I’m afraid I didn’t have time this week to write a new short story for the blog, but here’s one that will be going in the upcoming short story collection I’m publishing (hopefully on the 20th). Enjoy. :)
Nya strode to the railing of the upper deck, her booted footsteps pounding on the wood. Waves lapped against the hull and a night breeze ruffled the feather in her hat. All eyes below turned to her. For a long moment there was silence.
“I have found a map to Peter Pan’s hideout,” she announced.
A great cheer went up from the crew. It was followed by questions like “where is it?” and “how far is it?” and “let’s take it!”
“All of your questions will be answered as we get there. Put on your hats and gloves. We raid Pan’s hideout tonight!”
As the cheering started anew she turned on her heel and headed for her cabin. Passing the navigator, she leaned into to tell him where to go before continuing. The door closed behind her and she was alone.
The crew was muttering as they let down anchor near Mermaid Lagoon.
“Is she trying to kill us?”
Nya ignored them as the rowboat splashed into the water. She was the first one aboard, followed by her three most faithful crew members, Tyre Smee, Fleet Hawk, and Serene.
The oars cut smoothly through the still water, a sound Nya was well familiar with. All was quiet; gentle waves, a midnight breeze, the shifting of sails growing fainter in the distance.
They eased into the lagoon and Tyre looked a bit hesitantly into the water.
“Something wrong, Mr. Smee?” Nya asked.
Tyre shook his head, his blue eyes a bit wide. “Of course not, Captain. I’m just not sure how the mermaids’ll feel about us rowing straight into their lagoon…”
“Mr. Smee, we have our own mermaid, remember?” Nya gestured to Serene, the half-mermaid member of their crew.
“Of course, Captain. How could I forget?” He gave a bit of a nervous smile.
Mermaids began circling the boat and Serene hissed at them. They hissed back and there was a short conversation no one else could understand before the lagoon mermaids backed down.
“Thank you, Serene,” Nya said.
Serene just nodded.
They reached shore safely and disembarked, a couple more rowboats close behind.
“Where are we going?” one pirate asked.
“Peter Pan’s hideout, of course,” Nya said. “This way.” She moved into the jungle, followed by her crew.
She navigated the jungle like she’d known it her whole live, trusting the map in her head. She’d memorized it almost as soon as she found it. Her photographic memory still amazed even Tyre, though she’d had it since birth and used it as long as she could remember.
Finally she stopped before a giant oak tree and looked around for the vine that had been notated on the map. She spotted it, the only leafless vine dangling from the tree, and pulled it. A door in the tree swung open and she smiled. “Here we go, boys.”
She plunged into the darkness and Tyre barely managed to slip in before the door thudded closed behind them.
For quite a few feet they walked in complete darkness before finally arriving at a lit portion of tunnel at the head of a staircase. Nya started down without hesitation and descended the curling steps for what seemed like forever, trying to keep her footsteps quiet, before stepping into a well-lit cavern-like room, where about a dozen boys slept on cots around the edges. She tried to identify Peter Pan, but few of them didn’t fit the description she’d heard. There were chests at the end of each cot, and doors on two sides of the room.
Tyre’s eyes were flitting from one boy to the next, worry evident in his eyes.
“They’re not going to wake up,” Nya whispered. “We won’t wake them.” A dozen pairs of footsteps pounded on the stairs behind them and Nya closed her eyes. “Idiots.”
It didn’t take much longer before every pair of eyes in the room was open and the Lost Boys had bolted from their beds.
Nya turned back toward her crew. “Imbeciles!” she hissed. “Did no one ever teach you about stealth?”
“The captain’s a girl!” one of the Lost Boys said.
Nya turned around. “Yes I am. Do you have a problem with that?”
“I’ve just never seen a young captain, much less a girl!”
Ah, yes. There’d only ever been two pirate captains other than Nya: her father and grandfather. Both had been old men.
The door at the back of the room flew open and out came a Lost Boy who could only be Peter Pan. He wore green pants with ragged edges, a red pirate jacket that must have come from Captain Hook, a matching hat with an absurdly floppy feather, and no shirt.
“Invaders!” he yelled. As the Lost Boys yelled and charged, his green eyes landed on Nya. “Capture the Wendy alive.”
“If you want me,” Nya countered, “Get me yourself.” Killing Peter Pan. Now wouldn’t that be an accomplishment?
Pan smirked and shoved off the ground, flying toward her. Nya stifled a smile as she drew her sword. She’d often heard that people could fly, but she’d never actually seen it before. Pan and the Lost Boys had vanished after Hook was swallowed by a crocodile and Wendy left.
She spun away as he neared her, but he caught the hem of her black coat and pulled her toward him. She shed the coat and wheeled on him with a grin. “Nice try, Pan.” She darted toward him, jabbing with her sword, but he flew back away from her.
“Too bad you can’t fly, Wendy.” He grinned.
Around them, the Lost Boys were pressing the pirates back toward the staircase. “My name is Nya.”
“Captain!” Nya spared Tyre a glance to see his eyes wide with fear.
“Retreat!” she ordered. The crew turned and ran up the staircase, resulting in a cheer from the Lost Boys.
While Nya was occupied, Pan grabbed a rope from one of the Lost Boys and wrapped it around her. She dropped her sword as the rope squeezed into her arms.
“Let me go!”
“Come on, Wendy.” Pan took her toward the back room. She struggled against the rope and a couple of Lost Boys moved to assist Pan.
