Luffy was standing on the figure head, and as soon as they were within hearing range, he shouted, "GIVE SANJI BACK!"
The Marines were stumped, not knowing why he was shouting for a member of his crew and looking around warily. The Pirate King stood stiffly, his arms crossed, and glaring. Ace could feel the air grow thick, and wondered how much haki Luffy actually knew now.
Vice Admiral Jonathan stepped forward. "It's been a while, Strawhat."
Luffy tilted his head and observed the man for a few seconds. "Oh, you're the fortress guy.
"We are close to Navarone, Luffy," A female voice said, and a dark haired woman appeared at the railing.
"Sanji said he was here. Where is here?" Luffy demanded. He jumped off the figure head and landed on the sand, startling most of the people native to Santa Barbra. Vice Admiral Jonathan looked unfazed.
"We don't have your cook, Strawhat."
Sanji chose to step forward then, "It wasn't him, Captain."
Many heads turned at the sound of his voice, and Luffy's face broke into a grin. "Sanji!" He whipped an arm forward and wrapped it around Sanji's waist before the blond could protest, and rocketed himself over, sending both of them tumbling to the sand.
By now, a few other members of the crew had departed the ship. Zoro was casually holding a sword to Vice Admiral Jonathan's neck.
"You vanished off the deck of the ship," Robin said, gliding over and standing over the two grounded men. "Care to explain? It would be really interesting to learn about."
"He has to make me meat first," Luffy demanded. "Nami's a horrible cook."
"Don't go saying bad things about beautiful ladies!" Sanji planted a hand on Luffy's face and shoved him away, getting to his feet and brushing sand off his clothing. Luffy lay sprawled out on the sand, his grin still in place.
"By the way, Mr. Cook," Robin said. "What island is this? I don't believe it is on any map."
"It's not," Nami confirmed, shouting from the ship.
There was a cough from Jonathan, and he slowly pushed the blade away. "That is what we're trying to find out as well. This island appeared a few days ago, and we are unsure of how it came to be. The locals claim to be from another world."
Robin left Sanji and Luffy to approach Jonathan. "What do you think of their claim?" She asked.
"We're inclined to believe them," The Vice Admiral said. "Even just looking around us at their infrastructure, it is very different than the regular buildings we see in cities this size. And some of their contraptions are very strange."
"They're built for land travel," Mr. Thomas said, butting into the conversation. "From what we've gathered on this world, there's a lot more water than ours has. We have about thirty percent land, while you have just over seven percent."
"Strange," Robin mused, tapping her chin. "And who might you be?"
"Ben Thomas. Head of research in the Californian division." Mr. Thomas said, sounding slightly hesitant as Robin turned to Luffy.
"What do you think, Captain?"
Luffy pushed himself up into a sitting position and shrugged. "It sounds cool. Like a new adventure."
"You think everything is a new adventure," Zoro muttered, but sheathed his blade when he was assured the Vice Admiral wasn't going to do anything. "So we've got our cook, let's go. This doesn't concern us."
Sanji glanced at Ace, who had picked up Sanji's hat when it fell off after Luffy crashed into him. "I think we should stay for a bit," Sanji said. "Robin, you want to investigate, don't you?"
Robin smiled, "That I do. Is that alright, Captain?"
Luffy seemed to mull it over in his head before nodding enthusiastically. "Course."
She began moving about the beach, eyeing Ace, who pulled Sanji's hat over her eyes and retreated to the road.
What the hell would he say? His little brother was right in front of him. A little brother he hadn't seen in three years. How the hell would he react? Would he even believe it was him? He staked away, tearing off the hat as soon as he was behind the nearest building and slumped against the wall. He should have said something. Anything. He was a fearsome pirate, and he was scared of talking to someone.
"Are you alright?"
Ace shot up, "Roger! Yea-yes."
"Don't tell me what I feel," Ace snapped. Roger looked out from the alley Ace had hidden himself in and down to the beach.
"It's strange seeing Marines in uniform after all these years. Who's the pirate?"
"…Monkey D. Luffy."
"His grandson. My… brother."
"Why don't you say hello?"
Ace wanted to tear his hair out at the moment. Why the hell didn't they understand? His brother thought he was dead. What good was it to go forward and say 'Hey, Luffy. Sorry I died after you saved me.' He just shook his head. "I can't. He wouldn't forgive me."
"You won't know that until you talk to him."
Ace just shook his head, "No. Not… not yet."
Roger crossed his arms, "Well, it is your choice. I'm going over to… ah, introduce myself. If you want to stay here and sulk, you can. I'm not going to force you to go. But I recommend that you see your brother again. If this city is going to stay here permanently then you're going to be stuck in this world. What will happen when you run into Marco?"
