Disclaimer: I do not own Peter Pan, characters, places, etc. All rights belong to J.M. Barrie and The Great Ormond Street Hospital. Also, parts mentioned from the 2003 P.J. Hogan film belong to Universal Studios and their respected owners.

Promise of the Last Kiss

Chapter Seven

Almost a week had passed since the incident in the cabin, the days ebbing from one drifting current of time into the next. Nothing had changed within this transient interlude, for time itself seemed to have remained at a standstill, where all aboard continued in their daily rituals of maintaining the ship, however derelict and abandoned it had become.

It was a tragedy; for the massive vessel that sailors and future seafarers could only dream of imagining—much less envisioning as a reality—was almost in a state of utter ruin. A sickening grey film had covered its outer walls, as well as tainting many compartments within; only the guest's room, and most certainly that of the captain's, had remained untouched by the decay spent from years of neglect. For such had been the Jolly Roger's fate under Hook's command.

Nevertheless, the crew's dedication, combined with their steadfast commitment in resuming their menial tasks, had shown allegiance to their captain. They did nought to arouse to his fury, which lay concealed underneath the calming exterior of such an indifferent and inexorable commander. In this, the crew obliged in his will alone, despite whispered concerns for the sake of his ship. But more importantly, for the welfare of one who was deemed mistress of it.

Wendy sighed gently, her head falling against a glass windowpane. She looked to the sea, almost forlornly, and feeling just as cold and unsteady as the waves that rocked beneath the ship. The dark coming of twilight had finally descended, and with it the great galleon found itself at the slow, maritime flow of the evening tide.

Wind moved throughout the wide sails, a zephyr gifting the immense white sheets with its blessed breath of travel. The remnants of the isle of unending childhood were all but a memory now, as the Jolly Roger sailed forth into uncharted waters, waters which lay unknown to its anxious mistress, and waters, which were surely far more perilous than the teasing eddies and gentle swells that often churned in the Neverland's rainbow waters.

And yet, to Wendy's surprise, the island did not call to her as it had in her youth. The sudden shift of its fading presence seemed almost trivial in a way, unimportant to the woman who gazed upon its receding shores. As another call, though fainter in its timbre, replaced the laughter of a child with a voice undeniably adult. She shuddered, and looked again to the waters below.

The sea had grown darker, choppy, like a gentle calm before a raging storm. Even the air was thickened by something that lay beyond the threshold of her mind. Her limited knowledge of the sea and its inner workings overshadowed the dread of some unknown force she had yet to encounter.

But what fantastic dangers lay ahead of her were surely far less fatal than the one that sat before her now: the cloaked figure of James Hook, with his gaudy attire and swarthy complexion—certainly fairer than most seamen—sat at her desk, book in hand. His refined posture marked him as one learned; even the way he managed in turning each ivory page of the novel he was reading—the elusive title still unknown to her—was evidence enough that he was far from the commonplace rabble that often infested pirate ships. He almost seemed out of place here, as if he belonged to a different world entirely.

As Wendy considered this, she could almost admit that she heard something resonate within his throat; a low, guttural sound emanating with each penned word read. She looked heavenward, almost asking for deliverance from the pain marked by his being there. He had been with her for hours, his presence remaining well after dinner; a dinner, mimicking those from the previous week, that remained a solitary occasion, since she was the only one who had actually dined. Hook had not partaken in anything, only wine, which he sipped rather reluctantly as he watched her throughout their silent meal.

For much like the days that dwindled into one another, so too, did they enter into a routine that bordered on the absurd. They rarely spoke, as the gauche silences and awkward stares were enough to staunch any means of a polite conversation. Even Smee had made himself scarce during these quiet, tedious moments of self-reflection. The other crew members, especially the marquis, said nothing in her presence when serving, for fear of the tacit looks his captain had often directed him. The matter of Grey Lovel and his mysterious injuries was never mentioned, particularly within earshot.

It was of little consequence, however, for such was the way of the man who had now made her his captive. She was a prisoner of this ship; without any freedoms, save for the few occasions when an obliging Smee would take her above deck and allow her to breathe the salty sea air. He had even been most kind in showing her around the ship; the captain's cabin and men's quarters were forbidden, of course, but the rest she had the pleasure in seeing. For it had been then that she noticed how much a terrible state the ship was truly in.

Dark brows knitted together in thought, much like they had upon her inspection. To the superstitious, deduced she, the ship appeared touched by some unseen hand. Like a pall that clouded all with its grey overcast, the vessel's guided movements remained a constant fixation of an ever-fastidious crew; though more aptly, that of a resolute pirate captain.

For nothing in this world seemed as it should.

A dark possibility overcame all thought as Wendy recalled her first visit to the Neverland. Her memories, though now perhaps indistinct in their actuality, were still painted in brilliant, blinding reds, as the shadowy expanse of Hook and all that he encompassed contrasted Peter's demesne. Darkness cloaked a memory almost foreign to her, where everything that a pirate's ship should be, was not. The sight of the Jolly Roger from her recollections was a far cry from the wretched state it presently maintained. But of course, childhood exuberance could, more often times than not, cloud one's perception. And Wendy had never been a good judge of seeing things as they truly were…

She grimaced at this, wishing that the once great vessel reclaimed its refined state of beauty. She almost pitied it in a way, as she did for the crew and the harsh demands that Hook presented them. She empathised with the men for being under such a tyrannical and unjust leader, and especially for Grey did she feel a sense of compassion. The poor man did nought but to obey his captain's orders, though unwittingly managing to suffer from the consequences of his ignorance.

A frown besieged Wendy's gentle countenance. Fool! Fool, am I! If only I had corrected him in his error, thought she, then he would not be in the doctor's care. The injury derived from Hook's pistol had confined the unfortunate watchman to a fortnight below, for such were Crane's orders.

But even as guilt obliged Wendy's conscience for the man's flogging on her part, she could not help but blame Hook for the heart of it. The wretched man seemed unaffected, as he now sat, reading his novel and depriving her of any peace. She frowned bitterly. Of course his insufferable company had been a consequence of her rejecting him. It had done very little to quell his desire to see her, though; since he had made it his objective to call on her, even when she did not welcome him.

In truth, she hated him, despised him, though she knew not why. But perhaps, considered she, it was the way he sometimes looked at her with those strange, all-consuming eyes of his; or the manner in which he addressed her every evening upon his arrival; even the way he sounded in his departure each night had all been relative signs of an ardent desire to be near her—for he had made it no secret that he enjoyed it; as a smile, seen faintly at the corner of a crooked mouth, proved his pleasure.

Wendy inwardly sighed, knowing well that her spite was not entirely within reason; she remembered his touch and the way he comforted her with his fervent need to protect her. Admittedly, it had even been pleasant in a way, almost reminiscent of something Henry should have done when upon seeing her after his long, extended trip to Paris. She closed her eyes, recalling how her betrothed did no such thing, as his own eyes had widened like moonstones, mouth gaping at the sight of her injury. He could not even embrace her, nor dare hold her hand in comfort. In fact, he had done nothing to subdue her pain and longing in seeing him.

Only Hook had done so. And even that had been a lie.

It was then that she looked at him, and repressed a shudder; his eyes not on the book, but on her. "Are you reading my mind once again, captain?" she asked with cold formality.

Hook gave her a passing glance, but then returned his attention to the book. "I believe your mind speaks more than you do, my dear," he returned quietly, turning a wilted page with his hook. "At least it is open and truthful, whereas you try to conceal whatever sentiments or thoughts you may have. I find your mind to be, at this moment, more interesting than you, Miss Darling."

She glowered at him, wanting nought but to deliver another verbal blow to his overblown pride. But in the end, she refrained and sighed in defeat, "I wish you would stop reading my mind."

