Instead of the "Ace-is-Harry" route, this is more "Harry-became-Ace and is so done with this nonsense". Also, happy (early) Fourth of July everyone!
Shanks was teasing Luffy the day it happened. Luffy suddenly looked up and turned towards the door.
"Ace!" he cheered.
Shanks turned...and came almost face to face with a mini Roger, only with some of Rouge's features and a scowl on his face.
"Who's this Luffy?" asked Shanks cheerfully. However there was something ancient in the older child's eyes.
Almost like staring down a dragon version of Whitebeard when he was in a protective mood in the form of a child a little older than Luffy, with Roger's features.
The second the boy's eyes landed on Luffy, unharmed and acting like a kid should, that ancient gaze softened.
It was clear that the mini-dragon had already claimed the kid as it's own and would protect it with every fiber in their being if something happened to the kid.
Something in Shanks relaxed slightly. He didn't know what caused a child to have such an ancient gaze behind those silver eyes, but he had the distinct feeling that as long as he meant no harm to Luffy or those the kid cared about (like Makino), the dragon would ignore his presence in his territory.
"Shishishi...this is my big brother Ace!" said Luffy. "He's super strong and really smart!"
"Your brother huh? How come I've never seen him before?"
"Shishishi...Ace likes to hunt a lot and always brings me a lot of meat! He said I'm almost big enough to join him!" said Luffy proudly.
Seeing the look on Shanks face, Ace finally spoke.
"It's either I train him, or I let Shitty Gramps get his claws into him."
"Shitty Gramps?" said Shanks amused.
Ace nodded to Luffy.
"His full name is Monkey D. Luffy...do I really need to elaborate on who his grandfather is?" deadpanned Ace. "Oi Makino! Do you have any orange juice?"
Makino sighed in exasperation...at least Ace was trying to be polite. Mostly.
She set a massive cup down and filled it with orange juice.
Shanks and his crew watched with open amusement as Ace chugged the drink down like a pro.
"I challenge you to a drinking contest!"
"One, we're not old enough that Makino would let us even touch her booze supply...if these idiots haven't drank it all yet," said Ace dryly. Shanks held up his booze in amusement, silently acknowledging the fact they had pretty much wiped out Makino's current stock. "Two, you still haven't managed to figure out the trick to being able to breath while chugging any sort of liquid down."
"You didn't tell me your older brother was smarter than you, Anchor."
Luffy pouted, but Shanks ruffled his hair and brought his mood back up. Shanks teased the brat when he asked for juice like his big brother.
"See? You're not old enough to join my crew. All real men drink booze," said Shanks grinning.
"Please, the only reason anyone would drink watered down booze is to avoid getting sick," said Ace.
"Oh?" said Benn.
"Alcohol's chemical composition makes it a natural sterilizing agent and makes water safe enough to drink. It's safer to drink watered down booze on unfamiliar islands, especially in places where there are known super bugs that make people sick," said Ace. "That's why it's not uncommon to use booze to clean out a wound, because it kills the bacteria and most contaminates to prevent infection...even if it hurts like a bitch."
Ace noticed that the ship's doctor looked at him with open approval for knowing that fact.
"Of course the fact it pissed off Shitty Gramps when I stole some of his best stock so I could treat all the injuries that asshole keeps giving me in the name of training didn't hurt either."
"...You stole your grandfather's booze?" said Shanks.
Ace smirked wickedly. He reached behind him, and no one could see how he did it, but he pulled out a very expensive and hard to find bottle of whiskey.
"That's fifty-year-old whiskey, and it costs a fortune to find," he said in shock.
"Shitty Gramps was stupid enough to leave me alone with his filing cabinet. He didn't realize it was missing until after he got done putting his files back in order after he busted me reading them, and by then I wasn't even on the ship anymore," said Ace cheekily.
Shanks started laughing and he wasn't the only one.
"You're not even ten yet!" scolded Makino.
"Hey, at least I'm saving this for when I'll be old enough to appreciate it!" Ace shot back. Shanks laughed even harder at that.
This kid was a riot.
It was pretty clear Ace was meant to be a pirate. Whatever was behind that ancient gaze he had upon entering disappeared for the most part once he deemed Shanks "not a threat" to Luffy.
