reflections on broken waves
"Revolutionaries? What the - ?! There were no Revolutionaries! Why the hell would they -?!"
"EHHHHH?! Straw Hat is Dragon's son? Not Roger's? That was a MISUNDERSTANDING?!"
Whitebeard glances at his daughter and son. Haruta and Vista are scanning the paper for anything of importance and are currently gaping at it, dumbfounded.
"What the actual fuck," states another of his sons slowly, wonderingly. Wandering over to them, he leans over their shoulders to read along. "Give us a bit more context here. What the hell."
Whitebeard admits to being curious himself (for entertainment value, mind, not because he actually cares about the topic), but his daughters have been very insistent and if he so much as moves a muscle without their supervision, they're going to nail him to his sick-bed, captain or no, presence required in well-visibility or no, so he sadly can't read the news himself.
"Gurararara! That's interesting. So tell us, what story did they come up with?" He chuckles, and his children laugh with him.
The island in the Calm Belt they're making camp at has warm climate, enough animals that food won't be an issue for the time-being, and most importantly it is big enough that all of his children can rest and recover.
Surrounded by as many of them as he is, they look like they need it, bandages on every one of them (except Marco), though Whitebeard suspects he himself looks worse. But smiles have been abundant and light, and that tells Whitebeard that is was all well worth it.
Her eyes running over the lines, Haruta sits cross-legged on the grass. "They're explaining the Revolutionary's involvement with Straw Hat, saying that he's Dragon's son and pulled the army in or something, which makes so much sense because the Revolution is clearly something that is inherited from father to son like an upstanding World Government kingdom and is also clearly mobile and centralized enough to toss some dice in a war." She rolls her eyes. "The thing about Luffy, Ace and Roger was apparently an accidental mishap. Sengoku said they're brothers, but never said anything about Luffy being Roger's son or about Luffy and Ace being blood related." She scoffs.
Her gaze narrows on a particular passage. "While they're at it, they're also airing the dirty laundry that Garp is their grandfather. Pointedly doesn't mention if by blood or not. Guess they'd feel like they'd lose their face if they admit their very own hero undermined their authority by saving a baby that he wasn't even related to." She blows out an angry breath through her nose. Whitebeard can almost see the smoke.
"Bet coming up with that cover-story was painful," muses Marco with a smile, "so many secrets uncovered. So many shameful truths. Almost makes me wish they'd kept it under lid just to see how it'd blow up, yoi. "
A comfortable round of laughter follows. Not wild, not crackling, just warm and peaceful.
"...wait," says Vista, suddenly contemplative, expression twisting in confused wonderment. "So Straw Hat isn't related to Roger? But he's so much like him."
"Don't let Ace hear that!" Someone shouts, amused. "He'll burn your mustache off!"
They laugh again, and Whitebeard feels proud and satisfied with his life. This is what he built – a family.
"But seriously." Says Vista, still chuckling. "He's is, isn't he. Or am I remembering wrong?" He looks up at Whitebeard, and his other children follow suit. Noisy and curious brats they are.
Whitebeard just shrugs and grins. "You've got me. This old man's memories must be going. Who was this Roger again?"
His children crack up, taking it as a joke. Point is made, though, he can see. The past era and its actors don't matter anymore, just like blood - which has never mattered in the first place.
"By the way, wouldn't Ace want to know what they're saying? Where is he? Still…?"
Marco smiles fondly, rolling his eyes. "You bet."
"You know, sitting there and staring isn't going to make him wake up sooner."
"I'm not staring."
"Er, yes, you are. Two weeks and counting, you've spend every free minute you aren't with your crew here and stare at him."
"It's not the staring I'm going for," Ace clarifies. His hands keep busy cleaning his kill. Cutting off a piece, he lights the hand holding it on fire.
Understanding seems to dawn on his brother's nakama. "Then..."
"Yep." With gusto, he bits into the meat and chews loudly. "For Luffy, there's no better motivation than food."
