Evil?

Summary: Standing before the gallows that would take his life in but a moment, Ace faced the blood-lusting crowd in utter defeat. Going over his life, he tried to find out how he went from free rebel to evil tyrant. Which road led to the gallows?

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Cuffed in seastone shackles, Ace was practically dragged by two marines out to the execution grounds of Impel Down. Dried blood stained his filthy bruised skin and matted his messy black hair. Long black shorts saved the shreds of his modesty that survived; they were filthy, but still intact. Greasy black strands fell over his unfocused eyes; his mouth was open, drawing in choked pants through his raw throat as his booted feet slid over the ground.

As he was dragged into the courtyard, he weakly closed his eyes against the sun. After a moment, he opened them and stared at the searing light with awe. He hadn't seen it for several long weeks of torture and starvation. He wasn't able to remember what it had felt like for so long, but now the warmth lapped at his broken body and bathed his dry tongue with the remnant taste of the freedom he once held tight in his fists.

Loud jeers stung his ears, piercing through the wall of silence of the cells that was only broken by weak screams of pain and the cold words of the guards. Lifting his head and inch, the broken husk of the Fire Fist caught sight of rows upon rows of bloodthirsty watchers waiting for his last fall; waiting for the final defeat of the 2nd commander of the infamous Whitebeard Pirates.

"Kill the evil bastard!"

The civilian's cry shot through Ace with the pain of a seastone bullet.

"Evil?" he panted, voice too soft for anyone to hear.

He gazed at the wooden structure in the center of the courtyard; the long rope and the marine standing ready at the lever that would take the floor out from under him and drop him to his death. Ace's heart fell into his empty stomach as tears bit at his eyes, unable to look away from his own death.

'Evil.'

The word wouldn't leave his head. It circled and echoed, causing his shattered body to shudder with the urge to sob his sins from his heart. He fought that urge. He was filthy, he was weak, he was torn apart, he was defeated...but he was still proud. Nothing could steal his pride. Nothing, not even the realization of his faults. He was a pirate, dam nit, and he wouldn't give them the satisfaction of his surrender to Fate's hands.

'Evil.'

Despite his resolve, the word still continued to torment him. It dug at his thoughts, infected his mind, pulled his sins into the light, and prodded at his heart. It...it confused him. He was a pirate, but not a tyrant. He fought the government for freedom, not blood. He's killed, yes, but for self-preservation and the survival of his loved ones. Was he 'evil' because of that? While he once would have claimed 'no', he was now unsure.

He raised his little brother, practically. It was a rough time, then. Monkey D. Dragon, his estranged father, left his ill mother to go pirating. Three years later, Dragon left another heavily pregnant woman in the village. She took care of Ace, three at the time, and his bed-ridden mother, even after she gave birth to Luffy.

Ace had tried desperately to be a good son, but he was unable to keep his mother from dying. He had been seven. Luffy's mother, Naomi, treated him as her own son despite his refusal to call her mother. She was forced to leave, though, when Vice-Admiral Garp came, since she was a well-known former pirate.

Garp, his grandfather, supported Ace and Luffy, but food and shelter only went so far. They were on their own. The townspeople helped Ace, but Luffy was uncontrollable even at five years of age.

He was a bad brother, despite that. He abandoned Luffy. At 15, he left to go pirating, leaving his 12 year old brother behind. Luffy's protective nature was born because of that. He was always afraid his friend's would leave him like Ace and Shanks did all those years ago. And even now, Ace still caused his brother pain.

Sure, he was a terrible older brother for making his baby brother worry, but it didn't mean he was evil. He did go against his grandfather's views, but he was a teenager with the blood of a pirate in his veins. That, also, didn't make him evil.

The only thing left was his nature, a pirate.

But were all pirates evil? No, Luffy wasn't and he wanted to be the best of the best pirates out there. Whitebeard wasn't. While the elderly pirate had the strength to obliterate the government, he left it alone. Well, now he was trying to destroy it, but he lost Ace who he had thought of as his own son. A father, distraught because his son was on death row, would rampage...wouldn't he? Ace never had a father before, so he didn't honestly know.

So, pirates were not all evil. Most had honor and codes, unlike people like Blackbeard who killed his own comrade and tried to kill Ace, his former commander. The government's dog was evil. Ace wasn't.

"Not...evil..." he muttered as his guards dragged him up to the gallows. He let out a breath of relief, shuddering as the executioner slid the coarse noose around his neck as the guards held him on his feet.

"'ey, ya lug," Ace grumbled, eyes downcast. A grin plated on his dry cracked lips, despite the grip death had all about him. One of the guards turned to glare at him and he smiled innocently. "Don't ah get...last words?" he panted.

The guard reluctantly nodded.

"Good," Ace muttered, a smirk playing on his lips. He took a deep breath before yelling out to the crowd, his raw throat protesting painfully at every word. "Ya'll can call me evil if ya want, ah don't care!' Cause ah got honor better than the majority of ya!" he rasped out in a gleeful, almost hysterical, cry. "Ah got mah honor that ah'll never lose!" He coughed harshly. "An' while it's gonna kill me, ah got somethin' none of ya have! Ah got freedom! An' freedom tasted too good that ah'll care what ya say 'bout me!"

The executioner, who had fallen into shock at Ace's words, hastily pulled the lever to cut the pirate off. And as the rope squeezed out the last of his breath, Ace had no regrets. He gave some of these people something to think about.

It was painful being hung, but he knew it would only last a second. His neck would snap, and he'd be gone.

The rope jerked, just once, and everything went black.