Luffy was bouncing off the walls, literally.
Ace's vivre card was moving and wiggling.
He hadn't seen his brother for two years.
The last time they saw each other, Ace and Luffy had both been recovering from his execution.
But now, Ace was close!
"Luffy if I give you some food will you stop bouncing around?" Luffy stood still for all of a second before exploding into movement as he tackled Sanji.
"MEAT!!!!" He cheered exuberantly before taking off to the Crow's nest to keep a sharp eye out.
Sanji looked down with a smirk catching a glimpse of Usopp, Chopper and Zoro smiling for Luffy. They were always filled with joy whenever he had reason to be happy. Ever since that awful awful day they had been separated and Luffy had to suffer on his own, they never wanted him to be sad or alone.
"Looks like we're going to have a party. Yohohoho." Brook chortled as he brought out his violin and began plucking the strings.
Nami looked up at the clear blue skies as the wind tussled her orange hair. Today was a good day, Luffy would get to play and spend the sunny afternoon with Ace.
She smiled when Luffy cried out excitedly and dropped down onto the grassy area.
"There's a ship! It's the giant Ossan's ship! Ace is close!" He giggled excitement in his eyes. The food Sanji handed to him was ignored for all of two minutes as the ship drew closer. Luffy was vibrating with suppressed energy as he was held in place by Robin's hands to prevent him launching himself to the other ship.
Ace looked up from his paperwork when he saw something moving from the corner of his eyes. He peered up and saw Haruta peering into his room with a wide grin. He grabbed his hat and took off to find Marco and Pops.
Ace checked the infirmary first and felt his heart clench in pain as he saw Pops slumbering with numerous pieces of medical equipment attached to him. He reverently entered the room and took a seat on an unoccupied chair and waited for Selma to arrive.
"Ace, did you get hurt?" Asked an exasperated voice. Ace turned around and grinned when Selma snapped on some gloves with a scary smile on her face.
"No, I just... I... Um..." Ace shot Pops a worried look as he chewed his lip nervously. Pops needed his rest, and he rarely had the energy to sit among his children. Marineford had taken a lot from them.
A cool hand on his shoulder made him flinch in surprise as he looked behind him. Izou smiled down at him before taking a seat beside him and began painting his nails. Ace took strength from him and looked back at Selma to see her smile had softened with worry for him.
"Haruta... Luffy... Is Pops up for a visit?" Ace asked timidity in his voice and posture as he worried the brim of his hat between his fingers. A hand came down on his head and ruffled his hair roughly before carding their fingers gently through his hair.
"I think Pops would be up for a visit, yoi." Marco grinned down at him with a warmth in his eyes that never failed to make Ace flush. Everyone was so warm and gentle in a way that only Luffy had ever been and to receive this kind of affection so freely with everyone in the know was taking time to get used to.
Luffy felt a physical ache in his right side, Chopper said it was phantom pain. It came and went when it pleased but to Luffy it reminded him that he had done the impossible and saved his brother. Sure he lost a kidney, but he had two so it was fine if he lost one, right?
He still had Ace!
He hadn't lost his brother, and Ace had kept his promise.
Luffy sat cross legged on his special seat watching the beard pirates come closer with some of the crew waving at them. Though Luffy only had eyes for his brother who had yet to appear on the deck.
"Oi, Luffy. We're set up for the party. Just give the order." Zoro called as Luffy turned his head a full 360 degrees to look at him. The rest of his body whirled around as his climbed to his feet.
"Alright! The second Ace is on board, we party!!"
"Mugiwara, our captain would like a word, yoi." Luffy pouted for a second before looking to Zoro who nodded his head. Luffy hopped into the other ship and followed Pineapple head while also keeping all his senses on high alert until he found Ace.
It didn't take long to sense Ace and the giant Ossan's Whitebeard. Luffy could feel it in the air, the power, it was fading.
It reminded him of the Tiger Lord, when he grew elderly and it must be torture for Ace.
Luffy steeled himself as he pushed open the infirmary doors to see Ace asleep in a chair beside Whitebeard.
"Yo." Luffy greeted as he met clear gold eyes filled with wisdom and laughter.
He liked his eyes.
They were kind.
Ace was finally where he belonged.
