Title: Done For?
Subtitle: Not So...
Disclaimer: BtVS related stuff belongs to Joss, ME, WB, Fox, etc. Hook, Pan, et al belong to the estate of J.M. Barrie and whomever he willed them to (some children's hospital, I think.). D&D belongs to Wizards of the Coast. I'm finally posting this in tribute to the late, great Gary Gygax, the creator of Dungeons and Dragons, who sadly passed away last week. May he finally enjoy his place among the Gods of the Game.
A/N: I haven't abandoned my other fics, just hit a major writer's block caused by outside stuff. Hopefully I'll get a bit done over Spring Break (if I get the chance).
A/N 2: Obviously rumours of my demise are somewhat exaggerated. (I've always wanted to say that. ^_^ )
Now on to the fic.... 3 ... 2 ... 1 ...
As the children continued to gleefully chant, Captain James Hook looked at the grinning beast snapping at his heels and mustered the last shreds of his dignity. Frowning petulantly, he intoned in a near whimper, “Done for”, and allowed himself to fall into the gaping maw rimmed with jagged, blackened teeth. Squeezing his eyes shut, he waited for the great jaws to crush him utterly, and almost welcomed his death. Thus he failed to see the neck of the leather bag that lined the huge crocodile’s throat, and was at a complete loss when instead of being eaten by the beast, he found himself in some kind of free floating limbo.
After a seeming eternity when the expected agonizing death from the massive reptile’s terrible jaws didn’t come, he hazarded a look around. Or rather, tried to. The pirate captain found himself in the most baffling situation of his entire existence. He could feel himself, should he choose to touch any part of himself that was present, but nothing else registered on any of his senses. Not sounds - near or far, nor sight – not even the barest glimmer of light, nothing to touch – save himself, no scents or flavors in the air that he was definitely breathing… nothing, except the curious certainty that he was not dead. It was as if he had been physically put somewhere that was physically… not. There was nothing, not even a vacuum of space, except what it would take to keep him from expiring, wherever he was. He resolved to discover the nature of the place, should he find a means to escape it. His resolution was easier to make than keep, as the unrelieved darkness soon had him drifting into a much needed slumber.
When he returned to consciousness, it was to the somewhat shocking realization that his senses seemed to have returned at some point whilst he slept. Or so it appeared to him. Without thought, he rubbed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose as if to clear his vision as he propped himself up on his other arm, then looked around at the unfamiliar room in which he found himself. It was simple, but not plain. The furnishings were made of lovingly crafted hardwoods, draped with the finest linens made from delicate silks, smooth cottons, and fine lamb’s wools. The desk, chairs, and footstool were clearly hand-covered with highest quality leather. The feather ticking of the bed was soft and thick under his… right… hand…
His eyes flew open wide and he recoiled so fast that the back of his head collided with the headboard of the bed as he brought the arm he’d been resting his weight on up before his face to stare in open-mouthed disbelief at the perfectly normal, functioning hand attached to its end. He wriggled the fingers experimentally, made a fist, and opened the hand wide. He held it out as far from his face as he could and turned it this way and that, looking at it from every side, then brought it right up before his nose and studied it in minute detail, trying to prove to himself whether it was real or some kind of trick. He sniffed warily, and even licked it carefully. It tasted like skin – and perhaps some kind of woman’s soap. Lavender and some other flower, he wasn’t entirely certain. During his inspection, he noticed a very fine scar running completely around the base of the hand, just at the wrist joint, but it looked old, and there was no pain when he moved it.
"Wha-? How? Uh?” His voice was a rough rasping grunt when he suddenly found himself verbalizing his confusion over the reappearance of his missing hand, but the unexpected peal of feminine laughter in response to his startled vocalizations had him on his feet in an instant. He turned toward the source, reaching to his hip for his cutlass. Upon discovering the lack not only of any weapons upon his person, but also of any clothing, his hands doubled into fists and he adopted a pugilist’s stance. “Who are you, where am I, and what in blue blazes is going on here?”
