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Of damaged hearts and awakenings

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Neverland, long ago

Wendy Darling was ready for adventure. Ready for magic, excitement, thrills – she was longing for it with all her heart.

The Shadow led her through the sky, in a sea of stars, and Wendy drank it all with her youthful eyes and hungry heart. Everything around her was spinning and she felt excited, happy.

It was night in London but where she arrived, it wasn’t night. On the contrary, the day was bright, sunny – she didn’t remember seeing such a sunlight ever before. It was an odd shade of golden yellow, with a silver shimmer, shining on the trees. Wendy caught a glimpse of colorful flowers, and gasped when she saw, beneath her feet, her own reflection in the seawater. She giggled as her bare toes grazed the surface of the water, tickling her, but the Shadow wasn’t stopping.

She should have been scared, but she wasn’t. This was magic – this was a dream, an adventure. This was what happened to heroes in the stories – they were whisked away to different worlds, and they ended up living wonderful things. This was her turn, simply. She wished her brothers were with her. She wished Baelfire could see – he had said magic was dangerous, but everything was so beautiful here. It was like a dream. She wished he could see how wrong he had been.

Soon, her feet touched the ground, and the Shadow disappeared, leaving her on the shore, right next to the sea. Wendy turned, looking around, her eyes wide and full of wonder. Far away, she saw a ship sailing in the distance. She shivered in excitement. Pirates, perhaps ? Like in stories ?

She looked behind her to the trees – there seemed to be a path between the dense bushes. Wendy smiled to herself, picked up the skirt of her nightgown and started walking, the earth fresh and pleasant beneath her bare feet.

She wasn’t sure how long she walked – it was probably a while, but she didn’t feel tired, or hungry, or thirsty. A draft of wind moved through the trees, and sunlight hit the flowers in a wondrous way. Wendy stopped to look at some of them, bending down to admire their petals, when she heard a noise behind her in the forest.

Wendy jumped a little, looking around, when she noticed somebody standing a few feet from her. It was a tall boy, with blond hair – he was very tall, much taller than her, and wore a hood on his head. Wendy stood up nervously.

-          Hello, she said.

-          Hello.

The boy was looking at her curiously – Wendy wondered how old he was. He did seem a few years older than her, almost an adult. He looked almost wary of her.

-          You’re new, he said after a moment.

-          Yes. Yes, I just arrived – over there, by the shore, Wendy said, pointing through the trees. Excuse me but – where am I ?

-          Neverland.

-          Neverland, Wendy repeated with a sigh. What a beautiful name.

-          It’s odd, the boy said, frowning. You’re the first girl I see here.

-          Really ?

-          Yes.

-          Oh, Wendy said, a little put-out. Well… I’m here. I’m Wendy – Wendy Moïra Angela Darling.

-          Felix. Just Felix.

Wendy smiled. The boy gave her a discreet smile.

-          Well, come on, then, Felix said. Follow me.

-          Where are we going ?

-          You need to meet our leader.

-          Oh, Wendy said excitedly. You have a leader ? What’s he like ?

-          You’ll see.

Her curiosity ever growing, Wendy followed Felix through the woods. He definitely knew his way around, that much was obvious – he took routes and detours Wendy wouldn’t have dreamt of. It was like the land was moving to make way for him, sometimes. Wendy followed hurriedly, taking in everything with curiosity. Sometimes, she’d see something move or glitter in the trees, and she had to stop herself from squealing in delight.

Soon, they reached a clearing in the woods, underneath a big tree. Wendy admired it, open-mouthed and wide-eyed, her eyes shining with wonder. A few seconds later, she noticed silhouettes appearing from the trees, timid, cat-like.

Felix hadn’t lied : they were boys, all of them, young boys. Some of them were children, other teenagers, but they were all boys, and all wore black, brown or green. They all looked at Wendy curiously, their eyes wide as they observed her. Almost as though she was an animal they’d never seen before.

-          What’s that ? one of them asked.

Wendy frowned, offended :

-          That ? she repeated. I’m not a thing. I’m a girl.

-          A girl, one of the boys repeated, confused.

-          Have you never seen one before ? Wendy said, skeptical.

-          Maybe… once, a boy said, biting his lip.

-          I remember girls, another said proudly. This is one. Girls wear dresses like this.

-          Stop gaping, Felix said firmly. Pan’s Shadow brought her. So, she’s supposed to be here. Where’s Peter ?

-          He’s not here. He left by sunlight – didn’t tell us where he’d gone.

Felix gritted his teeth, and glanced at Wendy again, who gave him a quizzical look. One of the boys approached Wendy, tugging on her dress :

-          Do you cook ? he asked. I think I remember that girls cook.

-          Well, Wendy said. Not really. I’m too young, but I know a little ! But I’m not here to cook. I’m here for adventures !

