"Begorra, missy, but the cap'n seems happier than a leprechaun with a pot o' gold this ev'nin'."
Smee was now trying out the fifth of the ring of keys he carried, jabbing it into the keyhole, wriggling it about, then moving on to the next when it didn't fit.
Riley scoffed under her breath, leaning against the doorframe next to Smee as he tried key number six, "Yeah, I'll bet he is."
"Oh! Aye! Th' 'ole crew seems teh be in 'igh spirits as a matter o' fact," he grinned deliriously, his childish eyes beaming, "Mason even offered ta show yeh 'round the crew's sleepin' quarters, 'e did…"
Smee trailed off after trying another unsuccessful key, and Riley clenched her teeth at the previous bit of information, "Greeeaaaat…"
"'Cept fer Mullins…" he babbled on, "'e seems a tad restless lately. Don't seem teh wanna put down 'is sword fer nothin', neither."
She chuckled nervously, "… really?"
There was then a click as he was at last successful with key number nine.
"Ah! There we be!" Smee finally pulled the door open, motioning for Riley to enter.
She had expected to find a somewhat empty room with nothing more than perhaps a small cot. So she was pleasantly surprised to find that it was quite generously stocked. The bed was fairly large, actually, though not quite the size of Hook's, and there was a small chest of drawers.
'Undoubtedly full of more dresses…' Riley thought as one corner of her mouth curled upward skeptically.
There was also a small shelf of books, all as worn as the ones in Hook's cabin, and a single large window that let in the light of the brilliant Neverland sun.
Smee cleared his throat, "Well, then, lass, just yeh go behind the partition there and get into yer petticoat."
She jerked her head back toward him, "Petticoat?"
"That there white one, lass," Smee explained, adjusting his spectacles with a grin.
Riley looked down at the bundle she carried, and after shuffling it about, realized there was indeed a white petticoat trapped in the expanse of pink fabric.
"Oh…" she dumped the dress unceremoniously to the floor taking said petticoat and stepping behind the partition.
'Wish I could wear just this instead of that other thing,' she thought as she slipped the white undergarment over her head.
"Yeh ready there, then, lassy?" Smee called from the other side of the wall.
She sighed, "Sure…"
Riley gasped, then immediately regretted it. For such a small and feeble looking man, Smee was strong. She worried that the laces would snap each time he tugged on them. How they weren't cutting into his fingers enough to draw blood, Riley didn't know.
"There," Smee said, scratching his head, "I hope that's tight enough. Alrighty, then, lass. Would there be anythin' else I could get fer ye?"
Riley squirmed, attempting to resume a position that made it less difficult to breath, "Nope… I'm good," she tried to use the least amount of words possible as more air was sucked out of her with each one.
"Cookson'll tell yeh when the cap'n's ready for yeh," Smee assured, "Goodbye, then, missy."
"Bye," she squeaked.
She turned back to the pink heap on the floor, eyeing it with a bit of disgust. She picked it up by a lacy sleeve and held it up in front of her. To think people were actually expected to go out in public wearing this. She wrestled with the dress, her corset making it even more difficult than it would have been.
"How do you even put this thing on?" she growled in frustration, spreading apart section by section of fabric in attempts to find the hole to slip over her head but finding none.
This fueled her irritation at Hook.
"Lovely," she sneered aloud to herself, "Not only do I have to look like an idiot; I lose the privilege of breathing too?"
By some miracle, she at last found her way into the overly-complicated garment; not that she was thankful for it, of course. She looked into the mirror fixed into one of the sections of the partition in the corner.
"Yeah…" Riley continued her one sided conversation, her annoyance at Hook growing nearly to anger, "I'm gonna let him know exactly how much I appreciate this."
She looked herself up and down and quietly wondered if she might actually glow in the dark. The neck line dipped quite a ways down, showing a bit more cleavage than she liked, and the skirt of the dress had to be at least five or six feet in diameter.
"No wonder I needed the corset; there's no way I could ever have squeezed myself into this without one."
Riley jumped abruptly when without so much as a knock, Cookson entered the small cabin.
"Eez dinner time!" he announced then left as quickly as he had appeared.
"Yeah, don't bother knocking," she mumbled after him. Taking one last look at herself in the mirror, she sighed, "Guess this is as good as it's gonna get."
She ruffled her hair, hoping that would make her look a bit more like herself, then she left for the captain's cabin.
Riley peaked out of the cabin door before slowly inching onto the foc'sle deck. She took her time in closing the door, more time than she actually needed, then turned and paused before continuing to descend the stairs. She kept her gaze at the ground, but she could hear and feel the men on deck stop what they were doing to watch her come down the staircase to the main deck. She tried to ignore their stares as she turned to look toward the sign over the large double doors that read: Captain's Quarters. The muffled sound of music could be heard from inside, she supposed from the harpsichord she had noticed earlier.
