A/N: Hey guys! I wrote this for my creative writing class in Fall '10, and later submitted it for the Once Upon a Time Challenge at The Write Away on LiveJournal, where it tied for Runner-Up. Woo! =) Anyway, I hope you enjoy.

Requirements for OUT Challenge

Pick from one of the following prompts:

Rewrite a fairy tale. For example, put it in a modern day setting. Or change the ending. Or have a character read a fairy tale and fall into the story. Whatever you want!

Write a piece using characters from fairy tales. Any characters at all. They don't all have to be from a fairy tale, just at least one. And they don't have to be from the same tale.

Write your own fairy tale. This is pretty much self-explanatory. Starting with "Once Upon a Time" and ending with ... whatever.

Must be between 3-6k words (though this was flexible)


Night wrapped around the land like a cloak, hiding even the biggest of ships in the sea in its all-encompassing darkness. Anchored in the middle of the Mermaid Sea, the Jolly Roger swayed and rocked with the waves, lulling all but two of its inhabitants into a fitful slumber.

Allyis Darling, the Captain's lover, lay awake in her bed. Her covers were tugged up to her in chin in an effort to deter the autumn chill, but the door to the hallway and open air remained open expectantly. He'd promised her that he would visit tonight, after the crew meeting that had ended over an hour ago. Captain James Hooke never broke a promise – especially not to her.

"You really shouldn't leave your door unlocked on this ship, dearest," a familiar voice whispered in Allyis's ear, startling her into a sitting position. "You know what the men are like – absolute riffraff. Always up to no good. " A strong, tanned arm snaked around her waist protectively, the hand attached to it landing on the top of her thigh and stroking until the tension in her muscles eased.

"Like you, you mean?" Allyis suggested acerbically, twisting around in the visitor's arms to stare sternly up into his eyes. "You shouldn't scare me like that, James. What if I had screamed and woke the crew?"

The arm around her waist disappeared so that she could turn to face James properly. He looked the same as he had the night she had met him on the river in England, with his dark, wavy hair hanging to his shoulders in disarray, his red shirt neatly buttoned over his broad chest. Allyis took a moment to take the sight in, sighing in the sort of way only lovers could get away with.

If someone had told her a year ago that she would be reclining in bed with a pirate captain in another world, she would have called for the Constable on the grounds of his or her mental instability. Yet the situation did not seem strange to her, not at all. The weeks that Hooke had visited her in England had made the transition into a relationship effortless, and it had seemed only natural that, after a month of those magical moonlit evenings, he would invite her to return to Neverland with him – forever.

"Please. They're my crew – if I want to wake them all up at all hours of the night, I can." The scathing comment brought her out of her reminiscing.

Smiling indulgently, Allyis leaned back into the man's embrace. "Whatever you say, James." Wanting to let the moment last for as long as possible, she waited a moment before approaching the subject she really wanted to discuss. "I heard that there was a fight this afternoon – Smee and Starkey were running around like chickens with their heads cut off, yelling. What happened?"

Hooke cocked an eyebrow suspiciously. "And how would you know that? We were on land until this evening – and you were on the ship, weren't you?"

Allyis waved a hand impatiently. "I may have taken a trip inland, but it's not important." Carefully, she avoided mentioning that her trip had been to Pirate's Cove, knowing that James would never tell her what had happened if he found out. He'd be too busy locking her in the brig and throwing away the key.

"Allyis, you can't keep taking trips to town. Those damned Lost Boys are everywhere. It's –"

"Dangerous, yes, I know. Can we talk about this later? I want to hear what happened!"

James gave a heavy sigh, but nodded. "Pan jumped me as I was leaving Neverpeak Mountain. We had a bit of a tussle, and the bloody bastard tried to take my good hand." Anger colored his words, so fiercely that Allyis could almost see why his crew feared him so. It didn't happen often, but there were some moments, like that one, when she could almost believe some of the horrible stories she'd heard about him on the mainland.

The moment came and went, and Allyis quickly forgot it and leaned over to turn on the bedside lamp to examine her lover. The hook that seemed to grow from his left wrist glinted dangerously in the soft light for just a moment before he hid it under the blankets.

"Are you all right?" The young woman asked softly, taking hold of his much larger hand with both of hers and pointedly ignoring the hook under the covers. "He didn't hurt you, did he?"

"Of course not." Gently, he pulled his hand out of Allyis's grasp to run one callused finger over the planes of her face. "I told you before – I can handle Peter Pan."

