Hey, thanks to everybody for reading! This chapter contains some Doflamingo/Law and some heartache. I hope you like it!

The operation took approximately seven hours; Law was hampered by an unfamiliar set-up with only the tools they could easily locate. Though it improved daily, the old injury to his nails made things even slower. The fingertips quickly went numb and were useless for fine tasks. He missed the ambidexterity he'd once had. On the whole, when it came to surgery he was out of practice.

For tools, he made due with what he could scavenge. Fortunately, the surgical suite was cleaner and more advanced than anything on Eustass' ship. Law could work under most any circumstances and with fewer resources than this, but it'd been ages since he'd operated. It all came back easily enough in the end.

Aside from the surgically-inflicted injuries, Eustass' face was battered - the clear result of a punishing encounter with another man's fists. Law remembered the scrapes and scratches on Doflamingo's knuckles and could easily imagine how that had happened. A full-body examination revealed something else: severe damage to his testicles, which were heavily bruised until nearly black. Law did not like imagining how Eustass came by this particular injury. In the end, there was little he could do to address it - there was no rupture nor break to repair. So Eustass had been tortured after all - an unorthodox torturing to be sure, but a means which bore Doflamingo's signature: it was designed to hurt intensely, and leave its victim feeling humiliated and emasculated.

Then again, Law doubted Eustass had said much at the time to really improve his situation. Had he kept his smart mouth shut, he'd likely have ended up with only the bruises covering his face...Law wondered why and if he cared in the first place.

There was little he could do for Eustass' arm aside from clean, cauterize, and bandage the damaged tissue. It was a clean amputation, the bone having been sawed with surgical precision. Had he taken such an injury in battle, the outcome would've been much more gruesome. Still, Law knew it would mean months of adjustment and recuperation as the captain became used to his newly-maimed body...he would likely suffer the phantom pains of his missing limb more severely than the wound itself. Law ignored the odd feelings of guilt that persisted within him, as though he bore some amount of responsibility for Eustass' arm. Perhaps he had - but Eustass had always been too careless with himself. He'd forced his way into Law's conflict with Doflamingo and now he was paying the price for such foolishness. All of the responsibility for that lay on his own shoulders.

Law made some exploratory efforts into the chest incisions, mainly to ascertain their purpose. He noted several instances where tissue had been sampled for biopsy, but there was little he could do aside from cauterize the bleeding and close Eustass up. The captain required four units of blood and twice as much saline. By this metric, Law could tell he'd been left abandoned for quite some time - at least twelve hours, perhaps more. If he'd not been hooked up to a ventilator, he would have died.

On a certain level, Law wished that had been the case - that they'd arrived only to find a corpse. It would've been easier. Throughout the surgery, he kept his mind blankly focused, ignoring anything that did not directly relate to repairing Eustass' damaged flesh. The captain remained unconscious the entire time, though anesthesia was more to thank for that than anything else. His face was a mask so peaceful that Law found it hard to look at.

He remembered, during his four hours with Doflamingo, how often his thoughts had returned to Eustass. If not in direct comparison so much as in panic and worry, and oddly, at the very back of his mind, guilt. Law knew the captain would've never allowed him to make such an exchange. On some level, Law wished that Eustass had been just as cruel as his former master; it would make it easier to hate him. As it was, he knew he'd made that bargain for two reasons, and only one had anything to do with the captain's life. The remainder was all about Law, and with a surgeon's precision, he'd recognized a valuable tool for addressing an old wound that'd begun to fester. He would rid himself of Eustass before he ever reconciled his hatred.

Once finished with the operation, Law found some solutions of morphine, and set them in Eustass' intravenous drip. The captain would need them once he finally came around.

It was only after all of that, with Eustass stabilized and Heat monitoring his recovery, that Law rested. He found a quiet room with a bed and collapsed upon it. He desperately wanted a shower but that would have to wait until later, and he slept with Eustass' blood splattered across his skin, up to his elbows. Part of him never wanted it to wash away.

Law was sleeping.

Except that he wasn't; not really. He had every reason to sleep, but with Doflamingo sharing his bed, such things were impossible. The only time Law had slept thus far was when he'd lost consciousness entirely through no fault of his own; it had not been restful and he'd woken unpleasantly, vowing never to allow it to happen again.

So he would pretend to sleep, if only because it promised a certain reprieve, temporary though it was. Doflamingo himself had little compunction over sleeping, though little need - he was unlike Eustass in that way. Throughout this ordeal, Law had found himself drawing mental comparisons against his will. He tried to stop when he realized what was happening but the thoughts returned each time. Part of him longed for Eustass, for their familiar rapport. Law missed him like an old wound that had finally stopped aching, leaving the rest of him to ache in its absence.

He felt the bed shift as Doflamingo moved beside him; his peace was soon to be interrupted. Law refused to acknowledge the shichibukai even after the man had spent several lazy minutes tracing patterns across his ribs.

"Law," the man's voice drawled. "I know you're not sleeping."

"I am resting."

"You've had enough rest for now, I think." Doflamingo lay beside him, propped on one elbow. "If you wanted rest, you should've agreed to more than four hours with me."

Their bodies were connected in a thin line, Law's left side and flank being spooned by Doflamingo's oppressively heavy frame. Law could feel a heat, a promise, from the shichibukai's cock where it rested against his hip. It was a challenge to remain where he was and not go scooting out of reach, or at least to put a few inches between them. Their skin felt hot and sticky where it touched.

Doflamingo twisted one of Law's nipples in a burst of sudden cruelty, making him jump. His eyes flew open and he yelped, lip twisting in contempt. "Stop that."

"Pay attention to me." The man was a child. Law scowled at the ceiling instead, though those lazy hands never faltered in their paths. "I was just thinking of the day I took your virginity."

"How unsubtle."

"This is almost like taking it all over again - or perhaps claiming it again." Doflamingo rolled onto his back. Law felt himself uprooted from his present position until he was straddled across the shichibukai's thighs. He blinked, feeling dizzy. Beneath him, Doflamingo smiled. "A reclaiming. Wouldn't you agree?"

"You see far more depth to this situation than I can fathom."

It drew a snicker. "Speaking of depth," Doflamingo mused, before arranging Law so that the tip of his cock was pressing insistently between the cheeks of his ass. Law tried not to squirm away, the casual ownership and familiarity of Doflamingo's touch disgusting on every level. By that point, there was little reason to take things slowly, as though Doflamingo ever had. The shichibukai only did things on his own terms and there was little consideration given for Law's preferences in the matter. Law had been driven beyond the point of resistance, even the meager means he'd kept up at the beginning. He simply wanted this over with.

Doflamingo would have him whether he fought or resisted. In fact, he likely enjoyed things further when that was the case - it was certainly why he'd demanded Law's active participation in this little farce. Having so few tools at his disposal for the majority of his enslavement, Law had found that the greatest thing he did possess was his own attention, to be bestowed or revoked as he saw fit. It was the only thing he could control, and Doflamingo could certainly wrest it from him by force, but what the shichibukai loved more than anything was to be the center of Law's world. He often was, by simple virtue of holding all the power in their relationship.

