A/N: Another one for Unattainable Dreams' prompt exchange challenge — This time, sadder themed. Anyhow, I had some trouble this time. My computer got water on it so I have to work around my lack of computer to use to upload this... It was done sometime last night but I'm only uploading it now.
Life asked Death, "Why does everyone love me but hate you?"
Death responded, "Because you are a beautiful lie and I am a painful truth."
-prompt from hikarirose13
(He can heal, but he can never be whole again.)
On that day, he learned just how sickening a funeral could be. The sky was infested with thick clouds, and the graveyard smelled of rotting wood. The weather was cold, not yet biting but very nearly, and the nearby greenery suffered from the chill. His own internal sobs and the wind's desperate howls fought for dominion in his attention, while what little of the speaker's words about the dearly departed he could hear over the battle drove him to the brink of panic, reality and denial having been forced to take arms against one another. His unforgivingly yellow chair left his lower back aching; more noticeably, the fingernails of his right hand dug like claws into his leg. As he sat in the front row, he was uncomfortably aware of how close he was to the body. The predominantly placid members of the minuscule audience vastly outnumbered those who looked to be genuinely grieving and he found himself disgusted by their indifference.
He wondered if any of them actually cared.
"Lu..." Absently, he noted the hoarseness of his brother's whisper as Ace came to rest his chin in his shoulder. "You're white as a sheet."
Receiving little but a hum in response, Ace gingerly wrapped his arms around his little brother's waist and drew them closer together. Luffy ignored the awkward position if their bodies, hanging half off their chairs, and concentrated on the reassuringly hot breath on the crook of his neck, which made the cold air seem all the colder.
"What were you thinking?"
"You'd better be," Sabo grumbled, leaning down to bandage an unsightly laceration on his little brother's leg.
A warm breeze capered in as the glass door slid open, their third brother entering with it.
"Oi, Onee-san, Imouto," Ace greeted cheekily. Sabo and Luffy gave an exasperated sigh and chortled, respectively, at the implication. "I saw some hummingbirds in the neighbour's garden on the way home today."
"Oh? Is it that time of year already?" Sabo mused. "I guess we should put out the hummingbird feeder soon."
"Yay! Hummingbirds!" Luffy cheered. "They're awesome, their wings go so fast you can't even see them. And did you know they can fly backwards? They're tiny and colourful and speedy and they're always moving all over the place-"
"Kind of like yourself, then." Both his older brothers reached to ruffle his hair at the same time, but Sabo's hand got there first. Ace, in defiance, rested his elbow atop Luffy's head as soon as Sabo was out of the way. "Hey, what's with the bandages?"
"He got in a fight."
"Another one? What was it about this time?"
"I didn't want to hurt anyone," Luffy whined quietly. "...But they said mean things about my Nii-chan..."
Ace and Sabo exchanged glances. Luffy refused to look them in the eyes, instead keeping his gaze riveted to the silver pocket watch the peeked out from the top of Sabo's breast pocket.
"...Forget about it. Just don't get in any more fights, okay?" Sabo relented. "Let's go get that bird feeder."
Sabo's pocket watch needed to be wound to run, but Luffy, being the watch's new owner, always forgot. The time it displayed hadn't changed since the first time it ran itself out after becoming his.
He gave the clock face a long look, memories playing a complex game of keep-away with emotions. After a moment of silent contemplation, he brought up a hand to twist the wind. He could still hear it ticking when he slipped it into his pocket.
—tick, tick, tick—
He let his head flop back on Ace's shoulder. The droning voice of the current speaker dulled in the wake of the pocket watch's ticking and his brother's heartbeat, the two almost synchronised.
He gave a hard stare to the tattoo on Ace's arm, the one he'd gotten to keep Sabo with them in spirit. Tattoos... They're permanent, aren't they? That'll be there long after we've forgotten what Sabo's voice sounded like.
He leaned away from Ace to meet his eyes.
"Is there something wrong?" Ace asked with concern. Luffy smiled wearily in response.
"No, but I... I'd like to go home."