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12
That which defines us.
Part one: the fallen.
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The Pirate King was being followed.

He thought that if the guy was going to tail him, they could at least put some effort into it. There wasn't even any challenge. Luffy could practically hear when the man took a step. Classy shoes were a little impractical if you were trying to be sneaky, as they made all kinds of clacking sounds, especially on cobblestone streets. He was a little disappointed in this regard. Maybe it was just because he was way too strong now and this version of the Marines weren't prepared for him. A grin broke out across his face and he chuckled as he traveled through the dark alleys.

At least Coby has some strong Admirals back home, he mused. His friend had gone through many of them trying to find a specialized team that could give Luffy a challenge. The previous three had quit after only one encounter. I wonder why though, they were cool! The new guys were relatively inexperienced but when they worked together they were quite formidable. He had a lot of fun fighting with those guys.

Luffy turned a corner and came to a dead end. He blinked owlishly at the dark reddish bricks. Pouting and scratched the back of his neck, he concluded that he'd taken a wrong turn somewhere. Ah, whatever, he shrugged and crouched down, about to jump onto the roof of the building. He was supposed to meet Ace at the docks soon, but in his excitement he'd snuck out of Headquarters early. This was the sort of stuff he thrived on, and being able to do it with his brother's counterpart made it that much better.

It had been a very long time since they'd fought side by side.

A flash of light nearly caught him off guard, but his natural reaction time proved useful and he launched himself up into the air. From above the buildings, he saw a ball of yellow-white light that made the ground shake and walls crumble. Is he really attacking people's houses? Luffy thought with surprise. Landing on the shingles of a nearby house, he frowned at the Marine Admiral. "Hey, what the hell are you doing? You could hurt people!"

Kizaru gave him a sideways look from the street below. He wasn't wearing his uniform coat and had one of his hands in his pockets. "Oh, I didn't think you'd care," the man grinned, and Luffy tried not to gag at the smarmy tone. This guy was seriously creepy. "Besides, we aren't in the residential area anymore."

So there's no one here, he continued to stare down at the Admiral. "What do you want?" he asked, impatient. It was getting closer to midnight. Ace would be mad at him if he was late.

"I'm sure you've heard the justice speech numerous times, so I'll save you time by simply killing you," if anything, Kizaru's grin grew. Luffy tilted his head to the side so that his face was hidden in shadows. The moon was full and plump in the sky behind him, and an ocean breeze ruffled his clothes.

"I'd like to see you try," he replied, voice low and challenging. The Admiral's eyes widened from behind his orange sunglasses and his grin faltered for half a moment. The muscles in both of their bodies tensed in preparation.

Kizaru disappeared in a shimmer, and reappeared at the pirate's side, leg extended in attack. A smirk replaced Luffy's frown as he met the Marine's shin with his forearm. Luffy's arm was black with Haki, and he distinctly saw a bead of sweat forming on the other's brow. Kizaru whipped around and tried to roundhouse kick his head, but the King ducked at the last possible moment and disappeared.

A fist collided with Kizaru's spine, and he exploded in a ball of light. The shockwave sent the pirate flying up into the air, the sky tipping as his body flipped. He extended a hand and pushed himself off the peak of a rooftop, righting his balance and landing him on another structure.

Luffy dug his heels into the tiles of the roof, watching as the sphere of light washed the nearby streets white. It was almost like daybreak had come early. He adjusted the straw hat on his head, brow creasing. Am I imagining it, or is he faster than I remember?

A voice to his left spoke, "You're good."

He slowly turned around, fingers clenching and unclenching, "Are we going to keep talking or are we going to fight? I kind of have somewhere I need to be."

Kizaru leered at him, a sword of light forming between his hands, "Yes, I know – you have an appointment with the morgue."

Luffy crouched down in a battle-ready stance, his own grin growing. He was confident in the face of the Admiral, and it seemed that the other man wasn't happy about it. I have some time before I have to meet Ace anyway. This won't take long.

