Summary: In which Mr. Darling goes to Neverland looking for something he's lost.
Fandom: Peter Pan (book)
Pairing: George Darling/Captain Hook
Original story: Not Proper by kyuuketsukirui
Notes: Thanks to nestra for beta reading.
Not Proper (Chinese Boxes remix)
Once upon a time there was a man named George Darling. He worried a great deal about what the neighbors thought of him, but most of them envied him, because he knew such a lot about stocks and shares, and had such a distinguished peppering of gray at his temples that it seemed he must have grown it there on purpose. He had a beautiful wife, with a romantic mind and a sweet mocking mouth and a mind like tiny boxes nesting one inside the other, and three fine children. His own mind was like a bank-vault with a door so sturdy that it must be filled up with all kinds of respectable things, though to be sure, no one ever saw all the way inside.
His wife would have been surprised to see all the way inside the vault, because while he didn't at all have her romantic mind, there were the same boxes inside tiny boxes, and one of the innermost boxes -- not the innermost, of course, which George himself never knew was there -- was full of Neverland, his own Neverland from the days when he was a boy who knew nothing yet about the Exchange and could look with total disinterest at the mocking bow of a woman's smile.
When George was a boy, Neverland was a deep forest, and Peter lived in a tangle of trees far above the mossy forest floor. There were wolves, which they tormented and played games with by turns, and streams full of fish that you could tickle with your fingers, because the fish liked it. He spent the length of his dreams in Neverland, and because the dreams of boys are very long, it seemed that there was always enough time for everything he could want to do.
Then one day Peter decided he wanted to go to sea. This was not a new idea, and Peter's boys had served their time on canoes made of logs and rafts with leaves for their sails. But they had never yet been to sea, and George was enthusiastic about the idea, telling the other boys all about navigation and things. He had been learning mathematics at school, and although he despaired at getting Peter to understand geometry, he though it would still come in handy at sea.
They put to sea in a ship that was all curlicues inside of curlicues, painted brightly like a great boiled sweet, and although George was old enough not to want to lick the wood, some of the other boys did and then made faces. There were plenty of cannon aboard, and when he tried to work out how they must be aimed to fire, Peter told him not to worry about things like that.
George tried not to worry about things like that, but he was the sort of boy who was never entirely happy when he wasn't worrying. He worried sometimes about having too little time to do everything, despite how long his dreams seemed, because everyone told him that soon he would be a man, and then apparently his dreams would be all about women, and never long enough. He didn't yet dream about women, except sometimes about his mother, but in Neverland mothers were not of much account, so he didn't worry too much about that.
The pirates found them almost at once, which of course was Peter's design, because there is no use in having pirates who don't menace the seas. Captain Hook looked very fine in his feathered hat and a long coat far too interesting to wear in London without making people stare, and there was a very satisfying swordfight, up and down the rigging and all along the rail. Peter played fair, more or less, because it was more fun that way, but Hook didn't, and when George slipped on a fish that was lying about, Hook caught him by the collar and dragged him close to look at him.
"You might make a pirate yet," Hook said, tilting his chin up to the light. "What do you know about navigation?"
George wanted to say that he knew something about secants and what a sextant was for, and also that he would never join a blackhearted pirate's crew while there was breath in his body, but somehow he got distracted by the line of shadow at Hook's jaw and the way his hard fingers held George's chin, like there was something they knew that he might find out if he picked the right box to open.
"Avast!" Peter cried, swooping in with his sword flashing, and at the end of the day of course they sent the pirates packing, and set sail back for the cove with the sky lightening and the morning star rising in the east.
The boys hung on the rail and played in the rigging, but Peter's face was sad. "You won't be coming back," he said.
"I'm not a pirate," George said, but the next night his dreams were all about pirates, handsome pirates with no kisses at all at the corners of their mouths but with hard mocking eyes, and it wasn't long before he realized it had been weeks since he had dreamed of Neverland at all.
