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The Caged Bird Must Sing
Writer I-Dont-Like-I-Obsess
  • G: General Audiences
  • PG: Parental Guidance Suggested
  • PG-13: Parents Strongly Cautioned
  • R: Restricted
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The Caged Bird Must Sing
A - A - A
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Chapter 32
Apr 16, 2018
30 Mins Read
No Plagiarism!AeZTDC7O0ADPITU9k1F3posted on PENANA

Tugging the hoodie a bit further over his head, Law stepped down from the bus, mindful of the people also getting off behind him. It felt strange not riding around on his motorcycle. He'd put it in storage for the time being, the risk of getting in an accident too high with all the snow on the streets. Despite the logic, he hated having to part with it, even temporarily. Feeling the wind rushing past him was freeing, and he missed the experience.copyright protection4PENANAhusZfZjHPw

Several people bustled out from the public transport vehicle and moved off towards their destination, talking animatedly on cellphones or staring straight ahead. Hands stuffed in his pockets to keep out the cold of winter, he took a breath and stepped off the curb, moving towards the door to his usual Sunday destination.copyright protection4PENANAkpKjjnWqcW

The bell chimed like always when he pushed through the door. The warm, glowing interior was a blessing after standing in that bitter cold for too long, and he shrugged off the hood of his jacket, standing patiently as he surveyed the inside.copyright protection4PENANA1PLJJGT4Hy

Unsurprisingly, the place wasn't very busy. It was warm and the food was good, but the bitter cold outside left folks wanting to stay home for the day. Of the handful that were there some people he recognized, being regulars themselves, but most he had no recollection of. Monet could be seen bustling back and forth from the kitchen to the tables, carrying dishes and drinks on her serving tray. The other usual waitress was manning the register. Law honestly didn't know her name. Monet normally made sure she was the only one serving him, giving him little chance to interact with the redhead girl she worked with.copyright protection4PENANA7Z2AYiAhZp

Mindful of how he may come across to others Law kept his gaze casual, not wanting to stare at any one person for too long. The more he acted like he usually did, the less likely he were to tip off Joker's network. He knew his every step was being watched.copyright protection4PENANAOjPyC8Wyz8

Quicker than one would expect, Monet noticed him standing at the front, waiting to be seated. She smiled knowingly and waltzed over to greet him. "It's pretty cold out there, yeah? Better come inside and sit down. The heater's on full blast." She smiled flirtatiously, gesturing him over with a laminated menu.copyright protection4PENANAuAYgkIXdMF

Not bothering to smile in return, he followed after her towards his usual booth. Law noticed the green-haired woman tried making her hips sway a little more pronounced as she walked in front of him. He didn't much care, nor had he ever, instead wondering if Summer was doing alright. He tried not letting the worry show through, schooling his expression back into indifference by the time they reached his seat. She leaned against the opposite side of the booth as he sat down, her smile never waning.copyright protection4PENANAMTEPuC74U6

"Same as usual for you? Or, feeling a little adventurous?" She waggled the menu in front of him but he only shook his head, zipping off his jacket and placing it beside him.copyright protection4PENANAtIpih2rdB0

"The usual is fine." He said, gaze locking onto the street out the window. Without seeing her face, Law knew she was staring at him for a moment. Her gaze seemed to burn into the back of his head. For a terrifying moment, he wondered if she knew what he knew, but the moment passed and she laughed under her breath.copyright protection4PENANAm6BkmV2k9P

"Fair enough, but let me know if you want anything else. I'll be back with that shake." So saying, she turned heel and wandered her way towards the kitchen, backside intentionally swaying again. Law only glanced at her from the corner of his eye, watching as she disappeared behind the swinging door past the counter.copyright protection4PENANAZWIDLdgSha

Law took out his cellphone and flipped it over several times. He pressed the home screen to look at the time. After years of eating here he knew almost exactly down to the minute how long it would take them to make his food. That would play out well, as he wanted Monet to arrive at just the right time. His right leg bounced impatiently underneath the booth without Law being able to stop it. His nerves were shot, throat a little dry despite his confidence that it would work.copyright protection4PENANAZKTp3asuo3

He hoped to god it would work.copyright protection4PENANAvK974w37Qc

And, that he'd be able to get the hell out of here once it was set in motion. Any plan had room for error, especially one putting him directly in the territory of his enemy, but he had to try. He was tired of running, and ready to start putting the pressure on Joker a bit.copyright protection4PENANAWP8FtUSJM9

