"Hey," Ace said quietly, nudging Deuce gently. He blinked, coming out of the spaced-out haze that usually came from reading something as dry as inventory lists and budgets while curled up to Ace's warm side in their bed. A quick glance up at his partner found Ace looking out the window, a smile growing on his face, freckles almost glowing both from the sunlight shining through to further warm them and the fire that Ace forever carried within him. "We're nearly to an island."
"Do you see a town? We're low on a few staples, we should really restock soon," he said, rolling slightly on top of Ace to try and peek through the porthole too, but his captain had the better position, fastening his arms around Deuce's waist and holding him in place over his chest. He grinned but kept his eyes averted, pretending he wasn't completely aware of the unimpressed glare Deuce gave him at being essentially captured.
He hummed, craning his neck a little further to look out the window as if he were truly examining the island's terrain. Deuce knew bullshit when he saw it. "I don't see a town. There's a really nice beach though."
He sniggered when he caught sight of Deuce's dry expression, darting forward to peck a quick kiss to the tip of Deuce's nose, leaving the masked man briefly cross-eyed before the glower returned.
"There's probably a town somewhere on the other side of the island. We'll check tonight or tomorrow, but Cornie's been groaning about hitting a 'proper beach' and I'm pretty sure she'll toss me overboard if I deny her again."
Deuce huffed, letting the frown disappear. He'd definitely heard Cornelia's pleas for a little beach vacation the next chance they got more than once, and he couldn't say he disagreed with Ace's prediction of what would happen if they told her they wouldn't stop at this beach now that they were here. There was an equally good chance of Deuce being knocked overboard with Ace, instead of just going in after him to rescue their resident hammer.
"Fine," he relented, secretly not too bothered at having to shed the role of responsible party aboard the Spadille. "Beach day today, but we really do need to resupply soon. It'd be good to know exactly how long it'll take the log pose to reset too."
Ace's arms squeezed tight around him, pressing them chest to chest, his usual warmth seeming to increase a few degrees. He nuzzled his cheek against Deuce's hair, and he knew the blue strands would be in complete disarray until he was released to get dressed and could get his hands on a comb. "It'll be fun. Warm sand, sunshine, crashing waves…"
"We get plenty of that on the ship," Deuce pointed out, because really? They lived on the sea, every day was filled with crashing waves and sea spray and sunshine, except for the occasional storm.
"Yeah, while running around to man the lines or keep from getting turned around or getting into a fight," Ace countered with a snort, kissing the top of his head. "Beach day means we can actually enjoy it."
He supposed that was true. It made sense, at any rate. Deuce had never really spent any significant time just loitering on a beach, aside from the rather horrifying first few days alone on Sixis before meeting Ace, and he didn't really think any of that counted as a 'beach day'. A tiny part of him was worried that might have ruined the whole idea of a beach vacation before he could ever really experience it, but if Ace and the crew were all there, and the ship was within sight, a clear means of leaving the island, maybe it wouldn't be so bad.
"Come on," Ace said, nudging Deuce's lists and carefully drawn spreadsheets off the bed before firmly patting his flank with a little smirk that had him rolling his eyes. "We should probably head up before Cornie starts terrorizing the others into getting us there faster."
Deuce found himself not so subtly watching Ace as he basked in the sun, shirtless and sprawled over Deuce's jacket on the sand. Deuce was supposed to be building a sandcastle, but found himself rather thoroughly distracted by his partner instead, gaze drawn to the other man every few minutes and significantly hampering any real building progress.
Cornelia had nearly thrown herself out of the dinghy when they hit the beach after anchoring the Spadille, shedding the long coat she usually wore and abandoning it in the boat as she hollered about getting her tan on. Banshee had cackled at that, grabbing the bag holding chilled canteens and snacks as she hurried to follow.
"Yer pale as shit, girl, you won't tan!"
Kotatsu had leapt ashore easily enough over the last distance of water, Ace pouting all the while when they made him stay in the boat until Skull and Saber had dragged it ashore properly. There had been more than one instance of their captain getting ahead of himself and stumbling in the shallows, pitching forward and nearly drowning himself in the process.
Ace had been quick to hop out of the boat, dragging Deuce with him and across the beach until he found a spot near the surf he apparently liked, before nearly tackling Deuce to try and wrestle him out of his coat and boots. Deuce put up a good fight, but Ace was the same size as him and freakishly strong, and it wasn't long before Deuce found himself face down on the sand with Ace sitting on his back to pin him down, jacket already lost, his partner trying to yank his boots and socks off to the cheering and laughter of the rest of the crew. He'd paused, and Deuce had firmly believed Ace was debating trying to fight him for his trousers next, but instead he seemed to let it go, reaching out to roll up his pant legs well up his calves instead. Then he'd rolled off Deuce's back, saluting their laughing crewmates and stripping off his own open shirt before lying down on Deuce's jacket spread out over the sand, apparently claiming it for his own and closing his eyes to leave Deuce to his own devices.
Ace's grey eyes blinked open hazily, and Deuce looked away again, smoothing sand walls and battlements as Ace stretched languidly, showing off defined muscles and golden tanned skin. Then he rolled back upright, scratching through his hair briefly and turning to look at Deuce, a smile lighting his face when his eyes landed on his partner that had Deuce blushing lightly.
