I am not Able to Comprehend this Madness
The swingset creaked with each movement Ace made. His foot, set on the ground, pushed him in any direction he pleased, small movements only, but Ace could not bring himself to swing as high as he possibly could. Not at the moment.
His head rested against the swing's chains. He watched the other kids of his class and other classes run around the rest of the school's playground, screaming and laughing and cheering. He was the sole child on the swings.
Well, he used to be the sole child on the swings.
The child looked up at the swing to his left. Kidd was on it, his hands holding onto the chains as he leaned his body back as far as it could go until his torso was parallel with the ground. His feet stayed rooted to the sand below.
"What is it?" Ace asked the scarlet haired boy. Kidd said nothing for a moment, his amber-golden eyes just staring at the sky for a moment, before he spoke.
"Killer woke up." Ace flinched ever so slightly at the revelation. He thought Killer would be in a coma for a little bit longer. "He doesn't remember anything about that night. I'm not surprised though, it's Killer, sometimes he can't even remember his real name."
Ace gave a weak smile at that, allowing his body to lean more heavily on the chains of the swing.
"It was strange though," Kidd continued, voice quiet now. Ace strained his ears to listen. "The first person he asked about was you."
Ace tensed, head whipping to the side to stare at Kidd. The older boy's eyes were closed now, his head hanging back like a broken branch in the breeze. His hair was moving slightly in the soft wind.
"He told me he couldn't remember why, but he thought he felt concerned for you." Kidd's hands tightened on the chains and his feet planted themselves firmly in the ground. He pulled himself up, opening his eyes in the process. He turned to face Ace, his amber eyes staring into Ace's coffee colored irises.
"Killer will only remember something if he feels like it's important. He'll only mention it if he feels like he needs to," Kidd noticed Ace's fingers tightened a little bit on his swing. "Something about your pain stuck out to him. Why?"
Ace clenched his lips together and stood, taking off in a sprint.
"Ace! Hold on!"
Ace knew that meant that Kidd was chasing him. Survival instinct began to kick in. He couldn't tell Kidd, he couldn't spill his secrets. Then they would become broken, just like him. He had to run, run, run, runrunrunrunrunrunrunrunrun-
A hand grabbed Ace's arm, pulling him backwards. Ace, shocked, lost balance and fell down onto his butt. The hand on his arm kept him elevated enough that his head didn't hit the concrete below. Reluctantly, Ace opened his eyes, looking up. Kid was holding his arm with his right hand, panting, eyes locked onto the younger boy. Ace's senses only vaguely took in the fact that the two were alone in one of the fields, far from the teachers and other students. Ace began to struggle, fear starting to course through his veins, when he was stopped by Kid's voice.
"Please, Ace," Kidd's voice pleaded. Ace looked up at his friend, surprised to find that his eyes were wet. "Don't disappear." The pale hand tightened its grip on Ace's arm. Ace's eyes were wide as he watched Kidd wipe away some of the tears with his free arm. Ace watched, stunned for a moment, and just as he opened his mouth, one of the teachers blew the whistle. That meant recess was over.
Kidd released his arm.
"Never mind," The boy hissed out even though his voice was still thick with some form of grief Ace couldn't understand. Kidd turned and ran back to the school building, leaving Ace to sit and stare and awe.
Law was swiping at the pieces of candy on tablet like a madman, only half listening to his friend's conversation. He'd heard the conversation before, all about how Bepo was obsessed with polar bears, and then Penguin would just argue that of course penguins were better, and then Shachi would just bust in with some random animal like a lion just to piss them both off.
Besides, he needed to be as distracted as possible. Talking would only keep him semi-distracted, and they all knew that. He didn't want to think about –swipe, swipe, swipe, swipe.
"Hey, did you guys hear about the home invasion last week?" A boy's voice said from another table. Law paused in his movements, staring down at the game board below him and blocking out his friends conversation.
"The one during the blackout?" A girl replied, curiosity lacing her tone.
"Yeah, that one. Apparently it happened to someone who's a student here." The boy said. There were a few gasps.
"What? How do you know that? I thought they were keeping all the information about that under wraps!" Another boy's voice, this one higher pitched, replied, seemingly stupefied by what the first boy was saying. Law's fingers unconsciously paused the game.