"I know." The exhaustion on his face was all that stopped her from questioning him further. There were lines on his forehead that hadn't been there earlier, and the bags beneath his eyes were such a dark purple it looked like he'd been struck – which, now that she thought of it, he probably had been. "Now, why don't we sleep? I'm tired, and I can tell you are, too."

He agreed readily, and entwined in each other's arms, the pair drifted off to sleep.

*******

The sun was entirely too bright as Peter Pan flew through the sky, toes dragging through the murky water of the Mermaid Lagoon. The mermaids hadn't noticed him yet, so he reveled in the peace of the water while he still could. Any moment, though …

"Hello, Peter!" Several female voices cried out at once, breaking the quiet of the atmosphere. Splashes came from all over the broad expanse of water, some of them big enough to hit him and stain his green uniform even darker.

"Peter, Peter, are you going to play for us?"

"No, silly, he's going to tell us a story!"

"Shut up, Alise!"

"No, you shut up, you stupid whore!" The first one who'd spoken lunged at Alise, fingers extended like claws towards her face.

"Ladies, ladies," Peter scolded, stopping the bickering before it could elevate to violence. "There's plenty of time for me to tell you a story and play you a song." He smiled hugely at every one of them, hoping that Alise and her attacker would hear. "But first – how are all of you today? I haven't been by in a few weeks."

The niceties chafed, but he knew he had to play nice to get the information he was after. The mermaids only cooperated when they wanted to, and if he got them angry at him now, he wouldn't get any new information for weeks.

"I'm wonderful, Peter," a blonde one named Alexa drawled, jumping up onto the rock with him. Grinning, she tossed her hair back to expose her naked body to him further. Mermaids wore no clothing since it would slow them down in the water, a fact Peter had enjoyed when he'd first started visiting.

"Me too!" Seera, a redhead, plucked a lily out of the water and tucked it behind her ear. When she was satisfied with its positioning, she turned back to Peter, smiling beatifically.

"Wonderful, wonderful. Now, what song should I play?"

For the next hour or so, Peter catered to the whims of each 'maid, playing song after song and telling story after story. Finally, when he was reasonably sure at least one of them would stay to answer his questions, he said, "I have a few questions for you all – if you don't mind, I mean."

The ones who hadn't gotten a turn for his attention pouted, but Alexa smiled. "Of course we don't mind, Peter. What is it you want to ask?" Her teeth gleamed in a knowing smile.

The leader of the Lost Boys peered out over the water, into the larger body of water that the Mermaid Lagoon attached to. "Hooke's got his ship out in your sea, doesn't he?"

Alexa nodded. "Yes. The Jolly Roger's been anchored near the shoreline for about three days, ever since he brought back that … girl." Disdain flitted across the mermaid's dainty features, but Peter barely noticed. "He never even looks at us anymore because of that whore. We used to get all sorts of pretty things from him, and now he never even talks to us!"

It was the perfect opportunity to turn the mermaids against his archenemy for good, but Peter didn't take it. Instead, he could only repeat Alexa's words about the 'girl' over and over disbelievingly in his head. It was true then, what the Boys had been telling him. Hooke had kidnapped a woman.

"Have you seen this woman, then?" Peter asked carefully, wondering belatedly if they would take this as an insult. The only looks the mermaids cared about were their own, no one else's mattered.

"Yes," Seera sniffed, shifting her tail slightly. "She was perfectly horrid. Mousy brown hair, and fat, too, with glasses."

"Seera's right. A brunette, and she wore so many clothes that she looked huge. She was pale as a sheet, too. And she got all pissy when we pulled her in the water with us – she can't even swim! Apparently in England," – the word was sneered – "they don't go swimming."

"England? She's from the Other World?" Peter asked in surprise, recognizing the name from the years he'd flown to the Other World to hear stories from outside a lady's window.

Alexa shrugged uncaringly. "I suppose so – I've certainly never heard of England before." It was clear she was growing bored with the conversation, and there was no way for Peter to turn it around. "Is that all you wanted, Peter? Because I have things to do today."

Without waiting for an answer, she hopped into the water, her tail the last thing to disappear from sight. The rest of the mermaids followed, flipping their tails in goodbye. None of them seemed particularly sad to go, meaning that they had all grown tired of him. It would be weeks before Peter could get any new information from them, but at least he'd gotten what he came for.

