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A Quiet Farewell

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"Aaaaaaaace! I'm gonna get yoouuu!"

And now Luffy is kissing dirt, his brother sitting solidly on his back. He spits earth and cranes his neck until he is faced with Ace's upside-down grin.

"Just who are you going to get?"

"You wait! One day I'm gonna be even stronger than you!"

"And faster?"

"And heavier!" Luffy declares, wiggling uselessly under the weight pinning him to the ground. "And then I'm gonna beat you!"

Ace laughs. But he gets off Luffy without administering his usual victory-noogie and Luffy braces himself for a real fight.

"Hey, I want to show you something." Now Ace looks sort of serious, so Luffy stops trying to punch his brother and follows him. Away from the field where they've been sparring for most of the day, away from the town, away from the sea that will carry Ace away, soon.

"Here." Here is a pond, with trees all around, and just enough space for a bit of sun and grass.

It's a great training ground.

Luffy throws a Gomu Gomu Pistol at Ace, who dodges it, frowning.

"Not here, Luff– " And Ace falls asleep mid-sentence. Again.

Luffy's attempt to take advantage of his brother's inattention is no more successful than every other time he's tried before.

So he is getting friendly with the ground for the hundredth time today, except now Ace doesn't look like he wants to play.

"Luffy – look, stop that – Luffy this is a secret place for us, okay?"

"We're going to fight in secret?"

"No Luffy, it's not – this is a place for quiet, alright?"

"We have to fight quietly?"

"No! No fighting, it...it's a mysterious quiet place, okay Luffy?"

"Ooooooooh." He's never seen a mysterious quiet place before.

So he sits beside Ace in the shade of the biggest tree and opens his ears to the special quiet his brother wanted to share with him.

It's...loud. The trees are making noise with the wind, and there are bird singing, and insects buzzing, and Luffy can hear beetles and it's almost as much fun as watching them.

And if Ace wants to sit together – their heads knocking every time he falls asleep, arms draped lazily over each other's shoulders – instead of on Luffy, that's good too. Ace sighs, fingers moving from next to Luffy's ear to flick his hat forward off his head, before ruffling his hair.

"Hey!"

"Shhhh."

They listen to the quiet-that-isn't for a long time, until everything is shadows and the moon is glowing in the pond.

Luffy doesn't remember getting to bed, but he must have because that's where he wakes up in the morning. But he doesn't think on it long, because there are pancakes to eat, and Makino to beg food from (except it's not begging because he's going to pay her back when he's a great pirate, Shanks, so there) and dirt to squash his face into, because Ace is still stronger than him.

They don't go back before Ace leaves to have adventures without Luffy. But Luffy visits the quiet place by himself, sometimes. And listens to all the promises they made to each other in the silence.