Happy belated birthday, Vee! I really hope that you will enjoy this ^w^

Note: In 'Steel' I both said that the time had been frozen for nine years and for eight, my mistake there. The correct time is nine, not eight ^^'

The city was quiet in the pierced darkness, the streets illuminated by electrical light as the stars blinked down on the small and big houses. He looked up at the shining full moon and nibbled at the cookies Ace had left him in case he would get hungry before his "brother" returned. And that bag were soon empty. Didn't matter how short time it took, Luffy didn't like to be alone in this strange town.

The lights weren't natural and the rooms felt almost like prisons, there was no warmth in the carved stone and sculpted wood. At least Ace hadn't bought some of those horrible paintings of old people's faces who stared down at you from the walls like you were always doing something wrong to decorate his home. Like that grumpy officer had done in his office. The old hag on the wall behind his desk had seemed like she had had a stick up her butt when she were painted.

He sighed and leaned his chin against the windowsill and pouted, there were nothing else for him to do other than looking out the glass and peer down on the people walking on the street. Not that that were really exciting either, no one did anything worth watching. Maybe if he opened the window and threw cookies on them? But then he would have to sacrifice the five cookies he had left...

Before he could decide, another cookie went into his mouth and the sound of footsteps outside the door distracted him. With half a jump, he turned around on the bed just as the wooden door opened and a freckled man stepped into the dim light.


"Good evening, Luffy." His smile was tired, the bags beneath his eyes dark and heavy as he stripped himself of his jacket and draped it over his left arm. "Did you spare me any cookies?"

"Uhm, four?" Absent-minded, the young man put another cookie in his own mouth before he realized what he had done. "Ah, now it's three!"

"Lu..." There was a heavy sigh, and then Ace sat down on the bed just as heavily as the air which had left his lungs. "Give me one then, before you eat them all."

"Here ya go." Trying to smile to cheer the other up, Luffy handed him the almost empty cookie bag, while he scooted forward to lean his head against a broad shoulder. He could feel the man next to him tense up a little bit, but he didn't care, he just wanted to be a little bit closer to him.

"Ne, Ace... Can't you sleep in here with me? I don't wanna sleep alone, it's so cold." At that, the shoulder he leaned on really became tense and a feeling he couldn't understand passed over the older man's face. But he knew it was not any good emotion, so he wrapped his legs around Ace's waist and his arms around his torso from behind, resting his forehead between his shoulder blades. "Please don't leave me again."

The whisper were silent and he didn't know how his brother reacted to it, but he could feel the tension wash away, muscles and bones relaxing as long fingers stroked his hands.

"Lu, I could never leave you again, not when I know you were as dead for nine years just because of my... idiocy."

"...What did you do now again?"

"Lu! You got the memory of a goldfish!" Ace turned around in his little brother's embrace, looking down on him with an angry line between his black eyebrows. And the brother just shouted back at him, releasing his hold of the other's torso and leaned back on his hands.

"Well sorry! I just don't get all this complicated stuff." Their raised voices rang in the air and Luffy started to pout, it were not his fault that that scientist's explanation had been so boring that he fell asleep in the middle of it. He watched the freckled man sigh once again and rub his temples with his knuckles, deep wrinkles on his forehead before he opened his grey eyes and looked at the younger man. Twenty years with the mindset of an eleven year old kid...

"Lu, I stopped the time in Fuusha for nine years when you were attacked, do you remember that?"

He really didn't like that look of worry on Ace's face and he could see his eyes linger on the scar beneath his left eye, so he smiled big and replied. "Yeah, you really saved me there."

"Not really... Anyway, the Government sent people to investigate what had happened and as they found only me "alive", they brought me here to the capital and the HQ for the military. They did tests on me to try and understand my powers, some more painful than others. Later I joined the military when they deemed me not harmful unless triggered by strong emotion. Do you understand?"

Slowly, Luffy nodded as he watched some of the wrinkles on the freckled man's forehead disappear when he bared his secrets and life story in the dim light. The cogs in his black haired head moved just as slow as the head itself, but more and more dawned upon him as the seconds went by. "How did you... stop the time?"

"No one is really sure, but do you remember those dreams I used to tell you about? Those when the darkness became arms and pulled me beneath the surface to suffocate me. That's what it felt like when they cut you and called me a little devil."

He thought he understood, explaining it in his own mind as 'a mysterious darkness', but he did understand that now Ace were empty. He had poured his heart out and his eyes screamed for forgiveness, even if there were none to give. Since there were no sin. So instead of talking, the younger man leaned forward again and hugged his "brother". Slowly, he started to tilt to the side until they fell down on the mattress, facing each other.

Grey eyes met brown ones, before Ace reached against the bedside table and turned the lamp of. Outside the artificial light shone down on the city, hindering the stars' and moon's silver light to shine down on the two men who embraced each other on a bed.