One of the two Lost Boys closed the door as they got Nya through and Pan released the rope, flying to perch on the end of a four-poster bed. Across from the bed was a desk, atop which a fairy stood trapped in a lantern, banging indignantly on the glass. The blonde hair and attitude gave her away immediately. Tinkerbell.
“You locked up your fairy,” Nya said as the second Lost Boy released her from the rope and coiled it up.
“She gets rather arrogant sometimes. She’s served her sentence this time.” Pan shooed toward Tink with his hand and the second Lost Boy – a redhead – released her from her prison.
The fairy immediately darted for Pan and flew around his face. Pan just sat looking at the wall across from him as if this happened every day. Knowing Tinkerbell’s reputation, it probably did.
Finally Tinkerbell stopped and Pan looked at the fairy. “Finished? Good. I want you to meet the new Wendy.”
Tinkerbell crossed her arms and stuck out her tiny tongue at Nya.
“Don’t worry,” Nya said, crossing her own arms, “I have no interest in Peter Pan.”
With some effort, Nya ignored him. “How long will I be kept here?”
“As long as Peter likes,” the redhead replied.
Pan hopped off the bed onto the floor. “Wendy, meet Tayn and Fred.” Fred was the redhead and Tayn had pitch black hair and blue eyes.
“My name,” Nya repeated through gritted teeth, “Is Nya. Wendy is gone.”
Pan’s eyes widened only a moment before he smirked. “Well, a Peter always needs a Wendy.”
“Then go find one.”
Pan laughed. “I like you. You’re clever.”
“Oh the cleverness of me.”
“You know your stories well.”
“Would you tell us stories?” Fred asked.
“No. I’m a pirate captain, not some silly storytelling Wendy.” Nya liked stories quite a lot, but she wouldn’t be caught dead entertaining Pan’s band of Lost Boys.
“No. Find yourself a Wendy.”
“Wendy’s gone,” Tayn said, his voice a bit sorrowful.
“Then you’ll just have to do without.” She contemplated a way to get past Tayn, who stood in front of the door, and came up with nothing. The Lost Boys were surprisingly good with swords, so it wouldn’t be easy to get hers back from him, and all the other Lost Boys were probably thronged on the other side of the door to see Pan’s ‘Wendy’ when she came out.
“Why so contrary, Wendy?” Pan asked.
“Because I’m Captain Hook’s granddaughter and I won’t be Peter Pan’s Wendy. Not to mention that I will never change my name, least of all to ‘Wendy.'”
“Not even your last name?”
“I’ll never be attached enough to someone to take their name.”
Pan smirked. “That’s what we all say.”
“Marriage is a part of growing up. If you never grow up…”
Pan turned to Fred. “Tell the Boys to go back to bed. You too. Tayn, stay here.”
Both Lost Boys nodded and as the door opened for Fred, Nya lunged for it. Pan caught her around the waist, his hands abnormally warm. “Where are you off to?”
“Nowhere, apparently. Please let me go.”
“Ooh, polite this time.” He let go and perched on the end of the bed again.
Nya turned to face him with a glare, trying to ignore the fact that he was just as physically attractive as the rumors said.
Tinkerbell perched on Pan’s shoulder, her arms crossed and her face screwed into a very unattractive expression.
“What are you glaring at me for?” Nya asked. “It’s Pan who grabbed me, not the other way around.”
“Don’t take it too personally,” Pan said as Tink stuck out her tongue. “She does this to every Wendy. Maybe I shouldn’t have let her out of the lantern after all.” He looked toward the fairy, who huffed and started screaming at him. He rolled his eyes and picked her up by the tiny waist, shutting her back into the lantern. “Quite the jealous little thing, isn’t she?”
“Really?” Pan wiggled an eyebrow.
“Yes.” A slight blush came to Nya’s cheeks and she mentally scolded herself. “As I’ve said, I have no interest in Peter Pan.”
“Then what brings you here?”
“The lure of the title ‘Pan-Killer.’ I’ve been waiting years for a chance to kill you.”
“So you have some interest in me after all.” He grinned.
“Not of the romantic variety.”
“Not yet.” Pan turned to Tayn. “Please have George prepare some food.”
Tayn headed out to fulfill Pan’s instructions. Despite herself, Nya felt her stomach flip at being alone with the elfin boy. She wished Tinkerbell were out of her cage to intervene should Pan decide to do something forward.
“I’m not hungry,” Nya said. “I ate just before we anchored.”
Pan cocked his head at her. “What do you have against me, Wendy?”
Nya stifled a growl at his insistence on calling her Wendy. “You’re a troublemaker, an impish character, and you’re responsible for my grandfather’s death.”
“I believe it was a crocodile who ate him, actually. I’m many things, but a cannibal is not one of them.” His eyes twinkled.
“But it was you who led him to his death.” She was glad for the argument. Like this she could almost ignore his sparkling green eyes and smooth, tantalizing voice. It was his wit and flirtatious manner that drew her in, though, and that was harder to ignore.
“Touché. But he’d captured Wendy and the Lost Boys and I knew he’d do it again unless he was gotten rid of for good.”
“He captured them for trespassing and trouble-making. You should’ve been roped up, too.”
“Is that what they told you?” He raised an arched eyebrow. “You’re quite mistaken, Wendy.” She glared, but his eyes just twinkled as he went on. “Hook invaded this hideout and kidnapped my friends. I was lucky enough to be elsewhere rescuing Tink at the time and was able to save them. Hook struck the first blow. Not that I expect a pirate to believe the truth…”
Nya strode across the room and slapped him, leaving an angry red mark on his cheek. He looked shocked for a moment before his expression morphed into a grin. “Feisty.”
