The Adventures of the Boy David and Captain Cook: The Real Story (as narrated by Wendy C., 13-and-a-half)
★ Rating: PG-13
★ Word Count: 18,701
★ Chosen Film: Peter Pan
★ Beta: random00b + maerhys
★ Warnings: Nudity, violence, underage sexual situations (non-explicit), language.
★ Disclaimer: Not for profit transformative work of fiction. Assorted song lyrics copyright David Archuleta, David Cook, Bruce Springsteen, Adam Lambert. Peter Pan (1953 film) copyright Walt Disney Productions; Cook, Archuleta and various real Disney Channel-esque cameo characters belong to themselves. No libel, intellectual property or privacy breaches intended. Fair use asserted, and moral rights in the original characters and plot.
PART 1: In which Wendy and her brothers visit Neverland...
The story says: “This has all happened before, and will all happen again.”
The story said...
The story said that the Boy Pan would never age or grow up. Why would there ever be a need to, when there was music to be made and adventures to be had?
Those who'd seen him could attest to how he looked - lithe and boyish, clad in a tunic of green leaves and the juices that ran from the trees, with a shock of tousled, ink-dark hair - and how he sang at all hours of the day. He was a legend, a pocket force of nature, a cheerful whirlwind who couldn't keep still. His eyes were a stainless innocent's. His bright, happy thoughts defied gravity.
With his help, children of all ages discovered they could fly, and - holding his hand, following the incredible beauty of his voice - they took their first tentative steps into the star-filled sky, and found their way to fabled Neverland.
The only times he was ever said to take on an adult aspect, his unmarked brow creasing thoughtfully, something flashing from his dark eyes that was not entirely childlike, or in fact childlike at all, was when he spoke of his nemesis, the pirate captain of the Sea Witch whose crew marauded across Neverland's seaways and her shores: the brooding, magnetic Captain Cook.
You might be only 13, but you totally know things.
Like how to tell when someone’s messing with you online, or how to get around town by yourself, using the short-cuts that adults have forgotten, or when your mom is feeling a little sad and needs a hug.
There’re some things you’re too old for, and others you’re not old enough for. Juliet was only 13 when she met Romeo, but that was a couple hundred years ago when people needed to marry when they were teenagers; this doesn’t happen now in the 21st century.
One thing you’ll never be too old for is stories! Worlds you can disappear into - where you’re a princess from a far-off land, or a brave orphan trying to find her real family, or a clever child thief living off the streets of Cairo. When you were tiny Mom used to read you plays and Charles Dickens and Black Freighter pirate comics. And after you learned to read yourself and the boys came along, you’d read to them. You’d curl up with little Jamie in his bunk bed, Danny hanging upside down to listen, and you’d make worlds out of pages and ink for them.
At first you read them baby books, The Runaway Bunny and Papa Please Get the Moon for Me. When they got bigger, they asked for stories about detectives and adventure and you read them Boys' Own Adventures and Sinbad the Sailor.
(There’s this book called The Lost Boys which you started reading to them before you realized it was about vampires, so you ended up reading it by yourself. You find out it’s a movie tie-in with this blond actor called Kiefer Something, who’s actually not bad looking when he’s not in vamp-face? It’s a PG-13 movie and Mom won't let you rent it, you watched clips of it on Youtube instead.)
Okay, so maybe you don’t have many friends. Most of the kids at school think you’re weird because you prefer the library to the mall and want to hang out with your little brothers all the time.
Your dad shakes his head at you occasionally. Sometimes he says to Mom, when he thinks you aren’t listening: Wendy’s gotten too old to continue staying in the boys’ room; it's time for her to grow up and have a room of her own.
You know what? You could care less about growing up. Who wouldn’t want to stay a kid forever?
Then one night everything changes.
Mom and Dad go out a lot. Dad's a lawyer, Mom's a trust fund baby, they like to entertain and get dressed up and see their friends. You're supposed to be old enough that the boys don't need a babysitter anymore. They stick around long enough to make sure everyone eats their dinner and brush their teeth, then it's, "Bye, kids, be good and listen to Wendy, we'll be back real soon," and they even are sometimes.
This evening Danny's feeling a bit low - he's having a hard time in school this year, his homeroom teacher keeps picking on him - and you try to cheer him up.
What Danny and Jamie love most these days is to play pirates! They eagerly help you drape the sheets up over the top of the cupboards to make the mainsail and prop wooden toys along the sides of the floor like a ship's deck. You tie pirate kerchiefs around their heads, and soon everyone’s jumping from the bunk beds to your bed to the floor and back again, the boys waving their curved plastic swords and yelling “Ahoy, mateys!”
Nobody hears your parents coming in. Mom has to shout really loud before you disentangle yourselves from the sheets, straighten your costumes and scramble out into the open.
"Daniel! James! What's all this mess in here?"
Danny nudges Jamie meaningfully, and Jamie tries his most innocent smile.
"We're playing pirates, Mama! Look, this is my pirate sword!"
