Author's Note: Yes, at last we reach the end of the road. This is the last chapter. *sob* All good things must come to an end. Thank you all who has reviewed, I deeply appreciate the encouragement. I never imagined this story would be so well received when I first started this over three months ago. I hope this is a satisfying ending; I have spent the last three days working on this chapter, and now am going to go to bed so I have some chance to get up in the morning.
And as always, feedback is welcomed.
Chapter 8: You Are Our Mother
Peter groans and raises a hand before his face to block out the sunlight, streaming through the spaces between some of the roots, shining on his face directly into his eyes. He rubs his eyes and drowsily sits up in his bed, sleep falling away from his body like waves rushing down a beach back into the sea. It is whisperings which softly reach out to him, then retreat and come back, tickling his ear, which cause the boy to look about.
He blinks curiously at the circle of boys before the fire, heads all bent, observing something of interest, gently shoving each other for space.
"— still not up?"
"Ouch! Move over, Tootles!"
"I want to see!"
"Sh! Not so loud, you'll –"
"— this late before."
"She wouldn't take the medicine."
"Of course, she's not awake, silly!"
"—starve if we don't have anything to eat…!"
"Do stop complaining, Slightly! Remember what she said about worrying 'bout food now."
"Michael! Don't hit her so hard. We are to be respectful."
"Perhaps she is truly dead this time…"
In a moment Peter flies from his bed and hovers over the boys' heads, peering into their circle. With shrieks of surprise, they all tumble back onto their behinds, revealing the object that held their interest to be Wendy. Raising their eyes and discovering it is only Peter, they cheerfully greet their father.
"What is going on?" Peter questions, kneeing beside the still girl.
Michael crawls next to him. "She hasn't gotten up yet. And it is getting late." He frowns in concern and brushes some hair from his mother's forehead.
"She hasn't moved at all nor made a sound," Curly says, joining the two at peering down on Wendy.
"Nibs thinks she is dead," states one of the Twins.
Outside the sun disappears behind the dark clouds. A chilling wind whips through the island. Rain pounds into the earth, while lightning flashes above the island and thunder rumbles.
None of the boys are aware of the stormy weather outside the house under the ground; instead they exchange worried glances and quiver at the gathering dark storm descending on their captain, who fixes Nibs with his dark scowl, frightening the poor boy. Lowering their eyes, all the boys scoot away from him and their mother whom he looms over protectively. Fortunately, they all are saved from the storm over Peter erupting by John.
"Actually, I believe Nibs's fear is not founded," Wendy's brother claims in a calm tone.
The glass-eyed boy is pinned by eight pairs of eyes. He makes his way to Wendy's side, not melting under the lightning-filled gaze of Peter, who watches him carefully. The others marvel at their comrade's bravery. John raises an eyebrow at the hand Peter has on his sister's shoulder but very wisely does not comment on this and instead turns his attention to Wendy.
A tense silence hangs in the air, broken only by distant bangs of thunder and the sound of water nourishing the trees and ground. None of the persons awake utter a sound; neither is there the noise of tinkering bells from Tink, who peeks out from behind her curtain in her boudoir at the goings-on in the room. Even the wood in the fire does not creak and shoot up sparks.
John gently places the palm of his hand over his sister's forehead. He removes it several seconds later, a frown surfacing on his face, which in turn causes Peter's eyes to darken and the other boys to stiffen in apprehension. The young Darling proceeds to lower his head so his ear is an inch or two from her face. When he lifts himself so that he sits back on his knees, all see the sunshine brightening his face.
"She is not dead," he proclaims, causing the boys to sigh in relief and Tink to wail in disappointment before flying off in a rage. "She is much too warm – and is still breathing – to be dead," he says in a matter-of-fact tone.
"What's wrong with her then?" Tootles asks as everyone comes forward to crowd around Peter and Wendy.
"I believe she is sick," John says in a solemn voice.
"Remember that one time she got the flu?" Michael directs the comment to his brother. "Mother and Nana kept her in bed for seemingly days and days! Maybe that is what is wrong with her."
"You may be right," John agrees, "and she didn't seem really herself last night either."
"Mother had her get as much sleep as possible –"
"Wasn't allowed out of bed, doctor's orders –"
"She had to take the medicine that was gooey like honey and slides slowly down your throat –"
"So you did try some of it!" John accuses.
