A/N: Just something cute I thought of. At this time, Ace should have been around 10 or 11. Please enjoy and review!
For My Little Bro
"Hey, Makino . . ." a young boy called out to the young woman from the open doorway. His voice sounded uncharacteristically timid; Makino had never seen the boy look so unsure of himself before. Looking up from her position behind the bar, she beckoned him in with a warm smile and a nod.
"Good morning, Ace. What can I do for you?"
At her friendly tone, he visibly relaxed, walking through the swinging doorways to take a seat on one of the stools in front of her. It was the same stool Luffy had sat in earlier that morning. Makino smiled fondly as she recalled the younger boy—he had been boasting about his treasure tab again.
After a brief moment of silence, Ace gave a nervous cough. "W-well, um . . ."
"Hm?" Makino raised an eyebrow. Really, such strange behavior for a usually confident boy. What had gotten into him today?
She put down the mug she had been polishing and wiped her hands with a spare rag, turning her full attention to Ace. Whatever it was, she was ready to hear him out.
The freckled boy glanced up at her, then began, "Well, you know, I've been hearing a lot about this Shanks guy from Luffy. Apparently the guy saved his life."
Ah . . . Makino still recalled that day quite clearly. The red-haired pirate had swum back to shore, Luffy in one arm, and nothing in the other. His arm had simply disappeared, leaving behind a widening pool of blood. It had been a devastating shock to Luffy, but Makino knew it had also served to multiply Luffy's admiration of the pirate one hundred fold. He talked of almost nothing else these days. The straw hat Luffy always wore on his head seemed to serve as a constant reminder of his beloved hero.
"Yes, Shanks saved Luffy from being eaten by a sea monster, and lost his arm to the beast in return," Makino's smile turned somber.
"O-oh," Ace squirmed awkwardly. "I-I hadn't realized the guy got his arm e-eaten. Luffy never mentioned that part."
"Yes, well, it must be quite painful for Luffy to talk about it. It's barely been 2 years—most likely, he still remembers what happened as clearly as yesterday."
"Yeah . . ."
There was an awkward pause.
Makino, who sensed that she had interrupted what Ace wanted to say, quickly apologized. "Oh, but I'm sorry, Ace. You had something more to say, didn't you?"
"Well, yeah. I mean, yes, I did."
Ace scratched his head, struggling for the right words. The consternation on his face clearly reflected the effort it took for him to say it.
Finally, he seemed to summon up his courage. "Hey, Makino. You need to teach me how to greet someone properly."
This time, it was Makino's turn to pause awkwardly. ". . . teach you to . . . ?"
"Yeah. You know," a blush crept over the freckles on Ace's face. "So I can, uh, go show my appreciation to that Shanks guy. For saving my brother's life. You know what I mean?"
The woman had to cover her mouth to stifle a bout of laughter. This boy, the way he was glaring at her as if daring her to refuse . . . it was simply adorable. Knowing that Ace's reputation as a rude and violent kid had grown quite infamous in these parts, she couldn't help but think that Luffy had worked his magic around Ace, too. To think that Ace would care enough to ask for help for his little brother's sake . . .
Seeing Ace beginning to scowl at Makino's prolonged silence, the woman cleared her throat. "I see. So, you want to learn some manners, is that it?"
"Well . . . that's one way of putting it," he muttered.
Makino gave him a smile. "That's very sweet of you, Ace. I'm sure Luffy would be happy to hear about this, too."
Ace jumped in surprise. He waved his arms wildly, shaking his head back and forth as he shouted, "No, no! Don't tell Luffy! I'm doing this without him knowing, alright? If you tell him, I'll kill you!"
"Oh? Why don't you want Luffy to know?"
"That's . . . !" Ace's face flushed again, and he looked away from her with a deep frown on his face. He looked like a man pondering life's deepest questions, and Makino waited patiently, neither encouraging nor discouraging him. But, just when he looked like he'd found the answer, a few customers walked through the bar doors. Though they barely took notice of Ace and Makino, the boy's lips snapped shut like a clam. "Just don't tell him, alright?"
