A/N: You know what? It's now only three chapters left of this. Well, the epilogue too, but hey, I think I am going to miss this hunt soon. At least it leaves me with more time for "To be that someone that you're with"... Now, enjoy the cliffy's conclusion and this man eating monster on 7514 words!! *heading to bed*

Chapter 8 – Let's get this over with

The vice mayor was sitting in front of him, grinning at the boy that had no idea what was happening. Because, for once, Ace did not know what he was supposed to do. He wasn't following this development, and he felt uncomfortable.

"You? What are you doing here?" Ace growled, and looked around in panic.

"Doing business." the big man answered in a slow tone, and scratched his chin with his lone hand. "What are you doing here?"

Backing up a few steps, Ace looked over the situation. The information rushed into his mind, and in the middle of it all, the two people who had been chasing him down the stairs rushed into the room, one with a gun drawn.

The black haired teen stood alone in the centre of the room, surrounded by four much bigger, or at least taller men, and a woman, just as fearsome as the males. Looking around with quick glances towards every possible escape option, Ace looked somewhat like a frightened animal, trapped between hunters. Having found all exits blocked in one way or another, he stared at the big man sitting comfortably on his throne.

So that was Crocodile... The fucking vice-mayor was playing the part of the super villain in this play. Never would he have imagined that. A small part of him was already looking forward to the look on Smoker's face when he told him. If he was going to have the chance to tell him at all. He watched his personal space shrink as several of the men surrounding him started to move forward. He separated his feet a bit and felt his boots finding a good grip on the old, concrete floor. He raised his arms with the fist tightened in front of his naked torso, tensing all the muscles in his body. He knew they were one or two too many, but hell, he wasn't going to just lie down on the ground and give up without a fight. Now more than ever Ace wished he had pants he could move more freely in.

Crocodile looked amused, as if he was waiting for some kind of show. One of the men backed away slightly at the sight of the well trained boy, but the others sported a grin and circulated forward, looking to Crocodile for orders.

Ace spat on the ground before the tall man, and stared into his cold eyes.

"So, you're the fucking Croc?" he growled, and was awarded with a raised eyebrow from the vice-mayor.

"Watch your mouth, brat", the big man said with a soft, but fake smile, and he leaned a bit forward, resting his upper body on his elbows, placed on his knees.

Jerking his head toward him, Ace looked at the ignorant man with hateful eyes. The comment sounded so wrong coming from someone else, and especially from Crocodile.

"Don't call me brat. I don't want to hear that from someone like you!" he said between clenched teeth, muscles still tensed. Every fibre of his being wanted to spring forward and beat the man to a bloody pulp.

"Someone like me? I think you and me are very much the same, wanted criminals. Because you have to be that silly "Dawn Pyro.", the man said, his voice smooth, but poisonous. It seemed like the man was amused with Ace's little act of pride, as his shoulders vibrated softly under the huge fur coat. Faint chuckling erupted from his throat, and he fondled his chin with his hand.

Ace didn't know what hurt most, being marked an equal to this man, or being called 'silly'. Well, he could live with silly, but being held as an equal to Crocodile was just not his game. He had heard a lot about both the vice mayor and about Crocodile, but it had been very different subjects discussed. It was hard to believe that it was one and the same man.

"You are responsible for the school care, elderly people, and all that important stuff, and at the same time, you sell drugs and weapons? How the fuck does that add up?" Ace asked, glaring at the scarred man.

"Keywords: Money, and Power." were the words coming from the grinning mouth. "You can't imagine what kind of money you can make from cocaine. It's more popular than people like to believe. The weapon thing is really just a thing I do for fun." He waved his hand at Ace as if to show that it was really just peanuts for the crime boss.

"And it has never hurt anyone to have a little power. I guess I could have become the mayor if I wanted, but that would give me too little time to get business going. It's all contacts, talk, bribing and so on. I think you can't imagine how hard it is to rule such a big empire." The man's grin turned into a full blown laugh. He stuck his hand inside of his coat, and Ace flinched as he thought for one second that the man was going to pull a gun, but it was only a thick cigar. Placing it between his teeth when he stopped laughing, he placed his hand in his pocket once again, and this time he withdrew it along with a lighter. Flipping the Zippo up, a flame appeared in front of Crocodile's face, along with a trail of smoke as he took a first drag on the cigar and blew out.