With a sigh, he jumped into the air and began to soar back to the hideout. Anger simmered in his veins, waiting for the right outlet. Hooke had gone too far this time – bringing Other Worlders into Neverland was not permitted. There would have to be justice, and who better to mete it out than Peter Pan?

******

"Smee, if I stay on board this ship on moment longer, I'm going to go mad." Allyis stood in front of the First Mate, hands planted on her hips. The pirate was so short that she towered over him, giving her the advantage in their argument. "I swear, the Captain will never know you let me leave. In fact, you didn't let me leave – I snuck out the window and swam to shore."

With that, she pushed past the sputter little man and made her way to the top deck, where the row boat was housed. None of the other crew members tried to stop her; they just glanced her way and went back to work. It was probably for the best – Allyis had never interacted with any of them besides James, Smee, and the chamberlain, Starkey, because they were all huge, tattooed men that she would have run from had they met on the streets of London.

Using quick, precise movements, Allyis lowered the row boat on the pulley. When it was halfway to the water, she clambered into it, hoisting her skirts up high enough that her knees were exposed. Someone hooted from behind her; quickly, she sat down and rearranged the garments so that she was totally covered. There was something about being on the Jolly Roger that made her more modest than usual. It was probably the fact that several of the crew members resembled Jack the Ripper – at least the one of her imagination.

Forcing all thoughts of serial killers out of her head, Allyis focused on the trip ahead of her. Where should she go? Pirate's Cove was out of the question – James would be there all day, and was sure to spot her. The Mermaid Lagoon was also out – the fish-like creatures there absolutely hated her for reasons unknown.

Since those were the only two places she'd been in Neverland, Allyis had a bit of an adventure on her hands. Closing her eyes, she dipped the oars in the sea and began to paddle, careful not to pick any specific direction. She'd always be able to ask for directions back to the Mermaid Sea if she were to get lost, after all, and her adventure would be much more fun this way.

A few moments later, she opened her eyes again, watching the blue-green water as it sped by beneath the little wooden boat. There was something strange about the water here, something incredibly peaceful. She'd seen oceans at home, of course, and even played in the surf, but she had never gotten the amazing sense of calm she got from looking at this one.

Suddenly, the boat slammed against something hard, shaking her out of her reverie. She'd run aground without noticing, on a beach next to a broad expanse of forest. Trees as tall as Big Ben touched the sky in front of her, shading the rocky beach the boat had put several holes in the bottom of her boat.

"Well, Allyis, you wanted an adventure…" she said quietly to herself and climbed out of her vessel, eyes trained on the line of trees separating the beach from the rest of the forest. There were strange noises emerging from the woods – almost animalistic, but more like human interpretations of the sound.

There was no reasoning behind it, but Allyis found herself walking into the trees, looking for the source. "Is anyone there?" The words shattered the silence of the woods, bouncing around the trees and growing louder before finally dying out. She was further in than she thought – the beach was no longer visible, and all she could see for miles was trees and moss.

"Shuddup, shuddup!" A young boy's voice whispered near her ear, and Allyis found her mouth covered by a small, grimy hand. "You'll scare 'em all away!"

Squashing a scream, Allyis twisted around to see her attacker, hand raised to defend herself. Needless to say, she was incredibly surprised to find herself face-to-face with a little boy, no more than six or seven, in a raccoon costume. He was hanging upside down from a tree branch with his hand over her mouth, frowning at her.

"What –who – what are you doing?" Allyis mumbled against his hand, staring into his round eyes in confusion. Where had he come from? Where were his parents? And for goodness sake, why was he dressed like an animal?

"Huntin' o' course! But you scared 'em all off!" The boy jumped down from the branch and landed on his feet. "Come on out, boys, they're all gone, and we got ourselves a girl!"

"A girl?" Another young voice popped out of nowhere, right before the speaker himself appeared off to her right, this one in rabbit fur.

"So that's a girl!" This one, a pudgy kid in a fox outfit, carrying some sort of axe jumped out of the hedges, looking put-out. "And why'd she hav'ta go and scare off all the deer? We aren't gonna have nuthin' for supper now!"

"Ahh, Peter'll bring somethin' home for us, Tootles. He always does." A final member of the party lunged out of a tree and landed on his feet. He was by far the oldest of the boys, maybe fourteen, and dressed in a bear outfit. "Whadda we do with the girl, though?"

