started3/5/08 - finished8/01/11
Title: The Care and Feeding of Flying Boys
Chapter: Twenty Five - Finale
This chapter is for Kasmira, and every one who has poked, prodded, begged, pleaded and generally encouraged me to finish this story. I love you all.
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Author's Note: Thanks you to everyone for hanging in there and waiting so long for this story to re-launch itself two years, and eleven months later. I had felt then, as I do now, that I am starting to repeat myself with these characters, and that is surely the time to stop, before you spoil them and the world you're playing in with them. This will be my last Peter Pan story for the foreseeable future. I have loved creating situations and adventures for them to take part in, and I've enjoyed bringing romance and love to the pages they inhabit. I have been writing now since the start of 2004 after the movie came out for Christmas 2003, which I feel it long enough. I am so grateful for the people that have come along on the journey and supported, reviewed and egged me on, you are all very generous and I couldn't have written so much without that feedback. But it has to end somewhere. And this is it. Possibly, at some later date, I will come up with something fresh that I want to explore with these lovely characters, but only when I have something new and exciting to do with them, will I write again in Neverland.
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Harriet plucked at the fringing on her borrowed finery and tried to ignore the sounds of the feast taking place beyond the tepee walls. She and the Lost Boys, along with Jack and the Indian Princess Tiger Lily, had stolen away from the celebrations to come to the big tent where Peter Pan and his Wendy lay side by side, as still as death. Above the heads of the future King and Queen of Neverland hovered a cloud of bright fairies, Tinkerbell among their number, keeping vigil as their friends did, the tiny creatures shedding welcome light, adding to the flames burning in holders hanging from the lodge poles.
Only the healthy pallor of Peter and Wendy's skin betrayed the fact they still lived. It had been hours since the battle that routed the rogue wolf, Ferru and his sable coated supporters. In fact it was hard to believe for any one of them, that it had only been that morning when they'd faced their enemies across a misty valley. Ferru was dead at the hand of the pirate captain, Hook, who in turn had been given his hand back and sent packing, plus Chief Talgumpa was apparently also the Keeper of the Cave of Dreams, Walbassa, which was news to everyone.
The Chief had appeared to start the victory feast, looking much frailer than anyone expected, his usually hale and hearty presence somehow diminished and subdued. No one could account for why there had been such a transformation, his daughter as anxious as anyone as to her father's health. But the old man had waved them all aside and given a rallying speech, before signaling the women to bring out the huge platters of food and deer skins of beer to be consumed. The musicians had started on the pipes and drums and the fires stoked so high sparks flew up to meet the stars.
After a while, Tiger Lily and Jack had stolen away, followed soon after by the Lost Boys, all of them now sitting around the decorated raised beds where Peter and Wendy slumbered on.
Apart from the noise outside, it was calm and quiet within the walls of the ceremonial tent, which meant that when Wendy suddenly convulsed and flailed, everyone jumped as if stung.
Tiger Lily reached her first, Wendy now shaking and crying out, her hands clawing at the air.
"Wendy...Wendy..." Lily tried to hold on to her, but the girl threw her off, her eyes wide open but blind.
"What's wrong?" Harriet cried, Grub clutching at her skirt, his eyes round with fright.
"I don't know...Jack, help me!"
Wendy suddenly went rigid, then just as suddenly relaxed, her head falling back, eyes now shut, only prevented from connecting with the hard dais because Jack caught her in his arms and lowered her gently to the pillow hastily placed behind her head.
Jack and Lily stared at each other in shock.
"What just happened?" Jack asked, his voice hoarse.
"I don't know...truly I don't." Lily felt Wendy's forehead, then her pressed her fingers against the girls neck. "She feels warm, but there's no fever and her heart is steady."
They could see for themselves that Wendy's chest was rising and falling quite normally where before it had been barely discernible. Even as they wondered what to do next, Wendy murmured something, her eyes fluttering open to stare up at her friends standing over her.
"Jack...Lily..." She smiled up at them as if awakening from a perfectly ordinary sleep, her hand coming up to cover her mouth as she yawned. "Have I been asleep very long?"
Jack put his arm behind her back to help her to sit up, looking over at Tiger Lily for help.