Sadly, the cute doesn't always work. Mom sighs. Diamonds flash when she puts her hand over her eyes.
Dad snaps, "Boys, I want this place cleaned up in five minutes and everybody in bed, no arguing!" He pauses to glare at you. "As for you, Wendy Claudia Darling, you're supposed to be looking after them, not joining in their silly games."
He looks at Mom, pointedly. "She's old enough to know better ... she needs to grow way up."
You help the boys take the sheet down, but you're so mad it takes a while.
It's late when you're finally done. The boys climb into bed with you. The window's open like it always is. The warm night wind from the park outside blows into the room and fills it with endless summer.
You could stay here forever, with your brothers and the stories they love. "Don't ever want to grow up," you mutter.
"Don't want you to," Jamie whispers, and puts his little arms around your neck.
You guys have lived in this house all your life. In the summer, you watch the shadows on the wall above you when you want to fall asleep, like you do now.
The branches from the trees in the garden sway in the wind, birds fly past, leaves whirl by, your brothers' heads bob and shift. It's nice, it's familiar, sometimes you pretend the shadows are ships sailing through the clouds high above your house.
But you've never seen the shadow that looks like this.
The shadow clearly belongs to a boy. Taller than your brothers but full of the same boy-energy, it stands with its hands on its hips, proud and happy, big enough to fill the whole wall.
"Wendy, look!" says Danny.
You all look, fascinated. Then you glance over at the open window, but weirdly there's nothing there to cast the shadow.
You get out of bed and approach the boy-shadow. It's slightly taller than you, the rumpled top of its head looks like it's wearing a cap. It makes you a quick, quirky bow, and you laugh disbelievingly. Something sticks out from its hips - like maybe a straight tail, or –?
"... It's a sword," says someone’s light, amused voice behind you, and you snatch back your curious hand and spin around.
Impossibly, there's a boy sitting on the windowsill of your second floor room. He's maybe a year older than you? He's dressed in green. He is wearing a cap perched on his dark curly head. Dangling from his hips is what looks like a real sword.
"Who are you?" Jamie asks for you, since you’ve somehow lost your voice.
"I'm David," the boy says, easily, "though I've many names. The Native Landers call me The Pan, or The Boy, which is kind of what The Pan means. And the Boy David is what the pirates call me, or most of the pirates, anyway."
Danny asks curiously, "What do the other pirates call you, then?"
The Boy shrugs. "Gentleman Neal Starkey calls me That Freaking Kid. Actually, he says an even worse word, but you guys don't wanna hear it. And the Captain actually doesn't call me anything."
"You got pirates where you come from?" Jamie asks. In the dark, his eyes shine, completely unafraid.
Actually, you're not afraid either. The Boy David's smile is happy and uncomplicated. As he perches on the sill, he hugs one leg unselfconsciously like Danny does sometimes, and even though you have no idea how he got up here, you're filled with curiosity and excitement.
"Totally, lots of pirates," the Boy tells Jamie. "You might think pirates are mean, but these guys aren't too bad. There's the Jolly Roger, the pirates there trade with the Native Landers sometimes, and with us. Llook, they sold me this spyglass!"
He unhooks a bronze-colored tube from his belt, and pulls it so it becomes a telescope. He jumps lightly into the room and hands it to Jamie, who says, "Wow!" and puts it to his eye.
Outlined in moonlight, the Boy David looks like he's the same age as Danny. "Then there's the other pirate ship, the Sea Witch. My Lost Kids think they sailed off for good last month, but I know they'll be back."
"Where do you come from, David?" Jamie asks, pointing the telescope at him. Danny manages to wrestle it away and takes a turn.
The Boy turns to point out of the window. "Over there, way beyond the clouds,
a place called Neverland."
"Where there are pirates?"
"Yep!" says the Boy. "And wild and talking animals, too. I'm the leader of the Lost Kids, we live in a hideout in a jungle near a beach, in the coolest place in the worlds."
"You guys don't go to school?" Danny's voice is envious. Jamie snatches the telescope back.
"Sure we do," the Boy says. "I teach the kids to hunt and fish and lay traps in the jungle and to make drums from coconut shells and animal skins. We learn which fruits are safe to eat, and how to travel through the trees, and when to talk to the mermaids and the Neverland Phoenix and all the creatures of the earth and air."
Danny wants to know, "But where are the teachers, the adults?"
The Boy shrugs. "Don't need them," he says. "In Neverland kids can do what they want. They don't want to grow up, and they never need to."
"Cool," says Danny, and it actually does sound way cool.
It also sounds like your voice is working again. "Why did you come here?" you ask him, as your brothers fight over the telescope.
"I came to get him," the Boy says and points to the wall beside the bed, where the shadow you'd seen earlier stretches against the white.
You realize that it's the Boy's shadow - it's a perfect match for him, the same height and slimness and the outline of that cap. But for some reason it's not behaving like a shadow should - it's capering and waving merrily, while the Boy is standing still, hands on his hips.