"You, on the other hand", he said and pointed with the cigar at Ace. "It seems like you couldn't even get in here without an injury." He laughed as he looked at the first-aid bandage the raven haired boy had designed from his red shirt.

Ace glared at him and he felt his cheeks start burning, both out of anger, and a little bit out of shame. He was no fool, but the comment was true. How he wished that his enemy would take him more seriously.

"Even though you really are just a petty thief, I have watched you for a while." Crocodile finally continued, tasting the rich flavour of the cigar. "You have made yourself a name, and all that, but what always made me curious was how you never got caught. You are obviously nothing but a mere boy, and you don't seem to be really that careful." As a proof of his statement, he added: "I even saw your picture in the paper once. Only your back, but still. Not so smart." he said, using a child's voice while he shook his head and pouted with his lips.

"Then I got a notice about this..." he made an artful pause and the corners of his mouth curled into a wide grin, and he looked at Ace for any change in the boy's emotions. It didn't come until the villain mentioned a name.

"This, Geoffrey Smoker, police officer of many years." Crocodile smiled at the look of pure surprise on the boy's face, even if it didn't last more than a second.

Ace bit his lip and tried to regain the neutral expression he had kept during all of the dreadful man's insults. How the hell did he know anything about Smoker? Had he been that careless these past weeks, or had he underestimated the man in front of him? The fact that he knew who Smoker was made the pit in his stomach feel tighter than before.

"Your face says it all, brat." he said with a laugh accompanied by another drag of the smelly cigar.

"So I figured that was why you never got caught. You're paying him a sweet sum of money, aren't you? The police men's' pay hasn't been that high lately." Crocodile said with a lean sneer.

"Leave him out of this shit. I ain't paying him anything!" Ace growled, still mad as a bull seeing red.

"Still, you work for him? I know what happened this week, and hell if it wasn't that Smoker who caught him. I know that there is a connection between you two." The man in the fur coat raised his hands to the level of his eyes and shook his head. A second later, before Ace had any chance to shout out a proper answer, Crocodile's face lit up, as if he had gotten a bright idea.

"Or, are you sleeping with him? Damn, that's probably it!" the big man laughed with his head bent backwards. He had to take the cigar in his hand again to prevent it from falling down his throat. When he saw the black haired man's reaction, his laugh erupted.

"Just a pretty sight you are. Will your boyfriend be proud of you when you come home and tell him how you defended him against the big, bad wolf?"

"Screw you." were the only words that made it through Ace's tight lips. His eyes were focused on the laughing man in his chair, and he completely forgot about any of the others around him. He didn't want any more of Crocodile's venomous talk, and he did certainly not hear anything more about Smoker, and particularly not anything about the two of them being lovers. Not him and Smoker being in... love.

The man on the chair continued laughing as Ace sprung forward, heaving himself towards his enemy. He withdrew both of his fists, but leaned his left side more forward, giving his main, right hand the chance of a more powerful hit. The muscles in his thighs relaxed and tensed as he leaped into the air, aiming a strong fist at Crocodile's chin. His arm hurt from the deep cut the window had given him, but in the midst of his rage, Ace couldn't have cared less. He was fed up with the man in front of him, and he looked forward to placing a hit on the man's annoying face.

Tightening his right bicep, Ace hurled himself downwards, reaching out for Crocodile. Too late, he saw the hand reaching out behind him and grabbing his shoulder. The hand halted him abruptly, and he felt his breath hitch at the sudden stop. Turning his head around, he saw a big face with lips far too big for any man. The grip on his shoulder hardened and he felt his speed rapidly slow, and for a fraction of a second, he hung still in the air before he was dragged down and backwards.

As he was slammed down on his back, he was reminded about the pain of being hit by a baseball bat in the ribs. His shoulder blades and most of his back scraped against the harsh concrete, and Ace yelped in pain and shut his eyes closed. He felt the burning sensation as parts of his back's skin was scratched away. The feeling of fresh, unprepared skin against the floor stung, and Ace bit down in the corner of his mouth not to cry out. Say what you want about broken ribs and knife wounds, skin scratches always hurt like hell.

