The wind was whipping around the island with fervor, the last of the winter weather giving a final shove before surrendering to the beginnings of spring. It was the worst kind of winter wind, harsh and biting and Law barely noticed it, even as it blasted through him as though his coat wasn’t even there.
He was distantly aware that he was cold and that the wind was kicking up sea spray from the ocean below, adding icy water to the equation. He still didn’t move, didn’t stop staring out over the ocean, even though there was nothing to see except for gray skies and gray water, and Straw Hat’s Jolly Roger had long since faded into the distance, taking its maddening captain along with it.
Straw Hat Luffy.
Something in Law felt shifted, off balance, spinning out of control. He didn’t like it. He had spent over a decade structuring this life piece by piece, making sure everything fit and made sense, stayed safe and calm. His life was constructed on predictable routine, even the surprises – Corazon starting a fire, unusual patients, Shachi and Penguin’s shenanigans – factored in and expected.
But Straw Hat Luffy had arrived, somehow both sneaking past all of Law’s defenses and also smashing through his carefully constructed world like a bomb going off. Law hated him for it.
Or he wanted to. He could almost convince himself that he did. But Law was too familiar with how hate felt, with the way it boiled under his skin and twisted around him until he thought he would choke. That wasn’t what this was.
There was hate boiling somewhere, but it was the old familiar brand of hate that Law was used to living with, the kind that flared up if he looked in the mirror for too long. He didn’t hate Straw Hat, however much the part of him that longed for black and white and simple wanted to. As much as it made him feel sick to think of what his hate had nearly turned him into all those years ago, the fact remained that he knew how to deal with it. If he hated Luffy, he could work through it, past it, leave it and bury it.
Instead, he was here, sitting out in the cold, out on the hill, the house tiny in the distance behind him, looking over the sheer drop to the ocean below, pining.
He hadn’t meant to admit that was what he was doing. Luffy hadn’t even been gone an hour yet; Law couldn’t be missing him already. That was pathetic, even without the added insult of the fact that he really had no business missing him in the first place.
He wasn’t going to be back. Law shouldn’t want him to come back.
The kiss had been nice. No, the kiss had been wonderful. And for a few minutes Law had just basked in that, in Luffy’s brilliant grin, the way he had laughed and waved and promised to be back for a visit soon. Law had returned home, made his way out here, and allowed himself a few blissful minutes to believe that. The ignorance had faded with the ship.
Luffy was a pirate. ‘Being a pirate means being free,’ he’d said. Law understood what he meant. Luffy could go wherever and whenever he wanted and do whatever he wanted while he was there. That was the kind of freedom Luffy wanted. The kind he needed. Law couldn’t even imagine Luffy as anything else; staying in one place or holding a job or settling into some comfortable routine.
Law couldn’t tie him down to this island, to him. Not that he’d get a say in it. Luffy had made it clear that he took that freedom seriously, did what he wanted because he wanted to. Law wouldn't be able to tie him down even if he did try.
Luffy had only been here as long as he had because his ship had needed repairs. His shipwright had camped out on the ship a little ways away from the main port and the rest of the crew had all but moved into town until he was done. And for some reason Luffy had taken an interest in Law; followed him around every chance he got the entire time.
At least now he would be able to get back to his usual schedule, Law told himself halfheartedly. Luffy had wreaked havoc on his productivity. Luffy had wreaked havoc on everything.
And a part of Law, larger than he wanted to admit, had liked that. He had liked the attention, Luffy’s easy and straightforward brand of affection.
Stupid. He should have listened to his own warnings, back when Luffy had made him smile – really, genuinely smile – the first time. Getting attached to people was exhausting and getting attached to ones who wouldn’t be around for long was asking to get hurt. But Luffy couldn’t take a hint, even when it was lodged at him like a brick, and Law hadn’t been able to make himself be more forceful.
