Pretending

A one-shot by SerenePhenix


Disclaimer: One Piece by Eiichiro Oda


The town was nothing unusual compared to what he had already seen on his voyage. In fact Luffy found it to be unexpectedly quiet, uneventful and dull for the New World, save for the stands on the market place where vendors praised their merchandise and claimed to have the best things around – it was not unlike Arabasta.

Yet, even though there was so much activity going on around him, Luffy couldn't find anything interesting enough to just stay and take a look at it. Even worse, Nami had been adamant at not giving him any money so he could buy some meat. How could she!? He was the captain so why did she insist he was not to be lent any Belly?

What was the big deal, anyway? So what if he did break this strange mystery device she had wanted to test out for her maps. He had even apologized and tried to fix it. It had looked really cool too! Like a metal ninja striking a pose (nothing the other Strawhats could have affirmed for this atrocity was just as tasteless as the captain's drawings).

So, bored out of his volatile and childish mind and alone (because Zoro again had gotten lost) Luffy simply strolled down the streets, humming his favorite Baka-song, no one paying him any mind.

A silhouette caught his eye and Luffy turned around, blinking once, then twice, his eyes widening considerably.

His heart forgot to beat and his breathing stilled. It was impossible.

His body acting on its own accord, he ran towards the figure standing next to a gas-lantern and halted just a few feet away from them just to make sure he was not seeing things.

The person was tall about the same height Ace had been but instead of jet-black hair, there was blond glistening in the sunlight. Even with his back turned on him and with a heavy jacket enveloping the person, Luffy still could tell that underneath the fabric had to be a rather muscular figure. The signature hat was missing though.

In the corner of his eyes he could feel the tiniest bit of moisture gathering.
There was no mistaking it.

Without any hesitation, he leapt towards the man and grabbed his upper arm.

"Sabo!", he cried out. It was not as gleeful as one might expect from the captain-boy and there was a certain hard edge to it but one could only tell if they knew him long enough. But that hard edge was for now pushed back by a feeling of elation Luffy had not felt in a long time.

His long lost brother twitched at the sudden contact, reeled around to swat away the offending limb and stared straight into his eyes, surprise written all over his face. Before Luffy could even try to hug him though, he noticed something that knocked the wind out of him like the kick from Kizaru two years ago.

In the eyes of his supposed brother there was no recognition whatsoever; just utter confusion and bewilderment.
Now that he had a good look at the person too he began to notice several differences.

Even if the memory of his brother's face from twelve years ago was not as clear as it had once been he was very sure that Sabo's face was not as angular as that man's. The eye color did not match either, although Luffy was not sure anymore what they truly had looked like. But in none of his blurry memories he remembered his older sibling's stare to be so reserved and guarded. He was also much tanner than Sabo, so much that the little kid from his childhood looked bleached in comparison.

The hair also wasn't matching. Sabo's had been golden and curly while this person's were so pale it looked white. In addition it was cut so short no one would be able to tell whether it was straight or not.

The only thing that did remind him of his brother was his taste in clothes: A midnight-blue shirt with a white cravat and matching trousers.

All of these details Luffy registered in the span of a few seconds in which the man seized him up before his gaze went from surprised to understanding.

"Sorry, you are probably mistaking me for someone else… kid.", his voice was very deep and mature and Luffy guessed that he had even been wrong with his assumption that the man was Sabo's age. He probably was far older.

He must have looked like a kicked dog, since the man gave him a sympathetic glance.

"Yeah, sorry about that.", he then proclaimed merrily and fulsomely, making heads turn their way and stare at them funnily before going back to their own business.

The man frowned at the unwanted attention before concentrating on Luffy, eyes evaluating him. Usually, this would be the perfect moment to bid farewell and go their separate ways but instead Luffy stayed where he was, hands clasped behind his head, rocking back and forth on his heels.

Maybe it was the shattered hope and longing or simply the wish to stay close to someone who at first glance had reminded him of a dear person but Luffy did not feel like leaving instantly. The man seemed to notice and gave a huge sigh.

"What is it?", he asked, his voice leaving no room for stupid answers.

Luffy skillfully ignored the hidden demand: "Hm?"

