Take a deep breath . You can do this.
Jane was standing at the edge of the wide opened rear window of the ship, the biggest one. She was charged to clean it, which would take her at least a good part of the day.
From the corner of her eye, she spied the pirate who was supervising her today. The captain had at least understood part of her request : she wasn't watched by Smee anymore, but by some random pirates day after day.
C'mon, don't chicken out of this. It's your only chance to get out of this dreadful place.
Since the incident with Hook, she had been busy. Too busy to eat or even to sleep. She had been planning carefully her killer-escape plan. Today was her chance. She was going to do the thing, she thought.
She simply had to jump out of that window, hoping she'd land safe to the water, and swim to the shore. She had thought of stealing a safety boat, but had quickly dismissed the idea when she saw that they were all under surveillance. So, this was her day. With an unsuspecting pirate half-sleeping at the corner of the room, she'd be able to slip from his watch before he could catch her.
Maybe she wouldn't make it to the shore, she thought. But to this point, it didn't matter anymore. She would at least die trying.
One... she gulped anxiously.
Two... Deep breath. Here it comes.
Hitting its cue perfectly, a knocking on the door interupted her suicide-like mission. Jane was half-relieved.
It was Smee. His cheerful face was enough to warm Jane's heart a bit. Just a bit, as it froze once again when she heard the reason for his appearance.
''Jane ! The captain requires your attendance for dinner tonight.''
She thought she had misheard the proposition at first.
''A dinner ?'' she spat out, just to make sure.
''That's the thing, missy. You are required for a dinner, tonight, with our captain.''
But this made absolutely no sense ! She only rembered too well how her last meeting with Hook went. That man was loathing her now, for sure. He would never invite her on his free will ! Except if...
''Smee... Are you in any way related with the planning of this meeting ?'' She wanted to sound reproachful, yet the character's natural bonhomie was enough to make her voice flinch. She could feel a smile appearing at the corner of her lips.
''Now then, miss Jane : who else ?'' answered Smee laughing. And Jane couldn't help but laugh with him. Smee had apparantely some kind of paternal affection towards her – and yet again, he was taking care of her well-being only like a father would.
''Very well, my dear Smee. I accept... But only because you are so willing for me to go !
Why that's great, missy !'' answered Smee in his ever-joyous tone. ''However... We oughta make you more presentable, it is a formal dinner.''
He inspected her from head to toe, before adding : ''And, with all due respect, miss, there is some work to do !''
Jane laughed heartily to the jest. ''And you are right indeed ! I can't even remember when was it I took my last shower – and I believe you can understand that to my smell, now !'' She concluded with a faint laugh.
Almost timidely, she approached the captain's cabin. An entire afternoon had been required in order to make her look less-like-the-embodiement-of-messiness. As she saw her reflection in the clear water of her basin, she almost gave herself a fright.
Awaiting anxiously the time of the meeting, she kept on grinding a strand of hair that hanged to her cheek.
Fortunately, Smee was already here, in front on the captain's door, ready to welcome her. Seeing her, his cheerful face lit up even more.
''You've arrived!'' Then, inspecting her quickly, he added: ''I knew this dress would suit 'ya. Now you almost look like a lady!''
Jane smiled, nodding to show she appreciated the pun.
''Indeed, almost like a lady! But I'm sure you'd agree there's plenty of work to do until that completely happens!''
They laughed heartily together. It was good, to laugh a little. Already, she was feeling better.
But she had to admit – she looked a little more presentable in this dress. And hell, she could, for all the time it took her to understand how to put the damned thing on!
It was a simple dark blue dress made from thick cotton, that descended to her ankles. A simple brooch was pinned at the top, which embellished the whole set. But the trick with this hell of a dress was the back – which had to be laced. It took Jane half an hour to lace it herself, as she wasn't going to ask someone to do it for her!
Wishing her a good evening, Smee opened the door in a somewhat galant-way (but mostly lumpish). No going back now. Gulping nervously, Jane stepped over the threshold.
The captain was standing in front of his window, his back facing her. He had left his usual red coat for a simpler black silk jacket embroidered with delicate golden tracery.
Jane must have entered silently – that, or the captain pretended he hadn't heard her. Slinding against the wall, she hoped to blend in entirely with the curtains. She remained like this for a while, her forehead pleated, unable to look away from the immobile statue that ignored her.
''Are you planning on spending the evening this way?''
Jane couldn't help but start at the question. She stammered, unable to control her tongue:
''Well, it is that I... Actually, I... I...'' even she didn't have a clue to where she was going with this. Attempting to stay hidden like a child wouldn't have changed anything to the situation.
''I, I, me.'' sighed Hook in a exceedeed tone. ''Has the world started to revolve around you now, Jane?''
