Trial by Error

BY : Demonized
Category: +M to R > One Piece
Dragon prints: 1975
Disclaimer: I do not own One Piece, nor do I make any money off of this work.

"Ace-nii-chan?" Luffy was still so very close to him, and he was blushing so profusely that his skin was radiating a noticeable heat thanks to his devil fruit. I love Ace, very much. The words replayed in his mind, endlessly. I love Ace. He was sure Luffy had never stated that he loved anyone, or ever told anyone that he loved them.

"Lu..." He didn't know what to say, but he had to say something. He had to know what Luffy meant by his declaration, and he couldn't hold it against him. Ace was so flustered, and damn he was blushing when it probably wasn't necessary. He cared fiercely for his sworn brother, and he was so very protective of him. It was also true that Luffy was all he had ever talked about on the decks of Moby Dick after he had opened up to Pops and the crew. Pops...

Edward Newgate was dead... He hadn't once taken a moment to grieve for the man he had called father, for the man who had called him son. The blush faded and his current state of confusion was forgotten as a crushing grief swept through him.

Luffy noticed the change in his brother immediately and grew concerned for him. He knew the look on Ace's face, the pain he had felt when he had thought his brother to be dead, when he had learned that his grandfather had died. He also knew what was causing that pain, and that he could only comfort Ace as he grieved for Whitebeard. His own heart still hurt, and maybe that pain would always be there, but right now Ace needed someone to be strong for him.

Ace broke down into sobs as Luffy leaned against him and wrapped his arms around him. A hand rubbed at his back as he turned to the young Captain and pressed his face into his shoulder. He let all of his grief out with Luffy silently comforting him through the hours. When he could cry no more he just staid there in Luffy's embrace, exhausted both mentally and physically.

Luffy took this opportunity to shift them so that Ace's head was resting against his chest. The young pirate captain leaned back against the wall the bed was set against while Ace curled up against him. His breathing had calmed considerably, though there was the occasional hiccup from the Mera Mera no Mi user. "Ace-nii-chan loved Giant Ossan very much."

"Hai," Ace breathed out, his eyes closed for the moment. With the topic of love back up he remembered what Luffy had said to him some hours earlier before his emotional breakdown. "Luffy?" He opened his eyes now and shifted just enough to glance up at his sworn brother. The younger pirate was quick to meet his gaze. "When you said you loved me..." he started, but the question trailed off as he searched for the right words.

"Ah, Robin told me about love. I thought it was a type of food at first, but Robin said it was a-" Luffy paused and screwed his face up in thought as he tried to recall what word Robin had used. "She said it is something in the heart." It was a funny word. E-something or other.

"Emotion, Lu. Love is a type of emotion or feeling." Ace sat up now so he could see his sworn brother eye to eye as he tried to best explain what he was feeling.

"Hai, hai. An emo-whatsit." Luffy would always be Luffy, never able to fully grasp everything explained to him the first few times, or even a few hundred times. This didn't stop Ace from understanding what he meant. "Robin said there are lots of kinds of love."

So Luffy did understand that there were different types of love. He had overreacted to Luffy's statement earlier, and there was a nagging sense of disappointment that left him confused.

"Ace is my most important person. I don't know how Ace-nii-chan feels, but as long as you're alive I can be happy." Luffy was smiling so openly and serenely, his tone so very serious and sure.

There was no doubt in his mind how Luffy had meant those words. "Lu." The momentary disappointment was replaced with a budding sense of relief and confusion. Ace didn't know how to respond to Luffy's simpleminded confession of how he felt. He wasn't even sure what he felt, other than a racing heart and warmth in his cheeks.

"Ace doesn't have to say anything." Robin had said that his brother probably wouldn't feel the same way, but Luffy never cared about that. He understood that Ace could also have a negative reaction and hate him. What was important to him was that Ace was alive and well.

"No, Luffy. I do have to say something." He couldn't leave his brother without an understanding of what he felt, even if he didn't know what that was. "I do care for you, and will always care for you. You are my brother, first and foremost, and nothing will ever change that." Ace didn't think he was having conflicting feelings on the matter, because as much as they were brothers there was no blood tying them together. Gender wasn't much of an issue, either. He simply wasn't sure how he felt.

