Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Smoke & Mirrors, parts 7 & 8

"Smoke & Mirrors, Parts 7 & 8"

orig.September /2013
Alt. One Piece Elly x Smoker
More fluff, PG-13
One Piece based non-canon

The night was stormy. 

Didn't bad times always start with bad weather? She would always think so after that day. Crashes of thunder sounded off in the distance and the air hung with impending vapor, yet the rain refused to start. It was muggy to begin with, and now she was even warmer. She was hiding in a barrel down by the docks of a small port town, she couldn't remember which. It was hot, dark, and dusty. The smell of her own sweat was acrid in the confined space, sharp and offending to her nose. She hadn't had the time to bathe for two days while on the constant run from these brutal men.

"She can't be far. Find her, quickly!"

Elly held her breath and struggled to stay awake. More than those guys, sleep was the enemy, and she battled it by pinching herself, biting her lip, thinking of all the things they might do to her if they caught her. But again, two days was too long. She drifted off with her resting on her knees drawn up in front of her. She woke seconds, minutes, hours - she didn't know -- later, dragged out of the cask like a panicked animal by the scruff of her neck. Groggy but terrified, she struggled to free herself, kicking and trying to use her ability. But the man snapped something around her ankle, and she grew terrifyingly weak all at once, unable to use her power at all. Horrified at the turn of events, she looked directly into the face of her captor.

Calm, brown eyes bored into her very soul. Her heart sank at his triumphant grin. "We got her!" Smoker yelled to his men. 

Elly woke screaming in her bed, something she hadn't done since she was a child of two, maybe three. Her throat quickly became raw from the force of her cries, which had the effect of cold water thrown on her face. Awake, I'm awake! What the hell? 

"Ugh," she groaned weakly. Smoker hadn't been the commanding officer that night. She'd only met him a few months ago. Everything in her life was so messed up. She sat up in bed and hugged her knees like she had that night when the Marines had been chasing her. The simple cloth shift she wore came to her ankles and tented lightly about as she moved. She heard a scramble outside her door and vaguely wondered what protocol the guard had to follow in times like this. He didn't open the door because she knew he'd been told not to be alone with her in the room at any cost. The images returned despite her efforts, the heartbreak and the pain at seeing him in place of the Captain that had caught her years ago. She wept nakedly in the dark.

The guard outside her door jumped at the sound of her cry. Instantly alert, he peered through the small hole she still didn't know existed to the side of the wall. He had access to a very blurry image this way. Good enough to see if something was wrong, just bad enough to not be able to see anything too clearly - for her privacy. She was sitting up in bed and no one was near. He concluded that it had probably been a bad dream, nothing to worry about. As he took up his position again, he started to think that maybe he should tell the V.A. anyway. If the man got angry at him again, he could end up cleaning toilets as his career. He made a sour face and walked to the transponder at the end of the hallway.

"No, she's okay... well, she screamed really loud. And now she's crying." If the guard had any doubts about the relationship these two shared, they were dispelled as the call was cut after a single hoarse curse. He watched with growing interest at the far end of the hall as a thumping sound grew steadily nearer. Smoker rounded the corner towards him at an unseemly rate of speed. He was wearing the standard white bathrobe they issued everyone and a pair of soft grey pants. He doesn't even have socks on, the man noticed with amusement. Luckily for him the Vice Admiral was too concerned to notice his subordinate's cheeky half-grin.

"Open it," Smoker called out, mindful at least of his voice in the late hours of the night. He didn't change his pace and only stopped when he was beside her bed. The door shut behind them, but neither noticed. He saw her tear-streaked face and the rumpled bedsheets and shook his head. "Hey." She looked up and flinched, her eyes wide. Smoker was taken aback at her fright. "Hey, it's me. You're okay."

"Nnnh." She shivered all over, the tears still falling. 

He considered for a moment. "All right," he grunted and sat on the bed next to her. It creaked under his considerable weight and he muttered a curse as he reached over to pull her into his lap. She resisted for a second, then shuddered and pressed her face into his chest, clutching the sides of his robe. He let her weep softly until her tears tapered off and he knew she was calmer. "Shh, shut up. No, easy, little one. Take it easy. I'm here now."

"Sorry," she rasped quietly. 

