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Alone and Unloved no More - Part 7

No like if you are seriously still reading this, tell me and I will literally applaud you. You won't see it, but I'LL DO IT



Chapter 7 – Cold-blooded Trouble

 

            During the next few days, Hook and Ashanti didn’t so much as glance at each other, until Ashanti and Smee were making dinner again, and Smee didn’t have most  of the ingredients he needed.

            “Come to think of it, when was the last time we saw a town?” he asked.

            “I… think the last town was that port town where I got my hand fixed up,” she said.

            “Oh,” said Smee, “We need to find a town. We’re running low on supplies.”

            “Are we?” she asked.

            “Go tell the captain we need to stop by a town soon,” Smee said.

            Ashanti blushed. “What?” she asked, “I can’t!”

            Smee sighed. “You can’t avoid him forever, lassie,” he said. She squared her shoulders.

            “I know, but…”

            “Would you rather face your fear, or starve to death?” he asked.

            “I’m going to go talk to the captain,” she decided.

            “Good girl,” he said.

            She opened the door and peered around the deck. Hook was at the wheel, of course, gazing around the horizon. Most likely looking for an island, like the rest of them. Ashanti timidly walked up to him. He completely ignored her, although he made it obvious he knew she was there.

            “Captain,” she mumbled. This was the first thing she said to him after three days of silence. He glanced at her.

            “Oh… Hello, lo… Ashanti,” he said, forcing a pleasant smile.

            “Uh… Uh, uhm…” She shifted uncomfortably in her spot. “Uhm… Smee sent me up here to tell you that he’s running low on supplies.”

            He sighed. “I know, I know. I’m planning on stopping at the first island I find,” he said.

            “Alright,” she said. She wasted no time in running away from him, back to the kitchen.

            No islands turned up for the next few days, and Smee was forced to give little portions to the crew, and to the captain. Soon there was very, very little food left. They were living off berries and the last of the rum.

            “Just eat them, Ashanti,” Hook said one evening while they were eating on deck. He was trying to get her to eat the few berries that were on his plate. Between their extra food spoiling and Smee treating them with first-class dining, this was all they had left. And Smee still managed to make it look appetizing. Hook and Ashanti still refused to make eye-contact, but they were up to the level of at least talking to each other again. Even if it was still slightly awkward.

            “But they’re yours,” she said.

            “They’re just berries, Ashanti. Eat them. I don’t want them,” he said.

            “But… You need them more than I do,” she said.

            “Who says?” he asked.

            “Me,” she said. He stared at her. As soon as she started looking at him, he averted his eyes.

            “Aye, well…  I’m the captain, and--”

            “Don’t throw that ‘captain’ crap at me. Just eat the stupid berries,” she said.

            “No,” he said.

            “Fine,” she grumbled. She picked one of the berries and put it in her mouth. It was, perhaps, the best berry she had ever tasted. She glanced up at him, her eyebrows drawn. He was gazing at the berry as though it was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. He looked up at her. She forced herself to maintain eye-contact with him. He gave her a nervous smile. “You--”

            “No. You eat them,” he said. She shook her head.

            “I can’t,” she said. He picked up the plate.

            “Then I’m going to throw them overboard,” he said.

            “Fine with me,” she said. He tossed the whole plate overboard.

            “Farewell, my lovely berries,” he murmured. He turned around, his arms open as though to hug her. She just sat on the deck, exhausted. “Ashanti!” he yelled, “How long do you think we have before we have to start eating each other?” She stood up and brought his rum over. He took it without hesitation and chugged it all. Ashanti rolled her eyes. She pushed on his shoulders so they both sat down.

            “We can’t waste all of our energy standing up,” she said. He put a finger on her lips.

            “Or talking,” he said, “From now on we’re talking through sign-language.”

            “What?” she asked.

            He put a finger against his lips.

            “Stop it,” she said, “You can’t possibly be that hungry.”

            He rubbed his stomach and made a pained expression.

            “You’re pregnant?” Ashanti asked, smirking.

            He gave her a blank expression.

            “Just please talk to me!” she yelled, and slapped him.

            “Alright, alright!” he said, “I’m sorry.”

            “Man, this is terrible,” she murmured, “I really hope we find an island soon.”

