By noon, Tink was done with bike riding. She said it was a stupid human activity and far less efficient than flying, and she was getting dirty. Of course, she said all of that to Jensen in a hiss and smiled at Jared as she made her excuses and left.
From the corner of his eye, Jensen saw her wheel the bike behind a tree and throw it to the ground, disappearing into a spark of light. He was definitely going to get an earful from her later. But honestly, he couldn’t be bothered to care at this point. He had Jared all to himself, something rare even in Neverland and something he had given up on ever happening again.
Wheeling down a dirt bikepath, the ground dappled with light coming through the trees lining it, Jensen almost felt like he was in the Neverwood again. He could hear the rustle of leaves, the skitter of squirrels in the trees, the faint calls of birds.
Suddenly, Jared stood up in his pedals, smiling. He gestured to Jensen, waving him on. “Come on, I’ll show you something cool. Try to keep up!” With a whoop, Jared pedaled up the path about twenty more yards and then popped his front wheel off the ground a moment as he plunged into the woods. Laughing, Jensen angled towards the narrow path and pedaled hard as he followed Jared into the woods.
After ten minutes of hopping tree roots and avoiding saplings, Jensen could see that ahead of Jared, there was more light, some kind of clearing, maybe. He heard a sound he couldn’t pinpoint at first, too soft under the sound of their bikes. When Jared exited the trees, the sun caught him full on, lighting his skin golden. Jensen skidded to a stop next to him and looked around, one foot down to steady his bike.
“Wow. How - how did you find this?” The stream flowing over a cascade of smooth rocks made a soft burbling sound, the one Jensen had heard. He watched it flow, following the path of the water until it widened and rounded and formed a pool. The trees shaded some of the water, but the part near them was sparking with light. The grass was green and lush around the pond.
“Awesome, right? Just found it one day when I was out adventuring.”
“Adventuring...” Jensen repeated it softly, memories flooding in like water of all their adventures. It was the most bittersweet feeling to know he was the only one with those memories.
“It’s damn cold, though. I tried to swim in it and nearly froze everything off.” Jared had laid his bike down in the grass and was kicking his shoes off before sitting down on a wide, flat rock by the edge. “Gonna feel good today, though.” He tossed his socks into his shoes and dangled his bare legs into the water, jerking slightly when his toes hit the surface.
Jensen did the same quickly, joining Jared on the rock. He cried out when he put his feet in. “Shit, it is cold.” They’d both worked up a sweat, though, so it was pretty soothing, too. He swirled his feet around, looking down at his reflection in the water. His white stripe was almost totally gone now, and he kind of missed it. “Feels awesome, though, you were right.”
From the corner of his eye, Jensen caught some motion and turned just in time to see Jared yank his t-shirt off, ball it up and toss it towards his shoes. Jensen’s eyes widened slightly, because that was not how he remembered Peter. This new version of Peter was covered in muscles, and his eyes followed the ridges down his stomach to the low waistband of his shorts. It was very impressive, and he was staring, so he jerked his gaze back up.
Which was when he saw the tattoo right above Jared’s heart, and his breath caught in his throat. Jared had laid down on the rock, hands tucked behind his head, clearly looking to enjoy the sun. His eyes were closed, which gave Jensen the chance to look more closely.
“Your tattoo...” He barely resisted reaching out to trace it. “What made you get those?” Jared didn’t seem to have any other ink, so the two stars were very noticeable.
Jared sat up on his elbows, glancing down at the two stars. One was slightly higher, one slightly bigger. They were exactly right. “Dunno. I just...I went in to get something else, but when I sat down, this is what I asked for.” He shrugged.
Second star to the right and straight on ‘til morning Jensen repeated it in his head. The road map to Neverland. How, without his memory, did Jared know that?
“Oh, yeah. Well, they’re cool.”
“Thanks, man. You have any ink?” Jared glanced over Jensen, but since Jensen still had his shirt on, there wasn’t nearly as much skin for him to see.
