Trial by Error

BY : Demonized
Category: +M to R > One Piece
Dragon prints: 1819
Disclaimer: I do not own One Piece, nor do I make any money off of this work.

Ace left Sentoumaru once he finished giving him the message he wanted relayed to Akainu, his grey gaze narrowed into a glare as he gave the Marine a fleeting glance. He suppressed the scowl that wanted to show as he turned to face his grinning brother. Should I tell him about Sabo… His lips twitched slightly and he scrutinized the young captain before giving a slight shake of his head. Nah.

"C'mon, Ace!" Exuberant, much like a puppy, Luffy had bounded over to him and was bouncing up and down on the spot. "I can't wait to see the others!"

Sanji and Zoro were grinning as they approached, no doubt from their Captain's antics and their own want of seeing the others.

"Then let's go." Ace gave Rayleigh a farewell wave then took off sprinting in the direction of the Sunny. Sanji and Zoro easily kept up with his pace while Luffy shot ahead. "No fair using Gear Second like that, Lu!" He called out after his brother, only to receive laughter in return. Fine. Two can play at that. Deciding to make their impromptu race a bit show, he burst into solid blue flames and caught up with Luffy.

"Looks like Luffy isn't the only one who's gotten stronger," Zoro mused aloud, watching the brothers race off towards the grove that Sunny was in.

"Though I can't say the same for you, muscles for brains, we've all gotten stronger," Sanji snarked through gritted teeth.

"Would you like to try me and see just how much stronger I've gotten, Love Cook?" Zoro was tempted to look towards the Chef, but being that the man was currently on his blind side he decided to just keep running. "I'd be more than happy to show you."

"I-is that a challenge, Marimo?"

Sanji was, no doubt, profusely red in his anger. Zoro smirked at the mental image he was able to come up with, though the mental image probably paled in comparison to the real deal. Damn Mihawk for partially blinding him. "Oi. Don't forget all that stuff you purchased for the Sunny." They were coming up on the rail that Sanji had tied his purchases to. Food items necessary for their ventures.

"I wasn't going to forget, Zoro." Sanji scowled, because he almost had forgotten. Glaring at the swordsman, he gave a silent and grudging thanks, because he wouldn't voice it out loud. Only seconds later did he realize that he had used Zoro's name instead of one of his usual insults.

Zoro nearly faltered at the use of his name, though he did turn his head to look at the Chef. Did he just… With the rather brilliant shade of pink coloring the cook's cheeks the swordsman came to the conclusion that yes, Sanji had just used his name. "I'll help you with them, Sanji." He spoke in a low tone, but it was obvious that the blond had heard him. Where all this niceness was coming from, he wasn't sure, but it was, for lack of a better word, nice.

-TbE-

Ace was the first of their small group to reach the Sunny, which was quite a surprise in and of itself as he had expected Luffy to be the one to win. His otouto's Second Gear was amazingly fast, enough that he had to put forth some type of effort to physically keep up with the younger pirate. Why did he slow down? He leapt up onto the main deck of the ship and looked around.

Chopper and Usopp were on the stern upper deck, no doubt checking over their gardens and Nami's mikan trees. Nami was at the port rail, leaning over and looking down into the water, no doubt waiting to give Franky, who was in the water, the signal to remove the buoyancy bag that was keeping the Sunny afloat. Robin had taken up a seat at the table on the mid deck, sitting under the shade of the umbrella as she flipped through a book while a skeleton sat across from her playing the violin.

He really does have a skeleton for a musician. That must be Brook. Nakama accounted for, since Sanji and Zoro were on their way, that left one whose voice Luffy wasn't acquainted with. Sabo. The Revolutionary was at the bow of the ship, looking towards him with worried eyes. Ace started to wave his brother over when a familiar pair of hands grabbed ahold of his sides. Within the next few seconds a body weighed down by an absurdly large pack all but slammed into him and sent him and his assailant tumbling to the deck.

"Ace-nii-chan won!" Luffy called out from on top of his back.

His face was uncomfortably smushed against the boards and trying to wriggle out from under the monster that was his youngest brother didn't seem to be an option. "Luffy, what the hell do you have in your bag?!" The bag that Boa Hancock had lovingly packed, no less. That thing weighed a ton, otherwise he wouldn't have minded the tackle.

"Uh, food?" Luffy blinked owlishly and shifted to sit cross-legged on him. Thankfully he decided to shrug of the straps of the backpack and it rolled onto the deck beside them.

With the huge weight finally gone, Ace quickly twisted his body and sent Luffy to the deck boards. He didn't dodge the rebound that his youngest brother made and caught him, otherwise he'd have been the recipient of a head butt. "What was all of that for, Lu?"

"Shi shi shi!" Luffy gave a broad grin and instead of answering him he looked around. "I'm so glad to see everyone here!" Well, Franky wasn't currently on board, but he was there, so it kind of counted. "Ne, who's that over there?"

Ace looked in Sabo's direction and saw that he had started to come over to them, only to have frozen up from Luffy's attention. "Lu… Go say hi."

