Chapter 35

Disclaimer: I do not own One Piece, but Kyra was my idea.

Beta'd by Tomas the Betrayer.

The Surgeon of Death sits on the deck of his sub, legs hanging between the railing around the edges and gaze fixed blankly out to sea. He gives his bare head an idle shake, as if to rid himself of the echoing screams teasing the back of his mind. It is an ungodly hour, somewhere in the deepest dark of the night when the world slumbers. His crew sleeps; the crew of the Red Force dreams within the safety of their own ship, just within shouting distance of his submarine. The sea is calm for the New World. Law should be sprawled gracelessly across his bed, catching a few precious hours of unconsciousness while he has the chance.

It is to escape this supposedly restful activity that he has come out here, jerked from sleep by the images that burn his eyes every time he blinks.

Fucking Divine and his damn 'punishment'. Isn't it bad enough that Law's magician is prisoner to Merrick, doomed to suffer until her captain tracks the madman down? Why must Law relive her years as Merrick's test subject when he is near sick with worry over what's being done to her in the present?

He wishes for the hundredth time that Kyra had never learned of the existence of that fucking flying monstrosity. They never would have quarreled; the creature wouldn't have antagonized Merrick, thereby putting an even bigger target on Kyra's back; he would never have sent her away; she would never have fallen into Merrick's hands.

The papers are full of her recent exploits under that fucking madman's control. Merrick has apparently shed his mask of genteel Naval officer to show the world his true self, with Kyra as his unwilling weapon of mass destruction. The pair appears out of thin air on whichever unfortunate isle the former Rear-Admiral chooses; the Demon Witch unleashes her fury; and the two of them vanish like ghosts after the bloodbath. Several islands in the New World have already fallen; Merrick seems to be working his way back to Fishman Island. From there he will no doubt decimate the Grand Line, and after that he will destroy the Four Blues. With Kyra's magic under his command, there is little the Marines and their pathetic arsenal can do to stop Merrick's mad rise to power. And all Law himself can do is chase after them, his crew and their insanely powerful new allies in tow.

All of this because of one immortal furball with an immensely inflated sense of self importance.

Life would be so much easier if not for the Divine's abrupt appearance in it. Small mercy that the creature hasn't shown its face since fucking with Law's head before Red-Haired Shanks showed up almost a month ago; experience dictates that it will inevitably return sooner rather than later.

"Hey! That you, Law? What's wrong, can't sleep?"

In the meantime, the Yonkou searching with him has more than made up for the Divine's absence in terms of an unwanted annoyance. They haven't had much contact this week, but the time the Dark Doctor has spent in Red-Haired Shanks' company has been far from enjoyable. Shanks has made it his personal mission to guilt-trip Law to an early death for sending Kyra away in the first place. Every single conversation the Dark Doctor has been forced to share with the Yonkou has revolved around this issue. Avoiding the man has become a very high priority.

Law turns his head in time to see the older pirate easily leap the rather impressive distance between their two ships, landing on the deck of the submarine with nary a stumble. His habitual grin stretches across his face as he ambles over to sit at the surgeon's side, sticking his legs between the gaps in the railing and leaning back on his hands. The sea breeze plays with his vibrant hair and the loose fabric of his shirt, unprotected by the usual black trench coat.

"You know, skipping sleep isn't the healthiest thing in the world. Would've figured a doctor knew that already," Shanks states somewhat pompously, turning that annoying grin on Law. As if he has every right to preach to the younger man.

"I assure you, Mr. Shanks: drinking your body weight in alcohol every day will kill you much faster than a few sleepless nights."

A disbelieving laugh is given in response. "A few? You haven't slept more than a couple of hours a night all month! C'mon, seriously, it's not good for you. What's keeping you up, huh?"

The coldness of the look Law bestows upon his irritating companion would make lesser men piss themselves in terror. "That is none of your business, Mr. Shanks. I would thank you to remember that while the two of us have made a temporary alliance, that does not give you the right to question or dictate to me. I am not in the habit of allowing anyone to tell me what I should or should not do. You are no exception, Yonkou or not."

"Well, the kid isn't here to make you take care of yourself. I just figured I'd do it for her until we get her back."

Law has a scalpel in hand before he registers moving. He forces himself to put it back in his pocket, working to bear in mind that though Red-Haired Shanks has done little else all month except act like a complete fool while in Law's company, he is in fact one of the most powerful people in the world and could doubtlessly end Law's life in an instant if he so chose. It would be folly to attack him, no matter how maddening his unwarranted concern for Law's wellbeing is.

His constant - and seemingly unintentional - reminders of Law's mistake are infuriating. Every time the Dark Doctor even glances at the bastard's left arm it is akin to a punch in the gut. It would be so much more preferable if Shanks would just leave Law be and stay on his own damn ship; constant visits from the older seafarer do nothing but piss the young Shichibukai off.

And the kicker is that he has no one present to be furious with but himself.

"If you've only come over here to repeat yourself, Mr. Shanks, now would be the appropriate time to fuck off. I don't care to hear all this again; nor do I require a babysitter," he growls warningly, hoping with near desperation that the Yonkou will decide to be merciful and spar him the unwanted concerned advice that is surely about to come. It's always the same with Shanks; no blame, not outwardly, but pointed little comments about Law's health and wellbeing, as if either of those things is any of his damn business.

Shanks continues blithely on, as though Law hasn't even spoken.

