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On the Surface

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Two weeks passed. Law wondered if he'd wasted his time even attempting to explain his side of the story. The resounding silence he'd received since told him that it was likely the case.

It was a depressing realization. Then again, Law reminded himself that it was all he could reasonably expect. Kid didn't owe him anything, least of all forgiveness. Law had made his case, he'd done his best to explain and salvage things. It was all up to Kid now, and what he would ultimately decide. The lack of proactive options left Law feeling restless, like he was wasting time that could be better served in convincing Kid of his honest intentions.

But that wouldn't exactly help matters. Kid had refused the packet of info Law had brought along, the meager proof Law had of his side of the story. It contained newspaper clippings related to the Flevance tragedy, another describing the five-car pile-up that'd claimed Cora's life. A few tokens from his history to hopefully compete with the invasion of Kid's privacy he'd personally funded. Kid had no reason to trust him. After all, Law had never really trusted Kid. How could he, when he'd been convinced that the man was only a pawn of Doflamingo's?

It sounded feeble as an explanation even to himself, in light of the facts. He'd been so thoroughly convinced that Kid was working for his brother all along that Law never imagined he'd have to justify himself in the first place. Worst of all, he knew that if Kid hadn't found the proof, Law never would've come clean about the investigation voluntarily.

And that was the part that made him feel shittiest of all. Had their instances been reversed, he would've left Kid on the spot and never given him a second thought. He found it hard to believe the man could do any different, regardless of the feelings they shared. Some breaches of trust were unforgivable. Part of Law still could not fathom why and how he'd done such a thing. Hopelessly, he wished he could reverse time so that he could go back and slap himself for ever considering the idea in the first place.

He knew that whatever heartbreak he felt, Kid easily had it ten times worse. Because Law never made the effort to trust Kid, he never left himself truly open to what feelings might have developed. He knew by Kid's very reactions that the gulf between them had never been quite so vast. Kid experienced his emotions as though they were a papercut, quick and painful but just as swiftly addressed and forgotten. Law processed his differently; they were deeply buried but intensely felt, and it could take him ages before completely realizing what they were. He didn't have the gift of inward reflection. It required genuine effort on his behalf to really examine what and how he felt for another person.

As a result, he avoided it until the problem could no longer be overlooked. It came as quite a shock to him, to realize that he loved Kid, with an intensity that was frightening - and he arrived at this conclusion only after being deprived of the man's company, after knowing that he'd done something so inappropriately wrong that Kid was likely to leave him entirely over it.

Things had always seemed to exist on some theatrical, fantastical level. As though the relationship itself were nothing but a fairytale they were acting out of their own accord. For the longest time, Law had assumed this to be the case; he'd never put both feet into things because he'd always been certain that Kid was doing the same. Law left an escape strategy open at all times because from the very start, he'd known that he would eventually need to disengage. It was impossible to develop strong feelings when one was already envisioning the end.

Now that things were over, Law found himself longing for all that time back - time to make different choices, a chance to really appreciate what he'd managed to find. It was a futile hope, a daydream he indulged in now that he'd effectively ruined things. A fantasy as impossible to realize as turning back the clock.

Who was he to ask Kid's forgiveness when he'd all but taken a bulldozer to their relationship? Part of him knew it had been intentional to a certain degree, his subconscious' way of undermining things before any real commitments were required. Law didn't think he was afraid of such things, but his own behavior contradicted that. In the past, he'd never had to worry about a relationship actually working out. This was new territory, an unexplored minefield that'd just blown up in his face.

Over the years, Law had had many meaningful friendships. He still kept in contact with a number of his fellow students from medical school, and he'd been close with Penguin and Shachi for years. But romantically...he'd never had much success. Most relationships simply fell apart from neglect, and since returning to the city, Doflamingo had been responsible for the majority of failures.

Law wondered if he could blame Kid's alienation on his brother as well, but that was being cowardly. He knew who was really responsible. He'd actively sabotaged the only relationship that'd shown a glimmer of hope, through his own distrust and paranoia. When Kid first suggested that they live together, some part of Law's subconscious had gone into red alert, flailing in wild panic at the potential that move could represent.

His distrust was the result of growing up in Doflamingo's family. It'd taken many years to understand that Cora's death wasn't his fault, and Law still blamed himself somewhat. It didn't help that no one else had really mourned Cora's passing. In fact, most of them seemed relieved by it, as it resolved the tender issue of succession, a powder keg bound to explode before long. Though that probably would've happened in starkly different terms from what everyone in the family feared. Everyone was so worried that Cora would one day seek to wrest control over the family's finances or resources that none of them suspected he was a mole for the police.

Doflamingo always kept a tight ship and he got away with more than most in his position would have, being a descendant of a noble family whose name still carried some weight with the upper classes. Even the government was deferential to those with some claim to royalty, and if Doflamingo's crown happened to belong to the underworld, so be it. They probably saw it as a preferable option to lower-class riff-raff controlling things. Doflamingo was the devil they knew, and for the most part, he carried out his business in a very traditional manner.

