Tinker Bell followed them in anything but a straight pattern as they all made their way into the house, which was glowing strongly with an orange flicker from inside. The house looked like a hut from the outside, but on the inside, it dug well into the ground – one large, central room with a fireplace held all the Lost Boys with room to spare, and a large kitchen lined the southern side. The Lost Boys had been in the middle of a game when Peter came in – then they fell dead silent.
Peter stood tall and confident on the top of the stairs leading down from the door, not letting any potential uncertainty make its way from his mind to his face. One half of his lips smiled; the other stayed still as if to weigh it down and not give them the entire thing. Wendy and the other Darlings stood meekly behind him, unsure of what to make of the place.
“Pan!” someone shouted, and then suddenly all the Lost Boys got up out of their seats and rushed up the stairs to greet him. They smiled widely, shaking Peter’s hand with all their strength and patting him on the back. Tinker Bell floated around and shook a fist at Slightly, who was waiting behind the rest of them. Slightly frowned back at her.
All of the Boys were there – Tootles, Nibs, Curly, and the Twins – and Slightly, of course. Wendy and the Darlings met them all in quick succession, Nibs shaking their hands with great force and laughing happily as if he had found lost friends. Tootles was quieter, humbler, and Curly cracked a few jokes that fell on deaf ears, except for Peter’s, who always seemed to know what everyone was saying admist the chaos.
“What have you made tonight, boys?” Peter asked, making his way toward the kitchen and noticing a pile of pots and pans stacked sky-high in the sink. “It looks like whatever it was, you enjoyed it.”
“Yeah, but Tink sure didn’t,” Slightly said, glancing over at Tinker Bell as she flew around the pots and kettles.
“I might have broke a pot or two,” said Tootles sheepishly. He had a small round face made even more plump by his meek expression. “I’m sorry, Tink.”
Tinker Bell settled on top of the pile of pots and pans, allowing the Darlings to get their first good look at her when she was sitting still. Though she was small, she had the proportions of a young woman, and her big white wings looked strong enough to carry her weight – which explained her quick agility. Half the time her wings seemed to cover her as she flew.
Just then, one of the pots started creaking and they all tumbled down into the sink and onto the floor – Tinker Bell quickly flew off and watched from a safe distance as all the Lost Boys broke out in laughter.
“Is any one of them broken?” asked Slightly, his hand resting on his belly. “I didn’t break any of these, Tink! Not my fault!”
Tinker Bell excitedly flew around all of the pots and pans, checking for cracks and dings. When she found none, she flew up to Slightly’s face and gave him a facial expression that could be be described as: “Ha!”
Wendy, looking down at the pots and pans, kept her gaze fixed on Peter. “This is where you live?” she asked, sneaking a quick glance out the window to see the giant moon shining its silver light back down.
“Twenty-four hours a day, 365 days a year,” Peter replied. “ Not counting leap years.”
“It’s amazing!” exclaimed John.
“It’s a small hut,” Michael said.
“Yeah, but there are no parents here – no rules,” John replied. “I’d rather live in a small hut with all the freedom in the world than in a huge mansion with all the rules in the world.”
“That makes one of us,” Wendy said.
Peter walked over to them and led Wendy by the hand, spinning her halfway around to face the fire. “Aw, you don’t like it?” he asked. “It’s humble, sure, but it’s home. Tink here lives in a little bird cage and she seems happy. Well, sometimes.”
“Don’t you want a place of your own?” Wendy asked. “With more responsibilities? “
“Responsibilities? Pish posh. Responsibilities are for adults, to give them headaches. Me and the Lost Boys here are perfectly comfortable being kids, like you and your brothers.”
As they spoke, Tinker Bell floated around them. But she grew weary of Wendy’s words, so she grabbed the pouch of fairy dust Peter had taken and decided to fly back up to her bird cage, not far from the Boys’ house. But she didn’t want to leave the pouch in plain sight, so she found a spot high up in a tree – among the lighter limbs, where the Boys wouldn’t look. She was very judicious with her fairy dust and supplies were often limited. She could forgive Peter for taking it, but just Peter. Certainly not Slightly.
When she came back down to the house, she found Wendy scrubbing dishes and handing them to John and Michael – neither of whom seemed too pleased to oblige their older sister. The Lost Boys were gathered around the fire, with Peter Pan filling them in as to the details of his recent trip to London, and how he came across the Darling family. Tink decided to sit nearby – but not near the fire, which was too hot – and listen in.
“And just when my shadow seemed to get away from me,” Peter was saying, “it led me to Wendy’s room. I fumbled around with it – jostle, like this – until I knocked over one of her lamps and awoke the poor girl.
“And that’s when I realized that it wasn’t just Wendy’s room – it belonged to Michael and John over there, too.” “How did she manage to re-attach your shadow?” asked Slightly, enthralled as ever.
“It turned out to be simple. She had me hold still and then she led the shadow back to me - and that’s when she reattached it. Wendy said not to make an enemy of one’s shadow.”
