Sabo knows he shouldn't. He really does. He knows it's a bad idea and entirely unnecessary and probably stupid, but he brushes past the Marines in the doorway just enough to bump into them anyway.
"Beg pardon," he says, tilting his hat down both as an apology and a distraction, then slips out the door. It shuts behind him and he chuckles, opening the wallet he'd palmed. Huh, rather a lot for a Petty Officer on shore leave, actually-
"Oi, you there."
He looks up, already disappearing the money into an inside pocket and the wallet into a sleeve. "Hmm?"
And that, right there, is the reason this was a really bad idea. There's another Marine coming towards him, and this one's wearing lieutenant's stripes. "Give that back," he says, and Sabo takes one moment to blink and decide how he's going to play this. Well, he is supposed to be laying low, and they are in public, so...
"What?" he asks, furrowing his eyebrows and spreading his empty hands.
"The wallet," the lieutenant says, stopping right in front of him.
Sabo tries to sidestep because he doesn't really want his back to the door. "What, my wallet?"
The lieutenant steps in close and the most Sabo gets is a quick turn before meaty hands fist in his lapels and lift him up enough to slam him backwards into the doorframe. "Wasn't yours," he growls. Sabo wrinkles his nose at the man's breath.
"I assure you it is," he says, putting on his poshest voice, and the hands holding him up drag him forward only to slam him back again.
"I recognizes Davie's wallet," he says, exhaling more of that putrid breath right in Sabo's face. "He pays often enough that I oughtta."
Well, shit. Still, Sabo's not out of options yet, and he knows that innocent people attack instead of defend. "Is this a hold-up?" he demands, wrapping his own hands around the guy's wrists. "Are you trying to rob me?"
"What?" the lieutenant says.
Sabo gives him a grin, sharp and short, and says, "You grabbed me and demanded my wallet. What else am I to conclude?"
"You stole it!"
"I haven't stolen anything! You're the one demanding money from me!"
The guy growls and goes to slam Sabo's spine into the doorframe again, so Sabo slides his hands deep into the guy's frame, hooks his fingers, and plucks the hold right off. He lands neatly on his feet and makes a show of straightening his clothes.
They're drawing a crowd, Sabo sees, looking over the lieutenant's shoulder, and half of them are wearing Marine uniforms. That's not good odds, and he's not looking for attention right now anyway. He's gotta end this quick and duck out.
"You, sir, are assaulting me," Sabo says, making sure to project. "You can't just lay hands on an innocent civilian like that."
"You're not innocent," the lieutenant shoots back, leaning in. "And you don't move like no civilian I've ever seen."
Sabo pulls his shoulders back, tilts his chin up, and stares the man down. "I am offended, sir, that you would say such a thing."
"You're a thief," the lieutenant snarls, reaching for him again.
Sabo steps back and leans to the side, letting the man go crashing by. It gives him just enough room to dart in and turn around so that now they're reversed. The lieutenant is boxed in against the wall, leaving Sabo with a lot more room and freedom and, not at all incidentally, his back to a muttering crowd.
"I do not appreciate such slander," he says, pulse pounding in his ears. This is not a good place to be, not anymore. "Still, no harm done. Shall we just forget this whole debacle and move on?"
The lieutenant's eyes flicking to the side give him all the warning he needs, and he drops and spins to avoid whoever's trying to ambush him. There's two, and his sweep downs the one on his left, so he comes back up and hops over the prone sailor, setting one boot on his throat with careless ease. "My," he says. "No sense of fair play. You really aren't a gentleman at all, are you?"
The lieutenant looks pointedly towards where he's not quite choking a Marine with his foot, then spits on the ground. "Neither are you."
"That's uncalled for," Sabo says lightly, letting his fingers fall into place. He misses the weight of his pipe, but it's ever so conspicuous in a town and his fists alone with be enough for rabble like this. The lieutenant is the highest rank here so far, so it'll be laughable, really-
The lieutenant's eyes flicker again, and then go wide. He snaps upright and salutes, perfect and sharp. "Sir!"
Sabo sighs even as he spins around. That's what he gets for tempting fate, he supposes, is a-he squints-a vice admiral.
He is not at all prepared for this.
He steps out to make sure he's not between them. A heavy hand falls on his shoulder and he barely doesn't flinch. "What's going on here?"
"He's a thief, sir!" the lieutenant says, pointing at Sabo.
Sabo sticks his nose in the air and says, "I am nothing of the kind. Your accusations are lies and slander, and I'll thank you to take them back."
The vice admiral stares at him for a moment, so Sabo stares back. He's big and looks like he could punch through a spine and a boulder, besides, even if he is wearing some sort of bear hat thing, and his hand is still pressing into Sabo's coat.
He nods and says, "I'll take care of this, lieutenant."
