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'Finding Neverland' fic (m) - (7 Parts)

Mistress Quickly

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DISCLAIMER: The film 'Finding Neverland' and all related characters and events contained therein belong to Miramax.

Author's Note: Some spoilers for the movie; it would also help to watch it first before reading this, to aid understanding of certain obscure references to characters/events. I have taken the liberty of providing a name for the character portrayed by Paul Whitehouse in the film, as he is identified in the credits only as 'Stage Manager'. Now there's glory for you.

I apologise sincerely for the almost complete dearth of sneezing in this chapter, but I originally workshopped it as an independent story and only later realised that it had good potential for sneezing. In other words, it can stand alone as a story without the sneezing and is very plot-heavy (if anyone's interested, you can check out my 'edited' version over on Fanfiction.net; it still contains the cold as a plot device but is trimmed for sneezing Clicky clicky ). Don't look at any of my other stories; they were written ages ago when I was obsessed with Lord of the Rings (and Orlando Bloom for that matter) and they suck.

Title: The Band Played On

Summary: Post-movie. Some things have a way of bringing us together.

Rating: PG13 for language.

Genre: Drama/Humour.

Part 1.

It had come to the attention of Charles Frohman during his years as a man of tolerably distinguished reputation as a producer of fine theatrical extravaganzas that there were three things in this ever-tilting universe which were certain beyond any reasonable doubt. The first was, that one day we shall all of us die and be buried, with some ignoble splendour, should we be lucky - a monument perhaps, or a hysterical last-minute testament to our great and selfless character, and that people in whatever embarrassing quantity might congregate in an ungainly fashion about our tombstone to sob and slobber and whine, or possibly cheer in unison. The second, that sun and moon will spin in a scheduled order throughout their orbits, respectively, and with very little surprise either way round. The third certainty was one he might have discovered as a very young man, had he been less inclined to that naive optimism one might associate with having an artistic (or was it avaricious?) nature, being as it is perhaps the most certain of them all: indeed, the widely acknowledged fact that when a single and particular aspect of one's life begins to correct itself, another will, invariably, fall disastrously to pieces.

Frohman was not the kind of man who commonly found himself faced with a problem which could not be readily solved with a cunning cigar and a few choicely made remarks about the current state of the theatrical industry. The chances of this being foolproof could have been put down to luck, but Frohman was no fool, despite his continuing insistence on employing debutantes to feature on publicity posters. As it was, opening his newspaper at breakfast Frohman had found himself confronted by that universal dilemma of the jobbing producer; that is, how one dealt with the fallout of one's most successful leading man finding his wife dead in the bath after having choked on a novelty Turkish Delight (evidently it was unwise to devour them whilst lying down). It was perhaps indicative of a certain strain of Mr Eugene Willoughby's character that the very first telephone call he had made upon discovering his wife's body was not, as one might presume, to the local constabulary, but to the Editor-in-Chief of the Kensington Evening Standard. Frohman prided himself on his, as he had regularly been told, quite excellent sense of humour, but it was difficult for a fellow to be amused.

But Frohman knew that, amusement or not, it barely mattered in the broad scheme of things; he knew that what really counted was that whatever fantasies where weaved on the glorious tableau of the stage had as much money squeezed out of them as was economically viable. Charles Frohman was no cynic; he believed in every man's right to a dream, an aspiration to some magic amidst the bleak sorrow of modern life. He believed in a château in Italy and never having to see London in June again (rain, gale-force winds, the threat of snow) for as long as he lived, and senility in his dotage carried him off completely. He also believed in one day finding out why James Barrie insisted on treating that infernal dog as though it were a duke.

Entering the theatre auditorium just before eleven that same morning, Frohman was quick to spot Mr Sotheby the stage manager, obviously himself just arrived, despite vigorous attempts on the latter's part to disguise himself with his scarf.

"Mr Sotheby. A brief word, if it's not too much trouble."

Sotheby made a decent job of pretending to notice the producer for the first time. "Ah, yes, Mr Frohman, sir?" he said, awkwardly scaling the steps of the orchestral pit where he had previously been lurking, deftly palming a cigarette end as he did so.

Frohman took his time in unwrapping his own scarf, removing his hat and leaning his umbrella against the brass railing. "It appears that I must now add mendacity to your many virtues, Mr Sotheby," he said at last. He tucked his thumbs into the pockets of his waistcoat and assumed a confidential stance next to Sotheby’s receptive left ear. "In the future, kindly inform me when my most profitable actor chooses to lay bare the most sensationalist details of his private life to the country's newspapers. Do not leave it so that I must read about said details in said newspapers, including a four inch 'comment' by Mrs Margaret Wilson on the apparently notoriously murderous inclination inherent in the temperament all theatrical types. Do let me know, Mr Sotheby, should this ever occur again, so that I am able to take some form of evasive action, and not have what had otherwise proved to be a thoroughly pleasant and fulfilling weekend completely ruined by indigestion and three dozen investors clogging up my telephone line demanding to know if their money is going to be spent on Eugene Willoughby's bail fund."

Throughout this, Sotheby appeared to be undergoing some form of mental tussle; whatever it was, as soon as Frohman finished speaking a decision was evidently reached that caused something of a spasm to cross the stage manager's face; he adjusted his moustache and launched on: "Er, that might not be entirely relevant, Mr Frohman...sir...because, as far as I am aware, Mr Willoughby is not actually in prison."



"I've been having words with Mr Jenkins - "

"Oh, don't listen to him, he's from Cardiff."

" - and he tells me that there was a lapse - a lapse, Mr Sotheby - in our handling of the damage limitation policy. Now by 'our', I am assuming he meant 'your', being as it is, in fact, your job."

"I don't run the damage limitation policy, sir."

"No, but you do run my theatre. And when a principle member of the company apparently throttles his wife to death whilst she is bathing, and then rings the press to tell them about it, I expect you to have some form of statement prepared to be issued before the rumour mills start spreading christ knows what sort of bullshit around."

Mr Sotheby straightened his tie with a certain degree of injured defiance. "From what I know, Mrs Willoughby had recently been suffering from pleurisy, which I understand is a very fashionable illness to have, but which can also have the unfortunate side-effect of causing sudden death."

"Fascinating. Doesn't make a goddamn difference."

"Mr Frohman." Sotheby spread his palms in a placatory gesture, visibly bracing himself. "If it hadn't been for the fact that Mr Willoughby had already issued his own statement to the papers, you would have been the first to know. I assure you I was positively on the brink of telephoning your secretary when you arrived."

"And you were planning to accomplish this by hiding in the pit smoking those ghastly Spanish cheroots of yours?"

"Well, it's just Sam told me he thought there might be a leak down there, apparently something's been dripping into the oboes, and I was merely evaluating the situation."

"Mr Sotheby." Frohman closed his eyes for a moment, counting ten between his breaths like his doctor had told him. Not that he'd ever listen to a word that cretinous son-of-a-bitch said. How was he supposed to fit in gentle, regular exercise with a schedule like his? And as for the rabbit food he recommended that he ate. If that imbecile thought that Frohman was going to spend 'more time at home with your wife - imagine how relaxing', then he needed his head examining. A whole day of Carrie telling him he was cluttering up the parlour, and adjusting the curtains, and knitting as though her life depended on it, and he'd be lucky if he didn't drop dead of a heart attack there and then. If it wasn't for the money, he honestly didn't think he'd care anymore. Goddamnit if he didn't he deserve some peace of mind in his old age.

