Chapter 1: Decisions
Chapter 1: Decisions
He looked around the space that surrounded him. It wasn't pitch black like many believed and it wasn't blindingly white much to the thoughts of others. It was just… empty. There was no other way to describe it. But something in his mind made him believe there was something out there.
His first step felt strange. There was nothing below his feet and yet he wasn't falling. He chose to ignore the strange fact and just walk in the direction his mind told him to go.
"Where am I?" He asked himself, his voice echoing. The sudden sound was almost deafening compared to the silence.
He believed looking through his memories would tell him how he got where he was. He had been arrested, sent to Impel Down, then sent to Marineford for his execution… But he was saved! Right?
Focusing harder on what happened later he finally remembered. He was waiting for his death when his father figure had come, with his brothers and sisters, to save him. A war. A war between pirates and marines, all for his life. The fighting seemed like forever until he saw something falling from the sky. But what was it? No… It wasn't a 'what', it was a 'who'. But then who was it?
"Come on Ace… Think…! Who was it?" The man, Ace, thought aloud.
He chuckled to himself. His little brother would have called him crazy for talking to himself. Wait. That's who it was! The person falling from the sky was his little brother, Luffy! Luffy had arrived almost out of nowhere and was fighting to save him.
After a while, and watching his little brother punch their grandfather, Luffy had made it to him and had saved him. (Did he forget something? Oh well. Probably not important.) Luffy unlocked his handcuffs after the scaffold he was on had collapsed. Him, Luffy, and some other guy Luffy seemed to know (his hair was in the shape of a '3', he acted weird, and was able to make wax come from his body. Of course Luffy knew the guy) started fighting to escape.
Anyways, he and Luffy were fighting some of the marines when his father made the order to retreat. Just as he was doing so he had heard one of the admirals call his family cowards. Easy to say he was pissed off and the fact that the man was bad mouthing his father was making it even worse. That's where everything started to go downhill…
He had started fighting the admiral, Akainu was the mans name. Just the thought of that man's name made him furious. First the man had insulted his father, had started to win in their fight, and then, when he was momentarily down, the man had gone after his little brother who couldn't even move! With or without him even knowing he had gotten up and had jumped in between the mans fist, made entirely out of magma, and his little brother.
"That's right… I sacrificed myself to save Lu…" Ace mumbled to himself again, it wasn't like he had anyone else to talk to.
As he recalled his last few moments of life, he remembered his final words to his little brother, his limp body falling out of his brothers arms, and, in the very last seconds he had, he heard his little brother sob louder than he had ever done.
"Lu didn't even cry that bad when Sabo died... Why…? Why did he cry harder over me of all people…? Sabo was a better brother than I could have ever been… So why me?" Ace questioned. He didn't know why he was still speaking aloud. He knew nobody would answer him.
"He cried harder because you were there for him. You were still his brother and he still loved you, believe it or not." A voice said from in front of Ace.
Ace jumped slightly at the sudden sound that hadn't been his own and slowly looked up, not remembering when he had looked down. When his eyes met the small boy in front of him, Ace was shocked.
Ace looked over the boy carefully to make sure he wasn't mistaken. The boy had been wearing a blue coat with rolled up sleeves but under that he wore a black shirt tucked into his cyan pants which were held up by a belt with an elaborate flower designed buckle along with old, torn up, white cravat around his neck. Atop the boys head was a large black top hat with blue goggles on it, short, curly, blond hair sticking out from underneath the hat. Upon the boys face was his usual toothy grin with its usual gap.
"S-Sabo…?" Ace whispered.
"And by the way, I wasn't the better brother. Neither of us were. But if I had to choose, then you were definitely the better brother. Did you see him fighting? He's gotten so strong! And we thought he was the weak one!" Sabo said before laughing.
"How does that make me the better brother?" Ace asked slowly, still shocked.
"Simple. You were his goal." Sabo stated like it was the most obvious thing in the world.
"No I wasn't. His goal was to become the Pirate King." Ace said, getting annoyed.
"Wrong. That's his dream. Not his goal. Did you see how he stared at you when you fought? He saw how strong you were and always wanted to be as strong, if not stronger, than you!" Sabo shouted to his brother.
"But… I was weak… I couldn't do anything right!" Ace shouted to, what would have been, the floor.
