The Sleepover: Part 1
The scariest parts about the murders was what happened after.
There was no evidence left to find the killer, there were no other sudden deaths in the city, and no one strange approached any child or teenager in the vicinity. It set everyone on edge, waiting for lightning to strike and cause more irreparable damage.
But it didn't come.
And that was terrifying.
Ace looked out the window of his bedroom in the apartment. Yes, they had returned, but now the windows were all locked, security systems were in place throughout the whole building, and there were policemen walking up and down the streets at all times. Well, not just Ace's street. There were policemen everywhere, at least one for each neighborhood near the murders, talking with people or standing and watching intently, looking for the slightest slip up, for the grab at an unsuspecting person, to try and make an arrest.
Ace knew it was futile.
This was all a part of his game.
He thought he was so much better than everyone else with his money, his successful, illegal business, and men and women alike vying for him because of it. Ace didn't know why though. He didn't understand how someone so unappealing could be so popular.
But he was.
He made sure to brag about it whenever possible. Once in awhile, when Ace was forced to stay for several nights and hope and pray that Sabo would be safe, he could hear the sounds coming from other rooms. Sometimes it was other workers doing it, sometimes he did it with workers or with strangers he brought in. All Ace knew was that it was loud, disgusting, and he hated it.
A knock on the door interrupted his thoughts. He looked over as the door opened, stepping away from the window sill as Law poked his head into the room.
"Your friends are here."
Ace grinned. "Cool. Thanks."
Ace ran out of the room and down the hall to the front door, where his friends were taking off their shoes. They were staying over for the night. It was poor timing, but their parents had all had work related plans for this time that unfortunately couldn't be rescheduled. They would've let their children stay home alone for that one night, since they all had a teen living with them, but considering recent circumstances, that wasn't ideal.
As a result, Zoro, Sanji, and Kidd (Killer too, but he had already been there all day) were staying over for the night. Kuina, Zoro's sister, was staying with one of her friends and Ace didn't bother asking Sanji where his brother was, since the blond probably didn't know. He hated his brother. He never even told Ace what his name was.
"Thanks for dropping them off," Smoker said, talking to Zoro's father, Koshirou. Smoker looked down at the kids and made sure they were talking amongst themselves before turning back to Koshirou to speak quietly. Ace, who was the closest to the adults, listened to what they said. "Have a safe trip. Hopefully we'll have everything resolved soon."
"Have you found anything yet?" The man asked, speaking softly.
Smoker grunted. "Not yet. We're working on it though."
Ace was then forced to walk away when his friends asked where they could put their stuff. It left a sour feeling in his gut, knowing that they were having difficulties finding anything. Ace would tell them…
But he was scared.
Ace didn't even know the man's real name, only his alias. He probably had surveillance on Ace at all times too. One wrong move, and more people would lose their life. Or Ace would lose his life. Or worse – his family. And they changed location every couple of months, so he didn't even know where they were right then.
But if he could, he would tell them everything he knew.
But he was too scared to risk it right then.
It didn't mean he wasn't thinking up a plan.
"So this is your baby brother," Zoro said, watching as Ace came down the hall and turned into the living room. Ace turned to his friends, wearing the most sincere smile they had ever seen him make.
"Yeah, this is Luffy," Ace replied, walking over to them while holding the squirming, giggling baby in his arms. Ace sat down next to them on the ground and set Luffy next to him.
"He's really tiny," Kidd remarked. Ace snorted while Sabo looked at Kidd, confused.
"Babies haf ta be tiny, don' they?" The little boy asked, looking at Ace and not making a fuss when Luffy picked one of his toys of the ground and began to suck on it.
"They're all tiny. Kidd just isn't that smart," A voice replied from the kitchen. The boys all turned, a few of them snickering, while Kidd's face turned the color of his hair.
"Shut up, Killer!" He yelled, grabbing a block off the ground and chucking it at his cousin's face. Killer brought his hand up and caught the block, sticking his tongue out at Kidd to mock him. They could hear Law laughing from further within the kitchen.
Kidd looked away from his cousin, miffed, and clicked "Play" on the gaming screen. Zoro and Sanji yelled at him as they lunged for their controllers, shouting at Kid for being such a grump.
Kidd just kicked both of them as he continuously pressed the "B" button.
Ace laughed when Sabo climbed onto Zoro's back and began telling him "Zoro, it says go right! Not left! Why's is you turning that way? 'S nah right!" He only stopped laughing when he felt a weight on his lap. He looked down and saw that Luffy had fallen over onto his legs. Ace place Luffy on his lap as Luffy made loud, indistinguishable sounds, reaching his hands out in the direction of his friends.
"What do you want?" Ace asked the baby. Luffy made a loud sound as he kept reaching his hands out, and Ace realized it was in the general direction of Kidd, who was sitting closest to Ace. The freckled child blinked and sneakily shuffled closer to the red head. Luffy reached up, so Ace lifted him a little – and he tugged Kidd's hair.