-          We have those, the boy said with a nod.

-          Good ! Wendy beamed.

She felt Felix’s stare still on her, as though he was deep in thought. She glanced back at him, a little nervous, but still smiling.

-          Is everything all right ? she asked.

-          Yes.

-          Is your … leader not here ?

-          No. But he’ll come.

Wendy looked around her – some boys were still staring at her, but she didn’t care. She was too excited.

-          Can I go visit the island ? she asked. I want to see everything !

This time, Felix gave her his first real grin :

-          Of course, he said mischievously. Come on, boys ! he hollered.

The rest of the day was absolutely wonderful. With Felix and a few other boys, Wendy walked through the island, discovering hollow trees, lakes, caves, mysterious pathways – she thought she spotted a few creatures she had only dreamt of before, like fairies, mermaids… She saw a few boys jumping from a tree, flying into the sky like the Shadow had. Wendy gasped, bringing her hands to her mouth.

-          They’re flying !

-          They are, Felix said, smirking.

-          Can you fly, too ?

-          All of us can.

-          Can I ?

-          You’ll have to learn.

-          Will you teach me ?

-          Perhaps. Not now.

Impatient, but satiated by Felix’s words, Wendy clapped her hands and watched the boys fly around in the sky. She thought of her brothers, and about how happy they would be to fly too. She would have to come back to get them – bring them to visit this magical land.

The light of the day dimmed, as evening descended upon Neverland. It was as though suddenly, laughter and fun were fading away, leaving behind an odd sense of stillness. Wendy didn’t find this unpleasant, and she was quite tired from running around all day. The boys lied down on the grass, curling up against trees. Wendy looked around, biting her lip, searching for a place to sleep, when she felt a slight touch on her arm.

-          Here, Felix said quietly, pointing.

Underneath one of the trees, there was a spot of green moss, surrounded by leaves. Wendy beamed at Felix, and went to sit under the tree, lying down on her side, yawning. Felix sat on the tree’s roots, a few feet from Wendy. He threw a few berries at her, and she caught them with gratitude, eating them as darkness surrounded Neverland.

Night, here, was deep, blue and dark as ink. It was thick, secretive : it seemed through the skin, inside the veins, reaching the heart, and Wendy felt a chill go through her. The excitement left her and suddenly, she longed for her parents, for her brothers. She sighed, suddenly wishing she was home to them. She closed her eyes, refusing to give into such weakness – but she opened her eyes again when she heard, echoing through the night, cries, sobs coming from all corners of the island.

She sat up, frightened, shivering. She couldn’t see any boy’s faces – were they crying too ? Why ? She turned to catch a glimpse of Felix’s face – she could only see his opened eyes in the dark. He didn’t seem to be crying.

-          What’s happening ? she whispered. Why is everybody crying ?

-          Go back to sleep, Wendy.

-          No, Wendy said, ready to get up. I want to know – I want to know why they’re all crying. We need to help them…

-          You can’t help them.

-          Why not ?

-          You can’t. Nobody can. Don’t worry. They’re all right. They’ll be fine tomorrow.

Wendy shuddered, her heart aching at the sound of so much pain, so much loss – the cries were surrounding her, gripping her tender heart like an icy claw. She tried to meet Felix’s eyes, but he was staring in the distance. Wendy lied down again, but she couldn’t close her eyes. Soon, she started crying too.

She missed her parents. She missed her brothers.

Mummy, Daddy…

John… Michael…

 

Storybrooke, present day

Wendy stood there, dizzy, frozen, leaning against the car to remain standing up. Tears formed in her eyes as everything came crashing back to her – Gwen Berry became Wendy Darling again. She let out a shaky breath, overwhelmed.

The car door opened, and Liza came out, staring, wide-eyed, clutching at her heart. For a moment, both women stared at each other, as though seeing each other for the first time – Gwen had been Liza’s nice but this woman before her, Wendy didn’t know her.

-          Who are you ? Liza asked her, her voice shaky, her eyes full of emotion and curiosity.

-          Wendy, the teenage girl whispered, the name almost foreign on her lips. And you … ?

-          Elyse. I…

Suddenly, Elyse’s face changed, and she gasped, looking around :

-          My daughters, she said. I have two daughters – they’re here. I have to…

She turned to Wendy again :

-          Will you be all right ?

-          Yes, Wendy said. Go, go to your daughters !

Gratefulness appeared on Elyse’s face, and she started walking away, before turning. She ran to Wendy, gave her a hug, tears in her eyes, before running down the street. Wendy watched her go, emotions swirling around inside of her : she was still dizzy, confused, but none of that mattered.

Elyse had gone to seek out her daughters : now, Wendy was going to find her brothers.

