The last thing he remembers is war. Blood, screams, death. War. A war for him. His death as he smiled at Luffy. So why is it that now all he sees is blue. Tiny hands reaching for the blue skies. Tiny hands? His. His tiny hands? What happened?
His head feels like cotton. Is that normal? What is normal? He stands up and looks towards the river. He walks towards it, almost collapsing on the way. His reflection, a small face, small hands, a small him, a young him. What’s going on? Is this what afterlife is like? Spending the rest of the eternity reliving his memories?
That’s not right. How old is he now? What time is it? What year is it? Where is he? Where are Sabo and Luffy? He heads to where his feet are telling him is home. He heads to home only to find it gone. No, not gone, not here yet. The tree house isn’t here yet, it wasn’t built yet. Did he meet Sabo already? Or will he meet him soon? He wants to see them soon.
He heads to the bandit's hut. As usual, he ignores everyone and enters his room…their room… It was void of everything Sabo or Luffy. Is it okay to just ask somebody what year it is? Who cares if it’s okay. He walks to one of the bandits. “What time is it? How old am I?” The bandit looks at him as if he’s crazy and who knows, maybe he is. “It’s just past noon… You’re 8 years old. What’s wrong? Did you hit your head?” Ace stares at him. Soon. He shakes his head and walks to the forest. Soon he’ll meet them again.
The last thing he remembers is flames. Flames as high as the skies. Once again it was flames that burnt him, even though he became flame himself. The Mad Dog. He remembers the Dog. The Dog who bound him. And burned him like some witch on trial. He remembered the Revolution burning beside him. But it was too late, the people knew. They knew who was evil. And with this act, they’ll be sure.
The last thing he remembers is red, hot flames, yet all he sees now is white. White ceiling and pure white walls. Is this his afterlife? Spending the rest of eternity reliving the worst moments of his life in this room of his. This room so void of everything that is him or them.
He stands up and looks through the window. The city is still here. The people are still here and so is the Gray Terminal. When is now? When is this? He doesn’t know…
He has a journal. Right? He did have that, didn’t he? He rummaged the room to find the hidden treasure and lo and behold there it is. He took the bound journal in his hands and skimmed through it. So, I’m nine? I still haven’t met them? I want to meet them… Soon…
The last thing he remembers is reaching his dream, his friends reaching their dreams, they are all happy, but he is sad. His brothers aren’t with him. Neither are some of his friends. He’s sad. And they are happy. Is it wrong of him, that he isn’t rejoicing with them?
Is it wrong of him that he wishes he could go back to the good old days when it was all less complicated? When they were just three and always together… And so when he read the note he had to agree. He wasn’t happy, reaching his dream, not like this.
And when it said it could grant a wish, he said why not?
So now all he sees is the port of Fuusha Village. And he grins. And he’s happy. Is it wrong of him? He swears he will save his friends, but is it wrong of him to vow this life to his brothers? What’s the point of achieving something twice? He just wants them.
They patiently awaited their reunion, not knowing that each of them already remembered them.
Luffy wanted to go run to Ace, but he couldn’t, not before he meets with Shanks. Not before he promises he’ll become a great pirate, not the king, but a great pirate indeed. This life he’ll devote to his brothers. Was it wrong? He didn’t know, but he was Luffy. One lifetime he was already without them, so is it wrong to spend another one with just them?
His thoughts were interrupted as familiar ship docks near him. He’s happy. Of course, he is, it’s been a long time since he’s seen Shanks alive.
He tried to act the same as before. But when Higuma pushed and pushed and pushed, Luffy pushed back and as the Lord of the Coast jumped from the water, Higuma was gone. Luffy was happy again. If only Ace and Sabo had been here, he muses to himself and Shanks runs to him, worried about him. But Luffy laughs, he’s happy after all. This time Shanks didn’t sacrifice his hand, he didn’t have to and he was overjoyed.
When it was time for goodbyes, Luffy still cried, he still promised to become a great pirate and Shanks still gave him his hat. And as soon as he left, Luffy sprinted to the forest, his brothers the only thing in his mind. He can’t wait anymore, he was patient for long enough, but not anymore.
He ran to Ace, not really knowing he was running to the tree house which was still not there or rather it was not supposed to be there… When he arrived at their tree, he grinned, it was there. The house, the flag… Did Ace build it? Does he remember?
Luffy climbed up and found Ace sleeping. He smiled and approached him. He jumped on him like he did before and screamed his name. He couldn’t help the tears. Could you really blame him?
Ace startled awake and looked at his brother. His initial response was to kick him off and yell at him, but Luffy is here and he called his name. He remembers Ace. And Ace couldn’t help it, he embraced the crying ball that was Luffy and joined in with his own tears.
“You remember!” They both exclaimed.
They stayed in bed like that for a while, enjoying their closeness. But they knew they weren’t complete, they were still missing one more. Sabo.
