Bound by Obligation
1: Playing Ploys
"You know why I'm doing this, Smoker?"
"Because you're an asshole."
Officer Smoker, man in question, narrowly dodged a punch aimed at his head.
"No! I'm doing this to teach you skills in responsibility, you smokey bastard!"
"No, you're just trying to get rid of one of your long-standing problems!" Smoker argued, running a hand through his greying hair that was rapidly becoming white. He was not as old as his hair made him out to be, yet not young enough to be naïve about the task his boss was trying to lay out for him. "Don't think I don't know what you're up to!"
"I can let you have two of my problems, if you'd like."
"Look, I won't let the officers out of my sight again, and they won't get into any more shit, just let me–"
"I'll swing by your place and drop him off later today. I'm sure he's going to be thrilled. Remember, I expect you'll make sure he gets to school, and don't let him goof off. At all. You're training a future officer. Just do what you do with the other trainees."
"I hate you, Garp."
Smoker knew it was going to be bad when he looked out his window to see Garp drive up in his half-ton truck and smash into the tree that was innocently trying to grow on his lawn. He watched his boss get out, go over to the passenger side, throw the door open, and forcibly evict a young male from the vehicle. Said male was marched up to Smoker's front porch by a none-too-gentle hand on the back of his neck.
The doorbell sounded. Time to face the fire.
He almost made it to the door before it was kicked in. Almost.
"Damn it, Garp! Fix that!"
Garp shoved the young man over the rubble. The kid, barely eighteen, appeared unquestionably demonic with those dark eyes brewing flames. In fact, it wouldn't be a stretch to call those eyes hellholes. He'd never seen a darker natural shade than that, and he took his morning coffee black.
Garp just ploughed ahead with things, as was the norm with him. "This is my grandson, Ace. I've arrested him twice already, and Akainu's nabbed him five times for a variety of things including arson, carjacking, underground fighting, and break-and-raid-refrigerators. Straighten him out. He knows that if this placement doesn't work, I'm locking him up in jail the next time he steps out of line."
"Take him home, right now. I just ate dinner and I was looking forward to a peaceful, child-free evening."
Garp guffawed loudly, tears springing to the corners of his eyes and hanging on to his wrinkles. "He is home! Don't worry; I'll still pay his food bill."
"That doesn't make this any more right!"
"I'm teaching you a lesson in responsibility! Don't question my motives! I'll come and visit sometimes… maybe. I actually might be busy next week…"
"I'm not good with children!"
But Garp pushed the kid forward, who kicked off his sneakers with a defiant look at Smoker, before going back outside to retrieve a duffel bag for his grandson. Then he fixed the door by slamming it back onto its hinges and got the hell out of there, completely ruining Smoker's lawn.
The skid marks left behind by Garp's truck were probably the least he had to worry about.
Smoker looked at Ace, who was just a half a head shorter than he was. Slowly, a smile grew on the young man's face at the discomfort that the situation entailed.
"I'm Portgas D. Ace," he said politely, formally introducing himself.
"Is that all?" Ace asked. "Don't you have a first name?"
"We're not on a first name basis, brat," Smoker growled. "You're here because I'm supposed to reform you. And I got chosen to be your mentor because I fucked up an assignment."
"Wow, we'd make quite the team. Who chose to put us together?"
Ace shrugged with that tiny smile that irked Smoker for unknown reasons and pushed past him, bag hefted over his shoulder. As Ace went deeper into the home his nose crinkled and his smile drooped.
"It smells like there was a fire in here."
"I'm a smoker."
Ace snorted at the connections that could be made. "Fitting. I'm going to get either lung cancer or carbon monoxide poisoning staying with you."
"I thought you were an arsonist?"
"Only when I get caught."
Smoker shook his head in disgust and closed his eyes for a few seconds. When he opened them he could see Ace was making his way up the stairs. "Hold it, where the hell do you think you're going?"
"To find a bedroom to drop my stuff off in."
Panic seized Smoker's chest. "There's only one bedroom in this house. You're on the couch."
"I have difficulty sleeping as it is. Besides, I call the bed."
"You can't call something in my house! Get your ass down here!"
But Ace had already disappeared by the time Smoker made it to the base of the stairs. From the room above he hollered down, "I'm going to bed early! I was up all night partying and I'm fucking tired!"
