Chapter re-uploaded. :) Chapter 2, 3 and 11 will be restored too! :D
I do not own One Piece
Ace wasn't quite sure of what he was looking at. Or where he was for that matter. In the world of the dead, everything looked pretty much the same and one thing could be anything.
As far as he was concerned, his job was quite done even though he wasn't quite satisfied of how he had accomplished it. Yes, he had sworn to protect Luffy from anything and he had done just that. However, it was just too fast! Ace wasn't even given the luxury of time to overlook his journey and watched him accomplish his dream of being the next Pirate King. As much as it was hard for anyone normal to believe that an unbelieving numbskull but strangely adorable brother of his accompanied by a charming short attention span to accomplish his feat, Ace had forced himself to have faith in his brother which said faith only eventually grew completely sincere after meeting his crew members.
Surely, those people must be very capable in handling his brother, right?
But Ace just had to remind himself that Luffy had, in the end, broke into Impel Down and made a foolish yet endearing attempt to throw himself into a war in order to save his brother. Honestly if Ace was back in his childhood, he would've laughed himself to the point of death if anyone even tried to imagine Luffy saving him from a bear!
Yep, he had complete faith in his brother!
Ace closed his eyes as he let himself drift further into thought as well, completely oblivious to the binding light that had appeared within the unnaturally white sky. Luffy… he missed his sworn brother dearly despite every single times Luffy had landed both of them into heaps of trouble. Truthfully even when he was saved from such a tedious routine after leaving Fuchsia Village, his life felt as weird as wearing two layers of clothes. It was just not the same without having Luffy around. Just when he was smiling to himself at the image of his grinning brother appeared in his mind, he felt a cooling breeze slapping softly against his skin.
Now that was something that he hadn't heard in decades (Or at least, it felt like that much of time had passed)! Voices!
"Yes?" Ace answered without opening his eyes because if he did, he would feel rather stupid for speaking to… white.
"Are you even listening to me?"
"Yes, I obviously am."
"You don't look like you did." The voice sounded very skeptical this time.
Ace sighed impatiently. Luckily, there wasn't anyone else in here or else he'd truly look incredibly silly for speaking to white. But what could he do? When he had chosen not to respond, the voice only grew louder and more annoying. Was this a new kind of hell? That would be pretty lame if Ace were to feel tortured over something as minor as this. He wondered how Sabo was managing in here after he was blasted from the world.
"This is not the time to be ignoring me!" The voice shouted louder this time and the sound of a tight slap echoed in the air.
"What the hell?!" Ace exclaimed and finally opened his eyes.
Only to find himself staring dumbly at the subject of his thoughts just a few seconds ago.
Sabo raised one of his eyebrow at his friend's behavior. "Yes, the one and only. I hope you weren't trying to remember my name just now because this is not the time to do it!" Sabo snapped angrily and crossed his arms over his chest. "As I was saying when you didn't listen to me, that strawhat kid probably didn't tell those pirates that-Hey! What the heck, Ace?!" Sabo raised his voice when Ace suddenly leaped forward and enveloped him in a tight hug.
"I thought you were dead!"
"No… unless you were having secret thoughts of wanting me dead. Tell me the truth," he demanded.
"But you did die!"
Sabo's right eyebrow twitched again, feeling the need to avoid a few meters away from Ace incase he was secretly planning to blast him off the world. Or maybe that strawhat kid had broken his brain? With his constant chattering and following, it wouldn't be surprised for someone as short-tempered as Ace to finally crack out of anger. And he already usually had to wonder if Ace was crazy for challenging people who were obviously out of his league. But hey, at least Sabo managed to save his ass a couple of times before he had gotten more injured than he should. Although they did ended up beating the crap out of those adults in the end.
"Yes, yes, I died and probably thanks to you," Sabo muttered sarcastically. He was starting to feel very, very awkward. "Look, the only reason why you might be hugging me would be either you are secretly planning to kill me while I'm distracted or you might be in love with me. And I'd rather deal with the first than the second."