And the two raced downstairs, holding each other’s hands, they ran through the forest and to the spot they knew Sabo can see from his window. They’ll wait for him there, no matter how long it takes. They remembered to take their flag with them and tied it to the tree they were on. And they were ready, all they needed now was wait for Sabo to come to them. And while they waited they trained. Luffy revealed to Ace that he hadn’t eaten the Gomu Gomu no Mi, but Shanks had given it to him as a gift. Ace, just like him, was unsure what to do. The Gomu Gomu no Mi wasn’t bad, at least not in Luffy’s hands, but if Luffy could find a stronger fruit? And become stronger just with that? They decided Luffy should wait and see if he should eat it or not…
It took less than a week for Sabo to come running to them, and the three were finally completed. They were finally together. They talked about what happened, about what they were through and about what they want to do.
They came to a mutual agreement that their consciences traveled from the future and that’s why they all remember most of the things. Strangely, Luffy couldn’t remember what happened on Raftel besides the wish he made.
They agreed to help out Luffy’s friends as he had done and agreed to travel the world together. Sabo and Luffy asked Ace about Whitebeard, but Ace smiled and told them that if it must be, it will be. And the three agreed, this time, they’ll go where the sea takes them.
It took them 2 years to finish all the preparation necessary for their departure. They mostly waited for Garp to leave Luffy to the bandits and finish what little training he gave them. They trained by themselves, Sabo and Luffy teaching Ace about haki and how to use it. Sabo taught them different things, general knowledge about everything. Ace helped with developing their muscles. All in all, the boys loved to train each and every day, unknown to others.
Their first stop was Conomi Islands where they defeated Arlong and his gang without getting caught by the villagers, they did, however, leave a hidden marking of “ASL”. After Conomi Islands they threatened Captain Morgan in Shells Town. The boys hid in the shadows and tormented the man until he cracked. He swore to be the best marine and to find a kid named Coby and send him with Helmeppo to Garp for training. Morgan also swore to investigate Kuro’s reported appearance on Gecko Islands near Syrup Village. They stole the marine’s snail to make a call.
"Yahoo! Senny!" A childish voice sounded through the protected Marine line. "Who is this?!" Sengoku growled while the voice gleefully chuckle. "I'm just someone who wants you to help a certain marine." Sengoku was quiet for a while before he asked who the boy was talking about. "Corazon, or should I say, Rosinante." A different voice answered him. "He's friends with a child we'd very much like to meet again, so I'd ask you to hurry with your saving party." Before Sengoku could reply, the line was dead. He immediately dialed Rosinante and called for backup. Sabo left the snail without its shell on the island and went to continue their plan.
They tried to find Alvida and Buggy, but unfortunately or fortunately, they don’t seem to be here yet. Fortunately, they did stumble upon Krieg who was traveling to the Grand Line. They beat the man up and forced him to realize that the Grand Line is impossible for him. Deciding it was impossible to help Zoro and Kuina, they left a note to Zoro to watch Kuina carefully especially when she’s going down the stairs. The note was like a threat, it was just so Zoro would take it seriously and be watchful.
Luffy wanted to go to Alabasta, but Sabo disagreed. The journey already took them almost half a year, they wasted too much time trying to find Alvida and Buggy. Luffy agreed to go back for now, but their first stop after they enter Grand Line is Alabasta.
Luffy is happy he gets to redo all the fun stuff with his brothers this time. Ace and Sabo agree with his sentiment.
When they arrived back on Dawn, they rushed back to the tree house. They were trying to stay as hidden as possible while Sabo’s father is still looking for him.
During their journey, their little boat got too scraped, so the trio was trying to decide what to do.
“We could see if another crew stops by and take over their ship?” Ace suggested.
“The idea isn’t too bad, but we’d have to somehow control the whole crew, after all, it’s impossible for us to maneuver the ship by ourselves,” Sabo replied in thought.
Luffy grinned at Sabo’s words. “We should just beat them up then they’ll listen to us!”
Both grinned at Luffy’s words and agreed.
It was a few weeks after they got home that Ace decided it was time for a talk. He turned to them and crossed his arms. “Our first stop once we get our ship is getting my Devil Fruit! Then Alabasta, and while we are traveling, I want us to go where Thatch found the Yami Yami no Mi… I’d rather one of you ate it than have that scum try to take it from someone’s corpse again.” Luffy and Sabo nodded solemnly. They were quiet for a while before Sabo spoke up. “I think Luffy should eat it.” He earned an “EH?!” from Luffy and a nod from Ace. “We both know there is no way you would use the fruit for anything evil. Besides, I already know which Devil Fruit I want. Hopefully, we’ll find it soon.” Sabo grinned at them and they grinned back. “Which one is it Sabo? Tell us, tell us!” Luffy chanted excitedly while Ace looked at him expectedly. “You know how my techniques are dragon-like? So, I want a zoan type Devil Fruit, Ryu Ryu no Mi, Model: Druk. It’s a Mythical Zoan Fruit, I’ve heard where it might be at, but I’m not sure…” Sabo trailed off.
“Druk?” Ace and Luffy asked in confusion.