"Sir!" the lieutenant says, saluting again, and about faces right into the doorframe. He corrects and heads into the bar a moment later, and Sabo tries his very best not to snicker.
Blunt fingers curl into his shoulder and the vice admiral starts moving away. Sabo falls in beside him because he hasn't got much choice, at least not in this crowd.
Once they get out of sight, though, he can duck out and ditch. He makes dumb decisions, apparently, but he's not dumb enough to follow a vice admiral into Marine headquarters, and especially not this vice admiral. They turn down a side street, heading towards the giant building, and he tenses to run.
The vice admiral sighs and drops his hand, turning to face him. "What are you doing here, brat? No, don't answer that, I don't want to know."
Sabo pauses, then tilts his head. He doesn't know what to say, so he just says, "Sir?"
The vice admiral shudders, a violent, full-body spasm that ends with a horrific grimace. "Don't call me sir, shitty brat! Just call me Gramps! How many times do I have to tell you?"
Sabo carefully freezes his face and blinks only once.
The vice admiral sighs, a huge production with his entire body, then shakes his head. "You brats are always so much trouble. Come on, let's talk in my office."
He probably shouldn't-he definitely shouldn't-but when he turns away, Sabo trails after him. It's a bad idea, but that's never stopped him before.
Besides, this is Monkey D. Garp, the Marine Hero, and if he truly does know him then Sabo needs to know how. If not for the Army, then at very least for himself.
He follows the Marine into the base, down the halls, up some stairs and into an office. No one bothers them or looks twice, and Sabo passes the time wracking his memory for every story he's ever heard about Garp the Fist.
Garp opens a door and stalks through in, leaving Sabo to follow in his wake. There's two other kids working on something in the office, one with pink hair and one with a truly unfortunate face. "Out!" Garp bellows, and they both scuttle past Sabo without even looking at him. He settles behind his desk and gestures at the seat across. Sabo ignores it and falls into parade rest in front of the desk instead. Garp rolls his eyes. "So, brat," he says, "How's Ace?"
Sabo blinks at him. "Who?" he asks.
"What do you mean, who?" Garp asks, standing and slamming a fist into his desk. "Ace! Your brother?"
Garp narrows his eyes, leaning forward and peering at Sabo closely. "...Sit down, brat," he says, and Sabo does, blindly feeling for the chair. Garp sits as well. "What don't you remember?"
Sabo's tongue is heavy and there's a bitter rush of urgency in the back of his throat. "Do you know me?" he asks. "Do you know what happened?"
Garp looks at him for a moment longer, then leans back, letting out a slow breath. "Did you forget everything?" he asks, eyes on the ceiling.
"I-" Sabo looks down, twisting his hands together to keep them off the furniture. "I woke up," he says carefully, "in the middle of an ocean in East Blue."
Garp nods once, slowly. "Okay," he says, slowly. "I can fix this."
Sabo can't help the short laugh that escapes. "Yeah? I can't. I tried everything, and-" He barely jerks his head out of the way as a fist comes crashing into the chair. "What the-" and he scrambles out of the wreckage and dashes for the door.
"Get back here, brat!" Garp yells, stomping on his desk instead of going around. His punch obliterates the door and Sabo ducks and twists, yelping.
"A concussion is not a solution!" he yells, scooting back and flipping over to get to his feet.
"Get back here!" Garp roars.
"This isn't helping!" Sabo says, skidding and rolling under the desk. It shudders above him, but it's as sturdy as he expected and holds.
He pants, pushing himself as far into the leg space as possible. It's not fair! He wasn't prepared to fight a vice admiral, especially not with the low buzz at the back of his brain that heralds a headache.
Of course Garp isn't letting him go that easily, though. He reaches a big hand under the desk, and Sabo hisses and scrambles backwards, but Garp grabs him by the coat and drags him out. Sabo claws the ground on the way, but the solid stone offers no purchase.
"Lemme go!" he yells, boots kicking wildly in the air as Garp hefts him in one hand.
"Not until you remember, brat!" Garp says, shaking Sabo. "You and Ace are always causing me trouble! And you drag Luffy into it!"
"We never!" Sabo yells, trying to jerk his coat out of Garp's grip, but Garp's holding it tight enough that his shoulders are being forced back.
"You always," Garp corrects, shaking him a bit. "There was that time you threw him in the ravine-"
"He fell!" Sabo says, trying to reach over his own head. All the shaking is not helping his headache, and he's about done with this guy. He gets one hand around Garp's wrist and digs nails into the soft underside, but Garp just grunts.
"You both threw him into a tree!"
Oh, that's just not fair. "That was you!" Sabo hisses, then just shrugs out of his jacket and slams into the ground, already rolling. "You said you were teaching us toughness and threw us all into trees!"
He turns to track Garp and instead gets his jacket to the face. He falls back a step, fighting his way out of it quickly, but not quick enough.