The door at the back of the theatre opened and closed once, and Frohman heard a familiar footfall. High above, there was the sound of the rafters shifting in the wind from outside, like a flock of pigeons startled from their ablutions.

"This is not the last you'll hear from me on the subject, " he said to Sotheby in a low voice, having ascertained from his pocket-watch that they had been going at this for nearly ten minutes. "I need to have a word with Mr Barrie. For now, make yourself useful and get onto the leasers about keeping the theatre run extended."

His expression resembling that of a man who has had his execution unexpectedly postponed, Sotheby ventured what appeared to be a half-bow, turned on his heel and scurried out of the auditorium, nearly bowling James Barrie over in his haste. "Sorry, Mr Barrie. Rotten morning, sir," and Sotheby made his triumphant escape.

James's expression was quizzical as he approached Frohman; he was holding his hat and umbrella in one hand, and what appeared to be a set of false teeth in the other. "Strange how often I have that effect on people," he remarked, leaning his umbrella next to Frohman's on the railing.

"A personality issue, I am assured," Frohman said, eyeing the false teeth warily. "On account of Mr Sotheby’s being irreparably defective."

"Best not to apportion the blame, Charles." Now his voice was gently teasing and he offered the disgruntled producer a slow, softly rueful smile that drew the skin at the corners of his dark eyes into a fan of delicate laughter lines.

Frohman folded his arms and appraised the playwright carefully. He would never have it suggested that he did not feel a deep affection for James Barrie that bordered on the paternal, but sometimes, just sometimes, with his big, soft eyes, his cautious, faintly mischievous smile, and in particular, that evenly benign, gently lyrical voice, he had the effect on Frohman of making him want to unhand himself with the tea-strainer. Fortunately (or unfortunately, however one looked at it), success had not changed him in the past year; he still had a pathological aversion to opening nights that Frohman found baffling in the extreme. He still seemed to find dressing up as a pirate a more amusing alternative to lunching at the Savoy with Broadway's finest. If it hadn't been for the fact that he was talented Frohman might have been inclined to worry about him. As it was, at least he was profitable.

But, Frohman mused as James pocketed the false teeth and started unbuttoning his coat, he had also been a good friend to Frohman over the years, unignorable idiosyncrasies of character notwithstanding. The boy was too kind-hearted for his own good; surely that was the only reason he was continuing the stand by those Thingummy-Davies children, almost a year after their mother's death. That in itself had taken it out of James; looking at him now, Frohman noted fine lines at the corners of the younger man's eyes which had not been there six months before; a frown line was beginning to engrave itself between his brows. Frohman didn't want to think of all those swiftly amassing royalties from the play being spent on school shoes that would become scuffed and worn within minutes of their containing feet taking them outside, and putting food into four young, wasteful mouths; christ knows, Frohman knew how much kids ate. Being a father was wholly different to playing at cowboys and indians in the park of an afternoon, and then handing the little blighters back to their respective parents at the end of the day before they started hating you for not letting them stuff themselves with sweets until their teeth crumbled out. He wondered if James had truly come to terms yet with how difficult raising children could be, never mind children that weren't even his own. Worry, illnesses, youthful tempers, not to mention the children's own continuing grief. That little Michael boy was probably young enough still for the smart of bereavement to be fading already; but that other one, the one with the ears and the octogenarian’s wisdom in his eyes, he would have taken it more to heart than most. He had a painter's soul, a soldier's capacity for cynicism. He alone would be able to remember with perfect clarity the way his mother's eyes looked when the sickness began to consume her.

James looked tired.

"Sometimes I wonder what I ever did to deserve you, James," said Frohman, as the other man pulled down one of the collapsible theatre seats and sat down with a gusty sigh, folding one long leg over the other. "Here I am, a fellow trying to make his way in life, trying to make some sort of sense out of this shambles we nowadays call the theatre, and my best playwright is a fantasist who shares his bed with his dog."

"A fantasist? Thank you, Charles."

"No, no, James. I do you a disservice. Lunatic, some would say was more apt."

"I have it on very good authority that my reputation is cast-iron."

"Of course it is. I have friends in all the best circles."

"I am lucky to know you, Charles."

"Ah yes. The luck of the Scottish."

"That's the Irish, Charles. In my experience, the Scots are often woe betide and quite positively unlucky. Hence all the fearful ballads."

"Haggis too?"


Frohman smiled despite himself. "It's not your fault, of course," he conceded. "I don't know whether this imbecile is going to have to go to court or not. Suspicious circumstances...suicide...accidental death. It's not good press, publicity or no publicity. People don't want to come watch a suspected murderer playing their Henry VI."

James nodded thoughtfully, a slight frown further indenting the crease between his brows. "So there's definitely going to be an enquiry?"

"Sure. Though it'll be trial by media before the week's out." Frohman turned out the pockets of his waistcoat, before spotting his cigar case balanced on the back of one of the seats. He made a grab for it. "Goddamned hacks can't stand the bastard. Can't blame them," he added as an afterthought, after holding a match to the end of the cigar and taking a fortifying puff of tobacco.

James sighed and unfolded his legs to stretch them out in front of him. He was sitting in the feeble glow of the electric safety lights directly above the two men, cast half in shadow, his slanting, pronounced cheekbones creating hollows of darkness in the lower planes of his face, the sharply defined ridge of his jawbone pricked through the skin. "I don't suppose it would make you feel any better if I told you I've nearly finished it?"

"Well, that's the real clincher, James," Frohman said, and cursed as ash dropped from the end of his cigar onto the lapel of his waistcoat. "You'd think you'd have the harder time coming off the back of a flop, but when you've had a hit on your hands like Pan," Frohman shook his head and sucked air between his teeth like an errant plumber proclaiming a leaky radiator too difficult to remedy for a mere two pence an hour, "you suddenly come to realise how difficult it'll be to live up to it, in anyone's estimation. You see, everyone becomes a prisoner of their work in the end. They're all just waiting for the next big success story."

"Ah, so you see me ending my days a broken shell of a man, tormented in my isolation as I desperately try to recapture the spirit of my long lost muse?"

"More than likely, James."

James chuckled, leaning forward in his seat while he felt in the inside pocket of his jacket with one hand. "I'll keep that in mind," he said, and pulled out his handkerchief, slightly crumpled as though he had already used it once that day. "And one day I'm sure I will look back on this moment," he folded the handkerchief and buried his nose in the white cloth, "and rue your wisdom and foresight," he continued, his voice muffled.

Frohman prised open his engraved silver cigar case and struck a match against the sole of his shoe. "Just don't sue me, for Christ's sake," he growled, fresh cigar clamped between his lips. He looked up, met James's eyes and saw the playful, affectionate smile that was beginning to tug at the other man's mouth. Shaking out the flame, Frohman started to laugh, joined within a beat by James, until they were making so much noise that Mr Jaspers came and peered into the auditorium to see what was going on.

"My dear Charles," James said helplessly, shaking his head, still laughing. "On my word, if this business doesn't clear up within a week, I will personally go down to Fleet Street and burn every copy of The Standard and The Times."

Frohman stopped laughing at once. "There's something in The Times?"

James gazed back at him, eyes widening almost imperceptibly. "You haven't seen The Times?"

"No. You?"

"No. Why?"

"James..." Frohman began warningly.

