Peter jerked his foot away in surprise at the light dusting of snow on the window sill. He'd been so lost in thoughts about Cinderalla on his way here that he had somehow not noticed the little white crystals falling from the sky. The curtains of the window were closed, presumably to keep out some of the cold. Peter frowned, frustrated. Something else seemed off, too.
It was quiet.
No light snuck out from under the curtain.
Peter looked up at the sky to guage the time, but clouds covered the stars and moon. He must have just gotten here too late--the darling children must have already gone to sleep.
A light, warm pressure landed on his shoulder and leaned against his ear. The pixie shivered, vibrating so hard that it tickled his neck. Peter brushed them off absent-mindedly. "Not now, Tink."
Tink huffed and landed on his shoulder a second time. "It's cold as a witch's tit out here, asshole. No one's up. Let's just head back."
Peter shook his head and Tink grabbed his ear to keep their balance. "Can you get inside?"
If Peter could have seen Tink's face, he would have seen them roll their eyes so far back into their head that they went all the way around. The pixie obliged anyway, flying to the window and wiggling their tiny fingers between the frames of the two panes. It took only a moment for the lock to click and for the window to blow open.
Peter landed on the sill lightly, curling his toes in response to the snow. The curtains were thick and green and shivered a little in the cold. Gently, slowly, Peter pulled one to this side and peered around it.
Peter felt the tiny gust of wind as Tink darted inside past his face, but soon he lost track of them in the dark of the room. Besides, Tink wasn't what he was interested in. He looked at the clock on the wall, where the two hands pointed the same directions that they always did when he arrived. He wasn't late then, why were they already in bed? The three children were usually wide awake. Wendy telling of the exploits of Captain Nemo, or the tragic story of a little mermaid.
The darkness and silence nearly made Peter's hair stand on end. He stepped into the room and pulled the curtain closed behind him, thankful for the warmth. The streetlights outside had been reflecting off the snow, creating an artifical brightness, so Peter waited a few moments as his eyes to adjust to the darkness. Something else was wrong.
There were only two beds in the room.
Peter stepped back and looked around wildly. Had he somehow come to the wrong house? No. The clock was on the wall. The blankets on the two beds were the quite familiar hand-quilted blue and green ones that John and Michael slept with. Two wooden swords leaned up against the corner of the wall and a large poster of cartoon boy with spikey hair and a cocky smile watched over the room. This was the right place, but any trace of Wendy was gone.
Peter sucked in a breath, running through the possibilities in his mind. Had he only ever imagined her? Did she die? She had to be here somewhere, right? He tiptoed across the room toward the door, listening to Michael's snores.
A single bark came from downstairs. Peter froze, remembering the huge dog that often sat by the window at night and made it difficult to go unnoticed. Tink could distract it...if he knew where Tink had gone. Peter steeled himself and kept creeping across the room.
Peter had never gone through the door before, and touching the handle felt forbidden. A little zing of excitement passed through his chest and the boy smiled a little bit before pulling the door wide open. The hinges squeaked, but if the two boys were bothered by it, it was only in their dreams.
The dog barked a second time, followed by the sound of claws scrabbling over hardwood floor. Peter looked around the hall quickly. There were two doors on either side of the one he'd just exited, and the wooden balaste of a descending staircase in front of him. No sign of Tink. Peter darted to the left and turned the handle on the door, pulling it open just slightly enough to peer inside the room. It was dark with one large bed in the middle of the room and a pile of laundry at the foot of it. Nothing in it was familiar, and there was no sign of Wendy. Peter pushed the door shut with a quite click.
A third, deep, massive bark sounded, this time much closer. "Pirate's boots," Peter muttered and opened the door to slip inside the room. He shut it just in time to only catch a glimpse of the huge animal breeching the last few stairsteps. Peter leaned against the door a moment, surveying the room again.
The dog launched itself against the door, barking wildly. Peter shot away from the door up into the air, but the door held, even as the dog threw itself at the door a second time. Peter pressed himself up against the ceiling, breathing heavy. "Tink?" he whispered, just in case they were near.
"Nana! What are you doing?" Wendy's voice.
Relief flooded Peter's stomach even as his heart still pounded. The door rattled as the dog scratched at it and barked again.
"Nana! You'll wake up the houses next door. Look, I'll show you that there's nothing in there."
Peter flew into the corner of the room to the right of the door as the knob turned and a bit of hall light leaked into the room. He held his breath as the dog pushed her way in, nose in the air.
It only took the dog two seconds to see Peter in the corner. She ran to him and put her feet on the wall, barking yet again. Peter stared into her gaping maw and wished he could press himself through the ceiling.
