The India Rubber ball bounced against the wall before it dropped down to the floor and threw itself into Pan's open hands enthusiastically. Light from the lamp in the darkened courtyard had crept in the window and pooled lovingly on the carpet at his feet like a loyal hound. The moon was hiding bashfully behind a cloud, but the stars winked at him, jostling for a better view through the window, the lucky ones gazing down in adoration. Daniel slept on, oblivious to Pan's presence, but Ziggy sat primly on the edge of the bed, watching every move the boy made in disapproving silence.
"I think you'll find you're not needed here," the cat hissed sharply, but if the boy heard him at all, he didn't let on. Pan was far too arrogant and self-assured to take heed of the words of an imaginary cat.
Ziggy's eyes narrowed and he stood up to full height, arching his back and puffing his fur out angrily, very close to explosion. Pan bounced the ball again, taking refuge behind an uncaring smile and said nothing.
"Do you believe in fairies, Daniel?"
The boy seemed to nod and an echo of earlier words trickled into space. This man is mine, with lips brushing in gentle perfection as they seemed to now, eliciting deep, deep warmth, and Daniel gave in to everything the very walls whispered and struggled closer. Pressure built inside him, welling up from he knew not where. Lips lost distinction – all warmth and good feeling. A need to be closer than this. Pressure, stinging warmth and electric tingling so dense that escape could not be fathomed and was by no means wanted. A panted moan crested and the noise seemed to startle Daniel to consciousness, pulling him back from the depths of dream filled sleep on a rushing tide of ecstasy.
The India Rubber ball bounced against the wall and a muffled noise of welcoming skin signified another catch. Silence, and then another bounce.
Daniel lay still as he tried to collect his panted breathing which seemed to run away from him fast enough to stay just out of reach, and tried to recover the flushed state of his glowing body, painfully aware of the rapidly cooling mess soaking his boxers and the sticky skin seam where his legs joined the rest of him.
"Nightmare?" Pan asked softly – the air tremoring at the first words he uttered in the room. Daniel prized his head reluctantly from his pillow to see that Pan barely looked up, although with the way the light clung to him possessively, he was easy to make out in the darkened room. The shadows shrunk fearfully away from someone who could do without his own.
"No," his voice was tiny – mouse-like and scuttling away from him in shame. "It was nothing," he mumbled, knowing that this was only the same as talking to himself. Staring up at the ceiling, he counted the seconds he would allow himself before he turned back the covers and peeled out of bed to retrieve a pill bottle from his desk, but Ziggy scowled at him, knowing that he had yet to pick a number and with every second he counted the likelihood of him doing so decreased.
Pan let the answer soak to silence; the ball jumped from his hands, once, twice, a third time before he spoke, the game taking up his attention more effectively than Daniel because he had not yet finished playing. "Sounded like something," he mused, but if he was smiling, his lips did not seem to welcome it because the expression was held back. If Pan had been a serious child then he would have given them a stern dressing down, but only a pirate or a doctor would do that.
Daniel curled his hand across his face, covering his eyes and muffling his bashful voice. "I need you to leave."
At that, Pan turned petulant, eyes narrowing spitefully at the request as he turned to face Daniel full on, standing tall in defiance. "Why should I? I'm not doing anything. You were asleep. I wasn't even bothering you."
Despite himself, Daniel felt annoyance peak. He'd made a deal, so many moons ago, that he would not get angry with the inventions of his mind, because that really would mean he was mad. Daniel would not huff and puff and spit at his own ideas or conclusions, even if they were presented by another projected figure. "Just get out. I don't have to give you a reason."
Vicious humour burnt bright in Pan's eyes – his snub nose seeming dangerous and sharp silhouetted against the dark and his wounded pride crackled angrily, for you see, Pan was a very proud boy. Everybody had to give him reasons – he was not one to be shunned. "I will not and you can't make me."
The impish boy gave a scowl worthy of Ziggy and turned his back on Daniel almost venomously. The cat took the opportunity to creep closer to Daniel, with carefully placed footsteps that nestled into the soft blanket on his bed, eager to get his boy alone once again.
"Ignore him, dear boy. He'll go away soon enough. Just settle down; I'll curl up next to you and everything will be fine in the morning."
But Daniel was not to be appeased. For once the cat's clinging ways felt claustrophobic and unwelcome. Daniel did not want to settle down. He did not want to go to sleep in damp boxers because he was too embarrassed by the presence of a figment of his own imagination to get out of bed and clean himself up. "Ziggy, get off."
Pan might have turned briefly at mention of the cat's name had he not been too taken up with being insulted. Instead he bounced his ball against the floor, far more rapidly than the languid pace he'd set against the wall, and for that reason, the irritated boy barely noticed when Daniel swung his legs out of bed and set his bare feet firmly on the floor.
The popping of the pill bottle lid was, for once, something to catch attention though. Pan may have been used to the noise and the little avalanche of slip-sliding pebble pills into a palm that always followed it, but in this case the noises meant that Daniel was over by the window. He paused in his bouncing, taking in the view of the other boy with a cynical sneer, but as the ever-helpful light gushed and swelled around Daniel, giggling at its discoveries, Pan's expression clearly changed.
