Disclaimer: Not mine.
Warnings: Tongue-in-cheek weirdness and absolutely no plot. At all. Will this be continued? I have no idea, but I'm leaving it as 'In-Progress' for now.
How to Gain An Invisible Friend
Ace knows he is dead because he's received a fist of lava slamming through him, melting his organs, the only mercy being the last minute with his brother and that his body was in too much shock, nerves too badly destroyed, to feel much pain.
He knows he's dead because he was in Marineford, he was surrounded by the screams and the crying and the moans of pain and horror, and now there is silence. Complete and utter silence, and it's relief and fresh torture in equal measure.
Everything he's left behind is loud and glaring in his memory. Everything that could happen to his nakama, his family. Everything he could have done that he didn't get a chance to do, and they're not regrets precisely, but... they linger, still.
His thoughts have turned to the future (because there must be a future, he's dead and still aware, there must be some afterlife, he hope, hope, hopes, he'll see his mother, Thatch, maybe Pops when he comes, everyone else he's lost), anticipation and dread and then
And then he's gone from there and suddenly he's
"Gol D. Ace."
He doesn't know if it's Heaven or Hell – Heaven to see here, Hell to watch this moment, but Ace is memorising her voice, her looks, the way she clings to her son, touches him as if she wants to give everything of herself to the babe swaddled in her arms. Right now, Ace can even bear to be called that name, if it's spoken by her.
"I'm sorry," he whispers, voice almost cracking, even though he knows she can't hear him, that no-one in the room has shown any sign of noticing him. He stands at the edge of the room, almost afraid to approach, as if everything will vanish if he steps closer to Portgas D. Rouge, who has just minutes left to live. "I never wanted this."
He closes his eyes, grief-stricken, and steps back to press himself against the wall. This fails miserably when he falls through the wall, stumbling in surprise at the absence of solidity behind him, and ends up slamming his head and back on the tiled floor of the next room.
"OWSHIT-I totally meant to do that," he says, now glad that he's some kind of ghost. Ace gets up, dusting himself off and poking his head back through the wall to glance around, just to make sure he's still invisible and that there aren't a group of sniggering and/or violent Marines who witnessed his completely reasonable trip.
"If floors are gonna be solid, walls should be as well," he adds loudly, marching back into the room and crossing his arms, sparing a glare at the offending piece of architecture. "I'm not a big fan of logic, but there should be some standardisation to these rules."
Ace keeps his arms crossed, careful not to lean back, and glances over the room again, from nervous Marines and frowning Garp ('whoah, he looks young. That's just freaky.') to Rouge (he tries not to watch, because he's heard enough of those rattling breaths to know what they mean, and he doesn't need to have a breakdown here, repress, repress) and then at the younger version of himself, not crying any longer but staring, wide-eyed with the stupidity of a baby, straight at – oh.
Straight at him.
Well. Shit. This isn't good.
Garp lets out a long sigh and reaches gently for the baby, taking the distracted Ace (little Ace? Ace the Younger? He has no idea what to call the younger version of himself) from his mother's arms. "I'll look after you, kid," he promises quietly, shifting his arms to cradle the babe and managing to drop him.
The yells of horror are echoed from a number of quarters as Garp quickly moves to pick baby-Ace up, pretending the boy wasn't falling onto the floor just a second ago and guffawing about how slippery babies can be, while Ace adds his own opinion ("I wasn't slippery, you moron, you're just shit with kids! Did you drop me on my head? Oh fuck, that explains why Luffy's so stupid, you kept dropping him didn't you, you goddamn-") and at least baby-Ace is too busy crying now to stare at his older self.
Ace thinks those lungs are gonna get a lot more exercise by the time Garp ditches him with Dadan.
Luckily, the kid's gonna have the best invisible friend ever around to protect him.
Once Ace learns how to stop falling through walls, anyway.