“Nope.” Jensen opened his mouth, and pulled up one side of his shirt. There was a faint pink line that went up his ribcage. He could remember exactly how it felt when he fell out of one of the tallest trees in the Neverwood and a branch sliced his side open. “I’ve got this, though? Not the same, but yeah. Scars are the only permanent marks on me.”
“Oh ow, how’d you get that one?” Jared reached out and traced it, and Jensen flinched, feeling ticklish.
“Fell out of a tree. Uh, when I was a kid.”
Jared angled his body around, pulling on the skin, feeling along his back. “There. See that one?” There was a jagged scar, pretty faded. His fingers ran over the surface.
“Yeah? That looks painful.”
Exhaling, Jared nodded. “Went right over my bike handles once. I tried to roll into it, but all I did was tear up my back on some glass on the street. Blood everywhere. I only wish I could have seen it happen. Bet it looked like a movie stunt!” He turned around with a smirk and sat back on his hands.
There was a long white scar across Jared’s stomach. It was so narrow, and pale, you could only see it because the skin didn’t tan. Jensen stared at it. “How’d you get that one?” He pointed, almost touching it.
“Hmm? Oh, this one?” Jared’s face fell a little, and Jensen regretted asking. “I don’t - I don’t actually know.”
Jensen knew. That was the day Hook got lucky, and nearly gutted Peter right in front of him. Jensen remembered the sound of metal cutting through the air and then, the smell of blood, the way Peter’s face went pale and fearful when he realized how deep it was. The other Boys managed to fight Hook off, and Jensen had pulled Peter’s arm over his shoulder, and struggled to get him out of the cove, up into the Wood. He had ignored all the sounds of battle, focusing only on Peter’s breathing, on holding his own bandanna against the wound.
Jensen didn’t ask why Jared didn’t know, but Jared clearly knew it was an odd answer. “I don’t -” He cleared his throat. “I don’t actually know about anything that happened to me before I was about 12. That’s when they found me.”
“What? Who found you?”
Looking away, Jared blew out a breath. “Guess the cops. I don’t know, I woke up in a hospital. They just said I was flat out on the sidewalk, no id, no nothing. And … no memory.”
Jensen stared at Jared, realizing for the first time how losing his memory had affected Jared. He’d spent way too much time thinking about how the loss affected him, rather than realizing how scary it must have been for Jared to wake up with no knowledge of who he was.
“No memory at all? You don’t - nothing before that age?”
Shaking his head, Jared gave him a kind of sad smile. “Every once in awhile, I think there’s something. But it doesn’t make sense.”
Jensen sat up straighter, pulling his feet out of the water. “What, why?”
“The stuff I see? It’s more like - it’s what you’d see if you were - well, if you were flying.” Jared snorted. “So, that’s clearly not a memory. Just weird dreams and stuff.”
Jensen bit his lip, and wished he could assure Jared that those were memories, real honest memories, but he knew he couldn’t. It wouldn’t help, and he certainly didn’t want Jared to start thinking of him as delusional. Not when they were becoming friends. Again. Or for the first time. It was all a bit too much to think about.
They stayed at the Secret Pool, as Jensen came to call it in his head, for another hour, talking. Jared was shocked to learn that Jensen had ended up in foster care when he was about ten, and they compared notes on the system. And Jensen felt terribly guilty when he explained that he’d actually been one of the lucky ones. Adopted at age eleven, treated well, loved like a son. His new parents lived in Texas, but he visited them and they talked often. Jared had the other experience, bouncing through homes until he hit 18 and found his own way. It felt like the only way it probably could have gone for someone living in Peter’s skin, but it still made Jensen sad.
By the time they pedaled back to the park entrance, Jensen was tired, and sunburned, but he rode off towards his apartment smiling the whole way. He’d had himself an adventure.
Tink paced back and forth across his living room floor, moving so quickly Jensen was getting a bit dizzy watching her.
