Chapter I - A bad decision.
"I need you to marry me, Tashigi." With an impassive face and serious voice, he spoke.
He's joking, right?
"Your joke is terrible, Trafalgar."
In fact, not just terrible, it ticked her off unbelievably. She could tolerate his sarcastic comments and taunting remarks, but her patience has reached its limit. Tashigi hurries to the elevator which just opened. She had a lot to do today, and the last thing she needed was to be a pawn in his twisted game.
However, he matches her pace and enters the elevator with her.
"Listen." He grabbed her wrist.
"Get away from me," she hissed, but didn't want to cause a scene, since they were not alone.
He, however, didn't seem to mind. "I'm serious. I want you to marry me."
Her eyes dropped to the floor, awkwardly. She couldn't look at him. Why is he doing this to her? The elevator felt a little too cramped, and she prayed to escape from this uncomfortable situation.
"This is not a joke." He continued to speak, ignoring the people who began to stare at them.
"Can you keep it down, please?" She whispers to him, desperately.
"All I'm asking is for you to listen to me."
Annoying and stubborn! But, she gives in. "Fine."
Tashigi tried to stay calm until they reached his office. When she made sure they were alone, she snapped, "What the heck is wrong with you!?" Her fist clenched. "Ambushing me like that!"
"What's the big fucking deal, you asked me if I needed something, and I answered you."
"I was being polite! The last thing I expected was a marriage proposal!"
"Fine. I admit that was badly put, but I'm running out of time, so I need to be direct."
"Running out of time? What in the world are you talking about?!"
"Calm down and I'll explain everything."
"You know what? I won't." Tashigi threw him a glare. "This is preposterous! Like a bad plot from TV dramas!" She was about to get out when he swiftly closed the door, blocking her way out.
"Move!" Her lips curled.
"You said that you owed me. I want you to return the favor. Or are you refusing?" He pierced her with an icy stare.
"But this..." She took a deep breath, touching the base of her neck. "What you're asking for is too much! It's crazy..."
"Do you think I enjoy this? I admit that look on your face is pretty amusing, but c'mon. At least listen to the whole story, you owe me that much."
She exhales heavily and closes her eyes. "Okay. But if this is one of your bad jokes, I'll smack you."
"Right." He moves away from the door. "Your threat has zero intimidation."
"Don't test my patience, Trafalgar." She sits on the sofa in his office, as he leaned on his desk, across from her.
"Okay... You know my parents have a hospital in Flevance, right?"
"Um, yeah, I think I heard others talking about it..."
"The point is... They want me to manage it."
"That's great, right? I mean you can be-"
"Yes, yes, but there lies the problem. Their condition was that I and my future wife run it together." He crossed his arms, tapping his foot. "Ridiculous, I know. But they are a little... Difficult. Anyhow, you get it, right?"
"No." She frowned. "They want you to marry a doctor?"
He sighs. "You're really slow, aren't you?"
"How do you expect me to get it with such a bad explanation?! And that still doesn't answer why am I-"
"Okay, stop getting worked up. I'll explain further." He walks to his chair and collapses into it.
"I told them I have a fiancée who is a fellow doctor."
"Well, do you?"
"Are you a moron? If I had one I wouldn't be asking you to marry me now, do I?"
"No, what I meant is, did you have one? Did you break up or something...?"
"Your questions are pointless. Shut up and listen."
Tashigi pouted. Well, he's acting pretty snappy for someone who asked for help.
"I didn't have a fiancée, to begin with. It's just that... It was convenient for me to lie to them." He gets up, walking towards the window.
"My mother and sister were always trying to set me up with random women, so many times that I stopped going home. Even on holidays. Their meddling is a waste of time, and I had no intention to indulge them. You know how it is, all of my time goes into my work. The last thing I want is a girlfriend let alone wife. Too much fuss over something that won't last."
The next part he mutters, "I already know how it's gonna end." Law cleared his throat, "Anyhow, they can't understand that not everyone can have a marriage like they have, nor do I want to."
"So... You told them you have a girlfriend to get them off your back."
"Precisely. But as the time passed, they begin to have doubts since my imaginary relationship lasted a lot longer than any of my previous ones, so they insisted on meeting her.