Marco watched Strawhat stare at Pop's without a shred of pity only understanding.
He knew that Pop's was dying.
He wonders how Strawhat could tell without even needing to be told. Red Hair had known as well, as did Marco, though that was only due to his devil fruit powers. What was it about those two that made them able to sense it?
Luffy looked at the filled chairs before plopping down right onto the bed beside Whitebeard's right knee. "You're going to hurt Ace." He began without preamble. Whitebeard's eyebrows rose up to his forehead before he let out a laugh.
"Gurararara! Cheeky brat, death is a part of life." Luffy glared darkly at him from beneath his Strawhat.
It was a shocking to witness the change from bright and cheery to dark and serious.
"I won't forgive anyone who hurts Ace, but Ace already knows you're dying." Luffy paused as he peered at his slumbering brother before looking back at Whitebeard with a nonchalant air about him.
"You're a good father for Ace, and you took care of him. Thanks for being there for Ace!" Luffy grinned as he patted Whitebeard's thigh.
Ace jerked awake and blearily tried to recall what he'd been about to say to Pops. He'd remember in a little bit, sometimes it took a few minutes to remember what he wanted to and other times he remembered instantly. He blinked a couple of times and was tackled out of his chair by his brother.
"Luffy!" Ace hugged back just as tightly. He ignored the twinge from his left side in favor of holding his brother close.
He would never throw his life away, never, ever again.
Not if it meant Luffy would become devastated. He could still remember the rampage Luffy had gone on when he thought Ace died.
Ace never wanted to put him in that position ever again.
Luffy giggled something into his chest before falling still as he peered up at him. Ace swung himself into a sitting position so that Luffy fell onto his lap.
"Lu wants you to know his crew is planning a party. We're all invited." Ace looked up when Marco walked over to him and helped him to his feet.
"Why don't you go inform the rest of the crew and see if we can help with the feast." Ace huffed at the unsubtle way that Marco tried to get him to leave the room.
"Yeah, yeah. My brother's a captain in his own right. I know you need to talk." Ace ruffled Luffy's hair and left the infirmary without a seconds glance.
Luffy watched everyone else file out of the room aside from the doctor and Pineapple head. Once the doctor fiddled with everything she too left the room.
"Ace already knows you're dying. He can feel it just like I can feel it." Luffy stuck his finger in his ear and wiggled it back and forth.
"You're keeping it secret from him will make it worse, you shouldn't hurt him before you go." Luffy flicked his finger then wiped it on his shorts. He crossed his arms behind his head and looked at Whitebeard with patience and understanding.
"Selma says he has another six months if he rests and only rests. Ace only stopped screaming himself awake a month ago, we didn't want to make his trauma worse, yoi." Pineapple head sighed as he rubbed his forehead wearily. Then reached forward to rest his hand on Luffy's shoulder.
"You're brother needs your strength, it's why we have held off telling him." Whitebeard's voice was weary and fading like ink on a weathered parchment. His presence was fading when they first met, but now it was like a mirage.
After Ace told everyone about the party his brother's crew was planning everyone began setting up for the party. Ace headed off to his quarter's needing a quiet place to think as he realized that Pops and Marco were probably talking to Luffy about him. He knows Pops is dying, can feel it in a way that he had only felt once before back in the forests of Goa.
When the Tiger Lord grew too old and could no longer hunt or eat.
At first he hadn't been able to feel it, but Luffy taught him to listen in a way that he hadn't before.
The raw energy that he'd encountered as a child was washed away from the bright and vivid picture the majestic creature used to paint.
It frightened him to see the dull nearly faded imprint that remained of the once proud and terrifying beast. Seeing his Pops like that, because of him hurt.
Feeling the life drain out of him like a damn splintering and leaking was more than he could handle, which lead to many a night that ended with him screaming himself hoarse.
That's a reason they probably hadn't told him yet. But how was he supposed to tell them that Pops, strong and all encompassing, was whithering away like a tree. He could feel him splintering inside as his aged voice cracked whenever he spoke. Life was leaking from him like sap.
Luffy was bouncing around always within touching distance of his nakama and brother. Though touching distance didn't exactly matter when one was Luffy.
