Side-story on what happened to Ace in Radiate: Nexus World. Warnings: Incest, Implied Slash/Yaoi/Sex, Child Killers, Character Deaths, hints of awesome D.-ness.

Read to the end. Trust me... :D


The last thing that Flame-Fist Ace ever did in the Wastes - for the Wastes - was laugh.

[~~~]

He laughed at the enslaved ghouls that struggled to lift his cross up.

He laughed at the rivets in his wrists and his feet and his shoulders and his pelvis.

He laughed at the horrific sunburns and scorpion stings he endured for three days until they realized that he still wasn't dead.

He laughed as they shuddered at his prophecy.

"The World-Saver is coming! He is Coming! He will finally send this World on the Path it should go, and it will be good!"

He laughed even while they sutured his mouth shut before leaving him for another three days.

His muffled laughter continued while his dwindling mind descended into memories.

[~~~]

Ace had known that Luffy was going to someone SPECIAL from the moment his first cries rang out in the D. tribe. The mere act of bringing the tiny, black-haired wonder to life had required a blood sacrifice from his mother. That alone spoke volumes to a tribe full of women that were known to stand up, pop out babies, clean up, then continue their chores.

Dragon had hated his son with a vengeance when he returned the next night.

"This- this little bratling- this no good pig-rat spawn killed her! He took her from me!"

Ace remembered his father lunging for the furious D. hunter, but he had already moved himself to protect his cousin, still sleeping in furs and leathers next to his mother's corpse.

"Ya touch Luffy 'n' I'lls knifes ya good! I ain't lettin' nauwn touch 'im, y'ear!"

He remembered Dragon's eyes as they bore through his own, trying to make the pudgy, three year-old hands wrapped around the bone-handled hunting knife waver.

He remembered clutching the handle in his sweaty, greasy little paws and pressing against the Bad-Man-Dat-Want-Hurt-Luffy's stomach until something gave with a split.

He remembered the first time he heard the sound of dripping blood with a visceral grin that scared the buzzards away from his face.

He laughed.

[~~~]

"Ace~! Cawwy me!"

Ace, already wearing a kilt, turned to the pouting two year-old that had insisted on toddling after him. At a grand old age of five, he should have been angry at being saddled with caring for his young cousin, but his cousin was Luffy, so it didn't matter to him one bit.

Actually, he would have pitched a bloody fit if his mother had tried to keep Luffy from coming.

"Luffy, hurry up! I ain't carryin' (and here he stressed the R's to make sure the bratling learned some sorta proper speech) you and dis bushel uh cacti-fruit all da way home!"

"B- b- b- bu- buut Ace weal stwong!" Luffy stuttered out just before he tripped over his own two feet and fell on his face. Ace sighed and rolled his eyes, then started to panic as Luffy's face scrunched up into the picture of abject misery.

"Shhh, shhh, shhh, Luffy, it's alright, it's okay! Now's not good time ta cry, not out here near da Lair!"

But young Luffy would not be consoled. His face turned a bright, fiery red before his little mouth opened and he let loose all of his childish frustrations.

"Waa~aahaahaha! Waaa~! Ace doan like me no mowe! Waaa~!"

Ace muttered all the bad words he'd heard his mother say about his father before bending down to scoop the younger boy up, almost toppling over from the weight of the basket hitched up on his back. As quickly as he possibly could, Ace began to jog back to the village boundary.

"Hell's bells, Luffy, shut it! If you doan keep quiet, we'll have tha-"

"Creeeeeeeeee~!"

The high-pitched, insectile chirping made both children shut up. Ace slowed down to a walk then stopped, already exhausted from carrying Luffy even in the waning heat of the early evening.

"Ace... What dat soun'?"

"I... dunno Luf...fy..." Ace panted, swallowing the seething hot air in fast, harsh gulps. "But we... ain't... gonna stick...around...ta find ou- Ah!"