"Alright, Ace. I'll keep it a secret from Luffy," Makino nodded, sighing. She figured he probably felt embarrassed. The ever-present shade of red on his cheeks was all Makino needed to see.
The boy looked back up at her, almost cautiously. "Uh, does that mean you're gonna do it?"
"Of course," she nodded again, "I'm honored that you thought of me as a suitable candidate to be your teacher. When would you like to start?"
At the question, Ace relapsed back into deep thought. The bar-owner took the opportunity to go serve her new customers two mugs of beer. When she came back to the counter, she could hear Ace mumbling things like "Dadan's no good, anyways—she's even ruder than me" and "Sabo would just make fun of me" and other such tidbits. Makino wisely pretended not to notice.
Finally, Ace looked up and declared, "We start today. Right here, right now. I've gotta get back to Sabo by afternoon, so hurry it up."
Makino gave another sigh. She knew exactly where she had to start.
"Then let's start off by rephrasing what you just said."
"What I just said?" Ace gave her a puzzled look. Makino nodded as she picked up an empty mug to clean.
"Yes. Right now, who is the one asking for a favor, you or me?"
"Well . . ." Ace looked down and mumbled, "me, I guess."
"When you're asking for a favor, you ask nicely. Some people say that 'please' is the magic word. Now, try asking me again: to start your lessons today. But ask nicely."
"Eh!?" Ace's eyes widened. "Are you kidding? 'Please?' I'll never say something that makes me sound so weak!"
He crossed his arms defiantly. Looking down at her stubborn pupil, Makino put the shiny mug down on the counter.
They had a long way to go.
—one week later—
Makino gave a nod of encouragement. "What do you start with?"
"H-hello, nice to meet you," Ace began uncertainly. "What do you want?"
"No, no, Ace. That makes it sound like you aren't happy to meet them. What did I say was the first question you ask when you greet a stranger?"
"Um . . . their name."
Ace tried again. "Er, nice to meet you. Tell me your name."
"You can't demand it, Ace. You have to ask politely. And you have to tell them your own name first," Makino gave a helpless smile. "Would you like me to show you again?"
The pupil gave his teacher an eager nod. So, for the fifteenth time that morning, Makino cleared her throat and said, "Hello, nice to meet you. My name is Makino, what's your name?"
She paused, then gestured for Ace to follow suit.
The boy didn't look very reassured, but tried to copy her words anyway. "H-hello, nice to meet you. My name is Makino, what's your name?"
At this, she couldn't help it—she burst out into laughter, drawing the curious stares of some of her early customers in the bar. Ace blushed up to the roots of his hair, protesting violently, "but you told me to copy you exactly!"
"But you have to say your own name, Ace," said Makino as she giggled a few more times. "Unless you'd like everyone to think your name is Makino."
"No thanks," was the surly reply. "But seriously, this line sounds stupid. 'Nice to meet you.' What if it isn't nice to meet them? What if I don't want to know their name?"
"Well . . ." this was the third time Ace had asked such a question in the past week, and none of Makino's more sensible answers seemed to satisfy him. Pondering his question, Makino decided she would have to resort to some extreme explanations if she wanted Ace to cooperate.
"Let's see. Then let's take your example and say that you meet someone you don't really like," Makino said. Immediately, Ace seemed to perk up as he gave her a curious stare.
Her smile turned rueful at this reaction—it was much different from his earlier ones. Makino continued, "Then, if that person were to come up to you and say 'hello, nice to meet you, my name is so-and-so,' how would you feel?"
"I'd knock his front teeth out."
". . . I assume you would be fairly annoyed."
Ace, who seemed irritated simply by imagining it, nodded.
At his agreement, Makino clapped her hands together. "You see! Now, if it was the same situation, but you were to say 'nice to meet you' first, how would that make the other person feel?"
Her question made Ace pause. He seemed to digest the implications of the situation, and then slowly broke out into a grin. "He'd be pissed as hell."
"So would you like to try saying it again?"
