Lost Boy Chapter 13 -
The Second Star to the Right 1/?
Disclaimer: Still not mine. Sadly.
A/N: Okay, so this was written for the Kid!Fic Fest over at the White Collar Hurt/Comfort Community. It’s set within my “Lost Boy” series (although if you wave your hand at the fact that Neal is a kid, I suppose you could read it on its own) and is going to be like a little mini-arc thing within that verse, so there will probably be 2 or so more parts to this. Please review and let me know what you think (particularly as I take every bit of constructive criticism seriously and will take it under consideration as I write the next bits.) Thanks, and Happy Spring!
Six days, eleven hours, and forty-three minutes.
That’s how long it took. Six and a half days. Too long. It was too long. It should never have happened in the first place.
Peter paced the length of the waiting room, tugging at his hair. He felt sick but there was nothing in his stomach. When he’d all but collapsed in the men’s room earlier, he’d clung to the porcelain and wretched nothing but bile. Not surprising really. He couldn’t remember when he’d last eaten. He was sure he must have, over the course of the week, had a sandwich and cup of coffee pressed into his hands at irregular intervals by Jones or Diana or one of a dozen agents swarming around him, but the last meal he remembered was breakfast, six days ago. Elizabeth made pancakes in the shape of Mickey Mouse because ever since they’d taken Neal to Disney World for his eighth birthday last month the boy had decided that “everything tastes better if it’s shaped like Mickey’s head.” Neal drew eyes and a smile on his pancakes with syrup and tried to keep Peter from noticing that he was sneaking bits of bacon to his new puppy, Mingus, under the table. Neal had been happy and healthy and safe, and then he wasn’t. He wasn’t, and it was Peter’s fault.
Someone was tugging on his arm, and his hand hurt, and he realized he’d struck the wall with his fist. The knuckles were split and bleeding sluggishly, bits of plaster stuck to them, and they hurt but he wanted to hit the wall again and again and again because it was his fault.
“Peter!” Still quiet, but more urgent, and he finally turned to face the source of the voice. Diana, he noted, a hand still on his arm and worry in the lines between her brows.
“Peter. Boss. You alright?”
The acid in his stomach churned, crawling up the back of his throat. No. No, he was very much not alright.
“I’m fine.” His voice was hoarse and dull and he no longer had the energy to lie well, wrung-out and cold and hollow, from six and a half days of emotions that burned like the sun and a frenzied, frantic pace of doing something that led to this horrific nothing of waiting. He propped his back against the abused wall, the bone-deep exhaustion setting in and threatening to take him out at the knees. Diana retreated and he watched her go, fall back into her chair amongst the unusual group in the waiting room. The coworkers and strangers and adversaries who had somehow become friends through a charming young man with a Cheshire grin, and then, impossibly, become family through a sweet little boy with that same impish smile.
Diana and Jones and half a dozen other agents, suits wrinkled and ties loose at throats, agents who kept crayons in their desks for the days Neal came to the office to “help” Peter with paperwork, agents who had spent the week rushed and sleepless and searching, an anxiousness to their work, like it was one of their own missing. June, who dotes on Neal like he’s one of her own beloved grandchildren, and her Samantha, who’s life Neal once saved, who, now a teenager, has never forgotten and is never too busy with school or sports or friends to drop by when Neal has a piece in his school art show or an important meet for his swim team. Elizabeth and Mozzie, huddled together, pale and drawn, hands clutched for comfort over the armrests of their seats. Mozzie, who was Neal’s first best friend, who is still Neal’s “best best-friend”, who loved him through time and trials and separation, through differences and disaster, who speaks loudly about “self-preservation” but would always put Neal first.
And Elizabeth. His El. The woman who had opened her door to a conman so many years ago, invited him into her home, fixed him home cooked meals and fussed over him when he wasn’t feeling well. El, who had loved Neal and mothered him long before he’d regressed back into a child, who had cried the first time Neal called her “Mommy” and seemed to have somehow known, always, that he was meant to be theirs.
