Return to Neverlandis
The Condor drifted along peacefully through the sky, not a cloud to be seen. It was one of those days when Piper wanted to sit out on the deck and enjoy the sun and the silence. Too bad there wasn't any silence.
Finn was playing guitar horribly in his room. Piper couldn't believe someone could be so tone deaf. She winced as an extra high-pitched shriek emitted from his room. Piper was on the bridge, staring out at the front window. For once, she had nothing to do. Her maps were all updated, she had done Skye Fu training in the morning and she was awaiting a part she had ordered for her latest crystal experiment.
The Condor was on auto-pilot so there was no one else on the bridge. Stork was working on his trance helmet, Finn was obviously playing (or torturing) the guitar, and Junko, Aerrow and Radarr were fixing the skimmers from a recent run-in with some talons.
So Piper was feeling extremely bored and lonely on the bridge. She considered asking the guys if they wanted to play Berry Blitz when the door to bridge slid upwards, revealing Piper's Sky Knight, Aerrow. The red-head was looking backwards, calling something over his shoulder as he entered the bridge. He turned his head and saw Piper standing at the window.
"Hey Piper," Aerrow said, walking up to her and leaning on the helm.
Piper turned away from the sky and answered, "Hey Aerr – ha ha!"
Piper burst into laughter as she noticed Aerrow's face. It was smeared with oil and under his nose was a motor oil moustache.
"What? What's the joke?" Aerrow said, confused.
"Your face!" Piper managed between giggles.
Aerrow cautiously touched his face and found oil on his fingers.
"This is the work of Radarr." Aerrow confirmed, glancing at his reflection in the window.
His striking, emerald eyes narrowed at a little, furry, blue creature scampering out of the room. Piper grinned and pulled out a cloth. She began wiping the oil off Aerrow's face. He watched her tangerine eyes, determined to get every last bit off. When she was done, Piper threw the cloth in the bin and turned to see Aerrow staring at her.
"So, where do you want to go navigator?" Aerrow asked, looking serene.
Piper paused. Whenever there were days like this, Aerrow always let his squadron choose where to go. He should be able to choose where to go for once, Piper reasoned.
"Why don't you choose Sky Knight?" Piper answered.
The question seemed to have taken Aerrow off guard as he took a while to answer.
"Well, I like to go where my squadron likes to go." Aerrow finally replied, rubbing the back of his head.
Piper frowned, dissatisfied with his reply.
"There must be some place you'd like to go." She said more softly, looking up at him.
Aerrow found it hard to look away from the intensity of her gaze.
"Well, I've always wanted to see Terra Neverlandis again after we left it to become Storm Hawks."
Piper nodded slowly, "Yeah, I wonder if it's still the same as how we left it."
She walked over to cabinet and pulled out a map. It was old, torn, detailed and it was the first map Piper ever made.
"Neverlandis is two hours away from here." She informed him, tracing a path on the map with her finger.
Aerrow pushed the intercom button and spoke, "Everyone, we're going to Terra Neverlandis. We're going home!"
Aerrow waited three seconds and as he expected, the rest of the Storm Hawks burst in. Finn was in first, headphones still on and grinning widely. Neither Piper nor Aerrow knew how Finn had heard the message over the racket of his own 'music'. Next Junko and Stork filed in curiously. Lastly, Radarr dashed in and hopped onto Aerrow's shoulder with a happy squawk.
"So we're actually visiting Neverlandis? Our home?" Finn asked.
Aerrow grinned at his enthusiasm, "Yep, we sure are Finn."
"Awesome!" Finn shouted jubilantly.
Then he gasped and his eyes widened comically.
"I might find Mr. Snuggles again!"
He froze, "I-I mean I might find some of my old stuff…yeah."
At this, Aerrow and Piper cracked up laughing and Radarr gave Finn an incredulous look.
Stork spoke up, "Um, are Junko and I missing something here?"