Luffy smiled and launched himself at his brother to give him a tight hug. He succeed in knocking the older pirate over, but they were still on the bed so it was a soft landing. To make things a little awkward both of their stomachs growled, in synch, at which Luffy laughed and Ace blushed. The young captain scrambled off of Ace and the bed, though he grabbed hold of his brother's wrist and proceeded to drag Ace out of the room. "Let's go get something to eat!"

It was close to midnight by now, and most everyone was asleep. When they got outside Luffy grinned and whooped upon recognizing where they were. How he hadn't known that they were on Amazon Lily before was something Ace wasn't going to bother in figuring out. He did, however, grow worried when Luffy started to drag him off in the direction the Kuja had come from earlier. From what he knew was that they were forbidden from setting foot in that direction, and as much as he tried to relay that to Luffy his younger brother just ignored him.

The guardswomen at the gates floored him by giving Luffy a very warm greeting and opened the portcullis to allow them entrance. At this point Ace wasn't sure if he was awake or dreaming, because men were never given open admittance to the city of the Kuja tribe. He was very sure he wasn't dreaming when one of the guardswomen tackled him to the ground from behind.

"Men are not permitted to enter the city's walls!" Haki imbued arrows were aimed at him, much to his annoyance.

Luffy, who had kept walking, stopped when he noticed that Ace was no longer following him. He turned around to find his brother pinned down by none other than Marguerite. "Ace-nii-chan wants to play now?"

Marguerite glanced up at Luffy in shock, and then down to Ace, when the young pirate called him older brother. "This is your brother, Luffy?"

Ace, who was close to getting a mouthful of dirt, grumbled out an unintelligible sentence as Luffy gave a plain, wide-eyed nod.

"Are you going to play with Ace-nii-chan?"

"N-no!" Marguerite quickly let Ace out of the pin and motioned for the other Kuja to lower their weapons. "I'm sorry, Luffy-san, but he is not allowed to come in to the city."

"Why not?" Luffy scratched at the side of his head as Ace stood up and brushed himself off. "Ace-nii-chan didn't do anything."

Marguerite looked absolutely dumbfounded and didn't have anything to counter Luffy's question or statement. It was something that had never truly been questioned before, but she knew it was something that had always been a tradition of sorts. As it was, Ace was already well beyond the border of what was permissible. He was also Luffy's cherished brother that he had raced off to save with the help of Empress Hancock.

"It's okay, Lu. If I'm not allowed, then I'm not allowed." Ace shot the woman a sour look, which she returned with a glare. He didn't want to start trouble when it wasn't needed. "Go ahead and get something to eat, I'll be back at the ship."

Luffy looked absolutely crestfallen, and it was this single expression that made Marguerite feel so very guilty for his brother not being allowed into the city. If it was just for something to eat, which shouldn't take long, then it was okay, right? Besides, Ace was Luffy's brother, and she was sure that Hancock would allow it. So long as Elder Nyon didn't find out...

"You can come in, just this once." Marguerite had no idea at that moment how much she would come to regret her decision. Luffy gave a loud and excited whoop just before he stretched an arm out to grab Ace by his wrist.

"Luffy!" Ace gave a cry of surprise as he rocketed toward his brother when the young captain retracted his arm. He closed his eyes, expecting some kind of impact, and when none came he opened them to see the ground rushing under him. Luffy was dragging him through the air! At his full speed!

"Shishishi! Ace-nii-chan is very light!" The young pirate laughed jovially as he ran through the city in search of food, Ace shouting at him in exasperation to be put down.

When morning finally came, Jinbe peeked in on the two brothers, without so much of a clue as to what acts of terror they had incited on the women inhabiting the city of Amazon Lily. They were happily curled up in bed, the sheets twisted around their bodies, and peacefully sleeping.

"Don't worry about waking them up just yet, yoi." Marco got a good glimpse of them, and he knew all too well that it was best to leave a sleeping Ace be. The Second Division Commander was really grumpy when woken up. The new Captain of the Whitebeard Pirates followed Jinbe back out onto the deck of the Heart Pirates' submersible and leaned against a railing.

The Fishman stood a few feet away from him, his gaze following the path of the rising sun. "Ace-kun is carrying a lot of guilt on his shoulders..."


