The Cries For Strength
Haruta was yelling at Marco. Marco figured he deserved it. He couldn't walk on his own at the moment. He knew logically he shouldn't have gone with Thatch to help save them, he had roadburn and was severely injured, but he had gone anyway. There was no way he was going to leave Thatch to go through something like that again, not alone. There was no way he wasn't helping Thatch find their family. Now Marco would be in a wheelchair for the next three weeks. He didn't regret it, not one bit. He had his family back...he knew he had two of them back.
Marco sat in a hospital bed, fingers clenched in the sheets. Haruta was next to him. He was the only one who had been able to make it there so fast. He probably sped on his motorcycle, Marco figured. Haruta was a reckless soul after all.
"Marco are you listening to a word I'm saying?" Haruta yelled at him, standing up and slamming his hands against the bed. It didn't do much. Marco looked over at Haruta. Haruta was staring him down, his blue eyes full of the the sea, wavering like the waves of the ocean would.
"I get it Haruta, you're concerned and I'm an idiot," Marco replied. Marco stared at Haruta for a bit. Haruta seemed to get extremely angry for a few seconds, but then he practically deflated. He sat back down on the chair. A deep sigh escaped his throat as his shoulders slumped. "Why are you and Thatch always so reckless?" Haruta asked with a shivering breath. Marco gave the younger male a half smile.
"Says the one who sped here."
Haruta gave Marco a mild glare. Marco just smiled.
Haruta glanced at Marco's watch. He blinked twice quickly before taking Marco's wrist. Marco watched, curious. Haruta started to turn the dial on the top.
"I hadn't realized it stopped," Marco told Haruta.
"Well," Haruta began, giving Marco an annoyed glare, "You did just severely hurt yourself, I doubt this was on your mind."
Tick tick tick tick
The door slammed open. The two sitting in the room lifted their heads quickly, looking to the rooms new occupant. It was Thatch. He had been waiting on the first floor of the hospital, where Ace, Law, and Smoker were in surgery. They were on the fifth floor. Thatch's face was bright red. Marco could see beads of sweat had formed where his forehead met his hairline. His hair was a mess. He looked up, eyes frantic. He stepped into the room, speaking words so fast Marco barely understood them.
When he went to wake up Sabo, he realized the child hadn't slept that night. Magra grimaced at the sight of the young boy exhausted and worried, anxious like no child should ever be. He looked at Magra with red eyes framed by black, sleep-deprived circles and a frown that could make even the most cold hearted men feel guilty.
Magra lifted the boy up because Sabo refused to get out of bed by himself. He was cranky from not sleeping and a ball of frayed nerves from the recent events. His brothers were missing. His dad was missing. Many of the adults he cared for went away without telling him why. The only one he had left was Luffy.
Magra carried Sabo, whining and grumbling, out to the living room. Luffy was sleeping in his car seat, but only after he had cried his eyes out. No amount of food could make him happy.
At first Sabo refused to eat, but eventually after much struggling on Magra's part Sabo ate a few bites of cereal.
Dadan called for Magra from a side room. The man put Sabo on the couch by Luffy and told him to stay put. He then ran out when Dadan called again, this time more urgently.
Sabo looked at Luffy, snoring away in his car seat on the floor of Dadans living room. The slow rise and fall of his chest reminded Sabo that Luffy was alive and well, safe. He could not say the same for Ace, or Law, or even Smoker. They were all so strong, but they were all missing. Sabo wondered if they were hurt. Sabo wondered if he would ever see them again. He hoped they didn't end up like Robin. She was still in the hospital. He had asked to see Robin because he wanted to know if Law was safe, he thought Robin might know the answer to that. But when he saw her, she was asleep in her hospital bed. She was covered in bandages and hooked up to beeping machines with bright blinking lights. She had been asleep since surgery. He didn't know what they did to her but he didn't think he would understand it either.
A sudden yell jolted the boy out of his depressed state. He whipped his head around as the for slammed open. Dadan came running out followed by Magra. She quickly found some papers and a pen and frantically began writing down something the person on the other end of the line was telling her. Then she started yelling again. She cursed when she hung up, saying that the call dropped. She turned to Magra and quickly started speaking in a language Sabo didn't know, but he heard the names Ace, Law, and Logan used several times.