            “Aye,” he said. She sighed. He backed up till he was leaning against the balustrade at the edge of the ship. She followed, sitting to his right. He put his arm around her shoulders. “Once we find an island,” he said, “I’m going to buy the whole crew a huge feast.”

            Ashanti groaned in hunger, and moved closer to him, forgetting or ignoring the awkwardness. After a moment, she leaned her head on his shoulder, closed her eyes, and fell asleep.

 

            Almost two weeks later, they still were in no luck. Ashanti still managed to work a bit, but no food had left her with almost no energy, not to mention starvation. Once she was done with her duty, she would go and speak to Hook, who was by far looking the worst, seeing as how he would force himself to stand and steer for hours at a time.

            Presently, she walked up the stairs to him, against the sounds of half the crew vomiting over the edge of the ship. There were very dark rings under his eyes, which showed up extra against his now-colourless skin.

            “So… this is how we die?” she murmured. He stared at her, his face as serious as she had ever seen it.

            “Perhaps so, Ashanti. But we have to keep eyes out, and hopes high,” he said softly. About two days ago they had entered an unnatural fog, which just lessened the possibility of them finding an island, and heightened the possibility of them crashing into something. At this point in his life, Hook didn’t really mind which one happened. “This never would have happened on the Jolly Roger,” Hook said.

            “Please,” she said irritably, “Please don’t mention that old ship. Especially at a time like this.”

            “Aye,” he said, all of his usual stubbornness slipping away by the second, “Sorry, lass.”

            She gave him a small smile, put her hand on his shoulder, and then walked down the stairs to help swab the decks.

            Still no luck after three days, and Hook had sent two of his crew to the Crow’s Nest to look, see if they could lookout over the fog. His crew was moving very slowly, and most of the time they wanted to sleep. Ashanti seriously doubted the fact that Hook had stopped steering for the night. They were desperate, clinging to life only by the tips of their fingers. The crew and the captain scarcely talked to each other anymore, but Ashanti’s mind ceased to stop running. Every day she was thinking about how they could get food.

            The next day, she walked up to Hook’s post. His legs were shaking, as he hadn’t moved from that spot for who-knows-how-long. She was sure he was in the most pain, but was touched by his determination.

            “Captain,” she said, barely over a whisper. He just slid his tired eyes over to her. “Is there any way we can fish in the ocean? From the ship?”

            “We don’t have any fishing gear,” he said, “But if we did, it might be a possibility.”

            She grimaced. “Oh…” she murmured.

            They stood there for a moment, silent. “I can steer for a while, if you want.”

            “No, love. Not in this place. I’m fine. How is my crew doing?” he asked.

            “Not too good,” she murmured, her eyes stinging with tears. She needed something to get her mind off of Hook. He was just beginning to get tragic. She turned towards the rest of the ship and watched her crewmates struggle just to walk a few steps.

            “Have we lost anyone?” Hook asked. She turned back to him, taking in his gaunt appearance.

            She shook her head.

            “We will, soon…” he mumbled.

            She just stared at him. Whenever his eyes closed even a bit, he would force them to shoot back open. She searched his eyes for any sign of hope, but it was all wasted. Finally he just passed out, landing on the deck with a depressing thud. Ashanti ran over and scanned his face.

            “Captain?” she asked, fearing he had finally died of starvation. But he was breathing. And for once during the past two and a half weeks he looked peaceful. He was sleeping. She wiped her eyes, then stood up and grabbed the wheel. Steering was a bit confusing at first, though it began to make more sense to her as she progressed. She stood there for hours until she felt like passing out, then suddenly there was a voice somewhere high above her.

            “Land ho! Land ho!”

            She stared up at where the Crow’s Nest would be, even if she couldn’t see it through the fog. One of the pirates scurried down the ladder and ran up to Ashanti, not even noticing it wasn’t Hook.

            “Which way?” Ashanti asked, too exhausted to celebrate.

            “Straight ahead, captain,” the pirate told her, “And the fog ends, as well.”

            “Good,” she said, “Go back up to the Crow’s Nest.”

            The scallywag nodded and ran up. Ashanti did her best to steer straight ahead, and before she knew it they were out of the fog. She could finally see clearly again, and she could see the island silhouetted in the distance. “Crew!” she yelled as loudly as she could, which wasn’t very loud. But the crew heard her, and gave her their attention. “Do whatever you can to make the ship go faster! There’s an island in sight!”

