Title: The Choices We Make
Rating: PG-13
Word Count: 1755
Pairing: Ace x Luffy
Topic: Challenge!
Type: AU
Setting: Post apocalyptic-ish setting
Genre: AU, hinted romance
Disclaimer: I don't own anything from One Piece.
VTM: This is an AU fic, it was a challenge from Music-of-the-Heart. I hope this is to your liking!

-o-o-

It was night and there was a thunderstorm brewing. Distant rumbling echoed in the clouds as faint flashes danced across the sky. The city was in ruins, thanks to a great cataclysm. It was a catastrophe caused by the meddling of a cult. Their symbol was the butterfly, its meaning being rebirth, however with what they had done it was hard to say if their actions brought forth rebirth or just a massacre. One thing was for sure, the face of the world had been changed dramatically thanks to the attempted summoning of their damned 'god'. It left cites in ruin and brought strange creatures out from the darkness; people scavenge and fight for any source of food they can find.

Ace sat on the couch in his room, and glanced out the window. He watched as the storm rumble to life and looked down at the youth who's head rested in his lap. Choosing to side with the cult was not an easy decision, under normal circumstances he'd spit on the man that offered him the position. However, it wasn't only himself he had to think about. He stroked Luffy's hair and studied the boy's peaceful face with the back of his fingers. It was not an easy choice, not at all, he just as much as the rest of the remaining people left alive hated the cult for what they had done. But they were starving, and Luffy had gotten sick. If that boy died, he didn't know what he'd do. He couldn't stand the thought of being alone in this destroyed world. So when they were found in the ruins of a building, by one of the cult higher ups and offered a chance at 'atonement' and serving a higher power, Ace found it hard to say no. Not that he believed in any of that stuff, but it was their survival on the line.

"You do not wish to die here, do you?" said the tall figure. He was shrouded by a dark cloak, the butterfly design embossed on the black of the fabric seemed to give an eerie glow.

Ace looked a little worse for the wear, scratches and bruises littered his body, he was also a bit thinner due to the food shortage. He had to make sure Luffy had enough, but still the younger boy had fallen ill. Looking at his friend, his 'sworn brother' since childhood, he could tell that the kid was no better off than himself.

Luffy looked pale, dreadfully pale, the poor kid had become sick but a week ago, and his health was rapidly declining.

"Death seems to be coming for the life of your friend..."

"Shut up!" Ace snapped. "This is all your fault! Just what the hell were you trying to do!?"

"Silence!"

Ace then felt as though he were being crushed under a large weight. He was pinned down on the floor by and invisible force each breath an aching struggle. "Ugh...Wh-wha...?"

"We were merely trying to awaken our ever merciful god, to lead man on the path of law and justice. Alas, the ceremony did not go as planned, we were given yet another test to prove our loyalty."

"S-shut the fuck up!" Ace shouted. "You destroyed everything! What kind of merciful god does that!?" He could feel the force pinning him down become heavier, he cried out in pain.

"It is part of the test given to us, dear child." The figure was then silent for a moment, he examined the two boys before him. "You both have a strong will to live, perhaps strong enough to receive 'gifts' from our god. How would you like to join our ranks? The both of you would be welcome."

"What...!? Are you fucking kidding!? After all that's happened!? G-go to hell!" Ace shouted, he could barely breathe, his vision was starting to blur. But then suddenly, the weight that pinned his body to the ground suddenly disappeared. Ace gasped, his lungs thankful to get that precious air.

"My boy, we already are in Hell, it is what we can do with this Hell that we are given that is the test." The figure then smirked slightly. "That boy is dying, you know it as well as I do that there is no getting better for him."

Ace glared at him. "He's fine! He's getting better!"

"Are you so sure about that? Has he been given enough food and water?"

Luffy then began to cough, his labored breaths wet and wheezy.

"And what about yourself? Just how much longer do you think you can keep living like this? You're running on pure will power, aren't you?" the figure knew he struck a nerve from the look on Ace's face. "What happens to the boy when you die?"

"I...I don't know..." Ace said, there was a hint of defeat in his voice.

"Then join us, the both of you can, we'll make sure the boy lives. I'm sure God will be willing to forgive you both for your transgressions should you swear your allegiance here and now."

Ace was quiet, he stood glaring defiantly at the man before him, but he had a point. They were both doomed.

