"Fallback, return to the Moby." The booming voice comes from Whitebeard and there's only hesitation for a brief moment before the Whitebeard force follows the command, Marco coming to land next to Whitebeard in his phoenix form. Shanks appears as well, glancing at anchor's brothers, his own heart aching something fierce.
"Do me a favor and get them out of here Newgate, the Red Force will cover you. This is not a hill you should die on. Your family still needs you." The old man's eyes shine with grief, but he gives a nod.
"I expect to hear from you soon brat." Whitebeard states and Shanks rubs at the stump of his arm.
"Of course, I just have a score to settle."
"Marco, grab the boys, we must go." The phoenix nods, transforming in one graceful movement and settling next to Ace and Sabo in seconds, the boys being complexly blood-soaked from cradling their baby brother. Thatch stands near, looking horrified as he glances at Marco, unsure of what to say. He wishes it weren't so, but he doesn't have time to be tactful.
"We're leaving, you need to get up Ace…Sabo." Ace turns to Marco with a look of desperation and grief that the first commander has never seen on the boy before.
"We can't leave him here Marco." He already feels awful, Marco can't deny the brothers of the possibility of burying their brother too.
"I'll bring him back, place him on my back, both of you get to the ship." Sabo isn't willing to let go but Ace trusts Marco and he hands Luffy's limp body over, forcing Sabo to tremble at his now empty hands, trying to wipe his tears instead. Though he only succeeds in smearing blood across his face. Time moves both rapidly and slowly and with marines chasing them the whole way, they get back to Moby and are sailing off into the ocean. Several members of Whitebeards ship take the time to sink any following marine vessels and pick up crew stragglers as they go.
It's quiet in an eerie way that the war hadn't been and before anyone is brave enough to break the silence Marco returns to the ship, Luffy's body propped on his back. Sabo and Ace are upon him before he's even fully changed back to a person and grab their little brother as they sink to the deck with him. Marco considers them a moment, flinching before letting out a sigh as if bracing for something painful.
"I think he's still breathing. His Haki flared ever so slightly on the way back." Ace wears a shocked expression as he cradles his brother closer, checking for vitals and letting out a gasp when he feels an extremely faint and slow heartbeat. Sabo, however, seems to catch the second meaning behind the phoenix's words.
"You can't save him, can you?" Marco wears a pained expression as he shakes his head.
"No, I'm sorry." Ace fumes at the declaration.
"What?! You have to be kidding me, he made it this far, we're on the Moby now, we can use the infirmary!" Sabo grabs Ace's shoulder gently and stares at his brother in the eyes.
"Ace, this isn't something they can fix, they need to spend time helping those injured during the war. Those who…can be saved." The statement is full of grief and shaky with sadness. Ace lets out a string of curses that engulf the ship with their ferocity.
"We can't just give up on him Bo! He's our little brother!" Sabo gazes at Ace, looking for words that don't come to him, and instead turns his attention to Luffy who is sprawled over their laps. He can feel his heart tearing. What is he supposed to do?
"I think I may be able assist Luffy-ya." All eyes turn to the newcomer, perched on the railing of the ship. Marco narrows his eyes.
"Trafalgar Law, the Surgeon of Death, what are you doing here?"
"Call it reaping the benefits of war, I can help Luffy-ya, and if I save him, I ask you owe me a favor in return."
"Can you really save Lu?" Ace asked desperately.
"I'm the best chance you have Fire Fist-ya." Sabo eyes the man suspiciously, in his experience, favors that aren't named beforehand are rarely anything good. Begrudgingly, Sabo admits to himself that if it can save his little brother, he would make a deal with the devil himself.
"Please…help him however you can, a favor from me is yours." Sabo pleas quietly, they don't have time to waste. Law's eyebrows raise slightly, eye's darting over to Ace, expectant.
"I'll do anything for Luffy." Ace tacks on and Law shrugs and nods.
"I'll be in my sub doing surgery, no interruptions." Trafalgar Law make an odd sign with his hand and before the brothers can blink Luffy and Law are gone and there some kind of metal plates in their place. With Luffy out of sight both Ace and Sabo's heartrates skyrocket and both of them are twitchy to jump onto the sub they can see in the water but remain in place when Marco places a hand on both their shoulders.
"Let him focus." Reluctantly they both settle down, eyeing the sub warily as nurses work around them in attempt to treat their wounds since it was obvious neither would move to the med bay.
