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Flashy Brotherhood

Chapter Text

Buggy looks around for the fifth time in the same number of minutes. He’s not nervous, of course not. He’s a captain pirate with his own crew and a hefty bounty for an East Blue pirate. He eats danger for breakfast! He’s also in the favourite island of one Monkey D Garp and probably the only place in his beautiful, calm, sane East Blue where he cannot relax. He looks over his shoulder again before reminding himself that Garp never goes to this side of the island, he is far away from Foosha Villa and the man’s precious grandson.

That brat is the only reason he is on the beast’s territory. And he curses himself from caving to Shanks pleas. So what if the old bastard didn’t let Shank anywhere near East Blue? He shouldn’t have been sniffing around the marine’s hero’s grandson to begin with. But no, he had to go and get attached. Give him the Captain’s hat. Give him his right arm, all because the brat didn’t know when to shut up and Shanks got too focused when he was protecting his own and forgot to ensure he kept all his limbs in the process. Moron.

So what if the idiot had come to him, still half delirious with fever from his infected shoulder and asked Buggy to check on the child once he was off to the grandline? Buggy didn’t have to say yes. He hadn’t said yes. He never says yes to Shanks, not even when he is begging and offering him a place by his side. So why is Buggy here?

He told his crew it was to get the big name to owe him a favour for doing basically nothing. He is good at lying to them even if Cabaji and Mohji are starting to see through him. But it’s not a lie, he tries to convince himself, not really. Buggy doesn’t doubt that Shanks will make it big and he will most definitely collect what he is owed.

It’s not the truth either.

Regardless, he is already here and Garp is going to be in the West Blue for at least three more months, he double checked. It would be stupid not to see the brat. It would also be stupid to go to Foosha in broad daylight so he will be waiting in this nice, lawless, remote junkyard he has found. There is even some type of makeshift bar that sells what could maybe pass for alcohol. 

The people here are all rejects from society, brutes that only concern themselves with those weaker than them. And they are smart enough to feel that Buggy could take them without breaking a sweat. He smirks, even dressed as unflashily as possible he manages to make an impression. 

He sits on a quiet corner and starts to ponder what to order when a child walks into the bar. He looks young, too young to be here but he moves with purpose and the other patrons don’t even blink at his presence. His eyes are tired and weary and Buggy recognize the weight in them. Shanks had those eyes when they met, even before Buggy taught him how to survive in the gutter.

The kid shouldn’t be here. There are always children in the places they should not be. 

The kid is fidgeting and looks ready to flee but he squares his shoulders and addresses them all. “What would you think if Roger had had a child?”

There’s a second of silence before the bar erupts in laughter.

They all laugh like the idea is ridiculous.

Like Roger hadn’t taken in two street rats and given them a home 

“He would have been shot,” says the barkeeper with tears of laughter in his eyes.

There was a bang and Shanks fell and there was so much blood... 

An enormous woman carrying a mace is the next one to talk. “If it existed it should have been drowned as a baby” 

The sea is dark and Buggy can breathe or scream or move and he keeps sinking, and sinking, and sinking.... 

The man sitting across from Buggy spits on the ground. “It's a good thing that monster died.”

A head hitting the floor, cheers around him, tears in his eyes... 

Buggy’s fist flies and hits the bastard at the same time as the kid does. They look at each other in surprise before having to focus on the brawl they just started. It’s a short one, he may be outnumbered sixteen to one and a half and nowhere near as strong as Shanks but Buggy still grew up in the New World and these men are such small fries that he almost pities them. One throws a knife at the kid and Buggy stops holding himself back. If they are fine with attacking the weak, so is he. 

Not that the kid is weak. He is far stronger than even Shanks was at his age and his movements are practiced. His pain tolerance is also higher than any child’s should be and Buggy does his best to shelter him from the worse of the fight. 

The kid doesn't thanks him for it, when the last of their enemies hits the ground the little shit tries to disappear on him. Tough luck, Buggy’s Observation Haki is bloody fantastic, thank you very much. But the kid is good, he knows how to move through the shadows and he makes no sound even when he starts trekking through the jungle.

So Buggy follows him. Of course he does! The brat is too young to be so angry and definitely too young to be getting into bar fights. The brat was asking about the Captain . He knows he won’t sleep easy until he sees him getting home safe and sound. And anyway, he is already checking in on a brat, so what’s another? Maybe he also lives in Foosha. He may even be Shanks’ brat, seems reckless enough to be. Probably not though, looks too old to be and he is definitely not the literal ball of sunshine that Shanks described.

The kid doesn’t go home or even to the village but he does climb into a treehouse where there are two other brats. One is an obvious runaway noble and the other is wearing a very familiar hat. Well fuck. Shanks will so owe him a drink.

He sighs and looks around before stepping into a branch which cracks loudly. He is quickly surrounded by the three boys, all of them holding pipes threateningly. 

Chapter Text

Ace is fuming. He should have noticed he was being followed. He should have knocked the strange man out when he was busy fighting the others in the bar. He shouldn’t have led him to their hideout, to his brothers . If they get hurt it will be his fault. Luffy’s wounds are just starting to heal and Ace has put him in danger again.

He charges at the stranger who just sighs and catches him. With a hand. Not an arm, just a hand. A floating hand that holds him just too far away to attack. He’d be surprised if he hadn’t seen Luffy stretch his limbs to impossible lengths more times than he can count.

The hand holding him up is gentle and that scares Ace more than a choking hold would. He wants to shout at his brothers to run but Sabo is already jumping to attack and the stranger deals with him just like he did Ace. 

Sabo twitches and turns and even tries to bite the hand that holds him but it’s all for nothing. He can’t break free. He is trapped, just like Ace. Luffy is the only one free and he should run away but the idiot won’t do that no matter what Ace says. He is trying to do that rubber punch thing of his and it doesn’t even hit the stranger. It bounces back and he is being thrown towards the stream and no, that can’t be happening. Ace cannot move and his brother will drown in front of him and it will all be his fault. Sabo will have to watch, helplessly because he tried to help Ace and he will finally realize what Ace is and…

The stranger’s foot leaves his leg and gently nudges Luffy away from the water making him fall in the ground instead.

“A paramecia at eight, what was that idiot thinking?” The stranger sighs and reattaches his foot like it’s nothing. “And a flashy one at that, very versatile. Not that you’re taking much advantage of that. Having trouble controlling your devil fruit, eh?” 

Luffy’s face goes red. “Shut up! My fist is like a pistol! I just need a bit more practice and I’ll punch you in your stupid, big, red nose!” 

Something dark passes through the stranger’s face and Ace just wants to pick Luffy and Sabo up and run. Which is stupid, he never runs. “Looks like Shanks is as much of a moron as always. Not only does he let himself get maimed saving a brat but he choses one that doesn’t seem to care too much about his own life anyway.” 

“You know Shanks, red nose?” Sometimes Ace just wants to punch Luffy and from Sabo’s exasperated sigh, he isn’t the only one.

The man crosses his arms in his chest which is weird because he still doesn’t have his hands. “And why should I answer some bad mannered brat that keeps insulting my very normal and average nose?” 

Ace snickers as loudly as he can. “Your nose is as normal as Magra’s hair.” That at least makes the stranger turn towards him and yes, Luffy is right, he does have a pretty funny nose. He puts as much contempt as he can in his voice before asking, “Are you a clown or something?”

“I happen to be the great captain Buggy and you would do well to show me some respect.” So the guy is a pirate, Ace had assumed as much when he saw him fight. 

“You are a pirate? Is that how you know Shanks?” And just like that, Luffy’s attitude changes completely. The moron always seems to forget that Porchemy was also a pirate. “He gave me his hat, you know, I have to return it when I’m a great pirate!”

Buggy sighs. “Yeah, the idiot told me. He also asked me to check on you since your grandfather is making it difficult for him to visit this sea.” He carefully lowers Ace and Sabo to the ground. The second their feet hit the floor both boys scramble into a fighting stand.  “He didn’t mention your guard dogs though.” 

“We are a new addition,” Sabo smiles with all his teeth. Good, Ace is so not trusting this guy either. 

“They are my brothers,” Luffy says with pride and that enormous, blinding smile of his. Ace feels something warm in his chest and Sabo’s cheeks blush a bit. 

He gets between Buggy and his little brother.

“You’ve seen him already, now leave,” he orders with a glare. “Tell your friend that we will keep him safe. No need for more visits from either of you.”

The man sputters at that. “That red-haired menace is not my friend!” Sabo raises an eyebrow. “And I’m not that comfortable telling him that his little protegeé has found himself a runaway noble with anger issues and a feral gremlin that likes to get into bar fights as older brothers.”

At those words Sabo goes white. “I’m not…”

Buggy snorts and Ace just wants to hit him. “Kid if you don’t want to be recognised, lose the clothes, they are a dead giveaway. And so is your mannerism and the way you walk, and talk and even stand. You fight like a street urchin though so there’s that.”

Sabo is looking at Ace nervously so he just takes a step forward to stand by his side. “I told you to leave my brothers alone!”

Why is this man here? Why can he just leave? He has seen Luffy already. He should just turn around and go. Ace should be strong enough to make him.

“Look, I just want to talk, okay? Just for a bit, maybe with no weapons? I promise I come in peace.”

Luffy and Sabo are looking at him and Ace tightens his grip on the pipe. If this pirate wanted them hurt there wouldn’t be anything Ace could do to stop him. He hates that. He hates that there’s someone here in their base, that they didn’t hear him come until he wanted to be heard. He hates this man. But he didn’t laugh like the others and he is friends with Luffy’s savior. Maybe if they hear him out for a while he will leave and then it will only be Ace and his brothers again. 

Ace nods and Sabo and Luffy climb into the treehouse. If they are doing this, they are doing it on their terms.

Chapter Text

The three brats sit in front of Buggy still holding their pipes, clearly not willing to listen to his no weapons request. But Buggy won’t begrudge them this if it makes them feel safer or at least more in control. Shanks’ one is in the middle with the other two flanking him and looking as menacing as they can manage. It’s obvious he isn’t welcome here. 

Well, that has never stopped him before.

The angry one is sitting slightly closer to Buggy, shielding the other two as best as he can, and the blond one has a grip on Anchor’s arm ready to pull him away the moment Buggy probes untrustworthy. Their little brother is all unguarded smiles and excited anticipation, has been ever since Buggy mentioned Shanks.

“You wanted to talk,” the blond one prompts him. He appears calmer than the other one but his haki is all but screaming that given half the chance he’ll chop Buggy into pieces and feed him to the alligators. He’d probably made a day out of it, taking his younger brother like a normal family would to throw bread to some ducks. 

“I don’t like talking to people whose names I do not know.” Buggy looks at them pointedly and the two older boys share a look. They are smart, smart enough to not want to tell him. Good.

It took them three weeks before they told their names to Roger. By then Blue and Red had already stuck as their nicknames.

“They are Ace and Sabo!” Shanks really does know how to pick them doesn’t he? 

The angry one punches his little brother on the head. “Don’t tell him that, you idiot!”

“But Aceee…” he whines, rubbing the bump that is already forming where he has been hit.

Buggy nods approvingly at Ace. “He’s right. You shouldn’t be so careless. How many runaway nobles named Sabo do you think there are around? If I wanted to make some quick cash all I would need to do is ask around for your friend’s family and sell him out.” The knuckles in Ace’s hand are white and Buggy is afraid that if he holds his pipe any thighter that thing is going to break.

“But you won’t do that.” There isn’t any doubt in the seven year old’s voice. “You are a good guy!”

“Let’s keep them, Rey, they look like good kids.”

“The blue one pickpocketed you.”

“They clearly need the money.”

“The red one tried to stab you!”

“He was defending his friend!”

“I’m most definitely not. I’m a pirate, I take what I want and to hell with who gets hurt.” His warning seems to actually have the opposite effect and Ace and Sabo relax minutely. What the fuck is wrong with these kids? He needs to get control back of this conversation and he needs to do it fast. “And anyway, why are you living in a forest? Weren’t you being looked after in Foosha?”

“Gramps wasn’t happy when I told him I was going to be King of the pirates so he took me to Dadan,” Luffy shrugs. King of the pirates, uh? Is that why Shanks gave him the hat? “She is a mountain bandit but she is not too bad and Ace was there which was great and then I met Sabo and now we are brothers!”

“He is so lonely, Bug, he reminded me of me before I found you.”

“Told you not to tell him too much,” Ace grumbles but his words lack bite. It’s cute how both him and Sabo look so pleased at their younger brother's clear adoration. 

“So you were also being raised by… mountain bandits?” He did hear right, didn’t he? Didn’t Shanks have a run in with some in Foosha? They are not the same ones, are they?

Ace shrugs. “Sure, the old geezer blackmailed them into it.” 

The old geezer must be Garp, right? Why is he tasking criminals with babysitting? Doesn’t the marines have some type of daycare or something? Or civilian relatives? Why is he in charge of two children in the first place? And why is Buggy getting involved in this?

Shanks, the answer is always Shanks.

“So where are those bandits?” The treehouse is way too small to house anything larger than a teenager. Not to mention that as good as an effort as it is, it’s clear that it was built by amateurs. And ones that didn’t reach too far at that. Wait did the kids build this? Not bad for a bunch of untrained brats.  “You said you were living with them, right?”

“Yeah, but Gramps said that he was going to train us really hard since the three of us want to be pirates so we decided to run away and live in the woods.” The other two nod like living in a forest full of wild animals and in a walking distance from the lawless district of the island is the obviously safer option. Buggy’s pretty sure he saw gigant tigers on his way here. 

“When you say training…”

The three of them wince, suddenly a shade paler, and it’s Sabo who breaks the silence with a hushed tone. “I thought I was going to die, the old bastard sure knows how to throw a punch.”

So this is why Dragon started a revolution.

Chapter Text

Luffy talks too much. He’s been sharing basically everything about their lives with this stranger and Sabo and Ace have already given up on making him shut up. At least Buggy’s expressions are really funny, the guy overreacts at every little thing.

“So let me recap. You guys hunt your own food, sleep in this cabin and steal from criminals for fun.” The pirate has loosened his ponytail and is carding his fingers through his blue hair looking distressed. “And you don’t even pickpocket them, you just get into brawls with men twice your size.”

“What does pickpocket mean?” Luffy turns towards Sabo, frowning at the word.

“Is when you take someone’s wallet without them realizing it,” he explains patiently. “I used to do it before I met Ace. But it’s very difficult and you usually get very little money.”

Buggy sighs. “It’s slower than your usual methods I suppose but done right, the targets won’t even realize they’ve been robbed until you’re far away.”

Luffy blinks in confusion. “But then when do you fight?”

“You don’t, that’s the point.”

Ace frowns. “Sounds really boring.”

The pirate throws his hands into the air. Literally. The hands reach the ceiling before reattaching themselves into his arms. “You kids just don’t appreciate the art of a good sleight of hand. The rush of having your hand in someone's literal pocket and retrieving it with a wallet full of cash without them even noticing, the satisfaction when you see them start to pet themselves looking for it when you are already on the other side of the street! The confusion on their faces turning into outrage when they realize what’s happened but can’t find the culprit is amazing. No, it’s all brawls and no brains these days. That’s what’s wrong with the pirate world.”

He looks positively offended, the way Dadan did when Ace called her axe stupid and it’s kind of funny. “You still won’t get much money that way so it’s useless.”

Buggy looks at him with a glint in his eyes that Ace recognises and he knows what he’s about to say before he even opens his mouth. “How about we see how much I can get before you decide that? Maybe then you’ll see exactly how beneath me you lot really are. Yeah, we’ll even make it a bet.”

Sabo perks up, eyes gleaming the same way Buggy’s are and Ace allows himself a smirk. “What are the terms?”

“Luffy said you and Ace have this competition going on about who can get more money on a day. Well I bet I can get more than what the two of you combined managed in your best day.” Ace and Sabo look at each other smirking, the day they stole from the Bluejam’s they easily got over thirteen thousands.

“Sure, but if we win you give us the money you’ve gotten and leave us alone forever.” Ace crosses his arms and stares the pirate down. He knows he will accept it and then he and his brothers will be finally rid of him.

“Fair enough, and if I win I get to teach the three of you how to pickpocket because really, it’s shameful that you don’t know. And I get to drop by as much as I want and for as long as I want without having to fend off pipes.” Sabo pouts but Ace isn’t bothered. There’s no way they are going to lose.

“Fine. You need to get more than fourteen thousand!” He is expecting the clown’s face to fall, he even buffed the number up a bit to ensure it, but Buggy just smirks at him.

“Take me to the poshest street in High Town. I’ll be done in about an hour.”

Getting into the city is easier with an adult in town, especially one that can kind of fly. Luffy laughs when Buggy holds him up the city’s wall and Ace and Sabo reluctantly grab his flying hands to be pulled over as well. 

“So this is where the nobles live, eh?” Buggy looks around disapprovingly. “One would think they could buy some taste with all the money they have. So unflashy.”

“Sorry, there’s been a shortage of neon green balloons later but I’m sure if we ask around we can get some multicolored pennants to tie you over.” Sabo’s voice sounds completely sincere and Ace has to suppress a giggle.  

Buggy mutters something about disrespecting brats but is quickly distracted when they reach the main street. He rubs his hands and winks at them. “I suggest you watch carefully, brats, it’s not every day that you can see a master perform his craft.”

And with that he is off. 

Ace isn’t expecting much. Sure the guy can fight and he’s got a cool devil fruit but he seems full of himself and little else. And how is he expecting to blend into this crowd with his red nose and blue hair? He’s going to get chased away like him, Sabo and Luffy always are. He should be at least. But for some reason he isn’t.

He also doesn’t seem to be doing much of anything. He is moving through the crowd alright but he’s not interacting with anyone and the people in the street are acting like they don’t realize he is even there.

“When is he going to start?” ask Luffy and he just shrugs. “Sabo, you did this before, right? Is he doing it well?”

Sabo tilts his head to the side. “I don’t think he is doing anything? He’s not pretending to trip on people or anything. How is he expecting to get their wallets?”

Ace has a bad feeling about this. “What if he just wanted to get us here? Maybe he made a deal with your parents. We should leave, this is boring anyway.”

“No way!” Luffy’s arms curl around his and Sabo’s waists. “He wouldn’t do that, he is Shanks’ friend!”

Sabo sighs knowing as well as Ace does that there’s no arguing with Luffy when he gets like this. “We did promise we’d wait for an hour, let’s just do that and then leave.”

Ace nods but he is still frowning. At least they know these streets and they are not too far away from the forest. If anyone came for them they’d probably have enough time to make a run for it. Still, he is keeping his eyes wide open and at the slightest hint of trouble he is getting his brothers away from here, the bet be damned.

He feels Sabo bump his shoulder with his own. “You don’t care, do you? About me being a noble?”

His brother is looking ahead and trying to sound as casual as possible but Ace can feel the tension in his body. He snorts. “Why should I care? It’s not like you could help it. And you’ve never cared about who my father was.”

He is the son of a monster, what right does he have to judge anyone else? And Sabo’s good. He’s nothing like the snotty nobles that look at Luffy like he is something they scrapped off their extremely expensive and ugly shoes. 

Sabo still doesn’t look convinced. “Yeah, but your father is dead. Mine is still searching for me and if he finds me he may end up hurting you or Luffy to get me back.”

Ace’s frown deepens, no one is touching his brothers. “If he tries to take you back I’ll be the one hurting him .” And he will, if there’s anything good about being a cursed child is that he’s been taking down grown men since he was around Luffy’s age. “You didn't like it there did you?” 

He mustn’t have. He wouldn’t have run away otherwise. It’s strange because all the children Ace has seen in the streets of High Town look pretty happy with their expensive toys and doting parents but maybe Sabo’s were mean. Or maybe not. Anyway Sabo wants to be living with them in the woods and Ace is too selfish to want him to go back.

“I hated it.” Sabo looks smaller than usual and Ace doesn’t like it. Neither does Luffy who uncurls the arm around Ace to properly hug their brother. “Even though I had parents I was alone and I had to pretend to be someone I wasn’t. I was never good enough for them. I couldn’t do anything except what they told me. I don’t think I ever knew what freedom was until I met you.” He smiles weakly at Ace who promises himself right then and there that he will never allow Sabo to go back to that. His brother isn’t supposed to look so small. It’s wrong.

Luffy apparently agrees. “It’s wrong,” he says in that tone of voice of his that doesn’t allow any argument. “It’s not fun when you aren’t free.”

“No, Lu, it really isn’t.” Sabo’s smile is still sad and Ace still wants to punch something. Or even better, someone. He half-hopes he is right and Buggy is trying to sell them to Sabo’s parents. 

Luffy returns Sabo’s smile with one of his own. “It’s alright now though, Ace is here so we are not alone anymore! And he won’t let your stupid family get you.”

He feels his cheeks heat up and ends up punching Luffy in the head to get that stupid wide grin off his face. “Of course not! And you better pull your weight as well. Sabo is both of our brother after all.”

“Yeah!” 

Sabo looks at them and for a moment Ace is afraid he’s going to start crying. Instead he bears his teeth in what could maybe be called a smile. “I call dibs on my father! You guys can beat up whomever he hires.”

Chapter Text

It’s been too long since Buggy’s done this and he’s missed it. He dances through the crowd carefully liberating the wallets, watches and jewelry of anyone he comes across. He smirks, this is way too easy. Really, it’s unfair to the kids. The amount they stole was impressive considering they were stealing from low tier pirates in a very impoverished zone but Buggy made twice as much by stealing a single watch. Then again he did warn them he was a pirate, so the kids got nobody to blame but themselves if they get played.

Still, he’s decided on some rules for himself in order to make this more interesting. First, he needs to get the fourteen thousand in cash, this way they can forgo the pawnshops and reduce the risk of it being linked to the kids. Second, he’s not allowed to use his devil fruit. It’s never a bad idea to ensure he doesn’t get overdependent on it anyway. The marines have somehow convinced Vegapunk to work for them and the mad hatter has done extensive research on seastone. 

Well, he is using his devil fruit to keep an ear near the kids but that doesn’t count.

It’s probably overkill anyway since he’s already monitoring them with his Observation Haki but it never hurts to be thorough. Especially considering the little gremlins could bolt at any point. Really, what was Garp thinking? These kids are basically feral! They hunt crocodiles for supper! Sure his own childhood was not exactly sheltered either but he at least had some adult supervision. 

At least until that adult lost his head. And he realized the others didn’t care.

He takes the wallet out of the purse of a very distracted woman who doesn’t even seem to register him and decides to also steal his golden bracelet. He deserves to treat himself with the day he’s been having. A man sidesteps him and looks confused as to why he’s done it. He’s wallet is pretty heavy and Buggy flashes him a smile.

Something he learned a long time ago is that normal people rely on their observation haki all the time. They don’t realise it of course, they don’t even know what haki is most of the time. But they do know that some people have a strong presence that makes you pay attention to them. He saw it with Shanks all the time, people would address him when they went to the markets and pay more attention to what he said. Roger and Oden were also the same. Charismatic before they even started speaking. Worthy of everyone’s full attention.

Once he saw that he started noticing that it happened the other way around too. There were people that didn’t register on most radars, they were simply not loud enough, not poor enough, not rich enough, not remarkable enough. They were just normal. They were invisible. Not always and not regardless of what they did, but invisible enough. 

He started experimenting after that. 

Acting casual was the most important part. As long as he acted like he belonged there no one paid him any mind. Once some marines had confiscated some nicknacks from him and Shanks and he had infiltrated a marine base easily just pretending he was a new chores boy that wanted to be anywhere but there. The same oficial that had taken his stuff had even insisted that he cleaned his office before Buggy could begin to plan how to sneak in.

He’d never thought about concealing his haki for these adventures though, after all the people that he was trying to fool usually hadn’t awakened their Observation. But then there had been the hunts and people who did have it had been looking for him all over. And he had had to try to suppress his haki as much as possible and realized that normal people seemed to ignore him more than usual. When he had tried to talk to them with his haki hidden they blinked like suddenly realising he was there and more than one had accused him of sneaking up on them. 

He supposed it made some kind of sense. If projecting one haki could be used to intimidate normal people and animals, it was only logical that keeping it bound closer to yourself could hide you away from the front of their minds.

At the very least it made pickpocketing nobles all the easier.

He looks at the kids who seem to be done with their heart to heart and sighs. He has more than enough wallets already to have safely won the bet which means that he’ll get to teach them and they won’t be able to attack him when he visits. Or at least, they won’t be able to use their pipes to do so. He really should have been more precise in his wording because he has a feeling Sabo particularly will be more than willing to exploit that particular loophole.

And he is going to be visiting, isn’t he? He probably was doomed from the moment Shanks asked. But these three kids desperately need someone around to ensure they reach adulthood and no one else seems up to the task.

Because he knows what is like to go hungry and cold. To rely only on yourself and your underage friends to survive, stealing what you can and getting a beating more often than not. He also knows how much it means to be tended a hand when you need it most.

He starts walking towards them, calling his ear back before they can spot it and figure out he had been listening in on them.

“Did you give up?” Sabo asks. He’d almost look disappointed if it wasn’t for the mocking smile on his lips.

Buggy smirks at him and makes a very flashy movement with his cloak.

Dozens of wallets fall to the ground.

Their eyes widen and for the first time Buggy can see something akin to respect in them. Good, it was long overdue. “Want to count it yourselves?”

Ace purses his lips but nods tersely, starting to quickly pick them up. His brothers follow suit. “Not here though, let’s go back to the forest.”

And this one is smart. Is what Buggy would have thought if he hadn’t met him when he was starting a brawl with several men twice his side. “Okay, but first we need to get some good seats, the show is about to start.”

He picks Luffy up and perches on the ceiling of a nearby building. He doesn’t try to fly the other two. It’s easy enough to climb anyway and he has the feeling he might have ended up being bitten if he did. 

Anchor laughs excitedly, sitting in Buggy’s lap and it’s probably a red flag that he is already allowing himself this. Hell, he kind of likes the brat already even if his naivité is infuriating. 

Ace is the first one to reach them. He is panting and glares at Luffy before tugging him off Buggy. “Don’t let yourself be kidnapped, you moron!”

But Luffy isn’t paying attention to him. “Look Ace, that guy is making a really silly face!” 

And just on cue chaos ensues on the street. People are starting to realize that they are missing items and are starting to freak out. The others are checking their own valuables in response and also finding them gone. 

“Never knew that old hag could shrigh like that.” Sabo sits by Ace’s side looking delighted. He probably knows some of the assholes down there and he is clearly enjoying seeing their distress. “Did you take her one of a kind ruby necklace? She always went on and on about it.”

“Do you mean this one?” Buggy throws the tacky item at him and he scrambles to catch it before it falls. “Yeah, nice craftsmanship even if the design is shitty. Should go for about 3 hundred thousand berries.” 

Ace’s eyes look ready to pop out. “Just for this?”

Buggy shrugs. “But don’t worry, you don’t need to take my word for it, just count the cash I’ve gotten for our little bet. It should be more than enough.”

“How? I didn’t see you even attempt to approach anybody.” Sabo is pouting.

“Shishishishi,” Luffy is laughing. “It’s a mystery.”

“No it’s not,” Ace protests, still looking at the necklace in Sabo’s hands. “It’s a skill and he said he would teach us!”

“Oh, and here I thought it was useless…” Buggy isn’t above some teasing. The little shits hadn’t been holding back after all.

“Yeah, yeah, we were wrong,” Sabo admits so Ace doesn’t have to. “You will teach us, right?”

The three are looking at him expectantly and Buggy has to smile. “Let’s go to your treehouse first. We still have to count the money. But yes, I will teach you. It’s something all street urchins need to know after all.”

Chapter Text

Thirty four thousand eight hundred and twenty five berries.

Ace is a tiny bit impressed. That’s like at least four week’s work. So yeah, if this pirate wants to teach him how to do it, he will learn. That doesn’t mean he trusts him.