John. Michael. They had been right next-door, for years, ignorant, unknowing…

Wendy heard people come out of their houses, crying, calling for names – the town was in absolute effervescence. Wendy ran to the Cheree’s house – she didn’t have time to reach it. Soon enough, as she was stumbling on the sidewalk, she saw two familiar silhouettes come towards her, and she started sobbing out her brother’s names as they ran towards each other in the middle of the street.

-          Wendy !

-          John ! Michael…

She fell to her knees, hugging her brothers with both arms. She could hear John sniffle and Michael sob, and she buried her face against Michael’s shoulder, her hand clasping John’s. Her chest felt as though it was about to explode and in that moment, nothing else mattered.

She had her brothers back.

 

Neverland, long ago

When sunlight hit, Wendy woke up with darkened eyes and a tired heart. The memory of the previous night clung to her. But, with the sunlight, it seemed to fade away. After some initial confusion, she felt her smile come back, and shook off the bad memory easily. It had been a nightmare, nothing more, and it was soon forgotten.

She sat up, stretching her arms. Around her, the boys were still sleeping soundly. She glanced towards Felix – he was asleep, looking peaceful. Wendy smiled – he had been very nice to her so far. In fact, all the boys seemed nice. She liked it here. She didn’t feel as though she wanted to leave.

Wendy stood up, ruffling her nightgown to get rid of the grass. She ran a hand through her golden curls, trying to straighten it, and looked around her. Then, grinning to herself, she decided to go explore the surroundings. Quietly, feeling adventurous, the young girl left the little spot in the woods, following the sound of the water she could hear nearby.

The sunlight grew brighter and brighter, bathing the island in its glow – and Wendy let out a sigh of wonder as she fell upon a beautiful lagoon, surrounded by purple trees. The water was colorful, almost turquoise – and pink water lilies were floating on the surface. In the water, Wendy could see the glimmer of fish tales swimming around, and she stood there for a few minutes, admiring the sight lovingly.

But looking wasn’t enough. No. She was adventurous. She needed to take a closer look.

Carefully, quietly, Wendy approached the lagoon, her feet tingling as she walked on the soft grass that surrounded the water. She knelt down beside it, looking inside at the millions of lights and glimmers she could spot in the water. With her eyes, she followed silver scales around the lagoon. Suddenly, she let out a small gasp.

This wasn’t a fish. This was a mermaid.

Wide-eyed, the young girl watched avidly as the magical creature swam around – Wendy was pretty sure there were others, deeper underneath the water. But this one was swimming closer to the surface, and Wendy crouched down, not wanting to spook the creature.

The mermaid’s head appeared: her hair was light, her skin shiny, and she bore an unreadable expression as she stared at Wendy. The girl smiled breathlessly, absolutely enchanted. She couldn’t even breathe as the mermaid slowly swam towards her, her head peeking outside the water close to Wendy.

A smile appeared on the mermaid’s face, small, but entrancing, and Wendy found herself leaning towards her, almost ready to touch her…

Suddenly, the mermaid looked away from Wendy, to the side. Her expression changed, growing from enchanting to scary, aggressive, and she hissed, almost like a cat, before disappearing into the depths of the lagoon, her tail splashing water on Wendy. The girl came out of her trance, looking around in confusion.

Her eyes fell on a boy she hadn’t seen before. He was standing on the lagoon rock, his hands on his hips. He had sandy blond hair, and he wore dark green clothes. He was looking at the water, laughter on his lips. Wendy frowned at him : his eyes full upon a her, and his laughter disappeared, leaving behind an unreadable expression, followed by a smirk.

-          You scared her away, Wendy said reproachfully.

-          Are you sure ? Maybe it was you, the boy said, cocking his head to the side with a laugh.

-          Me ? Wendy said. Absolutely not !

-          You’re not being very grateful.

-          Grateful ? Why should I be grateful ?

-          Because mermaids like to drown people.

The boy jumped from the rock, then flew to the shore, standing a few feet from Wendy, who stood up.

     -       She’d have taken you to the depths, and made you gasp for air until you fell limp to the bottom of the lagoon, the boy continued.

     -       She… she would have ?

     -       Yes. Do you know nothing about mermaids ?

     -        I … I thought they were supposed to be nice.

     -        Some are. Some aren’t. It’s like people.

Wendy felt a little guilty for reprimanding the boy. She tucked her hair behind her ears and smiled nervously :

-          Then, I guess I do have to be grateful. Thank you very much.

-          Don’t thank me, the boy said. I didn’t do it for you. I don’t care who they drown. I just don’t like it when they do it without my permission.

Wendy’s smile faded, and she frowned again. She wasn’t sure she liked this boy very much at all. He was looking at her the same way others did – with curiosity, as though she was a very interesting specimen – but there was a darkness, an intensity to his gaze that made her uneasy. He kept looking at her, then he crossed his arms over his chest, tilting his head.