Ace immediately let go of him and looked at him in shock. "In love with you?" He echoed, as though Sabo had compared his brain with Luffy's. "Never in a million years and why would I want to kill you?"
"I don't know," Sabo replied truthfully with a shrug. Ace was kind of weird in many ways. "Anyway, did you just hear what I said?"
"Uh… which part?"
Sabo groaned and slapped his forehead. "I said, the strawhat kid might not have said anything to those guys. They didn't come to our old secret spot for the treasures!" he cried out desperately, hoping that his words did seep into what little sanity was left in his friend's head.
"I don't… get it."
"You stupid fool!" Sabo exclaimed, already suspecting that the strawhat kid had truly made a decline in Ace's thinking ability. "Look, don't you remember? That strawhat kid who had been tagging you for days was captured by the pirate we had stolen the loot from. And judging by their lack of appearance, I don't think the strawhat kid spilled anything. And it is highly possible that he is being tortured this very instant!"
Those words did sound oddly familiar. Ace narrowed his eyes and tried to think back at the time he had heard those words. It was before the first time that Ace had started to get friendlier with Luffy, wasn't it? Ace and Sabo had stolen from pirates and Luffy had found out about it. However, because Luffy was too weak at that time, the pirates had caught him with ease. But no matter how much the pirates tortured his stupid, lovable brother, Luffy didn't spill anything and had to be saved by the two of them. It was a long way back in the memory lane and before Ace knew it, he was caught up in a nostalgic moment.
Too caught up to dodge another slap to the other side of his cheeks.
"Why the heck are you smiling?! That kid might be in danger, you sadist!" Sabo shouted.
"Ow, you don't have to slap me!" Ace retorted and decided to shake himself out of his spur of stupidity.
Wait, this wasn't his thoughts at all. This was reality. Looking around, he found himself in the familiar part of the forest where him and Sabo had moved their treasure to. What the honest fuck happened? Looking down himself, he found that he was… wearing a shirt! Since when did he start to wear one when it wasn't snowing? Other than the first discovery that he was indeed wearing a shirt, Ace had noticed that he was quite tiny as well… in both ways. He looked up and was finally snapped to reality. Sabo… Sabo wasn't dead! He was right in front of him! And he was back in time whereby they had to save Luffy in probably a few minutes or else he would die.
But before that…
"Sabo, I have an odd request."
"You always do but speak your mind."
"Could you slap me again?"
Sabo compiled without a second thought.
"Ouch!" Ace groaned as he rubbed both of his cheeks. He didn't mean for Sabo to slap him two times although he knew that Sabo probably felt tempted to give him more than just two. So if he was indeed in the timeline where he assumed he was in… "Sabo, could you repeat what you said to me about the strawhat kid?" Ace asked, feeling the need to hear it again.
"If you know it then why do you bother having me wasting my breath?" Sabo asked impatiently before giving in when he realized Ace wouldn't go anywhere unless he did what he was told. "The pirates are probably torturing the strawhat kid-Wait! I'm not done yet!"
Sabo had to try to keep up with Ace who had dashed in an inhumanely speed of light towards the hut whereby his dear brother was being tortured.
Someone will die.
Someone will definitely die.
And it won't be Ace. Or Luffy. Or Sabo.
Upon nearing the hut, Ace immediately burst into it with a dangerous looking pole in the hand. Okay, maybe it wasn't the pole that was making him look dangerous but the fire in his eyes made him look homicidal. He was out to kill someone and the poor souls happened to be right in front of him. Was that a nail bat he was holding? Luffy did mentioned that he was hit repeatedly with that the last time, didn't he? Kidnapping his adorable brother was one thing but hitting him with a nail bat was a whole new plea to be killed. Ace had never been nice whenever someone attempted to hurt his brother ever since he had saved him from a freaking bear.
"A-Ace!" Luffy exclaimed with tears in his eyes.
Oh, that was the very last straw.
