theremedy: (smoker)
[personal profile] theremedy
Past Interlude
The Times They Are A'changin'
(Set two years before the beginning of the past)

How is it possible, Smoker wonders, to both admire a man and loathe his very existence? He supposes because it’s a temporary loathing that has him standing the appropriate five steps from the desk, at ease, while watching the old man snore through half a donut, the rest of it pinched between his fingers, covering them with flaking sugar. He can at least admire the audacity of the Major’s arm which maintains a precise 90 degree angle despite the rest of him slumped over on the desk— as if it is dedicated in holding that donut… No. What kind of idiotic line of thought is that? He needs a smoke.

‘Wake up’ he thinks. Tries to drill it mentally between the Major’s eyes.

‘Wake the hell up’

It’s been ten minutes already.

Ten minutes when he could have been doing a million other things.

Going through paperwork.

Training.

Stacking rocks.

But he’d been ordered-- ordered-- away because of a request from Garp. He should have told them to fuck off. Why didn’t he tell them to fuck off? It isn’t as if there’s much going on in that border town that Tashigi couldn’t take care of herself, he knew that, but it wasn’t the point, she shouldn’t have to. He shouldn’t have to be standing here glowering at a war hero’s sugar coated fingers as he is kept waiting to find out what was so god damned important.

Wake up!” He roars, kicking the desk and sending a mountain of papers sliding off. Old bastard deserved it. The donut Garp is holding breaks off and thumps to the desk and only then does the Major wake up. Smoker seethes and reminds himself that burying a fist between the man’s eyebrows will do nothing but get Smoker suspended and keep him even further away from what he is supposed to be doing. Just in case he keeps his hands locked at his sides though he’s pretty sure they’ve turned into fists by now.

“Captain Smoker,” Garp says blinking at him drowsily. “When did you get here?”

“Does it matter?” Smoker asks, grinding his teeth.

“Did you want something?”

There is a fine line between anger and murderous rage and with a sense of strange clarity he doesn’t usually possess he finds himself quickly approaching it. Enough with this bullshit. He turns on his heel and starts for the door.

“Ever wonder why they stuck you in Reno?”

Because he’d been born there, most likely, on the outskirts of the city in a scrubby little house in an even scrubbier neighborhood, but close enough to Dog Valley that he could walk through the forest if he liked, wading through the grass, climbing the trees, squalling with the punk kids twice his age who thought they would form little proto gangs to emulate the morass of gangs that filled Reno like a cancer—building up in years before the Red War like a boil ready to pop. He’d first seen Roger in that valley, walking through the sparse trunks of vigilant trees, asking Smoker if he’d like to change the world and then laughing and walking off before Smoker could even think to answer. He wore that same smile not two years later before he was executed for all the world to see.

Reno today is still as much of a hotbed as ever it was as all the wannabes and washed-ups west of the Great Divide attempted to try their luck and form their own punk gangs before squirreling off to get the shit beaten out of them in Vegas or, if they were smart, and some of those assholes were, spreading elsewhere and gathering members like balls of dirty snow. Smoker pulls two cigars from his inner pocket and lights them reflectively, puffing smoke into the air.

Why did they put him there? It was a job that would never be finished. Local police were little help. It was just a series of thrashing one punk group after another and throwing their scrawny asses in jail. Though lately he’d taken to throwing their scrawny asses in a jail a few counties over to make it harder for them to get back to where they wanted to go. Didn’t seem to make a damn bit of difference in the end.

“Hell if I know,” Smoker says, turning. Garp is rifling through a drawer in his desk, probably not even paying attention the old bastard. Smoker sighs smoke through his nose and sits in a nearby chair, sprawling his legs out and unbuttoning his otherwise stifling jacket. As long as he’s here he might as well be comfortable. As he’s waiting he pulls a little notebook out of his pocket and opens it to wherever. It’s full of tiny tic tac toe hatches as that’s what he does during stupid boring meetings he can’t get out of and doesn’t particularly care for the homicidal rage that comes with paying attention— either because the meeting is pointless or what they’re discussing is so far out of the range of anything that qualifies as justice that Smoker wonders why he can’t lock up those assholes instead.

