This is a story written in response to a fanfiction challenge by Alia Inverse! Credits for the general plotline go to the requester!
Hope you like it!
It was just another perfectly normal day on the Oro Jackson, which was sailing somewhere in the seas of the Grand Line just past Water 7. And just like always, Roger Pirate first mate Rayleigh was extremely close to blowing his top.
"Roger! For goodness sake…"
The black-haired captain continued snoozing in his position flat on the ship's deck, blissfully unaware of the commotion a short distance away. His trademark straw hat was tipped over his face, blocking out the sun's glares. Somehow blocking out sound as well, by the looks of it.
A pair of booted feet came to a stop besides that sleeping figure. Rayleigh glared down at the man who he had for some reason (which he currently found difficulty in recalling) decided to call captain.
"Roger!" he snapped again.
No response. If light snores were not coming from the prone individual, the first mate would have been rather worried if he was dead. But as it was, there was no doubt that the captain was merely asleep, perhaps even in one of his narcoleptic fits. Well, if it was a fit, the timing was absolutely freaking fantastic.
Rayleigh threw his hands up and stalked away.
A scant few moments later, once the angry blond was out of hearing range, Roger carefully tipped up his straw hat and cast an eye over at the ship's doctor who was passing by.
"What's gotten Ray all riled up?"
Crocus rolled his eyes at his captain's antics. "The supplies are apparently running out, thanks to someone attracting Marine attention at the last port, forcing us to set sail prematurely."
Roger whistled innocently, looking the other way. Oh who could that someone be? Not Roger, of course. Why, it couldn't possibly be Roger. How could you even think that?
Rayleigh was at the bow of the ship, looking extremely pissed. A little while later, he started pacing, looking very much like an agitated predator on the prowl. That was never a good sign. Roger gulped. He wondered when the first mate would decide to glance over and realize that his captain was awake. Maybe he should continue to pretend to be sleeping.
Oh thank goodness. With the prospect of land where they could restock supplies approaching, Rayleigh's wrath would have dissipated by half. Hopefully.
Out of the corner of his eye (which he had skillfully shaded with his straw hat to create the illusion that he was asleep), he watched as the first mate disappeared into the cabins, presumably to check with the cook regarding the supplies. Roger wondered when Rayleigh would find out about the food that a same someone had stolen from the fridge last night.
Ah, there it was. Roger cast his eyes around in panic. Crocus watched, greatly amused.
"If anyone asks, I'll be… there." The captain pointed randomly at the general area of the cabins and promptly took off in the opposite direction towards the island.
When Rayleigh finally stalked onto the deck with curses on his lips, Roger was long gone.
Well, this was a pretty boring island.
The black-haired captain yawned as he pushed through the foliage. There was nothing but yards of green for the half hour that he had been wandering around this area. The forest showed no sign of thinning either. Nothing interesting at all.
"Something happen already!" he griped.
Famous last words.
He took another step forward and his vision went dark. A split second later, the forest returned.
Roger blinked to rid the spots from behind his eyes. "What the…" Looking around, he failed to locate anything that could be the source behind his unusual blackout. Shrugging, he scratched his head, thinking that he could maybe head back towards the ship now to see if Rayleigh hadn't calmed down a bit. The first mate would probably be further appeased if he brought back some wild boar or something. Yes, that was what he would do… His fingers stilled in his black hair.
His hat was gone.
Roger slipped into panic mode. "Hat, hat, hat, hat, hat!" Clutching his head, he ran around in circles, before starting to rummage beneath the foliage. It wasn't under any of the ferns, or stuck in the branches of the surrounding trees. He searched all possible places, but didn't find it. There was no wind, so it couldn't have dropped far from his current location. Yet it was nowhere to be found. It was just…gone. "Argh!"
A high pitched child voice cut through the silence of the forest (Thinking about it, it was strange, how silent and still the place was). "Ace?"
Curious, Roger made towards the voice, hoping that it would shed light on his missing woven treasure. A little boy, perhaps about 8, wearing a straw hat that was obviously much too big for him by the way it kept slipping forward as he walked. A very familiar straw hat.
Roger, when faced with such a situation, characteristically only had one thing to say. "Hat!" And proceeded to dash forward to snatch it up.
