Chapter 12

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"Puck?" Evelyn asked, her voice breaking.

He took a nervous step towards her, smiling sheepishly. "Hi Eve," he whispered, "I hope I didn't scare you too much."

Evelyn's hands were shaking as conflicting emotions welled up inside. Years of mandated therapy had nearly convinced her Puck didn't exist, that he had been nothing more than the imaginings of a young and lonely girl looking for a friend. With her heart threatening to pound itself out of her chest, she matched Puck's tentative step, closing the distance between them that much more.

"Are you really here?" she asked, "they told me you weren't real, convinced me I made you up..." She took a few more steps forward while Puck waited patiently, still not convinced of his existence. He was standing there, sure, but she couldn't feel him. Not one single wave of warmth or sting of needles emanated from the boy as she approached.

"I know," he said sadly, "I always stayed close, but I didn't want to get you in trouble again."

Evelyn reached out and touched his cheek lightly, gasping with surprise when he leaned his face into her caress. Her restraint broke at once and she pulled Puck into a fierce hug, allowing hot tears to flow freely down her cheeks. "Oh my God, I missed you, I missed you so much..." she cried into his mop of moss colored hair.

His thin arms wrapped around Evelyn and hugged her with surprising strength. She could feel his own thin body shaking with sobs as they both took in the moment, neither wanting to let go after so many years forced apart. Finally Puck released his grip and pushed himself gently out of her arms, his bright violet eyes almost shining with reflected sunlight as he looked up into her face. "I wasn't going to come back you know, I was going to let you live your life and be happy, but..." he trailed off.

"But what?" Evelyn asked, wiping tears from her eyes. She was elated, yet still couldn't believe it. Her imaginary friend, the little boy who wasn't supposed to exist was right there in front of her, as real and alive as the tree standing outside her window. He had meant so much to her in the most difficult years of her life that his banishment had left a wound that had never fully closed. Whatever the reason for returning, no matter how good or bad, would finally begin heal that old wound inflicted by the very people meant to protect her.

Puck swallowed nervously as his bright eyes darted every which way throughout her room, his efforts to avoid looking into her eyes painful. "But we need you Eve. More now than we ever thought we were going to. The spell is dying, and it won't hold him much longer..." he trailed off, small body visibly shaking with fear as Puck became lost in his own thoughts.

"What spell? And who needs me? Puck, it's been so long, I don't remember much of the magic you tried to teach me so I'm not sure I'd be able to help." Tears began welling up in Puck's eyes as he looked up to Evelyn with a childlike desperation, the expression on his small face tearing into her heart. Evelyn bent down and cupped his face in her hands, cradling Puck's head like a mother comforting her child. "OK," she whispered, "take a breath and tell me what's going on and what I can do."

Visibly relieved, Puck wrapped his arms around Evelyn's waist with another surprisingly strong hug before taking her by the hand and leading Evelyn to her desk and motioning for her to sit while he took a place for himself at the edge of her bed. "My home," he started when she had settled in, "your home, and the people who live there are in danger. Great danger. The threat of war marches closer by the day, it's happened before, not long after you were born. Last night I came to you, I gave you a dream. That dream was a vision of our king's sacrifice, one that ended the fighting." Puck leaned forward from the edge of her bed, looking Evelyn squarely in the eye, "But Eve, it wasn't enough. The dark man was more powerful than any of us had known, and the spell that trapped him won't hold much longer."

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