YOU DESERVE A FIFTEEN-MINUTE STANDING OVATION
Chapter 15 – Love in Neverland
It was cold. And it was white. And it was…
Very, very cold.
Ashanti’s eyes shot open, and she could feel something like ice on her lashes. She was frozen to the bone, and she forced herself to move. She expected to hear ice cracking as she bent her legs, but there was nothing. She turned slightly, and could feel Hook’s arms around her shoulders. She nudged against him to wake him up. He stirred and rubbed his eyes, then sat up as quick as she had ever seen him move.
“Sheez!” he yelled (Or at least, that was sort of the sound he made). His bare chest was pale, almost white. Of course, it had always been pale, but not like this. Ashanti sat up. She couldn’t feel her fingers, and could barely feel her toes. They stared at each other, then looked up at the door, which was flung wide open. There was a three-inch layer of snow cascading into the room, then slush, then ice. Hook would have shrieked, but he was too cold to. Instead he turned towards Ashanti, whose teeth were chattering.
“Welcome to Neverland, love,” he said, pushing all the blankets towards her. He ran over to the closet and opened it, pulling out layer upon layer of clothing. He quickly pulled off the pants that he had on already and put on some thick, tight-fitting pants. Ashanti had been looking outside, so it didn’t matter, anyway. But she was shocked when she looked over to see him putting a pair of pants on over a pair of pants. He put on a tight black shirt, then a more loose-fitting one over that, then his coat. He slipped on some socks and boots, and carried some of his clothes over to Ashanti.
She didn’t think about the fact that she was putting on Captain Hook’s clothes. They were clothes, regardless of that fact, and she desperately needed something right then. But, unfortunately, they were quite large and awkward looking on her. So Hook gathered every piece of clothing he could find of hers and gave them to her. Once they had figured everything out, they were quite warm. They worked together to plow the snow out of the way so they could close the door, although it still seeped through in some spots. Once that was done, they sat on the bed and rested.
Hook sighed. “What happened?” he asked, bewildered.
“I have no idea,” she mumbled. They both thought about it for a moment, then Hook realized something.
“I forgot to lock the door last night,” he said, sitting up straight. She didn’t say anything.
Hook stood up and walked over to the (For lack of a better word) vanity. It took him a while of rummaging through the drawers before he realized that he had forgotten to put his hook on. Dreading that he would have to expose himself to the elements, he walked over to the bed and sat down. He pulled off his coat and his over-shirt, but paused to brace himself before the last shirt. It was bitingly cold, but Ashanti helped him, and they got it done rather quickly, and Hook was dressed before two minutes had passed. After he had warmed a little bit, he went back over to the vanity. Again he rummaged through the drawers till he found what he’d been looking for – a razor and shaving cream. Ashanti sat and watched, happy to just look at him. She could count on one hand the things she didn’t like about him, and wondered why everyone was so afraid of him. She cringed and remembered the strange fear he had struck in her a few weeks ago, when they had first met…
But that was back then… She wasn’t afraid of him anymore. The only time she ever felt even a bit fearful was when his eyes turned red, and even then she didn’t let it get the best of her. Really, the only thing she was afraid of was loosing him…
She watched him spread the fluffy white foam around his chin, smiling a bit to herself. He could have easily used his hook without cream and got the same result, but… She didn’t question it. If there was a mishap, she was sure the hook would hurt much more than a simple slice from a razor. She shuddered as she imagined the pain of that iron claw easily cutting through flesh like butter. She put her hands on the back of her neck and looked at the slush seeping underneath the door, then back up at him. He was paying no attention to her. She watched in amazement at how naturally he did things. This hook had truly become a part of him…
Before any kind of pitiful tears could find their way to her eyes, she stood up and walked over, taking the hairbrush and running it through her hair. He stepped aside a bit, so they could sort of share the mirror. But it turned out to be very difficult, so Ashanti stepped back. She stared idly at one of the knobs on the dresser until she was finished, then decided to brush his hair for him. Of course, not without warning him first. When she was finished, she set the brush down where she had picked it up and waited for him to be finished. It didn’t take him long, and once he had stored everything away, he went and got a hat from the closet, then came back out and went over to Ashanti. He kissed her abruptly – It didn’t last more than a second, but it was still abrupt – and walked over to the door, giving no explanation for it.
