Pairings: Ace/Luffy, Zoro/Luffy (later)
Word Count: 3770
Rating: PG-15 for swearing, boobs, and surprisingly successful flirting on Luffy's part
Warning: Girl puberty! Not explicit, but it's a major part of this chapter. Mostly Ace just freaks out a lot.
Let me say one thing before you start reading. There will be three main pairings - Ace/Luffy, Zoro/Luffy, and Luffy/a surprise (:p) but this is NOT a competition fic. They all live in harmony. I plan on addressing the issue in later chapters, but I just wanted to make sure you understand that there will be no angst and no fighting for Luffy's affections. Luffy is Luffy and he loves everyone equally, mkay? Most of you realize Ace will be taken out of the picture anyway. *unhappy grumble*
Oh, and there will be elements of Luffy/everyone, like Luffy/Nami, Luffy/Usopp, Coby/Luffy ect. that aren't really relevant to the story. More details as I get to those chapters.
Title from song of the same name. I've only ever heard Placebo's cover, but it's an excellent one. Go listen!
1 - growing pains
When Luffy was little, before Shanks - but not before the desire for a future of piracy - Makino would read bedtime stories about kings and queens, princes and princesses. Luffy wondered if they ever got bored, those queens and princesses, forced to live in locked towers until some man decided they needed rescuing."Why don't they save themselves? All you gotta do is punch out the witch or dragon or whatever!" Luffy thrust a fist towards Makino's face in demonstration.
"Because most women don't have the strength to fight giant monsters," she answered, and when Luffy pouted in protest, hurried to add, "I've yet to meet a man who did either, other than your grandfather."
Sitting around for years with nothing to do but sing and only birds for company sounded like no fun at all, and that very night Luffy swore to never ever be anyone's queen.
Then Shanks sailed into their lives, bringing with him the smell of the sea and excitement and wild tales about Gold Roger the Pirate King. Luffy listened with wide eyes; they were stories filled with high adventure and higher seas, and sometimes people needed rescuing, but they refused to go down without a fight or weep in despair like the helpless maidens in Makino's book.
When Shanks beat down a sea monster with his eyes, sacrificing his arm in the process, Luffy made an unshakable promise - to get stronger than Shanks himself, to gather the greatest crew the world had ever seen and become the next Pirate King.
Luffy wouldn't let being born a girl stop her.
It ends like any other day; Sabo is smiling, Luffy is laughing at the hilarious but age inappropriate joke about Dadan's under things, Ace is watching them from a short distance away with mouth quirked, and all of them are bleeding and bruised from a tough encounter with their dinner. He's certain Luffy doesn't get anything beyond the surface jibe and when Sabo meets his eyes Ace sees the other boy knows it too.
As usual Luffy has born the brunt of his inexperience, not only battered but covered from head to toe in a foul brown substance Ace isn't entirely sure is mud. He and Sabo aren't much better off, legs drenched in the muck where they'd been forced to wade in after their wayward third. He can't remember Luffy, or any of them, ever in such desperate need of a soak.
Dadan had taken one look at the filthy boys and told them to stay the hell outside while she filled the tub.
Now she threw the door open and herded them inside, snagging Luffy by his tank and carrying him ahead to minimize the mess. Dadan stayed long enough to make sure they wiped the worst of the grime away with spare towels and left them to it, grumbling about the horrible revenge she'd take on Garp one of these days for his generous gift of disgusting brats.
Luffy carefully peels the tank over his head, doing his best to stop the gross stuff from dripping on his head and taking so long Ace and Sabo are already in the bath by the time he tosses it to the floor with a plop. And when his pants follow after Ace is too busy piling bubbles on Sabo's hair in a wonky imitation of his top hat to notice.
It's only when Luffy is climbing in beside them that Ace realizes there's something very, very wrong here - the kid is missing a few extremely important parts.
Because he is a she.
Later, he'll deny the shrill shriek his friends will ridicule him mercilessly for. But right now Ace is cowering in the corner and clutching a towel across his front like, well, a girl. He's never been all that great around women - Makino is proof enough of that - and a naked one is too strange, even if it is Luffy.
