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Hey, Mr. Star, I Think I Love You (Please Love Me Too)

Chapter Text

 

On the corner of the busiest district in the city was a store that held a pretty impressive collection of movies and music albums. Usually the front window would be plastered by variety of posters for new music and blockbuster movie releases. Today, however, the window, along with nearly every inch of the store were covered with the same black and white promotion poster of a newly released music album of a famous singer. 

 

The singer, Spade, was pictured looking to the distance mysteriously, dressed in a half-unbuttoned dress shirt with material so light, you can see the outlines of his abs and nipples. The title of the album, ‘Longing’ was printed underneath the photograph in delicate white font with the title of two of the main song titles being printed right underneath it, along with a bonus track. 

 

Sweltering behind a scratchy scarf that covers half of his face and the giant, funky sunglasses ‘borrowed’ from Brook, Ace stared up at one of those posters, watching his own face plastered on top of rows of sold out shelves. He always thought that it the album title was fitting; during the photoshoot for this particular poster, the only reason he finally managed to nail the ‘melancholic longing of a lovelorn man’ expression was because it was 10 minutes over for lunch and he had been staring at the cheeseburger set Luffy was eating off screen.

 

The raven haired man glanced around at the small crowd gathered around the cashier, all who were mostly holding said albums in their hands, and grimaced a little. He wasn’t upset that they were buying his stuff - on the contrary, he was proud of it, he really came a long way since his first debut - but the line was damn long and he already suspected at least half of the costumer in the store that day were suspicious of him. Either about his real identity or for his creepy get-up, but he really can’t take the chance, so he hid here, waiting for the line to empty out.

 

Sighing, the freckled male peeked from over his thick sunglasses to the cover of the top DVD box in his hands, the reason why he had braved the crowd today of all day. 

 

The image pasted on the front of the box was the same image that has been in every major billboard and advertisement screens around the city for three months now, the promotional poster of the highly anticipated action-sci-fi movie. The poster depicted the main characters posing bravely on the foreground, surrounded by galactic ruins, while the single villain loomed in the background with his back turned and only half of his face is seen.

 

Ace let out a muffled squeal when he regarded the villain again. The movie was good, even if the genre wasn’t his exact cup of tea, but it wasn’t entirely the reason why he had watched it for over 5 times in cinemas and streamed it 20 times on his Mushiflix account. 

 

Marco Newgate, the actor playing the villain, had been a moderately known silver screen actor up until 3 years ago, when his first blockbuster movie role debut got highly praised by critics. It shot him immediately to stardom, starring in no less than 3 different movies the next year and 8 by this year, not including the ones that are still in production. This year, he is nominated for his first feature film award for the second movie in Ace’s hand, an older movie from the beginning of the year where he played the lead role of another action oriented movie. 

 

His name began popping up everywhere in entertainment news, a synonym to high-quality entertainment, but Ace knew him longer than that. Ace knew him when he was still a small name playing as a side character in a moderately known TV show that ended years before he became famous. He starred into several more television drama then, mostly as either one episode guest stars or recurring characters that never showed up in the season enough to satisfy Ace’s craving. There had been rumours that he was supposed to be the lead of some new television series, until it was cancelled and replaced by someone else. Ace was this close to storming into the board’s meeting room and demand answers.

 

Of course, months later it turns out he got casted first for a big screen movie, an adaptation of a fantasy novel as an anti-hero deuteragonist who ended up dying in the climax. He remembered screaming in the middle of the night when he first watched it at home - he had been busy with music promotions when the movie hits cinemas - prompting Sabo to storm into his room and nearly strangle him. Apparently, it was a widely known fact for the people who had read the 30 years old book, but it doesn’t mean that Ace will stop being upset about it. He waited months to see his favorite actor again, only for him to die. Nothing is fair in the world.

 

Sabo called him ridiculous, but Ace called himself a dedicated fan. He knows word for word of Marco’s IMDb page, own every single one of his filmography works from years back, knows all of his roles, and depending who asked, might have a secret tumblr blog that exclusively followed all of the man’s fanpages. And there may or may not be an entire 10 gigabytes worth of pictures taken from various sources and news outlet in his computer, but nobody should ever trust Law’s words. Especially when he goes around snooping and hacking into people’s computers.

 

(In all honesty, though, he had to figure out a better password than his favorite actor’s birthday)

 

Deep in his musing and admiring, Ace nearly missed the figure that suddenly raced towards the section he was in, skidding and nearly falling. The figure was of a tall man dressed in dark coloured hoodie with the hood pulled up, wearing a much more face-fitting sunglasses and a pair of professional-grade headphones adorning the top of his head. He took one look at the empty shelves and groaned in anguish, “No! Not again! This is the last store!”

 

Ace has never heard anyone that upset since Luffy found out Grandpa Garp ate the leftovers from Baratie’s limited time menu.

 

The man continued to mutter to himself, something about hatch and faults, and repeatedly moaning about special releases. Oh right, Spade’s albums sold during this very first week had his personal signature included, along with raffle for a chance to win a ticket to his first major concert in a few months. Ace grimaced at the memory of signing so many cards in 3 days. 

 

Glancing at the long queue - how many people were in the store that afternoon? - and back at the man, an idea popped up in Ace’s mind. Well, it might compromised his disguise, but while he had fans in different age and gender groups, most of his most ardent fans had been women, rarely a man. Plus, the way the man kept on sulking about missing his chance to buy his album was honestly adorable. One hand poised over the sunglasses, he slowly made his way over to the black-clad male.

 

“Um,” he began, trying to get the man’s attention. He lowered the glasses down a little, just over the bridge of his nose, ready to take it off when the man turned, “Excuse me—“

 

Only, the glasses were a lot more loose on his face and slippery due to his sweat. Brook’s glasses slipped from his fingers, and after a few fumbling, fell on the floor, at the same time the man turned. Ace watched in slow horror as the man’s foot stepped on the pair of glasses, breaking it into pieces.

 

Fuck. That was Brook’s favorite pair too.

 

“Oh shit!“ the hooded man exclaimed, his feet jerking up immediately, “I’m so sorry, i wasn’t looking at where i’m going. Look, i can replace that if you like,”

 

Kind as the offer was, he didn’t think that’ll work. Brook always told proud stories about how that pair was a rare collectors item from some company that went bankrupt 40 years ago, and how the owner had given it to him personally. Ace highly doubt a replacement actually existed anymore. With a grimace, he lifted his head, trying his best to give the frantic man some reassurance, “It’s fine. I’ll have to apologize to my friend,“

 

It took Ace a while to notice that the man wasn’t even listening to him, his mouth gaped wide and eyebrows shot up high. It took him quite a little longer to also realize that, without the glasses, his face was clear for the world - or rather, the man - to see, “Oh,” he voiced lamely. Well, this isn’t how he had planned to surprise him, but he supposed it worked nonetheless, “Yeah, hi. I’m sorry for startling you in the first place. I just wanted to—“

 

The man took off his own sunglasses, and this time, Ace was the one who was struck speechless.

 

Behind the designer frames were familiar droopy blue eyes. When the motion caused his headphone and hood slide off from his head, Ace could catch tufts of blonde hair, and coupled with the familiar hairstyle and stubbles, the face of the man in front of him was revealed to be none other than the same face he had been silently squealing over a moment ago on the cover of his DVD box.  

 

He could also hear the familiar tune of his own song coming out of the headphones, and with the revelation on just who is standing just a foot away from him, Ace felt like he could faint at any moment.

 

(He didn’t, but he felt like he could’ve died at that moment and be happy, and that was close enough) 

 


 

The sound of the front door being slammed close and the rapid footsteps following it startled Sabo out of his deep concentration, “What the fuck,” the scarred blonde stated plainly, glancing towards the source of the sound only to find a dark blur suddenly zooming from the front entrance to the direction of Ace’s bedroom. The door was slammed close so hard the picture frame near it shook.

 

After a few blinks, he shared glances with Koala, who was sitting sideways across his lap, “What was that all about?” the blonde girl asked, popping a single grape into her mouth and another to Sabo’s, which he accepted by opening his mouth without looking. The man underneath her rolled his eyes after a bit.

 

“Knowing Ace at this time of day, probably something stupid,” he grumbled, returning back to the important matter he had been doing before he was rudely interrupted: Trying to solve this week’s crossword puzzle on the newspaper, “9 words down, ends with L. The clue is shrill howling,”

 

“Scream,”

 

“Nope, that doesn’t end with L,”

 

“No, i mean someone is screaming in there,” with a smooth motion, Koala leapt off from Sabo’s lap, nearly jostling the newspaper in the man’s hold, “There it is again. Listen to all of that caterwauling,”

 

“Caterwaul! That’s it!”

 

“Sabo!”

 

With a sigh, Sabo looked up from his neatly filled paper to the girl, “Look, Koala, i know Ace, okay. If he’s really having a problem, he’d be quiet as a mouse. If he’s slamming everything in sight like he’s on fire, that means he’s more than okay and it’s going to be a waste of my precious time,” 

 

Koala still wouldn’t relent. She puts both of her hands on her hips, making the bag of grape she held bounce a little on her skirt, and puffed up her cheeks. Sabo took one look at her, pulling a pitiful expression, “Oh come on, this is finally a day for me to rest after so long. I only got like 3 days off, can’t we just spend the day together in peace?” 

 

Another scream came from Ace’s bedroom, this time a lot louder and near hysterical. Koala raised her brows, “That doesn’t sound like nothing to me,”

 

“He screamed the same way once when his favorite actor died in a movie, Koala. I’m not getting fooled again, not on my break,”

 

Before Koala could give any reply, another scream was heard, this time followed with a much more vivid scream of ‘Kill me now!’. She crossed her arms and raised a brow at her boyfriend’s direction, who turned his pained gaze at the closed bedroom door. Finally, reluctantly, the blonde male stood up, dropping his pen and paper before trudging over to the door and knocked, “Ace? You okay in there?”

 

No reply. Koala sidled close to Sabo, trying to listen in inside of the bedroom. There’s the sound of repeated thumping somewhere inside. She jabbed his side, and with another weary sigh, Sabo spoke, “I’m coming in,”

 

Entering, or even taking a glimpse at Ace’s bedroom was always a surreal experience for Koala. Not because it was a man’s bedroom - she had often stayed over at Sabo’s after all, when they were kids and way before they dated - or that it was messy - unlike Luffy’s bedroom, just a few feet away from here - but because entering Ace’s bedroom was equal to either entering an obsessive 12 years old fangirl’s bedroom or a serial killer’s lair. 

 

Every inch of the bedroom was filled with posters and photo spreads of Marco Newgate, not to mention the posters from the various movie and TV shows that he was in. There was an entire display that held figurines of the characters said actor has played as, and she had heard horror stories about a 10 gigabyte picture folder from Law, Ace’s co-manager alongside Sabo.

 

While she hesitate and partially admire the dedication given to make a bedroom to look like such, Sabo was more than used to it. He strolled inside to where Ace had buried his face on a pillow, slamming his legs behind him in an up and down swinging motion on the bed, “Alright then,” the blonde sighed, slapping the back of said swinging toned thighs a couple of times before ruffling his dark haired ‘sibling’s’ locks, “What’s this all about?”

 

“I’m stupid!” Ace cried out from behind his pillow, burrowing his face even deeper and slamming his feet faster on the bed. Koala took careful steps away from those legs as she approached the bed, sitting next to Sabo, “I’m so stupid and mortified, kill me now!”

 

“I don’t know, wouldn’t want to deprive Sakazuki from the chance. He’s been hunting you down since he found out you’re the one who scratched his car,” the blonde deadpanned, only to be poked by Koala, “But seriously, everyone who know and loves you know that you’re an idiot a long time ago, it’s nothing new, Ace, you don’t have to be this upset,”

 

“Sab,” Koala hissed when Ace whined even harder, but the blonde only shrugged. When she sensed that no help will be coming from the raven’s sworn brother, she rolled her eyes and patted his arm, “Is everything okay, Ace?”

 

Immediately, Ace half leapt and buried his head on Koala’s lap, pulling her by the waist. As she gently shushed him, Sabo rolled his eyes. There hasn’t been a time when that’s a problem, because looking around Ace’s room can tell you that even if Ace was into chicks, it’ll only because Marco Newgate was actually one, “What’s that? I can’t hear you if you keep mumbling,”

 

When Ace lifted his head up, there are genuine tears dripping down from his eyes and his lips wobbled as he sobbed. For a moment, Sabo was actually worried, thinking that his assessment might’ve been wrong, at least, until Ace spoke, “I met Marco today. In person,”

 

He can already tell from the way Koala pursed her lips that she’s already regretting it, but well, it’s her fault. He told her they should’ve just left this alone, “That’s great, Ace. You’re a fan of his, after all,”

 

“No! No, it’s not great! It was a disaster! My life’s ruined!” 

 

It was honestly baffling to Sabo how Ace could ever have a reputation as a cool and aloof person from the media, when in reality, he was the most dramatic being Sabo had ever come across. And he had been around a lot of artist in the course of his job, “Why? Shouldn’t it be a great thing? I mean, you’ve been mooning over the guy since you first saw him on TV. Its like, what, 10 years now?”

 

Sabo didn’t mean it, but he must’ve said something completely uncalled for because Ace turned to him in full aghast, before falling into Koala’s embrace to wail some more. Koala glared at him, though whether it was for upsetting Ace again or because he caused her to have a ‘koala’ of her own, he honestly didn’t know, “There, there, Ace. I’m sure whatever happened wasn’t that bad—“

 

“Yes it is!”

 

“So like i’ve been asking for the past 5 minutes, what happened? And quit using my girlfriend as your personal teddy bear and tissue,”

 

Ace finally relented, but he still had both muscled arms holding Koala’s slim body to his. Koala, for her part, patted Ace on the crown of his head as he began to explain, “I went out to buy movies today, in that store downtown—“

 

“The big one that’s currently selling your album? Ace, you would’ve gotten mobbed there—“

 

Sabo flinched at the swat on his thigh, “For someone who kept insisting that today’s a break, you sure go back to work mode pretty easy,” Koala jabbed at him, turning back to Ace, “So what happened then?”

 

“Well, there’s a long line on the cashier, and i think that some people already guessed who i am even with those on,” he pointed to a pile on the floor, a collection of Law’s coat, Sabo’s scarf, Luffy’s winter mittens, “So i hid in the shelf on the furthest back to wait, since no one’s there anymore,”

 

He sniffled, wiping snot on his sleeve. Koala winced a little, but Sabo only handed him a tissue from the bedside table. Cool and aloof indeed, “So, that’s also where they sold my albums and this guy came by, all mad because it was all sold out, and since he looked so upset about it, i thought it would be kinda cool to tell him i’m there. Just to be nice, you know?” Ace’s face began to crumple and he began to break down into a tearful mess once more. If Sabo tilted his head right, he was sure he could see that the shoulder on Koala’s favorite pink shirt was now tear-drenched, “It was Marco of all people! It was Marco and i made a complete fool out of myself!”

 

Once again, Sabo would’ve delivered a line about how that is to be expected, but Koala’s warning glare discouraged him of it. Instead, he asked, “So, he’s a fan of yours. That’s pretty cool. What happens then? Did you shake his hand, did you ask for his autograph and a selfie, did you tell him that you wanted to marry him and have his little blonde and droopy eyed babies?”

 

“No,” To his credit, Ace actually managed to sound indignant about it through his sobs, but it was mostly because he had spent years having Sabo tease him about it. Sabo actually half expected him to continue with the old counterargument on how ‘the babies would at least have his freckles too’, “That would’ve been a lot better than what actually happened,”

 

“Yeah? What happened?”

 

The raven haired male buried his face in his hands, muffling his reply, “What was that?”

 

“I ran away! I saw his face, i froze and then, when he was about to say something, i ran as fast as i could out of the store!” Ace screamed, before burying his face in his hands again, shaking his head so hard his hair went fluttering everywhere, “I didn’t even realize what i did until i was on my way here!”

 

Koala shushed him down by patting his back, while Sabo flopped down on Ace’s bed, “I finally met him in real life and i just ran away without even talking to him!” Ace cried out even more, “Worst of all, he was really nice to me. He wanted to repay Brook’s glasses that he stepped on—“

 

“Wait, what,”

 

“—but because i ran away i forgot to pick them up. I even forgot to pay for the DVDs,”

 

“Ace!”

 

“What if he thinks i’m a weirdo? I must’ve looked so clumsy and stupid—“

 

“You look like a thief in a broad daylight, that’s what you looked like!” Sabo pointed to the door leading to the bedroom, “Go back there and pay for them!”

 

Ace looked up, eyes wide as if he was shocked by his suggestion, “What?! I can’t go back there, what if he’s still there?! I don’t want to show my face in front of him!”

 

“I don’t care, this is my day off and the last thing i need is having to do a damage control for a stupid thieving scandal,” the blonde climbed down the bed and gather the lump of clothes in his hand, dumping them all over Ace and half of Koala’s laps, “Go back there, pay for the DVDs, before i make you,”

 

“Sabo, i can’t! Marco might still be there!”

 

“If he already knows it was you and think you’re stupid, trust me, not meeting him won’t change anything. Now go! And pick up Brook’s glasses too! Dammit, Ace he’s always bragging about how much he loves that thing,”

 

And of course, like a child, Ace had to pout, even having the audacity to hide behind Koala, “No,”

 

“Ace,” with his best ‘scolding father’ tone - he spent too much time around Dragon lately, hasn’t he? - Sabo folded his arms, looming closer to Ace. The raven haired male still tried to slink behind Koala even further, which is ridiculous considering she is much smaller than him, “Go,”

 

Of course, behind tear streaked face, Ace still has enough defiance in him to hiss out, “Make me,”

 


 

Ace stood in front of the cashier, pouting and massaging the spot on his head where Sabo had hit him, DVDs clenched tightly in his hand, “I’d like to pay for these, please,”

 

The pink haired girl behind the counter stared at him with crooked brows. Ace didn’t blame her; He was in the very same getup, but in lieu of the broken sunglasses, Ace now wore Sabo’s pair, which is quite nice, if it wasn’t for the fact that it was attached to a fake beard from last Halloween. The store was nearly empty, with only a couple of stragglers in different sections, a far contrast from how it has been before. Just to the side of the cashier queue, Sabo stood next to Koala, the two of them browsing through the selection of movies, pretending not to notice Ace glaring at him while fishing out his wallet.

 

As the girl scanned his purchases - all the while eating a large slice of pizza - he scanned around the store once more. At least his worst fear didn’t come true; there’s no hooded man around so Marco must’ve left.

 

“There, i’m done,” he muttered sullenly as he made his way over to Sabo and Koala, carrying the plastic bag with his purchase inside, “Can we please go now?”

 

But instead of listening to him, Sabo waved him off, reading the back of a Blu-ray box, “Give me a sec. What about this one?” he turned to Koala, showing her the same box, “I’ve read the synopsis. This one got a spy side-plot, so that’s a win-win for us, right?”

 

“But i wanted the superhero one. We watched your chick-flick yesterday night, why can’t we watched mine today?”

 

“They’re not chick-flick, they’re romantic comedy!”

 

“Semantics, Sabo!”

 

As the blonde couple continue to bicker, Ace rolled his eyes and made his way to the exit. Sabo and Koala rarely bicker about anything, but the few times they did, it was always about something inane. In fact, Ace was pretty sure that the few times they did, it was also because of Sabo’s not-so-hidden fondness for romantic movies versus Koala’s own taste for actions.

 

Sighing, the raven haired male leaned by the door, taking out his purchases. Man, he can’t wait to get back home and watch them again. Suppressing a squeal, Ace cradled the DVD boxes close, giggling to himself.

 

At least, until the sound of someone clearing their throat reach him, and he nearly dropped the DVDs.

 

Thankfully, he was quick enough this time to catch them, but a second hand also held on to the box, presumably whoever it is who had disturbed him. He glared up, ready to be mad when he found a familiar sunglasses-framed face staring back at him.

 

Ace’s eyes went wide behind his sunglasses.

 

The hood was back up (hiding the clean shaved side of his head and those soft blonde locks), though the headphones were now around Marco’s (strong, muscled) neck and his face was once again covered by his sunglasses (his eyes, pretty and blue like the ocean, oh god, he’s really there). The blonde bit his lower lip (thick, a little chapped but no one’s perfect, and why does it look so kissable), taking a deep breath before he spoke uncertainly, “Excuse me, but, that coat and scarf,” he looked around, before leaning closer and nearly making Ace’s heart pop, speaking in a lowered tone, “You’re Spade, right?”

 

Right, he had been wearing the same thing when they met this morning. Ace wanted to nod, but it’s like his head was locked in place, so he ended up only staring from behind his sunglasses, mouth agape. After a while, Marco cleared his throat, reaching into his hoodie. From the inside, he pulled out a folded handkerchief, opening it to reveal Brook’s broken sunglasses, “I, uh, i thought you might came back for it, so i waited for you. N-no! That came out wrong, I didn’t wait— well, i did, but i wanted to give it back, a-and to p-pay you back. J-just for that, i swear, i didn’t have any other meaning— No! No, no, i didn’t mean to imply that i…,”

 

Ace was still too stunned to say anything. Marco cleared his throat again, “W-what i’m trying to say is, i’m so sorry for breaking your glasses,”

 

He offered Ace the handkerchief folded around the sunglasses, but Ace’s eyes were on the monogramed initials on the corner of the cloth. Oh god, it’s an embroidered, personalized handkerchief, with Marco Newgate’s initial, which means it’s his. And he’s giving it to Ace. 

 

With shaking hands, he reach for the handkerchief and sunglasses. His fingers were jittery, and Ace swore his heart stopped when the tip of his fingers touched Marco’s. As he blonde released both the handkerchief and the DVD box - they were still holding on to it, and Ace didn’t even realize - near simultaneously, Ace’s hands were frozen still. He’s never going to wash his hands ever again. From now on, he’ll be taking baths with gloves on and not even his mother can stop him.

 

“Uh, I’m Marco,”

 

“I know,” Ace replied all too quickly, voice coming out a lot more high pitched squeak. He winced.

 

“Oh, right,” the blonde nodded, laughing sheepishly. Ace’s knees felt weak. Why is that smile so beautiful up close, “Uh, i don’t know much about glasses, but the frame seems okay, but one of the glass was cracked. I’m, uh, maybe you can have it fixed still. I-i’ll pay for it, of course!” he blurted out, reaching hurriedly into his pocket again. From inside, he pulled out his phone, “But i don’t exactly have cash on me right now. Maybe we can exchange phone numbers, so we can talk about it,”

 

But Ace was frozen stiff, and he could even feel his heart thumping against his ribcage.

 

Did…

 

Did Marco…

 

Did Marco Newgate, the Marco Newgate, just asked for his number?

 

Ace wanted to slap himself awake from what is surely just a bizarre fever dream, but if this turns out to be his own imagination, he didn’t want to go back to reality just yet.

 

Marco seems briefly confused by his silence, before he began stammering again, “N-no, wait! I swear, i swear this isn’t some ploy to get your number— I mean! I really just wanted to apologize for the glasses, i— Oh god, get a grip Marco, you fucking mess, he’s probably creeped out by you,” he muttered to himself, too low for Ace to catch but oh, is he talking to himself? Why is that so adorable? “Look, i— i’ll admit, i’m a fan of yours. Big fan. Biggest fa— You get the idea. But i swear there’s no hidden motive whatsoever. I genuinely felt bad,”

 

He put his phone away, pocketing them once more before reaching to his jacket pocket to pull out a pen - what are the things this man has in his pockets, Ace would really like to know - before taking a close step to Ace. Much to the freckled male’s shock, Marco cradled his hand, then started writing on the folded edge of the handkerchief in quick and precise writing. Ace’s heart thumped even louder in his chest, too close to bursting out.

 

In fact, it did, in the form of a little muffled squeal that escaped from his throat.

 

“There, i’ll give you my number instead, s-so it’ll be your choice whether you wanted to call me or not,” he smiled a little, before turning alarmed, “Not call! Text! W-well, if you wanted to call, it’s fine by me, too. J-just whatever is easier for you, it’s really up to you,” 

 

His number?

 

Ace shifted his gaze to the handkerchief - Marco’s handkerchief, in his hand - and sure enough, they writing Marco had left was actually a phone number, written upside down from his position. Marco’s number.

 

This is too much. He can’t handle it. Today’s been too much.

 

From behind him, a light breeze blows as the store door was opened, “Sorry for making you wait, Ace,” Koala’s voice called out cheerfully. From next to her, Ace could hear Sabo grumbling to himself.

 

Marco glanced behind him, putting his pen away, “So, uh, yeah,” he muttered, giving Ace one last smile, “I’ll— I’ll look forward to your call. Not! Not that i—, i mean, i do want you to call but, just—“ finally he sighed, running a hand down from his nose to his chin, “I’m so sorry. H-have a good day, Spade,” he nodded with a glance behind Ace, presumably to Sabo and Koala before walking away in rapid speed.

 

Leaving Ace still frozen in the same pose, mouth still agape and eyes so wide they’re starting to sting.

 

“What was that all about?” Ace heard Sabo asked, placing a hand on his shoulder, “Was that Marco Newgate just now?”

 

“He’s a bit awkward in real life, isn’t he?” Koala voiced from his other side, her blonde locks appearing from Ace’s periphery. At the silence she received, the strawberry blonde girl began waving her hand in front of Ace’s face, “Helloooo? Anyone home?" she called out, frowning and turning to her her boyfriend, "Sabo, i think he’s catatonic,”

 

Sabo tapped Ace a few times on his shoulder, each tap slowly turning to a shove, “Ace? Hey,” he called out, and again, fail to receive any reply. The blonde inspected his brother’s suspended arms, finding a DVD box in one and the folded handkerchief in the other, “Oh, that’s Brook’s sunglasses. Good thing you found it— Is that a phone number on the handkerchief?”

 

“Sabo?”

 

The blonde looked away from the handkerchief to Ace, frowning, “What?”

 

“I’m going to faint. Hold me,”

 

“Huh? Wha— Ace!”

 

Chapter Text

 

“Marco, you’re scaring me,”

 

Quick as lightning, Marco shifted his glare from the screen of his phone to the side, and was quickly met with a whimper. Thatch was still cowering to the side, poorly trying to fix the pomp that Marco had inevitably ruined in their earlier scuffle, “I’m sorry, okay! I forgot that the groceries needs to be picked up by ourselves!”

 

Their housekeeper had taken the month off to visit her grandchildren in the neighbouring city, and while that was usually not a problem, with their hectic and often sporadic work schedule, it means that a lot of house work needs to be done by themselves, including grocery shopping. Thatch himself had proposed the idea of online shopping, which had gone quite well for the first week but the nearest one had contacted them specifically this week, saying that due to some roadwork outside, they would need to pick up their own stuff specifically for this week.

 

Marco had repeatedly reminded Thatch of this, seeing that he had to work from this early morning. Well, that and because he had to buy Spade’s album, but like hell he’s going to give his brother any more ammunition about his supposed obsession with pop idols. He doesn’t have obsession with pop idols. Just Spade.

 

And it’s not really an obsession, he just liked his songs and work like any other fan. Marco owned both physical albums and digital copies of them because he’s old school and still liked physical disc. The digital copies was because he also needed something to listen to on the road, and phones don’t really have disc players, do they? Okay, so maybe he had all of Spade’s discography in several music playing platforms, but he also had all of the discography for ’Whitebeard Sons’ in those same accounts.

 

Alright, so ‘Whitebeard Sons’ is his brothers’ band, made in honour of their adoptive father and that’s why he had their entire songs there, but he genuinely liked their stuff and that’s the very same reason he had all of Spade’s songs as well. He liked all of them.

 

Spade, real name Ace Gol-Portgas, was a newcomer in the entertainment industry, but in only 3 years he managed to become a household name on his own. He wrote and produce his own stuff, making it big when he released an EP in a music streaming platform under the username A/S/CE and gained recognition overnight. This brought attention to a recording company who signed him on, and the rest was history. His very first song as a signed artist under the stage name Spade went viral and platinum, and it was talked so many times in between his colleagues that it caught Marco’s attention.

 

So he knew all of that because Marco also watched all of his various interviews and guest appearance in shows, but only because he’s actually entertaining even outside of the music scene. Despite being in different circles of entertainment industry, Marco have heard of stories from here and there, and found that nobody really had something bad to say about him. That kind of genuine personality is rare to see in this sort of world, and it made him curious, that is all.

 

And well, he’s also really, really good looking. And after seeing him in the flesh today, Marco knew that none of those polished and airbrushed posters he kept underneath his bed and on the very back of his closet will ever do justice to the real person.

 

…Okay, so he kept some posters too, and maybe a couple of merchandise and even ads featuring him, but he’s more or less part-timing as a model these days with how many commercials featured him - he is a good looking man, after all, who wouldn’t want that face to advertise their stuff? - that it’s hard to keep track of which popular soda company didn’t have him on their product for that year. 

 

And so what if that ad was from last year and the soda company didn’t release those Spade-advertised cans anymore? Marco forgot to drink it, that’s all, that’s why he still had it in his bedroom closet. To drink someday.

 

Probably.

 

Anyway.

 

Back to Thatch.

 

Thatch, who had so foolishly forgotten to pick up their order for today, even knowing and reminded repeatedly that if he didn’t pick it up before noon today, the products will have to be taken back because his prissiness liked his meat and vegetables fresh and always demanded they shopped from the morning market instead of the usual convenience store or a chain market. But since he forgot, their order were indeed returned and resell, and that means Marco, after a script reading that went far longer than it should because one of the actor and a producer just couldn’t get along, had to buy everything in their list before the store closes.

 

And thus making him late in buying Spade’s special first week album, with the signature and the raffle ticket.

 

Which somehow, oddly, shocking, and horrifyingly, culminated to…

 

Oh dear lord, did today really happened?

 

“L-look,” Thatch whimpered from the side when Marco levelled him with another glare for daring to speak during his distress, “I’m really, really sorry, okay? I had the date wrong, i thought that was going to be tomorrow! And i’m really grateful you brought the groceries, so i promise to buy you the album you missed out on. I’ll buy you two even, no, three! D-deal?”

 

Marco glared harder, but looking at the sheepish grin and genuinely regretful look on Thatch’s face melted him a little. Thatch had been using today to catch up some sleep he lost for the last few days, as one of the sous chef in the michellin-star restaurant, Baratie. His boss, Zeff, had been extremely tough on his staff due to an important reservation from some out of country dignitaries, and according to Thatch, the man had been up everyone’s asses, especially to his poor son, another chef and sometimes waiter.

 

And besides, even if he had caused Marco to miss out on the first week album sale, he was not at fault for his true problem right now, so he doesn’t really deserve Marco’s ire.

 

Not much anyway.

 

Without replying,  Marco placed his phone down and sighed mournfully. He had been staring and waiting for the last 3 hours now, jumping at every notification only to realize that it was mostly from someone about work and one time a mass message from Pops asking his children about dinner at his house next week. He can’t believe he was ever that stupid; First, he broke his glasses - which he distantly remembered was actually his friend’s - and then he waited around for him just to give him his phone number. Why does he think Spade would go through with calling him?

 

Just how crazy must he looked to Spade? And in front of his friends - though the man he recognize as his friend and manager - and whoever was on the street earlier. But mostly to Spade.

 

As Marco wondered what had become of his handkerchief (probably thrown away, but he hoped not; Rakuyo’s wife had specially made that for everyone in the family and he’d hate explaining it to her the next time they met if that’s the case) his phone vibrated. It was a text message, based on the short alert. Probably something else about the photoshoot he had to go to tomorrow from Robin, his manager.

 

“Marco?”

 

“Alright, alright,” he sighed again, glancing back to Thatch with hooded eyes while he picked his phone up, “Just… start putting on reminders or something. You don’t like eating out because it might be a ‘health hazard’—“

 

“Hey, you never know what goes on in other kitchens and as a chef, i liked knowing where my food’s been, alright?”

 

“—and i’m busy with work most of the time so i might not be able to help much around here,”

 

The text message on his screen was not from Robin, it came from an unknown phone number, with only the word ‘hithe’ written on it. He frowned, and was about to dismiss it as a wrong number when his screen suddenly change to alert him that he has an incoming call from the very same number. Confused, he picked the call up, and before he could even give a greeting, the person on the other side of the phone spoke cheerily.

 

“Hiya there, Pinea—“

 

“Luffy, i will fucking end you, you little shit! Give me my phone back!”

 

The first voice, a voice that could not be mistaken as anything else than a young boy snickered to the phone. There’s a crash somewhere to the side of him, followed by more angry yelling that nearly drowned his next words, “Hi! This is really pineapple’s number, right? The one whose face is everywhere in Ace’s roo—“ whatever else he was about to say was halted by a loud war cry, followed by a startled, choke yelp.

 

Thatch, who must’ve seen the growing frown on his face shifted closer, “Who’s that?”

 

“I have no idea,” Marco muttered to him, listening in to the muffled shouts and rather worrying sound of something breaking in the back, “I think it’s a boy, who said something about faces and… pineapples?”

 

He might have also heard something about the name ‘Ace’, but there’s only one person he knew had that name and he really didn’t want to encourage himself just in case he got it wrong.

 

The phone went static until a harried voice came in from the receiver, “I’m so, so, so sorry! I’m sorry, i don’t know what came over hi— Luffy, stop squirming!” the voice went back berating the now distant whining voice that Marco recognize as the boy who called and spoke first, and as the two voices continued to squabble, it took him a while to recognize the voice that he unmistakably only ever heard in his music players—

 

“Excuse me,” he cuts in between the still commencing shouting match on the phone, “Is… is this Spade?”

 

Next to him, from his periphery he could see Thatch widening his eyes and staring at him with gaping mouth, while from the phone, the only voice he could hear was the boy, Luffy’s begging to be let go until the other person spoke, “Um, yeah. H-hi… M-m-Marco,”

 

Oh shit.

 

Oh shit, oh shit, he didn’t think this would actually happen. He’s not ready for this, not his mind, not his mental health, not his nerves, not his brain, none of it is ready. Not a single cel in his body was ready to have his phone number actually used by and called by Spade, so it was with little surprise that the only intelligent thing he was able to come up with as a reply was a short, “Hi,”

 

If death could come now and take him away, he would be so happy.

 

Actually, no, give him just a few more seconds because, listening to Spade’s singing voice had been nice - beyond nice, even - but hearing him speak now, even just through the phone was downright amazing. The lilt in his voice, the fact that he’s a little breathless - probably from wrestling the boy from earlier - and no, this is not doing Marco’s health any good. His heart is already thumping so hard he’s surprised it hasn’t burst out of his chest.

 

Just like now again, when he laughed slightly, still a little bit breathless, “H-hello,”

 

For a moment there, his cheeks hurts, and from his reflection on the mirror, Marco finally figured out why. If there was any better description for the term ‘grinning like a cat that got the cream’ compared to his face right now, he has yet to see it, “Hello,”

 

It never really registered to him - and after it did, Marco wished nothing but the ground to swallow him right then and there - but he and Spade might have exchange hellos 5 more times before he even realized what he was doing. He could only hope that Spade himself does not realize this, although it’s possible that he’s only doing it because he’s just being polite, which made Marco feel worse.

 

“So,” he finally said, after a series of throat clearing to stop himself from apologizing to Spade for the nth time for wasting his time with the multiple greetings like he’s a broken record, “About the glasses…,”

 

“Oh, i really don’t mind. It’s... it was my fault for startling you—“

 

“But i was the one who stepped on them, so please, let me repay you and your friend who owns the glasses somehow. I’d do anything,”

 

Briefly, Marco wondered if he was being too pushy about this matter, because there was nothing but silence from the other side of the phone. He began to panic at the thought of Spade being irritated at his insistence, when a voice that does not belong to Spade and came distantly away from the other side piped up rather loudly, “Whoa! Ace, your face is sooo red! Like a lobster!”

 

“S-shut the hell up, Luffy!”

 

“Um, hello?”

 

“Huh? Oh! Uh…,” Spade stammered over the phone,and somewhere in the distance, Marco caught the sound of Luffy and another unidentified voice laughing. Spade hissed at them away from the phone, before speaking again, “It’s really okay, you don’t have to,” he said weakly, and Marco was about to offer again - or do anything to keep this precious call just a little longer - when he continued, rather demurely, “But if you really insist, actually, i do want to look for a replacement for my friend’s sunglasses tomorrow. And um, unfortunately, i don’t know much about brands so, maybe you can come along and help me?”

 

If Thatch wasn’t there and if he wasn’t consciously trying to give an answer, Marco would’ve slapped himself right then and there to make sure this isn’t a dream. Spade said yes. And he’s inviting him to go with him tomorrow. Which means Marco gets to see him again.

 

“Y-yes!” he said over-enthusiastically, and if Thatch wasn’t already looking at him so weirdly, Marco would’ve gone and kick himself for being an idiot, “I mean, yes. I’d love to. I hope i can be of help,”

 

There’s another long pause, but Marco didn’t mind. Speaking is rather difficult when there’s a grin so big on your face you’re pretty sure that your muscles will stay locked in that position forever. The grin stayed as they agreed on a place and time, and exchanged goodbyes even longer than they exchanged their hellos. 

 

Should Marco kept listening to his phone once Spade gave his last goodbye, he would’ve heard the singer screeching in disbelief on the other side of the phone. He was too busy screaming out on his own however, celebrating like a child who had been told that every single one of his favorite celebrations had come early that year and ignoring Thatch’s quip about how he’s beginning to worry about Marco’s sanity.

 


 

Today was supposed to be great. Today was supposed to be the best day of his life for the last 30 odd years.

 

Today was not his day.

 

Due to his excitement from the day before, Marco had gone to bed early to prepare for the day, yet somehow he had forgotten to set his alarm and thus overslept. That early morning, he had a photoshoot promoting his newest movie, and it would have gone smoothly if his co-star hadn’t been a diva who wasted everyone’s time by throwing a tantrum because his assistant had brought the wrong coffee blend. That made him late to his second appointment of the day, a meeting with a movie director negotiating his being casted for the man’s new movie starting next year.

 

The director had waved it off with a laugh, due to knowing Marco beforehand and understanding his excuse, but Robin had been less than forgiving. She was not angry, no, but she was disappointed and as a mother of one and the wife of the most unique man Marco had ever come across in real life, she knew how to weaponize that disappointment to ensure it won’t ever happen again.

 

Late, tired and honestly a little downtrodden, this was not the state that he wanted to meet Spade in at all, and when he finally met Spade again in the quaint little coffee shop they had agreed on, his worries were confirmed.

 

If Spade’s little disguise yesterday was actually kind of cute, today, he was just downright smoking. Leather jacket, open collar shirt, pressed pants, the entire nine yard, he looked like he was going to a runway instead of shopping in the nearest boutique mall like they had agreed on. The only saving grace Marco had was the light make up he probably still had on from the photoshoot earlier today, while his clothes had been a quick grab of the nearest things once he found out how late he was this morning.

 

He considered turning back around and lie about not feeling well, when Spade looked up from the phone he had been furiously typing on and caught sight of him. 

 

Well, there’s no turning back.

 

“Hi,” he greeted as he approached the corner booth that Spade had chosen, away from the outside crowd that Marco had seen coming in were glancing this way. Not that he could blame them; Spade had forgone any disguises today, so it was obvious that many people recognize him. Even if they didn’t, Marco thought it would be hard to ignore someone who looked like that.