This time, the boy recited the lines perfectly, even accompanying with a smirk. "Hello, nice to meet you. My name's Ace. What's yours?"
His teacher let out a breath. One week to teach Ace the basic greeting from one human being to another. And she wasn't even sure that he had the right idea about it. But, in any case, that concluded lesson 1.
—two weeks later—
"S-s-s-so . . ."
She nodded encouragingly as Ace stumbled over the accursed consonant, both of them feeling frustrated but trying hard not to show it. The elder woman was doing a much better job at hiding her inner thoughts; the boy looked ready to explode with mortification, or anger, or both.
Ace took a deep breath, and squeezed his eyes shut tightly. "Sorr—!"
At the same moment that Makino's face lit up with joy, the swinging doors of her bar burst open to reveal one very hyper little boy. The intruder looked out of breath, but his smile stretched from ear to ear when he spotted his elder brother and friend sitting at the bar.
Luffy failed to notice the dark, brooding look the elder boy was giving him as he yelled out, "Ace! Makino! What are you guys doing here? I've been looking everywhere for you, Ace!"
Ace growled. "I told you not to look for me in the mornings, squirt. What do you want?"
"Well, I was bored so I wanted to play with you, but then I got hungry, so I decided to come to Makino's place for lunch. But then I found you! Shishishi, that was pretty lucky."
"Oh, yeah? I'll show you lucky!" with that, Ace launched himself across the room at Luffy, who screeched as they both tumbled backwards onto the road. Some of the customers turned their heads briefly at the noise, but then went back to their meals, wise enough to know that where there was Luffy, there was bound to be loud noises.
With a sigh, Makino went around the tables to place orders, occasionally glimpsing the two boys wrestling each other on the dirt road outside. For the most part, Ace would come out on top, but the boy would purposely fall backwards to allow his little brother to get some hits in as well.
Really, she had to wonder. Ace had a kind heart, especially when it came to a certain Monkey D. Luffy, yet he couldn't seem to say a simple thing like 'thank you' or 'sorry.' Perhaps it had to do with the way he was raised—Makino thought of Garp's rough personality and gave an involuntary nod. Plus, those mountain bandits. Makino doubted that they taught Ace how to say "thanks" after a meal.
"Well, I suppose today's lesson is over," she said to herself as she wiped down a table. And he had been so close to saying the forbidden word, too. Honestly, she felt a little disappointed.
Just then, to her disbelief, her ears caught the sound of Ace's voice yelling "Sorry—!" over the scuffling sounds of their play. With a start, she rushed out the doorway, emerging just in time to see the pair rolling away from a man who had obviously been knocked over by them as they wrestled this way and that. The man sat where he had fallen, his white pants smeared with dirt.
Makino hurried over to him. "Oh, dear. I apologize for the mess, sir. They're just boys having some fun . . ."
"Ah, no. It's fine," the man seemed to come to at the sound of her voice. Getting up, he dusted himself off as best he could before picking up his fedora hat from where it had fallen. "I was a young boy once, too. I can appreciate a bit of rough play, hahaha."
At his dismissive tone, Makino gave a sigh of relief. The man looked over at Ace and Luffy again, gave a chuckle, then bowed to Makino before continuing on his way. Bowing back, Makino watched the stranger for a moment before turning back to the culprits.
So, Ace did know how to say sorry. She smiled, very pleased with her student. And he'd been having such a hard time with it, too. Perhaps he wouldn't need to spend a year learning basic manners as she had originally planned.
After a few more tussles, the brothers had finished their bout of wrestling and now stood dusting themselves off, still shooting challenges and insults to each other playfully. As Makino approached them to offer them some lunch at her bar, Ace looked up at her and asked, "hey, why did you and that man bow to each other just now?"
"Hm?" Makino blinked, then realized this presented a good opportunity for her to teach him something more. "Ace, people bow to each other when they say 'hello' or goodbye.' You can also bow if you're really thankful to someone, or if you want to apologize to them sincerely. Why don't you try it sometime?"
"Eh . . . but," Ace hesitated, glancing down at Luffy. He didn't want to do something like that in front of his little bro.
