Everything Peter Pan does is the product of ostentatious planning and strategy. Usually accompanied with a playful air of malice thinly veiled behind his curiosities and quadruple agendas. It is the easiest way to get what he wants. Stand straight, bait other people, but don’t dare show the cogs as they turn in your skull. It’s Pan’s creed, and he always obeys it.
But not now. Now there’s none of that. It’s emotion - it’s need. And he hates it. He hates being reliant on another person to distract him from doubt.
Doubt. It’s such an ugly word. Need is even uglier. Such horrible weaknesses. Peter Pan isn’t supposed to have weaknesses at all, much less doubt and need.
He’s taken his boy, his Felix, away from the others, onto a small adjacent island where nothing lives and nothing grows except for the trees and the weeds.
They duck under a large willow with shriveled up, dry branches and they’re still exposed to the world.
It’s a familiar scene as calloused hands grow curious and flutter over limbs and chest.
Familiar, yes. Normal? Not nearly.
This time is all different. Different because the hourglass is almost empty. Because Henry won’t cooperate. Because Rumplestiltskin is on the island. Because an intrusion of cockroaches have infected the island in the form of an evil queen and a savior and a pirate and the Charmings.
And so his hands find old bruises, old leftover fingerprints that he’s found thousands of times before. It’s his signature; the T has been crossed for centuries.
But it looks as though the ink has faded. There’s a difference, not only in Peter, but in Felix as well, and this is absolutely unacceptable.
Felix leans in towards him, muted and straight-faced, turning spindly fingers to mimic the contact.
This is familiar. This is normal. There’s something about it, however subtle or bold, that simply isn’t right.
This time is all wrong. Wrong because all of a sudden there are fallacies in the game. Because there is so much that can botch Peter’s plans. Because with all the uncertainty filling Peter’s life, uncertainty borne from centuries of meticulous planning, he needs something familiar, something he knows.
The sky is so bleak, more black than grey. The thunderheads loom above like gods passing judgement, more granite than air. A low rumble far off in the atmosphere is a gavel, demanding an ordeal or inquisition. If Peter has to choose, he knows he’ll choose ordeal.
Felix looks at him, blinking through hazy silver eyes, awaiting an order. Patient. Unworried. There is something daunting about it.
Peter smirks and tugs on the hem of his companion’s vest, snaking his fingers under to brush the skin that grows pimply on contact.
Despite it all, through it all, Felix is still icy. Perhaps it is the boy’s personality. Some cold edge to him warms, however, when Peter’s mouth takes his in, breathing fire onto his lips and skittering his hands all over, stripping away layers upon layers.
Felix senses there’s something different, something wrong, and he pulls away for a minute. But before he can ask, Peter has his lips against Felix’s throat and a hand over his mouth.
“Don’t,” Peter says because he knows if they speak it’ll all fall to hell. He refuses -- absolutely refuses -- to admit he needs the contact.
Peter slathers Felix’s neck with his tongue and laughs as the taller boy shivers. He looks up and there it is - the color he’d been hoping for had already flooded in.
Felix is normally so pallid that the sudden flush of of color - any color really - is off-putting. It contrasts the grey sky and world around them, not adding heat but perhaps pangs of warmth, excitement, embarrassment.
The flush is, and always will be, a source of shame and they both know it.
It's Felix's scarlet letter.
Because Peter is a thief who paints over another artist’s work to create more palatable illustrations. Because Peter's paintbrushes are always soaked in venom.
Because Felix doesn’t know if They are something Pan instituted before the venom dried on his canvas. Because he doesn’t know if They are simply a happy accident that happened in the meantime. He doesn’t know if it even matters.
He knows a normal boy would hate Peter for this. A normal boy would feel stolen and empty, a husk to be used. Felix isn’t normal, though. He doesn’t mind the way Peter molded him, simply because he can’t remember anything before. Besides, since he gave his being so willingly to the magical boy, surely it means the past Felix isn’t worth missing.
Thunder rumbles around them, low and menacing. It shakes as ground sustains its vibrato.
They don’t need pressure, not anymore. Felix has been trained well, has learnt the rewards of shedding passiveness and actually moving. He bites into Peter’s mouth. Hips scrape. Fingerprints leave bruises.
They are always rough. Peter doesn’t know anything else, and because he doesn’t, neither does Felix.
Felix’s arms are encasing Peter’s middle, relenting his life force for the smaller boy to suck up in the wet flux of teeth and tongue.
Peter pulls away, drawing Felix low enough for their foreheads to meet.