That, of course, hinged on the events he predicted would happen once he laid the groundwork. He just hoped Monet would act on it accordingly.copyright protection4PENANAUMUOcXZEsn

Law let himself zone out to the normal hustle and bustle of the diner, gaze shifting between the view through the window and the few other customers inside. Thankfully, Monet was the only face he recognized from the photos given to him. That didn't mean Joker wouldn't fill the place with his fodder underlings, since Law frequented this place.copyright protection4PENANAHY7R5cn8je

Dammit, the longer he thought about this, the less likely it seemed it would work. Law didn't have a whole lot of resources available to him, and this was the best he could come up with in such a short amount of time. But his contacts were influential enough to still have their uses. He just hoped he was right about this.copyright protection4PENANAlf3uUxoNhb

Judging that enough time had passed since Monet had placed his order, Law opened the phone and scrolled through the list of his most recent calls. Pressing on the number he wanted, he glanced one more time around him just for good measure, sending a quick text for his contact. Beneath the booth, his leg continued to bounce.copyright protection4PENANAWcXR09OZNh

Setting down the phone, he steepled his fingers and waited, hoping that she wouldn't wait too long and waste his time. Timing was key.copyright protection4PENANAnvgumlGJuZ

Thankfully it wasn't more than a minute before he received the call. The line rang a few times, and he rushed to answer it. "Hello?"copyright protection4PENANAXQf1kazIXQ

"It's me. You're late. If you'd waited any longer, I would've thought about leaving."copyright protection4PENANATT3RK30z3O

Just as Law predicted, he caught a flash of pale green hair coming towards him from the kitchen, his order in hand. Remembering the exact words he wanted to use, Law tried playing up the show as best as he could. The more emotion, the better. "I told you not to call unless it's important."copyright protection4PENANARqj7VGtCqY

He heard the incredulous sigh on the other end. Obviously, she wasn't too much of a fan on this acting bit. But at least she wasn't the one that needed to be too convincing. It was more for Law's benefit than anything to make his responses sound more genuine.copyright protection4PENANABoORq81ZQY

"We don't think she's safe." She said without inflection, wanting to get this over with.copyright protection4PENANAQKSTBDXCd1

Law tensed, eyes widening and fingers clenching for good measure. "What do you mean she's not safe?" His tone became strained with disbelief, a little louder than usual. Monet needed to hear it. "Where is she?"copyright protection4PENANAq4sKcnqFZR

"We've got her here, but we need to relocate her."copyright protection4PENANADBfssFAuEr

Right on time, Monet approached with his food and shake, placing them on the table with a smile. It looked a little too smug to be innocent, and Law knew right then that she would be listening intently to the rest of his conversation. Good.copyright protection4PENANAsvbloNYmpb

She lingered another moment, then noticed when he glanced at her uncomfortably. The waitress faded off to ask the table behind him if they needed anything else. Law saw it for the ruse it was, sticking close to him to hear what he said without provoking suspicion.copyright protection4PENANAnQgPAsd18d

"Relocating is not an option." He hissed.copyright protection4PENANASMP7eiNPMr

"It has to be. Do you know of any other place she could stay?"copyright protection4PENANAhfXtAlgzIF

Monet finished up with the table behind him, and moved to the one in front of him. Law glanced around, as if looking to see if anyone was listening. "Shit…There may be a place I know of, but I can't talk about it here."copyright protection4PENANAL5v2V6v97D

"There's no time. We'll bring her to you."copyright protection4PENANAn0qc7FvUuh

Law paused to rub the bridge of his nose in 'frustration,' casting a nervous glance around again. He was really playing up the paranoia factor, but it was better to make sure Monet was convinced. "Alright, alright…bring her to me and I'll hide her. Don't make it obvious. Maybe one or two people at the most, or someone will get suspicious."copyright protection4PENANAmMxjf8FvIn

"Where are you?"copyright protection4PENANAattGvpM1yU

Monet moved off behind the counter, pretending to occupy her time there. However, she was still within hearing distance of the conversation. "Behind Caesar's Cafe and those two abandoned shops. There's an alley back there. The doors to the shops are easy to break into, and there's not a lot of traffic. We shouldn't have any problems."copyright protection4PENANAEWU582KEXf

"When?"copyright protection4PENANAWj1tDgCjLk

"Can you be here in five minutes?"copyright protection4PENANAHWNaDjAqk8

"I'll be waiting. And if this doesn't work," she said, breaking the script he'd instructed her to stick to, "then you'll be at the top of my shit list."copyright protection4PENANAkZ4f4dhPRe

