The night was calm aboard the Going Luffy-senpai, Law noted with relief, as he stepped out onto the deck.
He had fled the noisy company of Luffy and the Barto-Club right after dinner, withdrawing to the infirmary to at least try and catch up on some sleep. For hours he had lain in the dark on the bed and listened as the shenanigans of the Strawhat Captain and his fan club quieted gradually until silence lay over the ship. Sleep, as always, had not come easily to him. And when he had finally felt himself drift off into unconsciousness, he had been greeted with the blood-smeared faces that had haunted his nightmares for well over a decade.
Pulling the door to the infirmary shut behind him, Law walked over to the railing. After the nightmares he could never stand to stay in bed. It always felt as if the sheets were trying to strangle him, wrapping around his limbs, his torso, his neck - like Doflamingo’s cursed strings.
Leaning onto the railing, Law greedily breathed in the cool nighttime air and stared at the inky black waves below.
The going was smooth and quite honestly, he felt relieved at that. After the disaster with the hail and the chewing gum, he didn’t trust these idiots to steer the ship through so much as a light drizzle. Even now he could see the guard snoozing in the crow’s nest. It would take a miracle to get them to Zou safely.
Law sighed heavily.
The Strawhats have left nothing but miracles in their wake.
His words to Doflamingo had held true, he reflected, and felt his thoughts drift back to Dressrosa.
They had won, albeit narrowly. As always, Luffy had saved the day, beating Doflamingo to within an inch of his life in his ridiculous gigantic bouncing Gear 4th form. While Law had lain helplessly, waiting to see if he and his ally would live or die at the Shichibukai’s hand, together with all the inhabitants of Dressrosa trapped in the birdcage. Although, unlike the others, Law was sure that Doflamingo would have given Luffy and himself … special attention. He almost had, when Law had been chained to the Heart Seat and -
Cursing, Law shook his head and ran a hand through his hair. He did not need to think about that. If he dwelt on all the gruelling thoughts of what might have been, he was sure that he would lose it. Every time he imagined those parasitic strings wrapping around his limbs, his neck, cutting off his blood flow, manipulating his muscles, grazing his skin... He could see thin trickles of blood run down his wrists, his fingers, his neck, could almost feel the pain sear through his body. So easily could he have ended up a powerless puppet, forced to do every one of Doflamingo’s twisted biddings. And knowing the man’s sick urges and sadistic nature, Law could see himself even now, forced to surrender to Doflamingo's every whim, stripped bare, bleeding, forced to mutely endure the pain , inflict it on himself, while Doflamingo stands by, laughing, pleasuring himself -
A cold panic spread through Law, clutching at his insides, twisting his stomach. He barely had time to bend over the railing before sickness overwhelmed him, tremors wrecking through his body.
Still hanging over the railing, Law watched his dinner disappear into the depths of the sea.
Dragging his hands across his face, Law tried to force his trembling limbs to still, his breathing return to normal.
It was no surprise that the disaster on Dressrosa had left his mind even more shattered than it had been before, but he had not expected to be fucked up enough to be overwhelmed by panic attacks. The feeling wasn’t unfamiliar - he’d had them after Flevance, for a while, until his pain and grief had turned to hatred. And again after Minion Island, until he had decided to dedicate his life to accomplishing Cora-san’s goal of taking down his brother.
But now - now there was nothing to work towards. His life had centred on defeating Doflamingo for so long ... He had achieved his goal, and once more Law felt adrift on the same sea of panic and despair as all those years ago.
Beneath him, the quiet black waves lapped against the side of the ship. Calm. Powerful. Absolute.
There was nothing tethering him any more. His family was still dead. Cora-san was still dead.
Law leaned forward several more inches and watched as the dark surface of the sea tilted towards him. His shaking limbs stilled and his breathing evened out.
Just a little further.
Law’s eyes widened and his heart gave a deafening thump when he felt the floor slip underneath his shoes.
Cursing, he jerked back from the railing, stepping backwards until his back hit the cabin wall. The trembling returned with a vengeance and he let himself slide to the floor against the cold wood.
What the fuck am I doing?! The thought echoed around his mind and he held his head in his hands as he tried to focus. This is not what they would have wanted. Not what Cora-san would have wanted.
Even after all this time, Law’s heart clenched painfully when he thought of the goofy blond man who had given his life for him. No, never in a million years would Cora-san have wanted him to do this to himself. But to be fair, he probably also wouldn’t have wanted Law to go on a crusade against his older brother. Knowing Cora-san, Law supposed that he had envisioned a very different future for him as he lay in the snow, pierced by the bullets from his brother’s gun. Law running as far from Doflamingo as possible. Finding a kind family to take him in. Going to school, to university, becoming a doctor. Meeting a nice girl. Marrying. Having children. Being happy.
Law snorted in derision and looked out across the sea.
Happiness was a foreign concept to him. It had been since -
What the hell was that?
Jumping up, Law stared intently into the distance, instantly alert. There - something was there! In the dark night, lit only by a few stars peeking out behind the clouds, something was materializing. It looked like a white mass, like a cloud or a dense fog, hovering over the surface of the sea. How far away, Law couldn’t tell - but it seemed that whatever it was, it was getting closer.
All thoughts of introspection forgotten, Law shot to his feet. Racing across the ship, he knocked on doors, woke the dozing guards, roused the captain, the crew - anyone who was not too drunk to lie passed-out on the deck.
Despite Law's best efforts, several minutes passed before everyone was standing along the starboard railing. In the interim, the mysterious white mass had come closer still and was now only a mile or so away.
Law was looking at the captain expectantly, but Bartolomeo just tilted his head at the approaching thing.
"No idea," he eventually said, scratching his chin,
Growling with frustrated rage, Law drew a hand across his face and settled for glaring at the idiot captain, rather than cut him into little pieces. Antagonizing their allies would not do just now, even if they were fucking morons.
"I suppose we could always snailphone-call -" one of the Barto-Club started. Despite his best intentions, Law felt his control on his temper slipping.
"It’s a rainbow mist."
All heads flew around to look at Luffy, who was leaning against the railing behind Law, looking out across the water with bleary, sleep-filled eyes.
"It’s a what?" Law probed, not sure whether Luffy actually knew what he was talking about, or randomly spouting nonsense.
Feeling his fellow-captain’s testiness, Luffy seemed to rouse himself a little more. "It’s a rainbow mist," he repeated. "I’ve seen it before. It’s kind of like a normal fog, but it messes with time. And with space too. It’s much bigger on the inside and it’s like there’s a different place with lots of ships that all sailed in there and couldn’t find back out."
At Luffy’s jumbled explanation, Law’s eyes widened and a distant memory of a book he’d read once came back to him. Of disruptions in the time-space continuum on the Grand Line that manifested themselves as paradoxical mists and bore unknown dangers, but supposedly also unheard-of treasure. No concrete information was known, because everyone who tried to find out more invariably vanished.
After a brief moment of shock, Law turned to Bartolomeo. The green-haired man was currently squirming in admiration of Luffy’s extensive knowledge of the unusual phenomena on the Grand Line. "We have to get going!" Law barked, brutally suppressing the impulse to dismember the idiot. "I have no intention of getting sucked into that thing, so you’d better -"
"I wanna go in!"
For the second time that evening, everyone turned towards Luffy.
The Strawhat Captain was fully awake by now. He was standing at the railing, arms crossed in front of his chest, a manic grin on his face and a determined glint in his eyes.
Law felt his stomach drop.
"What did you just say?"
Luffy’s grin grew so wide it was anatomically impossible. "I wanna go in there! I’ve been in one of them before and it was fun! I wanna see if this one looks the same from the inside."
"Straw Hat-ya, this is dangerous!" Law hissed, ignoring the Barto-Club’s tearful joy at witnessing some more of their idol’s daring courage first-hand. "You have no idea how this works, what awaits you in there. It’s insane! We have to get to Zou -"
"Shishishi! Torao worries too much! It’s an adventure. Adventures are fun!"
Luffy only continued to grin at him, the Barto-Club cheered in the background and Law knew all of his protests were doomed.
Twenty minutes later, a little boat affixed to a long rope was floating beside the Going Luffy Sempai. The Straw hat Captain himself was sitting at the rudders, accompanied, to Law’s shock, by Robin. The archeologist had come onto the deck a little late, since she had been sitting in a small study room below deck, leafing through the Barto-Clubs meagre collection of books. She had emerged from the cabin, taken one look at the rainbow mist, and announced that she wanted to join her captain.
As he watched Luffy grab hold of the rudders and row towards the mist at mind-numbing speed, Law reflected that he should not have been surprised. After all - if this was a temporal paradox, who knew what ancient treasures were lurking in the white depths of the phenomenon. At least his allied captain now had someone sensible by his side when he would inevitably get into trouble. Law just hoped that it wouldn’t be anything too bothersome.
"You might want to go a little more slowly, captain. We can hardly see where we are going!" Robin suggested gently and Luffy eased his furious rowing. The mist had enveloped them by now and she could see only a few yards ahead. Looking at the coil holding the rope that connected them to the ship, she noted with relief that hardly a third of it had been used so far. The Barto-Club’s shipwright had assured them that, at their signal, he would activate the automatic pull-back mechanism and have them reeled back to the ship.
"Robin - I think there’s an island there!"
Looking up from the rope connecting them to the outer world, Robin peered into the thick mist and had to admit that Luffy was right. Not far ahead, the outline of what looked like a hill could be seen through the swirls of white. Excitement bubbled in her chest - this was why she loved being a Straw Hat pirate. "You’re right, captain. Shall we take a closer look?"
Luffy’s bright grin was answer enough.
Ten minutes later, they tied their little boat to the trunk of an old oak tree and stepped onto the snow-covered shore. It seemed like they had arrived at a winter island. Already when they had neared it through the fog, the temperature had dropped sharply and Robin had wished she’d thought of bringing a warmer jacket. The Strawhat captain, however, showed no sign of being cold - burning as he was with a desire for adventure.
So it was an even bigger surprise when Robin looked up from tying the rope to find Luffy staring out onto the sea pensively.
"What is it, captain?"
Luffy scratched the back of his head, an almost comical look of puzzlement on his features. "Dunno. Just different from last time, I guess. Last time the fog was everywhere - now it’s just over there. And this time there’s an island. There wasn’t one before."
Following the young captain’s gaze, Robin looked at the rainbow mist, sprawling as it did for several hundred yards along the coast of the island. But Luffy was right - rather than enveloping the whole island, it stopped just before the beach. The island itself lay under a clear black, moonless sky.
"I suppose every rainbow mist is different." She concluded eventually.
His temporary thinking fit over, Luffy just nodded enthusiastically. "Yeah Robin - you’re right. Let’s explore this place!"
It took them no time at all to climb the little slope that separated the beach from the main plain of the island. When they reached the top, they stopped in their tracks. Frozen in place, they stared at the scene before them.
The island was small, even by Grand Line standards. There was only one main hill and a few houses, but what was stunning, was that many of those were on fire. Gunshots and cries of pain and distress echoed in the distance and the air was heavy with smoke and the smell of blood. A battle was no doubt being fought somewhere close.
Luffy’s childish enthusiasm had evaporated and he was looking at the island with a grim expression on his face.
"We have to be careful." Robin insisted quietly. She knew her captain well and was aware that he would not be turning back yet - even if that would have been the sensible option. But the situation in which they found themselves was far more perilous than she had estimated.
Much to Robin’s relief, they did actually proceed carefully.
Hardly saying a word, they walked towards the center of the island, wary of being observed. Not that they encountered anyone alive who could have observed them. Soon they came across bodies strewn across the ground, their blood dying the snow crimson. Sightless eyes stared up at them and Robin clenched her fists, trying to fathom why these men had died here, why they had fought. They all wore civilian clothes, but going by the tattoos some of them sported, she would have guessed that they were pirates. Two rival crews contending over treasure maybe?
Tearing her eyes away from the lifeless features of yet another battle victim, the archeologist looked at the advancing back of her captain. She could see the tension in his shoulders, the seriousness he radiated. All this carnage probably reminded him of Dressrosa, just like it did her.
They had walked another few hundred yards and were standing in front of the ruins of a big mansion when cannon fire suddenly tore through the night. Going by the volume of the explosions and the way in which the ground shook ever so slightly, even as a red light shone over the tree tops ahead of them, the heart of the battle was close.
"We should go back!" Robin urged.
The Straw Hat captain was standing a few paces ahead of her, staring grimly into the direction of the fight.
"We’re still inside the rainbow mist!" The archaeologist pressed. "This is not our fight. And we promised the others we’d be back. You promised Trafalgar."
Luffy continued to stare for a moment, but at the mention of his ally’s name, he sighed an nodded reluctantly. Robin knew that it went completely against her companion’s instinct to turn his back to a battle, but she was glad he could see her point. Looking over his shoulders towards the fire-red glow in the sky, her captain began to walk back towards her -
- only to trip over something.
Windmilling for a moment, Luffy managed to catch himself and turned around to see what had made him stumble.
"Robin!" he cried immediately and his crewmate hurried forward.
Eyes widening, Robin stared down at a tall figure lying on the ground, half-covered by the fresh snow.
Messy blond hair, vibrant makeup, a dark red hood and a coat of black feathers framing his body. And a shirt soaked with blood from innumerable bullet-wounds.
Luffy was staring at the man with grim determination and understanding and Robin almost flinched at the expression on her captain’s face. Fury and grief and compassion were warring on the young man’s features.
"We’re taking him." Luffy ground out eventually, bending down to wrap his arms around the corpse.
Robin started. "Do you know him? Who is this?" She asked, puzzled.
"Mingo’s brother." Luffy hissed from behind clenched teeth.
But before Robin had time to get over her shock and ask how Luffy knew that and , if it was true, why he would want to take the corpse of his defeated enemy’s brother, something else happened.
The corpse groaned.
It was low and barely audible, but when Luffy lifted his battered body off the icy ground, the man gave a moan of pain and a small mist of breath danced in front of his mouth.
Luffy and Robin were both immobile for a moment.
"Let’s go!" Luffy shouted, lifting the injured man’s body and racing back towards their boat.
Law was leaning against the railing, staring at the rainbow mist in front of them. It still seemed as thick and impenetrable as it had for the past hour. So at least there seemed to be no danger of it suddenly disappearing and taking Luffy and Robin with it. Still, he wished that the mysterious archeologist and the her annoying captain would return soon, so that they could resume their journey to Zou.
After his earlier panic attack, he found himself longing for his own crew, his submarine, for Bepo’s warm fur and the familiarity of his cabin. He wanted to get off this mad ship. He wanted some peace and quiet to deal with whatever shit was going on in his head. He wanted to rest against his navigator after having taken a more than generous dose of sleeping meds and antidepressiants, washed down with a glass of bourbon - and fuck the side effects. If he overdosed accidentally, Shachi and Penguin could always pump his stomach.