Sabo's eyebrows are crawling dangerously high on his forehead. The look Ace receives states quite clearly that he has gone completely apeshit and Sabo would appreciate an explanation, thanks very much. Ace gestures weakly at where Luffy has frozen with one leg half in the tub to gape at Ace's sudden crazy. Sabo turns and finally understands what has their infamously rough leader peeking between his fingers in terror.
"That's unexpected," he says, and eases Luffy back out of the water, draping a towel across her shoulders. The display is an empty one. She doesn't bother holding it closed.
"What's going on?" Luffy glances at Ace, confused. "Why is Ace acting like a weirdo?"
"You're the weirdo," he grumbles.
"What Ace means to say is that we didn't know you were a girl and it's a bit of a shock. He's just overreacting." Sabo's expression is quelling enough that Ace bites back the sharp retort and decides to leave him to it. He'll stay quiet in this nice, warm corner.
"So what if I'm a girl? I wanna take a bath and get this stinky junk off!"
"It isn't proper for boys and girls to bathe together, Luffy. We'll let you go first if that's what you want, but we shouldn't share -"
"No!" Luffy grabs Sabo's arm, lower lip trembling ever so slightly. "Grandpa said I can't go in the tub by myself 'cus I might drown. Please let me share with you!"
Ace can tell Sabo is going to cave. He always was weak to Luffy's begging face.
As predicted, Sabo stares into her wide, shining eyes and says, "This once will be okay."
Luffy cheers, leaping into the bath and sending water splashing over everything, even washing away the stupid bubble hat. Sabo props her against the side for safety's sake and sets about scrubbing grime out of her hair. Ace stays in his corner, determined to wait out the insanity, until Luffy aims her pleading gaze at him - she looks ridiculous with her eyes surrounded by froth and it should be easy to resist, but -Ace gets in the damn bath.
Nothing changes. Luffy is still Luffy, getting into trouble and needing rescuing and swearing to get stronger, smiling brightly all the while. She collects beetles, picks fights, stands up and defends them from degrading insults - especially those aimed at Ace's father, though he isn't sure her reasons for protecting Roger's name are entirely altruistic.
Ace is relieved. He's finally found a good thing and if he loses it now…
He doesn't think about it.
Ace gets the idea in his head to bind Luffy and Sabo to him with a half bullshit exchange he'd seen in bars frequented by pirates and other riff-raff of the seas, a sharing of sake to symbolize eternal ties. When Sabo has a close brush with the past he'd rather not remember, Ace decides now is as suitable a time as ever; he forgets himself, declares them brothers despite Luffy's lack of manhood, and either she doesn't care or didn't notice. Ace doesn't bother correcting his mistake.
They keep bathing together after that, all three of them (and then Sabo…Sabo), until Luffy turns eleven.
Ace is pretty sure this is what going insane feels like. He's been searching relentlessly for five goddamn hours and he still can't find Luffy. How is it Ace can never find her when he needs too? Luffy's so far from sneaky he can't stand it sometimes, especially when they're trying to hunt particularly skittish prey, and yet he's failing to catch even a hint of her whereabouts.
When she'd disappeared that morning, shoving aside her still full plate to take off without so much as a 'see you later', Ace had been worried. Luffy, not hungry? If Hell hadn't frozen over he'd be shocked. He hadn't gone after her right away; Luffy was strong enough to fight nearly every creature on the mountain, alone. But when she didn't come back for lunch, or even dinner, unease stirred Ace into now he's racing the setting sun to find his troublesome sister. Ace isn't a big fan of the mountains at night, not when there are worse predators than bears on the prowl. Not when dumb, trusting Luffy is out by herself.
He fails. The next morning, Ace stumbles into Dadan's hideout looking as wired as he feels, asking softly, one hand wrapped white-knuckled around his pipe, if anyone had seen Luffy. Receiving only hasty head shakes from pale and terrified men, he tries not to picture Luffy drowning in a river or called Ace's name in desperation as she's hauled away to slavedom by pirates. The images whip him into a frenzied search that leaves half the forest wrecked.