Not bothering to reply, Law ended the call and placed his head in his hands. Feigning stress and anxiety, Law groaned quietly. Of course, some of it he didn't necessarily have to fake. He could feel the nervous energy buzzing through his skin.copyright protection4PENANA5Ny6hcmTv8

His meal forgotten, Law leaned back and stared up at the ceiling. Knowing Monet, she'd stop by and check to see how he was doing with his meal like she normally did. In fact, as he had the thought, she straightened from her position behind the counter and sauntered over.copyright protection4PENANAdc51nJlX9F

Law saw the expression of concern marking her features, hands on her hips. "Everything alright here? You've barely touched the food. I can have them make you another if something doesn't taste right."copyright protection4PENANA6uFbJKp0zh

Law waved her away, too distracted to look at her properly. "No. I just realized I'm late for something. I'll take my check now."copyright protection4PENANAfE5NLmZ8fv

The waitress pouted in what he imagined was supposed to be a 'cute' fashion, but it was largely ineffective against him. "Hmm, well do you want a box to take the rest with you?" She picked up the tray and shake, smiling widely, as if it would be of no problem to her if that's what he wanted.copyright protection4PENANAhtInu66P4f

Resisting the urge to roll his eyes, Law shrugged haphazardly. "Sure, I guess." With that, Monet took his food behind the counter to box it up, while he moved up to the front to pay.copyright protection4PENANAvaKbmtVLuv

Monet practically kicked the redheaded waitress off of the cashier, none too gently stepping in front of her to take Law's payment. Not for the first time, the bartender thought to himself that she was a bit of a bitch. And that wasn't even accounting of the fact that she worked for Joker.copyright protection4PENANA2Ja7xVux3K

He paid for his meal without incident, throwing in another glance over his shoulder to the street outside just for good measure. Monet handed him the box with another sadistic and overly-sweet smile. "Take care, Law." She bid, seemingly unfazed when he didn't respond.copyright protection4PENANA3keLHISOyW

Pushing out the door, Law swung right and travelled the direction of the alley behind the diner. However, he passed the entrance and kept on walking. Hoping beyond hope that Monet herself would take the bait, the bartender sighed and pulled up the hood of his jacket again, noticing it was snowing gently. Now all he could do was wait for her to give him the call afterwards.copyright protection4PENANA447OftibfM

Monet watched Law leave the diner, heading towards the outside alley. Smirking to herself, she went to the time clock and stamped her card, putting it back in the slot. "I'm taking my break." She explained, barely looking the redhead's way. Mandy gave her a glance but said nothing, tending to the customer waiting to pay.copyright protection4PENANAGiwQp3LUBP

The green haired woman took off her apron and hung it on the peg in the kitchen. The cooks were busy with the meals, but because it wasn't packed in the diner, the atmosphere wasn't hectic. No one said anything as she slipped out towards the back door. Before she opened it, Monet sent a text to a friend, explaining what she'd overheard.copyright protection4PENANAEEaSqSBiGa

Law had said five minutes. Leaving too early wouldn't do any good. Too late and she'd miss the meet. Time it right, and Monet may just have a present to deliver to Joker. He'd been in a sour mood as of late, Law being the primary cause. She was sure this would curb a bit of his anger. Maybe even make his day.copyright protection4PENANAfLfmzvQRG5

On second thought, maybe she could kill two birds with one stone. Surely she could get the jump on Law and knock him out? Then, surprise whoever was bringing the girl and take them both to Joker? That sounded like a plan too. Monet had done more dangerous things before. She was sure she could take care of something as simple as this.copyright protection4PENANAEmnacNeYHP

Law tried not to let his anxiety show, hunching his shoulders underneath the hoodie as he trudged on down the street. Eyes downcast as the snow crunched beneath his shoes. The few times he'd glanced around him, it didn't seem like he was being followed. But that could change. He was several blocks from Caesar's Cafe, and any minute now, he should be getting a call from Bonney.copyright protection4PENANAOmuYfVRRey

Getting her complete cooperation hadn't been too difficult. Once Law negotiated terms with a few other people who owed him favors, Bonney promised to follow through. She was also a bit enthusiastic to hear what he had in mind for her.copyright protection4PENANA2tjhPSMGKs

"I've had more than a few run-ins with that bitch. It almost feels you're doing me another favor." She'd said, chuckling on the other end of the phone. Law was just pleased that she was upholding her end of the bargain.copyright protection4PENANALoP8y1VN0D

