ANNOUNCEMENTS! I started a collab with Kitsune Foxfire/Bedlamwolf over on our new joint account, BedlamAnjelle. (I know, so original right?) It's calledImmortality is What We Leave Behind and is a fantasy AU with no main pairings, if you're interested. I'm having A LOT of fun with that story and it's been a ridiculously amazing experience, so I would really appreciate it if you could go take a look. Only if you want to, of course, but I'd love to hear your opinions on it and Kitsune is an AMAZING writer and partner so I think it'll be worth your time.
Also, I now have an ask blog for Divide on tumblr. Yes, it has it's own ask blog. No, I don't know why. Feel free to rant at me and the characters there if you want :,D
And WE HAVE A NEW COVER PICTURE. WOOO! Ace's execution really made no sense whatsoever with this fic. It bothered me. A lot.
askthebluegent. tumblr. com (remove the spaces)
Alright, now onto the chapter! (NOTE: Scene 3 actually takes place BEFORE CHAPTER 37. Just thought that might be useful to you guys.)
I REGRET NOTHING.
"You don't have to be scared," the blond said with a laugh, ignoring it as the action pulled at his bandaged waist. Even still the boy kept his distance, away from the brothers sitting on the bed. It had taken half an hour just to keep him in the same room as them—the bribery of food became too much when the boys were brought their dinner. Still he stayed away, unwilling to reach out for the steaming bowl of stew the elder held out for him.
He sighed. "You're hungry, right?" Gray eyes turned to him, a hardness within them that was well beyond his age. What had that boy seen? What had he lived through? "Eat."
The weariness in the child's eyes was strong and his hesitance never left. But as the seconds ticked by his resolve crumbled, a growling stomach the final break as he strode up and grabbed his meal.
Luffy laughed heartily from his place at his brother's side, beaming brightly at their guest as he ate. "Isn't he cool?"
Sabo sighed, scratching the side of his head. "I don't know if that's the word I would use, but…" He decided to allow that thought to fizzle out after seeing the blush that crept onto the stranger's cheeks. "Is it good?"
The question brought the child's consumption to a halt. He glanced nervously at the brothers before turning to the floor, giving a minute nod in reply.
"Shishishi!" Luffy laughed, wiggling around eagerly as he watched the other eat. "Sabo, I'm hungry!" he stated.
The blond groaned. "You just ate, Lu."
"But I'm still hungry!"
"Wait a bit, alright? I'm sure Makino will make something for you later."
"Okay!" he cheered, a contented smile on his face.
Having sated his brother's needs, he returned his attention to the young boy who'd taken to sitting on the bedside chair. He would be lying if he said he wasn't surprised to wake up and find a complete stranger sitting next to his brother, listening to the rubber boy's never-ending tales. Calling Shanks or Makino hadn't even crossed his mind and he even went so far as to instruct the child to hide in the wardrobe when their meals were brought to them. He didn't mind giving up his dinner—not when the boy looked so hungry. A few missed meals wouldn't be so bad.
Spotting the glossy film over the boy's gray eyes took him back to a time that felt like just yesterday, when he and Luffy first met. He knew that look—the loneliness, the shock kindness brought on when throughout life one was deprived of it. Knowing that, he couldn't help but want to protect him.
"What's your name?"
Again the boy froze, but that time his head didn't rise from his lap. He didn't acknowledge the question—not fully, anyways. Sabo knitted his brows in confusion when he wasn't given a response.
"He won't tell me," Luffy said with a pout, crossing his arms and puffing out his cheeks.
The blond hummed in understanding as he thought. While he didn't want to pry, he also didn't want to go about calling him 'the boy' continuously. What to do…
"He's like Big Brother," the younger noted again, occasionally glancing at the stranger's soup bowl, his mouth watering.
Sabo snapped his head to the side, curiously blinking at his younger sibling. "What do you mean?"
Luffy's grin widened and he hopped to his feet, running across the mattress until he flopped down beside the dark-skinned child, unabashedly lifting his shirt. An embarrassed heat rose to the boy's face and instantly he moved one of his hands from supporting his bowl to pull the dingy cloth back down, covering himself once more. But it was too late; Sabo had already seen. He saw the undernourished body of the boy, the way his ribs protruded unnaturally from his skin.
He knew after that he wouldn't be able to turn him away.
Swallowing as a deep silence fell, he looked at his blanketed legs. "…You're from Low Town, aren't you?"
At first he didn't think the boy would answer, but eventually a small voice met his ears, "Yeah." That was the first time he'd spoken since Sabo woke.
Instead of mentioning the poverty or crime known to be prevalent in Low Town, instead of reminding the boy of the abuse and sickness he likely suffered in the past, the blond smiled. "Really? That's amazing!"
Gray eyes shot up to meet his, wide and disbelieving, mouth agape as he stared.
"To not only survive living there but to find your way into High Town… I'm impressed!"
His smile softened when he spotted the boy's quivering lip but he pretended not to notice. The blond looked away, giving him some semblance of privacy, pulling a protesting Luffy to do the same.
"…I understand if you don't want to tell us," Sabo started, listening to the muffled sobs he'd turned his back on, "but is it alright if we think of something to call you?"
He felt the corners of his mouth curl up further, "Alright."
"Mr. Eustass, if you would be so kind," Sabo started, gesturing suggestively to his shackled wrists as the redhead's restraints clattered to the ground, allowing his weak and tired body freedom once more.
Kidd stood in the cell, looking down at the shorter male, snorting. Still, his bravado aside, Sabo could see that faint layer of hesitance behind his sharp eyes. He noticed the way the man stood rigid when faced with another set of cuffs.