"Merrick's apparently working his way from out here back to the Grand Line. Did you get a news gull today? They're in the papers again, and I know where this newest place is. I think if we rush we can catch up to them before they hit Fishman Island, but we won't be any good to anybody if we're exhausted when we do. How do you expect to fight Merrick and Kyra both if you can't stand because you're too stubborn to get some shut-eye? You understand that you will eventually have to fight Kyra, don't you? There's no getting around it. You've told me what she's like, and I've talked with your men enough to get a general picture of her. She's not usually a mindless killing machine. She hates the Marines, doesn't have a single problem using their guts for garters, but she doesn't kill civilians unless it's completely unavoidable. She wouldn't normally be wiping out whole islands of people for no apparent reason, and if she didn't want you in a tussle with the newest Yonkou, she sure as hell wouldn't be destroying islands under the protection of say me, or Big Mom, or Kaidou. Everybody knows that Demon Witch Kyra is a Heart Pirate. Every time Kyra racks up another massacre on a Yonkou-protected isle, she paints a bigger target on your back."

His voice may be easy-going and careless, but the black eyes locked with Law's own are as cold and merciless as ice. "I somehow doubt that Kyra's raking in the kills just for shits and giggles. I get that there's probably a handful of things regarding those strange powers of hers that you and your boys are keeping close to the chest - such as why exactly she doesn't just use them to make mincemeat out of Merrick - but I'm not actually as stupid as I like to pretend."

Red-Haired Shanks smiles again, the expression as dangerous as a naked blade. "My guess is that Merrick's controlling her somehow, and you know how to stop it. So that means you are going to have to be the one who fights Kyra when we find her. And I think you haven't quite faced up to the possibility that one or the other of you is going to end up dead before this whole thing is over."

The bastard is making it very hard for Law not to let his instincts force him to do something extremely stupid.

Trafalgar Law is not a good man. He has killed; tortured; experimented; pillaged all over the world. His blood lust is matched only by his cruel sense of humor. He cares for no one and nothing except the next spot of fun, his crew...

And Kyra.

A prisoner to a madman because Law had sent her away and she had tried so fucking hard to return to his side. His magician that is likely to kill him when next they meet, or die by his hand.

Why does Shanks have to point this out? What does he know, the fucking bastard? Has he ever had to come to terms with such a thing? Has he ever faced the possibility that he may well have to kill the one person he cares most deeply for, while spending every unconscious moment watching her suffer in the past and knowing that her present is just as odious? Shanks can talk big, can make observations, and he's an expert at stating the fucking obvious; but can he say he has been in such a position before?

Law seriously doubts it.

A sudden painful twinge draws Law's attention to the fact that he is gritting his teeth against the multitude of less than polite things he would like to say to Red-Haired Shanks at the moment. He works his jaw in silence, using his extreme self discipline to wrestle the volcano of fury simmering in his breast back under control. Shanks is not telling him anything he hasn't already acknowledged to himself. Lashing out at the man for reminding Law of his unenviable position would be pointless. The Surgeon of Death is no pushover, but neither is he a fool: a one-on-one brawl with the Yonkou at his side would only result in grievous injury to his person and pride.

Which by this point is the only reason Law hasn't tried to slit the other man's throat.

"I understand that you're in love with the kid, Law," Shanks informs him in a soft tone, as though hoping to soothe while simultaneously pissing the Shichibukia off. "But that's one of the biggest reasons why you need to come to terms with this. You owe it to her."

Here he actually has the temerity to put a hand on the Surgeon of Death's shoulder and give it a gentle squeeze. "If you have to kill her... I know that if it were me, I'd want to be the one to do it."

...Son of a bitch, this man makes self control extremely challenging.

Shanks takes Law's fuming silence in stride, apparently at least intelligent enough to grasp the gravity of what he's saying. His expression morphs to one of resignation, and he releases the surgeon's shoulder to run his hand through his vibrant locks with a quiet sigh.

"Ben would be telling me to shut the hell up and leave you alone right about now... but I want to ask you something first. You sent her away because you love her; I get that. Imagine if the situation was reversed, and you were being forced to act in a manner completely opposite of your true nature. Wouldn't you want Kyra to be the one to set you free... one way or another?"

Such a disgusting, heartfelt voice being used when Shanks wishes to pound whatever message he's trying to convey into his audience's skull with a mallet. Law tries to ignore the red-headed legend, hoping he will grow tired of spouting unwanted truths and return to his own ship in a timely manner. To Hell with him, anyway; he will never be anything other than an observer to the circus that Law's life has become. Shanks is only here to repay a debt; he has no personal stake in Kyra's safety and wellbeing.

Obviously - he wouldn't be sitting here right now, telling Law to consider killing his magician, otherwise.

"It's a hell of a thing to consider, but you owe it to her to consider it. You owe it to her as her friend, her captain, the man she chose to build a life and - well, I don't know - have kids with or whatever, so -"


The blue sphere of his devil fruit power stretches to the deck of the Red Force, far enough to include a couple of barrels near the main mast of the impressive ship. Shanks falls silent at last as Law stands and raises his hand, two fingers extended and patience long expended. "Shambles."

Shanks vanishes, replaced by the barrels from his ship. Law lets his powers dissipate as he turns to go inside, his solitude on the deck of his own sub ruined by Shanks' cutting babble. The other captain does not try to call out to him before the Shichibukai slams the hatch closed behind him. His torture via exposure to the Yonkou with the scarlet tresses is done for the night. Maybe the gods will have pity on him tomorrow, and grant him a reprieve in Shanks' unwanted company when next he wakes from watching his magician's skin melt and regrow on repeat in his nightmares.

That parting shot about children should grant him at least one night's relief, surely. That was a low blow even by Law's standards.

