Kicking her legs as she sat on the edge of the walkway around the tree house, Lyneth grinned over at Peter cheerfully. "Mummy says we can have a sleepover on spooky night this year," she was saying. "Wanna come?"
Peter was kicking his legs, too, feet bare and toes wiggling freely. He liked the way it felt to go barefoot, the grass tickling his toes, but only in summer. He had found out the hard way that it was too cold for that in winter. "Can I bring Snow with me?" he asked, rarely going anywhere without being accompanied by his fairy friend. His mother had carefully explained how he couldn't always take Chewy and Lucy with him, but Snow wasn't the type to take no for an answer.
"Course you can!" Lynnie declared, nodding emphatically. "Snow's always welcome, she's your bestest bestie!" She wriggled a finger toward the little fairy who was never far from Peter's side, giggling when Snow stuck her tongue out at her.
Most fairies were jealous little things, after all, and Snow was no exception, but Lyneth was half-fae and so the fairy tolerated her as best she could. "I like her lots, but she's not my bestest bestie. You are!" Peter pointed out, not realizing that might hurt Snow's feelings.
Lyneth's smile softened, growing more mature for a moment as it sometimes did when being a child wasn't enough to get her point across. "I mean she's, like, part of you," she explained, trying to smooth the ruffled feathers while not disagreeing with her friend. "She's nearly your sister, only not, because Cora's your sister, and she's really cute too."
"Oh, yeah, I like Cora a lot," Peter remarked, kicking his feet, even as Snow glowered at him as she hovered in the air nearby. "But she can't run and play like we can. Mama says I shouldn't teach her to fly yet, or she might get lost." Peter swiped a hand at Snow as her tiny gossamer wings flicked his hair. "Stop it, Snow. That tickles!" he chided her good-naturedly.
"Cora's only little still," Lyneth agreed. "Besides, it's nice having friends you don't got to share with your little brother and sister." Thus spake the half-fae with experience. Lyneth adored Dylan and Amelia, but they also annoyed her no end on occasion.
"Like Lucy," Peter pointed out. "Cora always screams when she sees her. I don't know why. She's just a frog!" he said, though that was probably not quite what Lyneth meant when referring to friends.
"Well, when you're little, you're scared of lots of things," Lyneth said placatingly. "She's not scared of Chewy, and Snow likes her, doesn't she?" The look she gave the fairy suggested consequences if Snow had been tormenting Cora when Peter wasn't looking.
"I guess," Peter replied, shrugging his shoulder noncommittally. He wasn't really sure what Snow thought of Cora, but he had made her promise never to hurt his little sister or risk being shunned. "Chewy likes everyone!" he pointed out further. The dog was no longer a puppy, except at heart, and adored Cora just as much as he did Peter.
"You can teach her not to be 'fraid of Lucy," Lyneth told him. "You're clever and kind, and Cora trusts you so so much. And I bet you could teach Kai not to be scared of Chewy." That one might be a bit of a stretch, though, considering that Kai's mother was also terrified of all dogs.
"Maybe," Peter replied, also with a shrug. It wasn't so much that he didn't care or didn't know, so much as he wasn't really that worried about it. He paused a moment, teeth tugging briefly at his bottom lip. "Can I ask you somethin'?"
"Sure!" Lyneth twisted to give him her full attention, drawing one foot up onto the walkway to wrap her arms about it. She tilted her head, turquoise eyes curious and warm as she looked at him. "Whatcha wanna ask?"
Peter's expression turned serious, a worried look in his eyes. "Do you 'member Neverland? I-I think I'm starting to forget," he confessed, a hint of fear in the voice of a boy who had never been afraid of anything.
Lyneth's expression twisted with sympathy. "I 'member everything," she said apologetically. "But that's 'cos I'm not all human. You are all human, and humans forget stuff all the time. It's the way your brains work."
"I don't wanna forget," Peter said worriedly. He hadn't thought too much about the consequences of leaving Neverland or of growing up. It was a different kind of adventure, but he didn't want to forget.
