Closer to Home

Chapter 11

It didn’t seem so terribly long before Peter heard the door unlock and the shielded his eyes from the glare of sudden light. An hour perhaps.

Michael looked down at him for a moment, his expression calm, before turning and walking back into the kitchen without a word.

Peter cautiously got to his feet and stepped out into the hallway. His first instinct was to run as far away from Michael as he could get; find a hiding place in a dark corner of the house and hope to keep out of the man’s way. But the scent of hot food swayed him.

Tentatively, Peter walked into the kitchen and saw two steaming bowls of porridge on the table. He looked at Michael warily, but the man smiled warmly and gestured to him to take a seat. Peter did so and, after a reassuring nod from Michael, he grabbed up a spoon and began shovelling the hot porridge into his mouth. Peter couldn’t remember the last time he had been so hungry, or the last time food had tasted so sublime. There was also a tall glass of water on the table before him, and Peter soon guzzled that down as well, before returning to scrape his bowl clean.

Michael sat opposite the boy and ate slowly as he watched Peter devour the large portion he had given him.

With his bowl licked clean, Peter relaxed into his chair and took a moment to catch his breath.

“Better?”

The boy looked at the man suspiciously, but gave a small smile and a nod.

“Is there any fruit?”

The man smiled back and nodded before rising from his seat and walking over to the grocery bags on the kitchen counter. He returned with an apple, placing it in the centre of the table before returning his attention to his own meal.

Peter snatched it up when Michael’s hands were a safe distance away, and greedily bit into it.

“We should play a game after dinner.”

Peter visibly stiffened and kept his eyes downcast at the half-eaten apple in his hand. Michael watched him for a moment, waiting for a response. Getting none, he let out a long, exasperated sigh.

“Why won’t you play, Peter?”

The boy only twitched, still not meeting the man’s gaze.

“Don’t you know, you’ll grow up if you stop playing.”

This did cause Peter to glance up. He looked worried for a moment, but his face quickly relaxed as he gathered his thoughts.

“I would play, Michael… But not with you.”

Michael’s face fell. Peter thought the man was going to cry; his bottom lip trembled. It was a strange sight, to see a grown up close to tears.

“But… Why not?”

Peter’s muttered reply was so quiet, Michael hoped he had imagined it. But he knew he hadn’t, and it stabbed into him like a knife.

“I hate you.”

The hurt blossomed in Michael’s heart and stung his eyes… but then Wendy filled his mind and he felt the grief morph into anger.

“How dare you?! You… ungrateful… It should be I who hates you for what you did! You left her to die! My lovely, sweet Wendy… It was your fault!

Michael had stood in his rage and towered over Peter as the boy cowered in his chair.

“No! She wanted to come back. I didn’t know...”

“You didn’t CARE!”

Michael lunged at the child then, but Peter managed to dodge and was bolting up the stairs before the man could get hold of him.

Sobbing uncontrollably, Peter felt sick with fear as he could hear Michael storming up the stairs behind him. His tears and trembling legs ruined his escape as he tripped and stumbled before he could reach the landing, and Michael had quickly grabbed him around the waist and heaved him over his shoulder.

Peter screamed and sobbed and kicked in fear, but Michael calmly carried him downstairs without a word and deposited him on the living room sofa. Surprised to have been freed, Peter shuffled as far away from Michael as possible, bringing his knees up to hide his face.

“Now, then...” Michael began pulling several boardgames and puzzles out from a shelf beneath the coffee table before them and arranging them on the table’s surface, “What shall we play?”

Peter shook his head at every board game Michael presented. He didn’t want to play Snakes and Ladders or Monopoly... or even Buccaneer! The boy just continued to pout and turn away until Michael could take no more of it.

Peter flinched as Michael slammed the board game box he was holding down violently, storming out of the room in frustration. The boy listened carefully to the sound of Michael marching up the stairs and stomping from room to room overhead. Peter was wondering if the man had gone out of his mind again when he heard Michael descend the stairs with a lighter, quicker step.

Practically skipping into the living room, Michael grinned at Peter excitedly before producing a fine, feathered, crimson hat and a large iron hook from behind his back.

The child stared at the familiar headpiece and weapon in shock. Despite his notoriously short memory, Peter remembered this hat and its owner with crystal clarity. And how could he ever forget that deadly hook?

“Where did you get those?”

“Just some little souvenirs.”

“Michael… That’s...”

“Yes, wonderful aren’t they?! They’re perfect for playing pirates!”

Michael placed the Captain’s hat carefully on his head and grinned again at Peter. The boy looked horrified, but the man was too full of excitement to notice.

“You will be a Lost Boy, and I will be… Captain James Hook.”

Peter blinked in astonishment. Announcing the name, Michael put on a most convincing impression of the man who’s hat he now wore. It sounded truly as if it was Hook’s own voice that had emanated from Michael as he towered over Peter. The boy tried not to cower.

“Peter... Pan,” The purring calm of the voice filled the boy with terror. How was Michael doing that with his voice? The voice he spoke with was one that was still known to haunt Peter’s dreams, even now, with Hook dead many a long year.

But the way Michael now looked at him was also startlingly familiar; a bloodthirsty hunger in his eyes. The palpable desire for revenge.

“Michael… Stop it.”

“My young nemesis, cowering before me. How delightful.”

Peter ducked out of his seat and made a break for the stairs, but Michael grabbed hold of the boy and threw him, roughly, back onto the sofa. Baring down on him, the man cackled as Peter let out a sob and screwed his eyes shut in terror.

“So, boy… You’re finally fearing me as you should. That’s good… But it doesn’t atone for what you’ve done. Only blood is payment for that.”

As he said this, Hook held Peter down and pressed the iron claw viciously across the boy’s collarbone. Peter screamed bloody murder as the wound stung and bled, and the panicked cries and struggling seemed to bring Michael to his senses.

Dropping the iron hook so that it clunked heavily to the floor, and casting off the Captain’s hat, Michael reached out to Peter in confusion and concern. Peter flinched in response, and sobbed uncontrollably as Michael hurried off to the bathroom medicine cabinet and came back with a rag and bottle of iodine to tend Peter’s wound.

Peter desperately tried to push Michael away. He felt his heart would burst from it’s hammering, and he was struggling to fill his lungs with air. When Michael finally managed to make contact, pressing the iodine-soaked rag firmly against the child’s wound, Peter screamed again and thrashed and wept.

Eventually, though, the boy quieted and Michael stroked the child’s hair tentatively as tears rolled down his own cheeks.

“I’m so sorry, Peter. I didn’t get here in time...”

Peter met the man’s eye and stared at him in confusion, the madness of his captor’s words gradually sinking in,

“Curse that black-hearted Captain Hook! We’ll be ready for him next time, Peter. Don’t worry about that! I’ll protect you until you regain your strength.”

Still, Peter stared at the man dumbfounded. Despite the voice, it had been Michael who had attacked Peter, not Hook. Captain Hook was dead. Long dead. Michael’s latest pretend unnerved Peter more than any that had come before, and he wanted the cry again, but he refused to let himself. So he just held very still on the sofa and stared at his deranged captor as the man continued to mutter about Captain Hook and his vile pirate crew.

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