At her words, Hook placed the book down, forgoing his reading entirely. He looked at her, gravely, before retorting, "Why not confess to it, then? I know how much you loathe me, as you utterly despise my being here. But why, may I pose, should you?" he questioned, his hook idly resting on the book's leather-bound cover. "I have not harmed your person. And the incident with the shackle was that watchman's doing, not my own."

Wendy frowned. "But you gave the order, to humble me," she reminded him. "And yet, you punished one for his loyalty to you."

The captain closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose, a sign of true irritation. "I refuse to have this conversation with you," he said, as if weighted down by her disfavour. "It would do little to change your opinion of me, for you would still find me a tyrant who always makes harsh demands of his crew. The point would be moot, my dear; everything is a lie to you," he muttered, echoing her thoughts as he rose from his seat.

He approached her and saw how she flinched at his nearness. Still so frightened; mused he, and unfortunately, still very much a child.

Nevertheless, he looked down at her, offering her a comforting reprieve. "I will have Smee to take you above deck, as I shall trouble you no longer with my dreadful presence." Wendy looked up at him, eyes ever doubting. He merely smiled, though forced in the way a true smile should be. "The night air will ease your restlessness, since you have greatly borne my intolerable person. As I am sure that Smee will be better company than I," he added with a touch of envy. "Wait here, until he comes for you."

Without further instruction, he was without, locking the door behind him. Wendy was scarcely able to collect herself before her attention turned to the book left upon the desk. She walked over to it, careful not to stumble against the ship's lurching movements. Her hand drifted over the worn cover, tracing the faded gold lettering with uncertain fingers. She looked at it, her eyes discerning its mysterious title: Les Contes du Temps Passé.

She nearly gasped, eyes gaping wildly at the book. It was written entirely in French. And though she could not efficiently translate the work, she could surmise its contents, for the beautiful illustrations of enchanted faeries, garrulous wolves that walked like men, and other magical creatures gifted the foreign words with their richly nuanced depictions—that had not faded over the decades from which it was first published—in the late seventeenth century. And wonder of all wonders did Wendy see that the manuscript itself was nothing but a collection of faerie stories, written and collected by what she could only assume was a famous French author.

A golden smudge on the book's spine was the only remaining trace of where the author's name should have been. She instantly presumed that a hand had worn away the delicate lettering by countless hours of reading, as such was the condition of the work itself.

It must have been well-loved, she quietly thought, otherwise the captain would not read it, much less have it in his possession.

But of course she knew so little of the man, that it would be ill-considered to conclude anything. Had he not asked her trust him, only to later give cause to doubt his sincerity? The watchman's punishment was enough to drive any thought of Hook's request to the farthest reaches of her mind. In truth, she could not bring herself to confide in a man whose very presence could kill laughter and strike the merriest to a deadened silence. He was too dangerous to trust, and not solely for the ingenious weapon melded to his useless stump…

She quietly relented in such cruelties, scolding herself. Undeniably it was poor form to judge him so unkindly, but she could not forget the ominous glare cast by the hook's now-tarnished edge. Her reflective gaze darkened and her thoughts deepened. Why did he allow his artificial limb, along with his ship and crew, fall to ruin? she wondered, unable to fathom any legitimate reason; for it was as if he no longer cared for anything, save for his need to have her by any means necessary. And that thought, with its haphazard intent, troubled her most of all.

Though whatever dreadful misgivings she had of her captor were suddenly dismissed as a knock sounded at the door. Wendy smiled, truly relieved, when she saw the gentle countenance of Smee. She set the book aside, her present concern resting with the timid bo'sun.

"Good evening, Mr. Smee," she said upon greeting, her eyes looking questionably toward the dark cloak he held.

"Oh, 'tis fer you, Miss Wendy. The master didn't want ye ta catch cold, as a storm be brewin' on the horizon." He shook his head and smiled, in spite of his present worry. "But don't ye fear none, miss; we've been through storms an' squalls enough, an' the master be the one controllin' the wheel now. Won't be long afore we reach the Barrier. The storm is the sign we've been waitin' fer these last days."

A sable brow rose in question at this. "What do you mean?" Wendy asked, truly puzzled. "What is this Barrier you speak of?"

Smee feigned surprise, clearly amused by Wendy's perplexity. "Why, 'tis the only barrier between here an' ferever that separates the child part o' Neverland from the rest o' it." He grinned, showing a few gaps in his yellowed teeth. "I thought ye knew about the other isles, miss. Why, there'll be an entire world there, jest waitin' ta greet ye!"

Wendy bit her lip, a slight blush staining her cheeks. "I somehow doubt that, Mr. Smee," she shyly remarked, gingerly accepting the offered cloak. She placed it over her shoulders, the wedding gown now eclipsed by a swath of dark, midnight-blue. The captive bride smiled, as it was indeed an engaging colour, complimenting the virginal-white underneath with an air of dignified grace. But yet, in spite of her bewilderment for the captain's thoughtful gesture, she could smell the faint fragrance of the sea and something entirely foreign—yet so achingly familiar—within its velvety folds.

"I must apol'gise fer it not fittin' ye, miss. 'Tis the master's, ye see," Smee muttered by way of explanation. "Said ye didn't 'ave one, so he decided ta lend ye one o' his. Good man, my master. Always puttin' others afore him, he does." He looked at her, blithely shaking his white head. "But come along, miss. I'm sure that ye'd much rather prefer a walk on deck, as ta stayin' cooped up in this cabin. Won't do fer ye not ta walk that leg of yers since…" He hesitated, reluctant to mention the incident with the shackle. "Well, ye need ta walk, anyway," he finished lamely, supporting her as they left her beautiful prison of gold and fabricated illusions.

An hour had passed, with Smee's company being the pinnacle of her evening. Wendy enjoyed his comical anecdotes of his time at sea, and also those of the crew's—however forced in their smiles and laden with their duties they were—as they no less had a kind word to say to her. Even the ship's surgeon, Joshua Crane, bowed to her in a genial manner, and thus inducing her in a polite discussion based on scientific theory. His momentary lapse in the subject had inspired her interest before he himself took leave of her company: back to the room he called a laboratory.

It had indeed been comforting to see the doctor's face, which did not reflect anything improper or amoral, as his conversation appeared quite innocent of such provocative and lascivious things, unlike his captain, who stared at her from the ship's helm even now.

Wendy subdued her revulsion, ignoring those unnaturally golden-blue eyes as they stared, analysing her with something she could not name. The captain's eyes had remained upon her for the last hour; since the moment she came above deck with Smee had Hook set upon her with his unsettling gaze, watching her. And in a depraved sort of way, Wendy felt important somehow, like she had a sense of power over him. But she refused to admit to such; not even unto herself could she dare confess that she almost enjoyed his attention being lavished upon her. For what lady, with a hint of reason, could ever want a man as James Hook to look upon her with pained longing in his eye?

She shook her head. It was absurd to think such wicked thoughts; and yet she pursued them, as she had all evening. In her reflection, Wendy knew she considered him with more than a mild interest—especially when he stayed with her, reading a children's book of faerie-tales. In itself, the reality of his choice was perplexing, though his acknowledgment of her, as with other evenings spent in her company, retained a secret stare out of the corner of a furtive eye. Certainly the book was only a prop to mask his true intent; Wendy could scarcely recall a time—if any—when his intentions had ever been noble, as the man himself was far from the definition of the word.

A thoughtful sigh escaped her, as her present companion, whose spectacled gaze now questioned her, moved aside from the railing from which he leant against. "Ye look mighty thoughtful, miss," Smee remarked kindly, though a touch of concern lay deeply hidden within his otherwise jubilant tone. "Anythin' the matter?"

The captive bride shook her head. "No, I was merely…thinking," she said evasively, and then assured him with a confiding smile. "It is nothing to be concerned over, I promise you."—She looked to the night's sky, as if emphasising her point—"The night has a way of making me remember things I had done as a child, things I had almost forgotten."

