Valkyria : Well everyone, we're finally here. The final chapter of In Loving Memory. It's been one heck of a ride, a short ride, but a fun one nonetheless. I realize that I may have a lot of story alerts and favorites to this story and I'm grateful for that. I'm grateful that I was welcomed into the One Piece fandom so warmly. I don't know if I'm going to do another Ace/Luffy story, but when I do, I hope it will received just as the same or even better than this one. So, thanks everyone, you're the best!
Disclaimer : I claim no rights to anime/manga One Piece!
Current Show : Share the World by Toshiniki
"Happiness is possible only in a relationship with a partner. Imagine that some fellow who has lived his life as a singer goes to an uninhabited island and sings as loudly as possible. If there is no one there to hear him, he will not be happy. To realize that we exist for the sake of others is the great achievement that changes our lives. When we realize that our life is not ours alone but is meant to be for the sake of the other, we begin to follow a path different from the one we were on. Just as singing to yourself will not make you happy, there is no joy without a partner. Even the smallest and most trivial thing can bring you happiness when you do it for another." - Sun Myung Moon.
Chapter Sixteen : Into the Blue.
For the first time in weeks, Antaeus felt as if he no longer held a heavy burden on his shoulders. Everything was brighter, smell better and felt and tasted better. For the first time, he could pull his thin lips into a real, sincere smile. It was a shock to realize that this is what it felt like to feel so carefree and happy. And what he was really feeling during his stay in Baterilla was mere resignation at his situation. He had no idea who he was in the beginning and he was upset at the thought and resigned himself to remaining on Baterilla for the rest of his days. But, if it wasn't for Robin, Sabo, Drake, Kureha then he would have never found the courage to face his memories of his former self. To embrace the fact that he was the husband of the Pirate King, Portgas. D Ace.
He wasn't Antaeus, as much as he fell in love with the name. No, he was Monkey. D Luffy or rather, Portgas D. Luffy. A young boy who dreamed of being a pirate in which those dreams quickly turned into becoming one of navy's best shipwrights which helped him take care of Ace's forty-six ships. Though, he had to admit that taking care of all those ships was hell on earth, he was happy with his duties on board the Moby Dick. And he had been happy sailing the world thrice over with Ace at his side.
But, even though his decision was made, he couldn't help but feel frightened at going back. What would his nakama think of the new him? Would they toss him away or welcome him with open arms? Chopper would welcome him back, he knew that for a fact, but Nami, Marco, Zorro and Usopp were another matter. His friends were always wary when a crew member came back from taking care of personal matters because there was always a chance that they joined another group and remained with the Spade Pirates as a spy temporarily. Such things happened more than once and he was apart of a couple of betrayals seeing as he was always deemed Ace's "weakness." Even so, he was more than ready to return home now and he couldn't wait to see Ace's face when he finally told him.
His anticipation quickened his strides to the point where he arrived back home in half the time it usually took him. He raced up the stairs and through the door to see Ace sitting on the couch with a tired expression on his face, his eyes were darker with sadness and a little bit of anger. Giving himself no time to rest, he jumped onto the couch, startling Ace who had instinctively wrapped his arms around Antaeus' waist. Instead of blushing like he usually did, Anteaus pressed his lips against the corner of Ace's mouth in greeting, snickering when the older man sucked in a sharp breath at his action. It had been a long time since had surprised Ace with anything.
"I've decided." Antaeus murmured against Ace's mouth, chuckling when Ace shivered against him. The thought of making the man aroused sent a shiver down his own spine. It had been such a long time after all.
"Decide? What did you decide, exactly?" Ace questioned, bringing Antaeus closer to him. This was definitely unexpected. He had been sitting on the couch in Robin's living room contemplating on whether or not he should leave early, but he had promised Luffy that he would wait two days and give his husband that allotted time to figure out whether he was staying Baterilla or going back to the Moby Dick with him. But it seemed that Antaeus had made his decision and it was something he was eager to hear. He wouldn't let his husband know that though.
"I want to go home." Antaeus replied, finally pulling away and sitting a few inches away from Ace, turning his head to stare his husband directly in the eye. "I want to go home, Ace. Where I belong."