"Peter? Peter… Pan?" Allyis stared around at the boys, eyes growing wide with fear. Pieces of the puzzle clicked together in her head – a group of young boys, wearing animal skins, mentioning Peter Pan as if he was their caretaker – these were the Lost Boys.

"O' course! You know any other Peter's 'round these parts?" the one in the fox costume asked sarcastically, picking moss out of his tail. "He's our leader! And he'll wanna meet you, I bet."

"You're right, Tootles. Grab her, Curly, Slightly, and we'll take her back to the hideout. Peter'll be back soon – it's almost sundown."

"'K, Nibs," the one in the rabbit costume, Curly, apparently, answered, and latched on to Allyis's arm. Slightly, the first one she'd me, in the raccoon outfit, took her other. Together, they began dragging her through the woods. Nibs and the other one, took to the trees again and raced ahead of them.

"No, please, don't," Allyis finally found her voice a few moments after her forced jog began. "I'm expected back before sunset – please, let me go, please." Peter Pan would kill her, she was sure. Or cut off her hand, like he'd done to poor James. Perhaps because of her relationship with James, or maybe just because he was a cold-hearted murder. The reasons didn't matter though; either way, she was just as dead.

"No can do, girl, Nibs said so," Curly told her matter-of-factly, tightening his grip on her arm.

"Right! And Peter'd be real mad if we let ya go without takin' you to meet him. He says all visitors to the forest gotta come see him!" Slightly chimed in, his tone telling Allyis that he truly admired his 'Leader'. "But don't be scared, girl, Peter won't hurt ya! He's a real nice boy!"

"My name is Allyis." Being called 'girl' was fairly insulting to the Englishwoman in her – she had been eighteen for nearly six months. She was a woman.

"Well, Allyis then. Come on, Nibs 'n Tootles'll beat us back!" They began to run, forcing Allyis to keep up with them. Since she had no choice, she followed blindly, tears stinging against the back of her eyes. James wouldn't even leave the Cove until sunset, and wouldn't discover he was missing until well after. That was plenty of time for Pan to kill her and dispose of the body, especially with the Lost Boys helping him.

"Nibs, open the door!" Curly yelled, making Allyis realize that they had stopped and were currently staring up at the biggest tree house she had ever seen. There must have been ten different ladders hanging from the branches of the tree, all leading to different levels and doors.

There was a grating noise, and a hole opened directly in front of the three still on the ground, right in the middle of the trunk. "Go on, already!" Slightly ordered crossly, rubbing his stomach absently. "Peter'll be home with supper soon!"

With Curly shoving her from behind, Allyis followed Slightly into the tree, still feeling overwhelmed. As soon as she'd stepped over the threshold, the door behind them snapped closed, cutting off her only chance of escape.

"Upstairs!" a voice, possibly Nibs ordered, and Allyis found her slippers on a steep staircase. She climbed obediently, wishing that she was safely onboard the Jolly Roger with James. Why hadn't she listened to him?

After the stairs, she was lead down another hallway and into a lit room. There was a table on one end, and a fire pit and several benches on the other. She was ushered to the table and into a chair, where rope was wrapped around her wrists and ankles. "Just 'til Peter gets here and tells us what to do," Slightly assured her.

Allyis couldn't stop the tears that leaked from her eyes at these words. It wouldn't be long now – the sun was quickly disappearing from the sky.

Oh, if only she had stayed on the ship.

****************

Two days after his encounter with the mermaids, Peter finally made it back to the hideout. He'd decided to search the Mermaid Sea before going back at the last minute, but there had been no sign of the Jolly Roger, and the mermaids hadn't surfaced to offer their help, so he'd lost two days for nothing. In fact, all he'd gotten for his pains was a bite from an angry crocodile, leaving his left arm caked with dried blood and dangling uselessly at his side.

Landing on top of the tree house at long last, Peter pulled the pan flute from his belt and began to play with his useable arm, signaling his Boys to open the door. The only way for him to open it from the outside was difficult – nearly impossible with only one arm – so he waited for one of them to appear.

With his week going as it was, Peter was not entirely surprised that no one appeared. Irritably, he signaled again, jumping up and down on roof this time as added noise. Still, no one came to let him in. He was going to have to do it himself.

Sighing, he kicked himself back into the air and dove down to the base of the tree house, where there was a hidden doorway. Carefully maneuvering his injured arm, Peter stowed his flute back in his belt and pulled the knife from his boot, nearly rolling over in midair when he could not reach.