Kidd let out an unmanly yelp and Ace began to laugh as Luffy began to pull at the hair, giggling. Kidd glared over at Ace, who smirked back at him.
"He may be tiny, but he's strong."
"I can tell."
Law slumped back in his seat and sighed as Killer leaned forward, leaning onto the table.
"We finally finished," Law breathed out, relieved, staring with disdain at the poster board before them. "Seriously, what kind of teacher gives a project in the second month of the year?" He threw his arms up in the air as he continued to glare at the project.
"Crazy teachers," Killer replied, looking down at the decorated cardboard with bored eyes. "At least we don't have to worry about it anymore."
"True, but still, I would've rather had a science project. I don't like history."
"Everyone knows you don't like history."
Law gasped mockingly and brought his hand up to his mouth in fake shock. "I'm so shocked. I thought I hid it well." Killer laughed softly at his friend's playing, but then he blinked. He looked down after feeling a tug on his hair and met the big blue eyes of the five year old boy.
"Your hairs is long," Sabo remarked.
"Your hair is short."
Killer nodded as Sabo brought his hand up to his short, curly locks, tugging on them. "They was longer, but som'un cutted them. But he's not as good as Ace!"
"Really? Ace likes to cut hair?"
Killer seemed to have no problems with what the child was suggesting, assuming that it was just a game they would play with dolls. Killer himself, years ago, cut all of the hair off his sister’s dolls. He had never heard her shriek so loud before, and planned to never hear it again lest he wanted to go deaf. Law was the exact opposite of Killer's relaxed demeanor. Law, himself, was tense, his eyes downcast. So, that was why their hair wasn't extremely long when Smoker brought the three of them home all those months ago…
Except it had only been four months. It isn't that long, yet…
Law feels as if he's been with them all forever.
"Law! Cans you make me a sandwich?"
Law blinked, snapped out of his stupor, before half heartedly glaring at the little kid.
"You ate an hour ago, Sabo-ya."
"But I'm hungry!" Sabo whined, tugging lightly on Law's sleeve and, oh no, he was giving Law the puppy dog eyes –
"Fine," he sighed in defeat. "What kind do you want?"
"Peanut butter an' fluff!" Sabo exclaimed, smiling widely and following Law to the counter to watch him put his food together. He was too short for the counter though. Only his eyes could see over the edge as his little fingers gripped the surface.
"Cans I try making one?"
"No," Law replied quickly, ignoring the pout because even if it was a butter knife, the squirt wasn't allowed to hold knives.
Law was brought out of his thoughts as he heard footsteps and the boys in the living room began yelling.
"What is it, Kidd?"
"Can I borrow your shoes?"
"So I can throw them at Ace."
"If you're going to throw shoes, throw your own."
Law agreed with the logic, but he was pretty sure that they weren't supposed to be condoning their fighting.
"I can't! They got all the shoes and hid them! Can I have yours?"
"No. Use your goggles."
"Are you insane? No way, Killer! These're new! Just give me your shoes!"
"I can't help you if you want to use my shoes."
Kidd groaned loudly and then grumbled. His footsteps approached Law, who was cutting the sandwich into triangles for the bouncing kid next to him.
"Law, can I-"
Law put the knife down and grabbed the plate, moving over to the table. He put the plate on the wooden surface and helped Sabo take a seat on the too-tall chair.
Kidd groaned loudly again. "C'mon Law. Just one?"
Law sighed and turned to the redhead, flicking his forehead with his finger. Kidd flinched a little and then glared dully up at the teen.
"You can't have mine, but," Law couldn't believe he was saying this, "you could probably steal Smoker-ya's shoes. They're in the closet."
Kidd grinned mischievously. "Thanks!" And then he was off. Ten seconds later, after the sound of a door slamming echoed through the house, he ran by again with a pair of Smoker's shoes. Not even three seconds, the volume of the yelling in the other room escalated.
"Cans I throw shoes too?" Sabo asked, not realizing there was fluff on his nose. Law grabbed a napkin and then gently took Sabo's face in hand, wiping the condiment from the soft skin.
"No. Finish your sandwich. This way you won't get yelled at."
"Won't you get yelled at?" Killer asked, cocking an eyebrow in the other teens direction. Law shrugged with a slight smirk on his lips.
"Don't care. As long as no one is seriously hurt, it'll be fine. Besides, it'll give me more peace this way."
"Them fighting gives you peace?"
Law gave Killer a slightly off smile, his eyes darkening. Sabo looked up to him, highly confused and a little concerned. Killer blinked, his own eyes widening before he sighed, rubbing at his face in discomfort.
"Sorry…I get it now. I guess this is peaceful, huh?"
