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The alarm sounded and she cursed. Shit. What the hell was going on? Her partner surely hadn’t been discovered. They’d gone over the plan meticulously. They knew how to get in, get what they wanted, and get out. Alarm bells and Marines rushing all over the place was not part of the plan. Thunderous footfalls echoed down the halls, but thankfully no one opened the door.

“Damn it,” Ashina cursed. She knew she only had minutes now before she too was discovered.

She closed the drawer she had been rummaging through and opened the next. She just needed a few more seconds to find the documents. They had to be in this room. Flipping through papers quickly, they already knew intruders were here, what did it matter now if she made a mess of things, she yanked the ones she wanted from the bottom of the stack with a triumphant noise.

The door banged open and in charged three Marines. “Stay where you are! Don’t move!”

“Well boys, that’s no fun at all, is it?”

Ashina smirked and rolled the papers up before slipping them into the leather pouch at her hip. She did a backflip away from them before launching herself out the window behind her.

The whole town square around the Marine center was a flurry of motion. Townsfolk and Marines running around and shouting.

“Grab her! Don’t let her get away!”

“You boys really are no fun!” she shouted back, looking up at them staring down from the broken window before taking off for her exit route.

A hoard of Marines coming from the other way redirected her down a different road. “Fuck. This mission turned into a shit storm.”

She was running away from the docks. Doubling back was her only option. A huge explosion sounded and smoke began to rise to her left. Explosions were definitely not part of the plan.

Barely dodging the hand that reached for her, she swung herself to the left, kicking off the next Marine who reached for her, and sprinted down the road. She skittered to a stop in the town market. They’d cornered her. Fuck it all.

She withdrew her sword, slender and just long enough for her slight frame, and prepared herself for attach. No one ever expected her fighting style, a strange combination of swordsmanship and mixed martial arts. The powerful blows were even more shocking to her enemies. Several men hesitated after the first one fell.

“Oh, come on boys. I’m just a girl,” she teased. “The big bad Marines aren’t scared of a little girl, are they?”

One shouted, making several brave buddies join in and charge. The group fell easily, but then more closed in.

“Hiken!”

The blast of fire blazed past her with a furious wave of heat. Marines screamed and the ones left standing around her hesitated. She whirled around as heavy boots hit the ground behind her.

Fire Fist. Huh. This was not part of the plan.

“Are you the one that sounded the alarm?” she snarled.

Ace shrugged. “Looks like you’re in a bit of a pinch. What’s say I make it up to you?”

Ashina didn’t need his help. She could get herself off of the island by herself if she had to, but she wouldn’t turn down his assistance. If he charred a few marines, then that was a few less she had to take down.

“Let’s get the hell out of here,” she said.

Ace grunted in response and about faced, putting his back to hers. “Docks?”

“To the docks.”

“Hiken!” Ace blazed a path through the circle of marines and then grabbed her free hand. “Come on!”

Ashina almost lost her footing as he yanked her along. He dropped her hand once she was running beside him and laughed.

“Marines are always so slow,” he panted between breaths.

They took a hard right, having been cut off again, and Ashina swore. “They sure know how to fuck up an escape.”

Ace just laughed. “This way.”

He kicked off the wall, catapulting himself down another street, and Ashina followed. The marines were still shouting behind them.

The docks were close. The cobblestone streets widened and the buildings grew scarcer. She wasn’t sure when or how, but Ace had her hand again and he pulled her alongside him as they ran to the docks. There was no doubt that the large ship with the flaming spade jolly roger was his. Several men were standing near the gangplank.

“Go! Set sail!” Ace ordered, waving his free arm.

“Don’t let them get away!”

The sound of gunfire made them both duck. Ashina’s eyes widened as the ship began to pull away from the dock. His crew worked quick.

Too quick. They wouldn’t make it in time, before it was too far out. A wave of marines curved in and cut them off again.

“Damn,” she swore, preparing for a fight as Ace let go of her hand. The marines surrounded them, guns drawn and aimed.

“Fire!” the lead marine yelled at the same time as Ace roared, “Kyokaen!”

The wall of flames that surrounded them blocked the bullets from reaching them. The ping of the ball hitting the stones could barely be heard above the roar of the flames and the gunfire.

“Now!” Ace shouted, dropping the wall and blasting a path through the marines. They ran to the dock where the ship was now several yards out into sea.

“It’s too far out!”

Ace found her hand again and in the next instant Ashina found herself slung onto his back. “Hold on!”

She barely had time to comprehend what he said before he launched himself off the end of the dock and into the air.

Ashina had to give herself credit, she didn’t scream, but her arms and legs wrapped tightly around his torso. She could feel the sensation of him kicking off, like he pushed off an invisible stair, and launched them further out. His legs pumped under him and the deck of the ship drew nearer.