If Ace had already grown a protective streak towards Luffy even when Smoker and Blackbeard tried to capture him, little Luffy just tripled that protectiveness.
"You," Ace proclaimed dramatically as he pointed his pole at the leader. "You hurt my precious, adorable brother. I'm not even going to wait for what you are going to say for yourself but I'll at least let you know that you will die a very painful death."
"Brother?" The leader repeated. "Didn't that kid say that you're always trying to get rid of him and wouldn't spill or else you won't be his friend?"
"Lies!" Ace exclaimed.
"But you did…" Luffy whimpered, though not unhappy at Ace's sudden proclamation. Not that Luffy had ever thought that far of being his brother at this point of time but after chasing Ace around painfully for days, he'd rather settled what he was offered even when said offer seemed too good to be true.
Ace turned his attention towards Luffy and immediately softened, not hearing what he had just said. "Don't worry, Lu. I'm going to kill these bastards in a heartbeat for doing this to you that they won't even remember how was babies were given birth."
Before Luffy could open his mouth to ask that very question, Ace had already sprung into action and had whacked the pirates around in ease as though he was playing whack-a-mole. Even though he was physically challenged due to his smaller status, he did have his fighting capabilities and quick thinking after gaining experience during his times out in the sea. These guys were so pathetically predictable that even Chopper could defeat them without having to transform.
In the end, the one who remained standing was obvious. Ace tossed his pole out of the hut, ignoring the pained cry from whomever had the worst luck of having the pole thrown at and proceeded to untie Luffy from the ceiling. Ace immediately brought the teary eyed and very confused kid into his arms, giving him assurance in a gentle tone that everything was fine while rubbing the back of Luffy's head. Luffy, on the other hand, only returned the gesture by wrapping his rubber arms around Ace.
Sabo, when he entered the hut, was stunned into silence before Ace noticed him.
"Hey, Sabo. You're late. And what happened to your head?" he asked, pointing his thumb at the bump that had grown on Sabo's head.
"Wild guess," Sabo replied sarcastically and walked towards Ace and Luffy with his arms crossed. "What happened to you? You usually tried to shake him off your back every time the kid started to follow you everywhere."
Ace waved his hand lazily. "That was in the past."
"That past happened only less than an hour ago!"
"Still," Ace reasoned in his best abilities, "How would you be able to stand shoving someone as adorable as little Lu away? Look at him! He was obviously scared to death because you didn't save him before he was brought here!"
"You're blaming ME?" Sabo asked incredulously. "And since when have you taken a liking to him? Didn't you say you hated weak people?"
"Luffy isn't weak!" Ace objected, further giving Sabo the thought that Ace had finally gone nuts.
Luffy sniffled and looked up at Ace with teary eyes while biting his bottom lips. "R-Really…? Ace really feels that I'm not weak?"
Needless to say, the effect of Luffy's face was astoundingly great that Ace had hugged Luffy tighter while agreeing with him. Even Sabo couldn't find himself disliking Luffy when he had put up that face-Wait, he had never disliked Luffy before. Irritated, yes but never disliked him to the point that he would lead Luffy to falling off a bridge. That was mostly Ace's job at the said cruel sadist was currently doting Luffy as though he was his lover! But you might never guess. Ace might as well had fallen in love with Luffy over the period of time and was only… what was that word… tsundere towards him.
Still, it seemed highly unlikely.
"Let's keep him, Sabo!" Ace announced suddenly and broke Sabo out of his thoughts.
Sabo raised his eyebrow, which he felt like he had been doing for too many times in a day, and replied, "Keep him? He is not an animal, you know. But since he seemed quite attached towards you and even impressively keeping his mouth shut from those adults, I guess it wouldn't hurt to have him join us."
Luffy's eyes widened in delight and let out a cheer before settling to a huge grin. "Yay! That means Ace finally likes me!"
Seconds later, Sabo found himself trying to stop Ace from crushing Luffy with an extremely tight and loving hug.