That call was supposed to come any time now. Each second felt like it dragged for far longer than it should. Each step felt slower, the noise of the city quieting around him. Law realized then that from this moment on, he'd have committed one more grievous sin. Yet another to add to the list. Swallowing down the shame that threatened to rise, he thought of Summer, thought of what he could have after this was all over.copyright protection4PENANADO07Nf2E6h

Law promised to leave no secrets between them. He didn't know how far he could keep that promise. What would she think of his methods? How would Law find a way to tell her what he intended to do anyways? Perhaps she already suspected. He had no way of knowing. Would the blonde regret her decision?copyright protection4PENANAd8KwqApcg9

Law didn't know the answer, but could convince himself it needed to be done. How else was he going to keep her safe? He nearly jumped, feeling the buzzing in his pocket. His cold fingers scrambled to dig it out, answering the call. "Yeah?"copyright protection4PENANAF1xua6w6Tx

"It's done." Bonney said. Relief flooding him, he closed his eyes and smiled.copyright protection4PENANAJwlJD9ZGO6

"Thank you."copyright protection4PENANAX1fIyFiXSz

"Yeah, well, a deal's a deal. I did my part, so don't contact me again." She gruffed. "But, uh…take care of yourself. We all know how Joker can be. You're placing yourself right into his sights, and now you just opened the floodgates. If I didn't know any better, I'd say you were stupid."copyright protection4PENANA6yBE3LKzRD

"I know what I'm doing, Bonney." He reassured, hoping his own doubts didn't show through in his tone.copyright protection4PENANA6B9slNCkuq

Her amused chuckle made him wince. "Sure you do."copyright protection4PENANArssGa0mtYf

Before he could say anything more the line disconnected and Law was left staring at the screen. One down. More to go.copyright protection4PENANA24NDIRpsqg

The pinkette rolled her eyes and ended the call. Monet's body lay unmoving at her feet, the puddle of blood around her head expanding steadily as time went on. The bullet wound was small, but damn did it bleed. The abandoned shop had the windows boarded up with wood, leaving it dark inside. It had been simple enough to surprise the woman, almost child's play. Bonney had half a mind to feel insulted for such an easy favor Law asked of her, but at least she no longer owed the bastard. Plus, personally taking care of Monet was satisfying in itself.copyright protection4PENANA6xSg0d3Dyy

"Tank." She called, her second in command pausing his pacing to look at her. She kept her eyes fixed on the body down below, however. "Make sure to leave that cigar. We don't want Joker knowing just who was here to kill the bitch."copyright protection4PENANA3Z0wGbx2Ev

"Already on it." He smirked, lips pursed around the end of one of Capone's signature brands. The mafia man had a habit of leaving his used cigars wherever he went. It was almost a calling card by now. Tank took a few last drags of it, blowing the smoke away and tossing the remaining end onto Monet's body.copyright protection4PENANAiHA6liXKLo

Bonney wasn't stupid enough to think Joker would be totally convinced of this little trick, but at least it would leave him unsure and guessing. The longer it took him to be sure of who killed one of his people, the better.copyright protection4PENANA1SWT8W6bAF

Bonney finally nodded, feeling rather satisfied. She gestured for Tank to follow. "Come on. Let's get going before the restaurant figures out something's wrong."copyright protection4PENANAJDEKakVHnz

They slipped out the same way they'd come, blending into the crowd easily, hiding their bloodstained clothing under layers of heavy jackets. None of the citizens around them had any clue.copyright protection4PENANAdGhNMC6JmR

"Are you sure you'll be alright?" Shachi questioned. The uncertainty and hesitation to leave in his expression was almost comical, but Summer was just about at a breaking point and so didn't find it funny. They'd holed up in the hotel for nearly a week now. She needed some alone time, and this would be one of the first times she'd be able to get it.copyright protection4PENANA8oK4hS1o3B

"It's just an hour. I'll be fine. Besides, there's nothing to eat in this place." The blonde gestured to the fridge, which just so happened to be nearly empty. "We'll have to by food eventually."copyright protection4PENANA3NfIxp3t7r

The redhead rubbed at his head, stuck glancing between her and the door of the hotel. "What if-"copyright protection4PENANA3l7k8TWeDj

"Shachi," she interrupted, choosing her words carefully, "you have a key to the room, right?"copyright protection4PENANA6LIQPZJRoN

