She woke with a start, her heart beating furiously as the remains of her nightmare coursed through her. Her wide eyes peered cautiously around the room, for a moment imagining her to be back in the nursery with John and Michael. She was however, alone, and as the vision drifted slowly from her, she exhaled a soft sigh, lamenting her childhood, for after all she, now being seventeen, was a child no more. Wendy Darling had grown up.
This fact was not a surprising one. She had, of course, returned to London with her brothers and the Lost Boys four years ago, and since that point, naturally, time had moved on. She had not forgotten him though, nor Neverland, which still held a special place in her heart. Indeed, Wendy would often tell the story of Peter Pan to the boys, who had slowly begun to forget their adventures as new ones had filled their thoughts since returning home. They had been growing up too, and believing in faeries, mermaids and Indians was no longer their most prominent past time.
Neatening the covers and blankets that laced her bed during the winter months, Wendy thought, as she often did, back to the night she had last seen Peter. They had been so young and innocent and to them, the word 'forever' only extended as far as curiosity would allow. However, time seemed to freeze in Neverland, and a year in London could feel like only a few weeks in the fantasy world, and although Wendy had been plagued with her childhood ever since Peter had said goodbye, she was sure that the boy himself had not noticed the time go by. The only hope that remained in her heart was that he had not forgotten her, for knowing that would be as wounding as the fearless Captain Hook gutting her without a moment's remorse.
Hook. The memory of that evening's nightmare slipped back into Wendy's mind. She had been dreaming of nothing, as impossible as that may sound, but no vision had filled her thoughts, a song perhaps, a beautiful song, but that was all. She had been infatuated by the music, its soft but exciting tones entrancing her, so much so that she hadn't noticed it come to a halt. It was then that she observed something glimmering in the farthest corner of her eye. She hesitantly turned, only to find darkness, but the glimmer was still there, toying with her.
"Perhaps," she had thought aloud, "it's a faerie."
As if to answer her question, the glimmer suddenly began to form a shape. Curiosity overwhelming her, Wendy took a step forward, her brow furrowed. Watching the object closely, she didn't notice the dark cloud forming behind it, reaching from the floor to a height that towered over Wendy's form. As this was happening, the glimmer twisted into a curve and suddenly Wendy was able to recognise it. In the split second her frown had turned into a shocked gasp, the hook had also caught her in its grasp, delicately caressing her windpipe. The ghostly figure had too materialised in that moment and now Hook himself was standing before her, his eyes glimmering red and a smirk plastered across his jaw. He had looked her over, devouring the shock and panic that had overcome her entire being, and then he had whispered her name.
Wendy shook her head, removing herself from her subconscious. To nightmare about Captain Hook was bad enough, but to think of him during her waking hours was offering him a consideration he truly didn't deserve. Oh how she hated him, even after all these years. He had used her, taking advantage of the adventurer within her, and had even had the audacity to threaten and patronise her in front of the other pirates and Peter. No, even in his fate, he deserved little sympathy. It was after all, his destiny to die at the hands of Peter and she had no right to dispute that, or, for that matter, reflect upon it as her fault. She was no murderer, only a child caught up in a fantasy.
However the nightmare had scared her, if only a little, and as much as she tried to forget it, it remained at the back of her mind for the remainder of the day. As night fell and the time for stories arose, it was with certain trepidation that Wendy selected a tale for the boys. She eventually chose one about vampyres but as she was about the begin one of the boys, Michael, spoke up.
"Wendy, will you tell us about Peter Pan?"
"Peter Pan? Surely you are tired of his story. I have told it you many times."
"How could we ever be tired of our own adventures, dear Wendy?"
The other boys turned to Michael, confused by his words. Wendy too was perplexed: she thought the boys had all forgotten.
"What are you saying Michael?"
He paused before answering, glancing down ashamedly at his feet, as if he was being scolded by mother and father. "I dreamt of Neverland last night, and of Peter Pan and our adventures."
"Michael, stop your childishness. Peter Pan is just a fairy tale." John stood, anger lacing his features. A silence moved its way through the group, first in apprehension of John's words and then in thought, as if there was an untold secret hovering in front of each boy's face. Tootles spoke first.