He adjusted Law, arranging him like a doll to be positioned at will. At least he wasn't permitted to use his powers; Law was surprised that Doflamingo had adhered to that detail of their agreement. It demonstrated more restraint than he thought the shichibukai capable of. The man bit his lower lip before pressing forward slowly, guiding Law down and upon him with a subtle drag against his hips.

Law felt himself flex, the muscle tired but unflinching, despite how overstimulated and raw his nerves were. Law shifted, his spine arching as he was breached in a single smooth action that did not stop until Doflamingo was seated entirely inside. Law could not repress a short cry as bruised tissue yielded painfully, the angle sharp and targeted. He felt helpless, his muscles watery and unable to resist. Doflamingo's cock felt impossibly deep within him, and his body trembled as the shichibukai stroked over the delicate rim of his body as it spread to take all it was given.

Law knew this would be the final time they did this, and in a way, that knowledge was the only reason he was able to keep from screaming. Or from breaking down into tears; both were appropriately degrading, yet in his current frame of mind strangely appealing and appropriate. Doflamingo pressed one hand flat against Law's belly, as though he were hoping to feel his own cock moving from within once it slid home, though Law doubted such things were physically possible. Then again, the shichibukai had surprised him in more than one regard this evening, not least of which being his near-inhuman resilience. He missed Eustass' necessary bouts of napping, which came frequently and predictably. Law had regarded such needs with scorn in the past but longed for them now. It was Eustass in all of his imperfection that he missed.

Doflamingo lounged back with all the ease of a man working for a suntan. He looped an arm behind his head, a plush cushion already pillowing it. "Now then," he said, keeping himself still and waiting for Law to do the work. This had been the way they'd done it their first time together - the very first time, when Doflamingo had stripped Law's virginity away. "Fuck yourself. Do whatever feels right. There's really no way you can go wrong."

Even the words were familiar. How the man had such a memory, Law could never know. At the same time, there were things between them that he would never forget. It seemed appropriate that it would end this way. Law was no longer simply a slave or a diversion, a receptacle for Doflamingo's attention. He would become a participant, so that he could never unequivocally claim that everything Doflamingo did to him - took from him - had been against his will.

Back when he was younger, the realization had confused him, as had all the other pleasure he'd experienced as a by-product of Doflamingo's efforts. It was only with hindsight that Law realized it was all intentional.

He squirmed and winced; his tissue was bruised and sore from so much relentless attention. He braced a hand against Doflamingo's hard-muscled stomach. There was something about being in control in this way that left him even more vulnerable than before. He knew Doflamingo could - and likely would - steal everything back when he felt like it, his present generosity fleeting and quickly eclipsed by boredom. He'd been like this during their first time together, offering Law all the control in the world only to rescind once his patience evaporated.

When he was first captured, Law had been fourteen; Doflamingo waited two years before taking his virginity. During that time, he'd done everything else conceivable, sensitizing Law to another's touch while leaving his virtue pristine. Of course, such virginity was in name only, though it took many years before Law was able to fully comprehend this. Such was the power of Doflamingo's mind games.

For the right buyer, Doflamingo was willing to sell, and for this reason he kept Law intact while training him in all the necessary skills he'd need once he was sold off as a pleasure slave. To think, Law had once believed the man really would get rid of him...but it became clear with time that Doflamingo never intended to do so. He'd all but cemented such suspicions the day he'd taken Law's virginity, as losing it prior to purchase would ruin all the hard work he'd put into increasing Law's value.

Despite the depravity of Doflamingo's company, Law was terrified to leave. A new master could only be worse than what he'd experienced thus far. And so Law became complicit in his own ruination: he knew Doflamingo could never earn the price he wanted if Law's virginity was despoiled. So he coaxed and goaded his master until Doflamingo gave in; by the time of their coupling, Law had rationalized it as the completion of his training - after all, were he to be sold, his new master would have certain expectations that he would be horrified to disappoint.

So Doflamingo acquiesced to his demands, such as they were. By that point, Law imagined that he'd learned everything there was to know about his master. While that was not entirely true, it was very close to it. He'd become an expert at subverting Doflamingo's expectations, and even when he was punished for it, Law never stopped resisting in small, subtle ways. For him to actively pursue a sexual encounter with his master was quite out of character for him, and Doflamingo responded first with amusement, followed by annoyance, until he gave in entirely once he realized how committed Law was to the idea.

Law should've known to be suspicious. But back then, he was naive still - even after all that Doflamingo did to him, he never expected that worse was waiting, simply hiding just 'round the bend. As with all things, Doflamingo remained the expert, especially when it came to the manipulation of others, Law included.

It had hurt. Law had expected things to go differently, given all that Doflamingo had done to him over the years. Though he'd never penetrated him physically with his own flesh, he'd used fingers and tools. Law had thought himself ready for the real thing. Perhaps he hadn't given Doflamingo due credit where it was deserved; perhaps he hadn't really expected for his demands to be answered. When they were, Law found himself more nervous than was truly reasonable, left grappling to prove himself to the man who'd taught him everything.

Doflamingo had smiled, chuckling at the small tremors that shivered through his limbs and bones. "Poor little thing, so shy all of a sudden." He guided them together as he had in the present, with Law above him and seemingly in control, allowed to set their pace and rhythm though he hardly knew what he was doing. His attempts that first time were met with judgmental sneering; if Doflamingo couldn't control the proceedings, he would undermine Law's confidence until it faltered, which it had. The shichibukai had then assumed control, effectively breaking the boundaries they'd set at the beginning but in retrospect this was no surprise. What had begun as an exploration of his senses, a maturation and a coming of age, turned violent and unpredictable.

Presently, Law wondered at the memory, how he'd ever been surprised to begin with. Had he really expected Doflamingo to assume a backseat role at such an important crossroads? In such things, Law was dreadfully lacking in sophistication.

This coupling was undoubtedly meant to recall that time they'd shared. A beginning and now, an ending, though Law was no long so naive as to expect that things would ever be finished between them. His bruised tissues amplified every sensation until the line separating pleasure from pain was indistinguishable. Then again, with Doflamingo, that line had always been as fine as one of the man's invisible wires. Though magnified and hypersensitive, it took much longer to reach completion than Law found reasonable. Doflamingo forced him to work for his release - and Law did work; he worked every vile inch of that man until he was swollen and shivering, his climax thin and pitiful proof of the ordeal required to reach it.

Of course, Doflamingo's stamina proved differently, as it had in the beginning. Once the final sweet tremors had clenched from Law's body, the shichibukai assumed control - as though he'd ever really surrendered it at all.

But by that time Law had ceased to care. The numb void within him was ripped open wide, sucking in all the light and leaving him as cold and distant as a collapsing star.