Attention peaked brightly and Pan took a feral step closer; the ball dropped and drummed its way under Daniel's bed to be forgotten until Ziggy chose to fish it out weeks later.
"This would explain the noises you were making," the Peter-like boy grinned with brief nod at Daniel's shorts – his smile too wolfish to belong to a boy who never wanted to grow up. Daniel's muddy blue eyes grounded themselves in Pan's and the boy's smile softened. "Nice noises," he whispered, using that spell he might have learned from a fairy once, long ago – a spell of whispered promises that lured so very well.
David's lips fell open slightly, mesmerized by what was offered and for a moment, he could have reached out for Pan's hand and tumbled into Never, but the low growl in Ziggy's throat held him that vital hair's breadth away, still in safety. "This… this isn't right."
Pan's eyes flashed angry again and he turned away on another glare – a frustrated sigh and a childish scuff of his tennis-shoed foot against the floor. "Yeah. Sorry. I'm meant to be straight, aren't I? That's why I hate girls, collect little lost boys and have a complex about my mother."
Daniel knew he was fast falling into that trap of listening to what Pan had to say as he shifted away from the bounds of the character the book described, but if another of his fantasies was to stay, this Pan seemed as good as any and nothing in the room, save Ziggy, would disagree with that. He rolled a pill between his thumb and forefinger, feeling the powder on it slick with the fine layer of sweat on his hands and he set the capsule back in the bottle almost as his words forced out unbidden.
"Am I a little lost boy?"
The wolf-smile returned, half-cocked and cautious. "I'd like you to be."
Daniel felt his stomach plunge and for just a moment, his skin crept with the cold, dampness of the clinging cotton at his crotch and it seemed that that was the only thing that held reality. "Pan. Stop it. This is thinly disguised narcissism."
Pan the irrepressible smiled and took a step closer, pushing away a brief flicker of something that may have been worry or concern, because all he wanted was to be Happy and have Fun and those things got in the way. "If I'm a figment of your ill little brain, then you're the one who has to stop."
But Daniel's mouth was dry as second and third thoughts clouded everything. "I need to take my pills."
Then memory of that stolen kiss ceased to be just memory. Panicked eyes were spurred in place by Pan's assuring gaze and moving became an unapproachable task, but Daniel was past listening to those who might have said he should have gone.
"I used to watch you get undressed," lips spoke and hovered, breath wet-warm, inviting, tongue teased over dry and and tingling skin, delved inside then broke away. "Hoping you were gay." Teeth threatened, tugged at swollen lips and taste came thickly – hot and hard. Hands were Daniel's, gripping rounded shoulders, fingers bruising Pan's flesh to find something real, and disbelieving that they did, though his grip made the impish-boy wince.
Calmer, Daniel brushed Pan's hair away from his sparkling eyes, letting his fingers linger over freckles, curling them around his ear. Ziggy was nowhere to be found and Daniel did not notice the loss. The boy smiled, breathless at his discovery.
"Aren't you supposed to have pointed ears, Pan?"
Those shoulders that Daniel had dug his fingers into tensed and the carefree face soured for just a moment. Eyes opened widely and long, dirty fingers forced Daniel's face close to his own. A tension that Daniel could not understand bubbled as Pan's lips forced together, twisting as if trying, desperately to let something out. For a long moment Pan would not let Daniel move and boy eyeballed boy – lion and prey, though neither could have told you which was which. But, seeing this fear, Pan closed his eyes and pulled away. Although mischievous, Pan was not a wicked boy; he meant Daniel no harm and threatening behaviour held no Fun at all. Fear and loathing were the last things he aimed to provoke. Daniel deserved better, even if the boy was prone to saying daft, annoying things.
"Yes," he spat, as if the answer frustrated him even more than Daniel's attempt's to get rid of him. "I'm also supposed to be ten." He looked at the boy sourly, as if he feared the response and for once, Pan the lion sounded meek. "Do you want me to be ten, Daniel?"
Confusion blistered up and down Daniel's skin, creating an unwelcome uncanniness because he had always vaguely understood the personalities that came from him, but Pan made not a single ounce of sense. "No," he breathed, seeing for just a shadowed second that Pan was not as confident as he so very much liked to pretend. "Of course I don't."
Then, just as quickly as his confidence had gone, it returned in a triumphant rush as if it had never left at all. Eyes sparkled almost darkly as he puffed his chest and fairly crowed. "I thought not."
It wasn't Ziggy who occupied Daniel's pillow that night, but rather, the head of an almost awkward-looking boy who you would be troubled to label handsome, and for once Daniel Green could not be said to care that his imagination had got the better of him.
After all, he had reasoned, as he rested his cheek against Pan's very bare chest, relaxed in the easy comfort of the boy's body heat, if he was going to have a Peter Pan delusion, it would not be about a straight ten year old with a serious girlfriend. Ziggy could scowl all he wanted because this was something a cat simply couldn't give and for once, the little lost boy whose mother had already shut him out because he wasn't going to go to all the good schools and grow up the way a proper young gentleman should, was happy. His sleeping smile spoke only of the Fun that would be had with this feral boy that a part of him knew he was foolish to trust. He had flown from the nursery window without a glance back - Pan was to captivating to allow that. Ziggy's protests fell on deaf ears, because Daniel was sick and tired of listening to an imaginary cat.