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Beginning the Next Dream

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Not for the first time and certainly not the last, Monkey D. Dragon finds himself asking, “What have you done this time, Wyvern?”

 

His little brother is sitting on the floor of the living room, beaming up at him with a gap-toothed smile. The one-year-old doesn’t explain himself, but the broken table toppled over beside him speaks volumes.

 

One of the wooden legs looks like it’s been snapped from a hard blow, splinters fraying from the fractured ends. Suspiciously, the break is at a height that his baby brother can reach if he stands up.

 

And Wyvern has been doing that a lot, now that he’s in his toddling stage. Dragon misses when all the baby could do was crawl around. Wyvern got into a lot less trouble back then—and broke a lot less furniture.

 

Meanwhile, their father lets out a loud guffaw, heaving himself up from the nearby armchair. Wyvern’s destructive phase is still new to him, as Garp has only recently returned to Foosha for the first time in a month. He ignores the felled table to instead swoop down and snatch up his younger son, who happily squeals as he’s raised over their heads.

 

“What a punch, Vernie!” Garp praises with enthusiastic delight. “You’re gonna grow up big and strong, huh? Maybe follow your old man into the Marines?”

 

The baby just laughs and repeats, “Dada, Dada!” which sends their father into a fit of paternal cooing and cuddling.

 

It’s an old, one-sided conversation, one repeated every time Garp deems to come home and check on his sons, so Dragon leaves them to it. He’s instead staring at the snapped table leg that was apparently done in by his baby brother, and he ponders silently to himself.

 

Dragon may be young, but he's no fool.

 

Monkey D. Wyvern is not a normal child.

 

It’s not a bad thing, but it’s not something he can deny. As his brother’s primary caretaker, the one who has spent every day with him from the moment he was first put into his arms ( Dragon, this is your baby brother, Wyvern! You’ll look after him, won’t you?” ), Dragon is the only one in the position to really notice his brother’s oddities.

 

While not strange in and of itself, Wyvern is… an especially cheerful child. Bright-eyed and quick to smile, his presence alone makes Dragon’s grocery runs into town take much longer than necessary, for all the villagers who stop them to dote on both Dragon and the little brother he’s always toting around.

 

“Oh, what a happy baby! You’re doing an amazing job with him, Dragon—if you need anything, just give us a holler, alright?”

 

Going from being a largely solitary only-child to a responsible pseudo-parent isn’t easy, and Dragon mostly credits his relatively kept sanity to Wyvern himself. Even without speaking in full sentences, Wyvern’s cheeriness has a way of rubbing off on people, and he’s barely ever fussy about anything. As for whenever he needs something, he doesn’t cry, but will certainly yell to get Dragon to pay attention to him. It’s always purposeful in a way that Dragon isn’t sure is possible for other children his brother’s age; there’s something like real, cognitive awareness in his actions, as well as satisfaction behind his eyes once he’s got Dragon’s attention.

 

That being said, Dragon’s quiet existence is much louder than it used to be. But the point is, Wyvern is almost too easy-going. And too… aware , for the young child that he is.

 

The second strange thing that Dragon’s noticed is that Wyvern has rather distinctive birthmarks: a thin crescent beneath his left eye and a rather deliberate-looking x-shape across his chest. They would concern Dragon much more if his brother had not been born with them, because at first glance... they almost look like scars.

 

“Gives him character,” is all their father had to say on the matter, a proud gleam to his eye. “He’s gonna be a fighter, this one.”

 

Garp probably isn’t wrong about that. Dragon thinks about what his brother might get up to once he’s fully mobile, and he can already feel a headache coming on.

 

And speaking of things that Wyvern may be capable of… The real crux of his little brother’s strangeness lies right there. There are certain things he can do that one-year-olds decidedly don’t do—things that the child development books that Dragon’s poured over definitely haven’t ever talked about.

 

For one, Wyvern has a nearly clairvoyant awareness of everyone in and out the house. Usually, it’s just the two of them at home, but he always seems to know when their father comes back to Foosha… even if Garp doesn’t call ahead of time.

 

He knows when anyone is about to come by the family house, for that matter. From the moment his neck gained enough strength to support himself, his little head perks up whenever someone is about to arrive, forewarning or not. Every time he does that, it’s eventually followed by a knock at the door by one of the local villagers, or by their father’s voice hollering for them to come greet him.