Magra quickly went outside. Sabo heard the car start seconds later. Magra had forgotten to close the door. By then Sabo was on his knees looking over the back of the sofa as Dadan made a phone call while rummaging through the kitchen, grabbing wallets and papers and chucking them into a large bag she had over her shoulder.
Sabo was lifted up from behind. He gasped as Magra hurriedly carried him to the car, strapping him in with shaking hands. Luffy was already in the car. He didn't know when that had happened. Magra slammed the door shut and quickly jumped into the passenger's seat. Seconds later Dadan ran out. The door closed behind her with a bang. She got into the driver's seat and without any explanation they pulled out of the hotel parking lot and into the street. It was noon, Sabo noticed, but unlike before, no kids were playing outside.
Ace didn't understand why he was looking down at himself. He didn't understand why the version of himself he was staring at was on a table. There were a bunch of people around him. He could hear the sounds they made, though the sounds were muffled. He blinked slowly. His eyes traveled across the room. Ace noticed the people were all in white. Ace was also bleeding, at least his body was. Why was he separated from his body?
Ace realized he didn't feel any sensations: hot, cold, weightless, heavy, sore, limber, awake, tired. Nothing. Ace tried to gasp, but he couldn't feel any oxygen run through his lungs. His mouth gaped. Ace stared at his body.
Ace began thrashing frantically. It was then that he felt as if he was being lifted by strings. Ace tried ripping against them. He felt them tug back, trying to pull him back up. Ace flailed harder. His fingers ripped at what held him up. He heard the tearing sounds in his ears. He felt himself beginning to descend. Ace started yelling and grunting as he tried to untangle himself. He wasn't done yet. Now that he was dying, he realized he didn't want to die. He wanted to live. Ace wanted to be with Smoker and Law and Sabo and Luffy. He wanted to have fun. He wanted to play with his friends and learn new things. Ace wanted to live, and he couldn't if he died here.
"I haven't done anything worth doing yet! Let me go!" Ace shouted. It was a strange shout. Though his mouth moved he felt no vibrations in his throat and heard no sound, yet it was as if his words echoed through the room. The room seemed to ripple.
The ropes turned him around. Ace screamed in frustration, ripping faster and harder at the ropes, breaking them. His body kept jolting as each rope, thin things almost like string, snapped. "Let me go, I want to live!" Ace howled, legs kicking and hands grasping to rip and shred his binds.
The ropes snapped suddenly. The last kick and twist and clawing motion of his hands had ruined the bindings trapping him. He felt his body suddenly drop. It was as if gravity hadn't existed before, but it existed now. His vision tunneled. He saw his life flashing before his eyes, and he wondered if he failed. The faces of everyone he had ever known, everyone he knew, seemed to imprint themselves in his mind. His world suddenly blackened and his memory stopped.
She was in charge of taking pictures from every angle possible. As soon as they moved the body, they would never be able to find evidence around it again. They would have less of a chance of proving the murder a self defense in court. Tashigi hoped that the case wasn't assigned to Judge Akainu. He was merciless. He would have no problems sending Law to jail. Law killed a man, henceforth he must undergo justice. Aokiji would be the best for this case. He didn't see everything in black and white like Akainu. Aokiji may be too relaxed, he may come off as cold hearted to some, but he wasn't that bad. Not really. He followed the law, but he also knew when the law couldn't line up with morality.
"This won't be an easy case."
Tashigi turned around. There stood her supervisor, the head of the police department, Sheriff Garp D. Monkey. He stared at the body of the man below. Just a few feet away they were preparing the bag to carry the body away. Tashigi only needed to take one more picture. Aside from that, all of the evidence, marked numbers one through eighteen, had been extremely well documented. She had taken about fifty photographs.
Garp turned his dark eyes, strangely serious and grave, to look at Tashigi. It was rare for her to see the older man with such an ominous intense look in his eyes. He was normally formidable, but it was always masked by his friendly, albeit rough, nature.