He doesn’t want to admit it - and he won’t, not even to himself - but Felix is more than a distraction. He’s a companion who would do anything for his leader, and that in itself breeds comfort. But Peter Pan shouldn’t need comfort.
An all-powerful being shouldn’t need the thin form of his own vassal.
Well it isn’t really comfort, Pan thinks. It’s friction and fluid and the kind of release he can’t achieve by himself. That’s all. It is a distraction, and underlying that is nothing but push and pull.
The push and pull isn’t a comfort. It’s simply a pastime.
Really, that’s all.
And it might all fall apart because Peter has to rely on others. He has to rely on Henry’s heart, on Rumplestiltskin’s stupidity, on Emma’s likelihood to fail.
He knows it will end with everyone exactly where he wants them. But there’s a tiny nagging part of him who continues to sing what-ifs. He wants to stab that part of him, and he just might.
The sky has begun its transition from a dull gray to a muted purple, small violets peeking out from the crags in the airy granite, just as hard and even sharper than the rock.
Peter flattens his hands on Felix’s shoulders, and examines his friend’s torso.
Felix’s skin stretches taut over his ribs, Peter extends his hand to press a finger into each of the valleys between the bones. Muscle tone had disintegrated, leaving behind a skeleton. Not yet repulsive, but it would be in a matter of weeks, a month at most.
Peter knows that Felix has stopped eating. He knows the boy is using it as means to kill himself slowly. He is also completely aware of all underlying motives.
Horrible though it may be, Peter doesn’t have a twinge of remorse over it.
Felix is killing himself because Peter is dying, and Peter wouldn’t have it any other way.
Felix knows what he’s doing; he simply doesn’t know whether he’s doing it because he can’t imagine living in a world without Peter Pan or because Peter Pan can’t fathom Felix living without him. He doesn’t know if there’s a difference.
Horrible though it may be, Felix doesn’t care.
This tethers them together.
They suffer the threat of lifelessness both.
Thunder releases an enormous cannon through the air, almost deafening the boys as they press into each other. The air is dry and heavy with its threat. The violets in the sky whither and darken, turning bright again with the flash of light that turns the night to day.
Peter nestles his lips in the deep crevice above Felix’s collarbone.
“Don't you dare think I'm going to die," His teeth grate against lacteal skin. "Not even for a second."
Felix holds Peter’s waist, sifting his fingers over the muscle and testing the elasticity of healthy flesh.
Another cannon breaks through the glass air, and Felix swears he can feel the shards showering over him and into his lungs.
Peter cocks a brow, emphasising his disbelief. "Then why the precaution? I could snap you in half right now.”
And he can. If he wants to, Peter knows it would take one blow to the abdomen and Felix will literally break in two. Luckily for Felix, he thinks, I don’t want that - not right now.
A single droplet of water falls between them. Peter releases a burst of magic energy to create a dome above them; he knows it will start to pour soon and prefers to stay dry. He doesn’t want the water; water is too holy for his doubt.
Peter tugs on Felix until they both find comfort pressed against the tree.
“You didn’t answer.” He’s nearly growling. “Why?”
Felix allows for a closed-lipped smile. "You say it best: ‘Never lock yourself in a cage you can't get out of.’"
He draws the quote from memory, fast as a rapier against Peter's mind.
It’s a prayer.
It’s a suicide note.
The clouds mute Peter with their thrashings when he replies. Felix can’t tell what he said, and Peter can’t remember.
And then the words stop. There’s nothing more either can say.
The rain falls around them, flooding the ground and pounding like drums over the foliage, but in their little dome they are locked into an exclusive world. An exclusive world created entirely by Peter. The rain drums into their minds, a steady beat to belie the erratic, more intimate thumping.
They’re relying on each other again. Felix has Peter pinned up against the tree. It used to be so easy to hold him, but with starvation comes weakness and he quivers as he tries to keep Peter off the ground.
He doesn’t want to give in, doesn’t want to show how damn tired he is, but he’s breathing harder than usual and Peter can tell.
Peter can always tell.
He uses magic to assist Felix in the effort, but says nothing about it. It’s a selfish purpose, really. Felix’s weakness is inhibitory to Peter’s desires. Sparing him the embarrassment is merely one of the things that goes unsaid between them in order to sculpt and paint Felix in the way Peter wants.
And Peter wants Felix in a very specific way right now. The worst part is he needs it.
Lightning slashes through the black grey sky, cutting like a dagger. The thunder that follows is the cry of that weapon’s first victim, loud and pained.
They’re both bleeding. Peter from the way the bark scrapes his shoulders and Felix from the nails and teeth piercing his skin. There’s gasping from Peter and there’s groaning from Felix and everything is a mess.