"You're brother's definitely something else." Izo teased as he watched Luffy trip and fall overboard only to get hauled back up by his first mate. Ace shook his head ruefully as Luffy laughed despite the minute trembling that wracked through his sleight frame. He wasn't scared, he had faith that his crew would pull him up and out of the water.
"He's Luffy." Ace explained and that statement made more sense than anything else. It made Izo wonder about Ace. Despite being so open now that they knew his heritage he was still closed off about the past.
Seems he and his brother were the same in that regard. The Strawhats were telling tales about how they first joined the crew and more than one head turned as they realized that they were all the same.
They'd all been saved by him.
And it didn't surprise Ace one bit. In fact he seemed to expect it.
"Ace! You never told me how you met the giant Ossan!" Luffy tackled his brother quickly climbing onto his back, clinging to him the way only a monkey or koala could ever cling. Ace seemed to pause as he shifted a limb here and there before blushing a little as he rubbed his head sheepishly.
"You don't want to hear that. Don't you want to hear about something else?" Ace asked but it seemed the rest of the Strawhat crew was eagerly listening in. Ace sighed then glared at Luffy.
"You can't laugh!" Luffy looked confused before nodding but Marco could tell that this was going to be something hilarious. He looked behind him to see Pops listening.
"I... Tried... To... Takehisheadsoicouldproveiwasstrong!" Ace rushed out quickly making his words nearly undecipherable. Although it seems his brother understood everything clearly as he began to glared darkly at him. He released his brother and walked away with his arms crossed over his chest. He plopped down beside his marksmen and doctor and continued his silent treatment. Ace looked heartbroken as he made to follow his brother and suddenly the atmosphere became tense.
The Strawhats seemed ready to figure or comfort their Captain in anyway they could even if they didn't know how.
Ace looked like he wanted to take back his words but the stubborn set of his shoulders told everyone he would take the consequences of his actions and no one would stop him.
And it made sense why he felt that way.
Everyone remembered his brother hated nakama killers.
He had declared war on the world government for his nakama and had fought the world for his brother.
"How many times did you try to kill him?" Luffy asked accusation in his eyes as he looked his brother in the eyes and the shame in Ace's eyes grew. He tried to shrug it off but Luffy wouldn't take the non answer.
"Around a hundred times." He whispered and hunched his shoulders towards his ears. Marco didn't like that Luffy was making his older brother suffer like this. Especially after he told them not to long ago that he'd never forgive anyone who hurt Ace.
"Mugiwara, it isn't-" Marco started but was cut off by Ace holding up his hand.
He looked at Pops to keep silent knowing that Luffy had every right to be upset.
"He wasn't part of the crew!" Haruta cried out ignoring Ace's sharp glare but she faltered at the watery glare Luffy shot her. He looked at Ace in betrayal and sniffed.
"I thought I was your favorite. But you like old mustache guy more." His lips quivered as he wrapped his arms around the raccoon and pulled him onto his lap like a giant stuffed animal.
There was silence all around as everyone processed what they heard.
"No! It isn't what you think Lufffy!" Ace shouted in panic as he raised both his hands up as if he could somehow stop time. Or take back his earlier confession.
"You never tried to take my head off! You tried to take Ji-chan's, n' Dadan! You even tried it on Sabo!" Luffy wailed as he gave up all pretences of holding back tears.
"EHHHH?!?!" Nearly everyone blurted out.
Nami had always thought it was strange how Luffy accepted his Nakama's attempts to kill or betray him. He fought to get them back and took their abuse without a flinch. But now, she understands that living with Ace had taught him that it was a sign that he cared.
So this was why Luffy had fought the world government for her. Because she reminds him of Ace.
"I tried to kill you more times than that and in so many ways! That means I love you more!" Ace was pleading for Luffy to understand. Not that Luffy even heard him over his blubbering about Ace not loving him.
"Roronoa give me your sword!" Ace pleaded ignoring the incredulous looks thrown his way.
Zoro also ignored the looks when he simply sighed and began to hand over one of his swords.
Luffy threw an entire plate of ribs at Ace's face.
No one was more shocked by it than Ace and Sanji.
"Stupid Ace! It isn't the same!" Luffy shouted then face planted into the table asleep. Ace was devastated but that didn't mean he wasted the food thrown at him. He just ate it in numb shock.
