Portgas D. Ace, they all realize quite soon, is a weird kid.
First, he starts off by challenging Oyaji to a fight. That's totally normal. Honestly, they're used to it by now, though they're usually so laughably weak that it's funny.
But this kid, he appears out of nowhere (East Blue, the whispers say, but nobody really knows for sure), with a devil fruit and Haki, causing such a ruckus and making a general nuisance of himself that it becomes commonplace to see him in the papers.
"He's a cute kid," Shanks chuckled when Whitebeard talks about him. "Really polite, too. I think you'd like him."
Oyaji laughs, and then the challenge comes.
Jinbe goes to investigate, and so do the rest of the pirates.
"You wish to attack me?" Whitebeard asks, amused as he sticks his bisento in the ground.
Portgas stares at him with a wide smile, before laughing and sitting down. "Nah," he shrugs, "Just wanted to see you in person, was all. Didn't really know any other way to do it, though, so..." He rubs the back of his neck, and his crew sighs.
"So straightforward..." One of them mutters.
"Doesn't even worry about angering Whitebeard..." Another agrees, shaking his head.
"That's our captain for you," they all say in unison. Utterly exasperated. Almost expecting it, though.
Whitebeard, it seems, is infinitely amused. "Want to join my crew?" He asks, cocking his head to the side and grinning.
Portgas cocks his head to the side. Hums. "You shouldn't invite people so easily," He raises an eyebrow, "What if I were an assassin or something?"
Whitebeard just laughs, "You won't hurt me."
"Not you, nah," Portgas agrees, adjusting his hat back on his head, "But you've got a lot of children."
Haki rolls through the air, and more than half of their crew drops.
Thatch narrows his eyes and pulls out his sword, and Portgas stares at Whitebeard, eyes dark, head still tilted. "Not that I would," he laughs, and the haki recedes. "You'd have to be a real idiot to do something like that."
Thatch frowns. For a second, strangely enough, he could almost feel something in the air, tinged with the haki... something dark, like that feeling he got whenever they faced off against Akainu, almost like...
"Everyone knows that those who harm my children will be killed," Whitebeard narrows his eyes. He can feel it, too. This kid, this reckless little rookie, is dangerous.
"What if they were willing to die for their cause?" Portgas takes off his hat. Rolls it around in his hands. Peers at it for a while, before turning to Thatch. His eyes bore into Thatch's and for a brief moment, something akin to regret washes over his face. A chill rolls through Thatch's spine. Is Portgas planning on killing him? "Or if someone had a devil fruit that could control someone like Do..." He cuts himself off and frowns at Whitebeard. "You assume that everyone prioritizes their own life over the death of another and that they are acting of their own free will. It's rather presumptuous if you ask me."
He pauses and then flashes them a quick grin.
"Ah, well, I've seen you now, so it's fine. Bye!"
Thatch stares incredulously. He can't be serious...
Portgas waves his arm in the air. "Adios. Farewell. Hasta la vista."
Another prominent pause.
"Why are you still here?" He grumbles, "I said my farewell and everything."
"That's not how it works," A member of his crew groans.
Thatch is torn between amusement and worrying that Portgas is another psycho that's going to give pirates a bad name.
Portgas pouts, "Then how does it work?" He demands.
Whitebeard's eyes flicker, and Thatch can tell, he's interested.
"Where are you from?" The crew asks, bustling around Ace as he eats his breakfast. Banana waffles and a side of fruit.
"The future," He cracks a grin at them, and they sigh before moving away again.
He's private, the whispers say.
He doesn't talk much about himself, the whispers say.
He's strange, the whispers say.
"Where are you from?" Marco asks, dropping down across from Ace.
"The future," Prompt, ready response, like it's been conditioned into him.
Marco plays along, "How far into the future?"
"Three years, give or take some time in the afterlife." Ace squints at Marco, "You're first division commander, right?"
Marco starts. His promotion has been kept hush hush, under the wraps until next week when they'll publicly announce it. "No," he shakes his head.
Ace cocks his head to the side, "Then... you will be?"
Marco stays silent, but he stares at Ace with more intensity from then on.
"What's with the tattoo?" Curiel asks, cocking his head to the side.
Ace shrugs. "One of my brothers died." He pauses and frowns. "Except he didn't. He wasn't there in the afterlife, it was really annoying. Turns out he kept living but with, like, amnesia or something. Stupid idiot tricked me, and I got a sentimental tattoo to show it."
One of the crew members pipes up, "But if he got amnesia, then it wasn't like he tricked you on purpose, right?"
Curiel is more worried about the fact that Ace said 'he wasn't there in the afterlife' than his weird logic.
"No way!" Ace scowls, crossing his arm over his chest, "But he'll remember me. Maybe if I get my name in the newspaper enough..." he chews on his lower lip and sighs, "Maybe he'll remember me."
It's a sad story, but... "Why don't you just go find him, then?" Curiel asks, crossing his arms over his chest.
Ace sighs, "He went and became a revolutionary. I can't find him yet."
"But you will?" Curiel leans forward, curious as to how Ace plans on finding his elusive brother.
"Well," Ace tips his hat back and grins, wide and sweet, "Now I've got you guys, yeah?"
Curiel starts. "But I thought that you said you weren't joining."
"Yeah, that's what I said," Ace scrunches up his nose, "But you guys want me to join, right? I've got to give in eventually."
He says it as though he doesn't want to, but he understands that it is something that's inevitable, like a force of nature. Curiel supposes that it's true, but that kind of wording, that idea, is something that belongs to older crew members, those who understand what it's like to be on the crew and what happens when they want a new family member.
Curiel hums thoughtfully, "I suppose that's true."