"Charles." James leaned forward, eyes focused on him, imploring and not a little amused. "Don't worry about it. It will run its course, these things always do. Tomorrow they'll have found a hundred other things to panic themselves over. A politician will have taken a stroll on the wrong side of Clapham Common. A cotton worker in Texas will have announced he's the rightful successor to the English throne." He paused to take out his pocket-watch and smile a little at the time. "And I'm afraid that I must be going."

"I was wanting to talk to you about the rehearsal dates."

"I'll be seeing you tonight, Charles, fear not. But I have a very pressing engagement for this afternoon."

"Let me guess..."

James paused in the act of getting to his feet. "It's very important, Charles," he said, abruptly grave, his voice seeking understanding.

"Those kids again?"

"An audience with the grandmother."

"Christ, is she sizing you up?"

"For what, Charles? The roasting pot?"

"Don't be funny." Frohman purposefully flicked ash in James's direction. "I want to see you here tonight, in your finest glad-rags, a smile on that handsome face of yours, ready to charm witless fifteen New York investors who will be as skittish as a bunch of spooked deer after this Willoughby crap blew up. You got that, James? I don't want any last minute messages from you telling me you can't come because Jack or John or whatever his name is won't go to bed, or some other such nonsense."

"You have my word." James gave him his best Scout's salute. "And it's Jack, by the way."

"As I said." Frohman smiled broadly and blew out a cumulous cloud of smoke. "Whatever did I do to deserve you?"

James returned the smile and seemed about to respond, but to Frohman's surprise James suddenly drew back from him, lifting one hand to shield his nose with his wrist before giving a potent but precise sneeze. "heh-ISH!" Once, strongly, the upper half of his body jerking forward with the force, and then he was all right, blinking open his dark eyes and turning back to Frohman with a polite sniff.

"Dear me," he said with a small, slightly embarrassed chuckle. "Excuse me. I do beg your pardon, Charles."

Frohman was surprised, not least because, he considered, he had never heard James sneeze before. The sneeze was remarkably like the man himself; deftly controlled, absolutely contained, a swift, precise, rounded sound, and offset only by the fact that it had sounded rather wet.

"Gesundheit," the producer said, as James pulled out his handkerchief again and dabbed at his nose. "Not coming down with something, surely James."

James finished wiping his nose and gave a soft laugh; his nostrils were now rather pink at the edges. "Certainly not. It's just about time you did some dusting in here, Charles."

"Don't tell me, tell Martha. The woman thinks I pay her to rearrange the furniture."

James shook his head as he collected hat and coat, and hung his umbrella over his arm. "Dear friend," he said. "Must go."

"Certainly." Frohman ground out his cigar on the top of the railing-post. "Till tonight," he added meaningfully. "Oh, and one other thing, James..." The playwright turned back to him, eyebrows raised. Frohman gestured with his snuffed-out cigar. "The teeth...?"

James cocked his head questioningly. "I'm sorry? Oh..." He felt in his pocket, produced the false set and smiled at them fondly.

"Any particular reason for..." Frohman began slowly, prepared for anything. James grinned at him.

"The dog's," he said with a wink, tipped his hat and was gone.

Charles Frohman was no cynic; he couldn't be, with James Barrie around.


A/N: The Boy Scouts weren't actually 'invented' until 1908, far too late for Barrie to know anything about it, but I couldn't think of a more appropriate analogy and didn't think it would matter very much as 'Finding Neverland' is hardly historically accurate itself. It's a minor quibble, anyway.

The next part will be up relatively soon.

(reviews are loved)

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Excellent, from a purely artistic standpoint. And the sneezing... Not much, but delicately handled so as to tempt the reader's appetite. Excellent!

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Excellent, from a purely artistic standpoint. And the sneezing... Not much, but delicately handled so as to tempt the reader's appetite. Excellent!

Thank you for the lovely feedback - it's always appreciated :) . I have to say, I'm not sure whether anyone would be interested in the next chapter, as I have a feeling it might not contain any sneezing at all. Would you like me to post it, or just skip to part 3 when I write that? I am going to go on the slow-burn with the sneezing, because I personally always like it in stories when the character just slowly develops the cold as they naturally would. It WILL be worth the wait, though.

Again, thanks for the review - love ya. :drool:

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I would Love to see more of Any of this. This is wonderful. I throughly enjoyed the movie and I just felt like you captured the characters very well.

Beautifully done. And the description of James' sneeze. *wicked grin* lol! I would Love to see part two and then part three and any other parts that you write.

Thank you very much. :drool:

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Mmmm, :drool: lovely. Publish it in all its glory if you like, I love your writing style, it fits so well with the way i distantly remember the film...and James Barrie with a cold....pure inspiration.

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Aww, I love "Finding Neverland!" :drool:

This was such a beautifully written story, I really enjoyed reading it :)

More...? :laugh:

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Wow. That really is praise indeed, and makes the fun of writing it even more worthwhile. You're all incredibly kind for wanting to see part 2; it doesn't even contain James and concentrates solely on his ex-wife, Mary, who plays a big part in the tale. However, as I've said, this story is plot-heavy and if anyone's interested in more than just the sneezing, then the following chapters would probably make more sense if you read it. There WILL be much, much more sneezing from James in the future, however, so hang in there.

You are all so, so kind for leaving such thoughtful, detailed reviews. Thank you. :blushing:

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There WILL be much, much more sneezing from James in the future, however, so hang in there.

You are such a TEASE. I'd be happy to read a story with plenty of plot, with that reassurance, and when you obviously have a great writing style, and I love the idea anyway. :blushing:

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You are such a TEASE. I'd be happy to read a story with plenty of plot, with that reassurance, and when you obviously have a great writing style, and I love the idea anyway. :laugh:

Haha! Well, you have a lot to look forward too.

Again, many, many thanks for the splendid reviews, everyone.

Even more sincere apologies this time for the fact that there is neither sneezing, nor indeed James in this chapter...but I did warn you :bleh: . I WILL make up for it later. To be honest, this story was partly inspired by the fact that I felt Mary Barrie had a raw deal in the film. Radha Mitchell's performance was so evocative, and her chemistry with Johnny Depp so fierce, that she managed to suggest a deeper, more poignant level to this iciest of women, and so here, as well as detailing the (imaginary) events after the film (and it being a hopefully cracking sneezefic), I'm also taking the opportunity to further explore her relationship with James, as it is suggested in the film.

Part 2

Mary Barrie was lying on her stomach on the bed, her chin resting on the bridge created by her arms that were folded on the pillow, a china ashtray balanced in the hollow of her bare back. Gilbert lay beside her, smoking a cigarette and finishing off his cocktail. In the corner of the bedroom, the gramophone was playing swing music.

The transmutation of the apartment from sparse shell to barely lived-in familiarity was almost complete. She had been strangely pleased with its hard light and brittle surfaces to begin with, feeling its angularity reaching out to meet her, matching her posture and frame, sharp of edge and unyielding of texture in a way that she could comprehend and almost welcome. The apartment was bones without flesh, an alien landscape that was not yet tracked by fingerprints, and enclosed by walls that did not yet contain the echoes of past voices, laughter, whispered endearments, the muffled sound of weeping, any of the distasteful palimpsests of human endeavour that people have a tendency to leave behind them. The shiny surfaces - tiled floors, white painted walls, mirrors, light fixtures - which gave the building its expensive gloss, its beetle-hard internal cocoon, had not yet become scarred by the inevitable mess and clutter of inhabitation. She was waiting for it to become imperfect, the first stain on the carpet, the first tattered curtain, scraped inch of wallpaper, the first scuff mark on the pristine shine of the skirting board, the streak of grease on the mirror that could not be scrubbed clean; a wine glass with the outline of lips imprinted on the rim, obscenely intimate. Then, she concluded, the two of them would be forced into that peculiar act of human existence: living. The reality of grime and disorganisation seemed oddly far away from her; she wondered how long she could go on lying beside Gilbert in Egyptian cotton, one of his hands lazily skimming the back of her leg where the skin was softest and most tender, the scent of coiling smoke leaving its ghost in the loose golden cloud of her hair, the taste of freshly mixed manhattan still piquant on her tongue.