"We'll see about that," the King laughed.


Ace tapped his foot against the ground, growing impatient. When the hell is that idiot going to show up? A tick mark appeared on his forehead as he scanned the nearby streets for signs of movements. It was times like these that he wished he'd trained more in Haki instead of just getting down the basics and then running off after Teach. In some ways, he was clearly at a disadvantage.

He checked his watch for like the zillionth time before giving a huff of irritation and sitting down on one of stone ledges that lined the plaza. If he had to wait here all night, he was going to be beyond pissed. It didn't help that he was a wanted pirate that so happened to be sitting in the largest Marine stronghold. If he was caught, it would be seen as a direct attack against the World Government, and that would not end well.

There was also the story of how his counterpart had been executed … he'd be lying if he said it didn't bother him. Just being anywhere near this place was giving him the creeps, knowing that in another world this was the place he died. Ace looked down at his chest, his leather jacket being unbuttoned out of habit, and sighed. There was no massive fist-sized hole there.

Mugiwara had been completely devastated by the events, and even years later the pain was still fresh. Looking into those eyes … Ace was drawn into the story and could practically hear the screaming of soldiers and the feeling of a fist punching through his body.

It hadn't happened in this world though. The old man was still alive, Ace was still alive, and he was stronger than ever before. There was no way in hell that Blackbeard was going to catch him off guard like that. This world's Ace was shrewd, and could assess and take advantage of opportunities presented to him better than the other Ace. He wasn't so sure whether the reason he agreed to break into Impel Down was tactical reasons or the fact that he genuinely liked the stupid kid. Maybe it was just the thought that revenge was in his reach.

When I get my hands on Teach, he scowled, I'll tear him limb from limb.

He couldn't even admit to himself that he was a coward for not going after Sabo when he was taken. This Mugiwara kid certainly had guts. Storming Impel Down twice … who the hell in their right mind would do that?

While being fond of Mugiwara, he was convinced that the other pirate was bat-shit crazy, and for good reason. It isn't every day that a cross-dimensional traveler starts crying all over you. He still wasn't sure how he felt about that one. The only upside of the situation was that Sabo wasn't about to be executed anytime soon, as he wasn't the son of one of the world's worst criminals. Still … Impel Down was considered hell on earth.

Mugiwara also probably knew the layout of the prison and how to get around, having been there himself. He had himself a guide … a guide that was a complete idiot, and insane. Maybe his chances weren't that good after all.

He was broken from his thoughts when a flash of light lit up the sky. A low drone spread through the air from the center of the blast, making waves in the bay behind him. His eyes widened as he made out two silhouettes fighting. Is that …?

"You shouldn't have agreed to help him."

Ace's eyes took on a murderous glint as he looked at the Marine standing in the entrance to a side street. His gaze was stony and sword already drawn. "So this was a set up?" he asked as he got to his feet and brushed off his pants. If they had to fight their way out, then it meant Impel Down would be waiting for them. This needed to end quickly. He also wasn't very keen on attracting the attention of anyone of higher rank than Vice-Admiral, especially if it was Garp. The old Marine would beat the shit out of him.

There was a slight grin on the other's face, "I thought you would have expected that."

Chuckling, he cracked his knuckles and stepped forwards. "I can't say that it didn't cross my mind. So I'm going to have to fight the Wind Blade to leave this place?"

"Or die," the Marine shrugged and tightened his grip on the hilt of the short katana. "Your bones can rest on the sea floor."

Ace examined the shorter man. Monkey D. Luffy's aura had practically done a 180, and instead of the boy that had been following him and Mugiwara around (acting really strangely, he might add), he was giving off an imposing aura. He was wearing a proper uniform this time and his Captain's coat. There was a gun strapped to his right leg.

A malevolent grin split his face as his fingers tingled with sparks. This was going to be interesting. "Or maybe I'll crack that thick skull of yours open," he growled.

