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War After War, Sacrifice After Sacrifice

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Title: War After War, Sacrifice After Sacrifice
Category: Anime/Manga » One Piece
Author: death-in-the-orchard
Language: English, Rating: Rated: T
Genre: Drama/Suspense
Published: 01-09-10, Updated: 05-30-10
Chapters: 23, Words: 31,678
Chapter 1: Chapter 1

Luffy was gasping and blood pooled onto the rail of Whitebeard's last standing ship. Ace and the men who had survived were yelling and fighting was still raging around him, but his world was deathly silent. He closed his eyes. He was just so…tired.

"LUFFY!" Ace practically screamed out as the boy fell from the ship. Roaring sounds of mortar bombs exploding in the fading battle field covered his cry and the splash the youth's body made as he fell into the blackened ocean. Ivanokov noticed after a moment that a presence had disappeared and he looked over at Ace who staggered to the side of the deck. Ace looked back at him with desperate eyes. "Luffy…! He fell!"

Ivanokov's eyes widened and fear shot through his body. "No!" he roared and peered over the side of the boat. "No! Straw-boy!" It was too late, he couldn't see the body and recognizing anyone who was not a fruit user would take forever as they were the majority of the survivors and everyone melded into one image of blood. Ivanokov gripped the rail and fell to his knees. "No…" he breathed. "You're body…it finally gave out." Tears welled in his eyes. "I warned you! I did! I…I…" he gasped. Marco who was propped against the mast, limped towards them. Even with his blurred vision he could tell something had gone terribly wrong.

"What happened?" he said hoarsely, looking at Ivanokov's and Ace's wretched expressions.

"Luffy..he!" Ace choked and his body convulsed and he fainted. The day had proven too much, this was the last he could bear…

Marco was still, disbelief froze his mind. "No…how?" he whispered and then cried out, searching Ivanokov's eyes.

"The boy…he was amazingly strong. Any man would have died after being poisoned like he was….then he even had the strength to break out of that prison…..that in itself was a feat of fantasy. Then he came here and actually succeeded in saving Ace…." Ivanokov's voice broke. "I gave him two doses of adrenalin hormones and before that, aided him with his recovery from the poison…but most of that was his sheer will to live." The man was basically speaking to himself, but Marco understood enough of it to guess what had happened….he had collapsed and fallen off the ship…and drowned. No one had been able to even attempt to help him, after that selfless boy had risked it all to help save Ace! He growled and bit the side of his mouth until blood flowed down his chin. The additional blood loss made him dizzy. Damn it! Whitebeard and such a promising youth in one day! Damn it! He felt so useless, as did the others who knew of Luffy's loss.

There was a lot of murmuring in the corner of the pub and it managed to catch Nami's dejected attention. She peered over a few heads by standing on her table. The thud made a few men turn and then automatically help the attractive girl who had collapsed. She was hyperventilating, and they tried to calm her down but she didn't even know that they were there. One of the men scowled at the wanted poster and the macabre expression that glared from the blood painted face of the rooky Straw-Hat Luffy.

"That…" that can't be him….Nami thought, losing her voice. Tears welled in her eyes and she trembled. And it had to be a lie! Luffy…dead?

She sobbed and the men fretted around her, helplessly.

The rest of the Straw-Hats held similar reactions when they found the posters. They all knew it had to be a lie….Luffy…their captain would never abandon them like that. And…they couldn't feel the image of his smiling face and the sound of his warming voice, leave their hearts. Determination took the place of their despair and sorrow. They had to return…their crew had to unite!

Back into the recent past….

He had seen the boy fall…limp and lifeless, into the sea. The time the boy had saved him from a similar fate flashed through his mind. Smoker whipped around, eyes searching for the clumsy, glasses-wearing girl. She wasn't in sight and his anxiety rose. He wasn't that far from the place the boy had fallen, but he couldn't swim! He cursed in desperation, stupidly considering trying to swim anyways, but then he spotted Garp. He flew over to the old man, beginning to speak before he had reformed.

"Your brat! He fell in the sea!" he pointed to the direction. Garp forgot to remember that Luffy was a pirate and he that was a Marine, and he dove into the violent water. The sea had become viscous from the amount of ash and gunpowder that had fallen into it, making it difficult to swim, but it slowed down Luffy's body as it sank. He was only five or six feet under the water when Garp blindly grasped his shirt.

Garp gasped as he saw Luffy in his hand, not only at his condition but at the unbelievable chance of him actually being found in that turbid water…while alive. On land again, Garp didn't bother to wipe off the black soot and water mesh that coated Luffy and himself, instead he carried Luffy protectively in his arms. He almost made it to the remains of the stand on which Ace was supposed to have died, but another vice admiral spotted him.

"Garp…why are you…?"he looked at the old man's state and then turned his eyes to what he was holding, with a closer look he gasped in disbelief. "That's Straw-Hat Luffy!" he cried out. "How did you manage to…?" he was cut off by a chilling glare. It was easy to figure out the situation. Garp hadn't captured the boy, that was ostensible…an easy facade. Garp had saved him. "Garp….!" He growled in fury and disapproval following the man as he continued to walk. "He's a pirate! Get it through that thick sentimental skull of yours!" he continued to curse and protest, but Garp ignored him.

At the wreckage of the stand, Garp stared defiantly into Sengoku's eyes which were not exempt from disbelief and surprise. "Garp." Sengoku said, recovering. "You would bring him here directly…" he continued slowly, but Garp broke in.

"It would be foolish to even attempt to hide him from you…and from all marines. I've come to tell you," his voice was callous, "that I refuse to see one of my grandsons almost put to death before my eyes, again. There are alternatives for removing him from society."

Garp's posture was resolute, and Sengoku hesitated at the thought of making Garp his enemy. "Fine." He said, startling the other vice admiral. Garp didn't react, his emotions had been numbed by the day's events. The discarded sea stone cuffs that still bore some of Ace's drying blood, locked onto Luffy's wrists. The boy was unresponsive as he was surreptitiously removed from the battle field, and from known existence. Posters flaunting Luffy's mortality and death replaced the one's that would have spoken of Ace's. Most were unnerved by the news and the posters themselves….the Marines were obviously displaying another component that was sure to ignite another war. Not like Whitebeard, Dragon was not restricted by age. Unknown to society and the Marines, a blue haired princess stood by her father, dried tears burning on her cheeks. They stood before the royal army, without a ceremony, all of Alabasta knew that they had to avenge their savior, and the ships were sent out. Another unpredictable enemy shook with rage. Red hair covered Shanks' face as he spoke to his men, telling the ones who had never known Luffy, that he was one who could have really become the Pirate King. Blood was going to be paid with blood.

Two Giant captains were horrified and enraged when the pamphlets were dropped from the sky by a carrier bird. They contacted their crews for the first time in one hundred years. A snowy island let a single ship of the villager's only warriors, into the sea. Sky Islanders were exempted, no bird could come to them, but those saved by Luffy and his crew came together now, eyes burning with purpose.

Angst that had not developed in the last war as there had still been hope, burned deeply in the hearts of many.

The first Grandline-scale war was about to commence…out of hatred and loss…destruction could be its only result. But no one knew that everything was playing into the suspecting hands of Monkey D. Dragon himself. The Revolutionist had commenced his revolution.

The doctor had been transfixed when he had begun to examine the boy. The Marines including the admirals and vice admirals and Sengoku, noticed. When the doctor was questioned as he held a stethoscope to Luffy's chest he started.

"He's…he…what is he?"

This quieted and shocked the room.

"What is it?" growled Garp, apprehension building with his slight fear of the actual capability in his grandson.

"I…I can't hear his heart…but he's still breathing!" the doctor was pale and shaking.

"What?" a few exclaimed, Garp ripped the instrument from the doctor and listened. His face became stark but then relaxed and he shot a look of disgust at the doctor. "Your ears haven't been trained well enough. A doctor battles death, he should be able to hear as well as any warrior." He threw the stethoscope at the doctor roughly, but his eyes remained troubled. Luffy was very close to death. Garp's eyebrows furrowed with his rising anger. They had pushed the boy too far, made him so desperate, and he had done nothing! Luffy had fought alone, with only strange new Nakama…if he truly had made any, Garp thought.

"Too bad." Kuzaro sighed but smiled his usual unpleasant smile. He sighed again, deliberately aggravating Garp.

Suddenly a loose group barged into the room, ignoring the protests outside. Hancock's eyes were torturous as she saw Luffy's bloody body, but her face was blank. The others, excepting Hawkeye and Kuma who was now only a mindless android, did not mask their thoughts, their interest. Crocodile scrutinized the fragile looking body, confused at how it had managed to exact so much damage towards the Marines. The Marines, meanwhile, had taken Crocodile back as they were reminded of his power and saw that he could be kept in check by the other Shichibukai. Doflamingo noticed his disturbance and decided to irritate it further, he sauntered over to Luffy, ignoring Garp as he glared at him.

"Ho ho! What have we got here? Is this boy really Straw-Hat?" he brought his hand to his chin, a grin on his face. "Crocodile, how could you have been beaten by something so pitiful?" he jumped as a piercing voice threw itself at him.

"Don't you dare call him pitiful!" Hancock exclaimed, coloring with fury. "Your words are hateful! Those such as yourself have no right to speak!" she pointed at him with accusation.

Those in the room eyed her, used to her outbursts and then still disturbed by this one, but did not leave a silence after her words. Doflamingo's grin returned. "What could I have done to anger you so? Hime?" his voice was sardonic and caused Hancock to glare even more darkly at him. (trans. Hime=princess) He would have continued to goad her, but was silenced as Sengoku demanded why they were here, disturbed as all of them came together willingly now, when it was so hard to force them too. They all had shared interest….that was disquieting, the thought setting alarms off in his mind and in the minds of the Marines who looked at the pirates with hostility.

"Why?" Doflamingo's voice almost seemed to mock Sengoku, deriding his question. "What he's done! Really, it blows one's mind!" He looked greedily at Luffy. "Son of Dragon? Grandson of the Legendary Garp? Adopted brother to the Pirate King's son? He's defeated two Shichibukai. He defeated Enes Lobby. He broke into and out of the Great Gaol Impel Down and released well over two hundred pirates, and then went raging through Marineford, taking Fire-Fist right from the Marine's hands, all in a single day! Captured by the Marines, and yet he hasn't been killed?" the pink feathers rustled as he cackled. "It's simply interesting and entertaining! It's amazing! What will happen now? How will his false death bring about consequences for the Marines?"

"Shut up, Doflamingo!" one of the vice admirals shook with rage. Doflamingo stopped his insane laughter, but he continued to ask a question.

"What would his bounty be? I wonder…" he looked at Sengoku in the eyes through his sunglasses. "I would really like to know….I don't know of any other pirate who had this much to his name within his first year on the Grandline." Then his smile widened as he thought of something, Sengoku paused expectantly, shocked and perturbed when the pirate kept quiet while continuing to smile spitefully.

"That is of no concern," Sengoku glared, "He doesn't need one. He's legally dead and he's under our control." He turned away from the grinning pirate with disgust. "Doctor, can you now continue to treat him?" He wasn't really asking, to his annoyance the doctor had been simply standing and starring at the wall.

"Oh!" the timid doctor flinched and went to Luffy, pausing as Doflamingo was in the way. He cowered when the pirate stared at him, refusing to move. Sengoku began to order Doflamingo to move, but he was interrupted.

"This shitty doctor? Really?" his face was cold, analyzing the pathetic man. "Get a better one else Straw-Hat's going to die, and that's just boring." He leered at the Marines. "Unless that's precisely what you want, then he's perfect."

"What?" the doctor breathed, exceedingly offended, but Sengoku shut him up. His eyes darted to Garp who was seriously considering the Shichibukai's words.

"Fine, Garp." Sengoku wanted to make sure that Garp thought that he wasn't trying to trick him, that he was being honest and true to his word. "Get the boy a different doctor if you can find a better one." The old man nodded, but didn't want to leave the room when Luffy was so helpless. Garp conversed with one of the Marines that stood at the door, the young man saluted and ran down the hall. At least I have Coby…Garp mused and he glanced at Boa Hancock.

Kuzaru laughed at the fuming doctor who left immediately. As his laugh died, his insistent smile remained, as always. "He's pretty incapacitated, but you're sure that leaving him with only a few guards and those cuffs is enough?"

"Yes…" Sengoku said slowly, trying to read the other man's intentions.

Akainu growled, breaking his steady habit of silence. "If he wasn't Garp's grandson, he'd have been imprisoned and we would be preparing his execution and not his living arrangements right now." He glared at nothing, respecting Sengoku and Garp enough to spare them this.

Garp frowned, but he and the rest of the room knew that this was the truth.

"He's gone against the Marines deliberately, as a whole, only now to save his brother." Aokiji took the complete attention of those in the room.

"What do you mean to say?" Akainu said coldly, he hated the softness he had always seen in Aokiji, it worried him.

"He's gotten rid of pirates who were posing threats for people, saving many when it should have been the Marines doing so."

"Enes Lobby!" someone spoke up, and Akoji shook his head, not looking anyone in the eye.

"There was corruption within the Marines in the Enes Lobby incident. They took Nico Robin, picking a fight with him. He defended her, but he never initiated anything against the Marines, even to this day." Aokiji's eyes traveled to Luffy who was breathing softly under a white sheet, his cuffed arms on top of it. "He isn't a potential hazard to society."

"He hit one of the Tenryuubito." Akainu reminded the room, calmly but with power in his words. "Keeping him alive…we have to lie to them. Can we even do that?"

Sengoku's eyes narrowed, he had been tormenting over the same thought. Garp scowled, while no one noticed Hancock's face drain of color. The hardness she held in her eyes made it less noticeable, and could have been overlooked if someone had looked at her directly.

"That wasn't…"Aokiji began, but Akainu interrupted him.

"Aokiji! If you continue to defend this pirate, you will only be harming yourself!" Akainu barked, grimacing as he knew that the Shichibukai were seeing the instability of wills within the Marines. "Don't try to justify him against the Tenryuubito! Don't be a fool!"

Aokiji eyes glazed over as he fought a battle with his morals and emotions, he frowned externally.

"So this is the heart of the issue." Hawkeye stated, Hancock and Crocodile glanced at him. Stubbornly, the Marines tried to ignore him. The sound of Garp's cracking knuckles were the only sound in the room.

"You should leave." Sengoku coolly gazed at the pirates, addressing all of the Shichibukai.

"You order me?" Hancock's color came back and her temper flared. There is no way I will part with my beloved, she convinced herself.

"Yes, Boa Hancock….I am."

Hancock was ready to refuse and argue with the Marine, but Doflamingo's mocking voice broke in quietly, speaking only to her.

"What is this boy to you, Hime? You interfered as the Marines attacked him at Marineford…I saw, as did a few other people." His smile made her want to smack him and shiver at the same time. "Watch out, Hime. You're going to end up in big trouble." His eyes flashed, and Hancock's determination broke.

"Fine! I shall leave of my own will. You should be thankful." She huffed and turned with her dignity in hand and left with Hawkeye, Kuma, and seemingly Crocodile, but he stopped at the door. He noticed Doflamingo remained where he stood.

"Doflamingo, what is the meaning of this?" a Marine was already rebuking him.

"I said that I am quite interested." He said quietly, making the vice admiral that had spoken to him, flinch. "Now the Marines will lie, go against even the Tenryuubito? Just to keep him alive? A freaken pirate?" his eyes were wide, disguised by his sunglasses while a manic grin made the Marines uneasy. He laughed at the fear that sparked in a few eyes.

"Get out!" barked Sengoku, his face was beginning to pale with anger and anxiety. This situation….it's the worst of the worst, Sengoku thought bitterly to himself. And to his annoyance, he spotted Crocodile who lingered at the door as Doflamingo left cackling. Those two….! Does this mean even more chaos is about to be unleashed into this ragging hurricane I have led us into?

Sengoku glared at the boy, but felt guilty for placing all of his frustration on him. Aokiji's words echoed in his mind. Sengoku broke up the gathering, mentioning the odd shadow that remained in the room and the Shichibukai's persistence, and then claimed that he needed time to think. He ignored Akainu's comment about how they didn't have any, and he left. He headed for his office, picturing his desk covered with filed reports about Straw-Hat Luffy. I need to know who this boy really is…Sengoku concluded. It would determine his future decisions, and the boy's fate.

Chapter 2: Chapter 2
Elsewhere, ships navigated through clear and peaceful water through the Grandline. Bibi looked absently towards a horizon set ablaze with the setting sun. In her thoughts the princess was reliving the adventures she had taken part in, not too long ago, with the recently deceased pirate. Her head rested on her hands hanging over the railing along the back of the battle ship. Another ship sparked her interest as she caught its familiarity. It was mirrored in her memory of when the pirates had found their doctor.

The ship from Drum Island was recognized by Bibi, who had left Alabasta to lead the fleet of ships her father had sent out. Bibi initiated contact between the two ships. Solemn but glad to see one another again, Bibi and the men from the winter island spoke of their purpose for mobilizing. Through this, Bibi discovered why the soldiers of Drum Island had set out despite their small number. The men had reasoned that they would not be the only ones who had been helped by Luffy and would want to avenge the injustice of his death. Their forces combined and together they advanced towards an anticipated war. This was a war to bring peace to their hearts, nothing else was to be gained though much more could be lost. Bibi overlooked the dark side of her quest for peace. Her peace would only be from the unleashment of darkness within their hearts. It was more of a crusade of revenge.

Her father, the king of Alabasta had given Bibi a log post to Marineford, but she knew that if they went there directly with such a huge number, they would be countered before they ever reached the Marine Headquarters. This was why her fleet was separated, and each ship was provided with an active communication network linked with the head navigator on Bibi's ship, through the use of Den-Den Mushi. This was to make sure the ships would arrive at their destination at relatively the same time. Each vessel also had individual, permanent log posts built into them, pointing to Marineford. Luckily Alabasta's relationship with the Marines had been reinforced after the incident with Crocodile and the Marine's failure to save the country. That duty had fallen to the hands of a band of pirates, and it had revolted the Marines profoundly.

The Giants' two ships pushed towards the HQ together. The movement of the Giant pirates was noted with surprise by the Marines, but as they appeared to be relatively inactive and because the Marines were still recovering from the war with Whitebeard, the pirates were ignored even when they destroyed a Marine vessel. The act of stealing a log post for Marine HQ was undocumented. Meanwhile, Shanks' movement horrified the Marines.

It was as bad as Whitebeard attacking again, the recently more aged man thought. Sengoku was kept awake at night, urgently making counter plans of action and reviewing the last war. They had to meet the pirates head on, before they reached Marineford. The accumulation of more damage from another war would destroy the island, obliterating the symbol of the Marines. The loss of Marineford would mean a complete defeat, for Marines around the world. Marineford was the heart of the Marines, it could not and would not fall while he was there to prevent it. If it did fall, he grimaced again as the horrible image played in his mind, the world would be ruled by anarchy….by pirates.