The laughter died as the woman rose from her seat in the corner, stepping out of the concealment of the shadows. A soft, slightly condescending smile graced her piquant face. “James, if I meant you harm, you’d hardly be in any position to be questioning me now. I’d have let Grick eat you and be done with it.” She smirked. “As it was, I had to let the amazing flying brat and his band of spoiled munchkins think you were dead or they would have set off on an ‘adventure’ to find out what happened to you because you’re their favorite ‘enemy’. You realize that without a ‘villain’ to wage unending imaginary war against, his little gang decided to go off to the real world and grow up. Pan’s on his own with nobody but his fairy for company now, thinking you’re dead and his lost boys have deserted him in favor of growing up with Wendy and her brothers in a family.” Her smirk turned predatory, and she began prowling toward him, “And for the record, James Hook, thirty-six is not old to anyone above the age of eighteen, you are clearly not done for, and in case you had not noticed, you are not alone. So what are you going to do now?”
Icy blue eyes narrowed as the pirate captain considered the woman who had answered only partially, one of his questions, while skillfully avoiding the important points. She was obviously not averse to using her physical allure to distract him, nor did she appear to have any difficulties with the fact that he wore not a stitch, herself barely more. And there was something in her mien - in the very air about her - that hinted to power. He glanced at his restored hand. Lifting it in indication, he asked, “You did this?”
The smirk became a smile. “Yes. I’ve kept it for you ever since that boy threw it at Grick. Stasis spells can be maintained indefinitely with the right material components. How does it feel?”
One dark eyebrow rose sardonically. “Like my hand is back on my arm. My dear, as much as this is an entertaining conversation, I do believe it would be in your best interest to tell me who you are. You have me at something of a disadvantage, and I tend to react unfavorably to such things.” That melodic laughter rang out again, and he frowned. “I fail to see the humor in this situation.”
Her smirk returned, as infuriating as it had been previously, teasing and full of mischief. “That’s exactly what’s so funny, Jamie.”
Shock paled him, robbing James Hook of breath for a moment, as the childhood pet name struck a chord in his jaded mind. Anger quickly replaced the shock as he growled, “Do not presume to such familiarities, madam. No one has the right to call me by that name.”
She pouted girlishly. “But what else would I call you? You’ve always been my Jamie.”
The anger boiled into rage and he lunged at her, reaching for her throat. And found himself on his back, pinned beneath her deceptively slight frame an instant later. Somewhere in his fury-hazed mind, he wondered how such a tiny woman could hold him as she was. But such thoughts were buried beneath frenzied struggling as he fought to reverse their positions and kill the wretch who dared to tease him with reminders of the greatest loss of his life.
Though he must have been nearly double her weight, he could not budge her, and eventually he tired. Accepting the fact that this bizarrely strong female would not be dislodged from his person by force, he stilled beneath her, eyes blazing crimson as he stared at her in hatred. “Madam, who, and WHAT are you?”
All signs of humor were washed away by a peculiar mix of sadness and tenderness that made her eyes shimmer with a soft glow. Her gaze fixed on the single tear that had crept from the corner of his red left eye, and she leaned forward, and before he could react, kissed it away. “Malice, disappointment, and jealousy. Your pain is not poisonous to me, Jamie. Ever have I been its antidote. Ever has my love for you been constant.”
The red bled from his eyes as he blinked in confusion. At this distance, her eyes were depthless violet pools. It was there that he found the truth his mind had been fighting. “But you died. I saw you die, Bella. That… thing… took you away.”
“It took me, but I didn’t die. I killed it, but I was far away. In another world, where I couldn’t reach you. It took me a long time to learn how to get back to you, and by then you had become someone else. I had to wait.” She paused, then smiled wryly. “I had to wait for you to remember that you were more than just a cruel, heartless pirate. While I waited, I learned things as well. I learned about the balance that is present in all things. How to use the energy that balance creates. How to become one with everything and share in the natural order of the world. And how to become more than myself. Even change my form.”