Luffy sneered at him before disappearing in a blur. He's really fucking fast, Ace jolted as his fist met the edge of the silver blade. Fire licked at his arms, but the Haki in the edge of the sword was digging into his super-heated skin. There were no traces of the innocent boy he'd met in the man's intense glare.

The Marine shifted his stance and slashed towards his midsection. Before he could jump back he felt it nick the skin of his stomach. The attack was immediately followed up by a second one, and Ace took several steps back. Shit, he's trying to push me into the water, he concluded as Luffy charged him. A burst of flame deterred the attack and he hopped over the Marine's head to try and kick him in the back. His shin met the side of the silver sword, and it sent him flying backwards towards the buildings on the other side of the street.

Ace lifted himself out of the rubble, coughing up brick dust and smoke. A smirk spread over his face as he adjusted his hat on his head. This guy was stronger than he looked.

"Sacred flame: sea fire!" he shouted and hurled twin lances at the Marine Captain, who was watching him with narrowed eyes. A spear singed the edge of his coat as he leaped to the side and the second cracked the ground behind his feet.

Both of them sprinted at each other, sword in one's hands and balls of fire in the other's. As fast as Luffy was, Ace was easily able to match him. It would be a terrible fate to fall at the hands of a Marine Captain, by his standards. Nothing was going to slow him down, not when he had bigger fish to fry. He danced out of the range of the sword and sent a flaming fist into the shorter man's stomach.

Luffy landed on his feet a dozen feet or so away from Ace. He had his sword horizontal to the ground and both hands around the hilt, white-knuckled. His breathing was labored but eyes sharp, and his shirt was singed. Ace squared his shoulders and stared him down, expression blank. He tried not to wince as he realized the cut on his stomach was worse than he first thought, and now there was blood in his bellybutton heading for the waistband of his pants. Well that's just swell.

Ace tilted his head, showing his teeth as though to say 'come on, is that all you got?' He watched as Luffy's knee bent in preparation for attack, gritting his teeth.

And he watched as a blur came out of nowhere and collided with the Marine's side.

What the fuck!? Ace thought in shock as he jumped back. The surprise had nearly given him a fucking heart attack! There was a loud splash as the swordsman hit the water. Luffy was seriously lucky that he could swim, or he'd probably be dead.

His mouth dropped as he saw Mugiwara clinging to the edge of the wall, a stupid cheesy grin on his face. "Ace, there you are! We have to go – the Marines are attacking!" His hat was dangling off its string on his neck and his borrowed sweater was frayed on one side, but he otherwise looked fine. Ace fought off the urge to smack his palm to his face when the man laughed obnoxiously.

"Are you a fucking idiot!" he screeched at him as the rubber-man hauled himself up onto the street. There was brick dust covering his jeans, so he wiped it off before turning to the older pirate. Replacing his hat onto his head, the pirate beamed at him.

"Shishishi, come on, let's get out of here!" Mugiwara grabbed him by the wrist and started to drag him off towards the docks. After about ten feet of practically being dragged along the ground, Ace peeled the stretchy fingers from his arm and ran beside him. There was an exasperated sigh building in his chest, but he held it in. It wasn't like there he was much he could do about the present situation at hand, and they needed to head out.

If we can get out of here within the next few minutes, the gates will still be open, Ace grit his teeth as he ran. Mugiwara noticed that Ace was worried, but didn't comment. The Pirate King was in too good of a mood to worry, and Ace was such a worrier. This one especially needed to relax.

"You're not leaving!" a loud shout stopped them in their tracks.

Ace and Mugiwara turned their heads back to the Marine, who was back on dry land. There was a pool of water surrounding him and his body was soaked to the bone – he honestly looked like a half-drowned cat. Also, he was pissed.