"I know things," The first boy replied, smug. "Apparently, they were going after said student's adoptive brother. They had guns and everything, trying to kill these kids."
"No way," The girl replied, sounding scandalized. The first boy made a sound of agreement.
"It's true. And you know what the worst part is about this situation? I know who the brother is. My sister is in his class. She tells me he's terrifying and rude and mean. I think if the criminals want the kid so bad they should just give him up already and spare the rest of us the terror."
The boy stopped talking when Law stood abruptly, sending his chair flying backwards. Now his friends were staring at him, concern on their faces when they noticed his head was down. The rest of the classroom went silent, staring at Law.
"You want them to give the kids over to those murders?" Law asked, voice monotone. The other male began to stand, ignoring his friends trying to force him to sit back down. A smug smile was on his face.
"Of course I do," He responded as he stood to his full height. "The kid was found on the streets in the first place, wasn't he? Why don't you just send him back there? I'm sure he won't mind."
Law's body tensed and his lips pulled back into a snarl. He turned to face the other teen completely, eyes squinted as he stared at the boy's smug face. He tilted his chin slightly up, making it so he was staring down at the other, as he planted his fit more firmly on the ground.
"I suggest you shut your mouth Spandam."
The teen, Spandam, barked out an incredulous laugh. "You think I'm going to listen to you? I don't have to listen to lowlife, murderous scum like you. I bet you're just like that damn bird, what was his name agai-"
Spandam got cut off by a punch to the face. Several of the girls in the classroom screamed and several people began cursing as Law pounced on the teen on the ground, punching him again and again and again.
Hands grabbed at Law, pulling him off of Spandam, whose face was quickly bruising. He was curled up on the floor like a child for a second before he sat up, glaring with petulant fury at the other teen. Law was just barely being held back by Bepo and Penguin while Shachi tried to calm him down.
"You're such a piece of shit, Law! I always knew you were a barbarian, but I guess you're irrational as well!"
"Shut the fuck up Spandam!" Law roared, his eyes wide and his pupils the size of pin pricks. "You don't know anything you fucking arrogant coward!"
"Law, calm down!" Shachi yelled, covering Law's mouth as he, Penguin, and Bepo quickly began to drag him out of the room.
"You'll pay for this, Law, I'll make sure you get expelled, and this time Smoker won't be here to save you!"
Shachi slammed the door shut, nearly breaking it with how much force he put on the door. Quickly, they began to bring Law down the hall, but now the teen wasn't moving. His feet dragged along the ground as he looked down at the floor, his eyes shadowed by his bangs. When they finally reached one of the halls that was always deserted, they let the teen go. Law immediately stumbled back against the wall, sliding down to sit.
"Law?" Bepo began tentatively, kneeling close to his friend and putting his hand on the smaller teen's arm. Bepo's eyes widened when he realized that tears were dripping down Law's cheeks.
"What the fuck does that bastard know?" Law choked out, voice raspy and body trembling. "Why would he say that?"
Bepo pulled his friend into a hug. Penguin came to sit on one side, rubbing at his back, while Shachi moved to close the empty hall's doors.
Law was in his room, sitting on his bed under his blanket. He was staring at the computer screen, reading something off of it. It was an article about the past few weeks…
And everyone was calling for them to give up Ace to the criminals.
Law clicked another tab. He read through it to the end. It made his fingers twitch over the track pad. He was given the same result. He had one more tab left. He had already gone through six.
His fingers shook, yet still he moved the mouse over the last tab. He didn't move for four seconds, but then he pressed down on the new tab, another news report coming up. He stayed absolutely still as he read it, only moving his fingers to scroll down the page.
And then he reached the end.
Blindly, Law reached behind himself with his hand. His hand frantically searched over the sheets until finally, it found the cushioned pillow. He gripped it tight and speedily brought it to his face.
He buried his face into the pillow and screamed, long and hard and pained. He stayed there for a few minutes, just breathing in and out into the fabric of the pillow, his body visibly shifting with each deep breath he took.
In a flurry of movement, Law stood and wiped his pillow at the wall opposite the long side of his bed. It hit the wall with a dull thud before falling to the ground with a soft thump.