Luffy blinked owlishly and looked from the figure in blue to his older brother. After a second he gave another broad grin and was up out of his embrace. He went over to blue guy only to pause halfway there when he finally got a good look at him.

Sabo, for his part, fidgeted nervously and slowly walked over to where Luffy seemed to be anchored to the spot. Once he was in front of their youngest brother he opened his mouth to speak but nothing came out. He closed his mouth after a few seconds of floundering on his part and looked down.

After another minute dragged by Ace was ready to get up, because this wasn't the kind of reaction he had expected from Luffy, only for the young captain to finally break out into tears.

"S-s-sabo?!" Luffy launched himself at the blond revolutionary with everything he had, his arms wrapping around him tightly, as though he were afraid the man would disappear.

Sabo looked shocked, if only for a few seconds, before he awkwardly returned Luffy's vice-like embrace. "Yes, Luffy. I-it's me, Sabo."

Everyone present watched from where they were, apart from Franky who had to climb back up the side of the ship, as Luffy started bawling his eyes out. Each had a tearful smile, with Brook, Usopp, Chopper and Franky being more dramatic about the reunion, on their faces.

"I thought you were dead!" At this Luffy let go of Sabo to begin circling and prodding him. He stopped when he noticed the look of guilt on Sabo's face, as well as the scar around his left eye. "Is that from…?"

"I'm sorry, Luffy." Sabo backed away a step and hugged himself a bit out of nervousness. "I couldn't tell anyone where I was, and yes this is from that Tenryuubito." He touched the bottom edge of his scar, a frown now on his face.

Luffy stared at him for a long moment before a grin split his face, no trace of tears left in his eyes. "It's okay! You're alive now!" He paused there, a look dawning in his eyes and he turned to Ace. "Ace! Sabo's alive!" He grabbed said Revolutionary by the wrist and dragged him over to the fire user. "Can we keep him?"

Both Sabo and Ace were stunned into silence, their expressions conveying their shock at the words that had left the young Captain's mouth. Everyone else on the Sunny merely smiled and gave a small chuckle, though some were still prone to their dramatic antics.

This was the exact scene that Sanji and Zoro came on to, and seeing that the thing that Luffy wanted to keep was more of a person they looked from their Captain to each other and then to everyone else. They had the distinct feeling that they were missing something, regardless of its importance, and merely brushed it off after a moment with a shrug from the Chef and a grunt from the swordsman.

Ace was the first to come out of his stunned silence with full blown laughter. He nearly doubled over and held his sides, because it was Luffy and they all should have expected this.

Luffy blinked and stared at Ace, confused as to why he was laughing at his question. Surely they could keep Sabo, now that he was alive and there with them. "Ne, Ace. I'm serious." Now he pouted, which only sent his oldest brother into further peals of laughter.

Sabo couldn't help but smile and feel relieved, his earlier fear of Luffy rejecting him having vanished. "I'd be happy to stay, Luffy." He placed his hand on top of the worn straw hat that his younger brother was infamous for and moved it so that the brim of the hat covered Luffy's eyes.

"Yosh! Let's go everyone!" He let go of Sabo and pumped his fist into the air, excited that they would be restarting their adventure, and with his brothers no less.

"Honestly, you guys are so silly." Nami gave a shake of her head then turned to Franky. "You can go ahead and release the buoyancy bag. The Marines are on their way here with battleships." She left the railing as the Shipwright dove under the water and walked over to the helm.

Ace calmed down at this and gave his brothers an apologetic grin.

Sanji, however, noticed Nami and immediately began swooning, hearts in his eyes while his nose unfortunately began to bleed. He didn't get too far into it when Zoro discreetly hit the back of his head with his fist. "Hey! What was that for, muscles for brains?!"

Zoro himself looked rather shocked at what he had just done but it didn't keep him from answering. "You're making a fool of yourself." With that simple response given he walked to the main mast of the Sunny and took a seat there at the base.

Sanji sputtered incoherently at this, but upon noticing a pointed glare sent his way from Nami he promptly shut up. With a sigh he dejectedly began trudging to the kitchen.

The sound of cannons firing snapped everyone back to their current situation, which was still essentially docked. Coming from the open sea was one of the Marine Battleships and their aim was off because their cannonballs hit the water just shy of the Sunny.

Luffy pushed his hat back and looked out towards the battleship while Nami back away from the railing. All other members of the crew present moved to the port side of the ship, save for Zoro who deemed it nap time, and prepared to retaliate. The battleship adjusted the aim of its cannons and fired.

"Slave Arrow!" Glowing white arrows pierced through the cannonballs, rendering them into stone and halting their flight. They dropped immediately while a galleon drawn by a pair of Yuda pulled directly into the path of the battleship.

"Hold it! Hold your fire!" Some of the Marines began to panic with the unexpected arrival of another ship. Most recognized the Jolly Roger of the galleon. "Th-that's the Kuja Pirates! What do you think you're doing?! Are you trying to obstruct our mission?!"

"Who was so thoughtless as to place a battleship in my path?!" A woman standing at the prow of the galleon spoke, her nose high in the air.

"That's the emblem of the Kuja," Robin commented from where she now stood by Nami, her pale blue gaze scrutinizing the galleon.