“It’s the name of a Thunder Dragon said to exist a long time ago. He had the power to control the weather, but most records state it was only thunder as it encompassed his whole body.”
“That’s so cool!” Luffy squealed and Ace’s eyes had a fire in them. It’ll be so much better once all three of them get their Devil Fruits.
….TIMESKIP 1 YEAR….(12 and 9 yo)
Finally, a ship docked at the island and they were pirates thankfully. They docked in secret by the forest, which actually worked the best for the boys since no one could see them.
Ace and Sabo took to put the crew out of commission while Luffy took out the Captain.
“Listen up, from now on, you listen to us. You get us to Grand Line and we’ll let you go in one piece.” Ace threatened the crew, and it worked effectively, especially since they saw his monstrous strength and felt it in person.
And just like that, the boys once again took to the sea. Thankfully Garp wasn’t anywhere near the island or he would kill them, after all, they aren’t planning to come back anytime soon.
Finding Ace’s fruit was easy. Since he already once found it, it was a piece of cake to get it again. Luffy’s took a lot more time, but since Ace knew the island where Thatch had found it in a cave, it only took a three-day search to find it. Sabo, however, was still unlucky. There was no one who could give him any more information aside from what he already knew. His search was rounded to Skypiea, Sabaody, and Drum. The islands shared no similarities however the information lead to them and at least two of them are on Luffy’s Must Save list.
Ace and Luffy trained daily with Sabo, testing out their powers against haki. Ace found his power was like a part of him, sharing his past memories, there was no problem for him to control it. Luffy, on the other hand, was having a worse time. He could use the powers but the difference in his past battle style and this one are too great. Ace is convinced Luffy will only learn how to use his powers through combat which is why they trained nonstop.
Taking out Crocodile this time was surprisingly easier, all Luffy had to do was touch him and the man couldn’t use his Fruit’s powers. Sabo left a note for Robin, telling her to give up on a life of crime and evil. The note couldn’t do the same thing that Luffy did for her, but they are trying their best. Luffy left her a PS that only she’ll know what it said. Hopefully, it’s enough for her to once again scream she wants to live.
Alabasta hadn’t fallen so deep into the clutches of the former Warlord so this time the recovery will be much quicker.
The trio decided to rest a bit. Sabo asked around for information while Ace and Luffy ate the whole restaurant. “You, brats.” A gruff voice sounded behind them. Ace and Luffy both looked at the man immediately, recognizing him as Smoker, they yelled “Smokey!” Of course, due to the food in their mouths, it sounded just like gibberish. The man’s eye twitched as if he understood the nickname they butchered with the food. “I got reports of people seeing you near the place where Crocodile was found. You wouldn’t happen to know anything about that, would you?” He puffed at them and waited.
Ace slammed another piece of meat in Luffy’s mouth so the idiot didn’t try to say anything. “Well, we didn’t do anything.”
“I know that. You’re kids, it’s impossible for you to take him out.” He glared at Ace whose words were telling him ‘Are you stupid.’
Now it was Ace’s turn to glare at the man but before he could say anything, Sabo came back and shoved some food into Ace’s mouth, giving him the same treatment he gave to Luffy.
“You’ll have to excuse my brothers, they are a bit playful. But as he already told you, we didn’t do anything nor did we see anything.” Sabo smiled tightly at the man and pulled his brothers to leave. They left a bag of stolen cash on the table to pay for the food and left in a hurry.
“Why are you in such a hurry Sabo?” Ace asked.
“I have great news!” Sabo cheered. “I’m pretty sure I know where my Devil Fruit is!” As he exclaimed this, his brothers jumped on him and cheered as well.
“Sabo, ne, Sabo, where is it?” Luffy asked curiously.
The fight with Enel proved to be even less satisfying than Crocodile. Sabo, equipped with only a pipe and his usage of haki managed to beat the man black and blue. The adventure, however, was not for naught.
The gardens of Enel, filled with different kinds of fruits, revealed one strangely different one. The information Sabo gathered told him it was most likely to find the fruit in its own zone, so what’s better than going to the place with the most thunder activity aside from the storms?
The fruit was unexpectedly at the far end of the garden. Had Enel not seen it? Or had he ignored it as something unnecessary for a god like himself? Either way, it turned out for the best for them. Sabo ate the fruit and decided to test it out while they were on Sky Island. After all, is there a better time than now to learn how to fly?
Sabo’s tries at flying were all unsuccessful until his genius older brother decided to leap off the Island with Luffy in tow. Perhaps it was the most successful method. All it took him was less than a second of seeing them falling and he was already by their side.
Luffy and Ace gripped onto the dark blue mane and held on. Sabo’s dragon form was clear black with thunder encompassing all of his body. The mane faded from black to dark blue to white, some dark purple mixing in it. Its serpent-like body moved like a wave in the sea.
As they landed on an unknown Island, Sabo couldn’t help but smack Ace for his stupid ideas.
“What if I hadn’t managed to change in time?!” Sabo yelled, worry clear in his eyes.
