Change the Course

BY : Demonized
Category: +M to R > One Piece
Dragon prints: 2148
Disclaimer: I do not own One Piece, nor do I make any money off of this work.

The way to Gray Terminal is exactly how Luffy remembers it to be, despite how long it has technically been for him. It doesn't occur to him that he isn't supposed to know all of this, or if it does then he isn't thinking about it. Ace is trailing behind him, staring at his back in wide-eyed wonder. He can feel his not-a-brother-but-still-kind-of-is' gaze, and it is actually a comforting thing.

"You said your name was Luffy, right?" Ace questions him, finally, drawing them to a brief halt.

They are on the bridge over the canyon, the very one that the Ace of his past and childhood had knocked him into to keep him from following the boy to Gray Terminal. Luffy turns to the new-but-still-the-same-Ace and gives him a brilliant smile. "That's my name, and Ace is Ace."

Ace blinks a bit then shakes his head, a slight frown marring his face. "How do you know me, Luffy?"

Luffy himself blinks and lets the question process. "I grew up with Ace before," he answers after a long moment. "A long, long time ago."

That makes no sense whatsoever. Ace takes the opportunity to scowl and crosses his arms over his chest. "I don't know you, Luffy, and this is the first time I've met you."

Luffy goes completely still at that, his smile replaced by a look of shocked realization. Of course, this Ace won't know him, but he knows Ace. He knows Ace very well. "I… I did grow up with Ace." But that Ace is dead. Killed by the same bastard who had killed his Nakama, his only other brother Sabo, as well as his father Dragon. "I won't let Ace-nii-chan die again."

"I don't… Wait, what? Die? Again?" What the hell is this kid talking about? Ace is positive that he doesn't know him at all, but Luffy is so sincere, and it seems like he would be such a terrible liar, so he has to be telling the truth.

There are big fat tears in Luffy's eyes as he recalls that day with perfect clarity. The feel of his older brother's overly warm body cooling, the smell of burned flesh, and the pooling blood from the gaping hole in his chest. He can remember the stinging heat of Sakazuki's magma, and the sound of the bead necklace that Dadan had given to Ace as the string tore and the beads scattered on the ground. Ace's final words that were barely audible.

"H-hey…" Ace hadn't meant to make Luffy cry, but whatever the cause of the boy's tears is, it's a very real source. He isn't prepared for the kid to launch himself at him and nearly stumbles backward. He wraps an arm around Luffy while he holds on to one of the ropes that help suspend the bridge over the canyon. The bridge sways a little and strongly reminds him that they need to be careful while crossing it and that upsetting a five-year-old on it is the last thing he wants to do. "I'm not dead, Luffy. I'm right here," Ace murmurs in an attempt to calm Luffy down. He isn't sure why he cares so much, but seeing the five-year-old so upset over someone he had seemed to truly care for makes him feel uneasy.

"I won't let Ace-nii-chan die again," Luffy hiccups out stubbornly, his face partially buried in the eight-year-old Ace's shirt.

"I'm not gonna die," Ace mutters and lightly rubs at Luffy's back.

"Ace… Ace said that last time." Luffy sniffles and looks up at the eight-year-old, his eyes still very much watery. "You… He promised that he wouldn't die."

Ace opens his mouth to respond but his mind blanks, and he can't think of anything to say. Luffy's claim that his Ace had died, that he is that Ace—which doesn't make sense to him to start with—and had promised not to die is throwing him for quite a loop. More than just a loop. The news that he will one day die, even though it is a logical conclusion, doesn't sit well with him. Worriedly looking down at the canyon they are swaying over, he swallows a bit in fear. "Let's get off of this bridge, Luffy."

Luffy doesn't move for a few seconds, then slowly lets go of Ace—his shirt wet where Luffy's face had been pressed to it—and crosses the remainder of the bridge while he wipes at his eyes. "I'm sorry."

Ace blinks, incredulously and a little confused at the sudden apology. "What for?"

"I got your shirt wet, and you always hated it when I cried." Luffy stops all of a sudden now that they are off of the bridge and sits down on the ground.

The eight-year-old sits down next to Luffy, a thoughtful frown on his face. "I don't care about my shirt, and you can cry over important stuff. What… What you were talking about is important." And he hadn't wanted to know all of that, but there is no changing that. It is hardly believable, but the kid is weird, can stretch, and is certainly telling the truth. Someone close to him, named Ace, had died. "Where are you from, Luffy?"

"The future," Luffy answers without hesitation, and obviously any thought. He is looking down at his lap, so he doesn't notice the gob-smacked disbelief that is now etched onto Ace's face. "I was a lot older… about twenty years old. Me and my Nakama were on our way to Laugh Tale in the New World when…" He pauses here, more furious tears springing to his eyes that blur his vision. "When Sakazuki and Borsalino came out of nowhere and attacked us. He taunted us, both of them did, and started attacking. We didn't stand a chance against them. He told me that he had killed Sabo and my dad right after they finished killing nearly everyone in my crew. He killed Jinbē last…and that was when Coby saved me. Coby, he brought me here to the past with a devil fruit power, but he didn't have control over it and he died because of it."