Luffy raised his sword and slashed at the air fast enough to create a wave that barreled towards the two pirates at a speed they nearly couldn't follow. The two of them scattered as a chunk of the ground was sheared off and fell into the bay. Ace scowled at the Marine – the reckless rage he was emanating made him all the more dangerous.

"That was just like Zoro!" Mugiwara exclaimed in awe, eyes sparkling in wonder. "How did you learn to do that?"

Ace saw Luffy's expression change. The Marine's body was tense, nearly shaking, though his hand was steady. His attention zeroed in on his counterpart, a man with the same face, and his expression held hatred that Ace didn't think Luffy was capable of. The apparent disregard of the Marine's anger was likely insulting to him. Mugiwara obviously didn't see him as a threat.

Luffy's form blurred as his use of Soru kicked in. His blade moved in a flurry of slashes that his pirate counterpart dodged with ease. Mugiwara jumped up on top of the sword and used it as a platform to hurdle into the air and land behind the Marine. He swiped his legs out from under him, but Luffy used the momentum to cut at his neck, aiming to kill.

This fight was not at all like their first one.

Ace was frozen in place, watching as the two Luffys battled. It was like the pirate was toying with his double, with the way he was grinning and all. He was suddenly struck with a sense of familiarity, as though he'd seen this happen before. Maybe he had – he himself enjoyed fighting with the Marines. He was a pirate, and they were all adrenaline junkies. This was also the first time that Mugiwara really got to test out the other's abilities, and who wouldn't be excited by that?

"Eagle's Ire," Luffy hissed as he twisted to the side, spinning in a circle and bringing his blade carving through the air. Mugiwara's eyes grew to the size of dinner plates as a building to his left was halved. His legs automatically launched him into the air, shooting blood through his body. His skin took on a red glow and his limbs turned black as cuts continued to tear apart the ground, heading straight towards him. There were sparks as the blade scratched at his flesh and shredded the sleeves of his shirt. Droplets of blood and water splashed his face, and he saw that the Marine was gripping his sword's hilt tight enough that his fingers were bleeding.

The Pirate King slid across the ground when he landed, sandals scraping across the battered stone. The smile was gone, and now he was staring intently at his counterpart, who was breathing raggedly, sword still aimed towards him. Steam billowed around his form and his fists clenched, "Why are you fighting me?"

"You're a pirate," Luffy spat at him, "and a monster!"

Mugiwara snorted at him in amusement, "You say that like it's a bad thing."

Luffy let out a scream of rage and charged him, katana glinting in the moonlight. Mugiwara simply sidestepped him as the Marine charged past. He stopped himself from laughing aloud.

That's when the pirate noticed that while they were fighting the three of them had been surrounded by a group of Marines. All of them were preparing for battle, swords drawn and guns cocked. He frowned when he realized that he'd just made them his enemy … again, and getting home would be quite the hassle.

He wanted to see his Nakama soon.

BANG!

First, there was nothing. Then a burning feeling seared his nerves and the muscles in his arm convulsed. Grunting in pain and the sudden loss in energy, he fell to one knee, a hand pressed against the left side of his chest in the space between his shoulder and ribs. He felt blood there. Kairoseki bullets … damn.

Ace watched in shock as Luffy pointed his gun towards Mugiwara's head.

A scream ripped from his throat, "NO!" The Marine jerked in surprise as the pirate sprinted at him and crashed into his side, similar to how Mugiwara had earlier. The rest of the Marines charged them before a wall of fire flared up in around the trio.

He didn't bother to listen to their exclamations of how Fire Fist had somehow infiltrated their stronghold. All he knew that he felt really fucking angry, and if they didn't get out of there right now, someonewas going to die. A blast of his fury rippled through the air, and Ace didn't even notice as they toppled like dominoes.

Mugiwara hissed as pain shot up and down his spine, and he clenched his teeth. His legs felt watery and couldn't support him any longer. The ocean's curse was really inconvenient sometimes. Ace grabbed him by the scruff of his shirt and hauled him over his shoulder as though he was a sack of potatoes.

