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An Infectious Laugh

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Normally Davy Jones didn’t much care for a shipwreck with no lives to reap aboard. But this was a different case. He felt drawn to this ship, for whatever reason. As he stood on the rail, contemplating fate for the thousandth time, he wondered what it was that drew him anywhere. His heart? No, that was locked within a chest on Isla Cruces, deep within the sand. Was it something that he could not control? Like the seas? Perhaps. It seemed like the most likely case, even if he didn’t like it very much.

 

“Captain,” Maccus appeared next to him and the hammerhead shark man saluted him shortly.

 

“What is it?” Jones asked, keeping his stare on the waves.

 

“We’ve not found any living, except for one,” the man grumbled, seeming a bit disturbed.

 

Jones frowned. One living, was it worth it to look at that person and reap his or her soul? Was it worth it to spill more blood? He shook his tentacle filled head and turned to look at his First Mate, nodding at him to lead the way.

 

Maccus turned and went down the steps, leading his Captain towards the deck where several of his men were crowded around something. Maccus immediately went to break up the circle, but Jones was already past him, pushing his crew out of the way to look at what they had caught.

 

He froze a step away from a little girl, looking up at him with big, round, blue eyes. She had very short brown hair, with a little reddish tint to it. She was about, well, she was young. Very much so. Jones had never seen such a young child on a vessel, never in his very long life.

 

He was at a loss, what was he to do with a child? Kill it? She was too young to have a fate yet and she was too young to have done anything against him or anyone else. She was just a kid, extremely innocent.

 

“Captain?” one of the crew asked, frozen as much as he was. “What, um, what do we do?” he asked.

 

Jones swallowed to wet his suddenly dry throat and watched as the little girl – God how old was she? – made his way to him on wobbly sea legs, happily laughing as she caught his trouser and fell on her butt. Her squeal of delight made the crew flinch back, and Jones was taken by surprise. Such a thing had an impact like no other on his crew.

 

“Well, uhm…” he hesitated.

 

What was he to do with a soul this young, not ready for the underworld. Not yet anyway. He sighed, there was no way he could kill this girl. He didn’t have it in him to rob such a young and innocent thing of life.

 

“Let her live,” he ordered. “She isn’t worth the kill,” he added as an afterthought.

 

“But Captain,” Maccus said. “We can’t keep her here,” he stated, motioning to the ship.

 

Fuck. He hadn’t thought this through. Jones cursed to himself and sighed once more.

 

“We have no choice but to keep her for a few days, just until we can reach some land and drop her off.”

 

The crew agreed reluctantly; they couldn’t go against his orders. Jones made them go back to work swiftly and was left alone on deck with the small child, her chubby hands grabbing for his pants again. He carefully stooped down and picked up the youngster. He hadn’t seen a child this young in absolutely ages. How had she gotten here in the first place?

 

“Let’s see what we can figure out about you, huh, little one,” he said, uncharacteristically kind.

 

He shuddered, not used to having to deal with these kinds of thoughts. He was being weird. Strange even. They had to get rid of this kid soon, or else something bad was bound to happen. He made his way into his cabin and set the girl down on his chair. She bubbled a laugh and Jones immediately liked the sound for whatever reason.

 

“What’s your name, then, youngster,” he demanded.

 

The girl looked at him with wide eyes and reached out her chubby hands to touch his tentacles. Jones could see no trace of fear in her eyes. She was too young for it. Totally absorbed by his appearance and looks, she reached out and touched him, to which he recoiled. She flinched, then her lower lip wobbled and tears welled in her eyes. Jones’s eyes widened and he yelped in surprise when she started bawling, trying to desperately calm her. Of course, it didn’t work and he quickly found the only remedy to this immediate problem was to let her touch his tentacles. So he did, with some reluctance.

 

She instantly quit crying and a squeal bubbled from her, a big smile forming on her face. Jones didn’t know why, but he felt himself become infected by that smile.

 

“Hannah,” she then blurted.

 

“What?” Jones said, totally unprepared for her words.

 

Her voice was rough, though still youthful. It was obvious she was parched, perhaps dehydrated. Jones then nodded as he realized she had given him her name.

 

“Hannah,” he repeated.

 

When she nodded, he nodded as well and stood. She mewled in protest, his tentacles slipping from her fingers. He called in Maccus and ordered him to bring some water and food, hoping that there was something edible on the ship to be found. The First Mate nodded and disappeared after looking at the child once, with a strange face.

 

“Hackeman,” Hannah then said.

 

Jones frowned at her. Was that her last name, Hackeman? “Is that your last name?” he asked.

 

Hannah nodded. “Ai Cappie!” she squealed in delight.

 

Jones didn’t believe it, but he snorted despite himself. It just blurted from his mouth and he couldn’t stop it. A laugh… he had laughed. This certainly couldn’t be good for his health.

 

“I’m four,” Hannah blurted right after.

 

Jones regained his composure and looked at her as she sat in that chair. She didn’t look like a pirate’s child, nor like a sailor’s child.

 

“Where did you come from, Hannah?” Jones asked, kneeling before her and looking into her ocean blues.

 

Hannah snorted. “Ship,” she pointed out the window to the wreckage they were now leaving behind.

 

“Yes, but where were you before that?” Jones asked, trying to keep up the sweet act, which was harder than he’d thought.

 

Hannah bit her lip and brought her hand under her chin, resting her head on it and thinking. Jones waited for a moment, wondering if she was thinking or faking it. He didn’t know.

 

“I came from mommy and mommy said she came from land, but she had to leave land because people thought she was wacky or something,” Hannah began. “And then she went to ship, and I was on ship and then I was here.”

 

Jones frowned, but then nodded his head anyway. So she was a witch’s child. Or the child of an ordinary woman thought to be a witch. He didn’t know which one was most likely, but he didn’t care much. She was born on that ship and had known nothing of the things around her. She wasn’t afraid of him, which was the sign of bad parenting. Jones felt something ache, but he couldn’t quite place it.

 

Maccus returned that moment with a flask of water and a piece of bread, looking worried.

 

“Captain, this is all I could find. We need more if we’re to keep her. Shore should be close, then we’ll go raid some things for this little tyke.”

 

Jones huffed a laugh and agreed. “That sounds like a good idea, make sure it’s done well. I want food, water and fresh clothing.”

 

Maccus nodded, looked at Hannah once, and then disappeared again. Hannah watched him leave with big eyes, her chubby hands reaching for him. Jones knew the crew wouldn’t let her touch them, at least not until she was part of the crew. And Jones didn’t want that to happen, for some strange, unfathomable reason.

 

This girl was something precious. Something he wanted to keep as it was. He looked back at Hannah, saw her drink from the flask and tear into the bread. He watched her, and when she caught his eyes, he was very surprised at what she did.

 

She smiled as if she had returned home.