A/N: A longer update for all of you :)
In response to Butterfly Dreamer 767: The ton is essentially a term for 'high society', which includes nobility, peers etc. It's from the Regency era, which means it's not really used by the Edwardian era - but I'm not really sure what other term to use, so I've just stuck to that. However, the Season (which is when all these social elites have dinners, parties, events etc.) still exists, but its heyday was back in the 19th Century. Just adding a bit of background to London at the time which might be helpful.
Many thanks to Butterfly Dreamer767, enchantedsleeper, Guest and DawnCat2476.
"Fear makes us feel our humanity." – Benjamin Disraeli
By the end of the week, Wendy could not believe she had lingered in Neverland for that long. All their adventures and treks had passed by like a whirlwind; from visiting the mermaids in their lagoon to finally having a meal with the rest of the tribe, and finally meeting Tiger Lily. Her previous jealousy towards the Indian Princess had melted away, with warmth of motherhood enveloping Tiger Lily warming Wendy's own heart.
As Tiger Lily passed her swaddled babe to Wendy, her own heart fluttered. The babe, swaddled with the tribe colours in the softest fabric the Wendy had ever touched, mewled peacefully as his mother passed him to Wendy. Peter looked on, noting the dewy look in Wendy's eyes as she sang English lullabies, rocking the babe gently.
Wendy, while rocking the babe, imagined the babe to be her own. Hers and Peters – with errant curls and sparkling sapphire eyes, giggling as she sung him lullabies that her own mother had sung to her when she was young…
Her mother. Her family. She wondered how they were doing in London. Had a week passed by there, just as a week had passed by in Neverland?
Were the boys doing fine in boarding school? Was Father still coming back late from work, looking gradually more tired and worn every day? And was mother still worrying after everyone, while fending off Aunt Millicent and her overbearing attitude?
Suddenly, screams erupted from behind the collective tepees behind her, and Wendy instinctively clutched the babe towards her breast. The babe was not hers – and when she realized this, she hurriedly relinquished him to his mother.
"Pirates. Run, Tiger Lily!" shouted Howling Moon, Tiger Lily's husband, who had just emerged from the bushes.
The faint noises of war cries and the clanging of cutlasses grew louder and louder. "We need you, Pan," spoke Howling Moon, as he watched Tiger Lily run towards the caves, "The pirate captain has been calling your name… and hers." He looked pointedly at Wendy.
"I'll deal with Hook, Howling Moon," Peter said, as he started to remove his sword from the scabbard at his waist, "Just like I always do."
The dark onyx hair on Howling Moon's head flicked in the wind, and his dark eyes bore into Wendy's, "What of her?"
"Join Tiger Lily in the caves, Wendy." His voice was so authoritative, so commanding, that Wendy was distinctly reminded of her father and aunt, back in conservative London. Was it no different in Neverland?
She shook her head. "I can go with you!" she argued, "I can handle a weapon myself!"
When Peter looked like he was going to rebut her, she added, "Plus, Hook wants to see me too!" She didn't; but she knew Peter was always going to have her back.
They made their way towards the centre of the tepees, where Hook and his cronies were assembled, in their rag-tag formation of attack. Wendy shivered as Hook's piercing dark eyes looked into her, almost if the villain could read her mind.
"What do you want, Hook?" Peter had walked up towards the group, ahead of both Howling Moon and Wendy, brandishing his blade.
Hook laughed, his curled dark hair bouncing and reflecting the light from the flames. "Why, my boy, just a spar with you! It has been a while, after all." And with that, his cutlass swung out, to meet Peter's blade.
It had become a duel between the two of them, with the cold sea wind blowing stronger and stronger across the tepees. With each blow that Peter swung at Hook, he parried it with ease, but ineffectually attacked Peter. It was more like a game to him, where they were dancing around while dealing blows.
A moue of annoyance found its way on Peter's face – he could not fly and attack Hook, without exposing both Howling Moon and Wendy to rest of the pirates. And thus, he was stuck fighting Hook on the ground, without the benefits of flying.
"So, Wendy, how old are you now? Sixteen, seventeen perhaps?" Hook asked almost conversationally while blocking a lunge from Peter.