Sengoku had long abandoned Luffy's and his crew's files, and they lay in the shadows of piles of notes and plans he was obsessing over. Red Haired Shanks weighed on his mind, and the aged man was haunted by what was unfolding. Everything paralleled with what had occurred with Ace and Whitebeard.

The pressure from the Tenryuubito had also begun to surface. At this rate, Sengoku sighed, the Marines may be overwhelmed.

Luffy was transferred to the hospital wing, although many opposed the move and the hospital had relatively crowded conditions. A curtain was drawn around Luffy's bed, creating a make-shift room. The level of exposure Luffy had to the Marines escalated by being in the hospital wing, but now he was better attended to with more capable doctors. The previous had been provided after the doctor had been rejected from the hospital. The doctors treated him reluctantly, but did not attempt to harm or neglect Luffy. The Marine patients left him alone. It was easy for most to forget that he was a pirate at times or that he was even there. His youth and innocent face made him much less a malevolent figure in the minds of the Marines who saw him, and his damaged state influenced the amount of disdain the doctors could sustain against him. The blood had long since faded from Luffy, and, cleansed, he couldn't be preserved as a threat as he had been by those who saw him during the war. The nightmares began to fade as Luffy made the horror half of what it had seemed before, visions of vicious, heartless, monstrous men raging through the seas becoming more human.

Before the prejudice had dulled…..

Luffy had been wheeled through the aisles of occupied beds, word of his arrival preceding him. Escorts kept the marines that could stand and wave at least one fist, at bay, but glares and shouted insults still rained down upon the unconscious boy. Coby was glad that Luffy couldn't hear them, but he wondered if Luffy would have even cared.

The young pirate's face was scrutinized by many who debated the likely-hood of the boy not being Straw-Hat Luffy, while others ranted about the unreasonably good treatment he was receiving. Hostility developed towards the escorts but was soon forgotten as peace enveloped the hospital wing once more. The hostility was then focused on Luffy, but even that faded within a day or so. Uninjured Marines could not freely visit the hospital, they had to have an authorized pass as a precaution for Luffy's safety.

The doctors, meanwhile, had concluded that Luffy was in a near comatose state, but he was not in any danger of falling into one or of suddenly dying. Though he had yet to wake, the doctors expected that it would only be a matter of days until he did. But when he did wake up, his body's strength would be affected by the abuse he had put it through.

Hancock remained at Marineford, unsuspected as the rest of the Shichibukai also did not leave. She considered turning all of the Marines and doctors in the hospital into stone, in order to just visit Luffy or to kidnap him, but her only means of getting home would be on a Marine vessel and she cursed the inconvenience. Her patience was not especially strong, and after two days, she left her courters in search of Garp.

Garp had noticed her behavior the last time he had seen her, but her visit still managed to surprise him.

"You want to….visit Luffy?" he said slowly, bewildered. Hancock stood before him with her normal level of fortitude.

"I want to see Straw-Hat Luffy." She said, this time correcting her mistake of calling Luffy by only his name. Garp questioned her reason for wanting to. "Why would someone like myself need such a thing? I want to, so I will." She flaunted her regal air, making Garp frown in thought and something passed through his expression.

"Alright." Hancock's face lit up, quickly masked by indifference. "You can come with me tonight when I go to visit him." Garp looked at her one more time before continuing on his way.

Hancock walked to her living quarters, ignoring the men that gawked at her passing figure. Once there, her face flushed and she smiled, anxious about seeing Luffy again and she passed in and out of daydreams. Later she took to yelling at the clock because it refused move fast enough.

Smoker visited Tashigi in the hospital wing where he met her sitting in bed, propped up by a pillow. A thick book with yellowing and nibbled pages regarding different stories about swords was lowered to her lap when she noticed him. Tashigi smiled at him and he nodded to her, but other than that, he only sat by her bed in silence. Smoker would often glance at the drawn curtains at the end of the row of beds. His thoughts ran through his knowledge and memories of the boy, without his permission. I already saved him once, I repaid the debt! Why in blazes did I do it again? The man scowled with an unlit cigar in his mouth. Passing doctors expressed their disapproval of its presence in the hospital, but he grumbled and said he wouldn't smoke in a place full of injured people.

A disturbance echoed from the door to the next room. Voices and confusion rose for a moment before being silenced. Their room soon replaced the noise as shocked voices sounded the arrival of Garp and Boa Hancock. She looked at the men coldly, but her beauty instantly enslaved them. One word for silence quieted the noise, and only her heels sounding against the white tiled floor could be heard. Smoker stood up, or he had been standing up since Hancock walked in, he couldn't remember. The cigar threatened to tumble from his open mouth. Her…! He had almost forgotten as his memory brought up the scene of her saving Luffy from him and fighting Smoker herself so that Luffy could get away. The words she had spoken rang clear. 'My beloved' said within a single sentence, referring to Straw-Hat. What is their relation? He pondered, unconvinced that it could be romantic when he thought of Luffy and how in hell he could ever appeal to the Shichibukai.

Their eyes met as she walked by, his familiar face catching Hancock's attention. Recognition was followed by a glare and she ignored him. A few Marines began to pester Smoker as to why the Hime had granted him with her glance. In annoyance he shoved the faces away, remembering his subordinate. She was as surprised as them.

A tacit look passed from Smoker to his subordinate and she nodded that she wouldn't mind if he left her, for now. Tashigi indicated the book in her hands with a smile. "I'm fine."

He walked between Hancock and Garp, both looking at him, one with annoyance and one with mild surprise and apprehension. "Boa Hancock, I want to speak with you about…." He began.

"I do not wish to speak of it." she cut him off.

"What is it we're talking about?" Garp asked Smoker after a pause.

"When she…"

"Quiet! Your voice is unpleasant." Hancock stopped him. Garp smiled, in thought.

"Join us, I want to hear what you have to say." Hancock glared at Garp, but he was taking her to see Luffy, so she didn't protest.

"Do not listen to our conversation." She ordered the curious Marines surrounding Luffy's curtains. "I hate men who do that." Instantly the growing swarm dispersed to their individual beds , but all eventually decided to gift Hancock with the room entirely to herself. Smoker couldn't help but feel extremely annoyed by her attitude and her influence over others.

Garp sat in a chair as a pink haired Marine who had been sitting beside Luffy left the room, he nervously passed the Shichibukai and blushed. Hancock's face lit up when she looked at Luffy. Her hand twitched as she resisted pushing loose locks of hair out of his eyes. Oblivious, Hancock didn't notice that both of the men were analyzing her reaction. Her face was kind and warm, nothing pertaining to her coarse personality remained.

"Here, you can sit." Garp got up and let Hancock sit in his chair next to Luffy's head.

Garp slowly stepped back, closer the Smoker. "Are you going to tell me now?"

Smoker recalled the specific details, making Garp's eyes widen. Both looked at the Shichibukai with confusion. Her obvious behavior around Luffy, and what Smoker remembered her saying and doing made it undeniable. Boa Hancock was in love with Luffy. Garp figured that she had taken Luffy into Impel Down when she had visited Ace. Smoker was about to confront her about her relation with Luffy, but Garp held him back.

"This situation is in my favor." Garp explained quietly. "Boa Hancock." He addressed her.

Hancock hesitated from looking away from Luffy, but turned to Garp with an annoyed expression. "What is it?"

He stared at her and she stared back. Now she glared. "What is it?" she demanded, her voice becoming harsh.

"I want you to help Luffy." Hancock blinked.

"Why are you saying this?" her suspicion rose as an unpleasant grin took Garp's face.

"I know you took Luffy to Impel Down, and that you helped him on various other occasions during the battle with Whitebeard." Hancock started. "I ask for your cooperation and in return, I won't turn you over to Sengoku, and your country won't lose the protection of your Shichibukai status."

Her taut lips trembled with rage. "How dare you!" she didn't yell because of the Marines in the other room. "How can you accuse me? What proof do you have?"

"It makes perfect sense, and Smoker can vouch as a witness against you. Also your actions concerning Luffy are obvious, only the impossibility of you being in love with a man is keeping Sengoku from discovering what you're guilty of."

Smoker and Garp were shocked as her face colored and her eyes lost their edge. "I…I do love him." She said quietly, putting her face in her hands.

This couldn't really be the same woman, both men thought in unison. This expression and behavior made her appear to be likable…and even cute. Garp flinched when Smoker spoke.

"Why?" he said, dumbstruck and Garp had to agree with his question.

"That," Boa Hancock's face became deadly serious. "I refuse to tell you."

Garp smirked. "Well, I guess our visit is over…Boa Hancock, if you would come with me…"

She was absolutely aghast, knowing well the only way to stay by Luffy would be to answer them. Her face darkened. "I can't tell you the exact reason….but there are other things that added up to make me love him. He saved me and my sisters…from having to leave our country forever."

"How could he have…" Garp began, lost in the conversation. Smoker couldn't understand anything she had said either. It didn't make sense, what reason would make her have to leave, and how could Luffy have done anything about it? Garp remembered his immature grandson and frowned.

"I can't tell you that. It's related…." She was uncomfortable and her eyes wouldn't meet either Garp or Smoker. Finally she found comfort by looking down at Luffy. "I would like to stay…" her voice was calm and her countenance was almost humble, but this was only a fleeting illusion. The Shichibukai's eyes darted towards Garp. "I won't beg." she suddenly said, her voice rougher than before.

"Fine, fine." Garp raised his hands, motioning for her to calm down. "I'm not really leaving. I have the night shift." Hancock smiled, making the men's hearts skip a beat. HOW THE HELL DID LUFFY GET A WOMAN LIKE THIS? Smoker rubbed his temples.

"Argh…now I have a headache. I'm leaving," he turned. "Come get me when he wakes up." the curtain's rings clinked as the curtain was parted and then closed.

"Why would I do that man a favor?" Hancock said spitefully.

"Luffy would have drowned." Garp surprised Hancock, she was upset by his even mentioning such a horrible thing. "He saw Luffy fall into the sea and then he told me and I saved him, but the reason he's alive before you is thanks to Commodore Smoker."

Hancock was silent, watching Luffy.

"When will he wake up?"

"The doctors said that it could be a few days." Garp shifted his weight to his other leg. "I'm going to grab another chair."

Hancock didn't look up as Garp disappeared, leaving her in her shadow cloaked sanctuary. This shadow…she stood up in alarm. She didn't remember it being this dark when Smoker had been here. "You!" Hancock backed away from the darker shadow, and stood defensively in front of Luffy's bed. Moria's shadow peeled itself from the floor. She realized that it couldn't speak.

"Leave!" she warned, but the shadow only came closer to her and Luffy. A kick using Haki made the shadow fly into the curtain, without sending a single ripple through the fabric. Moria was obviously angered and confused as his shadow would advance and then stop, its outline unsteady with its emotion. Finally it threw itself into the shadow on the curtain and slithered out of sight. "Damn him….what was he trying to do?" Nothing good could come from this brief visit, the Shichibukai were up to something involving Luffy….she knew that that had to be the case.

When Garp walked in with another chair he saw her glaring at the ceiling. "Moria came by." She spoke before he could ask.

"What?" anger and fear mixed in the old man's eyes. "What does he want?" he gritted his teeth, and searched the ceiling.

Her face was cold, like usual, and she turned to Garp. "I'll protect Luffy." The two stared at one another for a moment. "What were you going to ask me to cooperate with earlier?"

Garp lost his angry expression and grinned, laughing for the first time in days. "Great!"

Chapter 3: Chapter 3
"Damn her…" Moria recalled what his shadow had reported to him. "Damn her! Why should she get in the way!" the corridor was silent, and his ranting echoed off the empty walls, ricocheting until it reached the curiosity of someone strolling through MarineFord that night. He turned down the hall where the last curse still resonated in the stale air.

"Why would she even be there? What the hell has she got to do with him, or is it for the Marines?" Moria growled, mercilessly pounding the concrete with his boots. "That woman….!" He stopped. "Why should she be an obstacle? I can get Straw-Hat's shadow whether she's there or not!"

"I doubt that." A grin glistened in the gloom.

"Doflamingo." Moria said quietly. Pink feathers came into view.

"Our little Hime is ignoring my warning. From what you've said, I'll guess she stopped you when you went after Straw-Hat."

"Warning…?" Moria looked down at Doflamingo suspiciously. "Are you with her too?"

"NO!" his suddenly raised voice made Moria retreat a step backwards. He had never heard him yell like that.

"I don't work with just anyone, or for just anyone." Doflamingo had calmed, a sinister, knowing smile, present as he spoke. "But I don't think she's working for anyone…yet that is."

Moria was confused, and Doflamingo frowned at his stupidity. "She's leaving herself vulnerable, someone will snatch her up soon….Using her would be child's play, because our little Hime," His smile resurfaced. "is really no more than a spoiled, arrogant child, herself."

"What do you want….what are you telling me this for?" Moria glared.

"Hostile, so hostile." Doflamingo chuckled. "That's why you don't have any friends."

"Don't play with me! What are you up to?"

"It's not what I want to gain….it's what I want to see." He turned away from Moria, but didn't attempt to leave. "Straw-Hat Luffy is my distraction from a monotonous world!" he threw out his arms dramatically, cackling. "He is my new play thing! Nothing more but nothing less…to me at least. So much is happening! I couldn't even begin to make out half of it!"

Screwed up bastard! Moria thought to himself. "You're going to waste Straw-Hat, while I could put him to good use."

"As one of your dolls?" Doflamingo's bored expression and remark offended the larger Shichibukai. But Doflamingo didn't let him indulge his temper. "Ah, but he is being put to even better use as we speak."

"How?" Moria spat, his temper hadn't receded at all, and Doflamingo noticed with sadistic pleasure.

"Would you like to find out?"

"That's why I'm asking!" fanged teeth flashed.

Doflamingo paused in thought. "Naw. I don't like you." He began to walk away casually as Moria flew into a passion.

"Damn you! Damn these fucking Shichibukai! You're maddening!" he screeched after the retreating figure and the memory of Boa Hancock.

"Have fun with yourself!" Doflamingo's voice rebounded back to Moria.

A body of darkness twisted around and constricted his legs and Doflamingo was halted in mid step.

Moria walked around the mass of pink feathers until he could see its face. He mirrored Doflamingo's signature grin, his sharp teeth making it more daunting.

Doflamingo's sunglasses flashed in the dull lighting, and both Shichibukai smiled ominously.

"You know…I was hoping you would do that."

Time passes…..a day later, about the same time in the middle of the night….

Pain, unsettled emotion, and soreness of the body, heart, and mind sent Luffy into an undistinguishable reality. He sat up abruptly, ignoring his pain. He couldn't help but cry out though, when it tore into him. This woke one who slept with a head laid almost on his shoulder, but still on the bed, and his movement and sound made a figure quickly grab for a light switch.

"Hancock?" he blinked, eyes stinging after being unexposed for so long. He jolted, sending waves of paralyzing pain though his body, seeing the other by the wall. "G…G…Grandfather?!" he shouted, confused and disoriented and unconvinced he was awake he blinked a few times furiously. They still remained.

"Luffy!" Hancock's eyes were watery with happiness, she started to hug him but had to stop, remembering his state. "Luffy, I'm so glad you're okay!" she settled on gripping his arm with her hands.

"Okay…?" memory rushed back, explaining his unbalanced emotions. "ACE! WHAT ABOUT ACE?"

His voice filled the emptied room. The Marines had given Hancock the room to herself when they found out that she would be staying there that night, they had done the same the previous night also. Luffy's exclamation was still heard through the wall. A doctor making his rounds, checking on patients, got up. Alarmed that there should be any noise at all at this time at night, he went into the other room.

"He's fine, don't yell so loud! You'll wake everyone up!" Garp didn't seem to realize he was also yelling, and out of habit, he hit Luffy on the head. Unfortunately the doctor opened the door in time to see this.

"What are you doing!" the distraught doctor ran over to Luffy's bed. With the room to themselves, the curtain had been pulled back. "He's just woken up! And you go and hit him on the head?" he growled. "Fool!"

"Who are you?"

Luffy's voice made the doctor gasp and jump back, remembering who his patient actually was….and what he was.

"I..uh…" he cleared his throat, trying to collect himself. He looked vaguely at Luffy…..he's a pirate….the thought ran through the doctor's mind and the general prejudice surfaced in his heart.

"Where's Ace?" Luffy lost interest in the mumbling man, and turned to Hancock and his grandfather, earnestly.

"Don't worry. You saved him and he's alright, Luffy." Hancock's gentle voice and smile made the doctor blush. Luffy sighed with relief, and then thought for a moment.

"I.." the doctor began, but Luffy started talking and overwhelmed the doctor who glared at him in annoyance.

"I remember the ship, but after that…nothing." Luffy's eyebrows furrowed, but then relaxed and he smiled. "So Ace made it out alright? That's good." He sank back into his pillow. He tried to move his hand but realized something was attached to it. "What? What are these?"

Garp looked blankly at his grandson. "Those are sea stone cuffs. You didn't think that we could leave you completely unrestrained while you're in Marineford, now, did you?"

"MARINEFORD?!" Luffy was shocked at the news and sat up quickly again, wincing slightly.

"You're as slow as ever." Garp couldn't help but smile a little. Same old Luffy, no matter what happens…

"So…what happened to me?" his own situation dawned on him.

"Commodore Smoker spotted you when you fell off the ship, and I swam out and got you. You didn't miss much." Garp casually leaned against the wall.

"Smokey? He saved me?" Luffy laughed, surprising the others who had not even expected him to know who Smoker was. "I knew he wasn't a bad guy."

"Smokey? You mean Smoker, right?" Garp laughed at the absurd and expected interpretation of the name. He had already known that the two were acquainted.

"He's a friend of yours, Luffy?" Hancock frowned, remembering how she had treated the Marine.

"Sure…Only I don't think he likes me very much." Luffy continued to smile.

"Then that means he's not your friend, idiot!" Garp smacked him on the head again.

As Luffy rubbed his head, Hancock stood up to force Garp to pay for hitting Luffy, twice now, in her presence, but a low grumble from the bed stopped her and all eyes turned to Luffy.

"I'm hungry."

As a parade of food made its way into the hospital, the other patients woke up and peered into the next room out of curiosity, bewildered to find Straw-Hat Luffy wide awake and seemingly eating the entire island's provisions.

The doctor had refused to get Luffy more than a small plate of leftovers, anything more would mean waking up the cooks. Hancock announced that she would just have to do it, and to prevent her from having to go through the trouble and hazard of cooking, he left with her to wake up the cooks. She then returned and food was quickly presented, and more came without hesitation when Hancock repeated Luffy's requests. Garp lounged on a chair, laughing at the men who fell under the Hime's spell.

The Marines were both disgusted and amazed at the amount of food Luffy was eating and how good it looked after days of hospital food. They were even more surprised when the pirate invited them to join. Somehow, a kind of party came together.

Even Tashigi was lured by the festivities. She quietly made her way to Luffy. Hancock realized that a girl wearing red glasses stood next to Luffy. Her menacing glare made Tashigi flinch, but she continued, determined.

"Straw-Hat Luffy?"

"Hmm?" Luffy's mouth was full of food, mostly meat.

