“You woke me.”
“…You were going to have a nightmare,” Zoro said a beat later. He had pulled his swords to his side and one, Kitetsu, was out of its sheath for the careful and fond attention Zoro reserved for his weapons.
At that answer, Luffy plucked his hat off his head and placed it between themselves and his gaze returned to the sky. He did not mind the wakening; if Zoro said so it must be true. However… The soft brushing of cloth against steel was what filled the night until Luffy admited.
“I was dreaming of Ace.”
The slow movements from his left never paused, and Luffy was glad because he did not know if he could say this in silence. He wondered if that made him a coward.
“He was still alive,” Luffy forced himself to continue instead. “He was just smiling and…”
Strangely enough, Luffy’s nightmares were not of Ace’s last moments, not of the blood and tears and pride. His nightmares were not nightmares at all, they are the moments of Ace as what he thought the world saw Ace to be; sunshine, laughter and fierce love.
“But they killed him,” Luffy cannot understand. “They wanted him dead.”
It wasn’t that Luffy didn’t know pirates were criminals who most considered were better off dead. He always knew that was what a pirate’s life was about; that there may be fame and fun but there would always be more enemies. Luffy could accept that. He could accept the fights and battle because it was just a sort of rule. Pirates against marines. The important part of this however was, that it was just that, pirates against marines. Luffy had friends in the marine, like Coby and Smoker and there even used to be his own grandfather, but Luffy didn’t mind because friends were friends but pirates and marines were pirates and marines. To Luffy, they fought, not out of malice but out of duty towards each other. It wasn’t specific, and it wasn’t personal.
“They wanted him dead.”
But it became personal.
The world had wanted Ace dead, and it wasn’t because they wanted pirates dead in general. They wanted, specifically, Portgas D. Ace, dead. The world singled him out and bated for his blood. And of course, Luffy would gladly take any and all risks to save Ace, yet, when it came down to the end, and he stood to shield Ace from the world’s hate and spite, he couldn’t help but think.
“They wanted Ace dead,” Luffy looked down into his hands and protested softly. “But Zoro…”
He did not say that Ace was the one who dusted his knees when he fell, or the one he ran to when he had nightmares as a child. Luffy did not admit that Ace was one of the men he looked up to, always strive to catch up with. He did not, or at least tried not to, but what was left, the single, unshakable, absolute truth meant the same thing: “He’s my brother.”
Zoro slipped his sword back and straightened up. His reply was quiet and heartfelt.
Luffy, clenched his fists and despite it, could not stop the trembling.
“Zoro,” Luffy twisted around to look at his swordsman and there was raw anguish and pain laid bare. “He was my brother. “
Because the world could turn its back all it wanted to, Luffy would stand by his brother’s side and he did. But this time, their enemies had hated Ace not for what he became or what he did, but for who he was and that, Luffy thought, that hurt. Ace was Ace, his big brother who ruffled his hair and watched his back, Ace was Ace-how could they not see? How could they not love? Instead, the world ripped Ace from his honor and tainted him in sins that were not his and Luffy was left struggling, why?
ead Ace for my soulmate, Chow