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An Albatross Around Your Neck

Chapter Text

Noir couldn’t stop the grin spreading over her face. “They never realized you had these?”

Dadan snorted. “Put food in front of them and the brats didn’t notice jack shit.” She snuffed out the spent cigarette and flicked it away, before digging out another and lighting it up.

‘These’ were a stack of scrapbooks, each with a name and a number scrawled along the spine. Ace had the most, but even Sabo had his own little scrapbook, filled with the few photos Dadan had managed to capture before the child’s death.

Sitting open on Noir’s lap was the first scrapbook Dadan created, full of Ace’s baby photos. Little Ace looking up at the camera in confusion, eyes still baby blue, to him sleeping on a hibiscus patterned baby blanket that Noir recognized - it had been hers once. 

Noir turned the page and let out a surprised laugh. The next picture showed Ace sitting at the table, surrounded by a disastrous attempt to feed him pasta. Face, clothes, and table smeared with sauce, Ace had the biggest grin on his face. In the background, one of Dadan’s Family could be seen trying his best to contain the mess. From the red splattered on his clothes, the man had failed. Fantastically.

“Eh?” Dadan leaned over to see what amused Noir. The redhead barked her own laugh. “Ha! I remember that. Troublesome brat, it only went downhill from there.”

Noir could see that. In the next photos, Ace had apparently learned to crawl and was doing his best to drive everyone insane. “You can blame my side of the family for that.” Noir snickered. “Rouge always said I was a difficult girl when I put my mind to something.”

The smile Dadan gave her could only be called mischievous. “Sounds like there’s a story or two behind that.”

Oh there were far more than that. Noir could write a book with all the things her younger and bullheaded self had decided were brilliant ideas. “Well, there was the time I uprooted Rouge’s garden looking for Roger’s treasure…”

Chapter Text

“Look!” someone cried. “A ship is falling from the sky!”

Noir’s head snapped up. What? There was no way-

A Marine battleship crashed into the bay, somehow miraculously landing in the only thawed section of the entire bay.

Noir blinked. Nope, still there. What the actual fuck? “I’m too sober for this shit.”

Same.” Garp and Sengoku chorused.

Wait, was that-? Noir groaned, wishing she could bury her face in her hands. She knew that particular aura. Because of course it would be Luffy. “Garp, your grandson is an idiot.”

Chapter Text

 

Chapter Text

Rafi wasn’t quite sure how they got to this point. Actually, that was a lie. She knew exactly how this got started. She’s just not certain she’s not hallucinating.

Rewind back to the beginning. 

It was Christmas. Not that anyone on the Akatokuro was particularly religious. But it was an excuse to kick back and relax, enjoy Aria’s fantastic eggnog and her singing. Noir tried to give them the day off every year, since they so rarely had any official vacation.

They stopped at a small island in North Blue. Which is where this whole mess started.

“Oh for fucks’ sake.” Noir said, pinching the bridge of her nose. Sitting next to the only open dock was the Red Force.

Everyone on the Akatokuro wilted at the sight. It was their day off! A fight would sour the Christmas spirit and then they’d have to spend the rest of the day filling out paperwork.

Rafi glared. Damn pirates and their rotten timing.

Noir sighed, then glanced at her First Mate. “Cade?”

Cade shrugged. “It’s Christmas.” And apparently that was it.

Somehow, they managed to communicate to the Red Hair pirates that they were agreeable to a temporary truce for the holidays, because the Red Force did not immediately open fire on the Akatokuro as they neared port.

Not long after Rafi stared in complete bemusement as pirates and Marines mingled together in the bar as though they hadn’t been trying to kill each other three weeks prior. A drinking game had started up in one corner while Noir cleaned out everyone’s pockets via poker in another. No one seemed to mind all that much since Noir used her winnings to fund everyone’s drinking.

“You must be a rookie.” Fuck that was Benn Beckman. 

“So?” Rafi challenged. Rookie or not, she wasn’t helpless or incompetent!

Beckman chuckled, a - thankfully unlit - cigarette in his mouth. “Nothing. You just looked a little confused.”

Okay, he had a point. Rafi shrugged. “Is this normal?”

“The pirates and Marines not trying to kill each other?” Beckman asked. “Spending Christmas together? Or the fact my captain’s flirting with your commanding officer and not getting his head chopped off?”

“All the above?”

“Well, we don’t always try to kill each other.” Beckman said. “It’s admittedly rare, and depends on the Marine. This is the first Christmas we’ve shared, given likelihood of being on the same island at the same time on any specific day. The flirting though? Yeah, that’s normal.”

Rafi eyed her red faced commander, who was glaring down a laughing Shanks. “How has she not killed him yet?” Noir hurt idiots who flirted with her. Well, most of the time. Still, the only one Rafi had seen get away with flirting was Noir’s ex-girlfriend!

Unless-

“They didn’t date, did they?” She squeaked. By the Sea, if Noir chasing Shanks was a lover’s quarrel-

Beckman outright laughed. “No, nothing like that. They’re childhood friends.”

Okay, that sucked. “You’re shitting me.”

“Nope. Practically grew up together.”

Damn. 

Beckman clapped a hand to Rafi’s shoulder. “Relax kid. Noir and Shanks won’t let anyone kill each other. Enjoy it while it lasts.”

Half an hour later, Rafi was deep in conversation with a Red Hair pirate, comparing ink. Apparently they had their own tattoo artist, the lucky bastards. The guy even has his equipment, and Rafi was only too willing to dump a wad of beri into his hand after she saw his work. The guy was better than her usual.