She cringed, but couldn't help feeling somewhat amused. "Do you remember who I am?"

Luffy swallowed, almost choking as he forgot that he was wearing the sea stone cuffs. One cuff was linked to his wrist and the other was linked to the railing of the bed, by request of Hancock. "No."

Hancock had been concerned, but now a smug smile spread across her face.

Tashigi started. "Don't you remember at Alabasta when you were looking for Crocodile? I wanted to thank…." …you for saving that country, is how she would have continued, but instead Luffy interrupted her.

"AH!"

A couple of Marines looked in his direction.

"I remember now! You told me where to find Crocodile!" Luffy smiled and bowed his head a little. "Thanks! That was a big help!"

"I…!" Tashigi was as speechless as the few Marines and Hancock who had seen this. A pirate of his stature, thanking a Marine?

"Luffy!" Hancock said, distressed. A few jealous Marines wished she would call them by their first name, or at least know what it was.

"What?" Luffy had begun to eat again.

"You can't…you shouldn't do that…..she's a Marine." Hancock had difficulty scolding Luffy in any manner.

"So? She helped us."

"Us?" Hancock was confused.

"My crew and Bibi." He swallowed to make it easier to speak. "It actually helped Robin too since Crocodile would've probably killed her."

"Your crew?" Hancock said dumbly. She had forgotten all about their existence. He is a pirate…..Hancock was uneasy counting the two female names mentioned.

"Yeah, I'm going to go to the last place I saw them (Marines were listening and even the dense Luffy wasn't going to ruin his hope to reunite with his crew) and we'll continue to go on to the RedLine."

A few choked and looked at Luffy's optimistic face with disbelief.

"You mean to escape?" Tashigi inquired, frowning.

"Or you could just let me leave. I don't care either way. I'm not staying here forever." Luffy's optimism was undefeatable.

Disturbed, Tashigi wanted to discourage Luffy, but a familiar voice by her ear made her start.

"You really know how to make a mess of things, Straw-Hat. I'll give you that." Smoker looked at Luffy and then the lively Marines and then the masses of food. The noise was slowly waking up those sleeping throughout Marineford.

"Smokey?" his unexpected presence surprised Luffy, and food flew at Smoker as he exclaimed. Growling, Smoker wiped it off with revulsion.

"That's the second time, damn it!" He fumed, wanting to hit Luffy, but Luffy was injured and cuffed with sea stone, and doing so would make him into a bully…in his mind.

"So you saved me?"

Luffy's words weren't caught by anyone outside of Hancock and Tashigi and the one addressed.

"What?" Tashigi turned to Smoker who glared even more venomously at Luffy.

"No. Your old man did." Smoker said brusquely.

"No, you told him where I was or whatever. That's what he said. I wanted to say thanks agai…."

"GARP!" Smoker snarled and stormed over to the amused old man and started yelling at him.

"Wow…he'd actually do something like that?" Tashigi said to herself, but her attention fell back to Luffy who seemed awed by something.

"Someone's actually yelling at Grandfather? Whenever I do that he beats the crap out of me….that's not fair!" Luffy continued intently to watch Smoker berate Garp who only smiled and even laughed.

"He does what?" Hancock cried and stood up abruptly. "Why he'll…" she stopped before going over to Garp when she heard Tashigi and remembered that she was there and would be left alone with Luffy, so she sat down in her chair again.

"He does what?" Tashigi's voice echoed Hancock's.

"What? He's always been like that, just because I refused to be a Marine."

Tashigi's surprise along with a few random Marines, prolonged the topic, and the night continued.

Eventually Hancock couldn't stand the attention others were receiving from Luffy. The food was practically gone, so Luffy didn't think much of it when she threw all of the Marines out of the room, specifically making sure Tashigi was among them.

Smoker more or less left on his own, mainly to avoid Luffy. Now only Hancock, Garp, and Luffy remained, which had become the norm in the hospital as of late.

Some noise in the other room prompted Hancock to get up and open the connecting door to demand their silence, but she met someone as she forced the doors open.

"What do you want?" Hancock was too surprised to be cold, and this man had never bothered her before.

"Hawkeye?" Garp got up, wary of the Shichibukai.

Luffy couldn't think of any questions to add, so he was silent.

Chapter 4: Chapter 4
"Straw Hat Luffy." Hawkeye's face was expressionless, wearing his usual mask. "I wanted to meet with you once before I left."

"You're leaving?" Luffy said, frowning. "Why?"

"I refuse to do what the Marine's have asked of me, so I do not see that it would be appropriate for me to remain at Marineford at the moment." Hawkeye wasn't exactly ignoring Hancock and Garp, he wasn't showing them disregard in any manner, but his eyes never left Luffy and Luffy in turn did not look away from him.

"What did they ask? You're allies with the Marine's aren't you? Can you really refuse like that and keep being a Shichibukai?" Luffy remembered how Hancock's initial refusal to come to Marineford had angered the old lady and she had mentioned that their country needed the protection of her Shichibukai title….as if it would have been removed if she had not complied.

"No. They won't do that." There was nothing hesitant in Hawkeyes words. His strength, determination, and freedom from the Marines was making Luffy start to like him a little more.

"What did they ask, though?" Luffy repeated. Hancock listened intently. It was odd for Hawkeye to be this social or rebellious against the Marines….

"I don't have any wish to fight a specific pirate that is coming to Marineford."

"A pirate? Coming to Marineford?" Luffy's eyes widened in disbelief and he sat up straighter.

"You are probably unaware…" his eyes narrowed, "that yet another war is upon Marineford."

"What?!" Luffy looked from his grandfather to Hancock before returning his attention to Hawkeye. "Who? WHY?!" the sheets twisted in his grasp.

"A friend of mine, but he is also a close friend of yours."

"Someone we both know?" nothing came to mind except perhaps Zoro, but that didn't make any sense.

"Shanks is going to attack Marineford within days from now."

There was a prolonged pause.

"SHANKS?!" Luffy cried in disbelief, but smiled, overjoyed. "Really? But…but why would he attack Marineford?" Luffy's smile turned into a frown of confusion. "He's not one to pick fights…." The memory of a specific bandit flashed through his mind.

"For you." Hawkeye watched Luffy's dumbfounded expression, leaving his words to linger in the silence, before turning to leave.

"Wait! Hawkeye!" Luffy tugged at the cuff and glared at it in frustration. He watched as Hawkeye neared the door, without any signs of stopping. "Why? Why would he? Please tell me!"

"I do not believe that is for me to tell you." Hawkeye didn't stop. "Farewell Straw Hat Luffy." His presence left the room, but the heavy atmosphere was sustained by Luffy.

"What is he talking about?" Luffy's beseeching eyes burned into those who remained in the room. "Why didn't you tell me about any of this?"

"Luffy…" Hawkeye began shyly. "I..I…There wasn't…it hadn't really come up….I didn't think of it…" her incoherent word's meaning was held by her contrite eyes. Luffy looked to his grandfather.

The old man stared sternly at his grandson. "She's right. 'It hadn't really come up' as of yet…I would've told you eventually."

"But why? Why would he? To save me?" Luffy looked away from his grandfather. "It just doesn't seem….like the reason. He wouldn't do this for something so minor as my being captured…maybe if I was going to die…but…" his voice dulled to a mere muttering and he stopped. "Wait…am I going to be executed…like Ace was going to be?" he looked at his grandfather again.

"No." Garp's expression hardened.

"Why?"

"You're just not. But Red Hair is coming because you died." Garp avoided the subject and plunged into the heart of the matter. "The world thinks you're dead Luffy."

The night before…

"Damn it…!" Moria was shaken by a hacking cough and his continuous string of curses was ended for a moment. His body was rigid and then shook as he gasped, his mind continuing to slip between consciousness and darkness.

Doflamingo was both irritated at the disappointing display that had been given by Moria's last moments of consciousness, but he also smiled.

"It's not all that bad…." He said to himself, and then he knelt down. "I'll wait for the next fight. Make sure it's a little more fun."

Moria's eyes sparked with fury but dulled as he lost consciousness.

"Good." Doflamingo stood, his grin deepening. "Get angry." He cackled and the sound continued to ring as dust filtered from the crumbling ruins of the jail cells in the deepest and most forsaken realms of Marinford. "I wonder if anyone wanders into this part of Marineford." the pink feathers rustled as he stretched his arms above his head. "He'll be down here for a while."

"What do you mean?" Luffy's lack of volume in his voice startled Garp, but he was put at ease as his grandson's naturally loud and blunt personality revealed itself. "How could I be dead? Why would they think that?" Garp opened his mouth to try and explain and Hancock started to cajole him into quieting, but he continued. "My nakama all think I'm dead?" Luffy was horrified. "How can I meet up with them if they aren't looking for me? What…"

"LUFFY!"

Garp's voice seemed to almost shake the building, and it managed to quiet Luffy. "Shut up and let me speak, brat." Garp growled. When there weren't signs of Luffy attempting to continue, Garp began to explain the conditions that would exist in the absence of having an execution and he went over the details of how Luffy had fallen into the water and the pirates that had survived and escaped when Ace was saved would be able to dispel any doubts about his being dead. When Garp had finished, Luffy was gritting his teeth in frustration.

"I don't like it." Luffy murmured. Hancock noticed how upset he was but couldn't think of anything to do, so she didn't speak and stared at her lap, also frustrated.

"So what if they think you're dead?" Luffy looked at his grandfather out of the corner of his eye and Garp had his arms crossed and was leaning against the wall close to a window.

"What do you mean?" Silence weighed on them for a moment.

"My crew thinks I'm dead! That we no longer exist as pirates!" Luffy shouted, frustrated. "How can we all come together again if they believe there is nothing left? I don't know if they would continue being pirates if I died…they all have very different dreams…" Luffy bit his lip and stared at the bleached sheets in his fist. "My nakama that I've made up until now…every one of them is hurting for no reason."

Garp flinched. Luffy looked so desolate in his eyes. Hancock tried to reassure him by touching his shoulder, but she removed it when her hand felt no response.

"Luffy…" she said, concerned wide eyes searching his which were turned away from her.

"That just means I have to trust them." Luffy said suddenly. "They'll know I'm alive…and I'll just have to go to them as soon as possible." He looked at his grandfather. "It'll be fine." He smiled, but it held some remnants of doubt. "It should be." He whispered.

Chapter 5: Chapter 5
Pink bangs obscured her vision for a moment so she brushed them away with a sigh. Her parasol twirled in her hands as she paced back and forth on the deck.

"Ready to go? They're just increasing." She nodded to the group of angry Marines that continued to grow on the dock below. "So what direction do we have to go?"

"East." The swordsman said, he pointed in a direction.

"That's North!" she shrieked and looked worriedly at the Marines as they began to hoist themselves onto the side of the ship with rope. Several ghosts passed through them and the unlucky men fell into the water, not even bothering to try to get out again. "We stole a Marine ship and you…!" she glared. "DON'T EVEN KNOW WHERE TO GO?"

"I'm not Nami…" he muttered. "We go East…" his voice trailed off.

"What? That's not even East you…!" he walked past her to the railing. She tackled him as bullets flew in his direction, sending sprays of woodchips from the spot he was just in. "WHAT ARE YOU DOING NOW?" she shook him and he pushed her away and looked over the railing again.

"NAMI!"

"Are you stupid? I know she's your navigator, but she's not here. She can't possibly hear…" she was cut off as he smiled and she followed his eyes. A cloaked figure was making its way, discreetly, to the ship. "You're one lucky…" she began.

"NAMI!" he said again, earning a shaking fist directed towards him as the Marines turned to the figure.

"Zoro you fool!" she started to run, but gasped as an arm gripped her cloak and she flew in an arch back onto the deck. She was breathless when Zoro let go of the rope and walked to the center of the deck.

"Alright. Now we're set." He said and the other two glared at him.

"BAKA!" they said in unison and then looked at one another.

"You!" Nami took a step back, pointing at the girl.

"Hi."

"'It should be.'…'It will be, Luffy.'" His own words and those from Hancock shadowed his thoughts in the morning when he woke up and found his grandfather and Hancock absent. He made light conversation with Coby, but preferred to mull over his own thoughts. There had to be a way out of this mess….he rubbed his temple as he felt the foreshadowing of a headache.

Shanks….it had been ten years. Ten years since he had seen the man who had inspired him to become a pirate. He felt excited about the possibility of seeing Shanks, but then he also felt that he didn't want to see him. He wasn't…ready to meet up with Shanks again. He wasn't as strong as he'd like to be, as he was weak to the extent that he wasn't able to protect his crewmates…The current shambles his life was in was due to weaknesses and shortcomings. No. He couldn't face Shanks yet.

"Luffy, are you okay?"

Luffy looked from his lap at the Marine. He smiled, dispelling anything that threatened his optimistic attitude. "Yeah. I'm just thinking…." He paused. "Coby…there's really going to be another war here…isn't there?"

Sadness washed over Coby's features. "Y..yeah." he caught his hands and squeezed them together. "I…really didn't like it. The war I mean." He spoke softer even though the room was empty. "I hated it. It didn't feel like what we were doing was right, Luffy. I…I had to stand between you and saving A…I mean, your brother." He bit his lip. "And so many people…strong people…were…" he closed his eyes. "I want to prevent wars like that, Luffy. I want to be a Marine who is strong enough to stop wars or at least be able to fight for what I believe in."

"Yeah." Luffy said quietly and smiled. Coby was going to become a strong Marine…he thought. Though…that was only do to the unbounded vastness of his dream. Luffy didn't agree with the possibility of eradicating war. War had persisted throughout history. People killed people and there was violence and fights and wars…that was undeniable. He thought of Bibi for a moment. "Do you think it's wrong that what you just said…though it seems like you're so sad…that it makes me happy that you think that way?"

They smiled at one another and the morning became brighter and they were able to recount old memories with one another and engage in other light discussions.

"Luffy." Hancock beamed as she came into the room, followed by a chef with, what appeared to be, a whole cauldron of eggs and ham. The doctor from the night before walked in after them. He checked up on Luffy as he ate, a frown on his face, but the look of disproval was soon washed away with surprise.

"Wow." The doctor blinked, looking at his clipboard. "Your recovery…is amazing."

"Meat." Luffy said simply.

"What?"

"All I need is meat and…" he stuffed five pieces of ham into his mouth. "..um bah ghod." I'm all good.

The doctor shook his head, not hearing the words but easily guessing what he had meant to say, and a small smile appeared on his face. The boy was growing on him, he realized. Luffy continued to eat and the doctor stayed in the room and participated in the conversations that began, even though the check up had been completed and they seemed ridiculous. He only left when the chief did because he remembered his other patients.

Chapter 6: Chapter 6
"How can we get to Sunny?" Usop groaned as he saw the familiar archipelago. Then he shook his head. "Wait!" he turned to Chopper. "We have no idea where Sunny is!" both bit their lips and looked on in despair as a ship drew towards the dock. "Another Marine ship." Usop's eyes glazed and he slouched. "Can we do this alone, Chopper?"

"We have to!" He stood up suddenly, in his larger, human form, but was forced to catch the side of the rowboat 'borrowed' from a ship they had stowed away in. "We have to." He said more quietly, doubt threatening his resolve.

"I know but…!" activity on the dock drew Usop's attention. "What do they mean by that? The ship's…empty?"

"A ghost ship?" the two looked at one another with wide eyes. Then Usop laughed.

"Luffy would've forced us to investigate it…wouldn't he…" his laughter died and he looked at the ship with emotions flashing through his eyes, one trying to dominate the other. Fear still remained, but purpose pushed away his uncertainty. "I think we should go, Chopper."

"What?" Chopper resumed his smaller form and looked at Usop with concern. "Are you sick Usop?"

"No! It's just…" he paused. "It's what Luffy would do…and he always ended up…you know…doing something. We won't accomplish anything by staying here with our knees knocking together." He took a breath. "Let's land, Chopper."

The reindeer gulped and nodded. Both of them faced the island with pale faces. "Right."

"Zoro!" Nami whispered furiously. "Now what?"

"I thought we could just jump off, but SHE can't swim." He pointed at Persona, showing his annoyance.

She glared at him. "That's not fair! You should've had a better plan!"

"I'll just fight them." Both of the girls smacked the swordsman on the head.

There were footsteps that sounded overhead, and then disappeared.

"Zoro!" Nami whined and shook Zoro until he ripped her hands away.

"That's not helping Nami!"

She stood up, knocking Zoro off balance as he and Persona remained crouching behind the crates. "Fine. It's up to me." She gritted her teeth as she went to the door. "We have to hurry before they get in here. If that happens…we'll have to fight them and every Marine on this island who will be more than eager to get their hands on us." She looked specifically at Zoro.

"Oh." Zoro said on his feet, but he wasn't moving. Persona pushed him and the three made their way to the deck. The setting sun blinded them momentarily, but two shadows prevented them from waiting for the spots to fade from their vision. Around the corner of the cabin, they were cast in a contrasting shadow that further distorted their sight. Nami gripped Persona's wrist and tugged her along when she stopped to rub her eyes. At the back of the ship they crouched once again and peered over the rail.

"This was my original idea Nami." Zoro said aggravated. "She can't…"

"I know!" Nami interrupted him, trying to provide herself with quiet to think and she looked at her hand that shivered with anticipation and adrenalin. "We heard them walk above us…they might have already checked here. Just…I need time to think, okay!"

"It's that guy!" Persona stood up and Nami hissed and pulled her down automatically and then blinked as the words registered.

"Wait…what?" she scanned the ocean.

A pale hand directed her to a small rowboat that was clumsily making its way to the shore. Even with shadows obscuring their figures Nami recognized the long nose and smiled with relief. "Usop!" she still whispered. Catching this she frowned and turned to see if anyone was coming in their direction. "Zoro, get some rope."

"Mr. Cook." raven hair caught the last rays of the passing day. "You did well." She smiled, making the man swoon.

"Of course, Robin-chan!" a hand from his shoulder covered his mouth. Robin continued to smile and opened the door before them, and Sanji walked up the last step and entered after her.

Her eyes widened and her smile tinted with relief as she saw how crowded the bar was. With a sigh she let Sanji exclaim and the others voice their happiness at seeing the last two members of their crew.

"Nami-swan!" he bounded to the red head and nearly melted when she hugged him.

"Sanji! Robin!" she let go of Sanji, letting him sink to the wood floor and walked over him to Robin as she sat down. "I'm…" tears ran down her cheek, filling the space of her lost words. She hugged the older woman and Robin patted her back and then hugged her. A tear slipped down her cheek.

"I know….it's good to be back, isn't it?" She drew away from Nami and looked at the others, most of whom were now standing and greeting Sanji who had recovered. The tear was whipped away with her palm. "So we were the last?" her eyes found Nami again.

"Yeah." They were quiet, though they still felt some of the warmth from their reunion in their hearts. "We can set out now…probably tonight."

Brooke made his way over to their table and Franky followed, watching the skeleton express his happiness that came with Robin's (or her panties') return.

"AH?" They turned to find that Sanji had found Persona, and was torn between bliss and uneasiness.

