Welcome to the first chapter of "Snapshots of Familial Ties"! This fic would be a compilation of one-shots. Updated irregularly. I was going to update "Stuck" today but I decided to write something on a happier note for once. There isn't a set plot and...may include happy/angsty/angry/humour/adventure or any genre, really.
Disclaimer: I do not own One Piece or any of its characters.
Chapter 1: When Ace gets comfortable
To be really, really honest, most of the Whitebeard crew had been very surprised when one Portgas D. Ace, who had been a very much unwilling guest on their ship for a 100-odd day, accepted the offer to become one of them. While they had noticed the gradual lack of steam in his daily assassination attempts, many had attributed it to his waning determination or perhaps he was finally breaking out of the denial that he couldn't defeat their father and captain.
They thought the kid would ask to be dropped off on the nearest island, for where in the world would the arrogant, proud brat pull out the humility to serve under another man?
Not that they weren't pleased with his decision. He was a fine addition to the crew, after all.
They simply never expected him to…stay.
On the 101th day of his time on the Moby Dick, the pirate had turned up at the mess hall for the first time, his back proudly displaying Whitebeard's mark. By his side was, to no one's surprise, Marco, whose features had sported a mix of smugness and disinterest that only he could pull off.
"Everyone," the first mate had announced, "please welcome our newest brother." A glance at the brother in question. "Ace, if you will."
A bright smile, not unlike the Sun, stunned the crew into utter silence even as the pirate had bowed so low his hat almost fell off. "Hello everyone. My name is Portgas D. Ace and I apologise for all the trouble. I look forward to meeting all of you."
The quiet turned almost deafening and was only broken by the rumbling laughter of their captain. To make them feel better that they had been taken off guard so easily though, even Marco had looked dumbfounded, as if he hadn't expected the younger fire-user to re-introduce himself so casually. Ace had then proceeded to look at the Phoenix for further instruction and that snapped the latter out of it as he pulled the teen to where the commanders sat.
"Did that…just happen?"
Murmurs broke out.
"Did you see his smile?"
"How did- no, when did- I think I must be dreaming."
"Never thought he'd cave. Guess miracles do happen."
And perhaps that explained it, for none of them were braced for the complete turn in attitude they were in for.
Haruta yawned as he made his way onto the deck. He cracked his neck. Why had he slept so late the night before? He felt so tired. If he just let himself fall, he was sure he'd crash immediately, watching brothers and future teasing be damned. He blinked blearily as the sun almost blinded him, nearly crashing into someone as he walked half-awake as he was.
"Sorry," he mumbled.
The 'someone', Jozu, apparently, hummed under his breath, not sparing the commander a single glance.
Haruta frowned. "Jozu?" He followed the older man's gaze that led to Oyaji's chair.
To specifically Oyaji and….what in the four seas?
Suddenly alert, the brunette gaped at the pirate currently lounging on his father's lap. His trademark cowboy hat was tugged over his face, his head pillowed by a giant arm. His legs dangled a little off Oyaji's thigh and Haruta realised with a start that the pirate wasn't wearing his boots. For his part, Whitebeard was grinning proudly as his looked down at his newest son.
"We've got our own little daredevil, don't we?" Izo commented as he approached.
Haruta shook his head violently. "B-but-" He pointed an accusing finger at the fire-user. "He's sleeping. On Oyaji's lap!"
"Yes, he is, isn't he?" the kimono-clad pirate chuckled. "Two days ago and he's trying to kill Oyaji. Today he sleeps on his lap."
Jozu snorted. "You'd think he'd wait at least a week before he'd attempt to do something like this."
Haruta stared at them, slack-jawed. Ace- Portgas D. Ace – the same reckless, angry pirate who swore on his name he'd take Whitebeard down was treating their father like a chair and no one was saying anything?! Well, so to speak. Most everyone on deck were shooting their captain and newest (and youngest) brother looks mixed with exasperation and amusement.
Just then, the fire-user stirred. A hand sluggishly reached up to push his hat out of the way as he sat up.
"Sleep well, son?" Oyaji asked, his grin widening.
Ace mumbled something indistinct. He blinked at the assemble of pirates and, for a moment, seemed confused at the attention. His gaze swept across the deck and landed on Marco, who was standing a few feet away, an eyebrow raised.
"Had a good sleep, yoi?"
A little smile tugged at the younger's lips before he yawned. "Not ready," he mumbled, before flopping again on his back.
Whitebeard rubbed soothing circles on his tummy and the pirate practically purred. He muttered something again before he tugged his hat over his face, appearing to all the world that he was quite ready to take on another few hours of sleep. To Haruta's surprise, his adoptive father looked right at him.
"Care to join us?"
The twelfth commander coloured as everyone on deck shifted their attention to him. He folded his arms. "No way!" he bit out. "I'm not a child!"