The waiting room stank of ammonia and stale coffee. It was beige, which was not even worthy of being called a color, and it was too small for Peter to pace in without feeling like a caged tiger. And it was full of family, of people who loved Neal, and while that should have made him feel better, should have comforted him, it just made it worse. It made it so much worse. Because they had to know, they must know that it was Peter’s fault. He was to blame, he was the reason they were all here, weak with worry.
For years Peter had been keeping a watchful eye on Neal. When he was chasing him he was all but obsessed with his whereabouts, and when Neal was his partner Neal was hardly out of his sight for longer than a day or two on the weekends, and since his transformation back to a child, Peter always knew where he was. With his mom, or Grandma June, or Mozzie, or at school, Peter always knew where Neal was, was always watching out for him.
Until, just for a second, he glanced away. He can’t even remember what was so important now, what could possibly be so important that he would take his eyes off his son for even a second. But he did.
On a warm Sunday morning in the park, not ten feet away from the playground, eight year-old Neal George Caffrey Burke was kidnapped by a six-foot something Caucasian man in a navy blue baseball cap and dark sunglasses.
He was missing for six days, eleven hours, and forty-three minutes.
And it was all Peter’s fault.
Thank you very very much to anyone who helps.
Disclaimer: Not mine. Still. Sadly.
In honor of “Stealing Home” (Yay! Baseball!) here is a baseball-themed fic that was briefly hinted at in the previous chapter of “Lost boy”.
“Mommy! Mommy look!” Neal, as exuberant as ever, ran into the kitchen like a runaway wind-up toy, nearly knocking full-force into Elizabeth’s legs. “I has a unifowm. Isn’t it pwetty?” He plucked at his Yankee’s shirt and grinned.
Elizabeth smiled at her husband as he leisurely trailed Neal into the kitchen, then looked back down at her son. “It’s lovely, sweetheart. Does that mean you and your daddy are going to go play baseball?”
Neal shrugged distractedly, brushing a spot of lint from his pants.
“Yeah,” Peter answered for her, “A couple of the dads from his school are setting up a game in the park. I figured he could use my glove from when I was in little league. Might be a little big still, but he can grow into it. You want to come watch?”
“Of course! What do you think baby,” she asked, turning back to Neal, “you want me to see you play your first baseball game?”
He looked at the excited faces of his parents and nodded. “Uh-huh! Come see!” He tugged their hands towards the door. “Satchmo, come!”
Four eager feet skittered quickly across the tile and followed them out to the car.
Neal was good at a great many things, both as an adult and a child.
Baseball was not one of them.
As a pitcher, his throws kept falling short. “I don’t wanna hit anybody!”
As an outfielder he kept getting bored and wandering off, charming the grandmothers who’d come to see their grandkids play, or drawing DaVinci sketches in the dirt.
At bat, he wasn’t bad. He could hit the ball okay, but he really shined when it came to running bases. The boy was fast, there was no doubt about that, and it made Peter proud to see his kid was obviously a much faster runner than any of the (mostly older and much bigger) kids. There was just one problem.
He wouldn’t slide.
“Neal, that’s how you play the game. Sometimes you’ve got to slide to a base to make a run.”
“But Daddy, there’s dirt,” Neal informed him exasperatedly. “I’ll get dirty.”
Peter scrubbed a hand over his face. “That’s part of sports buddy. You get dirty when you play. You’re a little boy, it’s supposed to be fun.” It certainly had been when he was a kid. Whether it was in the event of playing a sport, roughhousing with his friends or just running through mud puddles, he loved to see just how dirty he could get, and what color his mom’s face would turn when she saw him.
“But I don’t want to.”
Peter sighed. “Just try bud, for me, okay? Please.”
Neal sighed too, sounding extremely put-upon, but nodded. “Okay, fine.”
Ten minutes later, Neal slid into home.
His team cheered.
Peter puffed up with pride.
Neal stared sorrowfully at his grass-stained knees.
