Disclaimer: One Piece is copyright Eiichiro Oda. I am making no profit from this work.

This is completely for Snarks and Tro, because goddamn. Goddamn. There never was better family anywhere.

Old Souls

soul (sohl) n. The principle of life, feeling, thought, and action in humans, regarded as a distinct entity separate from the body, and commonly held to be separable in existence from the body; the spiritual part of humans as distinct from the physical part.

Ace has always been an excellent observer. Though at first he seems open and friendly—and he is—there's a part of him that's better at listening than talking; better at watching than joining in. He can step out of the crowd as easily as he can blend seamlessly within it, and he can see things without the trappings of convention.

It's part of what makes him so valuable as a commander; his ability to instantly understand a situation has saved his life – and the lives of his subordinates – more than once, and it's what kept Blackbeard from successfully passing off his comrades' deaths as accidents. Power, even the power that comes from a devil fruit, is not always enough, especially not out on the Grand Line.

It's also not enough to have smarts, and power, and skill out here, either – you need nakama. People bonded to you and you to them; people who will stand beside you, victory or defeat. Life or death; beyond death. Irreplaceable people who take ahold of pieces of you and make those pieces theirs, make parts of you belong to them alone and give you pieces of themselves in return.

In the ever-changing Grand Line, certainty is a power beyond all others, and the only certainty is true family. Nakama.

There are things Smoker does that annoy him. Surprisingly, it's not the man's temper, or his severe emotion allergy, though they can be equally frustrating and amusing in turns. It's certain habits, more than anything, and they're stupidly simple little things, like the way he tends to let the ashtray overflow – just because he can't perceive the scent of old, stale, burnt-out cigars doesn't mean Ace can't.

Ace knows that there are things he does that annoy Smoker in return; not the things Smoker pretends to be pissed at, because he's vocal about those, but instead the things that make the older man grit his teeth and glower, though he rarely says a word.

It's probably healthy. For the both of them. He'd be really damned bored if he was happy with Smoker all of the time. Not that there isn't something to be said for happiness, but he'd probably have to drown himself if they were just... constantly perfect.

Well, they're never perfect. They're very close to being the exact opposite of perfect ninety-nine percent of the time. This is a massive plus.

Whatever his faults, Smoker is, at his core, a good and just man; more intelligent than he bothers to let his superiors know, and possessing of a stubbornly hidden streak of kindness that seems out of place to those who don't know him well. It's one of the few things Ace won't tease him about, because he's seen the way Smoker is with kids, and he just can't bring himself to discourage it.

Ace thinks it might have been the sudden drop in room temperature that woke him up tonight. He doesn't feel cold, not the way other people do—but he can tell when his own body temperature suddenly skyrockets in order to compensate.

He sits up, wriggling out from under Smoker's arm to do so; sure enough, the porthole is still open from when he slipped in last night. Apparently, the next island has the set season of winter.

It's no surprise that Smoker didn't notice the change in temperature, wrapped around Ace as he was. Ace glances down at him, brushing his fingers across a broad shoulder, down one heavily muscled arm, then snorts. The man's skin is as warm as it would be from lying under five fur comforters. When he doesn't stir at the light touch, Ace lets himself watch the marine sleep for a little longer.

It's not that he looks overly attractive when he sleeps. Ace heard once that you know you care about someone if you can watch them sleep for a while and still find them attractive enough to have sex with them—and it's true, really. Most people look like idiots when they sleep, or, at the very least, dead. Although, in Smoker's defence, he has yet to pass out face-first in a plate of food.

It's more because these are the most unguarded moments either of them have; Smoker won't growl at him to keep him at a distance, and Ace won't toss off an insult or a grin because otherwise he himself might say something that touches too deep.

In short, when one of them is asleep, the other can be affectionate out of spite.

But it's late—early, rather—and he's tired, so he lets himself drag the covers back over both of them and squirms back under Smoker's arm. Ace is hardly straining himself with trying to be subtle, though, and Smoker twitches and frowns, opening sleep-bleary eyes and glancing down at the pirate.

After a few more tired blinks, Smoker's eyes focus and narrow, and Ace knows that expression—it's the one that tells him that Smoker is going to say something snappish and annoyed, just to try to prove that there isn't much emotion invested in this.