"What is this, Miss Navigator?" Robin watched Persona with surprise. "Wasn't she on…."

"Yeah. Zoro brought her…or rather she came with him. He was sent to the same place she was."

Sanji seemed to have learned of this at the same time because he slapped the swordsman on the back. "That's the first significant accomplishment you've managed!" he laughed while Zoro growled, but their behavior didn't suggest that they even considered fighting at the moment, secretly glad to see one another, though they would die before confessing it. "Usop!" Sanji moved on to the next crewmate and listened as Usop began to recount how he and Chopper had heroically saved Nami, Zoro, and the pink haired girl from the clutches of the Marines.

"Really?" Chopper interrupted Usop's story.

"Of course." He said, somewhat stiffly. "Remember? You were there!"

"Zoro really thanked you and called you a hero? On his knees?" Zoro turned and glared at Usop.

"What?" Their voices drifted across the room.

Robin's smile wouldn't leave her face as she watched the familiar sight of her rowdy friends. It only wavered as she noted Luffy's absence. Yes…we need to get our captain back….she thought to herself and glanced out the darkening window. We need him…

It happened as the sun set. Shanks' ships appeared over the horizon and then disappeared as the world was swallowed by darkness. Akainu provided the sun as the war dawned, masses of molten rock raining into the lifeless sea. A single ship caught fire, holding a blazing halo of light, illuminating an area that soon became the one filled with the most bloodshed. Marines and pirates were drawn to the light in order to face their enemies and not the blinding night. They needed faces to fuel the savage fire that would allow them to kill with satisfaction.

The battle was halted with an unspoken standstill, and the moon slowly broke through the billowing smoke, hours later. The war had come, and the moon lit Shanks' cold eyes as they reflected the random lights that revealed Marineford's presence.

"Let it begin."

Chapter 7: Chapter 7
Sengoku held back a wince as he saw the Shichibukai leave the room. There were those who had seemed lost in thought throughout the meeting and the nagging feeling that they were collaborating behind the Marines' backs returned. The generals remained with him.

"None of them even attempted to protect Marinford." Akainu said in a low voice, glaring at the door with loathing.

"Their aid…should not be considered in our plans. They are pirates, unpredictable, and unreliable..." Sengoku muttered walking up the stair to the loft that served as his preferred office. "We need to rely on our own strength."

Kaizaro laughed. "Well from what I saw tonight, we're in big trouble aren't we." His eyes had some uncharacteristic seriousness and his smile twitched.

Akainu glanced at him coldly, and then left with the smiling man and Aokiji, who had been silent for the entire hour. Sengoku stopped on the stair to watch the door close. A sigh escaped him when he sat down. Seven pirate ships…that's how many were counted during the opening battle. The battle plan was almost nonexistent. The android's numbers had been severely reduced, between those that were completely destroyed and those that were in need of repair. There were no more significant hidden weapons that had not been used during the Whitebeard war. He had meant it literally when he had said they needed to rely on only the Marines' strength, they were all that remained. "Damn it!" He bit his lip and slammed both of his palms on his desk and then was still. "Monkey D. Luffy." He scowled and then collapsed in his chair. This was his miscalculation, the boy was innocent. Aokiji's statements from what seemed like years before replayed in his mind. The boy…was as innocent as always…. more so than the Marines.

Moria was muttering to himself, splitting off from the group as the other Shichibukai did the same, when Doflamingo turned to follow his prey. His developing grin fell when a hand grabbed his shoulder. A new one replaced it.

"What exactly are you up to?" he said quietly, watching Moria continue down the hall and then he returned his eyes to Doflamingo's. He was disturbed to find his own face staring back at him, reflected in the concealing sunglasses.

"Why would you want to know? Eh?" his grin twisted and Crocodile let go of him, disgusted that he had touched the Shichibukai. He didn't say anything, his eyes refusing to leave Doflamingo's. "You want in?" Doflamingo leaned into his face, making an expression of loathing appear on Crocodile's face. Satisfied, he leaned away again, chuckling. "You are so stubborn. Too bad…it's really just too bad."

"I asked you what you are doing." Crocodile interrupted him and Doflamingo paused for a moment, looking at Crocodile. Another toothy grin made Crocodile scowl and he turned to leave. As he walked away Doflamingo laughed to himself, but Crocodile still heard him.

"I'm having fun. My playthings are lined up, and I only wish to see them fall…like a child with his building blocks." Doflamingo's pink feathers fluttered as he turned and pursued Moria down the hall.

Meanwhile, Moria still muttered to himself about how he was upset with the shortness of the battle and how he preferred the darkness anyway and disagreed with the standstill. He started complaining about 'that damn flamingo freak' when he heard the man let out a snicker behind him.

"Doflamingo!" he roared, but the man motioned for him to calm down.

"You needn't be so loud, you know, when you're trying to insult me…like such a coward."

Moria fumed and Doflamingo watched for a moment, a wide smile plastered on his face. "Then why don't we settle this, any way you desire." He laughed again, knowing eyes boring into the ignorant pirate with a sadistic glee.

Moria joined his laugh with a wicked spark in his eyes. "I'll have my rematch now."

"Fantastic!" his pink feathers drifted down the corridor, encouraging the other Shichibukai to follow him into the isolated, lifeless cells beneath Marinford. Unused for decades, the cells were only visited now by those whose dark hearts were attracted to the macabre atmosphere. It was some time before they stopped.

"Shall we?" Doflamngo's words made Moria shudder with disdain, but manic laughter held back his glare.

"Yes!" shadows erupted from his body, melding into the darkness and biting the life from the few lanterns in the area.

"How cozy." Feathers rustled when he chuckled and mocked Moria, egging him on. None of his thrill was disguised now and Doflamingo stepped forward, licking his lips as he anticipated what was to come next.

Earlier, after the sun had set….

Luffy's unconscious body appeared to be sleeping, but that was impossible. If he had merely been sleeping he would have woken up as the battle thundered like an angry storm, swirling towards Marinford. The windows reverberated with a loud explosion that lit the night outside, giving the illusion of morning, and a window cracked, splitting the face reflected on its surface.

"It was necessary…" she touched Luffy's hair as she whispered to herself in the otherwise empty room, unhappy about having to agree with Garp to put a drug in Luffy's early dinner to make sure he didn't do anything rash, though the cuffs should have stopped him. The other room was quieted by frustration, anticipation, and fear from the Marines who knew they could not participate in this war. Curses drifted, carried on breaths, when the last explosion rang out. The pirate empress looked away from the window to the dark shadow of Luffy's hair as she continued to pet it with a shaking hand. She started at her state and grimaced, clutching the hand to quell the trembling. "What is this?" she laughed darkly. "Why am I afraid? I don't fear those pirates or the Marines…" her eyes slid to Luffy again. "Yes." She breathed. "That's it." Nervously she bent over Luffy, but stopped before kissing his cheek. She sat down again and buried her head in the mattress. "You were so close to dying last time." She clutched the covers. "Luffy…I won't let you die in this place. Keeping you locked up…it won't last forever. The Tenryuubito…." Another flash of light lit the window. "I promise I won't let them have you." The blanket rumbled as she clutched it. Her hands still shook.

Garp's eyes burned red and he could feel the heat radiating off the falling molten stars. His crew yelled to one another over the blasts from cannons and destructive devil fruit users. The old man turned away from the view and went to bark orders and prepare to fight if he had to, but he knew it was inevitable in the morning. The next day….would determine everything.

The Marines didn't return to land that night, to be ready to stop the pirates if they began to move. A row of ships stood between the pirate fleet and the island. With the setting of the full moon, the sun rose slowly, painting the sky a deep red. "Pink skies at night, a sailor's delight." Garp spoke quietly to himself after a sleepless night, quoting an old saying. "Red skies in the morning…..a sailor's warning." The white masts seemed to blaze as the pirate ships were revealed…the world was treasuring the brief silence…though the winds of the storm had never stopped moving.

"Boa Hancock…have you begun your part?"

Chapter 8: Chapter 8
Boa Hancock tossed her hair as a gust, riding on the surface of the calmed sea, claimed it. She turned to the island behind her, frowning when her hair blew in front of her face again, forcing her to turn towards the pirate ships that creaked in the darkness before her. Her small vessel had borrowed the shadow from Garp's ship, and then had continued to slowly drift to a specific ship, whose location was recorded, but no longer invisible.

Coby bit his lip, fighting back his nervousness. He tried to distract his mind from the woman behind him by submersing himself in the task of rowing the oars as quietly as possible. Neither would speak, for to admit the smallest, audible sound, could have meant death. They traveled like phantoms, blending into the ocean in their black cloaks. Or, at least they prayed to be able to exist as such for the moment.

The pirate ship now pushed their boat away with the gentle waves it gave off as it rocked. He held his breath, and Coby reminded himself not to close his eyes as he shot a lance-like projectile into the body of the ship. A loud slap of a swell against the hull drowned out the tap the lance made. Sighing with relief, Coby pulled the rope taught and struggled to haul their boat to the side of the ship. He grabbed the base of the metal projectile after he tied the rope to a ring in the rowboat, stumbling as their boat rose and fell. Coby gazed up at the loose rope hanging over the side of the pirate vessel, which he had strategically set the boat under. A quick breath readied him and his foot met length of the lance and he immediately jumped up to the rope. The boy watched himself rise past most of it, and when he began to slow, he held on to it, situating his feet in a secure position. Scaling the side of the ship without difficulty the Marine slipped onto the deck.

Hancock watched in silence, seeing a shadow flit through the air for a moment and disappear over the curve of the ship. She waited impatiently for the expected rope to be let down, but after a few minutes she decided to follow the path Coby had used to reach the deck. Carefully making her way from to a shadow cast by the main sail, Hancock was met with an empty silence. The shrouds checkered the moonlight on her figure as she past below the ropes. The captain's cabin was at the back of the ship, and she should have met with either crewmembers or Coby by now, but she had seen no one and now stood before the door. Something had gone wrong, and she knew what awaited her beyond the slab of wood.

Hancock closed her eyes. Luffy. Nothing else mattered, not even her own life if it was to exist without him. With a flare of temerity Hancock opened the door and looked the man who attacked her, directly in the eyes. He gasped and fell away from her, as if he had met up against some kind of barrier.

"It's the pirate empress, Boa Hancock!" a blush colored his face as he said the name, but his eyes glared at her, and others attempted or achieved the task of doing the same behind him.

"Don't let her in." a voice commanded and the man stood up before Hancock, two others appearing at his sides, blocking her entry.

"Red Haired Shanks." She said quietly. "I know why you've come here."

"As does every Marine on those ships." A cold voice responded and footsteps paced, becoming louder before they stopped somewhere near the corner of the entry. The wall cut off Hancock's line of sight.

"Then, as it is for Luffy, I am an ally, not an enemy." She heard him freeze.

"I'm not a fool. This is some desperate trap that Sengoku is trying to pull me into." He growled, she saw his flickering shadow cast in front of the door. It trembled with fury. He began to speak again, but she interrupted.

"Sengoku doesn't know I'm here…."

"We caught the Marine that fell for our trap! The rope was an obvious lure, Boa Hancock. I'm surprised someone such as yourself would…."

"He is with Monkey D. Garp's crew. Luffy's grandfather…."

"That means nothing!" Shanks snapped. "The old man had a part in Luffy's death. He can't have any…."

"I'm here for Luffy!" she yelled, silence laying in the wake of her lingering voice. "I was the one who took him to Impel Down! I gave him the key to Fire-Fist Ace's cuffs! I was helping Luffy, protecting him, during the entire battle!"

Shanks was speechless for a moment, but it was only out of surprise at how outlandish Sengoku's trap was. "You're lying."

"No." she glared at the shadow. "I went to Impel Down, claiming that I wished to see Fire-Fist Ace because Luffy asked me to help him."

"You're a lying…" he gritted his teeth, and tried to hold back his fury. "If you know Luffy, prove it."

Hancock smiled, making the barrier of men before her jolt. "He's reckless and strong, yet he remembers other's before himself. Luffy saved my sisters and I by shielding our secret while we were trying to kill him." Her smile warmed and she closed her eyes. " "Even if you're trying to kill me…I don't have any intention of killing you." and "This thing that you don't want anyone to see has nothing to do with our fight." That's how he justified helping his enemies." Her mouth twitched, fighting her emotions, and she opened her eyes. "If that's not the Luffy you know, that's the man I've come to know him as." She brushed past the men suddenly, making them gasp in horror as she faced Shanks. He looked at her recklessness with astonishment. "And I will do anything to save him."

Dust filtered through the disturbed peace of the dungeon after the Shichibukais' fight had concluded. Moria lay on the floor, held still by Doflamingo's devil fruit ability, and Doflamingo hovered over him.

"Moria, Moria, Moria." Doflamingo chuckled as the needle flashed in his hand. Smoke swirled from the relit lantern on the wall. "Be a good doll…" He grinned. "And stop screaming."

Doflamingo cackled to himself as he entered the main level of Marinford. Then he fell quiet and moved among the shadows to his next doll. He smiled at the new memory.

"Puppets have always been my favorite toys." He whispered and walked under an arch into an empty garden. The wind rustled the leaves and made the trees sway over the Shichibukai's head. Now he approached a window, and was surprised to see a long, fine crack running through it. "This one needs to be replaced." He smiled and the leaves on the rosebush under the window fluttered. The glass slid outward and fell, cutting into the bush. Doflamingo rested his foot on the glass and pushed it down, impaling the plant completely. The window now stood empty. "Much better." Doflamingo whispered and slipped through the space into the quiet room. He stopped when he noticed it was empty. Completely empty, with the exception of one beating heart.

His eyebrows rose at the convenience and he strode over to the bed. Luffy's chest rose and fell just as regularly as it had when Hancock had left. Drawing a key from his pocket, Doflamingo undid the sea stone cuffs and then paused, looking the boy over. Sensing something was off and unthreatened by the injured pirated, Doflamingo shook him a few times and his smile became crazed as he realized what had been done.

"Where is our little Hime, Straw-Hat?" he looked down at Luffy. "Don't tell me," he mimicked horror, "You can't wake up? Because," his expression changed to cruel glee and he stroked Luffy's hair, "That would be too perfect."

"Save him?" Shanks repeated quietly as others scrambled to his side. His eyes didn't break away from the steady gaze from the Shichibukai."What can you mean by that, Boa Hancock?"

"Luffy is alive." She whispered, and the wind screamed outside, the clouds darkening.

And so the storm broke.

Chapter Text

Chapter 9: Chapter 9
A body screamed as it fell from the crow's nest and his crewmate's roars of fury never came, for the wind wailed louder than the man. He passed into the ocean, unnoticed.

The fighting persisted through the heavy threat of a very real storm that hung over Marinford. Sengoku grimaced from the wide windows in the tower. The pane shook with blasts that were either felt or heard, differentiating between the two perceptions was impossible. He couldn't tear his eyes from the billowing smoke that melding into and added to the darkness of the sky. Fires waited to be reduced to smoldering ashes by the rain.

Sengoku surveyed the battlefield, noticing the Shichibukais present. He scowled when he saw that Hancock and Doflamingo were missing. Crocodile was fighting, to Sengoku's surprise.

"So they weren't together…" he muttered and shook his head, annoyed at his paranoid thoughts. "I don't see Boa Hancock ever collaborating with that man." He frowned. "Doflamingo…." His absence greatly bothered the Marine. What he could be doing….the mystery haunted Sengoku and lines of age appeared on his face.

Sengoku started with a gasp and he almost fell over the ledge of the loft as he rushed forward to gaze in horror out the windows, distanced from him by the level below his office. "What are….!" His face lost its color. From various directions, obvious Alabasta battleships moved towards the heart of the battle. Reluctant to believe in the worst, Sengoku worried that they were going to get caught up in the war, accidentally. When they began to fire on the confused Marine ships, he groaned and pinched the arch of his nose under his glasses, closing his eyes.

"No! Damn it!" he yelled to the empty room and pushed a stack of papers from the ledge. They scattered in all directions, coating the wood floor below. A figure walked out into the midst of them and looked up at Sengoku with curiosity.

"Well, Hello." A smile leered up at him. The pink mass could only be identified as the unpleasant man that haunted Sengoku.

"Doflamingo." Sengoku's eyes narrowed. "Why are you up here?"

"Why?" he spun on the pieces of paper, crumpling them, and turned back to Sengoku. "I just wanted to see my favorite Marine. Where's the harm in…"

"You should be out there!" he barked, pointing out the window. "I thought you liked war, that it was a game for you." Sengoku scowled at Doflamingo.

"But I'm just so busy at the moment." His eyes wandered the room.

The Marine felt sick. "What are you up to?"

Doflamingo froze at the familiarity of the words. Then he looked up at Sengoku with a renewed smile. "I'm busy tormenting you. How can I leave such fun?"

Sengoku ordered him to leave and the pirate's cackles drifted from the door. With a sigh of relief, Sengoku moved to his desk and sat in the chair, facing the window as if it were a screen instead of reality. He wished it were just a horrible figment of fantasy, but the sound or feeling of the explosions reassured him that it wasn't.

With tired eyes, he watched for the pink feathers to appear outside the window, but he wasn't surprised when they didn't. He wondered, numbly, what the Shichibukai could possibly enjoy more than joining in the battle, when he had seemed so absorbed in the last one.

"There it goes." He mumbled to himself and he let out an ironic laugh. "The last android…other than Kuma." He laughed again, but shivered as the insane laughter reminded him of Doflamingo. "I really hate that man." Sengoku whispered, and his attention returned to the war as they fought Alabasta, Red-Hair, and a small crew of an unknown origin. "Straw-Hat Luffy…look at what has become of your memory. This war has come to replace you, it seems. They fight for you, but destroy you at the same time, corrupting you…erasing what you were in their hearts. The pain from the aftermath…will become your underserved legacy, Straw-Hat." The old man sighed. "I pity you."

Sengoku never thought of the possible threat the roaming Shichibukai could pose to the unprotected youth, but then again, too many thoughts consumed the man. He was nearing his breaking point, or the breaking point of the Marines. The only question was, which would give in first?

Chapter 10: Chapter 10
"Shoot it down!" a voice with an uncharacteristic savagery commanded. Alabasta cannons deafened her ears for a moment, then the desperate cries from the Marines as they were pulled into the depths of the sea by their sinking battleship replaced the ringing. Her pacifistic nature was suppressed as her eyes were blinded by smoke and life itself was forgotten as she breathed in death and ash in the place of clear Alabasta air. The sun was blood red and the brownish-black that cloaked it gave the illusion of the color dripping from the sky. As if the very heavens cried for those below, shedding tears of blood as the humans tore the substance from one another. With the blood arose the animalistic qualities of monsters. A slight smile took hold of the princess' lips. Bibi had seen many of her men die, on another ship or an arm's length away. Their deaths and the lingering death of Luffy made her savor pain in the one's she believed were the cause of the nauseating pain that pierced into her heart and made her hands tremble.

The number of Drum Island fighters held as well as the numbers of its allies. The Marines could be seen falling back towards the island, but soon they used the gained space to regroup and strengthen their frontal assault.