Shortly after they're out of sight of the Marine base, the Red Force made a stop at their ship. Marco isn't the happiest to see Shanks, but he allows the man aboard and watches as he makes his way over to Ace and the revolutionary, Sabo, speaking in hushed tones. Towards the end of the conversation, Shanks hands Ace an achingly familiar straw hat and pats the two boys on the shoulder before taking his leave. They can't let two emperors stay in one place for too long, it would give the marines only one area they have to focus their retaliation on. When Shanks hops back on his boat, looking strained to say the least, Marco glances back at Ace, staring at the hat in his hands, looking like he was about to shatter into a million pieces. Sabo guides him back towards the side railing and they settle into sitting once more, straw hat hanging off Ace's neck. Marco isn't sure now's the right time to talk to them and there's still some who need his help in the infirmary, so he decides to leave them for now.
It's another day of sailing later and the brothers still haven't moved from the deck of the ship and Marco is wincing, realizing they probably haven't even moved to grab water. Convincing Thatch to prepare a meal and carry it out with him is easier than the walk it took to get to the galley and even when they approach the boys don't stop their vigil watch of the Submarine following alongside the Moby. Marco can tell that Thatch his harboring a bit of guilt for how it all played out, his smiles are exponentially more tense, but Marco knows nothing he can say will help, so he keeps quiet. He'll be here if his brother needs him. There is something however, he can do for Ace, and since he can see the similarities he hopes it works for Sabo too.
"You need food, Luffy wouldn't want you starving yourselves." Thatch elbows Marco at the harsh exclamation, though he does agree, and both boys flinch before turning some of their attention to the trays Marco and Thatch set down.
"Thank you, Commanders." Sabo puts in before grabbing some bread from the plate. Ace looks devastatingly tired, but he bows his head at the meal. "Thank you for the food." Marco and Thatch exchange a look before settling down on the ground next to the brothers, who shift and give a glance at the Submarine, as if to make sure it's still in sight. Thatch takes a deep breath and bows his head low.
"I'm so sorry." Thatch whispers. "I shouldn't have let him get away from me."
Both Sabo and Ace blink in surprise and Sabo sighs a bit, eyeing Ace before settling his attention on Thatch. "When Luffy is determined to do something he can be surprisingly difficult to stop. Neither of us blame you commander, and if we're being honest, Luffy probably saved our lives." Ace flinches and nods in agreement.
"Luffy never listened when we told him it's not his job protect us. The idiot." Ace huffs. Thatch seems to relax a bit and while Marco knows he's not completely over the guilt, he can at least move forward now. Ace looks at them consideringly, fatigue clear in his body language.
"Should you guys really be here? I'm sure everyone on the Moby needs you after what happened." Ace asks curiously, though his eye contact continually drifts back to the water.
"Nurses have treated all the majorly injured, and Pops is well enough to keep everyone else in line. Repairs are getting done and I'm not on watch until later tonight." Marco rattles off.
"And 4th division is competent enough to handle meals without me, the plan for the week is already set up." Thatch puts in. When Ace doesn't say anything, Sabo sighs and rubs his face.
"I see, while we don't mind your company, commanders, if you're needed elsewhere, I guarantee we won't be offended."
"And call me Thatch. No need to be so formal." Sabo nods but doesn't reply.
"What if he doesn't make it?" at Ace's proclamation Sabo stiffens, he knows it's what Ace has been thinking about, it's what he's been thinking about too. Doesn't mean he has an answer for his brother.
Marco seems to regard them while Thatch's eyes fill with sorrow. "That's not something you have to think about now, we'll be here for you if something happens and I'm sure you can both think of what Luffy would say to you."
Thatch has to wonder if Marco is intentionally pulling at an open wound, but with Ace the straightforward way is probably the best. Both boys slouch and Thatch can tell no matter how well Sabo seems to being trying to stay together, he seems exhausted too. He hopes they slept some, even if it was in shifts and out on the hard deck.
They sit in silence for a while, the brothers picking at their meal steadily with less enthusiasm than both normally have when it comes to meals. Towards the end of the lunch Ace's head bobs in a motion Sabo recognized as a narcoleptic fit and he suddenly slouches into Sabo, who sighs as he adjusts his brother to keep him from falling onto the ground.
"How long has Ace had narcolepsy?" Thatch asks, curiosity gnawing at him. Sabo blinks as he seems to consider it.
"I think he was around 8, or at least that's the first time it happened around me. Back then it was much rarer though. Based on what Ace tells me, it seems much more commonplace now for him." The commanders nod their heads in acknowledgement and Ace shoots up with a startling speed before he slouches and rubs his face, cursing under his breath.
"Don't worry it was only for a couple mins." Sabo soothes.