"Just... shut up," Ace says before Smoker can speak, though his tone is a mixture of amused and exasperated. Smoker glares at him, but it's more for show than anything else, because he doesn't protest when Ace presses a kiss to his mouth before curling back against the older man and letting heat roll off of his own body in waves, chasing away the invading chill.

Luffy knows. His brother terrifies him sometimes, in the same way a massively lucky coincidence in your favour scares you. Luffy is simple and loud and honest and good, but the subtle is lost on him, and usually the obvious as well; but when he looks at Ace, he knows things.

No details. Not even the basics – if Ace asked Luffy what it was that he knew, the kid would never be able to answer. He wouldn't even try; he'd just look at Ace with that are you a moron? stare that he himself receives so often, until Ace either gave up or Luffy forgot the original question.

"You're happy," Luffy had said abruptly, in the middle of dinner, grinning at his brother like a loon. His crew had barely reacted, used to their captain's thoughts going in a completely different direction from the norm and then bursting out of his mouth with no warning. They did glance at Ace, though, because Ace's visits are also out of the norm and he is Luffy's brother, so his reactions are at times cause for new entertainment. Spectacular, epic fights over steak have broken out more than once.

But Ace had simply replied, "Obviously, idiot," and Luffy huffed at the insult, and the crew had gone back to their meals – and at some point, Zoro snapped at Nami for taking the last piece of roast, to which she replied that her condition was delicate and she needed the extra nutrients, to which Zoro replied that that was bullshit, to which Sanji replied with a kick to the face, and with the air of routine, everyone else made sure that they were ready to duck at a moment's notice, just in case.

Luffy, pleased by the distraction, had immediately stolen food off his first mate's plate; stuffing his mouth full in seconds with his cheeks bulging out like a chipmunk's. Zoro hadn't noticed, so Ace had had to bite the inside of his cheek to keep from laughing and giving his brother away.

Dinner was hours ago, and Ace is in the crow's nest. It's Luffy's watch, technically, but Ace had told him to go back to his nakama – Ace would take his watch.

Luffy is still in the crow's nest, though, even though he isn't technically on watch anymore. He leans into his brother as Ace watches the quiet, surprisingly calm black sea, the younger one's eyes drooping closed every now and again only to flicker open as Luffy thinks of something new to say.

Eventually, though, Luffy falls asleep leaning against his shoulder—just like he did when they were kids, and the world was so much smaller and safer, and so much less fun. He mumbles a few words, mostly incoherent, but Ace manages to deduce that Luffy has told Ace that he loves him. Ace ruffles his younger brother's messy black hair and returns the sentiment to sleep-deaf ears. Love is mushy, sentimental stuff to talk about even at the best of times, but they're alone, and family is more important than things like a manly exterior.

Hell, even Usopp would agree.

It's aggravating, sometimes, that Smoker remains a marine even though he may as well just say to hell with it and go rogue; he's been disregarding orders for years, anyway, and that isn't likely to change in the near future.

Aggravating, but not puzzling – Ace understands all too well the obligations and trappings that come with a sense of duty and loyalty, and he knows that it's a benefit to the world in general for Smoker to refrain from defecting. There are too many corrupt marines; too many people willing to sell out their own for money and power. Too few who retain a sense of justice tempered with the understanding that justice is not always synonymous with the law. The world needs as many true marines as it can get.

But there's a piece of Ace himself that wants to be greedy and selfish for just this one thing. Even though he knows why Smoker never will, even though Ace would never ask it of him, every time the man runs the ragged edge of the law again because his superiors don't seem to understand the concept of the absolute justice they preach and Smoker has no patience for their bullshit, Ace has to tamp down that blaze of want and need and hope that maybe, this time, Smoker will finally break away.

It would be so much easier, that way. Not that Ace doesn't get a certain level of fun out of the challenge of sneaking about, but sometimes (a lot of the time) he wishes he could stay.

It's not that Ace is trapped between two loyalties—nothing so complicated. He is loyal to Whitebeard, and short of turning on his brother, he will do everything in his power to help his chosen captain achieve his dream. He has a purpose there; a goal, a duty, an obligation; none of which he will ever shirk or regret. But that goal will one day be reached, the duty done, the obligation fulfilled.

And by the time it occurred to him that he'd be able to go elsewhere if he wanted without being disloyal, and be able to do so with Whitebeard's approval, it was too late for there to be any question of where it was he'd go.

Ben had told Ace once that Luffy has an old soul.