He was comfortable, the pillow he had his arms wrapped around just firm enough for him to keep snoozing. He didn't want to wake up, not when this was the best night's sleep he'd gotten in a long time. It could have been that it was impossible to sleep in Impel Down, what with how he'd been chained to the wall. The following, and brief, stay in Marineford's cell hadn't been very comfortable either. Then he'd been awake almost constantly for the week and a half to two weeks Luffy had been recovering. Throw in a short nap, which said little brother had interrupted; a couple hours of grieving on Luffy's part; followed by hours of story telling; a confession from, again, said little brother; a few hours of grieving on his own part; a conversation on love that left him mildly confused on his own feelings; and lastly a hunt for food that had ended up in successful disaster.

Ace was rightfully tired, but when his pillow started squirming he began to grumble. He received a poke, that was so very familiar, and then the pillow laughed. It was a laugh he knew anywhere, full of amusement. He was poked again, and he stirred enough to crack an eye open. His blurry sight was met with seemingly endless white bandages wrapped around one rubbery pirate's torso. He blinked and opened both eyes this time, the image focusing quickly as the torso moved in rhythm with the laughter.

"Shishishi. Ace-nii-chan must be hungry again."

Ace let go of his pillow and bolted upright in the bed at the realization that it was his brother Luffy. A quick second glance at the bandages neatly wrapping around his brother revealed a large discoloration that could be achieved by getting them wet with water...or drool. An embarrassed flush colored his cheeks as Luffy continued to laugh. He gave the younger pirate an empty glare, and after a moment passed he cracked a small grin.

"Looks like they're up, yoi." Marco was leaning up against the doorframe, and had been there since Luffy first laughed. The Captain was smirking slightly, which prompted Ace to send a fireball and a glare his way. "Still as grumpy as ever, yoi." Marco simply absorbed the fireball, which sent Luffy into an ecstatic frenzy.

"Sugoi! Can you do that again!" There were stars in the young captain's eyes as he hopped off of the bed to examine the Whitebeard captain. He took to prodding at Marco, much to the older Captain's annoyance and to Ace's amusement.

Ace waited a few minutes, all the while silently laughing as Marco scowled down at Luffy and then sent him a death glare while his brother carried on with poking at the Zoan. "Okay, Lu. I think Marco has had enough." He got up off of his bed and wrapped his arm around Luffy's neck, effectively putting the young captain in a headlock.

"Ah! You were there!" Luffy finally recognized the older pirate, his interactions with him at Marineford brief and few. "You're Ace's Nakama." He didn't remember the man's name, but his hair gave his head a kinda pineapple-y look. That meant his name must have been like some type of food, and it started with a M. "Mackerel!" He tried to pry himself out of Ace's grasp, but his brother had a good hold on him.

Ace snickered as Marco gave Luffy an outright death glare. The Mera Mera no Mi user had said his name right in front of the boy, not even a moment earlier! "It's Marco, yoi." Luffy just gave him a blank look. "Anyways. Ace, I've heard you're quite the storyteller around here. Jinbe-san was telling everyone about how you and this squirt went around terrorizing pirates when you were younger."

Ace let go of Luffy as his attention focused more on Marco, and coincidentally the gomu-ningen tried biting at his forearm. "He told you everything, I take it." At Marco's nod the logia user sighed and wrapped an arm around Luffy's shoulders just as the younger pirate went to poke Marco again. "Is everyone outside?"

"Yeah. We were hoping you would come finish the rest of the story for us over breakfast, yoi." Marco gave a smile that showed his concern for his comrade. "Then we need to discuss what your plans are."

Ace went silent at that, and Luffy glanced up at his brother as he gained a contemplative look. He hadn't thought that far ahead, his mind in the here and now of things. He hated to leave behind his Nakama, but Nakama were forever and his little brother needed him.

"Take some time to think it over, yoi. First, lets go get breakfast and you can finish that wonderful story for us." Afterwards, Marco was going to see if the brothers wanted to attend the funeral for Whitebeard that was going to be held in the New World. Whatever Ace did after that was on him.


"...Don't you..."