It took half an hour before Hook was able to open the door again. In the space of a few minutes it had frozen to its frame, and it had been amazingly stubborn. Once it finally flung open, they walked out and saw that the crew was still inside. Hook put his arms around himself.
“I can’t blame them,” he said, his eyes watering in the cold. Ashanti marveled at the sight of it. The whole deck was covered in about three inches of snow, a long, flat plane of white. She crossed her arms.
“It’s freezing,” she said. He smiled at her.
“Which is exactly why we need to get away from Neverland,” he said, pointing to the island behind them. It was still moderately far off, but to her it seemed just a little bit closer. “I don’t know if you noticed this last time we left, but Neverland has a… an almost magnetic pull. It’s pulling the Jolly Roger to it the longer we stay idle. But it’s not that hard to get away if we really want to get away. And that’s what I wanted to do last time.” He trailed off and went up to the wheel. Ashanti followed. The sea still looked black, and around the ship it was turned to slush and ice. Hook grabbed a rope and pulled it towards him, and a very loud bell sounded. “Wake up, wake up!” Hook yelled, so loudly that Ashanti stepped away from him, “It’s time to sail, you scallywags!” He half-slipped-half-walked down the stairs and into the crew’s sleeping quarters. “Wake up! Get up! It’s time to go!” he yelled. The crew immediately woke up and began getting ready. Ashanti, who hadn’t moved from her spot, could only listen as the crew rolled out of their hammocks and onto the floor, moaning overdramatically. “It’s cold outside, so get dressed warmly! Wake up, you lazy dogs, wake up!!”
Ashanti smiled, her cheeks red in the cold. She put one hand on her cheek, careful to avoid the bruise, which already felt and looked better. She looked back at the island of Neverland, silently bidding it goodbye for the second time. She waved and smiled, and then turned to look at the door of crew’s sleeping quarters, where Hook was exiting. He closed the door behind him.
“Are they waking up?” she asked across the deck.
“Aye. Slowly but surely,” he said, opening a little hatch on the balustrade where the plank would go. He began pushing snow off the edge with his foot. She walked over to him and helped. They had a good amount done before the crew came out and helped. Before they knew it, they were done. Hook began his usual round of barking orders to his crew as he went up to the wheel. Ashanti noticed that they hadn’t even had breakfast yet, but Hook said they would eat when they were out of Neverland. Ashanti helped hoist the anchor, and they were off. They had sailed for about an hour before Hook eased the ship into a wide arc to the right.
“Are you turning around, captain?” Smee asked as he passed.
“No,” Hook said, “I’m sailing around it. We’re going a completely different way than before.”
Ashanti walked up onto the deck and stood beside him. The air was so cold it almost felt stiff. She had never been in weather like this. “We’re lucky the wind is blowing this way,” he said, “Because we’re going to need all the power we can get if we want to get past Neverland quickly.”
She pondered this for a moment, then looked at him. “So… what, if we don’t get past Neverland the first time, we’ll be stuck there?” she asked.
He smiled a bit. “No,” he said, shaking his head, “It would just slow us down a lot.”
“Oh,” she said. Her throat was too numb to say anything else and she wished she had mentioned food to the captain before they had started sailing.
“We’ll probably be sailing all day,” he said, “if we want to get past Neverland enough to eat something…” His stomach growled, but no one heard.
“What if the crew gets angry?” she asked.
“Well,” he said, “if they get too angry we’ll stop, but I’d really like to keep sailing until we’re out of Neverland completely.”