 

With burning curiosity and no little amount of incredulity, Dragon’s already tested it: he once asked one of their neighbors to come over at a certain time, all while Wyvern was sleeping. A half hour before she was due to arrive, Wyvern had perked up from his quiet doze to stare at the front door, like he was expecting something to happen. When the neighbor did eventually come, she explained that she’d come straight from town—a half hour’s walk away.

 

And Wyvern? Just smiled and waved a tiny hand at her in greeting, before carrying on with his usual baby business.

 

It’s.. uncanny. From the start, Dragon’s quickly learned to pay careful attention to his brother’s behavior, and not only for childcare reasons. With his tried-and-true accuracy, Wyvern’s intuition is probably better than an actual alarm system for letting him know when someone is coming to the house.

 

It’s this meticulous monitoring of his little brother that is the reason he’s able to devise a theory for the latest of Wyvern’s strange behavior: his capacity for destroying furniture in ways that babies definitely shouldn't .

 

The living room table isn’t the first casualty; that honor went to the bars of Wyvern’s first crib. Dragon had gone in to check on his brother one morning to find a side of the crib bars splintered on the nursery floor. After frantically making sure Wyvern was unhurt and that there were no intruders in the house, Dragon didn’t have a clue how it happened.

 

That was until Wyvern first began to walk, and he once slammed his hand into the porch railing while trying to keep himself from falling. A shocked Dragon had thought he’d surely hurt himself, but Wyvern’s tiny palm had somehow punched straight through the thick, wooden planks. All without a scratch marking delicate baby skin.

 

“Oops,” is all Wyvern had said in his little voice.

 

As panicked as Dragon had been when Wyvern was born (how can he look after something so small , so fragile and vulnerable as a newborn?), his brother has turned out to be a much hardier child than he ever expected. Wyvern has grown quite a lot in his first year of life, but a baby isn’t supposed to be this strong. A baby isn’t supposed to be able to predict people coming to the house a half hour before they arrive. It just doesn’t make sense, but Dragon’s most telling clue comes from a split second before Wyvern ever hits and destroys something.

 

For just a moment, Wyvern’s little hand will shine black. And as unbelievable as the evidence may be, it’s all Dragon needs to come to a conclusion.

 

Before his brother was ever born, his father would take him into the forests of Mt. Colubo for combat training. Garp doesn’t do it much now, mostly because if Dragon leaves the house nowadays it’s with a baby strapped to his front, but he’s likely waiting until Wyvern’s older before continuing.

 

But what sticks in Dragon’s memory is a demonstration of an advanced technique, one that his father says is vital to fighting stronger opponents.

 

“This is haki,” Garp once told him after felling an enormous tree with one punch. Dragon had watched in fascination as his large fist shone a shiny black before fading back to normal. “Remember those logia Devil Fruits? You can’t even touch those users without haki. We’ll work on unlocking yours today—doesn’t hurt to start early.”

 

Garp has drilled plenty of information and training into his eldest son, and even though Dragon isn’t fighting anyone just yet, he’s putting his knowledge into use now.

 

Wyvern is still so little, but it’s haki he must be using. Dragon knows what he saw, and it’s definitely the armament haki their father is so fond of.

 

Dragon himself is in the beginnings of haki use, leaning more toward armament than observation, but evidently Wyvern already has both. It explains his ability to smash through surfaces that should otherwise hurt him, as well as his highly accurate knack for sensing visitors. Wyvern is a born natural, it seems.

 

It’s a daunting, amazing realization. Wyvern’s small now, but what will he become in the coming years? He’s already strong for his age, so how will he be after some proper training? It will certainly be interesting to see—and it’s comforting to know that his baby brother already has a substantial foundation for being able to protect himself someday.

 

Though… their father’s training regimen is not for the weak of heart. Nor is it very child-friendly—not that it ever stopped him from tossing Dragon into it. He thinks of his little brother having to go through that unforgiving gauntlet himself, and he frowns deeply.

 

Their father has been a faithful Marine since he was a young man, and having children has not changed that. The newspapers have been lauding him as “Garp the Hero” after his last campaign during the Rocks Incident, and there is likely a promotion in his future. He’ll surely be piled on with even more duties from here on out.

 

He’s a hard taskmaster and a dutiful officer. Unfortunately, this all leaves him very little time to be a father.