It wasn't enough.
Law moved his computer out of the way and then ripped all of the covers and sheets and pillows off of his bed, tossing them in several directions, not caring when he hit the lamp by his bedside or his large bookshelf in the corner of his room. All that mattered at that moment was the rage.
He knocked over his desk chair. He tossed his books at the wall. He tore down the window shades and blinds. And then he collapsed into the middle of the mess on his floor. He laid there, not saying anything, just focusing on inhaling and exhaling, for many long minutes.
Then his phone beeped.
Law didn't move for a second but then reached his arm down, searching for his phone in his back pocket. When he found it, he pulled it out and brought it to his face, entering his lock pattern. It had been a text he received, but his eyes were locked on another icon.
Law didn't really know why he had Twitter, to be honest. He went on once in a millennium. He didn't care for celebrities or the lives of his classmates. All that mattered to Law was that he wasn't just surviving, he had to make sure he was living. He felt Twitter didn't do anything to add that wish.
Yet he had it.
And there, he could see what the people actually thought.
Hesitantly, his thumb stretched for the blue and white icon, and pressed down on it with a quick tap.
And of course Twitter had exploded with hashtags.
It was a battle of words. Short phrases, to the point, but it was there. It restored some of his faith in humanity, to know that not everyone wanted Ace to go back with the kidnappers, but there were still far too many people deciding the opposite.
Law lowered his arm, allowing it to drop by his side. He sighed, closing his eyes.
"Cora…why can't people care like you did…"
"-and that's why I'm here to ask you if we can borrow some of your spies," Thatch finished, standing in the homely room that smelled of cigarettes, cinnamon candles, and booze.
Dadan was sitting in one of the wooden chairs at the kitchen table, a cigarette between her lips. She was staring at Thatch, her head resting on her hand. She was taking in everything she saw about Thatch, the boy she had now since she was twenty five and he had merely been three years old. He didn't look the happy child he once was.
His brow had been furrowed since she opened the door for him earlier that night at one in the morning. He was in clothes that smelled as if they had not been washed in three days. His hair wasn't in its usual pompadour style, and it wasn't well cared for. It was pulled back into one of the messiest, laziest ponytails she had ever seen. His eyes were bloodshot and the fatigue in them was accentuated by the dark bags below them. His skin was pale and covered in dirt.
It made the woman depressed to see him in such a state.
Dadan stood in her slippers and walked over to the young man, putting her hand on his shoulder.
"We'll talk about what you're taking with you tomorrow," Dadan began, and seeing Thatch's face light up was a small blessing for her. "But for now, you need to rest."
Thatch sputtered, caught off guard. "Dadan, I have no time to rest! I have to-"
"Thatch," Dadan interrupted, eyes hard. "When you are in my house, you are under my rules and jurisdiction, so go get your ass in one of my spare beds and get some rest!" Dadan kicked the man in the butt in the direction of one of the spare bedrooms. The man groaned and grumbled but entered the room anyway. Dadan scoffed. "Stupid kid, always making me worry…"
"Ace? What's wrong?"
The child was curled up in a ball, floating in space. His hands were over his ears and his eyes were shut tight.
A hand touched the top of his head. The child curled in on himself tighter, biting his lips and trying not to let out any sounds of surprise.
"Why do you want me to go away Ace?"
"You're not real, this is a dream, go away!"
"…do you really hate me that much?"
That got Ace to look up. His eyes were wide, filled with paranoia. His lips were trembling, trying to form words but unable to do so.
She tilted her head to he side, her two different colored eyes – her left one ebony, her right one blue – were staring at him. It wouldn't have unnerved him so much if he didn't realize that there were no emotions behind them, no trace of her soul.
Ace turned around, scrambling to curl up in fetal position. "Get away from me!"
She was silent for a moment. But then, oddly, the something hit the ground.
"Why Ace?" The sound of metal slicing something cut through the silence after she spoke. Ace's eyes were open, staring frantically at the darkness below. "Ace?" Another thud sounded. "Ace…look at me?"
The sound of a knife broke through. It had chopped at something.
"Please Ace? For me?"
"Okay. Bye bye."
Ace closed his eyes, ignoring the sound of something falling, the sound of her falling.