Smee nodded, not wholly understanding his mistress' meaning, but agreed anyway. "Aye, miss. The night can clear one's head from the strife of a hard day's work. 'T'aint nothin' more refreshin' than ta walk the deck and clear the old thinker of nonsense." He grinned. "Aye, must be why me master always comes up 'ere o' the night, ta think. The lad 'ad so many questions as a boy. Always askin' me about things I didn't e'en know existed. Must've gotten it from his mother, that one. But ta give the mistress credit, she herself was a smart one, his mother." He paused, nervously removing his spectacles and wiping away what could almost be considered as a tear.

But before Wendy could discern if it was a true mark of his upset, he replaced the foggy lenses, inhaling the night air with a timid breath. He looked at her, then to the deck's weathered flooring. "The night does make one think," he almost whispered, his gaze forlorn. "It makes one think almost too—"

"Mr. Smee," a strident voice called behind them, the figure of a silhouetted Adrian McManus coming into view.

"What is it, lad? What be the trouble?" queried the bo'sun.

Adrian faltered, wringing his blistered hands. "Several o' the riggin' lines 'ave worn away from the past storms, an' we 'ave no others ta repair 'em wit'," he added gravely, a twisted frown blighting his pale features. "If we go through the Barrier, then they won't hold fer long."

"Aye, 'tis troublesome indeed," Smee concurred, albeit reluctantly. He frowned, his silvery-grey eyes considering, debating. He then looked at the deckhand and decided. "Have the lads ready when I come. I must tell the master, afore we reach it," he ordered, and then turned to Wendy. "Miss, I must beg yer forgiveness, but I 'ave ta go fer now. Would…ye like me ta take you back down, then?"

Wendy shook her head. "Oh, no," she quietly objected, "I would rather much like to stay above for a little longer. That is, if you believe 'twill be all right?"

The boatswain's frown deepened, uncertain. "A'right," he said, after a moment of doubtful consideration. "But stay ta where one o' us can see ye. Don't wander off or anythin', the master'll have me head if you do."

"Of course not, Mr. Smee," Wendy reassured him, "I promise to stay here, where 'tis safe. You have my word."

Smee grinned, his old delight returning. "As a lady, no doubt. A'right, miss, I shall leave ye, then. But remember, if we reach the Barrier, I'll have ta take ye back down," he warned, and then took his leave with a smiling Wendy staring after him, silently thanking him for this one chance he had fortuitously given her.

She closed her eyes, praying against fate that Hook would not punish the old bo'sun for letting her escape. After all, it had been by crude deception to have him believe in her promise; and in a way, she would keep it, as she would not leave the safe enclosure of the quarter deck, but would only relieve herself of the ship entirely. Inside, however, it pained her to know that she would leave the crew, and especially Smee—whom she had come to almost confide in—to Hook's insatiable wrath.

It was an unjust punishment, she realised, but one she could ill afford if she did not take this chance…

Thus, she stood, her well-adorned figure moulding itself against the railing. She vaguely listened to the conversation between the captain and Smee, who had finally gathered the courage to tell his superior of the ship's dilemma; which, consequently, forced Hook's all-seeing gaze to shift away from her. She could hear him curse, his genteel profanities of both ship and crew almost lost to the wind and lapping waves. A harsh string of orders were thus given, and Smee reluctantly nodded; face haggard by his master's stinging reprimand.

Instant pity overcame the captive bride as she watched the faltering boatswain, who stumbled in his need to tend to his master's will. She cast a baleful glance at her captor and cursed his name once more. Indeed, he should be damned, Wendy inwardly thought, seething. What goodness she believed existed in that dark pit once called a soul was vanquished; as it had been for years, she was sure. Perhaps it had never even existed…

A tired sigh fell away from her and she cast her gaze to the deck, her dark stare discerning the intricate woodwork that could only be found on the quarter deck. Naturally the grey film that encompassed the vessel was here, as well. She could not see any significant difference, as years of neglect had wrought its destruction: the floorboards beneath her feet rotting away, as with the rest of the ship.

It would be by Fate's good grace if the galleon survived through this much anticipated storm. Squall or no, this tangible representation of a ghost ship would find a vacant berth in Jones' wasteland of haunted vessels if it failed against its approaching adversary—who echoed with a sounding roar of thunder in the distance.

In its presence, Wendy breathed a sigh of relief, plotting her next course of action. As she considered her means of escape, however, she inwardly grimaced, a sorrowful look cast at her wedding gown. The garment would surely be seen. She quietly despaired, for even in this impregnable darkness, would it certainly give alarm to any who happened upon her floating figure. The virginal white train and overall colouring betrayed her in this, even if it was wrinkled and dirtied after a week's wearing.

Undoubtedly, Wendy reflected, her mother would be horrified, her aunt swooning at the sight of it. The wondrous gown had now been reduced to a wrinkled mass of satin and lace. The train had a few minute tears, the hem soiled by her constant movement. However, Wendy, in spite of her dishevelled appearance, smiled ruefully. Life aboard a pirate ship was certainly no place for a costly wedding gown; it had become nothing more than a soiled heap that even the lowliest scullery maid would not have.

To her credit, though, she could not fault herself entirely for wearing it with such devoted consistency. Hook had not offered her another gown after her last rejection, as she wholeheartedly refused to accept anything from him. Only her shift and undergarments were exempt of the sullied aura she emitted, and that solely for a daily bath, which was always drawn well after she awoke. The shift and its feminine companions were barely dry by the time the captain came to call at evening tide.

And yet, she had managed to survive thus far, wholly intact and burning with a need to escape. She had to return home, she realised. But what would her parents think of her if she told them the truth of where she had gone? Would they believe her? Or would her dreadful Aunt Millicent conjure up some scandal of an elopement with Hook? Dear God, the wretched woman would, as she had always thought the worst in her errant niece.

And then Wendy considered a most interesting conjecture. What would Aunt Millicent do if Hook came under their roof and proclaimed that he had married her only niece? She would surely disown the family altogether and proclaim her attempts in rearing girls into respectable young ladies an ultimate failure. The look on the spinster's rouge-covered face would then counter that of a lord's disappointment when his prize faire lost at the races.

This last thought made Wendy smile. Her aunt would surely faint if she thought for one second that she would have an outlaw for an in-law; and for a pernicious moment, Wendy entertained the idea. Indeed, her captor was a far cry from what any civilised young woman with a hope of marriage could want for in a suitor; he was so different from her fiancé…and Peter. She frowned.

Peter.

She quietly admonished herself. It was foolish to think such things of a man she had every right to hate. What would Henry think if he knew where his fiancée's thoughts drifted to? What would her parents say if they realised that their beloved daughter now considered the prospect of a criminal wedding her? But more importantly, what would Peter do if he knew that his Wendy, his storyteller and only mother contemplated such a blasphemous union with his enemy? She could not even consider the outcome that would follow such an ill-fortuned meeting.

It was then that her eyes found Hook, his darkly-clad figure holding fast at the helm. He glared out into the forthcoming storm, his icy gaze challenging the tempest and its primordial makers. Wendy was taken slightly aback by the sight, noticing how his eyes cast an eerie golden glow amidst the surrounding darkness. He looked almost godlike; utterly divine, as he dominated the whole of the ship with his fearsome determination and inherent will to overcome his present opposition: the brooding storm.

Wendy almost dared a feeling of admiration for his audacity. His controlling need, combined with an unknown strength that went unsurpassed by human and immortal alike, confronted this faceless foe had all but encouraged her from turning away. No, even if she were to live beyond a century could she not admit her secret wonder, her growing intrigue of this man. And it was this same, nameless fascination that had imprisoned her.

She had to escape; otherwise she would forever be his prisoner. And no wonder, no matter how curious in its charm and appeal, could deter her from returning to those who needed her most; especially John, who still said nothing in the wake of her music and soft-spoken words. Her eyes darkened to cold obsidian, her mind set: she would leave the captain and his world of unending questions and unknown feelings. She had to forget him, leave behind the beloved voice with the man who had inspired it.