“I’m a pirate.” His eyes latched onto hers and she swallowed hard, suddenly aware as the adrenaline faded how close she stood to him. “Tink’s feisty, too.” She faltered. “And she’s dying for your affections.” She looked over her shoulder toward the fairy and Pan took her chin gently in hand, turning her face back to him. He had an almost awe-filled expression on his face.
“She’s a fairy,” he said. “You’re a Wendy.”
The spell broke and Nya stepped away. “I’m not Wendy.” Pan would never let go of his first love. “I’m Nya.”
Pan’s eyes drifted to the wall just as someone knocked on the door. Pan’s jump from the bed was more nimble than one from a bed to the floor probably ought to be, and he was opening the door two steps later.
Tayn stepped inside with a tray in his hands laden with three plates. “I hope you don’t mind I got myself something.”
“No,” Pan said. “Not at all.”
They ate in tense silence and finally Pan excused Tayn and Nya. “Tayn, would you please show Nya to the spare room? Make sure she has two or four guards outside her door.”
Tayn nodded and Nya followed the Lost Boy out into the common room and through the door that was to the right. The spare room was rather cozy, with a bed along the left wall and a dresser on the right of the back wall. Over the dresser was a skylight now letting in minimal moonlight.
“Goodnight, Wendy,” Tayn said, leaving her in the room. In moments she heard footsteps approaching the door – guards – and she wondered how they’d been ready so quickly.
She looked up the skylight, but it was a long way up the chute with sheer-worn wood sides. Even she couldn’t get up that. So she resigned herself to her fate – for now – and lay down on the bed, promptly falling asleep.
When Nya woke in the morning it took her a moment to get her bearings. Right. She’d been captured by Pan. That was not the way that plan was supposed to go.
She headed into the common room and was met with the chaos of a dozen boys running around. They all froze when she saw her before rushing to stand by their beds.
Nya arched an eyebrow. “What are you up to?”
None of the boys spoke, but Pan came out a moment later – the lack of commotion likely his cue – and gave Nya a crooked grin.
“Good morning, Wendy,” he said. He wore an open brown vest today instead of Hook’s coat and had left out the ridiculous hat.
“Nya,” she muttered.
Tinkerbell flew out with an angry jingle, no doubt irritated at being left behind, and Pan put a finger up. “Ah, ah, ah. Quiet, Tink. We don’t want to upset the Wendy.”
Tink gave another jingle that Nya interpreted as, “We very much do want to upset the Wendy,” but with another reproving glance from Pan she stopped and limited herself – reluctantly – to perching on his shoulder with her arms and legs crossed.
“Petulant thing,” Pan remarked before turning his attention to Nya. “Now Wendy-”
“Nya,” she corrected.
He gave a teasing smirk and continued. “I have a day planned for you and me.”
“It begins with a nice breakfast at the waterfall.”
He took her to a waterfall she recognized from the map and took a seat near the edge of the pool that the fall poured into. The sound of pounding water rushed in her ears and the spray quickly dampened her. Pan grabbed a basket from behind a nearby bush and set it between them, pulling out several pieces of fruit and a couple of rolls.
Now when did he have time to set that up?
“Take whatever you’d like,” he said above the water’s din, grabbing an apple and biting into it.
She hesitated before taking one of the rolls, eating it quickly before it got too terribly damp in the waterfall’s spray.
“You should try growing out your hair,” Pan remarked, studying her. “It would look nice with that pirate hat of yours.”
Where was her hat? She seemed to remember seeing it on the floor of the spare room. It must have fallen off while she slept.”I like it short.”
Pan shrugged. “Just a suggestion.” He took another bite of apple.
Nya ate the roll and a mango before declaring herself done with breakfast. Pan packed up the remaining food and headed off to put the basket away. Nya turned her attention back to the waterfall and the rainbows drawn in the mist. She admired it for several minutes before realizing Pan hadn’t made any snarky comments. She looked toward the bush and found him absent. A quick scan of the area didn’t reveal anything.
She turned toward the sound and saw Pan grinning behind the bush. He beckoned to her. “Come here. I want to show you something.”
She arched an eyebrow, suspicious, but followed him anyway, pressing through the bush. Beyond the bush the trees were tightly packed and even Nya, being fairly small, wouldn’t have been able to squeeze through the gaps between them.
Pan scrambled up the nearest tree trunk and hung upside down from a branch. “Coming?”
Nya followed him up, much slower – she was a ship’s captain, after all, not a huntress – and he offered her his hand, which she declined to take. He led her through the trees, using intertwining branches as bridges here, using vines as ziplines there. Finally he dropped down to the ground and Nya descended the tree after him.
“Pan, where are we going?”
He put a finger to his lips with a grin and gestured the direction they’d been going. The trees widened out and formed a natural archway, the end of which wasn’t visible. Pan started in and Nya whispered a reprimand to herself before following.
The tree passage seemed to go on forever, but finally they emerged on the edge of a lake. Pan took a seat on the bank, dipping one foot into the water and bringing the other knee up to his chest, and beckoned for Nya to join him. “Moonblossom Lake. It’s prettier at night, but it’s fun during the day, too.”
Nya hesitantly took a seat next to him.
“You look as if I’m going to bite you.”