“But you did.” Ace grinned at him. Sabo couldn’t help the sigh that fell from his lips. He collapsed on the sand next to his brothers. “I knew you’d never let us fall.” Ace put one of his hands around Sabo’s shoulders and grinned proudly. Luffy hugged Sabo’s other side with a face-splitting smile.
“We trusted you!” Luffy added and Sabo smiled warmly at the trust the two showed. “Idiots.” He muttered as he hugged them both back.
Along with their path to nowhere exactly, they defeated Gekko Moriah and reunited Laboon with Brook. There was no way for them to save Franky’s father Tom, but they did leave a message to be wary of Galley-La.
With this, they finally saved all the Straw Hats from their terrible futures and Luffy was finally feeling a little less guilty.
As the trio rested on a peaceful island under Whitebeards flag, they saw a familiar face. Jinbe in all his glory was heading to them with an enraged look on his face. And Ace was not having any of it. He stood up and pointed at Jinbe. “No!” He turned to Sabo and Luffy, “I am not ready for this, I told you this might happen!” Ace bitched at the duo that was picking their noses in response.
Jinbe, now confused, still continued his stride towards them. “Are you one of the pirates who attacked the village on this island?” Before Jinbe could even finish his sentence, Ace was already crossing his arms in negative while shaking his head. Sabo and Luffy were dying of laughter at Ace’s expense. Jinbe, now slightly amused, and even more confused, continued. “Whitebeard will be here shortly, you should leave soon if you don’t want to get caught up in this mess.” He told them and turned away.
Luffy and Sabo reassured Ace they won’t force him to face up to his family who no longer know who he is, and who is now very much alive.
It took less than four hours for Whitebeard to arrive at the island. Sure, the island was not the same as the last one Ace met them at, but for them to arrive that fast? Were their actions changing the future? Or was it that them being here is purely accidental? Sabo shook the questions from his head as he saw Moby Dick dock at the island. It was less than twenty minutes later that the Whitebeards dealt with the intruding pirates on their island.
Sabo couldn’t shake off the feeling of being watched as he walked back to where his brothers were.
Sabo confessed the feeling of being watched to Luffy and Ace. Ace confirmed his fear, he felt the stares too. Luffy, however, hadn’t felt anything like that. So, if Luffy wasn’t being watched, there was only one thing left to do.
Luffy trotted down the streets of the small island, making his way to the docks, further away from Moby Dick. But as soon as he touched the wooden deck of the docks, Luffy felt the stares. Is this what Ace and Sabo were talking about? He wondered as he continued his stride to the small boat the trio travel on. It was then that he felt Sabo yell something from within him. Flag? What about the Flag? OH! Oopsie, I forgot to take it down! Luffy giggled to himself as he remembered the ASL pirate flag still on their boat.
Before he could step into the boat, a hand is placed on his shoulder and he froze. The hand on his shoulder tightened and a familiar voice sounded from behind him. "Is that your boat yoi?" The voice he knew as Marco told him he was angry for whatever reason. Luffy turned to see Thatch and Marco glaring at him. "Is that your flag?" Thatch continued the interrogation. Luffy stared for a bit, unsure of what was going on, but he knew from the feeling he was getting from his brothers that it was nothing good. "It's my fishing boat," Luffy replied innocently. "What about the flag on it yoi?" Marco asked. "I put it there for protection. This way, nobody would dare to steal my boat!"
His cheerful words brought a grim expression on the faces of the two Whitebeard pirates. "Do you know whose flag you're flying?! That's the flag of the ASL Pirates, the ones notorious for bringing down countries, dooming the islands they visited!" Thatch yelled. Luffy felt his brothers stirring and he knew they felt as betrayed as he did. His eyes fell from the angry faces of the two pirates and he couldn't help wanting to laugh. Is this the price for his choices to leave his previous friends, family, for his brothers? Is this what it'll cost them? Isolation from everyone they knew? "You don't know anything..." Luffy muttered. He raised his head, anger, and grief evident on his face. "YOU DON'T KNOW ANYTHING!" His words were as unexpected and loud as thunder in the pirate's ears.
The two were shocked at the outburst of the young child. All they wanted was to warn him of the flag he was flying in his presumed ignorance, but the kid was suddenly beyond pissed at them. Thatch put his hands in a calming manner, but the child's face didn't change. "Hey, hey, calm down!" Thatch began, but Luffy was having none of it. Luffy turned to his boat, his hand facing it and spoke quietly before the boat seemingly sank into the dark depths of the water.
Luffy's glare once again turned to the two and he pushed past them, back to the town. Once he's away from them, he will talk to his brothers and leave the island.