The festivities were still going strong past midnight, and Rafi was roped into a game of strip poker and ignoring the ache from her new tattoo. Unfortunately for her opponents, while Rafi didn’t have Noir’s luck, the Logia was a fantastic liar.

Rafi was pretty certain she and half the bar was watching Noir and Shanks. By the Sea, if Beckman hadn’t told her otherwise Rafi would swear the two were married. And Red Hair was most definitely smitten with Rafi’s commander. Pity. He was smoking hot, despite his questionable choice in pants. Just, why yellow?

So when Noir finally decided to retire for the night, and Shanks rose to escort her, both Marines and pirates clustered around the windows to watch, or followed at a distance.

They were halfway down the street when it happened.

Shanks paused for a moment, leaning over and scooping a handful of snow from a snowbank. Noir stopped a few steps ahead, turning to see what had caught Shanks’ attention.

Eyes narrowed on the snow in Shanks’ hand, and the mischievous grin on his face. “Don’t you dare throw that snowba-,” White powder exploded in her face, “goddammit, Shanks!”

Red Hair was too busy laughing. Marines and pirates stared in horrified awe. Did Shanks have a death wish?

Noir’s eyebrow twitched. Fast as a snake, she grabbed some snow and flung it at Shanks. The hastily made snowball smacked Shanks square in the jaw, leaving the man spluttering.

“Snowball fight!”

Rafi didn’t know who started it, but the next thing she knew she was throwing herself to the side to dodge a snowball aimed at her head.

Which led to now. It was chaos. The Akatokuro faced off against the Red Hair pirates. Ammunition was made, walls were hastily shored up from snowbanks, and at some point the snipers managed to climb up on the roofs for better vantage points. Chopsticks had pounced on Lucky Roo and shoved an armful of snow down the back of his coat, prompting the huge man to retaliate by shoving Chopsticks headfirst into a pile of snow.

It took Aria and a Red Hair pirate shouting at them to let the rest of them sleep for fuck’s sake, before she got out her rolling pin. Rafi and the rest of the Marines quailed. No, she did not need to get out her rolling pin. The Red Hair pirate simply fixed his crewmates and captain with a look, and they wilted.

Still, there were laughs all around as they trudged back to the docks, wet and chilled. Shanks nudged a grinning Noir. “Meet up again next year?”

Rafi held her breath as Noir gave Shanks a considering look. She cast a glance over her shoulder. “Cade?”

Cade narrowed his eyes at Beckman, who’d managed to hit Cade’s head four times with well placed snowballs. Beckman grinned. “It is Christmas, Commodore.”

Everyone cheered. 

Chapter Text

“Can I touch your boob?”

Noir paused. Ran that sentence through her head again. She didn’t think she misheard…

She didn’t think there should be that many empty shot glasses on the bar either. Two, four, six, twelve, eighteen - wait, did she already count that one? “Say what now?”

Shanks was slumped on the bar beside her, sake bottles scattered about. “Boob.” He slurred. “Wanna touch it.”

So she did hear right. That was good to know. Things had been a little fuzzy for, what, a couple hours now? Noir wasn’t entirely sure and fuck it if she could see a clock.

Why the hell did he want to touch her boob? Noir looked down at her chest. They were just boobs.

Eh, whatever.

“Only if I can touch your boob too.”

“S’not a boob.” Shanks frowned.

Noir nodded. That was true. “It’s not big enough.”

Shanks managed to sit upright, offense plastered over his face. “Is too! I have huge chest!”

That was also true. Shanks had a very nice chest. “But not as big as mine~!” She sang. 

“No’r being mean.” He whined. “Jus’ ‘cause your chest… is… bigger…” He crashed to the floor, out cold.

Damn. She didn’t get to touch his boob.

Chapter Text

“I can’t believe you talked me into this.”

Rafi laughed. “Live a little, sir!” She thunked a tankard of ale in front of Noir, taking a long pull from her own tankard. Noir ignored how Rafi’s stance emphasized her generous curves, or the fact the two prostitutes in the corner of the bar were wearing more than Noir’s subordinate. Rafi was old enough to make her own decisions about her time on shore leave. So long as her actions didn’t come back to bite the crew, Noir didn’t care to know.

Though, Noir would like to know how Rafi managed to convince every woman on the Akatokuro to go bar hopping. Even Aria was there, and Noir could count on one hand the number of drinks the stern cook drank while under Noir’s command!

“Go rescue Aria before she gives her admirer a concussion.”

Rafi craned her head to stare at the bar and grimaced. The crew knew that dark expression very well. It often preceded Aria introducing the nearest blunt object to the offender’s head. For the unfortunate man in question, that meant either Aria’s shot glass or the bar itself.

Noir didn’t hold much hope of preventing a fight. All of her female crewmembers had a low tolerance for unwanted attention.

Thirty seconds later, an irate Aria slammed the man’s head into the bar. His friends leapt to their feet with roars of anger. Shizuka, Gwyn, and Lara flanked Aria and Rafi, casually threatening in a way the men three heads taller were not.

A good place to end the night, Noir decided. Starting a fight was not the way to stay on the barkeep’s good side, and Noir would prefer to come back in the future. They served good ale.

Why did she let Rafi talk her into this?

Chapter Text

Twitch. 

“Let me check if I heard you correctly.” 

Twitch.

“You insulted a bandit, an eight million beri bandit, and tried to fight him.”

“Yup!” Luffy grinned.

