Yes, this is an update. No, this story is not abandoned and never will be. Yes, the same goes for all of my stories. No, I don't know when the next update will come. Yes, you're very welcome.
One more thing: I rewrote the 1st chapter of this story, because it was bothering me so much. Go check it out. With time, I'd do the same with a few more chapters, but for now, enjoy the new one.
Chapter 27. The Stranger on the Dawn Island (Part III)
-four months after Law washed up on the Dawn Island-
The enormous Mt. Colubo tree split in two a mere second after Luffy rolled away from his position right in front of it. He sprang to his feet and sprinted across the field, swiftly maneuvering around the random remains of trees and chunks of boulders. When the shadow fell upon him, he glanced up and immediately darted to the side. Pieces of wood and stone one after another smashed to the ground after him, kicking up the big cloud of dust. It obscured the view and successfully hid Luffy within.
Law furrowed his brow in concentration. He rearranged his fingers on his unsheathed nodachi's hilt as his gaze flickered between both sides of the cloud, waiting for the boy to show himself. He didn't want to admit, but Luffy's ability to seemingly vanish from his perception area unnerved him. It was like he knew how to become insignificant enough not to be noticed, the total opposite of a usually loud and exuberant kid.
The man's ponderings were brought short by the slight air movement behind him. At the same time, his instincts screamed in alarm and he twisted around, lifting his blade to block the strike from Luffy's metal staff. Weapons met with a sharp, crisp ding.
Two opponents exchanged several blows. The younger D's staff sometimes twirled in a way that would have been impossible if the wielder hadn't been made out of rubber, but the older one still countered every blow with a flawless accuracy.
At the corner of his eye, Law spotted the boy's free arm stretching backward. He instantly switched with the nearest rock which the rubber fist pulverized a second later.
A smirk slipped on Law's thin lips. For such a scrawny kid, Luffy could sure pack a punch. He had the utmost confidence in his own body's durability, but he honestly wanted to avoid getting hit as much as possible. Fortunately, he was getting more successful in that with every spar they had.
Summoning his Devil Fruit powers, he readied Kikoku for another swing.
Luffy's head suddenly snapped in a different direction and his complete focus together with it. "Wait," he said quietly. "Someone's coming."
Law paused, his blade freezing mid-swing. Then he exhaled, easing his body and mind out of the battle mode. He recalled the Room, lowered the sword, and while resheathing it asked, "You don't know who?" When the boy shook his head no, he reminded, "It's about time for my crew to show up."
"But it's only one person."
The pirate let out a soft 'hmm', turning to look where Luffy was staring at. They were standing in the middle of the destroyed part of the forest—the unfortunate side effect of their frequent sparring matches—surrounded by the dense flora from all sides and had to wait till the visitor reached their battlefield to know who it was.
After a few tense minutes, the unknown person finally stepped out of the shadows and under the sunlight. He stopped, keen eyes sweeping across the area, quickly taking in all the destruction, before settling on two people.
Luffy drew a sharp breath, feeling like someone sucker-punched him. He knew that face, that hair, that hat, even his clothes and weapon of choice—the pipe—were similar.
But it couldn't be him. Ace said that Sabo died. There was no way that this person was his brother.
The shadow of doubt passing across the boy's face didn't go unnoticed. The stranger's lips twitched into an uncertain smile. "Hey, Luffy." His voice was cautious but gentle, expression soft in a way that spoke volumes of immeasurable fondness.
Luffy's eyes widened and he unconsciously took a shaky step back.
Law scowled at his reaction, shifting his nodachi into a more suitable position to draw it at a moment's notice, and made a subtle move forward so that he would be standing slightly in front of the younger D.
The blond guy seemed to catch on his motive and an odd gleam of approval entered his grey-blue eyes.
"Ace said you died," Luffy uttered, unable to tear his gaze from the man's slightly different, more mature, but still achingly familiar features. "Said that they killed you."
"They almost did, but a certain man saved me. Though I didn't come out of it unscathed," the stranger explained, brushing his bangs from his face's scarred side to allow a better view. "The head injury caused amnesia."
Luffy blinked. He had no idea what it was, so instinctively turned to Law for clarification.