With that agreement Ace and Luffy's lives were forever changed, the cult member took something from both him and Luffy, what it was is hard to say, all that Ace remembered was promptly blacking out. Something was taken and replaced with something else, for when the two had awoken in the cult's fortress, their 'church' there was an odd feeling of emptiness. They were given new clothes, Victorian in style decorated with a subtle butterfly design, butterfly broaches showing that they now belonged to the cult, and powers, so called 'gifts' from the cult's god. They weren't the only ones with such 'gifts', there were others with 'gifts' that only could be thought up in dreams, or nightmares. The two proved their worth though, not out of loyalty to the cult, but for survival, to keep each other alive. Such a simple reason, however their resolve unwittingly carried them up some of the ranks of the cult.

Ace looked at his hand and summoned a flame. He watched it for a little, no feeling of wonder or amazement, even when he first used his powers, it seemed that emotion and feelings had been just short of being completely stripped from him. Luffy on the other hand seemed to keep his emotions and feelings, maybe it was because it was only Ace that had agreed. Whatever the reason Ace was grateful that Luffy got to keep his humanity, that silly laugh, that wide smile, it was enough to even make Ace feel human again. Luffy's antics never failed to drag out what little of Ace there was left.

"Do you hate me?"

"Na? No...Why would I?"

"Because I...Because this was my fault."

"Ace, I don't hate you. You're my 'nii-chan'!"

To still be loved, after all that he did, for such a reason as survival. It was more than he deserved, and yet Luffy willingly gave him the love he needed. Ace looked at the butterfly broach that rested the lapel of his vest.

Suddenly there was a loud crash at the front gates. The sound of the repetitive crashing echoed throughout the hallways of the church. Ace frowned it must be the resistance that the people on the outside had made, not that he blamed them. But then again, seeing how many of those same 'resistance fighters' had joined easier than he had, for even pettier reasons, he wondered, how long would a resistance survive? Group behavior, followers, hypocrites, it was all the same. They were just as bad as he was.

Ace gently moved Luffy, so not to rouse him. This wouldn't take long, maybe ten or fifteen minutes at best; he'll be back just in time for Luffy to wake up. He walked down the hallway, the thunderous echo of the door being rammed open became louder, quicker. Ace stood at the top of the staircase, just in time to see the resistance finally break in. Cult member and resistance fight met in blood thirsty battle, guns going off, make shift weapons clanging against the tempered steel of sword, spear, or ceremonial staff. Ace watched with a near blank expression as people from both sides fell. To be honest, he didn't care for either side, both had issues, both could just as well lead to death and destruction as much as the other. Though, in the deepest, deepest part of him, he would've cheered for the resistance, they were also a threat to him and Luffy.

Right then a resistance fighter charged at Ace, steel pipe in hand, but he suddenly burst into flames and fell back down the stair case as he flailed about. Eyes of resistance fighters and cult members landed on the young freckle faced man at the top of the stairs.

"Sorry, nothing personal..." Ace said as his eyes began to glow like embers.

Right then and there people started to suddenly combust into flames. Screams echoed throughout the church like a chorus of agony and there was the pungent smell of cooking flesh. Ace merely watched as the fight quickly died down. Survivors retreated, some trying to take a couple wounded with them, abandoning their fallen comrades. Cult members cheered at their victory, praising their god.

Ace simply turned and walked away, he didn't care for their so called 'victory'. He went back to his room, just in time to see Luffy stir. A small smile started to appear on his features.

"Na, Ace...?" Luffy said as he sat up and rubbed his eyes. "Did something happen? I thought I heard some noises."

"No, it's okay..." Ace walked over and sat down with him. His eyes still had that eerie ember like glow. Suddenly he felt hands being placed on his face, the younger boy looked him in the eye with a pout on his face.

"Ace is a bad liar." Luffy said, his pout then turned into a smile. "Just remember, I can fight too. We protect each other, ne?"

Ace smiled too, reached up, and ruffled Luffy's hair. "I know..." Whatever the future had in store for them, whether it was paradise, or to be cast into Hell, they were going to face it together.

-End-

VTM: That's it! Done! I hope you enjoyed! For those that are wondering I got a lot of inspiration from Bioshock 2, Silent Hill, and Shin Megami Tensei games! I wanted this to be something Music-of-the-Heart would love! Special thanks to Clareobell and A Little Pirate At Heart for their help!