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How to Be the Second Mate

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Harry woke up in a foul mood. The night before his father had spent hours talking about what a disappointment he was compared to his sisters. He had been torn between happiness that his father was actually paying him any attention, and seething at the words being said. The rant had only added more fuel for the words that constantly swam through his mind, keeping him up all night. Now as he walked towards the spot he was supposed to meet with Uma and Gil, he adjusted the glove on his left hand, making sure it was pulled up far enough to cover the bandage wrapped around his wrist.

Neither one of them commented on Harry’s mood, both used to his fragile mental state constantly playing with his emotions. Uma gave him a knowing look, glancing quickly down towards his left hand before spinning around and leading their small group down towards the docks to wreak some havoc. Gil just started animatedly talking about a hat shop that had just opened up. The easy familiarity of the situation helped soothe Harry’s mind, Gil’s constant babble over running the voices in his head, Uma’s confidence working to build him back up.

As noon passed Harry found his mood lightening. They had filled their pockets with whatever whatever had looked interesting, laughing as they nicked trinket after trinket. Looking to get out of the midday heat, the three went to Ursula's fish and chips. Uma went to grab them trays from the kitchen as Harry and Gil sat down at their usual table. Harry was looking at a pocket watch he had found not paying Gil any mind, thinking the other was doing something similar.

“What’s that?” Gil asked and Harry looked up to see that the blonde boy was looking at his left wrist where his glove had revealed the bandage beneath. Harry quickly covered it back up, glaring at Gil who was looking at him with concern.

“None of yer business that’s what.” He spat, hoping Gil got the message to just drop the matter. Of course, Gil had always been bad at figuring out when he should just stop talking.

“Did your dad say something again?” He was watching Harry with wide, expectant eyes. Harry took a deep breath and closed his eyes briefly, trying to maintain his cool. He knew Gil didn’t get it, didn’t understand, but the voices he had been repressing all day were starting to creep back.

“Jus the usual, nothing of importance.” If only he could really mean that. The words circled in his head. Worthless. Disappointment. Unworthy. They made themselves important even as he tried to convince Gil they weren’t.

“Then why’d you try to cut off your hand again?” Harry wanted to strangle Gil right then and there. He cursed himself for ever having let that piece of information slip to the two. He stood up quickly, the chair falling backwards and clanging to the floor. His hands slammed on the table as he stared down at the other boy, the mania the words created twisting his features into a sadistic grin.

“Maybe I did it so I could get a hook to stab you with.” Gil looked alarmed, the realization that he once again said the wrong thing sinking in. He opened his mouth to say something when a tray with fish on it was thrust in between them.

“Harry sit down, Gil go outside and don’t come back in till I tell you to.” Uma commanded. Gil pouted but left, used to being banished when he said the wrong things. Harry took another deep breath and picked up his chair. He didn’t need Uma getting mad at him as well. The fish was no better than usual, but Harry didn’t really taste any of it, too lost in his poisonous thoughts.

Outside Gil sat on the front steps, trying to think of where he had gone wrong. He had just been saying what he thought was true. Had he missed any subtle cues from Harry that would have told him what to do? Maybe he had put the wrong things together and had gotten the wrong idea. He was so confused. He had just been trying to help, Harry had seemed off all day and he usually only had a bandage around his wrist if something was really wrong. Uma usually told him not to say anything but he was concerned. Why was his friend hurt, nothing was supposed to be able to hurt Harry. Except something had and it seemed that something had been Harry himself. But why? The thought kept plaguing him. He knew out of the three of them he was just the dumb muscle, but he also knew that made him the wall that protected the two valuable ones. And right now, he was failing in his duty by letting harm come to Harry, even if it was Harry himself causing it. Then an idea struck him. Hadn’t Harry said he had hurt himself so he could have a hook too? If he had a hook he would be able to stop hurting himself in an attempt to get one. Standing up with a large grin Gil walked away from the chip shop, a list of items coming together in his head.

Neither Harry or Uma saw Gil much the next few days. They would run into him on the streets and he would come to their meeting places when ordered to, but he always seemed distracted, not their usual talkative Gil. Harry was slightly worried he had finally scared the other boy off, but Uma reassured him that if Gil had stuck it out this long, they were likely to always have him by their sides. Something neither of them were unhappy about. It was concerning seeing Gil act so strangely. He tried his hardest to hide whatever he was doing from them and remained stubbornly silent on providing any details. All they knew was Gil was working on a very important project. So they watched and waited as time went by.

Nearly a week and a half after the incident, Harry’s father went on another rant and the words ran rampant in his mind. Gil had nervously asked them the day before to meet him at the usual spot, but after his rough night Harry contemplated skipping. He didn’t want to run the chance of Gil saying the wrong things again today and making everything so much worse. Uma would hunt him down though, she wanted to know what Gil had been working on as much as Harry did. So down to the docks he went, glaring at anyone who stood in his path.

Uma and Gil were already there. The former trying to hide her curiosity behind an annoyed mask, and the later sitting on a barrel, twiddling his thumbs while he held a bag on his lap. When Harry approach Gil looked up, a nervous smile on his face.

“Alright Gil, we’re both here. Care to tell us what you’ve been working on?” Uma asked. Gil nodded quietly and quickly pushed the bag into Harry’s hands before looking at the ground. Harry opened the bag and his world stopped. A hook was lying against the bottom of the canvas. It was simple, no ornate designs like some of his father’s had, just smooth silver. He picked it up carefully, not daring to hope it was real. Never had he seen a hook like this outside of his father’s collection, never had he thought he would have one. Looking at it, he realized it was meant to be held, not worn by a person missing a hand. He slipped it over his left hand and gripped the cold metal tightly. It was perfect in every way.

“You said you wanted a hook and that’s why you hurt yourself. So I thought that maybe if you had one you wouldn’t do that anymore.” Gil said. Harry tore his eyes away from the hook to look at the large boy who was now a nervous mess. He continued to babble about being worried it wasn’t good enough, and if he had done something wrong again.

“You did this?” Harry asked, his voice unusually calm.

“Well I found all the metal, but a guy on the other side of the isle actually made it. If you don’t like it-”

“I like it.”

“Really?” Gil looked up, a real smile brightening his face. Harry nodded his head and Gil beamed. He started prattling on about a shop he had seen that looked interesting as he walk ahead. Uma smiled at Harry then followed after Gil. The situation was so familiar to Harry, yet the weight in his hand made all the difference. He let a faint genuine smile cross his lips as he stared at the silver hook, before he ran to catch up with the other two. The hook couldn’t stop the voices from preying on his mind, nor could it stop his father from being disappointed in him. Harry didn’t care though, he had people who thought he was worth something and he had a hook to prove it.