A/N: tobacco is depicted as part of a joke. Just,,, in case anyone cares.
Papa forgot to put up the wall of her crib that night. He had been really tired. She heard him in his room, snoring, before she climbed down out of the crib. Toddling to the edge of his room, she saw him on the edge of the bed, shoes still on and legs mostly hanging off.
He sure went to bed in funny ways, but maybe shoes were like her footie pajamas.
The dark didn't really scare Annabeth any more, she was a big girl.
She found her way into the living room and then the kitchen, where the big glass door to the backyard was. She had found out long ago that if you pressed against the door and walked sideways, it would open. Out into the little back porch full of all manner of things, she pushed against the swinging door to outside, but it didn't move.
She sat down hard, tears of frustration in her eyes.
Just then, something happened. The door opened of its own accord, and a little person stepped inside. He was all blue, and had so much papers in his hands. Funny man.
He didn't look up from his papers until she gasped, then he froze, backing away slowly until he got to the door, then dashing out and up.
She stood up again, following after him, out the door.
The woods were so big at night, and maybe a little scary, but she was a big girl now. She wasn't scared by some woods.
The little man left a trail of sparkles behind him, so she knew he was in the trees. She stood at the edge of the trees, looking up.
"Man!" She said.
He didn't answer. Maybe he didn't hear.
"MAN!" She said, giggling. He was being silly.
Just then, a bright light began behind her, and off in the woods a few jumps. A pretty lady holding a dangly lamp walked through the brush, with several more behind her. They had big, pretty wings. She toddled through the brush to where they were, and was about to say hello when the little man darted in front of her.
He put his little hands on her face, shushing her. He looked scared, so she got scared too. She whimpered.
He looked around, before pulling on her hand. He pulled her away from the big people. She resisted at first, till she saw the firefly. Off in the woods, away from the people, a big old firefly flew lazily about.
"Ooh," she said, following the little man.
When she got to the fly, it flew off, a little ways further into the woods. She laughed and clapped her hands.
She and the little man followed the fireflies for a long ways. Eventually, they stopped by a big pond, where there were fireflies but also lots of other little, glittery people like the man.
He took her little finger in both of his hands and lead her around the pond to a big plant. It had big leaves. Under the big plant, he sat her down and gave her a strawberry.
A little woman, also with wings, flew up to them. She was purple all over.
Annabeth listened to what the littles were saying. They talked in voices that were shouts and whispers at the same time.
"I don't know! She followed me! And there were fae around! What was I supposed to do, let her become a changeling?" The blue man said,
"Well why'd you have to bring her back to the Circle?!" The girl's voice was all hissy like she was mad.
"It was the first place I thought of!"
"You stop yelling!"
"Look, I'm going to keep her here until the fae move off, then bring her to the warren, and get her dad to bring her home."
"Ok, that's a solid plan. You go do that."
"Go. Scout. When the fae leave, tell me, and then go get her dad. I'll bring her to the warren."
"Why do I have to scout?"
"Because you didn't check to make sure she was asleep, because you flew away and inadvertently lured her out here, and because you brought her to the Circle. "
He rubbed the back of his neck.
"Yeah that's fair. I'll go do that then."
And he flew off. The purple girl put her hand to her face, before coming under the bush again.
"Hello, sweetie, what's your name?"
"Oh, how lovely. My name is Ivy. That boy's name is Dewey. You get to hang out here in the Circle for a little while, sound fun?"
"Ye." She giggled.
Dewey sat angrily on the fur tree branch, looking angrily down at the fae, thinking. Angrily.
He knew it was fair that he had to do this. He guessed. The fae were having a picnic. Hmmph.
It took hours before the group below, half a dozen high lives from a nearby palace, wrapped up their stupid, giggly picnic and went home. His butt had fallen asleep.
Finally, he flew in two loop-de-loops to wake back up, and made a beeline for the kiddo's house.
It was really neat and tidy inside, not what he'd thought a single dad's house would be like. There was a mug and a plate left on the table but all the other dishes were clean. He had been here before, reading books. This guy had at least 400 books in a house too small to even have a dining room. The kiddo was gonna grow up happy, that was for sure.
For now, he averted his longing gaze from the huge bookshelves and flew down the tiny hallway into the big bedroom, where the guy was sleeping. His room was little more messy, but personal rooms normally were. The guy, David, didn't look anything like his daughter. She was pale and rosy with hair the color of autumn wheat that had lost a bit of vibrance to the sun. He was dark tan and bald, with a face that would have been handsome if it weren't tired and frowning.
