Entitled: Cinderella Syndrome
Fandom: Peter Pan
Disclaimer: I do not own Peter Pan and etc.
Notes: I was going to write it eventually. I mean, hello, this is like the ultimate angst pair. Of course I would adore it to shreds. Such is the natural order of things. Also, Peter Pan always makes me cry. You have been warned.
This window was built for jumping. There's no ledge, just glass and metal and her own human fear, and Wendy's already forgotten how to fly. But then, she was never very good at it in the first place. Perhaps she was just too old for such things—already too sensible, already forgetting the art of dreaming.
She had said no, hadn't she?
She locks the window every night, (she doesn't sleep in the nursery anymore, for she's too old for such things, too old to wrestle her brothers,) and sometimes, well, there might be a branch tapping at her window in the middle of the night—but she never checks to look, because that's all it is. That's all it is.
It isn't until she's thirteen that she leaves the window open.
She's very awake, and very aware of her nightgown, the blankets she's drawn up to her budding chest, the bumps creeping over her skin wherever the cool wind touches it.
"Peter," she breathes out, really slow, and wonders if he's gotten a bit taller—perhaps just a bit. He beams at her, for all the world like a clever child. But then, she supposes he might be.
"Have you got anymore stories?" he asks, and hops onto the foot of her bed, crossing his legs and peering at her through his bangs. She shifts her legs away, swallowing down her own stutter.
"I don't know," she whispers, her heart hitting her hard. She wonders how she must look to him—if he thinks she's pretty, lovely, beautiful. "I—I don't tell many stories, now."
He smirks teasingly, and there is witch light in his eyes. "That's okay. I'll inspire you."
Tinkerbelle slides over his shoulder then, half nestled in his messy brown hair. It's funny, because Wendy's always known Tinkerbelle was beautiful, but now she's suddenly faced with the fairy's flared hips and impish, pouting lips, she realizes how very womanly the sprite is. Tinkerbelle winks at her, curling one blonde lock over and around her fingers, a sultry sort of smile crowning her tiny face.
Wendy licks her lips, "I can't think of one right now. Come back tomorrow, and maybe I'll have thought of one by then."
Something hard and ugly flashes across Peter's features before he spins into the air and shakes his head, "You'd best hurry, then. The longer you stay here the duller you get."
Wendy's smile is almost painful, and when he's gone, she slams the window closed, then locks it tight.
She gets back into bed and breathes into her pillow. In time, some of her hysteria begins to fade, but she still can't understand why she was so afraid in the first place.
When she hears him tapping, then banging on the glass, she shuts her eyes and hums something her mother used to sing, periodically stopping mid-verse when he distracted her, then having to start all over again.
She almost screams when he shakes her awake, staring at him with huge eyes over the hand he's pressed to her mouth. It's dirty, and makes her mouth taste like sand. He leans closer, impish features grinning, and whispers in her ear, "You forgot to leave the window open."
She didn't forget. Tinkerbelle speeds over Peter's shoulder and peers at her coolly, something hard in the set of her red, red lips as she appraises Wendy. She knows that Wendy didn't forget, and probably says as much when Wendy hears the faintest whisper of bells. Peter scowls.
"Shut up, Tink. She was just asleep."
Wendy ties her fingers in knots and lets him wriggle into place beside her. He's getting mud all over her pretty things.
"Did you think of that story?" he asks her, and she stares at him helplessly, her hands all sweaty as he starts to play with her hair, weaving it with Indian beads.
"Once upon a time," she says quietly, hesitantly, "There was boy."
Peter beams at her, "Was he a clever boy?"
And everything is suddenly so easy. "He liked to think so. But I suppose he was. Yes, he was a very clever boy, but a very poor one, and so sought to steal from the undeserving rich."
Peter makes a sound of approval. "Did he get away with it?"
No, Wendy thinks, No, of course he didn't. He was just a boy, after all. They probably threw him in prison and cut off his fingers.
"Of course," she says confidently, "But he had help. It was a big job, you know—robbing the most vicious mermaids of the sea…"
She continues, the words coming to her as easily as they had when she was a child, reservations and precaution forgotten. She keeps speaking, and it is as if with every word she speaks some new animation is leant to her, until he's gotten her spinning around the room in giddy delight, feeling more alive than she has since—since she came home.
She's got one foot on the window ledge when she remembers, and stops. He doesn't let go of her hand when she tries to pull away.
"Peter—Peter, I can't."
"Of course you can," he says easily, seizing Tink and sprinkling her with fool's gold, "All you have to do is believe."
"But I—" She digs in her heels, even as he pulls harder, "But I don't. I'll fall."
He pauses for a moment, and their hands are pressed together, and she is so afraid. "Then I'll carry you," he offers, and glances over his shoulder at the end of the world, "I could do it."
"I've gotten heavier," she stalls, and he eyes her carefully.
"I'm still taller. You can't have grown that much." He says this very firmly, and when Wendy catches Tinkerbelle's eye, the other fairy blinks at her fiercely, so Wendy must be imagining the tears forming in her miniature eyes.
"I'm thirteen, Peter," she blurts out, without really knowing why, and he stops, stares at her.