"Oh right Stork," Piper said, giggling whenever she caught Aerrow's eye, "Back when Aerrow, Finn, Radarr and I lived on Terra Neverlandis, Finn used to own a teddy bear called Mr. Snuggles. He used to kiss it and talk to it in his sleep."
"Hey! I thought you guys didn't know about Mr. Snuggles. I kept him a secret!" Finn cried, feeling shocked.
Piper and Radarr exchanged exasperated glances as Aerrow said, "Finn, you were never good at keeping secrets."
Finn pouted, mumbling to himself as Aerrow, Piper and Radarr kept snickering. Even Stork cracked a smile at his misfortune.
"So," Junko said, scratching his chin, "Mr. Snuggles was your teddy like Mr. Bitsy was my teddy?"
His eyes began to water as he remembered the untimely end of Mr. Bitsy.
Finn reached up and put an arm around Junko's neck, saying reassuringly, "Hey Junko, buddy. Don't worry, you've got the Finnster. If I find Mr. Snuggles, I'll give him to you to make up for Mr. Bitsy."
Piper snorted, "Sorry Junko, but Finn wouldn't last a week after giving Mr. Snuggles to you without taking it back."
Finn took a step towards her, "Is that a bet?"
Piper took a step towards him so they were practically nose to nose. "Yes it is. Loser has to clean the bathroom for a month."
Finn's eyes narrowed, "You're on!"
They glared at each other for a moment longer, fiery amber and ocean blue, until Aerrow pulled them apart.
"Come on guys. We're going home to Neverlandis."
"Sorry Aerrow," Piper apologized, straightening up.
"Sorry Aerrow," Finn said, mimicking Piper's tone.
Piper stuck her tongue out at him.
"Okay guys, get ready because we'll stay at Terra Neverlandis for about a week."
The Storm Hawks split up and shuffled off to do their own thing. Aerrow and Radarr began playing cards in which Aerrow was losing badly. Radarr laid down his fifth set of winning cards.
"Come on, how come you always get the best cards?" Aerrow asked as Radarr squawked proudly.
As they kept playing, Aerrow found his eyes wandering over to Piper telling Stork the directions to Neverlandis. He noticed how the sunlight glinted off the tips of her midnight blue hair and the way she always seemed to be smiling, even when she was talking.
There was an indignant chirp and Aerrow snapped his head around to see Radarr waiting expectantly. He quickly made his turn and they continued the game. Again his eyes wandered to Piper who was now writing something on her map.
He liked the sound of her voice as she called something to Stork. She looked up and caught Aerrow staring at her. She gave him a tentative but beautiful smile and Aerrow returned it goofily. Her eyes sparkled at him entrancingly. Aerrow suddenly felt as light as air. She started to giggle at something next to him.
Thwack! Radarr had gotten up onto the table and whacked Aerrow's face with his cards.
"Sorry buddy," Aerrow said weakly.
Radarr gave him a low growl, jumped off the table and stalked off looking severely pissed off. Radarr didn't want to play if Aerrow wasn't concentrating. Aerrow watched him go guiltily while packing up the cards. He got up and moved over to Piper who was erasing lines on her map. She had a frown on her face.
"What's wrong Pi?" Aerrow asked, looking over her shoulder at the map.
"This was the first map I ever made and it's full of mistakes. I can't believe that I put the date in the bottom left hand corner and that I wrote my name in all capitals. Amateur mistakes!"
Aerrow, who thought these were very minor errors and that nobody really cared where the date was on a map said, "Hey, don't be so hard on yourself. After all, that was your first map."
He flashed her his special, boyish grin and Piper couldn't help but smile back. It was infectious.
"Even if you're not the best map maker in Atmos, which you are, you'll still be the best map maker in the world to me." Aerrow added quietly, blushing slightly and looking at his feet.
"That's so sweet." Piper said, equally as quiet.
She touched his arm, gathered her pencils and map and went to her room, leaving nothing but her flowery scent. Aerrow blinked a couple of times and shook his head dazedly.