“...and then I went to the mermaids, and oh, I hate them. They pretended to love Peter, but would they help me? No, they would not. I searched the lagoon anyway, and then Skull Rock, and Crocodile Creek and all over Pixie Hollow even though Hook is too big and stupid to hide anything there.” She put her hands on her hips, blew her bangs out of her eyes. “I went back to the Jolly Roger and I looked everywhere, Tootles. Through the Neverwood, all the way up Neverpeak Mountain. I just don’t know where else to look.” She stomped over and flopped down on the couch next to him, arms crossed.
It had been two weeks since the day in the park, and he and Jared had been hanging out at the shop more and more. Jensen worked a lot of hours, so couldn’t always go off to ride with Jared, or hang out by the river or any of the million other places Jared liked to go. The fact that he would stay inside as much as he did to hang out with Jensen was kind of amazing. One night, Jensen told Jared he could stick around after they closed while Jensen cleaned up and they’d ended up talking into the wee hours. Jensen had needed seven cups of coffee to get his brain online the next day, but it was worth it.
Once Tink had dialed the flirting down below eleven, Jensen felt better when she was in the shop, too. Everyone was more relaxed when she stopped trying so hard. The first time one of her snarky remarks made Jared throw his head back and laugh, the pleased look on her face went a long way to making Jensen forgive her for trying so hard to steal Jared away.
But the memory problem was still a problem. Tink couldn’t find it, and Jensen had started to run out of ideas of where she could look.
“Tootles, you must have another idea. Why do you think I came to you for help when I found out Peter was alive?”
Jensen frowned a little. “I don’t know, actually.” He had been so focused on her message, he hadn’t really thought about why him.
Wiping her hair out of her eyes, Tink turned to him. “Because you are both the smartest and most foolish Lost Boy of them all.”
Running a hand through his hair, Jensen snorted. “So, am I supposed to be both flattered and insulted now?”
“And there is the fool. Listen to me. I needed you because you would have ideas about how to get Peter back and because you would do anything, risk anything to do it.” She put a hand on his arm. “Only a fool loves someone that much.”
The truth struck quite close, and Jensen half-shrugged. A question that had been plaguing rose back to the surface. He and Tink were finding their way to a friendship they’d never had back in Neverland, and it was comforting, in a way, to have that connection.
“I want to give Peter his memory back. I want to find it, and I won’t give up, but Tink...” He chewed on his thumbnail, avoiding her eyes. “What if he doesn’t like me the same when he’s Peter and I’m Tootles again?”
“This is Peter, silly boy.” But there was no bite in her words.
“I know, but... I mean, Peter didn’t...” The truth of how he was starting to feel about Jared was growing in him. There was more than just friendship blooming.
“Oh Tootles. He loved you best,” she said softly, resigned. She repeated, “He loved you best. Better than all the boys, better than Wendy.” She stopped, hand brushing across one eye. “Better than me.” The saddest bells tolled as she spoke.
The words slowly sank in as Jensen stared at Tink, at the pale blue of her eyes. “He loved you, Tink. You know that, right?”
She ducked her eyes. “Not the way I - it doesn’t matter now.” She got to her feet, brushing imaginary dirt off her skirt. “You will have Peter, in every time, at every age, in this world and all the others. He is meant for you, don’t you see that?”
“I don’t...how could you know that?” The enormity of what Tink was saying to him was too much for Jensen to take in. He was little Tootles, the one who always showed up late, the one who had all the ideas, but never the luck. How could he possibly be the one for Peter? Who even said there was one person for Peter?
“I know things. Fairies are very observant, you know.” She sniffed a bit, and Jensen could tell he was beginning to insult her.
“I’m sorry. Thank you, Tink. And we’ll find his memory. He will know his favorite fairy again. I promise.” He crossed his heart, solemn and serious.
“You better!” She shrunk to a glow of light without much warning and disappeared.
“Good bye!” But she was already gone.
