Summary: Peter visits Ivy for a very special birthday. Post Bare.

Disclaimer: Don't own it.


Chapter One


Peter stepped into the terminal and looked around. Airports were never his idea of a destination, security was hell, everyone was always rushing to get to flights that they knew wouldn't leave for another two hours, and there was never anything to do except eat and wait around in small chairs until a robotic voice said it was okay to get on the plane. The actual flying wasn't bad, in fact, he enjoyed being able to look at the world from so high up, it made him feel tiny and huge at the same time, it was kind of fun. He had never been a heavy packer, and therefore had no need to check any of his bags, which was good, it saved him an extra half hour that he would have spent in line at baggage claim. He scanned the crowd, looking for a familiar face, when he saw none he started in the direction of the main lobby, remembering that people weren't allowed in the terminals unless they had a ticket, which meant that no one was able to greet someone as soon as they got off the plane. Stupid security measures. The lobby was even worse, everyone was shouting across at each other, annoying people with signs saying who they were here to drive home wouldn't move out of anyone's way when they passed, and people seemed even more in a hurry than before, as if every single flight had been late and the only way to get anywhere was to run around like a mad man in a cramped space filled with people.

Luckily, his own search was cut short by a high pitched shout of, "Uncle Peter!" He had just enough time to turn around and drop his bags before the tiny girl had hurled herself into his arms at full speed, her long brown hair flying as she did so.

"Oh my god, you have gotten so heavy," he said, over exaggerating the minimal amount of effort it took to hold her up. "Where's your mom?"

She pointed behind her, "She's coming, she's just slow."

"Do you know why that is?" Peter asked.

"Because she's old?" she said eagerly.

"Yes, she is very old."

she giggled, "How old?"

"Well, last I checked, she is going to turn one thousand and twenty two tomorrow."

She giggled again and shook her head vigorously, "No she isn't. You're funny, Uncle Peter."

"No she's not, you're right, but there is a birthday tomorrow, it's yours isn't it?" She nodded. "And how old are you going to be?" She proudly held up five fingers, stretching them as far apart as they would go, as if to emphasize her point. "Five? Wow, you're getting old too."

Their conversation was interrupted by someone calling her name, "Jenny? Jenny, where are you?"

Peter spotted the source of the calls and waved his free arm high in the air, Jenny waved too. "Ivy! Over here!" she turned around and ran over to them.

"Thank god. Jenny, what did I say about going ahead of me?" she asked sternly.

She looked at the floor, "You said not to do it."

"So why did you?"

"I saw Uncle Peter."

Ivy sighed, "Fine, but next time just tell me and we'll come over together, okay?"

She looked up and smiled, "Okay."

Peter put Jenny down and turned to Ivy, "Nice to see you too," he remarked, grinning at her.

"Shut up, that kid is impossible sometimes," she explained, hugging him.

"I don't doubt it, anything that cute has to be evil on the inside." He picked up his bags and followed them out of the airport. The taxi ride to Ivy's apartment was filled with mostly casual conversation and catching up, Jenny interrupting every few minutes to spout something completely unrelated to the topic at hand and giggling when Peter told her how 'fascinating' it was. When they got to the apartment Jenny waited patiently while he dropped his bags on the couch, but when he made a move to sit down she grabbed his hand and started leading him away.

"Come, I want to show you my room."

"I saw your room last time I was here," it was a pathetic try and he knew it.

"But it's different now," she insisted, pulling him through the door and shutting it behind them. The room was, indeed, different. The walls had changed from purple to blue and she now had a large desk next to her bed that was completely covered in stuff that closely resembled junk. He sat on the bed and looked around. "See? I told you."

"Yes, you were right, I like it." She smiled and climbed up so she was sitting in front of him. "So, can you tell me about your friends from school?" Peter asked.

"Well, there's Annabelle, and Jake, and Kristen, but they're really the only ones, all the others make fun of me or aren't allowed to spend time with me," she explained, counting everyone out on her fingers. Peter sighed, this poor kid wasn't even being granted a kindergarden experience that was free of the crap life was bound to dish out for her. Five years old and she only had three friends her age, it was pure bullshit and there was nothing that could be done about it. "Uncle Peter? Why are you being so quiet?"

He sighed again and looked at the cluttered desk, that it turned out, wasn't covered in junk. There were a lot of pictures, a set of paints, a sketch book, all of which he recognized, and none of which he'd seen in a very long time. "Jenny, where did you get all of this?"

She picked up one of the pictures and hugged it to her chest, "I've always had this stuff, it was my mom's, she gave it to me, I used to keep it on a box. Except the pictures, you gave me some, and Uncle Matt gave me some, and Auntie Nadia gave me some, and mom gave me some," Jenny explained. He remembered the box, but she had only ever showed him that she had pictures, he had no idea Ivy had given her so much, let alone kept it at all.

There was a knock at the door and Ivy poked her head in, "Jenny it's time for dinner, and I have to talk to Peter."

"Five more minutes... please?" she begged.