A soft chuckle came from Izo's side and he glared at him. "I'm not!" He scowled at the sleeping figure on his father's lap. "He's a teenager, and I'm not. Only kids do that."
"You be careful he doesn't hear you, Haruta," Izo murmured as he gently pushed the brunette forward. "Go on. Oyaji is waiting."
Haruta glanced at his captain, who was beckoning him closer, and he sighed. That stupid newbie was such a pain. He shuffled forward and was about to jump up (he had been Whitebeard's son for far longer than Ace ever would be and certainly wasn't scared to do something as affectionate as sit on his lap) when a hand shot out to pull him up. He gave a yelp as he was suddenly met with solemn grey eyes.
"Hi," Ace whispered.
Too shocked to do anything but answer, Haruta replied with an tentative 'hi' and was then treated to the most blinding smile he had ever seen. The fire-user then proceeded to tug him closer, throw an arm over him before promptly falling asleep.
Oyaji said quietly (or as quietly as he could), "Watch over your younger brother, Haruta."
That's right. Haruta was an older brother now. A small part of him felt bitter that he wasn't the youngest anymore. The twelfth commander looked up when a giant finger patted his head. He smiled when he saw Oyaji's twinkling eyes. But maybe…maybe that wasn't so bad after all.
One of the few things they noticed about their newest brother was his obvious attachment to their oldest brother. He would look for Marco for answers, seek him out for company and would more or less attach himself to the older man whenever he could.
"Marco? Marco! Marco Marco!"
Vista coughed into his hand in an attempt to hide a smile. "And there he is again."
Thatch laughed out loud at the light flush that coloured the first division commander's features. "Aww look. Someone's favourite brother is boring ol' Marco. Isn't that the sweetest?"
Marco glared at snickering pirates and looked about to retaliate when a flash of orange and black crashed into his side. He expertly braced himself with his left foot to prevent from stumbling even as he glanced at the pirate that was now clinging to his torso.
"Hey, Marco!" Ace pulled back, a grin so large on his freckled features it was a wonder it didn't hurt his cheeks. Or maybe it did, and it didn't bother him.
"Ace, yoi," the Phoenix greeted. "What did you find this time?"
The pirates watched in mild amusement as the teenager practically vibrated in excitement. The kid dug into his pockets and carefully held out a purple shellfish for them to see.
"This! It recorded everything I said!"
The blonde's lips twitched at the complete awe in the wide grey eyes. "That's a dial, yoi."
Ace blinked. "A dial?" he repeated.
"Yes, Fire Fist," Vista answered. "It came from the Sky Islands, and is able to store energy and matter. They have many uses, and the one in your hand is a Tone Dial. It records sounds and replays it when you click," – at this, he pointed at the curved top of the device – "that."
The freckled pirate nodded slowly. "Oh. I got that part. It kept replaying whatever I said so…"
"Really?" Thatch piped up, looking interested. "What did you record? Can we hear it?"
None of the pirates missed the brief flash of hesitance or when Ace threw Marco an uncertain look. At the latter's encouraging smile, he nodded and held out the dial again. Thatch caught the hint and pressed the button. Immediately the fire-user's voice rang out.
"-can hear my voice? Luffy is going to love this." An indistinct murmur. "-teach him, oh! Okay." A cough. "Here goes. 'The islands in the south~ are warm~ Paina~purupuru~ Their heads get really hot. And they are all idiots!' …Okay. Second verse! 'The islands in the north~ are cold~ Hyakkoi~koikoi~ Their heads shiver all around. And they are all idiots!'" There was a sound of something fumbling in the background. "Okay. That should do it. Oh, wait. It's recording what I'm say- no! Don't! How do I-"
The dial stopped.
Ace laughed nervously at the ensuing silence. He held the device close to his chest as his eyes darted between the watching pirates. "Um, at least I used it right..?"
Just then, Thatch broke into loud laughter. He slapped his hands against his knees, his shoulders shaking. "That was- that was brilliant!" he gasped.
The teen, who looked almost insulted at the outburst, bit his lip. "It was?" he asked, uncertain.
The chef nodded, the beginning of tears welling in his eyes. "I mean, the song was ridiculous but it was brilliant!"
"Uh, Thatch," Vista cut in. He exchanged a look with Marco when Ace frowned.
"No, seriously! Did you hear that? I can't stop laughing."
"Thanks," the freckled pirate said shortly. A second later and he roundhouse kicked the fourth commander into the sea. A startled yelp accompanied the loud crash of a railing before there was a splash. He turned back to the remaining two pirates.
"He's not a devil fruit user, right?"
Vista shook his head. "Nope. One of our best swimmers, if you disregard Namur."
Ace nodded purposefully. "Good." He turned to Marco. "Did you like it?"
Marco raised an eyebrow. "That you chucked Thatch into the sea or the recording, yoi?"