The apartment block was built in what had once been a dockyard, though its post-code now hovered on the brink of becoming the place to be, the suggestion of iminent fashionableness luring young newlyweds and members of the lower aristocracy to court the house prices and muse about its society potential over weak tea and delicate finger-sandwiches. Mary had heard them often enough; more, she had sometimes been included in these debates by the ladies at the luncheon club, mainly because, she assumed, they did not yet know who she was. They felt motherly towards her, she knew; probably a new bride, charmingly vulnerable, needing a steady maternal hand to guide her through the minefield of social awkwardness that would be her married future; she could be a distracting project for a month or two. And if they thought she looked familiar, well, there was little between these comely young socialites nowadays. She let them delude themselves. Scandal had not followed her here so far; there was little accomodation for divorced women at the charity events in Kensington, unless it was a benefit set up for the fallen kind. Part of her had been pleased at the notoriety; at least she had felt a little of that aliveness that she recalled from her youth, that glimmer of a thrill, superceding the numbness. Gilbert had leapt into the breach with energy, enthusiastic about his opportunity to be gallant. Presumably he had thought that he was defending her honour. But if Mary had ever assumed that she could forgo the hostile glances after a while, the abrupt silences when she walked into a room, the hushed pronunciation of her name as though it were an obscenity ('That Ansell woman...actresses, you know...'), then she had been bitterly mistaken. The apartment itself had been a gesture of sorts, nothing permanent, certainly not a place where they could fabricate some facade of a household for themselves (she was not so degraded by rumour and innuendo as to live in sin), but rather, somewhere they could be together of a quiet afternoon, when Gilbert was not so busy with the committee and she could take a carriage from her sister's house to meet him outside the little French bistro on the corner, where he would peck her on the cheek and she would take his arm in a strange imagining of courtship. As if they could actually pretend at a respectable future together. James was wrong; believing in something did not make it fall like a wish into your lap. It only made the sting of humiliation worse in the end, when you realised how naive you had been.

Gilbert had bought her chocolates today, some elaborate Swiss confection that she had tried once in Oxford Street somewhere, at once cloying on the tongue and bitter in the aftertaste. They glimmered richly in their box, cushioned by violet tissue paper, looking oddly insolent and gluttonous nestling there, complacently awaiting the time of their devouring. Gilbert had offered her one, then when she refused spent some time in teasing persuasion, insisting they were too expensive to make her fat. Mary wasn't sure how that made any difference. Eventually, he gave up and took two for himself.

She turned her head where it was leaning on her arms so that she could rest her cheek against the pillow, and as she did so she saw herself reflected in the full-length mirror on the wardrobe door. Her dress was lying crumpled amidst the other remnants of her and Gilbert's attire on the bedroom floor, shoes toed off, stockings peeled away from legs, corset messily unbuttoned, indecent in their haste. The dress was new, lapis lazuli chiffon, cut slightly lower at the neck than was usual; she should have been more careful with it. Gilbert had been surprised and pleased at her appearance that morning: 'Darling, you look absolutely splendid," he had exclaimed as he helped her down from the hansom. The implication had been that it would be most welcome if she could arrange to look like that all the time. He had made her turn around so that he could admire the back, and he had liked that as well. Now as Mary's eyes shifted from the dress on the floor back to her own naked form on the bed, she wondered if she had looked absolutely splendid after all.

Gilbert nudged her with his foot. "I could do with another drink," he said. It was his way of asking her to make him one.

The ashtray was removed from her back. The circle of coldness that it had imprinted on her skin still remained. Mary rolled over onto her side, pulling the top sheet with her to wrap around herself as she clambered to her feet, an unconsciously habitual act. She was so unaccustomed to male eyes appraising her nakedness that she still felt bare and exposed despite the sheet and the lowered blinds; Gilbert smiled at her from his position on the bed. His green eyes registered, focused, casually assessing the concealed length of her figure, the outline of hips and the swell of breasts still visible beneath the thin cotton. Mary flushed under his gaze, feeling as though she had been stripped of several layers of skin. She had never been so intimately surveyed - and approved of - as a woman before.

"What's up, old thing?" he said, stretching lazily; he was so utterly at ease with his own body that Mary stared at him in fascination. She remembered the curve of James's neck, and felt a little inward start when she realised how perfectly she could recall the way his skin tasted.

"It's nothing," she said, turning away to hide her confusion. "I'm a little tired." She returned the smile over her shoulder, but it felt wan on her face, almost as though it had a colour.

The gramophone was playing a jaunty number. Gilbert moved one elegant foot in time to the beat. She was not used to the noise, she thought as she measured out his drink; was an almost painful sensation against her skin, as though it might cause her actual, physical harm, leave her bruised, or grazed. They hadn't owned a gramophone back at home. It occured to her how quickly her mind had made the distinction of 'home'; not her sister's maisonette in St John's Wood, which was, in fact, home now, if anywhere was, but rather the house by the park, where from her bedroom window she could see the flawless, trembling, crystalline surface of the lake if she went right up on her tiptoes and leant her elbows against the sill. She also wondered who exactly she had identified in her mind as 'they'; had she meant she and James as a single unit, or had she included the maids Sarah and Emma, which to her now sounded like the names of children? She ran that thought through her head quickly, purposefully blurring all four names into one sound, consonantal, the syllables jarring into one another to make a nonsense word, her brain still automatically picking out each proper noun individually. Maryjamessarahemma.

The record had begun to play from the middle again. She leveled the shot of vermouth and added the whisky, watching as the spirits separated themselves in the glass. She could feel Gilbert's eyes on her, and met his gaze in the mirror.

"You're beautiful," he said, with such bare simplicity that she wondered if she had misheard him. 'You are quite undressed', would have been a more apt expression for his tone of voice.

She found herself laughing, which anyone will tell you is precisely the wrong thing for a lady to do in such a situation. "You're absurd," she said, crossing the room to hand him his cocktail.

"That's why you love me." He had had a tendency to say such things recently. He set the glass on the bedside table and pulled her down beside him.

"When do you have to get back?" Mary asked him, as his hands moved to slowly begin unwrapping her from the sheet.

"Not at least until three." He kissed her ear gently, brushing tendrils of hair away from her neck.

"It'll be difficult to get a cab in the rain."

"I'll wire through for one," he said. "Stop worrying. Here." He took one of the glossy Swiss affairs from the box and held it out to her.

"Have you never eaten chocolate before?" he laughed.

She allowed him to feed it to her this time; it was velvety soft in its middle, laced with some liquor. Gilbert kissed its traces from her lips.

"You taste delicious," he told her, and she felt his mouth against hers moving into a smile.