Five minutes after that Elizabeth and Satchmo cuddled Neal over by the picnic tables, promising she could get the stain out, while the rest of the kids gleefully played in the dirt.
Peter tried to console himself with the thought that maybe Neal could at least run track.
Please review. Also, as I have decided that I am not above begging, please please please, if you have a Facebook account, go to http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.3
Disclaimer: Not mine. Sadly.
A/N: Belated Father’s Day story. I actually thought of it a few days before Father’s Day, but have been too busy to write so I figured I’d just let it be, but unfortunately this particular plot bunny was rather persistent. …And possibly rabid. So, I’ve typed this up at 1a.m. to make it go away. If it sucks, chalk it up to sleep deprivation. If not, review. Ta.
When Neal was in Elementary school, he hated the month of June. He dreaded it, counted down the days as it approached with the same sort of trepidation most children reserved for dentist appointments and visits from their great Aunt Marge and her cats.
He had nothing against June itself really. On it’s own he imagined it was a perfectly acceptable month - sometimes a little hot, and sometimes a little rainy, and not as full of glimmer and cheer as December, but still, he wouldn’t really have any complaints about it on it’s own. Except it wasn’t on it’s own. June heralded a holiday.
June was the month which boasted Father’s Day.
Every year, when June came around, the teachers and students would start making a fuss about the holiday. Every year, they would read poems and write essays and make cards.
And every year Neal sat with an empty piece of construction paper folded in front of him.
When Neal was in the fifth grade, he got tired of hearing the other kids bragging about their dads, and discussing the presents they were getting them. He got tired of making an empty card, and getting that look from his teacher every time he had to explain that he didn’t have a dad. So when Neal was in fifth grade, he invented a dad. His name was Charlie, and he was tall, and went to work every day in a suit and loved him and his Momma more than anything in the world. After school he’d teach Neal to play baseball in their backyard, and on weekends he took him to art exhibits, and he had been trying to convince Neal’s Momma to get him a puppy for Christmas.
That year, Neal made a card for his imaginary father, and told Davie Brawnson all about the tie he was getting his dad so that he could show it off at work, and wrote a paper just like all the other kids about “What My Father Means to Me”.
Only they were supposed to present it to the class.
Halfway through his presentation, Neal felt like his throat was closing up and his chest hurt a little bit and he couldn’t breathe. He ran out of the room and went home early, claiming he had a stomach ache. When he got home he hid the card he’d made in a book he’d checked out from the library about baseball, and he never talked about Charlie again.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Neal glanced once more at the tie. It was a horrible, garish pattern, only slightly redeemed by the lovely shades of blue and expensive silk it was made of. It had taken him three stores and a little over two hours to find just the right one, a tie that would befit the intended owner’s, ahem, unique sense of style, without overly offending Neal’s more cultured sartorial tastes. Not that he would ever let anyone know the thought he’d put into this. Not so long as he did it right.
He tucked the tie back into his desk, and closed the drawer just as Peter appeared from his office.
“Hey,” he greeted, turning around. “Coffee?”
Peter nodded, holding up his empty mug, and they walked over together, discussing the case they’d been working on, and who they’d be interviewing next. When Neal had poured himself a cup of what the FBI tried to pass off as coffee and leaned over for some creamer, he overbalanced and tipped the mug in his hand, but tried to correct quickly, splashing hot coffee down Peter’s tie.
“Ow! Damn it!” Peter cursed, quickly setting down his own cup and reaching for a stack of napkins.
“Sorry, sorry,” Neal told him, the picture of innocence, handing him a few more napkins, and wiping at the mess on the counter.
“You’re not usually so clumsy,” Peter remarked, glancing at the brown stains on his once yellow tie forlornly.
“Late night, sorry. Here, you can’t interview Mr. Krapowski like that, come on.”
They left their coffees on the counter while they headed to Neal’s desk, Peter removing his tie on the way.
Neal pulled open the drawer and removed the blue-patterned tie. “Here, this should match well enough.”