Ace shrugged helplessly and gave in to his desire to yank on his hair, his fingers tightening in his dark locks.
"You can't hide forever."
Ace ended up back at his apartment, Conrad annoyed that the newly fixed TV wasn't working anymore now that there were no satellites or cable. Ace just told him to suck it up, and that he'd gotten just fine with books for the past few weeks.
Sanji found him that night, "Did you tell him?" Ace asked.
"Roger told me not to say anything." Sanji said. "Are you going to tell him? It would make him very happy to know you're alive."
"I know. I know." Ace groaned. "It's been three goddamn years. What can I say?"
"I'm sorry would be a good start." Sanji said. "I doubt it would surprise him now. Seeing Roger sent him into a frenzy, and freaked the hell out of Vice Admiral Jonathan."
Ace chuckled. "I should have stayed to see that."
Sanji paused, "Does the name Sabo ring any bells?"
Ace whipped his head in Sanji's direction, "How… Did Luffy tell you?"
"Remember how we were surprised to find out Luffy had a brother when we met you? He didn't tell us he had any family. Hell, we didn't know Garp was his grandfather until we met him, too."
"Where are you going with this? Sabo died when he was eleven. That was almost thirteen years ago."
"We met him, and that's when we learned that Luffy had two brothers."
Ace just shook his head, "I don't understand."
"Talk to Luffy." Sanji said. "He's…" Sanji shrugged. "He's Luffy. You know him."
Sanji left, and Conrad stayed quiet, leaving Ace to his thoughts.
The next day, Ace was approached by Mr. Daniels. "Ace, how have you been?"
Ace grinned, "Better. I thought you wanted me to lay low."
"I figured with all this going on, we're pretty alright at the moment. Another world… What do your physics professors think?"
"I haven't actually spoken to them. Classes are cancelled, you know."
"Yeah, I know." Mr. Daniels waved a hand. "Have you been down to the beach? There's a pirate ship there now. None of the crew look like regular pirates."
"That's because the pirates in the movies are a lot different than the ones over there. Or, here, rather. You've seen them?"
"I get curious," Mr. Daniels said. "It's a shame we can't get closer than the road."
Ace chose not to respond, feeling something strange at the edge of his senses. He spotted something in the corner of his eye and dove out of the way just as a fist came flying his way. "Shit," Ace swore, and he heard Mr. Daniels demand the person to stop. "It's alright, Dan." Ace said, having a good idea who it was.
"This is one of the pirates," Mr. Daniels said. "They shouldn't be here."
Ace stood up and turned to face his little brother. Luffy looked angry, and rightfully so. "You bastard…" Luffy growled. Mr. Daniels looked confused.
Ace raised his hands, "I guess saying sorry isn't enough." He felt relieved, despite his brother facing him down with a murderous expression. He felt a twinge of guilt at not seeing him yesterday. Well, now there wasn't much choice. He had to face him.
"Like hell it is!" Luffy shouted, stalking forward and grabbing the front of Ace's shirt, yanking him forward. "You… You died! I thought you were dead! Three goddamn years!" He sent another fist towards Ace's head, and the older brother was startled when it actually made contact.
"Fuck, Lu. That hurt." He grabbed at his head, wincing.
"Good." Luffy growled. His fists were clenched at his sides, and he looked unsure of what to do next. "Are…"
"I'm… I really am sorry." Ace said quietly. "I… I didn't know I'd end up here. Really."
"That's what we're trying to figure out." Ace said, wincing and bringing his hands up when Luffy took a step forward. There was no attack though. Luffy wrapped his arms around Ace.
"I missed you. Your vivre card burned. It was gone. And…"
"And my body disappeared?" Ace asked, returning the embrace.
"That's what Shanks said." Luffy said. "Marco was really mad, because he said that another guy's body disappeared too."
"Thatch," Ace confirmed. "He's here too. He's the one who Teach attacked before he left the crew."
"The one you were chasing when we met in Alabasta?"
"Yeah. Him." Ace confirmed. "Who told you I was here?"
"Thought so. Why?"
"Because I knew he was hiding something, and ordered him to tell me." Luffy said.
"Come on, let's talk somewhere more private." Ace said, nodding towards the front of campus.
"Ace," Mr. Daniels stated hesitantly. "What's going on?"
"Oh, Sorry, Dan. This is my little brother. Luffy, this is Dan, a friend of mine."
Luffy blinked at the older man, who looked startled at the revelation, and grinned. "Nice to meet you. Come on, Ace." Luffy grabbed Ace's wrist and started dragging him away.