Ace opened his eyes, only to find the big man hovering over him, his right hand drawn back ready to punch. It was the same man as he had seen in the hallway together with the long, thin and creepy man. The raven quickly took in his appearance once again; broad chest, some Chinese or Japanese tattoo on it, a shaved head with a scar on his forehead. He held a gun in his left hand, but it seemed like he liked to let his strength do the talking. The man was simply made out of a lot of muscles. A lot of muscles on their way of beating Ace to a bleeding mess.

He ignored the pain and rolled over to the side, and raised his knees so he would be able to place his soles back on the ground. Heaving himself up with great effort, he immediately crouched down again and sent one of his legs out to kick the knee of the big man before he could comprehend the movement.

Betting that his attacker was more muscles than reflexes, Ace put vast power in the kick. He waited to hear a crack from one of the bones in the leg, but the man proved to be sturdier than that. The only sound the boy heard was the metal sound of the man's gun falling to the floor. It felt strange to know how that sounded, he thought. At least, his kick put his opponent out of balance for the time being, thus making Ace's escape from the muscular man possible.

He straightened up his back again, and took several fast steps out of the man's reach. Turning around, he glared at Crocodile with a burning gaze. It felt as if the man was just out of reach, as he was sitting mere meters away, dark eyes fixed on the fight and a very unhealthy smile plastered onto his face. His facial expression was intrigued, but still so calm that Ace could easily say that the man was confident in the fact that Ace wouldn't be able to land a hit on him.

Hearing a grunt from the man behind him, Ace started to believe the same. Other than Crocodile, there were at least four other people to thrash, and he had no idea if there were more in the other rooms or on the other floors. There was the ridiculous man on the fourth floor, but he was no longer a threat. Unfortunately, he couldn't say that about the rest of the characters in the room.

Except the big man, who he felt was impossible to beat, there was a tall and thin woman, an average sized man with hair in an advanced hair knot, and the man Ace had unconsciously named "King of Creeps". His plastic look, made up of makeup combined with a fluffy pink sweater with big letters saying "Oh, Come my Way", as well as a pair of chinos in light baby blue still scared the raven haired boy. The silly scarf tied around his neck only made him more like the living definition of the word "flamboyant". Not able to sort the man out, Ace wondered what the hell he was doing in a place like this. Somehow, he seemed like he was the easiest one to beat.

The woman was dressed in only a pair of tight fitting leather pants and a matching bra with curious stripes in the same material connecting the two articles of clothing. It looked like a daring experiment from a half-crazy designer, but somehow, she still managed to look fairly fearsome. Ace guessed that the rapier on her smooth hip added up to that feeling.

The thin blade sang out when she drew it from its cover, ant the tip pointed at Ace's face. Swallowing, the raven haired man looked around again to find an exit from the ring of fighters, but found none. Behind him, the tattooed man was getting up again, and the king of creeps started to take long steps towards him, and it honestly looked like he had no knees. The woman took smaller steps; her high heels clicking with every decisive step. The third man, the one with the strange hairdo, started to advance, but he kept himself away from the others. Ace imagined that he was the weakest of them.

The only one not moving in to fight was Crocodile. He just sat there as if he was watching a movie or a theatre play, grinning and dragging on his cigar. The raven haired man swallowed nervously once more. There was no way out now, that was for sure. The only positive thing that Ace could think of was that no one had a gun, despite the fact that the rapier was still dangerous.

Blinking at his own stupidity, Ace's right hand traveled to his small back and his fingers grasped around the hilt of the big gun he had taken from the man with the baseball bat. His index finger slid in and embraced the trigger as his hand made a swift movement.

Crocodile stopped smiling when the gun was aimed at his forehead. The pistol was heavy and Ace's injured arm shook slightly at the weight, but his aim didn't waver.

All other motions stopped as Ace breathed heavily, holding the gun with both his hands. The others tried to read the younger one's intentions, but all of them decided to stay put. The muscular man who had been in possession of a gun before made a motion to pick it up off the floor, but a harsh 'stop' from the Ace halted the movement.

