Title: Shape and Collide
Summary: The Mugiwara crew dock at an island in the New World, where Luffy bumps into… Ace, Sabo, and Luffy? One Luffy learns how life could have been if he had set out to sea with his brothers, and another learns how it could have turned out if he hadn't.
A/N: Pre-Punk Hazard. (And yes, I am starting yet another story. What of it? I'm working on even more that I haven't posted.)
Captain Portgas D Ace of the Wild Card Pirates surveyed the island from the deck of his ship. There was no beach, only a cliff face, and on top of that were tall, densely clustered trees that gave no hint of what they could be hiding. Still, the island looked deserted.
"Oi," he called over his shoulder, catching the attention of some crewmembers who were flipping through record books. "Do we know what island this is?"
One of them shook his head, nearly losing his glasses, and flipped a few more pages. "We're looking, but we haven't found any mention of cliffs and pine trees and no people — at least not in that combination. Are you certain none of those trees are purple?"
"No luck, then. Maybe if it had a volcano or two… No, never mind. We can't find it," the crewman, Roscoe, said.
Ace turned to his right, where his brother and co-captain Sabo was leafing through another book at a much more leisurely pace than the others. "What do you think?"
Sabo shrugged. "New World islands are unpredictable. At least it isn't like that one with the floating piranhas."
Ace grinned again, then leaned towards his brother and said; "I think we ought to check it out for ourselves. First hand experience and all that."
Sabo smirked back. "Proposing an excursion, are we?"
Another one of the crewmen looked up from his book suddenly. "Captains! We don't know what could be on that island; what if it's dangerous out there?"
The cliff face was really only a little taller than the level of their deck. Ace and Sabo had already stepped onto land without much problem.
"Captains! You should at least try to prepare yourselves; you might get attacked!"
Ace and Sabo gave a smirk and an eye roll, respectively. "That's why Luffy's staying put," they said in unison.
There was a sneeze behind them, and the crewmen turned to see their third co-captain Luffy, asleep on the deck and shivering slightly in his red vest, shift onto his side.
"And someone get the damn kid a blanket," Ace ordered.
Giving up, Roscoe sighed dejectedly. "Stick together, at least, will you?"
The brothers laughed, but hollered a half-mocking 'aye!' over their shoulders as they headed into the thick of the trees.
As soon as they were out of earshot, Ace turned to Sabo. "Want to split up?"
Ace entered a clearing with one question on his mind; where the hell was he? And while that question could, in fact, refer to the still enigmatic island or even broader philosophical ponderings, Ace was thinking of it more in terms of where the hell he was in relation to the ship.
Generally speaking, he could walk in any random direction and inevitably find the shore, but then again… He had only seen one part of that shore. Who knew what dangers lurked elsewhere?
Grinning to himself, Ace began to walk in a random direction.
Suddenly, out of the corner of his eye, he caught a glimpse of red cloth, black hair, and a straw hat. Was that…?
It was. When he turned to get a better look, there was Luffy, back turned from him. The boy appeared to be examining the trees, and he held a basket brimming with pale blue fruit in one hand.
"Luffy!" he called, grin growing ever wider as Luffy turned. "You come down to join us?"
Luffy blinked slowly at the sight of him and frowned. Then he shook his head, turned away, and walked briskly into the trees. Ace rushed after him, a little confused and slightly miffed.
"Luffy! Oi!" he yelled, frown deepening as Luffy sped up even more. "Where are you going?"
He received no answer and broke into a run to catch up to Luffy, grabbing his upper arm and forcing the boy to face him. "Wh–"
He stopped at the expression on his brother's face. Most prominent in it was disbelief, but there were smaller emotions that flitted across it for fractions of a second — confusion, wonderment, shock, and, possibly, pain. He stared at Ace's hands as if he were surprised they were solid.
What was going on?
Then Ace realised the arm he was holding was covered by fabric. He looked down curiously. When had Luffy changed clothes? He hadn't had sleeves even half an hour ago, and Luffy didn't usually change clothes more regularly than laundry day came around, unless he had spilled something on himself (and sometimes not even then). Luffy had apparently changed into some sort of cardigan at some point for some reason, and even more strangely, he wore a yellow sash around his waist. Something more worrying caught his eyes as they trailed up from the sash.
"God, Lu! Where the fuck did that wound come from?" His grip tightened unconsciously on Luffy's arm as he thought about how much whoever did that to his little Luffy would suffer when he got his hands on them.
This seemed to snap Luffy back to reality, as not a second later he pulled away from Ace, turned, and ran. His basket of fruit was left forgotten on the ground.