            “Aye, captain!” yelled the crew. Ashanti saw as hope flooded back into them, and she smiled to herself. She sort of liked being called ‘captain’. She turned back to Hook, whom she had left laying on the deck behind her. He was still there, bundled in his coat, his eyebrows drawn slightly. His hat lay nearby, letting his hair have a chance to regain some air. Ashanti took a deep breath and turned away from him to the island, which was coming into focus more by the second. Above her she could see extra sails coming down. Once the island was in focus, she was able to find some docks. As Hook had said almost three weeks ago, the crew acted on instinct, lowering the anchor at a good time and then jumping off the ship and onto the docks to tie it up. Ashanti let go of the wheel and went back to Hook, shaking him slightly by the shoulders. He opened his eyes a bit.

            “What?” he asked. She knew that in sleep he could forget all about how hungry he was, or how gaunt he was looking, or how thirsty he was. She smiled.

            “We’re docked at an island,” she told him. He immediately sat up and looked around. The island they were at this time was larger than the last, and it wasn’t situated on a hill. It was rather cold here, but not too much. Ashanti pulled him up to his feet and they walked towards the ramp that would take them to the docks. Hook commanded all of his pirates to follow him.

            “We’re going to eat and drink so much we won’t ever want to eat again,” he said. His crew cheered a weak cheer and followed him down the docks. The first place they saw that looked good, they stopped at. Hook bought plate after plate of food for his crew and himself, and glasses of water, wine, rum, juice, whatever they wanted. Until, as Hook had said, they were so full they never wanted to eat again, which was a couple hours later. He knew they would all end up throwing it back up, so he decided they would stay in town for a few days before setting sail again.

            Once they were all finished eating, Hook sent his pirates off to do whatever they wanted, whether it be on the ship or in the town, but he had used up a good amount of his loot on the food. Ashanti convinced Hook that they should go and find a store where they could buy a map. Hook hadn’t wanted to buy a map, as his whole goal was to find uncharted land. Though Ashanti pointed out it was a good idea to know where the islands were scattered. Hook couldn’t argue with that.

            They walked around the island together, looking for a shop and conversing a bit. While they were sitting on a bench to rest, Hook wrapped his arms around her shoulders.

            “Good girl,” he said, “steering us out of that fog.” She giggled sheepishly.

            “Thanks,” she said. She lifted her hands so they touched the soft velvet off his sleeve. She didn’t want him to take his arms away. And it turned out he didn’t either. She laughed again, but it quickly turned into tears. He pulled away from her.

            “What’s wrong?” he asked. She wiped her eyes, laughing again.

            “I’m just glad you’re alright,” she said, “You can’t push yourself like that again.”

            “Anything for my crew, love,” he said. She laughed again.

            “That’s the trouble with you, you idiot,” she murmured, wiping her eyes again, “You love your crew too much.”

            “How can I not? They’re a good crew,” he said. She glanced at him.

            “You almost died,” she said.

            “So did you,” he said.

            “Well… you get the point,” she said.

            “Aye,” he said, wrapping his arms around her shoulders again, “That I do.”

            He nuzzled her blissfully, purposely forgetting his oath. After a moment, she stood up, pulling him with her. They resumed their search for a map.

            “It’s amazing how many shops there are here,” Ashanti said.

            “Aye,” he mumbled, “But it’s even more amazing that not one of them has a map.”

            “Well then, let’s ask,” she suggested.

            “Fine by me,” he said. He stood there while she ran into a shop and asked. She came back out with a map in her hands.

            “Got a map,” she said.

            “Open it up,” he said. They stepped out of the way of foot-traffic and Ashanti opened the map. Hook immediately found where they were on the map. As far as he could tell, none of these islands had names. The island they were on was shaped vaguely like a heart. Hook ran his finger across the parchment back to the island they had been at. He blinked.

            “Reaper’s Way?” Ashanti asked, her eyes tracing across the route they had taken.

            “Aye, that’s what it looks like to me,” he said. The map showed a skinny path, carved out by jagged rocks. There was no room to turn the ship around without hitting those rocks, and there were no islands around. According to the little scale on the bottom of the map, it was about one thousand miles long – three times larger than ninety percent of the islands. They looked at each other.

            “How come we didn’t see the rocks?” she asked.

