Trying to Reapply Glue
Marco bounced Luffy on his hip as the child whimpered, his stomach gurgling. Sabo was next to Marco, rummaging through a bag set down on the floor. He suddenly paused in his movements, making a small pleased sound as he pulled out a bottle from the bag. He stood from his crouching position and turned to face Marco, stretching out his arms to hand him the bottle filled with formula.
"Thank you," Marco smiled softly as he took the bottle from the boy, who smiled faintly up at the older blond. Marco brought the bottle to Luffy's mouth and shushed the child gently as he began to drink from the bottle as though he had been starving.
Ace was standing with Zoro, Sanji, and Kidd by the window of Law and Killer's hospital room. Law was silent, laying in his bed and just breathing slowly. He was awake, but he wasn't saying a word. Marco was pretty sure he knew why too. He wondered when Thatch would get back…
And that was when the door slammed open, startling everyone in the room a little. The four boys by the window all screeched at various pitches while Law jolted in his bed, sitting up quickly with an annoyed look in his eyes. Sabo attached himself to Marco's leg while Luffy squirmed in the man's arms. Marco, who had barely flinched, sighed and looked over at the door where lo-and-behold, Thatch was standing there in all of his loud, obnoxious glory.
"You know, you're supposed to be quiet when you're in the hospital," The blond haired man sighed. Thatch just laughed loudly, walking over to Marco and smacking him on the back.
"Oh, c'mon Marco, it's not like I was stomping down the halls singing Anaconda," The man replied, grinning. Marco just gave him an unimpressed look, but then he saw the look in Thatch's eyes.
"Here, take Luffy for a minute, I need to go to the bathroom," Marco told the other man, carefully handing the baby over to him. Thatch hummed as he took the baby, hushing him when he fussed about his bottle. Marco made to move but paused when he felt something sit on his foot. He looked down, blinking at Sabo who was, in fact, sitting on his foot, staring up at Marco with big eyes.
Marco reached down and gently detached the boy from his limb, picking the child up to set him on his hip. He knew Sabo had been extremely clingy after the attack, but who wouldn't be?
"I'll be right back Sabo. Do you think that you can help Thatch take care of Luffy until I'm back?"
Sabo bit his lip but then nodded, allowing Marco to easily place him down. He watched as Marco walked out of the room with nervous eyes before grabbing onto Thatch's pant leg.
"I bet he's not actually going to the bathroom," Kidd sneered to himself quietly from where he sat below the window. Zoro, who was standing next to him, looked down at him with a raised eyebrow.
"What do you mean?"
Kidd scoffed. "Please, do you think that someone who could save us from crazy killers, has been watching us like a hawk since doing so, and hasn't eaten or drunk anything since he saved us, need to go pee?"
The two other boys, who also looked over during Kidd's mini tirade, both blinked. Zoro crossed his arms and frowned.
"So they're lying?" Sanji hissed out, staring at Thatch with one eye from under his bangs.
"They're not telling the truth, that's for sure. Adults never talk about serious things around us kids."
Ace was staring at Thatch, one of his hands clenching the windowsill tightly. He gulped as his eyes darted around the room, from Thatch holding Luffy and speaking softly to Sabo, to an unconscious Killer next to a silent Law, to his three friends standing next to him. His eyes shifted to look out the window, watching as the sun disappeared behind the tall buildings and the world entered shadows.
"Sometimes adults think it's best to keep secrets, and sometimes that is the case. You wouldn't be in this situation had your parents kept their mouths shut, but…adults don't understand. Not knowing what's going on while you watch them plan, that's the scariest thing. When something big happens, all you can do is flail and panic, and then they act like nothing's wrong. It's supposed to be comforting but…it's not. I promise I won't let that happen to you, not as long as I live."
Ace wished she was still alive.
It had been a week since the incident had happened. The city had been unnaturally quiet, but it was to be expected. After the five block blackout, the murders, and the news of increasing home invasions, no one felt safe. The stakes were high. Everyone was tense, ready to fight, walking in groups and making sure to watch their backs as they turned every corner and entered every door. Nothing felt safe anymore.
Ace knew that very well. He was sitting on the carpet of the living room, which was littered with stray toys. He stared blankly at the television screen before him, watching the news reporters talk about the latest kidnapping that had happened a few days ago. The child in the picture didn't deserve anything Ace knew they would have to suffer.
"You should go back to bed," A groggy voice announced from the hall. Ace turned his head ever so slightly and came to face Law, who was staring at Ace with unreadable eyes. "This isn't healthy."
Ace scoffed. "Says the insomniac," he mumbled, turning back to the screen and looking at the time in the corner of the news banner running across the bottom of the screen. It was 5:36 in the morning.
Law's eyes narrowed, annoyed. His eyes trailed downward, looking along the wall until he found what he was looking for only two steps away. He moved swiftly, steps soft, and kneeled down, reaching out his right hand. He grasped the cord of the television and yanked it out of its socket, listening contentedly as the voices of the people on the television were abruptly cut off.