"You've been asleep for quite some time Wendy...hours. It's dark outside now," Lily told her, meeting the girls' bemused blue eyes.
"Did we win?" Wendy asked, looking at them both, a frown creasing her brow.
"We sure did!" said Stretch, he and the others crowding around. Harriet stood back, suddenly shy.
"You got the Ash Beast to blow the smoke away so we could see who we was fighting!" Rat explained, grinning. "You 'ad him as tame as a moggy."
"Goodness...did I do that?" Wendy looked to Lily for confirmation. The Indian Princess nodded.
"What's the last thing you remember, Wendy?"
They saw her forehead crease as the girl tried to remember, her hand coming up to swipe at the wrinkles, trying to smooth them out. Eventually Wendy gave a small laugh.
"I'm embarrassed to say that everything seems a bit woolly." She glanced up at the children crowding around her, her eyes finding Harriet's. "Oh good, you decided to stop playing dress up at last."
"You knew?" Harriet asked, her voice barely above a whisper. Wendy just gave the girl a look that said it all. The Lost Boy's exchanged rolled eyes and shrugs at this latest revelation. "Why didn't you say anything?"
"I guessed you were masquerading as a Lost Boy for a reason, and when that reason was no longer a problem, you'd choose to return to being a girl. It would have had to happen sooner or later." Wendy looked at Harriet with compassion. "There have been many times I've wanted to be a boy, for all sorts of reasons, and probably not any as good as yours."
Jack shifted impatiently. Wendy hadn't noticed Peter yet, and he was sure that when she did, all thoughts of her own predicament would fly out the window. "You were going to tell us the last thing you remember?"
"Oh...yes...um..." Wendy looked sheepish, "honestly, I think it was us all around the fire in the Silver Forest the night before."
"Oh dear.." Lily murmured, exchanging a worried look with Jack. "Wendy, there's something you should know..." Lily started to say, but at that precise moment one of the Lost Boy's shifted and Peter's bier was easily visible. Wendy went terribly pale before scrambling off her own raised platform.
"Peter! Oh Peter...what happened?"
Wendy bent over his still body and gently touched his face, her tense shoulders relaxing when it became evident he was still alive. She glanced up and down his body, seeing nothing but the usual collection of cuts and bruises, certainly nothing life threatening. Lily came up beside her and placed an arm about the girls' shoulder.
"He's not dead, or dying...just asleep...we think. He's been like this since the end of the battle...well, a little bit before the end actually. Ever since Ferru knocked him flat."
"Ferru?" Wendy again swept her glance over Peter, looking for evidence of teeth marks.
"Wake him up, Wendy," Grub's piping voice broke into the silence. "Wake him up."
"Yes do, wake him up," Harriet added her voice. The others all nodded at Wendy, who gazed back in some helplessness. Even Jack shrugged when Wendy applied to him to explain.
"There's no real reason that we know of, why he's still like this."
Wendy turned back to Peter, stroking his hair back off his forehead, her fingers brushing across the skin of his cheek. "Peter?"
"Like Sleeping Beauty!" Grub piped up again, grinning when everyone looked at him. Wendy and Lily exchanged a look, the Princess nodding her head and giving Wendy an encouraging smile.
"It might work," Lily added, taking a step back to stand beside Jack, the others moving back to give Wendy room.
She could feel embarrassment prickling her cheeks as she licked her lips before bending over to stare down into Peter's relaxed features. Bracing herself on her hands and standing on tiptoe, she paused, her gaze roaming over his face like a caress. Everyone behind him held a collective breath, only Grub unable to contain his excitement and squeaking loudly in the pregnant silence. "Kiss!"
Wendy smiled, hearing a collective sigh go through her audience, then she lowered her head until her lips made contact with Peter's, his own dry and soft against hers. It was almost a repeat of the kiss they'd shared on the deck of the the Jolly Roger, only this time Peter didn't have his eyes open, and there was no hint of him returning the kiss she pressed to his lips. She drew back, the skin between them pulling in protest before parting softly. She flickered her gaze up to watch his still closed eyelids for any sign that he was responding.