Her troubled mind cleared and her thoughts lifted. She felt light, almost unbound in a dizzying way. The image of her childhood and its past instances—both filled with pain and pleasure—compelled her to drift into their welcoming embrace. She remembered the last thing John had said to her before he left her and his remorseful family for the war, feeling the strength and comfort in his still boyish voice: Everything will turn out, dear sister, just you see. And by the looks of it, I will return before Christmas and find you married on me!

She smiled at this, still remembering things, things she had almost forgotten in her transformation between child and woman. They returned, her memories, the visions of the past moving like a slide of silent pictures, their soundless movements forcing her further into the world of long ago…and into the presence of one she dared not forget.

"Peter," she whispered quietly, her thoughts solely of him. She called out his name from the depths of her child's soul, her mind only of happy thoughts. She felt the deck beneath her fall away, abandoning her completely. She smiled contentedly, her happy thought found at last. Like a lifeline, she held onto it, and was lifted into the air…

…Only to be brought down by a spiteful end of a hook. Wendy was jolted awake, her feet set firmly upon the ground. She gasped; face whitening in fear when she looked into the eyes of an expressionless Hook.

His hand tightened its grasp on her shoulder, as his hook, though dulled, tore into the cloak. He glared at her, his gaze as desolate and frozen as ice. "What do you think you are doing?" he demanded, not without a hint of malice. When she did not answer, he shook her violently. "You will not abandon me!" he muttered in a cold, condescending whisper.

"Let go of me!" Wendy cried, unable to fight against his possessive hold. She looked down, ceasing in her attempt, her body giving in to his biting touch. "Please," she appealed softly, "let go. I promise I will not try to escape."

But Hook only shook his head, unmoved by her heartfelt pleas. "No, I dare not, my dear. Otherwise, you will think of that stupid little boy and try to fly away again." He scowled. "I should return there now and tear his throat from its moorings." His hook drove deeper into her side, the blunted tip piercing through both the cloak and the thick bodice of her gown. She trembled in his dark wake, shuddering against his unyielding form. "Indeed, I should set a course for it now. I could then allow a short reunion between the two of you, before I reintroduce him to my hook. You would like to see him again, would you not?" His eyes became venomous slits of rage. "Perhaps then you would see why he has forgotten you."

Tears filled Wendy's eyes, her face a beautiful mask of confusion. "And why would he forget me?" she asked bravely, feeling the edge of the hook withdraw. Hook smiled mordantly.

"Do you honestly not know?" he questioned mockingly, and then obliged her, as he was nothing less than a gentleman. "Why would he want someone who has grown up and left the world of childhood behind, when he could very well find another who has not?" He looked at her, his words and expression gravely serious. "He has replaced you, Wendy—with several other children, I might add. Why do you think he has not come for you, hmm? It is because you have grown up and betrayed him."

"No, no I would never," she whispered faintly, her voice filled with denial.

A sob, riddled with the pain of his words and the knowledge of how true they were, escaped her, her lips faltering with every hollow breath. She felt the weight of the captain's words crush her, submerse her in their drowning emphasis. Her lungs filled with the bittersweet poison that tainted every word spoken. And yet, she could not deny that he spoke truly: Peter had indeed forgotten her.

And just as this revelation befell her, she felt the edge of the hook at her throat, its tarnished side gleaming darkly against the ship's lamplight. A soothing breath, much like the kiss of a zephyr, fell against her, the cool, ruddy sensation of its evenly induced calm making her tremble with the knowledge that he was so near. She barely felt the hook move against her skin, so deep was she in thought. The cold metal startled her, as her captor moved the bloodless instrument across the base of her throat, down to where her mother's pearls should have been.

"Pan will not come for you," he said at last, his soulless eyes confiding in her that solitary truth. The resilient edge of his claw expertly twisted around the chain that held Peter's kiss, making her quaver. Hook studied it, his eyes becoming critical, almost resentful by such ignorant simplicity. "He will not come, as his kiss cannot return a life not in danger." He glared scornfully at the mere mention of his adversary. "That impudent brat could never imagine the consequences he would derive from his actions. He left you to the pain and misery in suffering alone. And where was he, when you needed him most? Out on yet another one of his ridiculous adventures."

Wendy gasped, feeling the hook release the kiss from its deadly grasp. But the captain ignored her, continuing on with his tirade. "He is a selfish, foolish boy. Can you not see that, Wendy?" he asked of her. "He abandoned you to live a life of solitude; and in doing so, he left you to me. This kiss," Hook spat, "cannot protect you from me, as it was your mother's pearls that held that power." A sardonic laugh escaped him then, his ill humour laced with spite. "I could not have you until you removed them. And such the naïve, innocent beauty you are, you did. As the greatest irony of all is that you placed your deepest faith in someone who had rejected you long ago."

But as he spoke this, he cradled her crestfallen face against a weathered hand as a means of comfort. But I am grateful you did, beauty, his mind whispered thoughtfully. If you had not, I would have been unable to bring you here…

"To stay with you," Wendy finished for him, and Hook nodded. She looked at him, seeing for the first time a newfound hope timidly linger within those dull irises. For a moment, she considered them; almost swearing that his eyes revealed what his silence could not.

But as much as she yearned to believe in his unspoken promise, she hardened her heart against him, feeling the acrid sting of his words quench any compassion. She glared at him; her dark eyes a fathomless sea of resentment and disappointment. Darkness clouded her vision, that ebony haze subjecting her to the image she knew only to be her captor: a cold-hearted murderer who cared for nought but his own hatred; as it was this elaborate illusion of grandeur that turned her away from him completely.

"I would have favoured if you had left me to the endless dark and loneliness of my suffering. I much prefer it over your company." She laughed bitterly, her voice not her own. "If I had known it was you, I would have shut you out of my mind long ago. You disgust me, captain; as I would rather have you run me through with that piece of metal you call a hand, than to have you touch me with it."

The hopeful light in the captain's eyes flickered, consequently dimming until being quenched completely and thus leaving Wendy to watch the hideous transformation between man and loathed tormenter. Whatever sentiment of kindness immediately fell away, as molten fury replaced it. His eyes became cruel, almost feral in their golden radiance.

He said nothing in his assessment of her, his searing gaze inexorably drawing to her left hand, whereupon lie a ring, a ring that he had surely not given her. He glared at it, mutely cursing the one who had bestowed his Wendy with such an overly embellished gift. Jealousy, like no other, burned within him; for he knew not what enraged him more, the ring or the ungrateful little siren that stood before him.

The matter was of little consequence, however, for he took possession of the offensive hand, his agile fingers artfully twisting the band from its keep. He released her hand then, the prize sought within his grasp. He considered it, critically, his impassive expression revealing a disgusted sneer before looking to her as he cast the ring unto an accepting sea. Wendy paled under this irreversible act, her one, tangible connection with Henry severed forever.

For just as this concept of eternity lay within a second, Wendy felt the captain's arms—not the rusted edge of his claw—embrace her within their suffocating hold. Without a word, he held her, his face a crude illustration of inimitable ire. She was rendered silent, her unwilling body conforming to his. For just as divine as he was in clawing one of his adversaries with the skilled measure allotted his hook, could he now gracefully execute in sustaining Wendy, forsaking her ascent to Heaven. The crushing hold of his arms thus epitomised his claim of her: a dark power, absolute.

And just as darkly, he carried her, the crew ignorant of his unimagined endeavour, their attention fixed in securing the ship. They saw not Wendy's fear, nor her anguish, as she was spirited away, into the stygian depths of his dwelling.

She felt the hurried lurch in his movements, his purposeful gait a dark and merry path to destruction. It was almost poetic in a way. For much like the rape of the spring maiden from tales of old, she felt her own Hades abstract her from everything she knew and loved, plunging her into the nightmare world in which he thrived, never to be alone in its transcending shadows ever again.