But even when half of the police force was in his pocket, some still took their jobs seriously. They could not abide Doflamingo nor any of the other mafia families who openly flouted the law. They must've been overjoyed when Cora approached them, an officer with roots in poisonous soil. Nobody could accuse Doflamingo's brother of being a double-agent, and by the time of his death, Cora had been undercover for four years. He'd undoubtedly amassed enough insider knowledge to take the entire family down.

His death had come so suddenly and at such an awful time in Law's life that he'd almost wished the treatments themselves would fail. It was as much as he deserved, and he saw little point in living in a world without Cora. But then he remembered how hard his brother had fought to find doctors willing to hear his case, and finally administer a treatment to save him...and Law knew how disrespectful it would be to simply give up. Cora had literally given everything so that he could survive. Instead of giving into despair, Law found a new determination in his life, to make something of it that Cora would be proud of.

He started almost immediately. While he had been sick, he'd neglected his studies, concentrating primarily on fiction, fantasy, and an escape from his reality, which was rapidly diminishing. With a future to look forward to, he applied himself entirely to catching up - no mere task when one had to contend with the effects of multiple combined chemotherapeutics. Law's hair fell out from his crown to his toes and everywhere in between; he'd become grey and ashy from anemia and his energy waned. He studied between hours-long naps, squirreling himself away in Doflamingo's personal library as he stubbornly poured through its contents. He found reams and reams of scientific journals and medical texts among many other topics, and it was these which engrossed him the most.

One day, he'd fallen asleep while reading in an ornate wingback chair. It was large enough to practically swallow his small, wasted figure. One of the house staff had come through and tucked him in with a blanket while also starting a small fire in the library's open soapstone stove. As with most days, Law had a hard time feeling grateful at the kindness. All he felt was numb and brittle, like the skeleton he so closely resembled.

He dozed; the light was too poor to really read by and he was too lethargic to set about fixing that. He watched the flames, not even shifting when a door opened behind him. He could hear Doflamingo talking. Law wondered if he ought to indicate his presence, but instead he simply closed his eyes and assumed sleep. He felt too weak to make any effort and wasn't sure if he was up to a discussion once Doflamingo inevitably took notice of him.

Listening, he could tell it was Vergo who accompanied his brother. At the time, Cora had been dead for nearly six months, though time had passed as such a blur that Law hardly felt it. Undergoing cancer therapy and then having such a tragedy on top of things had left Law with precious little energy to mourn properly. It all felt like a nightmare he might never wake from - or perhaps his cancer would re-emerge; who knew. Law had not yet grown confident in his health. It was a challenge when his body constantly felt like it was falling apart, when he was wracked with nausea more frequently than not.

Vergo was discussing the recent acquisition of some prime real estate along the riverbank. It would be perfect for luxury developments once they managed to chase off the current inhabitants. Doflamingo and all the senior officers spoke freely about the family business in front of Law, Baby, and the rest of the children, normalizing them to such criminal enterprises and rewarding similar thinking once one of them made a suggestion. Law had never really participated, and that, in combination with his close relationship to Cora, had left Vergo deeply suspicious of him.

Law would've easily succumbed to sleep had Doflamingo not mentioned Cora's name. He perked up instantly, but remained quiet and still. Several survivors of the car crash were seeking damages from the city, under the justification that the tunnel where the accident occurred was inherently unsafe. It was the site of frequent accidents and though safety measures had been implemented, the issue remained unresolved.

"Fortunately, the fire marshall is a friend. He won't press for further investigation, and I'm told he'll testify that it was all an unavoidable tragedy," Doflamingo said.

Law wondered why he wouldn't be interested in further investigation...after all, Cora was his brother, the only sibling related to him by blood. Back then, Law still believed that meant something.

Law knew the details of the accident: Cora's driver had lost control of their vehicle, it careened into the tunnel wall and then ricocheted into nearby traffic, causing a chain reaction that claimed three lives. The fire it caused had been challenging to extinguish, and by the time emergency services could access the vehicles involved, many people were beyond help, Cora included. They said he died on impact. Law was grateful for that.

His brother's voice continued, "Still though, I'm putting Monet on retainer. She knows how to handle things."

"Maybe we can reach a settlement with the victims. Pay them off as a gesture of goodwill," Vergo suggested.

Law wondered if the victims were blaming Cora and the family for causing the wreck, which seemed ludicrous. It was an accident.

Doflamingo laughed, "I like that! From one mourning family to another, eh?"

"It would be convincing. I spoke to our driver's wife, she and her children are being properly compensated and won't say a thing."

Law's heart rate began to climb, and beneath his blanket and the warmth of the fire, he was starting to sweat. They must've been referring to Cora's driver, the one who'd lost control. To hear Doflamingo speak of it, that loss of control almost sounded intentional….

"She's a good woman. Her husband - not so much." Doflamingo's voice was flippant, "He owed their house and more in gambling debts so I'm not surprised she's happy with how things worked out. Probably made more off his passing than he ever provided!"