Luffy struggled to his own feet using his sword as a crutch. He was still steaming mad. "Where the hell do you think you're going," he rumbled at the retreating pirate. That last blow knocked all the air out of his lungs and his vision was shaking.

The Second Division commander paused and glanced over his shoulder. Luffy felt the air in his lungs burn – a wave of fear washed over him.

"Stay the fuck away from him."

That was the last thing he remembered before he was engulfed in fire.


"Fuck, this really hurts!" Mugiwara whined. He was using the sleeves of his now ruined sweater to stifle the bleeding; the Kairoseki bullet was lodged deep in there. There was a trail of blood across the deck of the small boat, congregating where Mugiwara was now sitting on the stairs. Ace glared at him from where he was busy steering the boat.

"Don't you know Kenbunshoku Haki? You should have been able to dodge that!" Ace snapped back at him. Seriously, he'd been dodging all of his counterpart's moves up till then, so what the hell had changed?

Mugiwara pouted, "I wasn't paying much attention to him. Besides, I didn't know he had a gun!"

"It was strapped to his leg, you idiot! How the bloody hell did you not see that?!"

"Well I don't use a gun! And he was wearing one of those coats – it looked weird on me!"

Ace gave a strangled sigh and smacked his head against the steering wheel. Oh god, he's hopeless. Why did I agree to help him in the first place? He's going to get the both of us killed!

After knocking his skull against the wooden wheel several times, he heard the distinct vibrations of the Gates of Justice closing behind them. He'd slipped in with a ship two days earlier and had been counting on a scheduled delivery to get them out of there. It was a fucking miracle that they made it out. "I wonder why the alarms didn't sound," he muttered.

Mugiwara looked up at him and gave a one-armed shrug, "The ones that attacked us weren't working on orders."

Scrunching up his eyebrows, Ace contemplated this, "So the Marines are divided – one side sees you as their salvation and the other wants you dead and gone."

"Back home all of the Marines want me dead and gone – except a few of them who are my friends!" Mugiwara said as though it was a normal occurrence. He flashed the commander a toothy grin.

"You have Marine friends?" Ace wasn't sure why anything about this man surprised him anymore.

"Well, Coby's the Fleet Admiral and he lets me–"

"Wait, you're friends with the Fleet Admiral?!" he blanched.

Mugiwara snickered, "Aa."

"You're a fucking lunatic."

He only laughed harder.

Rolling his eyes, Ace turned his gaze back to the horizon.


By the time they reached the Impel Down gates, Mugiwara's bleeding had mostly subsided. Ace helped him bind the wound with bandages he'd found somewhere on the stolen ship, and though the bullet was draining most of his strength, he'd regained the ability to walk. He had to admit, his endurance was impressive. Mugiwara had also torn off the sleeves to the shirt, as they were ruined anyway, and was busy trying to stretch his injured arm, despite Ace telling him to leave it alone.

Fire Fist was scowling as they approached. They'd met no one at the Enies Lobby gates, and the ones before them were being guarded by a group of warships. On the plus side, the gates were still open, and if they could get past the blockade they were all set to go. He stood at the front of the boat, arms crossed over his chest, shifting his weight from side to side in anticipation. Oh, this was really getting on his nerves.

"How many of them are there?" Mugiwara asked, stepping up beside him. He looked a little pale, but otherwise no different. He wasn't explicitly acknowledging that he'd been shot. A determined expression was on his face, and it made Ace feel calmer somehow.

"About twenty, and armed to the teeth. There'll be maybe a couple hundred soldiers on each ship, and a lot of elites. I bet most of them have Kairoseki." Ace narrowed his eyes as the warships started firing their cannons. A cannonball hit the water to their right and rocked the boat, threatening to push them off balance. Neither of the pirates flinched.