 

That ship had sailed for Dragon the moment Garp began training him to fight. Of course, there are moments of paternal pride when Dragon does something successfully or shows evident improvement in his combat skills. But it took Wyvern being born for their father to regain some of his parental gentleness, a soft touch that Dragon had forgotten he’d even had.

 

Dragon glances back to Garp, who is back in his armchair and pulling several silly faces to make Wyvern laugh. He doesn’t think their father has noticed Wyvern’s haki just yet, noting only that his youngest is unusually strong in the physical sense. If he did, Dragon’s sure he’d be yelling it from the rooftops… before setting up Wyvern with a strict training regimen as soon as possible.

 

The thought of it feels like losing something important. His little brother’s childhood innocence, maybe—the realization that their father isn’t perfect, that he won’t be here to protect them, that they can’t rely on him like other kids can rely on their parents. Dragon realized it himself a long time ago.

 

He's still young, though it doesn’t feel like it sometimes, without his mother and father and having to act as both for his brother. But he would rather have this than have Wyvern taken away to be raised by someone else. He doesn’t want to imagine the scenario where it would come to that.

 

In the end, he’s all Wyvern has. And he's all that Dragon has, too.

 

Their family is a nebulous thing. If not for Wyvern, Dragon might have already left this island to search for other horizons. He’d certainly been thinking about it. But he still has purpose here, in a younger sibling who needs him, and in Wyvern are the tethers still holding their small family together.

 

Thoughtful, Dragon wanders over and perches himself on the arm of Garp’s chair, gazing down at Wyvern. His brother looks so small from where he’s being held against their father’s chest, and he gazes back at Dragon with soulful dark eyes.

 

He’ll have to grow up someday, but this is a moment Dragon wants to remember. The three of them are here together, and he knows very well that they won't always be.

 

“Hey, Dad?” He reaches out and traces the curved birthmark under Wyvern’s left eye, murmuring, “Wyvern’s strong, but he can stay a baby a while longer, can’t he?”

 

Garp looks at him quizzically, a little thrown-off by the question, but he smiles and ruffles Dragon’s hair. Dragon bows his head at the weight of his father’s large hand, eyes still on his brother.

 

“Of course he can! But since Vernie’s walking now, just be happy that you can tote him around while he's still small enough to let you. He’ll be running circles ‘round you in no time!” Garp teases. Though when Dragon’s solemn expression doesn’t change, he measures him in silence for a moment before adding, “... Are you okay here, taking care of him by yourself? You’re doing a great job, but you're still only sixteen, Dragon. I could move you two out to Marineford, have you both closer. I’d still be out on assignments, but I’d be around more often. How about it?”

 

Dragon only needs a few seconds to think on the offer. He imagines himself and his little brother placed in an empty house bereft of childhood familiarity, their father still gone, and this time surrounded by strangers Dragon doesn’t know he can trust.

 

As far-flung as Dawn Island is, it’s peaceful and private. Compared to the chaos of the Marine base, as well as the scrutiny he and Wyvern will surely be under as the children of a celebrated Marine hero, Dragon thinks he and his brother are fine where they are.

 

He shakes his head. “No, I like it here in Foosha. And Wyvern’s a good baby—I can handle him myself.”

 

His father hums in acknowledgment, bouncing Wyvern gently in his arms. Wyvern is looking at the both of them with curious intent, like he’s actually listening to what they’re talking about. And for all Dragon knows, he really may be.

 

“You’re a good big brother, Dragon,” Garp eventually says, handing Wyvern over to him. “I’m glad he has you.”

 

Dragon holds his brother close and buries his nose into dark, wispy hair, not saying anything in response. He feels Wyvern’s tiny fingers curl into his shirt.

 

The weight of responsibility settles on his shoulders like the weight of the baby in his arms. For now, Dragon resolves to do the growing up for both of them.

 

... 

 

When it comes down to it, being reborn as his own uncle is probably the weirdest thing that’s ever happened to Luffy so far.

 

And Luffy knows weird. He’s been to the Grand Line, after all—been through Paradise and the New World, all the way to Raftel and back again. After all his many adventures, he’s experienced plenty of bizarre things as a man who once claimed the title of Pirate King.

 

He’s never expected anything in particular to happen after his death. To see Ace again, maybe, in his most hopeful scenarios. But instead, Monkey D. Luffy closes his eyes and somehow returns to consciousness in a much smaller body, with blurred vision and limited motor function, having no idea where he is or what is happening.