"Yeah, but-"copyright protection4PENANAssAHa87eBf

"No one can get in without a key. If someone knocks, I won't open it. How does that sound?" Summer tried to reign in the frustration, knowing he was just trying to help and it wasn't necessarily his fault that she was this tired of having someone in her vicinity 24 hours a day, but this was getting ridiculous. Summer was a homebody by nature, and too much social interaction was bad for her mood.copyright protection4PENANAFFAMZJGWYj

Shachi was trying to come up with a reason for him to stay, and finally he latched onto the first thing he thought of. "Someone could pretend to be the maid and sneak in while I'm away."copyright protection4PENANAg45YVVYEMm

Sighing, the blonde walked over to the counter and held up the 'Do Not Disturb' sign provided to each room of the hotel, her eyebrows raised expectantly for some kind of retort. It required no other words than that. They stood in a few seconds of silence, but it seemed Shachi had given in.copyright protection4PENANAseP2WZb3eN

"I just wouldn't forgive myself if I let something happen to you while I'm out. I know for damn sure Law wouldn't." He muttered, grabbing his keys from his pocket and walking towards the door. "Just…please. Be careful and stay here."copyright protection4PENANAjTsUGsDnoB

Summer nodded, feeling a stab of guilt from his reasoning. It was strange to have someone she didn't know very well worrying this much about her wellbeing. Though, she supposed they weren't really strangers at this point. During her relationship with Law, she'd encountered them plenty of times to feel comfortable in their presence.copyright protection4PENANAHEGMDCHBht

The sound of the door closing ripped her thoughts away. Summer stood in the living area for a moment, unsure of what to do now. It felt freeing to just be by herself for awhile. She still appreciated Shachi and Penguin looking after her during this…mess, but the constant hovering was grating.copyright protection4PENANAYJINLENXI2

Her feet padded over to the sofa and she sat with a groan. Shachi's laptop lay on the coffee table. The blonde reached over and opened it up, typing in the password he'd given to her to use it. The screen opened up to a picture of a muscle car, but she ignored it and clicked over to the internet.copyright protection4PENANAL1WdWCGz04

Penguin had been the one to suggest leaving her phone shut off, just in case the GPS in her phone gave them away. She'd reluctantly agreed. It was difficult not to have a way of contacting anybody she knew or keeping up to date with news and such, but everyone had warned her of the dangers of doing so. Living in hiding was not as glamorous as the movies portrayed, Summer thought with a frown.copyright protection4PENANAaHJRtntbYK

They'd agreed to let her borrow the laptop to entertain herself and pass the time, thankfully. Without it, she probably would have gone mad from boredom.copyright protection4PENANAFXtnLf1zdK

Within a few clicks, Facebook's homepage popped up on the screen. Summer searched up Hitomi's page and viewed the most recent updates. Nothing seemed unusual. She'd tagged her aunt to several recipe posts, and right below that was a picture of her and Soma together. The background didn't match their apartment, so she assumed they were out having fun somewhere in the town. The blonde smiled, missing her neighbors.copyright protection4PENANABYMxcIaSha

On a whim she navigated over to Nami's page, realizing it had been some time since they'd talked. Despite living in her mother's apartment complex, life didn't give them too many opportunities to cross paths. They were both busy people. Her orange-haired friend's page consisted of makeup tutorial videos she'd shared from Youtube, memes about finance that Summer couldn't quite relate to, and pictures of her out having fun with a groups of girls that she didn't recognize.copyright protection4PENANAWsRGkl3Nx2

The blonde couldn't help but feel a pang of jealousy, seeing her friends living fun and adventurous lives. Although being at risk of injury or death could count as some sort of adventure, but not exactly what Summer would have expected or wanted.copyright protection4PENANAycZ1zLhBku

She didn't regret her decision. But that didn't stop her from wishing Law's past had been a bit more normal.copyright protection4PENANAmWs8tEQDw8

After scrolling through the main news feed of Facebook for awhile, Summer got bored of that and switched over to Youtube to watch speed paintings of art until Shachi returned. They were strangely calming, and they gave her great song recommendations.copyright protection4PENANAOtBG9W2cJz

The driver came to a stop at the curb of the diner, and Vergo stepped out into the chilly air. A few people glanced his way, but most kept to themselves and continued to walk by without concern. His long, white coat billowed from the sharp winds that were beginning to pick up. Shutting the door behind him, he strode down the sidewalk a ways before coming upon the entrance to a back alley.copyright protection4PENANAehMejmZAYk

Monet hadn't wasted any time informing them of the relocation she'd overheard Law speak about. Judging by the urgency, Vergo had assumed it would take place immediately, and had given her the go ahead to investigate on her own. The chance to bring both of Joker's targets in at once wasn't something he was willing to pass up. She was an experienced agent. She could take care of herself. Vergo had no reason to worrycopyright protection4PENANA4kgxsKbjoH

