The world around, just for a millisecond, seems to numb. All sound is sucked out of the atmosphere itself. All Sabo can hear is the crack of his boots on the stone below, and blood pulses through his ears like war drums in his mind. Every cell in his body aches, but he pushes on. It’s been a long journey to get here, peppered with storms and regret, and the young revolutionary can’t remember the last time he slept. He certainly doesn’t feel like the strong revolutionary he is in this tired, young body. In this world, he comes as a brother, not a soldier.
Heavy breathing. Blonde hair heavy with sweat falls into Sabo’s eyes, and he shoves another body out of the way so hard that they don’t get back up again. Ahead, shrouded in dust and smoke, Luffy has fallen to the ground – he doesn’t look the same as he did when Sabo last saw him. His chest is unscarred, eyes filled with horror, shoulders shaking. Alone on the ground, Luffy seems so small in comparison to the Pirate King that he was when his brother last laid eyes on him at the execution stand. His little brother looks young; too young to be in this war, too young to have to watch what’s about to happen.
No. Sabo won’t let it happen again, not this time. Screw timelines, screw what this might mean for the world. He had a chance to go back and change things. His devil fruit – Ace, living on somehow through Sabo’s own blood – didn’t approve. Neither did Dragon. Sabo doesn’t care. His mind has been overtaken by some alien force, a thirst for the thing he’s been missing for the decade since Ace’s death. A thirst to change things.
Sabo pushes this lean, twenty-year old body harder. The world is still numb, strangely quiet, as if drawing breath as it watches on. The weight of everything Sabo has ever wished for weighs heavily on his shoulders. This is it. This is the moment where the timeline changes. Ace lunges forward. Luffy’s eyes, brown reflecting magma and fire, widen. Sabo takes a flying leap, coat flaring out behind him, just as Akainu raises his fist.
Everything speeds back up.
Sabo barrels into his brothers with enough force to send them both flying back but makes sure to wrap an arm around each, blood singing in his veins. Ace yells out, pushing back against Sabo with rage in his eyes, and the heat radiating harshly from him is tangible. Luffy is limp at the blonde’s other side, and Sabo’s eyes are too blurred to see his face properly. Heat explodes behind them. The Red Dog is angered, magma pouring from him copiously, but his moment is over. Sabo did it. He took his chance, and the world feels like it’s shifting before his very eyes. There’s no going back now.
“Made it on time!”
The yell escapes from his throat before he can stop it, something between a victory cry and a threat. The battlefield is silent for a split second, and Sabo can hear his voice echoing through it over and over, a reinforcement of his own success. Of Ace’s survival. At the distinctive Grey Terminal lilt that laces the ex-noble’s voice, Ace freezes, a strange expression overthrowing the anger on his face. Luffy’s eyes widen, filling with hope and elation.
All three brothers hit the ground, hard. The world comes back to Sabo in a rush like a tsunami, and suddenly they’re running again, Ace and Luffy stumbling and yelling, both confused as to what’s happening but elated at what they just heard. Heat pushes at Sabo’s senses, so intense that panic floods his veins like a drug, and for a second he sees the boat burning around him. Then, it’s gone. The battlefield replaces everything from the past, and surprisingly, the young man is glad for it. Let this war encompass him. If it means Ace lives, so be it – war will come and go, but Sabo will never have another change like this again. Nothing is going to stop him.
“Who the hell are you?!” Ace asks as they run, surprisingly following Sabo. He looks shaken, as if coming so close to losing Luffy just now rattled him to the core. His voice is uncertain, eyes just as hopeful as Luffy’s now, and Sabo’s heart wrenches when he realises that somehow, deep down, they recognise him.
Luffy’s voice is small in Sabo’s ear, torso shuddering against his back. All his fight is gone. Sabo doesn’t recall slinging him onto his back but he must’ve, maybe when the first starting running. Everything is one pulsing, thronging blur. Travelling ten years back in time must be messing up his head.
Ace’s breath hitches, and his head spins around so fast that his neck must ache. His eyes meet Sabo’s for the first time, and he stumbles for a second, caught off guard. For the first time since Sabo arrived here, he can see that ten-year old kid shining out of Ace’s eyes. Too young to take on the world and wearing his big dreams like medals of honor; questioning whether he should be alive; hurt, but still hoping for something bigger than himself.
“Sabo?!” Ace’s voice breaks. Behind them, two of Whitebeard’s commanders clash with Akainu in a supernova of light and sound.
Against his will, Sabo feels tears spring into his eyes, and a grin stretches across his face even as they fall. Ahead of them, the ocean is just visible, wide and true. “I’ve missed you both,” he chokes out, and they run together still. Ace seems to have stopped even breathing. Around them the battle rages on, and Sabo feels horribly exposed without his pipe. “I missed you so much.”
Maybe this time, Sabo can stop the execution of the second pirate king before it happens, too. Maybe both Luffy and Ace will survive this time, if he just plays his cards right. Maybe Sabo and his brothers can stay together and stay alive. Maybe, just maybe, he really did change the timeline for good.
A tired cheer roars through the Whitebeard Pirates as they join the three brothers, unknowing of who Sabo is but uncaring. Ace and Luffy are still in shock, disbelieving and confused, but Sabo can see the eldest of the trio as his face begins to light up. It’s like watching the sun come out. Luffy’s arms tighten slightly around him, sluggish and weak but filled with affection, and for the first time in a long time, Sabo has no regrets. He has his brothers.
Maybe time-travel wasn’t such a bad idea.
Okay so I saw that you really loved the asl pic in the magazine so I just had to write this little thing (mostly just to get out of writer’s block lmao). I hope you like it!
OH MY G OD