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.

"...Ever die, Ace...!"

"Being born a Noble isn't something you can achieve if you work hard enough. It means you were born under some kind of lucky star!" Bluejam had brought them back to his ship, his crew along the perimeter to keep the brats from running. "Hell, I'd change places with the kid if I could... I would've loved to be born a Noble." He probably would have fit right in with them. "So... One of the legendary bratty trio was actually a noble all along, huh? To think he'd come all the way down from the Elite District to make fun of the trashheap... I'm sure he looked down on the both of you on the inside, as well."

Ace and Luffy's blood was boiling as Bluejam went on bad mouthing Sabo. "Don't be stupid! Sabo isn't that kind of guy!" Sabo was much better than such pettiness. "Yeah! We're his brothers!" Luffy's take on it was much simpler though.

"Fufufu... All right, all right. If you say so, but still..." Bluejam gave the boys a sinister grin. "You two had better not try going anywhere near him again..." He was already disobeying Outlook III's orders to kill the brats, regardless of Sabo giving up in exchange for their safety. "If you're planning on going after him, I'll have to kill the both of you here and now. If you care about that brother of yours you'll leave him be from now on."

"But Sabo hates living in the Elite District!" Luffy was still trying to argue it, the threats to his life going in one ear and out the other.

"Just forget about him. It's for the best. That's what they call kindness, you know... You'll understand that when you grow up." Bluejam seemed to calm a little, the sinister grin no longer present on his face, but the look in his eyes was still dangerous. "I still have a grudge to settle with you over the Porchemy incident..." He had been forced to kill a useful member of his crew thanks to these kids, and he intended to see that they repaid him for it. "...but I figure let bygones be bygones. Hell, you may be young, but you're strong, and I like that." He could dispose of the brats after they helped him with his task, and then he would no longer have to worry about piracy. "Now... I'm actually a little short on hands right now. Could the two of you give me a hand with a little job?"

The boys looked stunned at the offer, their dreams of becoming pirates seemingly a lot closer now more than ever. They had their doubts, of course but they soon gave a nod in acceptance. Bluejam pulled out a map of Gray Terminal and explained that he wanted them to help deliver boxes to all the locations that were marked with an X. The boys were soon off with the rest of Bluejam's crew to deliver the boxes in their first task as pirates.

"I don't want to carry on without Sabo..." said Luffy in a soft voice as he walked beside Ace. The seven year old was carrying a box in his arms and had one balanced on his head.

"Suck it up!" Ace scolded as he carried a box under each arm. "I feel the same way, you know, bit at the same time, I don't know what the best way is to make Sabo truly happy!" They could only hope that Sabo would find some measure of happiness on his own now. "So let's wait and see how things go! Sabo's strong-if he really wants to escape, then he'll be back and that's a fact!"

"The hell's that supposed to mean?! Try worrying about yourself instead of me, dumbass!"

Once they had gotten back to their treehouse, Ace and Luffy seemed to be at a loss. Everything was different now, Sabo's absence leaving them feeling incomplete. As they laid down for bed, both of them patched up from their beating that morning, Luffy stared up at the ceiling. "D'you think Sabo's all right?"

Ace gave Luffy a glance from over his shoulder from where he laid. A scowl formed on the ten year old's face, and he gave in to the irritation that had been building all day. "Shut up and get some sleep! We decided we're going to forget about Sabo for the moment, all right?" He didn't mean to snap at Luffy, but the younger boy was just so thick headed at times. "This could be what's best for him, after all..." He continued on, his voice softer as he made a statement that didn't sit well with him.

They slept uneasily that night, and once morning came, no matter how tired they were, they were back out at Gray Terminal, armed with their pipe staves. Bluejam grinned as they approached him, his crew gathered behind him. "Good to see you again, little ones..." There was a strong wind blowing, which would help make their job easier. "The big job goes down tonight. I'll tell you all the details later."

When later came, and Bluejam gave them the specifics of the job, both boys had been stunned. They had also given a shout of 'What?!' in surprise. After they clearly comprehended what was going to happen, Ace was the first to angrily respond. "Burn the trash heap to the ground?!"

"Keep your voice down, you stupid kid... What if the people from the trash heap heard you?"

"Why the hell would you want to do that?!" Ace continued, despite Bluejam's interruption, and Luffy was quick to follow him with a shout of, "This is bad! We've gotta tell the guys from the trash heap! These pirates are bad guys after all!"

