I tried to load this all in one entry but livejournal wouldn't let me so let's see if I can get the rest of it here.
TITLE: The Prodigal
GENRE: Slash Romance/Angst
SUMMARY: After Jump, Push, Fall someone returns to Boston.
DISCLAIMER: I don’t own any of the characters on Crossing Jordan or the show itself.
A/N: The events in this fic parallel ‘There’s No Place Like Home 2' and are seen through the eyes of a cast member who I wish had been there. The pairing occurred to me after I accepted this challenge and now I want to write more of it. I don’t think anyone has ever written a fic with this pairing before and I hope you enjoy it.
QUOTE- Age is opportunity no less,
Than youth itself, though in another dress,
And as the evening twilight fades away,
The sky is filled with stars, invisible by day.
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
**Warning** - This fic depicts a male/male relationship. If this sort of thing offends you then please do not read past the cutline. There is an uncut version of this with lots of smut, which will be posted on adult fanfiction at http://www.adultfanfiction.net/aff/
Peter left Garret a note by the bed and took the ‘T’ to the morgue building. As he stepped off the elevator and looked around he didn’t see a single familiar face and the atmosphere was strange. The morgue looked the same, but the feel was all wrong. The air was thick with tension and there were no smiles. The woman at the reception desk looked like she should be teaching high school Algebra and needed a plastic surgeon to remove the scowl on her face.
“May I help you?” She said as though she’d rather give him detention for daring to enter her domain.
“Where’s Emmy?” he blurted out without thinking.
“Dr. Slokum’s secretary is at her desk.” The woman spoke as though to a mentally challenged child. “Personal visitors are not allowed. If you have professional business, you must sign in and wear a visitor’s badge.”
Peter stood a little straighter and answered. “Dr. Winslow to see Miss Lebowski, please.”
At the title, doctor, the old dragon, became marginally more helpful. “I am sorry, Dr. Winslow, Miss Lebowski is at lunch at the moment, but I’ll be glad to ring her cell phone for you.”
“Not necessary, Ma’am. If you could tell me where I might find her?” Peter decided to turn on the charm and flashed a boyish grin at the old battleaxe.
“I’m not certain, doctor.” Her manner thawed a bit more and she returned his smile. “I’ll call Emmy up front, she’ll probably know.”
Peter wandered over to the windows near the elevator, wondering what precisely this jerk Slokum had done. According to Garret, he’d only been there a week and already the relaxed, family feel to the place was gone, it was sterile and cold now. Even when Peter had been on the outside of the family, he’d felt the warmth of the place. Now it felt like just a place to work.
If he couldn’t track Lily down, he’d wait out by the entrance and catch her as she came back. He really needed the inside scoop on what had been going on if he was going to help Garret. Not to mention needing her help to get Garret to open up about what he was feeling, Lily understood him better than anyone, including Peter.
“Dr. Winslow?” He turned at the pleased question in the voice behind him to see the diminutive, hyper Emmy, still looking much the same as when he’d left. She walked up almost hesitantly, until Peter stepped forward and engulfed her in a hug.
“Emmy, I thought you finally gave up on the Dr. Winslow bit and decided to call me Peter.” Even though Peter hadn’t known Emmy all that well he was relieved to see a familiar face. He lifted her off the floor as he hugged her.
“Well, I didn’t realize we were running a singles bar.” A cold voice came from behind Peter and he felt Emmy stiffen. Setting her down he turned to face the man he assumed was Jack Slokum.
“Dr. Slokum?” He held out his hand and waited for the man to reciprocate. “I’m Dr. Peter Winslow, San Francisco Medical Examiner’s Office. I used to work here and dropped by to see my old colleagues.”
Slokum looked at Peter’s hand without taking it. “Ah yes, the drug addict who left abruptly. I have read your file, Doctor. Given your reason for leaving, I assume you’re not hoping for your old job back.” Once Peter would have dealt with this kind of asshole by trying to beat the shit out of him, but one of the things he was learning was to not let other people to push his buttons.
Peter looked the man up and down, drawing on the subtle arrogant posture he’d seen his stepfather display when dealing with professional and social ‘inferiors’, which to Thomas Winslow meant anyone not in his ‘circle’. Finally, drawing himself up to his full height, he looked down at the smaller man. “You are an arrogant little wart aren’t you and with a classic example of a Napoleon complex on top of it.”
“Excuse me?” This guy was going to be too easy, Peter thought.
“I can excuse your bad manners, Dr. Slokum, but I’m afraid there is no excuse for your arrogance and poor people skills. Good day, Doctor. ” He turned his back on Slokum and looked at the wide-eyed Emmy. “Lily?” He asked quietly.
Emmy mouthed the word ‘Malone’s’ and Peter punched the down button on the elevator controls. “Bye Emmy.”
“Goodbye Peter.” She waved as he entered the elevator.
Malone’s looked the same as it ever had as Peter entered, looking around for Lily. Spotting her at a table with her back to him, he slipped quietly up behind her and leaned down to whisper in her ear.