‘I wanted to see if it would make you happy,’ Luffy had said after the kiss, and Law hadn’t known what to say to that. This wasn’t like Corazon or Bepo or any of his other friends wanting him to be happy. This was some sort of emotion twisting around his heart, dredging up feelings Law had heard other people talk about but had thought he would never have.
He’d been alright with not having them. It had, at times, made him feel like there was yet another thing broken inside him, but Law was used to that. And this particular thing had generally seemed vastly overrated. Penguin and Shachi seemed to be constantly getting into trouble over it, and Corazon never seemed to feel like he was missing out on something by not being with anyone.
These emotions had started kicking up less than a week ago and Law was already exhausted by them.
“Hey, Law, aren’t you cold?”
Law twisted to see that Bepo had come up behind him. Even with his fur he looked like he found the wind uncomfortable. Law was suddenly acutely aware that he’d lost feeling pretty much everywhere. “Freezing.”
“Why are you still outside then?”
Law shrugged, slowly getting up and stomping his feet. “I got distracted.”
Bepo tilted his head, but after ten years he knew better than to try to figure out what the hell was going on in Law’s head. Even Law had mostly given up on that.
“I’m behind on work,” Law said absently as they stepped inside the house, shaking feeling back into his fingers.
“Shachi and Penguin said you haven’t been in the clinic as much as usual this week. But you haven’t been at home either, or at the shop.”
“Yeah, I – I’ve been busy.” It was a weak excuse that explained nothing and Law was glad Bepo wasn’t one for pushing for more information. He wasn’t sure how to explain what he’d been doing, why he’d been doing it, even to himself.
He also didn’t particularly like the idea of telling Corazon he might be falling - had already fallen? - for a pirate. Ex-Navy was still at least a little bit Navy. And it wasn’t as though you had to be a Marine to hate pirates.
And even if Corazon didn’t care about that, Law was still in the uncomfortable position of not knowing if he was ever going to see Luffy again, and the last thing he needed was for his father to start trying to play matchmaker or something.
Law retreated into his room. It wasn’t as good as his clinic where there were always a hundred things he could be doing, but it was something. He had some medical journals he hadn’t read yet. He could look over those and distract himself from the mess that was apparently his love life.
But for once in his life his mind didn’t want to jump tracks. It wouldn’t stop playing out the kiss; the way Luffy had asked if he could and Law had been so surprised he’d said yes before the question had finished registering, the way Luffy had put his hands on the back of Law’s neck and nearly lifted himself off the ground so he could reach properly, the way he had smiled when they had broken apart.
God, the way he had smiled. Law thought that smile was going to kill him someday. Assuming he ever saw it again. He had to keep reminding himself that wasn’t a certainty.
The journal was open in front of him, but his eyes wouldn’t read the words.
‘I wanted to see if it would make you happy.’
Law needed Luffy to come back; needed to sit him down and ask him what this was, what they were doing, if they were doing anything at all. He needed Luffy to come back right now or never come back at all or never have come in the first place.
He threw himself back against his pillows and situated himself into a better position for reading. Despite the determined movement, the journal still failed to pull his attention away from Straw Hat and the way it never seemed to occur to him to really think about the consequences of things.
‘I wanted to see if it would make you happy.’
Law didn’t realize he had fallen asleep until he woke up to the sound of his transponder snail ringing. Outside his window the sky had turned from light gray to pitch black.
“Cora-san! Why didn’t you wake me up?” Law shouted through the house as he moved to the desk to get to the snail.
“You were actually sleeping!” Corazon yelled back defensively. “Your dinner’s in the fridge.”
Corazon wasn’t the only one surprised Law had been sleeping. Falling asleep was usually something of a battle for Law, and staying asleep even more of one. Most days he just kept working until he fell asleep at his desk, exhausted after not having slept at all for over twenty-four hours. He didn’t nap soundly for hours at a time in the middle of the day when he’d slept just the night before.