When Law woke, it was to a tacky mouth and a blistering headache. He'd become quite dehydrated during that operation, hardly stopping for an instant once he really got going. Law hadn't realized how much he'd missed stretching his surgical muscles in all the time he'd been captive. Though that was to come to a swift end shortly….

Part of him wondered if Eustass would honor Killer's bargain. He imagined the captain could throw a very convincing fit, being left unconsulted when the agreement was made. Maybe he'd even believe it, within the confines of his own mind. Fortunately for them both, while Law did not consider Eustass a man of his word, he knew Killer was. The man had far more honor than the captain he served. His suspicious nature had been an interminable nuisance, though Law could never accuse it of being misplaced.

Law rose, feeling muzzy-headed and disoriented. His dream-memories were swiftly fading, shredded upon waking like tissue paper. Even so, Law knew he would never truly forget them. They left him feeling filthy in a way that could not be washed clean. He knew these memories would stay with him for the foreseeable future. He felt an odd, self-destructive impulse, much the same as the day prior: to peel his skin away, as though that would solve the lingering sensation of Doflamingo's touch.

It was evening, the sun not entirely set. After some brief exploration, he found a cluster of Eustass' crewmen in the facility's kitchen, where Wire had set up shop. Much to their good fortune, the previous occupants hadn't taken the time to clear out their stores of food, which were piled high with fresh produce and meat. Wire had already organized a party to raid whatever they could find of use in the facility, especially their provisions.

"We moved the ship around so it's less of a trek," Wire explained, cooking up an omelet for Law's meal. They would be grounded while the captain recovered, so it made sense. "Had to lay the lines up the cliffs a second time, so that was a total bitch. There's this type of nesting bird on this side of the island, they look nice enough but just wait until you're climbing up past them. They go fucking nuts."

"Was anyone injured?"

"No, they're not aggressive. Just loud as fuck, you wouldn't believe it. And these cliffs are so high it goes caterwauling off the sides and onto the next island…." his voice trailed off in wordless exasperation and he rolled his eyes. "Maybe they're good eating. I'm pretty sure we'll find out."

Law had some coffee and ate. By the time he finished, night had fallen and things were quiet. Wire did not mention the captain's status, and Law didn't ask. He'd make his way there soon enough. He was still obliged to ensure the captain survived a surgery like that, though he did not expect complications.

Predictably, the man was still unconscious when Law checked on him. According to Killer, who stood guard at his captain's bedside, Eustass had not woken since Law finished. If that was the result of the morphine or simply his body healing, Law could not say. Perhaps it was the result of something sinister; Law did not discount the notion that paralytics or other poisons had been administered in order to control the captain. He didn't imagine Eustass made for a cooperative captive.

Loyal to a fault, Killer had parked himself in a chair and would not leave Eustass' side. He read a novel to pass the time, which he set aside while Law performed his examination. He'd found a stethoscope earlier, and gave the captain's breathing and heart rate a listen before inspecting the dressed wounds. Eustass appeared to be fine overall, just recovering. There was little else to be done at this point beyond careful monitoring, both of his vitals and to ensure that no infection took hold. Law already had him on a prophylactic dose of antibiotics.

He asked, almost absently, "Did they ever find any sign of his arm?"


"Hm." Law wasn't surprised. It was likely shipped away with the rest of the surgeons and their specimens in advanced of their arrival. Law wondered what would come of the arm - if they would indeed pare away the flesh so that the bone itself could be weaponized. Maybe Eustass would inevitably be undone by his own tissue, once it was in the hands of another. That would be an ironic fate. Then again, this did not need to be a lasting tragedy - if Law was feeling generous, he could always attach a new arm in place of what'd been lost.

But Law was feeling far from generous.

Besides, he somehow doubted that Eustass would want another's flesh grafted onto his own. The captain's pride would probably sneer at Law's offer. Eustass would perform twice the feats he'd once done with two arms, now that he was crippled and thought of as easy prey. By this time next year, Law expected his face to be plastered across the New World with bounties twice as high as those he already commanded.

Law found himself smiling, and quickly schooled his face into nothingness. This fondness for Eustass had to end. It was undeserved and unearned, a simple by-product of their long months together. Law expected it to be dead already now that he was free - but such freedom still felt vague and nebulous; a theory in concept rather than reality. He'd only feel truly free once he was standing on the deck of his own vessel, sailing away from Eustass and his crew. He longed to put this vile chapter in his life to rest, to reclaim his lost title and bounty, as dangerous a captain as Eustass himself.

It would be soon; he simply had to be patient for now. He needed to contact Penguin, to learn of their whereabouts. There was an inter-ship den-den mushi on Eustass' vessel; Law had used it once before. He shook his head, still feeling oddly dissociated - the result, undoubtedly, of such a long and grueling operation at the end of such an ordeal. He resumed his examination, concentrating on any secondary signs of tampering Eustass might only now be exhibiting. Law's fears that the Marines who'd taken his arm had somehow taken more, or done more, still lingered even in the absence of such evidence. It was an odd, protective urge that Law could not deny.

In the end, he found nothing awry. More likely than not, the arm had been delivered to Doflamingo, his trophy to commemorate this victory.

"When are you planning to tell him?" Killer asked, stirring Law from his thoughts.

"I beg pardon?" If he meant the deal that had been arranged for his freedom, Law would share those details immediately, and said so.

"I meant the other thing. With Doflamingo." Killer chose his words with coy evasiveness, as though he suddenly hesitated in calling Law a whore.

"I will not be telling him that. And I would appreciate if you did me the courtesy of keeping things discreet."

"You have to tell him. He'll want to know."

"He may want to know," Law acknowledged. "But I have reservations over what he will do with such information." Eustass would likely fly into an irrational, reactive fury, striking out against Doflamingo in some wild and poorly thought-through scheme that would inevitably end in his destruction. In putting things in those terms...Law wondered anew why he did not share the details.

"You're not being fair keeping quiet on this one - "

"On the contrary, I am being more than fair. The last thing I need right now is additional work in patching this fool up once he's chosen a fight he cannot hope to win."

"Give him some credit. After he loses a fight is one of the few times when he'll actually sit back and re-think things. Then he'll go after the bastard twice as smart. He's not gonna go nuts defending your honor - that's not why you should tell him." Killer gave a gusty sigh, as though Law were being unreasonable. Perhaps he was, but given what he'd sacrificed in Eustass' name, he was allowed to call the shots. If he didn't want Eustass to know, he would not.

Killer continued in his same optimistic, rose-colored way, "All I'm saying is you should be the one to tell him. I don't want him finding out from anybody else."

"Who would tell him other than you or myself?" Law wanted to die with this secret clenched tightly between his teeth.

"Doflamingo, for one. Don't be an idiot and give him that; he'll only use it against you."