"Hey!" Ace protested, jumping to his feet and glowering at Law furiously. The older male stared back, his eyes unyielding in the face of Ace's fury.
"As I said, this isn't healthy," Law stated, clutching the plug tightly in his right hand. "Obsessively watching the news isn't going to do anything except make you more paranoid than you already are!" Law exclaimed.
"I'm not paranoid!" Ace yelled back, lips pulled back in a snarl.
Law huffed a slightly hysterical laugh. "Sure you're not, because you definitely don't stay up until midnight watching these monotone reporters and you certainly don't wake up at five every morning to watch the breaking news, which is almost always inaccurate!" Law replied sardonically, his voice getting louder as he continued to speak.
Ace sputtered for a minute but then he growled. "Well at least I actually sleep! You haven't slept at all since you got back from the hospital!"
"You think I haven't tried sleeping!" Law retorted, moving forward. In the new lighting of the rising sun, the bags under his eyes became accentuated. They were worse than they had ever been before. "Believe me, I want to sleep, but it’s kind of hard to do knowing that your family is in danger!"
"I know exactly what that feels like! You don't know anything about suffering or losing family!" Ace pushed Law back. Law's eyes flashed with something dangerous, and for a second Ace felt fear spark in his heart.
"You think I don't know what it means to suffer?" The teen barred his teeth at the freckled child. Ace snapped out of his stupor and the corners of his lips curled up in defensive fury.
"No! You're too damn selfish and arrogant to have ever suffered!"
Something in Law snapped and he moved to step forward, when suddenly two bodies came between the two of them.
"Hey, hey, hey, calm down both of you! This is not how you should be acting!" Thatch reprimanded as he pulled Law away from Ace. He watched with careful eyes as Marco gently pulled back a struggling Ace. "You two need to calm down. I know you're worried, and so are we, but fighting isn't going to solve anything right now. We don't need more injuries in this house."
"Then tell Law to stop worrying about me. I don't need pity," Ace's voice grew louder as he spoke until he screamed the last word, panting hard after doing so. The others were all quiet for a moment.
"You think this is pity?" Law asked, voice disbelieving. His eyes were staring at Ace, searching for something, but the younger boy refused to look up to meet any of their eyes.
Ace ripped himself from Marco's grasp. He didn't say anything for a moment. "I don't know what else it could be," He muttered before he turned and bolted from the room, heading down the hall to the room he shared with Sabo and Luffy.
Thatch slowly released his grip on Law, staring down the hall for a moment before turning to look at Law.
"I thought only one of you planned to stay here to watch us," Law looked between them both, eyes questioning. Marco brought up a hand to his hair and ran the fingers through it before holding tightly and squeezing his own blond locks. He bit his lip, the space between his brows furrowing, before he removed his hand and looked Law dead in the eye, saying nothing. Law's fingers made a slight clenching motion. "What's wrong?"
"There's been," Thatch began from behind Law. Law turned, looking at the man who had his arms crossed, his body tensed as he looked Law in the eyes. "Threats. Against you four."
Law stared blankly at the young adult for a minute before turning to the couch that he had bought two years ago with Smoker. They chose it because they thought it would be good for when they needed to relax. Like right now. He walked slowly to it and then collapsed on it, staring up at the ceiling with conflicted eyes.
"I don't understand."
Neither man replied.
The sound of chains rattling echoed off of the cement walls and the metal bars of the makeshift prison cell. It was dimly lit, only by a slowly failing light bulb above and a few steps away from the front of the cell. The sound of pacing was a constant in the holding area.
Then a door opened.
A head of gray hair paused, turning and staring in the direction of the sound of the door closing. Smoker huffed, bringing his chained hands up to scratch at the blood dried into his growing beard. His body was littered in bruises and he had a slight limp, but the worst had to be the cut on his cheek and the gash in his thigh. Aside from those injuries, he stood tall and strong and with a dignity that his captors had been unable to crush.
The person who had just entered stood straight in front of the cell. The two men stared at each other, their eyes taking in every detail possible about the enemy. Silence engulfed them both for several long minutes until finally, Smoker straightened his back, took a deep breath through his nose, and spoke with a commanding voice.
"Where is your leader?"
"I see you get right down to business," The man laughed out instantly, a sick grin on his lips. Smoker's lips twitched in a grimace.
"Where has he run off to?"
"You won't find him," The man replied. "He hasn't been here since he capture you, and he won't be returning for a long time."
"So he's abandoned you?" The man said nothing, just smiled at Smoker. Smoker snarled. "You think you're so high and mighty when really you're just some low-life criminals gaining everything you have off of the backs of children. When I get out of here, I'll put all of you in jail myself with my own bare hands."
"Oh, I'm so scared," The man mocked before chuckling, pulling a wad of cash out of his pocket. "Do you really think I haven't got the authorities in this area under my thumb?"
Smoker said nothing, just stared at the man with steeled eyes. The man smirked smugly and lifted his hand in the direction of the door, waving someone to come closer. Another man did step up, his steps heavy. When he left the shadows, Smoker saw the whip he held in his hands.
