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And If You Say You're Okay, I'm Gonna Heal You Anyway

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Sometimes Law wondered if he really was as cursed as people said he was. Maybe the gods had taken one look at him when he’d been born and said to themselves, “Yes, that child’s fate is to live a terrible life that no one would ever wish for themselves.” It was an idea that became harder and harder to dispute as the years progressed.  

His early years had been lovely, normal and loving as could be, growing up with a family in a seaside town that prospered. Flevance had been beautiful in its prime, and Law had run wild in fields covered in white grass, among white trees, along white beaches. When he and his little sister got tired of that they’d return home and learn whatever songs their parents wanted to teach them that day. His fondest memories existed in a haze of white and gentle voices singing.  

Then came the white plague. It appeared out of nowhere, taking the city by surprise and taking nearly a quarter of its population with its first strike in a matter of weeks. The trees, the grass, the sand, all the land remained as white as it had ever been, but now the people were suddenly starting to match the scenery. Everyone who got infected- which was almost every person in the city- had to watch as their skin developed white patches that spread across their bodies. They grew weak, and every breath became a painful experience. Even their hair started to bleach itself white.  

The surrounding cities panicked, and Law’s hometown was quarantined to keep the sickness from spreading. People from other cities actively drove back anyone who tried to escape, killing anyone who got too close to the edge of town. No efforts were made to try and help his people because everyone not infected was too afraid to get close to anyone who was.  

The only ones who tried to do anything were Law’s parents. They were simple healers, nothing too fancy, but each night they sang songs of healing to their ailing children. They sang a different one each night, desperate to find one that would have any affect.  

And one night they noticed that it began to work. Law started towards the road to recovery, and they began to hope that maybe they would be alright in the end.  

But life was cruel, and the gods more so.  

By the order of a single nobleman, Flevance was wiped off the map. The White City became nothing more than a pile of ash and bones.  

Law was the sole survivor, having been smuggled out of the city in a pile of corpses. His mother, his father, his sister, everyone he’d ever known and cared for- gone.  

He’d wandered the countryside on his own for a while, using most of his energy to sing himself better. It was practically unheard of for someone to effectively sing themselves better, as healing songs were most effective if being administered by someone else, but if one willed it hard enough they could do it. And Law had willed it with all his might, refusing to die from the plague after all he’d been through.  

He felt himself slowly grow stronger as the days passed until finally the constant pain he woke up with disappeared. The only sign of what he’d been through were the pale patches of skin that remained even after he was healed.  

Of course, it would have been near impossible for him to survive on his own in his state, so it was fortunate that Corazon stumbled across him- quite literally- one fateful day. He was still sick at the time, so he’d been hunched in on himself and waiting for his chronic pain to die down to a more manageable level when the man had tripped over him. Hardly the most dignified introduction for either of them, but somehow they bonded with each other anyway.  

Corazon said nothing about the way Law would sing himself healing songs every night, but Law could tell he knew what he was infected with. Corazon was the first person Law had met that wasn’t afraid of him just because his skin had white splotches on it. He treated Law better than anyone had since the white plague hit, even insisting on Law calling him Cora instead.  

It took a while, but eventually Law got better and the two traveled easier back to Cora’s home. Although originally from Thoughts of Under, the older man had since moved to Vera’s Blessing. It was a long way from where the two met, just on the border between Titor’s Garden and Thoughts of Under, virtually on the opposite side of the Eight Realms.  

They lived happily together for the next five years, minding their own business in the countryside of Vera’s Blessing. Law was finally starting to think that his life had taken a turn for the better.  

But then of course, tragedy struck again.  

Cora’s older brother Donquixote Doflamingo, sent him a letter requesting his presence. According to the letter, he wanted to mend the fraying bond between them. Cora had a kind heart, so he agreed to come visit with Law in tow.  

Maybe Doflamingo really had wanted to make up with his brother, or maybe he’d been lying all along. But as soon as his eyes settled on Law his plans changed.  

Things started off…. alright. Law felt mildly uncomfortable being around Doflamingo, but he couldn’t really place his finger on why. At first he just thought it was because everyone seemed to be wary of the man. It wasn’t until that night when Doflamingo cornered him on his own that he realized how wrong he was.  

As it turned out, Doflamingo had been the one to order the destruction of Flevance. There was sick satisfaction in his eyes when he told this to Law, and the teen had to hide his revulsion and rage before it caused him problems. He would have struck the man down right then and there, but logic stayed his hand. Doflamingo was a nobleman, the Lord’s war chief in fact, and striking him was a crime punishable by death. So Law didn’t react when the man pulled him flush against him and leered in his face about what a special trophy he’d make. The last survivor or the White City.  

As soon as Doflamingo let him go, Law rushed back to Corazon’s side and told him what happened. His guardian had been incensed, but he knew his brother even better than Law did. He knew that it was too dangerous to confront Doflamingo about it, so the two packed up their things and made their getaway before the sun rose.  

But Under, god of trickery, was on Doflamingo’s side. One of his men had followed them, and he and Cora crossed blades until Cora mistepped and the other man ran him through. Law wanted to kill him, but Cora used his last breaths to beg him to run away.  

So Law ran. He ran as fast as his legs would take him, and he only looked back to see if he was being followed. Perhaps Doflamingo’s henchman was only under orders to kill Cora, or perhaps he’d been told not to kill Law so that he’d still make a good trophy. Whatever the case was, he didn’t follow. Still, Law could have sworn that he heard the maniacal laughter of Doflamingo as he ran away.  

It was days later when Law finally allowed himself to properly rest. He was far enough past the border that he figured the other wasn’t coming after him. Not yet anyways.  

He considered making the long journey back to Vera’s Blessing, back to the place he called home, but he knew he couldn’t return. Doflamingo knew where he and Cora lived- he wouldn’t be safe there.  

In the end he decided to stay in Titor’s Garden. He’d go to the capital and find work there. He wasn’t sure what kind of work, but he was sure he could find something. Anything to keep him away from Doflamingo’s attention. Something simple.  

It was easier said than done.  

No one was interested in hiring some random kid with no previous job experience. Eventually one person was kind enough to point him in the direction of the house of chiefs, where they could assign him a job based on what skills he had.  

The woman in charge asked him questions, and he answered them to the best of his ability without giving too much away. By the end of it she declared that he’d do best working in the stables. It was hardly glamorous, but it worked for Law. Beggars couldn’t be choosers after all. Especially when he was trying to hide.  

She stood up to get someone to escort him there, groaning and holding her back as she did so.  

Law, without thinking about how he was supposed to avoid gaining attention, immediately asked her if she wanted help with the ache that was hurting her. She agreed, a curious glint in her eyes, but he ignored it in favor of concentrating on the task at hand. He laid his hands on her back and began to softly sing the tune for body aches. Little by little she began to relax, and Law knew by the end that it had worked.  

She turned to him once he finished, looking him over again. “You a mucker then? I’ve heard of their healing songs before. Never thought much of them until now,” she said.  

Muckers were a slang word for the people who lived on the steppes near the Sacred Mountain. Simple country folk to most people. Law could work with that. It probably wasn’t that different from the way he lived with Cora.  

“Um, yes, but-” 

“Do you know how to sew?” she cut him off.  

He blinked in confusion at that, but answered truthfully. “Yes.” He learned how to mend things early on with Cora, since the man was constantly ruining his clothes in stupid ways like accidentally lighting them on fire or getting caught on his own fishing hook.  

She hummed thoughtfully. “How many of those mucker songs do you know?” 

“Plenty, I suppose. I know ones for how to birth a foal, how to get a horse to calm down-” he listed off all the animal related ones he could think of. Anything that sounded like it could have any use in a stable.  

She wasn’t interested in those though. “No, no. I mean ones like the one you sang for me. Ones for helping with sore backs and body pains,” she gestured at the whole of her elderly self.  

He paused before deciding how to answer. “…. I know a fair amount of those too,” he replied hesitantly. Oh gods, she wasn’t going to send him to the shamans was she? He needed a job less conspicuous.  

“Hmm. I’ve changed my mind. I’m going to make you a manservant. Those royal brats are always going through so many of them.” Then she sent him off without letting him get a word in edgewise, pushing him into the side of his escort that led him to the home of a little old man that was to train him.  

He was nervous about his position being too noticeable- what if one day whatever lord or lady he was serving met up with the nobles from Thoughts of Under? Upon further reflection however, he realized that there were so many princes and princesses from the royal family of Titor’s Garden that it was unlikely Doflamingo would find any of their many servants noteworthy.  

He trained for his future position for the next year, being one of the fortunate few also there that already knew how to read and write. It wasn’t so bad. Some of his classmates were annoying, but Law found most people annoying anyways.  

Then came the day that he was finally deemed fit for service. He arrived at the palace confident in his abilities, attempting not to gawk at the grandness in front of him.  

It was beautiful there, with high white walls that sort of reminded him of Flevance, although nothing in his hometown had been nearly as impressive or elaborate. Everything surrounding the palace was lush and green, bursting with life. Certainly fit for the rulers of a kingdom named after the home of the god of animals.  

The inside was less awe inspiring. Not because it was any less lavishly designed, but rather because of the mayhem the inhabitants were in. People were running around, wailing and yelling, all in various states of distress.  

Law sat by himself on a deserted bench for hours before he came to the conclusion that nobody was going to tell him what he was supposed to do. He took matters into his own hands and decided to go looking for the chief of staff. He passed dozens of people in the hallways, but no one spared him a single glance. It was sort of worrying, but nobody would stop to tell him what the hell was going on, so he just continued on his quest.  

He stumbled upon a room that everyone else seemed to have abandoned, although it looked like swarms of people had passed through it before. There were clothes scattered all over the floor, jewelry tossed every which way, papers balled up and tossed in places, and a book that looked like it had half its pages ripped out and thrown all over.  

He wandered inside, curious about what had gone in there and nearly had a heart attack when he met the eyes of a silently weeping girl.  

Law liked to tell himself that he was a cold-hearted loner, but in reality he was actually a big softy, especially for crying people. He took a tentative step towards her. “Excuse me miss, but would you mind telling me what’s wrong? Are you in pain?” he asked.  

She looked at him with her watery brown eyes uncomprehending. He looked over her as best as he could without moving closer or getting in her space when she was so distressed. She didn’t look like she had any injuries, besides a red mark on her cheek. Maybe someone had slapped her. Other than that, it didn’t look like there was anything physically wrong with her. She looked a mess nonetheless. Her pink hair was in tangles, her eyes puffy and red, nose sniffling, and still in her nightgown.  

He was just about to leave when suddenly her hand snapped out to grip his wrist in a vice like grip. “Who are you?” she asked in a warbling voice.  

Law wasn’t exactly inclined to answer, but he figured that maybe if he did she’d let him go. “My name’s Law. Trafalgar Law.” He tried to pull his arm gently away, but she hung on, so he continued, “I was sent here to become someone’s manservant. Today’s my first day.” 

“Whose manservant?” she demanded with a ferocity that surprised him given how timid she had seemed only seconds earlier.  

He frowned. “Well, no one’s yet. I was told they’d assign me to someone once I got here since there’s so many lord and ladies.” He was really starting to get a bad feeling about all this.  

“I’m a lady. Serve me,” she said, and he nearly gawked at that. Looking back on it, it should have been more obvious to him. After all, what sort of servant would have been allowed to stay in their night clothes well into the afternoon as the entire palace was in uproar?  

“Um, I don’t think-” 

“Serve me! That’s what you’re here for, isn’t it? Swear you’ll serve me!” Ordinarily he would have hated someone saying something like that to him, but in these circumstances he actually felt bad for her. There was something in her tone of voice that sounded so desperate and afraid that he couldn’t refuse. It didn’t help that those big brown eyes of hers reminded him of his little sister Lami’s. 

“Okay. I swear I’ll serve you,” he told her softly. He was probably going to regret it later, but there was no taking it back now.  

She calmed down after that, letting him lead her over to her vanity and dropping listlessly into the chair in front of it. He dug around until he found a brush, spending the next few minutes untangling her hair and even braiding it the way he would sometimes do for Lami. Once that was done he went to her closet and picked through the clothes that weren’t making their home on the ground and found her something presentable. He chose a silky dark brown dress that would have been the kind of color more suited to a herder but somehow managed to look regal in this setting.  

He turned his back to let her dress herself as he picked clothes up from the floor, but she gave up halfway through, so he had to turn back around and help her again. Fortunately, he wasn’t a stranger to nudity, growing up in a healer’s house in Flevance, so seeing her in her underwear didn’t embarrass him.  

She still looked pretty miserable by the time he finished, but at least she looked a little more put together than before.  

He was wrestling a pair of shoes onto her feet when her mother stormed in.  

He’d heard a lot about her esteemed majesty Lady Charlotte Linlin- known as Big Mom to the common folk- but seeing her in person was something else. She shared her daughter’s hair color, but that was it. Unlike the girl Law had been taking care of for the past half hour she had hair that fell around her face in large curls, fiery orange eyes, and was overall just enormous. And he wasn’t just talking about weight either- the queen was even taller than Law, and he was pretty damn tall for his age at nearly six feet.  

“Still wailing about it, Bonney?” she snorted at her daughter’s renewed tears. “You have only yourself to blame.” She looked almost sympathetic for a half second before shocking Law by slapping her daughter hard across the face. Guess he knew where the other mark had come from.  

“What’s this here?” Big Mom sniffed, looking straight at Law. She took in his faded yellow tunic, plain wool pants, and the well worn boots on his feet. “You some sort of mucker? What are you doing here?” 

He swallowed down his apprehension and replied, “Yes, I’m from the mountains, and I came here last year to find-” 

“I don’t want your life’s story, boy,” she huffed down her nose at him. “You’re not much to look at, are you?” she said, eyeing the pale patches of skin that spread across his face. Law resisted the urge to repeat the phrase back to her.  

“Oh, I remember now. They said they were sending some mucker to be a manservant to one of my children. What a situation you’re walked into. Can’t be worse than what you’ve been through though, can it?” Law was afraid for a moment that she had figured out where he was actually from, but her next words quelled those thoughts. “I hear those muckers live off of grass alone up there. Bet you barely know what to do with a roof over your head.” 

Law may not have actually been from the steppes, but he was indignant on their behalf. This woman acted like they were all barbarians living up there. Law had met muckers before, and they weren’t any different from anyone else when it got down to it. Nobles sure were rude.  

Another hard slap to Bonney’s face made Law flinch. Big Mom only chortled. “There we go. She’d gone so quiet after I got used to the sound of her crying. Weep all you want, nobody will hear you alone up in that tower.” 

For a split second Bonney actually seemed brave as she stood tall to face her mother. “I won’t be alone. My new manservant is going with me,” she said, grabbing Law by the arm and pulling him close.  

“Is that what you think? Well, you don’t deserve a manservant, and I certainly won’t force one to go with you. So,” she turned to look at Law,” do you choose to go with her?” 

Law cleared his throat. “Go where?” 

Big Mom positively roared with laughter after that. “Oh, now I see!” She roamed over to Bonney’s closet and began ripping dresses off their hangers to decorate the floor, ruining Law’s progress on cleaning up the room. “I arranged for my dear daughter to marry the highly esteemed Lord Kaido from Thoughts of Under, the most powerful of the eight realms. And does my daughter thank me or fulfill her duty? No! She scorns her responsibilities and tells me she’s promised to Khan Luffy from Song for Evela. A lesser realm that won’t bring me any advantages through a marriage! With a brat that doesn’t even deserve his title yet. Ungrateful child. So I’m locking her up in an old watchtower that will serve as her prison. We’ll see if seven years shut behind bricks won’t stop her nonsense and make her a little more grateful. So what say you, mucker? Will you lock yourself up in that tower with her?” Her beady orange eyes bore holes into him.  

He looked between the towering form of Big Mom and her trembling daughter who still clenched Law’s arm tight in her hands. He imagined Bonney up in that tower alone for seven years, looked at her big brown eyes and saw his sister standing beside him instead. He remembered how lonely he was after Flevance burned, after Corazon was struck down. How it felt to have no one.  

He stood a little taller and turned to face Big Mom. “Yes. I’ll stay with her,” he said firmly.  

The older woman slapped him so hard he stumbled, but Bonney was there to catch him before he hit the ground. He was only dully aware of what happened after that, everything seeming to pass by in a haze, but he remembered three things. First, he remembered hearing Big Mom’s thunderous yelling as she stomped out. Second, he remembered how helpless he felt thinking about how he was going to spend the next seven years locked away in a tower.  

But the thing he remembered the clearest was the smile on Bonney’s face as she held him close and stroked his hair, thanking him without words for not abandoning her to her fate.  

The next seven years were definitely going to suck, but maybe- just maybe- it would be worth it.  

Chapter Text

It had been nearly two months since Law had first been shoved into the tower with Bonney, and he was starting to get worried. In fairness, he’d basically been worrying since the very second they’d been locked up, but now he was getting extra worried.  

What was he worried? Well, aside from the usual concerns about how they were going to last for seven years in there, like food and water supplies- which were provided but troubling nonetheless- Bonney’s mental stability seemed to be in a decline.  

They’d gotten to know each other pretty well during their time together, and while they hardly knew all there was about each other’s lives, Law could still tell that Bonney was beginning to act a little… Off. In her best moments she was a loud, brash girl who spoke her mind. She told him all about her numerous siblings- which ones she liked best, which ones she detested, who was in favor with their mother, who got along with who, etc. Her favorites were a pair of younger twins named Lola and Chiffon, as well as an older brother named Katakuri. The latter, she regretfully supplied, had gone missing not long before her mother had announced Bonney’s engagement. He’d been fighting in the Unclaimed Wastes when he disappeared, so it was widely assumed that he was dead.  

Talking about him occasionally prompted her worse moments, where she grew taciturn and quiet, crying now and then about the way her life turned out. Even then, that seemed perfectly normal to Law, given the circumstances.  

But lately something odd had begun to creep into her behavior. There were times when Law would call her name or try talking to her, but she simply stared right past him as if she couldn’t hear him. And it wasn’t the same way as she did when she ignored him on purpose where she pouted her lips and scowled at the wall. No, now it was as if she were seeing something very far away that Law couldn’t see through the bricks of their prison.  

It was the way she sometimes jumped at nonexistent monsters in the shadows, the way she paled and stared in horror at the way the lamps flickered.  

He knew it wasn’t because of some lingering childlike fear of the dark. She never seemed bothered by it before. He could not, however, figure out for the life of him what it was that afflicted her so. It was rapidly getting worse, the almost comfortable camaraderie between them turning to tense silence.  

He tried to help her as best as he could. He sang her to sleep every night, sometimes staying long after her eyes drifted shut to try and keep her mind peaceful and free of terrors. When she was particularly twitchy he sang to her in the day too. He sang a good many songs for healing the mind, of calmness, of being brave, but it didn’t seem to do much good. At the very least she still liked it when he sang, so he kept it up as long as he could. Sometimes he even just sang regular old songs, that weren’t much good for anything other than keeping them both occupied.  