He didn't turn back to see Marco hit Thatch and Thatch apologizing. He did speed up though. As soon as he was sure he was far away from them, Ace and Sabo rose from his shadow, both concerned and sad. Ace hugged him and wiped his tears. Sabo joined in the hug. After a while, Luffy finally calmed down and muttered. "I'm sorry, Ace... Because of me, your family hates us." Ace didn't falter as he expected this. "It wasn't your fault, besides if they are anything like I remember them to be, then they'll love us as soon as they get to know us." Ace tightened his grip on his sobbing brother. They were expecting him to fall apart at some point. Constant nightmares of their deaths plagued his mind and the guilt of not forming the Strawhats was immense, he was still afraid that by doing it like this, some of his previous friends might die and he couldn't help them. That's why it was up to Ace and Sabo to pick up the pieces of their little brother and show him that his actions only changed the world for the better. Nami has her mother and her sister beside her, Usopp's father returns home from time to time, Zoro still has Kuina, Sanji will always have Baratie and his father figure. Chopper still has Hiluluk and Doctorine by his side. Brook was reunited with Laboon. Franky, after their warning, got closer to Iceberg and the Franky Family. Robin traveled the world, living, not in fear of CP. She found happiness in the Revolution. And isn't that everything he wanted for them, for them to be alive and happy? So what's wrong if Luffy wanted to be selfish? "They're just confused. Who knows what the newspaper has written about us..." Sabo continued comforting their brother. "And after we're done with our plans, we can go meet them and explain everything. You know them and so does Ace, do you really think they'll be mad?" Luffy shook his head in negative which garnered him smiles from his brothers.
The trio broke up the hug and went to a shallow end of the island. Luffy returned the little boat to the water and they entered it. As they set sail, they saw a brilliant blue bird soaring in the skies. It cooed as if it was bidding them goodbye. Ace looked at it and smiled before using his powers to speed off with the boat.
They didn't see the Whitebeards for a whole year after that. The brothers were busy finishing their plans to help as many of their friends as they could. They helped Ace's previous crew, the Spades and some of the Revolutionaries.
With this were they done? At the ages of 17 and 14, they finally finished everything they wanted to.
They had no specific place to go to next, so what now?
They were resting in the amusement park of Sabaody. It's been 5 and a half years since they decided to put their carefully put together plan in motion. Now they were done. Should they just sail the seas with just their flag then? But they were so tired, so tired of the nightmares of burning flesh and dead bodies. Wasn't it okay for them to just sleep? No more nightmares... Just sleep...
The trio stumbled back to the little ship they had. They collapsed on the deck as relief flooded them when they realized they were done. Now they can rest. Ace fell asleep first, due to his narcoleptic nature. Luffy and Sabo snuggled up to him immediately. And that was how the Whitebeards found them for the second time. Marco landed quietly on the deck, watching the three. His watchful gaze stirred the youngest of the three awake. Luffy hadn't had a proper night's sleep after Ace's death, even the smallest changes in the environment could wake him up. He opened his eyes slowly, his mind still drowsy from sleep. He saw Marco in front of him and smiled. After all, it was Marco. His head fell back as his eyes closed once again and Marco stiffened at the familiarity he saw in those black orbs and the trust the boy just showed to somebody he didn't know...
The brothers slept and slept. They slept for two days straight and Marco who was visiting them to talk to them had to involve his ship’s doctors. The doctors explained it as a self-induced coma, but Marco thought the truth was a bit different...
It took another five days before one of the trios opened their eyes. As Ace woke up, he felt alarmed immediately. He wanted to move, but there were constraints on him forbidding him to move. His brain was still asleep but he saw his brothers in the same condition. Were they kidnapped, drugged?! Ace panicked and his flames were brought to life. The flames engulfed the whole room, burning off the restraints and chasing off the doctors Ace didn't even know were there. He stumbled to his feet and walked to Luffy's bed next to him. His fire coating his brothers as a gentle coat, he knew they were breathing, but they weren't moving!
Ace begged them to wake up, his mind was slowly coming back to him, but he didn't care about anything else besides his brothers who were finally stirring. He heard yelling from outside. He had to hurry and wake them up... He picked up both his brothers and kicked down the door. As fresh air embraced him, he spread his fire to keep the voices away. As a particularly loud voice boomed for silence, Ace collapsed to his knees, clutching his head. Sabo was slowly opening his eyes while he too, held his head. It hurt. It hurt so much. Why did it hurt? What were they doing? Where was this? Ace couldn't calm his panic as his fire spread. Sabo groaned before slapping a hand on Ace's face. "Staph." His words were slurred, but Ace understood them. He called back his flames to a small circle around them. Luffy was still asleep next to them.
"Ace, honey, how about you calm down and come back to the world of rational thinking." Sabo teased him as he too tried to wake up completely. What was wrong with them? They heard footsteps approach them and without his knowledge, Ace's fire flared higher. But that didn't stop the footsteps. Ace and Sabo soon faced Marco entering the fire circle and Sabo couldn't help laughing. "Really? Ace are you trying to recreate the past?" He laughed as Ace was starting to realize just where they were. "Oh go fuck yourself 'Bo." Sabo’s laugh simmered to chuckles but it didn’t disappear as Ace’s face burned bright red.
Ace shifted so he could bury his head in his knees. “Please tell me this isn’t happening… I’m not ready!” Ace muttered quietly and Sabo laughed harder. “You had your whole life to prepare and still you are too shy to do it!” He whisper-shouted to his brother’s ear. Ace pushed him away and Sabo once again laid on his back laughing at Ace.