As soon as they sat down at the table the remaining Whitebeard Pirates had set up Luffy started devouring everything in sight. Thankfully everyone else had eaten their fill, since they knew how much of an appetite Ace had. They were completely floored to see that Luffy's appetite was just as large, if not larger.

The Mera Mera no Mi user had a plate of food that Luffy thankfully didn't touch, and he was slowly picking at it. "Luffy was always trying these crazy attacks when we were little. He had this one move, the Gomu Gomu no Pistol. Every time he tried to use it he ended up ricocheting it off of the ground and hitting himself with his own fist...

"What do you think..." A ten year old Ace backed up as Luffy once again failed to do anything other than hit himself with his useless attack. "...you're even doing?!" He took the opportunity to jump kick Luffy in the face and sent him sprawling to the ground.

"A~nd match! Ace is the winner!" Sabo exclaimed as he tallied another mark in Ace's win column against Luffy. He started to add all of the tallies up while Ace stood over Luffy.

"Is that ability of yours really good for anything?" Ace folded his arms over his chest and glowered down at Luffy.

"Ughhhh... It's not working properly!" For some reason his fist wouldn't do what he was thinking of. Instead it always went to the ground, and most often it would bunce back up and hit him in the face. "Once I get attack working how it's meant to, you guys won't know what hit you, all right?!" Luffy hopped up now and threw his fists into the air. "One more round!"

Ace had turned and started walking away from the rubber boy. "Sorry, but it's only one hundred rounds per day per person. Try again tomorrow."

"And as usual Luffy's lost to me and Ace fifty times each. Me and Ace are at twenty-four to twenty-six. Damn it!" Sabo had finished tallying up their wins and losses, which it was always easy to know that Luffy lost every single fight against them.

"Well, when I'm ten years old, I'll beat both of you up!" Luffy exclaimed as he gave both older boys evil eyes.

"When you're ten, we'll both be thirteen. Come on, let's go catch dinner." Ace grabbed his pipe staff and carried it against his shoulder. The ten year old sent the other boys an impatient glance. They were quick to join him, and all three hurried off to the river, where they found a crocodile swimming along. "All right! How does crocodile sound?"

"Crocodile sure is tasty!"

"Try not to get eaten this time, all right, Luffy?! It was only blind luck that it swallowed you whole last time!" Sabo stood between Ace and Luffy, with the youngest crouched down beside him. They had taken to a tree branch overlooking the river, a perfect spot to jump a crocodile.

The boy's leapt out at the same time, and the crocodile looked up with his jaws open. In a short time they had the crocodile slain and bound up, at which they dragged him to Dadan's hideout. Magra was the one to greet them, Luffy sitting atop the crocodile carcass as Ace and Sabo pulled it along.

Once all of the meat was consumed, the bandits hardly getting a morsel of it, the skin was prepared and the boys set out for Gray Terminal the next morning. They disguised themselves under a cloak, Sabo at the bottom, with Luffy on his shoulders and Ace atop the youngest. The three passed through the dump with no problem, but they were stopped at the gate by a guardsmen.

"Hey, what's that you've got there?"

"It's crocodile skin. I'm going to sell it." Ace was the one to answer, being that he was the 'head', and he lowered his voice in an attempt to make himself sound older.

"Don't forget. After sundown, the trash hunters will be patrolling the streets. If they catch you, your lives are forfeit."

They continued on, until they were finally accosted by some punks in Edge Town. "Oi! You're from the trash heap, ain't that right?" The punks were blocking their way, a large group of them starting to surround the boys. "What's that you've got there? Let's see it!"

"Shut your faces, hoodlums!" Ace threw the cloak off and revealed all three of them. The punks recognized them, but attacked anyway. Their battle was short, and the boys continued on into Central Town, where they traded in the crocodile skin for a nice sum. After that they snuck into a nice restaurant with the help of their disguise, and they did a dine-and-dash.

The boys jumped out of the window from the fourth floor, as the restaurant staff shouted after them for not paying their bill. "Man, that was good!" Sabo exclaimed as they fell to the street below.

"What did I tell ya?!" Ace had been trying to get the blond to do it for a while now, and the excursion had paid off well. Luffy, who was above them, still had his mouth stuffed.