 

“Hi!’ the raven haired male greeted, his voice hitching slightly as he tried to sit up straight. There’s a light flush on his cheeks - today is rather hot, and he’s wearing a leather jacket - and his smile shows off his pearly white teeth. He cleared his throat, the flush on his cheeks raising slightly, “I mean, hi,”

 

“Hi—Let’s not do this again,” It wasn’t meant to be a joke, Marco was honestly on the verge of being stuck as a broken greeting record once again, and that had been a warning to himself. Yet Spade must’ve caught it as one, because he laughed, a snort-chuckle combination that seems to startle even himself. The flush on his cheeks deepened even more , and with his eyes blown wide, Marco had to quickly sit down on the opposing chair to compose himself because just meeting him again was too much, seeing him making faces like that is an overkill.

 

The phone on Spade’s side was repeatedly ringing with alert of new incoming text, in which after a while, was turned completely off. 

 

“Oh no, if it’s important, please don’t stop on my account,“

 

“No! No, it’s not important, it’s—“ he glared briefly at the phone, lips unconsciously forming to a pout and Marco had to bit his lower lips to stop himself from blurting out how that’s so cute, “It’s my stupid brother. By the way, i’m so sorry about yesterday. He… kind of stole my phone while i was distracted by my other brother - the traitor - while i was trying to call you,”

 

Ah, that explains why, “It’s alright, i have brothers too, i know what it’s like,” Good thing the one brother that lives with him was currently scared shitless by him to try anything.

 

Spade grinned, “Yeah, i bet you do, with 15 of them. I only had 2 and they’re already driving me crazy and i know that goes both ways,” he chuckled, a laugh that slowly died down as he again, widened his eyes in pure horror, “I— I mean! Uh,” now he was the one biting his lower lip, biting them in such intensity it made Marco rather worried himself, “U-um, everyone knows that you have a lot of brothers…?”

 

The way he kept flicking his eyes away reminded Marco of Haruta, the youngest of his brothers who is around Spade’s own age, who had the very same habit of looking away when he’s hiding something or just plain out lying. Marco was unsure what Spade had to lie about, but Spade continued and the thought left his mind, “In fact, aren’t you related to the personnels in the rock band ‘Whitebeard Sons’? I met them once in a music festival, and they’re really cool and nice to me, showed me their matching tattoos and all,”

 

Ah, Marco actually knew about that, because the very next day, Kingdew, Atmos, Jozu, Curiel and Vista had individually taunted him over it. It was back when the fact of him being Spade’s fan was first made known to the family, thanks to Thatch’s blabbermouth, who had gone through his bedroom without permission and found the multiple albums and merchandises he had kept in there. There’s a reason why he kept them in the closet now, which needed a key to be opened.

 

(They might also mentioned something about Spade being a fan of his, but that was probably another teasing.)

 

“Ah, yes, that’s a tattoo shared by everyone in the family actually, excluding our adopted father. It was his symbol to begin with,” 

 

“They told me something like that, and that everyone had theirs in different places, like the big one you had on your chest,” Spade mused, before suddenly sputtering yet again, “T-that’s what they told me anyway! I swear, they told me that themselves, i didn’t ask them at all, no i don’t!”

 

Spade was flicking his eyes away again and he was blushing so hard, Marco was worried he might pop a vessel. But knowing the amount of teasing and taunting that Marco had to endure from them that day, he wouldn’t actually put it past them to do something like that, “It actually is, a rather big one that’s almost as big as my torso, but not a lot of people know about it. They had to cover it most of the time in movies with concealer and i never had to go topless before for photo gigs,”

 

“…Shame,” Spade muttered, or at least, Marco thought that’s what he said. Must be his imagination.

 

They continued talking, mostly of the subject of tattoos (Spade had one on his upper arm, which he showed proudly by flexing his bicep. Marco had to wipe his forehead from any stray sweat several times) and family (The two brothers were not actually blood brothers, and Marco made the mistake of commenting how he thought that its weird since he knew Spade was an only child). It wasn’t until a waitress, a motherly looking woman who addressed Spade by name, came over to ask them if they needed anything else that both of them realize that they had been talking for nearly 2 hours, and the mall will be closing soon if they don’t hurry.

 

“I’m so sorry! It’s because i kept talking about Sabo and Luffy, isn’t it?!” Spade rushed as he sped out of the cafe, passing gawking bystanders with Marco hot on his heels, “You could’ve stopped me any time, you know! I wasted your time, didn’t i?”

 

“No, i’m sorry too, i didn’t pay attention to the time,” And he was enjoying Spade ranting - but also gushing - about his brothers to notice anything else but the expressions he made, ranging from exasperation to adoration. Really, it might as well be both of their fault this time, “I parked my car not far from here. Where’s yours?”

 

”I don’t drive!”

 

Marco stopped on his tracks,nearly bumping against Spade fue to the abrupt action, “The how’d you get here?”

 

“Public transport?”

 

The blush on Spade’s face came back, and it’s probably caused by how intense Marco stared at him, “Looking like that?!”

 

This is not good for Marco’s health.

 


 

 

The drove off to the mall and arrived just in time towards the optic shop. Spade had wanted to first see if the glasses can be fixed at all, since according to him, it had been a vintage and one of a kind item that has a precious sentimental value to his friend. This particular optic shop still caters to the decade old brand, and after a long talk with the owner, it’s decided that they can come back in 2 or 3 days to see how it is.

 

“I’m so glad!” Spade announced once they exited the shop, sighing, “Brook really loves that sunglasses. The owner of the company gave it to him and the rest of the Yorki’s Rumbar Orchestra personally before they close down, and it’s one of the few items he had left of them after every one in the orchestra passed away. God, i felt so awful, i wouldn’t know how to explain it to him if we can’t find someone to fix it,”

 

Marco blinked, “Wait, you’re telling me that your friend if the famous violinist from Yorki’s Rumbar Orchestra from 40 years ago?”

 

“Yeah, he’s mostly friends with Luffy, but he taught Sabo, Luffy and i how to play instruments and he helped me created some of my songs until now. You know him?”

 

“Not him personally, but Pops was a big fan of them, still has most of their original vinyl records,”

 

Despite finding a way to fix the sunglasses, Spade still wanted to buy something to make up for swiping Brook’s property in the first place, and Marco accompanied him from store to store, trying to find another sunglasses for him since apparently, the musician loves wearing them. He asked Marco’s opinion from time to time, all the while trying it on himself, starting from a more normal looking frames to eccentric, gold plated ones. As they go through models and stores, Spade even began to try out outfits for himself, the way he looked through every aisle and the way he dressed himself was telling that this may be a hobby for him.

 

The more they spent time together, Marco noticed that the younger was a lot more relaxed, loosing the demure attitude and became a lot more outgoing, even sometimes posing in a silly way just to draw a laughter out of Marco.

 

Spade’s image was mostly composed of a boyish cool charm, which Marco will sometimes admit that it was rather cute and fitting for his age. And he knows from experience that rarely does a celebrity’s actual personality matched with their image in the media, but if this entire day had been Spade in his comfort zone and therefore, his actual self, then Marco is doomed. Doomed with a capital D.

 

Because in return, he was starting to relax and letting his guard down, he knows he’s just going to start doing something stupid soon.

 

They left the mall near closing time, Brook’s new sunglasses in tow from some famous brand Marco always hear Izou raved about as well as a couple of shopping bags for Spade. He had a healthy flush on his face, still laughing over some embarrassing story Marco told about his brothers - coincidentally the same brothers who Ace met back then, but that’s mostly a coincidence - as they made their way to the parking lot.

 

Spade had requested to be dropped off in the cafe where they met, but Marco had insisted to bring him home directly, because it’s getting late, and with how many things Spade had on him, it was probably best if he just drive him home. 

 

“I know that technically today was supposed to be about fixing the sunglasses,” Spade told him once Marco pulled up to his driveway, the drive over much too soon and much too fast for his liking, “But i really, really had fun with you today,”

 

Marco chuckled, briefly catching the shadow of two people hanging about on the window overlooking the house’s driveway. The curtain lifted a little to reveal a dark haired boy with a scar underneath his eyes peeking at them, before being pulled back by a blonde man who Marco recognized from the day before, “Me too. Today’s been the dream of every fan, hanging out with their favorite celebrity and driving them home,”

 

Spade giggled - giggled! Extra point to the adorable counter - cheerily, “Yeah, me too,”

 

Silence.

 

Marco was not sure why Spade fell silent, but he was too busy muling over his last words and fell into despair. There it is, the stupidity he had been waiting for.

 

“Uh,” Spade muttered, sighing, “O-okay, so i haven’t been telling you the truth. I’m… i’m actually a fan of yours, a real big one too. But i swear, i didn’t invite you today because i wanted to take advantage of your offer! A-and when i said i enjoy spending time with you today, i really mean it, not in just a fan capacity,” he said, the redness on his cheek blooming like a flower in season. He gazed at Marco pleadingly, as if begging him to believe him.

 

This time, it was Marco’s turn to smile, “Yeah. Me too,”

 

Spade’s eyes brightened at his reply, and Marco felt his heart, as well as his entire body melt into puddles, “So, see you next time?”

 

Apparently, Marco’s brain was also in the process of melting, because it took him a while to process what Spade had said and even longer to reply, “Huh?”

 

The smile on Spade’s face dimmed a little, and the blonde internally panicked at the sight of it, “W-well, i just thought that, since we had a great day today, maybe you we can meet up again? But if you— never mind—“

 

“No!” Marco exclaimed, his brain finally back to functioning and know that if he doesn’t react now, this will be the worst ending to an eventually great day, “No, that is, no i don’t mind! But yes, yes i’d like to meet you again. To talk, or to help you shop. Anything at all. I want to see you again,”

 

That was too desperate, that was way too desperate, now Spade will be repulsed by him, as if his awkward as fuck episode yesterday wasn’t enough—

 

“Can you please wait here for a minute?” Spade told him as he exited the car, bringing his bags with him. He turned around holding on to the car door, “Give me a minute! I’ll be back soon!” And with that he slammed the door close, hurrying into the rather modest looking house.

 

Reeling from the sudden change of pace, Marco looked around the house, noting that the two shadows on the window has now disappeared, probably once Spade walked inside of the house. The blonde briefly wondered over the possibility of Spade being weirded out by his attitude and was now calling the police or something similar, and contemplated calling Robin to let her know he might be detained tonight when Spade came back out, sans leather jacket and only a short sleeved shirt. He was clutching something in his hand, and it wasn’t until he entered the car once more than Marco got a better look of it and widened his eyes.

 

In Spade’s hand was the very same ‘Longing’ album that he had missed out on yesterday, witch a small golden sticker underneath that tells him that this is one of the special edition one with his signature and the raffle ticket included, “This is so lame, but i wanted to thank you for your help. I was usually allowed to keep one every release, b-but well, i think it’s better in your hand than in mine,”

 

Gingerly, Marco plucked the case from Spade’s hand, scanning the album from top to bottom, “Thank you,” he said breathlessly, not even trying to hide the pure joy in his voice, “You don’t know how happy i am right now, I’ll treasure this, i promise,”

 

Spade smiled wider than he had the entire day, and again, redness bloomed from underneath his freckles, “I’ll see you around? Maybe to pick up Brook’s glasses?”

 

“Absolutely, Spade,”

 

“Ace,”

 

Marco looked up from the music album, “I’m sorry?”

 

“Call me Ace. I don’t mind being called Spade, but i’m always Ace to family and friends,”

 

Family and friends.

 

Friends.

 

This must be it, when people say they can die happy.

 

“Alright then, Ace,”

 

Spa—Ace laughed. He exited from the car, holding on to the door of the car once again as he spoke, “See you soon?”

 

Marco smiled, “Yeah,”

 

The younger grinned, and was about to close the door when he opened it again, “By the way, when you come around next time, avoid Sabo and Luffy. They’re liars. Don’t believe anything that they say. Especially not about the posters in my room. Or a 10 gigabyte picture folder,” he paused, face contorted to a sour expression, “Especially about the 10 gigabyte picture folder,”

 


 

Marco had a good dream that night, one that involved cute freckled face hidden behind funny looking fake beard and sunglasses. This dream was rudely interrupted by a none too gentle slap on the top of his head, which made him shout in pain and shock from being woken up too suddenly. As he blearily opened his eyes, through the still rising light from the window outside, Marco could see the outline of a woman looming over him, her arms folded over her chest and a friendly smile that he knew was far from being friendly aimed at him, “Good morning, Mr. Newgate,”

 

“Robin,” he greeted stiffly, because something in her tone made his blood run cold, and the last one or two times she broke into his place this early in the morning with that smile and calling him with ‘Mr. Newgate’ instead of ‘Marco’ it hadn’t been good, “What’s going on? Why are you here?”

 

“I’m here because i need you to explain something for me,”

 

“Huh?”

 

Robin unfolded her arms, and from the crook she pulled out a stack of newspapers and magazine, all of them specifically opened in to a particular page. Marco sat up - briefly forgetting that he slept topless, but then again, Robin’s used to it - picked up the first on the stack to find an explanation for Robin’s appearance.

 

What he saw nearly bugged his eyes out of their sockets.

 

EXCLUSIVE 

SECRET ROMANCE - SPADE’ AND ‘PARAMOUNT WAR’ STAR MARCO NEWGATE CAUGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF DATE:

CONFIRMATION OF SINGER’S SECRET ROMANCE SPECULATION? MORE DETAILS INSIDE!

 

As he wade through the rest of the articles from every magazine and newspaper Robin had brought, Marco was horrified to find that the first title had been the tamest of them all - one of the more trashy one called him a cradle-robber and he quickly moved on - and that there were photos included in every article, all of them obviously taken in secret. Most of them featured the pictures of Ace exiting his car, placed in sequence with him running back in, and one of them even featured a poorly angle one from the mall, during which Marco was trying to help Ace zip up a uniquely designed jacket but only looked like they were groping in public place.

 

“Now then,” Robin’s voice penetrated his deep panic, and as Marco looked up to see the positively terrifying smile on her, replaced that panic with deep fear, “Some explanation, Mr. Newgate?”

 

Chapter Text

 

—were seen leaving together holding hands, and entering what was reported to be Mr. Newgate’s car. The very same car where our reporter found the pop star leaving out of very later that day, bushy tailed and grinning from ear to ear. So sorry boys and girls around the world, but it looks like our beloved Spade’s off the market! “ The poor, faultless magazine was thrown to the floor, joining the rest of its brethren to form a mountain of glossy and bright coloured papers, “Of all the things you have to cause today, it’s thi— Ace, are you even listening to me?!”

 

From the side, Sabo watched silently as Trafalgar Law’s left eye twitched when he realized that no, Ace was not listening. Instead, in the middle of his quoting snippily at every article he had brought over, unnoticed by both of them, Ace had sneaked over some of the thrown away magazines and newspaper. Currently, he had his face hidden behind one of said magazines - one who placed the headline of his news next to some expose about another celebrity’s recent divorce - teeth biting down hard on his lips. 

 

“Oh my god,” he gasped not moments later, fingers trailing over one of the overblown picture of him and Marco exiting the cafe in the middle of a crowd, “They caught a picture of this!”

 

Law thumped his upturned palm with the magazine rolled in his other hand, “Exactly. We need to take care of this as soon as—“

 

“Can i have this? And this one, this one, and this one? No, wait, that other magazine has a better lighting. I need to scan and frame all of this— Ow! Law!”

 

“Will you take this seriously, you braindead fool!” Again, Law smacked down the magazine right on top of Ace’s head, making the dark haired singer wince and whined in pain, “My phone has been ringing non-stop since the fucking crack of dawn! Every two bit trash writer that calls themselves journalist wanted a scoop and an exclusive interview, every shitty talkshow wanted to have you on to explain yourself, Rayleigh wanted me to sort this out quickly, and i haven’t finished walking Bepo around the park yet because of this shit! He couldn’t have his favorite hotdog from the corner food stall! He didn’t have time to roll around his favorite flower field I don’t have time to even kiss him goodbye! He was sad when i left! Do you enjoy making Bepo sad, Ace?! Do you?!”

 

With every word that came out of Law’s mouth the more intense his smacking around become, and Sabo quickly pulled him away when tears started coming out of the corner of Ace’s squeezed shut eyes and before he could do a lasting damage, “Goddammit, Law, stop squirming before you take someone’s eyes out!” he ignored the screamed ‘good!’ and finally settled on swiping the magazine away.

 

In the scuffle, Ace had smartly moved away, holding up several magazines that he had swiped from earlier as a barrier between himself and the still snarling Law, “L-look, i don’t know what the big deal is! It’s just a fake dating news, it’s not like this is the first time this happened,” he then paused, and Sabo had to stifle a sigh when he predictably become starry eyed, “Oh my god, i got into a fake dating news with Marco,”

 

Considering he had spent a great amount of effort in restraining Law, Sabo think it would be a complete disservice to his own will to protect his brother if he ended up smacking Ace with the magazine that he had confiscated, “Ace, focus!”

 

“No, you’re right,” the freckled male said, turning solemn, and for a brief moment Sabo was glad that he finally got through before Ace’s face turned horrified, and he knew he hadn’t, “Marco’s always been protective of his private life, and he hated being put on a spotlight like this. Oh no, what if this caused him distress? What if I caused him distress? Shit, i knew i shouldn’t have gone out with those pants. They made my ass looks great, sure, but they attract way too many attention,”

 

Law turned to him with a growl, “Can i please beat some sense to him now?”

 

“No,” Sabo sighed, not adding the silent ‘only because he’s the reason we have a paycheck’. 

 

Oblivious to their exchanged, Ace reached into the front pocket of his hoodie to pull out his phone, “I have to text him quick and find out. Oh shit, what should i say? ‘Good morning’? Yeah, that’s a good start. ‘I’m so sorry’ sounded pathetic. I can’t ask if he’s seen the news, that’s just being facetious, and i’m not sure not sure if Marco would appreciate that. ‘I had a great time yesterday’?” He paused briefly, as his face suddenly evolved to a different colour entirely, the red flushing all over his exposed skin, “Aah, i can’t say that! That sounded way like something else! Though i won’t mind if it’s—“

 

“Oh no, you don’t,” Shrugging off Sabo’s hold at last, Law stalked over and would’ve swiped Ace’s phone away from him if the other raven hadn’t been fast enough to dodge, “Until we sort out this mess, you are not going to be in contact with him. No texting, no calls, and you sure as hell is not going to see him face to face, public or not,” 

 

The shocked gasp that came out of Ace would’ve been funny at any other moment, but he looked so honestly stricken that Sabo didn’t have the guts to laugh, “Y-you can’t do that!”

 

“As your manager, yes i can,”

 

“That’s not fair! It’s not like this is the first time this happened! Remember Vivi? Or Doma? Hell, remember that stupid gossip news outlet that’s so insistent in telling everyone that i’m in a kinky relationship with Smoker? That’s way worse than this and you didn’t stop me from seeing them!”

 

“No, because unlike those other cases,” With one sharp tug, the magazine Ace dropped was back in Law’s hand, being flicked from page to page in near superhuman speed, it’s a miracle nothing was ripped, “This time they got pictures of you two! Compromising pictures!” he flicked a page open with a harsh tug, and shoves it in front of Ace’s face. It was one of the more worrisome ones, Sabo noticed, fittingly enough comes from one of the less reputable trashy gossip magazines. It captured the moment Ace might have leaned in to Marco to say something, but the angle made it look like they were discreetly making out, complete with Marco leaning down slightly. It certainly didn’t help that they were in a corner, and if Sabo hadn’t had his ear talked off the night before about every single detail of yesterday’s event, he would’ve believed the first impression too.

 

Sabo was too busy staring, that he belatedly noticed that the screaming match next to him had stopped and both dark haired men were now staring at him, “What?”

 

“Tell him, Sabo!” Ace yelled first, pointing at Law, “Tell him he’s being unreasonable! He can’t stop me from seeing my f-friend!”

 

“You tell this little shit,” Law growled out, pointing to Ace, “That he’s done enough damage as it is and i swear if he does something to make this all worse—“

 

Whatever creative threat that Law was about to unleash unto Ace abruptly stopped at the chime of text message alert from Ace’s hand. Ace glanced down to his screen, deep frown on his face before he suddenly widened  his eyes. Sabo watched from the corner of his eyes as Law’s eyes bugged out, and he suddenly lunged, “Oh no you don’t!”

 

Only, Ace was faster and more nimble, evading him to the side and cradling his phone protectively against his chest, “You can’t make me! Sabo, get him away from me!”

 

Before Sabo could even process what’s happening, Ace had already fled, making his way to his room with Law hot on his heels. The door was slammed close, probably near enough to clip Law’s nose, and the manager simply had to appease his anger to the door, banging and hitting against it repeatedly and shouting out Ace’s name and forbidding him to follow through with something. Sabo had an inkling of what just happened, but he settled himself with sitting on the sofa and cleaning up the rest of the fallen and scattered magazines.

 

Perhaps Ace had a point. This isn’t the first sudden big news he was involved in, and out of every possible ‘scandal’ that could’ve happened with a big name like Spade, being reported to be dating someone he was only briefly seen with in public was one of the tamer things. 

 

Sabo silently watched as the door next to Ace’s bedroom was thrown open and out come Luffy, who immediately tackled Law down and insisted that he played video games with him, effectively stopping Law from his rampage on Ace and continue it on Luffy, both quite unresponsive to his ire. He looked down on one of the magazines, sighing as he read the large caption - ‘SINGER & ACTOR: THE NEW POWER COUPLE?’ - and took in the detail of the picture accompanying it, the one of Ace and Marco making their escape from the cafe, holding hands.

 

This will… complicate things, but there’s already a procedure to follow through with this sort of situation; pick one reputable magazine/daytime talk show, have them and Ace read out a carefully woven script that will hopefully kill off any future possibility of speculations, and then things can go back to normal. They can still go back on track with marketing and promotional schedule. After all, it is as what Ace calls it. A fake news, not some odd truth they had to hide away. 

 

Simple.

 

(There’s a little voice in the back of his head that mutters ‘as if’, but Sabo ignores it, a long polished survival instinct when it comes to Ace and Luffy)

 

Luffy and Law entered his periphery soon enough, his fellow manager slumped in defeat as Luffy sat him down in front of their plasma TV and left to boot up the gaming system. A cursory glance to the small clock on top of the TV told him that all of these events occurred right before 8am, and the blonde let out a mournful sigh and took out his phone, quickly texting Koala to regrettably inform her that the breakfast date they’re planning to have today probably won’t happen. 

 

“I swear, he’s going to drive all of us to an early grave,” he heard Law moan from where he sat, and nodded silently before returning to cleaning up and stacking the magazines away. Law won’t have any use for them anymore, and he knows that Ace will probably do something stupid and silly like a collage out of these paparazzi shots to hang in his bedroom amongst the other Marco paraphernalia.

 

Just because he agree that Ace is a pain in the ass sometimes, doesn’t mean that Sabo doesn’t love him.

 


 

 

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@Jewellry_Bonnes

IS THIS TRUE?? http://www.okamagossipcentral.gl/spades-secret-romance-revealed-to-be-famous-actor/celebrity-gossip/2367878228 @Ace_of_Spades HEY ANSWER MEEE! 

 

@TangerineGirl

[Photo Linked] [Photo Linked] [Photo Linked] Source: RaftelMorningNews

OMG, @Ace_of_Spades YOU BETTER HAVE SOME GOOD EXPLANATION! SHDSDHJS

 

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@mdeuce_

Heard from the morning papers. Kinda hurt you didn’t tell your studio buddies about this but… congrats. Oh, and Kotatsu says hi. He’s hurt too.

 

@bbigoarsjr

Yo @spades_ace, i thought you were just a fan of the guy, not actually dating him. But i shouldn’t be surprised, every time i so much as mentioned his name or movie you always…View More

 

345 New Text Message - View Latest

 

New Text Message from Traffy (°ロ°) [06:47]: DON’T YOU FUCKKING DCARE TO AEXIT YOUR HOSE EFORE I GAT THER YOU HAVWE A LOT OF EEXPLAINWING TO XDO 

 

New Text Message from Marco (σ≧▽≦)σヽ(゚▽゚*)乂(*゚▽゚)ノ ヾ(〃^∇^)ノ (✿ ♥‿♥)(ΘεΘ [07:31]: Can i call you?

 

The sound of Law calling for his blood finally faded away with the sound of the game system in the living room being turned on, but Ace knew ‘Pirate Alliance 7: Revenge of the Heart’ would only momentarily distract him. Knowing Luffy, he’ll probably have plenty of time, but it doesn’t matter how much time he had left if he spent those blessed time staring at the latest notification on his phone screen.

 

It’s not that Ace didn’t want to call Marco, of course. But what should he say? Did Marco also receive this sort of bombardment from his end? Is he pissed off? The text doesn’t sound like it, but then again, you can’t tell someone’s tone from a text. What if he wanted to call to say that maybe they can’t hang out anymore?

 

As the thought passed in his mind, Ace groaned, whining lowly, “And to think i finally met him and be friends with him,”

 

Thankfully he wasn’t left conflicted for long, because his phone vibrates again, showing that he had a new message.

 

 

New Text Message from Marco (σ≧▽≦)σヽ(゚▽゚*)乂(*゚▽゚)ノ ヾ(〃^∇^)ノ (✿ ♥‿♥)(ΘεΘ [08:12]: Please don’t freak out, but i really need to talk to you

New Text Message from Marco (σ≧▽≦)σヽ(゚▽゚*)乂(*゚▽゚)ノ ヾ(〃^∇^)ノ (✿ ♥‿♥)(ΘεΘ [08:12]: I’m outside of your house

 

Ace swore that his heart stopped right there and then. He stumbled as he rushed over to the window of his bedroom, the one overlooking to the front garden and sure enough, he could see there’s a familiar car parked right next to Law’s, and if he squint, he’d be able to make out the silhouette of the driver, and his unique hairstyle. 

 

In his hand, his phone vibrates again.

 

 

New Text Message from Marco (σ≧▽≦)σヽ(゚▽゚*)乂(*゚▽゚)ノ ヾ(〃^∇^)ノ (✿ ♥‿♥)(ΘεΘ [08:14]: Wait, i’m sorry, please ignore me

New Text Message from Marco (σ≧▽≦)σヽ(゚▽゚*)乂(*゚▽゚)ノ ヾ(〃^∇^)ノ (✿ ♥‿♥)(ΘεΘ [08:14]: I don’t know why i’m here, i wasn’t thinking straight after my manager lay it on to me i just wanted to apologize and next thing i know i’m here i’m so sorry

New Text Message from Marco (σ≧▽≦)σヽ(゚▽゚*)乂(*゚▽゚)ノ ヾ(〃^∇^)ノ (✿ ♥‿♥)(ΘεΘ [08:15]: This is probably creepy as hell to you

 

Ace didn’t need to think twice.

 

 

Sent to Marco (σ≧▽≦)σヽ(゚▽゚*)乂(*゚▽゚)ノ ヾ(〃^∇^)ノ (✿ ♥‿♥)(ΘεΘ [08:15]: Give me 2 minutes

 

Ace could probably win a record in world’s fastest clothes changing, making sure that he at least looks presentable enough and not look like he was dragged out of bed by an angry manager first thing in the morning. He listened in to the voices from outside of his bedroom once more - he could hear Luffy’s triumphant yell over Law’s more subdued grumbling - and slowly began to creep towards his window and open it quietly before climbing outside.

 

It was probably quite juvenile for him to be acting like this, but he was sure that if he walked out from his bedroom, there is no way that Law would let him go so easily, especially not if he found out just who is parked right outside of his house. As soon as he was sure that his window was closed down without making any sound, Ace hurried out, past the gate and towards the dark car right next to the sidewalk.

 

He found Marco right behind the wheel of the car, dressed in dark grey hoodie and wearing the same sunglasses he wore the first time they met in the music store, probably a staple to his everyday disguise. Ace walked to the other side of the car, and entered to the passenger seat, quickly entering after a brief look around of his surrounding.

 

“Hey,” Marco greeted as soon as he sat down and shut the door close.

 

The first thing that entered Ace’s mind was that ‘he didn’t sound mad, oh, thank fuck he’s not mad’, “H-hi,”

 

There’s a brief silence between them, broken by Marco clearing his throat, “I, uh, i’m surprised there’s no reporter hounding your front door. My apartment was swarmed, it took me a while to be able to give them the slip,”

 

“Oh, it’s probably because this is a gated community. Oars Jr., the security guard on the front gate is really scary looking so no one ever dared to come around. Well, except for some sneaky paparazzi,” Ace added weakly, remembering some of the pictures posted on the magazine Law brought over. Marco nodded curtly, seems to be out of politeness than actually listening to what Ace said, but he didn’t mind. The air is thick with awkwardness right now, and these little talks are not helping in the slightest.

 

In the end, the blonde sighed, making Ace turn to face him, “Listen, i— I’m sure you’ve seen the news from this morning, seeing that it’s probably on every news outlet possible, and i just wanted to say that i’m so sorry for causing this to happen,”

 

“What, no! No, it’s not your fault—“

 

“I was the one who insisted on making up for the glasses—“

 

“But i’m the one who suggested that we should go out in a public area—“

 

“—didn’t watch out for paparazzi, i swear i’m usually really careful but i was really distracted yesterday—“

 

“—I didn’t even wear a disguise or anything, that’s probably why everyone saw us—“

 

“—because well, honestly, i can’t believe that i was talking to you of all people! W-what i mean is—“

 

“—I would but nothing looks good on me and i want to look good for— Uh, i mean, just—“

 

“—can we still meet?”

 

“—please tell me we can still meet up!”

 

In a near simultaneous moment, they two of them stopped talking. Marco was pretty much imitating a goldfish, eyes wide open and mouth gaped, but the sight on the rear-view mirror told Ace that his expression was nowhere near any better.

 

He was only snapped back to reality when the corners of Marco’s lips twitched and slowly let out an embarrassed laugh, which in turn led him to demurely giggle, feeling like a heavy weight of uncertainty was lifted off from his shoulder, “If you don’t mind,” Ace said in between laughter, “I’d love to, actually. To still see you around. I mean, it’s the media, you know? They think everyone’s dating everyone,”

 

Marco coughed, sounding like he was choking, “Y-yeah, yeah, that… that makes sense,”

 

Again, silence ensues, “This,” Ace found himself saying, hand gesturing weakly on the empty air, “This isn’t going to change anything, right?”

 

“No, absolutely not,”

 

“Oh good, cause, i’m feel awkward enough when i’m around you, i don’t think i can handle it if things gets weird— Wait, no! I don’t mean awkward in a bad way! I-i mean like, i— I mean, it’s you, and i’ve been a fan of yours for a long time and i still can’t believe it that we’re talking like this, let alone that yesterday happened and—“ Ace bit his bottom lip, eyes squeezed shut as he began to lost the plot of his own explanation. Goddamnit, how many times had he make a fool out of himself in front of Marco?

 

But Marco only laughed again, a low amused rumble with a dusting of healthy pink across his cheeks. 

 

Ace was positively dazzled.

 

“Do you,” the blonde began, smiling softly and probably ignorant on how much Ace felt like melting just looking at that smile, “I don’t know, want to grab something to eat? It’s still pretty early, we can get something quick and hope that no one with a camera is awake enough to notice that its us,”

 

The mention of food made Ace’s stomach growl and sent a jolt of mortification through him, “Best idea i’ve heard all morning,” Ace said with a weak laugh, covering his treacherous stomach and cursing it for embarrassing him in front of his absolute favorite idol. But Marco only smiled wider and chuckled in amusement, before driving off slowly.

 

It didn’t even enter Ace’s mind that this might be a bad idea, all thoughts of the morning’s news and Law’s restriction went flying off from his head.

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Ace’s statement about his gated community turned out to be true; Marco had never seen a security guard as menacing and big as Oars Jr., and he certainly hadn’t been expecting the amount of reporters and TV channel vans swarming the roads outside. You would’ve think that there’s more important things to cover, but apparently everyone is a lot more fixated on a couple of celebrity’s non-existent relationship than any other news category.

 

They had to ditch away his car to escape through some blocked paths inaccessible by vehicles, and by the time they finally reached a populated road, Marco was too tired from running that he didn’t have the energy to think about some place to impress Ace for breakfast. 

 

So the nearest fast food restaurant it is, with an unhygienic table top and a bored looking attendant, indulging in the kind of food that would’ve made Thatch faint over the sheer amount of oil dripping out of the fries alone. The entire place was empty at least, except for one or two hungover souls in some corners and that’s all Marco and Ace could’ve asked for.

 

They had been eating in silence, when Ace suddenly piped up, “So, what did your manager scold you for?”

 

Marco looked up from his mess of a burger, to see that Ace was already on his 5th or 6th burger and has emptied out one of the 4 giant fries bowls they ordered. He never thought he would ever be alive to see the legend in action; That Spade, the handsome and charismatic singer women and men drool all over, can apparently out-ate several farms worth of cows. The way the stories were told to him - well, the ones he eavesdropped on - were extremely unflattering, and Marco had to admit even he stopped to stare for an entire minute after seeing one poor burger being devoured in two large bites.

 

“Robin didn’t scold me per se,” he said after a few sip of his coke, hoping it will finally chase away the stale ketchup taste on his tongue. It hasn’t been working so far, “She thought that i’m hiding the fact that i’m dating. After i told her that it was all a big misunderstanding, she was fine with it,”

 

The actual thing that Robin had said was, “Oh, thank goodness. I thought you have finally snapped because of your obsession and resorted into unsavoury methods to force him to be with you. I’m glad that you still retain your sanity and self-restraint, Marco. I wouldn’t want another one of my client to end up in a Impel Down too,” and it was all told with a sweet smile that was not sweet at all. Not that Marco will tell Ace that. His manager had a morbid sense of humour that could only be described as an acquired taste.

 

Now that he think about it, she doesn’t seem to be joking about the Impel Down comment…

 

“Oh man, she sounds nice. I’m jealous,” Ace said with a pout, and Marco had to quickly look away because even with a face smattered around with mustard and ketchup, that was damn adorable, “Law came barging in to my room at 7 am and started screaming the house down. He then started hitting me with magazines and chase me around. Pfft, he’s acting like this never happened before,”

 

One of Marco’s finger twitched and he bit a little too hard on his straw. Ah yes, he’s well aware of what Ace was talking about; In the years he had followed the younger’s career, he heard of rumours and news of him dating around with various other celebrities. Marco remembered glaring at Doma during the entire filming of ‘Through the Grand Line’, and while it had been great for their on-screen chemistry as both main antagonist and protagonist, Marco made it his personal goal to have an amicable relationship with all of his colleagues and that was hard to achieve with the other actor.

 

Of course, it was all fine and well once the rumour died down and Doma personally explained that no, he only met Ace during a talkshow interview and they found out they had a lot in common. Also, he’s dating is manager, Whitey Bay, and was now well on their way to marriage. 

 

That Doma was also one of the people who found out that he’s a big fan of Ace was all Thatch’s fault. And maybe partially his fault too for introducing them.

 

The dark haired man crammed a handful of fries to his mouth and sighs after he swallowed, “Oh well, it’ll die down sooner or later, that’s how these sort of things always works. Some bigger news will come up, Rayleigh will issue a statement as my recording representation, and that’ll be it. We can go back to our normal daily lives,”

 

Marco only nodded, taking another bite of his overly charred beef burger and the bitter ketchup concoction. 

 

‘Ace! Phone call! Phone ca—Aah! Sabo, that’s my chips! Go away!’ ‘Ow! Luffy, stop hitting—!’ ‘Ace! Phone call! Phone ca—Aah! Sabo, that’s my chips! Go away!’ ‘Ow! Luffy, stop hitting—!’

 

As Ace quickly fished his phone out of his pocket and hastily tapping on the screen, Marco could only blink at the sudden appearance of the foreign noise. He recognize the first voice as the Ace’s brother, the one that called him from Ace’s phone, “What was that?”

 

“My ringtone,” the dark haired male replied offhandedly, still grimacing at his screen. When what was apparently Ace’s ringtone started playing again, he then quickly flicked the phone away to the table, narrowly making it land in one of the greasy fries bowl.

 

Out of curiousity, the older man took a peek when a name and a picture appeared on the screen of Ace’s phone. The image was an unflattering photograph of a pissed off looking man who seems to be caught off guard and glaring daggers at the camera, with the name ‘Traffy’ blinking on top of said picture.

 

‘Ace! Phone call! Phone ca—Aah! Sabo, that’s my chips! Go away!’ ‘Ow Luffy, stop hitting—‘ Ace reached over and tapped on the ignore call button before flinching back as if he had been burned.

 

‘Ace! Phone call! Phone ca—Aah! Sabo, that’s my chips! Go awa—’ Again, Ace tapped the ignore button. Marco imagined that by now, the man on the other side of the phone was probably holding the same expression as his image on Ace's screen.

 

‘Ace! Phone ca—‘ the call ended itself without Ace even reaching close for the phone.

 

If it was possible, the singer’s face turned sheet white, 

 

“And that was…?”

 

“My manager,” Ace squeaked, “Shit, i thought the game would’ve bought me more time. We haven’t been away that long, have we?”

 

Marco fished out his own phone, staring blithely at the amount of text message he had been receiving for the last couple of hours that he had been ignoring it. The newest ones were consecutive texts from Pops, two of them asking him to clarify about this news he just heard from his brothers, and the last and topmost one was a text that reads ‘Where to buy the tasty oatmeal my dear son thatch bought me last week’.

 

It was probably just another confusion with the search engine, but he probably should go and make sure Pops didn’t actually want him to go and buy groceries later.

 

With that in mind, he glanced at the clock and grimaced, “We’ve been away for nearly an hour and a half,”

 

As if on cue, Ace’s phone let out a short beeping alert that Marco recognize as a default text message tune and glanced to the phone nearly at the same time as Ace did.

  

 

New Text Message from Traffy (°ロ°) [08:09]: HOW DARE YOU ESCAPE

 

New Text Message from Traffy (°ロ°) [08:09]: WHERE DID YOU GO?!?!?!?!?

 

New Text Message from Traffy (°ロ°) [08:09]: i saw the car outside. if thats who i think it is, youre dead.

 

“Oh, i’m dead. I’m so dead,”

 

The amount of horror in Ace’s voice actually made Marco quite concerned. He didn’t actually think Ace’s manager was going to harm him, but then again…, “Do you want to go back?”

 

“Are you kidding me?!” the younger nearly screeched, shocking Marco at the sudden raise in volume, “Didn’t you see what he just said?! He’s going to tear me limb from limb!” Another text alert came in, but before Marco could even see what it said, Ace had already flipped the phone upside down to hide the screen away, “Please, don’t throw me to the big bad wolf! Let me stay with you!”

 

Now it was all obviously said because of the perceived direness of this situation, but Marco couldn’t help the heat that suddenly rose to his cheeks. The neediness in Ace’s voice was adorable in so many ways, completing the frazzled and distressed expression on his face as he stared into Marco’s eyes pleadingly. It made him tongue tied so badly, that Marco could only managed to utter a low ‘yeah’.

 

Ace’s expression cleared up immediately into an open display of joy, leaving behind no traces of his earlier worries. Marco has seen plenty of people that was good in manipulating their expression at any given moment, but all of them were techniques crafted by years of experience. Every expression that crosses Ace’s face was incredibly genuine, the mark of someone who wore their heart at their sleeve and isn’t afraid to show it.