I couldn't keep lying to them that she is busy... Basically, I ran out of excuses. Then my mother said, "You made the whole thing up, didn't you?" Tired, I snapped and told her we were engaged. Stupid move. Their insisting became harder, which is understandable, especially since they are planning on retiring. Yesterday, I told my mother that I will bring my fiancée this weekend."
"Why couldn't you just admit-"
"You don't understand do you!?" He cut her off and was really worked up. Tashigi never saw him like that.
"If I told them it was a lie, they will leave it to Lami! She is not ready to lead a hospital. And she most definitely isn't cut out for it, because she isn't interested in it."
"Lami?" Tashigi lifted her brow.
"My younger sister." He rubbed the back of his neck.
"Oh. It's that bad?" Tashigi asked with an uncertain tone.
"Yes, because- I told you already! Don't make me repeat myself!" He massaged his temple.
"She is married to an idiot our parents found her. Doctor as well. He will brainwash her and do what he wants with the hospital, and I won't let that happen! I won't see it crumble!" Law hits a wall with his fist.
Tashigi widened her eyes. He was intimidating, yet passionate. This side of him was something unexpected. He was always calm, cool and collected.
An uncomfortable silence settled between them. After a while, with a little courage, Tashigi breaks it. "Why me?"
Law is still silent and turned to the window.
She doesn't let it intimidate her. "Couldn't you ask one of your previous girlfriends-"
"That would be complicated. You are a perfect choice."
Perfect choice, as if! That was her breaking point. She stood up, walking towards him.
"How on earth did you get to that conclusion? I barely even know you! And we don't even hang out... We're not even friends!" She was yelling at him, but didn't dare to touch him.
"That's why. And stop shouting. I hate women who throw tantrums."
"You know what? I'm leaving. I heard you out, so bye." Tashigi turns on her heel and starts walking towards the door.
"If you help me, you will be in charge of the Pediatric Surgery Department in my hospital."
"You can also realize the trip that board declined."
She turns around and looks at him.
"I'll finance your trip to where ever you wanted to go to help the children." Once more, tranquil expression settled on his face, his voice serious.
"That's not fair..." What kind of woman would she be if she accepted his offer? A terrible woman and a liar. But she was conflicted with her desire to help the children.
Or maybe not.
That desire was always overpowering everything in her life. She was also living for her work so she could understand him. It's not like she had a private life either.
"I think it's pretty fair." He continued to persuade her.
"And we don't have to stay married for long... Let me see... When they give me the hospital..." He squinted his eyes a bit. "One year, tops."
"A year?! Forget it." She snapped from thinking about the tempting proposition he gave her.
"What? A year will pass by quickly, especially in our line of work. We won't even see each other that much."
He made it sound like it was a simple business transaction. Doesn't he understand what he's asking?
"You are not …" Tashigi stuttered. "What you're suggesting is crazy... I can't pretend you know? I'm a terrible liar and I don't know anything about you. You don't know anything about me either. Not to mention that-"
"I've taken everything into account. Who do you think I am? An idiot? Would I ask you to marry me just like that and not think about it?"
Tashigi was always a curious person. Curiosity always led her to bad situations, like now.
"Then... What is your plan?" She couldn't help but ask.
"Does that mean you accept?" A glimmer of his trademark confidence appeared in his eyes.
"Depends on your plan..." What could go wrong? She will just listen to him.
"First off, sit." He guides her to the sofa, and sits beside her. "You don't have a boyfriend, right?"
"No." The bitter lump settles in her throat. She used to... But they decided it was better to call it quits. He had his job and she was busy with hers.
"So you broke things off with that cop, huh?"
"How do you-"
"I have ears you know. Just because I look like I'm not listening doesn't mean I don't."
"You still didn't answer my question. Nevermind. Just tell me your plan."
"I sit behind you in the cafeteria, so I know plenty about your life."
"Huh? I never noticed that... That's kinda creepy."
"Creepy? I was the first one sitting there. That's my spot. You happened to sit there with your blabbermouth buddies. Just so you know, the nurses of this hospital are the biggest gossip station in this town."
"I know. That's how I found out things about you."
"It's not important right now... Besides since you "listen things" you should know."
"Just tell me."
"You have a fan club. And all the members are women, of course. Maybe even a few men, I don't know..." She chuckles. "They call you Dr. Sexy."