"Officer," He began, and she thought it was somewhat forced. He never called her officer. Nonetheless, she stood at attention. "Make sure you put those photos, documents, and other evidence you collect in a folder at work. Make sure you keep a copy on your computer as well. Do whatever it takes to make sure you don't lose it."
"Do you think this information is at risk of a threat?" She asked, her fingers clutching slightly tightly to the camera. He didn't answer for a while. Her brows furrowed behind the frames of her glasses.
"I'm not sure, but I've dealt with a case similar to this before. When I was still a new officer like you, just a year or two into the job. If this is the same, we will run into many problems," His eyes bored into her as he commanded, "Do not lose any of this evidence."
Tashigi nodded stiffly, body tense. Garp turned around and walked away. Another police officer walked up to him and the two began talking quickly and quietly. Another oddity, since Garp never talked quietly.
Tashigi came back to herself and turned around. She looked at the man on the floor, the blood that had pooled around his body. The stench of him made her nose scrunch. She kneeled down and hit the button. The camera flashed. She thought about where she would be storing her portfolio of the case in her room. She wondered why she had to do that.
Smoker woke suddenly. His eyes snapped open and he jerked, body rushing upward. He groaned at the sudden movement. His back felt as though it had been slashed at with a knife multiple times. He then remembered that was what happened. He remembered everything. He coughed, "Good fucking job Logan," before hands brought him back down to the bed.
Smoker stared at the ceiling. It was white but blurry. The lights made his head spin.
Someone was saying his name, "Logan, Logan," over and over again. He couldn't see any human form, but then again he hadn't turned his head yet. He turned his head and saw the blurry form of another person. After a few seconds, the person went silent and took his hand in their own. Somewhere in the back of his head he knew who this was.
He made his hand twitch because he couldn't muster any other movement. The hand holding his squeezed back. He swallowed the spit in his throat several times. His throat felt unbearably dry. He opened his mouth a few times and tried to speak, but the most he could make was a shaky breath. He didn't know how he managed to move so quickly earlier. He most definitely couldn't do it now.
After a few long moments of silence, except for the soft and distant voices and beeping sounds in the background, he finally managed to speak. "Where are they?" He rasped out. His vision was slowly clearing, yet as the edges sharpened it started to become darker.
"The doctors are working hard to save them right now," The voice replied, oddly calm. Only one person could ever speak so calmly at a time like this.
"Robin, what happened?"
"You were saved by the Brotherhood," Robin told him. He felt a hand come up to rest on his forehead, shadowing his eyes from the bright light that he hadn't realized was making him squint. Smoker breathed a deep sigh.
"The boys?" He had to whisper, his throat was betraying him. And he felt as though he was falling asleep too. Smoker hated that, he had to stay awake and figure out what happened. He didn't clearly hear what Robin said before he fell into unconsciousness' welcoming arms.
Law breathed in a shuddering breath. He was staring at his hands, covered in blood. They were bright red, blood red, garnet red, red, red, red. He had killed someone. He used his knowledge about the human body to kill a man. He was evil. He was a murderer.
"But you saved Ace."
Law stopped shaking. His eyes widened a bit. He gulped, thinking of the younger boy who had come to save him. He didn't regret saving Ace, but what if he never saw Ace again? Would they take him to jail, try him as an adult, and lock him away for life? Would he get to see his family again when he died? If there was a god out there, and Law wasn't sure, would he be able to be with them again? Or would he be placed with the murderer who killed them? Surely he was like the murderer now, cold hearted and cruel, killing mercilessly…
Law looked up at the demand and looked into familiar eyes. Those eyes smiled just like the mouth, showing teeth and giving Law a beautiful, encouraging smile that Law didn't think he deserved. He killed a man. But that man hurt Ace. And Smoker. That man had killed others. Did that make Law good? Was he evil?
"You're you Law, only you can decide that."
