Sweet Victory

Part 2

I was a little overwhelmed at the insistent feedback to continue. I honestly hadn't planned to write past an oneshot, but if that's what the readers want…

There was a leak in the cell so that filthy floor was always caked in mud and silt. The dirt that sank into his wounds itched terribly, but Ace was in no position to move at all. His arms and shoulders ached from the strain of being in the same position for two days, his hands felt numb as the sea-stone cuffs cut off his circulation, and his ribs still hadn't healed from the beating he'd taken from Blackbeard. In short, he felt like shit.

Although it was quiet for once, he could not sleep and temporarily escape this misery. Too much weighed on his mind after Blackbeard left.

Luffy, that idiot of a little brother! Ace would have given anything to be able to warn him, but now he was no state to do anything. Damn Blackbeard, and damn himself for not being strong enough to take him out like he'd promised Whitebeard!

Over and over again, he ran the duel over in his mind trying to find where he'd failed, what he'd done wrong. He'd used his strongest attacks to no avail. Blackbeard had been too strong, that's all there was to it. He'd been too cocky, too assured of his own strength and underestimated Blackbeard. Damn it!

Not for the first time, Ace struggled against the sea-stone cuffs, hoping to make some kind of crack, a dent, anything! If he could only get one hand free, he'd… He'd do what? Surrounded on all sides by the sea and at the mercy of Blackbeard who'd easily defeated him while he was at full power, what could he hope to do?

The cruel, unyielding cuffs cut into his skin and his struggles only reopened the wounds on his wrists so that the salt of the cuffs was rubbed into the cuts. Ace gave a soft hiss of pain and sank back in exhaustion.

Luffy… He had to warn his brother at all costs. It didn't matter what happened to him, so long as Luffy was safe.

"Shit." Ace growled under his breath in frustration.

Ace! He could almost hear Luffy's eager voice calling out to him. Luffy had always looked up to him and vowed to surpass him, even when he lost every fight they'd ever gotten into with each other. Ace's oldest memory was of running down the dirt path to their home with Luffy toddling behind him, struggling to keep up. It had been a little one-sided, their rivalry, but there were never any hard feelings. Ace, after all, had to look after his little brother. God knew, with a grandfather like Garp, someone had to!

And Whitebeard… The old man had taken him in and offered him a place by his side. He looked after his nakama as though they were his own family. He'd saved Ace's life so many times in the early days, only asking for Ace's loyalty and dedication in return. He'd trusted Ace with this mission. And Ace had failed miserably. After Blackbeard received his title of Shichibuki, there was no telling what he would do next. This went beyond the killing of a nakama: Blackbeard planned to kill Whitebeard, himself! Ace swore he would die before he let that happen.

That was why he had to get free. That was why, if nothing else, he had to warn Whitebeard and Luffy about Blackbeard. He had to…

Ace let his back hit the rotted wood and stared up at the moldy ceiling. He wasn't afraid of death, he never had been. When you were pirate, it was just part of the job. You risked your life every day just by existing. If he died defending someone he loved or for something he believed in, that was fine. But somehow, the thought of dying in the hellhole known as Impel Down while dreading the news that Whitebeard had been taking down by one of his former subordinates or that Luffy had been captured as well seemed a fate worse than death.

"You watch me, old man." Ace muttered under his breath as he once again struggled in his hopeless battle against his unyielding bonds, "You watch. I'll get free. And you're gonna regret ever being born."