"Watch your goddamn language, brat!"
"Good fucking night!" Ace cried. Smoker could hear the amusement in the boy's tone, and it made his stomach upset. He just knew he had his work cut out for him.
After Smoker lost the screaming battle he retired to his living room with a cigar. Sitting down on the couch and thinking about his predicament, he found one cigar was not enough to calm his sensitive nerves down. He squeezed a second one between his lips.
Huffing away and cursing under his breath, Smoker thought about the gargantuan absurdity that was Portgas D. Ace. So far the boy was not making a good impression on him. The saddest thing was that he knew beating the boy senseless would do nothing. He would bet Garp had already tried that tactic. Multiple times. Likely all throughout the boy's childhood.
After two hours it became clear that Ace was not going to come sulking downstairs, whining to go home. A sudden thought struck Smoker: what if he had escaped through the bedroom window? What if he had jumped out and broken his leg? Or all of his ribs? What if he had gotten up, disoriented, and accidently stepped out in front of a moving vehicle?
Well, good riddance to that.
Still, he felt obligated to get up and check on the brat, if only to forcefully remove his body from his bed, if sleeping were really his intention. He had nothing of serious personal value in his bedroom, like photographs that should remain unseen, nor did he have a stash of pornographic magazines that needed safeguarding. Still, that was his bloody bedroom that brat had intruded into.
He stomped his way upstairs, where there was a study, a bathroom, and his bedroom, and threw open the door to the last. He opened his mouth to bellow and exert his full frustration, but found the bedside lamp on and a shirtless teenager sprawled out on the bed, clearly unconscious.
Feeling slightly intrusive himself, and not knowing what to make of the lack of clothing since he now noticed that the boy was not wearing pants under the blanket his lower half was mostly covered by, Smoker stalled in his advance. Swallowing and finding his mouth very dry, which he immediately attributed to the cigars, he crept up to the bedside and peered down.
The lamp highlighted the planes of his young charge's stomach, all the peaks and valleys and those relaxed mocha nipples. He had appeared broad shouldered, but the shirt he came in was loose to the point of being two sizes too big, and Smoker had no idea that the brat was so finely muscled, especially for his age. The underground fight scene that Garp had mentioned must have been where he really excelled. His arms especially were bulging with muscle, and Smoker could bet that the kid could punch like a boxer.
Without really realizing it, Smoker's gaze had become fixed on the boy, staring at him as he breathed deeply and regularly. Upon recognizing this uncanny interest, he turned his eyes away and focused on something else. Anything else. His eyes landed on something out of place in his bedroom. Normally, he was clean and orderly when it came to his home (though his desk at the office was on the opposite end of the spectrum) and there usually wasn't anything lying around without a use.
He picked up the object, found it to be a thick pad of paper, and flipped it open. Ah, so it was a sketchbook. He leaned down under the lamp to see what it was that the kid did with a freaking pad of paper. He expected to find graffiti writing or drafts for gang emblems. Maybe even bloody fist fighting anime characters.
His eyes widened and he dropped it on the floor, picked it up again, and commenced staring with eyes bugging out of his skull.
He had a Michelangelo under his roof and that was, indeed, a realistic penis on the first page.
He moved the sketchbook around under the light to study the pencil drawing from all angles, and confirmed that whomever that appendage belonged to was well endowed.
Gingerly, afraid to rip the paper, Smoker turned to the next page and found manly abdominal muscles. He bit his lip as the thought that maybe the kid was into other guys passed though his mind. He shook it off and flipped the page. A perfectly formed woman lounged on a sofa, staring at the viewer with a petulant gaze. He flipped to find a picture of a tree with three small children playing in a sandbox under it. Next was the face of a grinning boy with jet-black hair and a scar beneath one eye. After that, a bouquet of flowers on a grave.
Smoker continued flipping, deciding on the plain fact that the eighteen-year-old troublemaker drew everything and anything. He did notice one trend, however, by the time he reached the last drawing near the back of the pad; that the drawings grew progressively darker, not just in shade but also in subject matter. The last drawing Ace did was of a naked body, a woman, holding a bunch of dead flowers to her chest. The pure artistic skill made it easy to perceive that the woman was but a corpse.
With a haggard sigh, Smoker closed the book and placed it back on the bedside table, then stood up. He found he was deeply disturbed, and left Ace to his light snoring. He was almost out the bedroom door when he turned around with a grimace.