Back on the Wild Cards' ship, the crewmen on deck looked over as Luffy sneezed again. He really should be wearing something warmer than a sleeveless vest and shorts…
Sabo looked in front of him, then behind him, and then in front of him again. He frowned in thought. The trees were most definitely in different places the two times he looked ahead. He looked backwards again.
There was nothing for it. The trees were rearranging themselves.
He sighed. And he had been intending to use the landmarks to return to the ship, too.
Grimacing and wishing for what must have been the two-hundred seventy-six thousandth time that he had Luffy's infamous good luck, he set off into the trees and left his course to chance.
Unfortunately for him, Sabo obviously did not have Luffy's infamous good luck, or anything near it. He had only been walking ten seconds before something slammed into him, knocking him onto his back. The projectile lay on top of him.
"The hell– Luffy?"
The projectile opened his eyes, looking down at Sabo questioningly. "You know me?"
Sabo rolled his eyes. "Of course I know you. It's me."
Luffy's eyes narrowed, for some inexplicable reason. It was almost as if… "Me who?" As if he didn't recognise his own brother.
"…Me, Sabo." The feeling of wrongness intensified. The strange look Luffy gave him at his words did nothing to help this.
Luffy groaned and rolled off of Sabo, coming to lie side by side with him. "Of course it is. You know I thought I saw Ace today too?" His eyes closed. "Except it wasn't really. His tattoos were wrong."
"Tattoos?" Sabo couldn't help but venture. "He's only got the one."
Luffy's eyes opened and met Sabo's. A pang of some unreadable emotion passed through them before Luffy shook his head, as if drawing himself from a reverie, and stood up. "Gotta ignore it," he said quietly, but it didn't stop Sabo from hearing it.
"Ignore what?" He received no response.
"Ignore it," Luffy whispered instead, staring at a passing cloud. Sabo tried to catch his eye from the ground, but Luffy was looking anywhere but at him. "Ignore it." Luffy set into the bush with determination; the trees seemed to sense this and cleared a path for him as he went.
"Wait!" Sabo jumped to his feet and followed quickly. "What are we ignoring?"
Luffy did not speak again. He did not acknowledge Sabo, either, but Sabo trailed him anyway. The pursuit of Luffy led him to the shore, where an unfamiliar ship sat glaringly by the cliffs.
A red-haired girl was standing close to where they exited the forest, examining the terrain, and she took notice of them. "Oh, Luffy?" Her eyes slid to Sabo. "Who's he?"
Sabo tensed. How does she know Luffy's name? "I'm Sabo," he said, more calmly than he felt. "And you would be?"
"Nami," she said, watching Luffy with curiosity and something like concern — Sabo looked over to see his brother speechless and a little bit paler than was usual of him.
"You can see him too?" Luffy asked the girl. "I thought he was a…"
What Luffy thought Sabo was, they didn't find out. They were interrupted as Ace crashed out of the trees, swearing with impressive volume.
"STUPID FUCKING BEESHIT BLUE-FRUITED LABYRINTH–"
"Hey Ace," Sabo said, indifferent.
Ace blinked and finally seemed to realise he had company. "Oh, hey." A second later, his eyes landed on Nami and narrowed. "Who's she?"
"This is Nami," Sabo told him. He turned to Nami tell her Ace's name, but he was surprised to see that she had blanched.
"Ace…?" she asked hoarsely, eyes wide. She turned to Luffy in question, but the lost look on his face matched hers.
Sabo traded a glance with Ace. "I'm sorry, what's going on? Luffy, you aren't acting like yourself…"
A similar glance passed between Luffy and Nami. They were silent for a second before Luffy nodded at her, as if he were giving permission.
"How about you come over to our ship," she suggested, "and we can talk about things there."
"Roscoe," Luffy whined. "I want to explore too!"
Roscoe looked up from the book in front of him, pushed his glasses back into place, and frowned. "You know the other Captains would kill me if I let you."
"How would they know you did? I wouldn't tell them, and you wouldn't tell them, so…"
"No, Luffy. Do you think you should be getting up at all? You were sneezing quite a bit in your sleep," said Roscoe. "If you're sick, you need your rest."
"I'm fine!" Luffy protested. "I just want to see the island, that's all."
Roscoe sighed. "If you really want to, you can get off the ship and play by the shore, but that's it."
Luffy beamed at him, running to the side of the deck and hopping onto land.
"Don't go into that forest!" Roscoe called before returning to his book. His glasses slid down his nose immediately.
The second Roscoe's eyes were off him, Luffy's grin turned mischievous and he darted off. He would stay by the shore, sure, but he was never told to stay by the ship.