She said nothing for a while. Neverland was growing a little bit bigger every minute as they sailed towards it. “Captain?” she asked.
“Hm?” he asked.
“How come last time we left Neverland it disappeared so quickly? And this time it hadn’t disappeared, even though it’s been a day?” she asked.
He scoffed. “I don’t know. It’s Neverland. I try not to question it anymore…”
She nodded and crossed her arms. “Oh,” she said, “Well…” She changed the subject back to sailing. “Let’s pray we get past this island enough to have dinner…” She slapped him on the shoulder and walked down the stairs to the deck. He shook his head, silently demanding himself to not be hungry anymore.
The day was agonizingly slow without food. By the time two o’ clock rolled around, they were sailing by Neverland, and about three hours later they came to the other side. Ashanti was starting to feel dreadful. It was five o’ clock and they were barely past this gigantic monster of an island! She knew it would be one or two o’ clock in the morning before they were finally allowed to eat something! She walked up to Hook, who was resting his chin on the wheel, keeping it going in a quick, straight line. He stood up straight.
“What is it, love?” he asked softly.
“I’m starving,” she said, then added, “We all are.” He just stared at her. “What’s a little delay to starving?”
He looked to be thinking, then sighed. “Well, let’s sail a little longer, and then we can eat something,” he said drearily. She smiled brightly.
“Good,” she said. She ran (Carefully) down the stairs and got to work. Hook rested his head back on the wheel, waiting patiently for the right time to stop sailing.
About an hour and a half later he finally called out to weigh anchor. He was too starving to keep going, and he knew what had happened last time. The whole crew instantly brightened, and it only took about fifteen minutes before they were seated and ready for food. Hook and Ashanti waited in the Captain’s Cabin, but Smee never came. When they went to go check, they found Smee at the table with the rest of the pirates, eating as much as he could. Their food was sitting on an empty table nearby, so they ate there.
The next morning it was just as cold, if not colder. Ashanti was sure she was going to die. Her bones were frozen in place! She was stuck to Hook! But as she moved and readjusted herself, she found she wasn’t even in the captain’s bed. She was lying on a freezing cold wooden floor. Hook was, in fact, cuddled next to her; his head was lying on her stomach. But there were the other pirates, as well as the children, cuddled around in a huge heap. She pushed herself up, groaning. What in the world had even happened last night? She tried to remember, but the only thing that held any importance was the fact that she had a pounding headache.
She sat up straight and nudged Hook, who just rolled over and fell back to sleep. She pulled his arm up and examined a long gash in his shirt. Yellow blood was dribbling from it, and Hook’s claw was tipped in the strange liquid. She pulled him up and slapped him awake.
“Hey!” she hissed, “You cut yourself! Now wake up!” He shook his head and sighed heavily, then grimaced. Immediately his left hand went to his stomach. He opened his eyes and stared at his hand, now covered in blood.
“Agh!” he cried quietly. He stood up and made his way out of the kitchen. Ashanti followed him. None of the pirates stirred, and the kids just flopped to new positions and kept sleeping.
Once outside, Ashanti kept blinking, as her eyelids felt like they might freeze open. This weather was absolutely, by far, the nastiest she’d ever been in. Fortunately, there was no snow or ice on deck. Unfortunately, however, there was a very strong wind blowing against them. Ashanti could hear the loud, violent snapping of the sails above them, even if they were furled. Once inside Hook’s bedroom, and only after she had locked the door, Ashanti spoke up.
“Do you think there’s another storm coming?” she asked cautiously.
“No,” he said, smiling bitterly as he carefully pulled his shirt off. She handed him a cloth and he cleaned the edges of his wound. “No… These kinds of winds come every winter, love. But, in this case, it’s good. We can ride them out of Neverland once and for all.”
She watched as he delicately applied pressure to the scratch, but then turned away.