Wendy saw Peter and screamed at the same time that the dog suddenly fell away from the wall and yelped, looking as if something had pulled her away by the ear. Tink!
The dog whimpered and rubbed her ear on the carpet. Then Wendy screamed again and lurched forward as the invisible fairy grabbed her hair and yanked her forward. Peter took the opportunity to fly out the door and into the hall. He reached for the door to the children's bedroom, still in the air.
"Wait!" Wendy called. "Ouch!"
Peter had to assume Tink was doing their dirty work again, but they couldn't hold both Wendy and the dog back, and the St. Bernard came barrelling toward him again. He floated back up to the ceiling and checked the hall for a more accessible window.
"She's friendly!" Wendy called.
"Tink's not!" Peter slapped his hand over his mouth, surprised by his own response. Wendy screamed again. "Tink! Stop!" Peter shouted, still clinging to the ceiling while the dog bounced up and down underneath him.
The door next to him opened and Michael stepped out into the hall. "Nana!"
The dog paid little attention to Michael and knocked him to the ground. John appeared a second later. "Nana, calm down!" He grabbed her by the collar, and Peter inched his way toward the open door.
Wendy came out of the second room, hair pointing in every direction. "Boy! Who are you?"
"What?" Both John and Michael looked at Wendy, confused, then followed her gaze to the ceiling, where Peter froze.
Tink pulled Wendy's hair again, trying to yank her back into the room. "Stop!" Wendy screeched.
"Tink, stop!" Peter shouted. Tink stopped pulling, but Peter could see they were still holding onto Wendy's hair as a clump of it appeared to float in the air.
"Who are you?" Wendy demanded. "How are you doing that?"
"Doing what?" Peter asked. He knew what she was asking, but he wanted her to say it.
"You know perfectly well what I'm asking."
Michael rubbed his eyes and stared at Peter. John still held onto the dog's collar, and the dog wagged her tail and stared at Peter as well, on full alert.
"Where are your parents?" Wendy asked.
Peter slowly began to descend to the floor. "Haven't got any parents."
"Well you came from somewhere," John said, matter of factly.
"Are you half bird?" Michael asked. "I thought that birds and people couldn't get married."
"Everyone be quiet," Wendy commanded. "Let's go sit down and have a conversation so we can figure this out." She walked over to the bedroom and pulled open the door wider, waiting for all of the boys and the dog to file in. Peter went last, floating low to the ground. He and Nana eyed each other warily. "Everyone, sit," Wendy commanded and gestured toward the two beds. John and Michael sat down on their respective beds obediently, and Nana lied down at Wendy's feet.
"Where is your bed?" Peter asked.
"It's in a different room. I'm growing up and have my own room now."
"Is that why you weren't telling stories tonight?"
Wendy peered at Peter quizically before answering. "Yeah."
"I come to listen to your stories!" Peter explained. "I never heard what happened at the end of Cinderella and I came tonight hoping you would finish it."
"Well, it ended like all the others did. True love's kiss," Michael grimaced.
"Oh," said Peter. It was true that an awful lot of stories ended with 'True Love's Kiss,' but Peter still didn't know what a kiss was. "That's good."
"Yes!" Wendy said, and she came alive just a little bit. Peter realized that talking about the new bedroom and growing up had made her sad, just like it did him. "The prince found Cinderalla. He searched throughout the whole kingdom with the last slipper, trying it on every girl's foot until he found her."
"And they lived happily ever after," Peter concluded.
"It's a dumb story though," John said. "If he was really her true love, he would have remembered what she looked like."
"It was a masquerade ball," Wendy snapped.
"Only because you made it one. The original story is stupid."
Peter decided to pretend he knew what "masquerade" meant. "Well, I guess I know the ending then." He drifted toward the window. "I'll have to go tell the others."
"The others?" Wendy asked, sitting up taller.
"Are the others part bird too?" Michael asked.
Peter smirked. "Of course not. I'm the only one who can fly. And it's not because of birds, it's because of fairies."
"Fairies!" Wendy exclaimed. "Is that what was pulling my hair? She seemed nast--ouch!"
Peter was sure that Tink had pinched her. "Not 'she,'" Peter corrected. "They're not a girl."
"Well he has given me a headache--ow!"
"Not a boy either." Peter moved closer to the window. "And we still have to get back to tell the others about Cinderella."
Wendy walked toward him. "Can I come with you."
Peter was taken aback. Nobody had ever asked to come with him before. The other had just kind of...appeared. The only other time he'd brought someone to Neverland...he didn't want to think about it.
