Kidd told himself he didn’t have to like it. Sure thing, it sucked ass—but it could be so much worse.
Standing there, waiting as anticipation—excitement—nibbled at his nerves, he thought it might even be a good thing. He could’ve been shipped to some unknown wastelands where trees stopped growing and people started eating people to survive, as Bonney had been. Hell, he could’ve been sold to Celestials, stripped of free will and chained down like an animal, serving as circus clown or cheap whore depending his masters’ mood—yet his fate was of another kind.
Kidd told himself an arranged marriage with a complete stranger from the Other side couldn’t turn out to be that much of a fucking disaster if he kept his spirits up.
“Chin high, boy.” Father’s tone was hard, gaze fixed on the end of the great hallway of the mansion. “They’re coming.”
He stiffened a little, biting back curses. Shit, what if it were some mean old lady, war widow and mother of little shitheads? Kidd was given no detail, no description, no gender, nothing. Father had announced it over diner three weeks ago like he’d announce tomorrow’s weather, casually, factually. You’re going to get married. No fucking shit, Kidd had said. Who even married at eighteen? Apparently, all the wealthy young ones from the Highlands ever since the war broke out. Something about securing dynasties, legacies. Or was it?
“Do not speak unless spoken to.”
Kidd clasped his hands behind his back and felt sweat trickle down his neck.
God, he felt horribly hot in that awful suit-armor. There were shiny jewels decorating its front, the whole thing made of Wano steel, so very rare these days. Hair braided tightly and gelled back, though Father allowed the lipstick to remain. Small mercy, but that breastplate was suffocating.
Kidd didn’t understand the need to show off any more than their mere existence usually did on its own—mother of god, they lived on the richest cities atop the Red Hill in a luxury mansion, which already told a hell of a lot about how damn rich they were—but Father had insisted. Had to give a great first impression, didn’t he? Kidd could only hope.
He heard steps approaching. Several, then dozens—how many were he to wed? A group detached from the shadows, walking down the huge, intimidating corridor which walls were decorated with dead patriarchs portraits, every single one of Kidd’s ancestors or so he’d been told. He sure as fuck didn’t look like any of them, but the old ones always said he took every bit of his mother’s looks. Not a single glance was spared to the portraits.
The group then divided itself, three men only getting closer. Kidd’s guts were a mess of tight knots and he’d been chewing on the insides of his mouth so much he started to feel copper tainting his tongue, though he had no real reason to feel this way, up until he had.
When they were close enough for him to see their coat of arms, Kidd drew in a sharp breath.
“Quick hands, quicker deeds, old friend,” a grinning man saluted, bowing his head a little—not to look down, but show respect.
Kidd glanced warily at Father, but the man was unfazed as he took a step forward. He extended his arm which the tall blond man gripped in a friendly gesture, as if they’d known each other for years.
“Be the most welcome in my house, brother.”
Donquixote Doflamingo. Kidd was to marry someone from the Family. His mouth went dry as he fought to keep his composure before the man who haunted every kid’s nightmares in the realm, even when his sharp eyes shot to him. It seemed absolutely surrealist but at the same time, paradoxally, nothing felt realer than the man’s crushing aura, the sheer brutality and strength emanating from him.
“Here’s the wild little thing you’ve been talking about,” he said, still gripping Father’s forearm, somewhat of a mocking curl to his lips. “Eustass Kidd.”
Harld nodded, not looking at his son. “And here’s your prodigy. I imagine you’ve taken care of the… issues.”
Donquixote’s laugh was something Kidd did not want to ever hear again. “You know I always keep my word, old friend. He’s been disciplined.”
The warlord stepped aside, revealing the young gem of the Family. Joker’s presence had been so overwhelming Kidd had not noticed the two standing behind, but now that he did, the atmosphere seemed to shift on its own.
There, next to Doflamingo’s right hand stood a strange, strange creature. Eyes of steel, grey as storm clouds, intelligent, hard, jet-black hair and a svelte silhouette you could guess under the layers of nightwolf fur hanging like blankets from his shoulders. The same age as Kidd perhaps, features crafted in marble, impenetrable yet bearing the softness of a boy whom had yet to fight the King’s gruesome wars. Or perhaps he already had—it seemed his features morphed into something entirely different, older and crueler, as their eyes met. Kidd looked away, unable to look at his soon-to-be. . . heavens, spouse any longer.