It's evening when he spots Luffy, curled up tight in a cavern of sprawling tree roots. Ace is ready to drag her out and give her a thumping to rival the old man's fist of love until he notices she's trembling.
"Are you hurt?" Ace thinks maybe he is the one who's hurt when Luffy shrinks away from his touch as if burned.
"Go away! I don't want you here," she says. Even with her face buried against her knees, he can hear that she's been crying. What the hell was going on?
Since Luffy won't come out, Ace eases himself through a gap in the roots to sit beside her. "If you don't tell me what's wrong, I can't help. C'mon. Whatever it is can't be that bad."
"Really?" Luffy scrubs her wet cheeks and meets his gaze, eyes puffy. "You won't get mad?"
"Of course not."She lays against Ace, tucking her fingers into the crook his elbow before drawing a deep, stuttery breath. Her face is feverish. "I woke up yesterday feeling funny. Not hungry. Then my stomach hurt like I needed to pee really bad but I didn't and then the bleeding started!" Ace squashes the urge to grab Luffy and check her over - letting her finish is the best thing right now. "Only a little at first, but then more and more came out and wouldn't stop. It's still going even now! It hurts, Ace."
"Luffy," he says slowly, stringing the word out as he tries to gather enough courage to ask what he really, really doesn't want to. "Where are you bleeding?"
"Here." Just as Ace is absolutely fucking horrified she would, Luffy spreads her legs. There's a dark stain on the crotch of her shorts.
"Oh shit," he says, and somehow manages not to pass glances up at Ace, worried by the strained tone of his voice. Screw that he hadn't slept or eaten or even sat down in over thirty-two hours - Luffy has no idea what's happening to her. He needs to calm down and deal.
"Okay." Ace hooks his arms beneath Luffy's body, lifting her bridal style. "Okay. We're going to see Makino."
"Why?""Because I'm not gonna be much use in this, Luffy. It's a girl thing."
"What about Dadan?"Ace winces at how awkward the bandit would get about this; exactly what he wants to avoid. "Makino is the better choice, but we can go to Dadan if you'd like."
"Nu-uh." Luffy is quick to shake her head. "I wanna see Makino."They go home just long enough for Luffy to change her clothes before setting out for Fuusha. Ace carries her on his back this time, leaving his hands free in case of emergencies - as it is he only needs to beat the crap out of one horde of rambunctious crocs on the way - but by the time forest gives way to the open fields of their destination, the last strip of sunlight is being swallowed by the sea.
He's glad for it. Ace would like to draw as little attention to them as possible, not wanting to be stopped by villagers who recognize Luffy and want to know where she's been the last four years."Luffy, where exactly is Makino's bar?"
"There," she mutters sleepily, pointing with one sloppy finger in a vague that-a-way direction. Ace scowls at how useless Luffy's being but immediately feels guilty. For the next few days, he'd cut her some slack. Perhaps a break from training would do them both good.
He ends up outside the bar with minimum backtracking. Peering though the closest window confirms that the tables are crowded by weekenders looking to celebrate the end of what he presumes was a boring week of work. But there's a back door, and Ace is pleased to discover the knob turns freely.
"Hello?" he calls, sticking his head inside to see a tiled kitchen practically gleaming with cleanliness. It's the kind of place that has Ace feeling unsteady. He snatches his dirt encrusted hands from where they'd been braced on the wall."Ace, is that you?" Makino stands in the doorway adjoining her bar and the kitchen, surprise etched across her face. She gasps when she sees Luffy hanging from his shoulders. "What happened?"
"Er…t-that's…Luffy, you tell her!" Magnanimity vanishing in the face of sure embarrassment, Ace peels the rubber girl from his back and drops her, hoping the shock will snap Luffy out of her daze.
She lays on the floor for several seconds, blinking up at him. Confused but not hurt, Luffy cranes her head to take a bleary look around and almost bounces to her feet when she sees Makino watching them with tolerant amusement. She flings herself into the barkeeper's arms.