He doesn’t like him either. And he especially doesn't like that Luffy is hanging all over him. He even demanded a piggyback ride during their way back! Once they are finally alone, he will have to knock some sense into his little brother.

At least Sabo understands. He is looking at Buggy with the same calculating glance he used on Dadan. Sabo will use the adults around him but he won’t let them chain him down. Ace hadn’t needed to know the reasons why to understand it. And now that he does... Well, no one will ever cage his brother again, he’ll make sure of that. 

Still, this particular adult will be useful. He is a pirate after all! But that means that he may also be dangerous. If he found out about Ace he would… Actually what would he do? He didn’t laugh like the others. Why didn’t he laugh? Why punch the bastards who did?

Ace does not trust him.

Buggy claps his hands together. “Alright, we’ll need a bag of sand and some bells. Do you have any laying around?” 

“Why would we?” Treehouses don't need bells, dammit. Theirs has everything that is actually useful.

“We have some ropes,” offers Luffy pointing at the material that was left over from when they were building it. 

Buggy nods, he doesn’t look disdainful but Ace still feels his hackles rising. The pirate either doesn’t see it, or doesn’t care. “We needed to go buy some outfits for you three anyway, let’s go before the shops close.”

“Eh?!” At least his brothers are as surprised as he is. And if Luffy’s pout is anything to go by, as displeased. “I don’t want new clothes! I already have some.”

Buggy sighs like they are the ones being unreasonable. “If you want to steal from nobles, you know the people that actually have money, you need to dress well enough to blend in with them. It’s just for when you go to the High Town.”

Ace’s frown deepens even more. “I don’t want to look like a noble. They are assholes.”

“Exactly,” Buggy points out, like that makes any sense at all. “They are spoiled little brats who do what they want because they know that their mommies and daddies will pick up the tab and make the lives of anyone who complains miserable. So…”

Sabo’s eyes light up. “So if people think we are nobles they will let us do anything and go wherever we please,” he finishes. “He is right, I’ve seen noble boys outright steal and have the shopkeeper apologize to them for not moving out of the way fast enough. It could work.”

Ace still looks unimpressed. “Do I have to wear ruffles?” 

He does not blush when Buggy chuckles lightly, he doesn’t. 

“No if you don’t want to. As long as the clothes are good quality they’ll be good enough.” He is soothing Ace and he’s horrified to notice that he doesn’t hate it. “That being said, wearing very outrageous clothing can actually be a very good way to ensure no one remembers how you look.”

Luffy laughs. “That’s silly. It’s the other way around.”

“No, it isn’t. If you wear something flashy enough most people will forget to take a good look at you.” Buggy’s explanation makes kind of sense.

“Like your nose?” Has Luffy still not realised that the pirate has a serious complex with it? 

And on cue, Buggy flushes red with anger. “Who has a big, red nose?!”

And because Luffy is the kind of kid that jumps over crocodiles he points at Buggy. “You do! It’s so cool.”

As always, Lu’s effect on people is incredible to watch. The pirate had squared off and had been ready to go on a tirade but at his words he freezes, mouth opening at closing without forming sounds. He looks at Luffy and Ace knows that he is searching for any hint of mockery in his little brother's open, honest face. He almost pities the guy. When he finally talks, his voice is far quieter. “You really think so?”

Luffy nods enthusiastically. “Yeah! No one has a nose like yours! That’s great, isn’t it?”

The pirate fakes a laugh and puffs out his chest. “Of course it is! I’m the great Captain Buggy after all!”

Ace breathes out, relieved that Luffy won’t be sent flying off anymore and thinks about what Buggy had told them just before. The thing is, it does make sense. There are rumors going around the Gray Terminal about the three of them. The monster trio, the brats from hell. The freakishly strong one, the one made of rubber and… the one with the top hat. The people that haven’t seen them fight call Luffy straw hat and him freckles or ‘the angry one’, Sabo is still top hat. Only him is defined by his actual physical appearance. He shares a look with Sabo who seems to have reached the same conclusion. “Lu, if Sabo went around the junkyard dressed like us, do you think people would recognise him? Without the hat?”

Luffy turns to look at him looking very confused. “Why would he? That’s his hat.”

Ace shooks his head, branding Luffy as a lost cause but he catches a glint of approval on Buggy’s face. He scowls at him. “Still, no ruffles. I’ll just dress all red or something. That would work, right?”

Buggy nods before frowning. “A lot of people go with red though. You sure you don’t want something more flashy? Something that’s only your signature colour and not the go to for any unoriginal wannabe trying to look tough?”

Ace can feel his cheeks burn and he crosses his hands in front of his chest. What’s wrong with red? It’s a cool color. And he’s not a wannabe, he’s strong and he will be one of the most feared pirates ever. He will show him. 

Sabo must have realised his shame because he quickly comes to his rescue. “If we keep talking the shops really will have closed by the time we arrive. And it’s not like we can decide what to wear without seeing what they actually have.”

His brothers nod and they start making their way down the treehouse. A hand stops Ace just before he reaches the rope stairs. “I’m sorry,” Buggy says but he isn’t looking at Ace. “Red is a fine colour, I just associate it with someone and his shadow is pretty large so every time a rookie wears it I can help but think… It doesn’t matter. If you like red, you should wear it.”

“I don’t care. It’s just a stupid colour!” Ace shakes Buggy’s hand off and follows his brothers out.

Chapter Text

That was quick, it only took him like what four hours before he screwed up?

He darts a look at Ace whose cheeks are still flushed with shame. Shit, he hadn’t been trying to insult the brat he had just wanted to help. This is all Shanks fault. He’s the one that has ruined the colour red for him after all. If it wasn’t for that bastard he wouldn’t link red with drunkards without common sense.

Red means a lot of things now, it means friendship and bitterness. It means trust and inadequacy. It means laughter and tears. It brings back his best and worst memories. He can’t never decide if he wants to run to or from it. Red is a fucking mess and it’s all Shanks’ fault.

Then again he is almost thankful to Shanks, if it weren’t for him red would mean an ever present laugh and the sound of a head hitting the floor. 

Still, he just hurt the kid. He’d embarrassed him when he had asked for his opinion. How is he supposed to convince them to lower their guards around him if they are afraid he’ll mock them?

“Really Buggy, you sure you wanna be a pirate? With how comfortable you are hiding behind craters maybe a shopkeeper would suit you better.”

He needs to make it up to the kid. Hopefully before Sabo decides to upgrade from sending him nasty looks to acting on whatever thoughts he’s having. Even Luffy is frowning, it’s pretty unsettling. 

“Are we going back to High Town?” Ace asks and he is not looking at Buggy which can’t be a good sign.

Buggy shakes his head. “Town Center would be better. They’ll have clothes of enough quality and far less questions.”

“Alright.” The kid starts guiding them through narrow streets and Buggy just wishes he would scream at him. At this point he’d take a fist to the face. Anything but the sullen silence and the twirling of self loathing haki that surrounds the kid. 

The shop they end up choosing is situated at the border between Center Town and High Town. The clothes there are modest but anyone with a trained eye can see they are expensive too. Sabo nods approvingly before Buggy can. “It will do.”

The noble boy takes over picking some clothes for his brothers since he only needs to replace his own with newer versions. He’s got a good eye, Buggy will give him that. He quickly finds clothes that are easy to move on but that still look classy. He deliberately hands Ace a red jacket looking straight at Buggy.

“That would look nice on you,” he tries, aware of how awkward he sounds. “Very flashy.”

Ace throws the jacket back into Sabo’s arms.

Buggy sighs before forcing a mocking smile on his lips. “Aw, you care that much about my opinion already?”

That gets a raise out of the boy. “I don’t give a fuck about your opinion!”

Buggy splutters. Who’s been teaching this boy how to swear? “So you’re not going to forgo red just because I said it was for weak posers, then?”

“No! I’ll wear red if I want!” He takes the jacket back and snatches the white shirt and black slacks his brother is holding for him. “I’m going to try this on.”

Sabo smiles at his brother before turning towards Buggy. “You’re still not forgiven.”

Yeah, Buggy had guessed as much. He watches as Sabo goes to help Luffy who is picking the most outrageous pieces in the shop. He hopes Sabo can talk him out of the feathers. Though he did kind of look adorable in that golden waistcoat.  

Buggy hears a loud gasp and turns around to find the shop attendy cooing over a blushing Ace. Which yeah, fair enough. The kid is kind of adorable, especially now all decked out and looking both embarrassed and pleased with the attention. He’s clearly uncomfortable in the fancy clothes but Buggy can’t help but think that they suit him, there’s something almost regal about the kid.

“It’s a good fit,” he offers, kneeling in front of him to help fix his jacket. Ace slaps his hand away. “It’d be better if it was a Captain’s coat though, you’d rock that.”

Ace looks at him with suspicion but his curiosity gets the best of him. “A Captain’s coat?”

Buggy nods. “Yeah, all the great ones have one. It’s usually really long and worn as a cape. My old captain had a red one with golden shoulderpads and buttons. It was pretty cool.” He smirked at Ace. “Mine is better of course, I have fur lining in it!”

It’s also orange which was a far flashier color than red. Speaking of which, there’s an orange cowboy hat propped near them adorned with two faces, one smiling and one sad. Buggy reaches for it and places it on the boy’s head. “For when you’re running around the Gray Terminal, you can’t be the only one without a hat after all.”

Ace takes it off immediately and Buggy is sure that he’s about to throw it away but he stops when he gets a good look at it. He bits his lip looking conflicted. 

“Orange goes pretty well with red, hell we could put a red ribbon or something in it too if you want,” Buggy tries to keep his tone of voice as casual as possible. “Or you can choose another hat, Ace. Or even another piece of clothing, just let me buy your forgiveness, yeah? Or Sabo will stab me.”

Ace snickers a bit but his eyes are still locked onto the hat. “What about red beads? Would that work?”

“Yeah!” Buggy’s answer is probably too fast but hey, he isn’t about to repeat the same mistake twice. “Want to ask if they have them here?”

Ace’s eyes gleam with mischief. “No need. I know where to find some.”

Buggy is about to ask more about it when a sudden crash resounds through the shop. 

Luffy and Sabo have managed to knock several racks down and are looking sheepishly at the chaos they have created. Luffy’s still wearing the golden waistcoat alongside a very pink skirt and what looks like a green scarf draped like a belt. Buggy lets out a sigh. He has another fire to put out.

Chapter Text

Ace’s hat is a bit too big for him but the shopkeeper has promised him that he would grow into it. Because of that, it dances a bit when he walks and it sometimes falls over his eyes like an orange curtain. It’s the coolest thing ever.

Ace smirks, readjusting it. Yeah, his hat is so much better than Luffy’s or even Sabo’s. And it isn’t even complete yet! Dadan’s necklace will look pretty nice around it, he’s sure, far better than Luffy’s lame ribbon. Sabo’s goggles are kind of okay though. 

“So cool!” Ace chest puffs out a bit as Luffy praises his hat for the eleventh time. “Now all three of us have a hat!”

“And some of us even have a tasteful one,” Sabo grumbles. He is so jealous of Ace’s new hat that he has called it a monstrosity and crime against good taste. 

The three of them almost crash into Buggy when he suddenly stops. He hands them their bags with the new posh clothes and takes a sack out of inside his cloak. 

“I need to go bargain with this shopkeeper,” he says pointing at a navigation store. “You guys take the opportunity to browse his books.” He winks at them. 

Sabo smirks though Ace doesn’t share his enthusiasm. What’s the point in stealing books of all things? “Okay…”

Buggy shakes his head. “Don’t look so put out Ace, there’s a lot of things you can learn from books. Like how to make that treehouse of yours more sturdy or how to heal your brothers properly after a fight.”

“And navigation,” Sabo adds nodding so vigorously that Ace is surprised his hat stays in place. “All pirates need to know how to sail through the sea after all. And geography so you know where you go and…”

“I said okay already.” Ace frowns. He knows how to read, really. He is just a tiny bit slow. It’s not a big deal, it’s not like he actually needs to read anyway.

“Shishishishi,” Luffy laughs. “Reading is boring, I’ll just get nakamas that can help me with all those things.”

Sabo and Buggy sigh at the same time. “Lu, you have to at least learn some of the basics. We’ll study together, right Ace?”

At that Ace has to nod. He’s got to set an example for Luffy he supposes… “We’ll make sure to get one with cool animals, alright Luffy? So it won’t be boring.” Sabo and Buggy both look at him with approval and Ace glares at them.  “C'mon, I’ll help you choose. Sabo, you take the bag.”

Sabo nods, grateful that Ace has taken over Luffy duty and left the actual thieving to him. “Just let me know which books you want, I’ll grab all the basics I can find.”

Seeing that they are already organised Buggy enters the store and loudly asks for the owner who seems to also be the only employer. His cloak flows around him and Ace and his brothers have no trouble sneaking into the shop unseen.

He takes Luffy towards a section filled with books with big illustrations so he’ll be distracted and tries to keep an ear out for Buggy who’s asking about something called a den den mushi. 

“You’ve come to the right place.” The owner beams, already rubbing his hands in glee. It must be a pretty expensive item then. “We’re the only store outside the High Town that carries them. Of course, they are a pretty costly item.”

Buggy raises an eyebrow. “Which kind? Audio or visual? What range do they have? Are we talking about babies or full fledged adults? Do you carry any black ones?” The questions aren’t thrown around too quickly. Rather Buggy seems to be taking his time forming them and with each one some of the confidence of the owner seems to fade. 

The beaming smile has downgraded to something more cautious but there’s a gleam in the shop owner’s eyes now that Ace recognises as greed. “Someone as knowledgeable as you seem to be would already know that in a place such as my humble shop we can only afford to sell regular audio den den mushi. That being said I can boast of a couple adult ones that will allow you to contact anyone in the East Blue. I could maybe inquire around if you wanted a baby specimen but for the moment that’s the best I can offer.”

So Buggy is looking for a communication device? Why would he want that?

“Then that will have to be enough for me. I want a habitat too. Nothing extravagant, just a sturdy wooden box if you have it.” Ace frowns, he had expected Buggy to want a golden one or maybe even one with a circus tent. 

He gets distracted by Luffy who’s found some fairy tales from the other blues and gestures to Sabo to get it. His brother looks positively gleeful and the sack Buggy had lent them is already starting to get full. At Sabo’s expectant stare he picks up a devil fruit Encyclopedia and a book called Navigation for Dummies. Sabo was right, every pirate worth his salt needs to know at least the basics after all.

The shop owner clears his throat and Ace has to grab Luffy before he walks right into his view. “I don’t want to be rude but den den mushis are one of my costliest items…”He trails off. 

“And you’re afraid I cannot pay?” Buggy’s voice is casual but really cold and Ace has to suppress a shiver. The shop owner raises his hands in surrender. “This should be more than enough.” Buggy throws one of the watches he stole that morning and Sabo curses.

“We need to leave,” he whispers to Ace. “Now!”

But Ace shakes his head. “If we do that, he’ll see us, we need to wait until he’s gone to the back room.” They’ve remained hidden so far thanks to the tall desk between Buggy and the owner and the several library stands crowding this side of the shop but if they try to leave they will be made. He knows what Sabo’s afraid of, the owner clearly looks about to call the marines but Ace has a feeling that everything is still going according to Buggy’s plan. “Just wait a bit.”

Sabo doesn’t look pleased but he nods.

The owner finally seems to get out of whatever trance he was in and raises his eyes from the golden watch to Buggy. “Of course it will, let me just go get your den den…”

He starts walking towards the back when Buggy stops him. “You’re about to make a mistake,” he informs him matter of factly.

The man freezes, turning around with a smile so forced it must hurt. His voice cracks when he asks, “Am I?”

“Yeah,” Buggy finger traces caringly the watch on the desk. “See you’ve just recognised that this is one of the items that was misplaced this morning and thus you feel like it’s your duty to call the marines. That’s all nice and good but if you do that you’ll just have to report that your den den mushi has also gone missing.”

“That would be a pity,” the owner’s voice is raspy but he’s brave enough to still look Buggy in the eyes. “Do I have another option?”

“Of course, you could take the watch and I’ll even throw this very nice bracelet too,” a delicate silver chain with several pendants falls into the desk. “Give me my items and then call the marines and tell them they have been stolen.”

Sabo looks confused by this turn of events and so does the owner. “What do you win from this?” he asks and he is looking at Buggy in a way that’s very familiar to Ace. He is wondering if he could take him in a fight. Buggy straightens a bit and his shoulders seem to get wider.

The man backs off a step and Ace pouts, it would have been fun seeing him trying to attack the pirate. 

“Well, you seem like a smart man,” Buggy tells him, sounding oddly sincere. “Someone that knows that the first thing the marines will do is search this store for evidence. And if they happened to find some of the stolen goods here…” He doesn’t have to finish, the owner has gotten the message loud and clear.

“It will probably take me a couple of hours to hide this,” he says, making to grab the watch and bracelet. Buggy places a hand over them.

“My items please,” he says sweetly and the owner all but runs towards the backstore. 

Buggy makes a gesture with his head telling them to leave and Sabo all but drags him and Luffy out. “Let’s go back to the forest.”

Ace is about to protest when Luffy does it for him. “But Sabo, we need to wait for Buggy.”

“No,” Sabo shakes his head. “If he’s got it under control then he can meet us back in the treehouse, if he doesn’t we need to get ourselves, our new clothes and our books to safety.”

He is right of course and Ace takes the back from him. It’s pretty heavy now that it’s filled with half that shop books and he’s always been the strongest one. “C’mon Lu, let’s go.”

Ace can’t help but glance back at the shop. He has no doubt that Buggy will follow them soon. He should be more annoyed at the thought.

He reajusts his hat and follows Luffy and Sabo out of the city.

Chapter Text

When he steps out of the shop the brats are gone. Of course they are. He sighs, trying to get a better grip on his new acquired den den mushi habitat. Well, they already have all they came here to get anyway. Still, it would have been nice if they had waited.

A ship in the distance, only Shanks by his side. Two boys too young for the world they had been thrusted into and no one to call for help. Not since He had been beheaded. 

He lets his feet run on the ground and flies over the city. The brats are not too far away but he’s decided that if they couldn’t be bothered to wait for him, they can make their own way over the city walls. It’s not like they aren’t used to it anyway. 

He does watch over them though, it would be a pity if they died right after Buggy had spent such a large amount of money on them after all. They move well together, always ensuring Luffy is in the middle and well protected. Ace opens the way with Sabo covering their backs. They don’t look at one another but Buggy is sure that each is always in the other’s peripheral sight.

There was always red on his for over a decade. Sometimes he still searches for it and the comfort it used to provide. He wonders if a Yonko has any use for any blue besides the sea and sky.

Once the kids are out of the city Buggy leaves and eye with them and gets ahead. Like hell he isn’t arriving first.

He ponders about waiting inside their treehouse for a bit but then catches sight of the pirate flag flying above it. The kids may be playing pretend but he’s not about to break one of the first rules of the code on a technicality so he makes himself comfortable sitting against the tree with the wooden box at his side.

It doesn’t take long for the kids to arrive.

“Red-nose!” Luffy screams in delight all but jumping over him. Ace frowns but doesn’t object. Instead he and Sabo ignore him and start climbing into the treehouse to find a place for their new possessions. 

Luffy makes himself comfortable in his lap and his bright smile tampers a bit Buggy’s anger at the way he has been referred to. Nonetheless, he decides to correct him before the nickname sticks. “Just call me Blue if Buggy is too hard. That’s what people used to call me when I was apprenticing.”

“Appentee? What’s that? Can you eat it?” Luffy’s brow furrows in confusion. 

Buggy chuckles, trying to convince himself that he doesn’t find it adorable. “That’s what’s called when a kid travels with a crew to learn how to be a pirate.” 

Luffy’s eyes go wide at that. “You can do that? Shanks said no kids on his pirate ship! He’s so stingy!”

“That idiot just cares about you a lot, being a kid in a pirate ship is hard and dangerous.” He can’t believe he’s defending Shanks but he doesn’t want Luffy to criticise him for the one actually responsible choice the man has made in his life. And Shanks is a lot of things but he’s never been stingy. If anything the moron’s always been too quick and eager to give.

“But you did it!” Luffy still doesn’t seem very convinced.

“Yeah and so did Shanks, together actually, which is why we know that sometimes it really sucked.” Sometimes it didn’t but Luffy didn’t need to know that. “Believe me, even Red was afraid over half the time. And for all he’s a powerhouse now, he had several close calls too.”

“Red? Was that Shanks? Is that why you were Blue?” Fuck, how had that nickname slipped out? He hadn’t used it in decades!

It doesn’t sound right alone, it was always Red and Blue.

Ace and Sabo are silently descending from the cabin, probably trying to spy on them or play some kind of prank so Buggy decides that the best defense is a good attack. He’s also pretty keen on derailing the conversation. “Anyway, if Shanks had taken you into his ship you wouldn’t have met Ace and Sabo.”

Luffy’s eyes are wide with horror now and the two presence that were approaching them have suddenly stopped. “I guess I can wait to become a pirate, then,” he decides after a second. “Having brothers is far better than being with Shanks and the others anyway.”

Either Ace is blushing hard enough for the heat in his cheeks to reach Buggy or the warmth that he and Sabo are feeling is so intense it’s slipping into their haki’s. Anyhow, the two give up their sneaky approach. 

“We need to go get dinner before it gets dark,” Sabo says. He is trying to sound casual but his lips are curled into a genuine smile for once.

“We are not getting you food,” Ace tells him point blank, trying to sound intimidating while still looking like a very pleased tomato. 

Buggy nods. “I brought my own anyway.” He had prepared enough to last him till tomorrow not wanting to let too many islanders see him. “Should I get the fire started while you hunt?”

“You could also go away,” Sabo offers sweetly. “But if you must, do it in that clearing over there, we don’t want any fire too close to our base.”

“Luffy, stay with him,” Ace orders which seems to surprise everyone, including the boy himself. “You’re lousy at hunting anyway and we need to keep an eye on him.”

Ace is still frowning at him but Buggy knows that the only reason he is allowing Luffy to stay with him, let alone requesting it, is because he’s decided that Buggy won’t hurt him. He can’t help but smile a bit at that. 

Sabo seems hesitant and Buggy knows that he will be staying close enough to keep an ear out. Which is fair enough because one of his eyes will be following the two kids too.

Luffy looks torn. “But…”

“Why don’t you teach me what you can do with your devil fruit?” Buggy proposes since he also doesn’t want a seven year old to go try to capture an alligator or whatever wild beast these three find tasty. “I can help you improve and think of new ways to use it.” They have to work on that aim at the very least. 

“You can do that?” Has no one tried to help the kid with it before? Once he goes back to the Big Top he’ll be having words with Shanks. It’s his fault the kid ate it after all, the least he could have done is ensure he knew the basics!

Buggy separates his arm in five different places, letting the parts fly around Luffy. “Of course, I learned how to control mine after all. And I wasn’t much older than you when I got it.”

“Great!” Luffy turns towards his brothers who are still hovering by. “I’ll get so good at it that tomorrow I’ll beat you both.”

The older boys snort. “You haven’t ever won a single combat.”

What does Ace mean? What combats?

“Yeah,” laughs Sabo. “Not even the time Ace fell asleep in the middle of your fight.”

Luffy pouts. “That’s because you only let me have one hundred fights every day. If you let me keep fighting I would beat you.” Buggy’s jaw drops a bit but Luffy doesn’t seem to notice when he turns towards him. “I call this one Gomu Gomu no Pistol”

Ace and Sabo hurry out of the clearing and Buggy wonders just what he’s gotten himself into for the eleventh time in one day.

Chapter Text

Sabo is upset with him. He isn’t saying anything yet but the way he’s clubbing the crocodiles to death is far more vicious than usually. It’s not like Ace doesn’t understand, he doesn’t like leaving Luffy with Buggy either but if he hadn’t, the pirate would have come with them and Ace just wanted a bit of space.

“If he wanted to hurt us he would’ve already done it, he had us both caught five minutes after meeting us and let us go,” he says, tired of the silent treatment. “Whatever he wants from us, Luffy will be safe until we come back and this way we don’t have to worry about him getting eaten while we hunt.”

Sabo all but growls. “So we should just give him free rein over our easily influenced little brother?”

“He’s not easily influenced. He’s naive and trusting but Luffy will do what Luffy wants to do regardless of what anyone else says,” Ace protests. Sabo makes a grunt of acknowledgement but he’s still glaring at Ace. “Just trust Luffy, yeah? Porchemy wasn’t able to break him in hours, Buggy won’t do it in minutes.”

“Buggy is far smarter than Porchemy and he’s not after our money.” And that’s the crux of their problem isn’t it? They don’t know what Buggy is after but it sure as hell isn’t money. He’s even spent some of his own on them!

“Do you think…” Ace trails off suddenly struck by a terrible idea. “In the Gray terminal, there were some pirates that were nice to me at the beginning but they… they wanted…” he trails off not knowing exactly how to put it. “Their gifts weren’t for free and I ended up breaking their family jewels.”   

Sabo shudders and Ace knows he’s understood what he’s talking about. “There were some nobles like that. Very nice to children. My parents told me not to go near them. Not that I would have, the way they looked at me was kind of wrong. I don’t get that from Buggy, do you?”

Ace thinks about it for a minute before shaking his head. “No, whatever it is he wants it’s not that, I think. When we were at the store he wasn’t looking at us, not like that. And he doesn’t look too happy when Luffy climbs into his lap.” If he had, Ace would have found a way to beat him to dead, his superior strength be damned.

“So what does he want?” Sabo lets out a frustrated scream. “He’s a pirate, maybe he wants to use us to go after the old geezer? Or he needs someone to do his dirty work for him and is trying to reclute us?”

“Maybe he knows who I am,” Ace whispers but that doesn’t make sense if he did he’d already be dead. 

“Or maybe he just wanted to check on Luffy?” Sabo looks almost offended that he has to acknowledge that possibility. “Shanks did save his life so maybe that’s all there is. A pirate making a favor for his old friend.”

Neither really believe it. People aren’t nice, not really. Dadan kind of is but that’s because the old geezer is blackmailing her. The old geezer himself is the opposite of nice. Makino actually is but she’s mainly nice to them because of Luffy, after all she’s known him since he was a baby and no one is immune to his charm. Which would also explain why Shanks saved him but not why Buggy is still here.

“Let’s just go back as soon as we can,” Ace decides, they already have two cocodriles so they only need to find another.

Suddenly there’s a movement in the corner of Ace’s eye and he raises his pipe ready to defend himself but he can’t see anything when he turns towards it. He gestures to Sabo who nods, straightening up and nonchalantly trying to flank whatever it was.

It’s useless though, whatever had been there, and Ace is sure something had, is long gone when he and Sabo converge in the middle. Sabo just sighs, suddenly looking very tired. “Wanna share a crocodile?”

Ace ponders it, it’s far less than what they usually eat but he’s not that hungry and he really wants to go back to Luffy. “Sure.”

They hear Luffy far before they see him. He’s laughing in that stupid way of him and demanding ‘farther’ for some reason. Then they find a hand grabbing a tree and an unnaturally long arm guiding them to the clearing.

Luffy is in the middle of it or at least his body is, his neck, arms and legs are stretched so long that his head, hands and feet are completely out of sight. 

“What are they doing?” Sabo asks, poking at their little brother's stomach.

He realises his mistake when there’s a yelp and suddenly Luffy’s extremities are coming back at vertiginous speed. His head crashes into Sabo who’s sent flying into a tree.

“I win!” Luffy says excitedly when he sees Sabo is down.

“Yeah, a prize for stupidity,” he grumbles outraged. “What were you doing?”

Ace tenses when Buggy joins them into the clearing. “We were testing his limits. Looks like he’s got a pretty good range, once he knows how to aim a bit better it will be extremely useful.”

“I thought you were getting the fire started, not experimenting on my brother,” Ace says, crossing his arms.