“I think the island hates me as much as I hate it,” he said. She smiled. “Love, would you hand me the gauze, please?” he asked. She did so, and carefully helped to wrap it around his stomach. Hook delicately set his fingers against Ashanti’s side. He could barely feel her, his fingers were so numb. He smirked. “I’m so cold,” he whispered. She sighed softly and backed away, securing the gauze in place.
“I pity you,” she said sarcastically, smirking. He sighed. She handed him a clean shirt and coat. “So… I don’t remember anything about last night…” she said as she made sure he didn’t accidentally bump his wound.
“No,” he said as she walked over and began buttoning his shirt up for him. He sighed tiredly. “I have no idea what happened… But, goodness, we must have been wasted…”
She paused, then shook her head confusedly. “Do you think the kids drank, too?” she asked, glancing at him.
He remained silent, then looked around the room. “I don’t know… But if they did, today will not be fun…” he said. She smirked and stepped back as he slipped into his coat. She buttoned the first few buttons, but as she stepped back Hook grabbed her arm tightly and nudged her in the forehead. She gasped lightly, her hands instinctively racing up to his chest defensively. His grip loosened a bit and she hesitantly closed her eyes. She moved her head up just a bit, and felt his lips press against her eyelid. He pulled away, kissing her gently on the cheek.
“I love you,” he said possessively.
She said nothing, then lifted her head even more and kissed his chin. She opened her mouth, and before she could stop herself she murmured, “I love you, too.”
He pressed one last kiss on her forehead, then let her step away. She immediately turned and opened the door, letting him pass first. She felt her cheeks turning pink, and was thankful for the excuse of cold weather.
She closed the door behind herself and followed him to the kitchen, where everyone was still sleeping. “Wake up, wake up!” he yelled. “WAKE UP, TIME TO SAIL!!” He began pushing people over with his feet. They groaned and sat up, trying to rid themselves of the tiredness that clung to them. “Wake up! You can sleep more tonight! Smee!” he yelled. Smee stumbled to his feet and ran to the captain, adjusting his glasses as he went.
“Yes, cap’n? What is it, cap’n?” he asked.
“Get breakfast ready,” Hook said. Smee nodded and ran off. Hook turned to his crew, smiling proudly.
(A/N: There's a chunk missing here, jumps to newer writing)
She turned around, trying to see him through the rainwater constantly dripping off of her lashes.
“Ashanti, listen to me,” he ordered. “What you are saying is crazy. There is no way you can get back, especially the way you came. I have tried.” The words were coming out with passion, a heartfelt desire to try and make her understand. But she was determined.
“No! I have to get back. I have to get away!” she said, lowering the lifeboat. He didn’t try to stop her. “I’ve had enough of playing pirate! I just want to go home!”
“Drowning yourself will not get you home!”
She stopped in her work, pulling herself up to her full height and advancing on him. “I am not going to drown myself!” she screamed. “I’m going to row as far away from this stupid island as I can!”
He caught her hand as it flew at him, tossing it away with ease. “And when you come back from your fruitless attempt, I will not take you back!”
She stiffened, not only in embarrassment that her attempt at a slap had been so easily parried, but also at the idea of not being able to return to the Jolly Roger should her escape fail. True that it was a filthy pirate ship full of unscrupulous buccaneers, but it had become her home, these men her family. From the very beginning she had been at least tolerated, and if not here, then where? Where could she go?
“Believe you me, lass,” said Hook, breaking her from her thoughts, “I have tried to get away so many times that I have lost count! I have tried everything that presented itself in my mind, and every time I failed. I would strongly advise that you stay here, where at least you have shelter and food.”
“But I…” She backed away from him, glancing between the lifeboat, the raging sea, and him. She squeezed her eyes shut, covering them with the palms of her hands, now even more embarrassed that she was breaking down in front of him. She could think of nothing else to say, so she just hunched over and cried.
