Disclaimer: Not mine. Maybe not my best. Oh well. Read enjoy review whatever.


"What's it feel like, do you think?"

"What's what feel like?"

They're sitting against the oak tree at the edge of the clearing, watching the boys run in circles, waving swords in each other's faces. Thea was taken prisoner nearly at the start of the game – she never puts up much of a fight, not wanting to run about or anything like that – and has been resting here, her skinny wrists loosely joined with twine, since then. Ilse's capture was considerably more recent, and fight she certainly did, attempting with all her might to squirm out of Hanschen's grip: "You can't take me prisoner," she squealed, "I'm not a damsel, I'm a pirate too! You don't take other pirates as prisoners, don't you know anything?"

"You're still a girl, and besides, your being a pirate just makes the coup that much more successful," Hanschen replied slyly. He's always Melchior's rival captain when they all play together – and where Melchior and his crew are more interested in simply fighting the other pirates off and having adventures, it's Hanschen's policy to take prisoners (specifically, the girls) on a regular basis.

"Melchi!" Ilse shrieked, "Melchi, quick, come help me fight this scoundrel off!"

But Melchior was too busy defending against the rest of Hanschen's crew, he and Moritz crossing swords with Georg and Otto, while Wendla took on the comparatively gentler Ernst, and so her capture was inevitable, and she allowed herself to be dragged to Hanschen's "ship" with dignity, looking away proudly as Hanschen bound her wrists and sat her down with her back against the tree, next to little Thea.

At first the minutes passed in silence, Ilse still seething over her capture and Thea unwilling to add to her rage, but Thea's thoughts began to drift, and, watching the boys, she couldn't help but let it slip out, which brings her to the awkward spot she now finds herself in.

"Oh, you know," Thea murmurs, embarrassed suddenly. "To, uhm, to kiss a boy."

Ilse laughs, but it's a low, sad kind of laugh. "Never have, have you?"

"Of course not!" Thea exclaims, blushing.

"What makes you ask?" Ilse questions, turning her head to get a better look at her friend, almost enjoying her embarrassment.

"Oh, I don't know, well, I guess, I guess I was just thinking about it," Thea stammers. "On account of… uhm… well, all the boys being here and all."

"D'you want to kiss any of them?" Ilse giggles.

"I don't know," Thea mutters, wishing now that she'd never brought it up. "I don't know what it feels like."

"Nice, sometimes," Ilse replies vaguely. "Not so nice others."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Thea asks suspiciously. "And how d'you know that, anyway?"

"Just do," Ilse says maddeningly. "Sometimes, when you kiss someone, it's tender, and sweet; and they'll hold you awhile, and say pretty things. Or, at least that's what I gather."

"What about the rest of the time?" Thea questions, feeling her curiosity is unseemly.

"Well," Ilse says, a glassy look in her eyes, "Sometimes it's not tender at all, it's rough and mean. They hold you awhile anyway, and sometimes they do say pretty things, but they don't mean it, it's just an act. The trick is knowing when they're telling the truth."

"Who's they?" Thea asks. "Boys?"

"More or less," Ilse shrugs.

"Honestly Ilse, how do you know all this?" Thea asks again.

"Just do," Ilse repeats, even more infuriating to Thea than before. The two of them rarely talk by themselves – they usually have the other girls as a buffer. But Wendla's still fighting with the boys, and Anna and Martha went home long ago. The few conversations they've had usually end in a similar state of confusion or frustration for Thea – it's as if she and Ilse speak two different languages.

"You're strange," Thea finally tells her plainly.

"Sorry," Ilse shrugs, not sounding in the least remorseful. They sit quietly, two little girls with their hair all braided, their wrists still bound with twine, backs against a tree, feeling all of the differences between them push them far, far apart.