“You’re Peter Pan. You’re not exactly trustworthy.”
“You’re right, I’m not.” He pushed her into the lake with a grin.
Nya came up sputtering and glared at him. “That was rude.”
Peter stood and shrugged. “Probably.” He jumped in, splashing her in the face, and she gave him a fierce scowl when he came back up.
“If this is what every day is going to be like, I’m taking the first opportunity to run away.”
“Oh please. You must admit that that was fun.”
“Being shoved into a lake and then splashed in the face? Oh yes, that’s certainly my definition of fun.”
Pan grinned. “Come on. There’s more.” He started swimming across the lake and she rolled her eyes before following.
“Why am I doing this?” she muttered to herself. Here she was following Peter Pan, her grandfather’s nemesis, across a lake to somewhere she didn’t know, and she was doing it willingly. What was wrong with her? A thought crossed her mind, but she shoved it away as soon as it came.
They reached the other side of the lake and got out, dripping wet. Nya’s long skirt was now heavy, and her boots were waterlogged. She removed the latter, stripping off her wet socks in the bargain, and left them at the water’s edge.
“Why do you wear those?” Pan asked.
“They protect my feet.”
“Calluses do that, too.” He shrugged before beckoning to her yet again. “This way.”
“Are we going all the way across Neverland or something?”
“Yep.” He ran off.
Nya halted. That wasn’t the answer she’d been expecting. She rushed after him, trying to catch up despite her wet skirt sticking to her legs. They were running across flat grassland, and occasionally butterflies would flit around them. Nya failed to see their beauty, struggling as she was to keep up with Pan, and batted them away like so many gnats.
It was well into the afternoon when Pan stopped, and Nya’s stomach was growling. She was glad, at least, that she’d dried out during their run, but she was tired and hungry. She slumped to the ground, chest heaving.
Pan, who didn’t seem winded in the slightest, sat down across from her and tossed her an apple from a pouch at his waist. She barely caught it, as tired as she was, and had to let her breathing steady before taking a bite.
“What was that for?” she asked.
“The apple? Aren’t you hungry?”
She rolled her eyes. “The run.”
“Well if we didn’t run then it would take us forever to get there. Forever is an awfully long time. I knew you could handle it.”
She snorted and took a bite of her apple. “And how are we supposed to get back to the hideout before dark? I’m pretty sure you didn’t make us run just so we could eat lunch in a spot of meadow that looks just like the spot before it.”
Pan laughed. “No. We’re not there yet. We’re not going to get back today. We’ll go back tomorrow. Where we’re going is prettier at night.”
Nya arched an eyebrow. “We’re staying overnight?”
Pan nodded. “The Lost Boys and I built a treehouse nearby. No need to worry. There are multiple rooms.”
And an opportunity for me to escape.
Nya finished her apple in silence, listening to some story about how Pan had killed a panther with a bow and arrow there once and the pelt still served as the treehouse’s door.
Finally Pan set them back to running – only for a little while – and before too long they were in a forest. He easily navigated to the other side, and they emerged just as the sun was setting. They were at the northwest edge of Neverland, looking out across the ocean. The fog beyond was thick and almost pure white, the area called The Oblivion blocking the land from entry in any way other than flight.
Pan showed Nya the treehouse – a large structure with five rooms – as the night descended. When darkness finally fell, Nya followed Pan to the shore.
“Careful,” he warned. “There are mermaids here. And mermen, though I’ve only ever seen one. Don’t get yourself drowned.”
“I’ve dealt with mermaids before.” Mermen, though. Those were new.
She watched the serene water reflecting moonlight as several ridged backs appeared gliding through the water towards them. Nya watched them come up to shore, whispering words to Pan that she couldn’t understand. None of them even looked at her.
She looked back out at the water and saw a boy in the water. His stare was intently fixed on her. When she saw him he gave a smirk and began swimming towards her. As he got closer, she saw that it was Pan. Confused, she looked beside her and saw Pan still sitting there, surrounded by mermaids and ignoring them all. She turned back to the Pan in the water.
“It’s a trick,” he said. “To keep us safe. Come swim with me.”
Nya looked at the Pan beside her one last time before sliding into the water. The Pan in the water took her arm in a warm hand and took her quite a ways out to sea before leaning forward to kiss her. She pulled away.
“Nice try, Pan, but it’s not gonna happen.”
He grinned, and she saw fangs. Alarmed, she looked back to the shore. Pan was yelling frantically for her. That was all the time the fake-Pan needed to grab her by the shoulders and dart underwater with her. She struggled to break his grip, but she couldn’t. He wrapped his tail around her legs to keep her from thrashing and bit into her neck. She screamed, and ended up swallowing water when she finished. She hacked and coughed, choking herself on the water. Fake-Pan’s hands grew frigid.
After several terror-filled moments, warm arms gripped her around the waist from behind and pulled her away from the merman. Pan, the real Pan, kicked the merman’s tail away and jerked Nya out of his grip, pulling her up to the surface. He didn’t wait to see if she was all right before towing her to shore. The merman followed them, hissing and screaming, and the mermaids congregated around Pan, pulling at him with webbed hands. He shoved through them, doing everything in his power to keep himself and Nya above the water, and finally he scrambled onto shore with her, dragging her a ways into the forest so that they were safely away from the still-shrieking mermaids.
Nya hacked and sputtered, vomiting up water, and Pan lay beside her, up on his arms, breathing heavily.
“Are you okay?” he asked.
Nya nodded, vomiting again.