“Hello Gorgeous.” She jumped and then turned slowly. Realizing whom it was she leapt up and threw her arms around him.
“Oh, Peter, you’re home!” Lily reached up to kiss him on the cheek but he turned his head and captured her lips bending her backwards as if they were in an old movie.
“Gonna slip me some tongue, sexy?” He jokingly whispered against her lips. She giggled as he lifted her back to her feet, sat across from her and reached out to snag a french fry.
Peter tried to wrap his brain around the change in his friend. This was not his free spirited Lily, dressed so conservatively that she looked like a librarian. “Emmy told me where to find you. Love the new look, by the way, but I thought you dressed for comfort and fun?”
“Not in ‘Dr. Slokum’s morgue’.” Lily sighed with frustration. “So you’ve seen what it’s like now?” She gestured in the direction of the morgue building, visible through the large front window on her right. “God, I hate this Peter. Garret may have deserved a reprimand, but not this. They’ve made him the scapegoat and now Slokum’s determined to turn the place into a ‘model of efficiency’. He’s driving us all crazy.”
“I met the creep when I went by to see if you were there.” Peter rolled his eyes. “Charming personality. He knew who I was and not in a good way. He basically told everyone at the reception desk about why I left. I swear if I’d run up across the asshole before rehab, I’d have... never mind.”
Peter checked his anger at the little jerk and took a deep breath. The last thing he needed to do now was indulge in righteous anger, he had enough to deal with without falling into old patterns and he knew that it would eat him to the bone if he let it. The anger he’d felt at the doctor who’d supplied him and Allison had been his excuse to start using again. He couldn’t afford to go down that path again; he’d fought too hard to get clean the second time around.
“Speaking of new looks, are you going for a beard?” Lily reached over and ran her fingers across his cheek.
“No, just too many double shifts and didn’t take time to shave. I’m getting rid of it this afternoon.” Peter scratched his chin. “It itches and besides, I found a couple of gray hairs in it this morning.”
“Heaven forbid Peter Winslow should look old, huh?” Lily laughed. Peter’s vanity about his looks was something Lily and Garret had both loved to tweak him about.
“Hey, I like to date old guys, not look like one.” God, he’d missed teasing with Lily, her sense of humor was something he really could have used while he was in rehab.
“When did you get back?” She asked grinning at his antics as he grabbed another fry and stole a sip of her drink. “Does Garret know you’re in town?”
“About 3a.m. and I should hope so after sleeping next to me the rest of the night.” He smiled at her then turned serious. “Lily have you seen him?”
“Not since he left the morgue the last time, I went over several times but he wouldn’t answer his door and when I called him from out in the hall, he told me to go home.” Lily said, seeming very defeated by the entire situation. “I’ve never seen him like this Peter, he doesn’t seem to care and I’m pretty sure he was drunk.”
“Very, by the time I got to his place.” Peter agreed. “Look Lily, I came home because, well, I had this dream and I just knew I needed to be here. Garret wasn’t talking much last night, but I got the feeling that he hadn’t seen any of you since he was suspended. I know Jordan is pissed about what happened, but I need to know what the others are thinking.”
“Everyone’s pretty much in a state of shock, I mean first Garret gets suspended, and then Woody gets shot...”
“What?! When was Woody shot? Is he okay?” Peter sputtered, the questions tumbling out almost too fast to understand.
Lily spent several minutes bringing Peter up to speed on the events of the last several weeks. It seemed he’d flown straight into a hornet’s nest of problems not just for Garret, but the rest of the morgue family as well.
He ached for Jordan, who it seemed had finally overcome her issues enough to open up to Woody only to be shut out by the cop; he wondered if she’d be able to handle the Woody situation without running away. Sighing, he turned his attention back to the subject of the staff’s reaction to Garret’s suspension and the speculation as to why he would hide evidence.
“We all know that Garret had his reasons for what he did and I don’t think anyone believes that he knew that it was a murder to begin with, it’s just...” She spread her hands as if to indicate the confusion of the staff at their boss’ behavior
“Well, I know some of what went down with the case the first time around. Did you know that Garret has kept that file in his desk all these years?” Lily shook her head. “He told me about the case once. It’s the reason he was always telling all of us that we had to find out, not just the facts, but also the truth. That our job was very important, that we had to speak for the dead.”
“What are we going to do Peter? He sounded so defeated on the phone.” Lily leaned her cheek on her hand.
“Help him find the fight again, somehow.” Peter answered wondering exactly what way they could accomplish that. “The only problem is how?”
“Jordan.” Lily said. “If we can get Jordan over being pissed at him, she’ll be able to talk some sense into him.”
“Think you can get her to listen?” Peter asked, knowing that Lily was the closest thing Jordan had to a best friend other than Garret.
“I hope so. But how do we explain you back and staying with Garret?”