She prefered not to answer. In another situation, she'd probably have gotten offended and would have replied venomously. But tonight, she wasn't even sure she could attempt anything. Hook turned around stiffly and, for the first time since she had gotten here, landed his eyes on her. He barely took notice of her presence, and promptly turned aside to take a seat without inviting Jane to do so.
Well, wasn't that well worth it to bother with that wretched dress, thought Jane. As soon as this dinner is over, I'll throw it to the fire. Or maybe turn it into brand new curtains.
Since the captain didn't appear to invite her at the table, she took her own seat. Just like during her first dinner with the captain, the table's ebony disappeared under the abundance of the dishes. Seafood galore, but also fowls, exotic fruits and vegetables were laid all over the place – everything that could have been seen at a festive dinner. Except, she remarked raising her eyes to Hook, the ambiance was anything but festive.
Hook began to help himself – in a brutal way, putting back heavily the utensils without any form of ceremony. He soon focused onto his food only, the silver flatware chinking loudly at each service; a noise that sounded even louder within the deep silence filling the room. Everything in his manners attested his irritation.
Jane did the same. Several minutes passed by, the quitness paced by the repeated sound of the cutlery tinkling against the plates.
She took a sip of wine. It was rough and bitter to the throat. But something strong wasn't inopportune, she reflected. The heaviness of the environment was so strong she quickly decided that finishing her whole glass at once wasn't such a bad idea after all.
It didn't make sense. Smee probably went through a lot of organization for this dinner that was worthy enough to be served in the Titanic, but what was the point? The result – as neat as can be – didn't have any appeal if the two protagonists had no wish whatsoever to see each other, let alone to have a proper conversation.
''Isn't that a bother... The longer a silence get, the harder it becomes to start a discussion.'' thought Jane out loud.
''In the future, please avoid any form of witticism'' answered Hook in a cold, harsh tone, ''it doesn't quite suit you.''
Jane hardly accepted that mockery. ''And that's for telling me this kind of things that you invited me to dinner tonight?''
The captain had an infuriated look. ''Content yourself with finishing as soon as possible.'' was his only answer.
She kept to that order, and reported all her interest onto the pheasant meal in front of her. She tried to disregard completely the fairly wrathful presence of the captain by imagining new fates for her dress, that seemed to her more than ever useless. Turn it into confettis, perhaps. Now that would bring some fun onto that blasted ship.
Suddenly, as she poured herself another glass of wine in the most perfect quiteness, Jane finally put her finger on the ridiculous of the situation that made this dinner more absurd even.
''So, that's it? I simply come here, we share the most awkward dinner ever, and we part without having exchanged two words?'' She slightly bended forward.
''There surely must be another reason for which you invited me tonight.'' Actually, she knew quite well what was that reason – and she didn't have a doubt that Hook was perfectly aware of it as well. Between them floated the memory of their last encounter that neither of them wanted to express out loud.
The captain sunk a little deeper into his seat, his face shut. ''If that may reassure you, this great idea of inviting a wretched wench such as yourself didn't come from me.''
''Isn't that reassuring. I wouldn't have accepted myself'' she answered, ''if it weren't for that insisting quatermaster of yours.''
At the rememberance of the way Smee had harangued him, a disgusted pout appeared onto Hook's features. If only he could have minded his own buisness! At this moment, the captain was torn between the wish to make him pay for provoking such infamy and the wish to cool his guest's blood at once.
His fist tightened as he struggled for keeping his composure and his ever good form. Instead of looking for his gun, his fingers headed to the nearest liquor bottle – a way like an other to offset his murderous pulsions.
Across the table, Jane contemplated the captain and could read on his face his state of mind. Once again, she could see the monstrous in him overtaking his human costume. She promised herself to not manifest her presence if she wanted to keep a hold onto her dear life. She had already played with fire less than 48 hours ago, and she didn't intend to do it again anytime soon.
Therfore, she dutifully chewed the piece of meat that remained into her plate. She was almost – almost - getting accustomed to the loud silence of the room. But the absence of conversation was ever so obvious, especially that neither of them were wishing to spend this evening – or any other day of their life – in any way close to each other. The antipathy was almost tangible, the aversion so overwhelming, that suddenly she could stand no more.
Abrubtly putting down her glass, she began to raise from her seat, causing Hook to hoist a suspicious look in her direction. She almost opened her mouth to protest, to complain, anything – but was immediately stopped by the frozen look of her host.
Strategically changing her mind, Jane sat back down and settled for sighing overwroughtly.
But it seemed that he had understood her silent message. A few minutes later, it was his turn to rattle his chair back and to suddenly get up.
''Enough with this masquerade.''
Jane raised an eyebrow, but didn't stir, her eyes set onto the shut figure of the captain. He continued: ''I suppose you must find this vain exercice of socialization just as useless as I do.''
A nod was Jane's careful answer. His eyes remained over her for an instant, until he carried on. ''What would you say if we were to stop this ridiculous pretense of a dinner and came clean?''