Later, Mary was lying on her stomach on the bed, an ashtray balanced in the hollow of her back, the taste of Swiss chocolate and freshly mixed manhattan still piquant on her tongue.


The next part will be up smartish.

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Wow! I loved the imagry and description. Especially about the way that Mary felt being looked at as a woman and with approval for the first time. Oh... and the beginning about waiting for the apartment to become unperfect. Just absolutely wonderful writing.

I am certainly looking forward to more.

Thank you!

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Mistress Quickly, thankyou so so much for deciding to write a finding neverland fic!! Ages ago I submitted a plot bunny on the sf group for a fic with James M Barrie, and wow - this is amazing so far, it's so well written! I cannot wait to read more,

thankyou again!

Frances x x

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My God. You know, you two, that really is amazing praise, and I can't tell you how thrilled it makes me. I'm so glad you're all enjoying it; I just hope you're prepared for the long haul, because this is going to be a LONG story (with lots of sneezing, I promise, James' cold is integral to the plot). Since I thought of it originally as a straightfoward story, not a sneezefic, it has a very complicated plotline; in fact, I have a feeling that somewhere down the line I might regret just how complicated... It's funny how well it works individually as a sneezefic and its 'edited' alter-ego on Fanfiction.net. :huh: Anyway, I'm just happy you're all having as much fun with it as I am.

Mistress Quickly, thankyou so so much for deciding to write a finding neverland fic!! Ages ago I submitted a plot bunny on the sf group for a fic with James M Barrie, and wow - this is amazing so far, it's so well written! I cannot wait to read more,

thankyou again!

It's my pleasure! I remember seeing that plotbunny on the sf group, and wondering when somebody would take it up. Depp is so delicious as JM Barrie that I'm surprised there wasn't a stampede to claim it! :D I'm glad there are Finding Neverland fans around here.

Thanks again, folks. Part 3 is in the pipeline. :blink:

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What a beautifully written story; I was almost distracted from the lack of sneezes by the elegant, stylish tournures and interchanges; it certainly deserves to be continued, especially if Sir James is going to get sneezing; and I'm sure he has some suitably Celtic twilight sneezing mythology to impart to the world! Let alone his own Neverland take on such matters.

Incidentally, I think you can get away with the Scout's salute because I imagine that after the relief of Mafeking ,Baden-powell, as war hero, would have rushed around going on about how loyal his real scouts were; long before making up the Boy style ones.

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Absolutely amazing command of words and vocabulary. I've always wanted to able to write with such commmand of the language. I love it!


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Totally fabulous writing. I am jealous. I just love the vivid imagery, and all the insights into the character without it seeming at all overwhelming - like you're getting it all in a rush to get on with the plot, which I always tend to do - it's all nice and mixed in :D Keep it coming!

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You're all phenomenally kind and gorgeous and basically obscenely generous in your comments. I have the third part about halfway done, and will be posting it as soon as it's finished; uni work has been getting in the way recently, but I write when I can. I never imagined it would be this popular. Thanks for enjoying it. I love you all, and you rawk.

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Well, here we go again. Thanks for sticking by me thus far. I imagine that for some, the sneezing in this chapter could be considered to be slightly on the paltry side (suspense does often yield the greatest pleasure, though :( ), but I've tried to make up for it in good detail.

Part 3.

Fairies, black, grey, green, and white

You moonshine revellers, and shades of


'The Merry Wives of Windsor.'


It is a matter of gravest import that any absent-minded wanderer, blundering like a tourist into the Otherworld, should do his very best to spot the elusive fairy before the fairy spots him. A fairy is the trickster who beguiles us down strange paths; his voice is sweet, but he is cunning. A fairy is the moment between consciousness and oblivion where thought expands like a raindrop on a still plane of water, unbounded, unchecked; he is the door key that vanishes without explanation, only to turn up a week later at the bottom of the garden; he is the empty space in the hallway that a dog barks at for no reason, the unknown spectre that cats flee from, fur on end; he is what the baby laughs at alone in its cradle, the morning tangle in the lock of a child's hair that cannot be soothed loose. He is the moment of waking in the night, when the moon feels her way across the bedcover, and a shadow is glimpsed in the corner of the room. When something stirs the curtain but there is nothing to be seen, that is when you know that a fairy is near. He lives in the hidden, twilight edges of our modern maps, where is invisibly inscribed 'Here be faeries'. But he is cunning. So go softly, idle wanderer; while the rewards are enchanting, the dangers are real.

Now, the dragon is an entirely different creature. It feigns slumber, but is always watching. The dragon's trickery lies in its quiescence, but it is nonetheless of deadly and capricious nature. The dragon's taste is for the blood of the foolish and the gallant (for there is often little between them), and many a fair maiden and valiant knight have met an unfortunate and grisly end at the jaws of this fearsome beast. Beware the dragon, for escape is a rare prize.

This is no less true of the dragon that resided at Number Three, Waltham Avenue, in the mythic realm of Kensington, and who at approximately twenty-nine minutes past one on a Monday afternoon was holding captive in her lair four young princes and their faithful court jester. The brave five's defender was supposed by to be a hirsute Newfoundland by the name of Porthos the Bold, but the wretched canine was a turncoat coward and had been seduced over to the dark side by a bone from one of the dragon's acolytes. However, little did the dog know that the bone was laced with a wonderous but terrible potion, that would transform him into a cat on the stroke of midnight.

The dragon poured herself another cup of lapsang souchong, which is admittedly an unusual beverage for a dragon to drink, though it was almost certainly brewed with the blood of wizards. Her eyes glinted a little as they alighted upon the eldest of the princes, and the jester was sure that he detected an infinitesimal puff of smoke unfurling from her nostrils. The noble Prince George met the dragon's gaze, steely in the face of the beast without his dependable sword, but valour was too late now; the dragon was merciless. Unsheathing her fearful talons, the depths of her eyes tickled by flame, the great dragon readied herself, and pounced.

"George. Your table manners are disgraceful today."

"I'm sorry, Grandmother," said George Llewelyn Davies, and the spell was broken.

"I don't know who has been raising you to behave like a savage." Emma du Maurier kept her eyes neutrally on the tablecloth as she ran a thin trace of butter across the half of a floury scone, but the implication was present, as ever.

High tea was a peculiarly English custom that James had still not grown entirely acclimatised to. The small table in the conservatory was buckling under the weight of enough delicacies, he thought, to adequately feed the orphans of North London for a month. Presumably locusts had a tendency to flock in at a moment's notice. Aside from the obligatory bread and butter, there were various bakery artifacts cluttering the surface of the exquisitely waxed beechwood; plump scones, of both fruit and plain, with an array of condiments glimmering in their dishes like so many brightly coloured jewels; toasted crumpets rapidly cooling, so the butter would not so much dissolve voluptuously into the holes, but rather would sit sullenly where it was spread and then drizzle off when you tried to eat it; a too rich fruitcake studded with sultanas and some type of nut, possibly walnut, and which tasted as though it had been drenched in madeira; and those ubiquitous French pastries that Madam du Maurier appeared to order especially, shaped a little like a cream horn, which shed flakes of their golden skin onto the plate and left your fingers continentally greased. Emma du Maurier was not a woman of casual indulgences, but this appeared to be a staple of the quintessentially English summer room that she could not do without.