“Change your form?”
“Those who answer the calling to obey the order of the natural world are called ‘druids’ in the world that the beast that took me from you left me in. We learn, eventually, to change into the creatures of nature, to use the power of nature to make wondrous things happen. It’s how I repaired your hand.”
Despite himself, he was intrigued. When she shifted, releasing his hands and folding her own across his chest to make herself more comfortable, his arms wrapped around her, seemingly of their own volition. This was his Bella, the girl he had loved as a youth, when all the world was but an adventure to be experienced. Before he had become jaded and bitter and… lonely. So much had happened since he had last seen her. Upon close examination, he noticed something that made him raise an eyebrow. “Bella, how is it that you only look a handful of years older than you were when I lost you, yet it’s been seventeen? If I’d never met you before today, I’d place you at perhaps twenty years old.”
“Instead of the thirty-two you know I am, darling? I’m flattered. Twenty years ago, the four years’ difference in age between us seemed such a long gap. I was an impressionable girl of twelve when we met. Do you remember?”
He nodded. “I was out riding. You ran across the path of my horse and nearly got trampled to death for your trouble.”
“And you kept your mount under enough control to save me and keep your seat. In that instant, the dashing young man atop the rearing stallion captured both my imagination, and my heart… though I didn’t realize the latter until much later. Not until after I was Called did I understand how important you were to me. Do you recall Algernon Travers? Idiot thought that because he was a ‘Watcher’ that he could just step in and take control of my life simply because I was suddenly ‘the Slayer?”
“I remember. That old fool wanted to take you away from me. Blathering on about your destiny as the ‘Chosen one’. That became so tiresome. I remember as well, that he nearly had an apoplexy when you told him in no uncertain terms that destiny and the whole world could go hang for all that you cared if he persisted in trying to drive me away from you. My little firebrand.” For a moment, his face lightened in a nostalgic smile, but then the smile was chased away by deep sadness. “Fat lot of good it did us to be rebellious in the end. I still lost you within the year. All I remember of the beast that carried you off was that it looked like some kind of grotesque mockery of a fish, and that it possessed tentacles. It felt so strange to be near it, as if my mind was not my own. The effect disappeared as soon as it did, taking you away from me.”
Bella nodded solemnly. “You’re fortunate that all it did was enthrall your mind until it could get me. The beast was what is known in the Realms as an aboleth. They’re very rare, and very, VERY dangerous. When I later learned what it had been, I was amazed that I had managed to kill it. They are enslavers of mortal minds, and eaters of flesh. To this day, I’m unsure how I managed to kill the thing. I don’t really remember doing so, I just have these impressions… like a sense of a memory without the clear picture.”
James smirked, “And yet again, my dear, you neatly evade my questions. How have you barely aged in nearly two decades?”
She grinned, “That, my dear pirate captain, is a lady’s prerogative to share or keep secret.”
“Darling, if you wish to be considered a lady, perhaps you should not be lying atop a fully undressed man in that silky wisp of fabric.”
“Perhaps I don’t, but I may still refer to myself as such. Surely you’re not so unchivalrous as to argue the point with me?”
For the first time in what must certainly have been years, the most feared pirate in the Neverland, Captain James Hook, laughed without evil intent or cruelty. It began as a chuckle, deep in his chest, and grew to a rich rolling laugh that shook them both with its pure unadulterated delight. His entire body rocked with mirth and his arms tightened around her in a joyous bear hug. She snuggled into the embrace and reveled in the depth of his outpouring. It was the release of years of pent up feeling, all coming forth in a single, overwhelming rush.
When he finally stopped laughing, she lifted her head from his chest to look at him. “Are you ready for the next chapter in your story, my Jamie?”
“Are you in this one, Bella mia?”
“For so long as you’ll have me, my love.”
“Then whatever the future holds, I look forward to it.” He shifted his body weight to the left and rolled them over, reversing their positions and coming to rest atop her to capture her lips in a tender kiss.