Law wondered if the man had a point. In the end, his pride prevailed - he would keep his secrets, and fortunately for him, he trusted that Killer would as well. It was a bitter victory, but he preferred things this way. If Eustass learned the truth, he'd use it as an excuse to declare war on Doflamingo, and Law was not about to be once-again reduced to some prize for them to fight over. His actions in this matter were private. Law would not allow such a secret to be spread across the New World for everyone to gawk at. He'd already been humiliated by this experience enough as it was.

Who knew; given his luck, Eustass and Doflamingo would go to war with each other anyway, secrets be damned. They were men who needed little reason to fight.

Law left Killer to his vigil, walking the facility's halls idly to learn its layout. It'd all been a blur the night before, as they'd raced through, searching for the captain. Now that Law had time to spend properly investigating, he found a number of rooms that'd likely been the private quarters for the research specialists heading up this base. There were signs of rapid evacuation here just as there were throughout the building, but they hadn't taken everything. Law felt a welcome sense of purpose and direction, settling in to leaf through journals, files, and reports at his own pace. As he suspected, most of the documents left behind were years old; he'd already learned these secrets. He compiled two stacks, one housing new information and the other old.

It wasn't until dawn was breaking that Law came up for air. While he'd learned little that he did not already suspect, many of the reports he read drew the picture with increasing detail. Things were finally beginning to take shape. For the first time, he could grasp the extent of Doflamingo's operation, how he'd provided private funding from his seat of power in Dressrosa, a country whose throne he'd seized some years previous. When Law first heard the news of that, he thought little of it - yet another grandiose prize for the man who wanted everything. Perhaps Doflamingo thought himself a king, who knew - it was no more megalomaniacal a claim than Law had grown to expect.

With the country's throne granting him a certain legitimacy, Doflamingo had begun to develop an above-board persona to compliment his underworld dealings. Not content to be a shichibukai and the largest slave trader in the Grand Line, he now wanted respect - from the Marines and World Government, perhaps even the Tenryuubito themselves. If Doflamingo could monopolize the production and weaponization of devil's fruit, he would have all of that and be a power in the New World to be reckoned with. Not even the Four Emperors would dare challenge him once they were fully dependent on his supply of devil's fruits and the powers they promised.

And that left every devil's fruit user in the New World in the path of Doflamingo's ambition. They would be like grain harvested to ensure a ruler's power. Doflamingo already had a vast organization at his command; it infiltrated the Marines themselves, who neither questioned the ethics behind their own research nor where the money to fund such projects came from. They were complicit in this conspiracy, and if Law knew his former master at all, he knew that Doflamingo would ensure there was no way the Marines could end this partnership without suffering consequences.

Then again, in Law's experience, it wasn't like the Marines were an organization frequently troubled by the ethical implications of their actions. Oh, there were a few men who still believed in the righteousness of their fight, who believed in order and justice. But they were rarities; more often than not, the Marines attracted a certain sort of person primarily interested in the authority and power their position provided. Such men were easily corrupted by people like Doflamingo.

Law fell asleep, waking in the afternoon. He was annoyed at how badly his internal clock was thrown off its rhythm. But with good daylight came his first opportunity to revisit the ship for its den-den mushi; as Wire mentioned, the newly-laid ropes were a challenge to navigate amongst the numerous and surprisingly large birds, who cackled and hissed at every inch of Law's progress. Perhaps the facility had been positioned on this side of the island to make use of the birds' natural nesting habitat; there would be no stealthy surprise assaults on their watch.

The ship was mainly empty, with a skeleton crew keeping guard. Law went ignored, his presence on the ship normal. He wondered what they would do had they known that he was no longer a member of Eustass' crew - as though he'd ever truly been. It was a reality he himself was still grappling with.

It took only a short time to get Penguin on the line. The submarine was docked at an island neighboring Calico, several days' voyage behind. "We actually picked up a visitor," Penguin reported.


"Says she knows you. We stopped here just to get a fix on Calico itself, and she came right up to me. Said she'd been waiting."

"That sounds familiar." Law knew he was speaking of Garnet.

Penguin confirmed his suspicions in short order, "She had the new vivre card for us. We never made it to Calico proper; the city's been destroyed - totally burnt out, sounds like a warship came in and shot the place up from the harbour. Garnet said she had a premonition of it happening once you'd left - though she said you'd gone in search of Captain Eustass, and I know that can't be right."

"Things have taken quite the turn for the unexpected, I'll admit. I'm at a Marine research facility seven days' sailing from where I think you are - though it could be more than that, I'm not sure."

"Another research base? Really figured you'd've learned by now."

"Well." Law paused, wetting dry lips. Putting this into words felt strange. "This time it was quite worth it. I have it on good authority that if you are able to rendezvous with us, I can leave immediately. No one will come after us - at least not from Eustass' crew."

He gave Penguin a brief, if sanitized, report. It highlighted Eustass' capture and their finding of him; Law left out Doflamingo's involvement entirely. He wasn't quite sure how to tell Penguin about that. Perhaps it would be easier in person. Of all the people who knew him, Penguin would understand what that bargain had truly cost.

Law wondered if he'd share that detail with his friend at all, even after they were reunited. He'd much prefer it all went into the grave with him, a tawdry little secret that would never seem quite real so long as Law could keep it hidden. The fewer people who knew simply meant the more secret it would remain, until it would all seem like an odd, upsetting dream - the product of his current experience and past history.

But as Killer mentioned, that all depended on Doflamingo himself keeping things under wraps. Law had little hope of that being the case. Before he could stop it, the rumor would be circulating throughout the New World. Instead of his former moniker, Law would be rechristened - something with 'whore' or 'slut' in its title would fit appropriately enough.

Or perhaps that was simply another nightmare he would fear experiencing but which would never come to pass. Doflamingo held the future entirely in his hands - Law wondered if all of this weren't playing out precisely as he envisioned. Either way, it was a concern for another day. "Eustass may not agree with the arrangement I struck for my freedom...but I trust his first mate will keep his word. We've never gotten along well and I know he's quite ready to be rid of me. He at least knows that Eustass will never let me go of his own accord."

"Are you even satisfied with things this way?"

Law gave a short chuckle, "No. But I haven't many choices right now. Once I'm free and away from him, all bets are off and Eustass' life will be up for the claiming. Perhaps then I'll have my satisfaction." By agreeing to save Eustass' life and ensure his survival, Law had made it effectively impossible to have any sort of fulfilling revenge. The emptiness from before still lingered inside him, effectively neutering even his most outraged and vengeful impulses, but Law could feel them returning, lurking like a black and violent thundercloud on the horizon. "What direction does Garnet's new vivre card indicate?"

Penguin told him and Law used the onboard map to identify their relative positions. He relayed the coordinates and Penguin said they would set sail that very day. Fortunately, the submarine would travel undetected; Law did not doubt Doflamingo was still heavily patrolling the area. A sentimental part of himself grieved the loss of Calico. It was no doubt the victim of Doflamingo's jealousy, some collateral damage inflicted solely as retribution. Its message was clear: no aid nor shelter would be given to Eustass Kid and his crew without the promise of Doflamingo's wrath.