"You could write it down before it goes away," his friend suggested. "Or draw pictures. Lots of people have diaries they write and draw in, like a special place for their memories. Mummy does that."
"So I'll always remember?" Peter asked uncertainly. He knew Lyneth would be able to help. She was always full of good ideas. That was partly why he liked her so much.
She nodded happily. "And you can read it and look at it whenever you want, and you can keep it so that you can show it to your children when you're all growed up," she added.
"My children?" Peter echoed, eyes wide. He had played at being a father, but he didn't think it would ever really happen - at least, not for a very long time. He studied her a moment, as if debating what he was about to say. "You mean, our children," he corrected her, matter-of-factly.
Lyneth beamed, her smile bright with delight. "Yup, that's what I mean," she agreed, not at all embarrassed or repulsed by the idea of spending her whole life with her best friend. They were still children, yes, but it seemed as though this friendship was one that would last through everything.
Peter drew a knee up and turned to face her, one foot still dangling off the walkway. "We should go swimmin'. It's a good day for swimming," he said, completely changing the subject.
"Where'd we go swimmin'?" Lynnie asked, apparently just as content as he was to drop the subject. "There's swimmin' pools, and there's real pools, and there's the sea, but if we go to the sea, we have to tell a growed up."
"We'd have to tell 'em if we go swimmin' in a pool, too," he pointed out. His mother had been very adamant about that. Never go swimming alone and never without someone there to keep watch. He wasn't quite sure what they were supposed to keep watch for, but there had been no arguing with her.
"Wull, yeah, but we don't have to get in a car to use a pool on the Grove," Lyneth countered. "Cars are stuffy and noisy." She was developing opinions about technology as she grew up, which were becoming more and more influenced by her far more naturally inclined Fae side.
"We could fly," he suggested. "But we'd still have to tell someone." His mother had also been adamant about letting someone know where he was at all times. That had happened after he'd flown off to see Lyneth one day without telling her where he was going, and she'd been frantic with worry when she couldn't find him. He thought his mother worried about him too much, but his father had explained it was only because she loved him.
"'Course we'd tell someone," she said firmly. "I don't like making Mummy cry, and she cries when she worries about the people she loves, and I made her cry lots when I was little 'cos I wasn't very good at bein' with her."
"How come?" he asked curiously. He had always liked listening to stories and Lyneth had the best stories, even when they were about herself.
"I told you about the bad daddy, didn't I?" she said, harking back to a story she had already shared once or twice. "When I was very little, I thought that I had to protect my mummy from him, and I was doin' that by not hugging her or being around her so much like I should of. And she thought for ages and ages that I didn't love her the way I loved my Daddy Des, but she never ever said anything, and then one day at school, I got this really sad pain, like, in my heart and I knew it was from my mummy. So I came home and I cuddled with her and ever since then, I always tell her how much I love her and she smiles more and more."
Peter nodded in answer to her question, his attention riveted on her as she told her story. He'd heard most of it before, but he never seemed to tire of it. "How did you get the sad pain in your heart? How did you know she was sad?" he asked, trying to understand.
"I dunno," she said thoughtfully. "It's just somethin' I can do with the people I love. If they need me, I just know it. I knew when Daddy got hurt on Earth, and I knew when Mummy was so sad it made her hurt, and I knew when Tiernan was in danger. I just knew."
"Can you do that with me?" he asked, curiosity piqued. She had never told him she loved him in so many words, but they were besties, after all. "Turn around," he told her, gesturing with the wave of a hand.
Lyneth gave him a suspicious look. "Don't you do somethin' that's dangerous just 'cos you want to prove somethin'," she warned, dropping her leg back to hang over the edge as she shuffled about to look away.
"I won't!" he promised. He wasn't that stupid, after all. "Don't look!" he warned, waiting until she closed her eyes before waving a hand between them to make sure she wasn't looking. He turned his back to her then and considered a minute. He wasn't a coward by any means, but he didn't really like pain either, and he didn't want to hurt her. After a moment's thought, he drew a breath and pinched the skin on his forearm and twisted just hard enough to make it hurt. "Can you feel that?" he asked, brows furrowed in concentration.