Garp's face was expressionless. More used to the sight of comrades falling during battle than the princess, he retained his reason and thoughts traveled to Luffy. He ran over the plan that had been put into effect hours ago. A form of distant guilt nagged at him when he thought of the danger he had selfishly subjected the female Shichibukai and Coby to.

The Red-Hair crew that knew what had happened felt anxiety distract them at times. They hadn't approved of it and had begged Shanks to reconsider after he had announced his decision. It was too dangerous. The men shuddered at the possibility of the words from the pirate empress being lies. If that was the case…they would more than likely never see their captain or first-mate again. At least…not while they were still alive.

Earlier….

"Luffy is….!" Shanks' face lost its anger and suspicion, displaced by surprise and then disbelief, then the emotion was twisted further. He grabbed Hancock by the front of her dress, gritting his teeth as he fought to calm down enough to speak. "You…dare to say such a lie?"

"It's not a lie!" Hancock looked earnestly into his eyes. "It's…"

"There's no way that the Marines would keep him alive! That they would be able to create such a lie, it's impossible!" In his fury he shook her, disturbing his crew with the drastic difference between his behavior now and his usual friendly, and laid-back attitude. They watched their captain's pain with compassion, angered as the Shichibukai continued to twist his emotions.

"I'm telling the truth! They couldn't execute Luffy because Garp wouldn't allow it!" There was quiet, so Hancock knew that the truth made sense. "We want you to take Luffy! I know where he is and…"

"How can I trust you?" Shanks broke in and Hancock was startled by his solemn expression. Shanks wanted to believe her…she recognized this and her confidence rose.

"I don't know how I can make you. But, I want to save Luffy more than anyone." She gripped the hand that still had not let go of her. "Please. I beg you." There was a shocked silence. "Please! I need you to help me save Luffy!" His grip loosened and she detached his hand. "Luffy is in the hospital wing. He's weakened, but very much alive. You can take him away from here. I know no matter how hard Garp tries, he won't be able to keep Luffy alive forever. The Tenryuubito will demand his life!" the two stared at one another.

"Will you save Luffy?" she calmed, her voice strong and demanding of an answer.

Shanks hesitated, his eyes narrowing as he tried to identify any expressions in the woman's face that could betray the existence of her deception. He found nothing.

"Boa Hancock…." He walked past her, through the open door and she turned to see him standing outside, looking in the direction of Marinford. The wind tossed his red hair, and it reflected the dying moonlight. "If you are lying…I won't forgive you."

Relief washed over Hancock and a smile spread across her face. "That's fine."

"But…" Shanks looked at her. "I won't be going alone, and the Marine stays on my ship until I return."

"Anything. We just need to hurry." She stepped out the door and strode over to the side of the deck, looking at the sky. Her hands wrapped around the rail. "The sun is beginning to rise."

The rising sun began to lengthen the shadows of the ships behind them as Hancock stepped from the boat and stealthily led the way through the side of Marinford still cast in darkness. Benn lacked a cigarette, one of the rare occasions, in order to avoid creating unnecessary light. The small courtyard, colored by sparse flowers to the extent that it might be called a garden, was empty as they passed through it. Hancock entered Marinford through the open arch, looking over her shoulder for a moment to see the two men behind her. At the larger doors of the hospital wing she motioned for them to remain as she entered. A chorus of surprised and happy voices drifted from the room, but they were erased by a sudden deathly silence. Hancock's face appeared at the door again.

"It's clear now."

Shanks would normally have been amused by the ridiculous expressions frozen on the stone faces, but Luffy's position, dead or alive as a captive, stole his humor. When Hancock opened the door to Luffy's room, the first thing she noticed was the chilled night air that lingered inside. Alarmed, she set off at a brisk pace towards the bulge on the bed that should have been Luffy, still unconscious. Her cry made the others run to the bed, and the color paled from their faces.

Shanks grabbed Hancock, stunned as he believed she had actually succeeded in tricking him. "You…!"

"I swear Luffy was here!" she took her eyes from the bed with the pillows pilled under the blankets and looked directly into Shanks' eyes. "He was here! I…Oh my god." Hancock saw the neatly cut window behind Shanks and she gasped as her fury rose. "They…!" she began but a violent, blinding light and a roaring thunder stopped her voice. Even as the thundering echoed in the heavens, Hancock could only see the blinding flash, unable to comprehend what had happened.

The light faded from her eyes and she heard Benn call out to Shanks who was collapsed, but conscious, on the ground. The smell of burnt flesh hung in the air, as did the static from the bolt of lightning.

"How…?" Benn bent down, but another flash of light struck him in the back, just as it had struck Shanks.

"No!" Shanks was on his hands, staring at his first mate who didn't respond. "Boa Hancock!" he roared, his legs quivering as he stood. She looked at him with wide eyes, her mind overwhelmed from the stress of Luffy's disappearance and what was happening. She stood for only a moment before light came again, followed by an immediate darkness.

Shanks watched as her body limply fell onto the tile floor. He whipped around, his eyes widening and then narrowing into a glare, fiery rage burning within them. "The Revolutionary Dragon." He said quietly, but his voice shook with his emotion.

The man stood in the room, close to the window. A smile formed on his tattooed face.

"Red-Haired Shanks. I've wanted to meet you for some time now. To think you had such a close relationship with my son." Shanks' eyes grew dark with antipathy, amusing Dragon. "It seems you stood in my absence for the boy. I bet he sees you as more of a father than he does of me."

Shanks only glared at him, and his right hand went to his hip, drawing his sword. Dragon felt the curtain of pressure from Shanks' haki. "This is why I caught you in such a dishonest way, Red-Hair." He walked to the center of the room, remaining parallel in his distance from the pirate. "One cannot underestimate a man such as yourself, once angered. You know, Boa Hancock didn't lie to you." Shanks blinked. "She was trying to save him….but I got him first." A sudden presence forced Shanks to turn his back to Dragon to block the attack.

Doflamingo cackled. "Ah." He smiled. "So you did come. That's where our little Hime went." His eyes traveled to the unconscious body. He started in her direction, but Shanks moved to stand between them.

"Where is Luffy, Dragon?" he demanded, still facing Doflamingo. "I don't think you would kill your only son."

"You're right. I wouldn't."

"It's just a matter of what I felt like doing with him." Doflamingo laughed at Shanks' expression. "I only moved him. It was quite easy with the unintentional aid from Garp and the Hime. What would they think if they knew how much they've helped?" Doflamingo advanced on Shanks who stood his ground calmly. Doflamingo wasn't a threat in his mind and only his eyes were on the man before him, while his attention was focused on Dragon. He moved abruptly to his side and a flash of heat was felt across his skin. He cut through the bolt that immediately followed the first. Doflamingo had stopped and the man scowled behind his sunglasses as he looked at the charred spot only a foot away from himself. Doflamingo moved out of the way of the splintered lightening.

"That was quite impressive, Red-Hair." Dragon appeared, closer to Shanks now. "But, it won't happen again."

Shanks felt the marionette strings fight to control his body, and he knew, even before he turned his head to watch Dragon, that the Shichibukai's ability would slow him if not stop him from avoiding the next strike. The pain spread from his chest, snaking through his nerves for a moment, before all feeling was stolen from him and the world faded into nothing.

"Take Boa and Red-Hair, kill the other." Dragon ordered as he disappeared with a slight, unnatural breeze. Doflamingo was expressionless, looking down at the bodies. He frowned, displeased by the unentertaining way he had been forced to end his game. It was too…he couldn't describe the feeling. It was underhanded and dirty, but lacked any devious thrill. He flat out loathed it and he glared at the window, ignoring the order for the moment. Doflamingo focused on the doll he controlled on the battlefield, directing it elsewhere.

Sometime later, he was still distracted by his own thoughts, and he failed to notice the voices in the other room, drifting through the open door.

Chapter 11: Chapter 11
The Straw-Hat pirates had met with the giants' crews and together they entered the warzone, surprised by the difference between this battle and the buster call. It was much more violent as all sides were attacking with immense power, and the colliding forces shattered the air and deafened them. Robin frowned, memories of other flames and cries emerging. The ships separated with a few parting words and the giants watched the pirates leave with pity in their eyes, having heard their conviction that Luffy was still alive. This only fueled their passion and their war cries rang out like the thunder and lightning that cracked and stabbed above Marinford.

The pillar of shadow startled Garp and he traced it to Gecko Moria. "What the hell is he doing?" Garp recognized the strong attack, having seen it used on Oars Jr. but now it pierced nothing but cloud. His Den-Den Mushi distracted him. "What is it now?" he yelled over the sounds of war.

"There are three more pirate ships! Two are the newly resurfaced giant pirate crews, and the third belongs to the Straw-Hat pirates." Garp spun around, searching the battlefield.

"Where are they?" the old Marine shouted, the news elating him from the enveloping smoke.

"To your left." Garp found them and smiled at his good fortune.

"I see them." He hung up and directed his men to make their way towards the ship with the lion figure head. Cannons shot out at them, alarming the Marine's crew, but Garp knocked them away so that they bouncde back towards the Straw-Hats' ship, but hit the water.

"Stop!" Nami shook Ussop, making the others stop as well. "That's Luffy's grandfather's ship!"

"He's a Marine Nam…" she shook him again.

"He's missing us on purpose." Zoro went to the side of the deck, looking into the forming face of the vice-admiral as the ship approached. "Remember how accurate he was before?"

They fell silent, but didn't stop the ship from making its way towards Marinford. They stopped Sunny only when Garp called for them to do so. The Marine ship drew up beside theirs and they tensed when Garp landed on the deck.

"Why have you come?" Garp said with an official air, and he watched their surprise.

"Luffy is alive, isn't he?" Nami, Chopper, Ussop, and Brooke yelled all at once. The others watched Garp's odd behavior, trying to recollect the details of the brief encounter they had had with him before. As they remembered it…they recalled that he was a lot like Luffy, while the man before them couldn't compare to their captain.

"We could ask you the same question." Zoro stepped forward, looking up at the taller man with a frown. "You're a Marine, but you come aboard a pirate ship, alone, as if you were interrogating civilians or even other Marines."

Garp smiled, resembling Luffy. "Well, its fine if you realize that so quickly, I just want to forestall.." he indicated the other Marine ships behind him with a jerk of his thumb. "..them finding out, for a bit."

"Why would you…?" Sanji began, but Robin spoke up with a knowing smile beginning on her lips.

"You are betraying the Marines, aren't you, vice-admiral Garp?" She now stood next to Zoro before the Marine. "And a man who has just lost his beloved grandson wouldn't have a smile like that."

"Luffy is…!" a few voices called out and crew members grabbed one another to share their joy when Garp nodded.

"This is great!" Nami sniffled, holding onto Sanji who dangled in her arms like a rag.

"But it's not that simple. My help may mean nothing." Garp lost his smile and his features grew darker. "It's wonderful that you're here, and you will be a huge asset in my plan, but my cover will undoubtedly be blown now. We won't have enough time to get any of you to Marinford if all of you come. We need to play out the parts as enemies for a little longer. If it appears that my ship is retreating, then I can take a few of you to the island, though the ones remaining will have to endure for a few minutes when another Marine ship comes to my aid. After that, it doesn't matter if it's found out that I'm not with the Marines." He hesitated, unaccustomed to speaking about the Marines in such a way. "Then I'll return and help you survive out here on the battlefield, openly."

The crew was quiet.

"That sounds like a plan." Zoro turned around, looking at the wooden deck as he thought. "But who will…" the swordsman stopped and frowned. "Because I know all of us want to save Luffy."

"I think Miss Navigator's stealth and quick wits will be necessary." Robin said, surprising Nami and the others nodded.

"We have to do this quickly." Garp urged, straightening his posture to feign hostility and intimidation to those who might be watching.

"I'll stay of course." Persona spoke up. "And, though I'm not part of the crew, I would say that the first mate should go…" Zoro glanced at her. "But…that's up to…"

"No, that makes sense." Sanji exhaled a cloud of smoke. "And I should go to guard Nami-swan."

"This isn't the time…!" Zoro began angrily, glaring at the cook.

"It's good. The three of you should go. It doesn't matter as long as we get our captain back, you know?" Franky said and Garp rushed forward, startling them by throwing Zoro and then Sanji and Nami onto his ship.

"I'll be kidnapping you now." The crew gave him a doubtful look. "I know it doesn't make sense, but this is war…there's not much time for reason to kick in and it'll be overlooked for a while, or maybe no one even noticed." He jumped back onto his ship, landing by a disheveled Nami. "We might scuff up your ship a bit…" he started and a blast from a cannon sheared off the ear of their lion figure head.

"Hey!" Franky shook his fist. "You bastards!" he fumed.

"Good." Robin chuckled. "Keep that up."

Ussop took his position by a cannon, Chopper in his human form inserted a ball. "Here goes." Ussop said uneasily and there was a blast.

Garp laughed as the cannon ball buried itself in the side of his ship. "Hopefully we'll make this work."

They followed the plan and after a short exchange of iron and smoke, Garp's ship retreated and the Sunny pursued them. The Marine vessel was nearing the shore when another battleship came to its aid and they left the pirate ship behind.

The Den-Den Mushi rung, but Garp ignored it, scowling at its persistence. "How much damage did we sustain." He drowned out the ringing by asking one of his men.

The Marine recounted the minor injury done to the ship. "Good." He paused, realizing that they would need to let down a boat for the pirates to get to the shore. "Are any of you devil-fruit users?" he turned to the pirates.

"No." Nami met the same realization. "Are we going to swim?" she frowned, not thrilled with the idea.

"No." Garp smiled at the convenience. "You're going to escape."

Chapter 12: Chapter 12
Garp's crew turned and made their way back to the pirate ship. The Marines fighting the Straw-Hats sighed with relief. They were bewildered and a few cried out when the ship drew up beside them and started firing.

"Garp!" roared the vice-admiral and he ground his teeth. "I knew this would happen! Your betrayal began when you saved Straw-Hat Luffy!"

"Return fire!" he commanded his crew that flitted around the ship in disarray as they struggled to attack both ships at once. The vice-admiral grimaced, remembering how he had first confronted Garp when the old man was taking Luffy from the battlefield after the Whitebeard war. He remembered the soot and the old man's determined eyes. The Marine cursed under his breath.

"Damn it Sengoku!" he paced along the side of the deck, venting his frustration, ducking as a cannon ball whizzed over his head. He scowled at the Marine and Garp smiled. "Traitor!"

Garp's humorous smile became weighed with sadness and he shook his head slowly. "I became a Marine to protect people and their loved ones, but now I need to protect those I myself love. Don't take this as a personal challenge against the Marines…I just refuse to remain idle until another grandson is up on an execution stand."

The vice-admiral bit the side of his mouth and spoke quietly to himself, "I already figured that out, fool."

Nami recalled the path Garp had instructed her to take as Sanji kicked an unconscious body into some bushes.

"That's the fourth one." he muttered, feeling bad for having to beat up such a pitiful Marine. The stronger men were out fighting.

"It's not my fault." Nami whispered angrily.

"Of course not, Nami-swan! It's Luffy's grandfather's fault." He said quickly, running up to her.

"It's not Garp's fault. We were bound to run into a few, as this is the Marine headquarters." Zoro walked behind Sanji in the shadows.

"Then it must be your fault."

Zoro began to argue but Nami hissed at them to be quiet. "Here're the arches. We're almost there."

"Are they all stone?" Nami gasped, turning around to look at all of the occupied hospital beds.

"Weird.." Zoro only glanced at them out of the corner of his eye. "But let's just say we're lucky and go." He was the first to realize the door before them was open. Sanji almost ran into him when he stopped.

"What the Hell is this?"

They peered over the swordsman's shoulder when he said this and they gasped.

A rustling sound was heard inside and someone stepped into their line of sight. The man grinned wickedly when he recognized them. "You're Straw-Hat pirates, aren't you?" he looked from their shocked expressions to the bodies on the ground. "Oh yeah, them." Doflamingo said casually, his face losing his grin. "I almost forgot."

His steel wires screeched against the swords as he held them away from his throat, watching Zoro with interest. "That was rude. I didn't…"

"WHERE'S LUFFY?" there was a spark as the two swords were thrust closer to the Shichibukai's neck.

"Why would you say that?" the Shichibukai smirked as he leaned his face closer to Zoro. "He's dead."

"We know he's alive, Bastard!" Doflamingo's smile grew as he jumped backwards, out of the way of a kick. Sanji put his clenched hands in his pockets. "Where is he? He's supposed to be here."

Doflamingo's sunglasses reflected Nami. "And you…what do you have to say?"

Nami hadn't looked away from the bodies, and she now stood over one. "This is…Red-Haired Shanks!" she breathed.

"The black haired man is probably his first mate, and the third is our little Hime, better known as the Shichibukai Boa Hancock." He laughed cruelly and took a step in her direction, but Sanji attacked him, increasing the distance between him and the girl. The cook's face was full of hostility, but it was as colorless as Nami's.

"You couldn't have done this." Zoro caught the Shichibukai's attention.

"I might have helped a bit…" Doflamingo couldn't stop himself from frowning at the memory. "But yeah. You're right that I didn't do it. I can't say couldn't have, until I've actually tried."'

"This isn't a joke!" Nami went to Sanji's side. "Where is Luffy? That…" she pointed viciously at the bed. "…shouldn't be empty!"

Doflamingo laughed, a crazed grin distorting his features.

"Who cares!" he yelled, breaking off from his laughter and he smiled menacingly at Nami, making her recoil. "I'm just happy I have you three to play with after my earlier disappointment." He laughed again. "Humor me, then I might, somehow, slip up and accidentally tell you where he is."

"You would tell us?" Sanji said, looking at him with unmasked suspicion.

"I'll do whatever I feel like!" his smile twitched and his sunglasses flashed in the little light that the room offered. "No one controls me."

Chapter Text

Chapter 13: Chapter 13
Flashes of sparks held fiery stars, reflected in Nami's eyes as she examined the unconscious pirates and Zoro clashed with the Shichibukai whose cackling broke the silence in the room. Sanji flew at Doflamingo, believing to have found an opening, but wires caught his kick. A shiver ran up his spine as he felt them tighten, leaving bloody lines in his flesh, but they didn't slice through the limb, though they were fully capable of doing so. The wires slackened and Doflamingo held off another attack from the swordsman.

"Damn you!" Sanji growled, his eyes flashing. "Don't underestimate me!" Doflamingo hit the wall and slid down it with a hacking cough, blood coloring his grin.

"Ah, so you are the first to land a strike? And no…" he stood up and held his hand out towards the cook, as if handling marionette strings. "I am no underestimating the capacity of my new toys." Nothing happened as Sanji tensed at the gesture. Goaded by this, he attacked again, but the pinks feathers rustled as they passed him. The three men exchanged hits, spilling only flecks of blood.

Nami looked up with concern once or twice, but focused on determining the health of the injured. They were all alive, miraculously, considering the possible nerve damage done, and their breathing was regular. She sighed with relief as she knew well that if it had been an average person who had been struck, they would not have been able to survive. The human body was not made to withstand such surges of electricity.

