Apologies to those who have been reading only the unpaired versions of this little fic, but the last chapter will also be paired. The ultimate goal as mentioned before was leading towards and AceLu finale and that's what it will be in the final chapter although, I've tried to keep it to a minimum and there is no physical affection, only vague mention of being together. If you don't want to read the final chapter, I understand. I'm glad you've enjoyed it until now and thanks for reading!
Growing Up With Roger
Year 21 (Final)
Ace was late when a knock at the door broke his frenzied rush of collecting his things needed for the day. He ran to answer it and cursed loudly when he saw nobody there. He was about to slam it shut again muttering about 'damn kids' when a hesitant tug on his trouser leg stopped him in his tracks. At his feet sat a small child. The child thrust a crumpled piece of paper up at him with a grumpy pout. Ace blinked at the child stupidly before he remembered just how late he was and snatched the paper from her little fingers. If this was another prank, he was gonna hunt those brats down and give them the biggest spanking of their short lifetime. His eyes scanned over the messy scrawl and the lower his eyes followed the text on the page, the paler his face grew.
He called in sick.
When Roger came home he was surprised to hear the low thrum of his son's voice in the living room, speaking with another. He'd only been gone an hour and Ace was running late when he'd left. He'd thought his son would have been gone by now. He dropped the bags of shopping in the kitchen which alerted Ace to his return. In moments his usually calm and collected son was babbling frantically in front of him. Roger tried to make sense of the jumbled mess of an explanation Ace gave, but with his son's frantic gestures toward to living room, he decided to see whatever the problem was first hand.
Roger tilted his head at the sight of the small child sat on their big sofa and asked, "Who's this?"
In his younger days, Roger probably would have panicked like his son. Instead he studied the girl. She couldn't have been more than four years old and her resemblance with ace was startling. Her hair was cropped and her skin grubby. She looked as though she hadn't had a decent meal for a while, but despite it all, the dark hair, sleepy eyes and smattering of freckles was unmistakable. If Ace hadn't identified her as a girl, he would have thought her a clone of his own son at that age right down to the grumpy pout. Roger chuckled and turned to Ace and said, "You used to wear that face."
"This isn't funny, damn it!" Ace yelled as his old temper flared to life, fuelled by fear.
The small child flinched and her eyes widened in fright. Roger's own narrowed and with that dangerous, quiet anger, he spoke evenly to Ace, "Calm down. You're scaring her."
Ace's temper deflated like a pierced balloon and he leaned back against the wall. "What do I do now?" he mumbled. Roger wondered if he wanted an answer or was simply thinking out loud. He gave one regardless.
"We should make she's yours." He stated.
"And if she is?" Ace asked.
"We keep her. No arguments."
Ace heaved a sigh and rubbed his hands over his face. He wondered how Luffy would react to their new guest.
As it turned out, Luffy took to fatherhood like a fish to water. He was the first to elicit laughter in the girl with his foolish antics and the first to gain her trust with his own childish demeanour. Ace found himself calmer as he watched the two interact and he pushed the panic away as he wondered for the first time if he could really bea father to this little girl. She didn't even seem to like him. Luffy though wasn't about to give him the choice. The first time they spoke of it, he'd declared that whether the child was or was not Ace's daughter, she was staying. Any protest Ace made fell on deaf ears, and so Ace didn't really feel any surge of emotion when the results came back positive. She was his daughter by blood, but it seemed she was Luffy's 'baby girl' first.
He had to admit, he enjoyed watching them together. Luffy doted on the child, as did Roger. Ace found himself keeping distance with the four year old, unsure how to interact with her and it worked well like that. He was the 'discipline' daddy and the voice of reason. That wasn't to say he didn't love her. As the days morphed into weeks then weeks stretched into months, he found that this tiny child that had stolen his looks had started to fill that void left behind by the losses he'd suffered in his lifetime. That wasn't to say it was no longer there, or those he had lost were forgotten. He often spoke with Beatrix (or Trixie, as Luffy had fondly dubbed her) about Uncle Sabo, Auntie Ann and the Grandma Rouge she would never meet. His bonding time with her came at night, when he would tuck her into bed and enjoy a quiet conversation as she wound down from the day and prepared for sleep. Sometimes he would tell her stories, adaptations of his own life spliced with fantasy and fairy tales. She didn't know the truth behind them of course – Ace often wondered whether he would tell her when she was older.
Roger liked to watch Ace and Luffy as they raised his little Beetroot (his own nickname for the child). He watched Ace stumble over his own mistakes and fumble with explanations and understanding. He watched with a great satisfaction as Ace tiptoed around the mistakes made by Roger in his own upbringing. Roger also held no doubt in his mind that his son carried with him the weaknesses he himself did. Luffy had been the chemical in Ace's existence that turned his life around and Trixie the catalyst that sped up his recovery. Were something ever to happen to Luffy though, Roger dreaded the thought of what would become of Ace. Life could be very cruel, and it had been to his precious son. Roger hoped it would never come down to it, but if something should ever happen, he would make sure his little Beetroot didn't suffer as a result, like Ace did.
"Ne, Gramps!" the little girl called from the doorway. She wore a look of impatience. "Hurry up, would ya? I wanna go see Marco!"
Roger snorted softly. Being with Trixie was like looking at Ace and listening to Luffy. "I'm coming, I'm coming." He grumbled as he made his way outside. Trixie was on him like glue and with a little help from Luffy, clambered up his tall frame to his shoulders. Ace locked up the flat and jogged to catch up. He watched his father and daughter interact with a gentle mix of fondness and jealousy. His own childhood had not been so sugar coated, but now in the position his father played so many years ago he felt he finally understood what it had been like. The moustached man glanced back at him and offered him a cheeky grin that Ace mirrored.
Growing up with Roger really wasn't so bad.