She suppressed a deepening fear, finding that, upon first glance, she and her captor very much portrayed that of a couple, newly married; the blushing bride being carried over the threshold by her besotted love. Wendy shook her head, achingly aware of the dangers in such a fantasy, and how she and Hook were far from that ingenious concept. The man was most certainly going to murder her in the privacy of his chambers, behind closed doors.

As this dreaded thought crossed the apex in her mind, she noticed that she was through the cabin's ominous threshold—that strangely no longer carried his name and crest on its outside, nor had it any other detail relaying his captain's station—and straightway passing through another, which looked relatively new in its structure. Her eyes then widened at the sight they now took in; the small passageway between doors seemed something akin to an antechamber, like one found in a great mansion or palace. For a scant moment, she took in the gratifying wonder of the cabin's simple, yet tasteful opulence, before feeling a strong pair of arms set her down, those same arms that once held her with such adoration; and at other times, contempt.

Wendy did not acknowledge Hook's presence, even as he closed the first set of doors, locking them thrice before returning to her. Instead she looked to the safety of the floor, which simulated the same dull colouring as the deck above. Doubtless she took in its dismal grey tones with great appeal, her gaze settling on anything except the tangible apparition before her, that same manifestation that would most certainly slit her throat from whence she stood.

She inwardly frowned. It had been a mistake to speak to him thusly. Had she not recognised a faint trace of red in his eye, or the pleasantly cruel way he collected himself? Dear God, she had been a fool to contradict him, especially her words concerning his hook…

He would surely take pleasure in killing her now, for had she not committed the worst of all sins? Indeed, she would be a nice little addition to the mermaids' collection; and he would not have to use the plank to make such a reality. No, with a sharp swipe of his hook, and then a caustic throw of a lifeless body overboard, would be all that was deemed necessary in ridding himself of her. He would not even be required to hold a requiem mass, especially since the deceased was not of the Roman order.

It would end rather nicely, she dryly thought; Hook only saw her as a means to an end, nothing more. Their long conversations that spanned into many nights of awaited anticipation, his comforting words during her countless hours of need—it could not have been real, or sincere, as his only concern was surely revenge. Hook could not care for her, nor could he ever come to…

She disregarded the thought before it fully formed in her mind. It would hurt too much to even consider it.

Silently she discounted her half-construed thoughts before looking—shamelessly at the one who made her feel like no other—into the face of the man who had often haunted her every waking thought. The captain of dreams, much unrealised, now stood before her, where all else was completely forgotten.

A moment of silence passed between them, though neither noticed its fleeting significance. No, their only thoughts were of each other, as both stared, eyes locking in a forbidden mêlée where only one would be the remaining conqueror. It was a silent war that would take the mettle of most men and lead kings and pawns into utter ruin, and one neither intended to lose.

Hook stared forebodingly into the eyes of his storyteller, his beautiful bride that no longer had a ring to chain her. Now she was his, completely, as no other could lay a legitimate claim and take her from him. Whereas such, he would allow nought come between them, not when he had fought a decisive battle of wits against the will of her dispassionate family and a world of careless suitors to have her. If only she knew of the private war he fought in her name…

But alas, Wendy was ignorant of these inherent truths as she believed his vacant expression a mask to conceal his hatred of her, for had he not taken the ring Henry had given her in such a fury? It was lost to her now, though, the sea gladly accepting what was offered unto it—no matter how precious or valuable it had been to another. She frowned, recalling that the ring itself meant nothing to her, only the promise of what lay behind it. And even that had she begun to question.

However, her suspicions abated when she noticed the captain had taken his leave of her, his back facing her as he hovered over a desk, covered in maps. He looked ominous with his stormy gaze that now belayed the fragile maps. He said nothing in his silent observation of them, however, only retained a sense of control over the possessiveness that now besieged him. Wendy could never fathom the potential danger she was in presently.

For within the dark confines of his cabin, she was his, as no other could enter without the key—which remained close to his person at all times; even Smee did not have a duplicate to the master cabin. And no matter how trusted Smee was in his loyalty and services, could Hook afford such a mishap if the key were misplaced by his crazed subordinate…

Even so, the captain remained quiet, as if in a trance with the object of his affections standing, unsure, before him. He did not even acknowledge her, for so rapt was he in thoughts that he did not see her dithering movements in the dimly-lit cabin.

It is so frightfully dark in here, Wendy thought to herself, and then was surprised to see a foray of unlit candlesticks alight themselves with fiery flame. She almost drew away from them, wondering how such a strange and otherworldly act could materialise from nothing. It was not until she looked upon the knowing face of Hook did she know the reason: he had read mind once again; and in doing so, managed a feat beyond anything humanly possible.

And it was then Wendy realised that the man who stood before her was outside the perceptions of her own, limited beliefs. This man with his blackavised face and eyes of the forget-me-not was something more, something past the lavish clothing and iron hook. He was beyond the pale, more than human. As this man was not…the captain.

How could he be, her mind questioned, when he can read minds and pull people through tears in the universal blanket of existence? Something had happened to him after his demise with the crocodile. But what, exactly, she knew not; and that uncertainty troubled her greatly.

"Is the lighting not to your liking, Miss Darling?" Hook's dark and penetrating voice languidly drawled out from across the cabin, his eyes still fixed upon the map before him. Wendy looked away, unable to bear the sight of his rigid demeanour a moment longer. His preternatural knowing of all the inner workings of her mind was too much for her to accept. It was as if he forced himself upon her without having to lay one lustful hand upon her skin; and as this thought passed the worried contours of her mind, she withdrew from his presence entirely.

Hook noticed her sudden evasion of him, the map completely forgotten. He moved forward, his dark brows drawing together in a firmly set line of suspicion. "What is it now?" he questioned, almost tiredly. Receiving only silence, he sighed, an air of discontent pervading him. "Why are you afraid to be in my presence? I have laid not hand—nor hook—upon you. Why is it that you fear me so?" he demanded, moving closer until he was finally upon her, his towering form dwarfing her.

Wendy felt his cool breath upon her already chilled flesh, heard the controlled breathing that made such a man. She closed her eyes, his tirade of endless questions still ringing, like silent death tolls within her mind. Could she tell him? she wondered. Could she confess her fear and leave his chambers wholly intact and without blemish? To do so, she knew, was to die. But even that seemed to be the only avenue of escape now, as her mind was now a traitor, subtly switching alliances and working solely for the man who sought to keep her.

With this, Wendy conceded, finally giving in to all of her fears and insecurities. But most of all, to the innate concern she had for his unnatural abilities, abilities that no mortal was meant to have. A deep, resolute breath escaped her, and her eyes found his.

"You are not natural," she began slowly, almost fearfully. "Everything that I know as reason and sense is defied by you. You read minds, as if they are nothing more than mere words uttered into existence." She glanced hysterically about the room, a great congregation of brightly-lit candles emphasising her meaning. "You have influence beyond anything that is considered human, and that in itself is most disturbing," her soft voice gently accused. "And even more, is that you use it to your advantage. You deceived me, having me to believe that you were some wondrous, ethereal entity that knew and understood my pain. You had me to believe, knowing that, in my naïveté, I would trust you. You never even—"

"I never lied to you!" Hook coldly interjected. "Not once did I deceive you, Wendy. I came to you, whenever you called out to me. I did not have to, but I did—because you wanted it." He glowered at her, his eyes molten-gold. "But you have not answered my question: why do you fear me, when you know that I would never harm you?"

"Because you are not normal!" Wendy cried out, against the fear that threatened to consume her. "If you were the same man as you were when I first met you, I would not have a reason to fear you so. But you are not now. You are something completely different, and that frightens me beyond anything I have ever known." She looked at him, a hint of revulsion tainting her sorrowful face, as her next words were the most potent in her condemnation of him. "It is as if you have stolen something that does not belong to you, to be like Peter. But you will never compare to him, as you could never be anything more than the wretched villain you are!"