“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have brought you here.”
Pan. The merman had looked like Pan. She had trusted him. Why did she trust Pan?
“What did you see?”
Nya didn’t answer.
“They change to look like what you want. What did you see?”
What she wanted? She didn’t want Pan. She wanted to get back to her crew and her old life. But she hadn’t run away. She’d had numerous opportunities, and she hadn’t. Why? Pan was an adventure. Was that it? Did something about his wit attract her despite everything? He was a terrible, horrible idea. But Tyre had told her numerous times that her ideas were insane, and every time she would just smile and stick to them. She liked bad ideas. She shook her head, lying on her back and looking up through the branches at the stars twinkling above. They looked like very distant fairies. “It doesn’t make sense,” she whispered, barely audible even to herself.
“You have to tell me what you saw.”
She looked at him, dripping wet, green eyes insistent and more serious than she’d ever seen them. “Will you tell me what you saw then?”
Pan shook his head. “I think you already know.”
She turned away. Wendy. Of course he’d seen Wendy. She was all he ever saw. “Do you miss her?” She didn’t even have to ask.
“Almost every day.” He muttered something else she couldn’t hear.
Nya rose and headed toward the treehouse. “I’ll see you in the morning. Or I might be gone.” But she knew she was too tired to run away. She’d be stuck with him. He didn’t even truly care about her. He just wanted another Wendy, when Wendy was gone and never coming back. She climbed up into the treehouse and headed into the room farthest back, lying on the bed despite how entirely wet she was, and closing her eyes. Hopefully she’d wake up and this would all be a dream.
It was not a dream. Or, more accurately, it was not a nightmare. She woke to sunlight streaming through a window in the treehouse and closed her eyes almost as soon as she opened them.
She rose, her clothes still damp, and headed through the treehouse. Pan was nowhere to be found. She climbed down and headed to the bank, the only other place she could think to look. There he was, fully dry, his arms loosely clasped around his knees.
“Morning,” Nya said, a hint of irritation lacing her voice.
Pan looked up, startled, and glanced at her as she took a seat next to him. She didn’t know it was possible to startle Peter Pan. “Oh. Good morning.”
Silence lengthened between them.
Pan took an apple from his pouch and handed it to her. She took it without comment.
“I’m sorry last night didn’t go as planned.”
Nya didn’t answer, chewing on a bite of apple.
“I’d intended for us to enjoy the evening.”
“I’m sure. You plan everything to be enjoyable.”
“I’m not sure if I was supposed to take that as a compliment or an insult.”
“It was intended as an insult.”
“Well then…” He looked down at his bare feet. “I’ll let you finish eating and then we can go.”
As they headed back toward the hideout, the thought of running away crossed Nya’s mind numerous times. But she never followed through. Why? She had no idea. But she kept after Pan, keeping up much better now that her skirt was no longer wet and heavy, and they reached the hideout just after dark.
“How did it go?” Fred asked, greeting them as they entered the main room.
“Fine,” Nya said.
Pan didn’t answer, but headed straight to his room without a word.
“What happened?” Tayn asked, coming over to her, his gaze on Pan’s door.
“Just a little incident with some mermaids. Goodnight.” Nya headed to her room without further explanation and went to bed, tired from the events of the past two days.
The adventure at the shore was only the first of quite a few. Pan had a different thing planned for each day of the next week, though he went after them with perhaps less gusto than the first. Nya humored him, mostly, following him and honestly enjoying their adventures, though she didn’t intend to. She still didn’t understand exactly what drew her to him – or rather ignored what she did know.
On the last evening of that week, Pan took her to a clearing in the forest where there stood a giant willow. Darkness was gathering, and with it came several hundred fairies who accumulated around the tree and danced and sang in and around it.
Nya watched them, in awe of their shimmering beauty, until her attention was broken by Pan’s words.
“I haven’t yet taught you how to fly, have I?”
She looked at him, his gaze holding a bit more mischief than usual. “Aren’t you afraid I’ll run away?”
Nya thought a moment before answering. “I don’t think so.”
Pan offered her hand, which she took. It was warm, just as it always was. He drew a handful of fairy dust from the pouch at his waist. “Then come on. Think happy thoughts and… fly.” He floated off the ground, sprinkling fairy dust on her.
Her mind filled with thoughts of the ocean and her crew and the woods and the Lost Boys and morning glories and lakes and… Pan. She looked down to find herself several feet into the air. She smiled and looked up at Pan.
“How does it feel, Nya?”
Her smile abruptly disappeared. He’d called her Nya. Had he finally let go of Wendy? Surely not. But maybe?
Pan pulled her close to him as her thoughts threatened to drop her to the ground. “Are you all right?”
“I’m fine, just… You called me Nya?”
Pan grinned. “It’s your name, isn’t it?”
“Why is it your name? Well I don’t know. Maybe-“
Nya rolled her eyes. “No. Why did you call me by my name? Why didn’t you call me Wendy?”
“What, do you WANT me to call you Wendy now?”
“No, I just want to know.”
“Because I kind of like your name. More than Wendy. It’s a much more interesting name.”
Nya looked down at the rapidly retreating ground and blushed. “Thank you.”
“You know I wasn’t just talking about names, right?”
Her gaze returned to his. His eyes were as deep and unfathomable as the night sky above them and reflected the twinkling stars, as if they didn’t already sparkle enough with just his mischief. Did Pan actually love her?