Ace opened his eyes slowly, his breath even yet his heart strained. The sound of Sabo snoring and Luffy gurgling in his sleep were the only sources of comfort for his currently crushed state of mind. Ace bit at his lip so hard that it almost tore the skin. He squeezed his eyes shut, painfully gulping back a sob. He brought his hand up to his mouth and covered it, berating himself "stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid," as his tears fell down over his freckled cheeks.
"You have to promise me something Ace."
"What is it?"
"If I die, I want you to live with no regrets, okay? Live life to it's fullest."
Sabo was sitting on the carpeted floor of the living room, several pieces of paper and more than 20 crayons of varying colors spread all around him. He was currently hunched over a piece of paper, drawing on it with all the grace a five year old could muster.
Law was sitting on the couch, Luffy sitting in his lap. The baby had Law's hand in a death grip, sucking on his fingers. Law didn't really mind that, but he wasn't a fan of all of the drool.
Ace was curled up in a ball at the other end of the couch, his eyes staring blankly ahead at the television. The characters on screen were acting out some comedic skit, but the child couldn't even muster the strength to laugh.
The sound of a pen writing quickly on paper could barely be heard from the kitchen. Through the doorway, they could just barely see that Marco was in there. He was speaking quietly on the phone with someone, scrawling in his messy chicken scrap on cheap pieces of paper pulled from one of Law's spare notebooks.
It was probably one of the laziest Sunday's in Law's entire life, and he had had plenty of those.
Luffy squealed quite loudly about something, startling Law a little bit. He blinked and looked down at the baby, who was reaching up for Law's hair. Law said nothing when the youngest grabbed his hair and yanked hard, but the look of annoyance on his face said everything.
Marco pushed back his chair quite loudly and then left the kitchen, storming down the hall to Smoker's room. The sound of a door opening and slamming shut was heard, followed by muffled yelling.
"What do you think they're talking about?" Ace mumbled.
Law stared in the direction of the hall for a second, not really paying attention to Luffy's hands on his face at that moment. "I have no idea."
And then Luffy grabbed his nose and squeezed and, well, it's difficult to breathe with your nose blocked. Law couldn't help but forget what he just saw, brushing it off, but Ace didn't forget. He just turned his eyes back to the television and stared.
"…No, I've never seen the symbol before!...Just because I know my fair share about gangs doesn't mean I know everyone…yes, I'll look into it…what do you mean they've already captured one of the gang members?...they found one this fast? And how did they manage to do that?...that's just pure luck for us…when will you be coming back then…you're not coming back until tomorrow night?! It might be too dangerous without two of us here…fine, fine, then when will he arrive?...ok, ok, ok, got it…wait, what do you need me to do?"
Ace pulled away from the wall and walked silently over to the bathroom, opening the door and closing it without as much as a click.
So they were chasing after the gang members…Ace doubted it would do much good. Only those with high rankings knew about the stuff that Ace knew. They were trying, Ace could tell, but he felt it would be futile.
He was sure that they would do absolutely anything to save them, but the others would do absolutely anything to have him.
They had a substitute teacher today.
It was something that bothered Ace. Miss Nico was somewhat of a beacon of peace for the troubled child. Zoro and Sanji could distract him, but Kidd hadn't talked to him in days. It hurt, but Ace didn't know what to do. Without Miss Nico that day, he felt terribly lonely.
It was one of the reasons he was happy to be going home. He wanted to see Sabo and Luffy. And Law. For some reason, being around the teen provided the child with a stable mind. He really needed that at the moment.
He was currently waiting on the sidewalk in front of the school. Teachers were all along the sidewalk, keeping a careful eye out for the kids. Ace found it slightly annoying, but he understood.
Ace blinked and looked to his right. Kid was standing there, looking out at the street.
"…Sorry," Kidd grumbled out after a moment of stuttering. Ace just blinked at him, eyes slightly wider than normal with surprise.
"Don't worry about it."
Both of them were looking out at the street now. The silence was awkward, stretching between them. Neither knew what to say.
And then car tires screeched. Their view was obstructed. The car pulled away.
Only Kidd was there.
The scarlet haired boy's eyes widened and his jaw dropped with horrified shock. He turned in the direction of the driving car.