The stranger now outright glared at him.

"Why are you still here? We already established that I am not who you thought I am, so get lost!"

As a response Luffy gave him a mighty pout, crossing his arms in front of his scarred chest: "You're rude!"

A vein was slowly protruding from the man's skull, his eyes hardening some more. He could do as a second Zoro.

"You were the rude one to begin with. Jumping at people from behind like some monkey…", he muttered, scanning their surroundings attentively.

It occurred to the strawhat-bearer that the man was waiting for someone.

"Hey, you looking for someone, kii na oji?", he inquired, teetering from side to side and staring at all the people entering and leaving a café they were facing. There was no one interesting enough to be associated with the man beside him.

The stranger stared at him as if he had been rammed by a battle ship.

"Did you just call me 'odd uncle'?"

Luffy raised an eyebrow as though someone had questioned a natural law or common sense.

"Well, you are, are you not?"

The stranger blinked at him several times, before he burst into roaring laughter. It sounded painfully like Sabo and Luffy felt his chest constricting involuntarily. After barely a minute the man had assumed full control of his body again but his demeanor was a little less stoic and cold.

"Yeah, maybe I am…", he murmured quietly, more to himself than to his uninvited companion. Seemingly giving up on finding his friend, he leaned against the lantern, giving Luffy the attention he had been craving ever since he and Zoro got separated.

"What about you? You seemed to be very eager to meet that Sabo-guy.", he asked nonchalantly, hands in the pockets of his long coat. Luffy wondered how warm it had to be underneath. It was early after-noon and the sun was high, shining down on the spring island. If it were him, he would have discarded the cloth already.

Luffy shrugged, mimicking the stranger by unconsciously putting his hands in the pockets of his shorts.

"Not really important.", his childish tone did not betray the disappointment he had felt. Yet the man seemed rightfully unconvinced but did not comment on it but simply nodded.

"Is that so? Why are you alone? You don't look like someone from town.", he pointed out, waving at the passersby, who like him were sporting long dark coats. With his red cardigan Luffy stood out like a decorated Christmas tree in a conifer forest.

The young captain grinned, eyes shining with admiration: "Woah, you're really smart! Yeah, me and my crew arrived this morning."

The man was not so much taken aback by the statement itself but rather what it implied.

"Did you come with one of the trading ships? You're probably a cabin boy.", his tone gave away that he did not think him capable of anything more.

Luffy's face instantly became grumpy; deeply offended by the little credit he was given.

"None sense, I'm the captain!"

The man's face became incredulous, blanching so much it looked like there was no blood left in his face.

"You are joking right?", one look at Luffy's dead-serious face sufficed to tell him otherwise, "Or maybe not... I feel for your crew.", he added, bowing his head low and making a praying gesture.

"What's that supposed to mean?!", Luffy raged. Ace at least had made it into a joke and had known him. This man was making rather quick assumptions and they had barely had a decent conversation.

Something seemed to dawn on the stranger since his eyes narrowed suspiciously: "What kind of crew are you talking about if you're not part of the fleet of merchants?"

Luffy showed all of his teeth in a rather feral smile, the rim of his straw hat, and shadowing part of his face: "A pirate crew obviously."

The man's brain seemed to have exploded for he stood frozen for a moment before he regained his bearings.

"No way.", he said in a dead-pan voice face completely blank in disbelief.

"Why not?"

The stranger shook his head: "You are way too tame to be a pirate."

"So?", Luffy interrogated, tilting his head more than should be humanly possible but the man remained unfazed by it. Maybe he had already seen stranger things – they were in the New World after all.

"So? I mean, almost every pirate that comes to this town wants to wreak havoc! It's only because we have a strong military we got most of them under control."

He looked genuinely upset about something that had happened in this town in the past but Luffy was never one to dwell on what had once been. He lived in the present.

"Yeah sure there are some like that but we're nice pirates.", he assured, flashing an innocent smile the man's way.

There was a short silence in which the stranger seemed to debate silently whether to continue this conversation or to rat him out to the next best Marine soldier coming their way. But as Luffy looked into those eyes, he saw that curiosity got the better of the man and he laughed quietly.

