Sunday, February 28, 2016

Smoke & Mirrors, parts 3 & 4

"Smoke & Mirrors, Parts 3 & 4"

orig. September/2013
Alt. One Piece Elly x Smoker
Plot to start series, PG
One Piece based non-canon

A few more weeks on the large ship and we'll be back chasing after more wanted criminals, Smoker thought as he sipped his morning coffee. To be honest, he liked it better than the office, the tedious paperwork and all the crappy things that sprouted from being an high-ranking officer.

Like banquets.

He grumbled to himself, already deciding that he'd wear his formal wear instead of a suit. He could have worn what he liked; he was well-known enough to go without insignia at an informal party like this. He just hated wearing anything other than his normal gear, his chest exposed to the air and a ton of his beloved cigars stuffed in every open sleeve. No, it was stuffy, and smoke hated being stuffed in anywhere, he thought with a chuckle. It always seeped through the cracks. He'd wear the usual fancy crap but nothing extra special. Although it was a few days away, he got up and walked to his closet. Rummaging about with one hand, he didn't stop until he found the entire outfit and hung it on a knob on the front. That settled, he walked back and set his mug down on a trembling stack of papers. New day, new contract showing. He was quite sure she'd torn up the last one, and was quite possibly saving the pieces to hurl in his face. She had quite the imagination for showing her disdain to cooperate with them. His hand froze inches away from the phone, though. The transponder blinked at him, eyestalks swiveling about to stare, but he ignored it. 

"No." He shook his head, his eyes a little wild. Not a good idea, he thought firmly. Definitely not a good idea. But as he called for her, he found he was still thinking about it.

Elly arrived promptly, such an unusual circumstance that he raised an eyebrow as she walked in. What was worse, she was silent. She sat without being asked and folded her hands in her lap quietly, not bothering with coffee. Smoker sat still for some time, waiting for her to speak. But as the minutes passed, he realized she wasn't going to. Something was very wrong.

"Did the men behave properly towards you today?" 

She finally raised her eyes to him, and he winced inside. The whites were bloodshot and there were dark circles under them, as if she hadn't slept all night. "They were fine," she said in a tired voice. 

"Something's wrong."

"Nothing." She shrugged, and he saw her eyes wander over to the closet. The agony in them was unmistakable as she saw his formal wear. 

Baffled at her reaction, he waved a hand in that direction. "Just a stupid dinner officers have to go to. The young ones seem to like it, and the - " He choked back his words. 

"Women?" She asked blankly. "That's what you were going to say, right?" She sighed, and he found himself at a loss for words. Worse yet, a blush was starting to creep across his rugged features, staining his tanned skin pink across his nose and cheeks. He struggled to compose himself while she spoke on. "I haven't been out in years.  Haven't been outside in the moonlight, had an occasion to wear something other than plain clothing or been treated like a woman." She looked up and saw him acting strangely, one hand across his face. "You hot or something? What the hell?"

"No." He dropped his hand, hoping all traces of the blush were gone. 

"Sorry. I didn't mean to go on about that shit." She crossed her legs demurely, the skirt she wore flipping as she did, and he found himself flustered again. 

Not that! He was a complete asshole! Anything but that! 

Elly recovered from her depression enough to ask curiously, "Did you know you're smoking today? Like, actually smoking. Your skin."

"What?" He groaned when he saw she was right. He'd choked back the blush, but the embarrassment had caused curls of smoke to escape, unnoticed, from his neck. He quickly forced them down and cleared his throat. A solid frown is the way to go, he thought, and he plastered one hastily across his face. "Yes. Did you look at the contract the other day?" He was automatically reaching for a new one as he asked, knowing the answer.

"Threw it away again," she said, her eyes taking on more of a sparkle. Needling Smoker was one of her favorite pastimes. "It hasn't changed much."

"Here's another. Read it again." He handed it to her and she shrugged. 

"I have a question about it," she said then, unexpectedly. She normally didn't want to talk about it at all. "Does anything bad happen to you if I don't say yes?" 

"Chastisement? Or maybe even punishment for failure, you mean?" 


He considered. Saying yes might make a weaker person commit, but she had lasted many years now. Besides, why should she care about him more than the last ten men and women who had tried? He decided to tell the truth. "No, nothing like that."

"Ah," she said a little sadly. "Better treatment for you, then." 

"Do you get mistreated?" The thought hadn't crossed his mind for some reason. Punishing someone you wanted on your side seemed idiotic. 

"Somewhat," she hedged, looking uncomfortable. There was a long silence and he thought she was done, but then she spoke up in a very small voice. "They told me I'd have to go with Akainu next time if - if I didn't..." 

"Ah." Smoker visibly flinched this time. That man went to extremes! She'd worked her way up through the ranks, though, and he would be one of the few with power left to try her. The top brass were getting desperate.

"I just want to be free," she whispered. Amazed, he watched as her head drooped and she sniffled back tears. He hadn't been ready for this at all. In fact, he'd gotten used to her being as steady as one of the rocks he balanced. Something had really set her off, and he thought he knew what it was.

