A/N: So this is my latest obsession. I can't tell you (well I probably can but won't admit it) how many times I've watched this movie (the one with Jason Isaacs who did a damn great job at playing Hook). As usual I don't own Peter Pan or any of the characters.
Twenty year old Wendy Darling sat slumped in a chair in the parlor of her aunt Millicent's home, nearly bored to tears as the older woman droned on about her upcoming nuptials. Fidgeting in place she sat up ramrod straight as her uncomfortable corset refused to let her move freely. Only if Mother and Father could see her now; a proper young woman with her hair coiffed perfectly in a Gibson girl fashion, her white and blue gown starched within an inch of its life and draped perfectly on her slender frame.
It was an unfortunate event when George Darling suddenly passed only a few months after Wendy turned sixteen, and her mother followed suite not long after, doctors pronouncing her to have died of fever and a broken heart. From that day on Wendy, John and Michael were in the care of their Aunt Millicent.
The three Darlings' childhoods abruptly ended by the death of their parents, Wendy was forced to attend finishing school in hopes of attracting wealthy suitors. John decided to attend law school in which he was a few months shy of graduating and already had many prestigious offers lined up. Young Michael still had many years left in school but decided early on to take a feather from his father's cap. Although aiming his sights a bit higher, he'd already decided that he wanted to become a bank manager.
Gone were the thoughts of Peter Pan and the Lost Boys, Captain Hook and Neverland. Well…gone were the thoughts from all but one. Even though many of her memories were all but a distant blur, Wendy still fought to hang on to the remnants of her childhood when everything was less complicated. Many nights after all had gone to bed; she would stay awake until the moon could no longer be seen in the darkened night sky, writing stories by candlelight. Her flair for make believe never eluded her, making her a wonderful magnet for small children and the sick and shut in.
Once upon a time Wendy could have had her brothers favor by mere suggestion of one of her colorful stories, but it had been years since they'd asked her to recite one, until finally one day Michael suggested that were all too old for make believe. His words had stung, more than Wendy cared to admit. From that day on she limited reciting her tales to anyone that would listen, but unfortunately Aunt Millicent had walked in on one of her more intense stories being told to the neighbor's children and was openly abased.
"However do you expect to find a husband!" she'd cried later on when she and Wendy were alone. "Men want a proper woman, not a young girl with a wild imagination dashing about!"
As it was, Wendy did manage to catch the eye of a young man named Gavin. According to her aunt he was a proper English gentleman, following in the footsteps of his father by studying to become a physician. After asking Aunt Millicent's permission to court the young Wendy (of course Wendy had no say in the matter), it wasn't long after he'd proposed marriage to her.
Gavin nor her aunt had given Wendy the actual chance to accept or reject, it was already assumed that the two would wed and she'd be taken care of. However one afternoon when Wendy and her aunt were having proper tea, she'd delicately hinted that she wasn't sure if she was ready to be married.
"Well what else do you plan to do with your life? Write? Chase your childhood dreams of being a novelist?" Aunt Millicent said sharply as she sipped on her tea. "Do you know what's going to happen if you don't follow through with this marriage? You'll end up old and alone, without a penny to your name."
Hearing her aunt's harsh words sent a cold chill through Wendy's blood. She felt the eerie sensation of déjà vu at the seemingly familiar phrase her aunt just used. 'Old and alone.' Hadn't Wendy said something similar to someone before?
Despite her aunt's cruel yet truthful words, Wendy still was unable to ignore the doubts she felt about marriage, particularly to Gavin. True, by society's standards he was a proper gentleman and had the makings of being very successful, yet he seemed to be lacking in a few areas that were of a disappointment to Wendy. For one he never missed an opportunity to voice his displeasure at the idea of her "little stories and flighty notions" as he called them, nor could he deny the fact that he didn't particularly care for children. In his eyes children were to be seen and not heard, and to be left to the care of the nursemaid or nanny until they were old enough for boarding school.
Despite what Gavin and her aunt said, whenever Wendy managed to get away from her womanly duties she'd never miss an opportunity to have the neighbor's children Joshua, Jeremiah and their daughter Lisabeth come over for sweet tea and biscuits while she regaled them with her stories of pirates and mermaids.