"Stop it, you're scaring her," the Boy says, and his shadow sketches a mocking bow towards you. "Seriously, it's so disobedient," he tells you. "It runs away all the time and I have to look everywhere for it. One time it climbed to the top of the Marble Mountains and I couldn't find it for weeks. Another time the mermaids nearly fed it to the Sea Dragon. And now it's come here, to America and to you."
He whistles, and the shadow bows again and leaps into the air, and finally attaches itself to his feet.
"And now I must be off!" he says. "Boys, if you don't mind –?" He holds out his hand for his telescope.
"David, don't go!" Jamie says, and the Boy laughs.
"I gotta get back to the other kids! But I'll come visit you some day, if you like. All you need to do is clap your hands and think of me – like this –"
The Boy claps his hands in a rapid pitter-patter, and there's a sudden breeze from the window –
– and there's a fairy in the room!
She looks like every fairy you've ever believed in. She's tiny and sparkly and has tiny sparkly wings that beat as quickly as your heart's beating right now. And she's making a tinkling sound.
"Hi, Demi!" The Boy says, cheerfully. "Demi, say hi to Jamie, and Dan, and Wendy D. Kids, this is Demi Tinkerbell, who looks after us all in Neverland."
"Wow oh wow, she's so so pretty!" Jamie says, and Demi swoops and loop-de-loops above his head and he whoops with delight.
"Oh, David! He's adorable, can we take him with us?" Even her voice is tiny and sparkly.
"Don't think we can," the Boy replies. "He's too little, his parents won't be happy."
"Oh, please, just for one night?" asks Demi, and "Please, please!" says Jamie, "I wanna see pirates and mermaids and the Big Dragon, and pirates!"
Danny says, "I want to see them too!"
The Boy looks at you. His eyes are bright green, like forever youth.
"Is that okay with you?" he asks. "We can all go, just for one night. You guys can come back any time you want, your parents won't even know you're gone."
You swallow. All fairy tales start like this, with an ordinary girl getting an offer to go somewhere extraordinary.
"No adults? Sounds like a plan," you tell him, and take his outstretched hand.
"We get there by flying," the Boy says, and you laugh disbelievingly. "No, seriously! All children are born knowing how to fly, and then we grow up and forget. But all you need is to remember, and believe, and think happy thoughts."
"And fairy dust," says Demi, and flutters in a circle around the three of you. You feel something shimmer down on your hair, sparkle along Danny's pajama pants.
Then Jamie is laughing, and rising impossibly into the air, opening his arms wide.
"Ice cream!" he shouts. "And balloons! And stories, lots of stories!"
"Cotton candy! Sparkly lights!" Demi says and catches his fingers. They spin in a slow, giggling circle up to the ceiling.
Then Danny is calling, "Wendy, Wendy, look at me!" And he’s flying too, his bedroom slippers pedalling in the air like he’s riding an imaginary flying bicycle.
The Boy David's still holding your hand. He takes a step upwards and then another, as if he's walking up an invisible staircase. "Sometimes it helps to sing," he says softly, and starts to hum.
His voice is crazy beautiful:
I'm not asking for an explanation,
All I know is that you take me away,
And you show me how to fly.
"I can't," you start to say, before you realize you can, you're doing it, you're airborne.
"Ohmigosh," you say. It comes out squeaky and you don't even care. You can feel your blood in your veins, your heart beating in your body. All you can think about is how this can't be happening. Kids aren't meant to fly.
And even then: your feet aren't touching the ground.
"Ready?" the Boy asks.
You nod. He grins, quick and happy, and before you can blink he's leading you out through the window and up into the night sky.
Maybe this is how being drunk is like. You wouldn't know, but it's like nothing you knew is even real any more. You're rushing in the dark, the lights of your city are spinning below you, your brothers are shrieking with glee somewhere above.
Beside you, the Boy David is holding your hand. His fingers are tingly, as if his touch is made of magic, and maybe it is. The wind combs through his hair, but his cap stays in place.
And he's singing, like his voice is magic, too.
The edges fade away 'Till there's no more shades of gray,
You only have to whisper anything at all.
You opened up my eyes, You turned my lows to highs,
And that's the only way that I know how to fall.
Not gonna analyze and try to fight it,
Don't even care if it makes no sense at all,
Cause with you I would fly...
Gradually, you realize the city lights aren't below you any more and you're flying over open, strange seas. Little lights swoop down to join you: one or two at first, then in threes and fours, and soon there are a cloud of sparkling fairies flying beside you, calling to Demi and to each other.
Jamie giggles and does a back-flip in the center of the fairies, and then floats down to hold your free hand.
Above you, the stars are singing along with the Boy:
Nothing brings me down when you're around
It's like zero gravity.
The world just disappears when you're here
It's zero gravity.
You lose track of time. Everything's warm and safe, like it was when you were small, and Mom would let you rock Jamie to sleep. You see the night start getting brighter, though, and eventually the song of the stars gets softer and more far away.
