Chapter 5

As if kids again

He looks tensed, but it might also be that he's cold; he wouldn't admit to it, but I have eyes, you know. His cheeks and nose is reddened, and his fingers are numbed when they leave the pockets of his over-size old jacket. I would switch my clothes for his; not that it'd be more fitting, my frame is still larger than his, but at least that jacket would fit me better than him. And he'd be warmer.

We stop by the old and unattractive playground. Time has washed it away as if it was made of dirt and there was a heavy rain. There are other playgrounds now, and this one, the one I used to play the most at as a kid, is abandoned now. I watch Zoro's eyes roam over the place. They seem to have gentled, and there's a certain spark in them – not much of it though. Overall, Zoro's eyes seem a bit too tired and uninterested in the outside world that they make you think he's too cold for you.

But right here and right now, him watching the place he might remember from when he was a little kid, his eyes are different. They're big, big and almost stunned.

I walk past him, small smile on my lips.

He decide I like my stubbornness. It's what got me here with him.

Zoro stands behind.

I sit on the old swing and grin stupidly as the whole construct howls under my weight. Zoro's not looking. For some reason, he's never looking. Well, almost. There have been this few episodes on the roof of our school when it seemed as if he was looking.

But when we're here together, he's avoiding any eye contact.

Damn that kid.

I take a swing and tilt my head up to the sky. It finally stopped raining, although knowing the weather here, it's going to be cloudy the next evening.

But right now, too soon for the sun to settle yet and the moon to come out, it looks perfect.

Skies are glazed in blue, yellow and orange.

I wish I could paint that.

I look back to Zoro. He hasn't even moved.

"Ain't ya gonna come and sit here?" I ask, smiling as much as I can. And right now, it's not that hard.

Zoro jumps up a bit, obviously not expecting my words. He moves his head towards me, but his eyes stay away from anything even near me.

He's pouting. I can tell.

I take another swing.

And another one.

Tilt my head.

Let go of everything I know.

It feels beautiful.

Then I stop.

Zoro is standing by the swing.

I'm smiling. "C'mon, do it!" I cheer for him.

He's not looking, but I know he's letting my words sink in. He slowly, very slowly, moves to sit down. Lets his hand slide down the chain that holds the object of our today's afternoon walk. I watch it. He's got cute hands. I like them.

Very slowly, as if scared to sit down, he takes his move to take his seat.

"There," I grin, "wasn't so hard, was it?"

He looks away even more when I talk.

I wonder what it is about him – or possibly about me – that makes him want to look away every time I try to get closer to him.

It's been weeks since we've been this close. I wonder how his sister is doing. But he's been avoiding me ever since that thing in the train station happened; I can tell.

I stop swinging and throw my leg on the other side of the wooden desk, so I'm straddling it and the chain gets in my view of Zoro. He hasn't moved yet.

That's okay.

I guess I'm just too scary for him.

I get it though. A guy who used to be the king of the high school, somehow now is just a mere nothing on the old playground, stalking a boy younger than himself.

Maybe what I do is pathetic?

I look at Zoro's face. His eyes. Those hands.

Even if it's pathetic, I want it.

Need it.

Need to want it.

Want to need it.

I reach out and grasp the chain of Zoro's swing. I drag it and along with it, the green-haired boy.

He looks at me. Gasps in shock.

I know he hates any kind of human contact.

I know he hates it when I try to touch him.

But this is just a swing. And I bet he hasn't been on one since he was like six. I'm not touching him. Maybe I'm popping into his personal bubble, but it's all I do. For now, I'll keep my hands to myself.

I drag the swing along with him just a bit backwards. Then I let go.

It makes him do a little motion onwards.

He's not looking.

I sigh quietly.

I think he hears me.

I look away.

And when I look back, he's swinging on his own; even if just a little, using his feet to press into the ground to make the old rusty chain move.

I lean against the chain that's behind my back. I close my eyes and enjoy the last bits of sunshine.

We're both silent. It feels like hours, but the sun is still there, so it can't be more than few minutes. I love this silence we share.

