Change the Course

BY : Demonized
Category: +M to R > One Piece
Dragon prints: 2773
Disclaimer: I do not own One Piece, nor do I make any money off of this work.

East Blue is the weakest of the four Blues. This is a well-known fact. Nobody ever argues against this fact, yet here are three boys who shatter that fact at its very core. While only one has been born here in East Blue, the other two have lived here all of their lives, so they are as much a resident of East Blue as the blond-haired boy is.

Sabo is the smartest of the three and also the oldest. He reigns the other two in whenever they need it, not that such a thing is needed often. The blond also seems to be a brilliant strategist.

Ace… Ace is a perfect blend of Rouge and Roger, with his mother's gentleness and affection for her loved ones and his father's dogged determination in facing down someone who threatens his loved ones, yet he is so very much his own person. It is almost like being with his former Captain all over again, watching how Ace mothers his siblings, and that is exactly what they are.

Finally, there is Luffy. Even though he is completely unrelated to Roger by blood, the mere sight of the youngest boy evokes such a strong sense of the late Pirate King that he is certain he carries his Will. It is frightening how naturally he leads the young trio wherever they go, and the boys can be found everywhere.

His very first run-in with the young trio had been memorable, in that he and his crew had arrived at Fūsha and had gone straight to the local tavern, where a group of bandits had taken over the dining room and were harassing the barmaid, a slender woman with shoulder-length black hair and a patterned kerchief tied over it. She smiles despite the rudeness of her patrons, even if it doesn't quite reach her eyes, as she flits from table to table refilling their drinks.

One of the bandits, a greasy, sallow-faced man, has the audacity to rise from his seat as she goes past his table and grabs her by the waist. The empty mugs on her tray clink and clatter, but the hand holding it aloft is steady enough that the tray doesn't tip over, not even when the bandit boldly grabs her ass. "C'mon, honey, why don't w-" He is suddenly cut off by an arm wrapping around his throat not once, like a normal human arm, but several times with an elasticity that only rubber has.

Devil fruit user.

There is no way around that little tidbit. Whoever that elastic arm belongs to is a devil fruit user, and they have spectacular control over their ability given that the bandit hasn't been pulled back towards where the arm comes from at the opposite end of the tavern. It would have pulled the barmaid with the bandit and would have sent her heavy tray of dirty cups crashing to the ground.

"Let Makino-san go," a surprisingly young voice commands from beside the bandit. A young boy, possibly nine years old, with wavy jet black hair and achingly familiar features had seemingly appeared from thin air. At least that is what it looks like to the bandits.

It is a blink and you will miss it kind of thing, but Shanks is paying attention and had seen the boy move from the back of the room, where the stretched arm originates from, with a speed that no one in East Blue should be capable of. Vice Admirals and up in the Marines are capable of such speeds, as are a good number of pirates who had made it past the first half of the Grand Line, otherwise known as Paradise. That a mere nine-year-old boy from East Blue can pull off this speed means something. And as for who-

"You were warned," a second young voice states as another boy appears on the other side of Makino and the bandit. He has short, curly blond hair peeking out from under the top hat he wears, his eyes hidden by the brim. His lips are pressed together into a thin line, with a very slight downward curve at the corners of his mouth to indicate that he is scowling.

It is clear that these children mean business, yet the trapped bandit decides to ignore the obvious signs and reaches up to tug at the arm firmly wrapped around his throat. It doesn't budge, but the two boys on either side of him move, using precision far beyond their years to hit very specific pressure points that force the bandit to let go of Makino.

As soon as she is free Makino expertly twirls away from the bandit and the boys, as though this is an everyday occurrence, and calmly proceeds to the back of the tavern house. "Please try to keep the damage to a minimum, boys," she calls out as she takes the tray of filthy glasses to the back to wash them.

"We'll add the cost of any damages to their tab, Makino-san," the blond boy calls out almost jovially, and after a few seconds, almost like an afterthought, he adds, "He's all yours, Lu."