After a while there's a slice of pink on the horizon that gets pinker. Something that isn't water gets bigger and greener, and before you know it you're watching the sun rise over Neverland.
"It's so pretty," Jamie murmurs beside you, looking bright-eyed and rested like he hadn't stayed awake all night.
You dip lower, so you can see rolling green hills, mountains beyond them silver and gold, a sparkling stretch of beach around a quiet bay.
"Welcome," the Boy David says softly. It sounds like the land itself is singing a welcome to you guys too.
Your party swoops even lower, and you see a ship anchored in the waters of the bay.
It's flying a black flag with a white pattern, which looks like –
"– Pirates!" whoops Danny, and the fairies echo him: "Pirates, pirates hoy!"
"The Sea Witch," says Demi, warningly. "David, we should beware."
"No no no, I wanna see!" Jamie squeals.
The Boy says, steadily, "Okay, Jamie, you want to see the pirates, we're going in for a look. Steer true, and hold on tight to your happy thoughts."
Like balloons on a string, the five of you dip lower. You see the graceful sweep of the ship, the wind filling her sails, and below the black-and-white flag are three figures on deck. One's tall and blond, one dark-haired and all in black, and one is wearing a huge pirate hat that covers most of his face. All of them wear pirate scarves and long swords.
“Who's that, David?” Jamie asks, but it's Demi who answers.
“The fellow in the hat is the Captain of the Sea Witch, Captain Cook. His first mate Mr. Skib always wears black, and the Captain's swordsman is Gentleman Neal Starkey.”
"So the pirates aren't kids?" Danny asks curiously.
"Yeah, and that's why when we battle, the Lost Kids always win. Let's go lower," the Pan says, and as you guys swoop further down you hear the crashing noise of the waves, and men's voices raised above.
"... I still say we should try the hills above One Eye Deep, that's where they came from the last time."
"Nah, that's where they want us to think they are," the blond guy says. "We should look in the volcano for the kids’ hideout."
The Captain says nothing. Instead, he looks up as if on instinct, right where the five of you are flying past the ship.
"Ahoy, me hearties!" the fairies titter.
Mr. Skib says a bad word. The Captain holds onto his hat. You get a glimpse of a red beard, green eyes, and a metal hook where his right hand should be.
Gentleman Neal shouts, “The Captain will get you, if it’s the last thing he does!”
"He can try," the Boy says and touches his cap to them cheerfully.
As you speed off you hear something that sounds like a clock ticking. You look behind you, and you see shapes in the water beside the Sea Witch.
"Crocodiles," the Boy says. His teeth flash in a fierce grin. "Lots of them in the waters of Neverland."
You stare at the Sea Witch as it gets smaller in your field of vision. You can't be sure but you think you see flares - it sounds like the pirate ship is firing on the crocodiles.
"Are those guns?"
"Yup. Their gunner Anderson isn't bad, but he doesn't usually manage to hit anything."
"Crocodiles aren't scary!" Jamie announces. "I think tigers are way scarier."
The Boy shrugs. "The pirates are plenty scared of the crocodiles," he says. "It was a crocodile who bit off the Captain's hand, years ago, and swallowed his watch. You can still hear the tick, tock if you listen hard enough."
You think you can hear it, it's super creepy. Tick, tock.
"How come the pirates are after you guys?"
"We don't really know," says the Boy, too-casually. "Justin thinks the pirates want to round up all the Lost Kids and make us slaves to the adults who live in the Land beyond the Sea. But I think the Captain wants revenge because I remember him from before he lost his hand. That's why the Sea Witch doesn't leave Neverland, it's lying in wait for us. For me."
You're kind of taken aback by this, and not a little grossed out, to tell the truth. You wobble, and the Boy steadies you.
"Don't worry, that's the last we need to see of the pirates," he assures you. "Let's head to the hideout and you guys can meet the gang."
The Boy David's hideout isn't in the volcano or some hillside like the pirates have guessed. It's deep in the heart of the jungle in the middle of Neverland.
You guys have to hike there, and at first you think it'll be disgusting in your pajamas and bare feet. But the jungle floor is thick with grass and soft earth, and the trail’s easy, as if the trees are parting to let you guys through. Sunlight filters down through the leaves, and flocks of birds flit across the bright blue sky.
Jamie and Dan point to multi-colored reptiles that crisscross your path and the monkeys leaping from tree to tree. Suddenly you realize there's a small boy with them, swinging on a vine with a tiny purple monkey clinging to his neck.
"Hey, it's Diego! Hi, buddy!" David says, waving, and the kid waves back.
"Hey, David! Did you manage to find your shadow?"
"I did, the rascal! Who else is on patrol today?"
"All of the Small Time Rush," the kid says. "They're waiting for you to chow in the den." He squints down at them. "Hey, you didn't say you'd be bringing guests back!"
The Boy David says, "Can you tell Britts we're expecting three more to chow?"
"Sure," says Diego. "I'll put the word out," and off he swings into the canopy of trees.