He has no sooner returned to his room and flopped face down onto his bed than a much more infuriating someone makes their presence known.

"How dare you lie there at ease, human filth? My little one is being forced to kill by that half-breed trash, yet you think to waste precious time with sleep?"

Law ponders the likelihood of the Divine simply leaving if he pretends it is not there. Every time this bastard of a creature presents itself, trouble follows quickly on its heels. Rolling over, Law sits up on the edge of his mattress and puts his head in his hands with a sigh. "Why don't you just bring her to me, if you know where she is? Why do you leave her with Merrick?"

He hears what sounds suspiciously like the rustling of feathers before his unwanted guest speaks again. "I cannot remove her from the abomination without killing her. Until their bond is severed, if she is taken from it, she will die. It is not like the connection once shared between the two of you. This is a perversion of the soul bond; she is forced to be the abomination's mate, whereas her powers chose to bond her to you. Your bond, pure though it was, could be broken quite easily by my people. That is not the case this time; extreme care must be used, else her life will end."

A deep sense of cold comes upon the Surgeon of Death as he processes this. Why the hell has the damn thing waited so fucking long to share such important information. If he steals his magician back, she will die. That is not acceptable. However, the alternative choice to leave her in Merrick's possession is ludicrous. There must be a way to free her. Law fists his hands in his hair, mind racing for a suitable course of action. There must be a way.

There must be.

"How can we break their bond?" he spits out; that is the only answer he can see. Kyra is anchored to Merrick as long as they are bonded - so the bond must be broken if Law is to free her without killing her.

Red-Haired Shanks and his unwanted warnings could go fuck themselves.

He hears movement, but still it is a shock when a large hand closes tightly over his skull. Law is about to demand that the Divine release him, but before any words can be spoken he finds himself thrown into what is obviously a vision. He is standing in an unfamiliar room occupied by four powerful beings, one of whom is sitting on another, cooing at it like a favored pet.

"-nally, lovey, you're going to be mine."

Law watches as Rafe Merrick sinks his teeth into Kyra's arm, listens to her screams, watches as her out of control powers decimate the Divine and its now dead brother. The vision ends as abruptly as it started, leaving the pirate with a truly spectacular headache and a fierce desire to maim something.

"I believe I've told you before not to screw with my head, creature," he growls as the Divine removes its hand from his head. How hard would it have been just to tell Law whatever he was supposed to have gained from that jaunt down a foreign memory lane?

"Did you see the filth putting his mark on her? As you once did?"

Law massages his temples, trying to think past the exhaustion that weighs so heavily on him. He needs uninterrupted sleep. How is he to function when worry for his magician badgers his days and visions of her past tortures haunt his dreams? "The bite?"

"Precisely. The infected appendage must be removed in order to pull the bond asunder."


The Surgeon of Death very slowly lowers his hands to his lap, leaving his face visible so that his guest may see the utterly terrifying glare currently stamped across his visage.

"You're saying that I must cut off her arm?" he inquires, voice deathly quiet. "You want me to raise my blade against Kyra and bring her physical harm. Is that what you are implying?"

"There is no implication - only truth. To free the little one from the corruption of a bond placed upon her by one not chosen by her powers, the limb or area of her body on which the bonding mark was placed must be severed from her. Until then, she is linked to the abomination - body, soul, and magic."

"Then why not just kill Merrick?" Law growls, rage thrumming through his blood at the very idea of maiming his magician when Merrick's death is much more preferable.

The Divine shakes its magnificent head, looking every bit as exhausted as Law feels in that moment. "It is the nature of the corruption. As I said, the little one is tied to the half-breed in body, soul, and magic. Therefore if it is killed, she will die as well."


It appears that the next time he sees Kyra, the first thing he will be forced to do is cause her a great deal of pain. It makes no difference that she can regrow a lost limb; he is sure that she will see this as just another betrayal, like banning her from using her powers or sending her away like an unwanted parcel. It will complicate an already impossible situation, should they both survive it. Law drops his head into his hands again, shaking from lack of sleep and the fury still burning in his veins. Damn Merrick. Damn the half-breed bastard to hell.

"How much more traveling?" he mutters tiredly, wanting nothing more than to curl up around his magician in their bed. How many more days before he can reclaim her?

"I cannot say; they are rarely stationary. I shall monitor them, and do what I can for the little one. You will speak to your new masters before coming for her. Make haste, human. Her pain will be yours for as long as it takes you to find her again. It is little more than you deserve."

It is gone before Law can form a retort, leaving behind the thrilling promise of more unwanted memories to fuel his sleeplessness and that same peculiar order as the last time they spoke. Why is it that the Divine thinks the bastards of the Navy would lift a finger against one of its golden boys for no reason other than to pacify a pissed off Warlord? An institute as corrupt as the Marines probably won't even care that Kyra is being forced to butcher people on Merrick's orders; it would be so easy for them to pin all of the blame on the Demon Witch while Merrick gets off scot free. It wouldn't be the first time a Marine's evil deeds had been completely glossed over for the sake of the Navy's public image.

So why is it so damn important to contact them before catching up to the cursed Rear-Admiral?

If he isn't going to get any sleep, he may as well look into it.

Law is halfway to the bridge when the ceiling in front of him caves in with a shower of wood, steel, and fire. Great; obviously the universe hasn't fucked him over enough yet, it wants to add to his misery by seeing freakin' cannonballs bust through his submarine. More proof that if the gods Kyra likes to curse at are in fact real, Law has long been on their collective shit-list.

It takes a moment before the pirate realizes that the fire is actually shouting at him.