"Sounds like the case of retrograde amnesia," the surgeon noted, inspecting the blond's scars with a critical eye. "It's when the person cannot remember events that occurred before the trauma, but have no trouble forming new memories. Depending on the level of damage, it could be temporary or permanent. If I had to guess, your memories came back either naturally with time or as an aftereffect of some outside stimulus."
"I saw Ace's bounty poster," maybe-Sabo replied as he eyed the older man with obvious curiosity. "Are you a doctor?"
A stern glower was the only reply he received from Law.
"…Sabo?" Luffy asked. He sounded so unsure it was clear that he was grasping at straws.
There was something not right about the smile that appeared on Sabo's face. So full of sadness and regret, shame and guilt, and absolutely out of place. "I guess, someone of my birth is not the person you wish to see right now, but I—"
He was cut off when Luffy slammed into him. The boy wrapped his arms around his waist and buried his face into his chest.
For a moment, Sabo was unable to process what happened. Unconsciously holding his breath in, afraid that it might be just a figment of his imagination, he glanced down at his little brother. His little brother who he left behind and who suffered through all the torment of someone from a similar social class as he had originated. If only he wouldn't have tried to leave the island—
"Don't think about it," Luffy said, his voice muffled by Sabo's clothes. "You are you, and always be just Sabo for us." His hug tightened. "I missed you so much."
The tension Sabo felt from the moment he had learned about Luffy's past from Dragon ebbed away into corners of his consciousness. His arms came up to press his precious little brother as close as possible, unbidden tears gathering in his eyes. "I missed you too, Luffy," he murmured into the boy's black hair, breathing in the faint smell of grass and fresh soil that lingered on it.
Law watched two brothers for a few more moments. With a sigh, he turned around and walked away, not wanting to intrude into such an intimate familial moment more than he already did.
Luffy was the first one to loosen his embrace though he made no move to detach himself from his wayward brother. He leaned back and fixed his eyes on Sabo's face. After a moment, he lifted his hand and touched his scar with his fingertips as if scared that even such a feathery contact would harm. "Does this amee—amon—this memory-thing still hurt?"
Warmth spread in Sabo's chest at Luffy's concern, even if the guilt still lay like a chunk of ice in his guts. What happened, happened. He could not undo the past, but he could make amends by protecting and supporting this radiant ball of sunshine in every way he could in the days to come.
The blond grinned sheepishly at Luffy's disapproving frown. "No, I'm alright," he finally answered as he grabbed the straw hat that dangled around his brother's neck and pushed it back on that messy black mop. "Especially now, after seeing you."
A smirk lit up Luffy's face. In a flash, he snatched Sabo's top hat from his head, eliciting a surprised 'Hey!', and switched it with his straw hat. They stared at each other and then burst out laughing realizing just how silly they looked.
"You said you've seen Ace's bounty poster, right?" Luffy asked as he toyed with the brim of Sabo's hat. It was slightly too big for him and he had to push it up from time to time. "It seems he got his own hat now!"
"I always suspected that he was jealous of us."
Two brothers talked as they sat on the grass under the trees, hiding from the hot sun, the world beyond the Mt. Colubo ancient forest momentarily forgotten. Their conversation flowed like a river, picking up momentum at some topics and slowing down in others.
They reminisced about their childhood, their brotherhood ceremony, and that they should definitely repeat it once the three of them gathered into one place again.
Luffy told about his time with Ace before the latter left, about Law and bad guys who were after him, about Garp, Makino, Dadan, and the rest of the bandits. Sabo revealed his affiliation with the Revolutionary Army and what exactly it was, recounted some of his major adventures, and told about his comrades and friends.
"So, you're working with the man who saved you?"
"Yeah, he's actually the leader and he's…" Sabo seemed to waver before he took a calming breath, at the same time hardening his resolve, and pushed forward, "We are fighting against the rule of the Celestial Dragons."
Luffy stiffened. His face betrayed no emotions, but Sabo caught the flash of fear in his eyes. It saddened him. The guilt that almost eased off returned tenfold.
"You know?" the younger teen asked, his voice barely above a whisper. He sounded wary, alert.
Sabo's heart broke despite it already being in pieces. He didn't take offense at his brother's reaction, it was normal. "Some of my friends have the same past as you," he revealed. "Our leader, the man who saved me, was also the one who rescued and brought you back home."
Luffy perked up. "It's the same person?" When he saw an affirmative nod, his eyes lit up with eagerness. "Can I meet him?"
