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Stef in Kensington Gardens

It’s James’ fault that Hook came into Stef’s life.

So, Stef had this old copy of Peter Pan, and loved it. It was one of the first books she ever read to completion by herself. (Yeah, she was reading really young. Genius happens when you instinctively know to stay quiet in your room, or face getting yelled at).

So it’s no surprise that the Lost were aware of her, but with limited resources, there are only so many children they can look after; and though the emotional abuse was rife, Stef’s life was never in danger from her situation.

This kinda changed one day.

Charlotte didn’t know how much James hated Stef – she never figured it out, even to the day she died – so would insist that occasionally, James go out for a day with Stef. Usually, he was able to make this a “take your kid to work day” and pawn her off onto an assistant. This day, however, he wanted some fresh air, so they went for a walk, and ended up in Kensignton Gardens.

Which suit Stef just fine, for reasons as demonstrated by this picture:

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So Stef’s happy and quiet, and sits and reads under a tree while James sits at a park bench and reads the paper. Then he gets a call on his cell phone – the call to let him know he’s been made partner in his law firm – whereupon he folds up his paper, and rushes off to celebrate with his beloved wife, leaving Stef behind.

Stef…notices after a little while. But doesn’t react. She’s about five. She has no idea how to react. She knows her father hates her – there’s no way she can’t. But some part of her still believes, deep down, that he surely couldn’t have abandoned her. So she reads. And there are people around, and they all have bystander syndrome – assuming she’s with one of the other families.

And hours pass. She reads the book over and over. She gets scared. She cries. She keeps reading.

And from thin air, a man dressed like her beloved Captain Hook – the way she always imagined, a regal king gone slightly dusty. The bright twinkling eyes of a grandfather. He bows, and introduces himself. He sits with her. He uses some Lost magic to make them just out of sight for people who might look in their direction. Not…invisible, your eyes just slide away. She’s no longer a child alone. No longer a target for any bored kidnapper.

And he feeds her cheese sandwiches. And apologies for the paltry fare – even though the choice was a deliberate one. He wanted to give her something simple. Something that was safe and homely and the antithesis of being abandoned and alone.

He tells her stories. Stories that aren’t in the book. Adventures and fights against the Lost Boys. He gives her his coat to keep warm.

The sun fades, and he tells her that he’ll take her to Neverland when the second star to the right becomes visible. No part of him would leave a child alone at night.

But Stef’s parents finally show up – having just realised that none of their staff was caring for their daughter. James, of course, blames her for taking valuable time away from his celebration.

When she looks around, Hook is gone, so is his coat, and the crusts from the cheese sandwiches. But there’s the smell of salt an the sea in the air, and she knows it was all real.

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