The black-haired boys hit the awning and bounced off, while Sabo grabbed hold of the flagpole sticking out from the building to slow his descent. They all landed on the street and darted off through the crowd as the authorities chased after them. A man walking the streets, his attire more expensive, looked up at the commotion and seemed to recognize Sabo.

"Sabo?! Sabo... It's really you! Wait right there! You're alive?! I don't believe it!" He started after them, waving for the boy to stop. "You have to come back home!"

Sabo panicked and kept running, Ace catching up with him. "Hey, Sabo! Someone's calling for you!"

"Who is that guy?" Luffy questioned around a mouthful of food.

"He must be mistaking me for someone else. Let's go!" He kept ahead of them, the two black-haired boys not buying his excuse. They didn't call him on it until they were well away from the Kingdom and back at their hideout. "What? I'm not hiding anything!"

"Oh... Really?" That was Luffy.

"Don't be stupid, of course he is! Let's hear it, Sabo!" That was Ace, who had a much angrier tone. "We shouldn't have to keep any secrets from each other, now, should we?"

"Spill it." Ace and Luffy said it at the exact same time, in the exact same tone, which was kinda creepy. Even their expressions were identical.

When Sabo didn't say anything they both went after his neck, Ace angrily exclaiming, "Just tell us already, you idiot! I'll kick your face in!"

"Gah! ...ah! I, I'll talk! I'll talk!" And so Sabo explained it all. After he was done, in a matter of mintutes, he sat there looking down as he waited for them to say something.

"The son of a Noble!?"

"Who is!?"

"...I am!"

Both Ace and Luffy gave him a flat look, the two of them sticking a finger up their noses at the exact same time. "So?"

"You're the ones who wanted to know!" Sabo raged, feeling quite like he had been put through the mill because of them. After a moment he settled down, feeling better now since it was apparent that his friends didn't care. "The truth is, both of my real parents are still out there... I'm not a real orphan, and I wasn't born on the Trash Heap, either." It felt good to tell them the truth without being judged. "The man who was trying to stop me just now was my father." He hadn't expected to see his father in Central Town. The Nobles usually stuck their noses up at the thought of leaving their precious High Town. "I'm sorry I had to lie to you."

"Well, if you're sorry, then that's fine! I forgive you." Of course Luffy would forgive him so easily.

"I'm actually pretty shocked by this." Ace began as he walked to the edge of the cliff overlooking the sea. "If you were born into a Noble household... Why would you end up on the Trash Heap?"

Sabo frowned as he recalled a moment with his parents. "You have to grow up to be the kind of man who can marry the daughter of a Royal family." The sort of man that was like his father. "If you marry a Royal, then our family will be able to live easy! And you'll be happier that way too, of course!" No, he wouldn't have been happy. "Look, Sabo, I'm tired out from a hard day's work!" He never lifted a finger to do anything. "If you have time to sit around drawing pictures, why don't you go to your room and study?!"

Then there was a time with his mother and upperclass Nobles. "You got in a fight with a Royal?!" He had been defending his own life. "Uh-huh...! He really hurt me...! He had a weapon, and-!" Instead of taking care of him, her very own son, she went to kiss the asses of the Royal family. "Mother...?! He really hurt me...!" Did he mean nothing to her? "Oh, I am so sorry! My son didn't hurt you at all, did he?"

"All they ever cared about was having an heir to protect the family status and fortune." Nothing more. "They never cared about me!" Knowing that had hurt worse than anything imaginable. "If I couldn't marry into a royal family, then I was worthless. They made me work day in, day out to improve my chances." He'd been pretty much a slave to their wills. "My parents were always fighting because I wasn't good enough for them. There was never any place for me in that house." It had never been home to him. "This may be kind of rude to you guys, but... I was always alone even though I had parents."

"Don't you ever go near that trash heap! The people living there aren't human." Yet the Nobles were no better. "They're just pieces of trash in human form!"

"The Nobles always scorned and despised the trash heap... But compared to that horrible elite district, where I didn't even have room to breathe..." It had been so stifling, living amongst the Nobles. "Where my whole damn life was planned out for me... I'd take the trash heap any day."

"So that's the deal, huh?" Ace understood Sabo a lot better now, and with the blond's explanation he was starting to hate the Nobles that weren't Sabo even more.