"Come on, it's not far," the Boy David says to you all, and he pulls Jamie onto his back.
Up the next slope is a dense part of the jungle. Hanging from one of the trees is a ladder of vines. You follow Jamie and the Boy up the ladder, up and up, and then someone helps you scramble onto a wooden platform.
"Hi," a dark-eyed girl says. "I'm Miley. Welcome to the Lost Hideaway!"
It's a whole village high above the jungle floor, big huts and little ones and rope walkways strung from tree to tree. Miley leads you and Danny around a low net of vines which some kids are using as a trampoline to fling themselves squealing into the sky.
Demi hovers above your head and points toward a bigger structure in the distance. "Chow house!" she says, and the boys let out a whoop.
"Here come the Lost Kids," the Pan says, grinning, as kids come pouring out of the houses.
You can't remember them all. The tall blond girl is Mama Britney, the three boys with dark, curly hair are Kevin and Nick and Joe, the boy with blond bangs that he hides behind is Justin.
Chow is eggs and sausages and fruit you've only read about, red bananas and sweet mangoes and peaches you peel with little pearl-handled blades. Danny and Jamie eat more than they ever ate at home and there's nobody to tell you not to eat with your hands.
After breakfast, Nick asks, "You wanna come with us to see the magic waterfall? It's super cool!", and you spend the morning shrieking and chasing each other in the rainbow-colored waters of the fairies' falls.
Afterwards Miley brings you sandals and a tunic made of animal skins and stretchy cottony leggings like everyone else's wearing. They fit you all perfectly. She says the fairies taught the kids to sew stuff and that she can show you how. She also teaches you how to open a coconut, and you wonder what else you might learn if you stayed forever.
In the afternoon the Lost Kids go hunting. Danny and Jamie announce they're going with them. You're a bit nervous about this but you don't want to be a spoilsport, and the Boy assures you they'll be fine. "We'll bring fairy dust, so we can fly back if there's any trouble," he says. "Though you should come with us, Wendy, it'll be fun."
"She can come with me instead," Demi says. "I'm going to see the flower fairies, we're making a tapestry for Sir Cliff's ball."
Justin says he'll go too, and the three of you think happy thoughts out of the jungle and over the mountain range to the fields where the flower fairies live.
According to Justin, the fields are filled with flowers all year round. The fairies are as pretty as Demi, and they serve you tea that tastes like bubblegum and laughter. It looks like they're all hard at work on a huge loom under an oak tree.
You nudge Justin. "What’re they making?"
Justin says, "A History Map for Sir Cliff's Ball! They do it every year. When it's done, it shows a picture of Neverland's history."
You inspect the tapestry. It looks like the Boy David fighting the Pirate Captain in a swamp. "What's that picture from?"
"Looks like a scene from one of our campaigns last year, where David managed to steal the Pearl of the Orient from Captain Cook." Justin grins at the memory. "Now that was a cool raid! The Captain spent a lot of time looking for buried treasure in the Salamander Swamp. Man, was he bummed when we managed to snatch it from under his nose!"
You remember the Captain, and the question you asked the Boy. "Someone was saying how the pirates want to sell all the kids as slaves. That true?"
Justin grimaces. "That's what I heard Mr. Skib say once. They never managed it, though. One year they caught Kendall in the forest around the volcano? But we laid in wait for Peek when they dropped anchor and then we managed to trade him for Ken." He shivers a bit. "Slavers? Bleurgh. The worst kind of adults, man. Much worse than pirates."
You ask, curiously, "What happened with the crocodile and the pirates?"
"You mean about the Captain's hand? Dunno, it happened before I came to Neverland. You should maybe ask the fairies, they can remember from way back."
You look sidelong at his profile. "When did you come to Neverland, Justin?"
"Me? A couple years ago. Four or five, maybe?" Justin scratches the back of his neck, you get the sense he’s not real good with numbers. "We don't get older in Neverland, though. We stay kids for as long as we want. Cool, huh?"
It is cool, seductively cool. You have to ask, "How about your parents?"
"Mom's dead, and I never knew my dad," Justin says. "Got bounced around foster homes. I wasn’t ever really good at studying, and adults said I was too loud, I like to sing, you know? And I got sick of changing my last name. So finally I found my way to Neverland, and here I'll be Justin Bieber for as long as I darn well like and I’ll never go back."
There's nothing you can say about this. Compared to how special Neverland is, your own world's a pretty grim place.
Justin sings about how he'll never say never, he'll fight till forever, and you have to admit you really like his voice.
Dinner that night's a rabbit that Danny shot himself – "but not a talking rabbit," Jamie says, excitedly. The boys don't stop chattering about their hunting trip and how cool it is that they learned to shoot a bow and arrow.
And when they ask you, "Can we stay one more day, Wendy?" and the Boy David raises his eyebrows at you, you nod and say, "All right."
You sleep in a hut with your brothers, and nobody tells you you're too old for that. You all lie down on pillows soft as a cloud, with the sound of the jungle outside, and dream of fairies and flying, and talking animals which run free.