"...fucking hard to find, and your ship is flippin' yellow! I've been looking for you for weeks! Where the fuck are you going, man, and why the hell haven't you opened a can of whupass on this asshole yet?!"

Fire Fist Ace is standing in his wrecked submarine hallway, fury clear in his fire-spotted features and one hand waving a rumpled newspaper very close to Law's face. Before the doctor can fully process this, a brilliantly blue-and-gold creature soars through the hole Fire Fist's hasty entrance created, its flaming body shifting until none other than Marco the Phoenix stands gazing at Law with half-lidded eyes and a frown on his face.

There is a crash behind Law, an animalistic sound of rage; in seconds Bepo is darting past him, crouching defensively in front of his captain with his fur standing on end. The bear snarls at the intruders, ready to rip them to shreds if they even consider attacking. He rears back a paw in preparation to strike, just waiting for his captain's orders.

Marco's gaze moves slowly from Law's face to Bepo and back again, plainly not the least bit intimidated.

"The former Whitebeard pirates have made an alliance with the Straw Hats and your witch, yoi," he announces lazily, as though commenting on the weather. "As we noticed when we got here, you've obviously allied with the Red-Haired pirates as well. Do you guys have a plan of action, or are you just sailing around hoping to bump into the girl?"

Law is not too exhausted to bristle defensively at Marco's thinly veiled insult to his intelligence. Bepo, easily sensing his captain's every twitch, growls in a warning that goes ignored. From behind the Dark Doctor comes the sound of footsteps; Bepo's abrupt and noisy departure from the crew's sleeping quarters has brought them running, no doubt armed to the teeth and eager for a fight. He lifts a hand to stop them, eying Fire Fist with a small amount of dread.

"Tell me you didn't bring Mr. Straw Hat with you. I don't want that idiot on my ship again."

Ace scowls at this slight to his precious brother, extinguishing his flames and stuffing the now very burnt newspaper into one of his pockets. "Luffy's leading his crew and our friends back towards Fishman Island. Marco figures that prick will work his way there with Kyra before making a go at Mariejois. If we hurry, we should be able to catch up to Luffy before then. You wanna get off your ass and get this piece of shit moving? Don't you care what happens to her, Law?"

Law does not reply beyond a cold glare. Fire Fist knows nothing of his feelings for his magician. He doesn't owe these two intruders any explanation; if they don't like it, they can get the hell off of his submarine.

"Haru," he says, voice void of inflection. His lead mechanic is instantly at his side.


"Fix this mess," he commands, waving a hand to indicate the gaping hole above them courtesy of Fire Fist Ace. "Gable."


"Set a course for Fishman Island. You still have the Eternal Pose?"

"Yes, Captain."

Their first trip to Fishman Island had been cut extremely short. Before Kyra transported the lot of them off the island and into the New World, Gable had just barely had enough time to acquire both a New World Log Pose and an Eternal Pose to Fishman Island. He had informed Law of his purchases after the fact; the cautious navigator felt it would be better safe than sorry to pick up the Eternal Pose to the relative safety of Fishman Island, when not a one of them had a clue just what kind of catastrophic dangers they might be facing in the New World. That investment is about to pay off.

Law turns away from his unwanted guests, tired eyes seeking out Sachi and Penguin as Gable passes him on the way to the control room. "You two get this sub moving. Full power from the engines. We don't have any more time to waste."

The duo doesn't even stop to confirm their order; in an instant they are both striding purposefully away, headed for the engine room to do as their captain wishes. Those men who have not been ordered to do otherwise meander back towards their quarters, no doubt hoping for a few more hours of shut-eye before dawn. Bepo does not move, still crouched defensively between his captain and the two powerhouse pirates, teeth and claws bared in warning. Fire Fist is eyeing the bear appreciatively, a stupid grin on his freckled face.

"Luffy told me about you," the young man says conversationally. "You're Law's talking bear?"

And just like that all of Bepo's ferocity evaporates. He straightens up, lets his paws hang at his side, and bows his head in submission. Depression rolls off of him in palpable waves.


Law brushes his sulking first mate aside, not in the mood to deal with him just now. "Get out of my sub. We need to go, and I don't have the patience for extra mouths on board. You can tell Shanks what's going on and sail with him."

Ace loses the grin and gives Law a nasty glare. "Hey, man, you might want to remember that we don't have to listen to you! We are the ones helping you find your girl, asshole! Don't sling around orders like we're supposed to hop to at your command! You're not our captain!"

"No," Law concedes in a mocking tone, done with this bullshit. He hasn't had enough sleep to deal with a PMSing brat, let alone a grown-ass man on the verge of having a fucking temper tantrum. "Your captain's dead because of you; isn't that right, Fire Fist?"

The son of Gol D. Roger draws himself up, his face a volcano of fury just waiting to erupt. Before he can so much as open his mouth, the previously quiet Phoenix puts a hand on his shoulder in a clear command to calm the hell down. Ace looks utterly rebellious, but manages to refrain from torching Law as he so obviously wants to. Half lidded grey eyes turn to the Surgeon of Death, the gaze cutting through him with the precision of a scalpel.

"We'll inform Shanks of the situation," Marco states, voice flat and calm, "then follow after you."

The older man taps his sworn brother on the shoulder and indicates the hole above them, obviously ordering the younger pirate to precede him outside. Ace does so with one more murderous look in Law's direction. Marco does not immediately follow, instead regarding Law for a long moment before speaking again.

"Don't speak of Pops to us again," he orders quietly, a wealth of power behind his words. "Remember that my brothers and I don't give a shit about you, Trafalgar Law. We're helping you because of the girl, yoi. And allying with you won't do a single fucking thing to stop any one of us from gutting you in your sleep if you provoke us like that again. You're already in our black books for sending her away in the first place, yoi. You don't want to piss us off any worse."