It's not the awkward silence. Not the weird and uncomfortable one. It's a silence in which we understand each other's reasons not to talk. I appreciate that about Zoro. When I'm silent around my friends, they hate it and tell me to do go the class teacher to let me go home and take a rest. They make fun of me, for having a hangover whatsoever. And sometimes, they just pretend I'm there, part of their group, but slowly, they leave me behind. All just because I want to listen and not talk too much.

But Zoro talks even less. Mostly it's me who does all the pitiful conversation. I mean, not pitiful in it's meaning, but pitiful with it's lack of words. And still, I like to talk to him. It's not meaningless like when Nami talks about make-up. It's more.

It's definitely more to me.

I'm just a bit afraid that soon, he's going to get fed up with my shit and he'll just stop responding to my calls; when I come to him after work and such. He's just going to walk away.

Like everybody did.

Every single one of them.

I crouch on the swing.

I don't want him to leave.

I notice Zoro's stopped swinging.

And he's watching me.

Watching me with those big dark green eyes, still so tired and pained as before, but now also curious. Or so it seems.

I force on a smile. "What?" I ask, making my voice as soft and gentle as I can. It feels like he's going to run away if I do something wrong, something inappropriate towards him, something he thinks is out of line.

He looks away.

Bad move.

I'd facepalm, or maybe even bang my head against a tree. We've had an actual eye contact for like three seconds; and what do I do? I fuck up.

Like usual.

I always fuck up. I fuck up everything I touch.

And then, we're silent again.

Some time passes before I dare to think of something to speak about, but as this day is coming to it's end, I'm getting sleepy.

I pray not to have a narcoleptic attack.

"My Mom is sick."

I'm shocked at the sound of Zoro's voice, quiet and low, but still hearable. I lift my head immediately and stare at him.

He's not looking back. He's hypnotizing his knees. His hands lay in his lap and he's playing with his fingers, just like when I came to pick him up from the DVD store. He has this weird, unexplainable expression on his face. I can't read it.

He takes a deep breath.

I can't believe he's talking to me on his own.

"Really, really sick."

I jerk away from my amazement to react properly. He's telling me about thing like this… and I'm just sitting there like a little dumb fish.

I try to move a bit closer, but not too close. I don't want to scare him.

"Shit. I'm so sorry, Zoro." I mumble, trying to keep the same voice level as he set.

He shrugs.

I watch his eyes. They're dull now.

"She's going to die in two of three months."

"Shit."

He looks my way, but not at me. He's watching my left knee. His eyes are glazed over with despair.

"Z-Zoro… I… I don't know what to say…" I murmur truthfully.

He shrugs again. "Silence is nice." He notes.

"Yeah," I agree, "but not at times like this. Your… your dad… won't pay the treatment?" it's a blind shot, but I had to. Sometimes I just say something stupid, like now, but mean to make things better via what I blurt out.

He looks away completely.

Watches the leaves fall to the ground.

His eyes are weaker and weaker, until they close.

"I don't have a dad."

I'm a total fucker. "I'm sorry."

And he just shrugs again. "I don't really care anymore."

Suddenly, I get why he was so freaked out back there with Kuina leaving the school trip earlier than she should, and on her own. She's the only one he has.

I wish I could grab his hand. Hold it in mine. Warm it up from the frosty wind.

I wish I could hold him close. I don't want him to feel the way he does.

Although I guess that two broken pieces can't fix each other.

Or can they?

"I killed my little brother."

His eyes widen. He turns his head to me.

"My mom, almost, too."

His eyes scan my face.

He shudders from the cold.

"It was a car accident. Glass everywhere. Me, mainly. But he had fractured skull and a huge blood loss. So he didn't make it, not even to the point when the ambulance came. My mom and I survived. And my older brother was waiting for us to pick him up from ice-hockey practice."

He's watching me now.

Intensely.

I want to look back, but somehow I can't.

He's silent.

I doubt he'll say a word.

He's not the type.

And I don't need his words. I know he needs mine more than I need his. It's okay.

Two broken pieces can't fix each other.

And silence is fine, too.

-oOOo-

My arms itch. Dad is staring at me.

"Speak up, Ace."