Twitch. Noir inhaled deeply, throttling the urge to shake the boy by his shoulders. She tried that once already. Noir didn’t fancy another accidental headbutt from the Rubbernecking Wonder.

She almost regretted asking Luffy the story behind Shanks gifting him Roger’s hat. Luffy had been held hostage by a bandit, had been kidnapped and taken out to sea and nearly eaten by a Sea King. And the only reason he was still alive was due to Shanks sacrificing his arm to save Luffy.

Noir knew Shanks. Shanks could have beaten the Lord of the Coast without batting an eye. He certainly could have done it without losing an arm.

But Luffy’s presence changed everything. Shanks’ first priority would have been the little boy’s safety, above all else. Scaring the Sea King off before Shanks was close enough to help if Luffy drowned or was injured? Unacceptable. Not when the red haired scoundrel blamed himself for not killing Higuma before the bandit could hurt Luffy.

Shanks’ guilt would be dealt with later. Likely whenever the two of them met up for drinks again. Right now, Noir needed to deal with this end of the problem.

Namely, beating a sense of survival into Garp’s idiot grandson.

“There is a difference,” she said, keeping her voice calm only through sheer willpower, “between being brave and being stupid.”

Noir gave Luffy a look. Luffy gulped.

“We’ll see how long it takes for you to learn it.”

Chapter Text

Buggy would never admit it to Shanks, but the Bara Bara no Mi was damn useful.

Shanks’ cutlass passed harmlessly through his arm, and Buggy cackled as Shanks cursed. Buggy’s own knives struck Shanks’ shoulder, but the torn shirt parted to reveal Haki-blackened skin.

“No Haki, you red haired bastard!” Buggy complained. Shanks only laughed. He jumped back to avoid Shanks’ following strike and focused on his severed arm. Buggy’s skill with his Devil Fruit had improved since he first ate it, and could now call severed limbs back to him with mostly reliable success. So long as he could see them and they weren’t stuck somewhere.

He wasn’t very good at controlling them separately, but he was working on it!

Buggy still resented Shanks for his part in how Buggy ate the damn thing. If only the damn redhead hadn’t startled him! He could have made millions off it!

Even more than the lost treasure though, Buggy missed the water. He’d loved swimming for as long as he could remember, but what was once a favorite hobby was now a death trap.

As Buggy managed to reattach his arm, running footsteps caught his attention. He turned to the edge of the clearing where Rayleigh ordered them to practice and caught a flash of blonde hair before sharp metal bit into his neck and his world spun.

“Shanks!” Noir shrieked in horror. Buggy couldn’t see the girl’s face, couldn’t see much of anything besides the grass.

He twitched. That bastard had decapitated him!

Buggy pointed an angry finger at Shanks. “You goddamn cheater! Taking a damn- OW!” Noir shrieked again, and pain exploded at his temple. Followed shortly by a lot more pain as his head collided with a goddamn tree.

When the stars cleared from his vision, Buggy glared down at Noir from his new perch. “The fuck was that for!”

Brown eyes wide, freckles stark against ashen skin, Noir looked between Buggy’s flailing arms and his head. She swallowed hard, before her eyes rolled back and she fell over in a dead faint.

Buggy twitched, and ignored Shanks howling with laughter. He tried to will himself back to his body, but he was very firmly lodged in the tree. His body tried to climb, but only succeeded in slamming into the tree trunk and making Shanks’ laughter start all over again.

For fuck’s sake - “Oi, you red haired bastard! Stop laughing at get me out of this tree!

Chapter Text

“Have you lost your damn mind?!”

“I am your superior, Captain!”

Cade came to a halt and blinked at the scene unfolding in the middle of the Marine base. He blinked again. No, still there. This was really happening.

The Ensign had returned to the West Blue G-10 base with the rest of the Marines dispatched to the Buster Call on Ohara. Cade didn’t know why the extermination of the island was ordered, and the sight of the burning island was going to give him nightmares for months. But orders were orders, no matter how much he disliked them.

Even orders didn’t justify the sinking of the ship holding the civilian evacuees. Cade was furious at whichever Vice Admiral had ordered that.

That wasn’t justice. That was murder.

And it seemed he now knew who to blame. The source of the shouting was a young blonde, perhaps a year older than Cade himself. Teeth bared in a vicious snarl, fists clenched, every line of her body coiled in anger as she seethed at Vice Admiral Sakazuki.

“They were civilians!” She snarled. “There was no reason to fire on them!”

Sakazuki glared at her coldly. “One of the scientists could have snuck on board. We could not chance even one scientist escaping.”

Cade stared, speechless. The Vice Admiral killed thousands of people on a mere chance?

The captain seemed to share his disbelief. “We had a list of Ohara’s residents. We could have detained them until we had ascertained there were no fugitives!”

“I will not be questioned by a mere captain-“

“Why not? Because your ego can’t handle someone telling you when you’re wrong?”

Cade sucked in a sharp breath. Was the woman insane? If looks could kill, Sakazuki’s glare would have left her a burn spot on the floor. “Portgas D. Noir, you will hold your tongue!”

As if interrupting and insulting him wasn’t bad enough, Noir gave him the one fingered salute. “Like hell I will. Go ahead, report me to the Fleet Admiral. Let’s see what he has to say about this massacre.” She smirked nastily. “Or kill me. Have fun explaining that to Sengoku and Garp. Especially with so many witnesses.”

Around them, Marines shifted nervously as Sakazuki seemed to realize he and Noir had an audience and swept his burning gaze over them. However, it seemed he realized this was not something he could sweep under the rug.