Peter looked it over before swapping it out with the yellow one. “Hey, this is kind of nice,” he commented, smiling at the pattern. “Not really your usual style though, is it?”
The con shrugged in a carefully practiced casual manner. “It was a gift. You can keep it if you want.”
Glancing up from the knot, Peter asked “Really?” and Neal shrugged again, trying not to smile too much. “Like you said, not really my style.”
“Don’t mention it.”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
When Neal got home that evening, he tucked a hideous coffee-stained yellow tie into a book on baseball, next to a card with “DAD” written in crayon on the front.
When Peter got home, Elizabeth complimented him on his tie, and asked him where he got it. “Oh, Neal got coffee on my other one, so he gave me this. Nice, huh?”
Elizabeth smiled, and wondered if Peter even realized it was Father’s Day.
Disclaimer: Not mine.
A/N: I got bored in Modern Drama. No, really. So I pretended to take notes and did this instead. It’s not great, but it’s the first fun thing I’ve written in ages because real life has been getting in my way and sucking. A lot. So. Anywhoo. Hope you enjoy. Please review.
For the first eight years of his life, Neal thought his dad was Batman.
Not that he thought he was the Bruce Wayne version from the comics and on TV every Saturday. But the crime fighting superhero, the guy who rescued people and kept the world safe, yeah, that was his dad. His momma told him so.
Momma told him his daddy died, too, back when he was still really little. That he died a hero, fighting the bad guys to defend truth and justice and puppies and all that good stuff. But sometimes… Sometimes he’d pretend that his daddy was out there still, locked in an epic battle with his arch-nemesis, and as soon as he’d defeated the villain he’d come home. He’d come home and hug Neal and tell him how proud he was of him, and maybe teach him how to be a superhero too.
Neal knew this wouldn’t happen. But it didn’t hurt to pretend.
Neal was walking home from third grade when Dylan Schaefer and his goons intercepted him. Dylan was a fifth-grader, even though he was really supposed to be in seventh, and he was twice Neal’s height and three times his weight, and mean. He stepped in front of Neal, putting his sweaty, meaty fist on his chest.
“Well, if it isn’t the Mama’s Boy,” he sneered, and his cronies snickered. “What’cha doin’ Mama’s Boy, goin’ home to try on dresses?”
Neal held his head high and met the boy’s beady black eyes, aware that bears only attacked if you showed fear. “Your grammar is atrocious,” he informed him steadily, and tried not to smile when Dylan’s Cro-Magnon forehead crinkled in confusion.
Dylan shoved him and he fell back a step. “You tryin’ to confuse me, Mama’s Boy?”
“You’re not making it very difficult,” Neal replied.
“I’m bigger than you!”
“I’d suggest Weight Watchers.” Neal watched him make his ‘confused’ face again, which kind of made him look like a cross-eyed ape.
When it began to look like he really wasn’t going to get it, one of his goons figured it out.
“He’s callin’ you fat, Dylan!”
Neal would have applauded him, but suddenly he found himself on the ground, his palms stinging from scraping on the sidewalk.
Dylan loomed above him, red-faced and thunderous.
Neal had forgotten. Bears attacked if you baited them, too.
“Get up, ya’ pussy! Get up!”
Neal began to rise, and Dylan kicked his legs out from beneath him. His elbow hit the pavement this time, and he cried out, cradling it.
“Get up! Fight me like a man, you fuckin’ girl!”
Neal knew better now, and didn’t move.
Dylan kicked him in the ribs.
“Come on little girl, fight me! Didn’t yer daddy ever teach you how to fight?” He smirked, ugly and cruel. “Oh, that’s right. You ain’t got no daddy.”
Neal felt cold. “Shut up.”
Your daddy’s dead dead dead,” he mocked, “a dirty dead pig.”
“My dad was a hero!” Neal cried, tears pricking at the corners of his eyes.
“He was a dirty cop! My uncle Beau says he took payoffs and ran heroine for the Vista gang!”