Ace hadn't understood it; not then. And though he'd asked for an explanation, Ben had simply replied that Ace wouldn't truly understand, even if Ben told him – and when he finally did understand, he wouldn't have to be told. Aggravating, and frustrating, and even to this day Ace is certain Ben only denied him the answer so he could watch the boy scowl over it for days.

Nonetheless, Ace understands now. He didn't have to be told.

Luffy has a old soul. He understands things he's never seen; knows things he's never been told. It's not clairvoyance, or a special power, or anything quite so blatant.

Luffy has an old soul, and he finds the heart of things that other people can look at their entire lives and never truly see. There are things that lie behind Luffy's eyes that a life that lasts a hundred years could never acquire or understand. Sometimes, in those rare instances where Luffy is serious, there's the faint echo of a thousand voices in his words; all Luffy's, still simple, but potent. Plain steel and uncut diamond; lacking in polish and shine but stronger than anything. Unbreakable.

"Think I'll be stuck with you again if there's a next life?" Ace asks idly, leaning against the base of the masthead with his back to his brother, who is perched on the very top of it. The midday sun beats down upon them, but Ace can barely feel the heat at all – and what he does feel doesn't bother him.

"Well, yeah, Ace," Luffy replies instantly, as if Ace is an idiot. He wraps his legs around Merry's neck and stretches himself to hang upside-down in front of Ace, one hand holding his hat in place. "We've always been together. You're my brother." He grins then, and laughs, and Ace knows better than to ask for an explanation – so he rolls his eyes and grins along with Luffy, because he can't help but join in.

Though large time gaps doesn't happen very often anymore, it bothers him if he hasn't seen Smoker for a long stretch of time. It's not like he's incomplete or depressed when Smoker isn't there, because that's both A) stupid, and B) extremely creepy and unhealthy, but he does miss him and it drives Ace a little crazy sometimes because he really never agreed to that when he got involved with the marine.

He does love the man, and god help him, Ace actually likes him a hell of a lot as well.

It isn't hard to admit that, although there's still that wary part of him that wants to dance around it. But it isn't heart-melting, or a huge revelation, or even something particularly big in his mind. It's just there, like breathing. Quiet and unassuming, understated and simple. You belong with me.

And that's all there is to it, really.

Ace is like a son to him – just like all of his crew, but one could make a convincing argument that Ace is one of Whitebeard's favourite sons.

The thing about sons, though, is that eventually, they leave home. He doesn't doubt Ace's loyalty or his commitment – it may be, would be, a different story if Whitebeard ever ordered the boy to take violent action against his own brother, but Ace knows full well that Whitebeard would never ask it of him in the first place. It's a non-issue.

It isn't Ace's loyalty that is in question, or his willingness to do his duty. But the Pirate King's throne can't be empty forever, and though Whitebeard intends to be the one to finally reach that elusive seat of power, ever since Strawhat Luffy appeared he has accepted that there is a chance—however small—that Whitebeard may not wrest that prize from his old rival, even in death.

But if that boy wants to claim that cursed title of Pirate King, he'll have to fight better than the devil himself to defeat Whitebeard.

Ace will always be a Whitebeard Pirate, until the day Whitebeard dies. But as with any human, even humans like Ace, there are pieces of Ace that belong to other people entirely; pieces Whitebeard will never be able to touch.

If that isn't the way of the world, then it's Ace's way – always has been, from the very start. Ace has always played the role of elder brother, loving and worrying for that wild soul even though he's just as wild himself, albeit in a different way. Some of those elusive pieces belong to Luffy, and they'll never belong to anyone else.

Annoyingly, the same could be said for the man whose ship Ace keeps finding his way back to. That man holds the last of those pieces, deep and almost completely hidden, but no matter how much time has passed since he first claimed them, he has never been inclined to let them go.

One day, the title of Pirate King will be claimed. And though always a Whitebeard Pirate, Ace's duty will be done.

Ace doesn't bother trying to kid himself into thinking that Smoker is even neutral toward Whitebeard. 'Strongly dislike' is optimistic. Still, it doesn't bother him – it's not that they avoid the subject, but generally they silently they agree to disagree. Yes, you hate him, and no, I don't care. Moving onto sex; we both agree on that.

They agree on other things, as well; lots of other things, like basic morality and loyalty owed and what goes best on toast, even if they'd both be damned to admit it – Smoker because of stubborn tradition, and Ace because it's an easy way to get Smoker riled up.