"In his eyes, you were strong. He even thought of himself as lucky, and do you know why?" Sabo paused for an answer only to get a small shake of the head from his brother. "Luffy considered himself lucky because he had you as a brother. To him, you were the most important person in the world, after me of course." Sabo said, adding the last part jokingly hoping to get a reaction from Ace.
Much to Sabo's happiness, Ace had reacted. Ace had chuckled and looked back to his brother.
"Yeah right! I was never behind you! I was always number one! Especially compared to you, num-ber two~" Ace said with a smirk.
"What!? Yeah right! You know what! I take it all back! I was the better brother!" Sabo said before laughing.
"Nope. You already said it. You can't take it back." Ace said before sticking his tongue out at his brother.
As Sabo stopped laughing, he opened his eyes and looked at his brother, causing him to smile. "Listen to yourself Ace. You're starting to act like you did when you were ten! You're even starting to look and sound like it!"
"What?" Ace asked, listening to his voice and noticing it was higher pitch. He really did sound like a ten year old.
"Just look at yourself." Sabo said while pointing to something to the side of Ace.
The man in question looked to the left, where Sabo was pointing, and saw a full body mirror. In the mirror, he saw something he thought he would never see. Sabo was right. Ace even looked like his ten year old self. But why?
"Don't you miss it Ace? Being naïve? Just running around the forest, hunting, laughing, and having the biggest smiles? Don't you miss being ten?" Sabo asked with a small smile.
Ace looked at Sabo questioningly. "Yeah… I kinda wish we could just go back. Back to us being kids. Back to us being the tiny idiots that we were. Hell, I even miss Luffy being a cry baby and freaking out over nothing!" Ace said jokingly.
Suddenly, Sabo's head had lowered just enough for his eyes to be covered by the brim of his beloved hat. "We can go back…" He whispered.
"What?" Ace questioned with shock. "What do you mean?"
"We can go back. Back to Luffy and the world of the living!" Sabo said excitedly.
"Really?" Ace asked happily before he suddenly grew serious. "If it's possible then why didn't you do it before?"
"I had found out it was possible about three years after my death. But it had some side effects and I didn't know if you and Lu were willing to risk it." Sabo said.
"What are the side effects?" Ace asked, a droplet of fear slowly growing inside his chest.
"We go back as how we were before the first tragedy and whoever was the most effected by the event goes back as well." Sabo explained.
Ace looked at the blond with a confused expression. Even after all these years, he still couldn't understand the boy.
Sabo sighed at his brothers expression. "It means we go back to being ten and Luffy goes back to being seven along with most of your strength being taken away. Maybe even memory loss…" Sabo said sadly.
"So… We would be alive… as kids. And we would have no memories of what happened the past ten years…?" Ace asked, completely shocked.
"Basically…" Sabo stated.
"I… I want to go back but… How could we give up something that isn't ours…? I don't mind losing my memories if it means being with both of you again but… What if Lu wants to keep his? We can't take his memories away from him like that…" Ace stated.
"Now you know why I didn't come back…" Sabo stated sadly.
"Wait… You've been watching over us, right?" Ace asked.
"Yeah. But what does that have to do with this?" Sabo asked curiously.
"Maybe we can check up on him and see what he would want!" Ace said excitedly.
"That isn't possible Ace. Do you even know how many times I've tried to talk to you guys?" Sabo said, looking down.
"But this is different!" Ace said, his excitement growing and gaining the blonds attention. "Luffy always showed his emotions with or without meaning to! All we have to do is watch over him and eventually he'll tell us, even if he doesn't know it!"
Sabo gasped before smiling. "You're right! Why hadn't I thought of that?"
Ace chuckled, proud he had outwitted his brother. (Honestly he shouldn't have been proud. He was 20 and Sabo was 10. If anything it made him seem a little dumber.) "So how do we get to him?" Ace asked.
"Easy. Just imagine being right next to him." Sabo said with a smile.
Ace nodded before closing his eyes and doing as he was told. 'Luffy… Please be okay…' Ace thought to himself.
After a few moments, Ace felt like he could open his eyes. When the he did just that, he quickly regretted it.
Ace looked to his right and saw Sabo with wide eyes. Looking carefully, Ace could even see the small beginning of tears.
"Luffy…" Sabo muttered under his breath, completely shocked.
Ace looked back at what was in front of him and felt his eyes getting watery. In front of him was his unconscious little brother. From what Ace could see, Luffy had an oxygen mask on and tubes sticking out from underneath the sheets. He wasn't stupid. Ace knew those were connected to Luffy and were keeping the boy alive.
