On 'Til Morning

Peter stood at his window, drapes pulled wide and no lights burning behind him. Behind the glass he heard the traffic below, disparate engines and horns melding into one thick blanket of fog. Why he had stepped inside he didn't know -- he could be outside letting that noise and confusion and fog lift him and hide his spirit from questions that threatened his balance.

Why did he stand here protected from the noise so the voices could speak into silence? He wanted to let the drapes fall, step away, and find something else to occupy his mind. Turn on a game, read a book, practise his father's forms, even clean the bathroom. Anything to remove the whisper of doubts and anguish. He couldn't bring himself to move. He stared at the world beyond the glass and wondered where he was.

Later that night he woke up, sat up in bed and stared at the blackness. His eyes adjusted quickly and he saw shadows, meaningless jumbles of the objects of his room. For a moment he considered lying down and trying to return to sleep; aware it would not help he instead stood up and walked away from the bed. He felt the night greet him, wrapping itself around his body like welcoming an old friend. He grimaced at himself -- entirely too many nights spent wide awake in morose thought if he was thinking such things.

It wouldn't be so bad, he thought suddenly, if his father were in town. By now the elder Caine would have appeared on the doorstep with an offer to make tea and conversation. Somehow his father could ask a single question which made Peter rail against him and in that very railing find the answer he sought. He suspected, late at night when he was alone in the dark, that his father knew and did it that way deliberately. It would have felt better if his father simply came out and said it, offered support and a bit of straightforward advice. Paul had always done it that way.... but Peter knew, at least in the middle of the night, that he had never been so angry at Paul that the man had to fight his way inside his son's mind.

What would either man say, if given the chance? Heading for a shower, Peter tried not to ask that question. The demons in his head screamed loudly enough as it was, he didn't need to add the voices of his two fathers to the mix. He'd always been successful at not asking himself 'what would *he* do, what would *he* say'. Tonight, however, he wanted to know. Wanted to know what one man would do or say were he here, listening, watching, waiting.

Peter slammed his fist against the tile wall of the bathroom. It would not happen. It would never happen, and there was no point in asking himself what it might be like if it did. Viciously turning on the cold water, Peter stepped into the shower and attempted to drown out his invading thoughts. Think about that beautiful lady who smiled at you today, or was it the day before? Blonde hair and green eyes... No, they'd been brown. Peter frowned as the image of the woman's face dissolved, spinning into fragments. As he tried to forced them to reform he saw instead the face he did not want to see. Gray sprinkled hair, hidden brown eyes, even farther hidden warm smile. Peter closed his eyes tightly and heard a soft moan.

Why did it always haunt him at night, when all he wanted was sleep and forgetting? How could he get through his days if his nights were filled with these tortured dreams? He tilted his head back, letting the water spray over him but the cold water was like fingers tracing patterns on his skin and he shivered. He shut the water off and reached for a towel. None of this was helping. It never had; Peter suspected it never would. He went back to the living room and sat on the chair facing the small Shaolin altar he'd built. Meditation hadn't helped. Drinking hadn't, pacing, sleeping, driving, bar hopping, socialising and running away had not helped.

What would Anne say? The question startled him, quiet and insistent. He hadn't asked it before, and he was surprised it had asked itself of him now. What would she say? For a moment his heart beat then he realised she would say nothing more than he had already heard. It would be nice to hear it from her, her hand laying gently on his arm, motherly concern washing over him and making him feel forgiven. She would say what he already worked so hard to avoid saying to himself. He couldn't hear it again. Couldn't bear to hear.

He wanted to push himself out of the chair and go, somewhere, and leave all these thoughts behind. His muscles did not even twitch and he resigned himself to nothing. //How much longer will you put yourself through this, Peter?//

He groaned and leaned forward, letting his head fall in his hands. His father's voice crept in despite his efforts. Stern and knowing as if everything, his father's voice accompanied the frown of a man displeased with foolishness. Harmful foolishness, and the priest would glare at him as if to a devil, asking the man why he did not drive it out of his own soul. Peter didn't want to see it. He knew this torment was only what he created for himself. He knew that a few well placed words and a little step of bravery could vault him out of this and towards the very thing he longed for. If not that, then peace at least.

All he had to do was forgive himself. Then perhaps he could begin to ask for his lover's forgiveness. Peter cried out. Ex-lover. Don't forget that, Peter.

//How could I not?// he asked the darkness as it swallowed him again.