And in a flash of blue and gold flames Whitebeard's former First Division Commander flies through the hole after his brother.

Law stands in the hall for a long moment, Bepo just behind him, Haru easing past with his tools to begin repairing the damage to the sub. His bones ache with fatigue, his eyes are itchy with his sleeplessness, and it does not appear that he will be getting any relief for either tonight. He has just insulted and infuriated two very powerful men who apparently already have a bit of a grudge against him. Large doses of exposure to Straw Hat Luffy and his special brand of insanity lie in Law's future. Mutilation of his woman is unavoidable at their coming meeting, should he wish to free her from Merrick's influence without ending her life.

And still the corners of his lip pull up into the first honest smirk to grace his visage in over a month.

She's close. His magician will soon be in his reach once again.


Kyra sits on a beach at sunset, a child in her lap, singing softly as she strokes a hand through blood-matted hair.

"Sleep, my child, and peace attend thee, all through the night," she croons as the little boy fights for breath, his lungs punctured by pieces of his shattered ribs, his chest cavity a gaping crater. "Guardian angels the gods will send thee, all through the night..."

But if ever a guardian angel could have helped this boy, that time is past. The kid gives one last feeble huff before going still, dead in Kyra's arms. She gently closes his eyes before laying him out on the sand and getting to her feet.

Another island, another bloodbath. Sometimes they fight back; sometimes they do nothing but scream. None of them have a chance in Hell. Brave warriors, helpless children, simpering women and wizened elders who fling curses at her; all of them die the same. She has killed pregnant mothers without the slightest hesitation. She has crushed the skulls of infants with her bare hands.

And Merrick watches it all with a smile on his face.

The souls of the dead follow Kyra by day, demanding vengeance before they can rest, unable to pass on while the Demon Witch's magic binds them to her mate's nefarious will. Their faces and voices haunt Kyra's dreams. She does not know why Merrick has trapped them on this plane, or what possible use he may have for souls that number in the hundreds. She can do nothing but continue to kill, her actions ruthlessly controlled by the half-breed monster.

Cool hands circle her neck, calloused digits tenderly grazing her skin as a warm bulk settles lightly against her back.

"Well done, lovey. You've done so wonderfully." Poisoned praise whispers in her ear, that hated voice cooing at her like she's a prized pet that has just accomplished a difficult trick. Kyra imagines those filthy fingers closing around her throat, pictures the world going dark as she struggles and fails to breathe, dreams of dying and finally being able to rest. It is not a displeasing fantasy.

Merrick's hands migrate down to her shoulders, squeezing possessively. "Mother's expecting us for supper, lovey. I think it's time to go home."

Home. Veneficus; her mother's soft hands and softer voice, her homespun clothes and home cooked meals. Silky black hair that Kyra could brush for hours; lullabies and stories and the warmth of a mother's love.

Home. A fucking eyesore of a submarine; Law's teasing and taunting and constant little touches; that stupid hat and his numerous tattoos. Lying in bed with him at night, tracing the lines of ink permanently etched into his skin as he does the same to her; acceptance and possession and the inferno of his desire for her.


Kyra's magic deposits the sorceress and her hated mate in Merrick's house, where the smells of food waft to them in a futile attempt to cover the stench of blood. Merrick's mother can be heard in the direction of the kitchen, singing softly to herself. The setting sun throws colors into the building, a beautiful rainbow of reds and pinks and purples, bathing Kyra in the hues of evening.

Such a lovely looking Hell for such a damned soul.

Lihla materializes from nowhere, taking Kyra by the elbow and dragging her away as Merrick goes to let his mother know that they have returned. The blonde hellcat is as subdued as always in the evenings, saying nothing as she leads Kyra upstairs to a tub of hot scented water. They are both silent as the Demon Witch strips herself of her clothing and climbs into the bath; no words are exchanged as they both work to rid Kyra's body of the smell of slaughter.

It won't work. It never does. Death follows her everywhere she goes like a plague.

She sits on the floor by the fireplace in her assigned chambers as the slaves drag the tub away to empty, her hair a wild mess of damp curls and goose pimples covering her skin, despite her proximity to the roaring fire and the thick terrycloth robe wrapped around her body. The dead whisper to her, pleas for release or demands for revenge - she can't understand individuals within the collective anymore. There are too many voices trying to make themselves heard for any level of comprehension. It doesn't matter anyway; she can't give any of them what they want.

A bowl of stew is placed on the floor next to the brooding sorceress, her unwanted and very unwilling slave plopping down on the thick fur rug just behind where she sits. Kyra thanks whatever gods exist for the small mercy of not having to eat with Merrick and his mother. The half-breed freak seems very protective of his matriarch; Kyra has no interaction with the woman, which means meals in this house are eaten alone or in the presence of her new fulltime body slave. It is the only time of the day where Merrick does not torment her with his very presence. At night she is safe, her dreams closed to the fucker who forced a bond on her as they were not from the mate her powers chose.

Thinking back to the days when Kyra cursed her magic's choice is almost enough to bring a bitter laugh to her lips.


"If you want help treating your arm, then lets get it over with," Lihla huffs, her tone that of a petulant child given some much hated chore to complete. An observer might very well think she was the one caused pain by 'treating' Kyra's arm.