As the week had passed, Pan had proven himself less rude than Nya’s original impression had shown, not the least evidence of that being his rescue of her the night they met the mermaids.
“You know, it wasn’t Wendy I saw in the mermaids,” Pan said. Nya was startled for the second time that night. “It was you. I wasn’t sure you knew that, after a while. You seem to think that I’ll always be attached to Wendy, which isn’t the case. I’ve let go of her now.”
“You would say that,” Nya said, though she did believe him, at least for the most part.
“I mean it, Nya. I do.”
They twirled in the sky, a gentle breeze causing Nya’s skirt to swirl around her legs. “I think I see why Tink’s so infatuated with you.”
Pan arched an eyebrow. “Do you?”
“You can be quite sweet when you want to be. And I’ll admit that your wit is rather attractive.”
Pan let go of her and flew back far enough to sweep into a bow. “Why thank you, m’lady.” He grinned and returned to her as she laughed.
They danced on the air for a while and Nya enjoyed the cool breeze, the warmth of Pan’s arms, the twinkling stars above them, and the sparkling fairies below. When she noticed the fairies start to disperse she said nothing, and neither did Pan. They continued to dance for quite a while before finally returning to the ground.
Pan brushed her cheek with his hand, and she shivered. She wasn’t supposed to like Peter Pan. He was a trickster, wasn’t he? A mischief-making troublemaker. Or was he? He was mischievous, certainly, but there was a sweet side to him that none of the stories she’d heard from her father and grandfather had told. It was something they probably hadn’t even seen. Here she was, Hook’s granddaughter, falling for Peter Pan. She almost laughed out loud. It was nothing anyone could have predicted. It was absurd and… almost wrong. And yet here they were, most definitely falling for each other.
When Pan leaned forward, Nya didn’t pull away. He kissed her, his lips as warm as his arms, and she kissed him back, all the while trying to remind herself that this wasn’t how the story went, and yet loving every minute of it.
When he drew away, she studied his eyes. Those beautiful green eyes of his. She figured she’d probably always found them beautiful, but now that she was in love with him… She did laugh aloud now. She’d admitted it. Admitted that she was in love with him. That was certainly something she was not supposed to do. Falling for him was bad enough, but admitting it?
“What’s funny?” he asked.
“Nothing. Hook’s granddaughter and Peter Pan, right? Who would have thought?”
He grinned. “I don’t think anyone would have. It does seem rather absurd, doesn’t it?”
“Rather like that hat you wear.” She smirked, swatting the hat’s feather.
“Don’t you know that’s why I wear it?” He grinned. “I like being rather absurd.”
A thought crossed Nya’s mind and her smirk faded. “I can’t leave my crew.”
Pan’s own grin disappeared and the two of them drifted to the ground. “I understand.”
“What if you and your Lost Boys joined us?”
Pan shook his head. “I won’t become a pirate, and I know my Lost Boys feel the same. You’ll… you’ll just have to go.”
Nya looked at the ground. “I’m sorry, Peter.”
“It’s all right. But you should know,” he lifted her chin and her gaze met his, “I’ll never find another Nya.”
Nya gave a bittersweet smile and she turned away, heading back for Mermaid Lagoon. Her crew had almost certainly moved on by now, but she could find them. After all, she knew how to fly. She glanced over her shoulder at Pan. His only response was a melancholy smile and a nod. Nya turned to look back at the ground in front of her. It had been a mistake to fall for him. A mistake to let him close. You can’t lose anything if you don’t have anything you care about to lose. Her grandfather had told her that so many times, and she’d listened… until now. She pushed her thoughts away and looked ahead of her. It was time to move on.
Nya landed on the deck of her ship right in front of Tyre Smee, and she smirked as he jumped. “Good evening, Mr. Smee.”
“Captain! We… We didn’t think you were coming back!”
Nya spread her arms. “Well here I am. Find anything interesting while I was gone?”
“We did, actually.”
Nya arched an eyebrow. “Really? What is it?”
Tyre gestured for her to follow and stepped into the captain’s cabin. He shoved a few scattered papers off the desk and uncovered a letter, the seal broken. “We found this after…” Tyre trailed off and Nya filled in the rest. After you were captured, when we were plundering your cabin. “Well, we found this and thought the contents were mighty interesting.” He handed it to her.
Nya opened the envelope and pulled out a letter, reading over it quickly.
To be hidden upon my death for Nya Hook.
I have a quest for you. It’s something I think your curious, adventurous mind will enjoy. There is a realm off the coast of Neverland known only as the Oblivion. It’s not on any map, nor is it mapped itself, for all believe itto be the end of the world. No one, not even I, has dared venture into it. But if you’ve followed my advice, you won’t have anything to lose. Except perhaps your ship.
So go. Take your crew and be the first to map Oblivion.
-Captain James Hook
Nya looked at the letter a moment after reading it, then turned to Tyre. “And I assume you were planning on venturing into Oblivion without me.”
“Never, Captain! At least… I wouldn’t.”
“Mmhmm. Let’s sail for Oblivion in the morning, shall we?”
“You’ve never been one to pass up a night voyage-”
“In the morning, I said. There’s something I need to take care of first. You’re excused, Mr. Smee.”
Tyre left, closing the cabin door behind him. Nya waited a moment, trying to talk herself out of what she was about to do, before heading onto the deck. With a deep breath and the thought of Peter Pan, she took to the skies.
All of the Lost Boys stared as Nya entered the hideout. Tayn immediately hurried into Pan’s room. Nya waited in the main room, trying to dispel her thoughts. You shouldn’t be attached. If you’re going into Oblivion you could lose him there.
