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Arthur is with Lucy on their one on one, when he feels something almost push against him. A force. He considered it being two different things.
One: Zoe was leaving the island to head back to the village to pick up some groceries. But that didn’t make much sense, saying that she went to the village yesterday afternoon.
Two: Either Merle let someone take the ferry to Marsyas Island, or they found a way to get on the island on their own. Arthur grew tense at the thought, and his hands balled up to fists.
“Arthur?” Lucy said gently. Arthur blinked once, then looked at the boy. His eyes seemed.. knowing somehow. Lucy turns his head to look at the other side of the room, then back at Arthur. “Is Zoe going to get dinner stuff?”
Arthur’s heart skips a beat. “She— she never told me anything about it, so I’m not sure—“ He’s interrupted by Talia yelling something which he can’t quite make out. Lucy glances at the door, then looks back at Arthur and shrugs. Phee appears in the door frame seconds later.

“You may want to come outside.” She says. Arthur darts his head up. “Why—“ he starts, but Phee is already gone. He looks back at Lucy. Arthur can’t read his expression.
“I suppose we shall go and see what this is all about.” Lucy nods.

 

Arthur and Lucy are the last people to get out the back door, and the children and Zoe have gathered next to the gazebo. Zoe was not at the village. That thought circles around Arthur’s head for a good moment, and then hurries over to Zoe. He cocks an eyebrow at her. Zoe doesn’t say anything, but instead she shrugs. Arthur looks away from Zoe to inspect the children. Sal, Theodore, Phee, Chauncey, and Talia— Talia was crying. For what reason? Arthur wanted to move to her and hold her, but now didn’t seem like the time. Lucy had made his way to the front of everyone. Arthur could here light footsteps coming round the side of the house. He tried to stop himself from moving to the front of the children, but Zoe grabbed his arm and gave him a reassuring look. He shook his arm away from his grasp, and tried to regain his composure when he saw a familiar figure at the side of the main house.

Linus Baker.

Arthur let that name whirl around his mind for a second and his heart flipped. He heard Zoe take a sharp breath in. Linus hesitated a moment before placing himself a few yards away from the children, Zoe, and himself. The man seemed as if he didn’t know what to say. The children remained silent. Arthur was beat dead confused. Arthur watched as Linus took a deep breath in before saying,
“Hello.” Arthur didn’t realize it until now, but he noticed how much he missed this voice. “It’s nice to see you all again.” Linus tries for a smile, and it shows, a bit. He’s wearing the adventure outfit. Same tan shorts and button-up shirt, and the same cap that sat on his head.

“I don’t expect you to understand. I don’t know that I do. I’ve made some mistakes, some bigger than others. But I . . .” His voice trails off.
Arthur hasn’t felt so unsure about anything in so long. Linus takes another breath.
“I heard something once. Something important, though I don’t think I knew just how important it actually was. A very wise person stood up in front of others, and though he was nervous, he said the most profoundly beautiful thing I’ve ever heard.” Linus tries for another smile, and then recites,
“I am but paper. Brittle and thin. I am held up to the sun, and it shines right through me. I get written on, and I can never be used again. These scratches are a history. They’re a story. They tell things for others to read, but they only see the words, and not what the words are written upon. I am but paper, and though there are many like me, none are exactly the same. I am parched parchment. I have lines. I have holes. Get me wet, and I melt. Light me on fire, and I burn. Take me in hardened hands, and I crumple. I tear. I am but paper. Brittle and thin.”
Silence.
“It stuck with me,” Linus continues. Arthur has a silly idea of where this could go. “Because of how important it is. How important all of you are.” His voice breaks, then shakes his head.
“There is nothing to fear from The Department In Charge Of Magical Youth. This place is your home, and your home it shall remain. You can stay here, as long as you wish. And if I have my way, others like you will know the same peace.” Arthur hears Talia and Phee gasp. Theodore spread his wings and chirped. Sal’s shoulders sagged and he sighed in relief. Arthur remained neutral. Almost as if he forgot how to show expression at all.

“I— I think you’re lovely. All of you. And though I lived in a world where you didn’t exists for most of my life, I don’t believe that’s the world I can live in any longer. It started with the sun, and it was warm. And then the sea, and it was unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. It was followed by this place, this island so mysterious and wonderful. But it was you who gave me peace and joy like I’ve never had before. You gave me a voice and a purpose. Nothing would have change if it hadn’t been for all of you. I believe they’ve listened to me, but the only reason I knew what to say at all was because of what you’ve taught me. We’re not alone. We never have been. We have each other. If I were to leave again, I would wish I were here. If you’ll have me, I would like to stay. For always.”
Silence.
Arthur’s expression doesn’t change, but his heart feels like it’s on fire, and he wants to run over to this man and kiss him and make him apart of this damn family. But he doesn’t. Linus rubbed the back of his neck. He opened his mouth to say more, but is interrupted by Lucy.

“Excuse us for a moment, Mr. Baker.” The boy turns to the others and beckons them close. The children huddled together and began to whisper furiously. Arthur can hear Zoe try to cover up a laugh, and she mostly succeeds. Arthur never looks away from Linus. Linus’s gaze meets with his own for a split moment, but he looks away quickly. The children seemed to agree on something. They nodded, and turned back to the front.
“Does anyone else know you’re here?” Lucy asks suspiciously. Linus shakes his head. “So we could kill you, and no one would be the wiser.” Arthur doesn’t think that isn’t the right way to go about this, but he doesn’t interject.
“Yes, though I’d like to avoid that if at all possible.” Lucy crosses his arms. “Of course you would.” He says. “We have conditions.” Arthur never looks away from Linus. “I would expect nothing less.” Talia clears her throat and says,
“You have to help me in my garden and do exactly what I say.” Arthur could feel no hesitation. “Yes,” Linus said.

