A/N: The first of a few stories that all begin with the line about the dark nursery, but have no relation to each other. Perhaps I shall put more of them up here eventually. For now, I leave you with this one. Oh, the numbers at the end of some of the lines refer to the footnotes at the bottom of the page.
Disclaimer: I do not own Peter Pan, though Annie is a creation of mine.
The Dark Nursery
It was dark in the nursery the night the sky was filled with the sound of bells. A lady knelt at the foot of the tiny bed and wept. Her husband stood behind her, his hand on her shoulder, not speaking, not weeping, completely numb. They stood this way for a long time, but neither of them could hear the bells (1).
A tiny light flitted through the open window hesitantly. A much larger, darker form alit on the windowsill and hid in the curtains.
"I don't want to disturb them, Tink," the boy murmured. "Do you think we really should?"
There was a soft outburst of bells.
"I know Tink. She asked." More bells. "All right she didn't ask. She wished." More bells. "All right, she didn't wish. She believed."
And with that, the boy took a deep breath and stepped into the circle of candlelight around the bed. He watched the grown-ups for a moment, and then leaned over the bed and the flushed figure lying there. She was small, with dark hair and a pretty smile. But she wasn't smiling now. She was scared. She watched her parents crying and began to cry herself.
"Why're you crying?" the boy whispered.
"Because my mother is scared," she answered. Her mother looked up with wide eyes. Teardrops glistened on her eyelashes. The boy glanced between the girl and her parents, at a loss for what to do.
"What is your name?" the little girl asked suddenly.
"What is your name?" he responded.
"Peter Pan." She gasped.
"I knew you were real," she whispered. Peter smiled down at her, and she smiled up at him, and then Tinker Bell flew between them. The girl gasped again, and reached up a hand to touch the fairy gently. But before she could, her mother reached out and grasped the outstretched hand, pressing the little fingers to her lips.
"It's all right, Annie, darling," she said. "We're here, dearest." Annie smiled at her mother and pointed at Peter with her other hand.
"Peter Pan is here, Mother," she whispered.
"No, dearest," the lady smiled sadly. "We will not let him take you away. You must stay here, with us. Please, sweetheart. You're going to get better, and you're going to be with us forever."
"But Mother," Annie began.
"Shh," the father whispered. "It will be all right." His voice was rough from ill use—he had been quiet for too long, hunched over his daughter's sickbed, praying silently for some relief. It had come, but not as he had hoped.
"But why is Peter Pan here, Mother?" Annie asked. "I'm sure it is just to say hello. He knows I believe in him, Mother. He wanted to tell me stories from the Neverland."
"No, darling," her mother said, grasping her daughter's hand tighter. "We will not let him take you away."
"Am I going somewhere?" Annie asked. Peter answered.
"Yes. I'm to teach you to fly. We will ride the wind to the stars."
"Oh, Mother, he says he is to teach me to fly!" Annie tried to sit up, but her father pressed her back into the pillows, and smiled gently.
"But we don't want you to fly away, Annie," he murmured. "You might forget about us, and not want to come back. And what ever would we do without you?"
"But I should so love to fly." She closed her eyes and thought for a moment. "Could Mother and Father fly, too?" she asked of Peter. There was an outburst of angry bells from Tink, and Peter shook his head.
"They're grown-ups," he said scornfully. "They've forgotten how to fly, if they ever knew at all." There was a silence.
"I should so love to see the stars up close," Annie whispered. "Please, Mother. Please, let him teach me to fly." The lady shook her head and tightened her grip on Annie's hand.
"Perhaps, we should let her go," the father murmured, gently brushing sweat-soaked strands of hair off his daughter's feverish forehead. "Let her have some last happiness before…" he trailed off and his wife started at him, her eyes wide. "Would you take her to Neverland, boy?" he asked of Peter, who he thought he could barely see as a bright outline against the window. (2)
"No," Peter said. "She cannot come to Neverland. She would go to the stars."
"What is in the stars, boy?" the father asked. The lady's eyes were terrified, and fastened on her daughter's face.
"I do not know," Peter said. "I only take them part of the way, so that they are not scared. They meet someone else when we reach the stars, but I have never stayed to see who it is." (3)
"Part of the way to where? So who doesn't get scared?" the lady's voice was quiet and scared. She was crying again, and Annie squeezed her hand.
"I do not know. I only fly with them so that they are not scared," Peter repeated.
"Do they perhaps meet an angel in the stars?" (4) the father asked. The mother gasped, and Peter shrugged. "Do they ever come back from the stars?"
"Some do," Peter said. "Others do not."
"No," Peter said as Tink tickled Annie's fingers. "She will not return." The lady buried her face in her hands and wept. The father put an arm around her shoulders and smiled sadly at Peter.
"Will it hurt her, much?" he asked. He could fully see the little figure dressed in leaves now, and searched desperately in the mischievous green eyes for an answer.
"Flying doesn't hurt a bit!" Peter said, offended. "Can we go, now, sir?" he asked, his voice softening. "Only, the Lost Boys will begin to miss me, and I think Captain Hook is planning to attack us at the Mermaid Lagoon tomorrow and I need time to ask the Indians for their help in defeating the pirates."
There was an outburst of bells and Tink flew circles around Peter's head, telling him how very rude and insensitive that was. (5)
"Sorry," he said, hanging his head. The father smiled, and the mother gathered her daughter to her.
"Good bye, dearest," she whispered.
"Am I going to learn to fly?" Annie asked.
"Yes, darling," the mother answered. "And you are to see the stars as well."
"I will come back and tell you all about it," Annie whispered, hugging her mother fiercely. "I shall tell you what the stars say when they twinkle."
"Yes, dear," the mother whispered, blinking back tears. "I love you."
"I love you, too, Mother."
"Be nice to Peter," the father said, lifting his daughter off the ground and swinging her around in the air, as he used to when she was well. "I love you."
"I love you, too, Father." Annie smiled at her parents, and turned to the window, wobbling where her weakness betrayed her. Peter grabbed her hand to steady her, and sprinkled her with fairy dust.
"Mother, look!" she laughed, "I'm flying!"
"Yes, darling. We will miss you."
"Good bye!" Peter pulled her out of the window and they hovered for a moment outside in the cool London air. "Where are we going?" Annie asked Peter, still holding his hand.
He pointed up into the heavens and smiled at her. He squeezed her hand.
"Second to the right and straight on till morning!" he said, and off they flew, unafraid, leaving behind them a darkened nursery and the faint sound of bells.
1. Only Peter can understand the bells, and only children can hear them.
2. Grown-ups cannot see Peter Pan, because they have forgotten to believe in him. However, Annie's father is beginning to be influenced by his daughter's unwavering faith in the mythical boy.
3. "When children died he went part of the way with them, so that they should not be frightened" (Peter Pan, page 12).
4. When Peter and a child reach the highest star, and Peter can fly no further, an angel comes down to meet the child and fly with them the rest of the way to wherever it is they are going. Sometimes an angel does not come and Peter returns the child to their home.
5. Fairies have a much better sense of English manners than they are given credit for. And they know better than Peter what the parents of the children he takes away feel like. Tink tries to make Peter understand, too.
I hope you liked it. I took the third footnote from the prose version of Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie, of which I own the book, but not the rights to. :) Thank you, readers.