The navigator glared in Doflamingo's direction, his amusement fueling her rage. "We don't have time to play with you!" she practically screeched, catching Doflamingo's undivided attention. Sanji and Zoro also paused, without taking their eyes off of the Shichibukai.

"Why are you so angry, little girl?" He cocked his head mockingly, causing Nami's eyes to narrow in loathing. That's the expression he craved, a wide grin flashed.

"You could be lying and wasting our time!" The other two Straw-Hat pirates tensed, not having considered this. Nami's fists shook with her fury, clenched by her side.

Doflamingo observed her for a second and then chuckled. "You are quite a gutsy girl, aren't you?" he laughed again. "You remind me of our Hime."

"Her?" Nami's hatred was deluded with confusion and she indicated Hancock.

"Yes." Doflamingo's teeth shone, his face obscured by shadows. "She has quite the temper and a strong will."

"Then why did you do this to her?" her voice was cold and quiet, and his mouth twitched. "You don't seem like you want them dead."

"I was…advised to kill them," he said casually, walking in her direction, putting his wires away to avoid any immediate alarm from the others. "…but I chose not to."

"Really?" her sarcastic tone of voice made the remnants of Doflamingo's smile die.

"What is it, girl?" he said roughly, intimidating Nami, but she refused to show any signs of fear.

"I just don't understand why you would do this if you have no desire to kill them?" she stood up, flaunting a false, confident air. "It's just hard to understand." Sanji was by her side now, he looked down and his jaw twitched and his eyes burned with hellfire.

"YOU ATTACKED SUCH A BEAUTIFUL WOMAN? YOU SCUM!" Doflamingo was startled and took a step back, but the shock returned his humor.

"A MAN SHOULD NEVER DO SUCH A THING TO A WOMAN! Especially this one…." He stared at Hancock, forgetting Doflamingo for a moment, hearts replacing his eyes.

"And people call me a freak." Doflamingo laughed at Sanji who turned on him in disgust, raving about the duties of a man to a woman. "You really believe that they need to be protected so preciously…as if they were glass?" he sneered. "To mark them as being such weak creatures…that's quite sexist, don't you agree?" He taunted Sanji as they exchanged blows, an unannounced attack from Zoro re-established his presence in the fight.

Nami observed them with keen eyes. Her laugh stopped the fight. Doflamingo smiled at her. "What's so funny?"

"You really want to know?"

His smile faltered for a moment but renewed. "Of course."

"What would you do if we refused to fight you and looked for Luffy on our own, were caught, and met our miserable ends on the execution stand?"

There was a shocked silence from Zoro and Sanji, bewildered by the outlandish question. Doflamingo frowned and then his mouth turned to a knowing smirk. "Am I that obvious, little girl? I would be un-amused, angry, unsatisfied to say the least." The dark sunglasses flashed and reflected Nami's cool demeanor. A crazed grin contorted Doflamingo's face. "You are quite entertaining…" he paused, watching Nami for a moment and then he turned sharply and walked to the door and stopped. He looked the scene over.

"One of you. I'll take one of you to Straw-Hat."

"Why one? You can't kill us even if we were alone." Zoro scowled.

"If you're so sure of yourself…then you come." His smile infuriated Zoro further and his katana clinked as he took a stance, but Sanji stepped in front of him, making the swordsman growl.

"Why only one? Hell, why help us at all?" A cigarette hung from his mouth, the new ember still settling.

"You'd like to leave them to be discovered by Marines?" he indicated the area behind Nami.

"Sanji, you and I will take care of this. Zoro…" Nami glanced at him. "…you go get Luffy."

There was an uneasy silence that Doflamingo carelessly broke.

"Am I such a monster?" he jeered.

"Yes." Nami returned coolly. "I hope you catch yourself in your own wires one day."

"That's the only way I will ever be caught." He glanced sideways at the gathering clouds around the tower.

Doflamingo stood in the middle of the spiral staircase, looking through the center, and Zoro stopped behind him.

"So, which room?" He noted the many doors that were situated on each of the various floors. He tried to count the number of levels the stair led to.

"Well, you know, I don't spend much time in here, so I guess it's up to you to figure it out. I seem to have forgotten which one it was." He smiled wickedly. "But I can promise that he's behind one of them." Doflamingo started up the steps, leaving Zoro seething below.

"Where are you going? You pink-feathered bastard!" Doflamingo's snickering echoed above.

"You know…he might show up on his own." Zoro tensed as the voice reached him.

"How…?"

"I seem to have a horrible memory as of late." Doflamingo smirked to himself, continuing to climb the stair. "I forgot to tie him up…or to lock the door, and as most of the doors here are locked, that'll make finding him…faster, easier, a realistic hope….such a multitude of unfortunate things." He faked a sigh through his un-relinquished grin.

There was a pause. "I don't get you." Zoro said, starting for the first door.

"You and the rest of the world." Doflamingo disappeared, his laugh replacing him for a moment before following its master.

Chapter 14: Chapter 14
Luffy's body felt heavy and it took a lot of effort to just keep his eyes open. He was sitting against the wall in a small, colorless room. No, it was more like a large closet, lit now by a window that was positioned over his head. Slowly, sound was recognized and Luffy heard the war that enveloped the world around him.

The effects of the dosage of drug he had been given wore off quickly after he woke and Luffy pulled himself to the window before wondering how had got there in the first place. The window was dusted with a thick layer of ash and grim, making it useless. Anxiety rising, Luffy tried to run for the door, but he stumbled and had to catch the handle in order to keep himself from falling. Slowly, the boy steadied himself with a deep breath, feeling strength return to his legs.

The door opened to reveal a circular white room or area with other doors occupying the wall. In the center, a spiraled staircase rose past the level and led to the next floor. The sounds of explosions and the moaning of the wind were louder now, the sounds echoing in the stairwell. There was the sound of a door opening and closing above him and a more distant sound of a door doing the same somewhere below him, but when Luffy looked down the middle of the stairs, he couldn't see who was responsible for the rushed activity below him. Looking up, Luffy realized there was light coming from a window, and that the stair ended on the next level.

Running up the stairs made him both lightheaded and exhilarated after so many days of being confined to the hospital bed. A frown showed his disappointment when he found that clouds had darkened and blocked the window during the time it took to come up the stairs. Muffled voice made him spin on his heel, revealing the only door that occupied the top floor. Without much thought, he opened it. Instinct manipulated his body and made Luffy run into the room before his brain could interpret what was going on.

Sengoku stared dully out the window, consciousness futilely reaching out to his mind. Smoke had polluted even the air in his office, the screen could no longer keep him from its reality. He watched the death and could not help but feel that this war was wholly different from Whitebeard's war.

"What legacy would rest in our ruins?"

Sengoku jolted when he realized he had spoken. A scowl immediately formed on his face, and he furrowed his brows, disgusted with himself. Removing his glasses, the aged man cleaned them and placed them back on his face, seeing with slightly more clarity. The minute details that had escaped him before sent the Fleet Admiral into utter dismay and he gasped. With tremors caused from disbelief and confusion, his hand lifted him from his chair and Sengoku tried to walk to the window, but found he had not the strength to face the impending doom he witnessed through the glass. There appeared to be a shadow of a line of ships forming along the rim of the sea. Slowly, Sengoku managed to reach the ledge, his face was white as death, drawing a satisfied chuckle below.

Sengoku closed his eyes, his mouth twitching as he still tried to compose himself. "It must be you…it can't be anyone else." He whispered and then opened his eyes and looked at the dark shadow marring the white of the scattered papers.

"It has been a while since I last saw you."

Sengoku grimaced. "Yes, Dragon. Somehow I'd grown to hope, over the years, that we wouldn't have to meet again."

"Hope? No…Sengoku. Don't ever blind yourself with such a weak thought."

"What are you doing?" the Marine's eyes burned into Dragon with a cold cruelty finally bringing him composure. "Taking every given advantage, like a dog taking scraps from a dinner table?" the old man tried to laugh, but it was raspy and frail. "Is that all you've ever been, Dragon? Is that why you have been hiding? Waiting for others to weaken us so that you could bring about the end without much sacrifice on your part?"

The man was unfazed by Sengoku's words. They were meaningless to him. "Eradicating the current government, destroying the Marines, that's what I've been doing, Sengoku. You shouldn't believe my days of absence have been idle. On the contrary…" the window reflected his figure as he walked towards it and came to rest a hand on the somewhat warmed surface. "This war, bloodshed…this end you see before you, is my creation." He watched Sengoku's twisted expression in the glass and turned, smiling pleasantly, to see it more clearly. "Bartholomew Kuma has been an ally of mine since before he became a Shichibukai. He saved the Straw-Hat crew from Kizaru and he sent Luffy to Boa Hancock. True, I did not know how he would be able to get to Marinford from this location, but I gave him the opportunity by splitting his crew and by providing access to a Marine ship that would be able to bring him here. You say I cling at this war? I helped mold the previous one and I completely control the one that burns outside these walls." He walked to the middle of the room, standing at a closer angle to better see the Marine's expression of anger, dismay, and a dark, almost respectful awe. "I discovered the close relation between my son and Red-Hair and I set forth to utilize Red-Hair's power and resources for a better cause, rather than leave him to waste them on something such as simple piracy." He sighed and continued to smile slightly, looking past his reflection at the war. "I've done him a favor, though he may never come to realize it. If he decides to break away from my purpose, sadly, I will simply have to dispose of him."

"And how could you find yourself doing such a thing?" Sengoku narrowed his eyes, but interest brightened a spark within them.

"I already have, Sengoku." He watched Sengoku's reflection, his eyes focusing between him and the battle. "When he told me that Boa Hancock had left and drugged Luffy, that she had protected Luffy from Gecko Moria…and how my father would spend his nights by Luffy's bed as Boa Hancock did the same….I discovered their connection and easily saw their plan to seek aid from Red-Hair directly. He would have to get to the island in order to do so…they would have to reach the hospital wing…."

"How do you know these things?" Sengoku breathed. "Bartholomew Kuma couldn't have….how could you even know that Straw-Hat Luffy was alive let alone his exact location in Marinford? And what are you saying? An alliance between Garp and…the pirate empress?" his back lost its rigid posture, trying to process everything that was slowly coming to light. How ignorant he had been! Forgetting to look at what was forming just before his eyes! Instead he had watched the distant horizon and had fallen into the trap that had been dug at his feet.

"Donquixote Doflamingo." Dragon said turning, his eyes sparked at the desolation that filled Sengoku's.

"No! You can't possibly be telling the truth!" Sengoku collected himself with rage. "That man knows no master, he would never become your puppet. I know I haven't overlooked that!" He was aghast, close to accepting Dragon's words, but he couldn't see how Doflamingo's part had been missed when Sengoku had specifically watched the Shichibukai and had worried about him more than about anyone else.

"I greatly appreciate your faith in me, Sengoku." There was a chuckle that soon produced the pink mass of feathers as it walked into the room. Sengoku paled, accepting Dragon's claim, but Doflamingo growled when he saw the expression. "What happened to your conviction? Your strength? Old man, were you always this weak in constitution, that a few obstacles could send you into disarray? Make you panic? Don't make my perception of you wrong, Sengoku, else I'll let Dragon kill you just as he meant to."

Dragon was calm, but without the slightest remnants of a smile.

Doflamingo casually walked to the edge of the white papers. "I was given the chance to take such a stage. I was given access to such enjoyable toys." He shivered with pleasure, his grin twisting and he laughed.

"You've made a mistake Dragon." Doflamingo glared with ecstatic eyes. "No one controls the puppeteer and no one knows his next intention. No one!" Steel wires sliced through the air, flying towards Dragon.

"I do, you fool, Doflamingo." The lightening pierced through the dark windows and Doflamingo maneuvered out of the way, scattering some of the papers further as he slid across the floor. He lunged at Dragon again, before a clash of thunder deafened them and another light erupted from the clouds. Electricity lit the wires and made Doflamingo's glasses gleam over his wide eyes. Sengoku was speechless as random pink feathers flared and curled and the man fell to his knees. Doflamingo's nerves were being overwhelmed by the sudden surge of energy and his legs had given out, stunned for the moment and his mind traced back to Shanks' reaction, losing sight of reality before him.

"I am the heavens. I can see above your stage." Dragon stood over Doflamingo who couldn't look up. Dragon raised his hand and static crackled in the air, but never met its target as it was displaced by another. A stretched arm grasped Dragon's and Luffy used his grip to pull himself into the room, aiming to collide with the man whose arm he held, but Dragon left his grasp and Luffy stopped by Doflamingo.

Sengoku was dumbstruck by what was going on, but he was still capable of being distracted by Doflamingo's skeptical expression.

"Straw-Hat." Doflamingo watched the figure of the boy out of the corner of his eye, not looking through the lens of his sunglasses.

"Who are you?" Luffy glanced at Doflamingo who was almost his height while sitting. Doflamingo laughed, but it was lacking most of the cruelty that Sengoku usually found in it. It dripped with irony. Sengoku remained silent, unable to voice any questions.

Chapter 15: Chapter 15
Doflamingo continued to cackle as he stood up, recovering from the shock slowly. "You really did come out on your own." He laughed as he flexed his hands and felt the burnt and burning flesh flake away.

Luffy was quiet for a moment looked up at the towering mass of feathers. "You're on fire."

Doflamingo glanced at himself and saw the swirls of smoke from the withering feathers. "You owe me, Dragon." His eyes traveled to Luffy's face for the expected response.

Dragon and Luffy stared at one another. "Are you Dragon?"

There was a moment of silence as the white papers that had been kicked up during the fight settled on the ground. A few emitted tendrils of smoke and crumpled into ash when Doflamingo moved his foot.

"So you didn't restrain him at all?" he glanced at Doflamingo who sneered at his blank expression, seeing the quiet anger smolder in his eyes.

"No."

"What?" Luffy broke in, looking at Doflamingo for a second and then he turned back to Dragon. "Are you Dragon or not?"

The Shichibukai snickered and skirted the edge of the paper covered area where Dragon stood. "He's demanding an answer, Dragon. What respect he has for you." Sarcasm didn't affect Dragon and his anger turned to interest.

"Dragon." Sengoku said apprehensively from the ledge as the man took a step towards the youth. Turning his eyes to Luffy's, Sengoku noticed the vigor that shouldn't have returned and the unwavering and confident stare that returned his own. It was strange…innocent yet lacking ignorance…Luffy's eyes distracted him for a moment. "Yes. He is your father, Straw-Hat Luffy."

Luffy jerked and blinked sharply at the tattooed man, his eyes scanning his face with a blank expression. "I really thought that I didn't have a father."

Dragon was quiet, his eyes were the only sign of life from his still figure as they sparked. "I didn't expect to have a son."There was silence."To think that one day I would find a wanted poster with my name on it…" he chuckled darkly. "With the first name being different…and a boy with a foolish smile…"

"How is it foolish? You don't know what it was. I haven't seen you smile yet." Luffy challenged, remembering the circumstances behind the day he received his first bounty. "Try it sometime…I don't think smiling makes you a fool."

Doflamingo's snickers were disregarded in the background as he now stood behind Dragon. "That's not what I meant, boy." He cocked an eyebrow and smirked. "You don't seem like someone who's generally so hostile."

"I'm not." Luffy glanced up at Sengoku for a second. "There's a war going on outside, and your being here isn't coincidence."

"It's not…" he smile persisted, and he analyzed the boy more closely, taking a few steps closer to put some distance between himself and the pink mass behind him. "That's quite an intuition."

Luffy didn't respond, but he recognized the cold feeling that was being emitted off of this man before him…it reminded him of every evil person he had met to this day. A feeling of disregard and an emitted chill. "Why are you here? What were you doing in seagull guy's room?"

"Seagull guy?" Sengoku coughed. "Do you know who I am?" he stared down at Luffy who looked up at him again.

"Nope."

Sengoku shook his head with disbelief and pointed a finger carelessly at Doflamingo. "How about this man?"

"No. Is he a flamingo man or something?"

Sengoku couldn't believe he could crack a smile in a situation like this, but this pirate had brought him close to laughing. Doflamingo laughed instead, though.

"The Shichibukai, known as Doflamingo." A few feathers pirouetted to the ground as Doflamingo bowed dramatically.

Luffy's eyes widened and he opened his mouth to say something, but he was interrupted.

"Yes, yes." Doflamingo waved his hand. "I know, but I don't want to distract us from this touching family reunion." A wicked smile made Luffy frown.

Suddenly an electric charge crackled in the air. Dragon's intended target was Sengoku, but once again his lightening was displaced by a hand. "You!" Luffy exclaimed, still processing the situation.

"It is interesting, but it's not the reason I'm here." Dragon peered down at the boy attached to his arm. "I'm not pressed for time, but…" he pointed his other hand at Sengoku. "I've waited many years for this day."

"Stop!" His contact disrupted the charge again and Dragon sighed, growing bored.

"Why do you want to be a worthless pirate?" he said suddenly, startling Luffy and the others.

"Grandfather asked the same thing." Luffy gave a rueful smile at the old memories. "I'm going to be the Pirate King. I'll be the one to find One Piece."

"What would you do with such a title or a treasure like that? You're not one to desire wealth and power, are you?"

"There's more to being a pirate than just treasure and being called a pirate or having a flag."

Chapter 16: Chapter 16
"Son." Dragon took a breath and shook his head slightly, looking at Luffy. "Stop this foolishness."

"What?" Luffy's grip tightened and he glanced at the hand still raised against Sengoku. "You want me to just let you kill him?" his eyes narrowed into a glare. "I refuse. Whether you are my father or not, I won't do it."

"No….I mean stop this foolhardy dream about being a pirate."

His words were received with silence as the successive explosions outside the window took a breath and the world paused.

"What?" Luffy breathed, is eyes wide with shock and confusion.

"Join me." Dragon's voice was the only sound that could be heard. "Become one of the revolutionaries that will better this world and mark…no…we will begin its history. Being a pirate…going after One Piece?" he scoffed and took his hand from Luffy's loosened grasp. "Please." He glared coldly down at the boy. "Don't embarrass me more than you already have."

"Wha..What the hell do you mean?" Luffy stammered, recovering. "I won't become a Marine like Grandfather wants me to, and I'm sure as hell I would never abandon my dream for the words of a complete stranger." His glare returned and he stepped in the path between Sengoku and his father.

"One Piece, it's a joke, boy." Dragon returned the glare and took a step forward, towering above Luffy. "Think and realize how self centered you are." He let the confusion set in Luffy's expression once more before continuing. "A crew of people dedicated to making your dream come true? What about their own dreams?" Luffy's eyes grew wide. "How has your dream put theirs in peril? And…" he laughed cruelly. "…how greedy and selfish is it to strive to gain an ultimate treasure, wealth and glory being your only goal in life?"

Unable to listen to any more, Luffy cut him off. "I don't care about the wealth itself!" he yelled, staring defiantly into the older man's eyes. "I want to experience adventure and all I want as the Pirate King is freedom! I would never allow my dream to hurt my nakama! I WOULD SOONER DIE!"

