As of today I have finished my revision of this story. Some of the changes are somewhat minor, but there are added dialog in some chapters, specially chapter 7 and chapter 14. Unfortunately, this chapter as well as chapter 17 and 18 will have more grammar mistakes compare to the other revised chapters because my beta, zealousfreak27, had become ill. Please pray for her well being and know it was her efforts that helped make this story even better.
As for this bonus chapter, this was inspire by one of my reviewers when I completed this story months ago. It was meant to be its own one-shot, but given the nature of this chapter I thought it would work better as an add on. This chapter is my way of saying thank you to you all for reading, reviewing, and supporting this story and my other work. I hope you enjoy.
Now, onward to the chapter.
He knew something wasn't right. When Sabo pulled Luffy from the sea that day, he knew his life was some kind of lie. He didn't know how he could know such things since he clearly had memories of his life before that moment, but he could tell none of it was real.
Like his little brother, he denied it. He kept telling Luffy that everything was real and that he was sick. It broke his heart to see his baby brother so scared and confuse. He couldn't imagine the feeling of thinking that he was losing his mind. If it were him, he probably would had thrown himself into to the sea to end it all.
Not Luffy, however. His baby brother was strong, despite how he loved to tease him about his weaknesses. Despite his fear and confusion, he opened up to Sabo and him and told him about the crew he left behind. He could tell by Luffy's words that he loved each of them not just as a crew, but also as a family. Something told him he had a similar bond with someone else, but he could not make himself remember.
When they saw the doctor and he told him about that fish he felt relieved. He thought once Luffy's confusion had passed than his own doubts would go away. It didn't go well at first since Luffy thought he could 'wake' himself by tossing himself into the sea. His heart stopped when Sabo brought up Luffy's lifeless body. He thought for sure that Luffy was dead. Thank god that the doctor was able to bring him back.
Once his relief had settled in, he wanted to kill Luffy. How dare he scare him like that. Didn't he understand how empty his life would be without him? Although he would still have Sabo, he felt his world would crash without Luffy. Maybe that should have been the first sign that things were not right.
He found himself questioning many things during those days when Luffy was at the doctor. The uneasiness of his existence and Luffy's pain weighed heavily on his mind. Although Sabo never said it, he knew he felt it as well.
Maybe that was why he confronted Luffy and asked him how did he die in his dream world. Something told him if he knew that, than he would have his answer.
The answer, however, was denied him when Luffy closed Sabo's journal and said, "It doesn't matter."
After that, Luffy seemed happier. He seemed to have made peace with his dream and had accepted the real world. He no longer seemed conflicted when he talked to him and was really opened about many things. At that time he was happy and his previous uneasiness faded away.
They left that city on such a high note that he thought the darkest days were behind them, even if Luffy couldn't remember certain things. For the first couple of days, things were calm and easy. Then the nightmares started.
Almost every night, Luffy would wake up screaming his name and some times Sabo's. He would always wake up in a panic with tears running down his eyes. It always took more than an hour to calm him down. It was the worst feeling in the world holding Luffy's shivering form and being unable to do anything to help him.
He always asked what his nightmares were about, but Luffy always refused to tell. He would just go into himself and withdrawal from the world around him. Sabo didn't have much luck either reaching him.
Oddly on those nights, he too would have strange visions. For no reasons at all he have images of fire and magma and the pain of being burn. It happened quickly, but he felt it all the same. Somehow, he knew Luffy was connected to it, but Sabo had no such visions. Instead, Sabo said he feels empty in those moments before Luffy screamed.
They managed to hide most of it from the crew. The only one who seemed to suspect anything was Silk, but she was far from normal. She seemed kind enough, but he knew she was hiding something from all of them. Like she knew what the nightmares were and what was the pain that was tearing Luffy up inside. He, however, could never find the will to ask.
Weeks went by and things settled into normalcy. When they saw that snow island, he knew it would make Luffy happy. Ever since they were young, Luffy has always loved snow. He knew before Luffy even thought of it that he would declare a snow holiday. It was just like him.
He hoped the days in the snow would pick up Luffy's mood and it did during the day. At night, however, the nightmares always returned. God, it was painful to see Luffy like this. When would it end? Why couldn't things go back to normal?
Then again, what was normal? He had memories, but were they really real? It seemed odd to be questioning your own mind, especially when you weren't the one who was sick, but something in the back of his mind kept nagging him. Perhaps Luffy could feel it too, which was why he sometimes had that look of longing in his eyes.