"Thanks 'Bo." Ace mumbles back and they resume their silence as they watch the waves and the bobbing submarine. Just when Thatch is becoming uncomfortable with the silence, a man appears before them, making him jump a bit, devil fruit users can be creepy. What was his name again? Marco had said it. Trafalgar Law? Surgeon of Death, not exactly the most comforting moniker.
"You two," Law said, pointing to Ace and Sabo. "Come with me." His eyes drift to the commanders, considering them. "Will you be coming along as well?" Good or bad news, Marco figures it's probably better if they're present. Ace already looks like he's got a rock in his stomach as he tries to form words. Before Thatch can cut in, Marco speaks up.
"Yes, if it's not too much trouble." The surgeon shrugs and makes weird hand sign and what used to be open ocean and wooden flooring turns to metal walls. It's a bit eerie and the hum of the ocean echoes throughout. The room is relatively wide and has the unmistakable cornerstones of an infirmary, with a curtain being drawn around one of the beds.
"Luffy-ya is critical but stable, he most likely survived because his rubber organs dampened the impact to some of the more vital areas. He's vaguely sedated but should be able to wake up whenever his body is ready to. That could be anywhere from a few hours to days. When he does wake up, he must remain still, if he opens his wounds again, he's all but guaranteed death. Do you understand?" The proclamation is rapid fire and Ace and Sabo both seem like they're about to collapse from relief, so the Whitebeard commanders move a bit closer to them. When Ace and Sabo glance over to Luffy, the bed seems to swallow him, a mask covering a majority of his face. It hurts to look but the steady rise and fall of his chest also causes a bit of serenity to wash over the brothers. He was alive. Sabo's first to regain some semblance of bearings.
"Yes, is there anything we can do to help? Any times we can't be near him?"
"There's no visiting restrictions. When I deem him safe enough to move, we can transfer him to your ship, though that will still be a while. Bepo and I'll will make routine checks in a few hour intervals, if his condition changes drastically, or he wakes up, inform us immediately. One of our biggest concerns now is infection so be mindful of fever spikes and be sure to sanitize yourselves over there if you plan on spending time within three feet of the patient."
"Thank you." Ace says, and Sabo can tell it's genuine.
"Don't thank me yet, he's not out of the woods. And if he does pull through, you both still have a favor to repay." Law says, gesturing to both the brothers. Marco's face scrunches with distaste and Thatch shifts uncomfortably. Sabo wants to ask about the supposed favor but decides ruminating over it won't get him anywhere and instead moves to the sanitization station Law indicated earlier so he can clean up for what he now knows will be a several hour vigil, Ace following shortly behind him.
"If you wish to leave and I'm not here, just ask one of the crew to lead you out." Law says over his shoulder as he leaves the room. Presumably to get some sleep, based on the dark circles under his eyes.
When the brothers settle next to Luffy the distinct sound of a heart monitor and rumbles from the ocean add an unnerving edge to everything. It's been years since they'd all been together like this, they can wait a little longer. Minutes stretch into hours and Marco and Thatch take turns making sure the brothers are taking care of themselves as they wait for the youngest to wake up. In the middle of the fourth day both Sabo and Ace are dozing near Luffy, Marco sitting nearby when they hear strangled gasping.
Both Ace and Sabo startle awake and fumble their way next to Luffy whose breathing comes out raspy as he glances wildly around the room, squinting as if the light bothered him. His hands come up shakily, pawing at the mask that's covering most of his face, making an uncomfortable whine when he can't seem to do anything about it.
"I'll grab Trafalgar." Marco calls, already walking out of the room.
"Luffy?" Sabo speaks. "Can you hear us?" Several of the machine's beep in warning and the heart monitor's pace picks up.
"Luffy? Can you calm down?" Ace chimes in, rubbing Luffy's head in a soothing gesture. He seems to lean into the touch slightly, but his eyes still dart around wildly, never landing on them for too long. Ace steps back slightly, unsure of what to do.
Suddenly Law is in the room, having appeared out of thin air, taking stock of the situation. After a second, Law dims the light and walks towards Luffy who blinks a couple times before his eyes finally settle on the doctor, Marco entering the room quietly.
"My names Trafalgar Law, I'm the doctor taking care of you." Law pauses for a second to let the information soak in. "I can take the mask off of you, but you have to promise to remain calm. If you tear your stiches you could still die." Luffy blinks at him a second, probably not understanding half of what he said before his eyes land on his brothers, and he seems to perk up slightly.