He shrugged. "What for? No, don't talk. Your throat's sore, isn't it." He tried to extend an arm towards the nightstand to pour her a drink, then swore as the sea-stone she wore prevented him from changing. 

"S'all right," she slurred, her voice muzzy with sleep. "It was when they caught me."

He hadn't known it was that bad for her. "I know they chased you for a couple days," he said cautiously, stroking her hair because it was the only comforting thing he could think to do. He was definitely out of his element here.

"Two," she clarified. "I was hungry, hot, and needed a shower." Her voice broke and she rubbed a hand on her neck. "I didn't know what was going to happen."

"That's over with." He placed a big hand under her chin and tilted it towards him, but words failed him as their eyes met. 

"Is it?" She regarded him tiredly, then sighed. Smoker was suddenly and startlingly aware of how very little both of them were wearing. His cheeks started to burn hotly. "Can you stay until I fall asleep?"

His mind raced, thinking of all the reasons why that might be a bad idea. But with her staring at him with those large, pleading eyes, he couldn't say no. She needed comfort and he was the lucky one she'd chosen to dispense it. "Yeah."

"Good." Elly sniffled and squirmed around to find the most comfortable spot. He grit his teeth as hard as he could and tried to think about the unsexiest things possible. Nothing worked, and this close to the stone around her neck he was powerless to dissolve the offending part like he had during the banquet. She snuggled up against his chest and chuckled softly. 

"Something funny?" His voice came out strained. At least she sounded more like her normal self.

"No. I was going to say 'is that a cigar in your pocket', but then I realized you don't - y'know you couldn't, smoke when you're asleep." He choked hard, his fingers spasming on her arms. Nothing in his years of training and all the bullshit he had been through in life had prepared him for the way she teased him unmercifully. He'd been with women before, of course, he was a middle-aged man for goodness' sake. But this wasn't like any casual encounter or sought-out experience. Deciding on the prudent course of action, he picked her up and held her out at arm's length. She protested with an irritated hiss of breath but he stared at her until she dropped her eyes.

"Gonna behave?" 

"Maybe." She huffed a little, then relented. "All right, I'm sorry. Don't leave yet."

He nodded, satisfied, and placed her gently back on the bed. Then he swung his legs over and stood, grimacing as he stretched his back. That bed was way too soft for his liking. "Get under the covers," he ordered her shortly. "I'll sit here until you're asleep." He heard her sigh and fabric rustling as she cocooned herself in the sheets. Picking up a chair by the window, he walked over and set it down beside the bed for himself. It really didn't take long before he heard her breathing become slow and steady, but he waited for quite awhile after she had fallen asleep.

A quiet rap on the door was enough to alert the guard. The man straightened up and saluted, but Smoker grunted and passed a hand over his eyes. "It's too late for that."

"Yes, sir." He went back to his post as the Vice Admiral slowly padded down the hall back to his own bed. He felt ill at ease although he'd checked in on them and nothing untoward had happened. Even so, perhaps his superior wasn't in control of the situation as much as he thought. If this was the case, it needed reporting to someone higher up on the chain of command. The young man pondered this dilemma most of his shift and finally concluded that he'd have to write a report.

Now if he could only figure out what to say, and how to say it tactfully.

Part 8

Smoker had absolutely no idea what to buy. 

That was his first problem, of course, but not the last. He was completely out of place in a feminine shop and painfully aware of the fact. He shrugged the jitte he wore strapped to his back around, conscious that it might snag some dainty thing from its hanger and trap him in yet another awkward situation. The undergarments were bad enough, but he'd skipped past that section quickly, lingering instead near the dresses. She had liked wearing the one the tailor on ship had made for her. But that fell apart as he thought that she'd never get to wear the damned thing. The recent banquet had been the only time in five years they had allowed her to get out. 

The big man bit down on the smoldering cigars in his mouth, aware that the ladies running the shop were frowning at the smoke but unwilling to lose a sale. He ignored them and ran a hand through his hair, thinking hard. 

How did he get himself into this?