They also both hate paperwork, though Ace loves Smoker's paperwork, because he likes to rub it in that paperwork is something Ace has to do pretty much... never.

Smoker ends up shoving Ace toward the bed with his smoke this time after the pirate hovers over his shoulder too long; not particularly interested in the report's contents – though he skims it anyway, just in case there's something important he hasn't yet heard about – but very interested in doing his best to distract the marine with nips and murmurs and clever fingers.

He's content to sprawl on the bed, though, because it's more comfortable than standing and he knows that he guaranteed a night of good, hard sex the second Smoker actually needed to shove him out of reach in order to continue working.

As Ace watches the motions that signal Smoker is getting to the end of this particular report, he says casually, "You also discovered that the Stone Dog pirates make berth at night in the coves 'round the south end of Litane Island."

Smoker barely even twitches; they've played this routine out before. Ace does not consider himself kin to those who tear through the world, murdering and raping at will and destroying everything in their path.

"And where did I get this information?"

"You beat it out of some punk kid in a bar who was bragging about it at about two this morning," Ace replies, smirking. "Weird about the burns on him, though."

"Cigars can be persuasive."

"Of course."

"Snailphones can't really be trusted with this kind of information, considering that crew is notorious for intercepting calls. I'll have to send it with a bird... could take about a week."

"Something might happen to it long before the marines have a chance to get there," Ace muses.

At this, Smoker pauses, and turns to look at the pirate sprawled across his bed. Wary, not because of the implication, but rather the invitation that lies behind the words.

"Leave survivors," he orders shortly, dropping the pretense of their word dance and denying the invitation all at once. He doesn't try to tell Ace to stay away from the coves; partly because Ace won't listen anyway, and partly because Ace knows damned well that Smoker, unlike many of his colleagues, has absolutely no interest in keeping bloodthirsty men alive for anything other than interrogation.

"No promises." Ace flashes him a wicked smile. "You know how I get caught up in the moment. 'Course, if there was someone there to remind me not to kill everyone..."

Ace barely registers the shift to logia and back again, and then Smoker is on him, kissing him hard and pressing him deep into the mattress. And though he knows the man's answer is still a no, it sends a thrill through him all the same.

"You've been around too damned long for your age, brat," Smoker growls in his ear when they part. "You and your brother both."

"What?" Ace asks, frozen and startled in Smoker's grip, but Smoker just scowls at him. "No—what the hell did you mean by that?"

"What did I mean by what, Portgas?"

Ace doesn't bother replying, instead choosing to drop it; he's long since accepted that with the possible exception of Ben, he seems to be the only one who can think about crazy shit for too long.

"You need to wear less clothing," he says instead, shoving Smoker's heavy jacket off of his shoulders and dragging him into another heated kiss.

"Has it... always been us?" he hedges afterwards, when it's late and they've exhausted each other and he's just relaxed enough to sometimes catch pieces of thoughts and knowledge that don't fit into the puzzle of this life.

He doesn't expect an answer; but then, he doesn't expect Smoker to not tell him to either make sense or go to sleep, either, so the silence is heavier than it should be.

"Just go to sleep." Smoker says the expected finally, roughly, and Ace knows that he isn't withholding an answer – he just doesn't know how the hell to answer the question that he only understands on the deepest, most basic level of existence.

But he does understand it. Ace is satisfied with that, and sleep comes easily.

Ace knows that his element, by nature, is a double-edged sword. Fire grants life as easily as it steals it, and in the face of knowing exactly how vicious this particular crew is, even compared to others on the Grand Line, Ace knows which side of the coin his flames will be on today.

He'd meant to make this quick; have a little fun, what with all the wood around for burning, but make it quick—but sometimes that little voice called a 'conscience' shuts up just long enough to let him give exactly as good as his adversaries dish out to others.

He burns through flesh and scorches through bones – hears, in some part of his mind, the screams of agony and terror. Knows that there are men scrabbling at the bulkhead, at the portholes, half-mad with the pain as their very skin melts off their bodies, as their blood boils, as their organs sear.

He burns cleanly. Even the smoke he creates on his own is swept away by his explosive power, and there is no peaceful death by smoke inhalation for these men. Ace is too quick for that; and then, once the burning begins, far too slow. The agony he inflicts is the worst form of torture.