"Why? Luffy wasn't this badly injured before I died! Hell he seemed perfectly fine if you ignored his exhaustion! So why is he so badly hurt now!? What happened after I passed? I know he was most likely traumatized but trauma doesn't cause this!" Ace shouted, ignoring the warm stream of water that slowly fell from his eyes.
"Ace…" Sabo said shakily "Do you think… Maybe he was so traumatized he couldn't move and was attacked…?"
Ace froze. Did that mean… Was it his fault his little brother was so injured and probably near death? "So it's… my fault…? It's my fault Luffy's like this…?" Ace said with his head down, hair covering his eyes, and voice so quiet that it was barely a whisper but loud enough for Sabo to hear.
"No it isn't Ace! You saved him! It's because of you that Luffy is still alive! If it wasn't for you then he would be here next to me instead of you! Hell, both of you could have been here next to me!" Sabo said as he grabbed Ace's shoulders and shook him, attempting to wake him up from his stupor.
"If I wasn't so stubborn then both of us would be on the Moby Dick with Oyaji! If I wasn't so stubborn then I wouldn't have gone after Blackbeard, been caught, and the war would never have happened!" Ace shouted as he lifted his head revealing his tear stained eyes.
Sabo was shocked. Even after ten years, Ace would never let anyone see him cry. Hell Ace never cried! But here he was. Crying his eyes out because their little brother was injured and he was blaming himself for it. Sabo didn't know what to do. Unconsciously, Sabo had pulled Ace into a hug as an attempt to comfort him.
Ace, acting nothing like his usual self, held his brother tightly and cried into his shoulder. After a few moments, the tears finally stopped but Ace didn't let go and neither did Sabo.
"Sabo…" Ace whispered. "I'm scared… I want to be with Luffy again but… I don't want him to be with us…"
Sabo had to think about it for a few moments before agreeing with him. He wanted to be with Luffy, who was in the world of the living and could be seen, felt, and heard, but didn't want Luffy to be with them, who were in the afterworld, allowed to go to the world of the living, but never to be noticed. They wanted to be alive with him instead of him being dead with them.
For an entire week, the two brothers sat in the same room with their youngest sibling. Every time a doctor came into the room, Ace and Sabo would move out of the way even though they knew the doctor could pass through them. They were scared for their brothers life and couldn't think straight. What scared them the most was what they saw almost every time a doctor came in.
Whenever a doctor came in, they saw the large wound on Luffy's chest and all the light cuts and bruises that seemed to make it worse. It scared them to see it. Just the mere sight reminded them how close to death Luffy was. They tried to avoid the thought by not looking at it but… It was so hard to look away. It was almost like it was forcing them to look.
Today was different though. Yesterday one of the doctors had deemed Luffy healthy enough that he didn't need as frequent of checkups. The proof? The doctor had wrapped Luffy in bandages – making him look like a mummy – and had taken those disgusting tubes away, although he still needed the oxygen mask. For the first time in a week, Ace and Sabo thought they would soon be able to smile with their brother.
As soon as the doctor had left, Ace and Sabo went back to where they were standing before. Ace had stepped closer to Luffy and was looking him over and smiled slightly.
"Wake up soon Lu. We want to see you out of this bed. Seeing you bed ridden just isn't right." Ace whispered before brushing a strand of Luffy's hair out of his face.
Almost as soon as Ace's hand touched Luffy's skin, Luffy's eyes shot open causing Ace to jump back in shock.
"Ace? What's wrong?" Sabo asked curiously.
"L-Luffy…" Ace whispered under his breathe.
Before Sabo had a chance to ask another question, Luffy moved and was slowly sitting up in his bed. Luffy looked around for a moment before taking the oxygen mask off. As soon as Luffy stood up, he clutched his head and nearly fell over.
"Luffy! What's wrong?" Ace and Sabo yelled in unison, worry completely over whelming them.
Luffy slowly let go of his head and stood as straight as he could. It took Ace and Sabo less than a second to figure out something was horribly wrong. Ace and Sabo had seen Luffy's eyes. Those eyes that were usually over filled with joy, now carried every emotion other than joy or anything akin to it. Luffy was lost…
While Ace and Sabo were frozen in shock, and partial fear, Luffy had broken down the door to the room and was leaving. Once the brothers had snapped out of their stupor, Luffy was already gone. The two boys ran out of the room and followed the path of unconscious doctors their little brother was so kind to leave behind.