Underneath his moustache, his lip curled with distaste. "Sixteen? A young lady like you should be married soon! Back in my day, you'd be, unless you were planning on being a dry old spinster or living in sin…"
Angrily, Peter thrust his sword, but it was knocked off again by Hook, who continued to goad Wendy.
"Enough!" In a flash, catching Hook mid-laugh, shearing a chunk of his beard. The devil had dared to say that Wendy had to be married, and the only person who was even likely to do so was that character back in London. The snake had dared to lie through his teeth; he said he wanted a spar, but he wanted to hound Wendy.
When he had realized what Peter had done, Hook's eyes blazed angrily and charged forward. "How dare you!" he screamed, almost foaming at the mouth, as he began to attack Peter with blows of increasing power and speed.
"The cap'n had just mentioned this morning it was the best length yet," muttered Smee, which caused Hook to fly further into a rage. Riposte after riposte, with Peter barely blocking each one and attempting to attack him.
The dark pile of curls lay in the corner of the fighting grounds, and Wendy snuck towards it. No one would see her – everyone was focused intently on the vicious fight between Peter and Hook, ignoring her and the shorn part of Hook's beard.
Hoping that it would work, she ran to the edge of the Indian encampment, overlooking the great sea. The breeze was blowing out to the sea, and using the breeze, she threw Hook's beard into the air, watching the wind carry it down, gently, into the brackish waters below.
When she had made her way back to the duel, Peter had been backed into a group of tepees, and was going to be forced to tear in them to escape Hook. His feet were kicking into the fabric and the pegs, until the unmistakable noise reached their ears.
Tick. Tock. Tick tock.
"Blasted animal!" growled Hook, retreating, "How could it have possibly tracked me here?"
The pirates behind him shuffled uneasily, and began to run back to the ship. They did not want to risk the crocodile, or their Captain's wrath.
"I'll be seeing you very soon, Pan," hissed James Hook, before he disappeared into the shadows with his crew. There was still time, and the ball was rolling. Pan would soon be dead.
"And Piers won again! The Dread Pirate can't ever beat him!"
"Well, that remains to be seen..."
"Didn't the Dread Pirate say he'd see Piers again? Would they fight again?"
"Of course. They're mortal enemies, darling."
"What does that mean?"
"It means they'll fight to the death if they must."
"What do you have for me, Smythe?" The nervous, bespectacled man in front of his desk fretted, unsure of himself.
"Well, sir, I've come up with nothing regarding this Peter and Miss Wendy Darling."
Gavin spun around, his grey eyes glaring at Smythe. Putting down his snifter, he took a fortifying breath. "I pay you good money to be my private detective, Smythe. How difficult is it to find out where Wendy is, and who this Peter fellow is?"
Smythe's hands – not neatly manicured like his – began fiddling with the hem of his worn overcoat. "According to the Darling's maid, Wendy retired to her room at night, and the next morning she had gone. No luggage, no bags, nothing."
Rubbing his chin, Gavin began to feel the growth of stubble. His valet, Angus, would need to give him a shave later. "And this maid has no idea where Wendy has travelled to? Has she ever seen a Peter before?"
"No on both counts, sir. Apparently the missus had told her not to worry about Wendy, and that she would be back when she was ready."
Curious. So no one knew where Wendy was, or who Peter was, except for Mrs. Darling.
A knock came from the door, and his valet quietly slipped into the study. "A letter from Mrs. Byrne."
And now a letter from the harridan. His day could not get any better. Sighing, he read the correspondence.
Smythe let out the breath he was holding as he watched Mr. Smith-Goddard's frown morph into a smile. He would not be grilled about his failings today – his employer had just received some good news.
"It appears Miss Darling has returned to London, Smythe." Or not. He might still be in trouble with his employer for failing to pick this up.
"I think you do not have to look for where she's been, Smythe. Rather, I want you to focus on finding out who this Peter is. Have you checked the registries?"
"For the landed gentry, yes. But none that have cropped up are of Miss Darling's acquaintance."
"Good. I want you to double check again, and then start looking through the common registries. I want to find out who exactly this Peter is, what he does, where he lives, how he knows Wendy…"
"Of course. I will let you know as soon as I find anything." With that, Smythe slipped out the door.
