No Copyright Intended. I do not own anything other than the imagination of the plot and writing!
A big thank you to those who have reviewed/liked and followed! I'm so pleased you guys like the story! Really means a lot to me and giving me that extra motivation! So without further or do, here is the next (rather big) installment! Chapter two of The Midnight Hour.
Compared to her imagined reunion with Peter, it was safe to say this was the equivalent to a nightmare.
They had ducked between alleyways and skidded through markets, chased by the onslaught of rain that seemed to never end. He directed them deeper into the maze of London, further into the dirtier and darker crevices she harbored. Nervous knots had crept into Wendy's stomach as they carried on; the leer of a drunken man, the high-pitched call of an elderly flower woman. They all seemed to send her skittering. The misshapen stranger had reminded her that something sinister was on the streets, and she kept seeing pirates in all of them.
Once Peter had been forced to stop, falling against the wall of an alley in what had appeared to be a dizzy spell. Wendy had gingerly reached over to check on his shoulder, her vision blurry from the rain, and had been astonished to see a sort of blue sheen mixed amongst the blood. Breathing hard, she tried to say the words that just seemed too impossible.
"Peter, there's … something blue… " She trailed off uncertainly as he had stiffened all over. He had pushed her hand away then, pulling at her to keep moving, as though to shake her from what she had just seen.
After that, Peter had swatted her hand away whenever they had stopped to regain their breath. Wendy had given him her satin coat to press against his shoulder, and the soft fabric had soaked through as he held it awkwardly to himself. But it never deterred him for too long, his face always focused as he directed them through the streets.
At one point her hat had blown off and gone missing amidst some market stalls, but she had been too rushed to even think twice about it. The large flouncing hat had been such a nuisance in the past half hour that she was glad to be rid of it.
When they finally arrived at the address, she was astonished. Tucked deep into the grotty alleyways of London laid the safe haven Peter had led them to.
She supposed it must have been beautiful at one point, with patterned bricks and tall windows letting in London's mediocre sunlight. What was left was a crumbling façade, in which she presumed must have been caused by a fire. The roof of the house was half gone, blackened and rotting away. The bricks were aged and cracked, smeared with dirt and soot, as the windows had no glass in their frames. It had been in a row of houses, the blackened rubble to the left a heap of what remained of the others.
Wendy stood staring up at it in disbelief, exhaustion mixed the feeling of dread curling up from her toes. No lights were on within, and outside the day had darkened to almost the shade of night from the ominous clouds. A storm had seeped its way to the edges of the city, a chilling wind starting to snap at her back. At least the rain had let up some and no longer battered them.
Peter seemed nonplussed by the remains of the house, intent on climbing up the stairs quickly. She noticed he had been concealing most of the pain as they travelled, the wind and rain making his condition worse. As he tried the stairs he grimaced, Wendy grabbing at his arm to balance him. "Careful," She reminded him.
And there was still that abnormal blue colour that singed the red coloured stains that nagged at the corner of her mind. What wasn't he telling her?
"Not exactly the pride of London, I'll grant you that, but I'll have you know the service is excellent." He said with a wry smile as she hesitated at the bottom, her teeth clicking together from the chill.
Wendy barely even heard him. "Peter, I-" She swallowed, imagining a ghostly figure emerging from the upstairs window. How could she tell him she wasn't as brave as she was before? "You are sure this is the right address?" She couldn't imagine how on earth this was better than a hospital.
"Trust me, I practically live here." She looked up at him sharply; the words live here striking a chord within her. He didn't seem to notice.
"Considering your love of danger, that doesn't quite surprise nor help me." In response, he just gave her a lilting smile and tugged at her arm, which forced her to down her fears.
Peter needed help, and if this is where he had to get it, so be it. She'd be brave. What was a ruined house compared to an enormous, ticking alligator?
The house creaked as they approached; his arm slung back over her shoulders once more. He seemed happier that they were there, although she couldn't possibly imagine why. The place looked deserted. She craned her neck up as they stepped onto the porch, rain water running over the side in trivets. The porch hardly seemed safe either.