"I thought it was honey! It looked and smelled like it," Michael tries to defend himself.
"Didn't taste like it, did it, though, eh?"
Michael makes a face of disgust and covers his mouth with his hands.
"It was days before Wendy was allowed to get up and play," John recalls.
During this whole exchange the Lost Boys' and Peter's heads whip back and forth between the two boys discussing their sister. Feelings of irritation course through Peter, not being able to follow the conversation of sick, flu, medicine resembling honey…
"So we have to wait for her to get better?" Curly reasonably asks.
"Aye." John and Michael both nod.
All turns toward Peter with expectation in their eyes. Slowly, he looks at them before returning his gaze to the sleeping girl. "We shall leave her as she is. Let her sleep," he decides. "What should we give her if she wakes?"
"Oh, she will wake up," Michael assures, "sometime. It will be a long time before she becomes herself again…"
"Michael!" John interrupts him, noticing the flashing of Peter's eyes. "Um, she should probably take some medicine."
Peter nods, feeling bothered by his lacking of knowledge regarding what to do to make Wendy better. He smoothes the blanket covering her still form.
"We should try to bring down her fever by washing her face with cool water," John continues, everyone hanging onto his every word.
One of the Twins discovers a partly dry cloth by Wendy's pillow and holds it up. "Will this do?" he asks.
"Yes. That will be excellent. Peter, did you use that last night on her? Truly? Good lad!" John praises.
"How clever of you!" Michael adds, grinning broadly up at Peter.
A cocky smile plays in one of the corners of Peter's mouth, and a swell of pride rises in his chest. He is glad not to have been completely ignorant on this matter. He settles back on his knees and crosses his arms in front of his chest.
The storm outside dies away, leaving the once hot, humid air of the island cool and refreshed. A steady drizzle falls; rolling hills of mist float above the forest floor. Birds start chirping, shaking the small diamond-like raindrops from their feathers. A light breeze runs gently through the trees, causing the branches and leaves to shiver, creating a nature-symphony as rain slides off the trees and tumbles to the ground. The sun peaks through the departing clouds.
"All play should be kept outside. She may wake with a headache and the noise from our rough play would likely make it worse," John concludes.
"What about food?" Slightly voices his concern. He blushes as he becomes the center of attention.
"What about it?" Peter questions, arching one brow in puzzlement.
"What about breakfast, supper, since mother has to stay in bed? What will we do? We cannot starve!" he finishes in a wail, covering his head with his hands in despair.
"Now I will have none of that," Peter says in a mock stern voice. "For the time being, we shall have our meals the same as we had them before Wendy came," Peter assures – though he himself does not remember what they ate before Wendy came.
"But I miss her stew!"
"And her fish!"
The boys sigh, recalling their favorite dish their mother had cooked in the past.
Peter frowns in disapproval despite his own tummy softly growling and his mouth watering as he recalls the delicious smell and taste of Wendy's cooking. Before he can rebuke the boys, Tinker Bell flies into the underground house and rests on his shoulder, tingling of bells ringing out long and loud as she tells Peter the message she was asked to pass on. Peter's face brightens, rises to his feet, and immediately replies, "Tell her we accept and shall arrive shortly." Tink rolls her eyes in annoyance, a displeased expression on her face, and then darts off.
The boys look up at their father who gives them a cocky smile and a tilt of his head. "Put away your fears, lads. Tonight, we shall eat with the redskins!"
The boys leap with delight, and amidst quiet, excited whisperings – so as not to disturb mother – hurry to their trees and above ground.
Wendy's brow furrows. Weakly she moves her head back and forth, trying to get rid of the buzzing noise which surrounds her, sometimes louder in one place and fainter in another. But her movement only increases the volume of buzzing. Weakly she raises a hand and swipes at the air around her. She jerks with surprise as the back of her hand comes in contact with something; momentarily the buzzing halts but then starts up again in a greater fury. Shaking her head, she realizes it is not buzzing she hears but, rather, the tinkling of little bells. Groaning, Wendy opens her eyes to find herself face to face with one "put out" Tinker Bell, screaming at her in rage for hurting her. Wendy blinks blankly at the angry fairy and rolls onto her side with a moan.
"Please, leave me alone, Tink," she whispers in a dry tone.