He picked up the transponder snail. He wasn’t quite awake enough to be sure who he thought it was, but he was mostly expecting it to be a call about some emergency at the clinic. He was not expecting to hear Luffy’s voice, shouting like he wasn’t entirely clear on the concept of transponder snails. “Hi, Torao!”
Law jumped a little in surprise and had created a room and slammed his door shut before he realized what he was doing. For the first time ever he thought it would be nice to have Corazon’s power. “Hi, Straw Hat. How… How did you get my number?”
“Robin. She said she knew I would forget to ask.”
Law could assume Robin was a crewmate, but he didn’t think he’d ever met her and he couldn’t think how she would have gotten his number either. Best to let it go though. He’d learned within a few hours of knowing Luffy that getting straight, coherent answers out of him was nearly impossible.
“I miss you,” Luffy said. He just said it, like it was the simplest thing in the world. A statement of fact. For someone who made Law’s life go from neatly organized and predictable to a tangled, complicated mess, Luffy was an infuriatingly simple person.
“You haven’t even been gone a day.” He was trying not to smile. And it was a good thing no one could see him because he was failing. It was good to know he hadn’t been the only one sad to see Luffy’s ship go.
“Yeah, but I missed you anyway. I’ve decided we’re going to visit whenever we’re nearby. And that that’s going to be a lot.”
Law’s heart lurched a little. How could Luffy be so steadfastly certain about this, when Law had been nothing but a flurry of worries and doubts since the moment the ship had departed? “Do I not get a say in this?”
There was a brief pause and then, “Don’t you want to see me?”
Coming from anyone else, Law wouldn’t have classified the tone as insecure, but there was something distinctly Luffy missing from the words and Law cringed at it. Less than a day into whatever the hell this was and he was already fucking it up.
He wanted to say yes and pull Luffy back to him, to hold onto this thing until it became real and solid in his hands. He wanted to say no and cut this off before he broke both of them. All his words collided and jumbled up in his throat and for a moment he thought he would choke.
He took a deep breath, swallowed, and what finally came out of his mouth was, “I don’t want you to feel like you have to come back.” It was true, but not what he wanted to say or how he wanted to say it. He didn’t talk about personal things very often; he’d nearly forgotten how difficult it was.
Luffy made a noise that sounded like a disdainful huff. The transponder snail managed to look annoyed and like a pouting, petulant child at the same time. “I don’t have to do anything. I’m a pirate, and a captain, and I do what I want.”
“I know, that’s why- “
“I want to visit you. So I will.” His tone said ‘so there’ and reminded Law of listening to small children argue with their parents about how they didn’t need shots. He half expected the transponder snail to stick out its tongue.
Despite himself, Law smiled a little. There was no arguing with Luffy, which was nice because Law didn’t really want to have to. Not right now, at least. A little more naivety could be nice. “Well, then… I guess I look forward to seeing you again.”
The snail brightened. “Good.” It yawned.
“You should go to bed, Straw Hat. It’s late.”
“Yeah. I’ll call you tomorrow night if we’re still in range, okay?”
“You just called to say you missed me?”
“Yep. Because I did. Still do, but talking to you makes me miss you less.”
Simple. Easy. ‘I wanted to see if it would make you happy.’ “I… miss you too, Straw Hat.” He had to force the words out, and although they were true – he missed Luffy like he’d left a goddamn hole in his chest – they felt unnatural, as though there was something dishonest about them.
They said goodbye and hung up. Law took a moment to breathe. Maybe several moments. Or minutes. His heart was pounding in his chest like he’d just gone for a run, or like he needed to go for one to get rid of all the energy coursing through him. He wasn’t sure what that was all about. Was this a normal part of romantic feelings? Because if it was, it was utter bullshit and he would very much like the feelings to go back to wherever the hell they had come from.
Food. Food was a good idea. Something to focus on for a minute, at least. Law made his way to the kitchen.
“Do you have to go to the clinic?” Corazon asked.