When she went for the knob he stopped her. "Wait, you can't touch it."
"Then how do you propose we get in? We fly-" Then it struck her, the words tumbling out of her mouth. Fly. Why on earth had they not flown? She looked over at Peter, intent to say just that – it certainly would have saved time albeit a frightful turn in the weather - when something dark flickered over his face. The words died on Wendy's lips, as he deliberately looked away, his whole body tense against her.
As if nothing had happened, he reached forward and knocked, three times, a pause, and then two more. Without a moment's hesitation, the door creaked open, the wood rotting around its edges.
It opened onto darkness.
Wendy realized she had been holding her breath, waiting for something to jump out, not even Peter moving an inch beside her. It was when a hazy light blinked into the darkness did she remember to breathe. It bobbed lazily, like the light of a firefly, coming closer to the pair. It shimmered the exact colour of burning embers, the light bouncing off the peeling wallpaper.
Another light appeared beneath the splintered floorboards, this time blue, bobbing upwards in a smoky haze. It pushed through the cracks, and there emerged another fairy with crystalized wings, veins of startling blue reaching to their tips. Suddenly another had appeared, this time with a deep purple colour to its wings, tinkering just above the keyhole. They were smaller than what Tinkerbell had been, Wendy observed, like pint sized little balls of light.
Soon there were about eleven fairies filling the corridor, lighting up the doorframe in a coloured display of magic. Their voices chimed together in an ethereal choir, drowning out the rain behind them. Wendy's previous thoughts on flying were discarded as she stared in amazement, her own voice caught in her throat.
They hung delicately in the air as if dust, their light chasing away the darkness of the house. For a moment they stood like that, watching as the fairies climbed their way closer to them, but never passing over the threshold.
It was Peter who addressed them first.
"I ask permission to enter your threshold, along with my guest." After a brief pause, the faeries parted so that there was a gap between them, allowing the two of them to pass through.
"I told you there was excellent service." Peter said, so low that only she could hear. His breath tickled her ear and she felt a shiver, this time not from the cold, run down her back.
In a daze, Wendy walked through the divide with Peter leaning heavily on her shoulder, her eyes wide as she drunk in the sight. The hallway they walked into was smaller than she had imagined, the walls too close to provide a comfortable distance from each other. To the left, a rickety staircase rose skywards, its base all but rotted away. Not like that mattered to the faeries, more obliged to fly than walk.
"I'm looking for Tinkerbell," Peter told the blue fairy, who had come to face Peter with fierce black orbs for eyes. There was a sharp sound, which Wendy believed to be her voice, before she twisted and started down the long corridor in front of them.
The house was as eerie as Wendy predicted, her heart thrumming in her ears as she leaned in closer to Peter. He seemed to guess her nervousness and gave her shoulder a quick squeeze as they stepped after the fairy. The cold from the house settled into her wet clothes like ice, and she could feel Peter trembling from the cold as well. She wondered if he was running a fever.
The darkness was lightened by faerie light, as a few of the faeries flittered above as they moved deeper into the house. Although they were strikingly beautiful, now that they were inside, Wendy couldn't help but feel a little nervous in their company. Upon closer inspection they had sharper features than even Tink, dyed skin of many colours and eyes that had no irises. They were unsettling after so long of normalcy.
As they continued, Wendy caught glimpses of ghostly fixtures and paintings on the walls, covered in cobwebs and heavy layers of dust. Wind from outside swept through the many cracks, a constant whistle echoing throughout the house. Water ran down the floorboards in a stream at their feet, bringing up dirt and dust as it ran down the sloped floor. She was surprised to find that this was where Peter had been living; it looked hardly lived in at all, more haunted by memories than of life.
"Where are we going?" Wendy whispered, not wanting to raise her voice as if not to spook the faeries.
Peter didn't share this fear. "They'll take us where we need to go." He said simply.
Wendy bit her lip, her previous anxiety catching up to her. She cast another look at Peter, and caught him wincing.
