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Alone and Unloved no More - Part 14

YOU'RE SOOOO CLOSE. RELIEF IS ALMOST HERE



Chapter 14 – Scuffles and Poison

 

            Her eyes opened. Hook was yawning hugely, and it made Ashanti yawn as well. They both sat up, bedraggled, to see Smee cleaning their plates from breakfast. He smiled contentedly at them.

            “Morning, cap’n,” he said, “Was tryin’ not to disturb you, seein’ as how you was sleepin’ so peacefully… But…” he trailed off, and both of the others couldn’t understand anything else he said.

            “Smee,” he said. Smee gave his captain full attention. “Time?”

            “Noon, cap’n,” Smee replied, collecting the last glass. Hook sighed in relief. At least they hadn’t slept till six o’ clock… He pulled the covers off of him and walked over to a small vanity-type thing, fixing his terrible bed-head. Amazing what a few hours’ worth of sleep could do to a person. He scoffed at the slight irony – he looked terrible but he felt great – refreshed and ready to sail away from this hell. His hair was in complete disarray, and for the first time in who-knows-how-long he noticed that he needed a good shave. His clothes, for whatever reason, were wrinkled and crumpled in places, even if he hadn’t been tossing and turning. Surely if he went out like this, the crew would get suspicious… He shook his head, chuckling to himself.

            Ashanti pushed herself off of the bed and shut the door behind Smee as he left, then turned to Hook. She yawned as she walked over to him and picked up a hairbrush. She began running it through his raven-black locks.

            “Amazing,” he said, “Simply amazing…” He looked up at his unkempt reflection and smirked.

            “What?” she asked, smiling gently.

            “I find it slightly interesting that I was able to sleep while the croc was present,” he said. She scoffed.

            “Well, you looked terrible. I mean, come on, you were exhausted,” she said. He smiled.

            “True,” he said, savoring her gentle touch against the back of his head as she continued to brush. She sighed in a rather annoyed manner.

            “Stupid crocodile,” she muttered, “Why can’t he just leave you alone? Come on, he can’t possibly live forever…”

            “In Neverland he could,” Hook reminded her, gesturing his head back a bit. She froze momentarily, but shook her head again and continued slowly running the brush down in long strides though his hair. He leaned forward a bit, his creamy-white shirt hanging loosely and comfortably around his shoulders. She stretched her arms out a bit, so as to reach his hair. She was almost done, anyway. He rested for a few moments against the vanity. Finally she was done, and set the brush down next to her. She leaned forward and wrapped her arms around his middle. Neither of them said anything. It would be stupid to ruin such a precious moment of peacefulness.

            Hook sighed hugely, but it was a strange – almost blissful – breath. He hung his head and, with his every being, savored her loving touch. She rested her head against his back, staring out the window to the afternoon sky. Both of them remained silent. Ashanti closed her eyes lightly and gently rubbed against him. They would get away from Neverland, no matter what the costs. This ‘croc’ business was too stupid, and how could Hook possibly be afraid of an eleven-year-old boy who had only showed up, what, once since she had come to Neverland?

            The whole croc thing was ridiculous. To live forever, in Neverland, in fear of an alarm clock? – Ashanti’s stomach lurched – No. Even if time stood still… wouldn’t the clock run out eventually? And wouldn’t that just worsen things for Hook? How would he know if the croc was nearby?

            Crap…

            This was all so freaking confusing…

            If time stood still in Neverland, how in the world could a clock be going? And did that mean it would or wouldn’t just keep running until the end of time…? Or… What would happen to this stupid clock?

            She sighed and shook her head as well as she could while still leaned against him. He finally stood up straight, Ashanti going with him. She let go of him, reaching up to put her hands on the back of her neck. Hook turned around and leaned against the vanity, a gentle smile playing his lips.

            “We should set sail. It’s already noon. If we go now, we could get some distance between us and this island,” he said. She nodded and backed away so he could get out. He walked over to the closet and pulled out a thick coat, which he put on. He handed one to Ashanti, as she didn’t have too much. He pulled something out of his pocket and coiled it around his neck. It was his scarf. He walked over and exited the bedroom into the biting cold. Ashanti followed, watching him closely.