"I'll take care of it," Mugiwara said, voice steely. Ace looked over at him, before smirking. If anything, he was looking forward to seeing what he could do.

The strongest man in the world, huh?

The waves grew choppy as they sidled up in front of the Marine ships. He heard shouting from above and many of them already had their weapons drawn. He saw a couple harpoon guns that were outfitted with Kairoseki tips. They looked rather painful. I'm not sure what would be worse: dying by being speared with one of those things or drowning.

Mugiwara tipped his hat so that only one of his eyes was visible and most of his face was shadowed. Ace had to admit, the look was pretty damn intimidating. He was even starting to believe that this guy was the real deal, and maybe they would actually be able to pull this stunt off.

A shiver of unease passed through him as a wave of Haki pulsed from the pirate's slim form. Ace watched in awe as all the bodies on the larger ships dropped and their weapons clattered against the decks. The ocean was silent again as they passed through the colossal gates.

"Son of a bitch," Ace breathed in awe, grinning. From beside him, Mugiwara chuckled, his hand on top of his straw hat.


A/N: Now, before you flay me, may I say a few words?

I understand why you hate Marine-Luffy so much, really I do. I don't hate him though, and I'm actually quite fond of him. I view him as the central character of this story, though I don't often write it from his perspective. His whole world is being torn apart, and that does things to people. A lot of you are pleading for him to understand, but it's never that easy. Sometimes you have to sit in the ruins of what you thought was real before you can see differently. It's a lesson I've learned the hard way.

He's also a Marine Captain, and should have some strength to back it up. The sword is a recent-ish addition (well, it came up a few months ago, but whatever), as I had a picture in my head of him facing an enemy with a sword in one hand and a gun in the other. Like our Luffy, he can seem almost bipolar when it comes to battle. He's also been formally trained, instead of the self-training that our Luffy did (and Rayleigh's lessons), so I don't think it's much of a stretch. Besides, alternate universes and stuff.

silent canary: Thank you. Your words mean a lot to me. I also want to thank you for picking up on the subtler messages. You're spot on. Also, the story really isn't just to show off how powerful the Pirate King is, it's just one of those facets. And in my little head-cannon, Luffy fought alongside the remainder of the Whitebeard Pirates against Blackbeard, but they gave him Akainu.

MisakiXRevive: Yo, he didn't just kill anyone you know. He killed Fleet Admiral Akainu during a major battle. That would freak anyone out.

94Insane: I'm not sure whether or not I should apologize for making you cry. :) Well, I'm glad you like the story anyhow.

Anjelle: Thanks a lot. I love your work - I think I got like five of your stories in my favorites! :D Especially Skip, I read it again last week and I thought to myself: fuck, I gotta update my story, it's been like a month and a half!

Son Goshen: I think I spat out some water when I saw your review, as I'm a huge fan of your work too. ^_^' Well, does this chapter answer your question?

GreenOnBlack: Thank you for remembering.

Thanks to everyone else who reviewed. The response was enormous. It would be a bit tedious to reply to every one of you, and I'm fucking tired right now. This is the second night I've been up till 3AM working on this. Arg. The fact that I can't sit down to get shit done until it's like ten at night doesn't help. But it's done, and it makes me happy.

I had a bit of a moment when I was writing this. Halfway through the fight scene between Ace and Luffy, I was like: holy fuck, I'm actually having them trying to kill each other. FUCK. It's taken me several days to work the choreography out in my head and decide the minor details of the chapter, which is one of my favorite parts about writing chapters. I always have the important bits in my head, but more things come out as I write. It's a good thing that I don't have school this week, else this would have taken a lot longer.

I've been reading the title suggestions, and there are some really good ones. I don't usually take directly from those sorts of things though, but use them to get my mind working. I got two ideas so far. What do you think:

When the tides come in.

or

Break the Eagle's wings.

Not set in stone, but I like those two. :)

Goodnight.

Don't flay me.

- DW