 

Marco was honestly so dazzled, that he missed the moment Ace leaned over the table and wrapped both arms around his shoulder, exclaiming, “Thank you, thank you, thank you!” repeatedly to his shoulder.

 

If this sudden and unexpected contact made Marco bodily choked and ultimately embarrassing himself in front of Ace yet again, then it’s fine by him. He knows nothing this good can happen without something disastrous following it to balance things out.

 


 

Ace was already scared shitless at the prospect of going back just to pick Marco’s car up, so they ended up walking around the same neighbourhood to kill time. There’s not a lot of people milling about in a suburban area like this one, but in only under 5 minutes, Marco knew that some people are staring at their direction. It was rather expected, considering that his hoodie and sunglasses could barely hide away his identity and Ace straight up didn’t wear any disguise.

 

After a couple of rather excited looking schoolgirl nearly ran up to them from across the street, Ace pulled him to duck into what seems to be a party supplies store, and kept pulling until they’re on the very back of the shop. The cashier, an older grandmother with thick reading glasses only looked at them oddly, before returning to the newspaper on her counter.

 

“Maybe you should wear my sunglasses,” he told Ace after they were sure the two schoolgirls left, loudly claiming disappointment over losing their target while insisting between themselves that yes, that must be Spade they saw earlier, “I don’t attract as much attention, so a hoodie should be enough, but you’re pretty easily recognizable,”

 

Ace looked at him as if he just admitted to once drunkenly ordering a lifesized body pillow of him. Well, Marco did, but he wouldn’t ever admit that even under extreme torture. Or that said body pillow is still inside of his locked closet, “And you think you don’t? Do you even know who you are?!

 

The way Ace said it made Marco’s face felt hot, and the way he stammered in panic afterwards made Marco decide that hiding in such a small shop in such a cramped space is not a good idea, “W-well, i’ll admit that my haircut is rather… distinctive, which is why a hoodie should be enough—“

 

“Not just the haircut! Everything about you is easily recognizable! Your eyes, your lips, your jaw, your accent, your entire goddamn face,” The younger continued to gush rapidly, and in his passionate explanation, he leaned so close towards Marco that there’s not much gap between them. Even when Marco moved backward, he quickly hit the wall, and nearly went cross-eyed at how close Ace has become, “The fact that you’re simply exuding charm and charisma without even doing anything! Marco, you can be in a crowd of a thousand people and i can still tell where you are!”

 

Those dark orbs looks beautiful when they twinkle like that, Marco thought in his speechlessness.

 

Sadly, the sight didn’t last long, because Ace widened his eyes when he seemingly gained awareness of his surrounding, and jumped back with a yelp, hitting a rack full of colourful hats behind him, “I’m sorry! I-i-i didn’t mean to get so close!”

 

“N-no, it’s fine,” 

 

Huh, it was a shame that it was cut that short. On the other hand, this extremely bashful Ace is also incredibly cute.

 

Marco pinched his own arm to bring him back to reality, and bit the insides of his cheek to stop himself from making a sound.

 

“Stop making a ruckus! Are you all buying something or just loitering about?!”

 

Shoot, they forgot the old lady cashier.

 

“S-sorry! We’ll be more careful,” Marco called after her, and turned back to Ace, “Anyway, if you insist on not borrowing mine, maybe you can get something from here before we leave,”

 

Ace nodded jerkily, and gave him a weak grin, “Besides, the last time i borrowed someone’s sunglasses hadn’t ended up well, maybe it’s for the best,”

 

They finally settled on something out of the hat rack that Ace bumped to, which is a ridiculously orange cowboy hat. And by they settled, it means that Ace took one look at it, deemed it cool and wore it to show Marco, who thinks that Ace’s boyish grin was utterly precious and agreed in a heartbeat, despite how silly he actually think the hat looks. 

 

“I really want to wear this on a music videos,” the dark haired male mused as he chose between decorations to put on his newly chosen headgear, when he thought that it looked too plain. So far, he had chosen a cute looking face buttons with two contrasting expressions, and was now looking around a large array of decorative beads. He kept looking between ones that are coloured red and green, and Marco hope for everything holy he pass on the green ones, “I wonder what kind of setting will match a cowboy hat? Oh, maybe i need to make a song that match! Something cowboy, something wild, what do you think, Marco?”

 

Marco paused his own perusing  on the oddly shaped balloons display. Did Ace just… did he just discuss the creation of one of his songs to Marco? Did Ace, Spade, hottest selling male solo singer and top album charter for several seasons, and all around Marco’s favorite artist just asked him for an opinion for his music?

 

Maybe he hit his head back at the fast food place. Yeah, that must be it. This is the dream world right now.

 

“Marco?”

 

“I’m sure that anything you came up with will be amazing, Ace,” 

 

He, along with who knows how many fans Spade has around all 4 seas, knows that Ace is skilled and talented, and he has an enviable amount of passion put into his craft. There’s a reason for all of the accolades he collected and all of the awards he received, after all, despite being so young. One just need to go to his phone right now and find his music streaming app, and they would know that Marco wasn’t just throwing a flippant remark. 

 

But when Marco turned back and saw Ace’s face, he began to consider whether or not it was actually the right thing to say.

 

Ace looked rather downcast, staring down at the hat in his hold and the red beads he had been staring to, “Y-yeah, i guess,” 

 

During the ensuing silence, Marco took one careful step, and called out in uncertainty. Is it something he said? “Ace? Is something wrong?”

 

The younger shifted his gaze away, turning enough so that Marco could not longer get a good look of his expression, “It’s, it’s nothing. I,” he let out a weak, almost half-hearted laugh, fiddling slightly with the hat’s outer rim, “I just had a stupid thought, i guess. It’s nothing to be worried about,”

 

Is what he said, but Marco didn’t have to grow up with several younger siblings to know that nothing about that tone was alright, “Well, if you don’t mind me asking, will you tell me what this thought was about?” when Ace remained silent, Marco took another step, and hoped that if whatever it is truly was his fault, insisting like this won’t cause it to be worse, “It can’t be nothing if it changed your mood so drastically,”

 

The singer drew his shoulder close for a moment, before he exhaled, “I don’t know. It’s just,” he inhaled and exhaled again, and turned his body enough so that Marco can at least caught the glumness in his eyes, “Do you ever think that maybe, things has been going too well for you? Like, even thought you’re happy with the way things are going for you, deep down, you kept thinking that you don’t actually deserved everything you got now?”

 

Out of everything Marco had expected to hear, he hadn’t been expecting that.

 

“Like i said, it’s stupid. Sabo said that it’s just my anxiety talking and that i’ve been exhausting myself and that’s why he wrangled this few days break for all of us, but it’s still there, i know it is, even with so many things happening since yesterday. It kept making me think,” he took in another deep breath, unconsciously curling a little to himself, “What if i wasn’t as good as everyone seems to think i am and one day, they’d see that and i’d ended up disappointing so many people?”

 

The air between them suddenly became heavy, and despite it only being a couple of seconds long, Marco felt as if the silence stretched between them for hours long. Slowly and almost shyly, Ace turned his head towards him, “Sorry. I didn’t mean to dump all of that on you. It’s really nothin—“

 

“To be honest, your genre of music in the beginning wasn’t exactly my usual cup of tea,”

 

Ace shut his mouth so quickly, Marco could hear a clack, and he knew there’s not taking back his words. The blonde pursed his lips and raised a hand to rub his nape, cursing the fact that there was no script available for this sort of situation to smooth out the things he wanted to say properly, “We’re raised in different generations, and i have to admit, your usual style is probably too modern for me. I’m not even big on listening to music, usually, but i still really, really liked them, because i can tell how much you cared about the songs you created,”

 

He paused, clearing his throat to hide the fact that he could feel heat rushing up to his face, “I didn’t exactly know you until your song was played on every shooting set or places i frequent, and when i say it was played a lot, i meant a lot,” the actor smiled sheepishly, and chuckled, “Every single time i asked, everyone will raving about this hotshot talented singer and i got curious. At the time, you only had your first single out, and to listen to the EP that everyone kept telling me was ‘the best thing they ever heard’, i have to sign up to a music streaming website. Originally, i thought i was going too far just for a simple curiosity, but i did it, and it was probably the best spontaneous thing i ever did,”

 

When Marco lifted his head, Ace was staring at him as if there was nothing around that can take away his attention, hanging on to his every word with great focus. He briefly thought that this is a mistake and he probably made things worse, but the sadness on Ace’s face was gone, and it was replaced by something else unreadable, almost like awe. He looked away from the heated gaze, and continued.

 

“I still remembered it 3 years ago, sitting on my own in my bedroom after a long and tiring day, and listening to ‘Baptism of Fire’ for the first time. It was catchy, energizing, it was as fun as the first time it caught my attention, and i found myself actually listening to it for months straight. I only stopped - well, to listen to something else, that is - because a co-worker told me you released an entire album. Bought it myself, one old man in the middle of a flock of adolescent kids and women, but i don’t care. I want to know more about you,”

 

Ace’s face turned beet red, and Marco would’ve noticed it if he wasn’t too busy staring at a random row of banners in an attempt to continue on with his story without looking at Ace in the eyes, “I didn’t expect to like every single songs, but even the ones that i listened to the least, i respected. They had different vibes to them, different stories and i found out later was even in different genres, and i can tell with every single one of them that you loved doing what you do. Some of the lyrics felt like it was taken out of something personal to you, and the tunes helped me to understand the sort of emotion you wanted to convey. It was brilliant, and i think it was at that moment that i become a big fan of yours,”

 

Obsessed, if he wanted to use the word Thatch, Robin and pretty much everyone else in his life used to describe what he felt about Spade and Ace in general.

 

He huffed, rubbing his nape once more, “Okay, this isn’t going to the direction i thought this would be going. I didn’t mean to dump an entire confession about how i become your fan, but what i’m trying to say is,” the blonde looked up, and for a brief moment, he nearly forgot again about what he was going to say when he saw the sheer awe on Ace’s face. He gulped, but this time, he resisted from the temptation to look away, “You know that i’m incredibly biased, and i am not a musician, so i definitely can’t give you an objective or a professional opinion,”

 

Marco smiled, and despite his utter mortification about the things he had just vomited out to Ace, it came easy to him, “But i can tell you this as someone who also loves what they’re doing; Even if one day you fall out of the spotlight of fame, as long as you still make music that comes from your love for it, every adoration you receive will always be well deserved,” the blonde smiled even wider, a little bashful but unable to help himself by adding, “And i’m always going to be your number one fan,”

 

For a moment, the older regretted adding that particular detail in to his mess of an encouragement, because Ace stayed silent. He lifted his head, apology on the tip of his tongue until he saw that not only was Ace’s face had gone beyond red, his eyes had gone glassy and his lower lips trembled ever so slightly. Marco felt his stomach plummets down to the centre of the earth, “A-are you… okay? Did i say—“

 

Before he can finish, Ace suddenly lunged over, wrapping an arm around him tightly. Another embarrassingly high pitched squeak escaped the blonde, as the man hugging him mumbled in a fast and near intelligible way, “How can i not be?! My favorite actor of all time just told me a lot of amazing things, i’m more than fine!” he heard being sobbed to his shoulder, and immediately, all of his worries were gone, “I feel so fine that if someone hand me over a pen, my keyboard and my sound mixing equipment right now, i can make, like, the best song ever!”

 

There is no word to describe the mixture of pride and the honest-to-god exhilaration that blooms from inside of his chest. He did it, he cheered Ace up.

 

And he’s Ace’s favorite actor of all time. 

 

Screw the award nominations, he already won the best award right at this moment.

 


 

Buying the hat may be a bad idea in a hindsight, because something that caught more attention than a celebrity walking down the street is someone wearing a bright orange cowboy hat in the middle of the day. It was even worse so when it’s a celebrity wearing a bright orange cowboy hat, so they settled with spending time in a small ice cream shop that Ace claimed to have the best gelato in the world and spent the rest of the day trying out every flavour Ace insisted was the best, which was just about everything in the shop.

 

But of course, good things cannot last forever, and it was with great regret - and mighty trepidation in Ace’s case - that Marco walked Ace back to his house just as the sun began to set on the horizon. A quick peek to the front gates told them that the mass of reporters were long gone now, but they kept wary lookout for any paparazzi hiding in the dark and opted to walk quickly through the path they took during their early morning escape.

 

“You know what just dawned on me?”

 

“What?”

 

“I haven’t showered the entire day. Law pulled me out of bed before i can even wake up, and then you texted me right after,”

 

“Ah, not as bad as me, then,”

 

“Huh?”

 

“The shorts i’m wearing? I wore them to sleep last night. Robin didn’t even give me that courtesy before showing how disappointed she is with me,”

 

They laughed all the way until they reached the front of Ace’s house, after which the younger grimaced and whimpered pitifully with his hand hovering above the doorbell, “I feel like a dead man walking to his execution,”

 

“I doubt your manager will still be waiting inside. We’ve been gone for a while—“

 

Ace didn’t even have to ring the doorbell when the front door was suddenly flung open and a man stood in front of it menacingly, the same man Marco recognized from the call screen on Ace’s phone this morning.

 

“Or not,”

 

“Get. inside,” the man, Law, gritted out, using his taller stature to physically loom over Ace. He turned his attention to Marco, narrowing his sharp eyes in an almost threatening manner, “And you. I have spoken to Nico Robin about you kidnapping my charge—“

 

“Kidnapping?!”

 

“—and she would like to speak to you at your earliest convenience. Expect an early morning awakening,”

 

“Again?! Like one time isn’t enough for you sadist managers?!”

 

“Shut up, people who ran away while i’m trying to be mad at them doesn’t get to talk!”

 

“Now, now, Law, let’s just be glad Marco brought Ace back home safe and sound,” a calm voice came from inside of the house, revealing the owner to be the same blonde man that Marco recognize to be Ace’s other manager and his other brother, Sabo, “Besides it’s getting late, and who knows if there’s still some paparazzi roaming around. We don’t need another picture to this house right now,”

 

Law glanced between the three of them and left with a huff, yelling at Luffy to start the game again because he needs to cool down his head. Once he was out of sight, Sabo turned to Marco, and smiled apologetically, “I’d invite you in, but while i can probably kept Law from screaming at Ace, i won’t be able to stop him to do it if you’re around too,”

 

“Aw, but Sabo—“

 

“Ace,”

 

The two ‘siblings’ looked at each other quietly, one with a pleading look on his face and the other with a stern expression, communicating quietly. In the end, Ace sighed, “Fine,” he pouted, before turning to Marco and flashing him a smile instead, “Thanks for today, Marco. I had a great time,”

 

The older returned his smile, resisting the urge to look down to the ground and kick his foot like he’s some bashful middle-schooler back from his first date. Which he’s not. And it was most definitely not a date, “Me too. I’ll see you soon, Ace,” He was about to turn away and made his way out of the lawn when he heard Ace calling for his name. Marco turned, and the acknowledgement died on his throat when he caught sight of Ace’s dazzling smile, a large grin that looks like it will split his face to half, the rosy cheeks and wide eyes.

 

Marco was so awestruck, he missed out on whatever it is that Ace told him, “What did you say?”

 

He thought that Ace will be miffed at him, but he only smiled even larger, the redness on his cheeks becoming more prominent, “I said, i promise i’m going to be your number one fan too forever and ever!”

 

Ace ran back into his house as soon as he finished and before he gave Marco the chance to recover, but through the door, he heard the sound of Luffy’s voice asking what happened, Sabo admonishing him for slamming the door around and Ace’s near squeal about how ‘he said it! he finally said it!’

 

After nearly 10 minutes of just standing around and grinning to himself, Marco headed home with a skip on his steps.

 

And promptly forgot that he brought his car with him until 30 minutes in and he was halfway back to his apartment.

 


  

 

New Text Message from Edward Newgate (Pops) [19:49]: where to buy cinnamon bun

 

New Text Message from Edward Newgate (Pops) [19:49]: search where to buy cinnamon bun

 

New Text Message from Edward Newgate (Pops) [19:50]: cinnamon bun

 

New Text Message from Edward Newgate (Pops) [19:50]: how to call my son marco

 

 

Sent to Edward Newgate (Pops) [19:51]: Pops, for the last time, this isn’t a search engine. This is a text app, you have to go to your browser to start searching

 

Sent to Edward Newgate (Pops) [19:52]: I’ll come over tomorrow to help you buy groceries

 

 

New Text Message from Edward Newgate (Pops) [19:52]: tx u

 

New Text Message from Edward Newgate (Pops) [19:53]: haruta taught me that see? its thank you but shorter

 

 

Sent to Edward Newgate (Pops) [19:54]: That’s great Pops, see you tomorrow

 

 

New Text Message from Edward Newgate (Pops) [19:55]: c u 2

 

New Text Message from Edward Newgate (Pops) [19:55]: thats see you too but shorter

 

 

Sent to Edward Newgate (Pops) [19:56]: You’re on fire today, Pops, i’m proud of you

 

 

New Text Message from Edward Newgate (Pops) [20:10]: browser search kibbles of stefan and puppies

 

New Text Message from Edward Newgate (Pops) [20:10]: browser search my son marco dating a young man news?

 

 

Sent to Edward Newgate (Pops) [20:12]: Goddamnit Pops

 

 

Chapter Text

 

At this point of his career, Ace can safely say he has reached the point where he’s no longer tense before an interview. It was always a daunting concept for him at the start, the thought of being asked and answering things about yourself, no matter how scripted the whole thing is and even though he already knew what to say and what will be said. It was less strict when it comes to Ivankov’s show, who prided himself in spontaneous celebrity interviews and talk show, and that was a lot more nerve wrecking.

 

Now, he’s definitely feeling nervous, but he could hide his own jitters by calming Marco out of his own.

 

“I’m not really used to this,” the older man told him, as if Ace didn’t know that he has a grand total of 21 interviews with any channels and shows - 20 of them movie promotions and behind the scene documentary, while only one in a spontaneous talk show - which is a number extremely low for someone who has been in several critically acclaimed movies for the last couple of years and all of them had been strictly related to any movie he is promoting, “Acting and talking about acting is easy. ‘Be yourself’ in front of the camera is nigh impossible,”

 

What he quoted was what Ivankov had told him, after fanning himself and made an entire speech about how he felt special to have caught one of the rarest fish in the entire industry - having Marco Newgate in his show, “Charlotte Linlin and her gaudy show has the upper ground so far, but not anymore! As if everyone didn’t know she had children everywhere in the industry so she can have her finger in every pie,”

 

“I wouldn’t have done it, but Pekoms was practically pleading to Nekomamushi to persuade me to do it before he gets ‘punished’,” Marco sighed in his retelling after Ace asked him why he did agree to that one talk show, “Neko looks scary, but he’s really soft at heart. In the end he promised me there will be a really limited segment time and i can leave after a couple of questions, so i agree. It ended up getting stretched to overtime, and it was just a bad experience all around that i wanted to distance myself from it as much as i can,”

 

If one watched that interview - which last Ace checked over 15 million people did in MushiTube - they would know it was one of the most uncomfortable interviews the world has ever seen. Big Mom - Charlotte Linlin’s stage name in her show - was incredibly pushy about Marco’s personal life, and his way of dodging it had been less than graceful and just awkward all around. A news outlet that reported on that interview called him ‘uncharismatic’, ‘bland’ and ‘plain rude in his refusal to answer’, a deep clash to the personalities he played on screen, even when plenty others somewhat acknowledge that Big Mom’s way to conduct the interview had been borderline unprofessional.

 

Those articles disappeared a day after it was released, and Ace spent 3 days coming back to the first one to anonymously argue with anyone in the comment section who dared to agree with the article. He did the same with the video, but Law caught him on that and berated him for wasting his time on the net instead of working before revoking his access for the day. 

 

That was a distant memory at this point, but now that he remembered it again and heard what happened beforehand, the young man felt his temper flared.

 

“Well, you don’t have to worry about that here,” he convinced the blonde confidently, jostling Nojiko from being able to finish applying foundation on his face yet again, “Iva-chan is a real professional and he actually treats his guests with respect. He… can be a bit overbearing, but he knows to stop when you’re uncomfortable,”

 

Marco looks unconvinced, but he smiled, so that’s a bonus.

 

It’s been 2 day since the big news of them ‘dating’, yet despite the official press release from their respective representative companies, people are still talking and demanding answer. Late night yesterday, Rayleigh suddenly phoned all three of them about Ace going to Ivankov’s show, which was undoubtably the most popular celebrity talk show in all of Raftel, and that he got an agreement from Marco’s company director to have him appear as well so both him and Ace could explain what was going on.

 

“Spade’s latest album is based on how he is ‘longing’ for romance and the entire concept of trying to find one. Fans online had only barely talked about it, and now all of the sudden they found out he does have one. The album sale, both physical and digital, are skyrocketing right now, with people wanting to get it on the discussion,” Law told them as their briefing, eyes staring down to his phone all the time to cement the idea that he was actually reading that off from somewhere, “Don’t know about the effect it’s going for Newgate and his company, but since the director and PR agrees, it probably means good things over there too,”

 

“Huh,” Marco spoke up, unsure, “It sure is an odd way of marketing, though,”

 

The dark hair manager squinted his eyes, “Who the fuck cares, people talking means sales, and sales means money. Money means profit, and all of this is a perfect accidental PR too boost your popularity as well, which means even more profit in the future. Dating news had that sort of effect, either the world decided they loved seeing you together and you get more support and sales, or they decided you’re not and we’ll be seeing some loss and we cannot risk that. So far Spade’s fans and the general public were still wholly undecided and confused about you two, and depending on how we go from today, this can mean a rise in these profit or even loss, so you both best be on your best behaviours,”

 

Behind him, Sabo rubbed his chin and after smacking his lips, said musingly, “Nami got ahold of you before you got here, didn’t she?”

 

“She did and i hate you immensely for leaving me alone to deal with her, Outlook,” he shifted his glare from Ace and Marco to Sabo, his hand around his phone tightening, “She kept messaging me incessantly, posting me unstoppable updates from forums and social media. I don’t even know why she’s so concerned about this. She’s in finance, this sort of things are dealt with by the promotion department,”

 

“Well, she’s also a big fan of Spade. A big fan of the income he generated for the company, but still,”

 

Next to Ace, Marco still looked slightly uncomfortable as he said, “I just, i just don’t get it, why are they so invested in this? I mean, people get into relationships all the time, why that much reaction?”

 

“Because people had nothing better to do but gossip? Again, who the fuck cares, it happened, Newgate, so stop asking stupid things, and stop this fucking madness before it gets out of hand,” whatever biting quip he was about to make next was cut off by his phone ringing. Law groaned when he saw the caller ID, and left the room with a snappy ‘hello?’. Virtually everyone in the room watched him leave, with Ace feeling a little mad he would talk like that to Marco.

 

“You’re just asking, what the hell is his problem?” the dark haired male muttered, frowning at Law’s retreating form. 

 

“I uh, i guess he’s under a lot of pressure right now,” the blonde said in a mellow tone, “And i guess he had a point,”

 

“I won’t too much of it to heart,” Sabo commented with a shrug, “We are kind of being pressured by Rayleigh right now, but it’s nothing more than usual. Law’s just pissy because he can’t walk Bepo again this morning. And he just found out about who’s filming a music video next door,”

 

Before Ace can ask, the door to the dressing room was slammed open again and this time, instead of Law’s skinny and lanky form, it was someone much more hulking and broad, taking up the entire door space just by walking in, “Look who we have here! The talk of the town!” Eustass Kid announced as he strode inside of the room with a confident gait, grinning from ear to ear and fully dressed as if someone had thrown up punk on his entire person, “What’s been happening, Ace? I kept seeing your name on the news this last few days,”

 

The red haired man made his way over with one extended hand, which Ace send a loud and ringing high five to, “I thought you and the guys are out of country touring,” he said as a greeting, before seeing Killer in his ever-present mask trailing in behind Kid, “And well, it’s… it’s a long story,”

 

“I know it’s going to be and you know i don’t trust any of those nosy-ass paparazzis so when i heard you’re here, i just gotta get the news from the man himself. How’d you end up from just having a bedroom full of the guy to having the guy in your bedroom?”

 

Whatever reply there was on Ace’s head completely disappeared at Kid’s words. The word ‘mortified’ barely covered the emotion he felt, along with the sensation of what could only be his soul leaving his body in the form of a choked squeak. 

 

Next to him, obviously blind to his plight, Marco frowned, “Huh?”

 

While Ace remained dying on his seat, Kid turned alarmed, eyes wide and expression turning sheepish, “Oh, shit, i didn’t see you there,”

 

“He’s been there the entire time, Kid,” Killer commented lightly, not seeming to really care about the entire happening.

 

Before Ace could find it in himself to do something - or to even regain some semblance of control to this entire situation - Kid already strode over to Marco’s seat, extending one hand and without any permission, taking Marco’s own in his to shake it, “How’s it going? Eustass Kid, nice to meet you in person, Mr. Newgate, big fan of your work. Everyone and their ancestors can keep saying that ‘Paramount War’ is your best work, but i’m more partial to ‘Tragedy at Banero’ myself. Ace said every single movie you played in was good, but then again it’s Ace, ”

 

Marco looked lost, and honestly, Ace could sob at this point. At least, until the blonde shook his head and smiled politely, returning Kid’s handshake, “Ah, thank you, glad to hear that. Not many people preferred other movies i was in compared to ‘Paramount War’,” he paused and narrowed his eyes, “Eustass Kid, as in the vocalist of Kid Pirates, the rock band?”

 

“Shit, you’ve heard of us?” the redhaired man beamed, still holding on to Marco’s hand, who was evidently already trying to snake away from the muscly grip, “Oh that’s right, you’re related to the guys from ‘Whitebeard Sons’, aren’t you? Oh man, listen, Ace’s my best buddy and since you and him are apparently chummy and all, it won’t be out of line for me to ask if you can like, hook me up with them for a collab’ or something—“

 

“What is he doing here?! No unauthorized personnel are allowed in here! ”

 

All activity inside of the dressing room halted for that split second the scream was heard, and Ace didn’t know if he should be glad for the interruption or curl up further until the floor swallowed him when he realized who said that. He decided to use the second Kid was distracted to pull Marco out of the inevitable splash zone, mouthing ‘trust me’ when the blonde looked at him in confusion.

 

“Trust you about what?”

 

Ace grimaced, but before he can enlighten Marco out of the chaos that was certain to follow, Kid’s voice cuts him off, “Good morning, Trafalgar, you’re a sight for sore eyes,” The red head’s attention was quickly set on the newly arrived Law, instantly forgetting about them, the impish grin on his face a complete contrast to the fiery glare aimed at Ace’s scowling manager, “Did you miss me? I really missed you, but you really should’ve replied to my text—Oof!”

 

“Out! We are recording in less than 5 minutes and i am not having any bothersome people running around this place,” Despite his best efforts, Ace imagined that pushing a man as built as Kid couldn’t be that easy so it was with no surprise that Law barely could make him budge from his spot. He thought Killer would’ve at least helped, but the masked drummer had turned his back upon the sight, conversing quietly in the corner with one of the runners who offered him a selection of snacks.

 

“Oh come on, don’t be like that, i haven’t seen you in 2 months! Can’t i at least take you out for a lunch—“

 

“I am going absolutely nowhere with you, and if you don’t leave in 5 seconds, i will call security—“

 

“For what? I’m literally also recording next door!”

 

“Your manager seems to, uh, have a strong dislike for Eustass Kid,” Ace heard Marco asked next to him, less wary and more curious about the entire display.

 

Sighing, Ace nodded, sidling closer to his side as they continued to watch the two, “Yeah, and Kid’s really adamant about taking him out for a date. He’s my friend and all, but there’s no accounting for taste, i guess,” As he spoke, he noted that the actor looked less tense than he was before Kid appeared, as if the entire event had distracted him away from his anxiety about the upcoming interview. Smiling slightly, the dark haired singer leaned even closer, lowering his volume as not to attract anyone else’s attention, “It’s actually kind of funny how it all started…,”

 

He met Kid and his band during the early years of his debut, in the middle of one of his first time participating in a music shows. Kid had first bonded with Luffy - who often tag along for those events - over their shared admiration of a film director - Kid for his movies, Luffy because Shanks is a close family friends who used to bring him over to filming sets when he was younger - before he warmed up to Ace as more than a fellow performer. 

 

They didn’t become any closer than that until last year, when Ace’s career rose much higher than expected and Rayleigh had to hire another manager for him since Sabo can’t be expected to keep up with every single one of his schedules alone. It was a couple of months after Law was hired that he met Kid again, this time in a broadcasting studio and all of the sudden, he just can’t get rid of the man.

 

“Kid used to be a typical rockstar too, you know, groupies, calling fans backstage and to their trailer, the likes, but after he met Law,” Ace made a swiping vertical swiping motion with his hand, “Zilch. At least that’s what Heat, his bassist, likes to tell everyone. Apparently, he deleted all hookup numbers in his phone, and the times they did saw him on his phone, it was all to message Law, and he probably does that day and night,”

 

It’s not something a lot of people outside of their close circle knows and he probably shouldn’t be gossiping about it, but then they are making a spectacle out of themselves right now. Plus, Marco seems focused enough on his story to be nervous, and that’s a plus for Ace.

 

The blonde frowned, glancing at him from the corner of his eyes, “Doesn’t sound like his feelings are reciprocated, though,”

 

“That’s the thing. Kid could sometimes be too brash and pushy for his own good, but he’s still a decent guy. If Law’s really not interested, he would’ve backed off by now,”

 

“But he is?” Marco frowned, turning back just in time to see the lanky manager kicking the rockstar’s leg in an effort to finish pushing him away out of the door. Kid still persistently held on to the door frame however, bargaining for a dinner instead of lunch, which was again met with shouted to get lost, “Doesn’t look like it to me,”

 

Yeah, it would seems so to anyone else. At least, to anyone else who hadn’t stolen Law’s phone in retaliation over a hacked laptop and subsequent reveal of his very secret 10 gigabyte picture folder. Ace hadn’t been able to scroll too far away before the manager realized that his phone had been stolen, but just from the couple recent messages he managed to read, Ace knows Law acted very differently to Kid in the privacy of the messaging app.

 

He’d never understand those two.

 

“I know, right? But that’s the way it is,” the younger huffed, shrugging, “I still can’t get over the fact that anyone found Law attractive in the first place,” A downright mean bastard with sadistic tendencies and a hairline temper when it comes to his dog, who constantly looked like he’s only alive through the power of coffee and constant anger at everything Ace did. Ace does not get it.

 

Marco hummed, shifting his weight on his other foot, “Well, he does have that quality on him. Tall, dark and handsome, as well as the brooding air, i can imagine a lot of people finding that attractive, actually,”

 

Ace blinked, before turning so fast that his neck made a cracking noise, mouth gaping and eyes wide. The noise that escaped him encapsulate his shock and disbelief at Marco’s statement, and instantly, he looked down on himself. Well, he’s not at freakish height like Law, but 6’1 is still above average, right? He’s also been called handsome a lot of time, and unlike Law’s more olive skin, his was more tan, and that’ came from daily exercise and being outside instead of just genetics, which means he is probably also in a better shape.

 

Though, he’d admit that no one can beat Law in the brooding look. Ace is still sure he must have a goth phase during his youth, what with the piercings and all.

 

Honestly irritated out of nowhere, he crossed his arms, pouting slightly while he mumbled under his breath, “Well, at least i don’t have the attitude,” he grumpily found Law again, still scowling after he finally succeeded in chasing Kid out of the dressing room, “And i’m a hell lot cuter when angry, so there,”

 

While stewing in his own annoyance, Ace missed the confused look Marco gave him.

 


 

Ivankov’s show started off with a warmup segment, with the host himself boisterously greeting the live audience before sharing series of news from the week, all of them delivered with funny anecdotes and clever quips, with the audience making the all the right reactions. From behind the stage, guest were supposed to watch the proceeding from a small monitor available to know their cue, but Ace was too focused on watching Marco, who had been taking deep breaths non stop since they were called to be on stand by behind the stage’s sliding entrance.

 

With Inazuma, Ivankov’s assistant too busy watching the stage to look over to them, Ace moved closer and tentatively nudged the older man with his elbow. His breathing stuttered and when his eyes fluttered open, Ace could see the palpable nervousness swimming in those bright blue orbs.

 

“—the news that i am sure we have all heard, all of our mothers and daughters have heard and cried hysterically about, Spade and Marco Newgate. Are they really in a relationship?”

 

Quietly, edging his mouth away from the microphone he had been equipped with, the freckled singer asked, “Is it that bad?”

 

Marco seems reluctant to speak for a while, before he took another deep breath and nodded, “I just… never really do well with these sort of things. Makes me feel awkward having so many strangers looking at me and having me in the spotlight,” he gave an ironic smile, the sight which tugged Ace’s heart string, “Weird, isn’t it? Considering i’m a public figure and all,”

 

“—spotted downtown holding hands, those risque mall photos and the damning, damning picture of Marco’s car in Spade’s driveway late at night— Ooh, didn’t mean that double entendre, people, i swear, we’re rated PG here—“

 

Ace didn’t return his smile, even as Marco’s slowly faded away and he looked down to his shoes, “So the problem was mostly with the audience, right?”

 

Marco let out another shuddering breath, nodding weakly.

 

“—But a lot of people are sceptical! I know, right? Well, what do you say we get some confirmation from the straight horses’ mouth? That’s right, horses, plural, because today, we have not one, but two very special guests—”

 

“Well then,” Ace reached for both of Marco’s hands, holding and squeezing them to get the man to look up to him. Blue meets grey, apprehensive to determined, “I’ll do most of the talking, keep their attention away from you,” he smiled slightly, squeezing the older man’s hands again, “And if you’re starting to feel uncomfortable, just look at me. I’m not a stranger, right?”

 

It was probably easier said than done, but for that moment, Ace knew he at least managed to calm Marco down when his hands were squeezed back.

 

“—give it up for Spade and Marco Newgate! Our two— Oh my, what is this? Have we interrupted something, boys?”

 

Oh, oops. They missed their cue.

 


 

Faux pas aside, the interview had gone swimmingly, at least for the first half. 

 

As a warm up, Ivankov had them answering about their recent activity, a question that was mostly focused on Ace regarding his recent comeback and upcoming solo concert, and he found that by prolonging the answer by trading goofy stories, the less time there will be for them to turn to Marco. The man was not completely still, at least, giving one or two lines of comment on his own, and it took Ace’s entire being not to preen when Marco mentioned he had his newest songs on repeat since their release.

 

“So celebrities being friends happens all the time, but the two of you run on a very different social circle,” The claps and laughters that had erupted after Ace’s last story about how his expression on his latest album had came to be immediately died down at Ivankov’s remark, and internally, Ace braced himself. They’ve finally stepped to why they’re actually here. From his periphery, sitting on the sofa right next to his, he could see Marco stiffening, “Yet you seemed quite familiar with each other, how did you two ended up knowing each other?”

 

Even when he knew that this question is coming - it was all scripted, after all - Ace found it hard to act normal as he delivered the equally scripted and carefully worded answer, a true story with a lot of vagueness added into it, “Well, it was an accident, believe it or not. We quite literally bumped into each other one day, and found out that we’re fans of each other. i’m a big fan of his films, Marco apparently listened to my music, and it was cool so we get to talking,”

 

“And when did this talking changed to uh,” the afro-haired crossdresser cleared his throat exaggeratedly, glancing and winking at the audience for extra effect, “Talking so closely?”

 

Right on cue, the large screen decorating the back of the stage showed an image from the dating news, a few were blurry pictures of the two of them inside of Makino’s cafe with a larger frontal picture of them running in a hurry to Marco’s car. Ace pursed his lips in annoyance, knowing for sure that this picture did not ended up on any of the magazines - at least, not the ones Law bought over to his place - and wondered if he can ask Ivankov to give him a copy of this. The angle of the picture caught Marco’s casual attire that day unlike the others, and he can’t finish his newly formed scrapbook without this one.

 

“Ac— uh, Spade, i mean, during our first meeting, i accidentally broke something of his, and i offered to pay for it. That picture was tak— sorry, taken during our way to fix… fix the stuff,”

 

It’s such a shame that their every movements were being watched so closely because the urge to just leap over and shout out ‘You’re doing great, sweetie!’ was overwhelming. Especially when such exclamation will only stoke the fire they’re trying to keep on neutral. With resignation, Ace could only showed his support by grinning at Marco and nodding at his words, highly aware that Marco himself was trying so hard to only look at him instead of the crowd in front of him.

 

Questions for each of the paparazzi shots were asked and answered with the same amount of efficiency, and after having to answer what exactly did Marco broke did Ace made a mental note to call Brook and tell him of the fate of his sunglasses, which he should’ve done a while ago. Ivankov would not ask them the question directly just yet, just letting them answer with as much ‘truth’ as they can,  because after all, even though this is for their sake, he had to keep the ratings up too.

 

Such is show business, he supposed.

 

Finally, several questions and subtle innuendos later - poor Marco was still squirming over ‘his car being in Ace’s driveway’ bit, which was apparently something Ivankov was so proud of he had to mention it twice in the span of 5 minutes - the tightly dressed crossdresser crossed his legs and daintily propped his hands on top of his knees, blinking almost too innocently, “I think it’s best if i just ask what is in everyone’s mind: Are you or are you not dating with each other?”

 

Ace opened his mouth, the answer on the tip of his tongue when Marco suddenly beat him to the punch, voice much more stable than it had been the entire time, “No, we are not. We’re just friends. Those pictures had been taken during one outing and is in no way an indication of our relationship to each other. Not only that some of the pictures were gross breach of privacy, but i value Spade as a good friend and would hate to have something like this cause a disturbance and rift in our friendship,”

 

There’s chorus of disappointment mixed with several cheers from the audiences’ seat, and Ivankov was saying something else to address them, but Ace was too busy staring at Marco, who seems quite confused by his own feat. 

 

Disregarding their surrounding, Ace reached over and patted the dumbfounded blonde’s knee, unable to hold back his smile, “Thank you,” he mouthed, his stomach bubbling over the thought that Marco valued their relationship that much.

 

Marco’s smile was shy, but equally happy.

 

“Well, you might say that, Marco,” Ivankov spoke, standing up from his seat and making a flourish hand gesture to the screen again, as if he’s about to present something else. Which he shouldn’t, that picture before had been the last and his question about their relationship should be the end of their segment. This is now going off script and Ace knew he looked as alarmed as Marco suddenly become, “But here’s the thing,”

 

The screen flickered on, and displayed on the giant screen were now series of pictures that Ace had never seen before but clearly recognized with dawning horror. Popping images of him and Marco inside of the quiet burger joint during their breakfast, with him leaning over from his table to hug the startled actor, of them roaming the streets of the Ace’s neighbouring suburb, of them entering and exiting the party store while ducking from the high schooler, of pictures of them inside the party store - holy shit, did the cashier lady did recognize them?! - leaning over each other closely on the corner near the wall, of them hugging again in the cramped aisle.

 

The slideshow ended with a video taken by a young girl with half of her face covered by her own hand, whispering statically ‘Oh my god, it’s them’ before she shifted her camera over her shoulder. Though half of the screen was still hidden by her head, there was no mistaking Ace and his newly acquired orange hat sitting a couple of tables away, scooping a rather large dollop of ice cream from his giant bowl and offering it to the blonde man in front of him, who was very obviously Marco.

 

“Try this one,” he heard his own voice coming from the video, static and far away as they are, helped by the subtitle added on the bottom of the video by the production team, “I think you’d like it better, you’re more into bitter taste, right?”

