the First

The Cure

Slightly decides the best course of action is to dress me like a boy, and make me remain inconspicuous as I get to Hook's ship. When the men get off the ship for a drink at the pub, I'll sneak on, grab the cure, and get off before they come back. The only problem is, I have no clue what the cure looks like or where it is. I tuck my long, now knotted brown hair up into a pageboy cap the boys have laying around, and pull on some of Peter's clothes. They're a bit big on me, but they smell like him. In the end, I'm wearing a big white shirt, some loose-fitting brown pants, and leather boots that are too big on my feet. Oh well. There are no mirrors here, so there's no telling how convincing I look. But the boys assure me I look perfectly manly, and Slightly prepares his backpack for the trek to the village. He's insisted on being my escort.

"Ready?" he asks, slinging his bag over his shoulder.

"Almost."

I cross over to Peter, who we wrapped with bandages last night. I gently brush his hair off of his face. He awakens again with a sharp gasp, his eyes finding mine.

"Why are you wearing my clothes?" he mumbles.

"I'm just going to run an errand." I say, my stomach twisting as I lie to him.

"Mmm," he sighs, "don't go outside."

"Why not?"

"Because, Aleksander…" he slips back into his dream world before he can finish his sentence.

"What was he going to say about Aleksander?" I ask Slightly.

"I don't know." he responds, shrugging.

Well, it's nothing I can't handle. I turn and wave goodbye to the boys, and make my way towards the staircase with Slightly. Bunny comes barreling into my legs, hugging my thighs fiercely. I turn and bend down to him, and he wraps me in a hug. I can already tell he's crying.

"You'll be fine. I'll be back soon." I say, rubbing his back.

He sniffs and pulls away, wiping his eyes, "Please find the cure."

I smile at him, "I will. Promise."

I hold out my pinky, and he takes it in his. My promise makes him smile through his tears. With one last glance at Peter asleep on the couch, Slightly and I climb the staircase into a new world. We unlatch the trapdoor and climb out, Slightly first, and he places it back in its hole in the ground.

"How does nobody find it?" I ask. The trapdoor isn't exactly camouflaged.

"That's the thing," Slightly says, a spark in his eyes, "the hideout moves every night. We don't know how, but the island feels the need to protect Peter."

We start to walk through the lush forest, the sun is just beginning to rise. Slightly seems to know exactly where he's going, so I follow without questions.

"So how do you find it once it moves again?"

"The island points the way, but only for those with good hearts. If one has bad intentions, the island will keep us hidden."

"Interesting."

We walk in silence, Slightly holding up the leaves of large plants so I can pass.

"How long will our walk take?"

Slightly is quiet for a moment, thinking, "The island has made our distance short for us, we should be very close. The hideout is hidden only ten minutes from the village, if we walk in this direction."

"How do you know?"

"I just do. You develop that sense of direction the longer you live on the island. Peter's very good with that, you know."

We lapse into silence again, all that can be heard is the squawking of birds and the sound of our boots stepping on the damp ground. Soon enough, the smells of smoke and food waft through the air. The sun has risen a little more, it's time for breakfast. As if to remind me, my stomach rumbles a little bit. Thankfully Slightly doesn't notice.

"We're close," he says quietly, crouching on the ground, "get down."

I get low next to him and we shuffle forward, "No one is brave enough to go into the woods except for the Lost Boys, the people will know who we are if they see us coming out of the forest."

"Why does it matter?" I ask.

"Hook has a bounty on our heads. The townspeople need the money, so if they find us they'll bring us to him. Our whole mission will be compromised."

"I understand."

We get to the very edge of the trees, and duck behind a bush. Slightly peers over the top of it, and motions for me to join him. I look over the top of the bush at the narrow alley. Many bars back up to it, so it's deserted and full of trash. I can smell it from here. The buildings are made of wood, with chimneys of stone. This place is very uncivilized.

"When no one is in this back alley, you need to start walking. Get out of the alley and into the streets, keep your head down. If you get out of this alley and walk straight, it'll lead you right to the docks. Do you remember what Hook's ship looks like?"

I nod my head.

"Wait until the men get off of the ship, then get on. Find the cure and get out before they find you."