"Makinoooooo! I'm bleeding and Ace says you know why."
The woman observes Ace's reddening cheeks, the way Luffy is being uncharacteristically clingy, and understands at once. "Why don't we go upstairs, Luffy? We need to have a talk."
"Okay." Makino disappears into the other room, presumably to get someone to man the bar while she and Luffy had their 'talk'. Just as they're leaving Ace's stomach grumbles deafeningly.
"Help yourself to the fridge!" The old woman waves at the gently humming appliance.
Ace remembers to stutter out a thank you. With nothing else to pass the time, he yanks open the refrigerator to dig out the fixings: ham, cheese, pickles, mayo, ketchup, mustard. He cuts eight slices from the loaf of bread he finds in a cabinet and slowly assembles his bounty into the most perfect sandwiches anyone's ever seen.
How much time had passed? How long did it take to explain that? Forever, knowing Luffy.
Sighing in weary resignation, Ace sets about nibbling his dinner, pulling away the crusts to eat separately. Somewhere between one bite and the next, he must've fallen asleep; Ace snaps awake to Makino's voice echoing down the stairs and half a sandwich plastered to his face.
By the time Luffy and Makino reappear, Ace is clean and doing his best to look as non-narcoleptic as possible, but apparently he fails at even that. Luffy swipes a finger across a damp spot he hadn't noticed, licking it clean."You slept in your food again. Stupid Ace!" She snickers at him, and Ace almost sighs in relief. If Luffy is feeling better then they can get on with their lives and pretend this never happened.
"There's one more thing," Makino says, handing Ace a brown paper sack. He opens it only to stare dully at the assortment of paper wrapped objects inside. Ace staunchly ignores the tube-shaped ones and where they might go. "Please hang on to these for her, you know how forgetful Luffy can be."
"I'm standing right here, you guys!"
"U-um, alright." Ace rolls the bag closed, resolving not to open it again. takes Luffy's hand and drags her away from the bar with all due speed, afraid that if they linger even a minute longer Makino will continue on about other mortifying stuff. On the way back, Luffy gets hungry - they hunt those same rambunctious crocodiles and decide to camp out beneath the stars.
Later, when they're uncomfortably full and Ace is drifting off to the tranquil lullaby of the mountain, Luffy suddenly breaks the silence. "Makino said this is really hard for guys." She tugs at the hem of his shirt until he turns to face her. "Thanks for putting up with me."
"It's not a big deal," he says, hoping against hope she won't choose get mushy. Luffy made an excellent companion except when the outspoken, straightforward aspect of her personality compelled her to talk about their feelings.
"Mmm," she agrees, and just when Ace thinks he's been let off easy, Luffy goes on to say, "Let's take a bath together when we get home. I'm all sweaty."
"Because you're growing up! Hell, we should have stopped sharing baths years ago - Sabo was right when he said it was inappropriate."
"You don't mean it," Luffy huffs, setting her back to he holds firm. Luffy gets mad and throws the tub at him, doesn't speak to him for three days, but ultimately forgives him she like always does. They move on.
Then Luffy's body changes. Develops.
Ace is screwed.
It's subtle the first year. Luffy's growth is more about height and strength than anything…feminine. Ace respects how far she's come since they first met, when Luffy depended on he and Sabo for safety - now she's capable of dancing toe to toe with him for prolonged periods of harsh sparring.
Ace hasn't lost yet. He can't let himself lose to Luffy because he's the older brother, and no matter how strong she gets Ace wants to protect her. Even if she doesn't want him to. Need him to. Even though she'll eventually sail the seas without him.
Ace secretly fears it; that Luffy will become distant as her power and body mature. But as time passes his sister shows no sign of separating herself from him, doesn't even seem interested in moving out of their tree house in search of privacy. Luffy is happy. Ace is happy.
The suddenness takes him by surprise. Luffy turns thirteen and it's as if a hidden switch is thrown - her hips round (not enough. Makino's hand-me-downs are loose where they should cling, so she continues wearing boy clothes), she's slender instead of lanky, and worst of all - her chest evolves.