 

Then he hears the familiar voice of his Gramps, who has since passed away, and Luffy wonders if this is some kind of afterlife. Being greeted by Gramps and a possible Fist of Love isn’t the ideal scenario for whatever post-death reality has in store for him, but Luffy’s missed the old man and so doesn’t think to complain.

 

But through the disorienting haze, he feels himself being passed along to another set of arms and hears Gramps say something completely unexpected.

 

“Dragon, this is your baby brother, Wyvern! You’ll look after him, won’t you?”

 

And when he comes face-to-face with a young man who he’ll eventually recognize as the teenage version of his own father, it’s right then that Luffy realizes that wherever and whenever he’s ended up, he’s not actually Luffy anymore.

 

His new name is pretty cool, though. He can’t fault Gramps for that. Or, he supposes it’s Dad now. Weird.

 

Even while retaining the memories of his past life, Luffy adjusts to becoming Monkey D. Wyvern with relative ease. He’s always been one to roll with the punches, and as strange as his new situation is, this is no different. As far as he knows, there was never anyone named Wyvern in his family; maybe that’s why it’s not so hard to carve out a new place for himself with that name.

 

In his heart of hearts, he’ll always be Straw Hat Luffy, the man who became King. But at the same time, it’s odd to think that someday, probably, there’ll be another Luffy—one who’s not actually him but still kind of is. It makes his head hurt just thinking about it, so he grabs onto his new name and lives in the moment as he usually does.

 

It’s slow going in the beginning. Wyvern spends his infant years trying to get mobile again, trying to get his speech back through uncooperative vocal cords, all while enjoying the company of his teenage before-father and the rare visits from his now-father.

 

This Garp is… different from the old man he remembers. For one, he’s got a head of thick black hair, a dark beard, and far less age lines on his face. He’s in his prime, his body and fists still at top strength—and yet he’s softer with Wyvern than he ever was with Luffy and his brothers. Maybe it’s just because Wyvern is still a helpless baby, and everything might change once he’s older… but it’s nice to see his Gramps like this, more unburdened and with warmer eyes.

 

He’s still largely absent, but that’s no surprise. To Luffy-now-Wyvern, the mental transition from Gramps to Dad is the more difficult work in progress.

 

By contrast, it’s far easier to see this young version of Dragon as his brother. The tall, tattooed man to whom Luffy once loosely attached the term ‘father’ is nowhere in sight; they were never close to begin with, and the gulf between them remained wide as they fulfilled their own respective dreams. Though they did interact more as the years passed, Dragon was always more Sabo’s father than Luffy’s.

 

But they’re not Straw Hat Luffy and Dragon the Revolutionary anymore. Right now, they’re Wyvern and Dragon, the young sons of a Marine, two brothers who live in sleepy Foosha Village.

 

The Monkey D. Dragon whom Wyvern spends every day with is still only a boy, who mindfully looks after his baby brother and does it with startling efficiency. He’s serious and quiet and looks at the world with an evaluating gaze like he’s already thinking about the future and all it can be.

 

But in this time and place, there are no grand plans, no fate-of-the-world consequences looming over their heads. They’re just two boys growing up in the East Blue. Wyvern relearns to speak by babbling at his older brother, takes his first steps with Dragon’s hands ready to catch him if he falls. He regains control of his rampant haki as best he can in such a small, uncoordinated body, and though he’s sure that his observant brother has already figured him out, Dragon keeps his abilities quiet.

 

Dragon takes care of him and lets him wreck things and allows him to fall asleep in his arms. He dutifully shoulders the responsibility despite being so young himself… and he always looks at his little brother with a protective warmth that reminds him keenly of Sabo and Ace.

 

There’s a spark of the future Revolutionary in his eyes, a flicker that will someday blaze into an inferno. Wyvern already knows that one day, he’s going to have to let him go.

 

But for now, this Dragon belongs to him. He has a big brother again, and Wyvern loves him like he always loves the people he holds dear—unwaveringly, loyally, and with his whole heart.

 

 

“I like this one!”

 

A five-year-old Wyvern proudly presents a curled shell to his brother, holding it up between small, sand-covered fingers. Dragon leans down to get a better look at it before nodding.

 

“The red’s a nice color,” he agrees. “You checked that there's nothing still living inside?”

