I've wanted to write this for a LONG time, ever since I first read about Luffy's past. I finally found some time to type this up, and even then, it took a month for me to flesh it out.
Thanks to moonlit starry sky for beta-reading!
Disclaimer: I don't own One Piece; Oda-sensei does!
Curly Dadan was a force to be reckoned with. Leader of a rowdy "family" of mountain bandits, the fearless woman was the terror of the villages of Dawn Island. Dadan was living the good life: looting villages, threatening their leaders, and occasionally wandering down to the bar for a drink. But as strong as she was, she was a woman. From time to time, a particularly clueless and rather unfortunate person (who was also a bit assuming) would dare to ask her That Question: "Don't you want any children?"
Dadan would usually respond with a glare that could kill and some variation of "I don't want any damn brats screwing with me!" before beating the questioner senseless.
That was all before Garp came for an unexpected visit.
Dadan met Garp in some bar many years ago, back when she was still a lone bandit. The two bonded over a bottle of sake and spent a drunken night partying with total strangers. After she beat him soundly in a drinking contest, Garp seemed to have developed a healthy level of respect for her. Even though they were bandit and Marine (a Vice-Admiral, no less), they parted on relatively good terms that night.
That is, of course, until Garp stalked Dadan back to her hideout on Dawn Island three days later. After commenting nonchalantly that Dawn Island was also his home, he invited himself into her house. Dadan's violent protests of "GET OUT OF MY HOUSE, YOU DAMN MARINE!" fell upon deaf ears. Garp defended himself by saying that he never had a bandit as a friend and wanted to get to know her better. After a rather long winding explanation about why he was there, Dadan soon figured out what Garp wanted: a place to stay in case he was visiting Dawn Island and didn't want all the nobles in Goa Kingdom to know about it. Before she could even refuse him, Garp casually implied that since he knew that she was a bandit AND also knew where she lived, he could turn her in anytime he wanted to.
Blackmail, thought Dadan. Pure blackmail. But she was cornered. Either she let him stay, or get taken into custody. It wasn't much of a choice, because she sure didn't want to live out her life behind bars. After loudly questioning the Vice-Admiral's sanity, Dadan relented. Garp thanked her cheerfully before Dadan pushed him out the door and slammed it shut behind him. Sinking down against the door, she wondered what she had gotten herself into.
Five years later and after countless more shouting matches with him, she got her answer.
On the day her life turned upside-down, Dadan had been in a particularly good mood. Dogura's group had gathered an exceptional amount of money by stealing from visiting rich merchants and Dadan threw a party to celebrate. The happy bandits had been in the midst of opening their thirty-first bottle of sake when a loud knock on the door startled them and caused them to jump three feet into the air. Upon opening the door, Dadan was greeted by an unusually grave Garp, asking if he could stay for a few days. That was nothing special. Garp always popped in at the least convenient moments, and the Dadan Family was starting to get used to that. But the surprising thing was that Garp was carrying a sleeping baby wrapped in blankets in his arms. Before Dadan had even registered her astonishment, Garp quickly stepped in the house and shut it behind him. After telling the other bandits that he had to talk to Dadan, he quickly and quietly explained the mysterious child's parentage and situation.
By the end of the explanation, Dadan was near hysteria. The baby was the son of Gol D. Roger, the late Pirate King. It was son of the devil himself, and Garp wanted her to take care of him. Besides the fact that the World Government would have her for dinner if they ever found out, Dadan didn't even like pirates, having once run afoul of a few. She protested to Garp's idea vehemently, but in the end, the baby was in her arms and Garp pulled out the Do-it-or-I'll-rat-you-out-to-the-Marines trump card and Dadan knew she was beaten. Reluctantly, she admitted that could always use another minion (or child-slave) who would obey her orders unquestioningly. Besides, the freckled-face kid almost looked cute.
And that was how Curly Dadan, the bandit that swore she would never have kids, ended up taking care of the son of the Pirate King. Without further ado, the Dadan Family launched Operation Raise Baby Ace. The weekly village loots for riches and valuables became a pillaging routine for baby formula. The bandits took turns changing Ace's diapers, usually swearing colorfully when it came to their turn. They hated Ace's narcolepsy with a passion, especially when it sprang up with no warning. Dadan would swear years later that Ace developed his disorder just to drive her nuts: whenever she wanted him to sleep, he wouldn't. Then, when she finally admitted defeat, he would nod off halfway through his spinach paste. On most days, Dadan was at her wit's end. She finally resorted to slipping sake into his milk to regulate his sleeping patterns.