-          So it’s true, then, he said. The Shadow brought a girl to my island. What a… curious little thing you are.

-          Your island ? Wendy repeated. Then, you are…

The boy grinned, taking a step towards Wendy.

-          Peter Pan, he said, his eyes shining with pride.

-          I’m Wendy. Wendy Moïra Angela Darling.

Wendy stared at the boy curiously – so, that was the leader Felix had spoken of ? But he was so young – younger than Felix. How could he be the leader, the chief of the island ? That was very odd.

-          I wonder why it brought you, Peter added, stroking his chin thoughtfully, staring at Wendy. It always brings boys.

-          Maybe I’m special, Wendy said with defiance, lifting her chin.

-          I’m not sure you belong here. I haven’t decided yet.

-          Well, maybe it’s not yours to decide !

-          Oh, but it is, Pan said, his eyes darkening. Everything, here, is mine to decide. Everything.

-          And yet, your Shadow brought me, Wendy retorted. It doesn’t seem like you decided that.

Peter glared at Wendy, clearly displeased – Wendy immediately felt a little nervous about goading the leader of this strange, magical land – but he was treating her as though she was unwelcome here, and as though he had saved her life simply out of a petty desire for control. These weren’t qualities for a leader.

-          Wendy ! Wendy !

Wendy turned at the sound of Felix’s voice – she soon saw him immerge from the woods. He was obviously looking for her. When he saw her, she caught a glimpse of relief on his face – but when he saw Pan, he straightened his back. Peter cocked his head to the side, staring at Felix.

-          Felix, he said. I see you’ve met our guest of honor.

-          I was taking her to you, Felix said.

-          Yes, I know, Peter said. I heard. I decided to come see for myself – I found her almost getting drowned by a pesky mermaid.

Felix glanced at Wendy, who gave him an apologetic look.

-          I tell you, I almost let her drown, Peter said, looking back at Wendy. But I think she’s more fun alive. We’ll have to see.

Wendy glared at Peter. No. She didn’t like him. At all.

She looked for a comeback, but didn’t find one. So, she simply picked up the skirt of her nightgown and started walking away, past Felix, back into the woods. Felix watched her go, before turning to Peter, whose gaze broke away from the girl’s retreating back. He stared at the lagoon’s water, and threw a rock at it, disturbing the surface. He smirked to himself.

 

Storybrooke, present day

 

Peter, standing on the docks, hands in his pockets, watched the horizon thoughtfully. Felix stood beside him, his eyes also on the distance. They had quickly escaped the effervescence of the city, disappearing where they would be free to talk.

-          How did you find me here ? Peter asked Felix without looking at him.

-          When you didn’t come back from the other realm, we worried, Felix said. We looked for you everywhere – eventually, I went to look for you there. All I found was decay. We heard of a curse – we never stopped looking. But we could never find you – even the Shadow couldn’t get to you here. This place was hidden.

-          Because of the Queen’s curse, Peter said, recalling what Felix had told him a few minutes earlier.

-          Yes. And then, one day, the Shadow sensed you, here. Something had changed in Storybrooke. The Savior arrived.

-          The Savior ?

-          A woman, Felix said. Meant to break the curse. As soon as I could, I came here. I wanted to take you home. I hadn’t guessed what the curse had done to you.

Peter’s jaw clenched and he closed his fists in his pockets, swallowing. The curse had changed him – made him into another person.

-          Nobody here remembered who they truly were, Felix said. I wanted to take you home – but I couldn’t, not when you didn’t know who you were. I tried to make you remember, but the curse needed to be broken first. I tried to…

Felix stopped talking, but Peter didn’t him to go on. It was all clear to him now- Felix’s constant attempts to get James away from Gwen, to get him back into his old ways… his companion had tried to stop the damage.

He had failed. Felix didn’t know just how much he’d failed.

-          I know, Peter said. Let’s forget about this. The curse. It sickens me, to think of how weak I was.

Felix said nothing, and Peter took a deep, shaky breath, crossing his arms over his chest.

-          How’s the island ? he asked, dreading the answer.

-          Not good, Felix answered. It has been getting worse, since you left. The sun rarely shines anymore. Boys have tried to leave. The island can’t survive, without you.

-          I know. It needs me. Neverland needs me.

-          Yes, Felix nodded.

-          I am weak here, Peter spat out in frustration. My magic – it doesn’t work here. It’s tied to the island – I need to go back. For Neverland, for me. I can’t stand it. I never want to see this town again.

-          We’ll find a way, Felix assured him.

-          I know we will, Peter said harshly. Because I’m Peter Pan – and Peter Pan never fails.