He could hear her although she was not visible to him through the fog on deck. Her voice cut through the dark, dank smell of rotting wood like a beam of light, making him more certain each day that he had been right to allow her to join his crew. None of the other men aboard the Jolly Roger had recognized Wendy in their newest shipmate the way he did and so nobody gave Red Handed Jill any trouble, under his unspoken and most absolute orders.

Every night it was the same. All the crew would be asleep below while he made his half-drunken rounds of the ship in case of intrusions from certain lost boys who shall remain nameless. At first, the beauty of her voice would startle him, as it always did, then he would relax into the soundsd and words of her songs as he wandered around in his own pensive dream…

A blacksmith courted me, nine months and better

He fairly won my heart, wrote me a letter

With his hammer in his hand, he looked quite clever

And if I was with my love, I would live forever

Sometimes he would sing along, under his breath, as he wandered about the ship. Sometimes, if he was feeling especially bold, he would walk in whatever direction her voice floated from, only to stop suddenly as if some unseen force between them made it impossible for him to approach her and interrupt her siren song. He would turn and walk the other way and she would never know the difference.

But where has my love gone, with his cheeks like roses

And his good black billy cock on, decked round with primroses?

I'm afraid the scorching sun will shine and burn his beauty

And if I was with my love, I would do my duty

Perhaps it was her grief that kept him away. Perhaps, if James Hook was to be very honest with himself (which he never was, since he was a pirate and not given to honesty), he would say that he was afraid to come upon her when she was in such a state.

Her sadness was a living thing aboard the ship in those moments and it swept over the wood and glass and flesh like a memory spell and sent him reeling into his own world of sublimated nostalgia. He could feel it toss his long curls around his face like the wind before a storm and it tasted like jasmine on his tongue. He craved it. And he hated it.

He had warm, fleeting thoughts of ending her life, for both their sakes. To gently smother her, in the night, in her bed…or to quietly and compassionately slip poison into some of her rum…one of these would surely suffice. She was so unhappy…it was distracting and he resented being bothered with it. And yet, it was also entirely impossible for him to ignore.

Whenever he was not thinking of ways to end her pitiful existence, his mind worked even harder to come up with ways to make her time as a crew member more comfortable. His conflicting desires made his head ache and there was nothing for it but her voice. The joy, the sadness, the anger…he wanted it all and it was not his to want, much less to have.

Strange news has come to town, strange news it carries

Strange news flies up and down that my love has married

I wish them both much joy, though they can't hear me

And may God reward him well for the spiting of me

He was emboldened by the anger slipping through her voice as she sung this verse. Why shouldn't he have it? Why shouldn't he enjoy the company of the only person on board, other than Smee, who could hold an intelligent conversation? Who was the captain, here? She was lucky to have secured a place on his crew at all! It was none of his concern if she wanted to go about wallowing forever over some lost love between her and the miscreant fey child.

In fact, he fancied it was high time she forgot about the boy and turned her attention elsewhere. None of the other pirates aboard the Jolly Roger mired around in such emotional muck and she should not be allowed special privileges simply for being a woman. Frowning, he finally pushed past the invisible barrier and made his way toward her, where she stood vigil at the back of the ship.

There was certainly no question as to whether or not she had heard him coming. She had not. Before she drew a breath to continue her singing, he cleared his throat behind her and she screamed. Afraid she would wake the entire crew, he quickly pulled her back against the front of his chest and clamped his hand gently over her mouth from behind. Her breath was coming in short gasps and he could practically hear her heart racing.

"In my humble opinion, Jill, the screeching does not add much to the song."

"HMPK," she growled, muffled by his hand. In his head, James heard it clearly: "HOOK." He let go of her and she turned to mock-glare at him in the light of a nearby lantern. He smiled, amused to have snuck up on her so thoroughly.

"To what do I owe the honor of your most glorious presence, captain?"

"Don't be smart, Wendy, or I will drop you over the side of the ship."

Wendy smirked. He would never dare in front of the rest of the crew but she loved it when he called her by her given name in private conversation. It was a secret he kept with ease and also with an endless tirade of mockery and empty threats. Perhaps because banter like this would be so greatly frowned upon in the London society she had narrowly escaped (another story entirely), she found that she enjoyed it very much. Her wit grew sharper by the day, having someone to practice with (on).