The next day it's Justin's turn on patrol. Nick and Joe announce at chow that they're going to see the Native Landers on the other side of the mountain to trade for new bows for the Lost Kids’ tribe. Danny's eyes get huge, and Jamie claps his hands together and jumps up and down.
"I wanna go, can I go?"
The Boy David says, "Gosh, kids, I actually need to go get something from the mer-folk of the Crystal Circle today."
"It's okay, boss, we can look out for Danny and Jamie." Nick looks at you, and amends this to, "And Wendy too, if she wants to come with us?"
"I want to see the mermaids," you say, because cool as hanging with your brothers and learning how shoot a bow and arrow sounds, it's probably not as awesome as visiting with the fairies was yesterday, and seeing the mermaids with the Boy David would be today. Besides, Ariel is your favorite Disney Princess.
The Boy David frowns, as if he's thinking twice about this plan, then says, "Okay, in Neverland you get to do what you want. But you need to be careful - mer-folk are tricksy."
"Hey, everyone in Neverland is tricksy. Fairies are totally tricksy," Demi says, winking at you, and the Lost Kids all laugh.
You gear up, with a pocketful of fairy dust each, and trek to the launch point which the Boy tells you is called Siren Rock: "...after all those travellers who don't manage to get away from them," he says, slyly.
"Yeah, I am kidding, mostly," the Boy agrees. "The mer-folk are tricksy but they're not mean. They, uh, they just don't get along with kids, exactly."
Say what? “Are they adults then, the mer-folk?"
"Mer-folk? Yes, kind of. I mean, they're old as old. I don't know if they were ever kids, I've never seen any mer-kids. And, well, mer-folk seem always very focused on adult things."
Not sure what he means by this, but it sounds interesting. He sprinkles a circle of fairy dust over you both. You let the anticipation of seeing actual mermaids give you wings.
The Boy David sings as you fly over the electric blue ocean:
Once I spent my time playing tough guy scenes
but I was living in a world of childish dreams
Someday these childish dreams must end
To become a man and grow up to dream again
You ask curiously, over the sound of the rushing waves, "How do the Lost Kids come to Neverland?"
The Boy David says, "Some of them find their way to us by themselves. Neverland's got different pathways in for kids who want to stay kids, maybe kids who've been badly treated by adults?" He tugs your hand a fraction, correcting your course. "Sometimes we find them when we visit your world, and invite them to come with us."
You remember Justin, and how your world treated him. With some difficulty, you ask him, "Don't they all stay?"
"Some do. Justin, I know he's a stayer. Some just visit for a couple of nights like you guys! And then there are those who stay for a while."
"Why do they decide to leave?" Because you can't imagine kids who have no mom or dad, or who've been mistreated by adults, would ever want to leave this paradise.
The Boy David says, a little awkwardly, "Well, here kids don't grow up, so after a while if a kid decides they've had enough of being a kid, like they want to do things in your world like write a book or be in a movie, or, you know, fall in love? Then they have to leave, and we wish them well."
You think about this. You guess it'd be difficult to write a book here in Neverland, and you realize that you might actually want to do that some day. (And, though you tell everyone you don't ever want to grow up, it might be cool to fall in love one day too.)
"You ever want to do things in our world?"
"I sang when I was there," the Boy David says, smiling, "but I can sing here, too, the way I want to and not the way other people want." He frowns, and maybe his happy thoughts waver a little, or maybe it's the choppiness of the waves, you can't be sure.
"You can fall in love here too!" someone shouts out, a high ringing voice that comes from nowhere.
"Didn't realize we'd get here this early," David murmurs, and calls back, "Chrisstina, can you please show yourself and greet our guest?"
"Gladly," the voice says. There's a turbulence in the waves, and something surfaces with a violent splash. A gorgeous girl flips up into the air for a split second, all seaweedy blonde hair and pale skin, before she splashes down again. You see the tippy-tip of her tail in the water. "Hello, New Girl," she says to you, and blows you a wet, rose-colored kiss.
"Wendy, this is Chrisstina," the Boy says. "With two ‘s’es, mind. Chrisstina’s the mer-maiden of this circle.”
You don't see the outcrop of rocks until you're already there, made of crystals that are almost transparent, that sparkle in the sun. The Boy draws you down, and you rest your legs on solid rock.
"Well, that's my title, but I'm no maiden," Chrisstina says. She rests her forearms on a nearby rock. You remember Ariel wore a purple bikini top, but clearly the Disney dress code was much more G-rated than the original, because this mermaid looks like she's totally naked under her long golden hair.
"She doesn't want to know, Lady," David says patiently. "Is Adamm around? He has something for me."
(You can hear the two 'm's. Maybe it's mermaid convention to spell their names funny, that's another thing that wasn't in The Little Mermaid.)
Chrisstina drawls, "Your problem, little David, is that you don't want to know, either. All you Lost Kids, playing at being better than adults, when all you are is afraid of grown-up things."
