Will and Waking
by Alexandra Page
Wendy doubted she would live much longer. Life aboard a ship was too strenuous for her, physically. There were simply not enough crewmembers for her to live with them and not put in her share of physical labor. There was little to eat and, unlike the others, she could not bring herself to consume more than half her calories from rum. Her attempts at this had, in fact, lead to many incidents of being violently ill over the side of the ship. The sun was blistering and her pale London skin squirmed uncomfortably against the hot, sandblasted winds of the days at sea.
The months of relative isolation were maddening too, even though she was doted upon, and traveling into port was starting to become too dangerous for someone who looked as delicate as she did, no matter how ruthlessly he and Smee had managed to dress her. She had, after all, been in the midst of being raised to be "a lady," and truthfully she was not faring well. Her nature was nurturing and diplomatic, not hard and unyielding like the captain's. Lessons upon lessons of beginners swordsmanship had prepared her little for defending herself against some of the men in port and, if she had ever been alone during these encounters, she would not even be standing here on the deck to ponder the event of her seemingly inevitable and impending death.
The only uncertainty now was at what point exactly she had stopped caring. She stood at the deck's rail and looked out at the moonrise on the horizon. She felt a pair of strong arms encircle her from behind and settled back against his chest, understanding the price of her love for him and feeling infinitely at peace with it.
"And what, pray tell, is the captain's lady doing out here on the deck at night when she should be comfortably back in bed?" His breath was warm at her ear in the cool night air. Wendy smiled.
"Wondering how I'm going to die," she answered in good humor. She felt his chest stiffen against her back and braced herself for his anger, immediately regretting her frankness. They had been over this before. The thought of her dying, even though to Wendy it seemed like one of the next logical events, infuriated him. This was not the first time she had expressed to him that she didn't expect to last long and it was not the first time he had reacted badly. It was a mystery to her. It was, she felt, unreasonable for him to expect her to be a hardy, seasoned pirate after only a year of sailing aboard the Jolly Roger. These things took time, surely, and she imagined that she was running out of chances to adapt successfully. She had been lucky too many times already.
"You spend an awful lot of time wondering about that," he said quietly, "for someone who says she is happy with me."
"Don't say that, James," she admonished him, turning around in his arms to look into his resigned face. She felt some of his long, soft, black curls with her long fingers and felt sorry for worrying him. "You know I want to be here with you."
"Why do you dwell on death, then?" he mumbled sadly, gazing down into her eyes and placing his hands gently on her shoulders. "You knew what it would be, to live here with me. The danger you face is not all that much greater than any of my other crewmembers. In fact, the clumsy way you brandish a sword makes you the most dangerous person on my ship, at the moment." He smiled as he said it, clearly pleased with himself – an innocent enough joke at her expense, but she still felt annoyed. She raised her eyebrows, daring him to continue. In true piratical fashion, he did.
"It is not time that is slipping away from you, Wendy," he said, stepping up to the railing beside her and looking out over the water. "It is your spirit - your very will to survive this life. Our life. Where has my fearless Red Handed Jill gone? She never would have admitted defeat so easily. Am I still only a story, to you? "
His words stung and she stepped away from him, clutching the railing in a bit of a panic she did not understand. They had spoken of this before, too (at length). For the first while that she was with him, she was a little in shock from her decision. Even though she was happy, she had walked around the ship for a long time in a sort of dream-like state. Such was her pleasant, tepid disconnect and willingness to go along with whatever Hook suggested, that he began to think she was not entirely "present" and that she did not really think any of what was happening was real – as if it was only a continuation of the stories she used to tell her brothers Michael and John about Peter Pan and Neverland. And he, Captain Hook, the ever-present villain with just enough charisma and promise of adventure to win her over from the silly boy. As if it would have taken much. She had already been ready to become a woman when she first came here, and Peter would be a child forever.
He loved her. He knew he did, the same way he knew that there would be a bottle of rum waiting on the top shelf of the bookcase in his cabin that he would sip at after Wendy had fallen asleep, or that the ocean would freeze over when the ridiculous boy flew off somewhere new and left Neverland for a while, or that no matter which other crewmembers might come and go over the years, Smee would always remain with him. He loved her. But did she love him? Would she survive their lifestyle? At this rate, the calculating killer in him doubted it. On the other hand, he had seen the strength of her spirit before, when she defended Pan. He remembered the fierce, protective fire in her eyes when he had threatened the boy. Between that and the many nights they had spent together since she came aboard the ship, he was painfully aware of what kind of passion she was capable of.
Why didn't she seem as resolute and determined, when it came to staying with him? How was he less worthy than Pan? He brushed aside the obvious answer: Pan was the hero and he was the villain. Even if that was a suspician he had once held, in terms of understanding Wendy's heart, he had long since pushed it aside. Neverland existed in shades of grey just like any other place did and he knew that she had already begun to see it, not so long ago. It was part of how she came to be here with him. So then why did she brood over these imaginings of her death? Why did she not seem, ultimately, to have any will to stay?
"I'm going back to bed," he said tiredly, turned dejectedly away and left. Wendy stood there by the railing, indecisive. She looked out at the dark water gliding along under the ship and considered for briefest of moments tossing herself into it. What did he want from her? She was doing the best she could! What had he sacrificed to be with her? Nothing! She had given up the entire city of London, a whole different life of possibilities and…and her family….