“You have to spend one day a month with me and Zoe in the woods.” Phee said.
“Yes.”
“You have to let me do your laundry!”
“If that’s what you want.”
“And you have to tip me!” Chauncey warbles. “Of course,” Linus said. Theodore chirped and clicked, head bouncing up and down.
“Every single button I can find.” Theodore nodded happily.
“You have to let us call you Linus,” Sal said gently. Arthur remained neutral, just to be safe. “I would love nothing more.”
Lucy put his hands on his hips. “And you have to dance with me, and when I have bad dreams, you have to come and tell me that everything will be okay.”
“Yes. Yes. Yes to all of it. To any of it. For you, I would do anything.” Lucy’s hands dropped to his sides.
“Why did you leave in the first place?” He sounded sad. Linus looked guilty.
“Sometimes, you don’t know what you have until it’s no longer there. And I needed to be your voice. So those far away would hear you for all that you are.” Arthur had to say something.

“Children,” he said gently. “Would you please go inside and help Zoe with dinner? I need to have a word with Mr. Baker.” And understandably, the children complained. “Now.” Lucy started to protest.
“I don’t know why you don’t just kiss him and get it over with. Adults are so dumb.” Zoe snorted. “Come on. Let’s leave the dumb adults to it. We will absolutely go inside and start dinner and not watch them through the curtains.”
Zoe was never one to stir up trouble, so Arthur thought he might as well let her have this one.
“Ooh,” Talia said. “I get it. Yes, let’s go watch—I mean, make dinner.” Arthur fought a smile as he watched them hurry inside, and immediately appear behind the curtains, including Zoe. Arthur took a few steps toward Linus. Neither of them new where to start, but it didn’t seem like Linus was going to.

“Why now?” Arthur asked. Linus made eye contact with him. “It was time,” the man said.
“I—I went back, thinking it was the right thing to do. I presented my results of the investigation to Extremely Upper Management.” He paused, considering. “Presented might be a euphemism. I was quite strewn, If I’m being honest.” Arthur cocked an eyebrow and his lips twitched.
“Were you?” Linus swallowed.
“I didn’t know I had it in me.”
“Why did you?”
Linus spread his hands out in front of him. “Because I . . . I’ve seen things. Here. Learned things that I didn’t know before. It changed me. I didn’t know how much until I no longer had it. When I could no longer wake up and walk to the house for breakfast. Or listen to you teach them. Or discuss your ludicrous thoughts on philosophy with you. Or go on adventures on Saturdays wearing ridiculous outfits while being threatened with a grizzly death.” Arthur flashed a smile.
“I don’t know, you don’t seem to have a problem with wearing them now.”

Linus looked down at himself. “They’re growing on me. My point is that I left because I was scared of what it could be, not of what already was. I’m not scared anymore.” Arthur nodded and looked away for a moment.
“And the orphanage?” Linus shook his head. “It’s not . . . You know, you told me once that the word orphanage is a misnomer. That no one comes here to adopt.” Arthur grinned softly. “I did say that, didn’t I?”
“You did. And as I told Extremely Upper Management, this isn’t an orphanage. It’s a home. And that is what it will remain.” Arthur’s heart was about to burst.
“Truly?
“Truly.”
“And what about the others? You said you thought you could help all the others.” Arthur said, unsure. Linus scratched the back of his neck. “I might have done something. Illegal? Stole a few files. Maybe more than a few. I have an idea, though it’ll take time.” Arthur’s eyes widened.
“Why, Linus Baker. I’m utterly surprised at you. Stealing, of all things. It isn’t proper.”
“Yes, well, I put the entirety of the blame on you lot here. You’ve corrupted me.” Arthur looks down, then back at Linus.
“You really did all that?”
“Yes, I was frightened, but it was the right thing to do.” He hesitated again. Then he said simply, “I also quit.” Arthur’s eyes widened. “Why?”
He shrugged. “Because it wasn’t where I belonged.” Arthur doesn’t hesitate. “Then where do you belong, Linus?” He took another breath, and he said,
“Here. With you. If you’ll have me. Ask me again, please. I beg you. Ask me to stay again.” Arthur nods, and he takes in a shaky breath before saying:
“Linus.” He takes a few more steps toward him.
“Yes, Arthur?”
“Stay. Here. With us. With me.”
“Yes. Always. For them. For you, for—“ Arthur’s heart his beating rapidly when he takes his hands, and places them on Linus’s cheeks. And then, their lips meet. Linus doesn’t break away. Every trouble or worry that Arthur had at that moment had faded. He never wanted this moment to end. Linus put his hands atop Arthur’s. Arthur pulled away, and laughed as Linus kissed his chin and cheeks, nose and forehead. He could hear the children began to cheer from inside. Arthur’s shaky hands dropped and wrapped them around Linus, who laid his chest on Arthur’s chest, and the two men began to sway in the sunlight.
“I’m sorry,” Arthur hears Linus whisper. Arthur’s expression softens as he holds Linus tighter. “You silly, delightful man. There’s nothing to be sorry for. You fought for us. I could never be angry with you for that. How I cherish you.” Neither of them spoke for a moment. They just swayed to the song that they could only hear.

Don’t you wish you were here?