His thoughts were interrupted when there was a shout from the shipwright, who had been sitting beside the coil that held the end of the rope affixed to Luffy’s and Robin’s boat. Law strode across the deck and saw that someone was tugging at the rope - the agreed-upon signal. With a shout of relief, the shipwright pushed a lever and immediately the coil began to wind back the rope, effectively reeling in the little boat - and hopefully both members of the Strawhat crew.
"Oh no! Captain! Captain!" a panicked cry came from the railing.
Bartolomeo stormed across the deck and Law looked around. His heart fell.
As if the rainbow mist, like a sentient beast, knew that they were trying to take something from it, it suddenly reared into life. The milky swirls of mist began to slither through the night - and to disperse. Before their eyes, the mighty white mass diminished, edges bleeding into nothingness, vanishing like whips of smoke.
"Faster!" Bartolomeo bellowed at his shipwright. "Go faster!!!"
The poor man pushed his lever for all it was worth, increasing the speed of the coil marginally.
All eyes were focussed on the quickly shrinking rainbow mist and the thin line of the rope - the only connection between the ship and the Straw Hat expedition. Tense seconds passed before a joyful shout rang down from the lookout.
"I see them!" the man in the crow’s nest, holding a pair of binoculars, announced happily.
Law strained his eyes and a few heartbeats later, he too could make out the outline of a boat and blurry figures in the mist. It was rapidly nearing the ship, but was it fast enough?
The silence on deck was absolute for several seconds - only the grating of the fast-spinning coil tore through the darkness.
Then, the little boat shot out of the mist, into the clear night air and cheers broke out across the deck.
Law let out a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding and ignored the happily crying Bartolomeo beside him. Relief spread through his chest and a small smile threatened to appear on his face - it was good to know that Luffy was safe. It would have been inconceivable to lose him now, after everything they had been through together. But -
Law looked away from the boat still shooting towards the ship and back to the rainbow mist, which was even now vanishing into thin air. In a few moments, nothing would remain of it.
- it had been another extremely close call.
Unexpected coldness clutched at Law's heart at the thought of losing Luffy to this weird tempo-spatial paradox. His heartbeat thundered in his ears. Stomach lurching, Law closed his eyes and forced himself to breathe deeply. They’re back. Everything is alright. He’s here. He’s alive and he’s here. He’s alive and he’s here. He’s alive and he’s here. Over and over he repeated the words in his mind until the swelling wave panic threatening to overwhelm him started to ebb away.
Finally, his breathing evened out again and his heart rate slowed to an acceptable pace. Then, his eyes flew open in shock as realisation dawned what had just happened.
Being relieved that his allied pirate captain hadn’t just died was one thing. Coming apart at the seams and almost going into a full-blown panic attack at the mere thought that said captain could have been lost was something entirely different.
Staring straight ahead at the last dissipating wisps of rainbow mist, Law’s emotions were still raw enough that he recognised the feeling.
"Oh fuck!" he breathed.
Without realising it until now, he had -
"Who is that?!"
"Trafalgar - we need a doctor!"
Several urgent shouts from across the deck tore Law from his thoughts and for a moment, he looked around, disoriented.
While he had been occupied with his inner struggles, the small boat bearing Luffy and Robin had seemingly reached the ship. The two Straw Hats were standing on deck and waving him over forcefully. Something was off. A gaggle of Barto-Club members were standing around someone lying on the hard wooden planks of the ship. Law could make out the prostrate form from where he was still convulsively clutching the railing. Was someone hurt? Or had one of the fanboys finally passed out from excitement?
But then Luffy’s urgent expression and Robin’s words registered. We need a doctor.
Personal issues once more forgotten, Law shot to his feet and crossed the deck in a few long, swift strides, already mentally preparing to use his powers. No matter what shit he was going through, how fucked up his mind was, he was still a doctor and he was still capable of helping people -
"Step aside!" He ordered briskly in his cold professional manner. Instantly, Bartolomeo’s crew jumped out of his way, finally revealing the patient.
In a split second, time froze and the rotation of the earth slowing to a crawl as the universe converged on Law and the man before him.
Black feathers framed the tall man’s figure and chunks of ice clung to his clothes. Against the pallor of his face, dark red and vibrant blue makeup stood out starkly, smeared by melting snow.
If Law had been a lesser man, he might have hesitated too long, might have remained frozen, unable to act. As it was, the how and why did not matter to him and only one word left his lips.
Wow! Thank you so much for all your wonderful comments! :D I'm really thrilled by the feedback! Here's the next chapter. ;)
It was late at night when Strawhat Luffy made his way to the infirmary.
Dinner in the Barto-Club’s kitchen had just ended and it had been a raucous affair as usual, with lots of laughter, dirty jokes, songs that would have made Nami groan and Chopper blush - and of course lots of food. Luffy sighed and thought of dinner on the Sunny - he missed Sanji’s cooking! The Barto-Club’s cook was good and always strove to outdo himself now that Luffy was on board, but he was no match for Sanji’s ingenious rafinesse when it came to creating ever-new dishes for the Strawhats.
Heaving another heavy sigh, Luffy brought his thoughts back to his present objective - checking on Torao. The captain of the Heart Pirates hadn’t been at dinner. Again. In fact, Luffy had hardly seen his allied captain since he'd briefly emerged from the infirmary days ago to announce that his seventeen-hour marathon surgery had been successful - that the man Luffy and Robin had pulled from the rainbow mist would probably live. Ever since, Law had hardly left his bedside, waiting until he would awaken. Meals had been sent to the infirmary periodically and brought back to the kitchen barely touched, together with reports that Law looked closer to death than his patient, pale from a lack of sleep and an excess of worry.
Much as it went against his instincts, Luffy had understood that Torao needed space - time alone with the person who meant so much to him. But days had passed and from the sound of it, Torao needed someone to check on him. And they were nakama after all.
Luffy reached the infirmary and frowned. The door stood ajar, a beam of light falling into the darkness of the corridor. Carefully stepping closer, the Strawhat captain saw that Law - surprisingly - wasn’t with his patient.
The blonde man was alone, lying stretched out on an infirmary bed which had been hastily modified by the Barto-Club’s resident craftsman to fit his too-tall frame. His messy, matted hair was held back by a hairband to keep it away from the bandage on his cheek, where a bullet had grazed him. In the dim light of the infirmary, his skin looked shallow and pale - no wonder after all the damage he had suffered.
But where was Torao?
Turning his attention away from the unconscious man in the infirmary, Luffy turned to look for his friend.
He did not have to go far.
Taking a few steps down the corridor, Luffy’s eyes adjusted to the darkness and he saw the Surgeon of Death sitting on the floor, leaning against the wall, hidden by the half-open infirmary door. His knees were drawn up to his chest and his head was resting firmly in his hands.
Luffy frowned, picking up on on a current of despair with his observation haki. Quietly, he moved over to Law and squatted down beside him.
When the older man did not move or speak, the Strawhat pirate decided to take the first step.
"So he still hasn’t woken up, huh," Luffy observed evenly.
Law still did not move and his reply was muffled by the hands covering his face. "He’s about to, I think. Vitals are up. Murmured something before."
Luffy’s face scrunched up in confusion at the surgeon’s words. Then what was the problem? For days Torao had seemingly been terrified that his patient was not going to survive after all, hovering as he had been on the edge between life and death. And now that it looked as if everything was going to be alright, he was sitting out here.
"Then what -" the younger pirate began to ask, but Law cut him off sharply.
"He doesn’t know me!" the captain of the Heart Pirates snapped, looking up at last. He glared at Luffy through eyes filled with misery. "The last time he saw me, I was 13. I’ve changed. Become someone different. And not in the way he wanted - I don’t think he’d like - he wouldn’t -" Breaking off again, Law dragged his hands across his face once more and fell silent.
Luffy stared at the man beside him, understanding slowly dawning on him. It was rejection he feared.
Law looked terrible. He hadn’t eaten properly for a week - nor had he slept much. His skin was paler than usual and the dark ink of his countless tattoos stood out starkly, as did the many bruises he’d sustained on Dressrosa. And that was only the visible damage that had been done to his body. Luffy had always felt that Law’s sharp tongue and harsh exterior concealed some sort of pain - and after overhearing Law’s conversation with Doflamingo on Dressrosa, he was sure of that. Luffy had actually been very much reminded of Ace when he’d first met him as a kid.
But if this man that Law obviously cared for so much also cared for him in return -
"He won’t mind," Luffy asserted firmly.
A mirthless laugh echoed from behind Law’s hands. "I think he might - what with him being a Marine and all. And having given his life so that I wouldn’t have to become a pirate," he snapped sardonically, lowering his hands and glaring at Luffy.
In return, Luffy stared. "Wha - Mingo’s brother was a Marine?"
Law sighed and looked away. "He was a spy. After Doflamingo killed their father, he was raised by Sengoku. Later he infiltrated the Donquixote family. It’s how we met."
Not saying anything, Luffy only gave a curt nod. It was obvious that telling him this was bringing up painful memories for Law. He knew how his ally felt - he himself had never talked to his crew about the war at Marineford and Ace’s death. However, Luffy’s silence seemed to encourage Law in his explanation.
"I was young and stupid - and dying. And to save me, he dragged me across the North Blue from hospital to hospital, and eventually stole the Ope Ope Fruit from Doflamingo when it became apparent that it was my only hope. His brother killed him for that."
Luffy’s heartbeat echoed in his ears and his muscles tensed instinctively. Dying? Torao had almost died back then? For a second, the scene in front of the Colosseum in Dressrosa flashed across his mind. At the sight of Doflamingo’s bullets piercing Torao’s chest a despair more powerful than any he had known since his brother’s death had torn at his soul.
"Why were you dying?" he asked, voice tight.
Silence echoed through the corridor and as the moments passed, the darkness seemed to press in more and more oppressively on them. Luffy hardly breathed, afraid that he had pushed Law’s boundaries too far.
"I was born in Flevance," Law muttered eventually.
The hand that had concealed his face fell limply to his side as if in defeat and he let his head fall back against the wooden wall of the corridor with a soft thump. Heavily, he glanced over at Luffy, searching for any kind of recognition in his face.
But the captain of the Strawhats was looking back in puzzlement at the sudden shift in demeanour.
Sighing heavily, Law continued in a shaky voice. "It was a city in the North Blue. Wealthy because of a rare metal found in the area. The world government encouraged its mining, even though they were fully aware that it was highly toxic. When the people started dying in masses from decades of accumulated poisoning, the government did not want their perfidy to become public. Instead they invented a contagious disease. Under the guise of epidemic containment, they burnt the city to the ground. I escaped, but the poison was still killing me."
Luffy’s lips were pressed into a thin line, rage simmering under his skin as memories of a burning trash yard in Goa pushed to the forefront of his mind unbidden. Him and Ace and Dadan trapped. Smoke tearing at his lungs, the heat clawing at his skin. Desperate cries for help from the dying poor who were enclosed by fire in their huts. It seemed that the government did not mind burning people who were inconvenient to them anywhere they pleased.
"And the fruit cured you?" Luffy asked in a low voice.
Grimacing, Law hesitated in his answer. "It gave me the ability to cure myself," he responded eventually.
By the tightness of his friend’s voice, Luffy judged that it couldn’t have been a pleasant experience. For a moment he imagined Torao having to cut into his own body to scrape poison from his flesh - but quickly stopped before he went too far down that train of thought. Otherwise he might just strike down the world government out of rage.
Instead, the Strawhat captain gave a relieved sigh and then flashed his trademark grin at his friend. "I’m glad you’re OK now!" he exclaimed, slinging an arm around the other man and pulling him to his side.
And he truly was!
Ever since their first encounter on Sabaody, Luffy had been fond of the Surgeon of Death. Fighting those Marines together in front of the auction house had been awesome! And then he had saved him at Marineford! The joy that had soared through Luffy when he had unexpectedly met the captain of the Heart Pirates again on Punk Hazard, had warmed him enough to make him forget the blizzard raging around them at the time. When the other pirate had suggested the alliance, Luffy had jumped at the opportunity with glee. And after everything that they had gone through since, he couldn’t imagine just letting Torao go like any other of the people the Strawhats had met and fought with during their adventure so far. Impossible to imagine what his life would be like if Torao had died!
Law, however, had tensed up completely beside him and when Luffy glanced over at him, he found his friend staring at him with an uncharacteristic mixture of dawning comprehension and shock.
A second later, the moment was broken by a quiet moan of pain echoing into the corridor from the open infirmary door.
Law started, eyes wide, and half-rose from the floor before freezing in place. For several heartbeats, the Surgeon of Death stood still as a statue. Then he screwed his eyes shut, dragged his hands across his face and sank back to the floor with a groan. Every muscle in his body was clenched tightly and it was obvious that he was fighting a furious inner battle.
Looking at his friend, Luffy pressed his lips into a thin line and lowered his head so that the brim of his hat obscured his eyes. He understood. Torao wasn’t ready to face the man in the infirmary.
Without another word, Luffy rose and made his way past Law into the room behind them - but not without taking off his straw hat and placing it on his friend’s head in passing.
A quiet groan ripped Luffy from his thoughts and his eyes snapped to the unconscious man beside him. Or rather - the formerly unconscious man. For slowly, slowly, the patient’s eyes were fluttering open.
The Strawhat captain watched quietly as the man’s pupils slowly focussed, adjusting to the light after such a long time, and he became aware of his surroundings.
After a few moments, Luffy decided to make his presence known.
Smiling widely, he leant forwards, into the man’s field of vision. "Hello there!"
Obviously still under the influence of the sedatives and pain killers Law had administered, it took the man a moment to process the sudden appearance of a foreign face, but soon his eyes widened and his mouth opened, lips moving soundlessly for a few seconds.
"Where - Where’s Law?" he managed to croak out eventually.
Luffy pressed his lips together when he heard a faint sob from the corridor.
"He’s fine. Law’s fine," the young pirate answered quickly. "He’s on this ship!"
An exhausted smile spread across the man’s face at the news and he sighed in relief.
"What ship?" he asked after a moment, seemingly registering Luffy’s last sentence. "Not Marine," he added, looking at Luffy askance.
"No - don’t worry!" the captain of the Strawhats laughed warmly. "We’re pirates !"
The man’s eyes widened dramatically and Luffy suddenly remembered that Torao had told him this man had been a Marine spy. "But friendly ones!" he added hastily.
The man in the hospital bed looked unconvinced and was about to say something, but when he opened his lips once more, his voice broke and his words were drowned in a fit of coughing.
"Do you wanna drink something?" Luffy asked with concern.
When he received a quick nod as a response, he reached behind the huge man’s back and helped him sit up in bed. Reaching for a glass of water on the nightstand, he brought it up to the sick man’s lips and made sure his trembling hands did not spill its contents.
Once the glass was empty, Luffy added another pillow to his backrest and let him lie back down.
"You helped me. On Minion Island," the blond said after a while, looking at Luffy intently. In return, the young pirate smiled and nodded, pleased that the other man’s voice was already much steadier. It seemed that his resilience might equal his own.
"What happened? Why did you help me? How long was I unconscious? Where’s Doffy - I mean, Doflamingo?"