Ace bit his lower lip, also he unsure about what to do. He knew that he was going to have to say or do something soon; they couldn't just stand there forever. He had just suddenly gained the upper hand, but he had no idea how long it would last, as he was almost sure that some of these characters had to have another gun hidden somewhere.

He had to shoot, and he hated it. This was probably his only chance, but the knowledge that he aimed a killing machine at someone else's brains made his stomach crawl, even if it was someone like Crocodile. Giving a sad smirk, Ace took the feeling as a proof that he was not the same as the other man.

"You…" he started to address Crocodile, uncertain about how to go on. This was the moment where all of the manly-men in the old western movies said something epic, but reciting Clint Eastwood felt somehow out of place.

"You… Oh, just fuck you!", he said in lack of better words, and with that, he pulled the trigger, though, the moment before, he turned slightly, away from the lethal point on Crocodile's forehead, and locked the pistol's barrel on Crocodile's lower body, hoping that a shot would hurt, not kill.

The metal trigger felt slow and his index finger strained to push it back all the way. Biting down on his lower lip, Ace stared at his foe. He didn't smile, but yet, a little part, deep inside of him, felt good putting an end to Crocodile.


Not wanting it to be true, Ace pulled the trigger once again, this time harder and faster. He didn't even want to think about what kind of shit he would be in if his fears were true.

Click. Click.

At the third failed shot, everybody in the room had grasped the new situation, and everyone but the raven haired man in the middle of the room grinned menacingly. The room was left in silence for yet another empty sound from the unloaded gun. Ace cursed loudly, threw the gun to the floor, and made a swift movement towards the big window in hopes of reaching the glass before the others stop him.

Unfortunately, Ace's way was blocked off by a thin blade held out by the beautiful female. In the middle of a jump, Ace had no chance to brake in time. As if the rapier were the stick in a limbo game, the boy bent his back backwards and turned his cheek. Twitching his nose, he felt a stinging pain as the blade scratched his freckled face and created a thin wound a couple of centimeters under his right eye.

Slamming down on the floor once again, Ace sighed, but was swiftly up on his feet again. He drew a hand through his bangs to remove the strands of hair from his eyes. Touching his cheek with his palm, the blood from the new wound ran down, staining his hand red. Drying the blood of his already partially ruined pants, he sighted. The woman's mouth was stern, and her piercing eyes showed Ace her desire to pierce him with her weapon. This time it was just a matter of seconds before the fight would start again.

Looking around with quick, squirrel-like gazes, Ace started to smile, as he saw what just might give him a possible advantage. It was only a tiny chance, but hell, at this point things couldn't get much worse.

"Hey," he said, his smile lingering on his lips. "Let's start a commotion."

For the first time, Ace waited for his opponent to make the first move. The woman was much faster than the other two men he had fought so far, but Ace was at least able to keep up the same speed, avoiding the blade by throwing himself head over heels to the ground, doing a somersault despite the pain it caused his scratched back, and landing next to the thin rope that was holding up the blinds. Not wasting time to look back, he undid the knot holding the big piece of dark fabric away from the window and let the heavy cloth fall down with a monotonous thump. The room was now in the same state as when Ace had entered, pitch black.

Not wanting to remain in the same spot for to long, Ace took several steps to the side, trying to be as careful and quiet as he could with his heavy army boots. Relying on his hearing, he listened for the grunts, the high heels ticking, or anything that would give him a detailed view of where the others were.

Turning his head towards where he was sure he had heard an indication of the woman's position, he took a running start. Raising a fist, he completely ignored all kind of gentleman's code about not hitting females. He sent out several hard punches into the air before him, and he let out a happy breath when two of them hit a solid body. A feminine voice rang out in pain and the rapier fell down to the ground. Not having time for mercy, Ace launched a crouched knee which hit a soft part of the body, resulting in an 'ouuf' of lost breath from Ace's target. Still smiling, the raven haired boy nodded approvingly.