            “Well… it was foggy,” he said. She looked back to the map, as did he.

            “At least we got through alive,” she said.

            “Barely,” he mumbled. She smiled and rolled the map up. He looked around. “We should buy a few more, in case that one gets ruined on the ship,” he said.

            She nodded. “Alright,” she said. They walked into the shop and bought a few more, and Hook put them all in the inside of his coat. Though, when they came back out, the whole town was in a panic and running away from the water. There was a mob of people running their way.

            “I wonder what’s wrong,” Hook mumbled. Ashanti stopped one of the people running by.

            “What’s everybody running from?” she asked.

            “There’s a giant alligator coming up on shore!” cried the civilian, and ran for it. Ashanti turned to Hook.

            “Well, maybe it’s not… the croc…” she said.

            “If it’s a giant, I’m sure it is,” he said.

            “But she said it was an alligator,” Ashanti said, smiling hopefully. But she knew as well as Hook that it was the croc.

            “Come on, love. How many giant reptiles do you think there are in this world?” he asked.

            “Good point. Let’s go,” she said. They took off running with the mob. Eventually, in the panic, Ashanti lost sight of Hook, and the fresh food after weeks of starvation was not doing any good to her ribs. She had to stop and wait for the cramp to reside a bit. But it didn’t disappear. It didn’t reside. She watched as the crowd lessened, and she could barely hear the sound of jaws snapping and thrashing. She made off limping away as quickly as she could, which just intensified the pain. She fell forward, clutching her side. When she lifted her head, there were no more civilians behind her. She was the last one in the mob. She could hear the croc coming closer and closer, but forced herself not to look back. Or move, for that matter.

            The croc was right behind her. She closed her eyes, but nothing happened. The noise subsided. She opened her eyes. The croc had passed right by her. She stood up.

            “No!” she screamed, “Stay away from my captain!” The croc didn’t even act like it heard her. She had to move. She wanted to move. But she couldn’t. The pain was too strong. “Stop! Hook is this way!” she screamed. The croc continued its path. She began pulling herself across the ground until she could crawl, then began walking, hunched over. The pain was finally starting to subside.

            She eventually caught up to the crowd. They were cowering on one side of a large lake, while the croc tried to snap at them from the water. How they had gotten over to that side, Ashanti didn’t care. Her sole focus for the moment was finding her captain. It took her a moment, though she finally found him. He was in the front, trying hard not to fall off. He looked up.

            “Ashanti!” he yelled. She glanced from him to the croc, then back to him. “There’s a path to your right! It’s too skinny for the croc to climb up, but you can make it!” She found the path and ran up it to the crowd, where Hook bombarded her with hugs as though she’d been away for years. “I’m glad you’re safe,” he said. She smiled.

            “I was only separated for a few minutes,” she said.

            “Aye, but I thought the croc had got you,” he said, “I’m sorry I left you, I’ll never abandon you like that again, I promise you.” She felt him grab the back of her head and cry into it.

            “Jeez, captain,” she said, “I think you’re overreacting.” Of course, she didn’t know any of his memories with the croc. So maybe he wasn’t overreacting. He pushed himself away and kissed her cheeks and her forehead over and over again. She pushed herself away, no matter how much she had been enjoying the affection. “Okay, okay!” she cried, “You’re acting like my mother… We need to find some way to get rid of this crocodile.”

            “Aye,” Hook said, shaking the hair away from his face as he sighed.

            “Do you have a gun with you?” she asked.

            “Afraid not, love,” he said.

            “A sword?” she asked.

            “No.” He wiped his eyes. She looked around. There was nothing around that she could use to slay the beast. Hook looked down into the lake. The drop was so steep that the croc couldn’t climb up it, even if it could get dangerously close. Hook pulled back away from the edge. “This is ridiculous, love,” he said, “This beast has followed us all the way from Neverland. I’m ending this now.”

            “What?” she asked, alarmed that he might just jump into the beast’s jaws.

            “Come on,” he said, “We need to get this beast away from the townspeople. We need to find a weapon, and we need to kill this guy.” He took off running down the path, Ashanti following close behind.

            “Wait a second!” she yelled. He stopped and looked back. “Crocodiles can run very quickly on land, I know that. He only follows you – he passed right by me while we were separated. So I’ll run into town and find a gun, and I’ll come back and kill the croc.”

