|Summary:||Within the Hollow, Quiet Vows.|
Near the pool of water, the moon shines off it's surface, though none can be seen looking up and out at the sky, so a soft glow fills the small little alcove. Despite being December in the mortal world, it's actually warm in here.
Peter leads Lilium in from the stone door, immediately taking the crown from his head and slipping it into his Blazer's pocket. His expression relaxes and his shoulders droop a little as he begins to slouch.
There is a long silence, the author settling down on the stone. He pays his knee, beckoning the other Fairest to sit with him. "Are you okay, Lily?"
"I feel like... there's something I forgot somewhere," Lilium says, her pale brows drawing together. She slowly settles on Peter's knee, looking into his face for a long time. "I feel like I lost something maybe?" Her lapis eyes are clouded with lingering confusion. "Or... maybe there was a dream." She just sort of shakes her head, then before looking back at Peter, "I'm very glad to have made a friend, and also very scared for her." That part, at least, she seems certain of. She asks, "You don't mind that I measured you while you slept? It seemed less awkward somehow."
Peter considers his words carefully, shaking his head Lilium, "No, I don't mind at all, Little Love." His brow knits in concern, lines deep and gaze searching her face. When a thought occurs to him, it seems to brighten his whole demeanor. "Would you like to hear a story?" He lifts an arm, settling his hand on her hip.
Nodding at Peter, Lilium also lays her head on his shoulder, glassy little wings folding down to allow an arm around her as they rarely do in public. "I love when you tell stories," she says, with quiet sincerity.
Peter smiles and settles in, laying his head back against the stone wall. "Once upon a time, there was a young boy who liked to read. His family was normal, his house was normal, and his life was achingly normal." Absently, he strokes Lilium's side, closing his eyes, his voice a low rumble in the stone alcove. "Then, one day while the boy was walking in the woods, a terrible force abducted him and drug him through the thorny hedge, across the hills, and to a lovely but terrible castle in the Land of Fairy." He peeks an eye open to gauge Lilium's response.
One of Lilium's eyes peek open and she looks up at Peter. Sure it is possible they knew each other very well once upon a time, but those memories are clouded, and yes she could steal into his dreams, but she hasn't done that this side of Arcadia, a quiet sign of her respect for Peter and his privacy. So after wriggling some to get more comfortable, she nods as she looks up into his face.
Peter continues after a pause for questions, a common thing in some cultures for children's takes, though this definitely isn't one. "The Keeper of the Castle was, more than anything, inscrutable. What seemed like emotions was a sort of mime, and what seemed like reason was only rhyme. The Keeper kept the boy, and shaped him to his whims. He bid the boy tell stories to him." Whether Peter is intentionally rhyming or not, it's unclear, as he slips into this manner of speech quite often. "The boy didn't realize at first that he was hurting people, indirectly, through the Keeper's strict enforcement of the story. Even when he did, he couldn't stop lest the Keeper become quite angry with him and exact terrible punishments upon the boy." Peter frowns a little, "So much time passed, and the boy did not grow up. Not his mind, at least. He aged, because the Keeper bid it. And he played a part in all his stories for the Keeper, because the Dragon, uh, I mean the Keeper bid it."
There's is a moment when Lilium tenses up all over, her eyes squinting shut, but it is not fear but guilt instead on her face. She squeezes Peter in those slender, willowy arms, harder than one might guess she could from the lack of tone in her arms. She draws a quiet breath and says quietly into Peter's lapel. "...so, so, so so sorry." She possibly doesn't even know why, but she definitely is. Other than that she just listens quietly, the confusion slowly dissipating.
Peter kisses the top of Lilium's head, gently, and stills himself for a moment. Subtle shifts in the hollow react to occupants' emotions, and blue-glowing miss arises one the stone surfaces, filling the alcove with a dim, pervasive blue glow. The air, too, grows colder, as if Winter has fast set upon them.
"It is okay, Lily Anne. The story isn't over, you see. The boy, now a man, had an audience for most of his stories. The grave and judgemental Keeper, and the sweet and kind Kept. So for every blow the man suffered, there was someone watching who felt it too. Every triumph, every sadness, every milestone. He grew and changed according to the Keeper's whims, and the stories he told, but also, according the reactions of the Kept. Soon, the boy grew to love the Kept. As much as he hated the Keeper."
There is little outward response from Lilium. Her words are a whisper reluctant to interrupt the musical weeping of water against stone, and she murmurs the words, "How could you? She was responsible for so much of your - his - suffering?" And yet, and yet. The enchantment of the Hedge turns the petals cast off like drowsy droplets from willowy limbs into moths with fat velvet bodies and soft fluttery wings, and rather than land they just circle dizzily over the carpet of alien blossoms smaller than peas that all reach skyward from the moss only a fraction of an inch, blossoming into tiny white star shaped flowers in a wavering unison not dissimilar to the way massive flocks of birds move - almost a dance.