"No, you're not." He denies, and there is almost desperation in his voice, "You're not."
"I am." She repeats helplessly, "So, I can't—I just can't."
After a minute, he lets go of her hand. It falls limply to her side, and the two of them just stare at one another, not blinking.
"That's alright." He says suddenly, "You're not a grownup. Not really—just a little bit. And if you're Wendy, that's alright."
"Peter," she says, almost gently, because she has always had a bit of a mother in her, "I'm not going back."
He looks away, and she knows that no matter what she says, he is never going to give this up. So she says, "How old are you, Peter?"
"I dunno." He shrugs his skinny shoulders. Boy's shoulders. She touches one fondly, briefly.
"You must remember. When were you born?"
He tells her a number that's so far beyond his lifespan, he should be dead twice over. She doesn't say anything on it, just smiles a little bit so he won't see her cry, and doesn't mention the year. "When did you leave?"
"Twelve." He says firmly, "I was twelve."
After a moment she steps aside to welcome him back in. He doesn't move. Neither does she. "Did you ever—" she stops and tries again, "Did you ever miss your family?"
"Wendy." His voice gets sharper, "Don't."
So she doesn't. "I'm going to bed now." she tells him, and closes the window. He doesn't try to stop her.
She doesn't know why she wishes he had.
She starts counting.
She counts the crows, the spiders, and all the things that should make her scream. She counts the cracks and steps on everyone. She counts the marks on her papers, her mother's lipstick containers, her father's money, her brother's toys.
Most of all, she counts the days.
She's starting to think that he isn't coming back. But it's as it should be, so she counts her blessings, and counts on him for staying away.
And then when she's almost fourteen, Nana dies, and she just stops counting.
So then, of course, he would show up.
He doesn't stop talking until she climbs out of bed and stands before him, then his eyes go all wide and he almost stops breathing. They're at the same eyelevel now, and she is not sorry.
But he isn't listening to her. His hands clench. "What'd you do?" he yells at her, "Why didn't you come with me? Now look what's happened to you, you stupid—!" he breaks off, when he can't think of a word loathsome enough for her, "You've grown up!"
"Yes." she says, and doesn't flinch when his eyes narrow. She looks back at Tinkerbelle, the pixie's tired face, and back at him. She is not sorry. "I did. I am."
For a moment, she thinks he might hit her, he's so angry. He doesn't, of course, because she is his Wendy, but he does step away and back to the window, and she's sure he's going to leave. Her hands snaps out and catches his wrist, "No, Peter—don't go."
He's shaking under her fingers, and he won't turn to look at her. He jerks, and she refuses to let go. "Peter, please. I'm—I'm not really grown up, you know. I'm still me, inside."
He doesn't say anything to that. But when his hand comes up to his face—she realizes that he might be crying. Hot, angry tears; a child's tears. Something within her crumbles, and she lets out a long, tired sigh, then turns him around by his shoulders and presses his face to her neck, and wraps his arms about him. Tinkerbelle flits away quietly, subdued. Peter trembles, and abruptly clutches at her so tightly her ribs begin to sore, and doesn't let go for a very long time.
"You took them all away from me," he says into her hair, "All the lost boys. It's all quiet now, and I have to wash my own clothes."
She closes her eyes, "I'm sorry."
He doesn't say anything to that, just holds on more tightly, and so she says, "You can—you can stay, Peter. It'd be okay. Aren't you—aren't you lonely?"
"Of course not," he says immediately, and abruptly throws himself away from her, so fast her head is left spinning. "Lonely? Never."
"Never," Wendy repeats miserably, fists her hands in her long, white nightgown. "Well, sometimes I am. Sometimes I wish you'd stayed with me."
He just looks at her for a long moment, and then slowly, turns back to the window.
"I can't. My parents got another kid and then they died so I can't go back there and—I've forgotten how."
"Yes," she rubs at her tired, itching eyes, "Yes, I suppose I have as well."
She watches him lean out the window, then walks forwards and grabs the hem of his shirt, "Peter, do you hate me?" she asks in a small, sad voice. She doesn't feel very grown up, in that moment. She glances over at Tinkerbelle—at everything she might have.
"Don't be stupid," Peter shrugs awkwardly, "You're my Wendy."
She smiles at him, eyes hot, "I'll always be your Wendy."
When he's gone—really gone, they both know that he won't come back for her now—she digs under her bed for her sewing kit, then crawls into bed with a thimble pressed into her hands, and lets herself fall apart.
In the morning, her mother smoothes back her hair and makes her hot chocolate, and tells her again and again that Nana was the best dog that ever lived, and she had led a good, happy life. Wendy manages to smile at her politely before running back upstairs and bursting into tears because she had forgotten—she had forgotten that dear, dear Nana was dead.
When she's seventeen, John knocks over a candle and the entire house is suddenly aflame. The only casualties suffered are a few teddy bears, but as she boards the train for the country, some little part of her regrets. It's an old wound now, she doesn't draw herself with wings anymore, but memories can be such complex things.
Because a little part of her whispers that he won't be able to find her now, now that she lives in a different house.
But then, she thinks, It isn't as though he'd have gone looking anyway.