The rubbery arm around the bandit's throat tightens and then the bandit is pulled back towards the bar where standing atop one of the stools, there is a boy that is a few years younger by the look of him, and he looks pissed. As the bandit flies closer to him, the arm unwinds from his throat and the boy draws his other arm back to unleash an overhand punch and drive the bandit headfirst through the floor.

None of the other bandits have moved by this point, in fact, they seem rather cowed, and even when the dust and debris settle they all remain at their tables, frozen. It completely goes against what Shanks has seen in regards to any other groups of bandits he and his crew have come across prior. For several heartbeats they sit there, their attention fixated on the boy at the bar. In return, the boy looks them over before he finally directs his gaze at Shanks. There is a very minute, blink and you'll miss it look of recognition before a very closed off expression takes over the boy's features.

"Makino-san, you have more customers," he calls out in a weirdly flat tone, his gaze boring into Shanks'.

"Hai, hai, Luffy. Make some room for them, please," the barmaid calls out all too happily from the back of the tavern.

It is at this sudden announcement that all of the bandits scramble from their tables and practically stampede out of the tavern, forcing Shanks and his crew to move aside, but not without paying for their respective tabs and, it seems, the cost of the damages from the rather one-sided fight. The older, dark-haired boy goes around collecting the money while the younger one, Luffy, uses his devil fruit ability to collect the dishes and send them to the back where Makino is.

"Please excuse the mess and sit wherever you like," the blond boy directs to the Pirates with a vaguely cheeky smile. Without sparing another second of his attention on the Pirates he turns and goes over to the still unconscious bandit and easily drags him out of the hole. He gives the hole a critical once over then nods to himself and proceeds to unceremoniously drag the bandit out of the front door past the Pirates.

Shanks watches as the boy dumps the bandit in the middle of the road then disappears off to the right. He wonders just where the boy is going, but it really isn't that important. "Come on, men, let's help these kids clean up." He moves further into the tavern, his crew following after without question.

"Oh no, we insist that you gentlemen take a seat," Makino says as she reappears from the back of the tavern, holding up a tray of fresh mugs filled to the brim with ale. She makes her way around the cleaned up tables and begins setting them down, at which the pirate crew needs no further prompting. She smiles brightly when they sit down, her beaming gaze coming to rest on Shanks who is the last one left standing.

"Well since you insist, Makino-san," Shanks replies with a weak smile and walks up to the bar where the curiosity that is Luffy is now sitting down at. "Mind if I sit here, kid?" He motions to the stool next to the one the boy occupies, his smile growing when Luffy glances at him. "That was a pretty impressive punch you used back there."

Luffy's closed off expression wavers into a small grin, happiness sparking in his eyes at the mention of his punch being impressive. "You think so?"

Shanks takes this as an invitation to sit next to Luffy and he gives the boy his undivided attention. The punch had been pretty impressive, the control of it coupled with Luffy's devil fruit ability garnering his interest. "I think it was cool, especially with how you used your devil fruit ability. You handled that situation pretty well."

Luffy's expression shuts back down immediately at the mention of his devil fruit power and he shuffles a bit on his stool as he looks away from Shanks. He looks like he is going to say something but stops himself when the older brunet appears on his other side.

"Help me count the money for Makino-san, Luffy." The older boy looks remarkably familiar for reasons that Shanks doesn't understand at the time, but his intervention seems to be welcomed on Luffy's end.

"Okay, Ace." Luffy's mood seems to lift immediately with Ace's presence, a much more genuine smile blossoming on his face as he looks to who Shanks assumes to be his brother.

"I'll leave you boys be," Shanks says as he starts to get up, only to be stopped when Luffy's hand shoots out to grab the edge of his sleeve. Without even looking in his direction.

"Actually, Pirate-san, could you tell us about your adventures?" Luffy asks as he turns back to Shanks, letting go of his sleeve.

Shanks glances at Ace over Luffy's head, the older boy eyeing him with a slight smile, then back at Luffy. "Absolutely, but call me Shanks," he exclaims with an enthusiastic grin.