“Here it is,” Garp says, flopping a manila folder on the desk. Intrigued, Smoker shoves the notebook away and comes closer, picking it up. Inside are several photos of a kid with a grin so wide Smoker is surprised he doesn’t end up eating his own face, and a document listing the kid’s particulars, height, weight, last known location—and the name.

Monkey, Luffy D.

Smoker slowly raises his head and looks at Garp with a raised eyebrow.

“My grandson,” Garp says, leaning back and wiping rainbow sprinkles from his mustache in a gesture that comes off oddly manly. “I want you to find him.”

Smoker shifts the cigars around in thought.

“I’m not missing persons…” The only persons he hunted were criminals dangerous enough that most bounty hunters were reluctant to pursue them without a half a mil beforehand. Half a mil the government was reluctant to pay. Would rather rely on underpaid NGTF agents to handle. Not that Smoker minds. It is a good break from monotony of throwing asses in jail and gave him a chance to see the country.

“Humor me,” Garp says, fingering another donut. Smoker isn’t really sure what to make of this. He knows Garp by reputation only, but it’s a strong reputation and not one that took things lightly despite his apparent donut fetish.

“Is it an order?” Just in case he needs to decide whether to go with just a ‘no’ or a ‘screw this’.

“A request.” Garp takes a massive bite out of the donut and sits back, chair creaking. His eyes are intense, focused on Smoker and Smoker can’t help but meet them. “A certain old pheasant said you’d be interested.”

“Did he?” That already told him that whatever this really was, Aokiji would decline even being involved in it. Possibly he wasn’t and Garp had just asked him the best man for a job. It had better not be some kind of machination and they were jerking Smoker around like a puppet or he’d kick both their asses, suspension or not.

But why this kid? Is it just nepotism on Garp’s part or something else? Looking at Garp it’s hard to tell one way or the other especially with his cheek bulging wit another damn donut. Smoker closed the folder and breathed out. He refuses to be harassed into deciding one way or another without making up his own mind.

“I’ll think about it,” he says, holding the folder out but Garp raised a hand.

“Keep it. Even if you change your mind you’ll at least know what he looks like.”

This kid didn’t look like a face he’d forget unless he closed his mouth but…

“Yeah fine.” He tucked the manila folder under his arm. “I’ll be in touch.”

But Garp had already fallen back asleep. Smoker reminded himself that kicking the man awake would only mean he would only have to deal with him again and walked out. The secretary glared at him and Smoker absently realized he was smoking again. Oh well. He gave the woman a half salute of apology and pushed out the glass doors into the grubby SanFran sunlight.





The drive back to Reno was not enough time to come to a decision. Usually a decision was easier to come by. Either he wanted to do it or he didn’t. This was a hell of a lot more complicated. Mostly due to Aokiji. If it had just been Garp, Smoker would have been more inclined to tell the Major that he isn’t really interested in tracking down kids. But Aokiji…

He’s no clearer on what to do even as he turns into his apartment complex off Summit Street. He showered to clean off the sweat accumulated from biking in 105 degree weather and sat in his easy chair, looking at the blank tv and listening to throbbing heartbeat up Upstairs’ bass, obnoxious enough to buzz the windows. It is starting to give him a bit of a headache, but he figures he needs a little irritation to think clearly, so he bears it until he wants to push a broom through the roof and into a very uncomfortable part of the bastard’s anatomy before going out onto the balcony.
He lights a cigar and squints at the paper that was in the folder.

Monkey, Luffy D.
Hair: Black
Eyes: Brown
Height: 5’5”
Weight: 105lbs
Age: 14

No mother listed. No father listed. No birth-date. Not even a current damn address. The only location was Windmill Grove Middle in Harbor Creek, Oregon. He looks at the photo again, trying to get a good feel for the kid. Not much to feel about him. Looked energetic enough. Crescent scar under one eye that looked old. He flips the photographs over but there is no nostalgic writing on the back.

Now that he thought about it, all the pictures are candid shots and from a distance, almost like it was surveillance. But why would Garp be doing that to his own grandson? It’s a weird damn mystery and he’s still not sure if he wants to be sucked in the middle of it no matter what Aokiji recommends.

The buzzing bass stops and the silence falls like a dropped stone on Smoker’s ears. Upstairs must be going to work, which meant Smoker was due back in the office in about half an hour. Meh. Might as well get started. He grinds out his cigars in the ashtray just inside the door and throws on his workday NGTF jacket, the fabric worn and comfortable against his skin, as well as the blank brass name tag that he never removed and ignored anyone who asked about it.