"Ace... Luffy..." Sabo stood up, a new fire burning in his heart as he made up his mind. "We have to make it out to sea someday! We'll leave this country behind..." He was getting excited at the prospect. "...and gain our freedom!" His voice was getting louder. "I want to see the world in all its glory and write a book about all the things I find! If it's sailing I'm studying for, then I don't care how hard I have to work!" He could feel it. They could really do it. "We've got to get stronger, and become real pirates!"

"Heheh." Ace grinned, happy that Sabo was back to being himself. "I don't need you to tell me that!" He stood at the edge of the cliff and raised his voice for the world to hear. "I'm gonna become a pirate, beat every last person who stands in my way and earn myself the kind of glory that dreams are made of! Only then will my life have been worth living!" He was going to show them all. "I don't care if the whole world refuses to accept me... They can hate me all they like!" He didn't need anyone's approval. "I'll become a great pirate and prove I'm better than them all!" Ace would be an unstoppable force. "I won't run from anybody! I'll never lose! I don't care if they end up terrified of me! I'm just gonna make sure the whole world knows my name!"

"Shishishi!" Luffy stepped up to the edge of the cliff next, having deemed it his turn to share his dream. "All right... Well, then..." He took a deep breath. "I'M GONNA...!"

Ace and Sabo both stared at the seven year old in shock as he yelled out his dream. "Huh?" Luffy just laughed, obviously pleased with himself. "Of all the things you could come out with..." Ace now had a look of disbelief on his face while Sabo started laughing.

"Ahahaha! Man, you're one crazy guy!" Leave it to Luffy to say something so bold. Sabo hadn't figured the youngest boy to be like that. "You're one to keep an eye on, and that's for sure!" With that on his mind, given what everyone said, it brought up a question. "But isn't it gonna be a problem if all three of us want to be captain?"

"...yeah, that could be an issue. I always thought you were gonna be my navigator, Sabo." Ace had always been under the notion that he would be captain.

"What? You guys should join my ship!" And then there was Luffy. There was no way they'd follow a runt like him. He couldn't even get his attacks to work!

"Well, we can decide the details when the time comes." Ace led them over to the trunk of a tree that had been cut down long ago. He retrieved a bottle of sake, the good stuff, and set it down on the trunk with three cups.

"Who knows, maybe we'll all end up forming our own separate crews!" With three strong-willed people wanting to be captain, that was the only option Sabo could think of.

"Ah! You stole some of Dadan's booze!" Luffy recognized it, mainly because it was one of the bottles Dadan hid away for herself.

"Did you know, you guys?" Ace opened the bottle up and started pouring the sake into the cups. "If you exchange drinks, then you can become brothers."

"Brothers?!" Luffy's eyes lit up at the idea. "Really?!"

"When we become pirates, we may not be able to end up on the same crew..." Ace finished pouring the sake and set the bottle down. "But the bond of brotherhood we share will never die!" It was a spur of the moment idea, but it was a good one! "No matter where we are, or what we do... This is one bond we can never break!" They all picked up a cup and lifted them. "Starting today, we are brothers!"

From that day on, no matter whether they were causing trouble for the pirates of the cove, pranking each other at bath time, eating Dadan and her bandits out if house and home, or rescuing each other (mainly Luffy) they forged the strongest bond of brotherhood. They put up with Makino's visits for new clothes, went tiger slaying together, foraged for mushrooms and they even went through Garp's training whenever the old Marine visited. The boys eventually moved out of Dadan's hideout, which sent the bandit into a panic, and into a treehouse they had built by themselves.

They were living the good life, wild and free, until one day Bluejam's crew attacked them. "Give Sabo back! Bluejam!" The boys had been ambushed and beaten to a bloody mess, Sabo held by a sneering Bluejam.

"Give him back? Try speaking sense, urchins." Sabo's father came out from amidst the gathering of pirates, and it was now obvious who was behind the situation. "Sabo is my own flesh and blood! It is the duty of every child to live his life according to the wishes of the parents who brought him into the world! How dare you urchins convince my Sabo to run away from home!" It was as if the man thought that Sabo was his property. "Filthy pieces of trash... Is it my fortune you are after?!"