Law turned to face him, confused. Corazon was sitting on the couch, reading a newspaper. Beside him, Bepo had fallen asleep with a book lying across his face. “No? Why would I?”
“Who was on the transponder snail then?”
Oh. Right. Why else would someone be calling Law this late if not because of some clinic emergency? “Oh. No. I mean, yeah. I mean, it was the clinic. But it was just Shachi with a question about some paperwork.”
“Shachi’s doing his paperwork?”
“I know, right? It’s a miracle. We should declare a holiday.”
Corazon did not look convinced – Law could lie well, but not when caught off guard by the need to – but went back to his paper. Law reheated his dinner and returned to his bedroom.
His head was spinning. This was too much, too fast. Too many unknowns and too much unpredictability. Every emotion he’d ever felt in his life seemed to be clamoring for attention and they were all twisting around each other in his stomach and making him feel a little bit sick. If this was the butterflies-in-your-stomach feeling people talked about, Law wanted to have words with whoever had come up with the expression. It was more like snakes.
He didn’t expect to have much luck sleeping that night. He’d napped – unusual – and so it seemed unlikely he’d be able to fall asleep again. Still, he and Corazon had made a deal when Law was fourteen that Law would at least attempt to sleep every night. If he wasn’t any closer to succeeding after an hour and a half, then he could get up and do something else. Law was years past the age where he really had to honor the agreement, but he still tried whenever he was at home rather than at the clinic overnight.
His brain wouldn’t turn off. Law was used to that, he supposed, but normally it was at least doing something. He’d lie awake going over patient notes or quizzing himself on procedures or mentally drafting a list of things he needed to order the next time the clinic restocked.
Tonight it was just a buzz. Luffy’s smile, his laugh, the feel of his hat under Law’s hands, every word he’d said, and every hiss of doubt Law’s mind had offered up in return. He tossed between ‘he’ll come back, he promised, he wouldn’t have promised if he didn’t mean it, he isn’t that kind of person’ and ‘of course he won’t be back, he’s a pirate, he deserves better, he may think he means it but he doesn’t, he’ll take it back once he sees the ugly side of you.’
‘I’m a pirate, and a captain, and I do what I want.’
‘Hey, Torao? Can I kiss you?’
‘Being a pirate means being free.’
‘I wanted to see if it would make you happy.’
Somewhere in the midst of the tangle of his thoughts, Law fell asleep. His dreams were messy and disjointed, but there was wind in his face and Luffy’s hand in his own, and Luffy was talking and laughing though Law couldn’t understand a word of it, no matter how hard he tried. They were on board Luffy’s ship, his pirate flag snapping overhead in the breeze, and a gust of wind swept a spray of seawater onto the deck and Law woke up.
The sunrise was filtering in through Law’s window. He lay on his bed for a few more minutes.
He had to get a grip on himself. Whatever this thing with him and Luffy was, whatever it turned into, he couldn’t do anything about it by overanalyzing every second they’d been together so far. He couldn’t do anything with Luffy out at sea.
As usual, Law was the first one awake. He made himself a pot of coffee, paid the News Coo for the morning paper, and drank his coffee while he read it. He even stared blankly at the fridge for a few minutes before deciding he really wasn’t hungry yet.
He got ready for work and tried not to think about Luffy.
Luffy called again that night, and the night after. He told Law stories about things that didn’t sound like they could possibly be true; sea monsters and giants and unnatural shapes in the sky. Law listened for the most part, more than happy to have Luffy carry the conversation, but when Luffy prompted him to he replied with stories of his own from the clinic. He wasn’t sure how much Luffy actually understood – he wasn’t very good at adjusting his language for people who didn’t know much about medicine – but he seemed to at least be attempting to focus on what Law was talking about.
Three nights after his departure, Luffy didn’t call.
‘He’s out of range,’ Law told himself. ‘Out of range, just like he said he was going to be.’ Still, a knot of worry wound itself through his stomach. If Luffy decided to change his mind about this, it would be all too easy for him to just walk away with Law none the wiser, having to realize it slowly as Luffy went longer and longer without calling or visiting.
