Law glanced behind him, watching as Brittany straightened from hacking up the contents of her stomach in some bushes further away. Logan's screaming still in the background, she didn't turn to look his way, intentionally keeping her back to the horror that awaited her. The pirate only shrugged. He had an inkling that she wouldn't have been able to handle it, but she had wanted to join.
Logan moaned in agony, his torso writhing in the mud below where his legs dangled from the rope, the knees still dripping blood from where they were severed from his body. Even Bepo and Penguin looked away from all that was left of the once whole being that now lay in pieces. Law, however, simply watched him try to crawl away by the stumps of his arms.
"Pleeee…" He moaned, unable to form words properly.
Behind him, Law heard Brittany whimper at the sound, and Penguin moved to hold the woman in comfort, wrapping his arms around her shoulder solemnly.
Logan spit blood, the inside of his mouth red from the hot liquid. Law walked closer, crouching beside him, his sword still in hand.
"Ki….Kill…" He tried, forcing the word through his pain. Law understood his plea. The pirate stared at Logan, taking in the desperate cry to be released from his pain. Cocking his head, Law brought the edge of his sword against Logan's neck.
"Do you know the difference between you and me?" He asked quietly, knowing the man couldn't reply in his state of pain. His breathing heavy, the brunette man simply looked at him through squinted eyes, the question all too evident.
Law sighed, pushing the blade closer against his skin, forcing his neck up so he looked at him more. "You kill because you want to. I kill because I must, to protect those I hold close. From people like you, who might think they can take what is mine."
Logan said nothing, just continued to stare at him as his breathing became more shallow.
"I use people like you to send a message, one that says no harm will come to those under my flag." Finally, Law released the pressure on his neck, standing and sheathing the blade once more. "Killing you so easily would be a mercy. I'll let you bleed out into the mud."
"Nnnnnnnn." Logan groaned, trying to squirm and stop Law from leaving him there, alone in the rain. This was no way to die, broken and writhing in agony, unable to move at all. But the bastard was doing just that, giving him the death of a coward, a no one.
"We're done here." Law stated clearly, picking up the discarded rifle from the ground and giving it to Bepo to carry. "Brittany-ya, do you know the way back to the cave from here?"
She sniffed, pushing gently out of Penguin's hold as she wiped away the fearful tears in her eyes. "Y-yeah…I think so."
Nodding, Law let her guide the way as everyone else filed in behind her. Law was last to follow, glancing once more at what was once a man. Logan was staring at him, the intense hatred blatantly obvious in his glare. Holding his gaze a moment, Law eventually turned back and followed his friends.
Lexi was struggling not to fall asleep. Shachi tried keeping small conversations going simply for the sake of keeping her conscious, but they were becoming increasingly ineffective. Forced to actually pat her cheek to shake her from her rest, he felt bad, knowing that her face was so cold and probably sore.
Too focused on keeping his companion awake and breathing, he almost didn't see the group returning to the cave, until they were only a few feet from passing through the water. Spotting Bepo immediately, Shachi knew they were friends and didn't draw his weapon, standing to greet them as they returned.
"Captain, did-" He stopped, taking in the solemn and slightly traumatized expression from Brittany, and the grim acceptance from his friends and Captain. "What happened?"
"Is he dead?" Lexi asked softly from her spot on the floor. Law looked down at her, inspecting the bloodstains showing through his hoodie. Nodding slowly, he watched her expression of concern turn to that of relief, a small smile working its way onto her face.
"Good." She sighed happily, turning to her friend. Brittany sat on the other side of the cave, her head down and arms wrapped around her knees. Frowning, she cocked her head sleepily.
"Are you ok?"
Silently, Brittany shook her head, a fearful glance in Law's direction. Confused, Lexi was about to ask why she was acting so strange but Shachi interrupted her.
"Captain! I almost forgot. Lexi-chan and I think we found the way back home." He pointed towards the back of the cave, and Penguin looked up excitedly as well. "It's at the back of the cave!"
Law's head turned to his engineer, eyes widening. "Show me."
All of the pirates followed Shachi to where he'd found the strange gray mist-like doorway, as he'd explained it, his flashlight showing the way. Brittany and Lexi were left by the entrance, and the brunette sighed gently.
"Brittany, what did Law do?" She asked quietly, having a feeling of what had happened. Brittany slowly looked up to her, eyes wide and strangely hollow, as if she weren't really there.
"He…he cut him up…into pieces." She swallowed, looking down at her hands. "I tied his feet up…and they hung him over a tree branch…then he cut his…arms and legs off…" She muttered, clutching a handful of her hair for comfort. "It was…"
"Just don't think about it, Brit." Lexi tried reassuring soothingly. "It's over, you don't have to think about it anymore."