I shrug. Scratch my skin to the point it makes my loins warm up. I'm feeling weird again.

"Ace."

"What? Something to matter?" I mumble, slight trace of nervousness in my voice.

Dad shakes his head. "You tell me." He says.

I look away, me knees up to my chest as I sit on my bed, facing my dad. His mustache looks just as silly as usual, but is eyes are dead serious.

I can't face him.

I just can't.

I rub my arms.

"I heard you do… weird noises last night."

I go red. Redder than any other time in my entire life. "Well, what about it. I'm nineteen. Almost."

"No…" dad states slowly, massaging his temple. "That's not it, Ace. I don't mind. It's about what… causes it."

I stare at him and stare at him. My eyes are getting sore.

I knew this would eventually come. I knew it, but refused to pay attention to it. Dad still loves me. That's why it's happening. I killed his son, but he still loves me, and now it's doing weird shit to my everyday routine. How can he love me? He should hate me like Sabo does.

And here he sits, looking at me with that pained yet businesslike expression.

Fuck.

Fuck fuck fuck.

"That's just… some videos I downloaded."

"Don't lie Ace."

I shake my head furiously. "I'm not lying."

"Roll up your sleeves."

Shit.

Well, at least now I have my lesson. Should have started cutting on my thighs, or somewhere where he couldn't see so easily.

"You have no proof of this." I state dryly, not moving an inch.

Dad sighs heavily. "There was blood in your basin."

I freeze. Fuck.

How can I be so stupid and not clean up after my what I do?

"The sleeves, Ace. Roll them up. Now." He insists, urging me into things I don't want like usual.

I shake my head.

"Ace."

"No."

"Roll up your sleeves or I'll do it myself."

"Just leave it alone!" I suddenly find myself barking, losing patience all too quickly. I don't know what to do. I just fucking have no idea. No idea.

"How could I? You're my son, for God's sake!"

We fall silent.

I am.

I am his son, and he is my father. But I could care less. He doesn't have enough of my trust, nor enough of my love, to ask me to show him what I've been doing for past year.

Silence.

And more of it, before I decide to speak again.

"I won't stop, dad." I announce.

"You need to. I won't just sit down and watch my kid slowly torture himself to death."

"… Maybe that's what I'm aiming for."

BAM.

Blackness.

Moment on nausea.

What is happening?

"D-dad…"

I blink.

Blink some more.

He slapped me.

Are those tears in his eyes?

"Ace, whatever it is you're doing this for, whatever you're blaming yourself for, whatever you want to punish yourself for, stop. This shit helps nothing."

My eyes are wide and startled. He slapped me.

He fucking slapped me.

My dad slapped me.

I hold my hand over the place where his palm landed upon. It doesn't particularly ache, nor burn. It's more like he did it to wake me up. Or like I drank his beer without asking for a permission. Or slept over at friend's without mentioning it to him. It feels so…

Good.

It makes me feel alive.

I take a breath. Exhale slowly. Calm myself down. So does he.

"Did you tell mom?" is the first thing on my mind.

He shrugs. "No, but she's noticing you acting different."

"Uh-uh."

He looks over at me, placing his big heavy hand on my shoulder. "Ace. I just… I just really wish you'd ask for help instead."

I shake his hand off. "Don't be ridiculous, dad. I'm not the kind to ask for help."

"Well, you're my son. Guess I wouldn't want any help either. Which doesn't mean I don't want you to leave that shit."

I never heard him talk like this. Guess he's really not pleased with what he found out about.

"I can't stop, dad. I just can't."

"You have to! For love's sake, just because of your mother, brother and me, stop this!"

"I can't. I just fucking can't."

"Roll up your sleeves, Ace. I can help you. I'm a man of an influence for a reason. I can get you a therapist, a good one. I can even make your teachers let you pass the exams so you could take your time to recover from this."

"No." Just fucking no.

He won't. I won't. I won't let him.

"Fuck, Ace, I almost wish you were taking drugs."

Shit.

How dare he? How the fuck dare he? Suddenly, I go all too awake, all too energetic. Suddenly, there's only one thing on my mind. I want someone to beat the shit outta me for being the way I am.

