Ace woke up when he felt someone slipping in his bed. He didn't have to open his eyes to know who it was and he put an arm around Luffy's frail shoulders, frowning when he felt his brother shaking against him.
“Luffy?” He asked, half asleep.
“There's a monster under my bed. Can I sleep here?”
Ace mumbled a simple “yes” and fell right back to sleep, too tired to think about his brother's words.
He could have put this down to a nightmare. It wasn't that rare at his age, but it happened again several times. At first, Luffy crashed into his bed once a week, then twice, until he began to come every night. In the end, he even stopped going into his own room and just went to Ace's bed.
Ace decided Luffy was way too old to not be able to sleep alone. He was seven, he wasn't going to spend his time in his bed! Desperate situations called for drastic remedies. He forced Luffy to go to his own bedroom, put him under his blanket and opened every wardrobe, looked in every corner to show him that no, there was no monster.
“Look under the bed,” Luffy demanded.
He held back a sigh and looked for the third time. There was nothing under the bed, besides a few packs of biscuits that were probably empty and the shirt Ace had been looking for for months.
“There's nothing, Luffy. You alright, you can sleep, now?”
Luffy nodded weakly and Ace almost fell bad for leaving him alone but he couldn't let this situation get worse. He left Luffy's door slightly open and went to bed, thinking he was done with this problem. How naive of him. In the middle of the night, he felt someone slipping again under his blanket.
“She's still here,” Luffy whispered, glued to his brother's side. “She's always here.”
“Alright, I'll go check.”
“It's okay Luffy, stay here, I'll be back.”
He got up and, after falling twice because of his chair – which made Luffy laugh way too much – he managed to get to Luffy's room. As soon as he opened the door, he felt something was wrong, something seemed different. The room seemed almost threatening, like... he wouldn't know how to say it, but he almost felt oppressed in it.
And the growl that was coming from under the bed only reinforced this feeling.
He wondered if Luffy had managed to find a way to let a stray animal in just to forget it under his bed, again. He would understand why it would be enraged if it had had to eat forgotten biscuits for days.
Still half-asleep, he didn't realise that the theory of the animal was impossible simply because he had already checked earlier, but this thought didn't cross his mind. He was already laying on his stomach, looking under the bed at what could be making this noise. What he saw traumatised him for the next ten years.
There was a girl under Luffy's bed.
She probably had black hair, though he couldn't really tell because of how dark the room was, and she was staring at him with big shiny yellow eyes. The growl did come from her and Ace realised, horrified, that her nails looked more like claws. There were probably more details that indicated she was not human, but he didn't want to take his eyes off her to check, scared that she might go for his throat.
“Fuck...” He finally said.
“Oh. You're not Luffy.” The monster (the girl ? The thing ?) said.
He couldn't help but notice that her voice was perfectly normal. And she seemed as lost as he was. He opened his mouth to ask where the hell did she come from, but when he blinked, she disappeared. He rubbed his eyes, but he had to face the truth, there was no one under Luffy's bed. After a few seconds wondering if he hadn't hallucinated, he got up and looked in every corner of the room, but he never found her. She had disappeared as suddenly as she had appeared.
He went back to his own room where Luffy was already asleep. He couldn't close his eyes that night and he jumped every time he heard wood cracking or noise outside.
When the first ray of light went through his bedroom's curtains, Ace got up and went to the kitchen. He hadn't slept at all and was so hungry that he felt like his stomach was eating itself. Sabo was already there, sitting at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee in his hand. When he saw him, what had happened during the night came back like a slap in his face. He had to tell him, even if he would think he was crazy...
“Sabo...” He said and his brother looked up at him, surprised. It was rare for him to be awake so early, Sabo usually was alone for a few hours in the morning before Luffy came down. Ace didn't wake up before twelve.
“Ace?” He asked, worried when he saw the bags under his eyes.
Ace sat down next to him, avoiding his eyes. “Sabo, listen... Lately Luffy doesn't want to sleep in his room and yesterday I went to see what scared him so much...” He pinched his lips, not knowing what to say. How could he explain that there was a monster under their brother's bed? The more he thought about it, the crazier it seemed. If he hadn't been unable to sleep that night, he would have thought this had been a dream. He rubbed his eyes, trying to follow the train of his own thoughts, but Sabo cut him.
“Oh, so you met Kuina?”
Ace raised his head immediately, confused. Kuina? Who was Kuina? Where did that name even come from? He had never heard it before today... Yet, Sabo's face was enough for him to understand. He seemed to regret saying those words. His head was down, his eyes avoiding Ace's, but that wasn't what shocked him the most. No, what made him understand that there was a problem in their house was the colour of his cheeks and his half-embarrassed half-dreamy smile. He suddenly understood everything and if he had been drinking he probably would have spit everything on the table.
“You fell in love with the monster under Luffy's bed?!