Closer to Home

Chapter 8

No one came to the house while Michael was gone. Peter spent the time struggling to loosen his bonds, but the ropes still gripped his wrists tightly when he finally heard the sound of Michael returning.

He saw the silhouette of the man pass by the kitchen doorway; hunched and furtive. After a few minutes, Michael entered the kitchen, but wouldn’t make eye contact with his captive.

Still looking away, he finally approached the boy and untied him. Peter’s hands immediately flew up to remove the gag, but he was horrified to feel the tape pull at his skin. Panic began to fill him as the sticky substance refused to yield without painful consequence.

Michael suddenly noticed Peter’s predicament and grabbed hold of the boy. Peter screamed through his gag and tried to get away… but Michael held him in place. With one hand on the child’s shoulder, he grabbed one end of the tape with the other and swiftly ripped it from the boy’s mouth, the skin reddening angrily were the tape had been. Peter screamed through the rag still in his mouth, in shock as much as pain… but the pain quickly lessened and became only a soreness.

Spitting out the rest of the gag, Peter looked up at Michael, shock still filling him. The man gave him a weak smile, then turned away and walked from the room.

After a few moments, Peter came to his senses and went after him, remembering Michael’s quest. Surely he had not succeeded in finding a fairy?!

“Well? Did you find any?”

“Let’s play a game!”

“Michael! Did you find a fairy?!”

“What shall we play?”

The boy grew visibly frustrated. This man was more infuriating than the most petulant of children. The Michael Peter remembered had never been like that. True, Peter could barely remember any of the Darlings beyond their names… but he did remember how each child had made him feel. And Michael had always been quite endearing, even to Peter Pan.

The man he had become was cruel and deranged. Peter was becoming increasingly convinced that his pretence of childhood was just that; a pretend. This man knew he was grown-up. And he surely knew that the true Neverland was barred to him.

Noticing Michael was still staring at him intently, awaiting an answer, Peter looked down at his feet which were awkwardly shuffling. He cursed himself for looking so weak and pathetic in front of his captor… but continued to look away.

“I’m hungry,” was the child’s eventual, mumbled response.

“You’re hungry?” Michael blinked as his scattered mind made sense of the boy’s strange answer.

“Oh!” The sudden delight and animation in the man caused Peter to finally look back up at him. Had Peter’s words caused the excitement? He had expected Michael to shout or beat him… but the adult looked ecstatic, like a child who had been given a surprise gift.

“What an excellent idea! We’ll have a feast!”

Peter felt his empty stomach gurgle in anticipation. He almost never felt hunger in Neverland, and the uncommon sensation was truly unpleasant.

The boy managed not to cry out as Michael suddenly grabbed hold of his hand and pulled him back to the kitchen. Gently pushing Peter into his seat at the table, Michael turned his back to the child and started rummaging through the cupboards.

Peter waited patiently as Michael placed a plate and cutlery before him, then sat himself down opposite. It took a moment for the boy to realise that Michael had apparently finished his task, and was now looking at him expectantly.

Peter stared down at the empty plate in front of him… then felt tears prick his eyes as realisation dawned on him; they were playing a game.

“No...” Peter stopped his protest as his voice cracked; He wouldn’t cry in front of the man if he could help it.

“What?”

“Michael… I really am hungry. I mean… really hungry.”

The man looked on, perplexed.

“Well then… you better tuck in!”

Peter could bare it no longer, and the adult faltered as he watched the boy before him start to sob.

“What’s wrong, Peter?”

Michael’s voice was gentle, but his words did nothing to sooth the child. Peter kept his head bowed as he quietly wept.

“Peter...” The man was growing uncomfortable, “Don’t cry...”

“Please, Michael...” The boy’s words were broken and interspersed with sniffles and gasping breaths as he fought to control himself, “I’m so thirsty… at least let me have something to drink!”

“Of course, Peter.”

As the boy watched the man lift the empty jug from the centre of the table and tilt it over an empty glass, something inside him snapped.

“No, Michael! I need a real drink of real water!”

Michael froze, jug hovering in mid-air, eyes wide and uncomprehending.

“I’m not playing! I won’t play with you! I’ll never play with you!”

Peter realised he was no longer crying; his anger had driven away his tears. But then Michael blinked, and the man’s expression grew darker.

Slamming down the jug, he let out a growl that caused Peter to shrink back into his seat.

“You… nasty, wicked, evil...”

Michael was suddenly on his feet and Peter couldn’t help cowering. But instead of advancing towards the boy, Michael turned and swiftly left the room.

Peter remained in place for a moment, surprised to be suddenly alone… but he couldn’t ignore the opportunity for long; he really was so hungry and thirsty. And although he had no means of filling his stomach, the kitchen tap did offer him some relief.

Hurrying over to it, he tried turning the taps until the spout burst into life and he was able to guzzle down the cold, stale water that poured from it.

The relief and refreshment was immense, and Peter felt himself calming.

No sooner had he quenched his thirst, however, than Michael reappeared in the doorway. Peter had no time to react before Michael roughly grabbed him away from the sink and turned off the tap.

Peter tensed again, but felt almost sick with fear.

“You cheated!”

“What? No… Michael… I wasn’t playing...”

“You’re a nasty, spoilt cheater!”

“No! Please!”

Peter hadn’t the strength to fight back as Michael grabbed hold of his arm, painfully, and roughly dragged him from the room.

“You’re evil! You killed her! It was your fault! And now… you’re torturing me! Is that why you came back? To finish me off as well?! To torment me?! You’re wicked! WICKED!”

“No! Michael!”

Peter had no chance of responding before Michael had pulled him over to the small junk room where Wendy’s portrait lay. Once again, Peter found himself locked within, his cries ignored.

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