Both children screamed in mindless terror as the rad-scorpion broke through the ground right in front of them, scrabbling up into the dimming sunlight like only nightmare could. Without thinking, Ace grasped Luffy close to him and threw them both down, his own, sunburnt body on top of the toddler, and then the night ended in bruising force and gallons of poison and a scream of almighty, insane rage

The D. tribe would hurry out to the spot. They would find Ace drenched in poison from a rad scorpion with a broken stinger - it appeared to have bent, then shattered after pounding on the boy's unmarred back. They would find Luffy, unconscious and unharmed below his cousin. They would find the rad-scorpion a few feet away, having, for some odd reason, decided to flee the scene and then stab itself - so hard that it was pinned to the desert floor - with the remainder of its tail.

When Ace's mother had given him the broken off stinger, he'd laughed. Luffy had looked at him with childish pride.

"I polo-ished it fo' u, Ace!"

He laughed again.

[~~~]

"Why d'ya wanna be a raider, Ace?"

The two children, 10 and 7, sat on the ground cleaning the hunting party's smaller catches for the day. Ace wiped a spare length of lizard entrails off of his jaw.

"Raiders get ta see the whole, wide Wastes! Dey know everytin' 'bout all the deserts south 'n' east uh here - ol' Mamma Garden says dey even know da way ta New World Vault - where Shanks came from! Then, I'll find the magic 'Eden Box' and we'll have a new World! I wanna see all uh dat! Dat's ma dream!"

Luffy didn't look up at Ace, who was now standing on an imaginary pile of conquered gang leaders. Ace felt his spirits fall.

"Well, somethin' like dat, I guess," he mumbled as he plopped back down to behead the iguana he'd been disemboweling. "What d'ya wanna do anyway, now dat ya askin'?"

Luffy ducked his head down, mumbling something under his breath. Ace frowned. He couldn't hear a damn thing!

"Hey, Luffy! I'mma talkin' ta ya! Speak up!" he growled as he cuffed the younger boy over the head with one bloody fist.

"Ow~ wanna go where eva ya is, I said!" Luffy screeched, clutching the back of his head with his gore-stained fingers. Ace's eyes widened.

"I wanna go see da Wastes too Ace, but I doan wanna go wid ya! I wanna see it all on my own, den meet up wid ya and we can talk about everythin' we see'd! An' an' an' by then I'd be stronga dan ya 'n' den we could get marry 'n' stay tagedda 'n' 'n' 'n'-"

Ace smacked his cousin over the head with a dead kree-cat to hide his own fierce blushing.

"Ya...ya wanna get stronga...so ya can marry me?" Ace croaked, not sure why his face was on fire. Luffy's head perked up despite the two knots on top of it.

"'Course! Ace, yer ma fave person in da worl'!"

Ace snorted and glanced at the younger boy. He watched that beaming face under his long lashes until he felt the blush burn his ears.

"Stupid," he finally sighed, turning back to his iguana and the lumpy kree cat. "If we wait till yer stronga dan me, we'll neva get married. We'll do it as soon as we both meet at dat Vault and get da 'Eden Box' from it."

This time, Luffy laughed.

[~~~]

The first time they did it, they were 14 and 11. It was late after the party for Marshall D. Teach's manhood ceremony. Ace had spent the night hiding from the man, disturbed by the way he'd zehahaha'd and leered at him ever since he'd caught the younger boy pissing blood a month ago.

Luffy's laugh was far more comforting, even when it sent goosebumps down his spine.

[~~~]

The last time they did it was the day after Ace's manhood ceremony. There had been no laughing then.

[~~~]

Ace did much after that, but a lot of it remained a blur. He remembered that he fucked up gangs and Brotherhood of Steel patrols all the way down the coast with his nigh-impenetrable skin and his hands full of fire until the day he met Uncle Whitehorn. That man had been the first to beat him and learn the shameful secret that only the last of the D. tribe knew and very few of his enemies could even make a guess to.

[~~~]

"Gurahahahaha! I like you even more now! Join my gang!"

Ace's father had died young - crossed a Brotherhood of Steel patrol and gotten a belly full of lead as he led them away from the tribe. Everyone knew the Brotherhood had a tendency to 'clean up' tribals whenever they came across them - trying to keep the Wastes 'pure' or some bullshit. Uncle Whitehorn filled the void with all of his half-mutant abilities and earth-quakingly large personality. When Ace found out that the great raider had also adopted Marshall D. Teach - well, even if he didn't like the guy, he was a D. Uncle Whitehorn became even cooler in Ace's eyes.