After a few minutes, they had caught up to Luffy outside the ship. They ran up behind him and saw him on his knees in front of two others; a fishman – Ace knew was Jinbei – and one of the doctors the boys were smart enough to figure out was the captain of the ship they had been on.
"Luffy!" Both boys shouted in a mix of joy and worry.
"We were worried about you, you know! Don't scare us like that again." Ace said as he walked up to Luffy.
"WHERE IS ACE?!" Luffy shouted out towards the forest in front of him.
Ace stood there frozen. After a moment Ace slowly started walking closer to Luffy, shaking with every step. "Oi… Lu… I'm right here… I've been right next to you all week… Sabo's here too…"
"Ace…" Sabo whispered.
"Come on Lu… Turn around… We're right here…" Ace said as he stopped next to Luffy. "I'm right next to you! Just turn your head, idiot!"
Ace reached out to Luffy and put his small hand on Luffy's shoulder. Within seconds, Luffy was gone, running into the forest and destroying most the trees in his path. Shortly after, Ace fell to his knees then put his hands on the floor to keep his face from hitting the ground.
"Ace!" Sabo shouted as he ran up to Ace. "Are you alright-" Sabo stopped in the middle of his question as he saw little drops hit the floor below Ace.
"I'm a horrible brother…" Ace muttered under his breathe.
"No you aren't! He just can't see, hear, or feel you! If you want to trash yourself so bad then call yourself a dumbass! Then you might be closer to telling the truth! Now come on. We have to go find our destruction-happy little brother." Sabo said.
Ace nodded before wiping his eyes and standing up.
"Better?" Sabo asked only to get a punch in the arm. "Ow!"
"Better." Ace said bluntly.
"Why'd you hit me?" Sabo shouted.
"Because you called me a dumbass. Hurry up slow poke! We need to know what Luffy chooses!" Ace shouted as he ran after Luffy.
"Hey!" Sabo shouted before chasing after both his brothers.
After a few minutes of chasing nothing but destruction, Ace and Sabo caught up to Luffy. They ran up to the boy who was standing in the middle of an opening.
"Where am I?" Luffy questioned to no one in particular before looking around "Was it… Just a dream?"
Before Ace or Sabo could attempt to answer their brother's questions, Luffy had started screaming and clutching his head. Ace and Sabo ran up to Luffy trying whatever they could to comfort him. A few moments after Luffy had collapsed onto his knees, he was standing back up and ramming his head into the walls nearby.
"Go away! Go away!" Luffy shouted repeatedly.
Ace and Sabo knew he wasn't talking to them. They knew Luffy wasn't talking about anyone. But instead something. Luffy wanted to lose the memories. That was part one. All they needed Luffy to do now was say he wanted his brothers back and they could do just that.
Almost as if Luffy had heard them, he had said it. "Bring Ace back!" Luffy shouted to the sky at full volume.
"What about Sabo?" Ace whispered as he stepped closer to Luffy. Something inside Ace told him that Luffy could hear them.
"Bring them both back! I want to see Ace and Sabo again! I WANT MY BROTHERS BACK!" Luffy shouted before falling to his knees.
"You did good Lu. We'll see you soon." Ace said as he stood next to Luffy.
"And when we do, it'll be like nothing changed. We'll be together again." Sabo said, standing next to Luffy, opposite of Ace.
"Promise?" Luffy mumbled.
Ace and Sabo looked at each other shocked. Did Luffy actually hear them?
"Of course. And you know I don't break promises." Ace said with a smirk.
"Then why did you die…? You promised you wouldn't, didn't you? Why'd you break that promise?" Luffy asked, a tear falling from his covered eyes.
"I'm here right now, aren't I?" Ace asked. "My body may have died, but I'm still here. But now we don't have to worry about that. Sabo and I are coming back, alright?"
"Really? Both of you?" Luffy asked, still not showing his eyes.
"Yeah. We're a package deal! You can't get one without getting the other!" Sabo said with a smile before laughing.
Luffy smiled a little and let out a shaky breathe that seemed to be a failed attempt at a laugh. "I can't wait… But… I'm really tired…" Luffy said before he collapsed.
"M-me too…" Ace said, collapsing under his own feet and falling next to Luffy.
"You two are so weak…" Sabo said before swaying, "I guess… I am too…" Sabo fell shortly after.