            He quickly rounded up his crew and got them to work, and he himself went to the wheel. Ashanti walked over to the mizzenmast and sat on one of the few barrels they had there. The way they were situated enabled her to sit comfortably and watch the action around her. Normally she would have jumped readily into the work, but she was still thinking. The anchor left wherever it had been resting under the water, and the ship took a slight lurch. Once the anchor had been secured to the side of the ship and the sails unfurled, Hook turned the ship till it caught on the wind and began moving. Ashanti snapped from her thoughts and ran to the side of the ship. No matter how many times they had set sail, this kind never ceased to amaze her. With no dock to hinder them, or ropes tied down, or people chattering… Just them and the water.

            She looked over the side at the water. It was very dark and slushy from the cold. It was strange sailing in these kinds of conditions. As the hull cut through the water she could see white foam form on the edges of the water, which faded from black to turquoise as they rose from the sea. She scanned the edge of the ship till she was looking at the horizon. The big, beautiful, endless horizon. She sauntered towards the bowsprit and climbed onto the base, letting the cold, gentle winds play against her pink cheeks.

            For once in a very long while she felt truly, sincerely happy. And she liked it. She was tired of being angst-ridden and unhappy. She hiked her legs up behind her so she was almost sort of kneeling on the bowsprit and turned around to see Hook. He was, as well, watching the horizon. He slowly pulled his gaze to her and smiled. She smiled back, then turned away.

            Suddenly someone tapped her on the shoulders. It was Joshua. He climbed up and sat on the balustrade that was beside the bowsprit.

            “Morning, sleepyhead,” he said, ruffling her head. “You slept in late.”

            “I ate breakfast, for your information. Then I just found myself going back to sleep. I’d say everyone else was asleep, seeing as how no one came out when Hook fired that gun,” she said. He leaned forward a bit.

            “Do you mean that literally, or… what?” he asked. She stared, awestricken, at him.

            “You mean you really didn’t hear it? You’re serious?” she asked.

            He smiled nervously and shrugged. “Well… yes,” he said.

            “But it was gunfire!” she said, spreading her arms out, “How could you not here it?”

            “I just… didn’t… You don’t remember how it is to be dining with a crew of fifty loud pirates and about thirty talkative children? It’s difficult to hear yourself think!” he said.

            She twitched. “Right, well…” She turned away. “No wonder you were a terrible captain,” she muttered, almost inaudibly. She turned back to him, but hesitated on saying anything. She cast her eyes down, then back up at him. Finally she asked, “How do you kill a crocodile?”

            Joshua looked a bit confused. “Shoot it, stab it… drown it… However you can think of… Why?”

            She shrugged. “I don’t know…” she said, “Just wondering…”

            He scoffed. “No, you aren’t. Why do you want to know?”

            She looked hesitant. She glanced back at Hook, who wasn’t paying the slightest bit of attention to them. In fact, he was talking to Smee and facing almost the opposite way. She turned back to Joshua. “Well, apparently our captain has a crocodile stalker…”

            Joshua scoffed, turned, and hiked his feet up, so he was sitting along the balustrade now. He leaned against Ashanti, and she leaned against him as well. He pulled something out of his pocket, and she saw that it was a ball of lint. He began pulling it apart.

            “And our captain’s young lover wants to help him,” he said, tossing a small portion into the water.

            “Don’t you?” she asked. He scoffed.

            “Love, I’m not that big a fan of our captain,” he said, “I just follow orders. That’s all…”

            “Well, are you going to help me or not?” she asked. He shrugged.

            “I’m pretty sure this ship would be able to outrun a croc,” he said. She looked at him as best as she could, seeing as how as his head was at her shoulder height.

            “Well, if we have to, would you help me kill it?” she asked. He nodded slightly.

            “Aye, sure,” he said.

            “How do you think would be the best way?” she asked.

            “Well, tell me when he shows up again and I’ll help,” he said.

             Hook looked up from Smee, and saw Ashanti and Joshua leaning against each other, talking quietly. Immediately a dull ache sprouted up in his heart. He gripped the wheel a little tighter, his expression almost completely blank. Smee tugged at his coat, but he scarcely felt it.

