The Secret Of Neverland

By Breech Loader

NOTE: Smee is a woman in this fic, but that's just to prove a point. It doesn't change anything. That's the point, really… Hooks, Smees, Pirates and Lost Boys all come and go.

All children, except one, grow up.

That's how it begins, and how it continues, although that's not quite how it ends. All this Smee would think as she leant on the bulwark, staring out across the sea and further, to where the three moons rose and the stars began, listening to the lullaby that echoed over the breeze.

Oh yes, this Smee was a woman. But that didn't really change anything, because she wasn't the first Smee, and she was unlikely to be the last. And Neverland would never run short on Pirates or Lost Boys either. Because some things change, and some do not.

It was called Neverland of course, because so many things never happen there. But however did pirates get there when they couldn't fly? That was so very easy. And if you could work out the secret, you could be just about anything you wanted in Neverland. If you couldn't work it out, you could still go there. You never grew older. But working it out was how Smee had become bo'sun. The Captain had been very impressed.

Working out Peter Pan was easy, maybe too easy. He was youth; he was joy. The very embodiment of childhood. All those happy thoughts that made your heart soar? Well, Pan had so many of them that he really could use them to fly. So full of games that he could play with his own shadow. So innocent that a kiss was a thimble and a thimble a kiss.

The Captain wasn't quite so easy to figure out, Smee contemplated as she ascended clumsily to the poop deck. You needed a sharp eye and a sharper mind to see it. But he was in truth everything children hated, resented and feared about their fathers.

"You can't outsmart me, boy!"

"Stop making that racket!"

"Grow up!"

Yes, those were the words that inspired a deep hatred in a child's heart, as biting as a crocodile, and as cold as a steel hook. Children loved their fathers, but deep down they also feared them, and Hook was all that fear rolled into one heartless, devious, cunning monstrosity.

Lost Boys were the little boys – and little girls too, because the world outside changes even if Neverland won't - who fell out of their prams when their nurses weren't looking, and were never found. With no father to teach respect and honesty; no mother to love them and kiss it all better. Abandoned and lost, they were the rebellion that lay in every young child who fought against their parents. Any child who didn't want to go to bed, didn't want to brush their teeth, didn't want to grow up… any of them could come to Neverland. Some of them remembered and went back, and some of them forgot, and stayed, and played forever.

As for Pirates? How could they play in Neverland if they couldn't fly? Easy. Pirates were the fathers – and now also the mothers – who abandoned parenthood because they couldn't stand the responsibility. Their sudden newfound freedom so often gave them wings – well, for long enough. But the trouble with that was that it was something of a one-way trip. You came, and then you played Pirates and Lost Boys. And you lost, because that made the children happy. Something of a Catch-22. All your happy thoughts – the ones that worked for grown-ups, anyway – were now in Neverland.

You never grew up. You never got older. You got to play with children, and make them happy, forever. You never had to take responsibility for them though, because they weren't your children. What kind of self-respecting, scurvy, swill-swabbing scoundrel would want to go back after that kind of fun? As long as a father or mother abandoned their child, there would be pirates.

No small wonder that the Lost Children of Neverland hated grown-ups.

"Avast belay, yo ho, heave to, A-pirating we go, And if we're parted by a shot, We're sure to meet below!" Smee sang loud, trying to drown out the sound of the lullabies that sometimes echoed over Neverland with the breeze. It didn't work. It never worked.

And of course, there was Smee. There was always a Smee, just like there was always a Hook and always a Pan. And to be Smee, you had to know the secret just as much as Hook, or Pan, or that little tinkling bug. No child feared Smee. If you could have a pet pirate, every Lost Boy in Neverland would have cried out for the bo'sun, but there was only one at a time, and she belonged, as all pirates do, to herself. Just the same, no child ever wanted to grow up to be like Smee. For she was the very embodiment of all things that embarrassed children. By Davey Jones' Locker, even Hook was embarrassed by Smee much of the time.

The mother who nagged and fussed and straightened your clothes, in front of all your tough friends. The father who came home late, tipsy and singing a rude song for all the neighbours to hear. The mother who told your aunts and uncles that you were just terrified of the dark. The father who joked that you used to wet your fundamentals regular-like.

The mother who chose the most uncool clothes for you to dress in for school. The father who couldn't even use the remote control, let alone play a video game.

All of that was Smee to a tee, man or woman, and though this particular Smee was a woman, she was instantly recognisable. She was short and plump, with ruddy cheeks, and a round, genial face, topped by brown hair that had a few grey streaks showing. Round glasses that even now she was taking off and polishing thoughtfully otherwise rested on her nose. Johnny Corkscrew danced on one hip, and an 18th century pistol hung on the other, both most likely inherited from the previous Smee.

Additionally she was a pirate, so she wore the filthy duster, tricorne hat and heavy boots with pride. These all but obscured the far grubbier remains of what had once been quite fashionable clothing from the 1960s. Not that this was important; Smee rarely gave the dirty and worn shirt-waist dress and capri slacks a second thought.

You hold them and hug them, kiss them and coddle them, and before you know it, they just push you away, Smee thought resentfully, her dirty nails digging into the bulwark and leaving a mark almost as deep as Hook's hook might make.

Sometimes, just sometimes, Smee wished that she might fly. Where to? It wasn't important, because she'd be flying. But that desire was rare. Neverland gave you different things to think about, and games that could be played forever.

But then Neverland's very different responsibilities would chase those thoughts away, for there was a crew to manage, and Lost Boys to fight, and Indians to battle. All such wonderful fun, a life free of responsibility.

The young voice rang out, soft and sweet, and made even pirates wish for mothers. Without even noticing, Smee reached into a pocket and pulled out a brightly coloured wallet, opening it. Inside was a few grubby pound notes, an ID card with a scratched-out name on it, and the faded, blurred photograph of a strange man, a woman and a teenage boy all standing together, the woman with one hand on her stomach and a forced smile upon her round face. Smee looked at the photograph, somewhat confused and yet warmed to her piratical soul.

And for a fraction of a heartbeat, a moment as long as a shadow's width, as the lullabies rang out across the sea and sand, Smee thought that some of them sounded familiar, and possibly, maybe, perhaps, in some long-forgotten past that she might too have sung lullabies.

But there was so much work to be done, the ship to inspect, the crew to scrutinise, hooks to sharpen, plans to construct, and a Captain to supervise and make sure he didn't do anything silly, that it didn't happen very often. And on the rare occasions that it did, Smee was always called back to her duties before she even had a chance to let the memories settle...

"SMEE!" Captain Hook hollered across the ship's deck, breaking her concentration.

She stopped listening to the song and headed straight for the captain's cabin.

So as quickly as they came, the hard work chased those vague recollections away easily, and Smee was the ship's bo'sun, same as she had always been.

After all, Neverland makes even Pirates forget.

Breech: End fic. I hope you can forgive Smee being female, but it worked out pretty well, all in all.