"Give me one good reason I shouldn't leave you here," he commanded, arms crossed as a deceptive grin played about his face, never quite meeting his eyes.
The blond sighed. There wasn't time for that nonsense and, while he expected something like that from the ruthless brute of a man before him, he couldn't say he was very impressed by the act he was trying to pull. The Blue Gentleman hadn't been met with much resistance on his way deeper into the prison, but he doubted they would leave with the same ease. Judging by the loud crashes from above, though, Impel Down's forces weren't going to be at their… peak strength when they surfaced.
"You need me," Sabo said simply, face indifferent even behind the mask as he calculated their way out. "Do you really think you can get out of here alone in your condition? You can barely stand."
Kidd sneered in dissatisfaction but the way he refused to meet the blond's gaze proved that he was aware of his own limits.
Seeing that worry in his eyes, the Blue Gentleman deflated. He knew that look all too well, having grown up with two devil fruit users. "They're just regular cuffs, not seastone. I don't have an ability, in case you've forgotten."
"I know that," the redhead snapped back.
"I just need you to break the chain. I don't have the key but so long as I can get some maneuverability back I'll be safe. Understand?"
He had no doubt the man could do it, either. If anyone was known for brute strength, it was him. Sure his power over metal helped, but even without it Sabo was sure he would have no trouble. And, as expected, he saw the redhead reach out, brushing his fingers cautiously over the chain, being sure that what he was saying was true. It always amazed Sabo, seeing how quickly a devil fruit user's fear grew after fully experiencing the draining power of seastone. It was natural; the substance took away their power, their control, leaving them with nothing but fear and uncertainty. Broken.
Perhaps that was why users were becoming popular slaves as of late.
A loud snap pulled him away from that train of thought and his eyes refocused, settling on the thick, broken chain hanging from his wrists. Now, he knew Kidd had the strength to do that. He knew that, to a man with such raw power, a chain of metal was only a minor setback. But seeing it before his eyes, no matter how many times he had before, sent chills running up his spine. Sabo wasn't that physically inept. He didn't have the force that Eustass or Portgas did, didn't have muscles that could even break chains. Sure he could fight, but he was at his best with a weapon. Seeing that reminded him that he didn't hold as many cards as he liked to assume.
Well, at least the brute was listening.
"I appreciate your kindness," the Blue Gentleman thanked, smiling behind his mask as he tested out his regained mobility. Sure the weight of his shackles was still a problem and they would make fighting difficult, but it was an improvement. Besides, with how beaten and battered his redheaded comrade was, he'd like to avoid conflict if at all possible. He wasn't looking so good.
Eustass snorted, turning away. He didn't look too happy about obeying the earlier request, but at least he was behaving. "What's a noble want with a bunch 'a criminals, anyway?"
The blond paused from brushing the dirt off his sleeves, not bothering to turn to his acquaintance. "…You know about that, do you?"
"Killer told me."
Sabo's eyes narrowed into a dull glare as he stared at nothing in particular, noting that fact for later. So even he knew, then? Well, it didn't matter—wouldn't harm him, especially since they benefitted from his safety. The question was innocent enough but they had to get moving. He could hear how the prisoners beckoning to be released grew desperate, resorting to threats to try to regain their freedom. Were he in a better mood, he might have helped. But the reality was that he wasn't so kind and they were low on time.
Still, answering the man's question couldn't hurt.
"Noblesse oblige," he said simply as he spun and began his long walk back down the hall, towards the staircase at the far end.
Eustass scrunched up his nose in disapproval, following casually behind as he stretched his tight muscles and sore limbs. "That's a load of shit and you know it. You goddamn nobles don't care about the people. All that matters is sitting comfortably on your fucking pedestal."
Sabo didn't react, remaining indifferent as their footsteps clanked against the cobblestone floor. "And I suppose the same could be said for you, hm? Killing all that oppose you, crushing your opponents with merciless strength…"
"I don't claim to be a hero."
"Neither to I," Sabo countered, fingering one of the cuffs still surrounding his wrist. "However, nobility is in my blood and at least I, if no one else, believe that Low Town is our responsibility. As status dictates, we need to be the ones to fight for the welfare of the poor. Unfortunately my brethren no longer share this belief."
"You're not innocent yourself," the redhead pointed, contemplative scowl firmly in place.
The blond chuckled, knowing just how true those words were. "Yes, my actions can be quite… unorthodox."
"Violent," Eustass supplied.
"And where do I come into play?"
That time Sabo stopped, the hall falling silent aside from the calls promising violence from the still-imprisoned inmates. He turned to the much taller man, looking at the stump where his arm should have been, the scars scattered about his exposed flesh. Then he grinned. "I'm very much aware of what kind of man you are, Mr. Eustass. You could prove a useful ally."
The redhead gaped, silent for a moment as he comprehended those words. Then he sputtered, his face a mask of confusion and outrage. "You can't be—"
The conversation was stopped when a loud crash from above brought both men to stare at the ceiling. Two sets of eyes gawked, widening as cracks appeared through what should have been thick, unyielding stone. Beneath the force it was reduced to no more than paper.
"Back up," Blue commanded in a deep, stern voice.
"I said back up," he repeated in a shout, ignoring the man's grunts of pain as he shoved him back, away from the crumbling ceiling.
No more than ten seconds later the whole thing came crashing down, a heap of rock embedding itself into the floor. Through a faint rise of debris Sabo spotted a set of individuals that were growing more and more familiar as time went on. He scoffed at the mental insinuation, straightening his button-down shirt.
"Zehahaha!" a laugh pierced through the stunned silence of Level Six as the man in front straightened, taking in his surroundings. "So this is it, eh? This is where they keep their strongest."
"Why yes it is," sang a higher voice, far too joyous for Sabo's liking.