 

In the video, Marco looked up from his much smaller bowl to the spoon and without a hint of hesitation leaned over to allow himself be spoon fed ice cream, and if that wasn't enough, Ace - unconsciously, he didn’t even realized he had done that then and was incredibly embarrassed by it afterwards - immediately put the spoon back into his mouth, even licking the back a couple of times first.

 

Marco’s reply was drowned by the girl’s muffled squeal after she came back into shot, hissing 'oh my god, that indirect kiss' before the video suddenly ended.

 

There was silence in the room, before Marco stood up, expression completely bewildered as he looked around the room, to Ivankov, to Ace, and finally to the screen again, shouting, “Oh, come on!”

 

“Yes, come on, now, Marco,” Ivankov gleefully called out, “‘Just friends, are you?”

 

Chapter Text

 

New Text Message from Edward Newgate (Pops) [09:04]: marco i am disappointed :)(

 

Sent to Edward Newgate (Pops) [09:06]: Pops…

Sent to Edward Newgate (Pops) [09:06]: Wait.. is that supposed to be a sad face with your moustache on it?

 

New Text Message from Edward Newgate (Pops) [09:06]: don’t change the subject, son 

 

Sent to Edward Newgate (Pops) [09:06]: Sorry…

 

New Text Message from Edward Newgate (Pops) [09:06]: you used to tell me everything when you were a boy

New Text Message from Edward Newgate (Pops) [09:07]: about school, about your day with your brothers and your little friends

New Text Message from Edward Newgate (Pops) [09:07]: now i have to find out you found a special someone from my morning papers

 

Sent to Edward Newgate (Pops) [09:08]: Pops, it’s not like that.

 

New Text Message from Edward Newgate (Pops) [09:09]: will you bring him over?

New Text Message from Edward Newgate (Pops) [09:09]: he seems like a nice young man

 

Sent to Edward Newgate (Pops) [09:11]: Yes, he is. 

 

New Text Message from Edward Newgate (Pops) [09:11]: :))

New Text Message from Edward Newgate (Pops) [09:11]: ok, i look forward to it

 

Sent to Edward Newgate (Pops) [09:11]: what?

 

New Text Message from Edward Newgate (Pops) [09:11]: but tell me a day ahead before you bring him around. you know stefan the 5th sheds a lot and steffany will need to be taken out for a walk before she meets a new stranger so she wont piss on their shoes

New Text Message from Edward Newgate (Pops) [09:12]: also i need to clean up the house. first impression is important

 

Sent to Edward Newgate (Pops) [09:12]: wait

 

New Text Message from Edward Newgate (Pops) [09:12]: oh i have to go now, its almost stefan the 4ths turn to be called by the vet 

New Text Message from Edward Newgate (Pops) [09:12]: his cold is getting better 

New Text Message from Edward Newgate (Pops) [09:12]: you and thatch should come visit soon to see him. he and the puppies misses you two

New Text Message from Edward Newgate (Pops) [09:12]: bring your young man too

 

Sent to Edward Newgate (Pops) [09:13]: ok Pops. I’ll tell Thatch.

Sent to Edward Newgate (Pops) [09:20]: wait

Sent to Edward Newgate (Pops) [09:20]: Wait Pops, you misunderstood.

Sent to Edward Newgate (Pops) [09:21]: Pops?

Sent to Edward Newgate (Pops) [09:24]: Goddamit.

 


 

Trapped in a world of mystery. Shadows are all closing in, and i can’t breathe…

 

His electronica-beat induced trance was interrupted by a poke on his shoulder, and lethargically, Marco dragged his face upwards to meet the owner of the looming shadow that had set in front of him. Above him, he met Robin’s benevolent smile, seemingly amused by him as she sat down right across the table from where he sat. She said something, her words drowned behind the verse’s mellow beat and Spade’s lulling tenor interwoven together into a very familiar tune.

 

In a prolonged, sluggish movement, Marco reached for his phone inside of his hoodie pocket and clicked the pause button on the music player app, before pulling his headphone back slightly, “What?”

 

Robin’s smile turned sharper, “I said wanting to forget your problems while listening to what caused you trouble in the first place seems counterproductive,”

 

In response, Marco dropped his head back to the table, face first, causing the headphone to slide down back to cover his ears. He used his thumb to click on the play button again, filling his ears with more beats and more of Spade’s voice.

 

…escaping possibilities. Around, around is all we know. Is all we k—

 

The music was suddenly cut short, and in irate, Marco snapped his head towards his hand, where he felt a clod finger against his that he deduced had been the culprit behind it. His narrowed eyes met Robin’s own amused ones, “Leave me alone, Robin, this is my break,” he murmured, pressing his chin down the marble table surface, “Besides, i thought you’d be madder at me about all of this,”

 

“Oh, Marco, do you think i’m so unfair that i will blame you for something out of your control?”

 

Sometimes, “No,”

 

The aftermath of yesterday’s disaster can be seen in the multitude amount of magazines, news spread and was even playing on the large plasma TV on the other side of the room, all of them reporting about the apparently live recording interview that people neglected to tell him. Apparently, both Robin and Nekomamushi had agreed to let that little detail slip by him as not to make him any more nervous than he already was, which in a way was both a blessing and a curse. 

 

Most of the film crew were gathered around it, while trying not to stare blatantly at him. Marco caught one of their eyes, groaned, and buried his face back to the table, “I can’t believe last night even happen,”

 

“I can,” he heard Robin said, tapping her nails on the table top, “Ivankov’s ratings went off the chart after the second segment, beating all other programs that aired at the same time by 16.5% and peaked at 22.1 million viewers, breaking the show’s records in over 8 years it aired. It was sneaky, and we definitely need to address it later, but aren’t you glad we didn’t tell you it was live?”

 

Marco’s answer was just a strangled groan, almost a sob.

 

There’s a chuckle followed by a motherly pat to his head, “Now, now, what done is done. Look at the bright side, this whole thing has made Nekomamushi and Inuarashi start to work together again. They’re so flooded with not only request for interviews and high-end endorsements that they can’t ignore each other if they want their agency to work efficiently,” At Marco’s questioning look, Robin seems to grow even more amused, “Seems like you’d be extremely busy these next few months, maybe even year. How long it might take for your ‘romance’ with Spade to lose its novelty,”

 

It made sense why, he supposed, but still, “But we’re not dating,”

 

Robin’s hand slid down to his outstretched hand, her eyes full of sympathy, “I know, Marco. We’d settle—“ before she can say anything else, there’s a chirp from inside of her purse, one that Marco recognize to be her phone’s ringtone. She pulled the device out, took one glance at the monitor and frowned slightly, “Sorry, but i have to pick this up. Remember, after this, we have a meeting after this with Spade and his representatives at Sabaody Records to discuss last night’s happenings so pack up quickly, alright?”

 

Once the actor gave a nod, she stood up and turned her attention to her phone, “Is something wrong, Franky? I thought you’d be at work by now… I packed Chopper’s lunch in the red lunchbox and yours in the blue one, yes. Don’t mix it up, i put in his juice box there too— Yes, i’m fine with take away for tonight, just remember that you’re picking Chopper up from school today, i’m going to be home a little late from sorting out Marco—“

 

Robin’s voice faded away the further she become, and once his manager is out of sight, Marco laid his head back down on the table, positioning his headphones better before glancing to his phone screen. The title of the currently paused song was scrolling by, and after some consideration, he pressed the next button before pressing play yet again. A different, faster and louder tune filled his hearing, before Spade’s voice entered the fray.

 

Sitting in the darkness, void of human emotion. Light is calling out, the feeling is hazy—

 

“What?!”

 

When Spade’s voice was once again paused, he didn’t even bother hiding his annoyance at whoever caused it. He just wanted to be left alone the first half of today, before the inevitable blowout later. Heck, he just wanted to be left alone for the sole principle that yesterday even happened at all. 

 

Unlike the subtle amusement Robin gave him earlier, this time Marco was faced with a taken back Shanks jumping backwards, eyes wide and one hand automatically rising up, “Woah, jeez, testy!” the red haired man exclaimed, patting his chest and grinning sheepishly. 

 

Marco sighed, but he didn’t stop the movie director from taking the seat Robin had vacated. Shanks is annoying, but he is a friend and a respected co-worker, and he is a director in the movie he is currently working on so to tolerate him means a good working environment for the next few months. That was the mantra Marco repeated in his head when the red haired man spoke up again before he can turn his music back on, “Did what happen yesterday really got on your nerve that much? I mean, it was kind of bad though, even i cringed. You took home the award for ‘the most uncomfortable man on the planet’ for the entire 1 hour and a half,”

 

He stifled a groan, not wanting to be reminded by it, “Didn’t know you watch talk shows,”

 

“I work in the entertainment industry, i have to be up to date with the latest news!”

 

And he loves gossip, true, but one cursory glance at the man, with his rumpled shirt, evident eye bags and the way he kept tilting his head to one side told a different story. One that Marco had seen a couple of times to immediately recognize, “Did you pissed Mihawk again and had to sleep on the sofa?”

 

Shanks’ grin turned glum, “That sofa is goddamn uncomfortable and i know he only kept it around for whenever i messed up. The TV’s my only solace,” he sniffled, “How am i supposed to know that shirt colours can bleed out and stain lighter fabrics?”

 

“Maybe if you actually do laundry once in a while…,”

 

“But then i won’t be supporting Yasopp’s wife’s laundromat business and i’m their most loyal costumer,” Shanks proudly replied, before sighing again, “When are they going to go back from that stupid family holiday? I miss my best cameraman and Banchina’s the only one who can clean that damn coat Mihawk loves so much in a ‘correct way’,”

 

Marco rolled his eyes surreptitiously. He reach over for his phone again only for it to be swiped away from underneath his own hand, “Hey!”

 

“Hafta say, it’s kind of sweet how supporting you two are with each other’s profession,” Shanks uttered, staring at his phone screen and hopefully doing nothing else, “Nice, isn’t it? Having a significant other that understood your work? Before, i always got chastised for how busy i got during a project but with Mihawk, he’s just as busy doing his own things that it’s never a problem,” the red haired man snickered, “Well, he chastised me about different things, but it’s okay, he never said it but he likes setting me straight,”

 

“It’s not like that,” Marco quickly cuts, because not only did Shanks misunderstood - just like the majority of the population at this point - he’s not hearing him gush about the stern-eyed producer. Again, “Ace— Spade and i literally are just friends. We’re not in a relationship,”

 

“Coulda fooled me,” the director mused, “After all, as the meme said, there’s already receipts,”

 

“…The what?”

 

“You didn’t see it? It’s in every forum and social media right now,”

 

He didn’t check his phone once since last night - though only once this morning to reply to Pops’ text - and now, Marco’s dreading it even more.

 

And because of course Shanks doesn’t understood reluctance or can read the situation, he pulled out his own phone, “Here, let me show you. I saved up some of the funniest, because man, your face,”

 

Marco could’ve just told him that he’s not interested in seeing, but curiousity killed the cat and it killed him indeed. 

 

It was a still picture of him taken from last night’s interview, his face full of incredulity, complete with gaping mouth, bulging eye and both hands in mid-gesture. On the bottom part of the picture was the word ‘OH COME ON’, the same words he had shouted during that exact moment, written in bolded white text with thick black border, and just by scrolling past Shanks’ photo roll, he caught multitudes of those pictures attached to another picture or just a bunch of text. Warily, he clicked on one, making the full picture pop out in full screen.

 

 

 

[When bae reads text one second ago but hasn’t replied]

 

[OH COME ON]

 

 

“W-what the hell is all of this?!”

 

“It’s called meme, Marco, come on, surely even you know that,” the red haired director laughed, one finger showing up in Marco’s periphery to swipe to the next picture.

 

 

 

[When people say world’s gonna end but years later you still alive]

 

[OH COME ON]

 

 

[When your teacher won’t round your F to an A+]

 

[OH COME ON]

 

 

“Wait, wait, let me show you the one i told you earlier,” the phone was swiped away from under his nose, which was good because with every one of those… meme things, Marco’s head is spinning. The moment of reprieve didn’t last long when Shanks’ phone was shoved to his face again, showing another longer variety, which looked like a series of pictures instead of just words with his picture attached to it.

 

 

[When you tryna deny you’re dating but the entire world comes at you with receipts]

 

It was followed with various pictures of people in sassy poses, all looking down to the bottom, in which again, Marco found his picture, this time without the quote. Which, in a way, made it all the more jarring and distressing.

 

Shanks cackled at the look on his face. Marco wants to drop dead.

 

As if his torment wasn’t enough of course, a familiar noise blared through his phone, followed by a vibration somewhere from Shank’s direction. Before he could react, the blonde watched the director lifted his phone up with a quirked brow, which slowly turned into a mischievous grin. Warily, he asked, “Who’s calling?”

 

Instead of answering, Shanks turned the phone in his hand, and Marco’s eyes widened.

 

 

 

INCOMING CALL

 

Ace Gol-Portgas (Answer Immediately!)

 

 

The grin on Shanks’ face didn’t disappear even when the phone was harshly swiped out of his hand, and only seems to amuse him further, “‘Answer Immediately’?”

 

“Shut up,” Marco hissed, pulling his headphone back and pressing the green ‘answer’ symbol, “H-hello?”

 

“Hey,” the voice from over the phone was hushed, as if Ace was trying not to speak too loudly, “Um, sorry, are you busy right now?”

 

Marco shook his head rapidly, before he realized that the younger couldn’t see him and felt rather foolish. From the corners of his eyes, he saw Shanks standing up and walking away, subtly snickering. He glared at the man’s back, “No, it’s my break right now. It’s uh, it’s a script reading for a new movie,”

 

“A new movie?” Ace’s volume increased slightly, back to speaking normally and even rather enthusiastically, “Is it the one that people are speculating about, Shanks Red’s new project with you and… wait, um, who was it? I don’t know, i just saw your name and that’s all i remember,”

 

Just as Ace finished saying that, Marco eyed a commotion in the middle of the break room, where his co-star, Cavendish Hakuba, actor and a famously spoilt diva who hated not being recognized all the time, was fighting viciously with Bartolomeo, one of the junior producers, because he did exactly that weeks ago when they were first introduced. As a matter of fact, it was their constant quarrelling that ended up making him late to Spade’s album launch, and what had inadvertently caused him to meet Ace in the first place.

 

He silently exhaled over the memories of that day, and spoke, “I’m bound by contract not to discuss too much of it with anyone,” he glanced around again - just in time to catch Cavendish smacking Bartolomeo with one of the prop swords upside the head - before continuing over Ace’s disappointed sigh, “But yes, that’s the one,”

 

Obviously, he couldn’t see Ace’s face, but the muffled squeal he let out was enough to tell Marco how truly happy he was, “Seriously?! Oh my god, Seriously?! I’m— I’m so— Aah! A new movie from you! When is it going to be released?! What are you playing as?! Oh my god, oh my god, please, please, please, do me a favour, take a selfie on set, or with your costume on, for my scrapbook and my wall posters and i will built a literally shrine—“ in the middle of his rapid gushing, Ace suddenly stopped, and for a while, there was nothing on the other side of the phone. Marco was about to call out before the singer’s voice returned, slightly shaky, “I, uh, i mean, um, that’s… wow, that’s great! Shanks’ movies are great, he inspired my brother a lot and Luffy’s been single minded about wanting to be a movie director ever since, i should really tell you about that one day, but anyway, uh,”

 

There’s a long drawn groan from the other side of the phone now, slightly far away as if Ace had removed himself from the receiver and in a way, made Marco slightly concerned, “Uh, Ace?”

 

“Sorry, sorry,” the younger sighed, his exhaling making a static noise through the phone, “I just wanted to call to ask how you’re holding up. It’s pretty tense here, Law and Sabo’s fighting with Ivankov’s people the whole day, and i think Sabo took it rather personally because he always had a good working relationship with Ivankov especially. He didn’t expect me to be thrown under the bus and our agreement to be broken for the sake of ratings and views, in his own words,”

 

Ace sounded tired now, even more as he exhaled again. Marco can relate, “It’s not much better here, i guess. I’ve been doing this script reading and rehearsals since this morning, so i haven’t met with anyone from the agency, but Robin said my bosses were forced to work together for this entire matter. And they hated each other,”

 

“Shit, that’s gotta be rough,”

 

“Yeah, i honestly, can’t imagine them having to tolerate each other,” despite himself, Marco quirked the corners of his lips briefly at the thoughts of Nekomamushi and Inuarashi mysterious long standing rivalry and mutual dislike being put in a halt, “But otherwise, i’m fine, thank you. How about you? You don’t sound too good,”

 

This time, Ace groaned, and there’s a thud and several rustling on the background before his voice became even closer, “I don’t even want to leave the bed until we have to meet later. My parents called from a continent away in the middle of the night, with no regards to time zone, it’s that bad. Apparently, the news already reached there,”

 

“Fuck, where are they?”

 

“On a business trip to Skypeia,”

 

“Skypeia’s on the other side of the world,”

 

“I know,”

 

The two of them groaned almost simultaneously, as Marco placed his head back to the table, his phone leaning against his head without him holding them to allow his arms to hung down freely, flopping on either one of his sides.

 

“Marco?”

 

“Yeah, Ace?”

 

There’s a brief moment of silence, so quiet that he thought the call had been disconnected. Before he can call out again, Ace’s voice returned with a hint of apprehension, “I know i asked this before, but,” he paused again, and when he spoke, his voice was small, almost muffled, “This isn’t going to change anything, right? It won’t make things awkward between us? Cause i don’t want it to,”

 

Ace sounded almost scared when he asked, and that tugged every single string that controlled Marco’s heart. He lifted his head with a sense of urgency, wide eyed and unable to form words for the first few seconds, “No. Oh god no, it won’t. I don’t want things to be awkward with us too, you’re very, very dear to me, Ace,”

 

Just as he said that, a group of female employees passed by, stopping to glance at him before they walked away giggling and cooing between themselves. Marco watched them leave, stifling his sigh with a mighty effort.

 

The sound of Ace’s nervous laugh immediately distracted him, “I’m… yeah. It’s the same for me. You,” the laughter gained a higher pitch, almost squeal like, “Oh god, my face is so hot. I-i mean, ditto, you know,”

 

It was an unintelligible mess of words as best, but somehow, Marco still found himself smiling, ignoring the group of women from earlier - who has now congregated with another mixed group, whispering and silently gossiping between themselves while blatantly staring at him - in favour of enjoying Ace’s little giggles through the phone. He adjusted the headphones hanging around his neck, and decided that while he can’t really enjoy his songs right now, hearing Ace talk in person is much better as a stress reliever. He had that effect on him, he realized.

 

“We’ll be alright, we’ll handle this together,”

 

Even without being able to see, Marco can feel Ace’s smile through his words, “Yeah,” the younger chuckled, before yawning, “Sorry, i’m going to take a quick nap. Dad kept me up all night wanting to talk about the news, and talking him and mom out of buying a plane ticket home and ignoring important investors is hard work. I’ll see you later?”

 

Marco nodded, noting from the amount of people who had started finishing up their meals and the dwindling amount of people in front of the TV that it was probably nearly the end of his break as well. Of course, they might start a little later, considering Cavendish and Bartolomeo’s squabble doesn’t show any sign of ending any time soon, “Yeah, i’ll see you late— Oh, wait, Ace, before you go,”

 

“Hmm?”

 

“Can you, can you explain to me about this whole.. meme thing? What is that and why is my face on it?”

 


 

 

New Text Message from Shanks Red (Director) [23:20]: [macro_325849.jpeg]

 

Sent to Shanks Red (Director)[23:25]: Stop

 

New Text Message from Shanks Red (Director) [23:25]: [macro_47r83.jpeg]

New Text Message from Shanks Red (Director) [23:25]: [memepage_s3894587.jpeg]

New Text Message from Shanks Red (Director) [23:25]: [mov_worldboard_3894302.jpeg]

New Text Message from Shanks Red (Director) [23:26]: [7483920.jpeg]

New Text Message from Shanks Red (Director) [23:26]: [RaftelEnt-jjed993js.jpeg]

New Text Message from Shanks Red (Director) [23:26]: [CoolPics_3204938dmm.jpeg]

New Text Message from Shanks Red (Director) [23:26]: [macro_sk904kd.jpeg]

New Text Message from Shanks Red (Director) [23:26]: [fullboard_289sm.jpeg]

New Text Message from Shanks Red (Director) [23:26]: [snailboard_49494949.jpeg]

New Text Message from Shanks Red (Director) [23:27]: [37290sjmm92.jpeg]

 

Sent to Shanks Red (Director)[23:28]: STOP

Sent to Shanks Red (Director)[23:28]: I AM NOT INTERESTED IN SEEING THESE MEEMS ANYMORE

 

New Text Message from Shanks Red (Director) [23:30]: OMG WHAT HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH

New Text Message from Shanks Red (Director) [23:30]: ITS SPELLED MEMES YOU ACTUAL PREHISTORIC CREATURE

New Text Message from Shanks Red (Director) [23:31]: Seriously, Marco, get on with the trend. I thought dating someone so young means you’ll be better at this.

 

Sent to Shanks Red (Director)[23:32]: I have Mihawk’s phone number and i’m not afraid of using it

 

New Text Message from Shanks Red (Director) [23:33]: …seriously, you’re dragging Mihawk to this thats so not cool

New Text Message from Shanks Red (Director) [23:43]: [saveandshowtomarco.jpeg]

 

Sent to Shanks Red (Director)[23:44]: That’s it.

 

New Text Message from Shanks Red (Director) [00:01]: Pfft, i know you don’t actually have the balls t

New Text Message from Shanks Red (Director) [00:03]: Apologies for the late night disturbance, Newgate. Have a good rest.

 

Sent to Shanks Red (Director)[00:05]: Night and thanks Mihawk. 

 

Chapter Text

 

OKAMANEWS

[SHOCKING UPDATE ON SPADEGATE: EVERYTHING IS REVEALED IN IVANKOV’S SHOW]

 

ShandiaGirl - [18:09] 

….Spadegate? Really, OkamaNews? 

1990 likes

 

SmoothAlvida - [18:21]

in reply to Shandia Girl :

OkamaNews is reliable on their gossip, not so much on their naming. Seriously, just use the same name as everyone else on social media and call them MaDe

876 likes

 

LolaLolaLolaLuves - [19:10]

in reply to SmoothAlvida :

As in ‘Pair MaDe in Paradise’!!!! <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 

4021 likes

 

PeroPeroPerona - [19:11]

in reply to SmoothAlvida :

Lol no?? That’s also a terrible name, MaCe is where it’s at >:D

698 likes

 

Click to continue thread

 

 

 

TangerineGirl#2 - [17:39]

I STILL CAN’T BELIEVE THIS HAPPENED I’M SO HAPPY @TangerineGirl#1 @TangerineMom 

1039 likes

 

TangerineMom - [19:10]

in reply to TangerineGirl#2:

You that happy about some celeb dating news, Nami? Also, why am i tagged here?

3 likes

 

TangerineGirl#1 - [19:05]

in reply to TangerineMom:

She’s happy because of the bonuses she’s getting from the company since this news break 

31 likes

 

TangerineMom - [19:10]

in reply to TangerineGirl#1:

Oh yeah, after that revenue increase and whatnot… this is that singer you do make up for, right Nojiko? I still don’t get why i’m tagged though, i don’t even know these people

23 likes

 

 

 

TangerineMom - [19:13]

Now that i kept looking, the blonde guy’s a major hottie. Hubba hubba, mommy likes

1689 likes

 

TangerineGirl#2 - [19:15]

BELLMERE NO

90 likes

 

 

 

SPADE_NO_1_FAN -  [19:45]

Noooooo…. i still can’t believe this is trueeee :((((((( Spade’s not single anymore???? It’s so unfair!!!!

209 likes

 

IceWitch_Bay - [19:50]

in reply to SPADE_NO_1_FAN:

What are you 5 lol get a grip, i think they made a cute couple

654 likes

 

SPADE_NO_1_FAN -  [19:52]

in reply to IceWitch_Bay:

But his boyfriend is so much older than Spade :((((( He should be going after people his own age, not Spade

12 likes

 

TangerineMom - [20:01]

in reply to SPADE_NO_1_FAN:

Oh honey, i agree with you. That little freckled twink is cute and all, but he won’t show him a good time the way a mature woman like me can ;)

207 likes

 

TangerineGirl#2 - [20:05]

in reply to TangerineMom:

MOMMA PLEASE STOP GENZO CAN READ YOUR POST HE’S STILL RECOVERING FROM THAT HEART ATTACK

160 likes

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

RAFTEL DAILY: CELEBRITY AND SOCIAL

[MOST SPECULATED NEWS OF THE YEAR: SPADE AND MARCO NEWGATE’S RELATIONSHIP FINALLY CONFIRMED BY MANAGEMENT?]

 

LolaLolaLolaLuves - [21:00]

Listening to ‘Longing’ Album nonstop since the news broke, because omg this article is so true!! Spade always said in interviews that his favorite actor is Marco Newgate and his type is also close to him?? omg my baby!!! did you ended up getting the guy you’re longing for after all?!?!?!?! This is so romantic, i wish my love life is like this too!!! @ChiffonNowMrsCapone

9087 likes

 

ChiffonNowMrsCapone - [21:09]

in reply to LolaLolaLolaLuves:

Aaaah Lola me too! Little Pez loooves hearing Spade’s songs, and omg yes! I played Pez’s (and Bege’s, even though the old softie won’t admit it) favorite song from that album yesterday Hope, and omg i never realize that it’s so fitting! ‘Can this flimsy hope truly become reality’ IT DID SPADE IT DID, DIDN’T IT???

8921 likes

 

LolaLolaLolaLuves - [21:13]

in reply to ChiffonNowMrsCapone:

OMG BRB LISTENING TO IT NOW!!!

1137 likes

 

Click to continue thread

 

 

 

SPADE_NO_1_FAN -  [21:45]

I hatehatehatehatehate this neeews. Spade;;;;;;;

1009 likes

 

Umbrella_Valentine - [21:47]

Gurl i see you posting on every news thread like this, give it up. If you’re really his no 1 fan, you’ll support him no matter what. He found love, you should be happy for that

3781 likes

 

GoldenHeart - [21: 59]

in reply to Umbrella_Valentine: 

I agree and i really support them! The entire interview is cute, you can see how much they care for each other! I know entertainment world can be deceiving, but i really hope they do last long!

8209 likes

 

SPADE_NO_1_FAN - [22:02]

in reply to Umbrella_Valentine:

How????? Isn’t that actor so much older than Spade? What a creep!

389 likes

 

TotallyNotAceOrSpade - [22:05]

in reply to SPADE_NO_1_FAN: 

THAT’S SO DISRESPECTFUL, YOU TAKE THAT BACK!!!!!!

91 likes

 

SPADE_NO_1_FAN - [22:07]

in reply to TotallyNotAceOrSpade:

Why should i?? That actor probably gets close to Spade to use his name because Spade is so much more popular than him

47 likes

 

TotallyNotAceOrSpade - [22:07]

in reply to SPADE_NO_1_FAN: 

MARCO NEWGATE IS TEN LIGHTYEAR MORE POPULAR YOU CABBAGE!! HE’S THE GREATEST ACTOR OF ALL TIME EVEN IF THE WORLD HAD ONLY RECENTLY BEGAN TO UNDERSTAND HOW AWESOME HE ACTUALLY IS HE IS …Click here to read more

309 likes

 

Click to continue thread

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

[You are now exchanging Private Message with BlueGoldAndSuffering ]

BlueGoldAndSuffering 

Ace, stop arguing with people on the internet and go to sleep, you have 2 morning appointments tomorrow

 

BlueGoldAndSuffering 

Also, like i have told you so many times, no, your username is not at all inconspicuous. Quit before people actually figured out who you are

 

TotallyNotAceOrSpade

No

 

TotallyNotAceOrSpade

I don’t care how late it is or if people figure me out, Marco’s honor and integrity needs to be defended from non-believers (ง •̀_•́)ง

 

BlueGoldAndSuffering 

( ̄ー ̄;

 

TotallyNotAceOrSpade

BTW, where are you Sabo? You left pretty early after the meeting and you’re still not home yet

 

TotallyNotAceOrSpade

Luffy and I had ramen from Wanze’s shop for dinner. Since you’re not home, we also ate your portion :b

 

BlueGoldAndSuffering 

No fair…. you know ramen’s my favorite

 

TotallyNotAceOrSpade

Youre fault for not coming home :b

 

BlueGoldAndSuffering 

Koala texted mid meeting that her house will be empty for the weekend because Jinbe has to go out of town

 

BlueGoldAndSuffering 

And what can i say, i’m a simple man

 

TotallyNotAceOrSpade

 Σ(゚Д゚;Σ(゚Д゚;Σ(゚Д゚;Σ(゚Д゚;Σ(゚Д゚;Σ(゚Д゚;THATS WHY YOU’RE IN SUCH A HURRY EWWWW

 

BlueGoldAndSuffering 

( ̄ー ̄;

 

BlueGoldAndSuffering 

Go to bed you child. I don’t want Nojiko complaining about having to treat your eyebags for tomorrow’s photoshoot

 

BlueGoldAndSuffering 

Also, it’s *your

 


 

 

“Here you go, Mr. Gol-Portgas, your sunglasses, good as new,”

 

And indeed it was; the wire and frame were polished clean and there wasn’t a single sign of damage on them. If he squint, Ace was sure he can see his own reflection along the metal surface, “Like i told you in the email, i have to rework some components and ordered others, but overall, i’m quite pleased and proud of the outcome. I hope you are satisfied with this,”

 

“I really am,” Ace told the elderly store owner, who beamed at his answer, “This is amazing, thank you so much,” he turned to his side, still grinning, to see Marco curiously leaning over from behind him to get a better view. He offered the glasses over for the older to get a closer look, “Look at it, it’s almost like it was never broken in the first place. Brook’s going to love it,”

 

Marco chuckled, nodding along before he handed the glasses back to Ace and turned to the shop keeper while digging into his pocket, “Thank you. So it’s 25,000 belli extra for the glass lenses, right?” he fished his wallet out, flipping a section inside of the wallet to take a debit card out. 

 

The owner took it and walked away to the direction of the cashier, while Ace placed Brook’s fixed sunglasses inside of the complimentary box given from the store and sighed, “I can’t believe you actually paid extra for the same lenses without telling me,” he pursed his lips to look annoyed, even though he’s pretty sure Marco knows he’s actually grateful for the gesture, “Those lenses had to be specially ordered and are so costly,”

 

“It’s a sign of my apology to Brook as well,” Marco replied, shrugging, “Besides, something so valuable shouldn’t be fixed just halfway,”

 

Before Ace can answer him, the owner returned, handing Marco back his card and a slip of paper along with the receipt, “The store warranty and your receipt, sir. I have a 2 week policy in case something still went wrong with the glasses, just take it back and i’ll fix it for free,”As Marco made to reach for the paper, the store owner held on to the paper and squinted his wrinkled eyes behind his thick glasses, glancing slowly between the two of them, “Say, aren’t you two the same youngsters who are on the front of the paper since last Wednesday?”

 

From the corner of his eyes, Ace saw Marco quickly tensing, spine turning rigid when the store owner clicked his fingers, “Right, right, the one my granddaughter, Aisa, kept talking about. Ah yes, how can i forget, she didn’t know how to react, one moment she was crying and the next she kept saying how cute you two are, oh, children,” the man laughed, finally allowing Marco to take his card and the rest of the papers from him, “Good on you two. I remember those days when my wife and i dated. Well, first wife, my second wife and i didn’t date all that long before we tied the knot. You know how it is in the olden day,”

 

Seeing the man’s eyes began to tear a little, Ace shifted in discomfort when he said, “Y-yes, that’s us. And thank you,”

 

The shop owner nodded once again glancing between Ace and Marco, “Don’t mention it, just remember to be good and truthful to each other. Too many young folks relationship don’t last because they aren’t truthful with one another, it’s such a shame. I always told my son Wyper and my daughter in law, Laki, the same,” he nodded sagely, before smiling, “Well, listen to me talking your ear off when you probably can spend more time with each other. Run along then, thank you for your patronage and congratulations,”

 

With one last thank you, they both left the shop, walking side by side and closer than usual.

 

Once they were far enough, Ace pursed his lips and spoke quietly, “So if young folks relationship doesn’t last long because they lie to each other,” he glanced to the side, to meet Marco’s equally nervous expression, “What about the relationship that was based on lying to everyone else?”

 

He only heard a despondent sigh as his reply, and he supposed that was an appropriate answer.

 


 

 

Following the ‘Ivankov Fiasco’, as he liked to call that disastrous interview, several things happened at once.

 

The aftermath of the interview shows that not only did the public - mostly - adore this supposed relationship, they’re borderline obsessed with it. Sales of his songs and album, physical and digital records had gone off the chart, with distributor requesting even older physical singles and album to be re-produced, his songs old and new topped various charts and play record, and according to his own personal researches, he found that fans had gone completely insane with speculations and theories.

 

His fan forums, something he only seldom checked, were bombarded in the last couple of days with links to interviews where he mentioned Marco - and Ace knew he talked about Marco a lot, just not that much. Several threads posted lyrics of his more romantic songs, breaking them down and linking them to this entire event, and as a result, there are hundreds of stories out there on how the two of them meet, formed a relationship, why they hid it for so long (or to those who subscribed to the belief that this is a new relationship, why they have to hide it), and much more. 

 

By the 250th thread, Ace had developed a headache from reading so many emojis and capped letters, and gave up reading any more.

 

(Just the reading, though. He bought 3 new 1G hard drives - with passcode and all - to save up every fan edit out there of him and Marco, including the surging amount of memes made out of Marco’s reaction. He probably shouldn’t, especially when the man sounded quite distressed to learn what ‘meme’ actually was and why they’re using his face, but not only is it a good reaction, he actually had made a couple of his own and posted it anonymously on forum boards. Just as long he never tell anyone, he should be fine.

 

And then, he bought another one, with smaller capacity and after paying extra, comes with special encryption, to save the NSFW artworks. Most of them have inaccurate portrayal; his ass is not that big, and he can say with absolute confidence after years of observation and days of closer ogling that Marco’s a lot more built than he’s often depicted. Plus, he’s pretty sure he, or any human being shouldn’t be able to bend in those positions, but hot damn, they’re very creative. Also, these arts might as well be the only source of Marco’s nudes he’ll ever get)

 

Long story short, them ‘dating’ had an incredibly positive outcome for both sides, and thus, is it really a surprise that they’d end up being told to keep it up?

 

“I can’t even tell my brothers about what really happened, not even the one i live with,” Marco lamented over his black coffee, eyes trained fully on Ace. Though not because Ace was the only thing he could stare at - no matter how much Ace himself wanted that to be true - but he knew that the older man was only doing it because looking his way prevented him from seeing the amount of people staring at them in the small cafe and the crowd outside. It’s a miracle they hadn’t been kicked out yet by the owner for causing so much disturbance.

 

Then again, he’s pretty sure the older woman enthusiastically taking picture over the counter is the owner. 

 

Ace paused from drinking his own spiced hot chocolate, frowning, “I didn’t know your management is that strict,”

 

“Oh no, it’s not because of the management,” the blonde told him, glancing down to his cup, “It’s because most of them are blabbermouths, especially the one i live with, and they’d tell Pops one way or another. He’s so happy following all of the news about us that he’s convinced i’ll pop the question 3 months in, and i can’t break his heart by telling him that all of those were fabrication for marketing purposes,”

 

The image of Marco kneeling in front of him holding a diamond ring as big as his head popped in Ace’s mind, and he quickly shake his head when he started to feel his face getting hot. That’s just ridiculous.

 

They don’t make diamond rings that big.

 

Marco sighed again, and though it’s been 3 days since he last saw the man, he looked like he aged considerably. His face was gaunt, hair a little frazzled and his eyes even more droopy than usual, as if he’s this tired and so close to falling asleep just about anywhere. He’s tired, and more than that, he’s stressed. It’s something Ace noticed though the limited contact through the last 3 days, with how short his text had been and how glum he sounded over the phone.

 

Guilt surged through Ace, the same way they do when Rayleigh and Nekomamushi announced to them of their plan to continue with the charade, to make a circus out of their ‘relationship’, and when he and Marco were practically strong-armed into accepting. By right they could refuse, but Ace saw the numbers, saw the little clause about raise in Law and Sabo’s wage, and more importantly, the excuse to spend more time with Marco.

 

It never left his mind since they first agreed to exchange contact that this whole thing only happened because of Brook’s glasses. Once today happened, once he got Brook’s glasses back and had it returned, there goes the excuse for his connection and communication with Marco. Then the entire rumour about them dating started and that led them to spend time together again. If both of those matters were resolved, then what other excuse does he have? 

 

He just… really liked Marco, as a person and a friend, aside from the celebrity he adored for years. And he doesn’t want this to end.

 

But now, he wondered if this entire thing had taken a toll on the man, and if it is his fault after all, for being too selfish.

 

In trepidation, he lowered his mug, enjoying the heat from cup’s porcelain surface in contrast with the coldness that seeps into his chest, “Does it… does this bother you that much?” he asked quietly, not only so that no one will eavesdrop on their conversation, but because he didn’t really trust himself to speak any louder, “I’m sorry, I know you’re a private person, and you hate being in the spotlight so much, but it seems like ever since you met me, you’ve been thrust to public eye and out of your comfort zone. And still, knowing that, i jumped and agreed to this whole thing, so this is my fault—“

 

“No!”

 

The sudden exclamation was enough to make him - along with several people behind Marco and within his sight - jump, but the hands that suddenly grabbed for his made his heart do a cartwheel and plummet down in a free fall, before dissolving into a herd of butterflies. Because how else does one describe the fluttering sensation inside of his stomach? “Please don’t say that,” Marco muttered, eyes sincere and fully focused on him that Ace found it difficult to look away from those hooded sky blue orbs, “I… I guess everything you say is true, and yeah, i don’t really enjoy being the object of scrutiny wherever i go, but that doesn’t mean this is your fault or has to do with us meeting!” 

 

Marco shifted his gaze, biting his lower lips. Ace felt suffocated in a very, very good way, “In fact, the day we met was probably the best day of my life. So, please don’t say that. If i have to sacrifice a bit of my privacy so i can spend so much time with you, then i really don’t mind,” he grinned sheepishly and boyishly, seemingly oblivious to how much he had dazzled Ace in just spans of seconds through expression alone, “It’s… it’s why i agree to this whole thing in the first place, after all,”

 

The sound that escaped Ace was less human and more like a whistling, boiling kettle. It’s the best he can do short of imploding in the middle of the mall.

 

“A-ace?”

 

“I love you so much,” he blurted, accidentally though not at all a lie because why is this man so perfect, oh husbando material he will lay down his life in endless internet battles to defend and spread the word for this sweet man and his perfect face.

 

Perfect face that went tomato red at his unexpected declaration, “H-huh? Ace?!”

 

“Oh my god, was that a love declaration just now?”

 

“I got it on camera! I got it on camera! I need to log in to Coo and post this!”

 

Oh shit, he forgot where they are. 

 


 

“So, is there any reason why #PairMaDeInHeavenSayLove is trending worldwide on Coo right now?”

 

The sound of Sabo’s voice registers even though his words didn’t. After a few seconds, Ace could feel someone sitting on his bedside, followed by the sound of his own voice distorted by phone speaker.

 

“I love you so much!”

