AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH
Adjective: Causing trouble, difficulties, or discomfort.
Synonyms: uncomfortable - incommodious - awkward - disadvantageous
"I keep telling you... Don't die."
"... Even though I'm so worthless... Thank you... For loving me."
His awakening in the dead of the night is quiet and pitiful. He shuffles out of bed with faltering feet and sharp breaths. There is pain in his soul as well as his body and stains on his skin that make his hands tremble. Ace finds that the stains are easier to remove than the pain.
The bathroom, thankfully, is empty. By the time the morning sun rises, he cannot remember how long he has stood frozen at the sink, scrubbing away at the red that taints his palms, drips from fingers. It is an action that brings minor comfort to the hazy chaos that surrounds his mind; his hands lathered as he scrubs harshly at his palms.
He needs to get the stains off his hands.
He needs the water to stop running red.
He needs to...
Is it not so much the voice itself, but the tone that he has heard before. Memorized and repeated to himself in the very dark of the night when he can almost believe that God is lending him His ear.
Ace looks down in abject horror, eyes bewildered like a cornered animal.
The hands holding his own are firm and strong and larger than he is used to. These are not Luffy's hands, but Ace is distinctly aware that the blood dripping from his fingertips just might be.
"Found him in the bathroom, scrubbing the skin raw from hands."
"Obviously some trauma involved... Wouldn't be surprised if he's suffering from Post-"
"... meant to do? He's just lost his..."
" - kama? Does anyone know where they are?"
Marco is there, at the edge of the bed, pleading with him to eat. To get stronger. To live. Marco thinks that he is being stubborn, that he is mourning in a way that throws scorn on Luffy's sacrifice. Ace can't bring himself to open his mouth to tell Marco the truth: that the food turns to ash in his mouth, that the thought of leaving the confines of these four walls leaves him weak-kneed and ill in the stomach, that living in place of his younger brother seems almost tantamount to blasphemous betrayal.
When Ace finally rises from his bed at night, it is only to fall to his knees as the moon wanes, pleading with every deity he knows to bring his little brother back.
When he falls, face first into his sheets; tears streaming, nose running, pawing with one hand at the heart that seems to be bursting from his chest, Ace can only wonder why God would want to take the two stars that he'd ever had to navigate his life by. Sabo, it seems, had not been enough.
Marco doesn't say anything. Never does. Ace doesn't say anything either; and Marco doesn't push him to speak. He's content enough with the fact that Ace is finally eating. It might not be as much as he is used to Ace consuming, but for now he will take this small step as a blessing.
He appears at the door of the galley. Black pants, white shirt. The surprising thing, they note, are the black gloves clenching and unclenching in a rhythm that echoes only in his ears. Marco sends a surreptitious nod towards Vista who throws a rather pointed look at the other captains. The crew return to eating and Ace takes a silent seat next to a still recovering Whitebeard.
The galley is silent of voices and only the clinking of cutlery and cups bounces off of the wooden walls.
There is a hand on his shoulder before Ace can even realize that his body is shaking, shuddering; stray tears slipping freely from his eyes.
"It should have been me." He whispers, dimly aware that the sentence echoes in the silence.
It is a moment that tattoo's itself into the memories of the crew. Their broken and shattered brother seated next to their Father, mourning the loss of his only little brother.
"It should have been me."
Just something to alleviate some author's block. All the usual disclaimers: I don't own One Piece or any of its affiliated characters.
Remember to leave a review and let the author know what you really think!