As he watched the men before them dust themselves, freeing the shards of rock from the fabric of their clothes, he allowed his scowl to fall. In its place appeared a calm, gentlemanly smile that, with the majority of his face hidden, appeared sincere. That was not the time or place to start a conflict, especially when the odds clearly were not in his favour.
"Marshall D. Teach," he greeted in a friendly tone, though not overly so. "It's a pleasure."
The traitor paused in his examination of Impel Down's bottom level, a flash of surprise on his face as he turned towards the voice, having not expected anyone to meet him down there. When his eyes settled on the shackled blond and heavily injured redhead, his grin returned. "And who do we have here?"
Lafitte stepped forward, his shoes tapping annoyingly as he walked. Of all the members of Blackbeard's crew thus far, that man was the most unsettling. His skin was pale, almost sickly, as he smiled with those vacant eyes and dark lips. Throughout all his spying, all his observation, Sabo had never seen him angry. He didn't get upset, wasn't bothered no matter the complications that arose.
"I believe this is that blue fellow we've been hearing about," the corpse-like man stated, twirling a red cane around casually.
"Ah, that Blue Gentleman who's been sneaking around," Teach recalled as he looked the blond over. Just having that man's eyes on him made Sabo feel disgusted, filthy even. If he wasn't in the situation he was…
"So you've heard of me, then?" he questioned, still maintaining that eerily cheerful smile as he took a step closer, ignoring Kidd's confusion. "I'm honoured."
Again Teach laughed, his guard down just as it always was as he walked in a relaxed manner towards the other party, stopping in front of a pale redhead. "And you…"
"That's my partner," the Blue Gentleman provided to Kidd's silent protests. To prove his point further, he strode up to the gang boss and placed a hand on his much taller associate's shoulder, earning a displeased grunt in response. He shot the man a glare, silently urging him to go along with what he was saying. It was better for those men to believe he was freeing a close personal relation than to see it for what it really was—a business transaction. Why tell his enemy what he was up to? "He was going to be shipped off to High Town, poor thing, so I couldn't just leave him, could I?"
Teach seemed to ponder that for a moment before his grin turned malevolent. "A few of my men were beaten by someone calling himself the Blue Gentleman, come to think of it."
"Oh? Is that so?" Sabo asked, feigning shock in an almost mocking way.
The traitor's eyes lingered uncomfortably long before he laughed once more and walked past the pair, the members of his crew following close behind. Lafitte didn't move, though. He watched them longer, that smile of his stretching as his vacant, almost mad-looking eyes widened, as if telling them that he knew everything. Then, just like the others, he stepped past them wordlessly.
But Sabo wouldn't let them leave so easily.
"Marshall," he called, causing the man to pause and look back at him, "shall we do business one day?"
Teach was certainly confused but it wasn't long before he scoffed and grinned. "Would you like to join my crew, boy?"
"Perhaps another time, my friend!" he shouted back, feeling himself die a little inside.
"Zehahaha! Have it your way!"
And with that he was gone, leaving the youth with the urge to tear his own tongue out. He glared at where the group vanished, sneering before finally removing his hand from Kidd's shoulder and turning back around. "Let's go. If he's made it down here already then the guards aren't going to be far behind."
It took a while before the redhead decided to follow him and Sabo knew he had questions, probably a few accusations to point his way. He hoped he'd wait until they were free… or that he would at least continue moving while interrogating the blond. They needed to move, and fast.
They reached the staircase and Sabo crouched to begin running, hoping to speed up their pace to get out quicker, but that plan was tossed aside as soon as he remembered the prisoner's state. Based on what Killer had said, Kidd had been in there for almost two months. He was all too aware of how terribly the prisoners were treated—barely fed, beaten, left to rot in their cells, their rights stripped away—and seeing one of their worst criminals with glossy, tired eyes just proved how bad it really was. How could he possibly ask him to hurry?
"Who was that?" Kidd finally asked, breaking the silence as they began ascending.
"Blackbeard Teach," the Blue Gentleman supplied, "former Whitebeard member. He turned on the old man when he stabbed Fire Fist—" He managed to stop himself before saying Portgas's name and the other didn't seem to notice, fortunately enough.
"And you want to join him?"
He scoffed. "Should I ever do something so disgusting, I ask that you spill my entrails across the ground in which I stand. I would deserve nothing less."
The redhead, after a pause, snorted, "With pleasure."
The night had grown long, tiresome, as Shanks locked eyes with the boss's former right-hand man. Rayleigh had a way about him, a constant curve of his lips that made his easygoing nature almost contagious, but right now the redhead wasn't feeling very amused. He stared and stared and stared, bombarding the barkeep with hundreds of silent questions as the tension in the room remained strong.
Two stools away sat a familiar government officer.
The Akagami gang occupied most of the tables in the small underground bar and tension was high, every member noticing their unwelcomed guest. To his left he could see Yasopp cocking his gun, muscles tense and rigid with stress. Still, no one made a move towards the man, carrying on like he wasn't there, chatting and drinking as they always would.
Eventually, and after more than one drought of ale, the noble sighed and acknowledged the uninvited customer, never once looking his way. "And how can I help the Hero of Low Town?" he questioned, trying to mask his mocking tone with generosity. Garp only held that title because he murdered the captain. There was nothing noble there, nothing just. He shouldn't have worn that honour as proudly as he did. Or maybe it was the alcohol upsetting him. Normally he was a happy drunk but, well, tension was high and he had a lot on his mind.
"You know damn well why I'm here, Red Hair." Neither looked up from their drinks but from his periphery Shanks could see the way the other's hand tightened around the handle of his mug.