They switched a few minutes later, Ace leading Luffy to Tracy's coffee shop. One thing Ace realized a few minutes into their walk was that Luffy wouldn't let go of him. Ace didn't mind, tightening his grip. He did finally let up when Ace led them to a table, and they had to sit across from each other.
Ace got caught up with the events in the world, and Ace described his life since his apparent death.
"So you don't hate your Dad anymore?" Luffy asked.
"Well, we had a bad start, but… I still don't know what to think. What about you? You said you met Dragon."
"It wasn't very interesting." Luffy shrugged. "Sabo introduced us."
That was another thing that Ace couldn't believe. "Is Sabo really alive?"
Luffy nodded. "I ran into him in Dressrosa." Luffy clasped his hands together. "I see him a lot, but he stayed with the Revolutionaries. He visits a lot, whenever we're in South Blue."
Ace nodded, dumbstruck. He had felt incredibly guilty when he woke up and realized where he was, for leaving Luffy on his own, having him go through the pain of losing his second brother. But now, things just might change.
"I'm going to punch him in the face." Ace decided. "When I see him, I'm going to punch him in the face."
"He could do the same to you," Luffy pointed out. "I almost did, but you moved."
"It's probably a good thing you didn't," Ace said. "Your punch hurts now. You've gotten a lot stronger."
Luffy's face fell, "It's because I couldn't protect you."
Ace winced at Luffy's expression, and reached across the table to place a hand on his head, covered by his hat. "I'm not dead. Don't blame yourself. I chose to protect you."
Luffy looked to be on the verge of tears, so Ace stood up. "Why don't we go to the beach, see how they're making out with the research. I'm sure the people here want to get back as soon as they can."
Luffy brightened at that. "Sure."
Roger was there, and Ace scowled when he threw an arm over his shoulder. Luffy laughed. Luffy seemed to be in high spirits as he bounced from person to person. Ace examined the members of the crew he hadn't met yet. He noted Nico Robin first, hovering over Tracy and her mythology research. A large man with machine parts and a speedo caught his attention next. Franky. And a rather tall man… skeleton… with an afro. He didn't recognize that one.
"Your brother has interesting friends," Roger said, and Ace pushed his arm off.
"They're good people." Ace defended, approaching Tracy. "What have you found?"
"It's good to see you alive, Mr. Fire Fist," Robin said. "We've found a lot of possible Devil Fruit users in this world's history. Thor, Zeus, both candidates for Eneru and the Rumble Rumble Fruit. The devil, the Dark Dark Fruit and Blackbeard. Many Egyptians… I believe that's what they are called, seem to have a lot of Zoan type Devil Fruits in their text."
Ace nodded, "Good…"
"And Atlantis sounds just like Fishman Island. And the God Poseidon, that could be the ancient weapon. I wonder…" She shrugged. "I'm seeing a lot of similarities between the two worlds. I wouldn't be surprised if your theory is correct and the two worlds were once connected." She tapped her chin. "If I can find the Rio Poneoglyph I might be able to figure out what happened nine hundred years ago."
"It's pretty friggen cool," Tracy said. "You said you could use fire, right? There are a few gods who could do that. Prometheus brought fire to man, so that might have some similarity. And Hestia, but she was a girl."
"Gender doesn't matter," Ace said. "As long as a person eats a Devil Fruit, they get the abilities."
"ACE!" Ace was able to brace himself when Luffy crashed into him from behind, wrapping his arms around him several times.
"Although that just looks creepy." Tracy continued.
"You get used to it," Robin said with a smile.
"Want me to call Marco for you?"
"I should probably get Thatch down here first." Ace said. Luffy nodded and released him, but dragged him over to the robot. Franky, Ace reminded himself. He had to admit, the thought of talking to Marco excited him. But he was scared at the same time. He didn't know what he would say, and he couldn't imagine what Marco would say either.
How many members of his crew actually escaped? And how did they get away? The ship was destroyed. Were they even together? He supposed that they were, from what Luffy just said.
He listened with half an ear as Luffy talked to Franky, his mind on the condition of his crew.
Luffy refused to let Ace out of his sight all day, and Ace was alright with that. And he couldn't blame him either. He remembered meeting Thatch for the first time after thinking he was dead, and how he had a hard time letting him leave. His coworkers watched on, confused, but Ace couldn't have cared less.
Right now, he had a chance to go home. His brother was alright, Sabo was alive. Things just might start looking up.
Yeah, it's short, and I'm not very happy with it, I've got writers block again. I've started a new fanfiction to try and get over it, so I might post it. Anyway, next chapter might be a while. I had a hard time writing this one. I might change it, too.