All of the Lost Boys expressed their amazement at the simple solution, clearly having had shadow troubles themselves. It couldn’t have been much longer after telling the story that Wendy and the Darlings came back down, the kitchen looking spotless.
“Done already?” asked Tootles. “That’s amazing! You three should stay in Neverland forever!”
“Well, I don’t know about forever,” said Wendy.
“A long time, then?” persisted Tootles.
“I know how we can convince them to stay,” Peter said. “Tink! Where’s Tink?”
Tinker Bell had been opposite Peter, resting on the arm of the chair where Tootles was sitting. She sprang up, flying above them with that familiar twinkle, made even brighter by the reflection of the fire.
“There you are,” Peter said. “Where’s that fairy dust I borrowed?”
“Borrowed? Ha!” replied Tink.
“Come on, now. I know you have it.”
“I just put it away.”
“Well grab a couple handfuls and meet us all down at the beach. I’ve got something the Darlings will really love to see.”
Tinker Bell grumbled to herself and flew in a couple of circles to protest, but she could rarely turn down Peter’s requests. So she flew back out of the hut and floated her way up to her bird cage - she’d never been in and out of it so much in one evening. Remember she’d hid the fairy dust pouch high in a tree, she flew up to look at the branches.
But they all looked the same. Where did I hide that stupid thing? She wondered to herself as she floated higher and higher, trying to remember which tree it might be in.
Tinker Bell’s memory had never been all that great. She had trouble remembering which pots she’d fixed. She had trouble remembering names - she already forgot which Darling boy was which. And she had also forgotten her forgetfulness when she planted the pouch somewhere amongst the trees.
After a good time spent searching, she came up with an idea: she would start shaking the tree branches and see if any fairy dust would spill out and, hopefully, reflect in the moonlight. She started with one tree branch, pushing with all her might. She only need to make it vibrate a little to get the pouch to spill a bit - she wasn’t strong enough to get the whole thing to dump out.
On the third branch she shook, she finally saw it: a little bit of twinkling dust falling to the ground. Perfect. She flew up the branches and squinted her eyes until she made out the outline of the pouch, sitting snugly right where she had left it. She plucked it up with both hands and flew excitedly above the trees, happy to be out of the labyrinth of leaves and branches.
Even from her great height she could make out the outlines of all the Boys and even the Darlings down at the beach, though Tinker Bell couldn’t tell what they were doing. A gust of wind pushed her back out of sight, but she tilted her head forward to cut through the air, her arms dragging the pouch through the air underneath her. When she saw the beach again she flew down in a hurry, eager to get out of the high winds coming off the sea and, of course, make a dazzling entrance.
She let a little fairy dust sprinkle a bit on the sand as she landed on Peter’s shoulder - the best spot to get his attention as it granted easy access to his ear.
“Tink’s here,” Peter said, crouching his neck around to get a good look. “And she’s got the fairy dust.”
Wendy came up to Peter, her shoes off and her feet stained a little dark from having dipped them in the water. John and Michael came up behind her. “You will have to explain this concept of fairy dust to me, Peter,” Wendy said.
“Fairy dust? Fairy dust is simple. It’s what allows you to fly - all you do is sprinkle a little bit on someone, and then they think happy thoughts. It isn’t two seconds before they’re airborne, flying as high as their thoughts can take them.”
“That sounds impossible,” John said.
“Well, maybe back in England,” Peter replied. “But here, it’s standard practice. We don’t even have a need for public transportation. Just watch this.” Then he motioned for Nibs, who had been chasing the waves out to see only to have them chase him back to shore. “Come on, Nibs! Show the Darlings how you fly.”
Nibs came up and just as Peter was about to grab the pouch from his shoulder, Tinker Bell floated away with it.
“You’re never going to get any fairy dust,” Slightly said. “Not after stealing a whole pouch’s worth from Tink.”
“That’s right,” Tink said. “This is special stuff.”
“Come on, Tink,” Peter said, chasing after her. But she went up higher and higher until she was out of arm’s reach from Peter and the rest of them. A little bit of the fairy dust spilled on Nibs.
“Nibs! Think happy thoughts!” Peter shouted.
Nibs closed his eyes hard, straining them so much that he seemed to add new wrinkles to his face. But while he looked as if he could float away at any second, he really just got up on his tip-toes and came back down, letting out a loud gasp of air.
“Come on, Nibs,” Peter said. “Those didn’t look like very happy thoughts.”
“It’s hard,” Nibs replied. “Everyone’s looking at me. There’s a lot of pressure.”
“It’s no use,” Slightly said. “Tink’s in one of her moods tonight. You’ll be lucky if you get another single grain of fairy dust before sunrise.”
Peter seemed to take the advice to heart and pressed his index finger, folded, to his chin. Wendy and the Darlings watched him as he looked, for the first time, to be deep in thought. Then he shrugged and looked at Wendy. “I don’t know what to do. You don’t know how stubborn Tinker Bell can be.”
“Can’t you fly without the dust, Peter?” Michael asked.
“It’s no use. Tinker Bell’s too small - if she wants to escape me, she can.”