Father’s voice raised again. “Come, my friend. Let us drink and eat first before dealing with our troublesome offspring, for your journey must’ve been long. The Family is welcome to stay and replenish as long as needed.”
“You have our endless gratitude, brother,” Doflamingo smiled with a little tilt of his head.
“Show the way, son.”
Kidd almost jumped out of his own skin, but managed to look stoic enough to get a nod of approval from Father as their eyes met. Good. He hadn’t disappointed him. Things had gone pretty smoothly so far—he hoped the rest would be as easy.
Breathing out a little yes sir, Kidd stepped aside as courtesy demanded, letting the guest of honor walk a few steps ahead. Doflamingo seemed pleased enough, no doubt already familiar with the mansion as he strode lazily besides Father, none speaking.
Kidd remained a few steps behind Vergo, himself walking on Joker’s steps. He did not attempt speaking to the boy next to him, keeping his gaze straight ahead, walking steady despite his rapid heartbeat. The whole thing would’ve been very solemn and quiet had it not been for the rest of the Family trotting way behind, their voices echoing in the great hallways. Kidd’s mind was whirling—he couldn’t deny his interest spiking, but there were also many, many interrogations filled with curses.
First of all: what the fuck.
The Donquixote Family was known across continents, islands and seas. Powerful and wealthy, feared in every kingdom, notorious slave-traders, merchantmen, mercenaries and most importantly: criminals. Most were too afraid to admit it, never mind utter the word even in the faintest whisper, but the fact remained. Kidd trusted Father and would never doubt his judgment, but this—associating their houses and names by marriage—was the most unwise of choice.
Still. So long as he did not have to wed Doflamingo himself, Kidd still held on tightly on his opinion—it could be so much worse.
The great hall was already prepared when they arrived. Aromas mingled, meat was fuming, diner as colorful as it was diverse, no doubt the best of what their house’s cooks could do. Though Vergo and his future spouse remained mute, Doflamingo whistled his admiration.
“Heavens. This all look delicious,” he commented, before turning to face the Family slowly gathering at their back. “Come, friends! Let us enjoy the feast brought to us.”
The Highlands, especially the Red Hill, had always been colder than the rest of the realm. Perhaps it had to do with topography, but Kidd liked to believe it was because everyone here put emotions and feelings and tight drawers and approached every matter under the sun with indifferent practicality. Father was no different.
Joining houses with Donquixote Doflamingo was all about being practical.
Empires, kingdoms were at war. Races against one another, queens gone mad, children dying of starvation. The free cities of the Red Hill were yet to be bothered by what went down below, but Father had taught him from a young age that nothing ever lasted and one shall always except the worse. The worse here was the end of the end of house Eustass come the day his brothers died in battle, father of old age, and Kidd was left the sole bearer of their sigil.
Kidd’s never had a very sharp perception of things, but he still couldn’t see how the mute boy sitting in front of him could help in the matters of procreation. Father needed him to secure the dynasty, which meant have an heir or something. What now? Now, maybe times had changed, magic constantly evolving, and men could bear children too. Fuck if he knew.
“So, tell me, Eustass Kidd.” Doflamingo licked two of his fingers clean before he reached for his cup. “What do you think of my little bird?”
Kidd blinked, brought back to reality in seconds.
All eyes were on him. The great dining table made of Adam wood extended from one side to the other; sat on his Father’s usual seat, the guest of honor, flanked by Vergo and Eustass Harld. Kidd wished he were sitting besides him, but as it was, the boy he’d marry had that seat, while he was shoulder to shoulder with the silent right hand and his bamboo staff.
He kept his eyes on the roast piece of firebird in his plate, brain suddenly short-cut as all waited for his answer expectedly. He felt Father’s gaze burning him, the weight of his expectation, and Doflamingo’s, piercing, and at last—the little bird’s.
Gathering courage, Kidd looked up. The boy had shed his fur coat. The button-up shirt underneath was nothing short of elegant: tunic of dark silk, matching gold belt and earrings, so very far from the ragged, mismatched clothing of most of the Family, save for the Joker. Black nails, silver rings. Kidd noticed for the first time dark circles under the cold grey eyes, faint freckle over his dark skin, the faded scar on his chin. Ink on the back of his hand. Hauntingly beautiful, from lands far away. How did he find him? Gods knew it wouldn’t be very wise to say it out loud.