With this, she turned from him, running to the open double doors that closed shut and locked before she could pass through them. She felt a hand wrench her from their promising escape, her body crudely twisting to face the one who now held her captive. He looked at her, his callous expression not betraying the inner rage that churned maddenly from within.

"Is that what you believe? That my only desire is to be like that filthy little brat?" he asked, his tone filled with incredulity. "Oh, no, my dear, how wrong you are to assume such a silly thing." His eyes held hers, their unnatural gleam resentful and condescending. "You would condemn me for having something that only Pan was meant to have. But is it such a sin that I could be anything remotely similar to that flying little menace that you so adore?" he remarked bitterly. "You damn me unjustly, beauty."

Wendy remained silent to his censure, feeling those invidious arms capture her within their covetous hold. In his possession, Hook sequestered her unwilling form, knowing that she waged a losing battle against him. He cared not for her cries of outrage, nor for her constant struggle, only the need to make her see, make her understand that he only wished for her to—

"Let go of me, you monster!" she cried, fighting against him. When she could not subdue his unnatural hold on her, she resorted to words instead. "You will not succeed in this wicked scheme of yours. Even if you were to have a trace of magic in you, Peter would still—"

"I grow tired of your comparing me to him!" he shouted, carrying her to the bed, which had remained obscure and unthought-of until then. He glowered at her, his breathing unsteady. "You may see me as a monster," he said after a long moment, "but 'tis you who will not even grant me a chance to prove myself worthy of your affection. You would have yourself to believe me nothing more than a villain in your stories, leaving me as nought but a heartless creature without a soul." He shook his head, laying her gently upon the bed.

Quietly, he considered her before joining her on the crushed crimson velvet sheets. "If this is the only way I can prove myself to you, then so be it," he whispered against her ear, and eclipsed her body with his. He looked down at her, the rage within his eyes strangely vacant, washed away by the sight of her pliant form cocooned in his torn cloak. Mindlessly he shed the remnants of the shredded mantle and placed a hand against her face, his fingers lightly tracing over a tearstained cheek.

In silence he touched her, comforting her with only his hand as his guide. He moved over her, his rough, leathery fingers falling deftly against her delicate ivory skin, memorising each elusive ridge and contour of her throat and collarbone. The curious appendage then shifted to her dark hair, now unbound, a silken mass. He gazed intently at her face and faintly smiled. She was so beautiful, so undeniably innocent. It would be a shame if she wasted either upon one less deserving.

But that was something that had been prevented, he reminded himself. He would not allow another to taint her with the festering corruption that came from their world beyond the Neverland, as he could not bring himself to defile her, not even for his own selfish ends. He closed his eyes, blind to the wide-eyed terror that beset his storyteller, who remained fatefully ignorant of his unshared thoughts.

Wendy stared up at him, her crude captor, and almost quavered at the barely restrained control melded within his stern expression. He looked ready to devour her, as a lion would its captured prey. She wanted to cry out, fight against the inevitable. But unfortunately, could not. For whatever power he held over her had inducted an invisible force, preventing her from movement. Thus, leaving her entirely at his mercy…

And yet, his touch was unlike anything she had ever before felt. With each gentle caress, his fingers incited something deep, intrinsic, hidden within. Like an innocent child who lay on the verge of adulthood, she felt wary of this unknown sensation, though strangely welcomed it, nonetheless. His now lingering touch made her feel open, alive. It was as if he intended to resurrect her soul, which had lain in a cold tomb of ice and death, and return it to the living world. And his lips, those strange abrasive lips, hovered over the skin of her throat before making their descent, tenderly upsetting the affected flesh with a barrage of soothing kisses.

He touched her in a way that no other had, a way that would surely bring shame upon her family and the Darling name. Her Aunt Millicent would be appalled by her conduct, her parents disgraced. But yet, within the throes of this unimagined thing deemed passion, she could have cast all propriety to the wind and accept whatever promise her captor held. His touch seemed almost sincere; his lips were tender, remitting. And even where he only concerned himself with the use of one hand, could Wendy find a distinct feeling of pleasure from it; the hook and all of its dangerous tidings carelessly cast aside, forgotten by both.

But as Wendy enjoyed this thoughtless liberation, she realised his true intent: he was seducing her, bending her once again to his will. And it was this subtle act of betrayal that turned all thoughts of happiness away. She felt cold now, tainted by his evocative touch. Even his kisses made her inwardly cringe in disgust. How could she have allowed him to go so far, and she not oppose it? She felt disgraced, ruined by him.

And so, in silence, she cried, rivulets of crystalline tears streaming their unspoken acceptance of her fate down ashen cheeks. She could not even bear to look at him, closing her eyes, ready to yield to the power he now commanded. It was not until she heard her name uttered so gently, that she could scarcely believe it spoken.

"Wendy," Hook quietly murmured, his hand smoothing away a discordant tear. "Why do you cry?"

Her eyes opened at this soft-spoken inquiry, her tumultuous gaze revealing her answer. She bit her lip, almost frightened to speak, but gathered her remaining courage, and finally whispered, "Because I know of what you intend to do with me, and all I can ask is that show mercy and kill me. I could not bear it if I were…" But she could not say it, could not as she looked frantically at the hook—which had not touched her throughout his wondrous ministrations—her eyes begging him to be swift and accurate. "Please, I am so afraid…"

His hand withdrew from her shoulder, as if burnt by her words. "Is that what you believe my feelings toward you are?" he questioned, his eyes full of pained disbelief. "Do you think I would harm you? That I would be so lowly as to rape you? Oh, Wendy…" His worried visage melted into one of inner loathing, one that ran far deeper and more sinister than the dark imaginings she believed him capable of.

Wendy watched him, his once proud and noble figure wilting pathetically before her. He looked empty, without form or expression, as if the very essence of life had abandoned him. She gazed into the hazy forget-me-nots, and saw something she had not expected to see: finding the truth within them at last.

But what she discovered almost startled her, for as she looked into the darkened recesses that surrounded the gleam in his eyes, she saw only shadows, no light within their blotted depths. It unsettled her. But even more than the deadened gaze he cast, was the undeniable truth that she could not see her reflection within them. They were hollow, utterly lifeless, and completely without. This man had no soul. Or was otherwise cursed by some formidable entity—a foe that knew not time nor space. She did not know which, only the despairing reality of his ever-labyrinthine being; he was ever so much more complex than the childlike simplicity of Peter. And as she considered this, she knew that she had been mistaken to have accused him so unjustly.

"Captain, I—" But he silenced her apology with his hook.

"I may be the evil, wretched villain of your nightmares, but do not delude yourself into believing that I could be so without moral." He wrenched himself away from her, wholly repulsed.

He looked at her under hooded eyes, the pale irises full of an emotion that even the greatest face-reader could not define. "Trust me in this, my beauty: I do not take women against their will. Nor do I force myself upon innocents such as you. I would rather be shot by my own crew, than to allow you to be dishonoured in such a way. But of course, you would not believe that," he grated out darkly, "as you are one to always perceive the worst in me."

With this, he pulled her from the bed, his mind unlocking the doors as he led her to them. He paused before the last set, the ones that led out to the deck—to her freedom. For a moment, he said nothing, only breathing a stifled breath of air before exhaling it in the same breathless shudder. He turned to her, his eyes revealing a pain so deep that Wendy secretly wished she could revoke her words.

She felt his hand lightly touch her arm before it fell away, as if ashamed by tainting such beatified sanctity. She returned his look of pain, secretly wishing that she could somehow erase it. She begged him to see her regret, understand that she had been wrong about him. But alas, he did not see it; as his thoughts were only of himself and the miserable fact that he could not have her.

And just as dejected was he in accepting this unwanted truth, his hand sought her face once more, timidly caressing the smooth planes of ivory with a consummate sorrow that left his captive spellbound and not wanting to leave.