The Kensington children reminded Wendy of her and her siblings when they were younger and they brought her some small joy. Little Joshua was five years old and a handful but always sat still to listen to 'Miss Wendy' as he called her, stories. Despite the fact that his fingers and face were usually sticky with jam, Wendy would sit the little boy on her lap not taking heed of the fine dresses she wore, and would have the children entranced for hours with her tales.
It was on one of these days that Gavin was calling on Wendy, and after Michael had let him in the uppity man found her in the parlor with a messy child on her knee, a young lady in a pinafore sitting sprawled on the rug before her with a slightly older boy by her side.
"Hello Miss Darling," Gavin formally stated as he stood at the entrance of the parlor. Unaware that his face was wrinkled up showing the slightest displeasure at the grubby faced child in his fiancée's lap, Gavin stared plainly at the children sitting on the ground.
"Joshua, Jeremiah, Lisabeth, say hello to Mr. Benett," Wendy told the children.
"Hello Mr. Benett," they echoed politely.
"Young lady, does your mother know that you sit on the floor in your dress with your legs skewed about?" Gavin asked young Lisabeth sounding a bit harsh.
Wendy saw the child's face turn red with embarrassment, as Lisabeth then awkwardly stood up and sat on the chaise next to her. "Of course she does," Wendy replied lightly trying to ease the child's shame. "The floor is the best and warmest seat in the house, as it's not far from the fireplace. Right Lisabeth?"
Wendy then tickled the tip of her nose, causing Lisabeth to let out a shy giggle. "Alright my darlings, I'm sure your mother will be looking for you any moment now," she then said. "Wait one moment! Joshua you will not leave this house with your face looking like that!" Wendy picked up a napkin and wiped the crumbs and jam from his lips before plucking him off her lap and onto the ground.
"Miss Wendy, may I take a biscuit home with me, pleeease?" Joshua begged in a tinny voice.
Breaking out into a wide smile, Wendy conspiratorially leaned down towards him. "Yes, but don't tell your mum. Go on, each of you can take one, but you'd better have room for your supper later!" The children each picked up a biscuit from the sterling silver tray and then gave Wendy lingering hugs before saying goodbye. Only then did Gavin sit in the armchair across from the lounge, waiting for Wendy to come back from escorting the children home next door.
"Why on earth do you bother with those children?" Gavin asked when she returned to the parlor. "Don't you have better things to do with your time? Or better yet where is their nanny?"
Bristling at his words, Wendy busied herself with picking up the teacups and saucers and stacked them on the silver serving tray. "Better things, such as what?" she asked, trying to keep her tone polite.
"I can think of a few things, our wedding first and foremost coming to mind."
The tray suddenly became too heavy for Wendy and slipped from her hand, falling a few inches back down to the table with a loud clatter. "You know…I never actually accepted your proposal," she replied lightly.
"Well, that can't be right," Gavin replied rather cockily. "Your aunt Millicent has already begun making plans with my mother. She said that you'd be delighted to become part of the Benett family."
"My aunt said," Wendy shot back. "I never did. As I recall you didn't actually give me a chance to answer you. Did I not say that I'd think about it?"
Wendy noted that Gavin didn't even have the audacity to appear slightly affronted at her words. "Well, with you women you know that you never mean what you say. I know that you've been taught to downplay everything as so to not appear too eager." Feeling her temper beginning to rise, Wendy's hands began balling up on their own accord and she had to force herself to unclench them.
"Besides, what are you going to do for the rest of your life if you don't marry me? Become a writer? Go on telling your little tales of the boy that never wanted to grow up and captain what's-his-face?" Seeing Wendy's face go slightly pale, he continued with his taunts. "Your aunt found those ridiculous stories hidden beneath your mattress; needless to say she didn't approve in the least."
"Captain Hook, and they're not just stories, they're actually true. And Neverland is a real place, you can ask my brothers if you don't believe me," Wendy answered sounding exasperated.
"You know, your brothers and I have actually spoken about this already and they both told me that they know nothing of this place you love to speak of, "Gavin continued, growing noticeably irritated. He then reached inside of his waistcoat and withdrew a golden pocket watch, glancing at the time. "We're actually beginning to wonder if you're half mad and need some sort of help."
Wendy felt her mouth go dry and swallowed hard. "That cannot be true; John and Michael have been to Neverland with me. They've just forgotten."
"You know what? I really don't have time for this," Gavin huffed, grabbing his hat and standing up. "Our wedding is to take place in less than two weeks and you're still behaving like a willful child. Either grow the hell up or forget about our arrangement." With that he walked out of the house, slamming the door behind him.
