"Remember the day we met?"
"Ace, let's not take a trip down memory lane in here."
"Aw, Panda, you're such a spoil sport." The aforementioned Ace pretended to pout, his dark hair falling in curls around his freckled face. He cleared his throat forebodingly, then launched into a voice better suited to a narrator of a classic epic movie. "It was a sunny day, just like today, exactly three and a half years ago–"
"I thought I told you to never call me by that name in public."
Ace, tall, muscular and a bit of an eccentric, stood up from his plastic chair. He spread his arms wide in an arc, indicating with this movement the vast emptiness of their current location. "No one's here in detention today but us. The teacher on duty hasn't even arrived yet. I could scream 'Panda' and nobody would hear me."
"On the other hand I could make you scream 'bloody murder' and nobody would hear. Now sit your ass down and have a nap."
With a snort, Ace fell back into his little plastic chair, slumping forward onto the wooden desk. Numbly he noted the gouges from pens and other sharp objects that defaced the wood grain. The notches in the wood reminded him off a prison inmate trying to keep track of the amount of days spent behind bars.
"Panda, that is a dirty, tasteless thing to say." Ace straightened, grinning as his brain started to function and digest his friend's words. He tapped his fingers on the desk, beating out a slow rhythm that he knew would begin to get on his friend's nerves. "You're jealous, aren't you?"
"Why would I be jealous of your narcolepsy?"
"Because you have insomnia," Ace stated very matter-of-factly. He ceased his tapping for a minute to examine his nails, noting that they weren't nearly long enough to make a super annoying clicking noise. Not like those preppy chicks he had in all of his classes, the ones who acted as if they didn't want to be there and annoyed everyone with their constant tapping. Their long manicured nails were perfect for that. His were too stubby, unfortunately.
"Anyways, why'd you get detention on this fine day after school? Flip off one of the teachers again?" Ace's friend remained silent. "Eh, Trafalgar Law? You did, didn't you? Piss someone off."
"No." The blunt reply was so typical of this certain insomniac. Most days and with most people the boy named Trafalgar would be as blunt as a hammer, putting strength in his choice words but few details. But Ace, over the years, had gradually managed to kindly force Law into being a bit more expressive. At least with him.
Ace's persistence had achieved this many times before when Law would clam up. All it took these days for Law to spill his thoughts was a cute pout, one which Ace had perfected over the course of their friendship. It was his ultimate weapon, one that he used now.
Trafalgar gave him a disgusted look but he opened his mouth to speak, if only to make Ace change his expression. He looked like a rabid donkey with that face, at least in Law's opinion.
"One of the teachers caught me walking through the hallways this morning with a dead cat." Ace snorted at that revelation, scooting forward in his seat to hear the rest of Law's tale. "I was bringing it to the biology lab to dump it into that container of preservation chemicals so the corpse wouldn't go bad. I found the cat by my house."
"But you didn't kill it, right?"
"It was road kill. I peeled it off the pavement because I wanted to dissect it later and look at all its innards but now the school confiscated the corpse and it'll probably go to waste and I'm pissed off. So there. Now you know."
Ace laughed at Law's long-winded explanation. When he was clearly frustrated, he usually took more time to get his point across. Ace liked when Trafalgar was frustrated as it tended to make conversation livelier.
"Want to know what I did?" Ace asked as soon as Law made it clear he was done supporting the conversation.
"Did I ask?"
"I'm going to tell you anyway."
A passive grunt separated their exchange.
"Last period I had one of my microsleeps, you know, those short sleep episodes where I don't remember anything but I do normal stuff? Yeah, so that happened and I guess I fell asleep but I was still trying to do the daily chemistry experiment. I don't clearly remember what happened but somehow when I came out of it the curtains were on fire and my experiment had blown up." Ace paused in his ramble, grinning and laughing as he recalled the panic of everyone in the room at the time. He couldn't help but find situations like that humourous. "Mr. Aokiji had to use his instant ice extinguisher to put it out, which was funny because everyone thought he was having a nap at the front of the room. Like usual."
"And then?" Law drawled, grinning with amusement. If anything could make him genuinely interested, it was hearing about accidents or misfortunes. That was part of the reason Ace and Trafalgar got along so famously, despite their numerous differences. Ace had been born under an unlucky star.
"Well, we all evacuated and apparently someone in class had called 911 on their cell phone. Aokiji just told me to go straight to the detention room, so I was sitting in here for about twenty minutes before you came in."