Slightly gives me an awkwardly reassuring pat on the shoulder, and disappears back into the trees. I take a deep breath, and start walking down the hill to the alley. My feet hit the hard-packed dirt of the streets. Keeping my head down, I emerge from the alley and onto the main street. It's not very busy, everyone is eating breakfast. I keep my walk fast-paced. I pass identical rows of bars and houses, each made of wood and smelling delicious. I haven't eaten in a few days now. Before I know it, I'm stopping to look through the open window of a bakery.

A woman is inside behind the counter, taking a tray of fresh muffins out of the oven. She is wearing a white apron, and a plain brown dress. She has a white bonnet around her brown hair, streaked with gray. She sets the tray on the counter, and gently removes each muffin from the tray and onto a platter. Then she looks up, and our eyes lock. Hers are a deep, warm, brown. She smiles at me.

"Are you hungry?"

"Uh, no, I'm fine." I respond, and begin to back away from the window.

She plucks a muffin from the platter and approaches me slowly, my feet are rooted to the dirt road. She hands the muffin to me.

I try to hand it back to her, "I don't have any money. I can't pay for this."

"It's alright. I can tell you're hungry, a full stomach is all the payment I need."

I'm quiet, it's not like I'm going to deny the fact that I really do just want to eat this muffin in one bite.

"Thank you." I say.

She smiles at me, "You're welcome. I hope you enjoy it."

I smile at her, turn away, and continue my walk down the street. I slowly unwrap it and take a small bite, it's blueberry. The sugar melts on my tongue, the heat of the muffin warms my stomach. Before I can stop myself, I've eaten it all. The few people out on the streets don't acknowledge me, and for that I'm thankful. They move at a slow pace. They're probably half asleep, it's still early. I throw my wrapper away in a trash can outside of a pub.

Hook's ship is the biggest, it's not hard to spot it. I slowly walk forward, trying to figure out if the crew is on board. I don't hear anything, so I hesitantly step onto the gangplank. It creaks a little, but there is no other sound from the ship. I get on to the deck. I spot the door that leads to the brig where I was kept. I have to be quick about this. I have no idea where the cure could be located.

I step towards the first door, but it's locked. I try the next door, and it opens. Stepping inside, it leads to a staircase. I climb down into the darkness, fumbling for a light switch before I realize there probably isn't one. In the dim light, I can only make out large shapes. Maybe I'm in a cargo hold? I reach out to touch one, and am met with wood. A crate. I turn around, knowing I won't be able to find anything down here in the dark. I have to hurry.

I open the door and walk back out into the light. There is a man exiting a door on the other side of the deck. It's Hook. I freeze, but he sees me.

"Who the hell are you?"

Oh no. Oh no oh no oh no. I try to lower my voice as much as possible.

"I, uh, I'm looking for work. Are you the captain here?"

"Work," he strides across the deck and rips the cap off of my head, sending my brown hair tumbling down my back, "for a woman?"

He pauses as he sees the bruise on my cheek, his eyes inquisitively squinting at me, "Oh, you're the lass that escaped, aye? What, you came back for more?"

"No, I just…"

What do I say? Oh, your mortal enemy is dying and I need you to give me the cure. Pretty please?

"Just, what?" he asks, shifting his weight and smirking.

"I wanted to work for you." I blurt.

He narrows his eyes, "Oh?"

"I, uh, Peter turned out not to be so great after all, and I guess I just, um, I wanted to come see you because you're the only one that hates him as much as I do."

That was pretty unconvincing. He chuckles, "I'm fairly certain that's impossible, love. No need to lie to me. Consider yourself prisoner."

"Prisoner?"

He shoots me a wicked grin, before whipping out a revolver and shooting my right leg. The bullet pierces the skin just above my knee, tears through my muscles, and exits through the back of my calf. I crumple to the wooden deck of the ship with a strangled gasp. He just shot me. He just shot me. My leg is now burning with a tingly, painful fire. A pool of blood is forming beneath me, seeping through Peter's pants in a stain growing substantially larger by the second.

"Why-" I gasp.

"Now you can't leave," he says simply, "care to tell me the real reason you're here?"

I'm scared to touch my leg. I can see a clear circle through the torn fabric that I don't want to get closer to. I feel like I'm going to be sick. A wave of nausea hits me, and my head throbs with dizziness.

"Ah, that's all right. I'm sure you don't need your other leg, either."

"Wait!"

He pauses, cocking his head and looking down at me. I see the bloody bullet on the ground beneath me, which is enough to send my vision spinning. I fall back against the deck before I get a chance to answer. It's too dark to see anything. I lose consciousness.

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