Was that some kind of a trap? The dangerous formulation of that last question let her imagine the worst. However, she had to admit that the last of her desires was to swallow another bite of that cold pheasan. So she nodded.
Hook seemed lost in his toughts. He contemplated for a moment that young woman before him, of his piercing and calculating eyes.
''This masquerade,'' he designated his surroundings with an evasive gesture, ''is my bosco's making. And all for what?'' His eyes landed back onto her. ''For a simple, pretentious creature who doesn't know her place.'' He was getting closer now, stealphily.
''To be honest, I'm not even sure myself why I keep on making efforts with you precious self.'' He was two feet away from Jane now. ''I should have let you die in that prison cell.''
The coldness of the tone in which that last sentence was pronounced sent a shiver down Jane's spine. Henceforth leaning closer, an arm onto the armrest and his hook resting inches away from her back, he wasn't allowing any way out. At this moment, he was a feline isolating his prey. At this moment, he was a deadly, instinctive killer.
''But still – here you are, alive and whole to pester me to death. I suppose you must feel flattered?'' he spat out.
He animalistic menace in his presence was tangible. He wasn't saying anything anymore, yet here he remained, awaiting an answer for his rethorical question. Sore-throated, Jane found herself unable to meet his eyes and instead focused onto her clenched fists resting on the table.
In what mess have I put myself in.
With an infinte slowness, she parted her lips – meticulously, even, before bitting them back again. She knew she should say something. Anything – but the captain was awaiting for an answer that she only could give.
''I do not feel flattered'' was at first her flabby answer, no better than a five-year-old child's. ''And it is not my prime goal to pester you, captain. Believe it or not,'' and saying this she found the strengh to look up into the inquisitive eyes of her tormenter, ''but I am not in the least satisfyied of all the problems I have caused until now.''
That looked a lot like apologies – way too much to her taste, but that was the truth. Everything she had done, she had done in the sole purpose to help Peter out, but never to provoke directly his enemy; those were two very distinct things.
Maybe he had understood seeing her boring eyes, as Hook drew back – and Jane took what might have been the first breath after a long apnea.
''In that case, should I understand that you have regrets betraying us?''
''Never'' answered Jane a little bit too fast, and with too much convinction in her voice. She restarted: ''Never, for it allowed me to spare lives -'' she glanced nervously at Hook, ''no matter how cruel they may be.'' She remembered only too well of the ghost hand tale.
The captain winced a little, but didn't rave for all that. Jane decided to act as an adult, for the first time since she actually was one.
''Hook...'' she restlessly gulped, unsure of carrying on. ''Hook, I am, how to say... Sorry...'' or I think I am... ''for having been the source of so much trouble.'' There. She did it. She acted as the adult one and had apologized first – even though she didn't regret anything she could have done so far.
The captain peered at her, a hint of suprise painted over his features. Did this wretched little scallywag just apologize to him? Now, if a person as impossible as she was capable of showing humility, wasn't it the least he should do that act the same?
James Hook was supposed to swallow his pride and bend to the rules of good form. She had tricked him at the game of social rules by apologizing first. He now couldn't send her back until he had done the same, and he knew it.
After sighing like he carried the weight of the world on his shoulders, Hook took his resolution. Just a few words to say and he would be rid of that girl.
''Jane. I believe I also...'' He took a long pause before finishing his sentence. ''I also owe you an apology.''
She didn't answer anything, laying onto him frank and clear eyes. She awaited for the rest, and her silence was insidiously putting pressure onto Hook.
''During our last meeting, I acted harshly under the influence of wrath. I suppose you did realise this yourself. And for that...'' Heavy pause. Sigh. ''I present to you my apologies.''
''Should I expect that it won't happen again?''
''Don't try to trick me into making shallow promises.'' His voice was once again dry. He had said what he needed to say, and now he had only one wish: to get rid of that troublemaker and enjoy solitude once again. Happily enough, it seemed she nourrished the same expectations.
''Very well, Hook, I accept you apologies. I do hope we'll remain in good terms with each other, now.'' He almost scoffed at the enormity, but didn't let it show. Since she was heading to the door, he put on his mask of courtesy to accompany her. He raised his hand to the knob in order to open the door, but it seemed she had the same idea. Their fingers almost touched and she drew back quickly.
''Is this all you needed to say to me?'' dared Jane before leaving for good. ''It would be a shame that they'd force another dinner upon us in order to have a new conversation.'' she added with a half-smile.
''And that would be the last thing in the world we'd want, for sure.'' answered Hook in the fakest tone in the world.
The door closed behind him and Jane finally gone, Hook appreciated a well-gaigned solitude. He still threw some bottles to the ground and concieved some evil schemes he'd inflict to Smee as soon as he could for generating what has been the worst dinner of his life.