Wordlessly, Kyra shifts to face her childhood nemesis and holds out her left arm. The limb is traced up to her shoulder with grotesque black veins that bulge slightly against her skin. The bite mark with which Merrick bound her to him is inflamed and angry, looking very much like the bite of some venomous creature whose poison has sunk deep into Kyra's blood. Technically, that's not exactly far from the truth. The only difference is that there can be no cure for this beast's poison save death.

Lihla pulls a small pot from a pocket in her skirt, unscrewing the lid and scooping out a glob of greenish goop that looks very much like a large chunk of snot. She proceeds to smear this concoction across the bite, taking no care not to hurt Kyra in the process and sending the usual bolt of agony through the infected limb. Light wisps of smoke rise from the wound as it reacts to the medicine, some of the bone deep ache fading from the afflicted arm as the nasty paste does its work. By morning the healing effects will have worn off, but at least for tonight it will be one less thing to plague Kyra's restless sleep.

Small mercies, and smaller rewards.

They don't talk afterwards. The hellish situations the pair are trapped in does not erase years of mutual hatred; they are not suddenly friends, have not forgiven past trespasses. Given the chance, Kyra would strangle Lihla with her own intestines - and laugh while the light left her fellow captive's eyes. Likewise, Lihla would like nothing more than to kill the one whom she holds partially responsible for her father's murder. Neither of them wants to be here. Both of them are slaves to Merrick's whims. Both of them long for the foul bastard's painful demise.

But that sure as shit doesn't mean they like each other.

Lihla claims the large bed in the room without discussion while Kyra curls up on the fur rug, stew forgotten and lids falling closed over weary eyes. She's so tired; tired of the killing, tired of her life, of everything. Why can't it just end? She just wants to sleep forever. Sleep forever, and dream of Law...

She finds herself standing in a blank space, nothing but white all around her. The bite on her wrist throbs and pulses, the black veins crawling up her arm dancing under the skin like snakes to a piper's tune. Whispers echo in the space, bouncing back to her again and again.

Peace... give us peace...

Free us...

End this... make it end...

Want to go on...

No more... no more pain...

Kyra stares out into the white, letting the cries of the dead wash over her. She wants to help them, set them free, but she can't. She does nothing that her mate and master does not allow. Her powers are yoked to his will like an ox to a plow. Kyra can no more free the dead than she can free herself.

A weight settles into her right hand, opposite the one which bears Merrick's mark. Puzzled, Kyra looks down to find that she now holds a thin black cord which appears to stretch behind her. The mage turns, spotting the dark line standing out starkly against it's pure surrounding, stretching far into the distance. Intrigued, Kyra slowly puts one foot in front of the other. The gathering slack of the cord curls almost lovingly around her arm as she walks, its presence somehow soothing to her in a way she can't exactly pin down. Its weight makes her feel... safe. Wanted.


She doesn't even notice the snow that begins to fall as she slowly trudges onwards, alone but for the quiet cries of the dead.

Countless leagues away, Law is in the midst of a conversation with Gable about the sea currents and the amount of speed they might lose when the pirate captain abruptly lists to the side, one hand thrown out to a chart-covered table in an attempt to stabilize himself. The room suddenly feels as though it has tilted sharply, leaving Law off balance and disoriented. The fact that Gable is unaffected is less than comforting.

"Captain!" the navigator exclaims, jumping to grab hold of Law's jacket collar of feathers before his superior face plants in his control room. "What's going on, are you alright? Captain Law?!"

The young Warlord hears Gable's words as though from a great distance, a barely there noise in his ears. His body is heavy and lethargic, as though someone has removed his bones and replaced them with lead. He suddenly finds himself sitting on the floor with his useless legs stretched out in front of him, a panicking Gable trying to talk to him. Whatever is said doesn't register; it feels as though Law's head is stuffed with cotton. He barely has time himself to wonder just what the fuck is going on before his eyes fall shut against his will.

The black cord seems endless, its slack never seeming to increase around Kyra's arm as she plods on. It is growing colder, and she has finally registered the fat flakes of snow falling around her. The lighting in this emptiness has shifted, becoming darker and greyer the farther she walks. She doesn't know why she is following this rope of darkness, or what she might find at the end; all Kyra knows is that she must keep walking. Even the dead seem to agree with her, the whispering voices egging her on.

Don't stop now!

Keep going!

You have to reach the end! You have to reach it for us!

Keep going! Hurry! Go!

She doesn't know how long she has walked before she looks around and recognizes where she is. Kyra stops then, body trembling, tears welling up in her eyes to spill down her cheeks. Is this real? Is this their place? Is this actually happening? Kyra stands in a field of snow, modeled after a place in Law's home of North Blue, sobbing quietly and hoping against hope for something she doesn't dare put a name to.

"Please," she gasps out, falling to her knees so that she can gather handfuls of the snow to press to her cheeks, relishing in the cold. She raises her head to the previously blank sky, now pitch black and dotted with stars. Her eyes close, the hope and terror of disappointment so great she can hardly draw breath to sob. "Please, please, please..."

The cord clenched in one snow-filled fist goes taut just as a sharp intake of breath from in front of her informs the sorceress that she is no longer alone. Kyra remains where she is, head thrown back and eyes clenched shut, heart in her throat and hot tears dripping from her face. That smell... oh, gods, she knows that smell. Ocean and antiseptic and man. She lowers her head, shuffling blindly forward on her knees with hands now stretch out before her. Soon enough her questing fingers hit cloth, clenching tight around the fabric as she leans forward to press her face against it. Whatever she clutches lets out a whooshing rush of air, shifting under her forehead.

"Please," Kyra sobs again, voice hoarse but drenched in hope, eyes still shut tight. "Pleasepleaseplease..."