Yet how was one supposed to compliment one’s future partner in front of both families and some more without fucking up?
Do not speak unless spoken to. Ha. Kidd chose his words carefully. “Have yet to know his name, my lord, though I can’t help but feel very interested.”
He thought he saw those grey eyes flash with humor—or animosity—and for a quick second feared he might have said something stupid, but a quick glance at Father assured him he had not. Kidd even managed to steal a gruff laugh out of Joker, whom seemed pretty amused.
“You have a point there, kid. Law, don’t be so rude. Won’t you tell the boy a little about yourself?”
Kidd would be mortified, really, so he felt for him and tried looking as sorry as possible. Law's lip slightly twitched, though he obeyed. The redhead didn’t know what kind of voice he expected him to have, but it sure as fuck was not this.
“My apologies. I am Trafalgar Law, and I work as a surgeon for the Family, though I’m also a rune specialist and spell-breaker. Ah, and I do think I’m a little older than you.”
Wow, Kidd thought.
“Wow,” Kidd then said out loud, which he instantly regretted.
Doflamingo was smiling, though it wasn’t a very content smile.
“Our Law can work magic in many fields. Not just a figure of speech, by the way. He’s a man of many talents, however unruly.”
The warlord appeared proud of his little prodigy, though there was a very mocking tone hiding underneath. Kidd didn’t miss it and oddly felt annoyed. Why did that mean? Law’s face didn’t betray whatever he might feel, and he went back to moping over his food which he was yet to touch. Joker lost interest in the pair, going back to chat up politics and future deals with Harld.
Kidd thought diner might never fucking end.
Then, Law excused himself to the bathroom. One look from Father was all it took for Kidd to offer himself as guide. The surgeon sent an annoyed look his way but Kidd shook it off, forcing a smile as they both exited the great hall with many eyes boring holes on their backs.
“So, spell-breaker, huh.”
Never in his life had he felt this oppressed by the endless corridors of his own house. Kidd felt sweat once again trickle down his nape, too hot in his armor-suit. Certainly not because of the Donquixote underling walking a very fast pace by his sides.
Law was silent, lips curled down, shadows obscuring his face. He kept walking faster, pretending the redhead did not exist. He looked a hell of a lot more spiteful now that there was no façade to uphold in front of Doflamingo and Harld, which—of course—piqued Kidd’s interest.
He tried again, looking glancing at the frowning face of Law. “Pissing rooms ain’t this way, you know.”
Law ignored him, then ignored him some more until they did reach the bathrooms. Some fucking toupet he had, for sure. He turned to face Kidd, glaring.
“Now, Eustass. Am I allowed to free my bladder alone or are you going to follow me there too?”
Kidd scowled. He was feeling more and more annoyed by the second and no amount of interest could help that. He didn’t give a shit about etiquette and good manners like most families in the Highlands—but even he did not like being disrespected under his own roof like that.
“Find your own way back, asshole.”
Law offered a mock curtsy before disappearing behind the doors, which made Kidd feel even more pissed. And they were to be married until death did them apart? Way to fucking go. Kidd knew Father would have his head if he came back before Law, so he waited a few feet from the great hall for the boy.
When he finally did come back, Kidd glanced at him from the corner of his eyes though he kept the scowl on his face—Law, on the other hand, had the polite mask back on. Kidd didn’t care either way, yet put up fronts too as they both made their way back to the dining table.
“Boys,” Doflamingo greeted, sounding merrier than he had been before, perhaps Father’s honeyed wine making effect.
Kidd kept his temper in check as Law and he both took their seats back, nodding to his father. Table was mostly emptied of its meals, bellies full as everybody sipped wine or ale happily.
The warlord waited a short while before he stood up, towering over all from all his height. “Harld and I have come to great conclusions. Must I say, better than anything I anticipated. Let us now drink to our new alliance, future agreements, but first and foremost,” he lifted his cup in the air, Cheshire grin big, “to Kidd and Law.”
The hall erupted into joyful ayes, ale flying all round as cups where thrust in the air. Kidd felt his cheeks go red, which made his father smile faintly for a very brief second. Law had the decency to look somewhat elated, but Kidd knew better.
The whole matter could’ve been a lot shittier, though in that moment, as Doflamingo smiled his way before drinking, Kidd was sure of one thing—in the grand hierarchy of shitty things, this marriage made it to top three.