"Again!" Grubs high pitched squeak made her jump, reminding her of the silent group of friends behind her. Wendy turned her head, meeting Tiger Lily's eyes.
The Indian Princess nodded. "Try again."
Turning her head, Wendy did just that, applying a little more force this time and slanting her mouth, her calves starting to protest at being stretched to hold her position, bent over as she was. So intent on her task, she didn't hear the collective gasp that ran through the children clustered behind her, or see the wince from Jack when Tiger Lily clasped his hand hard, crushing his fingers. Her first realisation that something had changed was the hand that suddenly found it's way into the hair at the back of her head, the lips under her own coming alive and parting, the hand anchoring her in place while an impudent tongue darted out to meet her own.
Wendy jerked back a fraction in surprise the hand threaded through her hair falling away. "Peter?" Her startled eyes met his heavy lidded gaze.
Behind them, the Lost Boys erupted into cheers and laughter. Lily and Jack were hugging each other, while Grub jumped up and down excitedly.
"It worked, it worked!"
Wendy looked over her shoulder and smiled at the display before turning back to stare down at Peter. He had shut his eyes again, but she could feel the rise and fall of his chest beneath her, heat already starting to radiate from him.
"Peter? How are you feeling?" she asked him, noting the slight shake in his hand when he lifted it to rub his eyes.
She saw the moment that memory kicked in, his sleepy eyes opening wide, his winged brows snapping together. "The battle...Ferru!"
Jack came to stand beside the platform. "You won Peter...Ferru is dead and his followers scattered."
Peter made to sit up and Jack lent him his arm to aid him. Once upright, Peter shook his head to clear it, using Jack's clasp to keep himself upright. "I feel so weak."
"You were knocked out by Ferru," Tiger Lily told him, exchanging a glance with Jack before continuing. "You've been asleep for quite some time Peter. Wendy too."
The others now crowded around, Harriet hanging back a little. Peter accepted the slaps on his shoulders, the friendly jostling from his Lost Boys, Wendy's fingers threaded through his own, her body perched beside him on the platform. He turned his head and grinned broadly at her before ducking his head to kiss her on the cheek, making them flush pink.
"We thought you woz a gonna, Peter," said Squid, elbowing Stretch who yelped.
"Thought you'd never open ya peeps!" Crate scoffed. "A right bloomin' sleeping beauty!"
"We were so worried." Harriet elbowed Crate out of the way, drawing Peter's attention.
"Harry?" Peter tilted his head and looked quizzically at his former Lost 'boy'. "So you finally decided it was time."
Harriet gaped at him. "You knew? But you never said..."
"A Captain knows everything about his troops, Harry. I'd be a pretty poor leader if I didn't know a girl from a boy."
"You didn't let on or tell anyone, Peter," Tophat said, slightly accusingly.
"We had no idea he was a flamin' moll!" Crate blustered, shooting Harriet a disgusted sideways look. Harriet looked about to
explode, flinging around to face Crate, her hands fisted on her hips.
"You've got a right bug in your brain about all this. I'll take you on any day, Crate, don't think I won't. One more comment
about me being a girl and I'll...I'll...flatten you!" With her eyes flashing and her slight chest heaving, Harriet was a fearsome
sight. Crate stared at her, seeing his former companion in a new light.
"Blimey...keep ya hair on."
"And I'm not a moll, or a trollop or slag or a slapper or any of the other colourful names I've heard you use. I'm me, Harry, and
I'll appreciate you remembering that in future, as well as keeping a civil tongue in your head when referring to women."
A shocked silence greeted her outburst, Harriet looking very appealing with her flushed face and sparkling eyes. Crate seemed to
have had an epiphany, his eyes widening as if really seeing her for the first time.
"Cor..." Crate breathed, a crooked smile twisting his mouth. "You're a real firecracker."
Harriet looked back at him in surprise, the fight draining out of her as she realised the interested audience around her.
"I'm just saying."
"Good for you, Harriet," Wendy said softly, "good for you."
Sounds from outside filtered into the tepee, reminder everyone that the celebrations were still continuing beyond the tent walls.
"Give us a hand, Jack...sounds like we're missing a party." Peter slid off the dais with Jacks help, shaking off the slight weakness in his legs, never letting go of Wendy's hand. Once on his feet Peter looked Jack up and down, grinning at his friend. "Can't go calling you Black Jack any more."