Speaking about emotions was one of Aerrow's few weaknesses, especially to Piper. He knew he didn't tell Piper how much she meant to him nearly enough. There were so many things he wanted to say, so many things he wanted to mention but he could never seem to get it out.
He felt that he should return all the courage and inspirations Piper gave to him but he just couldn't. It was just like when Piper almost left the Storm Hawks for good. (A.N. Episode Storm Warning) Aerrow knew that Piper understood that he wanted to thank her for being there and doing all the stuff she does to keep the team running.
But he also knew that she would have like a little praise for all she did. Aerrow sighed, running a hand through his tousled, red hair. Girls were so complicated. Aerrow would have to worry about that another time. They were going to Neverlandis now. A place of childhood memories. Now where was that old, photo album?
Rumble. Junko patted his stomach. He needed a snack.
"I'll make something tasty!" Junko said, walking merrily into the kitchen.
Finn was opening the jar of Piper's sandcakes.
"Oh man, Piper hasn't made a new batch of sandcakes" He complained, putting the lid back on and shoving the jar away.
"That's okay," Junko said cheerfully, "I'm making a snack."
Finn started backing away.
"What exactly are you making?" He said warily, eyeing Junko who was opening a cupboard.
"Toast," Junko said simply, turning around with a loaf of bread in his arms.
Finn relaxed and moved back towards the counter.
"Hey, can I have some too?"
"Sure, I'm making my special 'jelly' spread to go on the toast." Junko replied, popping two pieces of bread into the toaster.
Finn's grin dropped. Whatever Junko's 'jelly' spread was, it couldn't be good. He could do a runner and escape before it was too late but Finn didn't want to hurt Junko's feelings when he had already agreed to eat some.
So Finn watched, nauseated as Junko started chucking various ingredients into the blender. A carrot, a banana, a potato, some cheese, a squid, some hairy purple berries (gross), some things which Finn did not want to know, a fish, a lemon, whoa, was that a shoe? Junko clamped on the lid and turned the blender on.
At this point, Finn looked away, unable to bear seeing all those ingredients get mixed up together. Slowly, Finn peeked at Junko. He was pouring the concoction into a bowl. Finn looked into it and saw that it was a sickly, yellow-brownish colour.
Finn's stomach churned uneasily. Junko began spreading the mixture onto the newly toasted toast. Finn now knew why it was called the 'jelly' spread. As Junko spread the liquid/solid/gas onto the bread, it wobbled and jiggled like jelly. And faint yellow smoke rose from it. Finn felt like he was going to puke.
"Um Junko, you know, I'm not that hungry anymore." Finn said quickly, wrinkling his nose at the smell of rotten eggs.
Junko took a big bite out of his piece of toast happily and said, "You should try it Finn. It tastes great!"
He placed the other piece of toast into Finn's hands. Junko watched him eagerly as Finn took a small nibble. He retched. It tasted like…like…something indescribably gross!
"Mmm, tastes good dude. Um, I've got to…get ready for Neverlandis. See ya!" Finn told Junko and dashed out of there as fast as he could with the putrid toast.
"I will never look at toast the same way again." Finn croaked, dumping it in the nearest bin which was in Piper's room.
Finn clawed at his tongue, shuddering as he walked out.
Piper strode along the corridor with her Neverlandis map and a couple of pencils. She was still blushing slightly from what Aerrow had said earlier. It was so sweet. Her heart fluttered at the thought of his charming smile which turned her world upside down. Piper smiled dreamily as she walked into her room.
Something smelled off – like rotten eggs. She put her map and pencils on her table and sniffed the air. She followed the stench to the bucked next to her door which contained her icers. She crouched down next to it and peered inside.
A piece of toast was just discernible under a pile of yellow goop. Piper used her deductive skills to work it out. There was a type of food in the bucket. Really bad food. That could have only been made by Junko.
Then somebody who didn't like it, dumped it here. Well nobody really liked Junko's food except for himself. And then, the person was dense enough to assume that a bucket in her room full of crystals was a bin. That person could have only been…