The first time Garp came to visit Ace, Dadan had expected him to take Ace and give her some peace and quiet. Instead, the house was even louder, with Ace learning to crawl (always away from people, never towards them) and Garp chasing after him. Garp's obnoxious "funny" faces would make Ace scream with laughter, causing Dadan to wonder at how the little brat could emit such a loud noise. Soon, she was trying to kick Garp out again, because as bad as the days were without him (he always kept an eye on Ace so Dadan could at least patch up her frayed nerves, if not her ringing ears), having the Vice-Admiral there was even worse.
As Ace grew older, Dadan's life became slightly less hectic. She could sometimes risk leaving Ace home with a bandit or two and accompany the rest of her family on a well-deserved vacation of village-raiding. But her plan of molding Ace into the perfect little minion failed spectacularly. The kid never listened to a single word she said, usually doing the exact opposite of what she asked. He also learned an impressive amount of swearwords from the bandits and didn't hesitate to use them. So Dadan gave up on restraining him. By the time Ace was four, she let him wander off wherever he wanted, on the condition that he came back for lunch and dinner. Her motto for that was: "If anything happens to the brat, we'll pretend we didn't know anything about it."
Then one day, a year after Dadan's no-boundary rule was laid, he didn't come back at noon. Dadan was panicking by dusk, when the bandits still couldn't see hide or hair of him. The Dadan Family stayed awake the whole night, peering into the dark forest that surrounded their cottage but not daring to go in. Dadan was literally tearing her hair out. "He better not have no gotten himself killed, not after all I've been through just to raise him," she muttered the entire night, also worrying about Garp's reaction if she told him that she lost his adoptive grandson. The next morning, the bandits were roused from their zombie-like daze when Ace emerged from the dark green foliage, dragging a dead alligator many times his own size behind him. Dadan was flabbergasted. Things were smoothed over, however, when the boy offered the alligator carcass to make some alligator soup for the bandits. After that terrifying incident, the Dadan Family was never worried again by Ace staying out the whole day. He frequently brought home some type of meat, and he always gave some of it to the bandits, so Dadan was content. Besides, Ace usually came home at night, and being away from the house for so long meant that Dadan once again had time alone.
Years passed, and the Dadan Family slowly grew. More members joined and Dadan was starting to feel like her old self again. As Ace already spent more of his time outside the house than in, she didn't doubt that the boy would go out one day and see the world for himself, and then Dadan would be able to relax without Garp's threats hanging over her. She sure looked forward to the time, although a small voice in the back of her head told her not to be so optimistic. But the fact was that Ace was growing up, and instead of changing diapers and making mushy baby food, Dadan was becoming an amateur doctor, figuring out how to do everything from bandaging wounds to splinting broken bones to administering CPR (Ace had once fallen asleep in his soup). Garp's so-called training lessons didn't help in the least, since she had to do the patching-up afterward, and not with a little yelling.
Just when Dadan was starting to breathe a little easier for the first time since Ace arrived on her doorstep, Magura came running back one day, gasping his lungs out. Apparently, Ace had wandered into Goa Kingdom by himself and started asking for information about the late Pirate King. Of course, those strangers didn't know who they were talking to, and were obviously not as fond of Roger as Garp was. They not only spat on the Pirate King's name, but also damned Ace's right to live to the depths of hell. Understandably, Ace was not happy for being denied that most basic right, and he beat them all up. Dadan nearly had a heart attack when she first heard about these fights - Garp would never forgive her if some hooligans killed the brat.
Dadan was worried. Although she didn't have the sharpest eyes in the world, she was still perceptive enough to notice that there was something very unusual about Roger's boy. That kid was carrying some type of burden, and Dadan couldn't help him with it. Regardless of what she told her bandits, she fretted that Ace was unhappy, because Garp left him under her care, and she had the hard task of raising him. Deep down, she missed the bright-eyed baby that used to laugh at everything so easily, and wanted him back to replace the moody kid that was left.
Finally, Ace turned ten. His attitude hadn't gotten any better over the years, but he looked after himself well enough. Dadan was hopeful; it meant that he would only be around for a few more years, and Garp would then take him away for Marine training (although she doubted that Ace would go through with it; he was never much of a person for rules). Ace was already very independent and strong; Garp couldn't possibly find fault in how she raised him. She started to relish the thought of freedom without having Garp breathing down her neck.