"I too dreamt of Peter last night."
"And of Neverland." Curly reminisced.
"So did we." The twins chimed.
Nibs merely nodded his head in agreement, but that was enough.
In unison, the seven of them turned to John, whose cheeks had taken upon a pinkish hue.
"I… I did not dream of Peter Pan."
"He dreamt of Tiger Lily!" Michael giggled, and soon the other boys had joined in, John's face now bright red, confirming Michael's suspicion. Wendy hushed the boys, silently scolding them for teasing their older brother. It wasn't too long before each had apologised.
"Did you dream of Peter, Wendy?"
Studying the look on Tootles' face, Wendy paused. Should she tell them the truth, or was her nightmare not appropriate when compared to the other boys' exciting dreams?
"Yes, I dreamt of Neverland… and Peter."
The boys smiled and began to chatter amongst themselves, recounting their dreams. Nibs, always the quiet and observant one, kept his gaze on Wendy until she caught it with her own. She could tell immediately that he did not believe her words to be true, but thankfully he chose not to verbally challenge them.
It soon became apparent that each boy had dreamed of their experience in Neverland and, in doing so, had remembered Peter Pan and their previous lives. At least an hour passed whilst the boys talked, recalling their adventures and arguing over trivial matters, such as who had truly shot down the Wendy-bird. During this period, Wendy had remained silent, listening intently to each story and reflecting upon her own memory of each event. It was only as the boys were beginning to tire, their voices fading due to their constant use, that Michael once again turned to Wendy.
"Wendy, why do you think we all had the same dream?"
"I do not know Michael. Perhaps it was mere coincidence."
"Or maybe Peter's coming back to see us!"
"He may well be Curly. However, it does not mean that you, that any of you, should raise your hopes. Besides, it is far past all of your bedtimes, and you must now go to bed before Nana finds you are still awake!"
With a chorus of groans, each boy began to slowly make his way to his bed. John and Nibs, the eldest of the boys, occupied the two beds at the far end of the room, Tootles and Curly the ones in the middle, and the twins filled the bunk beds that were closest to the door, with Michael's bed nearest to the window and Nana's basket taking up the final space in the nursery. Wendy watched peacefully as each boy slipped under their covers, thoughts of sleep beginning to cloud their minds. She made her usual route, starting with the youngest and wishing each boy a 'good night' and 'happy dreams'. Breaking her usual sequence, she left Nibs till last, the boy having not spoken most of the night, his behaviour causing Wendy to worry ever so slightly.
"Do you have something on your mind Nibs?"
For a moment, Wendy believed that he had not heard her words, his eyes firmly fixed on the ceiling of the nursery. With a sigh he acknowledged her, his gaze once again catching, and this time holding, hers.
"Danger is coming. I can feel it. It's searching for you Wendy."
His words were only a whisper, and thankfully it was only Wendy who heard them. She cast her eyes to the floor, pondering Nib's words. They were impossible, yes, but he was a mysterious boy, and he had never been wrong before. Wendy bit her lip, forcing herself to stand as to not raise the suspicions of the other boys.
"I will be fine, Nibs. Do not worry. Now, goodnight."
With that, she left the nursery, allowing Nana to enter in order to make sure everyone was tucked in before shutting the door with a soft click.
Deep in thought, Wendy slowly and carefully, as to not disturb her parents or, heaven forbid, Aunt Millicent, made her way across the landing. She could hear the adults talking quietly downstairs, most likely discussing possible suitors for herself, as had been the prominent topic over the last number of days. Wendy felt her heart fall as she heard her Aunt say the phrase 'appropriate marriage'. Why should marriage be 'appropriate' at all? Why couldn't it involve love, like all the happy endings in her fairy tales? Alas, they were only fairy tales, and London was certainly not one.
For the umpteenth time that night, Wendy found herself thinking of Neverland, the only place she had ever known that existed on fairy tales, and certainly would never allow an 'appropriate marriage' when love could be found. Indeed, she thought herself that she had found love in Neverland, but playful innocence had prevailed and she had soon realised that Peter had not loved her, but instead her stories and the adventures that they had partaken together. She did not mind though, for why should she regret one of the happiest times of her life? She loved Peter, yes, but in the same way that she loved her brothers or the rest of her family, they were not, and had not been, in love. No, that was an entirely different adventure.
