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Force of Will

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"Mama, is it time?"

Portgas D. Rouge smiled sadly down at her eldest son, Gol D. Ren.

The boy had wavy, raven locks that framed his freckled cheeks and big, red eyes. He had her facial features and, if it weren't for the raven hair, her boy would look nothing like his father.

At ten years old, Ren was wise beyond his years and was one of the kindest souls Rouge had ever met.

"Yes, sweetheart," she answered. "It is."

Rouge looked over her youngest boy, born just hours ago, Gol D. Ace. He already looked so much like his father, just with her freckles. She handed Ace to Ren, along with a bag of supplies and ran a hand through her eldest's hair.

She hated to do this, hated to send her boys away into the unknown. But Rouge could tell she wouldn't last much longer, wouldn't be able to protect her boys if they stayed with her. Holding a pregnancy for twenty months through sheer force of will could kill a person, even a D, and Rouge was honestly surprised she had lasted this long.

But Ren had spent the first nine years of his life on a pirate ship with her and his father, had learned how to captain a ship from the very best, and was taught how to fight to defend himself from anything and everything.

If any child could survive alone on the high seas, it would be her Ren. He knew how and when to run, who to find in case of trouble, and that there was a host of powerful men who would be willing to help him, given the chance.

(Though, there were even more who would kill him for the blood running through his veins)

The sound of rainfall pelting the tin roof of their home distracted Rouge from her thoughts. It was getting dark out, and *that man* would be here soon.

She knew that Roger had entrusted their boys to him, and that Garp had enough honor to take care of the boys.

But he was a marine, would always be a marine. Someday, Garp would have to choose between his job and her boys.

And she didn't believe he would ever betray his precious Navy. Not for the sons of an old rival.

So, Rouge would send her boys off into the world, alone.

She had made sure Ren was as prepared as could be, and now, as she could feel her spirit giving out, she would speak to her boys for the last time. "Ren, take care of yourself and your brother. Know that I will always love the both of, so very, very much.

Make sure Ace grows up knowing about who his father really was. Don't let him listen to the lies told by the government. Roger was human, and humans are flawed by nature, but he always tried his best. Sure, he made mistakes, but so does everyone.

Remember the father you grew up with, who taught you, and trained you. Remember the man he really was and share those memories with Ace.

Use my last name from now on, until you're strong enough to face off against the world and come out the victor."

Rouge smiled softly at the determined look in Ren's eyes. "And, above all else, live your life with no regrets."

Her sweet, sweet boy gave her a watery smile. "Hai."

She mustered up the brightest smile she could. "Now then, you know where the ship is. Off you go."

Ren nodded and walked to the door of their home. With his hand on the doorknob, her boy spoke the last words she would ever hear from him. "Goodbye, mama."

Opening the door in one swift movement, Ren pulled his raincoat tighter around him and his little brother and walked forward.

When the door clicked shut behind her sons, Rouge collapsed to her knees, crying.

They were gone now, she would never see them again. All she could do was hope with all her heart that they would be safe.

At least she would see Roger again, soon.

And, with a small smile on her face, Portgas D. Rouge breathed her last.