“I think it’s time that Jordan knew the truth about her ‘bestest girlfriend’, don’t you?” Peter grinned imaging the shocked look on Jordan’s face when she discovered not only that her boss swung both ways, but had been in a serious relationship with Peter. That would be a real ‘Kodak’ moment.
“You’re gonna ‘out’ Garret to Jordan.” Lily sounded astonished.
“Nope, Garret is, he just doesn’t know it yet.” He answered briefly. “Man, wouldn’t I love to be there for that conversation. I think it’s one of the things he needs to do. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that being honest with yourself and those close to you is very important to staying sober and mentally balanced.” Peter picked up another fry and popped it in his mouth. “I don’t want to force him to come out to the world in general, but he needs to tell the people he loves. He doesn’t need anything else tearing at his gut right now.”
Peter knew he still needed to come out to the rest of his family and friends. He’d already started the process by having a long talk with his half-sister Jeannette, whose response had been ‘yeah and?’. He still couldn’t believe that the brat had known for so long, longer than Peter actually, as she’d always questioned his marriage to Allison. He’d told her that he’d wished she’d shared the information with him. It might have saved him some rough shit while he figured himself out.
“Wow, you really did some growing, didn’t you?” Lily took his hand and smiled. “I like this grown up Peter a lot.”
“No more ‘delightfully arrogant trust fund baby’?” He grinned at the memory of the painfully accurate description Nigel had given of him when he thought Peter was out of earshot.
“Nigel is going to be embarrassed that you heard that.” Lily laughed.
“Why? He was absolutely right, I was a rich prick.” Peter admitted. “Silver spoon and the whole nine yards. Thankfully, I’m getting over myself.”
“I have to get back before I’m late. Call me tonight?” Lily rose as Peter got her chair.
“You got it. I’d invite you over for dinner, but I don’t know if Garret will be up for anyone.” Peter said as they walked to the door. “I’ll walk you back.”
“That’s okay. Besides the ‘T’ entrance is in the opposite direction.” Lily hugged him. “Call me later, okay?”
He kissed her cheek. “You betcha, beautiful.”
Peter watched her walk across the street and then turned back toward the ‘T’. He should have just enough time to shop for some food and get back to the apartment before Garret had a chance to get too drunk for them to talk. He’d decided that morning that while he couldn’t make Garret stop drinking so much, he could at least make certain there was more in the house for him to eat than old take out and chips.
Peter let himself in with the key Garret had insisted he take with him to San Francisco and carried the bags of groceries to the kitchen. He went to check on Garret and found him still asleep, wrapped around Peter’s pillow. He walked softly back to the kitchen and turned on the radio. After putting away the things he’d bought, starting dinner and cleaning the apartment, Peter sat down with the book he’d taken from the airplane and occupied himself for a couple of hours.
When he looked up at the sound of the shower running, it was after six and the sun was behind the buildings across the street. He headed to the kitchen, checked on dinner and sat waiting for Garret to make an appearance. He’d brought all the booze into the kitchen so that Garret couldn’t avoid him without forgoing a drink.
“Damn.” He heard the growl of Garret discovering the lack of scotch in the study, soon followed by “Peter!” from the living room.
“Where the hell...” Garret came into the kitchen stopping short when he saw all the bottles lined up on the counter. “What the fuck is going on here?” He grumbled walking across to the counter and grabbing a glass.
“I wanted to be sure I caught you sober today.” Peter moved over to the table. “Dinner will be ready in five.”
“I’m not hungry and when did you turn into a nagging wife?” Garret complained.
“I’m not nagging, I just want you sober tonight, so we can talk,” Peter grinned behind Garret’s back.
“What do you want to talk about?” He asked as he poured a measure of scotch.
“Well let’s start with that.” Peter gestured to the glass in Garret hand. “Why?”
“Peter, I’m not an alcoholic.” Garret stated baldly.
“Did I say you were?” Peter replied. “I just wondered why you were drinking twenty minutes after you got up.”
“Because I feel like it.” He answered.
“Okay, but humor me. Don’t drink tonight.” Peter wondered if he’d be able to make it without a drink. “So what have you been doing since you were suspended?”
“Peter, I haven’t spent all my time drinking. I’ve even been exercising just like you use to nag me to do.”
“I don’t nag.” Peter grinned. “I ‘suggest’.”
Garret poured out the scotch and sat down with a cup of coffee. “Nag.” He smiled at Peter.
“Kettle.” They both laughed.
Peter decided the time was right to talk to Garret about coming out. “I talked to Jeannette last week.” Garret had met Peter’s younger sister while Peter still worked at the morgue.
“How is she, did she get accepted to Columbia Med.?” Garret had written a letter of recommendation for her.
“Yeah, she got in and told me to thank you for the letter.” Peter took a deep breath. “I told her about us.” Garret glared at him. “Garret, don’t you think it’s time to come out of the closet, at least with your friends and family?”
“Peter.” Garret’s tone held a warning to back off the subject.
Peter decided to try the other elephant in the room. “Talk to me about what’s going on. Tell me why you won’t fight for a job you love.”