He was infinitely grateful that Bonney’s mother had been generous enough to give them honey with their food supplies, as he used it to soothe his throat. Big Mom may have been one of the worst people Law had ever set eyes upon (and he’d seen a fair share) but at least she was wealthy enough to afford to feed them. She’d left them with what was supposed to be seven years' worth of grain, dried meats, a well, a handful of spices, and a few dozen jars of honey.  

It was hardly the most glamorous of supplies, but it was better than what Law expected. Besides, there were plenty of people who would have killed to have this much food- literally.  

Seeing all that food stocked up in the bottom of their tower nearly made Law faint the first time he saw it. He’d never seen so much food in his life, and it was hard to grasp that such a commodity existed, let alone at his fingertips. Once the initial shock wore off he’d calculated how far to make things last for their allotted time though. Just because it looked like it would last him a lifetime, didn’t mean it actually would.  

Bonney used to complain about the amount Law would feed her, claiming that he was trying to starve her or that the only reason she had to eat more than him was because he was such a twig.  

Now she barely said anything about it. 

Still, he held out hope for her. Maybe it was just a rough patch and she’d go back to her usual blustering self soon enough. A traitorous voice in the back of his head told him that he was going to be disappointed. He pushed it down and continued to sing for her anyways.  

It was a hard adjustment to go from being a noble to being locked away in a tower with only one other person, very little fresh air, and even less sunlight. But they would make it through this- Law would make sure of that.  

One day they would walk out of this blasted tower, and they would be free.  

Some days Law wondered if he was going insane. He thought he heard Cora’s voice a couple times, but as soon as he turned around to reply he’d realize what he was doing and stop himself. Cora was dead, and there was no changing that.  

He began a journal, cataloguing his days in the tower, trying valiantly to fend off boredom. It was also helpful just to keep track of things. Every day seemed to blend together in there.  

Sometimes he would open up the little metal flap on the wall- their only connection with the outside world- and press his face as close to its edges as he could, just so he could try and breathe truly fresh air. He’d try in vain to strain his eyes up further, but no matter what he did he could never see the sky. The flap was simply too close to the ground to provide a better angle for that.  

Every now and then he’d wonder to himself what the sky looked like that day. Would it be blue? Would there be clouds? Was the sun shining clearly? He’d never truly now until he saw it again for himself. And he had seven years before he could do that again.  

One evening Law heard a voice calling outside their tower. At first he thought he was imagining things, but after a few more minutes it became apparent that there was actually a person outside their walls trying to talk to them. Or rather, trying to talk to Bonney.  

Someone was whisper yelling her name.  

Curiosity piqued, Law crept closer to the metal hatch in the wall.  

“Psst! Bonney! Are you awake in there? It’s me- Luffy!”  

That actually surprised Law, and he glanced back to gauge Bonney’s reaction. He expected her to look happy at the prospect of reuniting with her preferred fiancé, but instead he was met with a look of terror. He frowned, but as soon as he opened his mouth she was across the room and gripping his shoulders.  

“Wha-?!” She slapped a hand over his mouth to cut him off.  

“Listen to me, Law,” she said, fierce desperation shining in her eyes. “You have to be the one to talk to him.” 

He shot her an incredulous look at that, wishing she’d uncover his mouth so he could ask her why in the world he’d do such a thing.  

As is she could read his thoughts she replied, “Just do it. Pretend you’re me though. He’s never heard my voice or met me in person. We’ve only ever spoke in letters, and I need to know more about what he’s like in person. I need to know if I can trust him.” She finally released him, and he rubbed his jaw from where her fingers had gripped him.  

“You’ve never met him and you still agreed to marry him?” he asked. It didn’t seem like the Bonney thing to do. She told him before that she wanted to marry for love, and he’d automatically assumed she’d been talking about the khan. Apparently, that wasn’t the case.  

“Please, Law. Just do this for me,” she begged. There was a childish whine to her voice, but beneath it he could see real fear.  

He sighed. He always was a sucker for scared little girls. “Fine,” he grumbled, pretending to ignore the relief on her face.  

Cautiously, he opened the metal flap and peered through the small opening. He couldn’t see much- just the grass in the fading light and a pair of tan feet clad in leather sandals.  

“Khan?” he asked quietly.  

He was immediately answered with an exuberant, “Bonney!” The boy outside the tower crouched down to get closer to the hatch, but his face remained out of sight. There was a lip of bricks that kept Law from looking straight out, but he could see about a foot out and down. 

“I heard you got locked up in this tower because of our betrothal! I’m sorry! I told my advisors I’d come break you out, but they said it will cause all-out war between Song for Evela and Titor’s Garden! I think that’s stupid, and your mom’s a mean old hag, but I don’t want to start a war. It’s already bad enough that we have to keep sending people out to fight the tribes in the Unclaimed Wastes. Even my brothers have left to go fight. I’d break you out of here anyways, but Zoro won’t let me. He’s making sure the guards are occupied right now. Are you doing okay in there?”  

All of this was said so quickly it took Law a moment to realize he’d been asked a question. He cleared his throat. “Yes, I’m doing fine in here. It could be worse,” he said, looking at Bonney hesitantly.  

“Oh good!” the khan replied. There was a brief pause before he spoke again. “Huh. Your voice is a lot lower than I expected. You don’t really sound like a girl. Shishishishishi!”  

And well, Law probably should have said he had a bad cold, or some other lame but slightly plausible excuse, but instead he retorted, “That’s because I’m not a girl, dumbass.” He slapped a hand over his own mouth this time, eyes widening and looking frantically at Bonney who was hunched over with her back facing Law, shoulders shaking with what he strongly suspected was laughter. Oh gods, he’d just called a noble a dumbass straight to their face. Or well, straight to his feet anyway. He was so dead.  

Instead of being shouted at for his offensive behavior, he was merely met with more laughter. He waited to see if it was the malicious kind, but it seemed like the khan genuinely found the situation funny.  

“You’re a funny guy, Bonney. Say, why are you called Bonney anyways? I thought that was a girl’s name. I totally thought you were a girl this whole time- was I wrong?” 

Law scrambled to find an answer to the question that didn’t sound suspicious. Then, as if the gods took pity on him, a solution occurred to him. “Bonney’s not my real name- it’s my sister’s. I just used it when I wrote to you because it was easier that way. People treat you different when they think you’re a girl,” he said.  

The khan hummed thoughtfully. “I guess so. I have friends who are girls, and they do get treated differently. I have to threaten a lot of people about it sometimes. Not that I usually do. They’re pretty good about taking care of things themselves. So, what’s your name then?” 

He paused, eyes flicking to Bonney for a split second. “Katakuri,” he replied. She whipped around to stare at him. “My name’s Katakuri,” he said more forcefully.  

“Katakuri… Huh. I feel like I’ve heard that before…. You know, I-”  

Whatever it was the khan was about to say got caught off by the sound of another person approaching. Law held his breath as the khan’s feet disappeared from his limited vision and the sound of hushed voices and a light scuffle broke out.  

Then, after a few tense minutes, the khan’s sandaled feet returned.  

“Zoro says we have to leave now. The guards are done drinking, and he doesn’t want us to get caught over here. I have to go take care of some business, but I’ll be back as soon as I can! Stay safe in there, okay? I’ll be back in no time, and we’ll get you out then!” 

“You’re being awfully optimistic about this,” Law said. The khan only laughed at that before scampering away.  

His happy laughter stuck with Law for the rest of the night, even after he sang Bonney to sleep and found himself staring at the ceiling for hours.  

The khan returned two nights later, this time calling for “Katakuri” at the top of his lungs.  

“The guards are all passed out because they were having a drinking contest with Zoro. He won obviously- he’s really good at drinking contests!” was the explanation that Law got.  

“Oh, hey!” he exclaimed. “I figured out why I know your name! Well actually, I told Zoro, and he figured it out for me, shishishi! He said you went missing out in the Unclaimed Wastes- which is weird since, you know, you’re obviously here right now. He said you were supposed to be dead and to be cautious of what you tell me, but I think he’s just being paranoid. After all, you and I are supposed to get married someday! Aren’t we supposed to trust each other?” 

Law flinched at the khan’s words, throat burning with the words that threatened to escape. Whoever this Zoro was, he clearly wasn’t as stupid- er, trusting- as the khan. What if he found out that Law wasn’t actually one of Big Mom’s children? Masquerading as nobility was a crime punishable by death. And yeah, being shut in this tower for seven years was almost a death sentence in its own right, but he’d take it over getting beheaded in the city square.  

He swallowed past the lump in his throat, replaying the story he’d made to cover for this scenario in his head before speaking. “I was fighting there, that’s true. The reports that I went missing were…. a little less true. I returned home, but we kept it hush hush. My mother called me back to tell me about my engagement with Lord Kaidou,” he said. He’d been working out the details with Bonney ever since that first night the khan came to visit. She had been upset with him at first for using her brother’s name to trick the khan- not wanting to sully her brother’s reputation, but in the end it was agreed that his decision had been for the best. They also agreed that their story would work best if it had some truth to it, so he twisted some of the details from Bonney’s life to better fit “Katakuri’s” role.  

“She tried to convince me to marry him, but then when I told her about you she locked me up in here. She wants me to marry him to strengthen the relationship between Titor’s Garden and Thoughts of Under. She’s just saying that I’m missing because it’s less shameful for her this way to pretend like the one she locked up was my little sister and not one of her sons instead.” 

Honestly, the way society treated women sometimes was ridiculous. If there was one thing Law was grateful for in his life it was that he was born a man because society really tried its damnedest to act like women were beneath men.  

He paused, waiting to hear what the khan’s reaction would be. Would he take his friend’s advice and think critically about the tale that Law had told him? Would he discover the truth of Law and Bonney’s situation? Law’s stomach twisted painfully at the thought of what the khan would do when he discovered their deception.  

After a few more tense moments the khan finally replied. “Your mom is dumb,” he said with all the boyish innocence of a child that didn’t understand the horrors of the world. He said it so plainly that Law nearly thought he imagined it, but even he couldn’t have pictured anyone saying something like that about Charlotte Linlin. Not in her own territory anyway.  

He couldn’t quite quench the laughter that bubbled up out of his throat at the absurdity of the whole situation, but he did his best to stifle it in his sleeve after the first unexpected guffaw broke out.  

Across the room, Bonney hid her smile in her sleeves as well.  

Although he couldn’t see anything besides the khan’s feet, he could practically feel his cheerfulness radiating through the tower walls. “You have a nice laugh, Kuri,” he said.  

Law felt his face heat up and adjusted his position from where he sat against the wall. “Kuri?” he managed to squeak out.  

The khan chuckled. “Yeah! Your whole name’s a mouthful, so I shortened it!” 

“No one’s ever called me that before,” he mumbled; despite the fact that nobody would have done that because his name was actually Law, he highly doubted anyone had called the real Katakuri that either.  

“Good! That means I have a special name for you! I think you ought to have a special name if we’re gonna get married some day! Shishishi!” 

“You’re too generous, my khan,” he said dryly.  

There was a muffled thumping sound that Law thought sounded kind of like the other boy was stomping his foot. “Hey, Kuri! You can’t just call me ‘khan’ all the time! That’s just what strangers call me when I have to go to formal events! Call me Luffy!” he demanded.  

Law huffed. “You’re such a child, you know that?” Ordinarily he would never talk so brazenly to a noble, but the more time he spent with Luffy the less he seemed to care. It was surprisingly easy to talk with him.  

“Well, I’m only fifteen! Nami says I probably won’t mature until I’m at least one hundred, shishishi!” 

Fifteen, huh? That meant he was just under two years younger than Law, whose seventeenth birthday had passed quietly in his new home.  

“You’re pretty young to be ruling then,” Law replied. Very young. He suddenly worried about the wellbeing of Song for Evela if Kaidou attacked twice fold.  

Luffy simply laughed again. “Yeah, that’s what everyone says! But I’m kind of just a placeholder until my dad gets back! He’s been doing stuff out in the Unclaimed Wastes for a long time, but he’ll be back someday! Until then it looks like I’ll still be khan!” 

Law vaguely recalled his tutor saying something along those lines once, but the man hadn’t elaborated on it. He wondered if Luffy’s father was still alive or if his son was holding onto a pipe dream.  

He snapped out of his stupor when Luffy began firing off questions about Titor’s Garden. He could think about all this other information later.  

They’d have plenty of days to talk to each other before Luffy left.  

“I’m bored, Kuri.” 

“Well, what do you want me to do about that?” 

“I dunno, is there anything you want to do?” 



“Could you…. Will you tell me what the sky looks like right now?” 

“The sky?” 

“Yes. Will you do that for me, please?” 

“Okay. Yeah. Let’s see…” 

Luffy told me that the sky was bright today. That kind of endless blue without a single cloud in sight that makes you feel like  you’re  part of something far bigger than you’ll ever understand. The kind of blue sky that makes it seem like everyone belonged under it together.  

He’s optimistic like that. I don’t usually buy into that kind of nonsense, but when Luffy says it he sounds so sure of himself that it almost makes me believe that he could make it happen.  

When we talk it makes my shoulders feel  lighter.  Lighter than they’ve felt in a long time. It makes my problems feel a little more distant, a little less stressful. When we talk I can even forget about the rats that somehow made it into the tower’s cellar where our food is stocked.  

I think in another life, Luffy and I could actually be friends. Without the titles, without the secrets.  

I’ll probably look back at what I’ve written in this journal later on and scoff at it. It sounds so stupid.  But I want it.   

Chapter Text

Luffy continued to visit the tower every day over the next two weeks. Mostly he came by himself while Zoro distracted the guards, but occasionally the younger boy would inform him that his friend had shown up while the guards were passed out drunk or whatever the two had done to keep them away. He never said a word, but Law could feel his presence the way one would watch a mug teeter dangerously on the edge of a table, waiting for the weight to drop and shatter the comfortable arrangement between him and Luffy.  

Eventually, he came to the conclusion that while it was good to be cautious, Zoro seemed unlikely to contribute anything to their conversations besides the occasional disruption to correct something Luffy had said. His voice was always too quiet for Law to hear more than an indistinct mumble, but he could hear the teasing familiarity in it, and it made his chest ache.  

Not out of jealousy, mind you. That would be ridiculous. There was no reason for him to be jealous just because Luffy was close to someone else. Actually, he was close to many other people, according to all the stories he told Law. Very close. It wasn’t important or anything. Luffy was allowed to like whoever the hell he wanted to.  

…Okay, fine, Law may have been a little jealous. So, what? It’s not like he’d made a lot of friends since Flevance. Of course he would feel a little possessive about one of the first friends he’d made in years. That was all. It had nothing to do with the way his cheeks would flush whenever Luffy complimented him off-handedly, or the way his heart sometimes seemed ready to squeeze straight out of his chest whenever their meetings would end.  

He absolutely did not have feelings for the idiot.  

Because that would be terrible. Not only was he stuck in a tower for the next seven years, Luffy would have to leave eventually. Also there was that whole thing about how he was masquerading as gentry while being, you know, not gentry, but also pretending to be engaged to the moron. While his actual fiancé silently sat near them.  

Ancestors help him, he was so fucked.  

“I brought you a present!” Luffy exclaimed.  

Law arched an eyebrow, although he knew the other wouldn’t be able to see it. “A present?” What in the world would he have brought? 

Luffy only laughed at the disbelief in his voice. “Hold out your hand,” he insisted.  

Law obliged, albeit somewhat reluctantly. He swore, that hyperactive child better not put something gross or slimy in his hand, or so help him he’d knock down the damn walls of the tower himself just to smack him upside the head. 

Much to his relief, the khan did not put anything gross or slimy in his hand. When he drew his arm back from the metal hatch, he found a small pine bough tucked in his palm. 

“I thought you might like to have something from outside! There’re no flowers or anything growing out here since it’s autumn, but I think this is better anyway! I think it smells better than flowers too. I don’t really get why everyone thinks flowers are so great,” he rambled on as Law held the bough to his face and took a deep breath, letting his eyes fall closed and just enjoying the scent. He imagined what the world looked like outside the tower, of bright colored leaves falling and the grass turning brown until it started to snow and the ground was blanketed in thick white powder. He thought of cold nights spent curled up by the fire with a warm drink in his hands while Cora sat nearby.  

“Do you like it?” 

He shook himself out of his daydreams, dropping the pine bough from his face. “Yes,” he whispered. Then a little louder, “Yes. Thank you, Luffy. I love it.” And he really meant it.  

He could practically see the smile spreading across the khan’s face, regardless of the bricks that separated them.  

Luffy laughed again. “Good! Hey, can I tell you something, Kuri? I don’t want you to get offended- Nami’s always telling me to keep my mouth shut, but I want to say something to you.” 

Law felt something cold settle into the pit of his stomach. Had Luffy finally figured out that he’d been deceived this whole time? Was there some weird etiquette thing about pine boughs that he’d forgotten that Luffy had been testing him with? Did gentry normally have something against giving each other twigs? 

He had to calm down, but it was difficult when Luffy had actually asked him if it was okay to speak- he’d never done that before. Law didn’t think the kid had a filter for anything that came out of his mouth.  

He took a steadying breath and tried to keep the panic from edging into his voice. “Go ahead,” he said.  

“You have a nice looking hand,” was the reply.  

Law’s brain short-circuited for a moment. Out of all the things he’d been expecting to hear, that had not been on the list.  

“My- my hand?” he stuttered out, flabbergasted. He looked down at his palms, belatedly thanking the gods that he’d reached out with his right hand and not the left one that was covered in sickly looking white patches. Luffy would probably think differently if he’d seen that hand.  

Across the room, Bonney looked down to frown at her own hands, pale and delicate looking. Hers were far nicer looking than Law’s, he couldn’t help but notice.  

There was a soft chuckle from the other side of the wall. “Yeah. It’s pretty,” he said in that simple way of his.  

Law felt his face heat up and made a point of not looking in Bonney’s direction to see her reaction.  

“Oh! I also brought this for you!” he preened, thrusting a bag of something through the hatch. “It’s meat! Zoro and I went hunting earlier,” he explained.  

Law took the bag from his outstretched hand, speechless for a moment. “That’s…. That’s very kind of you, Luffy. Really, I- thank you. We appreciate it,” he said.  

“Shishishi! Well, Zoro mentioned that you probably don’t get any fresh meat in there! And that’s no good! Meat is the best! I bet you guys have dried meat, but that’s not as good!” 

“It’s not so bad,” Law replied. “The food’s fine as long as we can keep the rats out of it.” 

“You have rats?” 

He hadn’t meant to mention that, but it slipped out when he wasn’t thinking. “Well, yeah. It’s to be expected I suppose. We’ve done our best to keep them at bay, but it is what it is,” he said, shrugging.  

Luffy made a disgruntled sound. “Zoro’s waving at me that it’s time to go, but I’ll be back tomorrow, okay?” 

Law smiled, just a tiny bit. “Okay. Talk to you then, Luffy.” 

The next evening Luffy arrived, oddly downtrodden.  

“Is something wrong?” Law asked.  

