|Title: Coming Home
Fandom: Kung Fu: The Legend Continues
Notes: set after 'Destiny'.
Previously published in a zine
It had been building for a couple of days now, this almost overwhelming desire to go home.
During the months at the temple he'd had a few bouts of 'homesickness' but nothing like this. The need to be home had suddenly become painfully intense, combined as it was with a sense of... urgency. As if something dreadful was going to happen if he didn't get home as soon as possible.
Peter Caine had experienced too much recently to ignore these feelings. He'd hurried ahead to the city, leaving his father and the Ancient to continue their slower journey. Arriving at his apartment he'd been greeted by a veritable flood of mail. He'd sorted through it, but it was mostly junk mail. He'd turned on his answer phone: nothing there to explain the sense of urgency that hadn't abated at all since arriving home.
The precinct. He had to go there.
A rational part of his mind insisted that it was the middle of the night and he hadn't slept in two days. But Peter couldn't shake off the nagging feeling that he'd lose something forever if he didn't get to the precinct as soon as possible. His apartment didn't feel like 'home'. There was nothing here to justify the desperate need that was still pulling at him...
Kermit Griffin printed off his letter of resignation, signed it and placed it in an envelope. He placed the letter on the desk in front of him, took off his trademark green glasses and rubbed his weary eyes. His shift had ended hours ago. But what point was there in going home? There was nothing there. Not that there ever had been. But recently the emptiness had become oppressive. The last time he'd felt so empty was just after Paul had left. But almost without Kermit's knowledge someone had managed to fill that emptiness.
And now he was gone, too.
Like the rest of the precinct, Kermit had been extremely sceptical of Peter's sudden decision to become a Shaolin priest. Peter Caine was one of the best cops Kermit knew. Determined, resourceful, dedicated. Perhaps too reckless but Peter wouldn't be Peter if he played it safe all the time.
Kermit had given Peter a couple of days at most to realise his mistake. But as the days had become weeks and as the weeks had turned into months he had begun to lose hope. Technically, Peter was on indefinite leave of absence. But it was just a matter of time now, Kermit was sure, until Captain Simms announced that Peter wouldn't be coming back. And he didn't want to hear that, didn't want to be here when that happened.
Which was why he was going.
You're just a pathetic, foolish old man, he mocked himself. An old fool hiding his head in the sand. Pretending that if you don't hear it, it ain't so. Running away, that's what you're doing. What would all those old cronies and enemies of yours say if they knew that tough-guy Kermit Griffin was nothing but a coward running away from the truth.
But I am a coward, he admitted to himself, and I'm so tired of pretending to be strong.
Stifling a sigh, Kermit picked up the letter, put on his glasses and stood up. The captain was still in her office. Someone else who didn't have a home life, he thought as he knocked on her door and entered.
Karen Simms looked up from the never-ending pile of paperwork on her desk.
'Kermit, you're working late.'
Kermit gave her a wry grin and she answered it with one of her own.
'What can I do for you?'
Kermit placed the envelope on her desk. She made no move to take it. She knew what was in the letter. Had seen it coming for months.
'Don't do this, Kermit,' she begged, 'Don't give it all up.'
Kermit took off his glasses and put them in his pocket.
'Give all what up? There's nothing left for me here.'
She gave him a intense look, and Kermit shook his head, hearing the words she'd never say. Had things been different there might have been a chance for the two of them. But someone else had managed, all unknowingly, to steal the poor pathetic scraps that passed for Kermit's heart.
'Kermit, I'm not going to open this tonight.'
She reached over and picked up the envelope, thrusting it into Kermit's hand.
'Take it back. Go home. If you feel the same way tomorrow, I'll accept it then.'
Of course he'd feel the same way tomorrow. Just as she would. Nothing had ever been said between them. Nothing had ever needed to be said.
He could almost *see* Karen Simms mentally consign Peter Caine to the darkest pits of hell.