 

He hummed dreamily, lips curling even more as he kept staring at the new addition on top of his headboard, placed right next to his ‘Marco&Me’ scrapbook. He had only received it hours after Marco dropped him off, taken discreetly from a filming set the man had to rush to this late at night. It wasn’t quite from Shanks Red’s film project, but it was one Marco was working on all the same. It was a selfie, though a rather confused and shaky one because the blonde explained in his apology that he never took one before, showing the actor behind the film set and camera dressed in tattered shirt and covered professionally in fake blood and injuries. 

 

The moment he received it, he borrowed the printer at Luffy’s room along with one of his more expensive glossy photo paper, had the selfie printed out and framed above his bed. His very first private selfie from Marco, something no one else in the world but him has.

 

Ace let out another happy sigh, using the pads of his fingers to lovingly caress the cold glass cover, “Oh, i really do, Sabo. Look at how perfect he is, how can anyone not?” 

 

Sabo rolled his eyes - and Ace knew without even looking because after so long, he gained a built in radar every time his blonde brother’s eyes made a 360 in their socket on his expense - before standing up again and making his way out of the room, “You know, i was a bit worried about you two after this whole ‘fake dating’ scheme the company came up with because i know you hated and is really bad at acting,” he heard the blonde said on his way out, “But i can see that Rayleigh didn’t even need to come up with some over complicated script,”

 

The footsteps stopped, and Ace, even in his admiring, managed to catch the last of Sabo’s mumbles, “Actually, with the way you two are around each other, It’s more unbelievable that you two are not actually dating,”

 

Chapter Text

 

New Text Message from [Unknown Number] [18:12]: MR. MARCO

New Text Message from [Unknown Number] [18:12]: NO, BIG BROTHER IN LAW!

 

Sent to [Unknown Number] [18:20]: ….I’m sorry?

Sent to [Unknown Number] [18:20]: Who is this?

 

New Text Message from [Unknown Number] [18:20]: I AM SO LATE TO THE NEWS, I AM SO ASHAMED

New Text Message from [Unknown Number] [18:20]: TO THINK THAT AS THE PRESIDENT OF HIS FANCLUB, THE MODERATOR OF HIS FAN FORUM, THE FOUNDER OF HIS FANSITE, AND HIS BIGGEST FAN, ALL THESE TIME I HAVE BEEN WORKING IN THE SAME SET AS STRAWHAT LUFFY’S BIG BROTHER IN LAW AND I DIDN’T REALIZE IT! I AM A SHAM OF A FAN! A SHAM I TELL YOU!

New Text Message from [Unknown Number] [18:21]: AND I SPILL MY COFFEE ON YOUR SHIRT THIS MORNING AND SHOUTED AT YOU FOR IT! I AM A FOOL, I WILL ACCEPT ANY SORT OF PUNISHMENT FOR RETRIBUTION

 

Sent to [Unknown Number] [18:22]: Bartolomeo? Is that you?

 

New Text Message from [Unknown Number] [18:23]: IT’S BECAUSE OF THAT STUPID CAVENDISH I GOT SO BUSY HAVING TO APPEASE HIS STUPID FACE BECAUSE THE SENIOR PRODUCER DOESN’T WANT TO GET ON HIS BAD SIDE I MISS SO MUCH NEWS INCLUDING THIS AAAAAAAGHHHHHH

New Text Message from [Unknown Number] [18:23]: I AM LEGIT CRYING, PLEASE ACCEPT MY HUMBLEST APOLOGY AND DON’T TELL STRAWHAT LUFFY OR SPADE I WILL DIE IF THEY THINKS I’M A BAD PERSON

 

Sent to Bartolomeo (Probably?) [18:24]: Strawhat Luffy, as in Ace’s brother, Luffy? How’d you even know him?

Sent to Bartolomeo (Probably?) [18:25]: And no, i won’t tell him anything… why would i tell him anything?

Sent to Bartolomeo (Probably?) [18:25]: I’m sorry, what is this all about? I’m very confused

 

New Text Message from Bartolomeo (Probably?) [18:26]: OH THANKYOUTHANKYOUTHANKYOUTHANKYOU YOU’RE SO VERY VERY NICE AND TALENTED AND WORTHY TO BE STRAWHAT LUFFY’S BROTHER’S SIGNIFICANT OTHER

New Text Message from Bartolomeo (Probably?) [18:26]: unlike that stupid face cavendish

New Text Message from Bartolomeo (Probably?) [18:26]: please tell me if he started bothering you too, i will personally kick his ass for your sake, Mr. Marco, sir. 

 

Sent to Bartolomeo (Probably?)] [18:24]: Thank you?

 

New Text Message from Bartolomeo (Probably?) [18:27]: NOT A PROBLEM!

New Text Message from Bartolomeo (Probably?) [18:27]: but oh, if i may have a request

New Text Message from Bartolomeo (Probably?) [18:28]: not that i’m extending my loyalty to you too for a favour but

 

Sent to Bartolomeo (Probably?) [18:30]: But?

Sent to Bartolomeo (Probably?) [18:32]: Barto?

 

New Text Message from Bartolomeo (Probably?) [18:38]: CAN YOU PLEASE ASK HIM FOR AN AUTOGRAPH FOR ME?

New Text Message from Bartolomeo (Probably?) [18:38]: I WILL BE FOREVER INDEBTED

New Text Message from Bartolomeo (Probably?) [18:39]: I WILL GUARD YOU FROM STUPID ASS CAVENDISH AND HIS SHRILL VOICE

New Text Message from Bartolomeo (Probably?) [18:39]: I WILL BE YOUR SERVANT FOR MY ENTIRE LIFE

New Text Message from Bartolomeo (Probably?) [18:39]: (but only if Strawhat Luffy doesn’t want me to be his servant first, sorry)

 

Sent to Bartolomeo (Probably?) [18:40]: Uh….

Sent to Bartolomeo (Probably?) [18:40]: Okay?

Sent to Bartolomeo (Probably?) [18:40]: Seriously though, what is this all about?

Sent to Bartolomeo (Probably?) [18:45]: Barto?

 


 

New Text Message from Shanks Red (Director) [20:09]: Yo, just wanna tell ya we might film an hour later tomorrow, one of the junior producer’s been taken to the hospital because he cracked his head on the floor jumping around. Legit what happened.

New Text Message from Shanks Red (Director) [20:09]: You don’t happen to know what caused it, did you? His buddy said he was shouting something about Marco and autographs before he fell of his bed and hit his head. I assume that’s you?

New Text Message from Shanks Red (Director) [20:10]: Marco?

 


 

Sent to Nico Robin (Manager) [20:20]: If i am the last person someone talked to before they possibly died, that could make me a suspect, right?

 

New Text Message from Nico Robin (Manager) [20:22]: Oh my, this is Crocodile all over again. 

New Text Message from Nico Robin (Manager) [20:30]: Attachment - How to dispose of a body.pdf | Attachment - Taking care of prints and other incriminating traces.pdf | Attachment - How to come up with a convincing false alibi and take care of witnesses.pdf

New Text Message from Nico Robin (Manager) [20:31]: Please do as these instructions says, i will be there shortly.

 

Sent to Nico Robin (Manager) [20:32]: Do you just… have those lying around in case i killed someone or something?

Sent to Nico Robin (Manager) [20:32]:…Do you think Ace will visit me if i go to jail?

 


 

“—don’t mind spicy, but it tasted a lot better if i add the hot cheese dip that goes with the garlic aioli— Wait, is someone at the door? Wait, guys, i gotta open the door. Coming!”

 

Even standing in front of the door, Marco could hear Luffy’s voice before he rings the doorbell, and it didn’t take long for the teen himself to poke his head out, grinning widely with a messy traces of sauce around his mouth and lower jaw, “Oh, heya Pineapple guy!” he greeted, and it took all of Marco’s composure not to sigh. Somehow, that moniker stuck since they were first formally introduced just a couple of days ago, no matter how many times Marco - and in a louder capacity, Ace - tried to dissuade the boy.

 

Still, it wasn’t said out of malice but seemingly only playfulness, so Marco endured it, “Hello, Luffy,” he greeted back, walking inside of the house once the door was opened wide enough, “Are you having friends over? I thought i heard you talking to someone earlier,” 

 

But there was no one else around the house’s front, not even in the living room and kitchen adjacent to this area. Instead, he saw the house’s normally neat living room turned into a minimalistic and surprisingly sophisticated filming area, with lights, a laptop and a camera directed to the coffee table, which was littered with boxes upon boxes of what looks to be an assortment flavours of chicken wings.

 

“Nah, i’m just livestreaming, so it’s just me,” Luffy replied casually as they made their way over, where the younger plopped himself down on the floor and immediately busied himself with the laptop and waved. Marco took seat on the sofa behind him, narrowing his eyes at the sight of himself being reflected on the monitor screen, partially covered behind Luffy’s energetic form, “I’m back! It’s just pineapple guy on the door,”

 

He seems to be talking to someone but Marco could only see them on screen, probably recorded by the camera, along with a fast moving wall of text on the side of their image, “What’s a livestream?”

 

“This is a livestream!” Luffy pointed at his laptop, still grinning. The grin faded to a rather surprised jaw drop, as he exclaimed “Whoa guys, what’s happening over on the chat? You’re typing too fast, i can’t read anything— ‘Is that Marco Newgate?’ Yeah! It’s pineapple guy! Wow, i think a lot of my viewers are your fans, literally everyone is typing out your name right now,”

 

“Uh…what?”

 

“Luffy, Marco should be here any minute, so remember to lock the doors after i leave. Sabo’s coming home around noon, but i think i’ll be a bit late,“ The new voice thankfully broke Marco’s increasing confusion, and from the direction of the bedrooms, Ace walked out, eyes glued to his phone, decked in a casual but stylish getup. The black cargo with bright orange belt was apparently a favorite since he’d seen Ace wear them 2 times already in the same week, but he had on a short sleeved loose shirt with the sleeves rolled up to his shoulder and showing off his arm muscles and tattoo. 

 

Marco’s knees felt weak even sitting down, and it’s not because of the risky stunt he pulled two days ago during filming.

 

“He’s already here— Guys, seriously, the stream is lagging now, take it easy on the chat!”

 

“What?” Ace looked up from his phone, and immediately smiled, “Marco, you’re early!”

 

“Yeah, i’ve been free for hours, so i thought i’d come by earlier,” If ‘free for hours’ means he literally rushed out of the door as soon as Shanks called the day’s shoot as a wrap, and came about half an hour early to the house and stayed in his car for about as long so he won’t look too eager to come over, “Ready to go?”

 

Soon as Ace nodded, he stood up, patting the upper part of Luffy’s back as a farewell. The boy looked up from looking confused at his laptop screen - while munching on two chicken wings at one go - the easy  wide grin back in place.

 

“Have fun! Now let’s see, ‘How’s Marco as a brother-in-law?’ He’s the coolest! Two days ago, he comes over during Pizza Night, and he gave me 3/4 of his Mega Jumbo Family Size Meat Supreme and i didn’t even need to ask! He’s kind of silly though, he said it’s amazing that Ace, Sabo and i can eat one each, but that’s nothing. I could’ve had 10 of them for myself, but Ace said we can’t ‘act like animals and go off scaring pineapple guy off’,”

 

“I heard that, Luffy! And stop calling Marco that!”

 

Luffy jutted his tongue out at Ace’s direction, snickering.

 

“So, what exactly was Luffy doing earlier? He said something about… livestream?”

 

Ace hummed, still concentrating on putting his seatbelt, “Yeah, livestream means he basically record himself and let his viewers watch him live. He does this thing where he eats a large amount of food from an entire menu from one place and does a little review on them, sometimes on stream, sometimes on MushiTube, and other times, he does v-logging with his friends or Sabo and myself. It’s actually really popular,”

 

V-log? He at least knows MushiTube, so that probably means Luffy made videos and this v-log thing is something similar. Probably, “So, a lot of people watch these ‘livestreams’?”

 

“Oh yeah, thousands of them every day, while his videos will get millions views,” Ace beamed with the obvious shining pride on his face that always seems to appear whenever Luffy was their topic of conversation, “His fans would send in food for him to try or he’ll get invited to restaurants or get sponsors from food companies to make videos about their product. He’s mostly living life now and we don’t have to spend as much on his food like we used to,” the freckled raven snickered, “Though i don’t know how many costumers they have to pull in to cover for the expenses for the food he ate,”

 

Marco tried to wrap his head around the entirely new and foreign concept of event that was just explained to him, and in the end, found himself shaking his head, “I don’t think i’ll ever get any of these. Memes, uh, recording your life for millions to watch, people watching videos about people eating food,” He never was one to closely follow the recent trends. Sometimes, even Pops was better than he was at understanding these sort of things, if only because Haruta and some of his more up to date sons are such eager teachers. 

 

In his lamentation, he felt a hand reaching over, and found Ace winking at him playfully, “Hey, that’s what you got me here for, right? Your resident walking encyclopaedia for anything pop culture, always at your service, ”

 

When he put it that way, suddenly being confused about virtually everything doesn’t seem like such a bad thing

 


 

The more time passed after the disastrous beginning of their ‘dating news’ and the subsequent need for them to pretend to date, it surprisingly became a less daunting concept as a whole.

 

Both of their companies encourage them to spend as much time as they can in public together to make it believable, but just like how picking up Brook’s glasses together was an appointment made far before any of the media circus got involved, none of their later outings even had anything to do with their company’s order and only by the natural progress in their relationship. They’d be near the area and planned to meet over lunch or dinner, unknowingly integrating each other to their own circles.

 

This was only the third time Marco came over to Ace’s recording studio, but the familiar engineers and technicians greeted him like an old friend. Ace was quickly whisked away by Masked Deuce, the head producer into the recording booth, and he hadn’t even finished sitting down on the sofa on the very back of the studio when a small box of ‘Hatcchan’s Tasty Takoyaki’ was tossed to his lap, “Thought you’d show up too, so we ordered an extra. Hope you like original octopus filling, though you can always trade with the cheese one if you don’t. Let’s hope Ossamondo hadn’t gotten his hands on them,”

 

The large man who spoke, Skull, one of the studio’s many sound technician plopped down next to him, a can of soda in one hand and his ever present skull printed facemask pulled down as he took a couple of large gulps. A few feet away from them, Banshee, one of the engineer, scoured through bags and bags of food bearing the same logo as the box on Marco’s lap, asking where her orders were.

 

“This is fine, thanks. Is something wrong with the new songs? Ace said 3 days ago was the last recording he has to make for this new single,”

 

Skull scratched his head, “Nothing wrong, per se, but Deuce seems to think some part needs to be re-recorded. He’s a real stickler for quality that one,” As if on cue, through the see-through glass that separated the booth to the rest of the room, Marco could see the blue haired producer seemingly pointing at air while the muffled sound of music fleeted from the padded room. He watched as Ace pursed his lips, before slowly nodding.

 

Even pass working hour, there are still a couple of stragglers around the studio, most because they were working overtime and others simply waiting around. Marco got to chat with some of them, joining in some conversation as long as they don’t delve too deep into any music discussion. 

 

“Wish the guys i dated was as nice as you,” Ganryu commented dourly while munching, a hint of sauce on the corner of her lips, “This one guy i went out with once would ask me for money for gas every time i ask him to drive me somewhere. Goddamn cheapskate,”

 

“Maybe you’re dating a taxi driver,”

 

“Well, Ace didn’t have a license,” the blonde commented over the bickering that statement started, one hand absent-mindedly stroking Kotatsu, the studio’s unofficial mascot, a large Bengal cat that always seems to find resident on his lap every time he came over. It purred mightily, sending vibration through his pants, “He said that he kept failing his driving test and his managers refused to make him a fake one,”

 

Which, in Marco’s very honest and slightly guilty opinion, was probably for the best. Ace’s technical skills - which he claimed was decent enough - has yet to be seen, but in the few times he had driven the singer around, he could see what caused him to fail so many times: Ace had road rage like no one else.

 

(“Drive faster, asshole! My grandma can walk faster than you and she’s been dead for over 20 years!”

 

“Ace, they’re driving according to the speed limit,”

 

“Go, you son of a bitch! The light’s green!”

 

“…It’s only been green for a second,”

 

“Okay, i know you’re not planning to— Oh, you are trying to cut to our lane, bitch, i will cut you—“

 

“Ace, i already gave them the way. Ace, no! Don’t try to get out!”)

 

It’s a miracle they could get anywhere most of the time.

 

“Plus, if we get to spend time together, it’s all the better,”

 

Which was true in a sense, because he liked spending time with Ace. Yet he knew his statement took a romantic connotation to his listener however, when Banshee cooed over her food and Mihar chuckled next to him. As far as Marco knew, only Ace’s managers and the higher ups in his company knows that their relationship were faked, while others knew what they are told or what they caught from the news.

 

Which made him rather guilty, but it’s not like he has much choice. It’s what the company wanted, after all.

 

“But it really is kind of surprising though, i thought all this time whenever Ace would fanboy hard about you, it’s just that, him being a fanboy. I didn’t think he actually knew and even dated you,” Skull paused, scratching the back of his head, “Or was that backwards?”

 

Saber made a dismissive noise, making oddly shaped pattern on his leftover sauce with a toothpick, “Either way, Deuce had a conniption after finding out. Poor guy could keel over in frustration,”

 

“Why?”

 

“Cause that means there’s a competition now,”

 

Marco’s eyes immediately went to the recording booth, where Ace seems to be in the middle of working through whatever it is they had to re-record, with Deuce standing right next to him a little bit too closely. Well, he always did notice that the other man seems to be quite close to Ace above everyone else in the studio…

 

Shit, he never thought about this before, but what’s the consequences them faking to date each other has on their own lives? Did Ace has anyone that he liked? Was he hoping to date someone else before this entire news broke and they’re basically stuck with each other until who knows when? What if Ace ended up meeting someone that he does want to date, but he can’t do anything about it because pretty much everyone else in the world is sure he’s already attached to someone else?

 

There’s a grip in Marco’s chest about his line of thought, a sensation so bold that he almost missed the slight pang of dislike over the thought of Ace dating someone else. Even if their ‘relationship’ wasn’t quite a relationship at all.

 

A burst of laughter woke him up rom his reverie, and the actor looked up to see Skull mid-guffaw, pointing at him, “Oh my god, your face! Dude, no, okay, Saber didn’t mean it like that. ‘Competition’ is what Deuce calls anything that can take Ace’s attention away from seriously working on his songs. New games, his little brother, your movies, any videos or ads featuring you, and, well, you. Ace is quite the little genius when it comes to making hit songs, but he has the attention span of a goldfish when it comes to his responsibilities sometimes so we often gotta compete with these distraction to keep him on track,”

 

“If they ever dated, that relationship is going to end in something being burned to crisp,” Saber snickered, patting on his shoulder, “Besides you should’ve heard the way Ace talks about you. I can guarantee you with one hundred percent certainty that there is absolutely no other man in his life,”

 

“Except probably his little brother,”

 

Saber nodded sagely, “Except his little brother,” the dirty blonde man grinned, patting Marco’s back again, “So don’t you worry! There’s not going to be anyone else in Ace’s life than you, i can guarantee that!”

 


 

“We didn’t chat much before this but since we are alone, i don’t think there’s a better time for me to say this,” Masked Deuce would say to him an hour later while the two of them stood on the studio’s front entrance, Deuce seemingly ready to call it a day while Marco waited for Ace to came out of the bathroom and be on their way as well, “As his boyfriend, I would implore you not to distract Ace too much, and remind him to always catch up on his work,”

 

“Uh, yeah,” was all Marco could say, out of the suddenness of this new conversation.

 

Still, Deuce seems satisfied enough, nodding firmly, “Good. You do seem like the responsible one, so i’ll gladly approve of this relationship,”

 

“Oh, thanks,” he replied lamely, before adding, “Just to be clear though, you really don’t have feelings for him or anything, right?”

 

The look on Deuce’s face transformed into what one would look like when they eat something entirely unpleasant, horrified and disgust. Marco felt slightly offended, thinking that the prospect of dating someone like Ace shouldn’t be greeted with that sort of reaction, and yet at the same time, he felt a little relieved.

 

Not that he had anything to be relieved about.

 


 

“Hey, that fuck ugly red car! Your paint job is shit and your driving is even shittier! Step on the fucking gas, moron!”

 

“Ace, do you like someone?”

 

It wasn’t until the words left his mouth that Marco realized how juvenile his question was, and became severely aware of the embarrassment that immediately crept over his entire body. Even Ace stopped shouting at the beat up sedan in front of them, eyes wide and mouth hanging open, slowly turning to his direction. The sky outside was dark and the only source of illumination was from the highway street lights, but Marco could still see the deep flush that suddenly took over his complexion, “W-w-what kind of question is that?! Why do you want to know? How do you know?

 

His last words suddenly left the blonde sombre with realization, “So you do, then?”

 

Ace fell quiet, his curled fist loosening. When he spoke, he sounded shy, eyes darting away and pointedly looking away from the driver, “W-well, i wouldn’t call it… Um, are we talking like a normal crush here or like a super mega crush i had on y— I mean, like in what sense—“

 

“Ace, if during this entire fake dating thing, you suddenly want to date someone,” the beat up car finally sped up, which means Marco had the excuse of focusing his eyes on the road rather than turning to Ace, “I want you to let me know, okay? If we can’t have the management break this whole thing off, then i can at least convince whoever that person was that this whole thing isn’t real, so they won’t have any qualms about starting a relationship with you,”

 

He said it so he could at least felt relieved of his worries, but somehow, it didn’t really make him feel any better.

 

“I…,” the younger trailed off before falling silent, “Um, i don’t think you need to worry about that, but thank you,”

 

Marco nodded, and didn’t say anything else for the rest of the ride.

 


 

“Stay for dinner? It’s the least i can thank you for driving me around today,”

 

Marco looked up from tapping in his home address to his car’s built in GPS, finding Ace’s expectant look aimed at him, “Sure, i’d love to,”

 

The smell of food has already permeated the entire house when they entered, and from the distance, he could hear the sound of pot clinking together above Sabo and Luffy’s voice somewhere deeper in the house. He trailed right behind Ace, and was only stopped when he felt his phone vibrating in his pocket. The flashing screen told him that it was Robin calling, and he turned to Ace, who stopped just as he did, “Sorry, i need to take this. I’ll come over later,”

 

Ace nodded with a small smile, and as soon as he was out of sight, Marco could hear him shout, “Sabo, Luffy, Marco’s joining us for dinner! Add one more plate for him,”

 

“Aww, but Ace, we only boiled 30 pasta box today because we ran out,”

 

“Luffy,”

 

“Fiiine, but we’re taking it out of your pasta portion. I’m really hungry,”

 

“You just ate 60 boxes of chicken wings from that new eatery,”

 

“But Sabo, that’s like 2 hours ago,”

 

The bickering brother’s voices faded as Marco made his way back to the entrance to accept the call, “Something wrong, Robin?”

 

Instead of his manager, the first thing he heard was the sound of a child coughing in the background, before Robin herself spoke, “Oh Marco, i would like to apologize but i don’t think i can come to be your plus one to the award show. As you can clearly hear, i think Chopper came down with something,”

 

The sound of Chopper coughing intensified over the speaker. Marco blinked, “Wait, you mean you can’t come with me to the award show? But that’s in 3 days!”

 

The yearly prestigious award show, made especially important for him to attend this year considering that one of the movie he starred in recently was nominated for various awards, not to mention that this year would mark the first time he himself is one of the contenders, for best actors and newcomer. Exempting the very first time he attended, in which he brought Pops along - who then rejected any further invites for how stuffy and tiring these events are - for the last couple of years since he started to be invited to these events, Robin has always been his plus one, an easy solution for the need to bring someone along with you.

 

“I know, but this is quite sudden, after all. From the looks of it, i don’t think he’ll be well in 3 days, it might take longer and i have to take care of him,” his manager said apologetically, yet strangely calmly.

 

The blonde sighed, running his hand through his hair. As much as he wanted to object, he didn’t really have the heart to separate poor and sick little Chopper from his mother because of his aversion with crowds. He could always come alone, but that would mean facing off the reporters by the door all by himself. Answering one or two question about his movie and role was not a problem, but with the recent happenings, there is no way that’s all that will be asked of him, “Well, if i hurry inside, maybe i won’t be stopped by reporters—“

 

“Nonsense. You’re the current trending topic right now, so you cannot avoid reporters, and as one of the nominee, with so many attention on you, you especially cannot come alone. What you need is someone who can help you keep your cool in front of the masses and help you fend off any questions you don’t want to answer, and also someone who is well known to the public as someone you would bring to this event,”

 

If Marco was less frazzled, maybe he could’ve noticed that Robin’s line seems oddly… trained. As if she had been preparing this speech beforehand.

 

But nevertheless, just the simple thought of going through that long walkway with microphones and cameras being thrusted to his face already made him shudder, so without thinking he asked, “Who do you have in mind?”

 


 

“Mama, this book is really dusty,”

 

Robin smiled gently as Chopper coughed again after patting the last of the dust that accumulated on the large book almost half his entire body, yet still eagerly trying to see what’s on the pages, “Well, Grandma Olvia likes to collect these, but because she travels a lot, most of them aren’t really taken care of. So you have to do it better than her, okay?”

 

The brunet boy nodded enthusiastically, his pert little nose scrunching up in concentration. The book in question, a very old edition of human body anatomy had only came in the mail today from her mother, after hearing her adopted grandson’s recent interest in becoming a doctor. Robin had been skeptical at first that such a complicated and old book would interest Chopper at all but he barely put it down at all, eagerly trying to read some of the more difficult words as he and his father slowly worked on restoring the pages and cleaning it.

 

Or at least, Chopper was restoring and cleaning, Franky was sitting right next to him instructing him what to do, but seems to have abandoned that in favour of looking at her with narrowed eyes and shook his head.

 

“Something you want to say, Franky?”

 

“You know, you can just say ‘Hey, Marco, how about you go and get that kid you like to be your plus one this year instead of a married woman like me? Maybe an actual relationship can bloom between the two of you instead of this weird fake thing you got going on because of the management’ instead of all of that,”

 

The dark haired woman smiled sharply, patting her husband’s shoulder, “I don’t know what you’re talking about, dear. Now, go help Chopper with the book, won’t you? I need to make some phone calls,”

 

Chapter Text

 

Sent to [Zoro! :D] [08:12]: Zoro

Sent to [Zoro! :D] [08:12]: Zoro

Sent to [Zoro! :D] [08:12]: Zroo

Sent to [Zoro! :D] [08:12]: *Zoro

Sent to [Zoro! :D] [08:13]: Zoooorooo

Sent to [Zoro! :D] [08:13]: Z

Sent to [Zoro! :D] [08:13]: O

Sent to [Zoro! :D] [08:13]: R

Sent to [Zoro! :D] [08:14]: O

Sent to [Zoro! :D] [08:16]: I’ll strt splling ur full name if u don’t answer

Sent to [Zoro! :D] [08:17]: R

Sent to [Zoro! :D] [08:17]: O

Sent to [Zoro! :D] [08:17]: R

Sent to [Zoro! :D] [08:17]: I

Sent to [Zoro! :D] [08:17]: *O

Sent to [Zoro! :D] [08:17]: N

Sent to [Zoro! :D] [08:18]: O

 

New Text Message from [Zoro! :D] [08:18]: LUFFY STOP BLOWING MY PHONE UP STUPID

 

Sent to [Zoro! :D] [08:19]: When r u getting hr???

Sent to [Zoro! :D] [08:19]: I’M DYING

 

New Text Message from [Zoro! :D] [08:20]: ?!?!? You’re in trouble?!

 

Sent to [Zoro! :D] [08:19]: YES! I’M SO BORED!

Sent to [Zoro! :D] [08:19]: WE’VE BEEN DOING THIS FOR 2 HOURS!

Sent to [Zoro! :D] [08:20]:[IMG_2183729.jpeg]

 

New Text Message from [Zoro! :D] [08:21]: …Why are you sending me a pic of your brother pantless?

 

Sent to [Zoro! :D] [08:21]: Ace dragged me out f bed and kept trying on all of these pants

Sent to [Zoro! :D] [08:22]: He cnt make up hs mind its been 2 hours

Sent to [Zoro! :D] [08:22]: Wr now stuck between pants that makes his thighs look thick, pants that makes his legs look longer and pants that makes his butt look bigger

Sent to [Zoro! :D] [08:22]: I DON’T KNOW WHY ANY OF THAT MATTER?! THEY’RE ALL PANTS!

 

New Text Message from [Zoro! :D] [08:23]: I DON’T WANT TO KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT PANTS AND YOUR BROTHER’S ASS

New Text Message from [Zoro! :D] [08:23]: Your house is really hard to find, did you move again?

 

Sent to [Zoro! :D] [08:24]: NO WE DON’T! YOU’RE LOST AGAIN?! YOU’VE BEEN COMING TO THIS HOUSE FOR YEARS!

 

New Text Message from [Zoro! :D] [08:25]: SERVES YOU RIGHT FOR ALWAYS MOVING

 

Sent to [Zoro! :D] [08:25]: WE NEVER MOVED!

Sent to [Zoro! :D] [08:25]: Oh good, crisis averted. Ace fnly decided on the pants that makes his butt look big. 

 

New Text Message from [Zoro! :D] [08:25]: CAN WE PLEASE STOP TALKING ABOUT YOUR BROTHER’S ASS

 

Sent to [Zoro! :D] [08:27]: CRISIS IS NOT AVERTED! I REPEAT, CRISIS IS NOT AVERTED!

Sent to [Zoro! :D] [08:27]: HE’S NOW MOVING TO UNDERWEAR WHY WOULD IT MATTER IT’S NOT LIKE ANYONE’S GOING TO SEE IT

Sent to [Zoro! :D] [08:28]: Rgt?

 

New Text Message from [Zoro! :D] [08:28]: I DON’T KNOW AND I DON’T WANT TO KNOW ABOUT YOUR BROTHER’S UNDERWEAR

 

Sent to [Zoro! :D] [08:29]: WELL I HAVE TO LOOK AT THEM HOW DO YOU THINK I FEEL?!?! 

Sent to [Zoro! :D] [08:29]: Whn r u gtting here?!?! H A L P

 

New Text Message from [Zoro! :D] [08:30]: Why did he suddenly want your help in dressing himself anyway

New Text Message from [Zoro! :D] [08:30]: Why did he even think you can help

 

Sent to [Zoro! :D] [08:31]: Cuz he’s going to the film award thing with Pineapple Guy. His manager can’t come with him on last mnt and he asked Ace. He’s been on a frenzy since ytd.

Sent to [Zoro! :D] [08:32]: HEY RUED >:(

 

New Text Message from [Zoro! :D] [08:33]: If Sabo or Nami’s not around, your entire wardrobe will only consist of capris and vest, you’re not exactly the pinnacle of fashion.

 

Sent to [Zoro! :D] [08:34]: What does pineapple has to do with fashion?

Sent to [Zoro! :D] [08:34]: Or do you mean like Pineapple guy should be the one doing this instead of me cuz i totally agr

Sent to [Zoro! :D] [08:35]: OH MY GOD HE’S TAKING OUT THONGS AND G-STRINGS WHY DID HE HAVE THOSE?! WHY ARE THEY SO TINY?! WHAT ARE THEY COVERING?!?!

 

New Text Message from [Zoro! :D] [08:36]: WHY ARE YOU TELLING ME ALL OF THIS I DON’T WANT TO KNOW THE KIND OF SHIT YOUR BROTHER WEARS

 

Sent to [Zoro! :D] [08:37]: THEN SAVE ME

 

New Text Message from [Zoro! :D] [08:38]: FINE HANG IN THERE I’M COMING

New Text Message from [Zoro! :D] [08:38]: by the way, your address is 56 Furdam Avenue, right?

 

Sent to [Zoro! :D] [08:38]: ??????????????? THAT’S THE OTHER SIDE OF TOWN

Sent to [Zoro! :D] [08:39]: MY ADDRESS IS 56 FOOSHA AVENUE

 

New Text Message from [Zoro! :D] [08:40]: OH FUCK

New Text Message from [Zoro! :D] [08:40]: THIS MAP’S FUCKING USELESS

 

Sent to [Zoro! :D] [08:40]: IT’S YOUR OWN FAULT FOR PUTTING THE WRONG ADDRESS STUPIIIIID!!!!! IT’LL TAKE YOU AN HOUR TO GET HERE!

Sent to [Zoro! :D] [08:41]: I’M DOOMED!

Sent to [Zoro! :D] [08:42]: EW ACE HAS A SEE THROUGH G STRING WHY IS IT SEE THROUGH?! YOU CAN ALREADY SEE EVERYTHING!

 

New Text Message from [Zoro! :D] [08:43]: STOP DESCRIBING YOU BROTHER’S UNDERWEARS I DON’T WANT TO KNOW THE KIND OF SHIT HE’S INTO

 


 

The melodious synthetic tune from his headphones did little to actually distract Ace from the burden of stares that’s practically emanating from everywhere around him. In the years since he became famous out of the underground scene and to the mainstream, there has never been a moment where he was so aware that nearly everyone inside of the bus was staring at him, and he already wore every piece of his best disguise.

 

He used to be so good at disguising himself within the crowd, what went wrong today?

 

With a suppressed sigh, Ace adjusted the orange cowboy hat perched on top of his head. 

 

Trying to distract himself, the disguised singer looked back down to his tablet and the skeleton of the song he’s making. The melody was half done, at the very least, and he’d need to discuss it with Deuce, but he just can’t seem to capture the correct lyric. He knows what he’s trying to write, at least, but the words just can’t seem to flow out as well as they usually would. With a tongue poking out the corners of his lips, he tried to type something in.

 

And promptly deletes them before closing the application and stifling a groan.

 

Still ignoring the hushed murmurs from the passengers around him, Ace placed his tablet back into his messenger bag and fished out his phone from his pocket. There’s several notification popping on the screen, mostly Law’s angry text that he’s been ignoring since early this morning, all of them berating him about the abruptness of his admittedly rather selfish request. The last couple of text told him that said request has been approved by Rayleigh, since it’s basically align with his current media situation, but that doesn’t mean Law was all too pleased with him cancelling and postponing schedules with only hours of notice.

 

Maybe Law has a point; these last few weeks may be hard on him, but it certainly has been hard on Sabo and Law’s jobs. 

 

He should probably try to do something to get back at his manager’s good side… A visit to the local pet store and playing guess over which toy Bepo doesn’t have yet should do the trick.

 

Somewhere on the front of the bus, he managed to caught the tail of an excited squeal somewhere nearby, and know it would only be matter of seconds when his picture will surface somewhere in the crevices of the internet. Sighing, he picked up his tablet up from his lap, tongue poking out in concentration as he started to play around with this new song when he felt tiny vibration coming from his pocket.

 

It was Sabo calling, and with minimal amount of mental preparation, Ace picked it up.

 

“Where the hell are you and where are you going?”

 

“How did you manage to find that picture so fast? I’m pretty sure that girl only posted it like a couple of seconds ago,” as he said this, he glanced up to a gaggle of school girls probably just out of class, all of them huddling close to stare at one of their phones - one that he presumed was used to take a picture or video of him - and occasionally glancing to his direction. When one of them looked up, still giggling, Ace expertly looked away, uncaught.

 

“I set up an alert every time you name and related tags popped up anywhere on every social media platform,” the blonde answered smoothly, “And that girl’s post alone appeared in 5 of those alerts, not to mention 3 more pictures of you in different angles. Also, i set up a tracking app on your phone last week. How come you didn’t call me or Law to drive you?”

 

“You know, i used to have my own privacy,”

 

Sabo was quiet for a moment, before he heard a static sound of sigh, “Just until the entire media circus around you died down, okay? If i can find your whereabouts through social media, that means paparazzi and reporters can too. I’m not just your manager, i’m your brother and i’m concerned for your safety and wellbeing,”

 

Ace pursed his lips, putting the tablet back down on his lap and glanced out to the shifting scenery outside. After a while, he gave another small sigh and said, “I’m going to the mall downtown. I just want to pick up some things,”

 

“What things?”

 

He shrugged, though aware that his face was starting to turn red. There’s a reason why he didn’t tell anyone where he’s going today and even braved the public, “Clothes,”

 

Though he couldn’t exactly see the other man’s face, he could already imagine what happened: Sabo was probably about to ask why he needed clothes all of the sudden when he doesn’t have any dire need for wardrobe soon - and even if he does, they had an entire department catering to him for that - and that’s when his smart mind started whirring, connecting dots that shouldn’t be connected, and just right on time, Ace heard him groan, long and exasperated, “Ace, if this is about what you’re going to wear for the film award, for god’s sake we could call Nojiko and have her fit you into one of the company’s suits,”

 

“But that suit would’ve already been used by someone else!” the freckled male said indignantly, unaware of his own volume, “And no offense to Nojiko and the costume department but they’re all so bland! This is going to be Marco’s big night and i refuse to look anything but my best, okay?”

 

There’s several cooing and awwing sounds around, mostly from the schoolgirls and even from a sharply dressed office worker who had his phone out somewhere next to him. Ace hid his reddening face by pointedly looking out of the window once more.

 

“Ugh, i swear you’re putting more preparation on this than anything you ever did for yourself. You do realize that being a plus one on these sort of occasions means you’re just going to be an arm-candy and not much else, right?”

 

“Well, i’m going to be the best looking arm-candy walking on that stupidly long carpet. As the winner for the best actor, Marco deserves nothing less,”

 

“You’re saying that as if you already know that he’s going to win,”

 

How dare you insinuate otherwise,

 

The bus slowly came to a stop as they’re nearing a stop, and the sound of hissing from the machinery came almost at the same time as Sabo’s sigh, “Fine. It’s probably on your best interest to look your best when you’ll have so many cameras on you anyway,” the blonde cleared his throat, and for a moment, as the murmurs of people getting on to the bus - and subsequently finding him on the back seat - picked up around him, Ace heard Sabo said distantly, as if he stepped away from the phone, “But, if you really don’t want to be accompanied by your managers, then i’m sending someone else to drive you around. You are not going to go out in public alone like this,”

 

Ace frowned, glancing out of the window again to avoid meeting the eyes of the new passengers who has obviously figured out who he is, “Who?”

 

Sabo did not answer, at least, not to him, since Ace could hear him talking to someone else quite far away. Once he was done, his voice came back with an alarming amount of glee and a touch of deviousness, “Someone who owes me and Law one, and someone you won’t say no to,”

 


 

“Uh, i really don’t mind, i swear,”

 

Ace wanted to shout that of course he should mind, but this is Marco he’s talking to and he can never shout at Marco for something he didn’t do. As it is, he tempered down all of his wrath to unleash to his brother later, and said as patiently as he could, “But he can’t do this! You got better stuff to do than being my chauffeur,”

 

He could’ve sworn the blonde mumbled ‘No, i really don’t’ under his breath, but Ace couldn’t really hear clearly over his bubbling frustration and his nth attempt in calling Sabo to express said frustration. Yet again the voice goes into voice mail, and after a dozen of time trying, he swore that the picture of Sabo’s smiling face that popped up as he dialled his manager’s number was mocking him as much as the real person must be right now.

 

In the end, Ace gave up, pocketing his phone once more with a tremendous sigh. He glanced to the side warily to find Marco staring back at him, a hint of amusement and a whole lot of patience etched on his expression. The dark haired male sighed again, “I… Ugh, thanks for driving me around. Again. I’m so sorry you had to be dragged into this,”

 

Marco gave a low chuckle, eyes glancing between the relatively crowded road to him, “Don’t mention it. I drove you around a couple of times already, haven’t i?”