Luffy sighed, scratched the back of his head and looked at the man on the bed with uncharacteristic seriousness. He had hoped that Torao would be the one to do this, but it seemed that the man’s energy had returned and he was demanding answers.
"Everything is OK. You’re safe. We kicked Mingo’s ass on Dressrosa. The Marines have got him and are taking him to Impel Down."
Luffy’s words were met with a stunned silence and he watched as a range of emotions flashed across the other man’s face. At last, relief triumphed, and he slumped back agains his pillows.
"But there’s still a lot that you don’t know," Luffy added seriously.
Now the man’s expression furrowed again and he looked at the Strawhat captain questioningly.
"You’ve been out of it for a week. But it’s been much longer since you were hurt."
Luffy watched silently as the patient’s eyes widened once more and he gaped at him, trying to comprehend what he’d just said.
"But - But - How -?" he eventually stammered.
"There was a rainbow mist. That’s like a kind of fog that’s much bigger on the inside. And if you go in, time passes much slower than on the outside. Only this time it wasn’t full of ships that had gotten stuck, but there was an island. Robin says it was a kind of time bridge to the past. We went through it to explore and found you. I’d heard Torao - I mean Law - talk about you and when we saw you I knew it had to be you. So we brought you back. And Law operated on you. He saved you."
Wide-eyed, the other man stared at Luffy for a long time, slightly shaking his head in incredulty, trying to make sense of the somewhat jumbled explanation. The captain of the Strawhat pirates held his gaze, utterly serious.
Thankfully, the former Marine seemed to have sailed the seas long enough that his mind was used to the impossibilities of Grand Line phenomena bending natural laws. Beneath the sheer fear and confusion in his eyes, Luffy could see that he believed him.
The silence stretched for several minutes, to the point of being painful. But in the end, the other man’s mind seemingly hitched on the one thing Luffy had expected it would -
"So Law - Law’s -" he asked hesitantly.
"Grown up. " Luffy supplied with a grin. "He’s a man now - and an amazing one! You should have seen him kick Cesar’s ass! It was -"
The young pirate’s tirade, however, was interrupted. Unexpectedly, the injured man’s face crumpled and tears welled up in his eyes. Luffy leant back a bit, surprised at the impact his words had had.
In an imitation of Law’s posture in the corridor, the man on the bed drew his knees up to his chest and threw his head into his hands, murmuring to himself. "Fuck! Fuck! I promised - I promised I’d protect him. I promised - That I’d be there. That I’d - He must hate me."
"He doesn’t hate you!" Luffy interjected forcefully, at a loss for what else to do with another grown man curling in on himself in self-recrimination. He half-rose, gesturing helplessly.
As soon as he moved, however, the injured man spun around and grabbed his forearm - faster than normally possible from someone who’d spent the last week in a coma after being shot a dozen times.
"Please!" he begged, holding onto Luffy’s arm tightly enough to bruise, tears in his eyes. "Please - I have to see him, I have to - I want to say sorry - I -"
Luffy could only stare back, unsure what to do with the distraught man in front of him.
Both Luffy’s head and the patient’s snapped around when a low voice spoke in the doorway.
Law was standing before them, pale and shaking, worrying the brim of Luff’s straw hat with one of his hands. For a moment, Luffy was struck by the contrast of his appearance now to the first time he’d seen him on Sabaody - reclining cooly in his seat in an auction house surrounded by Marines with an Admiral on the way after he had watched a Celestial Dragon being struck to the ground.
The blond man’s fingers fell limply from Luffy’s wrist and he stared at Law, tears streaming from his eyes.
Gritting his teeth against his emotions, Law shifted uncomfortably and hung his head.
"Cora-san, I -" he started.
A second later, Law’s sentence was cut off when the man he had just addressed launched himself out of bed and across the room, enfolding the dreaded Surgeon of Death in a bone-crushing embrace.
His momentum carried them both backwards until they slammed into the wall of the infirmary, sending several boxes of gauze tumbling from the nearest shelf. But neither truly seemed to care. The huge man’s hands were wrapped tightly around Law and he’d bent over to bury his face in the pirate captain’s hair. Law, in turn, was trembling and clinging onto the man before him as if for dear life, his face hidden in his shoulder.
Luffy grinned at the pair and slipped from the room unseen.
Chapter 3: Attacks and Revelations
I'm back you guys! I'm really sorry for the long wait - I was pretty seriously ill for a while and then I was trying to catch up on life and never really had time to continue the story. Thank you so much for all your comments - I love hearing your opinions!
So here we go - the events of this chapter are based partly on the filler episodes after Dressrosa, where Luffy and Bartolomeo get captured by members of the Silver Pirate Alliance.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
"Cora-san" Law breathed, his face buried in the taller man’s chest, fingers clawing into the fabric of the hospital gown the Barto-Club’s doctor had produced for him. It felt odd to be hugging the man without the thick coat of black feathers enveloping the two of them. The memory of being tiny and shrouded in black softness was still fresh on his mind, and for a moment it felt as if no time had passed at all.
"Law," Cora responded shakily and the the younger man felt a huge hand come to rest at the back of his head. At any other time the idea of a grown man stroking his hair like a little kid’s would have ben absolutely ludicrous - any attempt of the sort would have ended, without doubt, in a few lost limbs. But this, this just felt right. And safe. And Law both loved and hated how easy the casual intimacy came to the both of them.
He was a grown man, for fuck’s sake. A pirate! And not just any pirate - a Shichibukai. He was the Surgeon of Death. He was dreaded across the Grand Line. And he - he was not going to cry!
"I’m so, so sorry," Cora-san grated out, his voice trembling, hugging Law even more tightly.
Not trusting his own voice, Law just shook his head mutely against Cora’s chest. He was the one who should be apologising. If it hadn’t been for him, Cora-san would never have abandoned his mission. Would never have stolen the Ope Ope fruit. Would never have been shot. Would never have died! Dressrosa would never have-
Closing his eyes against the threatening tears, Law pressed his lips into a thin line. Misery seemed to follow him wherever he went, and he should be the one apologising for dragging Cora-san into the mess that was his life. There was still so much that Cora-san didn’t know - about his being a pirate, a warlord, a criminal. Just the thought of telling him had panic clawing at Law’s heart.
Suddenly, cannon fire tore through the quiet infirmary.
Both Corazon and Law jumped back, instantly alert as the booming sound of battle echoed through the room and the ship began to rock dangerously.
"Stay here!" Law snapped at Corazon, before storming out of the room and towards the deck. He was going to murder the Strawhat idiot if he’d managed to pick a fight. Now out of all times!
"Mugiwara-ya!" he barked in irritation as he emerged onto the deck, banging the wooden door open without further preamble. A second later he had to dive to the side to avoid a projectile.
His shoulder connected painfully with the deck and he rolled over, barely registering the odd sort of slurping noise that the - cannon ball ? - made as it impacted on the deck where Law had stood against mere seconds before.
"It’s sticky!" a familiar voice cried from across the deck in a strangled sort of tone.
From his position on the floor, Law looked up only to see Luffy struggling against a white material that seemed to be gluing him to the deck. Fear thrilled through the Surgeon of Death as he realised that his ally had basically been incapacitated by the unknown substance.
After a moment of absolute terror, Law broke free from his trance and jumped into action, sprinting towards the railing to see where the new threat was coming from. His stomach impacted heavily on the wooden railing and knocked the wind out of him for a moment - damnit! He was still exhausted from the surgery on Cora-san and his following days of vigilance! Damn his incoordination when he was tired!
His eyes scanned the waves and instantly found the origin of the new threat. A few hundred yards away, several small boats - or were those jet-skis? - were floating on the waves, occupied by women holding bazookas. Another loud boom, followed by a splash and another dose of sticky white hit the deck, this time gluing Bartolomeo down.
Who the hell were those people? And why were they firing at them?
As if in answer to his unspoken question, a magnified voice rang out towards them from across the waves:
"Surrender now! We are capturing you for the glory of the Silver Pirate Alliance. Hand us Strawhat Luffy and Bartolomeo and we might consider letting the rest of you go!"
"Never!" cried Bartolomeo from his undignified position on the deck. The white substance had knocked him over backwards and his hands were stuck under his body - one under his bum, the other, for some unfathomable reason, jammed into his left ear.
Luffy too seemed to be swelling with anger in the white substance that enclosed him. "Just you wait until I get out of this goo!!! I’m gonna kick your ass, you -"
Another sound echoed across the deck - clumsy footsteps ascending the stairs, followed by a loud bang as the door to the cabins was thrown open so violently that it almost flew off its hinges. Law turned around, heart clawing up his throat, just in time to see Corazon stumbling onto the deck, holding his head as he’d seemingly bumped it against the too-low doorframe.
"Law -!" he started, looking out across the deck towards the petrified Surgeon of Death.
A second later, he was knocked to the ground, buried under under a sticky white mass.
Law’s vision began to flicker around the edges, static buzzing through his brain. Cora-san was in danger. Luffy was in danger. They were being attacked by bounty hunters. And no one who could conceivably help them was left standing. No one - except him.
Adrenaline flooded through him and the bone-deep exhaustion that had seemed firmly lodged in his limbs gave an indignant throb before it was pushed out of his body. In its stead, flaming range burnt in the pit of his stomach, energy shooting into the tips of his fingers.
His voice rang across the deck, strange and deep even to his own ears, but he did not heed it as turned back towards the railing, already aligning everything he wanted to move in his mind. He watched as the enemy gaped at the sight of his room expanding, encroaching towards their jet-skis. Before they could snap out of their confusion, it had fully encapsulated them, effectively throwing them at Law’s mercy.
And mercy he had none.
In the fraction of a heartbeat, the white mass that had pinned Corazon, Luffy and the others to the deck vanished. In the same instant, high shrieks of shock rang across the water as the sticky traps materialized out of nowhere, closing around the bodies of their makers.
But that was not all.
Appearing out of nowhere, a volley of cannon balls suddenly hailed down on the bounty hunters. Not fired physically, no - but left to fall from a height in the stead of particular molecules of air.
A cacophony of explosions echoed across the water and Law watched in gloating satisfaction as their enemies burned. Never again would they threaten the men he loved.
"Law?" an uncertain voice called to him from across the deck. It sounded much farther away.
"Torao are you alright?!" questioned another familiar voice, also sounding muffled and echoing as if reflected by a mountain range.
Tearing his eyes away from the destruction of their foes, Law turned and saw both Cora-san and Luffy approaching him carefully, worry in their eyes.
Of course I am fine. Stop looking at me like that.
He had not seen that expression of absolute terror on Cora-san’s face since the last time a hospital had kicked them out. And to see Luffy’s familiar features contracted in the same expression of fear and worry was just -
I am fine you idiots, Law wanted to admonish them, but he found his lips unwilling to part. Every single muscle in his body was taut and clenched in exertion and he found he could not move.
When, with herculean effort, he finally managed to wrench open his mouth to speak, no sound came forth.
With a start he realised that he was still holding his room. Concentrating hard, he released it, feeling the bubble of energy collapse and the innumerable atoms that he had held in his control being released from his bidding.
The tension in his body vanished with a flash, and he stumbled forward, coughing.
Two pairs of hands were on him in a second and he heard Luffy’s cry of "Torao!" ring in his ears, even though he could not see the younger captain. Once more he tried to speak, but when he parted his lips, blood trickled from his mouth and blackness encroached on his field of vision.
The first thing Law became aware of as he slowly drifted into consciousness was the feeling of someone gently touching him. Faint stirrings of confusion fogged through his half-awake brain.
What the fuck?
Law couldn’t remember what had happened to make him pass out, but everyone on the crew knew to leave him the fuck alone when he was unconscious unless they had a craving to lose several extremities. The only exception being if he was bleeding profusely after a battle and needed suturing. But since Law couldn’t currently feel a needle threading through his flesh, the first weak throbs of irritation pulsed through him.
There were fingers threading through his hair. And a foreign hand holding his, soft pressure and warmth on his fingers.
Sentimental idiots. Don’t need coddling. Going to disembowel them for a while.
Slowly, the disjunct melée of sounds that had been buzzing in his ears since he had started to wake came into focus. He could hear waves quietly lapping against the side of the ship, footsteps thumping across wooden planks overhead, the faint clatter of crockery from a distant kitchen. And two voices talking quietly next to him.
Waves? Wooden planks? A spike of confusion shot through Law before he realised that, obviously, he wasn’t on his submarine.
What the fuck has happened?
"- to this chair that looked like a big heart. Didn’t want me to let him out."
"Oh Law. Did he - did he hurt him?"
"Don’t know what he did to him. We kicked his ass in the end though. Torao was awesome."
The voices of the people next to him gradually gained in clarity and became intelligible as Law drifted further towards consciousness. As if seen through smoke and mirrors, memories began to swim to the forefront of Law’s mind. Of Punk Hazard. Of Dressrosa. Of Doflamingo. Jumbled and disconnected, but they were there.
We won. Joker defeated. On his way to Impel Down.
But what else? Something. Something important.
The starry night. The rainbow mist. The boat and Luffy.
Luffy and another miracle left in his wake.
A fierce pain cut through Law’s chest and he wanted to sob in relief and joy, but found that his exhausted body incapable of movement.
Cora-san was back!
Even though Law didn’t have the strength to wrench his eyes open, he could finally see himself, lying in the infirmary of the Barto-Club’s ship, with Luffy and Cora-san - Cora-san! - watching over him.
"- can probably explain it better. She’s really smart and everything. But we got you back out of the stupid mist and then Torao saved you. He operated on you for ages!"
Realising that he had missed out on some of the conversation that the two men sitting by his bedside were having, Law strained his mind, struggling against the leaden exhaustion weighing him down, and tried his best to pay attention to what they were saying.
"- and then again when those stupid bounty hunters attacked. But Torao kicked their asses too. He’s awesome."
"That room almost killed him," Law heard Cora-san murmur in a pained whisper. His heart clenched in painful memory of the other time he had been pretending to be asleep and had heard the man whisper in a similarly agonised voice. You were the one in pain all the time, Law! Back then, he’d realised for the first time just how much Cora-san cared about him, and his calloused heart had wept in joy. Now, the reminder of the man's all-encompassing love him sent another shock of joyous aching through him.
"He was scared for you," Luffy answered in an uncharacteristically serious voice. "When people fight for the ones they love, they don’t care that it can hurt them."
If he had been able to, Law would have grimaced. He knew all too well that the straw hat captain had more than enough personal experience with getting injured in the fight for a loved ones’ life. Unbidden, an image flashed across his mind - of the broken, battered, burned body he had heaved back from the brink of death after the battle of Marineford.
"I don’t know if he -" Cora-san began uncertainly.
"He does," Luffy cut in before the older man could voice his doubts. "I know he does - he fought in your name all this time. He wouldn’t have done that if he didn’t love you."
"I just - I never thought… He seemed to hate me for what I did to him. I told him in the end. And I meant it. God, I mean it. But there was never enough time… I-" Cora-san broke off and Law’s heart withered in his chest at the pain in the other man’s voice.
