''Where is Talutah?''
''I don't know... What's going on, Lily?''
Jane didn't get an immediate response; Lily had already left to ask someone else. For the first time since she had first met her, the usually cold and controlled princess seemed lost and unable to get a grip on her emotions – which is how Jane understood that only one thing could generate such a state.
Talutah had been missing.
''Lily! Wait up! I'll help you find her!'' was her first reaction.
''And how do you intend to do that?'' was the princess' answer, walking at a fast pace, unable to fix her attention onto a single precise thing.
''Well, where's the last place she's been seen? I have my notebook, I could start some researches and put some marks around the area where -''
''Great. You do that.'' Lily stopped for a second at last to face Jane. ''She went salmon-fishing at the Red River this morning. I'm going to inspect the opposite edge of the river.''
Jane ran to the river, followed it. Calling Talutah at the top of her lungs, without ever recieving any answer, her fear for her friend only increased. As she was leaving to inspect another part of the territory, she stopped, feeling something under foot. Lifting it slowly, she found what she feared: an object belonging to Talutah – her blue stone necklace.
Jane passed hours hoping to find any sign to prove that the young girl was still alive, and if so, where she was. As her muscles grew sore and the day was losing of its brightness, she realised bitterly she wouldn't find anything for now. Panic was too strong and she couldn't lead a reasonable tracking. Returning to the village, she prayed that someone had been more successful than her and had found Talutah.
Another kind of suprise was expecting her. A gathering had occured around the hunters of the tribe. They had found something, or more precisely someone. This someone was bound and gaged and seemed quite flustered at the moment. And she knew this someone only too well.
''We found him roaming 'round the camp!'' shouted one of the hunters.
''That's this cursed captain of the Jolly Roger!''
''Kill him! It's surely because of him our Talutah's been missing!''
Jane assisted, powerless, to the growing swarming of the tribe: from any side, they were hoisting up a totem, bringing rope to tie Hook to it, wood to start a bonfire out of him... And, this, without letting him emit a single protest; without even according him any form of a trial. The infatuation of the masses made every person with common sense go blind with fury. The ambiant dander, the shouts, the anger and the war cries smothered this place usually so calm and peaceful, snapped up the whole world. The chaos made Jane react half a second before she, too, yielded to this inexorable madness. She had to put an end to this furious folly. She ran up to Tiger Lily, who assisted to the whole scene from her throne.
''Lily! Lily! - - Princess! Make them stop!''
''This man must pay for his crimes, Jane.''
''I know, but if you're so sure the pirates have Talutah, shouldn't we use him as a ransom against her?''
The princess didn't even bother to look at her and was still observing her men preparing the execution. In her eyes was reflected the hideous desire of vengence. In desperation, Jane couldn't help but shout. Put an end to this furious folly.
''If he's killed, we'll never find Talutah alive!''
Lily gave her a final sharp look, and, not saying a word, raised straight from her seat. She only had to lift her arm – and her men to freeze. The world became clear once again.
''Jane. If such is your idea, go see this man and ask him if he has any information about Talutah. Should he have none, we will carry on the execution.''
Jane took a moment to understand the favour that was made to her. In her desire to stop a cold-blooded murder, she got carried away – and almost overstepped the boundaries. She had no right to judge the customs of the clan which hosted her.
''This seems fair'' was all she could answer, flabbergasted. The words they had exchanged had been in a low tone enough so that no one else could hear.
With an uncertain stance, she turned to face the mob and took a step towards the fallen captain. The crowd before her seemed to split up like the Red Sea before Moses, only making her nervousness worse. Hook was tied up to the totem, a gag across his face. However, just like a proper Englishman, he intended to maintain as much dignity as possible when one is in such position. Jane found herself facing him, and the world around her was silenced.
Instead of taking off his gag right away, she took a moment to consider him, arms crossed before her. There was the man who had not ceased to try to use her as a bait: the roles were reversed. He held no more power over her. But as for her...
Slowly, she raised both her hands up to his face and them behing him, looking for the knot which obstructed his words and undoing it. The gag slipped along his cheek and remained in her hand. She didn't lower it right away, but let it linger a moment, her fingers barely even touching his jawline. They stayed like this for a while, staring straight into each other's eye, trying to determine who would waver first.
It was the first time she rediscovered Hook, and in circumstances far different from all the times he had an authority on her. Here and now, she was his equal, or even his superior. Looking straight into his bright blue eyes, she read what she expected: he was himself aware of this switch of roles.
''Hell, Hook. It's been a while.'' He didn't reply.
''I took off your gag, now'' she said, showing the strap of cloth recumbant in her hand. ''You can talk.''
The obstinant captain was holding on quite well. She carried on:
''Tell me where you've taken Talutah, and you're free.''
Hook looked away from Jane to consider the rest of the assembly. His gaze swept over the mob and came back onto her, then gestured to Jane to get closer.
''They won't let me go anyways, isn't it?'' he whispered. The tone was disdainful, almost mocking. She could indeed see the shadow of a smile tugging on the corner of his lips. Hook seemed to entierly control the situation, which intrigued her – as much as it irritated her. How could he show such bravado in a moment like this?
''I don't think so, no.'' she answered, even lower, a smile menacing to appear at the corner of her own lips. She shouldn't show it, but the return of the captain's nonchalance was actually amusing her. She had said those words in a secret tone, but in a light voice. As if she had accepted to be play of game. Strangely enough, she wasn't worried about the captain's fate; something in her told her that he wouldn't die today. Not like this.