Of all the places they'd been thus far, Law had enjoyed Calico the most. The great nothingness inside prevented him from feeling much of anything; instead, all he had was that same conspicuous absence of emotion. The destruction of a city and all its people for petty reasons was always sad, but Law could not bring himself to feel anything in the slightest - not anger, nor outrage. The most he could muster was a sense of grief at the loss, and that felt inadequate and superficial. He tried to remember what the city had been like as though he had an obligation to it, but it only brought back the memory of drinking with Eustass - that single night where things between them became disarmingly easy and familiar. And before, that same day - when Eustass had given himself up as though he trusted Law more than anything….

Law found it deeply reassuring that more than anything, the harder part of himself - the wounded, hateful part - rejoiced in the city's destruction. Law wanted to erase his memories of it just as cleanly.

Before they said goodbye, Law had a brief chat with each of his crewmen as they were available. It seemed like ages since he'd seen them in person. Unlike his previous conversations, there was no reason to end this call so quickly: he was a free man, welcome to do what he pleased. There was no reason to behave as though he were doing anything wrong, though he still felt strangely nervous, as though Killer could walk in at any moment and catch him in the act. It would take time before Law broke all these old habits. As with his first enslavement, it would take just as long to relearn what it meant to truly be free.

He was just wrapping things up when a familiar voice came on the line. It was Garnet. Law was unexpectedly pleased, "I never thought I'd hear from you after we last parted."

"A shame." Her tone was cross. "You've destroyed my home, Trafalgar Law. I'm rather unhappy with you."

"I don't quite think you can blame me for that."

"Oh no? If you'd never commissioned my services, Calico would still be standing."

"Then you are responsible just as much as I am." He smiled, though she would not see it. "Besides, I thought you could predict the future. Apparently, this all came too late."

"I knew you were bad luck before you ever walked over my threshold. It follows you around like a parasitic shadow."

"Do not confuse poor luck with evil men. There is little one may do against the former, while you can hardly say the same for the latter."

"I did an in-depth reading for you once you'd gone; it was what alerted me to the impending disaster. It was not the only thing of note that I found, though you've still not faced even my most general impression of your future."

He hoped she was not about to share that unwelcome prediction with him now. He remembered that card, the future he refused to face. What did he truly fear that had not already come to pass? Only the confirmation of what he already suspected, that Eustass had somehow infiltrated him to the very core. Her prediction for his present was accurate enough: the Tower and its inevitable fall; Law had felt himself being battered by crumbling masonry ever since he'd left her shop the very first time. "Blissful ignorance is something quite hard to come by. I've learned to appreciate its value."

There was a long silence on the other end of the line. "I worry for you. That you would run from the possibility of happiness so quickly, as though you do not believe you deserve it - "

"Some people are most happy when they're entirely miserable."

"But that is not you."

Law was growing irritated; Garnet always liked to think she knew more than she reasonably could. "And you hardly know me at all, my lady. Despite what your cards might tell you. Now, I must wish you good-bye; I trust my crewmates will take you anywhere you need to go."

He stewed for a long moment while the receiver was shuffled back to Penguin. How did Garnet manage to sour every mood he was in so quickly? He was resentful at the mere reminder of that prediction. He could already anticipate what it promised, though if it was a future shared by Eustass he wanted no part of it.

Penguin came back on, "She's quite the character. Bet she drives you nuts, eh?"

"You cannot imagine."

"Well, we'll drop her off on our way if it works out. She's keeping Bepo and Shachi entertained."

Law smiled; at least some people would appreciate her gifts for the theatrical. "How did you find her?"

"She found us," Penguin said, and gave a short laugh. "She was practically waiting on the dock as we arrived. Said she knew you and had pressing information - mostly about the Calico business."

"Mostly?" Law wasn't sure if he liked what she might divulge.

"Well, that and this foreboding impending doom she says you're carrying around in your back pocket."

"Oh, she loves that. Hasn't stopped harping on about it ever since I first walked into her shop."

"Don't worry, I think she sees doom and gloom in everyone's future, or maybe it's just Shachi's love life that's deserving of such special treatment."

It was somewhat reassuring that even amongst people eager to believe that she had a gift, Garnet maintained a predilection for delivering horrible news. Then again, what could one expect from a glorified con artist...he tried to put it out of his mind; Penguin estimated their arrival would not be for several days. They said goodbye and Law was left feeling adrift and aimless; he found a new set of clothes and had a shower before climbing back up to the island's flat surface.

Around him, there were three other pillar-islands in view, each topped by a thicket of greenery. Some were so narrow that it was pointless to scale them, though they'd passed through a number of larger islands in their search for Eustass the day before. Law made it a priority to find a map of their local surroundings; he worried that there could be other Marine outposts nearby. Something about this entire scenario left him with a lingering suspicion...he did not trust Doflamingo to let them escape without a fight. Not after learning about the destruction of Calico, which was done as a simple matter of petty retribution.

They were grounded in the interim while Eustass healed. Moving him would be a challenge given the terrain - it would be better to wait until he was well enough to scale those ropes himself. During that time, who knew what Doflamingo could get up to; he'd already destroyed a city. Law was certain they would be in the man's crosshairs before long. They wouldn't be safe until they could make a clean getaway, leaving all of this behind them...Law wondered if the shichibukai had gone after Calico first because he'd known they would be left stranded with an unmoveable, wounded captain.

It was pointless to speculate. Law spent the remainder of the day scouting their surroundings from one of the tall guard towers. It came equipped with a long-range telescope which provided a more comprehensive view of the archipelago. While none of Eustass' crewmen who manned these towers had seen any suspicious activity, Law remained unsatisfied. Perhaps it was simply too early to expect Doflamingo's attack.

He left the lookouts to their observations and returned to the facility, feeling suddenly exhausted. Law found his previous bunk and slept, not rising until his stomach woke him with sour protests. By that time, it was early morning. Law found his own meal and set back to work investigating the abandoned research. A map of the region showed innumerable islands, some too small to be worth settling while others boasted ancient ruins. Law longed to explore them all. The island chain was like a sweeping blade with their current position at the center of the sword's broad tip. Law wondered if the submarine would be able to navigate below the surface. The water seemed quite shallow, but that could always just be a trick of the light. He selected a meeting place and wrote down coordinates to share with Penguin when next they spoke, a sense of impatience setting fire to Law's nerves and leaving him restless.

He knew he should check on Eustass, but did not want to. The captain would be awake by now. Law wondered if Killer would deliver the news or if he himself was expected to do so. Once upon a time, Law would've reveled in the task, to see Eustass' face crumble as he realized he'd finally lost their little game. Now, however...Law did not know what to expect. He wasn't sure if he'd be able to take pleasure in breaking the captain's heart. It wasn't ego that told him this would surely be the case. Eustass had stated his feelings in no uncertain terms. He'd suffered grievous injury as a result of how he felt.