"How are you feeling?" He made a noncommittal noise. "Your shoulder, you sure they can fix it?"
Although he was doing his best to sound fine, Wendy caught something tinged in his voice. It was so hard to discern though, not quite familiar with his newfound voice.
She stared up at him, still trying to familiarize that strong jaw of his. He was looking straight ahead, watching the movements of the blue fairy as it flew gracefully down the darkened corridor. She felt a pang of worry, noticing beads of sweat trickling its way down his face. His hair stuck flattened to his head, the ends curling upwards in loose curls.
"I thought that Aunt Millicent would have taught you not to stare," A boyish smile tugged at his lips. "I believe it's hardly proper behavior in a becoming lady."
Wendy sucked in a breath, her cheeks flushing crimson as she looked away. It surprised her to hear him even speak her Aunt's name; she hadn't known he knew it.
"I believe those rules are only applicable when dealing with gentleman and other becoming ladies. " She snapped, disappointed to hear his dry laughter echo down the corridor.
She cast a look over her shoulder, a frown on her face. She couldn't even see the door anymore; all she saw was the lengthy twist of hallway and more of that grueling green wallpaper. Darkness concealed the path they had already walked, swallowing it up except for the few blinks of faerie light on occasion.
"I can't even see the door now," Wendy said, a touch of anxiety creeping into her voice. "How long is this corridor?"
Peter looked as if he meant to shrug, but stopped upon feeling the pain in his shoulder. "Who knows? It could span to Neverland for all I know." She cast a pointed look at him, but his expression was serious. "These corridors are enchanted. When the faeries took over the house, they spelled everything. It's to keep intruders out," He made a face. "Or to keep certain things in." Certain things?
"I don't understand," Wendy spoke slowly, her eyes flicking up to the faeries. "Why are they here? In London? Aren't they supposed to be in Neverland?"
He tensed, his expression suddenly becoming unreadable. "They're running."
"Running? Running from whom-" She stopped as something slipped up from the shadows, making Wendy take a startled step back as Peter tried to balance himself against her.
"And he lives!" A young voice bellowed as they stepped out from the shadows. "I knew he'd be fine, see Tink!" A boy, no more than fifteen, had emerged from the darkness – or what Wendy could now see was a door – a familiar yellow glow resting upon his shoulder. The boy carried a rusty lantern in his hands, throwing the corridor in harsh yellow light. The blue fairy ahead of them hissed disapprovingly. "Oh, sorry Yaz." And he tinkered with the lantern until it became a softer glow.
He had a mop of brown hair on him - in desperate need of a good cut - and a pair of brilliant grey eyes. The boy wore a pair of similar brown trousers like Peter, but over his shirt he wore a weather beaten jacket decorated in brass buckles. A pistol, tucked elegantly into his trousers belt, glistened in the faerie light. And something flickered in the light just at the hollow of his neck, but the collar of his jacket hid it from view.
What really distinguished him, however, was the raccoon hat he bore on his head, the tell tale sign of a lost boy.
Except, well, he was older than what a lost boy should be. But at this time, she wasn't all that surprised given Peter's looks. Perhaps he had convinced the new lost boys how wondrous adulthood was, she thought bitterly. It did leave a sour taste in her mouth as she thought of the lost boys-turned found at the Darling estate.
"And he's brought himself back a –" The boy stopped, as if just now fully taking in the sight before him. He brought up the lantern with a jerked motion and Wendy squinted irritably at the light. The boy stared at Wendy for a moment before turning to glance at Peter with a surprised expression on his face. Wiping off the smile he had been wearing moments ago, he dropped hurriedly into a short bow, the lantern swinging comically in the air. "My lady,"
Peter fixed him with a look before clearing his throat. As not to waste time, he quickly introduced him. "Wendy, this is Dodley. Dodley, this is Wendy." Dodley straightened, awkwardly trying to pat down his jacket to appear more presentable. Wendy bit back a smile.
"Nice to meet you, Dodley."
