What if Usopp was captured at Water Seven before apologizing to the Strawhats...
"He's in here," said the marine, opening the door. Tied to a chair, the long nosed pirate watched with wide eyes as the admiral entered. The poor fellow began to shake.
"So you caught one of them," said Aokiji.
"Yes, sir," said the marine. "We found him near the shore. He's not one of the ones with a bounty, sir, but I thought he might help us find the others."
"No bounty," said Aokiji. Sometimes the stupidity in the lower ranks almost amazed the admiral. It certainly never failed to amuse him. "And so he was not seen going with the strawhats to Enies Lobby."
"As far as we can tell, no, sir, he wasn't."
"Alright, I'll take care of the rest," said Aokiji. He turned his attention to the prisoner. A long time had passed since the admiral had had a chance to personally interrogate a prisoner, but orders were orders. At least this one looked interesting. Perhaps the strawhats had gotten farther under his skin than he thought. After all, they somehow kept Nico Robin from fleeing.
He analyzed the still-shaking young man. Unlike the low-ranking marine, the lack of a mask did not fool Aokiji. This prisoner was definitely the sniper who reportedly set the World Government flag on fire and accurately shot the marines on the Bridge of Hesitation from the top of a leaning Tower of Justice. The admiral vaguely remembered the sniper from his first encounter with the strawhats, not that the man had paid much attention to what had appeared to be the weakest member of the group. Aokiji could almost recall something about the young man and a quick escape. Maybe this pirate was the one who ran with Nico Robin after Strawhat Luffy kept Aokiji from shattering her that time…?
The young man had still not stopped shaking, but the wide eyes gazed at Aokiji rather resolutely. The admiral had seen the same look on too many men to fail to know what that look meant. No vital information on the strawhats would come from this source. Not that the admiral had felt too much hope for that possibility anyway after witnessing the loyalty the strawhats held between their crew. Thinking on that same loyalty, the admiral was more concerned about one thing. Aokiji wondered why he was as of yet not experiencing another siege.
"So why are you here?" The question startled the sniper enough to stop his shaking. Confusion filled the tan face, before the prisoner looked at his interrogator suspiciously.
"You captured me," the sniper said plainly, the words strangely clipped as if he was keeping himself from saying more.
"Yes, we captured you. But why aren't you with your crew?"
The brown eyes hid beneath a shadow for a moment before hiding over a wide smile.
"My crew of 8000 are planning my escape as we speak!" he proudly boasted. "You'll regret messing with Captain Usopp!"
"I'm sure we would have heard of a crew that large," said Aokiji, strangely amused by the obvious lie. The straw hats had some strange people. "Maybe I should rephrase my question. Why are the strawhat pirates not trying to rescue you?"
Indecision flickered on the boy's face as clearly as if it was painted there. Finally, the tan shoulders slumped, and the resolute eyes shined before looking downward.
"I-I'm n-not a strawhat…not...not anymore," the boy said at nearly a whisper. "I was going to make up with them, but…I didn't know what to say…and...a-and they're already gone….they left withou-they left…"
"That's unfortunate," said the admiral. Inwardly, Aokiji reaffirmed his earlier observation. They would get nothing out of this one. No marine interrogator can break what's already been broken. "I suppose you're of no use to us then."
"So he's useless."
"As a source of information for the strawhats, yes," said Aokiji. He fiddled with the receiver of the den den mushi as he chose his next words wisely. "But I believe he could be of service to us yet."
"We could use his skills."
"Are you suggesting what I think you are?"
"His former loyalties have been severed…"
"And so new loyalties could be formed. I understand, admiral. Are his skills as good as his bounty suggests?"
"I'll leave it to you then."
"Stand up, prisoner 1542," said the marine guard storming into Luffy's cell. "The vice-admiral wishes to speak with you."
Luffy lifted his head, his eyes blank. Squeezing in through the door, Garp entered the cell.
"Get that pathetic look off your face," said the old man. Luffy didn't react, and Garp almost gave in to the urge to give the boy his fist of love. But he had been given specific orders not to harm the prisoner. They wanted the pirate to be in top form for his execution the next day. If Akainu had his way, the boy would already be killed even before reaching the executor's platform.