"Leave, Wendy Darling," he uttered in a choked whisper, his hand opening the door that led to her freedom. "Return to the light and safety of your cabin before I do something that we both may come to regret."

Wendy nodded blankly, though wanting to express something that would inevitably lead to her complete submission. But she could not, her voice refusing to carry the words. And so it was that she departed, leaving the captain to stare after her with only regret in his eyes—a regret, that she had created by the solitary fear of her own naïveté.

Three hours had passed in the brightly-lit confines of Wendy's cabin. A myriad of candles had been lit, baptising the room with golden light. Fiery flickers, born of fire and air, danced about the cabin's walls, entrancing all, even their mistress, who sat amongst them, cold and alone, and with only her thoughts as company.

No one had come after her dire meeting with the captain, only the hurried scuffling of footsteps; and then the quick locking of her cabin door had been the only contact between another and she. Nevertheless, she sat in the safe confines of her room, thinking, considering everything.

She closed her eyes, her mind running rampant with wild imaginings. It was a nightmare, all of it. The ship and its strange crew, Smee's apparent madness, even the captain himself, whose taciturn nature could change on a whim, frightened her. The fading memories of the Neverland she remembered were not as the horrid nightmare with which she now dwelled. No, this Neverland was different, more alien and adult, and without the joyous comforts that often came with childhood innocence. And sadly, this long forgotten innocence was another thing that her captor had greedily taken from her.

Upon this consideration, she vaguely heard a clash of thunder before being cast, face-first, against the floor. She cried out, the ship's lurching causing an onslaught of valuable glass ornaments and trinkets to fall from their kept places. Only the furniture, which was mercifully bolted to the floor, remained secured. Wendy had little more than a moment to collect herself before another sounding wave collided against the ship.

Cautiously she pulled herself away from the floor, desperately clasping onto the headboard of her bed. She looked out of the gallery window, seeing a multitude of lightening strikes in the distance, the ship a primary target should one strike true. Her eyes widened, as a blinding white light penetrated the translucent glass panes. She turned away from it, realising that this was the barrier Smee had spoken of.

"Oh, dear God," she murmured in fear, worried, as another heady barrage of wind and rain assaulted the ship. She fought against the impending squall, struggling to hold her balance as another wave struck the Jolly Roger. However, this time, she cried out, the massive swell crashing against the dark room—all of the candles doused from the first impact—and thus shattered the safe confines of the cabin. The ominous sound of a deafening crack, followed by the splintering of sturdy ancient wood was all that the tragic storyteller needed to know about the fate of the ship, and undoubtedly the lives aboard it.

She did not hear the rushing flow of the torrent until a curtain of water broke through, almost wrenching her from the bolted bed. Wendy fought against it, her fragile figure struggling to remain upright. She turned her head away from the forthcoming spill, spitting out the briny taste of salt-water.

In silence, she prayed, pleading that the ship navigated through the enraged tempest. And just as she murmured these words of thoughtful prayer, the ship's endless rocking ceased, as the sea itself calmed momentarily, the detrimental tide receding into the heart of the storm.

Wendy's thankful expression darted toward the ceiling before she felt the ship's reeling motion once again. She frowned, holding firmly onto the waterlogged bed. This time, however, she did not cower against the rocking waves, as the inlet of cold water surged in. It was then she noticed that the door to her cabin had been opened, the entrance ruined beyond repair. She almost gasped, realising that the way to freedom was now open, her chance had come.

Timidly, she released the headboard and moved toward the cabin's threshold, not once considering the state of her wedding gown. She struggled against the ship's constant sway, but no less continued, her cumbersome gait now empowered by her need to escape. A weary smile dawned upon her pale features, the faded light within her eyes returning.

Soon, she thought, soon I will be home and away from this unending nightmare with…him.

She frowned at the thought of the captain; but more for his need to hold the image of the voice she had once—and ever still—loved. She quickly dispelled it, trying to forget the way he had looked at her only hours before. With each purposeful step, she tried to forget him, though found herself unable, as the forlorn image of James Hook remained, steadfast, in the centre of her mind.

It was guilt, she reminded herself, only guilt and nothing more. But even as she thought this, she knew it not to be so. A deeply hidden part—a most forbidden part—of her refused to condemn him when she wished nothing more than to seek him out and enter the safety of his arms. She wanted this, more than anything, but willed herself against it; she could not accept him when she was bound to another. For even without the ring, she was still Henry's betrothed, not the captain's.

But yet, she again entertained a most dour notion; where she, Wendy Moira Angela Darling, was not engaged to a prestigious bank owner's son, but to one with qualities far less admirable—one who saw her as more than a mere cripple to be pitied. She faintly considered what her place would be as a pirate captain's bride as she ascended the steps to the quarter deck, her thoughts of escape momentarily forgotten.

Yet even with her dark contemplations adjourned, the constant battle between the Jolly Roger and the elements did little to hinder her; her will was set, as her hands fell firmly against the ship's wood railing. She did not heed the cry of the wind, nor fall of the tempestuous wave, only her need to escape the ship and the dreaded feelings that her captor inspired. She looked to the storm-scattered heavens in askance, a tremulous moment of indecision passing before her mind was made.

Her hand tightened around the weathered railing, as she pulled herself forward, her unadorned feet almost slipping in her ascent. She stepped up then, blindly grasping for a rigging line, her numbed body unable to feel the cold, driving rain that fell unrepentantly from the sky. She closed her eyes and breathed, feeling the quick before the plunge.

The time had come, she realised, her only chance to free herself from his possessive hold. Upon this, her hand loosened from the rope, her dress swaying madly about her. But as she was ready to fall from grace, her mind heard a voice cry out: Wendy! And then the imposing vision that was Captain James Hook appeared, his sodden figure calling out to her from the main deck.

She watched him pursue her, his noble gait forgotten amid the surrounding chaos. He ascended the steps that led to the upper deck, almost slipping before he reached its wooden summit and inevitably stood a stone's throw away from her, his black attire soaked and ruined.

But it did little to subdue the timidity welling within her, as the concern in his eyes compelled her to release the rigging and return to that wondrous safety found in his arms. She almost went, secretly wanting nothing more than to feel him about her, comforting her, and promising her the world if she so wished it.

And as this idyllic fantasy penetrated her aching mind, she saw him move forward, his ruddy lips devoid of movement.

No, Wendy! his mind cried, his eyes pleading to her, begging her as he took another cautious step, his next words drawing more profoundly into her thoughts: Please, Wendy, stay with me. I could not bear it if you left.

A tear fell from her eye at these words, wanting desperately to believe him. But she could not. As much as she wished it so, she could not stay with him—not when she was promised to another…

She drew herself against the railing and looked at him. Nothing was said as only the captain's silent plea echoed any thought the other had. Wendy watched him, his hand reaching out for hers, that one artless act breaching an ever-gaping void between them.

Wendy smiled faintly; and without thought, her free hand sought his, their fingers touching briefly before she drew them away. She shook her head—her face full of a regretful sorrow that no living mortal could ever know—as she whispered, "Good-bye," to him and let go of the railing, her white dress descending like silken angel's wings before disappearing into the darkened waters below.

Hook stood in silence, eyes gaping emptily. He looked frantically about the water, seeing nought but the churning black waves beneath. Great tremors of an emotion, unknown, overwhelmed him as a raging madness plagued his mind, forcing him to cry out to the heavens—an earth-shattering sound that no human could dare emulate.

"Mr. Smee!" he barked, meeting his bo'sun halfway down the stairs, a rope now in hand.

Smee looked at its massive length, and then to his master. "What—"

"Miss Darling has fallen overboard," came Hook's terse reply as he handed a rope's end to his subordinate. "Have some of the crew join you at the side and pull when I call out to you," he firmly commanded, and glared at the man out of the corner of his eye. "Do not fail me in this, Smee; I will not have her die this night."