The blond smiled. "I'm sure you'll meet him someday."
The boy hummed, staring somewhere into the forest. "It seems like we have the same goal, so I guess that's true," he muttered to himself.
Luffy suddenly jumped to his feet. "Let's go hunting! Like old times!"
Sabo chose not to comment on such an obvious and abrupt change of topic. "It's been a while," he admitted as he heaved himself up and stretched out, working kinks in his muscles. "How about an alligator?"
"Alligator it is!"
"Luffy," Sabo called suddenly, drawing the rubber teen's flittering attention back to him. "For me and Ace you'll always be just Luffy, our little brother."
Luffy stared at him and then as bright as the sun and as wide as the horizon grin stretched across his face. "I know, Sabo."
Law sat down on the log right after rekindling the bonfire. It wasn't dark yet, but with the twilight fast approaching, he didn't wish to interrupt his reading by the need to light the fire.
He put Kikoku at his side and flipped the book open. A few pages later, mirthful laughter resounded somewhere in the forest and soon Luffy and the blond guy walked out, dragging a huge alligator behind them.
"Traffy!" Luffy exclaimed, a brilliant expression beaming at him. "We're back!"
Law closed the book. He gave no response to the exuberant greeting, but the younger D didn't expect it anyway.
"I didn't get a chance to introduce myself," the blond spoke with a polite smile. "I'm Sabo, Luffy's older brother."
"Like Ace!" the boy chimed in, already preparing to barbecue the prey they brought back.
Second older brother. The surgeon's eyes flicked between the two. They looked nothing alike. Not blood brothers? "Trafalgar Law," he returned the courtesy by introducing himself.
"Luffy told me about you, Law-san," Sabo said before he leaned into a half-bow. "Thank you for taking care of my little brother."
Law stared at him for a bit. "Think nothing of it." The corner of his lips quirked up. "I'm just returning the favor."
"It might be true, but I'm still deeply grateful for you. Luffy can be a bit of a handful sometimes and makes his older brothers constantly worried."
"I understand. I had a younger sister."
The instant these words left his mouth, Law just froze. He was probably the only one surprised by what he had just blurted out without thinking. There was no logical explanation of why he revealed something so personal to these people. He never spoke of his family to anyone. Not about his father or mother, not about his sister, and definitely not about Cora-san. Although, the latter probably knew about Lami; Law recalled fragments from the time his fever got out of hand and he was too delirious to distinguish dreams from reality.
Maybe it was because he spent too much time on this sleepy backwater island and got too comfortable here. Maybe because these two were brothers and Law could clearly see all the love and care in the older one's gaze. He himself failed that role quite spectacularly…
Luffy's face suddenly popped into Law's sight, just a few inches away from his own. He suppressed a flinch of surprise, his fingers curling around the hilt of Kikoku out of pure habit. Fortunately, he retained enough awareness not to draw it.
"Stop that," the kid said, his tone strict and hard. No, it was a demand. An order. "Stop thinking about something unnecessary."
What the— Law didn't know what to say to that. How did he—
Luffy pursed his lips and his eyebrows drew together. His piercing black eyes drilled straight into the older D's amber ones, as if able to see through all his meticulously built walls and defenses. And that's when the words came out, "She wouldn't want you to blame yourself."
Law's mind turned disturbingly blank and unhelpful. "…What."
"I don't want my brothers to keep blaming themselves, so I'm sure that your sister wouldn't want to see you doing the same either."
The man's brain refused to formulate any coherent thought other than a dumbfounded 'What?' going on a loop. Law was pretty confident that he gave no outside clues of what he had been pondering in the privacy of his own head, so this came completely out of nowhere. Could Luffy read minds?
A tantalizing smell wafted through the air and the straw-hatted boy jumped away with a cheerful, "Yay! Food's done!" like he didn't just tilt Law's whole world on its axis.
Not that he objected. It saved him from the need to respond.
Sabo watched as the man visibly shook himself out of the shocked stupor and then tugged his hat down in a poor attempt to hide his anguish. He turned away, a wry smile perched on his lips. Oh, he could relate to how this guy felt.