 

Wyvern looks, holding it up and peering into the smooth, curved opening. He replies, “It's empty!”

 

Obliging, Dragon holds out their bucket, and Wyvern drops the shell in with the other various items he’s scavenged from the beach. He splashes further along the shallows to continue the search; he can hear his older brother calling out a reminder to shuffle his feet in case of stingrays.

 

Spreading out his haki, Wyvern can sense where they are, burrowed and hidden beneath the sand. Dragon is undoubtedly aware of this too, but he's more on the protective side and warns him anyway.

 

Wyvern shuffles along in the sand and glances down at his bare feet, submerged in the sea as rolling waves wash past his short legs. This is something that certainly surprised him, the first time Dragon took him to the beach near their house.

 

Wyvern can swim. Or, rather, he can touch seawater and not feel weakened.

 

On one hand, he’s thankful for it. Ecstatic, even. There had been so many times in the past where he wanted to swim but just physically couldn’t , and he now has the opportunity to do so. The beach is very close to their house; he can go whenever he feels like it.

 

However… his absent Devil Fruit aches like a missing limb. Wyvern keeps having to remind himself that he's not made of rubber anymore, that the unyielding solidness of his body is his new “normal.” He’s not going to harmlessly bounce if he happens to fall, and for both Dragon’s peace of mind and Wyvern’s own well-being, he’s very glad that he at least still has his haki to keep himself from getting hurt.

 

It’s been five years since he awoke in this new body, but sometimes, he still instinctively reaches out to stretch his arm like he used to and has to swallow his disappointment when nothing happens. Even if he wanted to, there’s nothing that can be done about it right now. He has no idea where the Gum-Gum Fruit had been before the Red-Hairs got a hold of it, and the day that Shanks will come to Foosha Village is still a long time coming.

 

It makes him wonder, though: just how old is Shanks, anyway? They may actually be around the same age this time. It makes him grin, the thought that a tiny Shanks is currently running around somewhere out there, someplace across the sea.

 

Thinking back to that time with the Red-Hair Pirates, Wyvern wades along in the water, singing Bink’s Sake under his breath as his eyes scan the water for any interesting things for him to collect. A school of tiny fish dart in flashes of quicksilver around his ankles, before they zip away into deeper waters.

 

A shadow falls over him, and still humming to himself, Wyvern looks up to see that Dragon has caught up with him. His older brother is twenty, now: tall and lean and sharp-eyed, dark hair feathering over his shoulders. He’s not quite there yet, but Wyvern can imagine where his future tattoo might go, slashes of red across the left side of Dragon’s face.

 

Though, he doesn’t look much like that man right now—dressed in a loose t-shirt and rolled-up trousers that are wet around his calves, and toting around a bright red children’s bucket in one hand. He just looks like Wyvern’s older brother.

 

And in older sibling fashion, Dragon arches an eyebrow at Wyvern, who’s still singing to himself. He asks, “Isn’t that a pirate shanty?”

 

Wyvern grins up at him. “Yep!”

 

He doesn’t bother asking how a child like Wyvern even knows it. Instead, he huffs an amused breath and says, “Don’t let Dad hear you singing that. I doubt you want to sit through another lecture about how great the Marines are.”

 

True to form, as soon as Garp deemed his youngest son old enough, he’s been trying to nudge Wyvern onto the career path of joining the Marines. Dragon isn’t exempt from it, either, being a capable young man not afraid of a fight. Still, most times he just ends up holding Wyvern like a human shield (“Who’s going to take care of Wyvern if I’m gone? So, no.”), while Wyvern just laughs and echoes his brother’s reply: “No way!”

 

Defeated only for the time being, Garp certainly isn’t giving up anytime soon. But Wyvern’s sure that they can stall him out until the time comes to make a break for it. It’s worked before, after all.

 

Responding to Dragon’s comment, Wyvern makes a disgruntled face and says, “The Marines have too many rules! I don’t wanna join them, no matter what Dad says.”

 

“You and me both,” his brother mutters under his breath, swinging the plastic bucket as he wades along in the surf beside him. Considering, he adds with a wry smile, “Besides, you’d be a terrible Marine. You’d clean out the food stores of every base you go to within the day. Disobey every commanding officer, cause destruction of property wherever you go. And you wouldn’t even care.”

 

Wyvern may only be five, but Dragon already knows him so well. He laughs, splashing ahead in the water before turning around to face him again.