            “No, love. Bring the gun back here. I want to kill the croc,” he said, “This is my demon.” She stared at him. He ran back up the hill. “Alright?” he asked. She nodded.

            “Alright,” she said. He smiled and ran up the hill farther. The croc stayed submerged in the water, but followed Hook. Ashanti dashed down the hill as quickly as she could, searching for a gun shop. For a while she had no luck, but she eventually found one. She had to kick down the door to get in, and once she was in she had no idea what she was looking for. So she just gathered the basics – a gun and ammo – and hoped that this was enough.

            She ran back to the pathway and up it, and handed the supplies to Hook. Thankfully what she had gathered was good enough. He quickly readied the gun and aimed it at the croc.

            “It’s time for you to die, you stupid beast!” he yelled to it, “You’ve put me through enough torture!” Without hesitating any longer he fired shot after shot into the beast’s head. The water in the lake turned red. The beast thrashed around, and Hook just kept firing and reloading and firing until it fell back, dead. And Hook still kept firing.

            “Stop it!” Ashanti said, grabbing his hand and stopping him. He was shaking. “He’s dead now,” she told him.

            “Aye,” he said, looking at her. He pulled away from her and kept firing into the heart, until all of his ammo was used up. Then he threw the gun as hard as he could into the beast, creating a morbid-looking bruise. “Now he’s dead,” he said. She blinked, deciding to remain silent.

            Suddenly she realized it was silent. Nobody moved. Nor was there the sound of the tick-tock.

            “The clock is dead,” Hook said slowly. She looked away from the gruesome sight of the croc to Hook, who didn’t look as relieved as she would have liked.

            “That’s good, right?” she said. He nodded.

            “Aye, but not as good as the croc being dead,” he said, a smile creeping across his lips. He looked at her. “He’s dead!” he cried. She gave him a small smile. He hugged her and began dancing around. “He’s dead!”

            She blinked. This was humiliating in front of the whole town. After a while of this, she pushed herself away and looked at the townspeople, who were all staring at them. She smiled nervously and began pushing Hook down the hill.

            “Let’s go look for our crew,” she said.

            “Aye,” he said. He pushed himself away and began running down the hill. Ashanti followed, ignoring the crocodile completely. When they passed by the gun shop, Hook stopped. “Ah, love,” he said, “You kicked down the door. You’re more of a pirate than I thought.” She looked around. The townspeople were beginning to come down the hill towards the town again. Ashanti pushed him towards the docks.

            “Let’s go,” she said, “I don’t want them to see us by the door.” They went to the ship and hung around, waiting for the rest of the crew to turn up. But they stayed there for a while, and nobody came. Hook went to his captain’s quarters – something he hadn’t done in a while. Ashanti missed the luxury of his Quarters on the Jolly Roger, but she was sure they could find some furniture for this room. He put the maps away in a chest of drawers, where his scarf was, and then went and collapsed on his bed. Ashanti watched from the open door. The sky was getting overcast. He took off his coat and extra dressings so he was in just a shirt and pants, boots, and his hook. He sighed.

            “Ah, it’s good to be free, love,” he said, exhilarated. She leaned against the frame, smiling a bit.

            “I’m glad you’re happy,” she said.

            “I’m not just happy, I’m ecstatic!” he said, a blissful smile playing his lips. “Killing that croc has got to be the greatest thing I’ve ever done.”

            She walked into the dingy old room, leaving the door open because it was rather stuffy. She walked over to the bed and sat on the edge closest to her. He smiled at her. Though he said he was ecstatic, he looked exhausted. She stroked the hair away from his face. He reached over himself and pulled her onto the bed, snuggling up close. She felt slightly uncomfortable, but she didn’t let it show.

            “We need to get the ship fixed up,” he said, closing his eyes. He let her have her space now, though her head was resting comfortably on his arm.

            “We can do that tomorrow,” she said.

            “Aye,” he said, sighing in bliss. Before she could continue with the conversation, he was out. She lay there for a moment, then sat up, stroking his hair again.

            “Have a good sleep,” she said. She stood up and walked out of the room. It smelled like salt water and coming rain. She looked up. The sky looked calmer than it had when the storm came on them, when it had cost them the Jolly Roger. She sighed and began cleaning up around the ship.

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