Which says all kinds of things that Luffy hasn't stirred even to eat for over sixteen days. Guilt and worry churns in Ace's gut, making the meat taste like ash and blood, but he determinedly goes on chewing.
His brother is like this because of him. Ace's crew is damaged, they lost brothers because of him. If only Ace hadn't gone after Teach…
But they swore to live a life without regrets, like Sabo never managed, so they can't do anything less, and despite the hellish war that his fuck-up turned into Ace can't say he regrets going after Teach. Or rather, had he not gone, he'd have regretted it forever, would have had to live the rest of his life with the burden.
So yes, Ace feels fucking guilty and unworthy and lighter than he ever was in his life at the same time, and he's got to suck it up and move on and be grateful to be alive.
The world doesn't stand still, not for anyone. And not for him. He's learned that the hard way. And Ace – he's alive. Beautifully alive, more alive than ever before and he can be happy, and he plans to make the most of it. He'll live, and he'll accept the consequences of his actions, and he'll overcome them.
He owes this to everyone who fought for him, to those who died to save him.
To Thatch and Toby, who died when it all began.
His teeth close on air.
Ace and Usopp watch transfixed as rubbery arms stretch to liberate Ace of his meal, their owner blowing a sleep bubble.
Jumping up so quickly, the chair he sits on falls, the sniper dashes to the door. "CHOPPER!" One look back at the chewing, and "SANJI!"
Looking at the childish brat clinging to Ace like a leach, one wouldn't believe that that is The troublemaker of the new generation, and a dangerous pirate besides.
It's difficult to believe even that Luffy is the elder one. Watching them interact explains a hell of a lot about Ace's compulsive need to either be an utter brat or more responsible than people twice his age. Obviously, whenever Straw Hat forgets being responsible, Ace feels the need to pick up the slack. In reverse, when Luffy is responsible, Fire First can be one heck of a spoiled brat.
No one can deny their care or worry for the other, though, because Ace fanatically cries for a doctor the second Luffy so much as looks at his chest, and Luffy, well. Let's just say it takes a lot of effort to extract him from Ace, and only once he's been convinced that Ace isn't going to die (so slow!) and doesn't even have so much as a bruise anymore does he stop sobbing.
(…At which point he makes a nuisance of himself for everyone and not just Ace.)
Luffy chews thoughtfully.
He doesn't do this often, his head starts to hurt, but there's something important to think about.
The big grand victory feast is delicious and the party is fun! It's too bad he's forbidden from dancing by Chopper...he wants to. It's such a big party with so many people! But Chopper and Sanji threatened no meat for a month (so mean!) if he does anything that is beyond what Chopper allowed him.
And chews thoughtfully.
The food is really great and it's so much that Luffy alone could eat for a week and there'd still be something left! (Only if he doesn't share with Ace, though. Then it'd be shorter. Luffy doesn't mind sharing with Ace, though. Not even the meat.)
Anyway, there are so many cooks and so much meat and so many sweets and so many people! So many ships too! Luffy supposes they all were at the battle too, but he doesn't really remember.
What he does remember is that lots of his friends and their crews came to help him help his little brother out. And it's not everyone who came back.
Luffy doesn't know who died. Doesn't know their names or faces. Didn't even know those people existed except that there...are holes. Maybe? Like voices that should be there but aren't even though Luffy can't know that because he never met lots of these people before. Huh?
Tilting his head, Luffy's gaze drifts around as he shovels more food into his mouth. He missed ninety meals after all. (Even if Sanji claims he ate lots while he was sleeping - if Luffy doesn't remember it it doesn't count!)
...yeah, he's pretty sure there are holes.
Luffy slurps a bowl of noodles down and interchanges the now-empty one with Franky's full one. Ace is sitting with his crew-family, smiling and happy and animated and Big Mustache guy laughs loudly with him. Over there, something is missing too.