That, of course, pissed Ace off. "The hell did you say?!" He went to get up but one of Bluejam's minions hit him in the back of the head and knocked him back down.

"Useless pirates! Be more careful how you deal with those brats! You managed to get the blood of those filthy trashheap urchins on my cheek! How disgusting..." Sabo's father pulled a handkerchief out and wiped at his face. "I will have to clean it thoroughly."

Sabo couldn't take it anymore. His father was taking blowing things out of proportion! "Stop this already! They didn't convince me to run away from home! I ran away because I wanted to!"

"I'll hear no more from you!" His father actually raised his voice. The man turned away from Sabo, who had been let go, and faced Bluejam. "I leave the rest to you, pirates."

"But of course, sir. You have paid us well, after all." Bluejam grinned sinisterly. "I'll take care of these urchins. They won't be bothering your dear little boy again." He had plans to use the boys, not that Outlook III needed to know that.

"Hold on a minute! Bluejam!" Sabo didn't like the look the pirate captain had. It sent chills down his spine and made him feel queasy. "Father! I give up! I'll do as you say!"

"You'll do what, Sabo?"

"Sabo! Stop!"

"I'll do everything you tell me... I'll live my life however you want!" Even if he had to give up his freedom... So long as Luffy and Ace... "Just please... Don't harm Ace and Luffy!" They meant the world to him. "I'm begging you... They mean more to me than anything... They're my brothers!"

"Sabo!" Ace couldn't believe it. Sabo's father started to walk off, the pirates and the blond in tow. "Oi?! Where are you going?!" This couldn't happen. They had promised... "Get away from those guys! We'll be fine, you hear?!" Was it all for vain? "We're all going to become free men, aren't we?" Did their promise mean nothing anymore? "Are you going to let it end here?!" They just kept walking away, and not once did Sabo look back at them. "Sabo!"


After several long moments Dragon managed to calm himself enough to move away from the wall. He turned to face Sabo, who had a look of concern on his face, and gave the boy a slight scowl. "I'll be fine..." It would take time for him to truly get over his father's death, but Garp had chosen to walk that path.

"I didn't know him well, but whenever he would visit us as kids he would take us out to train." Sabo smiled faintly as he remembered Garp's training. "He'd always hit us with his Fist of Love and tell us we needed to join the Marines." His voice grew bitter as he said Marines, him and all other Revolutionaries having no love for the Marines.

"He still calls it that?" A brief look of surprise flitted across Dragon's face then he chuckled and shook his head as Sabo nodded.

"It hurt like hell too... He treated me just like he did Ace and Luffy... Like I was his grandson." Even if Garp's methods were unorthodox, Sabo had finally known what it was like to have a grandfather..and a father. Dragon treated him just like he imagined he would treat Luffy. "I want to go to them..." Luffy was probably taking this the hardest.

Dragon looked down the hall toward the conference room, to check and see if anyone was going to come out, then motioned for Sabo to follow him. "I have one final mission for you." If his resources were right, then there was someone who could help reunite Sabo with his brothers. "There is a woman in Tequila Wolf. Her name is reported to be Nico Robin."

Nico Robin? From Luffy's crew? "What is she doing there?" Sabo followed Dragon out of the compound and down to the docks where a large ship was stationed. It was his own personal ship, and it was suspiciously stocked with supplies.

"She was sent there by Kuma-san before the operation to make him a government tool." How he had gotten that information Dragon would never tell. He had his ways of knowing, which was why he hadn't been too surprised when Ivankov informed everyone of Kuma's fate.

"He used the Paw Paw technique." Sabo winced upon remembrance of that particular technique. It had been quite an unpleasant experience for him, but it had made for good training. He had also acquired his Devil Fruit thanks to that one time, though he had to wonder if Kuma had known about the fruit being on that island. "Anyway, do I bring her back here first?"

"If she wishes to. Her ability to read the Poneglyphs would be a great asset for the army, but I will not have her forced to join." Dragon looked out at the ocean, his gaze settling on Amazon Lily's general direction, as if he could sense where his son was. "There are still decisions that need to be made."

Sabo too glanced where Dragon was looking and smiled. "I'll leave in the morning." He would need to gather a crew that could take on Tequila Wolf with him.



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