However, when he hadn't received an update within that same half an hour, then hour, after first being informed of the meet-up, Vergo had begun to get a bit suspicious. So here he found himself, trekking into the dingy alley to search for her.copyright protection4PENANAsca4Tk0VwK

He stopped, seeing the footprints in the snow buildup. Several different prints had layered themselves over each other, so it was difficult to make out exact numbers. However, at least two people, plus who he assumed to be Monet, had entered the back of an abandoned shop directly in front of him.copyright protection4PENANAvL2hZlEZWC

Narrowing his eyes behind his sunglasses, Vergo headed towards the building in question, jimmying the door until it gave with a creak. His gun was the first to enter the room, aimed at whoever might think to be hiding in wait within. The sound of rats scurrying around the floors was the only things besides the wind outside that Vergo could hear. The inside was dark, but despite the absence of illumination, the prone body cooling on the floor wasn't easy to miss.copyright protection4PENANAk1WAyplKJJ

Vergo sighed, lowering the gun and staring down at the large bloodstained floor. He supposed he should have expected this outcome, given her lack of an update after so much time had passed. He wasn't overly torn up about her death; Vergo wasn't attached to any one person in the organization, but still. Monet had been one of Joker's favorite subordinates. It was a shame things ended up this way.copyright protection4PENANAsbWDgPXgLu

Tucking his gun back into his jacket pocket, Vergo took out his phone and dialed up the man in question. He walked slowly around the body as the line rang, inspecting everything to try figuring out just who had done this. Obviously Law had a hand in it, but he doubted the kid would straight up murder someone in cold blood like this. Even back when Law had been part of the family, the kid rarely faced a situation where he had to kill someone so outright. Plus, this wasn't his style anyway.copyright protection4PENANA1gf3yfpcfm

"Yes?" The smooth voice inquired, intrigued and patiently waiting for the meaning of this call. One could never tell if he was expecting to hear good news or bad news. Vergo supposed it didn't matter either way. Information was information, regardless.copyright protection4PENANAPznLaWbvHU

"Monet's dead." He said bluntly, crouching down to frown at something that'd caught his eye. Something out of place.copyright protection4PENANAe96aNm0KDL

Joker sighed evenly, as if he too had been expecting this very result. The man never seemed surprised by anything. "I see. How unfortunate. I'm assuming Law had something to do with it."copyright protection4PENANAfF1uIAK8MZ

"He lured her out here, according to her message…" Vergo trailed off.copyright protection4PENANAuBySnIPzew

"But?"copyright protection4PENANAtsGADtXDeB

He loosely held up the semi-smoked cigar that was laying beside Monet's body. Half of it was covered in her blood from laying in the puddle.copyright protection4PENANAptgrXZ1I7O

"Someone else was definitely here with him, at the very least. Bege or his men, if I had to guess."copyright protection4PENANAHCqfuNYjmc

"You know I don't like guesses." His tone was neither happy or angry, but a pure neutral the man had perfected over the years. "Find out. He's never had ties to Law before. If it is Bege, I want to know why the hell he's helping the brat. And if it isn't, figure out who and teach the idiots what it means to mess with my family."copyright protection4PENANAQQFwqjZoXd

"Of course." Vergo agreed, thinking along the same lines. Then, he brought something that had been on his mind up to the forefront. "I expected him to resist but it seems Law planned further ahead than I anticipated."copyright protection4PENANAZmHfNFfOnm

Joker laughed deeply, finding something he'd said amusing. "Yes…he's quite the cunning one, isn't he? Getting my own rivals and partners to work against me…sounds just like something he'd do."copyright protection4PENANAD4Z3ktQjNd

Vergo said nothing as Joker continued to laugh to himself, as if this were all some big joke. He wondered why he was so flippant regarding Law's defection. If this had been anyone else refusing him, Joker wouldn't have found things so amusing. But he knew better than to ask, and simply waited for the man to continue speaking.copyright protection4PENANAvD4b9vu9Ts

"I'm sure he'll slip up eventually. The brat's always been blinded by his emotions. We find the girl and he'll be singing a much different tune, I think. It's a shame he refused my kind offer the first time, otherwise I might have considered letting them live if he begged…"copyright protection4PENANAnSO48CKor7

