and became lost in the adventure of his novel.
Peter smiled as he watched his Mate out of the corner of his eye. It was good to see Kermit relaxing, the lines of strain from the past six months disappearing the further they got from San Francisco.
Six months after they Bonded and moved into the loft above the kwoon, a new player had started working his way through the Chinatown power structure. Using the tried and true formula, Bon Bon Hai spread money around the community and made extravagant promises to attract young people to his organization. Soon stories of drugs, prostitution, and violence began to filter into the kwoon. If Paul Blaisdell had still been their Captain, it would have been a simple matter of passing along their concerns to get an investigation started, but Paul had retired soon after Peter’s Turning. Their new Captain, Karen Simms, was more of a stickler for rules and regulations. It had taken them a month before they had collected enough information for her to authorize them to investigate the organization, Bon Bon Hai called the Sing Wah.
It was frustrating for the detectives that less than six months after they had gotten the crime lord Tan and his Triad minions out of Chinatown, Bon Bon Hai had moved into the void. It had taken 18 months of undercover work, murders of those lost souls that fell off anyone’s radar, and the scourge of drugs that broke hearts and lives before the Sing Wah had packed their tents and disappeared behind the regimes of Southeast Asia. He and Kermit both had been in danger of losing their lives during the investigation, their only saving grace was Lo Si’s training and Vampire constitutions.
Checking on where Kermit’s attention was directed, and seeing him engrossed in his book, Peter closed his eyes as memories moved across his mind’s eye. The shock he’d felt when he saw Xia Tan standing at Bon Bon Hai’s right hand had nearly cost him and Kermit their heads when they discovered a few members of the Sing Wah were Rogue Vampires, including Xia. Looking for revenge for her father’s fall from power, and subsequent death, she had come back looking for revenge on the men she felt were responsible. Though he felt no joy at the taking of her head, Peter couldn’t help the sneer he gave Bon Bon Hai as they watched the clouds of ash that were once his enforcers cover the carpet of his plush office. It was soon after the Sing Wah disappeared where even Kermit and his amazing computers couldn’t track them. The only lead they had been left with was a name … General Chang. Considering how many Changs were in Asia, it wasn’t much of lead.
He had a fleeting thought that perhaps someone in the Clans would know the name, but he felt it was a proverbial needle in a haystack, so let go the worry. Surreptitiously checking on Kermit, he returned to the ‘homework’ Lo Si had assigned for Peter while he was on vacation.
While the rental car ate up the miles between Louis Armstrong Airport and Sylum Manor, Peter let go of the tight control on his senses to get a feel for the area. The difference in the feel of the life teeming around New Orleans and as they approached the Manor had him mesmerized. He was brought back to his surroundings when the car stopped in front of a huge set of gates. Punching in the code, Nico had given them, the drive through the canopy of ancient oaks held him spellbound.
“Kermit, your description of this place sucked.” Peter slapped his Mate on the arm.
“Excuse me for not waxing poetic over horses, oak trees, and alligators.” Kermit chuckled as they pulled up to the front of the house.
Peter was staring wide-eyed at the priceless artifacts, antiques, and holiday decorations as Thomas lead them to their room.
“Master Nicolaus will be in meetings until dinner, which is at six. Make yourselves at home until then. Master Kermit, I trust you remember your way around?” With Kermit’s smile of acknowledgment, Thomas left the men to their own devices.
“So. What do you want to do first?” Kermit teased.
“Go outside where I won’t break anything. It’s like being in a museum. I hope there’s a map. This place is huge.”
“Outside it is.” Kermit opened the doors that lead out onto the veranda, then out into the gardens. “How’s this?”
“Perfect.” Peter kicked off his shoes and started wandering from flower gardens to orchard, then down to the water.
“Pete.” Kermit eyed the water as his hand twitched towards his ever present Desert Eagle, watching for signs of disturbed alligators.
“Relax, Kermit. They don’t mind me visiting.”