Jack flushed, gesturing to himself with his free hand. "Blame the Princess. She said I needed a bath."
"And a change of clothes... we burnt his shirt," Lily informed Peter, giving Jack a smug smile. The only black that Jack was wearing were his boots, polished to a high gleam, his usual black pants exchanged for a fine pair of buff coloured breeches and his trademark shirt deposed by a snowy linen shirt that laced in the front, the billowy sleeves rolled up above his elbows.
"I think you look very dashing, Jack," Wendy commented. "Not at all piratical and certainly not wicked."
"Positively heroic," Lily purred, giving Jack a sultry look that made the young man glad that his trousers weren't too tight in the front.
Peter glanced down at himself, noting the similarity between his clothes and Wendy's. Although his were, of course, in the style of a Indian brave, while hers were those of an Indian Maiden, they were both of the softest deer skin, bleached almost white and covered in intricate and beautiful patterns at hem and cuff. All the fringing had been adorned with tiny beads that swayed with every movement, Wendy's long locks loose and brushed until they gleamed. Feather's had been woven into her hair with tiny braids, a necklace of amber and seashells around her neck matching the bracelets adorning her arms and wrists. His own arms sported similar decorations in the form of a wide arm band and wrist guard along with an amulet about his neck on a thong.
As the others turned to leave the tepee, Peter leant forward and whispered in Wendy's ear. "You look very beautiful in that dress."
"And you look very handsome," Wendy whispered back, smiling happily, her fingers holding out a pinch of the skirt at she bobbed a curtsy to him.
"I liked waking up to you giving me a thimble." His lips grazed her ear, sending a delicious shiver down Wendy's spine.
"Then I'll have to remember to do it again sometime." Feeling very bold, Wendy turned her head and pressed her lips to his, this time getting a response, their lips clinging for a moment before they parted to follow the others, hands still joined, heart beating in unison.
Crate and Squid held back the flaps of the doorway to allow Peter and Wendy a clear passage, the Indian village erupting into an uproar with their appearance, every brave, woman and child cheering themselves hoarse as the young couple stood before them, hands clasped, alive and well again.
Talagumpa appeared through the crowd, his hands lifted for silence, Peter and Wendy coming forward when he indicated for them to do so. The entire village formed a circle around their chief and the young couple. Talagumpa stood tall, no sign of the weariness of before, his face stern as he faced the Prince of Neverland and his chosen bride. He indicated for Peter and Wendy to kneel before him on mats placed for that purpose.
"People of Neverland, you see before you the Champion of our land and the woman that has chosen this world for her own. Is anyone has reason to dispute what I say, speak now or be done." He turned his head to scan the faces of the tribe, but saw nothing and heard naught.
"Hear me then. We have fought a great battle this day and defeated more than one enemy of peace. We called upon our champion and he fulfilled his true purpose. Even now the wolves are no longer our enemies, the pirates no longer a threat. Our future has been put right and our lives are once more our own. All this has been made possible with his choice of this woman, Wendy Moira Angela Darling. We are in her debt for bringing Neverland back to where it should be, and for being all that Peter saw in her. Their future is now our future, and Neverland with live forever in this world and the next."
The Chief waited for the cheering to subside before speaking again. "My daughter, and Jack...come forward."
Tiger Lily and Jack also approached, kneeling beside Peter and Wendy, the two girls side by side flanked by their young men.
"On this day of celebration, it is only fitting that I give my most precious gift in this world into the keeping of someone who will cherish it as much as I do. Jack has proved himself worthy of the hand of my daughter and I give it most willingly. I would call on you all to witness the betrothal of these two couples, of Peter and Wendy, and Jack and Tiger Lily. May the blessings of Neverland and the spirits that guide us, bring them everything they desire and a life of peace and prosperity."