Inside the unfamiliar ship's galley, Nami gestured for Ace and Sabo to take a seat at the table. She and Luffy joined them.
After a silence, Sabo asked, "Where's the rest of your crew?"
"On the island somewhere," said Nami. "They like to explore."
"You don't have anyone guarding your ship?"
"Of course we do," she said. "Zoro and Franky are still here… somewhere."
Sabo nodded, surveying the interior of the ship curiously. The exterior had certainly been… something, and as of yet the inside had proven no less boggling to look at.
"Who's your captain?" Ace asked. He had tried to get a solid look at the flag when they boarded, but there was practically no wind and it lay obscured against the mast.
"I am," Luffy answered curtly.
The co-captains chuckled. "Good one, Lu."
"What's so good about it?" Luffy asked, arms crossed.
Ace's brow furrowed, and Sabo drew his lips into a taut line.
"You aren't serious, are you?"
"You can't be their captain. You already have a crew."
"Of course he does," Nami snapped. She looked entirely too annoyed to be reasonable. "We've been his crew for years now."
Ace shook his head and looked back at Luffy. "Lu, if you've been having a second crew on the side–"
"Shut up, you moron," Sabo said, swatting Ace over the head for good measure. "You make it sound like he's having an affair. But seriously, Luffy, you need to start explaining. Now."
Luffy gave them a look of such intense disbelief for a second, and they got the feeling he thought they were incredibly stupid. Which, coming from Luffy… "A couple years ago, when I turned seventeen," he began slowly, still giving them the look, "I went out to sea to be a pirate. I made a crew. Nami is my navigator, and this is my ship, the Thousand Sunny." He nodded his head to the walls. "That's it."
"That can't be it," Ace said. "What about us? You were still fourteen when we left and we've been around you the entire time since. If you want to make up a story you can at least make one that makes sense!"
"Ace," Sabo warned. "You're losing your temper."
"I was fourteen when you left," Luffy agreed, "but I didn't leave with you."
Doubt crossed Ace's features for a brief moment. It left just as quickly. "…Yeah, you did."
"I have to agree with the moron on this one," Sabo said, ignoring the glare the 'moron' sent his way. "We were there. We were all there."
"I wasn't," Luffy muttered, but didn't provoke the issue further — not directly. "Where did you two come from?"
"The ship?" Sabo tried. "And before that we were on that island that had the obsession with the number four…"
"Annoying, but better than the flying piranhas," said Ace. "But then, everything is better than the flying piranhas in my book."
Nami opened her mouth but never had the chance to speak, because at that moment the door opened and a dark-haired woman entered.
Shortly before this, Luffy was much further from the ship than he had expected to get. He was delighted. Usually someone would have found him by now and dragged him back to appease his brothers' protective instincts.
Just as this crossed his mind, a figure of a woman appeared in the distance. Didn't Roscoe say the island was uninhabited? And he hadn't seen any other ships docked. She had to be part of the crew.
His shoulders slumped in defeat. Fighting a pout, he approached her, ready to go back with only minimal complaining. It didn't matter that much, anyway, and his brothers would freak out.
When he got to her, though, she only gave him a slight smile and a nod of acknowledgement before turning back to the book in her hands and jotting down some notes. Now that he had gotten a good look at her, he froze.
He did not recognise this woman — not immediately. She was not one of his crew.
She looked up when she noticed him tensing. "Luffy? Is something the matter?"
That was it. He recognised her, but he wasn't glad of it. "Miss All-Sunday?" he yelped; she gave him a politely baffled look. He hadn't seen her since the mess in Alabasta two years ago, and back then she had… she was…
"Luffy," she said gently, "I believe you are out of sorts. Would you like me to take you back to the ship? We can have Chopper look you over when he returns."
Out of sorts? Roscoe did suggest he might be sick… Maybe he wasn't seeing what was really there. When 'Miss All-Sunday' held out her hand to him, he took it hesitantly. What could be the harm in seeing this Chopper person?
He let his former enemy lead him away.
In the galley of the Thousand Sunny, the dark-haired woman's eyes widened by a small fraction. Her lips held an amused smile. "My, my. It seems we have something interesting on our hands."
She referred, from her own perspective, to the fact that a dead man and a stranger were sitting by their table, and that there were two copies of her captain at that very point in time.
Ace and Sabo, however, were unaware of this.
"And who's she?" Ace asked Luffy.
"Ace!" the other Luffy said upon hearing his brother's voice. He peaked around Miss All-Sunday so that he could see into the galley. "And Sabo! And… me?"
A silence passed over the six of them — Ace, in particular, looked as if his brain had been fried. Miss All-Sunday chuckled.
"Very interesting indeed."