 

“Yeah, but that’s because you offered all those times, now it feels like i’m just taking advantage of your kindness,” he paused, and frowned, “Scratch that, even worse, my brother is taking advantage of your kindness by coercing you into this,”

 

“Trust me, I don’t need any coercing when it comes to you,” Marco said leisurely before he widened his eyes and cleared his throat, looking to all like he didn’t mean to say that out loud. He probably didn’t, but the way he sputtered made it really hard for Ace to hide his own smile, incredibly pleased and inwardly squealing, “Uh, I, Umm, Sabo said you were… concerned about what you’re going to wear for the film award,”

 

Whatever floating happiness that was shrouding Ace’s head popped like a deflated balloon at the reminder, and his ire towards Sabo grew. Marco’s tone made it really clear Sabo didn’t word it like that, and knowing his blonde brother, it’s probably full of hyperbole about how much Ace was a pain in his very justified concern, “Well, i don’t really have anything good enough to wear for that kind of event. Everything in my room just seems to fall short,”

 

(Except maybe that see-through g-string he unearthed this morning in the back of his drawer. The more traumatized Luffy is at his undergarments, the better and sexier it is, and judging by his brother’s horrified scream, it is sexy indeed)

 

Next to him, he saw Marco pursing his lips, looking a little bit guilty, “Sorry, i did sprung this whole thing rather suddenly to you, didn’t i?”

 

Ace widened his eyes, shaking his head so fast, he could feel his own hair slapping against his cheeks, “No, no! Don’t be sorry, i’m so glad you asked me! I’m really looking forward to this,” 

 

Marco smiled a little, “Thanks. But well, it didn’t change the fact that it this whole thing is my fault,” before Ace can say anything else, he reached over for his GPS, and started scrolling through what seems to be a list of saved addresses, “And that’s why, on my way here earlier, i made a quick phone call. Hope you don’t mind,” The screen of the GPS made a little blip and the automated female navigator announced that a new route has been set. Ace could only see that the name ‘Izou’ attached on top of their destination.

 

As the car drove off, he thought he also heard Marco muttering ‘And i hope i’m not making a mistake’.

 


 

There was a time nearly a year ago, where he started one of his side modelling gig with the brand ‘Criminal’, one of the most well-established clothing lines - and also one of the most expensive, as Nami would rant after that shoot. The owner, Pappagu, a short and rather boastful designer would once or twice mentioned his rivalling brand, Flintlock, claiming how their rising popularity and newest popular design forced him to do all of these expensive marketing, including hiring well known celebrities like Ace.

 

Ace never really followed the happenings in the fashion world, but he at least know that both ‘Criminal’ and ‘Flintlock’ dominates the market, and that Criminal was one of his Sabaody Records’ biggest partner, which made him at least familiar with that brand. 

 

But now, as he stood in front of the extravagantly designed building with ‘Flintlock’s logo etched on the front door and right behind the reception area, he had the feeling he’s about to know a lot more about Pappagu’s business rival.

 

The moment he and Marco stepped behind the automatic glass door, they were approached by a slim and tall figure dressed in pink blouse and darker coloured skirt, and it wasn’t until said figure started speaking did Ace realize that he’s looking at a man instead of a woman like he originally thought.

 

“Marco, good thing you called first, Or else, i’d never differentiate you from the common rabble dressed like that,” the man greeted with a genial smile, one that turned into a rather disgusted sneer as he gave Marco a cursory look from top to bottom. Ace can’t help but glare at him for this, because how dare he. Marco can wear a burlap sack and still be the most handsome man in the room, “What a disgrace, i knew living with Thatch would turn you into a slob like him,”

 

Instead of taking offense at the snide tone, however, Marco only laugh, tugging on his sweater’s collar, “Oh come on, Izou, i’m not like you. I dressed however i wanted for my day off,”

 

Which is something Ace agreed tremendously with, because that sweater hugged the blonde’s toned figure well, and anyone who said otherwise can meet his fist. Not to mention those pants, it’s so tight all the right places—

 

“Anyway, i’m not here for me today,” Ace’s very careful observation on just how well the faded, old jeans fit Marco’s legs was disturbed by Marco himself, who pulled him over to stand next to him. He looked up to see Izou looking at him with the expected hint of recognition, as well as something else unreadable, something that felt like thoughtfulness, “Ace, i’d like you to meet my brother, Izou. Izou, this is—“

 

“Spade, 1 double platinum record holder, or two, with the way your new album’s sales going. Singer, songwriter, producer and,” a leer appeared on the immaculately polished face, aimed to his side where Marco stood, “My dear brother’s wildest dream coming true,”

 

“Izou!”

 

You wouldn’t expect such a raucous laughter to come out such a prim looking person, but it did indeed, complete with droplets of tears streaming down the sides of his face.

 

“So, am i wrong to presume that you’re bringing your boyfriend to me first out of our brothers?” Izou said as they stepped into the top floor of the building, one that according to the small plaque next to the floor’s button was apparently the CEO’s office and workshop. The entire place was filled with mannequins, with several workers flittering around between them, holding threads and measuring tapes and the likes. There’s designs attached from wall to wall, even to the quieter location that Izou led them to, “In fact, did you bring your boyfriend to me first before you even have him meet Pops? Marco, i’m flattered,”

 

Marco let out a strangled groan, “This… is kind of an emergency. It doesn’t count,”

 

“But i still meet him first,” at this, Izou turned to Ace, his painted lips curling perfectly.

 

The room they were led was smaller and somehow a lot more crowded than the first, and right in the middle of rolls and rolls of fabrics and sketches were a couple of mannequins dressed in expensive looking formal wears with different materials. 

 

Suddenly there was a hand curled around Ace’s wrist, and he look up to see Izou smiling at him, before he turned to Marco, “I’ll find something for him. In the mean time, why don’t you go next door and find Kikuhime. We’re still putting finishing touches on your suit but while you’re here we might as well do one last fitting,”

 

The blonde opened his mouth, looking like he was about to protest, but with a single twitch of Izou’s eyebrows, he closed his mouth again and sighed. He looked up to give Ace a wry smile before turning to his brother once more, “Don’t… do anything weird to him, okay?”

 

Izou sniffed, quirking his brow, “You don’t trust me?”

 

“I trust you to make great clothes, but not much on anything else,” Marco quipped before leaving with one last reassuring smile to Ace.

 

Once he left, Ace could hear the man next to him let out another haughty, but slightly amused scoff, “Hmph, the nerve, after asking for this big of a favour,” he then turned to Ace, and the genial smile return, almost looking too friendly, “Now then, let’s get you into some suits, hmm?”

 


 

“It took all of us off guard, you know?” Izou suddenly said in non-sequitur while Ace tried to put on a lush maroon suit jacket, one that he’s been eyeing for a while and hoped it looked good enough on him. The singer looked up to see the long haired designer eyeing him contemplatively, “That he ended up dating you,”

 

Ace pursed his lips, glancing away from Marco’s brother as he carefully puts the suit on, “Well, he’s—“

 

“Well, that he ended up with anyone, really. He’s not good enough for anyone, after all,”

 

There’s a twinge in the back of Ace’s head, the one he recognize after so many years to be the beginning of anger. With the suit still hanging loosely around his arms, he glared at the pink-clad man, lips pulled to a sneer, “How dare you?” he spat, temper rising quickly. He knows that not all siblings can have such a good relationship like his, Sabo’s and Luffy’s, but he refused to hear anyone saying something like that to their own brother, especially when the brother in question was Marco of all people, “How could you say that about your own brother?”

 

Ace didn’t know what exactly the type of reaction he expected to come from Izou, but he didn’t expect the other man to smile, and not kindly so, “Of course i wouldn’t say that about my own brother. Especially not about Marco. Out of every single one of us, he was probably the best out of us, the most responsible and the one we’d look up to,” the smile dimmed to something sad, almost melancholic, “But that is what he thinks about himself,”

 

Just like that, all of Ace’s anger dissipated, and now, he stared at Izou in disbelief and confusion, “I… I don’t understand,”

 

“I don’t think you would, at least not now,” Izou told him as he approached, arms crossed in front of his chest and every step accompanied by the clicking of moderate height heels.

 

A slender hand reach out to pull the suit over Ace’s shoulder, having him put them on properly before smoothing down the sides and lapels. The singer kept his eyes on the man in front of him, waiting for an explanation as he tried to discern the meaning of his words at the same time. 

 

It never came. When Izou raised his head to meet Ace’s gaze, he gave him a long look before seemingly changing the topic again, “The rest of my brothers and our father were overjoyed when they hear the news, but to be honest, i was skeptical,” the hand on Ace’s lapels rose higher, almost to the collars, “In my line of work, i’ve seen some of the worst people who don’t deserve their wealth and reputation, and most of those people were the same people Marco would encounter during his line of work,”

 

Suddenly, his collar was tugged none too gently, and if Ace had less balance, he would’ve toppled over. He gave Izou a disbelieving look, but the other man’s eyes were still staring deeply to him.

 

“The last thing i needed for my brother, with all of his anxiety, low self-esteem, and lack of confidence, is for some little upstart to realize his feelings for him and take advantage of it,”

 

Izou’s tone was dark, full of abhorrence and Ace knew it was directed at him.

 

But then it just disappeared like it was nothing but the figment of his imagination the next time the man spoke, an easy smile on his lips, “But, now i see i don’t actually have anything to worry about. With what you said earlier, the looks on your eyes when i insult his clothes and the way you’re looking at him - aww, look, you’re blushing, come on, you’re not even being subtle there,” Ace grimaced over Izou’s little teasing coo because yes, he could definitely feel his face turning hot over being caught ogling.

 

The younger took a step back, only momentarily glancing at the suit but he found that he couldn’t properly concentrate on making sure if this suit actually fit him or not. He raised his head, meeting Izou’s eyes once more as he took a deep breath. His lips smacked together as he began to speak, “I’m lucky to have met Marco,” he said honestly, uncaring how loud his voice was and how it reverberated around the small room, meaning that others outside could probably hear him, “We’ve only known each other for a while, so i don’t know much about him, but i know he’s a great guy, he’s passionate, he’s one of the kindest person i’ve ever met, and he can be a bit silly and clueless sometimes, but that makes him what he is. The only thing i ever wanted from him was the chance to support him in any way i could and to be close to him,”

 

Ace realized quite late that he had clutched the hem of the suit, crinkling the materials, but even if he had to pay the damage, he didn’t even care, “Marco’s a great person. Even if i was the type of take advantage of someone, i’d never do that to him,”

 

It wasn’t until he finished talking did Ace suddenly gained back his ability to feel shame, and felt nothing but flustered over his own words. Yes, they’re all true, but he certainly didn’t mean for all of them to come out like that, and especially not to Marco’s brother.

 

He’s not even done feeling embarrassed when Izou laughed again, even harder than he did on the lobby earlier. He sounded utterly amused and pleased, using a slender finger to wipe away escaping drops of tears from the corners of his eyes, “Oh my,” he chortled, shaking his head, “Oh my god, am i in the middle of one of my favorite drama? Oh, is this what it feels like?”

 

“Uh,”

 

“Oh, darling, Ace - can i call you Ace? Marco calls you that and calling you Spade sounded so superficial - that was beautiful. I don’t know how anyone can ever say that with a straight face to someone else, but that was beautiful,” the man tried to stifle his laughter to no avail, and with every passing second, Ace felt his face turning even redder. Now that he thought about it, he did say some pretty embarrassing things, didn’t he?

 

Wait until Izou finds out that he’s saying all of that when he and Marco aren’t really dating.

 

When his cackling finally died down - a whole 10 minutes of them - Izou walked around him, humming as he go while giving little nudges and tugs, “Okay, you know what i change my mind,” he suddenly said, stepping right in front of Ace with a pleased smile on his lips, “To be honest, i was just going to lent you one of these new designs before putting them on the runway, but i’m starting to like you and this is not good enough,” he made a twirling motion with his finger, “Take those off, i’ll start taking your measurements and i’ll make you a brand new one,”

 

Ace paused, blinking, “You’re going to— The award show’s in 2 days!”

 

Izou gave him a look that almost seems offended, “And you think i’m not good enough to make a brand new, costum-made suit by then? Don’t make me lose this overabundance of high opinion i have of you in a second,”

 

He didn’t need to be told twice. With a grin Ace did as he was told, barely putting the maroon suit back on the mannequin when Izou had his measuring tape ready.

 

“Any special request for your special, costum made suit?”

 

“Make me the best arm-candy for the definite award winner and man of the night?”

 

“Ugh, and i thought Marco and his obsession with you was the worst, obviously i haven’t met you yet,”

 


 

 

Sent to [Zoro! :D] [19:51]: ZORO HELP COME BACK

 

New Text Message from [Zoro! :D] [19:52]: ?? I JUST LEFT YOUR PLACE 5 MINUTES AGO WHAT HAPPENED NOW?!?!

 

Sent to [Zoro! :D] [19:53]: ACE JUST CAME BACK AND SAID HIS SEE THROUGH G STRING IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH FOR HIS NEW SUIT

Sent to [Zoro! :D] [19:53]: HE’S BANGING ON MY DOOR PLEASE HELP

 

New Text Message from [Zoro! :D] [19:54]: OH NO NOT THIS AGAIN

New Text Message from [Zoro! :D] [20:01]: Luffy?

New Text Message from [Zoro! :D] [20:01]: Are you still alive?

 

Sent to [Zoro! :D] [20:03]: Yeah, it’s ok

 

New Text Message from [Zoro! :D] [20:04]: Oh, good. Glad to hear

 

Sent to [Zoro! :D] [20:04]: Ace said no underwear is good enough for his new suit

Sent to [Zoro! :D] [20:05]: So he’s just going to go without

Sent to [Zoro! :D] [20:06]: Yay! Problem solved :D

 

New Text Message from [Zoro! :D] [20:07]: I DO NOT NEED TO KNOW THAT WHY DID YOU HAVE TO TELL ME THAT

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Apparently, not only did Izou managed to get an outfit ready just as he promised, he managed to made an entirely new ensemble.

 

The dress shirt, possibly the simplest part of the entire set, was crisp white with costum-made buttons that held ‘Flintlock’s’ distinguishable logo, with a short mandarin collar parted in the middle just down to the middle of his chest. The buttoned vest that came with it was layered elegantly, the navy blue on the outer part was complimented beautifully by the small section of dark maroon on the middle. Completing the two was a smooth, slightly oversized yet form-fitting wine red jacket falling just above his waist line, only a couple of shades lighter than his vest that Izou simple draped over his shoulders instead of having him wear it, with intricate swirling design that trails down the shoulders.

 

“This is one of my prototypes, something i planned on making before but never really got around to, until you came along,” Izou commented behind Ace, as the young man continues to admire the way the entire outfit looked on him. He’s rarely vain, but this is, this is just beyond words, “And oh, you look amazing in them, better than i expected. I’m actually really proud of myself at the moment,”

 

Ace breathed deeply, running his hand down the tight vest as he felt the designer’s nimble hands ran down his waist, “Feel how fitting they are? You had an amazing physique already, it’s almost a challenge trying to figure out how to further enhance your best characteristics, but i did it. The collar will made your chest looks a little broader, the vest made your waist thinner and gave it a bit more nuance, the outer coat just to give you a bit more pop in colour and to guarantee you’ll be a sight to behold,” 

 

Izou paused, and a sly smile appear on his face, “And for my final gift, made from your own personal request,” his hand trailed down lower, down to Ace’s hips, and down even lower to his thighs, “But to be honest, i think how great those derriere looked has little to do with my pants and has a lot to do with the fact that you already has a really, really great—“

 

“Izou, what the hell are you doing to him?!”

 

At the distressed voice calling out, the two of them turned. If Ace thought he looked fantastic, then the figure on the doorway was simple heart-stopping.

 

For his own brother, Izou had prepared a 3 piece suit consisting of a dark red, almost purple turtleneck that hugged Marco’s - absolutely perfect, in Ace’s honest and inarguably correct opinion - form, underneath a navy blue suit with gold lining, with a pair of pants in the same colour. Along with them was a dark long coat of a similar design as the suit, a combination that was simple yet exudes an incredible amount of charisma and masculinity. 

 

Much like the person wearing them, Ace thought to himself, unable to even blink, much less look away.

 

Not that Marco was any different. Whatever angry frown that was on his face earlier was now gone, replaced by wide eyes and gaping mouth, looking to all as the very definition of gawking. 

 

“I’m just checking things over for the last fitting, as i usually do, dear brother. Speaking of, how do you think i did?”

 

Marco opened his mouth, a small frown forming between his brows but they disappear just as quick as they appear, his eyes never quite leaving Ace’s direction. 

 

“…I’ll take that as a very positive feedback. Now, Ace, i would assume you have your own make-up team to take care of you tomorrow, in which case, do you think you can tell me what do you have in mind for your style tomorrow? I have some notes of my own to add to whatever it is, i don’t want my masterpiece ruined because of the wrong hairstyle or the wrong shade of make up being used. I don’t suppose i can persuade you to let my make-up team handle you instead?”

 

Ace’s head moved for a nod, only to move sideways midway for a refusal. Somewhere in his mind, he didn’t think Nojiko would appreciate being replaced and he didn’t really want to work with anyone other than his own friend, but every thought of them flew away when he saw that Marco was wearing a pair of black leather gloves. The sight alone made his eyes widened and the sound that was squeezed out of his throat probably had the attention of all dogs near the vicinity.

 

Between them, Izou started tapping his foot impatiently after being ignored for far too long, “Okay, you both look hot, but you don’t look that hot,” When no one gave him any answer, he looked from one person to another, and rolled his eyes so hard that his head moved along with the motion, “Ugh, i take back everything i ever said about which one of you was worse. You’re both equally disgusting and hopeless,”

 


 

“Holy crap,”

 

“I know, right?” So maybe he really shouldn’t risk creasing his brand new suit a day before he’s supposed to actually wear them in public but Ace can’t help wanting to show it off, and his brothers were equally curious. He looked from Sabo to Luffy, the former who kept scanning carefully to every detail in his outfit while the latter for some reason kept his eyes trained on his down to his pants. Reflexively, following Luffy’s gaze, Ace patted the side of his tightly clad thighs, before tilting his head just enough so he can see his reflection on the mirror behind him and sighed, “Damn, my ass really do look fantastic in this,”

 

Sabo made a vaguely disgusted noise, but returned to humming thoughtfully, “Say, don’t we have roughly the same measurement? I think i’m just a bit taller and my legs are just a bit longer than yours, right?”

 

“Yeah, well, i got more muscles than you,” Ace replied with a glower, “Why?”

 

“I mean, you probably won’t be using them again for a while after tomorrow, right? Think i can borrow them, just for one night?”

 

Well, they borrow each other’s stuff all the time, but Ace still found himself narrowing his eyes, feeling slightly reluctant. This was a gift - a free gift - from Marco’s brother, no less, “Uh, what for?”

 

His blonde haired brother, shuffled his shoulders a little, moving his gaze away, “Well, i might have figured out a while ago that Koala had a thing for a very well dressed guy and an even bigger thing for really nice looking suit…,”

 

No, i will not allow you and Koala to defile this suit!”

 

“Defile?! I was talking about a dinner out that i promised her!”

 

“I know what dinner meant, Sabo! This suit is a gift from Marco’s brother, as a sign of his approval for us!”

 

“Approval? You guys aren’t even really d— Forget it. Come on, can’t you just think of it as a gift for her?! I promise i’ll give it back in perfect condition!”

 

“Only if you wear it with a plastic cover—“

 

“So, you’re really not wearing anything underneath, right?”

 

Almost simultaneously, both older brother turned to their youngest. Ace and Sabo glanced at each other, confusion clearly etched on their faces, though Sabo took a step back with a hint of wariness on his face, “Uh, no,”

 

Luffy nodded, before a large mischievous grin suddenly made its way to his face, “Okay. I’m going to call Zoro,”

 

As the dark haired boy walked away laughing - cackling, even - the other two watched him leave quietly. It was Sabo who first moved, crossing his arms and looking down at Ace’s pants with a dubious look on his face, “You’re really going commando right now?”

 

Ace gestured down to the clothing article, “Duh. Did you see how tight it is? It’s practically spray painted on me, wearing any kind of underwear would’ve ruined it,”

 

The blonde nodded and waved his hand, “Yeah, you’re right, i’m not borrowing that,” he fell silent for a moment, before speaking again, “What about just the vest—“

 

“Plastic cover!”

 


 

With the rate he is going at, Ace wasn’t sure that Marco would even have a thumbnail left by the time they reached the award show. Actually, with the intensity he’s going, he highly doubt the actor would even have a thumb left.

 

He had briefly thought that Marco’s agency had gone all out by sending them in a fancy limo complete with the chauffeur in honour of the night’s event, but he decided it probably had more to do with the fact that they already know their talent won’t be able to truly concentrate for the night. Ace glanced at Marco’s tightly balled fist, already white along the knuckles, occasionally blooming pink once he let of his own grip before turning pale once more from lack of circulation.

 

In the end, he licked his lower lips and let a small smile bloom on his lips, “It’s such a shame it took this long, but at least it’s finally happening,” 

 

Slowly, Marco looked away from the window, still quiet but obviously paying attention. Ace widened his smile, subtly glancing to his faded reflection from the window behind the blonde to make sure he looks reassuring, “I mean, you’ve been an actor for 11 years, i can’t believe that only now did you finally get some recognition,” he raised one finger, frowning slightly, “Well, you did get nominated once before during ‘Romance Dawn’, but it was mostly for ensemble cast and you were playing a recurring character, so i don’t know if i should count that,”

 

The actor parted his lips, a flash of surprise crossing his features, “You... you still remembered that? That drama ended a long time ago, didn’t think anyone even know about that,”

 

Well, Ace did. And the series afterwards, some where he was a part of the supporting cast member, a couple of pilots that never got off the air - Not even the official movie database has that kind of knowledge on their records - and up to the point where he started starring in very well known movies. Ace could still remember a couple of his favorites; like his role in a light novel adaptation of a fantasy drama as a mafia heir turned incredibly effective and nigh-undefeatable assassin, or the other fantasy series where he played the sports player thrown out of his world to become the guardian of a summoner, or even the very last series Marco played in silver screen, probably his most popular one to boot, the superhero action series where he plays one of the main character, the popular hero who seeks to avenge the death of his parents.  

 

The singer sighed dreamily, until he became aware of the odd look sent to him from beside him, “Well, i did say i’m a big fan of yours,” in a quieter voice and softer smile, he added, “Besides, that was the show where i saw you for the very first time,”

 

What he didn’t mention was what had happened in real life that made the drama series leave with such an impression on him, and how it grew to become what nearly everyone around him would call as his obsession. 

 

It’s something he had always wanted to tell Marco if he ever get the chance to meet the man in real life, but just as it has been for the past few weeks since they first met, this is not really the time, he thought, as a small part of mind noted that the man next to him had stopped balling his fist and the nervous look on his face has more or less melted away. Marco made a small acknowledging noise from his throat before chuckling, sounding almost embarrassed yet flattered, “That’s a… wow. I don’t really know what to say,”

 

Taking this chance, Ace slid closer, allowing them to sit with their shoulders brushing against each other and their hands touching side by side. Somewhere from the front of the car, he briefly heard the driver clearing his throat, “I always thought you were amazing since then, and i’m not kidding, i’m so glad you’re finally getting the recognition that you deserved. I couldn’t function properly day you were announced as one of the nominees, a lot of people got mad at me but i don’t even care,”

 

They were in the middle of a rather important but relatively informal meeting about his album release and the preparation for his solo concert in a couple of months, when the list dropped. Sabo had to physically push him away before Ace could further shake him around in his ecstatic state, Law slapped him a couple of times behind the head and shouting at him to concentrate, Deuce had to physically restrain him and threatened to take his phone away and in the end, Rayleigh, the wise and generous boss that he is, promptly dismissed them for the day.

 

Marco let out a little laugh, looking down to his own lap. His hand still hadn’t moved away, and Ace pressed a little bit closer, a sense of shyness filling him but not enough to defeat the urge to be closer to the blonde, “It caught me by surprise too. Wouldn’t think that was real if Robin hadn’t been the one who send the news to me,”

 

“Well, like i said, i think it’s long overdue. I think you deserved more than one award,” Ace chirped, grinning at the bashfulness in Marco’s tone. He just sounded so humble it’s endearing, despite the fact that the movie he got nominated for, ‘Paramount War’, was now the highest grossing movie in the last 10 years, and how aside from praises for the movie itself, there was an overwhelming amount of praise for Marco’s performance as the main actor, with a lot of speculations of bigger future for him.

 

Ace remembered shedding legit tears reading those reviews, even if the achievement had nothing to do with him. Sabo had called him dramatic, while Luffy was all too happy with being bribed with snacks to helping him laminating a couple of those glowing reviews to put it on his figurine display.

 

But instead of reflecting the same enthusiasm Ace had, when Marco spoke again, he preempted his words with a heavy sigh, “I… I don’t know. I don’t think i’m going to go home with an award. It’s only my first time, anyway, and the other contenders were a lot more experienced and well known,”

 

That’s preposterous, they got nothing on you, Ace wanted to say, and i’m so certain none of them could ever reel in a fan who would build an entire shrine of them in their bedroom, he wanted to add as well, before he remembered there are some things about him that he really, really didn’t need Marco to know about. Instead, he settled with, “But you’re just as good! A lot of people think so too, so you know it’s not just me saying like that. You’re going to win tonight, i just know it,”

 

The smile Marco gave him was complacent and curt. He didn’t say another word to either agree or deny Ace’s words, as if he still didn’t agree with him but didn’t want to continue on with the topic.

 

It was just a small gesture, but somehow it left a pang of dissatisfaction and disappointment in the singer’s chest. 

 

Suddenly, the actor looked up, the same time that loud muffled chaos can be registered from outside of the vehicle, “We’re almost there,”

 

Just beyond the front window, they could already see the extravagantly designed front gate of the national concert hall where the gala was held, complete with a giant billboards and most importantly, the plethora of journalist, paparazzi and reporters whose existence were told by the numerous amount of camera flashes visible even from where they were. From next to him, Ace could hear Marco taking in a sharp intake of breath, lips pressed thin and brows furrowed in a show of trepidation.

 

“Hey,” with a small twitch, the younger had his hand right on top of the older’s, squeezing slightly, “You’ll be fine. I’ll be right next to you, okay?” 

 

Marco didn’t reply, but the hand in his hold shifted and squeezed his back. 

 

They didn’t let go of each other until they exited the car, welcomed by a flurry of camera flashes and the deafening shouts of their names.

 


 

“—And this is Elizabeth from OkamaNews, reporting live from the 102th Mariejois Award tonight, and with me are the hottest items this season, making their first public appearance together after the big, unexpected reveal of their relationship,” the reporter turned around from the camera, her curled blonde hair - That Ace could tell was a wig, but then all okama under Ivankov’s employment seems to wear one of such quality that he can never be too sure -  bobbing along with the motion of her head, “Oh, i’ve seen the interview so many times, but now looking at you both with my own eyes, you’re such an adorable couple,”

 

Next to him, Ace saw Marco gave Elizabeth a small smile, one just polite enough for the camera but not too big it announced his nervousness to the whole world. Unlike his arm, who had began to tremble slightly during their 3rd interjection for an interview tonight, which is why Ace had taken to attaching himself to the blonde’s side, allowing said shaking hands to have something solid to hold on to while hiding it from prying eyes. 

 

Or something to that effect, which he hoped is actually helpful because he didn’t know how long he could keep the incoherent screeching in his mind contained over having Marco’s hand virtually around his waist. 

 

Thankfully, whatever inner dilemma they both had individually doesn’t seem to gain anyone’s attention, when Elizabeth practically shoved her microphone in front of Marco’s face, “What do you think about being this year’s candidate for best actor? ‘Paramount War’ was such an excellent movie, but you’re up against a lot of big names; Kaido, Donquixote Doflamingo, Kami Enel, and Rob Lucci, it’s quite a heavy contender,” she asked, still moving forward and settling herself on Marco’s side, to Ace’s direct opposite. From where he stood, the dark hair singer could see her leaning to his ‘date’.

 

Understandably, the actor moved back slightly to avoid the microphone from being shoved even further to his face, but not quite enough to get away, “Well, to be honest, i’m just glad to be here,” he answered with a small chuckle, a small succinct answer that spoke volumes of his uneasiness, especially when he began to look down to his shoes and the carpet beneath them than the camera.

 

She seemed to sense that she wasn’t going to get anything else out of them man when Elizabeth moved her microphone and aimed it to Ace, noticeably with a lack of enthusiasm than she did Marco. And she’s still leaning on him, “What do you think, Spade? Do you think he has a chance in winning tonight?”

 

“Of course! I have every confidence in him—“

 

Ace didn’t know what’s the hardest thing he’s encountered right at that moment that kept him from keeping his pleasant demeanor: the fact that Marco’s hand had dipped lower, possibly to get a better grip since Elizabeth was still leaning on him, and brushed against the top swell of ass (and seemingly not even realizing it, considering that his hand is still right there), the fact that something about the reporter’s wording really rubbed him the wrong way (A chance?! A chance?! Marco’s the definite winner and anyone who said otherwise is plain dead wrong and can catch these hands), or the fact that he finally saw that Elizabeth wasn’t just leaning on Marco, she latched herself on his boyfriend - well, not really, but she doesn’t know that - even massaging his arms with her gnarled hands with those tacky nails so if she doesn’t remove those before he blinked, he’s going to remove them for her—

 

“He-hey! There you are, man of the night and his lovely date. Excuse me, do you mind if i stole them for a bit? They’re really wanted inside right now, sorry, oh, actually, is that Boa Hancock making her way here? Well, she looks absolutely dashing, as usual, i wonder what dress she’s wearing this year?”

 

The arrival of Shanks Red was followed with a flurry of grand gestures, with him shaking both his and Marco’s hands while pulling them both out OkamaNews’ interview spot, a series of movement so smooth it took Ace a second to realized that they’ve already left Elizabeth and her cameraman behind to chase after the ‘Most Beautiful Woman in the World’ and was on their way towards the reception hall. Once he did realize, however, he didn’t miss the chance to turn back to where the pink dressed reporter was and gave her his best glare.

 

His attention was stolen back at Marco’s weary and very relieved sigh, “Shanks,” he greeted, as soon as they stepped foot inside of the hall.

 

The red haired famous director clapped him on the shoulder, grinning, “Hope you don’t mind me stepping in like that, Marco. Boy, those reporters were like vultures, aren’t they? I mean, they always are, but they’re descending on you both like you’re a fresh piece of meat,” he glanced from Marco to Ace, and to the crowd they had left behind, “Well, you both can breathe a little easier here, they won’t be let in until the show is well underway, and even then, i heard only 3 publications are allowed inside this year,”

 

“As long as OkamaNews isn’t one of them,” Ace couldn’t help but grit out, glaring to the gathering crowd outside.

 

“No, no, it’s mostly news outlets like the society page of Raftel Daily, none of the gossip rags will be allowed entrance. So don’t worry, your man is absolutely save from the clutches of evil, handsy reporters,” 

 

Maybe Ace should have a more appropriate reaction to Shanks’ teasing, sort of like the brief stammering and half-hearted denial that came out of Marco, but all he could feel was satisfaction as he sniffed rather haughtily, “Good,”

 

At his words, Shanks let out a bark of laughter, “Oh man, you’ve grown up to be quite a carbon copy of Mrs. Rouge, don’t you?”

 

At the mention of his mother’s name, Ace blinked, lips slightly parted, before murmuring, suddenly gaining back all sense of location that he had previously seems to misplace, “Oh, uh, you remembered me, huh?”

 

“Oh, you’re saying that as if i could ever forget!” the red haired man snickered, moving away from Marco to stand on Ace’s other side, slinging an arm around his shoulder, “Man, i must be really old right now, look how big you’ve gotten! How’s ‘Captain’ Roger and Mrs. Rouge? She’s still sending me Christmas cards every year, with those delicious chocolate candies she made herself, and i haven’t thank her for it,”

 

“They’re fine, they’re in Skypiea now for one of Dad’s business trips,” he shrugged, “Don’t think they’ll be back until the end of next month,”

 

“You two know each other?”

 

Almost simultaneously, both Ace and Shanks turned towards Marco, and it’s probably caused by an odd shadow casted by the chandelier above them, but Ace could’ve sworn Marco looked a little miffed when he met Shanks’ eyes. His observation was interrupted by Shanks clapping his shoulder, jostling the youngest of the three slightly, “Of course! Back then before i started my venture in the movie world, i used to work as a deckhand for this major freight ship company, Oro Jackson. Whenever i’m not on duty though, Roger Gol, the owner, would pay me and a buddy of mine, Buggy to watch over his son and his friends,” 

 

The term ‘watch over’ is a gross misnaming as to what Shanks and Buggy did whenever they’re over. Ace still had the memory of them both feeding Luffy an entire jar of lollipops and then panicking when they had to get his brother on a sugar rush down from somehow climbing up the rooftop. Then there was that other time Buggy brought a racy magazine with him for after their charges had gone to bed, but only ending up with Sabo finding it and had his very first experience in seeing a naked woman. Or even how often he was brought to either anger or tears by the amount of teasing he had to endure from Shanks about his very first major crush at the tender age of 12, on an actor in a television drama no less.

 

Which reminded him…

 

“You know, i can’t believe you guys ended up dating for real. Did you know that Ace here actually had a thing for you since he was only—“

 

“Aah! Shut up, shut up, shut up! He doesn’t need to know that!”

 

“Why not? Back then, Ace here would watch ‘Romance Dawn’ every single day, even more often than Mrs. Rouge— “

 

“Shanks, shut up!”

 

“Even if it’s only re-runs, and he had this starry eyed look whenever you were on sc—“

 

“I’m going to tell mom you’re being mean, shut up!”

 

“You two are making a scene, but i expected no less when Shanks is involved,”

 

The voice cuts through their squabble easily, and whatever ridicule that Ace was certain would’ve come out of the director’s mouth next stopped in favour of the sharply dressed newcomer, with even sharper eyes glancing between the three of them and stopping at the red haired man, “Mihawk! Look, i finally found them, completely hounded by paparazzi like i suspected,” he grinned, leaning, almost intentionally squeezing the younger between himself and Marco, “And i got to save them. Remember Ace, my old boss’ kid that i used to babysit? Look how big he’s gotten!”

 

“Yes, i’ve seen him on TV and every time Perona watched those MushiTube videos,” the tall man made his way over to them, extending one pale hand towards Ace for a handshake. His skin was cold when the singer took hold of it, like he had poor circulation… or is actually undead, “Dracule Mihawk. Thank you for your continuous hospitality for my son, he came over very frequently, as i recall,”

 

Ace looked up from their joined hands, confused, “Your… son?”

 

“Yep!” Once again, he was jostled to the side, finding himself in Shanks’ hold once more, “My stepson, Zoro. He and Luffy are good friends, aren’t they?”

 

It finally dawned on to Ace then why Mihawk’s name seems quite familiar, “Wait, Hawk-dad?”

 

Mihawk fluttered his eyes close, inaudibly but obviously sighing, “Yes, i believe that is what your brother calls me,” he then turned to Shanks, patting down the laces on the hem of his dress shirt, “Your order has arrived to our table, and Beckman made sure no Lucky Roo won’t touch it until you came back. I suggest we made our way inside before you all made a bigger spectacle of yourselves,” with that, Mihawk left with a whirl of black coat, Shanks trailing right behind him while gesturing to both Ace and Marco to follow suit.

 

Neither who did, but instead glanced at each other, and stood in that silence until Marco was the one who spoke, “S-so, uh… you.. had a crush on me when you were young?”

 

Ace was suddenly filled with the immense urge to run, either to hide or to find Shanks and deliver a much more painful kick than he was able to give as a child.

 

(And maybe find a place to scream because, well, had isn’t really the word he’ll use…)

 


 

The ‘order’ Shanks had put before he came to ‘pick them up’, as it turns out, was a bottle of strong liquor, whose content he immediately poured and filled an entire whisky glass and gave to Marco, “For your nerves. And if this bottle’s not enough, there’s a lot more where that came from. Hell, i’d have Rockstar run out to the nearest shop and get you a stronger one,”

 

Ace remembered being offered the same brand once during an afterparty, recalling just how strong the drink was and how woozy he got after just a couple of sips. So it was with complete disbelief did he watch as Marco took the nearly full glass and downed the entire content in 3 gulps, letting several drips trailed down his chin and dripping down to the top of his collar, thankfully camouflaged by the dark colour.

 

When Marco immediately put the glass back to the table and Shanks poured in some more, he can’t help but to say, “Shouldn’t you slow down a little?”

 

Marco didn’t answer him, simply going back to emptying the entire glass’ content, though admittedly with much less vigour. It was the man with long grey hair next to Mihawk, Shanks’ Art Director, Benn Beckman that answered him, taking a much more careful sips of his own drink, “It’s the only time when he could down that much. The event’s about to begin and with cameras on him, he won’t be able to drink as much without rising suspicion,” he paused, eyeing Marco’s form just as everyone on the table did, “Trust me, he’ll need it,”

 

True enough, by his fourth glass full and after downing nearly 3/4 of the bottle, Marco seemed a lot calmer, eyes glazed and unusually brighter with the telltale flush on his cheeks, but calm, nonetheless. His speech was slurred, and from where Ace sat, he could smell the distinct scent of alcohol, “—really great actor, but his attitude is shit. And he’s so fucking mouthy, what the hell is his problem?”

 

They’re talking about one of Marco’s co-star in his project with Shanks, the actor Cavendish Hakuba, if Ace heard correctly, one that Marco - in his quite drunken state - noted to have ‘the ego the size of the fucking Elbaf Mountains’, couple with a few rather irately spoken adjectives. It rather caught Ace off guard, if because he never saw Marco as nothing but mild-mannered and laid back when it comes to dealing with people, but alcohol truly does bring out a different side of someone.

 

And not to mention, he kind of found this moderately vulgar and aggressively speaking Marco to be rather attractive in his own way…

 

Shanks cackled, already partially drunk himself. Their conversation has not ended even though the opening show has started. But then, this year’s host, Saint Charlos, was a mighty uninteresting one, and he caught whispers from Yasopp and Lucky Roo that the reason why he was even picked as the host was because he’s the member of the Celestial family, an old school riches who was one of the riches people in the world, and it was only because of that connection does he even have a career in showbiz.

 

It wasn’t the only gossip that he caught from Shanks’ crew that night, but Marco’s voice had brought his attention away from Lucky’s retelling of the rumour surrounding Duval’s very specific denial over getting any work done on his face. He turned just in time to see Shanks tossing his head back in hilarity, and would’ve toppled if it wasn’t for Mihawk’s quick reflex by holding the back of his seat.

 

“Oh man, you’re so goddamn oblivious,” the red haired director remarked, “He’s jealous of you. He actually wanted to quit when he found out you’re casted as well, because he’s so sure you’re going to outshine him despite not being the first billed actor. And that’s before the media circus about you and Ace blew up, he was so ready to quit then and there,” 

 

With a hiss after taking another few gulp of his drink, Marco frowned, eyes narrowed, “Me? Why the hell did is he jealous of me? That’s fucking stupid, he’s way younger and way better looking, people will crowd the cinemas to see him,”

 

“Well one, you’re the one who is going to win a Mariejois Award for Best Actor this year, the most prestigious of them all. And two, well, that’s not true, is it?” With a leer, Shanks turned to Ace, who was aware that his face had turned red, “Am i right, or am i right, Ace?”