But Luffy, for his part, seemed to take to this advice with gusto. "Bowing to someone if you're thankful!? Hey, Makino!"
Luffy stood up straight, then gave a 90 degree bow to her as he yelled at the top of his lungs, "thanks for lunch!"
Both Ace and Makino froze, with Ace's mouth hanging slightly open, but Luffy looked perfectly serious. He gave her a wide grin, then dashed into the bar to wait for his well-deserved noontide meal. Behind him, Makino looked down at Ace and felt slightly amused. The boy could not have been more shocked if Luffy had offered to share his meat with his elder brother.
As Ace stuttered incomprehensibly at what had just happened, Makino chuckled. "Ace, I think you had better step up in your lessons. Even Luffy seems to have a better idea than you on how to be polite."
"Shut up," he mumbled quietly. She simply laughed.
Later on, when Ace muttered "thanks for the meal" in a barely audible voice as he finished off his sandwich, Makino proudly considered that day's lesson a success.
—three months later—
Nudging the reluctant boy in the back, Makino pushed him closer to the customer sitting on a stool at the end of the bar. "Go on, Ace."
"Do I really have to?"
"Yes. If you can do this well, I'll consider you to have passed your manner lessons for good."
Though he looked highly uncomfortable, Makino's words seemed to renew Ace's determination. With a somewhat forced smile, Ace walked up to the man and stood behind him. The boy's stare into the man's back could have burned holes into the poor man's shirt.
Ace stopped, looking back uncertainly at Makino for assurance, who simply waved a hand in his direction.
With a final deep breath, Ace tapped the man on his shoulder. "E-excuse me."
So far, so good.
The man turned around. He seemed to be in his late forties, and as far as Makino knew, he was a certain Mr. Frederick, who had moved into Fuschia Village just over a month ago. Though he was a quiet guy, she had found him to be a nice enough man. As someone for Ace to practice his manners with, Mr. Frederick, who didn't know of Ace's notoriety just yet, had seemed perfect for the job.
As expected, the man gave a small smile at the boy who had called him. "Yes? What can I do for you, young man?"
This positive response seemed to reassure Ace. The boy's smile relaxed a bit, and his next words definitely flowed out more naturally than before. "Hi, my name's Ace, and I was just wondering if I could join you for a drink?"
Flawless. Makino gave a silent round of applause, noting that Ace himself looked fairly proud of his perfect execution. Mr. Frederick hesitated, glanced up at the female bar-owner who seemed to be looking in their direction, and finally gave a nod.
He didn't know what was going on, but the boy really, really looked like he wanted Mr. Frederick to say yes. Who was he to deny the young one? "Sure, son. Take a seat."
"Alright!" Ace yelled aloud, before clapping a hand over his mouth. His eyes bulged out; he didn't mean for that to be said out loud.
What if the man decided not to drink with him anymore?
That would mean he would have failed, right?
Ugh, Ace had known from the beginning that things like manners and politeness just didn't go over well with him. It had been hopeless from the start . . .
Mr. Frederick, who had blinked at the strange boy's sudden exclamation, gave a sudden laugh. "My, didn't know it was so exciting to drink with an old guy like me."
Eh? He didn't sound too mad. Ace shifted his eyes up and found that indeed, the man was looking down at him in amusement.
"Ah, w-well . . ." Ace scratched his head and attempted to smile naturally. As naturally as possible. "yeah, I'd love to drink with you. So, w-would you mind telling me your name?"
"Haha, the name's Elton Frederick. Just Elton will do. You're Ace, right? Have a seat here . . . that's it. Why don't you tell me a bit about yourself, Ace?"
With that, the stage was set. For the next hour, Ace chatted happily with the older man, often pausing or backtracking on himself to make sure he implemented everything he'd learned over the past few months. He even managed to say 'thank you' twice, and squeezed a 'yes, please' in there at the last minute, when Mr. Frederick asked Ace if he wanted a refill. When Makino walked over to pour the both of them their second rounds, she winked at Ace, who grinned back in triumph.