"At least the prick did something noble with his life, worthless as it was."

"More than can be said for my dear little brother," Doflamingo said, tutting with quiet distaste. "You know, I was ready to forgive him for ever leaving. He'd come back and that was what mattered. A shame to see my trust was so misplaced."

"A tragedy, Doffy."

"He was worse than our father. And neither of them with a lick of familial loyalty."

Law remained very, very still, a hunted rabbit cornered by two sniffing hound dogs. He was certain neither Doflamingo nor Vergo knew he was there, though it was common for Law to hide away in the library. If they'd known, they never would've spoken so openly. They never would've ruined the illusion they'd created, that of a family united in mourning one of their dearest members.

As Law listened, they continued to openly sneer at Cora's memory, his life and what a disappointment he'd become. Law learned many things while he sat in terrified silence. It was as though the world had torn open and all of its poisonous truth was gushing out, like sewage vomiting from a drainpipe.

In the moment, Law was too shocked to cry, even after they left. They never did come 'round to the fire, to see him curled in that chair. It was unbelievably lucky and Law did not like considering what might have happened had he been noticed. Doflamingo would likely forgive him for eavesdropping, but Vergo never would. He would've recognized the danger and even if Doflamingo never gave the direct order, Law knew his life would be effectively over.

But even the inherent danger wasn't enough to stop him from investigating the truth; he confirmed what he suspected quickly enough, and in Doflamingo's personal notes he found evidence in spades. Cora was indeed a mole. In the years since he'd left the family, he'd attended school and then the police academy, where his family connections to organized crime led him to a specialized task force devoted to eliminating corruption within the city. Taking down the Doflamingo family would've been hailed as a great victory, and Cora had already agreed to testify against his brother's involvement in their father's death.

Learning Cora's real identity was a blow in itself. Law loathed the government for what they'd done to Flevance, to his family and himself, to everyone he'd ever known. To know that Cora was involved with them, even tangentially, made him question his loyalties, but such suspicions were short lasting. It did not matter who Cora was connected to because his loyalty had always been to Law above all others. He'd used every one of his government connections to see that Law got treatment, and it was pointless to tarnish his memory with the company he'd kept.

It was then that Law resolved to set out on his own, as soon as his health was back in order. It took nearly two years. He was effectively trapped, having few financial resources and little ability to pay the cost of his treatments - not to mention the expenses required once one struck out on their own. Instead, he broke away under the guise of education, and applied to universities as far away from Grand Line City as he could find. He was accepted readily even at his young age, and was awarded a number of scholarships to pay his way. By the time he was sixteen, he was beginning his undergraduate degree, and only then did he start to sever contact with Doflamingo and the rest of the family.

It wasn't an easy process and continued to this day. There were several large blow-ups, and eventually he confronted Doflamingo with what he'd learned. The man denied nothing and instead treated Law with paternalistic condescension, as though he were making a big deal out of nothing. As though he were a child unable to understand how the world really worked.

At the time, his brother's disappointment was palpable, as though Law had failed to really live up to his potential. But that was a potential envisioned by Doflamingo alone, and Law was happy to ruin whatever expectations the man had once held. At one point, they had such a violent argument that neither spoke to the other for a full nine months; after that, Doflamingo cut financial ties and Law was well and truly disowned. It was fitting: he'd been an orphan once before, from a family he'd truly cared for. Losing Doflamingo felt more like the relief which accompanied ridding oneself of dead weight.

Perhaps Doflamingo assumed that Law would mature beyond this rebellious phase. He certainly treated Law with more respect when they saw each other face to face now, though that was a rare occurrence. It was hard to believe the man respected him at all when he was still attempting to run Law's life via his romantic partners. Law still didn't think he was really able to communicate how deeply disrespectful and nearly sinister he found such behavior. Maybe if he'd managed to pull that off, Kid would've understood his actions better.

As impatient as he was for a response, Law hesitated. He wanted to be more respectful of people's boundaries than his brother ever was. And so, he waited for Kid to make the first move, and with every day that stretched out in silence and without contact, Law became a little more convinced that things were already over. It was a sad conclusion, seeing their relationship end with a whimper, a collapse that he alone was responsible for - and no, putting it in those terms did not make things any easier to take.

Law was only becoming resigned to this fact when he returned one evening to find Kid lounging on his couch. Law was still wearing scrubs and his feet were sore and aching from standing for so long during surgery.

The apartment was quiet, save for the soccer match Kid was watching. "Hey," he waved, peering over the shoulder of the sofa. "Pen let me in."

"Hey." Law really wasn't sure what to say. Everything felt so familiar that he almost believed he was dreaming. Or possibly that he'd stepped into a time-warp that'd transported him several weeks into the past.

"You wanna beer?" Kid waggled a half-full amber bottle. "I brought six."

"Yes. That sounds lovely." Law set down his briefcase and jacket before finding a beer and popping off its cap. At a loss for what else to do, he joined Kid on the couch. "Who's playing?"