The knife was just thin enough to slip between the last board of the door and the first board of the floor to jimmy it open, though it took a few moments to find the right place to do so, and it required the strength of both hands. When it finally popped open, Peter groaned in relief and flew inside, ready to beat each and every Lost Boy waiting inside.

However, when he arrived in the sitting room, the sentiment was quickly lost in surprise. Nibs, Slightly, Curly, and Tootles were sitting in a circle around the lone chair in the room, where Peter usually sat to tell them stories. That day, a girl sat there instead, talking and waving her hands animatedly, her mousy brown hair flying every which way as she turned here and there in time with her story.

"Because, you see, he was afraid of spiders! He couldn't go into the cave without making certain that there weren't any – " The girl had turned towards the doorway as she spoke of the cave, allowing her to become aware of Peter's presence. Blood fled her round face, and her eyes grew large behind round spectacles as she took him in.

"Why'd ya stop, Allyis? We wanna hear about what was in the cave!" Slightly protested, unaware of his leader's presence. "Ya can't just stop in the middle o' the story!"

"Peter! You're back!" Nibs was the first of the Boys to notice him, as usual. "Come meet Allyis!" Peter found himself being towed towards the center of the room before he could open his mouth. "She's from In-Gland! Isn't that nifty?"

Peter felt himself blink a few times in rapid succession. He could not tear his gaze from the young woman sitting in his chair, and since she was still gaping at him in the same way, he surmised she was having the same problem.

"Nifty," Peter echoed, feeling dizzy. The very thing he'd been searching for this whole time had been in his own house? Annoyance flooded in, erasing amazement and clearing his head. "Ten-hut, move!"

All at once, the four boys moved to stand in a line and brought their hands up in a salute as he'd trained them too. If Peter had been less stunned, he probably would have smirked proudly at the demonstration of obedience. As it was, however, he just wanted to know what the hell was going on.

"Nibs, report! Now!"

"Slightly found a girl in the woods, see, 'bout two days ago, and we knew you wanted to know 'bout anybody comin', but you didn't come back that night, so we …" Peter's second-in-command trailed off, obviously seeing the less than thrilled expression on his boss's face.

"So you brought her back here and let her run around the hideout?"

"O'course not! We tied her up!" Slightly yelled defensively, giving Peter the urge to smack his hand to his forehead.

The girl flinched, presumably at the reminder of her imprisonment as Slightly continued, "But she was real nice, and started tellin' stories, so we let her up. She cooks good, too!"

The Lost Boys nodded as one. "We've had lots of fun!" They were obviously fond of their prisoner, a fact that irked their caretaker. Hadn't he trained them better than this, than to trust a prisoner?

Then again, what threat was she, really? She had to hate Hooke; he had kept her prisoner. An enemy of an enemy must be a friend, yes?

With that in mind, he plopped down on the floor next to his chair, where the girl still sat. "I'm really sorry about this. They mean well, they're just very young." Presenting his hand to her with a flourish, he bowed. "Welcome to our humble home. Whom do I have the pleasure of addressing?"

"My – my name is Allyis." The response was quiet – delivered in a totally different voice than the one she'd been using to tell the spider story when he had walked in. "Allyis Darling." She reached out to shake his hand.

Peter smiled, despite the pain his shoulder caused because of the movement. "What were you doing in our woods, Allyis Darling? Out for a stroll?" Sarcasm dripped from his suggestion. No one would walk in the Fairy Woods for fun, not with the all of the rocks and pitfalls along the way.

"I – I just wanted some air. I've been cooped up on the ship – I mean, cooped up for so long that I just wanted…" Allyis trailed off, much like Nibs had earlier when he realized he had said something wrong.

"I already know you were on the Jolly Roger with Hooke, don't worry. I won't let him get you back." Even if he hadn't been intrigued by the girl, he wouldn't have let Hooke have her back. That would be giving the pirate what he wanted.

"Please," she whimpered, still staring at the floor. "I just want to go. Don't tie me up again, don't hurt me."

"Hurt you?" he repeated incredulously. "Why would I hurt you? Any enemy of Hooke's is a friend of mine." Standing, Peter tried to smile reassuringly, though he was sure it came out as more of a grimace.

Green eyes stared up at him in surprise. "Why would you think that he's my enemy?" Allyis tilted her head to one side, staring up at him from her seat.

"Well, he kidnapped you, didn't he?"

Biting her lower lip, the girl shook her head. "Of course not! I agreed to come here with him – he's my… my friend."