"Now, how about you tell us a little bit about dear Acey. How is he alive?" The man asked, his eyes taking on a dangerous gleam, his head tilted to the side in a dangerous way.
There was a beat of silence.
Smoker said nothing. "You're going to play this quiet game again, are you? Well then," He took a key out of his pocket and opened the cage door. "We'll just have to try and get it out of you by force again."
Though the wounds on his back screamed for him to open his mouth, Smoker didn't reveal anything about Ace.
"Tick, tock, tick, tock, tick, tock."
Plip, plip, plip, plip, plip, plip.
Brown eyes watched as blood dripped from nowhere down before his feet. It was a constant flow, a constant sound, never ending.
"Just like the guilt, right Ace?"
Arms wrapped around his neck in a comforting hug from behind.
"Everything is all your fault, isn't it? You didn't die when they tried to kill you."
"Tick, tock, tick, tock, tick, tock."
"Maybe if you had, none of this happened. How many people would be alive if you were dead, Ace?"
The arms squeezed a little bit, getting just a tad bit tighter. Ace continued to watch the drops of blood drip from nowhere, his eyes staring blankly at the ground, where there should have been ripples. There were none.
Plip, plip, plip, plip, plip, plip.
"You were selfish, weren't you? You wanted to live, didn't you?"
"Tick ,tock, tick, tick, tock, tick."
The position of the arms were changing. Now the hands were wrapping around his neck. One of them was missing a finger.
"Tell me, Ace, had you died on that day when you were younger, would I be alive right now?"
The hands tightened.
Plip, plip, plip, plop, plip, plip.
"But no, Ace wanted to live. The monster wanted to live, didn't he? And he helped hurt so," Sabo appeared, "many," Law appeared, "people," Luffy appeared, "didn't he?" Everyone who had ever died because of him appeared. Most prominently before him stood his mother and father. "Are you gonna let everyone else alive die because of your selfishness Ace? Are you gonna let that happen?"
The hands clenched hard on his neck.
"Tock, tick, tick, tock, tock, tock."
The world turned white, the people disappeared, all except for the girl holding his neck.
"You know what to do Ace."
Plop, plop, plop, plop, plop, plop.
Something heavier was falling now. Ace didn't care to look.
"You've seen it before, been witness to it."
"Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick."
"So how about you do it?"
Even as the hands choked him, they tilted his head up, making him look at the source of the second voice. It was Anne's head. It was the source of the blood. And the tears.
Plip, plip, plip, plip, plip, plip.
"Stop your clock, just like you ended hers."
It was a loud sound, the sound of flesh hitting flesh in the household currently full of two inhabitants. A piece of metal, which previously fell to the floor with a loud clatter, spun in a circle for a few seconds until it came to a stop on the kitchen tiles.
A hand was raised, shaking. Another was resting against a reddening cheek.
"What were you doing?" Law asked, voice trembling, eyes wide as he lowered his hand to his side.
Ace's eyes turned up to Law, his posture screaming defeat to the older boy, the look in his eyes one of desperation and hopelessness.
"Were you just going to leave everything as it is?"
"Were you going to leave me to explain to Sabo why his big brother wasn't here anymore?"
"What did you want me to tell Smoker? What would I have to tell him when he returned and found that he was missing one kid…forever?" Law's voice cracked. Tears spilled over Ace's cheeks. His previously empty eyes were filling with emotion. Law collapsed to his knees at the sight and hugged Ace tight to him.
"Listen to me Ace, there's no use in wanting to die. Trust me! You may not believe it now, but people do," Law stressed the word, hugging the boy tighter, "care about you. You can't let the bad guys win Ace," Law choked out, burying his face into the smaller shoulder in front of him. "I know it's hard, but please, don't give up Ace, please, please, please don't give up! People need you! Luffy needs you, Sabo needs you, Thatch and Marco need you, Smoker needs you, your friends need you…I need you Ace! You're my brother now! So please, please don't disappear on me!"
Ace was sobbing now, his cries slowly turning into wails. His body was being supported completely by Law's, who was now just rubbing the child's back, biting at his own lips and sniffling heavily. Small hands clutched tightly to his shirt. Law stared at the knife sitting on the ground a few feet away with his bloodshot eyes. He glared at it.
It was Marco who returned first, with groceries in both of his hands. It had been three hours since the incident that he was unaware of. All he knew, from the second he entered the living room, was that something had changed.
Law and Ace, who had not talked since their spat a week ago in front of the television, were cuddled together. Ace was in his lap, sound asleep. Law's eyes, which had been closed, opened to look at Marco. The teen looked exhausted. Marco set the bags down in the kitchen and then made his way over to Law, ruffling his dark locks. He mouthed the word "sleep" and then the teen was out, as if Marco had flipped a switch to turn off a light."What happened?" He whispered to himself. To be honest, he doubted he would ever know. All he knew was that now, with a knife down his boot, he would be able to protect these children better than before. "I won't leave you alone again."