James smirked back at her and raised his eyebrows. "You don't believe me?" he asked. He snatched her fluidly off her feet and leaned against the side of the railing, holding her out over the water, menacingly. Wendy chuckled and pressed her hands to her heart, as if the idea of being murdered broke it.

"Fine, fine, throw me overboard, then," she said. "But tell Smee that I've left the kettle on below and do mention to Gentleman Starkey that if he is looking for his good quill, it's in the cubby up by the helm, since I was writing there the other day. Oh, also, your mending is finished, folded and sitting on the top of the barrel by your door." She looked up into his eyes and blushed to see the way he was looking back at her. Her heart began to race in earnest and she fidgeted. "Please put me down, captain." He shook his head, smiling a little and holding her closer to his chest. She swallowed hard and blushed madly.

"I mean it. I'm terribly afraid of heights," she protested. He laughed, shifting his weight to the other foot. She had been smaller, the first time she was in Neverland.

"Red Handed Jill is afraid of heights? The same woman who has earned the name 'Crow's Nest Jill'? I think not," he said, putting her gently back onto her feet anyway. She snorted, triumphantly. James shook his head. She could be forlorn at times but if it was up to him (and it always was), it never lasted long. It was easy enough to please the young woman. Allowing her to have her way was usually the fastest method.

"Have you really left the kettle on?" he asked, suddenly envisioning a ship fire. Wendy nodded, looking off into the night and seeming to have no intention whatsoever of fetching it. James rolled his eyes and went below deck to make them tea. He drank his black and he knew that she preferred hers with sugar, honey and mint. He never gave a second thought to knowing things like this about her. It was perfectly natural that he should understand what types of things motivated his crew members, after all. For some it was gold, for others, blood…for Wendy Moira Angela Darling, it was sugar and honey with mint. He did not pretend to understand women.

When he came back to the surface, she was nowhere to be seen and he felt like a ninny, standing there with the two hot cups of red liquid. He heard her singing again and his stomach sank. Apparently, tonight it would take more than threats on her life and tea. And he had been so pleased to finally break through to her! He wandered again in the direction of her voice and found her at the front of the ship. He stood, waiting.

A blacksmith courted me, nine months and better

He fairly won my heart, wrote me a letter

With his hammer in his hand, he looked quite clever

And if I was with my love, I would live forever

He approached her, sadly, holding out the tea. She smiled softly and took it gently from him, their fingers brushing against each other.

"Thank you," she said quietly, looking into his eyes. He felt the weight of her words, in her gaze.

"At your service, Ms. Darling," he replied in kind, placing a hand on the railing and taking a sip of his own warm potion. They stood in comfortable silence for a few moments, drinking their tea and listening to the sound of the water lapping against the side of the ship in the starlight.

"Why do you sing?" he asked quietly, needing to know.

"Because there is no one else to," she replied, wanting to tell him.

"But who-"

"To the waves, captain." She sounded certain.

"Why?" he pressed, feeling he was close to something.

"Because they're never the same. They can and do change and I think they ought to be encouraged," she replied matter-of-factly.

The captain understood, maybe better than Wendy did. The waves could change and they held possibilities. What was it about Wendy that was incapable of change, that she might seek it elsewhere? Nothing. She was very adaptive – she had to be, to live here with them…with him. What was it about Wendy's world that remained unchanged? Peter Pan. He could not, would not change.

Wendy and Hook were both well aware of the consequences. She could not force him or show him how to grow up. She could rage against his stillness all she wanted, like a child who needs to throw a fit, and it would not make one bit of difference. Pan did not react to her because she did not completely exist, to him.

"Do you believe the waves are the only ones on the ocean capable of change, Jill?" he asked, looking at her sideways. She frowned and closed her eyes, processing the question she knew was important to answer thoughtfully. He felt her feel him waiting. He hoped she did not feel pressured. He would wait forever, to know what she thought of him. He would berate himself for caring all the while but it would not stop his curiosity and fear from ruling over him when she was so close and still seemed so far away.

"No," she said, looking up at him. She placed her hand over his good one and took another sip of her tea, looking out across the water. He looked down, in astonishment. Her small, pale hand with its only recently roughened skin looked as if it had always belonged with his black suede gloved palm and fingers. He took great care not to flinch, regarding her hand as he might a small bird that had landed unknowingly on a man.

She would not stay. She did not love him (he thought). That she was here now at all was a sort of miracle and he would force himself not to second guess it. She was no longer afraid of him, infuriated by him or disgusted by him. It was enough, right then. A small smile lit his features, in the lamplight.