"Your friend?" Peter repeated, barely trying . "Impossible. Hooke doesn't have friends. He's a crazed, violent pirate."

"You're one to talk!" Allyis burst out, her face turning red. Apparently, his guest had a bit of trouble controlling her temper. "James is a gentleman, unlike you! Why those sweet boys look up to you, I'll never know!" As if she'd realized there was no turning back from the truth, she began to yell.

"A gentleman?" Peter thundered. "Are you nuts? He's a god-forsaken murderer!"

The infuriating girl put her nose in the air and refused to look at him. "You won't fool me with your lies, Pan."

Anger boiled beneath Peter's skin, making him say what he knew he shouldn't. "Do you know what he's doing today?"

The girl muttered something about business meetings, making Peter laugh. It was harsh, cruel noise – one he didn't like at all. This cruel, over-bearing interrogator wasn't him, but there was something about this situation that rubbed the wrong way, especially after the day he'd had.

"He's holding the Indian Chief's daughter hostage, that's what he's doing. If he doesn't get what he wants, he'll kill her." His tone was flat, matter-of-fact. "Just like he tried to do to me, four years ago when I cut off his hand."

"That's a lie!" The prisoner had apparently had enough of listening to him talk. "You captured him, cut his hand off and fed it to a crocodile for sport! He told me so!"

Peter laughed again. This time, the sound was bitter. "Of course you'd believe that. Why wouldn't you – you've known him longer. Trust him." He gave her a sideways glance. "Love him, even, I'd say."

"How dare you –"

"Oh, I dare all right. Now shut up, would you? I've got to think –"

"If you aren't going to kill me, I demand you release me at once, you horrid miscreant! Let me go, I say!" She thrashed in her seat, as if she still thought she was bound there. Peter watched in amusement, a small part of his subconscious wondering how long it would take her to realize that she was free to move any time she wished.

"Well now, those are harsh words coming from someone tied to my kitchen chair…"

"How dare you! Let me go!" The shrieks hurt his ears, but Peter Pan did not back down from a fight, especially against a girl.

"No. You'll go running back to Hooke and get yourself killed. I can't have that on my conscience, see. Plus, that would be giving the bastard what he wants, and I just can't do that." Rubbing thoughtfully at his chin with his good hand, he considered his options. He could keep the girl – Allyis – here until Hooke tried to come get her, or he could speed the process a bit.

"Nibs, Slightly, here, now!"

There was a rapid pounding of feet and the two oldest Lost Boys burst back into the room. "Go tell our good friend Cap'n Hooke that we've got his girl here, and to come and get her if he dares."

"Yessir!" The two bolted from the room, excited grins adorning their childlike faces. They loved fighting – it was why Peter had chosen them as his recruits in the first place.

"Why can't you just leave him alone? What has he ever done to you?" Tears were streaking down Allyis's face and leaving tracks on her skin. Guilt began to eat away at Peter's resolve, but he stuck by his word. This was for the girl's own good – she'd understand eventually.

"I told you. He tried to kill me," he said shortly, his left arm starting to throb where the croc had bitten him. The shouting match had given him a headache, to boot, and he just wanted to sleep.

It was going to be a long, long night.

*****

The next day, Peter's wound was infected. The damn thing was swollen and bright red and ached like he couldn't believe. But Nibs was the only one he'd trust to take care of it for him, and the bear Lost Boy was gone.

He wasn't the only one who noticed the state of his arm, either. Allyis had convinced him to untie her before they went to bed, pointing out that she couldn't find the location of the door even if she wanted to run, so he may as well let her up. She'd even shared his bed, mostly because he'd been too tired to find somewhere else for her to sleep. There had been arguing, of course, since she thought it improper, but since it'd been his bed or the kitchen chair, she'd eventually given in.

"Sit down and let me tend to that. I don't want to be dealing with a wounded man all day – they tend to be overly grouchy." The bossy tone of voice was enough to annoy Peter, but he obeyed since he wanted to retain function in his left arm.

Carefully, he stripped off his shirt before she could ask. The fabric had sealed to the wound, so it stung as it came away. With a hiss, he dropped the garment and examined the painfully broken skin, wishing for the hundredth time he had just come home after speaking with the mermaids.

"Where can I get water?"