Nonetheless, the snow days did improved Luffy's mood and the nightmares actually ceased after that first day. It seemed like it was a sign that they were all turning the corner. Then, they came.
He knew that none of them were who they said they were, but he felt himself go at ease the moment he heard Nami's name, although he didn't understand why at the time. Regardless, the party they had was more than worth it. It was the closest he has felt to his brothers in a long time and he never wanted that feeling to end.
Of course, it did. It did when the truth finally came and he understood why he always felt less than real.
It was because he wasn't real at all. He was a dream. A dream created by Luffy to help him deal with the death of his real brother. The real Ace died in a war, protecting his baby brother to the end. In his mind, he couldn't ask for a better death.
Luffy, however, never really got over his real brother's death, which was why he was now trapped within this dream. Even worst, Luffy couldn't bring himself to kill him since he was the source of the dream world. If he didn't die, then Luffy would be trapped here forever. Trapped in a world of denial and grief.
He couldn't have that.
With a simple look from Sabo, he understood too what had to be done. It maybe painful for Luffy, but it was the only right thing to do.
Before Luffy even knew what happened, he attacked.
"You said you couldn't kill me so I'm going to give you a choice. Either you fight and kill me or I'll take your life myself," he remembered saying to Luffy as he mercilessly attacked him.
Luffy's expression was pure torment. It took every ouch of his will to fight his little brother. A part of him screamed to stop, but he ignored that voice. He had to die in ordered for Luffy to be free. To him, that was more important than his existence.
Besides, what was his own life? Wasn't he nothing but a placeholder for the real Ace? He wasn't real, so why did this hurt so badly? He couldn't think about that now. He had to keep fighting for Luffy's sake.
And that was exactly what he did as he kept up the assault. Slowly, Luffy began to fight back and returned his hits.
"I can't...Ace please don't make me do this," Luffy wimped, begging him to end this insanity.
That voice torn into his soul, but he didn't allow Luffy to see that. "Great pirates don't beg!" he screamed as continued to attack his brother. "Do you believe that you can become the Pirate King with such a weak heart! That's why you failed at both Impel Down and Marineford! You're nothing but a pathetic weakling who I wasted my life saving!"
Those words were poison as they left his throat. It made him physically sick to even muttered such things to his precious brother. But it had to be done. Luffy couldn't see him as his dead brother. Luffy had to see him as an illusion. He had to accepted that he wasn't the real Ace.
The fight became more intense as Luffy fought back even harder, but it wasn't enough. Luffy still cling to the shadow of his brother.
"I can't kill you," Luffy said.
"As I said before you don't have a choice," he said as he fought the tears that threatened to run down his eyes. He couldn't show weakness. This was the only way things could be.
"When are you going to accept that I'm already dead?" he challenged coldly as he watched Luffy squirm against the question.
"But...you're alive here," Luffy answered.
He wanted to agree. He wanted to live here forever with his brothers, but he knew that could no longer happen. If he had anything of the real Ace within him, this was the only path he could take.
"I'm a creature of your mind," he said more to himself as he fought the memories and voice yelling into his mind. "I'm nothing more than a shadow of the man you knew as your brother. You have to accept that reality."
With those words, he could see the image of an 'X' shaped scare forming on Luffy chest and the earth began to shake. He knew that it was a sign that Luffy was coming to terms with the truth. He just had to push harder.
"You can't hide from the truth anymore. It's time for you to wake up!" he yelled as he attacked Luffy again.
In front of his eyes, the snow-covered island disappeared and in its place was the war torn battlefield of Marineford. He had to keep himself for laughing at the poetic irony. At the same time, however, he felt strangely honored. He was going to die on the same battlefield as the man he was based on. It made him feel more real.
Luffy was tormented by these changes of events, but he had come too far to stop now.
They fought again until they were in a deadlock and he could clearly see Luffy's bloodshot eyes. Why did he have to hurt his baby brother like this? Hadn't he suffered enough? What cruel god or deity would force such an innocent boy to relieve the worst moment of his life?
"You can't stay here any longer," he attempted to say coldly. "You crew needs you. Don't stay here and wallow in the past, especially when you have such a grand future ahead of you."
"But...it's so hard to let go. Especially after everything that has happened," Luffy said in a completely broken tone.
This was too much for him and he finally allowed his emotions to show. He wanted to apologize to Luffy about everything and to go back to the lives they had. It was a lie, but it was a good lie. It was a lie filled with happiness.