            “That bloody traitor,” he grumbled through clenched teeth. Smee’s eyebrow’s drew together.

            “What, cap’n? Who?” Smee asked, thoroughly confused.

            He tells us we can’t show affection and then he goes and hits on Ashanti? he thought. He grabbed Smee’s hand and pulled it onto the wheel, forcing him to keep it going forward. He strode down the stairs towards Joshua, every dangling object he had billowing behind him.

            “How dare you?” he yelled, his eyes turning a faint hue of violet. Ashanti and Joshua turned around to see Hook’s furious face coming towards them. Joshua stood up.

            “What’s wr--” Right at that moment Hook punched him across the face. Ashanti gasped.

            “How dare you?!” Hook yelled.

            “What are you doing?” Ashanti called, but she already had some idea. Joshua nearly toppled off the edge into the water from second punch. Ashanti grabbed Hook by the arm and held him tightly. Joshua regained balance and wiped a speck of blood from his lip. Hook flung Ashanti back and grabbed Joshua by the throat, pinning him to the balustrade. “Stop! Stop so we can talk about this!” Ashanti yelled, standing up.

            “I’m done talking!” Hook yelled, punching Joshua again. Ashanti put her hands on her head. What in the world had made Hook so angry? Joshua slipped out of Hook’s grasp and ran behind Ashanti. Hook spun around and, not expecting Ashanti to be there, punched her in the face instead. Just before he did, though, she caught a glimpse of two furious red eyes staring into hers.

            Unprepared, she stumbled a few steps before regaining balance. Silence fell throughout the deck. She stared at him, wiping a long string of blood from her chin (Although it did no good, as her lip and the inside of her mouth continued to bleed). Hook’s eye’s widened, and the red colour quickly drained from them.

            “Ah…” he said breathlessly. Ashanti continued to stare at him.

            “Great going, captain,” Joshua muttered. Hook swung around and kicked him in the back of the knees, sending him crashing down and cracking his forehead on the edge of a box and knocking him unconscious. Ashanti’s eyes widened as she stared from Joshua to Hook.

            “What’s wrong with you?” she asked.

            Hook stared at her. “What’s wrong with you?” he asked. But his eyes were full of guilt.

            “What are you talking about?” she asked.

            “You were getting all cozy with Joshua! I saw you!” he said, pointing to the oblivious, now crimson-headed man.

            “No, I wasn’t! We were discussing the crocodile,” she said. He stood up straight.

            “… What?” he asked, tipping his head a bit.

            “I told him I wanted to kill the crocodile,” she said, “And he agreed to help.” Hook still looked questioning.

            “Why?” he asked.

            “Because I hate that stupid croc!” she said, “And I hate the way you’re so freaking terrified of it! It just annoys me!”

            “But you were acting all… cuddly!” he said.

            She glanced from him to Joshua, who was being hoisted onto a few boxes so his wound could be treated. “Alright, so I confess that was going a little far…” She turned back to him. “But I swear to you that I have no interest in him at all!” she yelled. He crossed his arms and watched her, a good deal of confusion in his eyes. When he said nothing, Ashanti took a step back to leave. Then she stopped. She walked over to Hook, and without thinking twice, punched him in the mouth. Then she walked away.

            Hook went back to the wheel and didn’t speak to either of them for the rest of the day. Joshua woke up eventually, but was allowed little-to-no duty so he could recover. Ashanti turned up a while later, but stayed on the bowsprit the whole time, regardless of any calls she got from the crew. Her lip and left side of her face had suffered a bit of swelling, but most of it had died down, and now all there was was a surprisingly light bruise and the tears in her eye whenever she would accidentally bump it, which happened rather often, actually. Whenever she would reach up to put her hair behind her ears, or rub the sea-salt out of her eyes.

            Finally darkness fell, and Hook felt that that was enough sailing for the night, as the clouds completely concealed the moon and most of the stars, so it was unnervingly dark. As most of the crew sauntered away for dinner, Hook made his way to Ashanti, who had climbed to the tip of the bowsprit. Hook climbed onto the balustrade.

            “Love,” he said cautiously.