His nights were slowly becoming haunted by arguments with himself; one side saying Luffy wouldn’t do something like that, the other saying, well, how well did he know Luffy, really?
Corazon could tell something was wrong, but Law didn’t want to talk about it. He needed to work out exactly what was going on in his own head before he went trying to explain it to other people.
Out behind the house, at the far end of the property, close enough for the sea spray to come up and just barely mist over them on especially windy days, were three trees. Law had planted them years ago, the closest thing to a funeral he could offer Lami and his parents. He sat out under them sometimes, talked to them. Usually about nothing. Sometimes about things he was trying to figure out and didn’t want to struggle with in front of a responsive audience. Corazon let him be when he was there. They had agreed on that before Law had even planted them. It was Law’s space, completely.
One day, two and a half weeks after Luffy had left, Law was sitting out there, his back against the tree that he’d planted for his mother, angled so he was facing the other two. He was, for some reason, rambling on and on about the weather. It had already warmed up considerably from a few weeks ago, although the wind hadn’t quite lost its bite yet.
Halfway through a meaningless sentence about the possibility of rain later that week, Law cut himself off with a shuddering breath.
“I think I’m in love,” he said softly, his words barely audible even to his own ears. “And I don’t know what to do about that.”
There was no response because there was no one there to hear, but Law felt a certain finality to saying the words out loud. Impossible to take back once they were out in the world, even if no one else knew they were there.
“I think I’m in love,” he said again, still quiet. “I don’t know if he feels the same way. I’m not even sure I want him to. If he does, I think I might end up hurting him. I don’t want to do that. I don’t want him to find out I’m not whatever it is he thinks I am. I’m afraid that… I’m afraid.”
That was the crux of it, wasn’t it? He was afraid. Of every way this could possibly play out. He was afraid and he didn’t want to face that.
Law tugged his coat tighter around himself even though it hadn’t grown any colder out. He sat there for a while longer, silent now, just listening to the far off sounds of water crashing against rocks beneath him.
Finally, he stood up and turned back towards the house.
Sitting cross-legged in the grass, halfway between Law and the house, was Luffy.
Law stared at him, startled. Luffy, realizing Law had seen him, brightened and jumped to his feet. “Hi, Torao!” He darted across the yard to meet Law, who had started moving towards him as well, albeit much more slowly. Luffy stopped inches away from Law and tilted his head back so he could look Law in the eye. “I would have called to tell you we were coming this way, but I wanted to surprise you. And we only got back in snail range last night anyway.”
“Well… You definitely did surprise me.”
Luffy grinned, his face bright. He always seemed to be bright.
Law had spent the last two and a half weeks mentally compiling things he needed to talk to Luffy about when – if – he saw him again, but now that Luffy was here, smiling so wide his eyes were screwed shut by it, one hand holding his hat on against the wind, Law couldn’t seem to remember even one of them. They didn’t seem to matter much either. He cupped Luffy’s face in one hand and ran his thumb along his cheek. Law was smiling too. He wasn’t sure when he’d started doing that.
“Can I kiss you?” Law’s voice was soft, but Luffy was so close to him it didn’t matter. Somehow, Luffy’s smile grew, and he nodded, pushing himself up on his toes. Law leaned down, while with one hand he pushed Luffy’s hat off to hang around Luffy’s neck instead.
Law kissed him and it was exactly as perfect as the first time. It shouldn’t have been. Both of them were still smiling and their teeth were knocking against each other. The height difference between them was ridiculous and adjusting for it was a pain. Neither of them were very practiced at this – Luffy hadn’t said so but Law suspected he had been Luffy’s first kiss just as Luffy had been his – and they hadn’t quite worked out how where to put their hands or how to not bump their noses together. But it was perfect, somehow, all the same, because it was Luffy, and it was him, and Law could only barely remember what he’d spent the last two weeks worrying about.