“Peter, I told you, I’ve got nothing left, nothing. I’m tapped out.”
“Wrong, Garret, you’ve got one thing left.”
“What?” He asked irritably.
“You’ve got me.” Peter turned to the oven and pulled out the dinner. “If you still want me.” He held his breath, afraid of the answer to that question. He felt Garret move up behind him and his hands turned Peter to face him.
“I do, don’t I?” Garret pulled him close as Peter laid his head on Garret’s shoulder.
“Yeah, you do.” He whispered in Garret’s ear. “For as long as you want me. Now are you gonna eat or did I slave over a hot stove for nothing?” He felt Garret begin to laugh, a real, honest, genuine laugh.
“Jesus, I missed you, Peter.” Peter felt Garret’s lips on his cheek, beginning to make their way back toward his ear. “Will it keep?” Garret’s breath tickled his ear just before Peter felt him tracing the curves as he began to walk backwards toward the bedroom, pulling Peter with him.
“Oh yeah.” Peter sighed in agreement following Garret back to the bedroom. Garret turned and backed him up until Peter felt the bed against the backs of his legs. How the hell did he navigate like that while driving me up a wall with his tongue? Peter wondered, and then decided he’d just be glad Garret was so good at multitasking. He felt a hand slip in the back on his pants, which were somehow now undone, to trace the sensitive skin at the base of his spine. Peter shivered at the sensation and moaned around Garret’s tongue, which had found its way back to his mouth.
Peter slid his hands up Garret’s back under his shirt, breaking the kiss to draw the shirt over his head. He tossed it in the corner and worked feverishly to get Garret stripped of the clothes he’d put on only a short time before. Stopping to inhale the combined scent of soap, shaving lotion and a smell that was uniquely Garret, Peter shivered at the feel of a hand sliding over him.
Sometime later Peter rolled over and looked at Garret. “You still got it, babe.” He teased as Garret pulled him back up against his chest, wrapping his arms around Peter.
“Did you think maybe I’d forgotten how?” He felt Garret’s smile against the back of his neck as he snuggled against Peter’s long frame and Peter drifted off to sleep.
Peter woke later to the feel of Garret’s slow, even breath on the back of his neck and turned, waking him with a kiss.
“What time is it?” Garret asked returning the kiss.
“Nine-thirty, dinner’s probably a wash.” Peter kissed him again and pulled back a little to look him in the eye. “Nice distraction there, but we’re still going to talk.”
“It was worth a shot.” Garret grinned at him, the twinkle in his eye reminding Peter of a time before life had interrupted their affair.
“It was a dud,” Peter grinned back. “But a very satisfying one.”
Peter wasn’t going to let Garret get past him. “Garret, what do you really want? Just think about the question, if there had been no Moreau case and you could still be the chief, would you?” Peter watched his eyes narrow as he considered the possibility, but didn’t answer the question. Peter sighed, Garret always over analyzed things, it was his major weakness. “Are you really content to sit back and let Jack Slokum run your morgue and completely wreck the morale of your staff?”
“Peter, it’s not a matter of what I want, it’s a matter of what is.” Garret pulled himself up and leaned back against the headboard. “I can’t force the governor to reinstate me, I’m lucky they didn’t indict me.”
Peter sat up and turned to face Garret, knees to his chest. “Our family is hurting, they need you. You may not have been able to stay at the morgue, but you’ve deserted them. I can maybe believe that you don’t want to fight for your job, but what I can’t believe is that you don’t want to fight for them.”
Garret sighed. “Slokum’s not a bad guy, just very rigid.”
“He a tin-plated, swaggering, petty dictator with delusions of godhood.” Peter spat back heatedly, then stopped to take a breath as he realized anger was getting the better of him. He hung his head and tried to calm himself. After a moment, he felt Garret’s hand running through his hair.
“Does it mean that much to you, Peter?” He asked softly.
Peter looked up into the older man’s eyes. “Does it mean that little to you, Garret?” He asked evenly. They sat looking at each other for several minutes before Garret finally looked away. Peter got up and pulled on his jeans.
“I’m going to get dinner; I’ll make you a protein shake before I go.” At the look on Garret’s face, he grinned. “And you’ll drink it, won’t you?”
“Yes, wife.” Garret teased.
Peter headed for the kitchen and put together the shake for Garret. As Garret came into the room, Peter looked up, “Okay this is protein, whey and green algae, let it run for two minutes and drink all of it. I’m gonna get Chinese, that okay with you?”
“Sounds good, but Peter, why am I drinking something that looks like it came out of the lab refrigerator?” Garret teased.
“Just make sure it’s all gone when I get back and I don’t mean down the sink.” Peter kissed him and headed out, calling in their order on his way to the elevator.
Thirty minutes later, Peter juggled the bags and put his key in the lock. Opening the door, he stopped short at the sight of Jordan in a nice suit. She stared for a moment with her mouth open.
“Peter?! What are you doing in Boston? What are you doing here?” She asked looking from Peter to Garret and back.