Then one day out of the blue, the Vice-Admiral came to the cottage again and caused Dadan to curse him out so loud that people ten miles away could hear her screeching.
He brought along another brat. This one was his actual grandson ("Dragon's son?" she wondered), and besides being absolutely clueless about the world, he had also eaten a Devil Fruit and worshiped Red-Haired Shanks like a god.
The argument that resulted was short and brief, but by the end of it, Dadan knew she was stuck with that kid, too.
Finding herself back in the situation she was at ten years ago, Dadan decided to try where she had failed with Ace and train Monkey D. Luffy as a mountain bandit. The kid was much more gullible than Ace was, and probably not as stubborn. So she tried a new tactic instead of just yelling and swearing: since Ace caught animals and gave meat to the bandits as food, Luffy would not be able to eat meat unless he 1) completed all his chores, 2) swindled enough money from strangers, and 3) raided at least three villages with the rest of the family. Then Dadan would let him go hunt for his own food. Needless to say, this plan didn't exactly work out the way she wanted it to. Luffy, in all innocence, decided to skip Steps 1 to 3 and proceed directly to "go outside with Ace and try to make a new friend". But Ace didn't want a new friend, and he came back that night with a giant bear carcass as his only companion.
When Luffy didn't come back for three days, Dadan gave him up as a lost cause. She hadn't even kept him in her house for a day, but she didn't care anymore. She barely kept track of where Ace was (although she knew Ace probably wouldn't run off like that) and reverted back to her old motto of "I don't know and it's none of my business". As a result, when Luffy showed up four days later bloody and bruised, Dadan was shocked (and somewhat relieved) that he made it back alive. Luffy's explanation of "I fell down a cliff" was absurd, and Dadan wondered what really happened. She sincerely hoped Ace didn't have anything to do with it. The last thing she needed was to have her two young charges waging a war against each other.
For the month that followed the exciting first week, it seemed as if Dadan's worst dreams had come true. It soon became very clear to everyone that Ace didn't like Luffy very much - clear to everyone but to Luffy himself. The seven-year-old followed Ace around every day, and Dadan didn't have the heart to tell him the truth. So Dadan played nurse every night, bandaging up wounds and yelling herself hoarse. By the third week, she was secretly glad that Luffy had eaten the Gomu-Gomu ni Mi. Rubber was tougher that normal flesh, and therefore required less treatment. She was also very glad that she had learned CPR, because apparently the threat of drowning didn't keep the Devil Fruit user away from water.
Then abruptly, when Dadan had given up hope that the two kids would ever get along, Ace and Luffy became friends. However, Dadan wasn't left with too much time to ponder the welcoming change, since Ace brought home ANOTHER brat that very night. This time, it was a little twerp named Sabo, who almost had manners as nice as Dadan herself. She had heard about this Sabo boy, with most reports claiming that he was a robber and a treasure hoarder. Dadan almost considered asking him to be part of her family of bandits, then decided that ten was too young. Still, it wasn't surprising that Ace became good friends with Sabo, considering his background. Dadan was just glad that he had finally found people he could really talk about. That moody kid from before could hardly be seen after Sabo moved in with them.
For a while, nothing too serious happened. Luffy, Ace, and Sabo would go to the Gray Terminal almost every day, a place that Dadan warned them against, but they went anyways. They snuck into Goa Kingdom and committed all sorts of theft and robbery that made even Dadan proud. At nighttime, they brought home some sort of giant animal for dinner, and all was well. Slowly but surely, the three boys built a name for themselves, becoming famous within the kingdom walls and beyond. They soon moved out of the house, living in a tree house in the forest and only coming back for the occasional bath. Garp also came back for a few visits, and conducted his "super Marine training sessions" with great enthusiasm, much to Dadan's (and the boys') chagrin. Life was as normal as it could get.
Ironically, because of Luffy, the Dadan Family became good friends with some of the folks of Windmill Village, especially Mayor Woop Slap and Makino. Since Windmill Village was so small, Dadan had never bothered to raid it as much as some of the other villages, and after meeting Woop Slap, she promised to never loot it again. In exchange, Woop Slap and Makino gave her tips on how she should handle Luffy's gigantic appetite and told her stories about Luffy's life in the peaceful little village. Dadan scoffed when she heard about Higuma and Shanks; SHE most definitely would've known better than to insult the most infamous pirate in the East Blue. In time, the three of them became drinking partners, and Makino would frequently hike up the mountain to bring Dadan liquor. They exchanged news like old friends, and Dadan would often forget that she was a bandit around her.