This Luffy was pretty different from the one he remembered. His new ability to read people like they were an open book in front of the scholar was frankly downright frightening. He could be so thoroughly savage with his sincere bluntness on occasions like this and still stay blissfully oblivious of just how truly deep his words carved into his unintended and thus unprepared victims.
Though, what their little future Pirate King said made sense, it didn't help to get rid of the festering guilt inside one's heart.
Luffy landed on one of the upper branches without a sound and looked down at a group of three—two men in white jumpsuits and a white bear in a yellow one—and a huge tiger standing in a staring deadlock.
The beast growled, its tail swishing to the sides aggressively, but seemed hesitant to attack, while the trio stood ready to defend themselves. Finally, the massive feline decided that this prey wasn't worth its time, turned around, and stalked away.
The two humans collapsed to the ground, letting out an overly emotional sighs of relief.
"What the hell is wrong with this island?!" one of them complained loudly.
"We had beasts coming at us one after another from the moment we entered!" another agreed. "Ne, Bepo, is Captain really here?"
"It should be this island," the bear replied, looking around.
Luffy's eyes widened when the strange bear talked. A moment later, his mouth stretched into a big grin. He jumped down, landing gracefully in a crouch behind the oblivious group. "Hey!" he greeted them cheerfully.
"Aaaaaaaahhhh!" two humans shrieked in fright, scrambling to their feet. The second the trio saw the straw-hatted kid waving and smiling at them, their faces washed blank with confusion, like their brain cogs couldn't turn fast enough to take in what was in front of them.
Luffy stared at the bear with practically stars shooting out of his eyes. "I can't believe that Traffy was right! You really are a bear who can talk!"
Bepo lowered his head and hunched into himself. "I'm sorry…"
"No, no! That's so cool!" the boy exclaimed. "You're big, white, and fluffy! And you can even talk! I like you!" He stretched his arms to the side to show how much he liked him. "Hey, can I scratch your ear?"
Two humans burst out laughing. Bepo shifted from one foot to another, clearly embarrassed, and maybe a little bit uncertain.
Luffy's expression fell a bit, but he didn't let that deter him. He continued to wait patiently.
One man patted his furry companion on the shoulder. "There is no harm in letting the kid pet you, right?"
"Penguin's right," the other one concurred with a smile. "He might help us find Captain."
"Oh, yeah, I can lead you to Traffy, no problem," Luffy assured, inching closer to the cool bear.
Bepo blinked. "You know Captain?"
"Yup. The tall guy with cool tattoos, fuzzy hat, and a huge sword," the boy quickly described Law as he took another step closer. "So, can I scratch your ear?"
Luffy's face lit up like a bonfire and without hesitation, he stretched his hand to pet Bepo.
"Oh, that's definitely Captain," the red-haired pirate noted. "I'm Shachi by the way. This is Penguin," he motioned to the second human male and then to the bear, "and Bepo."
"Luffy," the rubber teen answered somewhat distracted, continuing scratching around Bepo's ear. "Whoa, so soft and fluffy!"
"How do you know our captain?" Penguin asked curiously.
"He's living at my place while waiting for you guys."
Shachi rubbed the back of his neck. "Living with you? It's hard to believe."
"Care to share why?"
The pirates were too preoccupied to react to the fact that a new voice joined their conversation.
"Well, Captain hates kids for starters," Shachi explained thoughtfully. "Living with one for a few months would be impossible."
"You'd probably be dead after a week." Penguin nodded his head in agreement. "Wait…" He paused. "Was that Captain's voice?"
Both men looked at each other, then swiveled around.
Law stood there, lips turned downward, eyes narrowed, and he kept tapping his nodachi against his shoulder. Sabo was right next to him and looked like he barely held himself from laughing.
The joyful shout of his crewmates got Bepo's attention too. He shook himself out of the pleased daze, looked at the obviously irritated Law, and his eyes watered. The next moment, he pounced on the man with a tearful, "Captain!" and engulfed him into a literal bear hug.
Shachi and Penguin soon joined in this impromptu display of affection, wailing their lungs out and latching onto their captain for dear life. Though Law didn't push them away, going by his expression, he was not amused by their antics.
Sabo melted into a fit of chuckles while Luffy watched the scene with a soft smile.
After a full minute, Law finally had enough. He summoned a room and switched himself with a piece of a fallen tree that was lying nearby.
Luffy beamed at the older D when he appeared not far from them. "So, that's your crew?"