She would never see her world again. She would never see her home or sleep in her bed again. She would just be stuck here on this ship, trying to make the best of it. She would never feel the tender kisses from her mother or the warm embraces from her father…
And then suddenly, she did. She was being pulled into a body, arms encircling her. Surprised, she looked up, only to find herself in the captain’s arms. Instead of fleeing, as was her first instinct, she waited a moment and, after discerning that he didn’t mean any harm, buried herself in him. At first she just sobbed into his already drenched chest, but as the moments passed and she dried her tears, she found that she really did not want to move. Hook’s embrace was a surprisingly comfortable and secure one, the hidden meaning behind it evident just enough for her to notice.
He pushed her away, fixing her with a stern look. Her gaze was downcast, being too bashful to look him in the eye now, but she swallowed. At length, she pushed herself away and hoisted the lifeboat back up to its highest position with trembling hands, feeling awkward now that she was on the downslide of her outburst.
He reached around her and offered her his one good hand, pulling the rope in between her efforts. She felt her stomach go haywire with butterflies and looked over her shoulder at him. He didn’t seem to notice, bracing his feet against the slippery deck as he drew the rope towards him. Moments later they were securing the rope to its stay, and afterwards Hook was gone, barking orders. She took a few deep breaths, her hands still trembling but for entirely different reasons now. She smiled.
(A/N: There's a big missing chunk here)
She stared at him, her heart rioting inside her chest. He was so close, so warm, so human… It was unreal. They leaned towards each other at the same time, stopping only inches away. He lifted a hand and caressed her cheek, stroking her hair away from her face, and inclined his head, his intention clear. She had only a moment of warning before their lips met.
(A/N: Back to old writing)
“It’s going to be a long day, men… and women… And if you don’t work hard today, we will be skipping out on lunch.” The crew groaned. “I know, I know, it’s the end of the world… So just work hard, and we’ll have lunch!” He sat down on a bench and awaited breakfast. There was no way he was going back outside unless it was absolutely mandatory. The crew took their seats and Smee bustled around serving their food.
Once breakfast was gone, the crew hurried out and quickly got to work. Before Ashanti even knew what was happening, the boat was clipping along in the violent breezes. Ashanti crouched down in hopes of avoiding the gale force, but it did little good. Besides, Hook had quite a lot of jobs for them.
Lunchtime seemed like it would never come, and by the time it finally did, Neverland had disappeared in a haze of rain and tiny, annoying hailstones. The crew went inside and ate, trying to get as dry as possible before they returned to the harsh climates outside. Ashanti convinced Hook that it was a good idea to let the children stay inside, so they wouldn’t catch cold, so long as they didn’t raid the kitchen, which Hook made sure they understood. Ashanti helped them figure out things to do, then they all went outside.
About two hours of sailing passed when yet another problem arose. One of the children came out complaining of boredom and that they wanted Ashanti to play with them. Ashanti asked Hook, who hesitantly agreed. So Ashanti went inside and played with the children.
The storm finally subsided into a gentle rain by dinnertime, and Hook led the way into the kitchen, where a nice warm meal was served to the drenched pirates. Ashanti sat beside Hook in their private corner.
“… At least it’s finally let up,” Hook said.
She smirked. “So… That wasn’t a storm?” she asked. He scoffed.
“Don’t even start, lass,” he said, shaking his head and smirking. She shook her head.
“But I was right, captain,” she said, “Are you starting to lose your sea-sense?”
“Not at all, lassie… That was not a storm. In Neverland, storms are about one hundred times more devastating than that…” he said.
“But it was still a storm,” she said, “Even if it was a baby one, it was still a storm.”
He nodded. “… Aye… I can see that,” he said. She nodded.
“Good,” she said. About ten minutes later dinner ended. After cleaning up on deck and lowering the anchor, everyone headed to bed. Hook went up to the wheel and looked out to the sea behind the ship. In the very distance he could see a hazy outline of Neverland, the storm still raging around it. He didn’t even bother to think about why such a storm would plague the island like that, but he didn’t really care anymore…
He removed his hat and wrung the sea water out of it, back into the ocean. He squeezed out his hair. When he turned around he saw Ashanti standing alone, smiling warmly in the gentle drizzle. His eyes traveled to her feet, where he saw a sight he hadn’t seen in months. On the wooden deck was a faint red and yellow stain, where he had made Ashanti clean up the glass. She looked down at it. He walked over.