''Very well.'' He spoke louder, to ensure everyone could hear him: ''I know where your Talutah is hidden; however, I'm the only person alive who knows how to get to her. If you wish to see her alive and well once again, I'll have to be escorted to her.''
A murmur raised amongst the indians. Shouldn't we make a bonfire out of the captain tonight? As for Jane, she couldn't help but smile, her arms still crossed. She slightly lowered to the captive's side:
''I've got to admit, well played here, Hook. But you're aware of the fact they'll kill you as soon as you've lead them to Talutah, right? And that's assuming you're not lying.''
''Which is why you'll be the one escorting me to their dear missing one.''
''What?!'' Jane reacted immediately, in shock. She smiled no longer, and had taken a few steps back out of suprise.
Hook simply addressed her a crocodile smile and turned from her to say louder:
''Oh, and I forgot: I'll only be escorted by this fine young lady right here'', he said as he designed Jane before she could protest.
''And why is that, pirate?'' replied Lily.
''Hey, yes, why is that, if you please?'' added Jane, filled with reproach and suspicion.
''Well, get my point: too many times your tribe intended to kill me – and this lady here, not once. You should give her the chance, to change.''
''Ah! Now that is not a relevant reason, isn't it Lily? … Lily?''
Jane gave a panicked glance back to Tiger Lily. Ignoring her silent calls for help, the princess decided for her right away. ''Deal.''
''What?'' Jane was out of control. ''Princess! That's clearly, highly suspicious, and -''
The proud chief had stepped out of her throne and was already leading Jane out of the circle to speak to her in private.
''Jane, listen to me carefully. Once Talutah has been liberated, you will take this weapon'' – she put a knife into her hand – ''and you will kill that man.'' Jane's heart skipped a beat.
''It's out of the question!''
''Why not? You know he deserves it.''
''I know that as much as anyone, but I am not a killer!''
''You don't know, you've never tried.''
''Well, I don't intend to try it any time soon! I'm sorry, princess: I will escort him and bring Talutah back to you, but my duty ends here. I truly estimate your tribe and thank you for this friendship that binds us, but I will never commit a cold-blooded murder.'' She handed the knife back to Lily in a sign of utter refusal.
Lily contemplated her for an instant, judging her sudden weakness with her cold chieftain look.
''Very well. This is your decision; I must respect it. You already help us greatly.''
''Really?'' Jane was dubious. ''That's it? You're not even mad?''
At this moment was brought to them Hook, who had been untied from the totem but was kept securly tied up to avoid any impromptu rebellion. For a man who was bound up and surrounded from every angle by ennemies, he seemed too at ease. This damned arrogant.
The thorn in his side, Hook had concluded. That's what this damned Jane had been these last months.
She arrived upon his ship with her own, strange and infuriating ways, yet never seemed out of place. She made it seem that wherever she went, she was at home. As if she belonged here; except she didn't. She did not belong to this society; neither the pirate's nor the Lost Boy's society.
When Hook first arrived to Neverland, he had tried so hard to keep his Etonian manners amongst the range of fools that surrounded him. It resulted in him being the greatest pirate of them all, of course; but still, he would never enjoy the highest society's delights ever again. He had to make a choice and to deny a part of himself. Never was Hook ever to be accepted fully for what he was, wherever he went. Should he decide to come back to England, he would forever be the mischievious and not-to-be-trusted pirate who could never regain his lost noble prestige; should he stay, he would remain the literate Etonian who commits evil deeds with lower classes fellows.
Always, choices were to be made; and that was good form - or what he believed was good form.
Yet, she arrived. And the way her very being presented itself was always made with such an ease... She never had, or so it seemed, to deny a part of herself. She was always fully Jane, staying true to her beliefs, despite being an adult fully aware of society's harsh regulation - which precisely made her so damned annoying. She was the living proof that his beliefs about good form – and this stayed across his throat – could actually be wrong.
This woman, this adult, who remained able to move in any social circle, to be accepted there, without making any sacrifice, was a permanent reminder that Hook might not truly possess good form. Had Peter Pan never existed, he might just have elected her as his sworn enemy for what she represented.
When she first made herself at home aboard his own ship, he couldn't help but hope he could become someone noble again – to regain his lost reputation to the eyes of someone who never met him. She brought with her some part of his old world, where social order was the watchword. Surely, he could feel like a noble Etonian once again?
This was not the case. She was too stubborn, of course, and quickly branded him as a villain as well. So here he was, assigned back to his shameful ways, the proper Englishman in him buried once more underneath the heavy coat of piracy.
When she actually tried to play him, he knew he had placed false hopes in her. He, the great captain, to be played by a foolish foreign girl! She was mistaken to believe she ever had this power. He tried to hide her from his sights when she betrayed him once, but she managed to come back and be part of the crew once more. Truly horripilant. He surely didn't miss her when she was gone; although now was also gone his levrage to capture Pan. But getting rid of her was actually just as much as a victory, he decided. Of course, he couldn't show this to his crew. But she did remain present in his crew's memories, and too often to his taste he heard her name appear admist a conversation. This did not please him. How dare she gain reputation; her, a futile little thing?
And here she was, in front of him. Once again, instead of just dying like any proper brat should, she managed to come back on top; probably in the most insidious way. He had rather hoped she got eaten by a tiger, but instead she had gained support from another kind of Tiger, who appeared to be the leader of the Indians. Once again, her natural ability to get everyone in her pocket was most irritating.
As he saw her, he thought he should simply kill her right away. He had no more obligations that tied him up – no more Smee to defend her, nor keeping her alive for Pan to come... But this time, he was being literally tied up. The killing would be for later, then.
For now, he had to act elegantly. Just as a true Etonian would.