"Bunch of fucking morons." He pinches the bridge of his nose. "I escape from my lunatic family to get to the even worse environment."
"Hey, it's not that bad. They say nice things as well."
"What do you mean "nice things as well?" Do they-"
"Let's not get too far from the subject." Tashigi nervously interrupted him. "The point is, you inspire many people with your brilliance. Everyone admires you. You're the number one cardiothoracic surgeon in this hospital, at such young age, good looking and passionate about his job, of course, everyone is going to talk about you."
"Hm..." Law looked deep in thoughts for a few minutes. "So you think I'm good looking? That makes our mission easier."
"Um... I - I was just saying-" A flush crept across her cheeks.
"You're kinda plain and hiding behind your glasses and bangs," he was checking her out, "your figure is decent I think... I would have to see you without scrubs."
"E-Excuse me?!" Tashigi started to blush heavier.
"Why are you getting so worked up? I meant in normal clothes." He smirks. "You're perverted, aren't you? Who knew...?"
"C-Can we get back t-to the subject!"
"Fine." He puts his hands behind his head and leans back. "It's simple; we learn details about each other. Even the smallest, stupidest quirks. You don't have to lie about yourself; you can tell them anything you wish. The less we lie the better. I don't want you to slip on some stupid detail."
"Why do you think I would slip?"
"Oh, c'mon you have a face of a martyr. Like you're about to go on a holy war. One look at my mother or sister and you're gonna spill the beans."
"Hm." She sulks, crossing her arms over her chest.
"You look like a kid when you do that." He closes his eyes, sighing. "We need a story of how we met down to the stupid details, my sister and mother will gush about that."
"I'll leave that to you."
"So you accept?" He moved closer, looking her straight in the eyes.
"I can't believe it... But, I do." What did you get yourself into Tashigi? His eyes… Are out of the ordinary… There is something… captivating and reassuring. Seductive even.
"You're a smart woman."
"I don't think so. A smart person would never-"
"What's wrong in helping each other to fulfill our goals? You have to be clever. This world is not some fairy tale were kind, decent, and honorable people win. They always lose."
"What about conscience?"
"You're doing this for the greater cause, aren't you? So, the question is how badly do you want it? How badly do you want to help children?"
"I want it... But I still don't think I can pull it off." She bounced her leg, nervously biting her lower lip. She should back out.
"Don't worry, I'll help you." He placed his hand on her leg, stopping it. "No need to be nervous."
The warmth of his touch seeped through her body, comforting her and making her feel like a melting ice-cream on a sunny afternoon. It lasted for a moment.
"O-Okay. What now?" She quickly shook it off.
"Now... We will go back to work like usual. The rest we can talk about at my place."
Tashigi nodded, her heart beating unbearably fast. Standing up, she was walking towards the door.
"Oh, one more thing." He walks to his desk, opening the drawer. "This is for you."
He tosses her the little burgundy plush box. Tashigi hardly manages to catch it. Her jittery fingers, slowly open it, revealing the breathtakingly elegant and beautiful aquamarine-diamond pebble ring.
"What- How did you-?"
He only smirks.
Did he know she would say yes? If so, how did he know her ring size? It fits perfectly.
"Are you sure they're gonna like me?" Tashigi threw a glance at Law, over her glasses, reading the notes he made for her.
"Positive. Just be yourself." He frowned a little. "Your handwriting is terrible. No wonder you're a doctor."
They were sitting on Law's couch in the living room. Her third day staying at his place. It was "necessary and efficient" so they could get used to each other and because they both worked.
Tashigi was wearing her gray, baggy koala T-shirt, with purple pajama pants. Her hair was loosely pinned with the hairpin.
"You're convinced." She lets out a small sigh.
"Of course I am. Your lack of sex appeal makes you the perfect candidate, every mother wants for her son." Running his fingers through his hair, he took his black rim glasses. He was wearing a simple dark-gray pajama set. "You can even babble about kittens and other girly stuff you love."
"Nobody in the right mind would believe we're a couple, Trafalgar. We can't pull this off." Tashigi tosses his notes on the glass coffee table.
"Why are you so negative? And call me by my name, practice it."
"We lack chemistry Tr- Law. There is nothing believable about us being a "couple." Tashigi rolled her eyes.
