So this fic is something that pretty much literally came to me in a dream. And I thought it was a pretty good story so why not make a fic out of it?
It's an AceLu BROTHERLY fic, as I stated in the discription. There will be NO romance of any kind between these two. I'm not too sure about others yet. I might pair Ace with someone in the future (NOT an OC). I've also tweeked Ace and Luffy's ages, they're 15 and 3 respectively, so 12 year age difference. All other canon characters I introduce in this fic will be the ages - or approximate ages - they are in canon at the time they are introduced.
This is, however, probably the darkest fic I've written. It's rated T right now, a VERY strong T, but that rating may go up. If it ever gets to a point where you think that it should go up, but it hasn't, please let me know. As this fic is about slavery, it will contain mentions of abuse, including physical, mental, and sexual. I don't plan on saying anything out right, but it will be heavily hinted at sometimes and I'm not sure how explicit it will get. I promise to give warnings as appropriate on a chapter by chapter basis.
This is also a bit of an experiment for me writing wise, so any suggestions and criticism is welcome.
Warnings: slavery, kidnapping, branding, child slaves, physical abuse (minor)
Disclaimer: Alas, the answer is still no.
The Selfless Child
When Ace came too, the first thing he registered was pain.
Burning, searing pain. The kind of pain he hadn't felt in years. Not since he had eaten his Devil Fruit when he was twelve. A power that, for some reason, he could not feel anymore, could not use. He felt empty; the constant warmth of his fire no longer there to soothe him. It was agonizing; his back felt like it was on fire, skin and flesh seared down to bone. It hurt to move, hurt to breath. It was agonizing. But Ace clenched his jaw and grit his teeth, refusing to let any sound escape, refusing to let them know he was in pain, refusing to give them the satisfaction. He may have been caught, but he was not broken.
As the pain in his back dulled, he let his senses take over. He was lying on his stomach, the surface beneath him hard and cold, a sharp contrast to his back. Something cool was locked in place around his neck, wrists, and ankles. A collar. Shackles. And suddenly, with startling clarity, Ace realized that the burning pain in his back was a brand. He hadn't just been kidnapped. He had been sold.
Fury coiled in his gut and rage bubbled up his throat. But, again, Ace tightly clamped his lips shut, cutting off any noise trying to make its way out. He had heard stories about this; ships with unmarked flags raiding islands and kidnapping people, pirates and civilians alike. He'd always thought it odd that there were never any marines that were reported missing. They counted as people too, so why shouldn't be they taken as well? Ace had his answer now. And it sickened him. Marines weren't taken because they supported this disgusting practice. Even though the World Government had clear laws against it. Even though innocent people were being snatched from their beds.
Ace felt sick to his stomach.
He had been on a marine protected island.
It shouldn't have happened.
Shouldn't have even been a possibility.
And yet here he was.
The only consolation he had was that he had prevented them from taking anyone else. He had always figured something like this would happen to him eventually, given the blood that ran through his veins, but the others. They didn't deserve something like this.
Ace was pulled out of his thoughts when cool air brushed over the wound on his back. His eyes snapped open of their own accord and he was met with the sight of a boy. A very young, very small boy. He was thin, startlingly so, but his face somehow still held the roundness of a child's. He had big, brown eyes, a small scar under the left one, and a mop of black hair. He wore nothing but a pair of worn and ragged shorts, no shirt, no shoes. His wrists and ankles were free of shackles, but the collar around his neck marked him; Ace didn't need to see his back.
This boy was a slave.
Ace's mind rebelled furiously against the idea; this boy was so tiny, so small. He looked no older than three. It simply wasn't possible. Yet all of the evidence was there.
The cool sensation rushed over his back again, slightly soothing his pain for a few seconds. Ace realized it was coming from the boy. He was kneeling by Ace, balancing himself on his hands, and carefully blowing on the fresh brand seared into his skin. Ace couldn't understand why but he was marveled by this. This little boy, this toddler, was helping him. He could have laughed from the absurdity of it all.
His eyes flitted around the room they were in. Or rather, the cell. It was small, the floor, ceiling and three of the walls made of cold, unforgiving stone. The fourth wall was made of metal bars. Ace could see another cell across from theirs, and he suspected they were all the way down the hall.
Suddenly, his vision was obscured by another face in front of his. The boy had noticed he was awake and leaned over so that his face was on the floor right in front of Ace's. The teen blinked at the blank expression on the child's face before the boy's lips pulled into a wide grin and he got up and turned. And there was the slave brand. Right in the center of his little back. Something in the teen clenched at the sight of it on such a small body. Ace followed him with his eyes as best he could before the boy disappeared from his line of sight and it hurt too much to move.
He didn't have to wait long to see what was going on as the boy came back fairly quickly. He placed two small rolls of bread and a cup of water on the ground in front of Ace, sitting on the ground and beaming at the teen. Ace stared at the boy's expression. It was so…happy. So genuinely happy. Ace couldn't wrap his head around it.
When Ace didn't make any sort of move to take the food, the boy picked up one of the rolls and pressed it to Ace's lips. The teen blinked, startled both by the action and the sudden change in the boy's expression. He was frowning now, pushing the bread insistently against Ace's mouth.
Slowly, Ace let his lips part. And just like that, the boy's smile was back. He carefully pushed the bread into Ace's mouth, a look of intense concentration on his face, brows furrowed and tongue sticking out of the corner his mouth. Ace closed his teeth around the bread and took a bite; it was dry and incredibly stale. But he knew he wasn't going to get anything better and had to take what he could get. The bread was gone quickly and now the boy was staring at the cup, his gaze occasionally shifting to Ace's mouth, that same look of concentration on his face.
