Pairing: AcexLuffy (slight)
Summary: The biggest change of Ace's life was when he realized what was of true value.
The biggest turning point in his life wasn't when he left Fuschia village. It wasn't during the time when he met Luffy either. Somewhere in between the two events, a major moment occurred and it changed Ace's life greatly. He was still a little brat who needed manners training, was what Dadan would usually say and Ace would pay no heed to her. He was fine the way he was, or so he thought. Although he still treated Luffy as his dear brother, there were times whereby when they quarreled, it got heated up really quick. Of course, it was usually resolved because Luffy was a naturally forgiving person. Even though Ace himself had gotten over the fight, he still couldn't bring himself to apologize.
He was a stubborn brat and Ace didn't like that side of him. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn't get the adults from his past to like him and he gave up on trying afterwards. At least he had Dandan, the bandits, Makino and Luffy. Garp didn't count in because Ace would rather die than admit it or else he would be dragged to the nearest Marine Base for training.
However, it was Luffy who triggered that change in him.
It happened during one day when Ace and Luffy had their quarrel again in Goa Kingdom. They were supposed to have another dine and dash day when Luffy didn't keep up with him at the end and they had to work there until evening. Ace was in the bad mood in having to deal with the chefs at the restaurant and Luffy's complaints didn't make it better. It was his fault that had the both of them caught in the first place so Ace should be the first one to open his mouth.
"Ah, shut up already! It was your fault that we got into that mess in the first place," Ace snapped.
"Hey! I didn't know they would find out where I was hiding," Luffy argued.
"You run like a normal person, you idiot! Didn't I tell you to run instead?"
"I'm not as fast as you yet and they were about to catch up to me. What else am I supposed to do?"
"Feh. Maybe it wouldn't happen if you were faster," Ace pointed out and rolled his eyes in frustration. "I should've just let you get caught by yourself instead of trying to save your ass. You're really a troublesome brother. I didn't even get a 'thanks'. Next time it happens, you're on your own."
"I can manage on my own next time!"
"Good! Go ahead!"
After that, they glared at each other before looking away. It was really one of their usual fights whereby they ended up ignoring each other until Luffy forgot about it and started talking to him. Then, Ace would pretend that nothing happened as well and things would return back to normal. However this time, things didn't go their usual way.
"Oh if it isn't Roger's son," a man in his twenties said and came up to them.
"What the hell do you want?" Ace snapped, obviously not in his better moods today.
"How scary," he mocked as two of his own friends caught up to him. "Hey, check this out. Roger's son is being feisty today. I won't be surprised if he suddenly goes insane and tries to destroy this country like his papa. We might be in grave danger here."
"He's just a kid but you might have a point there," the second man spoke and laughed.
"The Marines should've just catch this brat and execute him already before he causes the world any trouble," the third man spoke up this time. "Maybe if we hand over this kid to the Marines by ourselves, we might even get wealthy. This kid has been causing nothing but trouble, after all."
"Me? What did I do?" Luffy asked.
"We're not talking about you!" The three of them exclaimed in unison before they finally noticed his presence. "We're talking about HIM!"
"Ace? He didn't do anything wrong! Don't say bad stuffs about him! I want Ace alive!" Luffy protested and Ace stared at Luffy. "Although he always hit me really hard until my head feel like splitting when we were training and scolds me for everything he did but Ace shouldn't be dead! Take it back!"
"You were the one who caused trouble in the first place!" Ace shouted.
"This kid... he looks like the brat," the man commented. "Are you his brother or something?"
Ace froze when the man started speaking his assumption. Although Luffy and Sabo had always been with him whenever Ace fought them off, they really never paid much attention to them because they were too engrossed in catching him. He remembered these three guys from the days even before he met Sabo... actually, the only reason why he could confirm that was because he didn't know who they were in the first place. If he encountered them after meeting Sabo, he would've remembered them. It was always much more fun and meaningful when he was beating the crap out of someone with his brothers.
Sabo wasn't around now... There was only Ace and Luffy. And he didn't want them to start gunning for Luffy just because they happen to resemble each other a lot.
"He isn't any brother of mine," Ace said.
"What? How could you say that? I'm your brother!" Luffy protested.
Ace felt the urge to slap Luffy on the head. How could he be this dense and oblivious? Couldn't he see that he was trying to save him? As if Luffy hadn't gotten himself into trouble enough for the day. "Don't talk nonsense! I don't have a brother as dimwitted as you," he snapped.
"What's with you all of a sudden?"
"I should be asking you that!"
"Now, now, that isn't the way to talk about your brother."
"He isn't my brother!" Ace barked at the man once more and raised his fist.
In a short moment, they were lying on the ground unconscious after Ace went through with them. He felt a little better now that he took it out on his new punching bags. However, it still wasn't enough for him to fully calm down. He was still frustrated at Luffy for his past two blunders.
"Are they dead?" Luffy asked as he poked their bodies.
"Tch. I'm going home," Ace grumbled and shoved his hands into his pocket. "And don't go around spouting nonsense that you're my brother!"
Of course, Ace just meant for Luffy to keep their brotherhood a secret but he never was good at wording his intentions when he was in a bad mood... or any other times, in fact.
While Luffy didn't take his words to heart as usual, everything started to change when Ace started to ignore him day by day. Some times, Ace would even stay out in order to avoid him. The freckled child was constantly thinking about what happened the other day. If he and Luffy continued to be this close, it was only a matter of time before Luffy would be their new target. Ace was careless. He never thought about this because no one had pointed out to him before. Now that he realized, it was becoming more difficult for him to stay with Luffy without any worries. Even when they were in Dadan's house, the thought of Luffy going through the same thing as he did still haunted him.
