Hook laid his head on his desk. He knew that he should move to his bed, but it was too big, too empty. It reminded him that he was alone and unloved. No woman would share his bed for as long as he was trapped in this ageless, eternal hell. He was surrounded by flying puling spawn, incompetent pirates, and natives. All of who seemed determined to make his life miserable. Was it too much to ask for a woman? His own woman? His own pirate queen with whom he could rule the seas? His heart ached for a moment. His missing right hand throbbed with ghost pain, which was echoed by the real pain around his wrist, although the muscat dulled the feeling somewhat. "Damn that flying bastard to Hell. Someday I shall kill him, and then I shall be free of him," he whispered. His eyes grew heavy. His breathing became deep and regular. The pain lingered in his sleeping sub-conscious, but mercifully, it was pushed to the background. The man slept on the hard desk.

Darkness surrounded him. He was on shore. He was in the dream. The same one he'd been having for months. As always, thankfully, it was a foreign territory, perhaps it was somewhere in the Americas or perhaps the Mediterranean. Behind him and around the cove, dark shapes rose up in the starlight. He did not know where and he did not care. The most important thing was that it was not Neverland. But against his desires, the pirate in him sniffed. There were the scents of sea, land, dry soil, dry heat, and - there - a hint of plants: olive, grapes, fennel, rosemary, and wild oregano. He looked at the stars. They were real stars, not Neverland stars. He searched his memory for stars of the real world. Crete. After months of ignorance, he'd finally cracked the mystery of the place.

Hook stood in his dressing gown and black breeches. His silk black shirt hung open at the neck and was pulled out of his waistband. His feet were bare. The pirate's hair was a riotous mass of glossy black curls. The man rubbed his hand over his goatee. His hook gleamed in the dim light. Aside from his hook, he was weaponless. He was physically safe here. There was no Pan, no hungry crocodile, none of his useless pirates. He breathed out slowly and relaxed. The waves rolled in smoothly and covered the shore for a moment before they rolled out again. It was high tide. The cove was comfortably warm, and there was a light breeze. But still he shivered, only, however, in anticipation. An errant curl tickled his cheek and he pushed it away with his hook and hissed in irritation. Something was different tonight. There was a current of energy in the air. The night practically hummed with it. He sniffed again.

She came. He heard her before he saw her, soft footsteps as she crossed the pebbles of the beach. He could hear the click of the rounded rocks, worn smooth by eons of water, as they softly rolled and moved under her feet. He hoped that she would come and here she was, his mermaid, not that she was anything like those treacherous fishy wenches in Neverland. In fact, she wasn't a mermaid at all, but she reminded him of storybook mermaids from his youth, beautiful, buxom, and meant to be covered in jewels and little else. The only woman who willingly shared his life, but, the irony, only here in his dreams. She always left too soon for his liking. The desire to pull her into his real life rolled over him like a storm wave at sea. It tossed his battered and embittered heart like a ship in a hurricane.

His forget-me-not blue eyes warily watched her dark shape as she approached. She, like him, was dressed for comfort in strange soft breeches, a camisole, and a cotton dressing gown. She always kept her dark hair up. His hand itched to take it down and run his fingers through it. He knew she came from another age, her clothing told him this, as did her wicked tongue. She challenged him. He enjoyed it. She was a mouthy little wench. He snorted and then gave a lopsided smirk. She did not fear him. He scowled as he realized she was the only one who had no fear of him. Suddenly, he was doused with a feeling of loneliness. He felt old and tired. He shook his mane to rid his head of the unwelcome thought.

She walked up to him, and looked up. Her brown eyes glinted in the moonlight. She smiled. Ye Gods, she was brazen. The light scent of her faded perfume wafted towards him on the breeze. For a moment, he resisted the urge to lean down to inhale her faded scent and pluck the hair ornament out of her hair. He was too much of a gentleman, but, wait, Hook was also a pirate. Eton and proper society were too long gone, he decided. He did not have to be a gentleman if he did not desire. It was time to move this relationship apace. The pirate smiled back.