            She said nothing. She was about five feet up, over the sea. Hook’s immediate reaction was to be concerned, then realized that she was completely capable of handling herself.

            “Listen… I’m sorry about punching you,” he said soberly.

            Still she said nothing.

            “I suppose I should have thought before I acted, aye, love?” he asked, barely above the volume of waves below.

            “Aye,” she said sullenly. She said nothing else. She let go of the bowsprit with her hands, so she slid backwards to the base – and right into Hook’s lap. Apparently he had climbed over and sat on the base, so her back was against his front. He wrapped his arms around her and kissed her on the cheek he hadn’t bruised.

            Even if she was still a bit angry at him, most of it subsided with the sincerity of his lips. “I’m sorry,” he said, “and thank you.” She shifted awkwardly, inwardly scolding herself for getting angry with such a sweet man. She grabbed his arms and pulled them over her shoulders, closing her eyes.

            “Don’t be sorry,” she said a bit loudly, to keep it from getting too tender, “It was all a big, stupid, immature misunderstanding.” She leaned her head back, closing her eyes. The waves at the front of the ship were large, and she could feel the mist on her legs. For a moment it was serene, but, as usual, Smee had to come and shatter the moment to pieces.

            “Dinner!” he said loudly, appearing beside them. Yelping in surprise, Ashanti scrambled off of Hook’s lap to the deck, and Hook followed. “Where is the cap’n and his lassie eatin’ t'night?”

            Ignoring his bo’sun’s horrid grammar, Hook gestured towards the captain’s quarters on the opposite side of the ship. Smee nodded and quickly made his way for Hook’s bedroom. Hook followed him, and Ashanti followed Hook, glad that they were eating inside. Although they were quite far from Neverland already, it was still terribly cold. Smee stepped aside as Hook unlocked and opened the door. They all stepped inside, and Smee bustled around setting the table. Ashanti helped, but Hook just stood and watched. After a few minutes, everything was ready, and both Hook and Ashanti sat at opposite sides of the table. Smee made one last round about the table.

            “Will the cap’n be needin’ ‘nyt’ing?” he asked.

            “No, I’m fine,” Hook said with almost no hesitation. “Thank… you…” Smee nodded and turned to Ashanti.

            “Lassie?” he asked. She glanced from Smee to Hook, who was watching her, then back to Smee.

            “N… No,” she said, smiling nervously. As soon as Smee was gone, she let her smile fade. She turned to Hook, and there was something near bloodlust in his eyes.

            Minus the blood part.

            “Why are you looking at me like that?” she asked, flattening her hair on the top. He said nothing, but quickly realized he was staring and stared at his food instead. She didn’t wait for an answer, and leaned down to begin eating. Hook followed her lead. For a while it was silent, then Ashanti let out a whimper as she accidentally touched her cheek. Hook cautiously looked up at her. She sighed, but her eyes were more depressed than angry. “Did you chart a course?” she asked gently.

            He took a moment, then nodded. “A bit,” he said, “Just to the next town, so we can get supplies.”

            She nodded, but kept her eyebrows drawn. “Well… good… Supplies are good…”

            He smiled. “Yes. They are,” he said.

            More agonizing silence. The food on the plates slowly disappeared, and finally Smee came in, looking jolly as ever. He took the food and asked if they would take anything.

            “Yes, actually,” Hook said, “Bring me the tub.”

            Smee nodded. “Aye, captain,” he said, and ran off. Ashanti shuddered. What in the world was ‘the tub’?

            “Taking a bath?” she asked sheepishly. He scoffed and stood up, removing his coat and laying it delicately on the bed.

            “No,” he said, smiling a bit. He unbuttoned and removed his shirt, and Ashanti assisted him in removing the hook. She set it on the bed with his coat, then turned back to him. He sat down in a huge armchair and began rolling up his pants to his knee. He then sat back. Ashanti watched him. Having nothing else to do with her arms, she crossed them.

            “Than what’s the tub?” she asked.

            He smirked. “I suppose you could say ‘an old friend’,” he said. Right as he finished Smee came in, holding a huge iron tub. He set it down in front of Hook, and the captain set his feet in. Inwardly Ashanti shuddered, remembering what happened last time this thing had been taken out. Gosh, that seemed like ages ago… Hook conversed with his bo’sun, then Smee tottered away. Hook watched her, sparing a small smile.