"You don't understand." The black-haired woman shook her head frantically. "I'll be thinking about it for a long time. For the rest of my life."
Lexi said nothing, unable to come up with a response to that. She didn't exactly want to say that she couldn't feel sympathy for Logan, seeing as he had definitely planned on killing her. Whatever had happened she figured was what he deserved. In fact, she secretly hoped that Law had made it as painful and gruesome as possible. And by the sound of it, he had. Because it was Brittany who didn't understand, really. She hadn't experienced the true fear of death, of never knowing if her next breath would be her last. She didn't know the pain of having to stare the person who would kill her in the face for hours as he slowly tore up her legs, smiling and laughing with each new scream he pulled from her behind the tape.
But Brittany obviously hadn't been able to cope with what Law had done. She didn't understand, but she couldn't exactly fault her for that.
They could hear the voices and footsteps as the pirates returned to the entrance, Law chatting with his men about provisions and where their next destination would be. Then, the Captain turned his gaze onto the brunette, obviously having something to say.
"Have you made your decision?" He asked, the sword leaning on his shoulder casually. Lexi's eyes drifted over all of the pirates, seeing the expectant face of Penguin, the adorable and happy one on Bepo, the ecstatic one for Shachi, and the stern indifference of Law. But under that carefree attitude she could see that he was secretly hoping she'd accept his offer, the fingers on his nodachi sheath tighter than necessary.
'Am I ready?' She asked herself, finally smiling sweetly, her eyes still weary and heavy. 'Yes, I am.'
"I want to go with you, to your world." Law gave a satisfied smile, and the two engineers high-fived. But Brittany's head snapped up in the next instant, disbelief etched on her face.
"Lexi…what are you doing?" She stood, going over to Lexi's side and grabbing her by the shoulders. "What are you even saying?"
Turning evenly to her best friend of several years, Lexi gave a tired and apologetic smile. "This is what I want, Brit. I want to go with them."
"Are you insane!? Do you even know what they are capable of!?" She gestured wildly at the pirates standing back from them, watching the scene with interest. Law had his signature smirk in place.
"Brittany-" She tried to explain her decision but the black-haired woman was not hearing it.
"They straight up murderer a man! Dismembered him! What makes you think they won't turn on you and do the same!?" Shachi and Penguin looked rather offended, while Law only lost his amused look, opting to sport that blank expression.
Lexi finally looked towards her future Captain, locking gazes for several moments, as if trying to find any intention of deceit or violence directed towards her, seeing nothing but intrigue and respect. She had no doubts, even if Brittany had witnessed a side of Law that she had yet to experience. Sure, it might scare her, but what was life without being scared, or angry, or sad, or any of those other emotions? She knew Law better than her friend did, and that side of Law was what made her confident that she was putting her life in trustworthy hands.
Lexi smiled again, pulling her friend in close for a hug. "I know you're worried about me, I know you'll miss me, but I know the risks. I know what I might be getting myself into and still I want to go." Brittany tried pulling away but the brunette held her firm.
"What is there left for me here?" She asked honestly. "Nana's gone. My parents are gone. I feel unsafe in my own hometown. I was almost murdered. My grades were starting to tank after that party."
"You have me." Her best friend choked, a sob racking her body. Lexi felt Brittany tremble in her arms, squeezing her tighter as if afraid to leg go. "I'm still here for you."
"You won't be forever though. You've always talked about moving away and getting out of here."
"Come with me then." She tried, desperately trying to convince her friend not to go. It was true. She was afraid of losing her. She was scared that something would happen, or she'd get hurt, or something equally worse. She was scared of being without the friend that had her back, the one she could text at odd hours of the day to share some stupid meme from Facebook. She would miss her so much, and she didn't know how to handle it after all that had happened.
"Brittany." Lexi sighed, stroking her black hair affectionately. "I'll be alright. This is what I want. And I know you'll do fine without me. You'll get to visit Paris and England and all the places you've dreamed of. But you've gotten take the chance."
There was several moments of time where Brittany only cried into Lexi's hair, squeezing tightly. Then, she finally nodded a little, pulling away.
"Alright. I guess you've always been stubborn like that." She laughed halfheartedly, trying to clear her eyes. "But, you have to promise that you'll try to make more friends because god dammit you won't ever do anything."
"I promise. Just...make sure Nana has a nice funeral. Let her I loved her, and that I was thankful for everything she did for me."
"I will." She responded. Lexi smiled sadly, breathing a little easier as Brittany pulled back, rising to her feet. Letting out a deep breathe, the black-haired woman straightened her soaked clothing, looking to the pirates who watched silently.
"You two had better keep her safe and make sure she's happy. Got that?" Brittany pointed at the two engineers, and they stiffened, bringing their hands up to their heads in a salute.