A fist slams the wall right next to his head and stone fragments go flying. Sabo flinches but it's too late; a few already scored cuts along his face. Gap towers over him, other fist pulled back.
"You're the worst, shitty Gramps," Sabo says, eyes wide. "Don't-"
"Taste my Fist of Love!"
Sabo falls forward, diving through Garp's legs and aiming for the broken door. "Can't catch me," he taunts.
"Stop, brat," Garp says, and it's not a command, not really, so Sabo catches himself on the doorframe and glances back.
Garp is standing there, fists lowered, just looking at him, so Sabo looks back. His shoulders are low and his eyes are steady, and there's no lie in the set of his mouth. "Brat," he says. "What don't you remember?"
"I already told you, Gramps," Sabo says, then chokes on his words, because he didn't mean to say that. He didn't mean to say any of that. The little headache in the back of his mind is louder and closer, and it sounds like brother and feels like home.
"What-" Sabo says, swaying and steadying himself against the doorframe. "What did I-I forgot."
"Yes," Garp says. "But you remember now, right?"
Does he? It's hard to tell. Garp's voice is far away behind the voices in his ears, and his eyes are full of a blur of memories. It's all so close, but not enough, not quite-
"You remember Ace? And Luffy?"
-and he does. There's summer days with sunshine smiles, and storms with screams and scowls and freckles and flyaway hair and fifty fights, but only fifty-yes, he remembers.
The doorframe crunches under his hand and he barely notices, lost in times no longer forgotten. Ace, he thinks, and Luffy. They drank to their brotherhood and he left them and he forgot.
"Oi!" Garp says, and Sabo's head whips around. "Hey, brat! Don't break my door!"
What. Sabo blinks himself out of his trance and looks at the shattered wood under his hand, then at the splintered remains of the actual door, and then to Garp. "What door."
Garp huffs and waves his fist threateningly, but it's the I wanna deck you gesture, not the I'm gonna deck you gesture, and Sabo is surprised to find he still knows the difference. "It's not polite to break other people's things!"
"Are you serious right now?" Sabo asks. The headache is in full force now, there's still new-old information cascading behind his eyes, and his adopted Marine Gramps wants to worry about a door he'd already broken?
"I thought you were supposed to have manners," Garp says, but he waves Sabo back towards his desk and he sits back down behind it. Sabo comes over cautiously, eyeing the large dent in the top of the solid wood. "So, what have you been up to, brat? What kind of trouble have you gotten yourself into?"
This, at least, Sabo knows. He smiles and says, "None of your business."
Garp looks at him, calm and steady, and Sabo stills. This isn't the Gramps he's starting to remember; this is Vice Admiral Monkey D Garp, and the name tumbles over itself in his head and clicks together. "Oh," he says. "Oh, you're related to Dragon, aren't you? Or he's related to you."
Garp laughs out loud, a hearty "Bwahaha! So you're working with my son, are you?"
"Your-" Sabo can't quite finish that. Son? Garp must have kids or Luffy couldn't be his grandson, but he supposed he'd half expected Garp to have stolen Luffy from somewhere as well.
"Well, good," Garp says, nodding decisively. "Then he'll take good care you. It's really a shame, though; you would make such a good Marine."
Sabo bares his teeth. "Never," he says. "I'm happy where I am and I'd never give it up to be something as useless and stupid as a Marine."
"Hey!" Garp says, slamming his fist back down on the desk, which creaks alarmingly, but there's a smile in his eyes. "You're already here, brat! I could enlist you right now!"
Sabo's halfway out of his chair before he's even done talking. "I'll never be a Marine! And you can't make me!"
"Get back here!" Garp says, reaching for him over the desk. "I'll make you the best Marine in the world! Ungrateful brat!"
"Yes sir?" the pink-haired kid from before says, poking his head through the doorway. "You called?"
He's blocking the door, but no matter. They're only on the fifth floor, so Sabo heads for the window. "Nope!" he says. "I won't, and you can't make me!"
"Brat!" Garp calls as Sabo hops into the large regulation windowsill. Sabo keeps going, dropping down one floor just as Garp pokes his head out the window above him. "Talk to your brothers, kid!" he calls, and Sabo looks up and grins.
"I'll tell them to stay away from you!" he yells back, and swings enough to make it to the next window over and grabbing the support beam that runs up the wall. "Bye, shitty Gramps!"
"Ungrateful child!" Garp yells, slamming his window closed, and Sabo laughs to himself as he slides down the beam. He's not ungrateful at all, and his Gramps knows it.
One day he'll face Garp again, he knows. They may be on opposite sides, but when that day comes, he'll be able to stand proud, with his allies at his back and his brothers at his sides.
Speaking of, he'll have to remember to tell Dragon he'll be a bit late returning. He's gotta take a detour and see a kid about a telescope.