Kermit stared at her.
'I won't be here tomorrow,' he stated flatly.
'Fine. I've had enough. It'd been a gruelling day. I can't face this now.'
She put on her coat and picked up her case.
'Leave it on my desk. I'm going home.'
She walked out, brushing past Blake who'd just come into the squad room, her back ramrod straight, refusing to take one last look at the man behind her.
Peter watched as the captain walked towards him across the parking lot. She appeared to be lost in a world of her own. Not a pleasant one from what Peter could deduce from her expression.
'Ah, Captain. Hi.'
She stopped. Peter watched as her mouth twisted into a sour, almost self-mocking grimace.
'Detective Caine.' She made the title a question. 'Are you back for good or just passing through?'
'Back for good, I guess.'
He hesitated. The feeling of urgency was intensifying but it hardly seemed polite to rush away, especially as he didn't even know what the hurry was all about.
She seemed to sense his confusion and indecision. For a moment she appeared to stare right through him. Then she nodded, as if something had been settled.
'I left him in my office. You'd better hurry, Detective.'
Peter began to move rapidly towards the station, not even bothering to ask her what she was talking about.
Blake was in the squad room with some uniformed guy Peter had never seen before. He looked up as Peter approached, his face breaking out into a smile of welcome. He opened his mouth to call out, then stopped, looking over at the open door of Kermit's office. He licked his lips and stared at the man in front of him uncertainly.
'You back, Peter?'
Peter nodded absently, most of his attention focused on that doorway.
Blake followed his gaze and suddenly grabbed his companion's arm, pulling him out of the door.
'Come on, Rushton, I'll buy you a coffee.'
Peter was barely aware that they'd left. He began to move slowly towards Kermit's office, with as much care as if the floor in front of him was covered in rice paper.
As soon as Kermit got back to his office he realised that he still had the letter of resignation in his hand. For a moment he considered ripping it into pieces, turning up tomorrow and taking Simms up on her unspoken offer... But only for a moment. The truth would always be there between them, and she deserved more, much more than he could ever give her.
He stood straight, pulling back his shoulders in unconscious imitation of his captain's earlier action. He took a deep breath that sounded perilously close to a sob.
'Time to go, Kermit,' he whispered. 'Time to move on.'
Peter heard the whispered comments and found himself holding his breath. He closed his eyes. The feeling of 'home' was here. The urgency was fading, being replaced with a sense of... rightness, of belonging.
He knew he hadn't made a sound but Kermit suddenly stiffened and whirled around.
For a moment Peter saw Kermit's face without its habitual mask. He saw the older man's expression of recognition, joy, hope, desire.
It was gone in an instant but Peter know what he'd seen. Mentally, he embraced it all. Once he might have denied it, been repelled, hidden in the shadows. But he had been through fire and knew himself better than he'd ever done before. He took a step towards Kermit, realising that he was completing something that had begun a long time ago.
'Hi, honey, I'm home,' he drawled.
Kermit was still staring at him.
'Didya miss me?' Peter could hear the caress in his own voice.
Kermit blinked. His mouth opened, then closed.
Whadya know, Peter thought absently, I've finally seen Kermit speechless.
He continued to gaze into the eyes of the older man, moving closer and closer.
'Well?' he asked.
Kermit blinked again and swallowed convulsively. His face held an expression of growing awareness warring with disbelief and hope.
'Huh?' he managed.
Peter's smile broadened. He reached out one finger, a finger capable of killing a man if he wished, and stroked Kermit's face.
'I said...' he drawled, with an exaggerated patience somewhat marred by a bubbling feeling of euphoria, '... did you miss me?'
Kermit's pupils were widely dilated. Peter watched as the frozen look feel from his friend's face to be replaced by a smile that rivalled Peter's own.
Then Kermit screwed up the envelope he was holding and threw it in the vague direction of the waste bin.
'Oh, yeah,' he breathed.