Wanting to bang his head on the nearest tree in frustration every time he heard those words from his Mate, he settled on a nearby bench until Peter finished communing with the people eating creatures in the Manor’s waterways.
Dinner was a lively affair with many new faces and several long-time members not seen in New Orleans for decades visiting. There was also an air of things not being said and everyone being very solicitous of the Clan’s top echelon. Weary from the day of traveling and settling in, Kermit and Peter decided to let their curiosity go unsatisfied until another day.
They’d been at the Manor for a week, and Peter was amazed at how relaxed and rested he was feeling. He hadn’t realized how tense and hyper-alert he had been during the Bon Bon Hai investigation. He was meandering through the Manor’s herb garden working on his identification and uses of the various flowers and plants when he heard raised voices coming from the house.
“We could have helped! Isn’t that what swearing a loyalty oath all about? Coming to the defense of the Clan when called. We can’t come if we aren’t called!” Kermit shouted at his Clan Leader.
“You would have less than useless. You have no training.” Nico was trying to be reasonable.
“You dare say that with the experience I have!”
“You aren’t Hunters!”
Peter could believe the man was a nearly 1600-year-old Roman General hearing the tone he used as Kermit questioned him.
“We just took out a group of Rogues working for Bon Bon Hai, who’s a front man for some cat known as General Chang.” Kermit continued to shout not noticing the shock that crossed Nico’s face at the mention of Chang.
“Kermit?” Peter’s soft baritone broke the tension between the two men.
“Pete …?” Kermit blinked like he was trying to clear the fog of anger from his mind.
“This idiot gets himself kidnapped, the Clan goes to war, and nobody thought to call and let me know. All the years I covered your ass in Dallas, and no one could pick up the phone.”
“And like I explained, for the third time, Tony and Speed were in charge. They called the Council and other Clan Leaders then brought in our most experienced Hunters and fighters. They’ve never met you, so how would they know to call you.”
“Oh, so, you don’t give them all the information they need to know if they need to run things if you’re incapacitated. They took baby Vampires that had been Turned for five minutes.” Kermit sneered.
“He’s my son and his Mate is Gabriel’s son! They’ve been hunting Rogues since they were big enough to hold a sword! I tell Tony and Speed what they need to know.” Nico growled.
“I can see how well that worked out for you!” Kermit snapped.
Cold water hit both men in the face putting a quick end to the argument.
“What the …” They sputtered in unison. They turned to see Peter wielding a water hose and smiling at the men.
“Isn’t that what you do to fighting dogs?” He asked innocently. Now, that you’re cooled off, maybe we could talk about this like adults?”
Settling into chairs on the porch to avoid Thomas’ ire for trailing through house dripping water, Nico started into the story of his kidnapping and subsequent battle. Thomas brought the wet men towels and a coffee tray, and Peter kept Kermit in check until Nico could relate the entire story.
“Losing Eric and the others was a blow, but losing Jack and Stephen was almost too much.” Nico finished.
“Is it true what Kermit told me … Souls return?” Peter reached out to lay a comforting hand on Nico’s arm.
“If you keep your head, you’ll eventually see certain souls again. Jack’s been by to visit.”
Peter nodded as if people visiting after they were dead was commonplace. “So, how do we become ‘real’ Hunters. It wouldn’t do for us to continue to be less than useless.” He arched an eyebrow as he gave Nico back his words.
Giving the quietly snarky young man a glare, Nico rubbed a hand over his face. “I can’t spare anyone right now to train you but let me make some phone calls.” He gave the Mates a once over. “It might mean moving.”
“I could do with a change of scenery. I didn’t realize how much I needed to get away until we got here.” Wide hazel eyes turned to Kermit. “You game?”
“Whither thou goest.” Kermit quoted quietly.
~ Six months later ~
Lying on his back allowing the cool earth to absorb the heat from his sore muscles, Peter watched the clouds skipping by. He noticed Shao Jun slipping through the gardens but wasn’t concerned enough by the Assassin’s presence to interrupt his rest. Memories of the past six months flitted along with the everchanging clouds.