Despite being cold and snappy towards him all the time, Ace still obviously cared and looked out for him. Sabo used to say that Ace was very difficult person because he wasn't used to showing his emotions other than anger very well.
Whenever he imagined Luffy in his shoes, Ace couldn't bring himself to talk to him at all. What if it really happened? Luffy wouldn't keep up his smiles and carefree attitude everyday. As annoying as his easy going personality is, Ace still liked Luffy the way he is. He was honest and constantly smiling after every thing that happened. What if it became his fault that destroyed this personality of his? Ace couldn't live with it and would rather Luffy to retain his usual personality. As time went by, it became his routine to avoid Luffy whenever possible.
One day, he was strolling around in Goa Kingdom on his own again.
When he came across a familiar bar whereby he used to visits to get Dadan her beers, he was surprised when Luffy suddenly came flying out of it and collided into Ace, knocking the wind out of him when Luffy landed on him.
"What the hell?!" Ace exclaimed as he tried to get up.
"Ngh..." Luffy groaned before opening his eyes after realizing who he landed on. "Ace!"
"Luffy? What are you doing?" he asked in annoyance but his expression softened when he saw the bruises on Luffy's body. "Wh-what happened to you?
Before them, the three men from before stepped out from the broken door of the bar and sneered down at the two brothers.
"So you're finally here. This brat has been giving us trouble everyday demanding to know where you are. It's annoying how he never disappears, just like you!" the man spat and growled down at the two little figures. "I would've been proud to say that I handed you over for execution but this stupid kid never gives up!"
"I was looking all over for you," Luffy cried and hugged Ace. "You didn't come back after that day and I thought that something happened to you! Stupid Ace! Making all of us worry! Dadan said that you must be selling yourself! Why did you do that, Ace?"
"Sell myself?!" Ace echoed angrily. Probably not what Luffy was thinking but what the heck?
"Don't ignore me!" The man shouted.
"Shut up!" Ace shouted back before turning to Luffy. "Why did you come all the way to look for me? These people are dangerous and you would've been really dead if you keep this up. You never listen to what I say and always looking for trouble!"
"B-but... it's really lonely without Ace..." Luffy sniffled and started to cry. "I-I know that Ace was a-angry because of before. I wanted t-to apologize but Ace never c-came back no matter how much I w-waited. I thought that y-you were really gone for good and I-I don't want it to happen."
"L-Luffy..." Ace murmured.
"I really l-like Ace a lot. I don't want A-Ace to disappear..."
He didn't realize how much he have been hurting Luffy all this time. He was being stupid again, just like what Sabo would say if he were here. He forgot that Luffy didn't have any friends at all. They were always hanging out together and yet Ace forgot this simple fact. Luffy hated being alone out of anything. He could remember the time whereby Luffy cried so hard when he thought Ace was dead. Then they swore to each other that they would be together until the day they set off on their journey... and even beyond that. When Ace cried when Luffy got hurt by that bear because of his carelessness and stubbornness. How long must Ace be an idiot?
"Luffy, I am-"
"Waaaaa! Please don't l-leave me anymore! I'm so sorry, Ace! I didn't mean to steal your plate of meat while you were sleeping!"
"It was you?!" Ace shouted angrily. "Wait, that's what you're apologizing for?! Just how much of a glutton do you think I am, you greedy pig?! Y-You... UGH! You piss me off so much!"
"A-Ace..." Luffy whimpered and looked up at him sadly.
Ace growled and looked away, his cheeks tinted slightly pink. "And don't be stupid. I wasn't going to leave you alone. I just needed to... take care of something," he mumbled.
"R-Really?" Luffy asked and brightened up immediately.
"Y-Yeah. So stop crying already! I don't like crybabies!" Ace snapped and Luffy stopped crying immediately..
"Oi, stop ignoring me!" the man spoke up again in rage.
"Oh, I almost forgot about you," Ace said as he glanced at him from the corner of his eyes and cracked his knuckles. "I guess I have to pay you back for hurting Luffy, don't I? Just the right time. I'm in need of some punching bags right now."
After that, the man found himself in the same position as the other day as Ace and Luffy left with their hands intertwined.
"Dadan says that we're going to have meat tonight!"
"Oh? That's great. You're not going to steal any this time or else I'll really ignore you."
Ace chuckled as he went through that particular memory in his mind.
Ever since that day, he decided to become a much better brother. Luffy was always by his side smiling brightly even as they became closer, which proved that he shouldn't even worry in the first place. Being wanted felt really good, Ace had to admit and it was Luffy who treasured his existence more than anyone else. When Ace came to that fact, he started to change more in order to become a much better brother. Hurting Luffy was definitely what he couldn't bring himself to do anymore, even if it's the little things he used to do in the past. Everytime Luffy cried, his anger would immediately turn into worry. Whenever Luffy does something stupid, it would turn into amusement.
He changed a lot.
"Ace! I'm back," Luffy called out cheerfully and tackled Ace.
Catching Luffy immmediately, he chuckled and lifted him off the ground slightly. "Welcome back. Did you get everything I asked for?"
"Yep! Meat, right?"
"No... I told you to get wood."
"You..." Ace started before shaking his head. He put Luffy down onto the ground and took his hand into his. "Never mind, let's go and get it together this time. You're really troublesome."
"Shishishishi! Tonight's dinner is going to be meat again!"