“Your daddy’s nothing’ but a dirty dead pig, and your mama a lyin’ whore-”
Neal launched himself at Dylan.
When he finally got home, his knuckles were busted open, and he was crying through two black eyes. He ran to his room, ignoring his Momma for the first time ever, and hid under the blankets and wished the world away. He asked her, the next day, to tell him the truth.
After that they never mentioned his dad again.
And Neal stopped believing in superheroes.
Peter was good, good in a way that was pure, and kind of contagious, and without the darker side that came along with a lot of heroes. The dark side that Batman had always had, but as a child Neal had overlooked.
“He’s like Superman without his powers.”
Peter was Superman.
And when Sara called him “Boy Wonder,” he acted annoyed, that she’d mixed up her superheroes, and he was a little bit, but mostly he was a little bit thrilled.
Because some part of Neal was still that eight year-old little boy who wanted a superhero to look up to, wanted to be a superhero himself.
Peter gave him that. Peter was a superhero, and he could teach Neal to be one too, could teach him to do the right thing, to be honest and good.
“You did this. The fire, all of it. You did it.”
And then Peter accused him, and he realized.
He felt like such a fool. He should have known better.
Neal wasn’t a superhero. He wouldn’t ever be.
Peter had already cast him as Lex Luthor.
Disclaimer: Not mine.
A/N: I really like Neal/Sara. I thought I wouldn't but I do. A lot. And I keep wanting more Neal/Sara fic, and I figured I should do my part to contribute, and well, this is what came out. Hope you like it (I think I kinda do) and please review! (No, I am apparently not above begging.)
Sara doesn't ask about his scars.
Sometimes, when they're lying in bed together, naked and comfortable and just enjoying the warmth of skin against skin, she'll trace them. Ghosting her fingertips over the barely perceptible white line that runs from ribcage to hip, the rough, jagged flesh behind his knee, the dime-sized circle of puckered skin just behind his ear, mostly hidden by his hair, and a half a dozen others, almost too faint to see.
He can tell she wants to ask, knows that look in her eyes, and is all too well aware that Sara is not the type of woman to let something go. She's wonderfully curious and has a tenacity to rival his own, and most of the time he kind of loves those things about her, because it makes her fun and interesting, and one of the worst things someone can be is boring. But even though she wants to ask, even though she gets that little frown on her face every time her fingers run over damaged flesh, she doesn't.
And he can't figure out why.
At first, he had thought he'd outlast her, that certainly she'd end up asking about his scars before he asked her why she wasn't asking, but he'd never claimed to be a patient man (and Mozzie would have laughed at him if he had.)
Neal stared at Sara through half-lidded eyes and squirmed a bit as one finger trailed it's way down from just below his arm to the jut of his hipbone.
"Why don't you ask?"
Her eyes shifted up from his torso to lock onto his own. "Hmm?"
"My scars. You wonder, but you don't ask. Why?"
She laid the hand that was still by his hip onto his skin, and slid it all the way back up to his chest, and rested it over his heart. "If you ever want to tell me, Neal, I'd love to listen. But I'm not going to ask and give you a reason to lie to me."
He opened his mouth, and he didn't know if it was to protest or placate, but she stopped him before he could find out.
"It's okay." She smiled, that soft smile she had, that he sometimes thought might be just for him. "Some things need to be given. Pieces of a person, they can't be stolen." Her eyes fell from his to her hand, and she said quietly, "Or they shouldn't be." She smiled at him again, and kissed him with that smile, and then snuggled down beside him and laid her head where her hand had been. "I don't mind waiting."
Neal wrapped himself around her and tried to sleep.
And another time, when she ran her fingers over familiar scars, he quietly told her a story about a boy who was never smart enough, or fast enough, or good enough to make the grown-ups happy.
Until one day, he ran away, and learned how to put on a mask, and pretend he was.
Lost Boy - Chapter 10/? - Decisions
Disclaimer: Not mine.