Thinking over the structure of the room, he quickly turned around on his heels, heading away from the block of muscles and in the direction of the smaller and also weak looking man. He heard that somebody farther away in the room, closer to the door was rummaging around, and probably searching for another light source. Biting his lip in stress and anxiousness, he continued forward.

He felt something graze against the naked skin of his arm, and he sent out a blow in that direction, but it seemed that the man had backed away the instant after he had realized that his attack had missed. Forgetting his own rule about being quiet, Ace growled and hurled himself forward, grabbing for anything but thin air.

At the same time as Ace got a hold of the fabric of one of the man's clothes, he heard the unwanted sound of a blade being drawn by someone in the room. Trying to place the weapon just by the quick sound, Ace swallowed. It was shorter than the rapier in his mind, but somehow the sound of the blade against the case sounded more raw, or scratchy. A picture of a hunting knife started to appear in the criminal's mind.

Ace's fingers started to search out the collar of the struggling man. The man's arms waved, and he tried to escape the other man, but his effort only made it easier for Ace to detect his vital points. The boy's movements were rough and hasted, and a line of thought recited itself in his mind; there might still be time.

Grabbing the man's collar with his left hand and drawing back his right to strike, Ace bit his teeth together and brought his knuckles down on the man's face. A painful cry escaped him, and Ace prepared for another, finishing hit.

The echo of an electric transformer starting again filled the room, together with cruel, white light from the many lamps on the ceiling. A quiet 'fuck' fled from Ace's lips as he swung down his fist and released the now unconscious man from his grip. One down, but many left.

The female was bleeding from her lips and the rapier lay tossed away. She was till coughing from Ace's kick, and was no longer a threat. What made Ace nervous was the long knife with a sharp looking, bent blade in the hands of the muscular man.

A slow, but loud applause made Ace look at Crocodile. The big man slammed his existing hand onto the lower arm on his left side, creating an ironic praise to the heavily breathing boy. The smile was back on to his face, and both the man and the boy knew that the raven haired boy had no other ace up his sleeve.

"Nice going, brat", Croc laughed, not showing any sign of concern for his defeated underlings. His cigar had found its way back to the corner of his mouth, and smoke welled up in front of his face.

"But this is as far as you go. You will never be any greater than this." Crocodile's voice was dry, contradicting his smile. His eyes were somehow empty as he looked down on the worn out Ace and gave a signal with his hand for the two other men to move forward. The big man smiled even worse than his boss, and Ace decided that he preferred him with a stern face.

Ace started to breathe even heavier and bit his lower lip. Trying to form another plan in the two seconds he had to his use, his brain stood completely still, if you didn't count the endless stream of the words 'shit, 'fuck' and 'hell no' which clouded his thoughts.

He had been focusing on the big man with the threatening knife so when the thinner of them sent out a foot in the speed of a comet, Ace had no chance to do anything more than utter yet another 'fuck'. The foot missed what he thought was its main goal of his vulnerable throat, but the knuckles of his toes smacked Ace's chest with a brutal force and sent him flying backwards. The boy yelped, but forced himself up onto his feet as quickly as he could.

Waving his right arm, he felt how the muscles in his body ached. The hit was sure to leave a big bruise. Spitting on the floor and sighing in relief that there was at least no blood in the saliva, Ace reorganized the henchmen in his mind. The king of creeps was way faster than himself, and he never again want to meet a kick with as much force behind it as there had been in that kick. Unfortunately, it seemed that just that was coming down the horizon for him.

Drying off the saliva that had gathered in the corner of his mouth, he stood up straight regardless of his pain, and looked straight into the eyes of his opponents, his now almost pitch-black eyes meeting theirs. Throwing his head slightly upwards, almost as a nod, he grinned with his bangs back down on his forehead. His last words before the fight started again, and he eventually lost consciousness, were spoken with a cocky voice, hiding all his worries:

"Let's just get this over with."

~ * ~

His head hurt, as though he had a really bad hang over, but this time the pain was not only limited to his skull; his entire body was in pain. Opening his eyes, he felt no difference in the light level. The room was dark as the bottom of the sea; not even the faint light source under a door could be seen.

