Stuck on Level 29
The raven haired boy was holding Luffy in his arms as the baby gripped onto his finger. He was sitting on the large bed in the guest room that they had been sleeping in. Smoker had told them they would be getting their own beds soon, but Ace liked the large bed a lot. He didn't mind if he had his own bed or not.
He turned his head to the blond who was laying in bed, on the verge of sleep. Granted, it was pretty late for the five year old. The boy's hand then gripped onto Ace's shirt and Ace couldn't help but to secretly think his brother was adorable.
But he would never admit to it.
"Why do you like Smoker?"
Ace blinked and tilted his head as Luffy made cooing noises.
"What do you mean?"
The younger child yawned before slurring out his words.
"You hate adults. But you let us go 'lone wit' him."
The boy fell asleep before he could finish, but left Ace to mull over the boy's question. Indeed, Ace did like Smoker. But, he had his reasons to trust the man.
It was a week after Ace and Sabo had found Luffy. They were all in desperate need of food. But they had no money. The only option Ace saw was to steal.
He left Sabo and Luffy under the bridge, hidden in the shadows behind blankets that provided them with warmth on the rainy day. Ace didn't want to go far but, unfortunately, he had stolen from far too many shops in the nearby shopping center to even risk trying to do it again.
He had to go deeper into town.
And he also needed a disguise, which annoyed him, but all of the shopkeepers in the city were warned of a raven haired, freckled child that could rob you broke. He was proud of himself yet at the same time annoyed that it had come to this.
Ace had found some rubber bands and put his hair on top of his head in a bun, right underneath a beanie he had snatched from some tripping teen. He had gone into the local clothes-washing place and stolen a shirt and shorts from one of the driers. No one was there so it was their own fault, leaving their goods unattended. He washed his face for the first time in a long time (granted it was only water he was putting his face in but it was better than nothing) and snatched some makeup from some lady's purse to cover up his freckles. He grumbled to himself about having to wear makeup, of all things, and set out in search of the stupid mall.
Ace was disgusted when he entered the large building.
Everything was so happy and bright and there was so much Aeropostale and Abercrombie and Fitch and Hollister and it smelled like perfume, really bad perfume, or there was just too many people with too much perfume. The music was loud and distasteful and made Ace want to cover his ears. And there was so much food in the trashcans, half eaten. He was so, so angry when he saw that. He wanted to yell at them and scream at them that he would've eaten that, or his brother. What they wasted could probably sustain them for weeks, months, maybe even a year.
He was disgusted.
But still, he had a job to do, so he managed to keep his anger to burning glares that made people start to speed walk away in fear as he searched for a store that would hopefully have what he needed.
He managed to find a CVS and walked in, seemingly calm and collected though inside he was still in a fiery rage. Everyone seemed to feel the pure fury rolling off of him and left him to his ways.
He didn't care. He just wanted something he could use to feed Luffy with.
He went to the baby section, only finding it because of the large picture of a baby above the aisle, and walked down, looking for a bottle. He managed to find one and looked on the back, looking at the picture instructions. He had to heat the bottle? His brows furrowed as he stuffed it under his jacket. He walked down the aisle at a slower pace, looking for something he had heard mothers call formula. But what the hell was it? He didn't see any of that white stuff that went in a bottle. Maybe he was looking in the wrong place…
He thought he found it when he saw a mother pick some up quickly, holding her infant close as she moved to the next aisle. Ace scurried over and picked it up, looking at the instructions. It looked simple enough – fire, water, add the powdery stuff.
He stuffed it under his jacket, once again thankful he had found it on the side of the street, and made his way to the aisle near the door. He only moved to leave as someone left the check out. They crossed the line at the same time, and when the alarm sang and he went unnoticed, the employees calling the woman back, he smirked.
He didn't leave right away though.
He knew they needed money, and this was a gold mine for him. He'd pick pocketed so many people before that they never even realized they were missing money until it was too late and he was already three people ahead of them in terms of who he had stolen from.
He had managed to get quite a bit of money. He could only tell because of the faces on the bills. He didn't know exactly how much, but he knew it could hold them over for a month if he rationed it right.
That was when the gunshots went off.
Ace looked up, frozen in place as people began to run away, screaming in terror. There was blood on the ground and bodies were being trampled as people made haste to flee. But Ace could only stare because he knew exactly who it was, and it made his blood run cold.
The man's eyes, the only visible thing behind his masked face, turned and locked onto him. Ace's own eyes widened in fear because he knew what was going to happen.
He was going to end up like those people on the floor, bleeding out, sobbing in pain, eyes losing their light in a matter of seconds, if he didn't get out of there.
He sprinted as the man turned to him, running in his direction. But Ace's legs were short compared to the tall man and he felt his legs already wanting to give out because he hadn't eaten in days. And he hated that he had to run. He didn't like the helplessness that came with it. But this was the only way he could save Sabo and Luffy, and if he had to give up pride and admit defeat, even temporarily, in the face of such men, then he would do so without batting an eye.
Shots were fired, barely missing him as he stumbled and struggled to move, and he regretted not being able to get this food to Sabo and Luffy.
But then he was lifted by the back of his shirt and pulled against a much taller man. There were gunshots, yells of orders, and Ace could only tremble. He felt so weak, for being scared, but then he thought of the man behind the mask, the men in the empty warehouse, the pain, and he didn't feel so bad for being scared anymore.
He looked up when he realized that the man was trying to get his attention. He blinked as he calmed himself and the man sighed with relief? Ace wasn't sure. All he could tell was that the man quickly ushered him out of the building, he had white hair, and he was a policeman. He told Ace to find his mother and then went back inside despite the fact that Ace could clearly tell that he was bleeding from his shoulder.