He senses some of them, those who've managed to get behind the worst of it, running for the sides of the ship to throw themselves overboard. Ace throws himself forward, racing to create a ring of himself around the sides of the ship, to trap them on deck. Most scream and flinch back, away from the vicious heat, but a few throw themselves through the inferno anyway.

Some even make it through. They tumble into the saltwater below, quickly going under. Beneath the water, they are safe from him. Had he a human body, he'd've snarled in displeasure; as it is, the fire snarls for him like a beast. He allows parts of himself to tear through the air dangerously close to the water's surface while the rest of him continues its assault on the ship and its inhabitants.

He roars in triumph as the flames just above the waterline fatally burn some of those escapees who are forced to come up for air, needing breath. They twist and thrash and disappear beneath the water again, but Ace has known his element too long to have any doubt over which wounds are deadly ones.

No longer interested in the pitiful few who may have survived both the fire and the water, Ace pulls all of himself back to the ship; back to the final victims who are writhing in pain and more or less already dead so far as the severity of their wounds would indicate.

Some tiny part of him – human? soul? conscience? the egotistical part of him that insists that he's different from most pirates? – looks at what he's doing, and is appalled. There could have been far quicker, cleaner, ways to do this.

Maybe the memories of this will keep him awake some nights.

He sincerely doubts it.

But it doesn't matter now, because deep in the heart of his flames he can sense the approach of the only need and want his fire has ever felt, and so Ace finally, finally allows heat and flame to touch the powder kegs.

The explosion that sounds from the coves of Litane Island is so powerful that Tashigi could have sworn she felt the ground tremble beneath her, even though the closest town to the coves is at least three miles away.

There's no screaming or panicking, only wary, concerned stares; the explosion is far even from the homes on the outskirts of the town, and the islanders of this area are accustomed enough to pirates that they have a good idea of what it was that caused that volatile disturbance.

Judging by the way the smoke from the explosion is moving, somehow resisting the direction of the wind and appearing to shove at the flames to push them inward, they're only half right.

As she makes her way out of town as quickly as she can, heading for the coves and gaining a lot of new bruises in the process, she notes when the smoke suddenly begins behaving like true smoke, whereas the fire still twists and crackles and roars, but refuses to spread out any further than it already has. Smoker has broken away, but Ace remains.

After she nearly crashes headlong into a tree, she keeps her eyes on the road.

Sure enough, the man coalesces in front of her not long after she deduces that he's no longer a part of the conflagration, having covered miles in the time it took her to exit the town.

He looks slightly winded, though, which is surprising—he's drawing heavily on the twin cigars, smoke swirling around him in faint, rebellious wisps as if his body isn't quite enough to contain them.

Ace had explained to her once, as best he could, what it feels like to be so wrapped up in someone that you don't know where they end and you begin, or whether you ever want to separate again. The jolt of extra power, the strength that comes from mixing with a force that sustains your own. So she can understand, as much as a non-logia possibly can, how hard it must have been for him to pull himself away from his own element and its counterpart.

"Smoker-san, your orders?" she asks, and despite the way his form is off, his gaze is as sharp and clear as it ever was.

"The Stone Dog pirates, captained by a man named Tove, apparently made berth in the coves where the explosion occurred." Smoker blows out a sharp puff of smoke, annoyed. "There are three survivors of the blast; I've detained them for questioning. I left them restrained near that brass monument, though with those burns, I doubt they'd have gotten far. We'll get them to the brig; have Suzu make sure they don't die before I interrogate them."

The monument... with a jolt, Tashigi realizes that it's behind her, back the way she came. He'd had to double back in order to find her. How fast had he been moving, driven by the fire?

"And the explosion, sir?" she asks, as nonchalantly as possible.

"Apparently," he says shortly, his irritation plain, "someone was careless with a lantern around the powder kegs. Nearly took out everyone on the damn ship."

He knows she isn't stupid or naïve, and so she has to bite the inside of her cheek to keep her face straight. Ace's doing alone, it seems.

He brushes past her, intent on getting back to his prisoners, but she can see the tension in his muscles; the way his gaze keeps drifting back to the strangely contained inferno at the coves. And he does keep telling her that she needs to work on her interrogation skills.

"Ah, sir?" she begins carefully, not sure if she's going too far with this. "Shall I have the prisoners brought to the brig and tell the men that you'll be bringing the fire and smoke under control?"

He stop and glances back at her, surprise in his eyes and a scowl on his mouth, but then abruptly drags his gaze back to the flames. As if in answer, they're moving higher in the air, spiralling up past where any natural flame could rise.