Law wanted to keep on hating him, but even that seemed to require more effort than he could muster. He wondered if he would ever feel normal again, but even what he considered normal seemed bizarre in retrospect.

When Kid first awoke, it wasn't a true waking - he felt thawed, as though he were encased in ice or amber which was slowly melting around him. It came with a certain sense of disorientation, but he was oddly okay with that. Everything and its strangeness was quickly accepted, mainly because his brain was running on only a fifth of the power it normally required. Consciousness was less important; the only things that mattered were the basic functions that would keep his body alive and viable: breathing and respiring, the slow thud of his heart in his chest. Little else penetrated the heavy fog that'd settled into his brain, muting even his most basic senses.

He couldn't open his eyes, but there was a harsh external light that he could sense even with the lids shut. His body felt swaddled in a thick blanket. Everything registered on a muted tone, as though the typical symphony of his senses was pitched unexpectedly into a lower octave. His ears worked a little better: there was a harsh scurrying in the background, almost like a fighting nest of rats. As he lay, unmoving and unmovable, those sounds began to clarify into voices:

"What about this one?"

"Leave him on life support."

"Why? Dangerous to leave someone like him alive."

"And if he dies, my specimen goes as well. Rather prefer to avoid that after all the trouble it's taken to get it." There was a pause, a shuffling sound in the periphery. "Besides, orders from the top. This one lives."

"And yet somehow, we're the ones running off like frightened sheep."

"Don't question it unless you want some real trouble."

Kid concentrated on his breathing and became distracted to everything else around him. It felt very relaxing, almost soothing, simply to breathe. It was better to focus on that than the pain which was slowly leaking into the edges of his perception: it seemed to come from all around, as though the blanket he'd previously been wrapped in cozily were in reality made of barbed wire.

In his surroundings, a third voice interrupted: "Why isn't this one ready to move out?"

"It's the one staying."

"But you still need to close him up, right?"

"That is not my problem. He'll live if he gets lucky; after that, I don't care."

"If he dies, Franklin's arm'll be toast. You really wanna handle that?"

"Like I said," one of the original voices repeated. "Not my problem."

A figure stood over him. Kid could tell by the way the light changed. They fitted a mask over his face and cool air buffed against his skin; breathing again, it was so reassuring in its simplicity. He felt the pain begin to recede and with the last few sparks of awareness could tell that the gas they were feeding him was drugged. It didn't bother him as much as he knew it should've, his rational impulses of self-preservation dulling along with everything else.

A person's hands, cool to the touch, coasted from his shoulder all the way down until the sensation ended abruptly - because his arm ended abruptly - because his arm was mostly gone -

Kid came back to consciousness like a train suffering a catastrophic derailment. He sucked in twin lungfuls of air and choked, coughing. Breathing suddenly seemed much more challenging than it had been in his dream; it was also less pleasant, tearing through a raw throat in a way that signified that this was undoubtedly reality. No peaceful dreams to be found here. If all Kid had to worry about was the pain of ordinary consciousness, that'd be okay, but he knew instinctively that something was very, very wrong.

Before he could do a full-body assessment, Killer was hovering over him, cushioning his head with a pillow so he could sit up enough to drink. Kid powered through two cupfulls of water before choking a second time, and he pushed the glass away, sputtering. He used his right hand to stabilize himself because things felt quite unbalanced -

And that was when Kid realized what exactly was wrong. A thick, dull ache which seemed like it would never lose its edge had settled into his left side, culminating in his shoulder. The very bones themselves felt bruised and injured. Kid stared at his truncated limb, uncomprehending.

"Hey," Killer said, distracting him. "Keep drinking if you can, okay?"

It seemed like a very inadequate thing to say in the face of what had happened. "My arm - "

"I know." Killer shook his head; it was masked but Kid could feel the sorrow in his body language. "We got here too late."

A rush of hopeless despair overtook him and Kid's eyes stung with hot tears. He saw no reason to keep them restrained; none of it seemed to matter. Killer moved around to his side where several bags were hanging off a pole, thin strips of tubing connecting the solutions inside to a port in Kid's remaining arm. He watched in hollow shock as Killer fiddled with the mechanism controlling fluid drip, increasing one until its flow was almost a rapid stream. Moments later he could feel the affect as lethargy settled into his muscles, leaving him lax and boneless. That must've been the drugs; Kid's thoughts felt dreamy and untethered, and he listened docilely as Killer explained what had happened. Only about a third of it really sunk in, and when Killer asked if he was paying attention, Kid made him repeat the important parts.

Not long after that, he fell asleep. In actuality, he hoped that he was in fact waking - as though this harsh and painful reality were merely a bad dream that could be escaped just by wishing hard enough; he would lurch awake any moment now and find that his arm was still right where it should've been.

But that didn't happen. When he did come around again, it was much later and his surroundings had not changed. His arm was still gone. He could feel its fingers as tangibly as if they could reach up and touch his nose. Killer had said something about it being amputated as part of some sick investigation into how his devil's fruit worked, which meant it was probably off some place far away. Kid wondered if he could indeed feel that missing piece of himself, now detached, like a lost duckling calling for its

Even if he found his arm, it would never be the same. Some things were irrevocable, and he'd seen others lose a finger or a limb; it was always somehow treated as just another unavoidable tragedy in life. He longed for that detached perspective, an ability to reconcile his now-broken body with the future he wanted to live. Kid had some pretty grand dreams for his life and not a one of them included doing things one-handed.

Beyond that, though, the second realization was sinking in: Killer had told him earlier about Law's bargain, but the concept itself had seemed so absurd that his brain had hardly even blipped once it encounter that speed bump. It all sounded like some sick hallucination his drug-saturated mind had cooked up, some added insult to this grievous injury. Why would Law even suggest such an exchange? Kid had been longing to see him ever since his capture but the man had yet to visit him. Killer mentioned that he'd been by earlier in the day to evaluate his recovery but that was it.

And just that was enough to leave Kid feeling crushed, like a moth with its wings abruptly clipped, leaving him to flop around uselessly, a pathetic cripple in every sense of the word. Maybe his deformity was really so grotesque that Law had no use for him now that he was permanently damaged. He lay in silence, dazed by the narcotic effects of the pain killers. Everything seemed much too difficult to conquer so Kid surrendered without a fight, slipping back into his dreams where he still had all four limbs - and Law, who would never leave him.

It was three days after he'd first come around when he finally saw Law. Apparently, the doctor had been stopping by routinely, just at times when Kid was unconscious. Kid wondered if this was intentional, but he'd taken to sleeping fourteen hours out of any given day, so it wasn't so surprising. He was still coping, poorly, with the realization that Law wanted little or nothing to do with him. It was a greater loss than that of his arm, a separation for reasons which he could not fathom.

Kid was still under a heavy dose of morphine, which made him less than useless for much other than lying flat on his back. Even that was beginning to grow painful, as his muscles cramped from being kept in the same position for so long. He'd been moved to a more comfortable recovery suite, but after a while, even that became tiresome. He needed to get up and moving if only for the circulation it'd provide, but the wounds to his chest and abdomen prevented anything too rambunctious. But for the first time since waking, Kid was actually starting to feel a little more like a human than a zombie.