Law grimaced at the undeniable mirth on the boy's face and voice. "Just a small part of it," he sighed. "Oi, Bepo, Shachi, Penguin," he called out to his three crying crew members, still busy with hugging the tree. "Where are the rest of you idiots?"
That finally snapped the trio back into reality. They stared at the thing they were hugging and then turned to their captain with faces scrunched into childish pouting.
"That's so mean, Captain!" Shachi whined.
"We were so worried!" Penguin added.
Law was not moved by their words in the slightest. "I've already told you via Den Den Mushi that I was fine."
"Isn't that what you always say?!"
"Even if you're not fine at all?"
As their captain narrowed his eyes, two men winced before ducking behind Bepo to hide. "I'm sorry!" the bear squeaked instantly.
Law pinched the bridge of his nose, successfully hiding a tiny smirk behind his arm.
Luffy nudged Sabo. "They care about each other so much," he told him in a low voice. "Exactly the kind of crew I want to have myself."
The blond grinned down at him. "I'm sure you'll find the most amazing people to join you, Luffy."
"Traffy's so strong, I want to find a powerful swordsman to join my crew too. Also, a cook," the young pirate-to-be pondered out loud. "And a fluffy one is an absolute must!"
Sabo raised an eyebrow at the last one. "Fluffy one?"
"Fluffy ones are so cool!" Luffy nodded like that made any sense. "Let's not forget about the musician. Oi, guys! Do you have a musician?"
Law and the trio turned to look at him. After a moment, the only answer Luffy got was a bewildered, "…A musician?" from Penguin.
"Well, yeah. Pirates gotta sing, you know."
Shachi touched his chin in thought. "Really?"
Law scowled. "No, they don—"
Luffy's jovial, "Of course!" interrupted his denial. "I can even teach you a song!"
"Alright, listen up!" The pirates huddled around the boy and leaned closer, listening to him with rapt attention, efficiently ignoring their own captain. "It goes like this…"
Law facepalmed, letting out a frustrated groan as he did.
Sabo felt the need to politely offer the stressed man a comforting shoulder pat and a sheepish apologetic smile in his brother's stead.
Sabo chuckled as he looked around the beach. Bodies of sleeping pirates were sprawled out all around it. Some of them were cuddling with each other, some were lying with their limbs stretched in all directions. A few ended up sleeping on the deck of their docked submarine.
Law's reunion with the rest of his crew yesterday somehow turned into a party and inevitably into a singing contest once everyone got their share of booze in their bellies that boosted their courage. After dozens of totally off-key songs, Law's gradually wearing thin patience finally snapped and he proceeded to cut the loudest few into pieces using his Devil Fruit powers.
The crew seemed to take it in stride which made Sabo speculate that it wasn't the first time it happened. Luffy, however, was pushed into hysterics until he couldn't breathe from laughing so hard. Then, he and the rest of the drunken pirates started to assemble their friends piece by piece. The blond couldn't quite remember his little brother having so much fun before.
Now Sabo wondered if those poor bastards got every bit and part attached back to their bodies, the parts that actually belonged to them and not someone else.
Absent-mindedly, his gaze moved to the nearby tree where three people were resting in its shadow. Bepo lay on his back, snoring peacefully, with Luffy sprawled on top and Law leaning against his side.
It was remarkable just how much Luffy liked and trusted Law. It was even more surprising that despite the latter's cold, aloof, and sometimes even unfriendly attitude, Luffy managed to warm his way into his heart.
Sabo smiled to himself. Or maybe he shouldn't be that astonished for it wasn't the first time his baby brother achieved such a feat. Ace was a prime example of his ability to find a way around someone's defenses, no matter how impregnable they were.
The blond startled as he heard the sound of the Baby Den Den Mushi from his inner pocket. He pulled it out and answered the call, "Yes?"
"Hey, Sabo," a male voice greeted him through the snail. "Dragon called and said that our allies at Roanoke Point suffered a defeat when the reinforcements arrived to aid the king. They could use your expertise. He's stuck on Gatanby Isle and you're closer too."
Sabo furrowed his brow as he listened. He looked back at the spot under the tree. Two pairs of eyes met his, both ravens fully awake now and unintentionally eavesdropping on his conversation.
"I see," the blond replied with a heavy heart. "I'll be back tomorrow morning."