Even if Sakazuki intimidated everyone else to silence, Cade would report this himself, no matter what revenge Sakazuki would enact. Someone had to be held accountable.

Sakazuki stalked off after one last blistering glare at Noir. The gathered Marines began to disperse now that the excitement was over. Cade lingered a moment, taking stock of the young Captain who had defied death standing up to Sakazuki. Nodding himself, Cade turned and headed to another part of the base. He had some forms to fill out.

Captain Noir might be insane, but it was the kind of insane Cade could follow to the end of the world.

 

Chapter Text

Benn trusted Shanks. He never would have followed the redhead into the Grand Line otherwise, much less put up with Shanks' various stunts over the years.

Sometimes though, Benn wondered if Shanks had taken one too many hits to the head.

"She's going to throw that in your face if you use that wrapping paper," Benn told his crazy captain. It was awful wrapping paper, as garish as some of Shanks' favorite pairs of pants over the years.

Shanks grinned, expertly taping one side shut. He'd gotten a lot better at wrapping gifts with only one hand - Benn remembered when Shanks' wrapping attempts involved more tape than paper. The stubborn man had refused any help following the loss of his arm, driving Benn up the wall with worry. But the look of joy and satisfaction on his face when he finally managed to wrap a simple box was so bright that Benn reluctantly told the rest of the crew to back off and give their captain space to figure things out for himself.

"That's why I'm not going to give her the chance," Shanks said.

Meaning he would either throw it at her as they escaped or hide it somewhere on the Akatokuro for her to find later. "Noir's going to go after your head again." She always did when Shanks showed up with a gift. It was like the Kiss of 1511 every time - and yes, that incident deserved capital letters.

Shanks only laughed, "Riling up Noir is half the fun!"

Still a few screws loose in his captain's head. Good to know. Benn shook his head and climbed up to the deck to check on the rest of the crew. They had the curiosity of cats, all of them. They'd flown into a frenzy of whispers when Shanks came back with wrapping paper and a gift box. They were still at it two hours later.

Noir's birthday wasn't for another four months. Either Shanks had found the perfect gift and couldn't wait to buy it or Noir had finally received another promotion. Everyone hoped it was the latter - any occasion to throw another party was a good occasion.

Well, Benn mused, he had good news for them.

All eyes turned to him as soon as he stepped out on deck. Benn rolled his eyes. No subtlety with this crew, that was certain. "Rear Admiral Noir is now officially Vice Admiral Noir."

The following cheers were deafening.


The party that night was as wild and merry as ever. Songs were sung, jokes and stories told, and laughter and sake flowed forth.

Benn found a small pocket of peace near the bow of the ship, content to watch the rest of the crew. He wouldn't be here for long, Shanks would notice his absence soon and drag him into the thick of things, but for now the relative quiet was appreciated.

It also gave their newest gunner the courage to come up to him and finally ask whatever question had been bothering the boy since Benn announced Noir's promotion earlier.

"Why are we celebrating?" The rookie Fung asked. "Doesn't it mean she's more dangerous now?"

Benn huffed in amusement. The Red Force hadn't clashed with the Akatokuro since they picked the kid up two months back. Fung had heard plenty about the blonde woman, but hadn't actually seen her or her crew in action to give evidence to those stories. His confusion was understandable, if no less amusing.

"Normally, yes," Benn said. "Vice Admirals are more dangerous because they're specifically trained to use Haki."

Fung's brow furrowed, recalling stories likely discarded as tall tales meant to scare the rookie. "But I thought the Queen of Cards could already use Haki… oh."

Realization dawned on Fung's face. He liked this rookie, Benn decided, lighting up a cigarette. This one actually used his brain. "Noir's been using all three kinds of Haki since her first fight with Shanks." He confirmed. Fung paled. Benn didn't blame him.

In Benn's opinion, Noir was one of the most dangerous Marines, on par or greater than the Admirals themselves. An opinion most of the New World pirates shared. Sure, the Admirals were powerful Logias, and Noir didn't have a Devil Fruit. But Noir didn't need a Devil Fruit. She could still kill a man before anyone knew she was there, and walk away without being detected no matter how many people looked for her.

A unique application of Conqueror's Haki, according to Shanks. Apparently passed down through her family. Benn didn't know for certain, but if he had to, he'd guess that Noir imposed her Will on others to overlook her presence. As opposed to Shanks overpowering a person's Will to stay conscious. Which brought up the question of what kind of training Noir had as a child. She sure as hell wasn't trained to be a Marine.

Seeing Noir and Shanks clash? That was interesting. Shanks' Conqueror's Haki was the strongest Benn had ever seen. He could knock out thousands of people without a problem. Noir struggled with even a hundred. Common sense stated that Shanks should overpower Noir's Haki every single time, similar to Armament Haki.

Benn would not have believed it had he not seen it himself. Numerous times. Shanks had tried to overpower Noir and her crew, only for Noir to respond with her own Haki. None of the crew had felt even a touch of Haki, but neither Noir nor her crew keeled over from Shanks' Haki.

Benn still couldn't figure out how she did that.

"Why are we celebrating then?" Fung asked. Benn sighed. He took it back. If Fung hadn't noticed the crew's eagerness to party in two months he wasn't using his brain that much after all. "If she died then- mmphf!"

Benn was already checking for eavesdroppers. Shanks was across deck laughing his head off, and the rest of the crew were halfway to passing out. He leveled a glare at Fung as he withdrew his hand. "Don't even imply something like that unless you want to lose your head." He warned. "The captain rather likes Noir." Most of the crew did, but Shanks was most likely to kill the idiot. Benn would rather not need to find another aft gunner so soon.