One night, Dadan read a newspaper article about the Tenryuubito coming to visit Goa Kingdom. Although she didn't know who they really were, she recalled Garp mentioning once that even the Marines did everything the Tenryuubito wanted. In any case, they were very important people, and Dadan had a sense of foreboding with their arrival. She knew something big would happen, and she wasn't sure that it would be good.
When the giant fire erupted in the Gray Terminal a few weeks later, the Dadan Family immediately sprang into action. Dadan knew that the boys were down there; she had expected something like that to happen. Rushing down there as fast as possible, all Dadan could think about was how she wouldn't be able to live with herself in either Ace or Luffy were harmed.
The plan had been to grab the boys and run. Dogura spotted the Bluejam Pirates in the Gray Terminal, and Dadan really didn't want to deal with them. Unfortunately, it didn't work out that way. By the time she got there, Bluejam was holding a pistol to Ace's head and Luffy was on the floor with his face cut up. Just the sight of the two boys in danger was enough to make Dadan's blood boil, and she burst in there, swinging an ax and screaming. How DARE Bluejam hurt her brats? She wouldn't let anyone do that (besides maybe Garp, but he was the exception). Bluejam wasn't amused by Dadan's sudden appearance, but she didn't care. The Dadan Family grabbed Luffy and started running, expecting Ace to follow. Dadan thanked her lucky stars profusely for the successful rescue attempt as they began to race off.
But Ace wouldn't run.
At that moment, Dadan finally knew what Garp meant when he said Roger wouldn't let his enemies get away. His son was the perfect example. And she realized that even though she was a cowardly mountain bandit that didn't have a hope against a ruthless pirate, she wasn't about to leave a ten-year-old kid to face him alone. Especially not THIS ten-year-old kid. Dadan would make sure that Ace got home safe and sound, and that creep Bluejam would never be allowed to harm her family again.
The fight at the Gray Terminal was fierce. Even though the woman and the kid were the winners, they still had a very hard time getting out of the inferno. Dadan was desperate. She didn't save Ace from Bluejam just to have him get burned to death. By shielding him from the flames with her own body, the two of them barely managed to get to the forest by the riverbank, far away from the roaring fire. Dadan was covered with burns, but she was too relieved to care. Ace was mostly unharmed, and that meant Garp wouldn't chew her full of holes. They were okay…they had won.
The victory against both the pirate and the fire came with a heavy price, and they spent the next few days recuperating by the river. Dadan was so injured that she couldn't move, so Ace had to sneak into Goa Kingdom and steal medicine and food for the two of them. When Dadan finally healed enough to travel, they set off toward the cottage. Halfway through the forest, Dadan's legs couldn't support her any longer. She wanted to stay in the forest that night and continue the journey the next morning, but Ace swung her onto his shoulders without a word and carried her the rest of the way home. Dadan was mortified. Imagine getting carried by a ten-year-old kid! She would never live it down if Garp found out. Still, it was a very nice gesture on Ace's part, and they finally made it back home. Dadan didn't think she had ever been so happy to see her tiny cottage, with her bandit family and Luffy welcoming them back.
She thought the boys were safe, now that they were home. So when Dogura started explaining to them about what happened to Sabo, she knew she was dead wrong. During that horrendous night in the Gray Terminal, Dadan was so busy trying to save Ace and Luffy that she didn't notice Sabo wasn't there. And now, Dogura told them that Sabo had been blasted out of the water by those Tenryuubito folks when he was trying to set sail and become a pirate.
Dadan had never seen Ace as angry as he was that night. He would've done anything for revenge; she could tell by the look in his eyes. Heck, Dadan herself wanted to go and rip those monsters limb from limb. But she wouldn't let him. It wasn't just the Tenryuubito that killed Sabo, she realized, but their whole world. They spat on people who chased their dreams, and those dreamers all ended up in horrific situations. Just take a look at Sabo, and even Roger! Only those who obeyed the world and its rules survived. At that moment, Ace as just an insignificant nobody. She knew that if he went out there that night, he would be killed and people wouldn't give him a second thought. Dadan wouldn't let that happen. She wasn't going to obey the world and its rules, not after what happened to Sabo and the incident in the Gray Terminal. She was going to support Ace and Luffy no matter what they did. She would encourage their dreams and let them make a name for themselves. They would prove to the whole world that they existed; only then would they be able to change it. And if becoming pirates was their way, Dadan would be behind them one hundred percent.