"Fishies versus Giants. Not like you really care though, right?"

"I was only asking," Law muttered, though all Kid's tone held was the good-natured ribbing they'd once shared. Law wasn't sure if he ought to continue in that vein or remain appropriately contrite, given his recent behavior.

He really didn't like the gulf of distance that separated them now. He longed for the understanding they'd once had - the same understanding he'd taken an axe to of his own volition. He sighed and swallowed a third of his beer.

Kid raised one bare eyebrow, "Rough night, huh?"

"Rough month."

"I hear that." He sighed, "Rough fucking life. A real sob story." He shifted, bringing his bottle up to clink against the one Law held. "Guess we both know what that's like."

"I'm happy you stopped by, Eustass."

"It's been awhile, hasn't it?"

"I was beginning to wonder if I'd ever see you again."

"Nah. I mean, I wouldn't just leave things hanging like that." He scratched fingernails through his hair. They were painted black. Law wondered how the bands and shows were going; he wondered how much Bonney, Killer, and all the rest hated him. It surprised him how much he'd come to miss that part of his life and all the chaos it entailed. Kid continued, "I just needed some time, y'know? Sometimes I pop off on things and just end up ruining them, but with this...with you. I didn't want to mess it up. I had to think about everything."

Everything and what it all meant; Law could sympathize there. It'd been on the forefront of his mind as well, driving him to distraction. The number of times he found himself flicking through the photos on his phone was truly deplorable. It was an easy way to spend an idle five minutes as he traveled in a busy elevator or waited for a new patient to arrive. He'd looked over the same few pictures of Kid innumerable times, until he had the order of them memorized. It wasn't a new practice for him, and he regretted that there were no new additions for the past several weeks. His distractible mind required fresh material to entertain itself, left restless in Kid's absence.

Law knew that he'd be better off quitting this bad habit. But that would require deleting what little remained of Kid in his life, and he wasn't ready for that just yet. More than anything, he longed for closure, but it was a terrifying prospect. If Kid ended things, at least Law would be able to stop thinking about him. It probably wouldn't be that simple, but it would mean an answer, even if it wasn't the one he hoped to hear.

Privately, he'd resolved to obey whatever Kid decided upon. It seemed only fair, seeing as he'd effectively forced the decision in the first place. While Law was willing to fight for the things he cared about, he didn't really think it was his place this time around. It was hard to rationalize putting something on life support when you were the one who'd driven a stake through its heart.

Law simply wasn't ready to say goodbye. This wasn't the sort of breakup where a friendship could be salvaged from the ashes, and that part depressed him the most. In their short time together, their lives had become well and truly inseparable and Law wasn't ready to think of what things would be like on his lonesome again.

Kid broke the silence between them, "How's work going?"

"Oh, the same. I'm doing transplants right now. It's a number of very sick people whom you have to make sicker before they can have any hope of improvement." Law knew a little bit of what that was like. He could feel Kid's eyes on him like a physical touch, but kept his own focused on the soccer players racing back and forth across the field. "And you?"

"Can't complain. At least the weather ain't so rainy right now." He scratched his scalp again, a nervous gesture that Law had come to miss. "Thought about seeing if you wanted to get lunch once or twice. But I guess I never had the balls to really follow through, y'know?"

"You should have. I would've made the time."

"Well, maybe we'll go sometime this week. What d'you say about that?"

"I'd like to." Things felt strange, as though everything and nothing had changed. Law could already feel his beer loosening his tongue and wondered when the last time he'd eaten something was. He turned to Kid with a confidence he hardly felt, "Eustass...can I assume that you're not here to put an end to things?"

"I think that's a safe assumption."

Law gave a clipped laugh, "Safer than most of my recent assumptions, at least?"

"A lot more accurate." One of Kid's hands reached across the space between them. He took Law's wrist, pulling it towards him. They were really only separated by a few inches but it was a distance Law felt hesitant to break. It wasn't his place to intrude on Kid's boundaries. He'd done plenty of that already.

"Hey," Kid said, and gave a tug, "C'mere."

Law set his bottle on the coffee table before sliding closer, against Kid's body, solid as an anchor. Before he knew it, Kid was gathering him up until Law was curled across his lap, one arm pillowing his neck against the end of the couch.

He brought Law's wrist up to his mouth and kissed the knuckles. "You smell like hospital soap."

"It comes with the job, unfortunately."

"Nah, I like it now. Reminds me of you."

Law knew what he meant. He'd come to appreciate the subtle smell of grease and oil that clung to Kid after work, the faint, lingering odor of charred metal. He was freshly showered now but even that was comforting in its familiarity, his aftershave and deodorant a distinctive combination. Law clutched at a thick handful of Kid's t-shirt and never wanted to let go. "I love you, Eustass."

"And how long did it take you to realize that?"

"A while, if you must know," Law replied, frowning. "Not everyone is as naturally intuitive as you."