“I remember that,” she said softly. He sighed.
“Aye,” he said.
“It seems like it never happened,” she said. He smiled and touched her shoulder. She looked up, smiling. He said nothing, but smiled. She grasped his hand and led him to the bedroom, where she changed into some dry pajamas and climbed onto the bed. He sat on the edge of the bed.
He unbuttoned his shirt and set it on the floor, turning back to see her smiling gently at him. She crawled over and helped unfasten the claw, and he let it fall to floor as well, with a muted ‘thud’. She rubbed his shoulders for a brief moment, then crawled backwards and lay down, pulling the covers over her shoulders. He stood up and went to the closet for a few moments, then came back in dry pajamas. He lay down as well, and joined her under the covers, closing his eyes lightly. She pulled his arms over her and closed her eyes.
“Good night,” she said softly. He sighed.
“Good night, love,” he whispered.
For a while they laid in silence. But sleep wouldn’t come. Ashanti remained motionless, except for the gentle up-and-down motions of her breathing. Hook, however, found his fingers on her neck, rubbing gently. She finally opened her eyes and sat up, looking back at him.
“I’m sorry, love,” he said softly. She smiled a bit.
“It’s alright,” she said. She turned around and lay down again, putting a bit of distance between them. But now she couldn’t sleep. Maybe she was too cold. She moved closer to him, reluctant to roll back over. She buried her head in the space between his head and the pillow, closing her eyes again. But this didn’t work either. Hook’s icy fingers against her bare shoulder was doing something to her… They felt… good…
Before she knew what was happening, she had nuzzled her head against his neck. He shifted and pushed himself up a bit. She watched him. Now it was her turn to apologize. “I’m sorry.”
He just stared at her. “No… It felt… nice…” he said disbelievingly. She blinked.
It was completely silent. Time seemed to have stopped. For a moment Ashanti wondered if she had gone deaf, but then the ship gave out a gentle creak as it drifted on the turquoise sea. She reached out and touched his bare chest. She held it there long enough, and was finally able to feel his heart, beating quickly in confusion. She suddenly realized that her own heart was racing, as well. Her fingers traveled up to his shoulder, and she pulled him down to her. His lips tenderly pressed against hers. She touched his arm with her free hand and felt her heart beat even faster. Hook kissed her neck, sending goosebumps down her arms. He moved to her cheek, near her ear. He lingered there for a moment before Ashanti felt something wet on her face.
“What’s wrong?” she asked, barely above a whisper.
He took a sharp breath and didn’t answer for a moment, just simply letting the tears fall. “This is all I ever wanted,” he whispered, “Just… someone to love… who would love me in return…”
Ashanti couldn’t find anything to say. She felt warm all over, despite the nippy weather and the fact that the covers had been abandoned at the foot of the bed. He pushed himself away and wiped his face quickly, then looked at her. She touched his face.
“Well,” she said softly, “would I suffice?” He turned his gaze to her. Her blue eyes gleamed with mischief and a sweet, soothing smile played her lips. He suddenly burst into laughter. Quiet, yes. Broken, yes. But laughter all the same. And it was the truest laugh that had ever escaped him. Here… so far away from Neverland, where he could just abandon his worries about the croc and about Peter and the rotten little Lost Boys. Here, in this dark, lavish room that had, for so many agonizing years, served as his prison…
He leaned down and slipped his arms around Ashanti’s shoulders, hugging her as tightly as he could without choking her. She wrapped her arms around his back, closing her eyes.
“Aye, love,” he said gently, “You would suffice…”
Here, in the arms of a girl he had found drifting in the waters of Neverland…
He was alone and unloved no more.