"I know," Ace's grin grows, "I'm usually right about these kinds of things."
"Well aren't you a cocky brat," Curiel digs his knuckles into the top of Ace's head and Ace ducks away, laughing.
He's a weird kid, Curiel thinks, but he's not bad.
"I'm Ace," Thatch is the first one that the new kid has sought out willingly, and the chef isn't sure if he should be flattered or concerned about his safety. (He still remembers those dark eyes on him, haki and killing intent rolling off of his shoulders like water off the rudder of the ship.
The kid looks pretty young at that moment, sitting on his heels on the chair and grinning at Thatch, lopsided and wide, freckles making him look far younger than he has any right to look.
"Thatch," Thatch answers cautiously, words slow coming from his lips like chocolate through syrup.
"Nice, nice," Ace hums, and Thatch gets the idea that those introductions were a mere formality, both already knowing who the other was, "Hey, Thatch, you strong?"
"I'd say that I'm decent," Thatch says, carefully keeping his voice light, flippant, "I mean, I am a commander after all."
"Right, right," Ace cracks his neck to the side, and suddenly there's intent, a brush of haki light enough that Thatch believes Ace doesn't really know it's there, it appears subconsciously. "Could I beat you in a fight?"
Thatch's hairs raise. "Who knows?" He asks, shrugging as carelessly as he can bear.
"Hm," Ace purses his lips together looking displeased, and then he shakes his head, "That's no good! You're a commander! What if I was a threat and everyone else on the crew was out of commission? You have to be able to fight and win against any threats!"
"I'm not," Thatch blinks, startled. That was not where he had expected this conversation to go. "I'm not the captain, it's not like I'm the strongest."
"But I'm not even a member of your crew!" Ace exclaims, jabbing his thumb against his chest, "What if I decided to try and assassinate you in your sleep, huh? You have to be able to fend me off!"
"Look, Ace," Thatch is beginning to get a little annoyed now, "Are you going to assassinate me?"
"No," Ace sulks, "But..."
"No buts!" Thatch throws his hands up in the air, "I'm just fine!"
Thatch narrows his eyes, "No. Buts."
Ace pouts at him. "You need to get stronger," he declares.
Forget dangerous, the new kid is a pain in the neck.
"If I join your crew," Ace hums as he drapes himself over Whitebeard's shoulder, "Do I have to call you Oyaji?"
There's a forced lightness to Ace's voice, as though he already knows the answer but just wants to confirm for himself.
Whitebeard laughs, loud and amused, and says, "Of course not! My children call me what they wish to call me out of their own accord. If you do not wish to call me that, you can call me whatever you want."
"Whatever I want?" Ace's eyes glittered.
"Mustache man!" Ace jumped off of Whitebeard's chair and flipped midair before landing dramatically on the ground. "That's what I'm going to call you from now on, okay? Mustache man!"
"What a cheeky brat!" Whitebeard rumbles, chest shaking with laughter.
Ace grins, "You said that I could call you anything! No take-backs!"
"Of course not," Whitebeard smiles fondly and reaches out to ruffle Ace's hair, "What should I call you, then?"
Ace makes a vague humming sound in the back of his throat, thinking about it, and then he smiles, "You already have a name for me!"
"I do?" Whitebeard raises his eyebrows, amused.
"Yeah!" Ace grins, "Brat!"
Whitebeard twitches, and then bursts into full blown laughter, "Is that what you want to be called by everyone?"
"Not everyone!" Ace pouts at Whitebeard, "But when you say it, it's okay, okay?"
What an odd kid. Strange logic, too. But Whitebeard concedes, "Okay, brat."
Ace beams, and Whitebeard wonders where an odd kid like this came from. When he asks, Ace grins at him, sharp toothed and wide, and says, "The future."
Whitebeard can almost believe it. "Brat," he says, instead.
When the newspaper comes in and Ace bounces onto Whitebeard's shoulder, Marco knows it must be something special. Ace rarely reads the newspaper, besides skimming over the wanted papers and huffing when he doesn't find anything of interest.
"Oyaji, oyaji, oyaji!" Ace barrels onto Whitebeard's shoulder and shoves a wanted paper in his hands, "Look, look! It's my little brother!"
"Oh?" Whitebeard raises an eyebrow as he looks over the paper. Monkey D. Luffy... hm.
Thatch leans over, flopping on Whitebeard's armrest, "Hey, Ace, is that the brother that you said became a Revolutionary?"
"Nah, that's my other one," Ace waves a hand flippantly, "Although Luffy's dad is a Revolutionary."
"His father..." Marco narrows his eyebrow, "Is his name Dragon, by chance?"
Ace shrugs, "I dunno. But he's, like, important or something, I think. I dunno, I wasn't really interested in that kinda stuff."
Marco and Whitebeard exchange glances. Dragon, Marco mouths, and Whitebeard laughs. Ace is just full of surprises. "Do you want this little brother of yours to be recruited into our crew?" Whitebeard asks, amused.
Ace immediately wrinkles his nose and shakes his head, "My little brother's going to be the pirate king!" He says, "He can't join someone else's crew!"
"Ah," Thatch smiles a bit, "But don't you want Oyaji to be the Pirate King?"
Ace cocks his head to the side and furrows his eyebrows, "Why would I want that?"
Marco bites back a smile, "Because you're part of Oyaji's crew, Ace."
"Oh, right," Ace swings back and forth, "But Oyaji doesn't want to be Pirate King."
"Oh?" Whitebeard raises an eyebrow, "And how do you know that?"
Whitebeard and Marco exchange glances and smile at each other again.
Ace, is, indeed, an enigma.
(But it seems like he's their's.)