Apparently, Ace does think ahead. Considering the circumstances, that's not a comforting discovery.

Ha, I guess this is kinda stupid, but it's not like you're the only person getting one of these things.

It is white. The letter is white. He's never been one for melodrama, but it shouldn't be so crisp and perfect and clean. He doesn't know what else it should be; splattered with blood, water stained, mud spotted? Anything. Anything that could ground it, make it seem less surreal.

I wrote three of these, actually. One for Whitebeard, and one for Luffy, and one for you. Don't you feel special? I bet you're gonna be pissed at me for telling you all the crap I'm gonna tell you in writing, and after I'm dead, but I guess I don't have to worry about any of your creepy glares anymore if you're reading this, ne?

Oddly neat writing, something he'd never expected from the pirate. He suspects that Ace had taken his time writing this, maybe actually put thought into it. Possibly. Possibly not.

I'm hoping this'll get to you before the official news does. I left it and the other two with a girl in Oradunn town who works at the post office. Her brother's a pirate, so she promised to send them if she got word of my death or whatever.

It had outstripped the official news, actually, if only by half an hour. He hadn't believed the letter, hadn't really wanted to, but then the report had come and he'd sat down in his office and smoked ten cigars in record time. And he's still sitting here.

It's really weird to think that 'now' for you means that now, I'm dead. Right now, I'm dead. It's actually kinda funny.

He isn't laughing.

Don't miss me too much, huh?

Y'know, I guess there's not a good way to jump right into this, 'cause you'll probably just end up throwing this out anyway. But I just want my death to mean something to you. I don't care if you hate me or whatever, 'cause I'm a pirate and you're a marine and I guess that's expected, but I just don't want you to pretend I didn't exist.

Fucking pirate. Fucking worthless pirate. He knows, somewhere in the back of his mind, that if Ace says anything more in this train of thought, he'll hunt him to beyond the grave if he has to if only to put a dent in that smug freckled face.

That sounds weird. Weird to say to you, I mean, because knowing you you've probably catalogued each and every time I've shown up and then tried to pinpoint a pattern so you can know ahead of time, because I know how much it pisses you off when I show up without warning. I swear, one day I'm gonna bring a mirror with me and show you your expression.

But I'm getting off-topic. Back to the me-being-dead thing.

I know you're not gonna grieve or cry or freak out or anything stupid like that. Jeez, even if you did (do?) care at all, you wouldn't. Luffy will, and that bothers me, because I wasn't really there for him as much as I should have been. I mean, I saw him in Alabasta for the first time in three years and I barely stayed. I don't regret anything, and I wouldn't change anything, but I guess it's just a brother thing to want to be there. I miss him a lot, you know?

Maybe I shoulda wrote that in his letter, huh?

Weird, too, that it's easier to write this in your letter. I mean, in Whitebeard's, I kinda just said sorry about the whole 'dying' thing and I recommended a few people who'd make a good first mate, and in Luffy's I told him not to get more stupid than he already is and to take care of himself and his crew and good luck. Yours is a lot longer.

I like sleeping with you. I don't mean the sex (but the sex is great, too. Everybody likes sex!), I mean actually sleeping, because I don't have to worry about waking up with a knife to my throat or not waking up at all. And mostly, I like you. Stop scowling at my letter.

He scowls further, but that's mostly to drown out everything else.

I do like you, because of... because of a lot of things, actually, and I guess you must at least tolerate me, because you stopped shoving me off the bed about three months ago. By the way, how do you manage to scowl in your sleep? You need to drink less coffee or something. Grog is your friend.

Anyway, my hand's cramping up, so I'm gonna stop now. Not much else to say anyway, except maybe more mushy stuff that I'd write in just to piss you off and make you burn the letter instead of just throwing it out.

And tell Tashigi that if she got new glasses she might not trip as often.

— Ace

Signed with the pirate's name and Whitebeard's symbol. So damned nonchalant, and isn't that just like Ace. Fucking Portgas D. Ace, had to go and drown in the middle of the ocean just because he'd fallen asleep on his schooner and a damned pirate ship had been much too good at aiming cannon fire.

Smoker knows he should throw the letter out. Burn it, actually; the pirate's suggestion wasn't half bad; any of his crew coming across this would be... well, less than a good thing. But he can't seem to move from where he sits, teeth grinding twin cigars, smoke dispersing more quickly than usual due to the open porthole window.

There is a flare of heat behind him; he doesn't turn around, because ghosts are supposed to make a room colder, but maybe Ace is an exception to that rule.

A slight cough.

"Hey, taisa," the voice is soft. He turns halfway, taking in the freckles and the slightly rueful grin. "I'd... kinda hoped to get here before the letter did, but... I guess not. I managed to outrun the other two, but I guess after managing to survive and intercept two letters my luck had to run out somewhere." The grin is on full-force now. "Thanks for leaving the window open, by the way."

Smoker has been watching the pirate in a strange kind of detached calm, but now he's moving forward, jerking forward and grabbing the surprised pirate by his upper arms and shaking him hard twice, lifting him an inch off the floor.

"The hell were you thinking"—Ace's eyes are huge, staring at him like a child being scolded for drawing a pretty picture on a wall—"fucking dying, and for such a damned stupid reason – ("I didn't die!") – and leaving a fucking letter as if that makes it—" Smoker cuts himself off, giving Ace another rough shake and glaring at him with an intensity that might've set Ace on fire if the boy wasn't made of it. Ace's hands are holding onto Smoker's arms, trying to steady himself.

Smoker drops him, arms sliding around the pirate and near-crushing him to his chest, trying his damndest not to make it seem like he's hugging Ace, trying not to make it seem like he's petting his hair, but ultimately giving up on that and just near-affectionately growling "Shitty pirate," in Ace's ear.