Fung had at least caught on to that. "Why the hell is Red Hair so fond of this woman?" He demanded after Benn's hand no longer covered his mouth.

"The captain loves her." Yasopp answered. Fung choked on air at the grinning sniper's sudden appearance and swore.

"You're shitting me."

"Nope." Yasopp laughed. "Has been as long as I can remember."

Benn's brow rose. He knew Shanks and Noir went way back, but Yasopp was the first to join Shanks' crew. Not long after Roger's execution, if Benn remembered right. Just when did Shanks meet Noir?

"Why?" Fung asked, flabbergasted. Benn could relate. He remembered when he first figured out Shanks' infatuation of the then-captain. He hadn't been able to wrap his brain around it then, and still couldn't now.

That wasn't completely true. Noir wasn't someone who'd let Shanks steamroll over her. A real possibility, with Shanks' personality. No, Noir could go toe to toe with Shanks - had done so many times - and look him in the eye as an equal. She didn't let fear or awe cloud her judgement of his character. To Noir, Shanks was simply Shanks, not the Yonko Red Hair the rest of the world saw.

If Noir had been anything but a Marine, it would have made perfect sense. But... she was a Marine.

Yasopp shrugged, not looking confused in the least. "Shanks sees Noir as home." He said. As if that made any sense at all. Yasopp clapped Fung on the shoulder cheerfully. "You ever meet someone like that, lad, don't let them go in a hurry."

Yasopp wandered off to refill his drink. Fung turned an utterly lost expression on Benn. "Don't look at me," Benn said, "Yasopp's the married one."

Chapter Text

Buggy, for all his grandstanding and loud antics, was downright difficult to find when he put his mind to it. Fortunately, Noir was better at finding him than he was at laying low, especially because Buggy wasn't specifically trying to hide from her.

He saw her coming of course. Noir wasn't trying to hide from him either. He glanced at her, at her blue dress with it's silver diamond suit buttons and the vodka and shot glasses in her hands, and drained the last of his ale.

"Who sent you?"

"I sent myself." Noir replied. She sat and uncorked the vodka, pouring each of them a shot and throwing hers back immediately.

Buggy grunted and downed his own shot. "What do you want?" 

Noir snagged the vodka back. She was not letting him monopolize it, that was an expensive bottle. "I wanted to check up on you." She admitted. "Old Man Ray and the others can take care of themselves and Shanks is making a racket clashing with the swordsman of his. Haven't heard anything about you though. I got concerned."

The glare she got for that was downright pathetic. "Well, you've seen me. I'm fine, so you can fuck off." Buggy grumped, grabbing the bottle and pouring himself a second shot. Noir didn't buy that for a moment. Buggy looked quite a bit off from 'fine,' and his Haki was curling in on itself, hesitant and defensive and hurt. Yeah no, Buggy was anything but fine.

"I wake up some mornings, expecting to hear about the newest hair-brained adventure." Noir said, carefully not looking at Buggy. "And then I remember he's gone and it's like losing him all over again."

Grief was supposed to lessen with time, right? Because if it could hurry the fuck up already, that would be great.

Buggy stared at his third shot of vodka, Haki despondent. "We were the Roger Pirates." He mumbled finally. "That used to mean something. Not sure what anymore." He downed the shot. "You're the first one I've seen since the execution. The others just upped and disappeared."

Noir's heart warmed even as her chest tightened. She'd never been part of the crew, had never been a pirate, so hearing that she was still considered one of them was heartening.

But Buggy's tone was bitter, his Haki swirling with anger and betrayal. And Noir, she could understand. She at least had Garp when the grief got to be too much. Buggy didn't have anyone. They'd left. Even Shanks. For all that Buggy was once part of the Pirate King's crew, he was still only 16. He didn't have Rayleigh's experience or Shanks' talent, and was now stumbling around East Blue just trying to keep his head above water.

"Well, you're stuck with me." Noir said. Buggy eyed her skeptically. Noir huffed. Honestly, he didn't have to jump for joy or anything. She poured each of them another shot and held hers up between them.

Buggy wasn't the sharpest knife on board, but he was a lot smarter than most people gave him credit for given his appearance. He understood immediately what Noir was getting at. "Aren't we supposed to use sake for this?"

"I hate sake." Noir said dryly. "Besides, it's the oath that counts not the alcohol."

Buggy snorted. He clinked his shot glass against hers and they threw them back.

Chapter Text

Buggy snapped awake, crouched on the floor of his cabin brandishing Haki coated daggers before his brain caught up enough to realize there wasn't anyone in his room.

He slowly stood, but kept his daggers out and guard up. Just because he couldn't see anyone didn't mean there was no one there. He learned that lesson back when he was a kid on the Oro Jackson. Noir had been learning to use Haki in sneaking up on people, and his asshole of a Captain decided Shanks and Buggy could learn Observation Haki at the same time. That had been a damn long month.

Reaching for his Haki, he let his awareness sharpen and add a new dimension to his senses. Buggy didn't have a way with words like Rouge. Best he ever managed to describe the feeling was like ripples in water brushing up against him.

There was nothing in his cabin. His Haki spread, searching for what set off the instincts he made certain to keep sharp despite being in East Blue for the past years. His crew was fast asleep, the sentries on watch were fine - wait a minute.

What the ever loving fuck was Noir doing on his ship?

Her Haki rippled with amusement. Damn woman.

