Comments really are an amazing source of inspiration and motivation. Thanks for all the love! I can't promise a specific date for the next chapter, but I will be continuing this story.
Kassim punched him in the face before Alibaba even finished explaining his little adventure. Which, of course, resulted in an all-out brawl between the two of them that was only stopped by Mariam bursting out into tears as she tried to tug them apart.
"I don' see what the trouble is." Alibaba scowled, brushing off Mariam's attempts to wipe the blood leaking out of his nose. "Worse thin' that could happen is they don't give us money."
It was something he had thought about himself on the way back home. The food was one thing, but he knew doctors cost a lot and it wasn't like Sinbad was in the best of shape when Alibaba found him. He might not even remember him at all!
(However, despite the worry and suspicion, he wanted to trust the man. He still hoped that Sinbad would keep his promise.)
"Idiot," Kassim muttered and spat out a glob of blood and spit. "He's rich, and probably a noble. Ya can't trust 'em. Remember ya mom's friend, Aida? That noble jerk told her he'd make her his lady if she went with him. She came back a week later all torn up and, and just broken."
"I tol' you he's not a noble. He's a merchant." Alibaba sniffed and winced at the sharp pain that followed.
"And who tol' you that? Huh? People lie Alibaba!" Kassim shot back, eyes blazing. "This is why I don't take you with me! You trust to easy!"
Frustration and anger welled up in Alibaba again. Why did Kassim never listen!?
"Well, I don't even wanna go be a stupid thieve-ow!"
The scowl on Mariam's face really made her look like her brother, even with the tears lingering in her eyes. She pulled her tiny fist back from where they had connected firmly with both of their heads.
She stared at them for a second blinking back more tears, before she finally muttered. "Don' fight."
The three of them were silent for a while, unable to look each other in the eye. Then his mother moved restlessly in her sleep. Mariam was by her side in a moment, pulling the drying rag off her forehead and dipping it into the water bowl beside his mother's matt. Alibaba and Kassim watched quietly until his mother settled down again with the newly damp rag on her forehead. Her breathing was labored and there was an ugly wheezing that came with every inhale.
"What else can we do?" Alibaba asked helplessly.
He looked pleadingly at Kassim whose own face had softened in worry.
"Kassim, please." Alibaba pleaded softly. "If ya can't trust them, then trust me."
He knew Kassim had given in when the other boy sighed. Alibaba didn't cheer or even smile, even though he really wanted too, just in case Kassim changed his mind. Instead, he stood carefully and opened the tent flap for him.
"Mariam, stay here, ok?" Kassim said before standing himself and following Alibaba out. Alabibab caught a glimpse of her worried frown before the cloth dropped completely and he hoped fiercely everything would work out.
(If it didn't...If it didn't...he didn't know what they'd do.)
They took a moment to allow their eyes to adjust to the morning light before Alibaba began to lead his adopted brother through the dirty streets they called home.
"There were so many strange people there." Alibaba murmured, thinking back to the previous night. Everyone was so focused on Sinbad allowing him to have a chance to observe them from afar before the giant man approached him. "Strange hair and skin and eyes colors. And there was a man who was huge! He's the one who gave me the food."
"Hm." Kassim's hand drifted to the knife on his belt.
Alibaba sighed. Ever since mom had collapsed it felt like Kassim was distancing himself. He didn't play games anymore, didn't join in on Alibaba's ridiculous bedtime stories to Mariam. His smiles became rare and his laughter nonexistent. He seemed to want to do everything alone now.
(No that wasn't quite right. He joined that stupid gang. It was more like, Kassim didn't want to do anything with Alibaba anymore.)
Alibaba bit his tongue harshly, not stopping even when he tasted blood. After all, the pain was the only thing keeping the tears at bay. And he couldn't cry. Because Kassim thought tears were weak. And he had to be strong right now so that they could help mom.
(Kassim was taking on all the grown-up stuff himself because he thought Alibaba couldn't handle it, but he'd show him. He'd show Kassim that there was another way!)
That's why this had to work. That why he was begging whatever god or deity out there, that Sinbad remembered his promise.