She was afraid to go in as she neared the entrance, but she knew she needed to. She was hungry, after all, and the tempting smell of food wafted from inside onto the deck. But more importantly than that, she had to let Hook know her discontent for her current position. She knew she couldn't stand being forced into this dress many more times.
She raised her fist to the door, lowered it, then fidgeted awkwardly for a moment.
'Maybe he'll be alright with letting me work on the ship,' she reassured herself, 'at least with letting me wear my own clothes…maybe.'
Her fist hovered in the air for nearly ten seconds before it finally made contact with the door. Her stomach leapt when she heard the music stop, and after a short pause, she could hear the captain's heavy footsteps get louder as he approached the door. The churning in her stomach was beginning to turn to nausea, and she semi-seriously considered turning tail and running back to her cabin before Hook could open the doors. She wouldn't have had time to do so even if she had decided to, as he was standing before her within only five seconds, although it had seemed much longer.
He flashed her yet another charming, though not so trustworthy smile, "You look stunning, my dear," he complimented, taking her hand in his and gently brushing his lips against it.
"Thanks…" she tried to sound flattered instead of embarrassed. She knew she was blushing bright red again.
He guided her to a seat at the end of a table that had been moved to the center of the room, pulling it out for her, and she sat, secretly praying that her dress didn't burst open at the seams. After confirming that she was comfortable, Hook took his own seat at the other end of the table next to where Short Tom sat on his perch.
Mr. Smee, who had, unbeknownst to her, been in the room the entire time, held up the bottle he carried in his hand, "Neverberry wine, miss?" he offered.
Her eyes shifted from the bottle, to Smee, back to the bottle, and then to Hook for a moment before returning to Smee, "I'll pass," she replied, twitching in her seat, trying to resume a position that allowed air into her lungs.
"Oh… eh w-well" Smee stuttered, glancing nervously from her to Hook, who unsuccessfully attempted to hide a look of contempt directed at the unfortunate bosun. "W-would yeh be preferin' rum, then?" Smee persisted, sensing the captain's annoyance that he was not properly satisfying their guest.
Riley heard a muffled, yet still audible groan of disdain come from Hook, and another wave of nausea washed over her as she wondered if he was becoming annoyed with her.
Her eyes continued to shift back and forth between Hook and Smee.
"No…" she was barely able to squeeze out the answer. But apparently Hook and Smee had both understood what she had said as Smee paused for a moment, again glancing nervously at Hook.
"Well?" Hook growled at the much smaller man.
"Eh…" Smee babbled, clearly not understanding what Hook wanted from him, "y-yes, Cap'n?"
Riley jumped a good two inches from her seat when Hook's hook made contact with the table in front of him, "Go get some WATER ya clapper-dudgeon-LUMMOX!!!"
Smee nearly dropped the wine bottle with a yelp, "Aye, aye, sir!!!" and he disappeared out the door at a speed that would be thought impossible for someone his age.
"Go get some water, ya lummox!" Short Tom squawked, "Get some water! Get some water!"
When Smee was gone, Hook gave Riley a gentle grin, "Do excuse my bosun, Madame. He is quite incompetent at the best of times."
"Er… that's alright…" she said quietly.
"Was the cabin to your liking?"
"Yeah…" she responded simply, turning to the plate of food in front of her and digging in, "it was fine."
Hook furrowed his eyebrows, puzzling over her short answers. He shrugged this off, however; she was probably at a loss for words after her previous plight. She also must have been very hungry to eat any of Cookson's swill as voraciously as she was, so he busied himself with his own food for a moment, allowing her to have a few quiet moments to eat.
He looked up at her occasionally, each time to find her full attention still on her food, and it was starting to wear on his overly sensitive nerves. Was she simply gorging herself to refrain from speaking with him?
Hook stared at her for a moment, expecting her to look up at some point, but she didn't.
She finally acknowledged him with actual eye contact, though she still chewed a mouthful of potatoes and meat.
"I take it you… enjoy the food?"
She nodded, her mouth still full. The roast was quite dry, and it was doubtful that she would have ever considered putting any of the stuff in her mouth if she weren't so hungry, but she wasn't about to make that known.
Hook raised an eyebrow as she bit into a dinner roll with a loud crunch, "First time for everything," he mumbled under his breath.
"First time for everything!! SQUAWK!!! First time for everything!!"
Hook swatted at his parrot, "Quiet!" he whispered through clenched teeth as he handed Short Tom a biscuit to shut him up.