Buggy grabbed his coat - it got cold out on the ocean at night even in the summer, and it was barely spring - and headed out on deck. He wasn't surprised when the sentries failed to notice him. Noir didn't get as good as she was by being sloppy with her Haki.

Noir waved him over to the port side rail with a bottle of sake. It was obviously for him - Noir still wasn't a fan and she had a bottle of vodka beside her - and Buggy was never one to turn down freeze booze so he ambled over. He was decidedly less grumpy when he glanced at the label. Noir dropped a pretty beri on this.

"Why are you here?" He didn't bother asking how she found him. Noir probably wouldn't tell him and she had more contacts than a Sea King had scales.

Noir waved her hand flippantly. "I was in the area. Figured I'd stop by."

Buggy pops open the sake. "You're a shit liar." Okay, that wasn't true. Noir could lie with the best of them, but only when she cared to. Otherwise she didn't bother putting in the effort.

She knew that too, which was why her scowl looked more like a pout. "I can't stop to see my brother and catch up?"

He snorted. "You can do whatever you damn well please and you know it." He cuts her a look. "I'd rather you didn't, even if the sake's nice. My crew doesn't deserve the heart attacks." Nothing like a Rear Admiral showing up out of nowhere to scare the shit out of someone.

Noir grinned. Mischievous bitch. "You love me."

"Once in a Blue Moon." Buggy countered. "On alternating years." She stuck her tongue out at him for that, so Buggy blew a raspberry back.

The next few minutes were comfortably silent, and Buggy savored the sake. He probably wouldn't be able to afford a bottle as nice as this for a while.

Eventually though, Buggy spoke. "Why are you really here?"

Immediately, he regretted the question. Noir's expression shuttered. Shit. Last time he saw Noir like this was right after Rouge and Ace died.

Noir at least let him swallow the next gulp of sake. "Ace is alive." Buggy inhaled and bent over coughing as spit when down the wrong pipe. Noir thwacked him on the back a few times.

"I thought he died on Baterilla!"

If possible, Noir's expression blanked further, and her Haki went flat. Buggy hid a wince. Fuck, she was pissed. "Garp lied." She said, words clipped short. "I ran into Ace last June. Dead ringer for Roger, expect for Rouge's freckles and eye shape."

Well shit. "Why are you in East Blue then?" He'd have thought she would be getting to know Ace.

"I'm resisting the urge to make myself a monkey skin coat." Noir grumbled into her vodka. She sighed, shoulders slumping. Brown eyes closed, her face pinched. "Ace… asked if he deserved to die like Roger. If he deserved to have been born."

Buggy froze. Fury spiked through him. Who the fuck told his Captain's son he didn't deserve to live?!

Stupid question. There were a lot of people who would say that.

Noir took another swig of vodka. "I tracked down Ace's home island." Understandable, Buggy wanted to hunt down a few fuckers himself. Her lips twitched, almost smiling as she gained a fond look. "He's got an oath-brother." Oh? "He's Garp's grandson and wants to be King of the Pirates."

Buggy coughed. Say what now?

Noir grinned, and oh that was a scary smile to see. Fortunately he wasn't on the receiving end of it this time. "I'm training the brat. In Haki."

Oh. Oh, to be a fly on that wall. "What's the brat like?"

The blonde twitched. Buggy eyed her. That was… an interesting reaction. Noir glared at her bottle, "He's got about as much sense as Garp," she said sourly, "and insists on calling me 'Auntie Nola.' No matter how many times I punt him through a tree for it."

He really shouldn't laugh it her face, but he couldn't help it. Noir looked like she wanted to tear out her hair. "You visited to get away from the brat, didn't you?" A Rear Admiral, running from a kid. Buggy couldn't make this shit up if he tried. He probably deserved the jab in the side for it, but he couldn't stop snickering.

Noir huffed. "Even you would need a break from him. The brat's annoying as fuck."

"Sure, Auntie Nola."

That particular glare promised revenge, but so long as Noir was more pissed at Garp than she was annoyed at him, Buggy wasn't too worried. "I'll keep an eye out for the brat, but I'm going back to sleep."

With a one-fingered salute, Noir hopped over the railing and completely disappeared. Huh, she'd gotten a lot better at that. He couldn't sense her, even with Haki.

He snickered and ducked back inside. Auntie Nola. He was totally going to remember that.

Chapter Text

 

"What do you mean they're gone?!" Lucky Roo demanded. "They were here five minutes ago!"

This was the seventh time in two days! With the newest box with its high, smooth walls, Lucky Roo though they'd solved the problem!

But where there should be five kittens, there was only a fur-covered blanket.

Snowball, the kittens' mother, padded out from where she'd been relaxing underneath Rockstar's chair and peered into the empty box. She turned yellow eyes at Lucky Roo, who wilted.

Great, the cat was judging him.

Damn it. Aria was already trying to bash his head in with that cast iron skillet of hers. They'd thought the rolling pin was bad - turned out the skillet was a whole lot worse.

He didn't even steal Snowball! The cat just showed up on the Red Force and no one had the heart to get rid of the pretty cat everyone had thought was a stray.

He hoped the litter of kittens would pacify the Akatokuro's cook, but he couldn't do that if they kept disappearing!

"Looking for someone?"

And there was Shanks, grinning with a black kitten perched on his shoulder. The only girl, promptly named 'Little Lady Noir' by their captain. Nicknamed Lady for short, and to differentiate between the kitten and her human namesake.