“You three okay yoi?” Marco finally spoke up and Ace cursed. How does one go about acting to one’s family who aren't aware they are family? Sabo, noticing his brother froze, answered. “Well, we’ve been better, but we’ve also had worse, so I guess the answer is yes.” Sabo stood up and lifted Luffy on his back. He kicked Ace who finally decided to come back to the world of the living. “So, mind telling us what’s going on?” Sabo’s kind smile sent shivers through some of the Whitebeard pirates.
Marco watched the three boys with lazy eyes, but if you knew him, you could tell there’s a spark of interest in those eyes. “We saw you on Sabaody and I followed you to your ship only to see you three collapse and not wake up for a whole week.” Marco’s explanation was as simplified as it gets, but it does the job.
Sabo’s face changed from indifference to worry as he realized what that meant and what it means that Luffy is still asleep. Sabo maneuvered the young teen into his hands and looked at him. “Hey, baby brother, wanna wake up for dear little Acey and ‘Bo?” Sabo cooed to the teen. Luffy stirred and Sabo leaned in to whisper something in his ear. Luffy immediately jumped from his arms, awake and yelling: “MEAT!” Sabo and Ace shook their heads. “Some things never change.” They muttered.
Sabo looked back at Marco and asked him why they were on the ship. Marco looked at him like they were crazy for even asking. “There’s no way we could leave you there!” Thatch yelled as he pushed from the crowd. Sabo tilted his head in question. “I’ve got the impression that the Whitebeard Pirates hate the ASL Pirates, so why, pray tell, couldn’t you leave us there?” His question brought silence to the ship before the surrounding pirates laughed. Thatch looked a bit ashamed and Marco was still the same. “There’s no way we’d hate someone who helped so many people yoi.” Now it was Sabo’s turn to be confused. “But you were angry at me for having the ASL flag on my boat!” Luffy argued. Thatch shook his head slightly. “I was worried what would the Marines do to a young child under that flag, in case you don’t know they absolutely hate you. Besides, there was no way I’d guess somebody as young as you would be one of the notorious ASL Pirates.” Thatch’s face was obviously saddened at recalling the memory. Luffy, however, laughed. “So that’s what it was! I knew you guys couldn’t be bad, right, Ace?” He turned to his older brother whose face told him he was considering jumping overboard. “R-right, Lu.” Ace decided he should just look at his brothers, otherwise, he couldn’t control how his face looked like.
“Now then, I guess introductions are in order.” A new voice joined them. It was Izo who was walking towards them with a smile. “I’m Izo, the Sixteenth Division Commander of the Whitebeard Pirates.” He nodded at the boys. “I’m Marco, First Division Commander yoi.” Marco spoke next. After him, it was Thatch, Haruta, Vista and the rest of the crew on deck. Of course, there was no need for them to introduce themselves as the trio already knew almost all of them. The last one to introduce himself was Whitebeard. “I am Edward Newgate, The Captain of the Whitebeard Pirates, Whitebeard!” His voice carried to their ears easily. “And you brats?”
Ace lifted his gaze to Whitebeard and answered while trying to keep the smile to a minimum. “I’m Portgas D. Ace, these are my brothers.” As he motioned to Sabo and Luffy, they continued the introductions. “I’m Sabo.” “And I’m Monkey D. Luffy!” Luffy finished with a cheer.
“So I’m guessing ASL is Ace, Sabo, and Luffy?” They nodded to Thatch’s question. “So, ASL, how do you feel about joining the Whitebeard Pirates?” This time there was no stopping any of the grins on the boys’ faces as they replied: “We’ll think about it.” But with those smiles, there was no one in the crowd who was deterred.
A month passed and Ace finally felt as if nothing had changed between him and his family. But he should have known there was no way good things happen to them easily.
It was when Teach returned from a mission that the trio pulled back from the family. What were they going to do? It’s very unlikely that the Whitebeards would trust them if they told them Teach was evil. And there was no telling if they would believe their stories, after all, to them, they just joined the crew and Teach was with them for far longer.
“Then let’s just kill him.” Ace jelled angrily.
“So you want the Whitebeards to hate you? To treat you how they treated that bastard, as a betrayer and a family killer?” Sabo’s piercing words quelled Ace’s anger for a while. But it wasn’t Ace Sabo was worried about. It was Luffy, the one who had lived through Ace and Sabo dying because of Blackbeard’s actions. Who knows what was going through his head.
During lunch, Teach approached the trio to greet them and their reaction was unexpected to the crew. Luffy, the child who was normally happy and cheerful, who accepted everyone on the crew suddenly glared at Teach and sat in Ace’s lap, his head under Ace’s. And Ace? Ace should have yelled at him, embarrassed by his actions, but no, he looked at Luffy like he understood and he hugged the boy closer, leaning his chin on the boy's head. Sabo watched Teach with sharp eyes and greeted back. “You’ll have to excuse my brothers, they’re a bit allergic to backstabbers.” Sabo’s reply had the whole ship frozen. The trio stood and left the galley. If looks could kill, Teach would be long dead. If only. On the way out, those who could get a glance of Luffy’s face would have seen the unspeakable anger and grief mixed in one expression as tears rolled down his cheek into his brother’s neck.
