Peter Darling

By: Austin Chant

Ten years ago, Peter Pan left Neverland to grow up, leaving behind his adolescent dreams of boyhood and resigning himself to life as Wendy Darling. Growing up, however, has only made him realize how inescapable his identity as a man is.

But when he returns to Neverland, everything has changed: the Lost Boys have become men, and the war games they once played are now real and deadly. Even more shocking is the attraction Peter never knew he could feel for his old rival, Captain Hook—and the realization that he no longer knows which of them is the real villain.





"Each new truth destroys the one held before it."

- Magnus Hirschfeld



Prologue

James Hook was bored.

The woods had grown rather tame, he thought. Time was, he and his pirates would have been fending off tigers, wolves, and little boys with swords; they would have been snarled in thorns and clinging vines, beset by swarming fae, ambushed by roving crocodiles. Nowadays, though Neverland was still overgrown, it was no more threatening than an unkempt lawn.

It was the morning after a powerful rain, but the sun was shining, and dew gathered like jewels on the leaves. From where Hook was reclining, in the velvet cushions of a sedan chair carried by four straining men, the forest had a fresh polish and smelled like the coming of autumn.

There were even sweet little birds singing. It was repulsively saccharine.

"Which way at Eagle Pass, Captain?" called Samuel, Hook's bosun since the retirement of old Smee. Samuel was walking ahead, where Hook could admire his arse.

Hook glanced listlessly at the treasure map on his knee, lifting his lacy cuff so he could see the twist of the path. "East," he said, and the party veered east.

They had liberated the treasure map from One-Eyed Jack, captain of the Devil's Pride, after a brief and unsatisfying battle. The Devil's Pride was currently sinking to the bottom of the sea, and Hook had sent all of One-Eyed Jack's loyalists off the plank, but it hadn't sated him. He was bloodthirsty, and he had nothing to vent his bloodlust on.

The pirates followed his directions into a tight thicket, where the trees grew close to the narrow path. The sedan chair was almost too wide to fit through, but the men knew better than to suggest that Hook get down and walk. They struggled gamely on until the trail emerged into a wide gulch shaded by birch trees. An enormous log had fallen across this ravine, leaving a shallow space just tall enough for a man to crouch under. And there, beneath the log, was a boulder carved with a particular sign—the sigil with which One-Eyed Jack had signed his letters.

Hook sighed, unable to muster much enthusiasm. "Down," he commanded, and his pallbearers set the sedan chair down to rest on its base. "Roll that boulder aside and start digging."

It would be dirty, sweaty work to squat beneath the log and dig up the fortune of gold and jewels rumored to be buried there. Hook was looking forward to it; the sight of other men toiling usually made him feel better. Samuel, especially, had a way of making sweat and grime look appealing. It would at least soothe Hook's soul, if not solve his boredom, to watch Samuel roll up his sleeves and grasp his shovel with those bulging forearms.

Therefore hopeful, Hook settled in for the show.

Half an hour or so later, he began to think that a book would have made for better entertainment. He could only watch the shovel go up and down so many times, Samuel and the others disappearing behind a growing mound of dirt. The temperature increased as the sun climbed higher; the lesser insects of Neverland grew hungry and agitated as they hovered over the ravine, attracted perhaps by all the sweat. Hook swatted the bugs away with the treasure map, glaring at his men as they dug.

"How much longer?" he demanded.

Samuel stuck his head out of the hole, his brown hair slicked down with sweat. "Hard to say, Captain," he said apologetically. "There's no sign of gold yet."

"Hurry up," Hook said. "If that treasure isn't unearthed within the hour, I'll flog every one of you till I can show you your own spines."

Samuel blanched and ducked back into the hole. Hook sighed, fanning himself.

From behind him someone said: "What's the rush, Captain?"

Hook twisted around in his chair, startled.

He hadn't heard the stranger approach, yet there he was, sitting on a rock at the edge of the ravine. The young man wore baggy clothes and carried no obvious weapons, which was unusual for Neverland.