There was a pause long enough to make him wonder if the younger boy had heard him, but just when he was about to ask again, the khan spoke. “I don’t like that you’re stuck in there because of me. Or because of your mom. You shouldn’t be trapped in there. I want to tear down this stupid tower and take you away with me, but Zoro says I can’t, and I hate it!” he burst out.  

Law sat there in silence, thinking of what to say. Luffy had always been so upbeat and positive, it was weird to hear him so frustrated and disheartened. He briefly wondered if the boy would cry, and the thought alone twisted something painfully in his chest.  

“Luffy…” he began, but before he could continue, he was cut off.  

“It’s not fair! You deserve to be out here, to be free! Your mom is just a big jerk for locking you up like this just because we got engaged first and not that stupid Kaidou! You should be coming home with me,” he said. His voice cracked a little at the last sentence, and Law had to press the heels of his palms to his eyes to try and relieve some of the burning he felt build up in the back of them.  

“Zoro says we have to leave tomorrow. We’ve been gone from Song for Evela too long, and people are getting restless. There’s talk about war with Thoughts of Under, and they need me and him back,” he said quietly.  

He took a few shuddering breaths to try and control himself, suddenly very grateful that Bonney had decided to tuck in early for the night and wasn’t there to see him try his damndest not to cry. Gods, how he wanted to leave this place. To knock down his prison and run away with the boy on the other side. But he couldn’t.  

“Luffy,” he croaked out softly. “Listen, I- I know it’s hard, but don’t get upset, okay? It’s not that bad in here. I’ll be okay,” he lied. “Don’t worry about us, alright? You- you have to leave us in this tower, okay? If you try and break us out it will just cause war for Song for Evela and Titor’s Garden. My mother would never let us go that easily, and it might prompt war for you and Thoughts of Under too. So just… just leave us here for now. Seven years isn’t that long.” 

“That’s almost half the time I’ve been alive, Kuri,” Luffy pouted. 

Law huffed- in amusement or annoyance he wasn’t sure. “Well, we have a whole lifetime ahead of us. In the grand scheme of things, seven years isn’t that long.” 

“I guess…” 

“Go back home, Luffy. Take care of your people, and don’t worry about us here,” he said lightly, but every word felt like a dagger in his chest.  

“I’ll come back for you,” Luffy insisted. “I’ll come visit you again- every year! I promise!” 

Law smiled sadly at that. “Okay.” 

“I mean it, Kuri!” Luffy huffed.  

He felt his heart squeeze painfully in his chest at the sound of his fake name. What would he give to hear Luffy say his real name?  

“I’ll be waiting,” he said softly.  

Luffy left a short while after, and Law cried himself to sleep for the first time since Cora died. 

“Psst! Kuri!” 


“I came to say goodbye! And to give you a farewell present!” 

“You didn’t have to do that,” Law told him, although he appreciated the gesture. Luffy really was a good guy.  

“Shishishi! Sure I did! That’s what you do for people you like! Here!” he cheered, shoving something through the hatch that looked like a lump of white fur.  

Law caught it instinctively and nearly had a heart attack when he realized it was a live animal. “Is this…a bear?!” he exclaimed, holding it at arm’s length and scanning the now wriggling lump.  

“Yeah! I found it this morning! I couldn’t find a cat, but I thought maybe it would help with your rat problem,” he laughed, voice full of pride. It was a sweet sentiment, but Law honestly had no idea if bears would actually catch rats. There were a thousand other things to factor into the new arrival as well- like what was it going to eat? How much of their limited supply was going to go to taking care of it? How big was it going to grow? Would it attack them? 

“Luffy-” he began to turn down the present, but something stopped him before he could. A little voice in his head told him that it was given out of concern, and that he shouldn’t refuse what was possibly the last thing the khan would ever give him. Besides, if the bear was tame and grew big enough, maybe they could use it to break out someday.  

“-thank you.” He held the little bear closer, who blinked at him with wide brown eyes.  

He couldn’t see his face- had never seen his face- but he could tell Luffy was smiling. “What are you gonna name him?” 

Law thought for a moment. Then he answered, “Bepo.” He ignored the way Bonney’s face scrunched up at that. If she had a choice she’d probably name him after some kind of food. Like marshmallows or snow cones.  

“That’s a funny name,” Luffy laughed. 

“Shut up.” 

Luffy only laughed harder. Law felt the corners of his lips twitch upwards as he cradled the cub in one of his arms and started stroking the soft fur on his belly. It gurgled quietly and flopped its limbs about happily.  

When his laughter died down, Luffy spoke again. “I can’t stay long. Zoro and I have to head out in a few minutes. I’ll miss you, Kuri,” he said solemnly.  

Law’s throat constricted. “I’ll miss you too,” he said softly.  

“I’ll come back next year, okay?” 


They sat there silently for a minute, unwilling to break the fragile moment. Maybe if they were quiet they could go on pretending like Luffy wasn’t about to leave, and Law wasn’t about to spend a year locked in the tower without his company.  

“Hey, Luffy?” 

“Yeah, Kuri?” 

He swallowed past the lump in his throat. “Can you tell me what the sky looks like tonight?” 

“Sure,” he replied, and Law heard him shift against the other side of the wall. “Hmm. The moon is gone, but all the stars are out. Even the baby ones. There’s so many of them that even the darkest parts of the sky look blue instead of black.” He closed his eyes and pictured it in his mind’s eye. Somehow, sitting like this and listening to Luffy say goodbye reminded him of when he was sick with the white plague, looking up at the shivering sky and singing softly for the tears he had run out for his family, his home, and his life.  

A soft scuffling and a low voice signaled Zoro’s arrival. “I have to go. Goodbye, Kuri,” Luffy said quietly for once.  

“Goodbye, Luffy.” 

Chapter Text

Fall faded into winter, bringing bitter cold and winds that howled around the stones of the tower. It did nothing to improve Bonney’s paranoid condition, and Law couldn’t even blame her imagination for it anymore. There was something about the screeching wind and constant lack of sunlight that would make cold seep into his bones and doubt crawl into his mind. Some nights he swore he could hear sinister laughter with the wind.  

He busied himself with whatever meager tasks he could, writing in the dim candlelight whenever he had nothing else to do. There wasn’t much to write about. It was mainly just recounting his daily routine and whatever nightmares came creeping to him in the darkest hours. It was maddening to be stuck in the same routine, over and over, day after day, but it almost made the weeks pass by quicker.  

He almost let himself get lost in the daily schedule that rarely changed. 

Wake up. Go down to the well and break up the layer of ice that had frozen over the top during the night. Let the freezing water freshen him up. Make breakfast. Wake Bonney. Sing to her. Fill the day with menial tasks. Make dinner. Put Bonney to bed. Write about the day. Sleep. Repeat.  

The one thing that kept him going and kept him from falling into too much of a rut was Bepo.  

He would have spoiled him rotten and fed him scraps of meat all day if he could, but that wasn’t really an option unless he wanted to die much sooner than he planned. He settled for petting him and brushing his fur and singing to him instead.  

He’d been concerned about their food supply when Luffy had gifted the bear to him, but his concerns were unwarranted. Much to his surprise, it turned out that Bepo was an excellent rat hunter. And Bepo enjoyed eating the rodents as well, so Law didn’t have to feed him as often as he originally thought. It was like killing two birds with one stone. Luffy’s second gift had been far more useful than he’d ever imagined.  

Law had kept the khan’s first gift as well, although the needles were yellow and the smell had faded long ago. Still, sometimes he would hold it to his nose and breathe in the memory of what it used to be, and wish very secretly that the boy who had given it to him was still there.  

Even with Bepo and Luffy’s promise to return, the days seemed gray and lifeless to Law. There was so little to occupy him.  

The only time that he ever had to do any activity was when the smoke from their fire had gotten so thick that Law thought they were going to suffocate there in the tower before spring even came. He had bundled Bonney up in all their blankets before smothering their fire and climbing into the chimney to unblock it. His hands had been blue by the time he had cleared it completely out, and his teeth chattered painfully in his mouth.  

It took him four fumbling attempts with his shaking hands to relight the fire, and afterwards he’d stayed next to it for hours until he could finally feel warmth back in his skin again.  

Bonney hadn’t even seemed to notice.  

It felt like she got worse and worse every day. The tears would have frozen on her cheeks if Law didn’t keep her close to the fire or wipe them away for her. He sang and he sang, and none of the help it brought lasted for long, if it came at all.  

He went through six jars of honey that winter, and his throat still hurt from overuse.  

At night, or at least what he thought was night- it was so hard to tell shut up in the tower- he prayed to Evela, the goddess of Sunlight to come back and end the dreadful winter. But the days were as dark and dreary as ever. Goda, the goddess of sleep seemed to haunt the realm instead.  

When spring did finally appear, it didn’t bring the feeling of hope or relief with it like he had hope. It brought something much worse.  

He thought life was going to get better- forced himself to be stubbornly optimistic under the horrible circumstances. The air had lost its biting cold, and the floor no longer froze his feet when he walked across it in the morning. He thought their days in their prison would take a turn for the better. He thought Luffy would return.  

One day he heard voices outside the tower. He had been hoping to hear Luffy’s voice again after so long without it, he hadn’t noticed that the terror in Bonney’s eyes had been different than normal.  

He propped open the hatch before she could warn him in time. “Law wait-!” 

Quick as a whip, a hand reached in and grabbed his arm with a vicious grip that almost made Law cry out. It was huge, barely fitting through the hatch, covered in a black gauntlet that was adorned with metal spikes. He had no doubt that the man on the other end could crush his arm with ease if he tried.  

“Do I have her? Have I finally caught my lady?” a deep rumbling voice asked.  

Law’s heart beat frantically in his chest. “No, no my lord. I’m sorry, you do not,” he babbled out. Suddenly he felt like a child again. It was like he was running through the woods with Vergo on his heels and Doflamingo’s laughter ringing in his ears.  

The hand released him, and he snatched it back as fast as he could.  

“PUT YOUR ARM BACK!” he bellowed. The command was so loud that Law thought the tower was going to crumble in on itself and crush them. Hesitantly, he obeyed. Every fiber of his being screamed for him not to, but a primal part of him understood that if he didn’t then somehow the monster out there would find a way to do something worse to him.  

Gloved fingers tickled the back of his hand and combined with the rumbling chuckle outside, it made Law’s breath stutter in his chest.  

“So, if it’s not my lady, and I see that it’s not now in the proper light- who is this?” 

“I’m her manservant,” he croaked out. He didn’t think he’d ever been so scared in his life- not even with Doflamingo. Although there was something about him that reminded him of the pink feathered man. Perhaps all gentry from Thoughts of Under were really just monsters in human skin.  

Law’s answer made the man laugh loud and hard. It was like boulders falling against each other and shattering in a landslide. Law wanted to crawl back to the other side of the tower and cower.  

A bone jarring slap knocked his hand against the outer wall of his prison, tearing a cry of pain from his lips. It stung like he’d been attacked by a nest of hornets. He pulled his arm closer to himself out of reflex.  

“Put it back,” was the quiet command he got. He put his hand back.  

“Good boy.” His voice was as sweet as honey, but cold as ice. He slapped his hand again, and Law staggered from the blow. He thought he might have been crying, but it wasn’t just from the physical pain. It came from something much deeper inside him that he couldn’t quite name.  

A third slap had Bonney grabbing him under his arms and pulling him away. Together they huddled against the far wall and clutched each other like their lives depended on it.  

“Go away!” Bonney screamed, but her voice quavered and was nearly drowned out by the laughter on the other side.  

“But I came all this way to see you, my lady. You know,” he began, and his voice grew sickly sweet again, “Your mother came to see me in my realm. She told me how she’d thrown you in this tower for your insolence. ‘Go and tear down the walls! Take what is yours by force! She is nothing but garbage to me so long as she refuses to bow down to your will!’ she told me. And why wouldn’t she? She spoke so grandly, but I could see her knees shake, just as everyone else’s do. She’s just like every other woman in the end. Only good for breeding- isn’t that why you have so many brothers and sisters? She’s like a rabbit, that one.” 

He’d like to say that Bonney grew fierce again, that some of her old spark returned, but she did not. She covered her face in her hands and cried. Law rubbed his non-stinging hand against her back and sang quietly to her, barely able to make his voice louder than a whisper at that point. He rather thought his voice had shriveled up inside him.  

“But you’re not your mother are you? You won’t take nearly so many husbands- all you’ll have is me.” He sounded so smug at that. “I remember the first time we met, my lady. You were such a lovely little thing, dressed in copper silk. You were what, twelve? You were so quiet because your mother would glare at you if you opened your mouth. Your eyes were so dull from boredom. But that didn’t last long, did?” he laughed.  

“How wide and terrified your eyes were after that night in my castle. You had little mouse eyes, the eyes of prey! How I love that look in your pretty brown eyes. You should be honored, my lady. There is only one other who I’ve ever let seen me feast and live to tell the tale! But I knew that you’d never tell anyone our little secret.” 

There were so many things hidden in what he was saying, but Law had no idea what any of it meant. He would have asked Bonney if he wasn’t so terrified.  

“I could knock down these tower walls if I wanted. It would be so easy. And your foolish mother would cheer me on. But I won’t. And do you know why, my lady? Because in the end, you’ll choose me over these stones that trap you. You’ll come willingly into my arms.” His words were whispered but they filled the whole room.  

They heard him stomp away after that, but they stayed rooted to the spot long after he left.  

Minutes, hours, who knows how long after that- Law finally peeled himself away. He turned to look in her frightened eyes and spoke softly. “That was Kaido, wasn’t it?” He understood perfectly now why it was that she’d been so adamant about not marrying the lord.  

She nodded weakly. “I knew… I knew after that first night that I could never marry him. He’s a monster,” she whispered, eyes wide as saucers. “That’s why I started writing the khan. I didn’t know him well, but I knew the rumors. And when we were writing I could tell… I could tell he was safe.” Tears slipped down her cheeks and past her trembling lips.  

“Bonney…” he began slowly. “What did he mean? About feasting? And how you should be honored? What was he talking about?” he tried to make himself as reassuring as possible, but he could see her shutter herself away internally. She turned away and didn’t answer.  

They were both silent the rest of the day, not even speaking when night finally fell. Not even Bepo could warm the cold dread that had settled in his chest.  

The next day he managed to catch a passing guard’s attention. He asked him if Lord Kaido had left, and the guard answered that he had, and good riddance to him.  

Feeling braver, Law asked if the lord had hurt any of them.  

“Not much. Nothing that will last.” There was a shuffling sound, like he was shifting his weight.  

It had been so long since Law had spoken to another soul besides Bonney- Kaido was a soulless monster, so he didn’t count. He was desperate for it to last just a little longer.  

“What does the sky look like today?” 

A soft snort. “The sky? It looks like the sky. Just blue, like it always is.” But Law knew it wasn’t always like that. Sure, they called it the Eternal Blue Sky, but it was so much more than that. He thought of its midnight colors, sprinkled with light, of sunsets streaked with red and orange and purple.  

“Is there any news of my lady’s house? Or of the rest of Titor’s Garden?” 

Harsh laughter rang out in the open air. “Nothing that concerns someone that’s locked away in a tower. You’re never coming out of there unless Kaido breaks you out, and even then he’s more likely to break a manservant’s neck than keep you around. Be grateful you’re trapped in your stone walls, boy. Nothing out here belongs to you anymore.”  

His words were spoken with a laugh, but there was a pitying edge to it. Law could tell that he felt sorry for them. But more than that, he felt sorry that he felt sorry for them. He supposed it was easier to be cruel than sympathetic to the poor fools trapped in the tower. Still, it made Law’s insides churn and his mouth taste bitter.  

He sang the song for cold hearts quietly, listened as the man shuffled on his feet some more while he listened for a moment before walking away.  

A few weeks later, true spring came with the sound of Luffy’s laughter.  

Law nearly cried when he heard the other’s voice on the other side of the hatch. He wrenched it open and let the khan’s happiness seep into the tower.  

“Kuri, I missed you!” 

“I missed you too, Luffy.” And for the first time in a long time, he felt the tension that built up over the months release from his body.  

Luffy couldn’t stay long this year. The situation with Thoughts of Under hadn’t gotten any better, and his advisors had almost not let him come at all, but Luffy had been adamant. After all, he’d promised.  

Still, things in Song for Evela were tense, and he’d had to concede to cut his visit to a short week. Law understood why things had to be this way, but it didn’t make his heart hurt any less. He couldn’t even bring himself to pretend like Luffy hadn’t become the one thing that he looked forward to most in his miserable life. He was well past self-denial. He knew he was in love with him.  

And wasn’t that just a bitch and a half.  

What would he give to actually be engaged to the khan? To be someone Luffy could actually marry in the first place? 

It didn’t do well to think on such things. He tried to focus on something else instead.  

“Are you alright? You sound like you’re in pain,” he said. He hadn’t noticed it at first, but after talking for a little while he could hear the slight discomfort in the other’s voice.  

“Hmm? Oh, my leg’s just a little sore. I got caught in the leg with an antler when Chopper and I were fooling around.” A muffled complaint from someone else made him reword his answer. “Okay, I got hurt when was fooling around, and Chopper was busy,” he pouted.  

Law would have smiled at that if it didn’t bring up such worrying imagery. “May I help?” he asked without thinking.  

“Sure! Help with what?” 

He nearly facepalmed. “With the pain, dummy. Put your leg out.”  

Luffy did as told, though he clearly didn’t understand what the point was. “Do you have something to put on it? Because Chopper already did everything he could, and it’s all healed up. It just hurts a little sometimes.” 

“No. I’m going to sing you a healing song.” 

“A healing song? What’s that?” His body flopped to the ground out of Law’s reach. 

“What do you think? It’s a song that’s supposed to help heal you.” 

“How does that work?” 

“Will you just put your fucking leg back, so I can work?” he sighed. He loved him, but he was such a child sometimes.  

Luffy’s bright laughter made him smile as the other placed his leg back so Law could put his hand on it. He carefully ran his fingers over the scarred skin of his calf.  

“Does Kuri have any scars?” he asked innocently. Law thought of the white patches that marred his tan skin, but technically they weren’t scars…  

He swallowed past the lump in his throat. “No.” 

Luffy hummed thoughtfully. “That’s too bad. I thought we could compare.” 

Law ignored him, placing his hand fully over the old injury, and began to sing.  

Luffy was uncharacteristically quiet for once, not making a sound until Law was finished and removed his hand. He rolled his leg around a bit before standing up and walking around on it. Despite the lack of words, Law could tell it had worked, and prided himself on the fact that he could help Luffy out even just a little while he was locked up.  

“That’s amazing,” Luffy said as he came to sit by the hatch again. “I didn’t know singing could do that. I mean, the shamans chant and stuff, but they don’t sing like you do. Where did you learn to do that?” 

He knew he could probably tell Luffy more or less the truth about his childhood without the khan connecting the dots, but he was overly aware of the fact that there were two of his advisors with him this time. Zoro hadn’t been the only one to come along on the journey, as Luffy’s advisors felt it wasn’t safe enough without at least one more person in their party. He struggled to remember which one he said it was- Usopp? He thought that was his name. He was pretty sure Luffy had also mentioned in the past that Usopp was a genius. So he didn’t tell Luffy about growing up in Flevance.  