Lessons were over.
—7 years later, on a remote island somewhere in the New World—
"Dahahahaha, what an unexpected visitor that was, eh, Ben?"
"Yes, certainly. I hadn't expected Luffy's older brother to drop by out of the blue like that. And just to say 'thank you,' too. The boy's got some manners in him."
Red-haired Shanks gave another laugh at Ben Beckman's words. "Aye, sure acts nothing like that wild monkey boy, eh?"
"This rookie Fire-fist's got more sense than you, captain!" Lucky Roo whistled, tearing off a hunk of grilled chicken with his teeth.
Beside him, Yasopp gave his own two cents. "I've never seen a pirate risk his life just to say 'thanks.' That's quite a bold one, haha!"
Listening to his crew, Shanks recalled the young rookie pirate who had visited them yesterday, claming to be Luffy's older brother. At first, Shanks had thought Fire-fist had come to challenge one of the four Yonko. Boy, had he been surprised when Ace gave him a deep bow, accompanied by his sincere gratitude to the Red-haired man for saving his little brother.
"Hmm, maybe I should have snagged him before Whitebeard gets to him first," Shanks mused, rubbing his chin. The young man had talent, and a good heart as well, judging from his actions. Plus, the boy was polite. Shanks couldn't remember the last time someone had greeted him, one of the most feared pirates in the sea, with a simple "Hello, nice to meet you."
"Yeah, the boy's got guts," Ben breathed out slowly, smoke from his cigarette rising into the air. "But I don't think I'd want him aboard our ship."
"Eh? Why not?" Shanks raised an eyebrow. Ben wouldn't say something like that without good reason.
Ben simply gave him a meaningful look. "Between you and that doting older brother of Luffy's, it wouldn't take three days for all of our ears to fall off hearing about Luffy all the time. You realize that whenever you two got together last night during the party, Luffy was pretty much the only thing you two talked about?"
At this, Shanks scratched his head. "Hm? Did we?"
The rest of the crew answered him with a resounding "YES!"
The First Mate grinned, turning to the pirates who had shouted. "And would you boys want to have a repeat of last night, every night . . . for the rest of our pirating careers?"
Some of them looked queasy just thinking about it.
Yasopp gave a tired wave. "Sorry, captain. As much as we love to hear about Luffy and all, I wouldn't want to hear about the kid all the time."
At this, the entire crew turned on the sharpshooter and bellowed out, "You've got no right to say that, you doting father!"
Yasopp started back. "Eh? Is that so? Wahahaha, sorry about that, mates. But what can I say? Let me tell you about the time when Usopp climbed the tree in our backyard . . ."
Shanks frowned as Yasopp began his rant anew. Suddenly, he understood perfectly what Ben had meant when he said he didn't want Ace on board. Shanks himself talked about Luffy enough as it was—if Ace were added to the equation . . .
Shanks scratched his head ruefully. "I guess it wouldn't work out too well."
"No, it wouldn't," replied Ben, his face serious. "So don't even think about it."
And so, Portgas D. Ace narrowly escaped recruitment from the Red-haired pirates, going on to join the Whitebeard pirates as their 2nd division commander instead. It would take only days before Whitebeard's sons lodged a formal complaint to their father, demanding that Ace be forbidden from talking about his little brother for more than 5 hours at a time.
Even if Ace always apologized politely for his incessant rantings, it still didn't change the fact that he wouldn't stop talking.
Back in Fuschia Village, Makino had a sudden thought. "Oh, my. Perhaps I should have taught him how to follow up his words with actions. I hope he doesn't run into any trouble for that."
A/N: Ahaha, I always thought that Ace's politeness didn't always match up with his actions. In Alabasta, when he crashes through the houses and apologizes for interrupting a family's meal, he does nothing to actually help clean up the mess. Some goes for when he hops aboard Buggy's ship and joins the party-his explanation is well-mannered, but he continues to crash their party. XD
It was a funny thought, and it just makes Ace a more lovable character. Anyways, please. Tell me what you thought!