'Belay that, Hook,' he reprimanded himself, 'how could you expect a Yank to have the same upbringing as a British noblewoman?'
"I'm happy to see that the dress fits you," Hook continued, and Riley gave a start at the mention of it, "I had hoped I would have a use for it after I… acquired it from a French merchant vessel. Does it please you?"
Riley choked. She wanted terribly to tell him how much she hated the dress and that she never wanted to lay eyes on it again, but the words wouldn't come out.
In her nervousness, she nodded with a barely audible "yes".
Hook smiled, and Riley mentally kicked herself, 'You idiot! Why didn't you say something?!'
She could feel herself starting to sweat as she watched Hook contentedly resume eating, 'You have to say something!!' she thought, 'Do you want to wear this stupid dress for as long as you might be here?!'
She took a deep breath and forced herself to speak up.
Hook looked back up at her with a piercing gaze, and her brain froze up again.
"Actually?" Hook repeated, urging her to continue.
"Actually, actually…" Short Tom started up again, "actually!"
Hook tossed him another biscuit, and Riley gulped, her throat quickly becoming dry. She could feel her face turning red again, "I, uh…"
'Come on, Riley, just say it. What's the worst that could happen?'
"I'd rather wear my own clothes!"
Hook squinted, "Pardon?"
Riley gritted her teeth, "I mean… I… appreciate what you're trying to do for me, but… I think I'd feel better if I could just, ya know… go casual like everyone else…"
She tried to read the expression on Hook's face but couldn't, "And I was sort of hoping I could, like…work for my stay here…if you want—"
"Oh, dear girl, you need not feel obligated to repay me for my hospitality," he insisted with a wave of his good hand, "I do not do this because I want something in return, but because it merely pleases me to be of service to a fine young woman in need of assistance," that not quite trustworthy smile crossed his features again, "But if you insist, I'm sure the crew would be grateful if you took over the cooking in the galley."
"Actually, I'm not the best cook…" she chuckled halfheartedly, "but I was thinking something more…pirate…-ish. I dunno, whatever it is you guys do."
Hook looked at her as if she had asked him to give her the moon. He chuckled much louder than was necessary, "You want to be a member of the crew?! Madam, a pirate ship is no place for a lady in the first place. I have already gotten objections to your staying here at all. But for a young lady to take up piracy is simply out of the question in my book."
Riley had to bite her lip to keep from making a smart remark.
"Out of the question!! AWK!! Out of the question!!"
Riley glared at Short Tom, but Hook didn't take the time to silence him this time, "As I said before, Miss Sparks, you needn't repay me for my hospitality. I am glad to provide you shelter and my protection for as long as you remain in Neverland."
Riley sighed. It was obvious she was going to have to be more blunt, "Alright…I understand you mean well, but…I didn't ask for your protection. You captured me, remember?"
Hook looked taken aback, almost hurt, but he quickly covered it up by attempting a sincere smile, "Please…" he purred, "do not think that you are being held prisoner by me, Miss Sparks."
She shrugged, "Then you wouldn't mind if I left?"
His face visibly stiffened, "Of course, I would."
"I—" Hook began, but he didn't finish. Instead, he sighed. She could tell that he was trying not to become frustrated with her. "My dear…Neverland is not a place one would want to get lost in."
"Really?" she said snippily, ignoring Short Tom's screeches of 'get lost', "You seem to have plenty of maps lying around, or are you assuming I couldn't read one?"
She heard another purr escape his throat, but this one was a bit more like a muffled growl, "It isn't a place that a young woman should be roaming about in," he said, his tone challenging her to argue the point further, "Perhaps, like those wretched children… you think Neverland to be a wonderful, magical place."
"Isn't it?" though she said this as a question, she really meant it as a statement.
He eyed her darkly, "This cursed island is a cruel place, Miss Sparks; there are numerous plights out there that even rival my own aptitude at times. Therefore—"
"Look…" Hook's eyes bulged at the rudeness of her interruption, but she glared right back, "I'm not a damsel in distress. No matter how much you…want me to be," she shifted and slouched a bit in her seat, "And I hate wearing this dress…"
"Hate wearing this dress!! AWK!! Hate! Hate! Hate!"
Hook's expression was a mixture of perplexity and disappointment, "My dear, I… I don't know what to say. I've never met a woman that didn't enjoy fine clothing."
"Yeah, well, that depends on what you call 'fine clothing'," she tugged at the lace at the collar of her dress with revulsion, "Just let me do the whole pirate thing for a while; humor me for a few days."