Peter looked at Garret and raised an eyebrow over the protein drink in Jordan’s hand, then looked at Garret again, willing him to take advantage of the moment and finally tell his best friend about the two of them.
“Hi Jordan. Nice suit, very hot.” He walked to the kitchen and put down the bags. “Are you gonna eat with us? I got more than enough.” He looked at Garret. “Lo Lens didn’t have any Kung Pao Chicken tonight, so you’re stuck with General Tso’s.”
“Garret?” Peter heard the arch question in Jordan’s voice as she turned to Garret.
“Jordan, I ... you might want to sit down for a minute.” Garret said and Peter thought ‘yesss’
“I’m gonna go grab a shower,” he told the room at large and slipped off down the hall. Even though he’d told Lily, he’d like to see this, Garret and Jordan needed a little time to talk. He heard Garret’s voice as an indistinct rumble.
“WHAT!?” Peter had to grin at the sound of Jordan’s voice.
He stripped and turned on the shower. Stepping under the hot spray, Peter wondered what Jordan’s reaction would be and sighed over the necessity of having the same conversation with his mother and stepfather. He already knew their reaction in advance. His mother would cry and cling to him, begging him to find a nice girl who would change his mind.
She’d blame everything on Garret as the older man, leading her ‘little boy’ astray. His stepfather would order Peter out of the house never to return unless he mended his perverted ways. This was not going to be a pleasant family reunion on several levels. Thomas Winslow already judged Peter as weak and lacking moral fiber for being an addict; he would see this as confirmation of his theory that Peter was the ‘bad seed’.
Jesus, why couldn’t he just keep quiet, let them assume he was still in mourning over Allison and didn’t want to date anyone else.
‘Suck it up Winslow; you know this is important to working your program. It’s dicking around and not being honest that sent you back to the drugs. Shut up whining and do it. Its gonna hurt like hell, but if you can’t do this you may as well get a standing reservation at rehab, cause you’re gonna spend the rest of your life cycling.’
He really hated the pushy, vocal conscience he’d grown in rehab this time around. The bastard sat in the back of his head and wouldn’t let him bullshit himself anymore.
‘ Speaking of which, you need to make amends for that little scene at the morgue this afternoon. Slokum was a prick for embarrassing you like that, but you weren’t any better. You slammed his standing with his staff and may have damaged his self-esteem. Apology time boy, first thing tomorrow.’
‘But I don’t want to apologize and besides he started it.’ Peter argued with the voice and then realized what a whiny brat he sounded like. ‘All right, I’ll go talk to him tomorrow morning.’
His conscience turned away and Peter stuck a mental tongue out at it, and then laughed at himself. ‘You may not use any more Winslow, but you’re crazier than ever.’ He thought as he rinsed off and grabbed a towel to wrap around himself.
He padded barefoot to the adjoining bedroom and grabbed his travel kit so that he could get rid of the thick stubble on his face. He looked in the mirror and decided that, except for his reaction to Slokum, he’d made it through another day without screwing up. ‘One more down, the rest of my life to go.’
After he shaved, he walked back into the living room to find Jordan sitting, grinning at him as Garret loaded the plates with food and brought them over, then went back for beers for him and Jordan and a bottle of water for Peter.
“Well now I know where you disappeared to and why. Congratulations, by the way, Garret says you’ve made it 11 months this time around. So is that the reason for the water?”
“Yep, three more weeks and I’ll be collecting a one year chip.” Peter folded himself onto the floor and grabbed the water, taking a sip. “And no, the water is because I hate domestic beer, booze wasn’t my drug of choice that was Oxycontin.”
“So you two managed to hide this from everybody for how long?” Jordan asked both of them.
“Four months before I left, but not from everyone. Lily knew.” Peter told her, glad that she seemed to be taking this so well.
Garret came over, sat on the couch beside Jordan, and listened.
“I can’t believe you never told me, man.” Jordan looked at Garret. “Does this mean you really are my bestest girlfriend.” Peter nearly choked on his water as Garret scowled at her.
“Don’t push it, Jordan.” He grumbled as Peter and Jordan laughed.
“So Garret’s a switch hitter and you’re?” Jordan asked Peter.
“Strictly DC now.” Peter told her.
“Damn, guess that explains why my powers didn’t work on you, huh?” Jordan grinned.
“Nope, they are quite impressive, but I’ve spent years manipulating people. Kind of hard to turn the tables on me.” Peter said grinning. “I’m a junkie remember. Manipulation is what we do.”
“Ex-junkie.” Garret said.
“Recovering junkie.” Peter countered, Garret hated to hear him refer to himself as an addict, he’d much rather keep it in the past. Peter understood that feeling, but he’d realized that he had to be completely honest with himself if he was going to stay clean. “Come on Garret, you know it as well as I do, Once an addict, always an addict. It’s all about choosing not to use and learning the skills to stick with it.”
The room was silent for several moments. “Sorry.” Peter said. “Guess I pulled out the soapbox, huh?”
