"I'm going home."
The girl wiped the remnants of tears from the corners of her eyes before hugging the others one by one. Their sad eyes stared at her as if she had said she would never see them again. Which was probably true.
"I'll take you."
The boy lowered his hat in a gallant bow before taking her hand to lead her home. He had been in this exact situation more times than he could count, but it had never been this hard. This girl, the one who held his hand, was different, she was…amazing. Well, there had been one before her, but she had left him, a very long time ago, and he had taught himself to forget her, to even forget her name.
As they alighted on her front stoop, she turned to him with hope in her eyes as she embraced him. "Stay," she whispered.
He pulled back in surprise. "What?"
She shrugged. "Stay," she repeated. "Don't go back. Stay here with me."
Now this was new. No one had asked him to stay before. But then again, he wouldn't have considered the request for any other girl. His mind raced back and forth between options. Stay with the girl he loved? Or go back to his friends? He thought he might never forgive himself for either choice. So why not go with the one that will give him the most immediate satisfaction?
She tensed and stared at him. "What?"
"I said, okay. I'll stay."
She seemed not to believe him for a moment until the serious look on his face told her otherwise. He never looked serious, so if he did now, he must have meant business. As she threw her arms around him, he spun her around on the street in front of her family's townhouse, impervious to the cold London air.
"I want you to meet mother and father," she said, grasping his hand to lead him inside. The fact that it was in the wee hours of the morning didn't seem to faze her at all. He gazed at the smile on her face, confident that he had made the right decision. He would send word right away to the others that he was sorry. Well, it could wait until tomorrow.
"Mother, father? I'm home!" she called upon entering the parlor. Immediately, two adults came running down the stairs.
"Hannah!" they cried, tears running down their faces. "Where have you been?"
He hung back as they hugged their daughter, and words streamed excitedly from her lips.
"Oh mother, you'd never believe me if I told you where I was!" she exclaimed. Then she glanced back at him, allowing her parents gazes to follow.
"Who is this, darling?"
He felt a pang of a memory as her father said darling, something long forgotten but still at the back of his mind. But he shook it away, remembering that he was happy now.
She hurriedly explained everything, rushing her words to together as she struggled to recount every detail of her absence. At the mention of his name, they looked up at him, astonished but not disbelieving. When all was said and done, his new life began, far from his old home and his old friends, but near to his beloved Hannah.
Everything would work out. He knew it.
Five years later
"Darling, can you pass me the sugar, please?"
He winced as he reached for the sugar on the table. He was sitting down to afternoon tea with Hannah, her parents, and his foster parents, and his growing discomfort with the social standards of London society was getting more and more apparent with every passing day. He glanced at Hannah, but she wasn't the same girl he had grown to love five years earlier. She was more mature, more poised, and more socially conscious, none of which were traits that he held in high regard. In other words, she had grown up.
Then again, so had he. After all the years he had tried not to, it had caught up with him. Now seventeen years old, he was practically a man, something that he wasn't particularly pleased with. Being an acceptable member of society was hard work. The multiple layers of clothing required alone were enough to drive him mad, but on top of that was the level of gossip that was spoken, the numerous traditions and manners that were used, and the insufferable small talk touched upon at tea.
"Are you alright?" Hannah asked, clutching his hand in one of her gloved ones.
He nodded tightly, something else he had grown accustomed to. Hiding his true feelings. One never revealed his emotions while in the presence of polite company.
"So Hannah, I hear you are traveling to Paris next month?" his foster mother inquired.
Hannah smiled. "Yes. I am going to visit my cousins there. They married dukes, and we are invited to all of the society parties."
The adults smiled appreciatively, her parents' faces shining proudly. Their daughter was becoming quite the debutante, something highly looked upon. By society at least. Not by him.
"And you are attending Eton, correct?" her mother addressed him.
He nodded. "Yes. It's a lovely school, and I'm learning much there."
The right answer earned looks of approval from all present. If only he felt that same approval for himself.
"Well, I suppose that we've almost overstayed our welcome," his foster mother proclaimed, standing gracefully from her chair. "Come now." His foster father stood as well, motioning for him to accompany them in saying goodbye.
He kissed Hannah's mother's hand and shook her father's before coming to her. She curtsied slightly and offered her hand, which he kissed quickly and turned away, leaving with his foster parents.
Sitting in the study of his house later that evening, he made the spur of the moment decision to visit Hannah by himself, free of restrictions and chaperones. He snuck out of the house, quietly closing the front door behind him, then ran the streets of London like a madman towards Hannah's house. He saw the people staring, but he ignored them and kept running.
Once he reached her door, he considered how he would find his way in. The front door was too risky; her parents could easily see him. But how else could he possibly…
He glanced up. It was dangerous, but he could see the balcony that led to Hannah's bedroom, and his adventurous side could easily see the hand and footholds that would carry him there. He knew it was probably not a good idea, but just knowing that made him feel rebellious again, like he was when he was younger.
He grabbed the first brick that jutted out of the side of the building and leaned on it, testing its strength on his weight. When it didn't give, he began hoisting himself up, brick by brick, hand over hand. One good thing about growing up: he was a lot stronger than he used to be.
Finally, the railing of the balcony was within reach, and he pulled himself over it, rolling on the concrete towards the door. This balcony was almost exactly how he remembered it from five years ago, though it was much different than the windows he had climbed through before. Then, there were bay windows and window seats to climb on. Now, it was just a balcony with French doors opening onto it.
He cracked the door open and peered inside. "Hannah? Hannah!" he whispered as he tiptoed in.
"What are you doing here?" she cried softly, placing her brush on top of her vanity. "This is highly inappropriate."
He groaned. That was all she ever thought about anymore. Right and wrong, acceptable and inappropriate. It was all too much for him to handle. "I don't care. What happened to us? You used to love me."
She sighed. "I was a child then. It was all a childish game to you, anyway. Why did you stay if you didn't want to?"
He dropped to his knees in front of her. "I did want to, Hannah. I did. I wanted to be with you. I didn't know you'd change so much."
"Well one thing's for sure," she scoffed. "You haven't changed in the least."
"Thank goodness for that."
She stared at him. "Just calm down, darling."
He stood up in a flash and rubbed his temples at the mention of the pet name. "Don't do that. I can't stand this anymore. I can't…I can't be here."
Slight fear flashed in her eyes for a moment. "And where are you going to go?"
He shook his head. "I don't know. Anywhere but here. Home."
She threw herself at his feet, clutching to him as if she would never let him go. "Don't go. Stay," she whispered.
Her request brought him back to that same moment five years ago when she asked him to stay. He had thought he was making the right decision then, and look where it had gotten him.
"And besides, how would you get home, darling? Isn't that quite impossible now?"
That was it. The final straw. He knew he was making the right decision now. Jerking away from her, he strode towards the balcony once more. "Hannah, I'm Peter Pan," he hissed. "I don't need pixie dust to fly."
And with that, he took a running start and jumped off the balcony, soaring off to the second star to the right and straight on till morning.
A/N: So I was sitting at home the other day, flipping through channels on TV, and happened to find Return to Neverland playing on Disney Channel. And I've always loved Peter Pan. And I guess this could be posted on FanFiction, but Ella Enchanted was based on Cinderella, but got made its own book and its own movie, so why can't my Peter Pan story be original? Answer: it can, and it will. Which is why it's located here on Fictionpress, instead of FanFiction. ;) Any questions? Shoot 'em my way, and I'll be happy to answer.