He sat down, and his arms were twisted in a curious way behind his back. He tried to move them and failed as the rope burned into his wrist. Whoever tied him up had done so without reservations for the captive's pleasure. He was tightly secured to the wooden chair, hands pressed together behind the chair's back and his feet attached with thick ropes to the legs.

Slowly moving his fingers, he heard how the digits cracked from the unwanted motion. Clenching his teeth, he slowly turned his head with closed eyes at the stale pain. With every breath he took, he felt parts of his body ache, and even if he couldn't see them, he knew at least two places that bruises had surely bloomed up.

The sour smell of sweat and the metallic tang of blood created a strange cocktail in his nose as his senses started to return to him. The second smell reminded him of one of the most painful locations on his exaggeratedly beaten body. He had been lucky that the tattooed man with the knife had been slower than both his companion and Ace himself, but he had been able to pinpoint the raven haired teen once with his broad knife, grazing his top left side.

The cut had been right over his throbbing heart, but, ironically, thanks to a kick from the thinner man, he had been once again sent backwards. Thus the combo attack resulted in a shallow cut, but an unconscious Ace slamming into a wall. It seemed as if the cut had bled a good amount down his chest, since he felt the sticky liquid down on his chest and abs.

The second time he tried to move his fingers it was with easier, smoother movements. He attempted to bend them in a way that would release his aching wrists, but the movement only worsened his earlier recovery. The rope wasn't very thick, but was made to last. Ace's weakened effort of escape was nothing to it.

A curse slipped from the black haired boy as a layer of skin was scratched off from a twist of his hand. The foul word echoed more than he thought it would in the empty room, and a scraping sound of a chair drawn out on a stone floor was heard just afterwards. There had to be someone close, or in a room close to him. Beginning to panic, Ace shook both his hands and his feet, but the only movement it resulted in was a slight combination of jumping and swinging of the chair. Not wanting to fall down flat on his stomach, he stopped and started to stare at the floor instead. Steps were heard not ten meter away, but they were dulled by a door between them. When the door opened, he was hit in the face by a brutal light. He turned his head as best as he could and squinted his eyes, not able to place a shielding hand between the lamp and his unused eyes.

Ace was sure he had heard the voice filling the room, and in a second, images of a very fast and very dolled up thin man filled his inner sight. The King of Creeps was it, right?

"So, honey, you're awake at last?" the man said with a raspy voice. Ace's eyes were still not used to the light, but the silhouette he saw created by the light from the door supported his beliefs about whom he was talking to.

At last? How long had he been out cold? Except the wounds, his body was stiff and his back hurt from the forward-leaning position he was tied in. Ace must have been looking as puzzled as he felt, because the skinny man read him like an open book.

"You've been out for sixteen hours sweetheart. I'm surprised your back hasn't snapped yet, since it sure looks uncomfortable.", the man said, and raised a eye brown and one of the corners of his mouth, transforming his face into something rather nast looking., and ace shifted on his seat.

The boy opened his mouth to snap back, but the amount of hours he'd been out had made his throat go dry of surprise. It wasn't strange his body ached.

The thin man's hand hovered over the wall as he turned on the light switch. Once again, Ace groaned at the unwelcome beam from the lamp, and he wasn't all that happy that he could see how bad his body looked. Bruises had bloomed up all over his torso, and shallow scratches accompanied them. The only sight he was happy to see was that the knife wound had stopped bleeding, and the dry blood and his skin was making some sort of agreement to keep the cut closed up. The wound would certainly leave an impressive scar.

After he had turned the lamp on, the creepy man drew out a chair from the corner of the room and placed himself opposite to Ace, his eyes never leaving the wounded boy. The man placed a hand on the big pocket of his hooded sweater and gave Ace a questioning gaze.

"Is it okay if I smoke?"

Not knowing if the man was serious or not, Ace couldn't help but to laugh out loud at the question. As if he was in any position to decline a suggestion from him, or anybody else for that matter. He was a prisoner, hurt and tied up, not able to do anything.

"Would I be able to stop you?", he asked when the worst of his laughing fit was over. Tears had made it to the corners of his eyes, but he couldn't do anything about that either.