They landed in an ungraceful roll of tangled limbs, Ashina’s curses, and Ace’s laughter. Ashina sat up, brushing strands of hair out of her eyes as footsteps approached.

“Who’s the pretty lady, Captain?” someone asked. Ashina noticed he a white cowboy hat.

“Huh? Oh… uh. What’s your name?” Ace asked.

Ashina started to stand and Ace scrambled to his feet and helped her up.

“My name is Ashina.”

“I’m -”

“Fire Fist Ace. I know who you are, Flame Boy. You ruined my mission.” Ashina turned away and strode down the deck as far away from the Spade pirates as possible.

Pulling out the transponder snail she sighed. “K?”

“A? You get out?”

“Yeah. You?” She asked, eyes scanning the horizon.

“Yeah. I waited as long as I could.”

Ashina sighed. “I know. It’s cool. I ran into some trouble I’m off the island. Mission complete, sort of.”

K giggled on the other end. “Hell of an exit. We saw from the bay. So much for in and out without being discovered.”

“Huh. Don’t even K.” Ashina rolled her eyes, even if the other woman couldn’t see her.

“Where are you?” K asked.

“The Piece of Spadille with the Spade Pirates.”

There was a moment of silence before K spoke again. “Huh, Fire Fist. Nice. So that’s who sounded the alarm.”

“K.” Ashina sighed when her friend didn’t answer. “K! Stop daydreaming.” she shouted into the mic. “Plan?”

“Oh. Hold on.” The snail was silent for a moment, no doubt K was talking with someone at their base, before K’s voice came back over the line. “Stick with them. Stay in touch. We’ll rendezvous at another island later.”

“Yo!” she yelled, catching Ace’s attention across the deck. “Where you are going next?”.

Ace eyed her suspiciously but then answered. “Sabaody is the end goal for now.”

“You catch that?”

“Yep. Boss says hang tight. We’ll contact you. Bye A.”

Ashina slipped the little snail back into her pouch and sighed. “Great,” she muttered, before sliding down the side of the ship to sit on the deck.

.

.

.

They fed her. They left her to her own self. They watched her and she watched them.

She was as unsure of them as they were of her. Exhaustion was making her eyes heavy, but among the unfamiliar men she didn’t dare close her eyes.

Footsteps made her snap them open. Damn it. She’d drifted off to the gentle sway of the ship.

Black boots were in front of her. She dragged her eyes up the tall figure of Portgas D Ace and met his eyes. They were gunmetal gray in the darkness of the late evening.

“You can stay in the Capitan’s quarters.”

“No. I’m fine here.”

“You’ll fall asleep, and one big wave and you’ll slid right off the ship.”

“I can swim. I don’t sink like an anchor, Flame Boy.”

Ace huffed. “Bit of a nasty attitude you got there.”

“You ruined my plans. That exit, this ship, which isn’t going the right direction, it wasn’t part of the plan.”

“Who needs a plan?” he laughed, but it died on his tongue when he caught her deadly stare. “Fine. Fine. I’m sorry. I had no idea you were on some mission, much less on that island, or I’d never have picked a fight. Well, I didn’t pick a fight, but that marine started it and then… I mean I did help you out of a tight spot when I saw you get surrounded, so that kind of makes us -”

“Fire Fist,” she cut him off.

He stopped talking and watched her rise from the deck. “Apology accepted. A place to sleep would be nice, but I’m not taking your cabin.”

He shrugged. “Only room that’s private. Thought you might want a door that locks. I’ll sleep with the crew.”

“Oh. Thank you.”

Ace grinned. “Your welcome.”

He started walking off and Ashina followed him across the main deck. A door sat next to a series of steps leading up to quarter deck. Ace opened the door and stepped into the room. Ashina followed and looked around at the space. It was all wooden floors and walls, but it had a porthole window, which was a nice touch. The bed sat near wall with the porthole to her left, a desk was to her right against the other wall. A chest sat in the corner of the space, along with a pile of clothes. She room seemed tidy and the bed appeared clean.

“You do wash your bed linens, yes?”

Ace snorted. “Yes. Good night, Ashina.”

He turned to go and she realized she had given him a nasty attitude when all he had done was try to help her. He had not left her behind when escaping the Marines and so far he had been kind.

“Ace.”

He stopped and turned to look at her, eyes wider than they were a moment ago.

“Thank you.”

He grinned, white, straight teeth brilliant against his tanned, freckled face. His hand reached up and he scratch the back of his head. “Not a problem. No big deal. I’ll uh… I’ll introduce you better to the crew in the morning.”