Vergo glanced back down at Monet's body, wanting to leave already. She was starting to rot, and the smell of a corpse could get quite pungent after too much time passed. "We should send someone to clean this mess up."copyright protection4PENANAL4bK7wdYP1

"I'll send Gladius to take care of it tonight. Don't concern yourself."copyright protection4PENANAbkEgwOL1YE

Good. Vergo wasn't a fan of having to clean up corpses. That was fit for more hands-on members of the organization. "Of course. Is there anything else?"copyright protection4PENANAtlxhqGUa5l

"That will be all."copyright protection4PENANAhQptAwZOvO

The hour alone wasn't nearly long enough, before the door to the hotel suddenly opened, revealing Shachi carrying an armful of plastic bags from a nearby grocery store. The suddenness of his entrance made her jump in her seat on the couch, but she quickly relaxed after seeing it was only him. Despite knowing there was little chance of anyone knowing where she was, her overactive imagination was still at play, making her worried that she'd been found.copyright protection4PENANAPG9tXGiIHg

"Do you need any help with those?" She asked, standing from the couch. He shook his head, closing the door behind him with his foot.copyright protection4PENANAnaCVs3CndH

"Nah, these are all of them." He panted, no doubt having carried all those bags by himself up two flights of stairs to get to the room. With a groan of relief, he dumped the bags onto the kitchen counter and slumped his shoulders to ease the ache.copyright protection4PENANAIvx8Z7EZV9

Summer wandered over to see what he'd gotten, sifting through a few of the bags absentmindedly. She noticed a lot of microwavable meals and canned foods. The blonde was once again reminded this wasn't a vacation at some resort. She was hiding out. The accommodations may be alright, but her dining certainly wasn't five star.copyright protection4PENANAOLQXeOExwl

"This should last us about two weeks, depending on how hungry we are." Shachi said, beginning to empty the bags onto the counter. The plastic bags he wadded up and tossed to the side, intending to pick them up later.copyright protection4PENANANUwqPZtsmH

"…" Summer looked down. It hadn't connected until right at that moment that this amount of food had probably cost a lot of money, and that he'd no doubt used his own money to buy it all. "Thank you, by the way…"copyright protection4PENANA95dGdcOSbK

The redhead paused, glancing at her in confusion. He set the last can down on the counter, tossing the bag behind him. "For what?"copyright protection4PENANA2ZvTXKHChe

"For…giving up so much just to stay here with me." Her eyes began to blur with hot tears. "I know I've been a bit obnoxious about it today, but I-"copyright protection4PENANAY58uvYuYrR

"Hey! Hey…" He said, reaching out to wrap her in a quick hug. "No need to cry. You're not a burden. Penguin and I are happy to do this, you know. We volunteered."copyright protection4PENANAFAXTha552h

"You did?" Summer stepped away, and he nodded.copyright protection4PENANAQ5hlYf6GRn

"You bet. Law always knew something like this could happen, but when he started dating you, we offered to help you hide if things turned out bad."copyright protection4PENANAUPs3kY2OXt

She wondered just how much Shachi knew about Law. The bartender had made it sound as if no one else knew the truth, but obviously Shachi did. And she assumed Penguin knew too. How long had they been friends for?copyright protection4PENANAGD3DwlNBrQ

"How did you two meet Law?"copyright protection4PENANAThWaDUpJBg

Shachi looked up in surprise, not expecting the question, but shrugged and went back to storing the food in the fridge. "We went to the same junior high and high school. We started really hanging out together in like…7th grade, I think."copyright protection4PENANA6v5zzpyBev

"What was he like? Back then, I mean." She took a seat on one of the barstools tucked underneath the kitchen counter, propping her head on her hand with her elbow sturdy against the granite. "Was he always so…" She paused, searching for the right word.copyright protection4PENANA4U88yEtmgV

"Grim?" Shachi guessed with a small smile, and she nodded. "Nah, he was more outgoing and expressive than he is now."copyright protection4PENANAd9c9kP4JyF

He finished putting away the items that went in the fridge, before starting on the canned goods and non-perishables. "Law studied really hard, like, on an uber-nerd level. It was all about anatomy and science, since he knew he wanted to be a doctor like his parents. You'd think that'd make him unpopular but he had a lot of friends in different groups."copyright protection4PENANA0Fa5fKvNlJ

"Really?"copyright protection4PENANAiqEryc62yn

Shachi nodded slowly. "Yup. Granted, it was junior high so what did that really mean, ya know? Anyways, Penguin and I were struggling in math or some other class, and he offered to tutor us. We became really good friends after that. Spent most of 7th grade hanging out after school."copyright protection4PENANAXLxaVRZZBy