"The Kuja?" Nami looked confused at the mention of the female pirate crew, having never heard of them before. A glance to the rest of the crew showed a margin of interest in these Kuja helping out, but Luffy and Sabo looked uninterested. Ace, however, had an unreadable expression on his face.

"An all-female crew, led by the Shichibukai Pirate Empress." Robin looked away from the galleon which was now directly in front of the much larger battleship and to where Usopp and Sanji had taken up post at the railing. Both had spyglasses, but Sanji had turned into a stone statue with hearts in his eyes.

"A Shichibukai?! Who on earth is that stunning beauty?!" Usopp's jaw had dropped open and his tongue was comically sticking out as he watched the Kuja's galleon.

"Boa Hancock," Ace stated from Luffy's side. "Also known as the Snake Princess of Amazon Lily on the Island of Women. She also happens to be head over heels for Luffy."

That seemed to snap Sanji out of his self-inflicted statue stupor. "Wh-what?! How can this be?! H-h-how could she…" The blond chef seemed to deflate at this news.

"She wants to marry me." Luffy's tone was deadpanned as he moved closer to his dark-haired brother.

Sanji began sputtering incoherently again at this point, much to everyone's annoyance.

"Shut up, Love Cook," Zoro growled out as he cracked open his good eye to glare in the Chef's direction.

Sabo frowned as he looked from the Kuja galleon to Luffy and then to Ace. The Mera Mera no Mi user put an arm around Luffy, an action that very few noticed, and pulled him back towards himself.

Sanji was not one of the ones who had noticed Ace's action. "B-b-but…"

"I'm not marrying Hancock. I love Ace-nii-chan." Luffy's blunt statements were enough to shut the blond Chef up and make him look at him. Everyone looked at him, in fact, and stared. "What?"

"Congratulations," Zoro remarked gruffly as he settled against the mast once more and shut his eye. This seemed to be enough to bring everyone back to their sense and they each murmured their own congratulations to the couple, save for Sanji who still seemed to be trying to get over the fact that Hancock wanted to marry Luffy.

"Wow, I missed out on a lot," Sabo mumbled and gave a shake of his head. "Still, I'm happy for you two." He managed a weak smile and rubbed at the back of his neck, wondering how much more he had missed out on. Robin hadn't been very forthcoming about all of their adventures, and she had never mentioned Ace.

"It's a work in progress," Ace returned, a faint blush on his cheeks which was quickly hidden as he pressed his face into Luffy's neck. A light clearing of a throat brought him back out and he glanced down at the tiny Doctor of the Straw Hats. "Chopper-san?"

"Um…" Chopper fidgeted nervously, a hesitant look on his face as he glanced at the two. It wasn't so much that he was against them being together, just that he wasn't sure how to broach the subject. He was a Doctor, and it was his duty to make sure all of the crew was one hundred percent. "Luffy, Ace…"

Luffy looked down at the Doctor and blinked before a large grin spread across his face. "Yes, Chopper?"

A serious expression quickly formed on Chopper's face as he scrutinized the two of them. "I want to see both of you in the infirmary later."

Luffy opened his mouth, likely to ask why, but Ace quickly slipped a hand over it and smiled down at the tiny Doctor. "We'll be there."

"Okay." Chopper gave a happy grin and quickly scurried off to the infirmary so he could check on his supplies.

"Hey, guys! I'm opening the valve! It's gonna pump in air from our undersea airbag!" Franky finally called in over the Baby Den Den Mushi he had with him underneath the ship. Within seconds the jelly-like coating around the ship began to inflate, rising up around the Straw Hats and enclosing them in the bubble resin. After a moment passed Franky reappeared at the railing and climbed back over. "I released the buoyancy bag!"

"Bu-what? What's…" Luffy trailed off as he spotted Franky and stars immediately filled his eyes. "Sugoi!" He pulled out of Ace's grasp and rushed over to the shipwright to drool over his new appearance. He winced and clutched at his head when Nami smacked him, though half-heartedly.

"Not right now, Luffy!" Nami huffed and rubbed at her smarting hand behind her back. "We're going down, so we need to raise the sails."

"The sails?" Brook questioned.

"Yes. A coated ship can use the sea currents as a substitute for wind to propel the ship," Robin informed them.

"So we're setting sail, Nami?" Luffy asked as he moved back over to his brothers.

"Yes, Luffy!" Nami walked over to the helm and took control of it, the ship already half-submerged by now.

"Well then, men! I have tons of things that I've been wanting to say to you all this time…" Namely to Franky over how awesome his new, more robotic body was, though that would have to wait. "…but for the moment, let's leave it at this! Thanks for going along with my selfish whim these past two years!"

"Yeah, like this is the first time we've been swept along by his crazy whims…" Sanji commented.

"That's right! This is just what you're always like!" Usopp added.

Luffy grinned wide and looked to his brothers who smiled in return and moved to flank his sides. Pumping his fists into the air, he let out a loud shout of, "SET SAIL!" The sails were quickly unfurled and everyone, save for Chopper who was still in the infirmary, took up position on deck as they rapidly descended. Their destination, Fishman Island.



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