No. No, he would not let the brat turn him out of his own damn room.
He went back, hardened his gaze, and stooped with the intention of gathering the kid up in his arms and pitching him over the side of the bed. But as he touched the boy's chest, skin rippled and twitched, and the boy let out a soft moan as he flipped over onto his side so he was snug against the wall. Then he shuddered once more and unconsciously wiggled his toes. That was so cute Smoker almost puked a fucking rainbow all over his beige walls.
He needed another cigar to calm his nerves, but he was out and had to go to the store to pick some up tomorrow. Damn.
He refocused himself. It was a queen-sized bed, a four-poster lacking a canopy, and the boy had been almost in the middle. Now there was plenty of room for another body.
He didn't want to deal with the kid. He didn't want to wake him up and freaking deal with the inevitable bitching that came hardwired into the teenage brain. That was what Smoker told himself as he changed into a loose-fitting pair of sweatpants and crawled into bed beside the brat. He debated throwing on one of his muscle shirts that he wore to the gym, but Ace was more than half-naked and he usually slept without a scrap of clothing. Putting on a shirt was out of the question.
He settled down and focused on his breathing. At first, it wasn't so bad listening to Ace's even, deep breaths. Then he tuned in to the faint noises he was making: the moans, the grunts, and the slight nuances in his breathing pattern, little hitches that just commanded Smoker's attention.
It was a few hours before he drifted off, unwilling to get up and go to the couch, as that would be admitting defeat. It would have been a weakness, and he knew criminals, no matter how petty, picked up on any weakness that a law enforcement officer had in order to exploit it later.
Smoker woke to sunlight and an empty bed. He rose and cracked his back, sitting on the edge of his mattress. He didn't have to wonder for long where the kid had gone off to, because he appeared in the doorway within the minute in nothing but one of Smoker's white towels around his trim waist.
He watched as a drop of water dripped from Ace's sopping wet hair to the floor.
"You gonna stop staring any time soon, pervert?"
Smoker coloured, more from anger than anything. "You're soaking wet and getting water all over my hardwood floor."
"Oh, my bad. Don't want you to slip and break your old man back."
Smoker was about ready to punch the brat through a wall, but he could hardly bring himself to beat up a man in nothing but a towel. "Get your goddamn clothes on. I'm making fucking coffee."
"And hopefully breakfast," Ace added, stepping aside. As Smoker passed, Ace whispered, "Make me some 'fucking' coffee, too. It sounds stimulating."
Smoker replied that he would drink it all if Ace took too long.
He went downstairs and made the coffee, set his cup aside to cool a bit, and wondered what to feed a teenage boy that would satisfy both an appetite and Garp's stupid hopes for his grandson's reform. He decided on a simple breakfast of eggs and toast. With a slight twist.
The boy came down into the kitchen, fully dressed this time, and immediately assaulted the coffee maker. Smoker feared he would break the poor inanimate object, but Ace was not so ignorant to appliances as he appeared in the first few seconds of fiddling with the pot. He poured out the rest into a mug, and then began rummaging around.
"Where the hell's your cream and sugar?"
Smoker froze with a spatula in hand. "My what?"
"Cream. Sugar. The two very essential ingredients to add into a cup of coffee." Smoker continued to stare, then began to snicker. Ace was mortified. "Oh my fucking – you don't have either of those things in this house, do you?"
"Stop freaking out," Smoker ordered. "There's cream at the very back of the fridge, probably expired, and the sugar is in that cupboard over there."
After Ace located them and spooned unbelievable amounts of both into his cup, Smoker watched with utter revulsion as he chugged the coffee in one go. Even though it was steaming hot. Certainly enough to burn his throat. To cause third degree burns all down his throat and in his stomach. He waited for tears or curses, but Ace simply washed out the cup and threw it on a drying rack.
Smoker nearly burnt the toast staring in wonder, had Ace not remarked, "I think your sense of smell sucks. Something's smoking. And it's not you for once."
When the food was on plates and placed on the table, Smoker moved to block Ace. It was time to commence Reform Plan A.
"Drop and give me twenty if you want to eat."
Ace gaped at him. "You're going to make me work for my food?"