Kermit and Nico finally achieved a bit of peace between themselves. Nico finally realized Kermit was a full-fledged Vampire and not the young Chosen One, he knew in Dallas. The Clan Leader had found them a place with the Shogun Clan with a warning from Tony not to let appearances fool them when they were introduced to their teachers.
Excited about the adventure they were about to embark upon when they returned to San Francisco, they were shocked to the soles of their shoes when they saw Lo Si packing his belongings and stillroom. He informed Peter he would be returning to Japan to live out his golden years with his family.
“Family? But …” Peter gathered his emotions and tried to be happy that Lo Si had a family that would care for him. “Tell us where you’re going so we can visit.”
Seeing Peter’s distress, Lo Si led him to the couch and encouraged him to sit. “Come young Peter. Join me while I take a rest from my packing.” Handing Peter a cup of tea, he busied himself fixing another.
“There used to be a priest at the temple,” Peter stopped to search his memory, “He called me young Peter. Come to think of it, you look a lot like him. His name is just right there … Ping Something … Ping Hi.”
The Ancient chuckled in his teacup. “Once upon a time when I was much younger, I used that name when I worked collecting information for a great warrior who was the last of his kind.”
“You’re not really a Shaolin priest and Shamballa Master?”
“I am those things, but I am also other things.” Here Lo Si bowed his head sending a prayer to the Gods Peter would not turn him away. “Many years ago I, too, had a family. A beautiful wife and daughter, whom I loved with all I am. Like you and your father, we lived at the local temple and were very happy. One day a handsome young Shaolin priest came to the temple looking for information on several artifacts that were part of the temple’s history. He found his information, but he also began to court my daughter, Su-Lin.
“Wait. I remember Pop talking about Matthew and Su-Lin Caine.”
“Of course. They were his parents … Your grandparents.”
“So, that makes you my maternal grandfather? Why did you never say? I could have stayed with you after the temple was destroyed.”
“I wish it was so simple. I could not stop the work that I was doing to provide sanctuary and a way to leave China during the Cultural Revolution. We rescued many from the re-education camps and got them off the mainland or into Vietnam and Laos. As the war in Vietnam got closer to the time when America pulled out, those routes were no longer safe. By the time I got to America, you were living with Paul Blaisdell. I did not want to uproot from your home.”
“Why wait until now to tell me? Is that why you’ve been teaching me.”
“Because the family with which I wish to spend my golden years will be living in Kagoshima.” He reached out to take Peter’s hand.
“That’s why you didn’t shun the twins for being Chinese and Japanese … Because I’m the same.”
“Yes, and because I did not want to leave this place without a protector, I have called your father from his travels. It is time for him to take up his duties as a Shaolin.”
“You called him? I don’t know much about Pop, but I do know he does not have a cellphone.”
“I used an ancient Shaolin calling method.” Lo Si grinned wide. “He will be here before you leave.”
“Lo Si.” The tone in Peter’s voice lessened the old man’s smile. “You’ve been a big part of my life since I moved to Chinatown, and I care about you a great deal, but this grandfather thing may take a while. I’m not sure how I feel about you keeping a secret this big unless it was because you didn’t want me around. What about my mother? Is she really dead or was her ‘death’ a fabrication.”
“Never, never think that young Caine. Since I first held you in my arms you have had a large piece of my heart. After Mao’s forces killed my wife and then the Sing Wah killed my Su-Lin, my heart was a very small thing that did not regain its vigor until I found you again. When we were at the temple, I did not wish for there to be competition with your father for your affection. As to your mother, she was quite ill. I helped your father brew the medicines for her treatment. If she truly died, I do not know. Kwai Chang Caine was very secretive when it came to her. I cannot believe that he would search all these years if there were not some chance, she was alive.”
