"Or in Lir's cave," Piper added, setting the pan on the counter and turning the faucet so they could rinse everything before loading the dishwasher. "He doesn't come out much in winter, so if we lose them during the snow, they're usually in there with him."
"Right," Des agreed, moving about the kitchen and dining room to set things right. Double the gathering meant double the mess, especially when half of them were children. "Is Peter adjusting better these days?" he asked his cousin.
Ash thought about her answer before she gave it. "He's doing better," she said eventually, snagging a cloth to wipe down the dining table. "I mean, he probably has an unhealthy attachment to everyone and everything he knows right now, but I think that's gonna ease back over time. The one thing that terrifies him is the thought of being alone."
"Which is why he brought Theo and Jake to Neverland in the first place," Desmond recalled. Or at least, that's what he assumed. He couldn't imagine ever being as alone as Peter had been, with no one but a fairy friend to love.
"Yeah," Ash agreed. "I know it seems a little weird just how attached he is to Lynnie, but I think she's got a good hold on it. I trust her not to let him get so attached that he can't function without her."
"I think she's good for him," Desmond agreed, though he didn't want Lyneth or Peter to form an attachment that might become an unhealthy one.
"I don't think he would have settled in as well as he has without Lynnie," Ash admitted. She bit her lip. "But being closer to other kids their age might help him spread his wings a little when it comes to friendships."
"She's a blessing," Desmond said. Though she wasn't his daughter by birth, he had come to think of her as his. Theirs was a special bond that was rare even for fathers and daughters who shared a bloodline.
"I still owe you for letting me borrow her that night," Ash pointed out. Des and Piper had never called in that favor. "I still can't quite believe how gorgeous she's gonna be when she finally decides to be an adult."
"Let's hope that's not for a while yet," Desmond said, frowning a little at the thought of it, not because he disagreed with Ashlyn, but because he wasn't ready for her to grow up yet.
"She's got a reason to grow up at a normal rate now she has Peter," Piper offered in amusement. "She won't want to leave him behind."
"I suppose not," Des admitted. He made no remark on what Lyneth looked like as a woman, hoping if he didn't acknowledge it, it wouldn't happen for a long time yet.
"So long as they're happy, I'm good with them hanging out together," Ashlyn commented. "If it ever gets weird, that's when I'll intervene, not before."
"Maybe when they're teenagers," Des suggested with a chuckle, only half kidding, though that was still a few years away yet. "So, I guess they jointly decided to quit STARS. Has he mentioned that yet?"
"I wouldn't call it mentioned," Ash said, trying not to laugh. "He sort of walked in and announced it to a breathless audience. Something along the lines of pretending to be someone different every week is boring, I'd rather be me."
Desmond laughed. "That sounds like Peter," he said. "Has he mentioned what they want to do instead?" he asked, assuming it wasn't anything so innocent as take ballet lessons.
"Not yet," Ash mused. "I think they're looking for something they want to do together, but they don't have the experience to be able to pinpoint what it is. I thought about maybe introducing them to sports, but which ones?"
"Not fencing!" Des was quick to point out with a wry chuckle. Peter had already gained some experience with a blade in Neverland, but it wasn't something a normal nine-year-old should be doing in the playground.
Ash laughed. "What about a martial art, then?" she suggested. "Something like karate, or judo? Something they can do together, but advance individually through?"
"Hmm," Desmond murmured thoughtfully. He'd taken some martial arts classes himself as a boy and had found them helpful not only in teaching him self-control, but also in focusing his anger. "That's not a bad idea, but I'm not sure Lyneth would be interested." Then again, the grown Lyneth was a badass in her own right already.
"It wouldn't hurt to ask," Piper said thoughtfully, turning the dishwasher on finally. "She only really knows how to fight with magic. Learning how to defend herself without relying on magic would be good for her."
"I think it would be good for Peter," Desmond admitted, though he didn't want to go into any explanations about his own past and how it had helped him.
"They could practice together, too," Ash said with a grin. "That would be very funny to watch."
"You're right. It would," Des admitted, moving to pour himself a cup of coffee. "I wonder which would be better at it."
"Lynnie's sneaky, but Peter's quick," Piper said thoughtfully, setting out the decorated cakes on a plate. All the children knew which ones belonged to them. "They might be evenly matched."
"Should we suggest it and see what they say?" he asked, before taking a sip of his coffee. Cora and Mia were still too young to worry about lessons of any kind, and Dyl seemed set on sports.
"Hey, are you sharing that, or is it Desdemona's special super-sekrit coffee?" Ash asked her cousin teasingly, nudging his arm with her own. "Maybe we should wait a couple of days before suggesting our kids start throwing down with each other."
"I can share," Des replied with a smirk of his own, as he set his cup down to pour one for Ash. He didn't bother to offer Piper a cup as he knew she wasn't much of a coffee drinker. "One thing at a time," he agreed. The idea of moving from one home to another was enough of a change for now.
