The rain could be interpreted in different points of view, other than being the act of nature. For some, it was a soothing wind to ease the nerves. For others, it was a nuisance that prevented outdoor activity. The religious minded even thought it was a divine grace, calling for the cleansing of sins. Today, however, the rain was unmerciful.
The wind howled against the night, tossing and sweeping away newspaper sheets and crumpled litter in the air. Rain drops measurelessly fell hard from a thick grey blanket in the sky to the road below, causing rivers to flow through the gutters. It was past bedtime for children yet in this weather, one could barely see the small figure that raced through the night's heavy pour.
Tiny, bare feet sprinted past rough concrete, sending waves of muddy water along their path. Their owner searched frantically for the closest shelter, and while doing so, he almost collapsed on his frail knees as a wild draft threw him off balance. He recaptured his footing, and without a second thought, he dashed towards the corner.
Scavenging eyes peered through the dark corners. Garbage of all varieties was stacked endlessly on this alley. The rain was unable to dissolve the putrid stench in the air which was composed of rotten food and filth. Garbage cans and dumpsters sat on every corner, ignored and still waiting to be emptied. The boy ceased further observance upon seeing the corpse of a small kitten, decaying on top of a garbage lid. He didn't want to believe in foreshadows.
Relief suddenly shone on his face upon the discovery of a large enough cardboard box. He approached it eagerly while grabbing a small metal bar that lay on the floor. The boy tapped his resourcefulness, edging the box against the wall and letting the metal bar bear the box's weight as a pillar. It was a box but it was a sweeter deal than a dumpster.
With a small sigh escaping his lips, the boy sat under the box and undid the rags that warmed the small infant boy in his arms. The baby's wide dark eyes glanced at the older boy with increasing curiosity, and then he squirmed slightly.
"You still alive?" The boy smiled softly. The baby cooed before giggling. He bore a wide grin on his face which—complimented with proper cleaning and clothes—would have made him the cutest little being the older boy would ever set eyes upon.
The boy laughed. "Of course you are. I'm taking care of you, remember?" The little one clapped, as taught by the other boy who was considered his idol. The boy chuckled and leaned back.
The atmosphere was intense, and it almost made him tremble by another cold wind's kiss. He watched the younger boy wiggle in his warm blankets, yet he didn't feel envious. It was always his brother before himself. Added to that, the situation wasn't exactly new, so why should he feel different about this?
The older brother gave himself to rest as he watched the gray clouds swirl above. His body was abused, exhausted and weary, yet his mind remained active in contemplation. He knew that he and his brother were sold by their father. He also knew now that they were runaways, with nowhere to go and nowhere to run. What would happen to them? He didn't know.
The younger brother whined loudly, and his sibling almost jumped. The latter shifted his head from left to right, surveying the area for any unwanted strangers. Silently giving thanks that no one came, he turned his attention to the youth in his arms and carefully scrutinized him.
The little brother kicked feebly under the covers, his tiny hands struggling to fill in the gap of his open mouth. For a two year old, he acted more like an infant, yet his brother already knew what he wanted—through experience.
"You're a handful, you know," the elder told the younger as he dug his hand inside the small sack that was tied onto his back. He pulled out an orange and peeled it carefully, using nails that were badly in need of a trim. He offered it to his brother who looked at this with a wrinkled nose—as if he was given a smelly sock to chew on rather than delicious cake.
"Meat." The toddler pouted.
His brother jabbed him on the forehead. "Eat it. We don't have meat."
The baby's pout deepened as his bottom lip curled out in an attempt to soften the older brother. It didn't work, though, as an orange slice was poked in between his lips. The baby then took it out and sniffed this, suddenly smiling at the sweet smell.
"Better finish it," the boy mumbled while keeping watch. It was unnecessary for him to prompt this on his sibling. Food—as long as it was edible—could go down the two year old's throat faster than a starving person could grab it. Still, he wanted to make sure that his brother wouldn't waste it. Food would be scarce from then on.
"Ace," the baby whimpered. Ace, the older brother, looked at his sibling with concern. He noticed the direction he was gazing at, and cautiously, Ace peered outside before removing the solid bar from its position. Setting this aside, Ace allowed the box to shroud them in darkness before carefully hushing his younger sibling.
"Ace, what happening?" The brother whispered. Ace shook his head, sealing the other's lips with a finger tip. The baby groaned, already starving as he was deprived from consuming the fruit at hand. Ace remained silent.
He heard voices accompanied by footsteps. "Search around the area," one voice directed, "They can't have gone that far." There was a jostling of footsteps before all remained quiet, and Ace waited.
He heard no talking, no footsteps—no sign of life outside the box. Ace kept his position, clutching his little brother like a life force ready to fade. Of course, it wasn't his brother that was fading or his life force. It was dark and there was hardly any room left for both himself and his mettle. He craved for the light—a light that he was unable to receive in the shady old house he and his brother had to reside in. He wanted freedom.
"Ace, what wrong? Why so dark?" His brother asked again.
Ace spoke in a soft voice, "Nothing. Everything's fine. It's going to be okay."
"I don't like the dark," the other responded, sniffing softly.
"Me, too." Ace nodded slowly. "Me, too." It was at that moment that the light finally dawned on the two brothers—if it truly was the light. The box was lifted, revealing them to the eyes of men who bore wide grins and iron tools.
Ace stared, his heart suddenly stopping. His body urged to run, but before he could even jump to his reflex, a pair of strong arms snatched a wailing baby brother away from him. The orange was dropped on the ground, left and untouched.
A scramble among the sheets pierced the silent tranquility of a room. The blankets were suddenly tossed aside before a teen sat up, beads of sweat dripping down his face like tiny crystals. Portgas D. Ace panted hard with the reality of the dream recording in his head.