As soon as she thought of her brothers, she started to cry and it surprised her. She thought of how they would continue growing older while she stopped ageing. In Neverland, though people died, they never grew any older. Michael and John, though, would move on. Without her. They would leave their parent's home and go to work somewhere out in the world and meet lovely women who would have been Wendy's sisters and fall in love and marry and have beautiful children and raise them and…by this time, Wendy was openly sobbing. The weight of the decision she had made little more than a year ago hit her full force and it was more powerful than any swell or storm she and James had been through since she had made up her mind to stay here.
After a long yet thankfully undisturbed bout of sobbing, Wendy sniffled one last time and glared in the direction of Hook's cabin. To save her from too much pain to bear, her mind had tinted her grief with anger, the likes of which she had never known. It felt like having cold water splashed directly in her face – shocking and unpleasant but also refreshing. And powerful.She looked around to see if anyone had seen this change in her, not fully understanding the nature of the shift herself, hoping nobody would see it as an imminent threat and dispatch her while James slept peacefully in their cabin. She saw a sword lying carelessly on the deck's floor over by the stairs that lead up to the helm and picked it up, admiring its sleek silver form in the lamplight of the crow's nest. She might have gone temporarily mad with irrational anger, but Wendy knew she was finally awake, feelingherself snap abruptly into awareness. She stalked toward the cabin in the dark.
We might never know if she truly would have killed him. Although she felt she had just cause, certainly, her nature is not violent, which is part of why she is having trouble adjusting to the world of piracy – the real one, not the one from her young, romantic stories. It can glitter all it wants in the moonlight, and feel empowering, but a sword is still a sword. Wendy did not completely understand how to use it properly. What's more, she didn't want to understand.
When she opened the cabin door and saw him lying so pathetically still on the large, lonely expanse of his side of the bed, she lost all her resolve to murder him in his sleep. He looked just like one of her younger brothers, curled up fitfully in a mess of covers, his dark hair fallen across his handsome face. Her small store of maternal instinct kicked in. She rolled her eyes and smiled gently in the light of the candle ~ the candle he had left lit for her so she could find her way back to him in the dark. In retrospect, she mused as she silently laid the sword on his desk and began to undress, it had not been a well thought out plan anyway. Kill the captain of the ship in his sleep? Splendid. Then what would she have said to the crew in the morning? And she would have felt very sorry for Smee, who she understood had known James longest.
She slid into her side of the bed and pressed herself against his back, snaking an arm around his stomach and kissing the nape of his neck lightly. She had blown out the candle on the desk and there was moonlight streaming in through the curtains on the little round windows of the cabin. The curtains had been her idea (for privacy, she had told him, smiling coyly). Typically when she would make suggestions like this, he would raise an eyebrow and smirk and say nothing…and then provide her with whatever materials she needed, without fail.
Or, as was the case with the curtains, he would send her with Smee into one of the port towns so that she could shop for the supplies herself. He was, after all, a very busy man and could not be bothered with women's' work like this. The curtains were blue and sheer. She had mended many of his shirts and seen that he clearly favored the color. Did he know that most of his shirts were the same color as his eyes? Did he know that she loved that? When she finally had the curtains sewn (badly) and hung in place, he had taken one long, examining look at them, turned to her, smiled, and promptly ravaged her. She imagined he approved of them. Poorly sewn curtains! Of all the things to ravage a person over. As she pondered this she felt her cheeks flush and the entirety of her skin began to tingle and a weight somewhere inside her chest lifted.
Captain James Hook loved her! She had always known it, but it finally made sense to her now and so for the first time she truly believed that it was real. He loved her because she was his to love, and she was his to love because he loved her. It did not have to make sense to anybody else. She suddenly felt the warm power and weight of her distinctively female will as if it was one of the goose feather blankets that covered them in their bed.
"I know why you've been worried," she said quietly into the stillness of the cabin, "But it's alright now. I promise." Wendy sighed peacefully, snuggling against Hook's strong back. He had never gone to sleep and her honest reassurance was all he ever needed. He could also feel the change in her mood. Being unfamiliar with exactly what a pirate captain is supposed to do should he find himself in such a situation, he decided to capitalize on it. He ran his hand lightly over hers, picking it up and kissing it. He still felt annoyed, but at that moment, with her so warm against his back and her sighs so contented, he didn't care why she had decided to be demonstrative. He was just glad. He was only human. He heard her sleepily murmur "James?" and he smiled, loving the sound of his name coming from her lips.
"Yes, my dear?" he encouraged her, unable to stop himself from wondering hopefully just how demonstrative she was feeling.
"I'm awake," she said simply, and Hook felt an exhausted giggle against his back.
"Yes, I can see that" he said in what he imagined was a sensual voice, turning to face her in the near-dark, running a hand suggestively down her side. Then he stopped, his face a look of mock-dismay. She was asleep. He chuckled and closed his eyes, pulling her to his chest and joining her in dreams. He had missed the small smile on her lips as she said it, enjoying her own private joke before slipping under the comforting darkness to sleep.