Killer was fetching him some food; he'd eaten simple stuff each day but nothing of substance, which he finally felt ready for. He was just growing impatient, having risen into a sitting position so he could dangle both legs off the edge of his bed, when Law came through the door. He said nothing and simply approached; for his part, Kid felt as though he couldn't say anything - his voice died in his throat.

Law took a stethoscope from around his neck and pressed its cold receiver against Kid's chest, every move clinical and precise. He said nothing, simply listening, as though Kid were a mannequin who'd mysteriously come to life. He didn't even spare a glance at Kid's face until Kid curled his fingers around one wrist. "Hey."

Law's eyes narrowed and he drew his hand away swiftly. "The verdict is, you'll live. I haven't decided if it's good or bad news."

"Really?" Kid licked dry lips, his voice gravelly from disuse. "Anybody ever tell you your bedside manner is shit?"

"Often," Law said, smirking dryly. It was an expression Kid hadn't seen for a while. "It hasn't injured my feelings, as you can see."

"Killer said the reason I'm gonna live is thanks to you."

"For better or worse, yes. You were dying. Please believe me when I say I wanted nothing more than to stand by and watch it happen, but more level heads prevailed."

He said everything in a cooly dispassionate way, as though he really meant it. Kid felt that same fissure that'd opened up inside him when he'd first awoken tear a little deeper. He didn't like hearing the sort of hate and resentment Law held in his voice.

Kid felt at a loss for words, but Law continued: "So here you are, now, in one piece thanks to me. And here I am. Free of you, finally."

"You make it sound like that actually means something." Or at least like it meant more than he felt it did, as though Law saw some special significance that Kid was missing.

"It means exactly what it sounds like. Your life for the return of mine." Law sat beside him on the edge of Kid's bed. There was a smile quirking his lips, and it was gloating. "I will never have to suffer from your contemptible presence again."

"Big words," Kid muttered, suddenly irritated. His nerves felt brittle, like glass cracking along its edges. The vibe coming off of Law was cruel, as though he'd waited years to viciously tear into Kid and was pleased to finally have the opportunity. "Y'know, I'm really not your enemy here. How long's it been since I really was, huh?"

"That is all a matter of perspective. A perspective which has become quite warped with time, I'm afraid."

"Don't you think there're bigger, badder guys out there for you to throw your hate at?"

"If you believe I don't have enough hate for you all, you're terribly wrong, I'm afraid."

For some reason, the response didn't surprise Kid. He knew Law held all that hate like a black hole inside him - enough to swallow Kid, Doflamingo, and the rest of the world if Law wanted.

Then again, Kid had never backed down from a challenge and wasn't about to start now; Law should've known that. "Not to bring you back down to earth or anything, but I don't remember really making that deal."

"And so you consider it invalid as a result? Let me put it plainly, Eustass: if you don't cooperate, I will kill you now. I could have done so earlier and you're in pathetic condition to stop me from trying again."

Law's eyes were shining with eager promise; there was no playfulness to his words - he really meant them. On some level, Kid just didn't get it: how could he still feel that way after everything that'd happened? The realization made Kid feel nauseated and he shut his eyes, but not even that could stop the sudden upwelling inside him. It felt as though a dam had burst and there was nothing he could do to stop his injured heart from pouring out all at once, in a rush that left his throat tight and painful as though he were breathing through a gut-wound. Somehow, he knew that everything Law said was true; it really was over, and Kid had been so weak and frail that he'd let it happen without a fight. The most valuable thing in his life was slipping through his fingers and Kid was helpless to stop it….

Before, back on Calico, he'd felt something easing into the space between them, sliding along the edges while Kid wasn't looking. A sense of comfortableness had existed between them, something approaching normal; something equal. Like a rare bloom, it had developed too late; events were set in motion to ensure that nothing could ever mature between them. Kid felt the loss acutely, the death of what could've been. It wasn't like him to cry over things he couldn't change, but this wasn't like that - he could change this, he could change everything if he were only given the chance. But Law seemed obstinately unwilling to do that, and as a result, Kid found his eyes wet and rheumy and he did not bother to hide it. The sudden weight of reality was crashing down upon him, hard, leaving him feeling even worse than before. Forget his arm, it seemed like a minor sacrifice compared to losing Law.

Kid made to brush his eyes clear but only one hand responded to his commands. It was a familiar annoyance by now. He felt more worthless than the lowest worm crawling around in the muck. Beside him, Law cocked his head to one side, watching him thoughtfully. "You seem surprised."

"I thought - " Kid tried to put that indescribable feeling of belonging into words. "Something had changed. I got used to you and me, and - whatever this is."

"'Whatever this is,'" Law scoffed. "That right there is the difference between you and I. You forgot how this all got started." His voice turned harsh, "But I - I never forgot."

Law's anger was held in check, but just barely. It was straining to get out, and here Kid was, the target of all of that rage and practically helpless to boot. Not his best situation. Underneath it all - the lingering physical pain, his despair as it fought with his desire - was a sick longing that'd taken up residence right beneath his breastbone. He'd felt it once before, back when Law had almost died through his own stupid carelessness: Kid was left wanting to take it all back, to regain what was now undoubtedly lost forever.

After all, Law was right: this was never supposed to have happened. Kid couldn't remember when it had, and wanted to go back to the very moment something inside him had given way. He wondered if he really wanted to change it, because the little time they'd had together after that indescribable change was better than anything else that'd come before. He felt overwhelmed by the unfairness of it all, to have things just slip away without being given the chance to fight to keep it. Everything important seemed to have happened while he was captured or incapacitated, the world spinning steadily while Kid remained stuck in place like a hamster on a wheel. If he'd been given the chance, he could've found some way to solve things between them that would've kept Law from hating him - there had to be a way; Kid was unwilling to concede this fight.

But all of this implied that Law would want him to fight to keep or save things. Kid realized with sudden clarity that despite how deeply and strongly he felt, Law did not share those sentiments. He never had. Perhaps his resentment had lessened over time; maybe he no longer hated Kid outright. But he hated what Kid had done to him. Kid was smart enough to know that he had every right to that anger. By virtue of his own actions, Kid knew he was worthy of all the hatred and resentment Law had built up, silently, while serving as his property.

It was just that...it had been weeks since Kid really thought of things in those terms. He hadn't really seen Law as a slave or a diversion since they'd first set out in the New World - it seemed like ages ago. For a very long time, Law had just been another addition to his crew - a dangerous addition, full of rage and fury, but loyal all the same. But unlike the rest of his nakama, Law's loyalty was something literally bought and paid for. As he demonstrated now, such gifts would never willingly be given it to Kid. After all, he'd done nothing to earn them.