The Whitebeards were unsure of how to approach the trio after that. It was as if they closed themselves off, well it wasn’t as if. Ace’s fire was constantly keeping the rest of the crew from approaching them. It was after three days that the boys’ Den Den Mushi rang and despite the crew wanting to give the boys space, they were interested in the call.
Sabo answered the call and as soon as he did, an angry was heard on the other side, an angry, but a very familiar voice. “Where are you, boys?! Do you know how hard Grandpa had to search to find your number? How dare you run off without my consent! And it’s been what, five years without any contact?!” The angry man screamed, not leaving much room for answers.
“But Gramps, we did contact you! We sent you gifts from each island we’ve been to!” Luffy answered cheerfully.
“You didn’t call! Do you know how worried I was?” The man trailed off sadly. The trio looked guilty before they started teasing the man for showing his emotions. The man got angry and the trio just laughed at him.
“So, what did you want to tell us that you had to look for our number frantically?” Sabo asked.
“There’s trouble at Dawn Island… Sabo, your father has been trying to get a Celestial to visit so he would get his help in getting you back… Seems like the man is convinced you are still at the island and he’ll stop at nothing to find you…” The man said somberly and there was silence before the trio exclaimed: “What?!”
The trio walked up to Whitebeard who was speaking with Marco and a few of his commanders. They immediately garnered the attention of the older pirates.
Sabo cleared his throat before he spoke up. “We have to leave.”
“Why yoi?” Marco immediately asked. Sure, there was some tension between the boys and the crew after the Teach incident, but Marco didn’t think they would ever leave them. Before Teach, the trio was happy staying with them.
“We need to go and take care of something…” Ace said, meeting Marco’s gaze. There was a strong, stubborn fire burning there.
“You don’t need to leave, we can help you!” Vista cut in before Marco could say anything.
“No, this is our fault, so we have to fix it ourselves.” Ace answered with a little shake of his head.
Luffy grinned at the worried faces of the pirates. “Don’t worry! Everything’s gonna be fine! We’ll be back before you know it.” His words brought back the smiles onto the pirates’ faces.
It has already been a week and a half since the trio had left the ship to take care of some business. During that time, Thatch was sent on a mission.
The mission lasted a week and Thatch was supposed to come back home any minute now. There was a feast already awaiting Thatch and the rest of the crew with him.
When he arrived with a box in tow, Teach had his eyes on him and some of the crew noticed his gaze. Inside the box was a black fruit, the one Teach has been looking for, for years. Marco noticed the dark gaze the man was pointing at Thatch and immediately knew that whatever was wrong between ASL and Teach, it starts with this fruit.
Thatch requested a talk with Pops and a few of the Commanders. Nobody had any ideas why, but they complied. The party started as the Commanders talked with the Captain.
Inside the conference room, Thatch gave Whitebeard a note. “This is the note that was with the fruit.”
“Once a son’s eyes lay upon the black pearl of death,
The dark shroud of death falls on ye who dares to take me.
Take head young chef, the blades you wield are as sharp as death,
Once sharp and pure, now bright and dull with the marrow of your life.”
Marco’s eyes widened as he understood the meaning of the note. “The son is one of us. The black pearl of death is that Devil Fruit in the box, right? So then the chef is you Thatch yoi.”
Thatch nodded grimly. “I thought all about it on the way back. It seems like one of us is going to betray us and kill me for this Fruit.”
“The question is who?” Vista asked.
“Isn’t it obvious yoi?” Marco said, catching Whitebeards gaze and he knew they were both thinking of the same grim possibility.
Thatch was trying to keep his nerves at bay as he continued with the plan they had. It was dark outside and Thatch retreated to his chambers, feeling eyes follow his every move. As he entered the room, there was a knock on his door. He stilled at the sound but forced himself to relax and act natural. His trusty blades were by his side, waiting for anything wrong, besides, he wasn’t alone. He opened the door and faked being surprised at the face on the other side of it.
“What’s wrong Teach?” Thatch asked his …brother…
“I wanted to talk to you brother.” Teach answered.
“It’s a bit late for a talk, no?” Thatch smiled, shivering on the inside as he saw the strange glint in his ‘brother’s’ eyes.
“It was something that was on my mind the whole day.” He spoke with a dirty grin. “You know that fruit you found today? Would you mind showing it to me? I wanted to confirm something.” His act and his words were convincing, there was nothing incriminating on the man beside the crazy glint in his eyes.
“Sure.” As soon as Thatch turned his back, he was dreading the possibility of Teach actually stabbing him. But he decided to trust his brothers. He opened the cabin and before he could turn around, there was a gunshot.
“The question is who?” Vista asked.