Law was pulled into a hug. He felt like a boy again, a young boy. This familiar embrace, he missed it. He wished he could actually feel the warmth of this body against his own, but he was hugging a ghost surely. And ghosts can't judge. Ghosts can't tell him if he's evil or not. Other people can though, the living. Or maybe even ghosts can too. Can they? Law didn't know. He brought his arms up to hug the larger person, but their figure disappeared into smoke with a small burst of flames. He smelled gunpowder and iron. His hands felt sticky. He was going to be sick.
School was canceled. Killer wasn't surprised. It was late afternoon. He was sitting in the public park, where he had been all day. He was leaning back on a bench, head facing the sky. His long hair blew just a bit in the wind. Bepo had been texting him. Killer gave one worded replies, but Bepo didn't mind as long as Killer replied. If Killer didn't reply Bepo would come and find him.
"It's been a while Killeen."
Killer opened his eyes. His fingers twitched against the hardwood of the bench. For a few moments, the only thing that could be heard was the rustling of leaves being blown across the cement pathway. His eyes stared into the sun for a moment.
Killer readjusted the positioning of his hands on the bench and planted his feet firmly on the ground. Two seconds later, he was using his upper body strength to lift his upper body. Then he was on the other side of the bench, landing on his feet in a stable position. He stared at the man across from him, then spoke.
"You were dead."
"You were new."
The wind brushed against Killer's cheek. The air smelled like smoke, cigarettes most likely. It was chilly. He somewhat wished he wore a sweatshirt.
He couldn't remember this man's name. All he knew was that he had seen him several times before, back when he and Law lived complicated lives.
"Why are you here?"
"I want to know what happened over the past two days."
"I don't have an answer to that, even I don't know."
"You know Law was kidnapped, and so was another boy. What was the boy's name?"
"Why do you want to know?"
"You talk as though you know who he is."
Killer gulped. His mind was starting to tumble into the fight or flight response, and right now he wanted to run. This man was a savage with no regard for anything other than himself. Why would he care about Ace? He stared at Killer with his dreadfully malicious eyes. The corners of his lips upturned, smiled. He looked menacing.
"You know," He stated. Killer watched as he reached his hand between his open, long, flowing jacket and his shirt. When it emerged, he held a gun in his hand. He pointed it at the teen. Killer suddenly realized they were alone in an unpopular area of the park. No one else was there. His heart began to pound in his ears. He stopped breathing. His lips twitched and shook as he tried to keep his facial expression calm.
"It was a boy named Ace. Now, do you want to deliver a message for me?"
Killer's brows furrowed as his eyes narrowed. If he knew who was kidnapped, why did he ask?
"I'll return for the lost treasure in ten years. But, I only need one messenger," He smirked as his eyes slid to the side. Killer's eyes widened and he looked back. Kidd was standing there, holding a skateboard in his hand, Killer's skateboard. Killer felt his heart drop and his blood ran cold.
Kidd wasn't far from him. Killer only had to take two steps before he could grab his hand and start running. Kidd stumbled for a bit since Killer spun him around so fast. Killer dragged him, fast and away. They jumped into the bushes, running and running, jumping over roots. Kidd heard the shots behind them. His heart pounded. Killer focused on getting out of there. They had to run, escape, hide, get out of there.
Kidd's eyes widened when Killer suddenly stopped running and started falling. The bang of the gunshot rang loud in his ears as he tripped over his own feet and fell down next to his older cousin. The gunshots stopped. Kidd slowly got to his hands and knees. He looked at his cousin, jaw trembling and hands flexing uncontrollably in the mud below them.
Hours had passed without news. Thatch sat on the chair in the waiting room. His shoulders were so tense the trembled. He had bitten his lips so hard that he tasted blood on his tongue. His hands grasped his knees tightly, relentlessly. His eyes stared at a spot on the floor with an intensity that could've cut right through it. Dadan had arrived a few hours earlier with Magra, Luffy, and Sabo. Both of them were taking care of the two young boys. Sabo had fallen asleep and Dadan was holding him in her lap while Magra took care of Luffy. The baby was constantly whining and twisting, as though he was uncomfortable. His bottle seemed to keep him quiet for a while, but not for long.