Clenching his fist, Garp wondered where he had gone wrong with Luffy. Dragon's rebellion, in a way, Garp could understand. The vice-admiral had never given his son the attention Dragon deserved, but Luffy, on Luffy Garp had showered endless hours of attention and training. Training that the boy used to become a pirate, become enough of a threat that his superiors wanted Luffy out of the way. The boy could have at least used the training to stay out of this situation, darn it! But no, the boy had to use his training to try and free his "brother" from Impel Down, and then completely break as he watched Ace die in front of him.
Garp had heard stories. Had heard that since Luffy's crew had lost a member in Water 7, three more had been deathly wounded in the fog of the Florian Triangle, and that Kuma had finally completely split the already weakened crew. The vice-admiral knew that Ace, that Luffy not being able to stop his execution, had only been the last straw for his grandson. The boy had already been splintering inside.
On principle, Garp never ever let himself fall in debt to any person, but for his grandson he made an exception. Hopefully, the dangerous gamble would work.
"Hmph. You're hopeless. Why my two subordinates have been begging and trying to sneak in here, I don't know. Fortunately, they don't have access. However, one of Aokiji's subordinates does, as long as I came along to make sure he didn't try anything. So take that worthless look of your face and stand at attention," said Garp. His words caused no reaction again, and the old vice-admiral forced his gaze away from the useless lump that had temporarily replaced his grandson. He squeezed out of the cell and let the smaller figure enter. The long-nosed boy-nearly a man, just like his grandson- stepped almost in front of Luffy.
"Luffy." The one word caused Luffy's head to snap up and look straight into the other young man's face. The young man, who Aokiji had informed Garp was named Usopp, twitched but somehow managed to pull off a sickly looking smile. "Long time no see."
"U-Usopp," said Luffy, his eyes widening to an almost impossible size. Garp glanced at the scene before turning to glare at the marine guarding the door.
"V-vice a-admiral Garp?" squeaked the marine. Garp spared a moment of thought for where in the world the marine recruiters found this rabble before bellowing.
"Shut the door!"
"W-what? B-b-but sir…!"
"Are you questioning orders?!"
"N-no s-sir!" Immediately, the door was closed. The marine tried to straighten but still shook. "S-sir, i-isn't it u-unwise to l-let a f-former p-p-pirate t-talk p-privately w-with h-his c-captain."
"Of course," said Garp, his finger digging in his nose.
"B-but t-then w-why…?"
"'Cause Monkey D. Luffy may be one of the most wanted criminals in the world, but he's still my grandson."
"I wish you wouldn't say things like that," said Aokiji, surprising the marine guard, but doing no such thing to Garp.
"Huh? Why not?" asked Garp.
"Because I would rather not hear uncomfortable questions from headquarters," said Aokiji. He glanced at the closed door before looking back at the vice-admiral. "He's in there?"
"My stupid grandson reacted as soon as he saw him."
"Interesting. Should I just assume I'm going to lose my best sniper?"
"Ha! If you were worried about that, you should never have let me bring him here," said Garp.
"It wasn't against orders, and what my subordinates want to do with their free time isn't my responsibility," said Aokiji.
"Hahahaha! Aokiji, you are one interesting fellow!" bellowed Garp, almost covering the sound of a muffled explosion.
"W-w-what was that?" asked the trembling marine.
"What? You hear something?" Garp asked. The marine gave shaky nod. "You hear something, Aokiji?"
The admiral shrugged. "I doubt someone could hear a buffalo horn over your voice."
"M-maybe we s-should c-check the p-prisoner, s-sirs?"
"Why would we do that?" asked Garp.
"I-in c-case the n-noise c-c-came f-from the c-cell, s-s-sir…"
"I believe headquarters might have some new orders for me, so I will head that way," said Aokiji. "Try not to need any more favors."
Garp grunted. There were worse people to be in debt to than the tall lazy admiral. The fact didn't make the vice-admiral feel any better, but the empty cell with a large hole did. Garp grinned as he realized that his grandson would probably be the first prisoner to actually escape Impel Down.