The screams went on for a long time.
They had woken him, and it seemed the shrieks were well underway by the time they yanked him from sleep. It took him some time to realize this, though, distracted at first by the the bodies.
The pain radiating from the lump at his temple when he jolted awake opened his eyes wide. He saw right off he was in the Captain's room, sitting in the Captain's chair. Scattered about the floor like carelessly spilled matchsticks were a dozen bodies; men he recognized, all staring up at him with wide eyes.
It wasn't until the eyes began to blink and the bodies to struggle that he saw and registered the ropes and gags.
All were alive, though tightly bound and gagged, each lashed to a piece of furniture so though they might struggle against their bonds they could neither make their way across the floor nor utter more than muffled grunts.
"What the hell is?" he began, but the screaming, which had faded to mere background noise at the shock of seeing the men, cut him off with renewed vigor. The note, starting high, climbed steadily higher, going on until he was certain no man could take so great a breath, could make a sound last so long, that there must be some means mechanical making the sound, when it abruptly choked off with a whimper that could have no source but a human throat.
It was during this terrible note that he realized his own bonds. Ropes secured his wists and ankles to the massive throne that was the Captain's favorite perch. Another wrapped his chest, holding him firmly to the backrest. Discovering this, he panicked, struggling against his bonds for all he was worth, trying for just the slightest slack, but he was surrounded by sailors, the least of which was expert in the tying of knots. He strained until black dots flew before his eyes, then sagged back into the chair, exhausted, the rope about his chest holding him erect.
"What the hell is going on?" he roared; all that came out was a weak croak the crew never even heard. If he'd panicked, he saw, then the crew was caught up in constant terror. They strained at their bonds, past the sane limits of human endurance. Muscles stood out like cords beneath skin. Ropes that would not give way to force were twisted, writhed against until the skin rubbed raw, then more than raw, blood staining the Captain's rugs and floor as the men pushed past the pain, sawing the ropes deep into their own flesh in an almost mindless effort to escape.
The screaming, a constant since he awoke, was winding down again. He thought it might finally be over ... until he heard the words. Words that mingled here and there among the shrieks of pain.
"... no... no please... please... I beg you lad ... for the love of God kill me please... "
Shocked at the voice, he looked about the room, seeing the entire crew writhing madly against their bonds, spurred to new efforts by the words they all heard.
Tears ran unchecked down his cheeks, terror coiling about his heart like a serpent of ice as he made connections he had not made before. If he was here, and the crew was here, then the only one left to play the part of the screaming man was...
Their Captain, the best and strongest of them all, was begging for death.
They must have said no.
The Captain was a very strong man. The screaming went on for a long, long time.
~ ~ * * ~ ~
The struggling ceased, all eyes focused on the door. They heard not a footstep, not a whisper of boot on board, but the door swung open just the same. Framed in the doorway stood a silhouette with long tresses flowing beneath a large, feathered hat, one hand naught but a hook.
Relief almost unmanned him all over again.
The figure reached up to remove the hat. And the hair. With a flick of his wrist, the newcomer flung the hair to land, with a wet sound, in the middle of the floor. By the flickering light of the wall lamps, they all saw the cap of flesh that still held the hair together.
It was a scalp, fresh, bloody, and oh-so-familiar.
The hook followed, landing to roll in a semi-circle on its cuff, the hook point tapping lightly on the floorboards in the silence.
The figure suddenly shot across the room, flying like a stooping bird of prey to land lightly behind the Captain's chair. Fingers twined in the seated man's hair, yanking his head back against the chair-back.
"Happy, Smee?" the attacker hissed in his ear. "You were one of the ones always saying I needed to grow up, remember? Well, here it is. Like it? I do. See that?"
A knife blade pointed, indicating the bloody hair.
"My Indian friends taught me that little trick. I've been waiting to try it."
Figures crowded into the doorway; the Boys, all grinning and watching their leader with shining eyes.
"The best part is," the whisper went on, "I'm not the only one learning new things."
There was a streak of light and suddenly a tiny figure filled the air before him. Pretty and perfect, the fairy stared at him with hungry eyes. He was horrified to see her chin covered with blood, which she wiped at absently, licking it from her fingers as she spoke in a tiny, tinkling voice.
"It's so salty! It's so good! Especially when it's still hot and fresh... the Captain lasted so long, Peter. How long can you make this one last?"
The hand tightened in his hair.
"A long time, Tink," the Pan whispered. "A very long time!"
As the blade descended toward his hairline, Smee began to scream.
He screamed for a very ... long ... time ...