“My maid is a mucker. They have all sorts of songs in the Steppes. She taught me them to pass the time.” The lie tasted bitter on his tongue.  

“So she taught you all the words and everything? And you learned it that quickly?” 

“The words aren’t really that important. It’s the sound of the words and the tune together that’s what matters. They speak in a language the body understands. The body wants to be whole again, and when you sing the right sounds, you remind it how to heal itself,” he explained, citing the answer that his mother had given him. 

Luffy proceeded to talk about how cool that was for the next hour. He only stopped when Zoro’s rough voice told him they had to go.  

The next evening, the khan returned and asked him to sing for him again.  

“Your leg is hurting you again?” 

“No! Your song worked really good yesterday! I just want to hear you sing again!” he laughed.  

Law shouldn’t have been so surprised, but he was so shocked he didn’t know what to say. If it wasn’t for healing, then why would Luffy want to hear him sing? He asked him as much, but only got more laughter as a reply.  

“Hasn’t anyone asked for you just to sing to them, Kuri?” 

No ,” he said. And he wasn’t lying.  

Luffy gasped. “Really? But your voice is so good! You could probably rival Evela!” 

Law found himself grateful for the walls that blocked the khan from seeing how red his face was. “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard,” he mumbled. Luffy roared with laughter.  

Rival Evela? Was he insane? Law wasn’t a bad singer by any means, but he certainly wasn’t the kind you’d sit to listen to. Especially not now, with the state of his voice. It was raspy from all the time he spent singing to Bonney- it was not nearly nice enough for Luffy to be praising it so. He buried his burning face in Bepo’s soft fur.  

He forced the conversation onto other topics, but the next few days Luffy constantly badgered him to sing for him. Law refused because he was far too embarrassed to.  

Eventually though, he broke down and acquiesced to his request. If only to get him to stop pestering him. “What do you want me to sing?” he sighed. 

“I dunno. Sing something you like. Something nice.” 

Law held back a groan. All he ever sang these days were healing songs. It felt weird to even consider singing something else. But he didn’t want to disappoint the khan. He mulled it over in his head before a song from his childhood sprang to mind. It was the song that his parents used to sing to each other every night as the day faded.  

It was also, of course, a love song, but as soon as it popped into his head he immediately forgot every single other song he knew. Figures.  

He started out quietly, barely daring to make a sound. “Take it easy with me, please,” he sang. “Touch me gently like a summer evening breeze.” He very pointedly ignored how hot his face felt and the look that Bonney gave him. Instead he focused on singing, and only singing, letting his eyes shut and memories of warm evenings listening to his parents’ duet envelop him.  

He didn’t even realize he still knew all the words, but then again, it was a very ingrained moment of his childhood.  

He sang verse after verse, letting his voice grow a little more sure, a little less shy. By the time he got to the last chorus he was singing as he normally would. And he let himself imagine, just for a moment, that he could see Luffy in front of him, smiling at him while they watched the sunset together.  

It occurred to him that this song was probably as close to a confession that he would ever get, so he let the truth of his feelings seep into his voice, and secretly hoped that Luffy would feel them too.  

I’m your music,” he confessed, “I’m your song. Play me time, and time again, and make me strong.” The words seemed to flow out of him like a river rushing past a dam.  

When the last words came, he was almost breathless from how incredibly full his chest felt. “Andante, andante.  Oh please … don’t let me down,” he finished softly, leaning his head back and letting his eyes fall open.  

The very air felt like it was holding its breath, and Law briefly wondered if he should just end his humiliation by smothering himself in Bepo’s fur until Luffy broke the silence.  

“That was really beautiful, Kuri. Thank you.” His voice was so gentle Law almost thought he might cry. Which was ridiculous because there wasn’t anything to cry about. Nothing sad anyways. He just felt… relieved. And oddly at peace with himself, which was an unfortunately rare occurrence these days.  

Luffy left shortly after, but he came back the next night to say goodbye once more.  

“Someday, Kuri, I’m going to break you out of there, and we’ll throw a great feast! I’ll cover you in midnight silk and diamonds, and watch you dance and laugh, and nothing will ever make you sad again!” he declared.  

Law chuckled quietly to himself at that. “Midnight silk and diamonds? Why on earth would you do that?” He’d probably look ridiculous. Never mind the fact that it would never happen.  

“Because your voice reminds me of the night. Like rich, velvety darkness and starlight.” That shut Law up real quick. Bonney’s eyes were practically burning holes into the side of his head.  

Murmuring outside signaled that Zoro and Usopp were probably going to take Luffy away soon. The khan confirmed his suspicions with his next sentence. “Zoro says we have to go soon. Can I-,” he huffed loudly when someone interrupted him and then shushed them, which prompted more murmuring before it quieted down again.  

Law fiddled with the edge of his scarf, not wanting to think of how lonely and colorless his days were going to be once Luffy left.  

“Hey, Kuri?” He hummed noncommittally. “Can I have something to remember you by?” He stopped fiddling with his scarf. 

“I-” he stammered, trying to get his whirling thoughts in order. “Like what?” 

Luffy’s hand reached out to rest on the edge of the hatch. “Anything at all. I just- I’ve never even seen you before. Sometimes it feels like this is all a dream that I won’t remember if I don’t have something to hold onto,” he confessed. 

Law understood the sentiment. He looked at the fire, remembering how distraught he felt when he’d thrown the dead pine bough into it, once he finally admitted there was no use in keeping it anymore. At least he still had Bepo to remind him of how much Luffy cared for him.  

He didn’t have anything like that to give to him though. His resources were obviously limited. But he had to give him  something .  

He unwound the scarf from his neck.  

It was yellow wool- he’d made it with Cora. He remembered dipping it carefully into the bucket of dye, and how Cora had managed to knock the bucket over when they were done, staining his hands yellow for the next week.  

Carefully, he pressed it into Luffy’s hand.  

“Take good care of it,” he whispered. He promised he would, and Law could hear the reverence in his voice. 

“Kuri? Will you sing me that song one last time?” he asked quietly.  

Law closed his eyes, took a deep breath to hold back the stinging sensation in the back of his eyes, and sang.  

By the end of the song, Luffy was humming quietly along, and his fingers were curled over the tips of Law’s. He thought his heart might burst.  

“I won’t let you down,” he promised softly. “I’ll come back for you.” He kissed the back of Law’s fingers, startling a little gasp out of him, and then he was gone.  

Law prayed that he would come back soon. 

Chapter Text

The rest of spring was uneventful, and summer much the same. He spent most of his time by their little metal flap, trying to breathe in the fresh air, the scent of flowers and green grass on the breeze. He’d hold Bepo up to the flap sometimes to share the experience- occasionally he felt guilty that Luffy’s gift had robbed Bepo of his freedom. But at least the bear didn’t seem to mind. He was content to poke his head out and sniff around every once in a while.  

It was kind of weird how small Bepo still was. Granted, Law wasn’t sure exactly how fast bears were supposed to grow, but he was fairly certain that his little companion should have grown considerably more in the past year since he’d gotten him. Instead, Bepo hadn’t seemed to grow at all. He remained the size of a small cat. He wondered if his scarce diet was severely stunting his growth.  

Howling winds and chilly mornings signaled the return of fall, and he kept the hatch shut more often than not.  

Then of course came winter, as bitter cold as the last.  

One night a storm of thunder and hail raged outside, and the three of them spent the duration of the onslaught huddled together by the fire. Every booming thunderclap reminded Law of Lord Kaido’s rumbling laughter, and the slamming of hailstones against the bricks made it feel as though the tower would crumble on top of them. He didn’t have to speak to know that Bonney was thinking the same thing.  

They clung to each other, Bepo sandwiched between them, praying for the night to end.  

That was the only time Bonney seemed to acknowledge Law’s existence. Everything else she did mechanically. She wouldn’t talk to him when he asked her questions, wouldn’t look at him when she ate. She wasted the days away, staring blankly at the wall.  

Law could understand a little- there wasn’t much to do in the tower. Particularly when any sort of manual labor was done by him. And even he found it hard not to get lost in the monotony of it all.  

He’d write in his journal, but the words all seemed to come out warped, and he spent just as much time scribbling them out as he did putting them down. It was like the longer he spent in the tower, the more it addled his mind. It was almost enough to have him scrabbling at the walls for release, but he contained himself for Bonney’s sake. 

He tried inventing new songs to sing to her, weaving old ones together to try and help her find the pieces of herself that had gone missing when she was locked in here with him. He was sure her old spark was buried somewhere under there, but it was getting harder and harder to find any sign of it.  

It was almost a relief when Lord Kaido came back in spring, if only because it got a reaction out of her. 


You know, aside from the fact that he was the most horrible person that Law had ever come across. 

“I’m back, my lady, my love!” he called loudly, as if greeting her on the threshold as she welcomed him home into her arms from a long day working out in the fields. Not that he thought Kaido had ever done a lick of honest work in his life. More likely, he’d only ever lived the life of a pampered, spoiled noble who got glory just from being born.  

Bonney’s face scrunched up in disgust. “I wish I could hit him. Just once. It wouldn’t matter if he hit me back, but imagine how wonderful it would be to strike him once, hard between the eyes.” 

He thought it sounded delightful, if a bit unlikely.  

A hard knock on the tower wall made them step back.  

“Go away!” he said, “My lady doesn’t want you!” 

There came scraping noises from all around the tower, forcing them into the middle of the room in their caution. Then, without warning, the flap was torn straight out of the wall with a screech of metal. Bonney screamed and leapt to the farthest wall, shaking like a leaf.  

“If you don’t open up when I knock, then I’ll have to tear down the door,” Lord Kaido said, voice low and gravelly. “Come, give me your hand, little manservant,” he called sweetly.  

“Don’t, Law,” Bonney ordered, and he’d never been so relieved to have someone boss him around in his life.  

Lord Kaido’s thundering laughter resounded through the walls, making them feel as small and trapped as mice in a cage. “Is it time to come home yet, my lady?” he cooed. “Are you ready for me to break you out of there?” 

“Tell him no,” Law whispered, but she wouldn’t speak. Her lip trembled, and her eyes shined with unshed tears.  

“Nothing to say?” Kaido asked. “Then perhaps I should burn you out. Maybe then you’ll see the light.” 

Something flicked through the hole where the flap had once been, and he didn’t see where it went until he saw the smoke go up. His mattress was on fire. Fire. He ran over, stomping out the burning straw as quickly as he could, but as he did, more burning chips flew into the room. Some found only stone, sizzling out of existence, but others caught on straw, clothes, and wood. One came alarming close to Bepo, and Law was not interested in finding out how fast a bear could burst into flames, so he plucked him up and shoved him into the top floor before continuing his frantic stamping about the room. Bonney ran with him, showing more energy than she had in the last year combined, trampling anything bright her eye fell on.  

If fire took hold, they would bake in their tower long before anyone could knock the walls down.  

Bonney began to scream in hysterics, crying and cursing in turns as she pounded at the walls, so Law was left to put out the fires on his own. He would have been more annoyed, but he was far more preoccupied with trying to save them at the moment. His breath was getting heavier, and the smoke was starting to make his stomach churn.  

“Behind you!” she screamed, pointing at a burning rag that was perilously close to their pile of wood. If the wood caught fire, they’d be done for, no question.  

He flung himself at it, throwing it on the floor and rolling over it to quench the flames. By the time the fire chips stopped coming, he was sweaty and sore, and wishing very firmly that the Lord of Thoughts of Under had never been born. Bonney collapsed on his partly charred mattress, back to staring at nothing. He wasn’t sure how long they’d been running around putting out fires, but it felt like hours.  

“I wish I could have witnessed that dance!” Lord Kaido laughed. Curse that greasy black voice of his. “But you will dance for me yet, my willow flower. Will it be tonight? Tell me now, Lady Bonney, for I will not come again until the rest of your seven years are over. Will you choose five more years in this dungeon, or spend the rest of your life in my house? My house where you will have a dozen lady’s maids to serve you, three times as many silk dresses to wear, fresh food, warm baths, and a large room with tall windows and a door to the garden. A garden, my lady, with a hundred flowers that bloom in the summer, whose beauty is only second to yours. And the only cost is,” he said, voice going dry, “you must share that house with me.” 

His spoke softly, but it carried loud through their tower. If he had to guess, the Lord’s face must have been right under the hole where the flap used to be.  

Bonney’s chamber pot stood by his feet, waiting for disposal. Their toilet in the basement was having some plumbing issues that he hadn’t gotten to yet. He’d quite forgotten in all the ruckus, but Bonney marched right past him, ripped the cover off it, and proceeded to dump it through the hole with a look of savage triumph.  

He hollered, and rightly so. Law hoped he got all her waste, right in his stupid face- probably sloshing into that gaping mouth of his that never seemed to stay shut.  

Despite their glee, they huddled together, barely daring to breathe for the act of defiance.  

He didn’t return.  

After what felt like an eternity, Law couldn’t hold it in anymore. He began to giggle like a child, and Bonney joined in until they fell to the floor together, laughing tightly like it hurt, but they couldn’t stop. He didn’t think he’d ever been so proud to call himself her manservant.  

That night, there was howling. Not just the wind this time- in fact, he didn’t think there was any wind at all. No, this time it was a wolf’s howl, and the sound made Bonney crumple on top of Law’s mattress and sob hard enough it looked as though her body would come apart. He tried to sing her a song for comfort, for calming, but songs only help if you’re willing to let them, and more and more often she refused to allow them in.  

Instead she curled tighter in on herself, clutching her head and jamming her eyes shut. Her lips were clenched so tightly that all the color had fled from them until they were a white line on her pale face.  

Each howl sent icy fingers trailing down his back, although he wasn’t sure why. It wasn’t like he’d never heard them before. Back when he lived with Cora, he used to listen to them cry out in the countryside. They’d keep an extra close eye on their sheep whenever they heard one, not wanting to let them wander far unless they didn’t mind losing one to the predators. If they ever sounded too close, Law would go out and sing the song of the wolf- a baying tune that made the wolves want to call back, but also asked them to leave the singer alone. And they always did, choosing to continue their hunt elsewhere. In Law’s opinion, there were far worse things to fear than wolves.  

He hadn’t thought about the sheep in a long time. He wondered if they were doing okay. It was with a bit of disappointment in himself that he realized he hadn’t thought about them when he chose to stay in Titor’s Garden instead of returning home. Self-preservation had been his biggest concern, and he didn’t regret his decision, but he wished he could’ve checked on them. They hadn’t planned on being gone long when they left for Thoughts of Under, so they’d simply let them roam the hills in their absence. The sheep knew their home and wouldn’t go far. He wondered if they were still wandering around on their own. Probably not. It was far more likely that someone else had found them and taken them for themselves or that wild animals had eaten them. Still, it was comforting to imagine them grazing on the hillside, in the same old place they had always been. 

Bepo whimpered in his lap, burying his tiny face into Law’s stomach and drawing him back to reality. His fur stood on end, and Law did his best to smooth it down as he sang quietly to him. His songs may not work on Bonney anymore, but they usually did alright with Bepo. Tonight however, it seemed that he was of the same mind as Bonney.  

With the metal flap gone, Law could see that it was pitch black outside. He ought to put something over it to cover the gap, but his instincts screamed at him not to get closer. He could take care of it in the morning.  

The howling ceased. He wished he could find comfort in this, but it only made his nerves worse. The guards’ dogs had been barking up a storm earlier, but they too had stopped.  

Shouting broke out, the guards yelling to each other in the darkness past loud snarling. It began with a frightened scream. Then another followed. And another. It didn’t sound like a battle- there was no ringing clash of steel upon steel. He wasn’t entirely sure how to describe it. It sounded like a nightmare come to life. Something in the formless dark, snatching up their guards one by one, growing nearer. 

Someone cried for help, their voice coming right from the mouth of the hole, and Law scrambled to it, Bepo dropping gracelessly from his lap. There wasn’t anything he could really do, but he couldn’t just sit there and do nothing.  

Even then, he was not fast enough- the man’s pleading was cut off by a wail of sheer terror, and as Law reached the gap in the wall, the jaws of a massive wolf snapped up at him. It was too far too big to get in, but still it snarled and gnashed its teeth, sniffing eagerly at the air as if searching for something. Its mouth was smeared with blood, and he felt his stomach churn at the knowledge it was from their guards.  

Had it come from the woods, desperate for prey? Or was it possible that Lord Kaido had sent it somehow? Maybe he bred them in his twisted court, teaching them to be hungry for the blood of his enemies.  

He flung himself backwards, trying to get as far away as he could, as fast as his shaking limbs would allow him.  

Bonney began her sobbing anew, and he turned to her just in time to see a blur of white flash by him. Too late, he realized what was happening and cried out, trying to hold Bepo back as he charged at the beast.  

His beloved companion slipped just out of his reach, launching at the monster’s bloody maw, and disappearing with it in a flurry of growls and shrieks. There was a feral snarl from the wolf, and a yelp that sounded like it came from Bepo. Not a cry of pain though, he thought. Or so he hoped. Oh Bepo.  

Law pounded at the bricks by the hole, yelling Bepo’s name at the top of his lungs, suddenly not caring if the wolf or Kaido were out there anymore. Let them come back and torment him, if only Bepo returned as well, safe and unharmed. 

He was met with only heart-wrenching silence, no sound of the bear, or wolf, or any living soul.  

It was just him, and Bonney’s harsh gasps for breath.  

Days passed, but there was no sign of Bepo’s return.  

The guards were just as absent. It wasn’t unusual for them to ignore them while they were shut up in their tower, and he hoped that they were simply hiding after the attack that night. He wouldn’t blame them if they were. Or perhaps they had returned to the city to tell Big Mom what had happened. Surely they would have to report something like that to Bonney’s mother. Right? 

He ignored the stink of decaying bodies he could smell on the breeze.  

After a week and a half of waiting, Bonney told him that Bepo wasn’t coming back. She said that Lord Kaido had killed him, and there was no point in looking for him through the hole.  

“Why would Lord Kaido kill a bear cub?” he asked somewhat testily, not willing to accept Bepo’s disappearance as his death. Just because she had given up on living as soon as they bricked their prison shut, didn’t mean he was going to. It was still early. He could still come back.  

She scowled at the wall, pulling her knees to her chest. “I just know,” she snapped. She refused to speak any more after that, letting the both of them stew in silence.  

He left her there glaring at the wall, while he went down to the cellar to smack at rats with his broom. Bepo had only been gone for a few days before the vermin had returned, and he spent hours down there whacking at them to try and keep them from getting into their food supply. He tried to set up traps for them, but with limited sources, he could only do so much. He found some nails in their supplies and pounded them into a barrel lid before setting a piece of parchment atop of it. It looked solid enough, and succeeded in skewering one rat, but that was all. The rest of them learned from their comrade’s mistake and stayed away from the barrel.  

He supposed he should be grateful. At least smacking the rats kept him busy.  

Optimism was never something he excelled at, but he did his best to keep from straying into straight pessimism. It was harder to keep up when summer neared its end, and there was still no sign of Bepo.  

Or Luffy.  