"And you," She swung her gaze to Law, who only raised a brow in response, "You and I are going to have a chat before you leave. And I'd rather not walk through the woods by myself back to the truck anyways. Any chance I could bother you for an escort?"
He sighed, having wondered if she'd make him walk her back or not. After his display of violence earlier, it was a small wonder she'd be a little intimidated of finding her way back alone. Still, there were more pressing matters to attend to. "Lexi-ya has lost a lot of blood, and may be in danger of bleeding out if not treated immediately." He argued, but Lexi yawned from her place by the wall.
"Most of the bleeding has stopped. And I can hold out another 20 minutes or so. Please, if you could bring her back, I would be appreciative." She asked, giving him a small smile. Still, those tired eyes were begging to sleep but for the sake of her friend she was holding out.
The doctor part of Law was frustrated by that, but he knew Lexi wouldn't forgive him if he simply left her friend on her own in this cave. He frowned then. "I suppose I have no other choice in the matter. Bepo," He turned to his first mate, who stood at attention, "you'll accompany me to escort Brittany-ya."
"As soon as we return, we will depart back home." Law promised, ordering Shachi and Penguin to stay with Lexi until he got back. The three walked back out into the rain, which didn't seem as strong as before, but still quite the downpour. Shachi and Penguin took up both sides of Lexi, trying to keep themselves warm but huddling closer together. They made sure to keep their distance from her legs, however, knowing it would hurt at a single touch.
"You'll love the crew, Lexi-chan!" Penguin promised. "And I think Holly-chan will like having another girl aboard."
"As long as you don't try to get together with Mike. He's got a thing going on with her, and she would probably kill you." He added, and Penguin nodded thoughtfully.
"Oh, and if Patrick ever asks to help you clean your room or something, say no."
"Why?" She chuckled, glancing between the two of them. Shachi crossed his arms.
"Because we've caught him trying to steal from Holly-chan's underwear drawer before, so you don't want to take the risk." Lexi shook her head, thinking that perhaps there'd be more to this adventure than she'd anticipated.
"Oh! And don't even get us started on the chef." Penguin continued, plunging into yet another story about some event him and Shachi had witnessed or participated in, completely enthralling Lexi in their adventures.
"I understand you would be worried about Lexi-ya's safety, but that is her decision to make." Law pushed, watching Brittany scowl. They walked along the muddy path back towards the truck, pushing overhanging branches and skirting around rocks that were in the way.
"I get that. I already agreed to accept her decision, but I'm not totally satisfied with that."
He raised a brow, watching the black-haired woman push her wet bangs out of her face, focusing on finding their way back. "And what is it you wanted from me, then?"
"Promise me you'll keep her safe. Promise me that you'll do whatever it takes to make sure she doesn't get hurt." Her eyes pierced into his, daring him to say otherwise.
"I've seen what you're capable of, and I don't think even she knows. And unless you convince me that what happened to Logan won't happen to her, by you or anyone else, I'm not going to just let you take her away to her death."
He paused, not looking away from what was meant to be an intimidating gaze. Who he judged to be an average human being before, this emotional and stubborn woman before him, he now saw an admirable heart and the courage to say what needed to be said. She was determined, decisive, and wouldn't take no for an answer to anything. She'd even been prepared to defend her friend in times of disaster. She'd held her own, pushing her own limits for the sake of others. With that realization, Brittany had earned his respect.
"While I am her Captain, she will be protected and treated with the utmost respect. We will train her to defend herself and fight, so in times of danger she is not defenseless." He recited, still holding her gaze. "No one will lay a hand on her before going through me first, that I promise you."
Brittany said nothing, only let the words sink in before slowly nodding. "I believe you. That in itself is something to wonder at." She muttered, shaking her head incredulously. "Especially after what happened before. I'm surprised you don't scare me half to death."
He smirked, pleased at this admission. "Hmm, perhaps I should have tried harder to frighten you."
"Don't even joke about that." She glared, bringing them around the last bend in the path before the highway came into view. They emerged from the trees, the truck within sight. The group of three stopped, and Brittany finally turned to Law and the polar bear.
"I guess this is goodbye." He stared, noticing her hesitation to begin their last exchange.
"Yeah, I guess so." Then, without warning, she hugged him tightly. He raised his arms in discomfort, not quite sure what to do about this. Brittany had never shown him that kind of attention, other than boggling him through his clothes on occasion.
"I guess you did save my best friend's life, and I'm grateful for that." She pulled away, eyes scanning his tattooed chest, practically salivating at the sight. He raised a brow, but she finally stepped back. "I'll never forget you guys, even if I want to."
"Goodbye, Brittany-ya." He smirked, watching her make her way back to the truck. The black-haired woman glanced back only once, giving a little wave before reaching the door, climbing inside, and turning on the engine. A few moments later and they were watching her drive back down the way they'd come, the red lights on the back marking her path.