He kind of wants to go and beat every marine up for every person missing here, but Luffy knows death and it's not giving anything back.
His arms snapping out, he gets nice and big new piece of meat. Luffy chews thoughtfully.
...it's no good - something will have to be done. Yes. He nods determinedly. Yes, something will have to be done, but first. "It's a party!" Luffy laughs into the noise and music, getting up from his spot between his nakama to lean on Ace's head and steal his meat and hug him some more.
(Ace is alive. Of course he is. He's Luffy's little brother and he can't die because Luffy's other little brother is already gone.)
(It was scary, and Luffy doesn't like it - the idea that people think they can just try and execute his little brother.)
(But it's okay now, Ace's alive.)
"LUFFY! YOU -! THAT WAS MINE!"
Luffy laughs so much that his bandages start to get in the way and he tries tugging on them, but before he can get a single finger under them he's tackled into the ground from behind. Chopper's furious nose is in his face and all of a sudden Luffy can move a lot less and has even more bandages. Chopper waves yet more rolls of them in the air, threatening to use them all and turn Luffy into a mummy.
Ace stands by, points, and laughs.
And Luffy couldn't be happier.
"YOU WANT TO DO WHAT?!"
Luffy blinks owlishly, (still or again) eating. His stare is vacant and unmoved as he very clearly does not hear a word of the wave of protests his fleet's captains and his own crew present him with. (Said crew consequently crumbles in well practiced despair.)
Whitebeard hums, an intrigued sound as liquid swirls around in his cup (sadly not alcohol). "Sounds like a good idea," he muses aloud, and his children's heads (and everyone else in earshot) snaps around to him with expressions of profound betrayal on their faces as it becomes clear that the mad thought is not limited to the Straw Hat and associates only. Marco pinches the bridge of his nose in utter resignation.
"I got it, I got it. I'll go." He shoots Whitebeard a Look full of warnings to behave and promises of revenge before his focus slides to Vista and Jozu with whom he exchanges meaningful understanding glances.
Ace smirks, schadenfreude obvious and very bratish. "I'd volunteer, Marco, but as I'm grounded...I think I'm just going to start picking flowers." He strolls off, glee in every step as he shouts, "hey Luffy, Marco wants to go with you! Have fun!" Straw Hat's head whips promptly around, beaming smile all over his face and he lets out a whoop ignorant to the horror on his friends' faces and the renewed wave of protests.
"Sound the sirens! That ship is not one of ours!"
"What are you -?"
"It's been taken, moron! Call the Fleet Admiral in Marijoes. Get Vice Admirals here from somewhere! Do it!"
"What are they -?"
It's flowers. An entire wagon full of them is dumped into one of the fissures torn in to the island while the captured ship sails a circle around the island under the hand of the Phoenix.
A funeral at sea.
As if that's not enough, Straw Hat actually stands still long enough for reporters to capture his image as he bows his head in respect to the dead. As he validates the deaths of thousands of pirates and drags the sacrifice of noble warriors through the mud on their own home (holy) grounds.
It's a disaster that graces the front pages the very next morning.
(It's one more nail in the coffin.)
(Whose, is the question.)
(Sengoku just knows it's no longer his problem.)
"I can't believe you're leaving already. Going by the way Ace was attached to your side and by how he couldn't get rid of you once you woke up, I'd have thought you'd stay another week at least," observes Marco casually, leaning against the railing of the Moby II.
Straw Hat Luffy, precariously perching on said railing, claps his sandaled feet together, smiling. "Nah. Ace's fine now, he's found a good crew." His body is still wound in bandages so tightly the only skin visible is his face and legs and if he even thinks of removing them his (two) doctor(s) will find out and make him regret it.
Marco suspects the docs might have gone for overkill, because the only real wound still an issue over two weeks after Marineford is the one on Luffy's chest, so there's really no need to bind even his toes, but what does he know, he's no doctor.