Talagumpa then laid his hands on the heads of the stunned young men and women kneeling before him, blessing first Peter and Wendy, then Jack and Lily, bending down at the last to place a kiss on his daughters glossy head. Then he waved to the women in the crowd who came forward with wreaths of flowers, placing one on the head of each of the four young people, crowning them King and Queen, and Prince and Princess of Neverland before the jubilant crowd of Indians and Lost Boys. A cloud of fairies appeared overhead, their presence until now forgotten, their piping voices like music as they swarmed in intricate patterns of their fairy dance in celebration, glittering dust raining down on the two couples like star fire, until all four glowed as if lit from within. Both Jack and Peter got to their feet, handing up their ladies, the magic fairy pollen lifting them all off their feet, rising up from the ground as weightless as thistledown. As if on cue the lightest thrum of a beat on the tom-toms started, soon joined by the sound of flutes, the melody picked up by the crowd with hands clapping in time to the rhythm. Above their heads, bathed in the glow of firelight and fairy dust, the two couples circled and spun, arms outstretched before hands pulled them back together, the two young women so different in their colouring, swirling around the two young men, their match in every sense.
Peter spun Wendy around faster and faster, Wendy laughing, her head thrown back, hair streaming away from her head with the force, all of her spangled and glittering as if clothed in gold, the sparkles easily out matched by the sparkle in their eyes. The fairies now darted away and spangled their dust on other members of the happy crowd of friends and well wishers, bodies lifting off the ground to join in the dance above their heads, laughter greeting their rise into the sky, their friends cheering them on. All the while the music and drums beat out a sultry rhythm, the flames seemingly dancing along, making every face glow with joy and goodwill.
Every one of the Lost Boys, including Harriet, were in the air, joining hands in a circle around Peter and Wendy, the couple holding each other as if waltzing, hands clasped to keep the other close.
Peter pulled Wendy closer still, his starlight eyes meeting her wide blue gaze with wicked amusement. "So, my Wendy Lady, Queen of my heart...are you happy?"
Wendy laughed at the absurdity of his question. "I've never been so happy in my life Peter...can you not tell?"
Peter grinned back at her. "I just wanted to be sure." They twirled lazily, the Lost Boys turning somersaults around them. Peter leant forward, pulling Wendy close and whispered in her ear. "Come away with me?"
"Anywhere..." Wendy whispered back, her eyes glowing.
"Then hold tight."
Tightening his arm around her waist, Peter suddenly shot straight up into the sky above the Indian village, Wendy clasped firmly in his arms, a sharp intake of surprised breath her only response to his ploy. The fires and fairies became just dots of light below them, the pair of them leaving a trail like a firework behind them before they disappeared from sight behind a bank of clouds.
Surprised but not alarmed by their sudden departure, the throng left behind set up a whooping and hollering that sent sleepy birds flying from the tree tops and dogs barking, adding to the cacophony, all to farewell their Champion and King of Neverland.
Jack and Princess Tiger Lily stared up at the rapidly fading glittering trail, their dance slowing to a stop as they drifted back to the ground once more.
"I think Peter has the right idea," Jack said, pulling Lily closer still, drinking in her dark beauty, still a little overwhelmed by the Chief announcing their betrothal.
"You want to fly away from here?" Lily asked, tilting her head to regard Jack quizzically.
"I want to be somewhere alone with you."
"Oh...well, why didn't you say so..." Grabbing his hand, Lily marched off into the darkness, Jack happy to be towed behind her enticingly swaying hips. Before many moments had passed they were beyond the light of the fires and gone from the sight of anyone who cared to notice.
Grub stared mournfully up at the sky. "Peter gone."
Harriet stood beside him and smiled. "They'll be back." Letting slip a happy sigh, the newly revealed Lost Girl scooped up the squirming Grub and danced about with the child in her arms. As she whirled around they both came face to face with Crate, almost bumping into the boy he stood so close. Harriet lowered Grub to the ground, suddenly self conscious around her former companion in arms. Grub stared up at his friends for a moment before wandering off to find someone else to entertain him. Crate and Harriet stared at each other, the seconds ticking by without either of them saying a word. Eventually Harriet opened her mouth to speak but found it covered by Crates fingers.
"Look...I know I've said some dumb things about molls...er I mean wimmin...an' I know you fink I'm rough as guts...but..." Crate ground to a halt, his face screwing up into wrinkles as he tried to find the right words. Harriet let out a breath she'd not known she was holding.