The reason was simple enough, and had started the other morning at their usual meeting. She'd arrived sleepy and out of sorts due to the nightmare she had that had jolted her awake. He was considerate enough not to mention that he had lost sleep due to that, as well. And good thing, too, because she was in rare form that day. The Marine ship was docking at a small town to resupply and give the weary men and women some shore leave. Just a few days, sure, but she didn't get that luxury. It grated on her nerves terribly, especially since she'd miss seeing him the next day. He'd been granted a day off to go do whatever he liked.

"Just give me the damned thing." She made clutching motions with her fingers as she scowled darkly. "C'mon, I want to get back and sleep more. Can't do anything anyway. Might as well."

He sighed and handed her the sheet. "What have you been doing with them lately?" She used to throw them back in his face in many creative ways. Now they just disappeared and he never saw them again.

"Wipe my nose on them." She shrugged.

"All right," he said gruffly, "I get to leave and you don't. Did you give Tashigi a list?" He stared at her and she nodded, then sniffed. "Then drop it."

"Fine." She stood up, the papers clutched in her hand. And just like that, without another word she marched to the door and knocked on it for the guard! He snorted angrily but barked the order to open it. She left without looking around, her shoulders thrown back and her feet clacking strongly on the wooden floor. He'd quirked a smile at the door as it closed again. 

Fiery little thing, he thought affectionately. That's when he'd come up with the idea to buy her a gift when he was out. He was not the most thoughtful of men, but getting something for her on the day he was off the ship would show he'd been thinking of her. 

Unfortunately, when he reached one of the shops along the boardwalk he realized something. To his chagrin, everything he picked up reminded him of the fact that she wasn't free. Cut flowers - plucked and they would eventually die. Dresses, well, he'd already thought of that. If they made him think that way, they'd really depress her and be a terrible gift. So he kept looking. He fingered the soft trim of a girlish-looking coat and all of a sudden an idea struck him, so absolutely perfect that he smiled. The woman raised her eyebrows, astonished at the change that came over him when he did. He looked like he was in his late thirties, but in that brief flash of happiness the age melted away and he was almost a boy again. She was so stunned that she didn't try to keep him when he asked if there was a certain shop in the district. And anyway, the sooner he left, the faster they could air the place out.

He was quite pleased with himself the next morning when he called for her visit. When she walked in he didn't waste time giving it to her; he could see she must have had another bad night. This would brighten things considerably - he hoped.

"Here," he muttered, tossing a crudely-wrapped package at her. The shop had used brown paper, and he hadn't thought to request anything nicer.

"What is it?" She caught it and turned it over curiously.

"A gift."

Elly glanced at him in surprise. "You bought me something? But - but you didn't need to."

"Open it already," he said, his voice growing gruffer by the minute. She couldn't tell if he was pissed or nervous. Maybe it was both. Wondering, she tore the cord off and slipped a bundle of soft, fragrant material out of the brown paper. 

"Leather!" She held it out, unfolding it, and gasped. It was a gorgeous white coat with fur trim tinted the same green as his. Military colors, she thought, but even that couldn't take away from her pleasure. Her hands wandered over the pliable skin, smooth and perfect. More to have something to do, she flipped it over and saw the back had writing on it like his did. But unlike his that read "Justice", this read "Freedom". She slowly raised one hand to her mouth and pressed it there, squeezing her eyes shut.

"The minute you get free," he cleared his throat as his voice started to grow thick, "The minute you get free, I'm going to take you for a ride. You'll need that."

"But we're usually in the middle of the, the ..." Her eyes filled with tears and she kept her head down, gripping the jacket tightly.

"Doesn't matter. I can go anywhere. I'll take you away from this damned ship as soon as I can. For awhile." She knew she should say something, but she couldn't speak past the lump in her throat. All yesterday she had been so angry at everyone, especially him, because she was stuck behind. And he'd used his time buying her this well-thought-out present. She stood up slowly and slipped one arm though, then the other, shrugging it all the way on. It fit well, slightly baggy, which was how she liked it. Still unable to speak, she quietly walked around the desk where he was seated and fell down on her knees. When he leaned over to pull her up, she threw her arms around his legs, preventing him from lifting her. After a moment she felt his hands lightly stroking her hair. They stayed that way until Elly's she started to ache and was forced to stand up. By then she had regained some composure and was able to look him in the eye.

"Thanks," was all she said, but he understood. And this time when he gave her the contract paperwork, she folded it neatly in a pocket of her new jacket before she left. 

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