Buggy just rolls his eyes and takes a flint out of his pocket. “Kids these days,” he says mostly to himself. “No patience at all.”

“That’s maybe because all adults are useless,” Sabo suggests but his point is weakened by the fact that Buggy’s already got a fire going. 

“Why are there only two crocodiles?” Luffy whines. “I want a whole one!”

Ace bumps him in the head. “Don’t be so selfish.”

“Don’t worry Lu, Ace and I will share,” Sabo promises, half glaring at Ace. 

They start prepping the meat to roast while Buggy looks at them with surprised interest. “You’re pretty good at that.”

Of course they are, they’ve been doing this for ages! Ace ignores the pointless comment.

Luffy does not. “Gramps taught us! He’s a meanie but sometimes he’s fun.”

“Can’t imagine Garp The Fist as fun to be honest,” Buggy shivers, which would be funny except that they never told him that was the old man’s name. “Even Shanks is a bit afraid of him, even if he’d never admit it, that’s why he hasn’t come back to visit you yet.”

Is that why he knows the old geezer? Or is he just downplaying it. And anyway… “I thought you said you’d made a deal with Shanks not to meet until you were a great pirate.”

“Yeah, he said to give him back my hat then,” Luffy confirms.

At this Buggy rolls his eyes. “That moron is just really bad at expressing himself, Luffy. He meant that he would accept the hat back once you became a great pirate not that he wouldn’t meet you till then. He’s dying to see you again, always going on and on about his anchor. He’s so annoying!” He ruffles Luffy’s hair and seems surprised by his own action. “But he hasn’t been able to come back because your grandfather raised hell about him ‘corrupting you’”

“So Shanks wants to see me? Really?” Why does Luffy sound so excited by that? Does he want to go sail with him after all? “I want to introduce him to Ace and Sabo. He needs to meet them!”

“Why would he need to meet us?” Ace grumbles still bothered by Luffy’s enthusiasm about some random pirate.

“To show him that I have two big brothers now! I was alone before but know he doesn’t need to worry because you’ll take care of me!” 

Ace stabs the crocodile meat with more force than is required. Luffy’s an idiot! And the only reason his cheeks are warm is because he’s really close to the fire.

Chapter Text

Buggy had never been more grateful for his decades of practise with putting up a front. Without them he wouldn’t have been able to hide from the kids the rage that has been cursing through his veins for a while now. But really, when the ear he’d sent with Ace and Sabo had heard that he’d almost let go of Luffy’s head and allowed it to snap back to his shoulders.

How dare they? How dare anyone see a child and attempt to harm them in such a way? If Ace hadn’t been as strong as he was… If Sabo’s parents had decided that making those connections was advantageous to them… 

Buggy just wants to break some necks.

How far had Ace’s assailants gotten to? He hadn’t said, only alluded to some grooming. Seas! No wonder these kids are so distrusting! They have already encountered some of the world's worst evils.

Him and Shanks had been lucky in that regard. Or at least luckier. Some bastard had tried it with Shanks once but it had been after the Captain had taken them in.

Captain had cut off his dick. And then his hands. And gouged out his eyes. He’d then ordered Crocus to ensure the monster didn’t die, that he was forced to live in suffering for a long while.

Buggy had spent a week holding Shanks close every night and trying to sooth him when the nightmares came. He’d also had to convince him not to scar his own face. Shanks hadn’t wanted to keep being pretty after that. Buggy had had to threaten to mirror whatever injuries he made onto his own face to stop him.

At least Luffy seems unaware of that particular horror but what the hell is Garp doing allowing his grandson (or protegee?) to interact with criminals at such a young age? How has he not foreseen something like this happening?

Yeah, Buggy will definitely be keeping an eye on these three from now on. He can relocate his crew into orange town and make periodic visits. He can even bring Richie along sometimes, the kids will love him!

He’s also ensuring they are as well trained as possible. He’ll even teach them haki if he can! Though he’ll probably be a shitty teacher. No way he’s leaving them defenseless for a second longer than necessary.

He’s so glad he’s already thought of the den den mushi.

He’ll have to be more careful though. Ace and Sabo almost caught his eye earlier and he can’t imagine they’d be too thrilled at being spied on. Maybe he can tell them next time that he is sending some body parts to supervise? They will argue against it but he won’t be breaking their trust that way.

The kids are almost done cooking their crocodiles which gives Buggy an idea. “Luffy, do you want to train your devil fruit now? We can use the meat to perfect your aim.”

For the first time since he mentioned Shanks, Luffy looks at him with distrust. “My meat?”

“Yeah, don’t worry, you’ll still get to eat it. You’ll just have to catch it first,” Buggy promises, holding up his hands. 

Sabo sends him an almost worried look. “Be sure to avoid the teeth.”

“Yeah,” Ace nods with the gravity of experience. “Lu can get overexcited when there’s meat involved.”

“Shishishishi,” Luffy laughs happily. “Okay, let’s train.”

So Buggy takes all of Luffy’s meat and grabs a bite with his left hand which he then sends to the other side of the clearing. “Try grabbing it without moving from your place.” In his eagerness, Luffy overshots, missing the meat and falling backwards when his hand comes back. He pouts. “Try again,” Buggy encourages. “Maybe slower this time, it’s not too far away you shouldn’t need to stretch too much and this is your arm, you can choose how much it reaches even without the velocity. And the meat isn’t going anywhere.”

To Sabo and Ace’s apparent surprise Luffy actually follows his advice concentrating on stretching his arm bit by bit till he can reach his prize. When his hand returns holding the meat he smiles blindingly before wolfing it down.

“Well done!” Sabo praises him, ruffling his hair.

“Not bad,” Ace nods.

“Yeah, you’re a very quick learner Luffy. You’ll have mastered your fruit in no time,” Buggy promises. The kid is a natural! It’s always easier for children to get used to their devil fruits but still, the kid shows great potential. “Want to keep training with the rest of the meat? Same distance and no movement. We want you to get used to choosing the length of your stretching.”

“Alright!”

So for the rest of the meal Luffy starts reaching for his meal faster and faster till it’s all Buggy can do to position the next bite before Luffy is finished eating the last one. Sabo is looking at the exercise with interest and Buggy is sure that he’s already planning other ways they can train their little brother.

The two crocodiles are gone faster than the sandwich Buggy brought and he’s pretty sure it’s not due to him being distracted by Luffy. The kids are Garp’s grandsons alright!

“So,” Sabo turns towards him with curious eyes. “How did you end up as a pirate apprentice?”

There’s an intent behind his question, the kid doesn’t really care about Buggy’s past, he cares about why he’s here now and he’s trying to get more information about him. Tough luck kid, Buggy himself doesn’t truly understand why he let the red bastard con him into coming here.

“Story time!” Luffy demands and even Ace is looking at him expectantly.

Buggy doesn’t want to tell this story. Doesn’t really care to remember it. But he wants the kids to trust him and the best way to get that is to show them trust in return. “Not much to tell, I was an orphan living in the streets alongside Shanks. We got by by stealing from pirates that came into our town. Once we pickpocketed one that took pity on us and decided to raise us on his ship. It beat starving to death and winter was coming so we agreed.”

“You’re terrible at telling stories,” Luffy pouts at him. And that’s unfair, he is not! He is simply trying to keep this one short.

“Yeah, and why were you stealing from pirates? Didn’t you say it’s the nobles that have the money?” Ace looks slightly vindicated like this means that his idea to brawl with men twice his side is any less idiotic.

“Yeah well, there were gangs of street kids in our town and the good districts were their territory. Shanks and I could only stay on the poorest port if we didn’t want to get stabbed.”

Buggy had met Shanks right after he had gotten into a fight with one of the biggest gangs, he had been bleeding and more blue than white but he’d been alive. To this day, he still doesn’t know why he took the pains to drag him to safety.  

“Why didn’t you join one of the gangs then?” ask Sabo who’s frowning in confusion. Yep, he’s definitely the smart one.

“I did when I started out, they are the ones that taught me how to steal. But the older kids demanded a large portion of my earnings in return and didn’t take kindly to my telling them it was unfair.”

He remembers running through the streets that had become his home being hunted by those that had claimed him as family. He managed to escape but they made it clear that he would not be so lucky a second time.

“But it was unfair, that was your money!” Luffy looks outraged on his behalf and it shouldn’t be as adorable as it is. “Sabo and Ace wouldn’t steal from me just because they are older!”

“That’s because they are your brothers,” Buggy tells him soothingly. “The kids I grew up with, they were too busy trying to survive to care for the weak. And that’s okay, they had to look after themselves or they wouldn’t have made it to adulthood.” How many did not make it regardless? Would he and Shanks have if Captain hadn’t found them? 

“Still,” Ace looks almost mad for him which is strange coming from someone that had tried to brain him with a pipe not six hours ago. “Stealing from kids is pretty messed up.”

The way he says it, it’s clear that there’ve been those who’ve tried to steal from him. “It is. But I was lucky in the end. Captain found me and he took me and Shanks onto his ship. The man was mad but he was kind and he took care of us.”

“Good.” Sabo’s tone is firm and Buggy feels a sudden rush of fondness. 

These kids, these jadded, lonely, angry children that have been exposed to so much evil and have had to suffer through so much injustice are still so kind. Kind enough to care for a stranger. Who was the last person that got mad on his behalf?

None of the Rogers, that’s for sure.

By the seas and the sky he so swears, he will protect them from now on or his name is not Doke no Buggy.

Chapter Text

Buggy has been quiet for a while, ever since Sabo and Luffy made him tell the story of how he first joined a pirate crew. Luckily, Luffy is too engrossed with his new training to notice it. Still, once the food runs out he will realise that they made Buggy talk about something he didn’t want to and then he’ll be upset. And an upset Luffy is a crying Luffy so Ace needs to fix this.

He pokes Buggy with the stick he’s been using to roast the meat. “You said you’re a pirate captain, right? Do you have a crew?” 

The effect is immediate. The pirate puffs out his chest and his eyes gleam with pride. “Of course I do! I have the best nakamas in the seas!”

“Yeah, right.” Sabo scoffs, having caught up to what Ace is attempting. “I bet they are just run of the mill, weak pirates.”

That seems to spur the pirate on and he points at Sabo with his half eaten sandwich. “I’ll have you know that my crew is the only one in the world to have an actual lion in it!”

Sabo and Ace’s eyes widen and even Luffy slows down enough to ask between bites, “A pet lion? Cool!”

Buggy shakes his head looking offended. “Richie ain’t no pet, he’s a nakama and has been part of my crew since he was a cub.”

“How did you get him?” asks Sabo, intrigued despite himself. “Did you steal him or something?”

“Of course not! He and Mohji were my first nakama, I saved their lives, you know?” Buggy brags but his eyes soften a bit. “They were working on this circus under a very cruel ring master that wanted Mohji to make Richie jump through fire rings and such and punished them without food if they failed.”

“That would be kind of cool,” Ace comments, because, really, a lion jumping through fire? Hell yeah!

Buggy glares at him. “Richie was just a cub and he was scared. How would you like being forced to choose between doing things that terrified you or being whipped and starved? Poor Mohji also got his fair deal of punishment trying to protect Richie.”

“They whipped him?” Ace asks outraged. “But he was like a baby, right?” That’s what Dadan said, a cub is a baby animal. 

Buggy hums and his face looks darker than it was before. “They didn’t much care for age, Cabaji was about fourteen back then and they already had him cycling through the tightrope.”

“You also have an acrobat? How does he fight?” Ace doesn’t quite understand what Sabo is asking but he looks pretty excited about it. He once told Ace that he had gone to the circus so maybe it’s something he saw there?

“With two swords and an unicycle,” Buggy says, looking about to burst with pride. “He’s come a long way from the scrawny teenager he used to be.”

“Cool,” Ace finds himself saying because, two swords? That’s like double as cool as one! “What’s an unicycle though?”

“Do you know what a bicycle is?” Most times when people ask questions like these Ace gets flustered and mad but Buggy doesn’t seem to be implying that he’s dumb or anything like that. Still, he’s pretty pleased with himself because he actually does know. Him and Sabo had found an old one in the junkyard and Sabo had tried to teach him how to ride it with… interesting results. 

“Yeah.”

“Well, it’s like that but with only one wheel instead of two.”

So cool. It was pretty hard to keep the balance with two wheels already. And if this Cabaji guy is using two swords he can’t be holding himself onto anything right? Ace kind of wants to see what that looks like. And he wouldn’t mind meeting a lion either.

Luffy wolfs down the last piece of meat and Ace realises that he’s managed it. Buggy is back in high spirits, telling them all about his crew and Luffy hasn’t noticed how upset he had gotten before.

His little brother asks Buggy for story after story and the pirate complies though he only seems to be talking about his time as pirate captain which is weird. He said his old captain had been a cool dude and he sailed with Shanks, who Luffy swears is amazing, so why doesn’t he want to talk about them? 

Soon Luffy’s eyes start to close on their own and Sabo and Ace have to drag him to sleep through slurred protests about how totally tired he isn’t and how he just wants one more story.

Buggy bids them goodnight but not goodbye and makes himself comfortable near the fire where he apparently is about to sleep. There are wild beasts in the forest but they usually know better than to come so close to their base. And even if they did decide to come, Buggy would probably be able to dispatch them. So Ace doesn't feel any guilt whatsoever about not inviting him to sleep in the treehouse.

Still, he looks back once, just to ensure he’s not following them really, and is surprised by how difficult it is to find the pirate. All he has done is put the cloak more tightly over himself but for some reason Ace’s eyes pass over him twice before finally seeing him. That’s weird.

It’s pretty difficult to drag Luffy up the rope stairs but they somehow manage it. The stretchiness of Luffy’s everything does help a bit.

“He’ll still be here tomorrow, won’t he?” Sabo asks and he looks torn between being mad and confused.

“I think so,” Ace says. “Maybe he’ll be eaten by a snake tonight.”

Sabo chuckles a bit but it’s a weak sound. “Should we keep watch tonight?”

Ace is about to say that it’s not necessary, that Buggy doesn’t need to take them by surprise but he thinks better of it. He has some questions for the pirate and he’d rather ask without his brothers around. He just nods at Sabo feeling a bit bad about tricking him. “Sure, I’ll take the first one.”

Chapter Text

Buggy isn’t surprised when Ace comes back into the clearing an hour after the three had gone to bed and it isn’t just because he’s kept his Observation trained on the kids since they left. He unwinds his own haki a bit so the kid won’t have trouble finding him and sits upright. Something tells him this conversation will be something else.

Why hadn’t he packed alcohol?

The kid approaches him warily and doesn't seem too happy to find him already waiting. He also doesn't sit when Buggy gestures him to. Instead he just broadens his stand and grips his pipe tighter.

“Why didn’t you laugh like the others?” There’s something almost accusatory about Ace's tone but it’s his eyes that catch Buggy’s breath in his throat. They look almost hopeful.

Buggy doesn’t pretend he doesn’t know what he is talking about. Insulting the boy won’t take him anywhere. “Because I knew Roger,” he admits and Ace goes white and the pipe falls from his hands. “He took me and Shanks in as orphans and allowed us to grow up on his ship so the idea of him as a father is not particularly funny to me.”

“But he was a monster!” Ace looks torn between rage and confusion.

And Buggy should be offended, he should jump at his Captain’s defense but he knows that if he says the wrong thing Ace will run. Something about this is deeply personal to the boy and since Buggy doesn’t know what the right thing to say is, he will just have to say the truth.

“Perhaps, in a way.” The admission doesn’t feel like a betrayal even if he’s sure some of his old crew would see it as such. It also minutely relaxes Ace so Buggy takes it as a win. “He was stronger than most people and could be quite ruthless.” 

He’d seen Captain kill and maim without a shred of hesitation and Captain himself had never claimed to be a Saint. Still, Captain was also not just that. He searches for a way to make Ace understand how a man can be both a force of nature and a loving father nakama.

“You know when I was a child I used to think Garp was a monster.” Ace looks at him in confusion but Buggy raises a hand to stop him before he can protest. “Shanks and I used to sneak out of our cabin to watch when our crew fought the marines and he looked so big and so menacing. He was also one of the very few people who could actually go toe to toe against our Captain.”

“But he is just Gramps?” Ace is still looking at him with surprise. Buggy doesn't miss that he’s called the old man the way Luffy usually does. Well, it’s good to know that Garp hasn’t completely scared his children to death. “Sure his punch of love hurts and his training is horrible but he’s never actually injured us. He’s mostly harmless, really.”

“But he was an extremely powerful enemy and that made him a monster in our eyes. At least until we saw him drinking and eating with Captain after declaring it a draw.” He chuckles at the memory, he had just gotten his devil fruit and he had been so surprised that his jaw had literally fallen to the grown. Shanks had tried to pick it up at the same time he did and the two had actually stumbled onto Garp, making him splash his drink all over himself. It took three hours for the Captain’s laughter to die down. “Captain, and Garp too, they are just men, Ace. Stronger than most and flawed to be sure but still human.”

“The old geezer doesn’t attack civilians.” Ace crosses his arms in front of his chest puffing his cheeks in a way that is almost too adorable.

“And neither did Captain. He was very strict with our crew about it too and Oden once got into big trouble for stealing from ordinary people.” Of course the civilians had then tried to gift it all to him when he’d attempted to return it. The bastard was almost more charming than Shanks! “He loved a good fight and never backed down but he never started conflicts. He was a moron, don’t get me wrong, but he was a good man and I owe my life to him several times over.”

Ace seems to mull over it for a while. He looks like Buggy has just turned his whole world upside down and with what the men in the bar had been telling him, he supposes he has. Still, why does this kid care so much about what kind of man Captain was? Captain died years before he was even born! Why was he asking some drunkards about him?

But no, he hadn’t been asking about Captain. He had been asking about Captain’s kid.

Finally, Ace speaks, “So what would you think if Roger had a son?”

It’s son this time, not child.

He sounds so fragile when he asks and Buggy really doesn't want to hazard a guess as to why. Because it’s impossible.

But D’s take impossibility as a challenge. 

And Garp had been one of the last people to speak with Roger.

But Garp is a marine.

But Captain had trusted him. 

Maybe, Captain had trusted him more than he had trusted his own crew.

That should probably sting more than it does. 

“I wouldn’t know what to think,” he answers honestly because that’s all he can do. The kid’s world isn’t the only one wobbling right now. “I mean, I’d be happy that he survived.” He won’t mention Baterilla not when he is almost sure that… No, he won’t mention fucking Baterilla in front of the kid. “It’d be jealous too, that there’s a kid out there that could actually claim Captain as his dad when I never dared to, outloud. I’d be sad that he never got to know his father because Captain was pretty great with kids. I mean he was basically one himself. I’d be astonished that Captain managed to find a woman that could put up with his shit for long enough to procreate.”

He laughs at his own joke and it comes out a bit more maniacal than he was expecting. Still, it’s a laugh so he’ll call it a win. “I’d be fucking scared because there are a lot of people out there that want to get rid of Roger’s legacy and have proven again and again that they have no problem targeting kids.” He gently rubs his shoulder. That bullet wound still hurts when it rains. “I’d want to protect that kid, partly because I owe Captain, yes, and partly because I know what being hunted down feels like and no children should go through to that.”

Ace is hanging to every word that he is saying and Buggy grabs both of his shoulders looking at him straight in the eyes. If what he thinks is true then he needs to say this. Ace needs to hear it. 

“But you know what Ace? What I’d think, what the world would think, that doesn’t matter. If that kid existed it would be none of anyone’s business but his own. No one has the right to question anyone’s existence. No one gets to object to a child’s life. How could someone dare to have an opinion on whether you deserve to be part of this world? Aren’t you here? What’s there to think about? You’re here and you are you and that’s not up for debate. And screw anyone that thinks otherwise.”

He’s not surprised when the kid starts crying. He cradles him into his chest and curses D’s and their fucking ability to turn everything upside down.

Chapter Text

Ace is crying. He is crying and he hates it. He’s even letting this pirate, this former Roger pirate, hug him! He should be fighting, he should be screaming, he should, he should… Why is breathing so hard? Why can’t he stop crying? He wants to stop. If he doesn’t stop Buggy will find out.

Doesn’t he already know? Hasn’t Ace made it obvious enough already?

Why is Buggy hugging him? Why hasn't he killed him yet? He couldn’t have meant what he said, could he? He must have just been trying to get Ace to admit it and his crying is doing exactly that. And yet Buggy is still holding him.

The hug isn’t even restrictive. If he took a step back, Buggy would let him go. He knows that. Why? Why? Why? He is the son of a monster, he is a cursed child. Why doesn’t Buggy want him dead? Could he have been saying the truth?

“Easy there,” Buggy is rubbing his back trying to comfort him and that’s wrong, it’s all wrong. “Breath, come on Ace, in and out, follow my lead.”

Ace finds himself synchronizing his breathing with Buggy and he should hate it but his sobs are less violent now and he finally manages to talk. “But I shouldn’t have been born!” he protests. Because yeah, that’s the one thing he knows about himself.

“Says who?” Buggy’s voice should be scary, it’s low and dangerous and promises to rain death on whomever that has caused his wrath. But not on Ace, he is angry on behalf of Ace, not with him.

Buggy doesn’t understand. Because even if Roger wasn’t a monster (but he was), even if his blood wasn’t cursed (but it is), Ace is still a murderer. “I killed my mom,” he says because he needs to make Buggy see. “She had to carry me for twenty months to avoid the marines finding me and that killed her. I killed her.”

“Nonsense, if anything, the marines were the ones who did when they started a hunt for an unborn, innocent baby.” One of Buggy’s hands stops rubbing his back and slowly starts wiping away Ace’s tears. He’s gentle, why is he so gentle? “Ace, your mother wanted you to be born so badly that she bullied time itself to make it happen. That’s nothing short of a miracle. And all because she wanted so badly for you to exist.”

“But…” His mom had wanted Ace

“Ace, she could have not done it, give you up to the marines and made a deal to protect herself. But she chose to save you, she chose to give you life even if it meant endangering her own. She sounds like an incredibly brave woman, one that wouldn’t want you to blame yourself.”

Yeah, his mom had to have wanted him. It’s the only thing that makes sense. He’s overheard some of the junkyard women talking about ‘problems’ they needed to get rid of so there has to be a way to stop being pregnant. But his mom hadn’t wanted that. She had done the impossible for him to be born.

“Ace, have you never told your grandfather about this? Asked him?” Buggy is trying to sound soothing but there’s fury in his voice.

“I asked if it was good that I was born once. He said I would find out as long as I lived,” he quickly says, afraid of what Buggy may do to Gramps.

Buggy sighs, still looking ready to kill. “Garp’s never been known for his tact or eloquence. What he probably wanted to say is that yes, it is good, and that living would give you ample proof of that so you shouldn’t give up.” 

“So you think Gramps is happy he saved me? Even if I get Luffy into trouble sometimes and don’t want to be a marine?” He’s disappointed him so many times, Ace is sure of it. But Gramps has always treated him the same way he treats Luffy.

“Ace, Garp betrayed the institution he’s dedicated his entire life to because he thought you deserved the right to grow up.” His eyes widen, he’d never thought about that. Had Gramps really done that just because Roger had asked? “His parenting methods are questionable but he must truly love you. Every second he doesn’t report you exist is a second he’s risking everything he cares about. He could have taken you from your mom and dropped you off somewhere you’d be safe, pretend you didn’t exist afterwards and ensure you never learned who you were. But he chose to keep you and raise you as his own. Which was far riskier for him and probably has made life harder for you because of his aforementioned parenting techniques.”

Ace lets out a wet laugh at that. “He really sucks as a guardian, doesn’t he?”

Buggy nods. “Yeah, he does. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t care. He does.”

“So you think it’s alright I was born? Even if the world hates me? Even if they all wish I didn’t exist?” He’s pretty sure he knows what answer Buggy will give him but he desperately wants to hear it.

“Yes. Of course it’s a good thing you were born.” Buggy believes this, he truly does, Ace can hear it in his voice. Even if it’s not true, Buggy thinks it’s good he exists. “Your mom and Garp did everything they could to ensure you were born and you’ve made Luffy and Sabo’s lives better just by being in it. I promise Ace, the people that you love, they want you here. They’d be hurt if you weren’t so why should you listen to a bunch of drunks that never met your father?”

“He’s not my father!” The outburst surprises him more than Buggy and for a second he’s afraid. He has insulted Buggy’s savior, denouncing him as a father when Buggy clearly wishes he had been his. Now Buggy will hate him. He will say he’s made a mistake that Ace really should not have been born. He…

“I’m sorry,” Buggy is apologizing to him and that’s wrong. Ace is the one that messed up. It’s his fault not Buggy’s. “You never met Captain and his name has only brought you problems. If you don’t want him for your father that’s your right.” But it’s not? Ace is that man’s son and he can escape that because his cursed blood is in his veins. “And I know that you’ve made your own family, you’re a big brother on your own right and share a bond with Luffy and Sabo that goes far deeper than your blood.” Buggy pauses looking almost shy for a moment. “If you had grown in the Oro Jackson I would have been… Well that’s not important right now. I get that you won’t agree to have me as your big brother, you don’t have too. My claim to that is too tied to Roger and it’s not like I was there when you were growing up. Still, could I… would it be alright for me to maybe think of you as someone I want to protect?”

Why is Buggy asking this? Why does he want to protect him? “Because Roger protected you?”

“And because I’ve been hunted by Roger’s enemies. And because you’re just a kid. And because I already think fondly of you and your brothers. Just because Ace. I won’t trap you or expect anything from you. So please let me teach you all I know and check up on you every now and again. Please.” 

Buggy knows. He knows and he’s begging Ace, begging to be a part of his life. And he hasn’t tried to force anything on him. This pirate who could do anything to him, who knows his darkest secret, is asking Ace to allow him to care. He wants to say yes but the tears have come back with vengeance. He attempts a nod and Buggy must understand because he smiles.

And then proceeds to fall face first into the ground when something heavy hits him from behind.

Chapter Text

Fuck that hurts. It’s been a while since someone has actually landed a hit on him. Especially from behind. How on earth has he let himself be so distracted that he hadn’t noticed such raw killing intent?

Still that was a solid hit he’ll give the kid that.

“Sabo stop!” Thanks the seas for Ace because Buggy is still too stunned to avoid the next hit. And that fucking metal pipe hurts .

“But you were crying,” Sabo protests and his voice betrays just how freak out he is. Yeah, a look into his haki confirms it, under the layers of rage and pure hatred there’s a core that is just worry. “You never cry! I will kill him. I’ll make him regret ever talking to us. I swear Ace. He’ll be sorry.”

Ace’s haki flares up with embarrassment. “I wasn’t crying! Men don’t cry.”

“Bullshit.” Buggy slowly sits upright again, still a bit disoriented. And he starts dusting himself off. “Men do cry. I’ve seen some of the tougher pirates and marines in the world cry. You want to know who doesn’t cry? Weaklings that want to appear strong and are afraid that if they show any vulnerability to the world they’ll lose face.”

When was the last time he cried in public? Was it really Loguetown?

Sabo is standing between him and Ace, pipe ready and almost foaming at the mouth. “Stay away from my brother.” His hands are trembling a bit but Buggy is pretty sure that it’s not due to fear.

Ace still looks a bit dumbfounded. With his tear-stricken cheeks and red eyes he looks so lost Buggy wants to hug him again. He doesn’t since the hand grabbing Sabo’s arm is loose enough that the kid could free himself with no problem at all. “Sabo, it’s alright,” he tries. “I’m alright.”

“But you were crying! I woke up and you weren’t there and when I found you, you were crying.” Fuck, now the other kid looks at the verge of tears. That or murder. It’s hard to tell with these feral little gremlins sometimes.

“We just had a chat,” Buggy tells him. He doesn’t want to go into details, not without Ace’s consent. “And it may have gotten a bit emotional. That’s all.”