He could see the blond man's smile, goofy and gap-toothed, framed in vibrant red lipstick, could hear his words - Hey Law, I love you! - could feel the happiness surging through his 13-year-old self before the treasure chest snapped shut and all hopes of a happy ending, all chances for him to say it - Cora-san I love you too! - had died in a volley of gunshots.
"Trust me," Luffy said in the present with an air of finality and gravity that stood in stark contrast to his normal light-hearted demeanour. In his voice there rang the same seriousness as when he had said that he would bring down Doflamingo, the same unwavering certainty that he was stating facts.
Cora-san remained silent and Law could feel the hand that had been stroking his hair pause. A moment later, it moved to his free hand. Heart beating painfully against his ribcage, Law could feel Cora-san caressing his fingers, tracing the lines of the letters tattooed into his skin.
"When did he get these?" the older man asked, changing the subject.
When he answered, Law could hear the fondness in Luffy’s voice and his heart gave a heavy thump again, though for an entirely different reason. "I dunno. He had them when I met him. Pretty cool, right? He has one on his back too. I think they’re awesome."
Awesome. Luffy seemed to use that word a lot in relation to him.
Apparently, Cora-san had noticed that too. "You’re very fond of him," he said, and there was an edge to his voice that Law couldn’t quite place.
The Strawhat captain, though, seemed entirely unaware of any deeper meaning behind the older man’s question. "I am!" he answered emphatically and though he could not see it, Law could hear the giant grin in his voice. "I love Torao too - he’s nakama. I’d die for him."
At those words, pain more potent than he would have believed possible seared through Law’s core. Luffy’s agonizing naiveté, his straightforward, unabashed proclamation, his un-fucking-believable ease in saying those words, the very words that had set Law upon a crusade that had lasted more than half his life, seemed to stab him more effectively than any blade.
"Law!" Cora-san’s worried voice cut through the tightness in his breast. It took him a moment before he realised that he must have given his conscious state away in response to Luffy’s words. A gasp. A twitch. He’d been too shocked to notice.
"Torao, are you awake?!" One of Luffy’s smaller hands grasped his shoulder firmly and shook him slightly.
Law suddenly craved the blissful oblivion of unconsciousness - he wanted to fall back into the dark, avoid this conversation, avoid any suspicion that he’d overheard what Luffy had said. But his treacherous body decided that now out of all times would be a good moment to resume its functionality. Without his consent, his eyes opened slightly, and the outside world swam into focus.
The first thing he saw were two faces lined with worry - both Luffy and Cora-san bending over him.
He blinked up at them slowly.
"Torao!" Luffy cried out happily, his trademark grin splitting his face. Beside him, Law could see Corazon dash the palm of his hand across his cheek, could hear a muttered Thank god! before the man he’d believed lost for so many years smiled down at him too.
The sight was almost too much to take and Law was swallowed in a wave of fondness and grief. Cora-san’s face looked just like it had been etched into his memories for thirteen years. The messy blond hair, the kind blue eyes, the wide smile. Only missing the vibrant makeup he had worn like camouflage while burrowing his way into the Family. As a kid, while being dragged from hospital to hospital all across the North Blue, he had wondered what the man would look like with his face bare, stripped of the blood red framing of his lips and the starburst around his eye. Sometimes, when his childish mind had almost believed the man’s fantasy of finding a cure for him, he had imagined what it would be like to live with him. No masks, no disguises, no unnatural colours marring either of their skins - an ordinary life. It had certainly been the bright hope that he’d been clinging to during those brief moments in the treasure chest when it had seemed like everything might still turn out alright.
And now -
Despite his earlier effort at concealing them, tears were sliding down Corazon’s face as he smiled down at Law. Still injured, but alive and there. And from what he had overheard, still just as ready to love Law and be claim him as family. It was Law who had changed, who had become twisted and warped beyond all hope of salvation. A pirate and criminal, who had pursued vengeance with the single-minded ferocity of a maniac for well over a decade.
But Cora-san knew him for who he was, what he was. From what he’d heard when he’d been hovering on the edge of consciousness, Luffy had told him.
And still the huge idiot was smiling at him like he had back then - like it would be alright.
Law felt utterly unworthy.
"I’m so glad you woke up!" Luffy exclaimed happily and Law’s gaze drifted towards his allied captain. "You looked really bad when you collapsed. I’m so happy you’re going to be alright."
Another impossibly bright grin. Another endearing idiot who was ready to lay down his life for him. Another man who’d said he loved him.
Another man of whose love he wasn’t worthy.
After Flevance, he had killed and maimend his way through the North Blue, unleashing his pain on the world, first by himself, then under the guidance of the Family.
Never had he been kind, never gentle to Corazon, not even when the man had been trying his utmost to save his life. Not until the very end when it hadn't mattered anymore.
Afterwards, he had continued on the same path, only veering slightly away from cruelty. This time seeking vengeance under the guise of righteousness for someone else. To complete Corazon’s mission, he had told himself, to avenge him. Not because he was under any illusion that it was what the man who had died for him would have wanted, but because Law felt it was what he deserved.
And when he had happened upon Luffy - he had tried to use him like nothing but another one of his tools. Not until the night of the rainbow mist had he realised that the straw hat wearing idiot had become so much more to him.
As waves of self-loathing swept through Law, he felt unconsciousness encroaching again, trying to pull him under. Even the brief exertion of opening his eyes was adding to the weight of exhaustion that had enclosed his body like cement.
But there was one thing -
Law’s eyes snapped shut as he concentrated all his efforts into opening his mouth instead, convincing his lips to form words. When his voice came, it came as a grating whisper, barely audible, hardly intelligible.
"I … I love you too."
As he drifted off, exhausted by the effort of speaking, sinking with relief into the haze of sleep, the last sounds he heard were a puzzled gasp and a strangled sob.
I'd love to hear what you think! :)
Chapter 4: A Conversation Long Overdue
Guess who's baaaaaaaack! :)
It turns out that after a year of writer's block, all it takes is a single night of insomnia to finish drafting the plot of this story. I'm sorry if my writing is a little rusty - I still hope you enjoy this chapter! (I also edited the first three a little bit.)
In other news: I'm hoping to finish this story until the end of the year, now that I finally know where it is going!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Once more, consciousness assailed Law’s senses. The first time he had woken, he had slowly drifted awake, hovering on the edge of blackness while he’d overheard the conversation between Luffy and Cora-san. This time, it felt more like being jolted out of his notoriously light sleep on the Polar Tang by some sudden noise that he could never locate afterwards.
With a start, Law’s eyes snapped open and he was momentarily blinded by the bright light flooding into the infirmary of the Barto-club’s ship. It was day.
Vaguely, he registered that, though stiff and heavy, his body also felt rested. The leaden weight of exhaustion had lifted from his limbs and even his mind felt less strained than usual.
I must have slept, Law realised with blooming astonishment. He never slept when he’d fallen unconscious. Not after he’d been injured in battle, or had passed out from an excess of alcohol or sleeping pills. At best, his state of oblivion lasted until the chemical or physical cause that had caused it in the first place wore off. As soon as that was the case, he woke - and felt like shit for days afterwards.
What had happened? To make him feel so at peace to change such a fundamental feature of his being? To let his guard down so utterly?
"Law," a soft voice breathed to his right and he turned his head instinctively.
Sitting by his bedside, Cora-san was beaming at him. The man looked rumpled and tired, probably having sat up with him since he had lost consciousness again. Law’s eyes trailed across the older man, from his dishevelled hair and the exhaustion-darkened skin around his eyes, to the bandages on his chest, visible through the unbuttoned top of his shirt. Law’s eyes narrowed.
"Cora-san -" he began, irritated at how scratchy his voice sounded.
Although it hardly seemed possible, the older man’s grin widened at that. "Law! I’m so glad you -" he began, but was promptly cut off.
"When did you last have your bandages changed?!" Law hissed, glaring at the man by his bedside.
Eyes widening and grin faltering, Corazon looked down at his own chest. The bandages that Law had put onto him a few days ago were slightly grimy and, in a few places, stained with dry blood.
"Ummmmm -" the blond hummed, vaguely recalling a timid man approaching him with fresh rolls of gauze a few times during his vigil by Law’s bedside. The poor sod had promptly slunk away when he’d been on the receiving end of one of Corazon’s glares.
Groaning in frustration, Law drew a hand across his face and forced himself upright in bed. He had not saved this idiot’s life, with all of the impossibilities attached to the notion, just to have him die of fucking sepsis caused by filthy bandages.
"Law! Don’t!" Corazon exclaimed, panicked, when he saw the younger man sit up with a grimace. "I’ll get them changed in a moment - I promise! Just don’t - don’t overexert yourself!"
"You’re the one to talk," the Surgeon of Death grumbled, but relented. Not because he’d changed his mind, but because the world had begun to sway uncomfortably once he’d managed to sit upright. Instead, he shifted backwards slowly and leant against the headboard of the bed.
For a few moments, silence lay over the room and Law resolutely avoided looking at Cora-san. He couldn’t remember everything that had transpired during his momentary wakefulness, but he could remember what he’d - said.
I love you too.
If Cora-san hadn’t been sitting by his bedside, and if he’d been physically capable of it, Law would have buried his head in his hands, face flaming in embarrassment, and curled up into a tight, miserable ball of stunted emotional incompetence.
Instead, he avoided Corazon’s yes and held onto his neutral mask with a white-knuckled tenacity born of desperation.
"How long have I been out?" Law asked eventually.
"Fifteen hours," he heard the other respond.
Nodding mutely, Law internally sighed in relief. At least Corazon hadn’t sat up for days. The idiot still hadn’t recovered from his own injuries and yet there was no doubt in Law’s mind that he would have refused to leave his bedside. Dozens of medical staff fleeing from burning North Blue hospitals could attest to the fact that the blond man didn't take kindly to having his protectiveness tested.
"We were worried about you, Law," the older man continued. "When you collapsed on the deck like that, we thought for a moment that -"
"I had to do something to save you!" Law snapped, ignoring the blooming heat of shame at having worried Cora-san once more.
"But you didn’t have to exhaust yourself like that -" Corazon began, intent on arguing the point. And damnit if he didn’t sound like Law’s mother admonishing him over staying up far past his bedtime, studying medical books he’d snuck into his room. Only this wasn’t a matter of contraband reading material.
"Everyone else was incapacitated!" the captain of the Heart pirates ground out in growing anger, trying his best to suppress the memory of the terror he had felt in that moment out on deck.
"Damnit Cora-san!" Law snarled, finally turning to glare at the other man "I couldn’t watch you die. Not again!"
Corazon drew back as if he’d been struck, his face draining of all blood.
"Do you even know? What it was like?!", Law carried on, all the festering pain that had rotted away inside of him for years spilling out. "I heard you - every word, every gunshot. I felt the bullets hit you because you jerked back against the fucking treasure chest, you idiot."
Wide-eyed and ashen-faced, Corazon stared back at him. "I’m sorry," he whispered, stunned.
His volatile fury ebbing away, Law sank back into himself, feeling miserable for having hurt the older man once more. "It wasn’t worth it, Cora-san," he murmured wretchedly. "You dying. I wasn’t worth it."
A terrible silence pressed down on the room when Law’s agonised whisper died away.
Then, a gentle huff sounded trough the tension. Law’s eyes flickered over to the chair beside his bed and saw Cora-san smiling sadly at him. "That’s for me to decide, Law."
The fury that had died down but a moment before flared up again. "Is it?" Law asked sardonically, pain throbbing through him.
"It was my sacrifice!" Corazon insisted loudly.
"Oh was it?" Law bit back, losing his hold on his temper again. "Well look what your sacrifice bought. Thirteen years of suffering for Dressrosa! It took me thirteen years to take him down. And even then I was too fucking weak - it was Mugiwara-ya who beat him in the end!"
Cora-san had gone even paler than before. "I couldn’t let you die," he breathed.
"Well this is what life has made me," Law spat, disgust at himself drenching every word. All the fear, all the terror that that had paralysed Law at the thought of Cora-san seeing him for what he was, now burst forth in the guise of self-loathing.
Unshed tears were welling up in Cora-san’s red-rimmed eyes and once more, Law averted his eyes in shame.
"I know it’s not what you would have wanted," he muttered. "I just - I couldn’t let him get away. Not after what he did to you."
In the echoing silence that followed his confession, Law heard Cora-san take a few shaky breaths. Guilt boiled in his stomach.
"Law, you don’t understand," the blond man sighed. "I couldn’t let you die. You were just a kid. And those six months that we spent together. Travelling together. Going to all those hospitals -"
Law grimaced at the memory. Going to hospitals. Right.
"You became family, Law. I loved you like my own. And I couldn’t let you die. You are alive, don’t you see." Corazon choked out, grabbing a hold of the younger man’s hand. "And that’s all that matters to me. I love you! That’s still true, ya know?"
Law eyes snapped back to Corazon, but his hand jerked back as if he’d been burned. Self-loathing pulled his lips back into an ugly grimace as he glared at the man at his bedside.
"You loved me 13 years ago, Cora-san. You don’t know who I’ve become," Law snarled, feeling for all the world like a horrible, poisonous creature made up of claws and spikes.
To his absolute horror, Corazon barked a laugh at that. "Oh I think I got a pretty good snapshot! Luffy explained a lot. And Robin also stopped by and filled in a few blanks while you were asleep. Mr Surgeon of Death. Captain of the Heart Pirates. Warlord with a fearful reputation. I know all that."
Eyes widening, Law stared back at Cora-san, utterly taken aback.
"But you, Law, you haven’t changed," the other man carried on with a fond smile tugging at the corner of his mouth. "You’re still just as stubborn. And you’d like everyone to believe you’re so tough and cruel."
Corazon’s eyes were trained on Law, but it seemed he was looking right through him, into the past, at a frenzied, bitter ten year old wearing a suicide belt made up of grenades. Then he shook his head, tearing himself from his thoughts. A bright grin spreading on his face once more, he leaned forwards and ruffled the younger man’s hair.
"You’re still just a brat!"
Cora-san’s hand in his hair. Cora-san’s chuckling laugh. Cora-san’s impossibly bright grin. Cora-san’s love utterly shred him to pieces.
The first sob spasmed through his chest in a foreign, painful contraction. It was followed by another. And another. Like peals of thunder tearing through the night after a long-brooding storm finally broke. Tears burned in his eyes, insuppressible, overspilling, falling down his cheeks.
The hand in his hair stilled, then tightened. A moment later, the bed dipped as Corazon shifted his weight onto the mattress beside Law, pulling the younger man against his chest, holding him tight.
Moving of their own accord, Law’s fingers clawed themselves into Cora-san’s shirt, pulling the older man closer. Mortification be damned. He’d waited for this for thirteen years - since he’d stumbled away from Minion island in a fevered haze, his cries of despair silenced by a devil’s fruit until suddenly they weren’t anymore.
For long minutes, the silence in the infirmary was only broken by Law’s sobs.