“One day at a time?” Peter gripped the gnarled hands.
Several weeks after Kermit put his house on the market, he was banking a check for its sale. Their money was already in a bank that would allow them to operate internationally with little hassle, so he could concentrate on getting everything packed and shipped to Kagoshima. When Peter returned from visiting with The Ancient, he was pale, quiet, and withdrawn. Kermit had felt a myriad of emotions through their Bond, but it wasn’t until after Peter had pinned him to the bed and Claimed him with a furiousness that spoke of frustration and anger. When their bodies had settled into pleasant exhaustion, Peter cuddled against his chest and told him about his grandfather.
It was their last full day before they were due to fly to Kagoshima. They enjoyed breakfast at their favorite diner before taking one last walk through the neighborhood. Lo Si had flown out to Kagoshima yesterday afternoon. A quick phone call this morning informed them that he had arrived safely. They were going to spend the day around the kwoon helping Daiyun and Meihui until time to go to the airport. That plan came to an abrupt halt when they noticed the door open to the upper floor. Vampire reflexes trained to the top levels of kung fu had them gliding quietly up the steps to The Ancient’s loft. Peeking around the corner, Peter recognized the slouch hat and leather bag slung across the man’s chest.
“Pop! You missed Lo Si by a day, but he said you were welcome to use his loft.” He said while pulling Kermit through the door with him.
“Caine.” Kermit was succinct as he stepped back, so he’s not in their personal space.
“It is good to see you, Kermit … Peter.”
Before any more could be said a willowy red-head came out of the bathroom. “Kwai, I thought you said …” She trailed off when she saw Peter and Kermit.
“Pop?” Peter’s voice sounded choked.
“Pop?” The red-head asked. “Kwai, is this Peter?” Brown eyes went wide as she gave the young man a once over.
“Yes. This is our son, Peter. He is a detective with the 101st precinct. This is his partner, Kermit Griffin, also a detective.” Caine reached for her to pull her close. “Peter this is your mother, Laura Caine.”
For all that Lo Si had taught him over the years, this was the final straw that caused his camel to crash and burn.
“We’re leaving for Japan tomorrow for God knows how long, and you come here with this. What? You all just decided that having a kid was too much of a distraction from this great romance you got going so everyone pretends to be dead and we throw the kid in the deep end and see if he survives.” Peter ran his hands through his hair while pacing through the loft.
“Peter, no!” His mother cried.
Peter cut them both off. “No. Just no. At least Pop was around until I was 12, but you … You just what? Flaked out. Got tired of not being able to chase that next best thing because you had a husband and kid weighing you down? We’re not even going to talk about all the foster homes I’ve been through.” Peter’s voice rose with a hint of hysteria.
“Pete.” Kermit stepped into his Mate’s path.
“Get me out of here, Kermit. I can’t deal with this right now.”
Pushing him out the door, Kermit glared at the Caines when they made a move to stop them. He got Peter to their loft, then ran down to the break room in the kwoon and made a pot of tea. He plied Peter with a hot and sweet cup of tea until the color returned to his face and his eyes lost their glazed look. Then he got him stripped down and into bed. Peter pulled him down into a deep kiss.
“You’re my tranquility in a world of chaos.” He whispered against his Mate’s lips.
Kermit woke him when it was time to get ready for the airport. He grabbed a quick shower before packing their final few things. He had no desire to talk to his parents, so they spent the time waiting for the cab in the kwoon with the twins. Kwai Chang Caine must have heard the cab when the driver hit the horn. Peter saw him at the door, but the cab was pulling away before his father made it out the door.
Peter was pulled out of his thoughts by Lo Si. “Did Sifu send you to find his favorite punching bag?” Peter stood and greeted his grandfather.
“He did not.” Lo Si chuckled. “It is a good thing that he keeps you humble. I came to find you because Sanada wishes a word.”
“Lead on, Grandfather.”
This was his new life. Tranquility among the chaos.
~ Finis ~
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