He wanted to see Logan, Smoker, he disappeared for days and they wouldn't let them go in to see him. It was torture. He was in a room adjacent to Robin's, both in the ICU. They couldn't enter, not yet, he wasn't stable. Robin though, she had seen Smoker. All Thatch knew was that he would live.
A doctor - exhausted, bags under his eyes, blood on his front, eyelids drooping, shoulders slouched, eyes looking around slowly - emerged from the doorway to the ER. He looked over in the direction of Thatch. "Family of Ace and Law?"
Thatch stood up stiffly. He stared at the doctor before him. The doctor eyed him and then waved him in. Dadan looked at Thatch when Thatch looked at her and waved him on. She pulled Sabo a bit closer. It was probably better if Sabo didn't enter right away. They still didn't know what was going to happen.
"I'm Doctor Costanza. I was the Anesthesiologist for these operations," The man said, introducing himself. The doctor walked with Thatch down another hallway, not the ER hall. He looked at the signs. This way led to an elevator, which led to the ICU. Thatch hoped they weren't in the ICU. He didn't know how much more his heart could take if four people he cared for were in an ICU. At least Marco wasn't. That was one slim silver lining to this whole disaster.
"I won't lie, we had several scares," The doctor began, walking slowly. He turned into an office. Thatch stood at the door and watched the doctor removed his gloves. He pulled off the apron. The blood-covered clothes were thrown out into a toxic waste bin. Thatch looked from the bin to the doctor, who was putting on a white doctors jacket. As he exited the room, he grabbed a clipboard. He looked it over as they walked for a moment before speaking again.
"Doctor Kureha, or Doctrine as she likes to be called, managed to stabilize them both. We were most concerned about Ace," Doctor Costanza said calmly, as if this wasn't the possible end of Thatch's world. They turned into another room, where a nurse was finishing putting up pictures, X-rays. The lights were off. The doctor sat in a chair and offered Thatch a seat, but the man refused. He was rocking on his feet slightly, arms crossed. His fingers were buried into his shirt sleeves. The older man didn't ask him to sit again.
Doctor Costanza pointed to the X-ray of a head. "This is Ace's head," he told Thatch. "He had lacerations in his skull when he was brought in, and part of his skull has cracked. We've induced a coma to help his brain recover, it was most likely jostled around a lot. We'll be ending the coma in about five days. Here," He moved his hand to another X-ray, away from the spider thread thin cracks on the back of Ace's skull. "We had to reset his nose which was broken at some point during the struggle. There is not much more damage to his skull but he has a periorbital hematoma, a black eye, on the right side of his face. Some of his teeth were knocked out but they've been replaced."
Doctor Costanza looked to Thatch, lips pulled tight and thin with a furrowed brow, before continuing. He turned back to the X-rays. "Here," he began, pointing at the X-ray of a chest. "We see several fractured ribs. His humerus has been broken, he will need to wear a cast for six to eight weeks. We believe this is due to excessive weight being put on him at some point. There was no other damage to his bones, but we noticed his lung was almost pierced by shards of bone. We were most concerned about his brain and heart. We managed to revive him, but-"
"He was technically dead."
Doctor Costanza looked to Thatch, who slowly walked over to a chair and sat down. He slouched, but kept his eyes on the doctor. He nodded. "Yes, for fifty-eight seconds Ace was deceased. Something similar happened to Law," He said, pointing to the screen next to Thatch. Thatch looked around, noticing there weren't many X-rays. "We took a few X-rays, but he had little bone damage. What's more concerning is the damage done to his nerves and the burn marks. The burns on his neck from the electric collar will most likely scar, though we will do everything we can to try to prevent this. It is difficult for us to know the extent of the damage done to his nerves while he is unconscious, but we assume there will be physical problems when he wakes up. Both will need physical and psychological therapy," He said, voice trailing off softly. He turned his brown eyes to Thatch, who was hunching over more than before.
"They'll live, but it won't be the same, right?" Thatch asked. He looked at the doctor, who nodded his answer. Thatch took in a shuddering breath. "What will happen to Logan?"