"Hey, it looks great!" he said, scooting closer to examine the sand structure excitedly. Deuce didn't really see what there was to be excited about, it seemed pretty standard for what he believed sandcastles were meant to look like. An upturned impression of the bucket he'd used, a carefully smoothed wall, a little divot to act as a moat. The tide came in, just enough to fill the moat with water, and Ace oohed over it all over again. "This is way better than any of the sandcastles Lu and I made when we were kids. Those were usually just big lumps with sticks for flagpoles on top. Lu's not really patient enough for detailed building like this."
Deuce had heard more than enough stories about Luffy to decide that sounded right, passing a twig to Ace to let him draw little designs on the castle wall like he was already doing. "Did you go to the beach very often when you were kids?"
He shrugged, tongue poking from between his lips as he started etching into packed sand. "When we could. It was a bit of a trip getting down from the mountain, so it wasn't like we were there every day. Usually we went for his birthday, since we could visit the village on the way. Otherwise we just went when it got too hot to stand in the forest."
Deuce hummed, finishing his careful drawing of the Spades' Jolly Roger on the front. Ace tipped himself over on his side to catch a glimpse of it, beaming brightly.
"Here," he said, holding his hand out and dropping something small and shiny into Deuce's palm. It was warmed from Ace's hold, and when Deuce looked down he found a little seashell, dappled blue-grey and pale orange and white. "I spotted it earlier. Bet it would look pretty nice on the top."
Deuce smiled, biting his lip briefly as he nodded before setting the shell carefully atop the central castle, the crowning decoration. He made a mental note to grab it again before they left, though. It was pretty, and he liked to keep the little trinkets Ace gave him, even if they were something as small and simple as seashells.
"Perfect," Ace declared with a decisive nod, shifting up onto his hands and knees to lean over and press a warm kiss to Deuce's lips, and when he pulled back he hummed and licked his lips with a smile. "What do you wanna do next?"
He wanted to keep kissing Ace, but he wasn't sure they'd be able to get away with it without thorough ribbing from the rest of the crew. Though when he turned to look, he found Kotatsu happily napping in the shade of some tall, jagged rocks, and Cornelia and Banshee were splashing in the water and shrieking in laughter at each other. The rest of the men were gathered together in a circle, seemingly playing some sort of card game and passing a flask back and forth.
"What else is there to do?" Deuce asked slowly, wishing he didn't have to sound completely ignorant of normal beach day activities. He really didn't have to worry, Ace barely batted an eye, tilting his head as he considered an answer.
"Well, whatever you want, really. Go out in the water to cool down, bury Skull or Finamore in sand if you can sneak attack 'em, search for hermit crabs and tide pools, collect more shells. Might have a ball somewhere from that last island if we wanna go digging through storage on Spadille. Whatever sounds fun."
"Hermit crabs?" Deuce asked, surprised. Ace nodded, looking strangely excited for an activity that involved tiny pinching creatures.
"Sure! Lu really got into it a few years back, I think 'cause he likes hunting for bugs. It's more of a challenge since they live in the sand and you gotta be careful to look or you'll miss 'em. They always used to pinch Lu, but I think it just seemed funny to him. Rubber body, y'know?"
Deuce snorted. Made sense, and Ace's brother certainly didn't sound like the type to be bothered even if it did hurt. Ace sniggered with him and then pushed himself back to his feet, leaving his shirt with Deuce's jacket and both of their shoes, making grabby hands at him with an expectant smile. Deuce rolled his eyes, biting back his own smile as he took the offered hands.
"What now?" he asked, letting his weight drag against Ace's attempts to pull him upright for a moment, to his own amusement and Ace's clear disgruntlement.
"C'mon..." Ace whined, hauling Deuce up as he descended into giggling. His captain pouted, keeping a firm hold of his hands as he pulled him across the beach toward a rockier section of the coast, leaving their discarded clothes and the sandcastle behind. "I think you'll like tide pools better than hermit crab hunting, and I know exactly where to find tide pools."
"Alright, alright," Deuce conceded, and Ace watched him with narrowed eyes before grinning again, releasing one hand but tightening his grip on the other as he continued to pull his partner along. The sun lit Ace's hair in reddish tones Deuce had never noticed before, and he was chattering something about building another sandcastle together later, and wouldn't it be easy to make something totally awesome if they were working together like they had to build Striker. His skin glowed dark and warm, and they were well away from the others.
Deuce tugged on Ace's hand, pulling him back and around, and grey eyes watched him curiously as he put his arms around Ace's neck and kissed him, slow and warm. Thank you, he thought but didn't say, sighing when Ace's arm went around his back to pull him a little closer, fingertips dragging against bare skin briefly. Their noses brushed when Ace pulled back again, blinking up at Deuce with a soft look, question in his eyes.
"Show me the tide pools," Deuce said instead, and Ace quirked a smile even if he huffed, grumbling something about pushy first mates that had Deuce's eyebrow twitching before he darted in to steal another kiss and laughed, dragging Deuce along again like he always did, and Deuce followed as usual.