He stood there, wondering why the man had bothered to save him, and gained a little hope in humanity, something he thought lost long ago.
Ace could tell that Smoker didn't recognize him. Ace didn't at first, either, until he saw him in the light of the police station where he had ordered to have Luffy, Sabo and him fed and refused anyone to ask them questions as he filled out paperwork and talk to his boss. He was a lot better than some of the other shit head cops he had come across, which was the only reason that Ace let him be alone with his brothers. He knew they would be safe with him. But only with Smoker.
Ace grew up alone, being relied upon by the two boys he called his brothers. Adults didn't care for him. Only Smoker had tried to help so far. Maybe one day he would ask the man if he remembered that day in the mall, if he remembered the boy he pulled out of the way. But for now, he was content.
Smoker sighed as he mixed in the liquid with the baby formula. He held the baby in his arms as he closed the cap of the bottle and shook it.
He hadn't heard good news at the check up for the younger two children. Luffy was underweight, which wasn't surprising. It was surprising he wasn't sick with illness, but…he sighed as he brought the bottle to Luffy's mouth and sat in one of the chairs in the living room. The doctor, Kureha, said the boy was born prematurely. She was surprised Ace and Sabo had managed to keep him alive. He had a weak heart and immune system and would have to be kept on medicine and under constant watch. If the boy got sick, he was given orders to bring him to the hospital.
It made the man angry and frustrated that this happened to the kid.
Then there was Sabo. He was small for his age, likely from lack of food, but the boy told them that Ace always gave him food before going back to playing. It left Smoker to wonder how often they ate while on the streets. Aside from that Sabo was healthy. That wasn't an issue.
But he had several scars covering the expanse of his torso. Long, jagged cuts from knives marred the skin of his chest while a large, painful looking burn covered the expanse of his small back. What was odd was his reaction to them bringing up the long healed injuries.
The boy couldn't remember anything about them. He just said he had them for a long time and Ace helped make it better. He couldn't remember how he got it, when, who did it or why it even happened.
Smoker was becoming increasingly more worried for the three boys. He was becoming especially worried about Ace, who he just knew would do anything to protect the two boys.
Smoker worried over what "anything" was.
Law glared at his Ipad with frustration and annoyance. He could not beat this stupid 29th level of Candy Crush. He'd been stuck on it for days and he was just about ready to throw the damn thing out the window.
"Still stuck on that level, Law?"
"If you do not stop mocking me for still being stuck on this level, I swear, Killer-ya, I will cut off all of your hair."
The blond just snorted and pulled up a chair, watching as his friend tapped impatiently at the screen and, once again, failed the level. He raised an amused eyebrow as Law moved his Ipad to the side and hit his head on the desk.
"This mindless game, that I stupidly downloaded, is going to be the death of me. I will die of frustration before ever making it to medical school."
Killer chuckled a little at his friends dismay as he took a sip of his Monster. Law glared at him from the corner of his eye, but it did nothing to the other teen who had known him for so long that he became immune to his glares and temper tantrums brought about by sleep deprivation. More than usual, that is.
"Have you been staying up during the nights to beat this level or something?"
Law groaned. "No. Luffy wails at the middle of the night to be fed waking up everyone. I swear that baby is a bottomless pit."
Killer just took another sip of his drink. Law had complained about the three "brats" he now had to live with.
"And Ace is going to school soon too. And I have to tutor him."
"Tutor who?" Penguin sat down at the desk to Law's right while Shachi stood to Law's left. Bepo, their large, very tan and white haired friend, pulled a chair up and sat in front of Law's desk.
"Ace," Killer replied when Law just sighed. The bell, signaling the end of the day and their study period rang. Law sighed and stood with them all as they grabbed their bags and began to make their way out of the cafeteria, where all studies were held. "Law, at least you don't have to deal with a distant cousin who just makes it his sworn job to make your life a living hell."
Law gave him a blank look. "I have that. He's just not a distant cousin."
"Killer, isn't that him right there?" Bepo pointed and the blond turned his head in the direction of the incredibly large friends bear-like hands. And of course, there was the runt, picking a fight with some seniors.
And why were they being egged on by an eleven year old?
Killer sighed as he walked over, his friends following him out of the school lobby to see what Killer would do.
Killer walked right behind the seniors and shoved them out of the way. He smacked the red haired boy over the head, ignoring his cursing, and tossed the kid over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes.
Law couldn't help but chuckle at the kids misery.
"Please excuse my idiot cousin again. He's an idiot. Did you know he's been held back two years?"
"Killer, you ass! I'm gonna kick your ass to hell! One day I'll be smarter and taller than you, you fucking bastard?"
"As you can see, all he knows is how to swear."
One of the seniors sighed while some of the others sneered and scoffed. "Just try and keep the kid away from us."
"Yeah," Killer gave them a wave as they walked away, some of them still pissed, some amused, and some just bored. He ignored the kid tugging on his hair and kicking his stomach, screaming bloody murder, and turned to his friends. He looked pointedly at Law. Law just stared.
"Mine was held back one year too."
"You guys both just have shitty "siblings" in your lives." Penguin stated as he began to walk away with the other three. Law and Killer began to follow, but Law suddenly stopped and turned. He looked behind him, having sworn he felt eyes watching him, but saw nothing.
"Law, hurry up!" Bepo yelled, then apologized for yelling at him. Law ignored the feeling and turned, catching up to his friends, while a dark shadow slinked away into an alley between two buildings near the school.