Tink only increases her assault. She yanks on the poor girl's hair and shouts in her ear until Wendy gives her attention to the fairy once more. Now Wendy had learned a bit of the fairy language and could discern what some of the tinkling bells meant. She frowns at Tink who alights on her blanket, pacing back and forth. With a great deal of effort, Wendy braces herself up on her elbows and watches the fairy curiously, attempting to understand what she is ranting on about. The only words she can catch are: Peter…fire…boys…losing…Tiger Lily…ignored…insulted…. Her pacing making her dizzy, Wendy averts her gaze to the blanket.
"I cannot understand at all what you are so upset over," Wendy says with a quiet sigh, slowly shaking her head.
Tinker Bell abruptly halts her stomping/pacing and grows silent. For a long minute she simply stares up at the girl whom she has found herself at odds with over Peter. Whom she has never gotten along with – though the one thing they have in common is their dislike for Tiger Lily. Large blueberry-blue eyes hold gold-green ones. The moment breaks; Wendy swears the tiny pixie turns bright orange before screaming some sort of insult and dashes into her boudoir, firmly closing the curtain behind her. She then throws herself onto her bed and cries hot tears.
Perhaps it is fortunate that Wendy does not understand what Tink was going on about and why she is so angry at her. Really, Tink was only taking out all her frustration and hurt on the one who is partly responsible for the fix in which she finds herself. It was Tink, not Wendy, who followed the boys to the Indian camp. It was Tink who was brushed off by Peter, who told her that she would probably be bored there at the feast. Tink was the one who watched from a bush the entertainment put on for the guests of honor; Tiger Lily performed a special dance, black eyes shining at only Peter. It was Tink who watched the children enjoy themselves and who saw Peter oblivious to Tiger Lily, who sat at his feet, hanging onto his every word. It was Tink who felt insulted when she alighted by his place and he paid no heed to her but went off on a walk with the Indian princess. No one noticed her there, nor were they aware of when she left.
Returning to the underground house, she only became more angry and hurt when she caught sight of the sick, vulnerable-looking Wendy. That was the last straw. Hadn't she, Tinker Bell, known Peter since she brought him to Neverland? She had always been his constant companion and friend. She has seen the many Lost Boys that have come and gone. Then she starts to lose Peter first to this Wendy and now to Tiger Lily. Why must this happen? Why did she and Peter have to bring the Darling children here? Why did Peter have to save Tiger Lily? Why?
And so, the little fairy then let out all her corked-up feelings by darting about the sleeping Wendy, raging at her and how she would do anything to go back in time and never bring her here. And now, with no more strength to yell, Tink sobs long and hard in her room. Never has any fairy shed so many tears before. Tink does not make an appearance the rest of the night.
But let us return our attention to Wendy, who watches the fairy fly off, her brow drawn in a confused frown. She attempts to sit up, but her body feels like it weighs as heavy as a barrel full of bricks. Her eyes shut and jaw tightens as she realizes how stiff her body is. Without grace, she falls back onto her bedding with a little bounce and a groan of pain escaping her chapped lips. Her stuffy nose causes her to breathe through her open mouth. One of her hands slowly and weakly comes up to her head, the pounding increasing. Wendy turns so that she faces the dying fire; she pulls the blanket closer around her, feeling the chill hanging in the air while at the same time waves of heat rolls through her body. She would try to retrieve some of the wood tucked in a corner of the room, but she knows she does not have the strength, nor does she desire to find out if standing will cause the world to tilt and spin or not. Hot tears burn her eyes. She hates not being able to get up, being weak and so, so…vulnerable! She pounds her fist in frustration. She cannot just lie here for who knows how long until she is better. She has things to do! She cannot appear weak to the boys, especially Peter! No, not to Peter… What if her illness causes him not to need her? And the poor Lost Boys, the dears! What will they think of her? She cannot cook for them, mend their clothing, or go on expeditions with them. And she may not be able to tell them stories lest she loses her voice. Suppose they do not want her for a mother anymore?
Wendy closes her eyes, exhausted by these whirling thoughts and fears. In the deafening silence she finally becomes aware of the fact that she is alone. The boys are not here. She wonders where they could be. It must be rather late, way past time for dinner! Sighing, she hopes they will not be forced to have meals consisting of nuts, wild berries, and fruit. How ashamed she will be if things come down to that! Moping in self-pity and angry at herself for thinking so immaturely, Wendy buries her face into her pillow, not caring that she is unable to breathe.