But if I’m lost in Oblivion, she countered with herself, I want to be lost with him.
Pan came out, a doubtful expression fading into one of surprise as he saw her. “Nya? You came back?”
“To ask you something.”
“My crew and I are going on a quest to map Oblivion. I wanted to know if you’d like to come with us.”
“Oblivion? That’s the end of the world.”
Pan waited a moment before nodding. “I’ll come.”
Nya couldn’t stop a grin from spreading across her face. “Thank you. We might be leaving tonight.”
Pan nodded again. “I’ll get ready.” He stepped back into his room and Nya waited. When Pan came back out, he was wearing a red jacket and black pants, barefoot as usual, and he had his absurd red feather hat on his head. Tinkerbell jingled at his shoulder. She was screaming at him, by the looks of it. “Tink insists on coming along,” Pan said, grabbing the fairy and putting her close to his face. “Hush, Tink. You’re being very rude.”
“Isn’t that her default?” Nya asked, smirking and turning for the stairs.
“It certainly seems like it.” Pan followed her out of the hideout. As they reached the top, Nya grabbed Pan’s hand and lifted off the ground.
As Pan lifted beside her, Nya looked over at him. “How are you always ready to fly?”
“I’m always thinking of happy things. Especially at the moment.”
Nya blushed and the two of them flew back out to her ship, landing on the deck. Half the crew was at work keeping the ship on course as it drifted, the other half was below decks sleeping.
“Mr. Smee!” Nya called.
Tyre bolted onto the deck a moment later, climbing up from the crew’s quarters. “Yes, Captain!”
“Prepare the ship. We leave for Oblivion.”
Tyre nodded. “Yes, Captain.”
Nya smiled as Tyre executed orders and got the ship ready to sail. The sails cracked as they billowed out and Nya took a deep breath. She did love night voyages, and this would be one to remember.
Nya stood at the prow of the ship as they neared the wall of fog that marked the entrance to Oblivion. Pan was perched next to her on the ship rail.
Pan’s attention shifted from the fog to Nya and she looked up at him. “Yes?” she asked.
“You’re just beautiful, that’s all. I like seeing you as captain. It suits you.”
“Thanks. I like it here. I was raised on the ocean.” She leaned back against the rail. “My grandfather was a captain, my father was a captain… It was natural to take over for them when they were gone. My father relinquished his possession of the ship when I was old enough – only about two years ago – and I don’t know where he and Mom went. She was only ever half as comfortable on the sea as he was.”
“It seems you have seawater and stardust in your veins.”
Nya smiled softly. “You make it sound so romantic that way.” She looked at him, his green eyes sparkling in the moonlight.
“I do specialize in eloquence.”
Nya laughed. “That you do.” She looked back at the wall of fog, which was now beginning to close over the bowsprit. She moved to the center of the foredeck and gasped as the fog reached her, dampening her with chill. She left her eyes focused on the fog around her until they’d crossed it.
The view of Oblivion was unlike anything Nya had seen. The sky was a cloudy white, the ocean pure liquid silver, and beyond it there was nothing. All of Oblivion for as far as Nya could see was the color of a forest fog.
“It doesn’t look like there’s much to map,” Pan said. “Maybe that’s why no one ever has.”
There was nothing in the silver expanse to give any indication of a changing of direction. No stars. No moon. No sun. No landmarks. No islands. “Do you think you could drift from here to Earth?” The prospect terrified Nya to even consider.
Pan shook his head. “There’s only one way to get to Earth from Neverland. Second star from the left and-“
“-And straight on till morning. I know. It just looks so easy to get lost here… Maybe this was a bad idea.”
“Captain.” Nya turned at the call and saw Tyre mounting the foredeck. “What direction would you like to go?”
Back the way we came. Nya took a deep breath and looked around. “North.” She pointed the way she thought was maybe north.
Tyre nodded and headed back onto the main deck.
“Hey,” Pan said, taking Nya’s hand, “if you did the nearly impossible and turned me away from Wendy, you can do the seemingly impossible and guide your crew through this.”
Nya gave a sour smile. “Those are two very different things.”
“You can do it.”
Nya looked around the deck. “Where’s Tink?”
“Exchanging stories with Fleet Hawk. I’m sure most of hers are horror stories about me. Why?”
Nya shrugged. “Just wondering.” She turned toward the silver expanse before her and took another deep breath. “I’m scared.”
“Don’t be.” Pan put a hand on her shoulder.
“It’s not that easy. You may be Peter Pan, you may feel no fear, but I’m human. I feel fear and pain and…” Nya looked at him. She wasn’t just scared of losing her ship or her crew. She wasn’t even scared of losing herself. She was scared of losing Peter.
Nya looked back at the silver sea. “I don’t want to lose anyone.”
“You can’t promise that.” She looked at him. “You really are hopelessly optimistic.”
“Someone has to be.”
The ocean began to roil under the ship and Nya’s attention snapped to the white sky. Storm clouds were beginning to billow, darkening the sky to gray. The waves were beginning to toss, and a figure raised out of the ocean. It took the form of a woman seemingly forged of silver, larger than the ship, with hair billowing around her head and a fiery anger in her shining eyes.
“Who are you to enter the domain of Charybdis unbidden?” The figure’s voice was deep and powerful, like thunder across the water.