"Will you remain calm?" Law reiterates and Luffy's eyes skitter back over to him before nodding his head. It takes a few minutes, but Law manages remove most of the equipment hooked up to Luffy, leaving a couple instruments for monitoring purposes and an IV. When the mask is finally off, Luffy takes a deep breath and turns his attention to the doctor.
"Thanks Trafl-Trafo…Torao." Luffy coughs out with a goofy grin.
"It's Trafalgar, if you can't manage that you can call me Law." Luffy lets out a soft raspy laugh as his gaze shifts back over to his brothers and confusion overtakes him. They can't be real, they never are, though he's seen them a lot more since going to that weird dungeon and they're different. They both look a bit older than how he normally sees them and Sabo had a large scar across his eye. He scrutinizes them a bit more and realizes that he gets the same prickle from them as he got from real people. Luffy starts reaching his hands out toward them then pauses to stare at his wrists in shock when he notices there's no shackles to stop him from stretching further to reach them. It takes a second, but flashes of memories come back to Luffy, of being on the executioners stand, of war breaking out, his brothers and Shanks coming to save him, a fist through the stomach. He was supposed to be dead.
Ace and Sabo's hands land on Luffy's shoulders and he startles, staring at them once more.
"Are you okay, Lu?" Sabo asks. Honestly this is too much, without even realizing, tears start streaking down Luffy's face.
"You're real…?" Luffy whispers out, sounding almost broken as reaches his hands to their cheeks. Sabo gives him a painful smile as Ace pulls a familiar straw hat from his back, plopping it on Luffy's head.
"As real as can be." Ace sighs out.
"Hat!" Luffy exclaims, bringing one hand to his head while the other remained on his brothers. It leads to a weird mix of Luffy having a full-blown grin while crocodile tears still fell down his face, a storm of emotions taking over. Luffy suddenly makes an 'o' in realization before he starts scrubbing at his face with his hands to wipe away the tears as Ace laughs. When Luffy looks up again his gaze lands on the only person in the room he doesn't recognize.
"Who's the pineapple?" Luffy asks meekly, unsure if he's supposed to know. Sabo has to bite the inside of his cheek to keep from laughing while Ace starts wheezing. Thankfully the commander takes it rather gracefully.
"My name's Marco, first commander of the Whitebeard pirates, I'm crewmates with your brother Ace." Marco explains patiently. Luffy makes a noise of acknowledgement, but Marco can't tell if he really understands. With the question of the mystery man answered, Luffy turns his attention back to Sabo and Ace.
"I missed you so much." Luffy says, wrapping his arms around his brothers several times, eliciting a disgruntled warning from Law. Ace blushes a bit and Sabo grin whole-heartily.
"We missed you to." Sabo replies.
The next few days of recovery feel slow to Luffy, though Law tells him he's healing remarkably fast. Having his brothers around helps but he's become beyond antsy sitting around in bed all day and there is little they can do to help with that. He's able to meet some of Ace's crewmates but the only ones that really stuck in his memory was Marco, Thatch and Izo, a few others get slapped with odd nicknames that Luffy deemed fitting.
It's probably best for everyone's sanity that a few days later, Law allows Luffy out and about with supervision and starts passing all the medical care instructions to the doctors stationed on the Moby Dick. When Law teleports them to the deck of the Moby the first thing Luffy does is state how cool Torao's power is, the second thing he does is run to the railing to stare out at the ocean. Ace and Sabo following close behind.
"It's so loud." Luffy says and neither Sabo nor Ace are entirely sure what to make of that. Either way Luffy seems to be happy and that's good enough. Sabo's attention slides over to Law, and he makes his way over to the doctor discreetly.
"Thank you." Sabo says sincerely. "About that favor…" Law holds up a hand to stop him.
"I don't want anything right now; I need to set the stage a bit. If I'm still alive a few months from now I'll come back to collect that favor from the both of you."
"Well that's not ominous at all. I don't even get a hint?"
"Plans change all the time, it's best not to mislead you." It's quite the evasive answer, but Sabo didn't come here to interrogate him anyway.
"You'll be able to find me?"
"I'll definitely be able to find Fire Fist-ya, and I'm assuming he'll be able to contact you. Even if he can't I'm sure I could track you down." Sabo shrugs.
Luffy bounds up to them, Ace following behind, sending a curious glance to Sabo who waves him off, they can talk about it later.
"You're leaving, Torao?" Luffy asks. Law hesitates a moment, glancing at the kid who should by all standards still be in a bed but is bouncing around without a care in the world.
"Yes. I've passed your care on to the doctors on this ship. Please do listen to them Luffy-ya. I can't have you sullying my reputation by not healing properly." Luffy laughs but nods his head.