Relations between Song for Evela and Thoughts of Under must have been even worse than last year. He knew it was a fool’s hope to believe that the khan would come visit him every year like he promised, but that didn’t stop him from playing the fool. He tried to tamp down his bitter disappointment when fall arrived, and the other still had not arrived.  

The logical side of him understood that Luffy probably hadn’t been allowed to come, but would have if he’d been able. The other side of liked to whisper in his ear that he had grown tired of him instead, of found someone else to pledge himself to. If the mean thoughts got too loud, he would stop whatever he was doing and go down to the cellar to whack a rat or two.  

He and Bonney had barely shared a word since she told him Bepo was dead. If any of their guards ever returned, they’d probably assume they were dead, considering how silent the tower had become. 

It was winter when Bonney first offered to go down to the cellar and fend off the rats, so Law could warm his hands and cook dinner for them. He’d been surprised by the offer, not just because it was the first full sentence she’d spoken to him in months, but also because she’d never offered to try her hand at any sort of manual labor before. He hadn’t thought much of it before, since she was gentry and all, but figured it would be alright. It would be good for her to do something besides sit and stare at the wall for once.  

When he laid out their meal on their small table and called her up, she walked right past him and went straight for the ladder to the upper chamber where she slept.  

“I don’t feel good,” she said as explanation, shrugging him off when he offered to sing to her.  

It wasn’t until later when he went to the cellar to check on the rats that he discovered the reason for her sickness. She’d eaten half a bag of sugar.  

Every day she offered to go down to the cellar and smack rats, but really she went down there to eat. He could hear her among the rats and their incessant squeaking, smacking her lips as she devoured their supplies.  

In no time at all, she had eaten all their sugar, as well as their dried fruit. She began to demand that he soak more of their dried meat overnight and cook larger meals for her. He tried to argue with her once, but she had snapped at him, telling him that he was her manservant and must do as ordered.  

Which had stung; he wasn’t going to lie. After all they’d been through together, he liked to think that he was more than just a servant to her. But maybe she was just cross because of their dire circumstances.  

Or maybe he’d been lying to himself about what he meant to her for the past two and a half years.  

It was just as well that he’d given up on trying to sing to her. She finished all the honey as well, and he tried not to think about how sore his throat felt, even without singing or talking anymore.  

He sat by the fire, taking out the seams of her clothes and making them wider now that she was eating twice as much as she used to. Her stomach was like a bottomless pit, and he remembered her confiding in him before that she was used to eating a lot but maintaining a slim figure regardless. He figured part of it must have been her metabolism, and the other part her ability to run around virtually unchecked among all her siblings. Now that one of those was gone, her body couldn’t handle it the same. Those first months in the tower had involved a lot of whining about how he wasn’t feeding her enough, but his calm reasoning had been enough at the time to keep her from ordering him to make her more. Sometimes she had joked about it, but back then she never meant it. Those days seemed a lifetime away now.  

“Our food supply won’t last us long enough at this rate,” he told her as he sewed. “We need to be careful.” 

She scoffed loudly at his remark, as she gnawed on a chunk of dried meat. “It doesn’t matter. We’re not going to last five more years in here anyway.” 

He said nothing to that, feeling the truth in the statement despite his best efforts. Seven years had seemed like an eternity before he’d been locked up, and it hadn’t gotten any easier since then. Even his monotonous days following the same listless routine made their sentence drag on forever.  

They were quiet for a while after that, Law finishing his sewing while she stared intensely at the fire. Before long though, she spoke up again. “Law, would you have married Lord Kaido?” 

His hands stilled, and his heart stuttered in his chest at the mere idea. Slowly, he started his work again, not daring to meet her eyes. “No. I’m just a simple manservant. I could never marry gentry.” 

“But imagine if you were me. Would you?” He sensed this was not a matter of mere curiosity for her.  

He did as she asked and tried to imagine being in her shoes. Despite all the things he had done- the stinging slap of his gauntlet, the mocking words and laughter, the shooting of fire into their tower, the way his voice made Law’s insides twist uncomfortably- would he choose to marry him if it meant getting out of this coffin? Would he have chosen to lock himself up in this tower for seven years to die alone in the dark, gradually losing his mind to the tower’s bricks?  

Commoners trying to marry above their station to gentry was a heinous crime, punishable by death. It was a sin that Bonney was even making him consider it, and that she’d had him pretend to be Luffy’s betrothed, but he supposed she would never have to suffer for it. If anyone found out, it was Law’s head that was on the line.  

But who was going to hear them in their tower?  

“No,” he said eventually. “No, I would never have married him. I think you made the right choice, Bonney.” 

The smile she gave him was blinding, and he was so shocked by its appearance that he could only smile back weakly in return. He had a feeling that no one had ever told her that before, besides perhaps a younger sibling who was willing to praise their older sister for any reason at all.  

His shoulders felt a little lighter that night, and he thought things might go back a little to the way they were before, when they had been friends instead of reluctant cellmates.  

It didn’t last, of course. Her taciturn mood was back with a vengeance the next day as she sulked about, telling him off for the tiniest things- such as the unsweetened flatbread he made for breakfast or how her clothes weren’t loose enough.  

She was less interested in being silent, so much as she was in spewing venom at him. He took it all with surprising grace, thinking fondly of the way she smiled the night before, and using that image to get through the day. By the evening, she was still as cranky as ever, but she had taken to grumbling about their situation instead of just him, which was a nice change of pace.  

If only she was interested in commiserating in their unfortunate circumstances together, instead of acting like she was the only one affected by everything that happened.  

“I should have married him. It’s all I’m good for anyway.” She hunched over in her chair by the table, tapping restlessly at its surface.  

“That’s not true,” he said automatically, stirring their soup as it cooked over the fire, taking care that nothing stuck to the bottom of the pot to burn.  

She let out a petulant huff. “Yes, it is. My mother told me so. I’m not the first in line to inherit the throne. Or the second, or third, or so on. I’m one of dozens. My only use was for creating an alliance through marriage, and I couldn’t even do that properly. I’m just a screw up,” she said, sniffing loudly.  

He held back a sigh, knowing that she wasn’t totally wrong about what she’d said. In terms of political usefulness, marriage really was her best asset. Law knew full well that Bonney had far more worth than that, whether she saw it or not, but convincing her of that was something he likely didn’t have time or energy for. He settled for turning around and giving her a rare hug instead- a surprisingly effective approach, he discovered.  

She sniffled into his side a moment, and he pretended that he didn’t see her wipe the tears from her cheeks. When he turned back to his cooking, she moved on to a different topic.  

He didn’t know what to make of her mood swings anymore. It was equally pleasing as it was exhausting. It was nice when she was willing to talk to him like they used to. Occasionally, she’d tell him stories about growing up with her numerous siblings, or more often, have him tell her stories of what his childhood was like. He didn’t tell her all that much- kept things simple, never going into any detail. He’d never told her about Flevance, or how he ended up in Titor’s Garden, and he certainly wasn’t going to right now.  

See, when she wasn’t being pleasant, she was downright nasty. She’d fling back anything he told her back in his face with the intent of being cruel. If he told her what he went through, he was afraid she was going to use it against him. She’d probably tell him that he deserved to watch his city burn, to lose all the family he’d ever known. He didn’t think he was in well enough mental state to handle that.  

She made enough cutting remarks about Luffy as it was.  

“He’s never coming back. Not for me, and not for  you .” 

“Like he’d really waste any more time talking to someone through a brick wall. He was just bored when he came before, and now he’s found someone worthwhile to pursue.” 

“I don’t know why you care- it’s not like he’d ever marry you anyway.” 

Such were the lovely, biting words he got every day. The gods ought to strike him down for every uncharitable thought he ever had about her those days, but he remained physically unscathed. Perhaps they didn’t have time to worry about such indecencies while he and Bonney were locked away in their tower. Or maybe they figured being stuck in there with her like that was punishment enough. Who knows. He had no one else to vent to, so he wrote all his own grouses about her in his journal. There was a full page in there that was simply covered top to bottom with the phrase, “I hate her,” after she said the last one.  

It shouldn’t have mattered so much. Shouldn’t have mattered at all. She was hurting, and she was lashing out at him because she had nothing else to do. But it cut him to the core, because at the end of it all, she was right. He wasn’t coming back, and even if he did, it didn’t change anything.  

No matter what he did, he would still be Trafalgar Law, not Charlotte Katakuri or Charlotte Bonney. If he survived the seven years of their imprisonment, it would be a miracle if the khan didn’t hang him for his blasphemous identity theft. Marriage was nothing but a fantasy.  

But thinking of Luffy’s laughter and the press of his lips against his fingers was all he had to keep him going. It was ludicrous to entertain the idea that they could ever be together, but he had nothing left. He needed it.  

And if his hateful words about Bonney were smeared with teardrops, nobody had to know about it.  

The next summer was a gentle one, and he thanked Evela, goddess of sunlight, for having mercy on them for once. This time it didn’t feel as though they were baking in an oven, closed off in their tower. He sat by the hole in the wall to breathe in the scent of wildflowers blooming, but it made his heart ache with longing for Bepo. He wanted to hold him in his arms again, and stroke his soft white fur, and watch him poke his head out.  

One morning he woke to the sound of children squealing, with their footsteps rustling through the long grass outside. He’d heard them before, but never so close. He guessed they were too scared to. It sounded like they were playing a game where they would send someone closer every round, singing an odd song all the while.  

It was hard to understand their muffled voices, but it went something like this: 

Two dead ladies in a tower  

Counting peas for every hour  

In seven years  

With all their tears  

They drown in pea soup sour  

It did nothing to improve his mood, but he listened all the same. It had been so long since he heard anyone else’s voices. Even if they were not speaking to him, and he didn’t care for their song, he kept his head pressed to the bricks right beside the hole. Who knew when he’d next hear a new sound? 

What a stupid song. I don’t even know where they came up with lyrics like that anyways. For one, I’m not a lady, but I guess saying a lady and her manservant would be too lengthy for a children’s rhyme. It would throw off the rhythm as well. But I still think it’s dumb. We sure as hell aren’t counting peas of all things. We still have a few bags of dried peas left, but even in my hours of excruciating boredom, I’ve never been tempted to go through and count the infernal things. I’d go mad. Or perhaps, madder than I am now- I feel as though my mind is wasting away with every passing day.  

Bonney is no help. Except, I suppose, that she breaks our doldrums by starting  arguments . The other day she told me she wished I had been eaten by  Kaido - I think she’s mistaken him for the wolf that attacked so long ago. She’s so terrified of both beasts, and she’s not been herself in years, she’s merged the two together. Maybe it’s easier that way, to have just one enemy instead of two.   

She was mad because I told her she couldn’t have any honey on her flatbread because she’d eaten it all ages ago. She’s become convinced that I’ve merely hidden it from her- where in the gods’ names I would be able to do that in our enclosed space, I have no idea.   

She thinks I must because I used to take it so often with my tea before. But of course, I haven’t in months because she ate it all. She’s such a spoiled brat sometimes. I’d like to shake some sense into her, and yell back at her, but I’m just her servant. Nothing more. Even in this tower, the gods would probably kill me for such an offense. It’s not like there’s anyone else here to do it for them.   

Besides, between the two of us, I’m the one who should be complaining about the lack of honey. My throat feels like its full of nettles, and there’s nothing to soothe it.  

I don’t know why I bother singing to her anymore.  Just because her eyes remind me of Lami . No, I’m not going to think of her right now. I can’t.   

I think too much about everything I miss these days. The sun. Bepo scampering around the cellar as he chased rats. The sacred mountain rising through the morning mist.  The sea lapping against white sand.  Cora. My parents. My sister.  Luffy  


I’m not going to think about him. I’m not. It doesn’t matter.   

I’m going to die in here anyways . I’ve taken stock of our supplies. We’ll be lucky if we last another year, much less four.  When  If I go first, Bonney will probably eat me. Raw, since she doesn’t have any fucking clue how to cook.   

He tried to teach her how to cook once. He put all the ingredients out for dung cakes- simmered meat and onions, wrapped in dough and cooked on coals- right in front of her, and calmly explained what they were going to do. She had looked back and forth between him and the table where everything was laid out, completely bewildered. 

“I don’t know how,” she said, blinking owlishly up at him.  

“That’s why I’m teaching you.” 

She bit her lip and dropped her gaze. “But I’ll do it wrong.” 

“So? A lot of people do things wrong on their first try. Besides, it’s easier to learn from failure than success.” 

Her eyes welled up, and she clutched at her tangled hair. “But I’ll do it  wrong .” 

Then she promptly burst into tears, and well… He didn’t think there was much point in attempting it again. He wished he could figure out what it was that made her look at the world as she were a mouse, and it was a cat getting ready to pounce. She may not have had the easiest life, but neither did he, and he wasn’t going to wail and cry every time something didn’t go his way. Sure, it was tempting sometimes, but it’s not like it would change anything.  

He made some other attempts to teach her new skills, but either her mind would wander or she’d throw another crying fit.  

He supposed this was just the way things were meant to be for now. 

Days, weeks, months all continued to pass them by. Law was starting to get sick of candlelight. Stupid fire. He wanted  sunlight . All this cooking and sewing and reading in the dark was making his eyes hurt and his head swim.  

Bonney stopped talking to him. She didn’t even bother mocking him for his foolish relationship with the khan. She was back to being a silent spectator. A ghost that haunted the tower.  

The whispers were back. Every time the wind whistled through the bricks, he could hear chilling laughter creep through the walls. It was all he could do to pretend like he was fine, that he wasn’t searching for pink feathers in the shadows, or flinching when a particular strong gust rocked against their tower. For once, he thought it good that Bonney paid him no mind. He didn’t want her to know how frightened he was of things that weren’t there.  

He wondered how much force it would take to knock down the walls. Or even just a handful of bricks. Just enough to squeeze through.  

Would the guards shoot them if they stumbled out? Were there any guards there? Would someone take the news to Big Mom that they had escaped? Would Bonney’s mother hunt them down and shove them back in their prison? Or would Kaido return to claim his prize? 

It’s my honor to serve. My honor. I could not leave her to this fate alone. There is no higher purpose, but for me to serve her. But even as I write this, I can’t help but think how horribly unfair the world is. How cruel it can be.   

All I wanted was to be left alone. I would have happily lived out my days in the hills, tending sheep with Cora. I would have settled for living as a servant at Big Mom’s castle, following orders and being one of multitudes. But instead I’m here. I’m rotting in this tower. With her.   

Gods help me, but I can’t help but think-  

She was jailed for neglecting her duty, as a noble whose purpose was to become a bride, and yet I am jailed for fulfilling mine. What a joke.   

I miss Bepo.   

Summer again. Sweltering hot. They’d been in the tower for four years. Four long years. Their sentence was over half completed.  

Luffy didn’t show up. 

Under, the god of tricks, kept finding new ways to torment them.  

Law cooked their meal from a new sack of grain- one that the rats had mercifully not gotten into, buried under crates and untouched. He hadn’t been particularly hungry, and only nibbled on his food while Bonney stuffed her face. She sounded like a yak as it fed on short grass. Bless her ridiculous self. 

Afterwards, he noticed that the world seemed….different. The bricks that surrounded them were bathed in orange light, and waved about them as though made of flames instead of baked mud. Everything felt pleasantly hazy though, so he didn’t think much of it. Not until Bonney started screaming.  

She pointed upward at the wooded ceiling, shrieking all the while. “It’s coming down! It’s falling in!” she screamed, eyes wild.  

He stared perplexed at where she pointed. “What is?” 

She turned to the hole and began crying hysterically. “A wolf! A wolf is eating through our wall!” 

There was nothing there. 

He held her to his chest and rubbed his hands soothingly down her back, singing to her softly while she wept. Vomit made its way down his shoulder at one point, but he ignored it. By the time his vision returned to normal and the walls stopped dancing around like fire, she had stopped her screaming. She continued to cry, but silently.  

Bad grain. Cora had told him once that if you ate stored grain, and it made you see things that weren’t there, then it had gone bad, touched by Under.  

He probably should have been grateful the bread didn’t kill them- although it nearly killed him to dump the whole bag of grain out of the hole.  

What does the sky look like? What about the clouds? Or the trees, or the flowers? Anemones used to grow on the hills where Cora and I lived. I never thought I’d forget what they looked like, but I can barely picture them anymore. What color were they? I think they were purple. Or maybe white? Was it both? What did they feel like in my hands? I don’t remember.   

I can’t remember anything anymore. Even when I wrote in this journal yesterday, I wrote the same story about Cora dying his hands yellow twice. I couldn’t get through a whole page without forgetting what I’d written.   

If we get out of here, will I even be me anymore? Will I remember who I used to be? Will I remember my name?  

Laughing. He’s always laughing at me. His voice is colder than ice, but his hands burn as they wrap around my throat. I no longer know when I’m awake or asleep. The horrible dreams never stop.   

Sometimes, Lord Kaido is there, waiting in the shadows. I cannot see his face, shrouded as it is in the dark, but I see his black gauntlet shining as he waits to strike. He never stops him, just waits. I see so little of him, but his figure looms over us, huge and menacing.  

Bonney is there too sometimes. Like the Lord of Under, she is silent. She watches yet sees nothing. Eyes always blank.  

Once, it was just the two of us. I thought for sure that I was awake, since there were no monsters to laugh at me. I was making dinner I think, and I turned to her to ask if she would hand me something. A bit of our dwindling spice supply perhaps. Then I saw her face and froze.   

She was smiling. But her mouth was too wide, teeth too numerous and visible as the corners of her lips stretched up, up, up til they nearly touched her ears. She said nothing, but I saw in her eyes- her big brown, empty eyes that reflected my frightened image back at me- how badly she wanted to cry. No tears came out. Her eyes weren’t even wet. But I could feel it somehow, that all she had left inside her were tears.   

It scared me awake, and I threw up immediately afterwards. Bonney was slumbering soundly. I thanked the goddess of sleep, Goda, for letting her stay that way. I would have hated if she’d been awake to see me so weak.   

I don’t know how I feel about her anymore. All my emotions are so tangled up that I can no longer tell them apart. The other day I almost forgot why we were in here. I wondered to myself, “How did we end up here, again?” and had to stop and think about it for a moment.   

It’s not even the worst part though.   

Last week I forgot why I wanted to live at all. Why I bothered pushing us onward. Why I didn’t just give up and let death take me. We all die some day. Why not today?   

I still haven’t remembered why.   

He knew they were in Titor’s realm, but did the god of animal’s love have to extend to the rats in their tower? There were so many of them now, he didn’t know what to do about them anymore. They drove him up the walls, squeaking like mad down there. All of his swatting with the broom could not get rid of them, try as he may. He couldn’t even count how many times he’d used their weak flavored and stringy meat for stew. Still they remained.  

His nightmares started to include them- their horrid screeching and the scuttering of their paws on stone, and where once Lord Kaido had been nothing more than a hand reaching out of shadow, now his body was a cascade of living rats. Their beady eyes glittered at him in the dark, hundreds of them judging and mocking him while he screamed.  