"Yeah. As your new reforming teacher guy, this is my job. Your idiotic grandfather told me to treat you like a regular police trainee, so I'm just following his orders." For once, he thought, enjoying a private laugh in his mind. "Now do as I say."
"You're a sadist!"
"Make that fifty," barked Smoker, his irritation rising. "Get to it before your eggs get cold."
Ace sputtered for a full five seconds longer, looking between Smoker and the alluring plate of food on the table. Then he dropped to the floor and did the fastest fifty Smoker had ever seen. Yet, not only were they quick push-ups, they were perfect in form too, which ticked him off slightly. He had been fully intending to force the kid into begging for his food until he'd done them right. Make him sweat a little.
There was, in fact, a tiny gleam of sweat on Ace's brow, but Smoker had a feeling it was from a fear of not being able to eat, not overexertion.
He was thoroughly vexed and reaching for cigars he didn't have.
Ace finished eating in record time and his eyes went to Smoker's plate, as Smoker was the sort of man to take his time with his food. When Ace's forehead clunked down on the table, Smoker wondered fleetingly if he was really such boring company as the boy implied with his little shenanigans.
He finished his meal at the same slow pace as before and then grunted a little to announce he was done. No response.
Furrowing his brow, he got up and slapped Ace on the shoulder. The result was an unconscious body on his black and white kitchen tiles.
He stared at Ace for a few seconds longer before trying to remember the number for emergency services. Only a certain angry face was taking over his mind and he couldn't fully concentrate.
Thoughts of Garp drowning him in a puddle, running him over with his truck, and even fracturing his skull with his fist had him breaking out in a cold sweat. He checked the boy's pulse, flipped him over so he was on his back, and placed his ear to the boy's lips in hopes of hearing breath coming out.
"Holy fuck, your hair smells like an ashtray."
Smoker rocked back on the balls of his feet and asked, "What the hell was that? Are you trying to give me high blood pressure or something?"
Ace got to his feet, using the wall nearby for support. "Oh, I only forgot to take my medication. Plus I had coffee. I'm not supposed to drink coffee. Nine times out of ten it triggers a narcoleptic attack. Studies have shown it's not so good for narco-brains, yeah?"
"You had a narco-what?"
"Please excuse me, I have to get high." He dropped his voice so he was muttering under his breath, "Which is funny because they've got me on anti-depressants."
Smoker grabbed the boy's shoulder before he could get very far. "There will be no recreational drugs in this household!"
"Then it's a good thing I've got prescription meds for my narco-what."
Smoker was forced to let him go on that one.
Smoker let Ace do as he pleased on Saturday, since it was his first full day with him, and if he was anything like Garp, he really didn't want to push the wrong buttons so early on in the relationship.
He himself spent a few hours at the gym and then stocked up on supplies at the grocery store. The cashier gave him a concerned stare when he came up with nothing short of a crate of cigars. She had to check if she was authorized to sell that many in one shot.
When he got home he put everything away and cleaned up the kitchen, waiting for Ace to come out from wherever a grown eighteen-year-old boy liked to hide. Yet he did not appear and Smoker scoured the house for him, coming up with only a note left on the kitchen table.
Smokey the Bear,
Even though I'm underage where we live, I went to go buy some booze with my buddies, Marco and Thatch. Might pick up some hot chicks, start a few equally hot fires, and find a drug dealer after that. I shall see you at dinner.
Smoker's hand quivered and he realized he was shaking with anger. He threw the note away before he could read it again and further irritate his dwindling patience, and double checked the safety on his gun, which he kept locked up while at home. Just to make sure he didn't reach for it and accidentally shoot Ace when he came through the door later.
Garp called him at around lunchtime. "How's he doing?"
That's a damn good question, Smoker thought.
"Is he reacting to your discipline? Eh, Smokey?"
Smoker cleared his throat, loud and obnoxious. "Oh, he's reacting all right."
"Be harsh with him. Don't let him get away with any of his usual shit. If he does something stupid, tell him he's walking thin eggshells and shit – are those crackers? Sengoku, give me some of those–"
"Garp." Smoker rubbed his eyes, tired already. "I'm not going to listen to you argue with Sengoku."
"Sorry, sorry. What was I saying?"
"Ace walking on eggs."