The nervous sound of teaspoons against saucers the only sound occupying the silence, James lifted the delicate glass stopper from the honeypot, absently turning it in his hand until a rainbow was conjured in a prism of light inside the frosted crystal, casting a blur of colour onto the table, before gently replacing it and licking sweetness from the tips of his fingers. He looked up to see Mrs du Maurier watching him, conveying an eloquent reprimand by the merest thinning of her lips.

"The honey is very good this year," James ventured, deciding that trivialities were probably the best conversational option at this point.

"That," pronounced the lady, "is bought honey. Very low par, indeed. Probert made too little last year and so we ran out of our own. It is not the standard expected."

"Of course," James said with a vigorous frown, as though this were a potential for social embarrassment that he himself regularly encountered.

Another silence. James stirred a little of the offending honey into his own tea while Mrs du Maurier fastidiously smoothed her napkin; the boys, for the most part, were occupied with studiously not eating the assembled food. Jack appeared to be regarding the mysterious French things with a certain degree of horror; George was obviously taking pains not to incite another ticking off from his grandmother, and thus was sipping his tea with elaborate care. Michael, presented with a glass of milk from the maid Betty, had acquired an impressively creamy moustache and was now gazing at the scones with a passionate longing that equaled Jack's dismay. Peter alone was woolgathering, staring glumly out of the conservatory window where the rain beat steadily against the glass, crumbs in his lap. James wasn't entirely sure how those had got there because he hadn't seen the boy eat anything. Somebody had parted his hair too far over today, and it was making him look even more like a shrunken and perpetually disgruntled elderly man than usual.

This curious performance proceeded onwards for so long that it was a surprise when Mrs du Maurier gave a sudden and impatient sigh, and turned her blue eyes to run a dismissive glance over the sodden outside world. "If this weather persists we shall all be drowned come July. Hopkins was a fool to plant those geraniums so close the hedge; they never flowered properly and now they never will. Their roots will be quite obliterated." She reached for the milk jug, peered inside and shook her head at the universal ineptitude of domestic service when she saw that they had been given far too little. Having rung the small silver hand-bell, she assumed a tolerant smile and addressed James:

"Though, you must be accustomed to this sort of inconvenience, Mr Barrie," she said. "I hear that Scotland is quite excessively inclement, regardless of the season."

"Oh, most certainly." James said with conviction. "Quite, quite horrible. The north is the worst, of course. In fact, it is my understanding that most babies in the Highlands are born with webbed-feet. Aquatic evolution, you see."

There were a pair of small explosions from the general direction of George and Jack. George put his cup back down on its saucer with a hurried clatter. Michael blinked, startled temporarily from his scone-induced reverie. Mrs du Maurier's smile had taken on a distinct pallor.

"You will have to forgive me," she said, with the kind of pinched benevolence that is such an essential accomplishment in ladies of breeding. "As ever, our respective senses of humour suffer in the cross-border translation."

Nor would their unification be at all encouraged, James thought, by what was apparently going to happen to him at any moment. The dry scratch that had been present at the back of his throat since waking had grown steadily worse throughout the day; it was a sensation that inspired in him unpleasant memories of evil-tasting medicine, prolonged imprisonment in a darkened bedroom and, for some reason, icy cold baths, which presumably had been some unholy home remedy of his mother's. Now there was a distinct and inexorably blossoming prickle in the depths of his nose, and he could feel his nostrils quivering as he concentrated harder and harder on holding back the sneeze that was threatening to overcome him. He allowed his lips to part slightly, breathing unsteadily through his mouth, not wanting to risk filtering air through his already irritated sinuses. His eyes were watering a little by now and his nose was starting to fill up; he braved a sniff that was unexpectedly much wetter than he had trusted and cringed inwardly as Mrs du Maurier lifted her head to look at him, her eyes gimlet-sharp.

"Is anything the matter, Mr Barrie?" she inquired evenly. James touched the back of his hand to his nose, biting his lip, barely trusting himself to speak. When he felt that he had a respectable amount of control, he opened his mouth to answer, but a sudden twinge in his nose made him inhale sharply instead. He turned in his seat, away from Peter who was sitting to his right, simultaneously fumbling in his pocket as he cupped his hand over his nose and mouth. His eyes cinched shut, eyebrows lifting, the sneeze verged on him, and he clamped his nose too tightly between his thumb and forefinger, and sneezed, stifling it with a still-loud, desperate sounding "H'NKXT!"

He could feel eyes on him when he lifted his head, pulling out his handkerchief to attend to his running nose. Mrs du Maurier's voice was cool when she offered the courtesy. "Bless you," she said, and the boys echoed in a chorus.

"Are you all right, Uncle Jim?" George asked, a vein of concern in his voice. James dabbed at his nose with his handkerchief, uttering a soft, bashful chuckle as he did so.

"Quite all right," he said, feeling his ears warming slightly at the penetrating fashion in which they were all staring at him.

It is perhaps fortunate that they were here interrupted by the sudden arrival of Betty the maid, who received Madam du Maurier's curt instructions for the fetching of more milk ('and fresh, if that is not too taxing for you') with a bob and a 'Yes'm', before disappearing again with the tray. Throughout all this, Peter continued to glower out at the rain, with an expression stony enough to surely sour all the milk in the house.

James nudged him gently. "I know the weather is frightful in the extreme," he said in a low voice. "But I wasn't aware that it had personally insulted you."

"He's been like this all week," Jack volunteered scornfully.

"Shut up, Jack," Peter said without a flicker.

"Peter." One word was enough in the forbidding tones of his grandmother. Peter cast his eyes uninterestedly over the contents of the table, before reaching for a crumpet.

"When the weather clears up we'll go down to the park," James said as the apparition that was Betty reappeared in the conservatory bearing milk.

"Certainly not. The mud will never be got out of their clothes. You will have to wait at least a fortnight before the ground is dry enough." Betty was summarily dismissed. Tea was poured. Michael's small hand began to creep towards the plate of scones, but a piercing glance from his grandmother made it retreat hastily. Silence reigned.

Delicately breaking the corner off a slice of the revoltingly sticky fruitcake, James contemplated his options. With anyone else, such a proposal would almost certainly be best posed through a method of stealth; a combination of cunning double-bluffery, a few well-placed insincerities and some good, old-fashioned lying. Arthur called it Bunburying, which apparently had something to do with Oscar Wilde. But Emma du Maurier was that rare bird amongst her social class: a creature of rational intellect. Flattery would not placate her, concealed truths had their disguises ruthlessly ripped away from them to leave them blinking shamefully in the daylight, and outright lies were detected as quickly as an elephant hiding under the hearth-rug. As it was, James was going to have to do some pretty splendid Bunburying if his plan was going to stand the remotest chance of working.

"In a fortnight, we shall all be drowned," he said, and made a lunge with his napkin for the rivulet of melted butter that was making a steady and dogged process down Peter's chin towards the white collar of his shirt.

In time, the remnants of the genteel banquet were cleared away. The treacherous Porthos was evidently being held prisoner in the nursery, and Jack and Michael quickly disappeared to join him, trailing Peter behind them. Only George lingered on in the conservatory, standing rootless by the door, his eyes moving uneasily between James and his grandmother.

"You have no need to stay, George," Mrs du Maurier said, his lack of any option of staying abundantly clear. "Go and make sure your brothers aren't letting that animal on the beds."

Casting an apologetic look to James, any hopes of his acting as rescuer hopelessly dashed, George heaved a sigh and went to join the other three upstairs, where laughter was already beginning to skip down from the landing.