Peter’s leaking against his own stomach. A century ago, or even last night, he would have pushed Felix onto his knees to take care of it. But, no. Not now.
Now he is slammed into the bark of the tree, gritting his teeth and feeling the motion.
Felix hitches his hips exhaustedly, lagging behind his usual rhythm. In mind he is right there with Peter, but his body struggles to keep up. Peter pulls him in closer, grasping for handfuls of blond hair and muttering nonsense specifically designed to break into Felix’s mind and blur all coherent thought.
Peter had come up with that algorithm a long time ago. A smile or a smirk paired with indication of affection always straightened the normally slouched shoulders, and an offhand remark of how Felix might improve himself always did the trick.
Peter has been doing this for over two hundred years after all, and his methods never fail.
But Felix can’t keep up the pace. He’s striving for it, but finds his vision blurs and his head grows heavy when he tries.
“I...can’t.” He gasps, head falling onto Peter’s shoulder. He’s just too tired. Fatally tired.
This changes things. Everything.
“This is why you eat.” Peter spits coldly, trailing a finger down the pronounced bumps on the taller boy’s spine. “Shall I fix you now?”
He’s been asking for weeks.
Felix shakes his head on Peter’s shoulder, but feels a wave of magic pulse through his veins without permission. He can feel his skin fill in more comfortably over the gaps between his bones, he feels his stamina returning, muscles shout and cry as they establish themselves once again over his bones.
Thunder crashes and Felix is livid.
He shoves Peter back into the tree harder with a small jolt away. “Why did you do that?”
“Why did I save your life?” Peter purposely interjects mockery into his tone, still with his legs around Felix’s waist. “This would make for an embarrassing eulogy, don't you think?"
“I’m not doing this without you.” There’s that same ugly need in his sycophantic voice and little else. “I can’t do this without you.”
Peter understands. He has been so meticulous in his re-creation of Felix that the boy doesn’t know who he is, or even who he could be, without Peter.
“Insulting,” Peter says, cocking a brow and watching the confusion set in on Felix’s scarred face. “Without you alive who will remember me?”
He doesn’t really mean it. He doesn’t want Felix to live without him any more than the boy wants that himself. But to admit it would be a weakness, and no, he is displaying too much of that already.
The rain is falling in sheets, sliding off the side of their dome with the effect of a waterfall, muffled in their ears.
Felix cannot understand. He knows he is only a small fraction of a person, and that everything else is wrapped up in and connected to Peter Pan. Their desires always match up.
How, then, had they miscommunicated?
Peter is aware of his reasonings for restoring the boy and he wants to bury them. If Felix is stupid enough to starve himself to death, Peter should let him. He should never allow someone be so important he'd show weakness. He should have let the boy die while limping behind climax.
Peter knows he should throw Felix off, shoo the boy and spend the night watching his life literally fall away with the golden dust in the hourglass.
But he needs Felix right now, and the horrible word overrides all sense.
The wall of water around him affects their appearance, casting shadows and ripples of the scanty light across their faces and bodies and it’s an incredibly distracting visual fantasy, an incredibly luring disconnect.
With a flick of the wrist, a swipe of a paintbrush, a sentence on Peter's tongue, the near-argument is forgotten as Peter finds himself once again jammed between Felix's revitalized form and the rough bark of the tree.
Although it doesn’t look like it, Peter has control. He is the art thief who had painted Felix into a Lost Boy, after all. He knows every movement the boy will do before he does it, and he meets him halfway each time. He is lifting his own hips away from the tree to push into the taller boy and digging welts into his shoulders. It’s a reminder that Felix doesn’t have any more control over this than he has over his own mortality.
It’s selfish of Peter, really. But he doesn’t care. He needs Felix right now.
And Felix needs him, scraping his misleadingly wispy-looking for upwards on the tree to allow for a more intimate position.
They’re sucked in a vacuum of need and want and all the rubbish that makes Peter want to slit somebody’s throat. He thinks for a moment he might. Instead, he places scarring bitemarks strategically along Felix’s shoulders and neck and chin. He might be taking pleasure in watching the boy arch and quiver under his mouth, but it’s all selfish.
Really, it is.
Felix is stronger since Peter’s spell. He has no trouble pinning the small boy up against the tree anymore. His movements are fluid, his pace brisk, and he’s doing everything he can to appease both Peter and his own pulsing groin.
Peter’s head is tilted back to the sky, neck exposed to the musty air but only catching the heat. His voice is strained as his eyes close to take in the feeling to its fullest extent.
He breathes Felix’s name.
It isn’t a prayer.