I jump off of my bed. Stand up. Dead expression on my face. I can't bear this anymore.

I hate everything.

I pull the shirt over my head. I hear dad suck up air. His eyes go wide, wider than I've ever seen. And I swear I can see all the pain of the world in them. The tears are pretty obvious now.

Why are they there?

Why am I here?

Why?

"You can't fix me up. Not me. I'm a terrible, despiteful, pathetic creature, and you can't do a shit about it. There's nothing at all you could do about this. And you know what? That's okay, because I don't wanna get fine. I've got used to this."

And we stand there.

We stand and stand and stand.

And then, I see him move.

He's looking me into eyes.

And suddenly, his arms move and he's hugging me to his big chest.

He's hugging me like a son he once has had. Like nothing changed. Like I was still the same. Like I wasn't a beast.

I'm sick. I want to throw up. Die. Be gone and forgotten.

How can I be like this? I should be ashamed of my very existence. I just don't know why anyone should love me like this.

I realize my eyes are wet.

Too wet to be controlled by will anymore.

I cry.

I cry and cry and cry.

And he's just hugging me.

-oOOo-

"Kuina –"

"Before you start complaining, Oni-chan, you need to know that I really really wanted to see Ace-san. For our goodness."

I don't get a word she says. I want to smash my head against the wall.

She can't be here. It'll drag Freckle-face to me.

"Also, Social worker-san is supposed to visit in a day, and you said we need to get me a new skirt so she knows I'm doing well," she reminds me, and I have the urge to smash my head a million times more than three seconds ago. I totally forgot. Well, no, I didn't; I simply lost the track of time. It's hard to concentrate on days passing when your head is occupied with… stuff.

I sigh.

I take a breath.

"Yeah. Let's go get you some nice skirt."

Not that I have money to buy her even a fucking lollipop. It's okay to say that, though ; I'll just make something up along the way, like we have to run home because of whatever shit that might have happened, or maybe we'll meet a black cat that's going to bring us luck and I'll find some money laying on the ground. Yeah. Or we'll meet a social worker and my life will be over.

Kuina makes a curious face. "Aren't we going to wait for Ace-san?" she asks.

"No, now let's go." I try pulling on her hand, but she's like stuck to the pavement.

"Why not?" her voice is getting the annoying childish tone I dislike so much. It makes my head spin.

I shrug. "He's got stuff to do. Come on."

"Oh, pleaaase, Oni-chan! I really really miss Ace-san!"

"Stop being selfish." I know I'm a bad person for acting like this towards my very own sister. "He has his own friends and things to do."

Suddenly, Kuina's face loses it's brightness. My eyes widen a bit as I stare at her.

When she looks back up, her eyes are squeezed shut and she's forcing a grin on. "I see!" she shrieks. "Well, in that case, let's go now!"

Now it's her turn to pull my hand and drag me away from the school. She's not looking at me, nor the street. She's hypnotizing the pavement. Maybe she's not even looking at all. Maybe she's trying to fight away the tears that I probably caused to come to an existence.

I watch her dark hair and the way the cold wind ruffles it.

I wish I could let her be a normal kid.

I really, really wish so.

I truly do hate myself.

-oOOo-

I'm staring. I'm staring and staring and staring.

I just can't make myself knock it off; I keep staring and staring and staring until my eyes start to hurt. I believe I even forgot to blink. Also, I obviously forgot that there's a certain thing needed in the public, called manners.

But I can't help myself.

"He's got stuff to do. Come on."

I stare so helplessly. Marco must be thinking I went completely nuts. But I just can't tear my eyes away from the display before me.

"Oh, pleaaase, Oni-chan! I really really miss Ace-san!"

Marco's not listening to the outside world; he's got his headphones on, and I bet he's far too busy with checking out some busty teacher's butt; although occasionally, he looks over to me, and I have to try my hardest to seem like a normal person. It's indeed hard when there's something like this going on just few steps away from you.