He curses, and she pretends not to hear the way he's swearing at a specific person rather than the supposedly mindless fire. He gives her a curt nod, and then he shifts away, melting into his logia form and darting across the landscape to rein the fire in.

She turns and heads back toward the docks, which is where she knows the marines will be gathering, ready for orders. She'll single out a few of them to help her drag the pirates to the ship, and bring Dr Suzu to make sure they won't die before arrival.

Tashigi jogs rather than runs; she's less likely to slam into the ground, another person, or a poor vendor's cart that way... and she's in no hurry. She knows that the explosion was never a danger to either the islanders or the marines.

She's not afraid to admit to herself that she loves Smoker; certainly not the way that Ace does—and she blushes hard at even the thought of it—but she loves him all the same. He's guided her this far, taught her justice and how to stand on her own two feet (if not how to avoid tripping over them all the time). And more than all of that, he trusts her—trusts her to make the decision that's right by her, trusts her to follow what she believes is justice.

She'd follow him anywhere.

He feels strangely lost amidst the fire when the other vanishes from his senses—a part of him, the human part, the part that has a name and a purpose and thoughts and dreams—knows that the other is Smoker, that he isn't gone entirely, has merely become human, but that's the smallest part of him right now. The Fire, it doesn't understand—the smoke is silent when it calls, twisting and curling mindlessly.

It's terrifying and exhilarating, and so Ace's flames roar and crackle all the more fiercely when Smoker rejoins them. He might have been gone a moment or a thousand years; time means nothing in this form.

At first, Smoker pushes at the flames, trying to contain and subdue them, but Ace curls through the smoke, around it, inside and out and never completely separate. After a second or an eternity, Smoker slowly ceases his attempts to restrain the fire, mollified by its disinclination to spread and just as lost as Ace in the raging, massive inferno.

Ace has never had so much fire at his disposal that he hasn't dispersed or used immediately, and Smoker has never been with him in this state before. They're larger and more powerful than they've ever been, melded together now and perfectly in sync. Raw force and life ripples through them, and there is nothing, nothing that could stop them right now.

They could burn the whole world; raze it to the ground and scatter the ashes across the seas. Through their elements, they can both sense the blackened remains of the men that once sailed this hollowed, ruined ship. What thought manages to penetrate the haze of power makes Ace wonder if Smoker knows which came first: the deaths, or the explosion. Wonders how much he'd care if he did.

They both have consciences, but neither of them are saints. This, here, now, could be the first casualty of them, the start of it all. They sustain each other, power each other, make up for their own weaknesses with the other's strengths.


It's Smoker who pulls them momentarily from the conflagration, both of them half-formed from the waist up, what seems like miles above the island beneath them. They're wrapped around each other even like this, suddenly frail-seeming human forms holding close. Ace buries his face in Smoker's neck, trying to regain himself, but every time he breathes it's fire and smoke. There is no sky, no ground, no water—there is only the maelstrom of flame and smoke, curling and flickering around them, alive but bound to their will.

"Always us," Ace murmurs, feeling delirious with the power and glory of it all, not entirely sure of what he's saying. "Always this."

Smoker just kisses him fiercely, smoke-wreathed fingers tangling in fire-flicker hair, and they spiral into each other, grey and red and white and gold.

It's a long, long time before they come back to themselves, and to earth.

"I'm gonna be the Pirate King," Luffy tells him, for the millionth time; he's sprawled out across Merry's figurehead again, his hat held firmly to his head as he stares down into the water – Usopp had claimed he'd seen a tuna fish the size of two whales just a bare half hour ago, and though he had apparently terrified it into swimming for its life with his reputation alone, Luffy is still hoping to find it.

"Whatever you say," Ace says patiently, tamping down a grin when Luffy huffs at him. He tilts his head back to look up at his brother, who has sat up and is looking down at him, brow furrowed.

"You'll see," Luffy insists, sounding both childish and frighteningly serious at the same time. Old echoes, a thousand strong.

"I guess I will," Ace replies, not agreeing or disagreeing.

Either way, he'll be there to see how the world shifts when the title of pirate king is claimed. Thousands of pirates war and kill and steal and destroy, hunting for One Piece with all their formidable strength and power, but Ace pities them in an amused sort of way; it's all for naught, after all. He knows that there are only two true candidates, and though he knows which one he champions...


He'll see.