It was a Saturday, their busiest day, when Jared came by at lunchtime, hair windswept and cheeks flushed with exertion, and slipped up to the coffee counter with a grin that was so Peter it took Jensen’s breath away. He offered Jared a caramel macchiato with extra caramel and whipped cream, and Jared asked if he wanted to have dinner that night.
For a moment, Jensen almost said, of course, I want to have dinner every night, I get hungry, but then caught himself in time to realize that Jared was asking him out. On a date. He flushed head to toe and nodded, still holding out the sweet concoction. Jared winked and thanked him and said he’d be back at seven, if that was good. Jensen could only nod, even as Danni threw him a thumbs up from her spot. (His shop was really entirely too small.)
Seven o’clock came in a moment, and Jensen tried not to think about the jealous pout Tink had given him when he said she was not invited to dinner, he was so sorry, but despite having been on few grown-up dates, he was pretty sure neither an extra girl nor a fairy were typically allowed. He was reminded that fairies did not appreciate logic very well when she knocked over a jar of coffee stirrers on her way out of the store and up into the night sky. Her kind words to him the night at his apartment were apparently forgotten in a flare of old, familiar jealousy. It was comforting in a way to have the Tink he knew back.
Jensen was still crouched on the floor collecting them all for the trash when the bell over the door rang and he found himself staring at a pair of sneakers he’d come to recognize. He looked up and up and really, everyone had gotten so big since he’d left Neverland, and Peter, now Jared was no exception. With a stammered explanation, Jensen got to his feet, and Jared offered him a hand as he did.
The touch was electric, like touching a live wire, a spark shooting up his arm. For Jensen, there were memories linked to having Peter take his hand, helping him fly, saving him from rogue dragons, from dangerous Indians, from pirates. Helping him climb the tallest trees, tempting him to jump into the cove from the highest cliff because they would jump together. So much of that went through him in a flash, and yet he saw that Jared was just helping him up from the floor, and he felt a sadness like a weight on his chest. It was not fair, is what it was.
“Are you ready?” Words said with a smile, and Jensen was ready to jump into the cove with him. To feel the air rushing past and the shock of cold water making him feel alive, alive, alive.
Tightening his grip, he smiled. “Yeah, ready.”
It turned out they were going to a sushi restaurant, and Jensen loved sushi. He had never heard of it when he came to the Mainland, and somehow came to love the careful construction, the colors, the flavors. It made him pleased that someone took such care and so was amazed and happy to hear Jared echo his thoughts. They sat down and ordered a foolish amount of food and started to talk, the low lighting and candles on the table making it feel quiet and private. They were talking about how Jared came to be a bike messenger, and he was recounting how many times he’d been hit by a car (three) and how many times he had wrecked (countless) and how lucky he was in general (very), when the food arrived. Jensen had his mouth full of a shrimp nigiri when Jared asked his next question.
“So, who is Peter?”
Jensen choked, eyes watering as he forced the rice down and drank half his tea before he recovered. For his part, Jared looked worried, and patted his shoulder while Jensen coughed.
“What was your question?” Jensen asked with eyes watering, knowing full well what Jared had asked.
“When I came into Neverland the first time? You thought I was some guy named Peter?” Jared leaned closer, eyes warm with curiosity. “If you could have seen your face when you said it...” He stopped, something passing across his face that Jensen could not pinpoint. “Right then, I really wished I was that guy.”
It took all that Jensen had for him not to cry out that he was that guy, that he was the Pan, and in that moment, he wanted so desperately to give Jared back what he had lost. Instead, he ducked his head a little with a wistful, remembering smile. “Peter was someone I knew when I was younger. A long time ago.” He fiddled with his chopsticks, looking up at Jared’s soft exhale.
Jared was watching him, so closely, and he was so grown and handsome, it made Jensen’s heart thump painfully in his chest. “Did he break your heart, this Peter? Because when you say his name, you sound heartbroken.”
Tears burned hot behind his eyes, and Jensen smiled through them as he took a breath. “He didn’t break it on purpose.” Because Peter did not leave him by choice.