"What? Oh. Yeah. If he does anymore questionable stuff, tell him I'm gonna throw him in the slammer. Akainu's pressing for it already, and I'm the only thing keeping him out right now. If you don't fix him, well, guess it just sucks for him. I'm just his grandfa– Sengoku! Give that back! That's my goddamn–"
Smoker hung up with a sigh and a sore eardrum.
The rest of the day was spent thinking up ways in which to punish the boy without compromising his position as a police officer. He settled on another membership to the gym he worked out at and a few 'restrictions.'
When Ace arrived, he greeted him with a surly, "Where the hell were you?"
"Didn't you get my note?"
"Oh, I got it all right. Are you drunk? High? Because if you're either of those things or if I see just one fucking arson on the news tonight, you're going to–"
"I'm going to what? What are you going to do to me? What could you possibly do to me that hasn't already been done?"
Smoker stopped himself from punching the brat. He took a deep breath as Ace shrugged out of his jacket and sneakers.
"Smokey, aren't you going to check my breath and do all those police tests? Make me walk a straight line?"
Without really thinking about what he was doing, Smoker grabbed the back of Ace's head to keep him still and leaned into his face, putting his nose by parted lips. He inhaled hard, but he couldn't smell anything boozy and there certainly wasn't a distinctly different odour on the boy. Nothing but cigar smoke.
He shouldn't have smoked all those damn cigars.
"Do I pass your test?" Ace whispered, hot breath tickling Smoker's nose. The man drew back, shook his head with a grimace, and went into the living room wearing a faint blush on the tips of his ears. He expected Ace to high tail it up to his bedroom, but the boy merely followed and sat on the couch next to him, feet drawn up so he sat cross-legged. "Well?"
"I don't know what to say. Either you're really good at hiding things or I'm just losing my touch."
Ace snorted. "You really don't believe in innocence, do you?" Smoker rolled his eyes at Ace's sad smile meant to mock him. "Well, I'll tell you where I actually was. I was at the art gallery, helping a friend move things around. Volunteering my time. Nothin' wrong with that. Then I hung out around the river downtown, outside of the Flamingo Café, and sketched some scenery on a napkin."
Smoker furrowed his brow. "Are you fucking kidding me?"
"Nope. Here's the napkin," Ace said, withdrawing a rumpled crème coloured cloth from a pocket. He balled it up and chucked it at Smoker's head. Smoker caught it before it hit his forehead and smoothed it out on his knee. A mini work of art in pen.
"This is ridiculous."
"I know. The napkin kept ripping on me."
Smoker continued to stare at the mini work of art, wondering if he should preserve it in the event of the kid becoming famous one day. "That's not what I meant, brat."
"Quit calling me that, old fart."
Renewed anger flushed Smoker's face. "Tomorrow morning, you're not leaving the house unless you have my permission. And tomorrow morning we're also hitting the gym. Garp called. He wants to put you in jail if you don't start listening to me. I didn't let him in on you skipping out of here in a skirt with a basket of sweets for granny."
"Fine," Ace huffed. "He just wants me to be an officer, just like him. Or join the army, or the goddamn marines. Like I will when I get enough money to get the hell out of here."
Curiosity got Smoker's devout attention. "What'll you do instead?"
"I dunno. Anything but what he wants me to do," Ace said with a nonchalant shrug.
"Hopefully you won't turn to a life of crime," Smoker grumbled.
"Then straighten me out," Ace challenged. Smoker examined his eyes, the dark twinkling in them that hinted at more but never revealed what was under that glassy surface. A grin spread across Ace's face and his freckles danced in a wave.
Smoker's eyes travelled and took in the rest of Ace's body until he felt himself grow hot. He had spent enough time staring at the boy's half-naked body that he had it memorized, and he could easily imagine Ace's chest under his shirt. "I'm starting dinner," he announced before fleeing.
Before he left he slapped Ace upside the head, partly because he deserved it, and partly because Smoker felt he needed to put some emotional distance between them before things got weird in his head.
A.N.: My objective for this story: good humour, good sex, and a distraction from the train wreck that is 'A Dance for Two'. I'm not abandoning anything, but I needed a pairing change before I go crazy with Kidd/Law and this story was kicking around with one chapter for a while, so I decided to post it. The 'New Story' button was just too tempting to pass up.
Updates won't be extremely quick, but they'll come. Eventually. This is only a short, five chapter story (I think! We'll see.)