"You want to meet Luffy, right?" The room went quiet, the air tense and suffocating as the gang members glanced their way. His boys liked the kid, wanted to protect him; they wouldn't let someone from the government just go see him whenever they wanted. Shanks had taken Luffy with him when he went to the base a few times as a kid. Everyone loved him. That was why the boss had to groan, realising just how much he'd messed up when he made that little announcement to the boy's grandfather a scant few days—or was it weeks? Everything was so meshed together that he couldn't recall—ago. "I don't think that's a good idea."
"Oh? And why's that?" It seemed the man wasn't in the mood for small-talk.
Shanks pouted and rubbed the back of his neck, humming as he thought of how best to word it. "You mean aside from being my enemy?" he questioned, stalling for time. Or aside from being HIS enemy…
Garp snorted, taking a sip of his beer. "You know I can't touch you right now. A noble with connections like yours? The case wouldn't even make it to court."
"Still enemies," he pointed. Silence stretched and eventually he gave a resigned sigh, giving Rayleigh one last glare as he cleaned a glass, knowing that he had something to do with their encounter. Maybe he shouldn't have promised to drop by again so soon. "Look: I know how you feel, really I do, but first and foremost Luffy's my son. I raised him—not Dragon, not Olivia and certainly not you." It sounded harsh and he could see the old man wince from the corner of his eye, but he really couldn't think of any other way to put it. It was the truth; he'd been caring for the boy for the vast majority of his life. Besides, in some way seeing the pained expression on Garp's face was satisfying; he'd been worrying about his sons for the past few days, a feeling in the pit of his stomach telling him that something was wrong, and upsetting the man who'd killed his hero relieved some of his stress.
The man let out a heavy breath, turning his mug absently as he thought. "You're not yourself tonight, Red Hair," he stated offhandedly, causing Shanks to swallow the lump in his throat and finally look at the other. For someone who hadn't glanced up from his drink, he was certainly observant. "I'm getting old, Shanks. I'm tired of losing family, and I'm tired of letting them down."
For once the usually boisterous old man looked his age, the creases around his eyes more prominent than usual, like he was aged by Shanks's words. And there came the guilt. It was short-lived, lasting only long enough for him to remember that the enemy was human, too, before he distanced himself from the situation once again. That was how he always dealt with confrontation, it seemed. He would separate it from his emotions, keep the side of himself that cared locked away.
That was how, twenty-one years ago, he was able to stand amongst a crowd of thousands and watch as the greatest man in the world fell like he'd never lived at all.
He called Shakky over to refill his glass.
"Luffy…" His voice faded as he thought of how to word it, a drunken haze making it hard to remember to keep his son's Low Town business to himself. "…He's not what a government dog would want in a grandchild."
Garp snorted at that, a jaded, broken sound as he absently fingered the side of his mug. "A boy raised by a criminal? I'd expect a murderer," he pointed. It sounded like it was intended as a joke but the words only made Shanks pale.
No, that's the other one…
Maybe he wasn't the greatest father. He never asked to be a parent. All those years ago when that little blond wound up on his doorstep he didn't stop to think about the repercussions—didn't wonder if extending an open hand would help or harm the boy—and allowed him inside. Then only a few years later another one showed up, no family and no home. And of course Makino grew attached. She was always so loving, so open, so willing to shoulder the burdens of all those around her. How could he refuse? How could he say that he'd messed up enough the first time?
That might have been a mistake. Maybe someone else should have cared for them. He wasn't very good at chasing away nightmares.
He sighed, running a hand through dishevelled strands of red. Why was he so gloomy all of a sudden?
"I met him, you know," the old man supplied, his face a mask of indifference as he stared at a knot in the wood of the bar, "Luffy."
Shanks's eyes went wide as he gaped at his enemy. He couldn't have heard that right. But one look around showed his crew had the same reaction, all turning their heads unabashedly Garp's way. Even Benn had taken to glaring his hardest, lighting up a cigarette as quiet overtook them.
"…Luffy?" he parroted in disbelief. "My Luffy?"
"Yeah," the man grunted as he chugged the rest of his drink. Despite the gang members hanging off his every breath he wasn't quick to continue, as though his mind were somewhere else. "You kept his name."
The redhead blinked as he pondered that, his head dropping into his hand as it finally clicked. Luffy told him his name. He introduced himself with the Monkey surname he held when he was little, before the adoption. That idiot wasn't supposed to use it!
From beside him, Shanks could hear Benn's small chuckle of amusement. Well, at least someone found that brat's mistake funny.
"W-well…" He tried recomposing himself before Garp noticed his unease but it was a fruitless effort—eyes like a hawk, that one. "He's fond of it, so…"
"He told me his 'father' said the people of High Town were rotten." Piercing eyes turned to him and for a second Akagami couldn't move. "Know anything about that?"
"Ah," Shanks noised dumbly, foregoing the glass in front of him to instead uncork the bottle Shakky supplied moments ago—he was going to need it by the time the night was through. As he remembered the story behind that line he couldn't help but laugh, piquing the other's interest. Looking at them then, you wouldn't have thought that outside the bar they'd nearly killed one another time and time again. "It wasn't Dragon, if that's what you're thinking. But those weren't my words, either."
The criminal could feel the tightness in his chest ease up, tension flying away as he recalled a memory from long ago. "A boy said it once—little noble, only seven years old. Said 'this country stinks'—that the people are rotten and their stench is fouler than the Low Town trash. Good kid, too—I could see him succeeding Roger or Dragon." In his drunken slur he said more than he should have, but he didn't care. That caught the man's attention, though.
Shanks's smile morphed into a grin. "That boy doesn't care about things like that. He just wants his freedom."