Trafalgar stood up in his seat, leaning over a counter to stare at the outside world beyond their jail cell. What he saw made him slightly puzzled. "So that's why there's a fire truck parked outside the window…but what's with the police car? You'd think they could get a situation right and not send unnecessary backup."
With a burst of sudden energy and finesse, Ace dove at Trafalgar, grabbing him by the hood of his favourite yellow and black sweater. Tugging him down to the dirty linoleum floor by this sweater that Law wore almost every day, Ace ignored the boy's choking and sputtering. Frantically he whispered, "Don't attract attention! That's Smokey down there!"
"Smokey? The guy who's always trying to arrest you? Smoker?"
"Yes Captain Blunt. Smoker. The police officer who's hated me ever since that incident with my prescription drugs, which just so happen to be illegal where we live." Law rolled his eyes at this and detached himself from Ace's claws, putting a bit of distance between them.
Law hauled himself back into one of the many empty plastic chairs scattered throughout the classroom. "Whatever." He rubbed at his tired eyes, which had dark permanent circles under them from a lack of sleep during his childhood all the way up to present day. Usually the chronic insomnia didn't bother him as he'd grown accustomed to it but at that moment, sitting around doing nothing productive, his eyes were starting to itch uncomfortably. "The teacher on duty had better not make us stay longer in this shithole because they're late getting here."
Ace slowly got up from the floor, peeking out the window at the proceedings down below. He recognized that patrol car as Smoker's after a long string of personal interactions with its owner. The car had numerous dents in the side, as Smoker was a rough driver and took on most of the city's dangerous nutcases. In his off hours, he seemed to enjoy arresting anyone who put a foot out of place. Ace thought it was because the grey-haired man just got a kick out of beating the shit out of people before throwing them in cages.
He had been in a jail cell thanks to Smoker before but never for anything too serious.
Just as he was thinking about being thrown into that patrol car by Smoker, another one of Ace's longstanding enemies chose to make his entrance into the detention room.
"Portgas. It seems you have yet again made a mockery of this school. Perhaps, with all luck, this case will be enough to have you expelled."
Ace spun around to face one of the vice principals, Mr. Akainu. The man was like molten lava in the sense that he consumed everything within reach in a fiery hot despair. Needless to say, the students of Ace and Trafalgar's high school avoided the man like he carried a horrifying plague.
"Come with me to my office. Your grandfather is here to try and dig you out of your grave yet again." Ace groaned at the impending doom that loomed just around the corner. Akainu, who took joy in seeing the suffering smeared across Ace's features, tore his eyes away from the sight that brought him insane pleasure in order to address the other occupant of the room. "As for you, go home for today. You can serve your detention tomorrow."
Trafalgar leisurely walked out of the room, grumbling under his breath about how much time he'd wasted sitting around after school hours. He bade Ace a good-bye in the form of a disinterested wave over his shoulder. Ace knew he'd see his friend later on in the day and didn't bother to say anything. He was too caught up in Akainu's infectious misery.
"Well? Let's go, Portgas." Reluctantly Ace got to his feet, taking his sweet time walking around to the doorway where Akainu stood, a permanent frown decorating his ugly face. His beefy arms were crossed over his impeccably white suit, nothing inviting within his pose. Slowly Ace began his death row walk.
Impatient, Akainu prodded the teenager down the hallway towards the school's offices, gaining speed quickly. The rough treatment made Ace long to have somehow gotten the other, much more Zen vice principal, Mr. Sengoku, rather than the irritable Akainu. But as luck had it, the entire student body was split in half between the two vice principals according to last name and Ace's surname happened to be in the latter part of the alphabet, lining up with Akainu's list of tormented souls.
He hated his luck, really.
They arrived at the office and Ace felt his heart sinking lower than physically possible. The principal of the school, who had kindly bailed Ace out of trouble before, was not a part of the small gathering in Akainu's office. Instead, his adoptive grandfather Garp and the often-brusque police officer Smoker sat in chairs with their backs to Ace, waiting for the teenager to arrive. Ace wanted to try and escape, he really did, but he had the dragon from hell behind him and two very violent people in front. Escape was futile.
As he approached, he finally saw a third person in the room, half hidden behind a wilting floor plant. That person was a beacon of hope for Ace and he instantly breathed a sigh of relief. Maybe he wasn't going to die today after all.