(Once mom was better, things could go back to the way they were before. Kassim won't be distant and they could all go back to playing games and having fun.)
"This way." Alibaba murmured, bumping Kassim's shoulder with his own as they turned down another ally and towards the brighter, cleaner parts of the city. Kassim grunted, eyes darting around in suspicion.
As they continued, the city started to wake up and more and more people poured out of their homes to their jobs or to mill about. They dodged the steps of travelers, merchants, and guards. The last of which sent them suspicious looks. Alibaba could see Kassim get more and more tense out of the corner of his eye.
He felt his own shoulders hitch, and his stomach twist with nerves, but he forced himself to continue.
(This was for mom. He couldn't back out now. He had to help mom.)
They paused at the steps of the huge building.
"I know, I know." The place was even more scary during the day. The darkness hid some of the fancy carvings and just how big it was. He eyed the fancy golden letters above the door. They were all loopy and fluid, nothing like the straightforward letters his mom drew for him on the dirt floor of their home. He could make out some of the letters his mom had taught him, but it was hard to put them together into words "But, Sinbad promised...a-and it's for mom."
Kassim hesitated a moment, glancing between him and the building before he nodded slowly. Alibaba let out a small relieved sigh and they slowly crept up the stairs. The doors were wide open and Alibaba could make out people moving around the main room, carrying boxes and scrolls from place to place in organized chaos.
They hesitated in the doorway.
Alibaba shifted closer to Kassim, his hand curling into the back of the other boy's shirt. For once, Kassim didn't make fun of him or even comment.
"So...where is your Sin-"
"Wow, you look even more dirty in the daylight! Is this the notorious Kassim you talked about? Oh, look at those bruises, did you two get in a fight with someone?"
They both jerked at the sudden cheery address and turned wide eyes on the very man they were looking for.
Alibaba could only blink in surprise. He was blinding. New clothes, hair brushed and shiny, new jewelry that sparkled in the daylight, and the biggest change of all...a smile as bright as the sun itself. It was such a stark change from the previous night that Alibaba found himself speechless.
(Was this truly the man he found staring blankly at the ocean, ready to give up on life?)
Sinbad stepped forward and Alibaba stepped back a step, dragging Kassim with him. He watched as Sinbad paused a moment, his smile dimming slightly, before turning into something smaller, gentler. He didn't try to move closer but instead went down on one knee so that he was more at their level.
"Hey, sorry, I didn't mean to startle you. You must be a little scared coming to this part of town, right?" His voice was softer, his eyes understanding.
"I'm not scared," Kassim muttered, but his hand was on his knife, half a second away from drawing it.
Alibaba ignored him and observed Sinbad again. He was still a little too shiny, but he could see hints of the man he found on the beach. There were shadows beneath his eyes, which were still bloodshot from tears and probably lack of sleep, and his skin a little too pale to be completely healthy.
Alibaba slowly felt himself relax. Sinbad wasn't those shining nobles Kassim and him make fun of from afar, and secretly admired. He was a little closer, though obviously no less rich.
"Um," Alibaba eased himself out from where he had been practically hiding behind Kassim. "You promised…since I helped you..."
Sinbad nodded encouragingly. "Yes, I promised I'd repay you for guiding me home. You wanted me to help your mom, right?"
Sinbad's grin turned blinding again as he stood with a flare.
"Alright! Let's go help this young man's mother!"
I absolutely loved how Magi played with the idea of hero-worship and the impact that can have with Sinbad's character. Cannon Alibaba was caught up in that mindset due to the stories he basically grew up with about Sinbad and the fact that the man turned up to help at one of Alibaba's lowest moments where he was struggling for and eventually lost Balbadd. This, of course, led to the events near the end of the manga and Alibaba's realization that Sinbad isn't faultless etc, etc.
In this fic, I flipped the roles. Now Alibaba found Sinbad at his lowest point, so when he sees Sinbad all shiny and glowing with that hero image, he's like "Wait, no. Who are you?". So, Sinbad is confronted with a kid who just isn't falling for his perfect image. (Two if you count Kassim, but Kassim just mostly wants to stab him and Sinbad knows how to handle that.) How will that impact cannon? Who can say. Hehehe