James began to wonder if the polite half-smile that had been creasing the corners of his lips for most of the afternoon was slowly becoming imbedded into his face; in fact, he made an attempt at adjusting his expression but his mouth felt stiff, frozen in place, and he pondered with interest the possibility of never being able to frown again, or indeed if everything he said in the future would now be eternally inflected with the pleasant cadence of someone passing the time of day.

They had sat in the attitude of strangers at a bus stop for so long, acutely aware of one another's presence but prefering to examine the floor rather than brave a glance at one another, that James almost started when Mrs du Maurier leant forward in her chair to place her cup and saucer on the table, initiating conversation. James took his cue accordingly, watching her with wide, alert eyes.

"Mr Barrie," the lady said, and if James had not known her better he would have thought that she was choosing her words with care. "I wonder, have you considered my grandchildren recently?"

Confusion and a smart of hurt made the previously mislaid frown pucker the skin of his brow. "Mrs du Maurier, I assure you that I always consider - "

"You misunderstand me." She met his eyes calmly, and it was only later that James would wonder at the lack of hostility in her gaze. It was not friendliness, but rather, a practical diffidence that by no means encouraged any form of mutual intimacy, but appeared to indicate a transition between them from bare tolerance to accepting equality. This would be a contract of sorts, he realised; for the first time in their acquaintance, she was offering to trust him.

"Perhaps..." James cleared his throat tentatively, very aware of the fragile chance he had been given. "Perhaps I ought to apologise."

"There is nothing to apologise for, of course." Her tone suggested otherwise, but this was the hour of the truce, after all, unspoken as it was. "I am merely asking you to humour the concerns of an old woman."

This statement was so outlandish, so unutterably foreign that it took James seconds to comprehend that she had been referring to herself; it seemed so unexpected that he was unable to stifle a snort of laughter at the sheer absurdity of the description. Mrs du Maurier's head turned with the velocity of a striking snake at the sound, but while the look she gave him was curiously measured, she said nothing. Long fingers an arching support beneath the saucer of the teacup, she lifted it as if to drink, hovering uncertainly when she saw that the cup contained only dregs, and made to set it back down again, but then James was on his feet, lifting the small china pot and holding it out to her, the fingers of one hand braced against its lid, and although she gazed up into his face with an unreadable expression, almost a query, she raised the cup in receipt, and together, somehow, the tea was poured.

"Well," she said, once he had sat back down. "Most people, by now, would have asked what precisely these concerns are that I speak of." She gave him a shrewd appraisal, and there might, just maybe, have been the glimmer of a smile hiding somewhere beneath the inscrutable surface of her delicately lined, strikingly beautiful face. "But you are not most people. Are you, Mr Barrie?"

"I should hope not." James inwardly cursed himself as soon as he had said it, for even as they tripped off his lips the words sounded too trivial and flippant for the way this conversation was unfolding.

Mrs du Maurier was shaking her head a little. "Of course, I would not dream of imposing upon you if I had anything but absolute faith in your abilities." Her voice was exquisitely modulated, her tone so casual that she could have been asking his opinion on a choice of curtain material; she wasn't even looking at him now, but rather out of the window where the monsoon was proceeding with gusto.

"You may be in the minority there, Mrs du Maurier." Well, now. He never would have thought that he would ever be saying that to Sylvia's mother, in response to an even unlikelier comment, what had appeared on the surface at least to be almost a compliment.

She was giving him that piercing, coolly evaluating look that he remembered so well from when the boys used to come home from the park with mud daubed on their faces like war-paint. "Really, Mr Barrie, surely even your pride is not wholly unsusceptible to flattery."

"I would never dream of supposing that flattery had been intended."

She did smile now, not a kind smile, a wry one, tinged with amusement. "Suppose away," she said. "I always tell people the truth. There is no point, after all, in inane insincerities."

"Of course." James nodded thoroughly, and there was something shared in their eye contact. Here, he was about to go on, to perhaps encourage her, albeit cautiously, but out of nowhere a sudden wild tickle assaulted his nose. There was no question of even attempting to ward it off this time; again, he leant back away from the lady, consumed by the sensation, a frowning flinch to his lips as he parted them, a suggestion of dismay across his forehead, and he curled his wrist as a shield to his nose as he gave the first of what would be three successive sneezes. "heh-ISH!" Precise, powerful, so powerful in fact that any effort to stifle it would have been futile. Feeling Mrs du Maurier's eyes on him, he sniffled wetly, began to turn back to her...

And then turned away again swiftly, unexpectedly releasing another, "H'ISSSH!" Wet, fully-formed, desperate, exploding into his hand that was now covering his nose and mouth. The sheer force of it made him cough slightly, and he sniffed again, his free hand going to his jacket pocket where his fingers closed around the soft cloth of his handkerchief, drawing it out.

He met Mrs du Maurier's gaze reluctantly, his own eyes damp in the aftermath of the sneezes. "Excuse me," he began apologetically, but the irritation was not satisfied; once again, the pinch in his sinuses returned. The sneeze did not come at once this time, but hovered tauntingly, and for many seconds James' features were slack with a look of weakness and desire, nostrils flaring and relaxing, overwhelmed. His hand went into a frenzy of motion, folding the handkerchief into a suitably containing recepticle, closing it over his nose just as his lean body wrenched forward with a thundrous, "H'ISSSHH!" The feeling of release was exquisite, the satisfaction delicious, and James almost sighed with relief, blowing his nose wetly into the handkerchief.

"God bless you." Mrs du Maurier's voice was heavy with portent. She was examining him closely, her brow faintly creased. "You appear to be catching cold, Mr Barrie."

"Perhaps," James said thickly, nose still buried. "Possibly. Nothing serious, I'm confident, Mrs du Maurier. A slight head-cold, over in a few days."

"It is for precisely that reason that I am concerned, Mr Barrie." Her voice was sharp. "Have no fear, I am not worried in the slightest about you; I am sure that your constitution is in striking health. But my grandchildren are understandably sensitive about illness in others. People they care for." This last was obviously uttered with reluctance, and she cast her gaze dismissively over James' slender form. He was slowly tucking his handkerchief away.

"There is no reason for them to worry. I'm made of sterner stuff than I look, I assure you." He laughed a little, which was evidently deemed inappropriate.

"Again, you miss my point." Mrs du Maurier took a formal sip from her teacup, then placed it back down in its saucer; composing her hands in her lap, she glanced out of the window, and spoke: "I am concerned about Peter's mental state."

He stared at her in consternation, his throat tightening with...something, anxiety, alarm, the beginnings of the cold that he could no longer deny. "You are?" he said stupidly.

"It's nearly a year since their mother died." Her voice was perfectly even, as it always was when speaking of her lost daughter, and James wondered at the method of distancing herself from Sylvia: their mother. "It was difficult for all of them, naturally. But Peter has never been a forthcoming child, and he had not even begun to properly grieve for his father when Sylvia became ill. He has few friends." It seemed a curious thing to add, but James understood her point in mentioning it.

"George and Jack are coping in their own ways. I honestly think Michael may be forgetting her already. But Peter...if he does not open his heart to you, Mr Barrie, then I don't know who can reach him. Every day his defences grow stronger. You will have noticed a change in him yourself; you don't miss much that goes on around here." It was a barb, but an unveiled one, and more familiarly deprecating than intentionally insulting. "We've all tried to get through to him, but he's locked his grief behind walls so high and thick. I think it may be time to take action."