"I thought I told you to keep quiet!" They were so ver close now to achieving his dream! He wasn't going to let these two brats ruin it now. "Hold them down, men!" Once his crew moved to secure the brats, which happened quite fast, Bluejam sneered. "It's not as if I'm the one behind this, you know. The boxes you've been laying around the trash heap these past couple of days are filled with oil and explosives. They'll cause a fire so large that no human stands a chance of escape." He grinned now, everything unfolding wonderfully. "I guess this was a bit much even for little terrors like yourselves, eh?" He walked closer to them as they stared up at him with anger. "But now that you know about the plan... We can't afford to let you walk away that easily." They wouldn't be walking away at all. "Before we set the place alight... There's something I've got to ask the two of you. You wouldn't happen to have a stash of treasure hidden away somewhere around here, would you?"

"You're a hell of a lot weaker than me!"

It was in the dead of night, the trash heap ablaze and an odor most foul wafting through the area. Bluejam and his crew had tied the boys up to a pole and Luffy pretty much spazzed out. Luckily, Ace had a plan, and as the rope fell away he dropped the sharp stone he had used to cut through it. "All right! I've cut the rope!"

"Hot~~! So hot~~! Where are we meant to run?!" Luffy whined from where he had flopped face first onto the ground. "Ugh! How did we get ourselves mixed up in this mess?!"

Ace, of course, got angry at Luffy's whining and turn on the seven year old with a scowl. "If you're gonna keep crying about everything, I'll leave you behind!"

Luffy, not wanting Ace to leave him, sucked up his fear as much as he could. "O-okay! It's n-not hot at all!" He followed after the older boy as the flames raged around them. "Aahhh! So hot! I mean it's not hot at all!" They stumbled up a mound of trash that hadn't fully caught aflame as they searched for a way out. "So hot! I mean - it's not hot at all!" The heat was increasing, and the smoke was making it hard for him to breathe. "It's like a sea of flames out there! It hurts to breathe... I mean, it doesn't hurt at all..."

Ace, who had been ignoring Luffy's whining and protestations, led them carefully through the flames. "We'll get through this somehow! You've got me, remember!" The blaze started to kick up and the path behind them disappeared. "Run for it, Luffy!" The ten year old took off, with Luffy behind him as the fires started to catch up.

"Listen up, Luffy, and remember this!"

Ace was silent for a long moment as he stared down at his plate of half-eaten food. Luffy had eaten everything else in sight and was staring at his plate too. There was a bit of drool at the corner of his brother's mouth, so the Mera Mera no Mi user sighed and pushed the plate over to the younger pirate. Nothing could come between the boy and food.

"You couldn't have known that they would do that, yoi," Marco spoke up in a soft voice, and his fellow crewmates nodded. Nobody had said anything up to that point, the insight that Ace was providing too precious to pass up. They now understood why Ace was so protective of Luffy, and vice versa. They had always known he had thought the world of his sworn brother, but they were starting to see that there was something more. The recollection wasn't anywhere close to finished, that much they could sense. Something terrible had happened.

"No, we didn't know... But we didn't have to help them in the first place." The thrill and rush of being part of a pirate crew had gotten to them. Ace glanced over to Luffy, who had finished the food and was scooting closer to him. He wrapped an arm around his brother, which pulled the younger pirate flush against his side. "We didn't have much of a choice though, since they outnumbered and overpowered us." It didn't help that they had done things unfairly either.

He had dreamt of that fateful day ten years ago, and hadn't slept too well. Dragon had noticed of course, and with one word (Goa), the older man too remembered. Sabo had eventually told him everything, from running away from his family, at which Dragon chuckled, to living with Ace and Luffy for half a year. The former Noble spared no detail, and at the end of it it, despite the flashes of anger that had crossed his face, the Revolutionary had thanked him.

Sabo yawned as he finished checking his supplies one last time, his borrowed crew readying the galleon to set sail. Everyone had come out to see them off, save for Ivankov and his Candies. The Okama Queen had left for Momoiro some time in the night, leaving only a note that he was going to help a rumored crewmate of Luffy's. No doubt someone else who had fallen victim to Kuma's Paw Paw technique.

"We're ready to leave, Captain Sabo," the helmsman called down from the wheel. Everyone had reported in with the correct amount of supplies, so it was time to cast off. With a nod the helmsman, also his first mate, began shouting out orders. The Revolutionaries staying behind cheered them on and wished them luck in their mission.

Sabo couldn't keep the grin from his face as they started their voyage to Tequila Wolf. He was back out at sea, and he was on the path to reunite with his beloved brothers.

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