“Yeah, right.” Sabo sends him a look that is pure contempt.

“We talked about my… about Roger,” Ace confides quietly. “He was Buggy’s captain when he was our age.”

Something seems to dawn on Sabo but whatever it is, it only makes him more murderous. “Ace is Ace. I don’t care what you thought of Roger or what grudge you have against him, Ace’s got nothing to do with him.”

Ace shakes his head. “That’s not it ‘Bo, he doesn’t have a grudge against Roger.”

That’s a lie, Buggy very much holds a grudge with him. The bastard decided to commit assisted suicide without telling them anything after all.

“Well, you’re still not him so if he wants to reenact his glory days he can go look somewhere else.”

And that’s just offending. “My glory days are right now, thank you very much. Being an east blue captain beats having to mope the floor for legends every time. And I don’t want Ace to be anything but what he is. I promise.”

“He said it was good that I existed,” Ace looks pained at having to admit this. “That mom and the old geezer did everything they could to make that happen. And that you and Luffy are happy I’m alive.”

At this Sabo finally softens a bit. “Duh, I’ve been telling you that for ages.”

“Yeah well, you are my brother, you don’t count.” Ace crosses his arms in front of his chest but there’s no hiding the blush on his cheeks.

“I’m your brother so I’m the only one that counts,” Sabo protests. He turns towards Buggy looking a bit sheepish. “Sorry I guess.”

“You guess?” Buggy can’t believe the cheek of this kid. “You drew blood!”

Sabo shrugs. “Not my fault you left your back wide open.” He tugs at Ace’s arms. “If you are done with your little chat we should go back to sleep. We left Luffy alone up there.”

Ace grimaces before nodding at him. “Okay.” He fidgets with his t-shirt for a second before turning towards Buggy. “Thanks.”

And with that he is gone, all but running toward the treehouse.

Buggy feels a soft smile curling in his lip. Curse him but the kid is just too adorable. How Captain managed to make such a cute kid, he’ll never understand. 

Sabo looks at him with narrow eyes. “I still don’t trust you,” he informs him.

“Good,” Buggy tells him, nodding approvingly. Seas forgive him, he actually likes this kid. “That’s smart, you’ve known me for less than a day and I’ve already discovered both your secret and your brother’s, trusting me would be stupid.” Sabo looks surprised at his answer. “Still, since you can’t get rid of me despite your best efforts,” Buggy rubs at the back of his head which is still throbbing. “Why don’t you use me? You know that learning from me will only help you and your brothers.”

Sabo hesitates a bit.

“Hey Sabo, you coming?” Ace calls from the base of the tree.

“Coming, coming.” The kid runs to reunite with his brother without even saying goodbye. 

Brat.

Chapter Text

“So we are not going to talk about this?” Sabo asks after Ace has kept his silence all the way up to the treehouse.

Ace shrugs. “Nothing much to talk about.”

He hopes Sabo will drop it but he knows he won’t be so lucky. “Right… Because you usually sneak away at night to have conversations with strange men that leave you a sobbing mess. That’s completely normal. And why the hell did you tell him who your father was? Do you have a deathwish? Better yet why didn’t you wake me up if you wanted to go talk to him? I could have come as backup or...!”

“I’m sorry, okay?” Ace interrupts Sabo before the other boy can start really laying into him. “I didn’t think.”

“What a surprise!” Sabo exclaims mockingly, throwing his hands to the air. “You are usually so cautious!”

Fuck, Sabo is mad. Like ‘I let Luffy get mauled by a bear’ mad. He’ll probably have to do some damage control. “I just needed to ask him why hadn’t he laughed like the others.”

“Like the others?” And now Sabo sounds calm and collected. A shiver runs through Ace’s spine. What has he done? “Ace, when you said this morning you were going for a walk you didn’t go to the junkyard alone, did you?” Ace shrugs. It’s not like he needed Sabo’s permission or anything dammit. “And you didn’t, I’m sure, decide to indulge into your masochist hobby of asking drunkards about the value your existence , did you?”

Shit, shit, shit. Sabo sounds sweet now! “I just… I haven’t done it in months I promise!”

“I knew it! Ace we talked about it, it’s suspicious and their opinions are bullshit anyway. You just end up hurting yourself and starting fights!” Sabo is speaking loud enough that Buggy will probably hear them from the clearing. How Luffy manages to sleep through this, Ace will never understand.

He shushes Sabo with a pointed stare at their sleeping brother. “I know alright! I just thought that maybe…” Had he hoped for a different answer? Had that been why he had gone again and again even if it always resulted in the same shitshow? Or had he wanted to remind himself tha even if he now had Sabo and Luffy most people still wanted him dead? That being with him only endangered them. “I won’t do it again, I promise.”

Sabo looks stunned for a second before all his anger seems to leave him. “You won’t?”

“I promised, didn’t I?”

Sabo nods slowly. He knows him well enough not to doubt his word. “Alright, fine then. I was just going to force you to take me with you next time but this is better.”

Ace shrugs again. If what he had wanted was a different answer, well he already has one now. And for the other option, he’ll be selfish and keep Luffy and Sabo with him. He is the son of a pirate after all, they really can’t expect him to just give away his treasures. 

And that was just cheesy, his brothers can never know what he has just thought them as. Never ever. 

“Buggy was nice to me,” Ace tells Sabo, trying to distract himself from his embarrassment. “I know we shouldn’t trust him but even before knowing anything, when I was at the bar asking the others, he threw the first punch.”

Sabo looks at him for a long minute and Ace isn’t sure he likes what he sees. “You trust him, don’t you?”

“I… yes? But it’s probably a mistake. He just said all the things I wanted to hear.” It’s pitiful how easy it is to manipulate him, isn’t it? 

“Just because you want him to be who he says he is doesn’t mean he isn’t. He could be a good guy. He hasn’t attempted anything yet and he’s offered help with no strings attached.” Which is true yes, but also extremely suspicious behavior. And Sabo looks like it’s painful for him to even be acknowledging all that.

“But you don’t trust him.” The clubbing had been a nice hint in that direction.

Sabo smiles ruefully. “I don’t trust easily. The bastard has passed all the tests I’ve put him through though.” He sounds really upset about it too.

“I think I would have prefered it if he had robbed us blind.” Ace nods, at least then they would have known what the hell was going on.

“Yeah, sadly not all pirates are like the ones in the Gray Terminal.” Sabo laughs but he still sounds slightly off.

Ace looks down at the floor. “Sorry I worried you.”

“It’s okay, that’s what brothers do I guess. I mean Luffy will make us both go gray before we reach our twenties.” Sabo lightly bumps his shoulder with his own. And he’s right of course but Luffy is their baby brother that’s his job. Ace is the one that’s supposed to protect the other two, not cause more problems.  “So how was it? You know talking to someone that actually knew your father?”

Ace makes a face. “Weird. Buggy clearly liked the guy which is new. I mean he is the Captain Buggy talked about during dinner, the one that took them in.”

“Then Luffy’s Shanks also knows him.” Sabo summaries. “Since they were together back then. Maybe he told Luffy stories about when he was a cabin boy.”

“Doubt it, he was trying to dissuade Luffy to join him after all. Still maybe I’ll ask the old geezer next time he visits. He’s a marine so he will definitely not try to sell him to me.” Buggy hadn’t tried either and Ace isn’t sure if he is more grateful or surprised by it.

Ace yawns and Sabo follows suit seconds after. 

“We should go to bed,” Ace admits, pulling Sabo towards where Luffy is still snoring.

“What about keeping watch?” Sabo grumbles but he lets himself be pulled.

Ace sighs. “Look, even if he means us harm, he does it in a weird way. The sneaky kind. He won’t attack us during the night since he could easily beat us even if we were in our guard. It’s best if we rest and tomorrow are actually awake enough to see through whatever he is actually planning.”

“Fine, fine. I still don’t trust him.” Sabo is still muttering when Ace pulls the blanket over both of them.

Chapter Text

When the sun starts to rise, Buggy finally decides to stop trying to sleep. If he hasn’t managed till now, he won’t in the couple hours it will take the kids to wake up. And anyway his mind is still a chaotic, loud, whirlwind of thoughts that refuses to let him rest.

He tries, again, to list what he found out last night hoping against hope that breaking it out in small bites will make it easier to process.

Captain had had a kid. Okay, weird but acceptable. And yeah he’d had to have found a woman for that which in theory wouldn’t have been a problem since he’d had his own fair share of admirers but then again Captain had a type and that type were ball-busters and firecrackers which didn’t give him the time of the day… Uhh, that does kind of explain Ace.

The mysterious woman had somehow managed to stay pregnant for twenty months to evade capture. So she was as stubborn and crazy as the D’iest D Buggy’s ever encountered. Again, it does sync up with who Ace is and with Captain’s type. And probably links her to Baterilla.

Ace’s mom had died in childbirth and Garp of all people had collected the baby probably due to Captain’s request. Well, Captain was a selfish bastard who never hesitated to ask the most outrageous favors and Garp was not enough of a monster as to execute a baby. Letting the marine hero raise a child was a stupid idea, yes, but maybe the only one that Captain could come up from within a cell.

Except that no. Roger had given himself up to go out in a blaze of glory. He had even talked to Rayleigh before doing so. He had had other options. And the first mate probably wouldn’t have abandoned Roger’s biological child.

But he would have raised him with stories of his father and molded him to become just like him. Maybe Roger had wanted to give Ace a choice? Not that Garp seems too open to the idea of his grandkids being anything other than marines.

Anyhow, Ace had ended up in Goa being raised by mountain bandits. Blackmailed mountain bandits to be precise. And had adopted two brothers on the way which had made him a world of good because he also had the habit of organizing self loathing parties for himself and inviting all the underbelly of the island.

And finally and most importantly, one of his brothers got very trigger happy if Ace so much as looked upset. Hell probably both of them did and Buggy had just been lucky Luffy had been asleep last night.

Well, okay, okay. It’s a lot but he can work with this. His objectives have not changed. He’s here to ensure these kids have at least a modicum of adult supervision and he will be training them to be as strong as they can be because the world out there sucks. Especially for Roger’s son. And for Dragon’s son too. Yeap, the repudiate son of a snotty noble probably won’t have it too easy either. He’s heard rumors about some world noble family that had left the safety of Mary Geois . Fuck, he really hopes the brutes of the junkyard don’t ever realise who Sabo is.

How does Shanks always manage to find the weirdest ones?

Also what is Garp doing? Isn’t he satisfied with having raised the head of the revolution? Does he just want more outlaws to add to his collection?

And why is Buggy getting involved with children with such pedigree? 

Still, kids are kids he supposes even when they have Wills that can be seen from Skypia. 

He stretches out his arms and legs, it’s been a while since he’s slept in the ground. He can still hear snoring coming from the cabin so he decides to go take a walk. 

Buggy soon finds himself back into the city and cloaks his haki as tightly as he can. They are clearly looking for him, or for the definition of him the shopkeeper has given them at least. There’s twice as many guards as he had seen last time and even some marines scattering around. He passes them by without getting as much as a look. 

The smell of freshly baked bread reches him and Buggy decides that he could do with some breakfast.

Before he enters the small bakery he unwinds his haki just enough so that the woman behind the counter won’t be too startled when he starts talking. It should still be hidden enough that she won’t pay enough attention to his face to remember it.

There are several types of pastries in the display and Buggy can almost feel his stomach start to rumble. He really should have eaten more than a couple sandwiches the day before. Or snatched up a piece of two of crocodile meat from the kids. Speaking of the menaces, they will probably appreciate it if Buggy brought them some breakfast, right?

“What do kids like these days?” he asks, definitely not sounding like an old man when he’s sure he is still under thirty. Some day he should really try to find his birth certificate or something. Probably before Shanks realises that he chose his birthday as the day the two of them met. He was seven okay? And Roger asked him out of the blue!

The girl in front of him smiles. “If my little siblings are anything to go by, as long as you pick something without raisins you’ll be golden.”

“Alright,” Buggy nods. “Just give me all the pastries you gave without them then. And a couple with raisins too.” Only way to ensure he actually gets to eat some probably.

The girl raises an eyebrow. “That’s enough to feed at least a dozen children, are you throwing a party?”

“Something like that,” Buggy makes a couple of quick calculations based on what he saw last night. “Thrown in a couple of bread loaves too, please, I don’t want anyone going hungry.”

He’s seen how much Garp can eat, hell one of his recurring nightmares when he was young was of the marine eating him and then asking for seconds! And blood related or not, all three of his grandchildren seem to share his appetite and table manners. He’ll probably have to double the amount of treasure he hunts for if he is going to be bringing treats to those three for the foreseeable future.

“I’m sure your son and his friends will be thrilled with such a feast.”

“Yeah, no, it’s for my little brothers, no children for me yet.” Buggy is not flustered at the thought at all. “Not even a partner. Free as the wind, that’s me.”

The baker tries to conceal his giggles to no avail. “Such a doting big brother,” she corrects.

“Well, if bribery doesn’t get them to like me, then I’m all out of options,” he admits with a shurgh. “Thank you for your help.”

After some more pleasantries the girl tells him the price and Buggy throws in some extra as a tip. He then takes the several packets containing his still warm purchases and starts making his way back to the treehouse.

Chapter Text

“Ace, Sabo, wake up!”

Ace pulls his blanket over his face with one hand while the other one tries to swat Luffy away. 

“Sleepy,” Sabo says, turning around so he is facing the wall.

“Wake up!”

“Go away!”

Someone throws a kick in Luffy's direction but Ace can say if it’s him or Sabo. Good, maybe that will shut him up, Ace just wants like five more minutes before getting up.

“But Buggy is gone!”

And just like that he is completely awake. At his side, Sabo tenses and lets go of his iron hold on his pillow. “What?” 

“I went to say good morning because I was awake but you two weren’t and last time I woke you you threw me off the window so I thought it was better if I played with him instead.” It’s either too early or Luffy is talking too fast. Either way, Ace’s brain is suffering trying to keep up. “But there was no one in the clearing! He’s gone!”

Sabo and Ace share a look. If Buggy is really gone, Luffy pouting will be the least of their problems. ‘If’ , Ace has to stop himself from laughing out loud, he really is as naive as Luffy, isn’t he? 

Buggy has left without saying goodbye right after Ace all but told him about Roger. Of course he has. Ace is an idiot for ever believing Buggy could have actually meant anything he had said last night. And now everyone will know and his brothers will be in danger and the old geezer will lose his job and maybe even go to prison and Dadan and her men will probably be captured too and…

“Let’s check out the clearing,” Sabo says. He places a hand on Ace’s shoulder that does nothing to reassure him. “Maybe he just hid himself during the night to not get eaten by the wild beast or something.”

And yeah, hadn’t Buggy almost disappeared last night when they had gone to bed? But on the other hand, he had been easy to find when Ace had gone back down. 

The three of them make their way to the clearing with a somber silence hanging over them. Though to be fair, Luffy probably doesn’t understand why they are so worried, he’s just upset to have lost the cool pirate teaching them stuff. Still, he looks pretty disappointed which only makes Ace hate Buggy more.

He had really hoped… Doesn’t matter. He should have known better.

Like Luffy had said the clearing is deserted with only the remains of yesterday’s fire and a wooden box in it. Ace feels his shoulders sink but Sabo gasps in surprise. “What is it?”

“That’s the box he bought yesterday! The habitat or whatever!”

Ace takes a closer look and yeah, that does seem to be it. He frowns. Why would Buggy go to all the trouble to buy this and then abandon it? He shakes his head, trying to dislodge the stupid, treacherous hope that he’s starting to feel “You think he forgot it?”

Sabo opens his mouth to respond when they hear someone whistling and coming towards them. Months of instinct kick in and they jump to hide behind some bushes. Well, him and Sabo do. Luffy just runs towards the sound. The moron.

“Blue!” he all but screams. He reaches the pirate the moment he enters their sight of vision.

Buggy grumbles when Luffy clashes into him but there’s a smile on his lips. “Did you miss me that much, anchor?”

Luffy nods, clearly not hearing the teasing in Buggy’s voice. “Yeah! We thought you had left!”

“Sorry to disappoint,” he tells Ace and Sabo who reluctantly leave the bushes. “But I only went out to get us breakfast.”

At that Luffy becomes even more excited. “What did you get? Is it bear? Tiger? Crocodile? I love crocodile!”

“Just some bread and pastries, I’m afraid.”

Buggy starts opening the packets he’s carrying and Ace feels his mouth water at the sight. It’s not like he’s never eaten pastries, but still, he usually only gets them once a year! The bandits always buy some for New Year, something about celebrating that they’ve survived this long, Dadan had said. That had made the other bandits laugh though and Dadan had gone bright red. She also always says that she won’t be buying them next year, because they are too expensive but she always ends up doing it anyway. It’s one of the only good things about an awful day.

And now there are so many pastries laid in front of Ace that he has trouble choosing!

Sabo doesn’t seem to be having the same problem and he quickly zeros in on some chocolate croissants. The lucky bastard has probably already gotten to sample all of these types and chosen a favourite too. Ace is so not going to let him hog the best ones. He quickly gets another croissant and bites into it. Damn. He always forgets just how good chocolate actually is.

Luffy’s outrage cry makes him stop chewing for a second. “This is not chocolate!”

At this Buggy laughs evilly. “Nope, those are raisins.”

By Sabo’s expression of disgust and Luffy’s betrayed face, Ace deduces that that’s a bad thing. 

“It’s nasty,” Luffy whines. He is tugging at his tongue that keeps getting longer and longer, like he’s trying to get away from the taste.

“Here, this one has some cream. That should help you get rid of the taste.” Buggy shoves a puff pastry into Luffy’s mouth. “And keep away from these ones here, they are for me and they all have raisins.”

“Okay.”

They finish their breakfast without any more incidents and by the end Ace is so full he needs to lay down a bit. Sabo burps loudly looking completely satiated. Luffy is still nibbling on a loaf of bread even though his waist is twice as wide as before they started. Buggy has only eaten like three or four pastries, though, and he’s looking at them half horrified and half in awe.

“How do you even manage to hunt enough animals…” he trails off like he’s deciding he’d rather not know. 

He is sitting besides the wooden box, one hand slightly tapping its top and Ace can’t contain his curiosity. “What’s that?”

“Something cool,” Buggy answers. “Want to see it before or after your lesson on pickpocketing?”

There’s no way Ace is moving for at least half an hour and Sabo seems to be thinking in the same vein because he inches closer to the box. “Now!” he answers. 

Buggy nods. “Very well.”

He carefully grabs the top of the box and ever so slowly raises it to reveal… is that a snail?

Chapter Text

Buggy is not expecting much of a reaction when he unveils the den den mushi but still, the kids' blank expressions are a bit underwhelming. Has Garp taught them nothing? Wait, does he never even call his grandkids? High ranking marines are issued personal baby den den mushis! He has no excuse! Except maybe keeping Ace away from any marine infrastructure. Maybe. Still, he is on fucking thin ice.

“Why is Slimy wearing numbers?” Luffy asks. He is the only one that doesn’t look disappointed with it and he is already handing the snail some grass to chew on. “Isn’t it heavy?”

“No, you could deatacht it but it’s a pain to always be putting it back so it’s been constructed to not harm or even bother him. Don’t worry.” Maybe he should see about getting it some complements too. Maybe a hat? He’ll just get a magazine and let the kids choose, it’s theirs after all. Though if they expect Buggy to pay they better choose within a reasonable range. “Sabo, can you mark this number?”

Sabo hesitates but he’s too curious to not obey so he enters the number for the Big Top's den den in it. He pulls his hand away immediately when he sees the snail waking up and adopting a very familiar face. Buggy picks up the receiver.

“Who is foolish enough to call the Buggy Pirates?” 

Buggy smiles. He hadn’t wanted to scare his crew by calling the emergency den den mushi nor had he wanted to potentially risk his network by calling the number related to it without a white denden. So he had had to settle by the number he usually gave to overeager vendors and corrupt marines. Still, Mohji sounds particularly growly today.

“Is that the way to greet your captain?”

“Captain Buggy!” The scream almost makes the three kids jump out of their skins. Now both Ace and Sabo are sporting flabbergasted expressions which make Buggy feel a bit vindicated. “Did you lose your baby mushi? Are you okay? Do you need backup?”

Buggy laughs, a bit touched by his first mate’s concern. “All’s fine, I’m just showing the kids what a den den mushi is for.”

“Kids? I thought it was only one.”

“They multiply, apparently. Shanks so owes me a drink. Come on kids, say hi, that’s my first mate on the line.”

Sabo and Ace glare at him, clearly unimpressed with being bossed around. But Luffy just takes the receiver from him.

“Hi, I’m Monkey D Luffy, I’m going to be the King of the Pirates.”

There’s a minute of silence and Buggy is afraid Mohji will laugh and Ace and Sabo will find a way to punch him through the den den.

“Nice to meet you,” Mohji says instead. He sounds almost formal which is kind of cute for an almost literal bear of a man. “I’m Mohji the Beast Tamer, First mate of the Buggy’s pirates. And this here is Richie.” The snail’s face morphs for a second and seems to grow some hair.

“Roaar”

It’s only been a couple of days but he has to admit that he’s missed that sound. “Richie! Have you been a good boy and kept everything in order while I was away, tough guy?”

“Roar”

“Well done. I hope Mohji and Cabaji haven’t been making life too difficult for you.”

“Roar”

“Yeah, I know, that’s how they are. I’m just happy you are there to hold the fort.”

Mohji’s face is back and the snail pouts.

“Captain!! I know you can’t speak lion. And it’s cruel to gang up on me with Richie.”

“Sorry, sorry. So how is everything with the crew, any problems?” If there had been Mohji would have called him last night but still, it doesn’t hurt to check.

“Nahhh, an ex-pirate is opening a floating restaurant here in East Blue but we already connected him to the rest of the network and he seems like the good kind. And the Arlong pirates seem content to stay where they are for now, apparently they have some kind of deal with the marines which doesn’t surprise me considering they are Jimbei’s ex-nakamas. I suppose they just wanted to settle down in a sane sea, which is reasonable.” Buggy nods, Jimbei had been a member of Neptune army and afterwards one of Tiger Fisher crew so he is a former subordinate of two men Buggy respects. Not to mention that he has an impeccable reputation and Shanks seal of approval. If Jimbei’s nakama want a safe haven Buggy won’t begrudge them or get in their way. Especially with the marines already keeping an eye on the situation. 

“And the crew?”

“Bored but fine,” Mohji shrugs. In the distance Buggy can hear some explosions. Oh, how he misses his crew. “Anyhow you said kids and I only talked to one! Where are the others?”

“Roar, roar!”

 “I don’t know if they want to talk,” Buggy’s smile is sly. “They are shy…”

Ace and Sabo’s hands shut up, all but yanking the receiver from him. “I’m Ace!”

“I’m Sabo!”

The snail beams. “Nice to meet you kiddos, and thanks for keeping an eye on my Captain, he can be a bit much to handle sometimes.”

“Yeah, we know,” Sabo sighs. “But he got us breakfast so I guess we can tolerate him a while longer.”

“You should pick him up soon, though,” Ace adds. “Before we get so fed up we decide to drown him in the river.”

Buggy sputters but Mohji laughs probably thinking the kid is just joking. “Feisty bunch you got there, Captain.”

“They are my brothers!” Luffy tells him proudly. “We drank sake together!”

“Wait what?” Buggy can’t believe what he is hearing. “Where did you get alcohol?! And why did you think it was a good idea to drink it?! Those kinds of drinks are not for kids and can stunt your growth! Not to mention that they are addictive and make you sloppier which is dangerous if you have to fight or protect yourselves.”

How Shanks is still alive when he probably hasn’t been sober since Captain’s execution, Buggy will never know.

“It was just a cup each!” Ace protest loudly.

“Yeah, we are not idiots, we wouldn’t have gotten smashed.” Sabo comfirms.

“And it’s not our fault Dadan let us steal it,” Luffy tells him.

Buggy sighs, loud and long. “Alright, alright but no more alcohol until you are older, okay? And no, I’m not forbidding you,” he raises a hand when Ace and Sabo look ready to go raid the nearest liquor store. “I am just asking because it’s really very bad for your health.”

“It also tastes nasty,” Luffy agrees, grimacing at the memory.

“Yeah, we didn’t want more anyway.” Sabo crosses his arms.

Ace nods. “It was just to become brothers.” 

The Mohji-mushi looks like he is trying not to laugh and Buggy wants to throttle his first mate. Does he not see how this is a problem? Especially considering that the three of them are already in complicated emotional situations. One is clearly depressed, the other had been lonely enough to worry Shanks and the third came from a household bad enough to have to run away. Sure, let’s throw alcohol into the mix, what could possibly go wrong?

He is about to berate his first mate when he hears another voice coming from the den den mushi. “It’s your turn to keep watch, you can’t slack off just because Captain left you in charge.”

“Cabaji is right,” Buggy says because he is and definitely not because Mohji seems to find the thought of his brats getting alcohol poison hilarious. “And I have a promise to keep anyway. I’ll talk to you later.”

“Fine,” Mohji grumbles. “But please call us before you set sail this time.”

He can at least do that much for his worrywart of a crew. “Promise.”

Chapter Text

Buggy returns the receiver to the snail who starts snoring almost immediately. He claps his hands in front of himself. “So that’s what it does.”

“It lets you talk to your crew from far away?” Luffy asks, looking excited.

“And anyone with a den den mushi of their own. You just have to know their number and mark it the way Sabo did.” 

It’s kind of cool, Ace thinks to himself. He’ll have to get one when he sets sail and give Luffy and Sabo another. This way they’ll be able to keep tabs on each other even if they are in different crews. 

“Can I call Shanks?” Luffy is trembling with anticipation and even Ace has to admit that he wouldn’t mind speaking with the famous captain.

Buggy grimaces a bit. “Sorry Anchor, this model only reaches other den den mushis in the East Blue and Shanks is usually in the grandline.” Luffy looks a bit upset so Buggy quickly adds, “But I’ll make sure to give him the number so when he drops by East Blue he can talk to you even if he can’t make it to Dawn island.”

“But that only works if you are here visiting when he does,” Sabo points out. 

Buggy looks extremely confused. “Why?”

Sabo rolls his eyes the way he does when he thinks Ace or Luffy are being particularly dense. “Because you’ll be taking the snail with you.” 

At this the pirate laughs. “What? No, I already got more than enough. Hell, I’m thinking about starting to breed them myself. They say you can achieve better quality ones if you know what you are doing…” He shakes his head. “Not important right now. The point is, this one is all yours.”

Ace was not expecting this and judging by his brothers' expressions, neither were they. “But it’s expensive, isn’t it?”

“So? I’m a pirate, kid. I’ve got more treasure than I know what to do with,” Buggy shrugs, flashing them a smug smile. “And it will give me peace of mind to know you lot can call for help if anything happens when I’m away.”

“What makes you think we’ll call you even if we can?” Sabo smiles showing all his teeth. “We’ve managed well enough by ourselves so far.”

Buggy, to his credit, nods like he agrees. “You have and I’m sure you could make do but still. Please keep it and let me give you a couple of numbers where you can reach me. I’ll even try to get Garps’ number in the marine for you if you prefer calling him. Just so you can call if you want.” He smiles at Luffy and lets his gaze fall over Ace for a second. “And feel free to do so, even if all you want is to talk.”

“Forget the old geezer’s number,” Ace grumbles, deciding to ignore the last comment. “We hear his voice enough as it is.” And if they called him, they would have to explain how they got a den den mushi and Ace is not feeling like throwing Buggy at that particular beast.

“Yeah, he screams so loudly that he would kill Slimy.” Luffy has gotten the snail out of the box and it’s climbing up his arm, leaving a pretty gross trail behind. 

Sabo looks troubled for some reason. “I’ve accidentally killed all my pets till now,” he blurts out. “And I don’t trust Ace and Luffy not to try to eat it.”