The reality of the situation felt crushing, as though the ceiling had fallen in and pinned him to this uncomfortable metal bed. Kid wanted to be alone so he could lick his wounds in peace. He didn't want Law to see him in tears, and he was practically there already. Maybe Law wanted to see him that way - broken and defeated, his master finally earning what he'd long deserved.

But instead of gloating, Law simply rose. "I will be leaving your company as soon as my nakama arrive. It will be several days. I'll monitor your recovery, but that is all."

"All of what?"

"All that you get," Law shrugged before standing. "I do not belong to you anymore. Take these off, now."

He held out his wrists, still bearing the gold bracelets Kid had fitted him with. A little reminder of what they once had. He often wondered why they remained, "You take them off. You could've done that this whole time."

His words earned a slight smile, one that didn't touch Law's eyes. "Whatever do you mean by that?"

"They're not kairoseki. You could cut through them with a knife, same as you cut through anything else. Or - " He was interrupted by a bout of coughing that left him gasping from sharp pains in his sides. Law helped him lie back down, guiding his mouth to the lip of a glass, its water cool. Kid wondered why the doctor even bothered, but perhaps that was explanation enough: he was a doctor, and Kid was his patient.

But that was all they were to each other. The truth made Kid's heart ache, as though it were being torn loose in his chest.

He cleared his throat with a guttural rumble, "You could've been rid of those all the way back on that volcanic island. I remember you cutting your hand at the wrist - you could've taken both of those bracelets right off with nothing to stop you."

To a certain extent, he'd realized all of this ages ago. He wanted to believe Law had left those bracelets in place because they were Kid's mark, a sign of his protection and favor. Proof that he'd been claimed, and that all others could kindly fuck off. A romantic notion - a shame then, that it couldn't be further from the truth. In Law's mind, they represented something much different, being quite literal shackles keeping him bound to Kid against his will. Kid had never offered to take them off because if he had, Law would've turned his back and left. As anger retreated, despair was settling in; Kid knew it would be his constant companion in Law's place.

"So you are more observant than you look. It's always such a surprise to me...but if I were to remove them, it would mean very little," Law said. "After all, you could simply put them back where they belonged whenever you wished."

"So you admit that's where they belong?" Kid asked this hopefully, but received only a bitter scowl in return.

"Do not make light of this, Eustass. I will not be mocked, not after everything."

"I wasn't making fun," Kid said, though his voice held the edge of guilty shame. He knew it was too early to hope for things to return to what they once were. Kid couldn't just pretend for things to be normal again. And yet he foolishly wished that were possible, in a petulant way - more evidence that at heart, the world really was a shitty place. A spiteful, childish part of himself wanted to leave those shackles in place against Law's wishes, to be as petty as possible and ignore even his simplest requests. But then the same raw sadness rose up inside him and Kid knew that in the deep corners of himself, he didn't want Law's hatred or resentment. Not anymore - maybe never really from the start.

Was this was what Law had turned him into? Something soft and pathetic, chasing after his ankles and begging for him to come back? The idea was galvanizing enough that Kid took both of Law's hands in his own, concentrating. His abilities were slow to focus but once he found them, he split the metal down the middle until each bracelet fell to the floor. They rang with sharp twin clangs, the sound somehow finalizing the deal. Kid knew he could fix them later, but wondered if he would want to.

The skin on Law's now-bare wrists had lost its color, pale compared to the rest. Kid liked that in some small way: the past couldn't be erased so cleanly and quickly after all. But Law only nodded once before turning; he walked out the door and it felt very final in a way Kid didn't like one bit. He felt profoundly alone - and worse, like total shit in every conceivable way. All he felt capable of was lying flat out on his back, staring at the ceiling while his body screamed and his heart grieved.

How could things have turned out like this? How did he manage to wake - when he'd never expected to do so in the first place - to such a disastrous inversion of his reality? His left side ached, the pain localized in his shoulder and traveling downwards. Though it truncated abruptly, Kid could feel his fingers as though they were still attached, his brain not comprehending the horrible truth. Like when he'd first come around, he wished he could go back to sleep so that he might wake from this nightmare to find his arm restored...to find Law returned to his side.

It was a pleasant fantasy. But even at his worst, Kid knew that was all it was. Above him, the ceiling trembled and blurred and his chest felt tight, as though each breath had to fight its way in. His throat hurt and before he knew it, he was crying full on, like he hadn't cried in years - like a child would cry once finally confronted with all the unfairness in the world.

That was how Killer found him a few minutes later, sobbing in his bed uncontrollably like the world really were coming to an end. Killer came with food, some savory-smelling soup that Kid had no appetite for.

Part of him wished that Law had removed some vital thing from inside of him when he'd been operating, something that would render Kid helpless in its absence. He needed something to blame for all the hurt he'd been left alone with.

"Hey, hey," Killer said gently. He propped Kid up with a few extra pillows, wiping his face with a damp cloth. He passed over a handkerchief, though Kid hardly knew what to do with it. Everything seemed futile. Even his hands were shaking - or simply, his hand was shaking. There was only the one of them left anymore, a fact that made the tears rise up a second time. He'd hardly mourned the loss of his own flesh and now it was all coming out at once, a violent catharsis. "This'll be okay. I know it hurts right now, but...with time, it'll get better."

Was that really supposed to help? Kid had to wonder, left without a voice as it was stolen from him by sobs. His throat felt raw, as though each wracking howl had to claw its way out. No matter what Killer said, Kid very much doubted it would ever really be okay. Maybe the hurt would dull with time but the wound would remain, scarred over and tender underneath. He'd wear the evidence of this defeat forever, in the form of his severed arm - a constant reminder of his own colossal failure. Not only had Doflamingo disgraced him entirely, he'd taken the one thing from him that Kid loved more than his own life. There didn't seem to be a point in fighting anymore. In all senses of the word, Doflamingo had won - both this battle, if not the war.

But as Killer fussed over him, Kid realized that wasn't entirely true - though Law was gone, his nakama remained. Kid had his life, his friends, his ship - though without Law, Kid struggled to see the value in all the wealth he possessed. That things could be worse was hardly a consolation. After all, even if Law despised him, it was a reaction that was not unearned. Kid would cop to that. He'd never shied away from being as awful as everyone accused him of; it seemed like a poor time to start. But this was an awful he could feel no pride in being. On some level, he'd always known what he was doing with Law was wrong, but he'd been unable to stop because that would mean giving Law up for good. It seemed impossible, but Kid wondered if there was anything he could do to possibly repay the debt he owed.

"D'you," Kid asked, and hiccupped. He felt light-headed and dizzy, as though he'd been hyperventilating. "D'you ever think he'd forgive me?"

Killer gave a short sigh. "I dunno, man. It's way too early to start thinking like that."

He was probably right. Kid was in no state to impress anybody right now, especially not Law. He wondered if he'd even see the man before his nakama came to retrieve him, and started crying again like it'd never end.

He didn't want to live a future that didn't have Law in it. It hurt worse than anything that Law did not feel the same.