"Can you pronounce my name without looking like you ate something spoiled? Don't worry about that, it's the easiest part. Focus on learning things about me."
"How is that the easiest part!? That's the crucial part! And it's so awkward to-"
He silences her by moving closer to her. Their eyes meet, and his hand brushes against her thigh. An unexpected electric shock surges through her body. His other hand touches her hair, and she feels his long fingers combing it, slowly taking her hairpin off. Tashigi couldn't move. His eyes were almost hypnotic; they were curiously and magnetically drawing her towards him.
Her brain was about to burst when he moved even closer, his breath warm on her cheek as his fingers traced a tingly path from her lips to her neck. With a smirk on his face, his head drips down, lips pressing against her neck, arms tightening around her waist.
All she wanted to do is to touch his bare skin, even though her mind tried to make her snap out of it. Her hands were hesitant, but she rests them on his lower back, awkwardly.
At that moment the immense desire took over, oozing from her pores and she was sure he could sense it.
His hand sneaked under her shirt, and just then she remembers... She was completely exposed underneath. Finally, her reason manages to break through this weird situation.
"Why? You seem like you were having a good time..." He was back to his usual self. Maybe he was never out of it. This was just a "task" to him. Kinda annoying. And why the heck did she react like that?
She got up, sheltering her chest. "I-I'm going to the bathroom."
"You don't need to, I can help you with-"
He grins. "She's really perverted."
Tashigi splashed her face with cold water, several times. "What is the matter with me?" She never expected to react like a friggin teenager. And she needs to get used to... No. They don't need to go that far. He was just messing with her.
When she got back, she caught him reading her notes, his glasses back on. Tashigi silently sits as far as she could from him, grabbing the notes she tossed earlier.
"So I think you agree that the topic we discussed earlier won't be a problem?" He breaks the silence, throwing her a glance.
"I don't want to talk about it... And please, don't do it ever again."
"You know that we will have to display some sort of affection in public? I thought we could practice." He smirks again. "You're so tense."
"I doubt that you need to feel my breasts in public." She replies sarcastically.
"I guess I don't, but it's fun. Especially your face-"
"Yes, I know, ridiculous. I'm glad I amuse you."
"More than you could imagine." He scoots closer to her again. "I was going to say it was kinda erotic."
"Back off, your playing time is over."
"Who says it is?"
For a split second, his comment scared her. But she shakes it off. "Hm, so... You were born on October the 6th?"
His eyes narrowed. "You're a mood killer, you know. And yeah, what about it?"
"I've been told that. It's kinda my specialty." She sighs. "We are born on the same date."
He looks at her a bit surprised, his lips pulling into a grin. "Really? I didn't notice it because your handwriting is awful."
Tashigi was actually stunned. It was such a big coincidence. Maybe it was a sign. Did she make the right choice to help him?
"Oy." He snapped his fingers in front of her face. "Why are you spacing out? Same birthdate, so what? We share our birth date with approximately 19 million other people.
Don't take it as a cosmical sign to ease your conscience. Or... Do it. Whatever makes you cope with this situation."
"You know, you're a real jerk." Tashigi was deflated by his cynical comment.
"One more thing... Apologies for calling you plain."
"Huh?" Did he just apologize?
"I had no idea you hide such figure beneath those baggy clothes and uniforms you usually wear."
Tashigi turned bright red. "I- can we not talk-"
"And your bust size...Not plain. Again, apologies."
"Aghh! If you don't stop with the teasing I'm leaving!"
"I'm admitting an honest mistake here and you-"
"Good Morning," he greets her when she enters the kitchen to pour some coffee.
He was reading the newspaper on his laptop, fully dressed and ready to go to work. And he would usually go without her. She kinda hoped to avoid him.
Tashigi grumbles in response, still pretty pissed about last night. And to think she will have to put up his behavior for god knows how long... Maybe she should call it quits while she still has the time. It was like she was on drugs when she made the decision to get involved with him.
"You're not thinking of bailing out?"
His voice snaps her back from her thoughts, and she almost drops her mug.
"Seriously?" He lets out a weary sigh. "Are you a five-year old?"
He closes his laptop. "Fine. I won't do that ever again, I swear. But we will have to pretend in front of my family, you know that, right?"