Ace scrunches his nose, the snail is too small and it looks nasty. Why would he eat it when he has perfectly good bear not fifteen minutes away? Luffy is even more outraged than he is.

“I’m not eating Slimy, he is my friend!” 

Buggy ruffles Sabo’s hair, he looks almost fond and Ace is surprised that Sabo doesn't even try to bite his hand off. “They are pretty easy pets. It just needs clean water and some leaves or grass to eat. And try to keep his habitat somewhat clean. Also not hitting it or throwing him, he won’t like playing like that,” he tells Luffy sternly. “I bought a manual on how to take care of it when we got him so don’t worry, okay, it’ll be fine.”

Ace looks at the box to confirm that yeah, there seems to be a very small book tucked in the corner. He grabs it and throws it at Sabo. “You are on snail duty,” he decides. 

“Fine, just let me read this first. And that means I’m off Luffy duty in the afternoons.” 

Ace frowns, that’s a hard bargain. Still, if taking care of the snail requires reading… “Fine, but only every other one.”

“Deal!”

After that, it’s time for the class on pickpocketing that Buggy had promised them. The pirate grabs a big sack and starts filling it with small rocks. “It’d be better if it was sand but this will do for now.”

After the bag is full, he hangs it from a tree and dresses it with the coat he had gotten along with their posh outfits. Now that he is paying attention, Ace sees that at some point during the night he has sow bells in different parts of it. Finally he just slips a wallet in the left pocket.

“Alright,” he points at him. “Try getting the wallet without making any bell ring.”

Ace smiles cockily, this will be easy.

It’s not easy. The damn things don’t let him even slip his hand in without ringing! He gives up after five fallen attempts and just goes to sit down with Luffy.

Sabo takes it as his cue to try. Much to his chagrin, and Ace’s delight, he also fails. He also gives up after several tries. “This is impossible.”

Buggy just raises an eyebrow and extracts the wallet without any problem. “And this is the easy pocket, just wait until you upgrade to the inside breast pocket.” he points towards one that seems completely surrounded by bells.

“My turn, my turn,” Ace and Sabo try to stop Luffy but he all but jumps over the sack clinging to it and causing a cacophony of ringing. “Uuups.”

“It’s all a question of practice,” Buggy tells them when he sees their sour expressions. “There are some tricks, of course, and I will teach them to you but don’t expect to be experts by tomorrow. It took me a month to get my first success,” Sabo and Ace share a look, they are going to make it quicker.

They spend the rest of the morning practising while Buggy tells them how to improve and while none of them actually manages to get the wallet, Ace thinks the three of them are getting better. Luffy even seems to have understood what the objective is and has tried to stop trying to ring as many bells as possible.

They have tiger for lunch and share some with Buggy since he helps them catch it. He also eats so little it almost doesn’t count. Afterwards, Luffy decides to take a nap and Sabo engrosses himself in the den den mushi guide Buggy had bought them. That leaves just Ace to entertain the pirate which is awkward especially after he embarrassingly broke down crying in front of him.

“Can I ask you a question? It’s something I’ve been thinking about since last night.” Buggy looks unsure and Ace wants to scream at him to shut up. Instead he just nods, decided to get this over with. “Who was your mother?”

“You want to know about my mom?” The guy has just found out he is the son of the pirate king and he wants to ask about his mother?

Buggy nods. “It’s just, Captain had a type. And that type didn’t usually like him back. And really, I loved the man but I can’t think of anyone willing to put up with his bullshit for long enough to…” Buggy trails off, looking away with his cheeks flaming red.

Ace has never talked about his mom before, he realises. “I don’t know much,” he admits. “Just that she gave me my name. Hers was Portgas D Rouge.”

There’s a screech that manages to wake up Luffy and make Sabo drop his book.

“Portgas D Rouge?!?! Portgas D ‘Blackjack’ Rouge?!?!”

Buggy’s face is turning a very fun colour but Ace can’t appreciate it because apparently Buggy knew his mom, or at least knew of her. The pirate better start talking now.

Chapter Text

No way.

No fucking way.

No-ho.

Nope.

Buggy refuses to believe this.

Feral children, yeah sure, he used to be one too.

Captain having a kid, fine, it’s not the weirdest thing he has ever heard. The man may not have had game but he had charisma to spare.

Captain giving his kid to Garp, sure, he was never the smartest one.

Captain scoring with Blackjack Rouge? Ha. Not even if hell froze.

No way.

There is just no way.

“Did you know my mom?” Ace's expression is very different from the one he had when they were talking about Roger.

“I knew Portgas D Rouge but there is just no way she is your mom. That woman once threw Captain overboard for daring to use a pickup line on her.” Buggy shakes his head. “She kicked him in the balls because he called her beautiful instead of Blackjack, Captain spoke falsetto for a week.”

“Why Blackjack?” Ace asks and he looks just delighted at finding out that his mother was a terror.

“Maybe because he usually swindled everyone at cards? I don’t know kiddo, pirates don’t always choose monikers that make sense.” His is ‘The Clown’ and there’s nothing about him that really marks him as such. He just liked the whole circus aesthetic. 

“Mom was a pirate?”

The fuck? Again, what is Garp teaching these kids? “One of the greatest,” Buggy nods. “It’s shameful you youngsters don’t know about her.”

“So tell us!” Luffy drops onto his lap and even Sabo moves to sit closer to Ace. “I wanna hear about Ace’s mother!”

Buggy looks at Ace who just nods, looking as excited as Luffy for once. “The Queen of Spades, Captain of the Blackjacks and a fearsome pirate, that was Portgas D Rouge. She didn’t go by her surname or the damned D so most people knew her as just Blackjack Rouge. Captain was a bit infatuated with her which resulted in him being thrown at sea a lot and several contusions.”

The kids laugh at that and Sabo asks, “How did she fight?”

“She was a brawler and could take men twice her sides with just her fists but she always carried a staff too and if the enemy was worthy enough, she used it to brain them.” Captain had been worthy, he’d been worthy so many times that Crocus had suggested getting armor to protect his more sensible parts. “She had the worst temper I’ve ever seen, which does explain where our firecracker here gets it from, but she was loyal, strong and one hell of a captain by all accounts.”

“Ace, you take after your mom!” Luffy tells him excitedly and the boy looks ready to burst from joy.

“Not just character wise either,” Buggy notices. “Those freckles are all Rouge and so is the wavy hair. She was a blonde though.”

“Like Sabo?” Ace asks drinking in every drop of knowledge he can get. 

“A little more red, maybe, strawberry blond instead of golden locks,” Buggy says examining Sabo’s hair. The boy swats at him but it’s only halfheartedly. “She was also a runaway noble I think, but I don’t know much beside that, she didn’t like talking about it, especially not with brats from another crew.” He tries to remember because now it’s Sabo looking at him with stars in his eyes. “Pretty sure her parents wanted to marry her off and she didn’t approve. She may have set the royal family on fire.”

“So cool,” Sabo sighs and Buggy makes a mental note to keep all flammables away from that one. 

“What about her nakamas?” Luffy wants to know. “Were they cool as well.”

Lead settles in Buggy stomach and can’t stop the memory of Blackjack Rouge clinging to a wooden plank, alone in the sea and surrounded by burning ships. The kids must read something in his expression because they quiet down. “They were cool,” Buggy admits. “And brave and strong.”

“What happened?” asks Ace with a tiny voice.

“Ten enemy pirate ships and two marine flagships happened. Pirate life is dangerous and the Blackjack didn’t care who they made an enemy of. When we heard they were planning an ambush we tried to go to their aid but it was too late. All the ships had been sunk or set on fire and there was only one survivor. Blackjack was in pretty bad shape but she managed to send all her attackers to meet Davy Jones before she passed out.” Captain had been frantic, screaming for Crocus and sending the rest of them to look for survivors. 

“She lost her nakamas?” For all his childishness, Luffy looks like he understands the horror of that statement and Buggy just wants to punch someone.

“Yeah, it took a couple of months for her to recuperate enough to be on her way and she decided to retire to South Blue. Once a pirate has lost his crew it’s really difficult to start over.” If he was unable to keep his men safe and had to see Mohji, Cabaji and Richie slain before him… Yeah, that would be enough for him to give up the black sail. What good is a Captain that cannot protect his crew? 

The kids look grim and Buggy realises that he may have told them more than he should. “I suppose having Captain nurse her back to health changed her perception of him. Only a captain can even begin to understand the horror she went through and Roger, for all his faults, was a good listener.”

“But you said she hated his guts,” Ace asks, almost offended. Apparently this one liked the idea of his mom despising his dad. Weirdo.

“I said she enjoyed causing him bodily harm. Most of Captain’s best friends were like that! They respected each other as captains and they had been known to drink together when we moored in the same islands. Believe me, if Blackjack had hated him, she wouldn’t have let him breath anywhere near her.” Let alone bedded him but Buggy doesn’t want to think about this and he is not mentioning sex to kids. With his luck, he’ll end up having to give them The Talk. “They were friends who enjoyed sparing together, only their sparing once levelled an island.”

“So she attacked him because she liked him?” Luffy looks confused and no, no, no, no. He needs to but this right now.

“Which is not healthy. If you like someone, the right thing to do is to tell them and then accept whatever their answer may be. Not attacking and not trying to make them change their mind, okay? You cannot force people to like you.” The thing is, Luffy probably could which only makes the prospect even more terrifying.

“Okay!” He smiles brightly but Buggy isn’t quite sure that he’s actually gotten it. Oh well, there’s still decades before that becomes a problem.

Chapter Text

His mom had been a pirate! A captain at that and one strong enough to go toe to toe with the pirate king! And he had her freckles too! And Luffy had said he takes after her when Buggy had described her!

“Tell me more,” he demands and he knows he sounds like one of the spoiled nobles from High Town but right now he doesn’t care.

“I only spent a couple of months travelling with her and she was in mourning during those,” Buggy tells him apologetically. “So I may not be the best person to ask. Especially since I was a kid back then.”

“But you lived with her, right? So you must know something!”

“I know she was kind and didn’t look down on me and Shanks, she actually took us seriously and even taught us a couple of fighting tricks. Oh, and how to cheat at cards too.” Buggy smiles almost nostalgically. “I cleaned Gaban at poker twice in a row before he realized it, though Rayleigh made me return my winnings, apparently you are not supposed to  swindle nakama.”

Ace doesn’t know how to play cards. It’s not like they even have a deck. 

“She ate like a normal person so I almost forgot she was a D but she reminded me every time she decided to go surfing between seakings during storms.”

“What’s surfing?”

“It’s… it’s like sailing but instead of a ship you only have a plank and you stand in it riding the waves. We managed to find hers in the wreckage, it had some dials, that’s a technology from the grandline. Those allowed her to have some propulsion even without waves and go even faster. It was a death trap but she always said that she felt the freest when she was alone, surrounded by water and with the wind screaming in her ears.”

It sounds amazing! Only the wind and the salt from the sea in your face, and the murmuring of the waves as the only sound for miles. It must be like standing on the edge of the sea cliff but even better.

“She used to wear a flower in her hair, a big, red one,” Buggy bits his lips. “I think it was a hibiscus but I’m not completely sure. How she managed to keep it fresh with all the salt in the wind, I’ll never know.”

Sabo had stolen a book on plants, hadn’t he? Maybe later Ace can go and look up what that flower is like. Can it be found in Dawn? Maybe he can get one. Luffy once put flowers in his hair when they were trying to disguise themselves so it’s wouldn’t be weird if Ace did it too, right? Oh well, if someone mocks him he’ll just punch them.

“She sounds really cool,” Sabo admits which duh, Ace’s mom was the coolest. “No wonder Roger fell for her.”

There’s a squeak and Luffy’s hand stretches out to cover Sabo’s mouth. “We can’t tell people Ace’s dad was the pirate king!” he whispers loud enough for them all to hear. “It’s a secret!”

“It’s okay Luffy,” Ace tells him before he can smoother Sabo. “Buggy knows, he used to sail with him.”

“You were in the crew with the Pirate King? Wait, was Shanks in that crew too?” Luffy had already liked Buggy but now? Now Buggy will have a hard time getting away.

“Yup, we both were cabin boys in the Oro. Mopping the floors and running errands for the legends on board.” There’s something ugly in Buggy’s voice and Ace wonders why. He had liked Roger so what had been the problem.

Sabo tucks at Buggy’s sleeves to get his attention. “What does D mean? You keep saying it like it’s important.”

Oh yeah, he had said so hadn’t he? That Ace’s mom was a D.

“D is bullshit.” Buggy nods sagely. “Look, your brothers here are Monkey D Luffy and Portgas D Ace, right?”

How does he know? Ace hadn’t told him about his D.

“And Ace’s parents were Portgas D Rouge and Gol D Roger, and yeah, that’s the correct spelling, don’t let the newspapers fool you.” Then something dawns on him. “Oh fuck you are a double D! A D square! How on earth are you still alive?”

He looks like he wants an answer so Ace just shrugs. “I’m strong.”

Buggy just shakes his head looking extremely troubled.

“So what?” Sabo is still curious about that D thing. “It’s a family thing, isn’t it?”

“Kind of but it’s also a clear sign that someone is reckless and strong and fucking voracious. They are also very charismatic individuals that shape history for better or for worse.” Buggy mutters something then that sounds like ‘fucking Rocks’ which makes no sense. “And they have zero, and I mean zero, survival instincts or common sense.”

That’s rude, Ace has some common sense. He elbows Sabo who is nodding along like Buggy is making sense.

“Oh and I used to have the theory that it was contagious since well Shanks. You are actually making a good case for it too, I’m sorry.” He actually seems to mean it too and Sabo pouts, ha.

“That’s boring,” Luffy complains. “I want to hear more about pirates adventures.”

“Not now Luffy,” Sabo shushes him. “Well, they seem to be all pretty famous people, I mean we have the Pirate King and the Marine Hero. And you said Ace’s mom was also a great pirate. And Luffy and Ace have already made a name for themselves at least around here.”

“Yeah, and let’s not forget the world government's worst thorn in the side. The revolutionary leader, Monkey D Dragon.”

Chapter Text

The kids blink at him with their little faces completely blank.

“You do know who Monkey D Dragon is, right?” He really hopes the kids just didn’t hear him right. Three heads shake together. “Luffy, has no one told you about your father?”

“I have a father?”

Seas, does no one in the Monkey family have the first clue about raising children? It isn’t that hard, Dragon even had the best example of what not to do!

“Everyone has one.” Sabo grumbles and he is clearly not a fan of the idea. He then turns towards Buggy, ”He is alive?” 

Not for long if his and Ace’s faces are anything to go by. And Buggy will not stop them, hell he may have to find Dragon and have some chosen words with him as hell. Overthrowing governments is all well and good but he could at least visit!

“Yeah Luffy, you have a father, and a living one at that.” 

“Cool.” The kid doesn't look too bothered at least. Hell, he seems more interested in Slimy than in hearing about his father. His brothers are not the same. Ace is frowning and if Buggy had had any doubts about him being Captain’s son before they’d be completely dispeled now because that expression is painfully familiar.  

“What’s his excuse? If he is not dead, why isn’t he here?” Yup that glare is all Captain, no doubt about it. Rouge tended to smile when she was this mad. A very similar smile, in fact, to the one that Sabo is sporting. He almost pities Dragon.

“I heard he is busy toppling governments and the like,” Buggy tells them because well, his cause is worthy at least. “I told you he is a revolutionary. He goes to countries with corrupt monarchies where a fraction of the people live by hurting the rest and puts things right.”

“Like my parents?” Sabo asks and while Dragon doesn’t seem to be forgiven, it’s clear that he at least approves of his work. 

“Exactly like that, he takes the power from them and gives it to the people. There’s also the world nobles, of course. They look down on nobles the way nobles look down on poor people so imagine they think of the common folk. The government and the marines protect them and they can do basically what they want, hurt who they want and take what they want.” Even if what they want is people, the bastards. “They are Dragon’s ultimate goal. But in the meantime he is contenting himself by raising hell in minor monarchies and replacing their governments with people that actually care for the rest.”

“You can do that?” Fuck, maybe he should not have mentioned this in front of Sabo, the shinning in his eyes doesn’t augur good things.

“It’s not exactly legal if that’s what you are asking,” Buggy shrugs. “Then again, what is or isn’t legal is usually decided by those in power.”

Ace looks pretty done with the conversation. “Can we go back to the fact that Luffy’s deadbeat father is alive and hasn’t deigned to visit him once?”

This seems to shake Sabo out of his awe and he goes back to frowning. “Do you have any idea where we can find him?” he asks Buggy and his voice is so sweet and polite that it sends a shiver down his spine.

“Surprisingly, people trying to stage a coup on the world government don’t broadcast their location.” He may have a couple ideas though, not that he’ll tell the kids that.

Luffy seems finally bored of his new friend and he pouts at his brothers. “Are you done talking? Can we start fighting now?”

Buggy tenses, he is mostly certain that he doesn’t mean attacking him. Mostly. Still he’s already received a pipe to the head, he is not looking forward to another one so he keeps his eyes trained on Sabo. The kid just goes to fetch what looks like a board.

“Blue! Blue!” Luffy tugs at his sleeve. “You are fighting too, right?”

“Maybe, it all depends on who we are fighting.” He turns towards Ace who smirks at him.

“We fight each other to train,” the kid explains, which makes almost too much sense knowing them. “It’s one hundred fights each so we usually go fifty rounds against each other.”

“A hundred fights?” His voice may have raised an octave there. But really, he shouldn’t be surprised at this stage. Hell, he has a feeling they had already mentioned it. 

Luffy nods, probably taking his surprise for outrage. “I know! They put that stupid limit in because they were afraid they’d lose against me.”

Ace bumps him in the head. “We put that limit in because you’d sooner die of exhaustion than stop asking for rematches.”

“I was only going to fight until I won,” the youngest grumbled.

“And that was never going to happen,” Sabo tells him, sticking his tongue out. “Anyway, Buggy, you in?”

Buggy considers it. Well, he’s already decided he will train the brats and it wouldn’t hurt to get a feeling of how they fight. The back on his head throbs as a reminder that it could and have hurt. Still, “Sure, I’ll go ten rounds after the three of you together. Let’s do it first when you are still fresh.”

He hasn’t even stopped talking when he has to dodge to avoid Ace’s fist. The kid is fast, he’ll give him that. Luffy’s rubber arm and Sabo’s pipe are next. He could dodge them too but what will be the fun in that? He takes hold of Luffy’s hand and winds his arm around the pipe making a neat bow. Ace tries to take advantage of his distraction by jumping at him. I wouldn’t have worked even if he hadn’t screamed. Still, someone needs to teach him stealth. He redirects Ace’s trajectory with a soft shove and the kid falls onto Sabo.

“It’s my win,” he declares and he allows a smirk to creep onto his face. “Take five minutes to coordinate before you attack again, you won’t take me down without teamwork.”

They don’t take him down with it either, but they at least last more than a minute which seems to soothe their egos.

“Nice try,” Buggy tells them when they are picking themselves up from the floor. “Ace, you are strong but a direct approach won’t work with me, try to actually plan ahead. Luffy your devil fruit is cool but you still don’t control it very well so don’t attempt flashy stuff on the fly, just focus on improving your mid-range punches. Sabo, I get that aiming for my head is more satisfying but don’t obsess with that, there are plenty other places that will hurt me. Now try again.”

The kids look at each other before launching at him.

Chapter Text

Is this how Luffy usually feels? Five rounds in and they still haven’t been able to even touch the guy. He frowns, sharing a look with Sabo. “How did you manage to hit him yesterday?”

His brother shakes his head. “Pretty sure he was just too worried about you to see me coming. So maybe if you start bawling again...” Ace steps on Sabo’s food with all his might. “Kidding, just kidding. But he really is strong, isn’t he?”

“He’s not even separating his body!” Ace moans. He isn’t used to feeling so outclassed and he doesn’t like it. How does Luffy manage to never lose his drive when this must be how he always feels? Even now, when he and Sabo are starting to realize how hopeless this is, the younger one is just bouncing back into attack with an ever growing smile. Well, at least one of them is having fun.

“We need to at least land a hit,” Sabo decides, he grabs Luffy before he can launch himself against Buggy again. “Come here and listen.”

“Maybe we shouldn’t rely too much on Luffy following a plan.” The kid isn’t even paying enough attention to be offended by Ace’s comment. “Let’s just try to slate our attacks, there’s three of us and just one of him.”

“Okay, so Luffy you attack first,” Luffy nods, still trying to get away from Sabo’s grip. “Try to get him in his head, so his guard is as high as you can get it. Then I’ll go and since apparently I should stop targeting his smug face I’ll aim lower this time.” His smile is full of teeth and Ace almost whimpers in sympathy. “And just as he is trying to stop me and bending down a bit you go from the side and punch him in the nose, it’s a big enough target.”

Ace nods. “Sounds like a plan. Release Luffy in three.”

At least Luffy was paying enough attention that he jumps high before extending his arms for a punch that Buggy deflects easily. Luffy still hasn’t hit the ground when Sabo lunches, gleefully pulling the pipe back for impulse, and aims for the crouch. Ace is already in position and jumps a couple of seconds after his brother, trying to guess where Buggy’s face will be when he bends. 

Only he doesn’t. 

He sends Sabo’s pipe flying with a kick and just grabs Ace’s fist before it can connect. 

Ace pouts.

“Solid effort,” Buggy praises them and why does he keep doing that? It’s not like they are getting results. “You’ve got the numbers so trying to overwhelm me with attacks from all directions was a very good idea. Ace, your punches are very strong so you can get away with sending them midfligh but if you have your feet on the ground and twist a bit your body you’ll get even better results so try to get some solid ground when facing strong enemies. Luffy, I know punches don’t hurt you and that you don’t mind if I send you flying but do try to dodge at least sometimes, okay? And Sabo,” the kid looks at him with defiance. “Nice job, if possible, always aim for the balls, they're easy to reach and can easily reduce men to tears. Women too, they may not have balls but it hurts them there as well. Oh and you are smart and fast enough to attempt feints, so don’t just bet it all in one attack.”

Sabo puffs his chest out a bit and Ace has to suppress a snicker. So much for Sabo not liking Buggy…

The man smiles at them almost fondly before saying, “Four more rounds to go kids. Come at me!”

It’s no use really, they don’t manage to even faze the guy in any of their attempts. Still Ace knows he is getting better and he can feel himself smiling any time his fist makes a satisfying thumb against whatever Buggy has redirected it to. And it’s fun too, he’s never had to think too much in a fight, he just punched the bastards and called it a day. But now he is looking at Buggy and his brothers, trying to find an in and coming up with ways to bring the pirate down. 

When they end up flat on the ground for the tenth time he finds himself pouting alongside Sabo and Luffy. “Just a couple fights more,” he hears himself asks. And because he’s learned something from Makino he decides to add, “please?”

“Yeah, don’t be a chicken!” Sabo tries to egg Buggy on. 

“Chicken, chicken!” chorus Luffy.

Buggy just snorts. “Knowing when to retreat and which battles not to fight is one of my specialties, nothing wrong with not facing enemies you know you can’t best.” What a bunch of bullshit, Ace thinks. And anyway which fights can’t Buggy win? He is leagues above any pirate Ace has met. “And right now, I want to sit down and see how you fight each other. No point in improving your teamwork if you end up helpless on one on one fights.”

“Tomorrow then?” Sabo tries.

“Yeah, yeah,” Luffy nods. “You have to fight every day, that's the rules.”

Buggy smiles softly again and ruffles Luffy’s hair. “We’ll see. Now, you want me to keep count?” he gestures towards their board where Sabo is already writing a Buggy column with ten tally marks.

“Sure,” Ace tells him, gesturing to Sabo to give him the chalk. “I’m going first.”

Luffy quickly volunteers himself for the first rounds too and Ace smiles. As fun as it has been, fighting against Buggy, he is craving some victories for himself. Him and Luffy get into position and Sabo goes to sit beside Buggy.

“I’ll win this time!” Luffy declares launching at him and Ace shoves him into the ground with a satisfied grin. Buggy is right, meeting Luffy with a wide stand and his feet firm into the ground allow him to put more force into it and Luffy bounces high enough that gets stuck in a tree. 

“One tally for me.” Ace smirks at Buggy and Sabo.

Oh, this is going to be fun.

Chapter Text

Should Buggy be concerned? He’s never had a brother but he is pretty sure that gleefully pounding them into the ground is not normal. Then again he does remember the epic pranks the Whitebeard kids played on each other so maybe it’s completely natural.

He wonders how Birdie and Sparkly are doing, they stopped trying to get in touch a couple of years ago. Which is probably to be expected since Buggy hadn’t answered their calls once.

“Luffy is lasting longer today,” Sabo points out. “But that may be because Ace is playing with him.”

Buggy nods even if playing isn’t the word he’d have used. Ace seems to be taking these fights as an opportunity to try new things and while most of the strategy he is using is overkill, Buggy can help but smile proudly. He shouts a couple of pointers to both kids every now and again and even Luffy seems to be starting to think sometimes before throwing a punch.

“Luffy’s power is pretty tricky,” Sabo is mumbling by his side, sitting with his head resting on his hand. “He always bounces back so you have to be careful your attack isn’t reflected back to you. We had to tie him on a tree when we tried to rough him up.”

Okay this, this is definitely not normal. “You tried to rough up your little brother?”

Sabo shrugs. “He wasn’t our brother then, and Ace is the one that attempted to kill him, not me. I just wanted to scare him so he’d leave us alone.”

He’ll just ignore the trying to kill him thing, yeah, Ace clearly didn’t succeed anyway. “And how did that work out for you?” Buggy raises his eyebrow at the kid who just snorts.

“Not too well. But really, how would you take down a pirate with Luffy’s power?” Sabo asks, his eyes never leaving Luffy. “If you really wanted to keep him down?”

“Cutting weapons. Blunt ones won’t do anything to him.” Not without haki and there’s only one user of it living in East Blue full time. “Swords or knives would probably do the trick.”

“Or spikes,” Sabo’s tone is too dark for that to be a guess.

“Want to tell me what happened?” Buggy isn’t surprised when Sabo just shakes his head with his lips pursed tightly together. “Well, if you ever change your mind…”

“That’s another point for Ace,” Sabo interrupts him, clearly wanting to change the subject so Buggy let’s it drop for now.

True enough, Luffy is on the ground with Ace pinning him down. 

“Not yet, it isn’t,” Buggy smirks at Sabo. “Luffy, remember what we talked about, you are rubber, so your arm not only can stretch, it can also grow thinner or wider if you want. And you can move your elbow to wherever you want.”

“Right,” Luffy shuffles a bit but Ace is still holding him down with just his arms. 

“Concentrate, Luffy, you can do it.”

In the end, he can’t do much more than throw a weak punch at Ace by elongating and twisting his arm but the older boy has had to use his whole body to restrain him. 

“Not bad Lu,” Ace is the first to praise him. “Not enough to beat me, of course, but still.”

Buggy turns towards Sabo. “We should go get Luffy and eel to try and catch so he can get a reference on how to move. His skin is not as slippery but his bones are all rubber so he should be able to imitate its movements well enough.”

“Foosha has a lot of fishermen, I’m sure we can find some.” The blond nods. “Still, it’s a point for Ace as I said.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Buggy chalks it up on the board with a smile. “Ace really is good, isn’t he?”

“Ace is the best out of the three of us,” Sabo admits a bit reluctantly. “Though I’ve won against him several times.”

That seems a point of pride for the kid and Buggy has to smile. “Well done. It wouldn’t do Ace any good to always win, he needs to know he is not invincible.”

He still remembers the look on Shanks’ face the first time Birdie had utterly destroyed him in a sparring match. It would have been priceless if Buggy hadn’t also just gotten wrecked. Two against one and Birdie hadn’t broken a sweat.

“So any pointers on how to fight Ace?” Sabo asks and he is trying to sound casual, isn’t he? Seas but that’s almost cute.