A/N: It’s longer! Yay! Also, I think this may be the last one that’s in order. I had originally planned to do random de-aged!Neal ficlets, in whichever order they come to me, so those might be up next. I have lots of ideas for them (some I’m really excited about). I hope you like this chapter. Oooh! Hey, you know what I like? (Besides chocolate.) Reviews! Pwetty pwease, with sugar on top? Also, special shout out to Rainnboots and Kathryn Marie Black who are especially awesome, and make me smile.
It had been a good day, Peter reflected. He’d run himself in circles trying to track down the elusive Mr. Muriuki, and had nothing to show for it, but lunch had been nice. It had been better than nice.
Neal had whined about the smell of Peter’s deviled ham, and proceeded to sit on the other side of Elizabeth to get away from it, and then picked apart his own turkey-and-cheese to eat each bit individually (except the lettuce because it was “droopy”.) He had run around like a gerbil on speed, and made them push him on the swings, and gone up and down the slide dozens of times while Peter and Elizabeth chatted about ball games and work and the freaking safety features on Neal’s booster seat. Peter had looked around and noticed that they were just like every other family there.
He looked around and realized that for the first time nothing was missing.
By the time the agent had to head back into work Neal had worn himself out and Elizabeth was buckling him into the car mouthing the words “nap time” at Peter.
When he arrived back at the office, Jones casually asked “Nice lunch?” and he had replied “Yeah. Perfect.”
And it was.
He spent the rest of the afternoon trying to find any trace of Mr. Muriuki, but no luck. His contact information was worthless, there was no record of him on the computers, and he couldn’t even find an American passport under that name. It was like he didn’t exist.
When he got home, Neal and Elizabeth were in the kitchen, baking cookies.
Satchmo was supervising.
Already he was becoming used to being greeted by that excited voice.
Neal approached him with a handful of cookie dough. “S’got choc’it. Want some?”
He held it up to him in offering, a sticky glob squished with the imprints of little fingers.
Peter smiled at him. “No thank you.”
Neal returned to Elizabeth, watching her put the cookies in the oven, and licking his fistful of dough.
The kitchen was warm, and smelled like home, and when he kissed El, her lips tasted like chocolate.
“Should he be eating that before dinner?” Peter asked, with a nod towards Neal.
“He’s the official taste-tester,” she replied with a loving glance at the boy.
Neal grinned around the fingers in his mouth, and Peter hoisted him up over the sink to wash the sugar and spit from his hands.
“Neal, baby, why don’t you go keep Satchmo occupied in the living room while Peter and I get dinner ready?”
He retrieved his stuffed toy from the table and held it out to her. “Dug help.”
She propped the toy up on the counter. “He can supervise.”
Another grin, and he ran out of the room calling “S’tchmo! Come pway!”
Elizabeth watched them go, then turned to the fridge, pulling out a pre-made casserole and salad ingredients.
She wasn’t looking at him again, and her voice was carefully neutral when she asked “Find anything on Mr. Muriuki?”
“No. He may as well be a ghost.”
She began chopping carrots. “Are you going to keep looking?”
He was quiet for a moment, watching her work, wincing every time the knife hit the cutting board with a bit more force than necessary.
“I don’t know.”
She stopped chopping, and leant over the counter, her hands plastered flat against the surface. “I want to keep him, Peter. I want to give him this. He deserves a second chance.”
He walked up behind her and wrapped his arms around her waist. “Do you want this for him,” he asked gently, “or us?”
She turned in his arms, and her eyes were shining with tears he prayed wouldn’t fall. He never could stand to see her cry. “Why can’t it be both? Things like this don’t just happen, Peter, and certainly not without a reason. And we love him, we already loved him, and we’d have been fine without a child, we’d have been happy, we were happy, but how can we go back now? Could you really change him back, and look at him everyday, and not think about the what-ifs? Would you really be able to come home and walk by the guestroom and not ache to see it empty?” She shuddered in his arms. “He’s happy, Peter, and he was already ours, and I want to keep him.” She pressed closer to him, her cheek laying over his heart, and whispered “Please,” like a prayer against his skin.