“I think you’ve earned a little pontificating.” Jordan smiled. “Frisco, huh? What was that like?”
“Hell at first. Rehab is never fun, especially when they make you sing those stupid songs.” Peter still couldn’t get the sound of ‘Lean On Me’ out of his mind. “The halfway house was a real trip. It was in the Castro district and had a non-alcoholic nightclub next door. Great house band and some wild dancing.”
“You always were a hell of a dancer, Peter.” Jordan grinned, remembering the last Christmas party they’d had at the Pogue before Peter left and the sight of Peter and Nigel teaching Lily to skank to Less Than Jake.
“I can never get this one to go dancing.” He gestured at Garret.
“Aww c’mon, Gar. You gotta try skanking.” Jordan teased.
“Just once.” She wheedled.
“I’ll go dancing with you, Peter.” She offered. “The stick in the mud can sit at the table and watch.”
“You’ve got a date, Jordan. Friday?” Peter suggested.
“Ten o’clock.” Jordan agreed. “I’ll meet you at The White Rabbit.”
“I am not going to a gay nightclub.” Garret interjected.
“Afraid someone will see you, sweetie?” Peter teased knowing exactly what his problem was.
“No, I hate techno.” Peter mouthed the words as Garret said them, while Jordan laughed.
“Someday, somebody will open a gay jazz club and then I’ll make him go and dance with me.” Peter grinned.
For the rest of the evening, Jordan and Peter took turns teasing Garret and actually got a few laughs out of him. Peter relaxed a little to see him smiling and laughing with his best friend. It appeared that the rift between them was well on the way to healing and Garret seemed more comfortable now that he’d told Jordan the truth.
He’d even reached over and pulled Peter close. It was the first time Peter had ever had Garret show affection to him in front of another person and it took all Peter could do not to beam at the world in general. Just to be able to sit with his head against Garret’s knee with someone else there, to have that semi-public act of laying claim made Peter happier than he’d been in months.
After Jordan left, Peter moved to the couch beside Garret. “That wasn’t so hard was it?”
“No, I guess not.” Garret conceded.
“See, a couple more times and you’ll be as good at it as Ellen Degeneres.” Peter teased.
“One more queer joke and I’ll stuff you back into the closet.” Garret threatened.
“Ooo, I love it when you go all butch, baby.” Peter said in a high falsetto as Garret pinned him to the couch and began tickling him in retribution.
Peter finally got away from the fingers that left him gasping for breath. He lay with his head in Garret’s lap. “So, are you gonna march with me on Gay Pride Day?”
“You’re pushing your luck there, Pete.” Garret rumbled using the nickname he knew Peter hated.
Peter grinned up at him, then tried again. “Garret, are you going to help with the Titleman case?”
Garret’s sigh at the question reeked of frustration and surrender. “If I promise to call Renee will you stop nagging?” He smiled slightly.
“About this? Yes. About the booze? No. You drink too much, it’s not healthy.” Peter grinned. “You need that place Garret and those people and they need you.” Peter sat up and pulled Garret to him. “And you need to be honest with yourself; you can’t be the stoic tough guy all the time. You have to let yourself be vulnerable sometimes, let people know how much you love them. Let them in.”
Peter reached for the phone and held it out to Garret. “When was the last time you called Abby, just to say ‘I love you’?”
“I don’t remember.” Garret said looking ashamed.
“Then do it now. Take her out to dinner and get to know her. You both need it, and each other, more than you know.”
“You’ve changed Peter, you weren’t this grown up when you left. If I said no, you’d drop it. You’re stronger, tougher and not as angry anymore. I like the changes.” Garret kissed him and Peter felt an overwhelming relief, he’d been so worried that the changes he’d had to make would cause Garret to pull away from him.
Peter woke early and slipped out of the apartment, he didn’t want to talk to Slokum, but thought he should get it out of the way before Garret finished at Renee’s office and showed up at the morgue.
He waited by the window near the reception desk for Dr. Slokum to show up, rehearsing what he would say to the man, knowing full well that he would receive, at best, complete silence as an answer. More likely Slokum would feel the need to reestablish his dominance over the morgue, attempting to reduce Peter to a nonentity by trying to embarrass him further in public. ‘Stay cool, Winslow. This is not going to touch you.’ He tried to psych himself for whatever Slokum decided to hit him with.
The elevator doors opened behind him as he watched a young bird fight the downdraft off the buildings trying to land on the opposite roof. ‘I know the feeling, pal’, he thought as the bird struggled.
“Good morning, Dr. Slokum.” He heard the receptionist say and turned to see the man strutting across the reception area.
Peter caught up to him before he reached the doors leading into the morgue proper.
“Dr. Slokum?” He said, the man turning and beginning to sneer as he recognized Peter.
“Ah, the junkie doctor returns, didn’t feel you’d had the final word yesterday, Doctor.” Slokum’s voice grated across Peter’s nerves and he swallowed down the flash of anger and answered calmly and evenly.