Aged eyes lingered as the other thought. Whatever he wanted to say Shanks didn't get to hear as the familiar ring of a den den mushi broke through the whispering stillness of the bar. Garp groaned, removing a baby snail from his pocket and glaring at it. He almost felt sorry for the creature. Almost, but that wasn't the first time it rang. It'd been happening ever since the officer walked into the bar, driving the gang members half mad in the process, but still it wasn't answered. It seemed that changed, though, as that last call pushed the owner's patience past its breaking point.
After a series of garbled shouting across the line and a few dissatisfied grunts—and lots of 'deal with it on your own' type commands—the old man stood. He mouthed a few words about returning shortly before storming up the stairs in a huff. The redhead watched him go, eyes narrowing as his retreating back vanished beyond the bar's threshold.
It was quiet.
"Come on, men! This is a celebration!" Shanks declared, cheers rising up from the crowd of people as he allowed his expression to fall, whispering low, "Yasopp."
"Yes, Boss?" the sniper replied, leaning nearer to him with a furrowed brow.
"Ray, you have another exit, right?" There was a nod. "Good. Yasopp, follow him. See what they want him for."
"Right," the man grunted, rising from his stool and vanishing into the back.
From his left Benn inhaled, holding the breath before releasing a puff of gray smoke into the damp air of the underground. "Is this a 'hunch' thing or do you actually have a reason this time?"
"Do I need a reason to spy on my enemy?"
Shanks deflated, his head hitting the bar top with a loud thud. "Sabo was acting strange yesterday," he whined. "If I'm right…"
"Let's hope you're not."
But somehow he knew that he was.
No matter how deep a sleep he was in, Zoro was always able to wake instantly if his boss needed him. Somehow the soft patter of steps across the cement floor sounded melancholic and his eyes peered into the darkness of the room just as the teen left. Allowing a moment of silent contemplation, he hopped to his feet and followed after the boy. What was he doing up so late?—or rather early, considering dawn would be breaking in only an hour. That wasn't the first time he got out of bed, either; he'd done so only twenty minutes before. After witnessing that terrified, broken look on his face earlier in the day, after seeing how scared he was to return to an empty base, the green-haired man felt a surge of unease.
Zoro was careful to shut the door soundlessly behind as he crept across the room to the set of stairs that led above ground. He climbed them hastily, swallowing as each step echoed around him. Where was Luffy going, out alone so late? Even if it was unintentional, the surgeon's words from before may have held some sway over him; he hated himself for worrying that his leader would get sick again. Luffy was strong—he knew that—but even the mightiest of men succumb to illness.
Wasn't that how Gold Roger met his end?
Emerging from the base he set his eyes on the short, pale figure bathed in moonlight. He was sitting on the ground in the middle of the Low Town outskirts, nothing around him but low shrubbery and dirt. Once that was a part of Edge Town, he believed, part of the shopping district. Now it was nothing more than ruins.
Luffy seemed to hear his approach. "I wonder what it looked like," he mused, eyes focused on the High Town wall far into the distance. "Zoro, do you know?"
Plopping down on the ground, he sighed. "I'm not old enough to remember it."
The boy hummed, glancing at him for only a moment before setting his sight on the sky. From his place as his leader's side, Zoro could see the faint upward curve of a smile on his lips. "I couldn't sleep."
"I can see that."
"All I did was sleep. I couldn't go outside or see you guys… It was boring!" he exclaimed with a pout that didn't last. "But you know what? Sabo was there the whooooole time! Law had to yell at him to get him to leave, shishishi!"
Luffy continued to ramble on and his friend never interrupted, never said anything in return. He just sat there and listened to a voice he hadn't heard in what felt like years, letting the boy say whatever he wished. He didn't even ask who 'Sabo' was supposed to be. It wasn't like he would get an answer anyway, and that was fine.
Everyone's entitled to their secrets.
"It's a coat; leave it!" Eustass growled out as they paced through the first underground level. From there it would be easy to access the front door and, considering Marshall's group thinned out most of Impel Down's staff, it was unlikely they'd be met with much interference. However, the front door wasn't where the blond was leading them.
Immediately Sabo stopped, spinning on his heel, turning a glare of dissatisfaction the redhead's way. "No," he corrected brusquely, "it's my coat. I like my things, thank you."
Kidd wasn't in the mood for an argument, he knew, but he wasn't about to abandon his coattail. He'd left it with that woman—what was her name? Syn?—out of common courtesy but, truth be told, he wanted it back. They could keep his weapons, the seastone bo staff or the metal pipe. They could retain ownership over the various devices he'd left at the base they raided, withhold his belongings from him all they wanted, but his coat and hat were his and his alone. Fortunately he still had the latter, even if it was torn.
"You're going to risk imprisonment for a damn coat?"
"Yes," he affirmed as he spun back around and continued trekking down the hall. He could hear Eustass muttering insults low under his breath in—was that German?—but still the steps behind him kept their pace. He grinned behind his mask. It felt good, having someone as stubborn as Captain Kidd obediently following him, but it was a grim reminder of just how broken he was. If he wasn't so heavily injured, even starved, he wouldn't have gone along with Sabo's whims. But as much as it must have stabbed at the redhead's pride he complied, knowing full-well that sticking with the Blue Gentleman was his only guarantee at escaping alive. Keeping that in mind, Sabo resolved not to disappoint, no matter the cost.
The corridor was mind-numbingly long. Sabo found his attention being torn from what lied ahead to what was left in his wake, hearing the muffled grunts of pain from the one staggering behind. Kidd was trying to stifle the noise but it was no use and, as much of a bastard as the blond could be, he wasn't comfortable with forcing an injured man to work against his wounds. He slowed his pace.