The lipstick covered mouth turned into a wide smile, showing the man's teeth. From the pocket of his hoodie he drew a pack of cigarettes and a long stick. Ace squinted to see what it was, but it wasn't until the thin man pressed his cigarette butt into one end he understood it was a cigarette holder, just like the old, classic movie stars used to have during all those black-and-white movies. Though, when the man lit his cigarette and inhaled deeply, Ace had to admit that he looked less like Audrey Hepburn and more like Cruella de Vil.

He watched as more and more of the cigarette disappeared into smoke as neither of them spoke a word. Ace had lost count of how many drags the other man had drawn from his cigarette, and watching the man doing nothing but that had a tiring effect on Ace, and his eye lids fluttered as he started to fall back into unconsciousness.

When the thin man finally spoke, Ace's eyes flew open as if something had stung him. It felt as if he had only closed his eyes for a second, but a new cigarette was puffing from the mouthpiece. Time seemed to be quite a curious thing in this room.

"I'm really curious, boy." the man asked, holding the cigarettes stick between his fingers while he spoke. "What the hell were you thinking, coming here alone?" The man's forehead was furrowed, and he looked at Ace with an intense stare.

Ace shrugged his shoulders, but hissed at the pain that caused his wrists.

"You don't know why you risked your life, honey?" the man said, sounding amused. "Sure seems a tad strange to me... All these crazy kids nowadays..." he continued with a cloud of smoke. "At least, you seem to have handled the wounds okay. Thank your pretty body for that!"

A little of Ace's chin dropped, and the level of his discomfort rose a little. He had honestly no idea in what for a sort of category he was supposed to place the man in.

There was yet another pause before the man continued what seemed to be developing into a long monologe. Crossing his legs and leaning forward, Ace's nose was hit by a strong perfume smell, probably not meant for males. The man seemed to study him inside and out, and the boy gulped at the sudden closness, but quickly regained focus and grinned.

"I guess I did it for the fun then." he said, and his chest vibrated along with his soft chuckling. The grin became twisted at the stinging pain in his muscles.

"I only know one other person who would even think of doing such a reckless thing without a true purpose." the thin man said with a wondering voice, as if his thoughts were elsewhere.

Snorting, Ace nodded in agreement. He on the other hand could think of a few more from his friend circle, but when someone mentioned the word 'reckless', a single face showed up in front of his inner sight. Avering his eyes from the other man, as if he was talking to himself, he muttered:

"Crazy kids huh? I bet my little brother is crazier than anybody else you can pull from your sleve. The kid is a freaking rubber ball of energy, and he goes on and on about some kind of epic adventure." Ace stated, his grin back on his face. Even if it was only a small drabble, it felt like a sweet victory, because you had to search land and sea for he didn't know how long before you even had a slight chance of finding someone who would outclass Luffy when it came down to the topic of craziness and being reckless.

"I think I have to prove you wrong, my dear", the man protested with a slightly high pitched voice. "My friend is the very face of liveliness, and I swear to you, you never know what he is up to. He has some kind of great dream he is going to reach, and I would bet all my mother's makeup on the fact that he would kick your brother's ass to achieve it."

Chuckling again, Ace shook his head and stabbed the man with his eyes.

"Save for me and grandpa, no one has defeated my kid brother in a fair fight, so tell your friend good luck with that. Luffy won't go down so easy." he explained with a smug smile which grew larger at the utterly surprised look the man's face turned into.

"Luffy?" the man stuttered.

Shit, had he said too much? Would they go after Luffy now? Ace bit his lip, and looked up at the other man with a slight touch of fear in his gaze.

"Luffy D. Monkey?" the man continued, and Ace's brow furrowed. Something was not right. How the hell did the man know Luffy's full name?

Reaching into his back pocket, the man pulled up a thick, but still small notebook and began turning the pages with rapid, smooth fingers. Leaning forward, Ace tried to see over the edge of the book and check what the hell was in it, but the ropes forced him to a halt only a decimeter out from the back of the chair.

"Oii", he called out, trying to get the other one's attention. "What the fuck are you doing? Why do you know about Luffy? Answer me!" For one who liked to have control of his surroundings, Ace groaned as the other man ignored him and continued flipping pages.