"But what?" she asked, equal parts shy and curious to know what her tough, no-nonsense friend was trying to say.
Crate glanced down at his feet, then up at her, a faint bloom of pink tingeing his cheeks. "I was wondering...um...if you'd so me the 'onour of a dance...with me."
Harriet blinked. His speech delivered, Crate appeared to wince, his eyes looking everywhere but at the girl standing in front of him, as if wishing himself a million miles away.
"I would like that," Harriet answered, a smile curving her lips which in turn creased a dimple into one soft cheek. Crate ceased his fidgeting and fixed his gaze on that dimple as if seeing it for the first time.
Harriet nodded and held out her hand. After the briefest of hesitations Crate enfolded it in one of his own, marveling at himself that he'd never noticed how slender the hand had been all this time or how large and capable his own hand looked in comparison. Suddenly a grin flashed across Crate's face, his eyes dancing making him appear less severe and decidedly more attractive. "Come on then..." Towing Harriet behind him, Crate all but ran to the center of the dancing, swinging his partner around with loud whoops, his hand never letting go of Harriet's, laughing together with eyes only for each other.
Grub sat beside one of the cooling cooking pots, his hand dipping in every few seconds to retrieve another morsel, watching Crate and Harry caper by, his grubby face beaming as he licked his fingers clean.
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Talagumpa paused and looked back at the celebrations still going strong despite the faint glimmer of the approaching dawn streaking the sky above the trees. He smiled wearily and leant more heavily on a plain staff, turning his back on the Indian settlement and making his way slowly into the forest. He could feel the pull of the Cave of Dreams, his final destination, like a thread attached to his heart. He paused again, out of sight of his people and lifted his chin, feeling life infusing his limbs, his tiredness dropping away, his back straightening even as he let the staff drop to the ground. A glow enveloped him and his robes lifted as if in a wind, leaves swirling as a mini tornado whipped around him. The glow brightened and his robes changed from the dull brown of deer skin to the rainbow hues of Walbassa's robes, his long braids turning white and flowing, his features losing their weariness and becoming more youthful until there was no longer any evidence of the Chief, only the calm visage of the Keeper of the Cave of Dreams. He took a moment to roll his shoulders as if shrugging himself into his skin, tossing his head and making his silver hair ripple before settling on his back. Drawing in a deep breath, Walbassa strode forward like a man renewed, his former persona only a distant memory. The forest came alive around him, the birds singing more sweetly and the air perfumed with the scent of flowers carpeting the ground as he passed.
Opening his mouth wide, Walbassa laughed delightedly, his step lighter and more carefree. Ahead, the Cave of Dreams beckoned and he welcomed the familiar tug of its call to him, his heart beating in time with the pulse of life so far away.
"Patience, all my brothers, I'm coming," he chided the air, "I want to enjoy this while I can."
With a firm stride and a smile on his face, Walbassa surged ahead, in the certain knowledge that his work was done. Neverland was safe once more for another generation.
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Far away, on the Moonlight ledge, King Peter propped himself on his elbow and gazed contentedly down at the girl sleeping peacefully at his side. They had stayed awake and watched the fairies until Wendy could no longer keep her eyes open, then they had slept. The first touch of sunlight had woken him up, his senses attuned to the island around him just as an ordinary person is aware of their clothes. He could feel the surge of new life all around him and smiled tenderly at the Queen he'd chosen out of so many. He glanced up and noted how everything looked more lush, more colourful and more vibrant, the rising sun painting the dawn with vivid pinks and apricot splashes on white fluffy clouds against a azure blue sky. He sighed deeply as if drawing in the lifeblood of the island in the scented air around him, his body humming with energy until he felt me must be glowing from the force of it.
Anything and everything was possible now, and all because of the girl now bound to him, to his heart and to Neverland, forever.
A frown briefly marred his brow as he remembered that she had a family, had a mother and father and brothers back in the Realm, but the thought was fleeting. She had chosen him and his chest swelled with pride and love that she had done so.
His Wendy, his Queen, his life – for ever and a day.
Laying his head down, Peter placed a soft kiss on Wendy's brow then closed his eyes. Neverland was in safe hands once more.
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