The grey-eyed pirate seemed to think for a while. "Both!" he decided after a moment.
The first commander smirked. "Very much. Although you might want to hold back throwing him off the ship too much. He rations your food when he's sulky, yoi."
A look of horror crossed the youngest freckled features. "He wouldn't!"
Vista snorted. "No need to worry about that. Marco would never let him."
Ace looked towards the blonde as something that could only be described as hope shone in his eyes. "Really?"
"It's my job, brat." Marco inwardly sighed at the knowing smile from Vista even as he reached out to ruffle the kid's hair.
The youngest pirate beamed at him.
"You can keep that if you want, yoi."
"You wanted to give it to someone called Luffy, right?"
Ace nodded enthusiastically.
A laugh. "Marco likes you, Fire Fist. Just ask and he will deliver."
A sigh. "Shut it, Vista. Just because he won't chuck you into the sea doesn't mean I wouldn't, yoi."
"You aren't going to drink, yoi?"
Ace shot the first commander a cautious look. "Nope," he answered with a loud 'pop'.
The teenager shrugged. "Don't like alcohol."
Marco sat up at that admission. He shot the younger pirate a curious glance, interest piqued. "You may just be the first pirate I met who feels that way," he said slowly.
"Huh. Really? A pirate doesn't have to like drinking. We're free to do what we want."
The blonde let out a breath. The corners of his lips curled. "Of course, yoi."
Both of them sat a little ways away from their family, their backs against the sides of the ship. Above them, the sky was overcast, hiding even the brightest of stars as cold gusts of wind blew against the Moby Dick. At the moment the crew was partying in celebration of a crew member's birthday. Although, with the size of the crew, it was almost always someone's birthday…
"Why aren't you drinking though?"
Marco smiled at the openly curious look. "My devil fruit power doesn't allow me to get drunk, not unless I chain myself with sea stone. Besides, someone has to watch over those drunken fools, yoi." As if in afterthought, he added to himself, "Goodness knows Oyaji would rather follow in their example then take a break."
Ace laughed lightly. "He drinks a lot, doesn't he?"
The blonde snorted. "Like water, yoi."
A comfortable silence fell between them then. Someone cheered in the background and Marco could see from the corner of his eye Namur jumping into the sea to retrieve an overboard Fossa. Another casual sweep across the deck and he spotted Thatch laughing with members of his division, and a overly happy Haruta perched on his shoulders. Other members sat in their own circles, each spending the night in their own manner of relaxation.
Marco was so lost in his thoughts he would have jumped when a finger prodded at his shoulder. He turned to see Ace staring blankly at him.
"I'm tired," the kid announced once he was sure he had the blonde's attention.
The commander raised an eyebrow. Already? He wasn't sure if it was a teenage thing but he slept much more than anyone else on the ship. "Go to sleep then, yoi. The party would probably drag until the morning."
Ace seemed to wince at the thought. "That sounds a little intimidating, to be honest. I'd never be able to stay awake the next day," he admitted.
Marco moved to get up. "Come on, I'll-" He froze when his brother all but fell into his lap. Dark tresses of hair covered the teen's eyes and, coupled with the night sky, shadowed the pirate's features even as he curled into a ball.
The older pirate forced himself to relax. He sat back again, eyes never leaving the head that was now pillowed on his lap. "You making it a habit to sleep on people, yoi?" he teased lightly.
There was a moment's pause. "Luffy," Ace suddenly murmured. "He used to do this all the time."
Luffy? Marco was very sure he had heard the name before. "He's your brother, isn't he?"
The freckled teen nodded his head, the movement rumpling the older's pants. "My little brother," he said softly, a hint of pride entering his voice. "He's a really energetic kid and hardly gets tired. But…when he does, he'd come to me and say, 'Ace, I'm tired.'" He let out a breathy chuckle. "Even though he'd claim to be tired, we'd talk for hours and, he loved it when I allowed him to sleep on me, for some reason…" he trailed off.
Grey eyes suddenly peered at the commander, and he knew instinctively knew what his youngest brother was asking for. He let out an small smile, his fingers reaching to card through the kid's hair. He brushed the bangs away from Ace's features to reveal uncertainty and perhaps tiny flecks of subdued hope.
"So tell me about your brother, yoi," Marco said under his breath.
Ace hesitated, before the same bright smile stretched across his lips. Honestly, the blonde could get used to that smile. A feeling of contentment washed over him when the younger started to speak, though he wondered how long it would last. Already the grey eyes began to droop every now and then.
Well, if the kid never had the opportunity to be the younger brother, Marco was quite certain he'd be in for an exuberant ride on the Moby Dick. He did now have over hundreds of older siblings and the commander was no fool to believe none were eager to get to know their newest addition to the family. He only hoped Ace was ready to be smothered in attention for a while before the hype died down and, even then, he'd still be treated a little differently. He was the youngest, after all.
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