“Wind him up,” is his instant answer. “He’ll get sloppier. And don’t try to face him head on, he is stronger than you. But you are slightly faster and more used to thinking on your feet so try to get as many hits in as possible. They don’t need to be strong, just enough that he feels like he is losing. That will only provoke him more.”

Sabo nods. “So basically, I poke him until his patience runs out. Okay, I can do that.” 

Buggy smiles. “Good luck then.”

At that moment Luffy goes flying for the fiftieth time and Ace turns towards them with a smirk. “That’s another point for me.”

“What???” Luffy is already running back towards them. “Nooo, one more, come on! Please Ace? Just one more fight?”

Buggy is almost sure Ace will fall for the puppy eyes but the kid just shakes his head. “You know the rules.”

“But I want to keep fighting…” Luffy is pouting now and Sabo just sighs.

“Well, you still have fifty rounds against me,” he points out stretching his arms and getting his pipe. “So let’s go.”

Ace doesn’t protest and just sits besides Buggy looking at his brothers. “Good luck, Luffy! Make sure to last at least five seconds!” 

“I will!” 

Chapter Text

Ace tries not to preen at Buggy’s praise while the guy goes over his fights with Luffy pointing out what he did best and how he could improve. Still, it feels kind of nice. He knows he is good but the pirates he usually beats up don’t like to point it out to him and Gramps' style of training consists basically of trashing them.

“Shouldn’t you be paying attention to Sabo and Luffy?” he asks when his cheeks start burning.

“I am,” the pirate smiles and yells a couple of pointers in his brothers’ direction. “I’m great at multitasking, that’s the main reason I’m still alive.”

Sabo seems to have decided to use Luffy’s devil fruit against him. He catches his elongated arms and knots them around a tree.

“Not fair,” Luffy complains, trying to kick him. “Wait no, not my leg too.”

It’s too late and now Luffy is standing on one foot while Sabo uses the other as a whip to hit him.

“Alright, alright, that’s a point to you Sabo, untie your brother.” Buggy seems to be holding back a laugh and Sabo pouts but obeys. 

Or tries to, at least, but apparently Luffy had tightened the knot while trying to free himself. And now with both him and Sabo freaking out and pulling wherever they can it’s getting even worse.

“Okay, stop.” Buggy gets to his feed and Ace follows. “Let me see.”

With agile fingers he starts gently tugging here and there and soon enough Luffy is free. “That was a nice knot, Sabo,” he praises, checking Luffy’s arms for any cut or bruise. “But a sailor has to be good at both tying and untying them. And he has to know which type to use in any circumstance.”

“Type? It’s a knot, you can double or triple it but that’s about it,” Ace tells him.

Buggy sighs and shakes his head. “What is that Grandpa of yours teaching you, really. How does he expect you to set sail without knowing the basics?”

“So teach us!” Sabo demands. “You said you would.”

“And I will, don’t worry. But I thought you were fighting now?” 

Luffy takes that as his cue to jump on Sabo and Ace and Buggy go back to their spot to sit down.

“Why are knots so important?” Ace asks. He understands fighting and even stealing but everyone already knows how to tie things!

“A ship relies on wind to navigate and it can’t get it without its sails.” Which duh Ace knew that much. “And to control the sails you need rope, rope that has to change where it’s tied to fair often and always has to stay strong no matter what. Hence, knots.”

Buggy gestures at the pickpocketing sack that’s still hanging in a near tree. “Since a ship is also always swinging and moving it’s also pretty common to hang things up instead of putting them on shelves or on the floor. And there’s the hammocks, you need to tie them up well if you don’t want to fall down when you sleep, nasty way to wake up, let me tell you. So sailors use knots that just get stronger when you put strain on them.”

“Is that the knot you used there?” Ace asks getting up to go examine it. It really does look weird and far more complicated than the ones Ace usually ties.

“That’s a Bowline, the king of knots.” Buggy nods while adding a tally next to Sabo’s name. “I’ll teach you how to make it if you want. Go find some rope.” 

Ace obeys before even realizing it and runs up to their tree house. He stops to look at the books Sabo had bought and traces a finger through their spines. There are only eight books, Luffy’s fairytales of the four blues, his own navigation for beginners and devil fruit encyclopedia and five that Sabo chose. There’s one on plants, one on the weather, one on carpentry, a history one and one that could either be a sailor’s old dairy or a fictional story about a sea merchant. 

He had thought that they were useless to be honest but apparently, even knots are important and complicated. Maybe there’s a lot more that he has taken for granted that can be done better and make life easier for his brothers and him. And maybe, these books will tell him how. Is that why Sabo loves them so much? For the first time ever, Ace is almost excited to read.

Still, knots first. He grabs a couple of pretty short leftover ropes and goes back down.

He is about to ask Buggy to start teaching him when Sabo launches at him. He dodges it, jumping to one side. “What the fuck, Sabo?”

His brother only smiles at him. “I’m done with Luffy, now it’s your turn.”

Sure enough there are fifty tallys besides Sabo’s name already and Luffy is pouting sitting in Buggy’s lap while the pirate tries to untangle his stretched limbs.

“But…” Ace was looking forward to learning how to tie things. He looks at the rope in his hands.

“Awww. Are you afraid of me, Ace?” Sabo’s tone is mocking and makes Ace’s hackles raise instantly.

He drops the rope and closes his fists. “Your funeral.”

Fighting with Sabo is usually fun, he is strong and fast and the only person that can keep up with Ace. Well, beside Buggy and the old geezer but they don’t count. Today however, Sabo is not taking it seriously. He evades all of Ace’s hits and only answers with faints and weak slaps.

“What are you doing?” Ace asks between gritted teeth. Sabo uses his distraction to poke his finger at his side. “Fight me already!”

Sabo smiles before ducking behind a tree. “But I am.”

He is not, he is just running around and making Ace chase him. It’s annoying. Ace punches the tree Sabo is hiding behind and the tree falls with a loud crack but his brother is already several meters away and… is he sticking his tongue out at Ace? Oh he is so going to get it.

Ace launches towards Sabo trying to get to him as quickly as possible and stop him from running away again but Sabo just jumps making him crash head first into a tree. Then Sabo lands on his back and chokes him with his pipe. “It’s my victory!”

Buggy is already walking toward them and quickly pulls Sabo away from Ace, holding his face up. “Are you okay? Do you feel faint? Is your vision alright?”

Ace's face is burning with humiliation, first Sabo defeats him and now Buggy is worried? And all in front of Luffy too! “I’m fine!” He shakes Buggy’s hands off his face.

“That was a nasty collision,” Buggy tells him and his hands twitch like he wants to touch him again. “Let me check you don’t have a concussion.”

“I said I am fine!” Ace growls trying to shove him away. He glares at Sabo. “Don’t get too cocky, this is just fight one out of fifty.”

Buggy is still looking worried. “Are you sure you should keep fighting? You just hit your head pretty hard and you are not made of rubber.”

“Stop already! I’m not weak!” Now even Sabo is starting to look guilty, like Ace is someone that needs coddling.

“Alright, alright!” Buggy holds up his hands in defeat. “Just tell me if you feel dizzy, okay?” he continues quickly before Ace can protest again. “And don’t let Sabo provoke you, anger and impatience makes you sloppy. You’ve got a good eye for strategy, don’t lose sight of that.”

Ace head snaps towards Sabo. “You were doing that on purpose?”

“It was Buggy’s idea!” his brother quickly protests pointing at the pirate. “We were talking about strategies to bring you down and he came up with this way.”

“No fair!” Ace complains. “You didn’t tell me how to fight Sabo.”

“You didn’t ask.”

“Well, I am asking now!”

Buggy taps his chin. “He is the worst out of you three at improvising. Try to get him into a terrain he isn’t familiar with or hit him with new moves. He is faster than you but also weaker, get him somewhere there’s not much space to fight. The less he can move, the more you can face him head on.”

Sabo is frowning at that and Buggy must notice because he quickly adds. “That is all relative, of course. You are actually very good at improvising compared to your average child and believe me, you are leagues above strength wise to what I was at your age. Ace is just off the charts.”

Ace smirks at Buggy “So both Sabo and I would have defeated you if you were our age then?”

There’s a chuckle for the pirate and it’s not exactly mean but it’s not kind either. “Not a chance, my technique was far superior to yours and I was used to fighting stronger opponents. Not to mention that all your training focuses on foes bigger than you that basically only use brute force. You’d have gotten no defence against a scrawny boy like me that used tricks and long range weapons. Now, are you ready for a second round?”

Ace and Sabo smirk and get into position.

Chapter Text

Buggy knows that if Ace realizes he is still monitoring him, the kid will probably punch him. But still! A concussion is nothing to sneeze at and he’ll be damned if he let’s the kid get brain damage on his watch. 

Fortunately the rest of the afternoon had passed without too many more incidents. Ace had secured 27 wins against Sabo’s 23 which had seemed to sooth his ego a bit and the kids had decided to spend the rest of the afternoon either reading (well that had been mostly Sabo), learning how to tie knots (Luffy had been almost as enthusiastic as Ace and had decided to practice on himself because he was too lazy to go grab a rope) or attempting to get the walled from the hanging sack (without much success yet). 

“We should go get something to eat before it gets dark,” Ace points out after getting a clove hitch right for the first time.

“I want tiger!” demands Luffy instantly. 

Sabo sighs. “Lu, that’s a lot of work, can we just hunt some crocodiles instead?”

Luffy pouts. “But Buggy is here! He can help us fight it.” And Buggy could but hunting wild animals is not exactly his favourite activity. Luffy turns toward him. “Please?”

Buggy sighs. “Alright.”

The tiger they were referring to is apparently the huge, monstrous beast that Buggy saw in his first day. He sighs, why was he expecting otherwise?

“They are pretty tricky,” Ace tells him, slowing down to walk by his side. “Because they live in pairs so if you kill one, there’s always another one pissed at you and ready to attack.”

Sabo’s shiver lets Buggy know they are talking from experience. He wants to ask more but Luffy has already catapulted towards the smaller one and Ace and Sabo are quick to jump to his defence.

And that leaves Buggy to deal with the big one on his own. He mentally apologizes to the beast and takes out one of his knives. A nice, paintless cut through the neck should do the trick. He gets ready to throw it as the tiger jumps towards him when he hears a scream.

He turns around to see a wounded Ace standing between a fallen Luffy and the tiger’s claws. Sabo is busy getting the unconscious kid away while Ace covers their retreat.His knife flies from his hand getting the damn animal in his left eye and it roars in pain. Good.

The other tiger seems to think he’s distracted and tries to bite him which makes it very easy to drop a Buggy Bomb into his mouth. Buggy doesn’t even look in its direction when he hears it explode, it’s the other one he is concerned about. 

Half blind and furious, it seems to focus on Ace and that? That is a mistake it will pay with his life. He throws it three more knives and they all hit bullseye. He doesn’t bother to check, and starts running towards Luffy and Sabo. Buggy has already reached them when the beast goes down.

“What happened? Is he okay?” The little one has a pretty nasty cut in his forehead but seems relatively unharmed besides that.

“It threw him against a rock, but it was a very pointy one so he didn’t bounce back,” Sabo is trying his best not to sound hysterical and Buggy carefully takes Luffy from him and rips part of his cloak to bandage his head.

“He’ll be okay, right?” Ace has run towards them and the blood smeared on his cheek contrasts too vividly with his pale face.

“He’ll be fine, head wounds just tend to bleed a lot.” Buggy finishes with Luffy and gets another bit of his cloak. “Give me your arm, Ace.”

Ace hesitates and hides it behind his back. “It’s just a scratch.”

Sure, a scratch from a giant cat that goes from his elbow to his wrist. But Buggy bits his tongue and just grabs Ace’s arm to start applying first aid. “Do you have medical supplies on that treehouse of yours?”

Sabo nods, looking a bit more like himself even if his red stained hands are still trembling a bit. “We have some bandages and alcohol to disinfect.”

“Good, let’s go.”

Ace insist on carrying the fucking tigers with them because ‘Luffy really wanted to eat them’ so Buggy takes one and reluctantly lets Ace take the other. Sabo is more than happy to take Luffy and walks with far more care than really necessary to avoid disturbing him.

Like Sabo had said, the kids have a somewhat adequate first aid kid and Buggy cleans Luffy’s head wound while Sabo does the same for the ‘scratch’ on Ace’s arm. “It stinks,” Ace complains when Sabo pours abundant alcohol in it .

“Don’t be a baby,” his brother tells him. “It can’t hurt more than getting the damn wound in the first place.”

“Can so.”

“Can not.”

“Can so.”

“Can not.”

“Can I have tiger already?”

Luffy blinks awake and smiles at the three people gaping at him.

“You idiot!” Sabo has to stop Ace from punching Luffy in the head. “That’s why Buggy told you to dodge! You could have gotten seriously hurt.”

Luffy shakes his head. “Not really, you were there after all.” While Ace is sputtering and trying to come up with an answer the boy turns towards Sabo. “So can we have dinner or not?”

The blonde just sighs. “I’ll go start the fire.”

“Luffy, is your vision funny like there’s two of everything?” Buggy asks, trying not to sound too anxious. “Do you feel like you are on a ship or like the ground is moving? Does it hurt anywhere?”

Luffy shakes his head, which is not something he should be doing with his wound. “Not really. Why?”

“Because now I’ve got two idiots that may be concussed instead of just one,” Buggy grumbles mostly to himself. “We better go and join Sabo before he too decides to hit his head against something.”

Luffy just laughs at him and jumps down way quicker than it’s advisable in his condition.

Buggy turns towards Ace. “Are you coming?” Ace nods but doesn’t move. “Are you okay? It doesn’t hurt, does it?”

At this the kid does shake his head. “I was too slow,” he admits and oh no, not the guilt again. “I saw that the tiger was going to attack Luffy, I saw it and I couldn’t… I just couldn’t...”

Fuck, he looks ready to cry again.

“Hey, it wasn’t your fault. If anything, it was mine, I let myself be distracted and didn’t realize what was happening, sorry.” Ace shakes his head violently and seems ready to protest but Buggy stops him and pets his head a bit hesitantly. “You did great Ace, you took it on on your own so Sabo could get Luffy away. That was very brave of you.”

“It wasn’t enough!”

“It was more than enough and Luffy is fine. Sabo is fine. You are fine. So everything is alright, isn’t it? Come on, let’s go eat the bastards, that will teach them not to mess with us!”

Ace doesn’t look completely convinced but he manages a small smile. He opens his mouth to say something but Sabo interrupts him from below.

“Come on Ace! If you take much longer Luffy won’t leave you anything!”

Ace seems to finally put himself together and he screams back. “Luffy! If you touch mine and Buggy’s portions I will punch you!” He smiles a bit shyly at Buggy. “Let’s go, Sabo is not kidding about Luffy and I’m hungry.”  

Buggy nods and together they make their way down to the clearing.

Chapter Text

During dinner Ace can’t help but sneak a couple of glances at Buggy. He is weird. Like really weird. Weirder than he looks. His nose may be the least weird thing about him. The last person Ace met who made this little sense was Luffy and even he had needed more than a couple days for Ace to feel this comfortable around him.

Buggy is looking at him too. At him and at Luffy. Every time one of them stumbles or seems to hesitate he looks really worried. It’s stupid, some little bumps on the head and he is acting like they will drop dead any second now. Ridiculous. Compared to the Old Geezer, the tigers were almost gentle with them.

Still, he is also entertaining Luffy with some stories about his crew so at least some of his energy is being put to good use. The stories are good, good enough that Sabo is engrossed in them almost as much as Luffy, but Ace can’t seem to concentrate on the words.

The wound on his arm throbs a bit but Ace ignores it, focusing instead on Luffy. He doesn’t seem in pain. But then again, he didn’t seem to be in much pain after Porchemy either, the wounds only seem to hurt him when they are being made, afterwards they usually stop bothering him. But Luffy doesn’t get knocked out easily and if Buggy hadn’t been there...

Ace shakes his head, Buggy said it was all okay, they were all okay. That’s what mattered.

But it’s kind of good that Buggy is here, he is ready to admit this much. He’s a good fighter and a better teacher and Ace has had fun this last couple of days. It would be nice if he could stay. Not always, of course. Having an adult around all the time would be bothersome. 

“So how long are you going to stay?” he asks Buggy and he tries to sound bored but the twitch on his lips (and on Sabo’s frown) tells him he hasn’t succeeded.

“A couple more days for now,” Buggy answers and he sounds pretty sorry too. That’s going to be like four whole days, the old geezer only stays that long for his once a year vacation. “I was only supposed to stay one night so my crew will get restless if I prolong it much more. I’ll make sure to come more days next time.”

“Don’t go to any trouble for us,” Sabo’s voice is nonchalant but doesn’t hold near as much hostility as he was probably going for. “It’s perfectly okay if you don’t come back at all.”

At this, of course, Luffy protests. “Noooo! He promised to help me with my rubber attacks! He has to come back!”

“Fine,” Ace sighs because he knows that Luffy will throw a tantrum if he doesn’t agree. “But leave us a couple of weeks to ourselves before you return. I’m tired of being around old people.”

“Who are you calling old?! I am not yet thirty!” Buggy is as red as his nose.

“Ancient,” agrees Sabo. 

Buggy is about to protest when a weird sound comes from beneath his cloak. “Mushi, mushi. Mushi, mushi.”

He takes out a small snail which looks pretty similar to Slimy and Sabo’s eyes light up. “Is that a baby den den mushi?”

“Indeed.” Buggy is pursing his lips together with worry when he answers.

“Captain Buggy?” A voice Ace kind of recognizes calls for Buggy and… yeah, it’s the person that interrupted their call with the lion tamer, he is pretty sure.

“Cabaji,” Buggy acknowledges. “Were you jealous you didn’t get to speak to the brats like Mohji and decided to call?” His tone is light but Ace can read in it that he doesn’t really expect that to be the case.

“Sadly no, though the bastard could have passed me the call,” he grumbles. “Not fair he is the only one that’s spoken to the kiddos.”

“Cabaji, get to the point.”

“Right, remember that Krieg rookie? He’s decided to make trouble on one of our islands. We could take him but you said it was better he thought we were weaker than him, and making him back off with his pride intact is proving more difficult than we thought.” Why would Buggy not want his crew to kick asses.

“Any injuries? How are the villagers holding up?” Buggy’s tone is suddenly serious which doesn’t really suit him.

“He tricked the Funan Bros with a white flag to get them close enough to have his men shoot them but their reflexes saved them from any serious injury, just a few grazes. Seems like the bastard likes to fight dirty, he even approached the village in a stolen marine ship. Luckily the villagers don’t really like the marines and they called the Domingos. When they saw what was going on, the Domingos posed as civilians and took all the damage the Krieg crew was dishing. Most of them were pretty weak but apparently his first mate is quite something, he managed to break Pablo’s ribs. They left pretty quickly with the decoy treasure but they are still in our territory and we can’t protect every island at the same time. If they had actually attacked the civilians… Well it wouldn’t have been pretty.”

“Alright,” Buggy sighs. “I’m sure Lucas and Javi will be keeping an eye on Pablo but sic Doc on him too, broken ribs are no joke. And don’t let the Funan Bros anywhere near that crew again, they are too naive. Send a message to all our islands about Krieg using marine ships and tell them to be wary of any non-threatening vassel they see approach. Also send a couple of treasure chests to each village so they can have money to ‘be stolen’ from them and the pirates don’t get too frustrated. Better to keep them happy, happy people are usually less destructive. Don’t overdo it, though, we don’t want monthly visits. Is Krieg someone we can bribe?”

“Not enough honor for that, he’d take the money and then feel very proud when he betrayed his part of the bargain.” Cabaji’s tone is pure disdain. “He’s proud and thinks himself both smart and powerful and is recruiting anyone that will join him, a quantity over quality kind of guy.”

Buggy makes a face. “Sounds lovely, and I’m assuming he couldn’t give a rat ass about his crew?” Cabaji hums affirmatively. “I’ll need a map of the grandline for him to steal and the East Blue path needs to be accurate. He wants fame, we’ll get him to go to the Graveyard. Let's see how tough he thinks he is once he’s seen the true power of the sea. He’ll need several years to build a crew good enough to go there but as long as he is entertained recruiting and arming men, he should reduce the amount of actual pillaging. Or at least lose interest in small villages since they are usually quite poor. I’ll fight him and be utterly defeated and lose the map but I’ll also destroy most of his ship and injure most of his crew in the process, that should make me both uninteresting and expensive as an enemy and with some luck, he’ll leave our territory alone after that.”

At this Ace just can’t stop himself any longer. “Why? You can totally kick his ass so why would you let him win?”

“Yeah!” At least Sabo agrees with him. “Just take him out and he won’t hurt anyone again.” 

“Are you going to finish that tiger?” Luffy points at Buggy’s half eaten dinner.

“Cabaji,” Buggy says into the snail, handing Luffy the meat. “You’ve got your instructions, I’ll see you soon.”

“Swift Winds, Captain,” his nakama wishes him. “And goodnight, little ones.”

Buggy puts the snail away under his cloak and he still hasn’t answered them. “Are you going to ignore us?”

“No,” he shakes his head. “I’m just trying to think of how to explain it… You know there are five seas, right? North, South, East, West and the Grandline? Well, there’s technically six if you actually separate the Grandline into its two parts but that’s not important. Anyway, we are in East Blue.”  

“We know that,” Sabo rolls his eyes. Probably even Luffy is aware of that.

“And do you know that the East Blue is considered the weakest sea?” The weakest? The weakest?! Oh Ace is so going to show them all just how strong he really is. Buggy must sense his anger because he smiles. “Of course, there are exceptions, some of the most powerful beings in the world were from here, Gol D Roger and Monkey D Garp for starters.”

“What does that have to do with anything?” asks Ace who is still a bit mad about the weakest sea comment.

“I’m getting there,” Buggy promises. “Right now, I’m easily the most powerful pirate in East Blue but that doesn’t mean much in the grand scheme of things. I’ve been hunted by people so much stronger than me, I spent years fighting battles there was no way I could win and to be honest, I got pretty tired of that very quickly.” Buggy had told him people had wanted him dead for being Roger's apprentice, hadn’t he? Ace really wants to punch something. “I didn’t want that life so I retreated to my beautiful, sane East Blue where I could live peacefully, or as peacefully as pirate life can get and got myself a crew of like minded individuals. People have mostly forgotten about me but that’s because I’m not giving them a reason to remember.”

“So if you showed how strong you really are they would come to fight you again?” asks Ace though it’s not making much sense to him.

“Most likely, as long as I’m not a threat or a challenge, people won’t go out of their way to attack me or worse, my crew. And if they think I’m weaker than I am they will be unprepared if they actually fight me.” The idiots that underestimate Ace are easier to take down, he supposes, so at least that part makes sense. But isn’t Buggy mad? Ace gets really angry when people think he is weak.

“But still, this Krieg pirate, he is an East Blue rookie. You are an East Blue heavy weight, it would make sense if you beat him.” Sabo tells him. “You could stop him from attacking people.”

“I could,” Buggy agrees and he looks really sad. “But what then? Do I stop all the rookies in this Blue? Maybe I could actually pull it off without calling much attention to myself, alright. And what happens after? The, very weak, east blue marines get even more complacent and the second a threat comes our way they are even less prepared to deal with it. And the villagers have the same problem only worse. And I can’t be everywhere at once to protect everybody. Not to mention that if word gets out that there’s a sea without pirates or with only a small crew ruling over it, there will be crews that take that as an invitation, crews from more powerful seas. No, it’s better if there are some local pirates, especially ones like Krieg, and if they get too big all it takes is a gentle nudge and they will leave for richer waters and stop being our problem.”

“Why are pirates like Krieg a good thing? He sounds awful?” 

“Of course he does, Sabo.” Buggy smiles at his brother. “He is an overgrown child with a lot of dangerous toys and who can’t understand mercy or honor so he thinks they are only for idiots. That type of man finds pleasure by getting fame and getting one over more powerful people. And he is not going to get either from civilians so he’ll target marine bases and big cities, places that are actually equipped to fight back and protect the weak. He also wants a crew as big as possible which means that a lot more pirates will be working together. That means the marines will keep an eye on him and know which islands they need to help or evacuate quickly.”

“And if they are working together, they attack less places than if every pirate went on their ways,” completes Sabo who has finally stopped frowning. 

“Exactly.” Buggy nodds. “He is a bastard, don’t get me wrong, but I’ve met monsters and Krieg? He doesn’t even come close, he isn’t competent or sadic enough to be. He is more useful to me alive than dead.”

“So you lose on purpose?” Ace is still fixated in that. 

“I do, and proudly so. Sometimes because I want to maintain my image of a bumbling fool and sometimes I want morons with more pride than sense to get a false impression of themselves. Sometimes I just want to test new crews and ensure they are ready to move to the next sea.” Buggy shrugs his shoulders looking a bit troubled. “I’m sorry if I’ve disappointed you.”

Ace shakes his head violently. “You haven’t.” Buggy is weird and he does weird things for weird reasons. Ace doesn’t understand him at all. Still, “I think you are a little bit cool.”

Chapter Text

Cool? The brat thinks he is cool? I mean, he is. He totally is. Far cooler than the red bastard for starters. But most people don’t see it that way. Especially powerful people. And this brat, with his monstrous strength and unbreakable Will, thinks Buggy is cool.

“Really Buggy, where were you during the battle? You are so lame!”

Buggy had thought… Well, the kids clearly admire his strength and worldly knowledge and he may be the most competent pirate the two oldest have met but that was now. As soon as they set sail they would meet so many stronger people and they would think back and laugh at how easily impressed they had been. With any luck they would think of Buggy with fond exasperation. Or most likely be disillusioned by him. That was what was supposed to happen at least.

“I thought Roger's apprentices were supposed to be strong! Were you a pity case?”

But he has told Ace he was going to let a piece of garbage beat him and the brat had said he was cool. 

“Buggy, I know it’s easier to back away but don’t you have any pride?”

“East Blue, eh? Should I be surprised you are running away with your tail between your legs?”

“Didn’t Shanks-kun offer you a place in his crew, Buggy-kun? Maybe you could have stayed with him, he’s got a powerful crew, he would have protected you and you could have stayed in the Grandline.”

“Blue! Blue!” Luffy is tugging at his cloak. “I think you are cool too. You gave me meat!”

“Thank you.” He somehow manages a smile but the kids are looking at him with worry. Fuck. “And I’m sorry I’ll have to leave early.”

“That’s okay,” Sabo assures him. “You need to look after your crew, some are hurt after all.”

“Yeah,” his tone turns a bit darker when he thinks of Pablo and the Funas Bros. “I’ll enjoy taking out Krieg’s crew. Especially that first mate of his, he’s getting twice the broken ribs Pablo has. Have to prove I have some strength, after all, otherwise Krieg’s victory won’t feel as good to him.”

“Shishishishi,” Luffy laughs. “You are like Shanks!”

“I’m nothing like him!” His voice is higher than usually and he hates it.

“Wow, Bugs, you are the coolest! You’ll be my co-captain when we grow up, right?”

“No, you are!” Luffy insists like it’s the most obvious thing in the world. Like people don’t do a double take when they find out he and Shanks know each other, let alone that they used to be nakama. “When some bandits threw sake and food on him and insulted him he was the first to laugh so I thought he was a coward but then those bandits tried to hurt me and he took them all out. He said that he wouldn’t care if someone spit on him but he’d get mad if his friends were hurt. And you don’t care about Krieg winning against you but you are really mad about his nakama hurting your crew.”

So the idiot is  still not demanding the respect he deserves, has Buggy taught him nothing? Really, Shanks is always letting everybody push him around even when he is worth at least twice as much as them. It’s fucking annoying is what it is. Still, he can guess why he didn’t want to get it on with some lowly mountain bandits. ‘Yonko candidate slaughters a village’ is not quite the headline he is aiming for. “I guess we both did learn from Captain.”