 

Before Ace could make a fool out of himself by answering - or strangling Shanks - Marco let out a scoff, tossing back the last few drops of liquor in his glass, “Nominated, Shanks. That’s not the same as winning,”

 

“Might as well, come on, i’m well connected, remember? I might have heard some whispers about who this years’ judges are,” following Marco’s example, Shanks also tossed back the last gulp of his drink, before aiming for the nearly empty bottle on his side and missing several times. Next to him, Mihawk rolled his eyes and pushed the bottle slightly to allow his drunken significant other to get a better grip, who cheered in success as if he hadn’t failed repeatedly, “And i might have found out who they all unanimously favour for this years’ winner,”

 

“Kaido?”

 

Shanks let out a groan, “No. Besides, ‘Zouland’ was a flop and everyone thought his performance was really weak, didn’t you hear? It’s already a miracle that he was one of the contenders at all,”

 

“Doflamingo, then? I really liked ‘Dressrosa Under Siege’, though it’s one of his best work,”

 

“Come on, Marco, are you playing with me right now?”

 

Even drunken and glazed, the confusion on his face was truly genuine.

 

Before he could speak again, however, Saint Charlos was finally done with… whatever routine it was he had on stage earlier as the opening show, sent out with a series of weak and polite clapping filling the majestically decorated room. The pug-faced man stumbled a little as the rest of the performers filled out of the stage, “Thank you, thank you!” he chirped haughtily, as if the entire place had erupted in joy instead of the half-hearted interest for his performance, “Now, for what you all have been waiting for, let’s begin the 102th Mariejois Award, which was of course, sponsored heavily by Celestials family, and a few other… less significant corporations—“

 

“Kind of makes you wonder how he could be chosen as the year’s host, isn’t it? With that sort of attitude?”

 

Ace could smell the familiar cologne now mixed with droplets of alcohol before he saw Marco himself, whose chair had moved closer to him, probably while he wasn’t looking. They both had their chairs facing away from the table, allowing them a better look at the table and to keep their conversation just between them and away from the rowdy bunch behind, “Yasopp told me it’s because of his family’s influence,”

 

Again, Marco scoffed, his hand moving to reveal a newly filled glass with a different sort of alcohol now, judging by the colour of the liquid. He sighed after taking a few sips, swerving slightly on his chair and moving his body so that their knees touch, “You don’t… you don’t find this weird, do you?”

 

“Find what weird?”

 

The glass in Marco’s hand was stirred, slightly too fast that several drops fell to the carpeted floor, “Robin usually won’t let me drink more than 4 shots, let alone downing an entire bottle, but i felt like i need it even more tonight. It’s all the live cameras,” he muttered, gesturing to the multitude of recording devices all over the room from all different angles, then to the back of the room, “The journalist, even some of the celebrities i hadn’t met more than a passing, staying in this sort of place for 4 hours is a special kind of hell for me. Usually i’ll be sitting in the back, but i can’t really do that this year,”

 

He sounded so distressed, even intoxicated, and again, Ace couldn’t help but to find his empty hand and take a hold of it. It’s no longer shaking from the influence of alcohol, but Marco still squeezed back, as if he needed it.

 

“It’s the whole glamour and… people. I couldn’t really take it,” the blonde sighed, his voice muffled slightly as applause erupted around them when the first award and its winner was announced. Best Visual Effect, if he’s not mistaken, won by a plump woman with a mismatched hair colour of red and yellow, “Ha, did Giolla Art won this year? She deserved it, the effects on ‘Dressrosa Under Siege’ was astounding,”

 

As the woman, Giolla started her speech - with plenty of gratitude and swooning towards Donquixote Doflamingo, the main actor and director of the movie that got her the award - Marco turned back to him, and seems like he was going to say something else when he turned his sight to something behind Ace, which made him pause. The dark haired male turn to indeed found one of the cameraman aiming his camera at them, obviously think he’s going to catch a ‘moment’.

 

Ace gave him - well, his camera - a curt smile, before turning back to Marco and shifting just enough so that he’s blocking the sight to the older. 

 

“You don’t have to do that,” the blonde muttered, but from the sound of relief in his voice, the camera either had moved or he was more grateful of Ace’s interference than his words made it out to be, “It’s a public setting that i come to willingly, it won’t be professional of me to keep avoiding cameras,”

 

“Fuck professionalism if you had to make yourself this drunk to be one. You should think about yourself first,”

 

He didn’t mean to sound that angry, but somehow, his words made Marco smile, “You’re too good to me, Ace,”

 

The scent of liquor around him does make him feel a little light-headed, but Ace was sure that the way his head spin right now has nothing to do with any type of alcohol. 

 

“Up next, the Mariejois Award for Best Documentary,“

 

“Oh, i know this one,” Marco chuckled, pointing at the stage as an aged older woman took to the stage and curtly dismissed any sort of theatrics before going directly to the nominees, “I’m rooting for ‘Kingdom of the Seas’ to win. It talks about wild Sea Kings in rough waters and their ecosystem. Namur, my brother, is one of the marine biologist involved in making this documentary, and they’re planning to use this to raise awareness about sea life and the stigma around how dangerous Sea Kings can be. Apparently, the Minister or Maritime also advocates for this and participated in the making—“

 

Ace decided this was yet another facade of Marco that he’s unfamiliar with, one that was seemingly brought out by the level of alcohol in his system as it seems; the way he was so animated, so freely talking, how happy and proud he sounded about this project his brother was involved in. Though they had found new comfort between each other, there was always some sort of a barrier that Ace can’t help but notice, as if just like how he still feel like restraining himself with Marco, Marco did the exact same thing. 

 

This was.. a lot better than that. He loved hearing the happy lilt in the older’s voice, the movement of his hand and the twinkle in his eyes, one that seems to brighten up even more when the documentary he’s explaining about did come up as the winner that night. So when Marco finished clapping and turned bashfully at him, apologizing for talking too much, Ace squeezed his hand tighter, shaking his head, “No, i like really hearing you talk. So what happened next? You said your brother met with the Minister of Maritime, Fisher Tiger? How did that go?”

 

If anyone was to ask Ace what truly happened during the next hour or so, then he’d only be able to tell about Namur’s faux pas in front of his personal hero, and some behind the scenes story about other category winners, because only Marco’s words and the easy glint in his eyes seems to matter to him at that point.

 


 

“And now! The moment you’ve all been waiting for, to present the category of Best Actress, please welcome the glamorous, the talented, the beautiful Boa Hancock!”

 

The ‘Most Beautiful Woman in the World’s’ arrival was welcomed with a cacophony of cheers from the majority of men, some who even openly salivating at the sight of her in a slim low cut dress, but Ace and Marco were not amongst them. Marco was too busy holding his stomach and he tried so hard to stifled his laughter, while Ace kept glancing at the stage where Boa Hancock stood tall and lowering down his own snickers as he continued on with his story.

 

“—So she lured my brother to this restaurant, right? Creepy as all hell already, but when Sabo and i found him, Luffy had more love in his eyes to the baby back ribs in his hands that Hancock. And she never realized it! He said thank you for the meal and i heard her squealing about how it’s a declaration of love!”

 

“You’re pulling my leg,” Marco chortled, taking in a shaky breath only to end up choking before laughing again with an undignified snort. Ace found himself dazzled, “The Boa Hancock? I worked with her once, she completely hated men,”

 

“She once sent him a picture of herself dressed in all of the merchandise Nami made for the Strawhat Channel. I still think the reason why she’s so insistent on being the director for most of my music videos despite being busy with her own projects is because she always hoped Luffy would come over one day to see her,”

 

“Did he ever?”

 

Ace shook his head, and it’s not even that funny, he could even say that he felt a strong empathy for Boa sometimes over the sheer hope to meet with one’s idol - well, until he finally met Marco that is - but he still ended up laughing when Marco did, “She would come over sometimes though, i think Sabo’s afraid of her because there was this one time, she clung on to him and enthusiastically calling him ‘brother in law’. She did the same to me on set too, it was so weird,”

 

A round of applause rose around them, and the orchestra’s played a grand tune, welcoming the ‘Princess of Tears’ Shirahoshi Ryugu as the winner. True enough to her nickname, the pink haired girl cried even before she stepped on to the stage, calming down slightly only when Boa Hancock handed her the statuette trophy and gave her a hug. Then once again fell into tears before she can even deliver her speech.

 

“So, those famously moving tears on screen was just her being her?”

 

“Yup. That’s what makes her one of the best romance actresses,” Shanks suddenly piped up from behind them, half standing up from his seat and rounding the table just in front of them, stopping just in front of Marco, “I have to make my way backstage, since i’ll be presenting the last award, and you better get ready to get the award,”

 

Suddenly whatever good mood Marco had earlier disappeared in a flash, along with the wary sigh that he gave, “Shanks, come on,”

 

The red haired man only shrugged, “Hey, suit yourself if you don’t believe me, it’s happening anyway,” and with that he left, slightly tumbling around on his way.

 

As soon as he left, Marco gave another sighed and finished what was probably his 8th glass of the night. He’s swaying even sitting, and Ace found that the more he drink the more he made his emotion known. When the blonde puts his glass down, Ace spoke before he could take up the newly delivered bottle from in front of Beckman, “How come you kept denying that you will win tonight?”

 

With a slow blink, Marco turned to him, drooped eyes even more lidded, and there was something like derisiveness in both his words and expression, “‘Cause it’s not happening. It’s practically impossible,”

 

Maybe Ace shouldn’t have accepted the drink offers from Lucky Roo, minimal as they are, because he felt like he’s getting angry easier than usual and to Marco of all people, “Why is it impossible? You’re amazing! Shanks said so too, so it’s not only me saying that,”

 

“That’s what people do, Ace, they praised someone they know instead of putting them down. Even my family did that the whole day,” he took a quick swig and murmured lowly, though not low enough Ace missed it, “Wished you all wouldn’t, it’s not like i didn’t know i’m not that good or deserve any of this,”

 

He didn’t know where it came from, but Ace suddenly found himself snatching the glass away from Marco’s hold, much to the older man’s very apparent shock, and slamming it down to the table. Behind him, he could hear Yasopp yelping in surprise ands several people from different table looking at them, but Ace hardly cared when he pulled Marco by his hands to face him. Alcohol must’ve made his mouth loose too, because Ace found himself hissing out, “I’ve started a fight with people for lesser insult to you, don’t you think i won’t fight you too if you insult yourself, you moron,”

 

Marco was blinking hardly, eyes glazed and unfocused, “Ace…,”

 

You are good. And you deserve so much more. You think i was kidding when i ‘was just saying’ when i said it’s about time you got this kind of recognition? I swear, if someone else was chosen tonight, i’m going to riot, and i dare someone to try me,”

 

“Ace, that’s… that’s not even how these awards works…,”

 


 

“For the final award tonight, the Best Actor Award for 102th Mariejois Award, please welcome tonight’s Best Director winner and award presenter, Shanks Red!”

 

On the stage, looking much more sober was Shanks, striding out with a confident wave and grin for the world to see, “Finally, right?” he said the moment he stood behind the microphone, prompting a series of titters and laughter, “Well, it’s getting late folks, and i got a bottle of bourbon and a very sexy man waiting for me,” he waggled his brows to the direction of his table, or at least, where he thought his table was. Above him, the screen shows the camera aimed at Mihawk, who seems unresponsive with the attention and was much more interested in watching something else off camera. 

 

“Alright! The nominees are—“

 


 

 

“I’ve been watching you act since i was 10, even if you didn’t win tonight because of some stupid judges, i think i would know better of how capable you are compared to some snobby old coots. But you know what, you are going to win because you worked hard and you fucking deserve it,”

 

“I… I..,”

 

“And not even that. You’re the most brilliant, the most humble man i’ve ever come across, and fuck, do you know how stunning you look when you talk earlier? You looked so unrestrained, so free, you don’t have a shred of fear and yeah, okay, maybe it’s the alcohol making you like that but seeing you like that made me want to do something, anything to keep that happy Marco and if that means i got to accompany you every single day to these sort of events, against those stupid reporters, nosy cameramen, i’d do it. That’s literally the smile i want to protect and go to war for, i’m not kidding,”

 

“Ace, i… Well,”

 

‘It hurts me too, okay? That you would put yourself down like that, saying you’re no good and all, like, why do you even think you’re not good enough? Do you need someone to prove to you that you are?”

 

“No, it’s not…,”

 

“Cause if you do, then i fucking volunteer myself, okay? I’ll spend my entire life showing that you are good enough, and i swear if you talk like that again about yourself i’m going to actually start a fight, and i’m good at fighting, you’re going to lose,”

 


 

When the clip finally stopped showing, the images of every nominees sitting on their respective seats were shown and immediately, there was a room-wide raise in noises. Shanks blinked a couple of times, snorting, when he saw on the bottom left image, where a cameraman caught Marco looking down dumbly at Ace, who seems to be talking passionately about something. Marco still looked absolutely out of it, obviously drunk, and from the looks of it, so does Ace.

 

Shanks thought of calling them out, before he glanced at the envelope he absentmindedly opened while waiting for the clip to finished playing and widened his eyes. With a bark of laughter that he couldn’t stop, he spoke, “I knew it! Hah!” with a puffed out chest and a grin so wide his face hurts, the red haired man practically shouted to the microphone, “The winner is Marco Newgate for ‘Paramount War’!”

 


 

“Anyway, i’m really digressing, but you will win and i swear i will eat these fucking tight pants if you don’t—“

 

“You don’t have to, he won,”

 

At Mihawk’s words, they both turn at the same time to the sharp eyed man, who gestured to the screen on top of the stage. True enough, one half of the screen played a short clip of Marco’s performance during the movie he was nominated for, while the other half was of Marco and Ace, with the latter still holding the former’s arms for attention. Around them, people applauded, all eyes on them.

 

Then it dawned on to Ace. Marco won. Marco really did win.

 

“Oh my god,” he gasped, staring at the screen and applauding people in disbelief as a giant smile slowly took over half of his face, “Oh my god, Marco, Marco you really won,” he snapped his head to the front, meeting the still dumbfounded blonde, and Ace couldn’t help it, he laughed, “I told you! I told you you’ll win and you did! See, you really are the be— Mmph!”

 

Perhaps the alcohol did not mix well with the sudden elation and bubbling happiness in his chest, Ace thought to himself, and that must’ve caused him to hallucinate. Or maybe this is just a very good dream.

 

Yeah, this must be a dream.

 

Because right now, Marco’s lips were pressed against his own, so warm, so real it made him lightheaded, and there is no other explanation as to why that would happen other than that this whole thing was nothing more than a good dream.

 

Chapter Text

 

When Marco’s consciousness finally came back to him, he felt like he had just been stepped on by an elephant, before being tossed into a washing machine, and finally thrown on to a combine harvester. Then someone must’ve kidnapped him and operated on him to put a ticking bomb on his brain.

 

In other words, everything hurts and his head felt like it will explode at any given moment.

 

Moving proved to be a rather impossible task, when he felt like he was being held down. Or maybe it was just his body refusing to cooperate. He tried to open his eyes first but the moment he saw pure whiteness from behind the safety and protection of his eyelids, he immediately closed them again, groaning at that millisecond glimpse of light. Whose idea is it to create lights? They do nothing but hurt and made his head felt worse.

 

“Oh, oh, i think he’s waking up,”

 

Somewhere in his poor, addled brain, Marco realized that someone is nearby, and that voice sounds dauntingly and mockingly close to Thatch’s. Which means Thatch is nearby. Which means Thatch is nearby while he is asleep and thus cannot defend himself. A lot of experience during their college years has taught him why that is a tremendously bad idea.

 

Opening his eyes means torturing his poor retina ever more, but that was nothing compared to what his brother might do if he goes back to sleep. Much to his relief, the blonde found his brother a few feet away, one hand holding up his computer tablet right next to his very largely grinning face. He blinked a couple of times, trying to chase away the torturous headache that comes with finally being awake and losing, “What are you doing?” he ask, finding his own voice hoarse and scratchy.

 

Still grinning, Thatch adjusted the tablet in his hand, allowing Marco to better view that the screen consisted of their father and several of their brothers. When the people on the screen moved and voices that weren’t Thatch’s voice started entering his senses, he began to slowly realize that it’s a video chat.

 

“Morning sleepyhead,” he heard Haruta exclaim first, head rested on top of Pops’ shoulder. Pops himself was at the very front, practically filling the entire screen if Haruta didn’t start adjusting their camera to allow Marco to see that there’s more of them. Marco tried to sit up again, but to no avail. He’s starting to be aware that it wasn’t quite his body that’s unwilling to cooperate, there was something on top of him that’s stopping him from moving.

 

He turned his head, trying to see whatever it was - it’s probably one of Thatch’s prank - the same time he heard Pops said, “Haruta, lower your voice, the young man next to him is still asleep,”

 

And it wasn’t just any young man; Marco could tell that dark, wavy hair and the freckled cheeks underneath it anywhere. What he could not tell is what said head was doing on his chest, while the entire rest of body it was attached to was sleeping on top of him under the cover.

 

As if on cue, Ace stirred, eyes lidded and heavy with sleep still when they flickered open to find Marco’s very wide and surprised ones. The singer - who was obviously unaware he had spent the night sleeping only a couple of feet away from a closet full of paraphernalia with his face printed on them, including a human sized body pillow - let out a - cute, very cute - yawn. Marco could feel what is very clearly an arm snaking from his stomach to his chest.

 

“Why are you up already?” the young man moaned against his skin, before plopping his head back on to Marco’s shoulder. The movement caused the blanket on top of them to shift and fell down a little, just enough to show him that they’re both equally topless. Ace’s spotted shoulder laying back against his chest and once again rendering him unable to move, ever more so as the younger started to squirm and pulled their bodies even closer together, “Mmh, Marco, you’re so warm,”

 

Marco’s mind short-circuited, and he was only briefly aware of Thatch’s snickers before his eyes rolled backwards and he suddenly lose consciousness again.

 


 

“This is… this is just… wow,” Marco spent several seconds observing the trophy in his hand, a sleek little thing, so polished he could see his contorted reflection on the contorted surface. He tossed it up a little, feeling the weight again - it’s surprisingly heavy - before speaking again in the same slurred and obviously intoxicated manner, “Look at this thing, it’s so.. shiny. And you already got my name engraved on it. Wow, i never win anything before. Well, unless you count free hot dog raffle back during junior high,”

 

There’s several laughs from the audience, and instantly, the blonde head snapped back up, staring to the nearest camera, “Hey, Pops, i won!  I hope you’re watching,” he laughed, before looking back down on the trophy once more. It’s rather small in his hand, slim but a tough little thing. Kind of like Ace’s waist. It’s such a nice waist, even nicer in Izou’s suit. 

 

“I’m a lucky man tonight, don’t know what i did to deserve this,” the blonde mumbled against the microphone in front of him, “Thank you for giving me this, thank you for my manager, the ever wonderful Nico Robin, to Sengoku Buddha, terrific director who gave me a chance to work in such an amazing project, to my co-stars, to the people working behind the scenes, to Pops and my brothers, who’s been blowing up my phone the whole day, i told you repeatedly i don’t know what i’ll do without my family,”  he turned around, finding Shanks grinning at him, “Shanks, for the… the drink, mostly. What the hell did you make me drink? I can’t think straight right now,”

 

There’s even more laughter than before, with Shanks the loudest and the proudest, tossing his head back in hilarity, as if what Marco said was the funniest thing in the world. Seems like he’s not the most drunk person on stage.

 

He looked up, and even through the bright lights, he still found the table he was looking for, to the person he’s been searching for, “But if… even if i hadn’t won tonight, i would still be the luckiest man in this room. The world even,” he chuckled, sighing with a sappy grin, “for having you by my side,”

 

The moment he said that, the screen on the far side of the room, directly opposite of the stage suddenly changed the image from him to Ace, and Marco was glad for it. This far away he couldn’t see anything, and the light certainly doesn’t help, but now he could see Ace in his nice suit, eyes wide and equally clouded as his, looking absolutely, absolutely enchanting, “I’ve been nothing but lucky since i met you. My days were full of new experience, good and bad, they felt easier, calmer, they were wonderful,” 

 

He paused for a little laugh, a sappy sound that he hadn’t expected to come out of him but then he was already at lost for words despite having so much more to say, “I know there’s millions of people watching me, but honestly, Ace, i could only see you right now,”  he laughed again, surrounding, trophy, stage, lights, cameras, all forgotten. His head was getting lighter, and his sight sways, but he couldn’t be saying truer things, “I think it’s always been like that since the day we first met,”

 


 

“—But of course, nothing stole everyone’s attention during Mariejois Award last night more than Marco Newgate’s winning speech, and what a speech it was! The winner of the Best Actor category spent half of his time on stage claiming his love and affection for his boyfriend, and between that and the big kiss they had before, it was probably the most romantic moment ever in the history of—“

 

“Thatch, can you please turn the TV off?”

 

Thatch did, but not before letting a little disappointed noise. As if Marco didn’t know he probably already recorded last night’s live broadcast, and even found videos online that he shared in their family chat group. In fact, Marco knew he already did the latter; he’s in the family group chat after all.

 

A hand made it’s way to his shoulder, and Marco would’ve jumped away if he didn’t remember that Ace was seated right next to him. Ace, who was clad in his shirt and loose pants, because while he was - thankfully, though maybe a bit regrettably - not naked underneath Marco’s covers, he was only in a loose pair of lounging shorts that the blond was sure he wore to bed the night before. Because apparently the pants that he wore last night had been way too tight and uncomfortable to wear to bed and he had to borrow something since he doesn’t wearing anything underne—

 

His eyes are now directly on Ace’s crotch. He should look away before anyone notices.

 

“Okay, one, his eyes are way higher than that and two, i’m still in the room, lovebirds,”

 

Too late.

 

“Go away, Thatch,”

 

But of course, getting rid of his brother is not that easy, because Thatch only huffed indignantly, “Oh, win one fancy award and think you can start bossing me around, do you? Nope, not happening,” True to his words, he took seat on the sofa right next to Marco, and suddenly, the man found his pounding headache worsening by miles when the pompadoured chef extended his hand over to Ace, “Thatch Newgate, so good to finally meet the reason why my brother had been so sappy lately,”

 

“Thatch!”

 

Ace’s reply was a little more subdued, but he still ended up taking up Thatch for the handshake, smiling slightly, “Nice to meet you too. Sorry about this morning, wish i was a bit less…,”

 

“Scandalous?”

 

“That’s it, get out,”

 

“You know, this is my place too,” the auburn haired man quipped, but finally gave up when Marco glared even harder. With both raised hands he stood up, whistling as he did, “Alright, alright, i’ll be out of your way. Gotta make breakfast anyway. You want some, Ace? I know traditionally it’s the person you’re sleeping with that’s supposed to make one, but you can’t trust Marco to even boil water—“

 

“Out!”

 

With one last exaggerated wave, Thatch left. Just to the kitchen right across the living room, that is, but at least he’s out of sight for the moment.

 

Once, the sounds of clanking pots could be heard, Marco leaned back against the sofa, groaning while holding on to his aching head. The hand on his shoulder slithered to his nape and back down again, massaging comfortably as they go, before he felt another supple body leaning against his, “Are you still hung over?” Ace muttered, his other hand placed on top of the older’s thigh and pressing slightly, “Do you want me to get you anything?”

 

Marco shook his head, an action he severely regret when everything started spinning. He opened his eyes slowly to find that Ace was a lot closer than he originally thought, and as their eyes met, the younger smiled, almost shy and gentle, “Um, sorry about this morning. I swear i was planning on crashing on the sofa but you wouldn’t let me go and i didn’t want to wake you up,”

 

“I didn’t let— What even happened last night?”

 

Memories from last night was really a giant blur, but there are a few things that he could remember, some that left him absolutely mortified right now. He remembered drinking glass after glass of whatever drink Shanks gave him and felt sorry for his liver, he remembered laughing and talking with Ace about some thing or another, and he remembered Ace telling him something with such fiery passion, remembered watching those stormy grey orbs focused on him with such intensity that he felt dizzy as if he had taken another shot, and then he remembered…

 

He remembered…

 

Oh fuck, oh, fuck, fuck, fuck, that TV reporter did say something about a kiss so that wasn’t just his imagination. That wasn’t some wild fantasy going rampant in his drunken state, that was real. He kissed Ace. He actually kissed Ace, in front of everyone in that room, including whoever was watching, so that was a lot of people and he kissed Ace in front of all of them—

 

And the worst thing is, he actually remembered it feeling good.

 

“Marco?” at the call for his name, the blonde snapped his head up to find Ace once again so close, his smile now turning into a concerned frown. The hand on his shoulder was suddenly on his cheek, framing his face, and Marco’s breath stuttered, “Are you sure you’re okay?”

 

“Yeah,” he managed to choke out, eyes slowly rolling to the hand on his cheek as the thumb started moving to caress his skin. There’s a movement from the corner of his eyes, and as Marco looked back, he caught the dark haired male in front of him moving - almost crawling, even - closer, that their faces were merely inches apart. He widened his eyes when the hand on his cheek trailed lower to the side of his jaw. Ace smiled, lips puckered slightly and with his eyes lidded, the look he gave was smouldering, “Uh, Ace?”

 

“You know, what you said last night,” the younger trailed off, voices barely above a whisper but very audible with the distance between them. The hand on his jaw still moved again, trailing and dare he say, sensually, “They made me really happy,”

 

The actor blinked, eyes owlish and felt a bit dry by how wide he had them, “I, uh,”

 

“And that kiss was, well, to be honest, i was really caught off guard,” As if to give emphasis to his words, Ace bit his lower lips, dragging his upper teeth slowly across his lower lips. Marco couldn’t stop staring, “But it was really, really…,”

 

He trailed off, possibly looking for a proper word, and Marco took that exact time to finally gain coherence, “I know, i’m so, so sorry about that, i don’t know what came over me. W-well, i do, it’s the alcohol, but i swear, i didn’t mean to, i’m so sorry,”

 

Okay, maybe if he’s honest with himself it was alcohol and the fact that even through drunken haze, Ace just looked incredible. He had never seen a pair of eyes who can project that much emotion on them, even when they’re contorted to something close to anger, such a passionate expression, and somehow, he recalled felling this… this joy. This sense of unexplainable elation enveloping him. There was that moment when Ace’s face turned from that intense frown to surprise, and suddenly it became jubilation and Marco knew it wasn’t just through the rosy lenses from a strong drink that made him think how much he wanted to kiss—

 

No, wait, that doesn’t matter. 

 

He shouldn’t have done it. No one liked to be kissed out of nowhere, especially by someone they’re not even in a relationship with, and why is Ace even still here, he would’ve thought he wanted nothing to do with him anymore, but then perhaps he was waiting for a chance to scold him to say how inappropriate it was - and it was! In front of so many people! - and that’s what he’s going to say—

 

“Wait,” Ace’s voice broke through his seemingly endless train of thought, and when Marco snapped his sight back to reality, the distance between him and the younger had grown, their faces no longer so close to each other, and there was no a confused, if almost hurt, frown on Ace’s brows, “You… you didn’t mean that?”

 

“No, of course not!” He has to fix this somehow, the small voice in Marco’s head screamed persistently, he doesn’t want to lose Ace over something so stupid as getting drunk and doing something stupid, “Of course i didn’t mean to do it, and i’m so sorry,”

 

He knew he shouldn’t expect Ace to forgive him. What he did was beyond foolish, hell, maybe it could even be classified as harassment. It’s one thing if he made an idiot out of himself, because at least, he’ll be the only one facing the repercussion, but he definitely didn’t mean to drag Ace along, and especially not Ace, into his stupidity—

 

Yet when the raven haired male unceremoniously stood up without a word, there was a pang of guilt and dread washing over the insides of his chests still, “Ace—“

 

“I should get going,” the younger abruptly said, his back to Marco and his face concealed, but his voice sounded quivering as if holding back a strong emotion, “I didn’t even tell Sabo or Luffy where i was, they’re going to be worried sick,”

 

After a silent beat, Marco nodded, “Right. I’ll… i’ll drive you back—“

 

“No need, i’ll take a cab or something,” Then Ace was gone, making his way back to Marco’s room, probably to pick up his stuff. Surprised, the blond followed suit, the pang in his chest growing even harder and aching. 

 

He doesn’t quite understand yet - and to be honest, thinking made his head hurts right now - but he fucked up something bad, worse than he thought, didn’t he? 

 

When he reached his bedroom, Ace was rolling his clothes from last night harder than necessary, tossing them to the side before he picked up one of his shoes and looked around. With a loud click of his tongue, he ducked down under the bed, shoving one hand inside to probably reach for the other pair. Every single movement he made was jerky, aggressive even, and it was with apprehension yet the need to make things right that Marco spoke, “You don’t have to, i can take you back home. Really,”

 

“Marco, i,” Ace snapped his head up as he barked his name, his voice matching that brief glimpse of anger that slowly disappeared with a deep intake of breath. It actually made the older jolt, the sight of that very apparent emotion intensifying the guilt that kept festering in his chest and made his stomach churn. With another sharp inhale, Ace glanced back at him, and while the anger has dimmed down, there was something apologetic yet cold in his eyes, “You don’t have to. It’s still pretty early, a cab’s fine by me,”

 

“It’s no problem, i swear,” 

 

Ace didn’t reply, simply letting out a grunt while he tried to reach deeper under the bed.

 

With a suppressed sigh, Marco finally braved himself to approach, lowering himself down on the floor just enough to put his arm inside right next to where Ace’s was. It wasn’t long that he located the smooth, leathery material of the elusive shoe and fished it out, but instead of giving it back immediately, he held it in between them, the sole against his palm and Ace’s sharp and unwelcoming gaze meeting his own pleading eyes, “Please?”

 

The singer kept staring at him, until he finally let out a sigh, “You’re still hungover though,”

 

Finally seeing an opening, Marco quickly shook his head, ignoring the way his brain felt rattled by the motion, “Not with Thatch’s breakfast. Don’t tell him i say this, but he cooks like a god. Best hangover cure in the world, i’ll be up and running in no time,” he smiled, aware of how weak they are by just how desperate he felt to get Ace to finally agree with him. He had the feeling that if he let this go, if he let Ace leave now without him, things would not be the same, and he might lose him, “Besides, he probably already made one for you, you should definitely try it out,”

 

Again, there was another stretch of silence that lasted all too long. Still, in the end, Ace nodded, even if the gesture looked resigned, “I guess i am feeling a little bit hungry,”

 


 

The drive over to Ace’s house was the same as breakfast this morning: Quiet.

 

At least Thatch had been a good enough buffer to fill in the silence, but right now, left just with the two of them, it’s very apparent that the silence between them was no a familiar and comfortable one that would usually stay in the car. There’s a tension between them, a tension that Marco could not stop blaming himself for since the first time the wheels rolled off the parking lot, but he couldn’t for the life of him found something to say.

 

He said sorry, but he found that sorry was rarely ever enough, and this is just another one of those occasion. Saying something like ‘hoping he could take it back’ or another impossible promises doesn’t really mean anything. Above all, he wanted to ask if things between them are alright, if this ruins anything, but that’s just stupid, he knows it’s not.

 

Marco would’ve slammed his head on the steering wheel, but that’s a driving hazard and the last thing he should do now is get Ace involved in another accident.

 

Eventually, they arrived in the younger’s house, but even before Marco could finish driving his car into the driveway, he saw Ace reaching for the door’s latch, “Look, Ace,” he stopped right then and there, stepping on the brakes and making the car lurch, the tired making a squealing sound. Another mistake early this morning, but that one is not as important as this one, “I…,”

 

“You’re sorry and you don’t mean last night at all,” Ace cuts him off snippily, looking away yet the reflection on the car was enough to show Marco that it’s not a friendly one, “Not the kiss, not your speech, it was all an accident,”

 

“No,” Marco could only admit in a small voice, “Well, not entirely,”

 

Ace took in a shaky breath, and for the first time since they entered the car, turned to face him, even if only by a fraction.

 

“I’m sorry i kissed you,” Sorry i let my attraction gone out of control, the blond thought and immediately squashed by shaking his head slightly, “But i meant what i said on stage,”

 

There’s a shift from next to him, and when Marco lifted his head, Ace was facing him. He didn’t look pleased, and the frown was still marring his brow, but at least he didn’t look angry anymore. He hated that look, hated that when it was aimed at him it would be from Ace of all people. Especially when he clearly know he caused that. 

 

Marco took a deep breath, reaching over for his car keys to turn the engine down, but really he was just trying to do anything so he won’t have to see Ace’s eyes as he spoke, “The things that happened after we met was… crazy. The rumours, the interviews, the amount of interest, when our companies got involved, i’d be lying if i said i was enjoying any of it. But when i think that through all of that it allows me to know and be close to you, then i’d do it all over again,”

 

The engine had died, so Marco kept his sight on his lap, “Meeting you was the luckiest day of my life. At first, it was just about being starstruck, but then we keep meeting, no matter the circumstance and it was about finding someone i can ever be comfortable with. Someone who saw my hand shaking and didn’t ridicule me for it, someone who saw how afraid i was and let me hid for a while or let me lean on them,” he lifted his hands, placing them on top of his thighs palms up, as if to prove a point, “I have a lot of idiosyncrasies, a lot of faults, but somehow you put up with all of that,”

 

It’s only been a couple of weeks, and yet, he had never met someone quite like Ace before. He hadn’t expected to, he knows the kind of person he is, and yet here Ace was. If them having to fake dating each other so each other will stick around, then he’s fine with it. He’s fine with pretending his whole life if he has to.

 

Call him selfish - because to be honest, he does feel like one saying all of this - but he doesn’t want to lose that. Not like this.

 

“Please forgive me. I’ll do anything, just please, forgive me,”

 

Perhaps he had said too much, maybe he had said the wrong thing instead, because Ace didn’t say anything. He sat there quietly, staring at Marco with this unreadable expression that he can’t make the heads or tail of it. 

 

Then he opened his mouth, but before he said anything, the younger suddenly turned, and frowned, “Ugh, what is he doing there?”

 

Confused, Marco turned to the direction Ace was staring to find Sabo in front of the door, arms crossed and one feet tapping impatiently on the carpet. There’s a wary look on his face, his eyes boring holes on to Ace, as if urging him to come out of the car. 

 

With a groan, Ace opened the door and stood up just right outside of it, leaning his weight on to the car’s door, “Okay, i know i went over my curfew and didn’t call last night, but can you stop acting like my dad and waiting outside like that? Marco and i are kind of in the middle of something here,”

 

Instead of answering, Ace’s blond haired brother grimaced and the door behind him suddenly opened to reveal a tall, dark haired man clad in what looks like a red bathrobe, “Alright, if your brother can’t, how about your own father?”

 

Marco could hear Ace letting out a choking noise, the same time as his heart skipped a beat before falling into his stomach. And then started pulsing in an impossible speed when the man turned his shadowed gaze to Marco himself, the look of a dangerous, angry predator locking his prey on sight. 

 

Today is just not his day, is it?

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Sent to ʕ ••ʔ [07:40]: I missed you already

Sent to ʕ ••ʔ [07:40]: Why do you have to be out of town now

Sent to ʕ ••ʔ [07:41]: Roger and Rouge came at 4am this morning, apparently after seeing the live broadcast from Mariejois Award 

Sent to ʕ ••ʔ [07:41]: And Ace isn’t home

Sent to ʕ ••ʔ [07:42]: Have you tried stopping an adult man from filing a missing person report at 4am and then trying to stop him from reporting someone for abduction at 5am

Sent to ʕ ••ʔ [07:43]: I need coffee. And emotional support

Sent to ʕ ••ʔ [07:43]: And i need youuuuuu (╥﹏╥)

 

New Text Message from ʕ ••ʔ [07:49]: Oh god

New Text Message from ʕ ••ʔ [07:50]: Please tell me Ace came home

 

Sent to ʕ ••ʔ [07:50]: He did

Sent to ʕ ••ʔ [07:51]: And Marco’s with him

Sent to ʕ ••ʔ [07:51]: No i miss you too? (╥﹏╥)

 

New Text Message from ʕ ••ʔ [07:52]: Oh that poor, poor man

New Text Message from ʕ ••ʔ [07:52]: Yes, yes, i miss you too

New Text Message from ʕ ••ʔ [07:54]: Wish i was there with u….

 

Sent to ʕ ••ʔ [07:54]: ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

 

New Text Message from ʕ ••ʔ [07:55]: …to see Roger freaking out on Ace’s ‘boyfriend’

 

Sent to ʕ ••ʔ [07:56]: Baaaaaaaabeeeee (╥﹏╥)(╥﹏╥)(╥﹏╥)(╥﹏╥)(╥﹏╥)(╥﹏╥)(╥﹏╥)(╥﹏╥)

 

New Text Message from ʕ ••ʔ [07:55]: (òó)

New Text Message from ʕ ••ʔ [07:56]: Ok, ok, i seriously missed u too. 

New Text Message from ʕ ••ʔ [07:56]: Jinbe’s smart and all, but his lectures are seriously boring and there’s still 3 more days of this. 

New Text Message from ʕ ••ʔ [07:56]: I rly wished i was back home with u rn

 

Sent to ʕ ••ʔ [07:56]: ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

 

New Text Message from ʕ ••ʔ [07:58]:…Oh no

 

Sent to ʕ ••ʔ [07:58]: ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

 

New Text Message from ʕ ••ʔ [07:58]: Sabo stop

 

Sent to ʕ ••ʔ [07:58]: ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

 

New Text Message from ʕ ••ʔ [07:59]: Ok, i know you. Now you’re just doing this to annoy me

 

Sent to ʕ ••ʔ [07:59]: ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

 

New Text Message from ʕ ••ʔ [08:00]: I regret everything

 


 

If there was ever a way to see how Ace would look like in a few decades, or if one wondered how Ace would look like if he had been born a female, then they would need to look no further than his own parents.

 

Really, Marco had never seen a child who was the spitting image and also the perfect mixture of their parents. In his mother, Marco could see where Ace had gotten the soft waviness of his hair and the littering of freckles, and when she smiled at him, offering him a cup of aromatic tea and introducing herself as, “Rouge Gol-Portgas, Ace’s mother and a big fan of yours too! So nice to finally meet you in person! Would you like some tea?” Marco could also see where Ace had gotten that sun-bright disposition and heart-stopping smile.  

 

Then in come Roger Gol-Portgas swooping in on that pleasant - if a bit too overenthusiastic - greeting, and here, Marco could see where Ace gets just about everything else. The matching dark hair was obvious, the very expressive face, and when he talks, Marco gets a violent flashback of every time Ace was in the car in the middle of a bad traffic, “Rouge, stop offering strangers those nice tea from Skypiea. And especially not this stranger,” the glare that Roger gave him was cold, and for a brief moment, Marco felt like he was a protagonist in a horror movie, right in the climax when he stared into the eyes of the devil himself.

 

It was rather bone-chilling, to be perfectly honest.

 

Thankfully it was gone, when Roger sighed and turned to his son, sitting right next to Marco with both of his arms crossed and the most petulant expression to ever grace someone’s features, “Ace, i already warned you times after times to be careful about getting into this sort of career. It’s not that i don’t like you making a name for yourself while doing something you love, but fame comes with so many these unscrupulous lifestyle and i don’t want you to be involved in it! I let you off my sight for one moment, and you’re off dating and kissing strangers in public,”

 

“What do you mean ‘unscrupulous lifestyle’?! Don’t start accusing Marco of weird things! And he’s not a stranger!”