"No, it's time for dinner, Peter's not going anywhere, you can spend more time with him after dinner." She sighed in dramatic defeat, hugged Peter, and headed to he kitchen. Ivy followed, leaving him alone in the room. He glanced at the desk and picked up a battered, old copy of Romeo and Juliet. Out of all the times he had visited it had never occurred to him that she would keep as much as she did, but it wasn't a bad discovery. He flipped through the book, smiling as long forgotten lines came rushing back. As he looked closer it soon became clear that this was not Ivy's copy, the wrong lines were highlighted. He flipped to the front and sure enough, in the corner of the inside cover, there was a small JM written in smudged black sharpie.

A few moments later Ivy came back and sat next to him on the bed. "She's okay alone?" he asked.

"Are you kidding? Giver her a bowl of mac'n'cheese and she doesn't even know the rest of the world exists," she said, laughing off his question.

Peter held up the book, "I can't believe you let her have this."

Ivy shook her head, "I didn't, that is one of the few things I said she couldn't have, but that doesn't stop her form stealing it every other day. It's not like she can read anything but the title, she doesn't know what it's about, all she knows is that it belonged to her dad and it's part of the story."

"And what's all this crap about her only having three friends?" the answer was easy enough to guess, but he wanted to hear it from her.

"Crap it exactly the right word for it. She had plenty of friends at the beginning of the year, but when the other parents found out how old I was some of them told their kids not to spend time with her. The teasing started when it got around that she had no father," she explained.

"She can't be the only one without a dad."

"Some of the other parents are divorced, some are single moms with boyfriends, but none of them are dead, and none of them are under twenty five," Ivy said bitterly.

"She hasn't told anyone the whole story?" he inquired.

"If there's one thing she inherited from her father, it's how to keep a secret," she muttered, rolling her eyes at him.

"You know that is going to screw you over one day, right?"

"Trust me, I know and I'm preparing for it," she laughed and he smiled, it felt good to just talk, without the over hanging shadow of awkwardness or tears.

"That can't be the only thing she got from him," Peter remarked.

She smiled, "It's not. For one thing she looks just like him, she's also got his annoying ability to everything well, and she's a complete flirt, but I'm not really sure which one of us that is."

He thought for a minute, "I think that one is you, he was only a flirt because he knew it pissed me off."

She chuckled, "I should have guessed. You know, Jenny remembers every single one of the stories you tell her, word for word, she's even written some of them down, nothing is spelled right, and half the letters are backwards, but she writes them down," Ivy got up and went over to the bookshelf on the other side of the room, pulling down a small blue book that looked like some kind of diary.

"It's okay if I read it?" he asked hesitantly.

"I wont tell if you wont," she responded, crossing her fingers.

He nodded and very slowly reached for the book. He turned it over in his hands, the cover had a photo sleeve and he recognized the picture that was resting inside it. Nadia had taken it the day of the Romeo and Juliet auditions, it was the three of them, smiling with nervous energy and clutching their brand new scripts like their lives depended on it. It had been right before Peter called his mom to tell her what parts they had gotten.

"She's probably done by now, I'll leave you to it," Ivy said, exiting the room as Peter nodded absentmindedly, still staring at the cover of Jenny's book.

As she rounded the corner into the kitchen she was greeted by the sight of Jenny standing on a chair in front of the sink, holding her bowl in her hands as water splashed over it in a five year old's version of washing dishes. "Sweetie, just put it in the sink and get down, I'll wash it later," Ivy said, shutting the water off. She sighed, hopped off the chair, and started to head back to her room. "Not so fast, you need a bath."

"Why?" she wrinkled her nose at the idea.

"Because you smell. You've managed to talk your way out of it for the past three days, and that is gross," she explained, pointing in the direction of the bathroom. Jenny slumped her shoulders and walked very slowly past her mom and into the desired room. Once inside, she marched right up to the tub, climbed in fully clothed, and was reaching for the knob when Ivy opened the door. "Jennifer McConnell, don't even think about it," she was grinning as she said it, but she was far from joking. Finally realizing that she had no hope of winning Jenny got out of the tub in annoyed surrender. "Thank you."

"When are Auntie Nadia and Uncle Matt coming?" she asked.

"Matt is driving in around twelve tomorrow, and Peter is going to pick Nadia up from the airport at three," Ivy said, starting to run the water.

"Can I go with him?"

"No, Peter is going to go alone, you have to stay with me and Matt to get ready for the party." That got her excited.

"Can we blow up balloons?" her eyes got wide as she began to imagine how the next day would play out.

Ivy smiled and nodded, "Of course, that's why we bought them. We're also going to hang streamers, and wear funny hats, and eat ice cream, all before the party even starts. Peter and Nadia will be back by four, everything starts at five, there will be plenty of time to be with them before that," she shut off the water and tapped the edge of the tub, "Hop in."

Having finally given up her idea of rebellion Jenny did as she was told and slid into the warm water, letting Ivy rub shampoo into her hair while she continued to ask questions about her party, smiling innocently as she pretended that she didn't already know the answers.