For a moment they watch their respective crews run through the preparations to split up. The chefs exchange recipes, the tiny reindeer-doctor gets cooed over by the nurses, provisions are carried aboard from the island that hosted them (involuntarily). Ace gets teased by his ship-brothers over possibly having a brother complex. Marco notes that however light Luffy's tone is, his attention follows Ace's every move. Maybe even subconsciously.
"You almost died, he almost died. No one would begrudge you more time together," he points out mildly and definitely fruitlessly. The time he's known the Straw Hat captain is not long, the interactions they've had aren't many, but one doesn't need a lot of time to get to know Luffy and to know that once he made a decision that's it.
Luffy's smile, still watching Ace (who gets a noogie, and throws the offender overboard with a red face while Apis snaps a photo), widens. "We're brothers," he says to Marco, which duh. "So that our connection won't break even when we're on different ships. He's alive and I'm alive, we sail the same ocean. We'll see each other again." As he speaks those words, he uses a casual tone, as though this truth that can be – just became! - a catalyst the world spins around is universal, perfectly understandable to anyone. "We have both our own adventures to live. I wanna go back to mine. And Ace's got his to continue without me."
Marco sort of just...stares at Luffy, eyes widened and mouth parted. For the first time, it's not Roger (in a less obnoxious mood) that he sees, it's not Roger's words that he hears (the more meaningful ones), but Luffy. Just a boy with a Straw Hat, a dream, and an inner strength so bright and powerful Marco suddenly can see it – the Pirate King.
"Besides," Luffy starts chuckling 'shishishi', "we're enemy pirate crews! I haven't beaten you yet! We can be friends after!"
Snorting, Marco returns, "yeah, right. That's not gonna happen, kid. You're still way too green behind the ears."
Surprisingly instead of loudly protesting, Luffy just tilts his head, looking in the direction of Pops. "Hmmm. Maybe. Old Mustache Guy is pretty strong. Stronger than Gramps even!" He shivers. "But I'm going to get stronger, stronger, stronger. Stronger than anyone! Even cool Old Mustache Guy. Its gonna happen."
And it's not difficult at all to see how this boy, twenty one years old, has an army pledged to him. How the waters stir by his mere presence. How he is rising up the ladder of pirate hierarchy faster than can be kept track of. The conviction in his tone is unbelievably charismatic, his confidence an infective thing.
Except – and this is what Pops sees in Ace, in so many young ones – he's dashing towards the goal, never pausing to rest, never giving himself time grow. Living fast, and hard, like a star going supernova. (And dying just as quickly.)
Ace...Ace luckily slowed down. Maybe they managed to make him, maybe its because the goal he ran towards is not the one he thought it was and found it with them instead.
Luffy won't slow, though, Marco can see that.
One need only take a look at him now to see it. The wound that was an absolute crater is a price he payed to save his brother in a war a twenty one years old (senior rookie) pirate captain should have no place in, never mind as one of the key players. After causing yet another incident days after waking up (however mild it might have been by his standards), now he's not even taking time heal up before setting sail again (no doubt to go back into his skirmishing with Kaido), not even taking a breath of peace and family.
"Oi, Luffy!" Comes a shout from the smaller ship docked besides them. "We're ready to go!"
Luffy waves and shouts back. One dash later, he has Ace in an octopus hug. Ace squawks and almost falls over from the sudden weight addition, prompting a chorus of laughter from the crew.
"Shishishshi! Goodbye Ace's crew. See you later! Next time we fight, Old Mustache!" He shouts, completely ignoring that as a fellow captain he should perhaps give Pops the curtsy of not just shouting at his ship and hoping is heard but of seeking the other captain out.
Pops' laughter echoes from somewhere inside and not long after a door to the deck opens.
"Leaving already, brat?"
Luffy nods eagerly, his head bopping against Ace's during the motion. Ace struggles furtively, embarrassed and by far not as much as violent as they knew he could be. "I'm gonna be Pirate King!"