"Eyo, wake up." He said halfheartedly. Nothing.
"Time to get up, Pops. Your kiddo needs you." He said, a little louder. Nothing.
"Ughhhhhhhh." Dewey groaned loudly, before sprinkling some dust on his face. David snuffled and sneezed, sitting up in a hurry, bleary-eyed. He smiled a little, kicking off his shoes and getting up. Into the hallway en route for the bathroom, he noticed Annabeth's door pushed far open. He glanced inside, finding her crib empty, the wall down.
Fear shot through him, but he forced himself to remain calm. She might just have gotten out and was in the house somewhere.
"Annabeth?" He said, looking through the room. They didn't have much furniture, so there weren't many places to hide. After searching through her room he looked through his room, riffling through the closet, in the places only a kid her size could manage. In the big drawers of his cabinet, under his bed, under both bathroom sinks (there were two half bathrooms connected with a shower and tub in the middle in a ridiculous little train of rooms), in the tub, under the old chair in the living room. The couch touched the floor, there was no room under it. Behind the TV, even if there wasn't much space behind the 2000s era tv. The space under the tv was filled with DVDs, mostly Disney. On top of all the bookshelves, in every cabinet in the kitchen. The back door was open.
He sprinted barefoot into the woods, yelling his daughter's name.
Only when he was sufficiently far in did he realize he could have called the police. That would have been so much better. He turned, and fear shot through him like ice water poured down his back. He couldn't see the house anywhere. He couldn't even see a path he'd taken to get here. It was so dark behind him. He could only see the first layer. Maybe it was a cloud, since the area in front of him was still illuminated by the moon.
He kept shouting her name, careful to avoid dangerous plants. Almost all small biteys were asleep at this point.
The forest seemed to close in around him, leading him down a trail big enough for 3 to walk abreast. The ground below his feet quickly became soft, springy moss, damp with freezing dew.
Then he saw the fireflies.
The purple Ivy made a game. She wanted Annabeth to chase her. It was fun. First in the shallow lake, where nice misty ponies came up to say hi. Then under the leaves where drops of water fell and splashed and giggled. Then down a little path that was just big enough for Annabeth. And the fireflies in the tunnel were so pretty.
Ivy had tried to tire her out a little before bringing her down the run towards the warren. The rabbits would be asleep, and even if they weren't they wouldn't touch her.
She had cut it a little close with the kelpies. Even well fed, generally harmless ones could be dangerous if they wanted to be. Like an orangutan, unlikely to hurt you, especially a baby, but no more trustworthy.
Eventually they reached the massive door to the warren, disguised from the outside to look like a normal rabbit burrow but with a decadent golden light spilling softly from within.
A single rabbit sat on a stone outside, smoking a cigar.
He stood up when he saw them approach.
"To what occasion do I owe the pleasure?" He said.
"I need you to shut the interior gate and let the kid stay here till her dad shows up."
He causally glanced over her shoulder, before leaping haphazardly backwards, ending up in a heap beside the rock he had been sitting on. After coughing out bits of lavender for a good minute, he looked incredulously at the little human child, who had half her first stuck in her mouth yet was still managing an angelic, charming smile.
Brushing a stray piece of fur out of his eyes and exhaling a long breath, he said,
"Ahhhhhhh sure I suppose..."
"Good. You won't be on your own, I'll be here."
"Well doesn't that just beat all," the rabbit said, smiling.
Even with his conscious yelling at him, he knew enough lore to know that when the forest made a path for you, you dare not ignore it. His feet were freezing now, somehow even though the night held little chill.
All of a sudden, the trail before him opened into packet clay basin. The fireflies, which had been concentrated along the moss path, now spread out, blinking dimly out into the wilds. The ones behind him stayed, keeping the trail lit.
He sank down onto the earth, resting for a short while. His hands shook with nerves, his voice hurt from calling for her.
He hid his face in his hands.
A soft sound from the other end of the basin, the sound Annabeth made when she was sad. He looked up just as a firefly illuminated the little golden face, giving her the air of a faerie.
He sprang up haphazardly and raced across the basin to where the little girl sat under an overhanging tussock. He picked her up, kissing her forehead.
"Ba cry." She said.
"Yes. Ba cry."
After a few minutes, he wiped his eyes, standing up with an ever sleepier Annabeth in his arms. The path behind him was illuminated by the moon and the streetlight from his neighbour's house. He could see the back door, still standing a little ajar.
Annabeth was aware of two pretty lights while papa carried her. One purple and one blue. They danced in the trees above her, among the fireflies.