Spring was in the air, that much he could tell from their little hole, but the nights were still cold enough to make his teeth chatter. The days were warming up plenty though- enough that he would have to take off any extra layers by midday.  

He moved their remaining food onto the ground floor, away from the rats in the cellar. It would spoil quicker up there, but at least it would be harder for the vermin to get to. After counting and measuring everything, he came to the conclusion that they would last until the end of the month. That was being generous though. Bonney had stopped stuffing her face all the time, but between her and the rats, hardly anything was left. To think, he’d once looked upon all they had and believed it would last for seven years. Now here they were, almost five years later, and it was all but gone. Even if Bonney hadn’t gone through that binge eating stint, they still wouldn’t have lasted their full sentence.  

He wondered if her mother had planned that, or if she had expected to send more supplies as the years went on. There had been no sign of any guards, new or old, since Kaido had been there last. Maybe Big Mom decided to let her daughter rot there after all. It probably didn’t matter to the wretched woman either way.  

He had a dream last night- a good dream. His life had felt like a never ending stream of nightmares for years, but the gods finally had mercy on him and gave him one nice dream to make up for it.  

In the dream, he was lying on the hillside, looking up at the stars. Breeze rippled through the tall grass, and gentle fingers combed through his hair. He hummed a song- the song that Luffy liked so much- and for a second he could hear his parents singing with him, their voices echoing softly in the night air. His subconscious must have pulled them out from deep within him because in the waking world, he could not remember what they sounded like.  

Luffy was beside him, although he did not turn his head to look at him. He wondered what he would have seen if he had. Would he be a faceless shadow like Lord Kaido had been?  

It didn’t matter while he dreamed. All that did was that they were together, and they were happy.  

Luffy promised him once more that he would come back, and when he blinked, he woke on his mattress. There were no stars twinkling in the sky above him, no breeze against his skin, no parents to sing with, and no Luffy.  

But that was okay because he suddenly remembered why he wanted them to survive the tower. He remembered what it was like to actually feel alive.  

He took his remaining ink, and used it to tattoo his hands. He sterilized some needles in boiling water as well. No point in lasting all these years and dying from infection. Granted, his tools and resources were far from ideal, but he figured they were adequate for what he needed.  

The pain didn’t bother him too much. He already had extensive tattoos over his torso and arms that he’d gotten during his year studying to be a servant. He’d scrounged up his meager savings throughout the year to get them done, much to his tutor’s displeasure. The man hadn’t complained much though, seeing as Law’s skin was going to be covered during his service anyway. It wasn’t something he thought he had to worry about anymore.  

The thin skin of his hands was more painful than the other tattoos, but it was nothing he couldn’t handle. What was a little pain like this? He’d been through far worse mentally. This was nothing.  

And it was important for him.  

Carefully, he poked at his skin until letters began to form. DEATH was written out on his fingers by the end of it, perfect for reading when he closed his hands into fists. Because if death wanted him that badly, it was going to have to fight him to succeed. He wasn’t going to accept his death easily. That he vowed. No more endless days, sitting in the tower and wishing that it would claim him in his sleep. He was going to  live , and he was going to get them out of this damn tower.  

That was enough to motivate him, but it seemed the gods were intent on hurrying him along too.  

He’d spent the day before last beside the hole, scraping at the mortar between a couple of bricks beside it. He skipped making breakfast, and didn’t bother with washing their clothes, or any of his other chores. Instead he scraped and scraped and scraped.  

Their lone knife was broken in the endeavor, which he felt a bit sorry about. It hadn’t been a particularly good knife, but it was the only one they had. They would just have to make do without it.  

Yesterday, he used a wooden spoon instead. He grated it all the way down to its bowl, the handle nothing but wood dust after all his hard effort, but he didn’t give up. He only stopped when Bonney finally came down from the top floor to say that she was hungry. He’d been so focused on scraping at that little strip of mortar, he hadn’t noticed that the day had passed them by, and he hadn’t made them a single meal.  

He felt bad about that, and gave her two extra servings of flatbread to make up for it. He should have been more cautious with their all too dwindling food supply, but he didn’t care anymore. It was nearly gone, but he was intent on getting them out of there before that happened.  

Not that he was going to tell her that. She’d probably just think he’d gone insane.  

That morning, he made sure to prepare their breakfast before setting to work on the wall again. It was just plain oats, but Bonney didn’t complain. Not that she cheered when she saw it either. Mostly she stirred it listlessly, until it grew long cold in her bowl. He practically had to spoon feed it to her just so she would eat it. Her mind seemed very far away.  

But it came back soon after.  

They heard them outside their tower, men walking around and laughing loudly. “It was a lookout tower that doesn’t look out anymore. See those steps that lead to nothing? Those bricks aren’t as old as the rest- they were used to seal up the door. The windows too.” 

“And who told you there was a lady in there?” another wry voice asked him.  

A hearty snort. “Who hasn’t? That rumor has been passed around for years.” 

There was some laughter at that. “Well, she’s just ripe for the picking then, isn’t she? Who wants first whack at getting to her?” 

Someone cheerfully yelled, “I’ll do it!” and there was a muffled thump against the wall.  

Bonney’s already pale face, grew whiter still, and her lip began to tremble. He drew her away from the table and into his arms, squeezing her tightly. He wasn’t sure if it was more to comfort her or himself, but he didn’t stop to think about it.  

“Don’t use your shoulder, idiot. That’s solid bricking. Here, come help me with that log. If all of us work together, we might just make some progress.” 

An hour later, the awful knocking continued on. He felt bruised just listening to it. They went around the tower, testing bricks and banging, trying to find a weak spot. Ancestors, after all that time he spent wishing to get out, praying for the gods to send someone to break them out, this is what he got? Maybe only Under heard him. It figured.  

He sent Bonney to the cellar after the first ten minutes or so. She didn’t want to be alone down there in the dark, but he told her it was for the best. He also instructed her to cry into her knees, so no one would hear her.  

The men trying to break into their tower weren’t sure if anyone was in there or not, but maybe if they saw Law by himself, they wouldn’t bother searching the rest of the tower. It was a slim chance, but it was all he could think of. Maybe they’d see him, half starved and exhausted, and decide that he’d been bricked up in there for madness. There was still no telling what they’d do if they found him. Perhaps they’d fight him for sport. Perhaps they’d try to push past him to look further in the tower. Perhaps they’d try to set their grimy hands against his flesh to pleasure themselves.  

He held the shard of their kitchen knife, a rag wrapped around the larger end so it wouldn’t slice into his hand. He prayed to Carthen, the goddess of strength to give him courage.  

If they made it in, he was going to carve their faces out with it.  

No meeting death without a fight.  

Hours later the walls still held. How odd to think it a blessing after trying so hard the past couple days to knock it down himself.  

They slept that night without a fire, Law fearing that the men were still nearby. If they lit one and they saw the smoke, they’d know for sure that people were in there, and wouldn’t give up until they succeeded in breaking in. Bonney begged him to light a small one, despite knowing the risks. He knew why she begged, even though it meant death or worse. One did not spend five years trapped in near darkness and not fear it. You may have thought that it would be normal by then, and in a way it was, but near dark is not the same as pitch blackness. Total darkness is a suffocating thing, that fills your eyes and airways, and squeezes your chest until you fear your heart may burst.  

But he ignored her pleas, and held her close instead, the two of them huddled together on his thin mattress. It was a cold night, and not just because they had no fire to warm them.  

His newfound motivation for getting out of there took another blow when he realized something. If those men couldn’t break the wall, then what chance did Law have doing it by himself? 

Two days passed, and the men did not return. They continued not to light fires, eating cold dried peas instead. Nothing else was left.  

He prayed to all the gods when he could. Which was all the time.  

He prayed to Evela, goddess of sunshine, to bring them into her light again. To the god of roads and towns, Ris, he prayed for him to let them find their way home. Vera, the goddess of food, for enough to eat. Titor, the lord of all animals, to make the rats useful for once- or at least, to leave them alone. Goda, goddess of sleep, he asked to use her skills on Under, so he couldn’t use any more tricks on them. And to Carthen, the goddess of strength, he prayed for the power to knock down their tower walls.  

He had already vowed they were going to live. And he was going to keep his promise.  

A wonderous thing occurred to him that night.  

He dreamed of the rats. This time was different however, because there was no sinister laughter or looming figures of beasts disguised as men. It was just the rats in the cellar, nosing around for scraps of anything that Law had left behind. And then he observed as one leapt atop the empty crates and barrels, and left the tower.  

He started awake, sitting up hastily.  

The rats had gotten into the tower. That meant the rats had a way to get out as well.  

He scrambled to his feet, snatching up a candle and using the fireplace to light it before carrying it down the ladder to the cellar with him. Little eyes reflected the weak light back to him in the dark, and he followed a pair as the rat scuttled away from him. It ran behind some barrels, but he could hear its claws scraping against the walls as it climbed. He crawled atop an old crate and held his candle up to where the wall and ceiling met. He was just in time to see the rat scramble past a loose brick, darting off into the night.  

He gave the area a firm shove and felt it shift beneath his hands. He hit it again. He hit it over and over, ignoring the way his arms and shoulders ached. He didn’t know how long he kept it up, but he pushed and shoved and pounded at the loose section until it felt like his whole body was one giant bruise.  

At long last there was a hole big enough for him to fit through. The night air swept through the cellar, bringing with it the scent of green grass. For a moment, he did nothing but stand there and breathe it in. He had to admit, he was a little afraid of leaving. He’d spent so long in there, he no longer knew what the rest of the world looked like.  

But he had to leave eventually. He gathered what little strength he had left, and pulled himself out onto the hard ground. The spot, he realized, hadn’t been noticed by the men partially because it had been so small, but mostly because it was hidden by some prickly shrubs he had to crawl past. Hard packed but fresh dirt ground beneath his fingertips as he crawled out, and he reveled in the sensation. When was the last time he had dirt covering his hands, live plants brushing at his face? 

He was outside. He was beneath the moon and stars, staring up at the sky.  

He breathed as if it was his first breath in years, and his body felt raw in the moonlight. It felt as if he’d been stripped naked, and bathed in ice cold water, scrubbed hard, and then dried and clothed again.  

He was under the stars, like a fish being caught and released back into water.  

Tomorrow they were going to leave the tower, and if there were any guards there to shoot them, or evil men to take them, then let them try. He felt like he could do anything. Ancestors knew he did his best. He had done his duty, served his lady as well as he could, and freed them from their prison.  

Nothing could stop him now. 

Chapter Text

He sat out there by himself for gods know how long, just breathing in the fresh air and reveling in the openness. It was during the quietest hours of the night that he crawled out there, and he didn’t think it necessary to wake Bonney up yet, so he let the star keep him company instead.  

He circled the tower, hand pressed against the stone and ruminating on how odd it was to be pacing along the same wall as before but on the other side. He’d walked along the wall of his prison countless times over the years, but those few inches where the bricks separated him from the open sky practically stretched for miles in his mind.  

There was something laid out in front of one spot a little to the left of where the hatch was. It was set just far enough over that Law had never seen it while he was inside. He almost missed it, but noticed it at the last second before he could step on it. It was a tiny bouquet of wilting dandelions, tied together with a piece of grass. Crossed beneath it were two small pine boughs.  

The last part made his heart leap in his chest, reminding him of the one Luffy gave him, but he forced himself not to think on it. That was in the past. He had to look to the future. And Luffy’s future was with Bonney, not him. The boughs meant nothing.  

They were probably just left there by a random child, paying their respects to a dead lady.  

After what felt like both an eternity and no time at all, he finally went back inside the tower. He scribbled down his elation at making it out in his journal with the last vestiges of his ink before waking Bonney.  

She had looked at him like she thought she was still dreaming after he told her, but eventually he convinced her that it was reality, and they could finally leave.  

Relief spread across her features, and although it was hard to tell in the scant candlelight, he could have sworn he saw tears in her eyes. She smiled as he led her down to the cellar, but as soon as she saw the hole he climbed through, she froze. She said that she couldn’t climb that high, that it was too small and she wouldn’t fit, that her ankle hurt- anything to stay inside.  

He got annoyed at that and decided that if the gods hadn’t struck him down for any of the other shit he pulled in the tower, then they’d excuse him one last time for ordering her around. Outside of the tower he’d be under their jurisdiction again, but inside it? They sure as fuck didn’t answer any of his prayers while he was there the past five years, so they might as well stay out for another night.  

He told her to quit whining and get moving, fairly pushing her out the hole himself.  

It had been his assumption that she’d do better once she was outside in the cool night air, but much to his displeasure, he found her clinging to the wall of the tower for dear life. He tried to peel her away from the stonework, but she shrunk closer to the wall like a cornered rabbit and trembled like a leaf. He settled for prying her hands off the wall and leaning their backs against it instead, hoping she’d adjust with a little more time.  

He told her to take deep breaths, to look at the stars in the open sky, to feel the dirt and grass between her fingertips. A fruitless endeavor apparently, as she continued to shake nonetheless. She refused to look at anything but her hands which were clenched tightly in her lap.  

After a while, even that seemed too much for her, and she squeezed her eyes shut as though she was trying to will it all away.  

He thought perhaps it was the darkness that was getting to her- she’d never liked the oppressive lack of light in the tower, after all. Maybe she would fare better when the sun came out.  

In the first moments of dawn, the horizon turned from dark blue to white to yellow to the most beautiful sky blue that almost had him weeping in joy.  

The hue made his heart ache with the thought of Luffy. Somewhere out there, was the khan looking at the same sky and thinking of Law? He’d once told him that this shade of blue made him feel a sense of togetherness with the rest of the world. It was a sky that was meant to be shared with everyone. Law wondered if Luffy still felt that way. It had been so long. Maybe the khan had grown up enough to decide that he didn’t need to be connected to the boy he’d left in the tower.  

Although he supposed neither of them could be considered boys anymore. Law was twenty two now, which meant Luffy ought to be about twenty. They weren’t teenagers whispering through a hatch in the wall any longer.  

Gods, had it really been that long ago that he first met him? 

How was it possible for him to feel as if he’d aged a lifetime in a place where he’d lived no life at all? 

He shoved the thoughts aside, nudging Bonney’s shoulder to get her attention. “Look- the sun’s coming up. Look at all the colors,” he said, staring in awe.  

He hadn’t realized it before, but he hadn’t seen true color since he was locked up. All the color in their prison had been tainted by the lack of natural light. Firelight could do so little in comparison- everything had merely been in varying shades of black and gray and orange. How exciting to see the world properly again.  

Bonney unfortunately, did not share his wonder. At the very moment she chose to open her eyes, the sun rose over the horizon, the first rays piercing straight through her.  

She screamed. “The sun! The sun has burst! We’re going to burn up!” she sobbed into the dirt.  

He knelt over her, rubbing comforting circles into her quivering back. “It just seems so bright because we’re used to the dark. We’ll get used to it,” he said. 

But she insisted that she was burning, wailing and thrashing in the dirt at make-believe horrors.  

He dragged her back inside and let her stay there the rest of the day.  

As much as he wanted to leave and never look back, he couldn’t bear to go without her. He’d spent five fucking years in there for her, and he wasn’t about to abandon her now that they were finally free.  

They could try again tomorrow.  

The next two days were much the same. Bonney screamed and cried and told him that the sun would kill her, but he assured her a thousand times over that it was just the normal sun, and she would be fine. They crawled out to squint at the rest of the world each day, but mostly it was Law alone that would stay out there.  

The light was harsh on his eyes too, but he still couldn’t get enough of it. When it was too much of a strain on his eyes, he would simply close them and let the sun warm his face.  

There were no guards around to shoot them for stepping out of their tower- at least none that he’d seen or heard. He had no idea how to feel about that or what it meant for them, but he could deal with that later.  

The third night, Bonney sat with him under the moonlight, and she finally seemed like she wouldn’t fall apart just by being out there. The tension that so often gripped her shoulders dissipated, and he thought she actually looked content to be outside with him rather than terrified. Her grip on his arm never wavered though.  

Oh well. Baby steps.  

By the end of the week, he decided that it was finally time to move on. He’d been foraging nearby to feed them, but there was little that nature had to offer them. Mostly they subsisted off the last of their dried peas and dandelions he’d found growing close by.  

He spent the last day washing spare clothes for them to take, turning their blankets into bundles to carry their scant supplies, and baking flatbread with their barrel scrapings.  

Naturally, Bonney refused to leave.  

She claimed that she wouldn’t be able to make it further than a few feet, that her back hurt, that her legs wouldn’t carry her, that there was no point in going now that they’d spent so much time in the tower. She told him that it simply wasn’t possible, and that they’d just have to stay where they were.  

Gods forgive him, but he lost the last of his sympathy for her fear of the outside world in that moment.  

“We were in there for five fucking years, Bonney-ya!” he snapped, shoving her very ungracefully forward and away from the tower. “I have waited on you, and I have sung for you, and I have given five years of my life just to take care of you! I have slaved away in there, and put up with your crying and your screaming and your tantrums, and I have run around stomping out fiery arrows for you! I have done everything I possibly could to keep us alive, and I am not wasting it all now just because you are too afraid to go!  We are leaving !” he seethed, chest heaving with fury.  

If there were guards hidden nearby, they would definitely kill him for speaking to gentry as he just did, but when no arrows or swords came racing towards him, he could finally admit that no one else was around.  

She stared at him in shocked silence for a few moments, but after a while she moved mechanically forward, glancing back at him from time to time.  

He would have felt guilty about the nervous look on her face, but he was just so damn tired.  

It was like every awful thought he’d had about her in the last five years came bubbling forth to slap him in the face, and it was all he could do to shut his mouth and keep from spewing them at her.  

So they walked on in silence.  

He wanted to curl up in the dirt and moan. Wanted to lie down and cry.  

They knew from afar that something wasn’t quite right. There should have been people passing them on the road to the city. There should have been noise- the clamor of merchants peddling their wares in the streets, citizens making their way through town, people working, animals calling above the fray.  

Bonney had been traveling with her head down, quiet as she’d been since he’d yelled at her when they first set off. At least the silence between them felt less suffocating after he’d taken a spare blanket and draped it over her like a shawl to cover her head and help her hide from the brightness.  

“Do you want to return to your mother?” he asked tentatively. Personally, he could go the rest of his life without seeing Charlotte Linlin, but maybe Bonney felt differently.  

She shook her head. “She won’t take me back anyway,” she said, staring resolutely at her feet.  

“Should I take you to Song for Evela then and reunite you with your khan?” The thought of giving her away to be Luffy’s bride made his stomach churn, but it had always been the plan back when they were in the tower. They’d never said so aloud, but it was implied. That was how they ended up in the tower in the first place, after all.  

He’d be lying if he said he wasn’t a little relieved when she shook her head again. “No. He won’t have me either.” 

On the other hand, it was kind of a problem if they didn’t go to the khan. What else could they possibly do? Seek shelter from Lord Kaido? No chance in hell.  

“You’re engaged to him,” he reminded her gently, although it sent a pang of longing through his heart.  

“He’ll kill me,” she whispered, lip quivering.  

He stumbled in his tracks, trying not to gape at her. Luffy? Try to kill her? The moron who was so quick to laugh and hand out praise for the most mundane things? The idea was absurd.  