He held her for long moments, not saying anything, just thinking, trying to decide what was right, wondering who’s choice this was to make.
Finally, he came to a conclusion.
He pressed a kiss to his wife’s forehead, murmuring “I’ve got to talk to Neal.”
El took a deep breath, composing herself, and nodded. “After dinner,” she agreed quietly, and turned back to the carrots.
Dinner was a relatively quiet affair, aside from Neal’s attempts to sneak bites off his plate for Satchmo, who sat loyally (or, more accurately, hungrily) at his feet.
After a quick bath and change into airplane-patterned pj’s, El tucked him in while Peter waited outside the door, composing his thoughts, until she came out and retreated to their bedroom. He sighed, mentally telling himself to “cowboy up” and entered the room.
The first thing he noticed was the soft glow emanating from the “Starry Night” night light plugged into the wall. Neal was curled up around his blanket, smiling sleepily at Peter.
He smiled back at the boy, and sat down on the edge of the bed. “Neal,” he said, tucking the comforter around the tiny body a little more securely, “Neal I need you to answer a couple of questions for me, okay? And there’s no right or wrong answer, but it’s very important.”
Neal nodded seriously.
Peter opened and closed his mouth a few times, trying to put words to what he wanted to ask. Finally, he just went with the simplest question. “Are you happy?”
Neal smiled and nodded again, vigorously, damp bangs falling into his eyes.
Peter’s lips turned up as well, and he brushed the boy’s hair back with his fingertips. “You remember being a grown-up, right Neal?”
“Were you happy then?”
He paused, his face serious as he considered his answer, and Peter was relieved to know that he really was thinking about this.
“Yes,” he answered finally, but there was the slightest hint of hesitation, and Peter seized it.
“But… Sad, too. Hurt.”
Peter had known, of course. He’d been there when Kate died, and he knew Neal’s life hadn’t been a bed of roses even before that. But he still hated that Neal had been hurting and there was nothing he could do about it. “And now, Neal? Are you still sad?”
Neal was quiet for a moment, chewing on the knuckles of his fingers as he thought. “Less now,” he finally decided. “Farder away.”
The fist that was clenched around Peter’s heart loosened, just a little bit.
“Okay, Neal. Last question. And I need you to think especially hard about this one, okay?”
“Do you want to be a grownup again, and have things go back to the way they were, or would you like to stay like you are, and grow up all over again?” Peter took a breath, and held it, as Neal thought this over.
After a small eternity had passed, he looked up at Peter, and asked hesitantly, “Would you keep me? ‘F I was widdle?”
Peter let out the breath. “Yeah, yeah Neal, El and I would keep you. We’d find a way to keep you.”
Neal studied him, the same look on his face as when adult-Neal studied a forgery, looking for the flaws.
This Neal was looking for the truth.
“Even when ’m bad?” he asked. “You keep me even t’en?”
Peter swallowed around the lump in his throat. “There is nothing you could ever do,” he swore “that would be bad enough El and I wouldn’t want you.”
Neal wasn’t accepting that as an answer. Didn’t believe someone could love him enough to keep him no matter what. He crawled out from beneath his cocoon of blankets and into Peter’s lap, his tiny hands framing the man’s face, staring seriously into his eyes. “Even t’en.”
Peter nodded, promising “Even then.”
Neal studied him some more, and finally, finally trusting what he saw, smiled and snuggled into Peter’s chest, curling up and yawning, one tiny fist clenched around Peter’s fingers. “I’d wike you to keep me,” Neal whispered, and drifted off to sleep.
Peter cuddled him close and breathed in the soft baby-smell of him, and silently swore that he’d move Heaven and Earth if that’s what it took to keep him.
Lost Boy 9/? - Hope
Disclaimer: Not mine.