"Cool." There was a pause. "…What?" The voice sounded more distant now like the speaker wasn't speaking directly into the Den Den Mushi. Sabo could hear someone's murmur in the background, too far to comprehend the words. "Got it... Oi, Sabo, the lookouts saw a pirate ship approaching the small village near your position."
Luffy's eyes widened in alarm and his head whipped towards the direction of Foosha Village.
"Do they recognize the flag?" Sabo inquired.
"Their Jolly Roger doesn't ring a bell, so maybe rookies? Anyway, you said you had an acquaintance in that village, so just wanted to give you a heads-up."
"Thank you, Matius."
"Want us to take care of it?"
"No, I'll do it myself."
"Alright," the man answered and the snail's mouth stretched into a grin. "See ya tomorrow!"
The Den Den Mushi fell asleep and the blond pushed it back into his pocket. When he looked back to the spot where his brother had been just a few seconds ago, he found him gone.
"He ran off," Law supplied.
"Of course, he did," Sabo sighed. He turned to leave, glancing at the pirate who was about to stand up. "You coming?"
Law gave a curt nod of affirmative and then glowered at the knowing tilt on the blond's lips.
Bepo stirred from his sleep, blinking in confusion at the backs of two men as they started to walk away. "Ah! Captain! Where are you going?"
"To the village at the base of the mountain."
The mink scrambled to his feet and rushed after them. "Wait for me!"
Luffy skidded to a stop, his momentum marring the ground under his feet. The first thing he noticed was a few houses on fire. Then, a bunch of armed men crowding the village center, a group of villagers kneeling in front of them.
The burly guy with a messy black bear stared down at subdued civilians. "Money and women," he said, hefting his two-handed sword casually on his shoulder. "That's all we're asking." He swept through the group, his crew cackling behind him until his beady eyes landed on a dark-haired woman. His tongue darted to wet his lips before a grin broke across his face, splitting his skin into something foul and hungry.
Luffy's chest felt like it was made out of a block of ice from the way his blood ran cold. He recognized that look.
Guards in that place sometimes got that kind of expression while looking at female fighters. And then those women would scream and cry and beg, and Luffy would just curl in the corner with hands on his ears, soundless pleas on his lips for them to stop, and painfearshamedespairdisgustragehateHATEHATE soaking through his skin and finding a home in his soul.
And now that exact look was pointed at Makino.
Luffy was running before he could even tell his body to move. Because Makino was in danger, because someone was looking at her like that, and she would scream and cry and beg, and Luffy—
The pirate grabbed his intended victim by her arm and yanked to her feet. His grin didn't falter when she leveled a hard, defiant stare at him. He reached to stroke her cheek, but Makino leaned back to avoid it. "Oh, I like women who play hard to get." The man was still holding her, meaty fingers digging into her arm as he pulled her closer. "But not today!" he snarled and backhanded her.
Luffy was too far, too slow, he wouldn't make it. There was a white-hot feeling somewhat akin to terror climbing up his chest and then his throat.
He saw tears in Makino's eyes.
Everything stilled, froze in place—a little stutter in time. And on the next blink, the time restarted and with it, everyone's, pirates and villagers alike, eyes rolled back and bodies collapsed.
Luffy smashed into the pirate at full speed with a furious, "Don't touch Makino!" and sent him flying through the several houses. Landing lightly on his feet, he turned in a flash to make sure Makino was alright.
Luffy's knees hit the hard ground next to her still form. "M-Makino?" he called softly, touching her shoulder. Nothing. "Makino?" He gave her a little shake. Nothing. "Makino, wake up!" He shook her harder. Nothing. "Please, wake up…"
Someone embraced him from behind, one hand covering his eyes. "Don't look, Luffy. Feel it." Sabo's voice weaved around him, smooth and steady, bursting with promises of safety. The blond guided Luffy's fingers to Makino's wrist and pressed them on her vein. "Feel her heartbeat. She's alive, Luffy. Alive."
The boy held his breath. There it was—beats of life under his fingertips. He slumped against his brother's chest, letting the latter's natural body warmth chase away the chill clinging to his skin. He felt Sabo's free arm coming around him now. Not to restrain, but to comfort. After a moment, Luffy grasped lightly at the hand covering his eyes and it immediately moved away. He peered at his brother. "Why is she unconscious?" he asked. Glancing around, he added, "Why is everyone unconscious?"