"-and that's how the Headless Horseman lost his head."
The flashlight was turned off and Sabo bit his lip, pushing himself closer to Ace. Ace ruffled his hair with one hand while the other smoothed over Luffy's wispy tufts. The baby was in his lap, sucking on a binky as he snuggled into Ace's stomach, continuously making sounds of comfort.
"That story sucked."
"Shove it, Kidd."
The lights turned on and Law, who stood with his hand on the switch, sighed in slight annoyance.
"Must everything be a competition between you two?"
"Yes," The cousins replied simultaneously. Law blinked and then sighed again, shaking his head with slight exasperation. He then looked over to Sanji and Zoro, eyes narrowing. The two were wrestling on the floor, shoving at each other's faces and biting. Law approached the two with sure footsteps and yanked them apart before giving each a punch on the head.
"What was that for you ba-" Law smacked a hand over the blond's mouth as he gave them both what he hoped to be a reprimanding stare.
"Can you stop fighting for three seconds? I'll have your hair permanently glued to my hand if I have to smack you again."
Ace and Kidd snickered a little bit at that while their friends glared up at Law. The two nine year olds then looked at each other, glared, and turned away, huffing with annoyance.
Suddenly, the lights went out.
"Did someone turn off the lights?" Law asked, turning to the switch even though he couldn't see it.
Killer turned on the flashlight. "No. The other rooms are off too."
"Is the power out?" Zoro asked, shifting to his knees where he sat.
A door down the hall slammed open and Killer pointed the flashlight in the general direction of muttering and stomping. Smoker emerged after a minute, putting his arms through the sleeves of his jacket and slipping his boots on all at once.
"I'm going to go see if anything is wrong downstairs. All of you stay in here."
"Why do you have to check?" Law asked, brows furrowed as he stepped back a half step.
"There's no storm out right now, which normally takes out the power. I'm going to check if there's an emergency. Stay here, lock the door behind me, and don't open it unless it's me. Got it?"
"Yeah, got it," Law replied. There was a slight waver of unease to his voice. Smoker stayed where he was for a moment, staring at his nephew, before turning and leaving, closing the door behind him with a loud bang.
It was silent for a few seconds as Law stepped forward, turning the lock on the door in front of him. No one spoke for ten agonizingly long seconds.
"Let's all get to one of the bedrooms. We can play a game or something."
The numbers were lit up brightly on the cellphone screen. Law held the object above his face, staring at it as he lay on his bed. It had been around three hours since Smoker had left. Ace, his brothers, Zoro, and Sanji were all asleep in Ace's room, curled up in a nest of blankets and sleeping bags. Killer was in the bathroom, getting ready for bed, and Kidd was sitting next to Law, playing 2048 on his iPod.
He brought his phone down and took a deep, quiet breath. He had thought that Smoker would've been home by now, that they would've had power back. Something must have happened for him to not be back yet. He hoped his uncle was safe though.
Law turned his head and saw Kidd was curled up on himself, his phone held loosely in his hands, but he wasn't moving any squares as the game demanded. He'd known the boy long enough to know something was bothering him.
"Is Ace okay?"
Law blinked before sitting up and moving to sit next to the red haired child.
"What do you mean?"
"Well…the day that we learned about the murders, he…after we found out someone in our grade died, he acted really strangely. He went to the bathroom and I went to see if he was okay. He wasn't," Kidd gulped and fidgeted a little, moving to lean against the wall next to Law's bed. The teen turned to look back, showing him that he was paying attention. "He was crying really badly, and he kept muttering to himself. I don't know why, but, he…he kept saying that it was his fault. Why would he think it's his fault, Law? I don't get it."
It was silent for a few moments. Kidd began to get frustrated at the lack of a response and opened his mouth to demand answers, but he stopped when he felt a hand on his head. Law moved his fingers in a soothing motion, massaging his scalp, and Kidd flushed slightly, embarrassed, leaning into the touch. Only Law knew about this weak spot, all because of that one time a few years ago when Kidd was little and hurt and couldn't find Killer.
"Killer? Where are you?" A red haired child called loudly. He was standing in a playground, bathed in the light of the setting sun. He stood on the wood chips, looking around for his cousin to no avail. He sniffled a little and reached up to wipe at his face with his clean hand. His other hand was covered with blood from his leg. He had fallen on a pointy rock and it put a hole in his thigh. He had been with Killer and Law, and though the park was empty, he couldn't find them.
He sat back on the ground and put his hand over his leg again, hissing and holding back a whimper when he pushed down on the wound to try and stop the bleeding. He sniffled a bit and glared at the ground, ignoring the tears on his cheeks.
"Stupid Killer. They probably left me here on purpose," He mumbled to himself. It was a prank that Killer had pulled once or twice before, when he was angry with Kidd, but Kidd was pretty sure that he hadn't done anything to anger the blond in the past week.
