I fucking hate Brownies.
On the island, they’re usually scarce, preferring to slink in the shadows rather than be seen in the light. I suppose I can relate to that.
But this Brownie, the one that has been around as long as I have, who has served the fae court, has been out for my blood since I killed Tink.
And maybe I deserve it.
He’s quicker than I am, darting in and around me, making deep cuts in my flesh with the blade of his jeweled dagger.
I have one of my blades poised to gut him.
He will not stand between me and my shadow and ultimately my throne.
The others make quick work of the lesser Brownies until only the one remains.
Blood mists the air. I can taste it on the tip of my tongue.
“You’re surrounded, Brownie,” Vane says as he and the twins circle. Vane just barely has control of his shadow. I sense it bristling beneath the surface, desperate to come out. “Best relent.”
“I won’t,” the Brownie answers. “My princes,” he adds and turns to the twins. “If you’re looking for a path back to court, then join me now. The shadow can be yours.”
Kas and Bash come to a stop and regard one another. I hear the faint tinkling of bells.
I spoke their language once, but I’ve forgotten the shape of the words, the chime of the syllables.
If they fucking turn on me now…
Bash slides his blade back into its sheath. “There’s something we could never quite figure out, Brownie. Maybe you can fill us in.”
The Brownie nods. “Anything at all.”
“The Darlings are always changed after our dear sister gets inside their heads. She’s always told Pan it’s a hazard of the magic. That the more a Darling fights it, the worse it’ll be.”
“Yes, that’s true.”
“But Merry didn’t fight it. She told us before Tilly came that she would do what she could to help Pan.”
In the shadows of the room, Darling looks at her mother with new awareness.
“We made Merry a promise that if she helped us, she would be fine. But she wasn’t fine.”
Merry hiccups on a sob and Darling clutches her mother’s hand to her chest.
“So tell us,” Kas says as he takes another step. “Was Tilly helping Pan look for the shadow, or was she keeping it from him? Destroying the Darlings’ memories so no one would know where it was?”
I grit my teeth, tighten my hold on my sword waiting for the answer.
“Is that true, Brownie?” I ask.
He sputters, tries to get the twins in front of him again, but as Kas distracts him, Bash gets behind him.
“He killed Tink!”
“Our mother was not a virtuous woman,” Bash says. “None of us are.”
He darts toward the Brownie. The Brownie dances away.
And I lunge with my blade, sinking it deep into his chest. Blood coats his lips.
On a wet, raspy breath he says, “You are no king. You are a coward.”
When the blood has drained from his face and the life from his eyes, I pull the blade out. He drops to the floor with a heavy thunk. We are surrounded by bodies and I am coated in blood.
Barely restrained euphoria pulses through me.
Darling lets go of her mother and steps forward. There’s a box in her hands.
I’ve searched for it for so long that I almost don’t want to believe this is real.
“Is that it?” I ask.
She comes closer. The box is etched with fae runes. I swear I can still smell Tink on it. Like autumn leaves and fairy dust.
She was my best friend once.
Until she wasn’t.
And I’m gutted all over again remembering how it ended.
When I found out what she’d done, that she’d masterminded stealing my shadow as some form of revenge, I’d gone to her and I’d said, I don’t believe in fairies.
Her light winked out, her eyes went white, and within seconds she was dead.
Just like that.
I didn’t even have to get my hands dirty.
The Brownie was right about one thing—I was a coward.
I wish I would have at least given Tink the chance to fight back.
But I think I was afraid of never forgetting what it felt like to have her blood on my hands.
“Should I open it?” Darling asks, forcing me back to the present.
“Not yet. Not until we get back to Neverland. Bash and Kas, start cleaning this mess up.”
Bash sighs dramatically. “We turned down the shot of getting our wings back for you. And you make us clean up Brownie guts?”
“We’ll get you your wings back. But first you need to do as I ask.”
Bash grumbles, then, “Darling, where do you keep your shovels?”
Merry is trembling like a leaf, but she answers, nonetheless. “Shovels. Two shovels. In the shed. I’ll take you.”
“Very well, Merry,” Kas says. “Lead the way.”
Vane picks up a Brownie, hoists the dead weight over his shoulder and follows the lot out the back door.
It’s just me and the Darling.
“You’re home now,” I tell her. “Thank you for helping me.” I hold out my hand for the box.
She tucks it beneath her arm.
“Darling,” I say, not bothering to hide the warning from my voice.
“Take me back with you.”
“Take me back.”
She looks around the carnage and frowns.
“There’s more than just the shadow,” she says.
“What do you mean?”
“I…I don’t know. It’s nothing more than a gut instinct. But when Tilly got inside my head…”
“I think she’s plotting something. Against you.”
“It would seem so.” Like mother like daughter, apparently.
“So maybe I can help. I helped you find your shadow.”
My first instinct is to leave her here. Whatever is waiting for me in Neverland, it won’t be good.
“You’ll be safer here.”
Her gaze hardens. “Safer is not what I want.”
I have a sudden flash of bending her over the table. Pretty Darling girl wants dark, vile things done to her.
I would be lying if I said I didn’t want that too.
I want her wet cunt wrapped around my cock.
The moment I met her, I knew she was different. I don’t know what it is about her but it reminds me of something old and forgotten.
“I have rules,” I tell her. “Rules that are meant to be followed.”
She smiles sweetly up at me and I know already that she’ll be trouble if I bring her back.
“I can follow rules.”
“Yes, but will you?”
Vane returns and lifts another Brownie onto his shoulder. “Twins have a hole dug already.”
I nod. If he thinks I’m burying dead bodies, he’s sorely mistaken.
“Bring me back with you,” Darling says again.
We’ve always been a house of cold, hard edges…would it be so bad to have someone with soft curves, someone to share? Fuck her and make her quiver, make her beg for Lost Boy cum.
I am not a nice man and I want to do very bad things to her. And with my shadow, the possibilities are endless.
“Fine,” I tell her. “You can come back with me.”
She smiles triumphantly up at me.
“Don’t get cocky.”
“I won’t. I’ll just get cock.”
“Darling girl with a filthy mouth. Now come, let us go supervise the burying of Brownies while the night is still young.”
“First,” she says and holds out the box. “I think this belongs to you.”
In all the years I’ve been searching for my shadow, I could never feel it. I ached for it, but where it used to be was nothing but a void.
I can sense it now.
The writhing energy of it trapped in that box.
I reach out and take it.
She smiles. “You’re welcome, Peter Pan.”
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