"What about more recently, when they could have all died at once when Kuma fought with you? You were on your 'adventure' at the time, weren't you?" Dragon sneered.

"We are a crew and we fight together! They know that there is danger and we…."

Dragon gave a sigh of frustration, stopping Luffy, and he glanced at the as darkened window and the sunless world behind it. "As a revolutionist, you would discard selfish claims. By overthrowing this current government and creating a new one in its place," he turned his eyes back to Luffy. "…you would be helping the world, where as a pirate you would only be helping yourself. Think, Luffy. Which is a better way to spend your life?"

"You…want to get rid of the Marines? All of them?" Luffy said quietly, his eyes boring into Dragon's.

"Even as a pirate, I guess you would appreciate that." He smirked but he lost his smile as Luffy's face twisted in disgust.

"No! I would never want that! I know the Marines are my enemies, but sometimes they do good and they keep bad people who hurt others in check. I know people whose dreams lie within the Marine government." His glare narrowed. "WHAT RIGHT DO I HAVE, OR DO YOU HAVE TO TAKE THEIR DREAMS AWAY AND DECIDE THAT THIS GOVERNMENT IS WRONG?" he took a breath and continued. "Yes, they almost killed Ace, and I cannot forgive that. But I cannot return the wrong and destroy all of them. There are people who rely on the Marines, what happens to them when they're gone?"

"I will take care of that. I can provide a better world by replacing the Marines." Dragon said calmly. "All I have to do is destroy the feeble force outside with my army and the convenient aid of those that came for your revenge. They are the manifestation of the anger and hatred the people feel for the Marines. And all of this can begin to be changed as soon as I…" he pointed both of his hands up towards the loft. "…kill this man." His eyes widened as he saw Sengoku's absence. Luffy lunged forward.

Chapter 17: Chapter 17
Dragon growled and moved to dodge Luffy, but his eyes widened with surprise as an arm caught him and he was flung towards the glass. About to regain control of his fall, he gasped when a large hand crushed him in a merciless grip. The glass shattered in large, jagged shards as the arm burst through the window, hanging over the battle below. Dragon was gone.

The panels of the floor had caved in on themselves under Sengoku's increased mass, and they now creaked as he straightened his legs from an almost crouched position and he shrunk in size. Regaining his original shape, Sengoku watched the black sky with an ominous expression.

Doflamingo whistled, sneering at the Marine. Luffy glared at the window and the empty space where the glass had been. He coughed once as the smoke invaded the room.

"Where did he go?"

Sengoku didn't look at the boy. "He's a part of the storm."

"The clouds? So he has a devil fruit ability?" Sengoku glanced at the black eyes that stared at him. A sudden cackle caught their attention and they found Doflamingo admiring the shards of glass.

"That was fun…."

Suddenly the door exploded with an angry snarl. "LUFFY!"

"Zoro!"

The samurai blinked with a blank expression as he saw Luffy standing in the middle of the room, unrestrained. His eyes flickered to Sengoku and then to Doflamingo who smiled.

"You…!" he stalked to the smiling man, unsheathing his katana, seething with anger. "You had me check every single damn door and he was right here with you!" he growled and pointed the sword accusingly at the Shichibukai.

"What is this…?" Sengoku's demand was erased by Luffy.

"ZORO!" Luffy beamed and the swordsman looked away from Doflamingo. "How'd you get here? Where'd you go when the bear guy…you know…" he stuck out his hand and mimicked Kuma, adding a popping sound.

"I uh…." Zoro paused in thought, putting his sword back in his sheath and taking his chin into his hand. "I really don't know. There was a castle and Persona and…"

"Wow."

Zoro looked at Doflamingo as he walked past him.

"You two are really in your own little world. Guess we'll leave the lovebirds and go address the more current issues on our own." He laughed with satisfaction as Zoro's face twisted in disgust, loathing, and embarrassment.

"You pink feathered bastard….!"

"No. He's right." Sengoku broke in as Luffy was about to speak. "The Shichibukai and the Marines must take action at once." He glanced at Doflamingo who smirked.

"We'll help."

Sengoku glared at Luffy with annoyance and surprise. "The last thing we need is help from a pirate, or pity, at this point…."

"We'll have to, or else the Marines won't survive this." Doflamingo drawled, disliking the seriousness drawn from the atmosphere in the room. "You should take Straw-Hat's advice, Sengoku. I know the great strategist can easily realize the importance he has. He can easily turn the tides of this war."

Sengoku glared at him, and grit his teeth in frustration.

"What do you mean?"

"Straw-Hat…" Doflamingo looked at him for a moment. "Sengoku, this is your problem." He sighed with a frown and turned for the door. "This is too dull and obvious. You don't need my help if you can't work with the pirates. I won't make a difference…"

"Fine." Dolfamingo turned on his heel and grinned wildly at Sengoku. "Straw-Hat pirates…" Sengoku narrowed his eyes as he began with difficulty. "We will accept your aid."

"Fantastic!" Doflamingo cackled, inspiring a scowl from Zoro.

"Luffy…" he began, but stopped, remembering the time when Luffy saved Smoker. Nothing I can say will change anything, he smirked to himself.

"If that's the case, then we stick together." Luffy watched Sengoku's eyebrow cock and the others were silent. "Dragon didn't return after he was thrown out the window…he must believe that he can't defeat all of us together. He didn't care when we were separated, right?"

"D..Dragon?" Zoro said in confusion. "What is this? Isn't he your dad?"

"Yeah. You just missed him." Luffy looked up at Zoro who was by his side. "He's not that great, but he's not as scary as Grandfather."

Doflamingo chuckled at this but was ignored.

"You should fear him, Straw-Hat." Doflamingo caught Luffy's attention. "He is the Revolutionary Dragon. What you've seen of his power so far…." He leaned down, a little closer to Luffy with a grin. "Is nothing."

Chapter 18: Chapter 18
"What is this?" Shanks sat up suddenly, surprising Nami and making her cry out as she tried to cover his burns with a roll of bandages she had found. Shanks looked at the hospital bed he was in, disoriented, then he swung his legs off the edge and stood up.

"Wait." Nami said somewhat uncertainly, looking up at the red haired pirate. "You're hurt you know."

"Who are you? How long have you been here? Where..." he was about to continue, but he caught himself and sighed, running his hand through his hair. "I'm sorry, but I'm in a hurry."

"To find Luffy?"

He turned around and found Sanji smoking against the wall. Shank's eyes traveled about the room and he noticed Benn and Hancock were occupying other hospital beds.

"So Luffy is alive." He stated, his eyes lingering on Hancock for a moment. "Who are you?" he faced Sanji again.

"We're part of the Straw-Hat pirates." Nami walked over to Sanji, giving up on bandaging Shanks.

"His crew…" he smiled, recalling when the boy claimed he would get a better crew than him. His smile faded. "Why are you here? Shouldn't you be looking for him?"

"Zoro, another member of our crew is. He went with the Shichibukai, Doflamingo."

"That has to be a trap!" Shanks startled them, and then he collected himself. "He was here with Dragon…he's not an ally."

"Dragon?" both Nami and Sanji exclaimed and looked at one another with disbelief.

"Why? Or when or…" Nami stammered.

Sanji inhaled sharply on his cigarette and then dropped it, crushing it out with his foot. "But that just means Doflamingo knew where Luffy was. I think he's a sly bastard, but he wasn't lying." He stared darkly at the floor for a moment, and then turned to the man who groaned in the bed and sat up.

"Benn."

The dark haired man turned to his captain when he spoke. Already off the bed, he took his musket from the tiled floor. Hancock showed no signs of regaining consciousness.

"What happened?" Benn glanced at Nami and Sanji.

"Dragon got us from behind, and then Doflamingo…" Shanks didn't finish as someone burst into the room.

Doflamingo's eyebrows rose and he grinned at the pirates. "Good, you're up."

There was a piercing screech as Shank's sword slid down the length of a steel wire, but when he reached the Shichibukai, Doflamingo held his hand out, showing no signs of continuing to defend himself.

"Stop, stop. I'm not here to fight." He chuckled, waving a hand.

"Like hell you are." Sanji muttered. Shanks glared at Doflamingo but didn't cut the man down.

"I told you about being hostile…" Doflamingo caught himself and his smile flashed. "Ah, no. That was Sengoku wasn't it?"

"We don't need your games! Where's Zoro!" Sanji stepped forward from the wall, gritting his teeth.

"With Straw-Hat."

There was silence.

"How can we believe you?" Benn broke the quiet and he folded his arms, still holding the musket.

Doflamingo's smile didn't change as he reached inside his shirt and pulled out a yellow, straw hat. He began to casually spin the edge of the hat on his index finger.

Shanks' eyes twitched. He tore the hat away from Doflamingo who didn't resist. "That still doesn't mean we can trust you." The Yonkou said coldly.

Doflamingo gave an exaggerated sigh. "Everyone seems to hate me now a days." His grin returned before he finished his sentence.

"I wonder why?" Nami scowled at him with disgust. "What did you do with them? They may be together, but that doesn't mean that they aren't trapped and tied up somewhere."

His sunglasses flashed. "Ah. The gutsy girl. Did you miss…"

"Shut up and don't you dare talk to Nami-swan!" Sanji stood between them. Doflamingo paused and surveyed the room.

"They left with Sengoku." He ignored the confused stares. "Dragon brought his followers…an army really…." He snickered for a moment and then his grin widened. "The pirate Straw-Hat Luffy will be aiding the Marines in a counter attack. The pirates are defending Marineford."

"What?" Sanji said, a little disheveled. "But the Marines…" he paused and the pirates looked at one another. "No…that sounds like Luffy."

"Oh, really?" the Shichibukai's obvious interest stole the warmth that came from Luffy's memory. Turning sharply and breaking the glares that were boring into him, Doflamingo strolled to the window. Ash made the trees into smudges, and he saw more of his reflection than of the garden. "I suppose you should all be going. They're at the entrance, take a right when you leave the hospital wing and continue until the hall splits, take another right and continue. You'll reach the main entrance hall and find them outside."

They stared at him as he wiped at one of the smudges with his thumb, appearing to be bored out of his mind. The pirates left without further hesitation, though Sanji lingered, eyeing Hancock.

"What do you want with her?" he said accusingly, causing Doflamingo to abandon the window, his eyes traveling from Sanji to Hancock.

"With the Hime?" his face fell somewhat blank and he looked at Sanji as if the answer was completely obvious. "Nothing. You can't play with broken toys. They have to be fixed before they're any fun."

Sanji started. Unwillingly, he left the two Shichibukai and followed the others.

Chapter Text

Chapter 19:
"First you call me back to Marineford, and now you want me to do… to do what, Sengoku?" Kizaru raised his voice, his lips were smiling but his eyes were blank as they reflected Sengoku's stolid expression.

"Take Straw-Hat Luffy to the main Alabasta warship. That is an order, Kizaru," Sengoku growled as he managed to give the command a second time without hesitating. But he failed to repress a wince of something resembling disgust or shame when he said the pirate's name aloud.

"I know someone who won't like this, Sengoku. Who won't like this at all. You'll be hard-pressed to come up with an excuse- but," Kizaru laughed with the same blank look in his eyes, "that won't be my problem - now, will it?" He glanced down at the two Straw-Hat pirates, and Zoro scowled up at him. "Alright then," he smiled, grabbing hold of Luffy as though on a sudden whim. Instantly, they disappeared in a flash of light.

"Are you sure he won't drop Luffy in the ocean?" Zoro muttered darkly, eyeing the empty space his captain had once occupied.

Sengoku looked at the swordsman, noting that there was something of genuine anxiety in his tone. "He won't. Kizaru knows that the Marines… are in trouble." With an air that bordered on listlessness, or an illusion of great distance, Sengoku viewed the chaos that roared and smoldered before him. Blazing battleships floated like black shadows on the water, made indistinct by the smoke. Very few of the ships he saw did not have trails of smoke climbing from them, the exception generally being those that had just entered into the fray. Sengoku searched the sky again, but didn't find any sign of what he was looking for.

"I'm going. I have to inform the Marines that… the face of our enemy, has changed," Sengoku left without saying another word, having said more than necessary by that point. He was close to regretting his last statement. After the fleet admiral had gone, Zoro stood in silence for a time, before turning to the door and pulling it wide - he nearly walked into someone.

Nami stood there, her hand still reaching for the handle of the door. "Zoro! Oh, finally. That's such a relief- You have no idea," Nami pressed her hand against her heart, sighing heavily as a wave of relief flushed through her. "Things are working out now. Good, that's good!" She laughed outright.

Taken aback for a moment, Zoro stared at her blankly. But he found his bearings and looked around, "Nami? And..." He grinned as he saw the group behind her.

*~*~::..+..::~*~*

Bibi spun the gold ringlets around her fingers as she caught sight of her next opponent, and he seemed to stare back at her. She was used to not being able to hear the rings whirl as they cut through the air; she couldn't hear much above the constant clash of weapons, and the blasts of cannon fire. Fatigue made her pant, but it was far from rivaling the exhaustion she had endured in the past - no, she would be alright - she could still fight, and continue to fight for however long they needed. With this thought, she darted towards her opponent, nimbly jumping over a loose barrel that rolled towards her. But their weapons never clashed. A blinding light made them separate and shield their eyes.

"It's Kizaru!" Cries of joy collided with the chorus of dread that rang out. But silence descended upon the ship, somehow isolating it from the battle, as all gradually saw the boy the admiral put down on the railing beside him.

Unfazed by their expressions, Luffy scanned the sea of faces, almost overlooking Bibi who stood only a few feet away. Her face was darkened with soot in some places, and elsewhere with blood. He frowned at all of the wounds he could pick out among the various bodies. What are they doing? They aren't saving anyone! Or at least they didn't think they were! This is…just meaningless! He paused though, as he realized he might have done something similar, something similar to starting a war, if one of his nakama had been killed. This was his fault, that moment of weakness-

He shook his head sharply and shouted above the blasts, "Bibi!" She still seemed to be in a daze, and simply stared at him mutely. He almost growled as he tried to get her to hear him, "Bibi, you need to stop! All of you- All of the Alabasta army, needs to stop fighting the Marines! The Marines aren't our enemies right now! Alright? Do you understand, Bibi? BIBI!"

There was a long, deep, drawn-out gasp as she finally managed to breathe. Bibi cried out as her face scrunched and warped with disbelief and agony, "Luffy- Oh, God. Oh, God- Luffy! You're…" Rushing forward, her rings cut into her palms and fingers as she gripped them in her fists before letting them fall so that she could free her hands. Bibi grabbed at his pants, his shirt - whatever she could get a hold of, whatever stayed in her hands - and she pulled him down onto the deck, and into her arms. They tottered and almost fell together, but both managed to stay on their feet as her arms tightened around him and she pressed her forehead against his shoulder. Sobs distorted her words, as gasps for air and convulsive shudders and moans finally gave way to her cry, "You're alive! Oh- oh, oh God. How are you alive? Alive."

Luffy grimaced as he forced himself to push her away so that she could hear him. He had to use some force as she resisted, but eventually he pried her off. "I'm sorry Bibi, but there's no time for that. You have to tell everyone that they need to stop attacking the Marines. The Marines are being told to stop attacking us right now - right now. Do you understand? We need to stop attacking them now. "

Bibi wiped her face with her sleeve, while the rest of those gathered on the deck remained silent, too shocked and disoriented to do more.

Luffy said simply, "We need to help the Marines."

"Luffy…" In this airy state of shock, Bibi's eyes drifted to Kizaru. She stared at his towering form. "Why? Why did you… Why are you here? And not- not attacking-?"

"The Marines, some pirates, and your soldiers are going to fight - that is, on the same side. I suppose that's the plan. Who knows what will really happen," he smiled as he did nothing to lessen her surprise, or make any of this easier to process. He said it all too plainly.

Luffy began to explain, "Dragon is here and he wants to…"

"Overthrow the world government, yes..." She looked at his face, appearing to be regaining some of her composure. "Luffy, he's your…"

"I don't like him. I don't care who he is. Dad or not," Luffy snorted, and crossed his arms decidedly. "We can't allow this, not the way it's happening now. So will you help us, Bibi?"

Their eyes locked together for a moment.

"Of course." He saw her smile through her remaining tears. She wiped them away before turning to her men. Her voice was deep and commanding, "Someone, get me a Den-Den Mushi!"

*~*~::..+..::~*~*

Sengoku walked briskly down the steps, scanning the sky and the ocean periodically. There was a communication network of Den-Den Mushi connecting all of the Marine ships that had been positioned on the island. Sengoku slowed and then stopped at the bottom of the stairs, his eyes narrowed as he watched the figure that had come into the view and continued to approach.

Soot that had accumulated on the windows behind Sengoku was blown into the air by an unnatural gust of wind. The great, scattering cloud hung above them, descending slowly.

"Am I free to assume that we won't be interrupted this time?" The figure smirked, standing before the gleaming, golden Buddha that suddenly towered above him.

"You shouldn't be so confident, Dragon."

Chapter 20:
"The Marines aren't stopping! And they don't believe us!" the voice and expression on the Den-Den Mushi showed the man's desperation as fighting and shouts were heard in the background. "Princess, I sorry but…!" Kizaru took the Den-Den Mushi from Bibi, startling her. She took a step back to give him some room.

"Turn up the volume so that a Marine can hear me." He ordered, making the voice of the Alabasta soldier fall silent. "This is Admiral Kizaru." His smile was lifeless while the rest of his expression displayed mild irritation. There was a gasp, followed by a nervous voice.

"It... it's already as high as it can go. Just so that- so we can even hear it at all. I'm sorry. I'm afraid I-I can't… I can't..."

Kizaru handed the receiver of the Den-Den Mushi back to Bibi and he turned to face the rail of the ship. "Which one of the ships are we talking to?"

Bibi pointed to a warship and the Admiral disappeared with a flash of light. She and the Alabasta men and the Marines stared in wonder as the Admiral flitted from ship to ship, spreading the news as the line of dark ships edged closer to the battlefield.

"Good." Bibi broke the silence, still watching the flashing light. "Now we'll have time to regroup and…" she looked at the daunting number of ships on the horizon and then the smoking ships that were scattered on the battlefield. "…we should be able to do this."

"We will, Bibi." Luffy smiled, drawing one from the princess and stealing away some of the oppressive atmosphere that weighted the men. "We'll definitely win. We can't doubt ourselves before we even begin.

Kizaru left the Marine ship to move on to the next, allowing a frown to take his expression for a split second as he wondered why Sengoku's orders weren't being distributed as they were supposed to have been. He found Akainu and repeated his message. He chuckled darkly at the man's aghast expression and then his deep growl.

"We don't really have a choice." Kizaru added before he left.

Akainu looked at the pirate ships and snarled an order to begin regrouping and forming ranks to protect Marineford. He continued to glare at the ships as the orders were being carried out. He glanced at the revolutionaries for a moment.

"The world has gone mad." He muttered.

...

Garp smiled grimly and sighed with relief as the three way battle ended when Kizaru explained their change in plans. He looked at the Straw-Hat ship and saw the equally relived faces and then the Marines who were confused. The other vice-admiral huffed and looked at Garp as light lit up half of his face when the Admiral left.