Wendy flinched when she heard the door slam shut, a mixture of dread and relief flooding through her. "Well that's that," she murmured to herself as she picked up the long abandoned serving tray and carried it to the kitchen.
Later that evening, Wendy had already taken her bath and was sitting at her vanity in her dressing gown brushing out her long light brown curls when Aunt Millicent came knocking at her bedroom door. "Yes?" Wendy answered, putting the brush down and turning to face her aunt.
"Wendy, I do wish you'd tell me why you persist on behaving like a child!" the elderly woman began making no attempt to conceal her annoyance.
"What did I do?" she asked, sounding surprised and a teeny bit petulant.
"You've chased Gavin away, that's what!" Aunt Millicent all but shouted. "He says he won't have a halfwit for a wife, not one that loves to daydream and make up stories to pass the time. Haven't I told you? Men want a wife that is to be seen and not heard. Don't you listen to anything I say?"
Wendy sat silently, contemplating the bristles on her hairbrush while half listening to her aunt's tirade. "You'll find no better match than Gavin, I promise you. And besides what more could you ask for? He's handsome, comes from good stock and luckily willing to overlook your penchant for your less than ladylike behavior."
Looking up from her hairbrush, Wendy spun around in her chair. "What do you mean he's willing to overlook my behavior?"
"Well, he said that it's obvious all of this wedding planning has you out of sorts and perhaps you need to get away from here and have a bit of a rest."
Curiously eyeing her aunt, Wendy was unable to keep in her next statement. "I don't know why he thinks I'm going mad, Neverland is real. Michael and John could tell you but as I told Gavin, they've forgotten. Even Mother believed me."
"Enough!" Aunt Millicent shouted, her face turning pink with outrage. "Stop it! Stop it at once young lady! There is no such thing as Neverland, or fairies or any of the other silly things that you've told those children. And by the way, what on earth were you doing out in the presence of company without your corset on?"
Swearing inside, Wendy wondered how her aunt knew that she'd forgone the torturous device known as a corset that morning. "Gavin noticed that you didn't have one on and was properly appalled as he should be. You know better young lady," Aunt Millicent stated, answering her niece's unasked question.
'Gavin must be more lecherous than he lets onto if he knew that I didn't have on a corset without placing a hand on me,' Wendy grumbled inwardly to herself.
"Anyway Gavin will come back for you tomorrow morning. He said he wants to take you for a visit in the country, I believe his father has a summer home there. Of course you two will be chaperoned, but this way you can get to know each other without any added stress."
Feeling as if she had no other alternative, Wendy nodded in agreement although her face looked rather forlorn.
Aunt Millicent sighed, smoothing out her dress before sitting across from her niece. "Wendy, darling look at me."
Wendy looked up as her aunt took both her hands into her own. "Wendy, I know these past few years have been hard on you, especially with you being the eldest girl. But you're not a child anymore and provisions must be made for you. Michael and John are already accounted for, but you must marry if you're ever to get the inheritance your parents left for you."
"So is that it then? Am I to marry someone I don't love, just for the sake of money?" Wendy gasped, pulling away from her aunt's grasp.
"Love cannot keep you warm at night, it can't put food in your belly," Aunt Millicent continued. "Money can. Sir Gavin Benett will do well to provide for you and your family so you must marry him and do as he says."
"What a horrid notion," Wendy replied sulkily, crossing her arms across her chest.
"Those are the tribulations of adulthood. Wendy, I'm not saying any of this to be callous; we care for you and only have your best intentions in mind. You'll find out that marriage isn't a terrible thing; at the very least you'll have a lifetime of comfort. I cannot bear the thought of my niece living on the street."
"Alright Aunt Millicent, I'll go with Gavin tomorrow and I'll marry him," Wendy said rather resignedly as if she was signing her own death sentence.
"There's my girl," her aunt replied as she stood up. "Now get some rest now, Gavin said he'll be here for you after breakfast."
After bidding her niece goodnight and leaving the bedroom, Wendy snuffed out the few remaining candles and climbed into bed. Unable to fall asleep right away, she thought about relighting a candle and working on one of her latest stories but was unable to muster up the energy to do so. Turning over onto her side, she stared out of her window up at the brightly lit full moon until sleep finally overtook her body.