Author's Note: Title from a short story by Flannery O'Connor. This is…well. I'm not quite sure what this is, but I hope you all enjoy it!
The Life You Save May Be Your Own
For Jeremy Sumpter
"It was just a little kiss!" Rolling his eyes in exasperation, the boy grasped Wendy's wrist. She sat rigidly, hand limp in his fingers. He didn't seem to take notice of her hostile posture; he reached for her other hand and gave a soft little squeeze with his own.
She did not squeeze back. "It was my thim—kiss, and you, sir, took it without asking!"
Tyler shrugged boyishly, lips curling into a grin that dripped with charm. "Well, aren't you going to share?" Wendy looked away contemptuously. Sometimes the boys at school tricked her into thinking that they were special.
Or perhaps more accurately, sometimes Wendy let herself be tricked.
But come the springtime, she always pushed them away. The truth budded before her and whispered against her arms; spring brought the heavy knowledge that none of them would ever measure up.
Tyler frowned, loosing his hold on her in heavy annoyance. "Oh, grow up, will you?"
She stiffened. "No, thank you," she snapped, snatching her hands from his grip. "I don't think I will."
Wendy gathered her skirts hastily, abandoning Tyler in the courtyard. She brushed passed Mr. and Mrs. Darling, passed Slightly and Toodles and Nibs, passed Michael and John into the nursery.
The window was shut. Wendy scowled.
She unlatched it quickly, pushing outward to let in the spring air. The breeze calmed her, just slightly, and sent her back into rational thought—she couldn't hide here forever. She couldn't keep on this way, comparing all of her suitors to Peter. It wasn't, in the end, their fault. Society simply turned all young boys into big-headed oafs.
Wendy looked down at herself in dismay. Her frock was long and stylish, her hair painstakingly curled and perfected. Hands that had once slain pirates were now pale and delicate; she looked like her mother, like a little Mrs. Darling.
"Wendy, shut the window. You might get sick."
She turned, exasperated, throwing her hands in the air. "Oh, John. Not you, too."
He frowned, cocking his head to the side in puzzlement. "Whatever do you mean?"
"'Shut the window, Wendy', 'You might catch sick, Wendy', 'Don't strain yourself, Wendy'! Don't you remember a time when I—when we—pitted our wits against pirates? When I was Red-Handed Jill and you kissed Tiger Lily—"
"And you kissed Peter Pan," John interrupted, his tone disapproving. "Thank goodness Mother and Father never found out, Wendy. What would they have thought?"
She rolled her eyes. "That's beside the point, John."
"Well, what is the point? You're hysterical, Wendy, aren't you feeling all right? Poor Tyler Gowin is all by himself in the courtyard…"
Wendy stamped her foot. "John! The point is that I—I wasn't born to marry and go to parties and play the piano my whole life!" She spun away from him, fighting tears. Even the cheerful springtime air didn't make her feel any better; neither did John's puzzled, "But, Wendy, you're such a wonderful pianist."
She had tried, no one could say she hadn't tried. But she couldn't be happy here, not when she knew that…somewhere else…there were dangerous adventures to be had. Somewhere else, there were dancing fairies and a home beneath Hangman's Hollow and each time that she went…somewhere else, she found it harder and harder to return.
"There are new Lost Boys," she murmured, half to herself. "They need a mother, don't they?"
John's hand pressed against her arm with startling weight. "Wendy…" he warned, "Don't."
She turned to him, smiling just a little sadly. "Oh, John…I did try, you know I did. Only, I wasn't born for this. A person can only do what they are born to do." John looked away, expression angry. Wendy cast about for something to say, something to reassure him. But instead she loosed his hand and walked to the window. He wouldn't come until night, she knew, but it didn't hurt to keep a look out.
"You've stayed quite small," John said finally, miserably. "Father and Mother think that you just take after Aunt Annie. But that's not the real reason, is it?"
Wendy shook her head. Her heart broke just a little bit. "I did promise him, John."
"And by pure will alone, you've offended all reason." He looked away, and shrunk from her embrace.
Wendy tucked her hands behind her back, returning to her armoire and removing two nightgowns and three dresses from its drawers. "You won't forget me, will you, John?"
But when she turned around, he had already gone.
"Oh, the cleverness of you!"
Wendy spun around, the corners of her mouth tipping upwards. "I rearranged a little…now Snorkel and Hefty can have proper beds, like the other Boys."
Peter smiled, tipping a light toast to her as he threw back his 'medicine'. "I guess this means it's time for me to bring you home," he said, voice expressionless. Wendy wrung her hands, biting a lip. "Wendy? What's wrong?"
"Oh—" She spun away from him, running to her bed and staring down at the old familiar comforter. "Oh, Peter, please don't."
A heavy silence filled the space between them. And then, cautiously, "You mean—you want to stay? In Neverland?"
She didn't look at him, only nodded once. "I don't want to grow up," she managed. "I don't want to give any more of my…thimbles to those horrid boys at school, and marry a gentleman, and sit in my nursery and tells stories of adventures that I ought to be having!"
Peter seemed completely unconcerned with the latter half of her statement. "What do you mean, 'any more'?" He demanded.
"Oh, Peter, you've missed the point." He didn't say anything; just kept frowning at her. "Can't I stay? I'll tell you the most fantastic stories—"
Before she could finish, he'd flown across the room and grabbed her roughly, pressing an urgent thimble to her lips. And she let him kiss her for as long as he wanted, for as long as it took to assure him that he still held control over her hidden kiss. "You don't have to ask…Wendy Lady," he stated firmly, and then smiled so boyishly that she had to laugh, and flung her arms around his neck.
A quiet gagging noise came from the entrance to the tree. Peter and Wendy glanced up to find Snorkel and Hefty staring down. "Father, is it already time for Mother to go?"
"No," Peter told him. "Mother is staying." She beamed at him, at them, at her new home. And if perhaps she would spend many nights warding off an ache for her family, she knew that these pains would dull in time. If sometimes she wished for the simple comfort of a nice bed, Neverland had more than mattresses could offer. And if Michael's old teddy bear, tucked into Snorkel's bed, could sometimes bring tears to her eyes—well, these were the prices she was willing to pay.
And oh, the adventures that were to come!