Around them, life on the ship bustled on, unaware of the continental emotional shift that was happening in the Surgeon of Death on the lower decks.
Eventually, Law quieted.
Still holding the younger man close, Corazon spoke. "You are far more loveable than you think, Law," he said, gently nuzzling the soft hair on the top of his head. "I’m not saying you’re an easy person. Far from it. But you’re also loyal to a fault. And determined. Smart. Resourceful. Kind."
"I’m not kind," Law spat as if the last word had been an insult, fully aware that the venom in the voice wasn’t nearly as potent as usual, especially since he was still holding tightly onto Cora-san’s chest.
"You saved Dressrosa," the older man pointed out.
"I was avenging you," Law grumbled, embarrassed at how dramatic that sounded.
"You saved a bunch of children on Punk Hazard."
"That was the Strawhats’ idea!"
"You also saved Luffy’s life," Corazon argued, and Law didn’t have a retort to that. "From what Robin said, you burst into the middle of a war to save him. When he was your enemy still. After you’d known him for a few hours."
"It would have been … boring … to let such a rival die," was Law’s lame response. He could feel an uncomfortable heat rising up his neck and was suddenly glad that Cora-san couldn’t see his face. Even after over two years, he still didn’t fully understand what had possessed him when he’d ordered Bepo to direct the Polar Tang’s course towards Marineford.
"Oh yeah. Quite a rival! I heard how you met. Punching a celestial dragon in the face and breaking up a slave auction, eh? Sounds like one hell of a guy." Corazon glanced down at him and there was an amused sparkle in his eyes. "But my point still stands, ya know, Law? There’s good in you. And I love you. Always will, you stupid brat," the blond beamed, swatting Law’s head playfully.
The lid of the treasure chest was about to close.
" I love you too, Cora-san."
The words were out of his mouth before he knew he was about to speak. They’d been plaguing his nightmares for thirteen years, always at the tip of his tongue. Never making it past his lips. Never being heard.
But Law barely had time to consider just what he’d said before he was jerked back.
Corazon had spun around, holding Law by his shoulders at arm's length, staring at him with his mouth agape and his eyes wide. Like he had once before.
You called me Cora-san!
A second later, Law was pulled forward again, into a bone-crushing embrace.
"I’m so happy Law!" the older man exclaimed, beaming in elation, squishing the Surgeon of Death against his chest.
"Ah! You idiot! Mind your bandages!" Law snapped, not knowing what else to say. The dirty bandages he’d wrapped around the other man’s chest days before were pressed against his face so tightly that he could feel every thread. "Back off, moron - you’ll start bleeding again!"
Reluctantly, the blond pulled back, still grinning brightly and oozing happiness.
Law huffed, trying his best not break into a grin of his own, to keep what remained of his already tattered self-image.
"Where’s Mugiwara-ya?" he asked instead, changing the topic. He’d noticed the absence of the Strawhat captain as soon as he’d woken, but hadn’t had time to remark on it yet.
Much to Law’s annoyance, Cora-san huffed a quiet laugh in response at his question. "Having lunch," he answered. "He wouldn’t leave at first, but I insisted we could take turns watching you during mealtimes."
At this, Law’s lips twitched into a smile of their own accord. Although in all honesty, he was touched that the Luffy would even have foregone his beloved meat for his sake.
The glint in Cora-san’s eyes grew knowing at the look on Law’s face. "I like him, you know - Luffy."
Now it was Law who laughed. "Of course you would!" he commented, a slight sardonic undertone in his voice.
The blond man frowned at him. "What do you mean by that?"
Chuckling again, Law reflected on all the ways that the straw hat captain and Cora-san resembled each other. Their impossibly wide smiles. Both being bloody idiots. Both of them claiming him as nakama, despite his protests. And saving his life - again, despite his protests. Saying that they loved him with such excruciating sincerity.
"Nothing, Cora-san," Law responded eventually. "Mugiwara-ya is very likeable. That is all."
"You certainly seem to like him." And there it was again. That knowing glint in the other man’s eyes. And it annoyed Law to no end.
"He is an allied captain," the Law said flatly.
Cora-san only raised an eyebrow at him. "Law," he sighed, as if talking to a particularly obstinate child.
"What?" Law demanded, irritation spiking. "I like him well enough. Even if he’s incredibly annoying."
"And he never follows a plan."
"And he has no concept of personal space!"
"Law," Corazon pressed, chuckling. "You burst into a war and faced off an Admiral to save him."
"It was a whim!" Law growled back. "A spur of the moment thing!"
"That’s not like you."
"Just please - Cora-san," Law sighed, drawing a hand across his face. He was feeling utterly drained, riled up and yet exhausted. He’d already put himself through more emotional twists and turns in the last days than during the past thirteen years combined. He was not ready to face that as well. "Please just let it go."
"Alright. I’m just saying that I’d be happy for you, Law. If you two were -"
"Alright alright. I’m shutting up," Corazon conceded, still beaming at Law with a twinkle in his eye, clearly humouring the younger man. "Why don’t you tell me more about that crew of yours, eh?" he asked, clumsily changing the topic. "I heard something about a talking polar bear -"
And with that, mercifully, their conversation steered back into safe waters.
Let me know what you think, guys!
Chapter 5: A Call and an Admission
Wow! Thank you so much for all your comments. I posted the new chapter last night before dropping dead at 2 am. This morning, I was totally bowled over when I saw all the notifications.
Here's the next chapter. What can I say? Reviews are like jet fuel to my writing! ;)
Ed: I apologize for the repeats in the earlier version of this. I've had some real trouble posting this chapter because my internet is kinda shaky at the moment. I hope this has it fixed now!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Carefully ducking his head to avoid hitting it against the doorframe, Rocinante walked out of the cabin and onto the deck.
Momentarily, he was blinded by the bright sunlight and he had to raise a hand to shield his eyes. A magnificent, deep-blue sky stretched into the distance and white-crested waves reflected its luminous hue below. A gentle breeze ruffled his hair, carrying the sound of laughter from the crew scattered across the deck, and the salty tang of the sea. The sun was warm on the skin of his arms and his face.
It was another perfect day on board the Luffy Going Sempai.
It still felt utterly unreal.
Almost ten days had passed since Rocinante had been torn forward in time, through the mysterious Rainbow Mist. Every morning still found him waking in his makeshift bed in the infirmary, unwilling to open his eyes for several minutes, plagued by a deep-seated dread that the illusion would disappear with the bat of an eyelash, dissolving back into the snow-swept desolation of Minion island.
"Wohooooo! Cora-san come fish with us!!!"
Luffy was waving at Rocinante from where he was seated on the railing, holding a fishing rod, and flanked by a row of adoring Barto-Club members.
Huffing a laugh, Rocinante waved and shook his head. It was still odd to have anyone except Law call him Cora-san with such fondness. But apparently Luffy was set on using the nickname version of his old alias. Through gnashed teeth, Law had already told him that once the Strawhat captain picked a monicker for someone, that was what he stuck with. Torao he was to the younger captain, and Torao he would stay despite his protests, Law had lamented, his irritation badly masking underlying affection.
Over the past days, Rocinante had seen the two of them together more often than apart. The Strawhat captain had seemingly decided to permanently attach himself to his ally. And Law….well. He supposed that to anyone else it would appear that the captain of the Heart pirates was barely tolerating the other man’s presence. But Rocinante knew Law better than that - he could see the subtle shifts in the young pirate’s posture, the slight upward twitch of the corners of his mouth, the fond glint in the normally cold amber depths of his eyes, all of which betrayed his affection whenever the other was near.
Rocinante watched as Luffy grinned at something one of the Barto-Club had said, his inconceivably wide grin lightening the already bright atmosphere on the deck even further.
Law was smart, Rocinante reflected, but he was also such an idiot.
"Ah there you are," Law’s voice said behind him.
Flinching guiltily at what he’d been caught thinking, Rocinante turned around.
"I was looking for your in the infirmary - I thought you were resting up?" Law asked, and though his voice was neutral, Rocinante could hear the threatening edge to it.
He almost smiled but managed to catch himself. Law could be such a mother hen when it came to taking care of him. "I wanted some air. I was thinking about taking a deck chair and just enjoy the sun for a bit."
"Hmph," Law conceded, his eyes wandering across the deck to where a certain strawhat-wearing pirate was reeling in a fish.
Once more, Rocinante could see fondness softening his features. But something seemed to be off. An air of seriousness was hanging around Law and one of his hands was buried in the pocket of his jeans, nervously fingering something. Rocinante raised an eyebrow.
"I have something for you," Law said suddenly.
Instead of answering, the younger man withdrew an object from his pocked, holding it out to Rocinante.
A den den mushi.
It was a very grumpy and dishevelled-looking specimen - a side effect, Rocinante supposed, of being squished into the pocked of Law’s tight jeans.
"Ummmm, thanks," he said, taking the snail from Law. The younger man was looking away. "What are you giving this to me for?"
Still not meeting his eyes, Law shrugged uncomfortably. "I thought you might like to call someone."
Warmth bubbled in Rocinante’s chest. He knew the other man’s emotional awkwardness whenever he did something kind and was touched every time Law did something sweet for him.
"That’s very thoughtful, Law. I just really don’t know if there’s anyone I’d want to call. Doffy’s … well. And our parents are dead."
Now, Law looked distinctly uncomfortable. He turned away from Rocinante, facing towards where Luffy was grappling with a fish. Obviously gathering himself, the Heart captain pulled the brink of his head down to shade his eyes.
"You could call Sengoku."
It was as if someone had abruptly dropped a bucket of ice on Rocinante. Where the sun had been warming his skin just a moment before, he suddenly felt the icy clutches of dread claw at him.
"You - you know about it, then? Me … being a … a Marine?" he asked hesitantly after a few moments of terrible silence.
"Yeah, I always knew, Cora-san."
"I'm sorry for lying, Law. I just - I didn’t want you to hate me." The image of Law as he had been in the beginning was still raw in Rocinante’s mind. He didn’t think he could have borne it if that look of loathing had been directed at him again during their journey through the North Blue. And, Rocinante knew, Law had every reason to look at Marines like that.
"I know, you idiot," the younger man huffed. "As if I ever could have hated you again."
Dread slowly subsiding, Rocinante breathed a sigh of relief. Then, something occurred to him.
"Hold on - how do you know about Sengoku-san?" he asked, flinching when he belatedly realised what he’d called the fleet admiral.
"We met - on Dressrosa," Law said, still looking determinedly away from the taller man.
At this answer, Rocinante gaped at Law. "You - met?" he repeated dumbly.
"Yeah. We talked."
Far from subsiding, Rocinante’s incredulity grew. Not in a million years would he have dreamed up a scenario in which Law and his adoptive father sat down and had a civil conversation together - about him no less!
"He asked me if I knew anything more about what happened that night. You were missing in action, presumed dead. I thought one of the Family must have gone back for your body."
Waves of shock rolling through him, Rocinante reflected slightly hysterically, that of course they wouldn’t have found a body. Not when his body had be hauled forwards through time in the milky swirls of a rainbow mist.
"He also said that he thought of you like a son," Law said, voice wavering slightly on the last word. "He’d want to know that you’re still alive."
At the younger man’s words, Rocinante’s heart clenched painfully. Of course Sengoku-san would want to know. He’d be lying if he said he hadn’t thought of contacting his adoptive father since he’d woken in the future. But he’d always placated himself that it would have to wait - wait until he’d have enough time on some island to slink away and find some way of getting a message to HQ. Without the danger of Law finding out not only that he was a Marine, but the son of the bloody fleet admiral.
Except that, apparently, Law already knew. And didn’t care too much.
Rocinante’s eyes flickered down to the den den mushi now glaring up at him from in-between his fingers. He must have grabbed the poor thing rather tightly in his surprise.
"I - I don’t even know if he has the same number still," he whispered, voice hitching with emotion.
Law shrugged. "You can try it. If it doesn’t work the Strawhats might be able to get it from Garp."
Now Rocinante went back to staring at Law, dumbfounded. "From Garp?"
At this, Law barked an unexpected laugh. "Oh yes you don’t know yet. Garp is Mugiwara-ya’s grandfather. I suppose he could probably get in touch with him if he tried."
Absolutely flabbergasted and with his mouth hanging open, Rocinante’s head swivelled back and forth between the back of Law’s head and Luffy, who was chasing a struggling fish across the deck. There was no sign that Law was kidding - not that he ever did that, really. And now that he knew, there was a certain resemblance to the hero of the Marines in the young man who wanted to become the next pirate king.
Heaving a deep sigh and trying to get over the latest shocking revelation, Rocinante returned to the task on hand. Once more he looked at the much-abused den den mushi in his hand.
Then, he punched a number he knew by heart into the keypad with shaking fingers.
Rocinante could hear the echo of his hammering heart with every ring.
For a moment, the tall man was frozen, utterly unable to push a single word past his lips. Then, a response that had once been automatic slipped out.
"Arare - it’s me!"
The den den mushi’s eyes widened in shock and pain. A booming silence lay on the other side of the line for several long moments.
'How dare you!?' Sengoku’s voice demanded with bottomless loathing. 'This is you, Trafalgar isn’t it. You’re the only one who could know - you - I never would have thought you’d sink so low!'
By his side, Law had blanched, a thunderous expression appearing on his face. Rocinante stared at the den den mushi’s now livid expression, understanding that his adoptive father probably thought that Law was playing the cruellest of tricks on him.
"It’s me, da" he cut across the angry voice coming from the den den mushi, using the term of endearment that had been reserved for very brief, tender hours during long evenings at Marine HQ. He could still vividly remember the first time it had slipped out when he’d been storming towards Sengoku after the man had returned from some sort of mission. Incredulous joy had lit up the older man’s features an he’d pulled Rocinante into an embrace that had left his back creaking for a week afterwards.
It felt like Rocinante’s heart was trying to claw its way up his throat when he watched the den den mushi fall silent, looking utterly aghast. He wasn’t looking at him, but Law had gone rigid beside him.
'But - it - this is impossible!" Sengoku’s voice stammered after a long while.
"I would have thought so too, da. But apparently really nothing is impossible on the Grand Line. From what I’ve been told, there was a Rainbow Mist - a sort of odd -"
'spatio-temporal disruption!' the den den mushi finished, eyes wide.
Rocinante’s eyebrows shot up in surprise. "You know about them?"
'There were some reports from the East Blue a few years back… But …. But HOW? How did you-'
Abruptly, Rocinante realised that maybe he should have cleared with Law first how much of his current situation he could reveal to Sengoku. It seemed like the Surgeon of Death and the fleet admiral had some sort of understanding, but he had no idea how far that reached. Looking up at Law, Rocinante saw him shaking his head, mutely telling him to keep the information limited.
"A ship was passing by when the Rainbow Mist appeared," Rocinante spoke into the receiver. "The captain decided it would be - ah - interesting to explore the phenomenon further. He passed through with another crew member and apparently reached Minion Island, thirteen years in the past. They found me injured and rescued me. The ship’s doctor saved my life."
Once more, an echoing silence rang through the den den mushi.