"Intuitive, I like that. Have to agree, though - your intuition sucks."

"There's no need to be nasty about it," Law muttered. He'd expected a certain amount of scolding, he'd even go so far as to say he deserved it. That didn't mean he had to like it.

"Nah, c'mon. You're a smart guy, but you do a lotta stupid shit. Sometimes I feel like you just think your problems to death, when the answer isn't that hard in the first place."

Law scowled; he didn't like how much of a point Kid had with this. He knew he was inarticulate with his feelings. Often, though he felt things deeply and intensely, it was difficult for him to isolate and identify precisely what he felt for another person. It required a level of self-reflection that did not come naturally, and as a result, he avoided it entirely, which was surprisingly easy to do.

Besides. He had plenty of intuition. The fact that he constantly questioned it was a failing he'd yet to overcome. But that didn't mean he was lacking in that regard. Still, though - Law kept his mouth shut; he wasn't about to start up a pointless argument over stupid things now that he'd finally got Kid back in his life. He was hoping the man would choose to stay and Law really would be self-sabotaging if he decided to pick a fight over minutiae.

He didn't think he'd ever really loved another person - at least, not the way he loved Kid. He'd loved Cora, but that was a different sort of feeling, a fraternal affection experienced when he was still very young. The boyfriends he'd had never seemed to make much of an impact. There was always a feeling of transiency about those relationships, and Law never expected them to go very far. As a result, they never did.

Unlike his own feelings, he had never doubted Kid's. "Well, if I'm so bad at this, then how did you know? When you felt the real thing, I mean."

Kid just shook his head, "Man, you're starting to freak me out, here. When you know, you just know. It's not that complicated!" One of his hands slid beneath Law's loose-fitting scrubs top, fingers cool. "You really need to learn how to trust yourself."

"I trust you." He sighed, realizing how much his recent actions directly contradicted that statement. "Or at least I should have. I wanted to, that's where all this trouble started."

"Well geez, that's almost a compliment."

"It's not as easy for me to go trusting other people! Not everyone is the same as you."

"It's 'cause you've got that shitty intuition. You shouldn't need proof to know who to trust."

Kid said, his tone reflective. "But thanks anyway, I guess. That actually means a lot."

"It's not just you, I have a hard time trusting anybody." Law turned his head, sighing into Kid's clothed stomach. "Because of my brother...the rest of my family. I'm not used to people caring when they're not after something. I never put much stock in words. They're easy to fake."

"Yeah. But I don't make a habit of lying, especially not to you."

"I can see that now. But, Eustass..." Law felt his voice die in his throat. So many things felt unsaid but to give them voice would make them real, capable of injury, or of being injured. Law felt very much like his vulnerable belly were exposed for all to see, but the only one present was Kid, and still he was afraid. "When I realized how strongly I was a while ago, when I still thought you were like all the rest. As much as I wanted you, I didn't want to let Doflamingo win. I just had to know, because if you already belonged to my brother - "

"Hey, c'mon. Let's not talk about other guys right now, okay?" Kid shifted, almost with discomfort. "Haven't you spent long enough worrying about who I might be, instead of paying attention to who I am?"

"This wouldn't be such a problem if I hadn't noticed who you are."

"Oh yeah?"

"You're very amazing, Eustass. How could I have missed it?"

"I dunno." Kid shook his head, a rueful smile trying its best to show. His thumb worked into the divot of Law's navel, surprisingly sensitive. "Most people take one look at me and write me off. I was always waiting for you to do the same, but when it never happened...I guess I got my hopes up."

"And now I've shattered them?"

"Let's just say you brought me back to earth."

"That's a shame." Law remembered what Kid looked like on stage and longed for that larger than life persona. Even if Kid forgave him, he still felt guilty for causing such harm in the first place.

"Yeah, well. Life's full of disappointments."

"Are you doing your best to bring me back to earth now?"

"Fair's fair," Kid laughed. He gave Law's ribs a swift tickle that had him squirming away, until he toppled out of Kid's lap like a sack of potatoes. Kid didn't even make the attempt to catch him, instead laughing a second time, "Wow, you're all grace, aren't you?"

"Oh, fuck off." Law clambered back onto the sofa. At least he hadn't wiped out the coffee table on his way down. What was Kid expecting; he was lucky Law hadn't punched him in the face, and even in that case, it would've been due to pure, flailing chance.

Law reclaimed his beer, nursing it sourly. For some reason, this wasn't going at all the way he'd expected. He wondered what he'd even been anticipating...something with far more drama, where each word would be chosen with careful precision. Kid somehow managed to disarm the tension until Law felt stupid for getting worked up in the first place. Maybe Kid had come to terms with things on his own; maybe Law was expected to do the same.

Beside him, Kid rose, heading for the kitchen. There was a pop as he opened a fresh beer, returning to his seat a moment after. The soccer match, practically forgotten, continued with neither team having scored. It all felt terminally normal. Law wondered how Kid could so easily forgive him. It felt unearned.