Eventually they came to a familiar door and Sabo ran to it, grinning when he spotted the holding cell he was kept in not long ago. His tailcoat had been left on the dirty cement floor and he scowled as he picked it up, brushing away the filth that muted its royal blue shade. Suddenly he froze, eyes catching on the flecks of red splattered across the cuff of his white shirt. He felt his stomach twist into a knot as he remembered who those stains were from, his mind flashing to little more than an hour ago.
Taking a deep breath he slipped the coat onto his torso, its sleeves covering the blotches of red that he preferred not to think about. What was most important was getting out of there and meeting up with Killer to hand over Eustass. After that he could sulk. After that he could be 'Sabo'.
A sudden yelp of pain echoing from the hall had him paling. The blond's stomach turned and immediately he ran out of the room to where a certain redhead was still, a bloodied hand clasped tightly around the blade of a nodachi.
He momentarily forgot to breathe, hardening himself as gray eyes met his, an irate scowl splitting across dark skin.
"So this is where you were, Blue," the surgeon acknowledged through gritted teeth, trying to force his weapon through the prisoner's flesh.
He regarded the surgeon cautiously, posture straightening as he scanned the area for any viable weapons. There were none, of course, and he regretted leaving his seastone dagger with the traitor when they last met.
Law's eyes scrolled to Kidd and he glared his hardest. "You came for him."
The redhead offered a wicked grin even as he winced, the blade digging deeper into his skin. "I was wondering when you'd show up. You owe me an arm."
The surgeon didn't allow for a reply, using his right leg to knock the man off-balance. Kidd dodged it, barely, already a panting mess as he tightened his grip with bone-crushing force. His opponent tugged away, trying to free the weapon to no avail. But the convict couldn't retain that strength, wavering as a glazed look crossed his face, eyes scrolling over to where the Blue Gentleman stood.
Sabo's eyes widened, realising that Eustass hadn't used his ability. Why? It was metal; he should have—
Kidd's hold slipped and he found himself stepping forward.
Law broke away, arm pulled back to gain momentum, never missing a beat as he thrust his nodachi at his enemy.
The tip met with pale skin and royal blue.
The child's face scrunched up in disapproval, big, gray eyes staring up at the blond across from him who wore a look of triumph in his grin.
"Do you like it?"
"Well," the older boy started, leaning back as he offered his brother the rest of his meal, "we only met because you broke in. I found it fitting."
His face sagged into a pout as he slouched in his chair. "That reasoning is flawed."
The other laughed. "Luffy likes it. Right, Lu?"
Grinning, the blond turned from his brother to his guest. "The law is what you make of it. Sort of like… it's all perspective. You are who you make yourself out to be."
"Then… what about Trafalgar? What does that mean?"
At that the boy's face turned solemn and the room went still. "Well…"
Red—violent, merciless red. His clothes were covered in it. Maybe acting on impulse wasn't his most brilliant decision of the day. It was a good thing Ace wasn't there; he'd hate for the idiot to see him make such an Ace-like mistake.
Coughing, wet and haggard as the tang of blood rose from his throat. He could feel it trail down the corner of his mouth, trickling down to the white cravat around his neck.
At first he didn't really feel the pain. His mind was too focused on the one in front of him, the one holding the hilt whose eyes were wide with disbelief, never looking away. His body shifted from chilling cold to overwhelming warmth as it went limp, something sharp digging into his gut.
He looked down.
Shaky hands clasped the blade piercing his stomach as realization set in. Blood pooled at his feet and for the first time the sight made him nauseous. He chuckled lowly at the irony, the sound almost a whisper as shock took over.
"What…" The voice was nostalgic. He could hear fear and worry mesh within it as panic set in. The surgeon tried to pry the blade from his stomach but didn't have the strength, the blond using the last of his power to hold it in place. He knew what would happen if he let go. "S-Sabo…"
Eustass seemed to snap out of his stupor, recollecting himself as Sabo's vision blurred. He'd almost forgotten how much it hurt to be stabbed.
"Wha—the fuck are you doing?!" the redhead shouted from behind. The shock was clear in his tone as he spoke.
His throat felt dry. It wasn't, but it felt like it. He had to laugh, as much as it pained him, watching the simply terrified expression on Law's face. "…Dunno," he admitted meekly, "Didn't… think."
He was losing a lot of blood. Words were mere echoes, vibrations carried about the air—he didn't hear them. As he blearily watched the one standing before him, he had to wonder…
Will you miss me?
"FUCK!" the redhead screamed once more as Sabo's hands slipped, releasing the blade. He could feel as its tip sunk deeper before finally tearing itself away, Law pulling it free and sending it clanking to the floor. Before he could fall Kidd rushed in, hefting his limp form over his shoulder as red seeped faster from his open wound. "You're a fucking idiot! Shit—goddamn it looks bad."
"You do care," he slurred teasingly, unable to focus on the direness of the situation. The pain was setting in—unrelenting. It hurt.
"Shut the fuck up already!"
Law was silent, clenching his fist and biting his lip as the image before him set in. Even through blurs of colours Sabo could see him tremble, shake with fear.
"Hey…" he managed, voice cracking through the pain. "…You care, too."
As Eustass ran past with the blond in his arms, Sabo could see his old friend drop to his knees. He closed his eyes.
"…Edge of the deep."
The constant movement aggravated his wound as Kidd ran; he was just thankful he hadn't been abandoned.
"You shouldn't have done that," the redhead declared sullenly, the stress in his voice betraying him. "I could have handled him."
You couldn't even use your devil fruit. Don't lie. He was too weak to talk.
"If you die, I'll kill you."
Rather redundant of you. It didn't matter. He knew. He'd always known.
"You wear the shroud of death."