"Man, Lu, I thought you would have been more excited to see Shanks again," Ace comments as he flops down onto the bed they share despite Makino's insistence that they all have their own beds. That had ended up with them pushing all three of the beds together to make a ridiculously larger bed in the center of their room. It had been a logistical nightmare to organize at first, but Sabo had made it work out in the end.

"I feel like I let him down," Luffy mutters into his pillow, which results in Ace smacking the back of his head.

"You're not back there anymore, baka, and you will save your Nakama when the time comes." Ace curls up next to him and slings an arm around his middle, dragging Luffy closer to him.

"We will save them," Sabo corrects as he finishes filling out their latest excursions in the journal he keeps for them. He sets the book aside so that the ink can dry then joins his brothers on the bed.

Luffy smiles as Sabo occupies the space behind him and joins Ace in draping an arm over him. They always seem to know just what he needs the most, and Ace seems especially attuned to his emotions. "You guys are the best," he whispers with tears forming in his eyes.

"And you're the best little brother either of us could have hoped for," Ace says in a low, soft tone, to which Sabo nods. "Now go to sleep, Lu. Tomorrow is a new day."

Luffy rubs the tears from his eyes and turns onto his side to face Ace. "Goodnight, Ace-nii-chan, Sabo-nii-chan." He tucks his head under Ace's chin and closes his eyes. Within minutes he is asleep, something that no longer surprises the older two boys.

"You know, Ace, you should ask Shanks about your dad," Sabo whispers, not so much because he is afraid of waking Luffy up, but because the subject is quite touchy with Ace.

Ace frowns at the suggestion instead of his normal reaction which is to explode with anger. He studies Sabo for several long moments, mulling over the thought of asking Shanks about his dad. "Everything I've heard about him up till now has been about how terrible he was, how much everyone hated him and that I shouldn't have been born."

Sabo remains silent as Ace speaks, as this is something that his friend and brother hadn't willingly spoken of before. With all of the points that Ace brings up it makes sense as to why he reacts the way he does whenever Roger is brought up. It had all changed when Luffy had forced his way into their lives. "You don't have to if you don't want to."

"I think I need to," Ace admits with a little hesitation. "It might not change how I feel about him, but then at least I'll have a better idea of who he was."

"You'll still be you, Ace," Sabo replies confidently because, like Ace and Luffy not caring about him being a noble, Ace's parentage doesn't matter either. "Our brother."

A warm smile breaks out on Ace's face and he nudges Sabo's arm with his own in a silent thank you. Luffy stirs slightly at the action only to snuggle closer to Ace and settles back into sleep instantly. "We should go to sleep too."

"Yeah…. G'night, Ace. You too, Luffy." A small grin forms on Sabo's face and he shifts closer to Luffy once more, closing the slight gap the sleeping boy had made. The blond closes his eyes with a happy sigh and he lays there listening to their breathing. Ace's evens out and syncs with Luffy's in a matter of minutes, the soothing and rhythmic sound lulling him to sleep.

Shanks has been puttering around his cabin on the Red Force for the better part of the morning, the boys from the tavern on his mind. As far as he is aware, they had all been born in East Blue, yet their fighting capabilities are on par with someone who had been through Paradise. They're only children!

Children do not run bandits out of taverns. They do not have fighting capabilities on par with the pirates and marines of Paradise. They most certainly aren't standing in front of him without him having noticed them come in.

"Ne, Shanks, we were wondering if you could tell us about the Pirate King," the one called Luffy says without it even sounding like a question. He stands in front of his brothers, rather he is placed more directly in front of Ace and his expression is once again unreadable. Is this a test of some sort?

Whatever this is, Shanks knows it has to at least be important so he is going to bite. "Well, first off, Gold Roger was my Captain," he starts slowly, using the accursed false name the World Government had taken to calling him so that the world will remain unaware that he was a D.

"Gol D. Roger," the boy behind Luffy says suddenly and moves from behind the protective rubber boy. "His name was Gol D. Roger."