Tink, high above them, smiled to herself. That’s right, she thought.
“I think I know what the problem is,” Wendy said.
“You do?” Peter replied.
“Yes. Tink, if I promise not to take the pouch, will you come down and listen to me?”
Tink hesitated. She wasn’t usually very nice to strangers - especially strangers who clearly had something for Peter - but Wendy’s soul was a kind one. That much was evident even in the briefest of meetings. So Tink slowly made her way down toward the shore, where only Wendy could get at her.
“I can’t understand you,” Wendy said, “but I think you understand me. I know you don’t think much of us Darlings, but I promise we’re just visitors here. We don’t mean any harm, and we don’t mean to take anything away from you.”
“Hrmph.” Wendy didn’t need to listen closely to tell that Tinker Bell was not impressed with her.
“Well, I guess I could always beg,” Wendy went on. “Pretty please?”
Tink was quiet now, except for the beating of her wings, which sounded like a faint buzz to anyone within earshot. The moon was higher in the sky now, and seemed to get brighter as twilight faded into true night. Though Tink only had room for one mood at a time, she could sometimes conceal it pretty well, especially when she flew far enough away that you couldn’t see her small facial expressions.
That’s exactly what she did to Wendy as she flew back over to the Boys and the other Darlings. They didn’t say anything but just watched as Tink settled over Nibs’ head and sprinkled him with a good handful of fairy dust.
“She’s done it!” John shouted.
“Happy thoughts now, Nibs,” reminded Peter.
Nibs, with the new support of more fairy dust, found this much easier, and with his eyes closed his feet lifted off the ground, leaving a thick footprint where he had anxiously been whittling before that. He opened his eyes and saw a better view of the sea, and it wasn’t long before he was hovering and moving around them all.
Peter soon joined him, flying a few feet above the beach, and motioned to John and Michael. “Tink, what about the Darling boys? Boys, close your eyes and think the happiest thought you can have.”
“I don’t know what to think of,” Michael whispered to John.
“I know what I’m thinking. Christmas!”
Tinker Bell flew over them both and sprinkled the dust in a stream as she glided past them - John started taking off, his hand in Michael’s, but he was held down as Michael couldn’t quite get the hang of it.
“Christmas - the tree? The Carolers?” he asked.
Suddenly Michael started lifting off too, and that’s when Wendy came running up the beach, somewhat alarmed at the new developments. By the time Wendy got over to Michael and John, both hovering, the rest of the Lost Boys had been sprinkled and were flying around with Peter and Nibs.
“Good heavens!” Wendy exclaimed. “I didn’t mean that much fairy dust, Tink!”
But by now, Tinker Bell was caught up in the fun, too, and shot over to Wendy to sprinkle her with her own fair share of fairy dust. Peter whooshed himself right in front of her and held out his hand.
“Come on, Wendy. You flew over the sea with me. I think you can fly another couple of feet.”
Wendy, though reluctant as always, took Peter’s hand and closed her eyes, thinking back to some happy memory that she had clearly secured somewhere deep in her heart because she took off the ground in an instant.
They were all off the ground now, and Peter and Wendy flew over to John and Michael to keep them safe - it was better that they keep linked to Peter’s hand. All of the Lost Boys lived up to their name and flew out in every direction - some over the sea, some high above the trees of the island - and Tinker Bell did her best to keep up with Peter and the Darlings as they flew around for a tour of the island.
Looking down at the moonlight beaches and vast terrain of Neverland, Wendy and the other Darlings were rapt in awe again. Tinker Bell struggled to keep up behind them, fighting against the breeze best as she could, taking shortcuts through Peter’s loops and corkscrews.
Once they settled to a stable soar, Peter saw the Darlings looking more confident in the air than they ever had before.
“Now I’m going to let go,” Peter said.
“You’ll keep flying. Remember: happy thoughts.”
“Is the thought of falling down a thousand feet a happy thought?”
“Just smile - it’ll come to you,” Peter replied. “It always does when you smile.” He let go of Wendy’s hand softly at first, and then gradually sailed away from them backwards, his hand behind his head as though he was laying down on the air.
To her amazement, Wendy just kept on soaring, the momentum taking her and her brothers further forward, and that was a happy enough thought to keep their flight fueled as long as they were in the air.
Tinker Bell lost track of Peter as the Darlings started flying on their own and, unsure of who to keep track of, tried to fly over to a group of trees to stop and find a point of reference. Neverland was small, but it was easy to get lost if you flew around as randomly as Peter and the other Lost Boys. The nearest landmark was a tall single tree next to what looked like a clearing on the coast, so Tinker Bell settled down on one of the branches.
That’s when she heard what sounded like a blast of some sort. Perhaps a wave crashing against the rocks Tinker Bell shook her head, as if she could shake away the air around it and clear her mind, but she heard another blast. It was coming down from the clearing. When she flew down to investigate, she saw exactly where she had ended up: Mermaid’s Lagoon.
The blasts were not waves crashing against rocks - the lagoon was too settled for that. The blasts were gunshots, and the guns belonged to a group of mangy pirates.