Finding out Luffy was Garp's grandson shouldn't have been surprising, but it was to an extent.
Shanks put the matter out of mind...right up until Luffy challenged the local bandit gang because they were talking bad about the Red Haired Pirates while Ace was out of town for the day.
The port was quiet...too quiet considering Luffy made a point to come running the second he heard Shanks was coming back.
Then he noticed the commotion in the square, and realized Luffy was at the center of it. It looked like the bandits had come back with intent to cause mischief and would need to be dealt with.
It took him all of five seconds to register what he thought at first was Conqueror's Haki...until he realized with absolute shock that it was killing intent. Pure, unfiltered killing intent and it was being generated by the little dragon known as Ace.
"What...do you think you're doing to my little brother?"
Ace didn't shout...he had little need to considering the dead silence that descended once his killing intent was felt.
The bandit sneered and tried to pretend he wasn't intimidated by the brat leveling enough intent to kill that it made a few of his men either pass out or straight up piss themselves in fear of having that gaze turned on them.
"The little shit was going on about how those pathetic pirates are actually worth something. I'm just teaching him his place."
Shanks got there in time to see Ace crick his neck...as something settled in his gaze. He did not like the look in Ace's eyes at all.
The dragon comparison was impossible to get rid of now...and you could imagine his shock seeing Ace take out a gun from somewhere and shoot the bandit pinning Luffy to the ground in the knee with terrifying accuracy, causing him to howl with pain. Luffy immediately bolted to hide behind Ace, completely unaffected by the tension in the air.
"You little shit!"
"What's the matter? I was merely teaching you your place in the pecking order," said Ace coldly and calmly. "No one threatens one of mine like that and gets away with a mere slap on the wrist. Especially someone stupid enough to target a kid."
Shanks knew they had better intervene fast, before Ace killed anyone. It was pretty clear that the bandits were beyond rattled at how calmly Ace had shot their leader without even hesitating, never mind the killing intent still in the air.
No one that young should have the ability to kill another person without a second thought like that.
Seeing Shanks, the intent lessened enough that they could work with ease. Apparently Ace decided Shanks' presence was enough to carry Luffy off to Makino's bar and fuss over the kid.
"Where did you get the gun?" asked Shanks, once it was over.
"Filched it off Gramps' ship," said Ace promptly. "Not my fault those idiot marines drop their guard around five year olds and didn't think to lock up the armory."
"...Why do I get the distinct feeling if I asked where you got something, you'll just say you stole it from Garp's ship?" asked Shanks.
"Because you're not a complete idiot?" said Ace, tilting his head. He bopped Luffy on the head for moving. "And sit still you brat! If you had waited for me to come back you wouldn't have been caught in the first place!"
"They were saying bad things about Shanks!" defended Luffy.
"And it never occurred to you to wait for back-up, you idiot?!" scolded Ace.
"You sound like an old man!" said Luffy. Ace hit him harder this time.
"You do sound like an old man," said Shanks amused.
Ace turned to look at him with a deadpan expression.
"If anyone is an old man here, it's Shanks. I can see gray hairs where I'm sitting. Not to mention crow's feet."
"I'm not even thirty!"
"Could have fooled me. Then again your flirting with Makino was absolutely terrible and outdated," said Ace. "Was that why you became a pirate? To recapture your lost youth?"
"You little brat!"
Ace was on a roll, and all too happy to make pot-shots at Shanks about his age.
"After all, I'm not even ten which automatically makes you an old geezer. Isn't that right Luffy?"
Shanks looked at Luffy, hoping for some help. Sadly Luffy decided to be a complete ego crusher instead.
"You mean Shanks isn't forty?"
It was then that Shanks registered the fact his crew was howling. Especially Benn.
"You guys are mean," said Shanks, pouting like a child.
Ace smirked like the little devil he was.
Luffy patted Shanks' hand.
"It's okay Papa Shanks...we'll still love you even when you're too old to be a proper pirate anymore," said Luffy.
It took Shanks a few seconds to register what Luffy called him, but when he did he almost crushed the kid with a hug. The brat was just too cute...even if he was a total ego crusher.
Dying might have sucked, but being given a second chance at life wasn't too bad. He even got a bratty little brother out of the deal.