Gavin's smile grew wider. The Honourable Mrs. Millicent Byrne had assured him that he would be seeing Wendy very shortly. He had questions to ask his darling Wendy.
It had been nightmarish to convince Peter to let her return to London for even a week. When Hook had spoken about marriage, spinsters and 'living in sin', Wendy began to feel the weighty power of guilt.
She had been selfish. She had dropped down everything; her life in London; just at a moment's notice from Peter. And now she had to deal with a fretting mother and a virago of an aunt.
"How could you possibly disappear like that, Wendy!" fumed her aunt, "Especially with this Peter boy! What if he was disreputable? A rake?"
Mrs. Darling tried to calm her sister-in-law with tea and cakes. "I can assure you, Peter is not a rake. I've met the boy once."
"And what if Wendy has been 'compromised'? What will we do then?"
Dead silence filled the room. Millicent Byrne's face was red with anger, while Mrs. Darling's face reddened with shame and embarrassment.
"Compromised?" Her confusion was evident, causing Mrs. Darling's face to flush even more.
Mrs. Byrne stepped in. "Have you lain with the boy, Wendy? Carnally."
All three faces in the sitting room were now crimson, clashing horribly with the greens in the Darling's sitting room.
"No, Aunt Millicent. I would never do such a thing!" Wendy sputtered.
Millicent Byrne gave a little sniff. "You best forget that Peter boy, Wendy. I hope you know how much impending nuptials with Gavin would mean to all of us."
Wendy watched as her mother buried her face into her hands in confusion. Did her mother want her to marry Gavin as well? But why did she make it sound like she always had an option other than Gavin?
Mrs. Darling, felt the dead weight of self-loathing in her chest. She bitterly hated Millicent for putting her into such a position, with such a self-satisfying smile plastered on her face. But it was inevitable – Wendy was to find out sooner or later.
It was a shame there were no fortifying wine or spirits nearby. She dearly needed it to gather the courage to speak to her daughter.
"Wendy, you know how your father has been working hard for us; even more so for the last couple of years?"
"Since the boys came," added Millicent Byrne unhelpfully, "You had more mouths to feed."
Silencing the shrew with a glare, Mrs. Darling added, "He had been working so much he's becoming ill, dear. On top of that, he's being losing customers, and we may have to start owing debts…"
"I know, mother."
She had known of course, deep down. All the signs were there – Father was always coming home late, the slow downsizing of their staff. Even the presence of Aunt Millicent was a sign – she was around to alleviate the financial problems and properly present Wendy to the ton.
"You'd be lucky if Mr. Smith-Goddard still had an ounce of interest in you still," groused Aunt Millicent, "Considering no one has heard a peep from you in a week!"
Mrs. Darling was at the end of her rope with Millicent. If the woman spoke any more cutting remarks to her daughter, she would do something unladylike and something she'd most likely regret. "I'd like to speak to my daughter alone," she enunciated, "Please, Millicent."
With a huff, the larger woman left the sitting room. But not before nabbing a scone from the table.
Wendy watched at her mother's eyes followed her aunt's figure leave the room, before she turned to her. "What can Peter offer you that Gavin cannot?"
So her mother was really cheering for Gavin. "I… have feelings for Peter already."
"But can Peter save us from financial ruin? You know how the boys are too young to be earning money themselves, and I will not send the Lost Boys to the workhouses."
Wendy sighed desolately.
"Can he even raise a family with you? Could he even be a father?"
Wendy hesitated. Peter never seemed like he could behave like a true father – not like her own father.
"We rarely marry for love, and fondness often creeps up and grows over the years." Mrs. Darling gesticulated, and Wendy gasped. She had always assumed her parents had married for love.
Mrs. Darling exhaled softly and patted her daughter on the back. "At least Gavin is very fond of you. Perhaps it can grow into love. But firstly, we need him to get our fortunes back on track."
"But mama, what of Peter?"
Mrs. Darling's hand tightened on Wendy's shoulder. "I don't want to be the one to tear you apart, but I'm afraid that forgetting Peter is probably the best thing to do."
Wendy's heart despaired, but she knew that she had to. She could no longer be selfish.