But she is saved from suffocating by her heroes – the boys return. One by one they tumble into the room. A groan comes out as a sigh from her as her headache increases from the raised volume of the boys chattering. She turns over and looks up at the dark ceiling which is soon replaced with eight faces peering down at her. The smile she attempts to give them falters; there is absolutely no need for Wendy to ask where they have been or if they are hungry: the feather pieces, multicolor paints, and contented expressions on the lads' faces tell a story all their own. Tonight has gotten a whole lot worse for our heroine.
"You are awake, Mother!" Curly cries joyfully as the other boys voice their happiness.
"We wondered if you would ever wake up!" Tootles claims.
"Hello, my sweet boys," Wendy tries to greet them, but it comes out as a dry croak, resulting in a coughing fit.
"Don't just crowd her! Give her space!"
Wendy, still covering her mouth while coughing, looks up in surprise to see Peter pushing the boys back.
"Someone get her some water!"
The Twins dash off to do his bidding. Wendy simply looks at him in amazement. Unlike the others, he has no paint on his face or feathers in his hair. But…there it is, still hanging round his neck…
"How do you feel, Wendy?" John asks. "Awful?"
Wendy nods silently in affirmation.
"Here it is!" the Twins proclaim, returning with a cup of water.
John moves to Wendy's head and, along with Slightly, helps her slowly sit up, each holding onto one of her shoulders, steadying her. She attempts to take the cup, but her hands tremble so that she has to leave them in her lap. It is Peter who holds the cup and tilts it, allowing her to drink and let the cool liquid rush down her burning throat. The water is taken away, and she is about to be laid down again when Michael suggests that she take some medicine. Wendy accepts it, though it is not very pleasant to taste. Finally, she lies back down.
"Thank you," she says softly, her voice starting to sound normal.
The boys smile at her.
"I am sorry for not being able –"
"It's all right, Mother," Nibs tries to reassure her.
"We ate with the redskins," Michael puts in.
I noticed, Wendy muses to herself, looking over the tell-tale feathers and paint.
"We have been invited to join them every night until you are well again," John says.
"Really?" Wendy says in a low tone filled with surprise.
"Feasting with the redskins is better than living on just fruits and nuts. But I prefer your cooking, Mother."
"Thank you, Slightly," Wendy smiles weakly.
"And Tiger Lily offered to tell us all a story so you won't chance losing your voice," Tootles adds, thinking it a splendid idea.
"Oh." Wendy simply stares at him. "Did she really suggest that?"
"Aye. She was very concerned regarding you. She hopes you will feel better soon and wants you to let her know if there is any way she can help you."
For a moment, Wendy's eyes turn green before she closes them and sighs in defeat. "That was, very thoughtful of her," she murmurs in a strained voice.
"Yes. She is a good storyteller, too. She told us a story before we left, about a group of boys who live on an island and spend their days fighting pirates." Curly's eyes twinkle with excitement. "And one of the boys in her story was named Curly!"
Wendy fights to keep her face blank. She places a hand over her stomach; she fears she will become ill if this conversation does not close soon. She swallows slowly. "Was the story really that wonderful?"
"Yes, but she didn't have time to finish it before we left. She promised to tell us the rest when we come back," one of the Twins pouts.
Her heart sinking in her chest, Wendy feels tears building up behind her closed lids. She shivers slightly, recalling the fire that blazed in the Indian princess' dark eyes when they had last met, wishing that she was in Wendy's place. She must be rejoicing in her good fortune.
"Why don't you boys go get ready for bed," Peter's voice breaks into her thoughts.
Wendy listens to the sounds of scurrying feet and fading voices, leaving her eyes shut, lest she begin to cry. Soon it is quiet once more. She jumps at a sound and opens her eyes to discover Peter adding wood to the fire, which quickly grows large and gives off much heat.
"Thank you, Peter," Wendy blinks back the tears.
Peter turns to her, his back to the fire, shadows playing over his figure. He nods solemnly and then proceeds to watch her for a while, silent and still. Growing uncomfortable under his piercing gaze, Wendy breaks the silence.
"Is something wrong, Peter?"
Peter floats in the air, sitting cross-legged. "The boys and I will not always go eat with the redskins, if you do not wish it."
