Something that I wrote because it seemed like a good idea at the time. This is my first Peter Pan story, and I hope at least someone enjoys it.
I don't own it. But I do believe it's finally out of copyright here in the States. So take that as you will.
She asked him to come, and she cried when he said 'no.' She implored him to fly back with them, to stop being stubborn and ridiculous. She begged him to stop being such a—
He got angry, as he always did, and threw a tantrum and cried and of course refused again. At the time she could only weep and leave him his medicine.
Years later, she shivers when she realizes what almost occurred that night.
Wendy was in love with Peter Pan. Wendy still is in love with Peter Pan. It is a fact she blushes at, because she cannot deny it. Even now, even with her husband looking over her shoulder as she holds Jane in her arms, something deep within her whispers that the warm breath on her neck does not belong to Peter Pan. She is in love with him, and will always be, even as her husband tries to capture the hidden kiss in the right hand corner of her mouth, fainter than her mother's, but still there. She loves her husband dearly. He is a good man, a loving man, and an excellent father. But he is not her boy, her magnificent, beautiful boy.
Still, she shivers when she realizes that she asked him to come with her.
For a grown up Peter Pan could not exist.
He is not like the other boys, who knew that there must be something else, and that perhaps childhood can only be appreciated when it is just out of grasp. Either he would grow up in body and his mind would be trapped, the broken remains of a little boy who listened for bed time stories in the air raid sirens and looked for games of hide-and-go-seek in the midst of black-outs, or he would grow up and become a man, and a stranger. She has seen the dead expressions of living men, when they leave to get themselves killed. She could not bear that look in Peter Pan's eyes.
She can hardly bear it in her husband's.
"I'll be back," he breathes into her hair.
"Of course you will," she assures him.
He strokes Jane's cheek. Jane would only be possible with this man. The nursery would only be possible with this man. Her life as she knows it would only be possible with this man, and yet she cannot cry for him. She hates to see him go, hates the war, hates the idea that he may never come back, because she loves him. She loves him, yes. She loves him, but she is not in love with him. She will cry eventually, but at the moment she can only appreciate his sacrifice, like she would appreciate the sacrifice of any soldier.
Except that she appreciates the sacrifices of other soldiers because they risk their lives for their country. She appreciates his sacrifice for a much bigger reason. Because he is her husband. Her grown up husband who is going to fight a grown up war in a world where time marches forward for everyone. She appreciates his sacrifice because if this is the present, if this is how life is destined to go, she finds herself thankful that in Neverland a little boy who she could not make to grow up is off fighting pirates for sport. She could not bear to have been the one to send him into this fray, even if her childhood self could never have foreseen young men marching into battle and being forced to grow up.
She kisses her husband goodbye, and finally allows a few tears to dampen the dark fringe of her eyelashes. "Come back to us," she whispers. "Come back to us just like you left is."
"I will," he says.
She knows he won't, which is why she is wickedly glad that it is him going off to war, and not someone else.
She doesn't respond any further, so he is the one to say "I love you, Wendy."
"I love you, too."
With one lingering kiss he bids her goodbye and boards a train to his grown up war.
Jane is still fast asleep. Wendy takes her home and puts her to bed in the nursery. She hesitates at the window, coming close, so close to—
She told herself she would never close the nursery window, but for a moment she can hardly stand the thought of him coming back to see her in this new, grown up world. But his desires and needs have always been a greater influence than her own, and he will want in if he comes back. So she leaves the window open, always, always. "Never ask him to leave," she begs to the sleeping form of her daughter.
She goes to bed without ceremony. Without, even, tears.
"I'm sorry, Peter," she whispers as she tries to be warmed by the thick blankets cradling her. "I'm so sorry for what—I—" She is at a loss for words. It is hard to believe that this is the young girl so prized for her ability to weave Cinderella's story into the minds of little boys just before bedtime. "Peter…" she finally feels the lump in her throat. "Peter, I'm grown up. I don't think I meant to be, not like this, but—but thank you."
"For staying," she whispers into the dark nothingness. "I realize now that—that you belong there."
Don't we all?
"No. I don't. They boys didn't. Not all of us can be children forever. I'm not sure anyone can. But you must."
Why? He never wants anything so much as when he is told he can't have it. Even though he hates the prospect of growing up, he wants her to know that he could, if he really wanted to.
"Because someone else is taking your place right now. But he is leaving me behind."
I would never leave you, Wendy.
"Sometimes people must, Peter. You will understand—"
She has almost done it again. I will never be older, Wendy.
"Thank God for that. Someone is taking your place, Peter. But he is leaving us behind."
"Jane, my baby. She is too young now, but she will see soon enough. She can only grow up in a war. If not this war, then there will always be another."
A war? He is far too interested.
"Hush. Not your type of war. This war makes you grow up."
"And that is why, Peter. My child will need someone who can make her smile. Someone who can keep her a child."
Will she stay forever?
"No, she cannot. We must all grow up, all but you. But you must let her do your Spring Cleaning now that I am too old to fly."
"Peter, I am too old to fly. I haven't enough happy thoughts left. I grew out of them today. You must make sure the same thing does not happen to Jane."
But you are my mother.
"Not anymore. Time cannot stand still for me, as for you. Someone has taken your place."
Someone always has.
"It is the price you pay, Peter. You must know. We all take your place here. We make up for the shortage of you, but you must be the one to hold our happy thoughts for as long as we may have them. For my sake, hold tightly to Jane's."
He does not answer for a long time. She thinks he has become offended by this notion of what he may and may not do. I will, Wendy. I promise.
He so rarely remembers his promises when daylight breaks, but she can do nothing but take his word.
"Thank you, Peter."
The one who took my place, are you his mother?
Then what are you, to him?
"Something I could never be to you. Though Heaven knows I tried."
Is that why you left me? To be what you could be for him?
"I suppose so."
Are you sorry?
"No. I cannot be. If I spoke for my own sake then I could be nothing but sorry. But for you, Peter, I can only be thankful."
"Peter… Oh, Peter, never grow up. Run and play and fly as high as your happy thoughts will take you. It is what was meant for you. Laugh every day. Surely Neverland needs more fairies?"
Wendy, you know that only a baby's first laugh—
"I know. Laugh every day."
"And, when the time comes, do not forget Spring Cleaning."
"Now go to sleep, Peter. It's past your bedtime."
I thought you weren't my mother?
"Only for tonight."
"Spring Cleaning. Oh! And Peter?"
"While you live forever—do not forget to live."
To live would be an awfully big adventure.