He could see the break of dawn splitting the sky, tendrils of colour carrying across the horizon. Somehow, so close to the end, it was remarkably breathtaking.
"And if I were to rid myself of it? If this 'shroud' were to vanish? What then? Humor me."
"Hm?" he noised, his mind elsewhere. The bleeding wouldn't cease. The edges of his vision were hazy. It was only a matter of time.
"Why take the hit? We're enemies." He was breathless, the extent of his injuries catching up to him as he slowed.
An enemy would have abandoned me, Mr. Eustass. "…C-can I make… a final request?" He tried to hide the shaking of his bottom lip, the truth he didn't care to admit.
"Shut up, Blue Bastard."
"L-Lu…" he continued anyways, grasping at his last strand of consciousness. "M-my brother… wanna see…" I want to see him. Please.
"You will die."
NOW DO YOU KNOW WHY I'VE BEEN FOCUSING ON SABO FOR SO LONG?! I'll just go crawl back under my rock now. (Fun fact: 'Trafalgar' has a few different meanings from around the world but one really IS 'edge of the deep'. I did the research last year, though, so I can't remember where exactly that meaning's from. But yeah, that's how long I've had that part of the story planning. Just under a year.)
To my lovelies~
Mon Esprit Libre: But... reading that much in one sitting is your own fault ._. I pace myself; I'm sure not to read too much at once because, well, I have more important things to do with my time. IL!Sabo was fun, especially since he's a vegetarian and so squeamish whereas Divide Sabo was... not XD
siqwithaQ: Lol Resolve was a oneshot originally too XD It just happens, you know? (You will never convert my to LawLu. It's a physical impossibility :P) It was supposed to be a longer and more in-depth crossover buuuuuut... well, whatever XD It was just taking too long to write, you know? Nope, Sabo's eyes in IL are blue :D I'm not surprised if you don't remember; it was only mentioned like twice XD Actually I have a bit of a learning disability where my hands and thoughts don't get along... Basically I'll type something completely different from what I intended. You'll see it in the chapters that I don't look over before posting, or in author notes. I'll mean "with" but will put "the". And just now I wrote "bit" instead of "put" sooo... yeah. I also always seem to type "shit" instead of "ship" too OTL
Yvonne Park: Yes, it's very strange XD But fun. Oh, that'll be written. Divide!Sabo going to IL!Sabo's world is going to be written and posted as a chapter in Imagined Life. I just decided to wait until killing him off to start on it :,D
xXnazaraXx: Glad you like~
Greyheart: Awe that's sweet. I'm happy I can make your day! You are CORRECT! The shroud of death was symbolic of Law. Sabo had a hunch when Hawkins told him that, as you saw from this chapter, and asked a hypothetical (after the "you will not die today" comment) about Law leaving him - what would happen. And the answer "you will die" instead of "you would die" shocked him and was the real reason he acted so strangely when he next saw Law. Since Hawkins's predictions are always accurate he knew that he would die. And he was scared.
94Insane: Nah, my brain's just a really... scary place :P The end of this story is still pretty far-off XD It's good that you can't see it! More surprises XD But after some character development, some tragic losses, and a few poor attempts at writing battle scenes, we shall finally reach our end. Pasts are coming up. Like... next chapter? No, one after that. I think. Yeah, sounds about right. The entire chapter is going to be set YEARS before the start of the fic. Should be fun :D Lol Divide!Sabo is going to LOVE Imagined Life's world. He's going to be such an OOC fanboy when he sees it XD Violent tendencies might ruin it for everyone else, though :P And Lawrence... it'll be fun to write his reaction muahaha. Yeah... I think it's safe to say this was the worst night of Sabo's life :,D
Frostheart D. Blaize: Please, don't talk about longer, it took long enough to write what I ended up posting T_T And there's part 2 coming up later anyways~
Starry Roses: Yes, that was Blue at the very end :D And yes, he went to Imagined Life. His side will be written in the upcoming months~ My birthday's September 2nd. Why? o.o
Mah-BlackberrehSoS: Will do!
bloodytears87: Lol yeah, reading Imagined Life is proooobably a good idea if you want to fully understand the crossover XD
Diclonious57: Mmmm more like Kidd and Killer were both supposed to take Law's place. But as you can see from Sabo bleeding out and Hawkins's prediction, that plan's... not going so well.
CrazySarahify: Psh, of COURSE SaboLaw is adorable! XD
A Brilliant Loser: Awe, so happy you're enjoying it! You're welcome~ Of COURSE I'll continue! Divide's my baby! Well, you're guaranteed more of the Straw Hats if Sabo's out of the way, so... I hope you're happy :,D
RawR: Lol that's why it's important to read chapter titles and author notes XD But people always ignore them OTL Pfft XD No, Sabo screaming is rare. He's normally quiet even when he's freaking out. You know it's gotta be bad if he's noisy /shot. Hell, even here when he was dying he didn't scream. That was mostly shock, though...