He didn't expect two little hands to come up and grab hold of the brim of the hat with strength unexpected of such a small boy. Roger had to relinquish his grip on the crown of his hat in fear that it would rip apart from the opposing forces. He narrowed his eyes at the surprise opposition to his happy reunion with his beloved headgear.
"Give me back my hat, kid."
"No!" The boy stubbornly held on to the brim of the straw hat, frowning ferociously at Roger. "Shanks gave this to me! It's mine!"
Roger blinked. Well. He sure hadn't expected that. And Shanks had? Was the kid talking about his apprentice? Well, the boy had potential, so perhaps it wasn't all that surprising that the hat had been passed on to him. But the fact remained that he had not given it to Shanks, and in fact had been wearing it a scant few seconds ago.
"You probably got the wrong hat, boy. That's obviously mine. Maybe you dropped yours somewhere else."
The boy looked at him as if he was stupid (a situation which Roger did not appreciate, thank you very much) and said, "Of course it's mine. I never let go of it."
Man and boy stared at each other for a long moment, sizing each other up.
Roger lost his patience first. "Anyway, it's my hat, so give it back!" He shot forward and attempted to pry the boy's fingers off his hat.
"No!" The child squirmed, trying to get away.
"Hey, don't bully Luffy!"
Roger turned to look with amusement at the slightly older dark-haired boy who had approached him with a ferocious scowl. The boy moved to stand between the captain and the smaller child, his stance defensive.
The first boy, whose name was presumably Luffy, cheered. "Ace!"
Roger easily plucked the boy up by the back of his shirt and grinned tauntingly at him. "Well, what are you going to do about it?"
The sole of a slipper, propelled by a small foot that had surprising strength, met his face squarely.
"Ow, ow, ow…" Roger quickly dropped Ace to tend to his bleeding nose. "Damn brat…"
"Hey, where's Sabo?" Luffy asked his companion, ignoring Roger with remarkable nonchalance.
Ace shrugged. "He was behind me just now. Should be here soon."
Roger grumbled rather incoherently about brats who showed no respect for their elders when a third voice was heard from nearby.
"Ace? Luffy? Where are you?
"Oh! Sabo! Over here!" Luffy yelled.
"Okay, that's one question answered." The blond-haired boy who had appeared between the trees looked relieved. "Now where in the world are we? Luffy, you just took off running and you've gotten us lost. How do we get back?"
"I don't know, shishishishi."
"What do you mean you don't know!?" the two older boys yelled at the youngest, who just continued laughing without a care.
Roger blinked, rather startled. "You three are alone? A Grand Line island isn't the safest place for kids, you know."
Ace crossed his arms, his glare returning to the older man. "We can take care of ourselves. And what do you mean Grand Line? We're in East Blue, on Dawn Island."
Roger was confused. East Blue? But he had left the Four Blues a couple of months ago. It was impossible to end up back at East Blue without them realizing.
Well, that wasn't a matter of too much importance (to Roger, anyway). Priority must (of course) be given to getting back his hat.
"So, kid, your name's Luffy?" It was probably a good idea to get to know more about the kid who held his hat hostage.
"I'm Monkey D. Luffy, and I'm going to be the Pirate King!" the child proclaimed fearlessly.
Pirate King, was it? Roger was fascinated by this new piece of information. He had recently been gaining notoriety with the epithet, and planned to live up to the name. Roger was determined to show the world that he could conquer the whole of Grand Line. Only then would he truly be the Pirate King. So this kid, who had apparently inherited his hat, was aiming to take over his title as well? A big wish for such a tiny child.
But then again, Roger always had a particular fondness for dreamers. He was starting to really like this kid who called himself Mon – Now stop right there. Monkey D. Luffy!?
Recovering from a bout of choking at the surprise, Roger fixed his slightly watery gaze at the boy. "Hey, kid, you said your name is Monkey D. Luffy? You related to Garp?"
The boy's eyes widened. "You know Jiji?"
Well damn. Old Garp's grandson wanted to be the Pirate King. Roger took a moment to appreciate the utter irony of the situation. He never knew that Garp had a grandson, though. Wasn't his son - Dragon, was it? - too young to have a kid this old?
"You could say that…" he hedged. "I suppose we know each other well enough." It was surprising how well you could get to know a person while throwing cannon balls at each other. Of course, there was that impromptu drinking party just a few weeks ago…
"You haven't told us your name yet," the older black-haired boy voiced out suddenly, mistrust still evident in his expression.
