Peter was wet when he awoke. His hands were scraped, his raven-black hair was covered in dust, and his shoes torn and scuffed. But his clothing seemed intact, apart from the fact that they were somehow soaked.
Breathing hard, the boy glanced down. So that was it. He was sitting in a puddle.
He scrambled to a standing position and immediately collapsed again. His legs began trembling, and a feeling similar to the one you get while standing too near a fireplace shot up the entire left side of his body—multiplied by ten. The part of his stomach that Captain Bonny had stabbed started to throb in a dull, irritating way that made him grit his teeth. He would not succumb to the pain.
Dazed, he tried to remember what had happened.
He had been fighting Jimmy—no—Hook. The blaggard had planned to attack the Indians with weaponry from London, his way of passage being...
"The orb," Peter muttered under his breath, winded as he tried again to stand. This time the pain subsided a little, and he felt a tingling sensation go through his mind. Magic. Tree-spirit magic was healing him, slowly.
A musical sound startled him. It was coming from his coat pocket.
"Tink!" Peter remembered, and carefully plucked the tiny, flickering tree-spirit from the pocket, holding her up to his eyeline. "Tinkerbell?"
For an agonizing moment the miniature silver-and-blue form did not move. Then her voice chimed in his mind, faint and weak.
"Peter...where are we?"
It was then that Peter finally took a good look around. A small, half-hearted smile started to grow on his impish face. "London," he breathed, still trying to get his bearings. "The cave-in must've jostled the orb."
He was home! The orphan had never been so overjoyed to see the damp, cold streets in his life, surrounded by buildings and moonlight.
Tinkerbell attempted to lift her head.
Peter's smile disappeared and he held her closer, concerned. "Tink, are you all right?"
The tree-spirit finally sat up a little. "My magic isn't as strong as it should be. Peter...we aren't safe here."
Peter felt his knees growing weak again, but he chose to ignore it. "What d'you mean?" he said, and remembered to whisper—it was, after all, nighttime.
How long had he been unconscious, lying there in a puddle? What a spectacle he would have made!
"Trees." Tink announced meekly. "Where are the trees?"
"It's a city," Peter said absently. "There aren't a lot of trees round here."
Tinkerbell's voice grew dark with concern at this. "We've got to go. Quickly, before we're discovered." Her voice was stronger now, as if she were getting over the shock of what had happened.
Peter stared at her, then glanced at the moon. "But we've only just arrived."
"The mineral dust is in your veins," Tinkerbell reminded him. "We cannot survive in a place like this for long, Peter."
"But I feel fine—" As if to prove the spirit's point, almost comically, Peter's knees finally buckled, and he dropped to the ground.
"It's easier for you," Tinkerbell went on almost sourly. "You are mostly human."
Peter, taking offense as he staggered to his feet and stumbled back down again, retorted, "You call this easy?"
Tinkerbell seemed amused as her echoing tone sounded in his mind, "We can't leave until the orb is hidden."
Peter was confused. "The orb? It's buried. The cave-in, don't you remember?"
"Dr. Fludd mentioned a second portal," Tinkerbell replied. "Or did you get to Neverland by wishing?"
The sudden gravity of their situation hit Peter, making his heart sink. "We've gotta find it."
"What will you do then?" Tinkerbell inquired, fluttering now above his outstretched palm.
Peter blinked down at her, realizing what she meant. He pursed his lips in determination. "Don't worry, Tink. I'll hide it."
Tink seemed a bit relieved. "Where would it be?"
Peter thought for a moment, pausing. He glanced at the ground, then around at the houses and shops.
Inhaling, his next words came out as a sigh. "I dunno. Fludd had a few people working for him here." Including Hook, he added inwardly. "They might know where it is."
He ended up carrying her in his coat once more, wary of people seeing the tree-spirit and asking too many questions.
Shaking his head to let the rock dust fall from his hair, Peter closed his eyes and thought of his crew—Curly, Nibs, Slightly, Twins, Tootles...and Fox. With that single thought, happiness blossomed in his chest as he remembered cackling over past heists in the basement of Jimmy's fencing academy, staying up late talking about nothing with his friends.
And with this thought, in the space of two heartbeats, Peter shot into the air. He flew less-than-gracefully toward the stars, just until he had a bird's-eye view of London.
The hard part was getting the orb safely away from Dr. Fludd's companions.
When Peter found the building, he was already losing more strength. He recognized it immediately. He had entered it just hours before the biggest adventure of his life had begun. He still remembered how his heart had leapt nearly out of his chest when Dr. Fludd had told him the truth: that the orb they'd found in Harbottle's was not a bomb that had killed his friends, but a portal to the Neverland.
If he could simply get past the monks in that room...
As Peter slipped through the left-open door, Tinkerbell chimed in his head, "Stop! Listen!"
Peter halted immediately, his sword wound still throbbing. He cocked his head in the dark of the hallway, whispering, "I don't hear anything."
Tink was silent, waiting for him to understand.
Peter's eyebrows pinched together. "Where are the men? What's happened?" His thoughts whirled. Had they taken the orb to another location?
He crept down the hall, searching each room. All of them were empty. He rummaged through cupboards, looking under tables and in every drawer he could find. No orb.
"It's here," Tinkerbell told him, and his heartbeat picked up.
"How can you be sure?" asked Peter.
"I feel it."
He could understand that. Once, he had known of the presence of an Indian scout miles ahead of him before with the exact same reason. He could feel it.
But he could not feel the orb. "How?" he repeated.
"Its magic leads to my homeland, Peter," Tinkerbell explained, almost impatiently. "We're connected."
"Where is it?"
She took a moment to answer. "Not here. Its aura is too faint."
For the next few minutes, Peter felt as if he were playing a game of Hot and Cold with the tree-spirit, raiding every room with the expert, quick hands of a master thief, just to find that they were out of luck in each corner. He even flew to the ceiling and looked between the rafters. Nothing.
"It's not here," sighed Peter. "We checked everywhere."
"There!" Tinkerbell cried. She flitted out of his coat pocket and hovered, pointing a tiny, glowing finger to a nearby sofa.
Peter re-checked beneath the cushions and even pushed it back a little to check. He stood still, resting a moment, frustrated. Still no orb.
Tink landed on the middle cushion, and the light she gave off seemed to glow brighter. The music coming from her wings grew louder, a bit merrier.
Taking the hint, Peter picked up the cushion and examined it. Not so much as a golden flicker gave him a clue.
But Tinkerbell flew in a circle around the cushion as he held it, her tinkling wings playing even more upbeat bell sounds. "It's covered," she insisted. "Something is cloaking it. I can feel only half of its power."
Peter nodded and pulled out his knife, a souvenir from their job at Harbottle's Antiques. Without hesitation, he gut the pillow open, slicing it right down the middle.
He caught his breath. There was the orb, cozily tucked beneath folds of cotton. The tip of his dagger had only just grazed it, forcing it to show him scenes from the Neverland forests and seas. Tinkerbell's wings made a dipping tune, as if voicing her longing.
"Now," Peter said, pulling it out as carefully as possible, "to find a hiding place."