Against his better impulses, he asked, "Really, Eustass. Aren't you even mad at me?"

"Truthfully? Yeah, I guess I am. A bit." Kid considered his beer for a long moment. "But I spent a lotta my life being mad. It doesn't get you anywhere. It took me a long time to realize that."

"You're allowed to be mad at me. I do fuck up from time to time."

"Think I don't know that? It's not that I'm so forgiving. I just love you." Kid shook his head, rubbing a finger into one eye. "That's way more important than staying mad, or making sure you pay for doing me wrong."

He sighed, flipping his fingers in a gesture of surrender, "What can I say? It would take a lot more than that to make me stop feeling the way I do. Just don't try to take advantage too much, okay? This has been a really miserable few weeks."

"I'll happily agree with you on that." After losing his copy of Kid's report, Law had alerted the Strawhats - he didn't think Kid would try to track them down, but he felt obligated to tell them nonetheless. Usopp offered him a digital copy of the report, seeing as he'd never read the original, but Law declined. By that point, he'd realized exactly how badly he'd stepped over the line.

He could blame it on Doflamingo and the rest of the family all he wanted, but Law knew in his heart that what he'd done was wrong. He'd known it from the very start, and yet it hadn't been enough to stop him. Kid was a much better person at heart than Law was, and the poor bastard hadn't even realized it.

Law swallowed the remainder of his beer before setting the bottle aside. He considered fetching another, but could already feel the effects of the first and decided against it. He sighed, "I suppose this means the honeymoon is over."

"Yeah, finally. Now I can fart without having to worry that it'll scare you off."

"I hate to break this to you, but you've done that in your sleep plenty of times already."

"Oh, whatever. I do not."

"Trust me on this one, darling. It's really the only thing I have to complain about whenever you've spent the night." Feeling restless, Law stood, stretching until his spine gave a satisfying crack. The strain of standing for so many hours during surgery had settled into his lower back, refusing to budge. "You'll stay over tonight, won't you?"

"You have to ask?"

Probably not, but taking things for granted had caused enough trouble as it was. "Can I ever show myself around your place again after this?"

"Maybe, if you're brave. Killer's in your corner, I think Heat and Wire would like us to make up. They're tired of seeing me cry." He flashed a grin that made Law wonder whether or not he were serious. "I'd watch out for Bonney, I can't tell who she's more pissed off at - you for fucking up, or me for letting it slide."

Law could only imagine. He'd heard of Bonney's legendary skills when it came to harboring a grudge. Fortunately, Kid was not the same. It was more than he deserved. Law had all but reconciled that their relationship would end.

"I really didn't tell 'em all that much," Kid said, reaching to pull Law closer by the loose folds of his scrubs. "Just that we'd broken up 'cause you went snooping. I didn't tell them anything about your folks."

"Oh. It's probably for the best, I don't know if they'd believe you."

"Nah, they probably would, that's the thing. I think Bonney's been primed to hate you from the start, so it's best if I don't give her any more justification for it."

"Good thing I'm not dating her, then."

"Pity the poor bastard who does."

Law drew closer until he was standing before Kid, hesitating and annoyed with his insecurities. He felt restless in his own skin, hungry to touch Kid but low on confidence. He decided to throw caution to the wind and without wasting further time, he straddled his knees over Kid's legs, pressing in close. His advances weren't repelled and Law continued, framing Kid's face with his hands. He was beautiful, amber eyed and pale. Law hadn't risked even dreaming that he'd ever see Kid this way again. There was a fresh, pink scar above his eyebrow, a remnant from the injury Law had patched up so many months ago. He tilted forward and Kid met him halfway, as though they were thinking the same thing, as though they could communicate so much easier without words.

Kid kissed with deliberate intent, as serious as if it were their first and final time. It felt like they'd both been given a second chance and Law was determined not to waste it by taking things for granted. All that time he'd spent longing to return things to what they'd been, all the time he'd wasted doubting Kid's intentions - Law poured it all into their kiss, as though it could apologize with more sincerity than his words had managed thus far.

Law felt Kid's hands trailed up the backs of his spread thighs, from knees to hips and back around, cupping each cheek of his ass and squeezing with intent. Law shivered, anticipation blooming inside him until it was hard to breathe, the room's air becoming thin. He pulled away, his chest tight as he rested his forehead against Kid's with their breath shared in the small space between. Law wanted things to stay like this forever.

Kid's face nudged forward, catching Law's lower lip and sucking. There was the hard worry of his teeth before he drew back, "I'm kinda glad you're not as perfect as I always thought you were. Makes me feel like less of a low-life in comparison."

"I've never really trusted perfect things," Law replied. Maybe that was why he'd had such a hard time taking Kid seriously; the man was exquisite, even if he had no idea. Kid began working on a spot beneath his jaw, prompting an incredible melting sensation that left Law's spine feeling as though it'd turned to fluid. He groaned, sinking into Kid's lap and grinding. It was gratifying to find that he wasn't alone in being so shamelessly turned on, and gave an enthusiastic murmur as Kid began kneading his ass.