It isn’t a suicide note.
But it is medicine.
Felix hears his name again, hot and breathy to the sky. He doesn’t know whether to speed up or slow down. His tongue finds Peter’s pulse and he adjusts his own rate to match it.
Peter’s hands tangle through Felix’s hair, fistfuls of snarled knots pull away from the scalp like a soul from the body.
He’s using his elbows to bring Felix closer to him. He wants to erase all air between them. He needs nothing but skin and fluid.
He doesn’t need the oxygen. But he does need the skin. And he does need the fluid.
He hates himself for it.
Felix’s hand is chafed raw from gripping the tree, blood is leaking from his palm, and the other can’t decide what part of Peter it would rather feel, and so it moves around, pumping ecstasy though the flesh.
There's moaning and graphic profanities and teeth cutting through skin and muscle and leaking and pressure
Peter’s magic always eliminates the need for any sort of foreplay or preparation, and usually Felix resents that. But now there’s nothing to resent, because he’s so close to the edge he’s about to fall, and Peter will come crashing with him.
A few more feral vibrations, a few more rough jolts, and it’s done.
Felix pulls away and lowers the shorter boy to his feet as thunderclaps resound, shaking the dome. Peter’s knees are so weak he might fall; he doesn’t, still compacted between living body and living tree.
None of it can last forever. Living body or living tree, it’ll splinter eventually.
A second more and magic clothes them again as though they’re about to depart, but they make no effort to make their way into the wall of running water.
If anything they draw closer now that they’re both standing straight. Felix leans against the tree to flatten Peter between the himself and the bark. Surprisingly Peter allows him. They stand with no space between them: chest to chest, hip to hip,
Felix runs his bleeding hand over Peter’s cheek and leaves behind a large stain. He doesn’t like the way Peter looks with blood on his face, and so he tries to wipe it away with his lips. But the stain has been made, and no matter how hard he tries to lick Peter clean, there are still the remnants of a thumbprint on his jaw.
“Don’t be so sentimental,” Peter chastises him, tilting his cheek away.
Felix’s smile is tight, closed, and entirely a facade as he returns to his own height. “Why are you worried? You won’t die. Peter Pan never fails.”
He’s clinging to the words, and he believes them fully. Perhaps because the alternative is a bastardization of everything he knows.
Peter knows Felix can be hopelessly naive.
But his confidence is returning in spades. Peter knows that if Henry doesn’t consent to give up his heart in time, he can simply remove it by force. Henry's heart wouldn't be glowing with belief, but a frightened heart is better than no heart at all. Besides, desperate times call for desperate measures.
Mortality can drive a boy to do any number of things against his nature.
This, right now, is so completely against Peter’s nature. Resting without friction and without heat, simply absorbing Felix is not something he’s done before. Usually he walks off with a smirk and a saunter, leaving Felix with something to think about next time he takes a bath.
But, no. This time is different.
This time is wrong, and Peter hates Felix for it. He hates Felix for being so suited to his painting, for changing so willingly to bend to what Peter Pan wants.
Peter hates it when his own actions make him vulnerable
Thunder rumbles low, painfully far away. The lightning has grown dim.
Felix is hesitant, but brushes his mouth back on Peter’s. The shorter boy reciprocates, and holds Felix just over him, hovering. They’re breathing each other’s air, which is really all Peter’s air, but Felix doesn’t mind.
Peter owns him and they both know it. Felix doesn’t even exist, not really. The boy pressing Peter into the tree is a stolen painting, altered beyond recognition. Though not completely.
Paintings continue to live after the painter dies. Paintings are the means for an artist to achieve immortality. Peter and Felix, however, will be the death of each other.
“What’ll you do,” Peter asks, smoking breath puffing over Felix’s lips. “In a worst-case scenario?”
Felix cannot tell if Peter is merely chiding him or if there’s something more serious behind his tone.
Peter can’t tell either. He knows that if something goes wrong, if the little bit inside of him that’s still Malcolm breaks through and brings him down, Felix won’t remain an hour. A knife to the throat or the wrist, he might choose. He might jump off the cliff. But he knows this painting won’t live on.
The rain pours harder than ever, a few droplets break through the dome, falling on waxy leaves.
“Won’t happen,” Felix says in a low drawl.
“‘Course it won’t,” Peter says, returning to his usual bravado. “But you really are too dependant on me. You might want to try branching out.”
He doesn’t mean it. He isn’t the jealous type, but the idea of Felix’s sycophancy directed at someone other than him is wrong. More so, he thinks, than this very evening.
Because They are tethered together in one fatal flaw -- Mortality in a world where immortality is law.