Ace sits there and listens to Luffy's story, once again unsure of what to say, and at this point, he is even unsure of what to do. A solid look at the five-year-old, who claims he had been twenty—which is old when he thinks about it—reveals that he is trembling, his hands fisted into the material of the shorts he wears. He knows what he had to do now, and he quickly scoots over to Luffy and wraps an arm around the boy in an attempt to comfort him. "He killed Sabo?" he asks in a whisper, hoping that it is a lie because he had seen the blond yesterday.

"The Sabo from my time, yes." Luffy sniffles and leans into Ace. "He killed Ace-nii-chan when I was seventeen… I was too weak to save Ace then and I was too weak to save everyone else too," the five-year-old confesses.

Ace swallows down the fear that has been building, and while he wants to sigh in relief—because his own Sabo is safe—there is nothing to be relieved about if what Luffy says is true. That it is, he has no doubts about. The kid is exceedingly honest, and such a story can't have been made up or even a nightmare. "We're not dead. None of us are. We can change that, right?"

Luffy glances up at Ace and stares, his eyes wide. After a moment he nods because he is now in the past. He remembers everything and will train even harder. "We can get stronger," he whispers. They have an advantage, because he remembers everything, even right down to the Haki training he had done with Rayleigh.

Ace smiles faintly when he sees that Luffy's tears have stopped and something akin to hope appears in his eyes. "Let's go get Sabo then." The blond will definitely take some convincing.

"No. Absolutely not. How could you even believe something like this?!" Sabo shouts, protectively clutching a crudely-made pipe staff as he stares at Ace and the strange kid with him. "You let yourself get taken in by a five-year-old, Ace. A freaking five-year-old!"

Luffy stands there behind Ace, peeking out at Sabo who has taken his explanations not so well. His lower lip trembles a little because he had hoped that Sabo would come with them.

"He's telling the truth, Sabo!" Ace stands his ground, and even though he is unarmed versus Sabo's staff he has taken up a defensive position of his own. It is hard for him to go against Sabo, but he truly trusts Luffy and believes him. The kid has proven himself by knowing things he isn't supposed to know about Ace. Namely the fact that he knows who Ace's father is. Surely there are things he knows about Sabo too. "Luffy, what do you know about Sabo that he hasn't ever told us?"

Luffy blinks at that, glancing up at Ace then looks back to Sabo. After a few seconds, his gaze immediately shifts to the walled off city where the nobles of Dawn Island live. "His father's a noble, but he told us that after his father spotted us running away from a ramen shop in there."

Sabo's mouth drops open while Ace stares at him fixedly, unable to believe what he has just heard. He has never, ever revealed his shameful heritage to anyone. "He has to be a spy! You were spying on me!"

"When was that? When he was a baby?! He knows things he shouldn't know Sabo, and I've never seen him before today! He knows who my father is!" Ace doesn't even care that Sabo is a noble. It seems like something he truly hates, and he can understand that.

"Sabo hates that he was born a noble. He also wants to be a navigator," Luffy helpfully supplies.

The blond stares at them, any argument he has dying on his tongue. He can't refute that he has never seen Luffy before, and the whole spy accusation doesn't fit. How Luffy seems to know everything about him, about them… Is he truly from the future? Will he and Ace really die? "So it's all true?" His heart is dropping. He doesn't want to think about dying, not when he is in a place that is already like hell. It is a struggle to not get caught out here in Gray Terminal.

"All of it," Ace answers, his tone even and firm. He starts to relax, just a little since it seems like Sabo is coming around. "How many Sabos do you know of that are blond, dress like that, and ran away from being a Noble?"

"Just me…" Sabo's gaze focuses on Luffy, who had started to smile. It is a contagious thing because he starts to smile too.

"See, you can't resist him either." Ace gives a relieved smile and Luffy around the neck to bring him to his side. "This squirt says he can show us a lot of cool stuff. Something called Haki."

"I remember everything Rayleigh taught me!" It had been tough, of course, but Luffy is sure that both Ace and Sabo will have little trouble learning it once they awaken to it. The only issue will be getting it to awaken within them. "Ne! Let's go to Fūsha and see Makino-san! She's probably worried about me!"

"Fūsha?" Sabo and Ace ask together, looking at each other in a perplexed manner.

Luffy's return to Fūsha, with two older boys in tow, receives quite a few reactions. Makino, of course, is beside herself in anger that Luffy had gone off, especially since they hadn't appeared until dinner time. He has been missing almost all day and she had very nearly sent a letter to Garp. Now that he is back, safe and sound, she takes one look at that dirty, smiling face and melts.

Woop Slap, however, is more than a bit bitter, because they had sent people out to look for Luffy. A glare from Makino prevents him from saying anything, but he is most certainly going to send out a letter of his own to Garp.

"Who are these two young men, Luffy?" Makino asks as she sets out two more plates since it seems like the newcomers will be staying with them. She doesn't mind, because Luffy needs children his age to play with, and the children of the village are generally kept away from him. It comes from the stigma of who Luffy's grandfather is, unfortunately.

"Ace-nii-chan and Sabo-nii-chan," Luffy happily chirps and starts to climb onto his usual chair at the table.

"Luffy," Makino says in a sharp tone, eying the little boy. "You need to go wash up first. All three of you need to wash up," she adds after giving them a critical glance over.

"Y-yes, Makino-san." Luffy immediately scurries away to the bathroom so he can wash up, Ace and Sabo following him.

"Oh how adorable," she finally gushes once they are out of the room, and she finishes setting up the table. "He's calling them his brothers." They will most definitely be good for Luffy because he is a lonely child.

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