A door creaked from the hallway and Law froze; moments later, Penguin's shadowy figure strode in the direction of the bathroom, not even glancing in their direction. Thank god.

Law waited until the door clicked shut before hissing, "Why didn't you tell me Pen was still home?"

"Maybe I wasn't expecting you to climb all over me! I wasn't gonna say something that was sure to make you stop."

"Well, you weren't wrong on that count," Law muttered, and made to dismount. But Kid didn't let him, scooping Law up with firm hands against the backs of his thighs. Abruptly, he stood and Law was left holding on for dear life as his center of gravity swung alarmingly, "Put me down, or I swear - "

"Oh shh, you! Just hold on for half a second."

Kid took loping strides towards Law's room, and good god, he'd forgotten how strong the man really was. He could cart Law around like he weighed nothing. With every step, excitement lurched in Law's veins like a refined drug, potent and overwhelming. He hitched his legs around Kid's hips, squeezing and earning a grunt of effort before his back thumped solidly against his bedroom door and Kid fumbled to open it.

Down the hallway, the toilet flushed and Law could hear water running. "If Penguin catches us like this - "

"Yeah, yeah, you'll dump me for real. Man, this is why I never try anything like this! You don't appreciate shit." Kid's annoyance was interrupted as he all but broke the door down. He stumbled through and kicked it shut in their wake, not pausing until he could dump Law bodily atop his own bed.

Law gave an annoyed wheeze on impact. He struggled upright, his feathers ruffled. "I was only going to say, if Penguin caught us like that we'd really never hear the end of it."

"Oh yeah? What's he got to say about all of this?"

"He thinks I'm being an idiot. He tells me so at every opportunity."

"At least someone around here's got their head on straight." Kid stripped out of his shirt as he kicked off one boot after the other, progressing quickly to his belt. Law felt his jaw slacken and sat numbly as he watched Kid disrobe. It was always an impressive sight. And here he'd never thought himself such a fleshmonger before they met….

Kid must've noticed his distraction, "Are you just gonna sit there and stare?"

"Yes. Is that alright?"

"You'll make me blush."

"Good." With his skin tone, there wasn't a thing Kid could do to hide it. He didn't often flush from embarrassment or teasing, but his cheeks would take on a high color once they were really in the thick of things. It would touch the tips of his ears and the back of his neck, immediate and undisguisable proof that Law looked for every time. He could never accuse Kid of faking; his body was just too honest.

Law toed off his shoes and socks but didn't go further. He stretched out flat with his head against the pillows, the cotton of his scrubs harsh against restless nerves.

He was only left waiting for a moment before Kid joined him, sitting on the edge of the bed as one hand snuck immediately up Law's shirt, which was pushed upwards to his throat and collarbones. Kid gave an impatient tug, "You gonna give me a hand here or what?"

"I thought you might want to do the honors."

"This is some really depressing lingerie for that sorta thing."

Law could feel a pout threatening to show itself, lost quickly beneath his shirt as Kid pulled it over his head. The draw-string pants followed, one of Kid's hands cupping between Law's legs with deliberate intent, making him groan and arch towards the attention. He bit his lip, resisting only so that he didn't appear abjectly shameless. It was probably a pointless attempt; Kid had been able to see through him right from the start.

Kid crawled between his legs and Law had never been so grateful to have someone to rut up against like a desperate teenager. Law could hardly explain himself, though it wasn't like Kid asking any challenging questions, more than happy to meet Law in a rough grind. Kid fumbled their remaining shorts away with shaking fingers, and Law felt giddy and wild, almost as if the strings keeping him together had snapped apart one after the other.

Kid braced a hand beside Law's face, looking him over as though seeing him for the first time. His eyes were so dilated they appeared almost black in the meager light from the bedside lamp, leaving Law stripped and naked beneath his gaze. "You're really something else, y'know that?"

It was hard to say if that was entirely complimentary, particularly given recent events. Law didn't really care one way or the other if it kept Kid by his side. "Come on, Eustass," he said, encouraging, whining. "Make me scream."

"That's kind of a dangerous to go asking for." Kid sank towards him until Law felt nearly smothered, the man's body heavy and solidly thick. Teeth worried at the tender shell of his ear, making him squirm though there was effectively nowhere to go. He felt pinned and captured with escape the furthest thing on his mind.

Kid's erection was full with promise against Law's stomach and he wanted to feel it from the inside, to be powerless and helpless to stop Kid as he took what he wanted. He was encouraged to roll over, onto his stomach and Law pulled his knees up to his chest, baring himself and allowing his hips to be guided up and back until his ass rested snugly with Kid's cock trapped between them. It took only a few minutes of preparation, the motions familiar in and of themselves, to the point that Law could feel his heart racing in anticipation in the last moments before Kid pressed inside him, sliding home.

In the end, Law never really screamed, though he did utilize his pillow quite effectively in muffling what sounds he did make. Penguin was home and all of that. While he might be pleased to learn they'd made up, Law doubted he'd really appreciate listening to the results.