Then, for the first time in all of the nights, he reached out and touched her face. Surprise flashed across her countenance, but then she smiled. The woman, his woman, closed her eyes as his left hand gently explored her cheek, closed eyes, lips, jawline, and then the curved shell of her ear. She moved closer towards him, and he felt her hand settle gently on his left hip in order to steady herself. The sounds of the ocean receded into the distant background. The pirate reached around and plucked the strange ornament out of her hair. He tossed it aside and it fell, unheeded, on to the pebbles. He slid his left hand into her hair to untangle the heavy mass of dark chestnut curls. He reached out with his hook and gently moved the heavy strands that fell onto her shoulder. The hair hissed along the blade, but not a single one was cut by the razor sharp edge. Oh yes, the hook could be gentle if required. He felt her other hand on his back, and she slid farther into his arms. Her right hand slid from his hip to the small of his back. She rested her cheek on his chest. Hook lifted the hair to his nose and inhaled. An almost cat-like purr emanated from him, as he took in her scent: soap, perfume, ocean, rosemary, and woman.

The man heard her inhale, startled, he realized that she was echoing him. She breathed in the welcome smell of rum, tobacco, sea, leather, and gunpowder. The woman sighed, and whispered, "My pirate." He felt her hands curl into his back through his clothes. He dropped her hair and splayed his hand against the back of her neck and upper shoulder. His hook gently made its way lower. He pulled her against him, and pressed his face into her hair. They stood. Each reveled in the feel of the other's solid weight against their body. The moon watched, a silent witness to this new turn of events.

After a long while, the woman shifted in his arms and started to slide away. Disquieted by this action, he scowled as she moved. Hook had been dismissed. No one dismissed him, not even- She grasped his hand. She laughed softly when she looked up at him and saw his outraged expression. The woman's hand felt cool and soft in his. It was small. Hook's was large, warm, and calloused. He looked down to see their hands together. It was a night of firsts. He looked back to her eyes. She solemnly watched him. Then the woman reached up with her free hand and gently touched his cheek. He rubbed his thumb across the back of her hand. The pirate refused to shut his eyes. He boldly stared back at her as her fingers delicately chased the chiseled features. When they danced across his lips, his eyes flared red for a moment, and then closed. He soaked in the first feminine touch on his lips in what seemed to be a hundred years. A small moan escaped him. Her fingers stopped. The pirate's eyes snapped open, and he glanced down to see if she would mock him. Her gaze was filled with admiration. Something wicked made him open his mouth. The minx responded by sliding her fingers slightly deeper. He bit gently and then released. She pulled them away and then pressed them to her lips. He adjusted her hand in his, but then realized her attention had wandered. She was exploring his hook. He hissed and tried to pull it away, suddenly embarrassed by his long-time companion. He wanted nothing more than to hide it behind his back, discard it, or grow a new hand. He wanted to be whole with her, but she wouldn't let go.

Hook heard a soft sound. Confused, his head went up, searching for the origin. Ready to pull her behind him, defend her from danger. Then he realized it was she. The woman repeated herself, whispering. "Stop. Don't pull away. It is a part of you." He grunted in response, a typical male non-committal noise. Age-old communication played out between a pirate king and his queen. Her finger traced the patterns on the wooden case. Then she ran her finger down the silver hook. A soft gasp, a welling of blood, as the tip of his hook caught the pad of her finger.

He tsked softly, and then growled gently, "Give it here." With the blunt edge of the hook, he guided her finger to his mouth where he kissed the blood away. She watched him throughout this encounter. She pulled her finger away and looked at it.

And then, saucily, glanced up and said, "I think you hurt me here." She pointed to her cheek.

"Beauty, I do not- " Suddenly, Hook caught on. A game. A courting game. It had been too long since he had played, but he was good at games. "Ah, yes, my mermaid, I see the wound. Allow me to make it better." He leaned down and kissed the imaginary cut. He straightened.

"And here." She whispered. She pointed to her temple.

