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Fic: Lost Boy 10/? - Decisions


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.

“P’tr!”

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?”

Another nod.

“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?”

“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?”

Nod.

“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.


Comments

ivorysilk
Jun. 7th, 2011 01:01 pm (UTC)
Just a comment to gently nudge you into hopefully writing more--this is one of my favourite fics.