He reaches the elevator the same time as Upstairs and completely ignores the sallow man who keeps casting nervous glances at him. Smoker folds his arms and the guy twitches, as it should be. That should show the bastard not to turn the bass up so high that no one can hear what the hell is actually playing. Probably some modern pop bullshit. He wouldn’t mind it so much if people didn’t give him odd looks when they caught him humming it. It isn’t as if he wanted to hum it, it’s just so damn catchy.



As it happens the twenty or so minute ride to the office takes an hour and a half as he had stopped to bust a drug deal, talked to a group of dirt smudged kids harassing another even more dirt smudged kid, and helped a young woman with frazzled brown hair and a pudgy baby change the tire on her station wagon.

The NGTF building was a small stucco building with the initials of the organization in dull skulking letters above the door frame as if they were trying to hide in shame. Better to keep a low profile, as the head offices said. Especially in communities like this. Don’t draw too much attention to yourself.
Which was why Smoker made sure everyone and their aunt knew the NGTF was there, and trained everyone who worked in the building in various forms of emergency situations from one on one hostage negotiations to full scale assault. All the bad guys were going to know anyway, and it would do no damn good if a civilian needed help and didn’t know where to go.

“TASHIGI!” he bellows as he marches through the halls toward his office, sending people scattering out of his path like nervous pigeons. It isn’t as if he doesn’t see them and can avoid them but whatever. A few of the newer, nervous agents salute him as he passes but he doesn’t pay attention beyond trying to recognize faces. Anyway, he’s a man on a mission.

“TASHIGI!” he tries again, opening his door, throwing his helmet on the couch and flopping behind his desk, lighting a pair of cigars and then sighing and opening a window because he knows she’s going to fuss about it. He sits back down, ready to call her again when he hears a yelp in the corridor, the sound of papers flying and her stammered apology. So he settles back, props his feet on the desk and looks through the files once more, not that he is getting anything new from them.

“We have an intercom, sir,” Tashigi says and Smoker looks up as the young woman comes into the office, her frown just on this side of subordinate.He grunts and closes the folder, gesturing for her to take a seat before getting up himself and putting in fresh grounds in the coffee maker before stabbing it on with a blunt finger. He’ll use that intercom thing one of these days. It just seemed much more efficient to call her the moment he got in.

“Anything to report?”

“Nothing unusual, sir. Jim Stans came into town two days ago but we removed him.”

“Did you tell him if he came back we’d cram a tazer up his ass sideways?”

“Not in so many words, sir, but, yes, essentially…” Tashigi says. Smoker grunts approvingly, listening to the water hiss and spit.

“Want a cuppa?”

“If you don’t mind.”

He doesn’t but it means he’d have to wash out an extra mug. Well that’s fine.

“Look at that folder, would you?” he says before heading out to the small kitchenette. The mugs there are free use. It used not to be because NGTF agents were mostly cops at heart and so stole any mug that wasn’t nailed down— until Smoker nailed one down just to make a point and they remained where they should be ever since. He chose the #1 Boss one for himself, because it’s ironic though he’s fairly sure he’s the only one who gets the joke. And a I <3 CA one for Tashigi in deference to her birth place in Santa Monica.

He dries the mugs out liberally with a paper towel, nods to a new aide who seems to shrink two sizes just from Smoker’s presence alone, and ambles back to the office. Tashigi is flipping the photos around, peering at the back. She has them arranged in some order known only to Tashigi and has the information page off to the side a little as if she’s already read it. Well there isn’t much to read. Still, he approves of her methods.

“What do you think?” he asks, setting the coffee cups by the table and watching the pure black liquid pour into the pot. Coffee so strong it would make socks dance. Who’d come up with that idiotic phrase anyway?

“I’m afraid I don’t understand, sir. But…Monkey… Is he at all related to Major Garp?”

“His grandson.” Coffee done, he pours them both a cup and fixes hers as she likes it while taking his black as Satan’s asshole. Another idiotic phrase. “Asked me to look for him.”

He goes to set her coffee down. Tashigi holds up a hand and he rolls his eyes as she sets up a coaster on the desk. Two of them. Where does she keep those things? Does she just carry them around in her pocket or what?