'If it’s really … you, answer me this. Why "Arare"?' Sengoku’s voice asked and Rocinante almost flinched at the quiver in it, at the wild hope that was being viciously suppressed.
At the same time, fondness swept through him in a wave of memories. "Because that was the first word I said to you the I found my voice again," he answered with a smile. "Me going mute wasn’t an invention for the sake of infiltrating the Donquixote Family. After Doffy killed our father I didn’t speak for a year. Even after you found me. You always offered me rice crackers, trying to get me to warm up. One evening we were in your office. You were looking over the progress of my school work and I showed you a picture I’d drawn of you, with a speech bubble. My handwriting was terrible. And you asked me what my scrawl was supposed to mean. I -"
'And you said "rice cracker - arare",' the den den mushi completed the reflection in Sengoku’s voice. Its eyes were now swimming in tears. 'Rocinante! Son!'
Rocinante, too, was crying, not even trying to stem the flood of happy tears bursting from his eyes. "Da."
'But where are you now? I have to see you! You have to tell me what - Hold on. Which vessel are you on? I could direct the captain to return to the nearest base and meet you there.'
Both Law and Rocinante flinched at the implicit assumption that it was a Marine, or at least a civilian ship that had picked him up.
"Uh -" Rocinante began intelligently. "I don’t think -"
But before he could finish his sentence, he was interrupted -
"Mugiwara-ya not now!"
- by a rubbery projectile knocking the man standing beside him back into - and through - the cabin wall.
"You moron!" Law complained, groaning, lying amidst the wreckage.
"Shishishi! Sorry Torao! I got excited!"
At any other time, Rocinante would have laughed at their bickering and obvious affection. Just now, however, his gaze was fixed on the den den mushi, whose eyes had narrowed dangerously.
'Mugiwara?' Sengoku’s voice repeated, vibrating with fury. 'You’re on the Strawhat’s ship, Rocinante?'
Suddenly feeling like a kid caught with his hands where they most certainly did not belong, Rocinante stuttered. "Ummm so technically, errr - it’s not his ship, it’s more like -"
'And Trafalgar Law? I suppose he’s there too?!' the den den mushi questioned sharply.
Looking over his shoulder, Rocinante saw Law emerging from the rubble of the ruined cabin wall, Luffy clinging to him like a baby monkey. The Heart captain looked utterly disgruntled, but even though he grumbled threats of dismemberment under his breath, his ally was still in possession of all of his limbs.
"I’m lucky that he is," Rocinante said, fully aware of the fondness in his voice. "I’d be dead without him. Time travel or not, I was badly injured. If he hadn’t operated on me, I wouldn’t have made it."
At this, the den den mushi remained silent.
"We can arrange a meeting an about a week," a voice suddenly said from beside him. Law had walked back up to Rocinante, with Luffy still attached to him. "According to the navigator of this ship, we’ll reach our destination in about two days. After that we should be able to arrange a slight detour for a meeting on neutral ground."
'Agreed.' Sengoku’s voice answered reluctantly. 'I can arrange a private vessel for myself. But I warn you, Trafalgar, don’t even think of double-crossing me.'
Law glared at the den den mushi, a dangerous smirk playing around his mouth - although the effect was slightly ruined by the bright grin of the man hugging him from behind.
'Rocinante.' The den den mushi turned back towards the blond man. 'Take care of yourself until then.'
Now, it was Rocinante’s turn to grin. "I will! I promise!" Then, something else occurred to him - something that he’d thought about quite a few times over the last days. If anything, his experience with Law had starkly underlined the importance of saying it. "I’ll see you in about a week then, da. I love you."
The den den mushi stared at him gobsmacked, before replying shakily. 'I love you too, son. Be careful.'
And with that, the den den mushi went back to sleep.
Later that day, Law was brooding - thinking! - leaning against the mask of the Going Luffy Sempai. He’d finally managed to pry the strawhat-wearing menace off him, and to wrangle Cora-san into a deckchair so that the idiot could rest after the agitation of his call with Sengoku.
Leaning back against the cool wood, Law drew a tired hand across his face.
I love you too, son.
Yes, it had definitely been the right thing to arrange it. He’d owed Cora-san that much at least. And Sengoku too, in a way. Because of him, the man had lost his … his child for over a decade. And god knew that Law could understand better than anyone else what it was like to lose Cora-san.
After all, it was why Sengoku and he had - bonded, he supposed was the word, on Dressrosa. Sharing their loss. Remembering Cora-san.
Cora-san who had miraculously come back from the dead.
Law’s eyes trailed across the deck, finally coming to rest on Cora-san’s huge frame sprawled out in the undersized deckchair. The man was lying back, eyes closed, enjoying the heat of the late afternoon sun, a content smile on his lips.
It was a scene straight out of one of the rare snatches of good dreams that came to Law few and far between during the nights he managed to sleep.
And from time to time it still felt like a dream as well. Having Cora-san back at all. Being able to say the words that had plagued him for over a decade.
All thanks to the unpredictability of the Grand Line, and of course -
"Woheeeee!" a joyous shout rang across the deck and Law’s eyes snapped to Luffy. Back on the railing with his fishing rod again, the Strawhat captain was giggling madly, trying to reel in something that was quite obviously bigger than a regular fish.
Luffy. Luffy and another miracle left in his wake.
Luffy who, really, was a miracle in himself.
Law groaned out loud when he realised the direction in which his thoughts were heading. Again.
Ever since his moment of revelation the night of the rainbow mist, in the aftermath of his almost-panic attack at the possibility of losing his allied captain, his thoughts had strayed down dangerous paths.
It had been excruciating, but he’d managed to admit it to himself by now.
He liked Luffy.
More than as an allied captain or even a friend.
He’d begun to realise it the night of the rainbow mist. And it had become more than obvious in the days that followed. The night in the corridor when Cora-san had woken up. His absolute terror when the bounty hunters had attacked. Luffy sitting by his bedside and fucking babbling about how awesome he was and -
I love Torao.
Law banged his head back against the wood of the mast so that the pain shooting through his skull dulled the bone-deep emotional ache at the memory.
I … love you too.
Thinking back now it was impossible to remember just what had been going on in his sleep-addled brain when he’d blabbed that out. And more importantly, he couldn’t even properly remember who he had meant to address it to out of the two men who had been sitting vigil by his bedside.
Both of them had fought and almost given their lives for him. And he loved them both, even if it still hurt to admit it even to himself, leave alone out loud!
Law’s eyes snapped back to Luffy, who was leaning dangerously across the railing, holding onto a fishing rod that was bending crazily. Bartolomeo and three other crew members had grabbed onto their idol with glee to keep him from going overboard.
But Law knew that he loved Luffy … differently. Cora-san was like a father to him, but Luffy.
Groaning again, Law pressed the heels of his palms against his eyes.
That was romantic love. And Law wanted to throw up at the very thought.
He wasn’t a stranger to sex. It wasn’t like he hadn’t enjoyed the sleazier sides of life as a pirate from time to time. But in the pointless nights he’d spent between some faceless woman’s thighs, there was no resemblance to what he wanted to do with Luffy.
I love Torao!
What the fuck!
How was he supposed to deal with that? With the strawhat moron going around declaring things like that.
How was he supposed to know if he meant it?
Luffy loved him, he didn’t doubt that. But he also loved his crew-mates and his friends.
The younger captain had charged into battle for Law, had saved his life, had almost died for him. But he’d also done the same for other people he hardly knew and had yet claimed as his friends. Alabasta. Eni’s Lobby. Punching a fucking celestial dragon on Sabaody.
How was he supposed to know if Luffy loved him as a friend or - more than that?
When it came down to it, there was nothing to do but talk to the idiot.
Discreetly of course.
Luffy wasn’t the most perceptive when it came to many things, and Law hoped sincerely that matters of the heart were in that category. If he was careful about it, chances were he could find out where he stood with his allied captain without burning any bridges in the process.
The only question was when he’d be able to muster the courage to have that conversation.
Law’s eyes flew open.
The answer, apparently, was 'not now'. Because the giant fish that Luffy had been struggling with a moment before, had turned out to be a decent-sized and very pissed-off sea king.
Do let me know what you think. :)
(1) "Arare" is what Corazon says at the beginning of his call with Sengoku in chapter 764. I just headcanoned that it was a codeword of theirs when Rocinante went undercover.
Chapter 6: Of Figureheads and Lurking Fathers
Whelp! There we go! The big one!
I was a bit short of time (currently doing fieldwork for my thesis) but I really, really wanted to get this out. It was extremely fun to write. I might edit it a bit still later on, but I hope you enjoy it for now.
And once again: thank you SO much for your kind reviews. They always make my day! :D
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The next evening found Rocinante out on deck, lurking behind the starboard corner of the cabins, a gleeful grin on his face. It was late - dinner had ended several hours ago and the ship was quiet.
The reason why he was lurking was currently approaching the figurehead. Law. Heading for Luffy, who was sitting on top of his own giant wooden replica.
All through dinner, Rocinante had caught Law shooting calculating glances at the Strawhat captain, stuffing meat into his mouth next to him. He imagined the Surgeon of Death had thought himself subtle, but to someone who had watched and analysed the kid’s every move during two and a half years, he might as well have been staring openly.
Ever since their conversation in the infirmary, Rocinante had wondered if Law would talk to Luffy about what was so obviously in the air between them. And tonight seemed to be the night!
After dinner, Luffy had announced that he wanted to spend the last evening before reaching Zou out on deck. Rocinante had seen the slight widening of Law’s eyes, and how they’d narrowed with resolve a moment later.
Chewing nervously on the cigarette hanging between his lips that he dared not light for fear of setting himself on fire, Rocinante watched Law cross the deck, approaching his ally. The younger captain was reclining on the figurehead, watching the stars that dotted the inky night sky overhead.
Rocinante knew Law. He knew the determined expression on the young pirate’s face when he’d slipped out of the cabins and into the night, an anxious air about him.
Swallowing through his own anxiety for Law, Rocinante shifted slightly to get a better view. He was sure that Luffy cared deeply for his ally. It had been more than evident in the way the younger captain had talked about Law during the hours they had spent together watching over his unconscious form. Rocinante still vividly recalled the way the Strawhat captain’s face had lit up with a glow more radiant than usual when he’d expounded on Law’s 'awesomeness'. His fighting style. His cleverness. His tattoos.
No, the issue, Rocinante knew, lay with Law - whether he would admit to himself just how much he cared about the other man. And whether he’d do something about it. But now, Rocinante thought with barely contained excitement, it looked like Law was going to go for it.
And he would be damned if he let anything interrupt the two! Hence this carefully chosen lurking position between the figurehead and the main entrance to the cabins.
Law reached the figurehead and looked up at Luffy.
Rocinante held his breath, silently cheering him on.
Taking a deep, steadying breath of the cool night air, Law raised his head, looking at Luffy.
Annoyingly, he felt his heart thumping against his ribcage when his eyes found the form of the younger captain. With his beloved straw hat pushed back on his head, Luffy was stretched out on top of his wooden replica. A content smile spread across his face, and a soft sea breeze was ruffling his hair. His posture spoke of utter relaxation and peace, and yet an air of excitement hung about him. They were due to reach Zou tomorrow after all.
At the thought, Law felt a painful twitch in his chest. Tomorrow he would part ways with the Strawhat pirates. In some ways, he had longed for the moment since about five minutes after he had entered the blasted alliance. The madness had been overwhelming at times, starting with Doctor Chopper being fucking tied to his hat. At other times, he dreaded the moment of goodbye. For the longest time he hadn’t understood why. Until the night of the Rainbow Mist.
The terror of that night still boiled low in his stomach when he thought back to the few moments during which he had been certain that Luffy was gone.
Shaking his head vigorously to pull himself out of his thoughts, Law focussed on the present.
It was tonight or never. He knew himself well enough to realise that once he was back in the safety of his own ship, and in the reassuring presence of his own crew, he would be able to suppress and compartmentalise his feelings. And he’d never act on them.
But if Law had learned anything from Cora-san, it was that telling the people you loved how you felt about them was vital. As necessary as breathing. Sometimes more so.
He had to take the leap.
Law almost flinched at the harsh sound of his own voice cutting through the quiet night air. Instantly, doubts assailed him. Was he really ready for this? Maybe the Strawhat captain would rather be left alone.
But before those doubts had time to properly take root -
- a rubbery arm shot down, wrapped itself around his midriff several times, and contracted.
"No! Don’t you -"
With a loud curse, Law was yanked upwards and off his feet. He banged against the edge of the figurehead - hard - before landing spread-eagle, and extremely irritated, on top of Luffy.
In response to several grumbled death threats, Luffy only laughed brightly and wrapped himself around Law.
Breathing deeply and reminding himself of his original intentions, Law decided to forge ahead. "Strawhat-ya, please get down. I have something to discuss with you."
"What’s that?" Luffy asked, still not letting go, much to Law’s annoyance. "Torao is looking real serious."
Law grit his teeth. "Well, it’s a serious matter."
At that, Luffy began to frown a little and, mercifully, released his ally from his monkey-like grip. "What is it Torao? It looks like you’re thinking. You’re always thinking too much," the younger man complained in a whiny voice, which - really! - should have been annoying.
Except, that Law found the slightly pouting expression on the raven-haired pirate’s face cute of all things. He was gone good and proper, Law realised, groaning internally.
With a sigh, the captain of the Heart pirates closed his eyes, and tried to recall the conversation strategy he’d laid out in his mind during dinner.
"I need to talk to you about where we stand," he began.
His pout of confusion increasing slightly, Luffy tilted his head. "You wanna talk about the Barto-club’s ship?" he asked guilelessly. And if it hadn’t been Luffy, out of all people, Law would have thought he was mocking him.
"No!" he grumbled with barely-contained frustration. "I mean where we stand in relation to each other. We are allies. But on Dressrosa you - you claimed I was more than that. That I was one of your - your nakama."
Law chanced a glance at Luffy and saw the younger man still looking at him with the same puzzled expression. Pulling together all his courage, Law pressed on to the crucial part. "And when I woke up after exerting myself during the bounty hunter attack, you said -"
Voice hitching, Law broke off and cursed his own cowardice. All he could do was look at the other man and silently will him to understand.
Mercifully, realisation did light up the straw hat captain’s eyes a moment later.
"Oh you mean because I said I loved you?" he laughed, face splitting into a grin.
Law’s stomach lurched and he could only nod.
"I do!" Luffy affirmed brightly, crossing his arms and puffing out his chest. "I love Torao!"
At the other man’s words, Law could hardly contain his flinch. He had heard them several times over the last few days already. But after thirteen years of having those syllables echo through his nightmares, a sharp pain still reverberated through him ever time someone said them.
"That is very kind of you, Straw-hat-ya," he responded after several beats of silence. "For you to care for me like one of your own crew members is a great honour."
Luffy’s grin dimmed slightly and the beginnings of a frown appeared on his forehead. "Huh? Like one of my crew? Nah, Torao. I care about you different."