John stood up. "You don't even know where he's going! A flying boy just appeared in our home talking about fairies."
"Exactly," Wendy pressed. "If fairies are real, then who knows what else is out there."
Peter glanced at the swords leaning against the wall and his eyes sparkled a little. "There are pirates."
"Pirates!" shouted Michael as he jumped up as well. "Can we fight them?"
"Oh yes. They're ruthless, and always after me and the Lost Ones." He looked at Wendy. "There are selkies too."
"Selkies? What are those?"
"You'll have to come and find out."
John was still shaking his head. "He's crazy."
Peter scowled. "You'll never fly with that attitude."
"Doesn't matter what kind of attitude I have, humans can't fly."
Peter looked around the room for Tink, but they were nowhere to be seen. "Well, I'm human."
"I thought you were part bird," Michael put his hands on his hips indignantly.
Peter felt a tug on the back of his shirt asking for him to leave and so he reached back to grab Tink, who squealed and bit his hand with their sharp pixie teeth. Peter grit his own teeth but didn't let go. Time to prove John wrong.
Tink still had a grip on his hand and a warm drop of blood slid down the back of his hand and dripped onto the hardwood floor of the bedroom. "I don't suppose you're in the mood to make deal right now," he said to the pixie.
"What?" all three of the Darling children asked, not seeing the pixie in his hand. Meanwhile, Tink only bit down harder. This time Peter gasped and released them. "Ouch!" Tink flew to the window and the Darlings saw the shadow dart in front of the curtain.
"Is that the fairy?" Wendy asked.
"Yes. That's Tink. They're going to help you fly."
Wendy stared wide-eyed. John scoffed. Michael stood up on his tiptoes. "Really?"
"Yep!" Peter flicked his bleeding hand toward them, sending blood toward each of them. There was no way he'd be able to get Tink to make any fairy dust with their attitude tonight. Saliva would have to do.
In the dark, the Darlings weren't quite sure what happened, and later they would find the few specks of blood on each of their nightshirts. At this moment though, they each felt a strange lightness in their feet all of a sudden. Wendy, being the oldest and wisest, also felt a slight lightness in her soul. It was not a pleasant kind. It felt as if someone had stolen a piece of it as a keepsake. She shook her head impercepitlby to try to shake off the feeling.
Nana stood up and barked once and everyone heard the front door open downstairs. Mr. and Mrs. Darling had come home!
"Come on!" Peter said in a hushed voice. "Let's go!"
"Go where?" John demanded.
Peter floated upwards. "Second star to the right, and straight on till morning. Just follow me."
"Boy, we don't know how to fly!" Wendy objected.
"Peter," he corrected. "Just think happy thoughts, they lift you into the air!" Peter was making this up. Really they just needed to believe they could, but saying that had never worked. "Think about pirates and selkies. And chocolate covered cherries or whatever it is that makes John happy."
The Darling children exchanged looks with each other. Downstairs Mr. and Mrs. Darling talked to each other in low voices, quiet enough they couldn't make out what they were saying, but loud enough that the sound could be muffled by the floorboards.
Peter floated to the window and held his hand out."
"Pirates!" Michael shouted. He ran to the wall and grabbed his small wooden sword off of it, then jumped onto the bed. "Chocolates! Nana!" The small boy leaped off the bed, and to everyone's surprise expect Peter's, his feet never touched the ground. He floated upwards awkwardly, flapping his arms in an attempt to gain control. "I'm flying!"
John put his hand to his forehead, incredulous. In his wonder, he barely noticed that his own feet were slowly lifting away from the floor. Wendy too, looked on in surprise, but a huge smile spread across her face.
Footsteps began creaking up the stairs. "Michael? Are you asleep?" Mrs. Darling asked.
Peter looked at Wendy and offered her his hand. "Come with me."
Peter realized that he'd never wanted anything more in his life.
Wendy grabbed his hand. "Peter, I--"
The footsteps were almost to the door.
Peter took off to the window, pulling Wendy behind with him. The boys followed clumsily, but follow they did. Nana began to bark loudly.
Wendy still hadn't lifted off as Peter darted out the window and she screamed and grabbed his arm with both hands. Peter dipped with the unexpected weight. "Wendy! Think of the stories!" Peter yelled.
John was the last one through the window, and Mr. and Mrs. Darling saw him slip through the curtain as they opened the door. Both of them yelled. "Boys!" Nana stood at the window barking as they rushed to it.
If any of them had bothered to look back, they would have seen Mr. and Mrs. Darling clinging to the windowsill and Nana in between them, barking mad. But they didn't look back, and Peter pulled them toward Neverland.