"Who says he’s afraid?” you blurt out, kind of shocking yourself. The Boy David looks at you like he's a little shocked too.
"Well, that's where you're wrong, little lady," Chrisstina says, grinning. It's ... not a nice grin. "He's afraid of love and making love, they all are. They all run away from it. But they don't need to run away from love, and neither do you."
David crosses his arms, rises in the air to make his point. "She's not running away, Chrisstina, I told you, she's just visiting. Please be nice."
"But she's so pretty, though!" Chrisstina pouts. "Isn't she, siblings?"
"She is," says several overlapping voices. Dark heads bob around the rocks; you see shining eyes and skin and flashing tails. Definitely not Disney territory, this.
A dark-haired mer-man says, "Sassy! We like sassy."
"Sexy, too," says a redheaded mermaid who doesn't remind you of Ariel at all.
Chrisstina flips herself out of the water and up on one of the rocks beside you. Idly, she sweeps her hair away from her bare breasts. "She's made for love, just like you, Boy David. Such a pity you won't love us! We want to love you."
You can't believe what she's saying, what they've all been saying. You can't look away from her. You feel hot everywhere.
"It's not about love," the Boy says. He actually sounds kind of flustered himself. "And you know that sort of talk totally won't work on me. Now, please, I'd like to see Adamm."
Chrisstina looks at him, sidelong and sly. "If you won't love us, Boy David, we know someone whom you might love if you let yourself. If you stopped making yourself blind and stupid." The mer-folk snicker, not-nicely. Then she looks beyond him. "And right on cue, here's Adamm with thing you guys made when you last came to visit."
"Adamm?" There's relief in the Pan’s voice, and he rises up into the air to see.
It only takes a second. "Haha, sucker!" shrieks Chrisstina, and a huge waterspout digs ten feet out of the ocean and smashes into the Boy like Neptune's fist.
“David, help!” you try to say, but your cries are lost as a second fountaining gush of water smashes over you and catapults you out into open sea!
There’s rushing water all around you and over your head and you can’t breathe. It’s like you’re in some spinning whirlpool, you don’t know which way is up. You flail out with your arms and your legs and try to remember how to swim up and out and how to fly –
– fairy dust, left-hand pocket, happy thoughts, fly up and away –
– and it works at first and you heave out of the ocean like a flopping fish, and then you splash down.
You swallow water. And, oh gosh, there are mer-people around you and they’re going to try to drag you under again, and you launch yourself back into the air, trying to look for the Pan.
You can't see him, the sun's gone behind the clouds, everything's gray and muggy, you can't even see the Crystal Circle anymore. In the distance there’s a dark shape of a ship and you frantically aim yourself in its direction.
No sooner do you do this than something comes whistling out of the air and something wet and stretchy envelopes you, catching you like a butterfly in a net.
You thump down onto something soft and sack-like, and everything goes dark and swimmy.
Finally your head clears, and you find yourself sprawled out on the deck of a ship. All you see in front of you is someone’s polished, pointy-toed boots.
Which you think you recognize.
A couple of pirates take the net away, pull you to your feet, and deposit you, shaking and dripping wet, in front of Captain Cook himself.
You weren’t really frightened before because you were too busy trying to keep from drowning, but you’re really frightened now. You don’t think you’ve ever been this frightened of someone, not since you were eight and you’d gotten lost at Six Flags and a creepy old guy came over and tried to talk to you.
But you’re not eight any more. And even though the Captain is taller and creepier than Six Flags Guy, you want to show him you’re not afraid of him.
Captain Cook takes off his hat with his hook-hand and bends close. His face fills up your vision, and you realize something: underneath his big red beard, he isn’t actually very old at all. He definitely has less wrinkles than Dad, less than Assistant Principal Wilkins. He could be the same age as Ben, the college student who temps at the library on weekends.
His eyes are green and full of time.
“Welcome to the Sea Witch, little lady,” he says. “What were you running away from, that you had to look to us for rescue?”
Your teeth are chattering, but you manage to answer. “Mermaids,” you say. “Tried to drown me.”
“Really?” The Captain raises an eyebrow. “I’m surprised they didn’t try to make you fall in love with them, that’s their usual opening gambit.”
“I think they tried to do that too,” you confess, before you realize that you’re not sure how much you should be telling the Pan’s arch enemy. Whom you didn’t expect to be this young. Or, actually, this non-evil.
“Well, out of the frying pan and into the fire,” the Captain says, and takes hold of your wrist with his big hand. He pulls you, not ungently, towards the ship’s rail, and you both peer over.
You can see the mer-folk have already swum towards the side of the ship. Bare skin, glistening scales, white teeth flashing in the dark water.
They call, teasingly, to the Captain.
“Oh, Captain, our Captain!”
“Captain Cook, Captain-with-the-hook, give us your hook.”
Someone swims alongside the ship. A flash of golden hair: it’s Chrisstina. “Our poor Captain,” she says archly. “So many years you’ve sailed these waters and you’ve never taken any of us to wife, your bed’s so sad, so empty, your nights so cold."