Law’s heart did a backwards flip in his chest and his breath caught.
"Different?" he could only echo numbly.
"How different?" Law pressed, ignoring the fluttering feeling in his chest and the slight trembling in his hands.
Now the frown was evident on Luffy’s features. His brows drew together, his eyes narrowed, and Law could basically see the wheels in his head starting to grind. Self-reflection evidently was not an activity that the younger captain engaged in frequently.
Law could only watch his ally's face carefully and hold his breath.
"I dunno," Luffy responded at the end of several tense moments and Law wanted to bury his head in his hands and groan. But the other man wasn’t finished. "Y’know I love my crew and I know they’ll always have my back. But I’m still their captain and it’s my duty to protect them. With you it’s different - I still wanna protect you, but it just feels -" Luffy fell quiet, frowning in concentration.
"More equal? Because we’re both captains?" Law suggested.
"Yeah that too," the younger pirate conceded. "But just - you saved me when you didn’t have to. At Marineford. And you were fighting with me at the auction house already. That’s awesome. And just generally you - you’re awesome too. Your powers are SO cool. And your tattoos. And your crew - especially the talking bear - and -"
Luffy was definitely rambling now and Law waved his hands for him to be quiet, trying to tune out the wild beating of his heart thundering in his ears.
"Straw ha-ya!" he hissed and thankfully, the younger captain fell quiet. Instead, he stared at him expectantly.
Law’s mind spun fast, trying to get the conversation back on track. Originally he’d played with the idea of just coming straight out and asking if the other man was interested in him romantically. He’d actually been hoping that Luffy would have picked up on his intentions by now. But it seemed that he was more oblivious than Law had bargained for.
"How do you feel?" he asked eventually. "When you’re around me, I mean?
Luffy blinked at him a few times, uncomprehending. Then his forehead furrowed in thought once more.
"Funny," he concluded eventually.
"Funny?" Law asked weakly, looking up towards the heavens and asking what he’d done to deserve falling for someone this dense.
"Yeah not like haha-funny, but strange kinda funny," Luffy went on. "It’s kind of tingly and warm in my stomach and I just really want to hug you all the time."
A shaky laugh tumbled out of Law’s mouth and his heart soared joyfully. Yes, that definitely sounds like Luffy had a crush on him. Even if the idiot didn’t know it yet. But there was - there was a chance for them. If only Law could manage to catch the younger man up to speed. The question was just how to achieve that. God knew that Luffy didn’t take well to explanations - he was more of an instinctual -
Yes, that was definitely a promising course of action.
Law allowed a smirk to spread on his face and felt a glow of satisfaction when Luffy’s eyes widened slightly in response.
"So you want to hug me, Strawhat-ya?," he asked in a low voice.
Luffy frowned. "Neh Torao, that’s what I just said," he whined.
Law’s smirk widened in amusement - he’d been expecting the response, this time. God help him, but he was attuning to the lovable moron. With a laugh, he reached for Luffy’s hand and placed his own on top.
Eyes widening almost comically, Luffy stared at him. Apparently, it wasn’t lost on the younger captain that this was the first time Law had initiated any sort of contact between them, for all that he had stopped pushing him off when he pounced on him.
Now, the dark-haired pirate’s eyes were looking from Law’s hand on his, to the older man’s eyes and back.
Law watched patiently while Luffy caught up, fire spreading in his chest all the while.
When realisation was finally beginning to dawn in his ally’s eyes, Law looked at him intently. "Is there anything else you want to do with me, Strawhat-ya?" he breathed.
Once more, Luffy’s eyes widened and his eyes roamed across Law’s face and his body. They trailed across the tattoos on his fingers, his hands, snapped back up to his eyes, and then to his mouth.
Law licked his lips.
A second later, Luffy’s eyes lit up with realisation. His own lips formed a perfect, surprised 'O!' and Law’s smirk grew even wider.
"Nah Torao!" Luffy burst out. "I think I wanna to kiss you!"
Law cheered internally. It felt as if someone had set off fireworks in his chest.
"Good," he smiled. "Because I want to kiss you too."
Luffy grinned brightly. "Shishishi! That’s good! So can we kiss now?"
If Law hadn’t been so utterly happy, exultant and - for fuck’s sake! - in love, he would have smacked the idiot over the head for his utter lack of finesse or subtlety. Instead, he leaned forward, inching closer to the younger captain and gently placing his hands on the other man's shoulders.
Luffy’s grin never faltered, and for a moment, Law marvelled at the absolute trust he had for him. If he hadn’t already been able to divine the answer, he would have asked if this was his first kiss.
Another inch forward, and Law had Luffy flush against his chest. He let one of his hands slide to the smaller man’s back, and raised the other to cup his cheek. His thumb tenderly traced the scar under Luffy’s left eye, feeling the slightly raised skin. One day he would have to ask how he got it - how he got all of the marks that littered his body, and which Law was already looking forward to cataloguing meticulously.
Finally, the wide grin on the Strawhat captain’s face faded, replaced by an open-mouthed, slightly dazed gaze that gave Law no small amount of satisfaction.
Nervousness fluttered in his own stomach as he let his eyes drift closed, leaning forward. Just another inch, and -
"Wait!" Luffy exclaimed and Law felt his stomach lurch.
His eyes flew open only to find the younger captain staring at him, a mischievous glint in his eyes. "Does that mean Torao loves me too?"
"I suppose it does," Law whispered breathlessly. "Yes."
The glint in Luffy’s eyes grew loving, and without warning, he surged forward.
Law barely had time to gasp in surprise before their lips collided and the whole world converged on the feeling of Luffy against him.
With a sigh, he let himself fall, surrendering his lips and his heart to the man in his arms.
Still lurking behind the corner to the cabins, Rocinante was biting his tongue to keep from cheering loudly as he watched Luffy and Law share their first kiss on top of the Barto-Club’s figurehead.
He hadn’t dared to breathe ever since Law had put his hand on top of Luffy’s and the younger man had stared back, surprised and puzzled. For a moment, he had doubted his own assessment of Luffy’s affection, but then whatever confusion there had been was resolved.
Law had smiled in a way that Rocinante had never seen before and his own heart had jumped in excitement when the two had embraced so tenderly. And now -
"Hey Rocinante - have you seen Luffy?"
Blood freezing in his veins, Rocinante spun around, just in time to see Usopp walking up to him - and past him, before he could step in his way. Any moment he would see -
"LuffyGYAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!" Usopp bellowed a fraction of a second after the blue glow of Rocinante’s devil’s fruit engulfed him. The sniper’s eyes were bulging out of his head, his hands thrown up in shock, and his mouth hanging open so wide that it almost dislocated his jaw.
Snapping out of his paralysis, Rocinante lunged forward, wrapped his arms around the man’s waist and yanked him backwards around the corner, out of sight of the two captains.
Shaking like an aspen leaf, Usopp had drained of all colour. His mouth was moving mutely times, his arms gesturing weakly towards where the two captains were no doubt still locking lips.
Rocinante was staring at the man in concern, worried not just that he might spill Law’s and Luffy’s secret, but that he would faint before he could do so. However, if that happened, maybe Rocinante could convince him that it had all just been a -
"What’s so interesting over there?"
For the second time that evening, Rocinante froze.
Out of all the people on this ship, Rorona Zoro was the very worst person to walk out on deck at this precise moment.
"Hey Usopp what’s wrong. You look like you’ve seen a ghost," the swordsman grumbled. "I thought you were going to talk to Luffy about -"
Before Rocinante could react, Zoro had reached them and looked around the corner.
A second later, the sound of a sword being drawn from its sheath shocked Rocinante into action.
"NO!" he yelled, and jumped in front of one utterly incandescent swordsman.
"Move it blondie, or I’m gonna take you apart too!" he snapped, and if Rocinante had been a lesser man, he would have slunk out of the way in a heartbeat. The look on the swordsman’s face was downright murderous.
"Rorona, you don’t quite understand - it’s - "
"It’s your creepy kid mauling my captain, that’s what it is," Zoro growled. His muscles were bulging in preparation for a fight. "Just because our captain has a blind spot for him doesn’t mean I do. And now the bastard is taking advantage, I’m going to -"
Abruptly, Zoro fell quiet. Rocinante, who had been blocking his path, waving desperately, and contemplating any scenario in which he could possibly overpower the enraged man before him, watched in fascination, as Zoro stared past him, jaw slack and complexion greening slightly around the edges.
Spinning back around towards the figurehead, Rocinante saw why Zoro had probably changed his mind. While it had been Law in charge of the kiss at first, Luffy had quite obviously taken over the reigns. It was obvious that the younger captain - as in all things physical - was a quick learner. Just now, he had pushed Law over backwards and was sliding on top of him, kissing him enthusiastically, one hand fisted in his hair, the other holding down his arms. The Surgeon of Death, in the meantime, was letting himself be manhandled and was - quite obviously - enjoying it a lot.
"I think you might have to re-evaluate your opinion of who is taking advantage of who, Zoro," the voice of one highly amused Nico Robin suddenly said just behind them.
Rocinante turns back around, only to find both Robin and Franky standing there, peering around the corner. For a moment he wondered what it was about those Strawhat pirates and their uncanny ability to flock together at the worst of times.
"Well it looks like he is enjoying himself," Franky mused, grinning widely and clapping his arms together above his head. "I think that’s SUPER!"
Robin looked fondly at the cyborg’s trademark posture before turning back to Rocinante with her characteristic, enigmatic smile. "I suppose you have used your ability to give them some privacy," she observed evenly.
Rocinante nodded, grateful that at least one of Law’s allies had a sense of subtlety.
"Well, then we should probably leave them to it," the dark-haired woman smiled, turning back around and walking towards the cabins. Franky nodded, shot a thumbs up and a dirty grin in the direction of the figurehead and withdrew as well.
Usopp swallowed convulsively, clutched his hand over his heart and followed his two cremates, all the while muttering about a sudden allergy he had developed to walking in on inappropriate intimacies between allied captains.
Zoro alone hesitated for an instant longer. Then, with a sigh of defeat, he slid his katana back into its sheath and turned.
For a moment he stopped and glared at Rocinante. "I swear to you, if he in any way hurts our captain -"
"He won’t," Rocinante cut in. "And if he did, he would beat himself up about it worse than you could."
"That, I’d like to see," Zoro muttered murderously, before heading back inside, following the rest of the Strawhats.
A few moments later, the door to the cabins swung shut and Rocinante breathed a sigh of relief. For a second, he peered around the corner once more.
On the figurehead, things seemed to have calmed. The two captains were sitting up again. Law had his back to Rocinante, but Luffy was grinning brightly, and tenderly running his hands through the taller man’s hair.
A fluffy, warm happiness settled around his heart at the sight, and finally, Rocinante drew back, wiped a few rebellious tears of joy from his eyes, and slipped back inside the cabins, leaving the night to the lovers alone.
There we go. Please let me know what you think. (And sorry if it got excessively corny at times - I'm not the best at writing romance. XD )
Chapter 8: Breaking the News to the Crews
Happy new year everybody! And sorry again for the delay! >-<
Finally the story is moving forwards again! A lot of Law-introspection in this chapter. Oh and I apologise in advance if my writing's a little rusty. I gotta get back into the flow of things. :) Also: apologies for the fluff.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Twenty-four hours later, Law was staring up at the absolutely enormous leg of Zou, the island that had turned out to be an ancient, monstrous elephant. The dimensions of the beast were mind-boggling. Law was silently glad that he'd resisted the temptation to keep Bepo with him on Punk Hazard. Without the mink, the rest of his crew would probably have faced quite a few difficulties in getting onto the island. Or finding it in the first place come to think of it.
As for their own manner of ascending Zou … well.
Sighing, Law looked over to where one of the samurai was drawing a very wonky version of - was that supposed to be a dragon? Predictably, Luffy was watching with stars in his eyes, as the awful drawing sprung to life thanks to its maker’s devil’s fruit. Law almost groaned out loud when he saw Cora-san just next to the straw-hat wearing menace, an equally impressed look on his face.
But thinking about Luffy …
With another deep sigh, Law strode towards the younger pirate captain and pulled him aside. Not an easy feat since the pirate captain in question was burning to climb onto the drawing-come-to-life to mount the monster island.
"Strawhat-ya," Law began in an urgent, hushed voice once he’d managed to extricate Luffy from the gaggle of Straw Hats and Barto-club members. "I need to talk to you about something."
"Sure, what’s up Torao? Ne - you’re not thinking too much again, are you?"
A small smile threatened to appear on Law’s lips at the younger pirate’s pout. Over the past day, Luffy had promptly attributed any inhibitions that Law harboured regarding their newly-formed relationship - such as his hesitance in calling the Straw Hat captain his boyfriend - down to his tendency to overthink everything. And Law was damned if his boyfriend wasn’t right about it half the time too.
"No, I am not," Law replied evenly. "I simply have a request to make of you. Please continue to refrain from announcing our new … relationship. I would rather we choose the appropriate time … together."
The pout on Luffy’s face grew, but he nodded.
Law gave a sigh of relief. Not that he wasn’t happy about their current situation - he was! Embarrassingly, deliriously so. But the calm, collected, sane part of his brain reminded him that the change in the closeness of their association would entail a hell of a lot of consequences once it became public. Starting with the Straw Hat crew attempting to creatively murder him, probably. But apart from that, Law knew that it wouldn’t be long after their relationship was announced to their respective crews that somehow news would slip out. And the marines would learn that they were now dealing with a pirate alliance of an entirely different sort.
For precisely that reason, he hadn’t even told Cora-san about what had happened on the figurehead. Even though his adoptive father would probably be delirious with joy - he’d been dropping more than enough in that hints in that direction, thank you very much!
Law had asked Luffy not to tell directly after their - very enthusiastic - make-out session. To his immense relief, the younger captain had agreed to keep silent. Bubbly and uninhibited as the Straw Hat nearly always was, Law knew he could keep a secret when it mattered. He hadn’t breathed a word to anyone about who Cora-san really was. And Law hadn’t even had the presence of mind to request silence on that issue. To everyone else onboard the ship, the tall blond man was simply a patient that Law had been extraordinarily worried about.
Still, despite Luffy’s agreement to keep mum, Law hadn’t been able to help feeling somewhat paranoid. He knew that it was just his imagination. Still, Law felt like Cora-san had been looking at him with a new twinkle in his eyes over the past day. He could have sworn that the usual, distrustful glares that Zoro shot at him had taken on a homicidal tint. Robin’s air of knowing something and Usopp’s nervousness around him were nothing out of the ordinary, he’d had to remind himself several times. And damn it - even a random thumbs-up that Franky had sent his way when he’d sat down at breakfast next to Luffy had seemed suggestive to Law.
"Does that mean that I don’t even get to kiss you goodbye before you go off to find your crew?" Luffy asked, pout intensifying even more.
Law viciously pushed down the mushy feeling that reared its ugly head at the sight. Instead, he conjured a suggestive smirk onto his features. Luffy had proved to be very enthusiastic about kissing over the past twenty four hours. "I’m sure we’ll find a moment or two."