"Miss Sparks," Hook put his fingers and hook together in the same way one would steeple their fingers, "you are not qualified to be a part of my crew. I highly doubt you've handled a firearm--"
"Actually, I have," she quickly interjected.
Hook gave her a look that suggested he didn't entirely believe her, "Really? Hm! And might I ask what the circumstances were in which one left a weapon in your charge."
Riley looked at him from over her glasses dejectedly, "You say that like I'm a complete idiot." she pushed her glasses back up on her nose, "It's not that hard to learn how a gun works. I mean, my dad's hunts. He got me a rifle for Christmas when I was, like, eight."
"Well, nonetheless," Hook continued, "you also must be experienced with a sword."
"So teach me," Riley shrugged, "I'll learn fast."
"For a woman to wield a sword is simply not good form," Hook warned, "and I refuse to let you do so under my captaincy on my ship, Miss Sparks."
Riley scoffed, folding her arms across her chest, "Screw 'good form', then."
An uncomfortable silence hung in the room, then. It was such a simple, harmless statement, and Riley didn't even think she had said it loud enough for him to have heard. But she was given only a second to begin to regret what she had just said even before she looked up to see Hook glowering as if he could have exploded.
"I beg your pardon?" he asked softly.
Riley felt a leap of fear in the pit of her stomach when Hook stood from his chair and stalked towards her at a leisurely pace.
"I am an English gentleman brought up along side the most honorable of men."
"Most honorable of men! AWK! Most honorable of--"
"Oh, shut it, ya wretched bird!!" he swiped his hook at Short Tom and the parrot took flight with a distressed cry, landing on the bedpost nearby, not to interrupt for the rest of the evening.
Hook continued toward her with a dangerous gaze, "I happen to hold good form very highly, and while you are on board my ship, you will be expected to do the same," he rested his hook on the back of her chair right next to her head as he circled around and faced her on the other side, "Do not make the mistake of thinking that I am on the same level as my crew of cultureless recreants."
She sighed casually and looked away, but Hook quickly made it apparent that he would have none of her insolence when his hook found its way under her chin and pressed lightly to her throat. He lifted her chin to look at him, the pressure of the hook causing her to gulp. It took every fiber of her being to keep her glare, but she knew his intense stare saw right through her.
"Let me make one thing perfectly clear to you, my sweet," Hook's baritone voice rumbled, "good form is the only reason that you are still living…" he smirked with a dominant leer, "and that you weren't used for a more…corporeal purpose."
He glanced quickly down her figure, making the meaning of this last statement perfectly clear. Riley scowled and pulled away from him violently, refusing to appear intimidated no matter how intimidated she actually was.
He chuckled, knowing she was flustered as he made his way back to his side of the table, "And you will continue to wear the dress--"
"I don't want it!" she hissed through clenched teeth.
Hook snarled, "That wasn't a request!!"
Riley clawed at the bodice, unable to grip the skin tight material, "It's like four sizes too small for me!"
He scraped the table with his hook, "It's precisely your size!"
"Yeah, ten years ago, maybe…"
"Stop yer complaining, girl," he warned crossly, "before I give you something to complain about."
"I can't breath.!" she snarled back, "Isn't that enough to warrant a complaint?!"
Hook's face was almost red now; he had finally had enough.
"Well it's no wonder the way you've been stuffing your face!!"
Riley glared, her pupils visibly shrinking, "… are you calling me fat?!" she hissed
Hook smirked, "You will be, the way you eat."
Riley stiffened in outrage, and Hook chuckled inwardly. Despite his firm belief that women should be treated with respect, he still enjoyed taunting them in true pirate fashion, and she was asking for it; at least, that was what he told himself. It wouldn't be long afterwards that he would be kicking himself for it.
"Now you can sulk all you want, my sweet, but you are still under my authority as long as you are here," his lips curled into a sly grin, "You will soon find, Miss Sparks, that being the polite young lady that you should be has its merits." He tried to make this statement sound as snotty and pompous as he could, and it really didn't take much effort.
Riley rolled her eyes and tore more savagely into her rigid bread only to be scolded gently by Hook to take smaller bites. She held back a snarl of contempt, and sunk her teeth into a bite of the dry, now cold roast.
"It is also clear to me that you could do with some lessons in etiquette…" Hook pressed, enjoying her helplessness more and more, "starting tomorrow."
Riley pretended not to hear, and Hook chuckled silently. He scolded himself for enjoying her discontent so much, but she was making it difficult for herself. He had to admit that he was amused by her ambition, but he had to wonder where she got it in her head that her particular ambitions were appropriate for her. But in the end, he honestly didn't know why he was surprised.
'What else could be expected from someone from such a barbaric country,' he thought, 'But no matter. I'll have her trained in no time.'