"Huh." Summer uttered, mind drifting to a younger Law, but unable to picture him as a bubbly, book-toting nerd. The Law she knew now was anything but how Shachi was describing him. She had half a mind to believe he was just pulling her leg.copyright protection4PENANAEBdPHtzcgV

"Heh, we were probably a pretty bad influence on him to be honest." Shachi chuckled sheepishly, placing the last few cans and boxes in the cupboard and closing it. "We got him in trouble more than a few times."copyright protection4PENANAWzlA1UN7Xm

"How so?" Summer cocked her head, intrigued by stories of Law's childhood. Other than the tragedy that had occurred, she knew little else.copyright protection4PENANAuU8253T43u

Shachi leaned against the counter with a smug look. "Well, he missed curfew countless times when he hung out with us." The redhead began ticking off fingers. "Toilet papering and egging houses, throwing toys up high where the younger kids couldn't reach them, borrowing another kid's bike and getting caught with it, the list goes on."copyright protection4PENANADH6RxNk6ZA

"Those don't sound very bad." The blonde smiled. "Nothing out of the ordinary for pre-teen boys, right?"copyright protection4PENANA1Vanwbhkje

"Well, yeah." Shachi shrugged. Obviously he didn't think they were big deals either. "But Law was always a rule-follower. Whenever he got caught, his parents would only be 'disappointed.' Never angry. To be honest, I think that was worse to him."copyright protection4PENANAGN9PQeTJjW

She nodded, understanding the sentiment. She also didn't like disappointing people, but the anxiety she used to feel about it had reduced a large degree now that she was older.copyright protection4PENANAeWEkNb77i7

"Honestly, I don't know why his parents kept letting him hand out with us. We were the two notorious troublemakers in school, but they never stopped us from hanging out." Shachi's gaze went far away, glazed with memories of his childhood. His head shook slowly, still not understanding the circumstances. "They were too nice for their own good."copyright protection4PENANAIk2THz4YUn

Summer ducked her head, feeling suddenly uncomfortable. Law's parents were a touchy subject.copyright protection4PENANAdAbmq1AjLT

"What happened after they…you know." She rubbed at her arm from anxiety. For some reason it felt wrong talking about this without Law around. He probably didn't want people talking about him behind his back.copyright protection4PENANAfZPTkD5rKn

He crossed his arms and sighed. "It was 8th grade. He was taken away to the state for a few months, but eventually started coming back to school. Only thing is, the Law that came back was a completely different person."copyright protection4PENANAytHBmpbrn5

There was a long pause, but Summer didn't want to fill the silence. Eventually, Shachi started talking again. "He always looked tired. Or sad. Or both. Wouldn't ever tell anyone why. He'd still talk to us, but it was more guarded and impersonal. He didn't want to hang out, or said that he couldn't. Again, never said why. His whole life became one big secret.copyright protection4PENANAOAG0X61xqN

"The kids he used to be friends with started talking behind his back, and started drifting away. They didn't know what to do about this new Law. Maybe they just didn't know what to say, since everyone knew what happened to his parents. I don't know…"copyright protection4PENANArGMhA7UFzF

"That's awful." Summer said lamely, unable to come up with much more than that. She hadn't even thought of the effects at school for someone so young. Kids were notoriously cruel and cold towards things that weren't the norm. It was no surprise knowing Law had faced this as well.copyright protection4PENANA378KJv9VWx

"Yeah…he was like that for the rest of junior high. But then he met Corazon after starting high school, and things got better from there. His grades started going back up, and he would actually open up to us more. Didn't make a lot of other friends besides us, but at least he was talking and cracking a smile every once in a while."copyright protection4PENANA0L8HL5ONDe

"Well, I'm really glad he had friends like you two supporting him." The blonde said genuinely, flashing a small smile to show it.copyright protection4PENANAA4Vnlvvfa4

Shachi gave a single humorless huff before uncrossing his arms and pushing away from the counter. "Yeah, well, we feel the same to him. He stuck with us when we were at our worst. He deserves the same thing."copyright protection4PENANAUec3ZVz9Rv

It seemed the conversation was over, as Shachi wandered over to the bedroom and disappeared behind the doorway. Summer stared after him for a moment, before her eyes drifted back to the kitchen. Law's past was quite sobering. She felt slightly numb, then shivered, realizing she was cold again. The blonde stood and went back to the couch to find the blanket.copyright protection4PENANAGShPz3UoRy

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