All of this is forcefully hammered home when Ace walks in on Luffy getting dressed.
They've established a pattern: Ace wakes up first, goes out to hunt for breakfast even if that just means a short walk to Dadan's place. When he comes back Luffy is ready for the day and eager to eat whatever it is Ace brings home. She's so blissfully distracted by food she never thinks to question his motives. Not that she has a reason! Ace isn't being purposely sneaky to avoid awkward situations or anything like that.
Maybe Luffy gets up late. Maybe he takes less time than he thought. But Ace is honestly surprised when he climbs into the tree and Luffy is standing there, naked from the waist up.
"There's scrambled eg-" Ace nearly drops the food laden tray as his brain fully registers the sight of all that bare skin and fizzles out. It's hard to process, if Ace is honest with himself, a situation he's been trying so very hard to steer clear of. While there are the customary bruises smeared against Luffy's skin, the rest of her is almost perfect. A tan lighter then you'd expect of someone outside literally all hours of the day blends with the paler skin usually hidden beneath her clothes. And hanging out in the open are -
They're a secret Ace really should not be seeing, knows he should look away from, but the shock temporarily paralyzes his common sense; small but perky, round and perfectly firm. Luffy had snubbed bras as unnecessary and annoying. He can see now that she was right to - her rubber-cursed chest is flawlessly bouncy.
"Ace?" Luffy is suddenly in his face, her own tight with concern. "You're all red and gapey and swaying. Are you catching a cold?" She pushes herself up on tip toe to touch their foreheads together. It's an innocent gesture. She's simply trying to check his temperature.
Ace is not aware of anything but how that perfect chest is touching his. Every ounce of concentration has shifted to focus on the incredibly soft feel of her curves against his bare skin. How could a part of Luffy - wild, careless, tough Luffy - be so damn supple? They squish against him like marshmallows, and the urge to squeeze becomes too much. Luffy is saying something, asking him a question, but he doesn't hear it and doesn't reply. He just takes her by the shoulders and moves her out of his personal space. That he lets go is a huge display of willpower, and Ace is feeling numbly proud of himself until he remembers he's still standing within reach. It hurts to jump down and escape into the forest.
He stays out late that night even though he can hear Luffy's faint calling, waiting until the moon is high over head before he dares approach the tree house again. Luffy is already sleeping. Instead of doing the correct thing, instead of packing up and building a new place to sleep Ace sits and wonders what the hell he's going to do now.
It only gets worse. Luffy is more affectionate than ever, clinging to Ace's arms or neck to hug him close, begging for piggyback rides with pouty lips he can't ignore and mindlessly rubbing their legs together when they sit until Ace is sure his new eye tick is permanent.
Someone - god bless and damn them to the lowest level of hell - convinces Luffy that bikinis are super fun. Their next visit to the beach is an excruciating tease as she frolics in the surf, breasts heaving and the gentle swell of her ass on display. The hormonal rush is heady, addicting; he steals the scarring bathing suit and burns it that very night. Strangely enough, Luffy only searches for it briefly before smiling in a disturbingly satisfied way and giving up.
It gets to the point where Ace isn't looking at anything but Luffy. There are reckless moments he swears Luffy looks back, if only she wasn't his heartbreakingly innocent sworn sibling.
Luffy celebrates her fourteenth birthday.
Ace's every notion of her naivety is not so much destroyed as ripped to shreds and sent up in smoke.
A/N - I feel no shame in leaving it there because the second part is already written. Originally the two chapters where one and the same, but then it reached 8600 words and I had a serious wtf moment.
I'll try and update every two weeks, but NaNoWriMo is going on right now, I'm taking a trip to the Bahamas (leaving today, back in a few days), and I'm also in college. So no promises.
Another note about the story itself - this fic has pretty much no plot. Only in the last few chapters will you start to see anything resembling storyline. In the meantime it's all just Luffy and his gender related hijinks.
But I seriously doubt you guys are reading for the plot. Pervs! xD
Next chapter: Luffy and Ace finally make out, and Luffy gets a lesson in condoms. Not necessarily in that order.