In that instant, Shanks has something of an epiphany, a spark of realization flashing through his expression as the three boys basically stare him down. Their asking of Roger is for a very personal reason, and he is almost certain that he can guess as to what that is. "Yes, yes it is," he mumbles out of shock. "Are you…?"

Ace shifts uncomfortably at the unfinished question and gives a very faint nod. "I'm his son, Ace."

The smile that split Shanks' face is genuine and it does not go unnoticed by him that Luffy gives a small smile of his own. Likewise, the tension that seemed to permeate through the room vanishes and he gestures for the boys to come sit. "As I was saying, Roger was my Captain and as fearsome as everyone claimed him to be, he cared for his crew a great deal."

Shanks smiles fondly at the hat in his hand as he stands on the dock where the Red Force is moored. Several of his crew members are milling about the dock, transferring the crates of supplies they will need to kick off the next leg of their journey onto the deck and finally into the hold. He looks up at the pattering of three sets of tiny feet on the dock and grins when he sees that it is the boys coming to see him off. They had changed so much in the past year, Luffy most of all.

"Ne, Shanks, I wish you would at least come back and visit," the youngest of the three whines slightly and launches himself at Shanks' legs.

"Kid, I'd give up my arm for you," he pats Luffy's hair, not failing to notice that the boy stiffens at that sentence. He doesn't dare press for an answer and instead places the hat on Luffy's head with a gentler smile. "But I'll give you this instead." A glance at Sabo and Ace, who have stood back a few feet away, reveals that they are both smiling. "Roger would have wanted you to have it."

Luffy looks stunned as he pulls away from Shanks, and he hesitantly reaches up to clutch at the brim of the old straw hat with tears forming in his eyes. "I…. Thank you, Shanks! I'll keep it safe." Even if I don't deserve to wear this hat again.

"And we'll take care of Luffy," Ace adds and comes up behind his brother to draw him into a one-armed hug.

"With those devil fruits you snatched from under my nose last month?" Shanks' tone is one of amusement as he eyes the boys, making both Sabo and Ace fidget uncomfortably. Luffy, however, just wipes his tears away and gives him a cheeky grin. "I'm not mad, neither is my crew. We all know you three are more than capable of handling yourselves. Just don't terrorize the villagers."

"Eh, we have better things to do than to terrorize Fūsha," Luffy states with a peculiar smile.

"Should I be worried about anything you three have planned?" Shanks asks half-heartedly.

"Well storming Enies Lobby, breaking into and out of Impel Down, and invading Marineford is a long ways off, so no, not really," Sabo says with a completely straight face.

"Uh…" Shanks honestly does not know what to say to that, and did the boys even hear of those places? He glances at each of them, noting that Ace and Luffy also have serious expressions fixed in place. The silence that follows is heavy, but it doesn't last as Luffy breaks out into a fit of giggles. The atmosphere immediately relaxes and the red-haired pirate realizes that he has been had as Sabo and Ace grin.

"Our Gramps is a Vice Admiral," Ace explains nonchalantly, his grin widening. "Garp the Fist."

"He's due back for another visit too, so you guys should leave soon." Luffy adjusts the old straw on his head, tipping it back so that his face isn't obscured by the shadow it casts and gives Shanks a warm smile. "We'll meet again on the seas, right Shanks?"

He really doesn't want to process what he is being told, even though it changes nothing. He knows very well who Garp is, and he is making connections that will never be revealed to the world. A Marine had risked life and limb for the son of Gol D. Roger, and not just any Marine. Garp the Fist is a legend, even now. The man also has a heart, evidenced by the fact that Ace is here, hidden away from the world and those that will seek to harm him.

"Yeah, we will. I look forward to the day we meet again and seeing how much stronger all three of you have grown." Shanks gives them a broad grin, the thought that they will do anything dangerous pushed out of his mind. They are all kids, as far as he is aware, and credits what Sabo had said as simply that, a kid saying something they don't mean. With a wave, he turns and walks up the gangplank onto the Red Force, not even realizing just how wrong he is.

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