“I am Nya Hook.” Nya had to shout over the crashing waves, heavy wind blowing mist into her face and taking her breath away. She wondered if Charybdis could even hear her. “I only came to explore the Oblivion. I’ll leave immediately if that’s what you want.”
But Charybdis’ gaze had latched onto Pan, and she was nearing the ship, impervious to the wind and waves. “No. I want him.”
“No! He’s not an option.”
Charybdis turned to Nya, smooth silver face severe. “Charybdis will have what she wishes.”
“Take me, instead. Let him go with the others.”
“A classic example of sacrifice.” Charybdis drew up to her full height, standing imposing over the ship. “Very well.” She held out her hand toward Nya and the captain climbed onto it.
“Nya!” Pan yelled, his voice almost lost in the wind. “You can’t do this! Let her take me!”
Nya shook her head. “I don’t want to lose you. I’ll try to come back.”
Charybdis laughed. “You won’t be coming back.” She drew her hand back from the ship before Pan could jump onto it. Charybdis glided back to sea and the wind quieted. Nya watched as the ship turned around and sailed back for the fog wall. “You wanted to explore?” Charybdis said. “Well, how about exploring this, then.” Charybdis dropped Nya and she screamed.
Nya didn’t hit the water, though, just sank through it without an impact. She found she was breathing normally, and in moments she landed on hard cobblestone. She had to hastily roll out of the way to avoid being run over by a wagon. Nya scrambled to her feet and hurried onto a sidewalk, looking around with wide eyes. She’d fallen into London. How was that possible?
A bell rang out loud and strong and her gaze snapped to the clock tower so talked about in the stories: Big Ben.
“Are you lost?” Nya looked at the speaker, a middle-aged man wearing glasses and a top hat. His brow was drawn together with concern.
“A… A little.”
“Where are you trying to go?”
“I don’t know.”
“Come with me, then. I’ll get you some supper. What’s your name?”
“Nya. Who are you?”
“John Darling. Sorry.” He held out a hand and Nya shook it. “My wife will be more than happy to take care of you. Come on.”
Nya followed him down the sidewalk to a two-story house nestled among several others. Light shone through two of the downstairs windows and one upstairs window, and the door opened as John and Nya neared it.
“Darling! Who did you bring with you?” Nya assumed the speaker was John’s wife, a woman probably a little younger than he, with tight-bound black hair and brown eyes.
“This is Nya. She’s lost. I told her we could take care of her.”
The woman nodded, but she seemed a bit dubious of Nya. “Let her in, then. Have you eaten, dear?” She addressed Nya with the question.
Nya shook her head and the woman headed into what Nya assumed was what would be called a kitchen. There were two people in the dining room – John’s children, she assumed – a girl about her age and a boy no older than ten.
“Prudence, Michael, this is Nya. Nya, these are my children.”
He’d named his son after his brother. An interesting choice, Nya thought. The pirate waved a bit, a tentative smile on her lips.
“Nya, could I speak with you a moment?” John asked.
Nya nodded, following John into an office.
“You’re dressed like a Neverland pirate,” he said, without preamble.
“That’s because I am a Neverland pirate.” She gave an inward sigh of relief. Maybe John could help her get home.
“Do you know Peter Pan?”
Nya nodded again. “We’re good friends.” That wasn’t something she would have thought she’d ever say a few months ago.
“Really? Do you know Captain Hook?”
“The original Hook is my grandfather.”
John raised an eyebrow. “Really?”
Nya nodded. “Charybdis threw me here from the Oblivion.” Oh, he won’t know what those things are, she spat at herself. “It’s a long story. Do you know how I can get back to Neverland?”
“Second star to the right and straight on till morning.”
“But if I can’t summon up any good thoughts?” What if they’re dead? What if Charybdis didn’t keep her promise? Wait, she didn’t promise at all. What if she has Peter? What if there’s nothing for me to go home to?
“Then I’m not sure there is a way back.” Nya’s heart sank even deeper in her chest. She could be stuck here forever. “We would be willing to take care of you until you can get back.”
Nya nodded slowly before heading out of the office and into the dining room, trying to not look as lost as she felt as she took a seat at the table.
“You look like the pirates Daddy tells us stories about!” Michael said. “But they’re evil.”
“Maybe you need someone else to tell the story, then.” She glanced at John as he took his own seat, then back at Michael. “Pirates aren’t evil.” But she’d been wrong about Peter, she realized. Maybe there was some truth to both views?
Michael looked at John. “Is that true?”
John shrugged. “I suppose it could be debated. But that’s a story for another time.”
John’s wife came back in with a turkey on a platter and set it on the table among bowls of mashed potatoes, corn, and other such side dishes.
John said the blessing and Prudence turned toward Nya, who was sitting beside her. “I’m Prudence. It’s nice to meet you.”
“Nya. Nice to meet you, too.” Nya gave a small smile as the potatoes were passed to her.
Nya spent the rest of the meal in silence except when she was spoken to, and afterward Prudence led her up to the bedroom they’d be sharing. The first thing Nya did was open the window. “Do you have a pen and paper?” Nya asked.
Prudence handed her a pad and pen and Nya hastily wrote a note, which she pinned to the windowsill.
I’ve become a lost girl. I can’t think happy thoughts. I only imagine you gone.
Please come take me back to Neverland. Show me you survived.
“I’ve posted notes like that before,” Prudence said. “He never comes.”
You’re not his Nya.
When Prudence went to bed that night Nya slept by the window, dreaming of Peter Pan and Neverland.