Peter just gestured at the far wall of his bedroom, where a pitcher of water rested on a small table. Allyis collected it and a rag from the drawer in the table and came back, frowning at him. "This is probably going to sting…" she applied the wet rag to the wound and cleaned it carefully. A dull burn moved like a live thing under his skin, but Peter ignored it.

"What happened? If – if you don't mind my asking." Allyis was bandaging him now, wrapping strips of cloth that she'd torn from one of her skirts around the wound.

"I had a run-in with a crocodile," he explained shortly. What had happened to the girl he'd been exchanging insults with the night before? This version of her seemed much different – almost likeable.

When he voiced the question out loud, he was amused to see a blush spread across her cheeks. After a beat of silence, she mumbled something that he didn't catch. "What was that?"

"I … apologize for the way I acted last night. I was just… scared, after what I'd heard about you." There was another pang in his arm as she finished tying off the bandage and stepped away, but Peter barely felt it. She had done the whole thing gently and quickly, and for that, he was grateful.

"I understand. You had no reason to trust anything I said." There was a slight hesitation before he added, "and thank you, for the help."

Allyis nodded, looking at the floor. For some inexplicable reason, this irritated Peter – he reached out and tilted her face up to his without thinking. Their eyes locked, green on brown, for several moments. The silence grew heavy, loaded with … something … that Peter couldn't place.

Painstakingly slow, Peter began to lean in, eyes still fastened on Allyis'. Seera had been totally wrong when describing her looks – she was far from ugly. This girl was beautiful – perfect, even, down the mole right above her top lip.

"Peter! Peter, come quick! Me'n Tootles got a deer!" Curly broke the spell and sent them both flying to opposite sides of the room, clearing their throats awkwardly.

Peter left quickly, wondering what in the world had just happened.

*****

Everyone was jumpy the next day, including Allyis. Nibs and Slightly still had not returned, and it had been nearly three days. Hooke would be arriving any minute, sword in hand.

Though she knew it was coming, his arrival still took Allyis by surprise. She was telling the story of Jack and the Beanstalk in the common room when Curly came running in, yelling about Hooke taking the beach with his men. Peter had been on his feet in seconds, ready to fight, even with an injured arm.

"You and Tootles shoot from the windows, and make sure to keep Allyis out of the crossfire. If Slightly and Nibs show up, tell them to take to the trees – it'll be harder to shoot them up there. Got it?" Peter was already halfway out the door.

Allyis hurried after the boy in green. "Wait! If you just let me go to him – no one has to get hurt." In the past few days, she'd grown rather attached to the Lost Boys, and to Peter himself, but she still had a great affection for Hooke. If she could stop any of them from getting hurt, she would.

"I can't do that." The reply was flat and hurried, as if he was already thinking of hundreds of ways to maim her lover. Panic swelled in Allyis' breast, making it hard to think.

"Pan! We've got your kids, you blighter!" James' voice carried through the wooden walls of the tree house, scaring both Allyis and the intended recipient of the message. "Come out with your hands up, and we'll spare their lives!"

Allyis stopped dead in her tracks, right in the middle of the hallway. That was James' voice, James' threat. Her lover had just threatened the lives of two innocent children. The floor beneath her seemed to spin, making her feel dizzy and light-headed. Surely he was bluffing. The James she knew would never think of murdering children. He had to be bluffing.

Peter had stood as still as stone throughout her revelation, eyes closed and mouth in a tight line. "Dammit," he swore under his breath, looking from Allyis to the wall and back again. "He's got Slightly and Nibs. I shouldn't have sent them…"

"He won't hurt them," Allyis said faintly. "He wouldn't. I know it. Just let me go and make sure …"

"Pan! Did you hear me, boy?"

"I heard ya, ya stinkin' codfish!" Peter bellowed back, his sudden shout deafening Allyis momentarily. All the blood had drained from his face, leaving him looking pale and exhausted. He was genuinely frightened, she realized. He honestly believed that Hooke would kill them.

That realization scared her more than it should have.

"You asked for it!" This time, it was Smee yelling. A shrill scream pierced the air, followed quickly by a raucous cheer from the pirates. Nibs was yelling for Slightly, and Allyis could hear James laughing over all of it.

Allyis ran to the door and opened it, ignoring Peter's weak protests. Rows of pirates stood just outside, only a few feet from the tree. They were arranged like an army of olden times, before guns and modern warfare had been created, with a small circle in the center where James and Smee stood.

A small body lay on the ground at Hooke's feet, draped with a grey and black blanket that had clearly once been a raccoon costume. A choking noise fell from Allyis's lips as her gaze fell on Slightly's ruined form, and tears stung her eyes.