"Why would we do that?"
Kidd jumped on the ground and whined a little when he moved his leg. Before he could move, a dark haired boy was in front of him.
"Law! Where were you guys?"
"Some other kids stole your bike. He's getting it back right now. He told me to come get you. What happened, though? You were fine when we left."
Kidd sniffled and glared. "It's none of your business – ow! Don't touch it!" Kidd smacked his hand away, his voice breaking off into a whimper. Law frowned and reached out a hand, bringing it up to the younger boys head and moving it in a calming motion. Kidd flinched a little but slowly – and Law watched with relieved victory – the boy's tears stopped and he even leaned into the touch, humming softly in content.
Law had to bite back a snicker.
Kidd blinked, confused, when Law pulled away and then crouched in front of him.
"C'mon, get on. We can go meet Killer-ya and then get your leg fixed up."
What happened sunk into Kidd's head and he flushed, glaring at the older. But, at the same time, walking hurt, so he got onto Law's back. Law lifted him up and carefully adjusted him and then began to walk.
"Don't tell Killer."
"Tell Killer-ya what?"
"About my head."
"That you like people touching your head?"
"Shut up! Don't tell him, Law! He'll just tease me about it!"
Law laughed. "Okay, okay, I won't tell.
True to his word, he never spoke a word of it to Killer. But this wasn't what he needed right now.
"Law," He said softly, contrasting his glaring eyes.
"Ace wasn't as lucky as the rest of us. We don't really know what happened, but the three of them were on the streets for at least three years. I honestly don't know why Ace would think that, but…I plan on finding out and beating up whoever put those thoughts in his head."
Kidd blinked at the teen, the murderous look in his eyes disappearing to be replaced with shock.
"Can I help?"
"If you want to."
"Why would I ask if I didn't want to? Besides, he's my friend. I don't want him to be sad."
Law smiled. "I'm glad you're his friend, Kidd."
He was two years old again. He could tell – his hands were really tiny. He looked up and saw a girl, maybe eight years older than him, standing there. They were in the black space. Ace felt his stomach churn. The black space always held his worst nightmares.
But this didn't seem bad at all.
Little Ace smiled and ran clumsily on his short legs up to the older girl, giggling. She kneeled down and laughed as he hugged her around her middle, muzzling into her chest.
"How are you, Ace?"
"Everything's really scary," His voice was high pitched, and he would've been embarrassed about it, but he was too happy to care. "I wish you were here, Anne."
"It's alright, Ace. I'll always be here for you," She said, pulling back and then putting her hand over the left side of his chest.
"I miss you," He whispered, and she gave a sad smile.
"I miss you too."
And suddenly, everything was overwhelmingly hot.
Ace was four, he knew, because now Anne was twelve.
It was that dream again, wasn't it?
She picked him up and began running and all Ace saw was dancing flames and shadows of men. Their yells were loud and mixed with the crackling fire created a horrifying sound. He clutched onto Anne as she ran, hot tears running down his cheeks because he knew where this was going.
Suddenly, the flames were behind them. She didn't slow though – no, she ran faster. At least, Ace thought she was going faster. Everything was in slow motion. He turned his head to look at her before –
They were forcibly separated and Ace heard himself scream as he began to fall through thin air. "NO! ANNE!" He reached up to where he last saw her, his hair and clothes whipping wildly around him in the wind as tears continued to fall down his face.
He was around six or seven years old when hands caught his body and took the brunt of the fall for him. One of the hands was missing a finger.
He knew those hands.
She was holding him tight, her mouth open wide in a scream he couldn't hear, and Ace felt as if his eyes would melt if he cried anymore.
"If I ever get to have a child, I'll name him or her Luffy."
It echoed loudly in the space they were in as she disintegrated out of sight.
"I just like the sound of it. Plus, it's unique, isn't it?"
Even though he was gently lowered to the ground, it felt as if he hit concrete at 100 miles per hour. Everything was bearing down on him.
"It's your fault I'm dead."
He looked up and was met with the sight of the teenage girl who had just recently died. She looked exactly as she had in the photograph on TV.
Bloody tears began to fall from her eyes and she brought up one of her arms. She held a gun and Ace flinched in shock.
"It's your fault."
"You should have never opened your mouth all those years ago."
"No. Stop. Please, stop."
"Better yet, you shouldn't even have been born."
The ground was turning red under her feet and the air around them was hot, the black space cracking. He was at the point where he whimpered, trying to block out the hateful voice of the teen in his dream.
"The child of a monster shouldn't deserve to live."
"Please!" He was crying, taking deep shuddering breaths as he stared up at her. "I'm sorry. I'm so, so, sorry."
That eyeball from when he first saw a child murdered as punishment rolled in front of his face.
"It's too late for sorry."
She pulled back the safety on the gun, taking aim.