I remember the kid; of course I do, after all, she's what actually got me closer to Zoro. Although I haven't seen her in quite a long time, I think of her from time to time. Mainly when I pass a family photo with Luffy on it; they have the same smile. I noticed Kuina is trying to act all grown-up and responsible, but when she thinks no one is looking, or when she forgets, she has the exact same grin he used to have.

The grin I wiped off for good.

I shake my head, trying to catch more of what they say.

But I can't; not that well. Zoro has his back to me. I'm staring at his ass.

"… Selfish."

I snap. His voice got a bit louder; maybe he's upset.

I wish I could just walk up to them and give Zoro's little sister a hug. And ruffle her hair. And joke around.

Like I used to, with my brother. Before I killed him.

I shake my head again. My arms burn and ache. Burn. Burn burn burn.

My insides are starting to coil.

I'm watching them. I'm really trying no to think what my head is making me think most of the time. I wish I could just make it stop. But they're right there. Zoro is right there. I want to talk. I want to go to the playground again. Swing.

I want to hold his hand.

Really.

Maybe this is too soon to tell, but I'm feeling better when he's around.

I'm watching it all the way to the corner, where he and his sister turn left and disappear from my sight.

Shit.

I need my razor now.

Dad took most of them; but didn't realize what my pendant razor is actually for.

Even though they were nothing but talking about me, something random like why not wait for me, it got me absolutely out of my system. Like there was an explosion somewhere within me, an explosion that caused some real trouble.

He thinks I wouldn't want to join them on their home wherever they might want to go; or so it seems. He led his sister away, after all. Didn't even consider that maybe I'd like to. He didn't think it'd be an option.

I wonder how it is that someone like Zoro thinks he's not good enough to share silence with someone like me.

Well, that's just how it goes, I guess.

And no, I don't have stuff to do. I never have anything to do. I wish he'd take my thoughts off of my mind.

Not that he's not doing it already.

I try not to think of the way his hips moved while he walked. I shudder. Take a breath.

And I realize I can't think this way. I can't let him take over my day dreams. I just can't, because I know that the damage it might cause… might turn apocalyptical.

What was I thinking, anyway? I mean, I can't just stare at some random boy's ass while thinking of my suicidal attempts and get a hard-on right away. It's something you can't do. Something that is banned. Something that you should be punished for.

I deserve punishment.

Yeah.

Razor.

"So," I hear the voice as if it was miles away from me, although Marco is just a foot or two distant. "Got any plans for tonight? I was thinking we might go to Tatch's bar and watch the hockey." He has his usual light smile on; an easy-going guy attitude as usual. I appreciate him for that. He's one of the few who haven't left.

I try to stop thinking those awful things. Uselessly. "Neh, not really in the right mood." I wipe him off.

And although I'm acting like a pussy, although he should snort and turn on his heel and walk off, although he should be disgusted by my ever-present gloominess… he just nods. He nods, that smile still staying there in it's usual place, not even slightly freezing.

It pisses me off.

He's supposed to be hating being in my presence. He should feel sick whenever having me around. He should make me leave; or leave himself. I'm toxic. Bad. Not the one he should be asking to come with him to watch hockey. I'm not the one he should want for a friend.

It pisses me off so fucking much.

I make the rules of how people act towards me.

Suddenly, I'm feeling all too hot in the face.

Marco's smiling. Headphones on. "That's alright," he says in that relaxed way of his. My belly tickles. I think of Zoro. "I'll tell Tatch you have something already."

And he's even willing to cover up for me.

Oh god.

Razor.

Razor razor razor.

I want to go home. I want the house to be empty. I want everyone to stay away from me today. Just one afternoon, just a half of the day is enough. Just few hours will do it for me. Am I asking that much?

"Thanks." I mumble, shifting from our sitting spot. "Gotta head back home. See you tomorrow."

Razor.

Razor.

I think too much, and suddenly, 'razor' sounds more like 'Zoro'.

-oOOo-

Tatadaaa~ hope you enjoyed! It was shorter, yes, however, now you have something to look forward to in the next chapters! I'll try to make it slightly longer, and if I don't… deal with it :D Btw, woohoo, finally some AceZo interaction! :D

R&R – and thanks for all the wonderful support! :)