“Isn’t it obvious yoi?” Marco said, catching Whitebeards gaze and he knew they were both thinking of the same grim possibility. The rest of the Commanders looked at Marco with questioning gazes.
“I think there’s a good possibility it might be Teach, yoi.” Before anyone could say anything he quickly added. “I don’t want to doubt family, but you all saw the ASL with him. After that, I kept my eyes on him, and there were times when he looked downright evil and dark, but it was never aimed at any of our family, so what could I do yoi?” It was obvious by his behavior that he was really stressed out by what was going on. “At least it wasn’t pointed at any of us until you came back with that fruit Thatch. When you opened the box, you should have seen his face. There was no way he isn’t planning on doing anything. He wants in and he’ll try and take it by force. If that note is right, then he’ll even kill Thatch for it yoi.”
The rest of the room was quiet as they mulled over the information. Sure, there were times when Teach seemed weird, but it was never on the level of killing one of their family.
“So what do you propose we do, son?” Whitebeard asked, there was obvious sadness in his old eyes.
“We wait for him to make a move yoi.” Marco responded. “If I’m wrong, then that’s that yoi.”
“So what should I do?” Thatch asked.
“Just trust us.” Marco said as he nodded to Izo.
Thatch turned around as soon as he heard the sound and he saw Teach standing a few inches behind him, a knife in his hand, raised to strike. Teach brought his other hand to his chest as he gripped the bullet wound. The wound was mere millimeters away from his heart, if he survives this, it would be a thing to see.
Teach collapsed to the floor and Thatch was there with him, trembling with the realization that Marco was right.
Izo and Marco entered the room in a rush, the rest of the room piling up to see what was going on. Soon the whole ship was brought up to the news and as dawn broke, the Whitebeards were devastated of what had happened. It was then that a Marine ship was spotted approaching them.
“It’s Garp, Pops, yoi.” Marco reported as he recognized the ship.
“Let him approach.” Pops answered, still saddened by the events.
As Garp’s ship docked next to theirs, there was an obvious lack of Marines on it and an even more obvious lack of Garp. There was, however, a blur of a person jumping aboard. The Whitebeards were prepared for a fight, but as soon as the figure landed on the ship, it was joined by two more. Ace, Sabo, and Luffy smiled at them and before the Whitebeards could respond to their sudden appearance, there was finally movement and yelling from Garp’s ship and in the next second, Garp was also on their deck, punching the trio on their heads.
Marco and the crew immediately moved to intercept, but the trio dodged the man as if it became a habit.
“Thanks for the ride Old Man, you can go back now.” Ace told the old Marine with a familiar grin on his face.
“Yeah, yeah!” Sabo and Luffy childishly hid behind Marco and cheered Ace on. Ace rolled his eyes at his brothers and for his second of not paying attention, he received a “Fist of Love.” Ace held onto his head whining as his brothers rolled on the floor laughing at him. Garp approached the two fallen over teens and yelled at them: “Don’t think you are getting out of it either!” And before he could finish his threat, Sabo and Luffy were hiding behind Marco again, poking their tongues out at the Marine.
Garp glared at Marco, and Marco glared back. “Out of my way, Phoenix. I have to teach these kids of mine how they should treat their Grandpa!” There was a loud exclamation of surprise as the pirates realized what Garp was saying.
Luffy, ignoring Garp, asked Marco: “Did you miss us? We came back as soon as we could! Our ship broke down, so Gramps gave us a ride! Did anything happen while we were gone?” His questions brought silence on the ship again as the crew remembered the still fresh betrayal.
“You better sit down, this will be long, yoi.” Marco said, his face pinched with pain.
Garp left as he received a call from the marines, requesting his help.
After Garp left, the Whitebeards had a party for the ASL’s return and for Thatch’s well being.
It was during the party that Thatch and Marco, who were sitting near the trio, decided to ask the question on their minds. “So how did you know Teach was a backstabber?” The trio froze for a while before shrugging. “He just looked like that…” Ace explained.
“And what about the note you left with the "fruit" Thatch found?” Marco asked.
“What note, what fruit?” The trio asked in unison.
Thatch quickly went to grab the note and the box to show the trio so they couldn’t play dumb, but he couldn’t find it!
“Where is it?! I can’t find it anywhere!” Thatch yelled as he ran back to Marco and the two saw the conspiratory smiles on the ASL’s faces.
Thatch pointed at them and yelled: “You! You took it!”
The trio tilted their heads to the side and asked confusedly: “What did we take?”
Thatch groaned and Marco couldn’t help laughing at him too, but he did catch Ace’s gaze who lifted his finger in the ‘shush’ action and winked. And Marco knew that they somehow knew what was going to happen and they left the note there to prevent it, he knew that the trio was hiding more secrets, but there was no rush in pushing them to tell him, after all, they are family now, they had all the time in the world, on this sea, on this ship of theirs, with his family by his side… He did wonder, however, how long it took to make the "fruit" which was carved out of wood. How old were they when they set the plan in motion?
Marco shook his head in resignation, his life is going to become much more interesting from now on. But he wouldn't have it any other way.