She makes a little moaning sound that sounds like cats fighting, or doing the other thing. "You only spar with children because you’ve nobody to put your hook into, nobody to rut with and empty yourself into until you can’t see straight. One day you’ll forget yourself and put it into that child, just like you want.”
You feel the Captain tense, and his grip tightens around you, making you gasp.
“Maybe I'll forget myself and gut you like a fish, ever think about that?”
She tosses her hair. “You’re all talk, Captain. And who knows, maybe I’d like you to tear me up with the hook on your hand, and the big hook between your legs.”
Lazily, effortlessly, Chrisstina flicks up onto her back. Her white breasts bob in the currents. She flips her shining tail at him, thrusts up into the air – below the dip of her navel, at the place where the flesh of her belly becomes red-blue scales, you see a wet, glistening hole that kind of pulses, pink and shiny like her rosebud mouth. It looks like – in a rush, you suddenly realize what it is.
Beside you, the Captain clears his throat. “Swim away, little fish. There’s nothing between my legs for you.”
She pouts. “You’re so unadventurous. Or, I know, maybe you might prefer my cousin instead.”
The water whirls around her, and a man's head surfaces. He does this amazing backward flip into the air like a dolphin, dives headfirst and holds his muscular rear tail up like a display. You can’t see if he has another hole, if it looks like Chrisstina’s, or if you even want to see –
“That’s enough,” the Captain roars. “Mr. Skib, Mr. Starkey, tell the men to ready arrows, I’ve a taste for mer-flesh tonight!”
“I know you don’t just want to fill your belly, my Captain,” whispers the mermaid. "You should give in to me, especially since the Boy's running with my brother the Siren."
The Captain lets loose another warning shout, and the mer-folk dive deep and vanish into the dark ocean.
You look up at the Captain. His face is like stone. Abruptly, you feel something hard against your waist. At first you think it’s the hilt of his sword and you squirm to get away from it before it bruises you, and then he curses and lets go of you and you can see his sword’s hanging on the other side. Oh crap, it's so not his sword.
Your legs turn to water. This is something you know about, too, though only from books and in kind of imprecise terms like manhood and ravishing. Suddenly the hook on his hand isn’t the scariest thing about his body.
The Captain takes a step toward you and you cringe. You can’t believe you felt his thing, oh my God. Was it directed at you, or Chrisstina, or her cousin –? And now it’s only you here, what’s he going to do with –?
You watch the Captain stop, watch his eyes change. On another man, you might have said they became kinder.
With effort, he says, “Don’t worry, little one. There’s nothing here for you, too. The story’s wrong about me.” Then he turns and walks away, and you slide against the ship’s rail with relief.
Somewhere under the sound of the sea, the surface of the sea, you hear a faint, ominous tick, tock.
You're still sitting on the floor against the rail, teeth chattering, wondering if it'd be supremely wussy to faint or throw up, when you see something green in the overcast sky. It's moving very fast, coming in over the port side of the ship and headed towards you.
"Sorry I'm late," the Boy David says, landing in front of you. He runs over, kneels beside you and puts his hand on your shoulder. "Are you okay?"
"Better late than never," drawls a voice from behind him.
David stands up slowly, his face becoming a mask, and turns around.
"Captain," he says, his voice very calm.
You clamber to your feet too. The Captain stands in the middle of the ship’s walkway, arms casually folded. He’s still hatless, and his red hair is blowing in the wind.
"Seems I picked up something that belongs to you," he says, pointing at you with his chin.
"Thanks," the Boy says, not sounding very grateful. “She belongs to herself, though.”
The Captain says, "You weren't looking after her very well, David. I'd turn in my hero card, if I were you. Those mermaids are dangerous, you know you can never really trust them."
Then his eyes do the changing thing again. "Speaking of which, I hear you've been spending some time with the Siren. Not sure that's in your interest, Sirens just want one thing."
"And so do you, Captain," says the Boy David. His back's to you so you can't see his face, but his voice sounds kind of choked and weird. "You've always wanted your revenge on me, for as long as we've known each other."
"No," the Captain says. "Not for so long. And I've never wanted revenge, not for my hand, or on you. Unlike the mer-folk, I'm not your enemy."
The Pan's hand goes to his hip where his sword hangs. "You're the enemy of Neverland. That makes you my enemy, Captain Cook."
Cook draws his own sword in one fluid move. He holds it like the steel's as much an extension of his human hand as the hook on his other.
"I might be the enemy of Neverland," he says, slowly, "but never yours, and I'm going to keep coming after you until you're ready to remember."
The Boy draws his sword too, the first time you've seen him do that. "You come after me or my people, and I'll be ready for you," he says quietly.
They stand there for a moment longer, swords almost touching, and then the Boy David shakes loose the fairy dust, grabs you around the waist, and jumps you both off the side of the Sea Witch.
As you take to the darkening skies you think you can hear the Captain say, "And I'll be waiting."