"You knocked them out."
Luffy stared, face blank. "Me? But I—oh." His mystery power acted up just now, didn't it? "I panicked."
"That's alright, Luffy. They aren't dead, only fainted."
A blue shimmering screen phased through the brothers and they both looked up. Law pulled Kikoku out of its scabbard, eyes narrowed, and expertly cut all the burning parts of the houses off, lifted them, and dumped them into the sea.
Sabo smirked at the man who was now approaching them. "That's useful."
Law furrowed his brow at the teasing comment. He sheathed his nodachi, crouched down next to Makino, and lifted his hand above her. "She's not hurt," he told Luffy. Some intensity left his amber eyes as he watched the boy sag in relief. The Room dispersed. "Bepo," he addressed his crewmate, standing silently behind his back, "call the others here."
"Aye, aye, Captain!" The bear took off back into the forest.
Sabo let Luffy go once he made sure that his brother was calm enough. He pushed one arm under Makino's knees, the other under her back, and effortlessly hefted her up.
Before he could say anything, Luffy tugged to follow him, already in motion to lead the way. Sabo followed obediently, a brief thought about mentioning that he had already visited Partys Bar before going up the mountain and thus knew where it was located, stayed only that, a brief thought.
Luffy surveyed the village center, coming here straight from the Partys Bar.
Makino woke up maybe an hour after an incident with Luffy standing guard over her bed. The first thing she did was pulling the boy into her arms, whispering assurances and comforting words into his ear. Only then Luffy's heart finally settled down from trying to pound out of his chest.
Soon after he explained what happened and that they were taking care of the situation, Luffy left Makino to rest and came here to help. However, it seemed that he was too late for that.
The Heart Pirates were the only pirates walking around the village with enemies nowhere to be seen. Villagers were carefully laid into the shade with pillows under their heads.
"—notice how he stacked the ship parts together?"
Luffy pricked his ears at Shachi's voice.
"Are you kidding?" Penguin asked in return, sounding incredulous. "He does that when he's particularly angry."
"Haven't seen Captain this pissed in a long time."
Two pirates rounded the corner and came into view. Upon seeing the kid, they both smiled at him, warm and kind. A touch of concern didn't go unnoticed either.
"Luffy!" Shachi exclaimed, trotting up to him. "You alright?"
"Yeah." Luffy didn't smile, couldn't force himself. Not yet. "Thank you."
Penguin waved him off. "You don't have to thank us," he said dismissively. "We're in your debt for taking care of our captain. He can be a real pain in the ass sometimes."
Just like yesterday, Law and Sabo approached from behind two pirates. The blond was once again trying his hardest not to laugh, while the other man simply asked, "Really?"
"Oh, yeah," Shachi agreed airily. "Makes us worry all the time, that bastard."
Penguin suddenly gripped his friend's forearm. "Was that… Was that Captain's voice?" he whispered, feeling a dreadful sense of déjà vu.
This time, Luffy wasn't able to fight against the urge to grin.
Two pirates glanced behind them, heads snapping forward again upon seeing their captain tapping his sword against his shoulder. Unfortunately, Bepo wasn't around to be the shield. They shared a look, mutual understanding flashing through their eyes. On the next moment, they ducked behind Luffy to hide.
Law just stared at them through half-lidded eyes with all the patience of someone who had long learned to tolerate idiots around him. Barely. It made Luffy chuckle. The man's gaze focused on him. "I already checked the ones who got injured," he informed. "Two are heavily wounded, but no one's dying."
Sabo mussed his brother's hair in a brisk show of sibling affection while he just took it all in without complaint. "We sent those pirates away," the blond said then. "They won't be coming back."
Luffy nodded. He caught Sabo's hand into his own, then seized Law by the sleeve of his hoodie. "Let's get something to eat!" And dragged the two men off, eliciting a resigned sigh and a bright laugh for his action.
He never asked what exactly happened to the pirates. Nor did he comment on how they both smelled like blood.
"—you might pass out, your old wounds might reopen, and—"
A whine interrupted Sabo's enthusiastic monologue about perils to one's health on the sea. He glanced at his little brother, a corner of his mouth twitching up at the sight of Luffy's cheeks slightly puffed into an obvious pout. "…And your teeth might fall out," he added as an afterthought. "You won't be able to bite into your meat if that happens."