"You can go," he said at last, unable to say what he was thinking at the moment. Elly nodded, clearly ashamed at having wept in front of him, and made her way back to the door. Smoker waited until the guard had led her away before picking up the transponder again and making some urgent calls.

Elly was worse than ashamed - she felt terrible at having broken down in the Vice Admiral's office. No, if the truth were to be told, it was bad because she had cried in front of one of Them. It was worse that it had been Smoker. She walked as quickly as possible back to her room and for once was glad when the door closed shut behind her. She sat numbly down on her bed and hid her face in her trembling hands. She knew there was a name for what she was feeling - some syndrome of being held captive for too long -- but she rejected that on all counts. It wasn't like that. She had held out for many years and wasn't going to break now. And yet her emotions were real, and that terrified her even more.

She didn't know how much time had passed until there was a knock at her door. Startled, she got up and brushed herself off. 

"Be right there," she called out, glad her voice was steady again. After splashing some water on her face she felt better. "All right," she sighed as she stood some ways from the door. "Let's begin the next round of bullshit, whatever it is."

Part 4

Elly stood still, frozen in place at the scene before her open doorway. The guard had respectfully stepped aside, but she wouldn't have paid him notice anyway. She saw only one amazing thing, and her tired brain struggled to make sense of it. 

"Are you going to stand there all day?" The big man in front of her sounded irritable. No change there, then - just in his stance as he held out an arm towards her roiling with smoke in the makeshift form of a bouquet of flowers. He wore his usual open jacket with the cigars stuffed in sleeves along the sides and military-issue boots, belt and gloves. His white hair, usually slicked back, was ruffled on the sides and on the very top. It gave him a rakish appearance and made him look younger, for some reason. There was color in his cheeks, too - he was blushing

The cranky tone of his voice, something normal, brought her to her senses and she nodded dumbly. He stepped inside and the guard locked the door behind them, as was protocol in any visit. Smoker muttered something under his breath and the flowers wisped back into his hand. He was getting fairly close to her chain and wouldn't be able to form them when near. "We don't have any on the damned ship. Best I could do." He rubbed the back of his neck nervously. 

"We're in the middle of the ocean," she found herself agreeing faintly. She waved at her chair, offering him a seat, but he shook his head. 

"I can offer you one night free of your chain, no strings attached," he said bluntly, getting right to the point. Elly nearly choked. She stumbled in the middle of walking towards the window and squeezed her eyes shut in anticipation of bruising something, but she didn't fall. A strong arm had quickly snaked around her middle and held her back. She cautiously opened her eyes, knowing she was shaking a little. She was afraid this was some kind of trick or a dream. But the arm was still wrapped around her, firm but gentle. She could smell cigar smoke, a masculine smell, and some sort of strong soap the guys on the ship used. Her heart beat faster in her chest and she managed a little wheeze. "Oops," she said lamely. 

"Be careful," he scolded.

"Sorry," she apologized, head spinning. What the hell was happening? "You kind of, uh, took me by surprise. I can go out? I can get the chain off?"

"For one night," he repeated. 

"And I don't have to sign the contract or agree to anything?"

"That's what 'no strings attached' means," he snorted. Then he gave a little jerk, as if suddenly noticing his arm was still around her. It was his turn to apologize, and he stuttered badly as he did.

"It's okay," she hastily assured him. She reached up and ran a hand through her short, dark hair, taking a deep breath. "Is it that formal? Can we have a dress made in that short a time?" A strand fell across her forehead and she tucked it back.

He shrugged, still looking uncomfortable. "Talk to my first. I don't know about things like that." He paused. "Doesn't matter, though. You'll go with me, right?"

"Yes." She couldn't say no. Why would she turn down a little slice of freedom like this? And yet in her mind she still thought it could be some ploy on behalf of the Vice Admiral. Get her to see how nice things could be if she signed, for instance... 

"Two days," he was telling her.

"I'm sorry, wh - what?" 

"Damn thing's gonna be in two days. At night, eight. I'll come get you." He turned to go and she panicked.



"You'll take the chain off then?"

"The guard will." Smoker wouldn't touch the thing, she should have known that. She nodded.

"How do you know I won't try to escape? Why now?"

"Going to try, child?" His voice was mildly curious.

"Don't call me that!" 

"Then don't ask silly questions. I can stop you. Besides, the guards will be around, and we're in the middle of the ocean. There's nowhere to go." He walked to the door and knocked. "It's me."

"Smoker," she called out before he left. When he faced her again she was smiling at him. The simple act brightened her face noticeably. He saw that this time, the smile reached her eyes and he swallowed hard past a strange lump in his throat. "Ask Tashigi to come by?"

He nodded and left before he could make more an even bigger fool out of himself. He found he was having difficulty breathing, and he hastily drew in deep from his cigars, pulling a sense of serenity about himself. He'd stop by his first-in-command and tell her to help her out as much as possible. He really wanted this night to be good for her. As he clumped along the halls to the deck where she was training the men, he barely acknowledged any salutes or nods from fellow Marines. Those he passed saw the Vice Admiral was lost in thought, a strange twinkle in his brown eyes.

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