He'd been disappointed, of course, when the girl had rejected his first offer. It was what led them to become enemies, after all, because Stickybeard had to save face with his crew and she wouldn't forgive nearly being walked off the plank. And, to be quite honest, he'd never really wanted to be enemies with her. The girl had dismissed a place on his ship, yes, but in doing so had shown a loyalty that only made her more qualified for the job he was offering. Stickybeard could admire that.

"Ah, there ye be. Come along, then, there be candy to steal."

She looked at him as if he were crazy. He had to wonder briefly if this was right, fair to the lassie. From inside her house came the voice of Father's apprentice, calling the girl, and Stickybeard straightened.

In the subsequent three years, the S.S. Sweet Revenge had several run-ins with Sector V of the Kids Next Door. There had been many fights, chance encounters, even, on occasion, alliances. He could remember the Asparagus Sea, pulling her out of the stalks, being amused at her spirit when she woke up fighting. 'Twere such a pity, about the enemies thing. Stickybeard couldn't think of any colleagues who shared these qualms – the barbeques and R-rated movies were filled with adults who could neither like nor even respect the children they fought. He respected the girl, as a rival and as a candy lover, and liked her despite himself.

"Why, don't ye remember? You be the first mate o' the finest candy pirates in over 200 hundred miles!" The girl frowned, looking confused.

"Hey sis," the Apprentice appeared, a few feet away from the doorway where they stood. "I wanna take you to meet somebody. I work for him."

He'd gotten a few odd looks, somewhere around year three, when he started asking around. The adults in general knew more of the KND's sordid little details than the childrens' commanders would have believed, and they all understood what a Thirteenth Birthday meant. It wasn't unusual for newly teenage runaways to show up with pleas for protection, and it also wasn't unusual for them to be accepted with open arms. Father, in particular, had an impressive little collection of ex-agents. Including – and Stickybeard wasn't sure if he was surprised or not, when he'd discovered this – the girl's older sister. There were a few quiet rumors about Cree, and whether or not the star of Father's army would recruit her little sister. But, odd looks or no, he'd found out the date he wanted.

"Nautical miles?" Her quiet voice hesitant – but surely if she was remembering things like that she must remember him. Cree, not moving from her place across the hallway, shot him a dirty look. 'Don't do this,' it said.

"Aye, there's me girl. Ready to cast off?"


"Then let's go, me sweet-toothed maiden."

"Don't call Abby that."

"As ye wish, me dear."