“Roger was like that too? Didn’t you say he never backed down from a fight?” Ace asks with probably more curiosity than he wishes he had.

Buggy feels himself smiling. “That doesn’t mean he let every little thing provoke him into one. Captain didn’t avoid fights for the same reason I do. For me it’s about self-preservation. For Captain it was about not destroying the world. He was too strong to get into conflict blindly, he could have seriously hurt somebody. Shanks is the same. Luffy, does someone deserve to die for spilling some drink on you?” The kid shakes his head. “Of course not. So Shanks doesn’t take it to the point where someone will.”

“Come on Bug, is just a bruise, it doesn’t hurt one bit! And if Captain finds out he will kill him. So let’s keep it between us, yeah?”

“But how does he manage to not get mad?” Ace is looking almost guilty and Buggy really needs to find a way to convince him that he is not responsible for all the evil in the world.

“I suppose he just thinks it’s not worth it. Or he gets mad and he’s just good at hiding it. Anyway, he doesn’t want to be the person that goes around hurting the weak, even the annoying ones, just because he can, so he isn’t. It’s as simple as that.” Buggy shrugs his shoulders. “Of course there are exceptions. Mainly: anyone touches his people and they are dead regardless of motive and strength.”

“You said it was okay, that it was only a bruise!”

“That was when it was my bruise. This  time he has hurt you !”

“I kept your secret so you are keeping mine!”

“I won’t tell Captain, that’s all I’m promising.”

“What if someone insults his friends? Where is the line?” asks Ace and he better not be taking conflict management advice from Shanks of all people. There is such a thing as a middle ground.

“Just follow your gut, Ace, you are a good kid. Just remember that you are a lot stronger than the rest so you may hurt them more and they may handle it worse. For some people, a broken arm is pretty bad and they don’t heal as fast. Keep it in mind when you are deciding how you should react.” Buggy sees that Sabo is nodding and that one could maybe benefit from more strict guidelines. His head still hurts and that hit could have actually killed someone. That being said, it would have been someone that had made Ace cry so maybe Sabo’s got a point there. “Same goes for you two. Being strong doesn’t mean being a bully and I do not care who ‘starts’ it, okay?”

“Okay!” Luffy agrees.

“Fine,” Sabo's smile is a bit too sharp for Buggy’s taste. “I’ll follow my gut.”

Yup, that one is definitely trouble. It would be terrifying if it wasn’t kind of adorable. He tousses Sabo’s hair just because he can.

“Stop it,” the kid protests but he doesn’t even try to bite him. “Anyway, at what time are you leaving tomorrow?”

And that’s the question. He would like to wait until they wake up but his crew is counting on him, not to mention the villagers under his protection. “As soon as the sun rises probably.”

Luffy pouts but surprisingly, he doesn’t try to protest. “But you will come back, right?”

“Of course, I’ll even bring you gifts.” Buggy knows he is going to regret it, he really does. “What do you want?”

“Meat!”

“A lighter!”

“A knife!”

Chapter Text

Ace wakes up with a yawn. The sun is far higher than it usually is when he gets up. Then again Buggy had kept them all up pretty late the night before. Something about ‘making sure there wasn’t brain damage’ and ‘ensuring they wouldn’t do anything too crazy before he returned’.

He really is a dork.

Buggy had told them not to attempt pickpocketing on people even if they succeeded with the sack. (“They are still looking for the culprit of the other day, if they catch you they’ll try to pin it on you. Let’s give them a month to cool down, okay?”) And he had strongly suggested they took Tiger out of their diet for a while. (Luffy had not been pleased). Finally he had reminded them, again, to call him using the den den. (“For anything at all, you hear me? I’m not too far away, a day’s journey at most”).

The guy worries a lot.

“Finally a normal day,” Sabo has already been awake for a while and he is reading the book about the weather.

“As normal as it gets with Lu around,” Ace gestures at their still sleeping brother. “Can I read that with you?”

Sabo doesn’t mention the small quaver in his voice, he just goes back to the first page and gestures to Ace to sit beside him. “There are some words that you may not know,” he says hesitantly. “They are difficult ones, most people wouldn’t know them.”

“I’ll ask you what they mean,” Ace mumbles. “And I’m sorry if I’m too slow. Maybe I should just get another one and let you read in peace.” Yeah, why had he asked something so stupid? Now Sabo’s has had to go back to the beginning!

“No! Ace, come on, it will be more fun if we read it together. We can help each other understand what it’s saying.” Sabo is probably just taking pity on him, the little Ace has deciphered seems pretty easy to get. But still, he is grateful to his brother for wanting to share this with him.

“Okay!”

They read together for almost an hour before Luffy wakes up demanding breakfast. And it’s kind of fun? Ace is really slow and there’s at least one word every paragraph that he needs Sabo’s help with but Sabo is a good teacher. Even if he’s not too good at mete- meteor- weather stuff. Meteorology! Right! Maybe it’s because Ace is more used to living outside and Sabo grew up in a house but what the book is telling him makes sense. He always knew that there was a weird sensation before it was about to rain, he just didn’t know it was called low pressure! And it can be measured! And that’s just one thing he’s learned! There are types of clouds and some travel faster and some make rain and others don’t! 

“That’s okay but can we get food?” Luffy, as always, has his priorities straight when Ace tries to explain it to him.

“We’ll go hunt in a moment,” Ace promises. “We need to put the book back.”

“Actually, you should put it with yours,” Sabo tells him. “We can keep reading it together, of course, but you seem to be liking it more than I do.”

“But you chose it!” Ace protests even when his hand tightens around the book.

“And now I’m giving it to you.” 

Ace looks at the book in his hands. He wants it. He doesn’t usually want things that aren’t food. Still fair is fair. “You can have mine about Navigation then! We’ll read it together too but it’s yours.”

Sabo sighs and he seems about to protest, probably something about him having more books anyway, but Luffy whines again. “I want breakfast!”

“Yeah, yeah,”

They decide to go get some crocodiles. Catching them is easy but Ace still stays close to Luffy. He’s managed to get himself eaten before and after the last few days, he is not risking a repeat. 

Since he is keeping an eye on him, he realizes that Luffy is actually managing to hit them when he stretches his arm. His punches are maybe slightly weaker but his aim actually exists now! And was that a feint? Did Luffy actually listen to Buggy?

A crocodile gets too cheeky and tries to bite him so Ace kicks him away. It crashes against a tree and doesn’t get back up. 

Sabo throws his on top off Ace’s and joins him on Luffy-watching. “Should we help him?”

Ace shakes his head. “Nah, he got this.”

Right on cue, Luffy decides to stretch his arms and wraps them around and around the crocodile till it is completely wrapped. His face is screwed in concentration and he seems to be tightening his grip. The crocodile trashes about but there’s not escaping and after a few minutes it stills completely. 

Sabo is the first to react. “Luffy, what did you do?”

Luffy turns towards them with a bright smile. “I hugged him! Yesterday Buggy said I have a python’s hug so I asked what that was. He said it is a snake that hugs its prey so tightly it crushes them so I wanted to try it too!”

Sabo and Ace share an amused look. He kind of wants to be there when Luffy tells Buggy he had put his probably innocent comment to practice with a crocodile. It seems like the kind of thing he’d have a fun overreaction too.

Luffy must see something in their expressions because he pouts. “It worked though.”

Ace opens his mouth to tell him that he was still the last one to hunt one but pauses. If Buggy were here he’d praise Luffy, though probably only after flailing around and muttering about crocodiles. And he has to admit that being praised had felt pretty nice. Well, there’s nothing to lose by trying it out. “Nice job.”

Now it’s his turn to be stared at. “What?”

“Nothing,” Sabo raises his hands. “It’s just you don’t usually…”

He doesn’t know how to end the phrase but Luffy does. “You are usually meaner!”

There’s no judgement in Luffy’s voice but Ace feels himself flush anyway. “You want me to be mean? I can be mean! I take it back! You are slow and a crybaby so there.”

“No! You can’t” Luffy whines. “No take backs! You said I did well!”

“Nope, not anymore.”

“You did though, you said ‘Nice job’ and you also praised me yesterday when we were fighting and managed to punch you when you had me pinned,” Luffy reminds him. Damn, Ace was really hoping he had forgotten about that. “You are being nice lately!”

“I am not being nice, maybe it’s just that you are sucking less,” Ace grumble should not make Luffy smile brighter but somehow it does. Now even Sabo is holding back his laughter. “Whatever, I’m hungry, let’s go back.”

“I like nice Ace,” Luffy tells him, ignoring what he is saying like usually. “I also like grumpy Ace, but nice Ace seems happier.”

“I’m not grumpy! Or nice! And I’m definitely not happy!” There’s no mistaking the heat in his cheeks and if Luffy keeps going he’s just going to have to punch him.

“Aw Ace, don’t be shy.” Great, apparently Sabo has decided to join in too. “You know you can be downright adorable sometimes...”

And that does it. Ace drops his crocodile and starts chasing after his brothers who make a run for it. Their laughs echoes between the trees and Ace can admit that maybe, just maybe, he is a tiny bit happy.

Chapter Text

Okay this cannot be healthy. This is what, the fourth time he has had to talk himself out of turning back? Seas, if it wasn’t because his crew needs him, he’d probably be back at Goa already! He met the brats two days ago! One does not get attached this quickly, right?

What was wrong with him and Shanks for them to be left behind after years in the Oro?

He had checked that the kids were sleeping soundly before he had left and really what else would they have been doing in the crack of dawn? Playing chess? But he had to admit that his worrywart tendencies had paid off since he’d been presented with them in what could only be described as a cuddle pile snoring not all that softly into each other's ears.

Davy Jones take him but the brats are cute.

Still, he can already see the Top Hat and the sooner he deals with Krieg, the sooner he can go for another visit. Ace wasn’t serious when he asked for two weeks between visits, right? I mean if he had gotten to spend two more days with the kids and ensured they would be safe maybe he could have left them for that long. But there’s no way he will now, not when he’s had to run back after they were mauled by a fucking tiger! Nope, he’ll give them a week maximum and visit for at least three days.

Someone must have sighted him because the Big Top’s deck is getting busier by the second and Buggy has to smile when he sees his crew waving at him and screaming what he can only assume are greetings. He’s really missed his band of idiots.

As soon as he is close enough, one of the funas bros throws him a rope. “Welcome back, Captain.”

“It’s good to be back.” He doesn’t seem hurt and neither do the other two so those bullet grazes must have really been minor. “Where’s Pablo?”

He is pointed towards the infirmary and makes his way there, pausing only to smile at the greetings of his nakama. There are pretty few people in the ship so most of his crew must be spreaded into as many villages as they can to act as lookouts. Good, this means he’ll know Krieg’s first mate’s location as soon as he asks.

But first things first. He opens the door to the infirmary and is surprised to find it full of flowers and food. Pablo himself is golfing down what seems to be decent alcohol for a chance while Lucas and Javi fret over him.

“Has Doc approved of you drinking?” At his question Pablo startles and ends up choking with his drink.

“¡Capitán!” Javi greets him while Lucas pounds his crewmate’s back. “We weren’t expecting you back so soon.”

Buggy snorts and helps himself to an apple from the enormous fruit bowl in the unoccupied stretcher. “You wound me. As soon as I heard my darling subordinate had been harmed I rushed over, obviously.”

He is speaking in jest, of course, but Pablo must hear enough truth in his voice to blush a bit. “Exagerado,” he mutters. Still, he looks pleased and so do the other two.

“The plan is to trick Krieg into going to the Graveyard, any objections?” Buggy can’t destroy all the newbies he comes across and Krieg could prove useful but if his crew wants him dead then that’s what he’ll be. It’s not like there’s a shortage of overambitious pirates after all.

“None at all, Capitán.” Pablo is the first to answer and while Lucas and Javi don’t look too happy they also nod.

Well, Buggy knows what will turn those two frowns upside down. “Perfect, of course I’ll make sure to pay back that first mate of his for your injuries. And since I’m feeling generous I’ll even double it. How many broken ribs do you have?” 

“Three,” Pablo admits sheepishly.

“Plus two bruised ones,” Javi adds.

“His whole right side is bruised!” Lucas tugs on his friend’s t-shirt to show him. Pablo bats away his hand but not before Buggy sees too much purple on his subordinate’s skin.

He takes a seat by the bed. “I need a name and a description.”

The three quickly comply. Apparently the man, or ‘maldito demonio’ according to Lucas, is called Gin and fights with two tonfas weighted with metal spheres but isn’t afraid to use firearms when need be. He looks pretty lanky and was dressed mostly in grey when the Domingos fought him.

“He was pretty vicious,” admits Pablo who for some reason looks embarrassed. “And those weapons of him were heavy as fuck so he must also be strong. Mohji or Cabaji could probably have taken him but he was a bit out of my league. Sorry I failed you.”

Buggy bumps him in the head as hard as he dares. “What are you talking about? Your job was to protect the villagers and considering the amount of gifts in this room, I’d say you succeeded and made them all very thankful. So don’t worry your pretty head over it and let your Captain deal with that meanie, okay?”

“Che, I’m not a child.”

“I know, I know, you are a big, super strong man and as your Captain I couldn’t be prouder of you, so just make sure you rest up and listen to Doc, okay? Javi and Lucas will make sure you are comfortable, right guys?”

“Right!”

He stays for a while longer chatting with them and sampling some of the fruit but soon Pablo starts to feel drowsy so he excuses himself to let him rest. Cabaji and Mohji are still not back and it’d be pretty irresponsible to go fight the Krieg pirates before first talking to them so he finds himself with some time to kill. And he knows just how to do it.

He starts walking towards the rear of the ship and the muffled explosions he can hear coming from it tell him that the Turner Twins are on board. Of course they are, those two crazies only leave their workshop screaming and kicking. Well, screaming, kicking and throwing dangerous things at you.

Tom Turner is the saner of the two and he is a knife thrower, not as good as Buggy of course but who is? He is also the crew’s very talented smith. No one can balance a knife, even a pocket one, as well as Tom.

His sister, Taylor Turner, is a fire eater, or more accuratly a fire spitter, and the co-creator of the Buggy’s Bombs. If someone can figure out how to make a lighter that needs refilling only once a year, it’s Taylor. 

Luffy’s meat will have to wait, he’ll need the expertise of Mohji and Richie.

 


Okay, you all need to check out the coolest thing ever. Twitter user @MayISleepNow (who is here in ao3 as Hella-hella) draw this amazing fan art for this fic, check out our three favourite gremlins and the flashiest pirate in East Blue!

      

     

 

Chapter Text

It has been a while since Ace has been at Dadan’s place. Not that you could tell by looking at it, Ace is pretty sure it hasn’t changed one bit in the ten years since he first arrived. There’s a sort of comfort in that. Or at the very least, it’s very convenient when Ace needs to grab something in the little time Sabo and Luffy can buy him.

As the leader, Dadan has her own room though it’s kind of small. In fact, it’s smaller than Ace’s is, though that may be because Ace was given the old attic. It also looks really tidy because she doesn’t have much. She always complains that bandit work is not what it used to be but she always manages to put enough food on the table for all of them so it can’t be that bad.

There’s a wooden box beneath the bed where Dadan keeps the little jewelry she has. Are necklaces jewelry even if they are made of cheap beads? Well, whatever they are, Dadan keeps them there.

Ace takes the box out and opens it over the bed. Inside there are only four necklaces identical to the one she is wearing today and a couple dozen of dry flowers which make Ace snicker a bit. Who knew the tough as nails leaders had such a girly side? Well, he is not here to sightsee so he quickly replaces one of the beaded necklaces with a thick gold chain he and Sabo had found on a treasure chest way back.

It’s not like he feels bad for stealing from Dadan, it’s just that Luffy had looked at him that way and he had had some necklaces laying around anyway. Sabo had wanted to give her some of what Buggy had stolen but that could have brought Dadan trouble and anyway, this one was cooler so she wouldn't be able to complain about Ace keeping the red beads.

With his prize in hand, Ace quickly hides the box away and goes to meet his brothers. They had lucked out in their timing and managed to visit the same day Makino did so distracting Dadan hadn’t been too hard. The bandits are all outside, preparing a barbecue and chatting with each other and Makino is making Luffy and Sabo try on some new shirts she has brought. 

“Makino!” Ace calls and suddenly everyone’s attention is on him. “Could you help me sew something into my hat?”

Makino beams at him and Ace returns the smile because he is pretty sure it’s illegal not to, or something. “Ace! I was beginning to wonder where you were! Did you get a hat too?”

Ace proudly presents his hat to her. “Yes! It’s cool, isn’t it?”

Makino takes it from him and looks at it closely. “Very nice, I especially like the color, such a lovely shade of orange! It’s my favourite color, you know?” There’s a squeak by her side where Dadan is suddenly very busy tying her hair back. “What do you want to sew on it?”

Ace makes sure that Dadan's attention is on him before smiling as innocently as possible and thrusting the necklace towards Makino. “Here! I thought this would look nice.”

Dadan's eyes go wide and as soon as Makino is looking down at the necklace Ace sticks his tongue out at her. Dadan splutters but Ace knows she won’t say anything in front of Makino. She always acts funny around her.

“So cute! You’ll match Dadan! Where do you want me to put it?” Ace shows Makino, trying to wrap the giant necklace over the hat. It’s too loose on it but there’s not enough for two loops. He pouts. “If you want I can resize it for you and make a couple of bracelets with the rest. I think there may be enough for three even, so you can share them with your brothers!”

“Great!” Ace smiles and then decides to show Makino how far along he’s gotten with his ‘politeness’. “Thanks for letting me borrow it, Dadan!”

The woman is red in the face but has to mumble ‘it’s nothing’ since Makino is there. The younger woman just smiles at the both of them. “It’s really sweet that you want to carry something of Dadan’s with you,” she praises Ace which is totally not what Ace was going for. “It reminds me of when you used to bring her flowers.”

“Oh?” Shit, when did Sabo start listening. 

And because Makino is too nice to realize that the rest of the world isn’t, she doesn’t even notice the hint of mockery on Sabo’s interest. “Oh yeah, he was about five I think?”

“Six,” Dadan has noticed the glint on Sabo’s eyes and she wants payback. Ace is done for. “He brought me a new bouquet every month, he picked them all by himself too, didn’t let any of my men help him with that.”

Ace splutters. “That was rent! You know it was rent! I just did it because you didn’t let me go work with the rest of the bandits!”

“I remember that!” And when did Magra decide to stop being afraid of him? Ace is going to have to fix that. “Boss was trying to make Ace do his chores and mentioned how that was his job since the rest of us went to make money. We had to tie him up to stop him from following us because he wanted to pull his weight too. In the end, he decided to pay the boss with pretty flowers.”

“It was Dogra’s idea!” Ace reminds them and why is his face heating up? It’s not like he gave the flowers as a gift or anything. “He said it was something safe I could do that would help the family!”

At that the bandits laugh. “Well, I was right. A happy boss makes for a happy family, after all!” Dogra’s laugh is cut immediately when Dadan 'accidentally’ steps on his food.

“It’s not like I was happy to receive them or anything, they just made for nice decoration. Not like any of you would care about that,” she mumbles.

Luffy tugs at Makino’s skirt. “Why is everybody laughing? Isn’t it normal to get your mom flowers?”

And with that the laughter doubles while Ace and Dadan try to ignore how red their faces are and deny that they even think of each other as tolerable. Makino is giggling behind her hand but she whispers an answer to Luffy loud enough for them all to hear, “I think they are just embarrassed.”

“I’m not!” Ace and Dadan speak as one.

“It’s okay Ace,” cooes Sabo. “I think it’s sweet.”

Well, now he is just asking for it. Ace jumps at him and the two end up rolling around, wrestling with each other.

“Me too! Me too!” Luffy throws himself over them making Ace lose his grip on Sabo, and just when he had him pinned too. “This doesn’t count as one of my fights, right?”

Ace shakes his head while elbowing Sabo in the face and the blond kicks him in the ribs. Luffy flails around managing to hit himself more than the others.

“They have such a good relationship,” Ace hears Makino say while trying to get Sabo into a headlock.

He can’t look up to see the expression on Dadan’s face but the sound she makes is a cross between a laugh and a sob. “That’s one way to put it, I guess. Say Makino, do you want some tea before heading back?”

“Of course, I even brought some cookies for us to share! Do you children want some?”

Ace shoves his brothers away and gets up, dusting his pants. “Sure!” He can teach Sabo a lesson later, it’s not like the blond will let him live this down ever. He’s pretty sure he’ll tease him about this even after they become Captains. At least that will give him an excuse to sink Sabo’s future ship. The Old Geezer likes canon balls, right? Maybe he’ll let Ace borrow some if he says it’s to destroy a pirate crew. Still, cookies now, retaliation later.

Chapter Text

He is in the middle of explaining to Taylor that no, he doesn’t need her to modify the lighter so it can act as a flamethrower, when they come to tell him that Mohji is back. 

He gets up to leave but Taylor stops him. “I could make it optional, you know? Make it so the potency of the flame is adjustable.”

“And it will take two seconds for the jungle they live in to burn down. No thank you, I like them with eyebrows.” Taylor pouts but finally nods her head. She looks so dejected that Buggy sighs, “When they are a bit older we can talk about getting them something new, okay?”  

She tilts her head. “Something explosive?” 

“We’ll see.” He makes a mental note to not introduce her to the kids any time soon. Goa would not survive.

Tom is also not pleased. “So just a pocket knife then?”

“If you want a challenge, you can try to make it so it can be both a switchblade and a throwing knife? I can imagine it’s easy to make those aerodynamic.” His suggestion is met with a smile wide enough to make him feel uneasy. 

“Aye, aye Captain!”

Well, at least those two will be entertained for a couple of days which bodes well for the ship's health. He cannot deal with another ‘tiny’ explosion again.

He hasn’t taken two steps on the main deck when several hundred pounds of lion throw themselves at him. “Richie!” The lion licks his face leaving it grossly wet and Buggy can help but laugh. “Did you miss me, big guy?”

“Roar!” Is he nodding his head? Buggy swears that Richie grows smarter by the minute. “Roar! Roar, roar!”

“I missed you too,” Buggy admits, scratching behind his ears. 

“What about me?” Mohji flashes him a smile trying to pull Richie back.

“Sorry, who are you again?” At Mohji’s indignant splutter Buggy just laughs. “Kidding, kidding, I missed you too!”

Mohji is not so easily placated. “You are so mean to me, Captain,” he moans. “I slave away trying to keep everything in order while you are on a vacation and this is the thanks I get?”

“I wouldn’t exactly call it a vacation,” Buggy snorts. “Those kids made bigger strikes towards me greying in an hour than you do in a year.”

“Come on, it couldn’t have been that bad! They sounded adorable!”

“They hunt their own meat.”

“So?”

“So when they are feeling lazy they go for crocodile.”

Mohji blinks. “Crocodile? As in…”

“As in the big fucking lizard with pointy teeth that lives in large groups and camouflage itself as fallen branches, those crocodiles.”

More blinking. “Wait, that’s when they are feeling lazy?! What do they do when… You know what, I don’t want to know.”

“You’ve always been a wise man, Mohji,” Buggy pats him on the back. “But since we are on the subject, what meat would you recommend to someone that enjoys crocodile, bear and tiger?”

“Bear? Tiger?!?!” Mohji leans on Richie and Buggy almost feels bad. Almost. He was starting to feel like he was the crazy one, it’s good to be validated. “You know what? I’m just going to pretend this is an unrelated question. A food question, I like food. Especially food that doesn’t try to eat me.”

“So, what would you recommend?” Buggy taps his foot to the deck. It’s not like he is unsympathetic to Mohji’s incredulity but he had that particular crisis a couple of days ago and he’s already over it. “If possible something that they can’t hunt in Goa.”

“Right, well your, definitely not underage, gourmet who totally doesn’t hunt its own food, would probably enjoy the meat of the giant boars of Oykot Kingdom. It has a strong, gamey flavour that they should appreciate. Though you will have to hunt the beasts yourself since they are still recovering from the massacre of eight years ago. On the plus side, a single beast would probably be enough to feed the whole crew, Richie and me included. And they are strong but pretty dumb so they are pretty easy to catch.”

He can’t go himself, that would delay his next visit by almost a week! “That will be your job, then. Hunt like five of those, six if you want to keep one. I want you back in a week at the latest. You can take Richie if you want.”

“But Captain….!” Mohji moans.

“Stop complaining, the Captain has given you his orders,” Cabaji is cycling towards them, probably summoned by Mohji distress. “Good to have you back.”

“Good to be back.” Buggy ruffles Cabaji’s hair. It’s good to be able to do something like that without having to worry about being bitten. “Why don’t the three of us go to discuss this whole Krieg situation? Mohji, you can leave right after.”

“Aye, aye Captain!” Both Mohji and Cabaji reply as one but Mohji does so with far less enthusiasm.

Cabaji is looking a bit too smug at his nakama’s misery so Buggy decides to equalize things. “And Cabaji, I’ll need you to go to the 77th branch and get wanted posters for all the notorious pirates in East Blue plus some from both sides of the Grandline. I’ll make you a list. Oh and I’m going to need you to search their archives because I want some posters of dead or retired pirates so make sure to wear something to keep the dust away from your face.”

“Pretty sure his scarf will work nicely for that,” Mohji is smiling again and Cabaji looks like he wants to cycle over the beast tamer’s food so Buggy’s clearly accomplished his goal. “So it's an adventure for me and paperwork for him then?”

Cabaji bristles at that. “You are just going on a glorified grocery run, I am going to have to infiltrate a marine base. It’s clear who’s got the most dangerous job here!”

If Buggy doesn’t intervene those two won’t stop snapping at each other until next year. Not that it wouldn’t be fun but still, they have work to do. “I’d say it’s the guy planning on losing a fight against a petty, treacherous pirate so put your bickering aside and help me arrange it, okay?”

“Aye, Aye Captain!” This time both men are equally energetic and Buggy smiles. He really couldn’t ask for better officials.

Chapter Text

In the end there’s only enough beads for two bracelets since Ace insists that they have to be big enough he’ll be able to wear them when he grows up. He puts them both in his right wrist immediately before snatching back his newly adorned hat. “Thanks Makino!”

“Don’t mention it,” she smiles at him. “It looks very fetching on you.”

Sabo is looking at it with some distates so Ace sticks his tongue out at him. Sabo makes a face at him, “So now I can’t even mention that you managed to make that thing even more gaudy?”

“Now, now Sabo, that’s not nice. Don’t insult Ace’s hat,” Makino is looking at Sabo with disappointment and Sabo wilts a bit.

“Yeah brat, you don’t have a leg to stand anyway,” Dadan tells him tugging on the napkin Sabo always wears on his neck. “But I do wonder where Ace got his hat, it looks pretty new.”

Shit, Ace can’t say that he stole it, not with Makino here. But he can’t say that he found it either, Dadan would never believe it. What should he say?

“Blue gave it to him!” Of course Luffy has decided to go with the truth. He shares a panicked look with Sabo, if Dadan or Makino hear about Buggy they will tell Garp! And that would make him not retu… That would be bad, okay? Just because.

“Blue?” Dadan is looking at them with suspicion. “Is that another brat I need to look after? Because I am not running an orphanage here.”

“Is that what you are calling Sabo, now?” Makino asks at the same time.

Luffy shakes his head at them. “Nah, Blue is a pirate! He sailed with Shanks!”

Sabo suddenly smiles and Ace feels himself relaxing, good he has a plan. “Yeah, and he is a clown too, right Luffy?” He rolls his eyes at the two women, ensuring Luffy can’t see him.

“Yes! He had a really big red nose! And he said he had a lion too!” Luffy explains excitedly. 

“Oh!” Makino hides a smile behind his smile. “I see, you are at that age, aren’t you? Well, I am really glad that you made a new friend.”