"Logan will live," Doctor Costanza started. "But whether or not he will be able to continue being a police officer is questionable. If he does continue, he may have to do desk work. Several muscles in his left upper thigh and right calf have been torn by a knife and his knee seems to have been shattered by something heavy, like a hammer. He has several surface wounds such as bruises and lacerations, and he was beaten several times. His back took the most damage from that. We have also found traces of narcotics in his blood and signs of forced injections in both his left and right arms. It will take all of them a long time to heal. That is why they've been assigned to Doctor Kureha. She's currently with Law right now. Following the surgery, Law became violently ill. Kureha assumes that it has to do with the mental stress he has just undergone."
Thatch was leaning completely on his knees by now. His eyes were closed and his mouth was slightly open. He was taking in deep breaths then letting them out slowly. He didn't know it was possible to be this stressed. He had been in several pressing situations before but none of them felt quite as bad as this, or maybe he forgot how much this hurt. He brought a hand up to his shirt and put it over his heart, pounding fiercely and extremely sore, causing an ache to ripple through his whole body.
Thatch stood and followed the doctor out of the room. He said they were going to the ICU. Thatch felt a tidal wave of exhaustion hit him. He just wanted to lay down and rest there for hours. He wanted to pretend that this was all a huge lie. He wanted back the peace he had made.
He remembered running to Marco's room that morning when he heard the commotion in the ER. He remembered them saying "the boy is dying" and "hurry, we need to hurry or he'll die". He had lost himself then and ran to Marco's room, frantic. He was pulled out by some nurses by the time he had finished, and he vaguely recalled them walking into the room to explain to Marco and Haruta what they were about to explain to Thatch. The boy wasn't dead. Everything would be okay. It was a false alarm. What a piece of shit that was. It had taken them about a half hour to get him to calm down, and that was after they made him do breathing exercises and he drank about five cups of chamomile tea.
The two of them exited the elevator. Thatch couldn't remember even stepping in. He just followed the doctor, trying not to think too deeply. He breathed in and out, deeply, inhale slowly and exhale slowly. Stay calm.
The first room was Smoker's. The Doctor let him enter. Thatch walked in slowly, looking upon the other man. He looked so frail in the hospital bed. He had never had to use that word to describe Logan before. Robin was in the room too, with a nurse. The nurse stood behind her, and Thatch realized she was in a wheelchair. Robin gave him a tired smile, and then her eyelids dropped. She began to snore softly. The nurse wheeled her out. Her right leg was in a cast. She was pale, connected to an IV.
He kept his eyes on Logan. He stood there for a long time, not moving. He watched his friend, the man who was like one of his brother's, chest move up and down, up, down. He was alive, but whether he would ever be the same, Thatch was unsure.
A hand landed on Thatch's shoulder. He didn't react much, just look over his shoulder to look at the person standing there with exhaustion. It was Doctor Costanza. He led Thatch out of the room with a hand on his back and to the one right next door. Law and Ace. Thatch stared, not really registering anything for a few seconds as he stood in the doorway. Doctor Costanza stood next to him. The light shined into the room from behind him in the hall, as the curtains were pulled closed in the room. The two boys were under blankets, bodies damaged horribly. Casts and bandages covered them. Their cheeks were flushed while their complexions were almost as white as paper.
Thatch's legs collapsed under him and he fell to his knees. He could feel Doctor Costanza trying to talk to him but Thatch heard nothing. In his head he was hearing the words he had been told many times before when he was younger, "You can't protect anything." He sat there, back straight, legs folded beneath him, eyes staring blankly into the room. He had to get stronger. Much, much stronger.
"Lucy!" Ace cried out, running over to the girl. In the middle of a maze of alleyways in Great Blue City, the girl lay bleeding out on the ground in front of him. A few feet away from her stood the man who had just stabbed her through the abdomen, through the back and out the front with a great sword. Ace collapsed next to her body and put his hands on either side of her head. Tears streamed down his cheeks as he stared into her eyes that were starting to become clouded and watery.
He brought his hands to her cheeks and held them there. The rain was pouring down on the both of them. It made her blood spill faster. Ace curled over her head. His body shook.