The boatswain paled and nodded dumbly, for he knew well what would come should he fail.

The captain inclined his head, taking the other end and tying it around him before joining himself to the void that had claimed his reluctant storyteller. Smee said nothing in the wake of his master's words, only called out to those who heard him above the wailing squall that had besieged their beloved ship, and leaving his master to do the rest.

And Hook did, as he plunged into the ever-darkening abyss, his eyes cutting through the impenetrable depths of night. He swum deeper, faster, his breath with him even as he descended into the oceanic bowels that now imprisoned Wendy. He mentally cursed, regretting that his boots prevented faster movement, the claw utterly useless in his purposeful descent.

Nevertheless, he continued his decline into madness, a white shred of silk in sight. He dove toward it, his hand reaching out past the black strands of midnight before grasping a frail waistline. His eyes instantly fell upon Wendy's lifeless face, a sure sign of death. Pockets of precious air almost escaped him, but he held them close, pulling her inert form against his and breathing into her. He abruptly made use of the rope, tying it around her waist, and then called out a soundless cry.

Not a moment passed before the rope tugged and Hook rose with her until both struck the surface, alive.

"There they be!" Hook heard Smee's ragged voice call out. "Hurry, lads, we must get 'em aboard, now!"

As the boatswain commanded this, half of the crew tugged at the rope, careful not to harm their mistress. Hook soon followed, falling next to Wendy's unmoving form. He lay with her on the deck for only a moment until his senses returned to him. She was not breathing.

He cursed violently, his claw falling against her constraining gown. And like the parting of the great sea, so too, did her dress tear, the hook awkwardly slitting through the thickly sewn bodice and underlying corset. He was then atop her, placing his mouth firmly against hers. Both hand and hook worked as one, expelling the seawater from her lungs. He worked tirelessly, his men watching helplessly. He paid no heed to them, however, his thoughts solely upon Wendy.

Again, he exorcised the seawater, alleviating her burning lungs, as he breathed the breath of life into them once more. Relief soon overcame him when he saw Wendy cough out the deadly liquid, breathing entirely on her own. He whispered soothing words of comfort to her before turning toward a very pale Alasdair Vane.

"Send for Crane!" he demanded, feeling for a slight pulse in a weakened vein.

The Scottish lord only nodded, not noticing his captain rise and take the lifeless Wendy in those commanding arms, as he himself sought out the ever-irritable doctor.

With Wendy safely secured, Hook carried her across the deck, ignoring the awe-stricken stares of his crew. Their visages of astonishment no longer mattered, only the girl whom he held so preciously in his arms. He held her closely, protectively, until gently placing her upon his bed. He looked at her, unaware that his loyal boatswain had followed him.

"Will she be a'right, sir?" Smee asked worriedly, his spectacled eyes watching his master cover his pale mistress with a thick coverlet.

Hook nodded quietly. "She will not leave me this night. I have made certain of it," he replied enigmatically, placing a cold hand against her face.

"Aye, sir," Smee agreed weakly, despairing in Hook's own state; the man was soaked completely through, "she'll survive this. Ain't one of us aboard who could've done a better job than ye, Master James." He clapped his superior's shoulder in comfort. "'Tis good that ye 'ave that power of yers. She'd been lost ta us if ye didn't."

The captain stared lifelessly at Wendy, and remarked quietly, "You may go, Mr. Smee."

Smee sighed, ready to obey. But his worried expression lifted when he saw Joshua Crane enter, a medicine bag in hand.

"Pardon me, Mr. Smee," the young doctor calmly acknowledged, moving to Hook's side. "Is she breathing on her own?" he asked the indolent captain.

"Faintly," replied a toneless Hook, his hand still caressing her face. "But she will live," he intoned with secret meaning.

Crane cocked his head to the side, and a dark brow raised in question. "Of course," he allowed, his doctor's tone hollow and giving nothing away. He quickly opened the bag and withdrew several small instruments, placing them carefully in a row on the bed. He looked at the captain, and then to Smee. "I will need to examine her, alone."

"Smee, leave us; I shall remain here," Hook grated out, his civil tone a dire warning.

The doctor quietly flinched, but Smee intervened. "Come now, Master James," he cajoled, "I'd agree wit' ye wholeheartedly on anythin' ta contradict the good doctor 'ere. But in this, he is right. It's not fittin' fer ye ta be in 'ere. Ye know this."

The captain frowned disdainfully. "Nevertheless, I will stay," he returned gravely. "I will not abandon her, as others have."

Smee was unhindered by this cold affirmation, as he once again denied his captain. "The lass will be quite upset wit' ye if ye do. T'would hurt her if she knew. Do ye want ta do that ta the little miss? Think about what the mistress would say if she knew," he questioned, drawing onto an entirely different cord of persuasion. He moved forward, his grey eyes plaintive, beseeching. "It ain't proper an' ye know this. Miss Wendy would respect ye more if ye left now. An' ye want that. Ye want her love, don't ye, boy?"

A yielding sigh escaped the captain, and he weakly nodded. "Yes," he quietly whispered, and rose from his seat. He turned to the silent doctor, giving him a condescending glare. "You will do your job and nothing more. Am I understood?"

Crane suppressed a hidden smile. "Of course, sir. I shall inform you of her condition after my examination."

Hook only snorted in response, the self-assured Smee following deftly behind until the door to the cabin was closed. He dismissed the grinning bo'sun without a second thought, desiring a moment's peace. The ancient seaman left him then, saying nought as the grin remained, undisturbed by his master's present ire.

Mindlessly Hook ignored his subordinate, though strangely commended him in the same breathless thought, as no other could manage such a feat by ordering his captain about. It was simply not done, especially on a ship—a pirate ship, of all things. Even so, the captain in him found the crazed man's words ring eerily true. He did not wish to admit it, but he wanted to remain with Wendy, regardless of any lingering propriety that still existed on his ship.

He wanted to stay with her, no matter her state of undress. Indeed, he could well imagine the wealth of beauty the doctor was examining now. He inwardly cursed himself, promising the mousy naturalist a slow, painful, agonising death should his examination go beyond that of a physician's interest. No one touched his Wendy, not even he, as he had already learned that painful lesson…

But yet, she remained ever his, his thoughts argued, and would always be.

A look of relief overcame his furrowed brow, his alabaster countenance gleaming radiantly in the starlight. He shook his head, quietly admiring their beauty. He had made it through the tempest and came out the victor, with Wendy as the promised prize. He glanced once more towards his cabin door, his thoughts whispering comforting words into her mind, promising her the whole of the Neverland and so much more.

For now it was that Wendy was inexorably bound to him, their link unbreakable. He allowed a steady breath—filled with both fear and deep anticipation—to escape him, as he knew that she was far from recovery. But he willed her to live, giving her the breath of his own life. And she would live—through him—her fate now tied to his.

Thou art mine forever, ma belle, his thoughts gently whispered, as thou shalt forever be. He smiled then, a most terrible smile; for as he thought upon this irreversible deed, he watched the door, grimly awaiting the doctor's verdict on his Wendy's fate.

Author's Note: I find that I must first apologise in advance for taking so long; I fear have been much engaged in my studies of late. The past two terms have been a complete nightmare—especially now, since I am currently taking nineteen hours—the maximum for a senior. But regardless of the work and headache, my classes have a true pleasure indeed. 'Tis strange to even admit it, but I have learned much, and have thus enjoyed every moment. Also, too, sorry for any grammatical errors; after the third reading, I found that I simply wanted to post it. I may revise it later.

Anyway, I do hope everyone liked the chapter. I will even confess to it being one of my favourites, thus far. What with all of the drama, passion, and a near-suicide—how could I not have pleasure in writing it? Be rest assured, though, there is still more to come, as undoubtedly the captain has much to say when Wendy awakes. I shall give nothing away! (Grins.)

My thanks, once again, to everyone who is reading. Your comments and reviews are much appreciated! Thanks again!