They broke apart, both a little breathless. Was that normal? Or was there some trick to ending a kiss without feeling like Luffy had stolen all the oxygen in the room that Law didn’t know about? He wasn’t sure he cared.
“What were you doing there?” Law asked, nodding his head to where Luffy had been sitting before Law had spotted him.
“Waiting for you.”
“I was just over there. You could see me.”
“You were busy.”
“I was just sitting.”
“I didn’t want to interrupt.” Luffy didn’t elaborate, even when Law tilted his head, confused. Something had changed in Luffy’s face. It had darkened, not in a menacing way, but in the way you would dim the lights if someone in the room had a headache. His eyes were different, and for a moment Law felt as though Luffy was looking through him, looking inside him, like he knew and understood about those trees, knew and understood Law and his need for them, for his own space, on a level that even Law couldn’t quite grasp, like he knew everything Law had ever been and didn’t care, or like he knew there were things he didn’t know and still didn’t care – and then his face flickered and he was smiling again and he was back to normal. “And now I’m hungry.”
Law chuckled, a little breathless still. “Of course you are. Is that you hinting you want me to buy you dinner?”
Luffy shrugged. “I just want food. And I want you to have food with me.”
“And if I know you at all-“ when had he decided that he did?- “then I know you don’t have any money and I’m going to end up paying.”
“I don’t have any money,” Luffy agreed.
“I always thought pirates were supposed to be rich. Don’t you guys find treasure all the time, or something? What about that city of gold you were telling me about?”
“We spend our treasure!” Luffy defended. “On important things!”
“Yeah! And throwing parties!”
Law shook his head fondly. “All right, Straw Hat. I’ll buy you dinner.”
“You are the best boyfriend,” Luffy said. He spun to stand at Law’s side instead of in front of him, took his hand, and began tugging him along.
“When did we decide we were boyfriends?” Law asked, alarmed. He’d spent two and a half weeks agonizing over what this was, and Luffy seemed to have made up his mind without difficulty.
Luffy didn’t slow down – there was food to be had – but he did turn and look at Law with a look that suggested he thought Law was being very stupid. “When I kissed you, Torao. That’s what boyfriends do.”
“I… see.” There was no arguing with that logic. There was no arguing with most of Luffy’s logic, really. “Well, then I suppose I should make sure I have enough money to buy my boyfriend dinner.” They were passing by the house now; Law made a room and grabbed his wallet from off of his desk. He wasn’t sure if Corazon was home, but if he was Law still wasn’t ready to have a conversation about how he was dating a pirate. Since that did, in fact, seem to be what he was doing.
Luffy didn’t ask any questions about why Law hadn’t just gone inside, far too busy being impressed with Law’s power, commenting on how cool it was. A childish part of Law liked that. He could still remember Corazon trying to make Law think his power was cool, could remember Baby 5 showing off hers, and mocking Buffalo for the seemingly useless one he’d gotten. As fucked up as it had all been, Law had almost felt like an ordinary kid at those moments, everyone just showing off what they could do.
It was easy to forget that what they could do had been murder, in Baby 5’s and Buffalo’s cases.
Law shook his head. He wasn’t thinking about that today. He was… Well, apparently, he was taking his boyfriend on a date. An idea that he would have thought idiotic a month ago.
Law looked over at Luffy, who had changed the subject and was now talking animatedly about what kinds of food he hoped the restaurant was serving. He still wasn’t entirely sure what this was. He and Luffy still needed to talk. He didn’t have Luffy’s free spirit. He needed more structure, more definitions. He needed to know how permanent Luffy was expecting this to be, what was expected of both of them, needed to know where the lines were so he could be sure to stay inside of them.
But that could wait, he thought. Until after dinner, at least. Right now, the world could just be this – just Luffy’s voice in the air, and the two of them holding hands, and the sun slowly setting behind them.