Chapter 1 (Mildly AU in that I've messed with Ace's back-story like WUT. I've also messed with what Haki can do. I've made it do a lot of things that it doesn't do in the manga or anime, but I think are cool. Oh, and Ace isn't division commander yet, just another member of 2nd division.)
Ace shouldered the small bag holding the possessions he brought with him on missions and turned to look at the fast-approaching ship off the bow of his small flame-powered speedboat. There it was, the Moby Dick, his home of a little over a year now. Ace raised his arm in a wave to anyone who might currently be on watch. He smirked when he saw someone return the wave from the aft deck and promptly run towards Oyaji's room. He'd probably still be asleep at this hour, but he usually liked to be informed when his sons returned from longer-term assignments. Ace's smile widened and he continued his progress towards the ship.
Less than two hours later, Ace found himself seated comfortably at one of the galley's tables, drinking a cup of tea and digging in to a book he had picked up along his trip. There were a couple people sitting at the table. Marco and Thatch were both present, as well as several members of second division. They were discussing recent events aboard the Moby Dick. Ace was fairly sure it was for his benefit, and was half listening, as he hadn't been on the ship for the last three weeks and wanted to be up-to-date on the goings-on of his home.
"—and right now there's a marine on the ship! A marine! Apparently we bribe him to keep us updated on the layout of various high-level bases even the guys from twelfth division can't get into." One of the younger members was speaking energetically, gesticulating wildly to try to get the excitement of the announcement across. Ace looked up at this, curiosity written on his face.
"Really? What's the guy's name? I didn't know we had any allies in the government." Ace marked his page in the book, setting it down to engage himself more fully in the conversation. The younger pirate looked shocked to have actually caught his attention and stared at Ace for a moment with wide eyes. Ace raised an eyebrow.
"Oh, right. I haven't met him personally, but I think I heard Thatch say his name was Edward Hare. He's apparently a fairly high-ranking marine-"
Ace had stopped listening. He sat, completely frozen. He didn't breathe, didn't blink, was mildly surprised his heart was still beating. Edward Hare. The name echoed in his head, becoming an all-encompassing din. Once the shock began to wear off, something else flooded up to take its place. Anger. Hate. Unstoppable, uncontrollable rage. Fury unlike anything Ace had ever felt before. How dare that man be here? How dare he be alive?Ace made sure none of these thoughts or emotions showed on his face or were betrayed by his voice, and seemingly nonchalantly asked, "And where might he be now? I'd very much like to meet him." He said it all with a small, seemingly kindly smile painted on his face. His eyes showed no such compassion. Their usual shade of dark hazel-grey had turned to something harder. Darker. More like steel. Cold as ice, unforgiving, and as sharp as the sea-stone imbued knife on his belt. Thatch, at least, noticed, and was currently regarding Ace warily. Marco glanced at Thatch, then back at Ace. Both remained silent for the time being, but were watching Ace closely.
"Hmm? Oh, last I heard, he was below-decks, in the storeroom near the infirmary. He's apparently some kind of surgeon and—hey where are you going?"
Ace had stood up suddenly and was now making his way across the galley, towards the hallway leading to the sickbay. He was walking fast, even by his standards. Marco and Thatch both stood up to follow him, sensing something bad brewing. Ace noticed them following him, but frankly, didn't give a shit. He was beyond the point of caring. His jaw was set, and his steps filled with purpose as he stalked down the hallway.
Ace didn't hesitate for a second before bursting through the door. It slammed back against the wall loudly, but Ace's attention was focused solely on the room's current occupant. He had turned around at the noise, and was regarding Ace curiously. He was of medium height, and very non-descript, except for the fact that he was missing one eye. He had an eye-patch over it, but you could tell he didn't wear it just for show by the large scar snaking out on the underside of the black piece of cloth. One eyebrow was raised in question, but no words left his mouth.
There wasn't time for them anyway.
Ace crossed the room in the blink or an eye. Before the man could so much as twitch Ace had shoved him up against the wall, his fist grasping the man's shirt and his forearm shoved against the man's collarbones, momentarily forcing the air from his lungs. In his other hand, he held his knife, his entire arm pulled back, poised to stab the man in the throat or head.
"You son of a bitch!" Ace's mouth was drawn into a deep scowl, and his eyes reflected even deeper anger. The man seemed unconcerned. His face was placid, but his eyes held confusion. He cocked his head inquisitively to the side, but otherwise made no move. It was then that Marco and Thatch came running through the door behind Ace.
They both stared in shock for a moment. Marco was the first to recover. "What hell are you doing Ace?!"
Hare turned calmly from Ace to look back at Marco and Thatch at their entry, but upon hearing the name, his eyes widened in surprise and refocused on Ace with newfound interest. His mouth widened into a smile. "Ace…" He dragged the word out, speaking low, almost to the point that it was a loud whisper. "You've grown so much! I didn't even recognize you!"
Ace's eyes narrowed dangerously, but Hare continued, unperturbed. "How's Sabo doing?" At this, Ace gave a near inhuman snarl of rage and drew his arm back further in preparation to strike. His arm darted forward, moving so fast it was nearly a blur. He would kill this man. There was no guilt, and no regret, no chance of mercy or compassion.
The voice boomed across the room, serious and direct. And while none was held in the words, the tone implied an absolute command. Everything in the room froze. It was as if time itself stood still, waiting for the instructions the voice would convey.
Ace had frozen too. His blade was less than a centimeter away from Hare's whole eye, and the muscles in Ace's arm were still taught enough that even from this distance if he attacked now, Hare would die. But that voice held no other option besides obedience.
"Put. Him. Down. Now." Oyaji's voice seemed magnified in the dead silent room. From the moment Ace had moved to stab Hare, his face had gone dead, completely devoid of emotion. Hare, on the other hand, had retained his friendly, patronizing smile the whole time. At hearing the command, some emotion returned to Ace's face. He glared at Hare menacingly.
"You don't know what he's done. He deserves to die." The words came out angry, the last sentence's words were rushed and accentuated. For the whole exchange, he maintained eye contact with Hare, his gaze burning into Hare's own.
"I said. Put. Him. Down."
Ace looked over his shoulder and made eye contact with Whitebeard. Whitebeard's eyes were as hard and determined as Ace's own. They remained at a standstill for a moment longer before Ace said slowly, with his disgust clear in every word, "Yes, captain." Whitebeard's eyes widened. When Ace had joined, he had been overjoyed to have found a family, particularly someone to replace his own father, who he hated above all else. He hadn't used the familial title Whitebeard usually went by, obeying not out of love, but because of authority.
But he did obey. He slowly released Hare and pulled the knife away. The movements were jerky, as if it were only by sheer force of will that he was able to stop himself at all. There was a pause. The room grew silent again.
Then, without warning or explanation, Ace spun on his heel and marched out of the room, face seemingly calm. Or rather, empty. Drained. He didn't stop to look or speak with Thatch, Whitebeard, or Marco, and left the door open behind him.
"I'm sorry about that. Ace is usually a much more rational sort. Out of curiosity, why is it that he hates you so much?" Hare's eyes had tracked Ace as he left the room, but at Whitebeard's question, his gaze returned to the people left in the room.
Hare smiled for a moment before replying, "He blames me for the accidental death of a very dear friend of his."
End Chapter One