 

“You’re right, i’ve seen enough of him all over your bedroom walls,”

 

It felt like he just heard a rather important piece of information, but Marco was too shocked by the indignant screech that left Ace, “Shut it, dad!”

 

The snicker from his side took Marco’s attention away - probably because his mind is just looking for any distraction from the brewing argument next to him - and he caught sight of Luffy taking a slice off the mountain of toast on the plate in front of him, tearing a bit of the edge and tossing it into the open mouth of a green haired male dozing open-mouthed right next to him. He gave a silent, victorious clap when the bit of the bread went in, joining the other bits he must’ve tossed beforehand.

 

“Luffy, Zoro’s going to choke when he wakes up. Stop doing that,” Sabo chastised from the very end of the table, without once looking up from typing vigorously on his phone. Marco couldn’t exactly see what it is he was doing, but when he moved the phone around as he thanked Rouge for the cup of tea, he could see that whatever it is seems to involve text messaging and an entire 3 rows of heart emojis. And by the looks of the chat bubble before it, it seems like he had sent a few before that, and whoever was on the receiving end of that bizarre text has even typed ’Stop this’ right before this new one.

 

Meanwhile, the back and forth argument still continues on, this time even moving on to different subjects, “—Why can’t you just listen to one thing i said? You always take everything lightly! I told you that not everyone out there who may recognize you will have good intentions, and what did you do? Your fired the bodyguards i had Ray hire for you!”

 

“That’s not true, i just told the security company i only need one, and Oars Jr. is still working to guard the complex, isn’t he? I probably helped him to earn more now with how grateful the rest of the neighbourhood are with him,”

 

“They’re meant to keep you safe at any given moment! Sabo told me you still liked going around crowded places in stupid disguises, how many times did i tell you how dangerous it is?! You can get mobbed!”

 

Ace snapped his head to the side, levelling a death glare at his middle brother. Said middle brother either doesn’t care, or was still too absorbed in terrorizing whoever it is on the other side of the phone with multitudes of unsolicited love declaration in pixel form to care.

 

“And you, blondie,” He couldn’t possibly just imagined the resounding crack that came from his neck, but Marco was less worried about any possible damage to his anatomy than the fact that Roger was back to glaring at him. Though he looked about Pops’ age, like Pops, he held a commanding presence and larger stature, showing to all that he’s not the kind of man to be trifled with despite his age. And Marco had known Pops for long enough to know not to underestimate that, “What kind for sick bastard are you? A guy your age got no business sniffing around kids, especially not my kid. What are you, 30? 35?”

 

“34 years, 2 months and 16 days old,” Marco’s eyes flicked to the side, his head cocked as he began to count his own age. He hadn’t even finished with the months when Ace continued, “Not that it’s any of your business because i’m 21 and is old enough to make my own decision, including who i want to date!”

 

This time, Marco frowned, slowly turning to Ace in mild confusion. Is he not going to tell his own parents the truth…?

 

“He’s much too old for you—“

 

“Roger, you were nearly twice my age when we met, don’t be a hypocrite,”

 

“Rouge!”

 

A cup was suddenly offered in front of him, followed by the aromatic scent of an exotic blend, just as Marco felt a dainty hands draped on his left shoulder, “Here you go, be careful, it’s still hot,” Rouge said she appeared on the side of Marco’s periphery, smiling down at him, “And don’t mind Roger too much, he’s always been a worrywart. I, for one, would like to thank you for taking care of my son, i know Ace can be a handful sometimes and i hope he’s on his best behaviours around you,”

 

“Mooom,” Ace whined, in that very characteristic sound a child would always make whenever they thought their parents were embarrassing them in front of the general public. Marco glanced back just in time to see Ace aiming a cute little pout at his mother, who simply giggled, sounding she wasn’t even a tiny bit apologetic.

 

“Ah, no, i’ll.. i’ll say it’s the other way around, actually. Ace has been really good to me,” Marco replied honestly, taking the offered tea and giving it an obligatory sip. He’s not much of a tea drinker, and he could guess this would be one of those types of hoity-toity beverages someone like Izou would enjoy a lot more than he does. Still, this was given to him by Ace’s mother, and the way she kept standing right next to him told Marco she’s probably waiting for a feedback of sorts, “This is really good, thank you, Mrs. Gol-Portgas,”

 

True enough, a larger smile blooms on Rouge’s face, “Oh, such a polite man,” she giggled, “Please, just call me Rouge. Or mother-in-law, that works too,”

 

“Mom!”

 

“Rouge, can you please—“

 

“I’m just kidding, you two,” the red haired woman told her husband and son, before giving Marco a wink. 

 

Marco could only laugh nervously in return.

 

Across the table, Roger grumbled under his breath, a sound that quickly put Marco’s attention to him, “Listen here, you—”

 

“Dad, he has a name, can you please use it?”

 

“I’ll call him whatever i want when he’s under my roof,” the grey-streaked, moustached man retorted, and ignoring his son’s protest, continued on, “Listen here, you little punk, right now, i don’t trust or even like you one bit, so don’t expect me to be cordial and shit. You can trick my starry-eyed baby into thinking that you’re such hot shit, but you’re not going to put a wool over these eyes. I don’t know what your game is, but i know you got one. Think i don’t know your type?”

 

By now, there’s barely any other sound in the room - except the muffled snoring from Luffy’s poor mouth stuffing victim - and Marco could feel his stomach churning in anxiousness. On the table, Roger’s hand balled up into a fist, “I’ve seen guys like you. You saw someone young, impressionable, vulnerable, and you got this power from knowing just how strongly they feel for you. You’ll use them, you’ll make them into your little plaything and when you’re tired of ‘em, you’ll toss them aside and let me tell you right now, if you think i will just stand here when i can nip this in the bud, then you have another thing comi—“

 

A resounding bang on the table stopped Roger in the middle of his tirade, “Dad, what the fuck?! Where did this all came from?! You literally just met Marco minutes ago! How dare you fucking talk to him like that!”

 

“Ace, watch your language!”

 

“Roger, that was out of the line! Worried or not, you can’t accuse people like that,”

 

“This isn’t about accusing—“

 

He never did deal well with people shouting and screaming, especially at such a close proximity and over him. Marco could feel it in the way his hands shook and his increased palpitations, the need to flee badgering the back of his head so much that his sight turned hazy. It’s been years, it’s been years so he shouldn’t be like this anymore, and he can’t do this here, not when he’s in a house full of people he barely knew, in front of Ace’s parents and Ace himself…

 

Breathe. That’s right, he needs to remember to breathe.

 

“I,” the word just slipped out of him, much too loud in his own ears. And what’s even worse was that he could hear the voices around him dying down, leaving his own echoing the silence that now felt a lot more daunting than the cacophony from earlier. Marco looked up, eyes darting from side to side to see that he’s got the attention of the whole room. Even Luffy’s friend who was slowly waking up, “I…I’m not… like that,”

 

Inside of his ribcage, his heart was racing for an entirely different reason now, and he didn’t know whether or not this was a good thing. Marco caught the frowned eyes of Roger Gol, distrustful and full of vitriol, and the words seems to flow back, “I won’t.. i won’t do that to Ace. It’s fine that you don’t trust me but, but i swear, i never thought of any of that. Your son meant a lot to me, i would never take him and our relationship for granted. If anything, i’d be scared of doing anything to lose him,”

 

For a second, nobody made a move. Marco’s breath hitched when he felt a hand grasping on to his, the weight and warmth allowing him to anchor himself as he finally get the courage to look away. Ace was staring at him with a frown, his gaze worried and lips downturned. With another deep breath, he tightened his grip on the younger’s hand, and felt a little bit at ease when Ace squeezed back.

 

“Well, Roger,” he could hear the soft feminine voice from behind him say, “Are you happy now?”

 

Marco couldn’t see him, but he heard the older man scoffing, “Hmph. Whatever,”

 

“Whamp de hemph ith— Hack! Lu— Cough! Luffy!”

 

“Oh, Zoro, you’re up!”

 

“Stupid, what did i tell you?! He’s choking!”

 

With all attention immediately shifted away from him, Marco was only barely aware of the tug on his hand before he was pulled up to his feet and dragged away.

 


 

“I am so, so sorry for that,” Ace gave a wary glance to the door he’s standing in front of, right as a shout and a boisterous laughter was heard almost simultaneously. 

 

Marco shook his head, finding small amusement in the exasperated expression across the younger’s face, “It’s alright. I’m sorry for being… being so awkward in front of your dad,”

 

Ace groaned, slapping his hand in front of his face, “And that too, i’m so sorry for the things he said, i don’t know what the hell is wrong with him sometimes,” he sighed, “You really don’t have to feel bad about that, he’s just being an asshole on purpose,”

 

“He’s worried for you. I get as much,”

 

“You don’t have to take his side, like i said, he’s an asshole,” with another sigh, Ace leaned back against the door, arms crossed and lips pressed thin. When he look up again, there’s a small frown on his brows, “More importantly, how are you feeling? You don’t look so good earlier,”

 

Well, his hand has stopped shaking, that’s one. As soon as Ace brought him outside, the outdoor air had certainly helped, but the distance away from the noises was probably what made it easier for him to come down from it, “I’m sorry about that too. I,” he paused, trying to look for the correct word to describe it. In the end, he settled with, “I don’t really do well with confrontations,”

 

The way Ace narrowed his eyes further spoke of curiousity, but he dropped it when Marco kept silent, “You don’t have to be sorry for anything. I mean it, Marco,”

 

“But i still do,” the blond insisted, “Especially about what we talked about this morning,”

 

At the reminder, Ace fell quiet. He didn’t say anything, yet Marco could see it from the faint gestures he gave, when he tightened the arms crossed in front of his chest, and how he quickly averted his gaze. Before he could say anything further, however, the dark haired singer beats him to the punch, “No, i should be the one saying sorry for that. I’m sorry for getting angry and… for even making it such a big deal, you know?”

 

“Ace…,”

 

“You were drunk. Extremely so. You were drunk, i was… less drunk, and it’s a mistake. I guess i thought you,” he trailed off, only to shake his head later, raven locks swinging along with the motion, “Never mind. I should just know better,” About what? Marco wanted to ask, but Ace smiled, even if it doesn’t quite reached his eyes, “You’re really good with words, you know that? Like your speech last night, and what you told me in the car, then what you said to my dad. You got quite the silvertongue, you could accidentally break some hearts if you don’t truly mean it,”

 

Not really expecting that or knowing what to reply with, Marco could only stammer, which made Ace laugh, “I’m kidding,” 

 

“But i,“ as Ace’s laughter faded away, he waited patiently, still with a smile that still doesn’t look as genuine as usual. It caused a pang in Marco’s chest, knowing that somehow, he did that, “I do mean what i say,”

 

The smile disappeared. It came back a moment later, smaller, honest, and pained, “I know you do,” It doesn’t sound like a simple platitude. He really doesn’t know what to make of it.

 

Another crash sounded inside of the house, breaking the sudden silence that settled between them. Ace rolled his eyes with a groan, “I better go back inside to do some damage control,” he moaned irritably, before glancing at Marco, “And i think you should leave before my dad could get his hands on you again. I’m really this close to punching him after everything he said,”

 

“Please don’t punch your father,”

 

The younger gave an exaggerated sigh, “Fine, only cause you asked,”

 

He moved to open the door, but before he could, the words escaped Marco first, “Ace?”

 

“Hmm?”

 

‘This isn’t going to change anything, right?’ He wanted to ask, but the words just won’t come out. He knows, deep down, he knows something has changed between them, that he had caused them to go pass a certain point they can never go back to. ‘Are we okay?’ made him sound like a clueless child, the way he always felt that he is whenever he’s dealing with Ace. And just like a child, he’s a little afraid of hearing the answer.

 

He wanted things to be okay. He wanted things to changes.

 

But this isn’t about what he wanted, not when he caused all of this.

 

“See you later?”

 

Ace grinned, nodding, “Yeah, I’ll see you later. Maybe i’ll call you once things died down here,”

 

His smile still hasn’t reached his eyes, like it’s just a lip service to ease Marco down.

 

But he didn’t have the right to call that out, “Okay,”

 

When Marco finally drove off, if he had looked back for just a second there, he would’ve seen the smile completely disappearing from Ace’s face right before he stepped back into the house.

 


 

 

New Text Message from Shanks (Director) [21:09]: Hey hey hey, quick reminder for everyone that there’s going to be an early rehearsal tomorrow to prepare for the cliffside battle scene so come to the set an hour earlier. See ya all tomorrow

New Text Message from Shanks (Director) [21:16]: Heeeey Marco, heard you got to meet Old Roger today. 

New Text Message from Shanks (Director) [21:17]: Please tell me he kept you intact, i don’t want to recast in the middle of production

 

Sent to Shanks (Director) [21:59]: Nice to hear how much you care for my well being

Sent to Shanks (Director) [21:59]: How’d you know?

 

New Text Message from Shanks (Director) [22:01]: He called me asking about you. Just some random stuff, like what kind of guy you are, how long i’ve known you, your character, behaviour, your background

New Text Message from Shanks (Director) [22:01]: If he needs to call the old ‘pirate crew’

New Text Message from Shanks (Director) [22:03]: Just normal stuff

 

Sent to Shanks (Director) [22:05]: ….I’m sorry?

Sent to Shanks (Director) [22:05]: Pirate crew?

 

New Text Message from Shanks (Director) [22:06]: It’s what he called his drinking buddies

New Text Message from Shanks (Director) [22:09]: Okay, they’re paid mercenaries he sponsored to guard his ships and cargos. And sometimes to ’take care of problems’ for him

 

Sent to Shanks (Director) [22:10]:WHAT

 

New Text Message from Shanks (Director) [22:10]: Yeah, believe it or not, freight ship business is a lot more cutthroat than one may think

New Text Message from Shanks (Director) [22:10]: Relaaaaax, i told him you’re a swell guy! I even vouch for your relationship with lil Ace and how lovey dovey you both are, don’t worry

New Text Message from Shanks (Director) [22:10]: You’re a good guy, he’ll love ya. He doesn’t have anything to worry about but he just doesn’t know it yet. 

New Text Message from Shanks (Director) [22:11]: Give him time, he’ll come around

 

Sent to Shanks (Director) [22:11]: Thanks… i think.

 

New Text Message from Shanks (Director) [22:13]: Np

New Text Message from Shanks (Director) [22:13]: If there’s any cradle-robber that i’d actively support in their cradle-robbing, it’ll be you, buddy

 

Sent to Shanks (Director) [22:15]: …I’m feeling very insulted right now

 

Chapter Text

 

 

NOW PLAYING - SKIES IN YOUR EYES 

 

ARTIST : [SPADE]

ALBUM : [LONGING]

 

981K Others Are Listening. 

 

Song Total Played [This Month] 93M

 

Album Total Played [This Month] 671M

 

 

OTHER SONGS IN THIS ALBUM:

 

1. FIELD OF FIREFLIES

 

2. CAUTION! HOT!

 

3. COMMELINA (DAY FLOWER)

 

4. SKIES IN YOUR EYES NOW PLAYING

 

5. SUNSET FROM MY BALCONY

 

6. BLUE BIRD

 

7. FACES ON MY WALL

 

8. HOPE

 

9. DAYBREAK, HEARTBREAK

 

10. PLAYING WITH FIRE [EXPLICIT]

 

11. PLAYING WITH FIRE [CLEAN VERSION]

 

12. AS THE DUST SETTLED ft. Co-by

 

13. BONUS TRACK (RELEASE DATE: N/A)



 

 

SORT BY [TOP COMMENTS]:

 

[LolaLolaLolaLuves] - 7902 points

 

im so obsessed with this song, but then im obsessed with all of the songs in this album no joke #UnapologeticlyLonging #AlbumOfTheYear #MaDeInParadise

 

[Baby+Sai] - 3092 points

Saaaaaaame 

 

See129 replies

 

[MerryGirl] - 6876 points

 

Copied this from Spade’s subforum because OMG i didn’t notice!

 

‘Did anyone notice just how often the same description came up in half of these songs?

 

Blue Eyes: 

 

“…Dreams of eyes the colour of the dayflower…” from Commelina

 

“…staring to your eyes, drown me ocean deep…’ - Daybreak, Heartbreak

 

Literally everything in Skies in Your Eyes

 

Blonde hair:

 

“…Imagine finding strands of gold on my pillow…” Sunset from My Balcony

 

“…I’ll say you’re like the sun over the pale blue skies…” Blue Bird

 

“…Tug ‘em, pull ‘em, buried my face in ‘em, oh baby, they shimmer like angel’s halo but the way you play me is like the devil’s doing…” Playing With Fire (STILL CAN’T GET OVER THIS SONG OMG SPADE MY PURE BABY BOY WHAT ARE YOU DOING MAKING EXPLICIT SONGS ASGGRJSKDHSHSK I CAN’T LOOK AT YOU THE SAME WAY AGAIN)

 

Blonde hair, blue eyes, romantically involved with Spade? Hmmmmmmm….’

 

Also people’s been digging through his older songs and found the same things and OMG IT’S BEEN IN OUR FACES FOR SO LONG

 

See 481 replies

 

[JEWEL_Bonney] - 4273 points

 

SABAODY RECORDS JUST ANNOUNCED THAT THEY STARTED FILMING FOR THE MUSIC VIDEO TODAY I CAN’T WAIT!!!!!!

 


 

I do mean what i say.

 

He never thought he’d say this, but he’s starting to hate Marco.

 

Well, no, that’s the wrong way to say it. More accurately, he hated the kind of person Marco is. Hated how he could so easily made what has to be the best night in Ace’s life an embarrassing and cold memory, and he hated how easily he made Ace forgive him for that. He hated how good Marco is with words, sober and otherwise, because all of them just compelled Ace to listen and then his very justified anger would dissipate so easily. And he hated that Marco, after all he’s done, can still make Ace’s heart flutter happily by standing up against his father, then completely dash that fluttering feeling away by reminding him how easy it is for the older to act.

 

Okay, so maybe he doesn’t hate Marco. Maybe he hated how he reacted to Marco.

 

I do mean what i say.

 

Funnily enough, he believed it when Marco said that, but that makes it even worse. 

 

Every single words he said, on that stage, in front of his father, hell, even within the privacy of his car, those words that made Ace’s burning, angry heart melts...

 

He meant it all, but he didn’t mean it the way Ace wanted them to mean.

 

“Aah! Don’t frown like that, you’ll ruin your make up!”

 

Blinking, the freckled male looked up from his tablet’s screen to the nervous looking woman next to him, brush hovering over his cheek. Before he can say anything, she began to panic, stammering out, “Sorry, sorry for shouting! But Miss Hancock will be really mad if your make up isn’t perfect for this music video!”

 

For a woman over a head taller than anyone in the studio, Aphelandra was so timid and easily intimidated that Ace instantly felt bad for her, “No, it’s fine, sorry, i was lost in thought there,” he said with a sigh, eyes flickering back to the blinking cursor on his tablet, but most importantly, to his phone right next to it. The screen had turned dark since the last text 3 minutes ago, and it had only been from his mother saying that she and his father will come around again to spend time with him, Sabo and Luffy before they had to leave for another business trip in a week. 

 

He didn’t want to sound like an ungrateful child and he is looking forward to spend time with his parents, but just like the numerous text he received for the past week, he hated every single one of them for not being the one he’s waiting for.

 

Despite promising to, Marco never did text or call him, and now an entire 8 days has passed without a single communication between them. Yet the blame couldn’t lie solely on Marco when Ace himself hadn’t really made the effort to type and send even a single text.

 

But what can he say, really? What can be said between them after such a devastating misunderstanding, after Ace had openly shown his feelings and was completely rejected afterwards? After the most perfect night of his life that ended up being completed and ruined by that damn kiss. That stupid, sloppy, hot and oh, so perfect kiss.

 

Just remembering it made his cheeks turned hot, and distinctly, he could hear Aphelandra humming in confusion while trying to apply highlights on his face. It had caught him off guard, sure, but he… he didn’t dislike it. Hell, once the initial shock had worn off, Ace knew for sure that he had been enjoying himself, still remembered how fast his heart beat and how he immediately sunk into that kiss. He always thought kisses were just sexual in nature, much like the way he would describe them on his more raunchier and romance focused lyrics. And yet the way Marco kissed him had proven him oh so, so wrong.

 

Drunk and sloppy as it was, it’s also passionate yet gentle, intimate and sensual, the contact caught him off guard for one second and swept him off his feet the next. For all that he seems shy and skittish sometimes, Marco’s kiss was domineering, stealing Ace’s breath away in a way no one ever did before. Even remembering it right now, he could feel a stutter in his chest, and he’s not even sure writing an entire album would be enough to correctly describe just how absolutely perfect it was.

 

Just like Marco himself.

 

Marco and his kind words and thoughtfulness for Ace, so endearing with how easily flustered he is at any praise he received yet also so frustrating with his level of self-deprecation. He blend right in with his circle of friends, whether it was here at home with Sabo and Luffy or to his circle of friends at the studio, integrating easily into Ace’s life and even though they had only known each other for the past month, it always felt like he’s been in his life for much longer.

 

And there’s the matter of his vulnerability, the anxiety that Ace slowly suspected was more than just a surface level matter, if everything he’d seen so far or what Izou said was to be believed. He lets Ace come close to comfort him through it, and as odd as it sounded, he felt elated, it had felt amazing to see that he could help. He wanted to know, to understand and help even more, just like he wanted to know so, so much more about Marco.

 

The more he thought about it, the more devastated he is knowing that Marco hadn’t even meant it. That that perfect moment had been nothing but a drunken mistake.

 

Because Ace wished it hadn’t been one.

 

At the risk of sounding selfish, he wanted more. More, more and more, until they could go beyond being close acquaintances and something deeper, even if it might take forever. Ace had never felt like this before, never knew anyone who made him wanted to try this much.

 

But he’s the only one feeling that.

 

Because obviously, Marco doesn’t feel the same way.

 

The screen on his phone flickered on again, accompanied by the cheerful jingle that was his message notification. With a jolt, ignoring Aphelandra’s surprised squeak, he stared wide eyed to the displayed new text message.

 

New Text Message from [Deuce←~(Ψ▼ー▼)∈] [08:13]: How’s the new song going? We need material for your single next month. Chop chop.

 

“Eek! Why did you throw your phone— Oh no! Please don’t frown again, i’m trying to put eyeliners on you!”

 


 

If there is anything good that came out of the events from the past week, is that at the very least, since starting this new document, he finally managed to type something down, rendering the blank page no longer empty, even if it’s only by a single, short line.

 

Yet, instead of being happy by the fact that there’s starting to be little leaks from the clot that is his art block, however, Ace took one look at the words staring back at him from the large screen of his work tablet and had the overwhelming urge to delete it all and text to Deuce to just postpone that single they’re planning to record as a bonus track for this album.

 

It’s not enough for me

 

Though short, those words, like most, if not all of the lyrics in his songs, came from his mind. Like all of them, Ace knew exactly what caused those words to appear, what made them move his fingers and practically begged to be poured over into a piece of paper or types in to a digital device. He could recall pretty much all of the times when those words would first pop into his head, his state of mind at the time of writing them, what caused him to want to write them, what inspired him to come up with those woven together lyrics, and most of the time, they had to do with something personal, because he always believed in writing with his own experience.

 

Now, he wished he could be a bit more detached. Because he knows exactly why he wrote down those lyrics.

 

With a strangled groan, he pushed his tablet away, uncaring that the edge of it knocked rather harshly against his mixing board and pushed back against his swivel chair. 

 

10 days now. It’s been 10 days since the best and worst night of his life, and there’s nothing. His phone laid still on the edge of his work desk, the last text being Law’s reminder for him that he needs to attend a photoshoot and an interview with some prestigious magazine where he needs to promote his album and future solo concert along with a bunch of question list from the magazine. 

 

One of those question had been another one asking about his relationship with Marco.

 

Thankfully, without even confirming with him, Law had already axed that, because in his words ‘they’ve been focusing far too long on this whole charade and they need to get back on track on what’s actually important’. The entire fiasco of his and Marco’s supposed ‘dating news’ did kind of put a lot of things in the back burner for a bit, including promotions, and while Ace know this is just Law being practical, he’d like to believe that his manager is actually nice enough to cut him some slack.

 

Sabo certainly had been, both in a professional capacity and as his brother. He and Luffy hardly mentioned that his mood had turned for the worse these past couple of days, and on their movie night a couple of days ago, no one commented on it when he didn’t immediately jump for the chance to play one of Marco’s movies despite this week being his turn to choose. Ace realized that both of them has got to be curious and worried, but they pushed, and for that he was grateful.

 

After all, what can he actually say? I’m angry that i got rejected by the guy who gave me the hottest kiss of my life? I’m sad that i’m turned down by the one guy i’ve been pining for for more than half of my life? I’m embarrassed because of both? 

 

With another heavy sigh, the singer swiped his phone, pushed his legs to further push the chair back, stood up and walked a feet away to where his bed is to plop down face first.

 

He’s pretty sure he’s been lying long enough to suffocate him, when a knock sounded on his door, followed by a muffled, “Ace? Can i come in?”

 

Rouge’s soft voice made Ace look up. His parents came over for dinner, and after it was done, he had excused himself back to his room for ‘work’. Before he left, Roger and Luffy had been setting up the game console in the living room with Sabo video calling Koala from the sofa behind them, and he was pretty sure that Rouge had been with them. It’s hardly 20 minutes since he left, and anyone rarely bothered him in his room when he worked. Of course, his mother was always an exception to that rule, evident from the firmness of her voice that she’s not taking a no for an answer. 

 

True enough, he didn’t even have the chance to answer when his door was pulled open and in come his mother, a tiny smile on her lips. She looked around the room, taking it all in a stride as those who lived in this house is wont to do, her gaze lingering in several particular spots where Ace had recently added more of his Marco related paraphernalia to, “Oh my, those are new. I’ve missed out so much on this business trip,”

 

When she had introduced herself as ‘Marco’s fan’, she hadn’t exactly been lying but that hadn’t been the entire truth. Years ago, Rouge had been nothing short of addicted to the moderately popular daytime soap ‘Romance Dawn’, which Ace would always see her watching every time he came back home from school and would watch together with her while he does his homework or help her around the house. When her son’s fascination over a certain actor grew, she had given him the promotional posters from a magazine that featured said actor in character, and that very same poster still hung over his bed the way it used in his childhood bedroom.

 

Roger had been exasperated, even ridiculously horrified (“Ace, sweet baby angel of mine, you’re too young to have a crush! Besides, no boys or girls will be good enough for you!”) but Rouge would always listen to every single one of Ace’s chatter and gushing throughout the year over Marco’s new movies and any news about him. Whenever the two of them would meet and started enthusiastically discussing over an actor and a decade old show, he would only roll his eyes fondly, stating that he would never understand them. 

 

Because he was right, he would never understand. Roger wasn’t there during the time when a simple daytime soap was the only thing Rouge could hold on to for a semblance of normalcy in her slowly crumbling life, the only distraction that allowed her to keep the facade of being strong in front of her only son. Likewise, Roger can never understand how Ace could grow such an attachment to someone he had never met before, when he wasn’t there to see how a person, through a simple role on screen would be the one thing that a child could go to for comfort.

 

He never did managed to tell Marco about any of that, never had the guts to bring it up and not even to thank him. 

 

Now, after they stopped talking like this, he wondered if he’ll ever get the chance to anymore.

 

As Rouge sat down on his bed and climbed further to sit by his side, Ace watched from behind the curtain of his hair as she gave the room another cursory look, before stopping on the display on the table on top of his bed. She gave a light chuckle before reaching over for the picture frame that contained Marco’s blurred, awkward selfie, and cooed adoringly, “He’s quite a sweetheart in person, isn’t he? A bit... awkward, but then he was ambushed by your father,”

 

The only reply she received was a noncommittal hum, muffled by the fluffy pillow Ace buried his face with, “And his winning speech! Oh, even i felt giddy just listening to it. Your father was furious, of course, but you know what he’s like,” this was again met by a low hum, neither agreeing or disagreeing. Rouge gave her son one last brush through his hair, and Ace felt the bed shift as she laid down next to him, her hair fanning beneath her as she held the framed photo above her face, “He really sound like he cares a lot for you,”

 

Half-suffocated, Ace took a deep, chemical scented - Luffy mixed up softener with industrial stain remover while doing laundry, as always - inhale, “I don’t know, mom—“

 

“Too bad you two aren’t even dating for real,” 

 

Far too quickly, the younger shot his head up, eyes owlishly wide as he stared down to his mother’s knowing look. He gave a grimace, and turned around to lay back down on his back, groaning,  “I was wondering if Ray told you and dad or not,”

 

“Well, he didn’t tell your dad, that’s for sure. They might be best friends, but your father will still rip him a new one if he knew what Ray did. Called it a betrayal of his trust or something equally stupid, you know how he can be when it comes to you,” she chuckled, “But he did feel bad about lying to your parents, so he told me. Figured i’ll be the one to break it to your father and will know how to handle him,”

 

Ace shifted his gaze to the side, quirking a brow, “That’s a lot of responsibility to dump on you,”

 

Rouge snorted, a sound so unladylike, Ace knew it would surprise people how often his elegant and graceful mother made them on daily basis. If only they knew, “Well, to be fair, Rayleigh already relinquished every burden of handling Roger after i married him. We used to share it when your father and i were still dating. But enough about me,” she turned to him with a curled, curious smile, “Tell me everything. Are you two really together now? What happened that night, oh i was so excited!”

 

With another groan, the younger shook his head, not really in the mood to talk. But of course, he knew better than to defy his mother - mostly because she could be really, really persistent - so he turned back to face her, one freckled face staring to another, “It’s… it’s not like that, mom. He was drunk,” he finally told her, sighing sadly, “He didn’t mean to kiss me,”

 

Instantly, Rouge’s expression shifted into that of pity, one hand holding on to the picture frame pressed on her chest while the other reaching out to brush away a strand of his hair gently, “Oh, baby, i’m so sorry,”

 

“That’s not even the worst thing, the worst thing is i was stupid enough to think it was real. I should’ve known, everything was so surreal, like that kiss, his speech, and when he practically dragged me to his bed—“

 

“Ace! You didn’t!”

 

“No, he literally only dragged me to bed. I stayed over because his brother was already asleep when we got to his apartment and i was afraid he might choke on his own vomit or something, so after i put him to bed, i was going to sleep on the sofa. But he,” with both hands outstretched, Ace demonstrated what Marco had done once he finished depositing the older to the bed, while feeling extremely foolish as he kept running the memory of last night in his mind, “He was so out of it, he kept telling me not to leave so i didn’t. And i also thought, might as well since, well, we’ll work it out in the morning, right?”

 

Like a puppet with its strings cut loose, Ace’s hands fell smacking down his face. It stings, but it didn’t sting as much as every event that happened since he woke up.

 

Rouge’s cool hand reached over to rub down his shoulder and forearm, comforting him, “What happened in the morning? You did look a bit upset,”

 

Reluctantly, he told her. Told her of waking up in Marco’s bed, wrapped around each other and feeling like he’s on the top of the world, only to be flung back to earth at full speed. And it had hurt. It had hurt so badly that his first reaction was to feel full of anger and embarrassment, and he couldn’t even help feeling like he had been played with. On top of it all, he hated how quickly it all melted at Marco’s pleading. 

 

It’s so unfair. 

 

“I wish he could’ve just leave me alone after, you know? No need to be so helpful after dropping the ‘i’m sorry, i don’t like you like that’ bomb, so it’ll be easier for me,”

 

“Does he though?”

 

Slowly, Ace removed his hands, just enough to be able to peek through them, “What?”

 

There’s an odd smile on Rouge’s face, as if she knew something that Ace doesn’t. He’s all too familiar with that smile growing up, a gesture that would appear on her face every time she caught him making an obvious lie, or was hiding a surprise for him. Right now, he couldn’t fathom what it could possibly be for, “‘I don’t like you like that’? Did he really say that, because i don’t buy it,”

 

“Well, he didn’t say it directly,” Because Marco’s too sweet for that - ugh, he hated that he could still swoon over him even like this, “But what else could it mean? He didn’t mean for the kiss to happen, then he pulled away from me, and now we haven’t talked for over a week. I’m pretty sure i know what rejection looks like, mom,”

 

Yet instead of agreeing with him, Rouge gave a chuckle that sounded both condescending and affectionate, “Oh honey,” she said, sitting up, “No man that’s not interested in someone would say the things he said,” she glanced down to the framed picture in her hand and to her son, grinning, “Or looked at someone the way he looked at you,”

 

Ace huffed in disagreement, and yet he could still feel his cheeks heating up. Did Marco look at him in some certain way? He never really noticed, other than that Marco has nice eyes, with light blue orbs that shone even behind his often half-lidded eyelids. Kind of like a pair of gems, or the scale on Deuce’s cute little pet guppy. And the box of his favorite snack bar. Or the box that comes with his favorite vanilla ice cream that he hid in the very back of the freezer behind the meats and piled with bags of frozen peas to ward Luffy off.

 

There’s so many good things associated with that colour, it’s no surprise that Marco’s eyes would be in that colour.

 

Ugh, so, so unfair.

 

He shook his head with a glum sigh, “Ray told you what’s going on, right? You know he’s just act—“

 

“No matter how good an actor someone is,” Rouge reached out and poked her son’s nose playfully, “and we both know he’s a good one,”

 

He really is, isn’t he? So good in fact that Ace could be fooled, but then, maybe he’s just dumb enough to believe.

 

“Well, if he really does, he would’ve called me or text, wouldn’t he?” the younger Gol-Portgas threw a contemptuous glare at his phone, “The last time we talked was when he left after driving me home, promising to ‘call me later’. So much for that,”

 

The bed shifted again when Rouge shifted closer to him, pulling him against her by his shoulder, “Have you tried calling or texting him first?”

 

Ace squirmed a little, just for the sake of resisting his mother’s hold, but when she wouldn’t relent - Rouge may be a thin and petite woman, but she is also a woman who lift and move a heavy three seated sofa for fun, and whose punch has put the fear of god in her husband and son over the years - he only sigh and settled back against her, “…No,”

 

Without even needing to look, with just a small, exasperated sigh from Rouge, Ace knew she was rolling her eyes, “W-well, i don’t know what to say! I slept on his bed, half naked, and i tried to kiss him, sober! Yeah, so i thought that we kinda… have a thing, and that’s why i did all of that, but i’m embarrassed, okay?”

 

“I’m not saying you should open with all of that, i’m just saying that if you’re upset you two hadn’t talked at all, you could try to start the conversation first,” Rouge chuckled, “Look, i know this must be frustrating to you, but the fact is, sometimes when it comes to communication in a relationship, it takes just one side being dumb for far too long to stagnate everything,” her tone may be fond, but there was an underlying disgruntled tone that makes Ace wonder if she’s talking from experience. She turned to him, the corners of her lips quirked upwards, “And if you cared enough, you could take the first step to prevent that,”

 

Rouge loosened her arms around him, which her son took as a cue to reach for his phone. His screen lit up by a single tap, the original, digital version from Marco’s photo held in Rouge’s hand looking up at him. Ace could hear her chuckling in amusement when she saw it, but he ignored it in favour of opening the messaging app and scrolling down to the chat he knew by heart. 

 

He stared at the last message on that chat, a text from Marco telling him that he’s outside of his house, sent exactly 11 days ago on the night of the award show. 

 

Ace kept staring.

 

And promptly dropped his head smack against the screen with a loud groan.

 

A sympathetic rub was given to his hunched back, “You know, i met a man like him once. Well, not quite as… skittish, he’s actually rather boisterous and really laid back, but i notice whenever he’s around me, he’d turn into this awkward mess who stumbled on his words and tried way too hard to look ‘cool’. It’s actually rather adorable to look at the first couple of times, but it becomes rather tiresome afterwards,” She gave a nostalgic, fond smile, turning her gaze over to meet Ace’s narrowed eyes, “I waited for months for him to ask me out, but he never did. Ended up having to take matters to my own hands and ask him out myself,” the red haired woman chuckled.

 

“Mom,” Ace looked back to Rouge’s cheerful face, lips pressed thin and frowning, “After all i just told you, please tell me you’re not telling me to do what i think you’re telling me to do,”

 

Instead of replying to him, his mother only shrugged, but there’s so many subtle body language in that simple, short raise of shoulder, like the feigned innocence and guile on her face and tone and the barely there but obviously intended bump against his side. He knew his mother well, he knew her all too well, “I’m just saying, that personally, i don’t see the appeal of waiting around to be asked out, especially when i know that the person i like likes me back,”

 

“Mom, i just told you, he rejected m—“

 

“Yes, yes, he rejected you. Yet somehow he still asked to drive you home, still agreed to meet your father and sat there despite being able to walk away at any time he wanted, kept up the charade in front of your parents, and,” she sighed dreamily, finger reaching down to twirl the ends of her hair, “And everything he said, oh, the last time i heard something so sweet, i kissed that man who said it right in front of Uncle Garp,”

 

That sounded more like she’s marking whoever that man might be for death, but that’s not important right now, “Mom, i—“

 

“Ace, trust me on this,” his words were silenced by her smile, the kind that she always gave to him in private to assure and calm him down, “I’m not telling you to do what you don’t want to do, but at the same time, i don’t want you to possibly regret anything. Most importantly, i just want you to be happy,”

 

He felt a nudge on his hand and found Rouge’s hand pushing his phone closer to him, “What if he doesn’t reply?” Ace asked after sighing, surprised by how timid his own voice sounded.

 

Rouge’s hand curled around her son’s, squeezing gently as she gave the walls around the room one more glance, “Then i’m so sorry, Ace, but he’s just not worth it,”

 

He knows that she’s right. 

 

And yet that doesn’t stop the plunging feeling in the pit of his stomach.

 

“Well, i brought over some cookie dough for you, Sabo and Luffy and i left them to bake in the oven. Once you’re done, come outside, okay? I made triple chocolate with white chocolate bits, your favorite,” Rouge’s hand passed by his shoulder to put the framed picture in her hand back to his overbed table, the same hand patting his cheek before she stood up, “If anything, you should see your father trying to make sense of this game Luffy dragged him to play, oh that man will try do anything to prove he understood the ‘hip culture’,”

 

He didn’t answer as the bed creaked and Rouge began to walk away, only calling out once he heard the door to his room creaking open, “Yes, Ace?”

 

“That guy you asked out,” Ace muttered, hand still clutching tightly around his phone, “Did he… did he say yes? Did you end up going out with him? And what happened to the guy you kissed in front of Grandpa Garp?”

 

Before Rouge could say anything, from somewhere in the living room, Ace could hear the sound of shouting, voice suspiciously familiar to his Roger’s and a shrieking laughter that could only belong to Luffy, “No! I was so close! One more time, i’m going to win in this game! You’ll see!”

 

“But Uncle Roger, you already lost 10 times—“

 

“I. Will. Win! I almost got the combos pegged down!”

 

“Oh, they’re both the same person, actually,” the red haired woman chuckled, her voice almost drowned by the over enthused shoutings over from the living room, with Sabo’s voice piping up every now and then telling them to be mindful of the neighbours, “And of course he said yes, just like he said yes to my proposal years later. Been married to him ever since!”