If we make it to the top of that blasted elephant alive, the captain of the Heart Pirates added silently as he watched his boyfriend bounce off towards the drawn dragon that was waiting to begin its ascend.
Wandering through Zou’s thicket of trees with Cora-san at his heels was terrifying, Law had to admit.
After Law had fervently kissed Luffy breathless behind some bushes, he and Cora-san had split from the rest of the alliance in search of the Heart Pirates.
The terror that Law was experiencing was not due to the strange creatures lurking in the shadows of the trees (Those Law could feel watching their every step.) Nor was it due to the stench of chemicals in the air. (Those caused unease and a terrible premonition in an entirely different part of his brain.)
No, this particular terror was caused by the imminent meeting of Cora-san and the Heart Pirates.
Of course, Law was looking forward to seeing his crew again. He’d missed them fiercely over the past months, even though he would be loath to admit it to anyone - even Bepo. So often during his stay on Punk Hazard, he had longed for his own ship and the familiar faces of his crew. Even more so during the whirlwind of madness that was his alliance with the Straw Hats. He’d missed Bepo’s soft fur, and Shachi’s terrible jokes. Penguin’s doubtful cooking, and Jean-Bart’s incompetent attempts to cheat at cards. Even the sound of Ikkaku’s tools echoing through the Polar Tang’s corridors when she was tinkering with the engines in the middle of the night. They were his crew .
But they also belonged to an entirely different part of his life than Cora-san.
Cora-san had seen Law at his worst, had met him when he was young and dying and bitter and a deplorable excuse for a human being altogether. He’d known him in despair and hatred and pain and utter helplessness. He’d been his guiding light and saviour. He’d traded his own life for Law’s. And Law had built everything he now had in the older man’s name - the very Jolly Roger he sailed under was testament to that.
But his crew… Despite everything that they’d gone through together - and that was quite a lot! - Law was still their leader. Except for Bepo, who he’d met soon after his flight from Minion Island, Law had begun to assemble his crew later. After the trauma of losing Cora-san had begun to fade from a fresh wound in his soul to an aching scar. He’d found new strength in uniting them, in taking responsibility for them and protecting them.
Staring at Bepo’s vivre card in the palm of his hand, Law reflected that neither his crew nor Cora-san were aware of the origins of the Heart Pirates' symbology. Cora-san suspected, he was sure, but it was still a terrifying thought that in a matter of minutes he’d be introducing his crew to the man under whose banner they had been fighting since the very beginning.
Well - so much for the in a matter of minutes part.
Law’s eyes flew up, only to see Bepo barrelling towards him through the trees. He barely had time to brace himself before his navigator had launched himself forward and into his arms. It was a testament to Law’s recovered strength that he didn’t fold under the sheer weight of the polar bear.
A moment later, the rest of the Heart Pirates was flocking around them, and a cacophony of happy chatter, greetings and an array of questions was enveloping Law. Despite his unease about Cora-san’s presence, Law’s heart brimmed with gladness at the sight of his crew’s faces. Especially since he’d been expecting never to see them again when they’d dropped him off at Punk Hazard.
After several minutes of answering questions and wriggling out of attempted hugs - Wouldn’t those sentimental idiots ever learn?! - Law managed to quiet his crew enough for him to draw their attention to Cora-san. The tall blond man was standing off to the side, looking at the mass of people surrounding Law with slightly teary eyes.
Well, we’re off to a good start.
"Listen, everyone," Law announced. "This is Corazon. He will be sailing with us for a while. He is to be treated as a member of the crew."
Law would have been lying if he’d said he wasn’t proud of the speed with which his crew digested this bit of news. After a few moments’ pause, they collectively turned towards Cora-san and began to welcome him into the midst of the Heart Pirates. It reminded him of when he’d showed up with Jean Beart in tow after the disaster on Sabaody. Law knew his crew consisted of a bunch of mismatched outlaws, and he had never done anything to foster a particular cordiality among them. Still, they cared deeply for each other and their captain. In a way, the Surgeon of Death reflected, they had that in common with their Straw Hat allies.
Heart swelling, Law watched Cora-san become engulfed by the Heart Pirates. Penguin was thumping him on the back warmly, and Shachi was already trying to win him over for a round of cards. Ikkaki was quizzing him about his mechanical skills, always in search of an assistant. (And god, Law had to make a mental side note to prevent that at all costs if he didn’t want them all to drown.) The tall man at the centre of the attention was rubbing the back of his head, smiling brightly, and trying to answer all of his new crewmates at once.
It seemed like it was going to be alright, Law thought in relief, and smiled.
"Captain," a shaky voice piped up beside him. Turning, Law saw Bepo look at him with tearful eyes. He raised an eyebrow, surprised that his navigator had not immediately joined into the fray of welcoming their new temporary crewmate.
"Yes? What is it?"
Instead of answering, however, the Mink’s beady black eyes moved in-between Law’s inquisitive gaze and the figure of Cora-san, surrounded by the crew and currently being measured up for his Heart Pirate one-suit by Shachi. The Heart captain watched in confusion as his navigator’s eyes brimmed with tears, which the polar bear furiously tried to blink back.
"Nothing," Bepo answered eventually, still sounding a little choked. "I’m just really happy for you, captain!"
The party was in full swing that night. Crews had been reunited, the Minks had been saved, and all was well.
Minks, Straw Hats and Heart Pirates were dancing around the fire, eating and drinking to their hearts’ content, singing, playing music and merrymaking. From where he was lying back against a toppled tree, Law could see Jean Bart and Zoro engage in a drinking contest with several unfortunate minks. Ikkaki and Franky were talking engines over by the next bonfire. Usopp, Penguin and Shachi were trading exaggerated battle stories. And, in a more quiet conversation at the edge of the party, Chopper and Bepo were apparently comparing their experiences as non-humans in their respective crews. Cora-san, clad in the new heart-pirates one-suit that Shachi had managed to conjure, was sipping from a mug of beer and conversing with a group of Minks.
"You look happy, Torao!" Luffy laughed, plopping himself down beside Law and promptly beginning to chew on one of the giant slabs of meat he had heaped on his plate. "I likechaw haffy! Chawlook preffy."
"Don’t talk with your mouth full, Straw Hat-ya," Law snapped back, watching with affection as the younger captain enthusiastically chewed his dinner. It was moments like this when Law became painfully aware just how far gone he was for the other man. Here he sat, not even that drunk, watching the idiot messily chew on a sea king steak, and all he could think was adorable. He was well and truly fucked.
But then again, Law reflected, Luffy was right. He was happy. Foreign as the concept might have been to him for years, Law suspected that happiness was precisely what that warm fuzzy feeling in his chest was. The night of the rainbow mist - not even a fortnight ago - he had been a few heartbeats away from diving into the sea. And now -
"We should tell them, I think."
Luffy stared at him with wide eyes, and Law was just as surprised by the words that had just crossed his own lips.
"About us, I mean," he continued in a low voice. "I know I said I wanted to keep the news of our relationship under wraps for a while, but … They’re our crews."
Law tore his eyes away from the slowly growing grin on his boyfriend’s face to watch the celebrations going on around them. He spotted Bepo raising a mug of beer, Shachi and Penguin dancing around the fire with Usopp, and Cora-san gesturing enthusiastically, dangerously close to the flames.
The foreign warmth in his chest flared up again, and he reached for Luffy’s hand without looking. "They deserve to know," he murmured, finally looking at the other man.
Luffy’s grin widened. A second later, he jumped up, meat still dangling from his mouth. A moment too late, the Surgeon of Death realised what the younger captain was about to do.
"No Strawhat-ya, not like tha-" Law whispered urgently, but to no avail.
"EVERYONE LISTEN UP!!! TORAO'S MY BOYFRIEND NOW!" Luffy bellowed at the top of his lungs, drowning out the cacophony of the party.
If he had set off a burst of conqueror’s haki, the effect could not have been more immediate.
All around the campfire, people froze in whatever they were doing, mouths gaping, eyes bulging, the blood draining out of several faces. The musician’s instruments fell silent with a series of pitiful squeaks. Someone dropped a stack of plates. Various people choked on their food and drink, coughing and gasping for air.
Law buried his face in his hands and groaned. Of course! Damn his impulsivity!
Several tense heartbeats passed before the inevitable commotion broke out.
Law’s head snapped towards the Straw Hat crew, where Nami, Chopper and Brook had thrown their flailing arms into the air, letting out a univocal blood-curdling scream of shock. To Law’s enormous surprise, Zoro was merely glowering at him murderously instead of already charging forward with his katanas drawn. Usopp was looking slightly nauseous but steadfastly held on to his mug of beer. Robin’s and Franky’s reactions, however, flat-out floored Law. The Straw Hat archaeologist was smiling warmly, while the robot-man had jumped up and thrown his arms together over his head in his signature Supeeeer!
Had they already known?! Law thought wildly. But there was no way -
"You have to be more careful with such shocking announcements, Mr Trafalgar!" a voice sing-song'd right next to his ear before Law could finish his thought. Brook had apparently recovered from his surprise. "You’ll give me heart attack!" the skeleton declared, then paused for effect. "Even though I have no heart anymore, yohohoh . Nonetheless - I feel inspired to compose a love song in your honour!"
To Law’s infinite horror, the Straw Hat musician was already beginning to experimentally pluck on the strings of his violin. Unable to face that particular train wreck at the moment, Law turned towards his own crew. Utter shock, feelings of betrayal, a maelstrom of questions - he was bracing himself for an assortment of worst-case reactions.
When he saw the Heart Pirates, Law's jaw dropped in shock.
Sitting calmly in a semi-circle around a heap of empty plates and glasses, Law’s crew was busy exchanging money. Several crew members were glumly digging around their pockets, groaning and shooting dirty glances at their captain. Others - Bepo and Penguin included - were grinning triumphantly and accepting coins from their friends. None of them looked particularly shocked or upset at the revelation that Law was now romantically involved with the captain of the Straw Hat pirates.
"I hate that you’re always right," Shachi grumbled as he handed a bag of belis to Bepo.
The polar bear didn’t even apologise as he accepted the money. "Well, I told you it was obvious. It was your idea to start the pool."
At this point, Law did the only logical thing. "WHAT?" he howled, utterly irate.
It was a sign of how well his crew knew him that none of them spared more than a passing glance for their apoplectic captain. Any other person - certain annoying allies excluded - would have turned and ran at the incandescent look on Law’s face.
As it was, Penguin turned towards the Surgeon of Death and shrugged. "Well, captain, you did drag us into a war for him after you’d known him for like ten minutes," he explained in a soothing voice that rubbed Law up the entirely wrong way. "Bepo and I figured there was something there from the beginning. Y’know. Something romantic. Soulmates. Destiny. Whatever. And when Shachi came up with the betting pool, we figured it was an easy way to make an extra beli. Like Bepo said - it was obvious. "
Beside him, Shachi groaned, his face buried in his hands. "But not the first time. Just. Fine I believed you that they’d get together at some point, but I thought the captain would have a little more restraint than that. Betting against them getting together the very next time they ran into each other should have been a sure thing."
Ignoring Law entirely now, Penguin grinned smugly and clapped his friend’s shoulder in fake compassion. "Marineford, mate. Think of Marineford."
Enough! Law had had decidedly enough. With a furious growl, he reached for his nodachi, fully prepared to chop both Shachi and Penguin up into a massive number of pieces and scatter them around the island. That would serve them right!
But before he could withdraw his sword from its sheath, two rubbery arms wrapped around his midriff and a body slammed into him from behind, knocking the wind out of him.
"Shishishi! Sorry Torao!" Luffy laughed, clinging onto the older man while he gasped for breath. "Did you explain everything to your crew? I did to mine. Chopper’s breathing again and Nami said she wants to talk to you later, but they’re happy for us."
Law sincerely doubted that that sentiment was genuinely shared among the members of the Straw Hat crew. And while he would never, ever admit it, the prospect of having a talk with the red-haired navigator terrified him just a little bit. But overall, he supposed, breaking the news to their crews could have gone worse. Well, there was still the business of dismembering people that he had to take care of, but -
"Congratulations!!!" a chorus of voices suddenly exclaimed in unison.
Startled, Law spun to stare at his crew. Gambling debts apparently settled, they had all stood up and were beaming at him and Luffy. And where the fuck had they gotten the confetti and party poppers all of a sudden???
"We’re so happy for you, captain!" Bepo exclaimed, practically radiating with joy. "I’m sure you’ll make a great couple!"
A chorus of congratulations and well-wishes chimed up behind the polar bear and Law had to admit that despite his irritation at his crew’s betting pool, he was feeling touched. His eyes fell on Cora-san, standing at the back of the group, grinning like a fool, and firing a pink glitter party popper.
Luffy laughed loudly in his ear and normally, Law would have snapped at him about rupturing his eardrums. But just now, the dreaded Surgeon of Death was feeling overwhelmed by the blatant display of how much these people cared for him. His crew. Cora-san. And Luffy.
Parting from Luffy was harder than Law had thought it would be.
Samurais had been reunited in the past days, alliances had been formed, and a plan concluded on for their further course of action. Just now, they were standing at the edge of Zou, seeing off the Straw Hat division that was going to recover their chef.
Venturing into the territory of Big Mum. Pissing off another emperor, probably. And still Luffy grinned as if it was just all one awfully big adventure.
Law was standing at the head of the Heart Pirates, shouldering his nodachi, his hat drawn low over his face, while the Straw Hats were saying their goodbyes.
Suddenly, a finger poked him in the back.
"Aren’t you going to kiss him goodbye, Law?" Cora-san whispered, not very quietly.
Law growled and hissed back. "No."
"Oh come on, captain -" Bepo chimed in a hushed voice.
"Yeah, come on -"
But before Law had time to either reflect on how Cora-san’s presence had managed to undermine his status as the feared captain of the Heart Pirates, or dismember anyone, two rubbery arms wrapped around him. His stomach lurched, he was pulled forward with a jolt and pressed up against Luffy.
"Toraaaaooooooo - I’m gonna miss you! Take care of everyone!" the Straw Hat captain exclaimed, and for a moment, the adventure-fuelled spark in his eyes dimmed. Law realised that he really would be missed.
"Don’t worry, Straw Hat-ya. I’ll make sure everyone gets to Zou safely. Just don’t cause any more trouble than necessary on your end." Law grumbled, disentangling himself from the rubbery appendices.
Instead of drawing back, however, he leaned forward and brushed a quick kiss against the smaller man’s lips. To hell with it.
Promptly, a cacophony of whistles and catcalls erupted behind him.
Luffy only smiled widely and took a step back, extending his rubbery arms far to each side.
"See you soon, Torao!" he called, as the appendices snapped back, enveloping everyone who’d be accompanying Luffy and propelling them backwards off the island.
Law barely had time to register the various expressions of shock and horror before Luffy shouted out another message and was gone.
"I love you, Torao!" were the words that echoed through the dusk as Luffy and his friends plummeted off Zou, towards the Sunny, and into a new chapter of their adventure.
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