At that moment, he would have stepped down if it weren't for the flash of magma going through his chest, burning his insides.
Normally, such an image would cause a person to back down, but it only strengthened his resolved. He had to die here. If he didn't, he would dishonor the memory of the man who gave his life for his brother. To him, that was worst than living. He was a lie and he had no right to take this man's brother.
"I know. Truthfully, I would give anything to stay here as well and go back to the way things were. But our time together has long since passed. This is where we go our separate ways," he said with his final resolved. He left himself opened so Luffy could have a clear shot. This was the only way things could end. "Be brave, you're my little brother. I know you can do this."
It was strange. He knew that he wasn't real, but he couldn't think of Luffy as anything less than his brother. Maybe it was the memories and feelings created by the dream, but he really didn't care. This was his brother. The real Ace just had to deal with that.
He felt Luffy pulled back and he knew his end was in sight. When he died, where would he go? Would he simply stop existing? After all, he was just a shadow of an even greater man. Still, he wouldn't move.
"Ace...forgive me," he heard Luffy whispered before he shouted. "Gum Gum Jet Rifle!"
Within a faction of a second he felt a fist go clean through him. It hurt, but it was also a good pain. With his death, his brother would be free. As he felt his strength leave him, he saw an image of Sabo, Luffy, and him drinking sake. Dammit Luffy, why did he have to remember that?
However, the only thing he could find to say was, "That...that was perfect...Luffy."
He then felt himself collapsed under his own weight and he fell towards the ground. At least he would have if Luffy hadn't caught him and lower him slowly to the ground.
"To think I died twice in your arms," he laughed bitterly at the irony. Why must Luffy hurt like this again? "I'm...a terrible brother."
"Don't say that!" Luffy yelled as he cuddled me.
Oh Luffy, it's all too true. Even if he was just a shadow, he caused his brother so much pain.
"Why," he heard Silk asked, although his hearing was slowly fading. He was certain she said more, but he no longer remembered or cared.
He knew the answer even before he spoke. "I died for my baby brother once. Why wouldn't I do it again?"
The sob Luffy made broke his heart. His pain hurt more than dying.
"Indeed, Luffy is our brother. Our time in life has passed. It isn't fair for us to gain a second chance while Luffy is made to give up everything he has worked for," he heard Sabo said somberly.
Sabo, the real Sabo would be proud of you.
Even if he could no longer see his other brother, he could feel Sabo smile. "He's going to be the Pirate King, not some hopeless dreamer."
"And I know you'll achieve your dream, because you're my brother," he said. He knew it was the words of the real Ace, but it still hold true. Luffy will someday be the Pirate King and he couldn't stay in his way.
A few more words were said, but his mind began to fade. He knew his end was near, but there was one more thing that needed to be said. He didn't know how, but he knew the real Ace wanted him to say it.
"You remember that day, don't you Luffy. The day when we sealed our brotherhood," he whispered with the last of his strength. He felt Luffy nod. "I said that day that no matter what we do or where we are, no one will ever break our bond of brotherhood. Those words still hold true. Nothing can ever break our bond. Not even death. We are apart of you Luffy, just as you were apart of us in life."
He then realized at that moment what he was. He was Ace. He was the part that was left of Ace when he died. Somehow, Ace had left a piece of his soul within Luffy. Or perhaps, Luffy had placed a piece of Ace within himself.
In either case, he was far more than a mere shadow created by a Devil Fruit. Yes, that boy's powers created his body and manipulated his memories, but he was still Ace. He was still Luffy's big brother. Somehow, that was more than enough to make him happy as he felt the last as his second life slip a way.
From his blurry vision, however, he saw Sabo put his hand out. Without a word he put his hand on top of Sabo's. If he was real, perhaps this was a part of Sabo that continued to live as well within Luffy. It was strange how this Devil Fruit had brought them together.
He then felt Luffy's hand joined his and they were whole again. This was the way he wanted things. Now, he could rest without regret. His brother would be fine. He could always watch after him, after all.
He allowed his eyes to close and faded into the darkness. From there, he merged with Luffy's mind and heart. There he would remain, keeping his promise. His promise to always remained by Luffy's side until the day they were truly reunited on the other side.
Hopefully, that won't happen for many years to come.
It is really sappy, I know, which is why I though it should not be a standalone. Anyway, I hope you like this little treat. Thanks again and have a bless day.