“The desk is mahogany, sir,” she says as she always does. “It would be a shame to ruin it with rings. Especially since it belongs to the department, sir.” Faintly judgmental stare. He grunts and sits back, holding his coffee cup which is too hot but he refuses to use a coaster, as always, just to be obstinate.

“Why does he want you to look for him?” Tashigi asks, back to the mission at hand now that the morning ritual is done. There’s a reason Smoker likes her.

“Don’t know. He says it’ll be a favor. Apparently Aokiji thought I’d be interested.”

She hesitates, sipping from her own cup and watching him with slightly unfocused eyes. It may be because her glasses are perched on her head and he has the desire to pull them down with a finger— and also boop her nose. It’s only that he’s pretty sure she’d short circuit if he did that that he refrains. He needs her at her best.

“Are you?” she asks.

“I’m not uninterested,” he grumbles. “Garp didn’t give me a hell of a lot to go on.”

“No, sir, I suppose not. You know, I didn’t even know he had a grandson. Perhaps Dragon is involved somehow?”

Smoker considers this, then dismisses the idea.

“I wouldn’t be qualified for it.” Since there’s no way he’s equipped to fight Dragon and he’s not exactly good at stealth. Stealth frustrates the hell out of him to be honest and he would rather bust in, bust some heads, and rescue whoever it was needed rescuing.

“No, I suppose not.”

Silence. It didn’t seem she could figure it out either. Well, he couldn’t blame her. He almost wouldn’t put it past Garp to pull a prank, except the kid in those photos seemed to… individual to just be some random model or actor.

So why him? Smoker pulls a photo closer to himself and looks at it again. He doesn’t seem like much. Scrawny. Underweight. Why would Smoker be interested? Is it because this kid is involved in something? Connected to someone? It couldn’t be. Fourteen years old what could he possibly get into? The biggest crime Smoker could see a kid like this doing is maybe tying Ricky Mantle cards to the spokes of his ten speed. Maybe it was another circumstance that this kid was connected to? Maye a clue related to him? Maybe Smoker needed to speak to him in order to get the next piece of the puzzle?

Fuck.

He got a phonebook from the third drawer and flipped through it, running his finger over the buckling yellow pages as he looked at schools.

“It won’t be in there, sir,” Tashigi says.

“What?” Smoker blinks up at her. “Why not?”

“The school is in Oregon.”

Oh right.

“Get me an Oregon Phone Book.”

Tashigi rises, then pauses.

“Are you sure you don’t want to just drive out there yourself?”

He looks away from her rolling his cigars over his tongue before taking them out and sipping his coffee. Damn dangerous question that because now that she said as much, he wants to. Case the place. Look for evidence.

“The hell do I look like Carmen San Fransisco?” he mutters.

“San Diego, sir,” Tashigi says with a light smile. “And she was the thief.”

He waves. Whatever. It’s not the point. He sets the coffee cup on the coaster and tucks the photographs and paper back in the folder before tucking it in the uppermost drawer, then closes it and chews on his cigars, resting his chin on his fist.

“Is that Police Ball still next weekend?” he asks after a moment.

“Yes, sir.”

“I’ll go next weekend. Clear the schedule.”

“I never put it on the schedule, sir,” she says, shaking her head but smiling at him. She’s laughing at him. Damn woman. On one hand he hates being so predictable. On the other it makes things really convenient. Well as long as only she knows. She takes the coffee, the coaster she’d been using already vanished into thin air somehow.

“Thanks for the coffee,” she says.

“It’s not a yes,” he reminds her, reminds himself. She blinks at him.

“Pardon?”

“It’s not a yes. I’m just going out and looking at the place.” He’s not being suckered into anything. Not even by them. He’s had enough of that shit in his lifetime. She nods.

“Alright. If you say so.”

He does say so. He damn well does. He’s got enough on his plate already. He dismisses her with a grunt and pulls the nearest file marked Urgent read it please Captain I’m begging you it’s been three weeks, and opens it. But it takes a while for him to focus on what’s being said. For one reason or another, he can’t get that damn kid’s smile out of his head.

Well, even if he does decide to go it shouldn't be too much of a problem. It is just one squirrely kid. How hard could it be?

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The Remedy

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