            “Oh,” she said, smiling, “That’s the tub…” He blinked slowly and grabbed a nearby blanket, thick and white, and wrapped it around his shoulders. A few minutes passed in silence, and Smee came back in with several buckets of hot water. Ashanti watched, ready to help if she was needed. But Smee didn’t request her, so she sat on the bed. As soon as the first bucket was poured in, total calmness took over Hook’s face. He leaned his head back and closed his eyes, and Ashanti felt a giant smile creep over her lips. It was somewhat funny to watch Hook be spoiled like this. Smee ran away to get the next few buckets.

            “Does that feel any better?” she asked a bit sarcastically. He smiled and adjusted himself.

            “Much better,” he said loftily. She sighed, still smiling.

            By the time Smee had poured the last bucket in, Hook was almost asleep. Ashanti bade him goodbye and he left, leaving a few last buckets of hot water beside the captain. Ashanti locked the door and lingered there.

            “What a long day…” she murmured. She turned around walked towards the bed. She clasped the hook and set it on the bedside table, then picked up his shirt. She carefully folded it and set it on the foot of the bed. Hook opened his eyes slightly and watched her.

            “What are you doing, love?” he murmured. She turned around, then smiled.

            “I thought you were asleep,” she said.

            “No…” he said gently, “Just extremely relaxed.”

            She smiled and pulled his crumpled coat up from the bed. As it unfortunately turned out, she had grabbed the bottom, and as she pulled it up something slipped out of the pocket and landed on one of the rugs. Ashanti instinctively stepped back and stared at it. She squatted down and examined it, Hook’s coat swathed over her legs. It was a tiny, cylindrical vial, filled to the brim with some kind of glowing red substance. On the top of the vial was a small black skull. For a moment she was wary of touching it, and when she did her blood turned to ice. She turned it around and examined the skull, holding it so close that she could feel it almost radiating iciness to her cheeks.

            “Ashanti, put that down!” Hook said, finally noticing that she had it. She hastily set it down and stepped away.

            “What?! What is it?” she cried, still holding his coat. “Should I get rid of it?”

            “No!” he yelled. She broke her gaze from it and turned to him, and saw that he was leaned forward, barely managing to keep the blanket on his shoulders. He looked at her. “No…” She stared at him, her eyes wide.

            “What is it, anyway?” she asked, an eyebrow raised. He gave a nervous smile, then extended a hand towards it. She put her hands on her hips, refusing to hand it over till she got an answer. “What is it?” she asked, walking over and picking it up. She sat on the bed, staring straight into his beautiful blue eyes. He watched the little vial as she set it on her lap, her index finger resting on the skull.

            “Please be careful, love,” he said, “Don’t open that.”

            “What is it?” she asked, her voice still soft.

            “Poison,” he said stiffly, forcing himself to lean back. Her eyes widened, and she dropped the little container to the floor.

            “What?” she asked, terrified, “Where did you get poison?”

            “Erm…” Hook gave another nervous smile. “Homemade,” he said.

            Her eyes widened even more. “Homemade?” she asked tonelessly, “… What’s in it?”

            He extended his hand even more, and stretched his fingers, as well. “Please, just give it to me,” he said, his eyes full of concern. She debated for a moment, then grasped it tighter.

            “I’m serious,” she said, “Tell me what’s in it! How toxic is it?”

            “Very toxic! Instantly fatal!” he said, “And it has no antidote.” She shuddered.

            “Well… I want to know what’s in it,” she said stubbornly. He stared at her for a long moment before speaking up again.

            “Tears, Ashanti!” he said, abruptly standing up and snatching it from her fingers. He settled back into the chair, cocooning himself in the blanket. She made no effort to get it back.

            “… What? Are you kidding me?” she asked.

            “No, I’m not,” he said, his eyes set in stone, and muttered, “… My tears.” She stared at him.

            “This is absurd…” she said angrily, crossing her arms, “You’re lying to me.”