In any other situation, Ace was sure he would be laughing and teasing this kid for wearing such an expression. He was tempted to laugh regardless. He knew he wouldn't be able to drink the water from this angle. Mentally bracing himself, Ace pushed himself up and carefully rolled onto his side, ignoring the way his back protested.
To his surprise, the boy was right there when he was done, holding the cup to his lips. Ace had to bring his own hand up to help balance it, but together, they got the job done.
The boy beamed at him and pat his head as if to say 'good job' and then lay down in front of him so that they were eye to eye. Ace couldn't help but quirk a grin at the boy's actions. The boy's grin grew wider at the sight of Ace's small smile and he giggled.
"What's your name?" he whispered, not wanting to break the oddly peaceful silence but curious about this strange boy.
The child's grin disappeared and a look of pure wonder crossed his face. Ace was completely bewildered until a tiny hand came up and small, chubby fingers traced his lips. Ace blinked.
"Can you speak?" Ace knew he was young. Very young. That much was obvious. Painfully so. But he should at least be able to speak some words at this point. But the boy just gasped and stared at Ace's mouth. The knot in Ace's stomach tightened. "Can you understand me?"
The boy seemed to sense something in Ace's tone because he looked up into the teen's eyes, but there was no recognition, no sign of understanding.
Fury coiled in his stomach. This child shouldn't be here, shouldn't have to experience this. He was so innocent, and Ace could see it in those big, brown eyes. This child was pure. But something in Ace's gut told him this child had never seen the sky. The sea. This child had never had freedom the way Ace had. And Ace wanted to strangle whoever took that away from this boy. He deserved it more than anyone. Ace didn't know why, but something about this boy made it true.
The sound of a door opening echoed down the corridor.
The boy tore his eyes from Ace's, rolling over and walking to the bars, peeking as best he could down the hall. The sound of footsteps drew closer and, soon enough, an elderly man with a slave collar around his neck and two men in suits came into view. They stopped at the empty cell across form theirs. The boy had started bouncing slightly in what Ace took to be excitement, but he couldn't figure out why. Did the kid know this man?
A small giggle escaped the boy and before Ace could register what had happened, one of the men in suits had lashed out catching the boy across the face, sending him falling back. The boy didn't make a single sound. Neither did the old man. Ace had to bite his lip to stop the cry of outrage from leaving his mouth. But he sent a glare at the man that promised death.
The suited man faltered under it, quickly turning away. Ace kept his eyes trained on the man though, even as he and his friend shoved the old man into the cell and walked back down the corridor. Only once the sound of door closing could be heard did the old man speak.
"Luffy? You alright?" he called softly.
The boy sat up, hand holding his cheek, and smiled. The old man just sighed and shook his head.
Ace blinked at the boy's reaction. He wasn't mad. Wasn't even scared. What was up with this kid?
"His name is Luffy?" he called to the old man, keeping his voice as low as he could while still being heard.
The old man seemed to notice him for the first time. "Ah. Monkey D. Luffy. You the new one then?"
Ace's eyes widened in surprise at the name, but he forced it back and sighed. "…So it seems."
"…I'm sorry, my boy. It's a cruel world we live in," the old man said softly, "Makes you wonder how angels can exist." At that, his gaze turned to Luffy. The boy was content to watch their conversation, eyes moving to whoever was speaking, even if he couldn't understand a word that was being said.
"Why can't he speak?" Ace asked.
The old man sighed. "Because he has never been allowed to learn," he replied, "You should pity him. You have known freedom. Luffy has not."
Ace felt dread pool in the pit of his stomach. "He was born a slave."
The old man nodded. "His mother had been…acquired while she was pregnant with him. Somehow she made it through the pregnancy and managed to keep the baby alive. She gave birth to him in that cell," he said with a slight nod in gesture, "She lived long enough to name him. Not sure why the boy was kept alive. The nobles seem to find him a source of amusement if nothing else."
Ace looked at Luffy. The boy was staring at him. At his lips. Waiting for him to speak, for the strange noise that he could not understand but sounded so wonderful. Ace forced himself into a sitting position, leaning his burned back against the wall. The rough stone pressed against his wound, but it was almost completely erased by the numbing cold that seeped into his skin. While he tried to force the pain back, get it back to level he could manage, the old man spoke up again.
"Luffy, have you eaten?"
The boy looked at him blankly until the old man mimed eating. Luffy beamed and then pointed to Ace. The old man looked between them and Ace was confused by the wondering expression on his face.
"You truly are special, child," the old man said. Luffy just kept smiling obliviously.
"What?" Ace asked with a raised eyebrow.
The old man shook his head. "Our normal ration is one cup of water and a single roll."
Ace stared blankly at the man in the cell across from him. Luffy had fed him two rolls. If they were each only given one, then where…? Ace's eyes widened as the meaning sunk in, whipping his gaze to the small child sitting by the bars of their cell. One of the rolls had already been his. But the other. The other had been Luffy's. This boy had given him his only food.
The teen couldn't wrap his head around it. How could a child, one who knows so very little, be so selfless?
"Luffy," Ace choked out. The boy turned to him with a smile, it seemed he at least understood that word was his name, or at least referred to him. He held a hand out to the boy gesturing him closer. "Come here," he whispered.
Luffy pushed himself up and toddled over to the teen, plopping down next to him with a curious expression. Ace looked down into his eyes. Eyes that starred innocently back at him. And he knew then what he was going to do. What he was going to live for.
"My name's Ace," he said softly, so only the boy could hear, "I know you can't understand me, but you'll get there eventually. I know you will. I'm going to look after you now, okay? I'll protect you."
I think it came out pretty good.
Until next time,