"She found you again, captain?" Rockstar asked. Lady loved the red haired man, and had turned up on Shanks' shoulder and head every time she disappeared with her litter mates.

Shanks grinned. "What can I say? Little Lady Noir has taste." He jerked his thumb over his shoulder, taking care not to dislodge Lady. "Yasopp is getting Taka out of the rigging, and Fung found Powder inside one of the cannons again."

"And Anchor and Whistle?" Lucky Roo asked, partially dreading the answer.

"Anchor made his way to the kitchens again." Shanks said brightly. "He was trying to maul open the meatlocker. Whistle's right behind you."

Lucky Roo and Rockstar glanced down, where Snowball was dropping a grey kitten back into the box and ignoring Whistle's high pitched complaints.

With a scornful meow at Lucky Roo, she walked out of the room in search of her other wayward offspring.

Shanks snickered.

Chapter Text

No.

No. No no nononoNO.

She failed.

Ace was gone.

Her crew was gone. Sile and Aria and Orion were gone. And now, so was the last of her family.

Luffy was screaming, Haki twisting in pain and denial. Horror, grief, and anger billowed around Noir like morning fog. It barely registered past the icy numbness sweeping through her.

Glee, a searing spike of heat in the haze of misery. Noir's fingers tightened on the handle of the executioner's glaive.

Akainu.

How kind, to make the blade from Seastone. She would put it to good use.

'This is my final mission.'


They screwed up, Aokiji realized. They really screwed up.

"Assassins need anchors." Noir once said, gazing at the latest dying organization Robin abandoned. "Without someone to keep them sane, the number of deaths they can cause…"

Noir was an assassin. And Akainu just killed her last remaining anchor.

A mistake he would never repeat. Aokiji ducked the seastone glaive, keeping his eyes firmly on Noir. He didn't know what she was doing to disappear, but after she cleft Akainu from left shoulder to right hip, he wasn't keen on letting Noir out of his sight.

Whitebeard rampaged on the other side of the battlefield, cutting down Marine after Marine even as his crew retreated to the ships. His Commanders circled him protectively, viciously tearing apart anyone trying to get close enough to strike at Whitebeard.

Noir outstripped them all.

Kizaru's left leg was gone, severed above the knee in one blazingly swift slice from the irate assassin. The Fleet Admiral was down as well, a wickedly deep gash across the torso to match the one on his back. Garp was bleeding from a number of wounds, and Aokiji himself knew he had a concussion from the not so gentle love tap he took to protect Garp from getting speared.

She had her own injuries. It didn't seem to matter. The icicle through her shoulder, six broken ribs, and slashed eyes weren't slowing her down at all.

Four Vice Admirals tried to aid them. They were dead now, and Aokiji had ordered everyone to stay out of Noir's way.

Noir stiffened, icy fury suddenly burning hot as her expression twisted into the fiercest snarl Aokiji ever saw. "Blackbeard."

Thank the Sea. A new target. Aokiji and Garp stepped back and let her go.


The funeral was beautiful. Sunshine and a slight breeze rustling the field of flowers around the three white gravestones.

Buggy had insisted on the hibiscuses. It was a Portgas family tradition. Rouge had been buried with pink hibiscuses - Noir would be buried with red, Ace with orange. After a minute of deliberation, Buggy allowed the white hibiscuses on Whitebeard's grave. Ace claimed him as his father, a claim Noir acknowledged.

It was Sile though, who provided the epitaph.

'The woman who protected those who no one else would.'

"Captain Buggy, sir?" Buggy glanced up at the brat Noir had all but adopted. Of course she'd find a kid even taller than her.

"What do you want, brat?"

"It's Captain Shanks, sir."

Buggy glared at the kid. "You're going to have to be a hell of a lot more specific, brat." 'It's Shanks' could mean anything from the red haired bastard being drunk off his ass and deciding to yodel horribly off key to going on a rampage and flattening half the New World Marine bases. Buggy wouldn't put either option past Shanks. Not now.

"He's…" Sile frowned. "If I didn't know better, I'd say he was a dead man walking."

Ah. That. Buggy sighed. "In a way he is, brat." Buggy was there when Noir died, was the one holding his sister in his arms as she gasped for breath through a ruined throat. He translated the weak and trembling hand signs, her last wish to Shanks to look out for her people. Buggy had seen the way Shanks' expression shuttered, felt how his Haki changed.

"Part of him died when she did."

Chapter Text

"Were you ever going to tell me?" About Ace?

Garp sighed, shifting as he tried to find a more comfortable position. He really shouldn't be sitting on hard stone floors at his age…

Chains clinked. Ace looked between Noir and Garp, curiosity in silver eyes. Painfully familiar eyes. The color was Roger's, but the shape - that was all Ace's mother. The same shape as Noir, leaning back against the wall of the cell she shared with her nephew.

His influence was good enough for that much, at least. It hadn't been enough to keep Noir from sharing Ace's fate. Damn Akainu.

Over twenty years of service to the Marines. The best Haki user in the entire Corps and the only one of two capable of Conqueror's Haki. A damn fine Vice Admiral, and Noir would have made an even better Admiral.

All that potential, discarded because her nephew was Roger's son.

Hmpf. That wasn't the only reason, Garp knew. Noir had been a pain in Akainu's side ever since Ohara. Ace was merely the convenient excuse Akainu needed to persuade Sengoku that Noir was better off dead than a potential enemy. Never mind Noir had already chosen the Marines over Ace. Sengoku didn't trust her loyalty.