"Alright, take care Torao. I'll see you around."
"Most likely." Law waves at the brothers and a couple of the Whitebeard commanders before making his hand sign to return to his ship, leaving some kind of rock in his place. Thatch walks up to the group, watching the submarine as it submerges underwater.
"That Law kid was kinda creepy." Thatch says.
"Nah, Torao was cool!" Luffy exclaims.
Ace comes up to ruffle Luffy's hair. "Of course you would think he was cool; he could teleport and had a bear on his crew."
"He was so soft!" Luffy added in.
"Alright, alright. I think it's just about dinner time Luffy."
"Food!" Luffy yells as he starts bugging Ace to take him to the mess hall. That night the Whitebeard pirates discover Luffy is just as much of a blackhole than his brother, downing ten plates of food before Sabo warns him to stop as to not tear the literal hole in his stomach. As long as Ace and Sabo are caring for his injuries, Luffy is allowed to sleep outside the infirmary now, so the trio make their way over to Ace's quarters whenever they're done chatting with people after dinner.
In a move that makes both Ace and Sabo nostalgic and causes Luffy to squeal with joy, Ace tosses a pile of blankets and pillows in the center of the room so they can lay down together on the floor, like how they used to in the treehouse as kids.
When the brothers finally settle down they knock out almost immediately, finding some comfort in the old habit. For the first time in weeks Ace, Sabo and Luffy are able to rest peacefully.
A.N: Hello everyone! I hope you've enjoyed the story ^.^
This is gonna be a bit of a long note since it's the last one. I'm curious what people thought of where I left it. In the initial notes for this story Luffy actually died and it ended with Ace and Sabo at his grave, but when I was writing the draft it didn't feel right. I don't really enjoy writing stories with a sad end anyway, so I'm happy I didn't keep that. I foreshadowed Law way back in chapter 2 so kudos if anyone remembered that. Considering Luffy survived being skewered through the stomach by Crocodile I don't think it's too far fetched.
I've thought about a sequel, and I know more or less where I'd want to take it but I'm gonna be honest I don't really have the time anymore and I'm scared I'd lose motivation. The first draft of this story took me about a year to write to give ya an idea of how slow I am, and I told myself I wouldn't start releasing it until I had the second pass done so every week would more or less just be a final pass, authors note and review replies. So a sequel is unlikely because I would set the same standard. If I ever change my mind I'll post a note here.
savagegamer675: Haha thank you! Hopefully I was able to redeem the heartbreak a bit.
NoaRien: Luffy lives! I couldn't leave off on a sad note. Thank you for your constant support throughout!
Tenshiwings101: Thank you! I hope you enjoyed how it ended.
AilinS: I'm glad you liked it, I'm happy I could write something people enjoyed.
HollowSea: Hahaha sorry about the cliffhangar, I'm normally not terrible with them but that was a pretty heartbreaking place to stop, whoops, hope ya liked the end anyways.
Negima Uzumaki: Whelp, Shanks did cause some havoc though I didn't talk about it much. Hopefully you enjoy how it ended. Thanks for the support!
Irene Sharda: Wow, I'm gonna be honest I mentioned Law waaaay back in chapter 2 because I knew I was gonna do this eventually, so you kinda called it. Luffy lives! I hope you enjoyed the story! Thanks for all the support!
Nathaniel: Thank you, I'm glad you liked it! Hopefully it's a little less sad now.
HNovion: Sorry if I broke your heart a bit. Hopefully you enjoyed the story regardless ^.^
LawPateamelLaCara: Lo siento, hopefully this chapter makes up for it!
Greer123: I can't stick to s sad ending, hopefully Luffy surviving doesn't seem too out of left field. I was super focused on the brothers, so you don't hear much about Shanks though he does cause some havoc. Hopefully you enjoyed the ending! Thank you for all your support!
Hiraya1998: Ooops, hopefully the shattered heart was somewhat put back together! Luffy lives! I always enjoyed a happy ending more so hopefully you like it as well.
Hellibleri: Thank you, I think whose perspective it is gives entirely different feels to the scene, so I try to be carefully on who's being heard from and where switches occur. Hopefully you enjoyed the end chapter, I tried to make it emotional but still satisfying. Thank you for the support!
Starhoney: Hahaha, sorry, though I don't think I ever said that Luffy wasn't going to die. If I did, then I technically wasn't lying, though I suppose you wouldn't be wrong in calling me super misleading. I hope you enjoyed the ending; the brothers are reunited once again. ^.^
Thank you for reading! I hope everyone continues to enjoy their own One Piece journeys!