Marco has no idea what he witnessed. He doesn't want to know what he witnessed. He just wants to make sure Ace is alright, he's had enough guilt thrust upon his shoulders.
"Ace?" Marco coaxed gently but he could see the stubbornness setting in once the shock wore off. Ace was going to accept this guilt. Why was this kid so stubborn about everything?
"Now I know why he was fine with me taking his head if he got in the way of my dream." Zoro spoke as he casually sipped sake. It seemed to break the tense atmosphere as everyone turned to look at him.
"Fufufufufu. That also explain why he saved me in Alabasta." Robin chuckled fondly as she materialized a pair of hands beside her Captain to shift his head and make room for Chopper to escape his grasp.
"It definitely makes sense. Looking back." Hummed Nami thoughtfully tapping her chin.
"Still, I didn't expect Luffy to have a past like that. But that explains so much." Usopp muttered watching Luffy begin sleep eating and casually fended off his wandering limbs.
Luffy tasted something sweet and fluffy. There was a tangy taste alongside a chocolatey one. There was a warmth pressed along his side and a long leg pressed along his right leg. What was he just saying?
Maybe something about food.
Luffy opened his eyes and saw Sanji's Mikan chocolate scones. Luffy licked his fingers and sat up slowly stealing Usopp's plate of chicken salad as he slid the plate of scones over. They were only allowed three each and Usopp really liked this dessert. It was an equal trade.
At least Luffy thought it was, going by Usopp's offended squawk he didn't think so.
Luffy swiftly picked out all the chicken and then shoveled the salad into his mouth as he took in his surroundings.
Everyone was watching him.
Oh! That's right! He was mad at Ace!!
He looked around for Ace and found him asleep with a large mug of some type of alcohol. Luffy casually plucked a marker out of Usopp's pocket and marched over to Ace.
He was a man on a mission and no one would get in his way. He ignored anyone that got in his way or tried to stall him with their words.
Marco watched Ace sleep as he failed in trying to drink away his sorrows. Then he turned to Pops who found the whole thing amusing even though Ace was clearly in pain. His look clearly told Marco to just let it play out but he could see that many of his brothers and sisters were not going to let anyone make Ace feel ashamed or guilty about his actions.
No matter how ridiculous it was.
Even against his own little brother.
So when Strawhat sat up and ate his marksmen's food, which was rude, and then adjusted his hat as he stood up and marched towards his brother with vengeance on his face, he reluctantly stood back. Though others had no such qualms and got in the young Captain's way. The look of exasperation on his crews faces said everything, Marco knew that nothing would get in his way when he made up his mind.
He could definitely see the family resemblance there.
He ran roughshod over anyone in his way, it was like marineford all over again.
As he lifted his hand he brought the other to hover right over it and grinned mischievously. It was completely at odds with the look of vengeance earlier that Marco had to look up at Pops to be sure that he was seeing what be was thinking he saw. Seeing the look of fond remembrance eased something in Marco's heart.
As Strawhat doodled on Ace's face Marco fondly remembered his fallen brother Thatch and his penchant for doodling on his sleeping siblings.
Hearts, flowers, stars and even the letters 'ASL', were doodled all over Ace.
"I thought you were angry at your brother?" Haruta asked as she took a photo for blackmail purposes.
Luffy responded without once looking away from the canvas he was eagerly doodling on.
"Just because I'm mad doesn't mean I'm going to ignore Ace or be mean to him. Ace is Ace. If he tries to kill you then he definitely likes you a lot!" He giggled before looking satisfied as he capped his marker.
"I'm still Ace's favorite before you old man!" Luffy exclaimed with a scowl, though it may have been more of a pout.
But having a dad is different, and if he likes you then that's okay. Ace deserves to be happy."
Ace jerked awake and saw Luffy grinning at him with a marker in his hand and sighed deeply. He looked down at his chest and arms then sighed again. He glared at Luffy as he set his drink down and wrapped his arms around Luffy's neck.
"Did you draw a mustache on my face?" He asked calmly and Luffy giggled a no as he tried to squirm free.
"Ace has flowers and hearts." Well at least he didn't draw anything stupid on him, but man did Luffy suck at drawing.