It was no trick. Hooke had honestly killed a child.

"Oh god, no," Peter whispered from directly behind her, startling her. Allyis hadn't seen him move, but she understood his need to. "Please, oh, God no."

Allyis' knees gave out from under her, making her collapse against the nearest wall. James was a murderer. He killed for fun, just like Peter had said. The idea was so ludicrous, so unbelievable that she wanted to laugh – but there was the evidence, right outside that tree.

Peter slid down next to her, burying his face in his hands. The feathered hat perched on his head fell to the ground, but he didn't so much as twitch. "He's dead," he murmured dully. "Slightly. He's dead."

She wasn't sure exactly how it happened, but somehow, the pathetic quality of Peter's voice infused her with courage. Standing carefully, so she didn't intrude on her companion's grief, she moved back towards the door. "James, stop. I'm coming out – let Nibs go." Allyis prided herself on the fact that her voice didn't waver. "See? Here I come."

The door opened, allowing her to peek her head out. Peter didn't try to stop her; his head was still buried in his hands, and something that looked suspiciously like tears was leaking through his fingers.

The trip down the staircase was a blur – nothing made sense again until she stood across from the feared Captain Hooke. He looked the same as always; long hair down around his shoulders, red overcoat buttoned neatly across broad shoulders, and hook in place on his right wrist - how was it possible? So much had changed, how could he still look the same to her?

"Thank God, I was so worried he'd hurt you." James moved to embrace her, but Allyis pushed away, moving through the crowd of torch-bearing pirates until she found Nibs and poor little Slightly. She knelt beside the little raccoon-boy and lifted him into her arms, tears running silently down her face. "Take him back to Peter, Nibs," she instructed hoarsely. "Go." Carefully, she passed the body to the oldest Lost Boy, kissing him on the cheek as she let go.

As they left, Allyis turned back to Hooke, face carefully blank. "All right. We can go now." Hooke hesitated, looking back towards the tree house with undisguised malice.

"No!" she shrieked, finally losing the calm she'd so painstakingly maintained. "Don't you think you've done enough? You killed a child! Don't you even care? He was only a child, James! He was only a child!"

Hooke whirled to face her full on, eyes wild with disbelief. "What? Allyis, no. I didn't kill him –Pan did! He sent him out here, told him to attack… none of it was my fault! I had to do it, I had to get you back. Don't you understand?"

The big, muddy colored eyes she found so enrapturing locked on hers, begging her to understand. Had he genuinely believed murder to be the only way to rescue her? Or was this a trick, like Peter had suggested? Allyis didn't want to believe it, but after Slightly's demise…

"Don't listen to him, Allyis! He's lying to you! Don't you get it?" Peter's voice, hoarse from grief, joined the cacophony in her head. "He murdered Slightly because he knew you'd come out. You're too nice not to – see?"

Feeling as if she would split in half at any minute, Allyis glanced between the two arch rivals, indecision nearly making her nauseous. Hooke's eyes pulled her in one direction, the entreaty there nearly negating the evidence right in front of her. Peter's quiet truths pulled the other way, impossible to ignore.

What could she do? The two would never reconcile – she would have to pick a side or be stuck in the middle forever. That was how Neverland worked; nothing ever changed, including opinions or judgments of people. Could she live with Hooke forever, constantly battling against Peter?

Maybe. She didn't know the latter very well, and honestly, though she did care for him, her feelings for Hooke blew her feelings for Peter out of the water. The more relevant question was whether she could live with Hooke the way he was, knowing that he could kill children without a second thought.

"Come with me, Allyis. We'll leave now, all of us. I swear to it. Just come with me." James's callused hand stroked the inside of her elbow softly, the gesture just short of pulling her away from Peter. She didn't bother looking up – she could tell by the tenseness in his hand that he was glaring at the young man.

"I – I can't," she whispered, still not looking at either of them. "You killed him, James. Killed him."

Peter's arms closed around her waist before she had finished speaking, and the ground disappeared from under their feet as they rose in the air. "I still love him," she admitted, voice breaking. To keep herself from crying, she buried her head in his shoulder.

"It'll be all right, Allyis. I promise."

It was an outright lie, of course. James had killed Slightly and she had just left him, for good. Nothing would ever be the same again – it couldn't be all right. But somehow, in spite of all that, Allyis believed him.