"Signing them up for judo could be a Christmas present for them," Piper mused, smirking as Des moved to caffeinate his cousin.
"So long as it's something they both want to do," Desmond remarked. It might be something only one of them wanted to do, but he had a feeling they'd be more inclined to do it together.
"We can test the water over the next few months," Piper said confidently, settling into a seat at the kitchen table with her own cup of tea. "What do you suppose that husband of yours is doing with the zoo?"
Ash snorted. "Honestly? Only heaven can tell."
"They probably have him pushing them on the swings or something," Des said, mostly of the girls. Better Jamie than himself! He got conned into doing that often enough in the past, mostly by Cora and Mia.
"At least they fed the dogs and Knip," Piper added, nodding to the bowls on the floor that contained only the barest residue of the food that had been in them.
"Should we join them?" he asked, not looking too anxious to leave the quiet of the kitchen just yet and rejoin the troops. There were cupcakes to think about though.
"They'll remember they haven't had dessert in a little while," Piper predicted, just as comfortable where she was sitting with her tea.
Ash chuckled at the pair of them. "Gods, you two are nauseatingly domesticated," she teased.
"That, my dear, is entirely your fault," Des pointed out with a cheesy grin. He might have drawn his wife onto his lap if it wasn't for the presence of his cousin.
"How is it my fault?" Ash asked laughingly, sipping her coffee. "You're the ones who keep volunteering to have my Lost Boy overnight. He's practically been living here this summer!"
"I meant Piper!" Desmond said, chuckling again. "We've enjoyed having him," he added at the mention of Peter, looking to Piper to hopefully back him up on this.
"Things are never boring when Peter and Lyneth are in cahoots," Piper agreed. "But he's a good boy. You're going well with him, Ash. And Cora is turning into a polite little princess."
"Things are never boring, when either of them is around," Desmond murmured, whether it was Peter, Lyneth or both of them together at the same time. "And Dylan is like the third musketeer," he added, glad the pair never chased him away when he wanted to join them.
"They certainly get up to all sorts of things together," Piper said with a smile. She tilted her head at the sound of a small explosion of laughter from outside. "Sounds as though they're enjoying themselves."
"Think we should go rescue your husband?" Des asked, half-teasing. He didn't look too eager to get up from his chair just yet, and he hadn't heard any protests from outside.
"I'll go," Ash volunteered with a chuckle, setting her finished cup down. "You two keep reenacting Parents of the Victorian Era a little bit longer - you deserve the break!"
"Parents of the Victorian Era had servants!" Desmond pointed out, before realizing that was the point she had probably been trying to make. At least, those who were wealthy did.
Ash could hear Piper laughing as she slipped out through the back door, moving to join the gaggle outside who seemed to have congregated around Chewy in the middle of the garden. "And what is going on here, hmm?"
Peter was the first to pipe up, pointing at the chocolate lab with a dimpled grin on his face. "The fairies are sitting on Chewy's back!" he explained, whether she could see them or not.
"Are they really?" Ash could not see them, of course, but she joined the little circle with a smile, tucking her arm around Jamie's waist to lean into his side. "Dare I ask what they're doing?"
"Um," Jamie started. "It almost looks like they're having a party," he told his wife quietly, though it was hard to tell with fairies. "I'm just waiting for Chewy to shake them off," he added with a smirk.
"He seems pretty content," she commented, watching as the dog walked carefully in a circle, apparently doing his best not to shake his passengers from their perch. "He doesn't look like he's in distress."
"You can't see them?" Jamie asked, arching a dark brow. He had learned that some people could see fairies and some couldn't, and Ash still seemed to belong to the latter group, despite having Peter Pan for a son.
She shook her head with a smile. "I'm not a child, and I'm not touched by fae or fairy magic," she explained easily. "I know they exist, I just can't see them."
He might have suggested Peter sprinkle some fairy dust on her, but he wasn't sure she'd appreciate that too much. "It's strange. I can see them plain as day," he murmured.
"You spent a long time in Neverland," she reminded him. "There's a little fairy magic in you, even now." She squeezed him affectionately.
That only made him frown. He didn't really want fairy magic in him and never had, but it was probably a good thing with a son like Peter Pan. "I suppose," he admitted, sliding an arm around her shoulders to draw her close and drop a kiss to her cheek. "Love you," he whispered for her ears alone.
She smiled, turning her head until her nose brushed his. "Love you back," she murmured in turn, her eyes sparkling with mischief for a moment. "Kinda like the idea of turning the Point into our dirty weekend getaway for a while."
He grinned at that thought. "That means leaving the kids with a sitter, you know." Here at Maple Grove, there were plenty of people willing to take their children off their hands for a few nights.
"Haven't we been doing that every other night this summer anyway?" she teased, kissing the tip of his nose. For the moment, she was blissfully unaware of all the little faces watching them being affectionate to one another.