But wasn't that the reason Garp didn't tell Noir of Ace's survival? He hadn't known how Noir would react - if she would have stayed with the Marines or left to raise her nephew. He couldn't risk losing Noir's skills.

"No." Garp finally said.

 

Chapter Text

“Why so dour?”

The glare Noir sent him was not amused. Ah. She still hadn’t let go of her grudge then. Damn. “In case it slipped your mind, we’re fighting a war with Sea-damned Whitebeard in two days. For which I had to leave my crew behind in the New World so Akainu didn’t try to drag them into the middle of this clusterfuck. Oh, and Sengoku is making me wear a fucking monkey suit.”

The last words were almost a hiss between clenched teeth as Noir sent a downright acidic glare at the dress bag folded over the back of a chair.

Garp perked up. Was that- It was. He laughed. “You look good in a suit, Noir.” She really did. That, and if Garp didn’t find Noir’s irrational hate for them so amusing, he wouldn’t try to get her to wear them more often than she did. Which was never, unless directly ordered.

An hour ago Garp would have added a comment about impressing that pirate of hers. Now he held his tongue, all too aware of the report in his jacket pocket. Garp didn’t think Noir would be all that fond of the Yonko after reading it.

“I’m not a monkey.” Noir groused. “What are- for Sea’s sake, are you certain you aren’t a cat?”

Bah. A little curiosity never hurt anyone. Garp eyed the suit inside the now unzipped dress bag, before pouting at Noir. “You chose the most boring outfit possible.” Black suit, vest, and tie, and a white shirt. The pocket square was better. Marginally. A pretty floral print but still no color at all!

Noir smirked at him. “Haven’t you heard? Black’s my color.”

Well, yes, Noir’s Admiral color was to be black if Sengoku or his eventual successor promoted her. That wasn’t the point. “That doesn’t stop you from wearing other colors!” Sakazuki, Borsalino, and Kuzan wore other colors with their main one.

“I’ve got white as well.”

Garp glowered at the far too smug woman. Brat was being stubborn on purpose, the little shit. Fine, Garp could be stubborn too. He’d simply buy her better ties and make them a promotion gift so she couldn’t refuse or toss them. Hmm, he could even add in some outrageous ones to annoy her…

“Is there a reason you’re here?” Noir asked, interrupting plans for teaching the brat about unnecessary stubbornness. “I’m due to spar with your apprentices in an hour and I’d like to finish this thrice-damned paperwork before that.”

“I’ll spar with them.” Noir had an iron clad control over her temper, but Garp didn’t want to test it against Coby and Helmeppo. Not with this. This wasn’t Sakazuki trying to poach Sile for the umpteenth time. This was going to be like when he told her of Rouge and Ace’s deaths, after the South Blue Purges had ended. When they should have been safe.

Noir paused, pinning Garp with a narrow-eyed stare even as she lowered the file in her hand. He carefully did not grimace. Damn Observation Haki; Garp hadn’t been able to hide anything from Noir since she made Rear Admiral.

What happened.”

Not a question. Not a request. This was an order for information. Now.

Garp still outranked Noir. He could refuse.

He handed over Cadence’s report.

Her First Mate’s name on the report garnered a moment of hesitation before grim determination settled along the line of Noir’s shoulders. She flipped the file open, brown eyes scanning the summary report.

Seconds later Noir nearly ripped the report in half searching for the casualty list and she blanched. Brown eyes flicked from name to name, and Garp knew she was matching faces to every single one. Near two hundred and fifty names, almost five pages long. And on page four…

Noir froze. Brown eyes wide, hands clenched and near crumpling the damning file. Her Haki, completely unguarded for the first time in twenty years, flickered through shock, hurt, anger, grief, and a torrent of other emotions that crashed down on Noir like a tsunami.

Brown eyes pinched closed. And her Haki disappeared.

Garp stilled. What.

No, wait, there it was. As still as some of the decorative ponds around Headquarters - water so still it reflected the sky perfectly..

His former student deliberately relaxed in one full body movement. She opened her eyes, finished reading the casualty list, and closed the file. Then, body still loose in a way that had alarm bells ringing in the heads of anyone with fighting experience, Noir sat back and closed her eyes again, taking deep, measured breaths.

Garp didn’t dare take his eyes off her. He’d seen Noir take down no few number of pirates the moment their attention was elsewhere. Stealth and surprise were Noir’s bread and butter. Garp was not going to turn his back on an angry, grieving assassin.

At least, Garp thought Noir was angry and grieving. He still couldn’t feel her at all. Garp’s Observation Haki wasn’t anywhere near Noir’s level, but he wasn’t a slouch at it. But Noir… if he didn’t know better, Garp would say she was as calm as ever. Her Haki was still, not so much as a ripple indicating any sort of emotion.

“Noir?” In the past, Garp would have hugged her. As he did after telling Noir of Rouge and Ace’s deaths. Now, he wouldn’t presume on her goodwill.

Brown eyes opened. Garp stiffened, a chill running down his spine. What on Earth

“I would greatly appreciate your offer about that spar.” Noir said. The polite smile on her face made the hairs on the back of his next stand straight up, and the look in her eyes… “I… need a day to myself.”

“Of course.” Garp needed to tell Sengoku about… this. Get that First Mate of hers over to Marineford as fast as possible - and damn it would be a week at best… “Take the time you need.” He didn’t linger after that, retreating to the door and only relaxing once he was in his own office again.

By the Deep Blue Sea, Garp had never seen that empty expression before. From anyone.

Wait. He had.

Damn, Cadence needed to get his ass over here if Noir looked like Kuma.