“What makes you think that?” he asked carefully.  

She turned to look at him as if he was the one not making any sense. “I heard the whispers.” 

He couldn’t help the incredulous look that came to his face. “Whispers told you that Luffy wanted to kill you?” 

Her eyes seemed to clear a bit at the tone in his voice, and her lip stopped quivering to form a firm line. “No, of course not,” she said. “I just don’t want to see him anymore, that’s all.”  

He wasn’t quite sure he believed her. Her brain must have been addled from all that time in the tower- it was the only explanation. He’d sing her a song for clarity good and long that night. She’d get better the more time she spent away from it. At least, he hoped she would. 

All thoughts of Bonney’s unusual opinion of the khan were quickly wiped from his mind when the city walls came into view. It took him a second to figure out what was wrong- from a distance he could feel that things weren’t the way they before, but they had to get closer to see why. As soon as Law could make out the details, he let out a gasp. 

Where the gates once stood, was a gaping hole in the brickwork instead.  

Bonney raised her head to see what had surprised him and nearly froze again. “There’s a hole in the wall,” she breathed. He took her hand in his and they clutched to each other as they approached the city.  

“I don’t understand,” she said in a small childlike voice as they crawled past the crumbling ruins where the gates had been. “If- if the gates were broken, shouldn’t someone have fixed it? And where are the guards? There used to be gate guards, didn’t there?” she asked quietly.  

She burst into tears, and he led her to the shade of a tree growing in front of an empty building. He sang her a soothing song, rubbing her back and cradling her in his arms until her sobs died out into the slow, even breaths of sleep.  

He crept back to the wall, inspecting it closer. Perhaps it was a good thing her eyesight had become so poor of late. He didn’t think she noticed the black scorch marks on the stones, or even the arrow shafts that got stuck between them. A snake slithered past his foot, making him jump. It didn’t attack, simply whisked off deeper into the grass, but his heart continued to pound.  

It felt like a bad omen.  

Titor may have been the god of animals, but the snake was a favorite of Under’s. What the god of tricks had to do with the city, he didn’t know, but given Bonney’s particular history with Lord Kaido, he couldn’t imagine it was anything good.  

Aside from the yawning hole where the gates should have been, the wall was fairly sturdy. His strength was laughable at this point, and his stamina not much better. Years of little exercise, months of slim eating, and hours of walking took their toll on him, but he forced himself to climb. His hands were clammy and weak, but they were just strong enough to let him cling to the rocks without falling. It wasn’t until he reached the top of the wall, heaving himself up to sit atop it and catch his breath, that he saw the truth of their situation.  

Titor’s Garden was no more. The city was razed. It was gutted. Gone. There was no sound, or even smoke from smoldering remains. He could see heaps of stone, charred wood, broken wagons. No people.  

What happened to everyone? The little old man that trained him for his duties as a manservant, his classmates, Bonney’s mother, her multitudes of brothers and sisters, all those that worked under them. Titor’s Garden had been a city that teemed with people, but now there was no one. All of them gone.  

All dead? 

A flash of white passed him on the ground, and for one shining moment he thought Bepo had returned. But it was only a cat, skinny and hissing. It ignored the little song he called down to it, darting off. Maybe it had been alone so long that it no longer cared for human company.  

He climbed back down, muscles protesting the whole way, and made his way back to Bonney’s side. She was still asleep, so he ventured cautiously into the abandoned house. The roof was gone, as all the roofs were from what he’d seen from his vantage point atop the wall, and everything inside was coated in a thick layer of dust and grime. Whatever was left was rotted, and he tried not to let his disappointment overtake him.  

It was damn hard though. He thought that when they left the tower they’d finally be free from their death sentence. The gods were surely laughing at him. No wonder they hadn’t punished him for yelling at Bonney- they already knew it was hopeless.  

What about Song for Evela? Was it a burnt wasteland as well? Maybe he and Bonney were the last two living souls in the world, and they were fated to drift from tree shade to tree shade and speak to hissing cats and snakes until they were so stooped from age that they crumbled to dust. He kept thinking about all the people that had left him and never returned. His parents who had shoved him weeping beneath a pile of corpses in the hopes that he’d make it out, the guards outside the tower, the whole city. Luffy.  

He lived in a strange dark world that swallowed people whole.  

He had to know if anyone else still lived. Had to know if they were really the last. Logic told him that even though Titor’s Garden was gone, there were probably people still out there. At the very least, whoever had destroyed the city. Unless the gods had simply struck it down themselves, but that seemed slim. Nevertheless, he had to make sure. He had to see it with his own eyes that there were others out there. That black, ugly wound the tower had created in his mind would not let him rest until he did.  

Bonney told him she didn’t want to go to Song for Evela, but gods help him, he was going to take her there anyway. He knew she wouldn’t ask where they were headed, and he doubted she’d ever been there to recognize the place for herself. He’d take her to Luffy and she would be safe. Being around someone as bright and wonderful as the khan was sure to heal her and make her forget about those awful whispers she heard in the dark. She would finally marry him, and Law’s role in their story would end. He wasn’t sure what he was going to do when that happened, but he accepted that it was coming. He’d figure out what to do later. For now, he was going to focus on that one goal. One step at a time.  

They ought to venture further into the city before they began their journey. The city was ransacked, but maybe the gods would have mercy on them and provide something for them to carry water with. They would need it if there was no stream for them to follow.  

They also needed food. The flatbread he’d made when they abandoned the tower was nearly gone- just two left. One for Bonney, and one for him. Or perhaps more than one for Bonney. She could use it more than him, even if it sometimes felt like his stomach was trying to claw its way out of his body.  

It was fine. He could handle it. He was stubborn. Bonney was a lady however, and she barely understood what it was like not to live the privileged life of gentry.  

Before the tower, she never knew what it was like to  need . She could have everything. Anything she’d ever want. Except, freedom to marry someone she loved, he supposed.  

He was probably being a little too harsh on her. He knew her life hadn’t all been extravagant feasts and parties and beautiful gowns. She’d told him enough about her family and the expectations upon her to know that living as a lady wasn’t some perfect ideal world that commoners often thought it was. He remembered the way her mother slapped her for crying.  

But she didn’t know what it was like to work for herself. She didn’t know how to cook or forage or sew. She didn’t know how to do simple chores. Walking for miles without reprieve from the sun was a new experience for her. She didn’t know what it felt like to make that journey every day just to reach the market. Didn’t know what it was like to run through the woods in the dark, looking over a shoulder to see if anyone was following. Had never seen someone she loved killed in front of her. Had never hidden under piles of cold white bodies, nose pressed tightly to a shirt to try and keep out the stench of decay.  

No, he had to be the strong one for them.  

He’d have to coax her to go into the city with him though. She knew her home better, and she might be able to find things the pillagers may have missed.  

Honestly, he was a little worried about going further into the city himself. If it was an army that did this, then they might still be around. He guessed they would just have to find out tomorrow.  

Bonney agreed to go into the city with him with surprisingly little complaint. Most likely it was because she didn’t want to be alone, but he could hardly fault her for that. She shook the whole time though, and squeezed his hand so tight he almost thought it would fall off.  

Not that he could fault her for that either. There was plenty to shake at. The buildings were all in ruins, and not a soul around.  

There were however, many bodies left behind. Burned bones, some stuck with arrows, and some even missing their skulls. 

He encouraged Bonney to hide her face in her makeshift shawl to avoid looking at them. There was no use in trying to conceal the horrors that befell the city, but that didn’t mean she had to look at every single skeleton across their path. He had always believed that people should know the harsh truths of their world, but no one should be forced to see things like this.  

He could not say which was worse- to be locked in a tower away from everyone or to be free in a world where they were all dead.  

When they reached her home, they stopped and stared. It had been so grand before. Now it was nothing more than piles of blackened stone and cinder. The beautiful, lush gardens that had surrounded it were gone as well, replaced by creeping moss and yellowed grass. Despite all this, Bonney didn’t cry or shake. He couldn’t imagine she’d experienced much happiness in that house.  

She pointed out where the kitchens had been and the most likely location of food cellars. While he sorted through the rubble, she stood there and continued to stare.  

“Maybe it never really existed. Maybe this is all it ever was,” she said, her voice far away.  

He glanced back at her, frowning at her placid face. “No, Bonney-ya. It was real.” 

“I can’t remember… “ she trailed off, still gazing at the open ceiling. “Are you sure?” 

Sometimes she asked questions that he really didn’t have the patience to answer politely.  

From beneath the lighter rubble, he was able to secure a bag half full of grain, a wheel of cheese with the wax unbroken, a jar of oil with the cork intact, some rope, and a ceramic pot with only the spout broken off. Afterwards his arms were too tired to lift a pebble, and his back ached something fierce, so he settled for wandering around the ruins scanning for anything useful that didn’t require digging.  

By the mercy of the gods, he managed to find a partially full bottle of ink and a knife. With it he could sharpen sticks to dig roots, and perhaps spear some fish or rodents, and gut them for eating. Things were finally starting to look up a bit.  

He didn’t realize how silent the world was until a cry rang out, pushing his stomach up into his throat. He thought that warriors had found them after all, that they’d been lying in wait to attack at just the right moment. 

He’d never been so happy to be wrong in his entire life.  

Titor, god of animals, must have taken pity on them and sent the last lady of his realm a gift.  

The yak looked ready to bolt at first, but Law sang the song for yaks to it, and he warmed up immediately. He’d never seen an animal respond so quickly to a song before. This one must have been made of friendly stuff. He stuck his muzzle right in Law’s palm, nuzzling it.  

His friendly nature almost reminded him of the khan.  

He named him Mucker, and he was the finest yak anyone could ever have. His coat was a glossy dark brown, and he had long, proud horns, and teeth all still intact. Yaks make the best travel companions. He was so strong, Law imagined that all their possessions felt like nothing on his back. Best of all, yaks usually ate whatever stubby greens grew on the side of the road, so Law wouldn’t have any trouble feeding him.  

Indeed, Mucker made an excellent travel companion. He nuzzled Law as they walked along and seemed almost to dance when Law sang to him. Yeah, he and Mucker would get along just fine.  

They headed west, the crumbling remains of the city turning back into the steppes. Grass grew past his knees, and he ran his fingers along the blades absentmindedly as they trekked through the rolling hills. The wind was an ever-present companion, rustling through the long grass and ruffling his hair. The clean air against his skin was so delicious a feeling, he didn’t think he’d ever tire of it. At first.  

But it kept him awake at night, reminding him of his time with Cora in Vera’s Blessing, tending the sheep at their little cottage. It filled him with such aching loneliness, he thought it would be a mercy when he fell asleep.  

Instead, he was plagued with nightmares. He dreamt that was running through Titor’s Garden trying to find a way out. He entered a house, but it was piled to the ceiling with bodies, and before he could turn away, the walls rose up around him to seal him inside. The walls closed in, forcing him closer to the corpses, their cold skin pressing down on him until he woke up gasping for breath.  

His hands clenched around air, still trying to grab his mother’s as it slipped away.  

One would think that after years of nightmares, Goda would take pity on him. But the goddess of sleep seemed as intent as ever on torturing him in her realm.  

He lay against Mucker for the rest of the night, trying to slow his racing heart.  

When the yak’s even breathing and light snores proved not to be enough to distract him, he pulled out his journal and wrote by starlight. The scratch of his quill against paper carried on until the sun rose. 

For three weeks they walked west, not a single soul in sight. They spotted a few village remains, but whether they fled when the city was sacked or if they were all killed too, Law didn’t know.  

A few days ago they forded a wide river- the one that bordered Titor’s Garden and Song for Evela, he suspected. If that was the case, then they were in the khan’s realm now. Would they find his city destroyed as well, bodies littering the streets? And if not, what then? Would he finally see Luffy again? 

He had thought long and hard about what he would do when they reached the city. If Luffy was alive- and Gods, did he hope he was- then they would have to present themselves to him somehow. Then they’d have to explain who they were- who Bonney was. How she was the one he was engaged to. And if Luffy honored their betrothal, then Law would have to pray to all the gods above that the khan had mercy on him for deceiving him.  

It seemed impossible to imagine that Luffy wouldn’t forgive him, that he could be anything less than understanding. But it had also seemed impossible that the smiling boy he knew- the boy who laughed loud and freely, who gave him a bear cub and a pine bough, who told him he sang like Evela, who kissed his fingers- would leave them in the tower without visiting them for years. After he promised to come back.  

Maybe Law was just a fool for believing him back then. Maybe his desperation for human connection had blinded him, turned the khan into someone too good to be true.  

The thought made his mouth sour, but no matter what he did, it always lurked in the back of his mind.  

Bonney’s clothes started to hang off her frame. He tried to get her off Mucker’s back and walking around to get her blood moving as often as he could, but she hated it. Too often her mind was plagued by the darkness of the tower, so deeply ingrained in her that the fresh air flowing in her lungs did nothing to ease it. Without Mucker guiding her, she would walk right off the road, thoughts lost in the dank prison they had left behind.  

Late that morning she had begun to scream, “The air’s not right! I’m drowning- I can’t breathe! Law, I can’t breathe!” Her fingers clawed at her throat, and when his healing songs provided useless, he found a little cave by the stream to stick her in.  

As soon as he shoved her inside, she calmed at once.  

He left her there, waiting outside where he could still see the sky and feel the sun warming his arms. Being inside that small enclosed space for even a moment was what made him want to scream.  

While she napped, he combed Mucker’s shedding hair with his fingers, sharpened a new stick, boiled some nettles, and speared a fish in the stream. He stuffed it with the nettles, wrapped it in leaves, and cooked it in coals. The smell of fish cooking after so long without fresh meat was so heavenly that he would have risen from the grave if he were in Bonney’s shoes. She slept on however, completely unaware, so he ate his portion and lay on his back afterwards to watch the clouds drift overhead.  

Seven years worth of food wasn’t worth trading for the sky.  

We’re not the only ones alive! I don’t like being around crowds or strangers, but coming across those traders on the road was a blessing. They were real, whole people- not figments of my imagination, and I think one of them suspected something wasn’t quite right with us when I kept poking my boot through one of their footprints to check if it was real.   

But I don’t care because I’m just so relieved that Bonney and I aren’t the last two people on the earth. Gods, imagine that. There’s no way the human race would survive.   

The traders said it was only four days walk to the city- I made sure to say “the city” and not Song for Evela since Bonney still doesn’t know where we’re headed. She’ll probably get mad at me for that, but I don’t care anymore. I’ll take her anger over her tears or the way she jumps at nonexistent shadows.   

Besides, things will be better for her there. She’ll finally be back to being a lady again, and she can live in comfort like gentry are supposed to. And as for me…. Well, maybe if the khan is feeling particularly forgiving, he’ll banish me, and I can go live on the steppes with the rest of the muckers. Maybe I can go back to Vera’s Blessing. It’s been so long, Doflamingo must have given up on the idea of me returning there, right? Cora’s adoptive father is still there somewhere- as far as I know anyway. Maybe I can look for him. Sengoku was always kind during his rare visits. Maybe I can have a home again.   

There was a tense moment when one of the men asked if we were coming from the east. Before I could answer, one of them confirmed that we were coming from the direction of Titor’s Garden and burst into grating laughter. The first one rolled his eyes and said that nothing could possibly come from Titor’s Garden anymore. When I asked them how the city got destroyed, they said Lord Kaido wiped it out nearly a year ago. Apparently he’s off making war with Goda’s Second Gift now.   

His next words chilled me to the bone.   

He said, “We’re hoping he burns them down too.”  

He said Bonney and I should pray for it too. If he conquers them instead and adds their army to his, all the warriors of our realm will have little chance against him. Kaido was bound to come our way next. There’s nowhere in the eight realms where his shadow won’t cross.   

Bonney hid her face in her hands and wept silently, and they left after that.   

Their food ran out ages ago, and they’d been surviving on nettles for days. He thought he’d be very happy to never eat them again for the remainder of his life, however long that may be.  

But Ris, the god of roads and towns, must have guided their feet because they were finally at their destination. The city of Song for Evela was even greater than Titor’s Garden, with a wall three-men high and a small army of men on horseback by each gate. He suspected they were nervous about Lord Kaido attacking.  

They followed a southern caravan through the gates, marveling at the wares they carried with them. Bolts of silk, porcelain bowls, dye pots, casks of honey, bags of sugar, skins of wine, and bricks of incense were all glimpsed from their cargo. The smell of incense and scented wood was pure joy to his nose, and he trailed behind them as if in a hazy dream.  

They continued behind the caravan up the streets, until the multitudes of people started to separate them.  

He definitely didn’t like being around crowds or strangers, that point still stood- but he loved it for that moment. It was so gloriously noisy in Song for Evela, he almost cried. People were shouting across the street, laughing, showing their wares, there were babies crying and kids screaming, and it was magnificent. It was quite likely that he’d never be grateful for any of these things after he got used to them again, but just then it was the most wonderful thing.  

The streets of Song for Evela were all clean and straight, so different from the narrow, twisting lanes of Titor’s Garden. They were as different as Law’s face was to Bonney’s.  

He was in the midst of trying to find a way to tell her where they were when she spoke. “We’re in Song for Evela, aren’t we?” 

He stared at her for a second. “Yes, we are.”  

Her face contorted, and he was quick to grab her arm before she could turn away and run off into the crowd. “Luf-the khan won’t hurt you, Bonney-ya. He’s not plotting to kill you. The whispers-” 

“I don’t hear any whispers,” she snapped, ripping her arm out of his grip. She straightened to her full height, and stared ahead in grim determination, but he saw how her hands curled tight around Mucker’s coat. She was trying to be brave, and it twisted his heart.  

Neither of them said another word as they walked for the rest of the long, straight streets until the khan’s house rose ahead of them.  

It was even grander than Bonney’s home had been. It was five tiers high, and the enamel tiles that made up the front side of the house were painted so that they formed a lion’s head- although its mane was of golden flower petals instead of fur. Sunflowers were Evela’s sacred flower, so he supposed that was why.  

There were guards everywhere, and they were stopped by a gruff looking woman who asked them their business. She was tall enough to actually look down her nose at them, and looked more like a bandit than someone who worked for gentry in his opinion. Not that he said that aloud. It probably wouldn’t help their situation.  

“Tell them who you are,” he said to Bonney, looking surreptitiously at the guards nearby. He really didn’t want to be thrown out of the city after all the effort it took to get there.  

“No,” she replied. Her jaw was set, and a rare spark of determination was in her eyes. He would have been pleased to see it if it hadn’t shown up at the most inopportune time.  

He leaned over and brushed her shawl back a bit so he could speak in her ear. “Please, my lady. Tell them that you’re Charlotte Bonney, the khan’s betrothed. Tell them so you can be fit up as gentry and live as you should. You won’t have to eat nettles anymore, and you could even get something fresh cooked,” he said to try and tempt her.  

“No, and I forbid you from telling anyone who I am,” she hissed, casting a furtive look around. One of the guards narrowed his eyes at her in suspicion. Law doubted that it looked good to have her looking around like a hunted animal. “Lord Kaido might find me, or Khan Luffy could-” 

“He won’t hurt you!” he hissed back impatiently. “You’ve done nothing wrong, and he’s a good man- he’ll protect you.” 