“Even when things are broken by accident, they’re still in pieces.” Jared looked down when he said it, and Jensen had to wonder. It’s something Peter would say, something Jensen could almost remember him saying once, years ago, and even as it hurts, it gives him hope. Maybe Peter is under there somewhere, after all.
They changed topics and ordered some sake, and by the end of dinner, Jensen was positive he had been fooling himself all this time. He thought he loved Peter the way he did back in Neverland, but no. He wanted Jared in a totally new way. He noticed new things about Jared that he’d never seen in Peter. Like the fact that his mouth was wide and soft-looking, and Jensen wanted to taste it.
While Jensen had been contemplating the little dip in Jared’s upper lip, Jared had apparently been asking him a question because now he was waving his hand in front of his face.
“Jensen? You in there?”
It was warm in the restaurant, that was the problem. Jensen was feeling kind of flush, and it was almost certainly the temperature. “Oh yeah, sorry. I was - well - what did you say?”
The soft laugh made Jensen shiver. “I asked if you were done or if you wanted more sushi?” Their plates were empty and Jensen was stuffed, and he said so.
They paid up and were heading out the door when Jensen found himself speaking. “You want to come over? I think I’ve got ice cream if you want dessert?”
“Any chocolate syrup? Sprinkles?” Jared grinned, dimples making an appearance.
“Of course.” Jensen shook his head. “I’m insulted you even had to ask.”
They were halfway to Jared’s car when he leaned in and said, softly like a secret. “And you’re crazy if you think the lack of them would have stopped me from saying yes.”
Jensen stopped thinking for awhile after that.
He was so freaked out, so fresh off the realization that he wanted Jared, that Jensen didn’t actually know what to do about it. Luckily, Jared had no such qualms. He followed Jensen into his apartment, close behind, big hands landing softly on Jensen’s hips and turning him around to face him.
“You, uh, you want the tour?” Jensen gestured weakly around the apartment with the keys still in his hand.
Jared pulled him closer, lowered his mouth to Jensen’s neck, and god, he smelled good. “Think I can find my way around.” He pressed a soft kiss there and moved up,leaving a trail of heat in his wake. Jensen’s eyes slid shut but when Jared lifted his head and hovered his mouth over Jensen’s, he opened them again. “Is this okay?”
Jensen dropped his keys, slid his hands up to Jared’s neck, fingers pushing into the long hair at his nape and pulled him down into a kiss. It would have to do as an answer to the question. The kiss lit him up inside, and Jared’s mouth was just as soft and inviting as he thought. He opened his mouth, let Jared kiss him deep, tongues touching.
When Jared turned and pulled Jensen across the room, he went. He would have followed Peter into the depths of a pirate ship, he could certainly follow Jared over to his lumpy old couch. Jared sank down, pulling Jensen with him until Jensen’s knees were pressing into the cushions on either side of his hips. And they were kissing again, faster and less coordinated, little moans coming from Jared, enough to make Jensen crazy.
They took a breath and Jared pressed his forehead to Jensen’s. “I’ve wanted to do that ever since I saw you reading your book, sitting there with a skunk stripe in your hair. You have no damn idea how hot you are, do you?”
Shaking his head a little, Jensen stared down at Jared, at the features he knew so well, felt the heart pounding under his hand and didn’t want to be anywhere else in the world right then. Not Neverland, not anywhere but here. It was the first time he’d felt that way in ten years.
“Well, trust me. You’re irresistible.” Jared stole another kiss, smiling through it.
“You’re one to talk.” Jensen’s hands bunched in Jared’s shirt, and he pulled on it until Jared got the idea and reached back to pull it off over his head. As he did, Jensen saw a flash of bright metal.
Jared’s shirt in one hand, he reached out and let the thin silver chain trail through his hand. At the bottom of the necklace, dangling halfway down Jared’s chest was a tiny brass lock. He picked it up, studied it. “What’s this?”
