It wasn't that a lot of people visited their graves—Ace and Whitebeard's—they were great and wonderful people, sure. But there was a bit of a stigma around them. Usually the only people that dared to stop by the tombstones without worrying about the implications were members of the former Whitebeard Pirates. That older man with the pineapple head, that really tall dude with a rather impressive mustache, that guy who Sabo wasn't totally sure was really a guy or not, and many more. He never actually talked to the lot of them; couldn't really bring himself to. But they seemed like good people. Ace had found some good nakama.
But they weren't here today. Not that Sabo expected them to be around every day; he could barely manage once a season.
The soles of his boots seemed to echo despite being in an open area and they kept in time with the heartbeat ringing in his ears. This was... his fifth visit. The familiarity of this routine didn't make anything easier on him. If anything, it made things harder. He knew how many steps it would take to reach the gravestone, knew word for word what was carved under Ace's name, and knew that no matter how long he stayed there, Ace wouldn't suddenly appear and tell him that he was stupid for worrying about him.
As he reached the graves Sabo let out a heavy sigh. "I'm sorry, Ace," he spoke quietly, lightly tracing the etchings of his late brother's name.
Sorry... for not telling them that he was still alive because of some stupid makes-sense-but-doesn't-make-it-any-less-stupid promise he made with Dragon. For not... visiting... more often for the same reason. For all the missed out opportunities that they could have had while they were all still alive. For not trying harder to convince an old man to let him save his brother. For not being there for Luffy after... after...
Sabo shook head, frowning at himself when he realized that he had a lot to apologize for, and it sickened him that it took more than a hand to count them all. He wondered if this was some sign that he was a horrible brother. It probably was. It definitely was.
But there wasn't anything he could do about this. It wasn't like all of the grief and regret that filled him could make Ace return from the dead. That much was obvious. When Sabo tried to think of it logically, then it was possible that Ace might've even been happy right before his death. Ace had always been a self-loathing type of person and whenever Luffy would shove his affections toward the other, Ace was always embarrassingly happy for it. And Ace died protecting someone he loved. The story in the newspapers was completely different from that; naturally it made the marines out to be these ethereal heroes who vanquished a no-good, dastardly pirate.
He overheard the real story when the Whitebeard Pirates were talking about it and, in a weird and bittersweet way, it brought him some peace of mind.
Another sigh escaped his lips; it was something that seemed to happen often whenever he was here.
Taking a few steps back, Sabo began to rummage through a small bag that he brought with him. "Hope you don't mind, but this is something I've wanted to do again for a long while." He took out three sakazuki cups, the same ones they used 12 years ago, knelt down, and placed them on the ground in a triangle. Although he couldn't remember what type of cheap booze Ace pilfered before, Sabo figured that any old sake would've worked just fine. Once the three cups were filled, the young man picked up one of them and quickly downed the drink, letting it burn in his throat.
Then, taking the cup meant to Ace, Sabo poured its contents over the grave. His eyes drifted over to the last one. Given that Luffy was still traveling, or training, or something, he couldn't be sure when exactly his younger brother would be able to visit. Even so, he left the cup as it was as well as the bottle just in case.
Bracing himself on his knees, Sabo stood up and brushed the dirt off his pants. Taking one final look at the gravestone, he tipped the brim of his hat forward. "See ya, Ace."