“No sir, I came to make amends for my behavior yesterday. My treatment of you was very belittling of your authority and standing with your staff. I am sorry for any harm I may have caused, sir.” Peter steeled himself for the diatribe he was certain would come and was amazed to see a light of sympathy in the shorter man’s eyes.
“Would you join me in my office, Dr. Winslow?” Peter was surprised to hear his title spoken without disdain by the man.
He nodded and followed Slokum to the door, which now had a keypad lock. The interim chief punched in his code and held the door for Peter, then preceded him to the office that had been Garret’s. Peter entered behind Slokum wondering why he would invite Peter to his office instead of reaming him out publicly. The older man shut the door behind Peter and motioned for him to sit down.
“Would you like a cup of coffee, Dr. Winslow?” Slokum asked.
“No thank you, sir.” Peter tried to imagine what motive Slokum could have for this abrupt change in demeanor.
“I’ll imagine that public apology took a great deal of practice.” Slokum said evenly, Peter raised an eyebrow at the man’s calm look. “Making amends hurts like hell sometimes, doesn’t it? Especially when you were only reacting to provocation.”
Peter gaped at the man. ‘What the hell?’ He thought.
Slokum reached in his pocket and pulled out a small metal disc, laying it on the coffee table he sat back and said, “Twelve years. How many for you?”
Peter suddenly realized what was happening and looked over at the man. “In three weeks it will be one year, sir.”
“Congratulations son, that was my hardest one. I failed twice before I made it.” He looked Peter over and continued. “I’m the one who should be making amends, Peter. I am an arrogant prick and I know it. I felt threatened because you were here under Macy’s tenure and I don’t want any breath of mutiny to creep into this place. I’m not in a very tenable position here; Macy was quite popular and has been missed by all of the staff.”
Slokum stood and walked to the window. “I’m not a likable person, I can’t lead through a cult of the personality, so I use the tools I have. Having to choose, I chose fear and intimidation. Not very admirable I know, but there it is. I am very sorry for my behavior and also for that fact that I am unable to make a public apology for that behavior, but I hope you will understand and accept a private one.” He turned to Peter and smiled, actually a very pleasant smile, before again assuming the facade of a cocksure arrogant little asshole. “Now about that job, Doctor.”
“I’m not here for a job, sir.” Peter began.
“I assume that you either therefore are already employed or are independently wealthy?”
“Neither, sir.” Peter answered.
“Then we’ll consider your old application as still in effect. You’ll be a rehire and therefore the process won’t take more than a day or so. If you’ll fax me your current resume, I’ll start the paperwork and expect you to report for work Monday morning. Good day, Doctor.” He opened the door and motioned Peter out, closing it behind him.
Peter stood in the hall trying to understand what had just happened. As he went over the entire conversation, he heard his name called, turning he saw Bug and Nigel motioning him to their joint office. As he entered, he found himself engulfed by the arms of the lanky Brit.
“Peter, what wind blew you back to our doorstep?” Nigel asked after releasing him.
“I think I just got my job back.” Peter said astonished at the haircut Nigel was sporting. It appeared Slokum had even managed to suppress the normally ebullient ex soldier.
“Say what?” Nigel said.
“Yeah, I came in to apologize for yesterday and he pretty much made me take a job.” Peter was still in shock over Slokum’s action.
“So you ream him out and he hires you?” Nigel said. “Perhaps I’ve been using the wrong tactics.”
Peter perched on the edge of Nigel’s desk as Lily entered and gave Peter a hug. He noticed the look that passed between Nigel and Bug, realizing they thought there was something between him and Lily. They’d be surprised when they learned which former coworker had Peter’s full attention, if Garret followed through on last night and told all his friends.
“So, where did you disappear to, my lad?” Nigel asked.
“Drug rehab in San Francisco.” Peter answered honestly. “Then a halfway house and a job with their ME’s office.”
“So you’ve been fighting the good fight out there and being a thorn in their flesh, eh?” Peter grinned; Nigel’s wry and twisted humor had been another thing he’d missed.
“Yeah, I just got back to town early yesterday morning.” Peter slipped an arm around Lily as she sat beside him and Nigel arched an eyebrow.
“Home to Mater and Pater and the comforts of wealth and privilege.” Nigel tweaked him.
“No I haven’t seen my parents and am not likely to, my stepfather’s not too fond of having an addict in the family.” Peter immediately wished he said anything else when he saw the looks of sympathy. “Relax guys; I’m not worried about it. They’ll come around or they won’t. I’ll still be me.”
He grinned as Jordan entered the area and announced that Garret wouldn’t be returning. Peter tried not to smile, knowing the surprise in store for the crew. It became easier to contain his amusement when Jordan went head to head with Slokum before being rushed off by Sydney.
After Slokum left the room, the group burst out laughing at Jordan’s long awaited blow up at Slokum. Peter didn’t join in, having a new insight into the man and understanding the pressure he felt. Suddenly, there was a buzz of conversation down the hall that drew their attention and they all looked to see Garret strutting toward autopsy one where Slokum was working on Oliver Titleman’s stepfather.