"Of course, my lady." He kissed that spot as well. The pirate was starting to appreciate this game.

"And here." She sounded winded as if she'd run fast down the beach. She pointed to a spot on her neck. "This one hurts exceptionally bad."

He tensed, his heat skipped a beat, and then he said slowly, "Yes, my dear, that is a hideous wound. It might take a larger kiss."

The woman nodded. Her heart thumped largely and slowly. He carefully moved her hair away with his hook, and then nuzzled her neck. He heard her gasp and then purr. Hook inhaled her scent again, and then laved her neck. Her hand slowly moved up his left arm and then he felt her tangle it in his hair as she grasped the back of his neck. "Yesss, don't stop. I'm not sure it's better yet." It was all he could do to answer with a growl. He felt her lips touch his neck, and then he couldn't help it, Hook pulled her face towards his and he kissed her. He reveled in the action. She answered him. She pressed against him. His hand moved down her back, his hook pulled her closer. He felt her pull him towards her.

Hook broke the kiss, and a mew of disappointment bubbled up from her. He shushed her, and then scooped her up into his arms. He strode determinedly away from the pebbly beach, hoping for sand. The goddess Tyche smiled upon them, and he found a sandy spot away from the gaze of the moon. He laid the woman down and then flung himself onto the soft velvet sand next to her. She impatient pulled him towards her. Her leg slid around him and pulled him even closer. He felt her hands on the skin of his back. Her legs wrapped around him. He felt her lips against his neck. She nipped him. Impertinent chit, oh how he loved her for that. Loved? He frowned. He dismissed that thought with a care to remember to examine it later. He only had now with her before Aurora, rosy fingered dawn, came and chased his mermaid back to the shadows of dreams. This time she kissed him as he pushed up her camisole and slid his hand upwards towards her -

"Captain. Captain..."

Hook groaned. Confused, he felt hard wood and leather against his cheek. She'd left him. His mermaid abandoned him. Wait. No. She'd not left him. Not this time. Smee took him away from her. Smee, bloody Smee. He was back on his ship. For a moment, he heard her sad whisper in the air of his cabin: "My beloved pirate, no! Don't leave me!" He ached to feel her against him again. He could still smell her on him. He could feel the warmth of her skin on his fingertips and the softness of her lips.

He whispered to himself. "Oh, evil day, Hook is alone...again. Alone. Unloved. Old." He heard the ticking of the clock. His wrist ached and pained him. He felt the familiar rocking of his ship. The weight of his heart seemed to equal the weight of three anchors while dragged by the Leviathan to the bottom of Davy Jones' Locker. He raised his head and stared at his bosun. His eyes flashed red. Smee backed up a step. He scowled, and then growled low. "What. Is. It? Why did you wake me, Smee?"

"'Tis the men, sir "

"I was dreaming, Smee. I was far away from Neverland, Pan, and that wretched ticking beast. And you woke me for stinking, drunken, incompetent sea-dogs." He sneered the last two words. "Hellfire and damnation! Why do I pay you to assist me, if you must run to me to solve every problem? Is your head as empty as a dried out coconut?" He barked out angrily. He reached out, grabbed his hook, and then smashed the clock.

"Mermaid!" His heart screamed, "Where is my mermaid?" He dropped his hook on the desk. He stood, stared at the broken and useless clock for a moment, and then sighed. "Broken and useless like you," his inner voice whispered, "No wonder she is in another place. She probably has a man called Husband in her world. You are a diversion, a dream. Pan is right. You are alone, unloved, and old." Resigned, he turned and picked up the harness for his hook. "Come, Smee, let us start our day."

As he turned back, he caught sight of himself in the mirror. What was that on his neck? A bruise from sleeping on his desk? His punishment for sleeping alone? He looked more closely. No, brimstone and sulphur, it was a love bite. He raised his finger to it. It was sensitive when he touched it. His little mermaid was real. If she was real, then he could find her. He smiled. Suddenly the day was looking better. Perhaps he would not shoot Smee after all. He hummed a drinking song, and readied himself for the day.