"What kind of crew follows willingly a captain such as you?"

Luffy's smile grew even wider as he jumped on an unoccupied bench next to the lantern, perching on the back-rest like some exotic, colorful bird.

"The crew of the future King of Pirates.", he claimed, giggling in excitement.

The man's eyebrows nearly morphed with his hairline but the expression soon was replaced by a challenging look.

"Tell me about it."

And Luffy happily obliged.

For the next hours they remained there, he talking about his Nakama while the man listened to his rambling – from Zoro being a lost cause (quite literally) to Brook being an awesome musician. The stranger would put in his two cents and would laugh with him on occasion but what puzzled Luffy the most was that certain look he could perceive from time to time. It would be interesting to know if the guy himself was aware of it.

Sometimes the stranger would also mention quirks from his own friends and although his descriptions were vague at best it was enough for Luffy to determine that they also were a very interesting bunch even though they all seemed to be just as serious as his new friend.

It was dark outside by the time a shout disrupted their chat and as Luffy turned his head he couldn't help but smile.

"Hey, Zoro!", he greeted, waving his arms. Instead of coming closer the swordsman, standing at the very end of the street, only beckoned him to come his way and Luffy would have done so instantly were it not for his new friend. He jumped onto the paved road, standing right before the man.

"I gotta go! My crew's waiting for me. You gonna tell me your name now?"

The stranger faked to be thinking seriously before he just slapped him on the shoulder. He had been carefully avoiding mentioning his name while he had only voiced a hint of doubt as Luffy gave his own.

"You can just stick to the nickname you gave me.", he replied and Luffy knew that this marked the end of their fun encounter. It may be unfair but if the guy did not want to give away who he was Luffy would not pry. It was already enough knowing they got along.

"See you later then."

"Yeah… see you later."

And then he was gone together with his swordsman who had thrown one calculating look towards the stranger before Luffy had him wrapped up in a conversation.

Once they were out of sight the smile on the man's face vanished only to be replaced by a wistful expression that could have broken a heart made of stone.

"You let this chance slip.", a female voice from behind him commented neutrally. The man nodded in response but made no effort to turn back, "I must say that your acting skills have become remarkable."

A grown woman came to stand next to him, a long dark-green coat around her shoulders. Untamed long black hair was covering the left side of her face as she too stared at the street corner where the two crewmembers had just been.

"I am aware of that. But it would be unfair. He also did not recognize me by appearance. It was probably his instincts telling him who I was.", he said seriously and his companion refrained from saying anything more, "I want to meet him as myself. Not as some stranger Ivakov modeled. This meeting… was a fortunate coincidence."

"You still fear his reaction.", it was a statement, not a question.

"Why shouldn't I?", he retorted, eyes hinting at the torment he was facing inside. He had lied to his family for twelve his years, pretending that it was better this way, convincing himself that by letting them believe he was gone they would not have to face similar tragedy, should he die fulfilling his new dream at the side of the revolutionaries.

It took the death of one of his brothers to realize how wrong he had been.
It was time he stopped running away but there were still some things left to do: Like the reconnaissance mission he was partaking right now.

Speaking of which…

"Did everything go as planned?"

The smile on the woman's lips sent shivers down his spine. The verbal answer would not have been necessary.

"Yes, the gears have been set into motion."

Sabo nodded and both he and Dragon went to the harbor where their ship was still lying at anchor. There was only one thing still bothering the young revolutionary.

"Dragon-sama,…"

A grunt indicated he was allowed to go on with his question.

"How come this disguise doesn't bother you?"

The threatening aura that began seeping from the woman's body was answer enough and Sabo retreated a few steps.
Ivankov would without a doubt face dire consequences for his little experiment.


This… is what happens when I have a plot bunny and a sugar high. I have no excuse for the crack part at the end though.

Anyway typed this down in three hours approx. and now it's like 2 a.m. here so I think I'm gonna hit the hay.

Also my Japanese sucks so I apologize to anyone who might have noticed something wrong with Sabo's nickname. If you could tell me how it is spelled correctly I'd be immensely thankful.

Hope you enjoyed!

SP (08.11.13)