Strong fingers gather fistfuls of her curls near the roots, wrenching her head back with a brutal yank. Thumbs wipe at the soaked skin beneath her eyes, futilely trying to rid her of the evidence of tears. Hot breath blows over her face, so close, oh gods so close now...


The sound of that voice, that voice which she has so longed to hear whispering to her again, sends her eyes flying open in an instant. Bloodshot blue eyes lock with equally exhausted grey. He looks different. His top has changed; instead of the yellow hoodie with black arms that he had gifted to her, he wears a black long-sleeved jacket with his Jolly Roger in yellow on the chest. The fabric is thick and heavy in her fists. His throat is collared by a ring of dark feathers, his goatee and sideburns looking wilder against his tan face. The bags beneath his cold eyes are darker than ever, a sure sign of his continuous lack of sleep since last they were together. He looks years older than he had the day he held her close and told her he loved her.

But he is here, and he is real.

Trafalgar Law stares down at her like a man who has just seen his god, hands clenching ever tighter in her hair. His usually narrowed eyes are wide in shock, roving over her face as though to rememorize the familiar features. His thumbs dig into her cheeks, the blunt nails carving small half moons into her pale skin as he yanks her face closer to his.

"Before we met, you wrote about me in your diary. What did you write?" Law demands coldly, no trace of emotion in his icy voice. Kyra stares at him uncomprehendingly for a moment before it dawns on her what he is doing. He doesn't know if what he's seeing is reality or fantasy. He's trying to make sure that Kyra is Kyra, and not some game or hallucination.

"You... you read it!?" she sobs out, tears still streaming as she releases his jacket and buries her own fingers in his hair, knocking his hat off in the process. "Wrote... wrote about your weird Devil F-fruit, a-a-and you l-l-looked like a smartass and-and the c-c-cool hat - oh, gods! Real? This... this is real?!"

Instead of answering with words, Law proceeds to close the miniscule distance between them and claims her mouth in a searing, brutal kiss that puts paid to any doubts in an instant.

It tastes like coming home.

The Surgeon of Death lies in the snow of his unconscious mind with his magician's nude body pressed to his own, his fingers tracing the too-prominent nobs of her spine as she follows the lines of his tattoos with her own trembling digits. They are both sweat-soaked and something like sated, clothes long since lost to the dreamscape. He can hear what sounds like the whispers of many voices, whispers that had risen to a howl as Law and Kyra had become intimately reacquainted with one another. He ignores it; he doesn't give a shit about strange voices when he has his woman back in his dreams at long last.

The connection is re-established. I told you that I would do what I could for her; she has need of you. Treat her well, human, or you will face my wrath.

He ignores that particular voice, too. Law is having a long awaited reunion with his magician; the fucking meddlesome Divine can go to hell for the moment and leave them both alone. If Kyra heard the creature's statement and warning she gives no sign, nor does she stop stroking Law's tattoos. He shifts slightly in the perversely warm snow, pausing as Kyra's fingers clutch at him frantically.

"Don't go."

Law's cold heart clenches at the plea in her voice, the desperation. He tightens his arms around her and buries his nose in her hair, lamenting the absence of her usual scent even as he relishes in the texture of the strands against his face.

"Not yet," Kyra babbles, tone dancing on the edge of hysteria. "Not yet, you can't, just a little longer, a little while more. Don't go yet. Don't leave me."

"Shhhhhh." He strokes one hand gently up and down her back, the other taking a firm hold of one hip to reassure her. "I'm here. I won't leave. Shhhh."

His magician quiets, still holding onto him as though he might vanish at any moment. Law can't say he blames her; it feels as though any second now he will jolt awake and realize this is all just another of the Divine's damn games designed to torture him. If that does happen, the Dark Doctor will not rest until that creature has suffered a bloody, brutal death by his hands. This... this would be going too far, even for the inhuman menace.

She's so different. The robe she wore earlier is not her style, too rich, too ostentatious. Her tattoos are gone as though they were never there in the first place. There are shadows under her eyes that rival his own, and more in her eyes that have aged her prematurely. He has not questioned her yet, but thorough investigation of her tresses was not necessary to see the streaks of white that go from roots to tips all over her head. She is thin, sickly skinny; his hands should not stretch that far around her waist or limbs. There are no new scars on Kyra's pasty white skin, but it is pathetically obvious that Law's magician has suffered while they have been apart. The bite wound on her left wrist and the wriggling black veins crawling up to that shoulder and down to the tips of her fingers just reinforces that impression. The mark of her bond with Merrick, right there in front of him. It would be so easy to conjure an operating theater, surgical tools, a fucking butcher knife if that's what it takes...

It will not work, idiot mortal.

Law tenses at the return of that damn voice, noticing once again that Kyra does not react to it. So the Divine is speaking only to him? Does it not wish to warn the Demon Witch that it has commanded Law to cut off her infected limb, and that until he does so she will remain Merrick's slave?

Think you I have not tried, filth? She cannot hear me. The dead are too loud; even you should be able to discern their voices. The little one cannot hear my words over the cries of those the abomination has forced her to slaughter. They are what hid her from me for so long. They should not be gathered around her like this; they should have long since departed for the afterlife. I am... uneasy about this situation.

So that's where the whispering is coming from. Leave it to his magician to get herself into a mess like this, apparently haunted by all the people Merrick has compelled her to butcher. But why exactly shouldn't he just cut her arm off now, when he knows for a fact that anything he does to her in the dream world will be replicated onto Kyra's body in the physical world?

A sound like someone scoffing echoes through his head.