What is the hurry?
But Marco keeps that thought in the back of his mind.
Untangling from his brother, but not without pulling his cheeks instead, Luffy grins at Ace, "don't get caught again."
"As if!" Protests Ace. "And before you worry about me, worry about yourself. I'm not the one picking a fight with an Emperor!"
Luffy laughs, delighted. The Whitebeard Pirates sort of just stare at Ace, unable to believe that those words came out of Mr. "I'm going to defeat Whitebeard"'s mouth.
Ace doesn't seem to notice the hypocrisy of his statement, though.
As Luffy swings his way up to the railing, he throws a look over his shoulder. One that is significantly more serious, meeting a returning one from Ace.
But no somber words, no advice or promises come against all expectations. Whatever they say to each other, they don't need words. Luffy's face splits in a grin, and he jumps overboard, shouting "set sail!" at his crew.
Marco's crew waves and shouts long as the smaller galleon get carried away by wind and water. Ace doesn't. He just stands, and watches with a smile.
Until we meet again, as they say.
"Did you read the papers?"
"Yeah, unbelievable what they're trying to sell-"
"- you think that it's true? That Straw Hat Luffy is Dragon-san's son, I mean?"
"- who knows. Going by how many lies are in that article it might just be another cover-up -"
"- why claim that? It's got payoff sure, but there are better lies -"
"- didn't you hear? I heard that Dragon-san said it's true."
Baltigo's rumor-mill has never been as active as it in the past few days. Catching tidbits of discussions in the mess, a certain blond shovels food into his mouth. A stack of empty plates on one side, a newspaper from over two weeks ago on the other, the soon-to-be chief of staff stares with an empty gaze at the pictures of two young men on the front page.
It's no wonder, he thinks, that no one suspected the truth when the lie was first announced. They look more alike than some blood siblings. Privately he muses if perhaps someone mixed things up and Straw Hat is actually Roger's and Fire Fist Dragon's or both belong to one or the other. He wouldn't put it past his own boss to roll with it, and something tells him that Straw Hat would have dealt better with Roger's blood than Fire Fist, though why he thinks that is a mystery.
It not as though he's ever met either pirate, let has reason to believe that Fire Fist struggled with his self, with his identity and worth, or that Straw Hat might laugh it all off.
No, that's just silly.
Ace's day started fairly normal. Getting up. Emptying the galley of food. Since they're docked, he goes with Marco and Apis to do some shopping (why Marco insists Ace take note of how a division is run is beyond him). He's no longer grounded but still forbidden from going anywhere alone, so he does some obligatory grumbling as they stroll through the small town's market, passing stalls left and right.
When he catches a glimpse of blue and blond from the corner of his eyes his day is still normal. It's not the first time that that color combination draws his eyes after all.
Then more details sink in and refuse to let his eyes move on. Someone his own age wearing a long blue coat, a pipe like a sword across his back, blond curls peeking out from under a blue top-hat that is pulled low to hide a face. Ace watches, with a cold gut, an armful of apples being bought, an annoyed companion berating the person and revealing the face for a moment.
And Ace feels rage bubble under his skin.
Pushing past a few other people, he comes within arm's reach.
"OW! THAT FREAKING HURT DAMN IT!"
"WHY THE FUCK ARE YOU ALIVE?!"
"WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?! WHO THE HELL ARE YOU?!"
"WHO AM I -?! YOU DAMN BASTARD!"
"Hey!" Cuts in that bastard's companion, scowling and that's definitely a martial arts posture she takes as she moves to stand between them. Apples roll over the street. "What are you doing? Can't you use words to talk like a civilized being?"
Ace scowls at her with a look that sends hardened pirates running. She blanches but hold her ground. Ace shoves her aside and jerks the bastard who'd been stupidly staring up by his stupid napkin. Ace would have punched him again if he hadn't been shoved off and away before he gets to it.