“Oh, my lock. I was actually wearing it the day they found me on the street. The chain broke a few weeks ago, and I finally got a new one.” Jared’s hand closed on Jensen’s hip, and his mouth on Jensen’s earlobe. Jensen pulled back, and tried to ignore the little sound of protest Jared made. “Too fast? I’m sorry, I feel like I’ve been waiting a very long time.”
“Believe me, I know just what you mean, but wait. The lock - you had the lock on you that day? Do you have the key?”
Jared looked down at the lock, frowning. “No, just this. I don’t know why I even kept it, but y’know, it’s basically all I have of wherever I came from.”
Jerking off Jared’s lap, Jensen covered his mouth as gears in his brain whirred into motion. “Stay right there. Not a muscle, okay? Just. Stay.” He held a hand out and ran into his bedroom, and made a beeline for his dresser. The small wooden box held all that he’d thought important from Neverland. A feather, his own little dagger. The small skunk Peter had carved him. Small trinkets he’d taken when he’d walked through Peter’s room before he flew away for the last time. A marble, the smoothest rock from the lagoon, a thimble.
And a tiny brass key.
Snatching it up, Jensen ran back into the other room to find Jared still sitting on the couch, but craning his neck so he could see what Jensen was doing. “What the -”
“Can you - can you trust me for a minute?” Jensen felt the key cutting into his hand, felt a giddy fear swirling in his stomach. He sank back into Jared’s lap, eyes focused on the lock laying against Jared’s bronzed skin. Swallowing, he picked it up, studied it. It was simple, small, not a remarkable lock.
And yet, he was pretty sure it held something pretty big.
Jensen held the lock steady and then, before Jared could wonder about how nuts he was, he took the key in his other hand and slid it in the lock’s keyhole. And then, with a soft wish under his breath, he turned it. The locked burned bright hot, glowing from the inside as it clicked open
Light poured out of it, swirling around a startled Jared before glowing white hot and disappearing. Light flared in Jared’s eyes for a moment and then faded. Jensen held his breath, stared, hoped.
Looking around the room, then at Jensen, Jared cocked his head. “Is that really you? Is that you, Tootles?” His smile spread wide, full of wonder and amazement.
Finally, Peter Pan was no longer lost, and all because a Lost Boy had found him.
“Did you know you were always my favorite, Jensen? Always trying so hard, always so fierce and gentle, so loyal.”
They were lying in the grass, tangled and messy, kissing wet and slow. The nighttime sounds accompanied them, crickets and the soft sigh of leaves moving.
“I didn’t know. Tink told me, but I didn’t believe her.” Jensen chewed his bottom lip. “I think I loved you well before I even knew what that was.”
“I told her that once, years ago, and she didn’t talk to me for a month. She’s kind of the jealous type, you might have noticed.” TInker Bell had actually cried a little, and hugged him when she came to see Jared and he had called her ‘Tink, my oldest friend.’ It had been the sweetest moment, and worth all her previous abuse to see her glow (no, really, she nearly blinded them both) with happiness before shooting off into the sky.
Jensen rolled on top of Jared, grinding slow between his legs. “Let’s not talk about her right now, okay?”
“You’ve got a topic in mind?” Jared’s hands trailed down Jensen’s back, those long fingers stroking over the curve of his ass, and Jensen groaned.
“I’ve got some ideas.” Jensen bit his bottom lip, full to the brim with happiness.
Jared sat up and pulled Jensen into his lap. He wrapped his bare legs around Jared’s waist and leaned in to press a kiss to the tattoo, first one star, then the other. It made him homesick sometimes, but only for a moment. All he ever loved about Neverland was right here.
“You know how some of my memories took longer to settle back in? Some all muddled for awhile?” Jared nipped at Jensen’s nose, hugged him closer with both arms.
“I got a good memory back today. A really good one.” Jared kissed him, hard and fast. “Jensen? Hold on tight.”
Jensen reacted instinctively, clutching Jared. When Peter Pan told you to hold on, you held on.
Jared continued even as the air swirled around them, “Jensen, today, I remembered how to fly.”
Back to Part One