"Here!" was the man's sudden outburst, and he shoved the notebook up in Ace's face. Bending his neck backwards, the teen tried to see what the man was so eager to show him, and gasped when he saw the photo glued onto the page. He didn't recognize the setting, but sure as hell that it was Luffy, the straw hat swiftly placed on his head and that trademark grin on his face. Now even more confused, Ace felt his jaw hanging slack, and pulled it up with a snap of his teeth. The man smiled, and showed all of his unexpectedly white teeth.

"I'd like to see your little brother kick the shit out of Strawhat."

"Screw you", Ace muttered, obviously taken back by the fact that they had been arguing about the same person. This new situation did raise a few new questions as well.

"And why the hell do you have a picture of my brother in your back pocket? How do you know him?" the boy grunted. He got no answer, but a crushing hug from the man who tossed himself at the tied up Ace. Arms snuck up around his back and forced him into a tight embrace, creating an awkward atmosphere. The hug lingered longer than the black haired man preferred it to, sweat starting to build up back on his neck.

"H-hey, get off me!" Ace shot out. "And answer my questions!", both his strong will to move the man away from him, and his responsibility as a big brother mixed in the sentences.

Ace felt how the man's hands started to travel down his back, and he started to panic. Eyes wide, he started to squirm, desperate to get out of the man's hold, and the final touch was added along with the yelp Ace let out as the ropes cut into his writs' flesh once again.

"Easy, sweetheart", the man complained, as his own hands stopped at Ace's , pressing something small and cold into his palms until the raven got the point as he started to breath more normally, and clenched his fist around the small, square object. Running his thumb over it he felt the uneven surface of metal, and a crack on the top of it. Slowly opening it, he realized what it was.

The man had pulled away from him, stepping towards the door. Cocking his head upwards, looking at the other man's back, Ace was unsure what to say. The man twisted his head around and helped him fill the empty air:

"You never really know where you find the oddest friends, but you always know you can trust your friends, whatever the situation." As a finish to the short speech, his mouth turned into a full blown smile and made a quite silly looking thumbs up before he continued towards the door and closed it shut after he had turned the light switch off again, leaving Ace once again in complete darkness, alone with a lighter, his single hope to escape.

Yes, another long chapter, (over 7000 fucking words/12 pages!) and damn, that turned out to be quite much fighting. Sorry? It was kind of fun to write, even if it felt a tad strange to write after chapter 574. Someone else who cried?

And, ah. Bentham's sweater's print. "Oh, Come My Way" is a play on "Okama Way". Gah, I feel like I have written the worst Mr. 2 ever, too damn out of character. *cry*

Oh and yes, I'm so pathetic that I fanart my own works, so here it is:

Slowsunrise (dot) livejournal (dot) com/2906 (dot) html

Just replace the dots with actual . and you will be able to see Acey. XD

I spent a week in Austria for skiing, so no internet for eight days. A little painful, but of course it turned out to be quite fun too. I used my sister as a bouncer, and she told me to write about her here as thanks: "Tack till min syster som gillade min Bögporr och gav upp sin schnitzelfetish för att diskutera den med mig." ("Thanks go to my sister because she liked my gay porn and gave up her Wiener Schnitzel-fetish to discuss it with me".

(SlowSunrise's Swedish-English Dictionary: Bögporr: Gay porn))

Also, we were sitting in a lift on our way up the slope, discussing another fiction I write, and I told her what I had in store. Her respond was: "What the fuck, Sara? Are they gonna have sex on a table in a bar? Are you gonna write a sex scene with two males?!" (So sweet and *cough* innocent.)

We also talked about yaoi in common, hickeys, make out sessions between guys and a lot of other pervy stuff.

You see, we talked Swedish which we thought was perfectly safe amongst all the Germans. Then, a woman in her forties, sitting next to us, asks in Swedish where we are from. My sister isn't catching up that quick, so she says: "Sweden", and then this woman simply says: "Yes, I can hear that". Two seconds later, both of us know what that means, and all the remaining way, we were very, very quiet. Believe me, it was hard not to laugh.

I love you all, and you are allowed to hit me hard in the face with a frying pan för being so fucking late. I'm sorry, and I'll try to behave. D: