After twelve long years..
It was another normal day for the step-mother. After having done the daily chores with her crew, hunting in the forest for dinner and visiting her friend Makino in Partys Bar back in the village, she could finally take a walk and relax. Her days might be boring, but they were always busy.
She had a plastic bag swung on her back with a bottle of sake and a few cups. She always took some extra with her, just to be sure. She also had a bunch of flowers Makino gave her to decorate the memorial. In her other hand rested her club which she took great pride in as her fighting weapon.
Since it was a normal day, the woman wore her usual clothes. A white blouse, green knee long pants with a belt, brown boots and a red necklace. She always wore some mascara because she just loved putting on some make up and let her waist long orange curls loose on her back. She had a lit cigarette in her mouth and wondered when she started to smoke so much.
Makino hated the habit Dadan developed. Ever since two years ago she drank three times more than she did before and smoked twice as much. She didn’t care if it was bad for her health. It wasn’t like living in a forest and eating animals only every day was healthy anyway, so who cared if she died at some point early on? Well.. Her crew maybe and Makino probably too, but other than that.. Why would she want to die an old age? What was the point of that? By the time she was eighty she wouldn’t even be able to walk anymore. She was sure of that.
Passing the trees, flowers and animals that ran away as soon as she walked by, she was lost in her train of thoughts when she recognized the stone a few meters away. Looking up at the sky, she saw the tree house her three boys built when they were still annoying little brats.
It made her both happy and sad to be reminded of the past.. She wished things would have been so differently..
A lump formed in her throat when she thought of the time she’d climb into the tree during the night to check on them. She sometimes made one of her crewmates stay near, just to be sure they were safe. No matter how strong they already were as kids, they were still children and she couldn’t help but be worried about them in the middle of this godforsaken jungle.
Looking back at the bottom of the tree she saw the many cards from the crew, flowers and a picture of the three of them when they were still small in-between. She put Ace’s wanted poster on the tree trunk.
She didn’t know why.. but Dadan felt guilty.. She eventually got used to calling herself their step-mom, even though they would never call her by that name.. It wasn’t like she deserved it. She couldn’t save her own brat, so what right did she have?
Her stomach turned thinking of where Luffy was right now and what he was doing. He must be really hurt and sad.. Was he alone? Or did he have friends to look after him right now?
She beamed with happiness every time he showed up in the news paper but it didn’t take away the dreading feelings from two years ago.
He lost both his older brothers..
She lost two of her brats..
If something happened to Luffy.. She would never be able to live again. She didn’t want that precious smile to be wiped off his face.
Dadan was brought back from her train of thoughts when a squirrel ran past her. It made her stir a little and curse herself for falling back into such an emotional state. She took out two of the cups and the sake and poured it into them. She left one in front of the tree, sat down herself and drank it empty in one go after silently toasting to Ace. Pouring herself another and having finished it too quickly for her taste she started drinking from the bottle instead.
She then took out the flowers Makino asked her to put with the other flowers. They had red and orange colors that obviously fitted Ace all too well and were tended with care as Makino was really good at.
Dadan remembered how curious and oblivious Luffy always was about everything. It was a really innocent trait of his and she honestly loved it, even though the boys probably never thought of her as a caring person.. She never really showed it to them. The only time she really showed them how much she loved them as her sons was when those damned pirates tried to hurt Ace and Luffy in Grey Terminal.
The fear she felt that day.. The fear to lose them was just as lively as it had been that day.
Distant voices made themselves known but Dadan was completely consumed in her own thoughts to wonder about who it was. Not many people visited this part of the kingdom, but she didn’t care enough about it to look up.
‘’ Ace.. I hope you found your mom out there and made it up with your old man.. ‘’ She whispered, not really sure why but sincerely hoping he did find peace. ‘’ Just leave the worrying about Lu to me, will ya? ‘’ Dadan wouldn’t be surprised if he followed Luffy everywhere because he couldn’t stop trying to protect him from harm.
‘’ Hm? What are you saying, Dadan? I don’t need anyone to worry about me! I’m strong! ‘’ For a moment, she thought the tree was talking back to her, but then she recognized the voice.
‘’ L-Luffy? ‘’ She asked the tree.
‘’ I’m here! ‘’
Turning around to her left, two men were standing in front of her. One was wearing flip-flops, blue knee long pants, a red open shirt and a straw hat. She already had a lump in her throat and was pretty damn emotional, but seeing her son standing in front of her with his usual big smile on his face just ripped her heart apart.
Millions of mini Dadans in her head screamed and ran around as she realized it was Luffy standing in front of her.
Her eyes stung as she gasped at him. ‘’ L-Luffy.. ‘’ She muttered once again, not being able to bring out any words.
His smile turned awkward. ‘’ It’s been quite a long time right? We thought we’d visit our home again. ‘’ Scratching his head, he looked at her questioningly with his big round eyes that formed the ultimate puppy eyes.
Tears made their way down her flushed cheeks and Dadan sniffled. ‘’ You damned little shit! After all this time you finally show up! ‘’ She stood up and turned around defiantly. ‘’ I didn’t miss you! Just so you know! I didn’t miss you at all you lil’ punk! ‘’ She started crying loudly with a napkin in her hand.
‘’ It’s okay! ‘’ He said happily. ‘’ We missed you too! ‘’
Who was we?
She turned back and never thought Luffy would actually say that. He missed her? What did the Grand Line do to him? Brainwash him?
‘’ M-Miss me? How so? ‘’ She asked, not being able to think clearly partly because of the alcohol and the boy actually standing in front of her.
‘’ Well.. You took care of us right? We thought it would be good to thank you at least. ‘’ His indifferent expression made her question the Grand Line again. Was he really okay?
Slowly, she put her hand on his forehead, but it felt normal and not warm, not to mention that he felt real. So it wasn’t a dream? He wasn’t an illusion the alcohol made up?
‘’ What are you doing, Dadan? ‘’ He asked slightly confused and annoyed.
‘’ N-Nothing.. I just.. WHO IS WE?! ‘’ She managed to shout out.
Looking around, she finally concentrated on the other man standing next to Luffy. He had blond, wavy hair and a scar over his left eye. He was wearing blue, rather classy clothes and a pipe was bound to his back.
She remembered the rain pipes her brats used to fight enemies back then.. What was this man doing with them now?
The blonde man and Dadan made eye contact. He had a wide and embarrassed grin on his face and hell, Dadan would recognize these round blue eyes everywhere in the world.
‘’ B-But.. H-How? ‘’ It wasn’t supposed to be possible, but he was definitely standing in front of her. ‘’ Don’t tell me you’re a ghost!? ‘’ She knew she was being ridiculous, but you never knew with alcohol right?
‘’ Dadan, it’s him! It’s Sabo! ‘’ Luffy pulled on her shirt as his face showed nothing but sheer happiness.
‘’ Sabo..? ‘’ The name felt familiar and yet strange on her tongue. It was like not being home for several weeks and when you came back there was this strange nostalgia that took over and you had to take an hour to get used to it again.
This was a similar situation to her. Sabo really was standing in front of her, not having said anything yet, with the same precious smile all three of them had.
When he spoke up, she wouldn’t dare to move a muscle and concentrated solely on him.
‘’ I.. was saved back then.. Lu and I met in Dressrosa- ‘’
‘’ I was really surprised, Dadan! He also ate Ace’s devil fruit and we fought a Shichibukai and had a feast together and- ‘’
‘’ In short, we were reunited and decided after a while maybe it was time to pay a visit to Goa. ‘’ Sabo interrupted Luffy after the younger brother successfully managed to interrupt him.
But never mind all that, Sabo was alive? Magra clearly said he died in the fire.. and the scar.. was that because of that fire? ‘’ T-That scar.. ‘’ Dadan muttered.
Sabo softly touched it with a smile that didn’t reach his eyes. His eyes, instead, radiated sadness, fear and a thirst for revenge. She could tell because it was a look many people in the Grey Terminal carried.
The look when you had to survive..
He must have been through so much these years..
The tears now came out freely as Dadan couldn’t hold back any longer. What was the point of resisting all this? This wasn’t a chance she’d get often.
In two steps she approached Sabo while dragging Luffy along with her and engulfed them in a tight hug. ‘’ YOU IDIOTS! Welcome home! ‘’ She cried freely and the boys were standing around helplessly not knowing what to do now.
How ironic was it to have met near Ace’s memorial?
‘’ Dadan.. ‘’ Sabo brought out with a squeal.
‘’ S-Sorry.. ‘’ Quickly she let go of them because they couldn’t breathe and wiped away her tears with the sleeve of her blouse. ‘’ W-Wait, let me get the cups. ‘’
‘’ That’s alright, let me handle it. ‘’ Sabo reached out for her bag and took out the other cups. Luffy followed him like a puppy wondering what else might be hidden in the bag and emptied it.
‘’ No meat? ‘’ He asked slightly disappointed.
‘’ We have enough meat ready for tonight. Are you two staying over? ‘’ They wouldn’t just pay a visit for an hour and then leave again right?
Luffy jumped up and down happily. ‘’ Of course! We’re going to have a feast! ‘’ Sabo passed him one of the cups with the liquor and smiled.
‘’ If there’s still enough space there of course.. ‘’ He added, curiously looking over at his step mother.
Sighing, she took her cup and allowed Sabo to pour some for her. ‘’ Of course there isn’t! It was already hell when the three of you were little! Let alone now! But I guess we can come up with something. ‘’ She answered stubbornly with a light blush on her cheeks.
Both Sabo and Luffy smiled apologetically at the mention of Ace. ‘’ The good old days.. Right Lu? ‘’
Luffy nodded at his older brother and stood up. ‘’ I missed this tree house! ‘’ He stretched his arm which took Dadan years to get used to and held onto a branch in the tree.
‘’ Careful! No one’s used it ever since you two left! ‘’ She quickly shouted after him.
All Luffy did however was snicker and of course, he refused to listen. He landed on the branch and peeked inside. ‘’ Nothing’s changed! Well, there are plants and such, but other than that everything’s still here! ‘’
‘’ Don’t go inside! It might not be strong enough to hold you, Luffy! ‘’ At least one of the brothers was reasonable..
But as Luffy refused to listen and went inside nevertheless she just knew this would go wrong.
‘’ Get out of there you fool! ‘’ She shouted again but too late.
The wood that was used for the floor of the tree house was indeed too weak and wasn’t able to hold Luffy. Falling through the broken planks, he crashed on the floor causing a crack in the ground. ‘’ Ugh.. I guess it wasn’t safe after all, shishishi.. ‘’
‘’ How are you still smiling, you idiot! ‘’ Dadan shrieked giving him a bump on his head.
‘’ No worries! It doesn’t hurt me because I am rubber after all. ‘’
How dumb she felt at that moment.. She always forgot he couldn’t get hurt in a lot of situations but it never stopped her getting worried sick about him. He had a knack for getting into trouble after all.
Sabo sighed of relief too and she supposed things like this never stopped him from worrying. Again, at least one of them was being responsible.
They drank the bottle empty and shared memories. Luffy told her about his adventures with his other comrades. It almost gave her a heart attack just listening to all the stuff he had to go through but seeing him smile was more than enough for her.
Sabo told her about his adventures too. He joined the Revolutionary Army where he managed to build up family bonds with other soldiers. It made her happy to know they both found their own places and had their own families now.
Luffy also told them about the War of the Best.. It was a painful subject but he didn’t seem to mind to share the details. He stopped however at the point where he had to explain what happened to Ace. She didn’t blame him and he didn’t have to tell her, she could fill in the gaps herself.
After the sun was slowly going down they decided it was time to go home. They brought another animal because they thought the deer her men caught wasn’t enough. She prepared the meal and never since twelve years had she experienced so much joy as that day.