Peter stuck around only long enough to learn that Garret would be working on the case and then slipped away to drive to his parents home and drop his own little bomb on them. He thought perhaps first he would visit his older sister Marta and talk things over with her. He was fairly sure she would take his revelation in stride and having a pleasant conversation before seeing his parents would help.
Several hours later, he sat in his parents’ living room waiting for them to come downstairs. The butler had given him a cold look as he showed him in and Peter expected more of the same from his stepfather. He stood and began pacing, as the wait grew longer. The calm, satisfied feeling from his talk with Marta had evaporated the moment the front door opened and he’d stepped inside this mausoleum. The house had always felt cold and unwelcoming to Peter with the exception of his mother’s sitting room, which was as warm as she was.
“Petya, you are finally home.” His mother entered the room, took his hands and kissed his cheeks, calling him by the name she’d always used. For a moment, at the sound of the Czech diminutive, he thought again about not telling them, but before his conscience could start to berate him, his stepfather entered.
“Peter.” He nodded toward him and held out his hand. Peter crossed the room and shook it. Thomas Winslow never walked over to greet someone. Like Mohammad, the mountain came to him.
“How are you, sir?”
‘Okay they’re both here, so tell them.’
He’d hoped his conscience would stay out of this
“Better now that you are back, your mother has been quite distracting with her concerns over you.” Thomas Winslow was possibly the stiffest, coldest man Peter had ever known, but his one redeeming characteristic was the fact that he loved Peter’s mother completely. “Where are your bags? I’ll have the butler take them to your rooms.”
“I won’t be staying here, sir. I’ve already found a place.”
‘Get it over with, Winslow.’
‘Butt out.’ He thought.
“I see and have you found work as well? You know Robert Hampton is still looking for a partner for his practice.” Winslow would have as a matter of course made certain word of Peter’s whereabouts had been suppressed.
“Yes sir, I’ll be returning to the coroner’s office, starting Monday.” He could see the displeasure in his stepfather’s eyes at that announcement, but wasn’t concerned. The man would have more to be displeased about soon enough.
‘Shut up.’ The voice finally seemed to listen.
“Mother, sir, I have something I need to tell you.” Peter took a deep breath. “It’s about where I’m staying. I’ll be living with someone very special to me.”
“Oh, Petya, I’m so glad to hear that. You must bring her to dinner. Why didn’t you bring her tonight, you naughty boy?” His mother was beaming. “What is her name? You know I don’t approve of living together, you really should marry the girl, if you love her.”
“Well I’m glad to see you’ve gotten past mourning Allison.” Thomas said. “Who is this girl? Who are her family?”
“Please just sit down and listen.” Peter said with more vehemence than he’d intended.
His mother and stepfather looked stunned, but sat down quietly, looking at him expectantly. His stomach was in knots. He was certain this would be his last conversation with his parents. The tension became so great that he paced, running his hands through his hair as he began. “I... I... SHIT! I’m gay alright; the someone I’m living with is a man. I know you’re not going to approve, but I love him.”
Peter knew he was babbling, but needed to try and make them understand before they had a chance to pass judgment. “He’s strong and smart and gentle and perfect, Damnit! He’s the most wonderful, beautiful person I’ve ever known and he loves me in spite of how screwed up I am, so go ahead and tell me how disappointed you are and get it over with, but I’m not crazy and I’m not high, I’m in lo–”
Peter stopped short as his stepfather rose from the sofa, looked at his wife and left the room without a word. Peter turned to his mother and fought back the tears that threatened to spill out.
“Matka?” His voice broke as he used the name he’d called her when he was small without even realizing it.
“Peter, I think you should go.” Peter felt the English form of his name like a knife; he’d never been Peter to his mother, even when she’d learned of his drug problem, she’d called him Petya.
She stood and walked to the door of the living room. She grasped the doorframe for support and Peter rushed to her side. She shrugged off his hand and looked at him as though he were diseased, a leper. “You know that you must no longer come here. If you decide to come to your senses, we will of course welcome you home. Until that time…” She walked away without another word.
For several hours, Peter drove without thinking, paying no attention to where he was. There was no point going to the apartment, Garret would probably be busy with the Titleman case. He drove over most of Boston Proper aimlessly, alternating between crying and cursing.
Suddenly he realized he’d cruised the same block in Southie four times. He recognized the buildings and knew where he was. He had driven to the last place he’d scored before going into rehab. He pulled over to the curb and sat shaking and crying, his hands close to putting permanent indentations in the wheel.
He waited for his conscience to kick in and start ordering him to a meeting, but it was strangely silent; somehow, that only scared him more. As he sat on the verge of getting out and going into the bar he’d gone to the last time he’d come here, there was a knock on the window. He looked out at the man standing there and rolled the window down an inch.
“You looking for a ticket to fly, man?”