"At least we don't have to battle with one another…within the Marines." Garp said loud enough for others, but more specifically the other vice-admiral, to hear.

The man's face deadened with mental exhaustion and nodded. "Yes. At least there's that."

....

Sengoku and Dragon clashed again but the revolutionary growled and disappeared, startling Sengoku. He noticed a series of presences at the top of the stairs, seeing the Straw-Hat pirates and Red-Haired Shanks and his first mate.

"Sengoku." Shanks gave a slanted smile and the Marine took a moment to collect himself, unused to the idea of the Yonkou being on Marineford and the general idea of working with pirates.

He nodded. Perhaps the boy was right…sticking together warded off Dragon…and prevented his intervention with their plans…Sengoku mused as he continued forward with the group of pirates following. Shanks fell in step beside him, making Sengoku's lips twitch into a frown.

"I don't think you'll get used to it."

Sengoku looked at him for a second.

"Neither do I."

Kizaru paused as the men told him that they had already received the message through the Den-Den Mushi. He faded into light and found Sengoku. He whistled and his smile twisted as he saw the pirates, his gaze lingering on Shanks.

"What took so long. I had to go around myself for a while."

"Dragon held me up." Sengoku said stiffly, his eyes flicking to the Admiral after leaving his thoughts. "Turning the face of the war was easier than expected…something must be up."

"Or not." Sengoku noticed the red haired girl and was quiet. "Luffy can just do things like that."

Sengoku fell back into his thoughts as he watched the battlefield that had calmed. "He shouldn't fight." He said suddenly, commanding the groups attention. "He's been in the hospital this entire time. Today should be his first time out of the hospital bed…and he really shouldn't have been able to from the extent of his wounds."

"We trust Luffy but we also can't stop him once he decides on something." Nami continued, watching the settling sea. "He'll manage…he has many nakama to count on…and others who need him." She glanced at the Marine. "He'll do anything to help you, now. Just remember that he doesn't have to be doing any of this…"

"I know." Sengoku said quietly and his mouth became a tight line. He's nothing like a pirate…Sengoku concluded…no matter what he says, he does not fit the image of a criminal.

Chapter 21:
Doflamingo's eyes were fixed on the retaining wall of the garden as he looked though the splintered glass, watching the molten sky dull with the color of the sheer quantity of black ships he knew existed on the other side of the wall. What did it all mean anyway? What was this game I have formed? Doflamingo's glasses seemed to dull as his eyes did, in thought.

There was no guilt, but there was something missing. He had come so close to being made into a puppet…and couldn't tell if he had indeed served as one at any point. Then there was the boy, to which all of the strings seemed attached. The Shichibukai frowned sharply murmuring to himself at the thought. Monkey D. Luffy….he was manipulating the war…the enemies…the hatred that had existed only moments before. The sound of explosions no longer filled one's ears with the beating heart of conflict. There was quiet and the wind could be heard playing with the tops of the trees. The same breeze entered the room through the section that had been removed from the window and it rustled the pink feathers.

"Am I not the puppeteer in this? Is there a greater master of manipulation?" A cruel smirk revealed a perfect line of white teeth. "I still have my pieces…"

"Do you always talk to yourself?" The snide voice made Doflamingo's hidden eyes widen, but he remained otherwise unfazed by the empress' waking.

"How was your slumber, Hime?" he turned with a signature grin, letting it widen as he saw the woman's hatred and outright rage. "No hard feelings?" the Shichibukai stepped forward with his arms extended in a gesture mocking the act of seeking acceptance or forgiveness.

"Where is Luffy!" She tore off the blankets and stood to her height beside the bed, black eyes managing to give the illusion of burning flames. "Where are…they?" she glanced at the room quickly, lifting her hands to form the empty heart that would turn any man to stone. Doflamingo's arms rotated upward, showing his lack of hostility, but his humor did nothing to appease Hancock and she kept her attack level to his own heart across the room of the hospital.

"Why are you so angry, Hime?" he stopped moving towards her, keeping his hands raised, though they moved as he chuckled. "You have no idea what happened to you, or what is currently happening."

Hancock stiffened and she hissed, her face contorting slightly. "Then tell me." Her order was received by indifference.

"What part would you like to play?" the hands lowered and Doflamingo began to move again, walking to the side in a wide arch around Hancock. His glasses flashed above his unchanging expression. "You cannot fit the role of a damsel in distress. There is no knight to save you." His quiet voice managed to hold a foreboding that made the empress grow cold. Her hands tightened in their shape, keeping the man's heart within the space.

"I don't need saving." She snarled, but felt something painful in her heart and a sliver of doubt in her mind. "A worthless man like you is no threat to someone like myself." Her chin lifted out of habit, making her gaze down to an extent at the taller figure. She had never noticed the rarity of an individual exceeding her in height, but now she took it into account with annoyance.

"You were left here, all alone…your beloved has no intention of leaving the battle or his nakama…and has no instinctive feeling of your peril…or would be peril." Pleasure rushed through the man as he saw mortification flash momentarily through the empress, and then fury spark in her features.

"Shut up! Of course Luffy would not avoid the war! He is no coward! I know who he is!" she spat venomously, but her emotion froze with realization, making her arms relax and then straighten rigidly at the Shichibukai. "Where is Luffy and what is going on? He can't be out there…he's injured! He'd…he'd…" she gritted her teeth, closing her eyes for a moment.

A close chuckle made her gasp in outrage as Doflamingo stood before her, holder her writs to direct the heart away from himself, glee apparent in his expression. "This is your weakness, Hime." He whispered, leaning forward with the intent of intimidation, satisfied when he found none. "You were stronger before you found that you had a heart…now you should know better than anyone what strings are revealed, exposed, as they reach and attach the heart to one they love." Hancock's hands shook with building fury and an angry blush touched her cheeks as her eyes were bright with loathing. "You must ask yourself…just who has managed to catch a hold of these sensitive…unretractable…undetatchable wires?"

"You bastard."

Doflamingo smiled and was about to speak, loosening his grip on her when a kick caught him on the side of the face, knocking him away. The Shichibukai staggered, his smile falling into nothing as the heart reflected in his sunglasses, almost touching them. He ducked, sliding under the path of Hancock's attack, and threw his hand upward. He caught her delicate wrists once more, but there was no humor as he threw her off balance and then forced his hand to grab the back of her head, roughly making her fall to her knees as he stood behind her. He did not let go and an unseen scowl filled his features. "Allow me to finish." He growled, tightening his grip so that Hancock flinched in pain, unable to struggle as the tight hold was the limit her wrists could sustain. Her circulation was blocked, like his hands were a metal tourniquet, and the area around them throbbed maddeningly. She only gritted her teeth at the pain.

"How dare you touch me in such a manner?" she screeched, forced to glare at the tile, constantly being reminded of her vulnerability at the sight of the white squares. "You…!"

"I was about to tell you where he was, stupid woman!" the aggravation in the raised voice made Hancock start and grow silent at the alien behavior in the man. No…she recognized it somewhere…in someone… Her eyes widened in horror as she remembered Luffy's immunity towards her…which had managed to shock the empress…and partly caused her to fall in love with him. It made her blood freeze as she realized that the same trait had existed in Doflamingo since she had met the man…when she had first become a Shichibukai, years ago.

"I'll release you…" Hancock inhaled sharply when the man spoke again, much calmer now, though he was still clearly outside of his character. "…if you promise not to do something stupid, like try to turn me to stone."

If it would work…Hancock thought to herself with wide eyes as she felt blood rush back into her hands and heard Doflamingo step away. She masked her expression as she stood up, trying to flaunt regality as she normally did. Doflamingo's lips curled, standing a few paces from the empress now.

"It was Dragon who attacked Red-hair and yourself…and the other man." He added the last carelessly, nodding his head, acknowledging the credibility of his words. "I helped Dragon finish Red-hair…he's not dead…." He noticed when her eyes widened so he altered his words. "…the Strawhat pirates arrived, Strawhat himself was in the closet in the Marineford tower, there was some conflict with Dragon…blah blah blah." The woman blinked at the crude words, seeing boredom threaten Doflamingo's grin. "The Marines and the pirates…plus whoever else is out there…are teaming up…adopting a truce…to defend Marineford against a fleet of revolutionary intent. The ships are lined, facing your beloved as we speak."

Hancock made note to kill the Shichibukai later for putting Luffy in a closet, her mind drawn to the current danger he was in. I have to stop him, bring him back…. She thought frantically, leaning on her feet towards the door as she fought between dashing out to retrieve Luffy to secure him to the bed and remaining where she was. No…he couldn't stomach not being a part of this…I can't do anything…. Doflamingo observed as Hancock let out an unacknowledged sigh, oblivious of his presence. His grin fell as he watched without thoughts for a moment.

"What are you thinking?"

Hancock corrected her posture and stared at the resumed uncharacteristic expression in the man. "What?" her voice was guarded, throwing strength and outrage where they did not exist.

"I've always had difficulty reading it…all have had difficulty knowing your thoughts…only seeing your surface. All have failed to control you so far because there was nothing to catch hold of…but there is clear worry and emotion in your face." Doflamingo frowned, turned away as he spoke. "Hide this unless you want to become some common puppet." His glasses were facing the window, his eyes directed under the lenses, seeing the unadjusted color of the tile.

"I'm no one's toy." Hancock declared, walking to the door heatedly, her strides merciless and full of purpose. "I never will be….as I will never be your puppet either, Doflamingo."

There was silence once her presence had faded…only the phantom of her words lingering in the sterile air.

Chapter 22:
The ships rested on the blackened water, two opposing lines, two empty, unhuman faces. There was a calm, but the thunder of the storm was already cracking in the air, echoing in the heavens as they readied to receive many of those they saw moving with the rocking surface of the sea below. Luffy's black eyes could not be read by the princess who stood parallel to his position. He stood at the head of his own ship, one that was unfamiliar to her, but this sense of estrangement could not come to touch the pirate. Many eyes rested on him, many different thoughts were directed towards the boy, but he stood resolute, uninfluenced by their weight. He turned suddenly, fading from Vivi's view. She continued to watch the empty space, seeing him as he was, seconds ago.

Nami handed the Den-Den Mushi to her captain, wearing a seriousness that felt uncomfortable to her features.

"Dragon has not been sighted." Sengoku's voice came to Luffy through the snail's mouth, manipulated into a frown of thought that its twin saw on the Marine's face. "He must be watching us from above."

"Above?" Luffy looked up, searching the sky.

"He controls the storm…a weather man like you are a rubber man. He can attack whenever he chooses. There is no defense other than to be aware of this, so…never forget his presence."

Luffy nodded, still looking at the sky when his eyes narrowed. "Yeah."

The crew busied themselves with manning the ship, however, all of them watched their captain out of the corner of their eye. Only Nami stood before him. Idle except for her thoughts and focus on the words that were being exchanged between the pirate and the Marine.

Luffy hung up the phone, and there was quiet. "Nami…"

The girl blinked, her eyes widening as she stared at her captain's hidden expression, as his face was covered somewhat by his dark hair. He turned to her, making her start. The pirate was smiling, forcing a high to take her mind as relief spilled over her. "Do we have any meat?"

Nami was the first to start laughing, but seconds held many voices. Her voice never became strained, even as tears dribbled down her cheeks and she bent over, letting her orange bangs obscure her expression.

"Na..Nami?" Luffy started forward, but urgency was dropped when a fist collided with his face once he stood in striking distance.

"Are you always hungry?" she huffed, tears still clinging to her eyelashes. She couldn't maintain her scowl and it soon became a grin as she tried to speak in a harsh tone, failing to do so as it was broken with a chuckle. "Of course we do, Baka. With you around, a pirate ship has to be loaded down with more meat than gold and silver..." The navigator turned to go to the kitchen, but Sanji dashed before her, words expressing his love and devotion to her being left behind him to hang in the air. He immediately returned with four bones weighted with meat.

Normality and confidence overwhelmed the gloom of the situation and the Sunny became almost visibly brighter as the boy devoured the meat, just as he should have been.

Dragon watched in quiet…seeing the infection of the atmosphere the ship gave off spread to the princess' and then to her section of the fleet. Only the Marines were unaffected. "But if that were to happen…" Dragon's eyes grew larger as he focused on his son. "You are quite a fearsome man, Monkey D. Luffy…" a frown formed a pause, "If you live, the title of Pirate King is not an unsubstantial fantasy."

Luffy ate the meat, tearing it off the bones as he usually did, but he was looking up at the sky as he knew the eyes were on him at the moment. The meat was necessary. He could feel how much the last war and days in the hospital bed had affected his strength. All of the power that he could muster could only help them at this point, and no one could find out just how bad his body ached at the moment. He swallowed and cast aside the last empty bone and turned his gaze to the line of ships, wondering if the people they contained were like Ivanokov. The thought made his eyes narrow and a frown tilt his mouth at the edges. Could one of the ships possibly contain his new nakama? Then if that was the case…Luffy's eyes widened as he saw a fairly new flag break the uniform black.

"Ace."

Chapter 23:
Luffy's eyes widened, flicking up to the sky fleetingly before he slowly backtracked from the front of the ship to the Den-Den Mushi. Nami noticed when he picked it up, his lips trembling.

"What..?" she started to rush over, but Luffy's mouth began to break into a grin he was struggling to conceal. When he saw her confused face, his eyes tacitly told of the need to be inconspicuous.

Sengoku himself answered on the other line, and the smile finally conquered Luffy's expression as he began to speak.

"We have allies on the other side."

There was a pause.

"What?" Sengoku's brow furrowed and then snapped back into their usual place. "Ivanokov?" he said quietly, hiding all excitement that sparked with the revelation. "But he will be on Dragon's side, indisputably." His eyes darkened, adding wrinkles to his features with a frown. "We don't have…"

"Ace."

The Marine froze, unable to breathe for the moment of shock and then as a conundrum of emotions attempted to overwhelm him. They would have succeeded in taking the man's reason if not for years of experience.

The boy we tried to kill…whose 'father' we killed… His face blanched, and he thought numbly that his expression could only help them if Dragon was watching. "No." he whispered, managing to keep his tone emotionless. "He won't help us."

"He will if he knows I'm alive…that I'm on this side." Luffy didn't look at Nami's face as it brightened and her eyes unfocused with thoughts. "He won't fight against me, there no way. See?" The pirate's breathing had quickened with his excitement and his expression had begun to revert into a mask unsuccessfully. "Ace will be on our side…and he probably has Whitebeard pirates with him. I think we also have a chance of having Iva-chan on our side. He's not a bad person. He wouldn't approve of this. It's too…big…it's too much change all at once…"

Hope began to form a light in the Marine's heart, but he shut it out callously, knowing well the nature of war and the unpredictable circumstances that could arise and twist the most loyal of Marines…Garp was one of them.

He flinched. Dragon was here instead of with his men…how long had it been like that? Does he not know who may be among his forces? Ace would be easily adopted if it was believed that Luffy was dead…his anger would legitimize his late addition…and then the Whitebeard pirates… but their anger would have manifested itself against the Marines. They were a significant threat, though their numbers would be small after the toll of the war. What if the boy were to betray the Marines? No…Garp's grandson didn't seem like the type… The thoughts stopped.

"Alright." His mouth twitched and he closed his eyes. "What are you planning on doing? How will you contact him?" His eyes opened. "I think you should make sure that your presence on our side is made known."

"Exactly."

"But how?"

Luffy frowned. "They'll see our flag."

"There are a lot of different symbols being flown on our side…an individual one is not as noticeable unlike Ace's which contrasts with the unbroken pattern of black. Then they don't know if you are alive or even for sure if what they see is really your ship…"

"Shanks is here. They'll notice him and there's no way they'll think that the Marines managed to get all of these different ships or have the time to fake them."

Sengoku's eyes moved to his right where the Yonkou's ship was positioned. He smiled grimly at the usefulness of the pirates. "Yes." His smile left. "But how will you make yourself known?"

Luffy looked at Ussop who froze, looking around to make sure someone more brave and useful wasn't behind him. Luffy smiled. "Ussop. Do you have anything….."

The Marine listened to the request and one of his men started at his odd expression of mild humor. Then the Marine heard part of the plan and frowned. The Den-Den Mushi clicked, leaving Sengoku with a smirk.

"They're crazy." One of his men commented, shaking his head. Sengoku mirrored him, but his expression was of a different nature, causing the other Marine to stop.

"I was often told the same thing before I was acknowledged as a strategist." He looked across the decks of multiple ships to try and see the Strawhat symbol. "Who knows? Maybe he's a genius in his own way… He's going to let all of them know where he stands."

Luffy sneezed, but ignored it as he helped Ussop carry the heavy wooden crate from below the deck, almost laughing when they opened it.

Ace glared at the ships, briefly considering where Ivanokov's ship might be among the identical battle ships that occupied both his right and his left. The Revolutionists had eagerly accepted him and the crew of Whitebeard pirates he had once led. Most of the other captains had not believed in fighting again so soon, believing in their individual ability to get their revenge at another time. They hadn't known Whitebeard in the same way he had…they hadn't known his little brother at all. Ace gritted his teeth, while the air around him crackled.

Luffy…you were supposed to become the Pirate King. What about your dream? Your promise? All of those IOU's you left behind promising to pay people back with your pirate treasure… His eyes burned, lacking tears as he could not find them… This only added to his frustration.

Suddenly a sharp shriek erupted from the sound of a cannon and a smoking object was expelled into the cloud darkened sky. Eyes attached themselves to it in confusion and apprehension.

"What kind of weapon is…it looks like a…" his eyes became bright, containing the light of the yellow, red, and white stars that erupted from the rocket. His eyes widened to let a few tears escape along the sides of his face as the obvious straw-hat wearing skull formed in the sky. Only one person could be capable of this. He followed the trail of smoke beneath it and gripped the rail on the side of the deck when he saw the teen that stood on the head of lion with a mane of sun.

"Luffy?" he gasped, and others ran to the side of the deck. Most of the ships around Ace were in the same state of confusion and hands gestured towards the ship and the young pirate. Joy began to subside and dismay took its place as the Whitebeard pirates realized what side Luffy was on. "Why, Luffy?" he whispered his eyes full of doubt. "What about Whitebeard? What about how the Marines tried to kill me? What are you doing?" his voice was rising and an arm grabbed him, trying to calm him down.

Ace shook his head, leaning from the hand. "Well, I'll just have to trust you for now…but you batter have a damn good reason, Luffy." He smiled unconscientiously at the name.

"What are going to do, Ace?" the owner of the hand inquired, looking at the ship on the Marine's side.

"Isn't it obvious?" He grinned darkly, eying the ships around them. "We fight the side my little brother isn't on."

Meanwhile Luffy was watching the firework with awe, a huge grin on his face as he knew Dragon would not be able to overlook it. He lifted his hands, laughing for a second. "So cool Ussop!" Then he looked at the ships, finding Ace's. He smiled as he thought he could see his brother among the shapes that lined most of the decks. "Well…here we go." He whispered and the stars fell above his head, dissipating in the air.