They had only found each other two months ago. Ace had been wandering around the city. He had been in the city alone for a year, eating scraps from the garbage can and finding shelter in a large abandoned factory on the edge of town. He slept on a musty old blanket full of holes on the cement floor with a few other homeless men and women who would make fires in trash cans when it got too cold. Then Lucy had found him. She was blind in one eye and she looked so starved, much like Ace. Her hair, like his, was long and ratty. She vowed she would protect him, or lose her life trying too. She made him promise to never have regrets, to live life to it's fullest. He promised her he would.
And now here she was, following through with her promise. Her master, the man who had bought her, found out she was harbouring Ace. While trying to kill Ace, he instead stabbed her. And now she was dying.
Lucy gave him a smile. Her teeth still shined despite being covered by dirt and blood. She brought one of her hands, trembling and skinny and weak, up to his cheek and caressed it lightly with her fingers.
"Thank you, Ace," She whispered, and he could barely hear it over the thundering sound of rain hitting the ground. Ace choked on a sob. The six year old stared at her, eyes drowning it their own tears, cheeks red with the flames of sorrow, and a frown that stretched his lips so far back it could only be described as an expression of absolute grief.
"Don't go," Ace shrieked as her eyes started to close. "Please stay here Lucy, please, I need you, you're my big sister, don't leave me alone you promised me, you promised!"
She smiled widely. Her hand fell from his cheek to her own chest. Her eyes were partially closed, yet they were as empty as glass orbs. Ace's tears stopped momentarily. Then he screamed.
Ace curled up around Luffy. Sabo was leaning against his side. Luffy was barely able to cry. Ace knew he was hungry, but he had nothing left to give the baby, no more formula he only knew the baby needed because he had seen so many woman feed their babies with bottles. Sabo was next to him, breathing slowly, almost imperceptibly. Ace felt like a failure.
"Don't give up Ace!"
Ace lifted his eyes. Lucy was there. She was crouching down, glaring at him with tears in her eyes. "Lucy, what are you doing here?"
"I'm here to make sure you don't die! You need to live Ace, live! You can't die now! You need to learn the truth, you need to care for Sabo and Luffy, you need to live a life worth living! No regrets, remember?"
She was gone. Ace felt just a bit stronger. He laid Sabo and Luffy under the blankets in their small hideout under the bridge in their small fort of rags and limped his way out, to find food, to find a miracle.
"Stop it please, stop it!" Ace cried. He was kicked again. He rolled across the ground from the force of the kick. He sobbed, curling around his abdomen. A foot stomped on him.
"You messed up you fucking son of a bitch! Do your damn job right or next time I'll fucking kill you!" One of the men yelled at him. Ace covered his head as he stared up into the man's eyes. He grinned with bloodlust, his lips wet from saliva. Ace felt a chill run up his spine.
"Dis is for Ace!" Sabo exclaimed, staring at Ace with a big smile. Ace stared at the object in his hands, a sweater, and wondered where Sabo had found it. "I gots it for Ace cuz yous gives me always hotterer clothes but yous always colds, now yous can be warm!"
Ace looked at Sabo and then grinned, enveloping the younger child in a big hug while he laughed. He spun the younger kid around and ignored the tears in his eyes. He hadn't felt so happy in a long time.
Ace swung the metal pole, smacking a man in the face. The man stepped backwards, yelling and bringing his hands up to his face. Ace smacked him again. He moved backwards. Ace jabbed at him. The end of it hit the man in the abdomen and he fell to the ground coughing. Ace hit him over the head. The man fell over, breathing but knocked unconscious. Ace breathed heavily, eyes wide. He grabbed the wad of cash from the man's limp hand and ran away as fast as he could, away from the needles and bags of questionable items far behind.
Roger lifted Ace into the air, and Ace squealed. He stared down at his dad with a big smile, cheering as his dad ran with him across the lawn. Anne chased after them, but she wasn't as fast as their dad. Lucy jumped out from a tree and landed in front of them. Ace giggled.
