(The details and circumstance of James Hook's death and involvement with the Boy are well documented elsewhere. This is the tale of a Storyteller and her Story.)
In the present, the workroom was silent except for the faint noise of the street outside and the tick tick click tack of his work. The sound of men's voices, the gentle laughter of women; these things filtered in through the storefront window and into the shop but they did not distract James Hook from his precise patient work.
Carefully he pressed down on the brass plate with the tip of his hook, holding the piece steady while he tightened the final screw. Once the back cover was firmly in place, he picked up the key and wound the device.
Tick tick tick tick.
The one handed clockmaker had originally been a novelty; but if he could play the piano and rip a man in twain he could certainly build a little watch.
Time spun irrevocably forward on the little brass gears, counting for him moments that, blissfully, would never pass again. James turned the clock over, saw his own smile reflected in the glass face. It would fetch a fine price.
The clock on the wall chimed politely, as if to remind him he was expected at home. His heart no longer beat faster at the sound, trying desperately to outrun and outrace every passing tick. Instead, James brought the newly finished clock out into the shop, set it on display, and dimmed the lights. The keys clinked as he locked the door behind him, stepping into the chill evening.
The sign above the shop was all crimson and gold and flourishes, reading: Productions of Time. James Hook MBHI.
He still would have his little jokes.
The streets of London were crowded and the air was crisp with the start of winter.
Wendy was telling stories. It was her fate and her salvation.
Just scribblings, she always laughed, but they would be published and produced under an appropriate stage name, of course, and really she had grown quite well-known in certain circles. Theater circles, yes, but then the world was changing, and a mark of respectability might be afforded a woman who knew how to transport you from land to land through nothing but her words.
A life of art and fame would have been impossible for a bank clerk's wife of course. She was thankful every day she had maintained her independence.
Black ink wet on cream paper, Wendy wrote. She did so hope to have the play finished tonight.
The lights she wrote by flickered, throwing spindled changing shadows on the wall, seemingly unmatched to any object in the room.
When he first returned permanently to England, James Hook discovered that he had indeed retained his family's wealth, as well as many precious items accrued as pirate—which earned a surprising amount if interest, to be told, compounded and glittering and waiting. The first few weeks were a flurry of nights and days and faux pas and money gathered and spent, with every other evening spent calling on Wendy Darling. To a great extent, this did ground him—in the best possible way.
It was when the flurry died down that was the hard part, when he was left finally alone in his great house, on the unforgiving unmoving floors of land and money and societal expectations and responsibility, that he began again to hear the tick-tick of the crocodile.
As for Wendy, the return to the quotidian was almost unbearable. She did miss her family, yes, and was so happy to have them restored to her. Once again she was able to tell stories to her brothers and nephews, and every other day have her spirits lifted by an educated, handsome gentleman whose mysterious nature and perfect steel eyes made her quite the envy of all of the young women who had previously dismissed her.
But Wendy could not hide in the nursery with her stories, and James out his element only drove home how she might have taken too much to a toxic Neverland, and might prefer that lurid dreamscape to the drab and dreary now. As often happens, she grew very dizzy during tea at a friend's house—the room was doused in an artificial floral scent, and the very room and company seemed chemical-leeched of all color or interest. And as Wendy tried suddenly to catch back up at the conversation, grasping at threads, she put her hand on her head briefly to her head and excused herself into the hallway to recuperate. The ticking of the clock pricked at her mind, and she wondered if she could stay here after all.
But the details of the pirate and the Storyteller's tumultuous courtship and struggle with the crocodiles in England, and most especially Wendy's return and imprisonment in the Neverland, are documented elsewhere.
For in the Neverland, earthly life ceases so that one cannot change or grow, while the passions and inclinations which animated it still persist without ever being released in action, therefore there results as it were a tremendous concentration. We behold an intensified image of the essence of their being.
That they struggled was certain, as hardship is corrosive is salutary and medicinal, melting apparent surfaces away, and displaying the infinite which is hid.