"Not that I'm not happy with your decision, Luffy, but why now?" Ace turned his body to face him. "You tell me that two days isn't enough time and storm out of here like a child and then you come back and tell me that you're ready to go home? What changed so suddenly?"
"I was scared." Antaeus admitted somewhat relucantly. "I was scared at what would happen if I went back with you and things would be so different because of my memory loss. You know that nakama doesn't trust the ones that leave and come back, even it is just for a month or two. I want things to be the same and not different, but I realize that that is not going to happen."
"No." Ace agreed. "It's not. But, some things don't remain the same and if it did then it would just be boring now wouldn't?"
"Well, yes, but-"
"And so," Ace continued, cutting Antaeus off smoothly. "things have and will change when you come back with me. Our nakama will be overjoyed to see you and yet, with your change they will be somewhat wary, but it's nothing that won't pass after a few weeks time."
"You say that so easily." Antaeus huffed, irritated at Ace's easy-going nature of their situation. "It won't be that easy and you know it."
"I know it, but that won't stop me from trying nonetheless." Ace pulled Antaeus towards him and onto his lap, mentally enjoying the squeak he earned for it. "We're going to be alright, okay? All things take time. We fell in love with each other and got married and both of those things took time, didn't they?"
"Yeah," Antaeus smiled fondly as he remembered Ace clumsy and yet graceful attempts at courting him. He never received the best gifts or the best dates, but he knew they were from Ace's heart and that they were sincere. Besides, getting a giant -yet, feminine- diamond ring was nice every once in a while.
"It's not going to be easy, I know." Ace said, somber. "and I know that our nakama aren't going to take to the new you wholeheartedly, but that's something they're going to have to get used to just like I did and if they don't they are welcome to leave. They may be my nakama, but you are my heart, Luffy. Do you understand?"
"Yes," Antaeus whispered, his heart fiercely beating against his chest at Ace's confession. He had forgotten -with good reason, how sweet Ace could be and how smooth his words and actions could be. It was something he felt guilty for not trying hard enough to remember. Shaking himself out of his gloomy thoughts, he wrapped his arms around Ace's neck and planted a firm kiss against the other's mouth. He quickly pulled away when Ace began to open his mouth, chuckling when his action elicted a hungry growl. "I understand." Antaeus whispered. "I understand, Ace."
"Good." Ace growled, drawing him back in. "I'm glad that you do."
Saying good-bye was easier for some and harder for others. In Antaeus case, it was very hard. He had said good-bye to so many people in his life that he should have been used to it, but he wasn't and he was glad that he still wasn't used to it. Because if you could easily toss out a good-bye then it meant that you really didn't give a damn about the person in general. Well, that was his opinion anyway.
Giving out his first farewell was similar to pulling out a tooth, but Robin somehow made it better with that soft look in her eye and her just as soft words. Though, it was still difficult to say good-bye to the person who took care of you for weeks and gave you a job and a valid reason to wake up every morning.
And Robin, being the sweet, caring and tough woman that she was, took him into her arms and whispered him to be safe and send a letter every once in a while, because despite her seemingly emotionless exterior she did worry about the people she cared about often. It brought tears to his eyes as she finished her good-bye with a kiss to his forehead and cheek. He would never forget Robin or her kindness.
Sabo was next on his list, but his farewell to the blond spitfire was more dramatic than Robin. His friend screamed, cried and hit him repeatedly before taking him into his arms and said that he had or was becoming attracted to Antaeus throughout their stay together, but common sense and Drake had stopped it from becoming anything more. In shock, Antaeus wrapped his arms around Sabo in return and whispered that he was sorry he could never return those precious feelings. Sabo, being the brave and rebellious man he was merely brushed it off with a manic grin and demanded that they have lunch together and go to the beach until sunset.
At the end, Antaeus boldly pressed a kiss to Sabo's cheek which quickly turned into a slap to the back of the head when his friend stated he didn't need any pity. Honestly, try to be nice to the idiot and he thinks it's pity.
"It's not." Antaeus reassured, frowning. "It's a precious farewell. Don't act like we won't see each other again."