Five men laid on the ground before Ace. He picked up one of the bags from the ground they had dropped and placed it in his bag. He closed the bag and looked at the men, groaning and moaning in pain.
"Hey kid, how 'bout cha give those goods to us? A kid like you doesn't need those, now does he?"
Ace turned around and saw three teenage boys standing there. One of them had a bat. Ace tightened his grip on the pipe in his hand and looked them over. He said nothing as he slung his bag over his shoulders and got into his fighting stance, pointing the pipe at them like a sword. The speakers eyebrows twitched and he snarled.
"I'll show you, brat!"
He came at Ace and the child dodge the punch from the right by taking a step back. He moved his sword swiftly, bringing it down right and then up to his left, smacking the older boys arm. He fell to the side. Another came at him, kicking wildly. Ace quickly dodged and then stepped forward, bringing his pipe around to hit his attacker in the back of the knee. He fell down. Ace stepped back a few steps, panting and sweating lightly. The third stared at Ace, the one with the bat. The other two slowly got to their feet. Ace glared and spit at their feet.
Ten minutes later, Ace was walking away from the fight scene, only mildly injured. He carried his pipe in his right hand and walked with his head held eight behind him were messes of blood and bruises.
Ace stood in the rain, watching the blue and red lights of the police cars, ambulances, and fire trucks spin around, flashing brightly. The lights reflected off of the puddles like stars in this dreary, dark city. He stared at the white haired man in the center of it, the man who saved him that day during the chaos when a gunman appeared in the shopping district.
He couldn't hear much under the cover of the rain. He knew that there had been a robbery, he could tell by the smashed in glass of the small shop across the street. The white haired man was talking calmly with whoever had been robbed, a middle aged woman who was sobbing. The man seemed to be trying to comfort her as he wrote down information.
Ace wanted to go over there badly. He felt like he might be able to get help, or maybe just get help for Luffy and Sabo. That would be enough for him.
Ace turned around and walked towards the stern voice. Down the alleyway stood some of the men. They had all just returned from a day-long mission. Something in another district in the city. The fight had been easy for Ace, but that's because he was used to fighting now. Fighting and running. Still, his body ached. If he was in healthier condition, he would've risked running to the police officer, but for now keeping Luffy and Sabo safe and hidden took precedence over all.
"Ace? Ace, are you awake?"
Ace's eyes fluttered open. He stared at a white ceiling and a familiar face, Tashigi. He looked tiredly at the woman and whispered her name. He coughed, but the motion hurt his ribs and made him shake.
Suddenly a doctor was there, forcing water down his throat. He almost choked, but then it went down easily, soothing his throat.
"Finally awake, boy?" The old woman ask, voice only slightly raspy and most definitely on the rougher side. He looked at the woman, staring down at him with a strange intensity. He nodded his head minutely. "Good, ahead of those old fart's schedules, I knew you were stronger than they gave you credit for," She laughed. Tashigi looked somewhat stunned if her wide eyes said anything. Ace just squinted at the woman. His head hurt. Why did his head hurt?
"You've been out for seven days," She told Ace. He felt a pinch in his arm. "That's an IV. You're in pretty rough shape. Don't try and make any sudden movements, I'll be right back. I need to check in on your roommate."
The old lady walked away. Ace turned his head, just barely, to Tashigi.
"You're really a strong one, Ace. Some of the doctors weren't sure if you would make it," She trailed of, her eyes becoming watery. She smiled at Ace and gently scratched his head. He realized his didn't feel his hair and he shuffled just a bit. "Don't move Ace," She reminded him. "They had to shave your head for surgery, but don't worry. It'll grow back."
Ace stared at her and breathed in and out slowly. His memories were starting to come back to him, getting kidnapped, Arlong, Law and Smoker…
"What was that Ace?" Tashigi asked, staring down at him. Ace frowned, brows furrowing. He didn't care for the tears streaming down his cheeks. The thought of Law on the ground as he was that day, of running for his life like a scared child even though he was strong, of being so scared, he never wanted to feel like that again.
"Stronger…" He rasped. "I want to become stronger."