Peter decides immediately that he despises this place.
He's landed on a dark street lined with trash and boarded off buildings, save for the one on the corner. A yellow light glares through the dirtied windows, silhouettes swinging to and fro.
He doesn't want to believe Wendy could be in a place like this, and almost berates Tinkerbell for suggesting such a thing. But then a couple comes laughing down the street, startling both him and the pixie back behind a trash bin. He pokes his head round to see the man and woman enter the live building, a wave of noise exploding through the open door until it slams shut behind them.
Peter forgets so much — the key to remaining young forever. There are things he sees for the first time, every time, no matter how many times he's laid eyes on it. For this reason, there's a childish curiosity in him that will never die. He will never get bored of exploring Neverland, and he will never remember the pain of his arch nemesis slicing curved metal into his belly.
And just maybe, Tinkerbell hopes, he won't remember what he sees here.
Peter approaches the window and peers inside. There are grown-ups everywhere, red-faced, slapping tables and drinking dark liquid out of glasses. A place for pirates, he thinks, and feels for the dagger at his belt. He can hear muffled shouting, women's screeching voices, chairs violently scraping the floor.
Peter forgets so much, but there is one thing he can't: something in him will always know Wendy, that could draw him like a magnet towards her, paint her in fluorescent colors and pick her out straight away even if she were lined up among all the ladies of London.
Even now, between flashes of limbs and twirling skirts and clanking glasses, he sees Wendy. But she looks nothing like herself.
She's sitting at a table with another man, eyes smeared with something dark and lips red. Her ringlets have been chopped into a chin-length bob, the blue ribbon that once adorned her hair now gone. She draws a stick to her mouth, smoke swirling into the air as she exhales. The man at the table leans in to whisper something in her ear and grazes his fingers under the hem of her skirt, but she seems unaware of his existence, continuing to stare at the empty space in front of her. The man frowns a little before turning to make conversation with the person at the next table.
Wendy's face is so pale and lifeless, Peter can't stand it. He doesn't dare enter the building and be seen by everyone in it. All he can do is call out Wendy's name from the window. It's a hopeless attempt, of course, with all the other assaulting noises inside.
But there is something in Wendy that will always know Peter, too, that would hear him above all the cries of the world, that would hear him hundreds of miles away and into the stars.
And so her eyes shift, straight to Peter. His breath catches in his chest, unable to move until Wendy lowers her lashes and crushes her cigarette into the ashtray on the table. He's startled when she gets up and saunters towards the door, bringing himself up as well and taking a few hurried steps back from the window. Tinkerbell flurries back behind the trash bin.
A distressed, muted pause. And then the door swings open, and there's Wendy walking out of it in a short beaded dress and stilettos, nothing like what Peter has seen anyone one wear. She lets her fingers slip from the door and it falls back into place, shutting out the chaos inside.
She doesn't afford a single glance at him. Instead she finds a seat on a wooden crate against the wall, eyes downcast, hunched and hugging her thin-clad self in the night air.
For a long time, he just watches her slowly rock back and forth, rubbing the gooseflesh from her arms. He understands the silence, that through it Wendy is saying this is where I am now and please don't judge. And he doesn't.
Instead, he makes her an old, familiar offer. "Wendy, come away with me."
Her swaying slows, stops. She says softly, "It's been four years, Peter."
"I'm sorry." It's not in Peter's usual makeup to apologize, but it's Wendy Darling, and he loves her.
"Do you know what can happen in four years?" She speaks a little more firmly now. "Cholera, and death..." Finally the withered girl looks up at him, eyes dark and tired and almost too painful for Peter to bear.
She trails off to study Peter's face, and he lets her because he's doing the same. Behind all the paint, he can still catch a glimpse of the girl in the nursery, big brown eyes and sweet mocking mouth, and his kiss still there perfectly conspicuous in the right-hand corner.
She snaps out of her daze and says again, "Cholera, and death, Peter. And Lost Boys who were sent back to the orphanages you first found them in. And John and Michael —"
She cuts off, lowers her eyes and presses the back of her hand to her mouth. Her brows furrow before relaxing again. And when she looks up at Peter this time, they're filled with tears. "You know Peter, I could never be the mother you wanted me to be. Not in Neverland, not here."
"Come back with me," Peter pleads, ignoring all she's said. He doesn't want to hear about her pain any longer.
She stands up then, imperative. "No, Peter. No more adventures. No more childish games. I've seen too much to go back."
"Please, Wendy," he implores. "Please. You don't belong here. This place is killing you. That man is killing you." He points to Wendy's companion through the window still sitting at the table.
She looks from the window to Peter, then approaches him carefully. She's nearly a head taller than him, to his dismay. She lifts a hand to his cheek, smooths her thumb over the delicate skin under his eye.
"I've grown up."
She turns then and slips away, not a single glance back as she makes her way back into the building.
Peter finds Tinkerbell behind the trash bin. He stays there for a long time, crying.