A/N: I ended up writing this sans the cliffhanger I was originally planning. (Wasn't that nice of me? I accept thank yous in the form of shirtless Matt Bomers and reviews.) I have also already written almost the entire next chapter, and I have a bazillion ideas for future parts once I have this upcoming bit done… So hopefully I’ll have more up soon. *fingers crossed*
Peter watched, annoyed, as his knee continuously bounced up and down, just barely grazing the edge of the picnic table he was seated at. He’d tried to make it stop, but only succeeded in making the other one start, and so had placed his hands on them to hold them still only to have passerby give him odd looks - no doubt wondering who the crazy man was, physically restraining his own knees. So he’d let go. And now it was bouncing again.
It wasn’t nerves, exactly, that was causing it. Not nerves like the first time he walked Elizabeth to her door, wondering if he should try for a goodnight kiss, or like the first time he’d stared down the barrel of a gun and thought Oh, God, I could die.
It was more like how he felt after Neal had made him that offer to help catch The Dutchman.
He wasn’t entirely sure what that meant.
He did wonder, though, what it said that so much of his life these last several years kept coming back to Neal.
Speak of the devil.
He stood just as little arms wrapped around his leg, and he looked down to see a mop of dark curls and something with plastic eyes looking at him.
He glanced up to see where Elizabeth was and noted with some relief that she was only a few yards away, walking towards him with an indulgent smile on her face.
“Lookit I got!” Neal cried, releasing Peter’s leg and thrusting the plastic-eyed thing towards him. “Itsa dog! Dug tuh dog! He tawks!” He pressed it’s paw to demonstrate, and Peter smiled and told him it was nice, and secretly thought it sounded a lot like an instructor he’d had at Quantico. Kinda looked like him too.
Elizabeth gave him a kiss, and handed him a bag of takeout that she’d picked up from their favorite sandwich shop. “It reminded him of Satch,” she informed him, “and I realized I hadn’t gotten him any toys or anything so I told him he could get it.”
Neal was running the toy back and forth along the picnic table, talking to it in hushed tones.
“Neal,” Peter suggested, “why don’t you take, uh, ‘Dug’ over and show him the slide while we set up lunch?” He pointed to a playground across from their table.
Neal happily ran (and as adult-Neal Peter had wanted to bottle his energy for personal use when it felt like his experience - not age- was catching up to him, but now, simply looking at child-Neal made him tired) over to play.
Peter took a moment to look at his wife, really look at her, her eyes trained on Neal as he ran up the playground equipment. She looked happy. She was smiling the smile she wore the day her business cards arrived and she saw “Burke Premiere Events” in embossed gold lettering for the first time. The smile she wore the first time he introduced her to someone as “this is my wife, Elizabeth Burke.” The smile she wore when her world was perfect.
God, she was beautiful.
“Have a nice day, honey?” he asked, turning away and setting out their lunch spread.
“Mm-hmm. We went shopping. Picked up a booster seat and Dug and some Johnson & Johnson shampoo and bubble bath so we don’t have to worry about him getting it in his eyes.”
Normally, at that point, she would ask how his day was going, but apparently not this time. Not when he’d started the day searching for answers she didn’t want to find.
“I went looking for Mr. Muriuki,” he told her. “The man who owned the idol.”
She didn’t look at him, was still watching Neal who was lying on his stomach across a swing, holding Dug out in front of him like he was flying. Her shoulders tensed.
“I went back to his penthouse. I figured if anyone would know how to reverse this, he would.”
Her back straightened a little more, and she made a sound like she’d strangled her breath in her throat.
“El, look at me.” She didn’t move, remained as still as a prey animal the instant before it’s fight-or-flight response kicks in. “El, please.”
She turned, and her eyes flashed, and he knew then that she chose fight, but he spoke up quickly, before she got the chance.
“The place was cleared out, El. Mr. Muriuki’s gone.”
Something like hope sparkled in her eyes when he told her “I don’t know how to change him back.”
A/N: Also, fun fact. I actually researched to find what I thought to be an ‘appropriate’ name for Mr. Idol-owner-guy. “Muriuki” is a Kikuyu (ethnic group found in Kenya) name meaning “rebirth”. I’m oddly proud of this. :p