George married the woman all his friends wanted to marry, by carefully arranging to get there first, and had three children he managed to keep fed and clothed through careful economy. If he had a dog for a nursemaid, she was a very good nursemaid, and if his wife's most secret smiles were never for him, he wasn't entirely sure what he would have done if they were.
Then one day his children went off to Neverland without him, and he sat up all evening in the nursery next to the empty beds, looking out the open window. He thought there was nothing else for it, in the end, but to go himself and fetch them back, although he felt he shouldn't tell his wife that. She would probably worry about him if she knew.
Having no pixie dust, he was forced to take a coach, which is a rather long and round about way, but there you have it. When he climbed down from the coach at the dock, he peered around uncertainly, because a great deal had changed. He didn't remember the lagoon being full of mermaids sunning themselves on their rocks, or having bright flamingos that spread their wings and threw black shadows over the water. It was strange to think of flamingos in the heads of his children, which usually he thought of as full of their times tables and other things he tried to put there.
"I hate the flamingos," Hook said from the other end of the dock. "They're good for target practice, though. We always have trouble aiming the cannon."
"Hook," George said. "I'm here to find my children."
"I thought you were here to see my ship," Hook said. "They call it the terror of the seas."
"Do they, then?" George said, and somehow he found himself following Hook aboard ship and into his cabin, where there were all kinds of things he didn't remember being in Neverland, like brandy and tobacco and a grindstone for things that needed to be kept sharp. Peter's sword was always sharp because Peter expected it to be, but other things apparently took more sharpening.
"We have something to finish," Hook said, and caught George under the chin. "You remember this, don't you?"
"I might remember something like that," George said, although he wasn't looking up to Hook now, which made for something of a change. Also, Hook's fingers were brushing the stubble on his own chin from sitting up all night without shaving, although he didn't look as though he was going to criticize George for that.
"Why are you still dressed?" Hook said, and while George would normally have explained that being properly dressed was important for presenting the proper image in the City, and that without his tie properly tied they were all in danger of sliding into poverty and ruin, he had to admit that on a pirate ship a tie seemed a little superfluous. Taking off clothes was always easier than putting them on, and Hook helped him when he grew impatient, although that was a bit dangerous given the hook.
"Now bend over the harpsichord," Hook said, and while George would like to have said that he didn't understand why, he had read more books than just ones on mathematics. In fact there were all kinds of things he had wondered what it would be like to do, not just climbing mountains in far-off countries or going out to dinner without a tie at all, and it seemed that he was going to find out about one of them right now.
Being buggered by a pirate turned out to be just as pleasant as he had worried that it would be, because it was an inconvenient thing to have a taste for, like wanting steak when any reasonable sense of economy meant sticking to kidney pie instead. When Hook was done with him, he let him sag onto the harpsichord, with a dissonant twang that was anything but musical.
"Reconsidering the attractions of piracy?" Hook said as George pushed himself up, his hands on the keys like the first jangled notes of a lullaby. George looked at Hook, who now that he thought about it bore some resemblance to one of the boys he'd been in school with, who never could keep his hair in order either, and always had interesting bruises on his cheeks from falling down playing football.
It was very tempting to run away and be a pirate, and he thought that while Mrs. Darling would be sad, it would appeal to her romantic nature to say that she had lost her husband to the terror of the sea. But then there were Wendy and John and Michael, and although it was easy to forget things in Neverland, he thought he could probably never forget holding Wendy's little hand in his.
"You'd better put me ashore," he said, but somehow when he took the first step down the gangplank, he found himself back in his own bed, with the windows still thrown open in case Wendy and John and Michael should come home.
He got out of bed so quietly that his beautiful wife only turned over in bed and sighed, her hand reaching out for his shadow but not catching it, and sat up in the window seat for a while, watching clouds skate across the moon. He was sure they would come home soon, he told himself, and tried to believe they wouldn't be sorry.