The door creaking as she opened it, Wendy glanced around her room. She made her way over to the large bay window that the moonlight was currently spilling through, her bare feet making little sound as they walked across the cold wooden floor. Upon reaching the window, she sat at its edge, admiring the view below. Being older now she had been moved into her own room, which was on the opposite side of the house meaning that she was able to watch the people of London as they travelled past on their daily excursions. Wendy had discovered that even at night time, there was plenty for her to watch: beggars in the street, fine gentlemen and ladies in beautiful coaches, most likely heading to extravagant parties, and of course, there were the three young orphan boys whom she often gave scraps of food to, and had aptly christened, 'The Lost Boys'. She caught sight of them this night too, one deftly pickpocketing a policeman whilst the others returned his 'dropped' keys. As much as she knew that their behaviour was certainly not law abiding, Wendy could not help but feel sympathy for the boys. They were, after all, the same age as the real Lost Boys had been on their return to London and they were only doing all they could to survive, just as she would if she was in their positions.
As she was about to retire, one of the boys, the youngest, caught sight of her, waving excitedly to their secret acquaintance. The others turned around, their job complete and too followed the younger boy's gaze, grinning and removing their caps in order to partake in a clumsy bow. Wendy smiled and continued to watch as the boys turned their attention to another prospective mark, a rather short man, who was wearing a long dark cloak. Gazing upwards to explore the night sky, Wendy missed the exchange between the boys and the cloaked man. She didn't see the man, or rather boy, lower his hood and talk to the boys. Nor did she see the boys, captivated by their approacher's words, gasp excitedly as a ball of gold flew into the sky, its magical dust floating over them. It was only as the boys rose into the air, unsteady at first but quickly gaining balance, that Wendy turned her gaze towards them, her mouth hanging open in a very unladylike manner. The cloaked boy and the ball of gold also lifted off the ground and began to move away from her at an alarming speed.
Knowing immediately that she must talk to Peter, for the mysterious boy could be no other, Wendy grasped at the window and pulled it open, a gush of cold winter air spilling into her room.
The call echoed across the rooftops, searching through every street for the one it belonged to. The boy in question paused in his return journey, the caller's voice seeming both familiar and unidentifiable at the same time. He stopped, casting a glance behind him, which was quickly interrupted by Tinkerbell as she flew in front of his face. Forgetting the voice, Peter turned back and began to guide his new charges towards Neverland, for what troubles a grown-up will never trouble a child.
Wendy, however, was troubled. Had Peter not heard her, or had he not recognised her voice? Why was he recruiting more boys, was he lonely, or was he in trouble? Had she seen him at all, or had she just imagined him for want of seeing him one last time? She certainly wasn't dreaming, the cold chill that had now entrapped her, she being dressed only in her nightwear, was testament to that. Searching the street below her she noted that her 'Lost Boys' were also absent, although they could have easily moved out of eyesight. Wendy sighed, perhaps she had imagined it.
Absentmindedly withdrawing from the window, Wendy closed the curtains and made her way over to her bed, burying herself underneath the covers and rolling over. Tomorrow, she decided, she would forget Peter Pan for good, and only then could she grow up.
She soon fell into a deep sleep, dreaming of far off places and magical worlds, and all was silent across the Darling household. The window, which had been mistakenly left open, suddenly inhaled a gust of air, the curtains shuddering and waking into a furious dance as a result. As they did so, the moonlight was able to break through the curtain's defences and shone directly across the room, to where Wendy was peacefully sleeping. A glimmer of silver swiftly caught the moon's gaze, casting a curved shadow onto Wendy's bed which, had she been awake, would have caused her heart to start pounding.
A tall, dark shadow replaced its glimmering counterpart, and the owner of it silently stepped off the windowsill, his moustache twitching as his deep brown eyes wandered over the room's occupant. His lips curved into a smile, a hint of red colouring his irises.