 

“Y’know, maybe it would be fun,” he says thoughtfully, and Dragon fondly shakes his head.

 

“For Dad’s remaining sanity, it’s for the best we keep you here. Not that he realizes it yet,” he sighs. He then takes a measuring look at him, and after a moment, he says, “So, future Marine hero is out. Any other ideas of what you want to be when you’re a grown-up, then?”

 

Wyvern opens his mouth to blurt out the reply he’s given so many times in a lifetime before, an instinctual “I wanna be King of the Pirates!” balancing precariously on the tip of his tongue… before he stops in his tracks. Despite the concept of a Pirate King not even existing yet, there’s something else entirely that makes him lapse into silence.

 

Oh, right, he realizes. I’ve done that already.

 

He’s already claimed the title of Pirate King once before. It was a long, dangerous, fantastic adventure—one that made all the hardship and struggle worth it in the end. It was the journey of a lifetime that he will never regret. Wyvern supposes he could do it again, set out to sea and hunt down Raftel on a second voyage around the world. Of course, he’d have to wait until he’s older, but... it still doesn’t feel right.

 

Much like last time, he can’t do it alone. He only got so far because he had other people helping him, and they were not just any people. If he’s going to set sail again, then the only ones he’d ever want to do it with is his crew—his friends who went on the journey with him the first time. But they’re not here with him now, are they?

 

It’s as simple as that. For Wyvern, the answer is clear: he’d sail for Raftel again with the Straw Hats of the Pirate King, his Straw Hat Pirates, or not at all.

 

He knows what that means for him. It feels… strangely empty, the realization that he’s not sure what to do with his life.

 

As Luffy, he spent the majority of his life with a dream, relentlessly hell-bent on becoming the next Pirate King until one day, it came true. As Wyvern, though… he has no such goal. No direction, no purpose. It's disorienting, this feeling of the future stretching out beyond his sight. Of not knowing what he's here for, because the dream he always sought after is already behind him.

 

He opens his mouth again to answer Dragon’s question, and he haltingly replies, “I… don’t know.”

 

Dragon frowns. He’s always been attuned to Wyvern’s moods, and he doesn’t fail to notice the lost look on his face. His older brother approaches him and cups the back of Wyvern’s head, running fingers through his hair in a comforting gesture. He tells him, over the rush of ocean waves, “... Hey. That’s okay. You don’t have to decide everything now—you’ve got time.”

 

Wyvern slowly nods, curling a fist into Dragon’s trouser leg. His hand is wet and covered in sand, but his brother doesn’t protest.

 

Time. It’s at the root of what’s happened to him, isn’t it—having somehow fallen through time to a past where Monkey D. Wyvern was born and Monkey D. Luffy doesn’t yet exist. Somewhere in the future that they forged together, he’s left behind many people he loves, many people who love him in return.

 

What would this world have been like, if his friends had been reborn with him? He can’t help but think that it would be nice to see them again.

 

Wyvern wonders what they're doing now, wherever they are. He only hopes that, unlike the crew of the first Pirate King who scattered to the winds after Roger’s death, the Straw Hats will have at least stayed in touch with each other. Stayed together, despite losing their captain. After being together for so long, through thick and thin, the good times and the bad, he can't imagine them ever being apart.

 

Thinking on this, he recalls the memory of Rayleigh in the glow of firelight back on Rusukaina, when Luffy begged for stories about Gold Roger to keep him entertained during those long nights on the island. Rayleigh always had another tale about his captain, told with affection and exasperation and nostalgia wrapped into one. Even if Rayleigh never said so out loud, the old man who taught Luffy so much still bore a lingering weight that he could never quite shake, even after so many years.

 

Although Rayleigh had met others he could rely on, his connections to his former crew were gone. He took his love and grief upon his shoulders and carried his memories of Roger alone.

 

Luffy's friends mourned, he knows that. From the unreachable place where he is now, he can only hope that they'll still be together. Pain is easier to bear when there are others to share the weight, after all—and how many times have the Straw Hats learned that lesson?

 

“It's going to hurt,” he'd told them before, when his years of reckless battles were finally catching up to him, when his days were growing ever shorter. “Don't leave each other alone, alright? It’s gonna be okay.”

 

It won’t be okay, in the beginning—it never is. He's sure it did hurt when he slipped away for good. But he's also sure that, one day, his absence won't hurt them so much.