The man formerly known as "Harry Potter, the Man Who Survives" (among many other ridiculous titles), now Portagas D. Ace watched Shanks leaving the island with fondness.
It was clear he had left a permanent impression on Luffy and that there was no way in hell Garp was ever turning the kid into a marine.
The winds of freedom had caught Luffy up and he was determined to find his "Papa Shanks" again.
Ace grinned...tormenting the red head was a hoot, and they still couldn't figure out how he kept bringing stuff that was far too big for his pockets to fit out.
It wasn't like any of them knew what magic was, much less a 'dimensional pocket'. It had come as a pleasant shock finding out that he could still use all his spells and tricks, even if he had to build up his core all over again.
He wasn't at the level where he could transform into his animagus form, but he was half-way there. He just had to wait and see if Luffy had the ability as well...the kid would probably enjoy Ace's training a hell of a lot more than he ever would Garp's.
"Ace, Ace! Look! Shanks gave me his hat!" said Luffy, though there were tears in his eyes.
Somehow, Ace had the feeling Shanks was feeling just as unhappy leaving Luffy behind as Luffy was to see him go.
Which was why Ace was going to give Shanks a well deserved and welcome shock.
Later that week...
Luffy looked at the tiny snail with fascination.
"Who is this?" asked Shanks suspiciously.
"Shanks!" said Luffy, happily. The snail gaped in shock.
"You're a dumbass. You live on the Grand Line and it never occurred to leave Luffy a Den Den Mushi and your number to stay in contact?" deadpanned Ace.
Shanks narrowed his eyes at the other boy.
"How do you have this number?"
"I asked your wife," said Ace.
"I don't have a wife."
"By wife I meant your first mate Benn. He sure as hell nagged you enough to be mistaken for your wife," Ace shot back.
"...I'm almost tempted to laugh my ass off once Benn finds out what you called him," said Shanks seriously.
"Have fun catching up with Luffy. I plan on leaving him this particular snail so you two don't miss each other too much once he goes off on his own adventure," said Ace.
Luffy looked beyond thrilled hearing Shanks voice. It wasn't as good as seeing him, but at least this way he could not only keep his promise but still stay in contact with one of his favorite people.
Ace was seriously the most awesome older brother ever. He not only told the best stories, but he was super smart, strong, courageous, caring and he didn't mind it when Luffy hung around him when he could be training.
Which was why he had absolutely no problem telling Shanks that when it came to his favorite people, Ace came ahead as his number one favorite. Much to his mock outrage.
The first time Ace met Sabo, a strange sort of understanding filled him.
He knew on sight the kid didn't belong in the garbage heap, and there was no way he was properly equipped to deal with street living. His eyes didn't have the right hardness for one thing.
"I need a minion capable of holding an intelligent conversation and willing to help me keep my idiot little brother from getting in over his head until he's strong enough to stay alive without me keeping an eye on him. You interested?" he asked.
"What makes you think I care?" asked the blond.
"Do you want three meals a day, an actual roof over your head and the guarantee the jackass nobles will never be able to recognize you?" said Ace.
The other boy tensed when he mentioned the nobles.
"Why should I care what the nobs think?"
Ace gave him a flat look.
"You don't have the right callouses and your features are too pretty for you to be anything but one of the nob's kids that ran away. I don't care why you left, so long as you never betray me or mine," said Ace bluntly. "So are you interested or not?"
"Why do you even care what happens to me?"
"Because out of all the other kids here, you look like you need the most help. Besides, someone has to help me teach that idiot brother of mine how to read. Any kid from the higher society would know that much."
Now he saw actual interest.
"Just so we're clear, do I have any guarantee you won't turn me in to the nobles later?"
"Fuck them and fuck the marines. The worst you'll likely have to deal with by associating with me if having to deal with Shitty Gramps idea of training. I doubt my brother will even realize the obvious and if Gramps doesn't rat you out I sure as hell won't. I protect my own," said Ace flatly.
Sabo looked at him in the eyes...and saw no deceit there. Ace genuinely did not give a damn he was a noble's son or why he ran away.
After only a few moments hesitation, he followed Ace out of that trash heap.
He would never regret that decision.