Her eyes filled with tears, and her chin quivered as she clutched his arm for dear life. “What if he’s not safe like I used to think? I can’t- no one is safe but you,” she said shakily.  

His heart squeezed painfully at that, but he pressed on. “I can’t look after you forever,” he said softly. “I don’t have money or work, and I don’t have status or a clan. We’re barely surviving as is. Come winter, we’ll die if we don’t have shelter. You’re gentry, Bonney-ya. You deserve better than what I can provide for you. Please, tell them who you are.” 

She gave a shudder, but turned to the rough woman before them. She took a deep breath and said, “My name is Lami. I’m a mucker.” 

Ancestors help him, but he almost screamed at that. He buried his face in Mucker’s hide and took slow, deep breaths to keep from crying. He had no time for crying. Crying would do nothing to help him, even if he did feel like he had just been split in two. It shouldn’t have made him angry to hear her call herself by his sister’s name. He had no right after he’d done the same thing with her brother. But that had been different, hadn’t it? After all, he’d needed an excuse to give the khan after she’d ordered him to pretend like he was the one engaged to him. She was using his sister’s name to get out of meeting with him.  

But that was unfair. She was afraid. So afraid. Had been for years. He’d known it deep down, but had always pushed ahead anyway, determined that she would get better…somehow. Oh, how the gods must be laughing at him.  

“What’s going on here?” a light haired man asked, walking up. His mustache stuck out in two braids, and it would have been comical if he didn’t have such a serious face. His expression made it clear instantly that if you said anything he disliked, he would gladly break your face in. Later on, he learned that his name was Zeff. 

Who are these two blocking the way?” he continued, giving them an appraising look. The rough woman gave him a look as if to tell them to get lost.  

Law straightened up, and put on a brave face. Mucker had leaned down to lip at his boots, and the sight of it filled him with such gratefulness that he made a rash decision. He would get by somehow. He’d find a way to keep Bonney and him alive until she agreed to see the khan, but in the meantime Mucker deserved to have a home.  

“We brought a gift for Khan Luffy. This is Mucker- he’s the best yak anyone could have,” he said, patting his bovine friend on the back.  

The woman immediately began to protest. “We don’t buy animals from-” 

“Not buy,” he interrupted. “Like I said, he’s a gift. An honest gift from a couple of muckers,” he said, refusing to look at Bonney. If she didn’t like it, she could chew him out about it later. He knew it was a right stupid thing to do.  

It was foolhardy to give up their one possession, especially with winter so close. He should have at least traded him for employment, but all he could think of at that moment was how much he loved that yak. It was far more sentimental than he’d ever admit to being, but he’d been so grateful when Mucker had shown up and proved to him that there were still good things left in a world that Law had feared was long dead. He deserved to have a belly full of oats, and a warm stall to sleep in for that alone, and he figured that Luffy could provide that for him.  

He also thought a little of Bepo, and how Luffy had gifted his little bear to him. The best bear in the world. He lost Bepo, but he could give the khan Mucker in return.  

A boy came up to lead the yak away, and just like that he was gone. Law was sorry to see him go, but it was a comfort knowing that at least one of them was in good hands.  

Luckily, Zeff didn’t give him any time to mourn for the loss of his friend. “Do you two know any kitchen work?” he asked gruffly.  

Law, not comprehending why he was asking, held out his hands in answer. The older man grabbed them, turning them this way and that and feeling for calluses. After a moment he nodded in approval. “This one’s an honest worker. He’s got the mark of bad luck on him with those white spots, but I’d wager he’s a good one.” 

“What about the other one?” The woman narrowed her eyes at Bonney, and Law, smelling hope in the air, snatched at it.  

“She’s my clan sister,” he said quickly, holding tight to Bonney’s hand. “She’s survived in harsher conditions than any city girl you could find, and she’s worth more than the lot of them combined.” 

They must have believed him because the next thing he knew they were being shunted off to the kitchens to sleep for the night. It wasn’t a bed laden with silk and pillows, but she had a sleeping spot in the khan’s house, sharing a blanket with Law on the floor by the washing hearth. Well, it was certainly better than nothing. 

The days passed by in a blur as they adjusted to kitchen life. It was hard work, that was for sure. They tended the wash fire, boiled water, scrubbed pots, and wash aprons, and rags hour after hour. It was a never ending stream of the same old tasks that didn’t let up until they hunkered down for sleep.  

Two others shared their fire, so they all slept in the same spot. Normally Law wasn’t very good at making friends, but Shachi and Penguin attached themselves to him without any trouble at all.  

They were a year younger than Law and Bonney, and they never stopped talking. He thought it would be annoying at first, but he found that after so long with having only Bonney to talk to- many times of which didn’t work in his favor- he was much more tolerant of it now. They didn’t force him to join in either, just babbled out loud for hours, content to talk enough to make up for their new companions’ silence. They were also muckers, so maybe that’s why they warmed up so fast to them.  

Penguin’s mother died when he was young, but his father had been in Titor’s Garden when it was attacked. He didn’t say anything more on the matter after that, but Law took the pot he’d been struggling to clean the past ten minutes and wordlessly took care of it for him while he took a moment to wipe the tears from his eyes.  

Shachi was from Goda’s Second Gift, and his mother made him flee before Lord Kaido arrived with his army. Because of the mountain range to the west, he’d had to sneak through Thoughts of Under and the ruins of Titor’s Garden to get there. He didn’t know if his family was still alive, but Law could hear him praying quietly at night and sniffling when he thought everyone else was asleep.  

He said the main reason he’d survived was because the gods had blessed him with the help of the khan’s men. Apparently a group of them had been traveling with the chief of light while she was scouting Titor’s Garden. Why she was doing that when her job mostly entailed planning celebrations he had no idea, but Shachi and Penguin said that Song for Evela was run differently than the other realms- mostly because of their young khan.  

Thinking back on Luffy’s unusually non-gentry like behavior, he could believe that.  

Whatever the case was, he was glad that it meant Shachi made it to Song for Evela safely.  

He was slowly going insane. Forget the darkness of the tower, forget the rats, forget everything else from the past five years- what made him lose his mind was failure.  

He couldn’t be as good a scrubber as he ought to be because he was always looking after Bonney, and he couldn’t look after her properly because he was too busy scrubbing pots and rags. He was failing at both, and it was driving him absolutely mad because he knew that he could do both better, but not all at once.  

And of course, Bonney wasn’t getting any better. She didn’t cry nearly as much as when they arrived, but she still droops like a wilting flower. Always she clung to his side, eyes flashing wildly around from time to time as if she expected Lord Kaido to jump out of the wash buckets. Sometimes he still caught her crying at night, but he was so fucking tired that he would pass out before asking her if he could help in any way.  

Truth be told, he was a little cross with her as well. Which may have been unfair given that she’d been raised with a silver spoon in her mouth, but he thought she could at least try to do her fair share if she wasn’t going to fess up to the khan.  

“You don’t have to be a scrubber,” he told her one night as they cracked soap from the block in the cellar. “You could go find the khan, explain who you are and return to the life of a lady. You’re betrothed. He loves you,” he said. The words felt like lead in his mouth, but he managed to get them out all the same.  

All the blood drained from her face, and she looked like a hare facing a hunter. She stood there trembling and silent, not replying even after he prodded her with his fingers and feet. Unable to think of anything else, he dumped wash water over her head.  

She sputtered, whipping around to look at him in fury. “What was that for?” she snapped. 

“To wake you up! To make you see sense!” he retorted, throwing his arms in the air in frustration. “Why can’t you do this? Why can’t you just go to him?” he asked, a hint of desperation creeping into his voice. 

“You won’t believe me. You’ll think I’m just making it up, but I know it! I know they all want me dead. And if one doesn’t kill me, then the other will. Lord Kaido will come for me. He’s a beast, and he tears out the throats of goats with his teeth. I saw him!” she cried.  

“Oh, Bonney-ya,” he sighed, wiping a tired hand over his face. First she claimed that Luffy- the most stupidly friendly and naive person he’d ever met- was going to kill her, and now she claimed that Lord Kaido bites goats. In her mind, he didn’t think she’d ever left the tower. She still saw things that weren’t there.  

The girls at the next fire washed plates and platters and occasionally stirred things for Zeff. Sometimes they talked about the pot scrubbers- like how slow Bonney was or the white patches across Law’s skin. Shachi and Penguin glared at them whenever they heard them, but Law mostly ignored them. Maybe in the past, before he’d spent five years in that hellish tower, it would have bothered him, but now? He didn’t have the energy to waste on caring about it. No matter how glad he was that he and Bonney weren’t alone, people were always going to say nasty things. One time he even heard them making fun of the way he added the suffix “-ya” whenever he called anyone by name. Penguin almost went over to yell at them, but Law held him back before he got the chance. It was just a weird habit he picked up during their last years in their cell- something to change the monotony of their repetitive conversations. It wasn’t anything worth getting in a fight over. 

Gossip was one of the only things they could do at the fires anyway. And he’d take weak insults about his appearance or way of speaking over hearing Lord Kaido’s greasy voice whispering through the walls any day. Besides, they’d all eat their words if Bonney ever grew a spine and confessed her noble lineage.  

Nonetheless, the four of them kept to themselves for the most part anyway.  

The rare exception was when Eustass Kidd dropped by. Eustass was an asshole. That much was clear to Law. But for whatever reason, he was just the right type of compatible asshole to get along with Law, even if Law spent most of their interactions insulting him to his face. Eustass did the same thing to him anyway- seemed to thrive off it in fact. Well, Eustass insulted everyone, but he seemed like he had more fun if they were insulting him back, and few people besides Law did.  

Eustass was one of the khan’s warriors, but he started out in the kitchens too. Apparently you could do that in Song for Evela. Law was fairly certain such a thing would have been unheard of in any of the other realms. Another example of Luffy’s break from tradition, he guessed.  

He wasn’t gentry, but he was still a step up from the regular workers. It would have been terribly easy for him to treat them all like dirt, but he didn’t. He was still an asshole, but he was a nondiscriminating one. He was just as much an asshole to the upper class as he was to the lower class. Which Law knew because he heard the girls at the next fire gossiping about it.  

Shachi and Penguin both insisted that Eustass came by so often because he was enamored with Law, giggling about it whenever the topic came up. Which was at least once a day. He told them to shut up, but it only made them laugh harder.  

Bonney kept her lips tightly sealed on the matter- as she did on basically everything- but sometimes he thought he saw her jaw clench whenever they teased Law about it.  

On Law’s first half day off, he almost stayed to scrub pots anyway. Bonney still had to work, and he didn’t want to leave her alone- not when she was already to dreadful at her job and Zeff ran such a tight ship. She was likely to fall apart if he wasn’t near, but Penguin and Shachi insisted.  

“Oh, go on,” Penguin said, pushing him to the door. “You haven’t taken a half day since you started here.” 

“But Lami-” 

Shachi snorted. “She’ll be fine. We’ll watch over her. She’s slower than a snail, but we’ll make sure Zeff doesn’t kick her out. Now get gone!” 

It was kind of nice to have someone looking after him for a bit. He almost forgot what that felt like. And although he felt a little guilty about leaving Bonney, he was sort of relieved too. He had spent every day and every night with her for five years. A few hour apart wouldn’t kill either of them. Besides, she had Penguin and Shachi to watch her back. It would be fine.  

It was strange to walk around without Bonney hanging off his arm. It was like he’d been released from a second prison that he had no idea existed, invisible chains falling away.  

He went to the market to see if there was anything interesting. It was a myriad of sounds and smells- and how wonderful it was to smell something other than food scraps and soap. Bundles of cinnabar, camphor, and sandalwood were laid out, bags of brown and white sugar, fragrant waxes wrapped in small squares, pearls and glittering purple gems safe behind glass, pink coral, turquoise, and nuggets of deep blue lapis lazuli.  

He brushed a finger over the last one, mind flitting back to that night the khan told him he would dress him in midnight silk and diamonds. His breath caught in his throat at the memory, and he hastily removed his hand.  

It wouldn’t do to think of things like that. He couldn’t get caught up in a fantasy built on lies. He was in Song for Evela to present Bonney as Luffy’s bride. He wasn’t marrying the khan. He was just a simple mucker turned pot scrubber here. He was no one.  

He steeled himself and moved on. There was something he wanted to see if he could acquire while he was here, if only he could find it.  

As he searched through the crowds, a caravan storyteller’s voice boomed out over the din of the market. She was from the desert, and their stories were unfamiliar to Law, but this one he recognized a little of. She spoke about the skinwalkers- people who traded with the desert shamans to gain animal powers, but she added more that Law had never heard before. First, a skinwalker must barter their spirit to a desert shaman, then they must kill someone they love. The more they love the person they kill, the greater their power will be. After the sacrifice, the shaman summons a predator spirit into the person, who then gains the added strength and cunning of the beast, as well as the ability to change into its shape. The storyteller told them of man-leopards that prowled the desert night and turned fierce warriors into corpses with one bite from their teeth.  

It was a dark story, and he didn’t linger after she finished.  

Lucky for him, he finally caught sight of the dye cart he’d seen when they first arrived in the city. He didn’t have much- just a couple of coppers that Zeff had given him as payment- one for him, and one for Bonney. But after much haggling, he managed to coerce the grouchy merchant into selling him an ugly brown root- the kind she used to make brown dye. She wouldn’t sell him the finished product, but this would do. She also told him how to make a passable dye from it in a fit of frustration to get him to leave, so he considered it a win. It wouldn’t be too hard to do himself.  

Bonney didn’t fare as well as he hoped.  

According to the other two, she had thrown a tantrum like a child when she learned he was gone. She panicked, there was some kicking and screaming, and they had to shove her in a closet before Zeff noticed.  

“I don’t know how you put up with her sometimes,” Shachi said, scowling as he rubbed gingerly at a new bruise on his cheek.  

“She’s just having a tough time adjusting,” he sighed. “She lost her family.” 

Penguin huffed. “Who hasn’t?” 

And well, Law couldn’t exactly tell them about the tower, even if they were the first friends he could remember having since Flevance. Bonney didn’t count because they were forced to get along or die in the tower. He couldn’t explain about how Bonney was made of softer stuff, how she was gentry, how she and the khan were promised to each other.  

Gods, sometimes he was so tired of the lies. What he would give to just be Trafalgar Law, the simple mucker turned scrubber who was friends with other scrubbers and not the secret manservant of the last lady of Titor’s Garden. But naturally he was stuck, because that’s just what his life was like. Just one shitty situation after the other.  

Ancestors help him.  

That evening, once all the scrubbing was done, he pulled Bonney aside and took her to the cellars. They weren’t supposed to be there, but there was little choice in the matter. They needed somewhere private. Shachi and Penguin were keeping watch by the fire, and they promised to warn him if Zeff or one of the undercooks decided to take a chance trip down there. It was unlikely, but better safe than sorry. 

He had managed to boil the root he’d bought in a small pot without any of the other fires noticing, and when it was done, he ground it up into a paste with a little more water. He smuggled the bowl of the foul smelling stuff to the cellar with them, and although she pulled a disgusted face when he told her what they were doing with it, she let him smear it over her hair anyway.  

Up until that point she’d been wearing her shawl all the time. Her vibrant pink locks were too noticeable- Big Mom’s children were famous for their bright hair color, and Bonney’s shade was far too similar to her mother’s. There were other people with similar hair colors of course, but it wasn’t very common- especially out of the gentry.  

He knew Shachi and Penguin had seen locks of her hair slip out from under her shawl, but they thankfully never asked about it. They probably wouldn’t even question it when they returned to the fire and her hair was uncovered and hopefully not pink anymore.  

She made faces the whole time, complaining about how the past was cold and smelled awful, but he ignored her. He slapped her hands away whenever she reached up to touch her head. It was bad enough that Law’s hands were going to be dyed browner from the event, but at least the non-white parts of his skin were tanner anyway. It would be far more noticeable on Bonney’s fair skin, and he didn’t want to hear anyone gossiping about it.  

When he deemed that enough time had passed, he rinsed out the paste as best as he could in the poorly lit cellar with a basin of cold water. She grumbled some more about that, but again, he ignored her.  

He held the candle up to her head and squinted. The merchant’s advice hadn’t gone to waste. Her hair was no longer a light pink, but instead a mousy brown with a slightly pink undertint if you knew to look for it. Satisfied, he led her back to their fire and let her rest.  

If she was intent on hiding her status, it was good to make her as least suspicious as possible.  

A few days later they worked through all their dirty pots, and Zeff had them wash outfits for the servers to wear instead. When they were all dried and folded, he sent Law and Penguin to deliver them to the other side of the house. They walked through the long corridors, all decorated with fine tapestries, windows set with glass, and porcelain bowls with beautiful blue patterns painted on them. It was one of the most beautiful places Law had ever seen, and he and Penguin tried not to gawk as they made their way through the house.  

Okay, he tried not to gawk, and he shut Penguin’s mouth for him whenever they came across someone else so he looked less like he was about to catch flies with it.  

They passed the doorway of the feast hall, and even Law took a moment to stop and stare. The ceiling was so high that even on horseback, a man twice his size wouldn’t have been able to touch it, and there were great windows in glass of all colors that created rainbows across the white stone floor.  

He snapped back to attention when he noticed three men walking down the hall in their direction. None of them looked particularly old, but one of them still looked a little younger than the others. He was clearly gentry by the way the other two were speaking to him, but although his clothes were of a fine make, they were still rather plain in comparison to the finery Law was used to seeing gentry in, and he wore a battered straw hat on his head. 

“I saw him my first day here,” Penguin whispered, pointing his chin at him. “That’s the khan. Monkey D. Luffy.” 

That was him. That was the khan. That was his face, his little scar beneath his eye, his arms, his chest, his whole being- not just a leg or a hand or the sound of his voice laughing through a hatch in the wall. He thought he might have stopped breathing, but he wasn’t sure.  

He remembered their talks, how Luffy told him about the sky, how he gave him that pine bough and Bepo. And then he remembered the song and the scarf he’d given in return. They seemed such paltry things to give someone he felt he owed his sanity to. Luffy’s gifts had been better, even if the pine bough didn’t last long. And Bepo… He wished every day that he still had Bepo.  

Then he remembered how he spent their whole time together lying to- well, not his face exactly- but to him, and how if anyone found out about how he’d deceived gentry like that and assumed the role of his betrothed, they’d likely hang him on the city wall.  

Even so, there was a part of him that wanted to run forward and tell him who he was, to grab his hand and thank him, to reach out and ease that little crease between his brows as the others spoke to him. So much of their little time together had been filled with Luffy’s laughter and smiles- it seemed wrong to him that now he could finally see the khan’s face, he was looking so serious.  

The hallway suddenly felt far too narrow, and he pushed himself up against Penguin as the trio passed them. He was still close enough to Luffy for their sleeves to brush, and for a moment the khan turned to look at him.  

Their eyes caught, and Law felt his heart stutter to a stop in his chest.