You are not a bonded pair any longer, human. You have access to her now only through my power. Neither she nor you will bear evidence of this when you wake. Removing the abomination's taint now is impossible.


"Go away," Kyra suddenly whimpers. Law focuses on his magician as she curls closer to him, hiding her face against his chest like a child. "Please, just go away. Just for tonight. Just until he has to leave. Please go away. Please."

"There's no one here," the pirate tells her, arms tightening around her once again. Kyra tilts her head to look up at him; Law barely controls a flinch at the sight of those haunted eyes.

"They follow me everywhere," she mutters. "Hear them? The whispers? They're always here, Law; can't make them go away, can't help them. Killed them. Killed them all. He makes them all stay. They want to go, can't because he won't let them. Don't know how to help them. Don't know what to do. What do I do?"

Law listens with growing trepidation to his magician's rambling, not pleased with how disjointed she sounds. Her mind is breaking; he might not be a psychologist, but it's as plain as day to him. Kyra has never had the stomach for wanton murder, and being forced to butcher all those people every time Merrick uses her is destroying her.

"Where are you, Kyra?" he asks, squeezing her to his chest and wishing that she could still wake up with bruises from his touch. What proof will Kyra have to hold onto, to show that this dream meeting is real and not simply a figment of her imagination, if she can't take so much as a bruise back to the physical world with her? "Are you on a ship?"

"Island," Law's magician replies faintly, shaky fingers tracing the heart tattooed on his bicep over and over again. "Island somewhere. Alone. No Navy. No people. Just us and her. Can't kill her like he killed mine. Not fair, Law. 'S not fair."

"What's not fair? Who is she?"

Kyra's eyes fill with tears. "Mama. Still has his. Mine's dead 'cause of him. 'S not fair."

Law listens as Kyra tells him of Merrick's mother, living alone on some secluded island in a house built specifically for her. He learns of how protective Merrick is of this woman, how Kyra has yet to be in the same room with her, how she knows exactly what Merrick forces Kyra to do and exactly what her son has done in the past but doesn't appear to give a damn. He lets Kyra rant as he tries to figure out how to find her faster, needing to get her back to his side before every last trace of the woman he loves disappears forever. The goddamn Divine knows, but has said nothing except that it would keep an eye on her. Great fucking job it's doing there.

"Does he come here?" Law asks, interrupting Kyra's hoarse ramblings, suddenly thinking of the rather important question he should have voiced immediately upon coming here. "Does he dream with you, through the bond?"

Kyra shakes her head, her skin clammy where it brushes with his. "Only place I'm safe is my dreams now. Back with you and the guys. Back home."

"What about your heart? Have you found it?"

Another shake of the head, her black-veined hand migrating to Law's chest, clutching that the patch of skin over his own heart. "Don't know where the fuck it is. He doesn't mess with it or show me he has it to rub it in my face. Wish he would so I'd know where he keeps it. Can't feel it to find it. Give it back to you for safekeeping. Yours anyway."

Some of Law's iron control slips at that; he finds himself shaking, hugging Kyra so tight she might be fusing to him. Damn her, he hates the way she can make him feel when he doesn't want to. He hates the loss of control he suffers when he so much as thinks about her. He's been little more than a zombie, a wreck, since they have been separated, and even now that he has their dreams back - even after watching her come apart under him - a single fucking comment from this woman is enough to undo him.

"We will retrieve it when I find you," he promises rather darkly, mind listing all of the ways in which he plans to torture Navy Rear Admiral Rafe Merrick before killing him in a suitably brutal fashion. He is unprepared for his magician to suddenly wrench herself out of his arms and throw herself away from him, frantically shaking her head.

"No!" Kyra shouts at him, a fresh wave of tears pouring down her pale face. "Don't come! Leave me! Don't come!"

Clothes appear against their skins once more; the soft snowfall becomes a howling blizzard. The voices that have been whispering all around them are now screaming, their words indecipherable from the noise of the storm. Law tries to grab Kyra through the snow squall that has sprung up between them, snarling as she jerks further away.

"I will not abandon you!" he calls out to her, fighting to make himself heard over the cacophony of screaming. "You are mine, and I will find you! I will not abandon you to Merrick!"

Kyra continues to shake her head, weeping freely, her untamed riot of curls swept up in the harsh winds. "Can't, can't, stay away! Don't want you to come! Don't want to kill you! Stay away! Send someone else! Anyone but you, anyone! Don't come!"

"I don't take orders, Kyra!" Law shouts back, anger burning in his breast at both the command and her rejection of him. "I will find you! I will reclaim you! I will not die by your hand on Merrick's order; I will free you of his hold!"

An unnaturally strong gust of wind knocks Law over backwards, pushing the air from his lungs and leaving him momentarily dazed. When his head clears, he finds himself sprawled on the ground with Kyra straddling him, her hands fisted in his newly rematerialized jacket and her face hovering so close to his that their lips brush when she speaks. Her tears fall into his own eyes before trailing down his temples into his hair.

"Love you," Law's magician whispers, clearly audible over the blizzard raging all around them. "Love you, Trafalgar Law. Don't want to kill you. Don't want to be alive if you're dead because of me. Can't kill you if you stay away. So stay away. For me, for us, for the crew; I don't care who. Just stay away. Don't come for me. Don't make me your murderer.

"Love you."

And then she is gone, and Law is left alone in a field of gently falling snow, his cold heart aching and Kyra's tears still wet upon his cheeks.

A/N: On the off chance there is still anybody out there reading this, thank you. Sorry for the year-long wait; life hasn't been pulling any of it's punches lately. Please review, as always, even if it's just so you can gripe about the wait.