He gets a cold look. Hat is picked up and returned to head. The voice is deeper than Ace remembers, of course it is, but everything down to that precise way of speaking when pissed is so glaringly familiar it hurts. Hench Ace being angry.
"May I ask what that was that for?"
Hands come to rest on his shoulders, and Ace suddenly remembers that he isn't alone. "Oi, Ace, what's going on?" Marco's eyes go flinty on the two. Overprotective. And it's annoying right now.
"What's going on is that my fucking brother didn't think to mention that HE FUCKING IS ALIVE!" Ace roars in Sabo's face and takes vindictive pleasure in how he jerks back. Stumbles back, actually, trips over the remains of the stall Ace punched him into and promptly lands back on his behind.
To Marco, who looks torn between concern and irritation and confusion he says, fighting for calm. "Luffy and I have another brother. I just never mentioned him because he DIED WHEN WE WERE EIGHT!" This he shouts at Sabo again. And fuck that. Fuck keeping his temper, he's so pissed he could burn this island to the ground. "WHY DIDN'T YOU TELL US YOU WERE ALIVE?!"
(Sabo's face looses all color and sweat gathers at his brow. He also has trouble focusing on the present, his head ringing, but of course Ace wouldn't notice stuff like that. Ace is just angry and wants to punch him some more.)
"Now just wait a minute, Fire Fist!" The red-haired woman aggressively elbows her way back into the confrontation, getting up in Ace's face before he can get one step closer. "If you wanna pick a fight you better have a good reason! Start making some sense!"
"Why don't you ask that bastard behind you! He can give you an explanation!" He starts to shove her aside to get another punch in but -
- the girl stands strong. Her expression is twisted, angry and protective. "That moron has amnesia! He's not gonna explain anything! And I'm not just going to let you take advantage of that-"
Her voice becomes white noise.
Isn't that the shit where people lose memories? Like what that damn seahorse that wanted to become a dragon like Matabi did to them? That amnesia?
All of a sudden rage just flees his blood and all he can think, feel is Sabo gonegonegone. As though he's eight years old, weak and heartbroken again.
Sabo isn't gone.
Sabo is alive. And sailing on the Grand Line.
Sabo is free.
Something hot stings his eyes. Ace swirls on the spot, shaking both Marco's restraining hand on his shoulder and Apis' grip on his wrist off as he makes to leave. "Come on, we're leaving."
Apis' eyes are round, darting between Ace something behind his shoulder. "I - what - ?"
In his mind he's already far gone, back on the ship, back on the sea, blue everywhere and away from this-
"WAIT! Just wait a damn minute!"
It's not Sabo's voice. But the tone is almost desperate. Maybe that's why he turns when he'd been so determined not to. It's the girl, who's crouching at Sabo's side - Sabo to whom Ace's sight was immediately drawn again. Sabo, who's passed out. His face is twisted in pain.
The girl looks from Sabo to Ace, back again, her face red and her expression might be panic. "You - You can't just leave like that! Explain what you mean you're his brother!"
Luffy, who's the captain of his own crew and who has only become warmer and stronger since -
- since Sabo.
Sabo, their brother who died before he could be free. Who didn't die at all.
Sabo, who's free. With someone who cares about him.
Luffy, who cried. Ace, who cried. Sabo, who was dead.
Who's free and alive and happy (hadn't he been laughing before Ace hit him?), and it's -
(Sabo forgot them. Him and Luffy. Forgot all about their brotherhood and the days spend running under the green light of the forest, of the hunts under rustling leaves, campfires at night and their shared dream of endless oceans, the desperate longing. To be free.)
"No." His fists clench and he has to work to not feel the deep seeded anger that could so easily spark into a raging inferno that would make him do something he'd regret. "No," he says again, stronger and hates himself a little for the weakness he has to hide.