"I'm afraid your confidence in me grows ever more unfounded."

"He needs help, Mr Barrie."

"Of course." His voice was genuinely earnest. "I would do anything to help Peter."

"I have spoken to Dr Brighton and he has done all he can." Mrs du Maurier took some care in smoothing an invisible crease from the seam of her skirt. "I've often thought the two of you have a lot in common in some respects."

"Dr Brighton and I?" Incredulity coloured James' voice.

"I was talking about Peter and yourself. As you well know," said Mrs du Maurier placidly. "Sylvia told me about what happened to your brother." James said nothing. She resumed her gaze out of the window. "I hope you don't feel that she betrayed a confidence."

"No," James said quickly. "No, of course not." But even so, he found it difficult to comprehend the emotion that this revelation inspired in him; it felt like confusion, perhaps even some relief, and distantly, a pale note of loneliness.

"My point is, Mr Barrie, that you are able to share with Peter...I think they call it empathy. If you could talk to him, try and bring him round to some form of acceptance... It would be appreciated."

James nodded slowly, his mind racing ahead of him, still trying to understand her motives behind this conversation, if indeed she had any. "Of course," he said. "On my honour..."

"I won't have you thinking, though," she intercepted sharply, "that this puts you at any sort of advantage. This does not include idle trips to the countryside. Talking can be as easily carried out in the park or the nursery as anywhere that Peter might run the risk of acquiring mysterious rips in the knees and elbows of all his best clothes. I will not tolerate liberties taken in my household."

"Certainly not. I couldn't agree more." Meeting her eyes once again, James braved a soft smile, the one corner of his mouth turning up, just a little, cautiously.

"I'm glad to hear it." The contract was sealed. The truce, for now, was over. Mrs du Maurier seemed about to get to her feet, but suddenly there was the muffled sound of giggling from behind James, and her eyes moved past him, questioningly, to the doorway.

"Yes, you two? What is it?"

James turned in his seat to see a pair of fidgeting Llewelyn Davieses standing at the door of the conservatory; Jack was visibly struggling to contain laughter, his lips clamped together; Michael looked fit to pop.

"What is it, boys?" Their grandmother repeated impatiently. Jack spluttered.

Whatever it was, its nature was apparently so remarkable that Michael seemed to be finding it difficult to remain still; even his little fists were clenched as he all but hopped on the spot. "Something's happened to Jack," he eventually managed to squeak. "You won't believe it..."

And then Jack was smiling, only - he was more than smiling; he was smiling, and his lips were smiling, and his teeth seemed to be smiling as well; such was the strength of the smile that it stretched his face sideways, elongating his cheeks with it. In the past quarter of an hour, Jack Llewelyn Davies appeared to have grown the most extraordinary set of dentures that anyone in the room had ever seen.

"Jack!" Mrs du Maurier exclaimed as the two boys dissolved into laughter. "What on earth..." Her eyes came to a rest on James, and her expression changed with a certain grim recognition. "Ah," she said slowly. "I see." James could only shrug helplessly, concentrating all his efforts into retaining a poker face.

"That, Mr Barrie," continued Madam du Maurier with impressive restraint, "is what I would consider a taken liberty." Behind him, Jack and Michael erupted once more.

Excellent Bunbury, James, he thought.


A/N/: The definition of 'Bunburying'; to Bunbury. In Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest, Algernon Moncrieff invents an imaginary friend, a Mr Bunbury, who lives in the country and frequently "falls ill", giving Algernon the excuse he needs to leave town (that is, London), escaping relatives and social commitments. Thus 'Bunburying' can mean anything from general deception to leading a double life. James' 'Bunbury' is rather vague at this point, but will become clearer.

Thank you for reading.

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Fabulous, fabulous stuff! The conceits are so full of ambages as to be utterly gripping. Never would I have imagined that I could get excited by the prospect of Barrie sneezing! What descriptions!

Is there an account of Barrie having attended an occasion hosted by Lady Astor, or was it a parody or , more likely, no more substance but a dream.? I am reminded of something.

Bunburying, eh? But surely Barrie must himself have been more than familiar with the Importance. I believe Richard Ellmann claims that Bunbury was a real person. A friend of Wilde's, that is.

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This was just exquisite! No honestly, that is the word I would use to describe this! The writing is fantastic in its won right, but omg those sneezes! Seriuosly hot, and less and detailed is good! More?!!

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oh and you should post this on the sf group, im sure there are lots of people on there who dont look at this board who would love to read this! :)

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Wow!!!! Just..... wow!

Absolutely Gorgeous descriptions. I Loved the exchange between the boy's grandmother and James- just the perfect amount of sentiment without sap. And The description of James' sneezes. eeeeeeeeeee!!!!! Oh.... and the whole set up.

Oh... and Bunburying. Loved that!! *gotta love Wilde*

The *Only* disappointment was seeing finis. I am going to re-read and prob. re-read this again. Absolutely brilliant. Thank you!!

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I am so glad that you're all enjoying this, and your praise is thrilling and encouraging in the extreme.

Count de tisza, your comments are so eloquent and incisive, and you're amazingly generous. It's interesting what you say about Lady Astor; although I'm afraid I have no idea whether Barrie ever attended an event organised by her, the relationship between Barrie and Emma du Maurier (in this story, at least) has always reminded me on some level of that between Lady Astor and Winston Churchill. As for the Bunburying, you're quite right that Barrie would have been familiar with that part of Wilde's play, but I was mainly wanting to slide in the reference to Arthur (Conan Doyle, of course), and didn't want to distort it with a direct allusion to Importance. And yes, I believe that Bunbury was allegedly based on a real person, although the other possible sources are rich. Wikipedia has this to tell us:

'The term may have been a reference to the bet that took place between Edward Smith-Stanley, 12th Earl of Derby and Sir Charles Bunbury following the first running of the Epsom Oaks in 1779. The pair flipped a coin to decide who would have the race named after him. Smith-Stanley won and thus the race was named the "Epsom Derby" rather than "The Epsom Bunbury". Wilde therefore may have been making a reference to the hypothetical and fictitious nature of the "Epsom Bunbury" and Bunburying in general.

However, according to a letter from Aleister Crowley to Bruce Lockhart, the word is an in-joke conjunction that came about after Wilde boarded a train at Banbury on which he met a schoolboy. They got into conversation and subsequently arranged to meet again at Sunbury. Hence its use in terms of living a double life. (See D'arch Smith, Timothy: Bunbury - Two Notes on Oscar Wilde (1998)).'

At this point, I guess I should emphasise that this story is STRICTLY movieverse, and makes no pretense at detailing what genuinely happened after the events recalled in 'Finding Neverland'. I admittedly know little about the life of the real J.M. Barrie, and so the man I write about here is the fictional one as imagined by Marc Forster and portrayed by Johnny Depp, and nothing more.

Thank you, sneezeadorer, for your kind and thoughtful comments. Your enthusiasm keeps me inspired. I'll definitely think about posting it in the sf group; I'm not sure what's holding me back. Just a but shy, I guess.

Tma and Kastrel, you're both gorgeous. I'm so glad you enjoyed it, and that James' sneezes pleased. Tma, it's good to hear that the interchanges between James and E du M hit the right note, and from what you say, the note I was aiming for :drool: And Kastrel, yes, there will most definitely be more, much more, and I'm thrilled you like it.

Many, many thanks to you all, once again.

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