Kid molded his body against Law's back, pinning them together as he worked Law to a ragged completion, the sort that left his mind blank and his limbs trembling. By the time he'd calmed down - which took a good few minutes, his head left spinning in the wake of a powerful climax - his pillowcase was damp and bore the indentations of his teeth. He hadn't even caught his breath by the time Kid followed after, the grip of his fingers on Law's hips sure to leave a mark as well. It was demonstrative proof of their reconciliation, the sort that Law wished he could etch permanently into his bones, as permanent as any of the memorial tattoos he'd carved into his skin.

Kid remained bowed over Law's body for a good moment after before disengaging. He flopped onto his back, breathing labored with well-earned exertion. His sweaty palm found Law's arm, traveling blindly from his elbow to his wrist.

He laced their fingers together, "Know what sounds really good right now?"

"Hm?" Law didn't even bother to open his eyes, loose-limbed and content.

"Chinese food."

"Oh." Law blinked. He focused on a point on the ceiling, ignoring his sleepier impulses. "I was going to say a bath."

"We can do both. Maybe both at once."

Law didn't know how on board he was with that idea, but eating something would be for the best. As if to add its voice to the conversation, his stomach growled sourly. He couldn't remember the last time he had a bite...probably back before his surgical shift had even started, and that'd been hours ago. Kid, of course, was always ready to eat.

Beside him, the man shifted, "Lemme put an order in. Otherwise we're just gonna fall asleep."

"What's wrong with that?"

"Dude, I need to eat something. Otherwise you're gonna wake up with me gnawing on your skinny little bones."

Law groaned in lethargic denial. He had to imagine it was nearing up on midnight, but that proved hardly an obstacle as Kid easily found a place that was open and offering delivery, even considering the hour.

Silently, Law had made up his mind to call in sick for work the following morning - he could blame it on the late-night meal giving him indigestion, or some other bullshit excuse. He never took time off and he'd banked almost three weeks in sick leave. He listened to Kid place his order, rolling over so he could wrap his limbs around Kid's chest and hips, holding him tight as a limpet, like something symbiotic that would die enmeshed around its partner.

"Yay, food in twenty minutes," Kid sighed, flopping back onto his pillow. His hair was damp and sweaty at the temples and Law felt an irrepressible urge to burrow in closer until every inch of his body was marked in his familiar scent.

"You'd better not fall asleep," Law murmured. "I'm not answering the door."

"Yeah, yeah." He made to get up but Law latched on and refused to relinquish his hold. Kid picked at his fingers one by one, loosening their grip. "Dude, let go. I have to pee."

"You're destroying the mood."

"It'll really ruin the mood if I piss on you."

"Ugh, get away, you pig." Law released him, bundling beneath the covers instead. He dozed for several minutes until Kid returned, fighting his way into Law's blanket fortress until he was spooned against his back. One strong arm roped around his stomach and Law could feel sleep calling him with thick, dreamy tones. Inarticulately, he mumbled, "I love you."

"I never get tired of hearing that," Kid answered.

"I love you," Law repeated. He found Kid's hand where it rested against his belly. Every piece and every inch, he loved Kid down to his very bones, the flesh and what connected him together and everything in between.

"Hey." Kid's mouth close to Law's ear, and he could practically feel the man's deep voice reverberating through his chest when he spoke, "Can I borrow thirty bucks?"

Law jerked back to awareness, "Are you fucking kidding me?"

"I don't have any cash!"

"Maybe mention that before ordering food next time." Law elbowed him in the ribs but acquiesced, directing Kid to where his wallet was located so that he could fetch it once the time came.

It would serve the stupid bastard right if Law didn't have anything to lend him in the first place. On the other hand, these implicit assumptions on Kid's behalf charmed him. He wasn't used to having another person rely on him like that and while it felt silly, he enjoyed it nonetheless. It left him feeling needed and important, especially when the person needing him was Kid.

To a certain extent, it felt like nothing had changed at all. Law resolved to spend more time paying attention to the smaller things; he hadn't realized how badly they would be missed until he was confronted with their absence. Even stupid things like take-out meals in the middle of the night filled him with an odd fondness. And to think, he used to find it all so worrying. He was due for a neurotic ulcer with all the internal agonizing he'd done over the last six months, and weren't relationships supposed to improve one's health in general? He really wondered how normal people did it.

Some things seemed appropriately foolish in hindsight, and Law was surprisingly at peace with being wrong on this count. As with everything when it came to Kid, Law would eagerly rearrange his life until things fit, until they felt comfortable and right. He'd never accepted things at face value, but for the first time in his life, he felt like he finally could. Perhaps Kid had a point with all that talk of trusting one's intuition. Law had never put much stock in such things but he was ready to reevaluate.

He frowned, annoyed that he was already getting stuck in his head. Critical analysis had little place when it came to his feelings for Kid. They were irrational, and for once, he didn't care.