Heads turned as Akainu and Ace entered the small space. Immediately Ace sat his butt down in his usual seat, the one he was always shoved into when he visited this cavern in hell. Akainu sat across from all four parties behind a large desk, clearing his throat to get Garp's attention. As soon as Ace had appeared, he'd immediately gone to glaring daggers at his grandson.
He had probably been called off work to come down here and bail him out. Ace didn't feel guilty but he knew he was going to get a brutal talking to later.
"Let's get this started," Akainu said with a tired sigh. Ace grimaced; he knew the cruel man was secretly enjoying himself across the desk and would prolong Ace's torture for as long as possible. "Explain yourself to us, Ace. Tell us about how the fire in Mr. Aokiji's chemistry lab occurred."
"It was an accident," Ace grumbled. He spoke the truth but he could see doubt appearing on the faces of not only Akainu but Garp as well who knew his grandson had slight pyromaniac tendencies. More than once Ace had caused damage with fire in their home. Ace could hardly blame the man for not wanting to believe him.
"If you don't have a satisfactory explanation Mr. Smoker here is going to charge you with arson causing damage to school property."
Suddenly, Ace's beacon of light spoke up. "I'm sure he has a viable explanation, Mr. Akainu."
Cautiously, Ace peered past both Garp and Smoker's hulking bodies to see his laid-back mathematics teacher, whom most of the students simply referred to by his first name, Marco. Under heavily-lidded eyes, Marco caught his gaze and gave a small encouraging half-smile. Ace felt his ears redden and hurried to focus on the most disgusting thing in the room in order to keep a blush down.
Akainu did the job nicely.
"Get on with it boy, I don't have all day," Smoker suddenly barked. Normally Ace would have made a snide comment to further piss off the police man, but today even he knew the thinness of the eggshells he was walking on.
"I had a sudden sleep attack and when I came out of it the fire was there."
"Magically," Akainu stated dryly. "Witnesses that I spoke to earlier today say that you seemed perfectly conscious when you added an obscene amount of chlorides to some chemical mixture the class was working on."
"I wasn't conscious," Ace argued, a slight hint of anger entering his voice. Akainu always knew how to spark his anger. "I was asleep, just for a very short amount of time. And sometimes I continue to do things even when I'm asleep."
"He has narcolepsy, as you know," Garp said. This wasn't at all reassuring to anyone, as Garp himself sounded unconvinced by Ace's story. Garp had never really been one to heavily research his grandson's case, not since Ace's part-time nanny Dadan had dealt with Ace's disorder when he was being diagnosed, keeping Garp out of the loop. Now that Dadan was gone, since Ace could stand on his own two feet without her constant mollycoddling, Garp was left to try and make sense of his grandson that he only sparingly knew.
"Yes, we all know, some of us quite well." At this Akainu stared pointedly at Marco, who just shrugged and continued to sit calmly, arms crossed over his chest. "Mr. McLeod here decided to come today since he's concerned over Ace's mark in his class. It seems that it's only the beginning of the year and already Ace is failing spectacularly."
"I guess I find it hard to concentrate in class."
"Then perhaps you'd benefit from a change in scenery. Say, a different school where distractions could be minimal."
Ace sucked in a gulp of air, the dank office atmosphere making him want to retch. This was always what it came to, ever since the day he first irritated Akainu during his freshman year with his 'special condition'. Akainu made it no secret that he detested Ace, often trying to make his life miserable in hopes that the boy would want to pursue an education at a different high school. So far he'd been gradually working his way under Garp's skin, slyly suggesting supposedly 'better' alternatives for the teenager.
"Maybe you're right," Garp said with a disinterested shrug. "But I'm already planning on sending Ace to marine boot camp after he graduates, so uprooting him with barely a year of high school left might be too much trouble."
Ace couldn't decide whether he wanted to jump for joy at the prospect of being able to stay put at his high school with all his friends and his brother or jump off the highest point in the city to his inevitable death, since Garp was still planning on sending him to hell on earth.
He slumped down in his chair to further contemplate his waning future.
"If that's all we're going to talk about, I have to get back on duty." Smoker stood abruptly, pushing his chair out his way to clear a path to the exit. A flash of panic caught in Akainu's eyes as one of his key pawns made for the doorway.
"But the charge for arson–"
"Sort it out yourselves. The police are no longer involved in this if the brat is claiming that it was an accident."
Akainu grit his teeth but forced his voice to remain steady, "But there's no proof it was an accident."