"Let's go home, Bepo." Law sighed, feeling the lack of sleep from their intense night catching up to him. He really needed a nap, right after he treated the wounds on Lexi's legs.
Lexi and the others watched Law and Bepo come back into view in the clearing, coming and passing through the entrance. The engineers stood, double checking they had everything they needed. Lexi looked around as well, but knew she had nothing to need. Law handed his sword to Bepo, who dropped the gun on the ground and took his Captain's weapon, dutifully carrying it.
"You're not walking in that condition. I'm going to carry you."
Lexi nodded. Law bent down, an arm wrapping around her back and the other picking her up by the knees. She hissed a little as his hoodie shifted around, rubbing against the slashed skin, but otherwise it didn't hurt too much. Most of her legs were too cold to feel anyways.
He heaved up, and she instinctively wrapped her arms around his neck, finding better purchase so as not to feel like falling over at all times. He adjusted his grip, making sure he wouldn't drop her, then finally turned to the others.
And so saying, they approached the back of the cave. Shachi and Penguin still held their flashlights, illuminating the way before them. It was the first time Lexi would see the strange wall of gray mist they had been describing, and she felt excited at the prospect.
They walker deeper still, the darkness around them closing in, before the rocks directed them slightly to the right, and they rounded the bend so the back of the cave was now visible. Lexi gasped, enthralled by what she saw.
It was exactly as Shachi had first described it: a curtain of rolling gray smoke covered the entire back wall of the cave. It the darkness it was strangely out of place, but the noises and voices from before were louder and more pronounced now, to where she could distinguish the individual tones of the voices and the distinct sound of a crackling fire.
They all paused, a moment of hesitation at not knowing what to expect when they stepped through. Then, taking the lead, Law plunged into the swirling mass of smoke. Lexi closed her eyes, afraid of the unknown and what might happen. But all it felt like was a cool wave breeze, and then the temperature changed drastically. Gone was the chill of the rain and cold of West Virginia, and in its place was a much warmer, humid air.
The echoing of Law's footsteps on dry stone made her open her eyes, and she was surprised to find that they were still in the cave. Well, besides the temperature change, she would have thought they hadn't gone anywhere at all.
Law turned to glance behind him, and the others were there too, standing in front of a normal rock wall. Where the gray smoke should have been was plain rock. Confused, Shachi reached out a hand to the rock, but it touched the hard surface without going through. There truly was no going back now. But Lexi was sure of her decision, so it did not bother her.
They walked forward, Law in the lead. Then suddenly, a new and unfamiliar smell assaulted her nose. It wasn't the fresh scent of the forest around her home, or the clean rain, but the salty tang of the ocean, and something she couldn't name. The voices were distinguishable now, to where she could make out specific words and laughter.
The warmer air helped thaw out her freezing body, and her shivering from the wet and cold slowly subsided.
In front of them was light at the end of the cave. The entrance was close. Lexi squirmed in excitement at seeing this new world for the first time, and Law smirked, feeling her curiosity passed the point of needing flashlights, so Shachi and Penguin simply tossed them to the side, walking behind their Captain as they emerged into the light of the open world.
"Captain!" Someone called, and there was a holler of surprise and relief. Lexi had to shield her eyes from the sudden brightness, the sun overhead. "We were worried about you!"
"Is she ok?"
Finally cracking open one eye, she saw a whole gathering of men in identical boiler suits to the ones Shachi and Penguin wore, all wearing some unique kind of hat. They all scrambled from around a makeshift fire pit in the sand to stand and greet their Captain, watching her in curiosity.
"Sup guys!" Shachi and Penguin walked into the mass of others, patting backs and sitting on the logs set on either side of the pit. "You'll never believe where we've been the last few months!"
"Months? You've only been gone three days." One of them said, causing confusion through everyone. Lexi saw Law frown, curious as to that fact, but he shook that off, eyeing the hoodie still wrapped around her legs.
"We can discuss where we've been or what has happened later. This is Lexi-ya. She'll be joining the crew, but must have her injuries looked at first."
At the mention of her joining the crew, a few people cheered, or said hellos, but they finally nodded, slowly drifting away form the group of pirates returned from a different world. Law walked past the group towards a giant yellow submarine surfaced on top of the water not too far behind the group camped on the beach. Her mouth opened in awe, taking in the wonder that was this strange vessel.
Around them, everything looked exactly as things were in her world, and she took comfort in the familiar. A part of her had feared that colors would be different, or any other manner of things that weren't the same. But this wasn't as scary as she'd imagined first.
She smiled, wondering what this new life had in store for her as Law carried her onboard the yellow submarine.ns 18.104.22.168da2