Peter than made a slight gesture to the faerie on top Dodley's shoulder, which seemed to have perked up. "And of course, you know Tink." Tinkerbell rose off her perch, quickly zeroing in on Peter's injury, completely ignoring Wendy. "Ah yes, that. It would appear I wasn't so lucky after all. Got hit in the shoulder." Dodley snapped to attention, taking a full step so that he was hovering over Peter as well. Tinkerbell's angry voice seemed to rise as she fussed over him. "Yes, yes, I know. Bloody ichor got its way in there, think you can cure me?" Peter winced.
Wendy, who was still holding up Peter, watched Tink as she fluttered about, frowning as she did so. She didn't know what she had been expecting when seeing the fairy once more, but she hardly paid much attention to how she ignored her, given what Peter had just said. She tilted her head, momentarily confused.
"What do you mean 'cure'. Peter, it's a bullet wound." She stopped as she caught Dodley's expression, as she saw Peter and Dodley share a look. She started again, this time with an uncertain lilt to her voice. "What do you mean by cure, exactly? Can't you just… take it out?" She trailed off at their expressions. She could tell Peter hadn't told her as much as he should have, while Dodley was trying to guess how much.
Dodley raised up two lanky hands, the lantern swinging precariously from his wrist as he did so. "Don't look at me. Pete's the one whose c-"
"Dodley!" Peter cut him off abruptly, silencing Dodley with a fierce look. He turned to Wendy, strands of blonde slipping over his eyes.
"What you saw before? The glittery blue bits you didn't know what to make of, mixing with my blood? That's a type of dark faerie ichor. The bullet was coated in it." He paused at her confused expression. "It's only cured by a certain kind of Pixie dust." He sighed, suddenly looking exhausted. "Tink here is the only one who can do it. She's the only pixie we know willing to help."
As if on cue, the Faerie let some of her shimmering dust land on his shoulder and he flinched. Wendy clutched at him automatically.
"What do you mean willing to help?" Wendy's voice rose. "Peter, what is going on? You never answered my question about why you were in Lond-"
"We have to get you down to the hub." Dodley said interrupting her. "Girls," He muttered indistinctively as he hoisted Peter up onto his own shoulder. She shot Dodley a patronizing look, and was about to say more when she caught sight of Peter's face. Now under the lantern's bright glow, she could see his pale complexion and the obvious strain on his features. Her stomach flipped; he looked much worse than before.
Dodley reached out behind him and pulled at the door, opening it so that it swung wide. To her surprise, a stone staircase that led downwards greeted them. At the bottom she could see the flickering light of a fire, voices trilling up the damp walls in what sounded like song. Warmth escalated up the steps and she felt herself being drawn towards it involuntarily.
For a moment she stood bewildered, unsure of how she had missed the light under the door before, let alone the voices.
As if reading her thoughts Dodely shot her mischievous look, something flashing in his mouth as he spoke. "Magic." And he started down the steps with Peter next to him, their shadows splaying across the wall.
Wendy cast another look down the dark corridor, as the blue fairy watched her with an unblinking stare. "Uh, thank you for your help." She mumbled, and received no response from the fairy. Automatically her hands reached up to pull a piece of hair behind her ears, and she realized with a jolt what a mess she must appear to be. Her dress was already stained from before, and the rain undoubtedly gave her the appeal of a drowned cat. Now blazed in light, she could see the tea stain running down her front, no coat to shield the mess. It seemed so long ago she had been at the Brandon's, had it really been that afternoon?
"You coming, Wendy?" Peter called up after her, and she was rewarded to find that he had stopped to look up from his perch on the steps. Her heart skipped a beat and she found herself giving him a wry smile.
With that, she ascended the stone steps, just as the door behind her slammed shut without warning. She gave a startled gasp, hand finding the wall for support. Dodley looked up from the noise, and grinned at her. This time she distinctively saw the flash of gold in his mouth and something flipped in her stomach. In the newfound light, she was able to see clearly what was hanging at his throat, his jacket pulled aside.
A chain necklace that held the golden imprint of a skull shimmered at the base of his neck.