Roger tried to diffuse the wariness with a friendly grin. No luck. "Ah, I forgot. I'm Gol D. Roger."
Three jaws simultaneously hit the floor.
"G-" Ace spluttered.
"Eh? Eh?" Sabo glanced towards Ace in visible shock. The two boys looked at each other and a silent conversation seemed to pass between the pair.
Luffy, curiously, also immediately looked at Ace after the proclamation. "Eh? Ace, isn't your-"
Whatever Luffy wanted to say was stopped by a hand clapped hurriedly over his mouth. Ace glared at the younger boy, warning him not to continue, and Luffy appeared to get the message as Ace took his hand away after a brief bout of silent communication.
Roger blinked in some confusion at the reaction. Well, he was gaining quite the reputation on the seas these days, but something in the way the children had reacted told him that they weren't as concerned about his infamy as another unidentified issue that they weren't willing to share.
The blond boy (who seemed the most mature of the three) stepped in to fill the awkward silence that settled after that.
"Anyway, my name's Sabo, and over there is Ace, as you probably have presumed."
No surnames given, Roger noted. Well, it was their right to keep some secrets if they wanted.
Roger clapped his hands together and a wide grin appeared on his face. "Alright, now that we know each other's names-"
Suddenly, a new voice from somewhere in the forest cut off his words. "Captain?"
Oh, thank goodness. "I'm here, Shanks!"
Roger saw the youngest boy perk up at the name. Hmm, maybe this impromptu plan would work.
"Ah, I finally found you, Ca… Who are the midgets?"
"Who are you calling midgets, shit-head!? You're not much taller!"
That Ace had quite the mouth on him for a child, Roger thought, sweatdropping.
"What was that!?"
"There, there," Roger stepped in, not wanting a fight to escalate between the two boys so soon after their meeting. "I ran into these boys when exploring the forest, Shanks. Kids, this is one of the apprentices on my ship, Shanks."
Introductions done, Roger dragged Shanks to one side.
"See that smallest kid over there? His name is Luffy. He has my hat and refused to return it to me, saying that you gave it to him for some strange reason. I know you didn't, but could you try to get it back for me?"
Shanks looked understandably perplexed by the situation, but nodded. Roger ruffled the boy's hair affectionately. "Thanks." He pushed the youth towards the children lightly. He didn't catch the glare that Ace sent their way.
Shanks sighed and walked over, squatting down in front of the little boy to get on the same eye level. Luffy stared at him with wide eyes. Beside the boy, his two other companions looked at the older red-haired boy warily but didn't make any moves.
"Hey, Luffy, I gave you that hat, right?"
"Shanks gave me the hat," Luffy corrected. The child stared at the older boy thoughtfully. "You look a lot like Shanks, though. But Shanks is older. And taller."
The final observation made Shanks sigh. He was tired of people poking fun at his height. He was still a growing boy, dammit! He'll show them one day!
"But my name is Shanks, you know. You said I look like the person who gave you the hat, right? That's because it was me. I'm Shanks," he reasoned with the boy. Or maybe he was making the boy more confused, he wasn't too sure. Well, whichever worked. "So that would make me the one who gave you that hat." Shanks wasn't even sure that he himself understood his reasoning.
Luffy tilted his head to one side, though he still looked rather unconvinced. "I suppose so…"
"Well, can I have it back, then?"
Shanks' eyes widened at the adamant response. That was unexpected. "Why not? You'll just be returning it to me, won't you?"
"We made a promise! When I have a crew that's stronger than yours, I'll give your hat back."
"So… not before then?"
Over the boy's straw-covered head, Shanks shot a look at his captain that he had exhausted his plans.
Roger sighed. "Okay, how about we head back for my ship for now. It's almost time for lunch and I'm hungry."
"I want meat!" the youngest boy cheered.
The captain was amused. "You like meat?"
"Then if I give you meat, will you give me back my hat?"
Luffy appeared to give it some thought. "Nope. I like meat, but the hat's my treasure."
"Not even if I give you lots and lots of meat?" Roger fished. Hey, it was worth a shot.
The boy looked a little conflicted, but in the end shook his head. "Nuh-uh."
Roger sighed. No luck.
"Captain," Shanks teased with a grin, "you're like this swindler trying to trick little children with candy."
"Oi, it's not that bad!" Roger huffed before heading the way Shanks had come. The four boys followed him.