 

“Remember the things that you still have!” Even through time and space, Jinbe’s wisdom rings true even here.

 

His friends still have each other. They’ll be alright.

 

Wyvern glances up at Dragon, who is gazing back at him with concern. Wyvern just smiles widely at him and hugs his brother’s leg, burying his face into his hip. Dragon seems a little surprised, but Wyvern can feel him place an arm around his small shoulders in return.

 

Right now, he has Dragon, and he has their father. One day, he’ll surely have other people in his life to love and live for as well. And although they won’t be the same people he’d once known, maybe in some fashion he’ll have his friends again, too.

 

Only time will tell.

 

“What do you want to be?” Dragon had asked. Right now, Wyvern doesn't have an answer.

 

The dull roar of the ocean waves in his ears and the sunlight on his skin are familiar, though, like old companions who continue to greet him like they always have. Pirate King or little boy, adventurer or not, it's a reminder that he's still here. Even with his past and future wiped clean, he's alive again, with many tomorrows still to see.

 

Where will he go from here? He doesn't know, and that's okay.

 

Tugging gently on his hand, Dragon leads them back to shore, asking him what he wants for lunch. Wyvern grins up at his brother and blurts out, “Meat!” which makes Dragon sigh in his long-suffering but fond way. They return home, trailing sand and wet footprints behind them.

 

There will be time to dream again. For now, just existing is enough.

 

 

Their house sits on the very outskirts of Foosha, down a dirt path that leads past the rolling farms and the fields of turning windmills. It’s sandwiched between the tree line of Mt. Colubo’s dense forest on one side, and a sloping, grassy hill down to the beach on the other. It’s a quiet, secluded area; if one isn’t actively looking for it, they might miss the house entirely.

 

Wyvern isn’t used to staying in one place for so long. He misses the sway of a ship, the feeling of constantly being in motion, being propelled into some distant unknown across the sea. The house is no Thousand Sunny, but he can imagine it as being like a ship in its own way—anchored in its time and place, a moored, solitary vessel floating quietly in the chaos of the world. A safe harbor, a shelter from the storm.

 

It’s his and Dragon’s, the place where his family has settled and nested, so he doesn’t hesitate to claim it as home.

 

This is something of a first for him, living in an actual house. There’s a kitchen and a living room on the first floor, as well as an extra room that’s being used for storage. Upstairs are the bedrooms—their father’s, Dragon’s, and Wyvern’s—though he often still manages to wiggle his way into Dragon’s room at night to curl up next to his older brother. Though Dragon has been weaning him into sleeping in his own room, the sound of someone else’s breathing has always been a comforting sound. Wyvern’s never liked being alone.

 

Today, as evening falls and bedtime approaches, Wyvern takes the bucket of things they’d collected that morning up to his room. Seating himself next to the window beside his bed, he turns on a lamp and sifts through the bucket’s contents, holding them up to the light for inspection.

 

“Setting those up in here?” he hears Dragon ask. In his periphery, he can see him entering the room to sit on the edge of the bed, just observing him.

 

“Uh huh,” Wyvern confirms, rolling each item in his hand in thought. With careful consideration, he places his treasures on the windowsill, lined up in a neat row side-by-side.

 

A shard of jade green sea glass. An old coin with a weathered face. A smooth, lopsided sphere of a stone. A dented, bent tea spoon. A tiny glass bottle without a stopper. A scrap of ruined leather binding from a lost book. A rusted bullet shell casing. An ivory-white animal tooth. An iridescent fish scale just slightly smaller than Wyvern’s palm.

 

And a curved white shell striped with shocks of red, placed in the center.

 

The window faces the east, where he can see the dark ocean stretching into the horizon to blend into the stars. In the morning, the light of the sunrise will come through the window, falling first on the motley crew of bits and bobs sitting together on the windowsill.

 

The thought makes Wyvern smile. He knows, wherever his friends are, that the sun will rise on them again, too.

 

Satisfied, he dives into bed with a battle cry and nearly rolls right off it. Dragon, ever prepared, catches him by the shirt and plops him back onto the bed, practically wrestling to tuck him in. As always, his brother does his best to settle an excitable little boy down for the night, even though he’ll likely soon escape from the covers anyway.

 

Wrapped up and snug in his blankets, Wyvern exclaims, “Dragon, tell me a pirate story!”