            “No, I’m not,” he said, and watched her. Ashanti returned his glare, and they sat like that for a very long thirty seconds. Finally she cast her eyes down, sighing.

            “Why do you need poison?” she asked.

            “I carry it around with me everywhere,” he said, “What if we were to be captured?”

            “So… Why didn’t you use it on Joshua when he had captured us?” she asked, looking back up at him.

            “Why would I use it on him?” he asked.

            “Why do you carry it around?” she asked, looking angrier and angrier by the minute.

            “Why do you have to pick me apart like this all the time?” he asked, narrowing his eyes. She sighed and bit her bottom lip.

            “I’m just trying to understand you,” she said.

            It was silent. Hook hung his head slightly, mostly in laziness. When he looked back up at her it was with a searching look.

            “So am I,” he said, smiling a bit, and even more of this irritating silence followed his comment. Ashanti finally stood up and walked over to his closet, hanging it inside. She had removed her own coat when they had come in to eat dinner, so she had only to choose one of her few nightgowns. She did and got changed behind the door, out of Hook’s view, then walked over to him. She pulled a chair over and sat on the opposite side of him, staring earnestly into his eyes.

            “What are you doing now, love?” he asked flatly.

            “I’m trying to see if I can figure you out,” she answered.

            “By staring at me?” he asked, smirking slightly.

            “Yes,” she said, her own eyes hard. He looked slightly taken aback, but let her look anyway.

            By the time the fifth minute passed she was beginning to regret her decision. For the deeper she looked, the more she found in those sapphires, and about seventy percent of what she found was sorrow. She almost gave herself a headache looking so hard, and Hook remained very patient. More than once the thought crossed her head that he was trying to figure her out, as well. But the more she looked, the harder it became, and all she saw were different hues of blue.

            “I can’t find anything,” she whispered finally. He smiled and hung his head again.

            “I can tell you’re a lot happier than me,” he said. She failed to notice how close they were by now, as they had both leaned forward while searching. He looked back up at her and gingerly pressed his lips against hers. It seemed like everything froze, and before she knew what happened tears were dripping down her cheeks. She quickly wiped them away with the palms of her hands and shook her head slightly. But she didn’t pull away, and Hook could feel a smile on her soft lips.

            “No,” she said, “I’m not crying anymore.” Hook smiled slyly.

            “My tears are the poisonous ones, love,” he said between kisses, “Not yours. Cry if you want.”

            “… No,” she said, pulling herself away just slightly, so their lips no longer touched, “I don’t want to.” He tipped his head a bit.

            “I understand,” he said, “completely.” He glanced behind her shoulder and saw dozens of stars through the window. He looked back to her, then down. Her feet were on the rim of the tub. He reached out and pulled her feet into the water, which wasn’t as hot as it had been a while ago, but it was still warm. Ashanti shuddered as her cold toes hit the water, but then she grew used to it. She could feel Hook’s feet underneath hers. She leaned forward until their heads were together, and they were both staring into the tub. Hook reached out again and touched her leg with his index finger, tracing invisible lines until he hit the water. He pulled back and sat up straight. She watched him.

            “What did you do with the…?” she asked, squaring her shoulders.

            “Put it in my pocket,” he said, looking off to the side. She nodded a bit. He sighed and sat up straight, then they both stood up at the same time, colliding. The fact that there was about 140 pounds resting on his feet didn’t seem to bother Hook, for he just put his arms around her shoulders and pressed his head against hers. Her arms remained limp at her sides, no matter how much she wanted to return his hug. Finally he let her go, and she stepped out onto a thin towel. Hook followed. She leaned down and rubbed her legs off with the corner, then did it for him, then she walked over and sat on the bed. Hook dragged the tub out to the deck and left it outside the door, then returned and blew out the candles.     Ashanti crawled over to the other side of the bed and watched as he climbed on. He collapsed onto his stomach and watched until she laid down. They laid in silence for a while, then Hook pulled the covers up to his shoulders, and Ashanti pushed herself backwards until she met him. Hook covered her in blankets, as well, and wrapped his arms around her. Almost as soon as they had stopped moving, she heard Hook’s breathing slow and deepen. He was asleep. She followed his lead, and immediately drifted off into sleep.

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