And so time passed, even in the face of tragedy. Ace and Luffy slowly grew up, from clueless kids to confident teens. They were extremely close; losing one brother seemed to have brought them together, and Sabo's death made them even more determined to set sail and become great pirates one day. Dadan was happy to see that. It meant that Ace and Luffy would each have an unwavering support in each other once they went out into the world for themselves. They would have someone to count on in the hard days that would come. And still life went on. Day by day, the two brothers trained and fought to make each other stronger. Sometimes, Ace would drag Luffy back to Dadan's cottage for some emergency first aid, and even though Dadan still yelled at them for their recklessness and stupidity, it became more of a ritual than Dadan actually meaning it. She knew it was useless to berate them; those two would still do things their own way.
When Ace finally set sail at age seventeen, Dadan was not happy, even though she supported his decision. He hadn't even said goodbye to her, and she refused to see the ungrateful brat off. Garp was never going to let her hear the end of it, and it was all Ace's fault for leaving. So when one of her bandits came to tell her his final thank-you message, Dadan burst into tears. She was really going to miss that damn kid. After all, she HAD raised him from infancy.
Luffy was very much encouraged by Ace's departure. He was determined to outshine his older brother, and although he still bothered Dadan from time to time, he spent most of his days out in the forest training to fight. With one kid gone, Dadan had a lot more freedom. She once again started pillaging villages (although she never attacked Windmill Village again), sometimes going down to Party's Bar for a drink. Even Garp's wrath that Ace had run off couldn't dampen her mood. A few weeks later, when she saw Ace's picture in the newspaper, she nearly choked on her breakfast. He sure was living up to his family legacy. Apparently, Ace had already become famous in the Grand Line, with a fearsome bounty to boot. He also seemed to have eaten some type of Devil Fruit that allowed him to turn into fire. When she read that he had refused an offer to become a Shichibukai, Dadan couldn't help but approve of his decision. Ace wasn't going to forget Sabo in the hurry; the World Government couldn't bribe him. She called Dogura over with a rare smile and sent the papers with him to Luffy, who would surely appreciate the news.
The years passed like a cool summer breeze, and it was Luffy's turn to leave Dawn Island. As with Ace, Dadan refused to see him off. Her excuse was that she didn't want to scare the villagers of Windmill Village, but the truth was that Dadan didn't want everyone to see her tears. It would be a catastrophe if people discovered that the feared bandit Curly Dadan had feelings. She would never be able to show her face in the villages again. Luffy's statement of "I hate bandits!" didn't improve her mood much, either. But, as with Ace, his parting remark, "But I like you!" made Dadan sob uncontrollably into her handkerchief.
Now that both Ace and Luffy were gone, the Dadan Family felt slightly subdued and quiet. For days after Luffy left, the bandits just moped around in a daze. It took a few weeks for Dadan to rouse everyone up again and resume their roles as mountain bandits. Before long, life was back to the way it was before Ace and Luffy had stepped into their lives. Dadan once again built up her reputation of being a ruthless bandit. Garp's visits became less frequent, and most of them were filled with the Vice-Admiral's boastings about his two grandsons and how he was so proud of them, even though they were pirates.
One day, Makino went up to Dadan's cottage to show her Luffy's latest bounty of 100 million beli, bestowed upon him for defeating the Shichibukai Crocodile. Coincidentally, Dadan had seen an article about one Portgas D. Ace in the newspaper a few days earlier, stating that he had caused a ruckus on some desert island in the Grand Line called Arabasta. She showed Makino the article. "Wow, Dadan-san," laughed Makino. "Those two do seem to be quite busy."
"They're just two fools," replied Dadan. Her tone was gruff, but the big grin on her face gave her away.
To the world, Portgas D. Ace and Monkey D. Luffy were troublemaking pirates. They were notoriously strong, each capable of doing outrageous things. They were a threat to society that had to be stamped out for the good of the people. Normal folks all over the world both loved and hated them. But to Dadan, none of that mattered. To her, they were only one thing.
They were her boys.
And she was damn proud of them.
You have to admit, Dadan deserves some respect. Not everyone can raise the D brothers from childhood without losing their sanity, and she had to put up with (at least one of) them for 20 long years. Garp must have known what he was doing when he left Ace and Luffy with her.