"It does not matter what I wish, Peter. You are their father and captain."
"And you are their mother."
"Look at me! I am stuck in bed. I am weak and helpless. I cannot cook. I cannot do the washing or sewing. I cannot go outside. I cannot tell stories. I am worthless. What kind of mother is that?" Wendy looks up at the ceiling, starting to talk to herself out loud. "Who knows when I will be well? They may get a new mother who can take care of them – who would want a mother who needs taking care of? Mother never became ill. She always knew what needed to be done.
"But are you really that important to them, Wendy Darling? You are just a simple little girl. You cannot even compare…. Now you know for next time just to wait for him no matter where he is, whom he is with, or how late he returns. Then you won't risk the possibility of taking tumbles into water in the cool evening, not having happy thoughts and being unable to fly…." By now tears are streaming down Wendy's face as she works herself into a fit.
Peter listens to this tirade with complete confusion. He tries desperately to understand what kisses and thimbles have to do with the redskins, but only becomes more lost. He lands gently next to her and searches his mind for something to do to make Wendy feel better and stop her rambling and tears (the former which annoys him, while the latter makes him very uncomfortable). What to do, what to do…. He fears she will possibly cause herself to become more ill if she keeps this up. On an impulse, he kneels over Wendy, cups her face between his hands, and thimbles her on the forehead.
Well, that shuts her up. She freezes; though his lips are rough against her skin, the scents surrounding him, which tickle her nose, are of soft spring rain, sweet maple sap, and…something uniquely…boy. When Peter pulls away, feeling just a tad dazed, and gazes at Wendy, her mouth is hanging open slightly, eyes wide and filled with shock. The rivers of tears also lessen rapidly. Now that she is quiet, Peter is uncertain of what to do. Wendy sniffs and blinks up at him.
"Peter…?" The uncertainty in Wendy's eyes mirrors that which he feels tighten around his heart. She reaches for his hand, but he quickly floats out of her reach. Wendy watches the boy hover above her.
"The boys adore you, truly, you know," Peter says in a slightly shaky voice. "They always try to please you. They eagerly want you to get better. And they are a bit protective of you. You are their mother."
Wendy's mouth falls completely open as she realizes he is trying to tell her in a sort of indirect way that she has no reason to fear losing the boys' devotion.
"And your opinion does matter. We do not like it when you are unhappy," Peter continues. "We shall not join the redskins unless you don't mind. I am sure the boys can cook something under your guidance, and they do prefer your cooking."
"O-oh," Wendy stammers. "Oh."
Peter watches her with a touch of amusement in his twinkling eyes and gives her a cocky smile. "And I am certain you shall be able to go outside once you are more on the mend. If you are still weak, I can carry you."
"Carry me!?" Wendy gasps, scandalized.
"Certainly," Peter says, not at all seeing what is so troubling about the idea.
Wendy feels herself blush to the roots of her hair. She is speechless.
"But we shall see about letting you, depending on you regaining your strength. We all need you. We will be your servants, doing whatever you need assistance with."
Wendy wonders if Peter is joking or not.
"Things won't be the same until you are well again. The boys need a mother's care."
"I thought you despise mothers."
"I do despise mothers, except for you. You are our mother. You are different." Peter shrugs. "And you tell wonderful stories, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Hamlet…" he trails off, staring into space, then snaps his gaze to her.
He remembers... Wendy's heart lifts and she smiles brightly, the first true smile since yesterday. "Thank you, Peter," she breathes to him.
He grins back, pleased she is happy. Without another word, she turns her head and falls asleep. Slowly, Peter floats back to the ground. For a few moments he watches the sleeping girl, wondering what he can do to show his pleasure at her being happy once more. He ponders still when the boys come in and the bed is put down and all jump into the bed. His frown clears away as an idea whispers in his ear. He moves to Wendy's side and a few seconds later returns to his bed, a satisfied expression on his face as he drifts to sleep.
When Wendy wakes up the next day, she discovers three acorn buttons cupped in the palm of her hand. Her fears regarding her importance to Peter and the boys dissolve.
But she will never make peace with Tiger Lily. The tension between them shall remain with her like a thorn in her side. And sometimes when you mention Tiger Lily and Peter Pan in the same sentence, her eyes turns green for a heartbeat.
So here the tale of a Mother, a Boy, and a Princess draws to a close.