narsiltoanduril: OMG I love you XD Your description of your enjoyment of my story thoroughly amused me. Job well done! Yeah, and then after this chapter... hope you don't hate me too much for that, but I find the antagonism beautiful :,D I think you MAY WANT TO REVOKE YOUR STATEMENT ABOUT ALL NOBLES OTHER THAN THEM DROWNING THEMSELVES NOW IN CASE SOMEONE ELSE WHO'S A GOOD NOBLE SHOWS UP *not-so-discreet hint* :P I can't tell you about the mini-not-mini Marco drama, you know that XD You're welcome~ Lol I don't have confidence in my writing, I'm just too slow-witted to care if it sucks or not XD
Leite Destiny: The version of Divide!Sabo going to Imagined Life will be written, worry not my friend XD Actually, Blue is a VERY good actor. I think I mentioned it before. He's "good at wearing masks" or something. It'll be fun to explore in the other crossover XD Lol IL!Sabo laughing at the nickname shows one of the big differences in their personalities. Though Blue didn't ASK for the nickname... Blue came back, yes, but not until the last scene. Before then it was all IL!Sabo. (The pairing poll is leaning towards no pairing right now XD Sabo didn't feel anything when kissing Law. Only one who thought anything of it was Law himself.) SPEAKING OF FANSERVICE I SHOULD POST THE FICFIC I WROTE AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS NOTE. Thank you for reminding me. Yay, someone DOES read the author notes :,D Noooope there are bigger plot twists in this fic's future, worry not my friend. NO. There is ALWAYS meaning to things that were mentioned. Be sure to keep them in mind. Law screwing things up would not have protected Sabo :( If Sabo hadn't gotten himself out of there he would have been executed, even if he IS a noble. That's why they wanted Garp. But in the end it really doesn't matter, since Sabo's... yeah. But he was able to rescue Kidd and that's important. So it wasn't meaningless. By all means, chat away on tumblr XD
Skitzykat101: I am ^^ The reverse of the crossover is going to be posted as a chapter in Imagined Life.
azab: Glad you like!
Son Goshen: Lol I'm glad you liked it XD IL!Sabo IS adorable. Definitely more adorable than Blue in all his bloody glory. KEEP THE FEELS. LET THEM OUT. LET THEM ALL OUT. "-and this is probably the first and last time we'll ever see the two like that ever again" -Accurate. Psh, naw. Shit was SUPPOSED to hit the fan this chapter buuuuuut... I COMPLETELY SUCK AT WRITING IMPORTANT SCENES AND I HATE MYSELF FOR IT QAQ
DarkHina-Chan: Well you'll get to enjoy lots of Ace and Luffy scenes now that... these characters have been dealt with :,D I will~~
TheMaddest86: You flatter me XD But keep your money, it would be wasted on me :P Here's an update~
Alright! In place of an omake I'll post some extras (that are completely unrelated to plot /shot) that I wrote and posted on my tumblr a while ago.
The surgeon of death listened to the slow, steady beat of the foreign organ in his chest as he slid down the wall, knees pulled tight against his chest.
The melodic tune continued as he buried his head in his arms, cringing at the memory as it flashed repeatedly through his head. His untreated wound still bled. As a doctor he should care, but as a person he couldn't be bothered to. Let it bleed. Let it bleed out, drain from his body. Let him get what he deserved for the monster he'd become.
"Hey, Law!" The memory jabbed further into his heart, mockingly reminding him of that sweet, sweet voice he just knew he would miss. "Are you alright? You don't look so good."
He bit his lip, hand clenching tighter to the back of his head. "…Shut up."
"Don't be so reckless! What if something happened to you?!"
"Luffy and I… we need you, alright? You're our bother—our family. If we lost you…"
The blond's worried face broke out into a grin, one he rarely got to see those days. He relished in its warmth—a warmth that was fading with each passing time he put on his mask. "You're crazy, you know that? My little psychopath. But… you're what's keeping me here. You and Lu."
"Shut up!" he shouted, sending the unsheathed nodachi beside him clattering to the ground, wet red glinting off the blade as he clawed at his skull. "Shut up shut up shut up SHUT UP!"
He took a breath, deep and calming as his eyes burned with tears. He choked back a sob.
Thu-thump. Thu-thump. Thu-thump.
His bleeding hand ran down the fabric of his shirt, smearing and staining it with red as he felt for the unfamiliar yet welcomed heartbeat resounding in his chest, curling further unto himself. Thu-thump. Thump.
"…Please just stop, Blue."
He could feel himself trembling.
"Our bond is my treasure. So promise me something, alright?"
"Stay with me. Always. You have to promise, okay? And I promise that when we're bigger, no matter what, I'll protect you! I won't let anyone hurt you!"
"I'm sorry. So so so sorry."
"I love you, Lawsie."
"…Stop calling me that!"
He laughed. "Never!"
(I think this one might actually make it worse... meh, whatever, it fits with the story so I don't care!)
Law groaned, arms wrapping tightly around his waist from behind. His actions showed his annoyance yet inside he relished the moment, a jumbled mix of unknown feelings swelling within his chest. "Stop that."
"I refuse," came the prompt reply as a blond head of hair dropped onto his shoulder, grinning into his ear. They sat like that in silence as the surgeon tried to adjust to the newfound affection, not quite knowing how to react as one of the hands previously crushing his ribcage slid down to caress the back of his hand, pulling it close. "You came back."
The words tingled, his heart racing with the message behind them as the other nuzzled his cheek, but still he refused to admit to the warmth surging through his body. "I didn't come back to be your plaything, Blue."
"No," the other acknowledged, grin widening, "but then why did you come back, Trafalgar? Do tell."
"It was beneficial."
"How, exactly?" he inquired, taking the surgeon's hand in his own to rub soothing circles with his thumb. "You betrayed the Low Town government. They'll be after you, you know."
Goddamn it. Why did he have to be so analytical, even then?
"Have you forgotten?" he snappily replied, trying to think of how to counter. "You need me."
The arm still encircled around his waist tightened its grip, pulling them flush with one another, no space remaining between the two bodies. "So you're mine, then? My queen."
He snorted. "Don't make me cut you."
"I'd like to see you try."
That had him turning his head, looking into eyes that were mere centimetres from his own as he felt the corners of his mouth tug upward. "Would you, now?"
Sabo seemed to contemplate that for a moment before his smirk took a wicked turn. "I would."
The smile that spread across Law's face could have chilled even the bravest of men. "Then maybe I shall."