"What!" Luffy exclaimed, looking scandalized. He even stopped walking and just gawked at Sabo in horror. "That's super serious!"
Walking on Luffy's other side, Law snorted, but quickly covered it with a clearing of his throat, a tattooed hand rising to hide his lingering smile of amusement.
"Indeed," Sabo agreed, schooling his expression into one of grave seriousness. "That's why you should eat more fruits and vegetables, especially once you set sail."
Luffy scrunched his face up. After some consideration, he gave a reluctant nod.
The trio continued on their journey through the forest towards the spot where the revolutionaries anchored their ship. "What are you going to do now, Law-san?" Sabo asked, curious.
"We'll stay for a couple of weeks to make sure my patients are healing properly," the man replied, and, for a fleeting moment, his gaze flicked to Luffy before returning to watch where he was going.
Sabo really liked the guy, no matter how dishonest he seemed with revealing his true feelings.
"It seems too much trouble to go back to North Blue, so we might stick around this Blue for a bit and later leave for the Grand Line."
"That's not fair!" Luffy fumed, throwing his arms up. "I still have to wait so long before I can leave!"
Law smirked, only agitating the youngest further.
The boy glared at him, then crossed his arms, and declared, "You should wait for me!"
The man quirked an eyebrow at the statement. "You want us to be opponents on our way to One Piece?" he challenged, his voice swirling with teasing lilt.
"No, not opponents," Luffy said. Simple. Direct. Unyielding. "Allies."
Law's gait faltered and, this time, it was he who stopped just to stare, his amber eyes piercing as they regarded the boy in front of him. It was a sharp look, calculating and astute, but he wasn't looking down on Luffy. Quite the contrary.
The blond could see the exact moment the man came to a decision. For being such a private person, he mused, Law wasn't a hard one to read. Not when he was communicating with Luffy. Or maybe he simply felt more at ease in Sabo's company after their mutual agreement on what to do with the pirates that attacked Foosha.
"You don't even have a crew yet," the pirate remarked, light and unhurried. He resumed walking, two brothers falling in step with him.
"I'll get one!" Luffy shot back instantly. "The best one! I'll get a swordsman, a cook, a musician, and a fluffy one at the very least." He folded a finger for each member he had planned to recruit. "And my fluffy one will be even cooler than Bepo!"
"Oh?" Law's lips tipped up on one side. "Then let's meet in the Grand Line and I'll see it for myself."
Luffy's grin was up in all its megawatt glaring glory. He fist-pumped the air and raced through the tree line, bursting onto the beach with a thundering, "I'll become the Pirate King!" followed by a peal of ecstatic laughter.
Sabo and Law stepped out of the forest at a more subdued pace.
The sunlight blinded him, and instinctively Sabo pulled his hat slightly down to ward the worst of it off. Luffy suddenly slammed into him and he stumbled back, caught off guard.
"I'm gonna miss you."
Sabo smiled down at his little brother, heart swelling with all the love his body could contain. "How about we meet in the Grand Line too? I'll find you and come for a visit."
The boy looked up, awe filling his impossibly bright eyes. "Yeah!" he cheered. "Hey, are you going to meet with Ace now?"
"After my current mission is done."
Luffy broke into a grin. "Say hi to him from me!" He then buried his face back into his brother's chest and added more quietly, "Tell him I'm fine."
Light breeze wrapped around the two of them, plaiting the salty scent into their hair. Gentle fingers combed through black strands.
"I love you, Sabo."
Sabo placed a kiss on top of Luffy's head. "I love you too, Luffy."
Next Chapter: To the Grand Line!
Sabo and Law bonding over slaughter and destruction. It just seems so perfect?
Seems that no one figured out that Sabo will show up in this flashback, what with its weird placement. Now you understand why this part had to come only after the Straw Hats left Loguetown. And Sabo getting his memories back so easily, well… why not?
Though I have to tell you all, I really, truly loved all the 'Saboooooooo(o)' or variations of it in the comments :) Your cries (in despair or happiness) always make my day. It's amazing how many people were hyped about his early appearance.
I have a discord channel now, so if you're interested, here is the link: discord. gg/a7tQPPa