"I know." She takes a big sip of her bitter coffee. "It doesn't ease my conscience though, no matter what you say."
"What are you, a fucking saint? How do you think I feel? You think I like lying to my family?"
"No. It's just that-"
"There's no other option, trust me, I tried everything. So..." He approaches her, looking her straight into her eyes. "I need to know that you won't change your mind. And once we go on that trip on Friday, no turning back."
She stays silent for several minutes.
"I'll try my best. No turning back." The last part she whispers, feeling sick in her stomach.
"Good. Now let's go."
"Together?!" She widens her eyes.
He frowned. "Are you always this dense in the morning?"
"I'll pass." Tashigi sits at the counter, taking another sip of her coffee.
"Give me a break." He sighed and rolled his eyes.
An hour later, she was sitting in the passenger seat, looking at the moving scenery, trying to clear her mind. But all of her calming methods didn't work. This man always gets what he wants. How does he win every argument?! It irritated her. No, she passed that point. Next time, she might smack him with a nearby object.
"Did you finish with your sulking?" Stopping at the red light, he threw her one of his usual flat-voiced comments she detested.
"I don't want to talk with you."
"How very mature."
"You're pissing me off!" She shook her head. "You bring out the worst in me! And I'm normally patient and-"
"And you're just fucking charming. Making a fuss about everything, a fucking piece of work."
"Ugh, just shut up."
"It was a simple kiss, I don't know why you act like that. We will have to do it in front of my family so I don't understand why-"
"It was a big deal!"
"You're acting like it was your first kiss." He rolled his eyes. "I didn't think you will be so dramatic. And crazy. You slapped me, I should be the one who's pissed."
"It was my first kiss!" His eyes widened a bit. "With you, I mean. I wasn't prepared."
"So what? I still don't get why you're so upset."
"It's the way you did it that pisses me the most. You can't just-"
"I could have sworn you liked it, but fine. Next time, I will cater to your needs." He grinned, focusing on the road again.
"That's not what I-" She mumbled, focusing on scenery again. But the scene was vividly playing in her mind.
"I'm going to ask you in a civilized way, to get your butt dressed, so we can go to work like normal people, without you acting like a brat." His voice was sharp, as he frowned.
"And, like I said, in a civilized way, I refuse. Please, go by yourself." She spoke through her clenched teeth, trying to control her voice.
He stood for two minutes, looking at her sitting figure before he sat beside her.
"If you are going to behave like that," they were glaring at each other, "You leave me no other choice."
"Really? And what will you-"
He cut her off by pressing his lips to hers. Dumbfounded, she jerked her head back, her mind shutting down in an instant. But he didn't allow her to break his violent kiss. She blinked a few times, perplexed.
A shiver ran down her spine. She never experienced a kiss like that one. Her feelings were mixed; unsure whether to respond or to push him away.
Feeling his hand on the back of her neck, he pressed her harder, crushing her lips, demanding a response.
"Mmph…!" She tried to tell him to stop, but he used that opportunity to shove his tongue into her mouth.
Her indecisiveness lasted only for a second.
He got his response. A slap across the face. Her hands were trembling, but he deserved it.
She didn't over-react in the slightest.
Maybe a bit. But he was the one to blame.
The rest of their way to the hospital was filled with silence. When he parked, Tashigi tried to get away quickly, however...
"Why aren't you wearing your engagement ring?"
She rolled her eyes. "Are you crazy? You want me to get killed by your fan-club?"
"You're over-reacting, again. Seriously..." He pinched the bridge of his nose.
"I'm really not." She proceeded to get out of his car.
"But it will help if everybody knew. The lie would be more believable." Law kept talking while he was locking his car.
"There is no need for that." Tashigi started walking away.
"What are you afraid of? You won't be working here anymore if our plan succeeds." He caught up with her.
"I told you already, it's too much of a trouble. And your "fans" are really creepy." She speeded up to put some distance between them.
He gives her a sigh. The one that meant "I don't care what you say, I'm gonna do what I want." Yes, he had different types of sigh. She learned them all in a short time, since they were mostly directed at her.
But this time, things won't go his way. She decided firmly.
"Listen to me, Trafalgar... I mean Law. You won't say anything to anyone, are we clear?"
"Watch me." He grins. "Your threats really have zero intimidation."