He speaks to Sabo's friend? Partner? Nakama? But his eyes don't move from his brother's unconscious form. "He's alive. That's enough to know. If he forgot about us," didn't care to remember "then that's his own fucking business. He can do whatever he wants." Ignore them (forget them), never see them again, resent Ace for a broken nose, hate them because he only heard about them and doesn't know them -
- Sabo is free to do that.
That freedom is what matters. The freedom, and their brotherhood that can't be cut just 'cause Sabo proved himself to be infinitely more forgetful than Luffy.
This time, when he spins on his heels with agitated energy, it's clear that it's final.
Bystanders part before him and even as his crew-mates hurry to catch up, Ace can't hear anything over the rush in his ears and impulse in his fists to beat something and beat it dead.
(Later, he's giddy and cheery and all the more like his big brother than some people are comfortable with, but Sabo's alive! He can't wait to tell Luffy, the crybaby.)
When Sabo wakes up, days of travel away from the last location he remembers being at, with Koala nibbling cookies at a frightening speed at his bed side, a thunderstorm scowl on her face, he has a headache.
He's also irritated as hell, because why must he get a bloody face when reunions are supposed to be happy things.
Asking Koala results in a dark cloud of menace emanating from her and a clipped summary of what that rude, uncivilized, irritating, violent, ugly, infuriating brat of a pirate said.
Sabo can't help laughing at her (at her, at himself, at that's so Ace), which lands him a trip into the sea.
Then it sinks in that Ace, the bastard, just up and left. Gave him a bloody nose, a concussion, dumped a load full of memories in his head together with the headache of the century, screwed his mission over, blew any and all kinds of secrecy and subtlety and just walked away.
Sabo's kind of pissed.
(Holy crap. He's got brothers. Two of them. Straw Hat and Fire Fist. Luffy and Ace. Holy crap. What the hell are those two morons doing?! Sparking a war? Blowing the New World to pieces in the crossfire with two Emperors because one of course isn't enough?)
(Mr Almost-Got-Executed thinks he gets to be angry with Sabo for nearly dying?!)
(The next time they meet Sabo's going to give him a bloody nose, just you wait. And a headache. Can't forget the headache.)
(And they will meet again. That's why they're brothers.)
The second raid on Marineford was conducted by Luffy and Marco only because it was a symbolic act. There couldn't be one side more represented than another and since Whitebeard himself would do that (aside from also clearly being unable to move enough for it) it's Marco and Luffy only. Some ships wait out of sight of Marineford of course, but the main part was the two of them only. Luffy also didn't ring the bell sixteen times. He just did twice for the funeral.
About Luffy's bit and him noticing holes and absences of voices - you're free to interpret that any way you like, but I tried to play at The Voice Of All Things.
Also Ace and swearing. I don't usually have my characters swear a lot, but it was necessary to paint Ace's state of mind accurately. Anger gets the better of him basically the moment the face from his childhood overlaps with the stranger and when he's angry he swears. Obviously. Being a pirate and raised by bandits. I apologize if the choice of words offend some of you, but it's precisely for that reason that I rated this T.
Sabo doesn't have it easy. He's in for so much fanatic worry staring now, it's gonna drive his blood pressure through the ceiling. Also guilt. Despite that he'll probably be flattened under guilt, he's still so much easier of than in canon it kind of makes me wonder how canon!Sabo doesn't get crushed by it and still manages to get anything done. The next time he and Ace meet, it better be on some deserted island cause or mass evacuation will have to be made.
All One Piece attention that I have left after this goes to Fuushavillage, cause I really want to finish that some time this century.
Right, so, this was a saving Ace fic. Did you really expect something else? For those of you who wonder about Whitebeard making it out alive - let's just say he's alive for now. Fighting is completely out of the question against anyone stronger than a rookie for him now, though. But he lives and his name means all the more.
What do you think about how things developed? Ace and his crew and the Whitebeards and Luffy and his fleet and a quickly-rising upstart. Lots and lots of chaos.
Thank you for reading. Hope you had some fun!