James and Wendy were married in October, in a riot of rusts and crimsons and storm hues: the lost man and the lost woman, the pirate and the storyteller. All of Wendy's family was there. It was Mr. Darling who cried the most, although he hid it very manfully. Some of the older boys especially could not shake the suspicion of their new brother-in-law, but decided in the face of Wendy's obvious happiness would swallow their objections.
Having survived many a battle with and against one another, often to the death, marriage was a happy relief for the couple.
Lord and Lady Stuart would prove mysterious to be sure, and would run in some disreputable circles on occasion. However, any objection would silenced by Hook's wealth and a certain air of enigmatic threat, and Wendy's charm, beauty, and ability to mercilessly skewer her critics in literary works as cruelly as any pirate.
Jane Stuart was born in the next few years, then Charles; new adventures both.
Now, James Hook—the only pirate Barbecue feared—quietly unlocked the door to his spacious house. While his employment was looked upon by many as a peccadillo or eccentricity, he saw it as a necessity to keep certain monsters at bay.
He walked upstairs to his wife's study, quietly, as Jane and her little brother Charles were surely asleep—their own little birds.
He found his wife, Wendy Moira Angela Darling Stuart, at work.
(Hook wanted to laugh sometimes—would he ever have imagined his life to be thus when he sailed away from it all those years ago? That the clever, fiery little girl that would bring his fall would grow up and become his wife? He wondered if she ever thought of the monster he once was.)
He watched the lamplight dance in her honey-brown hair and pale skin, pooling, the tidal pull of muscle and light, spooling unwound ribbons of story onto the page and into the world.
How is it, he thought, that she can unravel herself so, and bind me up—a danced tourniquet—until I can barely breathe. Binds, he knew, that kept me free.
He moves behind her to place his hand on her shoulder, and she turns around and smiles up at him, craning her neck for a kiss.
"Sit," she says. "It's almost ready." She was referring to the play.
James Hook, the dark man who had lived in her head and now held her heart, sat at her feet obediently. His hand he draped over her legs; his hook he rested on his knees, and he smiled up at his wife.
(It was at times like these Wendy wanted to laugh—would she ever, ever have believed her life would be such as it was, when she flew away all those years ago? That the man she first laid eyes on as a child, that she had scared her brothers with and who had so entranced her? She wondered if he ever thought of the child she once was.)
Wendy made sure the ink was dry on her newly finished page, than scooped up her papers to read.
She looked down at her husband.
How is it, she thought to herself, that those stormy eyes could still make her lost at sea—the sharp steel of hook and gaze and heart—an anchor weighing her down. That, she knew, kept her stable enough to fly.
And Wendy told Captain Hook a story.
The clocked ticked; neither paid heed, for Hook and his Wendy no longer feared time but savored it.
Not to give a speech, but this story has been very dear to me. I started it just as I was pitching down into kind of a horrible place; finishing it as the future couldn't be brighter.
I hope, I hope, I hope some of you enjoyed it even a fraction amount as I did writing it.
But the part in the middle. I've been having this wild plot idea lately. I realize I kind of wrote Wendy into adulthood with this story; I want to write her as an adult. I don't think she would be happy returning under the circumstances she does; I want her to be pulled back into the Neverland as a full-grown woman Storyteller, with all of her powers kind of untrammeled and suffocating, like what happened to Hook. I want them to go through things and learn to relate as adults, as opposed to the half-grown-up things they are in the source material and, I hope, in this story.
(The quote about Neverland, incidentally, is not mine but comes from an exegesis of Dante as quoted by William Vollmann is his treatise on Noh, which thus far I can only recommend with the usual reservations about Vollmann.)
(Speaking of, and this is huge, cinnamonblood got me started and some of the writing in the beginning as well as all of the research is directly attributable to her amazing self; go read her writings.)
(There's some Blake and stuff too, obviously.)
This is too long. I hope you liked the story.