"Believe me." Sabo chuckled bitterly, walking away from the beach and him. "We won't."
Still in shock and somewhat sad at the turn of those events, Antaeus proceeded through the town and much to his surprise found Kureha and Drake together sitting near the docks sharing very large cups of sake and pickles.
"Come to say good-bye, boy." Kureha spoke up, turning to face him with a visible flush on her pale, sunken cheeks. "figures you would save the best for last."
"You did save me from dying after all, doctor." Antaeus murmured, sitting inbetween the both of them, shaking his head when Drake offered him a drink. "I wanted to say thank you for putting up with me for the last few weeks."
"Think nothing of it, Antaeus or should we call you Luffy now?" Drake took a sip of his sake, sighing as the cool drink slid down his throat. "how did Sabo take you leaving?"
"Good." Antaeus replied, flushing at the knowing look both of them gave him. "It would have nice to know that he was attracted to me."
"It would have been better if you figured out for yourself, idiot." Kurhea countered playfully before a serious expression crossed her face. "So, you're leaving at last, eh?"
"Yes, finally," Antaeus grinned playfully. "happy to see me go?"
"Dr. Kureha!" Drake scolded while giving Antaeus an apologetic look. "She gets blunt when she starts to drink."
"You mean she's even more blunt when she's sober?" Antaeus stuck his tongue out when Kureha slapped him in the back of the head for his remark. "I only tell the honest truth, doctor. The honest truth."
"We're going to miss you, Antaeus." Drake ruffled his hair playfully. "Very, very much."
Antaeus leaned back and wrapped his arms around Kureha and Drake. "I'm going to miss the both of you as well."
Antaeus expected a quiet departure two days later, but it was much to his and Ace's surprise that almost the entire island came to see them off. He could only take a deep breath to hold in his tears as he saw Robin, Kureha, Drake and Sabo watching them from the stairs leading down to the beach.
"Take care, Antaeus!" Sabo waved from the stairs. "And make sure that dumbass doesn't lose you again, eh?"
Antaeus quickly kissed Ace on the cheek to stop the growl erupting from the older man's throat. Lifting his arm, he gave a wild wave in Sabo's direction, winking when the blond-haired man blushed lightly. Who knew that such a bold man like Sabo would be so shy?
"Be good, boy!" Kureha waved her flask at him, spilling some of the plum wine to the sand. "No more injuries, you hear."
"I'll do my best, doc!" Antaeus chuckled as Kureha scowled at him before leaving the stairs and disappearing into the crowds. He would make sure to stay uninjured just for her. Looking around, he grinned in Robin's direction and felt a rush of warmth when she smiled in return, raising her hand half-way and waving.
"Are you ready?" Ace asked, standing near the skiff that would take them back to the Moby Dick. "Marco will come looking for me if I'm not back at the time I told him."
"Yeah." Antaeus sniffed lightly, giving the departing crowds one last wave before boarding the skiff. "I'm ready."
"Still scared?" Ace murmured, wrapping a strong around Antaeus' tiny waist. It felt good to put his arms around his husband freely and not feeling the man tense at the action.
"A little," Antaeus jerked as the skiff plowed forward and into the clear, blue sea. He couldn't believe it, he was heading back home to where he belonged and he would admit that it felt good and for the first time a long while he felt...peaceful.
"That's fine." Ace rubbed his hips idly before murmured. "I love you, you know that, right?"
"Of course I do." Antaeus felt his lips pulling into a beaming grin when saw the Moby Dick coming into sight, and more than half of their crew were leaning over the railing, smiling and cheering at their apporach.
"I think I'm ready now." Antaeus whispered over the rushing waves, but he knew that Ace could hear him perfectly.
"Ready? Ready for what?"
"To take my name back." Antaeus leaned back against his husband, enjoying the sea breeze ruffling through his hair. "I'm ready to be called Luffy again."
"Good." Ace pressed a loud kiss against his cheek. "Welcome back, Portgas D. Luffy."
"I'm glad to be back, Portgas. D. Ace."
A/N : And In Loving Memory comes to a close! Thanks for taking time to read this story, everyone. I really appreciate it.