He kept Ace's heart warm and laughing right up to the moment that Teach betrayed the gang to the Brotherhood of Steel.

[~~~]

"Pappa Whitehorn, I gotta do it! It's ma job, man! He was a D. - as another D. I hafta make things right!"

Uncle Whitehorn'd looked at him real funny that day - Ace had never forgotten that look.

"Ace, my boy, you know that you are worth more than some stupid revenge. Don't lose sight of yourself. You need to stay alive."

Ace heard the words, but the anger was in his skin too thick as he thought about Teach's treachery to the gang and his own tribe. And the thought of Luffy...dead by that man's hands...

"Go on Ace. I know - you can't help it now."

That had been the last time he'd laughed. Then Teach had changed and gotten him good - handed him over to the Brotherhood of Steel and the black-bearded bastard'd been the one laughing when Uncle Whitehorn died to save the rest of the gang.

But the Wastes had imparted a terrible, wonderful secret to him then, in his darkest hour. His lifelong rival had dropped the hint without even knowing it, but Ace had always been very good at keeping secrets.

[~~~]

"The World-Saver is coming! He is Coming! He will finally send this World on the Path it should go, and it will be good!"

Ace screamed it all again, then laughed. His sutures - and lips - had been pecked off by one of the buzzards he'd allowed to get close enough to him. He knew that he had to tell everyone about the One who was Coming.

His Luffy. His love. His personal savior.

"Enough of this! Who the hell are you talking about, you damned criminal? Whitehorn? We executed him when he invaded the base trying to save you and you know that! Who are you talking about?"

Ace turned blindly to the voice of command. He had let the other buzzard take his eyes as thanks for his nestmate tearing off his lips.

"His name...is Luffy. I love him."

He could hear the voices choking in disgust and he laughed.

"Yes, I love him...and soon...the whole Waste will...because he will save us all."

The voices were babbling now. Ace no longer cared.

"Nonsense, all of it! This has gone on long enough - ready the firing squad!"

Even through the seven hails of armor-piercing rounds that the fifteen man firing squad needed to finally stop the man from speaking, he laughed.

[~~~]

"Why are we on burial duty, Commander Smoker?"

"...Call it a hunch, Lieutenant Tashigi. I think Ace was hiding something from us all even to the bitter end. Strip 'im bare before y'take 'im down!"

The lieutenant reluctantly complied, removing the voodoo bead necklace, the unused dagger, the dagger's belt, the hat and the kerosene-soaked gloves before looking distastefully at the ratty, worn kilt.

"Seriously, sir?"

"Get on with it, Lieutenant - or you wanna remember what Sergeant's like?"

Swallowing nervously, Tashigi began to unwrap the kilt from the lean, gore-covered, fly-specked waist, her eyes closed with shame for herself and the deceased. Her Commander had fought the raider many times before - even if they were enemies, they'd always battled each other fairly. Man to man. One on one. It had been the only thrill in her commanding officer's otherwise sterile life and she knew that something inside the man was dying - had died - with this criminal's messy torture and execution.

Stepping back with her eyes still closed and the cloth in her hand, Tashigi didn't know what to expect. She felt the skin on her nape tingle and thicken with tension and fear - maybe the Commander would explode in fury. Maybe he would cry. Maybe he would- laugh?

Tashigi's eyes popped open at the unfamiliar sound of her Commander laughing - laughing so long and so hard that he was breathless and crying by the time he'd run of air.

"Oh, you magnificient bitch! You kept it from us for so long! You cantankerous, ornery, hoighty-toighty tribal bitch, I knew it!" Smoker cursed enthusiastically before howling in laughter again. Tashigi was becoming very worried - the laughter sounded frayed and despairing; borderline hysterical. With a firm nod to herself, the Lieutenant ventured a glance at the denuded corpse, only to be rendered into a gibbering idiot by the most amazing secret of the Wastes.

Below Flame-Fist Ace's massive, ruined chest and wash-board stomach were a pair of wide, fulsome hips and a downy, plush, well-split vee at the apex of the well-muscled thighs.

He had been a she all along.

Tashigi would swear to her dying day that, at that very moment, she'd heard Ace's laughter on the winds of the desert.

But everyone knows that the Wastes plays its aces close to its chest. It can keep secrets better than anyone.

[~~~]