"I have seen Ace subconsciously do things like take notes in my class during a sleep attack. Of course the notes are completely illegible, but the fact that I've seen with my own eyes his narcolepsy at work makes me confident that Ace is telling us the truth. Besides, Mr. Aokiji told us both that Ace was exhibiting strange behaviour when the lab caught fire. When everyone around him screamed and ran, Ace just stood there, transfixed by nothing. If that isn't proof enough of something unnatural occurring, I don't know what is."
Ace's mouth hung open slightly long after Marco had finished his lengthy rebuttal. Smoker bought Marco's words and even seemed to nod gratefully at the man before dashing out of the office, intent on finding more interesting things to do with his time. Like beat up his already pathetically dingy patrol car by chasing unruly teenagers.
Akainu turned his steely gaze on Marco, who didn't flinch as any normal man would. "I guess this brings us to the problem at hand, doesn't it Mr. McLeod?" Ace thought he saw Marco tense up and open his eyes a bit wider as if to prepare himself. "Your class is mandatory for Ace to graduate. If he doesn't pass he will have to spend another semester here."
Garp grunted at that disclosure, his arm and hand twitching on the armrest next to Ace. Seeing this out of the corner of his eye, Ace flinched at the muscle spasm, knowing that if they weren't in such a professional setting Garp would be beating his ass at this particular moment.
"Ace is bright. He can pass my class as long as he stays awake. He's told me that it's hard for him to sit for such a lengthy amount of time and that he can learn material best if it's taught in short intervals." Marco kept his eyes firmly locked on Akainu's, a silent but stern challenge blossoming between them.
Ace, meanwhile, blushed heavily at the praise and confidence his teacher seemed to have in him. He remembered the first time he'd told Marco about his daytime sleeping episodes after he had woken up only to find himself alone in an empty classroom with only the teacher sitting behind his desk with his feet propped up casually. The sight had brought a smile to his face, but he felt bad that Marco couldn't leave after the bell rang to signify the end of classes for that period. He couldn't exactly lock the classroom behind him with an unconscious body lying on a desk in a puddle of drool, could he?
Marco was the only teacher that could tolerate him with some humour and for that alone Ace liked Marco a great deal.
"The fact is that Ace isn't learning the material and is failing," Akainu restated firmly. "If he is to graduate, something needs to change. Earlier you suggested he have extra tutoring outside of school, but to hire someone with the knowledge in that field will be expensive, not to mention it will be hard to find someone with that knowledge in the first place." Akainu was calm and firm, yet hidden under his tone was a reproach to the challenge Marco had extended towards him.
Ace could tell those two didn't see eye to eye. Dimly he wondered what Marco had done in the past to make Akainu dislike him so strongly.
"That is why I'm going to offer to tutor him. I hate seeing any of my students fail my class," Marco said, his eyes wandering to find Ace's. Those eyes narrowed, but not in disappointment or anger but rather to express some unsaid amusement. Sometimes Ace would like to know what went on in his teacher's head.
All through high school Ace had been fortunate enough to have his math classes with Marco. But he had never been able to figure out how Marco's mental clock ticked. He would kill to know what Marco really thought about him.
"Sounds like a deal to me," Garp said gruffly. "And I'll pay for the damages Ace caused; just send me the bill in the mail. As for this tutoring thing, I'm sure Ace and Mr. McLeod can work out a schedule tomorrow in school."
At Garp's words, Akainu slunk back in his seat, his diabolical plan fizzling out. "Fine," he snapped, "Mr. McLeod will tutor him and you will pay for Ace's accident."
"Yep," Garp said, standing and reaching a large meaty fist down to pull Ace up from his chair by a shoulder. "Then I suppose this meeting is over. Time to go, Ace."
Ace didn't protest to being dragged out of the office by an impatient grandfather that couldn't stand to sit still for more than two seconds. He threw one last look over his shoulder to see Marco smiling at him and, without any hesitation, Ace smiled back shyly.
That exchange kept him smiling stupidly to himself all the way home, even when his grandfather whacked him unceremoniously over the head the moment they drove off of school property.
A.N.: There we have it; the first chapter! It's always so exciting to post a new story…haha, okay, hopefully any readers out there will tell me what they think of this start. It's nice to know if people like a story of mine or not, because if something receives no interest I tend to assume it really isn't interesting to anyone and stop writing it.
So yeah, read and review!