“What?” Dadan doesn’t seem to be understanding what Makino is saying. To be fair, neither is Ace. “What do you mean that age? And if you’ve made friends with a pirate I need to notify Garp, especially if it’s an acquaintance of Shanks. He left strict instructions about that.”

“I don’t think even our local hero will be able to catch this particular pirate,” Makino tells Dadan with a wink. She leans down to whisper in her ear and Ace inches closer to hear as well. “I think Luffy just really misses the captain and made up an imaginary friend to try to feel closer to him. Young kids usually have some, it’s completely normal.”

“Ace never had one!” Dadan protests and looks at Ace like that’s his fault somehow.

“Not all kids do.” Makino shrugs. “So Luffy, why don’t you tell me more about your new friend, you say he is a pirate?”

“A Captain!” Luffy then starts telling Makino wild tales about Buggy. Ace knows that every single one of them is true but they sound so fantastical and weird that he isn’t surprised that all the bandits think Luffy is making them up. It doesn’t help that Sabo is artfully directing him into talking about the more bizarre parts of their experiences without letting anyone know that he also saw Buggy.

“He’s got quite the imagination, doesn’t he?” Dadan asks him. And there’s something in her tone that Ace can quite figure out.

He shrugs noncommittally. “You know Lu, he turns everything into an adventure.”

“So an imaginary friend of your little brother got you a hat?” She raises her eyebrow at him. 

“Nah, I got it from a shop in Center Town, but don’t tell Makino.” It’s easy to lie when you aren’t actually lying, just hiding some information. If Dadan wants to understand that he stole it, well, that’s her business. Buggy said that people see what they want to see so maybe they also hear what they want to hear.

“Be careful in the city,” Dadan tells him and she is frowning. “It’s more difficult to run away there. And why are you stealing in the first place? If you need money all you need to do is ask me!” Ace raises an eyebrow at her and she blushes. “There’s always work to do around here and I suppose I can pay you for it. Just so Garp doesn’t get mad at me, of course.”

“Oh? Are you getting too old for heavy labor? It’s too bad none of your men are half as manly as you are!” Ace mocks her and swiftly ducks to avoid her retaliation. 

“Who are you calling old, brat? Do you forget who raised you?”

“When people ask I say it was wolves, it explains a lot and it’s less embarrassing.”

“Maybe I should have left you to them when you were a baby then.”

Ace knows that she doesn’t mean it. That she is just joking with him and doesn’t care who his father was but… But the Old Geezer blackmailed her into taking care of him when she hadn’t wanted children and her life would probably have been easier without him in it. She…

He is pulled out of his thoughts by Dadan. “Though I guess that if I had done that I would have been on my own when Luffy came around and I don’t even want to imagine that. Only a crazy kid can look after a crazier kid.” Dadan pats him on the back, looking extremely awkward. “So it was kind of a good thing I decided to keep you.”

Ace smiles at her. “You would be lost without me!”

“I should have cut contact with Garp years ago,” Dadan argues back. “One gets a drinking partner thinking it will be fun and suddenly there are two babies thrown in their lap. And to add insult to injury, they grow up and start giving them lip! Really, I should probably sue! You know he hasn’t paid me a single berri for watching you?”

“Next time he visits, I’ll help you rob him blind,” Ace promises. The Old Geezer should be a nice target to practice pickpocketing. He is an airhead and delights in holding them in breath stealing and rib cracking holds that he calls hugs.

“That’s a nice boy,” Dadan ruffles his hair and Ace can’t help but flash her a smile. For an old bat, she isn’t that bad.

Chapter Text

The Krieg pirates are staying in Orange Island which happens to be one of Buggy’s favourite places in East Blue. It’s also the closest island under his protection to Dawn so he’ll probably be making it his base. Which means that he really wants to be in good standing with the villagers and doesn’t want some rookie wrecking the place.

It has taken a couple of day’s for Buggy to reach it from the uninhabited island they had moored and he can’t help being a bit anxious at being three whole days away from the brats. He has, of course, ensured that there were some of his people waiting just a day away from them in case something happened but still!

Then again, setting camp too close to Foosha would just be inviting Garp to pay them a visit and Buggy doesn’t think his crew can afford that. Three days isn’t that much, of course, and it will allow him to make periodical visits. That being said, he is so sending some of his men to stay in Goa! Garp doesn’t have eyes there and he has some nakamas without a bounty that won’t mind a vacation. It’s not like they will have to do anything, just be in stand-by in case something does happen and Buggy is too far away.    

But those are future concerns, right now he has just finished talking to major Boodle and is standing before Krieg’s stolen marine ship. Krieg’s flag is flying over it and in all of the years he has been sailing, Buggy has yet to encounter a uglier design.

Not even the skull looks right! Why is it’s forehead so elongated? And what’s that thing on the cheek bones supposed to be? No, really, he is seriously asking. And the hourglasses! Look, Buggy likes a good threat as much as the next pirate. ‘Your time is running out’ is a bit on the nose but it could work. But Krieg really should have gotten himself a better designer because those things are hardly recognizable. And what’s that line on their top and bottom, tying them to the too thin crossed bones? Did Krieg pay the designer in exposure? Either that or he thought he could design it himself and no one dared to tell him he sucks.

Well, that ugly thing will be the first to go.

A couple of knives are all it takes to slice it in four. He then throws in a couple of Buggy Bombs too because nothing says flashy entrance quite like explosives. And the marines really are cutting too many counters in East Blue, aren’t they? It’s really shameful that one of their ships can look this wrecked after withstanding just two tiny bombs. 

He definitely has the crew's attention now and a couple of dozen pirates jump towards him. Another bomb ensures they stay away. The shock waves send them flying out and only a few manage to get back on their feet. Quantity over quality indeed.

“Who are you and why are you attacking us!” That must be Krieg himself and really, that does explain a lot about the flag. And not just because now Buggy can see that the bizarre things beside the cheek bones are supposed to be stylized sideburns. The man is wearing a very gaudy golden armour with his trainwreck of a flag emblazoned on massive shoulder-plates. Either that man has a lot to compensate for or… No, there’s no other option, no one wears armour like that if they aren’t trying to make up for something.

“Name’s Buggy the Clown and you made the mistake of messing with my crew.” He himself is dressed with his captain’s coat and the wind is making it fly behind him. Krieg should take notes, that’s what style looks like.

Krieg smirks at him. “Oh? Sorry, I can’t remember doing that. All weaklings blur together after a while.” He has some nerve! None of Buggy’s crew would be defeated as easily as the Krieg’s morons that tried to attack him were. He oversees their training himself.

“Don’t worry about that. I’ll remind you,” Buggy smirks back at him. “And I’ll also drive you away from my islands! I have a sweet gig going on here, I don’t slaughter the villagers and they pay me every month. It’s not as lucrative as attacking some major city, of course, but it’s far more comfortable. A smaller reward but so little work even a child could do it! So you can see why I really don't want you here, mudding the waters.”

Two figures jump down from the ship. The first one has a fashion sense that could rival his captain and the second one is the man Buggy was looking for. He is also the one that opens his mouth. “Leave him to us, Captain, we’ll take care of him.”

So cocky! Krieg nods his permission but the first man shakes his head. 

“Stay back, Gin, I’ll be enough,” he declares. He is wearing two huge iron plates covering his front and backside and he must have the same… ‘taste’ as his captain because he’s embedded a pearl in the center of both as well as fashioned a hat out of one. He claps the smaller plates in his hands and addresses Buggy. “I warn you, I’ve never lost a drop of blood during battle.”

“Well, that’s easy enough to fix.” A knife flies from Buggy’s hand and slashes this idiot’s right cheek. “There, you are welcome!”

There’s silence for a second before the moron screeches so loudly Buggy has to cover his ears with his hands. Talk about an overreaction! The man then starts yelling the word blood over and over and he creates some blue flames using friction that all but engulf him. And people call Buggy a drama queen. 

He throws some projectiles towards Buggy but his aim is in pair with his taste so he doesn’t even have to dodge. Then he decides to charge at him and makes the mistake to get within reach. A single punch is enough to send him flying.

“And you called my men weaklings?” Buggy asks Krieg, raising an eyebrow. “Never heard that it’s unwise to cast stones when you live in a glass house?”

The man is not polite enough to answer him. Instead he just utters a single word. “Gin!”

“Right away, Captain.”

Buggy centers his attention on Gin and the pearly idiot seems to think that he is distracted because he drags himself into his feet and approaches Buggy’s back. Buggy let’s him, of course, who is he to stop ambitious young men from trying? One can only learn from their own mistakes, after all.

Pearly-man has decided to squash his head between his plates and Buggy could dodge it, of course but it’s not that much more difficult to just stop him by placing a single finger on both plates before they start closing.

“What?!” The moron tries to close them and starts using more and more strength. He is frowning and he even closes his eyes for better concentration. A kick would end this embarrassment quickly but he has such a better idea for a flashier finish! The moron is so busy trying to overcome Buggy that he doesn’t realize that the plates are moving backwards and that the head they are framing when Buggy takes away his fingers is not the same one he had been aiming at. When Buggy lets him clap his hands, pearly smiles victoriously right before his eyes turn white. Buggy snorts, there’s nothing better than to have your enemy be shot by their own cannon, there really isn’t. 

He turns towards Gin. “I suppose you are next, then?”

Gin is already charging towards him before he has a chance to finish his question.

Chapter Text

In the last couple of days, Ace and his brothers have established a routine. Ace and Sabo will wake up earlier and read together until Luffy gets up and starts demanding breakfast. They hunt breakfast and proceed to try to get the damn wallet from the dummy with the bells until it’s time for lunch. After lunch Ace and Sabo alternate who is reading to Luffy until he gets tired of it and demands they fight. The rest of the afternoon is spent fighting each other and exploring the forest or going to the Grey Terminal. 

Today is Sabo’s turn to read to Luffy so Ace is practicing his knots. He’s gotten better at it which has improved his traps a lot! He’s almost mastered the constrictor knot when Luffy’s voice interrupts his concentration.

“That’s stupid!” The boy is loudly protesting. “Why did he have to die?”

Sabo sighs. “It’s just a fairy tail, Luffy, it probably didn’t even happen.”

“But he was just telling cool stories!” Luffy doesn’t seem to have heard Sabo. “Who cares if they weren’t true? And maybe the island did disappear, that was not his fault.”

“Luffy,” Sabo pulls at Luffy’s cheek to get his attention. “It’s just a tale, it’s written that way to warn children they shouldn’t lie.”

Luffy is not having it. “So what, if you tell a good story you die? That’s bullshit.”

Ace has to agree with him, that does sounds kind of stupid. “What are you reading?”

“It’s just a fairy tale from North Blue called Noland the liar,” Sabo explains, raising the collection of fairy tales Luffy had chosen. “It’s about this man that lies about some mountain of gold and when the king sends his men there, they find nothing.”

“So they just kill the guy?” Ace is outraged. “Anything could have happened to the gold! And why would you send an expedition without any proof besides a guy’s word and then get mad when you didn’t find anything? That king was a moron!”

“Right?! And they kill the guy with the cool stories!” Luffy whines. “I didn’t like it.”

Sabo sighs. “Of course he was an idiot,” he explains patiently. “He was a king. Kings are greedy bastards that kill people when things don’t go their way, everyone knows that. The book is just trying to pin the blame on the liar because otherwise the king would have gotten mad at the writer and probably beheaded him too.”

“It’s unfair!” Luffy pouts.

“It’s also something that probably never happened, centuries ago and in another sea,” Sabo points out. “There’s no point at being angry at that.”

“But it was the last fairy tale in the book, I wanted it to be a good one!” Ace looks at the book and realises that Luffy is right, they’ve already finished it. Maybe they should have chosen a thicker one. Sabo is also frowning at it. 

“You think there are more fairy tale books?” Ace asks him. He honestly has no idea of how many fairy tales exist on the blues, does each island have some or do they share them or what? It’s not like anyone read him stories when he was little. The closest thing he got was the bandits retelling of their biggests jobs.“Or Luffy, do you want some other type of book?”

Out of the ones they have, the only one they could maybe read to him is the devil fruit encyclopedia, he’d hate all the others. Well, maybe he’d like the sailor’s diary Sabo got but he refuses to hear about it since it’s an actual account of the Grandline and Luffy doesn’t want anything to ‘spoil the adventure’. 

Luffy snatches the book from Sabo and hugs it tightly to his chest “No! I want more cool stories!”

Sabo takes the book and opens it on the first page where there’s a list of all its stories, “All the fairy tales in this one were from North Blue so maybe there’s a book for each sea? But I checked in the store where we got it and there weren’t any others.” 

“That store didn’t specialize in books though,” Ace points out. “There are some that only sell them right? Maybe we can find it there.”

He’s already halfway into his own meteorology book and wouldn’t mind getting another one for when he finishes it. Sabo is smirking and Ace doesn’t know whether to smile back or take a step away from him. “Oh there are some, there’s one specially big in High Town. Say, do you want to become nobles for an afternoon?”

Ace looks towards the clothes Buggy had gotten for them and finds he is smiling. “Think you can get us acting like posh bastards?”

Sabo nods. “If you listen to me, sure. The key thing is to act like you own the place and everyone in it. Go where you want to go and do what you want to do and if anyone tries to stop you just tell him you will tell your daddy.”

“Can’t I just punch them?” Luffy pouts.

Sabo shakes his head. “They are weak and they cry if they so much as get a  bruise,” he explains with disdain dripping from his voice. “So no getting into brawls and no stretching either.”

Ace looks at Luffy and sighs. “I think it’s better if we practice.”

Sabo nods. “Okay, first you need to walk like you are a peacock, here like this.”

He exemplifies and for a second he almost looks like one of those snotty, well dressed idiots Ace despises. It’s weird. It’s still Sabo though, he may be feigning disinterest and walking like someone has stuck a pole up his ass that’s keeping his back straighter than a board but there’s still a wild glint in his eyes.

He attempts to mimic him and is so busy trying to straighten up that he trips over some rope and ends up falling face first to the ground. Sabo breaks character to laugh at him alongside Luffy. 

“I hate you,” Ace declares, dusting his trousers off.

“No, you don’t,” Sabo tells him with a grin. “Really though, you don’t have to try so hard. They don’t. They just truly believe they are above everyone else. So just try to focus on how weak everyone around you is and how easily you could beat them all up.”

“What about me?” Luffy asks. “How am I doing?”

Sabo and Ace share a look. It seems like their little trip to High Town will have to be postponed for a little while.

Chapter Text

Gin is not bad for an East Blue pirate. He is leagues better than Pearly at the very least. Buggy doesn’t like him. He fights far cleaner than Krieg or even Pearly and with a different captain he may have been the good kind of pirate. Buggy despises the people whose morality depends on who they follow. As sneaky as Krieg or Pearly are, they are honest about who they are. Gin just follows orders. Buggy has met too many people who were just following orders.

He blocks Gin attack with a knife and flicks his wrist to send his weapon flying. He then has to duck to avoid a punch which gives him the opportunity to sweep Gins legs from under him. Gaban used to say that kicking an enemy when he is down is dishonorable but Buggy has always thought that it’s the most practical way to do it. After all, if they are on the floor they have a harder time dodging you. 

He doesn’t even bother to coat his feet with haki, why would he when even without there’s such a satisfying crack coming from the bastard's rib cage? Gin yells in agony and Buggy kicks him on the other side too. He had promised to pay him back twice what he had dished out, after all.

Thinking of Pablo makes Buggy want to just keep kicking. It would be so easy to permanently put him out of commission. After all, his head is just laying there, almost inviting Buggy to do his worst. He sighs and turns his back on him. He is not a particularly good person but he decided a long time ago that he wouldn’t be a bully. 

Don Krieg is looking at him with such hatred Buggy would almost believe he cares. Of course that would be if his anger wasn’t also being directed at his two officials. “You really should train them better,” Buggy tells him with fake concern. “They go down too easily.”

Buggy’s officials would have put up a much better fight. And Krieg had had the audacity to call his men weak after tricking his newest, more naive recruits. Laughable, really.

Krieg is searching his pockets and Buggy thinks he is about to take out a gun but no, it’s just a white handkerchief. He waves it around. “Mercy,” he asks in a pathetic pantomime of pitifulness. “Let me give my men the medical assistance they need. Please, let me save them!”

His haki is so ugly Buggy has to look away. It’s a whirlwind of rage, embarrassment and sick anticipation peppered with an almost childish glee and mischief. It takes all of Buggy’s considerable acting talents to pretend he is falling for it. Not even Krieg's expression is selling the part!

“Go ahead,” he says magnanimously. “And I hope this teaches you not to mess with me in the future!” He is faking a grandiose laugh when Krieg tries to discreetly pull out a gun. And by discreetly Buggy means that he is looking furtively around and doing nothing to actually hide his actions. How has this man managed to trick anyone ever? 

He could dodge the bullet or even prevent him from firing at all but he’s maybe done too good of a job dispatching the officials and he has to sell his loss. A bullet wound will probably be an enough handicap that Krieg will believe he can actually win the fight.

There’s a bang and Buggy hisses. The bullet has lodged itself into his shoulder and while he has maniobrated his body so it wouldn’t hit anything vital it still hurts like a bitch.

“You!” he yells, feigning outrage. “I was offering you mercy!”

Krieg chuckles looking oh so proud of himself. “There’s no such thing in the pirate world.”

What would someone who had had no reaction at his flag being attacked know about the pirate world? A true pirate would have wanted Buggy’s head the moment he looked at it funny! But Krieg isn’t a pirate, not really, and he is definitely not a captain since having his symbol defaced and his nakama harmed doesn’t mean a thing to him. Krieg is just a bully that happens to own a boat. 

Buggy really wishes he’ll get to see his face when he returns from the Graveyard and experiences what a sea crawling with pirates really is like.

“You tricked me!” he says instead and Krieg’s smile only grows wider.

His shoulder-plates rise to reveal gun barrels and Buggy decides to dodge this time. It’s not too difficult to do, since shoulders aren’t exactly known for their aim. Which kind of idiot builds guns that require him to move his whole body to direct? In fact, given that they are on each over-widenned shoulder, Buggy could stand straight in front of Krieg and not be in any danger whatsoever as long as he moved along with him.

He decides to have some fun, it’s been a while since he has aggravated some self-important idiot after all. So he starts making his way towards Krieg’s ship jumping and dodging every projectile weapon he throws at him. The man is not a snipper. Sometimes Buggy doesn’t even have to move!

“You know, a key thing that helps improve the damage output of long-range weapons is to actually hit your target,” Buggy smirks at him and jumps to the deck of the already quite damaged ship. “It’s okay, this kind of weapons are not for everyone, could I suggest hammers? They may be a better fit for a beginner like you.”

Three bombs explode on the same spot Buggy has just vacated and he mentally apologizes to the ship, it’s not a particularly good one but no vessel deserves to be treated thusly by their owner. “You missed again,” he informs Krieg. “Should I just stay still for you?”

He fakes another laugh to appear distracted enough that the next bomb can hit near him and he let’s the explosion throw him away. 

“Finally got you!” Krieg smiles looming over him. Why is the idiot just holding his arms? Isn’t he aware that Buggy’s leg is perfectly positioned for a hard kick on the balls? “Not so chatty now, are you?”

Buggy has to suppress a sigh, even the grip on his hands is not tight enough. A good twist and he could free himself and grab one of the knives still in his possession since the idiot hasn’t thought of disarming him. “Now, now, let’s not be hasty. We are both pirates here.” That lie actually hurts to say. “Why don’t we talk like the gentlemen we are? Look, like I said, there isn’t much treasure in these islands but you can have this month's tribute. It’s like a quarter of what you would get by attacking a city! More than enough for you to maybe repair your ship.”

Krieg laughs at him. “So accommodating now that you are beneath me! Say, why don’t you join my crew?”

Buggy doesn’t need to fake the indignation that slips into his voice. “Don’t get cocky there! I am a Captain, why would I join a rockie like you?”

“And here I was being nice,” Krieg shakes his head looking disappointed. “Well, stay here getting your measly tributes if you want. I’m bound for greater things!”

Buggy puffs out his chest, an easy thing to do since only his arms are trapped. “Who says I am not! I actually have a map for the Grandline, do you have one? Eh? I guess we both know who will get there sooner, then!”

And Krieg lets go of his arms! Why oh why is he making this so difficult on Buggy? It takes actual effort to lose against such an incompetent man. Krieg shoves Buggy’s injured shoulder against the ground in a weak attempt at torture. “Where do you have that map?”

Buggy forces himself to whimper even if the pain Krieg is causing him is not even close to his limits. He found out the hard way that he actually has a very high pain tolerance . “Why are you asking? It’s not like you even have the men or resources to go there! I’ve been amassing money and upgrading my crew for years and I’m still not ready!”

Krieg smiles. “That’s because you stay in these forsaken islands instead of going for the big prizes. But I’m not like you, I’ll take the map and create an armada and the richest cities in East Blue will fund me!” So smart of him to arrive at that conclusion completely on his own, Buggy thinks sardonically. “Now give me the map!” The pressure on Buggy’s wound increases.

He has to force his hand to tremble while it reaches the inside of his jacket. Once the (mostly accurate) map is in his hands, Krieg snatches it away. “Ha, with this I will be able to become king of the pirates!”

Buggy has to stop himself from laughing out loud. Krieg as Captain’s successor? Over his dead body. He doesn’t even get what being the king even is about, the greedy bastard. This one will not last a week on ‘Paradise’ let alone on the New World. 

“What shall we do with him, Captain?” Gin seems to have gotten up which is almost admirable since he has at least seven broken ribs and is holding Pearly up. 

Krieg is about to answer when a voice comes from the village. “The marines are here! We are safe!”

Of course the old mayor has decided to intervene, Boodle has always been too brave for his own good. This time, Buggy will have to thank him though because Krieg gestures to his ship.

“Let’s get out of here,” he orders Gin. “Thanks for the map, Captain Buggy, as a token of my gratitude I won’t kill you this time.” He smiles at him mockingly and jumps into his deck.

Chapter Text

If learning how to walk like a noble had been hard, learning how to speak like one is practically impossible.

“No, no, nobles don’t say please, Ace!” Sabo shakes his head at him for the umpteenth time.

“But you said to talk like Makino!” Ace protests. He had been following Sabo’s instructions so why is he still doing it wrong? “Makino always says please and thank you.”

Sabo frowns at him. “I said to only use words Makino would use. A noble can’t go around cursing like a bandit! But you also can’t be polite!” 

Ace only knows two kinds of ways to speak, the crass one used by bandits, pirates and the old geezer and the polite one used by Makino. Either you say please and thank you or you say moron and brat. How can he talk in a way that isn’t either? 

“That makes no sense! Makino is polite!”

“Makino is not a noble!”

Ace only knows one noble and he doesn’t exactly talk like Makino. “Well, you are and you curse even more than I do!”

Sabo blushes at that. “I do not!”

“Do too!”

“Do not!”

“Do too!”

“Do not!”

“Would you two kindly stop? You are being uncivilized.”

Sabo and Ace turn towards Luffy with their jaws on the floor. Their little brother has his arms crossed in front of his chest but is sporting a smug little grin.

“How…” Ace starts but trails off because what? This is Luffy, isn’t it?

“That was good, how on earth...?” Sabo seems to be having as much trouble as Ace processing this.

“Shishishihiii, we just need to talk like the princesses from the fairy tails, right?” Luffy smiles brightly, pointing at his book. “It’s not that hard, Ace.”

“You little…!” Ace stops himself. He had been the one to read most of the tales about princesses to Luffy. And his mom had been from the aristocracy! If Luffy can do this then he most definitely can too!  “I find your words highly insulting and it’s shameful that someone as young as you has no respect for their elders.”

“Not bad,” Sabo nods at him. And Ace smirks, ha, he knew he could do it.  “Looks like you can just manage it when you try.”

“Of course, he can! Ace is an actual prince after all,” Luffy points out.

Ace feels his cheeks flush in anger. “I am not!” 

“But your dad was a king, that’s how it works, right Sabo?” Luffy turns towards Sabo who seems to be having trouble holding back his laughter.

“Usually yes,” he admits even though he knows damn well that it’s not in the case of pirates. “I guess that makes Ace the prince of the pirates.”

That is not even an actual title! And more importantly, two weeks ago Sabo would have been too worried to upset Ace to even mention Roger and now he is being teased with it! He’ll need to teach his brother again how to hold his tongue, it seems. “I will throw you both out of the window.”

“That’s not very princely behaviour,” Sabo tells him, shaking his head.

“Yeah, your majesty, you should be nicer!” Luffy joins. And doesn’t he want to be king? If he keeps it up Ace will beat him to it and declare it his birthright only to spite him.

He takes a deep breath and reminds himself that he actually kind of likes his brothers. “What’s the polite way of telling people to fuck off or I’l kill them?” Ace asks Sabo as nicely as he can manage. “Asking for a friend.”

“Me and Sabo are your only friends.”

“Exactly.”

Sabo sticks his tongue out at him “It’s ‘you are dismissed’ but it won’t work on us so don’t even bother trying. Now, let’s try again, how would you ask for a book?”

“Would you give me that crap?”

“Nope!” Sabo crosses his fingers making an x. “Too rough, try again.”

“Could you hand it to me, please?”

“Buuu!” Luffy crosses his fingers as well. “Too polite. You need to act like Lady Rosegarden from the Moonhunter tale.”

“But she was the bad guy!” Ace reminds him. The tale had been kind of dull but she had made it a bit more exciting by trying to poison the wet blanket of a protagonist because she liked the dull prince.

Luffy shakes his head. “She was the coolest one and she was a villainess not a bad guy!

Ace is no expert but he is pretty sure that’s the same thing. Though he has to admit that if he has to pretend to be a character from that silly tale, she is definitely his pick. She is the only one with some balls after all. It’s better than fainting and sighing every five minutes like the princess in that story did. She was just a princess-princess, too! Pirate princesses are so much cooler.

He sighs and tries again, focusing very hard on what The Lady would say in this situation. “Do hand me that book over there, and don’t dilly dally, I haven’t got all day.”

“Good!” Sabo tells him. Okay, so Luffy was right. He just has to act like The Lady would, he can work with that. “Just like that, now, what if someone bumps into you?”

“Oh?” Ace raises an eyebrow towards his invisible assailant schooling his face into a lazy smirk. “You dare get in my way? You are brave, I'll give you that. Or maybe you just don’t know who I am?” If his hair was a bit longer maybe he’ll be able to do a hair flip, he thinks it would totally sell the character. 

“Now do the rejection scene!” Luffy demands excitedly and Ace can’t help but play along. That was the best scene in the story and Luffy had forced him to read it at least five times in a row so remembering the dialogue is not a problem.

“You would choose her over me? I see that I was mistaken about what kind of man you are. And to think that I almost saddled myself with such a short sighted idiot. I suppose thank you’s are in order, princess, for keeping me from making such a horrible choice of a partner. Hohohoho” His fake laugh is quickly joined by Luffy’s but Sabo is looking at him like he grew a second head. “What?” he asks, breaking character. He just did what Luffy asked! It’s not like he liked playing pretend. 

“Nothing, nothing, you are better at theatrics than I thought,” Sabo tells him, raising his hands in front of himself to pacify him. “I think we will actually be able to pull this off. ”

 “Luffy likes my reading better when I do voices,” he explains. The silly voices are the one way Ace can keep Luffy’s attention since he is still pretty slow at reading. Sabo is still looking at him with an amused grin and Ace shrugs, still feeling a bit embarrassed. “And why are we practising so much anyway? You will do most of the talking.”

“Would you rather play mute? It’s one or the other.” Sabo smiles and hands him the book. “Still since we are done with the book and we won’t be getting another one today, what do you say we read the Moonhunter one again?” he asks Luffy. “I want to hear Ace doing the voices!”

“Yeah, yeah, me too!” Luffy tells him. “Please?”

Ace sighs, it looks like he won’t be able to finish working on his knots today. “Fine, but only one story, okay?”

“Okay!”