Peter watches the moths circle for a moment, before he shakes his head and merely smiles at Lilium, "Because I was just a child, when I was taken. Because I wrote a war where -hundreds- of living people died, in ignorance of what my minor actions would mean." He touches his chest with his clawed hand, voice deep, and resonant, and certain, "Because guilty parties do not feel guilty, and we both do. Because we are not responsible for the dreams of the Fae. We've escaped, and now we are free." He looks around at the well's interior, asking Lilium, "Do you know where we are? Do you know who I am?"
It's coming back to her, slowly. Though with a marked difference than other times the confusion has taken her. When it recedes this time, she still looks at Peter with that quiet mix of respect and adoration which he has maybe not seen at the same time from her in the past. "You are... my savior in a lot of ways. You are the smartest person I've ever met. You're strange, and kind, and inspiring. You're Romeo," she says, and with the sense that she means that non literally, and isn't speaking from a place of confusion, but instead from the faded and incomplete memories of conversations shared in fever dreams in other lands.
Peter almost winces, knowing all too well how that particular story ends. Still, it's a compliment, "Thank you, Little Love. I.. I think I should be more wary of wearing that crown. It has a strong effect on me. And you..." He studies Lilium's face, "I would like to make an Oath to you. I don't have many I can trust in this world, and even fewer I care about."
"Would you like to make 'Us' official?"
There is a lone owl, hooting somewhere in the distance above, and it echoes down the well, "Whooo, Whooo..."
The blossoms waver on sourceless stirring of warm breeze as much Lilium's strong tied to Spring as the Hedge's own magick. She reaches to touch his temple where the thorns cut at Peter's skin, and asks softly, "What sort of Oath? Which us?" There are too many of both options for her to react strongly beyond seeking to make sure said reactions are to the instances of both that he actually intends.
Peter tells Lilium, "An Oath of friendship, and trust. You and me, first, but Red and others if they agree. An Oath to never willingly harm each other, and to always have each other's back. It shouldn't have to be said, but it can only help us, me included, if it's said aloud and sealed." He loses himself in her gaze for a long moment.
As rare as the sharing of such things is, Lilium has never spoken before of the frailty etched across the shadow of her soul where the thorns frayed it's edges. Looking into Peter's face, she says softly, "I could not willingly harm you if I tried, Oath or no..." She traces her fingers over one of his taloned clawed hands, "I cannot willingly harm anything reptilian." Even if it is maybe not the nicest thing to point out their respective inhumanity, the words are telling of a level of trust people just don't give generally, maybe ever. She nod then, and says, "I swear I will never willingly harm you, and always do my best to shelter and care for you and show you kindness and warmth and understanding."
Peter repeats Lilium's words, nodding his enthusiastic approval, "I swear I will never willingly harm you, and always do my best to shelter and care for you, and you kindness, warmth, and understanding." With the Oath spoken aloud by both parties, the color of the moss in the alcove becomes a faint pink, and almost seems to throb like a heartbeat. A wide, beaming smile bares Peter's razor-sharp teeth to her.
Another person might shy from the slaughterhouse smile of Peter's. Lilium does not. She leans her brow lightly to his cheek, brushing her lips across the place where jawline, throat, and earlobe meet. She does this with care, however, conscious always of the crown of horns bestowed upon her, now lifetimes ago. "I didn't mean to get him to target you again the way he did. He /should/ have had some discretion in apologizing." It occurs that the words spoken in Oath were reflective of something she's lived by for some time now, but having been all close lipped and inscrutable in the expression of.
Peter can't help but laugh at this, shaking his head, "No, it was a slight to a pride I didn't originally own. In all honesty, I should try and help him out. I couldn't bear it if the Gentry found him or he was seriously injured." He sighs, but leans into the place where he was kissed. His grip tightens a little around Lilium's waist and he kisses her cheek.
"I can help you look, if you want," Lilium volunteers, and for a beat her cheeks and the moss match in their faint pink coloration. She curls both arms then around Peter. "Thank you for bringing me home." Each time. Every time. "It wasn't even entirely about you," she admits softly. "Someone treated you poorly, made less of you. Casually. Carelessly. And this time, there was something I could do about it."
Peter leans into Lilium, drawing her closer with a tight embrace. He shifts her onto his lap and breathes deeply of the perfume of her, nose to her neck. Claws threaten to dig into her flesh, and a low, hungry growl escapes his throat. After a long, tense moment, as that subtle pink beats a darker red, then returns to it's former softer pallor, Peter says, "I think we should return to the real world, Little Love."
"A part of me, most of me, really, had always figured that you calling me that was affectation, or for my benefit, or, something." Lilium shivers at the threat of those claws and a heady musk stirs in the air, redolent of lovemaking, at odds with the pleasant floral bouquet that always hangs like perfume about her. "I really like it when you call me that. It's comforting, but it also speaks to some quiet corner of me that even I have never seen before." She pulls up quietly to her feet, offering Peter her hand.Peter takes the proffered hand, rough and clawed meeting soft and delicate, to help himself up. As he rises, he spares a wary sort of paranoid glance over his shoulder before he opens the door for Lilium, and return to the coffee shop.